Helping physicians care for patients
Aider les médecins à prendre soin des patients
Canada is a nation on the precipice of great change. This change will be driven primarily by the economic and social implications of the major demographic shift already underway. The added uncertainties of the global economy only emphasize the imperative for federal action and leadership.
In this brief, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to present four recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance for meaningful federal action in support of a national seniors strategy; these are essential measures to prepare for an aging population.
Canada's demographic and economic imperative
In 2011 the first of wave of the baby boomer generation turned 65 and Canada's seniors population stood at 5 million.1 By 2036, seniors will represent up to 25% of the population.2 The impacts of Canada's aging population on economic productivity are multi-faceted.
An obvious impact will be fewer workers and a smaller tax base. Finance Canada projects that the number of working-age Canadians for every senior will fall from about 5 today to 2.7 by 2030.3
The projected surge in demand for services for seniors that will coincide with slower economic growth and lower government revenue will add pressure to the budgets of provincial and territorial governments. Consider that while seniors account for about one-sixth of the population, they consume approximately half of public health spending.4 Based on current trends and approaches, seniors' care is forecast to consume almost 62% of provincial/territorial health budgets by 2036.5
The latest fiscal sustainability report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer explains that the demands of Canada's aging population will result in "steadily deteriorating finances" for the provinces and territories and they "cannot meet the challenges of population ageing under current policy."6
Theme 1: Productivity
A) New federal funding to provincial/territorial governments
Canada's provincial and territorial leaders are aware of the challenges ahead. This July, the premiers issued a statement calling for the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer to 25% of provincial and territorial health care costs to address the needs of an aging population.
To support the innovation and transformation needed to address these needs, the CMA recommends that the federal government deliver additional funding on an annual basis beginning in 2016-17 to the provinces and territories by means of a demographic-based top-up to the Canada Health Transfer (Table 1). For the fiscal year 2016-17, this top-up would require $1.6 billion in federal investment.
Table 1: Allocation of the federal demographic-based top-up, 2016-20 ($million)7
All of Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
B) Federal support for catastrophic drug coverage
A major gap in Canada's universal health care system is the lack of universal access to prescription medications, long recognized as the unfinished business of medicare. Canada stands out as the only country with universal health care without universal pharmaceutical coverage.8
According to the Angus Reid Institute, more than one in five Canadians (23%) report that they or someone in their household did not take medication as prescribed because of the cost during the past 12 months.9 Statistics Canada's Survey of Household Spending reveals that households headed by a senior spend $724 per year on prescription medications, the highest among all age groups and over 60% more than the average household.10 Another recent study found that 7% of Canadian seniors reported skipping medication or not filling a prescription because of the cost.11
In addition to the very real harms to individuals, lack of coverage contributes to the inefficient use of Canada's scarce health resources. While there are sparse economic data in Canada on this issue, earlier research indicated that this inefficiency, which includes preventable hospital visits and admissions, represents an added cost of between $1 billion and $9 billion annually.12
As an immediate measure to support the health of Canadians and the productivity of the health care sector, the CMA recommends that the federal government establish a new funding program for catastrophic coverage of prescription medication. The program would cover prescription medication costs above $1,500 or 3% of gross household income on an annual basis. Research commissioned by the CMA estimates this would cost $1.48 billion in 2016-17 (Table 2). This would be a positive step toward comprehensive, universal prescription drug coverage.
Table 2: Projected cost of federal contribution to cover catastrophic prescription medication costs, by age cohort, 2016-2020 ($ million)13
Share of total cost
Under 35 years
35 to 44 years
45 to 54 years
55 to 64 years
65 to 74 years
75 years +
Theme 2: Infrastructure and communities
All jurisdictions across Canada are facing shortages in the continuing care sector. Despite the increased availability of home care, research commissioned for the CMA indicates that demand for continuing care facilities will surge as the demographic shift progresses.14
In 2012, it was reported that wait times for access to a long-term care facility in Canada ranged from 27 to over 230 days. It is estimated that 85% of "alternate level of care" patients in hospitals (i.e., patients who do not require hospital-level care) are in these beds because of the lack of availability of long-term care. Due to the significant difference in the cost of hospital care (approximately $846 per day) versus long-term care ($126 per day), the CMA estimates that the shortages in the long-term care sector represent an increased cost of $2.3 billion.
Despite the recognized need for infrastructure investment in the continuing care sector, to date, this sector has been excluded from the Building Canada Plan. The CMA recommends that the federal government amend the criteria of the Building Canada Plan to include capital investment in continuing care infrastructure, including retrofit and renovation. Based on previous estimates, the CMA recommends that $540 million be allocated for 2016-17 (Table 3).
