If you thought stopping the Third Way was an exhausting battle, get ready for a bigger one.
I believe there is a strong possibility Premier Ed Stelmach’s provincial government will soon attack public health care with an intensity we have never before seen here in Alberta or elsewhere in Canada. Former premier Ralph Klein’s illogically named “Third Way” was just a warm-up.
The reason: Fed-up public opinion and an activist Democratic president south of the Medicine Line have the greedy and inefficient private U.S. health care system in an uncomfortable corner, if not quite on the ropes. Canada, especially Alberta, can become a second front in the U.S. health industry’s ugly, no-holds-barred fight against much needed health care reform in the United States.
Pouring part of their virtually unlimited resources into undermining Canadian public health insurance makes sense from the perspective of the U.S-based private “health care” industry for several reasons:
- Anything they can do to hurt the credibility of the obviously more efficient single-payer system used in Canada in the minds of U.S. voters helps their cause. Hence the dishonest TV ads financed by Big Medicine now playing on U.S. television sets.
- Any damage they can do to the efficiency and fairness of public health care in Canada – especially if it increases the clamour among the moneyed classes in this country for privatized health “solutions” – may reduce the pressure for a fair public health system in the United States.
- Under NAFTA’s “free trade” Bill of Corporate Rights, private health care in one country can be used to sustain and increase the same thing in the others. As a last resort, then, more private health care in Canada is a hedge against the outright exclusion of private health care in the United States.
For all these reasons – plus the fact that corporations are always looking to expand their markets – it is likely we will see a renewed corporate push to privatize health care in Canada. U.S. corporations rightly see Alberta, of course, as the weakest link in the defence of Canadian public health insurance, so they will attack here the hardest.
So look for big U.S. bucks to flow into Alberta to back efforts to weaken public support for our public health care system. (Expect, moreover, that our Conservative government will extol ignoring the public’s wishes on this topic as “leadership.”)
And look for Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert – widely believed not to be planning to seek re-election and hence more able to resist pressure from the public – to aggressively take the lead in the fight to wreck our health care system before our American cousins wise up and go Canadian.
Aug. 12: Political and financial implications for Alberta of more private health care.