New poll shows Canadians overwhelmingly support public health care

Group says advocates of private system are out of touch with most Canadians

In a last-ditch effort to convince Canadians that their public health care system should be privatized, Canadian Medical Association (CMA) President Robert Ouellet has promised to “pull out all the stops” during the association’s annual meeting next week. Trouble is, Ouellet’s mission to lead the change to privatization is exactly the opposite of what 86 percent of Canadians want.

A new poll conducted by the Toronto-based Nanos Research points to overwhelming support — 86.2 percent — for strengthening public health care rather than expanding for-profit services.

“With more than 8 in 10 Canadians supporting public solutions to make public health care stronger, there is compelling evidence that Canadians across all demographics would prefer a public over a for-profit health care system,” said Nik Nanos, president of Nanos Research.

Nanos Research was commissioned by the Canadian Health Coalition (CHC), a nonpartisan group that supports Canada’s public health system, to conduct a random telephone survey of 1,001 Canadians between April 25 and May 3. The margin of accuracy for a sample of 1,001 is ±3.1 percentage points.

Meanwhile, Canada’s government just released a report titled “Healthy Canadians — A Federal Report on Comparable Health Indicators 2008.” Its findings almost identically mirror the CHC polling results. In that report, a leading indicator points to the fact that “Most Canadians (85.2 percent) aged 15 years and older reported being ‘very satisfied’ or ‘somewhat satisfied’ with the way overall health care services were provided, unchanged from 2005.”

Michael McBane, national coordinator of the CHC, commented: “Throughout our campaign, Canadians have told us they want to keep our health care system public and to improve it with made-in-Canada solutions. They also have told us they flat-out reject Dr. Ouellet’s proposal to provide us with American-style, two-tier medicine. This poll certainly underlines that for us. Eighty-six percent is a significant portion of the population. It is striking that Dr. Ouellet could be so out of touch with the pulse of most Canadians.”

McBane warned that Ouellet’s latest effort to replace public health care with a private system uses language that is misleading. “If imported into Canada, Dr. Ouellet’s ideas about activity-based funding, ‘competition’ and more private delivery would not yield European-style care, but instead would lead us down the road to U.S.-style care.”

McBane continued: “At the CMA’s annual meeting later this month, you will hear Ouellet talk about ‘patient centered’ care, but he really means ‘profit-centered’ care. He will talk about transformative health care — which really means transforming a public system to one that is private. He will also unveil results of a CMA survey that he claims shows support for his new privatization scheme. In fact, the language used in the CMA survey was so vague and misleading that its results cannot possible be interpreted as support for more for-profit medicine.”

McBane said that Ouellet, who owns or manages five private, for-profit diagnostic clinics, has a history of misleading Canadians. Recently, the CMA president toured Canada touting the merits of what he called the European model of health care — cobbling together selective pieces of information from different European systems to lull Canadians into accepting the idea of more private, for-profit service.

“Dr. Ouellet needs to stop misleading Canadians and start telling them what he’s really up to — privatizing our health care system,” said McBane. “His ‘transformational change’ agenda is his last kick at the can before becoming the CMA’s past-president. Dr. Ouellet’s privatized, for-profit vision won’t solve a single problem of our public health care — and more importantly, Canadians don’t want it. And they’ve said this loud and clear.”

The Canadian Health Coalition is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting and expanding Canada’s public health system for the benefit of all Canadians. For more information, visit


  1. Brenda on August 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    If they love there health care so much, then why did their prime minister get his heart surgery in NEW YORK?????

    Obama’s Health care is NOTHING like what Canada has anyway, and THEY PAY FOR IT. They pay for their “free” health care with exorbitant and they are suffering because of it. Ask Canadians the real question. Do they like how much they spend in taxes and see what they say.

    • Healthcare-NOW! on August 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm

      Stephen Harper never had heart surgery, let alone heart surgery in New York.

      The average tax rate on Canadians is 33.3% and in the US it’s 30.4%. But they have full universal coverage, and don’t pay nearly as much out of pocket as we do for healthcare. If you add up your out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays, deductibles, and premiums, you’d see you pay much more than your Canadian counterpart who has comprehensive coverage for life, regardless of employment or marital status. And Canada has better outcomes in leading indicators like life expectancy and infant mortality.

    • emily lawrence on August 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm

      Brenda, Half my relatives are either Canadian or British because my mother was a British citizen (and U.S as Brits never lose their citizenship). ALL of my relatives are grateful for their healthcare system and feel sorry for my side of the family. My aunt who died this year at the age of 80, had suffered from Crohn’s Disease, acquired in her 50s, Cancer, one bout of breast cancer in her 50s and then lung cancer at her death, and Alzheimer’s, diagnosed in her 70s. She had monthly medical appointments for the Alzheimer’s alone during which she was assessed by multiple healthcare providers! She eventually had to be moved to assisted living and then full time care – all paid for. Her children were able to visit her frequently though some lived cross country – because their monies were not going to paying for the mother’s care. My aunt was cared for by her children and by the lovely medical teams, social workers, and psychologists in Canada. Stress can cause health problems – we know this and yet too many American people live with terrible levels of stress because they cannot afford health care. May I also remind you that even those with insurance in our country go bankrupt when confronted with catastrophic medical illnesses because corrupt insurance companies, whose lifestyle is based on profiting from the ill and infirm, drop them or will not provide the care they need. What will it take to get you to reconsider your position? Perhaps getting to know people who live in other countries in which their is a greater sense of community – we truly are all in this together –

