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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

A major policy proposal of the PC Party in the last election campaign was the elimination of the regional health authorities and the return of ministerial accountability and responsibility to health care. Along with that, we proposed the establishment of local quality care boards who would be elected by their peers at the same time as municipal councils were elected. We felt it was imperative that health spending be returned to the Legislative Assembly which should be the ultimate form of fiscal accountability in our province.

The Sask Party government during the election campaign basically made no comment on health care. The billion dollar deficit which the PC Party predicted came true and the Sask Party finally decided to act on health care reform. They announced the elimination of the regional health authorities but instead of ministerial accountability, they determined that a single health authority would be put in place to oversee the management and spending of health delivery in this province.

I think we were all willing to give them the benefit of the doubt both in tackling the huge budget deficits this government created by its bad choices and also because we all wanted to see patient-first care improved in this province. Finally after many months we get the announcement late last week about the new health authority.

Did we get the new people and new ideas that everyone wants to make our single largest budget expenditure as taxpayers more responsive to our needs? I don't think so. The Sask Party government has reverted to type and given us a health authority comprised of 6 party donors and with a few exceptions, Sask Party political appointees who are being recycled from other patronage appointments to the new health authority. Some of these people have already been in two or three other Sask Party governance appointments and one only has to look at the ballooning debt in the crown sector and across government to see how that movie went.

It's interesting as I browsed through some of the social media sites over the weekend the reaction to these appointments by members of the public. Of course the hard core partisans of every stripe make their usual comments but it was interesting to see the comments of a former Sask Party MLA and Cabinet Minister who basically said that of course the government would stack the board with people who won't object to the government's moves because that would then look bad and wouldn't support the government's agenda.

That means two things are likely to happen. Number one, the credibility of this new governing tool will quickly diminish and number two, the hope for government accountability in the Legislature will also not occur because the Minister will be like all the others over the previous 23 years and hide behind the skirts of the political appointees on the health authority board. This system that the Sask Party has just implemented has been a colossal failure in other provinces when it was tried there and as a result, we will face the same issues in health care delivery because politicians don't have the courage to do what is necessary and what they were elected to do.

Health care should not be about the political well-being of any political party or its members. It should be about the delivery of services in a prudent and responsible manner. The first steps of this new authority, in my view, have been all the wrong ones and we will all pay the price for the Sask Party's need to protect their political backsides instead of the rest of Saskatchewan's urgent health needs.

The PC Party's press release on this issue can be found on our website. Click here.

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