NB Election 2014

29 August 2014

Cancer is not just a personal issue. It is also an election issue.

It is estimated that in 2014, 1,940 people will die of cancer in New Brunswick and 5,000 new cases will be diagnosed. Government policies can reduce exposure to cancer risks and improve access to quality healthcare.

The 2014 provincial election presents an opportunity for New Brunswickers to hold the government accountable on important health policies that have the potential to reduce the burden of cancer in New Brunswick. We have asked each political party to state its official position on the following issues that will advance the health and well-being of New Brunswickers.

Here’s how you can help make the fight against cancer a 2014 election issue:

  • Send an email to the New Brunswick political parties
  • Raise these issues at all-candidates debates  
  • Talk to your MLA
  • Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper to voice your opinion on these issues
  • Learn more by reading the responses from the political parties below. Responses are noted in alphabetical order.

New Brunswick Drug Plan

Background: In 2014, the Provincial Government adopted the New Brunswick Drug Plan to help New Brunswickers avoid prohibitive catastrophic drug costs and ensure that prescription drug insurance is available to every citizen. The plan covers drugs listed on the New Brunswick Drug Plan formulary. There is no deductible and coverage will not be denied because of age, gender or pre-existing medical conditions. Phase 1, the voluntary stage, began May 1, 2014 and Phase 2, the mandatory enrolment for those New Brunswick citizens without an existing plan, is scheduled to start May 1, 2015.

Question: If elected, will your party proceed with the implementation of Phase 2 of the New Brunswick Drug Plan and meet the goals of that plan, ensuring that prescription drug insurance is available to all New Brunswick citizens?

Green Party –Yes, the Green Party, if elected, will proceed with the implementation of Phase 2 of the NB Drug Plan; however, we will ensure that individuals earning less than $20,000 and two-income families earning less than $40,000 will not have to pay premiums. We recognize the essential role access to prescription medication plays in terms of our health and wellness, particularly for people with a chronic illness. A catastrophic drug plan for New Brunswick is, in fact, long overdue; for too long New Brunswickers’ health has been negatively affected by their inability to access the medication they need because of their individual or family’s financial situation. The NB Drug Plan goes well beyond the catastrophic drug plan we envisioned. We have advocated for a national pharmacare program to ensure that the kind of comprehensive coverage envisioned by the NB Drug Plan is affordable.

Liberal Party
- The Liberal Party supports a provincial drug plan that provides coverage to all New Brunswickers with inadequate or no coverage. We are on record as having concerns about the roll out of phase two of the current Drug Plan. We will review the cost of the plan both to businesses and individuals and whether or not the coverage the plan requires is adequate. We intend to proceed as planned with an eye to making improvements in the plan if needed.

New Democratic Party
– Yes.

People’s Alliance Party -
The People's Alliance will continue to make the provincial prescription drug a voluntary plan for those who choose it. New Brunswickers have the option to sign on at the current rates by September 2015. We feel that, structurally, changes can be made to the plan that would offset the cost of making this plan mandatory.

Progressive Conservative Party -
The New Brunswick Drug Plan is one of Premier Alward's top priorities and a major achievement for the Province of New Brunswick. This plan will provide the essential drug coverage that New Brunswickers need at a cost the province and citizens can afford. Premier Alward will continue to fully implement the New Brunswick Drug Plan with stakeholders at the table.

Tobacco control

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in Canada. According to the 2012 Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS), the current smoking prevalence in New Brunswick is 17%, still higher than the national smoking prevalence of 16%. New Brunswick’s smoking rate among 20-24 year olds remains alarmingly high at 26%, the second highest in the country.

Smoke-free places

Background: Currently, the Smoke-Free Places Act restricts tobacco use at only two outdoor venues: school grounds and partially enclosed patios. There is an opportunity for the Government of New Brunswick to amend the Smoke-Free Places Act to include:

  • Entrances/exits and air intakes of all public buildings (six metres)
  • Outdoor bars and patios with designated perimeters around them
  • All public parks including beaches
  • All children’s playgrounds
  • Recreational & sports fields

Question: If elected, will your party amend the Smoke-Free Places Act to ban smoking in additional outdoor spaces, particularly where children gather? These include building entrances and exits, all public parks including beaches, playgrounds and sports fields, recreational areas and beaches.

