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Monday, 1 October, 2007

Are politicians hiding behind the courts in healthcare reform?

, Patrick Monahan, the dean of York's Osgoode Hall law school, told me that major Canadian healthcare reform may come about as a result of legal action rather than legislative change.

"I think if we don't see responses from governments that are more direct and deal with the issues in Chaoulli, we will find further cases in other provinces," he told me. "The political stalemate on this issue results in status quo," he says. "No one is looking at real reform. But litigation can break the log jam. It can be the catalyst."

But things aren't as simple as they seem, surmises the Calgary Herald. In an editorial published last week, the that some lawmakers don't want to be seen as directly involved in the potentially radical reforms being put forward in constitutional challenges like Murray v Alberta and McCreith-Holmes v Ontario. Therefore, despite their apparent reluctance to open the can of worms of Canada Health Act reform in Parliament, they may in fact be hoping that the Supreme Court continues to chip away at the universal healthcare system, as it did in Chaoulli v Quebec in 2005. The Herald writes:

The question is really whether legislators want courts to deliver an ultimatum they can only dodge using the politically risky notwithstanding clause. A cynic might think they secretly do; elected officials have been glad before to blame controversial change on court rulings.
Considering some of the views espoused by Conservatives like Stephen Harper and Tony Clement in the past, that cynicism may be warranted in this case.

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