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Frustration with NAFTA will only skyrocket if private insurance takes hold

OTTAWA, ON. – The Alberta government’s reckless private insurance schemes are driven by ideology and not evidence, the head of Canada’s largest union said today.

As part of his “third way” privatization plan announced in July, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein changed regulations to allow hospital user fees for “enhanced medical goods and services”. Now Alberta is soliciting bids from insurance companies to cover all medical services, a dangerous move.

It’s time to bust the myth that private insurance will take the pressure off the public system,” said Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “The international evidence – some of which was presented at the Alberta government’s own symposium on the subject – shows that private insurance is more costly, difficult to regulate and limits access by accommodating healthier and wealthier patients.”

This leaves a run-down public system for the rest of us who can’t afford private care, and this is not what Canadians want,” said Moist. “And if you open the door to private insurance, the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals will keep it propped open.”

Moist took issue with the way in which June’s Supreme Court decision on Quebec’s ban on private insurance has been portrayed by those favouring for-profit health care.

The decision was not a blanket overturning of the ban, and the judges were clear that the ban only violates Quebec’s Charter when there are lengthy waiting times for treatment in the public system,” said Moist. “In fact, the majority tacitly acknowledged accessing private insurance won’t shorten wait times, saying it ‘does not necessarily provide a complete response to the complex problem of waiting lists’”.

CUPE released today Inside Chaoulli, its own in-depth analysis of the court decision that examines what the court did (and did not) say and assesses the international evidence that shows private care does not reduce waiting times. It also considers the trade implications of putting private health insurance providers in competition with Canada’s public health care system, giving governments further reason to be concerned about the unpopular North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The trade implications of letting private health insurance companies cover medically necessary services are severe,” said Moist. “If we let them set up shop, NAFTA and World Trade Organization provisions will make it that much harder to keep our public system intact. The more private interference in our public services, the greater the risk.”


Paul Moist
national president
(613) 558-2873 (cell)

Claude Généreux
national secretary-treasurer
(613) 794-8395 (cell)

David Robbins
CUPE communications
(613) 878-1431 (cell)