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Speaking out to support Canada’s public health system

**This article appeared in The Chronicle Herald’s Opinion section on Wednesday, April 24th…

This week, the Harper government launched its latest attack on our public health care system, announcing the discontinuation of funding to the Health Council of Canada in 2014.

The Health Council of Canada was established as a result of the Romanow Commission’s 2002 final report, which recommended the creation of a federal body to better monitor our public health- care system. Today, this council includes representatives appointed from almost all provincial and territorial governments in the country, offering an overall picture of the Canadian health-care system and how it is functioning, with a focus on best practices and innovation.

It is a unique, distinctive body that offers an independent, authoritative and informed perspective on our national health-care programs.

It normally receives $8 million to $10 million from the federal government each year, but invariably underspends, returning between $2.5 million and $3 million.

Now, the Harper government has decided to discontinue funding to this invaluable organization with the expiry of the 2014 intergovernmental health accord, a decision that ultimately serves to dismantle Canada’s only means of monitoring our national health-care system.

Furthermore, we believe this decision signifies something far more worrisome — it is a clear sign our current federal government plans to abandon its role in the public health-care system altogether.

Here in Canada, where we believe quality health-care services should be universally available to all citizens, our federal government has a responsibility to ensure national standards are met, and provide support to help other governments and organizations meet those standards. Without active involvement from the federal government, those standards will become meaningless and medicare, as we have known it, will wither.

By discontinuing funding to the Health Council of Canada, the Harper government is abdicating this responsibility.

If you need further proof that our public health-care system is at risk of being abandoned by our highest level of government, think back to December 2011, when the Harper government announced it would cut funding for public health care by $21 billion to $31 billion between 2017 and 2024. Here in Nova Scotia, those cuts add up to a loss of $157 million annually by 2024.

Many of our own members help deliver health-care services throughout Nova Scotia, and all of us need to be able to rely on this valuable public service in the event of illness or injury.

We urge you to put pressure on your local MP and MLA (visit www.electionsnovascotia.ca and click “Find my MLA” on the left-hand side of the page), and ask them to raise their voices along with you to demand the Harper government commit to renew funding to the Health Council of Canada as part of a new 2014 Health Accord.

Without it, we are all at risk.

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