Austerity and

social services

Healthcare: cuts and privatisation

Since 1990, due to the austerity regime imposed the Federal Liberals and the zero-deficit policies of the PQ governments, the public healthcare system has suffered attacks on all fronts.

A report published by the Québec nurses union paints a sad picture: draconian budget cuts, resource shortages, confused efforts to reconfigure the healthcare system, among others.

The health tax and other user fees

These attacks have severe consequences: it’s the patients who very often must pay the price of medication, bandages, and their recovery period in the hospital.

Imposing user fees disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged of us, since these costs have an impact on already tight budgets. For example, the health tax introduced in 2010 is fundamentally unjust: taxpayers will have to pay a fixed amount to compensate for the cuts, with little regard for their actual income.

Also, since women are the main users of the healthcare system, they will have to pay more while having to make do with smaller budgets on average.

Healthcare cuts: an additional burden

Women constitute the majority of domestic workers. They generally have the responsibility for caring after children and less independent family members. Every cut to public healthcare transfers a previously collective burden towards families, and women in particular, who must sacrifice time, money, and energy to compensate for the deficits created by austerity measures.

Subcontracting in healthcare

To further reduce healthcare expenses, Québec practices subcontracting: in short, the government resorts to the private sector to make room in an under-financed healthcare system. Paradoxically, studies show that it would cost less to the State to improve access to healthcare, as it can’t control the costs of treatment in the private sector.

Cuts in welfare

The recent cuts to welfare, announced by Work and Social Solidarity Minister Agnès Maltais, harm the most vulnerable people in our society: families with young children, drug addicts, and people approaching retirement.

To justify these measures, the PQ has no choice but to promote the lie that these people, who live well below the poverty line, are lazy. However, knowing that 10% of children in Québec are raised in a family that depends on welfare, we understand the catastrophic impact of these cuts.

Increasing hydro rates

Between now and 2018, residential electricity rates will increase by 22.2%. This is the accumulated effect of four separate hikes. Among these is the indexation of the “legacy pool” fees, a catastrophe for the most disadvantaged of us. However, this year, Hydro-Québec made over $3 billion in profits. The economic justification for these increases that is invoked by the government makes no sense – Québec is one of the few places in the world that produces a surplus of hydroelectricity.

Consequences of austerity on the health of populations

In 2013, a study published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) confirmed that a causal link exists between austerity and suicide, alcoholism, and even the incidence of infectious disease. Furthermore, in 2009, the BMJ concluded that income inequality was linked to the deaths of 1.5 million people in the 15 countries with the most income disparity alone.

For children, the consequences are disastrous. In 2013, UNICEF published a study denouncing the important impacts of periods of austerity on children’s wellbeing. In Québec, the Centrale de l’enseignement du Québec stated that it is now impossible for an adult to have access to a psychologist or social worker for interventions in times of relationship difficulties involving (violence, abuse, divorce). This situation is particularly worrisome, for example, as it is the cause of a sharp rise in youth suicide rates and harms their ability to develop and adapt properly.