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Health Care on Life Support

Canada’s public health care system is under existential threat. Recent moves by right-wing premiers from Alberta to Manitoba to Ontario and Québec signal the impending privatization of an array of health care services. In this focus, we look at the creeping danger of outsourcing, and why the preservation of our universal system must be a key priority for the left.

  • Ontario hospitals looked to make themselves ‘lean’ throughout the pandemic

    Even as hospitals across Ontario were overwhelmed by patients during the pandemic, the system’s managers were reportedly busy looking for “cost-savings.” While the crisis has been used by Ontario’s right-wing government to further privatize the system, there is further evidence that the health system’s public sector managers have spent years wrecking it from inside.

  • The future of dental care in Canada

    Canada’s dental care system does not have common-sense priorities because the right incentives are not in place. As Brandon Doucet writes, if our current policies support the for-profit health insurance industry and dental corporations, then the system will be shaped by institutions that care about their bottom line and not public health.

  • Private health care is no remedy for an ailing system

    As the CAQ government continues to peddle privatization as the solution to the Québec’s health care woes, progressive organizations are sounding the alarm about the creeping establishment of a two-tier system. This overview is a translation of the fourth part of a series on health care in Québec published in April 2022 by IRIS, Québec’s leading progressive research institute.

  • Can more for-profit health care be stopped?

    The new health accord between Ottawa and the provinces provides more money, but it could also easily bring an even faster rollout of for-profit provision of health care across the country. Right now, it’s pretty much up to the provinces to determine health care spending. But there are big differences between what they are doing and saying about for-profit care.

  • The crisis of trans health care in Canada

    Community researcher, support worker and organizer Carl Bystram details how the death of trans health care services in Canada has only worsened amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Bystram explores the utter lack of services available to trans people, particularly youth, who are falling between the cracks of a weakened public system.

  • The life and death struggle for public health care

    As health care provision moves closer to collapse, the most destructive course of action is to offer privatized medical care to those with the means to pay for it, while forcing the rest of us to line up for the sub-standard remnants of the public system. Given the prevailing political agenda, it is hardly surprising that this threat is looming over us.

  • Dispelling myths about for-profit health care

    The crises in health care brought about by years of austerity have created the opportunity to build back better. However, this has also created the opportunity for those searching for profit in all corners of care, from dental offices to home care, telehealth, colonoscopies, and vaccinations. Now more than ever we have to make the distinction between private and profit clear.

  • Public health care is under attack—it’s time to take a stand

    Canadians cherish public health care. It’s part of our national identity; a social contract that ensures we’ll be cared for when we’re vulnerable, regardless of the size of our bank account. It’s an affirmation of our collective commitment to equality and justice. But our health care system is in crisis. NDP MP and health critic Don Davies explains why.

  • Prescription drug insurance: Private profits or public health

    The confidence and supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP commits the former to taking steps to implementing a pharmacare plan by June 2025. The question is whether that will be a Québec model that preserves the profits of the drug companies and the insurance industry or a public model that puts the health of Canadians first. The choice should be obvious.

  • Health care is inefficient, but not because of public spending

    A government that defunds public health care is simply cruel. And yet, this is what the Ford government is doing in Ontario. If implemented, its privatization strategy may serve as a model for other conservative governments in Canada, including those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where right-wing tropes are similarly deployed to discredit socialized medicine.

  • Four ways the Ford government is privatizing health care

    Ford endlessly claims that all services will be paid for through OHIP, but research conducted by the Ontario Health Coalition clearly shows that for years private clinics took public funding and extra-billed patients. The Ford government has done nothing to stop this—although it is contrary to the Canada Health Act and limits access to care, particularly for lower income families and elders.

  • Why we do not need to nationalize health care in Canada

    In a recent article published by Canadian Dimension, Taylor C. Noakes eschews the idea of increased privatization in favour of a national health care system with federal oversight. Yet, as Ashley Holloway argues, transferring the administrative woes of managing the system from the provinces to Ottawa would turn the current less-than-perfect system into an even greater disaster.

  • Why we need to nationalize health care in Canada

    The federal government has a strong incentive to improve health care access nationwide, where artificial provincial borders wouldn’t constrain accessibility. Canada’s major cities, with unique health care needs and resident populations whose needs are often ill-represented by populist provincial governments, could be arguably better served by a federal system rather than the status quo.

  • Documents reveal RCMP targeted health care activists in 1960s Saskatchewan

    In early July, former MP Dennis Gruending acquired a series of documents pertaining to the campaign for universal health care in 1960s Saskatchewan. The documents reveal that the RCMP considered supporters of the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act to be communist subversives and kept files on leading advocates of the bill, including former Premier Tommy Douglas.

  • Ford ramping up privatization of Ontario health care system

    Knowing the strength of Ontario’s financial situation, one would hope Health Minister Christine Elliott was experiencing cognitive dissonance when she announced February 1 that the provincial government intends to bring in independent health facilities to operate private hospitals in Ontario. This is the first step to privatizing public health care services across Ontario.

  • It’s time to make Canadian medicare truly universal

    It is no accident that health care is Canada’s best-loved social program, even though it has become increasingly meaner and leaner. But we have failed to learn from its success and have so far fallen short in our efforts to build a universal public system for today. We need a new national plan that goes beyond hospitals to include pharmacare, homecare, dental and long-term residential care.

  • Divided health and the crisis of capitalism

    In a class-divided political economy, many risks are likely to impinge primarily (often only) on the working class; all too often on the poor, those with little power, and upon non-white, racialized, or Indigenous peoples. In those settings there is a much reduced impulse to avert the risks, especially if such attention demands restrictions on the ceaseless drive for the maximization of profits that is the life blood of capitalism. Class matters. It always did.

  • Canada is long overdue for universal dental care

    Many Canadians view the perfect smile as a sign of status rather than an indicator of one’s health, as the provision of dental care is based on one’s ability to pay rather than need. Six million Canadians avoid the dentist each year due to financial constraints and many live with treatable chronic pain and a lower quality of life. There is a solution to this problem: universal dental care.

  • Universal pharmacare is a progressive litmus test

    In 2015, Canadians spent $28.5 billion on prescription drugs. Of this, $24.6 billion would likely be covered under a universal pharmacare plan. The Parliamentary Budget Officer found that a universal program would cost $20.4 billion, meaning $4.2 billion in savings for Canadians. This answers the question: “How can we get more medication for less money?”

  • Resist the silent war on Canadian medicare

    Since the election of a Conservative majority government, taxes are at their lowest levels in more than half a century. In its myopic vision of deficit reduction and austerity, Ottawa now collects $45 billion less in revenue. It is no wonder the Canadian public is being told it cannot “afford” adequate levels of health-care funding.

  • The birth of Medicare

    Medicare was born in Saskatchewan on July 1, 1962. It would be the first government-controlled, universal, comprehensive single-payer medical insurance plan in North America. It was a difficult birth. The North American medical establishment and the entire insurance industry were determined to stop Medicare in its tracks. They feared it would become popular and spread, and they were right.

  • Canada needs a real public health care system

    The privatization of health care service in Canada is a growing reality. But far from solving the health care crisis, any further expansion of privatization will actually make matters worse. In our view, the solution to the health care crisis is to expand the public sector and eliminate the private sector entirely.

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