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(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Feb. 13, 2006)

Throne Speech News Flash: Life is Change

John Pifer

The times they are a’changing … indeed.

Not that we needed Tuesday’s Throne Speech from the Gordon Campbell Liberal government of BC to tell us this obvious truth yet again; but that’s what the brief, sketchy, rambling presentation from Lieutenant-Governor Iola Campagnola did.

Yup, life is change; and yup, for this Golden Decade (cue the trumpets!) that means major changes in how BC handles health care.

Do not get too excited, though – promises of change to this creaky, outdated process in this country have been made virtually every year for the past 30 or more.

Now, with repeated references to transformational change, and with the demand for health care certain to increase in an aging population, your BC Liberal government says it is determined to change the system without offending the existing and hitherto sacrosanct Canada Health Act.

Yeah, right. As if.

Aspects of universal health care will undoubtedly be maintained – after all, this is Tommy Douglas’s Canada! But you may rest assured that there will be more private clinics, and there will be more access for the general public to private services, paid for by public funding, if only to reduce waiting lists that can in some surgeries be counted in years, rather than months.

There will be the predictable BMWing (stands for bitching, moaning and whining) from NDP leader Carol James and her socialist hordes, of course. Is it churlish to note that the greatest increase in the number of private health clinics in BC came when the province was under the proprietorship of the New Democrats?

What strikes the trained observer about this Throne Speech is the number of questions it asks, and does not directly answer. Most of the posers are presented almost rhetorically, implying that to disagree would be to be less than caring and compassionate, if not plain stupid.

Questions about universality and special accessibility of health care are buoyed by queries about why we are afraid to look at a private/public process, such as the ones that are successful in other countries, and even questions of why we condemn other systems and the dreaded American example.

This sets the stage for what likely will become known as Gordo’s European Farewell Tour. BC’s Premier and health minister will be off soon on a junket … er, fact-finding trip … to Sweden, Norway, France and the United Kingdom, along with a coterie of senior bureaucrats no doubt, to look at how they manage health care far better than anything Canadians have ever seen or experienced.

With the current spending here not being sustainable with an aging population, examining how health care is done in countries where it actually works is most sensible, sure; and far be it for this humble scribe to deny Mr. Campbell his springtime royal procession through ancient Europe. But why doesn’t he just buy copies of the TV news series of last year that won awards for BCTV Global and reporter Brian Coxford? That had all the information of what works there and why, and how it could be applied to all of Canada, let alone just little ol’ BC.

The Throne Speech says Canadians and British Columbians must consider these health-care questions; but it is implicit in the manner and nature of the questions themselves that such public input will matter little – the decision to change to a public/private system has already been taken.

Change is coming; change is here. Get used to it.

Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at


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