Since 1867, the Canadian Medical Association has been the national voice of Canada’s medical profession. We work with physicians, residents and medical students on issues that matter to the profession and the health of Canadians. We advocate for policy and programs that drive meaningful change for physicians and their patients
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates this opportunity to respond to the notice as
published in the Canada Gazette, Part 1 for interested stakeholders to provide comments on Health
Canada’s proposed Vaping Products Promotion Regulations “that would (1) prohibit the promotion of vaping products and vaping product-related brand elements by means of advertising that is done in a manner that can be seen or heard by young persons, including the display of vaping products at points of sale where they can be seen by young persons; and (2) require that all vaping advertising convey a health warning about the health hazards of vaping product use.”
Canada’s physicians, who see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day in their practices, have
been working for decades toward the goal of a smoke-free Canada. The CMA issued its first public
warning concerning the hazards of tobacco in 1954 and has continued to advocate for the strongest
possible measures to control its use.
The CMA has always, and will continue to support, strong, comprehensive tobacco control legislation, enacted and enforced by all levels of government. This includes electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Our approach to tobacco and vaping products is grounded in public health policy. We believe it is incumbent on governments in Canada to continue working on comprehensive, coordinated and effective tobacco control strategies, including vaping products, to achieve the goal of reducing smoking prevalence.
It is imperative that the regulations concerning the promotion of vaping products be tightened sooner rather than later. While the CMA views Health Canada’s proposed regulations as a step in the right direction, they should only be considered as the start of extensive regulatory, policy and public health work required to effectively address the harms associated with vaping.
Vaping is not without risks. Evidence continues to grow about the hazards associated with the use of e-cigarettes, especially for youth and young adults. The emergence of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) in the United States and to a lesser extent in Canada, illustrates the danger these products can pose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that as of January 7, 2020 that there were 2,602 cases of hospitalized EVALI or deaths (57 so far) reported by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 2 U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In an update published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “younger age was significantly associated with acquiring THC-containing and nicotine-containing products through informal sources.” The report concludes with this warning: “Irrespective of the ongoing investigation, e-cigarette, or
vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults, or pregnant women.”3 In Canada, as of January 7, 2020, 15 cases of severe pulmonary illness associated with vaping have been reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
A recent public opinion survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) indicates that Canadians are growing more concerned about the safety of vaping as more information on the potential harms becomes available. The survey found that the number of people saying that vaping does more harm than good rose from 35% in 2018 to 62% in 2019.5 Further, 17% of parents with children under 19 said their child either vaped or had tried it; 92% of those parents considered vaping harmful.5 Significant to this discussion is the fact that 90% of respondents support “banning advertisements of vaping products in areas frequented by young people. This includes areas such as bus shelters or parks, and digital spaces like social media.”5 As public unease continues to rise, the need for further tightening of regulations becomes vital.
Unfortunately, the federal government is still behind the curve when it comes to the proliferation of vaping and the vaping industry. Health Canada will have to step up surveillance and enforcement if tightening of the regulations is to be effective.
This brief will address the planned regulations as well as discuss important issues not covered such as nicotine levels and flavours. We have expressed concerns about these topics in previous consultations and will be reiterating them here.
Promotion of Vaping Products
The CMA appreciates Health Canada’s intent to tighten the regulations but this proposal is not sufficient, and we must reiterate our long-held position that the restrictions on the promotion of all vaping products and devices be the same as those for tobacco products. , The proposed regulations provides the vaping industry with too much latitude in their promotion activities to ensure youth are protected. As we noted in our response to Health Canada’s consultation on The Impact of Vaping Products Advertising on Youth and Nonusers of Tobacco Products, the advertisements that have been permitted to this point seem to have managed to find their way to youth, even if they are not directed at them, as has been asserted.7, We recommended vaping advertisements should not be permitted in any public places, broadcast media, and in publications of any type, with no exceptions. The CMA stands by that recommendation.7
The methods used by the vaping industry in the past succeeded in attracting more and more youth and young adults and it will no doubt continue efforts to find novel approaches for promoting their products, including the use of popular social media channels. , , , Indeed, “JUUL’s™ advertising imagery in its first 6 months on the market was patently youth oriented. For the next 2 ½ years it was more muted, but the company’s advertising was widely distributed on social media channels frequented by youth, was amplified by hashtag extensions, and catalyzed by compensated influencers and affiliates.”10
The vaping industry’s efforts to circumvent marketing restrictions in other jurisdictions are evident in view of some recent developments. A US study outlines an e-cigarette marketing technique that involves the promotion of scholarships for students. The study found 21 entities (manufacturers, e-cigarette review websites, distributors) offering 40 scholarships, ranging in value from $300 to $5000 (US).13 Most of the scholarships required “an essay submission, with most listing prompts related to e-cigarettes or eliciting information about the benefits of vaping.”13 The authors suggest “that prohibitions on e-cigarette scholarships to youth are also needed, as many of these scholarships require youth under the age of 18 years (for whom use of e-cigarettes are illegal) to write positive essays about vaping.”13
The CMA reiterates, yet again, its position that all health warnings for vaping products and devices should be similar to those presently required for tobacco packages in Canada.6, The need for such cautions is important in that we still do not understand fully the effects vaping can have on the human body.
More research is needed into the potential harms of using electronic cigarettes to understand the long-term effects users may face. , , The proposed health warnings are not strong enough in light of the research and knowledge that has emerged to date about the harms caused by e-cigarettes. For example, a recent US study highlighted the potential link between e-cigarette use and depression. It found “a significant cross-sectional association between e-cigarette use and depression, which highlights the need for prospective studies analyzing the longitudinal risk of depression with e-cigarette use.”18 As the authors note, “the potential mental health consequences may have regulatory implications for novel tobacco products.”18
Further, with respect to respiratory issues, a US study found that “use of e-cigarettes appears to be an independent risk factor for respiratory disease in addition to all combustible tobacco smoking.” The authors also don’t recommend the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool because “for most smokers, using an e-cigarette is associated with lower odds of successfully quitting smoking.”19
Nicotine levels and flavours are not addressed in this consultation. However, the CMA considers these issues to be vital in the effort to protect youth and young adults from the harms associated with e-cigarettes and will therefore provide comment in effort to speed movement toward resolving these problems.
The CMA remains very concerned about the rising levels of nicotine available through the vaping process. They supply “high levels of nicotine with few of the deterrents that are inherent in other tobacco products. Traditional e-cigarette products use solutions with free-base nicotine formulations in which stronger nicotine concentrations can cause aversive user experiences.”
Hammond et al noted in their 2019 study that “JUUL® uses benzoic acid and nicotine salt technology to
deliver higher concentrations of nicotine than conventional e-cigarettes; indeed, the nicotine concentration in the standard version of JUUL® is more than 50 mg/mL, compared with typical levels of 3-24 mg/mL for other e-cigarettes.”9 The salts and flavours available to be used with these devices reduce the harshness and bitterness of the taste of the e-liquids with some of the competition delivering even higher levels of nicotine.
The CMA called on Health Canada to restrict the level of nicotine in vaping products to avoid youth (and adults) from developing a dependence.20 Health Canada set the maximum level at 66 mg/ml while a European Union (EU) directive of 2014 indicates the level should not exceed 20 mg/ml. , Nicotine, among other issues, “affects the developing brain by increasing the risk of addiction, mood disorders, lowered impulse control, and cognitive impairment. , Utilizing the EU level as an interim measure until more scientific research is available to determine an optimal level is acceptable.
On December 5, 2019, the Government of Nova Scotia became the first province or territory to announce it would institute a ban on sale of flavoured e-cigarettes and juices, as of April 1, 2020. The CMA recommends that flavours banned to reduce the attractiveness of vaping to youth as much as possible; others share this sentiment.6,7, Flavours are strong factors in attracting youth, especially when coupled with assertions of lower harm. Their success in doing so is evidenced by the rise in the rates of vaping among youth.9, A recent US study found that “perceiving flavored e-cigarettes as easier to use than unflavored e-cigarettes may lead to e-cigarette use progression among youth never tobacco users. Determining the factors (including e-cigarette marketing and specific e-cigarette flavors) that lead to perceived ease of using flavored e-cigarettes would inform efforts to prevent and curb youth e-cigarette use.” The CMA recommends that flavours be banned to reduce the attractiveness of vaping to youth as much as possible.
1. The CMA recommends that vaping advertisements should not be permitted in any public places, broadcast media, and in publications of any type, with no exceptions.
2. The CMA reiterates its position that all health warnings for vaping products and devices should be similar to those for tobacco packages.
3. The CMA believes that the European Union 2014 directive indicating the nicotine concentration not exceed 20 mg/ml should be adopted as an interim measure until more scientific research is available to determine an optimum level.
4. CMA recommends flavours be banned to reduce the attractiveness of vaping to youth as much as possible.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and its Quebec office are pleased to provide this submission to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment on Bill 44: An Act mainly to ensure effective governance of the fight against climate change and to promote electrification. The CMA maintains that governance of the fight against climate change will not be effective unless it integrates the health impacts on the Quebec population. Physicians in Quebec, across Canada, and around the world have a unique role to play in helping advance government and public understanding of the health consequences of climate change and in supporting the development of effective public health responses. The CMA’s submission provides recommendations to better prepare and mitigate the impacts of a changing climate on people’s health and the health care system in Quebec.
How Climate Change Affects Health
The World Health Organization has identified climate change as the biggest threat to global health.
