As part of the NDPs “Task Force on the Middle Class and the Recession,” I attended the Health Care Town Hall, hosted by Linda Duncan and featuring Winnipeg North NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis and Friends of Medicare Executive Director David Eggen. In the audience was Ray Martin (former Alberta NDP leader and MLA, and candidate for Edmonton-East) and Western Arctic NDP MP Dennis Bevington. That’s right, three NDP MPs under one roof in Alberta, hell hath frozen over.
The event was held at the Gold Bar Community Hall, deep in the blue end of this newly orange’d riding, and attracted a crowd of about 150 people, and unfortunately no mainstream media accepted the invitation to come.
Which is really sad, because on a day like today, when the Health Minister announces to the media that they plan to delist everything that is not required by the Canada Health Act, and the Legislature was a storm with questions about the delisting of gender reassignment surgeries, you would think health care would be a prime-time item. Perhaps the media really does give the NDP a pass.
Nevertheless, I, as a partisan blogger, can fill the role of biased media coverage for the evening.
The speakers outlined how Alberta currently has 89 private clinics where patients pay to skip the queue and get treated faster. These clinics charge on the range of $3,000 per year and also cost the public system $1 million per doctor per year. These clinics are in direct violation of the Canada Health Act, however, the current government doesn’t believe in intervening to prevent such madness and lets it slide.
As an example, Eggen reminded the crowd that Allan Rock, then health minister for Jean Chretien, withheld transfer payments to Alberta until Ralph Klein stopped breaking the Act, and upheld public health care in the province.
Wasylycia-Leis mentioned that the federal Conservatives tabled their report on the state of health care late on a Friday afternoon (when the House is notoriously empty) and washed over bits that mentioned these types of violations (which are also occurring in BC).
The speakers were also united in calling for a public pharamacare program that could lower drug costs for Albertans (and Canadians) by buying in bulk, and removing those who seek to make a profit off of suffering. This talk even sparked the attention of one senior who regretted voting Conservative in the past (I think provincial) election. He also had some very harsh words about the “arrogant” health minister.
Eggen made a few other claims about a private health care system that he believes the Conservatives are aiming for (although, after some arguments with @GriffMLA tonight, I’m reminded that this government never has, and likely never will, have a plan, and is just likely making it up as they go along). I’ll take his word on this, but This includes that private insurance would cost $11-15K per year, and 1 in 10 would have no insurance. Also that the government’s spending on health care with respect to GDP has dropped 46% in the past 17 years.
Finally, Eggen plugged an upcoming rally for 9 May at the Legislature at 1:00PM, tentatively titled the “Mother of all rallies” (in honour of Mother’s Day) and a petition he was circulating.
So that’s about all for now. Tomorrow at noon I’ll try to live-blog the Pay Equity Forum at Enterprise Square with Linda and Judy, so watch for that at noon.