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Quebec City, Tuesday, May 8, 2001 - The Quebec government has revealed its intention to amend the Health and Social Services Act as of this spring. (…) Thus, in the future, it wishes to be able to appoint, by itself, the directors of regional boards as well as their chairmen, and close to half of the directors of establishments, according to the preamble of a petition that was issued today to the members of the National Assembly by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-QFL).

An Unacceptable Deficit in Democracy

The representatives of the workers, those very people who alert the public and the media of any misuse of the system, would be completely left out of all discussions where closed sessions would become the rule. This is an unacceptable deficit in democracy.

Bernard Landry declared that once we reach zero deficit, we will be much closer to the principles of a social democracy. If this closeness means muzzling the public and the representatives of the workers by drying up an essential source of information on the use of a large part of the public funds, we must condemn it, declared Claude Gnreux, President of CUPE-Quebec.

A Return to Lobbying?

Is it not ironic to note that the opening up of the boards of directors to workers and to the public was done under a Liberal government, a government that the Finance Minister of the next PQ administration, Bernard Landry, had chastised for not having brought to a successful conclusion the equivalent of the right-wing Thatcher Reforms in Quebec.

By ensuring that there will be no more guard dogs on the boards of directors of public establishments, this government is planning to set us back several decades. In so doing, every government will want to name its own directors as quickly as possible. With the pressures from the private sector on the system, one can imagine the lobbyist frenzy when faced with such a secret and closed culture, added Mr. Gnreux.

The Opening Up of the Boards of Directors has Produced Concrete Results

Whether it be at the Anna Laberge Hospital in Cht0065auguay or at the Lucille Teasdale Centre in Montreal, the active presence of representatives of the workers on the boards has made the boards accountable, where they used to manage large chunks of the public funds without any reporting whatsoever.

By having access to the real decision-makers and the real figures with regard to an establishments finances, we can be part of the solution to a problem, we can alert public opinion, we can organize pressure for adequate funding. We have succeeded in settling several problems, in avoiding bed closures in rehabilitation, in mobilizing the beneficiaries, their families, and the population to improve resources in our Centre, affirmed Louise Ferland, President of Local 2884 at the Lucille Teasdale Centre.

Governmental Double Talk

It is rather troubling that, barely two weeks after having called for more openness in the negotiations surrounding the FTAA at the Summit of the Americas, this same government is preparing to cloak in secrecy the practical administration of a very important government budget, namely that of Health and Social Services.

It is clear that through this announced scheme, the government intends to appoint its yes-men, who will not challenge the regional and local application of the famous ministerial orientations and who will certainly not bite the hands of those who have placed them in their positions.

But over and above the Landry way of governing the Regional Boards and the establishments in the health network, we must be concerned about this deviation from democracy, this culture of secrecy that runs the risk of spreading to every area of decision-making in public administration, if we let it happen in health, concluded Claude Gnreux.

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SOURCE: CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES (QFL)

Information: Louis Cauchy, cell. phone 514-235-3996

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