I have a bias that I want to share with you. I have had the opportunity to travel widely, and I believe that Canada has one of the best medical systems in the world. I also believe this system is a magnificent gift to medical practitioners in this country. We have access to extraordinarily sophisticated equipment to help with diagnoses. We can work in excellent health care facilities that will arm us with the apparatus to treat disease. We are be empowered to focus on prevention, not only cure. We have access to great universities who, with our practitioners, can forge medical discoveries. And for the most part, we get to do all of this, without ever, not even once, having to worry if our patients can afford to have us as their doctor. This is a remarkable gift. The fact that we treat the rich as we do the poor is a barometer of our civilized society.
You are hearing of my bias today, because July 12th, is an important anniversary. On this date in 1966, Allan MacEachen, former Cape Breton academic and new Minister of National Health and Welfare, introduced the Medical Care Act in Parliament, with these words, “The government of Canada believes that all Canadians should be able to obtain health services of high quality according to their need for such services and irrespective of their ability to pay. We believe that the onlypractical and effective way of doing this is through a universal, prepaid, government-sponsored scheme.” 1
Despite passing the first reading, there was substantial opposition to the Act. Philosophically, some felt health care was the responsibility of the provinces and, in the extreme, federally supported healthcare bordered on communism. There were issues within the Liberal Government. Minister of Finance and Acting Prime Minister, Mitchell Sharp, made a public declaration that medicare would have to be abandoned or delayed because of the country’s financial situation.
of both the public and the anti-medicare lobby when
Finance Minister and Acting Prime Minister Mitchell
Sharp declared that medicare would have to be
abandoned or delayed because of Canada’s dire
financial situation. 
Of course, the Medical Care Act was enacted on July 1, 1968. But seeing Mitchell Sharp’s concerns one might sense some “deja vu” with our current fiscal woes. Current financial realities leading up to the 2014 Health Accord coupled with the massive deficit in the Province of Ontario have once again raised the spectre of whether Canada can afford a national healthcare system. Most would agree that substantial changes in how we manage and practice medicine are on the horizon.
No matter, I believe that all of us in the healthcare professions, the legislators and the law-makers have a responsibility to work together, to make every effort possible, to sustain the magnificent gift of our healthcare system.
If you have any thoughts about my bias, our healthcare system and our responsibility, please comment on this blog, or better yet…please stop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.
P.S. – All Canadians should visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization “Making Medicare” section of their website. It is a wonderful resource and provides a fascinating and informative insight into the history of universal healthcare in Canada.
P.P.S – I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Peter Aitken, our Communications Coordinator and Awards Officer in preparing this blog.
1 Canada, House of Commons Debates, Hansard [July 12, 1966], p. 7605
2 Library and Archives Canada, PA-117121. Photographer: Duncan Cameron
4 Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1991-26-239, C-143095.© George Shane