‘I don’t feel qualified to intervene in the debate’ (II)


For those unsatisfied by yesterday’s demurring, here is an excerpt from Stephen Harper’s reply to the Speech from the Throne in October 2002. Possibly the last time he’s allowed himself to say these sorts of things out loud in a public place.

Let me turn to health care. What was proposed that we do about health care in the throne speech? Three things: nothing, nothing and nothing; just rhetoric. We have heard it all before. Appoint a commission and wait for it to report.

In 1997 we were promised better access to medically necessary drugs. In 1994 the government appointed the National Forum on Health to deal with the emerging crisis on health care. It reported in 1997 and no action was taken. We have the Kirby committee appointed by the government in the Senate. Now we have the Romanow commission and we are told we must wait for the Romanow commission to act.

While we are waiting month after month, year after year for these various commissions to report, we get endless speeches from the federal government about its role as the protector of health care and health care values. In the meantime, there is no plan. There is a long history of lack of cooperation and open periodic confrontation with the provinces and, of course, the elimination of the deficit in which the cutting of health care transfers was a major priority. In fact, instead of reducing the $16 billion the government spends on grants and contributions, the Prime Minister and the former minister of finance have slashed $6 billion annually from health care transfers to the provinces as part of the deficit reduction strategy.

Not surprisingly, these actions and 10 years of excessive rhetoric have resulted in the continual deterioration of our health care system. Today, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada ranks 18th in terms of access to MRIs, 17th in terms of access to CT scanners and 8th in terms of access to radiation machines. In terms of risk of death by breast cancer, for example, Canada ranks 6th among OECD countries.

According to the Fraser Institute, across Canada “The total waiting time is high, both historically and internationally. Compared to 1993, the waiting time in 2001-02 is 77% higher in this country”. The waiting time has increased in all but one of the past eight years. Canadians deserve better health care than that, much better.

There is all this talk going on and that is typical. As soon as I point out their deficiencies in health care, the Liberals attack the provinces. The provinces are the ones that are trying to run the system and increase spending on health care. There is no responsibility, no honesty and grandiose rhetoric.

Let me talk about our approach to health care and our values on health care because it is very important that when we talk about health care that our values are clear. In this political party, we represent ordinary people. the people we represent depend on this system. They have real concerns and these deficiencies are not a big federal-provincial game. They have real impacts.

My wife, Laureen, and I ran our own small businesses. We had to pay our own health care premiums. We had to purchase our own supplemental health care coverage, like most people in the country. We cannot afford to fly to clinics in the United States to get health care when things go wrong and we certainly cannot afford to get on Challenger jets to do it.

We do not need lectures from these guys about preserving the health care system. We understand the key value of this system. It is not the Canada Health Act. It is not the federal status in health care. The key is that necessary health care must be available to every Canadian regardless of ability to pay. This cannot be accomplished by delaying critical treatment by rationing and we cannot saddle ordinary people with enormous bills for catastrophic health problems.

To achieve these things, the federal government must work with the provinces and it must begin to act now. I would suggest that it begin by reversing the damage the government did to the health care debate and to the evolution of dealing with health care problems during the 2000 election campaign.

In that campaign the Liberals opposed provincial efforts to broaden health care delivery within publicly paid health systems by not just fighting plans for private facilities in various provinces but by demonizing the provinces pursuing these reforms. This was wrong.

A government monopoly is not the only way to deliver health care to Canadians. 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.

We must become innovative in how we deliver care while holding fast to the principle of universal care regardless of ability to pay. The federal government must be absolutely clear on this point. It must remove any barriers, any chill to increase private capital investment plans that the provinces have for our health care system.

This is only a start in this caucus. Our member of Parliament from Yellowhead, a brand new member of Parliament with a long background in health care governance and in his local regional health authority, will have more to say about this in the next few weeks.


‘I don’t feel qualified to intervene in the debate’ (II)

  1. "My wife, Laureen, and I ran our own small businesses. We had to pay our own health care premiums. We had to purchase our own supplemental health care coverage, like most people in the country. We cannot afford to fly to clinics in the United States to get health care when things go wrong and we certainly cannot afford to get on Challenger jets to do it."

    We will hold you to it Stephen!
    As one who has run his own small business for 20+ years in Ontario – didnt have to pay until 2003 – when Dalton brought in the Health Tax – which I was amenable to pay.
    Didn't pay into EI either – because I wasn't covered.
    Not sure I agree with Haprer's plan to make it compulsory for self employed either…

    • Off-topic, but what small business did he run?

      • Freelance Horton donut taster #66

  2. And what does this have to do with him saying he wasnt qualified to intervene in a debate about AMERICAN healthcare.

    Misleading and you know it.

    • I agree. Another smear from Wherry.

      One thing's for sure, the worst thing for any leader in the world to do would be to express a preference or have any involvement in the American health care debate whatsoever.

      • "Another smear from Wherry."

        Are you capable of anything other than crankiness?

    • Because in that interview he continually stated that healthcare was the provinces problem, that healthcare was run provincially, that healthcare is the responsibility of the provinces, etc. Here he's saying that the federal government needs to act to protect healthcare.

      Stating that the federal government needs to be more involved in healthcare while NOT being the party in power, then WHILE in power, not doing anything and stating 'it's the provinces responsibility' is misleading.

    • Because he was asked about the CANADIAN healthcare system and things that were being said about the Canadian system.

      But he ducked it. Because he doesn't believe in our healthcare system as the quotation above shows.

  3. It's a shame that guy never made it to office.

    • Yeah, just think of what he could have achieved.

  4. Wherry is just bored. Much like the rest of the parliamentary press corps, I imagine. No election to cover. No Liberal back-stabbing stories. No Tory backbiting (yet).

    Were it not for HarperDroppings, they'd be forced to cover the NDP convention/namechange 24/7. Oh, the horror!

  5. What business did Stephen and Laureen run? I didn't think either of them had ever derived any income from anything other than public/;private welfare?

  6. Coming from this particular blog, we know with near certainty (just as the Sun rises each morning, so too does this particular blogger only see nefarious things in each and every act and utterance of Harper),

    that if he had gone on about Canada's system, in the context (messy context always getting in the way of agenda journalism) of the US debate,

    There would a be a much longer, more fullsome, and more widely spread attack on Harper than what we see here. The theme: "Harper Interferes".

    It would also be a justified attack. But if you must attack nonetheless, I suppose an unjustified attack will do.

  7. Bollocks. If Harper had stood up for the Canadian system, you would have heard no such things.
    I can say that, because Harper would never stand up for the Canadian system.
    He used to lead the National Citizens Coalition. Do you even know what that organisation was set up to oppose? (Three guesses…….first two don't count. )

    • OK, this is just a guess but were they set to oppose those people who were not National Citizens.

  8. Well the Libs could certainly teach Harper a thing or two about how to interfere in American internal politics.

    Like when Raymond Chretien, then ambassador to the U.S., was musing out loud how Canada would prefer an Al Gore victory over George Bush.

  9. Steve-o's right. He isn't qualified to intervene in our healthcare debate. And he isn't qualified to be our PM, as he's shown many times throughout the last couple of years.

    Economic collapse? What economic collapse? Nuclear isotope crisis? We'll just put our head in the sand and get out of that nuclear business we've led for a few decades. Research/innovation and postsecondary education? Hey, look we'll build these shiny new bridges and university buildings with classes holding 200-300 students per instructor. Sigh.