I must apologize – somehow your email got lost as so many others piled in on top of it amidst the frenzy of launching a campaign with very few resources. Glad I found it today.
I am, myself, a cancer survivor, having undergone radiation therapy in 2012. It was successful, although as you know, the doctors will be keeping an eye on me for another couple of years to come. I gave some thought to participating in your CCSN network, but to be honest, I felt more compelled to spend my volunteer time on restoring democracy in Canada, and my cause over the past 20+ years of justice and democracy in Melanesia, which still takes up much of my time. I found these two causes continue to be my calling and the most satisfying use of my time.
However, I appreciate how valuable an organization like yours can be for cancer patients after treatment. It’s usually an unexpected challenge and people recovering from the disease need as much help as they can on the steep learning curve of how to lead a new life post-treatment.
Below are my answers to your questions. Thank you for asking, and for all the good that you do.
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, I believe so.
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?
Probably, but it would depend on the outcome of the consultations. In any case, a key part of the Green Party’s policy platform is the introduction of Guaranteed Liveable Income for all Canadians under any conditions. Should cancer patients not qualify for EI for a period of time, they would still be looked after by the Green Party’s guarantee of a liveable income no matter what the circumstances.
Cancel the two-week waiting period for EI Sickness Benefits so that sick Canadians are not penalized?
Perhaps, but the waiting period is there for a reason. Again, if Canada implements a progressive policy like the Guaranteed Liveable Income and also has a working National Housing Strategy (the Green Party is the only party in Canada proposing one), then a two-week waiting period may no longer be an issue.
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, I believe so.
Ensure that Canadians are informed about how to properly and successfully apply for CPP Disability Benefits.
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. It is so unfair to withhold payments when they are needed most, from a fund that these applicants have paid into during their working years.
Question 3: National Pharmacare Program
What is your party’s position on the creation of a national pharmacare program?
I know from personal experience how expensive drugs associate with cancer treatment can be. The Green Party of Canada’s policy platform has included a National Pharmacare Plan since prior to the 2011 election. We estimate that such a program would save Canadians $11 billion each year through the advantage of bulk buying. As well, it will allow physicians to better track if patients are at risk of over-medication.
How will your party ensure that a national pharmacare program will not reduce the number of prescription medicines available to Canadian patients?
In fact, our National Pharmacare Plan may initially reduce the number of medicines available because our party would implement a more rigorous assessment of new drug applications based on a standard for pharmaceutical review that ensures Canada rejects drugs shown to hurt more people than they heal. However, balancing this policy is our our party’s support for alternate modes of healing and disease prevention, including naturopathy. And, as part of the big picture project of creating healthy communities, we will adopt stricter regulations to prohibit cancer-causing chemicals in our food and consumer products, and ensure informative labelling of food products.
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. The National Pharmacare Plan must be applied equitably so that national standards apply to all provinces.
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?
I don’t know, but that seems logical and fair to me.
Please indicate other ways that your party would show federal leadership on healthcare issues.
The Green Party will vigorously defend universal health care in Canada. We intend to bring all parties back to the table for a renewal of the Health Accord. We will also promote innovations in health care through patient-centred team medicine built around the family physician working with nurse-practitioners, pharmacists, midwives, naturopaths and others. We will also take a wholistic approach to preventing disease that factors in the need to consider mental health, financial means, healthy lifestyles, and nutritious, uncontaminated food.
Green Party of Canada Candidate 2015 for South Surrey – White Rock
604-542-9422 • Twitter @LarryColero