Premier-to-be must level with Albertans about his personal financial interest in elitist private health care

In May 2012, Jim Prentice joined the Board of Coril Holdings Ltd. Coril is a Calgary-based private investment company that owns Inliv, a big medical clinic in Calgary which aggressively markets a product called "Total Health Management," at a cost of $4,495 a year.

Inliv is part of a new wave of elitist "concierge" clinics which were allowed to set up shop in Alberta just a few years ago. They are "legal" only because we let them skirt the law by claiming they serve anyone, when in fact they exist to serve only a tiny elite who can pay thousands a year for preferential access. They're an insult to every ordinary working Albertan, because in essence our taxes subsidize the small portion of publicly funded services they bundle together with the uninsured "extras" they provide to their wealthy paying customers. 

Inliv's owner, Coril Holdings Ltd., proudly showed Jim Prentice as a Board member on its website right up until Wednesday, June 4, 2014. But when Friends of Medicare looked again on June 5th, 2014 - Whoops! He was gone. 

It was like he'd never been there. But he was there, and now Albertans need to know where he stands on private health care. Does he believe in a Medicare system that treats people equally? If so, why did he choose to join Coril - and stay on the Board even after he declared himself a candidate for the Tory leadership? 

As Premier, how will Prentice show Albertans he's putting the interest of the public health system above the interest of his buddies on the Coril Board and in the Calgary corporate elite?  Will he shut down Coril and the other concierge clinics, or at least clarify the rules so that these clinics either operate properly in the public system providing really equal access to all Albertans, or operate outside it with opted-out physicians? 

If Prentice tries to sidestep this issue, Albertans will know we're in for yet another crisis over private health care, under a Premier who simply doesn't get it. We want a public health system managed by a government that believes in it and wants it to succeed, not one that subverts Medicare to create "business opportunities" for wealthy people and corporations to buy their way to the front of the line.

Private medicine doesn't fix problems, it causes them. Another Calgary concierge clinic, Helios, was at the centre of an ethical crisis when it was revealed at the Vertes inquiry that patients who paid a big annual fee to Helios were systematically bumped to the head of the line for publicly funded colonoscopies at the AHS colon cancer screening facility in Calgary. Helios was created by a senior University of Calgary physician, and at least two then-members of the U of C board, Kabir Jivraj and Doug Black, were also involved.

The U of C board is chaired by almost-Premier Jim Dinning. Now along comes another Jim to save the Tories and he's personally made money from sitting on the Board of the owner of another concierge clinic. (We'll never know how much money, of course, because privately held companies disclose nothing - and that secrecy is another critical aspect of how privatization undermines the public system.)

We need to hear where almost-Premier Jim Prentice stands on elitist private health care clubs like Helios and Inliv. But we need more: we need a real public discussion of our government's agenda for our health system.

In the meantime, Albertans need to tell Jim Prentice and the provincial government - yet again:  We. Do. Not. Want. Private. Health. Care.