Fix for a Generation
Before I get to what this means for each of the parties, we should remember that this ruling applies only to Quebec and on the issue of the Charter, the decision was split. But it would be naïve to assume that this isn’t a national issue and won’t be the national issue for the foreseeable future. Because of that, each of the four party leaders has a huge decision to make.
The Stakes: He ran an election as “the defender of health care” and won. He promised to “fix health care for a generation” and proclaimed mission acomplished last fall.
The Dilemma: Has lambasted Stephen Harper for the past year for going against the courts and the Charter on Same Sex Marriage. Has pretty much said he would never use the notwithstanding clause.
The Upside: The Liberals always win when the topic turns to health care. This could be the big issue to make people forget about corruption.
The Downside: Words and spin won’t be enough this time.
What Martin Will Do: He’ll make a lot of grand speeches about “protecting health care” but won’t do a thing to stop two tier health care.
The Stakes: He’s down in the polls and his leadership of the party is being called into question.
The Dilemma: Does he embrace the decision and come out strongly in favour of some private health care or does he go against judicial activism?
The Upside: This ruling is a condemnation of the current health care system and, by consequence, Paul Martin and the Liberals.
The Downside: Predictable Liberal scare tactics about the “death of health care” will raise the “hidden agenda” fears during the next election.
What Harper Will Do: Will attack the Liberals for doing nothing without actually clarifying his position (see: missile defense debate for reference).
The Stakes: Because of the “Greatest Canadian”, everyone thinks Tommy Douglas and the NDP gave Canada health care.
The Dilemma: They want to save health care but don’t want Martin to be the person to do it.
The Upside: Their alliance with the Liberal Party leaves them in a position to make a difference. If Martin and Harper waffle (imagine that…), Layton can look like the one leader standing up for health care.
The Downside: If the debate polarizes between Martin and Harper, NDP voters may jump Liberal.
What Layton Will Do: I think Jack will be bold here and will publicly demand certain actions by Martin as a condition of the continued Liberal/NDP alliance.
The Stakes: This is a Quebec decision and Duceppe’s position might very well define his PQ leadership campaign.
The Dilemma: Kinsella put it best – Quebec’s legislative autonomy versus public health care.
The Upside: Given he’s currently fighting Paul Martin, Pauline Marois, and Jean Charest, it’s hard to imagine he can walk this tightrope without upsetting someone.
The Downside: The Bloc will ride Gomery to 60 seats regardless of how this plays out. For Duceppe, the downside is a crippling blow to his goal of becoming Premier of Quebec.
What Duceppe Will Do: He will certainly not announce his candidacy for PQ leader until this issue quiets down.
The Stakes: It’s the issue Canadians rank as the most important, time and time again.
The Dilemma: Public versus private. The courts versus Parliament. How to best fix healthcare.
The Upside: Maybe this will lead to health care reform.
The Downside: Two tier health care.
What will Happen: ???