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) 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).
That the government create a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund to resume health care services, bolster public health capacity and expand primary care teams, allowing Canadians wide-ranging access to health care.
That the government recognize and support the continued adoption of virtual care and address the inequitable access to digital health services by creating a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank and by expediting broadband access to all Canadians.
That the government act on our collective learned lessons regarding our approach to seniors care and create a national demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer and establish a Seniors Care Benefit.
That the government recognize the unique risks and financial burden experienced by physicians and front line health care workers by implementing the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, by extending eligibility of the Memorial Grant and by addressing remaining administrative barriers to physician practices accessing critical federal economic relief programs.
Five months ago COVID-19 hit our shores. We were unprepared and unprotected. We were fallible and vulnerable. But, we responded swiftly.
The federal government initiated Canadians into a new routine rooted in public health guidance.
It struggled to outfit the front line workers. It anchored quick measures to ensure some financial stability.
Canadians tuned in to daily updates on the health crisis and the battle against its wrath.
Together, we flattened the curve… For now.
We have experienced the impact of the first wave of the pandemic. The initial wake has left Canadians, and those who care for them, feeling the insecurities in our health care system.
While the economy is opening in varied phases – an exhaustive list including patios, stores, office spaces, and schools – the health care system that struggled to care for those most impacted by the pandemic remains feeble, susceptible not only to the insurgence of the virus, but ill-prepared to equally defend the daily health needs of our citizens.
The window to maintain momentum and to accelerate solutions to existing systemic ailments that have challenged us for years is short. We cannot allow it to pass. The urgency is written on the faces of tomorrow’s patients.
Before the onset of the pandemic, the government announced intentions to ensure all Canadians would be able to access a primary care family doctor. We knew then that the health care system was failing.
The pandemic has highlighted the criticality of these recommendations brought forward by the Canadian Medical Association. They bolster our collective efforts to ensure that Canadians get timely access to the care and services they need. Too many patients are succumbing to the gaps in our abilities to care for them. Patients have signaled their thirst for a model of virtual care. The magnitude of our failure to meet the needs of our aging population is now blindingly obvious. Many of the front line health care workers, the very individuals who put themselves and their families at risk to care for the nation, are being stretched to the breaking point to compensate for a crumbling system.
The health of the country’s economy cannot exist without the health of Canadians.
Long wait times have strangled our nation’s health care system for too long. It was chronic before COVID-19. Now, for far too many, it has turned tragic.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a significant proportion of health care services came to a halt. As health services are resuming, health care systems are left to grapple with a significant spike in wait times. Facilities will need to adopt new guidance to adhere to physical distancing, increasing staff levels, and planning and executing infrastructure changes. Canada’s already financially atrophied health systems will face significant funding challenges at a time when provincial/territorial governments are concerned with resuscitating economies.
The CMA is strongly supportive of new federal funding to ensure Canada’s health systems are resourced to meet the care needs of Canadians as the pandemic and life continues. We need to invigorate our health care system’s fitness to ensure that all Canadians are confident that it can and will serve them.
Creating a new Health Care and Innovation Fund would focus on resuming the health care system, addressing the backlog, and bringing primary care, the backbone of our health care system, back to centre stage.
The CMA will provide the budget costing in follow-up as an addendum to this submission.
RECOMMENDATION 1 Creating a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund
It took a global pandemic to accelerate a digital economy and spark a digital health revolution in Canada. In our efforts to seek medical advice while in isolation, Canadians prompted a punctuated shift in how we can access care, regardless of our location or socio-economic situation. We redefined the need for virtual care.
During the pandemic, nearly half of Canadians have used virtual care. An incredible 91% were satisfied with their experience. The CMA has learned that 43% of Canadians would prefer that their first point of medical contact be virtual.
The CMA welcomes the $240 million federal investment in virtual care and encourages the government to ensure it is linked to a model that ensures equitable access.
A gaping deficit remains in using virtual care. Recently the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada established a Virtual Care Task Force to identify digital opportunities to improve health care delivery, including what regulatory changes are required across provincial/territorial boundaries. To take full advantage of digital health capabilities, it will be essential for the entire population, to have a functional level of digital health literacy and access to the internet.
The continued adoption of virtual care is reliant on our ability to educate patients on how to access it. It will be further contingent on consistent and equitable access to broadband internet service.
Create a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank
Virtual care can’t just happen. It requires knowledge on how to access and effectively deliver it, from patients and health care providers respectively. It is crucial to understand and promote digital health literacy across Canada. What the federal government has done for financial literacy, with the appointment of the Financial Literacy Leader within the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, can serve as a template for digital health literacy.
We recommend that the federal government establish a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank to develop indicators and measure the digital health of Canadians, create tools patients and health care providers can use to enhance digital health literacy, continually monitor the changing digital divide that exists among some population segments.
Pan-Canadian broadband expansion
It is critical to bridge the broadband divide by ensuring all those in Canada have equitable access to affordable, reliable and sustainable internet connectivity. Those in rural, remote, Northern and Indigenous communities are presently seriously disadvantaged in this way. With the rise in virtual care, a lack of access to broadband exacerbates inequalities in access to care. This issue needs to be expedited before we can have pride in any other achievement.