Table 3: Estimated cost to address forecasted shortage in long-term care beds, 2016-20 ($ million)15
Forecasted shortage in long-term care beds
Estimated cost to address shortage
Federal share to address shortage in long-term care beds (based on 1/3 contribution)
Theme 3: Jobs
As previously mentioned, Canada's aging population will produce significant changes in the labour force. There will be fewer Canadian workers, each with a greater likelihood of having caregiving responsibilities for family and friends.
According to the report of the federal Employer Panel for Caregivers, Canadian employers "were surprised and concerned that it already affects 35% of the Canadian workforce."16 This report highlights key findings of the 2012 General Social Survey: 1.6 million caregivers took leave from work; nearly 600,000 reduced their work hours; 160,000 turned down paid employment; and, 390,000 quit their jobs to provide care. It is estimated that informal caregiving represents $1.3 billion in lost workforce productivity. These costs will only increase as Canada's demographic shift progresses.
In parallel to the increasing informal caregiving demands on Canadian workers, Canada's aging population will also increase the demand for personal care workers and geriatric competencies across all health and social care professions.17
Theme 4: Taxation
The above section focused on the economic costs of caregiving on the workforce. The focus of this section will be on the economic value caregivers provide while they take on an increased economic burden.
Statistics Canada's latest research indicates that 8.1 million Canadians are informal caregivers, 39% of whom primarily care for a parent.18 The Conference Board of Canada reports that in 2007 informal caregivers contributed over 1.5 billion hours of home care - more than 10 times the number of paid hours in the same year.19 The economic contribution of informal caregivers was estimated to be about $25 billion in 2009.20 This same study estimated that informal caregivers incurred over $80 million in out-of-pocket expenses related to caregiving in 2009.
Despite their tremendous value and important role, only a small fraction of caregivers caring for a parent received any form of government support.21 Only 5% of caregivers providing care to parents reported receiving financial assistance while 28% reported needing more assistance than they received.22
As a first step to providing increased support for Canada's family caregivers, the CMA recommends that the federal government amend the Caregiver and Family Caregiver Tax Credits to make them refundable. This would provide an increased amount of financial support for family caregivers. It is estimated that this measure will cost $90.8 million in 2016-17.23
The CMA recognizes that in the face of ongoing economic uncertainty the federal government may face pressures to avoid new spending initiatives. The CMA strongly encourages the federal government to adopt the four recommendations outlined in this submission rather than further delay making a meaningful contribution to meeting the future care needs of Canada's aging population. The CMA would welcome the opportunity to provide further information and its rationale for each recommendation.
1 Statistics Canada. Generations in Canada. Cat. No. 98-311-X2011003. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2012. Available: www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/98-311-x/98-311-x2011003_2-eng.pdf
2 Statistics Canada. Canada year book 2012, seniors. Available: www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-402-x/2012000/chap/seniors-aines/seniors-aines-eng.htm
3 Finance Canada. Economic and fiscal implications of Canada's aging population. Ottawa: Finance Canada; 2012. Available: www.fin.gc.ca/pub/eficap-rebvpc/eficap-rebvpc-eng.pdf
4 Canadian Institute for Health Information. National health expenditure trends, 1975 to 2014. Ottawa: The Institute; 2014. Available: www.cihi.ca/web/resource/en/nhex_2014_report_en.pdf
5 Calculation by the Canadian Medical Association, based on Statistics Canada's M1 population projection and the Canadian Institute for Health Information age-sex profile of provincial-territorial health spending.
6 Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Fiscal sustainability report 2015. Ottawa: The Office; 2015. Available: www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/files/files/FSR_2015_EN.pdf
7 Conference Board of Canada. Research commissioned for the CMA, July 2015.
8 Morgan SG, Martin D, Gagnon MA, Mintzes B, Daw JR, Lexchin J. Pharmacare 2020: The future of drug coverage in Canada. Vancouver: Pharmaceutical Policy Research Collaboration, University of British Columbia; 2015. Available: http://pharmacare2020.ca/assets/pdf/The_Future_of_Drug_Coverage_in_Canada.pdf
9 Angus Reid Institute. Prescription drug access and affordability an issue for nearly a quarter of Canadian households. Available: http://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015.07.09-Pharma.pdf
10 Statistics Canada. Survey of household spending. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2013.
11 Canadian Institute for Health Information. How Canada compares: results From The Commonwealth Fund 2014 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults. Available: www.cihi.ca/en/health-system-performance/performance-reporting/international/commonwealth-survey-2014
12 British Columbia Pharmacy Association. Clinical service proposal: medication adherence services. Vancouver: The Association; 2013. Available: www.bcpharmacy.ca/uploads/Medication_Adherence.pdf
