One group staged a parade of giant puppets. They wanted to give premiers a model of what not to be, as they negotiate with Ottawa.
"The future of healthcare depends on what comes out of these meetings this week," said organizer Kyle Buott, of the Nova Scotia Citizens' Health Care Network.
The Harper government will add to its health expenditures in the next few years, but protestors say after that, a unilateral change in policy will cut $31 billion from the pot over the next decade.
Just a few blocks away, nurses with another advocacy group handed out healthy brown-bag lunches. The nurses want premiers to re-focus medicare toward more long-term care for seniors, and programs that prevent obesity. They say both would help reduce expensive hospital visits.
"A study came out this winter where Canada won the gold medal for the most use of [emergency rooms] in the world," said Linda Silas of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
"Why? Because we have no other option. You're sick, you go to the ER. We want people to have better choice everywhere, and the premiers can lead that discussion."
Speakers at the nurses' event said the Prime Minister should also be in on that discussion, or too many hospital visits could make medicare unsustainable.
Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz and Brad Wall of Saskatchewan will present a report to the rest of the premiers today on possible innovations in healthcare. It is expected to deal with the growing number of elderly people, and the need for a federal health human resources strategy.