As the federal Health Minister begins negotiations with her provincial and territorial counterparts around the creation of a new health accord, the NDP is demanding the Conservative government provide some sort of accounting of what has been achieved by the existing deal.
The current accord, which transfers billions of dollars every year from the federal government to the provinces for health care, was signed in 2004 by the Liberals, who were in power at that time. It included a requirement that provinces and territories meet evidence-based benchmarks for the time that patients must wait for certain medical procedures.
But John Haggie, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, has told the told the Senate committee conducting a mandatory review of the 2004 accord that it lacked "clear terms of reference on accountability for overseeing its provisions," and, as a consequence, there has been "little progress in developing common performance indicators [as]set out in previous accords."
Joe Comartin, the Opposition House Leader, picked up on that theme during the daily question period in the House of Commons Friday, pointing out that the government has more than two years to fix the problem. The existing accord is set to expire in 2014.
"Canadians don't have the information the federal government promised they would have on what was or wasn't achieved under the current health accord," Mr. Comartin said. "Will the Conservatives agree to bring in a full accounting now so that Canadians can have a meaningful debate on what the next health accord should accomplish for this country."
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq was meeting with provincial and territorial health ministers in Halifax, where the discussion is expected to focus on the new accord. So it was up to Conservative MP Colin Carrie, her parliamentary secretary, to field the question.
There have been issues with accountability with the original 2004 accord that was negotiated by the Liberals, Mr. Carrie agreed. So, he said, "the upcoming discussions will be about just what just what [Mr. Comartin]is asking for: accountability, results for Canadians, including better reporting."
But Mr. Comartin said Canadians should not have to wait until 2014 to get some idea of how well the current deal is working.
"We spent $160-billion under the current accords," he said. "Are Canadians getting value for that money? The truth is Conservatives have failed to live up to the current accord. They failed to ensure proper reporting on what we got for that spending."
The meeting taking place in Halifax is not going to fix that, Mr. Comartin said. "So will [the Conservatives]demonstrate some leadership and accountability and why not do it right now, not three years from now?"
Mr. Carrie did not offer any assurances in that regard. But he did use the opportunity to take a shot at the Liberals.
The former government started its negotiations by cutting $25-billion out of transfers, which didn't put the provinces in a very good mood, Mr. Carrie told the House. "We're starting two and a half years ahead of time," he said. "We're going to be discussing exactly what the provinces are finding on the ground to work with them to put in those benchmarks, to put in accountability, to put innovation in."