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Donald Drummond Commission: Visions of Mike Harris

Don Drummond has sent a message that his Commission on Reform of the Public Services will put a hard squeeze on health care. A Toronto Star columnist reports that he said up to 25 per cent of it is wasteful, “so obviously that’s the kind of stuff you go after, that would be the least painful stuff.”

Speaking of public services more broadly Drummond added, “Somebody is going to have to do something, and it’s going to have to be fairly forceful. Hopefully, it will be strategic and intelligent, and it will minimize any kind of pain — and there likely will be some (pain) involved with it,” he says. “My guess is that come Oct. 7, somebody is going to be knocking on our door asking for ideas

While they are talking up another, more pleasant, post-election world, Liberal and PC spending plans after the election will require pretty draconian cuts to public services, so they may well rely on Drummond -- after the election --  to justify all the blood on the tracks. 

I'd like to believe that isn't already the (pretty cynical) plan -- but that's getting a lot harder.

The Mike Harris government squeezed health care spending  (actually cutting hospital spending) when it was first elected in the mid-1990s.  That led to disaster -- and so, after a few years, they switched directions and brought all the money back (and much more).  

Update 2:22 pm: Drummond is on a bit of a right wing tear this week.  Not satisfied with directing his fire to health care funding, he has also joined a call that opens the door to more health care privatization, as part of a panel report to the Canadian Medical Association.  

The panel report calls for consideration of "such mechanisms as user fees, franchises and various insurance schemes...These not only provide a portion of funding, they may help create the right incentives for a broader, more appropriate and more efficient system of supports."    The report also also calls for "a framework that allows a range of providers – public‐sector, private‐sector and non‐profit – to compete in carefully controlled conditions."  (Ingeniously, the authors intone: "This is not privatization".)

Here's a quote on the panel report from Drummond that bolsters the privatization of health care delivery (and the response to the panel report from Canadian Doctors for Medicare):  

Most people probably don't care if they go to a publicly or privately run clinic for a blood test, "as long as they can pull out their provincial (health) card and it's paid for publicly, and that's what we're saying," panel member Don Drummond of the school of policy studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., told reporters....Critics said the panel's recommendations directly contradict the CMA's own principles around health reform as well as what it heard from Canadians in a series of town hall meetings across the country.  "Instead of leading us towards some thoughtful solutions based on evidence, they seem to be propounding things that we know don't work," said Dr. Bob Woollard of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. User fees systematically disadvantage patients who need the system most, he said. Competition could open the door to more private, for-profit care, he said, and "cherry picks the healthiest, wealthiest patients. Those who have complicated diseases — which most people do now — you want to shuffle them out the side door."

Bottom line: Drummond's post-election report on public services looks set to advocate for cuts to public services, health care, and, if the CMA panel report is any indication, user fees and the privatization of health care delivery.

The good news?  Ontario's deficit for the year ended March 31 has come in lower than expected, at $14 billion  -- $5.7 billion less than originally forecast.


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