Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dinning or Manning, either way Medicare is in trouble.

A year from now either Jim Dinning or Preston Manning will be the Premier of Alberta. Ted Morton will play king-maker with his social-conservative block in exchange for some kind of nod to intolerance and bigotry, and the other candidates are looking for face time and auditioning for front bench cabinet positions.

Jim Dinning is the consummate inside man, the ultimate power networker with fingers in every pot sweetened by government privatization schemes. Dinning had the leadership race sewn up until Preston dropped the bombshell that he might just possibly maybe be interested in the gig.

Preston Manning vocalized what from anyone else could be dismissed as a blue sky trial balloon. From Manning it was an open recruitment for leadership contest staff and volunteers. The Reform/Alliance machine was built by Manning. He knows where the controls are.

Jim Dinning's been part of the Alberta conservative establishment for years too. He was Provincial Treasurer during the drastic cutbacks of the 90's. He was chair of the rabidly pro privatization Calgary Health Region from 1999 to 2001. He is currently board chair of Western Financial Group, underwriters for Acure Health Corp and among others sits on the board of the Liquor Stores Income Fund, Alberta's largest liquor retailer, an entity that couldn't even exist until the Klein government privatized liquor stores. Dinning was also the point man for the electricity deregulation scheme which has fleeced Albertans on a gigantic scale.

Impact on healthcare? Dinning is likely to recognize that healthcare privatization has achieved it's greatest gains in places it could grow in the shadow of neglect and a blind eye to creeping privatization rather than flashy legislative assaults like the Third Way. Under Dinning, expect the slow erosion to continue, abetted by Alberta's servile media. The erosion will be sped up but with strategic retreats always an option. Recently he's been trying very hard to cast himself as a protector of public healthcare and a respecter of the Canada Health Act. This transparently more about differentiating himself, first from lame duck Klein and then from the Preston Manning factor.

Manning has openly advocated dismantling the public sector wherever it exists, most particularly in public healthcare which was the bane of his father.
Manning has called for a stealth campaign of re-framing and careful propaganda to continue to erode the public's irritating affection for public care. He has advocated finding telegenic 'victims' of the public system and carefully promoting their 'horror stories' as part of the continuing sub rosa attack on Medicare.

Impact on healthcare? Hard to say. It will be part of the leadership debate, count on that and Manning may have to moderate his public stance if he doesn't want to give the public system's defenders the kind of rallying cry and organizing flash-point the Third Way did. Manning will work on manufacturing consent for the dismantling of Medicare before making as public an assault on it as Klein did.

Either way, expect the unsustainability fairy tale to be heavily promoted, alternative views and real numbers suppressed and the creeping expansion of private care by stealth to continue.

Next: Canadian control over public policy such as healthcare being decided in trade negotiations behind closed doors.

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