April 19, 2008

 

Why Free Trade Matters...

From: The Wall Street Journal

Unions for Free Trade
By: MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
April 14, 2008; Page A14

WASHINGTON - In the bid for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's support for the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Gustavo Palacio was no match for John Sweeney.

Mr. Sweeney, the protectionist president of the AFL-CIO, opposes the FTA. Mr. Palacio, a Colombian labor leader in a region that was a killing field until President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002, wants the trade deal to go through.

Last week I met with Mr. Palacio, the leader of a miners union, and eight other labor leaders, who had traveled here to speak on Capitol Hill about the importance of the FTA in the struggle against poverty and violence in their country. They represent industrial unions, which, unlike the dominant public-sector unions in Colombia, are not aligned with hard-left politics. On Wednesday, in the middle of their visit, Mrs. Pelosi announced that she would stuff the FTA in the freezer, ensuring it cannot come up for a vote without her approval. Perhaps she put it next to her conscience, which also seems to be in cold storage during this election year.

Poverty warriors in the U.S. and Colombia are stinging from Mrs. Pelosi's dirty trick. But it is not the end of history; there is another chapter to write, and in it, Mr. Palacio and millions of Colombians struggling for a better life will overcome the barriers put in their path by American politicians.

The anti-FTA case in the U.S. has been built on two pillars of propaganda. The first is that under Mr. Uribe's leadership, labor unions have suffered disproportionately as a target of assassins. This is false. Murders of labor activists have been reduced sharply under Mr. Uribe, from 196 the year he took office to 26 last year.

Why were unionists getting murdered at such a high rate prior to Mr. Uribe's presidency? In part it had to do with the historical ties between some of the dominant public-sector unions and Colombia's hard left. These organizations have their roots in an anti-American, antidemocratic, antimarket ideology shared with the country's Castro-backed insurgents. Tragically, this has put the dominant unions on the left side of Colombia's violent politics for decades. Those who took up weapons to fight guerrilla aggression have been on the other side of the conflict.

Thousands of civilians, not just left-wing labor activists, have been killed in Colombian violence over several decades and it is not over. One of the union leaders I met with last week is new to his job. His predecessor, who was pro-FTA, was murdered in November.

Even so, things are better than they have been in a long time, thanks to Mr. Uribe. He's restored the state's law-enforcement role, and increased the budget in the attorney general's office to prosecute political crimes. He's also created a special security detail for union activists. No Colombian president has done so much to protect organized labor.

The second anti-FTA myth is that Colombia's largest unions, whose leaders are opposed to trade, are representative of the country's work force. It's true that the big unions represent 86% of all organized labor, but total union membership accounts for just 4.5% of the workforce. This is a decline from a decade ago when membership was 6% of the work force.

The cause of this low rate, the visitors to Washington told me, is the radicalized political agenda of the leadership in the large unions. It can be summed up as "down with the government, down with the imperialists, down with the International Monetary Fund." This rhetoric doesn't fly with most Colombians. They believe that, beyond the U.S. appetite for traditional Colombian exports – coffee, bananas, coal and oil – there is an opportunity to discover new U.S. markets that benefit workers. In a letter to the AFL-CIO dated March 28, the group also charged that the leaders of the large traditional unions are "more interested in achieving personal privileges than in working on behalf of the workers."

It is for this reason that Mr. Palacio and the union leaders I talked with last week want to form a new "centralized trade union" that will be "independent, democratic, pluralistic" and search for "harmonized agreements" with employers. They already represent workers in textiles, utilities, the food and beverage industry, banana growing, metal working, flowers, construction, shoes, confections and fruit growing, as well as Mr. Palacio's miners. Their numbers are small but they believe that they can recruit in the private sector – where 90% of Colombian workers are employed – by offering an alternative to the status quo. They are not afraid to support viewpoints that are shared by the government or the companies.

One example is the FTA. Mr. Palacio says his union of 1,500 workers supports the FTA for two reasons: security and investment. The state of Antioquia, where Mr. Palacio works, has been somewhat pacified under Mr. Uribe. But he says that, if the area hopes to keep the peace, it needs jobs for young people. By bringing investment to the region, the FTA will improve employment prospects. The agreement is also expected to boost the overall wealth of the region, which means better social services and infrastructure.

The other union leaders I talked with share this view. They see the FTA as a tool to attract investors, improve working conditions, and provide higher paying jobs. The former leader of a banana-workers union in Antioquia told me that his former union backs the FTA because it will mean that growers can import machinery, making life easier for workers.

Does any of this matter to the cynical Speaker? Not a bit. She has Mr. Sweeney's backing for November and has stuck it to a U.S. ally in the war on terror to boot. Perhaps if Bogóta had emulated say, Syria, in opposing the Bush foreign policy, it would have a better chance with Mrs. Pelosi.

Write to: O'Grady@wsj.com

Copyright 2008 - The Wall Street Journal

 

Oh Kyoto, is there any mess you can't make?

From: The Wall Street Journal

U.N. Effort To Curtail Emissions In Turmoil
By: JEFFREY BALL
April 12, 2008; Page A1

A multibillion-dollar experiment designed to curb global warming is stumbling as regulators question whether the program is doing enough environmental good.

The United Nations is the main global policeman in an effort by wealthy nations to reduce the impact of their own pollution by paying for cleanups in the developing world. The program, known as the Clean Development Mechanism, is one of the most important coordinated efforts to attack global warming.

In recent months, however, U.N. regulators who administer the program have objected to dozens of these developing-world projects, ranging from hydroelectric plants to wind farms, questioning whether the projects would produce a real environmental payoff.

U.N. regulators are also concerned that some independent auditors of these projects, who are responsible for vetting their environmental legitimacy, have been letting project developers push through ventures of questionable environmental value.

The crackdown challenges a plank of the world's campaign against climate change: that polluters can pay someone else to clean up the mess. If the approach were to be discredited, curbing emissions could cost companies and consumers significantly more.

At issue, says Kai-Uwe Barani Schmidt, the U.N. panel's top administrator, is a conflict between "private-sector ambitions and the environmental integrity of the system."

