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Grits' health scare tactics getting old

By LINDA WILLIAMSON, TORONTO SUN

"THIS IS just a desperate attempt by a desperate government to switch channels over their own corruption." Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on Prime Minister Paul Martin's pathetic TV plea to stave off an election last Thursday night? Nope -- Conservative MP Stephen Fletcher on Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh's pathetic attack on alleged Conservative health-care policies two days earlier.

Get ready for a whole lot more of the same. And the election campaign hasn't even started yet.

If Martin's hail-Mary national address strategy fizzles -- as it seems doomed to do -- it's as inevitable as a spring election that he and his scandal-plagued Liberals will fall back on their tried-and-true smear tactic: Accusing the Conservatives of having a hidden agenda to destroy health care.

The PM himself trotted out that old line just two weeks ago while under fire in Question Period about AdScam. And Dosanjh fired it up last week at, of all things, a health symposium in Toronto -- attended by a whole lot of health-care experts who surely knew he was peddling nonsense.

"Mr. Harper wants to reduce the federal role in health care," Dosanjh charged. "He says private money should play a larger role. That means somebody might check your wallet before they check your pulse."

He blathered some other stuff about a "Ralph Klein-Manning-Harris-Harper vision" of health care that would somehow force Canadians "to break their banks or wallets."

As usual, there wasn't a shred of substance to any of it, at least as far as Harper, who has repeatedly pledged almost religious allegiance to the flawed Canada Health Act, is concerned.

The shred Dosanjh was clinging to, however, was a report released by former Reform Party chief Preston Manning and ex-Ontario premier Mike Harris for the Fraser Institute, advocating a greater role for the private sector in Canada's health care -- and yes, a drastically reduced federal role.

(As for Ralph Klein, well, all good Liberals know that if you're bashing Conservatives on health care, you might as well throw the Alberta premier in for good measure, no reason needed.)

But as anyone knows who has bothered to read past the headlines -- or check out the report itself at fraserinstitue.ca -- the Harris/Manning paper is nothing more than an attempt to foster discussion about the myths and realities of health care.

CLEARLY IMPATIENT

The pair met with our editorial board here at the Sun earlier this month, and while they were unrepentant about the collateral damage they caused Harper, they were also clearly impatient -- as, I believe, are a growing number of Canadians -- with Liberal shibboleths about our sacred-but-crumbling health system.

Sure, their report raises the option of a private, parallel health-care system as a way to improve the universal public one -- but it doesn't advocate the dreaded "U.S.-style health care" that Martin, Dosanjh & Co. always scream about.

Rather, it points out that virtually every developed country besides Canada allows greater private delivery of health services, at lower cost and with better outcomes than we enjoy.

Harris told us even he was surprised that countries like Sweden and France allow far more private health care than we do, and he lamented how "isolated and insular" Canadians are when it comes to knowledge about other countries' systems.

He's right. Blame our politicians and media. It's insane that even sensible reforms such as Harris' former government put in place -- public-private partnerships to build clinics and hospitals -- were denounced by Liberal/NDP/union hysterics.

Manning pointed out that while some of their ideas might seem too radical for any mainstream party, his ideas on eliminating budget deficits, cutting taxes and talking tough to Quebec separatists all sounded radical, too -- until they were ultimately co-opted with great success by desperate Liberals.

And lest we forget, it is the Martin/Dosanjh regime that has turned a blind eye to rampant, blatant privatization of health care in Quebec -- while penalizing other provinces and demonizing Tories like Klein for doing little more than talk about it.

Interestingly, a recent poll showed AdScam had replaced health care as the No. 1 concern of Canadians. This could be great news for health care -- if it means we're finally waking up to the fact that the Liberal orthodoxy on it, too, has been largely a scam.

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COLUMN CONTEST UPDATE: We're still reading through the hundreds of entries and hope to pick winners next month. At the risk of sounding like a certain prime minister, we need more time for the judges to complete their work!

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I find it all to easy for the national media to always toss in Klien in there. However he has been the premier for over 10 years and Alberta has less private health care delivery than the average in Canada. Wonder why no one mentions that. Or the fact that ALberta spends more than any other province on health care per capita. Sure seems the we out here in ALberta are out to destroy medicare.
 
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