1 In Canada, the immediate health effects of climate change are a growing concern. In this century, Canada will experience higher rates of warming in comparison to other countries around the world. Northern Canada, including northern Quebec (Nunavik), will continue to warm at more than triple the global rate. These warming conditions will lead to an increase in extreme weather events, longer growing seasons, melting of the permafrost, and rising sea levels.2
Physicians are at the front lines of a health care system that is seeing growing numbers of patients experiencing health problems related to climate change, including heat-related conditions, respiratory illnesses, infectious disease outbreaks and impacts on mental health. For example, the heat wave in southern Quebec in 2018 was linked to over 90 deaths.3
Examples of the extent of this issue include:
The number of extremely hot days is expected to double or triple in some parts of Canada in the next 30 years and will lead to an increase in heat-related impacts (e.g., heat stroke, myocardial infarction, kidney failure, dehydration, stroke).4
Air pollution contributes to approximately 2,000 early deaths each year in Quebec by way of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and respiratory disease (such as aggravated asthma).5
An increase in vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease has increased significantly in Quebec, with the number of cases increasing from 125 in 2014 to 338 in 2018.6
Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency, intensity and duration across Quebec and can negatively impact mental health (e.g., anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder),7 as well as place additional strain on the health care system.
Increasing temperatures are affecting the ice roads used in winter, and other roads built on permafrost in northern Quebec, threatening food security.8
There are sub-populations that are more susceptible to the health-related impacts of climate change. For example, in northern Quebec, climate change is already increasing health risks from food insecurity due to decreased access to traditional foods, decreased safety of ice-based travel, and damage to critical infrastructure due to melting permafrost. For the rest of Canada, the health impacts vary by geographic region, but include a list of issues such as increased risk of heat stroke and death, increases in allergy and asthma symptoms due to a longer pollen season, mental health implications from severe weather events, and increases in infectious diseases, UV radiation, waterborne diseases and respiratory impacts from air pollution. 9
Seniors, infants and children, socially disadvantaged individuals, and people with existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, are at greater risk of being affected by climate change. The susceptibility of a population to the effects of climate change is dependent on their existing vulnerabilities and their adaptive capacity. 10,11
Figure 1. Examples of Health Impact of Climate Change in Canada5
Climate Change: A Health Emergency
Recent polls have demonstrated that Canadians are very concerned about climate change and its impact on health. A 2017 poll commissioned by Health Canada revealed that 79% of Canadians were convinced that climate change is happening, and of those people 53% accepted that it is a current health risk and 40% believe it will be a health risk in the future.12 As well, a 2019 poll commissioned by Abacus Data reports that Quebecers are the most anxious about climate change and think about the climate more often than people living in the rest of Canada. The same poll reports that 59% of people in Quebec believe that climate change is currently an emergency and 12% reported that it will likely become an emergency in a few years.13 These numbers are not surprising considering the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events in Quebec in recent years. The CMA believes climate change is a public health crisis. Over the past few years in Canada, there have been numerous extreme climate events, such as wildfires in British Columbia,
extreme heat waves in Quebec, and storm surges on the east coast. In southern Quebec, a changing climate has also increased the range of several zoonoses, including blacklegged ticks, which are vectors of Lyme disease.14 Physicians across Quebec are seeing patient outcomes affected by the changing climate and are advocating for change. The health impacts of climate change were raised at last year’s COP25 meeting in Madrid, Spain, among an international group of leading environment and health stakeholders, including the CMA. The group collectively called on governments to broaden the scope of their climate change initiatives and investments to include health care.
A lack of progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of health systems, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services, not to mention the economic and social costs. In Quebec, the research consortium Ouranos estimated in 2015 that extreme heat, Lyme disease, West Nile virus and pollen alone will cost the Quebec state an additional $609 million to $1,075 million,15 and could result in up to 20,000 additional lives lost within the next 50 years.
Canada is currently not on track to meet the international targets set out by the Paris Agreement.16 The 2019 report from Lancet Countdown, the largest international health and climate research consortium, states that continued inaction on meeting the targets set out by the Paris Agreement will result in the health of a child born today being impacted negatively by climate change at every stage of its life.
The CMA recommends that adaptation and mitigation measures be prioritized to limit the effects of climate change on public health.
Hearing Health Care Professionals on Climate Change Last June, the CMA was pleased with the announcement made by the Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change, Benoit Charette, to create a task force to ensure effective governance of the fight against climate change, including meeting Quebec’s international climate targets.17 Climate change crosses multiple sectors and requires experts from diverse backgrounds to create solutions to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Considering the overwhelming evidence of the impacts of climate change on human health, it is paramount that a health representative sits on the committee that will be advising the Minister. Physicians and health professionals have a critical role to play in advancing public understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on health and promoting appropriate actions aimed at protecting the health of Canadians. Physicians believe that what’s good for the environment is also good for human health. Protecting human health must be at the core of all environmental and climate change strategies within Quebec.
Recommendation 2: The CMA recommends that a health representative sit on the committee that will be advising the minister.
Dedicated Funding for a Greener Health Care System
The 2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change reports that Canada has the third-highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions coming from its health care sector in the world. Health care related emissions account for approximately 4.5% of the country’s total emissions. Hospitals produce a significant proportion of health sector emissions as they are always on, are resource intensive, and have strict ventilation standards. Hospital services also produce large amounts of waste through the use of single-use items (e.g., hospital gowns and surgical supplies).
To remedy this problem, the CMA recommends that experts from research, education, clinical practice, and policy work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that funding be dedicated to measuring the carbon footprint of different institutions and addressing these issues. Health care providers are uniquely positioned to advocate for innovative solutions that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the health sector and improve public health.18 By reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the health system, the Quebec government will better position itself to be consistent with the timelines and goals of the Paris Agreement for zero-emissions for healthcare by 2050.19
The CMA recommends that a portion of the Green Fund’s budget be dedicated to the greening of health systems.
The CMA’s submission highlights the need to better prepare and mitigate the health impacts of a changing climate, as well as the need for a health representative to advise the minister, and the allocation of funding for the greening of health systems in Quebec. Physicians are in a unique position to help the government develop strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change and ultimately improve population health.
Summary of recommendations
The CMA recommends that adaptation and mitigation measures be prioritized to limit the effects of climate change on public health.
The CMA recommends that a health representative sit on the committee that will be advising the minister.
The CMA recommends that a portion of the Green Fund’s budget be dedicated to the greening of health systems.
1 Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, Ball S, et al. The Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission, The Lancet, 2009;373( 9676):1693-1733. Available: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60935-1/fulltext (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
2 Government of Canada. Canada’s Changing Climate Report. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2019. Available: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/energy/Climate-change/pdf/CCCR_FULLREPORT-EN-FINAL.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
3 Institut national de santé publique du Québec. Surveillance des impacts des vagues de chaleur extrême sur la santé au Québec à l’été 2018 [French only]. Québec : Institut national de santé publique du Québec; 2018. Available: https://www.inspq.qc.ca/bise/surveillance-des-impacts-des-vagues-de-chaleur-extreme-sur-la-sante-au-quebec-l-ete-2018 (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
4 Guilbault S, Kovacs P, Berry P, Richardson G, et al. Cities adapt to extreme heat: celebrating local leadership. Ottawa: Health Canada Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction; 2016. Available: https://www.iclr.org/wp-content/uploads/PDFS/cities-adapt-to-extreme-heat.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
5 Health Canada. Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Canada--an Estimate of Premature Mortalities. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2017. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/air-quality/health-effects-indoor-air-pollution.html (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
6 Santé et services sociaux Québec. Maladie de Lyme. Tableau des cas humains – Archives 2014 à 2018. [French only]. Available: https://www.msss.gouv.qc.ca/professionnels/zoonoses/maladie-lyme/tableau-des-cas-humains-lyme-archives/ (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
7 Cunsolo A, Ellis N. Ecological grief as a mental health response to climate change-related loss. Nature Climate Change 2018;8:275-81.
8 Rosol R, Powell-Hellyer S, Chan HM. Impacts of decline harvest of country food on nutrient intake among Inuit in Arctic Canada: impact of climate change and possible adaptation plan. Int J Circumpolar Health 2016;75(1):31127. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4937722/pdf/IJCH-75-31127.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
9 Howard C, Buse C, Rose C, MacNeill A, Parkes, M. The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Policy Brief for Canada. London: Lancet Countdown, Canadian Medical Association, and Canadian Public Health Association, 2019. Available: https://storage.googleapis.com/lancet-countdown/2019/11/Lancet-Countdown_Policy-brief-for-Canada_FINAL.pdf. (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
10 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). CMA Policy. Climate Change and Human Health. Ottawa: CMA; 2010. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9809 (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
11 Health Canada. Climate Change and Health. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2020. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/climate-change-health.html (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
12 Environics Health Research. Public Perceptions of Climate Change and Health Final Report. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2017.
13 Abacus Data. Is Climate Change “An Emergency” and do Canadians Support a Made-in-Canada Green New Deal? Ottawa: Abacus Data; 2019. Available: https://abacusdata.ca/is-climate-change-an-emergency-and-do-canadians-support-a-made-in-canada-green-new-deal/ (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
14 Howard C, Rose C, Hancock T. Lancet Countdown 2017 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers. Lancet Countdown and Canadian Public Health Association. Available: https://storage.googleapis.com/lancet-countdown/2019/10/2018-lancet-countdown-policy-brief-canada.pdf. (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
15 Ouranos. Vers l’adaptation. Synthèse des connaissances sur les changements climatiques au Québec [French only]. Montreal: Ouranos; 2015. Available: https://www.ouranos.ca/publication-scientifique/SyntheseRapportfinal.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
16 Government of Canada. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2018. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
17 Gouvernment du Québec. Press Release: Minister Benoit Charette announces an unprecedented process to develop the forthcoming Electrification and Climate Change Plan. Québec: Gouvernment du Québec;
2019. Available: http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/infuseur/communique_en.asp?no=4182 (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
18 Eckelman MJ, Sherman JD, MacNeill AJ. Life cycle environmental emissions and health damages from the Canadian healthcare system: An economic-environmental-epidemiological analysis. PLoS Med 2018;15(7):e1002623. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6067712/pdf/pmed.1002623.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25). (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
19 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Global Warming of 1.5C--Summary for Policymakers, France: IPCC; 2018. Available: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
Primary care is the backbone of our health care system in Canada and a national priority for this government.
The echoing words of the Speech from the Throne certify that the Government will strengthen health care and “Work with provinces, territories, health professionals and experts in industry and academia to make sure that all Canadians can access a primary care family doctor.” The Health Minister’s mandate letter further confirms that the Government will work “with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Seniors, to strengthen Medicare and renew our health agreements with the provinces and territories” to “ensure that every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health care team”.