As companies world-wide face government pressure to pollute less, the U.N. program gives them a cheaper alternative to cutting their own emissions. Instead, they can pay for the right to pollute by buying "carbon credits," essentially permission slips to spew carbon dioxide. Sale of the credits is supposed to help fund clean-air projects in China and other developing countries that would otherwise be too costly to build.

Last month, the panel declined to authorize the sale of carbon credits from two wind farms in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Backers of the projects, which have a combined 22 turbines, said their economic success depended on revenue from the sale of carbon credits. The U.N. panel said it wasn't persuaded.

The U.N. has rejected numerous other proposals on similar grounds since last summer. Among them: A Brazilian corn-processing factory, two Indian sugar mills and two Malaysian palm-oil plants. All were designed to install equipment to generate energy from renewable materials like wood scraps, fruit bunches and other waste. That would reduce the need for fossil fuels.

Developing-world projects like these are part of the burgeoning global carbon trade. In total, the global carbon market last year was worth 40.4 billion euros , according to Point Carbon, a Norway-based industry consultant. Of that total, Western companies and governments invested six billion euros last year in credits from projects in the developing world, nearly double the prior year, Point Carbon says.

In 2004 and 2005, as projects began to trickle in, the lightly staffed office of the U.N. Clean Development Mechanism's executive board approved virtually all of them. But as the number of proposed projects soared, the panel hired more staff and late last year tightened standards. In 2007, it rejected 9% of proposed projects, and held up another 21% for further review, according to U.N. figures - many of which required changes before getting the go-ahead. The U.N. demanded more financial data to prove many projects needed carbon-credit revenue to be feasible.

The U.N. says it isn't suggesting that most of the developing-word projects are illegitimate. Evaluating whether a project would have been built without carbon-credit revenue is a complex judgment call, says the U.N.'s Mr. Schmidt. It represents "one of the biggest challenges" of the current system.

The average developing-world carbon credit - which grants permission to the buyer to emit a ton of carbon dioxide - sells on the market for $16 to $24. The U.N. issued credits last year worth roughly $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion.

The carbon market was created by the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 global treaty underlying environmental rules already in effect for much of the world and now being considered by the U.S. Congress. Most buyers of developing-world credits are in Japan and Europe. U.S. companies aren't buying them in significant numbers, market analysts say.

The U.N. regulators are questioning the actions of two main players in the carbon market: Project developers, who put together projects in order to sell the credits to Western industrial buyers; and the auditing firms that inspect and certify to the U.N. that the projects are environmentally legitimate.

A dozen or so project developers, most based in Europe, dominate the business. Among the largest is EcoSecurities Ltd. of Oxford, England. The U.N. has rejected several of its projects, often contending they would have been financially viable without the revenue from credits.

Bruce Usher, the New York-based chief executive of EcoSecurities, says the company's projects are environmentally legitimate. Last November, largely in response to the U.N. crackdown, EcoSecurities said it was writing off a chunk of the carbon credits it had promised the market it would deliver. Since then, the company's shares, traded on the London Stock Exchange's AIM index, have fallen 67%.

Three auditors dominate the business. All three - Det Norske Veritas, based in Norway; Tüv Süd AG, based in Germany; and SGS Group, based in Switzerland - are major European consulting firms for whom the carbon market is a small but growing franchise.
The auditors argue that they're not to blame for the questionable quality of some proposed projects. In a presentation to U.N. officials last fall, the head of Tüv Süd's carbon business told U.N. officials that the quality of projects the auditors are receiving from carbon brokers is "going down," according to the U.N. panel's Mr. Schmidt, who was at the meeting.


In an interview, the Tüv Süd executive, Werner Betzenbichler, declined to discuss his comments in the U.N. meeting. But he confirmed the substance of his presentation.

"There is a high incentive" for companies to put together environmentally questionable carbon-credit projects, "because there is a lot of money that can be earned," he said. "People are getting more inventive, so it's getting harder to detect the black sheep."

Luc Larmuseau, global director of climate-change services for DNV, echoed those thoughts. "We've seen some examples where we've got serious doubt," he says. DNV and the other auditors have prepared a dossier of their rejections and have sent it to U.N. regulators as part of their defense.

The issue came to a head in December, at a meeting between U.N. officials and auditors during a U.N. conference on climate-change policy in Bali, Indonesia. A member of the U.N. board, Christiana Figueres, expressed concern that the system may be open to what she called "collusion" between auditors and project developers to push through environmentally dubious projects.

Ms. Figueres confirms that she used the term in the December meeting, but says she didn't intend to suggest that auditors are purposely recommending that the U.N. approve projects whose legitimacy the auditors doubt. Rather, she says, she was suggesting "a systemic collusion in which the [U.N.] board is being put in a position of having to do an in-depth review of these projects because [the auditors] are not doing it."

Ms. Figueres, a consultant living in Washington, D.C., left the U.N. board in January, when her term representing her native Costa Rica was up.

The U.N.'s Mr. Schmidt confirms that members of the U.N. panel "are aware of the clear and perceived risk of collusion" between auditors and companies putting together carbon-credit projects. One safeguard, he says, is the threat that the U.N. can revoke an auditor's accreditation if the U.N. finds that the auditor has done substandard work.

The auditors strongly deny they're acting improperly. In their defense, the major auditors, among them DNV, Tüv Süd and SGS, have produced statistics showing that they are rejecting significant numbers of projects before they're proposed to the U.N. Between the start of the market and the end of 2006, the auditors rejected 7.7% of the developing-world projects proposed to them, according to Robert Dornau, director of the climate-change program at SGS.

Deciding whether a proposed project needs carbon-credit money to to be viable "is not black and white," Mr. Dornau says. Auditors are intent on showing they're fastidious because, he says, "we don't want to lose people's trust" in the carbon trade.

Write to Jeffrey Ball at jeffrey.ball@wsj.com

Copyright 2008 - The Wall Street Journal

 

More attacks on free trade...

From: The Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/09/AR2008040903638.html

Drop Dead, Colombia
Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocks a trade deal with America's closest South American ally.
Thursday, April 10, 2008; Page A22

THE YEAR 2008 may enter history as the time when the Democratic Party lost its way on trade. Already, the party's presidential candidates have engaged in an unseemly contest to adopt the most protectionist posture, suggesting that, if elected, they might pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared her intention to change the procedural rules governing the proposed trade promotion agreement with Colombia. President Bush submitted the pact to Congress on Tuesday for a vote within the next 90 legislative days, as required by the "fast-track" authority under which the U.S. negotiated the deal with Colombia. Ms. Pelosi says she'll ask the House to undo that rule.

