Longwoods Online

Longwoods Online October 2008

Federal Election 2008: Interview / Novel Commentary

Steven Lewis

Longwoods' roving contributor and democracy revivalist Steven Lewis: caught up with the five party leaders in their post-televised debate debrief at an undisclosed location near Toronto.

Interviewer Steven Lewis: As usual, health care is front and center in this election. [Leaders look at each other quizzically, and leaf furiously through their briefing books.] Medicare is in crisis. The system hangs in the balance. What will you do as Prime Minister to strengthen this icon of Canadian identity?

Gilles Duceppe: I'm not interested in being Prime Minister, and health care is provincial jurisdiction. Next question…

Jack Layton: More doctors, more nurses, catastrophic drug coverage-

Stephane Dion: More than more doctors and way way more nurses than the NDP, and definitely more catastrophic drug coverage-

Elizabeth May: So you've finally got the Green message.

Layton and Dion: What do you mean?

May: Your platforms are all recycled. I salute you.

Stephen Harper: Let me be Prime Ministerial here. The Liberals almost killed Medicare by shoveling money at the problems with no success. We've invested wisely and got results. Especially more doctors and nurses.

Dion: But you're just continuing to do what we started in the Health Accords.

Harper: That's in the past. We've shown the kind of leadership the provinces want.

Duceppe: I agree with that. Write the cheques and get out of the way.

Harper: Exactly. But when we write the cheques with no conditions, the provinces deliver because we clearly respect the Constitution. That's the genius of the Conservative approach.

Interviewer Lewis: How many more doctors do we need. Medical school enrolment has practically doubled in the last 5 years-

Layton: What the hell?

May: I'm just new here. How could I have known that?

Harper: No way. They're nowhere to be seen. My own doctor is retiring.

Dion: Where's my briefing book?

Interviewer Lewis: It's a fact, almost double. They'll be graduating soon.

Layton (recovering quickly): Not enough. Should be quadruple.

Dion: Quintuple!

May: Gentlemen, harness yourselves. It's the wrong focus. We need to reduce smoking through education and taxes.

Harper: Let me again show the wisdom of Prime Ministership. If you raise taxes, people get anxious. Anxious people smoke. It's the only pleasure they have left once you've taken away their jobs in the oil patch. The Green Party may want young people to start smoking. We don't. In fact, we want to put young offenders in jail.

Duceppe: It's not the federal government's business. Smoking is under Section 92 of the Constitution Act.

Layton: The New Democrats have always respected Quebeckers' right to smoke without interference from Ottawa.

Harper: Our record speaks for itself. We're the ones who relieved the provinces of the intolerable burden of reporting to Canadians on how they spent the billions of new federal funding and what they accomplished. We got rid of the nanny state and overbearing federalism that threatens the very fabric of Canada. When Canadians pay their taxes to Ottawa, they want the money to go back to their own provinces with no meddling. Except they have said, very clearly, that they don't want it spent on safe injection sites.

Dion: Mr. Harper, you didn't get rid of the nanny state, you got rid of the nanny. No child care, no support for families.

Layton to May (aside): Did Dion actually get off a good one?

Dion: And also Mr. Harper, we started writing cheques with no accountability, and you stole our policy and claimed it as your own. I wish I could say I was surprised-

Duceppe: We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Harper: That's another one of my lines Gilles. Politicians shouldn't plagiarize-

May: Is it always like this when you guys get together? I feel like drinking the hemlock.

Harper (indignant): If I were your husband, I'd take it!

Interviewer Lewis: Please, let's get back to health care. What will you do to close the technology gap?

Dion: My government will put an MRI in every hospital in Canada with more than 8 beds.

Harper: Our plan goes way beyond the Liberal broken promises. We'll put a CT scanner in every 7-11.

Layton: There you go again. Private care for the rich-

Harper: The scans would be paid for publicly.

Layton: Yes, but as a private, for-profit facility, the 7-11 will try to sell Canadians extras they don't need, like Pepsi and shrink-wrapped porn-

Duceppe: Ottawa has no place in the depanneurs of Quebec.

