Bill Clinton praises Canadian health care
Sat Aug 29, 6:37 PM
TORONTO (CBC) - A hoarse but energetic Bill Clinton told a Toronto audience that Canada is the envy of the world.
"You may want to make fun of yourselves all you want, but there are many people who would kill to live in an environment like this," the former American president said.
The former U.S. president's speech, Embracing Our Common Humanity, praised Canada's health-care system. He also lamented the unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities between rural northern Canadians and those who live in urban centres, calling it "a pattern repeated throughout the world."
The wise-cracking and impassioned Clinton spoke to a crowd at the Canadian National Exhibition on Saturday afternoon, only hours after attending the funeral of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy in Boston.
"I hope that his lifetime dream that America finally will follow Canada and every other advanced nation in the world in providing affordable health care to all of our people will pass," Clinton said of Kennedy.
Clinton expressed hope that his country will adopt a health care system where everyone gets coverage.
Using examples from town hall meetings held across the U.S., Clinton tried to explain why his country was so reluctant to change the way it delivers health care.
Clinton unsuccessfully attempted to reform the nation's healthcare 15 years ago and current U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to bring in reforms.
Clinton said that in the U.S. today, there are "incentives to keep people misinformed and full of fear."
On the issue of poverty, the former president said, "If you live in a poor country and you have no shot, chances are you have no shot because no matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work, you don't have the systems that we take for granted."
Clinton called on his audience to contribute to fighting global poverty on an individual level, saying donating a dollar a month, or even a year, will make a difference.
Hafeez Ladha who is completing a master's degree in public health, has seen Clinton several times, and participated in several of Clinton's international AIDS projects said he was inspired by Clinton's message.
"He discussed how each individual can contribute in their own personal way towards big humanitarian causes, so even though there's certain causes that we may feel are out of our reach, he made that personal and brought it down to our level," said Ladha, 24.
Ladha credited Clinton for inspiring him to study public health.
"He's done so much for domestic society, for international society, for health care for the social benefit of the world, so it's obviously an incredible person to hear from."
Clinton spoke specifically to young people, telling them "it's better to do something you care about than something you're better at."
Tom Woods stood outside the gate, moments before the president took the stage, after driving from Ottawa to see Clinton speak.
"I think he just has a unique personality and he's respected all over the world."
But not all attendees were inspired by Clinton's words.
Adu Raudkivi of Toronto called Clinton's references to Canada and the Kyoto environmental accord vague and said he was unimpressed with the former president's speech.
"He was just making a lot of noise, not really saying anything," he said. "It would be better having a former Canadian prime minister to give their points of view to where Canada is going."
Organizers had originally intended to sell 25,000 tickets to fill BMO Field, where Clinton was speaking, but scaled down the size of the event to about 10,000 after it became clear it would not sell out.
To spur sales, organizers offered people a chance to hear Clinton speak by only paying an extra $5 on their $15 CNE admission ticket.
Still, Saturday's crowd was the largest Clinton had ever addressed in Canada, organizers said.