On Thursday, September 29, 2005 a grinning Belinda Stronach stood beside George Smitherman, Canada’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to announce that the Southlake Regional Health Centre had been granted approval for a new world-class cancer care facility due to open in 2008.
According to Stronach’s own web site:
“Belinda is an Honourary Member of the Southlake Regional Health Centre Board of Directors and the past Honourary Chair of the Southlake “Nurture the Future” Fundraising Campaign that raised $16.5 million for our local hospital. She has been a strong advocate for bringing a cancer care facility to service the needs of our local community. The Regional Cancer Centre will enable residents to access life-saving diagnostics and therapeutics closer to home, and it will assist in decreasing wait times for certain urgently required services. The Cancer Centre will also help improve the quality of life for many individuals and their families in our community.”
A wonderful addition to not just the area, but to the advancement of cancer treatment in Canada. Wonderful, in theory. Good enough, in theory.
Stronach has been one of Canada’s most controversial politicians of recent memory. She was originally elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the Conservative Party of Canada and ran for the leadership of the party in 2004. However the Ontario businesswoman switched to the Liberal Party in 2005. (And I use the term business woman loosely since working for daddy is hardly a job one can get fired from for poor performance. In fact, she announced she was leaving politics this year and heading back to work at her father’s corporation, Magna.) Social scuttlebutt has linked Stronach to Bill Clinton, Peter McKay (current Conservative MP) and as a homewrecker in ex-hockey star Tie Domi’s marriage.
But all seemed to be forgiven in the public’s eye when Stronach was diagnosed with breast cancer which required a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. The very treatable type of cancer (DCIS, ductal carcinoma in situ) was thankfully brought under control, but not before Stronach flew to California on the advice of her doctor to receive surgery in June 2007.
Canada’s Health Act is the backbone of the health care system that – in theory – guarantees “free” health care. But there’s no guarantee for when you will receive it, and it’s not actually free. Besides the health premiums which are legislated by the provinces, there’s an untraceable amount of tax dollars coming out of the pockets of Canadians to fund the endless pit of the health care system.
The Canada Health Act also states that no one should pay for a health service in Canada if others get it for free. So no matter how bad you need surgery, no matter how much money you have, you still need to wait in line like the rest of us. So many who have the money to pay, do. In the US. This has lead to a rise in medical tourism that helps link up rich Canadians with American doctors.
But what about politicians who spend their lives giving lip service to the Canada Health Act, only to offer up their wallets when personally affected?
Well, consider Stronach’s 2004 interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Carole MacNeil:
Carole Macneil: … let me just ask you the question: how do you feel about a system whereby those who can pay, who can afford to pay, get access to the healthcare system faster than those who can’t?
Belinda Stronach: Well, I think first of all, again, I said we should look at innovative solutions that respect the Canada Health Act and that respect universal access to good quality healthcare. That is the standard, that is the principle, and I think we should allow for the provinces to have the debate so that they can better meet the needs of their citizens. But respecting the principles of the Canada Health Act.
Carole Macneil: Ok, and would having a system whereby if you could afford it you get speedier access, would that respect the principles?
Belinda Stronach: No, that’s a two-tiered health system, which I said I’m not in favour of a two-tiered health system. But I am in favour of the debate that will look at innovative solutions, which will respect the principles of the Canada Health Act, that will deliver a better health care system to Canadians. Canadians know the healthcare system is not working when 40 cents of every dollar spent goes toward healthcare and those costs are increasing anywhere, from 8 – 10% a year, faster than revenues. I don’t have to tell you the fact, to tell you that the healthcare system in its current form will not be there for future generations. So we owe it to Canadians to have that debate, to say how can we now look at providing a better quality healthcare service?
Let me get this straight. Miss Stronach doesn’t support a two-tiered health care system here, as long as she has the US to go to when she needs to access good health care. She’s supportive of the Canada Health Act and thinks we should all support its principles… in theory.
Here’s an idea. How about you let me put my money down when I need to, right here in Canada. How about when my son is having asthma attacks and needs to go to an allergist you let me pay for one in my own city rather than get a referral to a specialist with a 12 month waiting list.
But that would be un-Canadian. It would go against “the principles of the Canada Health Act.” Which is something that is reserved for rich politicians.
Heather Cook lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband, a former U.S. Army officer, and two children. She can be found online at heather-cook.com.