Hundreds rally on Parliament Hill for universal pharmacare and against privatization
About 300 health care workers and public health care advocates joined a rally organized by the Canadian Health Coalition on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, February 7 as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Premiers were meeting about health care. The crowd held signs that said, “Profit doesn’t care! Stop privatization! Pharmacare now!”
Pauline Worsfold, RN, and chairperson of the Canadian Health Coalition, opened the rally, telling the crowd, “The stakes for Canadian Medicare could not be higher. There is a crisis in our hospitals that I witness every day when I go to work – frontline workers are burnt out, feel overwhelmed, and not appreciated.”
“It’s clear to me as a Registered Nurse that full prescriptions will mean emptier Emergency Rooms.”PAULINE WORSFOLD, RN AND CHAIR OF THE CANADIAN HEALTH COALITION
Worsfold called for increased federal funding for health care and for mechanisms to be put in place to ensure accountability for health care spending by the provinces. She told the crowd that public health care dollars must not flow to private, for-profit clinics operating outside the Medicare system.
“Private health care will not decrease wait times in the public system – on the contrary, wait times would actually increase. This will also worsen the inequities in our system,” said Worsfold.
“As a frontline nurse, I see people in our Emergency Room who are there because they have not been taking their medication, likely because they have no coverage and can’t afford it. It’s clear to me as a Registered Nurse that full prescriptions will mean emptier Emergency Rooms,” Worsfold told CTV News.
Worsfold was on CPAC later in the day reacting to the health care deal announced by Trudeau and the Premiers. She said adding private delivery of health care services is a slipper slop and that no one should have to pay for health care with a credit card. She repeated calls for the introduction of a Canada Pharmacare Act this spring as promised by the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the Liberals and NDP.
The rally coincided with the Canadian Labour Congress Lobby. Many of their participants took a break from their meetings with MPs and Senators to join the noon hour rally. Siobhan Vipond, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and Vice-President of the Canadian Health Coalition addressed the crowd and called for universal pharmacare, a key campaign of the CLC.
.@CLCVPSiobhan joined @HealthCoalition & allies to demand that our public health care system is protected & expanded.— Canadian Labour (@CanadianLabour) February 8, 2023
🚨For-profit care will only deepen the health care crisis.🚨
Canadians need quality public care.
#PharmacareNow #ProfitDoesntCare #CdnPoli pic.twitter.com/WynxLdo9uI
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the Federal NDP and Don Davies, NDP Health Critic, both spoke at the rally. Singh later tweeted:
Private health care will cannibalize ERs and ORs.— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) February 7, 2023
Today, I met with health care workers who told me – we must move towards more public delivery, not further away.
Justin Trudeau has a choice, he can rebuild public health care with more workers or he can make the crisis worse. pic.twitter.com/ZxgSBbfiqy
Joel Harden, NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre, also came out to to show his support for public health care and his opposition to Ford’s moves to further privatize health care. Harden tweeted:
Honoured to stand in solidarity with the @HealthCoalition and labour unions from across Canada fighting to save public healthcare.— Joel Harden (@JoelHardenONDP) February 7, 2023
Access to medical services should never be based on the connections you have or how much money you make. #ProfitDoesntCare #PharmacareNOW pic.twitter.com/x96vao8NAg
Also addressing the crowd were Mark Hancock, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Hancock tweeted:
Today on Parliament Hill, we demanded that Prime Minister Trudeau put an END to for-profit care. pic.twitter.com/Yzp5ZMfo9h— CUPE National (@cupenat) February 7, 2023
Rousing speeches for public health care were also given by Sharleen Stewart, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Health Care, Len Poirier, National Secretary-Treasurer of Unifor, Jen McMurray, Atlantic Regional Director of Unifor, Gavin McGarrigle, Western Regional Director of Unifor, Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director of Unifor, Olivier Carrière with Unifor Quebec, Chris Aylward, President of Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Riaz Nandan, Treasurer of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Jason MacLean, Secretary-Treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and Linda Silas, RN, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU).
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The rally was endorsed by more than 20 unions and organizations representing more than a million workers in Canada. These organizations include: BC Health Coalition, Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Coalition Solidarité Santé (CSS), Civic Institute of Professional Personnel (CIPP), Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC), Council of Canadians, Friends of Medicare, Inter Pares, London Health Coalition, National Association of Women and the Law, National Farmers Union, National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), Manitoba Health Coalition, Ontario Health Coalition, OPSEU/SEFPO Hospital Professionals Division, Ottawa Health Coalition, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Unifor and United Steelworkers.
Special thanks to Unifor for sending rally marshals and to PSAC for the sound system and placards.
Many of these unions and organizations will be sending delegates to the Canadian Health Coalition Lobby on March 27-29. Find out how you can join the Lobby here.
Support the Canadian Health Coalition
Stay tuned for an analysis by the Canadian Health Coalition of the health care deal announced on Feb. 7 and on more actions on how you can support public health care.
Tracy Glynn is the National Director of Projects and Operations for the Canadian Health Coalition