Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Provinces Ready and Willing to Fill Health-Care Void Left by Feds: Brad Wall: Provinces Will Fill Health Care Void: Wall

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Provinces Ready and Willing to Fill Health-Care Void Left by Feds: Brad Wall: Provinces Will Fill Health Care Void: Wall

Article excerpt

OTTAWA - The provinces are ready and willing to fill the void left by the federal government in reforming Canada's health-care system, says Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

The starting point is for provinces to share their best ideas about how to improve health care and save money, then develop a common understanding of the future of health care for the entire country, Wall said in an interview.

"By sharing best practices (and) working together to establish 'scope-of-practice' concepts and guidelines for standards of care, we are going to get to some national answers. Some more pan-Canadian answers," he said after discussing his province's health-care innovations at a conference in the Ottawa area.

Provincial governments, acting together, "will fill the void."

The federal government took the country by surprise last December when it announced a 10-year funding plan for health care, but did not attach any strings or policy guidelines to the spending of the money.

While some of the provinces have grumbled about the amount of money, the most common complaint from critics has been about the lack of federal involvement in driving much-needed health-care reform.

They fear that as provinces try to cut costs and balance the books, health-care standards will erode, leading to a patchwork of public and private health services across the country and a deterioration of quality.

But Wall says the health-care move is only the latest sign of devolution of power to the provinces. The provinces, he says, are up to the task.

In the West, provincial governments used to yearn for Senate reform that would dilute the power of the East and give the West more political leeway, Wall noted.

That was a fruitless exercise, he said.

Devolution of power to the provinces started with the budget-cutting of the Jean Chretien government in the 1990s, and is now getting another boost under the policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he said.

"What we've seen in the 90s with the devolution of funding as (then finance minister Paul) Martin dealt with the deficit, continuing now with the devolution of certain areas ... is a real strengthening and a concentration of authority in the provincial capitals," Wall said. …

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