Layton: -so our plan is to open state-run convenience stores with CT scanners, ultrasound machines, generic drugs, sigmoidoscopies, all publicly funded.

Dion (aside): Mon dieu, that's good. Why didn't my dream team think of that that? Saboteurs….

May: Our plan is to build green roofs on every hospital. Solar panels will power the MRIs.

Interviewer Lewis: Let's turn to catastrophic drug coverage. Romanow called for it. The provinces were all for it, with leadership from Ottawa. Canadians need it. Where is it?

Dion: We're committed to it. It's in our platform.

Interviewer Lewis: But the Liberal government could have done it years ago. It could have made it a condition of the Accord and earmarked money for it.

Layton: Shame! Broken promises! Liberals, Tories, all the same, all the time.

Duceppe: Stephane, I agree with you. All the Liberal health care policies are catastrophic.

Harper: Good one Gilles.

Duceppe: You can use that in your speeches. Not that you need permission…

May: Time to move on, gentlemen. It's the environment, stupid. Clean it up, ban GMOs, put away the car, get Canadians moving, and everyone's healthier. More health, less health care.

Layton (aghast): Elizabeth, where' the leadership in that? If everyone's healthier, what will all those new doctors and nurses do? You're out to take away their livelihood. Just like I've always said, scratch a Green and there's dark Tory blue underneath. It's a neo-con job.

May: Jack, with respect, you need an exorcist. Your head spins faster than Linda Blair's.

Dion: We have the plan for the future. We're going to tax the doctors and nurses and administrators for providing excessive health care. They will charge the patients more money. We will give patients a tax cut to pay for the health care. So everyone will pay more and everyone will use less. Less for more - that's the Liberal health care solution. Just like the carbon tax.

Interviewer Lewis: Prime Minister, what do you think?

Harper: I'd like to hear more from Stephane. Keep going.

Layton (barely able to contain himself): Did you say you're going to charge people for medically necessary services?

Dion: My proposal is revenue neutral.

Duceppe: My Quebec includes the Canada Health Act. Did I really say that?

Layton: Our position is, we should never have gone in, and we should get out now.

Harper: We will be out by 2011, that's a guarantee.

May: What's this got to do with Afghanistan?

Harper: Elizabeth, we're talking about health care. I guess you're too new to understand.

Dion: Let me remind you, the Liberals were always for getting out of health care. Mr. Chretien started it, by cutting transfer payments. Mr. Martin finished the job, adding tens of billions of dollars with nothing expected in return. That's 21st century leadership.

Duceppe: I find myself agreeing with the three of you who won't be Prime Minister and the one who will. With federalists like you, who needs to separate? Did I really say that?

Interviewer Lewis: So let's wrap this up. What's your key health care message for Canadians, and how is your health care platform different?

May: We're going to strengthen publicly financed health care, write cheques, and invest in upstream health care.

Interviewer Lewis: So you'd do what every health care report has advocated for twenty years.

May: Yes. Like I said, recycling is good. Not as good as cycling, but still good.

Layton: We're going to rescue publicly financed health care from the hidden privatization agenda of the Liberals and Tories, write cheques, and make Bay Street pay for more doctors and nurses.

Interviewer Lewis: So what is that hidden agenda?

Layton: Don't be obtuse. It's hidden, so how would I know? But it's very, very bad for kitchen tables.

Duceppe: We're going to hold the government accountable for writing big cheques with no conditions, so Quebec can accept the cheques, deny the federal government has contributed anything, and participate when we feel like it in Pan-Canadian initiatives.

Interviewer Lewis: How is that different from what every other province does?

Duceppe: We are a nation, obviously.

Dion: We're going to restore Ottawa's role in national health care--

Duceppe: You mean Pan-Canadian. You can't say national.

Dion: I can so say national. National. National. National national national.

Harper: We are committed to further increases in transfers with no conditions and allow the provinces to experiment, innovate, and improve.

Interviewer Lewis: With the economy heading south, where will you get the money?

Harper: Some will come from the tar sands, and the rest from cutting the fat out of cultural spending. You can read all about it in our platform.

ALL: What platform?

Interviewer Lewis: Thanks to you all. It's a great day for democracy.


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