Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The Liberals Do Health Care

The Canadian election campaign has just gotten underway and Prime Minister Paul Martin has already played the hallowed Health Care card. He’s promised a great infusion of funds for Health Care, which actually does little more than bring the federal contribution to where it was supposed to be anyhow.

But more than this, Martin is trying to use the health care issue against all other parties. The New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois both tend towards social liberalism and support state-funded health care. Martin’s hoping to cut them off at the pass on this issue. At the same time, he wants to use health care to scare voters away from the Conservatives. And how better to do it than to trot out that old Canadian fear of being like the US? During a speech in Atlantic Canada, Martin said that the choice is simple: either you have low taxes and private (i.e. poor) health care, or you have higher taxes and good health care. Unfortunately, what Martin isn’t pointing out is that Canada has both higher taxes and crumbling health care. The Liberals hope that no one will notice this predicament if they just promise to throw money at the problem. The solution would be a complete rethinking of how health care is funded and delivered, but that would mean a real debate and that’s not something the Liberals favor.

Look to Martin using health care as his trump card throughout the campaign, and my prediction is that this appeal will fail. When it does, the Liberals won’t have much left to campaign on – let’s hope Canada notices.

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