Premier McGuinty Calls For New 10-Year Health Accord
Prime Minister John Turner, the honourable Bob Rae, distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentleman, fellow Ontarians.
Nick, thanks so much for that very kind, very eloquent, very thoughtful introduction.
Thanks to all of you ladies and gentleman for taking time out of your very busy schedules to be here today.
You, no doubt, have other, pressing priorities.
Chers amis c'est un grand plaisir que d'être avec vous aujourd'hui.
Nous sommes, bien sûr, en plein milieu d'une importante campagne électorale fédérale fort occupée.
Et en tant que province la plus populeuse du Canada, et en tant que locomotive de l'économie canadienne, cette élection revêt une importance particulière pour les Ontariennes et Ontariens.
We find ourselves in the middle of a very busy and important federal election campaign.
And as Canada's largest province and the engine of the Canadian economy, this election means a lot to Ontarians.
Like you, I'm following the campaign with a great deal of interest and perhaps more so than ever before, a quiet pride.
I feel privileged to live in a country where we can debate the issues, question the candidates and make our choices in peace and freedom with no one vote counting for more than any other.
There are as you well know other places in the world where people are struggling, even giving up their lives for this beautiful gift of democracy that you and I have inherited.
And no matter what our politics, I think we can all agree, we are blessed.
You know, every time we enter an election season we're reminded of a fundamental truth about democracy: the people are always right.
In elections, the people get to have the final say on the issues that matter most, to them.
For decades now, there has been one particular issue of concern to Ontarians, and Canadians that has always been top of mind: health care.
We seek the security of quality, publicly funded, universally accessible health care.
We want to live our lives secure in the knowledge that should we become sick and end up in a hospital or if a loved one should become ill, there will be quality care for us.
We won't have to fend for ourselves. We won't be on our own.
Our health care system is a very important part of what it means to be Canadian.
It means that if you're sick that's all that counts. We're there for you.
It doesn't matter how much money or influence you might have. If you're sick, we're there for you. That's the deal.
I want my kids and my grandkids to have that certainty, too. I want them to live in that kind of country.
And that, my friends, is going to take some work.
Our health care costs keep going up. They keep taking up a rising share of provincial budgets.
Twenty years ago, 32 cents of every dollar we spent on government programs went into health care.
Today, it's 46 cents of every dollar.
And as we baby boomers get on in years, we'll be putting even more pressure on the system.
So Canadians want to hear not only that we're committed to Medicare, they want to see a credible plan to guarantee it's survival.
I was pleased to see that -- three weeks into the federal election campaign -- the talk finally turned to the future of health care.
It was a good start, but I believe we need a much broader discussion. And this campaign provides an opportunity for federal parties to share their vision for the future of Medicare.
Right now, I would suggest, that vision is lacking.
Much of the talk so far has only been about a two-year commitment, which might be adequate for now, but provides no framework for the future.
What happens after two years?
Is it another two-year commitment?
How are we going to build Medicare for the long road ahead when we are taking such short, tentative steps today?
To get to our destination, we need a road map.
Canadians need to see a road map for the future of our Medicare.
That means looking beyond a two-year funding plan and creating a new, 10-year vision.
We know it's possible.
We're not shooting for the moon here.
We did it in 2004.
So we can do it again.
I believe we need to begin this process, this national discussion, right away.
And that we should have a new Health Accord by the end of 2012.
Why would we wait until 2014, when there is so much work to be done to strengthen Medicare?
We need to get to it.
And the sooner, the better.
To get that new agreement, we need three things: first, we need a federal government delivering on the strong funding commitments made during this campaign. Second, we need a federal government leading a national discussion on how we can strengthen Medicare for the future. And, finally, those discussions must lead to a new, 10-year Health Accord, negotiated among provinces and territories, with priorities, accountability and clear goals.
The federal funding commitments made during this campaign are important and appreciated.
Keep in mind, the federal government only contributes 23 cents of every dollar spent on health care in Ontario.
The province pays the rest.
Setting aside that issue for the time being, there is another way the federal government must contribute.
And, for Ontarians, this is a non-negotiable.
The federal government's commitment to high quality, publicly funded, universally accessible Medicare must be strong and unwavering.
There can be no buckling, no bending.
Don't get me wrong.
We're open to all kinds of change in health care.
All kinds of innovation.
But within Medicare.
Not outside of it.
I'm optimistic about a new Accord.
As I say, we did it before.
I was part of the negotiation in 2004 that led to that Health Accord.
All of us, the premiers, the Prime Minister were holed up in 24 Sussex until the early hours of the morning.
It wasn't easy. At times it wasn't pretty.
But we never let up.
And we never gave up.
We produced a comprehensive, 10-year agreement that led to real, positive change.
We left that meeting tired, but we also left with a commitment.
A commitment made by the federal government to fund shorter wait times for all Canadians.
That was progress for all of us.
But, there was unfinished business for our province.
Like the other provinces, we were getting more money for health care.
But, unlike the other provinces, we were getting less than our fair share.
Ontario governments had rightly been pressing our case with Ottawa for over 20 years.
And for the first time, just a few years ago, we got a "yes" in response.
An acknowledgement that -- "yes" -- Ontarians must get the same level of support as Canadians in other provinces.
So that combination of a new national Health Accord, together with fair treatment for Ontario, set the stage for real, positive, meaningful change in health care.
This stability, predictability and accountability - this, along with our investments, allowed Ontarians to achieve outstanding results.
I'll list just a few.
We've built 13 new hospitals.
Five more are under construction.
We've hired over 11,000 new nurses and nearly 2,900 more doctors.
We've gone from zero to 200 Family Health Teams who will serve three million people.
