Rivers on: What I Love About Canada

Rivers 100x100Ray Rivers

June 30th, 2107



As Canadians watch how our friends south of the border grapple with developing a better system of health care coverage, it is hard not to be just a little smug. After all, we figured it out back in the sixties, what is the matter with them? We came to consensus long ago that ensuring adequate health coverage for our citizens was essential for a healthy and growing economy.

A massive Canadian flag was passed hand over hand amongst a huge crowd in Montreal days before the citizens of Quebec voted in their referendum to remain a part of Canada.

A massive Canadian flag was passed hand over hand amongst a huge crowd in Montreal days before the citizens of Quebec voted in their referendum to remain a part of Canada.

Canada may be a ‘developed nation’ but it is still growing. Our most valuable natural resource is our population. And sick people don’t contribute to our economy, they are a drain. Further, people fretting about whether they can afford to pay for basic health services are distracted and not at their fullest potential. So providing affordable health care coverage is an economic benefit that easily justifies the cost.

And our single payer health care system is efficient. The numbers say it all. Per capita health care in the US is twice what it costs Canadians. It consumes over 15% of GDP there, versus only 10% in Canada. And even with their massive health insurance system, governments in the US still spend almost a quarter more than their Canadian counterparts.

One would assume that the more expensive US mixed public-private system, including their Medicare and Medicaid, would produce better results, better health outcomes. But it doesn’t. In fact Canadians have higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates.

The World Health Organization (WHO) granted that medical responsive was marginally better in the US, at least for those who could afford care. But even with all the money Americans spend, our health care system still ranked seven positions ahead of our neighbours to the south, in the 2000 WHO overall ratings.

That is just one reason I love this country. Universal health care. It may have been the brain-child of CCF/NDP leader Tommy Douglas and packaged nationally by Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, but it was implemented across the country by politicians of all stripes including Social Credit. And that’s another reason I love this country – our political leaders occasionally do come to general consensus and get it right.

Yes there was debate, and there still is, mostly about ideology and philosophy, about how single payer is the next step to socialism. That is the same kind of discussion our US cousins have been having for decades. And the critics will complain about how our health care is rationed with waiting lists for some services. But it is rationing by medical urgency rather than by the pocket book.

Recently the media reported on a women who showed up at a Mississauga walk-in clinic with her son and demanded to be seen by a ‘white doctor’. If you missed this story, it’s OK.

welcoming syrians to Canada

We welcomed them – knowing that we will be a stronger country because of them.

Because that’s another reason I love this country. Nobody supported her in her racist rant. Canada is a land that was built by immigrants and a nation that welcomes people from elsewhere to join us in developing our great Canadian project. As our Governor General recently said, we are all immigrants.

So as I celebrate Canada’s 150 year birthday, I’ll be thankful for our embrace of diversity, for our good government and because our health care coverage is automatic. That is something our American friends cannot say, even today while they still have Obama Care.

And they know that the day after their big July 4th birthday bash their government will be introducing some kind of Trump Care – a plan which only 12% of the people support and which will leave another 22 million without any health care coverage at all. Happy birthday Canada.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Comparative Health Systems –   Mississauga Rant –   Governor General on Immigrants

Post Obama Plan –   Canada on its 150th

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3 comments to Rivers on: What I Love About Canada

  • Marco M. Pardi

    Please, please tell me. What would it take to get you to annex the United States?

  • Alide Camilleri

    Health care is only one of many things I love about Canada. While watching yesterday’s 150th celebrations on Parliament Hill, other great things struck me: We have two important ministers who wear turbans, we have a number of women in important posts in the cabinet, we announce our new astronauts publicly, we enjoy not only freedom of religion, but freedom of movement and we don’t need to carry identity cards as one has to all over Europe. We are not only friendly, but we are generally openhearted and don’t look with suspicion at those who look different from us. Yes, we need to improve our relationship with our indigenous population. In that respect I watched with pride last night the presentation of awards to talented indigenous youth as well as the not so young at The INDSPIRE AWARDS at the National Arts Centre. Let me recommend that instead of sending money only to overseas needy, give part of it to the Indspire group and through it support an indigenous youth. It’s a charity I discovered years ago. So, while we a generous, we need to be more generous to our own. Let me end that having lived and worked in many parts of the world, coming home to Canada was always the most wonderful moment of all. Without pounding my chest US style, I will state without hesitation, we do, indeed, live in the best country in the world.

  • Larry

    Eloquent as usual, I love this place and have been blessed to see and work on all three coasts, and in between.