Headlines throughout Québec’s raucous election campaign have highlighted emotionally charged issues, such as a new charter on secularism, a potential referendum on independence and new regulations promoting the use of French. Nonetheless, surveys show that voters routinely list health care as the top issue facing the province’s next government.
With three former health ministers leading the three top parties in the province, including Liberal leader Philippe Couillard, a former neurosurgeon, there’s no election better placed for examining how to improve Québec’s health care options.
The provincial government’s role in the health care system began in 1961, when it signed up to the federal Canadian single-payer health care system and began reimbursing hospitals for medical services. A decade later, in 1971, Québec first agreed to reimburse services for non-hospital costs, and the provincial government began opening its own health clinics. Today, health care costs consume 51.8% of the province’s budget, excluding debt service. Governments of the past decade from both major parties have routinely increased health spending, even while attempting to rein in spending for other areas.
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Even before the Parti québécois (PQ) started slipping in the polls, Québec voters already disapproved of Pauline Marois’s performance as premier by a margin of nearly 2-to-1. It’s hard to believe that perceptions about her government’s performance on health care didn’t play a huge role in that. Though the PQ’s support started crumbling with a series of mishaps that brought a new independence referendum into direct focus, voters were already pre-disposed to flee Marois, who hasn’t kept her 2012 campaign promise to roll back an unpopular health tax introduced, ironically, by the Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) that now is now projected to win a majority government after Monday’s vote. Continue reading In Québec, health care is the sleeper issue