Murray Dobbin points out (link is external) that we have reason to worry about the future of Canada's universal public health care system due to plenty of vultures waiting for it to die.
Dr. Brian Day's challenge, based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is perhaps the most frightening, because if he wins it will effectively constitutionalize the right of health care corporations to compete with Medicare. Researcher Colleen Fuller's CCPA study, "The Legal Assault on Universal Health Care," (link is external) details how "Day wants the B.C. Supreme Court to legalize extra-billing, user fees and private insurance, creating an American-style health care system here in Canada." In the U.S., in 2004, "health care regulation cost up to $340 billion out of a total health expenditure of $1.7 trillion. In spite of such high expenditures, fraud costs the U.S. health system $75 billion annually."
The flurry of corporate rights agreements being pursued by the Harper government are also a threat to the viability of Medicare. The Canada-EU deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, will immediately add at least $2 billion to drug costs in this country. The international Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) now being negotiated in secret threatens to apply the deregulatory imperative of investment agreements explicitly to services, including health care. As Public Services International has pointed out (link is external) , TiSA "would restrict governments' ability to regulate, purchase and provide services. This would essentially change the regulation of many public services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations."
But by far the most dangerous threat to Medicare is our prime minister, who loathes Medicare more than any other aspect of Canadian governance and democracy. Harper actually quit politics in the late 1990s to become the head of the viciously right-wing National Citizens Coalition -- an organization founded in the early 1970s explicitly to fight Medicare.
Harper has abandoned all federal oversight or guardianship. There are no strings attached to the money. And the equalization aspect of the former accord is also gone, meaning increasingly unequal health care across the country and an erosion of the principle of universality. Lastly, the current funding formula not only brings the funding contribution of Ottawa to a record low 19 per cent, but it is not legally binding.
If Harper wins the election, he could unilaterally chop billions from Medicare any time he chooses.