Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Harper Government Chose to "Unilaterally" Move to Reshape Canadian Healthcare

If there is one thing terribly wrong with the Harper government, it is it's tendency to move on policy and legislation without consulting or asking anyone else what they think - it's got to be done the way they want it to be done. The rest of those guys are just suckers.

They've acted this way throughout their entire time in government, even through the minority parliaments of 2006-2011, where a weak-willed opposition in the Liberals, Bloc, and yes, even the NDP, gave Harper all the breathing room he needed.

And now that he's got his majority, we've seen this in practice in a much more severe way. The closure of debates, the forcing of committees in camera, and the insistence that only they can legislate, even if they steal ideas from other parties, is just a small taste of what is going to happen.

The bigger taste will come from the 2014 health accord negotiations, which we are just starting to get into now. Already we're seeing evidence that not only is the Harper government going to push through their own plans, they don't seem entirely willing to bend to the positions of other provinces, even friendly ones like Premier Alward's, let alone Charest's and McGuinty's positions.

This idea of the Con government's - tying healthcare transfers to economic growth and inflation after 2017, instead of the set percentage usually negotiated - may very well have some merits. It seems to please the Western provinces a lot more than it pleases Eastern provinces, due to some obvious reasons. Honestly though, I don't know. Is it a good idea?

But the grander point really is the fact that the government had decided this in advance - didn't tell any of us about it during the election, to note - without consultations with the provinces. That's going to not just make these negotiations in 2014 a prickly affair, but it could very well threaten the stability of our healthcare system. After all, if the Harper government is committed to this "unilateral approach" to doing things, a.k.a. our way or the highway, you can sure as hell bet the premiers of the provinces in opposition to the deal aren't going to budge either.

And if we have the governments of this federation stuck at opposite poles, then we're going to be stuck with nothing while they bicker. In that scenario, I'd be more than a little worried about the future of the system itself, given the unsustainability of what we currently have.

When dealing with something as serious as our healthcare, intransigence is not a virtue. It's dangerous. And that's the road we seem to be heading down, folks.

Merry Christmas.

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