Friday, 16 April 2010

Jack Finally Says Something about the Canada Health Act: Is There Going to Be Any More NDP Action to Defend Health Care

The Quebec government's plan to charge user fees as a well as a head tax for health care is clearly contrary to the guarantees of universally accessible health care found in the Canada Healh Act. There have been a flurry of op-ed pages in Quebec in protest as well as some rather sizeable marches, even though the idea was floated only two weeks ago.

But the supposedly-left of center federal opposition parties have been curiously silent on the subject. The concern, I'm told, is that nobody wants to seem to come out criticizing the Quebec government because health is a provincial responsiblity, and to make too much noise might rile up Quebec voters. But the Canada Health Act is the one tool that the federal government has (it can withhold cost-sharing payments if there are violations.) Those who care about health care ought to be in there fighting on every level of government.

Even Michael Ignatieff seems to have come to that conclusion, although at first he said he didn't think Quebec's plans were such a bad thing. He's changed his tune, which is good for him. And finally Jack Layton asked a question on the topic in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The mystery is why Layton waited so long to say something. This is an issue that the NDP should own. Universally accessible health care was invented by Tommy Douglas and his friends, and if the NDP has a soul, it should be front and center in defending the Canada Health Act.

Come on Jack and Tom and you others: forge an alliance with all those people in Quebec who hate what the Charest Liberals are proposing. Maybe it's not too late to show a little of what made the NDP worthwhile.

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