Federal government must provide leadership on public health care

Following is an open letter to LaVar Payne, Member of Parliament, Medicine Hat.
Contrary to what you as our MP have stated in multiple public forums in this region, the federal government DOES have a responsibility in the implementation and delivery of public health care. In fact, Canadians are looking for strong federal leadership in health care.
According to the results of a Nanos Research survey conducted on behalf of the Canadian Health Coalition for National Medicare Week, which was Dec. 2-8, an overwhelming majority of Canadians think that the federal government must take a leadership role in securing our health-care system and ensuring all Canadians have equal access to it. In a national random telephone survey, 87.7 per cent of Canadians indicated that they agree or somewhat agree that the federal government has a key leadership role in securing the future of public health care in Canada. Also, 94.4 per cent agree or somewhat agree that the federal government should ensure that Canadians, no matter where they live or their ability to pay, can get access to health care. These strong views generally cut across all regions and age groups and are among both men and women. Detailed results are available atwww.nanosresearch.com.
During National Medicare Week, leaders within Friends of Medicare as the Alberta affiliate of the Canadian Health Coalition are in our nation's capital to focus on inter-provincial and national issues concerning public health care. "Canadians believe the federal government has a key role in making sure that all Canadians can get the health care they need," says Mike McBane, executive director of the Canadian Health Coalition. He adds, "Health care is a shared national value ... so Canadians of all ages and in all parts of Canada are looking to the federal government to make sure the future of our public system is secure and that access is preserved."
Additionally, provincial MLA and Alberta Liberal Party leader Dr. Raj Sherman recently sent a letter to the federal minister of health explaining how Health Minister Fred Horne violated section 12 (2)(b) of the Canada Health Act by refusing binding arbitration as requested by the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) in regards to the current contract negotiations with the province's doctors. Section 12 (2)(b) of the Canada Health Act states that a province must enter into either conciliation or binding arbitration by an equally represented panel with an independent chair if requested by an organization like the AMA when an agreement by both sides can't be reached. Failing to so means that the province isn't meeting the accessibility provisions of the Act and could result in the federal government imposing penalties. 
So you see, Mr Payne, Canadians know and indeed Albertans know that the federal government has an absolutely critical part to play in the delivery of health care even in this province. The federal government should stop trying to foist their responsibilities onto the provincial governments, which can lead to fragmented care. Instead, they must fulfill their obligations as elected officials, strengthening healthcare for the common good of Canadian citizens.
We are encouraging citizens from across Canada, and especially within our Palliser region, to write, call and meet with their MPs. They will be urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to return to the negotiating table with the provinces and territories in order to secure a new 10-year Health Accord for 2014 to 2024.

Alison Van Dyke
Medicine Hat
(The writer is co-chair, Palliser Friends of Medicare)