Sunday, July 16, 2006

100 Days: Harper Lies About Priorities

Prime Minister Stephen Harper campaigned on a short list of five priorities. These were repeated during the campaign until those of us who were paying attention could spout them off easily. Either Stephen Harper thinks that we have short memories or that we are easily bamboozled.

In the July issue of an obscure conservative journal, Stephen Harper boasts about his minority government’s achievements. “It’s been quite a ride ever since – with progress being made on all of our five priorities – from cleaning up the federal government, to cutting taxes, cracking down on crime, supporting families and strengthening our country at home and around the world” he writes.

Do you remember “strengthening the country” as one of the priorities? In fact, it never was. A substitution has taken place, another cleverly crafted message that hides the truth. Or perhaps it’s time to call it what it is. It is a lie. In this article, which Stephen himself has penned, he sneakily replaces “work with the provinces to establish a patient wait times guarantee” with “strengthening our country.” Perhaps he hopes that we won’t notice.

During the election campaign, I heard about the concerns of citizens of Niagara West-Glanbrook. Health care was at the top of the list. Voters told me about waiting times and quality of care issues, and the shortage of medical staff. In our riding that covers about 1,000 square kilometers and houses a large rural and senior population, health care is understandably of primary concern.

During a conference call last week, federal Health minister Tony Clement insisted no additional money would be forthcoming to shorten wait times. Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman said he was “awestruck” by Clement’s attitude. He said “you cannot pretend there are not extraordinary additional costs associated with it.”

However, we cannot be totally surprised that the money is not forthcoming from Clement’s Ministry. Mr. Clement earned the nickname Two Tier Tony while at Queen’s Park for his ringing endorsement of a two-tier health system. And, he has been a little busy over the last while looking after his own personal investment in a Toronto based pharmaceutical company – and a serious conflict of interest, and he is in the middle of a scandal involving the awarding of a $25,000 sole-sourced contract to his long-time friend and aide Gordon Haugh.

Before any of us swallow more self-congratulatory remarks about the first 100 days of the conservative’s minority government, let’s ask what happened to the simple five priorities. In particular, what happened to the most important issue to most citizens of Niagara West-Glanbrook, health care?