I used to speak some fifty or sixty times a year to various groups, mostly in Montreal. Among them were Rotarians. Dear fellows.There was always manly back-slapping, chaffing, smiles, joy at being together. And there was always constant "taxing" of members for doing things like having a crooked tie or spilling coffee. The "tax" would be paid with good-natured laughter and even more good fellowship. It would then be donated to some worthy cause, usually in the form of some giant cheque held up to the cameras for papers like the TandT.
All of them - or all of the ones I spoke to - were men. They were businessmen. Not the big ones, oh, no. The big ones were certainly in the background somewhere. But I cannot recall ever seeing one of the biggies like Molson or Bombardier or Pelardeau at a Rotarian dinner. No, the top level might be bank managers, something like that.
P. A4 tells us that the local jolly back-slappers invited Jeffrey Simpson to speak to them yesterday. Simpson has spent his life as a political columnist - and a very good one - for the Toronto Globe. Then he shocked a good deal of the journalistic world by writing a book attacking medicare. The book is full of things that are untrue or only half-true. So, apparently, was his speech.
Canadians, he said, believe in a myth that their health care system is the best in the world. Really? Well, this Canadian has never even heard any such myth. Canada is, he said, only in the middle of the pack among public health care nations. Possibly. But that's a pretty good pack to be in the middle of.
He says that such ideas are now readily accepted in health-care circles. Really? I must move in the wrong health care services. I have never heard such a view.
No other country has this hangup about the private delivery of health care. Oh? Has he never heard of western Europe?
Doctors and nurses,he says, have seen their increases go up by more than the rate of inflation. What a coincidence. So have the increases of corporation executives and some journalists who please the right people. But that does not seem to bother Mr. Simpson.
Interestingly, he does not mention the glories of private health care just south of us where millions get no health care at all, where health care costs are the leading cause of bankruptcy among seniors, where people live shorter and sicker lives than those who have medicare, where babies are more likely to die in infancy, and where health care costs are the highest in the world, so much so that health insurance is a crushing burden for all but the very rich.
Indeed, the statistics on health in the US are the worst in the developed world. Even a poor country like Cuba has better health - and that's according to UN figures.
Funny he wouldn't mention such a stunning example. But, then, Simpson has found a way to make a great deal of money by pleasing the right people. (I would dearly love to know how much the Rotarians paid in fee and expenses to have him brought here.)
I grew up without health care. So did all my friends and neighbours. I know what it means to watch friends and relatives die at home when they could have been saved. And I really quite despise people like Simpson who use the issue to make a buck.
I despise a newspaper that would print such a story without asking at least some questions from critics of Simpson's book. And I despise a newspaper that would print such a story as a piece of propaganda - because that's what it is.
So, what's the scoop? Whose idea was it to bring Simpson here? Where did it start? It might have been Rotarians. But in my experience, they are usually smaller players than that.
And what generous donor put up the money? And will that donor appear in a TandT photo holding a giant cheque to present to Mr. Simpson?
This whole thing was a setup. And today's story of the speech was pure propaganda - so I was not surprised to see the name of the reporter who covered the story. This all represents the lowest level of journalistic prostitution, of human greed, and of indifference to others.
The assault by big business is on. Watch for budget cuts (already begun), Sigma Six management (already begun), introducton of small fees to begin, and maybe public private partnerships.
Then, when parents start dying before they should, the jolly good fellows of Rotary can pose for othe TandT camera holding up big cheques to buy toys for the orphans.
Rotary is not a big time business group. But it's a useful stooge for the biggies.