Braid: Kenney and Notley talk about political hacks and healthcare

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Prime Minister Jason Kenney says only “political hacks” are predicting early elections in Alberta.

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The law now states that the fixed date for elections is May 29, 2023, and “that’s when the next election will be, period. I gave no consideration to an early election.”

This assumes that he will still be prime minister. Kenney didn’t give any time on Friday to the small matter of next Wednesday’s leadership review results.

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

The prime minister branched out to other comments on health care, which is sure to be a big issue in next year’s election, or anytime.

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

NDP leader Rachel Notley later responded, saying Kenney is lying about increasing healthcare funding and clearly wants a privatized system where Albertans pay for their care, US-style.

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

The US has more service capacity, but “they spend a lot more… I don’t think the US system is a model for us”.

He called for a closer alignment of our system with Western European countries where there is “universal public insurance… not the American bogeyman, but private sector leverage when and where it makes sense”.

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

Hiring procedures for private facilities “is not a bad word”. The province “can do more surgeries, faster, through competitive contracting through private facilities.”

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Notions to the contrary, Kenney said, are “uncertain ideologies that have long limited meaningful health care reform in Canada.

Prime Minister Jason Kenney appears at a press conference at Rockyview General Hospital on Friday.
Prime Minister Jason Kenney appears at a press conference at Rockyview General Hospital on Friday. Darren Makowichuk’s photo /postmedia

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

“We are short of $800 million when inflation is at its highest” and the government has yet to reach salary agreements with various groups, including doctors.

“They are frankly lying when they say they invested more direct money than they did last year.

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

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Notley says the effort to provide more care to private facilities is the road to disaster.

“Companies will give us a good, moderately reasonable contract for the first 10 years or so, and then when we lose the public capacity to perform our procedures, the cost will increase.”

She feels that will certainly happen with the lab tests, which the UCP intends to put into private hands after canceling the NDP’s plans for a superlab in Edmonton.

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

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“There is this magical notion that the private sector is going to do this cheaper. But US studies show that the cost of private delivery will eventually rise.

“That’s what Kenney wants to do – expand the scope of the profit margin in our healthcare system.

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

“I believe we are opening the door to the American system. That’s their agenda and there are people at the top of AHS who agree that’s what they want.”

The uproar over Kenney’s leadership has pushed more important issues under the radar. Whatever happens next week, they have to come back to the screen.

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

Twitter: @DonBraid

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