Rally mourns the expiry of health accord

Around 50 people gathered on Parliament Hill over the noon hour to mourn the end of the federal health accord.

The 10-year-agreement between the federal government, provinces and territories provided stable federal funding and set national standards for health care.

According to the Ontario Health Coalition, the end of the accord means that provinces and territories will be hit with a $36-billion cut to federal health transfers. They said the federal Conservatives have refused to renegotiate a new accord.

"Sometimes we think, the Health Accord, well what's that? It's a very important document and the end of it today is something that all Canadians should be paying attention to," said Marlene Rivier, the chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition. "It is a sad moment. It's a grim moment for health care."

Rivier said lack of federal funding could lead to privatization.

"The federal government is looking the other way," she said. "For a very long time it has not enforced the Canada Health Act and it's taking yet another step in that direction. What we're seeing provincially is the loss of services in our hospitals, which are invariably picked up in the private sector and then we see extra billing."

"We're not supposed to have extra billing and yet it's going on all over the place," she added.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has asked for a new Health Accord to be negotiated.

Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar said Canadians need more than rhetoric when it comes to this issue.

"We need committed, stable funding," said the NDP MP. "We need innovation and we need good, solid protection for the services we all want."

He added it's up to the federal government to initiate the new agreement.

"The federal government should be doing so much more, not cutting down the road, in fact investing, innovating and making sure health care is going to be there for all of us: for my children, grandchildren and beyond," said Dewar.

"To Stephen Harper we say sit down with the provinces and stop dictating terms," Dewar added. "It's about Canadians, it's about our health care. It's about what we value as Canadians and sadly they have not engaged with premiers to do that."

On Parliament Hill, a man dressed as the Grim Reaper posed by a coffin, as others waved signs, and a group of grandmothers performed songs.

The rally was just one of dozens held across Canada.

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