OTTAWA - The federal New Democrats are hitting the road to talk about medicare, accusing the Harper government of short-changing the system.
The year-long consultation process was announced Thursday as talks among Canada’s health ministers got underway in Halifax.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq quickly pounced on the announcement, criticizing the NDP for failing to present a medicare action plan, and maintaining that the Tories have improved the health system.
"For all the complaining that the NDP do, they don't have any new ideas for health care," Aglukkaq said in an email to The Canadian Press.
"Their 'plan' is to talk about health care for three years. Canadians need more than talk: they need action."
New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair said the party will ask Canadians what they believe government must do to ensure the health care system is sustainable for future generations.
"Canadians are concerned about our health care system and they want it to be a priority for their government too," Mulcair said in launching the campaign.
Mulcair accused the Conservatives of harming medicare by cutting billions of dollars from health transfers to the provinces and territories.
"Unfortunately, the Conservatives are just making things worse by unilaterally cutting $36 billion in provincial and territorial health transfers without consulting them.”
The New Democrats said their consultations will focus on four priorities: prescription drug access, long-term and home care services, the role of health workers and helping Canadians live healthier lives.
The consultations will help build the NDP's health proposals for their 2015 election campaign, added NDP health critic Libby Davies.
Aglukkaq was in Halifax, where she announced funding to fight childhood obesity.
Canada’s health ministers are meeting in the Nova Scotia capital this week, where a key topic is rising drug prices. The provinces and territories are hoping to pool their buying power to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.