Friday, December 14, 2007

Dalton's deceptive health-care-tax

Re: “Duncan doles out surplus”, Toronto Sun, Dec.14, 2007:

Christina Blizzard wrote that “Finance Minister Dwight Duncan reported revenues are up $2.6 billion. Coincidentally, the so-called Ontario Health Premium raked in $2.6 billion in 2006-2007”.

Finance minister Sorbara said: “Every single cent from this premium will be invested in health care.” (OLA Hansard, May 18, 2004)

In 2005, Dwight Duncan said: “our position has always been crystal clear that the Ontario health premium is a tax…all revenue raised through the premium goes to transform Ontario's health care system and is being dedicated to our health care system in a way that will benefit all the people of Ontario.” (OLA Hansard, Oct.19, 2005)

So if the Grit's health-tax revenue was never specifically deposited to the Ministry of Health, and instead was poured into general revenue - yielding the aforementioned surplus - then the Liberals have played a monetary shell-game and deceived tax-payers.

When Liberal Finance minister Greg Sorbara announced the hated Liberal Health tax in the Legislature, (OLA, May 18, 2004) he said to the Speaker: "Sir, you know, I know and we know that this is something we promised not to do."

At this point, he was interjected by John R. Baird (Nepean-Carleton) saying: "You've lied. You've lied. Call a referendum". After Sorbara began speaking again, Baird said : "At least I don't lie", after which he was asked to leave and was escorted out of the chamber.

Of course the Liberals lied! They went on to lie about more than just the health "premium"/tax. The rest of Ontario can plainly see their ploy now, in 2007. Naively, most of us thought/were conned that the Liberals were telling the truth; allowing them the benefit of the doubt and all that jazz.

Good for Baird for being the first to call the Liberal liars for what they were.

Here's an excerpt from the sad budget day when the Liberal health-tax was presented (OLA Hansard, May 18, 2004):

Greg Sorbara: "In this budget we speak and we respond to the people about their aspirations. It is a budget by Ontarians, about Ontarians, for Ontarians. It is rooted in a fundamentally different approach. For the first time, a government of Ontario is presenting a detailed four-year fiscal plan.

It's a plan to balance the budget and return the province to financial health. It's a plan to invest in health and education to produce concrete results. It's a plan to include better access to primary health care, shorter waiting times for critical services and smaller class sizes. It's a plan to foster economic growth and innovation through investments in education, training, health and infrastructure.

But every budget is about choices. We had to make two very important choices that were especially difficult. The first is to increase revenues, and the second is to balance the budget over a number of years.

They were choices that were inconsistent with our election commitments, and we openly acknowledge that. However, it would simply not have been possible to deliver a balanced budget this year without destabilizing vital public services and perhaps even the economy itself. Such an approach would have been irresponsible, and we rejected it.

Likewise, none of us can afford to believe any longer that the problems in our health care system, from ever longer waiting times, to the lack of family doctors, to deteriorating long-term care -- none of these can be solved without additional revenue. And so, to shorten wait times, to provide more doctors and nurses, to deliver results for patients, we are proposing an Ontario health premium. The premium would be based on income, and it would be dedicated entirely to health.

Our plan is clear: It is to make Ontario a leader in economic growth, with vital public services and a higher quality of life. This plan calls for a responsible mix of investment, revenue generation, cost cutting and economic growth. It calls for some difficult choices. We've made them, because they are the right choices.

I'd like to speak about health care.
We live in a province that has been a leader in publicly funded health care in the past, and we need to be leaders again. On the national stage, our Premier has been demonstrating tremendous leadership, working toward a new national health care deal.

But I say to you that the health care needs of our people cannot wait. So we've been diligent in developing a four-year plan for better health care throughout the province. It will shorten wait times, it will focus on patients' needs, it will increase the number of doctors and nurses, it will deliver results and it will have the resources it needs to do this work.

In that regard, I am announcing today that by 2007-08, we will provide an additional 36,000 heart procedures per year. We will provide an additional 2,300 joint replacements each year. Beginning next year, we will be funding nine new MRI and CT sites, and an additional 9,000 cataract surgeries per year.

I want to talk about primary care. In study after study, year after year, we have been told that change in health care begins with change in primary care. We're going to provide that change by creating family health teams: doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners working alongside other health care professionals, providing the best in round-the-clock health care.

For 2004-05, we'll invest more than $600 million to reform and support primary health care in Ontario. Over the next four years, we will establish 150 family health teams around the province. The 54 existing community health centres will receive an additional $14 million this year, and we will expand the number of centres over the course of our mandate. Our investment in primary care this year will ensure care for up to 167,000 Ontarians who today cannot find a doctor.

I want to talk about home care. In his landmark report on Canada's health care system, Roy Romanow called home care the next essential service. We agree that home care is a critical component of our health care system. Our plan will provide home care for an additional 95,700 Ontarians by the end of our mandate. It will provide compassionate end-of-life care to another 6,000 Ontarians in their homes by 2007-08. This expansion of home care will require an additional investment of $88 million this year, and that will rise to $448 million over the course of our mandate.

