One of the province’s largest health care unions is wading into the political arena by launching a media campaign to counter “threats” to public health care posed by the potential election of the United Conservative Party next year.
“There is no way I can allow right wing politicians to take a stand at slashing our health care system without responding to it,” Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, told reporters Monday while unveiling the campaign. “This wasn’t a fight that we picked, but are absolutely in it to respond.”
The association represents a diverse group of some 25,000 health workers including occupational therapists, paramedics and psychologists.
The campaign, which features 15- and 30-second television commercials, online ads and social media outreach, is called Health Care Matters.
“In the next election, let’s not put our health care at risk,” the ads say.
Parker said the campaign will run for the next month, and potentially again in the fall. The provincial election will follow in the spring of 2019, and the association wants voters to think about health services when they cast their ballot.
Parker did not disclose a bill for the campaign, but said, “We are going to spend as much as we have to.”
The association began organizing the campaign prior to the UCP policy convention last weekend, but motions passed at the event — including one calling for more private care options — reinforced the need for action, he said.
The UCP has also been associated with the idea of a 20 per cent cut to government spending, which would decimate the health system and put thousands of Albertans out of work, Parker said.
“We have had 20 years of working under austerity and cutting fat. Well there is no fat left. Now they are cutting bone when you talk about cutting another 20 per cent.”
In fact, Alberta is one of the country’s biggest per-capita spenders on health care and the last overall cut to the health budget occurred more than 20 years ago.
While UCP Leader Jason Kenney has called for more aggressive controls over spending, he has characterized the idea of 20 per cent cut as a “ridiculous” line of attack by the NDP.
The accusation seems to come from his musings that Alberta could learn lessons from B.C., which spends about 20 per cent less per capita than Alberta on public services.
“Claims made by the HSAA are completely and totally false,” the UCP said in an emailed statement Monday. “The United Conservatives have never argued for deep cuts to front line services like health care.”
Political campaigns from labour or advocacy groups attempting to influence the outcome of elections have not always met with success. The $2-million anti-conservative campaign that ran under the Albertans for Change banner in 2008 failed to prevent a landslide win for the Progressive Conservatives that year.
Some experts have argued such campaigns are easily dismissed, in part because the public focuses on the agenda of the messenger rather than the message itself.
But Parker said the messengers in this case are front line workers who know the health system is already struggling and can’t sustain any cuts.
The NDP government has been working to contain the growth of health spending to about three per cent per year, although that doesn’t go far enough for critics calling for more restraint.
Despite the high relative health spending in Alberta compared with other provinces, Alberta has often posted mediocre results in terms of wait times and other performance metrics.
Source Edmonton Journal
|HSAA – In Those Moments -30. Let’s not put health care at risk. Health Sciences Association of Alberta. Youtube May 7, 2018|