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CUPE took its ‘Save Medicare’ message directly to the First Ministers meeting in Quebec City last week, as National President Judy Darcy and CUPE Alberta president Terry Mutton joined Shirley Douglas from the Canadian Health Coalition in a breakfast meeting with the premiers.

CUPE members are the front line workers of our health care system,” said Darcy. “We have witnessed chaos, destruction and increasing privatization as health care facilities and services cope with years of funding cuts. The time for all governments to act is now.”

“To Health Minister Rock and Finance Minister Martin we say ‘show me the money’. Health care in Canada has been starved and promising short term, quick fixes won’t cut it. We need to see a dramatic and permanent increase in health transfers – starting in this year’s budget,” said Darcy.

“To the provinces, we say ‘for-profit care won’t cure our health care woes.’ The evidence is clear that private health care will only increase cost and inefficiency, lengthen waiting lists and threaten our health,” she added.

Not all the premiers were receptive to the message. Premier Ralph Klein in particular was hostile, skipping most of the presentation to the premiers and then angrily attacking CUPE for its campaign to stop private hospitals in Alberta.

The first of CUPE’s Save Medicare ambulances made an appearance at the premiers meeting. Emblazoned with slogans and credit cards, the ambulances will be officially launched on February 14 from St. John’s, Vancouver Island and St. Catharines, Ontario in a cross-country trek to Alberta – the “scene of the emergency.”