Ottawa’s lack of health leadership undermining fight against cancer

23 June 2015

Toronto -

The current federal approach to health has left serious gaps in cancer care, prevention and research and requires urgent reform as Canada braces for a dramatic rise in cancer cases. That was the message today from Canada’s largest national health charity, the Canadian Cancer Society, as it released a federal election platform entitled: Wake-up call: national priorities for patients, families, and a healthier future.

Two in 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and by 2030 the total number of cancer cases will increase by 40%, according to research released last month by the Canadian Cancer Society, in partnership with Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. This increase threatens to overwhelm our healthcare system, compromising the quality of care available to Canadians and crowding out the investments in prevention and research that are the key to saving more lives in the future.

“We’re facing a national challenge that demands a strong national response, but Ottawa has become disconnected from Canadians’ real-world health needs in recent years,” says the Society’s President & CEO Pamela Fralick. “While federal spending on health has gone up, federal accountability for health solutions has gone down.”

When the federal government has chosen to get involved in the last few years, its effectiveness has been undermined by contradictions and missed opportunities. Specific commitments – from restricting the sale of flavoured tobacco to improving support for family caregivers – have been welcome, but their impact has been limited by Ottawa’s broader disengagement from health issues.

The Society points to 3 specific areas where the next federal government must take immediate action to repair existing policy gaps and lay the foundation for further progress in the future: 

  • Per capita federal investments in Canada are half what they are in the US. For every dollar it collects in tobacco tax revenues, the federal government dedicates just one cent to programs that help stop or prevent tobacco use. Tobacco kills about 37,000 Canadians every year. Canada must adopt plain packaging rules and replace the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy with a comprehensive and properly funded plan.
  • Federal investments in health research have flat-lined since 2008, and there is no plan in place for future investments to keep up with population growth or rising costs. Health research is a cornerstone of the new knowledge economy, but Canada’s leadership in this area is under threat. Canada must commit to sustainable, long-term investments in health research and reassert the country’s global leadership in the area.
Palliative care
  • Most Canadians lack reliable, affordable access to high-quality palliative care, despite the federal government’s fundamental duty to ensure essential medical services are available across the country. Canada must guarantee in federal legislation the right of all Canadians to affordable, high-quality palliative care.

“This is a wake-up call for all party leaders. It’s time for a new era of federal health leadership and accountability in Canada,” says Fralick. “Canadians – including the 810,000 living with cancer today – need to know that the next government will embrace its national responsibility to protect health, make the most of every single health dollar and guarantee access to essential, high-quality medical services for every single person across the country.”

Read the full election platform here.

About the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Christine Harminc

Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 416 934-5340