NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Polls Show Canadians Want Health Care System Changes

March 16, 1999

Universal health care has often been called a defining characteristic of Canadian culture. However, recent polls show that public opinion has changed dramatically, say analysts.

In both 1988 and October 1998, Canadians were asked for their "overall view of the health care system in this country," by researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health and The Commonwealth Fund:

  • In 1988, 56 percent selected the most favorable option -- "On the whole the system works pretty well and only minor changes are necessary to make it work better" -- whereas in 1998 only 20 percent agreed.
  • A decade ago 37 percent averred that "There are some good things in our health care system, but fundamental changes are needed to make it work better" -- while in 1998, 56 percent agreed.
  • And in 1988, only 5 percent agreed that "Our health care system has so much wrong with it that we need to completely rebuild it" -- while in 1998, 23 percent agreed.

When another poll, conducted by Angus Reid Group in December 1998, asked whether "Canada's health care system" had "improved, stayed the same, or worsened" over the preceding 5 years, 73 percent perceived it to have worsened.

Also released in December 1998, a poll by the firm Pollara found that 20 percent "strongly agree" and 43 percent "somewhat agree" that individuals should be allowed to "upgrade to the best possible health care treatments and techniques available using their own private resources" -- although this illegal under the Canada Health Act.

Source: Martin Zelder, "How Popular is Medicare?" Fraser Forum, February 1999, Fraser Institute, 4th Floor, 1770 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC V6J 3G7, Canada, (604) 688-0221.


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