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Bear to lose your care campaign swings through Cornwall

Posted: June 15, 2017

(June 5, 2017)

By: Todd Hambleton, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

A big bear was drawing some attention in the middle of downtown Cornwall on Monday afternoon.

The We Can’t “Bear” to Lose Medicare Tour visited the city, and the star attraction was  a giant – and of course cute — 7-foot tall, 4.5-foot wide teddy bear positioned at the northeast corner of Pitt and Second streets.

It was a serious message that was being delivered by the Ontario Health Coalition and members of the local healthcare coalition. The coalition says the much-loved and friendly prop is to help educate communities about the threat of health-care privatization.

“We’re raising awareness about this (with an Ontario tour),” said OHC volunteer Don Arkell.

The group says private, for-profit clinics are trying to take over services from local public, non-profit hospitals. The coalition says the clinics charge user fees amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars for diagnostic tests and surgeries, in violation of Canada’s medicare laws.

Cornwall OHC chapter co-chair Elaine MacDonald was one of the speakers at the event, which had information leaflets being made available to the people walking along the sidewalk and to drivers stopping at the traffic light.

“We can’t afford to go to a two-tier health care system,” MacDonald said. “We need a robust system that serves everybody’s needs – and private clinics work against that.”

The coalition noted private clinics have launched a court challenge to bring down the laws that protect patients from user fees. The group says funds raised along the way will be used to cover the cost of the tour, and to help the B.C. Health Coalition intervene in the legal challenge brought by the private clinics.

“The (lawsuit) going on in B.C. (has) gone to the B.C. Supreme Court, (and) some decision will come down in the fall,” Arkell said. “No matter who wins, it’ll probably go to the Supreme Court.”

The OHC is urging people to join their local health coalition to help improve services in public hospitals and stop private clinics and also to onate to the B.C. Health Coalition to help it fund public education and pay court costs for the B.C. court challenge.

The teddy bear is on a two-week tour across Ontario, to 20 different communities and cities. There was a stop in the Byward Market in Ottawa on Monday morning; the next visit is on Tuesday, to Brockville.

“We’re busy,” said Peter Boyle, a volunteer with the OHC. “On some days we’re making two or three stops.”

Boyle said there are actually two giant bears involved, with a second one doing a northern swing later this month.

The teddy bear in Cornwall on Monday? Just call him Tommy.

“We named him after Tommy Douglas,” Boyle said, in reference to the doctor, former premier of Saskatchewan, former MP and acknowledged as the founder of medicare in Canada.

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