51

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


 

The Prime Minister sat down with ABC’s Jake Tapper today for a chat about continental relations, trade and health care.

Most interesting might be the exchange on health care, during which Stephen Harper proved rarely reticent. That portion of the conversation after the jump.

Those interested in what Stephen Harper might say if Stephen Harper had something to say about wait times in Canada might consult his party’s 2006 election platform. A report this June from the Wait Times Alliance—entitled Unfinished Business—noted slight improvement from 2004.

Tapper:  I know you don’t want to get involved in the domestic U.S. health care reform –

Harper:  You bet.

Tapper:  But, there is a Canadian woman who is appearing in a TV ad.  She is from Ottawa and she had a brain tumor and she said that if she relied on Canadian health care, she would have died.  But she came to the United States to have it treated.  And as you know, this is a criticism even within Canada of Canadian health care that the waits are too long.  Are you concerned about this problem in the Canadian health care system and how do you respond to those criticisms?

Harper:  Well, first of all, I am not going to get involved in the health care debate in the United States.  I know that this is a – I know from our own health care debates historically in Canada that this is a very difficult, very tricky issue.

All across the world, health care systems of all kinds of different shapes and sizes have significant – have significant challenges.  And, obviously, I can’t comment specifically on a Canadian woman who may have had one type of experience with our health care system, with the American health care system.

In Canada, health care is principally the responsibility of our provincial government.  The federal government provides some transfers.  We do some of the drug regulation, a number of other activities.

But it is principally a system run by our provincial government.  So first of all, I don’t feel qualified to intervene in the debate.  And it is a very complex debate.  And as President Obama said, “there is a unique American health care system that’s evolved in a different way.”  And I think that the American public themselves has to arrive at its own solutions for reform.

Tapper:  But are waits in your country too long?

Harper:  I say, once again, that-

Tapper:  That’s not about your health care system-

Harper:  Yes, but the responsibility for the health care waits, in our country, are the responsibilities of provincial governments.

I have taken the view, as the federal prime minister very different than some of my predecessors as I don’t lecture the provinces publically on how they should be running their health care systems.

What we try to do is work with them in a cooperative manner so we can be helpful in addressing the challenges.

All around the world, what we are seeing all around the world is important to understand is that there have been tremendous breakthroughs in medicine.  We can treat more things, more ways through new technology, drugs than ever before.

At the same time, all of this costs money.  If you are prepared to spend an unlimited amount of money, you can do an almost unlimited number of things in people’s health care.  But you don’t have an unlimited amount of money no matter what your system is.  And these are challenges that every system has to address.

But I’m not – I’m not going, quite frankly, criticize how our provinces are running their health care systems because I know the challenges that face them are very big.


 

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

  1. This interview makes me sad, but surely it must make Harper sadder. There's no way that he took on the leadership of the Canadian Alliance with aspirations to be this boring and indifferent.

    • Wherry is starting to make me sad.

    • Harper's ready for a lifetime of government cheques and speaking engagements in retirement.

      Whether nationalizing car companies, perpetuating aboriginal poverty, or expanding government at 3x the rate of inflation, his tenure has been another failure of leadership in Canada.

      The tragedy is that Canadians don't expect anything more.

  2. Straining to avoid being dragged into a protracted debate into our neighbor's internal affairs, is good statemenship.

    • Yes it is. This doesn't mean, however, that you shouldn't offer a defence of your own country's system, in the context of your own country. It also doesn't require you to go on lengthy tangents about how medical breakthroughs have happened, and money is not unlimited.

      • I think you're forgetting that the PM is ideologically opposed to our country's current system. Singing the praises of something you don't agree with seems pretty disingenuous to me.

        • Silly me. Maybe he should consider amending the Canada Health Act, then, since he is the Prime Minister.

