Protesters reject further privatization of health care

Protesters gather outside health care town hall held at convention centre

4 min read
caption A sign-carrier at the protest tries to get people's attention.
Warren D'Silva

About 15 people advocating for publicly funded health care protested outside the Halifax Convention Centre Thursday with a blow-up medicine bottle and signboards.

The group was protesting the staging of a public forum, Public-Private Health Care-Can we find the right balance? sponsored by The Globe and Mail as part of their National Town Hall Series. It was in association with the Canadian Medical Association and moderated by health reporter and columnist André Picard.

caption Around 15 people gathered outside Halifax Convention Centre to protest privatization of health care.
Warren D’Silva

Robin Tress, the co-executive director at the Council of Canadians, said they were there because, “inside there’s a conversation about whether Canada should be introducing more private options into our public health-care system.”

“There becomes a profit motive in what should be a care-focused program,” she said.

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She adds that a change is set to roll out in the next six or eight weeks, when Canadians should expect to find federal legislation for a public pharmacare program that would enable all people in Canada to access medicine, regardless of their ability to pay.

The focus of the event was putting health care for an expanding population and economic growth in the spotlight. Speakers discussed public and private providers for health-care services and funding, which is common in most Canadian provinces.

A statement from the protesters said inflation is forcing millions of Canadians to choose between paying rent, buying groceries or filling prescriptions.

Tress feels the conversation needs to be about the benefits of public health care, and thinking about privatization of health care should not even be considered.

Research conducted by the Canadian Institute for Health Information says that about one in five Canadians experience mental illness each year. Seventy per cent of people living with a mental illness experience symptoms before the age of 18, and many use medication to help them get by.

caption Protesters discuss the privatization of health care with passersby.
Warren D’Silva

Tress says this is an issue because, “there are several million people in Canada who choose not to take medication that’s prescribed to them because they can’t afford it.”

Neither the rain nor the chilly January nip in the air could stop Raymond Terrell, 59. He chose to protest because, he said, “what we find is, individuals with low income are mostly impacted by this.”

“After COVID, people don’t have the finances available. And you expect them to pay?” asked Terrell. He said a move to further privatize health care would encourage low-income individuals to “revert to either crime or even worse, maybe suicide.”

Tress said the current state of health care “leaves us with the second-highest drug prices in the world, second only to the U.S., which we know is not a health-care system.” A report from Statistics Canada said that about 28.8 per cent of tax revenues was spent on health care in 2020.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 70 per cent of Canadian health-care services are publicly financed, with taxation being the main revenue-generating mechanism to pay for this.

caption Protesters assemble in -3 C weather in Halifax on Thursday.
Warren D’Silva

Terrell says he wants this system to stay. “We should pay for it through our normal taxation, and it should continue.”

Because of the proximity to the homeless encampment in downtown Halifax, some people emerged from their tents to inquire about the protest.

One such person was Jared Reid. He said the Halifax housing crisis has rendered him homeless, and he is struggling to get by. “People are going to get the medications that they require off peddlers and seniors and kids are going to end up dead,” he said.

Reid added that if the health-care system is privatized then “people will look for cheaper alternatives and alternatives are not the answer.”

caption Pamphlets and brochures were handed out by protesters to spread the word.
Warren D’Silva

High winds and persistent rain got the better of the protesters after about two hours of demonstrations, and the protest ended.

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About the author

Warren D'Silva

Warren D'Silva, a fashion and lifestyle content creator turned journalist. He believes that all you need to do is find your inner confidence...

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