13 Supra at note 7.
14 Conference Board of Canada. Research commissioned for the CMA, January 2013.
16 Government of Canada. Report from the Employer Panel for Caregivers: when work and caregiving collide, how employers can support their employees who are caregivers. Available: www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/seniors/reports/cec.shtml
17 Stall S, Cummings G, Sullivan T. Caring for Canada's seniors will take our entire health care workforce. Available: http://healthydebate.ca/2013/09/topic/community-long-term-care/non-md-geriatrics
18 Statistics Canada. Family caregivers: What are the consequences? Available: www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11858-eng.htm
19 Conference Board of Canada. Home and community care in Canada: an economic footprint. Ottawa: The Board; 2012. Available: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/cashc/research/2012/homecommunitycare.aspx
20 Hollander MJ, Liu G, Chappeel NL. Who cares and how much? The imputed economic contribution to the Canadian health care system of middle aged and older unpaid caregivers providing care to the elderly. Healthc Q. 2009;12(2):42-59.
21 Supra at note 16.
23 Supra at note 7.
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.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to present this brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance regarding Bill C-462 Disability Tax Credit Promoters Restrictions Act.
The Canadian Medical Association represents 78,000 physicians in Canada; its mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and to be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.
The CMA is pleased that the House of Commons has made Bill C-462 a priority. This bill is an important step toward addressing the unintended consequences that have emerged from the Disability Tax Credit since 2005.
Part 2: Issues to be addressed
In 2005, the Disability Tax Credit was expanded to allow individuals to back-file for up to 10 years. While this was a welcome tax measure for individuals with disabilities, the CMA has been urging the Canada Revenue Agency to address the numerous unintended consequences that have emerged. Central among these has been the emergence of a “cottage industry” of third-party companies engaged in a number of over-reaching tactics. The practices of these companies have included aggressive promotional activities to seek and encourage individuals to file the Disability Tax Credit. The primary driver behind these tactics is profit; some companies are charging fees of up to 40 per cent of an individual’s refund when the tax credit is approved.
Further to targeting a vulnerable population, these activities have yielded an increase in the quantity of Disability Tax Credit forms in physician offices and contributed to red tape in the health sector. In some cases, third parties have placed physicians in an adversarial position with their patients. We are pleased that this bill attempts to address the concerns we have raised.
The CMA supports Bill C-462 as a necessary measure to address the issues that have emerged since the changes to the Disability Tax Credit in 2005. However, to avoid additional unintended consequences, the CMA recommends that the Finance Committee address three issues prior to advancing Bill C-462.
First, as currently written, Bill C-462 proposes to apply the same requirements to physicians as to third-party companies if physicians apply a fee for form completion, a typical practice for uninsured physician services. Such fees are subject to guidelines and oversight by provincial and territorial medical regulatory colleges (see Appendix 1: CMA Policy on Third Party Forms: The Physician Role).
The CMA recommends that the Finance Committee:
Amend the definition of “promoters” under section 2 to exclude “a health care practitioner duly licensed under the applicable regulatory authority who provides health care and treatment.”
. If the committee imports the term “person” from the Income Tax Act, then the applicable section of Bill C-462 should be amended to specify that, for the purposes of the act, “Person does not include a health care practitioner duly licensed under the applicable regulatory authority who provides health care and treatment.”
Second, the CMA is concerned that one of the reasons individuals may be engaging the services of third-party companies is a lack of awareness of the purpose and benefits of the Disability Tax Credit. Additional efforts are required to ensure that the Disability Tax Credit form (Form T2201) be more informative and user-friendly for patients. Form T2201 should explain more clearly to patients the reason behind the tax credit, and explicitly indicate there is no need to use third-party companies to submit the claim to the CRA.
The CMA recommends that the Finance Committee:
. Recommend that the Canada Revenue Agency undertake additional efforts to ensure that the Disability Tax Credit form is more informative, accessible and user-friendly for patients.
Finally, the CMA recommends that a privacy assessment be undertaken before the bill moves forward in the legislative process. It appears that, as written, Bill C-462 would authorize the inter-departmental sharing of personal information. The CMA raises this issue for consideration because protecting the privacy of patient information is a key duty of a physician under the CMA Code of Ethics.
Part 3: Closing
The CMA encourages the Finance Committee to address these issues to ensure that Bill C-462 resolves existing problems with the Disability Tax Credit while not introducing new ones. The CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input to the Finance Committee’s study of this bill and, with the amendments outlined herein, supports its passage.
Summary of Recommendations
The definition of “promoters” under section 2 of Bill C-462 should be amended to exclude “a health care practitioner duly licensed under the applicable regulatory authority who provides health care and treatment.”
