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How a non-issue like health played a role in the 2015 election

St. John’s, NL — Last fall’s federal election was an important milestone in the evolution of the Canadian health care system and DemandaPlan supporters can take a lot of the credit, says Dr. Chris Simpson, past president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

Speaking to 1,200 delegates at the Dominion Convention of the Royal Canadian Legion on June 14, Dr. Simpson said that our health care system may have a long way to go in providing the care that Canadians — particularly seniors — deserve.

But something happened in the Oct. 19 election. Health care got far more attention than the pollsters, pundits, strategists and other experts expected. As pollster Nik Nanos noted, health was the sleeper issue of the campaign.

“It’s true that health wasn’t the election issue, but it certainly was an election issue,” he said.

“The press talked so much about how health wasn’t an issue in the election that it kind of became the most talked-about non-issue.’’

He added that this was particularly true with seniors care; public discourse, including media coverage, “is completely different that it was a couple of years ago.”

Why? Much of the change can be attributed to the public awareness and advocacy work during the election by the CMA and its partner organizations, he said.

“With the support of our partners, we persuaded three of the four political parties to include seniors care in their campaign platforms,” he said. “That is no easy feat by any means, and we can be very proud.”

Then there was the public, who also played a key role, Dr. Simpson said.

“We looked to members of the public to become leaders themselves in this conversation by sharing their experiences and becoming a part of a grassroots movement to bring about change.”

The major part of the grassroots activity was through DemandaPlan, which had just more than 25,000 supporters on election day. Today it has 31,000 supporters and the number is still growing. Since DemandaPlan started 14 months ago, supporters have sent more than 50,000 letters to election candidates as well as current parliamentarians on the need for better seniors care.

“The great interest shown in the campaign demonstrates how deeply Canadians care about the need for seniors to receive proper care in this country,” Dr. Simpson said.

He challenged Canadians not to let go of the momentum they have built towards better seniors care, particularly with Ottawa’s commitment in November to reach a new Health Accord with the provinces and territories.

“It’s more important than ever that our governments — federal, provincial and territorial — are actively working together for the health of Canadians.”

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