Connect  |  Newsletter  |  Donate

99% of Algoma voters oppose health-care privatization: Ontario Health Coalition – WITH PHOTO GALLERY

Posted: May 31, 2023

(May 30 2023)

By: Jeffrey Ougler

Those who cast ballots – physically and electronically – have “overwhelmingly rejected” what the Ontario Health Coalition contends is the path toward increased health-care privatization in this province.

A May referendum, which saw more than a thousand voting stations set up provincewide last weekend, workplaces polled earlier in the month and online voting carried out all month, asked Ontarians if they wanted health privatized. In Algoma District (including Sault Ste. Marie), 99.9 percent said no; 5,814 voters were opposed compared to 72 in favour.

Across Ontario, of 382,647 ballots cast, 376,223 registered a ‘no’ vote.

Poll results were announced in communities across Ontario Tuesday morning, with Algoma District numbers unveiled at a press conference in front of Progressive Conservative MPP Ross Romano’s Elgin Street office.

Ontario Health Coalition Algoma District representative Al Dupuis told about 40 supporters, including Unifor and CUPE representatives, the turnout was “really good” considering what he called little time to organize.

“To say that it’s a resounding ‘no’ is an understatement,” said Dupuis, adding the numbers were a “good” sample size

Some workplace votes have yet to be tallied.

“They do public opinion polls with a couple thousand people to get an accurate level that’s pretty high,” Dupuis said.

The ballot question was: “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics?” Vote options were: “Yes” or “No.

The Ontario government passed Bill 60 May 8 allowing private clinics to conduct more OHIP-covered surgeries as advocates warn of potential legal action.

Also known as the Your Health Act, it will go into effect once it receives Royal Assent. The legislation was first tabled in February by Health Minister Sylvia Jones, who charged it was necessary to prune the province’s large surgical backlog.

OHC, which advocates for publicly funded health care while representing more than 500 member organizations and individuals, contends the Ontario government has already called for bids for three new private day hospitals to do 14,000 cataract surgeries initially, as well as diagnostics. The Ford Progressive Conservatives have also given repeated boosts of tens of millions in new funding to expand existing private clinics, increased the number of private clinics and intend to further beef up volumes as well as expand the types of surgeries they privatize.

Dupuis said it’s not necessarily true that the bulk of those who voted already shared his group’s concerns.

“Probably after seeing the facts (people pitched a ‘no vote,) which is the whole point,” Dupuis told the Sault Star in an interview follow the announcement. “We work very hard to get to the bottom of what’s the reasons for the short-comings in our health-care system.”

Sault Ste. Marie OHC representative Marie DellaVedova said local voting stations were strategically set up so that those who may not have been aware of the event would notice them.

“Way above and beyond the people who came over and heard about it voted in favour of our stand, which was no to privatization,” she told the Sault Star.

Dupuis said OHC collaborates with other organizations, such as the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which gauges Ontario health-care funding compared to that of other provinces.

“It’s just abysmal … We’re at the bottom of funding in Canada by a lot, not just by a little,” he said. “We do our best to find out what’s at the root cause of what’s wrong.

“An effort like this, for no other reason than just to reach a whole bunch of people … there’s close to a half a million people we’ve been able to reach over the last few weeks, who now understand what’s at stake and what kind of misinformation they’ve been getting from this government about solutions and what’s necessary.”

The province’s take that it must be “innovative” in managing health care is “code” for privatization and “selling off our public services to profiteers.”

“When people see that stuff, they’re angry,’ Dupuis said. “And I think they should be. Especially when the government said categorically leading up to the last election that they weren’t going to.”

Dupuis said OHC called out the Tories at the time and, despite promises not to move forward with privatization, the government “backtracked” once re-elected.

“Now they’re moving forward with it,” he added.

Romano did not appear at the event.

Under the bill, for-profit and not-for-profit clinics will be allowed to conduct cataract surgeries, MRI and C.T. scans, minimally invasive gynecological surgeries, and knee and hip replacements under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

“Ford is still saying you can pay with your OHIP card, not your credit card. Another really good one,” Dupuis said.

Results across the province appear to mirror Algoma’s: 99 per cent of Peterborough-area participants voted against health-care privatization, as did those in Cornwall.

The vote was open to any Ontario resident 16 or older. Voters had to provide their address and make a pledge to only vote once. The same applied to online voting. Two votes could be cast from one IP address.

The goal of collecting one million votes across the province fell short.

“A number of people, no doubt, think that we can’t do anything about it,” Dupuis said. “I think this is a really strong demonstration of community solidarity and it’s really just starting.

“Given (health care’s) importance to everybody, I don’t think they’re going to put up with it. We’ll see what happens going forward. Maybe the Ford government will suddenly relent, but, if not, the Ontario Heath Coalition, being a democratic organization, will consult with its membership and consider next steps.”

DellaVedova said, if anything, the referendum spread heightened awareness about what she brands as the perils of health-care privatization.

“We’re not going away,” she said. “There’s a real high level of enthusiasm amongst these volunteers and (they) are really are dedicated to try to turn back this legislation. And I think, in time, as more and more people find about it, they’ll understand the ramifications … they are not good.”

Click here for original article