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'We want to hear what Albertans think': Benefits of reform may be worth violating law: premier (Calgary Herald) PUBLICATION: DATE: EDITION: SECTION: PAGE: BYLINE: SOURCE: DATELINE: ILLUSTRATION: WORD COUNT:

Calgary Herald 2006.03.02 Early News A1 / Front Jason Fekete Calgary Herald; with files from CanWest News Service EDMONTON Colour Photo: Calgary Herald Archive / Premier Ralph Kleinsaid Wednesday his health reforms are still just proposals, making criticism from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and others premature.; Photo: Jennifer Huygen 693

A political firestorm is erupting between Alberta and other provinces over controversial health−care reforms, with Premier Ralph Klein conceding his proposals "may" contravene the Canada Health Act, and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene. While violating the health act could spark a feud, Klein said the risks −− including possibly having health transfer payments cut −− could be worth it if his reforms can slash health−care costs and create greater access to care for Albertans. "If the new legislation is tabled, it may −− may −− violate the Canada Health Act," Klein told reporters, noting the legislation will be tabled unless he receives a separate plan to achieve health−care sustainability. The battle for the Tories could also be a provincial one, opposition parties say, as appetite for private care in affluent Calgary could be greater than other parts of Alberta and possibly create friction with the rest of the province. Entrenched Alberta legislation requires the province to adhere to the spirit and law of the Canada Health Act, which sets out accessibility and other public health−care principles. But Klein wouldn't guarantee that stipulation will appear in the new legislation −− expected to be introduced next month −− that would allow for the health reforms. Alberta's new health−care framework proposes private, for−profit care that would allow queue jumping, while permitting doctors to practise in both the public and private systems. Critics and some health policy analysts say that would violate the act. The reforms would allow the public to pay out of their pockets for non−essential surgeries, including hips, knees, cataracts and possibly hernia operations, according to Alberta Health officials.

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