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Friday, June 10, 2005

Post-Chaoulli Possibilities

Ibbitson enumerates some of the political options available post-Chaoulli in today's Globe [access via the news.google.ca backdoor]:
They [federal politicians] can declare that they will continue to protect public health care, regardless of what the Supreme Court says. That's the easy approach, and it is the approach that politicians from all political parties were taking yesterday. But all the rhetoric in the world won't make the decision go away.

So if we assume the status quo's off the table, what are the Feds to do? Ibbitson sees two main possibilities:

The Liberals could roll the dice and ask the court directly for its opinion on whether the benchmarks that are being drawn up in the wake of last year's health accord would meet the criteria of these judicial medical experts, eliminating the need for parallel private care. The federal government would be hoping that negative publicity, coupled with the arrival of judges Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron, would cause the court to retreat.

Or our federal political leaders could accept their good fortune and acquiesce in the court's decision. As the judges themselves observe, Australia, states in Europe, and other developed countries all incorporate majority-public and minority-private health-care systems. Permitting parallel private care would increase competition, dampen wage demands and improve service delivery.


No points for discerning Ibbitson's favored choice from the above language, but I'd say it's extremely unlikely that the Liberals will subject their main $41 billion dollar talking point to direct scrutiny by the courts, preferring to hedge their bets until another challenge winds its way through the laborious judicial system. And they certainly won't throw away their pet vote-winning issue in favor of reform discussion, which means that in the near future nothing much changes. Whether we get that debate on reform to the system that extend beyond an indefinite "throw more money at the problem" will depend on the success of the opposition in swaying public opinion.

On that note, one suggestion for Conservatives: Start demanding "European-style" health care for Canada in the House and in your platform. "We don't want the American system. We want the Swedish system, the French system... those ranked the best in the world by the United Nations' WHO." Call attention to what you consider popular myths regarding the current state of affairs. Succeed in shifting the comparison in the public eye beyond a deceptive "either-or" proposition with the States, and then the public will be more open to an examination of underlying reforms that could ultimately improve Canadian health care for all.

I wonder if there is not a real possibility here for the NDP as well. The party of "Medicare and Tommy Douglas" should show some creative thinking and prominently attach itself to a few key innovative reforms. Instead of demanding merely more money, demand some realistic, structural changes that have proven successful in other socially democratic countries. Such a move would help shatter the image of the party as a tired and statist alternative interested only in breaking the bank on social issues. Oppose significant privatization, sure. But propose some innovation as well. The ideas are out there...

1 Comments:

Anonymous Richard MacBean said...

"On that note, one suggestion for Conservatives: Start demanding "European-style" health care for Canada in the House and in your platform. "We don't want the American system. We want the Swedish system, the French system... those ranked the best in the world by the United Nations' WHO.""

The problem here of course is that no one would the believe the current version of the Conservative party should they make such a statment. They have to make themselves credible first; at present they seem to be moving in the opposite direction. That's too bad, because the the Liberals are sitting ducks.

4:48 PM  

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