I Blame Everyone

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.


11 thoughts on “I Blame Everyone

  1. Wow. Great blog today! I am very impressed with your analysis of the situation and completely agree with you. I also blame the public who seem to have an entitlement attitude that health care should be immediate. We cannot have lower taxes and a premium service, especially with the way health care costs have escalated over the past 15 years. There is also a portion of the population who refuse to allow a pragmatic discussion of solutions. They are dogmatic in their defence of the “public” system and yet are the first to criticize. It is time to let go of the dogma and find ways to improve before things do become a crisis. Albertans are by and large, fully comitted to a publicly funded health care system. It is not destroying that system to discuss alternative delivery methods or other solutions.

  2. While you are correct that a portion of the Alberta Party supporters are former Greens, they are not the majority. The majority would like to work hard on a practical health care policy. I’ve shared my own view of what Albertans need to do to fix health care and it doesn’t involve blaming the government.

  3. This sounds like a bleeding heart excuse – “We are all to blame”. No we are not! I am not buying your rhetoric and excuses for one minute. And I am certainly not letting the government off the hook at all or assuming responsibiltiy for their bad decisions and bad behavior. They earned this all themselves.

    This mess has been a long time in the making. It goes back to short-sighted decisions made in the 1990’s and like a lot of bad decisions they just build on one another. The reality is that policy is made by the government and it is their responsibility to carry it out. If they have bad policy, or good policy they don’t implement it is all theirs to wear.

    I admire loyalty and respect it, but it shouldn’t be blind.

  4. I blame Raj Sherman for being two faced and duplicitous. I live in Meadowlark and will NOT be voting for him again, no matter what party he represents.

  5. Who do you blame for the dirty tricks? For destroying reputations? You are exactly the person who got us into this situation. It is clear that the only solution that you favour is one from the most free-wheeling of the free market. There is a case for collective solutions. Healthcare is one of them. i know your type. If everyone does not agree with your oint of view you snipe and backstab those who try. The AB PC’s have been in control of this province for 40 years and we are in worse shape now than ever before. we have a deficit, the government is giving $2 billion to selected players in the oil industry, our emergency rooms have serious problems and our government trys to stifle any dissent. We are in bad shape and when things are this bad you must assess the leadership and ask why. It is Stelmach, Liepert and their cronies that must take the rap. If everything was nice and cosy why have three very good people left the health services board. There is sometyhing rotten in the sate of Alberta and it starts with Stelmach.

  6. What a cop out!! It is clear that the buck stops at the Premier….he made committments, promises and took specific actions to change how healthcare is managed, and the results speak for themselves….no need to blame the messengers, the victims, the customers or the taxpayers….Stelmach is in charge and should put up or shut up (and get out)….for me, I quit the PC’s when they picked the “other guy” who I don’t think really is a conservative in the first place….I now await the election of our new government under Danielle Smith…thank goodness we have a choice now!!

  7. Great column, great writing, great insights. For me however, while playing the blame game can be interesting as an analysis of what went wrong where, the more important thing to work on is the solutions. To me solutions are always quite obvious, but it’s the implementation that’s always tricky. For basic starters, Soviet-style centralization of command and authority, simply doesn’t and will never work when it comes to mostly People-based organizations, no matter how hard the bureacrats try to make it so. Rather than centralize, we needed to de-centralize. (I told Ron Liepert et. al. so, however most people don’t see what I see.) Secondly, “economies of scale” is a mantra that we have all been brainwashed with and also does not work in many cases either. I can go on and on….but then….who is asking me to?
    Thanks for taking the time with your blog entry, I enjoyed reading it.

  8. Yea, the Tories have been running the system for 40 years and it’s Raj Sherman and the Opposition who are to blame for the fact emergency rooms are in shambles?

    Try again.

  9. A thought provoking blog. One of many positive things that have come out of the many political malfunctions over the past 2 weeks is that of increased interest and an increased sense of personal and political responsibility in the state of health care. Working in the healthcare industry it is clear that recent events have opened the eyes of both the public and healthcare workers to the true role that the government plays in our healthcare system and the need to be knowledgeable of this role. When Alberta Health Services was formed and Dr. Duckett was brought to Calgary, he was set up for disaster. From before he stepped off the plane the Media and Albertans in general ridiculed him and were wary of his presence. I am not convinced that we capitalized on Dr. Ducketts expertise and that we gave him the environment needed to make healthcare decisions based on his knowledge. That being said, in his job he needed to take a leadership role, and a leader needs to be able to obtain and foster trust and respect. I am not convinced that his dismissal was from a single cookie event, however it was perhaps what was needed to start over with Albertan’s, we will see.

    One thing that our healthcare system needs is leaders we can trust, and who have knowledge of medicine from the inside. People who have worked on the front lines of the hospital system, who know first hand what barriers and hurdles the system has but someone who also has a knowledge of the business aspect of medicine. Might I propose that we, as Albertan’s, instead of complaining and blaming, speak out for the need for a board to contain people like this so that, unlike government, Health Care Administration in Alberta will be lead by people who will act in a sincere, transparent way. People who will act on the needs and wants of Albertan’s, but with the knowledge of the realities of the financial limitations we face. We should give them an environment to speak out in opposition if they so choose so that they do not have to suffer Dr. Sherman’s or Dr. Duckett’s fate. Perhaps we have found one of those people in Dr. Eagle should he take on this mountainous role. Centralization can work, in the right environment and with the right people.

    One thing that is certain is that the talent and patient centered care delivered in Alberta is some of the best in the World. The people working on the “front lines” of the healthcare system care deeply about the wellbeing of their patients. We need to continue to give them the tools required to provide optimal care, which starts with a smooth functioning system at the administration level.

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