Thanksgiving An Election And Health Care

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada today, and tomorrow we vote for a new federal government. Election dates in Canada are selected by our Prime Minister whenever he’s ready to give’r so the timing is a coincidence, but taking a day off to think things over with family and friends seems like something which should be written into the Elections Act.

Canada’s elections are not events which normally get a lot of “Press” in other countries. And I’m not sure why they should be, other than Canadians watch a lot of foreign news and we like it when our name pops up.

Unless there’s a referendum being held in Quebec about whether they should leave the Federation, selecting a new Prime Minister and governing party usually gets a minute on BBC World and a few American national shows. Otherwise, politically, we’re just another face in the photo taken at the end of the annual G8 conference.

Sigh… yes, as one of only a very few country’s with a GDP over a trillion dollars ($1.4T) Canada* has one of the largest economies on the planet. I think sometimes we even forget that.


The “economy” turned into an issue during this election, of course. But not ours… the Canadian economy is not being substantially effected by the credit and mortgage crisis in Europe and America. However, because we receive a substantial amount of American news programming and Canadian news outlets cover American and European issues all those 72-point bold headlines made it seem as though every second Canadian homeowner was eating dog food and living on a street corner.

But that’s politics — take a headline and turn it into your cause, not policy.

Setting health care policy is not within the jurisdiction of the federal government, for example, but it becomes a political issue in every federal election because it’s easy for whomever is in opposition to accuse the current government of wanting your children to get cancer. And as they do every year, so did they again this year.

But beyond supplying some cash every once in a while the Constitution says the ten provincial governments are in charge of funding and setting health care policy in Canada, not the federal government.

The problem with a system as retarded as this, of course, is each “Canadian” only gets to vote for one of those ten provincial governments. So drugs and tests made free and available to me in Ontario are expensive and unavailable in other provinces.

This is something we mostly ignore. This year the federal opposition parties decided the health care issue they most wanted to talk about was the shortage of family doctors in Canada.

Family doctors in Canada are considered by the Provinces, in a very convoluted manner, to be businesses… basically contractors working for the Province. So between 1991 and 2000 the Provinces decided the Doctor Industry was too expensive and there were too many of them.

To break the back of Big Doctor the Provinces limited enrolment to their medical schools, reduced enrolment for foreign students by almost 15%, made it harder for graduates from one province to work in another, then made it harder for doctors to get paid and actually cut salaries.

As a result there has been an actual net loss of Canadian doctors to the United States… there are more than 12,000 Canadian doctors working in the United States today thanks to those various improvements to the Canadian Health Care “industry”. Coincidentally most analysts will tell you Canada is currently short 12,000 to 15,000 doctors.

According to a research paper published in 2007 by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, “unlike people in the United States, nearly all Canadians (97%)[in the 1990’s] ha[d] a family physician; however, nearly 1 in 3 Canadians surveyed in 2002 reported difficulty finding a regular family physician or seeing their family physician when needed. Over half of Canadians surveyed in 2002 said it was “very” or “somewhat” difficult to see a specialist. Access problems are worse for rural Canadians.”

According to the current opposition all of this, of course, is the fault of the current government which is made up of a political party which only formed a few years ago.

I live in rural Canada and I have a family doctor. I guess I lucked out because he stopped taking new patients a few months after he took me on. But it still takes three months to get an appointment.

The entire health care system in Canada needs to be fixed, but fixing it within the framework which exists now means getting ten Premiers from any of three main provincial political parties to agree to the changes offered by a Prime Minister none of them have any allegiance towards. And every time a Prime Minister has tried to get all ten of them around a table for any reason it degenerates quickly into a game of “lets gouge the federal government”.

Because the Premiers know the PM will be seen to be at fault for any failure, they’ll do everything they can to get as much money as they can from him, but without any promises to spend it on what they’re receiving it for. A few years ago, for example, the Federal Government gave the Provinces billions for health care, but most of the Premiers spent the money on random “infrastructure” projects.

So our federal election is being decided based on an economic crisis our banking system is unaffected by, and a provincial issue which the federal government is not allowed to interfere with under our Constitution.

It’s actually not surprising our elections don’t get covered in other countries.


This past weekend was Canada’s Thanksgiving. It’s a pure harvest festival, and although we do eat a lot of turkey, ham and stuffing, ours is not related to the more religious equivalent in the United States. We didn’t have Pilgrims or Puritans, we had the Voyageur and the Habitant… which meant more Tavernes and beer and less Churches and wine.

According to Wiki the actual date was set by a government proclamation in 1957 as “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed… to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.” But it goes back to 1578 when Martin Frobisher, a European explorer trying to find a northern passage to the Orient, stopped to give thanks for making it across the Atlantic.

