Wait times guarantees another promise
[PoliticsWatch updated 4:55 p.m. April 4, 2007]
OTTAWA — Prime
Minister Stephen Harper announced Wednesday that his government has
kept its promise to create a wait times guarantee for certain health
The agreement with 10 provinces and three territories means
the government can now claim to have checked off four of the
five priorities it campaigned on in the last federal election.
Since taking power early last year, the government has passed an
Accountability Act aimed at cleaning up government, reduced the GST
by one per cent, and delivered on a promise to send a monthly cheque
of $100 to families for each child under six.
The government has introduced a large number of bills aimed at
getting tough on crime, one of the five priorities, but many
of those bills are still working their way through Parliament.
The surprise announcement of the wait-times guarantee comes as the
government appears in pre-election mode and just two days after two
cabinet ministers gave reporters a tour of the Conservative party's
election war room in suburban Ottawa.
The wait-times guarantee announcements also comes a day after Harper
used his strongest language to date and said his party would be
ready for an election if the opposition parties were to defeat them
in the House of Commons on confidence matters
"I take that threat seriously," the PM said Tuesday.
While the prime minister said Health Minister Tony Clement had
"succeeded in his mission" to get a wait-times guarantee
agreement in place, he later tempered his comments by acknowledging
to the room full of medical professionals that "we still have a long way to go."
Under the agreement, the provinces and territories have committed to
provide guaranteed timely access to health care in at least one of
six priority areas. The areas are cancer care, hip and knee
replacement, cardiac care, diagnostic imaging, cataract surgeries or
The provinces have until 2010 to put the wait-time guarantee in
During the last election campaign the Conservatives made the
following promise: "Work with the provinces to develop a Patient Wait Times Guarantee to ensure that all Canadians receive essential medical treatment within clinically acceptable waiting times."
Speaking with reporters after the announcement, Clement acknowledged
that the agreement was just a first step, but he said getting all
provinces and territories onside was a major accomplishment in and
"This is really quite a sea change in the political discourse when it comes to health care
policy," he said.
But the minister cautioned that there can be no quick overnight
fixes to long waits for procedures in Canada's health-care
"Beware of the politician who says that health-care guarantees can be done by flicking a light
switch," he added.
Clement said all six priority areas identified will be met by at
least one of the provinces and territories.
One health-care professional who was in attendance at the conference
where the prime minister made the announcement said he is glad to
see progress is being made on the file but the work is not done
"This is really a work in evolution," said Dr. Chris Simpson
of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society. "I think we've started down the road, but the prime minister is right. There's much, much more work that needs to be done."
"We are nowhere near the point where we can say, 'Mission accomplished.' This isn't a
George Bush thing where we can say this thing is done and can move on. This is just a start."
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