Vancouver Sun


From health care to how B.C. votes, Clark, Campbell et al speak their minds


Back in the news after a long interval is Gordon Campbell, gone from the office of B.C. premier for seven years and now a resident of Ontario.

“Former premier comes to defence of private health care; joins fight against B.C. government’s crackdown on clinics,” was the headline last week on a column by Ian Mulgrew in The Vancouver Sun.

Campbell came to the defence of private clinics in a court proceeding where they are seeking relief from pending changes, invoked by the New Democrats, to restrict public access to private services. He recounted how, during his term as B.C. Liberal premier from 2001-2011, his government allowed private clinics to flourish to reduce pressure on waiting lists in the public system.

Among other details in the six-page affidavit was an account of how his views were shaped by a tour of health care systems in Scandinavi­a, France and the United Kingdom.

“I learned from this visit that all of these countries had hybrid health care systems that incorporat­ed elements of private care and funding, and delivered better public health care at a lower cost than British Columbia and the rest of Canada,” testified Campbell.

Campbell was accompanie­d on that quickie tour (four countries, seven days) in early 2006 by Dr. Les Vertesi, an emergency room doctor and advocate of private care who paid his own way.

“I want to make sure the premier learns the right things and not the wrong things,” Dr. Vertesi, who was also Campbell’s brother-inlaw, said at the time. “He’s well intentione­d, but there are lots of misunderst­andings.”

Implicit in Campbell’s affidavit in the current proceeding­s was a likely surge in waiting lists in the public system if the NDP crackdown on the private clinics takes effect, as scheduled, Oct. 1.

For whatever one thinks of private clinics — and the New Democrats have nothing good to say about them — they do act as a safety valve on the public system, treating 70,000 patients annually.

This week Campbell was back in the news with equally significan­t implicatio­ns, albeit for the province of Ontario.

Campbell was one of three panelists named by new Premier Doug Ford to help review the provincial finances and accounting inherited from the previous Ontario Liberal government.

He’ll be paid $50,000 for working six weeks alongside a forensic accountant and a former federal deputy minister of finance.

The Ford government chose Campbell because of his efforts to toughen accounting practices and budget legislatio­n and to rein in spending here in B.C.

It surely wasn’t because of his views on pricing carbon emissions as a way to fight climate change. Campbell brought in B.C.’s pioneering carbon tax. Ford is busy dismantlin­g Ontario’s related cap and trade system.

Another former Liberal B.C. premier in the news is Christy Clark, appointed late last month to a potentiall­y lucrative seat on the board of Shaw Communicat­ions.

Shaw directors last year earned between $240,000 and $385,000 in fees and sharebased compensati­on, according to The Globe and Mail.

Next week Clark is scheduled to preside at a fundraiser for Michael Lee, the thirdplace finisher in the B.C. Liberal leadership race.

Clark’s ex-husband, Mark Marissen, was Lee’s strategist. Lee finished the campaign owing $300,000. Much of that was in excess of the party’s spending limit, adding a touch of gall to him now hitting up members of the party to cover his leadership shortfall.

Still, the invitation went out this week to the event, set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hy’s Steakhouse in Vancouver.

“We are asking guests to make a minimum donation of $500 to ‘Michael Lee Leadership Campaign,’ ” wrote lawyer and longtime party insider Lyall Knott.

“Sorry, no corporate donations ... I am attaching an email from Elections B.C. explaining that political contributi­ons made by eligible individual­s to leadership contestant­s in this contest have no limit.”

Hint, hint.

In return participan­ts are ensured of “a private and very political discussion. Mike is chair of the B.C. Liberal caucus committee on Proportion­al Representa­tion. Christy is the former premier. There is lots to talk about!” Hmmm.

In the 2009 referendum on electoral reform, Clark, then a broadcaste­r, came out in support of the single-transferab­le vote, the version of PR then on the ballot.

“People are sick to death of the way our political system works,” she told her CKNW listening audience. “Under STV all politician­s will have an incentive to get along. The toxic insults and the nasty rhetoric will be turned down to a lower ebb.”

If Clark and Lee get to address those comments in the context of the NDPauthore­d referendum, it might well be worth attending.

Clark is in a minority among former B.C. premiers in having campaigned for proportion­al representa­tion. Campbell stayed neutral in the two referendum­s on his watch.

Mike Harcourt spoke out against STV in 2009 as a too-complicate­d system that could, by empowering smaller parties like the Greens, lead to “a tyranny of the minority.”

Dave Barrett and Bill Bennett, both alive at the time of the 2005 referendum, were in rare agreement in urging people to vote against PR. Glen Clark, in his time as premier, said “proportion­al representa­tion is for losers.”

Ujjal Dosanjh has already spoken out against PR in the current campaign. Bill Vander Zalm, like Christy Clark, endorsed STV in 2009. But we’ve not yet heard from him on the option this time.

Sorry, that just slipped out. Forget I suggested it!

All of these countries had hybrid health care systems that incorporat­ed elements of private care and funding, and delivered better public health care at a lower cost than British Columbia. GORDON CAMPBELL, former premier of B.C.

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