The first wealth is health

I spend a great deal of time on the road which gives me lots of time to think things over. Just recently I was travelling along the TransCanada heading back from Wawa. The view along the shores of Lake Superior are truly breathtaking. The view made me think of how fortunate we are to live in Algoma-Manitoulin where we readily have access to a wealth of opportunities that help us all make the most out of life. I came to the conclusion that we truly must be among the wealthiest people in the world when you consider all that we have.

As I drove, the words of Ralf Waldo Emmerson came to me. Emmerson said, “The first wealth is health.” Of course, my political mind kicked in at this point as it occurred to me that we cannot enjoy our “life-style wealth” if we do not have good health.

Every Canadian knows how fortunate we are as a nation to have publicly funded healthcare. Because of the work of Tommy Douglas and other like-minded politicians, in terms of health, Canadians have long enjoyed the Cadillac of health care systems. But just like any valuable asset, we have to constantly be on watch to maintain and protect if. For Ontario MPPs In recent years, being the guardians of our healthcare system has truly been a daunting challenge.

In recent weeks, leaked documents from the PC Doug Ford Government confirmed the news that they were planning gargantuan changes to Ontario’s healthcare system. Changes so drastic that even Health Minister Christine Elliott says it will take years before the plan is fully implemented. The contents of the leaked documents have caused Ontario families to worry about what Doug Ford has cooked up behind closed doors. When the news broke, Christine Elliott looked like a deer caught in the headlights when confronted by media.

In a nutshell, the proposed legislation calls for the elimination of Ontario’s Local Health Integration Network(LHIN) and the creation of a super agency called health Ontario. This new super agency will assume responsibility for all health services in Ontario. What’s more, Health Ontario will see the elimination of two current independent agencies, Trillium Gift of Life and Cancer Care Ontario.  Both of these agencies are highly respected for their work around the world.

The Ford government’s health care takeover bill does not legislate that health care has to be publicly delivered — a basic principle of the Canada Health Act. This bill opens the door to unprecedented levels of private and for-profit health care — which means precious health care dollars get siphoned away from patient care to pad profit margins of private companies.

One of the key elements of this plan will be the formation of between 30 – 50 Ontario Health Teams in communities across the province. The teams would be contracted to deliver all forms of health care services and would be chosen through a bidding process that would be open to for-profit companies. Minister Elliot adamantly maintains that this is not privatizing our healthcare system. Well, I can’t speak for everyone else, but in my books, private for-profit running and delivering our healthcare services is privatization.

One thing that has me puzzled is why the Conservatives are basing this new system on a model that has been (and still is) an abysmal failure in other places – one of them being Alberta. Alberta created Alberta Health Services to fix all of that provinces healthcare woes. After years of implementing this system, Albertans are forced to deal with soaring emergency room wait times. In fact, Alberta’s overall wait times are now ranked seventh in Canada while Ontario is rated currently as second best. At one time Alberta had the very best organ donation program – that is no longer the case. Currently, Ontario’s results have steadily risen and it is now rated as the best in Canada. Ontario now spends the least money per person on healthcare while Alberta, despite spending the second most, has a healthcare system that is anything but enviable.

Doug Fords needs to explain to Ontarians why he is formulating Ontario’s entire healthcare system around a model that is so riddled with problems. Would he knowingly go out and spend huge money on a car that is rated in consumer reports to be an overall lemon?

Doug Ford’s minister of health admitted the government doesn’t know how many jobs will be lost under their massive health care scheme. During the election campaign, Doug Ford claimed no one would lose their job as a result of his deep cuts. Once again Doug Ford has failed.  Ontarians deserve more from their government – not less.

Once again Doug Ford and his ministers were caught making stuff up. Chronic hospital underfunding has already led to job loses throughout the province, and Ford’s health scheme could be threatening thousands more. The last time the Conservatives were in office, 6,000 nursing jobs vanished and 28 hospitals were shuttered. When a Conservative government says they don’t know how many jobs will be lost, families are right to be worried. There are 20 agencies being eliminated, including Cancer Care Ontario, that employs 10,500 health care workers.

New Democrats refuse to stand back and watch our healthcare system be obliterated by Doug Ford just so that his wealthy friends and supporters can profit at the expense of Ontarian’s health. We have long called for an immediate investment into hospitals, and ongoing funding that keeps pace with inflation, population growth and the unique needs of local communities. All of us want to see our children and grandchildren enjoy the “lifestyle wealth” of health, just as we have.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters.

Mike Mantha

Michael Mantha is a politician in Ontario, Canada. He is a New Democratic member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario who was elected in 2011. He's the NDP critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and critic for Northern Development and Mines. He represents the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin.
Mike Mantha