Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The snake oil salesman and his special brand of remedy

Steve Harper is expected to get up on a podium today, smile at the crowd and declare that he slayed the dragon. Health care wait times are no more.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to address a conference on wait times Wednesday, and bets are that he will announce the fulfilment of his election promise on medical wait-time guarantees.

Organizers of the Taming of the Queue conference, an annual meeting in Ottawa on wait times, had expected an appearance by Health Minister Tony Clement but the surprise visit by Harper suggests political news in the offing.

Surprise visit by Harper? Oh Sandra, you are so adroit. The smartest man in the room™ is shoving aside his adequate minister to make the announcement personally that health care waiting time guarantees, the election promise, have been fulfilled.

Care guarantees were one of the five priority election promises of the Conservatives in the 2006 election - the idea was that patients unable to get timely medical care would be sent to another jurisdiction or allowed to get treatment in private clinics at public expense.

Failure to deliver on the high-profile promise would provide a target for opposition parties in a possible election. But provinces initially refused to buy into the plan on which they had not been consulted.

Consultation. That's like checking with the people you're about to unload on. No.... no no no. This is Steve Harper. He's right!

The March budget provided $612 million for provinces and Ottawa to fulfil a somewhat reduced promise: a care guarantee in one treatment area rather than all five priority areas - cancer, heart, diagnostic imaging, joint replacements and sight restoration - initially outlined.

To get its share, a province can promise to provide a guarantee in the area of its choice, and do so in the manner of its choosing.

That's not what Harper said when he was asking for the job.

"No government's going to walk away from a pot of money," said Harvey Voogd of Alberta-based Friends of Medicare, suggesting that provinces could merely continue to do what they were doing anyway.

"Nobody has signed on to a difficult wait time, all have signed up for wait times they're already beavering away at or successfully meeting.

"Anybody who follows this stuff can see what the federal government is doing is not a well thought out wait-time plan but is covering their political backside for any federal election."

Yup. This pre-election period is one of the most expensive series of non-accomplishments the Canadian taxpayer has ever funded.

In other news, conservative clarity is breaking out in the office of the Minister of National Defence and George W Bush is declaring the Surge a success which hasn't happened yet.

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