July 14 2023
July 5, 2023
To: Premiers of the Provinces and Territories
Subject: Urgent Call for Action to Support Health Care Workers and Stop Privatization
I am writing to you on behalf of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) in advance of the Council of the Federation Summer 2023 meeting in Winnipeg. Our union represents over 425,000 workers in Canada, including over 150,000 front-line health care professionals who play a crucial role in delivering quality health care to Canadians.
Our health care system is in crisis, and both workers and patients are suffering as a result.
We urge you to take swift and decisive action to address the critical shortage of health care personnel and to put a stop to health care privatization.
Health care privatization drains resources and professionals from the public system to serve for-profit corporations, undermining the interest of Canadians and violating the spirit of the Canada Health Act. The only viable and adequate answer to the current crisis is to strengthen and invest more in our public health care system to ensure it remains accessible to all when needed.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the essential role of our public health care system in safeguarding the well-being of Canadians, as well as the critical role of front-line health care workers. However, the long-standing shortage of health care workers has been exacerbated by the pandemic. While the agreement for increased health care funding struck between the federal government and your governments was welcome and necessary, the promised new billions of dollars in funding is insufficient to stem the crisis in health care.
Premiers, urgent investments are needed to recruit, train, and retain health care professionals to alleviate the shortage. Better wages, improved working conditions, and additional resources are needed to attract and retain health care workers. Attempts to negotiate collective agreements below the cost of living are not helping with retention of workers and the goal of resolving labour shortages in health care. Efforts to legislate restricted wage increases are also destructive. These moves only serve to violate workers’ constitutional and human rights.
Premiers, we further call for a halt to the privatization of health care services. Privatization undermines the principles of universality, equity, and accessibility that our public health care system upholds. Our focus should be on ensuring a strong and accessible public health care system for all, regardless of economic circumstances.
Some governments are using the crisis to promote for-profit health care as a solution, even using public money to expand the use of these clinics. This is unconscionable, as all the evidence shows that 2-tier health care harms universal health care accessibility in favour of those who have the ability to pay. Our public health care system is under resourced and in crisis, but it remains a system committed to providing care based on need. The Cambie case resulted in a clear ruling against 2-tier health care after hearing the evidence from all sides.
Premiers, the time for action is now. Our health care system is in crisis, and the well-being of workers and patients hangs in the balance. As leaders, you have the power and responsibility to make a profound difference in the lives of Canadians by safeguarding and strengthening our public health care system and supporting the workers who deliver that care.
At the Council of the Federation meetings, and upon your return to your provinces and territories, you must take action to show your commitment to our public health care system and to our health care workers. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
cc: Jason MacLean
National Executive Board
The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, PC, MP, Minister of Health