Bernie Sanders, Health Care and Hydro: The Canada Letter

When Bernie Sanders made his way to Toronto last weekend, Margot Sanger-Katz, a health policy reporter in The Times’s Washington bureau, tagged along. Her resulting article in The Upshot is both a nicely drawn portrait of Mr. Sanders’ excursion and a thorough comparison of Canada’s health care system with that of the United States. Ms. Sanger had some additional thoughts about the trip for Canada Letter readers:


Senator Bernie Sanders during a visit to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto last weekend.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

It was probably about the 10th time that a patient or doctor in Canada used the word “fair” that I started to realize how important the value was to Canadians.

Mr. Sanders was making what his staff called a “cross-border learning tour,” though it was clear from the start that he already knew quite a lot about the Canadian system, and had found much to like about it.

He is pushing hard for the Democratic Party in the United States to embrace the notion of a single-payer health care system like Canada’s. His legislative proposal shares many Canadian particulars — government-financed insurance, no direct payment at the point of care, private doctors and hospitals, global budgets.

But Mr. Sanders also clearly admires and envies the values that lie beneath the Canadian system — a commitment to equity and a right to health care that is less commonly heard when Americans talk about what they want from their system. In many ways, he was in Canada to learn about how to achieve that change of heart.

At a public event, he was asked how to make this change by Dr. Danielle Martin, a physician, hospital executive and advocate. “The journey is not easy,” Mr. Sanders said. “The journey never has been easy for human rights and human dignity.”

Afterward, I asked Dr. Martin whether she thought the sentiment or the policy had come first in Canada. Did Canadians embrace a government health care system because they believed in equity? Or did they come to value equity because they’d been exposed to a health care system that promoted it? Some of both, she said, but “the system itself creates a language.”

“We’re not genetically different people here on the other side of the border,” she said. “There is no reason why we would have different values, except there was a movement here.”

And I have two related questions for you: Is public health care a defining feature of Canada? If so, how is that reflected in the nation? Please email your thoughts to so that I can share some of them with other newsletter readers

Read: What Did Bernie Sanders Learn in His Weekend in Canada?

Held Back

My colleague Dan Levin updates a story he’s been following in British Columbia:


Opponents of the Peace River dam in British Columbia gathered near the project, known as Site C, in October 2016.

Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Christy Clark, the former premier, pushed construction of the Site C dam by saying that it was needed to maintain a reliable supply of electricity. But opposition to the dam, which would flood 51 miles of the Peace River, mounted. Opponents claimed the project not only violated indigenous rights, but was also unnecessary.

Yet Ms. Clark’s government blocked a review of the project by the provincial utilities commission, which had been created to ensure British Columbians got the best bang for their buck.

A year later, the future is looking troubled for Site C. The New Democratic Party, which now holds power, ordered a review. The commission’s final report, released this week, is, well, damning. It found that Site C is nearly 2 billion Canadian dollars over budget and likely behind schedule, while noting that its forecasts for future power needs were “excessively optimistic.”

The new government will now decide Site C’s fate, with a decision expected next month.

Read: Canada’s $7 Billion Dam Tests the Limits of State Power

Northern Excursion

The Daily 360 went to Iqaluit, Nunavut, to create an immersive video of throat singing by Tanya Tagaq and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory. I could almost feel the warmth of the wood stove in the room.

Watch: Big Music in Small Rooms: Throat Singing

Sit Back

The staff at Watching, The Times’s guide to movies and TV, has put together a list of new offerings by Netflix in Canada this month. It’s heavy on classics and includes Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein” and Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street.”

Read: The Best Movies and TV Shows New on Netflix Canada in November

Pick Up

When BlackBerry still made phones, I often collaborated on articles with Brian X. Chen, The Times’s lead consumer tech writer. He’s not someone who is easily impressed. But two days with an iPhone X, which came out on Friday in Canada at a staggering starting price of 1,319 Canadian dollars, left him full of both praise for the device and caution for consumers. “The iPhone X feels ahead of its time, perfect for a target audience of technology enthusiasts and obsessive photographers,” Mr. Chen wrote. “Everyone else may want to wait a while to buy.”

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