Saturday, March 13, 2010



If the United States ever muddles finally to a proper public health insurance scheme that doesn't leave tens of millions uninsured, the cost of medicare in Canada will be reduced because thousands of Americans will stop sneaking across our border to use fraudulent OHIP cards to get free treatment.
As Ontario doctors trying to blow the whistle on medicare fraud will tell you, Queen's Park hasn't been that vigilant even though we have to show an OHIP card on every visit even if the nurses know practically everything about you. How stupid! Is it they don't have the guts for a major fight with the States.
I needed a specialist's opinion on whether I had a problem, and the speciality was so rare, it took more than a year to get into his office. Then I waited four hours past my appointment time.
Much to my astonishment, the specialist was thrilled when I finally got into the inner sanctum.
He had a real live political columnist to show all the documents he had proving medicare fraud in the Detroit/Windsor area, documents he had sent to the province only to be ignored.
He couldn't stop talking when he finally got around to examining me because to him this fraud was rotting the vitals of medicare, and medicare was not to be trifled with.
The public in Ontario just got a taste of Americans cheating into our system when the clinics were held for swine flu shots. Americans went as far away from the border as Peterborough to get their shots faster than they could at home.
I think of these guerilla raids to get the benefits of OHIP and that frustrated but determined doctor when I listen to the garbage about medicare that passes for informed comment on American TV.
If our system is so bad, why do Americans cheat to use it?
If our system is so bad, why do they seduce our Canadian doctors with big bucks to move to the U.S.?
If our system is so bad, why did Al Gore, an opponent of our medicare, rely on Canadian medical research to save his young son whose throat had been ripped in a freak accident and was facing death?
It can be expected that the rabid commentators of Fox would pretend that Canada is some socialist mistake where critically ill people wait months for operations. The reality is that wait times are being reduced regularly and any critically-ill person does not have to wait a second for treatment.
It is sad that the self-styled greatest nation on earth is sagging under a record debt and a ruined political system where a twit like Governor Palin is considered as presidential material.
Since American are our cousins and many Canadians, like me, have children living and working in the U.S., Canadians should not be happy that the U.S. has ruined itself.
Our prosperity is intertwined with theirs. But the American ship of state is slipping beneath the waves and in a few decades, when China, followed by India, are the more important economies, all this vain American chest-thumping will seem even sillier than it does now.
I have watched more of the American health care debate than is reasonable, even most of the day when the two parties gathered in Blair House to seek common ground. At no time did I hear a reasonable explanation of how medicare has worked in Canada for decades. Are they ashamed that Canada, the loyal northern neighbour, and other countries have the kind of health care that millions of Americans crave?
Medicare is just one reason why Canadians know we live in a better country than the U.S. The minute Canadians leave their country, they start worrying about how they will survive if they become seriously ill outside of the vital medicare safety net.
To have our system trashed by American commentators is infuriating. The lack of knowledge that many Americans have about the rest of the world has become a critical problem because it means there is too much tolerance for their corrupt and inept political and financial system.
The Maple Leaf keeps looking better and better. And so does medicare!
And yet after Obama's legislative triumph, a group of Canadians were chatting with Americans in the condo pool and the woman from Maine kept saying how disgusted she was about all this socialism coming to her beloved country.
I told her that Americans would truly revolt if all the government benefits they already get were cancelled because they were socialism. She had no idea what I was talking about. But then all you have to do is watch Jay Leno do one of his Jay Walks for his TV show and it is obvious that many Americans have a shocking lack of knowledge of the world, including their own country.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010



For five weeks American TV has washed over me as I shivered in Florida. Its glory days are now just a distant memory, destroyed by interminable political coverage, blatant flag waving and parochial homerism that would make ordinary souls wince with embarrassment.
The depths were reached during the Winter Olympics. American gods competed with anonymous stumblebums from a few foreign countries, at least when you watched on NBC. (I never thought I would long for the CBC.) . I was amazed afterwards to discover that Canadians had won more gold medals than the American giants of snow or indeed anyone else.
For example, we heard all about the American four-man bobsled team and how the driver had rescued his career by having an eye operation. (It really wasn't that difficult an operation, but anything to goose the tale of another American hero.) So the NBC talking heads kept yammering about their gold medal. Some time later, we found out who the other medalists were, and that the Canadians had finished third.
The Americans boasted on American TV that they won the most medals. True, but then the country has 10 times the population of Canada, and one American won more medals than anyone else by just skating in a circle over various distances. Hardly versatile! One would hope the IOC would reconsider the number of those races. It's as if the Summer Olympics had a dozen races of the Australian crawl over various distances.
The blatant pulling by NBC for American competitors was unbelievable. Of course, in all major sports these days, the home-team announcers root for the local boys in a fawning style that would have got them fired only a couple of decades ago.
When I was an editor on the old Toronto Telegram, our publisher, Big John Bassett, owned most or all of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Argonauts. God help you if the Tely was scooped on any news about the Leafs or Argos. But you were also expected not to root root root for the boss' team. In fact, the people who got promoted were those who knew how to dance along the high wire while being hit by the winds from the boss and the rabid fans, and the public who demanded a little objectivity.
Sounds rather quaint now, doesn't it.
In the biggest game of them all, politics, the media are being ruined by the jackal pack approach of Fox. Fox is so virulent in its hatred of the Great Satan, Barack Obama, that it has become a caricature. Thank heavens for the humourist/commentators like Jon Stewart who feast on the Fox excesses. But the damage has been done because this approach has spawned a rude world of bloggers who obviously feel that if Fox can get away with its malicious contempt for reality, then so can they, and the more profane and vitriolic they can be, the better.
And the politicians wilt and the polls show that most people say they really don't want any change even though they don't like what they have.
Now we have a paralyzed American political process. And the Canadian in Florida finds that what passes for TV news every day is acres of talking heads and armies of bureaucrats all speculating on the latest burp inside the Washington Beltway. (You know. Like if the president just frowned, was it the most important frown of this administration, or is he just getting a headache?)
The 24-hour news cycle was supposed to be wonderful. But it's burning everyone out because there just isn't that much new news. So we're told constantly that Joe Doe died when we didn't know Joe Doe and don't care. And when we flee for relief to sports, it's better to watch with the sound off so all the homers masquerading as announcers and colour men can't ruin the game completely.
No wonder so many have fled to their computers.
I remember leaving China and Russia after three-week visits when no news penetrated there. We would hunker down in Helsinki or Hong Kong with beer at hand and watch CNN for hours to find out what had been happening in the western world. Now CNN would fill those hours with tedious discussions about the Administration. And when disasters like Haiti strike, American TV fall on the stricken like wolves on a fawn because, thankgawd, we actually have something new to report.
So the poor Canadian freezing in Florida upgrades his TV package for $35 or so a month so at least he can do something in the evening other than grouse about the temperature. And he gets 90 channels or so. On lucky nights, he finds one or two shows worth watching. No wonder so many of us end up watching Lost, even if it stopped making sense years ago.