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Ottawa Was the Romanow commission set up to strengthen public health care or to end it? Thats the question being asked by Judy Darcy, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), after Roy Romanow appeared to open the door to increased privatization of Medicare.

When the commission was announced its mandate was to look at ways to renew and improve health care, but now it appears it may be a Trojan horse, said Darcy. Health Minister Allan Rock and commissioner Romanow both promised the review would work within the framework of the Canada Health Act but theyre courting the support of premiers like Mike Harris who are trying to privatize health care against Canadians wishes.

CUPE maintains that if the Romanow Commission is to be successful it must respect its mandate. Mr. Romanow knows better than to muse publicly about the privatization of medical services, said Darcy. He may be trying to curry favour among some premiers but hes raising alarm bells among Canadians from coast to coast.

CUPE will be convening a meeting of health care activists on May 3 to discuss strategies to respond to the Romanow Commission. Commissioner Romanow must remember his promise to listen to all Canadians in his deliberations about the future of Canadas public health care system. Health care is the number one issue for Canadians and Medicare is Canadas most important and loved social program, added Darcy.

Romanow cant allow himself to be captured by premiers who have a clear pro-privatization bias, said Darcy. Premier Harris has demonstrated hes no friend of public health care. He has sucked the lifeblood out of public home care in Ontario and hes now allowing cancer care to be privatized. Both initiatives will prove to be disasters for public health care, said Darcy.

The provinces have already been accorded an unfair advantage because Mr. Romanow has asked each province to appoint a liaison to the commission. It makes you wonder if all the debate is going to happen behind closed doors. This is not what democracy looks like, and it does not bode well for the commission to be seen as so blatantly biased so early in the process, concluded Darcy.

CUPE is Canadas largest union, representing one half million workers across the country.



Pam Beattie (613) 761-8796
Catherine Louli (613) 237-1590 ext. 268