We recognize that strengthening primary care through a team-based, inter-professional approach is integral to improving the health of all people living in Canada. This belief is consistent across our alliance of four major groups: the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Association of Social Workers and the College of Family Physicians of Canada. There is nothing more suiting or fortunate than for a team-based approach to be wholeheartedly supported by an even larger team of teams.
We commend the Government’s commitment
to increasing Canadians’ access to primary care.
We have a model to make it happen.
The Primary Health Care Transition Fund 2, a one-time fund over four years, would provide the necessary funding to help establish models of primary care based on the Patient’s Medical Home, a team-based approach that connects the various care delivery points in the community for each patient. This model is rooted in the networking of family physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and other health professionals as a team. This is the only way to provide comprehensive primary care to patients. It will enable a more exhaustive approach to patient care, ultimately leading to increased prevention and better health outcomes for Canadians. Consider it the main artery
in meeting the needs of patients and communities.
A commitment to the Primary Health Care Transition Fund 2 gives substance to the promise of building a network of care that addresses immediate health needs while connecting to ongoing social and community health services. This Fund model bolsters Canadians. It is backed by doctors, nurses, and social workers. A phalanx of Canadian care providers stand behind it. An entire country will benefit from it.
In support of the federal government’s commitment to improve Canadians’ access to primary care,
we recommend a one-time fund in the amount of $1.2 billion over four years to expand the establishment of primary care teams in each province and territory.
It is with a sense of urgency that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submits
the recommendations herein for emergency federal measures that, taken together,
will ensure Canadians receive appropriate care and that supportive measures are
implemented for public health protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Canada has made significant strides since SARS to establish and implement
effective public health infrastructure, resources and mechanisms, the significant
resource constraints across our health systems present a major challenge in our
current response. Federal emergency measures must be developed in the context
of the current state of health resources: hospitals across the country are already at
overcapacity, millions of Canadians lack access to a regular family doctor, countless
communities are grappling with health care shortages, virtual care is in its infancy,
and so on.
Another core concern is the chronic underfunding and ongoing budget cuts of
public health resources and programming. Public health capacity and leadership at
all levels is fundamental to preparedness to respond to an infectious disease threat,
particularly one of this magnitude.
It is in this context that the Canadian Medical Association recommends that the
following emergency measures be implemented by the federal government to
support the domestic response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place,
bur. / Suite 500, Ottawa ON K1J 9B9
1) FEDERAL RECOMMENDATION AND SUPPORT FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING
In this time of crisis, Canadians look to the federal government for leadership and guidance.
The single most important measure that can be implemented at this time is a consistent
national policy calling for social distancing. This recommendation by the federal government
must be paired with the resources necessary to ensure that no Canadian will be forced to choose
between financial hardship — whether by losing employment or not being able to pay rent —
and protecting their health.
The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government immediately communicate guidance
to Canadians to implement social distancing measures. The CMA further recommends that the
federal government deliver new financial support measures as well as employment protection
measures to ensure that all Canadians may engage in social distancing.
2) NEW FEDERAL EMERGENCY FUNDING TO BOOST PROVINCIAL/
TERRITORIAL CAPACITY AND ENSURE CONSISTENCY
It is the federal government’s role to ensure a coordinated and consistent national response across
jurisdictions and regions. This is by far the most important role for the federal government in
supporting an effective domestic response, that is, protecting the health and well-being of Canadians.
The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government deliver substantial emergency funding to
the provinces and territories to ensure health systems have the capacity to respond to the pandemic.
Across the OECD, countries are rapidly stepping up investment in measures to respond to COVID-19,
including significant investment targeting boosting health care capacity. In considering the
appropriate level of federal emergency funding to boost capacity in our provincial/territorial
systems, the CMA urges the federal government to recognize that our baseline is a position of deficit.
New emergency federal funding to boost capacity in provincial/territorial health systems should
be targeted to:
rapidly enabling the expansion and equitable delivery of virtual care;
establishing a centralized 24-hour national information hotline for health care workers to obtain
clear, timely and practical information on clinical guidelines, etc.;
expanding the capacity of and resources for emergency departments and intensive care units;
coordinating and disseminating information, monitoring and guidance within and across
rapidly delivering income stabilization for individuals and families under quarantine.
Finally, the inconsistencies in the provision and implementation of guidance and adoption of
public health measures across and within and jurisdictions is highly concerning. The CMA strongly
encourages the federal government enable consistent adoption of pan-Canadian guidance and
measures to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians.
1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place,
bur. / Suite 500, Ottawa ON K1J 9B9
3) ENSURING AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE
EQUIPMENT FOR CANADIAN HEALTH CARE WORKERS AND
ENSURING APPROPRIATE USAGE
The CMA is hearing significant concerns from front-line health care workers, including physicians,
about the supply and appropriate usage of personal protective equipment. It is the CMA’s
understanding that pan-Canadian efforts are underway to coordinate supply; however, additional
measures by the federal government to ensure adequate supply and appropriate usage are required.
Canada is at the outset of this public health crisis — supply issues at this stage may be exacerbated
as the situation progresses. As such, the CMA strongly recommends that the federal government
take additional measures to support the acquisition and distribution throughout health systems of
personal protective equipment, including taking a leadership role in ensuring our domestic supply via
international supply chains.
4) ESTABLISH EMERGENCY PAN-CANADIAN LICENSURE FOR
HEALTH CARE WORKERS
In this time of public health crisis, the federal government must ensure that regulatory barriers
do not prevent health care providers from delivering care to patients when and where they need
it. Many jurisdictions and regions in Canada are experiencing significant shortages in health
The CMA urges the federal government to support piloting a national licensure program so that
health care providers can opt to practice in regions experiencing higher infection rates or where
there is a shortage of providers. This can be accomplished by amending the Canadian Free Trade
Agreement (CFTA) to facilitate mobility of health care workers.
Specifically, that the following language be added to Article 705(3) of the CFTA:
(j) A regulatory authority of a Party* shall waive for a period of up to 100 days any condition of
certification found in 705(3)(a) - (f) for any regulated health care worker to work directly or
indirectly to address the Covid-19 pandemic or any health care emergency. Any disciplinary matter
emanating from work in any province shall be the responsibility of the regulatory authority of the
jurisdiction where the work is performed. Each Party shall instruct its regulatory authorities to set-up
a rapid check-in/check-out process for the worker.
*Party refers to a signatory of the CFTA
To further enable this measure, the CMA recommends that the federal government deliver targeted
funding to the regulatory colleges to implement this emergency measure as well as targeted funding
to support the provinces/territories in delivering expanded patient care.
1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place,
bur. / Suite 500, Ottawa ON K1J 9B9
5) ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
SERVICE FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS
Health care providers may experience trauma and hardship in meeting the increasing health needs
and concerns of Canadians in this time of crisis. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal
government establish an emergency National Mental Health Support Services hotline for all health
care providers who are at the front lines of patient care during the pandemic. This critical resource
will ensure our health care providers have the help they may need as they care for patients,
including helping them to deal with an increasing patient load.
6) IMPLEMENT A TARGETED TAX CREDIT FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS
EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL LOSS DUE TO QUARANTINE
In addition to supporting income stabilization measures for all Canadians who may benefit from
support, the CMA recommends that the federal government establish a time-limited and targeted
tax credit for health providers who may experience financial loss due to quarantine.
Many health care providers operate independently and may face significant fixed expenses as part of
their care model. As health care providers may have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, this
may result in significant financial loss. A time-limited tax credit to ease this loss may help ensure
the continued viability of their care model. Further, the CMA supports extending the federal tax
filing timeline in recognition of the fact that health care workers and all Canadians are focused
on emergency matters.
The CMA’s recommendations align with the OECD’s call to action: “Governments need to ensure
effective and well-resourced public health measures to prevent infection and contagion, and implement
well-targeted policies to support health care systems and workers, and protect the incomes of vulnerable
social groups and businesses during the virus outbreak.”
Now is the time to ensure that appropriate leadership continues and that targeted investments are
made to protect the health of Canadians.
The current global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has presented the international medical community with unprecedented ethical challenges. The most difficult of these has involved making decisions about access to scarce resources when demand outweighs capacity.
In Canada, it is well accepted that everyone should have an equal opportunity to access and receive medical treatment. This is possible when there are sufficient resources. But in contexts of resource scarcity, when there are insufficient resources, difficult decisions have to be made about who receives critical care (e.g., ICU beds, ventilators) by triaging patients. Triage is a process for determining which patients receive treatment and/or which level of care under what circumstances in contexts of resource scarcity. Priority-setting for resource allocation becomes more ethically complex during catastrophic times or in public health emergencies, such as today’s COVID-19 pandemic, when there is a need to manage a potential surge of patients.
Physicians from China to Italy to Spain to the United States have found themselves in the unfathomable position of having to triage their most seriously ill patients and decide which ones should have access to ventilators and which should not, and which allocation criteria should be used to make these decisions. While the Canadian Medical Association hopes that Canadian physicians will not be faced with these agonizing choices, it is our intent, through this framework, to provide them with guidance in case they do and enable them to make ethically justifiable informed decisions in the face of difficult ethical dilemmas. Invoking this framework to ground decisions about who has access to critical care and who does not should only be made as a last resort. As always, physicians should carefully document their clinical and ethical decisions and the reasoning behind them.
Generally, the CMA would spend many months in deliberations and consultations with numerous stakeholders, including patients and the public, before producing a document such as this one. The current situation, unfortunately, did not allow for such a process. We have turned instead to documents, reports and policies produced by our Italian colleagues and ethicists and physicians from Canada and around the world, as well as provincial level documents and frameworks.
The CMA is endorsing and recommending that Canadian physicians use the guidance provided by Emmanuel and colleagues in the New England Journal of Medicine article dated from March 23rd, as outlined below. We believe these recommendations represent the best current approach to this situation, produced using the highest current standard of evidence by a panel of internationally recognized experts. We also recognize that the situation is changing constantly, and these guidelines may need to be updated as required.