Of course the harvest festival in Canada goes back about another 8,000 to 10,000 years but aboriginal issues, including their health care — which is actually a federal responsibility, weren’t on the agenda this election.

So this year I’m thankful my Lithium is free, for a health care system which allows me to recover in the safety net of paid disability, for the health of my family and the fact that no matter what party wins tomorrow’s election there’s no chance they can screw up this country in ways that can’t be fixed in the next one.


* 2007 GDP ($Trillions) of the G8 Nations plus China:
Russia: $1.2; Canada: $1.4; Italy: $2.1; France: $2.5; UK: $2.7; China: $3.2; Germany: $3.3; Japan: $4.3; USA: $13.8




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
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8 Responses to Thanksgiving An Election And Health Care

  1. thordora says:

    No family doctor anymore, but lucky to have a shrink. Therapy paid by work.

    I never bitch about taxes. I know what things would have cost if my mother would have died of cancer slowly in the states. I’d likely be homeless.

    Have fun voting.

  2. bromac says:

    Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

    I had long been inquisitive of Canada’s healthcare system. Thanks for the intro.

    I can’t find a family doctor in the area in which I live. I go to a damn walk-in and spend hours in the waiting room to see a mediocre doctor every time I am sick. But, I have to be really sick to put up with all that shit.

  3. exactscience says:

    The UK have a similarly odd approach to healthcare in that individual boards decide on what drugs to fund based on the areas most prevalent ails. This can lead to people living around the corner from one another being allowed or denied access to different treatment. But all drug treatment is moving to free in Scotland so that’s cool.

    One of the better national directives about Family Doctors/ GPs is that surgeries need to provide you with an appointment within two days but it doesn’t have to be with your named doctor.

    I think globally healthcare needs reformed.

  4. I don’t recall any of the parties platforms including much on health care. Mostly on the environment, families, and how much we couldn’t trust Dion/Harper.

  5. dumbwaiter says:

    In regards to the election, please correct me if I am wrong in this assessment:

    Kyoto targets set out are to be 6% under 1990 levels (592 megatonnes), we peaked in 2003 at 743 megatonnes, and as of 2006 we were at 721 megatonnes, with recent estimates estimating an additional drop of 1.5% of that number leading us into 2009, at 710 megatonnes of Greenhouse gases created annually.

    Canada 1990 produced 592 megatonnes of Greenhouse gases annually.
    Canadian GDP in 1990 dollar value was $692.5 billion CDN.
    Canadian population was 25.75 million people.
    …so that would equal out to 22.99 megatonnes of Ghg per 1 million population
    …or, $1.169 billion dollars GDP per 1 megatonne of Ghg produced

    Canada 2008 produced 710 megatonnes of Ghg annually
    Canadian GDP of 1.7 trillion 1990 dollars CDN
    Canadian population is 33.5 million people
    …so that would equal out to 21.19 megatonnes per 1 million people, a decrease of, 7.3% to 1990 levels.
    …or, $ 4.17 billion 1990 dollars GDP per 1 megatonne of Ghg produced a decrease of almost 250%

    Is this not something that the environmentalists should recognize as an achievement?

  6. dumbwaiter says:

    …I was talking to a Greenie today, about the above post, and she brought up Sweden. She said that Sweden is also a cold place to live, and was way ahead of their Ghg targets in relation to Kyoto. Typical Greenies, always comparing us to Sweden.
    I politely pointed out that the only thing Sweden is ahead of us in, is in producing Greenhouse gases.

    In 1990 Sweden earned (in 1990 dollars)$156.25 million CDN in GDP for every 1 megatonne Ghg produced, as stated above, Canada earned $1.169 billion per megatonne. That means that although Sweden had lower emissions as a real number, Canada was more than 700% more efficient than Sweden in production.

    Bringing us forward to the present, Sweden’s economy has grown, and is now $438.5 million per 1 megatonne of Ghg produced, again, in 1990 Canadian dollars. As stated above, Canada is at $4.17 billion to 1 megatonne Ghg emmisions produced. Canada has increased it’s proficency over Sweden from over 700% to now over 950%.

    Population wise, Sweden went from 8.5 million people in 1990, to 9 million people today, an increase of less tha 1%, while Canada increased from 25.75 million people to 33.5 million people, an increase of over 22%.

    So that means that Sweden is celebrated for producing 72 megatonnes of Ghg per 1 million population, and Canada is condemned for producing 21.19 megatonnes of Ghg per 1 million population.

  7. Gabriel... says:

    Hey little brother, I talked to mom and she said to stop teasing the Greenies.

  8. Pingback: No Post Day | First Vote « …salted lithium.

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