RECOMMENDATION 2 Embedding virtual care in our nation’s health care system
Some groups have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Woefully inadequate care of seniors and residents of long-term care homes has left a shameful and intensely painful mark on our record. Our health care system has failed to meet the needs of our aging population for too long.
The following two recommendations, combined with a focus on improving access to health care services, will make a critical difference for Canadian seniors.
A demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer
The Canada Health Transfer (CHT) is the single largest federal transfer to the provinces and territories. It is critical in supporting provincial and territorial health programs in Canada. As an equal per-capita-based transfer, it does not currently address the imbalance in population segments like seniors.
The CMA, hand-in-hand with the Organizations for Health Action (HEAL), recommends that a demographic top-up be transferred to provinces and territories based on the projected increase in health care spending associated with an aging population, with the federal contribution set to the current share of the CHT as a percentage of provincial-territorial health spending. A top-up has been calculated at 1.7 billion for 2021. Additional funding would be worth a total of $21.1 billion to the provinces and territories over the next decade.
Seniors care benefit
Rising out-of-pocket expenses associated with seniors care could extend from 9 billion to 23 billion by 2035. A Seniors Care Benefits program would directly support seniors and those who care for them. Like the Child Care Benefit program, it would offset the high out-of-pocket health costs that burden caregivers and patients.
RECOMMENDATION 3 Ensuring that better care is secured for our seniors
The federal government has made great strides to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Amidst the task of providing stability, there has been a grand oversight: measures to support our front line health care workers and their financial burden have fallen short.
The CMA recommends the following measures:
1. Despite the significant contribution of physicians’ offices to Canada’s GDP, many physician practices have not been eligible for critical economic programs. The CMA welcomes the remedies implemented by Bill C-20 and recommends the federal government address remaining administrative barriers to physicians accessing federal economic relief program.
2. We recommend that the government implement the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, an income tax deduction for frontline health care workers put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. In person patient care providers would be eligible to deduct a predetermined amount against income earned during the pandemic. The Canadian Armed Forces already employs this model for its members serving in hazardous missions.
3. It is a devastating reality that front line health care workers have died as a result of COVID-19. Extending eligibility for the Memorial Grant to families of front line health care workers who mourn the loss of a family member because of COVID-19, as a direct result of responding to the pandemic or as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to their work will relieve any unnecessary additional hardship experienced. The same grant should extend to cases in which their work contributes to the death of a family member.
RECOMMENDATION 4 Cementing financial stabilization measures for our front line health care workers
Those impacted by COVID-19 deserve our care. The health of our nation’s economy is contingent on the health standards for its people. We must assert the right to decent quality of life for those who are most vulnerable: those whose incomes have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, those living in poverty, those living in marginalized communities, and those doubly plagued by experiencing racism and the pandemic. We are not speaking solely for physicians. This is about equitable care for every Canadian impacted by the pandemic.
Public awareness and support have never been stronger. We are not facing the end of the pandemic; we are confronting an ebb in our journey. Hope and optimism will remain elusive until we can be confident in our health care system.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to appear before the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities to discuss issues related to the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). This tax measure, which is recognition by the federal government that persons with a severe disability may be affected by having reduced incomes, increased expenses or both, compared to those who are not disabled i, helps to account for the intangible costs associated with a severe and prolonged impairment. It also takes into account disability-related expenses that are not listed in the medical expense deduction or which are excluded by the 3% threshold in the Medical Expense Tax Credit.
Physicians are a key point of contact for applicants of the DTC and, given the way the program is structured, a vital participant in its administration. It is for these reasons that we come before you today to address specific concerns related to the program’s performance. In addition, we would like to discuss the broader issue of developing a coherent set of tax policies in support of health and social policy.
The Integration of Tax Policy with Health Policy and Social Policy
The federal government, through a variety of policy levers such as taxation, spending, regulation and information, has played a key role in the development of our health care and social systems. To date however, discussion about the federal role in these areas has centered largely on federal transfers to the provinces and territories and the Canada Health Act.
However, in looking at how to renew Canada’s health and social programs, we should not limit ourselves to these traditional instruments. Today we have a health system that is facing a number of pressures that will challenge its sustainability. These pressures range from an aging and more demanding population in terms of the specialty care services and technology they will seek; the cry for expanding the scope of medicare coverage to include homecare and pharmacare; and a shortage of health personnel. These are only some of the more immediate reasons alternative avenues of funding health care, and thus ensuring the health and well-being of our citizens, must be explored.
In our pre-budget consultation document to the Standing Committee on Finance ii, the CMA recommended that the federal government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to synchronize tax policy with health policy. Such a review has not been undertaken in over 25 years since the Royal Commission on Taxation in 1966 (Carter Commission).
The CMA is echoing its call for a National Task Force to develop new and innovative ways to synchronize tax policy with health policy and social policy. A study of this nature would look at all aspects of the taxation system, including the personal income tax system, in which the DTC is a component.
The remainder of our brief addresses issues specific to the DTC.
Physician Involvement in the DTC Program
The CMA has in the past provided input with respect to the DTC program. Our working relationship on the DTC program with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has been issue-specific, time-limited and constructive.
