Lois Jarvis of Citizens for Quality Health Care speaks to an audience of approximately 60 who turned out for a rally calling for federal leadership on health care at Campbell River Hospital Tuesday

Rally draws support for public health care

Nearly 60 people gather at Campbell River Hospital on first anniversary of expiration of Canada Health Accord

Nearly 60 people took a stand to support Canada’s public health care system and call for a renewed commitment by the federal government in a rally Tuesday afternoon in front of Campbell River Hospital.

The rally was just one in a coordinated series of events held nationwide on the one-year anniversary of the expiration of the Canada Health Accord.

“Our federal government chose not to renegotiate the Health Accord and instead came up with a new funding formula, which will result in a cut of 36 billion health-care dollars in Canada — $5 billion in B.C. alone,” said Lois Jarvis of Citizens for Quality Health Care and Campbell River First Open Heart Society. “We need to send a strong message to Ottawa to renegotiate the Canada Health Accord with no cuts to our health care dollars.”

With a federal election scheduled for this fall, organizers are pushing to make a national health strategy a campaign issue. They got little objection from federal NDP candidate Rachel Blaney and federal Liberal Party candidate Peter Schwarzhoff, both of whom stepped forward to blast Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and call for a renewed commitment to publicly funded health care.

“Today, I have to say, I’ve been thinking about Tommy Douglas, who led this fight,” said Blaney. “He knew that a sick child, a sick loved one, should not be prevented from getting care because of money.

“He believed health care should never be about profit.”

Schwarzhoff provided a brief history of the initial Canada Health Accord, which was negotiated between the then-Liberal government and the provinces and territories in the mid-1990s, in response to a looming federal budget deficit.

“The Health Accord was intended to get us out of those (budget) problems,” said Schwarzhoff. “That accord wasn’t just about the stable funding that was provided for a decade.

“More importantly, it was intended to have a transformative change to our health care. But it hasn’t happened.”

The rally was hosted by a coalition of organizations, including the Candian Health Coalition, B.C. Health Coalition, Council of Canadians, Campbell River Citizens for Quality Health Care, HEU and CUPE.

They handed out informational brochures and forms to send to MPs calling on them to strengthen and expand health care services rather than cut them.

Jarvis noted the Canadian Doctors for Medicare marked the one-year anniversary of the Accord’s expiration by gathering more than 8,000 signatures on a petition calling for federal leadership on health care. The rally had representation from Campbell River’s city council and from North Island MLA Claire Trevena, whose remarks were read by her constituency assistant Lynne Stone.

Trevena said it was good to know Canadians across the country were coming out to defend health care, and also took a stab at the B.C. Liberal government’s handling of MSP premiums.

“If it wasn’t bad enough that we have a federal government starving the system for cash, and private clinics trying their best to undermine the system from within, here in B.C. we have a Liberal government that is annually increasing MSP premiums and so making our public health care system unaffordable,” Trevena wrote.