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Last election, the Liberals said they would “stem the tide of privatization”. They’ve done nothing.

Now, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh is saying there’s nothing he can do to stop “fully private clinics”. Today, Dosanjh said in The Globe and Mail that these clinics are “not something that the federal government can by law prevent from happening. That’s up to the provinces.”

Wrong. This is just his government’s latest excuse to do nothing.

The federal government needs to live up to its obligations. Under the existing Canada Health Act the government can withhold funding from any province or territory that uses public funds to either directly or indirectly support the privatization of health care. This includes provinces that are letting private clinics grow. Providing notices under section 14 of the Act is the first step and the Liberals should commit to this today.

The Liberals can take other concrete actions against private health care. They just need the political will.

Dosanjh can stop doctors from “double-dipping.” He can establish minimum standards for universal access to all necessary services. He can lead by example and stop the federal government practice of buying services from private, for-profit providers. And, he can establish a new federal transfer for public health care infrastructure to discourage public private partnerships in hospitals and other infrastructure.

The first four actions can be implemented under the existing Canada Health Act and regulations. No new legislation required, just leadership.

It appears Health Minister Dosanjh has not been adequately briefed. There is plenty the government can do to stop private clinics and the growth of private health care in this country. He just needs to stop passing the buck, and grab some backbone.