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Canada’s health-care wait times hit 27.7 weeks in 2023—longest ever recorded


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From the Fraser Institute

By Mackenzie Moir and Bacchus Barua

Canadian patients waited longer than ever this year for medical treatment, finds a new study released by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

The study, an annual survey of physicians across Canada, reports a median wait time of 27.7 weeks—the longest ever recorded, longer than the wait of 27.4 weeks reported in 2022—and 198 per cent higher than the 9.3 weeks Canadians waited in 1993, when the Fraser Institute began tracking wait times.

“COVID-19 and related hospital closures have exacerbated, but are not the cause, of Canada’s historic wait times challenges,” said Bacchus Barua, director of the Fraser Institute’s Centre for Health Policy Studies and co-author of Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2023.

“Previous results revealed that patients waited an estimated 20.9 weeks for medically necessary elective care in 2019—long before the pandemic started.”

The study examines the total wait time faced by patients across 12 medical specialties from referral by a general practitioner (i.e. family doctor) to consultation with a specialist, to when the patient ultimately receives treatment.

More than 1,200 responses were received across the 12 specialties and 10 provinces. Among the provinces, Ontario recorded the shortest wait time at 21.6 weeks—still up from 20.3 weeks in 2022. Nova Scotia recorded the longest wait time in Canada at 56.7 weeks.

Among the various specialties, national wait times were longest between a referral by a GP and plastic (52.4 weeks), orthopedic (44.3) neurosurgery (43.5). Wait times were shortest for radiation (4.4 weeks) and medical oncology treatments (4.8 weeks). Patients also experience significant waiting times for various diagnostic technologies. This year, Canadians could expect to wait 6.6 weeks for a computed tomography (CT) scan, 12.9 weeks for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and 5.3 weeks for an ultrasound.

Crucially, physicians report that their patients are waiting over four and a half weeks longer for treatment (after seeing a specialist) than what they consider to be clinically reasonable.

“Excessively long wait times remain a defining characteristic of Canada’s health-care system” said Mackenzie Moir, Fraser Institute policy analyst and co-author of the report. “And they aren’t simply minor inconveniences, they can result in increased suffering for patients, lost productivity at work, a decreased quality of life, and in the worst cases, disability or death.”

Median wait times by province (in weeks)

PROVINCE                        2022      2023

British Columbia                            25.8           27.7

Alberta                                               33.3            33.5

Saskatchewan                                 30.1            31.0

Manitoba                                           41.3            29.1

Ontario                                              20.3            21.6

Quebec                                               29.4            27.6

New Brunswick                              43.3            52.6

Nova Scotia                                      58.2            56.7

P.E.I.                                                   64.7            55.2

Newfoundland and Labrador    32.1            33.3

Each year, the Fraser Institute surveys physicians across twelve specialties and the ten provinces in order to document the queues for visits to specialists and for diagnostic and surgical procedures in Canada. Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2023 Report reports the results of this year’s survey.

In 2023, physicians report a median wait time of 27.7 weeks between a referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment. This represents the longest delay in the survey’s history and is 198% longer than the 9.3 weeks Canadian patients could expect to wait in 1993.

Overall, Ontario reports the shortest wait across Canada (21.6 weeks) while Nova Scotia had the longest (56.7 weeks).

The 27.7 week total wait time that patients face can be examined in two consecutive segments:

  • referral by a general practitioner to consultation with a specialist: 14.6 weeks;
  • consultation with a specialist to receipt of treatment: 13.1 weeks.

After seeing a specialist, Canadian patients were waiting 4.6 weeks longer than what physicians consider clinically reasonable (8.5 weeks).

Across the ten provinces, the study also estimates that there were 1,209,194 procedures for which patients—3% of the Canadian population—were waiting in 2023.

Patients also face considerable delays for diagnostic technology. This year, Canadians could expect to wait 6.6 weeks for a CT scan, 12.9 for an MRI scan, and 5.3 weeks for an ultrasound.

Survey results suggest that, despite provincial strategies to reduce wait times, Canadian patients continue to wait too long for medically necessary treatment.

Data were collected from the week of January 16 to July 1, 2023, longer than the period of collection in years before the COVID19 pandemic. A total of 1,269 responses were received across the 12 specialties surveyed. However, this year’s response rate was 10.3% (lower than in some previous years). As a result, the findings in this report should be interpreted with caution.

Research has repeatedly indicated that wait times for medically necessary treatment are not benign inconveniences. Wait times can, and do, have serious consequences such as increased pain, suffering, and mental anguish. In certain instances, they can also result in poorer medical outcomes—
transforming potentially reversible illnesses or injuries into chronic, irreversible conditions, or even permanent disabilities. In many instances, patients may also have to forgo their wages while they wait for treatment, resulting in an economic cost to the individuals themselves and the economy in general.

