Stephen Harper and the Canada Health Act - Macleans.ca

Stephen Harper and the Canada Health Act

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Greetings from the Northwest Territories, where the Conservative and Liberal campaigns have come to debate Stephen Harper’s feelings for the Canada Health Act.

Specifically, the Conservative side is demanding that the Liberal side pull an ad that suggests Mr. Harper once suggested aloud that the Canada Health Act be scrapped. The ad cites the Globe and Mail, but it now seems the comment in question should have been attributed to a different former president of the National Citizens Coalition. (The Globe has now added a correction to the article in question.)

The Conservatives further claim that Mr. Harper “has always supported the Canada Health Act.” There may be quibbles on that point to be found below in the backgrounder the Liberal campaign has distributed, which sets out their sourcing for the ad in question (including, er, Maclean’s) and other comments attributed to Mr. Harper.

Speaking with reporters here, Mr. Ignatieff said that if the Liberal ad is mistaken, necessary action will be taken. Indeed, the Liberals now say they will replace the “scrapped” quote from the current ad with one of the other comments cited here. Furthermore, they say they will post an online poll to ask Canadians which of Mr. Harper’s quotes should be used in the new cut.

Stephen Harper should come on the record and state what his views are about the Canada Health Act. Does he think it should be “scrapped”? “replaced”? “overhauled”?

In the English-language debate last week, he was openly musing about “alternative service delivery”.

The quote in question is widely reported by numerous national media outlets.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has cautiously avoided revealing details of federal plans for a renewed accord. In his previous role as vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, he was no fan of the blueprint for Canada’s public health care system, declaring in 1997: “It’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act.” (Maclean’s, January 31, 2011)

“Before he entered politics, when he was vice-president of the National Citizens’ Coalition, Mr. Harper said: “It’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act.” (Globe and Mail, August 26, 2010, Column written by André Picard public health reporter at The Globe and Mail)

In 1997, when Harper was vice-president of the National Citizens’ Coalition, a group obsessed with privatizing health care, he said: “Well I think it would be a good idea . . . Moving toward alternatives, including those provided by the private sector, is a natural development of our health care system.” In another interview that year, Harper said, ” It’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act.” (Calgary Herald, May 5, 2005)

Here are some other quotes to the same effect:

Harper wanted to “replace” the Canada Health and Social Transfer in his famous 2001 Firewall letter:

“Resume provincial responsibility for health care policy. If Ottawa objects to provincial policy, fight in the courts. If we lose, we can afford the financial penalties Ottawa might try to impose under the Canada Health Act. Albertans deserve better than the long waiting periods and technological backwardness that are rapidly coming to characterize Canadian medicine. Alberta should also argue that each province should raise its own revenue for health care — i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points, as Quebec has argued for many years.”

(Stephen Harper, ‘Firewall’ letter, January 24, 2001)

In his 2002 Canadian Alliance Leadership campaign website, Harper wanted to “overhaul” the Act:

“Harper also believes that our health care will continue to deteriorate unless Ottawa overhauls the Canada Health Act to allow the provinces to experiment with market reforms and private health care delivery options. He is prepared to take tough positions including experimenting with private delivery in the public system.”

Others // autres:

“governments across this country have experimented with alternative service delivery….We’re not going to wave the finger at provinces because they experiment with different delivery.”

(English Language Leader’s Debate, April 12, 2011)

“We also support the exploration of alternative ways to deliver health care. Moving toward alternatives, including those provided by the private sector, is a natural development of our health care system.”

(Stephen Harper, Toronto Star, October 2002)

“Monopolies in the public sector are just as objectionable as monopolies in the private sector. It should not matter who delivers health care, whether it is private, for profit, not for profit or public institutions, as long as Canadians have access to it regardless of their financial means.”

(Stephen Harper, Hansard, Oct 1, 2002)

“each province should raise its own revenue for health care – i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points.”

(Stephen Harper, ‘Firewall’ letter, January 24, 2001)

“What we clearly need is experimentation with market reforms and private delivery options [in health care].”

(Stephen Harper, then President of the NCC, 2001)