Green Party – Yes, certainly the Green Party would amend the Smoke-Free Places Act to ban smoking in the outdoor public spaces as you recommend. The quality of our air and our awareness of the potential carcinogenic health impacts is further evident in our 2014 Platform. The Green Party proposes to:

  • Strengthen pollution regulations and phase-in a ban on industrial releases of cancer-causing substances and developmental toxins affecting hormone function, brain and motor development.
  • Establish an Environmental Bill of Rights to: (a) Guarantee citizens’ right to information about pollution threats and hazards; (b) Provide the right to petition for investigations and guarantee access to the justice system to prevent environmental harm; (c) Appoint an environmental ombudsman as an Officer of the Legislature; (d) Protect Children’s Health from “Environmental Hazards as proposed by the New Brunswick Children’s Environmental Health Collaborative.

Liberal Party - Yes. We plan to expand the act to include areas such as public buildings, playgrounds, sports fields, public parks and beaches and restaurant patios.

New Democratic Party - Yes.

People’s Alliance Party - If elected, the People’s Alliance will work with stakeholders such as the Canadian Cancer Society New Brunswick and New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer to amend the Smoke-Free Places Act so as to better protect children from the obvious health impacts of secondhand smoke.

Progressive Conservative Party - The Progressive Conservative Party believes that an individual’s choice to use tobacco products should not infringe on an individual’s choice to not use tobacco. This is even more important when children are considered. Premier Alward supports New Brunswick’s Smoke-Free Places Act that keeps smoking off of school grounds, away from enclosed public spaces and protects children under the age of 16 from being in a vehicle with a smoker. Premier Alward is always ready to work with New Brunswickers and organizations to help provide the very best environment for our children and will continue to do so.

Flavoured tobacco

Background: Despite recent federal regulations on cigarillo sales, product redesign by tobacco companies has promoted continued and widespread availability of flavoured tobacco in New Brunswick. Tobacco products with fruit and candy flavours are popular among youth. The 2013 Youth Smoking Survey reported that 52% of Canadian students who reported smoking in the previous 30 days smoked flavoured products.

Question: If elected, will your party commit to banning all flavoured tobacco products, including menthol?

Green Party – Yes, as you recommend the Green Party would ban all flavoured tobaccos products.

Liberal Party - We recognize that tobacco products with fruit and candy flavour are popular among youth. The Liberal party commits to developing a comprehensive strategy for a smoke-free New Brunswick with a particular focus on young New Brunswickers. This strategy development will include examining the impact of flavoured tobacco among youth and looking at other jurisdictions where legislation has been adopted or introduced, including B.C., Alberta and Manitoba.

New Democratic Party - The NDP will commit to banning flavoured cigarillos. On the matter of menthol flavouring, shisha, and other products mentioned, we will embark on further study of them before making any commitments.

People’s Alliance Party - The People’s Alliance is opposed to the proliferation of tobacco use amongst young adults, and would introduce legislation to restrict access to those products.

Progressive Conservative Party - Quitting tobacco use is the best way to curb the negative health effects caused by tobacco. Premier Alward has been committed to helping New Brunswickers quit smoking by making smoking cessation therapies available to all. New Brunswick has adopted tougher laws related to flavoured tobacco and Premier Alward has supported those measures.

Cancer patient navigation system

Background: Effective coordination of cancer care remains a significant challenge for patients and their families as they are often left to maneuver through the current maze of community resources and services alone. Navigation programs have proven beneficial to individuals who are actively receiving cancer care because they enable them to access services, find their way through the healthcare system, overcome barriers and in doing so improve their quality of care.

In 2008, the New Brunswick government committed to hiring eight adult and two pediatric cancer patient navigators to support New Brunswickers on a cancer journey. Only the two pediatric cancer patient navigators have been hired.