The CMA will continue to advocate for access to personal protective equipment, ventilators and ICU equipment and resources. We also encourage physicians to make themselves aware of any relevant provincial or local documents, and to seek advice from their regulatory body or liability protection provider. It should be noted that some provinces and indeed individual health care facilities will have their own protocols or frameworks in place. At the time of its publication, this document was broadly consistent with those protocols that we were given an opportunity to review.
The CMA recognizes that physicians may experience moral distress when making these decisions. We encourage physicians to seek peer support and practice self-care. In addition, the CMA recommends that triage teams or committees be convened where feasible in order to help separate clinical decision making from resource allocation, thereby lessening the moral burden being placed on the individual physician.
The CMA recommends that physicians receive legal protection to ensure that they can continue providing needed care to patients with confidence and support and without fear of civil or criminal liability or professional discipline. In this time of uncertainty, physicians should be reassured that their good faith efforts to provide care during such a crisis will not put them at increased medical-legal risk. Providing such reassurance is needed so that physicians have the confidence to continue to provide care to their patients.
Recommendation 1: In the context of a pandemic, the value of maximizing benefits is most important. This value reflects the importance of responsible stewardship of resources: it is difficult to justify asking health care workers and the public to take risks and make sacrifices if the promise that their efforts will save and lengthen lives is illusory. Priority for limited resources should aim both at saving the most lives and at maximizing improvements in individuals’ post-treatment length of life. Saving more lives and more years of life is a consensus value across expert reports. It is consistent both with utilitarian ethical perspectives that emphasize population outcomes and with nonutilitarian views that emphasize the paramount value of each human life. There are many reasonable ways of balancing saving more lives against saving more years of life; whatever balance between lives and life-years is chosen must be applied consistently.
Limited time and information in a Covid-19 pandemic make it justifiable to give priority to maximizing the number of patients that survive treatment with a reasonable life expectancy and to regard maximizing improvements in length of life as a subordinate aim. The latter becomes relevant only in comparing patients whose likelihood of survival is similar. Limited time and information during an emergency also counsel against incorporating patients’ future quality of life, and quality-adjusted life-years, into benefit maximization. Doing so would require time-consuming collection of information and would present ethical and legal problems. However, encouraging all patients, especially those facing the prospect of intensive care, to document in an advance care directive what future quality of life they would regard as acceptable and when they would refuse ventilators or other life-sustaining interventions can be appropriate.
Operationalizing the value of maximizing benefits means that people who are sick but could recover if treated are given priority over those who are unlikely to recover even if treated and those who are likely to recover without treatment. Because young, severely ill patients will often comprise many of those who are sick but could recover with treatment, this operationalization also has the effect of giving priority to those who are worst off in the sense of being at risk of dying young and not having a full life.
Because maximizing benefits is paramount in a pandemic, we believe that removing a patient from a ventilator or an ICU bed to provide it to others in need is also justifiable and that patients should be made aware of this possibility at admission. Undoubtedly, withdrawing ventilators or ICU support from patients who arrived earlier to save those with better prognosis will be extremely psychologically traumatic for clinicians — and some clinicians might refuse to do so. However, many guidelines agree that the decision to withdraw a scarce resource to save others is not an act of killing and does not require the patient’s consent. We agree with these guidelines that it is the ethical thing to do. Initially allocating beds and ventilators according to the value of maximizing benefits could help reduce the need for withdrawal.
Recommendation 2: Irrespective of Recommendation 1, Critical Covid-19 interventions — testing, PPE, ICU beds, ventilators, therapeutics, and vaccines — should go first to front-line health care workers and others who care for ill patients and who keep critical infrastructure operating, particularly workers who face a high risk of infection and whose training makes them difficult to replace. These workers should be given priority not because they are somehow more worthy, but because of their instrumental value: they are essential to pandemic response. If physicians and nurses and RTs are incapacitated, all patients — not just those with Covid-19 — will suffer greater mortality and years of life lost. Whether health workers who need ventilators will be able to return to work is uncertain but giving them priority for ventilators recognizes their assumption of the high-risk work of saving others. Priority for critical workers must not be abused by prioritizing wealthy or famous persons or the politically powerful above first responders and medical staff — as has already happened for testing. Such abuses will undermine trust in the allocation framework.
Recommendation 3: For patients with similar prognoses, equality should be invoked and operationalized through random allocation, such as a lottery, rather than a first-come, first-served allocation process. First-come, first-served is used for such resources as transplantable kidneys, where scarcity is long-standing, and patients can survive without the scarce resource. Conversely, treatments for coronavirus address urgent need, meaning that a first-come, first-served approach would unfairly benefit patients living nearer to health facilities. And first-come, first-served medication or vaccine distribution would encourage crowding and even violence during a period when social distancing is paramount. Finally, first-come, first-served approaches mean that people who happen to get sick later on, perhaps because of their strict adherence to recommended public health measures, are excluded from treatment, worsening outcomes without improving fairness. In the face of time pressure and limited information, random selection is also preferable to trying to make finer-grained prognostic judgments within a group of roughly similar patients.
Recommendation 4: Prioritization guidelines should differ by intervention and should respond to changing scientific evidence. For instance, younger patients should not be prioritized for Covid-19 vaccines, which prevent disease rather than cure it, or for experimental post- or pre-exposure prophylaxis. Covid-19 outcomes have been significantly worse in older persons and those with chronic conditions. Invoking the value of maximizing saving lives justifies giving older persons priority for vaccines immediately after health care workers and first responders. If the vaccine supply is insufficient for patients in the highest risk categories — those over 60 years of age or with coexisting conditions — then equality supports using random selection, such as a lottery, for vaccine allocation. Invoking instrumental value justifies prioritizing younger patients for vaccines only if epidemiologic modeling shows that this would be the best way to reduce viral spread and the risk to others.
Epidemiologic modeling is even more relevant in setting priorities for coronavirus testing. Federal guidance currently gives priority to health care workers and older patients but reserving some tests for public health surveillance could improve knowledge about Covid-19 transmission and help researchers target other treatments to maximize benefits.
Conversely, ICU beds and ventilators are curative rather than preventive. Patients who need them face life-threatening conditions. Maximizing benefits requires consideration of prognosis — how long the patient is likely to live if treated — which may mean giving priority to younger patients and those with fewer coexisting conditions. This is consistent with the Italian guidelines that potentially assign a higher priority for intensive care access to younger patients with severe illness than to elderly patients. Determining the benefit-maximizing allocation of antivirals and other experimental treatments, which are likely to be most effective in patients who are seriously but not critically ill, will depend on scientific evidence. These treatments may produce the most benefit if preferentially allocated to patients who would fare badly on ventilation.
Recommendation 5: People who participate in research to prove the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and therapeutics should receive some priority for Covid-19 interventions. Their assumption of risk during their participation in research helps future patients, and they should be rewarded for that contribution. These rewards will also encourage other patients to participate in clinical trials. Research participation, however, should serve only as a tiebreaker among patients with similar prognoses.
Recommendation 6: There should be no difference in allocating scarce resources between patients with Covid-19 and those with other medical conditions. If the Covid-19 pandemic leads to absolute scarcity, that scarcity will affect all patients, including those with heart failure, cancer, and other serious and life-threatening conditions requiring prompt medical attention. Fair allocation of resources that prioritizes the value of maximizing benefits applies across all patients who need resources. For example, a doctor with an allergy who goes into anaphylactic shock and needs life-saving intubation and ventilator support should receive priority over Covid-19 patients who are not frontline health care workers.
Approved by the CMA Board of Directors April 2020
The CMA has always taken an interest in and a stand on various health issues affecting the medical profession and patients. Access to health care is one such issue.
The CMA recently commissioned Ipsos to conduct an extensive survey on the population’s concerns regarding access to health care. The data indicates that Quebecers are the most pessimistic in the country—and this sentiment is even more pronounced when respondents think about the future. Forty percent of survey respondents are concerned about access to health care, and more than half (55%) have a negative perception of the future of the health care system, compared with 26% and 47%, respectively, for the rest of Canada.1 It also appears that Quebecers are significantly affected by the shortage of health professionals and the increase in system costs due to the aging population and the growing number of seniors with health care needs.
The public’s worries are also shared by our members and physicians in Quebec, who are concerned by the fact that their patients are not receiving the care and services they need in a timely manner.
The government of Quebec is making a significant investment in the health care network, a budget item that accounts for almost 50% of total program expenditures.2 The CMA applauds this effort.
The CMA submission proposes certain measures that have a two-fold objective: improving the health of Quebecers and ensuring the sustainability of the health care system for future generations.
The CMA submission is divided into three parts: improving support to elderly patients and caregivers; tobacco and vaping control; and reducing unnecessary examinations and treatments to optimize use of the health care system’s financial and human resources.
Seniors and caregivers
It is no secret that Quebec’s population is aging rapidly. According to data from the Institut de la statistique du Québec cited in the Plan stratégique du ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, seniors are expected to make up 25% of the population in 2031 and 28% in 2066, compared with 18% in 2016.3
Although aging is not necessarily synonymous with poor health or disability, the likelihood of both of these conditions increases with age. Close to seven out of ten Quebecers aged 65 and over report two or more long-term health conditions, and 93% of these individuals take medication.4 The most common health issues among people aged 65 and over are arthritis and hypertension.5 Moreover, the incidence of cancer rises significantly with age.6
The aging population thus exerts additional pressure on a health care system that is already stretched thin. The CMA has long been lobbying the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer to take into account the needs of the aging population when calculating the Transfer. Consequently, the CMA supports the Quebec government’s negotiations with the federal government to secure an increase in federal health transfer payments.
