Being particularly bad with technology, I am one of the few people who still regularly wait in line at the bank to see a teller. The other day, for example, I found myself behind a good dozen people at the College Park TD with nothing to do but literally stare at the walls.
That’s when I noticed a new poster at the bank. “Miracles at Work” was written across the top, with a picture of a beautiful, fragile looking little girl in a blue turtleneck below. The text explained that this girl has neuroblastoma, a cancer that often occurs in children. The poster then went on to outline all the different treatments she has had to endure. Little Anastasia story ended with a call to action, asking bank customers to arrange automatic withdrawals from their account to help pay for the expensive treatments that sick children need.
For weeks now, Anastasia’s story has been on my mind. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about TD’s role. At first sight, I thought that TD was doing a fantastic public service. Who doesn’t want to help sick children? The way I figured it, TD probably gets a few customers to chip in a little extra and maybe the bank itself donates a bit too (they do). What could be wrong with that?
The first problem with TD’s plan hit me on the subway ride home. What about universal health care? As Canadians, universal access to quality health care is supposed to be one of the principals that define us. Access to health care should not be dependant on corporate or individual donations, but should be a right all Canadians enjoy in perpetuity. Indeed, the concept of a codified “Right to Life” (guaranteed under sec. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) is a hollow promise unless our government also provides adequate health care.
Currently, our health care system is in crisis, suffering from a shortage of nurses, beds, and most of all, money. In the face of such adversity, help from any source, whether higher taxes or private donations would be a step in the right direction. But looking a little closer, private money is not the answer. Corporate and individual donations are temporary solutions to a long-term problem. These kinds of donations also act as a smokescreen, concealing the inadequacy of our taxation system to properly provide universal care.
The only way to make universal health care work is to increase taxes on the wealthy in order to improve care. If TD truly cares about sick children, let them begin by paying their fair share in taxation. In 2003, TD boasted a net income of over $1.5 billion dollars. Despite this staggering figure, TD’s poster asks their customers to donate money to support local hospitals. According to TD’s website, customer and staff donations to The Children’s Miracle Network regularly outweigh corporate contributions, which TD has capped at $1 million. If you ask me, what children like Anastasia really need isn’t my money, but a system that doesn’t make them beg.