Ode to Tommy Douglas - Metro US

Ode to Tommy Douglas

As Barack Obama tries to bring universal health care to the USA and the “Brooks Brothers Brigade” tries everything in its power to stop him, let’s take a quiet moment and give thanks to ­­­____ (fill in the deity of your choice) for medicare.

More than back bacon and our legendary tendency to go “eh?” it’s what makes us Canadian.

In fact, we should erect a statue to Tommy Douglas, the Father of Medicare, right on the lawn of Parliament Hill. I’m sure we can warehouse a couple statues of Queen Victoria to make space.

I suspect that many of you reading this today born in the 1970s, ’80s or ’90s have no idea who Tommy Douglas was. A little background: He was the premier of Saskatchewan who fought off the fiercely focused efforts of the medical lobby and a doctor’s strike to get universal health care adopted in Saskatchewan, back in 1962. Four years later, Ottawa, under Lester Pearson (another statue, please), followed suit.

And now, when you’re sick, you can get health care without being ruined, even if you have a “prior condition,” unlike 47 million Americans. It’s why we’re so careful when we go shopping for cheese across the border. We might break a leg and won’t be able to crawl back to health care and safety.

I know, I know. There’s a lot wrong with the system as currently constituted. The Fraser Institute (our own version of the Brooks Brothers Brigade) estimates health care will consume 100 per cent of provincial revenues by the year 2050 (it takes up more than half now), and the average wait time for surgery and other medical procedures is 17 weeks. The good news:

That’s down from 18 weeks in 2007.

And we all have stories of being stacked up in a hospital corridor or getting treated in a broom closet while waiting for a bed. Inevitably, we’re looking at a two-tier system where those who can will pay for preferential treatment, while the rest of us limp into the lineup.

Implementing a version of that two-tier system in America will cost $1 trillion. But it’s necessary — now more than ever as increased unemployment brings increased loss of benefits.

It’s funny. I remember Tommy Douglas as a little man with thick glasses and an annoying, adenoidal speaking style that would cause me to change channels if there was more than one, which, in 1962, there wasn’t. But without that adenoidal little man, we’d all be up Meech Lake without a paddle.

Cue the statue.

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