Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Union rushes to defence of Canadian health care

VANCOUVER- A large Canadian union has added its voice to the contentious debate on American health-care reform, calling on U.S. legislators to consider a single-payer model and defending Canada’s system from recent attacks.

“The status quo defenders in the U.S. are resorting to fear and scare tactics and they’re maligning Canada’s health-care system and our country’s reputation, so we felt it was important to set the record straight,” said Mike Luff, director of research and communications for the National Union of Public and General Employees.

The union sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and members of Congress urging them to expand the debate to consider single-payer models.

“Our single-payer system is, quite simply, a good and sensible idea that serves Canadians extremely well,” says the letter signed by NUPGE President James Clancy. “The overheated rhetoric and outright falsehoods that you’ve heard about the quality and viability of Canada’s system simply do not stand up to scrutiny.”

The union had previously called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to speak up and defend the single-payer system following criticism of the Canadian health care system in recent weeks from both members of Congress and conservative advocacy campaigns. The prime minister did not respond, Luff said.

“On other issues he hasn’t hesitated to do the talk-show circuit on U.S. networks,” Luff said. “On this one he’s been invisible.”

The union’s letter attempts to refute some of the claims about single-payer health care, including notions that government controls personal treatment decisions, Canadians cannot choose their doctors and patients are dying while languishing on waitlists.

“An objective review of the evidence shows that Canada’s single-payer system has consistently delivered affordable, timely, accessible, comprehensive and high-quality care to the overwhelming majority of Canadians,” says the letter.

Members of Congress were also invited by the union to participate in a study-mission to Canada to speak with health care policy experts and see the single-payer model in action. The union has already received significant positive response to the letter, Luff said.

Various types of health-care reform are currently being considered by Congress, but a single-payer system is off the radar. Instead, Obama has focused his attempts on trying to provide coverage for the estimated 47 million Americans currently without insurance. He is also pushing for a public insurance option that would be available alongside private insurance.

A congressional vote on health-care legislation is expected in September.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus