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What can we expect? A look into the Liberal government’s 2019 election platform and victory
Nov 20, 2019, By: Sarah Nolan

Take away messages:

  • The Liberals won, but lost their majority government, meaning they will need to work collaboratively with the other political parties to pass legislation.
  • More federal spending may be on the horizon to fulfil election promises, including: universal pharmacare, more accessible palliative and home care, expanded virtual care and ensuring every Canadian has access to a primary health care team or physician.
  • CNA is taking steps to meet with government officials to ensure that nursing solutions – including a stable nursing workforce - are brought forward to address the needs of Canadians.

On October 21, 2019, the Liberal Party of Canada held onto power, securing a minority government. Polls were extremely close throughout Election 2019, and the popular vote went to the Conservatives, who led 34.4% to the Liberals’ 33.1%. However, it was widely echoed through media outlets across the country that every party lost: the Liberals lost their majority; the Conservatives didn’t form the government; the NDP lost many seats; the Greens didn’t get their anticipated seat count; and while the Bloc Québécois, as the new Opposition, are the “winners” of the election, they hold no real influential power in government.

What does this mean? Well, for a start, the days of a majority government are over, and the Liberals will need to work together with their parliamentary colleagues in order to pass legislation. That includes working with the NDP, whose election campaign made big spending promises in the health and health care sector. This could mean that we will see more health care spending, and possibly a universal pharmacare program, in exchange for the NDP’s voting to support other Liberal legislation and programs.

Let’s take a closer look at what the Liberals promised this election in terms of health and health care spending, and what this means for you.

Key commitments

  • Ensure every Canadian has access to a primary health care team or physician.
  • Set national standards for access to mental health services.
  • Make palliative and home care more accessible.
  • Take steps to implement a national universal pharmacare program.
  • Help provinces and territories expand community-based services, build more inpatient beds, and scale up effective programs—such as extending hours for InSite and other safe consumption sites.
  • Work with provinces and territories to ensure that sexual and reproductive health medications are covered under national pharmacare.
  • Create a National Institute for Women’s Health Research.
  • Ensure that Indigenous peoples have access to culturally relevant health care and mental health services.

Key omissions

The key items that were noticeably missing from these commitments were dollars and details.

As with most health care spending and programs, the platform relies heavily on working cooperatively with the provinces and territories to accomplish many of the promises. Yet, right now, we are seeing a federal–provincial–territorial divide across Canada, with many choosing to revolt against the current Liberal government, and even some provinces unable to work together. These divisions will pose a significant challenge to Prime Minister Trudeau as he tries to carve out “wins” before the next election.

Good news for nurses?

The election platform also made big-ticket promises in the form of infrastructure and innovation. This is great news for nurses as we move forward in pushing for more technology-enabled virtual care beyond hospital walls and the scale and spread of existing technologies for homes and communities. New virtual care modalities have enabled timely access to health assessment and treatment in rural and remote communities, and represent an opportunity to reach people across Canada who face difficulty accessing health services.

As the federal government moves to implement more supports for home care, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) will be there to push for increased spending both federally and provincially in virtual care, e-consultation, and electronic records.

During Trudeau’s post-election speech, he identified that climate change, affordability, and medical assistance in dying wait times are all among his 100-day priorities, but said that more details would be released during his throne speech, the date and time of which was unknown at the time of writing. The CNA looks forward to this speech as it will determine how we choose to approach the federal government on many important issues.

CNA commitments

The CNA remains committed to holding the government to account on many policy issues, including increased access to care by way of a universal single-payer pharmacare program; support for caregivers; virtual care; addressing rural and remote challenges; increased federal support for palliative and end-of-life care; harm reduction with regard to substance use and addictions, including addressing the opioid crisis with increased supports; advocating for nursing leadership and practice by way of calling for a chief nursing officer; eliminating barriers for nurses by allowing them to work to their full scope of practice; strengthening health human resources by addressing violence in the workplace; and reducing the negative health effects of climate change.

The CNA will continue to work with the federal government and all parliamentarians to advance health policy and priorities that nurses value most. Our next steps following the return of Parliament will aim to secure meetings with the Prime Minister’s Office and the minister of health to develop a plan to work together to ensure the implementation of the government’s promises and the CNA’s priorities.

Furthermore, the CNA will ensure that the solutions nurses bring to address the health care needs of Canadians are brought forward, such as the importance of ensuring a stable nursing workforce to meet the increasing needs of the population.

The CNA will also work with the provinces and territories in order to advance policies in an effort to create and push for greater collaboration among all levels of government.

Sarah Nolan is the Acting Program Lead for Policy and Government Relations at the Canadian Nurses Association, having joined the team in March of 2019. Sarah is responsible for providing insight and strategic advice to the broader association in federal advocacy efforts and public policy.