Politics
Redford looking for scapegoat on health care premiums, critics

Premier Alison Redford.

Credits: Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency

KATIE SCHNEIDER | QMI AGENCY

CALGARY - Premier Alison Redford is looking for a scapegoat in tying in doctor's pay with the possible return of health care premiums, says the past president of the Calgary and Area Physician's Association.

And Redford would be breaking her no tax promise in reviving the "regressive" and "unnecessary" premiums, says the Alberta NDP and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).

During a telephone town hall with party members Monday night, Redford said before she asks Albertans to pay health care premiums, she wants to ensure "we're getting the best deal possible with our doctors" who are paid 20% to 29% more than in provinces, suggesting that's where some money can be saved.

Glenn Comm, past president of the Calgary and Area Physician's Association, now called the Calgary and Area Medical Society, said the government is looking for someone to blame.

"I think the Conservative government is looking for any scapegoat they can find to deflect public attention to the horrible job they have done in managing our economy and our health care," he said.

Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason said the premier is pointing the finger at doctors in suggesting that if the government restores premiums, it will be because of their "unreasonable" salaries.

"Instead of blaming Alberta's doctors, the premier needs to take responsibility for the fiscal situation the PCs have put us in," he said.

CTF's Alberta director Derek Fildebrandt said premiums are a regressive tax that hurt the poor and middle class and would hit the bottom line of every Albertan.

"One reason Alberta does so well is not just that we've got a massive oil deposit under our feet, it's that we have the most competitive business climate in the country by having a flat tax, by having no sales tax," he said.

Health care premiums are unnecessary, he said.

"We have spent more than almost all other provinces on health care, we have one of the highest per capita spending rates for government spending in the entire country ... it should be obvious what the problem is," he said.

"It's not that we need to raise taxes, it means the premier needs to keep the commitment to not raise taxes and to cut spending."

When health care premiums were eliminated in 2009, they were costing an average Alberta family $1,000 a year.

The president of the Alberta Medical Association declined interviews Tuesday.

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