To ensure a sustainable health care system, it is important to invest in measures that will allow the public to maintain their health as they age, and that foster seniors’ independence—such as a healthy lifestyle, adequate nutrition and treatment adherence, where applicable. The Quebec government has already taken steps to foster the well-being of elderly persons, such as implementing the senior assistance tax credit and increasing support for home support services. The Minister Responsible for Seniors and Informal Caregivers has announced the development of a provincial policy for caregivers in 2020–2021, as indicated in the recently submitted strategic plan.3
These initiatives aimed at improving the lives of seniors and caregivers are to be commended. The CMA believes that the scope of these initiatives should be widened.
Support for seniors
In its economic update presented on December 3, 2018, the Quebec government announced a new tax credit for seniors over age 70. More specifically, this tax credit provides annual assistance of up to $200 per senior and $400 per couple.
The CMA welcomes this initiative, but it should be noted that seniors aged 65 and overspend more than $2,200 on health care fees each year7 (health care items, medication, dental care, insurance premiums, etc.). Given that this level of spending is significant and that 60% of seniors have an annual income under $30,000,8 this tax credit appears to be insufficient for those who have to bear these additional daily health expenses. We must collectively
ensure that certain seniors will not have to forego treatment because they cannot afford it.
Quebecers’ health care expenses have been increasing in recent years,9 and the CMA believes it is essential that this growing problem be dealt with right now. The CMA recommends that the Quebec government create an allowance for seniors aged 65 and over. This new allowance, which would be modelled after the family allowance, would provide financial assistance to low- and medium-income seniors to help them manage additional health-related expenses.
The CMA also believes that the senior assistance tax credit should be extended to people ages 65 to 69.
Like seniors’ advocacy groups, the CMA recommends greater recognition of family caregivers’ contribution to the Quebec health care system. This could take the form of a greater tax credit for caregivers offered in Quebec.
Family caregivers are an integral part of the health care system, as they play an active role in enabling seniors to stay at home—which is what most seniors prefer.10
The Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux plans to increase home support services as part of its 2019–2023 strategic plan.10 The CMA believes that this initiative should be combined with increased assistance for family caregivers.
In 2016, the demographic portrait of caregivers in Quebec indicated that 35% of Quebecers, or 2.2 million people, provided care to a senior. Of these, around 15% acted as caregivers for more than 10 hours a week. With the aging of the population set to accelerate in the coming years and decades, caregivers’ unpaid working hours will increase significantly. In Canada, according to a 2011 study, close to 80% of all assistance to recipients of long-term care was provided by family caregivers. This represents a contribution of over five billion dollars’ worth of unpaid services for the public health network.11
According to the CMA, the tax credit for caregivers is an indispensable and necessary financial contribution for these people and the seniors receiving care, but this measure in no way reflects the costs assumed by caregivers. More support should be provided to people who give their time every day, sustain financial losses and compensate for the lack of resources in the health care system.
Given the indispensable role family caregivers play, the CMA recommends that the government increase the tax credit for caregivers so that it better reflects their contribution to society—and this should apply to all four types of family caregivers defined by Revenu Québec:12
Caregivers who take care of a senior spouse who is unable to live alone
Caregivers who house an eligible relative
Caregivers who cohabit with an eligible relative who is unable to live alone
Caregivers who support an eligible relative whom they regularly and continuously assist in carrying out basic activities of daily living
The CMA recommends:
1. Expanding the senior assistance tax credit to support people who are between the ages of 65 and 69
2. Creating a seniors’ allowance to provide financial assistance to low- and medium-income seniors to help them manage additional health-related expenses
3. Increasing the tax credit for caregivers, for all types of family caregivers recognized by Revenu Québec
Smoking and vaping prevention
Although the government of Quebec must pay specific attention to seniors’ care to lighten the burden on the health care system, prevention is still just as important. Prevention has proven to be useful in reducing health care costs by eliminating the need for certain treatments and hospitalizations.13 Measures to control smoking and vaping fall under this category.
For decades, the CMA has been promoting the benefits of a smoke-free society with the support of our physician members, who are witnesses to tobacco’s harmful effects on health. The CMA issued its first public health warning on the risks associated with tobacco use in 1954, and since then has made a significant contribution to the development of public policies related to the industry. One needs only to think of the role that the CMA played in the federal government’s decision to require that tobacco products be sold in plain packaging and standard sizes.
Every government in the country has been actively committed to the fight against tobacco for years, and there has been a significant drop in tobacco use over time. However, regular tobacco use in Quebec has settled at around 15% of the population aged 12 or older.14 Unfortunately, this proportion is still too high.
There is another growing phenomenon among young people that we believe merits the attention of the Minister of Finance: e-cigarettes, also referred to as vaping devices. According to the Enquête québécoise sur la santé des jeunes du secondaire 2016-2017 [Quebec health survey of high school students 2016-2017], one third of youths have used e-cigarettes.15 Although these types of products do not contain tobacco, they do contain nicotine and aromatic substances that could be harmful to people’s health. The CMA recommends increasing research on the potential health consequences these devices can have on people, and the validity of claims that they are an effective means to quit smoking. We also support prohibiting e-cigarette sales to minors, enforcing strict regulation of the sale of these products and prohibiting vaping in locations where smoking is currently forbidden. We also recommend that the marketing restrictions on tobacco products be applied to vaping products and devices as well.
The CMA also believes that governments would be well advised to draw inspiration from strategies that have been successful in curbing tobacco use and reducing the appeal of e-cigarettes, particularly among young people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a 10% increase in the price of tobacco results in a 4% to 8% drop in consumption. Taxes on vaping products could therefore have the same deterrent effect, especially among young people, who are more sensitive to price variations.16 This is why it is imperative that we do not wait for the outcome of the work carried out by the special vaping intervention group led by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) before taking action.
Effective January 1, 2020, the government of British Columbia raised the sales tax on vaping products from 7% to 20%17 to prevent and reduce the use of these products by young people. The CMA recommends that the government of Quebec emulate this policy by increasing taxes on vaping and tobacco products.
The right care at the right time
According to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), up to 30% of tests, treatments and procedures in Canada are potentially unnecessary. Unnecessary tests, treatments, and procedures not only add zero value to care, but they may also expose patients to additional risks and waste health resources.18
In 2012, as certain treatments were being overused or not adding value for patients, the CMA was a leading partner in the Choosing Wisely Canada campaign, which was launched in Quebec in 2014. This program helps health care professionals and patients engage in a dialogue about unnecessary tests and treatments and helps them make smart and effective choices to ensure quality health care. Guides and recommendations for patients and health
care professionals have been developed through this campaign to make them aware of overuse and overdiagnosis.
The ultimate goal of Choosing Wisely is to improve the performance of the health care system.
A survey indicates that almost half of physicians (48%) agree that they need more support and tools to help them determine which services are not suitable for their patients.19 The tools provided by the Choosing Wisely campaign have proven effective. The CMA believes that their use by Quebec physicians and patients is beneficial.
Publicizing campaigns and developing and updating tools and recommendations require significant financial resources. Elsewhere in the country, several provinces are providing financial support to Choosing Wisely. However, Quebec ended its financial commitment in the past year.
Given the Quebec government’s commitment regarding the appropriateness of care, the CMA recommends supporting the Choosing Wisely Quebec campaign with a long-term financial commitment.
Summary of CMA recommendations
Senior and caregiver support
The CMA is proposing three main recommendations to support seniors and their caregivers. The recommended measures are aimed at ensuring healthy aging and recognizing family caregivers’ economic and social contribution in Quebec.
1. Expand the senior assistance tax credit to support people who are between the ages of 65 and 69.
2. Create an allowance for seniors to help them manage private health care costs.
3. Increase the tax credit for caregivers, for all types of caregivers recognized by Revenu Québec.
Implementation of a tax on tobacco and vaping products
The government of British Columbia announced its intent to increase the sales tax on vaping products from 7% to 20%, effective January 1, 2020,20 to prevent and reduce the use of these products by young people. The CMA recommends that the government of Quebec emulate this policy by heavily taxing vaping and tobacco products.
Contribution to the Choosing Wisely Canada program
Given the Quebec government’s commitment regarding the appropriateness of care, the CMA recommends supporting the Choosing Wisely Quebec campaign with a long-term financial commitment.
