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Please Advise! Will the Smith-Trudeau Cage Match Be Worth Watching?

Perhaps, says Dr. Steve. Anytime the PM and premiers meet on health care there are lots of potential fireworks.

Steve Burgess 6 Feb

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Yet another meeting of the premiers and Justin Trudeau is coming up Tuesday to discuss, of course, health-care funding. What do you expect from this?


Sick of It

Dear Sicko,

Students of Egyptian hieroglyphs are familiar with the ouroboros, the symbol of a snake eating its tail, which has been translated alternatively as “infinity” or “federal/provincial health-care debates.” Now here we are again. The gang is back together, just like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. You don't need a groundhog to predict one of these things. When it comes to health-care arguments, everybody is Bill Murray.

You think elected office is fun? Imagine your typical holiday family get-together, with the awkward silences, random outbursts and everybody avoiding Uncle Doug and Aunt Danielle and tipsy Cousin Moe. Then imagine that's your job.

This one promises to be another doozy, a menu of grievances interrupted by sandwiches and coffee. There's plenty of animosity in the air. Twitter recently featured a trending hashtag, #TrudeauIsTheNewHitler — things could get awkward if someone checks Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's recent browser history. And just wait until former rock musician David Eby starts smashing up his hotel room.

Much of the media coverage at such events tends to involve reporters endlessly asking premiers, “Who are you wearing?” and then speculating on who will be named People magazine's Sexiest Premier. And if Eby and Nova Scotia's Tim Houston are wearing the same suit, watch the claws come out.

But make no mistake, health-care funding is important. It can keep Grandma alive. But what if Grandma has been listening to Pierre Poilievre and spending all her medicine money on bitcoin?

This is essentially Trudeau's complaint. The provinces want Ottawa to cover 35 per cent of health-care costs, an increase from the current 22 per cent. But how does he know federal funds designated for health care will not be redirected to provincial premiers' pet projects?

Take Smith for instance. There is no telling what brand of horse dewormer she might blow a packet on. It recently re-emerged that Smith once raised money for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, an organization that has battled against COVID restrictions and raised money to back the truck convoy.

So what if Smith decides the best use of federal health-care subsidies is to build a new factory making “F*CK TRUDEAU” flags? She could easily justify it as health-related by reminding Albertans that Justin Trudeau is a poison that must be expunged from the body politic. (Such odd arguments have a long and illustrious political history. Dr. Steve recalls a 1997 U.S. congressional debate in which Republican Dick Armey, his voice full of emotion, argued for funding that was essential “to protect the lives and safety of American children for years to come.” The funding in question was for the B2 stealth bomber.)

Ontario may have its own medical skeletons in the closet. A newly uncovered controversy over Ontario Greenbelt development deals apparently involves a side deal over the use of land for a hospital.

Dr. Steve confesses he is unclear on the details here, but he will just go ahead and speculate that the Ford government might use increased federal health-care funding to build a new Rob Ford Roadside Memorial Bowl-A-Rama and Casino. And by the way, Dr. Steve will go on record here as supporting the use of Ontario health-care funds to rebuild Honest Ed's Bargain House. That would be a shot in the arm for everybody.

Then there are the interprovincial rivalries at play. Dr. Steve will make extra popcorn if the B.C. delegation shows up with Dr. Deena Hinshaw in tow. Hinshaw, formerly the Dr. Bonnie Henry of Alberta, was fired by Smith and recently hired by Adrian Dix. Showing up at the party with someone's ex — power move.

Of course the wild card here is Trudeau himself. One never knows what will happen. Everything could be put on the back burner until after the invasion of Poland.

But never fear — Danielle Smith will fight him on the beaches, on the landing grounds, on the hills. She will never surrender. There's a GoFundMe to buy some Spitfires, please give what you can.  [Tyee]

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