FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

“Pharmacy tax”: Signalling left, and turning right…

As Gérald Fillion pointed out so well in his blog yesterday morning, there are no inevitabilities in economics, only choices. Let’s take the example of the current debate on the Government’s intention to transfer certain medical acts to pharmacists. After promising that this essential measure to improve access to health services would be funded by taxes (via the RAMQ), now Minister Hébert wants to abandon funding of these acts to private insurers for the 60% of the population not covered by prescription drug insurance. This represents a shift from progressive funding (which benefits the lowest income population and the middle class) to regressive funding (which benefits the wealthy).

However, the choice is very simple: must public finances be assured by the poor and the middle class, who will have to pay out of their pocket to obtain medical services for which they did not pay previously, or by society as a whole, including the richest, through a progressive income tax that funds the Régime d’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ)? We get the unpleasant impression that there is a sort of consensus in Québec’s political class that it is preferable to dip into the pockets of the poor and the middle class, and let the rich create wealth (in the Cayman Islands ?).

We are now witnessing the deplorable spectacle of a Government that is breaking its promises in order to pursue a measure proposed by the former Liberal Minister Yves Bolduc, who now is offended that the Government is imposing a “pharmacy tax” on Quebecers, claiming that he fears “privatization of the healthcare system”. Really? Can Quebec politics now be summed up as arguing from the left while in opposition and governing from the right? What do you think?