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Canada’s largest union is calling on the provinces and territories to stand up to the Harper Conservative government, and work with front line workers to defend and strengthen Canada’s public health care system.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing over 615,000 workers across the country, is condemning federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s recent edict on future health care funding transfers.

The Minister’s ‘take it or leave it’ ultimatum to his provincial and territorial counterparts betrays Canada’s public health care system in favour of reckless corporate tax cuts,” says Paul Moist, national president of CUPE. “These heavy handed tactics are squandering an opportunity to address important health care issues, and endangering the future of our public health care system.”

CUPE is advocating for a halt to the reckless corporate tax cuts that are drastically reducing federal revenues and threatening vital social spending – such as health care transfers.

Federal spending, as a percentage of our GDP, is at a 40 year low. No matter how often Mr. Flaherty repeats his mantra ‘health care spending is out of control’, it doesn’t make it true,” said Moist. “This really is a matter of choice: do we want to continue with ineffective corporate tax cuts, that are not producing the promised economic growth or new jobs, or do we want to make much needed investments in our public health care system.”

CUPE, which represents over 190,000 health care workers, wants front-line workers to be an integral part of finding ways to strengthen public health care.

Hospitals are overcrowded - leading to infection outbreaks and medical errors. We have inadequate continuing care options, with unsafe care for seniors. Rural communities already face long drives and long waits for care,” said Moist. “The services front line health care workers deliver are already stretched too thin, and Mr. Flaherty’s ultimatum approach will only make it worse.”

CUPE is supporting calls from some of the provinces and territories for the Harper Conservative government to retract its unilateral health care edict and to begin negotiations on renewing the Health Accords.

Strengthening our public health care system is the number one priority of Canadians, and it should be for our governments as well,” said Moist. “Ideological dictates have no place in this discussion, and will only hinder the work that must be done. Our public health care system is sustainable, but we must work together and make the right choices about the priorities for our country.”