If the Committee imports the definition of “persons” from the Income Tax Act, the applicable section of Bill C-462 should be amended to specify that, for the purposes of the act, “Person does not include a health care practitioner duly licensed under the applicable regulatory authority who provides health care and treatment.”
The Canada Revenue Agency should undertake additional efforts to ensure that the Disability Tax Credit form is informative, accessible and user-friendly.
Prior to advancing in the legislative process, Bill C-462 should undergo a privacy assessment.
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).
Re: Future Mandate of the Health Care Innovation Working Group (the Council of the Federation)
On behalf of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), I am writing in advance of the meeting of the Council of the Federation later this month regarding the future mandate of the Health Care Innovation Working Group with respect to seniors care.
The CNA and CMA welcomed the Council of the Federation's prioritization of seniors care as an area of focus of the Health Care Innovation Working Group. Already, seniors and their families in communities across Canada face significant challenges accessing social supports and health services. These challenges will only intensify as the demographic shift progresses. Based on current trends and approaches, the proportion of provincial/territorial health spending associated with seniors care is forecast to grow by over 15% to almost 62% of health budgets by 2036.
Recognizing the significant pressure this will present for health care systems and provincial/territorial budgets moving forward, it is critical that the Council of the Federation maintain its prioritization of seniors care and meeting the needs of an aging population. As such, we respectfully encourage you in your capacity as Co-Chairs of the Health Care Innovation Working Group to ensure the future mandate of the working group on seniors care be included as part of the agenda at the January 30, 2015 meeting of the Council of the Federation.
The CNA and CMA are actively engaged on this issue and welcome the opportunity to meet with each of you to discuss how we may collaborate to ensure improved health outcomes for seniors, now and in the future.
Christopher S. Simpson, MD, FRCPC, FACC, FHRS
Karima Velji, RN, PhD, CHE
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
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) would like to thank the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for the opportunity to provide our views on the causes and consequences of obesity in Canada, and our recommendations for a way forward.
Canada’s physicians have repeatedly expressed their concern about the increasing prevalence of obesity and overweight in this country. Over the past ten years, responding to these expressions of concern, the CMA has developed a number of policy statements, briefs to government, and discussion papers on the issue, which articulate our recommendations for addressing this serious problem. In this brief, we will focus our recommendations on two remedies that we believe should be part of the way forward: the implementation of public policy that supports Canadians in making healthy food choices; and the provision of reliable, user-friendly information to health professionals and to the public.
2) Obesity in Canada: Causes and Consequences
More than half (62%) of Canadian adults are overweight according to the 2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey. A quarter of Canadian adults can be classed as obese (BMI = 30); this is double the obesity rate in 1979.1 The rise in obesity is most pronounced among Canada’s heaviest people; since 1985, the prevalence of extreme obesity (BMI=40) rose from 0.3% to 1.6%, a more than five-fold increase.2 One in ten Canadian children is obese;3 obesity in children and youth has more than doubled since the late 1970s. Prevalence of overweight and obesity is higher among some segments of the Canadian population, particularly Aboriginal peoples and people of lower socio-economic status.
1 Statistics Canada. Body composition of adults, 2012 to 2013. Accessed at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/14104-eng.htm. This survey used actual measurement which is considered more accurate than self-report.
2 Twells LK, Gregory DM, Reddigan J, Midodzi WK. Current and predicted prevalence of obesity in Canada: a trend analysis. CMAJ Open, March 3, 2014. Accessed at http://cmajopen.ca/content/2/1/E18.full
3 Statistics Canada. Body mass index of children and youth, 2012 to 2013. Accessed at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/14105-eng.htm
4 Canadian Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/kids-teens-diabetes/children-type-2-diabetes
Obesity is of particular concern to Canada’s physicians because it increases a person’s risk of developing a number of serious health problems: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, lower back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders, and many types of cancer. Type 2 diabetes, once found only in adults, is now being seen in children4. Health advocates are concerned that because of obesity, today’s generation of children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
In addition to poor physical health, obese people are at greater risk than people with normal weights of suffering from mental health problems such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. The stigma attached to obesity is high; obese people are at high risk of being bullied, ostracized socially, and discriminated against in the workplace. Some turn to food to relieve stress or as an escape from their unhappy lives, thereby perpetuating a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating and poor mental health.5
5 Canadian Obesity Network. Obesity and mental illness: addressing a double epidemic. Accessed at http://www.obesitynetwork.ca/de.aspx?id=322
6 Public Health Agency of Canada. Obesity in Canada: Health and economic implications. Accessed at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/oic-oac/econo-eng.php
7 From the CMA background paper on processed food and health. Original citation: Cohen D a. Obesity and the built environment: changes in environmental cues cause energy imbalances. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008;32 Suppl 7:S137–42. doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.250.
