Recently announced plans by the Redford Tories to tour the province this summer in an effort to gather public input into the future of the health-care system have the potential to be a very worthwhile undertaking.
With the 2012 provincial election now in the books, the majority Conservative government doesn't need to ‘show the colours' in any election-style publicity tour – the time for such public relations demonstrations are past, at least until the run-up to the next election in four years' time.
With that in mind, this summer health consultation tour could provide ordinary residents, health-care workers and other stakeholders across the province with a good opportunity to have their say about what is wanted and needed in the health system over the coming months and years.
Judging from her public pronouncements about the tour's agenda and purpose, Premier Redford seems to be planning to make the tour something more than just another political exercise.
“It's time to change the conversation from what the health system needs, to what people need, and Albertans tell us they need access,” said Premier Redford. “We need to ensure that all Albertans have a home in the health-care system where people know them and their health needs, can help them manage their health, and can help them get more specialized care if it's needed.”
She says her MLAs will be talking and listening to local health-care providers and other stakeholders at the community level, and that those same MLAs will “explore how every Albertan might have access to a health-care team tailored to local health needs and resources.”
While such plans sound good at first blush, West Central Alberta residents in particular may be excused for wondering if they will be getting a fair hearing from the Redford Tories during this health consultation process.
That is, having voted in Wildrose Opposition MLAs across the board in the recent election, can residents here really expect Tory MLAs to embrace and welcome input given by voters who turned their backs on them in such large numbers only a few short months ago?
Hopefully, for everyone's sake, the touring MLAs will be able to put aside any lingering political animosity and give a fair hearing to suggestions and other input coming from area residents.
If, on the other hand, the Tory MLAs decide that they would rather listen exclusively to the voters who put them in office rather than those who voted Wildrose this past spring, then this summer's health consultation tour won't be worth much to West Central Alberta communities.