Saturday, December 17, 2005

Debating the Charter

Paul Martin could not have been happier that the first question of the English debate involved same-sex marriage, as he jumped on the opportunity to portray himself as the defender of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court ruled that it is up to parliament to define marriage, but declined to answer Martin's question as to whether the definition of marriage between one man and one woman is unconstitutional.

If parliament freely voted for the traditional definition, Harper would introduce a bill on civil-unions, with all the rights and privileges of a married couple. This approach was recently adopted in Britain and exists in many European countries. If the Supreme Court deemed the new definition unconstitutional, he wouldn't use the notwithstanding cluase. The chances of a minority CPC parliament voting to reverse the previous vote are very low, anyways.

What about the Chaoulli decision on healthcare? This is a Charter decision which makes the allowal of one word on a piece of paper seem a bit trivial. Six months ago, a majority of Quebec's Supreme Court judges ruled that the ban on allowing an alternative to government-controlled health insurance for certain types of healthcare was a violation of George Zeliotos' Charter rights to life, liberty and security . Zeliotos had waited more than a year in pain for hip surgery. Harper won the debate and positioned himself as more of a defender of the Charter than the other leaders, when he outlined that his party is the only one with a plan to respond to the ruling. The CPC would ensure that medically-acceptable wait times (rather than "benchmarks" acceptable to the premiers) were adopted. If a regional health authority couldn't provide care within those time frames, the government would pay for a citizen to receive the care in another province, or even another jurisdiction if necessary. He rightly admitted that that would be difficult, but correctly noted that it has to be done to respect "both the Canada Health Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms".

We have no dentist, optometrist, physiotherapist, or naturopathic doctor shortages. Pretty much every country in the world, including all of Europe and Scandinavia, has some form of private delivery and/or coverage. While these health-care providers want to make a decent living and establish innovations in their delivery methods, the level of service they provide is not marred by profit-driven greed - as Layton and Dosanjh would have us believe. Canadians pay roughly half of all taxes on healthcare, often three or four thousand dollars per year in addition to of any private insurance they already fund. The government's role should be to provide universal healthcare insurance - not to ignore Charter rights and freedoms.

The national discussion on healthcare "the #1 issue" is dominated by mistruths and a glaring lack of media coverage . Why would it be political suicide for Harper to completely follow the Chaoulli decision by supporting the legality of private health insurance? Why has no leader suggested referring the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada? After all of the pompous talk by Martin about defending the Charter and minority rights during the debate, you would assume he would have dealt with this issue months ago... especially when his personal physician owns a private clinic.

1 Comments:

At 8:21 AM, Blogger Brent Edward Slater said...

Great post Ms. MacPhail. When will the politicians get out of the way of our health care system actually improving? Ujjal Dosanjh is a putz...

 

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