May 13, 2013
MICHAEL SWAN
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

TORONTO – A federal government attempt to kill off the Health Council of Canada has Catholic health care advocates upset and disappointed.

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq wrote to provincial health ministers announcing that federal funding of the Health Council of Canada will cease next year.

Aglukkaq says the council was set up to measure progress of the 2004 federal-provincial health accord. Since the accord will expire in 2014 there will no longer be a need for the council, according to Aglukkaq.

The minister leaves open the possibility the provinces may fund the council on their own.

"This cut is absolutely consistent with the PM's clear visions: health care is a provincial matter," Sister Nuala Kenny wrote in an email to The Catholic Register.

"(Prime Minister Stephen Harper's) failure to understand the historic importance of federal all-party leadership in the establishment of Canadian health care is, I believe, tragic," Kenny said.

Joe Gunn, executive director of the Citizens for Public Justice, said, "There is a crying need to hold governments accountable for health care delivery and spending, but this federal government refuses to play any role in this."

Kenny, a pediatric doctor and health care ethics professor, was a founding member of the Health Council of Canada.

ACCESSIBILITY

The health council has been important to maintaining a clear picture of how accessible and effective public health care is, she said.

"It is not perfect, but is committed to universal public health care," Kenny said.

Gunn said cutting the health council is "a regrettable attempt to dumb down the ability of the federal government to analyze its own programs."

The Health Council of Canada employs 31 people and spends up to $6.5 million per year.

The Canadian bishops identified eroding public access to health care as a threat to social justice in the 2005 pastoral letter, Let's Go Forward in Hope.