Completing the Social Safety Net
[A]ny recovery package, including climate-friendly recovery, is unlikely to be implemented unless it also addresses existing societal and political concerns – such as poverty alleviation, inequality, and social inclusion
- Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Nicholas Stern
What is a life worth?
In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to reconsider the true meaning of a high quality of life. We can see clearly now that the factors that are often used to measure quality of life – economic and political stability, a good job market – do not tell the whole story. We understand more fully the importance of mental health, of spending time with our loved ones, of connecting with the natural world, and of being responsible international citizens.
These past months, we have been reminded that governments still play an important role in preserving and maintaining a high quality of life for people. Without immediate and profound government intervention, the quality of life for many Canadians would have been severely threatened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We also learned that quality of life is something communities help to create for themselves. Overnight, community projects spontaneously sprung up to provide essential services to the people in their communities.
Canada has the chance of a lifetime to reassess what it means to live with dignity. Now is the time to imagine what the best possible society looks like for Canadians, and to act on that vision to make it a reality. Decisive leadership to complete our social safety net now will set the stage for a future we can be proud of.
Adequate housing is a fundamental human right. Canada has recognized this in the National Housing Strategy Act, yet more and more Canadians are struggling to afford housing.
There is an affordable housing and homelessness crisis in Canada.
Even before the pandemic, 1.6 million Canadians lived in unsuitable, inadequate, or unaffordable housing and an estimated 2.4 million households experienced core housing need in 2020. On any given night, over 35,000 Canadians may be experiencing homelessness.
Women, low-income workers, Black and Indigenous Peoples, people with disabilities and people of colour have been among hardest hit by income and job loss during the pandemic and continue to fall further and further behind.
While short-term pandemic benefits offered adequate income replacement for some low-income tenants, others have had their income dramatically reduced, are unable to pay their full rent, are falling into arrears and facing the threat of eviction.
The Green Party of Canada is committed to making the right to adequate housing a reality.
A Green government will:
- Declare housing affordability and homelessness a national emergency
- Redefine affordable housing using a better, updated formula, that accounts for regional variations across the country
- Immediately appoint the Federal Housing Advocate, as established in the National Housing Strategy Act.
Support for renters
- Establish a national moratorium on evictions
- Maintain a moratorium on evictions until the pandemic is over and for a reasonable time thereafter, in cooperation with provincial governments.
- Create national standards to establish rent and vacancy controls
Green Innovation: Implementing a retroactive Residential Tenant Support Benefit
A Green government will provide a retroactive residential arrears assistance program to protect Canadians at risk of eviction or of being driven into homelessness due to accumulated rent arrears, as recommended by the National Right to Housing Network (NRHN) and the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA).
- Strengthen regulation to limit foreign investment and end predatory practices in residential real estate
- Raise the “empty home” tax for foreign and corporate residential property owners who leave buildings and units vacant.
- Assess the role of real estate investment trusts (REITs) in Canada’s housing market.
- Close tax haven loopholes that allow foreign investors to hide the names of beneficial owners of properties in Canada.
- Crack down on money laundering in Canadian real estate.
Investment in housing
- Reinvest in affordable, non-profit, co-operative and supportive housing
- Protect the existing stock of affordable housing by funding the purchase of buildings by non-profit and cooperative affordable housing organizations.
- Expand the Rapid Housing Initiative to bring new affordable and supportive housing onstream without delay. With this expansion, more quality projects with funding and agreements already in place can quickly become affordable or supportive housing.
- Invest in construction and operation of 50,000 supportive housing units over 10 years.
- Build and acquire a minimum of 300,000 units of deeply affordable non-market, co-op and non-profit housing over a decade.
- Create a Canada Co-op Housing Strategy and update the mechanisms for financing co-op housing, in partnership with CMHC, co-op societies, credit unions and other lenders.
- Require covenants to ensure that subsidized construction remains affordable over the long term
- Restore quality, energy efficient housing for seniors, people with special needs and low-income families, by providing financing to non-profit housing organizations, cooperatives, and social housing to build and restore quality and affordable housing.
- Implement integrated housing, so that everyone can afford to live in the communities in which they work and under quality conditions. Restore tax incentives for building purpose-built rental housing, and provide tax credits for gifts of lands, or of land and buildings, to community land trusts to provide affordable housing.
- Remove the “deemed” GST whenever a developer with empty condo units places them on the market as rentals.
- Re-focus the core mandate of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) on supporting the development of affordable, non-market and cooperative housing, as opposed to its current priority of supporting Canadian lenders to de-risk investment in housing ownership. With many housing markets demonstrably overvalued, and home ownership rates among the highest in the world, individual home ownership should not be the preoccupation of a public service housing agency and a national housing strategy.
