NDP rolls out dementia strategy in multi-billion-dollar health care blitz
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks in Vancouver, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.
Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, September 14, 2015 11:19AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 14, 2015 5:50PM EDT
CRANBROOK, B.C. -- NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is rolling out a $40-million strategy to deal with Alzheimer's and dementia -- his third health announcement in a blitz that totals more than $2.3-billion in just two days.
The dementia money would be spent on screening, early diagnosis and treatment to slow the advance of the devastating conditions, as well as on helping families access care for afflicted family members.
Funding would also go to research.
"Stephen Harper has left important health issues like dementia and Alzheimer's disease without resources or leadership, just as the number of Canadians living with the conditions is expected to double," Mulcair said in a news release.
A year ago, the Conservatives announced a $31.5-million plan to partner with public and private sector groups over five years to tackle dementia.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada says 747,000 Canadians had the disease in 2011 -- about 15 per cent of people over 65. The figure is projected to rise to 1.4 million by 2031 if nothing changes.
All three main political parties are jostling for position in advance of a leaders' debate on economics on Thursday in Calgary.
The NDP will release a full costing of its platform on Wednesday to get out ahead of the debate. But before it rolls out its numbers, the party is announcing key details in its health-care platform -- a central theme of NDP campaigns for decades.
Some of that spending would include half a billion dollars over the next four years to build medical clinics and hire more health-care professionals.
That proposal announced Monday involves investing $300 million to build 200 additional clinics and spending $200 million to create recruitment grants for health-care providers.
New Democrats say they want to provide stable, long-term health funding and work with the provinces and territories to help people access care.
And in Vancouver on Sunday, the NDP leader announced plans to invest $1.8 billion over four years to expand home care for 41,000 seniors, create 5,000 additional nursing beds and improve palliative care services.
Party officials say they intend to focus on health care all week, suggesting there is more to come.
Still, questions remain about how or when Mulcair will make good on a long-standing promise to use a budget surplus to preserve the six-per-cent annual increase in health care transfers to the provinces. Under the Conservatives, the increases were set to be scaled back starting in 2017.
Fiscal numbers published by the Finance Department on Monday will help make ends meet for the NDP.
The department reported an unexpected surplus of $1.9 billion last year, which bodes well for the NDP's commitment to balance the budget, Mulcair said earlier Monday.
"Today's numbers are good news for Canadians," Mulcair said after making the health funding announcement in Vancouver.
"It shows that the NDP is going to be starting off on the right foot by proposing to have a balanced budget, talking to Canadians about what we can accomplish together in health care, quality, affordable $15-a day child care."
Mulcair has promised a surplus within the first year of an NDP government. Opponents -- particularly Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau -- have accused Mulcair of being reckless in making such a commitment.
But Mulcair said the surplus for 2014-15 supports his vision for the economy and his party's plans to ramp up spending for health and other areas in the later years of a mandate.
His Liberal opponents, however, say the NDP is not being straight with voters by pushing most of its spending to the end of its mandate in order to show balanced books at the beginning.
Monday was the second straight day for Mulcair in British Columbia, where the NDP hopes to double its seat count to at least 24.
The party's senior campaign adviser, Brad Lavigne, says Mulcair will continue to circle back to the province due to growth prospects for the party.