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News Release

Will the Liberal government betray Medicare?

March 6, 1995

Responding to questions about the social service funding cuts, Jean Chretien has said that Canadians will have to get used to a health-care system that provides basic care but no frills. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Marcel Masse has suggested that the Canada Health Act could be revised and the federal government could make deals with provinces or groups of provinces. Paul Martin has suggested that provinces may respond to decreased transfer payments by charging user fees. These statements all suggest that the government is planning to change or abandon the principles embodied in the Canada Health Act.

The Canada Health Act protects the principle of universal health care by mandating the federal government to reduce transfer payments to provinces that allow user fees.

User fees penalize the sick and the poor, place barriers to access in the way of those who need health care most, and would ultimate destroy universal, high-quality care.

Health Minister Diane Marleau has said that she will enforce the Canada Health Act and penalize provinces that are allowing user fees. So far, Ms Marleau has penalized British Columbia, and given Alberta until October to end user fees or face federal penalties. Other provinces are also violating the Canada Health Act in ways that the federal Health Ministry has yet to address. Nevertheless, Ms Marleau's decision to enforce the Canada Health Act is wise, and vital to preserving national health care. Since the budget, Ms Marleau has issued a statement suggesting that she is still ready to enforce the Canada Health Act and penalize provinces which allow user fees.

The Liberal government's budget, in deeply slashing transfer payments to the provinces for health and social service spending, has undermined its moral authority to defend universal care. It now appears that, despite Ms Marleau's resolve, the federal government may be ready to abandon that responsibility altogether.

The Medical Reform Group, an organization of physicians dedicated to the preservation of universal, high-quality medical care, calls on the federal government to clarify its position on the Canada Health Act.

The clarification must come from the Prime Minister, who must state unequivocally that he will maintain universality by enforcing the Canada Health Act. The Liberals must reassert their determination to enact penalties to Alberta, and to other provinces which violate the Canada Health Act, for allowing extra billing.

Anything less will mean further jeopardizing the health care system that is crucial to the health of Canadians, and the cohesion of our society.


Gordon Guyatt, M.D.
Rosana Pellizzari, M.D.
Mimi Divinsky, M.D.

Medical Reform Group of Ontario

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