Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Saturday, July 08, 2006

State of Canadian Politics: Health Care

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Canadian politics in the matter of health care revolve around two debates. The first debate on health care concerns waiting lines and their public/private solutions. The second debate on our political scene revolves around the integration of immigrant doctors into our medical system.

Canada's Debate on Waiting Lines

From what I've understood, Canadian politicians present two models of waiting lines, which is where the fundamental disagreements lie. Public or private solutions to the problem depend on which model you believe in.

Some Canadians argue for private health care as follows. When waiting for the public health care system to serve you, quitting the line to go to a private doctor speeds things up both for you, and for the people behind you in line, who move up one spot.

Other Canadians argue for public health care. They say that doctors operating privately, as mentioned above, actually slow things down for everyone who can't afford their services. These people argue that if these doctors were working in the public domain, the public waiting line would move faster.

There are subsections to the debate. These include ethical questions. For example, people debate whether only those able to pay for them be able to obtain what are termed 'luxury health care services' such as teeth braces. Others point out anecdotal evidence that private care treats patients faster than public health care, measuring time from the moment the patient's turn arives to the moment they leave the hospital/clinic.

One of the most interesting opinions on the issue comes from Dr. Michael Rachlis, who suggests traffic management techniques might solve the waiting lines problem. He argues that we have the capacity to treat people, but are just creating traffic jams through mismanagement.

Personally, I think this debate in Canadian politics could be put to rest simply and easily by running experiments. First, these would determine exactly what model is actually functioning and which functons best (probably somewhere in between the models named above). Second, experiments should be run to find out what exactly makes turnaround times faster in the anecdotal evidence named above.

Canadian Politics on Foreign Doctors

Every federal party is officially in favour of integrating foreign doctors. Except that all the talk doesn't seem to amount to much.

In part, this is because the jurisdiction for health care is provincial. The federal government can't exactly legislate on this. However, it can provide incentives.

For example, the federal government could offer tax incentives to doctors here in Quebec. In return, the medical order would facilitate the entry into its ranks of foreign doctors who've recently immigrated. As the order is partly a lobby group, this sort of collective tax break would obviously be in its members interests and would be hard to refuse.


So the state of Canadian politics on health care is one where important challenges are facing us concerning waiting lines, how health care is provided, and who is to provide it. Solutions do exist. However, they will require courage from Canada's politicians, and a willingness to try new things rather than to keep up the rhetoric.

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