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NEWS: Barlow warns of threats to public health care in Canada

BC-Yukon organizing assistant Ava Waxman, Maude Barlow, health care campaigner Adrienne Silnicki

The Vancouver Observer reports, “The health care discussions by premiers in Canada is about more than about just funding, Council of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow warns. It’s about the very future of public health care in Canada itself. ‘We have to get the story to the Canadian people,’ she said. ‘A lot of people don’t actually realize that what this means, if the government does this, is the end of a federal role in medicare.’ For decades, Barlow has been a well-known Canadian advocate and commentator – on everything from stopping free trade agreements to declaring access to water a human right. But public health care has always been one of the 64-year old activist’s hot-button issues.”

“The veteran national chairperson of the 100,000-member strong council, sporting a ‘Medicare’ button on her grey suit jacket – sat down with the Vancouver Observer outside a pivotal meeting of the country’s provincial and territorial leaders, who are deliberating on a new national health accord as the current one expires in 2014. ‘We’re looking at either extending, deepening, recommitting to our health care system, or perhaps the beginning of the end of it,’ she told the VO. ‘Canadians need to know those are the stakes here. Stephen Harper has never liked public health care, he’s always said it belongs to the provinces, its their responsibility. He would go totally private, I’m convinced, if he could. But he can’t, because 94 per cent of us think the private system is not the one for us. He can’t do it through the front door – he has to do it by pulling the rug out from under the provinces and let them do the dirty work.'”

“Barlow said she was surprised and pleased that even B.C.’s premier, Christy Clark, who had initially praised the federal Conservatives, changed course and announced the premiers were unanimously opposed to finance minister Jim Flaherty’s unilateral decision to change Canada’s health funding formula. ‘The one thing we’ve been saying is we need to have an agreement with all the premiers – we want to have one unanimous front,’ Barlow said. ‘We were really nervous that wouldn’t happen. We’re pleased they’ve taken this first step – but we’re hoping they’ll up the ante if they have to.'”

“When VO asked her earlier this week what she will do if the premiers cannot succeed in reversing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision, Barlow simply smiled. ‘We’re not going to let him do it,’ she said. ‘We’re here to stand on guard for our health care system in this country.'”

To read the full article, which also relates the threat of CETA to public health care, please go to http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/2012/01/17/future-canadas-health-care-stake-maude-barlow-warns-privatization-and-high-cost.

For blogs related to the Council of Canadians intervention at the premiers meeting in Victoria this week, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13064, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13077, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13056, and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13104.