Miranda Rosin (waves!) the UCP Candidate in Banff-Kannaniskis seems to think two-tier health care is just the ticket (Photo: Screenshot of UCP video).

If you wonder what the United Conservative Party really thinks about how health care ought to be run in Alberta, perhaps you should ask if Miranda Rosin instead of Jason Kenney, he of the Coroplast Pledge.

Ms. Rosin is the UCP’s candidate in the new Banff-Kananaskis riding. Mr. Kenney is the party’s leader, of course, and as we now know, its Decider as well.

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The plastic pledge mentioned above was Mr. Kenney’s Canadian Taxpayers Federation style stunt last week in which he publicly signed a “Public Health Care Guarantee” on a large sheet of plastic saying his party is committed to “maintain a universally accessible, publicly funded health care system.”

Taking the pledge resulted a certain amount of derision, owing to the fact Mr. Kenney’s “Grassroots Guarantee,” wherein he promised always to listen to what the grassroots members of his party had to say, became defunct the instant it became inconvenient.

By contrast, Ms. Rosin is just one of the troops – who in the UCP are expected to mind their Ps and Qs and do whatever the leader tells them to do.

Her suddenly controversial words were spoken at a UCP nomination-candidates’ meeting in Canmore back on Oct. 17, before what was by definition a friendly crowd. Alas for her, one of those ubiquitous smartphone recorders was running somewhere in the room and her words were duly taken down to be used against her.

This is as it should be. No politician of any party should doubt in the early years of the 21st century that a digital recorder is running somewhere in the room, and not just at public meetings. If you’re going to run for public office, as the old lawyers’ advice goes, you really need to “govern yourself accordingly.”

The key part of what Ms. Rosin said about health care was this: … “we need to look at a two-tiered system, so that we can get those who have worked hard for their money to get out of the system if they would like to.” (Emphasis added.)

Cameron Westhead, NDP candidate in Banff-Kananiskis and current MLA for Banff-Cochrane (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When the recording started appearing on social media yesterday morning, Tweeted by Banff-Cochrane NDP MLA Cameron Westhead, who is a Registered Nurse and will be running in the new riding in the spring, the reaction was immediate and harsh. Ms. Rosin’s remarks and her selection as the UCP’s candidate led to the inevitable conclusion that party insiders do in fact want to allow the wealthy to opt out of our public health care system. What’s more, it would seem they don’t really put much stock in the idea that not everyone in Alberta who works hard for their money necessarily makes a lot of the stuff.

The second thought may be more offensive, but the policy question is more serious, because as any health care expert will tell you, that way disaster lies. Whatever Ms. Rosin believes, and whatever Mr. Kenney really thinks, and whatever the Fraser Institute keeps telling us, the result of allowing the wealthy to opt out or just opt upward for some nice extra fees will result in longer wait times and worse outcomes for the rest of us.

The audio clip in circulation is very short, only seven seconds. However, a longer and more contextual clip of Ms. Rosin’s response to her questioners, who went on to choose her as their candidate, is no more reassuring.

In the less tightly edited version, she begins by saying that Alberta has “one of the highest funded health cares in Canada, if not the world, and our service is not up to par, we have long wait times, there’s so many gaps in the system.

“So,” she continues, “I think that there’s two big things we need to look at. One of them, we are very bureaucracy run. I think we need to look at reducing our administration so we can get more front-line workers out there.

“But also, I think we need to look at a two-tiered system, so we can get those who work hard for their money to get out of the system if they would like to. To remove* themselves so that we can decrease the wait times for those who are still in the public system. Because this allows those who work for their money and who want to spend it how they can on health care if that’s what they need. And it also hopes those who are in the public system get shorter wait times.”

(The word marked with an asterisk is almost inaudible. It sounds to me like “remove.” Then again, maybe not. Regardless, Ms. Rosin’s thought is clear.)

It is a common misconception about public health care to conclude that removing some patients from the public system will shorten wait times for the rest.

Experience in Europe and the United States, however, shows that private hospitals and clinics cherry pick the easiest cases, dumping the more complex ones on the public system – in other words, on taxpayers and the sick themselves.

People who make this argument also act as if physicians are an unlimited resource. As is well understood, however, they are not, and if some of them choose to cherry pick well-off or easy patients, those that remain in the public system will soon be overwhelmed, degrading the public system further. In some cases, fatally so.

It is also worth remembering, when comparing systems, that health care in the United States, which much more closely approaches the pure market ideal espoused by Mr. Kenney and his supporters than does Canada’s public health insurance, costs taxpayers vastly more and yet still, even with Obamacare, leaves millions uninsured and millions more desperately under-insured.

Finally, it turns out it is utterly false to say as Mr. Kenney does, apparently taking his cue from the old Wildrose Party, that management at Alberta Health Services is bureaucratic and inefficient. In fact, it has the lowest health service administrative costs in Canada.

But that Ms. Rosin’s understanding of health economics is flawed is only a small part of the story here. That her misconceptions pass muster with her constituency association is more troubling, and that they undoubtedly reflect what the party’s leadership would like to do is even more so.