We're opening, first of their kind in North America, 25 Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics to serve over 40,000 Ontarians who didn't have access to family care.
Now you might say those are inputs, but what are we getting?
These investments have made a difference - a real, measurable difference in people's lives.
Today, for example, 94% of all Ontarians have access to a family doctor.
That's 1.2 million more people than in 2003.
And before we didn't even measure wait times, now we lead the country in wait times in many key procedures.
But the truth is we've only just begun our health care reforms.
And if you stop to think about it, we've only scratched the surface when it comes to helping Ontarians who want to lead healthier lives.
That's why I am calling for a new 10-year Accord.
Because we need to get at this work, together. Right away.
Nous avons besoin des signatures au bas de cette entente et qu'elle entre en vigueur.
De telle sorte que les provinces, comme l'Ontario, puissent avoir des certitudes pour pouvoir commencer à faire des réformes fondamentales, ceci assurera l'avenir de notre réseau de santé, pour tous et toutes, peu importe où vous vivez, ce que vous faites, ou combien vous gagnez.
We need the signatures on the bottom line and the agreement in place.
So that provinces -- like Ontario -- have the certainty to begin making the fundamental reforms that will secure the future of our health care system for everyone - no matter where you live, what you do, or how much you make.
And, so that families can plan their own futures knowing this vital service will be there when they need it, regardless of their ability to pay.
I see this as an exciting time for Canadian health care.
Ontarians, and, I believe, all Canadians are eager for change.
The kind of change that takes advantage of innovation to improve the quality of our health care and increase the efficiency of the system.
But Ontarians want, to repeat - they insist that those changes be made within our public health care system.
Those are exactly the kind of changes we've been making together here in Ontario for eight years now.
Let me give you just a few examples.
By providing more bariatric surgeries in Ontario, instead of the U.S., we've cut the price of them in half.
By adopting best practices, like the ones related to wound care as developed by our nurses, we improve quality of care and save thousands of dollars per patient.
By taking the "drug costs bull" by the horns and passing a new law in Ontario we cut the price of generic drugs in half, saving half-a-billion dollars every year.
That's allowing us to fund new drugs to cover more diseases.
We're creating an electronic health registry as a foundation for better, faster care.
In 2006, fewer than 800,000 Ontarians had an electronic medical record.
Today, the number is seven million.
In 2012, it will be 10 million.
My point is, there are many savings, improvements and efficiencies to be found in the way we deliver health care.
The 2004 Health Accord included a number of measures to help provinces achieve that kind of progress, together.
Some of this work is unfinished. For example the Accord called for us to work on creating a National Pharmaceuticals Strategy.
This would ensure all Canadians have access to the same drugs.
That's only fair.
And, this would ensure all the provinces and territories purchase our drugs together to get the best price.
That's only smart.
The 2004 Accord also called for coordinated action on another important health issue facing our country, improving home-care services.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, seniors account for 14% of the population but 44% of our health care expenditures.
A renewed, 10-year Health Accord will help us continue moving forward in these and other important areas.
I want you to know I am confident.
We can keep building Medicare for the future through collaboration and innovation.
I had the opportunity to study Biology for four years before I went to law school. Something you come to understand: human beings are the only species blessed with the power of imagination. There is no end to what we can accomplish should we turn our minds to it, and stay focused, and deliberate, and determined, and become resourceful.
So imagine if 13 million Ontarians - better still, 34 million Canadians - committed themselves to pursuing relentlessly reforms and innovation to be found within Medicare. I'm telling you, we owe this to ourselves, we owe it to our children, we owe it to our grandchildren, and we owe it to the rest of the world as they too struggle with health care costs. Why can't we stand as a shining example of what can be done when it comes to preserving something so precious?
You know, I think it's interesting - those proposing some level of private care have claimed the mantle of "innovators".
But making people pay for care and fend for themselves - that's one of the oldest ideas in the book.
The truth is, 21st century defenders of Medicare are champions of innovation.
We have an abiding faith in our ability to work creatively, together to make a great idea even better.
And what is Medicare if not one of the most courageous, creative and visionary ideas that we ever dreamed up as a nation?
So fighting to save Medicare is fighting for change.
Fighting for Medicare is fighting for change.
Positive, relentless, constructive change.
So, let's get the leaders in a room. Let's share ideas. Let's focus on goals. Let's agree to solutions.
If you look back at our history, there are countless examples of how we moved our country forward by coming together, agreeing to principles and taking concerted action.
The very creation of our country came about in that way.
Consensus building is what we do.
It's who we are.
It's us at our best.
It's how we'll continue building a great country.
Ontarians look forward to building Medicare for the future.
And we have other issues, too, we are eager to take up with the federal government.
We look for Ottawa's support as we invest in our clean energy sector.
We look for fair support for our immigrants.
We look to repair an equalization system that, last year required Ontario taxpayers to transfer a net $5 billion to the rest of the country.
And, we look for our fair share of seats in the House of Commons so we can continue to be a strong partner in Confederation.
And there's only one way to resolve these issues; together as partners.
A predecessor of mine, Premier John Robarts put it this way, nearly a half century ago: "The mere discovery that there are some cracks and crevices in the edifice of our Confederation should not cause us to flee and panic and abandon our century-old home. Rather, let us proceed as good craftsmen and overcome these defects and make it a more durable dwelling."
My friends, that is the challenge - and the opportunity before us today.
You need to know something. Throughout our history, Ontarians have been builders with tools at the ready.
We have them in hand and we are eager to get to work. Eager to rebuild our Medicare for the 21st century, eager to work with our fellow Canadians, and determined to build a stronger Ontario for a stronger Canada.
Thank you very much.
Premier's Remarks to the Canadian Club of Toronto
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