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From a distance, it seems harmless enough. But when you look inside it’s clear the Mazankowski report, released this week in Edmonton, is a blueprint to wreck public health care.

The report of the Advisory Council on Health Care in Alberta, chaired by former Tory minister Don Mazankowski, claims to respect the principles of the Canada Health Act. Instead it sets out a plan to ‘reform’ Canada’s health care system by ensuring ever more public funding is funneled into private pockets. Mazankowski’s vision is to eliminate any effective government role from health care, save a funding role.

The report is basically dishonest,” says CUPE National President Judy Darcy. “It talks about improving the health of Canadians when in fact it’s a plan to hijack the public health care system and turn it into a money machine for profiteers.”

Many of the ‘reforms’ the report advocates are aimed at shifting the costs of health care to individuals or opening up opportunities for for-profit providers and private insurers. The report is filled with ‘business-speak’, talking about ‘putting the customer first,’ ‘diversifying the revenue stream’ and ‘encouraging competition’. It reinforces the mantra of the pro-privatization forces, that our health care system is not sustainable.

But it’s silent on the question of how public medicare could be strengthened or expanded. It largely ignores the health care needs of Canadians. There are no insights on how the growing number of elderly or disabled Canadians will receive the long-term home and community-care services they need. It pays scant attention to the most significant cost-driver in health care – the cost of pharmaceuticals.

With the provincial premiers slated to meet in Victoria in ten days, Alberta’s Ralph Klein hopes to use this report to set the terms of the national debate on the future of health care in Canada. But CUPE rejects that approach, arguing the best way to get value from precious health care dollars is not to divert more of them to private profits.

We want a real dialogue that reflects the interests of all Canadians,” says Darcy. “We’re looking to the Romanow commission to involve people at the grassroots level in looking at how to reform health care.”

In Alberta, that process is already underway as CUPE organizes workplace discussions among health care workers on the Mazankowski report. “Before any rash move is taken that will mortally wound our Medicare system, we need a thorough public debate,” says CUPE Alberta president Yvonne Fast. “Not a debate that takes place behind closed doors, but a real debate built on ideas for preserving the best of our current system and reforming it to meet the needs of tomorrow.”