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United Church, multi-sector groups call for new Canadian health-care accord


March 26, 2014
By John Cotter The Canadian Press

March 26, 2014 — The United Church of Canada is asking its members to take a stand on the future of medicare.

The church wants its members to sign a pledge to support a campaign by the Canadian Health Coalition, which is lobbying the federal government to sign a new agreement with the provinces to improve the public health system.

Right Rev. Gary Paterson, moderator of the church, said Canadians shouldn't take medicare for granted.

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"I
am really concerned as a Christian and a church leader that health care
is crucial for our population," Paterson said Tuesday in Edmonton. "I
am just wanting to enable people to think seriously about this and
really let our government know that we are concerned."

The pledge
says access to quality health care must be based on need, not ability
to pay, and that medicare should be improved for everyone instead of
expanding private for profit-services.

In 2004, the federal
government announced a 10-year plan and funding commitment to improve
medicare, with the aim to make timely access to quality care a reality
for all Canadians.

The agreement reached with the provinces said
access to medically necessary health services should be based on need,
not ability to pay.

The coalition of health workers, unions,
churches, seniors and anti-poverty groups said the federal government
has not committed to signing a new agreement.

The groups are planning rallies across Canada Monday, March 31, to press for a new national health standards accord.

Coalition
executive director Michael McBane said they are planning a
cross-country tour of eight cities next month to gather support.

The coalition has also requested to meet with each of the federal party leaders in May to report their findings.

"We
are sounding the alarm to alert Canadians to the fact that the Harper
government is not providing federal leadership in health care," McBane
said from Ottawa. "This will lead to a fragmentation of services across
the country and access to care will depend on where you live and your
ability to pay."

Paterson said he expects the call for action
will create some buzz in the church's 3,075 congregations, but noted the
United Church, which is a member of the coalition, has supported
universal health care for 60 years.

He said it will be up to church ministers and people in individual congregations to decide how to respond.

Paterson
said the church is being political in the sense that health care is an
important social issue, but it is not endorsing any one political party.

"Here is a place to be involved," he said. "Here is a chance to share your faith in the broader political realm."

The United Church is Canada's largest Protestant denomination, with 463,879 people who are members of congregations.

In 2011, Statistics Canada said more than two million Canadians identified their religion as United.

Some
of the national organizations in the coalition include the Pensioners
Federation, Council of Canadians, Canadian Doctors for Medicare,
Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions and the Canadian Labour Congress.