Americans have elected a president who calls Canadian health care “catastrophic” but a new poll suggests a majority of people in this country want the public system expanded and that they are willing to pay more taxes to make that happen.

Nearly 60 per cent of respondents to a Nanos Research survey conducted late last month for The Globe and Mail said they would be willing to see their personal income taxes increased if the public system would pay for in-home caregivers, financial support for families caring for loved ones, and palliative support for life-threatening illnesses. Just 38 per cent of those surveyed said they would oppose tax hikes for those purposes.

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump promised during the campaign that one of the first things he would do when he gets to the Oval Office is repeal Obamacare, the act that greatly increased the number of Americans who have health-care insurance. He has softened his position since then, saying he would keep some parts of Obamacare intact. During an election debate, Mr. Trump derided Canada’s universal system, calling it flawed and “catastrophic in certain ways.”

But the Nanos poll suggests Canadians want more of it.

A majority of people surveyed in every region of the country said they would agree to tax hikes in exchange for more services being placed under the rubric of publicly funded care. That ranged from a high of 70 per cent in favour in British Columbia to a low of 53.6 per cent in favour on the Prairies.

Slightly less enthusiastic results were obtained when the pollsters asked if Canadians would accept greater federal debt loads for more health-related services. Roughly 55 per cent of respondents supported or somewhat supported that proposition while 43 per cent were opposed or somewhat opposed.

“The U.S. presidential election was not only the triumph of Trump but also of the demonization of Obamacare, which sought to extend health coverage to Americans,” said Nik Nanos, the president of the polling firm. “This suggests that there is still a gulf between Canadians’ and American opinion on health care.”

The telephone poll of 1,000 randomly sampled Canadians was conducted between Oct. 27 and 30, a week after federal Health Minister Jane Philpott and her provincial and territorial counterparts came to a stalemate in discussions around how money much is needed to sustain the existing system. It is expected to accurately reflect the opinions of Canadians at large within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Antonia Maioni, a political-science professor at McGill University in Montreal who has written extensively about health care, said Wednesday that she and her colleagues recently conducted their own poll about Canadian and American attitudes on health care. It found that there is much more polarization in the U.S. than in Canada around the issue of public funding.

“And that split is explained by ideology [in the form of] partisanship, and that is what we saw play out last night in the United States,” Prof. Maioni said. People who identify as Democrats tend to support public health care and people who identify as Republican largely do not, she said.

In Canada, however, “while people do have differences of opinion,” Prof. Maioni said, “they are not as evenly split and they are not as polarized around partisan identification.”

The Nanos poll also suggests that nearly four out of five Canadians do not agree with the federal government’s plan to cut annual health-care transfers to provinces and territories from 6 per cent to a minimum of 3 per cent, starting next year. Sixty-one per cent of those surveyed said they opposed such cuts and another 17 per cent were somewhat opposed.

But, while 44 per cent of respondents said they supported or somewhat supported letters written by the premiers to Mr. Trudeau suggesting that provincial co-operation on his plans to tackle climate change would be tied to a better deal on health funding, an equal percentage said they opposed or somewhat opposed that tactic.

Adrienne Silnicki, the national co-ordinator for the Canadian Health Care Coalition, an advocacy group for public health care, said she knows Canadians strongly support the current system but it was “great to see” the widespread willingness to pay higher taxes to expand it.

Many Canadians are already paying out of their own pockets for home-care services and care for aging family members, said Ms. Silnicki, “so the idea that they would be willing to increase their personal taxes, or increase money going into the public health-care system [to cover those services] makes complete sense.”

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Nov. 14, 2016 10:50AM EST
Last updated Monday, Nov. 14, 2016 11:24AM EST

Trump compares single-payer health-care to Canada’s system, labels it ‘a disaster’ (The Globe and Mail)