Alberta’s United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith renewed the party’s public health guarantee at a party event Tuesday morning but it is unclear what is new in this pledge.
The promise was first made by former UCP leader Jason Kenney in 2019, which promised increased public health spending and maintaining a universally accessible health system in Alberta.
On Tuesday, Smith said the UCP is committed to ensuring Albertans have access to public health care. However, she didn’t clarify what, if anything, is different from the promise made by her predecessor.
She said no Albertan will ever have to pay out of pocket under a United Conservative government.
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“Under this public health care guarantee, the UCP is committed to all Albertans that under no circumstances will any Albertan ever have to pay out of pocket for access to their family doctor or to get the medical treatment that they need,” Smith said.
“It means that a UCP government under my leadership will not delist any medical services or prescriptions now covered by Alberta health insurance. No exceptions.”
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The public health guarantee will not include dental and pharmacare, something that is being advocated on the federal level.
The federal Liberals promised to roll out universal dental and pharmacare when it entered into a confidence-and-supply agreement with the federal NDP last year in exchange for support on key confidence votes.
Smith said the province is looking for ways to expand coverage under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP).
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“The public health care guarantee is making sure that all of the services currently covered stay covered … We are looking at ways that we can expand the coverage to be more comprehensive,” she said.
The renewed health care guarantee comes after the opposition NDP accused the UCP of destroying Alberta’s public health-care system.
The NDP has long criticized the UCP’s various public health-care policies, including a proposed three per cent salary rollback for nurses and cutting thousands of Alberta Health Services jobs to save $600 million annually.
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The NDP also accused the Alberta government of failing to support front-line health-care workers and trying to replace the province’s public system with a private one.
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Alberta’s health critic David Shepherd said Smith is trying to rewrite the party’s record on health-care policies ahead of the election.
Thousands of nursing were unfilled in December and January, according to Shepherd.
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“The UCP once again made the ridiculous claim that our health-care system is fixed, that they’ve ended the crisis in care,” he said.
“It’s certainly unexpected for Danielle Smith to choose to bring back one of the most infamous and rightfully and widely mocked broken promises of the Kenney era, an era marked by ongoing attacks on health-care workers and cuts that undermined Albertans’ access to care.
“They have attacked, they have undermined and they have repeatedly tried to hide the truth of the reality of the damage they have done and the crisis that we continue to face.”
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