Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to speak plainly and seek a straightforward conversation about the Minister of Health’s program to develop a new Supplementary Health Benefits Program.
We left this issue over 12 months ago, because basic research had not been done to provide a basis for the government’s decision and approach. MLAs and the public asked that initial research be done and then a meaningful consultation be started. We naively anticipated that research would take a few months, information would come out, and then MLAs and the public could have a back-and-forth interaction with the department, posing questions that would be researched and brought back for further input. What happened?
Over a year passed and suddenly the Minister is desperate to release some research and move to an immediate public consultation before any input from MLAs. This after many had begun to assume supp health had maybe fallen off the Order Paper.
When the Minister released the supp health research, with that she included a surprise announcement of two weeks of public meetings in late March and early April centred on Easter weekend when people will be travelling and focused on family activities rather than going to meetings. At best this reflects a sorrowful lack of understanding about public dialogue.
The Minister is launching these consultations when there is still a checklist of elementary research that needs to be done. I will speak to that in my oral questions briefly. My major point on consultation is
that it can only be made meaningful through two-way dialogue. Our best resources for a full and complete review are the smart, experienced members of the public, our seniors and clients with specified medical conditions who are appealing for a meaningful role in this work.
Let’s not repeat yet again the mistakes of the past. Let’s have a meaningful public interaction properly conducted. This would include a presentation and initial response to materials this spring, followed by refined discussions based on new research and insights in the fall, with implementation perhaps April 1, 2011.
After the Deh Cho Bridge, no single issue has excited as much debate as the supplementary health benefits proposals. The Minister should recognize this, act on the valid questions raised, reach out to the resource of public knowledge, and commit to a meaningful period of public engagement.