- Appoint a Minister of Housing to meet the needs of affordable housing that are unique to each province, oversee its implementation in collaboration with provincial ministers, and build on other aspects of the housing and homelessness crisis in Canada to tackle these issues.
- Increase access to housing for people with disabilities.
- Require that housing developments that receive federal funding must ensure that 30% of all units in each development must be deeply affordable and/or available to people with disabilities and special needs.
- Develop a strategy to face housing challenges in rural areas
Ensure access to housing for Indigenous Peoples
- Guided by First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nation, develop inclusive and culturally appropriate Urban Indigenous Housing Strategies - for Indigenous Peoples and by Indigenous Peoples - as proposed by the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association’s Indigenous Caucus.
- Reinvest in housing for Indigenous communities
- Change the legislation that prevents Indigenous organizations from accessing financing through CMHC to invest in self-determined housing needs.
- Allocate funding towards urban Indigenous housing providers.
- Develop and implement an Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy.
- Ensure that all housing in Indigenous communities is built following principles laid out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
- Leverage federal lands and real property for transfer to off-reserve Indigenous organizations to create housing and economic development opportunities.
- Assist urban and rural Indigenous people in identifying emergency accommodations and affordable housing options for youth, Elders, 2SLGBTQQIA+, and vulnerable populations.
- Establish a “For Indigenous, By Indigenous” housing support program for all off-reserve and urban Indigenous communities, and include off-reserve Status and non-Status Indigenous Peoples.
Confronting Youth Homelessness and Unaffordable Housing
Greens know that youth homelessness is a real problem that requires sustainable and compassionate solutions. Children and youth require stability and safety, yet in any given year, there are between 35,000 - 40,000 youth experiencing homelessness in Canada. Across the country, 20% of the homeless population are young people. When paired with other Green policies targeting young people, youth homelessness will receive the necessary attention and support it deserves.
A Green government will:
- Support existing youth shelters and other infrastructure through federal grants.
- Invest in the creation of new youth shelters in urban and small urban centers across the country which would work on a needs-driven and community-centric approach.
- Remove shelter maximum stays for youth.
- Provide on-site and remote access guidance counselling and therapy for youth suffering from homelessness.
- Provide optional relocation services for rural youth suffering from homelessness to ensure that they have access to youth shelters and other infrastructure.
- Support and invest in the co-operative model for youth housing.
Provide services and supports to the homeless community
- Provide expanded mental health services for the homeless community.
- Increased access to high-quality mental health services would recognize the intersections between those experiencing homelessness and those experiencing mental health issues
- Implement programs that direct funds to municipalities providing support for people in the homeless community who use drugs.
- Support Housing First initiatives and other successful models of improving health outcomes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how many Canadians still lack a basic safety net to protect them in times of financial difficulty.
In Canada, one of the richest countries, 10% of people live in poverty and do not have access to “a standard of living adequate for health and wellbeing,” a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Poverty is expensive -- the Canadian government spends over $20 billion in employment insurance and transfers to low-income families per year. Poverty is also the largest social determinant of health, impacting educational outcomes, crime and treatment within the criminal justice system.
In response to the pandemic the Government of Canada introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month to eligible workers who lost their income due to COVID-19. It is not an overstatement to say that the CERB saved lives. However, even with these emergency benefits, too many people are being left without support in this pandemic. There were points in the CERB rollout when about one-third of Canadians were ineligible for either Employment Insurance (EI) or CERB, and the government was left scrambling to plug holes, with a hodgepodge of fixes being announced almost daily.
Canada has never succeeded in designing a benefits system that covers everyone, in all circumstances of need. Given the virtually limitless number of different employment, unemployment and underemployment circumstances in which Canadians find themselves, it is unlikely that any piecemeal approach will ever succeed in providing comprehensive coverage to all.
The fact is that, even before the pandemic, Canada was in the midst of major changes in the world of work, due to automation and artificial intelligence - a transition that has only sped up during the pandemic. Now is the time to discuss how we will confront this change and the inequalities the changes have created
As emergency benefits begin to wind down, the question is, what will replace them when they are gone?
Instead of plugging holes one-by-one, the solution is to create a comprehensive benefit: Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI).
GLI would provide every Canadian with a basic revenue source, ensuring that people can cover basic expenses such as food and accommodation. It would be available with few or no restrictions and be enough to protect Canadians from financial catastrophes. Given that GLI would be comprehensive, it will also be simpler and therefore less expensive to administrate (usually one of the greatest costs of social programs).
While it would guarantee income security to all, Guaranteed Livable Income would offer the greatest security to the most vulnerable Canadians: precarious workers, people with disabilities, seniors, the underemployed and the homeless. It would also help workers in the fossil fuel sector, a sector that is particularly vulnerable to market shocks.
