Alberta Politics Canadian Politics Politics

Trying to fix health care is stupid??

Dave 07

A few days ago I wrote a blog criticizing the Calgary Herald’s unbalanced coverage of the party leaders in the Alberta election; particularly the fact that the Herald apparently believed the Wildrose had pretty much dropped out of the race. Six or eight of you sent me a note saying you had contacted the Herald, and several of you apparently threatened to cancel your subscriptions.

The change was immediate. The Herald has since done several spreads on the Wildrose, complete with location photos. (This speaks volumes about the effectiveness of working together to bring about change.)

But the editorial page is a separate department of the paper, and yesterday’s editorial was a complete hack job on the Wildrose. It’s not signed so I can’t be sure, but It appears to have been written by Naomi Lakritz. I’ve had many back-and-forth’s with Naomi on the subject of healthcare, and she is adamantly opposed to any hint of choice in healthcare delivery, even when it means patients waiting in months long lineups to get their hips replaced or their arteries bypassed.

The Wildrose has said that if we can’t get these procedures in a timely manner, we will be allowed to have the procedure done at a local private clinic, or alternatively, seek help elsewhere, and Alberta Health Services will pay what it would cost to have it done at a government owned hospital in Alberta. PC Health Minister Stephen Mandel predictably called the Wildrose plan stupid, and the Herald editorial concurred.

The editorial claims that the Wildrose plan will only work for the rich because the cost of travel, room and board during recovery etc., etc., will be beyond the reach of low income people. The editorial ignored the fact that if a hip replacement is done in a local private clinic, there is no extra cost for room and board, or travel.

In the 20 years since Ralph Klein undertook a complete overhaul of the health care system, what have the PCs done to improve delivery? Whatever they’ve tried, it must have been stupid because lineups are just as long as ever. What is their smart plan to get it done now? If they were to put forward a believable plan, why would Albertans have any reason to believe they would know how to implement it?

The Wildrose plan points out that it doesn’t cost any more to do a hip operation within a month of diagnosis than it does to do it six or eight months later. This is stupid? I would go further and say it costs much less to do it more quickly because you have fewer visits to the doctor; and the patient endures less suffering. I know this from personal experience because of what my mother went through with a hip operation. Fewer visits to the doctor would mean less cost to the system and less suffering. This is stupid?

I don’t think the Wildrose plan is meant to be permanent, but surely it is not stupid to initiate a conversation that might lead to a genuine fix of our healthcare system. Because most industrialized countries around the world – even those that are avowedly Socialist –  have rationalized healthcare by introducing competition into its delivery.

The largest hospital in Malmo Sweden, the country’s second largest city, is privately owned. But if you suggest that privately operated hospitals might be something for Canada to consider, the Friends of Medicare, and left-wing fundamentalists like Naomi Lakritz light their hair on fire and hyperventilate about our imminent descent into a US style healthcare system. The horror! Truth be told, I’d  be horrified by us adopting US style healthcare, but how about adapting the best from Sweden and Finland and England and Germany and Singapore and Australia and New Zealand and the 25 or so other developed countries whose healthcare systems rank ahead of Canada and the United States?

Considering that our system and the American system are ranked second last and dead last  in the developed world, the left’s opposition to any idea that will move the discussion forward seems to be based purely on ideology rather than a desire to actually improve the situation for the suffering.

And that to me seems cynically cruel, or maybe even stupid?



Premier Jim needs a mandate?


It appears that Albertans are heading for a 2015 spring election. Leaving aside the fact that the law states that an election isn’t due until the spring of 2016; WHY? Our Premier says he needs a mandate to deal with the grim reality that oil prices have collapsed. A significant portion of Alberta’s economy is based on what happens in the oil patch and so it is critically important that the Premier and the government know that they are authorized by Albertans to deal with whatever comes up.

They don’t know this already?

After Alison Redford resigned in disgrace in the spring of 2014, Jim Prentice was the successful candidate to succeed her as leader of the Progressive Conservative party and he became the premier in waiting. The PCs already had an overwhelming majority but they added to it when two members of the opposition joined the PCs.

Then last October he and his party swept four by-elections, including his own riding, and he became premier, in fact. This left the PCs with an even more overwhelming majority, and clearly, an unfettered mandate to run the province as they deemed necessary.

Then a few weeks later, offering who knows what incentives and for no obvious political reason other than to ensure even more absolute PC control of the province, the PCs managed to gut the official opposition by enticing the majority of their remaining members to cross the floor and join their party.

Let me interject that I have not heard one shred of even mildly compelling evidence to justify what the Wildrosers did. When the federal Progressive Conservative Party  united with the Reform Party to form the Conservative Party of Canada, the reason was that with a centre-right party, and a somewhat farther right party competing with each other, it was obvious that a left wing party would permanently be in control of Canada. But there is not the slightest need to; “unite the right”, in Alberta, where the chances of a left-wing party ever taking over approach zero.

More critically, in a parliamentary democracy, any ruling political party or leader – no matter how benign – needs a strong opposition to hold them to account. Alberta’s PCs have been in power for 43 years, and the critical areas of provincial governance that they are responsible for, healthcare and education to name two, are in disarray. If we ever needed a strong opposition, it’s now!

But back to the election: why would Premier Prentice need a more clear mandate than he already has? Is he actually suggesting that, absent an election he’s not sure if Albertans expect him and his party to deal with the low oil price crisis?

No, if Jim Prentice calls an election it will be proof that he and his party still believe that the primary function of the PC Party of Alberta is to ensure that they remain in power. Whatever it takes.

What do you think? I really appreciate your feedback; and if you think having a conversation around this issue is important, please pass this link on to your friends and let’s get them involved.

Next blog: Reasons that staying in power is so crucial to the PC Party and their “Family.”