Alberta Politics

surprised that gary mar is supporting privatized health care? don’t be. just look at his record.

A photo of Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar.
Gary Mar

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.

23 replies on “surprised that gary mar is supporting privatized health care? don’t be. just look at his record.”

It’s disappointing that Gary Mar would rather line his private medicare friends pockets with Albertans dollars than actually provide real solutions.

Does anyone in the PC Party have any ideas that would actually improve the system?

Good grief. Isn’t it nice that Mister Mar freshly returned from his $300,000 salary and posh taxpayer funded condo and luxury car in Washington DC thinks Albertans should have to pay out of their own pocket for healthcare. We already pay Gary. It’s called taxes.

This guy lost my vote.

Good post Dave.

To me, Mar’s statements demonstrate how arrogant he is (and has always been).

I think he believes he is the clear frontrunner in the leadership race. And, with the PCs so far ahead in the polls, he thinks he has the political capital to spend on this issue.

We all know the record of front runner’s in past Tory leadership races, but assuming Mar can hold on and win, he has handed the opposition a gift wrapped election issue. Even the Wildrose will be able to exploit it (although they will walk a fine line in doing so).

Albertans may be conservative, but they don’t like private health care. Mar has made the election a little less one sided.

Memory serves, it was Halvar Jonson who was Ralph Klein’s point man on the Bill 11 file. And to his credit.

Thanks for the comments.

David: Thanks for the comment. You are correct. Halvar Jonson was Health Minister during the Bill 11 debates (which ended in May 2000). Mar was appointed Health Minister in June 2000, left to sweep up the political controversy.

I think people who get upset and concerned over harmless comments like this need to realize that they are part of the vocal minority on this issue. Yes there are unions and left-wing groups who make a HUGE issue out of the fear behind private health care, but for most Albertans out there, this is the way of the future, and it’s time we had a premier who wasn’t afraid to say what we are all thinking.

I’m 100% behind Gary now for these comments, as are every one of my late 20-something group of friends.

People need to realize that the future of health care isn’t to throw more money at it. instead of complaining and fear mongering lets look at solutions.


Personally I find this debate really frustrating. I don’t think you realize how ideological and dogmatic you and the Liberals et al come across on this.

Look at the tweets, and the rhetoric, and all the BS around this. No wonder we can’t fix health care.

If your (by “you” I mean the left) starting point is “Canada Health Act is sacrosanct,” we will never get anywhere. Like the tea party republicans refusing to close tax loopholes for purely ideological reasons.

And I surmise you’re against any contracting out in health care — which is perfectly legal under the Canada Health Act. This is practice employed by every industry on the face of the planet — including health care. Yet we aren’t to consider it here because it’s a “slippery slope.” Is that really a rational position?

When we have the success of Shouldice and Cambie to point to, you look at the troubles of HRC as evidence that we should never, ever contract services out?

We should never allow people to pay for their own health care, and we should never contract out services in a bid to inject market mechanisms into the system in full compliance with the Canada Health Act.

That’s not a reasonable position.

I completely agree. We accept all sorts of systems that balance public and private in all facets of our lives, education, transportation, food, etc and yet when it comes to health care we have to be dogmatic because of the fear of any sort of innovation?

It’s embarassing how we keep hearing the need for change and for more open communication from the left-wing politicos, but yet when it comes to health care any sort of comment made about innovation is instantly attacked with extreme vitriol. It’s a shame really.

Great post, Dave. Politicians like Mar need to be called out on their past actions.

I am the last person who would say that the private sector is bad but the free market does not have a place in the health care system.

Public Healthcare requires a critical element to succeed: fairness. A system that gives everyone equal access to equal quality treatment. I have been in the business world long enough to know that even with all good intentions the mighty dollar drives all in the private sector.

When money can buy favouritism and queue jumping in health care we all hurt. A fair health care system shouldn’t catered to the needs of the priviledged few who can afford to pay for ther care at private boutique medical centres like Cambie. The small minority of people who can already afford to pay for private care will continue to do so. They don’t need the public system tailored to their needs.

Let’s work on fixing the problems in the public health care system before we let people like Gary Mar and Danielle Smith tear it down.

Is the real issue dogging health care in AB a lack of privatization, or is it inconsistent leadership/vision for the system caused by shortsighted political interference? Let’s focus on fixing the system. I’m open to privatizing aspects of health care if it leads to better “Care”. Give us a vision for health care in the future. Present facts and research. Gain my trust that it is being done for the benefit of ALL Albertans.

Unfortunately Mr. Mar’s recent statements and the bullheaded focus on privatization by many PCs in the past have in no way demonstrated to me a primary motivation that would benefit the many instead of a few. I believe that there is a role whether small or large, I’m just not sure it is our biggest priority, and I certainly don’t trust the PC “old boys club” to act on in my best interest on this. The PC old boys club has too much to $gain$.