Our first substantive contact in regard to the DTC program was in 1993 when the CMA provided Revenue Canada with a brief review of the program and the T2201form. It is interesting to note what our observations were in 1993 with regard to this program because many of them still hold true today.
Here are just some of the issues raised by the CMA in 1993 during our initial review of the program:
* The tax credit program may not address the needs of the disabled, it is too hit and miss. The DTC program should be evaluated in a comprehensive way to measure its overall effectiveness in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities.
* The program should be called the “Severe Disability Tax Credit Program” – or something equivalent to indicate that not everyone with a disability is eligible.
* The program puts physicians in a potential conflict with patients—the responsibility of the physician to advocate for the patient vs. gate-keeper need for Revenue Canada. The physician role should be to attest to legitimate claims on the patients’ behalf.
* Revenue Canada should clarify the multiplicity of programs. There are numerous different federal programs and all appear to have varying processes and forms. These overlapping efforts are difficult for patients and professionals.
* A major education effort for potential claimants, tax advisers and physicians should be introduced.
* A suitable evaluation of claimant and medical components of the process should be undertaken.
The CMA does not have a standardized consultative relationship with the CCRA in regard to this program. An example of this spotty relationship is the recent letter sent by the CCRA Minister asking current DTC recipients to re-qualify for the credit. The CMA was not advised or consulted about this letter. If we had been advised we would have highlighted the financial and time implications of sending 75 to 100 thousand individuals to their family physician for re-certification. We also would have worked with the CCRA on alternative options for updating DTC records. Unfortunately, we cannot change what has happened, but we can learn from it. This clearly speaks to the need to establish open and ongoing dialogue between our two organizations.
Policy Measure: The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patients’ advocacy groups.
We would now like to draw the Sub-committee’s attention to three areas that, at present, negatively impact on the medical profession participation in the program, namely program integrity, program standardization (e.g., consistency in terminology and out-of-pocket costs faced by persons with disabilities) and tax advisor referrals to health care providers.
A primary concern and irritation for physicians working with this program is that it puts an undue strain on the patient-physician relationship. This strain may also have another possible side effect, a failure in the integrity of the DTC program process.
Under the current structure of the DTC program, physicians evaluate the patient, provide this evaluation back to the patient and then ask the patient for remuneration. This process is problematic for two reasons. First, since the patient will receive the form back immediately following the evaluation, physicians might receive the blame for denying their patient the tax credit—not the DTC program adjudicators. Second, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he or she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit.
For the integrity of the DTC program, physicians need to be free to reach independent assessment of the patient’s condition. However, due to the pressure placed by this program on the patient-physician relationship, the physician’s moral and legal obligation to provide an objective assessment may conflict with the physician’s ethical duty to “Consider first the well-being of the patient.
There is a solution to this problem it’s a model already in use by government, the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Program. Under the CPP Disability Program, the evaluation from the physician is not given to the patient but, it is sent to the government and the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Under this system, the integrity of patient-physician relationship is maintained and the integrity of the program is not compromised.
Policy Measure: The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result.
Fairness and Equity
The federal government has several programs for people with disabilities. Some deal with income security (e.g., Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits), some with employment issues (e.g., Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities), and some through tax measures (e.g., Disability Tax Credit). These government transfers and tax benefits help to provide the means for persons with disabilities to become active members in Canadian society.
However, these programs are not consistent in terms of their terminology, eligibility criteria, reimbursement protocols, benefits, etc. CMA recommends that standards of fairness and equity be applied across federal disability benefit programs, particularly in two areas: the definition of the concept of “disability”, and standards for remuneration to the physician. These are discussed in greater detail below.
1) Defining “disability”
One of the problems with assessing disability is that the concept itself is difficult to define. In most standard definitions the word “disability” is defined in very general and subjective terms. One widely used definition comes from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH) which defines disability as “any restriction or inability (resulting from an impairment) to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.”
The DTC and other disability program application forms do not use a standard definition of “disability”. In addition to the inconsistency in terminology, the criteria for qualification for these programs differ because they are targeted to meet the different needs of those persons with disabilities. To qualify for DTC, a disability must be “prolonged” (over a period of at least 12 months) and “severe” i.e. “markedly (restrict) any of the basic activities of daily living” which are defined. Though CPP criteria use the same words “severe” and “prolonged” they are defined differently (i.e., “severe” means “prevents applicant from working regularly at any job” and “prolonged” means “long term or may result in death”). Other programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Canada, have entirely different criteria.
This is confusing for physicians, patients and others (e.g., tax preparers/advisors) involved in the application process. This can lead to physicians spending more time than is necessary completing the form because of the need to verify terms. As a result if the terms, criteria and the information about the programs are not as clear as possible this could result in errors on the part of physicians when completing the forms. This could then inadvertently disadvantage those who, in fact, qualify for benefits.
Policy Measures: The CMA would like to see some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not mean that eligibility criteria must become uniform.
In addition, the CMA would like to see the development of a comprehensive information package for health care providers that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc.
The remuneration for assessment and form completion is another area where standardization among the various government programs would eliminate the difficulties that some individuals with disabilities currently face. For example, applicants who present the DTC Certificate Form T2201 to their physicians must bear any costs associated with its completion out of their own pockets. On the other hand, if an individual is applying to the CPP Disability Program, the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself.
