Legal opinion commissioned by Alberta Federation of Labour says proposed changes are "not consistent with a democratic society."
Edmonton (14 Oct. 2010) - Friends of Medicare (FoM) has launched a new campaign to persuade Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky to abandon proposed changes to provincial health laws.
"It's time to move on from the unpopular and discredited policies of former Health Minister Ron Liepert and his Advisory Committee on Health and abandon proposed changes to the laws governing health care in Alberta," says David Eggen, executive director of FoM.
"It's clear that Albertans care deeply about health care and don't want or need existing laws and protections to be weakened or removed."
The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) commissioned a legal opinion from Gwen Gray of Chivers Carpenter LLP, who examined the existing provincial legislation and the proposed changes.
She found that current laws do a good job of protecting the publicly-funded, publicly-delivered health care system that Albertans want. The legal opinion also finds that protections against private health care are contained within Alberta's laws, not the Canada Health Act.
The legal opinion concludes that changing Alberta's health laws would significantly weaken Albertans' protections against private insurance, extra billing and U.S.-style private hospitals.
The changes proposed by the Minister's Advisory Committee on Health would scrap all existing health care laws - including protections against privatization - and replace them with what is known as "enabling legislation."
The health minister could make new health care laws without even having a debate in the legislature. The legal opinion concludes that the plan for putting health care laws into regulations is "not consistent with a democratic society."
AFL president Gil McGowan says:
"We believe that Zwozdesky shares the concern of Albertans about protecting our public health care system. The revisions to provincial health laws planned by his predecessor sparked legitimate fears among the citizens of this province. It's time for Zwozdesky to make a clean break from those discredited ideas and embark on a new path that will reassure Albertans that the future of health care is in safe hands," McGowan argues.
"This is far too great a risk to public health care," adds Eggen. "Perhaps Zwozdesky might be able to assure us that he won't allow more private health care, but he cannot make that reassurance about future health ministers. They would have the power to do whatever they wished, without public consultation or even debate in the legislature."
Many organizations are members and supporters of Friends of Medicare, including the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE).
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE