Saturday, August 27, 2011

The 1960 Saskatchewan Election

Medicare: A People's Issue

Saskatchewan voters went to the polls in June of 1960. The main issue of the campaign was the pre-paid, universal, compulsory medical-care plan promised by the government. Premier Douglas asked the electorate for a strong mandate. Of the three opposition parties only the Socreds completely opposed Medicare. Criticism from the Liberals and Conservatives focused on the details and the timing of implementation.

The most vocal opposition came from the province’s doctors, represented by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Douglas used the physicians' lack of political experience and division in their ranks to portray himself and the province as underdogs. The doctors’ campaign was badly handled.

Throughout 1961, the proposed medical care plan remained the top political issue in Saskatchewan. To fulfill its promise of consultation, the government created the Advisory Planning Commission on Medical Care, mandated “to study and report upon a medical care insurance program for the province and on the public need in other fields of health.”

The former President of the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. W.P. Thompson, was invited to act as chair. It was an onerous job, made especially difficult by the attitude of the medical members of the committee. 49 briefs of more than 1,200 pages were submitted by individuals and groups from across the province. In September of 1961 the Committee produced an Interim Report which recommended:
  • Universal coverage for all residents.
  • Comprehensive benefits based on residence, registration and payment of personal premiums with additional finances to be drawn from general government revenues.
  • Utilization fees.
  • Fee-for-service payment.
  • The creation of a commission responsible to the government to administer the plan.

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