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Paul Martin visits North Bay (UPDATED)

Paul Martin and Nipissing-Timiskaming Liberal candidate Anthony Rota.

Paul Martin and Nipissing-Timiskaming Liberal candidate Anthony Rota.

Federal Liberal leader Paul Martin brought his health care message to North Bay Monday afternoon during a visit to the campaign headquarters of Nipissing-Timiskaming Liberal candidate Anthony Rota.

Here are excerpts from Martin’s speech:

“Health care demands the attention of the prime minister, not his indifference healthcare demands the leadership of the prime minister, not his apathy. The prime minister cannot speak with the voices of 10 provinces. He must speak with the voice of a single country, he must speak with the voice of Canada, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Those of us who care deeply about our publicly funded system of health care, universally accepted, were certainly unsettled when a week ago Ralph Klein had selected June 30 as the date when he would unveil his proposed reforms for Alberta, reforms, and I can now quote the premier, ‘that might violate the Canada health act.’
Now this is an issue of great importance since June 30 happens to be two days after the date of the general election.

“I’ve called on Stephen Harper to join me in urging Premier Klein to bring his reforms forward now while Canadians are engaged in the great debate about medicare, and I happen to believe an election campaign is when you should discuss national issues.

So far Stephen Harper hasn’t had the courage to do it, so far the silence from Stephen Harper has been deafening. There’s still time for him to act like a national leader, so I call on Stephen Harper today, I say to you ‘Stephen Harper put an end to your silence, speak up, speak up for the Canada Health Act, speak up for Canada, say that you support the Canada Health Act’ and tell us you’re going to stand up to Premier Klein.”

This summer there’s going to be a meeting of first ministers to talk about health care.
I believe that Canadians have a right to know what the leaders are going to be taking to that debate and I have already set forth the Canadian government’s plan. I think Canadians are entitled to even more that that though, and earlier today I made a proposal to the premiers and the people of Canada. I propose we sit down this summer with the number one priority of Canadians being health care, that we allow it to happen at a meeting in front of Canadians and in front of the television cameras, in other words I want those meeting to be televised. I want the press to be there and not because it’s my lifelong dream to be on the cover of TV guide. The issue of health care is simply too important, too pivotal to be held behind closed doors. Public policy ought to be made publicly. No more games on health care let’s do it openly, let Canadians understand what we believe.”

Martin also made reference to Northern Ontario and how the federal government, through FedNor, could help North Bay, Sudbury and other communities in this part of the province grow.

“The way to do this is to recognize, as Stephen Harper will not, that government can play a positive role in the life of our communities and our people. And that means that we as a government will not walk away from regional economic development. Stephen Harper said he will. We won’t turn our backs on small businesses that are looking for seed capital in Northern Ontario. We’re going to make sure that all communities, without exception, get their fair share of infrastructure funding. Stephen Harper said he would cancel infrastructure, we’re going to invest in the infrastructure of the North. Our approach to the North is based on the simple fact that we believe in Northern Ontario.”

Martin also predicted Anthony Rota would be elected to the House of Commons June 28.

"And I know that Anthony Rota, when he gets to Ottawa, his understanding of North Bay, his background in North Bay, is what's going to make the difference, it's going to give us a tremendous insight into North Bay and all of Northern Ontario, and that is so important as we build for the future."

With files from Kate Adams. Photos by Kate Adams, Tim Salidas and Greg Kolz.