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Poilievre calls for changes to allow doctors, nurses to work across Canada

Two smiling men wearing suits sit at a long table with microphones, in front of a row of seated people under a wall with large Canada and provincial flags.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called Sunday for the development of a national standards system that would allow qualified doctors and nurses to work in any province or territory in the country.

Poilievre proposed what he called a “Blue Seal” standard, modelled after the Red Seal program used in the skilled trades. The standard would take the form of a competency test, and if health-care workers pass the test, they would be able to work anywhere that adopts the new standard.

The system would help reduce personnel shortages plaguing the health-care system and allow Canadian health-care workers to stay in the country, rather than moving abroad, Poilievre said.

“It’s common sense, if you can do the job, you can get the job,” he said Sunday.

“It’s time to bring home the best health care in the world to Canada, it’s time to bring home our doctors and nurses,” Poilievre continued.

The lack of mobility for doctors has been flagged by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) as an important problem in Canada’s health-care system, noting that in most cases, trying to move between provinces means “a lengthy application process, sometimes months-long, and thousands of dollars in fees.”

Around one in five Canadians don’t have a family doctor, survey data published by the Angus Reid Institute suggests.

The CMA has advocated for what it calls pan-Canadian licensure, arguing it has broad support among its members and would create a more efficient and flexible system.

Quebec Premier François Legault sits beside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as premiers met in Ottawa on Feb. 7, 2023. Provinces and the federal government eventually agreed on a series of significant health-care funding deals. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“We need to rethink the idea that we can carry on with 13 separate health systems that don’t collaborate with each other at a really deep level,” said CMA president Dr. Alika Lafontaine last year.

The organization is also supportive of changes that would allow more Canadian doctors now working abroad to return home, but argued that the system required wholesale reform, “rather than bringing more workers into a system that is in need of significant repair and is likely to wear them out along with their Canadian-trained colleagues.”

Provinces loosening restrictions

Provinces have moved independently to ease cross-border restrictions. B.C. put in place a similar policy in January, and Ontario is moving ahead on also allowing doctors from other…

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