Conservative politicians and pundits are questioning the feasibility of adding pharmaceutical coverage to Canada's public health-care system. "How can our governments possibly afford such a huge additional expense?" they ask.
They are asking the wrong question. Here are some of the proper questions to ask:
How have the other economically advanced countries in Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand, been able to afford comprehensive public health care, including dental, vision, hearing, and other health needs, as well as pharmacare?
How can our federal and provincial governments jointly afford to spend $29 billion a year in subsidies to large corporations, including $3.3 billion annually to the big oil and gas companies?
How can the federal government afford the mega-billions in bailouts it periodically lavishes on SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier, and in the past on the big automobile manufacturers?
How can the federal government afford to spend over $4 billion to purchase an oil pipeline?
Why have our governments, while increasing business subsidies, proportionately reduced their spending on social services? Why does Canada now rank a dismal 24th on the OECD's list of its member countries' social spending at just 17 per cent of GDP, compared to rates ranging from 23 per cent to more than 40 per cent by other countries?
The answers to these crucial unasked questions would expose the right-wingers' cavils about pharmacare's affordability as completely bogus. So would the fact that Canada's per capita GDP -- the country's gross domestic output -- has more than doubled the constant dollar amount it was 50 years ago. There's more money than ever before available, but now it's being far more inequitably distributed.
The alleged shortage of public funding for pharmacare (and other necessary health services) has been callously contrived by continually enhancing the wealth of the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.
Ed Finn grew up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, where he worked as a printer’s apprentice, reporter, columnist, and editor of that city’s daily newspaper, the Western Star. His career as a journalist included 14 years as a labour relations columnist for the Toronto Star. He was part of the world of politics between 1959 and 1962, serving as the first provincial leader of the NDP in Newfoundland. He worked closely with Tommy Douglas for some years and helped defend and promote medicare legislation in Saskatchewan.
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