Advocates say health care should be on election radar

REGINA – We’re two weeks into the federal election campaign and so far health care has been a non-issue.

“I’m surprised to some extent that the opposition parties haven’t seized on this.”

During the election debate, the word “health care” was only used a handful of times during the two-hour broadcast.

“When you think about past federal elections where health care has been such a huge issue, nobody on either side is raising it,” said Tom McIntosh, a political science professor at the University of Regina. “I’m surprised to some extent that the opposition parties haven’t seized on this.”

An editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), criticizes the federal government’s hands-off approach to health care, saying “it seems to be trying to get itself out of the health care business.”

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“Even though so much of health care is done at the provincial level, there is so much that needs federal leadership that we won’t have those solutions unless it becomes an issue,” said Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, the author of the editorial, via Skype from Toronto.

Dr. Stanbrook said pharmacare, the much-talked about universal drug plan for Canadians, should be the number-one federal health priority this election.

The Canadian Cancer Society wants smoking reduction as an election issue, specifically the introduction of plain packaging.

“They’re really not practical to implement or as practical to implement at a provincial level,” said Gabriel Miller, the director of public issues at Canadian Cancer Society.

While provincial leaders agree there could be more money flowing, Brad Wall questions whether health care promises translate to votes.

“I’m wondering whether our voters are thinking ‘you know health care is the most important thing’ but I’m not sure anybody can actually do something about it because the problems are so large,” said Premier Brad Wall, Monday morning.

Gauging from past history, the Conservative Party likely won’t raise the issue of health care on its own, but with nine weeks remaining of the 11-week campaign, there’s plenty of time for the opposition parties to change the conversation.