Cambie case resumes – future of public health care at stake | National Union of Public and General Employees

Cambie case resumes – future of public health care at stake

“Next to government neglect, this attempt to use the Canadian Charter to kill public health care is the biggest threat to medicare in Canada. It’s time that governments wake up to the threat of private health care and take steps to protect our public health care system.” — Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer

Ottawa (09 April 2018) — Today, after a lengthy delay in the trial, the Supreme Court of British Columbia will again hear arguments in the case brought forward by Dr. Brian Day in his attempt to claim that restricting private, for-profit health care violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Advocates for our universal health care system, including the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and the Canadian Health Coalition, have been supporting those in B.C. who have been working on this case for years. NUPGE Components — Health Sciences Association of British Columbia and the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union — are among those who have been working hard on this case.

"This is a Charter case that could damage the future of public health care in Canada, and we stand with all who support public health care in the face of this clear attempt to allow money to come before need. We must not allow this to succeed," said Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE's Secretary-Treasurer.

Case resumes

After months of delays and years of political and legal wrangling, those who are working to undermine public health care by removing restrictions on for-profit private care are set to resume their court challenge. Dr. Day is scheduled to testify shortly and the plaintiffs are in the process of winding up their case. From there, the government will argue that it has a duty to continue to regulate private clinics so that they do not harm the public health care system.

It is important to remember that this whole challenge was launched after both of Day's clinics were found to have violated B.C.'s Medicare Protection Act by imposing extra or double billing of its fees.

Federal government acts on violations and B.C. introduces new restrictions on private clinics

In a significant development, the federal government has announced $15.9 million in fines for extra-billing in British Columbia. This has lead the B.C. government to bring into force a law providing for tougher penalties and greater power of investigation by the provincial Medical Services Commission into complainst of extra-billing. This will finally put pressure on B.C.’s private clinics to curtail their illegal practices regarding extra-billing of patients for medically necessary services, a practice that effectively allows patients to jump the queue by paying these fees.

Private health care no cure

While the merits of public versus private health care are debated in a B.C. courtroom, the evidence is already in and conclusive. Research conducted in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia shows that with an increased use of private for-profit care, wait times become longer and there are fewer resources available in the public system.

The research also shows that health outcomes are better in public facilities. When comparing dialysis centres in the United States, researchers found that the death rate was 8 per cent higher for patients in for-profit centres than for those in non-profit centres. The same study estimated there would be 2,200 more deaths per year if Canada's hospitals were converted to for-profit facilities.

NUPGE report on the Cambie court case

Universal Health Care on Trial is a NUPGE publication that explains the critical elements of this trial and provides some important background to the case.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE


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