Final arguments at the Supreme Court of British Columbia

Cambie Trial Update

After years of legal maneuvering, final arguments are now being presented in the Charter case that has put public health care in Canada on trial.

The plaintiffs’ final arguments began on November 18. Led by Brian Day, a BC surgeon and President and CEO of the Cambie Surgeries Corporation, the plaintiffs are trying to overturn the regulations under BC’s Medicare Protection Act that ban extra-billing and private health insurance. Day wants patients to be able to seek private, for-profit health care. His lawyers are essentially arguing for the development of a private health care market.

On the other side are the defenders of public health care: The Government of BC, the Attorney General of Canada and a coalition of intervenors made up of the BC Health Coalition, Canadian Doctors for Medicare and some individual patients. Together, they have shown that the Medicare Protection Act regulations are crucial to ensure that BC complies with the Canada Health Act. The regulations guarantee that health care continues to be based on people’s medical needs, not on their wealth.

Without these restrictions, doctors would have an incentive to spend more of their finite practise time in the private system. Patients would have no protection from doctors who prefer to provide speedy care in the private system. Private health care would be subsidized by the public system.

Banning private insurance for medically necessary health services is essential to protect the accessibility and universality of our health care system. Private health insurance is not available to all; not everyone can afford it, and private insurance companies don’t cover high-need patients.

Evidence from around the world shows that a second, private tier of health care causes harm to the public system, it costs more and it doesn’t alleviate wait times. Effective solutions for wait times exist within the public system. For example, the BC government recently had success in reducing wait times for MRIs.

Day hasn’t proven that wait times have caused pain and suffering, nor has he proven that eliminating the regulations thwarting private health care would improve wait times.

Brian Day stands to profit a great deal if these regulations are changed. He wants the ability to charge patients whatever he sees fit and also get paid by the public system. That is, he wants people to be able to pay extra to get faster care while his practice is subsidized by taxpayers.

Canada’s public health care system delivers high-quality care based on people’s needs, not on their ability to pay. It is our greatest equalizer and it is a system worth protecting.

Final arguments will be presented in the Supreme Court of British Columbia from November 18 to December 6. A judgment is expected in the new year.

For updates on the case, visit

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Canadian Health Coalition