gazette logo
   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

mun logo
February 19, 2004


Author aims at Martin

By Sharon Gray
According to Murray Dobbin, best-selling journalist, author and broadcaster, Prime Minister Paul Martin has taken the federal government out of the business of nation building. “He’s gotten rid of established program funding and cut back 40 to 60 per cent in departments involved in nation building.”

The future for medicare, “the most powerful symbol of our nation” looks bleak under Mr. Martin’s leadership, he said. “Public-private partnerships are just a way of handing everything we own over to corporations. That’s the future for medicare under Paul Martin,” said Mr. Dobbin, speaking at a Community Health seminar Feb. 10.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail by John Ibbitson on a new report by the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen’s University, titled Money, Politics and Health Care: Reconstructing the Federal-Provincial Partnership, confirms that the federal share of health-care funding declined gradually in the 1980s, and then precipitously in the 1990s. About 1974, the report's authors conclude, the federal share of medicare was about 43 per cent; by 1993, it had dropped to 26 per cent; after the cuts imposed in 1995 by Paul Martin, it dropped to something like 16 per cent. Next year, after the latest cash infusions, it will climb back up to 19 per cent.

“Paul Martin has the image of a man who is conflicted between two sets of values – one, as represented by his father who fought to get healthcare on the federal agenda, and the other as a CEO,” said Mr. Dobbin. “In my view there is no conflict. He approaches his job as prime minister as a CEO and he will do whatever Bay Street tells him to do with medicare.”

Mr. Martin did, indeed, reduce the federal deficit – within two years there was a surplus which, at first, he tried to hide. “Between 1997 and 2000 he underestimated the federal surplus by $55 billion,” said Mr. Dobbin. “It was clearly a deliberate plan. But by 2000 even the mainstream media were noting the surplus – it’s estimated that by 2005 there would have been a $193 billion surplus, enough to put all the money back into education, medicare and welfare as well as bring in funded daycare and homecare. Instead, Paul Martin brought in a $100 billion tax cut, with 77 per cent of it going to the wealthiest Canadians and large corporations. Our federal corporate tax rate is now 21 per cent compared to 34 per cent in the U.S.”

Mr. Dobbin said the public goes along with cuts to medicare because of a massive and fatal failure of imagination. “People’s expectations have been dramatically lowered. We have to reverse that and get out of a defensive mode. We need to remind people what we could have, what medicare could be. Good sense will tell us what to do.”


     Top Stories

Dr. David Mowat
Dr. Marc Renaud
Carol King and John Whalen
Dr. Randall Maggs
Musicians from the School of Music
Next issue: March 4, 2004

Questions? Comments?
E-mail our editor.