Public delivery of health services best defence against possible trade challenges, Romanow Commission experts conclude

November 4, 2004

OTTAWA--Public, not-for-profit delivery of new and expanded health services, together with clear national goals, will minimize the risk of trade challenges undermining Canada's health care system, concludes a new book released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Putting Health First: Canadian Health Care Reform, Trade Treaties and Foreign Policy, publishes the findings of a major research project on health and globalization conducted for the Romanow Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. It also includes a related study for the Commission by one of Canada's most respected international trade lawyers.

"A diverse group of experts largely agreed on the risks Canada's trade commitments create for our policy flexibility in health," says Matthew Sanger one of the book's editors. "The actions we identify in this collection to reduce these risks are more relevant than ever, as Canadian governments pledge to act on some of the Romanow recommendations for reforming health care."

The research reports warn that Canada's trade treaty commitments could lock in provincial moves to commercialize and privatize health care--making those initiatives essentially irreversible. "Governments must act decisively to reverse commercialization, before trade treaties lock it in," said Scott Sinclair one of the book's editors.

Sanger added that "The basic message of the research is hopeful -- despite the challenges posed by globalization and trade treaties, that Medicare can be sustained and strengthened for future generations of Canadians and as a model for others around the globe."

In 2001 the Romanow Commission invited proposals for a major research project on globalization and health. The winning consortium involved trade and health experts from nine Canadian research centres, led by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The Commission sponsored a parallel study by international trade lawyer Jon R. Johnson (Goodmans LLP), which is also included in this volume. -30-


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