It's not just the economy, stupid

Why is health care absent in federal election debates?
Mari-Len De Guzman
October 09, 2015
By
In the last few months Canadians have been subjected to political debates, catchy sound bites, media ads and social media bickering – all for the purposes of scoring political points and winning votes.

The economy has dominated most of the discussions and for good reason, as voter surveys have consistently listed this as one of the top concerns among Canadians. And if my own perceptions are any indication, voters by now probably have a pretty good idea of how each political party plans to move the economy forward – whether we agree with any of them is another matter.

Although job creation, taxes and household income are a top concern among voters, they are not the only things that keep people up at night. Health care is also ranked among the most important issues for Canadians today. To that end, this election campaign leaves so much to be desired.

Like the elephant in the room weighing heavily on us, but not really getting the recognition it deserves, health care has not made any significant stride in mainstream political discussions. Why is that?

Surely, the fact that Canada's aging population continues to take its toll on our health-care system is an issue worthy of national exchange. In 2011, more than five million Canadians were 65 years old and older, and this number is expected to double in the next 20 years. Are we appropriately addressing the health care needs of our aging population?

With more than 1,000 Canadians dying each year from prescription painkiller overdose or abuse, one would think the issue of increasing rates of high-dose prescriptions across Canada would merit significant discussion among the leaders. What steps are we taking toward prevention, reducing prescription drug dependence, and promoting a healthier lifestyle among Canadians?

Health-care wait times, access to primary care and the overall health of the population are not issues that can be swept under the rug just because it is an inconvenient discussion in a political campaign. These are issues that are bound to come back and bite the incoming government in the bum if ignored over and over again.

Sure, the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDPs have a little something about health care in their agenda posted on their websites – mostly a list of how much money will be allocated for what program. To effectively address the challenges in our health care system, we need more than just spending dollars to put more beds in hospitals and hire more doctors. Candidates need to have discussions of great substance on how they stand on issues pertaining to health care.

The next leader of our government should be able to address multiple issues and challenges besetting our nation at the same time. Elevating only one issue to the political spotlight does a disservice to Canadians. The candidates should step up their game and start talking about all, not just one, of the issues that matter to Canadians.

Political sound bites and attack ads are fleeting. Real change begins with intelligent discourse.

I welcome your comments. Email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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