Obituary – Quebec’s universal public healthcare system

1970 – 2015


It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Quebec’s universal public healthcare system today following a lengthy and painful demise.

Over the course of its 45-year existence, Quebec’s universal public healthcare system saved countless lives, prevented disasters, delivered entire families from destitution, all while helping many professionals make a fortune.

Quebec’s universal public healthcare system was born in 1970 to multiple parents that spanned the spectrum of the leftists in power in post-war Saskatchewan, to Pearson’s federal Liberals, as well as Messrs Castonguay, Nepveu and Bourassa.

It should be noted that is wasn’t an easy birth. The extended family was torn apart by ideological and political conflicts. Incidentally, despite the ban on abortions at the time, the medical profession mobilized vigorously against such a system ever seeing the light of day (this site presents a helpful synthesis of that whole story).

One of the system’s spiritual fathers, federal Minister of Health Allan J. MacEachen, had this to say in 1966:

“The government of Canada believes that all Canadians should be able to obtain health services of high quality according to their need for such services and irrespective of their ability to pay. We believe that the only practical and effective way of doing this is through a universal, prepaid, government-sponsored scheme.”

During the first twenty years of its life, Quebec’s universal public healthcare system experienced some challenges, but it always surpassed them, emerging all the greater (and larger). The situation then got somewhat more complicated. Of note are the money issues that left it passably weakened and demoralized, as well as the fad diets from the late 90s that undermined its health.

However, it was an ideological cancer of the neoliberal variety that finally ravaged Quebec’s universal public healthcare system. The first benign symptoms (delisting of services, incoherence of its investments) got worse over time, degenerating into a more acute stage of the illness. Private metastases spread throughout the entire care system and systematically eroded the most basic principles of free and universal access, irregardless of means.

In October of 2015, the passing of Bill 20, which legalizes fees for necessary medical care, along with the news that the Montreal Children’s Hospital practices the large-scale referral of its patients to private clinics (here) prevent us time and again from characterizing the system as universal and public. As of October 29 2015, Quebec no longer as a universal public and free healthcare system.

Quebec’s universal public healthcare system is survived by its first cousins in the rest of Canada, its international parents, namely the British NHS, and more broadly, each and every universal and public healthcare system in all civilized countries. It also leaves behind other government programs that are based on an ideal of redistribution and of social justice.


Translated from the original French by Language and Dissent, a collectively-run blog supporting the anti-austerity struggle in Quebec. These are amateur translations written by volunteers.