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Ballots to be cast in ‘unofficial referendum’ on Midland hospital cuts

Posted: May 11, 2016

(May 11, 2016)

Author: Travis Mealing, Midland Mirror

MIDLAND – A group determined to fight proposed service cuts at Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) has at least one more trick up its sleeve.

Citizens of North Simcoe Concerned for Fair LHIN Funding has organized a local vote in an “unofficial referendum” spearheaded by the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC).

“We’ll have ballot boxes in strategic places in Tay, Tiny, Midland and Penetang,” said Fran Moreau, one of the local group’s three co-chairs. “We’re hoping the government will see fit to increase (GBGH’s) funding. That’s the bottom line.”

The ballot boxes will be around for the rest of May in stores and businesses. The wording on the ballot is: “Ontario’s government must stop the cuts to our community hospitals and restore services, funding and staff to meet our communities’ needs for care.” Below there are boxes where respondents can check Yes or No.

Moreau agreed with the observation that the campaign is designed to get nearly 100 per cent of respondents to check the “yes” box. She also acknowledged it will not carry any legal weight or be binding on the Liberal government.

Nonetheless, she said she is hopeful of making a difference, noting the OHC successfully put pressure on the government to backtrack on similar proposals in Leamington several years ago.

Midland Mayor Gord McKay is travelling to Toronto today (Thursday) with his counterparts from Penetanguishene and Tiny Township for a sit-down with Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care officials.

At Monday’s launch of the ballot-box initiative, he spoke of the need for “appropriate” health care in the community.

“I’m not sure this (referendum) is going to be the solution,” he added, “but I can tell you it’s part of the solution. We’ve got to make sure our political masters are aware of the concern and anxiety right across this province.”

Tay Township Mayor Scott Warnock offered encouragement to the group, noting “nothing speaks louder” to politicians than the ballot box.

“It’s a fight well worth fighting, because at the end the victory will be very sweet,” he said, adding service cuts and staffing reductions are no way to balance the hospital’s books. “Health care is much more than the bottom line.”

The ballots will be collected and counted May 27 and presented to Premier Kathleen Wynne by the OHC the following Monday.

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