Romanow Commission, 2001–2002

Just two months after he stepped down as Premier of Saskatchewan in 2001, Roy Romanow was appointed as chair and sole member of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. A Royal Commission set up under Part A of the Inquiries Act, the Romanow Commission was given eighteen months to complete a national study on public health care and recommendations as to its future.

The work of the Commission was conducted from Saskatchewan with the administrative office located in Saskatoon and the research office located in Regina, the only time a major federal Royal Commission was operated outside Ottawa. The location seemed logical because of Saskatchewan’s heritage as the birthplace of both hospitalization and medicare in Canada.

During its tenure, the Commission conducted a multi-layered series of consultations including an innovative “Citizens’ Dialogue” involving day-long deliberations of randomly selected Canadians as well as public hearings that were the focus of intense public and media attention. The Romanow Commission’s final report Building on Values: The Future of Health Care in Canada, was delivered on time and within budget in November 2002.

The Romanow Commission’s final report offered forty-seven distinct recommendations concerning the future of public health care in Canada. The more transformative recommendations linked governance and financial changes at the intergovernmental level with substantive health reform changes by federal, provincial and territorial governments. These included: a strengthening of the Canada Health Act; the creation of a national platform for home care services; a fundamental change in the federal transfer mechanism; the linking of medication management to improved prescription drug coverage, along with the establishment of a National Drug Agency; a basic revamping of Aboriginal health care programming; the creation of a national Health Council; and a national focus on primary care reform.

Gregory Marchildon