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The kraken awakes, again: The secret Conservative health privatization agenda resurfaces

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Image of Government Slideshow

Just when it looked like we might finally have a slow day on the Alberta health care front, the PowerPoint Fairy intervened yesterday to keep the adrenalin pumping with a slideshow that seems to set out the Conservative secret agenda to privatize health care.

The Dot-PPT Fairy -- in the guise of a "concerned citizen" -- leaked the "internal" presentation to the Alberta Liberals.

Readers will recall that when we all went home Friday afternoon at the end of a raucous week in Alberta that saw the Conservative Parliamentary Assistant for health care and the CEO of the province's health "super board" both fired, Alberta Health Services Board members quitting right and left, and all manner of salacious accusations flying, everyone expected Monday to see more of the same.

After all, three Board members had quit to protest the firing by the government of the man whose fate they were supposed to control, Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett, who greased his own skids with his now-infamous Cookie Walk last Thursday. And, indeed, another one quit Monday to protest the same thing.

Professional legislative pundits were quick to the microphone with the explanation that the remaining 10 AHS Board members were only sticking around out of a sense of responsibility lest the health care system fall apart without them -- which is, as they say, a likely story.

Even better, New Democrat Brian Mason had vowed to rise on a point of personal privilege and accuse Edmonton-Rutherford Conservative MLA Fred Horne, the new Parliamentary Assistant for health care, of trying to intimidate Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Dr. Raj Sherman, the loquacious former Parliamentary Assistant for health care who last week found himself consigned to the lonely life of an Independent on the Opposition benches for his sins.

For reasons unspoken (but reliably reported to have been a personal plea to the NDP leader from Sherman), Mason announced yesterday morning he was dropping his plan to go after the usually mild-mannered Horne.

What discussions Sherman had over the weekend, and with whom, remain a mystery. Perhaps someone’s "better angels" prevailed, an outcome at least one commentator pleaded for Monday morning. More likely, one suspects, it was something more devilish. Regardless, only time will tell, and perhaps not even that.

But with Mason's plans withdrawn, the dull day that might have resulted did not when the aforementioned concerned citizen leaked the 27-page slide show to the Alberta Liberals.

The presentation provides evidence that suggests, just as Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann says, the Conservatives have a hidden agenda to privatize health care after the next election.

The internal Alberta Health and Wellness department presentation sets out how the government would de-list medical some procedures now covered by health insurance, make private insurance coverage legal and let physicians double dip in the public and private system at the same time.

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky denied all, but the talkative Sherman, in the words of the Edmonton Journal, "confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document." And Sherman was, after all, until a week ago Zwozdesky's assistant.

The slideshow -- called "Alberta's Health Legislation: Moving Forward" -- describes the first phase of the government's sneak privatization plan as "Building Public Confidence," though it might more accurately be entitled "Fooling the Public," and outlines changes included in the so-called Alberta Health Act that is now before the Legislature.

The second part of the show, called "Legislation," but which more aptly might be called "Screwing the Public," explains how the plan will really work when it’s too late do anything about it.

"If the Premier follows the agenda outlined in this document, it's the end of public health care in Alberta and possibly Canada itself," Swann said in a news release. "This is one of the most serious issues Albertans have ever faced -- a back-door, middle of the night attempt by a deceitful government to move to two-tiered, American-style health care."

Alert readers will recall how the PowerPoint Fairy also put in an appearance in December 2009, when she revealed that Alberta Health services was "quickly going broke."

That presentation -- cooked up by three of the now departed Duckett's senior executives -- was called "The Great Alberta Experiment," which, as was observed in this space at that time, got one thing right. "The creation of AHS was an experiment -- an ill-though-out political experiment that has gone seriously awry with consequences it will take a long time and lot of money to fix."

More true now than ever, I'd say.

Given yesterday's development, it's hard to see why conservative Albertans fed up with Mr. Stelmach’s far-right government but unable to bring themselves to vote Liberal or NDP wouldn’t support the Wildrose Alliance.

After all, except for their ritual repetition of the phrase "publicly funded," at least the Alliance says pretty much right out that they're going to screw us on health care and presents us with a reasonably honest explanation of how they propose to do it.

As for the rest of us, the arguments are more compelling than ever not to vote for Stelmach's party, which not only can't run health care properly, but can’t even seem to manage a competent wrecking job!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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