Skip to content

Canada votes 2021: Should mental health care be covered under provincial health plans? Candidates share their thoughts

The need for mental health services has reached an all-time high during the pandemic, but access to costly private services is out of reach for many Canadians
010421_Mental_Health

With election day on Sept. 20, the time to make a decision is upon us. To help you parse where the party’s stand on the issues of the day, we sent a questionnaire to the candidates of the four parties with a member in Parliament, as well as the People’s Party of Canada candidates.

Issues we polled the candidates on were climate change, affordable housing, Laurentian University and the post-secondary sector, the opioid crisis, Indigenous issues, vaccine passports, corporate taxation, universal basic income and mental health supports.

Questionnaires were sent to all candidates, though not all candidates chose to participate. As well, some candidates did not answer all questions provided.

Nickel Belt Riding

Has the mental health crisis in Canada reached a point where the federal government should be mandating the provinces to provide mental health services through the public system?

Andréane Chénier, NDP

Mental health support is an enormous unmet need across the country; over one in five Canadians struggling with mental health challenges who have expressed a need for counselling weren’t able to get it. New Democrats believe that we need to work towards health care that covers us from head to toe. Mental health care should be available at no cost for people who need it. As a first step, a New Democrat government would bring in mental health care for uninsured Canadians – ensuring that people with no coverage for mental health services could gain access to these supports without worrying about the cost. Our comprehensive pharmacare plan will also mean that prescription medication for mental health care will now be available free of cost to Canadians. We will work with provinces and territories to build on these initiatives and put in place a truly comprehensive approach to mental health services.

Craig Gravelle, Green Party

Yes, the federal government should be mandating provinces to provide mental health services through the public system. If provinces disagree, then actions must be taken at the federal level to address the mental health crisis.

Marc Serré, Liberal Party

The Federal government continues to follow through on its important role supporting the provinces. We are working to make mental health supports more accessible and affordable to all. Since 2015 we have invested:

  • $5 billion to the provinces and territories to increase the availability of mental health care.
  • $500 million in support during the pandemic for Canadians experiencing mental health challenges, homelessness, or substance use.
  • $598 million for a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, including for the Indian Residential Schools Health Supports Program and Crisis Line and Hope for Wellness Line.
  • $100 million for mental health interventions for populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
  • $140 million for supporting veterans’ mental health to cover costs related to PTSD, depressive and anxiety disorders.
  • $50 million for support to those at risk of COVID-19 related trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • $45 million for the development of national mental health care standards.
  • Launched the Wellness Together portal, which has been accessed by more than 1.2 million users.

Now we are committing an additional $1.4 billion for a distinction based mental health and wellness strategy with First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation, expanding on our recent commitment of $597.6 million, for a total investment of $2 billion over five years. We are also introducing a new fund for student well-being to improve wait times and increase access to mental health care at colleges and universities. 

Should mental health care be provided through the public system as it would for any other ailment?

Andréane Chénier, NDP

Mental Health Care should be available at no cost for people who need it. It should also be comprehensive and accessible like other forms of health care. Better access to mental health and addictions support will form a key part of our approach to tackling other social issues. We will work in partnership with the provinces and Indigenous communities to improve access to mental health and addiction treatment services in all areas. This includes an evidence-based action plan to prevent suicide, backed by dedicated federal resources, fully implementing the New Democrat motion on suicide prevention passed by the House of Commons.

Craig Gravelle, Green Party

Yes, mental health care must be provided through the public system because a decline in one’s mental health could lead to a decline in one’s physical health. There must be supports provided by the public system to help those who need it.

Sudbury Riding

Has the mental health crisis in Canada reached a point where the federal government should be mandating the provinces to provide mental health services through the public system?

Viviane Lapointe, Liberal Party

Yes. In a typical year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness or addiction problem. And we know that over the last 18 months, nearly half of Canadians reported that their mental health worsened during the pandemic. Mental health is health. This is why we have made mental health a priority. 

A re-elected Liberal government will: 

  • Establish a new federal transfer to provinces and territories—the Canada Mental Health Transfer—to assist jurisdictions to expand the delivery of high-quality, accessible, and free mental health services. Building on the principles of universality and accessibility in the Canada Health Act, this transfer will help establish standards in each province and territory, so that Canadians are able to expect services that are timely, universal, and culturally competent. This will help each jurisdiction focus on and solve critical backlogs in service and provide help to those who need it, according to the unique needs in each region. 
  • Commit to permanent, ongoing funding for mental health services under the Canada Mental Health Transfer, with an initial investment of $4.5 billion over 5 years. Including the existing bilateral agreement on mental health services signed in 2017, this would bring federal support for mental health services to $2.5 billion per year by 2025-26. This is in addition to further investments we will make to support First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities with better access to trauma and mental health services. 
  • Undertake a comprehensive review of access to the Disability Tax Credit, CPP-Disability and other federal benefits and programs to ensure they are available to people experiencing mental health challenges. 

David Robinson, Green Party

The federal government cannot actually "mandate" health services, but it can use its fiscal powers to induce provinces to implement mental health services through the public system as it did with the limited set of health services it  bribed provinces to guarantee when Medicare was introduced.

Ian Symington, Conservative Party

Generally speaking mental health care is provided through the public system.  Psychiatrists, primary care providers and community social work and family counselling  care programs are available to everyone in Ontario, although there are difficulties with  access and wait times and there are gaps. A key part of mental health being recognized as health in Canada is for companies to include mental health coverage within their employee benefit plans. A Conservative government will incentivize companies to begin covering mental health expenses or increase what they already cover for their  employees by offering a 25-per-cent tax credit for three years to help kick start more comprehensive health coverage for Canadian workers. This will ensure that more Canadians have access to mental health supports through their pre-existing corporate benefits packages. Canada’s Conservatives believe grassroots, community-based organizations have an important role to play in supporting Canadians’ mental health. A Conservative government will create a $150-million pilot program over the next three years to provide grants to non-profits and charities that deliver mental health and wellness programming. This program will immediately inject more resources into community-based programs, making it easier for more Canadians to access the resources they need to support their mental health.

Nadia Verrelli, NDP

Mental health support is an enormous unmet need across the country; over one in five Canadians struggling with mental health challenges who have expressed a need for counselling weren’t able to get it. New Democrats believe that we need to work towards health care that covers us from head to toe. Mental health care should be available at no cost for people who need it. As a first step, a New Democrat government would bring in mental health care for uninsured Canadians – ensuring that people with no coverage for mental health services could gain access to these supports without worrying about the cost. Our comprehensive pharmacare plan will also mean that prescription medication for mental health care will now be available free of cost to Canadians. We will work with provinces and territories to build on these initiatives and put in place a truly comprehensive approach to mental health services.

Should mental health care be provided through the public system as it would for any other ailment?

David Robinson, Green Party

Yes. Defining mental health and appropriate care may be more difficult than the target of the original medicare system were, however.

Nadia Verrelli, NDP

Mental Health Care should be available at no cost for people who need it. It should also be comprehensive and accessible like other forms of health care. Better access to mental health and addictions support will form a key part of our approach to tackling other social issues. We will work in partnership with the provinces and Indigenous communities to improve access to mental health and addiction treatment services in all areas. This includes an evidence-based action plan to prevent suicide, backed by dedicated federal resources, fully implementing the New Democrat motion on suicide prevention passed by the House of Commons.