The glaring gaps in drug coverage for Canadian children are made stranger by the economic dimensions of the issue. Children's health care represents a drop in the ocean of health care budgets -- extending universal drug coverage to children would constitute a small fraction of total pharmaceutical spending.
For nine years, we have lived under a Harper government -- the only government most of my generation has ever known. During this time, our leaders have ignored youth unemployment, climate change, and student debt. I almost didn't vote in the last election because I figured it wouldn't make a difference. I feel entirely different this time around.
In this election we are raising issues that matter to young Canadians. Mental health is a big one. A report by Alberta's Institute of Health Economics states that just seven cents of every dollar spent on health care in Canada goes to mental health. That's despite the fact mental disorders account for 40 per cent of all illnesses Canadians face. Canadian governments must dramatically increase funding, investing in accessible community-based mental health care -- if Canada could reduce the annual rate of mental illnesses by 10 per cent, it would save our health care system four billion dollars a year.
What do seniors want? What will seniors get? Who gets the seniors' vote? Now that "everybody knows" that seniors are Canada's most committed voters -- peaking at 75 per cent turnout when the general turnout was 61 per cent in 2011, politicians of all stripes are pitching for their vote.
For more than two decades, Mark Jaccard has been penning "report cards" about Canada's environmental track record. The results haven't been pretty. His annual evaluations were harnessed in the mid-2000s by Stephen Harper as arguments for why the Conservatives deserved a shot at governing the country. Jaccard's latest report card, released on October 6, concludes the Conservative Party has since "implemented virtually no policies that would materially reduce emissions" despite making significant emissions pledges for 2020 and 2050. Jaccard concludes the absence of such actions shows "they must have had no intention" of dealing with climate change.
Canada must talk about the real challenges facing our country -- our response to the greatest threat humanity faces, climate change. We should be talking about trade deals, endangered species, protecting water resources, our responsibilities to the rest of the world and so much more. Instead, this election has bogged down into "dead cat" distractions like niqabs, an issue that affects almost no one!
Climate change ought to be a major issue this election, but I'm saddened to note that it has received little attention. Perhaps a quick update on both the problem and the solutions would add some helpful perspective in these final days of the campaign.
My patient reminded me that day of something that I have always known -- access to housing is not just a matter of rights and justice, it's also a matter of health. When his mental health deteriorates, he can indeed access the hospital care he needs, but if providing him access to housing can help keep him healthier, costs us less, and is the right thing to do, then why not do it for everyone? This federal election, when we vote, we must vote for housing for all, and no matter who is elected, we must call on them to take action immediately.
While each province and territory provides dementia treatment and support services, more can be done under the framework of a national dementia strategy. Other member countries of PAHO -- including Argentina, Mexico and the U.S. -- have implemented national strategies. To get there, we need to bring all the voices to the table, especially Canadians facing the daily challenges of this unforgiving disease. That's the only way to ensure we have consistent and integrated care across the country for all Canadians, from initial diagnosis to end of life.
Be aware that, in our midst, a group of Canadian citizens are being dehumanized. History has shown us over and over again that this leads to oppression, hatred, and violence. Move past your knee-jerk reaction of protectionism. Don't be fooled by rhetoric. Understand that to that Muslim woman wearing the niqab, not being able to choose what she wears is oppression, even if it makes you personally uncomfortable.
Mental illness is not a priority on the political agenda even with an election on the horizon. We need to get Canadian citizens motivated and ready to speak out so that more funding can be injected into a system that has been weakened by its lack of funding due to frozen base budgets in the community mental health and addictions sector for over three years.
The environmental issue of our time is climate change, and Canada's government under the leadership of Stephen Harper has failed at every opportunity to address this issue. Does this failure mean that the last decade has been a failure for the environment? No. Fortunately, there has been leadership elsewhere. Canadians are often doing the right thing to reduce our impact on the planet, without legislation.
The federal government must invest in solid labour market research and incentives for employers to hire Canadian youth, like grants and tax breaks. Industry has to step up, too, offering co-op education placements and paid internships, as well as career mentorship for young employees. We should closely watch and learn from the European Union. Facing massive underemployment, over the past four years the EU has launched a sweeping youth employment strategy, including better labour market research, apprenticeship and skills training programs, as well as government-business partnerships that are expected to create more jobs.
Climate change is a serious problem that must be taken seriously by our elected officials. We need our federal government to take action and reduce Canada's emissions now. So when you head to the polls on October 19, make sure you know where the candidates in your riding stand on climate change, and vote for someone you can trust to stand up for a healthy environment and low-carbon future that benefits us all.
Certainly the economy is a dominant issue in the election. Along with the debates about balanced budgets and new spending, the parties are promising to bring in measures to create new jobs. But one of the biggest challenges -- youth unemployment -- deserves much greater attention.
Almost all of our communication about climate change and sustainability is about how bad things are going to get if we don't change our ways -- floods, droughts, crop failures, coastal cities underwater and so on. All the evidence of how we are screwing things up can overload people, but when they see a new world arriving that might be better than the old one, they get excited.