Letters to the Editor: Out-of-country health coverage 'not a government handout,' snowbirds say

National Post readers share their thoughts on the latest issues, including Trump, Trudeau and the joys of pandemic planting

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‘Not a government handout’

Re: Snowbirds should fly away on their own dime, Chris Selley, Oct. 8

One of the fundamental issues with Chris Selley’s piece is his mischaracterization of emergency out-of-country health coverage as a subsidy. To be clear, this coverage is not a government handout. Snowbirds in Ontario have and continue to pay premiums to OHIP even when they are outside of Canada. Selley unconvincingly attempts to make a distinction between snowbirds and taxpayers. Snowbirds are taxpayers; taxpayers who have paid into the Canadian health-care system their entire lives. So, why should their OHIP coverage be cancelled simply because they choose to winter in warmer climes for part of the year? The Ontario government’s termination of out-of-country coverage was not only illegal, it was unjust. Premier Doug Ford wanted to continue to collect OHIP premiums from snowbirds while simultaneously removing the coverage that they themselves were paying for.

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Selley concludes his commentary by referring to the cuts to emergency out-of-country health coverage as “logical.” The fact is, by increasing the cost of private insurance, the Ontario government was making it more expensive for travellers to be adequately covered for their trips abroad. If travel medical insurance prices become prohibitive, it would prevent a significant number of seniors from being able to travel. In turn, this would place an even heavier burden on an already strained medical system in Ontario. If retired Ontarians choose not to travel, and they encounter a medical emergency, the Ontario government would shoulder 100 per cent of the costs of medical services. Whereas, if the same emergency were to occur outside of Canada, the Ontario government would only need to reimburse a small portion of the overall health costs — approximately six per cent — according to the provincial government’s own figures.

Michael MacKenzie, Executive Director, The Canadian Snowbird Association

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Courting originalism

Re: Originalism may be coming to Canada, Oct. 9

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ceased being Canada’s ultimate court of appeal in 1949, not in 1982, when the constitution was repatriated from Britain. Thus, the Privy Council never had to consider our Charter of rights, and any notions of originalism in its judgments pertained, in the main, to the division of powers between Ottawa and the provinces, not between the state and the individual. The Privy Council’s “originalist” tendency was to side with the provinces because it didn’t want Ottawa too big for its britches at the expense of a residual loyalty on the part of Canadians to the mother country. But its notion of originalism was at odds with that of the Fathers of Confederation, who had conceived of the provinces as junior governments in our foundational BNA Act.

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When Canada’s Supreme Court became our highest court, just four years after the end of the Second World War, Canada had come of age, and Ottawa fared better, generally speaking, with the Supreme Court of Canada, in power struggles with the provinces, than it had with the old Privy Council.

Howard Greenfield, Montreal (one of those “narrow-minded lawyers” mentioned in the article)

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Wei Wei, far left, the alleged mastermind of an illegal casino in Markham, Ont., is photographed at a 2016 meeting between delegates of the Chinese government-run China Cultural Industry Association and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo by China Cultural Industry Association

‘Champion of the environment?’

Re: The well-connected owner of a mansion casino

Just beautiful. My prime minister is associated with a family that allegedly served shark fin to its guests at an illegal gambling site. Our champion of the environment, who was photographed with the alleged mastermind of the casino before Sen. Mike Macdonald’s Bill S-238 made it illegal to import shark fin into Canada, must have been ignorant of the repugnant practice of slicing off the fins of live sharks and throwing them back in the ocean to suffocate (sharks need to move to breathe and without fins they can’t do so). I suppose his environmental activism ends when he can’t tax it, as in carbon.

Larry Baswick, Stratford, Ont.

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‘Didn’t do justice to Trump’

Re: Front-page photo, Oct. 6

This photo didn’t do justice to U.S. President Donald Trump. He was taking off his mask on the balcony of the White House, not as an act of defiance but as an act of encouragement. He stood tall and saluted the American people and people all over the world in our war on the coronavirus. When it comes to being a warrior, he is among the champions. For his effort as a leader to show strength in the face of harsh criticism and after contracting COVID-19 from public activities, I am beginning to like him, warts and all.

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Leone Wright, Surrey, B.C.

U.S. President Donald Trump removes his mask to speak to the media and supporters at the White House following his release from Walter Reed Medical Center for the treatment of COVID-19 on Oct. 5, 2020. Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

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Pharmacare needed

Re: Throne speech coverage

Assuming the throne speech’s reference to an acceleration of Canada’s development of a national pharmacare plan will not be another hollow promise of universal medication coverage, why has it taken so long for a Canadian federal government to implement one?

