A Call to Action - Write your Premier
Canada Social Transfer
At the last meeting of the Council of the Federation, the Premiers made health care renewal a priority with the establishment of the Health Care Innovation Working Group composed of all provincial and territorial health ministers that is co-chaired by Premier Robert Ghiz (Prince Edward Island) and Premier Brad Wall (Saskatchewan).
The accountability of the Canadian Social Transfer requires equal consideration and commitment by the Council of the Federation if innovation and an overall reduction in healthcare expenditures are to be realized. In fact since the Harper Government came into power in 2006, the provincial and territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services have not met together with their federal counterpart, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (HRDC). This has to change.
The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) is encouraging social workers and all Canadians to make the renewal of accountability to the Canadian Social Transfer a priority for the Council of the Federation and by extension, the provincial and territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services and their federal counterparts.
What is the Canada Social Transfer?
The Canadian Social Transfer is the primary source of federal funding in Canada that supports provincial and territorial social programs. The Canadian Social Transfer funds many programs that are important to maintaining a good quality of life for all Canadians. Without this source of federal funding, the provinces would be unable to provide essential programs for children, social services, and post secondary education.
Accountability Matters. When federal transfers are accountable, they become one important way that the federal government can work to ensure that provinces are able to provide the same level of services for all Canadians, no matter where in Canada they live.
Why should you care?
Accountability Matters. As taxpayers, it is our right to know how our money is being spent. As Canadians, it is our responsibility to hold our government accountable to providing a good standard of social programs for citizens. The Canadian Social Transfer is inarguably a largely unconditional transfer which has no accountability measures for ensuring a level of adequacy with respect to social programs across Canada.
No Accountability within Government
Accountability Matters. Provinces and territories are not required to report to the federal government about how they spend Canadian Social Transfer funds or the effects of spending. Provinces must uphold only one national standard with respect to social service delivery, that there is no minimum residency period required before persons are eligible to receive social assistance. Since there are no conditions, no mandatory monitoring or reporting, and no enforcement, the provinces have no need to be prudent or accountable to the federal government in their spending of the Canadian Social Transfer for the delivery of social services.
Why is the Canada Social Transfer important?
Accountability Matters. The social determinants of health encompass a broad range of social factors, including socio-economic status, early childhood education, and access to adequate housing, to name a few. Moreover, income inequality is highly associated with the health of a nation. Arguably, accountability of Canadian Social Transfer funding has the potential to have greater implications for the overall health and well-being of Canadians that the Canadian Health Transfer that has dominated all provincial and national discussions to this point.
Why does the Canadian Social Transfer need to change?
Accountability Matters. A principled and conditional approach has been taken to guide the funding and delivery of health care services in Canada. Although once lumped together, the financing of health care and social services in Canada now operates dramatically differently. The Canada Health Transfer is held accountable by the conditions of the Canada Health Act and sees much more involvement of the federal government in the way health care is delivered.
What about social services?
Accountability Matters. The current model of financing social programs in through the Canada Social Transfer has many issues associated with it, the most prominent being an accountability crisis. There is a failure of accountability on many levels, and this must be addressed.
The Canadian Social Transfer, which at one point in history had constructive tools for realizing social rights, became destructive when the federal government unilaterally reduced the amount of money transferred to provinces and eliminated the conditions attached to the funds.
Where are we and where do we go from here?
Accountability Matters. The current Canadian Social and Health Transfer agreements were both set to expire in 2013-2014 and renewal talks were on the agenda at the last meeting of the Council of the Federation (Premiers) in January 2012. However on December 20th, 2011 the Honourable Jim Flaherty, the Minister of Finance, pre-empted discussions by unilaterally announcing that the 6% annual increase in the Canadian Health Transfer and 3% annual increase in the Canada Social Transfer will continue until the 2016-17 fiscal year.
The announcement also stated that after 2017, while the Canada Health Transfer and Equalization will be tied to economic growth, the Canada Social Transfer for post-secondary education and other provincial services will grow at only 3% annually. With this announcement, the Harper Government has effectively abandoned any national leadership in developing another health accord or any provincial consensus on accountability on the delivery of the Canadian Social Transfer.
To learn more in-depth of the recommendations that Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) is advancing to the provinces, territories, and federal government on this issue, please take the time to read the CASW Canadian Social Transfer Project.