And eventually ended up somewhere deep inside this site [I don't remember where exactly]. Whichever page it was, I found some information, but not enough, so I sent an e-mail to the address that you see in the sidebar on the left there, asking for more information. I figured I'd probably eventually get some kind of form letter reply.
I came home this evening to find this in my email inbox:
Thank you for your recent email to the National Union of Public and General Employees regarding the origins of Canada's single-payer health care system. We have a pamphlet posted on our website which provides some background detail on this subject. You can find the pamphlet at this link: http://www.nupge.ca/publications/Not%20without%20a%20fight%20FINAL.pdf. In essence, we were able to establish a single-payer system for a few simple reasons: (a) In the 50's and 60's we had a social democratic Premier in the province of Saskatchewan named Tommy Douglas. He believed in the benefits of a single-payer system (specifically the notion of equality) and introduced legislation that guaranteed a single-payer system in that province. It didn't happen without a fight (as our pamphlet explains). The opposition consisted mainly of for-profit insurance companies and doctors. But Douglas stood his ground. (b) the people of Saskatchewan were fed up with the for-profit medical system that existed and wanted a public system (c) Once Saskatchewan had a single-payer system and proved it could work better than a for-profit system, then the rest of he country wanted the same thing. In the late 60's and early 70's we had a series of minority federal governments and the opposition NDP demanded that the minority Liberal government implement a national single-payer system or they would no longer keep the government in office and force an election. The liberal minority government wanted to retain power so they introduced legislation called the Canada Health Act guaranteeing a single-payer system for all Canadians. All of that's to say you need: (a) a strong political leader willing to legislate single-payer and prove to other states that it does work; (b) strong grassroots support for a single-payer system; (c) the right political circumstances nationally in order to spread the system across the whole country. I hope this information has been helpful. Again, our pamphlet has more details about the situation in Saskatchewan in the 60's and 70's.
Coordinator of Communications and Research
National Union of Public and General Employees
Wow. That's service. Thank you, Mike.
I've browsed their site a bit this evening, especially the parts where they're trying to fight off the backers of for-profit health care. Nice karmic touch: here I am, merrily blogging about how wonderful universal health care would be and what a great example of it Canada is. Meanwhile, they're using the United States as a great example of how expensive, inefficient, and just plain awful private, for-profit health care is.
Here's their front page for the section about Canada's Medicare system.
I really do need to get back to my letter writing. This time, I think I'll start with the eight Democratic Presidential candidates, and send them all e-mails about what I want them to do about health care.