The Weekly Roundup: 2023 Fall Economic Statement and Healthcare Updates

Published on
November 27, 2023
Written by
Delphic Research
Read time
8 min

This week's edition brings forth the latest buzz on the 2023 Fall Economic Statement and advancements in healthcare policies, innovations, and initiatives.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, unveiled the 2023 Fall Economic Statement, highlighting initiatives aimed at expediting home construction, bolstering the middle class, and enhancing affordability. The statement forecasts annual expenses of $442 billion, with $13.2 billion in net new spending over the next six years, directed mainly toward previously announced programs. The Finance Department underscores the government's commitment to fortify the economy while ensuring fiscal sustainability.

The federal government has allocated $15 billion in low-interest loans for home construction and introduced the Canada Mortgage Charter, designed to assist Canadians facing financial challenges during mortgage renewals. The statement also outlines measures to improve affordability, including legislative reforms to foster competition, removal of the goods and services tax (GST) from psychotherapy and counselling services, and extending dental care coverage to uninsured Canadians earning below $90,000 annually.

To maintain fiscal health, the government aims to limit deficits to below 1% of GDP starting in 2026-27, with a projected cap of approximately $32 billion. Efforts will be made to keep the current fiscal year's deficit at or below the spring budget projection of $40.1 billion. Additionally, it reiterates the priority placed on strengthening public healthcare, contingent upon provinces and territories signing bilateral agreements by March 31, 2024, to receive funding for 2023-24 through tailored agreements with the federal government.

The Fall Economic Statement pivoted focus from housing to another pivotal issue: the pending pharmacare legislation. With a deadline looming at year's end, federal Health Minister Mark Holland expressed optimism about crafting a pharmacare deal, albeit uncertain about its passage through all legislative stages. 

Initially expressing concerns, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appears to be softening the party's stance, leaning toward acceptance of a pharmacare framework. However, debates persist on the necessity and affordability of a universal drug plan, particularly considering existing provincial demographics and private-sector insurance coverage.

In parallel developments, Canada is transitioning from Pap smears to the more effective and accessible humanpapillomavirus (HPV) test for cervical cancer screening. This move is anticipated to alleviate discomfort for individuals averse to pelvic exams due to past trauma or discrimination in healthcare settings.

Dr. Kim Alexander, a Cervical Cancer Screening Expert, highlights a JAMA Network study emphasizing the HPV test's accuracy in detecting pre-cancers compared to Pap testing. The HPV test's efficacy enables screening every five years, a pivotal shift enhancing screening methods. Self-testing kits for HPV offer a dignified and private option, especially for underserved communities or individuals uncomfortable in medical settings. However, challenges remain regarding follow-up care, emphasizing the need for comprehensive support systems alongside this evolving screening approach.

Addressing prolonged surgical wait times, Colin Craig, President of, proposed a policy inspired by the European Union's cross-border directive. This policy advocates patients seeking medical treatment in other countries, reimbursed by their home government up to local costs. Despite acknowledging drawbacks like travel expenses, Craig emphasizes potential benefits, particularly for individuals in urgent need or with limited resources.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, healthcare professionals Dr. Anna Wilkinson and nurse-practitioner Sarah Junkin-Hepworth initiated the Champlain Screening Outreach program. This innovative initiative aims to counter the projected shortage of 4.4 million family doctors by 2026. Targeting Eastern Ontario residents facing screening gaps due to doctor shortages or lack of awareness, this program showcases the potential for broader enhancements in healthcare delivery.

On the policy front, Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange unveiled plans to alter the funding model for healthcare practitioners. This shift involves compensating practitioners based on clinical hours and patient load rather than a fee-for-service structure. While intended to enhance healthcare accessibility for Albertans in local communities, concerns were raised regarding the necessity for a comprehensive primary healthcare strategy and potential challenges in physician recruitment to fill these roles.

Concurrently, Alberta's move to empower nurse practitioners in the healthcare system evoked mixed sentiments. Sharon Hamilton, Dean of Health and Wellness at Red Deer Polytechnic, acknowledged the positive step but highlighted the absence of education funding in the initiative. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith emphasized the value of nurse practitioners in improving healthcare access, yet uncertainties persist concerning collaboration between nurse practitioners and physicians, especially in managing complex cases like cancer.

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