Assessing a patient’s disabilities is a complex and time-consuming endeavour on the part of any health professional. Our members tell us that the DTC Certificate Form T2201 can take as much time and effort to complete as the information requested for CPP Disability Program forms depending, of course, on the patient and the nature of the disability. In spite of this fact, some programs acknowledge the time and expertise needed to conduct a proper assessment while other programs do not.
Although physicians have the option of approaching the applicant for remuneration for the completion of the DTC form, they are reluctant to do so because these individuals are usually of limited means and in very complex cases, the cost for a physician’s time for completing the DTC Form T2201 can reach as much as $150. In addition, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he/she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. Synchronizing funding between all programs would be of substantial benefit to all persons with disabilities, those professionals completing the forms and the programs’ administrators.
Policy Measure: We strongly urge the federal government to place disability tax credit programs on the same footing when it comes to reimbursement of the examining health care provider.
Tax Advisor Referrals
With the complexity of the income tax system today, many individuals seek out the assistance of professional tax advisors to ensure the forms are properly completed and they have received all the benefits they are entitled to. Tax advisors will very often refer individuals to health professionals so that they can be assessed for potential eligibility for the DTC. The intention of the tax advisors may be laudable, but often, inappropriate referrals are made to health professionals. This not only wastes the valuable time of health care professionals, already in short supply, but may create unrealistic expectations on the part of the patient seeking the tax credit.
The first principle of the CMA’s Code of Ethics is “consider first the well-being of the patient.” One of the key roles of the physician is to act as a patient’s advocate and support within the health care system. The DTC application form makes the physician a mediator between the patient and a third party with whom the patient is applying for financial support.
This “policing” role can place a strain on the physician-patient relationship – particularly if the patient is denied a disability tax credit as a result a third-party adjudicator’s interpretation of the physician’s recommendations contained within the medical report. Physicians and other health professionals are not only left with having to tell the patient that they are not eligible but in addition advising the patient that there may be a personal financial cost for the physician providing this assessment.
Policy Measure: Better preparation of tax advisors would be a benefit to both patients and their health care providers. The CMA would like CCRA to develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax preparers and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. This would provide some guidance as to whether it is worth the time, effort and expense to see a health professional for a professional assessment.
As raised in a previous meeting with CCRA, the CMA is once again making available a physician representative to accompany DTC representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies, prior to each tax season, to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and initial assessment, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral.
The DTC is a deserving benefit to those Canadians living with a disability. However, there needs to be some standardization among the various programs to ensure that they are effective and meet their stated purpose. Namely, the CMA would like to make the following suggestions:
1. The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patient advocacy groups.
2. The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result.
3. That there be some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not circumvent differences in eligibility criteria.
4. That a comprehensive information package be developed, for health care providers, that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc.
5. That the federal government applies these social programs on the same footing when it comes to their funding and administration.
6. That CCRA develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax advisors and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability.
7. That CCRA employ health care providers to accompany CCRA representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and personal assessment of disability, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral.
These recommendations would certainly be helpful to all involved - the patient, health care providers and the programs’ administrators, in the short term. However what would be truly beneficial in the longer term would be an overall review of the taxation system from a health care perspective. This could provide tangible benefits not only for persons with disabilities but for all Canadians as well as demonstrating the federal government’s leadership towards ensuring the health and well being of our population.
i Health Canada, The Role for the Tax System in Advancing the Health Agenda, Applied Research and Analysis Directorate, Analysis and Connectivity Branch, September 21, 2001
ii Canadian Medical Association, Securing Our Future… Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With The Important Challenges of Tomorrow”, Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations, November 1, 2001.
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:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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:
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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
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) commends the federal government for its clear and open process, and for encouraging a dialogue in areas of tax policy and economics. Canadians from all walks of life look to the government for strong and constructive leadership in this area. The CMA therefore appreciates the opportunity to present its views to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance as it considers Bill C-70 "An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Act, the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account Act and related Acts."
The CMA has appeared before the Committee on several occasions when it has considered matters pertaining to federal tax policy in Canada. In addition to our submissions, as part of the government's pre-budget consultation process, the CMA appeared before the Committee when it examined a number of tax policy alternatives to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 1994. 1
At that time, the CMA clearly articulated the medical profession's concerns about the need to implement a federal sales tax system that is simplified, fair and equitable for all. The CMA remains strongly committed to the principles that underpin an efficient and effective sales tax system. However, it is of the strong view that there is, on the one hand, a need to review the relationship between sales tax policy and health care policy in Canada, and between the sales tax policy and the physicians as providers of services, on the other.
Canada's health care system is a defining characteristic of what makes Canada special. It is no secret that funding for the health care system is under stress and all providers, including physicians, are being asked to shoulder their responsibility in controlling costs and responding to this fiscal challenge. However, physicians have had their costs of providing medical services increased by the federal government through the introduction of the GST.
Specifically, the introduction of the GST as it applies to physicians serves as a constant reminder that there still remain some tax policy anomalies - that, without amendment, their consequences will be significantly magnified with the introduction of a proposed harmonized sales tax (HST) on April 1, 1997, as was the case with the introduction of the Quebec Sales Tax (QST) on July 1, 1992.
