Reforming health care cornerstone of Stockwell platform

Applying premiums for health care, replacing the “blue box” system, and bringing back the spring bear hunt are some of the things Labour minister Chris Stockwell would offer if he becomes Ontario’s next premier.
“I can’t believe that the people who brought this system to fruition in the ’60s said, ‘I want a system that makes everybody—rich, poor, or middle class—have equally bad access to health care,” Stockwell told a dozen people here Monday morning during a stop on his campaign swing through Northwestern Ontario.
“We have to make a fundamental decision [about health care],” he stressed.
Stockwell is one of five candidates vying for the Tory leadership, which will be decided March 23. For the current Labour minister, and former speaker of the house, reforming the health-care system was the cornerstone of the platform he presented to local party members here.
To avoid two-tier health care, user fees, mass privatization, or the government running a huge deficit, Stockwell suggested the province re-initiate a premium program.
Under it, single individuals would be required to pay $34 a month, or $408 a year, for health care while families would shell out $64 a month, or $768 a year.
“[This system would generate] $2.5 to $4 billion that we can put into the health care system today to help us with the emergency room stuff that we’ve had problems with, help us to hire doctors in under-serviced areas, and pay the nurses their fair share,” he argued.
“It’s a small amount of money,” Stockwell added. “I understand that some are not going to be able to afford this so . . . if you can’t afford it, you can still have accessibility to the system.”
Stockwell said his premium policy, which is based on similar ones in British Columbia and Alberta, also would stem the tide of a billion dollars in fraudulent use of Ontario health care services by forcing everyone—including those who would have the premium waived—to complete a form every four months to re-apply for the system.
He also said it might push the federal government to start putting more money into health care.
“We still have to get the federal government to pay their fair share. They are paying 15 cents on the health care dollar, they should be paying 50. That was the deal,” he said.
Dr. Nancy Naylor, who attended the breakfast meeting, was pleased to hear Stockwell would address the health care funding crisis if elected leader.
“He’s absolutely right—it’s a crisis situation,” she said. “I agree with the idea of some kind of fee from the public because it has to come from somewhere and the government can’t provide any more at this time.”
Stockwell also took aim Monday at his own government’s policy that banned the spring bear hunt.
“I think we acted too quickly in the spring bear hunt,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of nuisance bears out there where they get shot [by fearful home owners] just the same as in the bear hunt and we have orphaned cubs, anyway.”
Stockwell said there were more nuisance bear calls across the province than ever before. As well, he said tourism outfitters were suffering from the decision.
As a result, if elected, Stockwell said he would re-institute the hunt as of May 1, 2002, with new regulations promoting ethical hunting practices firmly in place, recognizing the importance of protecting female bears with cubs.
“If you’re caught breaking the law, you’re going to be in deep, deep trouble,” he warned.
His promise was applauded by the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce. In a press release issued yesterday, NOACC said revenue losses for tourist operators associated with the decision to ban the spring bear hunt are significant.
“NOACC calls on all candidates for the position of premier to agree with Mr. Stockwell’s position and support the restoration of the spring bear hunt,” NOACC president Tannis Drysdale said in the release.
The “blue box” system also would be reformed if Stockwell was elected premier. He proposes making the LCBO in charge of recycling its own bottles, just as liquor commissions are mandated by other provinces to recycle their containers.
With refunds offered by the commission to entice recycling, this would increase the amount of bottles being reused and divert them from landfills.
Tory MPP Bill Murdoch, who was travelling with Stockwell, said this candidate also was considering opening the Adam Mines as a landfill where garbage could be shipped by train, then sorted at a facility built on-site, instead of the current system.
When it comes to education, following the Harris government’s sweeping changes, Stockwell has a let’s-wait-and-see approach.
“I think we should call a two-year moratorium on change,” he said, after supporting the changes that already have been instituted.
“Let’s put the things in place that we’ve changed [and] let’s measure how successful they are,” he noted. “After we come to the end of two years, we’ll see what worked and what didn’t work.”
Perhaps the biggest solution Stockwell offered to how the north can get the most from their provincial government is by electing Conservative MPPs.
“This is nuts that we’ve got 103 people in the [Legislature] and we have no Conservatives in the north,” he said.
“Let’s pick the ridings that are the most electable, concentrate our efforts, get the money organized in there so that when the cabinet gets struck after the next election, there’s one or two of you that are sitting at the cabinet table from the north who can represent you,” he reasoned.
In related news, the annual general meeting of the Kenora-Rainy River Ontario Progressive Conservative Association will be held this Friday (Jan. 25) from 4-5:30 p.m. at the Red Dog Inn.
A dinner will follow, beginning with cocktails at 6:30 p.m., featuring Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs minister Brian Coburn as guest speaker.
Tickets cost $100 each, and a tax receipt will be issued.