OTTAWA - In the late 1970s it was Monique Begin, then Federal Minister of Health and Welfare, who suggested that citizens needed to mobilize into coalitions to make noise in society to get anything to work.
As Michael McBane, the present National Coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition said Thursday, “governments are not likely to see the light first.”
In 1979 the Canadian Health Coalition began, with many of the provinces quickly following suit with their own coalitions, including the Ontario Health Coalition.
The first project the national coalition embarked on was a campaign to abolish extra billing by doctors. Charging user fees over and beyond those provided by Medicare, the campaign eventually led to a ban on extra billing as part of the new Canada Health Act passed in 1984.
Speaking before the Canadian Health Professionals Secretariat in Ottawa yesterday, McBane says that while some things have changed, we are still fighting similar “zombie” ideas that keep on coming back.
Today the coalition is again fighting extra billing by private clinics, this time without a federal government willing to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act.
“We no longer have three parties that believe in Medicare,” says McBane.
Transfer payments from the Federal government to the provinces was originally intended to allow Canadians to access consistent national standards of health care regardless of where they lived.
The Harper government is clearly on another path.