Our seniors have made a unique investment in this province. So when they can no longer stay in their homes, they deserve long-term care that is the best care. We will ensure the safety and the dignity of our seniors with an additional investment of some $406 million in long-term-care facilities, growing to $546 million by 2007-08. This is going to dramatically improve the quality of care for thousands of Ontarians already in long-term-care facilities. As my colleague the wonderful George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, announced last week, we will hire 2,000 new staff, including 600 nurses, in our effort to improve long-term care. As well, in 2004-05, we'll open an additional 3,760 long-term-care beds.

Too many Ontarians suffer from mental health problems, and far too many of them suffer alone. Our four-year plan provides community-based mental health services to an additional 78,600 Ontarians.

A word about hospitals: While improving community care, we know there will always be a need for high-quality care provided in a hospital. Our hospitals have asked for multi-year funding so that they can plan for the long-term needs of their communities. They will receive increases that average 3.4% between 2003-04 and 2007-08. By putting more resources into community and home care, and by focusing more on prevention, we will enable our hospitals to focus more on those with acute needs.

Like most health care systems, ours is much better at treating illnesses than preventing them. We want to shift the focus to healthy living and illness prevention. This is the very best way to lower the cost curves in health care.

We will provide free vaccinations to children for chicken pox, meningitis and pneumonia. We will introduce legislation that will make all workplaces and public places in this province smoke-free by 2007.

We know there are illnesses we must prevent. And in the wake of SARS and West Nile disease, we know as well that there may well be other diseases out there that we haven't heard of yet. Therefore, our investment in public health will increase immediately to $273 million this year, and that will grow to $469 million by 2007-08.

Today public health costs are equally shared between the province and the municipalities. Our plan increases the province's share of public health funding to 75% by 2007-08.

We will be acting, as well, to ensure we have the doctors and nurses we need. By 2007-08, the number of assessment and training positions for international medical graduates will double. So will the number of clinical education spaces for nurse practitioners. Over the next four years, we will create 8,000 new full-time nursing positions. To protect nurses on the job today from injury, we will purchase 12,000 bed lifts for hospitals and long-term-care facilities in this very year. But most importantly, we will treat our nurses and all health care practitioners with respect.

These initiatives signal a substantial reorientation of health care toward a patient-focused, results-driven system that is sustainable. There will be more hospital beds available sooner for important procedures because more patients will be treated in home and community care. Changing the system will shorten wait times. So will the investments I have announced for those procedures Ontarians want and need the most: more doctors and nurses, better primary care, shorter wait times. That adds up to a healthier Ontario, but getting there won't be easy.

Today 45% of the province's program spending goes to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. For the past five years, health care budgets in Ontario have grown by an average of 8% per year. We must begin to bring these costs under control. To improve cancer care, cardiac care, home care and long-term care, we have had to delist less critical services. Beginning this fall, the province will no longer cover the cost of routine optometry examinations, except for seniors and Ontarians under the age of 20. We will no longer cover chiropractic and physiotherapy services, although seniors will continue to receive physiotherapy through home care and long-term-care facilities. These were not easy choices, but we believe they are the responsible choices.

Et, monsieur le Président, le choix le plus difficile mais le plus responsable est de demander aux Ontariennes et Ontariens de payer une contribution-santé.

Mr Speaker, the most difficult, and most responsible, choice is to ask Ontarians to pay the Ontario health premium.

Sir, you know, I know and we know that this is something we promised not to do.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean-Carleton): You've lied. You've lied. Call a referendum.

The Speaker: Order. I'm going to ask the member from Nepean-Carleton to control his language.

Hon Mr Sorbara: Mr Speaker, as I said, you know and I know that this is something we promised not to do. But in the context of the deficit, to keep our promise to improve health care, to serve a growing and aging population, when wait times are too long and the pressure on public health is greater than ever, it is the right thing to do. It's the fairest way to fund the necessary investments we need.

The premium would be based on income. People with the lowest incomes would pay nothing at all. Our highest earners would pay $900 a month.

Hon George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): A year.

Hon Mr Sorbara: That's $900 a year. Thank you for that correction. That tax almost got very big indeed.

A family with two children and a combined income of $60,000 would pay $50 per month.
Mr Baird: Shame. Shame on you.

Hon Mr Sorbara: I say to my friend from Nepean-Carleton, he is embarrassing himself, his party and this Parliament.

Mr Baird: At least I don't lie.

Hon Mr Sorbara: That does represent --


The Speaker: Order. I have warned the member from Nepean-Carleton, and he insists on using a word that he knows is unparliamentary. I'm going to have to name the member, and those who would like to go could also go.

Mr Baird was escorted from the chamber.

The Speaker: The Minister of Finance.

Hon Mr Sorbara: As I was saying, a family with two children and a combined income of $60,000 would pay about $50 a month.

That does represent an additional cost for Ontario families, who work hard to make ends meet. We do not minimize that in the least. But when we weighed it against the greater burden caused by longer waits for cardiac care or cancer care, the endless search for a family doctor and the incredible burden that would be placed on our children if we do not act today to make medicare sustainable, the choice was clear.

Ontarians would begin to pay the premium on July 1. For this fiscal year, it would generate $1.6 billion. That would partially offset the $2.4-billion increase that we're spending on health in this year. In short, every single cent from this premium will be invested in health care. Every cent of this premium will be used to provide better results in our health care system."


Yep every single flickin cent, eh? Sorbara's deceptive shell-game tax - which initially was only projected to take $1.6 billion from our pockets, by 2007 was raising almost $3 billion - never really did go to health-care, did it?

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