        • Yeah, that would be like a fiscal conservative going around the country bragging about how much taxpayer money you've been spending. Um…

          OK, maybe it's like attacking the notion of any distinctive recognition or special status of a single province and then taking the lead in introducing a motion in Parliament that recognizes the distinctiveness or special status of a single province. Oh, right…

          Maybe it's like someone who believes in fixed election dates, calling an election on a whim and saying it is a good and needed event? or someone who believes in cutting taxes defending the raising of income taxes to pay for a GST cut and then defending raising taxes on income trusts? or someone who believes that doing business with communist China is unprincipled foreign policy pushing his finance minister to lead a delegation of Canadian business and political leaders to explore ways to expand business with China? or…

          Oh heck, why didn't he just defend Canadian health care one tiny little fraction of a bit????

        • " Singing the praises of something you don't agree with seems pretty disingenuous to me.

          Wow. Have you seen Harper2000 vs harper2009 lately? It's got this cool thing where deficits are notgonnahappen, socialistevilideas, while then spending like Ed McMahon's wife. He breaks promises on taxes, accountability, senators, elections — can someone get the CONbots up to speed here?

    • "Straining to avoid being dragged into a protracted debate into our neighbor's internal affairs, is good statemenship.

      Too bad that's Harper's strategy for issues in Canada, too.

  3. "I don't feel qualified to intervene in the debate."

    I don't think your qualified to be our Prime Minister. The interview was terrible! I watch Harper in a 2008 Conservative rally, and he was fast talking, smart, and funny. But when he gets into bi-partisan or international speeches/interviews, the guy's an embarrassment.

    Can't say anything different about Ignatieff, though…

  4. "I don't feel qualified to intervene in the debate."

    I don't think your qualified to be our Prime Minister. The interview was terrible! I watch Harper in a 2008 Conservative rally, and he was fast talking, smart, and funny. But when he gets into bi-partisan or international speeches/interviews, the guy's an embarrassment. He could've at least defended our system, or admit that it's a system that's flawed but a system Canadians are proud of.

    Can't say anything different about Ignatieff, though…

  5. Jake Tapper is the best msm reporter in US at the moment. Tapper runs rings around R Gibbs everyday at press conferences and makes him look like a dissembling fool.

    It is enjoyable to imagine Harper and how uncomfortable he is while talking about our second rate health care system. Too bad he doesn't want to be the Harper of old and make some changes to improve our system.

    • "our second rate health care system"

      It ain't the best jwl, but It ain't so bad

      • Don't bother. jwl thinks the private sector would do a better job of providing health care to Canadians and facts aren't gonna get in his way.

        • Hee hee. Second rate.
          You're funny. I think so, my extra kidney thinks so, my type 1 diabetic wife and brother think so too.
          The kids with MS at the camp I volunteer at would be laughing too, if i told them. maybe i will, they appreciate a good laugh.
          See, here's the problem. Give me any system of any kind, and i can find you exceptions and examples of where the system doesn't work. Why? Because systems are people, and people make mistakes. But all those people you're not hearing from? They're the ones who aren't thinking much about the system, because it allows them the luxury to not have to think about it.
          But keep the one-liners coming. They say laughter is the best medicine.

  6. Thank goodness we're paying good money to US media consultants so Harper can go on US television and not talk about things. Money well spent.

  7. Tapper wasn't asking questions about the Canadian system out of curiosity.

    The sole reason was to be put in the context of the American debate, and hence involve us in that debate, and Harper "going on a tangent" was the smart thing to do.

    No doubt Iggy would have waxed eloquent about his "true patriot love" (true this past year, that is) and its health system, and it would have been good for Iggy politically, but bad for relations and bad for Canadians long term.

    We should all be thankful that Harper has continued to act every bit the sober statesman when abroad.

    • Do you really think his reluctance to answer the question had anything to do with international relations? And not domestic politics?

    • Iggy's response to the same interview would have been

      "When I was a major media figure in the UK I was part the National Health System. Our system there had the following advantages…."

      "When I was a professor of international renown at Harvard I had experience with the american Health Care system. Our system there had the following advantages…"

      "As leader of the Liberal Partyof Canada, the worlds most successful political party, I have been getting to know our system there, it has the following advantages.

      "I am very qualified to comment on the debate in the US and here is what we should do……"

  8. After what the Canadian medai and other parties did to Stockwell day in the 2000 election campaign I can well understand the PM's reticence. Health care is a toxic issue for all Canadian politicans.

