Canada's Supreme Court refused to make health care a constitutional right in a unanimous decision today . . .
The case was considered one of the most significant social policy issues to reach the high court in years. All 10 provinces and Ottawa intervened to warn the judges that governments would need unlimited budgets if health care were to become all things to all people.
Constitutional expert Jamie Cameron said that it would have been difficult for the court to carve out an exception for autistic children without exposing the stretched health system to a flood of lawsuits on behalf of people seeking coverage for other disabilities.
"The court has shown appropriate institutional caution here in resisting the invitation to constitutionalize the health-care system," said Mr. Cameron, a law professor at York University in Toronto. "Once the precedent is created, it would encourage other claims.
Of course not everyone agreed with the ruling . . .
"In Langley, B.C., Sabrina Freeman, mother of 16-year-old Miki, denounced the ruling as "total unadulterated garbage" and chastised the judges for caving in to political pressure. "If my child is not entitled to be part of the health care system, then the government is not entitled to my taxes," she said.
But the court concluded . . .
Beverley McLachlin, the Chief Justice, said she sympathized with the families, but "the issue before us is not what the public health system should provide, which is a matter for Parliament and the legislature."
The court's decision is in keeping with its pattern of refusing to dictate how governments spend their money. It is estimated that about 70% of health services are publicly funded. Drug costs and many treatments not delivered by doctors are generally excluded.
"The legislative scheme does not promise that any Canadian will receive funding for all medically required treatment," wrote Chief Justice McLachlin. "All that is conferred is core funding for services provided by medical practitioners, with funding for non-core services left to the province's discretion."
It seems Canada's health care system is not the utopia it is cracked up to be.
The up-side is that even in liberal Canada the highest court realizes that it should be up to the people to determine where their money is spent . . .