Braid: Kenney and Notley talk political trickery and healthcare

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Prime Minister Jason Kenney says only “political tricks” predict early elections in Alberta.

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The law now establishes that the fixed date of the elections is May 29, 2023, and “that is when the next elections will be, full stop. I have not given any consideration to an early election.”

That assumes he will remain prime minister. Kenney didn’t give the small issue of the results of next Wednesday’s leadership review any time on Friday.

He was at a news conference on the plan to create 50 new fully funded and staffed ICU spaces across the province. Nineteen are already open.

The prime minister expanded on other comments about health care, which is sure to be a big issue in next year’s elections, or at any time.

What has emerged is a surprising story of opposing plans for health care, depending on who wins.

NDP leader Rachel Notley later responded, saying that Kenney is lying about providing increased funding for health care and clearly wants a privatized system where Albertans pay for their care, American-style.

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But Kenney said the American way “is very flawed in many ways, mainly because they don’t have universal insurance.”

The US has more attention span, but “spends a heck of a lot more… I don’t think the US system is a model for us.”

He called for aligning our system more closely with Western European countries where there is “universal public insurance…not the bogeyman of America, but leveraging the private sector when and where it makes sense.”

The prime minister says the NDP’s cries that people will have to pay their own bills “are just rubbish, completely untrue… the legislation is very clear, that these are publicly insured services.”

Hiring procedures for private facilities “is not a dirty word.” The province “can perform more surgeries, more quickly, through competitive contracting through private facilities.”

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Notions to the contrary, Kenney said, are “a blind ideology that has for too long limited meaningful health care reform in Canada.

Prime Minister Jason Kenney appears at a news conference at Rockyview General Hospital on Friday.
Prime Minister Jason Kenney appears at a news conference at Rockyview General Hospital on Friday. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /post media

Notley disagrees on every point, including the claim that the government has added $600 million to health care funding this year. She says that the real-world image shows a big cut.

“We’re $800 million short when inflation is at its highest” and the government has yet to reach pay deals with various groups, including doctors.

“Frankly, they are lying when they say that they have put in more direct money than last year.

“They’re doing this because they don’t care or because destabilization is exactly what they’re looking for, so they can generate public demand for a different system.”

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Notley says the push to outsource more care to private facilities is the road to disaster.

“Companies will give us a moderately reasonable good contract for the first 10 years or so, and then when we’ve lost the public ability to do our procedures, the cost will go up.”

She feels this is certain to happen with the lab tests, which the UCP intends to put in private hands after canceling the NDP’s plans for a superlab in Edmonton.

“You can’t ignore the fact that when there’s private delivery, companies have to make a profit,” says Notley. “They must pay their staff and have at least a 10 percent return.

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“There is this magical notion that the private sector will do it less expensively. But US studies show that the cost of private delivery will eventually rise.

“This is what Kenney wants to do: expand the reach of profit margin in our health care system.

“That will undermine our ability to deliver efficiently, in a coordinated way, and ultimately drive up costs.”

“I think we are opening the door to the American system. That is their agenda and there are senior people at AHS who agree that that is what they want.”

The hype over Kenney’s leadership has caused larger issues to slip under the radar. Whatever happens next week, they have to get back on screen.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Calgary Herald.

Twitter: @DonBraid

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