Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Over 500 respond to call for change

59 Cent Campaign pushed Tories to restore benefits

  • Print

Five Winnipeg university students worried about the health of refugees are responsible for a lot of change.

More than 500 envelopes containing change were sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper thanks to their 59 Cent Campaign.

"Approximately 500 letters have been received with a little under $350 in them," said Andrew McDougall, director of communications for the Prime Minister's Office.

The campaign in late June by students at the Canadian School of Peacebuilding at the Canadian Mennonite University asked all Canadians to send Harper 59 cents -- what it would cost every Canadian a year to restore health-care benefits to refugees.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced it would stop paying for supplemental health benefits for refugees during their first year in Canada starting June 30.

The cuts to things like prescription medication and prosthetics prompted health-care professionals to rally across Canada, including in Winnipeg at The Forks on June 18.

The university students took action, too, creating a video posted on YouTube showing people finding loose change in couch cushions and sock drawers, then mailing 59 cents to the prime minister.

By August, nearly $350 in change was received, said McDougall in Ottawa. It ended up with the Privy Council Office, he said.

"This money will be used to pay down the federal deficit, which is a burden on all Canadians," said McDougall.

It won't make much of a dent in the deficit, but it hammered home a point, said Matt Dueck, one of the students behind the campaign.

"The message got there as clearly as 500 people standing on a street corner protesting," said Dueck, 25. "The Prime Minister's Office may be downplaying those numbers," Dueck said. "But for 500 people to write a letter, put some change in it and walk to the mailbox, that takes a lot more motivation and more moral obligation."

Between the doctors and health-care workers rallying across Canada and their 59 Cent Campaign, their voices were heard, said Dueck. The government has said government-assisted refugees will be able to keep their supplemental benefits.

"People wanted to see the funding reinstated," said Dueck. "We provided a grassroots push from everyday citizens."

The government hasn't acknowledged it made any changes to policy, though. And privately sponsored refugees are still only eligible for "urgent or essential" care.

"The problem is, what's considered urgent or essential?" asked Sharry Aiken, a law professor at Queen's University. "That's not communicated to the public or the people concerned."

Doctors and policy watchers have cried foul over the lack of clear information on matters of health and which refugees are covered for what.

"All of that should've been done with a lot of public consultation," said Tyler Sommers, the co-ordinator for Democracy Watch in Ottawa. "It will drastically affect the lives of a lot of people."

Aiken said the lack of information from the federal government is intentional.

"I don't think there's any miscalculation. This measure was designed to appeal to average taxpayers and get you onside: Pitch the notion that, somehow, refugees are getting something that you don't."

That distorts reality, she said.

"A lot of people get benefits through provincial health programs," and from employers, said Aiken. "It made it sound like they were getting an inordinate benefit other people don't get."

And as a cost-saving policy, it's "penny wise and pound foolish," Aiken said.

 

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2012 A9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Rumor's 30th Anniversary with Mike Wilmot, Darryl Lenox, Dave Hemstad & Derek Edwards

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gaggle of Canada geese goslings at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg Monday- See Project Honk Day 05- May 07, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the federal government force band chiefs and councillors to disclose their salary information?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google