Some takeaways from Bernie Sanders’ speech at the University of Toronto

Some takeaways from Bernie Sanders’ speech at the University of Toronto

The Bern was felt on Sunday in Toronto, when Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, the runner-up to the runner-up in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, made an appearance at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall to talk about an issue that has become his primary focus in the days after the campaign: universal healthcare. His half-hour speech was a campaign-style barnburner, delivered to frequent applause. The CBC has video, if you’d like to watch the whole thing. For everyone else, here are the highlights:

He’s a fan of Toronto doctor Danielle Martin

Sanders began his speech by recognizing Danielle Martin, a Toronto physician who became internet famous for her 2014 appearance before a U.S. Senate committee, where she made a persuasive case for Canadian-style single-payer healthcare. Earlier this year, Martin joined Sanders for the launch of his own single-payer legislation.

And he’s also a fan of Tommy Douglas

Infer what you will about the crowd from this: one of the biggest applause lines in Sanders’ speech was when he praised Tommy Douglas, the former Saskatchewan premier and first NDP leader, for his role in bringing universal healthcare to Canada. “Saskatchewan was the first place in North America to guarantee healthcare to all people, regardless of their income,” Sanders said.

He thinks universal healthcare needs to be popular to succeed

Sanders is sometimes accused of hogging the spotlight with outlandish policy proposals, but during his speech he made a case for seeking publicity. In countries where universal healthcare exists, Sanders said, it came into being only because lots of people knew it was on offer, and were in favour of it. As evidence, he pointed to the fact that Tommy Douglas’s government was elected with large majorities leading up to the adoption of Saskatchewan’s medicare program in 1962. “Real change always happens from the bottom on up,” Sanders said.

He thinks universal healthcare is an important component of freedom

“How free are you if you are 70 years of age in the United States of America and you cannot afford the prescription drugs you need to stay alive?” Sanders asked, rhetorically. “How free are you if you’re a single mom trying to raise your kids with dignity, and you’re making 11 bucks an hour? How free are you if you’re one of the 28 million Americans who can’t afford to go the doctor when you get sick, because you have no health insurance?”

He blames America’s woes on the Koch brothers

Sanders probably wouldn’t appreciate this comparison, but, much like Donald Trump, he has a knack for creating villains for his audiences to detest. This time, the billionaire Koch brothers, whose fundraising network has fuelled Republican campaigns for years, came in for some criticism. Sanders called them “more powerful politically than the Republican party or the Democratic party.”

He’s not happy about the Republican party’s proposed budget

Unsurprisingly, Sanders isn’t thrilled with congressional Republicans’ proposed tax cuts, which appear as though they would disproportionately benefit the wealthy. “It is a disgrace,” he said.