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
The Employment Insurance Program in Canada offers temporary financial assistance to unemployed workers. This assistance includes providing sickness benefits to employees unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine and who would otherwise be available to work, with sickness benefits up to a maximum of 15 weeks. However, most cancer patients spend more than 15 weeks receiving or recovering from cancer treatment.
If elected, will your government:
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? Yes.
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? Yes.
Cancel the two-week waiting period for EI Sickness Benefits so that sick Canadians are not penalized? Yes.
Question 2: Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits
The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefit is a taxable monthly payment that is available to people who have contributed to the CPP and who are not able to work regularly at any job because of a disability (http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/services/pensions/cpp/disability/benefit/). However, about 60 per cent of CPP disability claimants are initially turned down, one of the highest rejection rates for a disability insurance program among the nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In addition, the new appeal system has still not cleared the backlog of 11,000 cases, resulting in some patients left unable to work but without benefits for years.
If elected, will your government:
Conduct an investigation into the reasons why 60 per cent of disability claimants are initially turned down. Yes.
Ensure that Canadians are informed about how to properly and successfully apply for CPP Disability Benefits. Yes.
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. Yes.
Question 3: National Pharmacare Program
A new study[ii] released in July 2015 makes a compelling case for expanding our universal public health care system to include the cost of prescription medicines. In addition, a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute[iii] found that more than 90 per cent of Canadians back the concept of pharmacare.
What is your party’s position on the creation of a national pharmacare program? In favour. My position since 2000 election.
How will your party ensure that a national pharmacare program will not reduce the number of prescription medicines available to Canadian patients? Arm’s length governance.
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? Yes.
Question 4: National Healthcare Leadership
How would your party show leadership in work with the provinces and territories on healthcare issues?
Would your party modify federal transfers to the provinces so that they are age-adjusted and not just based on population numbers? Yes.
Please indicate other ways that your party would show federal leadership on healthcare issues. Sustainable development, consultation with provinces, respect and funding for science.