She has done us all a service, though, by leaving us a hint of what her party really thinks – which was certainly not the impression she was aiming for on Feb. 20, when she spoke in a Facebook post about Mr. Kenney’s public health care guarantee. “The NDP’s vitriolic, fear-mongering attacks that a new UCP government will slash healthcare spending and privatize the entire system can officially be put to rest,” she said then.

Well, apparently not. Too bad about that old recording!

The UCP all-candidates’ meeting was covered by the Rocky Mountain Outlook, a community news site in the area, but for some reason no mention was made in the story of Ms. Rosin’s newsworthy thoughts on public health care.

Jagmeet Singh victorious in Burnaby South

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, victorious in the Burnaby South by-election last night (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Jagmeet Singh appeared to have cruised to victory in the Burnaby South By-election last night, which as noted in this space yesterday is about half the battle for the NDP leader. He still needs to show he can lead the party effectively from the floor of the House of Commons, lest the Orange wave of 2011 go out with the tide in the fall of 2019.

Arguably, that would be a worse fate for the NDP – or at least a bigger disappointment – than seeing a leader falter in a West Coast by-election. And there was a sign last night the tide may indeed be receding, given the Liberal victory in former leader Tom Mulcair’s old Quebec riding, Outremont.

In York-Simcoe, north of Toronto, the Conservative candidate won handily.

But despite that victory, the showing by the far-right People’s Party of Canada in Burnaby South, with about 12 per cent of the vote to the Conservatives’ 22 per cent could be a troubling augury for the Conservatives if Maxime Bernier’s Tea Party North maintains that kind of momentum into the fall.

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  1. The rural media coverage of AB politics that I’ve read online is mostly stenography of what UCP says. Reality doesn’t have much opportunity to be heard.

    RE: ‘The UCP all-candidates’ meeting was covered by the Rocky Mountain Outlook, a community news site in the area, but for some reason no mention was made in the story of Ms. Rosin’s newsworthy thoughts on public health care.’

  2. I remember when Obama was running for re-election and there was a point in the campaign when his opponent Romney was doing his best to portray himself as that rare, perhaps mythical creature – the kinder, gentler compasionate conservative and it seemed to be working. Then, speaking to a room of supporters in an unguarded moment, Romney said what he really thought and self inflicted a lot of damage which he never really recovered from. All of which the public found out about because of a cell phone recording.

    Now, the damage here will not be so great as it is not the leader or someone close to him, but we are getting a glimpse of what the UCP really thinks, despite Kenney’s health care “guarantee”, which many already suspect is not worth the plastic it is written on. Kennney I suspect is too clever and too experienced as a politician to say what he thinks even to a supposedly friendly crowd, or is he? Cell phones are even more common than in Romney’s time. Tricky Dick was supposedly also very clever and he only had one recording device to worry about, which he was already aware of to and yet he still fell into his own trap. Oh a penny, or I guess these days a nickle at least, for Kenney’s true thoughts on health care.

    I suppose Singh will now get a full chance to be on the national stage, after a comfortable win in the by election. I sort of wonder how many Liberals voted for him. In any event, a win is a win and I think he has been under estimated for quite a while. Funny how the Liberals were initially so worried about him and not very concerned about Scheer, now it has shifted completely the other way. I expect with Singh now having a voice as an MP things will shift back a bit. Scheer will no longer have a monopoly as the voice of the opposition and Scheer may now also have Bernier and the Peoples Party to worry about more.

  3. I will echo this! Cheers to our new leader! Ok! Now that’s over? Get your effing shyte together! We be under attack!

  4. “we need to look at a two-tiered system, so that we can get those who have worked hard for their money to get out of the system if they would like to.” Now that right there, should send a bat signal. It won’t. But Jaggy? Pull up your pants and learn how to communicate! We’ll pull the wagon, long as you learn the to respect the horses!

  5. With regards to the by-elections last night, Eric Grenier wrote a fairly convincing piece a few weeks ago showing data that supported his premise that, in recent history, whenever the Conservatives have won a federal election is has come with a strong showing by the NDP. Given Jagmeet Singh’s showing so far, the CPC should be concerned.

    The CPC should also be worried that their candidate in Outremont could only manage a fifth place showing, losing to both the Green Party candidate and the Bloc candidate, in addition to the Liberal and NDP.

  6. “And it is also hopes that those who are in the public system will get shorter wait times.” Ms. Rosin’s remark would be laughable if it weren’t so ridiculous. In Australia where two tier medicine prevails, the more entrenched you are in the public system, the longer you wait. Those with private insurance go to the head of the line, get the best doctors and preferred hospital treatment.
    The UCP candidate for Banff-Kananaskis needs a lesson in how two tier health care really works although she and her leader likely know.

  7. So our ski hill rich, are going to throw the smelly rest of us under the bus. Please email me with your surprise! Shock! Dismay! Good Lord! We deserve it! What a useless bunch of losers we are, if we let this happen!

  8. Of course it makes sense! Only the rich will survive! That’s because they have the money! What is it you don’t understand?

