Green candidate Weeks argued for a health care system that focuses on preventing illness.
Julia Osinchuk/the Gauntlet

Health care in need of improvement

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As Canada's 2008 federal election campaign moves forward, candidates are expressing a need to improve the nation's health care systems.

Independent candidate Kirk Schmidt and Liberal Party candidate Jennifer Pollock of Calgary-West agree the overall quality of health care is good, but Canada still needs to address many serious health-care issues.

"There aren't sufficient services to offer to the people," said Pollock. "That's why we talk about wait lines. Once you get there, care is a B or B+."

Teale Phelps Bondaroff, the New Democratic Party candidate and Andre Vachon, the Marxist-Leninist Party candidate, believe Canada falls short on government funding.

"The government must stop paying the rich and it must increase funding for social programs," said Vachon.

Green Party candidate Randy Weeks took this idea one step further, saying that Canada's health care is in a crisis.

"We're not getting good value for what we're paying for," said Weeks. "It's mismanaged and it's underfunded and it's basically on critical life support. That comes from people who work directly within the system itself."

All candidates indicated an emphasis should be placed on public health care as opposed to private. Schmidt and Pollock said the Alberta government should follow the Canada Health Act, while candidates from the NDP, Green and Marxist-Leninist parties think privatizing health care creates more setbacks.

"The problem with private facilities is essentially, they charge higher rates and they're accessible only to those who are wealthy," said Phelps Bondaroff. "We already have a problem where there are five million Canadians without medical doctors and family doctors in the country. Those people tend to go to hospitals and are added to waiting lists to get their primary care."

Currently, the NDP wants to reverse private delivery services and form national homecare and pharmacare programs.

According to Weeks, improving the quality of life of Canadians starts with better education, nutrition and promotion of healthier lifestyles. The party also hopes to limit the commercialization of genetically modified crops, reduce cigarette smoking through education and taxes and develop national goals for prenatal care strategies .

Vachon also supports improving health care services, saying that good health is a right and not something to be abused.

"[Health care] should not be subject to the condition that money will be made from human suffering and illness," said Vachon. "Nor should it be considered a cost. A healthy population is an investment and it's a great step forward that socialized medicine came into being."

The future of Canada's health care system may be hard to predict, but most candidates believe that increased government funding is necessary to strengthen Canada's long-term goals. Because of an increased shortage of nurses and doctors in the province, Canada needs to develop incentives that will encourage medical staff to stay employed.

Although Weeks did not mention government funding, he believes reducing the levels of pollutants will lift some of the pressures placed on the public health care system.