23 January 2010

Healthcare corner #4 - Journalist views

this is the last one for a couple days, i promise. sorry, it was a busy and interesting work week.

the dalhousie law school hosts a "health law and policy" seminar series on fridays throughout the year. most times i skip it, but this week was a talk called "do we need a new canada health act?" so...naturally i would go check that one out.

the talk was given by national health reporter andré picard. he writes a column in canadas most respected newspaper, the globe and mail. for further clarification, he is a liberal-leaning journalist.

nothing too lengthy here because a lot of his talk revolved around laying out the history of the canada health act, which i had already learned in class (and have mentioned on the blog). his short response to the question "do we need a new health act?" was "no, but..."

his major points were:
1. the health act is like a piece of constitutional law. it sets up basic principles and contains the foundation of the ideals for the country to stand on. it is currently broad in scope and short on specifics. if you want to mess with specifics, he says, refine the delivery of the health act by creating smaller laws or bills that add in prescription drug coverage or long term care by name.

2. there is nothing in the health act that forces the provinces to provide healthcare to its citizens. it is followed by all of them because it is a good political thing to do because their citizens want this service, and the government is handing out a good chunk of money to do it. and if you want the money, you have to provide for at least the five stipulations of the health act. there are "penalties" set forth in the health act for any province that takes the money and then violates one of the principles. but apparently, historically, the government hasnt done much in the way of powerfully or swiftly enforcing those penalties.

3. so, while provinces may be seen as occasional (or frequent) violators of the health act principles, it has been done within a system that allows for it to occur (or at least look the other way). he argues that legally going in and changing the wording of the health act would do nothing if the end result will be for provinces to continue to follow some of the rules and not others...with little repercussions. he believes the health act could be much stronger if the political climate were to change, to pay more attention to the health act, and make it a primary focus. he thinks its been sitting under piles of dust for decades.
two side comments i absorbed while at the talk:

- the canada health act is something canadians are extremely proud of. many would say it defines the spirit and attitude of all canadians. they wear it like a badge of honor. kind of like americans who wear "freedom," "liberty," and "the american dream" as badges of pride/honor.

- so alberta and british columbia are the wealthiest provinces. and they tend to try and buck "the system." many "regular" canadians then like to point to those provinces as troublemakers and people who dont always represent "typical canadians." and then there is quebec, seen as notorious stubborn troublemakers in their own right, but for very different, historical, reasons. i love how "the typical canadian" can quickly get peeled away: well, not those people in alberta or BC, and dont get me started on the people of quebec...nice to know they do have some conflict among their own kind.

1 comment:

Trav said...

My aunt and uncle are not necessarily what I would call "typical Canadians," though they might be "typical amazingly cool Canadians from Toronto." They are, however, on board with your side comment #1: they see this act as part of a Canadian ethos (and, as you say, what the heck is that, exactly?). They are also on board with the idea that there should be a Canadian spirit that is entirely lacking in comparison with the United States (they held signs and chanted at the demonstrations against the Quebecois bid for independence during the last forums...maybe when we were in high school?). In my undergrad history course, I wrote a paper about Canadian nationalism (I know, who else but me?) and my primary finding is that there is a real sense of separation among the provinces, particularly based on economics and industry. Part of this division can be explained by the fact that the Canadian government used be a confederacy until the late 1800s (well after the Civil War), there was no federal constitution until the early 1980s, and there wasn't even a flag until then either (my parents, for instance, said the pledge to the Union Jack). There IS a lot of division within Canada... it's just more "civilized" (less publicized) than here...

Time to go back to university so I don't have these diarrhea-like blurts of information, right?