Health-care protest hits Alta. legislature

No agenda to privatize health system: minister

RALPH’S NOTE: I will never understand why some people actually believe that elected politicians who’s prime motivation is staying in power can sun healthcare any better that a myriad of choices offered in an open market?!?! I mean even if you like the guy or gal who is in office today, what happens when the other party takes over and it’s their agenda??

Last Updated: Saturday, December 4, 2010 | 4:41 PM MT Comments280Recommend127

CBC News

Health-care advocates descend on the legislature on Saturday. Health-care advocates descend on the legislature on Saturday. (CBC)Public health-care advocates from across the country took their cause to the steps of the Alberta legislature on Saturday.

Friends of Medicare, a provincial lobby group, organized the event in the wake of concerns the Tories are planning to further privatize the province’s health-care system.

Vancouver MP and federal Health Critic Ujjal Dosanjh said even though health care is a provincial responsibility, the country needs to keep an eye on what’s happening in Alberta.

“I’m worried about the larger implicit opening for privatization,” he said.

“Defending public health care in one province or in any province is defending public health care in the country, so it’s not about Alberta — it could have been anywhere.”

Dosanjh said decisions made in Alberta could set a precedent for the rest of the country.

“I’m very, very worried about the federal non-role in health care under this government and some province’s desire to push for privatization,” he said.

“That’s why I felt it was important for me to come and stand with those that defend health care.”

‘Not funded from the Stelmach piggy bank’

Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman and his lawyer, Brian Beresh, both spoke to those gathered at the rally.

Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman (right) says  partisan politics have no place in the health care system. Former Tory MLA Raj Sherman (right) says partisan politics have no place in the health care system. (Andrea Huncar/CBC)Sherman was suspended from the Tory caucus after he started speaking out about health care. He has also raised concerns that his former colleagues are carrying on a whisper campaign aimed at damaging his reputation.

Speaking to the crowd on Saturday, Beresh said he will launch an investigation into whether Sherman has been the subject of a conspiracy to silence and discredit him.

“I will immediately commence an investigation in the past 30 days to see if there is a conspiracy against my client.”

Beresh demanded an apology and asked anyone who has maligned Sherman’s reputation to retract their statements.

“[Sherman] feels that some individuals in this system in which he has been operating as a representative of the people have not played by the rules,” Beresh said as cheers rose up from the crowd.

“Dr. Sherman believes that our health-care system belongs to the people of this province and that any government in power is simply its trustee or guardian. That health-care system is funded by the people and it is a system that is for the people. It is not the property of Premier Stelmach or the Conservative government. It is not funded from the Stelmach piggy bank, it is funded by you and me.”

Beresh said the province’s health-care system is in a “crisis situation.”

As Beresh wrapped up his remarks and Sherman took to the stage, cheers erupted from the crowd. One person could be heard shouting, “We’ve got your back, Raj.”

He told the crowd the current situation is simply unacceptable.

“There’s nothing more unfortunate than being in the wealthiest province in the wealthiest country on this planet, sitting in a waiting room five metres from care and you’re having a heart attack and you have to wait about five, six hours,” he said.

Sherman said he felt compelled to tell the truth about the problems he sees within the system, despite the political backlash he has faced.

“Partisan politics collided with the values — with Albertan values actually, and Canadian values — of a very honourable medical profession [to tell the truth] … and partisan politics won.”

No privatization agenda

In another development, Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky issued a written statement in response to the rally.

“An open, honest discussion about how we can improve our publicly funded health-care system is always welcome. The discussion has to focus on putting the needs of patients first and the actions required to achieve that,” the statement read.

“Our government and Alberta Health Services have rolled out the most comprehensive and ambitious health-care plan in Canada. It focuses on what Albertans want: better access, shorter wait times and safe, quality care.”

The statement went on to say, “Let me be clear: there is no ‘agenda’ to privatize Alberta’s health system.

“The new Alberta Health Act makes no changes to our existing provincial health-care legislation. Our government has committed to do exactly what Albertans asked, and that is to consult with them if, and when, we want to consider any changes to existing health-care legislation.”

Zwozdesky said the government’s only agenda is creating the “best-performing, public funded health-care system in Canada.”

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One response

Canadians like to use their health care system as a source of national identity. Even though there’s a lot wrong with it AND it’s no more nor less humane than any other system. It denies choice, which sucks.

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