Budget 2014: Penny wise, pound foolish
February 12, 2014 (OTTAWA) – The budget document tabled yesterday by the Harper Government has more to do with next year’s federal election than it does with protecting and promoting the health of Canadians.
“The Government’s approach was to be expected but disappointing nonetheless. The economy is struggling to recover and now is the time to make strategic investments to promote growth by improving the health of everyone in Canada,” said Eric Mang, Co-chair of the Canadian Coalition for Public Health in the 21st Century (CCPH21). “A healthy workforce is a productive workforce.”
Public Health activities can reduce pressures on the health care system. Investment in Public Health is an essential and strategic investment for the health of Canadians and the economy.
“Promises to reduce roaming charges and stopping suspended senators from accruing pensions are great sound bites for the evening news, but for millions of Canadians, they are not their primary concern,” said Ian Culbert, Co-chair of CCPH21. “Having enough quality food to put on the table every night, living in safe and affordable housing, and having hope for a better future for their children are real worries for too many Canadians for whom prosperity and opportunity are out of reach.”
The CCPH21 video Public Health: A Return on Investment encourages governments to strengthen Canada’s economy and productivity through investments in public health. Public health interventions save lives and save money; there are few investments governments can make that reap such far-reaching and life-changing results as those of evidence-based public health initiatives.
“There are many investments where the federal government can have a measurable impact,“ said Mang, “Spending wisely is important, but fiscal prudence includes seeking returns on investment.”
In the 2012 budget, the government announced significant cuts to the health portfolio allocations. Programmatic and operational budgets cut between 2012 and 2015 include:
- Health Canada: reductions of $200.6 million
- Public Health Agency of Canada: planned cuts of $68 million, a reduction of almost 11%
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research: budget decrease of $45 million.
“Less than two months after the H5N1 virus made its first appearance in Canada, cuts to the federal health portfolio leave us concerned for the well-being of Canadians,” questioned Culbert. “Balancing the budget by undercutting core public health operations may be penny wise, pound foolish.”
The one exception in yesterday’s budget was the announcement that the tax on cigarettes will be increased to $21 per carton, a jump of about 50 cents per pack. “We applaud this move that will reduce youth smoking and save lives,” said Mang. “Higher tobacco taxes are shown to be the single most effective strategy to reduce smoking, especially among youth.”