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Friday, September 03, 2010

Danielle Kisses the Third Rail

Wildrose attacks the most sacred of sacred Canadian cows:

“I wish I could’ve delivered meaningful reforms, but I didn’t. That’s for the next premier,” Mr. Klein said.

He was wrong. Ed Stelmach has shrunk from any such initiatives. But Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Alliance, who hopes to be the next premier after Mr. Stelmach, is reopening it.

“Albertans have been ready to have that debate, but the politicians are afraid to,” Ms. Smith said. “Controversy in itself, or the fact that people might disagree with us, is not enough for us to decide not to take on an issue.”

This is not talk of freeing the market for health care - perish the radical thought - but allowing private entities to offer care with public funds. The hope is that by contracting out, the services will be delivered more efficiently, while keeping the provincial governments as paymasters. The latter part is suppose to reassure the electorate in some deeply mystical way. Because the government is paying for it, it will be good and humane. Repeat until numb.

Since this is government-run health care by other means, there is little to cheer about. Its main advantage is circumventing the militant health care unions. Its disadvantage is that, in the Left hands, it can be used to discredit further reforms in the direction of the market. Just regulate privately delivered care in such a way as make it even worse than the purely public system, and wait for the Toronto Star - and its sisters across the Dominion - to denounce it as capitalism run amok. A few editorials about the Americanization of Canadian health care, and the issue is dead for another ten years, along with many of the poor suckers still on waiting lists.

As I've often said in this space, Medicare isn't a government program, it's a cult. The nominal reason behind socialized health care is "universality." The altruistic goal of insuring that all Canadians have access to quality care. That was the wedge that allowed the Medicare Myth to be born, and is still its headline rationalization. But take the same argument and apply it in a different context. If a politician was to argue that "universality" of access to quality food should be a government objective, and that the government should therefore takeover the supermarkets, he'd be laughed at. 

The overwhelming majority of Canadians can afford quality food, if they choose to buy it, and only a small percentage might go hungry without help. If one believes that government should be charged with delivering charity - I certainly don't - then the logical approach would be to subsidize food for the poor. Whether through food stamps, or a welfare check, it would give the poor the means of eating and leave the rest of us to arrange our affairs as we choose. That is how we already feed the poor in Canada. It is not ideal, but it is far preferably to having your local Loblaws run by a Minister of Food. 

The same logic applies equally well to health care. Any sort of health care financing scheme will have to rely on the principle of putting a bit in and using as needed, something akin to insurance. The overwhelmingly majority of Canadians can afford private insurance premiums, if they could not the tax base would not exist to support the current system. Like with food and housing, those who could not afford the premiums would be subsidized. Such a system would have its abuses, as any system does, but it will allow the great majority of Canadians access to health care on their own terms, rather than those of the Minister of Health. It would also ensure that even the poor could get quality health care, since they would be just another customer of the hospital or clinic. 

While such an approach would be logical, it would challenge the sanctity of government delivered care. The Cult of Medicare is not interested in quality health care, it is interested in preserving state health care. A nation where the people turn to the government for their most intimate personal needs, whose health is subject to bureaucratic diktat, will find less objectionable further intrusions in their private lives by the state. Once the medical state has gotten its foot in the door, the rest is details. The advocates of Obamacare in the United States understand this, as do the opponents of private delivery in Alberta. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on September 3, 2010 | Permalink


Canadian (Western) politics in a nut shell, you can tamper around the fringes, play in the sand box, but adult decisions have all been made for you. The nanny / welfare state is a one way ratchet up until bankruptcy and societal collapse coming eventually, perhaps even soon to many Western nations.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-09-04 11:55:07 AM

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