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RELEASE: Coalition Warns Ford Government Against Using Gordon Campbell’s Fiscal Review as a Set Up to Create a Crisis & Privatize, September 20, 2018

Posted: September 20, 2018

Coalition Warns Ford Government Against Using Gordon Campbell’s Fiscal Review as a Set Up to Create a Crisis & Privatize

‘Don’t try to play the same script as happened in British Columbia under Campbell’s Government that resulted in one of the worst attacks on public health care in Canada’s history’

(September 20, 2018) The Hon. Vic Fedeli’s speech at the Economics Club tomorrow morning will reveal the contents of Gordon Campbell’s fiscal review. We expect that amidst the hand-wringing, without even considering the option of cancelling the tax cuts for the wealthy or raising revenues to ensure that needed public services are protected for Ontarians, we will be subjected to yet another attempt to sell the public on the tired formula of “change management” we have been through before in which they create a “crisis” in order to soften up the public for cuts and privatization.

Certainly the appointment of Gordon Campbell deserves more public scrutiny than it has been afforded to date. Campbell is an arch-privatizer, enemy of public health care, and fomenter of fiscal-crisis driven cuts and roll backs of progressive policy in his province. First he claimed he was elected to bring fiscal prudence to the province, even though he inherited a surplus, then he made staggering cuts to public services across the board which he termed as “thoughtful” and “innovative”.  He drove his province into deficit and increased their debt significantly while giving massive tax cuts that benefited the rich. Then he turned a blind eye as private hospitals (called clinics) charged user fees in the thousands of dollars to sick and elderly patients in violation of Canada’s Public Medicare laws that prohibit such charges to patients in need, acting only when absolutely forced to do so by patients who were charged thousands of dollars for needed surgeries. Then, just a couple of months ago, he signed an affidavit to help the private clinics in their attempt to bring down public medicare and usher in two-tier medicare.  This is the man whom Doug Ford has brought in to do the so called Financial Inquiry in Ontario and like Ford, Campbell never mentioned in the election his planned fiscal crisis and massive cuts and privatization regime.

Already Gordon Campbell’s script is playing out here. On September 6, Health Minister Christine Elliott’s comments and a speech to the Ontario Hospital Association were eerily reminiscent of Gordon Campbell’s public messages. Stating that the Ford government was elected to bring financial order to Ontario (not exactly accurate), they are going to make tough decisions, be innovative, and find “efficiencies”.  But the cuts have already started and they are very real. This summer, the Ford government made multiple announcements per day, systematically cutting and rolling back the progressive reforms and funding improvements that were in the 2018 provincial budget. In health care, OHIP+ was cut, promised mental health funding increase was cut by $380 million. In poverty-reduction, social assistance – already dangerously low — was cut in real-dollar terms and the basic income pilot project was cancelled. Across the board, programs and services that would have created equity and improved living standards for the middle class and lower income Ontarians have come under Ford’s axe.

“We are warning the Ford government that Ontarians have no appetite for cuts, hospital mega-mergers and restructuring, privatization, or further downsizing vital care staff. We will not fall for sugar coating the attack on public health care under a rubric of “efficiencies”. We have been through this too many times before and the support for protecting our local public health care services is deep and crosses all party lines. There is no mandate for cuts and we will fight any attempt to attack public health care,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director.

Briefing Note

Gordon Campbell – Canada’s Arch Health Care Privateer and Author of the Worst Cuts in B.C.’s History

Not only does he have an abysmal record on financial matters, but former B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, whom Doug Ford appointed to lead the Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry in Ontario, is perhaps the biggest enemy of public health care in Canada. B.C. is now Canada’s ground zero for health care privatization and user fees charged to patients, mainly as a result of Gordon Campbell’s policies while in power.

It must be noted that Gordon Campbell wiped out a $1.5 billion surplus he inherited when he took government, then went on to post the largest deficits in the B.C.’s history to that time, and he added significantly to the province’s debt. He has been lauded by the extreme right-wing Fraser Institute which has received funding from U.S. private interests and has relentlessly advocated to bring down public health care and other social programs in Canada.

Gordon Campbell’s record is among the very worst in the history of Canadian public health care:

Attempts to improve health care under the public system were undermined as Mr. Campbell completely ignored the advice and recommendations of public health care advocates and opted instead to cut and privatize. The number and scope of private clinics mushroomed under Mr. Campbell’s tenure as he cut and closed local public hospitals. For years, his government turned a blind eye to private clinics charging user fees to patients for medically necessary services, including double-billing (billing B.C.’s public OHIP plan and billing patients too for the same procedures). These direct charges to patients are an outright violation of the Canada Health Act that bans extra charges to patients for needed medical care, and if double-billing is not criminally illegal it ought to be.

Just recently, at the beginning of July, Mr. Campbell issued an affidavit as ex-Premier supporting private for-profit clinics in their fight to extra-bill patients in B.C. Mr. Campbell’s affidavit supports the private clinics’ attempt to get an injunction in court to stop the current government from imposing a regulation clamping down on the extra user charges they are billing to patients. Despite the obvious hardship caused to patients by thousands – or even tens of thousands — of dollars in user fees being charged for needed health care, Mr. Campbell makes the outrageously false claim that the private clinics he supports do not damage Medicare. B.C. patients now face the most user fees for MRIs, diagnostic tests and surgeries in their private clinics of anywhere in Canada. They are charged hundreds to thousands of dollars for needed MRIs, and thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for needed surgeries.

Mr. Campbell’s government brought private health care interests and other corporate interests in to take power over Regional Health Authorities. Then he brought in legislation to allow the contracting out of public hospital services. During his tenure there was mass privatization of hospital support and clinical services. Vital cleaning services were privatized along with food and other patient support services. As a result of privatization and the poor practices of the for-profit cleaning companies hospital infection outbreaks increased.

Mr. Campbell cut taxes for the rich and for corporations, who called it “Christmas in July” and then undertook to pay for it by a massive campaign of cutting rural hospitals, closing schools, and decimating services including everything from the B.C. ferries to undertaking the largest mass layoff of women in the province’s history (due to his public sector cuts).

He brought in privatized P3s (so called private-public partnerships, an exorbitantly expensive method of building public hospitals and other infrastructure through contracting private groups of companies that include private multinational financiers and banks, service privatizers and private consulting firms).

Mr. Campbell acted in the interests of the private drug companies as well, going after the B.C. Therapeutics Initiative, attempting to axe their funding and close down their independent laboratory. The Initiative was a public watchdog, giving advice on drug safety and pharmaceutical policy. Campbell created a panel stacked in favour of the pharmaceutical industry to make recommendations on reform, then axed the funding of the Therapeutics Initiative and cut access to the primary database its researchers used. An international outcry forced Campbell to turn back some of these attempts to gut the Initiative.

Under Mr. Campbell’s tenure there was major labour strife including grave problems negotiating contracts with doctors, nurses, health professionals and support workers. The worst health care labour relations in memory ensued from his policies. Thousands of front-line and patient support staff saw their collective agreements ripped up, their work contracted out, and their pay cut dramatically. When 43,000 hospital and long-term care workers went out on strike, Mr. Campbell legislated them back to work and imposed a 15% pay cut.

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