UPDATE January 18, 2006:
I see the old guard die hard - and the idea of a smoking ban is one of the die hard issues for them. Ty Lund, a Klein Conservative if ever there was one, and I think one of the most under-rated government Ministers of his day, is ticked at Hancock on the smoking ban proposal.
This reaction is going to be framed as a rural urban wedge issue by some political players. It is not that - it is a public health issue that impacts all of us, even if only in our pocketbook as taxpayers. This issue will be a major test of the Stelmach government and governance style to see if it is different and progressive and responsive.
UPDATE January 17, 2006:
I see the Edmonton Journal Editorial Board is applauding this effort by Hancock as a preventative health care initiative.
Who in their right mind would want to be the Minister in charge of heath care anywhere in Canada today? Regular reader of this Blog will know I am a big Dave Hancock fan and worked on his campaign. So for me to support him on this idea politically will not be surprise. I also support the idea as a public policy position - beyond the politics involved.
Hancock’s first foray out of the blocks is to propose and promote the much overdue ban on smoking in public places all over Alberta as provincial policy – not as a local issue. We know second hand smoke kills so it is not just an individual choice issue anymore. It is a limitation on individuals that is needed for the greater public good.
If the Stelmach Caucus supports this initiative it will go along way to breathing life into the prevention and wellness side of heath care in Alberta. That is were the big gains are to be made and that is as much an individual choice and responsibility as it is a public policy concern. This is not social engineering any more than a stop sign at a roadway intersection is interference in how we drive. It is all about the greater common good.
Hancock is big on the prevention and wellness side of the health equation and he is spending some serious political capital to prove it. This issue never got past the former Premier because he did not want to alienate a certain segment of Albertans. That attitude costs lives that could be prevented and tax dollars that could be put to better use.
I think the overarching policy issue is still you are free to do whatever you want so long as it does not hurt me…my health, my family, my community, my environment or my pocket book. Smoking is proven to harmful all of those aspects and so it is not appropriate in public places any more.
Stay the course Dave and don't blink