1 July 1983, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Douglas is the most famous liberal reformer in Canadian political history. He retired from parliament in 1979. He returned to the 1983 NDP convention to give this inspiring speech .
The second is, again, it's been mentioned, to save Medicare from subtle strangulation. When you go back to your constituency and you run into somebody who says, "It's a good idea for you soft package humanitarians, but we can't afford it," let me give you a simple statistic which you can put down on a piece of paper and carry in your head.
That is that our friends in United States are spending 9% of their gross national product. They got a higher per capita gross national product than we do. They spend 9% of their gross national product on healthcare, and 34 million of their people have no healthcare coverage.
In Canada, we spend 7% of our gross national product, and every man, woman, and child in Canada is covered under Medicare.
I want to warn you as one who started out even before I was in politics, dedicated to the idea of comprehensive health insurance. Fought for it through all my political life.
I want to say to you that Medicare and hospital insurance are already marked for destruction, unless you stop the per capita taxes and the extra billing, which most of the governments of Canada are now permitting.
Someone said, "But what I'm going to do, what I'm going to do." A per capita tax which is levied without any basis of ability to pay. A woman in Ontario with two children, having to pay over $50 a month, $600 a year, can she afford that? That's levied on a per capita basis, not on the basis of ability to pay.
I know you need money to run Medicare. I can tell you something about the cost of that. But if we need money for Medicare or for any other humane service, let it be financed on the basis of ability to pay, and not on so much per head.
We must fight as we have never fought before.
To say per capita tax for healthcare, out the window. To say there must be no extra billing or extra charges.
You say, "Why? What harm does it do?" I'll tell you what harm it does.
It means that increasingly the people who can afford to pay the per capita tax is going up, just gone up in Alberta. People who are going to afford to pay per capita tax, and the people who are going to afford to pay extra billing will pay it.
They will get the best care, they will get the most experienced surgeons and physicians, they will get into the best hospitals.
The people who can't pay, they'll take what's left. If you want a two-tiered health program, then just continue the way we're going.
I remind you that in this movement, we pledged ourselves 50 years ago, that we would provide healthcare for every man, woman, and child, irrespective of their colour, their race, or their financial status.
By God, we're going to do it.