The likely result is no vote on the agreement this year. Ms. Pelosi denies that her intent is to kill the bill, insisting yesterday that Congress simply needs more time to consider it "in light of the economic uncertainty in our country." She claimed that she feared that, "if brought to the floor immediately, [the pact] would lose. And what message would that send?" But Ms. Pelosi's decision-making process also included a fair component of pure Washington pique: She accused Mr. Bush of "usurp[ing] the discretion of the speaker of the House" to schedule legislation.

That political turf-staking, and the Democrats' decreasingly credible claims of a death-squad campaign against Colombia's trade unionists, constitutes all that's left of the case against the agreement. Economically, it should be a no-brainer - especially at a time of rising U.S. joblessness. At the moment, Colombian exports to the United States already enjoy preferences. The trade agreement would make those permanent, but it would also give U.S. firms free access to Colombia for the first time, thus creating U.S. jobs. Politically, too, the agreement is in the American interest, as a reward to a friendly, democratic government that has made tremendous strides on human rights, despite harassment from Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.

To be sure, President Bush provoked Ms. Pelosi. But he forced the issue only after months of inconclusive dickering convinced him that Democrats were determined to avoid a vote that would force them to accept accountability for opposing an agreement that is manifestly in America's interest. It turns out his suspicions were correct.

"I take this action with deep respect to the people of Colombia and will be sure that any message they receive is one of respect for their country, and the importance of the friendship between our two countries," Ms. Pelosi protested yesterday. Perhaps Colombia's government and people will understand. We don't.

Copyright 2008 - The Washington Post

 

You tell 'em George!

From: The Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/26/AR2008032602916.html

Bleeding Hearts but Tight Fists
By: George F. Will
Thursday, March 27, 2008; Page A17

Residents of Austin, home of Texas's government and flagship university, have very refined social consciences, if they do say so themselves, and they do say so, speaking via bumper stickers. Don R. Willett, a justice of the state Supreme Court, has commuted behind bumpers proclaiming "Better a Bleeding Heart Than None at All," "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty," "The Moral High Ground Is Built on Compassion," "Arms Are For Hugging," "Will Work (When the Jobs Come Back From India)," "Jesus Is a Liberal," "God Wants Spiritual Fruits, Not Religious Nuts," "The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans," "Republicans Are People Too - Mean, Selfish, Greedy People" and so on. But Willett thinks Austin subverts a stereotype: "The belief that liberals care more about the poor may scratch a partisan or ideological itch, but the facts are hostile witnesses."

Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism." The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:
Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and "the values that lie beneath" liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government.

The single biggest predictor of someone's altruism, Willett says, is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks's book says, "the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have 'no religion' has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s." America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a strong determinant of charitable behavior is that the least charitable cohort is a relatively small one - secular conservatives.

Reviewing Brooks's book in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, Justice Willett notes that Austin - it voted 56 percent for Kerry while he was getting just 38 percent statewide - is ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as 48th out of America's 50 largest cities in per capita charitable giving. Brooks's data about disparities between liberals' and conservatives' charitable giving fit these facts: Democrats represent a majority of the wealthiest congressional districts, and half of America's richest households live in states where both senators are Democrats.

While conservatives tend to regard giving as a personal rather than governmental responsibility, some liberals consider private charity a retrograde phenomenon - a poor palliative for an inadequate welfare state and a distraction from achieving adequacy by force, by increasing taxes. Ralph Nader, running for president in 2000, said: "A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity." Brooks, however, warns: "If support for a policy that does not exist ... substitutes for private charity, the needy are left worse off than before. It is one of the bitterest ironies of liberal politics today that political opinions are apparently taking the place of help for others."

In 2000, brows were furrowed in perplexity because Vice President Al Gore's charitable contributions, as a percentage of his income, were below the national average: He gave 0.2 percent of his family income, one-seventh of the average for donating households. But Gore "gave at the office." By using public office to give other people's money to government programs, he was being charitable, as liberals increasingly, and conveniently, understand that word.

Email: georgewill@washpost.com

Copyright 2008 - The Washington Post

 

The Danger of the Democrats Rhetoric...

From: The Washington Times
http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20080312/EDITORIAL06/154554829/1013/EDITORIAL

Playing fast and loose with free trade
By: Helle Dale

March 12, 2008

The longer the Democratic primaries go on, the more we learn about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. This is obviously a very useful process. During the Ohio primary, for instance, we learned that both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama want to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement. This was certainly startling news to both the Mexicans and the Canadians, though it obviously played well in Ohio where manufacturing jobs have been in decline.

Mrs. Clinton, who normally likes to take credit for her husband's policies, is renouncing his legacy on free trade, one of the policies Mr. Clinton did get right. In fact, NAFTA was signed by Bill Clinton and heavily supported by Republicans. "I will say that we will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it, and we renegotiate on terms that are favorable to all of America," she promised voters in Ohio.

Mrs. Clinton has even called for a moratorium on all free trade agreements (FTAs), which would jeopardize presumably not just bilateral FTAs, but also the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization, which would probably mean the end of the organization. It would do huge damage to U.S.-European relations as well as relations with developing work countries who are seeking entry into U.S. and European markets for their products.

Mr. Obama's position, meanwhile, is not nearly as clear. After his stating in Ohio "that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labor and environmental standards," one of his economic advisors, Professor Austan Goolsbee of the University of Chicago, subsequently let the appalled Canadians know that Mr. Obama actually didn't mean what he had said.

According to a memorandum written by a Canadian political and economic affairs consular officer, Mr. Goolsbee assured them that Mr. Obama's statements were "more reflective of political maneuvering than policy."

It was even reported by Canadian television that an advisor to Mr. Obama had called up the Canadian ambassador to warn him that Mr. Obama would ratchet up his attacks on NAFTA. Mr. Obama has hotly since denied that his campaign is speaking out of both sides of its mouth on NAFTA.

Pandering to the voters is good old-fashioned populism, and perhaps to be expected in an electoral campaign. But the two Democratic candidates are playing fast and loose with one of the biggest engines of economic growth we have: free trade.

