Health Care, Oil & The Deficit: Can Premier Davis Summit All Up?
The Premier and his Summit
On January 14th, 2015, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis will hold a Summit on Primary Health Care in St. John’s. On record, Davis claims it will provide a public forum to discuss how the province can improve health care services and programs that matter to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. But pundits critical of the summit claim it’s simply an attempt to strengthen the Progressive Conservative public image.
Davis became premier on September 13th, 2014, when he was elected as leader of the provinces’ PC party. The PC leadership election came nine months after former Premier Kathy Dunderdale left her position in January.
Davis inherited the task of resuscitating a party that suffered a total popularity collapse this past year. Davis knows he has to do it before he calls an election.
According to this CBC news story regarding Davis’ candidacy, “[The PC party] have faced questions about government transparency and public perceptions of being out of touch.”
Davis first called for change during his leadership campaign, “This is a time for a new beginning. It’s a time to set the tone for the future, to bring together the strengths of our party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a time for us to continue our journey together.”
The party’s leadership is trying to re-brand themselves by focusing on health care and how to improve public perception.
However, last week The Telegram published a letter to the editor written by Rob Ritter, former CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, which criticized the summit and called it a charade. To back up his claims, Ritter pointed to the government’s failure to act on research they paid millions of dollars for.
According to Ritter, more than a decade ago the province published a $10 million dollar report titled Healthier Together: A Strategic Health Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2003, a plan entitled Moving Forward Together: Mobilizing Primary Health Care was issued. The plan was to improve on renewing primary health care system.
In 2006, a final evaluation of the primary health-care renewal was completed and it found, “The renewal initiative warrants continuation with ongoing monitoring and evaluation to assess intermediate and long-term outcomes.”
Ritter’s language is inflammatory but direct; if there has been no real, tangible progress on the existing research, how can we believe this upcoming summit matters?
It’s likely the summit is just a PR stunt to strengthen the parties public perception leading up to the election later this year.
When you consider rumours that Ottawa is cutting health care cuts in Ottawa, and our already wounded economy, the summit comes at an interesting time. Ask the question, is this summit worth having when cutbacks are looming at both federal and provincial level?
The Problems We’re Facing
On December 2nd, 2014, Maude Barlow, the chair-woman of Council of Canadians, made news when she claimed the federal government has plans to reduce health-care funding in 2016. She went out to claim that Newfoundland and Labrador is set to lose roughly 500-million a year in health-care funding.
The price of oil is still dropping and the world’s oversupply of oil isn’t going anywhere. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians still hope that the price will rebound like it always has, but signs don’t point that way. If the price of oil doesn’t rise, Newfoundland and Labrador’s enormous $916 million deficit will continue to balloon and the government will be forced to cut spending.
The new budget won’t be released until the latter half of 2015, possibly not until after the next provincial election. With so much economic uncertainty, it may prove tough for Davis to keep any promises made at the summit.