Universal health care, which was started in Canada by Tommy Douglas, is one of the hallmarks of Canadian society.
When it comes to comparing Canada to the Americans, universal health care is seen to be as much of a symbol of Canada as is the loonie or beaver.
The fact that Canada does not have more than 47 million people who are without access to medical care is taken to be a mark of Canada’s compassionate view of having a caring system of capitalism as opposed to the U.S.’s individualistic take on what it means to care for its citizens.
Yet when we look at what our health-care system is asked to pay for today, we have to have to ask ourselves what constitutes fundamental equitable access to health care and how is that decision made?
When state-funded health care was first conceived, the underlying principle was that people should have access to basic health care, such as doctor’s visits and hospital stays.
Back in the early days of universal health care, people were concerned about whether or not they could afford to see a doctor if they caught the flu, had to have an operation to treat a heart attack or suffered some other catastrophic medical event.
In the early days of medical care, there was no such thing as organ transplants or sex-change operations. Alcoholism was not seen as a disease, but as the result of wanton self-indulgence.
In an increasingly wealthy and technologically advanced society, the historical problem that the concept of universal medical treatment has run into is how does the citizen-funded medical system keep up financially with the ever growing technological prowess of the medical profession.
In other words, how do the citizens of Canada decide which of any number of an increasing array of medical treatments it should pay for?
For many years, that decision has been left to our elected provincial representatives. However in recent years, this decision has been increasingly given over to the non-elected judicial system and most recently the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Both of whom have been quite willing to hand out “rights” as if they were nothing more than children’s treats.
However, neither of these two entities — the justice system and the human rights commission — have any taxing or budgeting power. Nor can they write legislation.
Both of these powers reside in the hands of our elected representatives. Yet it is our elected representatives who our constantly being second guessed by these two unelected and non-accountable bodies.
The fact of life is that at any given time there is only a fixed amount of money that is available to be spent by us individually or by our government.
Since our financial resources our not limitless, it is necessary to not only establish spending priorities.
In the case where government is concerned, one of the governing spending principles must be to spend the least amount of money that is possible, but which delivers benefits the widest number of people.
When government expenditures on public health care are looked at in that light, it becomes easy to see how spending health-care dollars on sex changes just does not measure up.
The spending of health-care dollars to fund these operations is the inverse of this principle for deciding government expenditures.
Those who would undergo a sex-change operation represent a small number of people who on a per capita basis would receive an inordinately high amount of health-care dollars as a benefit in order to achieve medical treatment that is of doubtful value.
The fact that the spectre of suicide is raised as an argument for supporting the government’s continued funding of sex-change operations is reprehensible.
Our legislators cannot make decisions with regards to health-care expenditures under the threat that someone or members of some special interest group may do themselves harm.
Just because someone is willing to take himself/herself hostage does not mean that we should negotiate with them. However, the use of this threat does also point out another reason why the courts and human rights commission are ill-equipped to deal with this decision.
The problem with using the courts or human rights commission to deal with this issue is that both of these institutions are more prone to being hijacked by “special” interest groups.
I know that our legislatures are subject to being influence by lobbyists, but when the lobbyists are active in the legislature, their actions, as we saw with Ad Scam, are a matter of public record.
Arguments that are made in courts and human rights tribunals are “private” and not subject to public scrutiny.
Also, unlike the case with our MLAs and MPs, there is no recourse that the public can exercise when it comes to the decisions that the members of these two bodies make. How do the individual members of these institutions develop a sense of responsibility for their decisions when there is no mechanism whereby we, the citizens, can make them accountable?
No matter which side of the argument you may be on, I therefore believe that as citizens of Alberta it is incumbent on us that we stand by our premier and his appointed health minister when it comes to this issue and wait for the next provincial election to express our opinion at the ballot box of democracy.
We should not allow the courts or the human rights commission to undermine our franchise.