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Canadian Public Health Association

CPHA Responds to Budget 2009

A Healthy Canadian Economy Needs Canadians to be Healthy

cpha Responds to Budget 2009

January 29, 2009 (Ottawa) – The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) is pleased with the new investments contained in the Government of Canada’s Budget 2009. “The proposed investments in social housing, seniors, skills and training, unemployment and recreational services are much-needed initiatives,” said Debra Lynkowski, CPHA’s Chief Executive Officer.

“We are also encouraged by the Government’s commitment to enhancing its support of Aboriginal people,” continued Lynkowski. “First Nations, Inuit and Métis people have the poorest health outcomes and face the greatest challenges.  This announcement is a move in the right direction for Canada.”

CPHA also acknowledges and respects the federal government’s intent to maintain and enhance the Canada Health Transfer amounts to the provinces and territories to enable them to provide and deliver public health and health care services and programs.

While the Association and its members welcome these proposed investments, we are concerned that the Government of Canada may be tempted to redirect funding from valuable programs and services to pay for these new investments. Budget 2009 uses terminology such as “strategic reviews,” “realignment,” and “streamlining” all of which can also mean cuts to core essential programs. Any new investments need to build upon and enhance ongoing successful programs, not replace them.

“The current economic crisis threatens to draw attention away from the need to act on increasing public health capacity and improving social justice when it is most needed,” said Dr. Cordell Neudorf, CPHA’s Chair. “If Canada is to achieve its full economic and social potential, then the Government of Canada must support programs and services that empower Canadians to be full and contributing members of our society.”

While some of the announcements in Budget 2009 can be expected to contribute to improving the conditions that affect the health of individuals and communities, the component of the health system that deals with disease prevention, health protection and health promotion needs to be safeguarded, if not expanded.  Public health is a critically important public good.  CPHA urges the government to ensure adequate support to the Public Health Agency of Canada, to include funding earmarked in support of public health functions and programs within the transfer payments to the provinces and territories, to stimulate support for the vital and much-needed not-for-profit voluntary sector which plays a key role in delivering health and social services, and to create mechanisms that increase the capacity of Canadians to provide for their basic needs.  To do so is to ensure that all Canadians have equal access to a basic human right – their health.

“Protecting Canadians from threats to their health and improving their overall well-being is a crucial step in rebuilding our economy,” said Neudorf. “In order to ensure a quick economic recovery, the Government of Canada needs to prioritize investments in disease prevention, health protection and promotion and the socio-economic policies that determine our health.  In fact, in tough economic times, we cannot afford not to take action on reducing the gap in health status experienced by the most vulnerable in our society.  Economic stimulation needs to include essential programs and services.”