NAFTA has been a huge boon to the United States as well as its trading partners to the north and south. Mexico is the second largest trading partner of the United States. Between 1993 and 2006, imports from Mexico rose from $48 billion to $216 billion, and at the same time, exports from the United States rose from $52 billion to $156 billion. That trade represents jobs created on both sides, which again means that the Mexicans employed in those jobs will not have to come across the U.S. border in search of employment.

Meanwhile Canada is the largest oil exporter to the United States. Some Canadian officials have let it be known that renegotiating NAFTA may not be such a bad idea in the light of $100-plus per-barrel oil prices.

Republican candidate Sen. John McCain has lost no time pointing out the dangers of the positions taken by his two Democratic competitors. In Texas, he reminded a town-hall audience that Texas has benefited hugely from exporting to both Canada and Mexico. And beyond that, Mr. McCain said, trade and national security are interconnected. Canada currently has 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, serving along U.S. troops. Canadians, like Australians and Brits, are the most reliable U.S. allies in times of crisis. Mr. McCain is suggesting that if we tear up NAFTA after more than a decade, Canadians might not feel obligated keep their end of the bargain in Afghanistan.

Ironically, by attacking NAFTA, the two Democrats are making common cause with some from the Buchanan wing of the Republican Party who fear NAFTA and a putative North American Union, which the Bush administration is said to be secretly working on. Both parties neglect the tremendous benefits derived by Americans from cooperation with the two neighbors of the United States, both in trade and national security.

Copyright 2008 - The Washington Times

 

True reform means a shift in perception...

From: The Wall Street Journal

Who's Really 'Sicko'
By: DAVID GRATZER

June 28, 2007

TORONTO - 'I haven't seen 'Sicko,'" says Avril Allen about the new Michael Moore documentary, which advocates socialized medicine for the United States. The film, which has been widely viewed on the Internet, and which will officially open in the U.S. and Canada on Friday, has been getting rave reviews. But Ms. Allen, a lawyer, has no plans to watch it. She's just too busy preparing to file suit against Ontario's provincial government about its health-care system next month.

Her client, Lindsay McCreith, would have had to wait for four months just to get an MRI, and then months more to see a neurologist for his malignant brain tumor. Instead, frustrated and ill, the retired auto-body shop owner traveled to Buffalo, N.Y., for a lifesaving surgery. Now he's suing for the right to opt out of Canada's government-run health care, which he considers dangerous.

Ms. Allen figures the lawsuit has a fighting chance: In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that "access to wait lists is not access to health care," striking down key Quebec laws that prohibited private medicine and private health insurance.

In the U.S., 83 House Democrats voted for a bill in 1993 calling for single-payer health care. That idea collapsed with HillaryCare and since then has existed on the fringes of the debate - winning praise from academics and pressure groups, but remaining largely out of the political discussion. Mr. Moore's documentary intends to change that, exposing millions to his argument that American health care is sick and socialized medicine is the cure.

It's not simply that Mr. Moore is wrong. His grand tour of public health care systems misses the big story: While he prescribes socialism, market-oriented reforms are percolating in cities from Stockholm to Saskatoon.

Mr. Moore goes to London, Ontario, where he notes that not a single patient has waited in the hospital emergency room more than 45 minutes. "It's a fabulous system," a woman explains. In Britain, he tours a hospital where patients marvel at their free care. A patient's husband explains: "It's not America." Humorously, Mr. Moore finds a cashier dispensing money to patients (for transportation). In France, a doctor explains the success of the health-care system with the old Marxist axiom: "You pay according to your means, and you receive according to your needs.

It's compelling material - I know because, born and raised in Canada, I used to believe in government-run health care. Then I was mugged by reality.

Consider, for instance, Mr. Moore's claim that ERs don't overcrowd in Canada. A Canadian government study recently found that only about half of patients are treated in a timely manner, as defined by local medical and hospital associations. "The research merely confirms anecdotal reports of interminable waits," reported a national newspaper. While people in rural areas seem to fare better, Toronto patients receive care in four hours on average; one in 10 patients waits more than a dozen hours.

This problem hit close to home last year: A relative, living in Winnipeg, nearly died of a strangulated bowel while lying on a stretcher for five hours, writhing in pain. To get the needed ultrasound, he was sent by ambulance to another hospital.

In Britain, the Department of Health recently acknowledged that one in eight patients wait more than a year for surgery. Around the time Mr. Moore was putting the finishing touches on his documentary, a hospital in Sutton Coldfield announced its new money-saving linen policy: Housekeeping will no longer change the bed sheets between patients, just turn them over. France's system failed so spectacularly in the summer heat of 2003 that 13,000 people died, largely of dehydration. Hospitals stopped answering the phones and ambulance attendants told people to fend for themselves.

With such problems, it's not surprising that people are looking for alternatives. Private clinics - some operating in a "gray zone" of the law - are now opening in Canada at a rate of about one per week.

Canadian doctors, once quiet on the issue of private health care, elected Brian Day as president of their national association. Dr. Day is a leading critic of Canadian medicare; he opened a private surgery hospital and then challenged the government to shut it down. "This is a country," Dr. Day said by way of explanation, "in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years."

Market reforms are catching on in Britain, too. For six decades, its socialist Labour Party scoffed at the very idea of private medicine, dismissing it as "Americanization." Today Labour favors privatization, promising to triple the number of private-sector surgical procedures provided within two years. The Labour government aspires to give patients a choice of four providers for surgeries, at least one of them private, and recently considered the contracting out of some primary-care services - perhaps even to American companies.

Other European countries follow this same path. In Sweden, after the latest privatizations, the government will contract out some 80% of Stockholm's primary care and 40% of total health services, including Stockholm's largest hospital. Beginning before the election of the new conservative chancellor, Germany enhanced insurance competition and turned state enterprises over to the private sector (including the majority of public hospitals). Even in Slovakia, a former Marxist country, privatizations are actively debated.

Under the weight of demographic shifts and strained by the limits of command-and-control economics, government-run health systems have turned out to be less than utopian. The stories are the same: dirty hospitals, poor standards and difficulty accessing modern drugs and tests.