The results of this year’s survey indicate that despite provincial strategies to reduce wait times and high levels of health expenditure, it is clear that patients in Canada continue to wait too long to receive medically necessary treatment.

Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2023 Report

By Mackenzie Moir and Bacchus Barua, with Hani Wannamaker

Click here to read the full report

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TDF funds defence of the “Coutts Three”

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The “Coutts Three,” Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen

News release from The Democracy Fund

A jury trial is expected to proceed after pretrial applications.

LETHBRIDGE: The Democracy Fund (TDF) is funding the defence of three men charged with mischief in Lethbridge, Alberta. The men, known as the “Coutts Three,” are Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen. All three are alleged to have been leaders of the 17-day trucker protest against COVID-19 restrictions that shut down the Coutts border in February 2022.

The matter is expected to proceed to a jury trial after pretrial applications are heard over the next few days. Jury trials are only available for serious criminal matters where the accused faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment or more.

The men should not be confused with the “Coutts Four,” who were among the twelve persons arrested in connection to an RCMP raid that resulted in the seizure of weapons and the end of the protest. According to Van Huigenbos, the message of the Coutts protesters “had been lost” following the arrests and the border blockade was voluntarily dismantled.

Donations for the three men can be made on this page.

About The Democracy Fund:

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.

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Low emissions, Indigenous-owned Cascade Power Project to boost Alberta electrical grid reliability

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The Cascade Power Project. Photo courtesy Kinetcor

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

New 900-megawatt natural gas-fired facility to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s power needs

Alberta’s electrical grid is about to get a boost in reliability from a major new natural gas-fired power plant owned in part by Indigenous communities.  

Next month operations are scheduled to start at the Cascade Power Project, which will have enough capacity to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s energy needs.  

It’s good news in a province where just over one month ago an emergency alert suddenly blared on cell phones and other electronic devices warning residents to immediately reduce electricity use to avoid outages.  

“Living in an energy-rich province, we sometimes take electricity for granted,” says Chana Martineau, CEO of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC) and member of the Frog Lake First Nation.  

“Given much of the province was dealing with -40C weather at the time, that alert was a vivid reminder of the importance of having a reliable electrical grid.” 

Cascade Power was the first project to receive funding through the AIOC, the provincial corporation established in 2020 to provide loan guarantees for Indigenous groups seeking partnerships in major development projects. 

So far, the AIOC has underwritten more than $500 million in support. This year it has $3 billion  available, up from $2 billion in 2023.  

In August 2020 it provided a $93 million loan guarantee to the Indigenous Communities Consortium — comprised of the Alexis Nakota Sioux NationEnoch Cree NationKehewin Cree NationOChiese First NationPaul First Nation, and Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation — to become equity owners. 

The 900-megawatt, $1.5-billion facility is scheduled to come online in March. 

“It’s personally gratifying for me to see how we moved from having Indigenous communities being seen as obstacles to partners in a generation,” says Martineau. 

The added capacity brought by Cascade is welcomed by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO), which is responsible for the provinces electrical grid. =

“The AESO welcomes all new forms of generation into the Alberta marketplace, including renewables, thermal, storage, and others,” said Diane Kossman, a spokeswoman for the agency.  

“It is imperative that Alberta continue to have sufficient dispatchable generation to serve load during peak demand periods when other forms of generation are not able to contribute in a meaningful way.” 

The Cascade project also provides environmental benefits. It is a so-called “combined cycle” power facility, meaning it uses both a gas turbine and a steam turbine simultaneously to produce up to 50 per cent more electricity from the same amount of fuel than a traditional facility.  

Once complete, Cascade is expected to be the largest and most efficient combined cycle power plant in Alberta, producing 62 per cent less CO2 than a coal-fired power plant and 30 per cent less CO2 than a typical coal-to-gas conversion.  

“This project really is aligned with the goals of Indigenous communities on environmental performance,” says Martineau. 

The partnership behind the power plant includes Axium InfrastructureDIF Capital Partners  and Kineticor Resource Corp. along with the Indigenous Communities Consortium. 

The nations invested through a partnership with OPTrust, one of Canada’s largest pension funds.  

“Innovation is not just what we invest in, but it is also how we invest,” said James Davis, OPTrust’s chief investment officer. 

“The participation of six First Nations in the Cascade Power Project is a prime example of what is possible when investors, the government and local communities work together.” 

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