Ontario’s Tory government has just announced it will create a two-tier healthcare system in the province: one, a private-for profit system which is expected to thrive off the funding and staffing diverted from the public system; and the other, the chronically under-funded and under-staffed universal public system of Medicare which will be further impoverished and in critical condition, if this legislation is not stopped.
Two-tier healthcare is illegal under the Canada Health Act and a direct threat to Canada’s universal public system of Medicare. The Prime Minister’s statements that he has no power over the provinces and Medicare, is not true. The PM and the people of Canada have the Canada Health Act to protect them and to protect universal Medicare.
The PM’s most recent statement that Ford’s two-tier plan is “innovative” exposes the collusion and complicity of the federal Liberal government with Tory and right-wing provincial governments in their quest to destroy universal public Medicare, and open up the country to private for-profit healthcare companies like the HMOs in the US that have transformed healthcare into a super-profitable commodity for sale to those with the money to buy it. Working people in the US are dying because healthcare in the US is a private, for-profit system. This is most evident in the huge number COVID deaths in the US as compared to other developed capitalist countries. More 1.1 million Americans died, victims of private for profit medicine and right-wing governments.
If the Prime Minister, the government and Parliament will not act to stop this proposal, to reverse privatization, and to adequately fund and support universal Medicare now, using the power of the Canada Health Act, then the Canadian public must rise up to defend Medicare – long-regarded as a sacred trust and the “crown jewel” of social programs in Canada. Failure to protect Medicare has enacted a big price for every government since 1966, and it will be no different in 2023.
The very real crisis in public healthcare that has been exposed with the COVID crisis, is a direct result of chronic federal under-funding, coupled with provincial hospital closures, bed closures, extensive delisting of publicly funded health services, under-staffing, falling real wages and wage restraints, and galloping privatization including P-3 hospitals and services.
This is why people are dying in emergency waiting rooms.
This crisis has been developing over many years, with legal challenges from private doctors wanting the courts to open the doors to two-tier healthcare in Canada. The Chaoulli decision in Quebec in 2005 was a serious attack on Medicare when it did not reject two-tier healthcare. The Cambie Surgery decision in BC which supported the single payer public system and opposed privatization is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court where that battle will continue. At the same time, provincial governments on the prairies enabled the introduction of private for-profit healthcare services as public hospital and healthcare services were deliberately underfunded, as waitlists grew, and as hospital personnel and the public cried out for government action to support the public system.
A meeting of Tory Premiers last year which included NB’s Premier Higgs and Ontario’s Premier Ford, set the stage for the current move to open up the country to a two-tier system that will lead to the complete privatization of healthcare if it is not stopped. That is the real significance of the Ontario’s move to private-for profit healthcare. This is the tipping point that threatens Medicare across Canada.
This crisis was made-in-Cabinet by federal and provincial governments, both Liberal and Conservative, and the private-for profit healthcare corporations located in the US who see Canada as an untapped and rich source of mega-profits. Profits made on the deathbeds of long-term care residents in for-profit facilities owned and operated by transnational corporations.
Because government responses to these awful deaths was not to expand publicly owned long-term care, but instead to expand private for-profit LTC, it’s clear that the public must pick up fight, and that the labour and democratic movements must take the lead to build a powerful movement to save Medicare, without delay.
The Communist Party is committed to fight for universal Medicare and to expand it. We call for:
- Federal government action to stop and reverse private, for profit healthcare in Ontario
- Restore and expand federal funding for Medicare across Canada
- Remove wage restraints such as Ontario’s Bill 124, and raise wages
- Hire healthcare professionals and open closed wards and beds
- Recognize the credentials of internationally trained healthcare workers
- Build regional public hospitals to replace those closed or never built
- Reverse privatization, including P-3 hospital construction and outsourced services
- Expand Medicare to include long-term care, pharmacare, and vision, dental and mental healthcare. Introduce Canada-wide standards of care
Medicare in Canada was never a gift, it was the prize fought for and won by working people in struggle for their health, for the health of their children and their communities, against greed and the drive for wealth and profits. Sixty years on, the struggle continues.
Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada