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Conservative leadership candidate Jean Charest has touched the third rail of Canadian politics by calling for more private delivery of health care services.

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Count on him being accused of promoting “two-tier, American-style health care,” if not by other candidates in the leadership race, then by the Liberals and NDP if he becomes Conservative leader.

But that’s not what he’s saying.

He says he would increase federal health care funding through transfer payments to the provinces, while giving them greater freedom to decide how to deliver medically necessary services than now permitted under the Canada Health Act.

However, governments would remain the sole payer for these services.

Critics of this approach say it’s the thin edge of the wedge that would see wealthier Canadians jumping the queue for health services such as medical imaging by going outside the public system, which already occurs in provinces like Quebec.

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Charest counters the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of Canada’s health care system and that the status quo is not an option.

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“We would not have been forced to have lockdowns had our health care system had the ability to absorb the extra cases coming in with COVID,” Charest said.

“In every category, from ICU and hospital beds per capita, to doctors and nurses per capita, to wait times for basic procedures, Canada is near the bottom of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) rankings, despite spending more than most countries that outperform us.”

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The OECD examines the health care systems of comparable developed countries that have universal health care.

This excludes the US because it does not have universal care.

We agree with Charest that major reforms to health care are needed and that simply pouring more money into the broken template of the current system will not work.

There is no magic bullet to solve these issues.

But the problem in Canada is that any time any politician suggests any change to the health care system other than demanding the federal and provincial governments pour more money into it, the false bogeyman of US health care is raised.

As a result, nothing changes and nothing gets better.

The pandemic has demonstrated that’s no longer good enough and that we must do better.

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