Protest actions in Nanaimo and Chilliwack fuel opposition to Liberal privatization, cutbacks agenda

In the wake of the Campbell government’s status quo budget, HEU members in Nanaimo and Chilliwack forged ahead Wednesday with protest actions aimed at building public opposition to the province’s health care privatization agenda.

In Nanaimo, more than 50 HEU members braved the pouring rain to give Nanaimo Regional General Hospital staff and the visiting public the straight goods about how privatized food services will affect patients’ health and well being.

During the five-hour leafleting session members connected with more than 1000 people — the vast majority of whom welcomed the information and expressed their disagreement with the health authority’s recent moves to contract out food services in hospitals and other health care facilities.

In Chilliwack, more than 250 boisterous Fraser Valley residents from eight to 80 years of age greeted Premier Campbell with a festive “Memories of Maui” rally as he dined with the local Chamber of Commerce. Outside the banquet, the premier’s security and RCMP looked on as grass-skirted protesters waved placards, blew whistles, blared air horns and danced to the thundering theme song of Hawaii Five-0.

Chilliwack has been hit hard by provincial government cuts in the last year. Parkholm Lodge is scheduled for closure, services have been removed from Chilliwack General Hospital, hundreds of jobs have been lost, and Tuesday’s budget means more are still to come.

The crowd of students, seniors, health care and other government workers, teachers, families and neighbours drew approving honks of solidarity from passing vehicles. The event was organized by the Community Action Network (Chilliwack), a coalition of area citizens, community groups and various union locals.