I Love Prince Edward Island

Winter 2005 CSANews Issue 57  |  Posted date : May 25, 2007.Back to list

Christmas is imminent; a federal election is looming; CSA's Special Government Report is going to press; and P.E.I. has quietly made a dramatic change in their government regulations, for the benefit of all snowbirds and travellers, without fanfare.

As the smallest province in Canada, P.E.I. has always had a special place in my heart. As a child and teenager, I spent many magical weeks of island life enjoying the sun and surf and the wonderful people of this tiny province. My father and I would play football and baseball in the fields by the ocean, until we were too tired to stand. We ate like gods, gorging ourselves on lobster, mussels and the world-famous Malpaque Bay oysters. And, to end each perfect day, the whole family would gather on the veranda of a remote (this means affordable) cottage to watch the most incredible sunsets.

It is in the nature of the "Islanders" to help others; to perform good deeds and to seek no credit or reward. I am not certain that the P.E.I. government even realized how far-reaching their simple change could be. It just made sense to them. The Canada Health Act (CHA) has, since its inception, called for the portability of our health-care benefits. This is one of the five "pillars" of the Act itself. This means that when you are travelling outside your province of residence, you will maintain your health-care coverage at the same level of benefits which you have when you are in the province.

In 1972, the British Columbia government decided that they could save a few dollars by cutting the amounts which they paid for hospitalization outside of B.C. to $75 per day. There were other cuts as well, but this is the one that could, and did, affect people the most. This was the first domino, and the scramble to cut benefits over the next few years was on. Every province subsequently cut their travel health benefits to the point at which they now pay only about five to six per cent of a U.S. hospital bill, for instance. This is illegal! The Canada Health Act is very clear on this point, although our federal government has attempted to justify the cuts with what I call "weasel words."

In a court case brought by the Canadian Snowbird Association to force compliance with the CHA, the courts ruled, at the urging of the federal government, that the illegal cuts must be resolved through a "consultation process" with the provinces. That was many, many years ago. Where is the consultation process?

The CSA has attempted to meet with our prime minister, or the minister of health, to voice our obvious concerns and they have continuously been denied such a meeting. Why? What are the results? I can tell you the results – NOTHING. In fact, the feds started saying that the portability section only applies while you are IN Canada, not outside of Canada, and the Romanow Report on Health Care promoted this ludicrous position.

Following the CSA's extensive lobbying of the many provincial governments, the first sign of compliance and integrity came from the provincial government of Ontario. They increased their hospital payments, when travelling, to $400 per day from the previous cutback level of $100 per day. Not enough, and not what the CHA required, but a very positive step in the right direction. But, back to P.E.I.

I would like to quote a passage from the CSA's upcoming Special Report:

Access to Emergency Health Coverage When Travelling Grade A+

Prince Edward Island is the only province to comply with subparagraph 11(1)(b)(ii) of the Canada Health Act, by reimbursing residents for out-of-country emergency services at provincial rates. P.E.I. reimburses up to $919 per day (the current ward rate in the province) for emergency in-patient services and $158 per day for emergency out-patient hospital services. Out-of-country emergency physician visits are covered at P.E.I. rates.

P.E.I. recognized the inequity in our health-care system for those of us who travelled on business, took their kids on vacation and spent their winters in warmer climates. And they fixed it! This is, hopefully, the first domino in righting the wrongs occurring today in almost every province. (I must also give credit to the other areas of Canada which are also in full compliance with the Canada Health Act – Nunavut, Northwest Territories and the Yukon.)

My sincere thanks, and the thanks of every Canadian who travels, to P.E.I. Premier Pat Binns and his ministers and staff for their courage and foresight in bringing the province into compliance with the Canada Health Act. Their leadership will serve as an example to other provinces, and to the federal government, of what must be done.

To put everything into perspective, the total cost of complying with the portability section of the Canada Health Act, in every jurisdiction of Canada, could be covered by the infamous sponsorship scandal money, and there would still be one or two hundred million dollars left over.

As I said earlier, an election is looming. It is not important for which party you vote, but it is important to understand what the candidates in your riding believe about this, and every other issue of importance to Canada. Before casting your vote, you should find out the answers. Be proactive. Ask questions. Use your e-mail if you are Internet-savvy. Demand a commitment on the issues. And then - VOTE. If you are outside of Canada, you can still vote, thanks to the efforts of the CSA under former president Don Slinger. (Look for the important information from Elections Canada in this issue.)

P.E.I. has given me hope that all of the CSA's efforts are finally starting to yield results. Perhaps you and I can show our appreciation by visiting P.E.I. this summer. It really is the magical place that I remember from my childhood visits and I have returned many times since those early days. But I now try to play golf instead of football, and there is very little that can compare to the courses stretching out along the Atlantic Ocean at Crowbush Cove, Brudenell and Dundarave. I love Prince Edward Island and you will, too.

Have a wonderful Christmas and I hope to have a belated present for you, just in time for Early Bird.

J. Ross Quigley

PS. Congratulations to the following winners, whose 2005 Early Bird insurance was paid courtesy of Medipac International, Inc.

  • Giuseppe De Cata, Toronto, ON
  • Margaret Mary Rees-Evans, London, ON
  • Marilyn Fraser, Brampton, ON
  • William G. MacMillan, Hamilton, ON
  • Heine Holm, London, ON
  • Jack Setton, Cote-Saint-Luc, QC