Government Relations Report Issue 58

Spring 2006 CSANews Issue 58  |  Posted date : May 27, 2007.Back to list

In 2002, the association released The Canadian Travellers’ Report Card, a national evaluation of federal, provincial and territorial government policies of importance to travelling Canadians. In order to gauge the levels of improvement from our initial recommendations, the CSA undertook a follow-up study during the summer and fall of 2005.

Our 2006 Canadian Travellers’ Report Card examines five areas of importance to travellers. We researched the practice and policies of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, and then gave each government an opportunity to comment. After gathering the information, including government feedback, the CSA retained the national law firm of Fasken Martineau DuMoulinn LLP to assist in the evaluation process. Each jurisdiction was graded based on standards elsewhere in Canada, and on our view of best practices.

Canadians who embark on long-term travel nonetheless pay a full year of taxes to the federal and their provincial or territorial governments. They must pay for infrastructure and other government services which they do not use for the full year, but one thing they expect and deserve is to have full, equal access to the health-care and drug coverage for which they pay taxes. Unfortunately, in many cases, these taxpayers are denied the same benefits as those who remain at home. Canadians should not have to choose between exercising their right to travel and having access to the health care which they may need.

We are pleased that many provincial and territorial governments have responded with improvements to service and coverage but, over the years, we have found that there is still much work to be done.

We examined the following topics:

  • Preservation of health coverage for regular travellers
  • Access to emergency health coverage when travelling
  • Access to prescription drugs for use during travel
  • Access to voting rights for travellers
  • Availability of government information

Improvement
We are pleased to report that a number of governments have shown significant improvement since our last report. This reflects a willingness to change policies and improve services in order to protect and enhance the rights of travellers. The most-improved grades were those of Yukon, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. In addition, Saskatchewan, Québec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories all improved their standings. Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and the federal government all posted declines. We urge these governments to place greater priority on serving the unique needs of their travellers.

Trends
This year, we noticed three trends across provincial and territorial governments:

Non-compliance with the Canada Health Act: We remain concerned by the extent to which the portability requirements of the Canada Health Act are being ignored or violated. There has been some improvement since our 2002 report but, overall, not to the extent which travelling Canadians expect, need and deserve. We hope that this year’s report will lead to greater action in this important area.

Increased voting rights: It is comforting to see the improvements in voting rights for Canadians who travel. Saskatchewan leads the pack, but advances have been made in several other jurisdictions. The lone exception is Ontario, the only place in North America that makes no provision for special balloting by absentees. Further, travellers would benefit if more jurisdictions followed the lead of British Columbia and Ontario in legislating fixed general election dates.

Inadequate coverage for prescription drug supplies: Most governments will maintain health-benefit coverage for a longer period than the period of maximum supply of prescription medication which drug plans will cover. We understand that health coverage and drug coverage are different, but we do not agree, as some governments seemed to suggest in their responses, that we are comparing apples and oranges. There should be harmony between the length of time for which the health plan will cover a traveller and the amount of medication for which the traveller’s drug plan will pay. Granted, these are often separate government programs, separately administered, but that does not make co-ordination any less important to the traveller. Governments are responsible for both their health plans and drug plans and should make these work in synch.

The report will be sent to every elected federal, provincial and territorial politician in Canada. The CSA will also be following up with face-to-face meetings with key federal politicians, as well as multiple premiers and federal/territorial health ministers.

The 2006 Canadian Travellers’ Report Card is a key weapon in our advocacy arsenal and it is our hope that this report card will encourage clear government policies which respect and support Canadians’ love of travel.

A copy of the new 2006 Canadian Travellers’ Report Card is available for download from our website - www.snowbirds.org