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that obesity-related health conditions cost Canada $4.6 billion dollars in 2008, both in direct costs (such as hospitals and health professional services) and indirect ones (e.g. disability claims, psychological damage and lost productivity).6 Other estimates have been even higher.
The causes of obesity are multifarious and highly complex. There is no one, simple cause. In some cases human biology is responsible, because certain people have a genetic predisposition toward gaining weight. But for the most part, obesity can be attributed to environmental circumstances that contribute to Canadians consuming more calories than they burn through physical activity. These circumstances include:
. The widespread consumption of pre-packaged and processed foods. In the US it is estimated that the percentage of food spending that goes toward foods prepared away from home went up from 24% in 1966 to 42% in 2006.7 Processed foods are more likely than fresh foods to be high in trans fats, sodium, sugar and other ingredients that are risk factors for obesity-related diseases. They are available widely, in fast-food outlets, grocery stores and vending machines, and their manufacturers often promote them heavily. In addition, they are generally lower in price than fresh fruits, vegetables or meats, which may be beyond the means of many low-income Canadians.
. Change in physical activity patterns. Many adults spend their days at sedentary desk jobs, and if they engage in physical activity, they often devote specific time to it (say, an hour at the gym) rather than incorporating it into their daily lives. Where children might once have gone outdoors to play after school, today they are more likely to sit in front of a computer or television set.
The conventional wisdom about addressing obesity is that it is the individual’s responsibility to lose weight through diet and exercise, and to keep it off. However, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a complex process, and can be frustratingly hard to manage. For many Canadians, obesity is a lifelong condition, and the environmental conditions discussed above
discourage healthy behaviour. Despite an abundance of diet information and advice (of varying quality and accuracy), most people who lose weight eventually put it on again. Pharmaceutical weight loss drugs are available but are not always recommended because of their side effects8. More aggressive treatments such as surgery are recommended mainly for severely obese people with health complications.
8 Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care. Recommendations for prevention of weight gain and use of behavioural and pharmacologic interventions to manage overweight and obesity in adults in primary care. CMAJ 187:3 (February 17, 2015): 184-195.
3) The Way Forward
Just as obesity sparks challenges in our populations and has no single cause, so there is no single way forward that will fully address it. CMA believes that the way forward actually involves a number of separate paths moving in the same direction. Two of these paths are discussed in the following sections.
a) Implementing Public Policy That Helps Canadians Make Healthy Food Choices
Public policy can be a powerful tool to help reduce risks to public health. In the case of tobacco control, measures such as bans on tobacco advertising and on smoking in public places contributed to the decline in smoking in Canada by making it easier for individuals to choose to be smoke-free. In the same way, CMA believes the federal government should implement policies and regulations to help create a supportive environment for people wanting to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In particular, CMA recommends that the Committee give consideration to the following measures:
i) Improving Access to healthy food
Recommendation: that the Government of Canada support community-based initiatives aimed at reducing Canadians’ barriers to accessing healthy, nutritious food.
If Canadians are to be encouraged to make healthy food choices, then healthy foods should be readily available to them at affordable prices. Unfortunately, for many Canadians, this is not the case. In some neighborhoods, often lower-income neighbourhoods, fast food outlets outnumber grocery stores. Many variety stores, restaurants, schools and workplace cafeterias offer a larger selection of processed foods than of fresh fruits, vegetables and meat.
For some Canadians, financial barriers limit their capacity to make healthy individual choices. As a rule, fresh food tends to be more expensive than processed “fast food”. The difficulty is
compounded in Canada’s remoter areas and in the North, where fresh produce must be transported from far away, and what little is available is very high priced.
Programs to improve access to healthy food exist at all levels of government. The federal Northern Food Program, designed to offset the cost of transporting fresh food to remote areas, has been in existence for several years, though it has been criticized as ineffective9. At the community level, not-for-profit and municipal agencies have collaborated on programs such as the Good Food Markets in Ottawa, which offer fresh, affordable foods in low-income areas.10
9 Woo A. “Critics slam Canada’s northern food program.” The Globe and Mail, November 4, 2014. Accessed at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/critics-slam-canadas-northern-food-program/article21451386/
10 Canadian Public Health Association. “Ottawa Public Health partners with community Groups to Increase access to healthy foods.” Accessed at http://www.cpha.ca/en/programs/social-determinants/frontlinehealth/stories/ottawa.aspx
11 “Restricting Marketing of Unhealthy Foods and Beverages to Children and Youth in Canada” a policy paper endorsed by CMA and other health and scientific organizations.
Other measures to improve access to healthy food could include: ensuring that every Canadian is within reach of a grocery store; regulating the number and location of fast-food outlets; and increasing the availability of nutritious foods and restricting that of processed foods in workplaces, schools and recreational facilities.
ii) Controls on Marketing of Processed Foods.