1 Ipsos, Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Canadians are Nervous About the Future of the Health System. Ottawa: CMA; 2019. Available: https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/news-media/Canadians-are-Nervous-About-the-Future-of-the-Health-System-E.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
2 Gouvernement du Québec. Update on Québec’s Economic and Financial Situation. Quebec: Gouvernement du Québec; Fall 2019. Available : http://www.finances.gouv.qc.ca/documents/Autres/en/AUTEN_updateNov2019.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
3 Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. Plan stratégique 2019-2023(French only). Quebec : Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux; December 2019. Available : https://cdn-contenu.quebec.ca/cdn-contenu/adm/min/sante-services-sociaux/publications-adm/plan-strategique/PL_19-717-02W_MSSS.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
4 Institut de la statistique du Québec. Enquête québécoise sur les limitations d’activités, les maladies chroniques et le vieillissement 2010-2011(French only). Quebec : Institut de la statistique du Québec; October 2013. Available: http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/sante/services/incapacites/limitation-maladies-chroniques-utilisation.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13). 5 Statistics Canada. Table 13-10-0096-01 Health characteristics, annual estimates. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2019. Available: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1310009601&%3BpickMembers%5B0%5D=1.6&%3BpickMembers%5B1%5D=2.6&%3BpickMembers%5B2%5D=3.1&request_locale=en. (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
6 Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee. Canadian Cancer Statistics, September 2019. Toronto: Canadian Cancer Society; September 2019. Available: https://www.cancer.ca/~/media/cancer.ca/CW/cancer%20information/cancer%20101/Canadian%20cancer%20statistics/Canadian-Cancer-Statistics-2019-EN.pdf?la=en-CA (accessed 2020 Jan 13). 7 Institut de la statistique du Québec. Dépenses moyennes des ménages déclarants, selon le groupe d'âge de la personne de référence, Québec, 2006 (French only). Quebec: Institut de la statistique du Québec; 2006. Available: http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/conditions-vie-societe/depenses-avoirs-dettes/depenses/depdeclar_age.htm (accessed 2020 Jan 13). 8 Santé et des Services sociaux. Les aînés du Québec - Quelques données récentes (2e édition)(French only). Quebec: Santé et des Services sociaux; June 2018. Available: https://publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca/msss/fichiers/ainee/aines-quebec-chiffres.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
9 Santé et des Services sociaux. Dépenses moyennes des ménages en dollars courants, selon le poste de dépenses, ensemble des ménages, Québec, 2010-2017(French only): http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/conditions-vie-societe/depenses-avoirs-dettes/depenses/tab1_dep_moy_menage.htm (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
10 Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, Plan stratégique 2019-2023 [2019–2023 Strategic plan] (French only). Quebec: Santé et des Services sociaux; December 2019. Avalable: https://cdn-contenu.quebec.ca/cdn-contenu/adm/min/sante-services-sociaux/publications-adm/plan-strategique/PL_19-717-02W_MSSS.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
11 Fast J, Lero D, Duncan K, et al. Employment consequences of family/friend caregiving in Canad. Population Change and Lifecourse Strategic Knowledge Cluster Research/Policy Brief, Vol. 1, No. 2 , Art. 2. Edmonton: Research on Aging, Policies and Practice, University of Alberta; 2011. Available: https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=pclc_rpb (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
12 Revenu Québec. Tax Credit for Caregivers. Quebec: Revenu Québec; 2019. Available: https://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/citizens/tax-credits/tax-credit-for-caregivers/ (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
13 Public Health Agency of Canada. Investing in Prevention: The Economic Perspective. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; May 2009. Available: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/pdf/preveco-eng.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
14 Statistics Canada. Table 13-10-0096-10 Smokers, by age group. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2018. Available:
https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1310009610 (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
15 Institut de la statistique du Québec. Enquête québécoise sur la santé des jeunes du secondaire 2016-2017. Résultats de la deuxième édition. La santé physique et les habitudes de vie des jeunes, Tome 3 (French only). Quebec: Institut de la statistique du Québec; December 2018. Available: https://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/sante/enfants-ados/alimentation/sante-jeunes-secondaire-2016-2017-t3.html(accessed 2020 Jan 13).
16 World Health Organization (WHO). Tobacco Free Initiative: https://www.who.int/tobacco/economics/taxation/en/
17 Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Bill 45 – 2019: Taxation Statutes Amendment Act. Geneva: WHO; 2019. Available: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/4th-session/bills/first-reading/gov45-1 (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
18 Choosing Wisely Canada. Implementing Choosing Wisely Canada Recommendations. Toronto: Choosing Wisely Canada; 2020. Available: https://choosingwiselycanada.org/implementation/ (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
19 Canadian Medical Association, e-Panel Survey Summary: Choosing Wisely Canada (distributed to 3,864 e-Panel members and completed in November 2016): https://www.cma.ca/e-panel-survey-summary-choosing-wisely-canada.
20 Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Bill 45 – 2019: Taxation Statutes Amendment Act. Vancouver: Legislative Assembly of British Columbia; 2019. Available: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/4th-session/bills/first-reading/gov45-1 (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
Racism is a structural determinant of health and drives health and social inequities. The recent incidents of anti-Black violence, racism and discrimination in the US and Canada also shed light on the structural inequities and racism that exist within the medical profession and the health system.
The profession of medicine is grounded in respect for all people. This commitment recognizes that everyone has equal and inherent worth, the right to be valued and respected, and the right to be treated with dignity.
It’s critical that our medical culture – and society more broadly – upholds these values. But today, we’re reminded that there’s much more to do as a profession, and as a global community, to get us there.
Earlier this year, we launched our first-ever policy on equity and diversity in medicine Opens in a new window to help break down the many broad and systemic barriers that remain, to reduce discrimination and bias within our profession, and to create physically and psychologically safe environments for ourselves, our colleagues and our patients.
Alongside this policy comes a commitment to holding ourselves accountable to recognizing and challenging behaviours, practices and conditions that hinder equity and diversity, including racism.
Instances of racism, intolerance, exclusion, violence and discrimination have no place in medicine, and no place in our society. The Canadian Medical Association condemns racism in all its forms. Today, we stand alongside all those who have been affected by these appalling and inexcusable actions and beliefs.
Dr. Sandy Buchman
President, Canadian Medical Association
Subject: Improving Long-term Care for People in Canada
Dear Minister Hajdu and Minister Schulte,
We are writing to you with recommendations for responding to the staggering effects COVID-19 has had on our health-care system, particularly in long-term care (LTC) homes across Canada. These recommendations were recently unveiled by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) on May 27 through a report entitled 2020 Vision: Improving Long-term Care for People in Canada (attached to this letter). We invite you to read it and consider the proposals we are bringing forward.
As you know, Canada has had unacceptable rates of COVID-19-related deaths in LTC; by late April, 79% of the country’s deaths due to COVID-19 were linked to outbreaks in these homes. These tragic numbers are in part a result of decades of neglect of the LTC sector and a growing mismatch between the level of care required by people living in those settings, and the level of care available. Furthermore, the recent reports from the military deployed to Ontario and Quebec’s long-term care homes have emphasized the shocking and horrific conditions that exist in some nursing homes in Canada.
We applaud the Prime Minster’s recent commitment to work closely and support the province’s efforts to improve standards of care for older people in long-term care
homes across the country. Moreover, further decisive action needs to be undertaken. To address the flaws COVID-19 has revealed in the support and care systems available to Canada’s older people, we recommend that your Government take immediate action on three important fronts:
The Government of Canada should immediately appoint a commission of inquiry on aging;
Federal public health leaders must work with provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments and public health leaders to review the country’s COVID-19 response and organize preparations for the next pandemic;
Federal, provincial and territorial governments must increase investments in community, home and residential care to meet the needs of our aging population.
As the Prime Minister indicated last week, providing support in the short term and having broader discussions in the long term is critical. We believe many solutions can be put in place now in some long-term care homes if they had better funding, for example. In the long term, a deeper look to identify the best models for delivering better health and social services will support safe and dignified aging for every person in Canada.
We recognize the challenges involved to address the issues in the support and care systems for older people in Canada. The benefits of redesigning how we provide care for older people (Canada’s largest growing demographic) and others with complex continuing care needs will go beyond improving their lives and health. A good long-term care system, in tandem with effective, well-organized community and home care, will ease pressure on the acute-care system and eliminate many of the gaps in the continuum of care that too often result in previously independent older people landing in the hospital or long-term care.
Acting on these three recommendations will help to provide a solid foundation on which to build a safe and dignified future for Canada’s older people. Canada is known
for its humanitarian work around the world. It’s time we brought those values home, to care for the people to whom this country and each one of us owes so much.
We look forward to discussing these proposals with you and your staff as soon as possible. Sincerely,
RN, MN, PhD, CCHN(C) President Canadian Nurses Association
RN, BSN, MN, PhD(c) President,
Canadian Association for Rural and Remote Nursing
Canadian Association of Social Workers
RN, BN, ASMH, Med President Canadian Family Practice Nurses Association
RPN, MN, PhD(c)President,
Lori Schindel Martin,
RN, PHD President
Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association
BN, RN, CPMHN(C) Past President
Canadian Federation of Mental Health Nurses
RN, BScN, President
Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association
MD CCFP (PC) FCFP President Canadian Medical Association
Canadian Public Health Association
Miranda R Ferrier
MD CM, CCFP, FCFP, CAE, ICD. D
Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer College of Family Physicians of Canada
Ontario Personal Support Workers Association
Canadian Support Workers Association
RPN-GPNC(C), BAHSc (Hons), MHSc(c)
Professional Advocacy Director
Gerontological Nursing Association
MN, NP, President NPAC-AIIPC
Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada
Re: Federal measures to recognize the significant contributions of Canada’s front-line health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Dear Ministers Morneau and Hajdu:
On behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and HEAL’s member organizations, representing 650,000 health care workers in Canada, we are writing to you with recommendations for new federal measures to support the financial hardships and risks posed to front-line health care workers (FLHCWs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To begin, we strongly support the measures the federal government has taken to date to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. However, given the unique circumstances that FLHCWs face, additional measures are required to acknowledge their role, the risks being posed to themselves and their families, and the financial burden they have taken on through it all. All FLHCWs face numerous challenges trying to carry out their life-saving work during these incredibly difficult times and they deserve to be recognized for their significant contributions.
As such, we are recommending that the federal government implement the following new measures for all FLHCWs:
1) An income tax deduction for FLHCWs put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, in recognition of their heroic efforts. All FLHCWs providing in-person patient care during the pandemic would be eligible to deduct a designated amount against their income earned. This would be modelled on the deduction provided to members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving in moderate- and high-risk missions.
2) A non-taxable grant to support the families of FLHCWs who die in the course of responding to the COVID-10 pandemic or who die as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to this work. The grant would also apply to cases in which the death of a FLHCW’s family member is attributable to the FLHCW’s work in responding to the pandemic. We are recommending that access to the Memorial Grant program, or a similar measure, be granted to FLHCWs and their family member(s).
3) A temporary emergency accommodation tax deduction for FLHCWs who incur additional accommodation costs as well as a home renovation credit in recognition of the need for FLHCWs to adhere to social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to their family members. We are recommending all FLHCWs earning income while working in a health care facility or public health unit or in a capacity related thereto (e.g. paramedics or janitorial staff) be eligible for the deduction and credit.
1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500
Ottawa ON K1J 9B9
Ministers Morneau and Hajdu
June 2, 2020
4) Provide additional child-care relief to FLHCWs by doubling the child-care deduction. We recommend the individuals listed above be eligible for the enhanced deduction.
We recognize that it is important that any measures enacted be simple for the government to implement and administer, as well as simple for FLHCWs to understand and access. The recommendations above will ensure that relief applies to a wide range of Canada’s FLHCWs who are battling COVID-19, where the primary intention is to be as inclusive as possible.
Once again, we commend the federal government for its decisive and meaningful response to the pandemic. Now is the time to ensure comprehensive supports are provided to those who have stepped up to protect the health and safety of all Canadians. We welcome the opportunity to discuss these recommendations with you.
