Sunday, June 06, 2010

Healthy choices

Apparently I should have held off in highlighting a few of the federal NDP's efforts to bring some substance and openness back into the political scene. Not that the steps last week weren't noteworthy ones, but the health care push revealed this weekend looks to be a far more significant move both in pushing federal discussion toward meaningful policy possibilities, and positioning the NDP within that conversation:
NDP Leader Jack Layton laid out the planks Friday for a major policy initiative aimed at reforming Canada's health-care system.

Speaking before a partisan crowd at the Nova Scotia NDP's annual general meeting in Antigonish, N.S., Layton said it is time to move on to the next phase of the public system devised by socialist icon Tommy Douglas.

"Our caucus has decided to make this a top priority for the next election — equal access for everybody to health care," he told the delegates.

"That requires some real leadership. And if we don't take it, the privatizers are going to come at it."

With Canada's demographics shifting towards an increasingly aging population, Layton said it is time to develop a national home care strategy, describing it as the "next essential service" in health care.
Layton also said the New Democrats would establish a national pharmacare program to fight the rising cost of prescription drugs.

He said it would include catastrophic drug coverage to ensure Canadians are covered against financial ruin in the event of serious illness.

A bulk buying strategy would also be part of the package, something he said would result in major savings.
Layton also advocated initiatives that would address the shortage of family doctors and nurses and improve health promotion for young people.

The NDP leader didn't provide details on the cost of his party's sweeping program, but he told reporters that work on a new federal funding agreement should begin immediately.

"That agreement comes to an end in three-and-a-half years . . . and we're going to have strategies that save us money on the one hand but provide the care and services that people need on the other," said Layton.
Just in case there's any doubt, the ideas proposed by Layton aren't particularly new ones for the NDP. But any focus on health care has been largely scaled down on the part of all federal parties over the past few elections, meaning that there's a significant opportunity for the NDP to be the leading voice on the public's top priority.

What's more, the move figures to create a direct clash with the Cons' message that they've emptied the federal coffers so completely that Canada can't even consider improvements to social programs - signalling that the NDP is rightly looking to change the playing field of public debate rather than accepting the Cons' terms as to the limitations on what we can hope for. And that should answer the question of just what we're hoping to accomplish in working to topple the Cons.

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