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Health care advocates - including CUPE - kicked off a campaign to defend and extend Canada’s public health care system this week.

CUPE organized Happy Birthday Tommy events across the country, while the Canadian Health Coalition announced Medicare Works, a cross-country tour to defend and extend medicare.

Organizers in St. John’s and Halifax offered guests a “two-tiered” birthday cake, giving away one layer and offering the other for sale, while comedian Mary Walsh was on hand to endorse the campaign in fine style.

“Public health care is Canadians’ proudest achievement,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist, who, along with 200 CUPE members gathered in Regina’s Victoria Park to commemorate Tommy Douglas’ birthday. “There is no other social program or national initiative that we identify with so passionately.”

Former Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas’ Oct. 20 birth date was an appropriate backdrop for the start of the campaign, Moist said.

“We want to acknowledge his contribution especially as we see it under attack from health services corporations, pharmaceutical companies and even entrepreneurial physicians,” he said.

National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux was in Charlottetown to serve cake at the CUPE PEI Tommy Douglas birthday party. “This is a fight about wages and benefits, and about quality health care.  Quality comes from public sector workers and it’s time the governments of Canada learned that quality has to be paid for”, he said.