MRG Statement on Free Trade
The Medical Reform Group of Ontario calls upon Canadians to reject
the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement
Today the Medical Reform Group of Ontario asked Canadians to reject
the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA) because it provides
insufficient protection for our health care system. Speaking on
behalf of the group, Dr. Mini Divinsky said the prime threat to
health care is that the negotiators did not define the term 'subsidy'.
Dr. Divinsky explained that many American business interests consider
medicare to be an unfair subsidy to Canadian industry. She claimed
that the U.S. will press Canada to change our health care system
through the negotiations on the definition of subsidy. Simon Reisman,
Canada's chief negotiator said in November, 1987, "Powerful
American interests had targeted our social, cultural, and regional
programs for elimination as their price for the agreement. The Americans
wanted very tough rules on subsidies for us, but not for them."
This is all the more likely with yesterday's election of George
Bush as President of the United States. Bush is a bitter opponent
of public health insurance.
Dr. Divinsky added that there are at least two other threats to
our health care system from the CUSFTA. Under articles 2010 and
2011 the federal and provincial governments would have to consult
the United States before designating new monopolies. The MRG believes
this would preclude the establishment (or expansion) of dental insurance,
drug insurance, or other new programs.
Dr. Divinsky noted that health care facility management is specifically
included in the CUSFTA in section 1408. The provinces would still
have the power to prohibit for-profit management but U.S. firms
would apply political pressure to provincial goverments (as they
have in the past) to gain access to our market. Dr. Divinsky mentioned
that there is a large body of evidence which indicates that for-profit
health care management is less efficient than non-profit management.
The MRG does not believe that the CUSFTA would immediately destroy
medicare. But, over time, it would lead to its erosion and stifle
its development. Dr. Divinsky closed by saying, "Especially
with George Bush as President, it is an error to believe that medicare
would be unaffected by the CUSFTA."
The MRG represents 150 physicians and was founded in 1979 to preserve
and improve medicare.
Diemer, MRG Administrator
Medical Reform Group of Ontario
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