Wayne Easter, Malpeque (PEI)

Thank you for your inquiry about my views and the Liberal policy on issues of concern to the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. I appreciate the opportunity to respond as Liberal candidate for Malpeque, PEI and for the Liberal Party of Canada.

Certainly the challenges are often difficult for individuals, families and communities who are coping with cancer and its treatment. While science and medicine are indispensible, we also know that the support of our family, friends and institutions is often as important in the personal and collective fight against cancer and for recovery. The work of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network is much appreciated in this effort. Your leadership and active interest in health care issues are indicative of the importance which Canadians express as we continue to develop our health care system among the provinces and the nation.

During the current election period I have become increasingly aware, as I listen to the voters, that Canadians have a strong desire for more active, assertive and meaningful Federal leadership on many issues, including health care issues. I and other Liberal candidates and our leader Justin Trudeau are hearing every day that the incumbent government is failing in its national leadership responsibilities, not least of which in moving us forward in health policy. So, I can assure you that, if we form a Liberal Government on October 19, we will work for real change for Canadians as we seek solutions to issues you and others see as important for our communities.

You thoughtfully have asked me to respond on several issues, for which I am pleased to state our Liberal policies, which I endorse and which I will help to fulfill in office:

1. Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits in the context of sometimes longer periods of cancer treatment and recovery

You asked if a Liberal Government would:

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?

My response is that I certainly believe in consultation and I will, if elected to government, help facilitate dialogue on these issues.

I am pleased to say that we are proposing several measures in response to the issues you are emphasising:

A Liberal government will reduce the waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits to one week from two. We will end the higher 910-hour eligibility penalty for new workers and those re-entering the workforce, stopping the discrimination that makes it harder for some of Canada’s most precarious workers—including people who have left the workforce due to illness—from accessing the benefits that help them get back into the workforce. In addition, Employment Insurance processing will be a starting point for our new commitment to higher service standards in government, including waiting times.

The Liberal Party of Canada recognizes that the current system is not working for those who need it, and we are committed to change that will ensure that the federal governments supports Canadians when they need it most. A Liberal government will be committed to ensuring those who need EI benefits can access them quickly and reliably.

Further, a Liberal government will introduce a more flexible and accessible employment insurance compassionate care benefit. Too often, people are forced to leave their jobs and drain their personal savings to provide essential care. This is unfair. That is why we will change the criteria so that it applies to any Canadian who provides care to a seriously ill family member and will allow the six month benefit to be claimed in blocks of time over a year-long period, and by allowing family members to share the six months.

A Liberal government will be there for Canadians when they need it most.

2. Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits

You asked if a Liberal government would:

A) Conduct an investigation into the reasons why 60% 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 build-up of backlogs in the future.

I am well aware that the CPP disability benefits are important to many Canadians. We see daily in our communities and for families and individuals the challenges of meeting the needs of those balancing financial stress with health concerns. I look forward to discussing ways in which the system can be improved and CPP resources can be optimally allocated to achieve the social goals to which Canadians aspire.

We are proposing several actions:

A Liberal government will work to ensure Canadians have timely access to the disability benefits that they need and have earned. Making sure that Canadians are aware of the benefits available to them and how to claim them is an important first step in ensuring our social safety net remains strong. We are committed to raising the standard of service across government. We will ensure a higher standard of service, and a better client experience when Canadians interact with federal services.

A Liberal government will create new performance standards for services offered by the federal government, including streamlining applications, reducing wait times, and money-back guarantees. Performance will be independently assessed and publicly reported. Reducing the appeal backlog at the Social Security Tribunal and ensuring it has the resources required to prevent such backlogs in the future will be a priority for a Liberal government.

Furthermore, consistent with our history of “nation building” the Liberal Party of Canada if elected, is committed to working with the provinces to phase in a fully funded expansion of the CPP.

3. National Pharmacare Program

Your questions were:

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?

Our approach to this issue includes several practical steps:

A Liberal government will work with the provinces to lower drug costs.

Liberals know that the rising cost of prescription drugs is taking a bigger piece out of the average Canadian’s paycheque each year. It is unacceptable that in a county as successful and as prosperous as Canada, one in ten Canadians do not fill a needed prescription because they cannot afford it and as many as one in three skip doses so the medication lasts longer. This leads to deteriorating health and increased hospital visits, having a detrimental impact on individual health, and driving up health care costs up over the long term. We are committed to meeting with the premiers to talk about how to strengthen health care by making measurable progress on the issues that matter to Canadians.

In the days to come we expect to provide further information on the Liberal plan for health care policy.

4. National Healthcare Leadership

As I noted in the introduction to this letter, Canadians want Federal Leadership on the issues, including national healthcare.

You have asked: 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

Our approach to real change will be a determined effort to rebuild the confidence of Canadians in Federal Leadership. Where health care policy is concerned:

The Liberal Party of Canada recognizes the importance of our publicly-funded universal health care system. It is a source of pride and comfort for Canadians. We believe that every Canadian must have access to timely, publically funded, quality, universal health care, regardless of background, physical needs, geographical location, or income. We believe that the quality of our health care system must be improved while maintaining its universality.

A Liberal government will call a federal-provincial meeting to reach a long-term agreement on health care funding. Together, we can make measurable progress on the issues that matter to Canadians – like wait times, the affordability of prescription drugs, the availability of homecare and community-based services, and coping with an aging population.

We also know that investing in home and community-based services is more cost effective and provides better outcomes for patients. To this end, we will make an unprecedented $20 billion investment in social infrastructure over the next ten years that will fund, among other things, sorely needed affordable housing for seniors, long-term care infrastructure, and seniors’ facilities.

May I also take this opportunity to describe to you the larger context of our economic and social policies designed to increase growth, raise incomes and re-establish a sense of confidence for Canadians. That is, a Liberal Government will work to reinvigorate our economy to redress the stagnation which has resulted in the slow economy in recent months and years. A more productive and growing economy will help us afford the kinds of measures you and many Canadians would like our Federal government to initiate and implement.

A Liberal government will make the largest infrastructure investment in Canadian history. We will nearly double federal infrastructure investment to $125 billion – from the current $65 billion – over the next decade, meaning additional $9.5 billion per year for infrastructure by year ten. As part of this investment, we will boost funding for social infrastructure by nearly $6 billion over the next four years and as stated above, almost $20 billion over ten years. This will include funding for recreational infrastructure, improving access to healthy-living facilities nation-wide. For more details, please see Liberal policies and priorities on RealChange.ca

Again, I thank you for your interest in the issues and in the policies of the Liberal Party of Canada. As candidate for Malpeque I am determined that if a Liberal Government is elected on October 19, I will work with our leader, Justin Trudeau, my Liberal colleagues, other Parliamentarians and the various stakeholders, to make health and social policy work effectively for Canadians.

If I may be of any further assistance with respect to hearing your views or answering your questions, please contact me at your convenience.

Yours truly,

Wayne Easter
Candidate, Malpeque