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On May 26 and 27: vote for public healthcare

Michelle Robidoux

May 8, 2023
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s privatization of hospital services poses an existential threat to medicare. The Ford government is moving full speed ahead to take thousands of surgeries and diagnostic tests out of local public hospitals and privatize them to for-profit hospitals and clinics.
But a fightback is building right across the province in defence of this key working class gain – one which was the product of mass struggles over many generations.
The Ontario Health Coalition, representing local health coalitions and 500 organizations across Ontario, has launched a community-led referendum on the question, “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics?”. The referendum – with in-person and online voting – will take place May 26 and 27th.
The push is on to involve as broad a swathe of the population as possible to express their opposition to Ford’s attacks. And momentum is building. Students have organized advance votes, and unions are also playing a key role in mobilizing people to organize the vote.
At recent union conventions including United Food & Commercial Workers, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, United Steelworkers and Canadian Union of Postal Workers, stewards and unit chairs voted and also took ballots back into their workplaces.
Advance polls are being organized at key neighbourhood hubs in cities and towns across Ontario.
The Ford government has no mandate to sell off our public hospitals. That is why the Conservatives are trying to move at lightning speed to push this privatization through. Before the June 2022 election, they denied they were moving to privatize hospital services, just as they denied they were opening up the Greenbelt for developers. They lied.
Ford is banking on frustration at the growing crisis in the public healthcare system – a crisis created by long-term underfunding and understaffing, and the burnout this produces – to force through the ‘solution’ of privatization.
Public healthcare is indeed in crisis – but this crisis was deliberately created to drive through profit-taking by Ford’s corporate cronies. We can’t let them get away with it. We need properly funded public healthcare for all, not one system for the rich and another one for the rest of us. This means fighting for services for the uninsured, fighting for equity and fighting for decent pay for all healthcare workers.
Ballots will be counted in the days following the referendum, and on May 31st delegates from local coalitions across the province will deliver those ballots to Queens Park. The bigger the vote, the more people will have been mobilized to push back. This is the force we will need to stop Ford.
The debate around privatization is raging, and the public pushback is shaping the terrain. While Ottawa Hospital has moved headlong down the privatization path by inviting a private surgery consortium to use the public hospital’s infrastructure, an initiative at Sunnybrook and Michael Garron hospitals in Toronto shows there is an alternative that could reduce surgery backlogs entirely within the public health system. These solutions point to investing in our public healthcare system, paying the workers properly and increasing staffing to proper levels to meet patient needs and not corporate greed.
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