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On the eve of a First Ministers meeting where the demands for more federal health funding will top the agenda, the B.C. Health Coalition says that the B.C. government is diverting more than $500 million in restored federal health care funding to pay for Premier Campbells reckless tax cuts.

According to government documents obtained by the coalition, Victoria estimates it will receive an additional $106 million for health care from Ottawa in 2002/03, a further $93 million boost in 2003/04 and $78 million in 2004/05. Its a cumulative total of $518 million in restored funding over the two-year period.

Most of the increase, says coalition spokesperson Colleen Fuller, comes from the much vaunted September 2000 federal-provincial agreement in which the Chretien government agreed to a $21 billion dollar boost in Ottawas share of health care funding over a five-year period.

But Premier Campbell has frozen health funding for three years a defacto cut of up to $2 billion – which means that the much needed additional cash from Ottawa wont be spent on health care, says Fuller. Instead, the Premier has essentially direct deposited the money in the bank accounts of corporations and the wealthy who are the main beneficiaries of his tax cuts.

That additional funding would have helped lessen the significant health care service cuts that will be made in the coming months because of the funding freeze. Health services minister Colin Hansen says more federal funding for health is the number one priority of the provincial premiers this week, says Fuller.

But in the face of threatened hospital closures, massive health care job cuts and a gutted Pharmacare plan, Prime Minister Chretien and his finance minister have a convenient rationale for walking away from their responsibilities for funding health care.

Plain and simple, diverting increased federal health funding to tax cuts while cutting health care is a politically backward move that undermines efforts to force Ottawa to pay its fair health care funding share.

For more information, contact Joyce Jones, 604-987-0168

or Colleen Fuller, 604-255-6601.

The British Columbia Health Coalition represents seniors, womens groups,

anti-poverty organizations, HIV/AIDS and disability advocacy groups, unions and front-line

health care providers in the fight to defend and strengthen public health care.