Canadians want Ottawa to police health care spending

Most citizens disagree with Alberta Premier Ralph Klein's demand that Ottawa give provinces money with no strings attached

Ottawa - On the eve of the First Ministers meeting on health care, a strong majority of Canadians in every region ... including Alberta ... disagree with Alberta premier Ralph Kleins opposition to conditions being imposed on new federal health care funding to the provincial governments.

In a new poll by Vector Research, conducted August 12-22 for the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), 72% nationally agree that -the federal government should make provinces accountable to the federal government for how federal health money is spent."

• In Alberta 70% reject premier Kleins position.
• In Ontario 77% support making the provinces accountable to the federal government for health care funds.
• And in Quebec, 65% agree with federal spending oversight.

"The results are overwhelming," says National Union president James Clancy.

"Canadians simply do not believe that Ralph Klein is speaking for them when he talks about Medicare," Clancy said.

"Ralph Klein has already announced that he will miss 70% of the first ministers meeting. As far as 70% of Canadians are concerned, the conference will not miss the kind of prescriptions he is proposing for health care," added Clancy.

1,120 interviews
Nationwide, 1,120 Canadians were interviewed by telephone for the Vector poll. The results are considered accurate within 2.9 percentage points.

The Alberta premiers position was presented to respondents as follows ... -There should be no conditions on how provinces spend money they get from the federal government because health care is the provinces jurisdiction." They were then asked their opinion.

The poll found ... among supporters for all four major federal parties ... that a big majority of citizens favour placing controls on federal money transferred to the provinces to ensure that it goes to health care as intended.

Among voters who supported Liberal candidates in the June 28 federal election, 77% backed federal controls. Among Conservative Party voters, 61% supported the idea that provincial governments be accountable to Ottawa for how federal funding is spent.

The survey also revealed that the majority of Canadians agree with the prime minister that reducing waiting lists for surgery, treatments and diagnostic tests should be the federal governments first priority for improving the health care system.

Cut wait times
Fifty-seven per cent (57%) of those surveyed said the top health priority for the federal government should be cutting wait times. Another 17% say starting a national home care program should be the governments highest health care priority. Introducing a national pharmacare program to provide lower cost prescription drugs is the top federal priority for 11% of Canadians.

-Canadians are clearly in line with the position that we have taken as Canadas second largest union ... reducing wait lines is top priority," says Clancy.

"The way to do that, we believe, is stop privatization and increase funding for the system to adequate levels. This will meet the most urgent need by allowing more health professionals to be hired," added Clancy.

The Health Sciences Association of BC is a component of NUPGE.

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More information:
Mike Luff (613) 228-9800