Canada has the resources to make sure that no one lives in poverty or without their basic needs met. During the COVID-19 crisis, the concept of GLI has gained traction in other countries. Recently, Spain became the first European country to announce a plan to introduce a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to help families during the pandemic, with the intention that UBI become a permanent instrument. Italy, the Netherlands, Finland and Kenya have all trialled the GLI model. Various American cities such as Stockton, California have initiated similar programmes.
In Canada, the Green Party of Canada has a plan to ensure that every person living in Canada has the financial means to live with dignity, security, and a high quality of life.
Establish a Guaranteed Livable Income program
- Create a comprehensive and equitable Guaranteed Livable Income for every person in Canada.
- Building on the Market Basket Measure, payment would be set at a “livable” level for different regions of the country. The federal government would provide an initial base level subsidy across the country, and an intergovernmental body would determine and administer the necessary supplemental amounts.
- Allowing the provinces to reduce their expenditures on provincial welfare, a national Guaranteed Livable Income would liberate provincial budgets for the health budgets they have asked Ottawa to support.
- GLI would serve as a supplement for and complement to existing public services, and unlike provincial welfare regulations, would not discourage work.
- The Guaranteed Livable Income program would cover everyone, with a benefit amount gradually decreasing as other income increases. Seniors’ and children’s benefits would remain in place.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing gaps in Canada’s social safety net, with issues ranging from skyrocketing pharmaceutical costs, to mounting student debt and a drug poisoning epidemic. Even in a country as wealthy as Canada, many people are still getting left behind.
We must make sense of this moment by taking the lessons learned to build a more resilient and just society, and ensure a life of dignity for everyone, from their first day to their last.
The solutions are clear, feasible and interconnected – all that is left is the political will to enact them. Embracing further universal and progressive social policies will support our more vulnerable communities and lead to a higher quality of life for all.
Universal post-secondary education
Before the pandemic hit, the average student graduated with $28,000 of debt. The pandemic had a severe financial impact on post-secondary students. Education is a fundamental human right, and universal access to quality post-secondary education and skills training is a right, not a privilege.
A Green government will:
- Abolish post-secondary education tuition
- Free “Education For All” is estimated to cost approximately $10.2 billion annually. Universal education is not a far financial reach from the existing student aid and can sustain a system of universally accessible, post-secondary education.
- Universal post-secondary education would be partially financed by redirecting existing spending on tuition tax credits, saved costs of administering the student loan system, and the hundreds of millions of dollars of student loan defaults written off every year.
- Cancel all federally held student loan debt
- This will help prevent half of students who earn a bachelor’s degree in Canada from graduating with more than $28,000 in debt.
- This will help prevent half of students who earn a bachelor’s degree in Canada from graduating with more than $28,000 in debt.
- Reintroduce a retroactive Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)
- Ensure all those eligible for the CESB receive $2,000 per month – the same amount as the Canada Recovery Benefit for the period beginning May 1, and until the pandemic is over.
- Ensure that international and recently graduated students are eligible to receive this benefit.
- Remove the two per cent cap on increases in education funding for Indigenous students
- Ensure all Indigenous youth have access to post-secondary education.
- Improve funding in federal-provincial transfers to universities and colleges
- Provide more funding to universities and colleges with a measurable focus on student-professor contact, mentorship, policies of inclusion and tenure track hires.
- Reinvest in the system. Greens will allocate $10 billion to post-secondary and trade school supports.
- Build a more flexible and accessible education
- Expand opportunities for reskilling and retraining, by increasing the Canada Training Benefit to support continuous learning, and support for post-secondary institutions to provide new, innovative academic offerings.
- Enhance access to graduate education, by tripling the number of Canada Graduate Scholarships available for master’s students and doubling the number available for PhD students.
- Position Canada as a destination of choice for international talent and support post-secondary institutions to welcome international students safely.
Canada is the only country to have universal healthcare, without also offering universal pharmacare.
A Green government will:
- Expand the Canada Health Act by fully funding a universal pharmacare program
- Ensure quality prescription drug coverage for everyone in Canada, so that no Canadian skips, stretches or simply does not take their medication because they cannot afford it.
- Create a bulk drug purchasing agency and reduce drug patent protection periods.
- Ensure that everyone in Canada is able to access affordable medication more quickly and equitably.
- Establish a clear timeline for the implementation of universal pharmacare
- Fully establish the Canadian Drug Agency in 2022, which would assess prescription drugs and negotiate prices for a national formulary.
- Introduce federal legislation on pharmacare in 2022, based on negotiations with the provincial and territorial governments.