  9. NDP dodged a bullet yesterday. Jagmeet won his party’s most critical election since it lost Official Opposition status almost four years ago. Even though it was a pretty convincing win, one still has to say, “Whew!”

    I found Mr Singh’s locution last night somewhat stiff and, perhaps in the excitement of the night, a bit nervous. Still, he did touch all the bases, as stilted as it was. He also made several curious reverse-meaning slips—trying to avoid double negatives, maybe? (That’s usually the purview of bumpkins like me.)

    What about the People’s Party? In the small and fuzzy sample of three by-elections only eight moths away from a general election, it’s probably not particularly indicative of anything in general—its 11% vote-share of the typically low-turnout exercise in Burnaby can’t confidently be compared to its paltry showings in the two, concurrent Eastern by-elections (including one in Bernier’s home province). Burnaby’s result rather reflects the Conservatives’ traditionally low popularity in this riding. BC hasn’t elected any provincial conservatives —by that name—for over 60 years and, despite the considerable political tumult of the past 17 or 18 years, the BC Conservative party hasn’t gained any electoral purchase at all. The concurrent transitions from Socred to BC Liberal and Progressive Conservative to Reform (both Socreds and PCs were wiped out after losing power) to Alliance to HarperCon were bumpy, not much love lost between BC voters and the HarperCons—as Chuck Cadman’s Independent win after Harper refused to sign his incumbency papers showed—and of course the loss of half of the HarperCons BC seats in the last federal election, coupled with the BC Liberals’ defeat last year suggest the somewhat mercurial relationship between BC voters with all parties of the right continues as normal. Unlike the traditional partisan inertia in Alberta, it’s been right-wing whack-a-mole in BC since Day One (all in order to shut out the “Socialist Hordes”—usually with success). The People’s Party fits right in there—whatever “there” means in this wonky province.

    Yes, of course people will say Bernier’s upstart party revealed something about his former copartisan Andrew Scheer’s leadership and his Con party’s general prospects. Given the Ontario by-election went to a Conservative, I don’t think one should over-generalize. It doesn’t take any particular genius to appreciate that the People’s Party will steal some votes from the Cons in the upcoming contest—Bernier did win virtually half of the Con memebers’ Leadership votes, after all. So long’s both these politcal enemies vie for the bigot vote—like they have with the neo-nazi-infested truckers’ rally to Ottawa last week—they can be conveniently stuffed in the same envelope and returned to sender. I’m good with that.

    I’m also good with Jagmeet Singh’s victory, yet I can’t help but be a harsh critic of my own party and I get the feeling there’ll prob’ly be enough to criticize on Singh’s account in the coming Commons probation period. Alls I can say is: I hope he takes his lessons early and well—this honeymoon’s already way old and will lose its shine all the quicker for that.

    It’s really no surprise that the NDP failed to retain Mulcair’s vacated seat in Montreal. That can’t be attributed to Mr Singh’s leadership. The two men are miles apart in so many ways.

    I have to admit: I kinda enjoy living in such “interesting times.” It’s a curse, I know.

  10. I’ll tell a story. It’s about death and a sickness of our species. We are the the death vector! We are the disease! Killers we are! I’ll testify! Will you?

  11. We already have a two tiered healthcare system, has anyone needed an MRI lately? Wait 6 months in the public system or a week in the private system. Physio therapy needed? Same story wait or pay and get treated right away. There is also the option to go south of the border or further for medical care. The real problem as I see it is similar to education which is funneling public funds to private companies then blocking access through charging fees over and above.
    Perhaps the NDP should show what the true cost of providing public services are. We know the healthcare system costs around $7,500 per person in Alberta to run but what does urban care cost and what does rural care cost. The same with education, the rural busing grant is more than twice the urban one for example.

  12. No one should be surprised that the Conservatives are hiding their election agenda when it comes to health care or other policies. This is how they do politics. This is how Klein did things and this is how team Harper/Kenney did things federally. Kenney is an old school politician that does things the undemocratic old way, by not being forthcoming about what he aims to do in the Province before he becomes elected.

    Kenney’s team will do what ever it takes to win. That includes anti-democratic moral corruption by not honestly discussing his vision for Alberta. He knows he would not win otherwise.

    This makes the UCP = United Corruption Party from my perspective.

    If we lived in a real democracy, where people had the right and freedom of choice to vote on bills before the Legislative Assembly, then we would not have to worry about misleading politicians, like Kenney, who want to form the Province in their way rather than the way the people actually want it formed.

  13. I believe If these people that want the health care system like the USA, go see for themselves what they’re getting into. Take your families where they have this kind of health care. This is the thing, you only get to have a regular job to raise your family yes you can get the health insurance if you think that will help you and if you can afford it on a regular pay. Go put yourselves and your families through that stress and degrading situations.

    I lived there for 2 years and as long as you don’t get sick you can get by. I don’t believe someone’s life needs to change just because they got sick.

    The USA is desperately trying to get out from under that kind of health care system and here comes Canada to jump right in. Total Greed what are all you rich badtards going to do when your money cant get you through.

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