Question: If elected, will your party implement eight adult cancer patient navigators in order to provide much-needed support to the vulnerable new patients that are diagnosed with cancer?

Green Party - The Green Party recognizes the challenge New Brunswick people currently have accessing the range of healthcare resources they need within a timeframe that works for them. We recognize this as a particular challenge for people living away from our cities. We support the implementation of the eight adult cancer navigators for new patients who are diagnosed with cancer, as you propose. This is a model we would also like to look at as it could relate to New Brunswickers newly diagnosed with a chronic psychiatric disorder.

Liberal Party – Yes, we will commit to working with the New Brunswick Cancer Network to establish a formal cancer patient navigation system. This will include putting the resources in place to help adults who are diagnosed with cancer.

New Democratic Party – Yes.

People’s Alliance Party – The People’s Alliance believes that the commitment made by the Graham government on this file was a very positive step, but the failed implementation is typical of the Graham and Alward governments. We would seek to reinstate budget for the remaining patient navigators through budget streamlining of our health authorities, which is one of our cornerstone policies.

Progressive Conservative Party - Helping New Brunswickers diagnosed with cancer beat their disease has been a top priority for Premier Alward. Our health system currently provides pediatric oncology patient navigators. These navigators help childhood cancer patients and their families manage through the healthcare system to find available services as easily and expeditiously as possible. Providing additional navigators in the future will depend on budget availability. Premier Alward decided to tackle New Brunswick’s health budget early in his mandate because he understood that more than $2 billion in health spending should be enough for a province of New Brunswick’s population. Additional pressures on the system will only increase with an aging demographic which made the urgency to get health spending under control so much more important. Premier Alward has gained control of health spending, but it is now more important than ever to keep that control so that savings can be re-prioritized to areas like patient navigators.

Palliative care

Background: The Canadian Cancer Society defines palliative care as “focused on making a person as comfortable as possible, helping to relieve symptoms, enhancing quality of life and providing support for people with a serious illness. Palliative care provides social, spiritual, emotional and physical support as well as recommendations for people with cancer and their families.”  Palliative care recipients require access to responsive palliative care services to address their changing needs, regardless of the time of day and location. Currently palliative care in New Brunswick is fragmented and limited in its availability.

A palliative care strategy in New Brunswick would address gaps that include clinical practice guidelines, education for staff and families, monitoring and response to treatment, development of home tools, options for hospice services and expansion of equipment loans.

Question: If elected, will your Party implement the New Brunswick Palliative Care Strategy that was developed by the New Brunswick Palliative Care Advisory Committee in 2013?

Green Party – Yes, the Green Party, if elected, would work toward the implementation of the NB Palliative Care Strategy that was developed by the NB Palliative Care Advisory Committee in 2013. Ensuring local access to quality palliative care services promotes the health and wellbeing of our families and communities.

Liberal Party – Our plan for healthcare includes a more collaborative approach to healthcare to provide better outcomes and options for care for patients. More support for home care, for instance, is included in the plan. This extends to palliative care. We commit to reviewing the recommendations of the Palliative Care Advisory Committee to improve care for those in need of palliative care, the majority of who are cancer patients.

New Democratic Party – Yes.

People’s Alliance Party – The People’s Alliance agrees with the strategy developed by the Palliative Care Advisory Committee. We think that, in general, implementing these recommendations would result in better end-of-life care for cancer and other patients while at the same time reducing the wait times and bed availability for other patients. If elected, People’s Alliance would seek to implement the strategy.

Progressive Conservative Party – Premier Alward has released the Home First Strategy, and now we must ensure that strategy is fully implemented. The Home First Plan commits to developing a provincial palliative care strategy: Many individuals wish to receive palliative care services at home or in settings other than a hospital. A palliative care strategy, developed by the Department of Health, will focus on delivering services in the community and helping all New Brunswickers, including seniors, plan for end-of-life care. It will also provide health professionals and other caregivers with the knowledge and support they need to provide effective palliative care services.