Liberal and Conservative governments have consistently allowed us to remain the world’s sole country that has universal health care but does not similarly cover prescribed medication, however necessary.

Not only does this make medication affordability much harder, but many low-income outpatients who cannot afford to fill their prescriptions end up back in the hospital system, thus costing far more than if their generic-brand medication was covered.

Wouldn’t logic say that we cannot afford to maintain such an absurdity that costs Canada billions extra annually?

Frank Sterle Jr., White Rock, B.C.

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‘Prime minister missed his calling’

Re: Our PM’s factory of little lies, John Robson, Oct. 7

I found John Robson’s article very interesting and I agree with his many points. I have never felt that Justin Trudeau speaks from the heart. His pronouncements seem too scripted, as if he is acting. However, I feel that he truly believes he is saying what Canadians want to hear. Since it is liberals who put him in power, his messages are meant to reflect liberal thinking and, just maybe, save others from insularism, or at least remind them how narrow-thinking they are.

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I think our prime minister missed his calling — he wanted to be an actor — and I feel sorry for him in that regard. I believe he sees his present occupation as a career fulfilment. Canada is his platform and the world his stage, hence his many flowery proclamations.

Bernice Senkiw, Toronto

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Pandemic planting

Re: Pandemic offered golden chance to get green, Laura Brehaut, Oct. 8

During this dreary period of COVID, gardening has given me purpose and brought moments of deep joy. It has kept me centred, provided opportunities to interact with friends and neighbours, and yielded delicious produce. I recently planted dozens of spring bulbs, and will dream about the glorious floral array that will greet me after a long, cold winter.

Susan Virtue, Etobicoke, Ont.

Sixty-seven per cent of new gardeners said the pandemic influenced their decision to grow their own food.
Sixty-seven per cent of new gardeners surveyed for a Dalhousie University study said the pandemic influenced their decision to grow their own food. Photo by Carsten Koall /Getty Images

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Benvenisti’s vision

Re: First to say two-state solution impossible (Meron Benvenisti obituary), Sept. 29

Meron Benvenisti had a vision of Israel as a binational state but never defined what that would be like. He believed that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria made a two-state solution impracticable. I have visited several settlements and concede that the complex geography of land divided by the Oslo Accord into Area A, B, and C makes functional boundaries for separate states difficult. More troublesome even is the demographic trend of Jewish and Palestinian populations. Formal annexation could mean that Jews in a larger Israel may end up being in a minority. Meron Benvenisti would argue that a larger territory is not worth that price.

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Reiner Jaakson, Oakville, Ont.

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Waiting list insights

Re: B.C. judge rejects private medicine, Sept. 11

I am an 83-year-old retired surgeon and the articles on private v.s. public health care systems reminded me that we should remember our history.

I did a year of post-graduate training in England where there was a public as well as a private system. Waiting times in the public system were often two or three years for elective procedures. Emergencies were promptly dealt with. Many of the unions had private coverage.

After starting practice in Toronto in 1970, I rapidly found myself to be quite busy. The hospitals I worked in were quite accommodating as they were being reimbursed by the government on a fee per service basis. My elective operating days started at 8 a.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m. Emergency cases that presented during the day would be worked in or added on. My typical waiting list was about three weeks.

Over the years the government changed the hospital funding to a global budget system. As time went on and hospital costs increased, my surgical time was cut back to 4:30, then to 3:30 and then an afternoon cut back. Needless to say waiting times increased. Eventually I was put on a salary to make up for my lost income. Since hospital incentives were diminished, operating room turnover times between cases increased. What had once been 10 minutes stretched out to 30 or more. Is it any wonder that waiting times increased?

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Over the years I did have occasion to visit colleagues in various parts of the province. My impression was that many smaller hospitals, particularly in smaller communities, functioned more efficiently than what I experienced in Toronto.

I am no longer a health-care provider but a health-care recipient.

Jacob Friedberg, Toronto

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Not so honourable

PM doesn’t need another storyteller, Rex Murphy, Oct. 6

Any parliamentarian, regardless of party affiliation, who will not now join in a vote to take down Canada’s federal government should be stripped of the right to use the term “The Honourable” and no longer be included in the collective “Honourable Members.” As so perfectly catalogued by Rex Murphy, this government has set an all-time high for storytelling. To now seek to hire a storyteller, especially with the challenges currently facing all Canadians, represents a complete disconnect with the responsibility of running a nation.

John P.A. Budreski, Vancouver, B.C.

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