Industry marketing of fast food and processed food, including beverages, is ubiquitous – in television, on the radio, on the Internet, and at point-of-purchase displays and event sponsorships. Unfortunately, many of the advertised foods are high in calories and low in nutrients. Food advertising is aimed at Canadians of all ages, but children, particularly those under the age of 13, have been found to be especially vulnerable to it. Research has shown that the advertising of food and beverages to children influences their food and beverage preferences, purchase requests and consumption patterns.11
At present, Canada relies on voluntary industry codes to govern advertising and marketing practices. However, health groups are skeptical of the effectiveness of such codes, and of manufacturers’ commitment to them. The CMA believes that for maximum efficacy, regulatory measures are required to minimize the negative effect of food marketing on health.
Recommendation: That governments ban the advertising and promotion of high-calorie, nutrient poor foods to children 13 years of age or younger.
Food advertisements often include claims as to the product’s nutrition content and health benefits. Unfortunately, such advertising may be misleading; a product labelled “lower fat” may
still have a relatively high fat content, or contain high levels of other potentially unhealthy ingredients such as sugar and sodium. In general, brand-specific advertising is a less than optimal way to provide health information to consumers. Therefore, CMA believes that the federal government should review and regulate the health claims that manufacturers can make for their products, to ensure that these claims are based on the best available scientific evidence and that they are accurately communicated to consumers.
Recommendation: that the Government of Canada set rigorous standards for the advertising of health claims for food, and strengthen provisions against deceptive advertising in the Food and Drug Act.
iii) Enhancing Nutrition Labelling
Governments at all levels, as well as health organizations, currently provide a variety of programs, educational materials and guidelines to the public. The CMA encourages these initiatives and encourages all levels of government to continue to make overweight and obesity a public health education priority.
Food labels are an important means of health education, providing guidance to shoppers at the point of purchase to help them inform their food choices. Health Canada has made important contributions to public education, through a number of programs including its “Nutrition Facts” package labels. The labels are continually being revised and updated, as research reveals new information about nutrition and about effective means of conveying health messages to the public. As part of its revision process, CMA believes that Health Canada should consider enhancing health messages on the front as well as the back of food packages.
Recommendation: that the Government of Canada implement, and set rigorous standards for, front-of-package food labelling.
The CMA encourages the federal government to build upon the current package labelling system, making labels as user-friendly as possible and helping Canadians to interpret the information they provide. Colour-coded, brief-summary labels, such as the “red-light, green-light” system used in Britain, are intended to provide consumers with an “at a glance” assessment of a food’s nutritional value. While the system has its critics, it has the benefit of being easy to notice and interpret. The CMA has also recommended that food packages and retail displays contain warnings about the health risks associated with an excessive consumption of calorie-high, nutrient poor food and beverages.
b) Information and Support for Physicians and other Health Professionals
For many patients, obesity is a lifelong condition which, like other chronic health conditions, can be managed medically but rarely fully cured. Increasingly, it is being recognized that effective obesity management requires more than short-term weight loss diets; it involves identifying and addressing both the root causes of a patient’s weight gain (physical, psychological or socio-economic) and the barriers the patient experiences in maintaining healthy weight. 12 According to the Canadian Obesity Network, primary care interventions should be evaluated not by how many pounds the patient loses but by improvements in the patient’s health and well-being.
12 Canadian Obesity Network: 5As Guiding Principles. Accessed at http://www.obesitynetwork.ca/5As_core_principles
13 “Weight loss surgeries leap in Canada, study says.” CBC News, May 22, 2014. Accessed at http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/weight-loss-surgeries-leap-in-canada-study-says-1.2651066
Physicians, working with dietitians, nurses, physiotherapists, mental health care providers and other health professionals, have an important role in providing care and support to people who are trying to maintain a healthy weight. Physicians can provide nutrition advice to patients as part of the routine medical examination. In addition, since primary care physicians are generally the patient’s first point of contact with the health care system, they often see patients at “teachable moments” when, because of an associated health condition such as diabetes, they are motivated to change unhealthy behaviours. Physicians can also provide patients with resources to help them live healthy lives. For instance, in British Columbia, physicians are prescribing exercise on specially-designed prescription pads, distributing free pedometers, and hosting free walking events for their patients and the public. In the Edmonton area, Primary Care Networks are prescribing free access passes or a free month of access at local municipal recreation facilities.
