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Canadians have long prized their publicly funded health-care system. And they should. Medicare is one of Canada's great advantages. But medicare is in trouble, facing an aging population, expensive procedures, uncertain government funding and unacceptable waiting times for key procedures.

The political debate around these issues has become ossified - a radical few want to allow those who can afford it to pay their way to the front of the line; more troublingly, a passive many defend the status quo at all costs, throwing out the epithet "two-tier health-care" at the first sign of experimentation.

Between these poles is a whole spectrum of opportunities that all provincial governments should embrace: specialized private clinics, which do hip replacements or cataract surgery faster or better than those done in hospitals; public-private partnerships, which expand the pool of players contributing to the system; electronic records, supporting more efficient and evidence-based medicine; palliative-care units, allowing people to die with dignity.

Canadians need sustainable health care, and to bring down costs in the $192-billion health-care system, but they also need a system that is more responsive to their health needs. It's time for a new age of innovation in health care, one that puts results before ideology.