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ALBERTA'S THIRD WAY Wild week started with the big reveal In Klein's final term, 'the time is now' to unveil sweeping health−care changes (Globe and Mail)

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GLOBE AND MAIL 060610197 2006.03.02 A4 (ILLUS) KATHERINE HARDING National News Metro Edmonton AB 636 572

KATHERINE HARDING EDMONTON Day one of Premier Ralph Klein's public consultations on his sweeping health−care changes didn't go smoothly yesterday. The 63−year−old politician had to apologize to a 17−year−old female legislature page after throwing a booklet of the provincial Liberals' health−care ideas at her and yelling: "I don't need this crap." It's already been a wild week in Alberta politics since Mr. Klein finally pulled the curtain back on his long−promised health−care proposals, which his critics charge could open the door to formalized two−tier medicine. While Mr. Klein has been musing for years about introducing more private health−care delivery to the province's $9−billion system, Tuesday's announcement took many by surprise here and in Ottawa. Mr. Klein's 62−member Conservative caucus and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office received the glossy 18−page document on Tuesday morning, and by noon it was distributed to reporters. Mr. Klein's office brushed off speculation that the Premier, who is serving his fourth and final term, caved in to rampant criticism that he needed to come clean with his secretive plans, especially as a crucial leadership review by his party is set for later this month. "The time was now," Gordon Vincent, a senior Klein political aide, said about why the document was released. He added that it was appropriate to publicize it early in the spring legislature session, which began last week. In recent weeks, even Mr. Klein's own caucus has been privately prodding him to get out in front of the issue and frame the debate after years of government reports, meetings, public consultations and even an international symposium last year in Calgary. "We had to get it out there. There was too much speculation, and a lot of it was wrong," one rural Tory MLA said. But first, Mr. Klein had to calm concerns among members of his caucus, especially rural MLAs, that his proposed changes wouldn't bleed already scarce doctors from the country into the province's cities. His office and Health Minister Iris Evans worked hard at assuaging frayed nerves, and finally received a thumbs−up to move ahead with the proposals earlier this week. 101

03/02/2006

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