- Launch national pharmacare in 2022 by providing universal coverage for a list of essential medicines.
- Roll out a comprehensive formulary by January 1, 2025, instead of 2027.
Universal dental care
- Expand Medicare to include free dental care for low-income Canadians.
- Work to develop a universal dental care programme in Canada, so that every person has access to high-quality basic dental care, regardless of their insurance status.
Universal child care
- Dedicate additional resources to making a universal, affordable, early learning and child-care (ELCC) system a reality
- Collaborate with provinces/territories, local communities, Indigenous communities and the child-care sector to ensure that a comprehensive short-, medium- and long-term policy road map – based on the principles of universality, affordability, quality, inclusivity, accessibility, and equity – finally becomes a reality.
- These principles will ensure a right of access for all children regardless of their parents’ work status or income levels, while at the same time allowing for regional and local adaptation.
- Improve and strengthen parental leave
- Make parental leave more inclusive so it covers leave to care for elderly family members, leave following miscarriages and more,and more flexible and better paid.
- Increase federal child care funding
- Immediately begin to ramp up federal child care funding to achieve the international benchmark of at least one per cent of GDP annually.
- Long-term, stable, national funding must be made available and be sufficient to meet the standards of the guiding principles. It must also be secure and predictable enough to permit the long-term planning and sustainability of the programs.
- Ensure the training, recruitment and retention of well-paid and professional staff.
- Eliminate GST on all construction costs related to child care spaces
- Ensure equitable access to high-quality, culturally appropriate ELCC programmes for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children
- Build on the Multilateral Framework on Early Learning and Child Care and the accompanying bilateral agreements that have been negotiated with every province and territory, as well as with the First Nation, Inuit and Métis Peoples to ensure solutions are meeting their needs.
Canada has the worst record for COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes among rich countries. Over 15,000 LTC residents have died from COVID-19, and many more from a lack of care, during the pandemic.
In Canada, 69% of known COVID-19 deaths happened among long-term care residents.
What has unfolded has been a preventable humanitarian crisis. Thousands have died because of the abject failure to meet the needs of people living in these facilities, including seniors, and people with special needs and disabilities.
Canada’s existing patchwork of long-term care (LTC) has fatal structural flaws. Many long-term care residents in Canada still live in inadequate or inhumane conditions.
The Green Party of Canada believes that every person living in a long-term care facility in Canada deserves to be provided with excellent care, regardless of their financial situation, and to have the necessary conditions for a high-quality and dignified life.
A Green government will:
- Bring Long-Term Care under the Canada Health Act
- Universal care will ensure that every person in long-term care in Canada has access to quality, affordable care.
- Improve the quality of care in Long-Term Care facilities
- Create enforceable National Standards for LTC.
- Provide transformative investment for Seniors’ Care including infrastructure and staffing funding.
- Require Emergency and Pandemic Preparedness for LTC, including providing proper and adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and testing for COVID-19 for staff, family caregivers, and residents.
- Set a national standard of four hours of regulated care per day for each LTC resident.
- Enforce National Standards of Care through accountability and penalties, including criminal prosecution.
- Ensure safe family access to LTC facilities.
- Provide all needed vaccinations to all residents, staff and caregivers for LTC (not only COVID-19, but also influenza, pneumonia, diphtheria, whooping cough, etc.).
- Improve the quality of life of workers in LTC
- Increase and stabilise staffing in LTC homes and improve training, fair pay for workers, benefits, and paid sick leave.
- Invest in training and education to support ongoing professional development and specialization for LTC workers.
- Prioritize senior care and long-term care skills for immigration status.
- Invest in home and community care
- Provide a dedicated Seniors’ Care Transfer to provinces and territories for specific improvements to home, community and LTC separate from the federal health transfers.
- Shift LTC policy towards aging in place by having the Seniors’ Care Transfer include transformative investment in home and community care (such as naturally occurring retirement communities, co-housing models, and enhanced home support programs).
- Increase the proportion of LTC investment in community and home-based care from 13% to 35% in order to match the OECD average.
- End for-profit LTC facilities and reorient LTC towards community-based models.
- Make the Caregiver Tax Credit a refundable tax credit so that family caregivers have more flexibility (from its current earned tax credit status).
- Change the Home Renovation Tax Credit from $10,000 per household to $10,000 per person for more people to age in place.
Canada is experiencing a deadly drug overdose epidemic. Between 2016 and 2020, there were close to 20,000 reported drug toxicity deaths. Canada now averages 17 deaths per day from drug poisoning, and, in some parts of the country, deaths have more than doubled during the pandemic. The rising rates of drug-related deaths have become a pressing public health issue and safety emergency.
