Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ralph Klein's Last Hurrah

Albertans may be anxiously awaiting Ralph Klein's departure from the political scene, but he's not about to let go, not without further entrenching his legacy as one of Canada's great iconoclasts:

Alberta has confirmed plans to reform health care by opening the door for private insurance, letting patients pay for faster access to some procedures and allowing doctors to work in both the public and for-profit systems.

"What we're looking for is some middle ground that accounts for capacity to keep the public system strong and protected by sufficient doctors," Health Minister Iris Evans said as she introduced Premier Ralph Klein's so-called Third Way on health-care reform.

"You can talk about it being two-tiered, but it's no different than what's going on in Quebec. It's no different that what's going on in every place they have private clinics.

"It's people making choices for themselves."

The media hopes that Klein's announcement will be a banana peel for Stephen Harper to slip on, just as similar musings about health care reform were in the 2004 election:

Harper's caution on health care is borne out of experience. Many Conservatives believe Klein's musings about medicare gave the Liberals the opening they needed to sow fear of Harper into the minds of voters during the 2004 election.

Similar questions raised by the Liberals were blunted by Harper's unequivocal support for the Canada Health Act during this winter's campaign.

The act has traditionally been enforced by withholding transfer payments from provinces breaking the rules.

Harper seemed to place his hopes in Albertans themselves.

"My understanding is that the Alberta government is not just committed to the Canada Health Act, but the Alberta government has enshrined the Canada Health Act in Alberta's own legislation.''

But 2006 is not 2004. The Chaoulli decision has gone a long way towards desanctifying the public health care monopoly in the eyes of its elite defenders, who once unanimously regarded it as the public's patriotic duty to suffer and die on waiting lines while they themselves went stateside for treatment.

The five principles of the Canada Health Act can be opened to the broadest interpretation now--and monopoly has never been one of them.

There will be no great showdown between Harper and Klein, to the disappointment of the media and the Liberals. The reforms will go ahead, the sky will not have fallen in, and Harper will have fulfilled one of his greater promises: to let the provinces do what they will in their sphere of proper jurisdiction.

1 comment:

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

The Harper-Bloc Axis:

President Lyndon Johnson was a master at counting the votes when he was Senate Majority Leader. He knew that principles counted, but having them passed into legislation meant another set of counting: how many votes did he have?

To understand the dynamics of the Harper government, one must count the votes.

Firstly, the Liberals and NDP are impotent in this Parliament because they do not have enough votes to defeat Harper’s New Tories. So their votes do not count.

Secondly, the balance of power in this Parliament lies with the Bloc. Only they have enough votes to singlehandedly ensure that Harper’s legislation is passed or voted down. So the votes of the Bloc count.

Thirdly, the Harper-Bloc Axis is one of convenience – both sides need each other for certain purposes. Harper needs the Bloc’s votes to pass his program. The Bloc wants to negotiate as much transfer of powers (taxation, other) from the federal government as possible, and so will support Harper if he gives them this.

Fourthly, the Bloc has Liberal Premier Charest boxed in. He cannot be seen to be opposing the transfer of power from Ottawa to Quebec because this will cause him lost support in the next election. So he has to march to the Bloc’s tune and support the Harper-Bloc Axis program of the dismantlement of the Canadian confederation.

Where does that leave Canada?

There is no-one standing up for Canada, and no-one with the votes who will defend Canada.

The only hope for Canada is if it becomes transparent what is taking place, and the citizens start voicing their concerns. The pressure to preserve Canada must now come from the voters, in each and every constituency.

Aided, of course, by progressive bloggers, who are a new force in the political universe.