Union says Harper must take action at home and abroad to show he is serious about championing maternal health and child care around the globe.
Ottawa (9 Feb. 2010) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is challenging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take meaningful steps to implement his promise to use Canada's position as president of the upcoming G8 to champion a global initiative to improve maternal and child health in the world's poorest regions.
In a letter to Harper, NUPGE president James Clancy applauds the objectives outlined by Harper at the recent meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, but he also demands serious action by Canada's Conservative government to make the pledge a reality.
"G8 nations often make lofty and laudable promises that they never live up to," Clancy writes.
"For example, not a single leader of the G8, including Canada, has ever come close to delivering on the promise that 0.7% of GDP would go to aid for poor countries. Further, G8 leaders, including Canada, eagerly signed on to tackling maternal health in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, and again at the 2005 G20 meetings, yet little has happened."
If Harper is not merely using G8 rhetoric to divert attention from issues dogging his government in Ottawa, Clancy adds, he should take action in three specific areas:
- First, Canada must establish a plan to meet its 0.7% aid commitment, setting out "clear targets, projects, timelines and a budget" to improve maternal and child health in the poorest countries.
- Second, Canada must take convincing steps to restore its tattered reputation on the world stage as good environmental stewards, strong advocates of human rights and diplomatic honest brokers.
- Third, it is essential for the government to take steps "here at home" to correct past mistakes that undermine Canada's commitment to maternal and child health.
Specifically, on the latter point, Clancy cited these examples:
- "Your past suggestion that Canada should adopt a U.S.-style two-tier health care system would undermine maternal and child health, given the indisputable evidence of higher infant mortality rates in the U.S."
- "Your decision to cancel the deal for a universal early education and child care program demonstrates a lack of support for our nation’s women and children. As we all know, an accessible, affordable, high-quality child care system would greatly improve the health and overall well-being of young children."
- "Finally, your decision to cancel the $5-billion Kelowna Accord prevented efforts to fight poverty and improve housing, water and waste water treatment for women and children living in Canada's Aboriginal and Inuit communities. One in four children on Aboriginal reserves lives in poverty and the Inuit infant mortality is nearly four times the Canadian average."
Clancy says NUPGE supports the spirit of Harper's promise but cannot forget the "real credibility gap" that Canada and other G8 nations have so often exhibited in the past.
"It is essential that your government shows the world just how serious our commitment is to this issue by taking the steps outlined above to address the credibility gap," Clancy adds. "Please give it your best effort. The world will be watching."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE