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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason wants to shut down a new healthcare facility in Calgary, but this may violate the Charter

Friends of Medicare are in the middle of a tour across Alberta to promote a new report the organization claims proves the Alberta public healthcare system can handle the rising cost of healthcare expected as the province’s population ages.

In a media statement released on September 23rd, Friends of Medicare wrote:

…it is well within our financial capacity to deal with the needs of our rising seniors' population. A comprehensive economic analysis by economist Greg Flanagan for the University of Alberta's Parkland Institute demonstrates that a modest annual health budget increase of 1.3 percent is enough to pay for health services as they are provided now, despite a projected doubling of our seniors' population in this province over the next 20 years.

This study contradicts the notion that health care spending is out of control, and that it will eat up public budgets in the coming decades. In fact, once population growth and inflation are factored in, our health care expenditures are quite affordable, and we certainly have both the capacity and the responsibility to do more to meet the future health care needs of our population than what we are doing at present.

David Eggen, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare, brought the “Sustainable Healthcare for Seniors” tour through Calgary on September 24th at a meeting held at the Unitarian Church.

In a speech introducing Dr. Flanagan, Eggen said “perhaps one of the most valuable things you own is the medical card that you have in your pocket.” I’ve been thinking about that comment and I suppose my Alberta healthcare card is one of the most valuable things I own. But its value comes in part from the fact that its grants me access to a single, monopoly healthcare provider – the Alberta government. By excluding competitors in the healthcare field, the Alberta government – and all provincial governments – has created an unhealthy, dependent relationship between public healthcare providers and consumers. The value of your government medical card is based in part on the ability of the government to exclude choice from the healthcare system.

(If the government nationalized food stores and excluded competition in the food industry, you can be sure food vouchers would be worth their weight in gold during times of rationing, and the Friends of Food Vouchers would be telling you that without government food vouchers you would be forced to deal with the cruel vagaries of the market and would likely starve.)

Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason was at the event and agreed to do an interview with the Western Standard.

I asked Mason what he thought about the Jacques Chaoulli Supreme Court decision. Western Standard editor Peter Jaworski reported in 2004 that “[Chaoulli,] the 52-year-old family physician[,] is arguing that Canada's health care system is in violation of Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That section reads that Canadians have the right to ‘life, liberty, and security of the person.’ Waiting times for surgery in Canadian hospitals are so long, he argues, that they endanger our health. Because Canadians are prohibited from paying to get the care they need, the security of their person is compromised.” The Supreme Court agreed.

Mason is familiar with the Supreme Court decision but argued that the decision allows for private healthcare only in instances where the public system has failed to provide timely access: “If the public health insurance program, or the public health system, can not provide timely access to necessary care then the government can not exclude people from seeking care some place else, from a private delivery. That was the decision.”

He’s right, of course.

Mason also argued that “It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that everyone has timely access to care, and that’s not happening now.”

So Mason acknowledges that the Supreme Court ruling in the Chaoulli case makes it unconstitutional to prevent people from seeking private healthcare solutions if the government is not providing timely access to healthcare services. Then he acknowledges that the government is, in fact, not providing this timely access. The logical conclusion from here is to allow Albertans to access private care at least until such time as the province can find a way to provide the timely care that Mason is demanding in a sustainable fashion. But that’s not Mason’s view.

The Western Standard reported on September 22nd that Mason wants to shut down a newly opened private healthcare diagnostic facility in Calgary:

While the Copeman Healthcare Centre in Calgary could save lives, Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason said today that the facility breaches the Canada Health Act and should be shut down.

"This is queue jumping. The Copeman clinic checks your wallet before it checks your pulse and that's no way to run a health care system in Canada,” Mason said. "Copeman calls this the second phase of medicare but Albertans know two-tiered privatization when they see it.”

If Albertans aren’t getting access to the healthcare they need in a timely fashion, as Mason argues, the NDP should welcome the arrival of the Copeman Healthcare Centre.

Friends_of_medicare_ws_story

(Picture: David Eggen, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare, speaks to an audience in Calgary on September 24th about “Sustainable Healthcare for Seniors”)

Posted by Matthew Johnston on September 27, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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Who?

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-09-27 2:19:40 PM


While the Copeman Healthcare Centre in Calgary could save lives, Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason said today that the facility breaches the Canada Health Act and should be shut down.

"This is queue jumping. The Copeman clinic checks your wallet before it checks your pulse and that's no way to run a health care system in Canada,” Mason said. "Copeman calls this the second phase of medicare but Albertans know two-tiered privatization when they see it.”


Gee how very Un-Socialist, trying to open a free enterprise clinic. Apparently we Canadians are against this aspect of free enterprise. Why? Because we feel we are owed (nearly) free medicare...or because they "tell us" we are owed free medicare?

I've carried private insurance for many years now.
Not as part of a company plan, but straight out of my own pocket. I do this out of a sense of personal responsibility, because I really don't want anything from the government that I should be able to provide for myself.
I think medicine like everything else should be something you can shop for and I don't like standing in lines for basic needs. It reminds me of Soviet Russia to do so. You get what you pay for.

(I use my GST checks to pay my taxes too. Might as well help them stay busy!) :)

Posted by: JC | 2008-09-27 5:02:05 PM


Is it not interesting how most of these politicians do not walk the talk. They have no trouble going or sending their family members to the US for speedy and qualified treatment, but they are determined that no other Canadian can obtain speedy and qualified treatment. Such arrogance!

Posted by: Alain | 2008-09-27 9:07:30 PM


Mason presumes to know how to run a health care system it seems. I'll bet he has trouble running his household sometimes. Mason would have us believe there is someone capable of running a healthcare system in the most effective way possible.

This is a radical view in my opinion, not the free market view. There are too many examples of things, some more important than healthcare, that the relatively free market delivers incredibly well, yet we are to believe the healthcare system would fail if not run by such wise angels as Mason.

Has he ever stopped to get a loaf of bread at the last minute on his way home? And imagine what a government cookie would taste like.


Posted by: TM | 2008-09-27 9:17:05 PM


Too bad Alberta isn't making their healthcare revamp report public. Prevents others from offering efficiency opinions...

Posted by: Phillip Huggan | 2008-09-28 1:49:46 PM



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