Sandy Buchman, MD, CCFP(PC), FCFP
President, Canadian Medical Association
This letter is signed by the following organizations:
1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500
Ottawa ON K1J 9B9
Ministers Morneau and Hajdu
June 2, 2020
Canadian Medical Association
Canadian College of Health Leaders
Canadian Podiatric Medical Association
Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Association of Community Health Centres
Canadian Psychological Association
Canadian Association for Interventional Radiology
Canadian Dental Association
Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists
Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science
Canadian Society of Nutrition Management
Canadian Association of Midwives
Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine
Canadian Massage Therapist Alliance
Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists
Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
College of Family Physicians of Canada
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Nurses Association
Dietitians of Canada
Canadian Association of Social Workers
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Paramedic Association of Canada
Canadian Chiropractic Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Speech-Language & Audiology Canada
Submission in Response to the Consultation on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: Keeping Medical Clinic Employees on the Payroll June 5, 2020
Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CMA has been actively engaged as part of Canada’s domestic response. In addition to our engagement on key public health issues such as the supply and distribution of personal protective equipment, the CMA has addressed physician practice needs, including releasing a
Virtual Care Playbook to support the rapid conversion of medical practices to virtual care delivery.
In the context of physician practices operating as small businesses, the CMA strongly supports the federal government’s emergency economic relief programs. Access to these programs is critical to the viability of
many physician practices — and the ability of medical clinics across Canada to retain vital front-line health care workers (FLHCWs) and keep their doors open to continue serving the needs of their patient population.
However, despite the dire need for these programs by medical professionals — who constitute a strategic
resource and sector at the best of times, but particularly in a pandemic — presently, the CMA is concerned
that many physicians are experiencing administrative barriers to accessing these critical federal support
programs for their employees.
This submission provides a briefing on physician practices and the need to access the CEWS, an overview of
the technical and administrative factors impeding access, as well as proposed remedies to enable a rapid
Physician Practices and Access to the CEWS
While health care in Canada is predominantly publicly funded, it is primarily privately delivered. In Canada’s health care system, the vast majority of physicians are self-employed professionals operating medical practices as small business owners. Physician-owned and -run medical practices ensure that Canadians are able to access the health care they need, in communities across all jurisdictions. In doing so, Canadian physicians are directly responsible for 167,000 jobs across the country, contributing over $39 billion to Canada’s GDP. Including the expenses and overhead associated with running physician practices, nearly 289,000 jobs indirectly relate to physician practices.
However, as much as physician practices resemble small businesses on the basis of key criteria like employing staff and paying rent, it is imperative to recognize that they are in fact core stewards of a substantial portion of Canada’s health care system and critical health system infrastructure.
It is a national imperative to ensure the viability of such a core component of Canada’s health care system as our medical clinics and the staff they employ. To this end, both federal and provincial/territorial governments have a role in ensuring Canada’s medical clinics are there to serve the health care needs of Canadians, through the pandemic and beyond.
Physician practices have experienced significant impacts related to changing volumes of patient care and delivery models of care in light of public health restrictions since the pandemic was declared on Mar. 11, 2020. The CMA commissioned an economic impact analysis to better understand the impacts across various practice settings. This analysis reveals that across the range of practice settings, the after-tax monthly earnings of physician practices are estimated to decline between 15% and 100% in the low-impact scenario, and between 25% and 267% in the high-impact scenario.
Despite meeting the revenue reduction and employer eligibility factors, the CMA is concerned that many physicians are ineligible for the CEWS because of technical and administrative factors that are inconsistent with other existing federal legislative frameworks.
The CMA conducted a survey of its membership between May 22 and June 1 to better understand physicians’ experiences accessing the federal economic relief programs; 3,730 physicians participated in this survey. Overall, about a third (32%) of physicians polled had attempted to apply to at least one of the federal programs available and 15% of all physicians who responded applied for the CEWS, making it the second most applied-to program.
Of those physicians who applied to the CEWS, 60% were successful, 7% were denied and the remaining 33% were still awaiting response at the time of the survey. Of those who applied but were denied the CEWS, a third (33%) indicated it was because of their cost-sharing structure, 3% responded it was because they worked in a hospital-based setting and a further 22% simply didn’t know. Finally, as part of the survey, physicians shared comments that speak to the issues outlined in this brief. A few excerpts are below:
“We are a group of 4 surgeons and have a cost sharing agreement to pay our office expenses. Our office is outside of the hospital. We tried to apply for the CEWS but have recently received accounting advice supported by legal advice that cost sharing agreements will not be candidates for the CEWS. We are therefore presently exploring other options such as a work share situation or temporary/permanent layoffs.” CMA member, survey respondent
“I work in a group with 11 other OBGYNs. We are still unsure to this point about whether the CEWS applies to our situation. Our revenue is certainly down by ~30% or more. The issue is that our structure doesn't fall into one of the neat categories for CEWS … We are awaiting clarification from our accountant on our status but it seems that the way the rules are currently written, we will not benefit from CEWS, and unfortunately, we are reducing staff hours to cope with our reduction in revenue.” CMA member, survey respondent
“My main frustration is that I can't find a clear answer on whether a clinic made up of multiple doctors with a cost sharing agreement is eligible for CEWS for our employees. I imagine many family practice clinics are set up this way … So as it stands we have not been able to access any financial programs in order to help pay our overhead/staff despite 50% reduction in patient volume.” CMA member, survey respondent
A. Cost-Sharing Arrangements — Front-Line Health Care Workers Employed in Physician Clinics
One of the main types of practices that are unable to access the CEWS because of technical administrative barriers, despite meeting the key eligibility criteria, are physicians operating independently within a cost-sharing business structure.
Like many other independent professionals, physicians operate in group settings. In fact, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2019, 65% of family practices operated in a group setting. However, unlike other independent professionals, physicians have been encouraged to operate in a group setting, both by accreditation bodies as well as by provincial health authorities, to meet system delivery goals.
Appendix A provides a case study based on Sudbury Medical Associates (SMA), an illustrative example of three doctors (Dr. Brown, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi) who coordinated the operations of their medical practices together to open an integrated health care clinic. While they provide care to their own respective patient rosters, these three physicians share in the clinic space rent and employ 10 employees together. Because
of the way SMA is structured, these physicians are unable to access the CEWS for their proportionate share
of their employees’ salaries. Each physician has met all the CEWS criteria except for the fact that SMA administers the payroll for their 10 employees under its own payroll number.
SMA illustrates a typical family medicine clinic representative of the many medical practices in Canada who employ numerous FLHCWs.
B. Cost-Sharing Arrangements — Front-Line Health Care Workers Employed by Specialist Physicians Practising in a Hospital-Based Environment
Another type of physician structure unable to access the CEWS because of the use of cost-share arrangements are specialist physicians practising in a hospital-based environment or academic health science centre (an “AHSC”). The purpose of an AHSC is to provide specialized health care services, carry out medical research and train the next generation of Canada’s health care professionals.
Provincial funding agreements are designed to align the interest of all parties in an AHSC (clinical care, teaching, research and innovation) and often contain governance and accountability requirements. In order to discharge responsibilities under provincial funding agreements and to run a practice that can meet certain metrics, physicians are required to hire their own staff. Consequently, cost-sharing arrangements are utilized by these physicians to efficiently hire staff while meeting their other responsibilities.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals have implemented strategies designed to protect the health care system from collapsing or being overwhelmed. For example, many hospitals have cancelled elective surgeries; coupled with the fear many patients have of going to the hospital, this has resulted in a decline in patient care volume as hospitals and physician practices adhere with public health guidelines. This has led to a significant decline in revenue, requiring physicians to access the CEWS program in order to continue to employ their staff.
Like all physicians in Canada, specialist physicians practising in a hospital-based health care setting are responsible for significant levels of fixed overhead expenses related to a medical practice. This includes medical insurance, licensing fees, maintaining an office and other professional fees. As a standard practice, employees of physicians who practise in AHSCs are often paid by a third party. In many instances, physicians have established an agency relationship pursuant to which they delegate authority to the hospital to act as their agent with respect to withholding taxes, source deductions and filing T4 returns. The main reason for this agency is to ensure that the physician focuses on teaching, researching and patient care. For clarity,
the administrator (hospital) has no legal authority to conclude on any employment matter such as the determination of a bonus or a wage increase or the payout of any severance. All these matters would
be the responsibility of the physician in his/her capacity as employer.
Anticipating a second wave of COVID-19, many physicians are concerned about maintaining their staff during a future work stoppage given their current inability to apply for the CEWS. As employers, physicians can appreciate that the hospital’s payroll number is creating additional administrative complexity for the
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). However, as an employer and small business, their ability to access
the CEWS program is an integral part of their strategy to retain and maintain their staff.
C. Technical Analysis — CEWS Legislation and the Principal-Agent Relationship
i) CEWS Legislation — Qualifying Entity
Pursuant to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, an entity will qualify for CEWS to the extent that it is a Qualifying Entity under ss. 125.7(1) of the Income Tax Act (ITA). One of the criteria to be a qualifying entity is that the entity had, on Mar. 15, 2020, a business number in respect of which it is registered with the Minister to make remittances required under ITA s. 153. By virtue of how cost-sharing arrangements are structured, the administrator (agent) handles the payroll filings using their own payroll number, which can be different from the employing physician (principal). On the basis of the uniqueness of cost-sharing structures and the definition in the legislation, physicians who employ individuals under these arrangements need to rely on principal-agent concepts in order to qualify
for the CEWS provided all other criteria are met.
