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Alberta premier willing to risk violating health act; Province may have to weigh penalties against benefits (The Chronicle−Herald)

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The Chronicle−Herald 2006.03.02 Canada A3 The Canadian Press Jim Macdonald 363

EDMONTON − Premier Ralph Klein says Alberta's health reforms may violate the Canada Health Act, but he's willing to take that risk. It may come to the point when Alberta will have to weigh the possibility of federal penalties against the benefits of the reforms, Klein said Wednesday. "Weighing one against the other, that is precisely it," Klein told reporters. "It may violate the Canada Health Act and if it does, there is a dispute resolution mechanism." The so−called Third Way plan would allow patients to pay cash for some treatments, including hip and knee replacements, in order to get faster treatment. Klein's Conservative government is facing a growing barrage of criticism over its 10−point health−reform plan, which would also set a precedent for Canada by allowing doctors to perform surgeries in both private and public hospitals. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday to take action against Alberta. McGuinty said waiting times should be reduced for all patients, not just those who can afford to jump to the front of the queue. But Klein fired back, accusing the Ontario premier of overreacting to proposals that have yet to be drafted into legislation. "I'm no doctor, but I think that Mr. McGuinty's got a case of premature speculation." Alberta Health Minister Iris Evans said the province doesn't want to "go to war" with anyone over health care. "The opinions of a few people don't constitute the opinions of Canadians," she told reporters. "I think we stand proud on the Canadian horizon." Evans also downplayed the significance of McGuinty's criticisms.

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