    • Seriously, reading this transcript you'd never know Harper was holding up a "NO 2-TIER HEALTHCARE" sign the whole time.

      • Handwritten with a big black felt marker, too.

  9. Harpo had the international spotlight to "stand up for Canada" and declined to. This is our leader, the guy you'd expect to sell the virtues of all things Canadian and could not high-lite a single benefit of the Canadian model! From his disposition (slumped, frowny and haggered) while in Mexico, one could think the job is getting to him!! Possibly Harpo is finally realizing he's in way over his head!!

    • I guess there was a bathroom calling out his name for much of that interview…

  10. A wise person doesn't rush in to opine on areas that are not his business, i.e. how the US handles their health care. Mr. Harper gave a good interview, and Tapper looked impressed with our Prime Minister, who gave, as per usual, fulsome, intelligent replies. Some of you just bitch, bitch, bitch. Tiresome, really. I'm always impressed with Prime Minister Harper on the international stage. He handles himself with dignity and aplomb.

    • Bettie, with the exception of that pissing match with Iggy over something Iggy didn't even say, I would generally agree with you on Harper's conduct on the international stage.

    • Thank-you bettie and myl for putting a little realism in this discussion. Those of us who are able to watch PM Harper objectively know that world leaders and journalists are very impressed with his thoughtful opinions and professionalism.

      Yesterday must have been manic Monday for Wherry—-I think his vindictiveness toward our PM, as he cuts and pastes, is becoming an obsession and he`s losing his fan base—-except for a few diehards.

  11. Harper needs to stop using the phrases "in all fairness" and "quite frankly". I think I heard him say "quite frankly" at least twelve times in the Tapper ABC interview.

    • The problem is you`ve been hanging out with Wherry too much—-you`re getting nitpicky.

      • Maybe. I don't really see it as picking nits–just offering some constructive criticism.

    • I think it's a tell – when the PM says "quite frankly", he's about to sound frank while misleading you.

    • I would throw "let me be perfectly clear" and "my friends" into the "Phrases Steve should stop saying because they are a sign he is going say something stupid (or even more stupid than normal)."

  12. Really, people, what's the man supposed to say?

    "You know, Jake, it would be a real shame if you guys end up socializing your health care system to a shambles. Our conditional federal fund-transfer system has made it illegal for Canadians to buy private insurance in every province, for health care that the province allegedly provides for them. Our own Supreme Court has correctly labeled this as a human rights issue in its rebuke to one of our provinces. Individual Canadians, and, at times, the provinces themselves have contracted with physicians, clinics and hospitals in the USA for health care that could not be obtained in any reasonable length of time within our borders. So my concern is this: if you go and ruin your system too, where will the Canadians go?"

    Is THAT the response you wanted from him?

    • I guess the question that remains to be answered is, what would John Howard have done?

    • I would have expected him to acknowledge the problems our system is facing while carefully reiterating the popular support for the system amongst Canadians. Admit a few issues, call the most serious cases rare exceptions to the rule (the Canadian woman in the adds, if she's telling the complete truth, wouldn't be the norm in our system by any stretch of the imagination – anyone about to die gets treatment, period.). Then wish America luck on fashioning their own system that works for them while we flesh out some of the issues with our system north of the border.

      Is THAT so hard?

      • Sorry Craig, the province of Quebec, for one, has no time "fleshing out" some of the issues, for it spent all its energy waging a losing judicial attempt to deny there was a problem. See Chaoulli. And take up the "rare exceptions" detail with the SCOC, who saw matters altogether differently.

      • Sorry Craig, the province of Quebec, for one, has no time for "fleshing out" some of the issues, for it spent all its energy waging a losing judicial attempt to deny there was a problem. See Chaoulli. And take up the "rare exceptions" detail with the SCOC, who saw matters altogether differently.

    • There other places than the USA. I took my terminally ill wife to Japan because we couldn't receive adequate medical care in Canada. Canadians need to recognize that although our system has many good points (especially universal insurance coverage) there are still many flaws that need to be addressed. Sticking our heads under the hospital sheets won't solve our problems.

