By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, April 19, 2011
Striking about today’s dynamic is less the run of the plodders than the degree of stagnation. There have been minority governments since 2004. For the past five years, the standings and the polls have barely changed. Governance has been given over to around-the-clock political infighting. No leader looks boldly to the future. We talk about the fiscal deficit. A bigger problem is the inspirational deficit, and it’s seldom been so high.
This is the void that Michael Ignatieff, while running a good campaign in certain respects, has been unable to fill. He hasn’t offered an alternative platform and vision alluring enough to light the imagination. He needed the advice that Henry Kissinger, then an academic, offered to campaigners for John Kennedy in his run against Richard Nixon in 1960: “We need someone who will bring about a big jump – not just an improvement of existing tendencies. … If all Kennedy does is to argue that he can manipulate the status quo better than Nixon, he is lost.”
With his recent exhortations to “Rise up, Canada,” the Liberal Leader seems to be getting it. He is showing passion, a feel for the country, a sense of its future. But it’s probably too late. Interviewing him before the campaign began, I was struck by his difficulty in laying out an inspiring vision of Canada. A person of his background, a man of letters, a seasoned communicator, should feast on such a question. But he finally settled on something about equality of opportunity. Hardly invigorating.
Plodders, not visionaries, are the result of a political agenda based, as Harper has shaped it, on fear.
And now, Ignatieff has resorted to the fear that the Conservatives will eviscerate Health Care, that sacred cow of Canadian politics for the last half century.
Somehow, there is a little more traction in Ignatieff's fear, than there is to Harper's fear of a coalition that includes the Bloc. It is quite resonable to see the Tories opening the door to a two-tier health system, one for profit and one supported by the government, rendering the principle of equality of standards and of access to a footnote in history.
Yesterday the head of the Canadian Medical Association was interviewed on CBC radio (White Coat, Black Art) and he made some very significant proposals, that even a small brain like this one could grasp.
He recommended that more home care be arranged and funded for his some 145 patients who are currently in hospital beds (costing some $1000/day) whereas home care would cost approximately $250/day. He says his situation is replicated across the country, and if that is true, there is a bundle of savings in that proposal. However, it needs a complement of personnel to fill that new home care need.
He also recommended that the federal government needs to set and insist on standard benchmarks on such matters as wait times, for all provinces, as a gate-keeper on national standards. In other words, he recommends that while the federal government "funds" the program, it should mandate that the funding will only follow the attainment of those national standards. Provinces that fail to meet those standards would see their funding reduced, or eliminated. (I did not hear a clear answer to that question.)
I did not hear the doctor mention the fact that doctors are paid when people are sick, not when people are demonstrably healthy. That single change would go far toward making the National Health Act affordable, and to generating a far more healthy citizenry.
Repeating the offer of an increase in federal funding of 6%, as promised by all three national parties is not evidence of significant thought having been given to the issue by any of them. Details such as those proposed by the head of the CMA would at least flush the foxes out of the henhouse so that they can be inventoried, and then displaced by a thorough debate. All Canadians would welcome such a debate, but will likely be offered a fare of shades of fear. Not healthy.