Bill 11 is bad for Canada's health, say lawyers

Two legal opinions have blasted the legality of Ralph Klein's transparent attempts to privatize health care in Alberta and raised the alarm of their repercussions for all Canadians under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In this latest volley in its Defend Medicare campaign, the Canadian Union of Public Employees retained the services of B.C. law firm Arvay Finlay and B.C. lawyer Steven Shrybman.

Arvay Finlay states Klein's notorious Bill 11 - which allows private overnight clinics to perform surgery - is misleadingly worded, and CUPE believes it was designed to conceal his true agenda. Nevertheless, it's clear to Arvay Finlay that it violates the Canada Health Act's provisions of universality, comprehensiveness and accessibility.

Although Bill 11 claims there will be no private hospitals, that is clearly not true. It will allow queue jumping if people can pay for extra 'uninsured' services.

Private for-profit hospitals may limit universal access to health care, in the lawyers' opinion, and they say that is enough to trigger a review by federal health minister Allan Rock. Another alarming aspect of the bill allows members of the medical profession to decide what procedures are insurable under Medicare and which ones they can extra bill. Arvay Finlay is of the opinion that there needs to be discussion of whether the College of Physicians and Surgeons has the authority under the CHA to do this.

Shrybman confirms what many have feared about Bill 11's implications under NAFTA. He says that once U.S. corporations are able to set up shop in Alberta, it will be virtually impossible to stop or reverse a foreign takeover of health care in Canada.

"The federal government has a responsibility to all Canadians to protect Medicare," says CUPE National president Judy Darcy, "Ralph Klein calls Bill 11 an experiment, but under NAFTA there is no such thing as experiments - only precedents." HEU is actively involved in CUPE's national campaign to defend Medicare.

"Our members, along with the overwhelming majority of the Canadian public, know that we are at a very crucial point in our history," says HEU president Fred Muzin. "Klein, aided and abetted by the federal Liberals, seems determined to destroy Medicare. But that cannot happen, and it won't happen. We won't let it." CUPE says these two legal opinions demonstrate the urgent need for the federal government to stop Bill 11.