Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on May 23rd, 2011. To go to the Ottawa Citizen website please click here
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has both his majority and his cabinet for the 41st Parliament. Now comes the tough part: governing. Postmedia News asked notable Canadians representing an array of disciplines -from medicine to business to entertainment -what advice they have for the prime minister. Here’s what they told us.
SUSAN ENG, CARP VICE-PRESIDENT
Dear Prime Minister Harper, there has been unprecedented attention paid in this election to issues that resonate with older Canadians. Every party made promises to address pension reform, caregiver support, poverty among pensioners and elder abuse. Such consensus should let Parliament move quickly on these pressing issues.
With your decisive majority comes the opportunity to reinforce the broader values that underpin these election promises. The Guaranteed Income Supplement increase proposed in the March budget is most welcome but elimination of poverty in old age should be the permanent benchmark. The budget’s non-refundable caregiver tax credit should be refundable and expanded to better support the lower income of those who had to quit their jobs to look after loved ones. (An estimated) 2.7 million Canadian caregivers contribute $25 billion annually in unpaid labour and help divert demand from the public health-care system.
Your promises to eliminate mandatory retirement and (to) increase sentencing for elder abuse are long overdue protections for the rights of older Canadians.
Health-care reform is your next major challenge and CARP members consistently call for restructuring public service delivery rather than increasing taxes, imposing user fees or cutting services. Home care, primary health-care teams, chronic disease management, bulk purchasing of drugs and fending off demands to extend drug patent protection are opportunities to contain costs and ensure adequate funding for necessary public services.
Older voters were targeted in all the party platforms and for good reason; they remain the most politically engaged and committed voters. CARP members will be watching for clear proposals on these priorities in the throne speech and for Parliament to act swiftly to improve the quality of life for all Canadians as we age.
DR. JEFF TURNBULL, PRESIDENT OF THE CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
Congratulations, Prime Minister, on winning a third mandate. You should take great pride in the fact that Canadians in unprecedented numbers have placed their confidence in you. Canada’s physicians are pleased that your government is committed to our country’s universal public-health system and the Canada Health Act. We are also happy to note your campaign promise to maintain stable federal funding while increasing accountability for health-care spending, work collaboratively with the provinces and territories to renew the Health Accord and to continue to reduce wait times.
As Canadians are well aware, for the last century, medicare has been as important contributor to our country’s economy, productivity and quality of life. The next (federalprovincial) health accord offers you a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the leadership necessary to transform this cherished but dated program so that it can truly meet the 21st century needs of Canadians. Representing 74,000 physicians, the CMA stands ready to work alongside you and other partners in this crucial endeavour.