Image: Stethoscope/Unsplash.
Reading Time: 3 minutes


Welcome to Canada, the land of universal healthcare and affordable health products!

Although that sentiment might sound nice, the reality is that a small bottle of Advil costs just under $15 and the length of a trip to the emergency department is often over 20 hours. Plus, if you want to see a dentist or psychotherapist, you better hope you have health insurance! In practice, is it really appropriate to say this healthcare system entirely accessible?

Don’t worry though, the government is stepping in to help! There are big investments being made to improve healthcare in Ontario. 

The provincial premiers recently accepted the federal government’s $46.2 billion investment plan into provincial healthcare systems. The plan is to address staff shortages and improve family health services. 

However, these investments are focused on healthcare at a large scale, not preventative action on the individual level. This has been a common trend in Canada for some time. The provincial and federal governments are frequently attempting to contain the aftermath of adverse scenarios rather than implementing proactive measures and policies. We have seen this in efforts for truth and reconciliation, pandemic strategies, and climate action. Now, it seems that this trend will continue with healthcare improvement. 

While the approval of this investment is encouraging as it creates the potential for development, it is equally critical to address issues of structural concern and preventative initiatives. Opponents of restructuring strategies correctly assert that there is an urgent need for more hospital staff; however, they don’t seem to consider that this $46 billion budget could be used to tackle problems of staffing and improve community health. 

Without addressing the structural issues in our healthcare system and implementing preventative measures, this investment becomes a (very expensive) Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Rather than attempting to increase the number of staff in hospitals, the government should be trying to decrease the number of patients in them. 

Policymakers seem to be weary of taking this approach though. Their hesitation is likely because this is a complicated project which would span many aspects of social life. There are mountains of research which outline the areas of society which must be modified to improve the general health of a community. For the sake of this investigation, I will focus on mask mandates, groceries, public transit, and exercise. 

COVID-19 spreads through air particles; therefore, masks have been proven to prevent the virus from spreading in crowded, public places. Simply put, if masks were mandated in certain settings (as opposed to ‘recommended’) hospital intensive care units (ICU) might not be as overwhelmed. This would reduce the number of patients in the ICU and ultimately reduce the number of staff needed. 

Some other preventative methods the government should invest in include managing food prices. Good food contributes to good health. However, when nutritious food is expensive, consumers often opt for cheaper, less healthy options. Most cheap food does not provide adequate nutrition. This is not to say you shouldn’t buy chocolate bars or chips, however — everyone deserves the opportunity to afford healthier options if they desire. 

Indeed, price ceilings are not designed for the food market — they take money out of the system and risk essential products being removed from production without adequate government subsidization. However, there are other opportunities for the government to step in. For example, the federal and provincial governments could regulate companies like Loblaws — a company recently accused of profiteering during a time when food prices are rising due to inflation. The grocery chain’s gross profit in the first half of 2022 beat its previous best results by $180 million. At a minimum, legislation requiring the transparency of financial data should be implemented to ensure that the profit margins of grocery stores have not been unduly inflated. 

Nevertheless, this $46.2 billion injection into the provincial healthcare systems is undeniably necessary. However, the way in which this investment plan is implemented is crucial. While the approval of this investment is encouraging, since it creates potential for development, it is equally critical to address structural concerns and the current level of preventative initiatives. This budget should also address both preventative programs and structural challenges about health care affordability in Ontario, such as COVID-19 protection and food pricing. 


  • Sydney Grenier is a second-year student studying Conflict Studies and Human Rights at the University of Ottawa. She is a passionate advocate for Indigenous rights and environmental protection. Sydney's experience includes volunteering for various organizations relating to human rights protection such as Results Canada and Amnesty International. When she is not brainstorming new stories and solutions you can catch her consuming ridiculous amounts of coffee, hiking or singing to herself.