Is medicare a reflection of Canadian values? Or did those values develop as we experienced the common ground of a universal system? Nothing in public opinion in Canada and the US in the 1960s, or in their respective healthcare systems, would have suggested that they would evolve in such divergent ways. Instead, decisions taken by political elites set the two systems on very different courses. In Canada, that course profoundly shaped the way we understand ourselves as citizens, and also established a powerful place for clinicians at the political core. In so doing, it insulated the system from change, for both good and ill.