In response to liberal claims that the government he leads will privatize parts of the public health care system, conservative leader Erin O’Toole said today that he supports the current system – but wants to see more “innovation” in the private sector to improve outcomes.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, where he hosts a series of virtual roundtables, O’Toole said Trudeau is running a “disinformation” campaign to convince voters that he does not support a universal, universal welfare system.
Instead of cutting health care, he said, the Conservative government would make “high record transfers to the provinces to ensure every Canadian can benefit from free, high-quality health care.”
O’Toole has promised to boost Health Canada’s annual growth rate to at least six percent of its current rate, which correlates with how much the economy has grown in a given year, with a minimum of three percent — a $60 billion commitment over 10 years.
I trust the prime ministers
He also said he wouldn’t stand in the way of counties working with the private sector to make changes to how care is delivered.
“I consider innovation a good thing,” O’Toole said. “I trust that prime ministers will do better for patients in their districts. If Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, or Quebec want to innovate to deliver better health care, I support it.” .
“Why? Because it gives Canadians more choices. The more choices Canadians have in healthcare, the better.”
WATCH: O’Toole says it will allow counties to ‘innovate’ in the health system as they see fit
He said for-profit private services can help relieve pressure on public utilities, reduce waiting times and save money.
Critics of privatization claim that it threatens to undermine the existing system, as access to health care is not dictated by an individual’s ability to pay.
O’Toole’s comment came a day after liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland posted on Twitter a selectively edited clip of O’Toole talking about healthcare. In the video, O’Toole said he would be open to more profitable healthcare in Canada to help address some of the failures of the current system.
Out of Freeland’s edited video montage was O’Toole’s later statement – that universal access to health services must be preserved. Twitter has since flagged the clip as “manipulated media”.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the edited clip accurately reflects O’Toole’s stance on private healthcare.
“Erin O’Toole has said clearly and directly that he is a long-time believer in the profitability models of health care.” Trudeau said. “He should come to terms with Canadians about exactly what he means when he says that.”
O’Toole responded that the role of the private sector in health care had grown exponentially while watching Trudeau.
In Quebec, for example, the province recently signed 20 contracts with private clinics to outsource certain surgeries and reduce waiting times. Radio Canada reported in February that about 20,000 surgeries in that province had already been performed in private clinics.
Saskatchewan has outsourced some diagnostic imaging to private operators to reduce wait times for MRI and CT scans. Under the so-called “two-for-one” initiative, for-profit clinics can charge patients for checkups as long as they provide an equal number of checks for patients on the public waiting list.
In a 2016 letter, former Federal Health Secretary Jane Philpott said she wanted the province to end encouraging the private sector to pay for medical exams — but the practice has continued.
Meanwhile, dozens of for-profit COVID-19 testing sites have sprung up across the country during the pandemic, offering a service that is also available at public clinics.
O’Toole said that, as prime minister, he would allow this kind of “innovation” to flourish but “draw the line” in more radical reforms that would fundamentally change the nature of the single-payer healthcare system.
“Health care should be free for every Canadian. No one can be left behind and patients and their doctors should make all personal health decisions, not insurance companies or anyone else,” he said.
Counties may face penalties for private care: Trudeau
When asked why Ottawa has not done more to rein in special items such as Saskatchewan’s imaging program, Trudeau said the federal government could impose financial penalties on provinces that allow private services to be provided by limiting the amount they receive each year through Health Canada. Conversion.
“We will continue to advocate for a universal and universal healthcare system, unlike Erin O’Toole,” Trudeau said.
He said Ottawa has had “discussions” with Quebec about its reliance on private operators for some surgeries.
Trudeau promised $10 billion in new spending to remove backlog of surgical work, hire an additional 7,500 doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, and expand default options for primary care.