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Ontario Health Coalition vows to keep ‘heat on’ in fight against privatization – WITH PHOTO GALLERY

Posted: September 26, 2023

(September 25 2023)

By: Jeffrey Ougler, The Sault Star

Keeping the “heat on” is necessary in battling what the Ontario Health Coalition brands as continued privatization of hospital services.

“I think we’ve got to bear down on the media scrutiny and we have to bear down on the public pressure to make sure this is in the public eye and that people understand that this is not something that (Premier Doug Ford) is trying to do to fix things,” OHC Algoma District representative Al Dupuis told the Sault Star during a noon protest at Sault Area Hospital. “He’s profiteering and we’ve got to stop it.”

An Ontario Health Coalition-led protest against ER closings and privatization of hospital services saw more than 100 picketers and supporters gather on Lukenda Drive in front the hospital’s main entrance. OHC argues the Ford government is repeatedly underspending the health care budget, “worsening” the staffing crisis and forcing “unprecedented” emergency and other critical hospital service closures across Ontario. At the same time, they are shifting hundreds of millions of public dollars into expanding private for-profit health care.

Monday’s action coincided with protests elsewhere in the province, including a major one at Queen’s Park, as MPPs return to the legislature.

The Ontario government passed Bill 60 in May allowing private clinics to conduct more OHIP-covered surgeries as advocates warn of potential legal action. The legislation was first tabled in February, with the province arguing it was necessary to prune the province’s large surgical backlog.

Dupuis said public pressure on the province can work, citing the government’s recent about-face on plans to develop protected lands for housing.

Ford announced last week he was reversing his plan to open the protected Greenbelt lands for development after sustaining nearly a year of blowback over the decision that has seen cabinet ministers and two top staffers resign.

“We have to keep the heat on and we see that it’s not necessarily in vain,” Dupuis said. “We saw what happened last week with the Greenbelt.”

Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development. Last year, the province took 7,400 acres of land in more than a dozen sections out of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes, citing the housing crisis, and Ford has faced large amounts of opposition to the plan since then.

Reports from the auditor general and integrity commissioner found that the process to select lands was rushed and favoured certain developers.

Dupuis said there’s many “parallels” between the Greenbelt issue and the government’s health-care privatization efforts.

“The government is attempting to do something that’s clearly, according to the evidence, not in the public interest,” he added. “They’re being obstinate about heath care. They had been with Greenbelt.”

A May OHC-organized referendum, which saw more than a thousand voting stations set up province-wide 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.

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