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Debate: Leaders agree! Health care to stay public

All three provincial party leaders participating in tonight's debate committed to keeping the British Columbia health care system public in response to a question about privatization.

B.C. Liberal Party leader Gordon Campbell said the government has reduced the wait times for certain types of surgery and reminded people his party had added “sustainability” to the principles protected by the Canada Health Act. But he eventually got to the commitment: “There will always be one single payer for that, the public payer.”

Green Party leader Jane Sterk also said her party believes in a single-payer public system, but would move to more community-based care and preventative medicine. “We keep people healthy and the cost will go down over time.”

And New Democratic Party leader Carole James used the word “public” several times in her answer, including that the NDP would “support public health care, a real jewel of our country.” The NDP would also provide for the training of 1,000 new nurses and create more beds for seniors.

While Campbell's interest in health systems in New Zealand and Europe has led to much speculation on Liberal plans to privatize health services or introduce two-tier care, the unanimous support for public health care in tonight's debate is a recognition of just how basic the issue has become in B.C., and for the that matter, Canadian politics.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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