Saturday, May 12, 2007

Defining the issues

The Times Colonist covers Jack Layton's visit to Victoria, featuring a call for a national pharmacare program and strong criticism of privatization run amok at both the provincial and federal levels:
Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton rolled out a national campaign in Victoria yesterday to provide universal prescription drug coverage and ripped into B.C. politicians for pursuing private developers to build Victoria's sewage treatment plants and hospitals.

"[Premier] Gordon Campbell is determined to privatize as much of this great province as he can -- he's even set up an organization to do it," Layton told Canadian Union of Public Employees-B.C. at their four-day annual convention at the Victoria Conference Centre.

"The purpose of Partnerships B.C. isn't to ensure fairness, transparency or accountability -- it's to ensure the highest profits for the corporations that sign up to public-private partnerships [P3s]," he said, referring to Royal Jubilee's new $269-million patient tower and plans for the region's $1.2-billion sewage treatment plants...

"Stephen Harper and Gordon Campbell are ganging up on local governments here in B.C.," the federal NDP leader said. "They are trying to force local governments to sign onto P3 agreements -- even when it's not in their best interest...

He also laid out his plan to provide prescription drug coverage for the 20 per cent of Canadians with little insurance and 3.5 million with none at all...

Initially, the federal government, through the provinces and territories, must start by providing catastrophic drug coverage.

That means putting a cap on the cost of expensive drugs for those who can't afford them so that they don't fall into financial ruin or stop taking treatment because they can't afford it.

Layton also proposed steps to reduce the costs of drugs for provincial governments and businesses that offer drug plans, limiting advertising by pharmaceutical companies, changing the rules around patents, and arranging bulk purchasing.
Needless to say, it's an excellent sign for Layton to be stepping outside the bounds of personality politics to focus attention on a couple of important policy issues which all too often get overlooked. And with the NDP seemingly surging in B.C. already, a strong campaign kicked off by Layton's visit should have a strong chance of either forcing the Campbell and Harper governments to answer for their neglect of public needs, or ensuring that they're punished at the polls if they don't.

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