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29 April 2004


(Ottawa) Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Health and Intergovernmental Affairs, found himself backpedaling furiously this week at a hastily convened news conference in front of the House of Commons.

The Minister was reeled in by the Prime Ministers Office before he could reveal more of Paul Martins hidden plans for health care. Pettigrew was forced to call a quick news conference to clarify his remarks.

Why? Because the vision Pettigrew set out is the exact opposite of what Canadians want, exposing the Martin governments real agenda for health care: more privatization, more for-profit delivery (with taxpayers guaranteeing corporate profits) and lax enforcement of national standards in the name of federal-provincial cooperation.

We believe the Canada Health Act bars for-profit delivery of health care services and if it doesnt, it should. What we need now is for the federal government to vigorously enforce the Act, ensuring that not a penny of federal health care dollars are diverted to corporate profits.

We may owe Mr. Pettigrew our thanks for speaking so frankly and for alerting Canadians so clearly to the real dangers facing public health care today. Hell forgive us if we find his clarification less credible than his initial statements.

Weve had enough spin from the Martin government. If they are serious about their support for public health care theyll prohibit privatization and pay their fair share of health care costs.


Lets take advantage of this rare outburst of candor.

  1. Call your local phone-in show and express your outrage at Pettigrews comments. After all, this mans job is to protect and defend Canadas public health care system, not to hand it over to the private sector.
  2. Write a letter to the editor warning people about the real Liberal agenda for health care. Quote the Minister freely (see below).
  3. And give your nearest Liberal MP a call, too, and tell him or her that Pettigrew has just cost them your vote (even if they never had it)!

What Pettigrew said April 23rd

The definition of medically necessary is something that Im ready to sit down … and discuss with (the provinces) … I am ready to revisit the medically necessary thing because it is different than what it was, Pettigrew told reporters during a meeting Friday.

My view is that the existing enforcement mechanisms just dont work really. Theres been incoherence in our enforcement of the Canada Health Act. Incoherence is a polite word. Its arbitrary.

My view is that its time that we sit down with the provinces and develop mechanism with criteria, with principles, with a buy-in by them.

What Pettigrew said April 27th

Public administration is the principle, not public ownership. Theres a difference between public ownership and public administration.

If some provinces want to experiment with the private delivery option, my view is that as long as they respect the single-payer, public payer, we should be examining these efforts. And then compare notes between provinces whether … it doesnt work. If it doesn’t work, they’ll stop it. But if it works, we’ll all learn something.

Im saying that the Canada Health Act does not preclude delivery of services by private elements as long as there is a single public payer, Pettigrew told the Commons health committee yesterday.

Im saying that some private delivery options, as long as the single payer, the public payer, is there, that’s what is in the act.

You can go on with your slogans and say its wrong and its bad, fine, but Im telling you that we will work with the provinces and clarify these things.

What Pettigrew said April 28th

Unfortunately, I now realize that I have left the impression that I favour increased private delivery within the public health system. That was in no way my intent, nor is that the intent of the government of Canada.

To put this as clearly as I can, the ambition of the federal government is not to enter private delivery - even within the terms of the Canada Health Act. Quite the contrary.

Our ambition, he said, is to expand public delivery, because, as Roy Romanow said it very well, public delivery provides Canadians with the best system possible.

We will be working with provinces collaboratively on a single tier, publicly administered, and publicly delivered health care system that is there for Canadians when they need it, he said.

For more information on protecting public health care, visit www.cupe.ca