“There’s a wind blowing across this country that says, ‘we’re here to stand up and celebrate National Public Medicare in Canada’”, CUPE National President Judy Darcy told a windswept crowd rallying outside Health Minister Anne McLellan’s Ottawa office on May 15.
“It’s time for the federal government to start putting funding back into the health care system and it’s time for the federal government to say to every right-wing politician across this country – what you’re doing to our health care system violates the Canada Health Act and if it’s not illegal, we’re going to make it illegal. Hands off public Medicare. Our health care system is NOT for sale.”
On May 15, thousands – braving the cold and rain, wind and snow – echoed this sentiment. From coast to coast supporters of Medicare wrapped legislatures, health clinics, federal buildings, trees, streetlights, and downtown cores in brilliant red ribbon saying, “Yes National Public Medicare.” Lawns and window signs lined neighbourhood streets. People stopped on the sidewalk to sign postcards. Seniors reminded crowds of the years when Medicare did not exist.
CUPE members were out in force across the country. In British Columbia, members gathered in Nanaimo, Kamloops, Alberni, Vancouver and Victoria to protest against government – federal and provincial – cutbacks to health care.
In Alberta, members rallied with other health care workers at the Health Resource Centre in Calgary. “We are here today to say we don’t want our health care privatized. Not now, not ever, no way!” said James Arthurs, president of CUPE Local l182, which represents about 1,800 health workers in Calgary.
In Saskatchewan, during a frigid noon-time rally, Premier Lorne Calvert joined the crowd at the Legislature lending his government’s support to the Medicare campaign saying, “It will be about this cold in Hades before this government supports private or for-profit hospitals in this province.” Meanwhile, Manitoba members signed hundreds of postcards, addressed to Jean Chrt0069en, with the message that Canadians want a publicly funded and publicly delivered system of health care.
In Ontario, over 55 communities stood up to say they support increased federal funding for health care and repeated the call to stop the spread of privatization. Across the province door-to-door canvassers received an overwhelmingly positive response. Quebec members added their voices to the call for an improved system of health care at a noontime rally in Montreal.
In Nova Scotia, members tied a big red bow around the Legislature and mobilized in smaller communities throughout the province. Despite the chilly rainfall in Fredericton, CUPE members joined the local health coalition at the Legislature. In Baie Verte, CUPE members welcomed Newfoundland and Labrador CUPE president Wayne Lucas, as part of a province-wide Medicare tour.
On May 28, Judy Darcy will present CUPE’s action plan for health care reform to the Romanow Commission in Ottawa. The networks that were strengthened on May 15 will be important in the coming months as we build pressure on Romanow and on the government to adopt that plan and keep health care public.