EDITORIAL: Less will be norm

Health care costs will continue to rise, leaving less for other services

It’s time to expect less from our governments.

Lists and their parameters vary, but most rankings have Canadians inside the top 10 of the most heavily-taxed residents in the world.

Canadians hold health care and education near and dear. We should. Despite wait times and frustrations, we can anecdotally be proud of our universal health care and education systems. Just don’t call it free.

Health care and education spending rises every year, regardless of which party is in power in Ottawa or Victoria. Technological advances and the accompanying gadgets/miracle machines are more and more expensive to buy every year. Staff, union or not, generally cost more every year.

On average, provinces spend approximately 40 per cent of their total budgets on health care (source: healthcarefunding.ca). Education funding, as a percentage of provincial budgets, is a more difficult number to research, but from what we could find, 15-20 per cent is in the ball park.

That means, conservatively, 60 per cent of the provincial government’s budget is spent on health care and education. And that’s not going to decline any year soon as the population continues to age.

As those costs rise and eat up more and more of the budget, there will be less money for everything else.

At the municipal level, it’s even worse. Anyone who believes there’s a lot of fat to trim at town hall in Qualicum Beach or city hall in Parksville hasn’t looked at the numbers.

All of this means there is less money for anything other than the basics. The condition of provincial and municipal roadways will become increasingly worse. The issues of class size and composition will continue to be a struggle in our schools.

What can be done other than lower our expectations? The easy answer is to raise taxes. We do not favour that route, as we believe more money in the pockets of residents makes for better local economies.

Allow for more private healthcare facilities? The theory here is those who can afford it can pay for it, taking themselves out of the public-waiting-list logjam, freeing up time in operating rooms for the rest of us. The concept seems sacrilegious to some, almost anti-Canadian, but it may provide relief we most certainly need. Forgive us, Tommy Douglas, but the way healthcare costs are spiraling, we need to find a way to keep some form of universal healthcare alive for future generations.

— Editorial by John Harding

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