CUPE rallies for public health care at doctors’ meet in PEI

CHARLOTTETOWN : Over the weekend, CUPE members and other supporters of public health care gathered in Charlottetown to rally at the Canadian Medical Association annual meeting and elections.

At issue is a choice between two Vancouver doctors both vying for the CMA presidency. One, Dr. Brian Day, supports more private health care. The other, Dr. Jack Burak, favours a beefed-up public system.

A coalition of unions including CUPE, and groups such as the Council for Canadians waved placards and heard speeches on Aug. 19, supporting a publicly funded and administered system.

CUPE PEI president Donalda Mcdonald and CUPE Nova Scotia president Danny Cavanagh were at the rally. Speakers included the COC’s Maude Barlow and Canadian Labour Congress vice-president Barb Byers.

A few weeks ago, it seemed as though Day was a shoo-in for the president’s position and would cast the organization as a proponent of a private health care system in Canada. Day runs a private clinic in Vancouver and has been an active supporter of a parallel health care system.

However, the possibility that Day might take the CMA toward privatization galvanized a last-minute campaign behind Burak who runs a family practice in Vancouver. Burak is not entirely opposed to a public private partnership, but sees a more limited version than Day.

“As the largest health care union in the country, CUPE strongly believes that health care professionals who work in the system on a daily basis have an important role to play in solving the problem,” said Cavanagh. “But our doctors would be better served by continuing to look within the public system for lasting solutions that will benefit all Canadians.”

When the 300 delegates vote on Tuesday, they will be deciding the future direction of the CMA for the next year.