Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

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Friday, February 20, 2004

Floating like a lead trial balloon

(Cross-posted to the Federal Election Blog)

I think I know what Ralph Klein is trying to accomplish with this, and it sure isn't an effort to increase Tory popularity:

Premier Ralph Klein is warning that the province may have to start charging user fees in order to preserve the health care system.

Klein, who made the comments Thursday, said he is willing to step outside of the Canada Health Act to control health costs even if it means being denied federal health care dollars.
Now, it just may be that this is posturing on the eve of a federal budget. Provinces are all clamoring for more health care dollars from the fed. This may simply be the Premier trying to make a bold statement: the pittance we get from the federal government is tiny, and if we lose it, what's the difference?

The Canada Health Act is important to Canadians, and not even us crazy right-wing Albertans are prepared to give it up without a serious fight. If Klein went through with two-tiering, I think that would be enough to defeat his government next election. But of course, he knows this, and would never go through with it. But he's not above reminding Ottawa that the fed's power over health care extends as far as the dollars contributed. The closer that comes to zero, the easier it will be for provinces to break away.

The same calculation can't be attributed to Belinda Stronach. I'm not entirely sure why she's floating this idea:

[The Globe asked] Would you consider permitting people who wanted to step outside the publicly funded system to avail themselves of private care, if they so chose?

"I do respect Canadians' freedom to choose, and it's something we could take a look at," she replied. "We must respect the Canada Health Act, but as long as we don't compromise the principle of universal access to good quality health care ..... if it does relieve some pressure on the system, and does help provide that good quality access to health care for Canadians, it's something we can take a look at."
The Globe goes on to point out that what she's suggesting actually violates the letter of the Canada Health Act. I could go on to point that it's a zero sum game - that you can remove patients from the system with a second tier, but you also have to remove providers. No pressure is relieved. Thus, the single-tier system. I could point that out, but I won't.

What I will point out is that Stockwell Day felt he had to make a little sign during the last federal election debate, just to reinforce the point - "No 2-tier health care". It was, at the time, gimmicky and silly, but it illustrates the point now: any party that is not willing to say the same is doomed to never, ever govern in Canada.

I'll go further - if Harper is now the "left-wing" candidate in the Conservative leadership race, no one in the country will think the merged party is anything but Reform III come election time. Enjoy your fifty seats!

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