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Opinions about public healthcare from working-class leaders in Saskatchewan



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The Canadian public healthcare system is consistently rated as highly important by the public. It is a treasured institution, and concern for its future is understandable. However, despite the valuing of the five principles of the Canada Health Act – public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility – defense of the public nature of the system seems to be waning; the appetite for a certain amount of privatization appears to be increasing. Saskatchewan, the birthplace of socialist governance in Canada as well as Medicare itself, would seem an unlikely place for this occurrence. However, despite a recent incursion of privatized elements into the healthcare system, there appears to be little in the way of fervent opposition. This lack of resistance is especially interesting among working-class people in Saskatchewan, a demographic group who stand to lose much if Canada’s healthcare system would ever transmute into something akin to the healthcare system in the United States. This study was designed to better understand how working-class people in Saskatchewan perceive the healthcare system in Canada, as well as the political, social, and economic factors influencing their beliefs. Over the course of one and a half months in the fall of 2012 I conducted 10 in-depth interviews with labour union representatives and executives. In addition to investigating the beliefs and opinions of my participants, I asked them to approximate how their membership would view similar issues and questions. The results illustrate a public that is being influenced heavily by neoliberal rhetoric, including the ethos of individualism, and mostly one-sided media messages about a so-called ‘crisis’ in Canada’s public healthcare system. It appears as though the public has grown somewhat apathetic about social programs like Medicare. This combination is a perfect storm of conditions that has the potential to fundamentally change the nature of Medicare in Canada. Everyone in Canada - as funders and users of the system - has a stake in the future of Medicare. Policy changes to Medicare need to be informed by a better understanding of the influences on people’s opinions of the system.



Healthcare, health, public, private, Saskatchewan, government, working class, working-class, neoliberal, Canadian, privatization



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Curriculum Studies


Curriculum Studies


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