For Canadians, health care is the number one priority in this election, yet it's hardly being discussed -- even less is the question of how will the newly elected federal government carry out its promises? For health care is a provincial responsibility.
Our provinces are a fractious lot. They're like squabbling children arguing over who has the biggest piece of chocolate cake. So it has always been, way back to the days of Confederation. Back then, the British and French peoples in the UK and France hated each other so much that they seemed to be in a perpetual state of war. But over here, our Founding Fathers, who rose up from these people, buried the old animosities under a new way of discussion and co-operation, of coaxing each other into finding the common amongst the dissimilarities. And they forged a country that united English and French, First Peoples and immigrants, traditionalists and innovators.
It is said that we need to remember history so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past. But we have forgotten our greatest achievement that few (any?) countries have attained and in so doing forgotten what created us and made us strong and free. Confederation isn't just some musty concept but an ideal that is needed today as much as in 1867 if we want to reform health care for the benefit of all Canadians.
But which leader has the chops for it?
The Green Party's Elizabeth May cannot in this election, for her party is still so new that her goal is to win a seat. However, she can be a voice of reason in Parliament, a voice to support a leader who understands Confederation. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's style is to control with the Soviet fist of iron or alteratively to divide and conquer. That's just what Canada needs: more provincial division, more provincial bickering over who is more favoured, over who has the bigger piece of cake -- the antithesis of Confederation. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff attained his leadership position through forced acclamation. If he cannot understand or tolerate democracy in a leadership race favourable to him, how will he be able to handle the provinces? NDP Leader Jack Layton is the only one in Parliament who has shown a willingness to work with (not cave to) a variety of leaders to move legislation forward and to keep Canada's governments working for as long as possible.
Only Jack Layton understands Confederation, understands how to bring a disparate people together to work towards the common good.
Plus Layton has a sense of humour he's willing to show off in public.
This ability, this combination of humour and good talk, will not only stand Canadians in good stead with health care, but also with a host of other federal-provincial issues that affect our daily lives. I've worked in the provincial government. I've seen how deep the distrust towards the federal government goes. I cannot imagine a Harper-style my-way-or-the-highway approach will work on such a jealously-guarded provincial issue as health care. But a man who listens and responds, who knows how to lead and coax even the most obstreperous fool into a path that serves all, will overcome that mistrust. And that's what Canada needs.
We need the return of the Confederation spirit.