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

Monday, November 21, 2005

Preston's War on Medicare 

This article by the Toronto Star's National Affairs writer Thomas Walkom provides an insight into the strategies used by those that want to trash our public health system.

Walkom describes the goings-on at the two day Saving Medicare Healthcare Summit recently held in Vancouver. The cost to attend the conference was $1100 + which pretty much guarantees that ordinary citizens will be excluded.

The entire article is disturbing. Particularly disturbing were strategies put forth by Preston Manning, someone whose views I usually didn't agree with but who I thought presented them fairly. I won't ever be labouring under that illusion again. The following are Walkom's words describing Manning's recommendations. An example of Preston "Thinking Big" we assume.

Reform party founder Preston Manning advises the crowd to present their ideas as a compromise. Canadians, he says, love compromises. But up to now, proponents of two-tier health care have been painted as extremists. The solution is to rearrange the terms of reference so that what appears moderate today is redefined as extreme and what appears extreme is recast as moderate.

Manning's strategy, borrowing from the terminology coined by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, is to define two-tier medicine as the "third option." In this lexicon, the current Canadian system is redefined as one extreme and the U.S. system as another. A two-tier system similar to that of, say, Britain is then presented as the middle way.

Once the battle over language has been won, Manning says, it will be politically easier to follow his substantive prescription: Completely dismantle national medicare, have the federal government hand over more taxing power to the provinces and let them handle health as they please.

However, he continues, politicians — even conservatives — will not deliver this vision on their own. Politicians fear voters and the voters like medicare. So, the politicians must be pushed.

The way to do this is by creating a powerful, single-issue movement, independent of political parties, to lobby the public during an election campaign. This will involve money and organizers. Interest groups who want more private medicine will have to unite and hire an experienced campaign team, replete with fundraisers and pollsters. They will have to choose the most vulnerable targets (he suggests Quebec as a start). They will have to find the best spokespeople.

Here Manning suggests that anti-medicare forces find appropriate victims whose stories will appeal to the media.

Preston doesn't seem quite the elder statesman I thought him to be. His disrespect for the intelligence of the Canadian public is particularly disturbing.

His Daddy Ernest Manning fought tooth and nail against public health care back in the 1960s when he was Premier of Alberta but he ultimately failed. Perhaps Preston feels compelled to do what his Daddy couldn't.

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