Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Martha's Monthly - Letter #2 

The Marthas are worried and dizzy.

Martha's Monthly is a grassroots non-partisan political action movement based in Lethbridge at the Womanspace Resource Centre. Each month we choose a topic of importance to women in Alberta and we send an email to our Marthas. (Mr. Klein gave us the idea for the name when he referred to the common Albertan as "Marthas and the Henrys") Marthas around Alberta send an email to Mr. Klein on the 8th of the month. The Marthas are worried and dizzy this month after listening to Mr. Klein on health care reform and reading the Graydon report. (PDF Version available here) We worry about the future for Albertan women, Albertan poor, Albertan First Nations peoples. Below is a copy of the email that went to the Marthas and a copy of the letter we suggest they forward to Mr. Klein. Since last month (our first) we have twice as many Marthas signed up. Mr. Klein did not respond to our June emails. Maybe he will this time since he has promised that no changes in health care will happen without "public consultations". Well the Marthas have spoken out and we will continue to do so. Health care is just too essential to us to leave it to market principles.

If you wish to have further information on Martha's Monthly please contact Womanspace Resource Centre at 403-329-8338.

Martha's Monthly is a grassroots non-partisan political action movement aiming to have input into policy-making at the provincial level in Alberta. Using the idea of St John's (Newfoundland) Status of Women Council's "Feminism Fits," we will send a monthly mail-out to you about a certain topic in Alberta. If you wish to participate you will find a sample e-letter attached to which you add your name, address and phone number and then e-mail directly to the premier, the Opposition leader, the ND leader, and us. We track how many letters get sent on the one day (the 8th of the month) and we let media outlets know. Ralph Klein wants to hear from "the Marthas and the Henrys" of Alberta and we think it is about time he heard from some Marthas who have a problem with high car insurance rates, a flat tax, the lowest per capita spending in Canada, large classrooms, low welfare rates, lack of affordable childcare, increasing tuition costs, deregulated electricity, the lowest minimum wage in Canada, crumbling infrastructure, and billions of dollars of surplus!

July's topic is Health Care. In the midst of the federal election, Ralph Klein announced that he would be issuing a "bold and courageous" plan of action on health care reform which included "more options" for private health care for Albertans. Some say that in spite of Health Minister Gary Mar's efforts to do damage control, that Klein's untimely (or were they timely?) remarks cost Stephen Harper the federal election. Even one of his own caucus members, Edmonton MLA Gary Masyk, crossed the floor in protest to Klein's role in undermining the federal Conservatives. On June 30, the much anticipated announcements on health care amounted to a release of the controversial Graydon report which includes recommendations on issues such as user fees and increased health premiums. It also suggests a health care deductible based on a person's taxable income. This report was accompanied by a "one time only" disbursement of $700 million dollars to bolster services in the health regions. (A clear sign of an imminent provincial election). At the same time, Mr. Klein endorsed publicly the operation of two private hip replacement clinics, although this move was defeated by his caucus. It is enough to make old Martha dizzy! It's a good thing Martha has a publicly funded health care system to catch her when she falls. Or, does she? The Premier's mixed messages over the past two weeks ranged from pronouncements on innovations that could violate the Canada Health Act to the ambiguous promise of June 30: "I said there will be meaningful reform and perhaps there will be." We, the Marthas of Alberta, wish to voice our discontent with the mixed messages on the most important issue facing Canadians. We wish to challenge the Premier to greater transparency on this issue while we also wish to voice our concern over his clear agenda to privatize health care, charge user fees, raise health care premiums, delist essential services, and to offer tax incentives or a debit system linking individual behaviour to health care rewards. Each of these steps, as promoted in both the Graydon and its predecessor, the Mazankowski Report threatens to violate the Canada Health Act and create a two-tiered system which cuts off accessible, timely and adequate health care to the poor of our country.

In sisterhood,
Martha's Monthly team at Womanspace Resource Centre, Lethbridge, AB 403-329-8338

Here's the letter for July

July 8, 2004

Dear Premier Klein,

In your last public statement on the matter of health care, you promised "public consultations" before making any changes that might compromise the Canada Health Act. The Marthas of this province wish to express our concerns over the recently released Graydon Report and over the Mazankowski report. Our concerns name the special vulnerability of women in our Province should we adopt the strategies recommended in these two documents. We wish to signal our special concern over three of the strategies that you have endorsed for revenue generation within our health care system:

An increase in health care premiums: Health care premiums will further strain middle income families. In spite of the rhetoric of the Government about the "Alberta Advantage" such health care premiums amount to another tax that middle income earners cannot support.

Increased Privatization: Mr. Klein, you have said publicly that you were prepared to allow two private hip replacement clinics to open in the province. We are concerned for the thousands Marthas in this province who would be affected by such privatization. Seniors, who are the most likely in need of such care, are the least able to afford it and this is especially the case for female senior citizens, who are far more likely to live in poverty than their male counterparts. Privatization is said to open up "choice" for consumers to receive the health care they wish. Privatization means the end of universal health care, and introduces a two-tiered health care system where the rich will be able to afford to get such procedures as diagnostic testing before those of lesser means. This is already happening, and we, the Marthas, firmly believe that this trend must be challenged and halted as it introduces injustices between the rich and poor in our country in access to health care. Given the feminization of poverty, this injustice also translates into a disparity between men and women in access to health care services.

Incentives for Albertans to stay healthy: The presumption is that the "consumer" of health care will make judicious decisions about health care use if there is a system of accounts in place which will keep track of their "costs" within the system. This shift in understanding from viewing health care as an individual rather than a public good is a betrayal of the very spirit of Medicare, and threatens to make false and accusing assumptions about lifestyle choice that disproportionately affect women, children, the poor, elderly and First Nations of this province. We know that women will access health care services more frequently than men. This is due to many factors, including the specific needs of women during reproductive years and women's relative longevity compared to men. The poor and First Nations within this Province also have specific health care needs that are threatened by a system of accounts which intends to tie access to behaviour through a debit system. Such gate-keeping has no place in a public system. The determinants of health are far broader than individual lifestyle choice. Socio-economic factors greatly influence the health of individuals. A more efficient strategy for health is greater social security through increasing the province's astonishingly low rates of Supports for Independence, Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped and minimum wage.

In sum, Mr. Klein, we the Marthas are among the most vulnerable to the proposed "reforms" to health care. We want a public system where health is a social rather than a private good, and care is distributed not by market principles, but by the values of justice and equality.

Your name
Your address

Email the attached letter to the premier at premier@gov.ab.ca. CC it to Dr. Kevin Taft, Official Opposition leader at edmonton.riverview@assembly.ab.ca, Dr. Raj Pannu, leader of the New Democrats at edmonton.strathcona@assembly.ab.ca and us at marthasmonthly@yahoo.ca

You can e-mail the premier right now by following these steps:
  1. Copy the letter above into you clipboard.
  2. Click on the premier's e-mail address highlighted above. After your e-mail opens up paste the letter into the body. Customize it anyway you want.
  3. Add in the appropriate cc's and send it off.

Easy eh?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?