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Barlow warns of CETA at health care forum in Charlottetown

Health care forum in Charlottetown. Photo by Mike Butler.

Photo: Health care forum in Charlottetown. Photo by Mike Butler.

The front-page of the Guardian reports, “It was a standing-room-only crowd in Charlottetown Tuesday to hear dire warnings about the future of health care in Canada.”

About 250 people attended the public forum that featured Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, CUPE president Paul Moist, and Canadian Health Coalition national coordinator Mike McBane. It was chaired by Council of Canadians Board member Leo Broderick.

The newspaper reports, “‘This meeting is to talk about the Health Care Accord’, said master of ceremonies Leo Broderick. It expired the end of March this year and the federal government has not renegotiated, said Broderick. Federal funding now covers about 19 to 20 percent of health care cost in each province, Broderick said. That is likely to face drastic cuts for P.E.I., warned the panellists. ‘You will see $144 million (lost to health funding) over the next ten years’, said Broderick.”

The article highlights, “Maude Barlow was a guest on the panel. She said an agreement is in the works between Canada and the European Union that is similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Under such agreements, drug companies can sue a government if, for example, a court won’t support a patent extension, she said. Cheaper generic drugs become available when patents expire. ‘Higher environmental, health, safety, labour standards, anything these corporations don’t like, that they consider to be a barrier to their trade and their profit, they can remove’, said Barlow of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. The result will be still higher drug costs and loss of control over health care standards and policy, she warned. It will increase drug costs in the future, said Barlow. ‘Almost one in ten (Canadians) did not fill a prescription last year because they could not afford it’, she said.”

During the public forum, Barlow tweeted, “I am warning that our drug prices will increase with CETA and European drug companies will have new powers to promote their interests!” And Council of Canadians health care campaigner Mike Butler tweeted from Charlottetown, “@MaudeBarlow raising important points about how inter provincial trade talk @ COF [Council of Federation premiers meeting] is about lowest common denominator.”

The public forum was also covered by CBC Radio.

For further analysis, please read Butler’s blog It is time for real leadership from the Premiers to protect, strengthen, and expand our public health care.