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History: 1968-1978 CONFLICT AND COMPROMISE: CREATING THE MEDICAL CARE AC, 1958–1968 FROM COST CONTROL TO HEALTH PROMOTION: IMPLEMENTING MEDICARE, 19681978 SAVING THE SYSTEM: THE CANADA HEALTH ACT, THE OTTAWA CHARTER AND ACHIEVING HEALTH FOR ALL, 19781988



Implementing Medicare, 19681972

On July 1, 1968, only British Columbia and Saskatchewan were able to introduce medicare to their citizens. In the other provinces, civil servants faced the daunting task of developing the infrastructure necessary to implement the four federal principles of comprehensive coverage, universality, portability and public administration. In Nova Scotia, for example, the profession-sponsored Maritime Medical Care Inc. plan transferred its staff to the government to enable medicare to come into effect on April 1, 1969. On that day, the following notice appeared in the Truro Daily News:

Obituary The Colchester-East Hants Medical Society regrets the untimely passing of the freedom of the practice of medicine, suddenly at midnight, March 31, 1969 at the hands of the politicians.

In response, the newspaper’s reporter Frank Fillmore pointed out that medicare would provide each doctor with “much greater freedom to practice medicine without worrying about whether he will be paid,” and argued that, if doctors, patients and the government cooperated, then, by the first anniversary of the implementation, medicare would be recognized as “the most important single step in social progress in the history of this province.” Similar comments appeared in the St. John’s Evening Telegram, as Newfoundland also joined the program at the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Photo: Shock Treatment
Shock Treatment

When he became Minister of National Health and Welfare, John Munro, Dr. Munro in John Collins’ cartoon, had the difficult task of introducing the national medicare plan at a time when health costs were rising faster than inflation.
© Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1986-9-2500, e008440957. Artist: John Collins.

In Alberta, Ernest Manning’s government fought the introduction of medicare to the extent that the Minister of Health, Dr. J. Donovan Ross, resigned his position, and the Premier chose to retire rather than be dragooned into further federal–provincial programs that infringed on provincial jurisdiction. (See Alberta History. Vol. 43, no.1 (Winter), 1995.) But federal funding ensured that Alberta joined the program on July 1, 1969. In Ontario, Premier John Robarts and his supporters in the business community, especially in the insurance industry, vigorously opposed the federal program, but here, too, rising public demand and the loss of revenue resulted in Ontario’s entry into the program on November 1, 1969. Between that date and April 1, 1972 all of the other provinces and the two territories joined the national plan. The Liberal promise of a national health insurance plan had finally become a reality.

Photo: Just go to bed, take two  aspirins, and send Ottawa $35,000,000 a year!
Just go to bed, take two aspirins, and send Ottawa $35,000,000 a year!

In Alberta, public demand and the loss of revenue combined to force Harry Strom’s Social Credit government to join the federal medicare plan on July 1, 1969. Edd Uluschak published this cartoon just before July.
Library and Archives Canada, C-138656. © Edd Uluschak.

Photo: I prefer my own medication Doc — but here’s something for your trouble ... $250 MILLION
I prefer my own medication Doc — but here’s something for your trouble ... $250 MILLION

Ontario, depicted by Duncan Macpherson as an invalid Premier John Robarts, clung to its own insurance plan (OMSIP) and resisted joining the federal medicare plan until popular opinion and lack of revenue forced it to do so on November 1, 1969.
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1987-37-293. © Estate of Duncan Macpherson.



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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010