NDP leader attacks Wildrose, Tory health plans

NDP Leader Brian Mason issued an open letter to Albertans on Friday saying that public health care is under attack in this election campaign.
NDP Leader Brian Mason is criticizing both the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives on health care. (CBC)

NDP Leader Brian Mason issued an open letter to Albertans on Friday saying that public health care is under attack in this election campaign by opposing political parties.

"This election is now about stopping the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives' plans to privatize health care," he told supporters in Edmonton on Friday.

On Thursday, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith announced her party would add capacity to the health care system and increase competition by allowing a mix of private and public services.

For example, If a patient can't get a hip or knee replacement within the benchmark of 26 weeks, the party believes a patient should be free to get treatment with government help at either a private clinic or at a facility outside the province. 

Mason slammed the Wildrose plan by calling it two-tier American-style health care.

"Her plan would violate the Canada Health Act. Her plan would allow people with money to get better health care," he said.

Mason added that the proposal would allow private companies to attract the best doctors and health care professionals "and leave the rest of us with a second-class health care system."

But Smith says her changes fall under the banner of the Canada Health Act because costs of the services would still be covered by the province.

"No one should have to pull out their credit card or their chequebook to pay for medically necessary care," she said. "But it is not giving proper access to give access to a waiting list. We can't have our seniors waiting months or years to get knee and hip replacements."

Smith says her plan would allow seniors to take matters into their own hands instead of languishing on a waiting list.

"If they are on the list longer than what is medically-acceptable they will be able to go to a facility of their choice, either in this province or outside the province, and have their public health insurance pay for that," she said.

Mason also had harsh words for the Tories saying voters should not believe their attempts to make themselves look like protectors of the public health care system.