Canadians may never know the real reason why Ralph Klein undermined Stephen Harper on the health care issue during the recent federal election.
Three weeks into the campaign, with the Conservatives gaining momentum, Klein boasted that he would announce changes to Alberta health care that would likely contravene the Canada Health Act.
Martin went on the offensive, insisting this was proof positive that the Conservatives had evil plans for health care only Liberals could be trusted to protect public health care (Ontarios new health tax notwithstanding).
It must have worked for now.
But the Liberals in Ottawa will have to face the problem of the Liberals in BC, Quebec and Ontario just like they have to come to terms with all the provincial governments pushing privatization in health care. The tide of privatization that new federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh wants to stem sure has a lot of Liberal waves flooding our public system.
Canadas Premiers are now getting their rags ready this week for their meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, preparing to cry poor and call for more money. Theyll also need those rags to polish their new buzzword, innovation, to mask ongoing privatization in Canadas health care system.
Canadians will certainly see the Premiers calling not just for more money, but also the flexibility to spend it however they want outside the Canada Health Act.
For their strategy to work, its crucial that the Premiers synchronize their doublespeak before gathering in Ottawa in September to shadow-box with Martin in a meeting that will be broadcast for all to see.
What Canadians deserve to see is Martin confronting Liberal Premiers with the same gusto he brings to his war of words with Conservative Premier Ralph Klein over the Alberta leaders hostility towards the Canada Health Act.
But will they?
What Canadians deserve to see is Martin, with the cameras rolling, tell Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty to shelve plans for P3 hospitals in Ottawa and Brampton and to re-list services recently de-listed from the provincial insurance plan eye exams, chiropractic, and physiotherapy because Ottawa is stemming the tide of privatization.
Martin will also have to tell Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest that LDS Diagnostic Services cannot open any more private clinics in that province and that Montreals new super hospitals will have to be fully public facilities because the Liberal government in Ottawa is stemming the tide of privatization.
And Martin will have to tell BCs Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell that he cannot let local health authorities contract out surgeries to private, for-profit clinics and that he cant gut health care workers collective agreements because the new Liberal government in Ottawa is stemming the tide of privatization.
Anything less would be hypocrisy of the highest order. Martin has little choice now that his own Health Minister has raised the bar you cant stem the tide of privatization by calling it innovation.
Dosanjh, himself a former Premier, must take on provincial innovation and call it for what it is.
Britains innovation should interest our politicians prone to pushing private solutions to reduce waiting lists. In May of this year, the British Medical Journal reported that surgical services contracted out to private facilities, in the name of reducing waiting lists, cost on average a whopping 40% more. In fact, the National Health Service funded by taxpayers was being charged almost double for some procedures. How innovative. The cruel joke behind insisting that everythings okay as long as we have a single-payer system masks the reality that public money goes straight to private profit in handsome fashion.
Closer to home, recent research looking at US private for-profit and not-for-profit hospitals showed that private facilities cost on average 19% more, due to higher administrative charges, executive bonuses and the imperative to provide profits for investors.
Privatization has an image problem which is why its advocates started calling it something else. But behind the smooth talk and pretty words lies the grim reality while the politicians fiddle, the public system burns.
Indeed, CUPE has documented over 90 major privatization initiatives across the country since January, 2003, when former Prime Minister Jean Chrt0069en, Provincial Premiers and Territorial Leaders all signed the 2003 First Ministers Accord on Health Care Renewal to proclaim their commitment to fix and preserve the public system.
But another commitment by our political leaders is really far more impressive: their clear commitment to ignore the giant elephant in the middle of the waiting room privatization.
That elephant is getting bigger every day.