    • Farah on August 21, 2009 at 1:14 pm

      I’m Canadian residing in the US because I got married to an American and I can tell you from a personal experience that the Canadian healthcare system is a billion time better than what is going on here in the USA. In the US it takes me two months to see my primary doctor and when I gave birth I had to share a tiny room with another person with a curtain in between. My husband has been waiting for 4 month to have surgery and two days ago he went to the ER and they donot him he was not a priority!! This is the private insurance we are paying for. In Canada, however, I can demand to see my family doctor on or the next day..I can follow my docotor to any location she moves to. When my sisters gave birth they were treated like a rock start with their own private rooms. I have so many other examples to share. People have to stop “fearing” what they donot know.

  2. Joe on August 17, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    I wish to find a canadian who would like to trade his national health card with my HMO card.

  3. JamesE on August 17, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Brenda, you sound somewhat naive about whats going on in this country regarding health care. People in Denmark give up 50% of their income, but they are the happiest in the world(according to a recent study), do you know why? because health care, education, etc, and all other important necessities in life are free to them from the time they are born until the time they die. Unlike in this country, they never have to worry about becoming homeless because they lack health insurance. I hope you never have to experience anything like that in your life time.

    Even in some third world countries you can see a doctor without ever having to worry about paying for it and yet in the richest country in the world, thousands are dying each year because they are denied their most basic human right!

    Best advice is for you to go and live in one of the countries mentioned here for a while, or just visit and you’ll see the difference!

  4. EdP on August 22, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I would really like to see a more open admission on the part of the supporters of single payer, to admit and address the faults that do exist with Canadian care. I recently read a very objective summary written by a former US doctor, now practicing in Canada and published in the Journal of American Medicine. Overall, he preferred the Canadian system for reasons having to do with the elimination of for profit insurance companies directing care, and the full covereage. However, he honestly and openly covered some of the current problems with the Canadian system, including a shortage of general care and family care physicians due to smaller numbers entering the field. He also noted rural citizens having to commute very great distances due to these shortages. He noted that the average wait time for MRI or CAT scan was 4 months, due to the limitted number of facilities with this equipment in the system. Orthopedics is experiencing a long wait – up to half a year to get something MRI’d and a surgery set up. In the US, “if” you have the for profit insurance, these things are much faster. Of course, if you don’t, you have problems. I am really torn regarding single payer, in that I generally do not support government running and setting rules about medical care. I really do not like the potential for government to decide that at certain ages, certain procedures will not be provided – i.e. older age. Thomas Jefferson will pop up out of his tomb I think if that happens. This debate sometiems reminds me of the presidential debates. You listen to one side and then the other, and you are left without the ability to really decipher between all the BS to really make a choice that you feel is based on full exposure of information. Why isn’t single payer bringing to light some of these well known faults or shortfalls in the Canadian system? To me, I may still support something, even if it has known faults, if I feel that the backers and promoters of the plan are being up front about both teh pluses and minuses, and have several well thought out options to address the Canadian plan shortfalls, and make ours the best on the planet! Currently, I am somewhat distrustful when I see a complete avoidance of the issues.

    • Butros Dahu on September 14, 2009 at 11:52 am

      I think your arguments have little to do with the single payer system. Instead they have more to do with the shortage of doctors. The US already has a shortage of doctors because medical boards restrict the number of doctors to keep costs high. Also your certain procedures will not be allowed is misinformation at best and deception at worst.

      Canadian and Europeans have better healthcare outcomes than we do so they must be doing something right.

  5. Mike Pasche on April 6, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    how can i forward this great article?

  6. Sherwin Kroll on January 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    For several years I have spent time in Florida in an area where many Canadian snowbirds reside. I have made a point of interviewing as many as possible, and that’s a substantial number. I have never come across anyone who had negative comments about their system and they are dumbfounded that we, the richest nation on earth, have such an awful health care system with many many folks having no health care at all. But when I mention this to my friends they nearly all pooh-pooh my comments because so many Americans have been brainwashed by Fox news and other media who are mouthpieces for the insurance, pharmaceutical and health care industries.

  7. Stacey Gass on June 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Sherwin Kroll – you are BANG on!!! As a Canadian living in the US as well with my American husband (the only reason we left was to escape the brutal cold, and we love Mexican food too – lol)… The Canadian system has its share of faults, as does every system on earth, but it IS A BILLION TIMES BETTER than the US SYSTEM. And ANY American who thinks/claims/says otherwise, is just drinking too much Fox News and Republican Koolaid. I am from the most conservative part of Canada (ALberta) and even my conservative family would NEVER trade their universal health care for the US system. These polls are accurate. Some Canadians may even support more private involvement, but NEVER if it threatens the universal public access. Canadians believe that Jesus Christ would NEVER just heal those who could afford his services – they beleive life, like health care, is a RIGHT for ALL CITIZENS regarldess of age or income. Again, Canada’s system is not perfect – but anyone who thinks that it’s not WAY better than the US system has never met or known any Canadians or never been to Canada to ask for themselves. I pray that if we remain in the US, Americans will finally wake up and realize what the rest of the civilized world has figured out – an educated and healthy society is good for EVERYONE!!!!