The tertiary health care sector also has an important role to play in addressing obesity, since there is a growing number of severely obese patients who are at high risk of serious health problems and may require specialized treatment, possibly bariatric surgery. According to a study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the number of bariatric surgeries performed in Canada has jumped four-fold since 2006-07. The study notes that though the health care system has made great strides in meeting the demand,13 access to bariatric surgery varies from one region of Canada to another. Governments have an important role to play in ensuring equitable access to bariatric surgery for patients for whom it is clinically indicated.
Recommendation: That the federal government work with provincial/territorial governments and with researchers, medical educators and others to continually develop and disseminate up-to-date, evidence-based clinical knowledge and
practice tools, to help physicians and other health professionals manage overweight and obesity in their patients.
Clinical guidelines, based on the best current scientific evidence, are available to help health professionals work with their patients to achieve and maintain healthy weights. The Canadian Obesity Network has developed a “5As of Obesity Management” program for primary care. The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care also develops and frequently updates recommendations for primary caregivers on how to manage overweight and obesity in practice. The Task Force’s most recent recommendations were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal early in 2015. Clinical practice guidelines should be distributed widely and continually updated, and governments could play an important role in supporting the revision and dissemination process.
Thanks to ongoing research our knowledge of the extent and causes of obesity, and the effectiveness of existing programs in addressing it, is continually growing and developing. CMA encourages an ongoing commitment to research, and believes that the Government of Canada has an important role to play in supporting it. Results of this research should be communicated to health professionals and the public as quickly and widely as possible, so that it can be rapidly incorporated into clinical practice.
Recommendation: That the federal government support, and help to disseminate, evidence-based research on obesity in Canada and on the evaluation of strategies to address it.
Obesity and overweight are serious health problems in Canada, and as such are of great concern to the country’s physicians and to the Canadian Medical Association. The causes, CMA believes, are rooted mainly in changes in our environment and their effect on our eating and physical activity habits. The consequences are extremely serious, both for individual Canadians’ health and for the sustainability of Canada’s health care system.
CMA believes that the way forward requires a number of different interventions, on many levels. These should include providing and continually updating research and practice information for health professionals; and implementing policies that support Canadians as they pursue the goal of maintaining healthy weights.
Once again, CMA commends the Senate of Canada on conducting this study. We hope it will help encourage productive and meaningful change in the way Canadians view obesity, and assist in creating a social environment that supports healthy eating and healthy weight.
Re: Recommendations for Canada’s long-term recovery plan
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
We would like first to thank and commend you for your leadership throughout this pandemic. Your government’s
efforts have helped many people in Canada during this unprecedented time and have prevented Canada from facing
outcomes similar to those seen in other countries experiencing significant pandemic-related hardship and suffering.
We are writing to you with recommendations as you develop a plan for Canada’s long-term recovery and the
upcoming Speech from the Throne on September 23rd.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and amplified many healthcare shortfalls in Canada such as care for
older adults and mental health-care. Added to that, the economic fallout is impacting employment, housing, and
access to education. These social determinants of health contribute to and perpetuate inequality, which we see the
pandemic has already exacerbated for vulnerable groups. Action is needed now to address these challenges and
improve the health-care system to ensure Canada can chart a path toward an equitable economic recovery.
To establish a foundation for a stronger middle class, Canada must invest in a healthier and fairer society by
addressing health-care system gaps that were unmasked by COVID-19. We firmly believe that the measures we are
recommending below are critical and should be part of your government’s long-term recovery plan:
1. Ensure pandemic emergency preparedness
2. Invest in virtual care to support vulnerable groups
3. Improve supports for Canada’s aging population
4. Strengthen Canada’s National Anti-Racism Strategy
5. Improve access to primary care
6. Implement a universal single-payer pharmacare program
7. Increase mental health funding for health-care professionals
We know the months ahead will be challenging and that COVID-19 is far from over. As a nation, we have an
opportunity now, with the lessons from COVID-19 still unfolding, to bring about essential transformations to our
health-care system and create a safer and more equitable society.
1. Ensure pandemic emergency preparedness
We commend you for your work with the provinces and territories to deliver the $19 billion Safe Restart Agreement
as it will help, in the next six to eight months, to increase measures to protect frontline health-care workers and
increase testing and contact tracing to protect Canadians against future outbreaks. Moving forward, as you develop a
plan for Canada’s long-term recovery, we strongly recommend the focus remains in fighting the pandemic. Beyond
the six to eight months rollout of the Safe Restart Agreement, it is critical that a long-term recovery plan includes provisions to ensure a consistent and reliable availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and large-scale
capacity to conduct viral testing and contact tracing.