The tax anomaly is a result of the current categorization of medical services as "tax exempt" under the Excise Tax Act. As a consequence, physicians are, on the one hand, in the unenviable position of being denied the ability to claim a GST tax refund (that is, denied the ability to claim input tax credits - ITCs), on the medical supplies (such as medical equipment, medical supplies, rent, utilities) necessary to deliver quality health care, and on the other, cannot pass the tax onto those who purchase such services (i.e., the provincial and territorial governments). Physicians, from coast to coast, are understandably angry that they have been singled out for unfair treatment under the GST, QST and the soon to be implemented HST.
The GST was designed to be a " consumer-based tax" where the tax charged for purchases during the "production process" would be refunded - with the consumer, not producer of a good or a service, bearing the full burden of the tax. As a result, self-employed individuals and small businesses are eligible to claim a tax refund of the GST from the federal government on purchases that are required in most commercial activities. It is important to understand that those who can claim a tax refund under the GST in most commercial activities will still be able to do so with the proposed introduction of a harmonized sales tax in Atlantic Canada. The rate is proposed to be set at 15% (7% federal tax, 8% provincial tax).
In the case of medical services, the consumer (i.e., the one who purchases such services) is almost always the provincial and territorial governments. Since the provincial and territorial governments do not pay GST (due to their Constitutional exemption), one would have expected the cost of providing medical services to be free of GST. However, this is not the case. It is difficult to reconcile federal health care policies to preserve and protect publicly funded health care with tax policy which singles out and taxes the costs of medical services.
Regrettably, physicians find themselves in an untenable situation of "double jeopardy". This is patently unfair and on the basis of the fundamental principles of administering a fair and equitable tax system should be amended accordingly.
In an effort to document the impact of the federal government's decision to designate medical services as tax exempt, an independent study by the accounting firm KPMG estimated that physicians' costs increased by $60 million of GST per year. 2 Since 1991, this total is now in excess of $360 million.
The recent agreement between the federal government and Atlantic provinces (except Prince Edward Island) to harmonize their sales taxes will make matters significantly worse for physicians as the HST broadens the provincial tax base to essentially that of the GST in those provinces. With no ability to claim a tax refund on the GST they currently pay (and the proposed HST effective April 1, 1997), physicians once again will have to absorb the additional costs associated with the practice of medicine.
In assessing the impact of the proposed HST, KPMG has estimated that physicians in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland will be out-of-pocket an additional $4.7 million each year because they are not eligible for a tax refund for their purchases. 3
The medical profession, is not looking for special treatment. What we are asking for is to be treated no differently than other self-employed Canadians and small businesses who have the opportunity to claim ITCs, and to be placed on the same footing with other health care providers who have the ability to recoup GST costs.
Physicians, as self-employed individuals are considered small businesses for tax purposes, therefore, it seems entirely reasonable that they should have the same tax rules that apply to other small businesses. This is a question of fundamental fairness.
III. POLICY CONTEXT
Prior to the introduction of the GST, the federal sales tax (FST) was included in the price of most goods (not services) that were produced in, or imported to, Canada. Therefore, when goods were purchased by consumers, the FST was built into the price. At that time, physicians, and other self-employed Canadians and small businesses, were essentially on a level sales tax playing field. Since 1991, however, the introduction of the GST has tilted the table against physicians.
Unless this situation is rectified, with the introduction of the HST, physicians in Atlantic Canada will join those in Quebec who experience additional costs due to the GST and their provincial sales tax using the same rules.
(i). The Impact of the GST on Good Tax Policy and Good Health Care Policy
When it reviews Bill C-70, the Standing Committee on Finance should look for opportunities where tax policy and health care policy go hand-in-hand. The principle of aligning good health policy with sound tax policy is critical to managing change while serving to lay down a strong foundation for future growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, the current GST policy introduces a series of distortions that have tax policy and health policy working against one another. Tax policies that do not reinforce health policy are bad tax policies. Consider, for example:
1. Under the current system, hospitals (under the "MUSH" formula - Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals) have been afforded an 83% rebate on GST paid for purchases made while physicians must absorb the full GST cost on their supplies. At a time when health policy initiatives across Canada are attempting to expand community-based practices, the current GST policy (and now harmonized sales tax policy) which taxes supplies in a private clinic setting while rebating much of the tax in a hospital setting acts to discourage the shift in emphasis;
2. Prescription drugs are zero-rated. The objective was to ensure that pharmaceutical firms are no worse off than under the previous federal sales tax regime. Recognizing that medical services can play an equally important role as drugs, it appears inconsistent that the government would choose to have drugs as tax free, and medical services absorbing GST;
3. In the current fiscal climate, the current GST policy, and now the proposed harmonized sales tax in Atlantic Canada, is threatening to harm the important role when it comes to recruitment and retention of physicians across Canada, and in particular, the Atlantic provinces - where they are already experiencing difficulty; and,
4. It is estimated that the 55,000 physicians employ up to 100,000 Canadians. Physicians play an important role in job creation. The disproportionate effects of the GST policy could have an adverse effect on the number of individuals employed by physicians.
