Health spending deal shows a rare bit of good sense

Finally, Ottawa appears to be dropping out of the Health Care business. It is 40 years overdue! Health care is legally under provincial jurisdiction but past federal governments, for decades, have used it as a political football. And what has it got us? Excruciatingly long wait-times for a specialist, and more importantly, an unaffordable health care system for every province in Canada.

Finally, Ottawa appears to be dropping out of the Health Care business. It is 40 years overdue! Health care is legally under provincial jurisdiction but past federal governments, for decades, have used it as a political football. And what has it got us? Excruciatingly long wait-times for a specialist, and more importantly, an unaffordable health care system for every province in Canada.

The Canadian Press story in the Jan. 9 Advocate, Provinces worry about having no health accord, is the best news ever to come out of Ottawa regarding health care costs.

According to the article, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is giving the provinces a 10-year funding package for health care with no policy strings attached. It is a very creative way of “suspending” the formal, national health-care accord to find out if the provinces have enough smarts and courage to clean up their own health system mess.

It is a beautiful move by Ottawa! I am hopeful that it will show how overspending municipal and provincial politicians, who have been using health care as a pork barrel, will be exposed and held accountable. Alberta is a worst offender.

Why do I say that? Because for decades, the way to get elected in any municipality is to promise the voters a health-care goodie — a new health clinic, a new hospital, and addition to the existing facility, a heli-pad, another doctor, more beds, and on and on.

The way to get unelected is to tell the voters that the province must cut back on health-care spending, which will mean that dozens (hundreds?) of seldom-used local health clinics will need to be closed down and consolidated into a larger town or city.

Is there anywhere in small-town Alberta a mayor or an MLA who has the economic sense and political courage to make such a proclamation? I think not — yet it must be done.

Alberta Health Services officials (including former CEO Stephen Duckett) have identified the changes that need to be made to streamline our system and bring spending in to line. Are these changes being implemented? No! Because pork-barrel politicians (and their voters) will not allow it.

So I guess we just keep on paying taxes into a bottomless pit.

Jim Swan

Red Deer

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