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CUPE has been on cutting edge in campaign to save medicare. Over the last year we have developed some incredibly effective and innovative campaigns. The national ambulance campaign, our medicare exhibits and the fight against Albertas Bill 11 have all placed CUPE as a leading voice for preserving and expanding public health care in Canada. But, in the battle to protect public health care we are up against some incredibly powerful forces.

The threat today has never been greater. Mike Harris is openly musing about increased privatization of health care. Cancer Care Ontario has contracted for private delivery of cancer treatment in Ontario. Alberta has passed Bill 11. And the Federal Government condemns the future of health care with its silence. Meanwhile, important elements of our public health care system are on the table in international trade negotiations. The Federal Government has put the urgent questions facing Canadas Medicare system on the shelf by creating a Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Roy Romanow heads the Commission and he has also said he is open under the mandate of his Commission to look at private health care delivery.

The Romanow Commissions mandate is to consider and make recommendations on the sustainability of Canadas public health care system. The Commission has two stages. The first is a research and fact-finding stage starting May 1, 2001. An interim report will be issued January 2002 launching the second phase of public consultation based on the report. A final report with recommendations will be issued in November 2002.

We need to start acting now. We need to be visible and speak out publicly before the public consultation phase of the Romanow Commission begins next January. We are proposing to build the biggest common front we have ever had to defend Medicare. It has to go far beyond our current partners involved in the Canadian Health Coalition and provincial health coalitions.

To kick-off the process we are working with the CLC and our coalition partners to plan a summit meeting in September. Organizations and individuals invited to the meeting would include: the CLC and its affiliates, health care coalitions, nurses, doctors, seniors, youth, farmers, churches, students, aboriginal groups, health policy experts, academics, environmentalists, anti-poverty organizations, womens organizations, and other non-governmental organizations. And, the idea is picking up steam. Already a number of groups have agreed with us that a broad common front has to be organized to defend Medicare. We will also propose our five-point plan to save Medicare as a basis of unity for the coalition we are trying to build.

We are also proposing a multi-stage campaign to correspond to the phases of the Romanow Commission. Ideas to increase our visibility include a postcard campaign, building community awareness using our Medicare exhibits and the CUPE ambulance, days of action to stand up for health care and making use of the CUPE website to collect messages and gather support. After January 2002 we will need to step up our efforts and organize a highly visible public movement for public health care.