With these issues at hand, it is apparent that good tax policy and good health policy are themselves not synchronized and are working at cross purposes. At this point, when the Standing Committee is reviewing Bill C-70, it is the time to address this situation based on the fundamental principle of fairness in the tax system, while ensuring that good tax policy reinforces good health care policy.
(ii). Not All Health Care Services Are Created Equal under the GST/HST
Physicians are not the only group of health care providers whose services are placed under the category of "tax exempt", with the result that they incur increased GST costs. For example, the services of dentists, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists and chiropractors are categorized as "tax exempt".
However, there is an important distinction between whether the services are government funded or not. Health care providers who deliver services privately and which are not publicly funded do have the opportunity to pass along the GST in their costs through their fee structures.
For these services that are government funded there are no opportunities for physicians to recover the tax paid for purchases unless a specific rebate has been provided (e.g., hospitals). To date, in negotiations with the medical profession, no provincial/territorial government has agreed to provide funding to reflect the additional costs associated with the introduction of the GST. Their position has been that this is a "federal" matter. This becomes important when one considers that under the Canadian Constitution one level of government cannot tax another, and the provincial governments are not prepared to absorb the cost of the GST.
It is critical to point out that since doctors receive 99% of their professional earnings from the government health insurance plans, 4 they have absolutely no other option when it comes to recovering the GST - they must absorb it!
In summary, while a number of health care services are categorized as tax exempt, it must be emphasized that some providers "are more equal than others" under the GST - contrary to other health care providers, physicians do not have the ability to claim ITCs. This distinction becomes readily apparent when one considers the sources of (private and/or public) funding for such services.
IV. THE SEARCH FOR A SOLUTION
Like many others in Canadian society, physicians work hard to provide quality health care to their patients within what is almost exclusively a publicly-financed system for medical services. Physicians are no different from Canadians in that they, too, are consumers (and purchasers).
As consumers, physicians pay their fair share of taxes to support the wide range of valued government services. By the same token, as providers of health care, physicians have not accepted, nor should they accept, a perpetuation of the fundamental injustices built into the current GST, QST and proposed HST arrangements.
To date, the CMA has made representations to two Ministers of Finance and their Department Officials. We have discussed several ways to address a situation that is not sustainable, with no resolution to date. We look to this Committee and the federal government for a fair solution to this unresolved issue.
This unfair and discriminatory situation can be resolved. There is a solution that can serve to reinforce good economic policy with good health care policy in Canada. An amendment to the Excise Tax Act, the legislation which governs the GST (and proposed HST) can make an unfair situation fair to all Canadian physicians.
In its recent submission to the Standing Committee as part of the 1997 pre-budget consultation process, the CMA recommended "that medical services be zero-rated, in order to achieve a fair and equitable GST policy for physicians." In order to achieve this objective all health care services, including medical services, funded by the provinces could be zero-rated.
This recommendation serves to place physicians on a level playing field with other self-employed Canadians and small businesses. In addition, from a health care perspective, this would treat medical services in the same manner as that of prescription drugs. This is a reasonable proposition, as in many instances, medical treatments and drug regimens go hand-in-hand.
Furthermore, this recommendation would ensure that medical services under the GST and proposed HST would be no worse off than other goods or services that provincial governments' purchase and where suppliers can claim a tax refund (i.e., ITCs).
While the recommendation is an important statement in principle of what is required to address the current inequities under the GST, and soon to be HST, the CMA offers a more specific recommendation to the Standing Committee as to how the principles can be operationalized within the context of Bill C-70 and the Excise Tax Act.
The CMA respectfully recommends the following:
1. "THAT HEALTH CARE SERVICES FUNDED BY THE PROVINCES BE ZERO-RATED."
CMA has been advised that this would be accomplished by amending Bill C-70 as follows:
(1). Section 5 of Part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is replaced by the following:
5. "A supply (other than a zero-rated supply) made by a medical practitioner of a consultative, diagnostic, treatment or other health care service rendered to an individual (other than a surgical or dental service that is performed for cosmetic purposes and not for medical or reconstructive purposes)."
(2). Section 9 of Part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is repealed.
(3). Part II of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act is amended by adding the following after section 40:
41. A supply of any property or service but only if, and to the extent that, the consideration for the supply is payable or reimbursed by the government under a plan established under an Act of the legislature of the province to provide for health care services for all insured persons of the province.
By adopting the recommendation above, the federal government would fulfil, at least two over-arching policy objectives, they are:
1. Strengthening the relationship between good economic policy and good health policy in Canada; and,
2. Applying the fundamental principles that underpin our taxation system (fairness, efficiency, effectiveness), in all cases.
1 the Goods and Services Tax: Fairness for Physicians, Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, Ottawa, Ontario, March 15, 1994. The Canadian Medical Association.
2 Review of the Impact of the Goods and Services Tax on Canadian Physicians, KPMG, June, 1992.
3 Review of the Impact of a Provincial Value Added Tax on Physicians in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, KPMG, August, 1996.
