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Rally seeks new health accord

Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada members show support in a Cowichan rally Monday to mark the end of the 10-year-old Canada Health Accord and for a national day of action, taking a stand for public health care. Among the group on the corner of Canada Avenue and Trunk Road was Ron Richardson.  - Ashley Degraaf
Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada members show support in a Cowichan rally Monday to mark the end of the 10-year-old Canada Health Accord and for a national day of action, taking a stand for public health care. Among the group on the corner of Canada Avenue and Trunk Road was Ron Richardson.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf

Canada’s current health care system deserves some attention.

And many drivers gave it just that by honking in support on Monday’s National Day of Action: Taking a Stand for Health Care rally held on the corner of Canada Avenue and Trunk Road.

March 31 marked the end of the country’s 10-year-old Canada Health Accord, and the need to negotiate a new accord sparked the event staged by the Cowichan Valley Chapter, Council of Canadians and the B.C. Nurses Union.

“What we’re encouraged to do across the country, is to sound the alarm and hand out some information, which will encourage people to take a stand,” said the BCNU’s Brenda Hill before the demonstration — which saw a strong showing of Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada members across the country, in town for the union’s annual convention in Cowichan Bay this week.

“I think the average Canadian thinks our health care system will be around forever,” said Hill.

About 40 people showed up at the rally’s 4 p.m. start. A new agreement between federal and provincial governments guaranteeing federal funding, national standards ensuring all Canadians can access good quality services regardless of where they live, was a top priority for organizers.

“The Harper Conservative government has refused to meet with the premiers to negotiate a new accord,” stated a press release issued by the Cowichan Valley Chapter, Council of Canadians and BCNU.

“Instead, the federal government plans to cut $36 billion over 10 years from public health care and walk away from its responsibilities to ensure equal access to all Canadians.

“(In the latest federal budget) is another move by the Harper Conservatives to dismantle national health care by eliminating the equalization portion of the Canada Health Transfer and replacing it with an equal per capita transfer.

“Provinces with relatively young and densely populated demographic, such as Alberta, have lower per-capita health costs and will do well under this new plan. Provinces with small isolated populations, like Newfoundland, Labrador, or a large proportion of seniors, such as British Columbia, will be hard pressed to deliver universal quality care,” the release stated.

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford Conservative Riding Association president John Koury said the concerns aren’t what the protestors make them out to be.

“A lot of it is hype, some of it is good in a sense that it puts the spotlight on the issue and puts pressure on government,” he said. “But sometimes we need to interject reality.”

Koury said despite what demonstrators might think, the federal government has been working with the provinces and haven’t slashed transfer payments, and rather has plans to install 6% increases until 2018.

“These are ongoing conversations. And there’s no easy answer, but when we have rallies and demonstrations, it’s not like these governments don’t have fingers in their ears and aren’t listening.”

Damir Wallener, who is chasing the local federal Conservative nomination agreed.

“It needs to be pointed out that the federal funding model does not in fact cut spending. Like the previous Health Accord, it continues to increase health care spending at rates above those of inflation, population growth and economic growth,” he said.

“Spending increases of this kind do not fit any meaningful definition of ‘cuts,’ and partisan pedantry that attempts to label it as such does nothing to further the collective dialogue we desperately need to have.”

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