The overdose crisis has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in the toxicity of illegally manufactured substances -- in the six months following the COVID-19 restrictions, there was a 74% increase in fatal drug overdoses.
The overdose crisis must be treated as a health-care issue rather than a criminal one. Personal possession and use of illicit drugs must be decriminalized to allow for more accessible medical and social support for those who need it. No one should be in jail for the possession of small amounts of drugs, and this would allow communities who have been heavily impacted by the federal government's previous drug policy to reintegrate into society.
Canadians who need them must have access to a safe supply of government regulated drugs. The toxic supply of illicit drugs must be replaced, greatly reducing the risks of fentanyl poisonings and overdoses.
A Green government will:
- Declare the drug poisoning crisis a national public health emergency
- Decriminalize possession of illicit drugs for personal use
- Remove criminal penalties for the personal possession and use of all drugs under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
- Legislate this change rather than relying on informal, incremental, and discretionary measures that fall short of real decriminalization.
- Create a national safe supply of drugs of choice
- Create a programme through the federal government so people can access pharmaceutical alternatives of drugs of choice safely.
- Invest in an integrated system of decriminalization and access to meaningful services for those persons who are seeking treatment
- Increase funding to community-based organizations to test drugs and support those who use drugs.
- Implement a national education and distribution program for Naloxone, so Naloxone kits are widely available to treat overdoses and every Canadian knows what it is and how to use it.
- Create a legal and policy environment that funds and advances evidence-based programmes, in order to facilitate the development and scaling up of harm reduction services across all of Canada, including in rural communities and prisons.
- Expand support for mental health services and addiction services for those who are seeking these services.
- Amnesty for those convicted of simple possession of cannabis
- Provide automatic pardons to anyone convicted in the past of simple possession of cannabis and ensure that any records of such offences and circumstances are expunged from police records.
- Move to legally regulate currently illegal drugs based on the best available evidence regarding harms and benefits as a step towards treating problematic drug use as a health issue.
- Drug regulation with a public health focus, as is the case with alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis in Canada currently, could provide safer access while protecting individuals and populations.
- Depending on the substance and potential harms and benefits, regulation could range from prescriptions to regulated outlets to licensed premises, with the aim of providing safer access for adults, while protecting children and youth.
Every year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health issue or illness. Societal stigma, regional disparities, and a lack of affordability present great barriers to accessing mental health services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health problems, with youth, racialized communities and LGBTQ+ individuals reporting highest rates of poor mental health.
Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world. Suicide among Indigenous communities is a crisis, with suicide being the leading cause of death for First Nations under the age of 44, and the suicide rates for Inuit youth being 11 times the national average.
Along with a reduced quality of life, the economic cost of mental health is $50 billion per year.
Stakeholders report long wait times, lack of affordability for private care, lack of access to ongoing support, lack of access for folks living outside of urban settings, and lack of integration between mental health and substance use supports.
The decriminalization of simple possession of illicit drugs paired with the creation of a national safe government supply of drugs of choice and the creation of more affordable supportive housing will help to address the connection between substance use and mental health. High-quality and accessible services must be provided equitably to everyone in Canada, with an understanding of the impact of mental health on youth, Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities, and the LGBTQ+ community.
The Green Party of Canada believes that we must establish a National Mental Health Strategy. An evidence-based and culturally appropriate suicide prevention strategy must be adopted to address the alarming rates of suicide, particularly in Indigenous communities.
A Green government will:
- Establish a national mental health strategy and a suicide prevention strategy
- Negotiate the Canada Health Accord to prioritize expansion of mental health and rehabilitation services, and call for the inclusion of mental health services as medically necessary.
- Allocate increased direct federal investment in community-based mental health care.
- Establish robust accountability mechanisms to ensure the delivery of mental health care on par with physical health.
- Increase investments in Indigenous-led mental health
- Increased support for Indigenous-led, culturally safe, mental health programs and services, rooted in Indigenous healing practices, land-based healing and the principle of self-determination.
- Ensure all programming is guided by the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework.
- Establish permanent program funding for the delivery of land-based, trauma-informed, community addictions care for Indigenous peoples.
- Increase targeted investment in the mental health workforce serving Indigenous communities.
- Double the current budget of the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative.
- Take active steps to implement Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, specifically those related to mental health.
- Support First Nations, Métis and Inuit in (re)building traditional knowledge systems around healing and wellness
- Incorporate the formal inclusion of traditional healing within mental wellness and home and community care programs.
- Ensure this process is led by First Nations, Métis Nation and Inuit organizations.
- Invest in youth mental health.
- Provide specific funding for early mental health interventions, including social and emotional learning programs, quality and accessible early childhood education, access to community-based mental health services for parents and caregivers, youth peer support programs, mobile youth mental health clinics, etc.