4 National Health Expenditures, 1975-1994, Health Canada, January 1996.
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
Notes for an address by Dr. Eugene Bereza, Chair, Committee on Ethics, Canadian Medical Association : Bill C-13 - An act respecting assisted human reproduction : Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health
BILL C-13 - AN ACT RESPECTING ASSISTED HUMAN REPRODUCTION
Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health
November 20, 2002
BILL C-13 - AN ACT RESPECTING ASSISTED HUMAN REPRODUCTION
Madame Chair and Members of the Committee:
My name is Dr. Eugene Bereza. I am a physician and clinical ethicist at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and Chair of the Canadian Medical Association Committee on Ethics. I am here today representing our members, more than 54,000 physicians from across Canada. I also wish to speak as a advocate for our patients, especially those affected by infertility and those who are or will suffer from diseases for which medical science is searching for cures.
I am accompanied today by Dr. John Williams, our Director of Ethics.
You will recall that we appeared before this Committee on October 23, 2001 in company with representatives from eight other national health provider and scientific organizations to present our views on draft legislation on assisted human reproduction. Although we were pleased that your December 2001 report recommended the establishment of an assisted reproduction regulatory body outside the Department of Health, we were disappointed that you did not find favour with other recommendations we put forward.
The government responded to your report with Bill C-56, now Bill C-13. It is this bill that we are here to address today. Although there are many details in the bill on which we would like either clarification or changes, we intend to focus our remarks on the issue that we consider of greatest importance for our patient’s wellfare and the practice of medicine. That issue is the use of the criminal power to deal with medical and scientific activities.
The Standing Committee Report and Bill C-13
In your December 2001 report, you acknowledged our position on this issue: “Some witnesses recommended the elimination of the prohibited activities category altogether. Citing the benefits of regulatory flexibility, they felt that all activities should come under the controlled activity category, including the more reprehensible activities like reproductive cloning for which licences, arguably, would never be allowed under the regulations” (page 9). However, you rejected this view on the grounds that “a licence-related prohibition of this sort would not carry the same weight or degree of social censure as the statutory prohibition…. An outright statutory ban signals more clearly that certain activities are either unsafe or socially unacceptable.
The use of the statutory ban also signals that these activities are of such concern to Canadians that their status as a prohibited activity may not be altered except with the approval of Parliament” (page 9).
Bill C-13 reflects your views on this matter. We recognize your good faith in proposing and defending this position but we are convinced that its potential for harm outweighs its potential benefits. And so we are pleased to have this opportunity to reiterate the reason why the CMA believes that Bill C-13 will adversely affect the patient-physician relationship and the advance of medical science.
Need to Change Bill C-13
As you know, our position on this matter is supported by legal scholars such as Patrick Healy, McGill University Faculty of Law, Tim Caulfield, Director of the University of Alberta Health Law Institute, and Bartha Knoppers, Université de Montréal Centre de Recherche en Droit Publique. In essence, our position is that the criminal law is a blunt instrument and very difficult to change and is therefore appropriate for activities whose status is unlikely to change over time, such as murder and theft, rather than medical and scientific activities that are constantly developing. The latter are better left to a representative regulatory body to determine if and when changes in health and safety considerations and public attitudes and values might justify allowing certain formerly prohibited activities to take place under specific conditions.
Bill C-13 begins with the statement: “This enactment prohibits assisted reproduction procedures that are considered to be ethically unacceptable.” This echoes the conclusions in your report. However, as the transcripts of your hearings demonstrate, many Canadians, especially those who are infertile, do not consider some or all of these procedures to be ethically unacceptable. As a matter of public policy, should Canadians who hold this view be denied access to medical treatment for infertility because others consider such treatments to be ethically unacceptable? Should patients who suffer from conditions for which research that is forbidden in Bill C-13 might lead to a cure be denied that opportunity? We question whether criminal prohibitions are appropriate for dealing with activities on which there is considerable ethical disagreement among Canadians.
In Canada legislators have been justifiably reluctant to use the criminal law to deal with medical and scientific issues such as abortion, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and the conduct of medical research. Why is an exception being made for assisted reproduction? What sort of precedent will this set for other controversial bioethical issues?
We are also concerned about the bill’s penalties for infractions: jail terms up to 10 years and fines up to $500,000. These are disproportionate to the penalties for crimes that injure persons or property and, as such, will create a climate of undue fear and excessive caution for physicians and scientists working in this area, such that they will avoid any activity that is potentially covered by the bill, even to the detriment of patient care. Given the rapid advance of science and medical practice and the difficulty of anticipating new developments, it will be difficult to adjust the law to deal with new applications of prohibited activities that may be ethically acceptable.
An Alternate Solution
The CMA has stated repeatedly that we are not opposed to the prohibition of certain assisted human reproduction activities. Instead of instituting criminal prohibitions within the legislation, we remain convinced that an independent body on an ongoing basis should determine the activities that are permissible or prohibited on the basis of up-to-date scientific research, public input and ethical review. This can be accomplished very easily in Bill C-13 by moving the procedures listed under “Prohibited Activities” (sections 5-9) to “Controlled Activities” and adding the words “except in accordance with the regulations and a licence” to each of the provisions in sections 5-9.
Consistent with this recommendation we consider that the regulatory agency should be established as soon as possible and be given as much authority as possible over the matters that Bill C-13, section 65, reserves to regulations of Governor in Council. We hope that the agency will build upon the experience and expertise of existing organizations and structures in the field of assisted reproduction that deal with practice standards, education, certification and accreditation.
