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While the debate over changes to the US health-care system continues, lobby groups are investing advertising dollars to get their point across. One such group, Conservatives for Patient’s Rights has released an advertisement outlining Canadian dissatisfaction with government run health care. The Real News Network invited Torontonians to respond.

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Story Transcript

May 23, 2009

GERALDINE CAHILL, TRNN: I’m Geraldine Cahill. We’re standing here in Hospital Row in downtown Toronto. Six hospitals line the streets here. And we’re talking to folks on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning about what they think about the Canadian health-care system. Our questions come in response to some commercials in the United States claiming that Canadians don’t like their health-care system. As the debate rages in the United States about access to health care, we thought we’d ask Canadians what they think.


RICK SCOTT, CONSERVATIVES FOR PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Before Congress rushes to overall health care, listen to those who already have government-run health care.

VOICEOVER: In Canada, Don Neufeldt learned his heart condition was life-threatening only after he left Canada for treatment. Zayd Jakir, a wait list made his simple soccer injury a permanent disability. Charlie Wadge was told to just live with the pain of a crippling hip injury.

SCOTT: Hear those tragic stories and Tell Congress to listen too.


CAHILL: So what’s your reaction to that commercial?

CHENIQUA KERR: Well, for anything, they always try to make it [inaudible]. Those stories are probably true, but not every health care is perfect, of course. So I don’t really—it’s not everyone. I’m pretty sure the majority of Canadians love their health care. But it’s probably the few that just don’t like it.


SYLVAIN MEYROUS: I think it’s totally shocking. It’s not—doesn’t reflect reality. I think, from what I gather, most Canadians are very happy with their medical system. As a new Canadian myself, I am very satisfied with the system. And I lived in the US before, and I had medical problems there, and I can appreciate the difference. It doesn’t even compare.

JON GAL: First of all, in the United States, I read somewhere there’s about 300,000 cases of malpractice. So those cases are probably that, and it happens in any kind of care. So it has nothing to do with either universal or private care.

RANDY NICKERSON: I think they’re taking advantage of the timing, because, yeah, we’ve got some struggles here. There’s more people; it’s costing more money; we’re having to make tough choices. But we don’t want to lose what we have, and we’re seeing it erode. Those people in the video, they’ve come across situations where they probably—possibly fell through a crack here or there, but we’ve never had issues with our—you have to wait, maybe. It’s a small price to pay for free.

MICHAEL: Not really true, so it’s—you know, the Canadian welfare system is kind of—it’s a pretty good system. But every system, you have a good one and a better one, right? So I think that, like, commercial or something, it’s only one side.

SHANNON MCMANUS: Well, I think it’s ridiculous. And I don’t think the Canadian health-care system is completely perfect. But I just had a knee replacement done two months ago. And I also have another condition. I have to see specialists all the time, an autoimmune disease. And, I mean, it hasn’t cost me a cent. I’ve had incredible treatment. I have had my choice of doctors here in Canada. In fact, I have more than one specialist—for both conditions I’ve had more than one specialist help and treat me, and they’ve cooperated with each other. I’ve dealt with many hospitals. I have to still deal with many hospitals here. And I hear stories. I have family that live down in the states, and I hear horror stories about what they face down there. Even though they’re middle class and they have good incomes, they tell me that they don’t have anywhere near the choice I have for the medical care I’ve been getting.


MEYROUS: I had to have back surgery in the US, and I was working, so I had the private insurance. And I did get surgery. Surgery didn’t work, and after that it was all downhill. I couldn’t access treatment, I had to fight the insurance constantly, and I ended up losing the insurance because I could not go back to work. And I had to go back to France, my original country, to get treatment, because I was in a situation where there was nothing left for me to do there. Couldn’t get any medical care anymore.

CAHILL: Can I ask was your decision to move to Canada partly influenced by that experience?

MEYROUS: Yes, it was. Yeah. I definitely wanted to live in a country which was like my original country, where there is a socialized medicine system that’s accessible to everyone and that covers pretty much everything. I wanted safety.


KERR: My sister, she had an eye operation because her eyes were a little bit off, and now they’re a lot more straightened. And we were able to get it pretty good. Like, because of the health-care system, we were able to do just fine.

CAHILL: Okay. So it was corrective surgery, an optional surgery?

KERR: Yeah, optional.

CAHILL: But she didn’t have to wait for it.

KERR: No, not really. She didn’t have to wait that much.


MCMANUS: I remember Canada before we had Medicare, because we haven’t always had it. When I was seven years old, I broke my arm. My family was sued because they couldn’t afford the hospital bill. That’s why Canada now has Medicare, because Canadians felt they couldn’t live under those kinds of conditions anymore. We ended up paying way more for the bill over time after being sued. We had no money. And that does not happen in Canada nowadays. Everyone is protected. And that’s—I think it’s really worth it.

CAHILL: What happened to make that change?

MCMANUS: There was a real battle to bring in Medicare here. A lot of doctors opposed it. They felt they would do better without Medicare. There was a lot of opposition. And one of our—he was just voted the greatest Canadian in one of those contests, but Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan drove the whole Medicare movement. He was a politician that belonged to the new Democratic Party, and his work really pushed the whole Medicare debate to the forefront. There was incredible opposition at the time. I believe there was a doctors’ strike, even, over it coming in. But, you know, it’s turned out fabulously. And you don’t hear—there are some complaints from doctors, but in general a lot of doctors tell me that they think it’s fantastic.


CAHILL: What do you think if the Canadian system went more in the way of the American system, where you could opt into private health insurance? Do you think that you would support that or Canadians would support that?

KERR: I don’t think a lot of Canadians would support that. I think they like the way it is the way that it is right now.


NICKERSON: Of course not, because then it’s all about who can lobby the best, right? You’ve got your private insurers. They’ll go to the—up the street here, and they’ll say, well, you know, we can offer this, this, this, and this, and then they get their little meat hooks in, and then that’s the end of that. So, no, because, not that there’s transparency now, [but] you’ll definitely not have transparency when that happens.


CAHILL: We know that many Canadians have criticisms of the health-care system. This is by no means a scientific study. But on the day we recorded these interviews in Toronto, this is an accurate reflection of all of the responses we received. We’d like to open a dialogue now between Canadians and Americans. We want to invite you to contribute your comments and questions in text or video to us here at


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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