Thank you for your e-mail requesting responses to questions about the important issue of cancer patient care. Please note that the New Democratic Party election platform has not yet been publicly announced. More fulsome information about the NDP position on the issues that you raise may be evident when our platform becomes public. Our responses to your questions follow.
Question 1: Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits If elected, will your government:
A. Recognize that there is a need for a new process that recognizes that some patients, including cancer patients, experience extended periods of treatment and recovery, and hold open consultations with Canadians about how this process will be developed and implemented?
B. Use the results of these consultations to lengthen sickness benefits for Canadians undergoing treatment for cancer as well as other serious illnesses that require long periods of treatment or recovery so that Canadians who are ill are not penalized by the current limit of 15 weeks of sickness benefits?
C. Cancel the two-week waiting period for EI Sickness Benefits so that sick Canadians are not penalized? When the Paul Martin Liberals overhauled EI, 4 out of 10 unemployed Canadians lost their benefits. Now, under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, the number of people qualifying for EI has hit an all-time low. Compounding losses at the benefits end, Liberal and Conservative governments, together, have raided the EI fund of a staggering $57 billion. New Democrats have fought tooth-and-nail against these measures designed to keep Canadians from accessing their income security benefits when they need them the most and, as government, we will be reviewing the current inadequacies of the EI system in supporting Canadians trying to keep a foothold in the workforce. New Democrats recognize the need to increase the flexibility of federal supports for persons living with chronic conditions to better accommodate their varying levels of engagement in the workforce. A New Democratic government will seek to increase their work options.
Question 2: Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits
If elected, will your government: A. Conduct an investigation into the reasons why 60 per cent of disability claimants are initially turned down. B. Ensure that Canadians are informed about how to properly and successfully apply for CPP Disability Benefits. C. Provide the tribunal with the resources it needs to quickly clear the remaining backlog of cases and ensure that necessary resources are in place to prevent the buildup of backlogs in the future.
The CPP Disability Benefit is among the income support measures receiving the greatest public criticism. Changes introduced in the mid-90s resulted in increasing numbers of applicants being turned away and appear to undermine the benefit’s other advantages. A New Democratic government has committed to calling a First Ministers meeting within six months of being elected to examine the adequacy of the CPP/QPP and to negotiate improvements with provincial and territorial governments.
Question 3: National Pharmacare Program
A. What is your party’s position on the creation of a national pharmacare program? B. How will your party ensure that a national pharmacare program will not reduce the number of prescription medicines available to Canadian patients? C. Will your party support a new federal equalization payment for national pharmacare so that all provinces are able to cover the same comprehensive range of prescription drugs, with timely new additions on a regular basis?
New Democrats have long advocated for a national collaborative effort to cover the costs of prescription medicines in order to reel in the fastest growing cost factor in 21st century health care delivery. Every country with a universal health plan has a national drug plan of some sort – except for Canada. As first steps, a New Democratic government will ensure that the affordability of prescription medicines is on the table in our discussions with provinces and territories as we push for a new national health accord. Such an inter-governmental collaboration is long overdue and provides the federal government an opportunity to build on the progress provinces and territories have made, even without Stephen Harper pulling his weight. Cooperative bulk purchasing and common formulary, for instance, are already advancing but could improve dramatically with active federal involvement. Lifting these important elements out of provincial silos to a pan-Canadian level will assure equitable treatment and access to scientifically approved drugs for all Canadians.
Question 4: National Healthcare Leadership
How would your party show leadership in work with the provinces and territories on healthcare issues? A. Would your party modify federal transfers to the provinces so that they are age-adjusted and not just based on population numbers? B. Please indicate other ways that your party would show federal leadership on healthcare issues.
The years of Harper rule have been marked by his refusal to renew the federal-provincial-territorial health accord, his unilateral cut to health transfers, his elimination of the Health Council of Canada and his outright refusal to meet with provincial and territorial leaders on health issues. New Democrats are strongly committed to rejuvenating the relationship between the federal government, provinces and territories overall and in the health portfolio, in particular. An NDP government will reverse Harper’s unilateral cuts and get back to working collaboratively with provinces and territories. Respecting provincial roles, we will lead strategies to improve public health care and make it more sustainable over the long term. To this end, we will move quickly to initiate a federal provincial-territorial process to put a new health accord in place.
Thank you for taking the time to express your interest in these crucial issues.
Alicia Cormier – Canada’s New Democrats