Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Anti-Horror Story

Mike Barnes's The Lily Pond is one of the books I'm most proud to have been a part of. It's also proved to be one of our more successful titles south of the border, even though we have not received as much publicity for it: it is a case of the importance of word-of-mouth, and how important it is for a writer to take an active role in the promotion of his or her work. In Mike's case, he has emailed and corresponded with countless readers, doctors, psychologists and others, conversations which have continued since the book was released close to a year ago now.

Unless you live under a rock, you're probably aware that Barack Obama is trying to pass health care legislation in the US, and that there has been a tremendous amount of acrimonious debate about it. In the process, our Canadian health care system, held up by some as a potential model for the US to follow, has come under attack by right-wing radio pundits and others opposed to Obama's health care plan. Some of Mike's US correspondents have asked him about his thoughts about the Canadian health care system, and if all of the horrible things they've been hearing are true. He's just posted a response on his excellent blog, 2009, which you can find here. He's titled it "An Anti-Horror Story." Here's the first few paragraphs:

Dear Jenny,

Thanks for your email. You say that down in Florida you're hearing horror stories about Canada's socialized medicine, which have got you more worried than ever about Obama's proposed health care reforms. You ask if I can shed any light on the matter.

I'll try. We hear the horror stories up here, too. In fact, most of us have told a few. Stories about long waits, bad doctors, wrong treatments, no treatment–all the ways a system can let you down just where you feel it the most: your health. They're like stories of bad car crashes or miscarriages of justice, with this difference: no one claims that privatized roads or courtrooms would eliminate those ills.

Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I heard a Canadian suggest we abandon our public health care system in favour of a private one. Even those with a financial incentive usually advocate privatizing parts of the system; they want to tinker up their returns, not tear down the house. Everyone wants the system to work better, but they want it to work better, not be scrapped for another one that does not guarantee universal coverage.

Complaining is natural; everyone does it. When it comes to putting a bad spin on a good thing, Canadians take a back seat to nobody. Still, we need to balance the horror stories with other kinds of stories, just as true and happening every day. Call them anti-horror stories.

Here is one.

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