Thanksgiving An Election And Health Care

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada today, and tomorrow we vote for a new federal government. Election dates in Canada are selected by our Prime Minister whenever he’s ready to give’r so the timing is a coincidence, but taking a day off to think things over with family and friends seems like something which should be written into the Elections Act.

Canada’s elections are not events which normally get a lot of “Press” in other countries. And I’m not sure why they should be, other than Canadians watch a lot of foreign news and we like it when our name pops up.

Unless there’s a referendum being held in Quebec about whether they should leave the Federation, selecting a new Prime Minister and governing party usually gets a minute on BBC World and a few American national shows. Otherwise, politically, we’re just another face in the photo taken at the end of the annual G8 conference.

Sigh… yes, as one of only a very few country’s with a GDP over a trillion dollars ($1.4T) Canada* has one of the largest economies on the planet. I think sometimes we even forget that.

The “economy” turned into an issue during this election, of course. But not ours… the Canadian economy is not being substantially effected by the credit and mortgage crisis in Europe and America. However, because we receive a substantial amount of American news programming and Canadian news outlets cover American and European issues all those 72-point bold headlines made it seem as though every second Canadian homeowner was eating dog food and living on a street corner.

But that’s politics — take a headline and turn it into your cause, not policy.

Setting health care policy is not within the jurisdiction of the federal government, for example, but it becomes a political issue in every federal election because it’s easy for whomever is in opposition to accuse the current government of wanting your children to get cancer. And as they do every year, so did they again this year.

But beyond supplying some cash every once in a while the Constitution says the ten provincial governments are in charge of funding and setting health care policy in Canada, not the federal government.

The problem with a system as retarded as this, of course, is each “Canadian” only gets to vote for one of those ten provincial governments. So drugs and tests made free and available to me in Ontario are expensive and unavailable in other provinces.

This is something we mostly ignore. This year the federal opposition parties decided the health care issue they most wanted to talk about was the shortage of family doctors in Canada.

Family doctors in Canada are considered by the Provinces, in a very convoluted manner, to be businesses… basically contractors working for the Province. So between 1991 and 2000 the Provinces decided the Doctor Industry was too expensive and there were too many of them.

To break the back of Big Doctor the Provinces limited enrolment to their medical schools, reduced enrolment for foreign students by almost 15%, made it harder for graduates from one province to work in another, then made it harder for doctors to get paid and actually cut salaries.

As a result there has been an actual net loss of Canadian doctors to the United States… there are more than 12,000 Canadian doctors working in the United States today thanks to those various improvements to the Canadian Health Care “industry”. Coincidentally most analysts will tell you Canada is currently short 12,000 to 15,000 doctors.

According to a research paper published in 2007 by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, “unlike people in the United States, nearly all Canadians (97%) [in the 1990’s] ha[d] a family physician; however, nearly 1 in 3 Canadians surveyed in 2002 reported difficulty finding a regular family physician or seeing their family physician when needed. Over half of Canadians surveyed in 2002 said it was “very” or “somewhat” difficult to see a specialist. Access problems are worse for rural Canadians.”

According to the current opposition all of this, of course, is the fault of the current government which is made up of a political party which only formed a few years ago.

I live in rural Canada and I have a family doctor. I guess I lucked out because he stopped taking new patients a few months after he took me on. But it still takes three months to get an appointment.

The entire health care system in Canada needs to be fixed, but fixing it within the framework which exists now means getting ten Premiers from any of three main provincial political parties to agree to the changes offered by a Prime Minister none of them have any allegiance towards. And every time a Prime Minister has tried to get all ten of them around a table for any reason it degenerates quickly into a game of “lets gouge the federal government”.

Because the Premiers know the PM will be seen to be at fault for any failure, they’ll do everything they can to get as much money as they can from him, but without any promises to spend it on what they’re receiving it for. A few years ago, for example, the Federal Government gave the Provinces billions for health care, but most of the Premiers spent the money on random “infrastructure” projects.

So our federal election is being decided based on an economic crisis our banking system is unaffected by, and a provincial issue which the federal government is not allowed to interfere with under our Constitution.

It’s actually not surprising our elections don’t get covered in other countries.

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This past weekend was Canada’s Thanksgiving. It’s a pure harvest festival, and although we do eat a lot of turkey, ham and stuffing, ours is not related to the more religious equivalent in the United States. We didn’t have Pilgrims or Puritans, we had the Voyageur and the Habitant… which meant more Tavernes and beer and less Churches and wine.

According to Wiki the actual date was set by a government proclamation in 1957 as “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed… to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.” But it goes back to 1578 when Martin Frobisher, a European explorer trying to find a northern passage to the Orient, stopped to give thanks for making it across the Atlantic.

Of course the harvest festival in Canada goes back about another 8,000 to 10,000 years but aboriginal issues, including their health care — which is actually a federal responsibility, weren’t on the agenda this election.

So this year I’m thankful my Lithium is free, for a health care system which allows me to recover in the safety net of paid disability, for the health of my family and the fact that no matter what party wins tomorrow’s election there’s no chance they can screw up this country in ways that can’t be fixed in the next one.

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* 2007 GDP ($Trillions) of the G8 Nations plus China:
Russia: $1.2; Canada: $1.4; Italy: $2.1; France: $2.5; UK: $2.7; China: $3.2; Germany: $3.3; Japan: $4.3; USA: $13.8

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About Gabriel

I’ve lived in fifty-two places. I've been paid to pick stones out of fields, take backstage photos of Britney Spears, and report on Internet privacy issues. My photos have been published in several newspapers, and a couple of magazines.
This entry was posted in Canada, Canadian News, Canadian Politics, CSN:AFU Aboot Canada, CSN:AFU Aboot Me, Entertainment, Punk. Bookmark the permalink.

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