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A Brief History of Canada's Health Care System

1947 -1957 -1960 -1962 -1965 -1966 -The Saskatchewan Government, led by leader Tommy Douglas, introduces the first provincial hospital insurance program In Canada. Paul Martin Sr. introduces a national hospital insurance program. Doctors, insurance companies and big business fight against it. The Canadian Medical Association opposes all publicly funded health care. Saskatchewan's NDP government introduces the first public health care program. Doctors walk out but the strike collapses after 3 weeks. A Royal Commission appointed by Diefenbaker government and headed by Justice Emmett Hall calls for a universal and comprehensive national health insurance program. Pearson minority government creates a national Medicare program with Ottawa paying 50% of provincial health costs. Prior to this point, doctors charged whatever they wanted and bankruptcy to pay for health care was common. Now citizens would receive portable, comprehensive and universal access to necessary physician and hospital services, regardless of ability to pay. Trudeau Liberals retreat from 50:50 cost-sharing and replace it with block funding. Doctors begin "extra-billing" to raise their incomes. Canada Health Act introduced by Trudeaus health minister, Monique Begin, is passed unanimously by parliament. Extra-billing is banned. The act allows the federal government to deduct one dollar from federal transfers to any province for every dollar of direct patient charges in that province, and ended user-fees for insured physicians and hospital services. Paul Martin Jr. introduces Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), causing massive cuts in transfer payments to health and social programs. Health Care spending drops from 10.2% (in 1992) to 9.2% of GDP. Ralph Klein introduces legislation to allow private hospitals. Alberta Friends of Medicare mount major campaign to protect Medicare from Bill 11. Continued

1977 -1978 -1984 --

1995 --

2000 --


March 2009

2001 --

Senator Michael Kirby, Board member of Extendicare Inc. and personally invested in for-profit nursing homes, attempts to trump the upcoming Romanow Commission by starting his own. Produces a report not backed-up by facts and ignores expert testimony from Dr. Arnold Relman. The Romanow Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada conducted cross-country public hearings. Final report was tabled in Ottawa on November 28, 2002. It called for: 1) Creation of the Health Council of Canada to facilitate collaborative leadership in health and new approaches to primary care; 2) Stable and predictable long-term funding; 3) More integrated, team-based care; 4) Investment in diagnostic technologies and training programs to reduce waiting lists; 5) Centralized management of waiting lists; 6) A national home care strategy and improved service to rural and remote communities; and 7) A National Drug Agency and improved coverage of prescription drugs. Report went largely ignored. First Ministers meeting results in a new Health Accord. Targeted funding in keys areas (as prescribed by the Romanow report) shows promise. However, there are no accountability mechanisms and no strings attached (e.g. no restrictions on public funding being spent on for-profit health care). Jacque Chaoulli (backed by the Canadian Medical Association) wins Supreme Court of Canada case. Evidence from the lower courts was ignored. Resulted in increased calls for a two-tiered private insurance and for-profit health care delivery. CMA elects Dr. Brian Day as President and begins a highly-public 4-year push to break Medicare and allow extra-billing and double-dipping doctors. Split within CMA leads to formation of a new organization: "Canadian Doctors for Medicare". Ontario doctors elect a pro-Medicare doctor, Jeffrey Turnball, MD, as the candidate for CMA President in 2010. Outspoken advocate for private, for-profit health care, CMA past-President Dr. Brian Day, faces serious charges in a BC court, including illegal billing practices.

2002 --

2003 --

2005 --

2006 --

2009 --

Tommy Douglas
The Father of Medicare
Our parents and our grandparents worked and fought and suffered to get us Medicare. Were not going to let anyone take it away.

About the Canadian Health Coalition:

The Canadian Health Coalition is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting and expanding Canadas public health system for the benefit of all Canadians. It includes organizations representing seniors, women, churches, nurses, health care workers and anti-poverty activists from across Canada. For more Information:


April 2009