Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Some folks take to political debates like fire takes to gasoline. I’m not one of them. I generally don’t feel educated enough to have fierce partisan opinions, so I usually keep them to myself, especially in relation to someone else's government. However . . . I have to scratch my head about a debate that is raging south of the border, and I’m going to venture from the safety of my usually spineless, non-confrontational position to make a comment or two. I might even timidly poke fun at my American cousins, knowing that flag-draped zealots will want to roast me on the fires of patriotism if they ever read this blog. So, with reckless abandon, here goes.

I'm talking about the health care debate, of course.

In Northwestern Ontario we complain about the lack of doctors, long lines in emergency rooms, and wait times for simple surgery. To give an example, my family has been without a doctor for about 15 years. That’s the down side. The up side is that if I sprain my thumb on the keyboard, or damage my vision from too much blogging, I can go to any hospital or walk-in clinic and someone will fix me up (eventually). And it won't cost me a dime.

It seems that Americans regard our imperfect system with a similar kind of envious disdain that poor neighbourhood kids heap on rich ones . . . you-spoiled-rotten-brats-I’m-glad-I’m-not-you kind of attitude. But health care isn’t free here. Just make an unplanned visit to a Canadian emergency ward without a health card and you’ll be enlightened to this infallible truth. Even those of us that have the magic card pay. We just do it differently.

The truth is, we Canadians really don’t have a clue how good we’ve got it, like a friend of mine recently found out. His uncle in Alaska offered him work, so he packed up his family and made the six-day trip to the 49th State. A day or two later, his young son was bucked off a horse and broke his wrist. Uh-oh. My friend made a comment afterwards, which I can’t remember well enough to quote, but it was something along these lines: Sure, the American system is better. In Canada they take a little money off each pay period. Here they take your whole pay cheque right at the door, and then ask for more.

I’m not entirely sure what the Americans are afraid of. I did a little reading, and you can too by clicking here, here, and here, but none of it makes much sense to my uneducated, nonpartisan mind. I think it has something to do with loss of freedom, which I agree would be a bad thing. So is being in debt for a couple years because your kid fell off a horse. There must be a happy medium somewhere . . . the good of universal health care without the evil of universal slavery. But then again, I’m not sure. I’m a Canadian after all, blinded by years in the shadow of Big Brother.

On a different note, firefighters seem to have their share of debates as well. Click here for a commentary on whether or not fire trucks should stop at signal lights and stop signs. There are no traffic lights in Upsala, and only one stop sign that we deal with on a regular basis, so I’m probably even less qualified to comment on this than universal health care (if that's possible), but stopping and making sure no one is coming seems like a good idea, even if you’re in a hurry. Click here to see a video of someone that probably would do it differently if they could do it over again.

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