Introduction 1960-1962

The year is 1962. A minority Conservative government led by John Diefenbaker clings to power in Ottawa. The American President, John F. Kennedy, announces the quarantine of Cuba. The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. In Saskatchewan the implementation of North America’s first universal healthcare system divides the province.

The Medical Care Insurance Act, passed the previous fall, is set to become law on 1 July 1962. Despite negotiations to ward off confrontation, the gap between those for and against the new system hardens and the province moves closer to a crisis. On the day the Act becomes law, the College of Physicians and Surgeons puts into place its “emergency service” plan. Saskatchewan’s doctors are on strike. The deadlock lasts an acrimonious twenty-three days. In the end settlement is brokered through the efforts of Stephen Taylor, a practicing doctor, a socialist and a Labour Peer of Britain’s House of Lords.

The First Fight for Medicare
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The seeds of the “Medicare Crisis” of 1962 were sown on the 16 December 1959, when Premier T.C. Douglas announced over the radio his plan to introduce a prepaid medical-care program. He listed five principles that would guide the government: prepayments of costs; universal coverage; high-quality service; government sponsorship but administration by a public body responsible to the Legislature; and a plan acceptable to the providers and recipients of Medical Care. In addition he announced the creation of the Advisory Planning Committee on Medical Care or “Thompson Committee”, whose membership was to consist of medical professionals, the general public, the government and the University of Saskatchewan. Representatives of the Chambers of Commerce and Trade Unions were added at a later date.

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