Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seen From Both Sides

Yesterday, I drove to Prescott, Ontario, crossed the St. Lawrence over the Thousand Islands, and went on to Canton, New York to see a dermatologist.

St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.
We have a shortage of dermatologists here in Kingston and there is a six-month wait to see one. Since we kept our U.S.-based private health insurance when Bill left the World Bank, we still have access to specialists on the other side of the border. It gives "cross-border shopping" a whole new meaning.
Now, some may regard this as a failure of the Canadian (really Ontario in this case) healthcare system and a triumph of the U.S. one. But wait...You don't have to do much reading to realize that both systems are a failure. Access to healthcare is a basic human right and really, it's time for both Canadians and Americans to get off their ideological high horses and realize, as the Brits and French already have, that the answer is some blend of public/private healthcare. Even the head of the Canadian Medical Association is advocating the same.
And here's the thing. When you've lived in both countries, you tend to lose some of the ideological baggage. You start being able to see things a little more objectively. Not perfectly--none of us has that level of clarity. But with some understanding of what each side's concerns are and what solutions might exist.
History shows us how things can change. Check out this sign just a few blocks from my front door.

This astounded my kids, who grew up learning history from the American point of view. Imagine how much more astounded they were to learn that one of the founders of Saint John, New Brunswick, where Bill grew up, was none other than the infamous Benedict Arnold.  Fortunately, it's all in the distant past now and Canadians and Americans are able to see things in perspective and benefit from being each others' closest trading partner. If only we could go back a decade and all leave our passports at home!