Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 8, 2000
Scrap Bill 11, says CWL
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Catholic Women's League is demanding Premier Ralph Klein immediately withdraw Bill 11, the controversial legislation that expands the role of private enterprise in health care.
Delegates to the league's annual archdiocesan convention at Edmonton's Greenwood Inn voted overwhelmingly April 29 in support of a motion calling on individual CWL members to write to the premier demanding he scrap the legislation.
The almost 290 convention delegates, representing 4,500 CWL members in the Edmonton Archdiocese, also passed a motion directing CWL president Mary-Lou Veeken to write a separate letter to the premier on behalf of the archdiocesan council.
In rebuffing Bill 11, the CWL is following the lead of Archbishop Thomas Collins of Edmonton and Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary who have publicly condemned the bill.
However, two days after the CWL passed its resolutions, Premier Ralph Klein announced he was invoking closure to end debate on the bill in the legislature.
"We must continue to tell the government we don't want this legislation," resolutions convener Jan Dunnigan told delegates. "We want to preserve medicare, which assures health care for all, rich and poor."
Bill 11 will slowly lead to the complete privatization of health care in Canada, warned St. Theresa's Parish delegate Joanne Edwards, who introduced the motion calling on members to write to the premier. "I don't want my grandchildren to not have health care because their parents cannot afford it."
Irene Maguire of St. Joseph's Basilica stopped short of urging delegates to ignore the motion, saying Bill 11 is not a CWL concern.
However, she got into the debate by saying 75 per cent of those who have attended rallies against Bill 11 "are ignorant of why they are there."
She said the health care system has been brought down by those who abuse it and called on delegates to help stop the abuse instead.
Maguire said she envisions a health care system that doesn't profit from the poor but is not entirely free either. "I would say below a certain income level health care should be free. But above a certain (income) level, you should pay a user fee."
Retired Devon nurse Fran MacLellan took exception to Maguire's remarks, saying she has been at those rallies and "I don't consider myself ignorant" of what's going on. "I am concerned that if this bill is passed, it'll be terribly difficult to reverse."
She is also concerned that under the NAFTA agreement, the health care system will be slowly taken over by American health corporations. "I'm very much against Bill 11," MacLellan said.
So is Helen Russell, a Red Deer nurse, who predicts that if the bill is passed, "it will be the end of health care as we know it."
"This bill legalizes for-profit hospitals and places the interests of big corporations above the interests of the citizens," Russell said.
Anita Patsula of St. Joseph's Basilica's CWL agreed Bill 11 has to go. "I can't trust this bill," she said. "I think it should be abolished."
The motion was carried overwhelmingly with only six votes against and two abstentions. As soon as the vote was over, past president Becky Kallal introduced a second motion instructing the archdiocesan council to write a separate letter to the premier. It also passed by an overwhelming majority.
Shirley Rolheiser of Vermilion voted against both motions "because we don't have enough information to speak about (Bill 11)."
"We already have private care in this province," she said in an interview. "All this bill is going to do is allow the government to have some control over private (clinics). I don't think the Alberta government will be so stupid as to let medicare go."
Russell was ecstatic the motion was passed. "We have political influence and we should use it," she said. "I pray that Premier Klein won't ignore what we are saying and that he will open it (Bill 11) to public debate or withdraw it."
Veeken, the CWL president, believes CWL members want the bill scrapped because it doesn't serve the common good. "Health care is definitely an issue that affects all of us and for the sake of the common good, Bill 11 needs to be withdrawn," she said.