- Launch a targeted strategy aimed at ensuring timely access to mental health services for young people and children
- Provide funding for prevention, treatment, and research related to youth mental health, to address the growing crisis of mental health issues among young people.
- Call for a national study on the impact of phones and social media on mental health in adolescents.
- Invest in community supportive housing
- Creating housing stock alone will not necessarily meet the needs of those with severe and/or chronic mental health issues. Supportive housing combines access to affordable units with intensive coordinated services. It would include rental supplements/allowances, case management, counselling, assistance with medication, and life skills training.
One of the federal government's primary responsibilities is the safety and security of those who live within its borders. When the pandemic hit, Canada was not prepared. Our over-reliance on global supply chains and our incapacity to manufacture pharmaceuticals domestically are but two of the ways in which Canada's national security was compromised by the Liberal government.
The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare important gaps in our social safety system, with all levels of government scrambling to plug the holes in order to avert the most catastrophic outcomes for people in Canada.
The primary focus must be on the public’s most immediate needs. However, this moment is also a critical opportunity to lay the foundations for better future policy and social care. If we are to be better prepared the next time a crisis strikes, we cannot let this chance slip through our fingers. To ensure that all Canadians can lead lives with dignity, we must continue the work towards a more complete social safety net.
A Green government will:
- Order a public inquiry that evaluates the joint response between all levels of government with the purpose of examining what went well and what could have been done better.
- Create an intergovernmental rapid response task force, which can be activated immediately when facing an emergency.
- Ensure that Canada has a robust capacity for pharmaceutical manufacturing.
- Ensure that Canada has a sufficient PPE stockpile by increasing domestic production.
- Dedicate specific funding to strengthening the integration of public health with community-based primary care as the first access point of the health care system
- Lessen Canada’s overall dependence on global supply chains for essential goods and services.
- Strengthen the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) to flag potential public health concerns around the globe.
- Prepare for future pandemics by investing in and restructuring our health care and long-term care systems.
- Provide the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) with long-term funding to protect public health and to be ready with surge capacity in the event of a crisis.
- Invest in research and production of vaccines and therapeutics to improve Canada’s ability to domestically source vaccines and medical treatments.
- Commit to being guided by the recommendations of the relevant scientists and experts in formulating emergency response strategies.
- Accelerate Canada's move towards a net-zero emissions green economy in order to help limit further global warming and the intensification of extreme weather and climate events that such warming will provoke.
- Invest in measures to limit the impact of the extreme weather and climate events that are already occurring, and will continue to occur, as a result of irreversible climate change.
- Halt and reverse biodiversity loss and species extinction to help address underlying causes, as pandemics are likely to increase in frequency and severity if we do not address biodiversity decline.
There are serious gaps in the federal government’s policies, systems, and services designed to protect seniors. Canada’s most vulnerable senior citizens have endured the government’s mismanagement of long-term care facilities, they have experienced neglect in our public healthcare system, and they face growing threats to their economic security and well being. The gaps in senior care have cost lives during the COVID-19 pandemic: more than 15,000 have died in long-term care.
The Green Party of Canada knows that seniors deserve better. An essential duty of the social contract between government and citizens is to make sure people can live fulfilling and dignified lives in their senior years.
With Canada’s population of senior citizens expected to increase significantly over the next decade, the federal government must implement policies to ensure that seniors can live their lives to the fullest potential. Green Party pledges such as the Guaranteed Livable Income, Pharmacare, public transportation, home retrofits, and the construction of affordable housing will contribute to a better quality of life for older adults.
A Green government will:
- Fully fund the National Dementia Strategy
- In collaboration with health professionals and provincial/territorial governments, develop and fund a national dementia strategy. The strategy would support research, improve quality of life for patients and caregivers, and educate the public to increase awareness and reduce stigma.
- Continue ongoing funding for frailty research to improve care for vulnerable older adults while investing in new R&D in the ageing and age-tech sector.
- Meet the aspirational goals of the National Dementia Strategy by increasing overall Canadian investment from $50 million to $150 million over five years in the field of dementia research.
- Ensure Seniors’ Violence and Abuse Prevention
- Establish a Federal Office of the Seniors’ Advocate to provide systemic oversight and leadership on issues related to the current needs of Canadian seniors, as well as provide insight, analysis, and direction to the government on the future needs of our ageing population.
- Develop a National Elder Abuse and Neglect Strategy to raise awareness and provide funding for instances of elder abuse and neglect across the Country.
- Protect Pensions
- Amend pension benefit legislation for federally-regulated pensions to:
- Maintain the solvency target at 100%.
