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Nearly 99% of local referendum voters say ‘no’ to private healthcare

Posted: May 31, 2023

(May 30, 2023)

By: Alex Flood, Soo Today

‘It’s not even a debate about what’s in the best interest of the public,’ says local spokesperson for Ontario Health Coalition, which organized citizen-run ‘referendum’

The local and provincial results from the Ontario Health Coalition’s citizen-run referendum on healthcare privatization were announced on Tuesday during a gathering in front of MPP Ross Romano’s office.

Strongly opposed to Bill 60, the OHC asked Ontarians to cast a ballot last week in favour of maintaining a single-tier publicly funded healthcare system.

The province, meanwhile, says the legislation will allow private clinics to perform procedures such as knee replacements, hip replacements and cataract surgery to cut long wait lists for care.

The question on the ballot was: “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics?”

Out of the 5,886 ballots cast in the Algoma district, only 72 people voted yes.

Across Ontario, 6,424 out of 382,647 voters wished to see hospital services privatized to for-profit clinics, or 1.67 per cent of the poll, according to the OHC.

The “referendum” results will not be binding on the Ontario government, but OHC officials are still pleased with the turnout.

“To say it’s a resounding ‘no’ is an understatement,” said Al Dupuis, Blind River-based Ontario Health Coalition spokesperson for the Algoma District. “This is a serious threat to our single-tier, public healthcare system, which there is no reason why we can’t have.”

“We have hospital emergency rooms closing, and they’re not putting enough funding forward to getting staffing levels up to where they need to be.”

Dupuis says that he’s heard from many concerned and upset residents on opposite ends of the political spectrum, and notes the situation stretches far beyond politics.

“This is not about parties right now,” he says. “If Ford turns around and scraps Bill 60 and starts to fund our hospitals properly, then the Ontario Health Coalition would be the first organization to praise his decision – we will do that, on my word.”

Also in attendance at Tuesday’s gathering included Sault District Labour Council vice-president Neal Moss, who fears that the healthcare system in Ontario and parts of Canada are on track to mirroring our neighbours to the south.

“In 20 or 30 years, we’ll be the American healthcare system,” he says. “This is Canadian identity that’s being attacked. They have seriously underfunded hospitals for years. We have to look after those who can’t afford to look after themselves.”

“It’s not even a debate about what’s in the best interest of the public,” Dupuis adds. “This vote is pretty significant, and we’re really just getting started.”

SooToday has reached out to MPP Ross Romano to respond to the results of the referendum, but his office has confirmed he has no comment at this time.

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