2.Invest in virtual care to support vulnerable groups
The sudden acceleration in virtual care from home is a silver lining of the pandemic as it has enabled increased
access to care, especially for many vulnerable groups. While barriers still exist, the role of virtual care should
continue to be dramatically scaled up after COVID-19 and Canada must be cautious not to move backwards. Even
before the pandemic, Canadians supported virtual care tools. In 2018, a study found that two out of three people
would use virtual care options if available.i During the pandemic, 91% of Canadians who used virtual care reported
We welcome your government’s $240 million investment in virtual health-care and we encourage that a focus be
given to deploying technology and ensuring health human resources receive appropriate training in culturally
competent virtual care. We also strongly recommend accelerating the current 2030 target to ensure every person in
Canada has access to reliable, high-speed internet access, especially for those living in rural, remote, northern and
3.Improve supports for Canada’s aging population
Develop pan-Canadian standards for the long-term care sector
The pandemic has exposed our lack of preparation for managing infectious diseases anywhere, especially in the longterm
care sector. The result is while just 20% of COVID-19 cases in Canada are in long-term care settings, they
account for 80% of deaths — the worst outcome globally. Moreover, with no national standards for long-term care,
there are many variations across Canada in the availability and quality of service.iii We recommend that you lead the
development of pan-Canadian standards for equal access, consistent quality, and necessary staffing, training and
protocols for the long-term care sector, so it can be delivered safely in home, community, and institutional settings,
with proper accountability measures.
Meet the health-care needs of our aging population
Population aging will drive 20% of increases in health-care spending over the next years, which amounts to an
additional $93 billion in spending.iv More funding will be needed to cover the federal share of health-care costs to
meet the needs of older adults. This is supported by 88% of Canadians who believe new federal funding measures
are necessary.v That is why we are calling on the federal government to address the rising costs of population aging
by introducing a demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer. This would enhance the ability of provinces and
territories to meet the needs of Canada’s older adults and invest in long-term care, palliative care, and community
and home care.
4.Strengthen Canada’s National Anti-Racism Strategy
Anti-Black racism exists in social structures across Canada. Longstanding, negative impacts of these structural
determinants of health have created and continue to reinforce serious health and social inequities for racialized
communities in Canada. The absence of race and ethnicity health-related data in Canada prevents identification of
further gaps in care and health outcomes. But where these statistics are collected, the COVID-19 pandemic has
exploited age-old disparities and led to a stark over-representation of Black people among its victims. We are calling
for enhanced collection and analysis of race and ethnicity data as well as providing more funding under Canada’s
National Anti-Racism Strategy to address identified health disparities and combat racism via community-led
5. Improve access to primary care
Primary care is the backbone of our health-care system. However, according to a 2019 Statistics Canada surveyvi,
almost five million Canadians do not have a regular health care provider. Strengthening primary care through a teambased,
interprofessional approach is integral to improving the health of all people living in Canada and the
effectiveness of health service delivery. We recommend creating a one-time fund of $1.2 billion over four years to
Page 3 of 4
expand the establishment of primary care teams in each province and territory, with a special focus in remote and
underserved communities, based on the Patient’s Medical Home visionvii.
6. Implement a universal single-payer pharmacare program
People across Canada, especially those who are vulnerable, require affordable access to prescription medications that
are vital for preventing, treating and curing diseases, reducing hospitalization and improving quality of life.
Unfortunately, more than 1 in 5 Canadians reported not taking medication because of cost concerns, which can lead
to exacerbation of illness and additional health-care costs. We recommend a comprehensive, universal, public system
offering affordable medication coverage that ensures access based on need, not the ability to pay.
7.Increase mental health funding for health-care professionals
During the first wave of COVID-19, 47% of health-care workers reported the need for psychological support. They
described feeling anxious, unsafe, overwhelmed, helpless, sleep-deprived and discouraged.viii Even before COVID-
19, nurses, for instance, were suffering from high rates of fatigue and mental health issues, including PTSD.ix
Furthermore, health-care workers are at high risk for significant work-related stress that will persist long after the
pandemic due to the backlog of delayed care. Immediate long-term investment in multifaceted mental health supports
for health-care professionals is needed.
We look forward to continuing to work with you and your caucus colleagues on transforming the health of people in
Canada and the health system.
Tim Guest, M.B.A., B.Sc.N., RN
Canadian Nurses Association (CNA)
Tracy Thiele, RPN, BScPN, MN,
Canadian Federation of Mental Health
Lori Schindel Martin, RN, PhD,
Canadian Gerontological Nursing
E. Ann Collins, BSc, MD
Canadian Medical Association (CMA)
Canadian Support Workers Association
Dr. Cheryl L. Cusack RN, PhD
Community Health Nurses of Canada
Lenora Brace, MN, NP
Nurse Practitioner Association of
~ r. Cheryl
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance
Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health
Hon. Deb Schulte, Minister of Seniors
Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to Cabinet
Dr. Stephen Lucas, Deputy Minister of Health
Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
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).