- Require annual Actuarial Valuations
- Require the sponsor, in the event that the Actuarial Valuation solvency ratio falls below a prescribed threshold to:
- Obtain a letter of credit to return to 100% solvency, or
- Abide by restrictions on corporate cash management similar to Ontario’s recent 520/20, until the solvency of the plan is restored, or
- Obtain informed consent of a significant portion of plan members (perhaps >75%) to implement a different solution, other than a. or b.
- As a short-term measure, a Green government would introduce a refundable tax credit equal to the amount of pension loss an individual incurs when a pension fails.
- To better protect the pensions of all Canadians whose companies file for bankruptcy, under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA),a Green government would amend insolvency legislation to extend super-priority to the unfunded pension liability.
- Amend insolvency legislation to enable the creation of a Distressed Pension Facility in the event of a corporate insolvency.
- Ensure the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) remains robust and adaptive to changing needs and circumstances by increasing over time the target income replacement rate for income received during working years, as needed.
- Regulate the CPP Investment Board to require divestment of coal, oil and gas shares and ensure that all investments are ethical and promote environmental sustainability.
- Protect private pensions by amending the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to establish the super-priority of pensioners and the pension plan in the creditor hierarchy during company insolvency proceedings.
- Amend pension benefit legislation for federally-regulated pensions to:
While provinces have jurisdiction over health care delivery, the Canada Health Act sets the terms under which this happens. It provides universal primary health care to all Canadians, and ensures that this care is comparable across the country. The ability of provinces to deliver on this mandate depends on health funding transfers from Ottawa. These transfers have not kept pace with the rapidly changing demographics and the emerging crises of mental illness and addiction. At the same time, private health clinics, including blood services, represent a creeping two-tiered system, eroding the universal primary health care model.
The Green Party is committed to the principles and requirements of the Canada Health Act and to extending that model to other aspects of health care. Respecting these principles, we support innovation in the delivery of these services to better meet the changing needs of Canadians. We will work with provinces and territories to ensure that every Canadian has a family doctor and that primary care is centred on the patient and is sensitive to issues of social justice, equity and cultural appropriateness.
The federal government can and should lead the way in demonstrating a better model of health care. Greens recognize the unique challenges faced by defined populations like First Nations people on reserve and Inuit, veterans, incarcerated persons and certain refugee claimants. It is important that these challenges are addressed at a federal level and that vulnerable populations receive equal access to care.
As we move into the “era of consequences” of climate change, new health imperatives are emerging. The World Health Organization has stated that “Climate change is the greatest challenge of the 21st century, threatening all aspects of the society in which we live.” Public health associations have raised the alarm that climate-related illnesses are growing and need urgent attention. According to a report by the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Ontario Public Health Association, climate change is exacerbating a number of child health issues including “heat sickness, poor air quality, water contamination, and the mental health impacts of natural hazards, extreme weather, and displacement.”
We must recognize the interconnectedness between the natural world and ourselves, and thus the increasing impact of climate change on our health. The federal government's failure to adequately address it or to introduce mitigation strategies means that climate change represents a growing burden on our health care system.
In addition to climate change, Canada continues to suffer from the effects of an opioid crisis that has caused thousands of overdoses and deaths in recent years. The opioid crisis is a health care issue, not a criminal issue, and by addressing it as such we can begin to address the underlying causes and stop this national tragedy from getting even worse. This is why we have called for the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs and the creation of a national safe supply program.
A Green government will take charge of these interconnected health crises with the goal of ensuring a life of health, safety, and dignity for all Canadians.
A Green government will:
- Expand the Canada Health Act.
- Expand the single-payer Medicare model to include Pharmacare for everyone.
- Create a bulk drug purchasing agency and reduce drug patent protection periods.
- Expand the single-payer Medicare model to include long-term care and enhanced mental health services.
- Expand the single-payer Medicare model to include free basic dental care for all Canadians.
- Restore the Canada Health Accord.
- Increase health transfers by basing them on demographics and real health care needs in each province, replacing the current formula based on GDP growth introduced by the Harper government and retained by the Liberals.
- Negotiate the Canada Health Accord to prioritize mental health and rehabilitation services, access to safe abortion services and access to gender-affirming health services such as hormones, blockers, and surgery.
- Reduce wait times, which are a foundational issue of accessibility in the health care system, particularly in the case of primary care. Support family doctors and interprofessional teams to reduce wait times and enhance the accessibility of the care they provide to communities across Canada.
- Address the Impact of Climate Change on Health and Wellbeing.
- Reorient Health Canada’s mandate towards mental health and addictions, health promotion and disease prevention, and the risks of climate change.
- Encourage medical associations to train health-care professionals to understand and engage with climate change related health threats.
- Reduce Ecological and Health Risks.
