You can’t argue with obvious problems, but you should sometimes argue with the proposed solutions

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief  Ω

I had the opportunity this past weekend to attend what was called a seminar (conference would be more accurate, though) in Vancouver put on by the Fraser Institute and discuss various aspects of policy implementation.

Doesn’t that sound like a blast?

To sit in a room full of people and be lectured at by members of a heavily funded right-wing think-tank about why the free market should take over everything that government does and how big business is what’s best for us as a society?

At least that’s what I’d thought I’d gotten myself into when I was awarded a travel bursary to the event — and I was gearing up for a fight.

In fact, I sort of expected that my revulsion at the ideas expressed by these people would lead to my removal from the proceedings.

One of the topics on the agenda was “Canada’s medicare bubble: Is government health spending sustainable without user-based funding?”

I like our universal health-care. I’m proud to live in a country where we take care of ourselves like that.

It was the second session of the day — and the one I thought would likely get me removed from the Sutton Place Hotel.

I guess I would have to miss the afternoon sessions including what the American Congress thinks of Canada, but it would be worth it to have a proper battle with the “expert” who was about to knock my beloved Canadian healthcare system.

His point that the current trend of healthcare spending as a percentage of the incomes that the governments of the various provinces collect is rising more quickly than the rate at which those incomes themselves are rising was impossible to dispute.

Dammit!

I guess I couldn’t just lay into a guy for giving figures that happen to support his point, nor can I really disagree with a point that was just a straight statement of documented mathematical facts.

After all — I had no such figures to dispute his claim.

And though some of the solutions that he proposed to reconcile this problem were against everything I believe in as a Canadian, I simply could not generate a hatred — or even a strong dislike — for this man.

What was wrong with me?

I’d be able to come up with something during the discussion period that follows each of these talks, I’d thought to myself.

I knew I couldn’t really be accepting the merit of his arguments.

And I didn’t.

I could not accept that our medical system was in need of a move toward user-funded, pay-for-treatment-type scenario that is bankrupting people in the United States who are just trying to survive their illnesses and misfortunes.

But I couldn’t dispute the fact that it needs more money in order to survive.

I decided that I could, in fact, dispute where they could find that money without resorting to a system I don’t agree with.

Why don’t we stop subsidizing billionaire sports franchise owners when they want to refurbish the building their team plays in?

Most people whose taxes went to the renovations of BC Place stadium in Vancouver will never get to attend an event being held there — because they don’t care about sports.

We are losing the Canada I love when people who have no interest in sports have to pay (via their taxes) for a billionaire to improve his business investment when their choice is to not attend the events held there — but they might have to pay for their femur to be set if it’s broken by a slip-and-fall in the winter.

Oh, but they won’t have to pay that under the new system, because they can sue for medical damages from the person who didn’t shovel and salt their sidewalk well enough, right?

Because if we have to pay for our own medical expenses when they are needed because we don’t have the safety net of Canadians pitching in to take care of each other, then we’ll have to buy insurance against those expenses (and thus protecting us from those Canadians who can no longer be trusted to help each other).

Buying insurance against each other’s need for healthcare is failure of our development as a nation.

And I will not be a failure when we’re so capable of fixing the financial problems of one of our most sacred ideals in other ways.

The Fraser Institute can produce all kinds of facts and data and tell us that the current system can’t survive fiscally without an overhaul — and I will agree.

Because they are right.

You can’t argue with dollar figures and documented statistics.

Well you can, but it won’t get you very far or bring people over to your side.

What you CAN argue about is the solution to the problem.

And I’m ready for that battle. As we all should be — because it’s coming.