Pressure continues on Canada’s health care system and there are local calls for co-operation at all levels to ensure the system is sustainable.
Colin Mayes, Okanagan-Shuswap MP, believes the state of the health care sector will be a major priority for the federal government in 2012.
“We are reviewing the health accord with the provinces and the model there is not (financially) sustainable,” he said.
“I hope everyone will sit down at the table and look at the issues and come up with solutions, whether they are tied to private delivery or public delivery.”
Mayes says Ottawa has increased health care funding six per cent a year but with an aging population, the tax base can’t keep up with demands and alternatives to meeting the needs of Canadians must be found.
Also on the agenda in the new year will be riding out the global economic turmoil.
“We’re a trading nation. The health of our trading partners is important,” said Mayes.
“If the meltdown in Europe continues or if it gets worse in the U.S., that will impact us.”
Mayes, though, is confident that Canada’s economy is improving.
“We have ensured our banking system is sound and we’re trying to get people and government to deal with their debt load,” he said, adding that a strong aspect of the economy is demand for natural resources.
“We should be able to weather the storm but you never know. Commodity prices may not be there.”
Mayes says the government’s goal is to not raise taxes but also find $4 billion in savings.
“We will see some cuts in different areas and we’re bound to hurt a few citizens’ feelings. But we believe most Canadians will say, ‘We have to cinch up our belt.’”
That means the recent stimulus fund and placing money into infrastructure projects will not proceed.
“It’s been good for the economy but we won’t be able to continue that,” said Mayes of the need to tackle the national deficit.
There has been considerable controversy recently over living conditions in a northern Ontario aboriginal community, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will host a First Nations summit in January.
But Mayes insists action has been taken, including reducing the number of First Nations communities with water advisories in half since the Conservatives came to power.
He also says money has been spent on housing and economic development plans for the communities must be developed.
“We are looking at skills training and education for First Nations.”
In terms of Okanagan-Shuswap, Mayes says he has a number of priorities.
“I keep telling the transportation minister that we need to keep going with (improvements to) the Trans-Canada Highway. It’s a major transportation corridor for the port of Vancouver,” he said.
He also wants to work with forestry companies to increase energy efficiency at mills and address depreciation costs for equipment.
Mayes was re-elected to another term as MP during the spring and he believes the running of government has become less challenging now that the Conservatives have a majority.
“There isn’t the tension among the members. We know we are there for four years and there is great comfort in knowing we can move ahead,” he said of not worrying about the possibility of an election under a minority government situation.