As a highly engaged Albertan and active member of the Alberta PC Party, recent events related to Alberta’s health care system have made me take a step back and look at the state of affairs. The past week or so has been packed with opinions, spin, honesty, sincerity, action, reaction and high drama. Media and opposition have been perpetuating a campaign against the governing party, which has been pushing back, making decisions, acting and reacting. It’s been quite the show, and it’s likely to continue until the next election.
I admit that I have stepped back from my usual #twitter chatter because the situation looked ugly. People are mad and they have good reason to be. I also didn’t know the details of what was happening on a day-to-day basis, so I didn’t want to speculate and comment on the speculation and commentary. After a week of observation and careful consideration, I conclude that we should all share some blame.
I blame everyone for what has been happening with respect to the health care debate in Alberta – but I especially blame myself!
I would like to start by blaming Premier Stelmach. I don’t blame the Premier for the state of the health care because the reality is that despite some reports, the overall health system in Alberta is functioning well. There are definitely some very difficult pressure points – ER is a case-in-point – but based on my experience and the experience of many people I have spoken to over the years, people are generally satisfied with most of the system’s functionality.
However, for those who want to argue that Alberta’s Healthcare system is in terrible shape across the board, I argue that healthcare is in shambles across the country and arguably the greatest challenge of any government in the world. Healthcare is a losing battle. Aging populations dictate that this will continue for some time.
But I believe Premier Stelmach could have been more hands on with respect to communicating to Albertans the events that were unfolding. Even a brief statement like “we are working though internal challenges and will be reporting back to Albertans on our next steps over the coming days.” It’s my view that by not doing this, Premier Stelmach allowed the media and opposition to control the story.
I blame Duckett for a completely inappropriate performance with the media. Duckett is a very bright and qualified man who was clearly under a lot of pressure and visibly annoyed with the media’s questioning. Having said that, he should have acted like a professional and told the media that he had no comment and asked them to wait 30 more minutes for the scheduled news conference.
I blame the media, who, in many ways, acted very unprofessionally themselves – especially on #twitter. The media worked overtime to make Duckett’s cookie story as big as they could. Until recently, the media has been the opposition in Alberta. It’s my view that the Alberta PC Party now has an effective opposition and the media needs to start reporting differently. There is a huge difference between reporting on a story and creating and perpetuating the story. I feel that the media crossed some lines this week.
I blame the new opposition parties. The Party on the right has been highly dogmatic with respect to its criticism. They have a health platform that we will write another blog about one day soon and they have been trying to focus all of their health criticism through the lens of those policies. While this approach is smart during an election campaign and during regular times, they made ZERO productive recommendations with respect to the emergency room crisis and actually did all they could to take the focus away from the solutions recommended by the government and emergency room docs who had an all day meeting last Friday.
The new party on the left caused much more damage because they don’t actually have a detailed healthcare platform and likely have no clue how to deal with the crisis in the ER. Their tactics were lame: cookie jokes, mudslinging, demanding resignations and making a general mockery of the entire incident. Their tactic is to make it look like the sky is falling and that life could not be worse. Some of their organizers are former green party organizers, who are well known for their deceitful tactics and gross exaggerations of the truth. Expect much more of this in Alberta’s future – just like they turned the world against the Alberta Oilsands, they will attempt to turn Albertans against their government. We are smarter than that – we’ve shown it before and will show it again!
I blame Raj Sherman, who, despite doing the right thing and speaking out in protest against the ER crisis, got personal with his criticisms. I am very confident that had Raj not started personally blaming his colleagues in his criticism and stuck to focusing on solutions, he would still be in the PC Caucus. I have known Raj since before he got elected and I can tell you he has been an amazing and caring friend to me. He helped me through my mom’s deadly bout with Cancer. But he has also been going through a lot of stress due to illnesses in his family and negative stress makes us do things in haste. A caucus is a team. When someone from that team starts criticizing other team members in public, a line has to be drawn. I don’t blame Caucus for their decision!
My friend David McLean inspired me to blame Tommy Douglas on #Twitter today and I must say his comment inspired me to write this blog. We hold Mr. Douglas to Canada’s highest standard because of the vision he brought forward for a universal public health care system in Canada. For many, many years, we have been so proud to lead the world with that system. But now some in society continue to hold onto that vision to the detriment of every Albertan (and Canadian) that pays for and uses our precious public system – we need to move on folks – there are better ways!
On that note, I blame the unions and special interest groups who have destroyed any opportunity to have an honest discussion about how to move forward to fix the problems with the system. There is a dishonest conversation happening in Alberta and across the country regarding public versus private healthcare and it’s really preventing us from moving forward. Every time the government tries to move in a direction, a special interest group mounts a fear campaign scaring seniors, medical professionals or the general public. It’s absolutely shameful and has less to do with serving the interests of the public and more to do with keeping healthcare public to keep a stronghold over labor.
I blame our immigration system, the Alberta Medical Association, various unions and other such groups for not being more flexible. I grew up in the taxi industry and have known many foreign trained and highly experienced doctors who have not been able to participate in the medical system due to inadequate standards or language limitations. I am not suggesting these people should be full blown doctors, nurses or other health professionals, but I am suggesting we can be more flexible with respect to allowing them to have limited roles in their industries until they gain the appropriate credentials to practice their field. I’m suggesting that we have become a society of snobs, who hold up our training standards to a point of detriment to overall society. That needs to change!
I blame Albertans for wanting universal healthcare and not wanting to pay for their share. I work for an organization that provides health and dental insurance and the plan we provide only covers up to 80%. Many of our members have asked for 100 per cent coverage, but we have said no. People need to be responsible for their health and they need to personally contribute to that cost. There is a very strong philosophical agreement here and it’s very sound. People need to dish out some cash to pay for a portion of their health care costs – Period!
I feel like I can keep going on forever!
But I would like to end by blaming myself. I am a highly engaged citizen and spend a lot of time helping PC Candidates because I believe in what the party stands for and believe Alberta is a great province because of the past 39 years of relatively strong governance – we’ve had our ups and downs, but who doesn’t have ups and down over almost 40 years!
But I haven’t spent enough time understanding the healthcare system and haven’t spent enough time fighting back and/or supporting what is being done. This burden will be my generations to carry and we had better start paying more attention – the future of our province and country depend on it. If a dishonest fear campaign is mounted to scare the government from moving forward in a good direction, my generation needs to fight back. If a campaign of dishonesty is launched, we need to launch a campaign of facts. If the government is making a wrong decision, we need to speak up as well.
We are all to blame for the state of the healthcare debate in this province and I challenge all of us to be pragmatic in trying to fix it. This is a great challenge we face and we are better off fighting it together!
From today on, let’s focus on the solutions, let’s be experimental and let’s make some small mistakes and learn along the way. But most importantly, let’s move away from the poisoned debate that surrounds this crisis by each taking some blame for how we got here.