Protesters call on Ottawa to reverse cuts to health care funding

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 29, 2014

Chanting "health care, not welfare'', close to 100 people gathered for a spirited, peaceful protest in Charlottetown.

The group, representing health coalitions, unions and social advocates among others, marched through the streets of the capital city. A large puppet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the main recipient of the protesters' wrath, was also held high to flutter in the wind outside the P.E.I. Convention Centre where premiers were discussing the future of their provinces.

A handful of speakers took turns stepping up on a large rock that served as a podium to sing the praises of medicare while denouncing the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.

Provincial and territorial leaders were urged to take a leadership role in getting the federal government back to the table to encourage Ottawa to ensure equal access to essential health-care services across the country.

The Canadian Health Coalition fears cutbacks announced by the Harper government could amount to $36 billion over a 10-year period from 2017 to 2027.

In a short speech, the coalition's national co-ordinator Mike McBane focused his attention on raising alarm over what he views as a crisis in seniors' care. He says seniors across the country are receiving substandard care, even in the richest province of Alberta.

"That's outrageous,'' says McBane.

"What's the federal plan to deal with seniors? Cut health care funding. That's unacceptable. We have to make that a political liability. If the current federal government doesn't change course, it's time to change the federal government.''

Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, urged the federal government to adopt a national pharmacare plan.

Canada is one of the few developed countries in the world without a universal pharmacare program, and is the only country in the world with a universal medicare system that excludes prescription drugs.

Each year, 10 per cent of Canadians cannot fill a prescription due to financial reasons.

Mary Boyd, chair of the P.E.I. Health Coalition, continued her urgent call for the protection and preservation of medicare.

She says P.E.I. has already undergone much centralization in health care to the detriment of rural areas.

"We can't let medicare go,'' she says.

"We can't afford to see it decline.''