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TORONTO, Ont. – Hundreds of members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario will converge with community groups in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Thursday, where provincial and territorial premiers are meeting to discuss a new federal Health Accord.

“Public health care is something every Ontarian cares about. For years, budgets have been squeezed while the population grows. As a result, communities across the province are losing hospital beds and emergency rooms are closing,” says Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “It is beyond disappointing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not share our commitment to public health care. He’s not even bothering to show up at this meeting.”

This week is the final Council of the Federation meeting before the federal Health Accord expires in 2014. The Accord sets out how health care funding flows from the federal government to the provinces and territories.

CUPE Ontario members from across the province will join community groups at a mass rally on Thursday organized by the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) as part of two days of workshops and political action. Participants include CUPE National President Paul Moist, OHC Director Natalie Mehra, Council of Canadians Chair Maude Barlow, Glendon School of Public & International Affairs Director Alex Himmelfarb, and many others.

“Ontario spends less on health care than any other province,” says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) and CUPE Ontario first vice-president. “Public health care needs stable and adequate funding. Stephen Harper should have come to this meeting and I urge him to sit down for a serious discussion with Kathleen Wynne and other premiers and other health care leaders about the future of public health care.”

According to the OHC, Ontario has lost 18,500 hospital beds over the last 23 years, a period during which the provincial population has grown by more than three million.

In December 2011, the Harper government announced plans to cut $36 billion from federal health care transfers to the provinces once the Accord expires in 2014. The federal government has also cut health care for refugees and other groups and walked away from a national pharmacare program that would have provided prescription drug coverage to all Canadians.

“Combined with provincial austerity, the federal government’s cuts are creating a crisis in health care,” says Candace Rennick, a long-term care worker and Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “We all rely on public health care, and it’s time for governments to stop creating a crisis and start building a health care system that serves the needs of all Ontarians.”

CUPE is Ontario’s community union, with more than 240,000 members providing quality public services across the province. CUPE Ontario members are proud to work in social services, health care, municipalities, school boards and universities.

WHAT:           Mass rally at Council of the Federation meetings

WHEN:           Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.

WHERE:         St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake


For more information, please contact:

Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416-576-7316
[email protected]