To summarize, we strongly support government efforts to regulate assisted human reproduction and related activities, including the prohibition of certain practices either temporarily or permanently. However, like others who have appeared before this Committee, we do not believe that criminalizing the medical and scientific activities named in the bill is an appropriate way to achieve those objectives. We consider that the objectives could be as well achieved by far less drastic means than criminalization and, moreover, that criminalization would create major obstacles to legitimate medical and scientific progress in the treatment of infertility. We recommend that the proposed agency be empowered to regulate these practices and that the criminal power be invoked when controlled activities are performed without authority of a licence from the agency or in defiance of the licensing conditions established by the agency.
Thank you, Madame Chair and members of the Committee. We will be pleased to respond to your questions.
Notes for an address by Dr. Peter Barrett, Past-President, Canadian Medical Association : Public hearings on primary care reform : Presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology
On behalf of the 53,000 physician members of the CMA, we appreciate the opportunity to offer our thoughts on the issue of primary care reform and the recommendations made recently in your April 2002 report. I am very pleased to be presenting today with my CMA colleague, Dr. Susan Hutchison, Chair of our GP Forum along with Dr. Elliot Halparin and Dr. Kenneth Sky from the Ontario Medical Association.
Before I begin presenting the CMA’s recommendations, I believe it’s important to make a few points clear in regard to primary care:
* First, is that Canada has one of the best primary care systems in the world. (Just ask Canadians, we have. Our 2001 Report Card showed that 60% of Canadians believe that we have one of the best health care systems in the world and gave high marks for both quality of service and system access).
* Second, is that primary care reform is not the panacea for all that ails Medicare.
* And finally, primary care and specialty care are inextricably linked.
I like to expand a bit on the last point because I think it’s an important consideration. There is a tendency to separate medical care into two areas; primary care and specialty care. However, we need to recognize that medical and health care encompasses a broad spectrum of services ranging from primary prevention to highly specialized quaternary care. Primary care and specialty care are so critically interdependent that we need to adapt an integrated approach to patient care.
Now, in respect to the CMA’s recommendations on implementing changes for the delivery of primary care, we believe that government must respect the following four policy premises:
1. All Canadians should have access to a family physician.
2. To ensure comprehensive and integrated care, family physicians should remain as the central provider and coordinator of timely access to publicly-funded medical services.
3. There is no single model that will meet the primary care needs of all communities in all regions of the country.
4. Scopes of practice should be determined in a manner that serves the interests of patients and the public safely, efficiently, and competently.
Access to Family Physicians
A successful renewal of primary health care delivery cannot be accomplished without addressing the shortage of family physicians and general practitioners. The effects of an aging practitioners population, changes in lifestyle and productivity, along with the declining popularity of this field as the career choice of medical school graduates are all having an impact on the supply of family physician.
Physician as Central Coordinator
While multistakeholder teams offer the potential for providing a broader array of services to meet patients’ health care needs, it is also clear that for most Canadians, having a family doctor as the central provider for all primary medical care services is a core value. As the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) indicated in its submission to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, research shows that over 90% of Canadians seek advice from a family physician as their first resource in the health care system. The CFPC also noted that a recent Ontario College of Family Physicians Decima public opinion survey found that 94% agree that it is important to have a family physician who provides the majority of care and co-ordinates the care delivered by others. i
A family physician as the central coordinator of medical services ensures efficient and effective use of system resources as it allows for only one entry point into the health care system. This facilitates a continuity of care, as the family physician generally has developed an ongoing relationship with his or her patients and as a result is able to direct the patient through the system such that the patient receives the appropriate care from the appropriate provider.
No Single Model for Reform
In recent years, several government task force and commission reports, including the report of this Committee, have called for primary care reform. Common themes that have emerged include; 24/7 coverage; alternatives to fee-for-service payment of physicians; nurse practitioners and health promotion and disease prevention. Governments across the country have launched pilot projects of various models of primary care delivery. It is critical that these projects are evaluated before they are adopted on a grander scale. Moreover, we must take into account the range of geographical settings across the country, from isolated rural communities to the highly urbanized communities with advanced medical science centres.
Scopes of Practice
There is a prevailing myth that physicians are a barrier to change when in fact the progressive changes in the health care system have been more often than not physician lead. Canadian physicians are willing to work in teams and the CMA has developed a “Scopes of Practice” policy that clearly supports a collaborative and cooperative approach. A policy that has been supported in principle by the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Pharmacists Association.
Because of the growing complexity of care, the exponential growth of knowledge, and an increased emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention, primary care delivery will increasingly rely on multi-stakeholder teams. This is a positive development. However, expanding the primary care team to include nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, and others, while desirable, will cost the system more, not less. Therefore, we need to change our way of thinking about primary care reform. We need to think of it as an investment. We need to think of it not in terms of cost savings but as a cost-effective way to meet the emerging unmet needs of Canadians.
To conclude, there is no question that primary care delivery needs to evolve to ensure it continues to meet the needs of Canadians. But we see this as making a good system better, not fundamental reform.
i College of Family Physicians of Canada. Shaping The Future of Health Care: Submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Ottawa: CFPC; Oct 25, 2001.