Scott Stinson wrote in Harper's Liberal approach to health care, (National Post, Dec.17, 2010):
"The waning days of a Parliamentary session that is about to break for six weeks seems an odd time for an opposition party to adopt a new message. But there were the federal Liberals this week, once again giving conventional wisdom the finger.
A trio of MPs delivered speeches on the new subject on Tuesday, then on Wednesday leader Michael Ignatieff used it as his first line of attack on Stephen Harper in Question Period.
"Mr. Speaker, Canadians wait for hours in hospital emergency rooms and patients languish in the hallways. The Canadian health system needs help, but the government has ignored the issue for four or five years," he said. "How can [the Prime Minister] expect Canadians to trust his government to protect our public healthcare system?"
Health care? Really?
Mr. Harper responded, of course, that the Conservative government loves the healthcare system to bits (I'm paraphrasing here) and that it was the dastardly Liberals who cut transfers to provinces back in the dark days of the Chretien era.
Mr. Ignatieff was undaunted. The federal-provincial accords signed in 2004 (under the Liberals) that increase transfers to provinces by 6% a year in order to fund health care run out in 2014, he noted. The government has not committed a penny of new money beyond that, he said. "How can Canadians trust the government to defend public health?" he said.
This is a puzzling strategy. Mr. Ignatieff's own question acknowledges that the government is locked into four more years of increasing health funding. Is there really much to be gained by banging on about what the Tories plan to do about 2015? At our present rate, we could easily have two elections between now and then. Three, even.
But aside from trying to give urgency to a problem that's barely on the horizon, what's odd about the sudden Liberal focus on health care is that it's a subject on which the government's approach has been decidedly Liberal.
"The Prime Minister is heard to muse about how he would like to get rid of the Canada Health Act," Mr. Ignatieff said on Wednesday. But Mr. Harper has made no such musings since he became leader of the federal Conservatives. Here's what he told my colleague John Ivison during the last election: "I support innovation within the confines of the Canada Health Act -- that's the position of all provincial governments. We particularly support innovation in the delivery of service but in the end we believe there must be a public insurance system."
This does not sound like a call for revolution.
Whether it was MP Maxime Bernier's call for the end of the Canada Health Transfer, former Alberta premier Ralph Klein's suggestion that the government must back away from a "strict interpretation" of the Canada Health Act, or any number of studies from places as diverse as the Fraser Institute and the OECD that say Canada needs to change the present single-payer public system, the Harper government has refused to take the bait. Most significantly, when Quebec announced plans in the spring to introduce a $25 user-fee, the federal health ministry refused to take a position, saying it needed to study the proposal. That study became moot when Quebec backed down in September.
All the evidence suggests the Tories want no part of serious discussions about health-care reform, presumably because it remains one of those things that polite Canadians just do not talk about.
I was in an editorial board meeting last year with the then-president of the Canadian Medical Association, who discussed at length the need for Canada to consider the example of Europe, where private delivery of public care is widely accepted. Robert Ouellet was kicking off a campaign to bang the drum about the importance of change. It went nowhere, even with a Conservative government in Ottawa.
If Stephen Harper was interested changing the public health system, why would he have passed up a number of opportunities to at least begin to walk down that road?
The historian Michael Bliss wrote last month a pretty biting criticism of Canada's infatuation with the present system.
"Despite the system's popularity and iconic status; despite the belief by many Canadian health experts that the Canada Health Act system ... is the best way to deliver modern health care; and despite years of nationalist proclamation that Canadian health insurance ought to be a model to the world (and especially to the United States), no [other] country has adopted the Canadian model," he wrote.
But you'll only hear arguments like this from historians and think-tank researchers these days. Not from politicians, for whom health-care reform remains the issue that dare not speak its name."
It's FLICKING HILARIOUS how Liberal Iggy doesn't ask how any Ontarian can trust Liberal Premier Liar Dalton McGuinty's failing health-care monopolism!
McGuinty's Liberal liars have complete control of health-care in Ontario - including, of course, in Iggy's own Toronto riding.
Don't patients in Iggy's own riding 'languish for hours in hospital hallways, waiting for health-care' in McGuinty's Liberal-controlled Ontario health monopoly?!!!!
Has Ignatieff bothered to publicly question and demand better health-care delivery from McGuinty and Deb Matthews, who are the Liberals actually in charge of propagating that very same health monopoly which Ignatieff is complaining about?!?
Is Iggy telling us that McGuinty - along with all the other Canadian provincial premiers - would now like to cede control of their provincial health-monopoly systems to the feds??
Does anyone remember Iggy ever whining about Paul Martin's deficit-fighting Liberal health care cuts?!! ...oh yeah - Iggy wasn't in Canada at the time...
[Why is health care now suddenly so (supposedly) important to Iggy? Wasn't Iggy's big cause the ever-so-popular EI reform?! What about 'the environment'? Doesn't Iggy care about 'global-warming' anymore?!! Or will he wait till spring to spout on about that?! Under Stephane Bumbledore Dion, the Liberals' priority was not health-care, but the pushing of shifty kyodiot GreenFear!]
Iggy - once again - is floundering on health-care, having nothing original to say but the same tired, predictable old Liberal health-care fearmongering and innuendo.
As Stinson points out so obviously, Iggy's stance on the over-hyped sanctity of the failing CHA [sadly, despite Michael Bliss' accurate observations] is the same as the Conservatives!
And that is unfortunate for all Canadians.