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Health coalition wants to hear from local candidates on health care

Posted: September 24, 2015

(September 24, 2015)

By Shaun Malley, CBC News

Neighbourhood rally designed to engage voters on election issues. 

A group of about a dozen LaSalle residents met Thursday to try and make health care a top issue in the upcoming federal election.

The Windsor Health Coalition sponsored the gathering, which featured speakers talking about their personal experiences with publicly-funded health care.

“The whole point of going into neighbourhoods is getting people re-engaged with democracy,” said Ken Lewenza Jr., the co-chair of the health coalition.

“There are a whole host of issues, where we need to get everyday ordinary people engaged,” Lewenza said. “Our objective over the next three weeks is to get the word out and to try and give all the parties, or their representatives vying for seats in this area, the opportunity to share their position.”

‘I don’t know where I’d be’

Rick Reaume, a 70-year-old Chrysler retiree spoke to the small crowd gathered in the residential neighbourhood.

He’d lost both his legs and five fingers as a result of diabetes. He said without having a publicly-funded system, he’d be “looking for what poor house to live in.”

“If we don’t have the system that paid for me, and paid for a lot of people, I don’t know where I’d be,” Reaume said.

Proposed slowdown in federal transfers

Proposed Conservative changes to health-care transfers between the federal and provincial governments were at the forefront of discussion. Lewenza called for an end to a plan to slow the rate of increases in federal health care transfers, which could mean as much as $36 billion less for the provinces over the next 10 years.

These health care signs were on display at a health care rally in LaSalle. (Shaun Malley/CBC)

“When you take $36 billion out of the system or $8 billion out of Ontario, that means the province has to cut their services, everyday, ordinary people have to pay more for services and become more vulnerable,” Lewenza said.

Federal health-care transfers after 2016-17 are scheduled to be tied to the economy, meaning increases to the amount of money sent to provinces would likely average 3.9 per cent annually, compared to six per cent, according to Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair has pledged to “make it a top priority” to reverse this slowdown, though it won’t be happening until his government posts a surplus.   

Attempt to put health care in the spotlight

Lewenza said that while the health coalition is non-partisan, it is opposing the Conservative government on the transfer slowdown.

“Our hope is regardless of what government gets elected, to hold their feet to the fire,” Lewenza said. “We’re a non-partisan group, but it’s pretty impossible to say you’re non-partisan when you’re talking about cuts of this magnitude.”

This isn’t the first time the health coalition has held events to put health care in the election spotlight.

In August, the coalition, which is now registered with Elections Canada as a third-party advertiser, and Unifor participated in a rally, which more than 1,000 people attended.  

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