There’s got to be a morning after.
Yesterday more than 40 communities across Canada marked the end of the 10-year health accord between the provinces and the federal government.
Listening to actress Shirley Douglas speak last night at one of those events in Toronto, its clear many Canadians believe there is much more at stake than a framework agreement that trades health care objectives for cash.
Before the rally began last night, the daughter of Medicare founder Tommy Douglas told the Toronto Star that her father had warned of the slow strangulation of health care, telling her “if you don’t get up and fight for it, you are going to lose it.”
With her 80th birthday just a couple of days away, Douglas vowed to fight on for the next decade if necessary, pausing to add the caveat provided she’s still around.
Yesterday Roy Romanow, former chair of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada called the end of the accord “a blow to nation-building.”
Others argued that the expiry of the accord means a very unequal Canada, former Canadian Medical Association President Jeff Turnbull suggesting that Canadians may migrate between provinces to find better health care to meet their needs.
“As of today, no more planning,” said Michael McBane, executive director of the Canadian Health Coalition told the CBC. “We lose momentum.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was confronted in the Sault by protesters concerned about the quality of health care, including home care. Wynne told them that “we’re on the same side.”
Despite intense media coverage, no spokesperson from the federal government would remark on the expiry of the accord. In Oshawa Tory MP Colin Carrie was unavailable to the media after the Durham Coalition held a demonstration outside his office.
At the Toronto rally, Douglas had ushers hand the 600 people present a yellow sheet with the contact information of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Premier Wynne, Federal and Ontario Health Ministers Rona Ambrose and Deb Matthews. She urged the gathering to call or send messages demanding they engage in federal-provincial cooperation in health care, renegotiate a new health accord that provides stable funding and sets national standards, work to uphold the Canada Health Act and support and defend public, universal health care.
Actress Fiona Reid also asked the audience to sign postcards issued by the Ontario Health Coalition and vote on whether or not they wanted existing hospital services contracted out to private clinics.
Singer Tabby Johnson brought the crowd to its feet with a rendition of “Let’s Work Together,” raising the point that we cannot stop now.
There is no question that the Harper government has been absent on the health file for too long. No government is likely to come out and oppose Medicare – not with such overwhelming support for the principle of universal access.
Ontario Health Coalition Director Natalie Mehra has made a point of noting the Federal government’s role in “wiping out” the Health Council of Canada, in cutting veteran’s health care, and restricting coverage for refugees.
The Coalition estimates the new funding arrangement dictated by the federal government will also cut funding by $36 billion over the next decade, about $8 billion of that affecting Ontario. These cuts come at a time when Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has been boasting about an early return to fiscal balance sheets for the federal government.
Don’t leave it up to someone else to save Medicare in Canada. Take up Douglas’ challenge. If an 80-year-old actress can do it, so can you.
Write, e-mail or call your elected officials.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
House of Commons
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0A1
Premier Kathleen Wynne
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Rona Ambrose, MP
Federal Minister of Health
House of Commons
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0A4
Deb Matthews, MPP
Ontario Minister of Health & Long Term Care
10th Floor, 80 Grosvenor St.,
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2C4
Demand that they:
- Engage in federal-provincial cooperation in health care
- Renegotiate a new Health Accord that provides stable funding and sets national standards
- Work to uphold the Canada Health Act
- Support and defend public, universal health care