This July 1 marks 60 years since Saskatchewan implemented universal Medicare for all, and 56 years since coverage was expanded to all of Canada.
On July 1, 1962, Saskatchewan became the first province in Canada to implement public Medicare for all, building the framework to ultimately expand across the country.
But this victory didn’t happen simply because politicians like Tommy Douglas or Woodrow Lloyd passed legislation; Medicare was a decades-long fight won by working people, the labour movement, community health care co-operatives, farmer organizations, and so on. It was a movement of regular people from all corners of the country, built from the ground up.
This fight has continued ever since, with grassroots movements fighting to protect our public health care from the profiteers who have sought to make money off of our health needs, and working to strengthen and expand our public health care system for all.
The persistent prioritization of profits over people is why 60 years later we have yet to achieve Tommy Douglas’ dream of including all medical services under the Medicare umbrella, such as universal pharmacare, mental health care, or dental care.
Medicare has always been treasured by Canadians. People across Canada have repeatedly demonstrated that they value a health care system that is there for them when they need it, and where everyone is covered regardless of their ability to pay.
But as we prepare to celebrate 60 years, we’re also faced with the reality that our universal public health care system is under threat like never before. The pandemic has left the system struggling, while ideological governments are exploiting this crisis to justify systematically dismantling our public health care before our eyes. It’s the classic ideological playbook: break it, then privatize it.
Albertans and all Canadians need to be prepared to fight to protect and strengthen our public Medicare, or we risk losing it. 2022 is the year we all need to stand up and say loudly: People before profit!
Friends of Medicare encourages Albertans to join that fight, and to support our work to protect and strengthen our treasured public health care system: https://www.friendsofmedicare.org/donate
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