Global Reach of Ontario's Public Institutions
By: George Smitherman
Governments set their visions in a long-standing tradition called the Speech from the Throne. A few years back the McGuinty Government used the Speech from the Throne to call for generating cash by leveraging the strengths of our public health care system beyond our borders.
How that sits with Ontarians hasn’t been widely debated.
While the college and university sector has deployed aggressively around the world, such expansionary agendas amongst health care providers has been limited to a few of our hospitals that are affiliated with Universities.
It strikes me that focusing on the inadequacies of our health care system is a national pastime. My theory is that because Medicare is so wrapped up in our national identity, we enjoy a love hate relationship. Countless times during what I call the Florida poolside debate I have seen Canadians wage war with Americans on the issue of which health care model best serves. Conversely, on home soil we hold our health care system to a level of expectation that’s challenging to meet.
So there’s a pretty strong tension between those who would agree with the comment that says “until health care is better I think they should stick to their knitting” and those who would clap their hands to “ it’s about time that we leverage the strengths of health care and earn back some of the money we have been investing”.
I favour the later and that’s where I wish that the Toronto Star’s coverage had a broader focus. Of course the stories expose several things that we can all agree on related to ORNGE. Transparency is lacking. Salary was too high. Perks were extreme.
With all of the attention that has been brought to these issues Ontarians can be certain that corrective actions will be taken. But the more fundamental issues remain.
To be certain, ORNGE is amongst the world’s most advanced medical air transport systems, and because this type of service is so specialized a diverse array of jurisdictions around the world are looking for help and are prepared to pay.
So if ORNGE goes global telling the world about Ontario and makes some money that gets pumped back into our Public Health Care System wouldn’t that be a good thing?
Like I said before I think so.
But, in order to do this right we need some ground rules that define our values and protect our interests. These rules will help to inform the public, media and provider organizations about where to draw the line.
And let’s not pretend that these are easy issues to resolve. Anytime an organization is blending compensation from more than one purse, the risks of conflict of focus are rampant.
So, I think it’s time for the Government to get some of the biggest brains at their disposal to help craft ground rules that work not just for health care but also for public services that have potential to generate revenue outside of Ontario’s borders.
I have previously said we should be careful not to toss out the baby with the bathwater. There is a risk in an overreaction to the problems at ORNGE that could end up forcing other Ontario public institutions to retreat from their global activities.
That would be a bad thing for one of the most ethnically diverse and export oriented jurisdictions in the world.