With the Liberal Party lagging in the polls as of late, Alberta’s “conservative” Premier Ralph Klein has come to the rescue, providing Paul Martin with the cure to what ails him: A distraction from the quagmire of scandal he’s been floundering in for the past two weeks. Not even 24 hours after challenging the sanctity of Canada’s unofficial constitution, the Canada Health Act, by invoking the spectre of “separating” from it, Ralph and his bunch are now in full retreat on the issue:
[Ralph Klein’s] communications manager, Jim Law, said that while Klein urged Martin to be flexible to allow for reforms under the Canada Health Act, the premier also made it clear that as far as Alberta was concerned, “Going it alone is the last thing that we want to do.”
While Ralph’s true motivation for his hasty retreat from his previous stance on the Canada Health Act is unknown, what is certain is that the “good Canadian-bad Albertan” routine will play well in the Golden Horseshoe for Paul Martin. This may also be a sign that the PM’s handlers have come to the conclusion that Martin has already blown any chance he had to make significant gains in Alberta. Therefore he has very little left out West to lose by playing up the “bad Alberta” stereotype, which will in turn go along way towards re-establishing his credibility in the east. Expect more of this to come…
Klein backs away from health comments after talk with PM
FLIN FLON, Man. (CP) – Prime Minister Paul Martin took time out from his western swing Friday to cross swords with Ralph Klein in a phone conversation that saw the Alberta premier back away from comments that his province may go it alone on health care.
Klein made headlines Thursday when said his government was considering charging facility fees, delisting medical procedures and privatizing more services to prop up a health system increasingly burdened under the weight of spiralling costs.
He also said Alberta would have to consider opting out of the Canada Health Act and forfeiting more that $1.2 billion in annual federal health funding.
Martin, while on a visit to Saskatchewan and Manitoba Friday, called Klein from his Challenger jet to say he’ll defend the principles of the Canada Health Act.
Klein could not be reached for comment but a release from his office said the premier told the Prime Minister he was not proposing delisting services, bringing in private user fees or opting out of the Act.
His communications manager, Jim Law, said that while Klein urged Martin to be flexible to allow for reforms under the Canada Health Act, the premier also made it clear that as far as Alberta was concerned, “Going it alone is the last thing that we want to do.”
Earlier Friday, Martin told reporters “The Canada Health Act is an essential foundation of the Canadian value system,” adding, “We are not going to a two-tier health-care system.”
In Ottawa, federal Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew said they want to work with Alberta but that the Act is non-negotiable.
“We are going to uphold the Canada Health Act and its five conditions. That is quite clear,” said Pettigrew.
When asked if that means he will fine Alberta for non-compliance, he replied, “That means that we’ll uphold the Canada Health Act. Read the Act and you’ll have your answers.”