Thursday, 5 August 2010

With a Little Help from One's (Influential) Friends: Two Tales of Privatization

Having children and changing highway signs are orders of magnitude apart in importance, but Quebec has just demonstrated how having friends in the right places links them.

As of today, couples in Quebec can have in vitro fertilization treatments paid under the Quebec health plan following a public relations campaign led by media star Julie Snyder. Interestingly, she just happens to be the conjointe of media king Pierre Karl Péladeau and mother of two of his children conceived in vitro.

Two days ago the union of public employees (Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec) pointed out that the province will be replacing all highway signs over the next few years, an undertaking that curiously coincides with the closing of the province's sign-making facility and a switch to private contractors.

Snyder was present when the change in funding measures was announced last week, smiling happily with health minister Yves Bolduc. The program will cost about $70 million, at a time when complaints about health system short-falls in other areas are rampant. And, while many of the treatments will take place in hospitals, perhaps half will be done in private clinics owned by physicians. Ka ching, ka ching, as Snyder used to say when she did Master Card commercials.

The sign replacements will use a different type face which is supposed to be easier to read by aging motorists, and, after the union pointed out how some perfectly good signs had already been replaced, the Ministry of Transports quickly said that in the future the changes will be made only as existing signs age and need replacement.

Both initiatives have their good points--I mean, who can be against motherhood or helping the elderly?--but they also confirm that who you know counts a lot in a governmental culture that thinks privatization is the way to go.

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