The Alberta government's plan for health-care changes faces a pivotal day on Thursday, with some of its most controversial measures likely to be on the table as the Tory caucus meets.
Health Minister Iris Evans was to update the caucus in Calgary on the consultation process over the proposed "Third-Way" legislation, unveiled Feb. 28.
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said it would be up to Tory legislators to decide about the Third Way proposals, but warned detractors that some changes were going to be necessary.
"Health care is costing in the order of $10 billion dollars a year and growing and we don't see a healthier Albertan," he said before the meeting.
"I don't know if they realize that all we are trying to do is bring costs in line with the rate of inflation and improve access."
A day earlier, Evans met with federal Health Minister Tony Clement to defend the province's so-called "Third Way" health plan.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has warned Klein that some of the changes could violate the Canada Health Act.
The controversial measures include:
- Allowing patients to pay for faster treatment of hip and knee replacements and some other services.
- Letting doctors practise in both the public and private systems.
Harper wasn't the only one who has expressed concern over the Third Way plan: the proposals have drawn criticism from some ordinary Albertans and even some provincial Tory legislators.
After Klein received a lukewarm vote of support at a party convention a few weeks ago and said he would step down earlier than planned, some senior Conservatives openly declared the Third Way to be dead.
Changes would cost more, Liberal says
Liberal health critic Laurie Blakeman said that if some of the controversial measures were dropped, it would signal a victory for Albertans and a defeat for the Klein government.
"What is being proposed here is, for the most part, not good for rural Alberta," Blakeman told CBC Radio.
Blakeman said people who live in rural areas fear they could lose their doctors and nurses to private practice in the cities.
"I think it's going to cost all Albertans a lot more money and make health care less accessible so they need to go back to the drawing board," Blakeman said.
Klein, however, has vowed to continue to search for new ideas that fit somewhere between a completely public and totally private health care system.