The student doctors’ arguments received support from the traditional champions of medicare: Canadian nurses, the labour movement, and non-governmental organizations such as the Alberta Friends of Medicare, the Canadian Health Coalition and the Council of Canadians. The CNA encouraged its members to attend candidates’ meetings during the elections in 2004 and 2005–2006 and to ask the parties to clarify their positions on medicare. In October 2006, CNA president Dr. Marlene Smadu, a former assistant deputy minister in Saskatchewan’s health ministry, presented A Healthy Nation Is a Wealthy Nation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. This document summarized the view of nurses that health promotion, funding for the determinants of health and support for control of catastrophic drug costs were equally as important as wait times and fears about financial sustainability.
In Alberta, the Friends of Medicare launched a campaign called Keep Medicare Public against the Klein government’s “third way,” which called for private health insurance and private health services in spite of evidence from around the world that these initiatives did not decrease costs or alleviate wait times. As Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour pointed out, if Klein’s proposal was implemented, Alberta unions would have to bargain with employers to expand coverage of their members. This would simply off-load costs from the government to business and its employees while leaving those unable to afford private insurance or care in a deteriorating public system. Speaking for the Canadian labour movement, McGowan noted that it was because their predecessors had fought so strongly to create medicare that he and his colleagues wanted to preserve universal coverage based on need.