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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2002

Edmonton - As the government of Alberta prepared to release its blueprint for health care privatization, Canadians are demanding to be heard in the debate on the future of Medicare.

The Alberta government has deliberately orchestrated this release to head-off public participation in a national debate on the reform of our health care system,” said Dave Barrett, chair of the Tommy Douglas Research Institute.

The Tommy Douglas Research Institute joined the Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing half a million public sector workers, and the Council of Canadians, representing over 100,000 members, in speaking out against the options for new health care user fees and privatization presented in the Mazankowski report.

“Today the Council of Canadians is putting Rock, Chretien and the Premiers on notice - we will not stand on the sidelines while they play political football with our healthcare system,” said Anil Naidoo, Healthcare Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “Canada spends about half as much on healthcare per capita than the predominately private U.S. system where 15 % of the population have no coverage. Our system is not only more just, it’s cheaper and more efficient,” said Naidoo.

Barrett released data comparing the health care financial burden in Canada and the United States. In the U.S. more than 40 million people are without coverage and the personal bankruptcy rate is double that of Canada. “There is a small proportion of very wealthy Canadians and Americans that can afford to purchase the world’s most expensive health care system. For the rest of us - we’re better off sticking together - working together, building a health care system that is designed to be affordable, to be modern and efficient and to make health care a right not a privilege,” said Barrett.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees will do everything that it can to ensure that all Canadians can take part in the Medicare debate,” said CUPE Alberta president Yvonne Fast. “Before any rash move is taken that will mortally wound our Medicare system, we need a thorough public discussion and debate. Not a debate that takes place behind closed doors. Not another federal-provincial funding war. But a real debate that is built on ideas for preserving the best of our current system and reforming it to meet the needs of tomorrow,” she said.

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For further information:
Pam Beattie, CUPE Communications (780) 288-1230 (cellular) www.cupe.ca
Tim Woods, Tommy Douglas Research Institute (613) 730-7770 www.tommydouglas.ca
Jennifer Story, Council of Canadians (613) 795-8685 (cellular) www.canadians.org

PB/lmac
opeiu #491