Monday, June 26, 2006

Alberta Leadership Race - Oberg pins his hopes on Healthcare

Lyle Oberg has officially joined the race for Tory leader, and by extension Premier of Alberta. He's polling at second place behind heir apparent Dinning now that the Manning factor is gone. Hancock is a respectable third and Norris, Stelmach and reactionary bigot Ted Morton poll far behind seemingly content to just pick up some face time and delegate leverage.

Normally Oberg might be in a position to consolidate some of the trailing candidates support come convention, but there doesn't really seem to be any big anybody but Dinning wave to catch and Oberg alienated a lot of his colleagues with his 'I know where the skeletons are buried' line. Klein's supporters couldn't save King Ralph, but now that the dust has settled from the palace coup they may want to vent some anger on the man they see as having started the rush to Klein's public regicide.

So Oberg has cannily - or desperately- decided to turn the anti-Third Way wave to his advantage and make Healthcare his hill to fight and die on. If he does die on that hill it will be because he's trying to capitalize on the protecting healthcare zeitgeist - while completely missing it's essence. Despite an overwhelming consensus among Albertans for protecting and expanding public healthcare, he's returned to Klein's most controversial proposal of allowing doctors to practice in both the public and private healthcare system.

He promises a rule making doctors spend at least 75% of their time working in the public system but can't explain how this plan wouldn't violate the Canada Health Act or how expanding the Private sector wouldn't allow more doctors to abandon the public system altogether. And of course, even American private insurance giant Aon Consulting, hired by the Alberta government to study privatization, couldn't claim with a straight face that more private delivery would actually reduce costs. In fact, former President Bill Clinton described the American Healthcare system as insane, and urged Canadians to avoid moving towards a system with twice the administration costs of our current public system.

Oberg does make the sensible proposal of ending health premiums, but in a slow process of reducing it bit by bit over five years. He should have the courage of his convictions, and bulging government coffers, to promise to remove this pointless tax on ordinary Albertans immediately.

The race is still Dinning's to lose.

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