Roy Romanow says federal leadership on health care has "evaporated" under Stephen Harper, arguing the Conservative government's policies have escalated the "decline of a modern, effective health care plan."
The former premier of Saskatchewan and head of the federal health care commission called the Conservative government "missing in action" in a blistering attack at the Broadbent Institute's Progress Summit 2015:
"Ottawa's involvement has evaporated. The Minister of Health is missing in action. And Medicare is threatened like it never has been before. It is as though the provinces and Ottawa live within two different universes."
Romanow said the federal government hasn't taken any leadership on "much-needed national reforms" and has treated the Canada Health Act -- which establishes health care conditions and criteria for the provinces -- like a "forgotten statute":
"The results have been disastrous: the CHA and Ottawa have changed from a strong sentinel of medicare’s values to a rooted, nonreactive, stone statue. And, all of this in the face of an explosion of new technologies, procedures, and medications.
"We obviously have a Prime Minister that doesn’t believe in cooperation."
Romanow also called out the government for the poor quality of indigenous health care:
"The glaring disparities in health between Indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians remain unconscionable. It is a black mark on our shared values. And it is the result of choices governments continue to make."
Fellow panelist Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union, said the Conservatives have been "starving" the public health care system. The panel outlined multiple ways the Conservative government has put medicare on life support, including cuts to health-care transfers and defunding the Health Council of Canada.
Romanow called for multiple policy actions, including creating a national pharmacare plan, an active and truly independent Health Council of Canada, comprehensive programs for health and wellness, and determined enforcement of the Canada Health Act.
He said a universal prescription drug plan would save Canadians $7.3 billion a year, according to a new study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Romanow railed against the "proliferation of voices” attacking medicare, and warned Canada is headed for an "apocalyptic battle" over the fate of universal health care: "Everyone is going to have to decide which side they're on."