This week Albertans were told that government MLAs and similarly connected folks used their power to help family and friends jump to the head of the line to receive faster medical treatment.
To state the obvious, this is wrong. Canadians crafted a public health care system because we believe that everyone, rich or poor, deserves to be treated equally when it comes to access to medical treatment. In a system free of corruption (in the broadest sense of the term), patients with the most serious and time-sensitive ailments or injuries will be seen first, in order that they might be saved. The primary goal should always be to reduce the greatest amount of human suffering.
Queue-jumping makes achievement of the ideal impossible, and turns those of us without connections to the ruling elite into second-class citizens. Any MLA who helps a friend, colleague or even a family member leap to the head of the line should be ashamed.
Some might argue that politicians can't be blamed if they help a loved one get special treatment. Politicians are human, after all, and as vulnerable to temptation as the rest of us.
But politicians are supposed to represent the very best human qualities. These are the men and women we entrust to defend the public good. These are the people we expect to uphold universal human values such as fairness, the key to the success of a public health system. If the guardians of these values cannot in fact defend them under personally difficult circumstances, then we must ask if they deserve to remain in office. The privileges of office are great, and should be tempered with equally great sacrifices. One has to wonder: how many Albertans have suffered longer than they might have, or even died, because someone jumped the queue? How can these MLAs live with themselves?
If it's too much to ask that our elected public servants resist the temptations of power, then we must refurbish provincial legislation and enforcement to be ensure that such temptations cannot be indulged. Doctors and hospital administrators should have the power to refuse and report any attempts to foster queue-jumping, even if they come from the Premier herself (or himself).
Canada is supposed to be an egalitarian society, a place where anyone will receive medical treatment according to his or her need, not his or her ability to pay or wield influence. This latest scandal tarnishes Alberta's reputation, and more importantly, it's harmed real people - people who didn't have the good fortune to have the right political connections. That's not democracy and that's not Canadian.