Admittedly, the recent market reforms are gradual and controversial. But facts are facts, the reforms are real, and they represent a major trend in health care. What does Mr. Moore's documentary say about that? Nothing.

Dr. Gratzer, a practicing physician licensed in Canada and the U.S. and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is the author of "The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care" (Encounter, 2006).

Copyright 2008 - The Wall Street Journal

 

Censorship on campus...

For Immediate Release - March 6, 2008

Canadian Federation of Students Censors Students' Voices
Ontario wing of CFS passes a motion to ban student group

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association (OPCCA) has expressed disgust at a Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) decision to back student unions that smother the free expression of students. The Ontario wing of the CFS passed a motion supporting the banning of pro-life groups by student unions. OPCCA is calling on the CFS to reverse their motion.

"The Canadian Federation of Students has once again proved that they don't represent the diverse interests of students," said Holly Bacchus, OPCCA President. "Universities should promote a healthy dialogue on any topic, not shut it down. The Canadian Federation of Students should support that basic tenet of higher learning and reverse its decision to support student unions that muzzle their students."

The CFS motion follows a decision by both the student unions at Carleton and Lakehead Universities to ban pro-life groups on their campuses. Since then, the coordinator of the Abortion Rights Coalition issued the shocking statement that pro-life groups are comparable to "Neo-Nazi movements" and York University shut down a campus debate on abortion.

OPCCA believes that freedom of expression and healthy debate is an integral part of a university and college education. By curtailing not only students' freedom of expression, but also their freedom of assembly, the CFS is failing to adequately represent all students. They are also failing one of their Founding Principles, "to articulate the real desire of students to ... be accorded the rights of citizens in our society..."

OPCCA believes it is not the job of the CFS to act as an ideological compass for Ontario students and thinks it becomes extremely troublesome when students can be silenced based solely on the criteria that they do not conform to the beliefs of the CFS.

"When a top-down organization like the CFS stifles student voices, it's time to worry about the future of students' freedom on Ontario's campuses," said Bacchus. "One only has to wonder what student groups the CFS and their student unions will try to shut down next. The CFS must rescind their motion now and show support for the rights and freedoms of the students they claim to represent."

 

NAFTA-bashing is baseless...

From: The Wall Street Journal

Obama's Border Incident
March 4, 2008; Page A16

Barack Obama says he'll revive the art of American diplomacy, which sounds nice. We're not sure how this promise squares, however, with the diplomatic incident his campaign has caused in Canada, of all unlikely places.

Last week, Canada's CTV television network reported on a leaked memo from a Canadian diplomat casting doubt on Mr. Obama's sincerity. The memo reported that Mr. Obama's chief economic adviser, University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee, had told Canadian officials that Mr. Obama's vow to unilaterally withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement was simply campaign rhetoric aimed at Ohio primary voters. This week, Mr. Goolsbee said that's not what he meant at all when he attended a February 8 meeting at Chicago's Canadian consulate. Perhaps something got lost in translation.

Mr. Goolsbee maintains that he did say that Mr. Obama recognizes the benefits of free trade. But, Mr. Goolsbee adds, he also emphasized that Mr. Obama's objective is to strengthen Nafta's labor and environmental provisions. The accommodating Canadian Embassy nonetheless tried to smooth things over yesterday with a statement saying that "there was no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private, including about NAFTA." Which is too bad, because the apparent revelation that Mr. Obama doesn't believe his own trade rhetoric is the best news we've heard about the Illinois Senator's economic policy.

In Mr. Goolsbee's defense, we too have recognized a language barrier separating the U.S. and Canada, particularly when we enjoy watching NHL games on television. In their understated manner, Canadian analysts describe blows to the head as "messages" and sticks to the face as "taking liberties." So perhaps Mr. Goolsbee's obligatory nod toward the benefits of trade was interpreted in Canada as a passionate defense of free markets.

However, if the Chicago professor was in fact sending a signal that Mr. Obama does not really intend to destroy America's largest trade relationship, we can only say, "Kick save, and a beauty!" Leaving Nafta alone would be great news for Ohioans in particular, as the Cato Institute's Daniel Griswold recently noted. Canada and Mexico buy more than half of Ohio's exports, and since Nafta's 1993 enactment the U.S. economy has added a net 26 million new jobs. The average real hourly compensation (wages and benefits) of workers has climbed 23% and real median household net worth has increased by a third.

We suspect Mr. Goolsbee knows all of this, because the benefits of free trade are one of the few things that economists of the left and right agree on. The Commerce Department reports that while countries with which we enjoy free trade agreements generate only 7.5% of global GDP, they consume more than 42% of U.S. exports.

And along with importing our products, countries seeking open trade with America are also required to embrace the rule of law as a condition for such agreements. Colombia's inspiring progress shows that foreign policy benefits may exceed even the economic gains. But a rejection of the pending Colombian free trade deal, a rewrite of Nafta, and a literal embrace of Mr. Obama's campaign rhetoric would send a disastrous signal over our borders, north and south. Here's hoping Canadian officials heard Mr. Goolsbee correctly the first time.

Copyright 2008 - The Wall Street Journal

 

The Impact of William F. Buckley...

From: The Wall Street Journal

May We Not Lose His Kind
By: PEGGY NOONAN
February 29, 2008; Page W16


He was sui generis, wasn't he? The complete American original, a national treasure, a man whose energy was a kind of optimism, and whose attitude toward life, even when things seemed to others bleak, was summed up in something he said to a friend: "Despair is a mortal sin."

I am not sure conservatives feel despair at Bill Buckley's leaving - he was 82 and had done great work in a lifetime filled with pleasure - but I know they, and many others, are sad, and shaken somehow. On Wednesday, after word came that he had left us, in a television studio where I'd gone to try and speak of some of his greatness, a celebrated liberal academic looked at me stricken, and said he'd just heard the news. "I can't imagine a world without Bill Buckley in it," he said. I said, "Oh, that is exactly it."

It is. What a space he filled.

