Friday, November 19, 2010

AMA President's Letter Supports Raj Sherman

One of the dilemmas facing Raj Sherman is the different oaths he has taken.  One as a Doctor and the other as a Member of the Alberta Legislature.  Then there is the culture of political party discipline where Caucus and Cabinet Members are sworn to secrecy about their deliberations.

For Raj all of these duties as a doctor, parliamentarian, caucus and cabinet member  must have started to contradict each other.  There are certain values we can trade off.  We do values trade-off all the time and it is never easy.  The behaviours we choose indicate our character.  The way we make those choices indicate our integrity as people.

This week Raj Sherman showed great character and integrity by defaulting to his professional oath as a doctor over the political "duty" as a political partisan.  He also fulfilled his duty as a public servant in elected office to speak honestly, openly and transparently about what he saw not happening in the Stelmach government handling of the health care concerns of Albertans.  He called out his government's accountability because  he saw it lacking on serving the public interest in its duty to citizens on providing health care.

Raj is obviously taking this lack of integrity, limited honesty and indifference to accountability and transparency by his own government very personally.  You can see that by the tone and content of the email he sent to his medical colleagues and then forwarded to his political colleagues.  Here is a link to the unedited text of his message.  You can judge for yourself the level of Raj's frustration from this email.

For this he was no doubt scolded, intimidated and quite possibly threatened with censure or even expulsion from the PC government caucus.  What in fact seems to have happened is he got a meeting with the Premier and a airing of concerns with fellow caucus members.  He also has enormous support from his professional colleagues as this AMA President's Letter from Dr.PJ White outlines. Check out the November 19th link.

Raj is getting support from other health care professionals, thought leaders and ordinary citizens in Alberta.  This is because he is standing up to the abusive and speaking against the outmoded command and control top-down political culture that prevails in this province.

Where we are at today is the Premier has asked Raj to stay on and help fix the health care problems. It is not about money it is about political attitudes in the PC ranks and the governing culture of the executive branch (Cabinet).  There seems to be a belief amongst those who have power to make the political decisions that all health care professionals lack integrity.  The anti-intellectual attitude stems back to early Klein days that believes professionals and experts lack "common sense" and are only after what is in there own best interests, not the public interest.  No doubt there are some individuals who are inclined that way but it is not the norm.

This week Raj Sherman faced a choice.  He made the right choice.  He could go professional and wear his doctor hat or go political and wear his party hat.  What he did was a creative third way.  He did both.  He publicly spoke out as a doctor on the crisis in health care and put the blame squarely at the feet of the government in which he serves as a member and did a mea culpa in that regard.

In that simple and responsible act he opened up the cracks in the PC caucus solidarity and let in some sunlight.  The typical response is to kick out the trouble maker in some kind of a Lord of the Flies frenzy.  I am sure that was the hope of many in the PC Caucus.  But the Premier intervened and asked for Raj's help instead of bringing him up on the carpet.  As a result Raj lives to fight another day as a PC politician and to use his knowledge and now considerable influence on pressing for the fundamental changes we have known we need in the health care system for years and years.

I have two other observations on this last week of Raj Sherman.  He has done what any opposition member and even government backbencher must be free to do.  That is to keep the government , the Premier and Cabinet to be exact, honest, open, transparent, accountable and able to demonstrate personal and collective integrity in how they govern the province.  That is the theory of our parliamentary Westminster system of governance but it has been lost as the public interest get trumped by personal political aspirations and abuse of power.

My other observation is that Raj Sherman now has all the trump cards in this game of getting better governance of health care. As the only doctor at the cabinet table he has been asked to help "fix" the mess.  If his suggestions are ignored for political reasons or some other abusive of power he can quit the PC Party.  And he should.  He is not likely to get fired now for bringing up problems - and continuing to do so in public.  He has to keep the Premier's feet to the fire.  He should not be so naive to believe that the most recent high level political promises are truly authentic in their intent.  Actions speak louder than words. Raj knows that by his personal example. Lets hope his colleagues in caucus and cabinet are ready to take action...and they start with the total dismantling of the Super Board and the management that runs it.