News releases

December 9, 2002

Cost UNDERruns Will Harm Health
Docs ask Auditor General to investigate Health Canada cuts to anti-tobacco programmes

(Ottawa) – . Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) is asking the Auditor General of Canada to investigate cuts to Health Canada’s tobacco control program.

“The under-funding of health protection measures can have serious impact s on the health status of Canadians, and on the costs of future health care services,” explained PSC’s president, Dr. Atul Kapur. “That’s why we are very concerned that Health Canada has cut $13 million from its tobacco control programme.”

In 2001, the former Minister of Health, the hon. Allan Rock, committed the government to spending $480 million over five years to reduce tobacco use. The budget for the programme was ramped, going from $70 million in 2001-2002 to $110 million in 2005-2006.

After Mr. Rock was replaced as Minister of Health by the hon. Anne McLellan, federal investment in tobacco control was cut by $13 million. These cuts have not been formally publicized by Health Canada, but officials are now admitting that they took place earlier in the year.

“I am most alarmed that Parliament and Canadians were neither consulted about nor informed formally of this reversal of government priorities,” said Dr. Kapur. “I would expect parliamentarians to be especially concerned, given that the $480 million promise was made shortly before they were to vote on an initiative by Senator Colin Kenny that would have invested $150 million a year to reduce tobacco use.”

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada has written the Auditor General to ask her to investigate these cost under-runs.


For information: Cynthia Callard, Executive Director 613 233 4878

December 9, 2002

Ms. Sheila Fraser
Auditor General of Canada
Office of the Auditor General of Canada
 and the Commissioner of the Environment
 and Sustainable Development
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G6

Dear Ms. Fraser:

We are writing today to ask your department to investigate the process by which Health Canada has abruptly reduced the budget for the Tobacco Control Programme.

In April 2001, the Ministers of Finance and Health (the hon. Allan Rock and the hon. Paul Martin) announced a $480 million package to reduce the harms associated with tobacco use. They pledged that $210 million of that fund would be allocated towards mass media.

The allocation in each of the 5 years was not made public; but we were told that $70 million was for the 2001-02 fiscal year, $90 million for each of 2002-03 and 2003-04 and $110 million for 2004-05 and 2005-06

In January 2002, the cabinet was shuffled and a new Minister of Health appointed.

We have recently learned that Health Canada has already cut $13 million from the tobacco control programme, and that further cuts are anticipated. This information has not been formally provided; the expenditures and budget for the program have not been made public and these details do not appear in the Public Accounts nor in the Estimates.

Public health suffered a similar set-back last decade, when the government announced a $180 million program to offset the impact of reducing the taxes on cigarettes in 1994. The program expenditures were diverted within Health Canada by other programs, and the final investment was about 50% of the initial commitment.

I urge you to investigate these cost under-runs, to audit their impact on future health care costs, and to ensure that the government’s tobacco control programmes are financed in a transparent and accountable way.

Sincerely yours,

Cynthia Callard Executive Director