It is commonplace to say that Bill Buckley brought American conservatism into the mainstream. That's not quite how I see it. To me he came along in the middle of the last century and reminded demoralized American conservatism that it existed. That it was real, that it was in fact a majority political entity, and that it was inherently mainstream. This was after the serious drubbing inflicted by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal and the rise of modern liberalism. Modern liberalism at that point was a real something, a palpable movement formed by FDR and continued by others. Opposing it was ... what exactly? Robert Taft? The ghost of Calvin Coolidge? Buckley said in effect, Well, there's something known as American conservatism, though it does not even call itself that. It's been calling itself "voting Republican" or "not liking the New Deal." But it is a very American approach to life, and it has to do with knowing that the government is not your master, that America is good, that freedom is good and must be defended, and communism is very, very bad.

He explained, remoralized, brought together those who saw it as he did, and began the process whereby American conservatism came to know itself again. And he did it primarily through a magazine, which he with no modesty decided was going to be the central and most important organ of resurgent conservatism. National Review would be highly literate, philosophical, witty, of the moment, with an élan, a teasing quality that made you feel you didn't just get a subscription, you joined something. You entered a world of thought.

I thought it beautiful and inspiring that he was open to, eager for, friendships from all sides, that even though he cared passionately about political questions, politics was not all, cannot be all, that people can be liked for their essence, for their humor and good nature and intelligence, for their attitude toward life itself. He and his wife, Pat, were friends with lefties and righties, from National Review to the Paris Review. It was moving too that his interests were so broad, that he could go from an appreciation of the metaphors of Norman Mailer to essays on classical music to an extended debate with his beloved friend the actor David Niven on the best brands of peanut butters. When I saw him last he was in a conversation with the historian Paul Johnson on the relative merits of the work of the artist Raeburn.

His broad-gaugedness, his refusal to be limited, seemed to me a reflection in part of a central conservative tenet, as famously expressed by Samuel Johnson. "How small of all that human hearts endure ... That part which laws or kings can cause or cure." When you have it right about laws and kings, and what life is, then your politics become grounded in the facts of life. And once they are grounded, you don't have to hold to them so desperately. You can relax and have fun. Just because you're serious doesn't mean you're grim.

* * *

Buckley was a one-man refutation of Hollywood's idea of a conservative. He was rising in the 1950s and early '60s, and Hollywood's idea of a conservative was still Mr. Potter, the nasty old man of "It's a Wonderful Life," who would make a world of grubby Pottersvilles if he could, who cared only about money and the joy of bullying idealists. Bill Buckley's persona, as the first famous conservative of the modern media age, said no to all that. Conservatives are brilliant, capacious, full of delight at the world and full of mischief, too. That's what he was. He upended old clichés.

This was no small thing, changing this template. Ronald Reagan was the other who changed it, by being a sunny man, a happy one. They were friends, admired each other, had two separate and complementary roles. Reagan was in the game of winning votes, of persuading, of leading a political movement that catapulted him to two terms as governor of California, the nation's biggest state, at a time when conservatives were seemingly on the defensive but in retrospect were rising to new heights. He would speak to normal people and persuade them of the efficacy of conservative solutions to pressing problems. Buckley's job was not reaching on-the-ground voters, or reaching voters at all, and his attitude toward his abilities in that area was reflected in his merry answer when asked what he would do if he won the mayoralty of New York. "Demand a recount," he famously replied. His role was speaking to those thirsting for a coherent worldview, for an intellectual and moral attitude grounded in truth. He provided intellectual ballast. Inspired in part by him, voters went on to support Reagan. Both could have existed without the other, but Buckley's work would have been less satisfying, less realized, without Reagan and his presidency, and Reagan's leadership would have been more difficult, and also somehow less satisfying, without Buckley.

* * *

I share here a fear. It is not that the conservative movement is ending, that Bill's death is the period on a long chapter. The house he helped build had - has - many mansions. Conservatism will endure if it is rooted in truth, and in the truths of life. It is.

It is rather that with the loss of Bill Buckley we are, as a nation, losing not only a great man. When Jackie Onassis died, a friend of mine who knew her called me and said, with such woe, "Oh, we are losing her kind." He meant the elegant, the cultivated, the refined. I thought of this with Bill's passing, that we are losing his kind - people who were deeply, broadly educated in great universities when they taught deeply and broadly, who held deep views of life and the world and art and all the things that make life more delicious and more meaningful. We have work to do as a culture in bringing up future generations that are so well rounded, so full and so inspiring.

Bill Buckley lived a great American life. His heroism was very American - the individualist at work in the world, the defender of great creeds and great beliefs going forth with spirit, style and joy. May we not lose his kind. For now, "Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels take thee to thy rest."

Copyright 2008 - The Wall Street Journal

 

William F. Buckley has passed away‏.

William F. Buckley Jr. was a a brilliant gentleman. I know of few people that agreed with everything he said, but I know of many who say that he put forward his arguments with intellectual vigor and sharpness. A staunch anti-communist, he is a notable icon for many conservatives but also for people who believe in freedom in general.

He will be missed. Some folks have been speaking a lot about his debate with Chomsky (which was indeed interesting), but I think this clip from the Panama Canal Treaty Debates in 1978 is even better.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J9TTllu8eU

Rest In Peace...

 

A much greater cautionary tale...

From: The Weekly Standard
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/014/788osbyf.asp?ZoomFont=YES

Obama of the North: The cautionary tale of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
By: Lionel Chetwynd
03/03/2008, Volume 013, Issue 24

Chris Matthews tells us that Obama's victory speech after the Potomac primaries he felt "this thrill going up my leg." Frothing on, he invokes the last Democrat to carry Virginia, JFK. Brit Hume runs a replay of an audience member at the same speech enjoying an almost orgasmic reaction. Again, someone mumbles the sainted Kennedy name. Even as Obamamania reaches new heights, those of us who were actually on hand for John Kennedy's squeaker victory over the dour Richard Nixon in 1960 do not recall Kennedy's evoking the deep, visceral excitement Obama summons. It appears the infection now loosed upon the land is rarer than any seen in 1960 - more unusual even than the state of mind induced after 1963, when the masterminds of Camelot hawked their false memories.

Yet, rare as it is, this virus is one I've seen before. It devastated a country I loved, the place that had raised me and nurtured me. Back in the Canada of 1968, in the wake of "Beatlemania," we called the malady "Trudeaumania," deliberately invoking pop-idol glitter.