Presently, the CEWS application portal does not recognize principal-agent arrangements, which are common among physician practices as they employ FLHCWs. It is recognized that each participant or physician in a cost-sharing arrangement is in fact its own business and that physicians share the costs
of certain overhead expenses, which include wage-related costs for FLHCWs. In these structures, the payroll number for the employee(s) may be associated with one of the independently operating physicians or it may be associated with a separate entity. As such, these physicians are not likely to have a distinct payroll number associated with their eligible employee under the CEWS. The case law and the administrative position of the CRA demonstrate the following:
1. The principals in a cost-sharing arrangement are the employers; and
2. The agent’s payroll number should be considered the payroll number for the principal for the purposes of making a CEWS application.
ii) Case Law
Subsection 9(1) of the ITA provides for the basic rules as they relate to computing the income or loss from business or property. In both Avotus Corporation v The Queen and Fourney v The Queen , the Tax Court of Canada determined that where a person carries on business as agent for another, it is the principal that is carrying on the business and not the agent.
The Fourney case provides for several concepts that extend to the unique nature of cost-sharing arrangements. These concepts should provide clarity about a principal’s ability to make a CEWS claim if it had a payroll agent that had a business number to make remittances before Mar. 15, 2020. The concepts are summarized as follows:
1. Corporations can act as Agent
In Fourney, at paragraphs 41 and 42, it was concluded that a corporation can act as its shareholder’s agent:
It is established, then, that corporations can act as agents, and this concept is not repugnant to the rule that corporations have separate legal personality a matter addressed in the oft-cited Salomon case.
2. Business Activities belong to the Principal
At paragraphs 60 and 65 of Fourney, the Tax Court examined the following activities and ultimately concluded that the activities were in fact the activities of the principal and not the agent. The following conclusions can be drawn from the case:
Payments made to the corporate agent were found to be revenues of the principal.
Contracts entered into by the corporate agent were contracts entered into by the principal.
T4s issued under the corporate agent’s name were deductible expenses to the principal.
Lastly, at paragraph 65, the Tax Court characterized the corporate agent as a mere conduit for the appellant.
iii) Administrative Policy
For GST/HST purposes, the CRA accepts the concept of an agency relationship typically utilized by physicians in cost-sharing practices. In RITS 142436 “Implementation of Cost Sharing Arrangement,” the CRA concluded that GST/HST does not apply to payments made to “Company A” because it was an agent in relation to remuneration paid to the employees of Company B and Company C. In this ruling, Companies A, B and C were all employers with Company A administrating the payroll as agent.
The CRA’s conclusions appear to take the follow matters into account:
Employees are jointly employed by the principals in the cost-sharing arrangement.
Principals have legal responsibility for the employees.
The principals would delegate responsibility or authority to an agent, which could be a corporation or another physician.
That agent would be given discretion to pay the employees, withhold and remit the appropriate amount of taxes, file T4 slips, hire and terminate at the determination of the principals.
Each principal would pay the agent for their proportionate share of payroll and report such payroll on their respective financial statements and tax returns.
The CRA also concluded that the “employment status of a person for GST/HST purposes is the same for income tax purposes.”
The Department of Finance provides that the CEWS helps businesses keep employees on the payroll, encourages employers to rehire workers previously laid off, and better positions businesses to bounce back following the crisis. In keeping with this objective, a payroll number for an agent should extend itself to the principals for the purposes of applying for the CEWS because it is supported by case law and the administrative practices of the CRA. Application of any federally legislated program should be conceptually consistent with historical frameworks already established.
The CMA holds that the legislation as written can remain as currently drafted as it provides for the majority of applicants looking to access the CEWS. However, to address the unintended exclusion of cost-sharing arrangements, the CMA recommends that the CRA provide administrative guidance consistent with and based on existing case law and administrative positions.
The CMA recommends that the Federal Government and the CRA enable physicians to claim their proportionate share of eligible remuneration paid through a cost-sharing arrangement provided all other program eligibility criteria are met.
Administratively, this may be achieved by the following:
a “check-box” on the application denoting the applicant is a participant in a cost sharing arrangement
identification of the cost-sharing arrangement payroll number
a joint election between the agent and employer allowing the employer to utilize the agent’s payroll number and denoting the percentage allocation of salary costs to the particular employer
If this recommendation is not feasible, the CMA recommends that the Federal Government and the CRA implement an alternate approach whereby a cost-share administrator is permitted to make a CEWS claim in their capacity as agent on behalf of each eligible entity (principal). Since period 3 is almost complete, there could be less administration regarding these claims as agents have not made application.
Similar to the preferred remedy above, this may be achieved by the following:
a “check box” on the application indicating that an “agent” is filing the claim on behalf of eligible employers
the applicant could also provide (either initially or upon desk audit) the business numbers to CRA for each employer
a joint election among the agent and the employers allowing the agent to act on behalf of the employers for purposes of the CEWS
This would provide ease of audit for the CRA as the claim can be verified against the T4 and payroll remittances. The election and disclosure requirements would also alleviate any concerns the CRA or Department of Finance may have regarding potential abuse of the program.
In Appendix B we also outline supporting documentation to be retained for a CEWS Claim by a Cost-Sharing Entity, which will ensure cost-sharing entities have the appropriate documentation to submit a claim and also assist the CRA in conducting pre-assessment audits.
The CMA would be pleased to provide further detail on this issue or consider other alternatives to ensure FLHCWs receive wages during these unprecedented times.
Canada’s physicians are important employers. Not only are they responsible for almost 167,000 in direct employment, together with their staff, they are at the front lines of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our health care system cannot withstand loss of employment or risks to the viability of medical clinics, at this crucial time — and indeed at any time. The CMA strongly encourages the Federal Government to address the issues outlined above in preventing physicians from accessing this critical economic relief program. On behalf
of the doctors of Canada, the CMA stands ready to collaborate in resolving these technical and administrative barriers.
Appendix A: Welcome to Sudbury Medical Associates (SMA)
Dr. Christopher Brown (60) settled in his hometown of Sudbury to practise family medicine about 30 years ago. He operated in his own space, with his own employees until SMA was formed. Dr. Jennifer Lee (45) has been practising in Sudbury for her entire career. Dr. Lee handles all family patients with a special focus on maternity and young family care. Dr. Sarah Assadi (30) recently completed her residency. Dr. Assadi spent time in Sudbury as a locum and enjoyed the strong community feel.
Dr. Brown and Dr. Lee are long-time colleagues and recently approached Dr. Assadi to open an integrated health care clinic. Together they would require 10 employees (comprised of nurse practitioners, medical assistants and receptionists) to effectively operate the clinic. Optically, SMA appears to be one business when in fact it is comprised of three distinct medical practices. Each physician or their professional corporation maintains their own distinct patient list. Upon the advice of professional advisors, the physicians entered into a cost-sharing agreement to realize cost efficiencies related to the integrated health care clinic (administration and lease). This structure will ensure the needs of the community are met by the expansion of operating hours facilitated by a flexible staffing model. Understanding that cost-sharing arrangements are accepted by provincial health authorities and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Dr. Brown, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi documented this arrangement, which includes the following details:
Dr. Brown Dr. Lee Dr. Assadi SMA
Legal entity Prof corp Prof corp Sole-proprietor Corp
Proportionate share of costs 20% 40% 40%
Legal employer (10 staff) ü ü ü
Legally responsible — all contracts ü ü ü
Payroll, T4 and remittances ü
Report for income tax purposes:
Proportionate share of costs administered by SMA including payroll ü ü ü
The impact of COVID-19 resulted in a significant slowdown of patient visits between Mar. 15 and May 31 as the residents of Sudbury were social distancing and were only leaving their homes for urgent matters. Dr. Brown, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi are concerned about keeping their front-line health care workers employed and at the same time maintaining a sufficient level of family health care in the community. Considering a possible second wave of COVID-19, these physicians need to ensure that their community health clinic remains open and safe so there is no unintended stress on hospitals.
Like many small businesses that have experienced significant revenue declines, these physicians are hopeful to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to ensure they can retain their specialized employees and pivot to the new environment they need to operate within. Upon further review, only Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi experienced sufficient revenue declines to access the CEWS, but currently they do not qualify because of how they structured the payroll for these 10 employees. They are concerned that without the CEWS, they will not be able to retain all of their staff or see as many patients. The following table summarizes the CEWS analysis:
CEWS criteria Dr. Brown Dr. Lee Dr. Assadi SMA
Eligible entity ü
Prof corp ü
Prof corp ü
Sole proprietor ü
Revenue decline test: March 2020 Not met ü ü No revenues to report
(eligible remuneration ) ü ü ü
Qualified for the CEWS No
(revenue decline test not met) No
(payroll account number held by SMA, which manages payroll on behalf of Dr. Lee) No
(payroll account number held by SMA, which manages payroll on behalf of Dr. Assadi) No
(has no revenue and is not the legal employer)
As employers, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi do not understand why their businesses are unable to access the CEWS for their proportionate share of their employees’ salaries. Each has met all of the CEWS criteria except for the fact that SMA administers the payroll for their 10 employees under its own payroll number.
Appendix B: Illustration of Supporting Documentation to be Retained for a
CEWS Claim by Cost-Sharing Entity
To the extent that employers operating through a cost-sharing structure are permitted to make a CEWS claim, the following documentation could be requested by the CRA to verify the claim upon desk audit.
For illustrative purposes, let’s assume that Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi both made a CEWS claim.
Supporting Documentation Request
1. The legal documentation establishing the agency relationship pursuant to which Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi delegated authority to SMA to handle the income tax remittances, source deductions and T4 reporting.
2. The employment contracts, which clearly indicate that each of Dr. Lee, Dr. Assadi (and Dr. Brown) are the employers.
Alternatively, confirmation from the employees that SMA is not the employer and that they are employed
by Drs. Lee, Assadi and Brown.
3. SMA’s accounting records or financial statements, which clearly support its position as an agent. Note: Typically, most cost-share administrators will have NIL revenue and account for all cash inflows and outflows on their balance sheet in a manner similar to a lawyer’s trust account.
4. An analysis demonstrating the revenue decline for the relevant period for Dr. Assadi’s business and Dr. Lee’s business.
5. Calculations supporting the proportionate share of “baseline remuneration” and “eligible remuneration” paid to the employees by Dr. Assadi’s business and Dr. Lee’s business.
6. A reconciliation of the wage subsidy received along with their proportionate share of the wage subsidy so it can be properly accounted for and taxed.