It wasn’t one of her three big ideas to improve health care, but it was a brief moment of brilliance.
During Monday’s RamsayTalks at the University of Toronto, Dr. Danielle Martin had just been asked by the Rotman School’s Mark Stabile how she would achieve her goal to expand public drug coverage when there was a declining appetite for deficits or taxes.
Her initial comment was “please, somebody tax me.” Given the creation of Doctors for Fair Taxation (their link is on the right) that part of the message is not entirely new nor is it a surprise that Martin would say it. It was the phrase that followed that was far more interesting: “I think our country is worth it.”
At that moment it sounded warmly nostalgic.
Conservatives like Stephen Harper and Tim Hudak want us to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. “Worth” just doesn’t come into play.
Conservatives like to wrap themselves all around the flag and the military. They talk about the ultimate sacrifice young men and women pay with their lives to preserve our freedom. Yet when we ask them to simply pay taxes so that no Canadian is left behind in our economy, well the hypocrisy becomes self-evident. Young people are expected to give up their lives. Conservatives will only grudgingly part with their silver.
Alex Himelfarb understands the 2004 10-year health accord better than most. At the time it was negotiated, he was the highest ranking civil servant in Ottawa.
The $41.3 billion Accord was supposed to fix health care for a generation. It would reduce wait times, provide catastrophic coverage for costly prescription drugs, focus on strategic health human resources, invest in first dollar coverage for home care, conduct primary health reform, and increase accountability and reporting to citizens through the Health Council of Canada.
Himelfarb, now director of York University’s Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, doesn’t dispute that it failed to reach expectations, but argues that has a lot to do with the Harper government which never wanted the plan to work.
“They didn’t do all they had to do as a government, then said it didn’t work,” Himelfarb said last week at a luncheon held by the Canadian and Ontario Health Coalitions.
Ontario CCPA Director Trish Hennessy speaks in Whitby last night.
There are many ways to tell a story.
For Trish Hennessy, Ontario director at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, one way is to look at the most searched word annually for the on-line Mirriam-Webster dictionary.
Speaking last night at the Whitby Courthouse Theatre to a group of Durham-region New Democrats, Hennessy noted that in 2010 the most searched word was “austerity.” A year later it was “pragmatism.” In 2012 there was a tie between “socialism” and “capitalism.”
“Clearly something is shifting,” she said.
Many young people are being left out of the post-recession recovery and are now questioning the economic and political system that is denying them their place in society.
Hennessy says Ontario is practicing a self-defeating logic with its austerity policies. While the Wynne government cuts jobs and freezes wages, they simultaneously expect there to be a consumer-driven economic recovery. How does that take place when for the majority wages are stagnant or in decline?
The former clerk of the privy council, Himelfarb was frank about his assessment that we have been sold a bill of goods with regards to tax cuts and austerity.
The lecture was sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Literary Review of Canada. It was produced for TVO’s Big Ideas series.
Watch the full lecture and Q&A online here.
Rather read about it? Our Diablogue story is here.
Alex Himelfarb says taxes are a proxy for the kind of government we want, yet for too long taxes were the third rail of Canadian politics – you couldn’t talk about it.
If we can’t talk about the future, we lose the ability to exercise democratic control.
With protest movements growing around the world, the conversation is beginning to change, and remarkably, it is happening at a time of great economic crisis.
Former Clerk of the Privy Council – the most senior bureaucrat in Ottawa and an advisor to two Canadian Prime Ministers – Himelfarb spoke in Toronto last night as part of the TVO Big Ideas series.