This devastating disease is becoming significantly more prominent, affecting our neighbours, our friends and our peers. In today’s society, we can all say that we have known someone, directly or indirectly, that has experienced, and fought, the hardships of this disease. That being said, when seeing the courage and positive energy of patients and survivors alike, we are reminded that we must not despair. While much work is still required, we must not shy away from adopting bold and effective approaches to evidence-based policy making in order to increase innovation and research in the medical field.
Below you will find my response to your survey questions.
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:
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?
· Yes, consultative processes are key in such complex policy questions. Consulting with all stakeholders will allow us to fully understand the issue and by extension, its socioeconomic impacts which would facilitate the development of feasible and effective policy options.
· In addition, the Party has formally announced its commitment to Employment Insurance for Compassionate Care benefits which aims to assist family members who are caring for a family member who is severally ill with an investment of $190 million per year (for more information: http://www.liberal.ca/realchange/better-compassionate-support-for-caregivers)
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?
· If elected, a Liberal government will be committed to evidence-based policy implementation. That is to say, the findings from the consultative process will inform of the most efficient approach to addressing the issue of sickness benefits. In our view, a responsible government is one who takes care of the people who need it most as opposed to perpetuating institutional challenges to those who are intended to be beneficiaries of such aid.
C) Cancel the two-week waiting period for EI Sickness Benefits so that sick Canadians are not penalized?
· After careful review of the reasons behind such delays, and research pertaining to addressing processing delays, adequate mitigation measures will be considered and put in place in order to facilitate the application and approval processes.
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:
A) Conduct an investigation into the reasons why 60 per cent of disability claimants are initially turned down.
· Absolutely. A review of the current modus operandi will allow us to further understand the rationale behind declined claim applications. Once an adequate review has been conducted, then a Liberal government can begin examining what mechanisms can be put in place to fully resolve the issue.
B) Ensure that Canadians are informed about how to properly and successfully apply for CPP Disability Benefits.
· Information sharing is key to any successful government program, irrespective of its nature. An awareness raising campaign and easily accessible, fully documented, user-friendly tools should be available to all Canadians.
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.
· While it may be premature at this juncture to commit to funding and resources without adequately having examined the situation, the Liberal party of Canada can commit to ensuring that all findings will be taken into consideration and that a consultative process in order to assess the feasibility of remedial options will inform the decision making process with respect to this issue.
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.
A) What is your party’s position on the creation of a national pharmacare program?
· While the Liberal party of Canada has not fully established a policy stance vis-a-vis a National Pharmacare program, a Policy Resolution for Funding Health Care addressed a national Pharmacare Program (for further information, please refer to our website https://www.liberal.ca/policy-resolutions/153-priority-resolution-funding-health-care/ )
B) How will your party ensure that a national pharmacare program will not reduce the number of prescription medicines available to Canadian patients?
As previously mentioned, as a Party who values expertise and consultative processes, the creation of a Pharamcare program as well as other programs more generally, would not be implemented without having fully examined all potential impacts to Canadians. A liberal government is committed to being a responsible government. In doing so, such critical effects would be considered and counter balanced with proper mechanisms to ensure that a program facilitates access rather than posing additional challenges to an already heavily overloaded (and often fragmented) system.
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?
· Similarly to my response in section b), it is too premature to commit to specific clauses or practices that a National Pharmacare program would entail. Instead of stating specific measures and/or promises, I would rather be transparent in saying that there is no doubt that a thorough assessment of the situation is necessary and specific courses of action to remedy shortcomings is indeed necessary. The way in which the Liberal Party of Canada aims to address such issues, is once again, ensuring that we engage in the conversation with all actors and stakeholders, including the provinces. Once those consultations have been established, and issues have been adequately identified, an accurate situational awareness will inform the process and next steps pertaining to the pragmatic aspect of implementing such policies, processes and measures.
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.
· As mentioned above, the Liberal Party of Canada is committed to health care for all Canadians and has demonstrated leadership in its commitments (e.g. https://www.liberal.ca/files/2015/08/better_compassionate_support_for_caregivers.pdf ). Our leader, Justin Trudeau, has promised a genuine partnership with the provinces to negotiate a long-term funding agreement in which he committed to reviewing the issue of equalization while taking into account the current taxation framework. We acknowledge that current discrepancies and gaps within the healthcare system are the result of its complex nature. This implies that on the one hand, Ottawa cannot act alone and on the other, the provinces cannot alleviate existing pressures. Therefore, a collaborative, open approach is not only necessary but imperative at this juncture. If elected, a liberal government is committed to engaging with the provinces and territories in a true partnership in an effort to develop effective, long-term solutions.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to reach out to me and providing with the opportunity to share my viewpoints with you. I hope that my response has shed some light on our position on these very important matters.
Should you require additional information or should you wish to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Alexandra Mendes, Candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada, Brossard – Saint-Lambert