Even those of us who held posts in his own Liberal party were powerless to thwart the mad embrace millions of Canadians threw around Pierre Elliott Trudeau, with his promise to reconcile the two founding peoples, to unite the English (more correctly, Scottish) heritage with the French legacy and take us forward into a brave new age. He promised, too, to reforge our relationship with "the elephant to our south" and to elevate Canada's role in the world. What that actually meant or how it was to be achieved never seemed worth mentioning, as if the mere stating of the intention were equivalent to a result realized.

As a candidate in 1968, Trudeau was completely nonspecific, avoiding policy questions and depending entirely on style and panache. This would surely undo him, or so we reassured ourselves, those of us who believed him to be a hard-line leftist because we'd read his essays in Cité Libre and studied his academic writings at the University of Montreal. We were wrong: His lack of specificity was his strength. A brilliant and smiling Savile Row-suited orator, he spun webs around huge crowds, proposing big ideas in obscure terms, leaving listeners to discover in his speeches their own dreams. He was all things to all people. And out of party loyalty and civility, we held our tongues.

Meantime, the delighted English-language media, at last presented with a French-speaking Canadian they could love, dubbed him "Canada's JFK." He would serve as prime minister for 15 years (1968-79 and 1980-84). The damage to what Canada had stood for would be staggering.

Before Trudeau, Canada still basked in the glory of its own Greatest Generation. Canada had raised the largest army in the world, per capita, to fight Hitler (1.4 million from a population of 11 million). Emerging from World War II as a leading industrial power, it had devoted a vast part of its treasure to financing the Colombo Plan, "the Marshall Plan of Asia." Parts of the infrastructure used to this day in Pakistan, India, and South Asia were paid for by Canadians. Those same Canadians generally viewed the United States with affection, even admiration. True, many harbored a residual anger at America's more than two-year delay in entering World War II, but that was a family squabble, easily put aside. They had no laws barring or limiting the flow of American popular culture across the border. That Canada's moment of triumph came in the summer of 1967 with the hugely successful Montreal world's fair known as Expo '67.

All this changed when Trudeau became prime minister, overwhelming more experienced candidates for the party leadership with his amazing style. Once in power, he led Canada down a radical new path, muddying what had been a clear sense of identity, deemphasizing the country's Scottish-French roots in favor of a more ambiguous European model. The new Canadian identity - ardently embraced in the early Trudeau years - was equivocal. It stressed multiculturalism rather than biculturalism, extolled diversity and "international consensus," and cast the very existence of the United States as sinister while rushing to recognize Communist China and Cuba. This revolution would remake Canada into something its prewar self would hardly recognize. A people once proud of their history would be weaned away from it and remade into a relativistic, postmodern nation.

How was a strong and self-reliant people so easily led astray? Trudeaumania. Look no further than Chris Matthews to understand the uncritical devotion Trudeau summoned forth.

For one thing, he tapped into Canadians' apprehension at a world becoming difficult to fathom. He ran for office at a time when nationalism, even Separatism, was taking on large dimensions in Quebec. Visiting Montreal for Expo '67, President Charles de Gaulle of France had stood on the balcony at City Hall before a huge throng and proclaimed the Separatists' slogan: "Vive le Québec! Vive le Québec libre!" It seemed that Canada's singular voice in the international arena was weakening, and even the prime minister - Lester Pearson, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for engineering the U.N. Emergency Force that helped defuse the Suez crisis - could not arrest the trend. America was preoccupied in Southeast Asia. The world suddenly demanded a new thoughtfulness. The "old" way of doing things, cooed Trudeau, was so 1950s.

Put away your troubles, said the silver-tongued candidate, and enraptured Canadians followed, without ever learning where he intended to lead. Trudeaumania was the elixir that blotted out a newly complex world. It was also, by any intelligent measure, a disaster, one Canadians are only now beginning to understand.

Rather than reconcile the two founding cultures, the new prime minister so alienated Quebec that Separatist terrorism in Montreal soon forced Trudeau to declare martial law. In private, the de facto Francophone leader, René Lévesque, derisively called him "Elliott" (his Anglophone mother's name), and the division became so bitter the Separatists soon captured both the provincial government in Quebec and the opposition in Ottawa.

Trudeau destroyed the friendly relationship with the United States, inviting a trickle of draft evaders to turn into an onrush. His pet project, the "repatriation" from Britain of the Canadian constitution and the addition of a Charter of Rights, had the effect of handing the courts sway over virtually every aspect of Canadian life, while diminishing the power of the elected bodies. Even after he was finally replaced, briefly by the Liberal John Turner, then by the Tory Brian Mulroney, Trudeau was able to scuttle attempts to alter the Trudeau formula. In short, he succeeded in remaking the country in his own image.

To many Canadians, especially the huge number now on the left, the view of Trudeau offered here is heresy. It is nevertheless history - a history that contains a cautionary tale.

Lionel Chetwynd is an Oscar and Emmy Award-nominated filmmaker and documentarian.

Copyright 2008 - The Weekly Standard

 

A cautionary tale...

Rewarding Separatists Will Haunt the West
By: David Warren
February 23, 2008

Readers with exceptionally tenacious memories will recall that this pundit was opposed to the NATO intervention in Kosovo nine years ago. This may come as a surprise to readers without tenacious memories, since it is widely believed that I never saw a war I didn't like. Yet, believe it or not, I was opposed not only to the wanton bombing of Serbia, but also to the whole "inevitable" project of carving a new European Muslim state out of the flesh of that Orthodox Christian country.

I was not without sympathy for the "plight of the Kosovars," however. Like virtually all journalists at that time, not of Serbian ethnicity, I fell for a great deal of typically Balkan propagandist rubbish that has since been quietly withdrawn.

My rule of thumb, on wars, is to fight them with your enemies, when absolutely necessary; but never with your friends, and in particular, never in order to create new enemies. True, as we all know from personal experience, sometimes your friends are more irritating than your enemies, and the temptation to bomb them is always there. It is a temptation that must be resisted, however.

This temptation was surely in play with the Serbians, under the late Slobodan Milosevic, who seemed determined to inspire loathing and distrust, and suspicion that he was doing in Kosovo precisely what his nationalist allies had done in Bosnia: "ethnic cleansing," also known as the massacre of innocents. Although not nearly as monstrous as, say, Saddam Hussein, nor anything like Saddam's threat to the West, Milosevic missed as many opportunities to come clean with his diplomatic interrogators. The Serbs, who allowed this vicious old Communist, turned nationalist demagogue, to remain in power, showed very poor judgment.

