My wife Mary and I recently took a short vacation to the Maritime provinces. We visited Yarmouth and Shelburne, among other small towns along the South Coast of Nova Scotia. We reveled in the natural beauty of the landscapes and the warmth of the people we met.
The only time it got even remotely strained was when a Canadian customs agent asked “the purpose of our trip” and I joked that “I was seeking asylum from Donald Trump.” Oops! As a veteran of the Vietnam War protests, I was remembering a time when Americans did flee to Canada to escape the draft, and were mostly welcomed.
Today, I am told, Americans are fleeing once again, but this time many are seeking access to the Canadian health care system which most closely resembles the single payer, “Medicare for All” approach advocated by Bernie Sanders and other Democrats.
But unlike the Vietnam War era, the welcome mat is not out. The custom agent (and wife Mary) were visibly upset with my half-assed humor. Before letting me through, the agent made me prove we had travel reservations for the return trip to the U.S. Canadians, understandably, do not want to bear the costs for Americans looking for access to affordable health care.
The Canadian health care system is not perfect. Some services are not covered, like dental, vision and mental health. Users must pay out-of-pocket or carry private insurance. Still, basic health services are free; total per capital costs are significantly lower than in the U.S. and health outcomes, such as life expectancy and infant mortality, are better.
All citizens, Franklin Roosevelt once proclaimed, have a “right” to a living wage, housing and health care.
Obamacare was a positive step in that direction. In their latest effort, the Graham-Cassidy bill, Republicans are trying to roll back Obamacare not because they believe in “states rights,” as their latest, repackaged rhetoric would have you believe. Rather, Republicans simply want to avoid paying higher taxes to subsidize low income folks – even if that means effectively denying basic health coverage to millions of people.
Well, democracy has a price. Franklin Roosevelt understood that. Canadians understand it and are living it every day. But somewhere along the line, many Americans lost sight of basic democratic values of justice and equality. People struggling to make ends meet should never have to choose between food on the table and a visit to the doctor. Never.
Republicans, motivated by big money and corporate interests, are once again assailing our basic rights – and we need to fight back.
O Canada! Our home and native land!
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!