The Washington Times - May 29, 2009, 10:46AM

Canadian Democrats supportive of their country’s universal health care program are soliciting donations to send their leader to Washington to meet with “Obama Democrats” to strategize about implementing a similar system.

A fundraising appeal mailed to supporters from Anne McGrath, president of Canada’s New Democrats, says: “There’s a battle over universal health care happening in the United States — and your New Democrats are a part of it. I hope you will lend your support.”

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An image of an economy-class plane ticket from Ottawa to Washington for New Democrat Leader Jack Layton, who is running to become Prime Minister, accompanies the mailer. In the bottom left corner it says: “SUPPORT OBAMA’S FIGHT FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE. PROTECT MEDICARE BACK IN CANADA.”

Mr. Layton is scheduled to deliver a speech on health care at the Woodrow Wilson Center next week. While he is in Washington, he will also meet with President Obama’s Communication Director Anita Dunn, who will be traveling later this summer to Canada to speak at a conference for the New Democrats. Canadian Democrats believe if the United States passed a public health care program, it would help stop their country’s conservatives from trying to bring private companies into their health care system.

“We do have a health care system here that is, as you know, public and universal,” said Mr. Layton’s Press Secretary Karl Belanger. “And. a stronger health care system in the U.S. would help us protect our health care system here.” He explained, “There is a push from conservatives to threaten the presence of our system and get for-profit corporations in the system, which is something we fundamentally oppose. They point to the United States for the change that could happen here.”

American conservatives who oppose President Obama’s health care plan often mention Canada’s system. An ad released by Americans for Prosperity, a group that promotes free-market principles, featured the story of a Canadian woman who survived brain cancer by going to the United States to get treatment. The ad warns Americans about government-run health care.

“I survived a brain tumor,” says Shona Holmes, of Waterton, Canada, for AFP’s Patients United Now campaign. “But if I had relied on my government for health care, I’d be dead. I am a Canadian citizen and as my health care grew worse my government health care system told me I had to wait six months so see a specialist. In six months I would have died. … I’m here today because I was able to drive to the U.S. where I received world-class treatment. Government-run health care isn’t the answer, and it sure isn’t free.”

Patients United Now spokeswoman Amy Menefee said the ad was created because “patients are the biggest group left out of the health care debate. We have the insurance companies, the drug companies, all of the industry people and the politicians, and the patients’ voices are not being heard.”