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Health Care Tops Most Overlooked Stories Of 2012

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A young girl hides behind a small Canadian flag during the annual Canada Day parade in Montreal, Sunday, July 1, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Graham Hughes) | Alamy

Canada's credibility on the world stage, health care, and climate change topped the list of most overlooked political stories of 2012, according to Canada's federal finance minister and opposition party leaders.

In separate interviews airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, host Evan Solomon asked Jim Flaherty, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May what they thought was the most underreported story of 2012.

Here are their answers (edited for length):

1. Jim Flaherty, federal finance minister

"Canadians should know that Canada does punch above its weight internationally, we really do.

And when we put pressure on Europe, as we've done to start to deal in a substantive way with their issues ... we have a lot of influence with them, we have a lot of credibility with them.

And the same thing with the United States, with both the Democrats and Republicans, which is a good thing. And they do look at Canada as a country that sort of got its act together on fiscal matters. This is not common in the world today.

So Canada's credibility is strong."

2. Tom Mulcair, leader of the Official Opposition

"Almost a year ago today, Mr. Flaherty was at a meeting with his provincial counterparts, all the provincial finance ministers.

Without discussion [and] without debate, Flaherty simply announced that the federal government was going to reduce by $36 billion the amount that had been planned, and budgeted, and forecast, for federal transfers for health care.

Fifty years ago, following the NDP's model, Canadians resolved that no Canadian family would ever have to choose between having a sick child seen by a doctor and being able to put food on the table. That's our model. That's the NDP model. But it's also the Canadian model that helps identify the best in us, it's us helping each other. It's great to have that system of free universal medical care.

That is in danger."

3. Bob Rae, interim Liberal leader

"Health care. I think health care is the number one issue for Canadians, apart from the economy...

Canadians don't believe that the federal government has no role in health care. But because the Prime Minister is absolutely firm on this — that the federal government has nothing useful to do and no real role to play — I think Parliament and I think frankly the media, and everyone else, has sort of said, well then there's nothing to talk about.

I think there’s a lot to talk about on health care: the future of drug policy, how we are going to deal with mental health going forward and how we are going to deal with an aging population, which is the underlying demographic trend of our time.

People are getting older and as they get older, they use health care more. And so, we can't just leave the provinces on their own to deal with health care, we've got to deal with it effectively as a country."

4. Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party

"The single, biggest threat to our kid’s future is the climate crisis and it didn't get any attention in the House of Commons.

The Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 changes to the Fisheries Act, to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Navigable Water Protections Act, and so on, are a piece of what I see as Stephen Harper's steady dismantling of the architecture and framework of environmental law and policy in Canada.

But in that context, to the extent that anyone talks about the climate crisis, it's to have this inane non-discussion in the House of Commons where the Conservatives falsely claim that the NDP want a carbon tax and the NDP attack the Conservatives and claim falsely that improvements in fuel economy constitute a car tax.

The fact that we're not focusing on that [climate change] or even talking about it is appalling."

To hear their full answers, please click here.

What did YOU think was the most overlooked political story of 2012? Write to us at thehouse@cbc.ca

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