The end of our national health care system?

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter

Could Stephen Harper's hands-off approach to health care be the death nail of Canada's health care system?

Last month, the Harper government introduced a new funding model whereby health funding increases would eventually be tied to our country's nominal GDP.

Critics argued the take-it or leave-it deal was void of federal direction and could even motivate some provinces to walk away from the standards set in the Canada Health Act.

Former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow has now thrown his voice in to the growing chorus.

In an exclusive interview with PostMedia News, Romanow says he is worried the Harper government has adopted a deliberate strategy to leave health care to the provinces — possibly to foster the development of more private, for-profit medical companies.

"To say, 'Goodbye and good luck' could be the beginning of the end of a reformed modern-day functioning health-care system," said Romanow who who headed the 2002 federal commission on the future of health care in Canada.

"If that argument is advanced, we have a prescription for a patchwork-quilt series of programs by the provincial governments based on their fiscal capacity.

"It will mean more privatization in more provinces, or some combination of private and public. It will be a very much weakened fabric of national unity without Mr. Harper's direct involvement."

Romanow's criticisms come ahead of next week's premier's health care summit in Victoria - a summit that Harper is not expected to attend.

"You need the prime minister there. This is a test of leadership right across the board from the premiers, but I think primarily for the prime minister," Romanow said.

"There's a question here of federalism and Canadian citizenship. Do we want to have the possibility of disparate regions in the country?

"This is a question now of how you build the country. It's federalism. It's Canadian unity. And programs such as medicare define what it means to be a Canadian."