Over 380K Ontarians vote against private health care in referendum conducted by advocates | CityNews Toronto
Posted: June 1, 2023
(May 31, 2023)
By: Tina Yazdani, CityNews Toronto
Health care advocates took to at Queen’s Park Wednesday to oppose what they call “the gutting and dismantling of public hospitals.”
Almost 400,000 people voted across Ontario, including 100,000 in Toronto in what’s being described as a citizen-led referendum organized by the advocacy group Ontario Health Coalition. The ballots were hand-delivered to the provincial government on Wednesday.
The question on the ballot was: do you want our public hospital services to be privatized?
Ninety-nine per cent or almost 380 thousand people voted no.
“That is not insignificant, and if this government wants to continue to call it a stunt or whatever, I challenge them [to hold your own referendum,]” said Marit Stiles, the Ontario NDP Leader. “And actually consult with the people of this province if you’re going to gut our healthcare system.”
Bill 60 allows more private clinics to offer certain publicly funded surgeries and procedures in an effort to cut long wait lists for care.
Cataract surgeries and diagnostic imaging and testing will be expanded while the government will create an entirely new system to perform hip and knee replacement surgeries.
Natalie Mehra with the Ontario Health Coalition said she believes this will make a difference.
“I think it’s pretty hard to ignore almost half a million people,” said Mehra. “I think it would be to their peril not to listen.”
Premier Doug Ford responded to the referendum earlier this week during Question Period at Queen’s Park on Monday. “I don’t call it a referendum, it was a political poll, [driven by] one side.”
“This is the way the polls should be: do you want to wait in line for a hip replacement for 18 months or would you like to get something done in 60 days from the exact same doctor in a surgical clinic?” asked Ford.
Critics of the legislation say the bill will cost more for patients and taxpayers, saying it will allow the simplest surgeries to be done for the highest price while existing operating rooms inside public hospitals aren’t being used at capacity.
“They had the money, they made the choice … at any point they could’ve cleared the backlog,” said Gayatri Samaroo, a health care professional.
“When you see the result of that backlog, when you see cancers getting worse, and you see the people, their pain, their suffering, the loss of their loved ones, because of the backlog they created, your heart utterly breaks,” added Samaroo.
This referendum vote is the beginning of what advocates call a relentless campaign
“We’re not going to stop. We’ll ratchet it up from here and the next thing we’ll be a massive protest as big as we can build in Toronto at the legislature to stop them,” said Mehra.
Mike Schreiner said that is the way to get the government’s attention.
“The only thing that moves this government is if people speak up and put pressure on them. That’s exactly what this is designed to do.”
The Ontario Medical Association and Ontario Hospital Association have both come out in support of Bill 60, calling it an important step to reduce wait times, and free up hospital resources to focus on emergency and complex cases.