Was it the beginnings of a complicated political strategy, the osmosis of sitting in the Edmonton Sun offices, or the anticipation of an endorsement from former Premier Ralph Klein that caused Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar to come out swinging in favour of privatized health care this week?
Speaking to the Edmonton Sun editorial board, Mr. Mar is reported to have said that believes Albertans should be able to pay for private health care and jump public wait lists. A Liberal press release reports that that Mr. Mar even compared medical treatments to luxury items – like recreational properties.
While it is surprising that this may be one of the first definitive things that this perceived front-runner has said during the course of this less than exciting PC leadership contest, Mr. Mar’s support for privatized health care is not a shock.
As Health Minister in 2000, Mr. Mar was Premier Klein’s point-man for private health care after the Bill 11 protests. The unpopular piece of health care privatization legislation was eventually amended and watered down before the Tories made it law, but it was not the end of Mr. Mar’s support of private health care while Health Minister.
Health Minister Mar also oversaw the publication of the pro-privatization Mazankowski report and the creation of private health care schemes like the now defunct Health Resources Centre (which declared bankruptcy in 2010).
At the end of his tenure as Health Minister in 2006, Mr. Mar ended up joining the list of Health Ministers under Premier Klein who failed to convince Alberta’s public health care supporting population that the cure all their worldly ills was the privatization of health care (others on the list include Shirley McClellan, Halvar Jonson, and Iris Evans)
This past June, Mr. Mar’s campaign released their health care policy, which was peppered with support for public-private partnership schemes. The release of the platform unfortunately coincided with the decision by the private Chartwell Real Estate’s Colonel Belcher Centre to evict 29 seniors and veterans from a designated assisted living centre in Calgary. The company had deemed the seniors and veteran residents as no longer profitable for the company (the company later reversed its decision after the expected public outcry).
Should Albertans be surprised that Gary Mar supports privatized health care? No. Just look at his record.