Hundreds of thousands of chemicals are in commercial use. Only a handful have undergone independent scrutiny of their toxic effects on humans and ecosystems. Tragically, we only discover after long exposure that some are unsafe and by then the damage has been done. The regulatory system is always playing catch-up. Pollution and toxic chemicals pose serious health threats such as cancer, asthma, learning disabilities and other chronic diseases, with marginalized populations often at greatest risk. The health impacts of exposure to toxic substances are estimated to cost our health-care system tens of billions of dollars annually.
- Legislate the right of Canadians to a healthy environment, promoting greater transparency in decision-making, public participation rights and access to judicial review mechanisms.
- Set targets for reducing the use of pesticides in agriculture through programs to assist farmers in moving to organic and regenerative farming.
- Strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to limit the approval and use of toxic chemicals that affect our health and environment.
- Regulate microfibres as a toxic substance under CEPA.
- Invoke the precautionary principle in making decisions about approvals of products, substances, projects and processes where there is the potential for irreversible harm. If there is no scientific proof of safety, then approval will be withheld.
- Revive and expand the National Pesticides Monitoring and Surveillance Network.
- Create an adverse effects reporting database for doctors and emergency rooms to keep track of health impacts of pesticides and other chemicals.
- Ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which kill bees and other pollinators, and support farmers in shifting to alternatives.
- Ban all forestry and cosmetic uses of glyphosate-based herbicides as well as their use as a pre-harvest desiccant.
- Ban all toxic ingredients in personal care products.
- In collaboration with provinces, territories, municipal/local governments and Indigenous Peoples, develop a national water strategy to ensure safe drinking water for all Canadians.
- Focus on Indigenous Health.
- Uphold Jordan’s Principle in full, ensuring Indigenous Peoples receive the health care they need without being delayed by bureaucratic disagreements over jurisdiction.
- Implement Calls to Action 18-24 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, improving health care for Indigenous Peoples.
- Support First Nations, Métis and Inuit in (re)building traditional knowledge systems around healing and wellness, including the formal inclusion of traditional healing within mental wellness and home and community care programs. This process must be led by First Nations, Métis Nation and Inuit organizations.
- Address the Drug Poisoning Crisis.
The overdose crisis must be treated as a health-care issue rather than a criminal one.
- Approach the drug poisoning crisis as a healthcare issue, not a criminal issue
- Declare drug poisonings a national health emergency.
- Recognize that fentanyl contamination is why deaths are more accurately described as poisonings than overdoses.
- Decriminalize the possession of drugs for personal use.
- Ensure there is access to a safe screened and public supply of drugs of choice.
- Ensure there is access to the medical support drug users need.
- Increase funding to community-based organizations to test street drugs.
- Make Naloxone kits widely available to treat overdoses.
- Expand Telemedicine
Many adaptations to medical practices initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic are certain to remain in place. Such innovations will be an important part of the response to future crisis and to ensuring better, permanent health care access by various vulnerable groups. These innovations should help enhance access, but they should not detract from continuity of care. Patients need to have access to follow-up appointments if needed, and feel confident that the quality of care they are receiving is not compromised in virtual care settings.
Telemedicine, or virtual care, holds great promise for service delivery in rural areas where access to care is a significant challenge. When rural residents cannot access services in a timely manner, they experience poorer health outcomes. Virtual care services help meet the needs of rural residents through remote consultations, in-home monitoring, outsourced diagnostic analysis, remote specialist consultations, and virtual consultations for urgent care needs.
Telemedicine benefits several specific rural populations, including rural residents with disabilities, substance use disorders and/or mental health conditions, and those with limited English proficiency. It also helps seniors and Indigenous communities. It would also be a critical part of the service delivery for people living in areas affected by climate disasters who require urgent care.
- Set and maintain national standards on safety and quality for virtual care.
- Provide dedicated investment for publicly funded virtual care.
- Ensure data interoperability and accessibility to patients.
- Support equitable access through infrastructure investments.
- Support policies that lead to continuity in virtual care.
Green Innovation: Taxing Sugary Drinks
For the first time in our history, children will likely be less healthy than their parents. On the recommendation of Diabetes Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, Dieticians of Canada, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Green Party of Canada will begin addressing this systemic issue by adding a special tax of 10 per cent on sugary drinks, one of the leading causes of obesity and certain types of diabetes, and ban the advertising of sugary drinks to minors.
-  - https://homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/WithoutAHome-final.pdf
-  - Smith, Robert and Kieran McDougal. Costs of Pollution in Canada: Measuring the impacts on families, businesses and governments. International Institute for Sustainable Development (June 2017): Page ix. Available: https://www.iisd.org/sites/default/files/ publications/costs-of-pollution-in-canada.pdf.