But the fact that Kosovo had a significant ethnic majority of Albanian Muslims over Serbian Christians was not, in itself, sufficient argument to detach it from Serbia by main force. For if that is the argument, the state system which provides the only order the planet currently enjoys will tend to disintegrate.

Strange to say, I am with Vladimir Putin on this one, and against George W. Bush. Mr. Putin's remarks on the inspiration that Kosovo's independence has given to violent separatists in Chechnya, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and elsewhere, are entirely to the point.

Indeed, driving the Serbian government and Serbian people into the protective embrace of ex-Soviet Russia, and ultimately her ex-KGB strongman, was among several counter-productive dimensions in the war that Madeleine Albright organized, along with other ruinous Clinton interventions in areas of peripheral interest to the U.S. (Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia).

The NATO action in Kosovo brought Mr. Putin - the hammer of the Chechens - to power, by demonstrating that force and force alone will decide secession struggles, East or West. It restored anti-Americanism to its place in the Russian national security consensus, indirectly bringing an end to the Yeltsin reform era.

It was an incredibly stupid war to wage, and the product was on display in Brussels yesterday where the Russian ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogovin, actually threatened the use of force to prevent Kosovo's declaration of independence from going any farther.

President Bush, who was prompted to recognize the self-declared Kosovar state (together with most European powers), feels obliged to accept the fait accompli he inherited from the preceding administration. He, or his successor, will then try to resist the next stage of demands, for a Greater Albania in which Kosovo attempts to merge with Albania, and the Muslim majorities in adjoining districts of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Greece begin insurrections to join them. By recognizing Kosovo, Bush et al. have validated exactly that: a deadly new round of Balkan troubles, ripe for Islamicization.

We cannot afford to validate the principle of armed insurrection, whether in Kosovo or Chechnya or Palestine or Kashmir or northern Sri Lanka or southern Thailand or the southern Philippines or in any of the many other places where terrorism demands to be rewarded with an independent state. And, within Europe, a couple of thousand EU policemen (about to be installed without United Nations cover, and in defiance of agreements with Serbia) cannot guarantee order in a territory that is already a European refuge for radical Islamist cells, and threatens to become Europe's terrorist safe house.

There is a deeper history here, for the understanding of which we would have to review the rest of the legacy of Ottoman imperialism in the Balkans. But that is, alas, something the Serbs understand a lot better than we do.

Email: otiosus@sympatico.ca

 

Enough!!!

From: The National Post
http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/story.html?id=315974

Dying to save "The System"
By: Lorne Gunter

Published: Monday, February 18, 2008

For defenders of Canada's government-monopoly health care system, there is only one goal that truly matters. And, no, despite their earnest insistences to the contrary, that goal is not the health of patients. It is the preservation of the public monopoly at all costs, even patients' lives.

This week, the Kawacatoose First Nation, which has an urban reserve on Regina's eastern outskirts, announced it wanted to build a health centre there with its own money. Among other things, the band wants to buy a state-of-the-art MRI machine and perform diagnostic tests on Saskatchewanians - aboriginal and non-aboriginal - who currently face some of the longest waits for scans in the country.

This should be a win-win: Aboriginals show entrepreneurial initiative, without any financial obligation on the part of the federal or provincial government, and create well-paying high-tech jobs for natives who desperately need them, while at the same time easing the wait for MRI tests in Saskatchewan that can now run to six or even 12 months.

Each year, hundreds or even thousands of Saskatchewan residents - mostly middle-class - drive across the border into North Dakota and pay their own money for scans rather than wait for one at home. The Kawacatoose proposal would give them a much closer alternative.

So what was the reaction of the opposition NDP in Saskatchewan? Restrained contempt and veiled fear-mongering.

The restraint was a result only of the fact that this proposal was coming from aboriginals. Had a private, non-native company suggested the same thing, Saskatchewan's opposition socialists would have been screaming from the rooftops that greedy insurance companies and health profiteers are lurking under every hospital bed ready to prey on unsuspecting patients the moment they get the green light.

Still, despite their untypical decorum, it was easy to see the NDP's disdain. Health critic Judy Junor said such private facilities threaten the public system, even if they do not offer fee-for-service scans, because they poach staff from public hospitals. "You can buy the machine," she sniffed, "that's the easy part. It's who's going to work it on a day-to-day basis."

The Kawacatoose have said they will not permit queue-jumping by fee-paying patients at their clinic. Instead, they have the money to buy an MRI, and they estimate their band could make some much-needed money by performing scans paid for by the province, so they are seeking permission to go ahead.

Still, that is not good enough for Ms. Junor and her colleagues. The NDP sees any service provision not controlled directly by the government as a menace. That means health cannot be as high a priority for them as preserving the public monopoly.

During their 16 years in power - a string that ended just over three months ago - the Saskatchewan NDP refused to issue licenses for any MRI clinics not owned by government. In 2004, the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation proposed building one on its satellite reserve in Saskatoon. After three frustratingly long years seeking approval, the band gave up and went ahead with plans for an MRI-less clinic. Their members and the public will have to settle for second-best care because of the devotion of medicare's defenders to "the system," first and foremost.

By placing "the system" (and the well-paying jobs of NDP-voting union health workers) ahead of providing care for patients, the NDP have shown where their true loyalties lie.

It's the same across the country, and not just among New Democrats.

We are short 12,000 to 15,000 doctors in Canada because in the early 1990s, provincial health ministers - Tory, Liberal and NDP - desirous of preserving "the system," capped enrolments at medical schools. Doctors, they reasoned, are a major driver of costs with all the tests they order and treatments they perform.

The ministers knew that limiting the number of doctors would limit the amount of medical service available to patients. But they were prepared to accept that. They felt they had to limit costs to preserve "the system," so providing care Canadians needed came in second to the system's survival.

The nursing shortage, the sad state of high-tech diagnostic equipment outside our largest cities and the rationing of services via waiting lists are all examples of how medicare's advocates are prepared to sacrifice Canadians' health and comfort - even their lives - just so the public monopoly can be maintained.

Email comments to: lgunter@shaw.ca

Copyright 2008 - The National Post

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