What would our Greatest Canadian say?

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 11:26 a.m.
Here's my last two columns. Kind of diametrically opposed but hey, it's June.

June 16, 2005 What would our “Greatest Canadian” say?
Last week was my birthday and I got a gift from the Canadian Supreme Court that I never asked for: a two-tiered medical system. With all its weaknesses and long waits, (believe me, when you have a chronic illness, you learn a lot about long waits), I was mostly contented with the medical system that I had paid years of taxes into. That’s why I was surprised to hear that, by the close vote of four justices to three justices, the right for all to receive equal health care was thrown out the window within 12 months of Tommy Douglas being chosen as “the Greatest Canadian.” Mr. Douglas might have appreciated the irony but he would have been screaming and yelling all the same about the decision.
George Zeliotis and Dr. Jacques Chaoulli (a doctor who apparently was most eager to open a private clinic) took a single hip replacement operation, and with the cooperation of the Supreme Court, undid one of Canada’s finest achievements.
In his Toronto Star column of June 13th, Thomas Walkom writes: “To someone who must wait six painful months for surgery, the debate over two-tier health might appear a no-brainer. Why shouldn't he be allowed to spend his own money to get faster service? Indeed, if there were an infinite number of physicians and nurses, there would be no reason to prevent the practice. But there are not in any country. The problem with two-tier health comes in the aggregate, as the limited number of health professionals available gravitate to those who pay the most. That's why a solution for one person can become a problem for someone else.”
Make no mistake about it – this is going to turn out to be your problem and my problem unless you and I get very lucky and win the lottery. If you don’t have private health insurance and your family doctor refers you to a specialist, you won’t have your pick of specialists. You’ll have to pick one that hasn’t opted out of the public system. On the other hand, if you do have health insurance through your job, you can be darned sure that your premiums are about to climb sky high to give you that option of jumping the health care queue when you need anything from a blood test to a CAT scan. You can afford it, right?
I would like to hope that the premier of our province might be sympathetic toward the little guy and consider going to bats for equal access to medical care by at least considering the use of the notwithstanding clause. After all, he is a Liberal. Oh, yes, I just forgot, he’s actually an ex-Progressive Conservative. M. Charest just might be pleased at the prospect of private enterprise stimulating our economy because there’s money to be made from the sick and desperate, probably an awful lot of money. It is a sick world after all. Romanow’s 2002 royal commission into health care recommended maintaining a single tier public health system as did other provincially funded commissions around the country. But where’s the profit in that?
I have relatives in the United States who pay well over $1000 U.S. a month for their health insurance and yet there are still doctors who refuse their private insurance so they have to pay anyway. We have just opened the door to that kind of dilemma for people to resolve: whether it’s worth going into debt to stay alive. This is just what Tommy Douglas fought so hard to get rid of and seven people in the Supreme Court were given the power to throw us right back into the pits of a decision of life vs. debt. It just doesn’t seem right to me.Those of us who are worried about what will happen when we retire have something new to worry about and we are right to be concerned. Tommy Douglas is not here to remind us that in spite of its faults, we have been blessed with a medical safety net that we cannot afford to lose. All we have is Peter MacKay…digging potatoes.

June 23, 2005 How The Sound of Music Saved My Summer
This has been the best week of the year. It’s better than Christmas and Easter, all rolled into one. This is the last week of school. I always think of June as a month of Fridays. It’s the month where everybody anticipates free time just the way we anticipate a really great weekend on Friday. Although the free time often turns out to be less than we expect it to be, it doesn’t change the fact that the anticipation of living out fun-filled, golden, sunny days is nothing short of delicious.
Within two weeks, parents may hear a litany of “I’m bored, I’m bored” till the lucky kids who get to go to camp climb up the steps of the bus but right now, the world is sweetness and light. I was one of the supposedly lucky kids who got to go to “sleep-away” camp – that’s what we used to call it in my day – but I was definitely not grateful for the opportunity. According to my mother, I set a record in my camp for attempts to run away. My parents thought that they were being exceptionally good to me by getting me out of the extreme heat of the city to a camp where I might learn to swim, make lanyards and play baseball. While I enjoyed the swimming, I soon found out what a loser I was at sports and crafts. My potholder fell apart. I always got stuck in the out field, ‘way out in the out field. This earned me the disdain and contempt of my fellow campers and I was truly miserable…until they announced auditions for that summer’s camp musical, The Sound of Music.
I had listened to the cast album of The Sound of Music over and over again on my little record player from the time that I was a toddler. I knew the album backwards and forwards. My mother even borrowed the script from the library. Mom, my sister and I would split up the parts and perform the play in the car during long rides to the cottage while my poor father fought New York City traffic.
This is why a sense of relief washed over me when I heard about the camp play. I knew that I was and always would be the last person picked for the teams when it came to punch ball, dodge ball and make-an-idiot-of-yourself ball. Singing was my refuge and The Sound of Music was my home ball park. When I got up to sing “My Favorite Things” with the camp pianist, I felt like I had just hit a homerun. Being incredibly short for my age and able to carry a tune, I was a shoe-in for the role of Gretl, the youngest daughter in the von Trapp family.
Everything turned around from there. I got to rehearse with the older kids who thought that I was cute and didn’t care that I was a complete and utter clutz. It just made me even cuter in the dance sequences.
My mother and father came to see the show. Mom wore a bright pink shirt and sat in the front row just so I knew that she was there. That made me even more nervous but it didn’t matter. The play was a big success and I found my niche in camp.
Years later, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to audition for the 1994 Townshippers production of The Sound of Music and lo and behold, I was cast as Mother Superior. This was amusing on many levels. “Climb Every Mountain” was the one song that I’d always skip when listening to the album and I never quite saw myself as a spiritual leader of nuns. Yet, I had a great time and made new friends, all thanks to The Sound of Music.
Every summer, there are opportunities for great surprises and great disappointments. The beauty of June is the knowledge that something, possibly something wonderful, is right around the corner. It really is a month of Fridays.



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