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News Release

MRG Statement on Free Trade

November 1988

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.

Ulli Diemer, MRG Administrator
Medical Reform Group of Ontario

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