Canadian Health Care: Toward a Less Perfect Union

By April 10, 2007Health Care

John Graham of the Pacific Research Institute is a dependable source of sound analysis about the Canadian health care system, its failures, and its other failures. A Canadian himself, Graham has often demonstrated how universal health care is expensive, creates terrible shortages and waiting lines in care, and on occasion, kills.

But Graham’s recent column, Universal Winners and Losers, is the first time we’ve seen the case made that the Canadian health care system is designed more to benefit the labor unions than patients. It’s a strong case.

In Canada, unions are the only significant obstacle to shattering the government health monopoly, which according to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling is a blatant violation of Canadians’ human rights. Nurse union bosses love the government health monopoly because it cements their power — even though there is a shortage of nurses in Canada, and nurses (like doctors) would get better pay and benefits through private health care. But the big winners are non-medical workers.

A 2002 study showed that workers such as painters and payroll clerks in Vancouver’s main hospital earned better than 30 percent more than their unionized counterparts in the city’s hotels — dollars that should have gone to improving doctors’ salaries to prevent them from fleeing to America. That’s one reason for the long, often deadly, waiting times for diagnosis and treatment in Canada. Similar woes would attend such a system in the United States, where every politician seems to favor some kind of big government approach.

All of which serves to explain much about this column by the AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney: It’s Time for Universal Health Care.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • markus says:

    According to the CIA Factbook, males in the U.S. have a life expectancy of 75.02 yrs. and in Canada 76.86, females – 80.82 and 83.74, respectively. Not quite the difference found on Wikipedia, perhaps they’re confusing male and female life expectancies. Either way, the difference is not enough to tolerate the nanny state telling me how I should live or how I spend my money. Life is about much more than years lived.

  • Joe Dragon says:


    I’m sure there are other contributing factors and I’m no expert but Wikipedia tells me that Canadian life expectancy is 80.22 and the U.S. is 77.85 despite the lousy health care you claim they have. Maybe watching hockey is good for you?