The next federal election might be almost two years away but you'd never know it from sitting in the ballroom of the Loyalist Lakeview Resort in Summerside Monday evening.
More than 100 people gathered there, most of them public sector union members, to take part in a town hall meeting on the future of the Canadian health-care system.
The event was cosponsored by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and it's message was simple: Prime Minister Stephen Harper = bad for public health care in Canada.
There was certainly no shortage of impassioned speeches on the issue, even - perhaps unexpectedly for organizers - from both sides of the public healthcare debate.
One of them came from the evening's keynote speaker Paul Moist, national CUPE president.
Moist spoke at length on several issues, one of which was the importance of keeping health care in active public discussion.
"We need this conversation in every corner of Canada. Mr. Harper hopes that we're asleep - that we fall asleep - that abolishing the Senate is the No. 1 issue in Canada," said Moist.
"Yeah, we're pissed off at the Senate and all that crap right now - but that's not the number one issue in Canada. The No. 1 issue in Canada is the kind of Canada we want as Canadians - our shared responsibility to look after each other," he said.
There were three speakers for the evening. Including Moist, there was also: Leo Broderick, a local activist and representative for the council and Dr. Joyce Madigane, a longtime physician serving the people of West Prince and an outspoken advocate of rural health care.
Madigane spoke of her affection for the Canadian health-care system, her experiences in it and her belief in universal health care.
Moist and Broderick spoke of the importance of the Canada Health Accord, which is set to expire in 2014.
The current federal government, they pointed out, has refused to negotiate with the provinces on this document, which outlines, amongst other things, the percentage of federal funds that goes to health care. Instead, it has put a single and final amount on the table.
That amount will cut billions from the already underfunded health-care system and P.E.I. alone will lose $144 million from its health budget between 2014 and 2024, they said.
Monday's meeting, and many more like it ongoing across the country, are part of an effort to remind Canadians what's at stake in the 2015 election and to help educate them about the issues so they can ask hard questions at ballot time, said Moist.
"In politics, sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease," said Moist.
"Mr. Harper has one seat here on the Island out of the four federal ridings, that seat for Miss Shea will threatened if, among other things, people perceive there's no support for health care," he added.
Of course not everyone at the meeting came in with a political agenda, some just wanted information and a chance to learn what they can do to support public health care.
"I decided to come out because to me it feels like there is an assault on public health care. And I want to learn a little more about how to fight back. Because I simply don't agree that our health-care system should be privatized, semi-privatized or degraded in any other way," said Matthew Hennessey, a Charlottetown resident who drove up for the meeting.
And not everyone agreed with what they were hearing.
As the evening wrapped up and questions from the audience were taken, one person questioned some aspects of public health care while another, who identified himself as Marco Lapegna, totally dismissed it.
"How cruel is it tell a man who wants to get some medical care; 'no, you can't get it. You have a doctor who wants to perform surgery on you? No, you can't do it.' That is a complete violation of that man's freedom to contract and I believe it's a criminal act. Because what is the government doing? It's getting involved in that relationship. I can't understand how you can do that to people," said Lepegna.
But agree or disagree with the urgings of the council or CUPE, their messaging will continue as they continue to hold these town hall meetings throughout the rest of 2013 and 2014.
The organizers of the event directed anyone who agreed with their assessment of the health-care situation in Canada to contact their local MP or visit www.2014healthaccord.ca to find out more about their campaign.
They are also planning a public workshop on the issue this Wednesday at the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club in Summerside, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Editor's note: This story has been edited to fix a factual error.