Go big, go home

Brian Mulroney offers some free advice to Stephen Harper.

Brian Mulroney offers some free advice to Stephen Harper.

“We make enough mistakes in politics but it’s important that you try to get the big things right,” the 71-year-old former Conservative prime minister says in an interview from his Montreal law office. “History remembers the big-ticket items.”

… His advice to Prime Minister Harper, especially given the partisan fighting that is so much part of a minority Parliament, is to create a blue ribbon panel of non-partisan, distinguished Canadians. “Someone has to provide some unbiased, thoughtful but effective leadership in the thinking on this,” he says. “Without some new thinking and some visionary approaches, health care is going to consume 70 to 75 per cent of provincial budgets.”

Setting aside what lessons Mr. Mulroney’s premiership may provide about the wisdom of striving for big change, Mr. Harper already dismissed this specific idea in an interview with Postmedia two weeks ago.

You know, we’ve had a lot of task forces. I don’t know what we would necessarily benefit from another one. I think first and foremost everybody should understand that Canadians are strongly committed to the system of universal health insurance, to the principle that your ability to pay does not determine your access to critical medical service. That is a fundamental principle. It’s one that millions of working Canadian families, including my own, depend (on). When people say in vague terms they want to change or dismantle the system, I think people don’t know specifically what it is they’re talking about in this case. I don’t know specifically what they’re talking about. What I do know is the provinces are responsible for the management of the health care system. The single most important thing the federal government can do is make sure the provinces have the funding they’ve been promised to run the health care system … We’re obviously always open to working with the provinces in ways to improve the systems but it’s primarily their responsibility. We work co-operatively and we always work within the principle that we’re going to have the system of universal health care.