Skeptical, if the problem was shortsighted leadership and political interference, the problems would be unique to Alberta. All Canadian provinces have identical challenges. The system is the problem.

David, while in a different forum I’m happy to argue the point about why, relative to other provinces, the quality and efficiency of Alberta’s system has slipped, in truth I’m open to any model that will provide good care. Quit blaming the left right divide, good ideas implemented for the right reasons (not right wing reasons) will gain traction and win over “opponents”. Is the bulk of Albertan’s skepticism resulting from bad communication, or is this a case of the ‘few’ trying to impose their values on the ‘many’.

If you really think that a private model is a great idea that Albertans (knowing the facts) will embrace… then Mr. Mar’s recent bumbled foray into this area is likely more damaging to your cause than the left wing opposition. I’m still open to the concept, but I’m increasingly skeptical about the motiviations.

When we start from a position of accepting right wing language about our public health care, with their lines like “it’s broken” and we “can’t afford it”, of course the natural progression is towards a supposed solution like privatization.

Except the thing is, it’s not broken and we can afford it. We live in a province that is chronically undertaxing its citizens and taking a ridiculously low cut from the natural resources we sell. Not having a dogshit healthcare system like the Americans have means being adult enough to admit the costs, and accepting them.

If we only charged taxation and royalty rates competitive with other provinces, we’d have an amazing healthcare system and money for tons of other government systems too.

But Albertans are too stupid to even try and change their government. Ever. So you get what you deserve.

For those people whose lips get tired when they read, here is a simple explanation of why privatization will not save money in health care. For every dollar spent iin a public health care system, one dollar goes towards running it. For every dollar spent in a private system, a portion of that is skimmed off the top for profit: dividends to shareholders, etc. That means either fewer dollars available to run the system or higher cost to taxpayers to support health care at the same levels as a public system.

The real problem with our current public system is chronic underfunding by a government which is ideologically opposed to public health care but has not had the courage of its convictions to run in an election on a platform of gutting it (which they know full well they would lose), and so is trying the death of a thousand cuts. An overly physician-centred, reactive (instead of proactive) and acute-care focused system also contributes to the problem.

Neal are you seriously suggesting that taxes should go up in this province? So your fix to everything that is wrong is to spend MORE money? That is as terrifying as it is ridiculous. You do realize that increased taxes and royalties would mean less development and less expansion of business, which would then result in less taxes, right?

I fear for our future with comments like yours Neal, I really do.

Mixed private works in Europe because of high population densities, smaller countries and high number of docs/ capita compared to Alberta. You incentivize private care, rural docs won’t feel the need to stay rural, they will go mint cash in the cities, which endangers the lives of Ruralites. Also, the queues will move slower, as the supply of docs moves to the private, some desperate people may even lose their homes by pickup mortgages and loans to cover expensive care. For profit healthcare costs double, has high poor patient outcomes and higher patient death rate and more lawsuits, no to mention HMO’s and shareholders who need profit, and adding the lawsuits, it doubles the cost of healthcare/ person. Besides, Canadian doctors were educated with public funds, is it fair that Private docs make money at the behest of taxpayers, who funded their education? The rich will always find a way, let them, it makes no sense turfing the entire public system and screwing the public at large to keep a few rich happy. Its asinine, short sighted and motivated purely by greedy profit motives. 50% of Baby boomers still have a mortage the other 50%, if they need a life saving procedure and go the private route, they may end up losing their house and their savings! Its better to fix the public system so that they can have both.

Give your head shake, you don’t know what your talking about. All conservatives care about is using buzz works like free markets to welfare cash out of T4 middle class people’s pockets. The middle class suckers have had enough, they work hard and are tired of being lied to.

Wow, this story certainly shakes the nuts from trees. These “extremists” who won’t allow “experiments” with private health care just don’t understand what a great people Gary, Ted and the rest really are.

What’s the position of the Alberta Party? I thought they were open to questioning systems that might be broken?

Neal: Except the thing is, it’s not broken and we can afford it. We live in a province that is chronically undertaxing its citizens and taking a ridiculously low cut from the natural resources we sell. Not having a dogshit healthcare system like the Americans have means being adult enough to admit the costs, and accepting them.

Wait, I thought apologists for Canada’s health system always claim it’s actually *cheaper* than the American one! Are you saying it’s actually more expensive, hence the need for higher taxes?

If we only charged taxation and royalty rates competitive with other provinces, we’d have an amazing healthcare system and money for tons of other government systems too.

Except that Alberta is already at or near the top of the other provinces in terms of per capita health spending. And that spending has been skyrocketing for the last decade, even as quality of service declines. Clearly, lack of revenue/spending isn’t Alberta’s problem.

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