On March 31st, over 50 Princeton and Area residents attended the Rally in Support of Public Health Care. Organized by the Princeton local of the Hospital Employees Union and SOHC, the event marked the one year anniversary of the demise of the Canada Health Accord.
Speeches were given by Ed Staples, SOHC President; Sharon Zieske, HEU representative; Kim Maynard, Princeton Town Councillor; and Lynn Wells, SOHC Executive Director. Statements were also read from our federal MP, Alex Atamanenko and our provincial MLA, Jackie Tegart. Following the scheduled speeches, the microphone was opened to the public and several people came forward to express their concerns about the dismantling of Canada’s Medicare system.
The following is an excerpt from the speech given by Ed Staples:
“To me, there is nothing more important than my health. And I believe that a properly funded public health care system is the best way to provide me with the health care I need, especially as I continue into my old age. It’s certainly not perfect and there’s lots that can be done to improve it, but I believe it’s the fairest way to provide healthcare to all Canadians, regardless of who they are, where they live, or how much money they make.”
To read the full speech, click on “Read More”
Good morning and welcome to the second annual rally in support of Canadian Public Health Care. My name is Ed Staples and I’m the President of the Support Our Health Care Society of Princeton. This event is one of 33 rallies being held across the province, organized by the BC Hospital Employees Union, the Council of Canadians, and grassroots organizations like Support Our Health Care. There are also rallies being held today across the entire country, many organized by Canadian Doctors for Medicare.
. . .
Public health care in Canada is at a crossroads.
One year ago today, Princeton residents gathered in this same spot to voice their concern over the loss of the Canada Health Accord, an agreement between the provinces and the federal government to improve public health care through a program of innovation and adequate funding. So where do we stand today, one year later?
There has been no effort made by either the feds or the provinces to renegotiate a new accord. Instead, we hear news from the federal government of their plans to cut $36 billion dollars from federal transfer payments over the next 10 years. In BC, this will amount to a reduction of $5 billion. We’re also hearing that the federal government feels that because healthcare falls under provincial jurisdiction that they have no responsibility for providing oversight or funding. In short, they want to get out of the health care business. So what about the Canada Health Act? This piece of federal legislation clearly outlines federal responsibility for making sure the provinces play by the rules. If they do, they get their share of federal transfer payments. If they don’t they will have these payments reduced and possibly have fines levied against them. Which in fact, is what is happening in BC.
You may have heard of Dr. Brian Day’s legal challenge to the rules. Over the past several years, Dr. Day and his colleagues at the Cambie Clinic in Vancouver have been extra-billing and in some cases double billing patients for services covered by the BC Medical Services Plan. In a provincial audit of the Cambie Clinic in 2011, the BC government discovered almost $500,000 of illegal billing in a single month. And this has been going in for at least six years. You do the math.
This is in clear violation of the law. But Dr. Day has stalled any punitive legal action by challenging the system under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He believes that he and every other doctor in the country should have the right to provide his services to people who are able to pay more. On the surface this might sound ok, but to understand the problem with this approach, I’d like to share with you an explanation by Monika Dutt from Canadian Doctors for Medicare. She says:
“To understand Dr. Day’s proposal, imagine a highway with three lanes going in one direction, all with moderately heavy traffic. His solution to improving congestion is to make one of the lanes a priority lane, which people can access for a fee. But the fee is high, so not many people leave the other two lanes. As a result, the highway becomes speedy for the few in the private lane, while congestion gets worse in the other two.”
To me, there is nothing more important than my health. And I believe that a properly funded public health care system is the best way to provide me with the health care I need, especially as I continue into my old age. It’s certainly not perfect and there’s lots that can be done to improve it, but I believe it’s the fairest way to provide healthcare to all Canadians, regardless of who they are, where they live, or how much money they make.
Today, Canadians across this country are again rallying their support for public health care. Many of you here today are the same people who were here a year ago. And you are probably wondering, “What’s the point? We voiced our concerns last year and where did it get us?”
The point is that this year is a federal election year. As a member of the BC Health Coalition, SOHC is involved in a province-wide campaign to encourage people to Vote for Health. We’re non-partisan (and as you can see today I’m wearing the colours of all four federal parties) and we’re asking all voters to make a pledge to vote for the candidate or political party that they feel provides the best guarantee for a fully-funded and improved public health care system for all Canadians. Before you go, please make the pledge by signing the pledge sheet at the table at the back. As the federal campaign heats up, the BC Health Coalition will be monitoring the health care platforms of each of the parties and providing you with information that we hope will help you decide how to vote.