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Support for health care picket lines strong in community-led protest.

Community activists in Duncan and Chemainus signaled their anger with the policies of the Campbell government on May 30, setting up picket lines at more than 16 worksites - including hospitals and long-term care facilities - in the two Vancouver Island towns as part of a community-wide “day of defiance” protest in the riding of labour minister Graham Bruce.

“The provincial government is bent on a course that will guarantee poverty and ruin for all working people,” says Duncan community coalition spokesperson Eden Haythornethwaite. “We cannot lie down and let the Liberals turn back the clock and demolish the advances working people have sacrificed so much to win.

“We must defy this government and their American corporate sponsors.”

In a move that was a resounding success and could be a catalyst for action in other communities hurt by Gordon Campbell’s reckless agenda, picket lines went up around Cowichan and District Hospital first thing in the morning. It was strongly supported by both HEU and BCNU members.

That kicked off a wave of protest activity as lines were set up at 15 more work sites including high schools, ICBC and B.C. Hydro offices, government buildings, along with other health care facilities. At the Chemainus High School, not one student crossed the picket line. Mid-day as the lines came down, the protesters rallied outside the office of MLA Bruce, who, 60 kms down the road in Victoria, was leading government efforts to ram through three pieces of legislation attacking working people.

HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt saluted the activists who organized the protest. “While our union was not involved in planning these activities, we extend our full support to the very courageous and well-organized actions by the community coalition.

“Gordon Campbell’s right-wing agenda puts at risk Duncan and dozens of communities across the province,” Allnutt says. “And what we’ve seen today shows just how angry communities are about cuts to health care, education, and public services.

“Clearly, today’s events could unleash a strong and vocal protest force to counter a government that lies, tears up contracts, and runs roughshod over the basic needs of British Columbians.” Essential service levels to protect patients were put in place at the four health care facilities affected by the protest.