Like a carnival barker outside a funfair, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney had his step-right-up moment recently when he announced his “public health guarantee” in front of a crowd of reporters.

Shortly after the sideshow, many Albertans were quick to call out the conservative leader for his record on privatized health care.

“Regardless of what is written on Mr. Kenney’s big plastic sign, it can’t hide his support for private, two-tier health care,” said AUPE vice-president and chair of the union’s anti-privatization committee Bonnie Gostola.

In a letter to the Edmonton Journal, AUPE president Guy Smith recalled Kenney’s support for Bill 11 in 2000 as a Canadian Alliance MP, which pushed to expand the use of private clinics in Alberta; his praise for B.C. and Quebec for allowing health care to be contracted to private providers, and Kenney’s criticism of the provincial government for reversing plans to privatize hospital laundry.

“This so-called public health guarantee even mentions a United Conservative government would let profiteers bid on public health services,” Gostola said.

It is no secret this is where the UCP want to take health care. At its founding AGM in Red Deer last year, 76 per cent of delegates voted in favour of expanding private health care. The UCP’s 2018 policy declaration clearly states its support for privately-funded and privately delivered health care, as well as using public funds for privately-delivered care.

“This is wrong. Health care is not a commodity available only to Albertans who can pay for it,” said Gostola.

Privatization approach is inefficient, costly

Under a privatized health-care system, the taxpayer gets hit twice. First, when our tax dollars go toward publicly funding the system, and then when we pay additional fees for the private health services we need.

“It’s a double dip that costs us all more. And if you can’t afford it, you just get sicker,” added Gostola.

So we know when Kenney says “choice in competition can help get better results at lower costs,” it’s a sham. Privatization costs us all more. Just look at utility bills since those services were privatized and opened up to competition in the 90s. Five different provincial auditor generals have also admitted privatization costs the public more, not less.

Kenney also promised to maintain, but not increase health-care funding levels as population and inflation rise.

The reality is this amounts to funding cuts, which will starve our public health-care system and could give the UCP more ammo to rationalize the push for private care in the future.

The numbers show our province has the lowest health-care administrative costs at 3.3 per cent of overall spending, compared to the national rate of 4.5 per cent. In 2018, Alberta spent the lowest on health care in the nation as a proportion of GDP as well, at 6.1 per cent compared to the national average of 7.3 per cent.

“It’s clear private health care would do more harm than good to all of us. AUPE members will continue to stand up for and defend public health care in Alberta from all threats of privatization,” said Gostola.