  13. I think Harper is has a pathological inability to sit through an interview or press conference without getting a shot in at his predecessors/opposition. Very classy.

      • Good point G I just caught an Interview with Obama on CPAC where he states ' Our Immigration System Is Broken ' period case closed now if Steven says the same thing which he basically did he gets headlines ' H Blames Canada Eh! – typical and so obvious most people turn it off as business as usual

  14. Harper should not be let out of the country. He has a weak vision of Canada, and every time he steps outside the country, this sad reality becomes more and more clear. Since taking office, his international appearances have been dedicated to halting or watering-down multinational efforts or pursuing domestic party-political agendas when he should be focused on the needs of the nation as a whole and internationally. The decline of Canada's foreign policy influence is a direct consequence of his narrow, partisan and provincial outlook.

  15. More from our "it's somone else's fault – not mine" Prime Minister.
    This time – it's the provinces.
    Since he is responsible for the enforcement of the Canada Health Act through the Federal Health Minister (and actually – having ditched Clement – who has now messed up Healthcare twice – in Ontario and noiw Federally – can any say SARS – and at least Harper has gotten himself someone who is half decent at the job) – it appears he is not giving his current Health Minister any support!

  16. Harper's handlers must have been on eggshells during the whole interview, worried he make another cheap, partisan swipe against domestic opponents on the international stage, as is his wont. It must have been burning him up inside the whle time. Maybe they've got him on sedatives or antipsychotics to help him control his anger when doing international interviews. That's an investment in Harper's 'image control' that I could support!

  17. That Harper didn't take the opportunity presented to correct the misinformation of "She is from Ottawa and she had a brain tumor and she said that if she relied on Canadian health care, she would have died." I think speaks to the fact that Harper continues to support the privatization of Canadian health care.
    From an article posted to the Mayo clinic web site about Shona Holmes surgery states "Dr. Naresh Patel, neurosurgeon, diagnosed Holmes as having a Rathke's cleft cyst (RCC). The rare, fluid-filled sac grows near the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and eventually can cause hormone and vision problems. Dr. Patel joined forces with Drs. David W. Dodick, neurologist, and Michael D. Whitaker, endocrinologist, to work on Holmes' case."
    Rathke's cleft cyst is not a tumour nor is it life threatening. This was known by her Canadian doctors and they put in place treatment. That it could have been quicker I think everyone would like. That Harper has reduced the capacity to address this and many other issues with his tax cuts is why I am not a supporter of Canada's New Government.

  18. That Harper didn't take the opportunity presented to correct the misinformation of "She is from Ottawa and she had a brain tumor and she said that if she relied on Canadian health care, she would have died." I think speaks to the fact that Harper continues to support the privatization of Canadian health care.
    From an article posted to the Mayo clinic web site about Shona Holmes surgery states "Dr. Naresh Patel, neurosurgeon, diagnosed Holmes as having a Rathke's cleft cyst (RCC). The rare, fluid-filled sac grows near the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and eventually can cause hormone and vision problems. Dr. Patel joined forces with Drs. David W. Dodick, neurologist, and Michael D. Whitaker, endocrinologist, to work on Holmes' case."
    Rathke's cleft cyst is not a tumour nor is it life threatening. Canadian doctors put in place a course of action. That it could have been quicker I think everyone would like. That Harper has reduced the capacity to address this and many other issues with his tax cuts is why I am not a supporter of Canada's New Government.

  19. What Harper said about the costs of advances in medical treatments is correct – and is something that many people don't want to discuss. I just wish that he had taken the opportunity to poke a hole in the truthfulness of that "brain tumour" advert.

  20. Because Harper would privatize healthcare in a second if he had a majority.

    His war room captain (and the editor of this magazine) sits on the board of an organization thats sole purpose is to destroy our national healthcare system.

  21. And Mr Wherry's CHOICE of quote is the best example why the less said the better.

  22. You had a choice Sir, you could have defended the Canadian health care system.

Sign in to comment.