By Paul Wells - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
There are so many Liberal leadership races going on across the country that sometimes we miss a few. I woke up in an arctic Montreal this morning eager to check one of the larger contests off my list. The candidates to succeed Jean Charest as leader of the Quebec Liberal Party — the convention will be in Montreal on March 16-17 — were having a kind of sort of debate.
The venue was the Sheraton Centre hotel, where a group called Idée Fédérale wanted to gauge the candidates’ federalist credentials. Idée Fédérale is designed to be a place where Quebecers can talk about Canada in public, as though it were respectable; its most visible figures are La Presse editor André Pratte and international-relations scholar Jocelyn Coulon, who inaugurated a durable tradition when he became the first in a string of federal Liberals to lose to Tom Mulcair in Outremont in 2007.
This morning’s breakfast was resolutely low-key. Pratte sat in a plush chair and interrogated the three candidates, gently gently, in turn. They did not appear together except for a group photo. Let’s take them in the order they appeared. Continue…
By John Geddes - Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 9:07 AM - 0 Comments
News that Quebec has retreated from its daring proposal to impose a user fee for visits to the doctor is bound to be greeted by advocates of market-oriented health reforms as a dispiriting setback, and as a victory by defenders of universal insurance that doesn’t impose direct costs on patients.
The proposal last spring in Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand budget struck us here at Maclean’s as big enough news that we used it as an entry point for a wider look at how mounting health costs, driven largely by an aging population, must inevitably force provincial governments to seek solutions.
But it was far from clear that user fees were the best option. Anne Doig, the Saskatoon family physician who was then president of the Canadian Medical Association, warned that fees would discourage visits to doctors—ultimately leading to higher costs for delayed treatment.
By John Geddes - Monday, April 12, 2010 at 12:04 PM - 82 Comments
Our aging population will make unthinkable reforms inevitable
Experts who have been pleading for an urgent debate on fast-rising health costs might secretly have welcomed the appearance of irate demonstrators outside Raymond Bachand’s Montreal office last week, two days after the Quebec finance minister proposed a new health tax, and even user fees, in his March 30 budget. And when Montreal police in riot gear clashed with the protesters, those worried experts—doctors and economists who’ve long argued that Canadians must face up to the hugely expensive needs of a rapidly aging population—wouldn’t have been out of line if they thought, “Finally, this issue can’t be ignored any longer.”
Bachand’s daring budget, and the angry reaction to it, gave those who’ve been issuing warnings about the cost of care a flashpoint to talk about. Quebec faces relentless growth in hospital, drug and doctors’ bills, similar to most provinces. Health will devour 45 per cent of Quebec’s budget this year, up from 31 per cent in 1980, and on track to consume 67 per cent by 2030. So Bachand announced a health tax slated to rise from $25 per adult in 2010, to $100 in 2011, and $200 in 2012. Even more provocatively, he said Premier Jean Charest’s Liberal government will study the idea of imposing a so-called “health deductible,” perhaps $25 per medical visit, which would be incorporated into the income tax system. It took two days for anti-tax, anti-user-fee protests to erupt outside his office in Montreal’s old city. Bachand didn’t back down, succinctly summing up his motivation for making the cost of care more directly apparent to Quebecers: “Nothing is free.”
Of course, Canadians realize health care is expensive, when they think about it. But government insurance means they usually don’t. Anne Doig, the Saskatoon family physician who is also president of the Canadian Medical Association, said Quebec’s surprise move might signal the moment when politicians across the country finally begin to confront costs. “We are pointing out the problem, a stinking elephant in the middle of the room, that our governments have been able to sidestep up to now,” Doig told Maclean’s. “I think we’ve reached the tipping point where they can no longer sidestep it.”