Week 3 – The Canadian Health Care System 03/11/2014
Objective: identify and explain the key historical moments and policies underlying Canada’s current health
care system and key arguments in the public versus private health care debate
**Chapter 13 textbook
Canada’s current health care system is the product of over 100 years of history/ legislation
There are many problems with the system but it is highly valued by Canadians
Solutions to the existing problems are often discussed in relation to public versus private health care
British North America Act 1867: law that created the Canadian confederation
Established that health care was the responsibility of the provincial government, not the federal. Each
province had its own system. Today, each province still has its own system, but there are universal
principles uniting all the systems.
There was not a universal health care system.
There are many consequences of not having universal system.
For instance if an individual needed to go to the hospital, they had to pay themselves and they paid the
service providers directly. Individuals who could not afford the services were turned away because the
physician did not want to provide the services if they would not get paid. This was not only a problem for the
poor, but also for the middle class if they had a serious medical condition.
Consequences of Not Having Universal Health Insurance
People paid out of their own pocket.
The poor, elderly, and chronically ill often could not afford proper care.
Major illness could reduce even the most well off individuals. Canada Medical Act (1912)
Legislation passed by Sir Thomas Roddick (a surgeon turned politician)
Standardization of licensing.
Limited the number of doctors. This is important because limiting a resource increases its value. In order to
attract people to the profession, limiting the number increased their salaries.
Department of Health (1919)
Under Prime Minister Borden, the first federal Department of Health was established in 1919.
Concerned with things like: quarantines, standards for food and drugs, coordination of public health and
The Great Depression – 1930s
Terrible poverty and suffering in Canada
Lack of adequate nutrition and housing
Increased rate of tuberculosis, pneumonia, influenza and other diseases
Patients unable to pay doctors’ bills ▯ government instituted medical relief to cover costs.
Pages 255256 textbook**
Health Policy during the Great Depression
1934 United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) government passed health insurance legislation
1935 Social Credit came to power in Alberta and the legislation was never implemented
1935 Patullo Liberal government in B.C. passed health insurance act. However due to opposition
(physicians, Conservative party) and lack of funding from the federal government, the act was never
implemented. New Deal: at the federal level, Bennet introduced the ‘New Deal’ legislation in 1935 (included health
MacKenzie King came to power and declared the legislation unconstitutional (said it violated the provincial/
federal divide of responsibilities)
Health Policy in the 1940’s
Draft legislation for universal health care introduced by the federal government (1945) to address
inadequate access to medical and hospital care, war time recruiting of soldiers (large numbers too sick for
military or industrial service) and poor status of Canadians generally.
The proposed legislation was to be costshared by federal and provincial governments
Centered on belief that increased access to physicians and hospital care would lead to improved health of
The legislation was not implemented because provinces were concerned about federal incursion into their
jurisdiction and federal and provincial government could not come to an agreement (taxation issues).
Tommy Douglas – “Father of Universal Health Care”
Born in Scotland in 1904, immigrated to Winnipeg
Father was war veteran (worked in iron foundry)
Tommy and his two sisters had to drop in/out of school (they all worked to help pay the bills)
Underwent a life changing health experience.
He had a bone infection at age 10 and underwent several unsuccessful knee operations. His family had no
money for specialist so they were told the only option was to amputate. A visiting surgeon did treatment for
free and saved his leg. This event inspired his dream for universal health care.
He was a Baptist minister turned politician.
He joined the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party (Motto of ‘Humanity First’ + 70% of
budget to social services)
Became premier of Saskatchewan for 17 years
In 1947 he increased number of health care facilities, created universal access to hospital care in
Saskatchewan and encouraged physicians and patients to think of hospitalization as first resort.
Medical Care Act (1966) Federal policy modeled on Saskatchewan’s system
It was strongly opposed by the Canadian Medical Association
Entailed cost sharing (50:50) between the provinces and the federal government for medical services.
Medical care act was criticized by physicians because they