Wednesday, October 21, 2020

On failing health

The news that Jason Kenney's UCP has approved a resolution demanding privatized health care - coupled with Kenney's refusal to reject the concept - has been rightly recognized as a dangerous development in Alberta. 

But it hasn't received much attention yet in Saskatchewan's provincial election campaign. And there's significant reason for concern that the same attack on universal health care may be coming our way as well if the Saskatchewan Party gets the chance.

That arises partly out of its determination to follow the UCP wherever it goes, no matter how destructive and irrational for Saskatchewan.

But it's also telling that Kenney's fig leaf in response to the privatization resolution wouldn't apply to Moe and the Sask Party. 

Kenney's response to the resolution has been to say that he's operating under an electoral mandate which "guaranteed universally accessible and publicly funded health care". 

Let's leave aside for the moment how little respect Kenney and his ilk normally have for the constraints of such a mandate, including in his government's well-documented attacks on health care workers. Even if one assumes that voters can feel comfortable about their health care system when a government has promised to maintain its universality, the Saskatchewan Party's platform (PDF) offers no reassurance whatsoever. 

While it cites past spending and offers a couple of extremely narrow funding promises (p. 20-21), Moe's platform offers not a word about keeping health care public or universal. Nor does it include any additional resources to help an already-strained public system.

In fact, to the extent it references the choice between public and private operations, it defends the privatized MRI system which has failed to maintain any reduction in wait times while drawing resources away from the public system.

And of course, we know from bitter experience how eager the Sask Party has been to use the aftermath of an election to impose jarring and damaging changes in the health care sector - following in Alberta's footsteps despite its own disastrous experience - based on the theory that it never promised not to do so.

The result is that while we haven't seen much direct debate about the future structure of Saskatchewan's health care system, Moe's platform seems calculated to allow for full-scale privatization. And we should be wary of the risk that Saskatchewan's patients will again serve as guinea pigs for the plans of Alberta conservatives.

Update: And while we're taking note of the UCP's erosion of universal health care, they're also also downloading treatment costs onto patients for the sake of minimal savings. And once again, nothing in the Sask Party platform commits to avoiding that type of step.

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