Waiting for Romanow

Canada's health care values under fire
September 19, 2002

"Attacks on Medicare are also attacks on the underlying core values of Canadians--values such as fairness, compassion, equality of opportunity, and social solidarity--and so a defence of Medicare is essential to protect the values that we Canadians see as defining who we are. Our support for an accessible public health care system is the one bond we have that transcends geography, ethnicity, language, gender, race and class."

This is the key message in a crucial paper on the values underlying Medicare released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Written by Arthur Schafer, Director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, Waiting for Romanow: Canada's Health Care Values Under Fire analyzes and refutes all the arguments for underfunding and privatizing our health care system, but also exposes them as attempts to undermine Canadians' commitment to a caring community.

"Now is surely the time for our political leaders to show leadership," says Schafer. "An earlier generation of federal politicians had the moral vision to sign covenants supporting the principle that health care is a universal human right. We need today's politicians to 'stand on guard' for Medicare. But unfortunately we can't rely on them to do that. So individual citizens and community groups have a duty to join the great national values debate.

"If we wish our federal government to play a more vigorous role in defending and promoting the core values of Medicare, then we will have to speak out about what we value and why we value it."

This paper on the values embodied in Medicare is the first of several on health care issues that will be released later this fall by the CCPA. They will include the CCPA's Report to the Romanow Commission on "Globalization and Health," one of three major research projects commissioned by Romanow, and, as well, a major study on the federal government's role in financing health care.