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"All we're doing is consulting. And, you know, I'm no doctor, but I think that Mr. McGuinty's got a case of premature speculation," he said about the Ontario Premier's comments. "No one has violated anything yet." Mr. Harper said yesterday his minority government will carefully examine Alberta's proposals before issuing a full response within the next few days. "Obviously as we do our own review of the proposals that Alberta has put out, we're going to want to satisfy ourselves that they're within the Canada Health Act," he said. Mr. Harper also made a pointed reference to Quebec's new health care reforms, saying they "clearly respect the principles" of the act and that all provinces should do likewise. A chief difference between Alberta and Quebec's proposals are that Alberta would allow physicians to work in both the private and public health care systems, while Quebec would force doctors to choose one or the other. Critics of the Quebec plan say it will lead to a shortage of doctors in the public system and that allowing private insurance for medically necessary surgery will lead to queue−jumping. The principles of the Canada Health Act, which authorizes the federal government to transfer billions of dollars to the provinces, are comprehensiveness, universality, accessibility, portability and public administration. Federal Liberal health critic Ken Dryden said Alberta's proposals appear to threaten the principles of the act. "Every Canadian fears the slippery slope," he told reporters. "The clear message that needs to come from the government of Canada is the government of Canada will uphold the Canada Health Act −− the words of it, the spirit of it, the understanding that Canadians have of it." Mr. Dryden declined to say what the Liberals would have done if they had been in government when Alberta released this discussion paper. "The Conservatives were elected in part on giving a ringing endorsement to the Canada Health Act," he said. "It's Mr. Harper's obligation to live up to the CHA because that is what Canadians expect." Mr. Klein has argued his reforms are needed to control ballooning costs and to ensure Alberta's health care system is sustainable into the future. "There's virtually no disagreement that the health system must change to survive," Mr. Klein told reporters on Tuesday. "People are waiting too long. The system is too expensive and growing more expensive day by day.... Alberta's population is growing and it's ageing, and the health system hasn't changed with the times." In Quebec, an aide to Health Minister Philippe Couillard said yesterday the province will not follow Alberta's proposal to allow doctors to work in both the public and private systems. However, Quebec seemed to take a more neutral position on the divisive issue than Ontario.

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