On May 25, almost 1000 voting stations were staffed by thousands of Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) volunteers to make the Ford government respect the democratic process and input on their hospital privatization plans. Local health coalitions across the province will count ballots on May 28.   

“We felt like we had no other option, but to sort of run this referendum across the province. And I would remind you that this is a historic, democratic initiative by a citizen-led group in the province of Ontario,” Jim Stewart, media liaison and member of the Ontario Health Coalition said.   

The OHC’s referendum started in April, and called for the people of Ontario to choose whether they want public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics.    

Vote counting in the Waterloo region took place at the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario-Waterloo Region Office on May 28 from 12-5pm. Vote results were announced on Tuesday, May 30 at 8:30 am outside the Main Entrance to Grand River Hospital.    

“It doesn’t make any sense from a healthcare policy perspective, because we’ve got the capacity, we’ve got well-trained staff [who] deliver high quality care. To give you a further example Grand River Hospital has 10 operating rooms but only seven are open,” Stewart said.   

Waterloo Region Health Coalition is made up of community members and healthcare workers dedicated to the protection of the Canadian healthcare system. In 2022, the Ford government denied its plan to privatize surgeries and diagnostic services. Ford proved these claims falls on May 8, 2023, when Bill 60, the Ford government’s hospital privatization legislation passed into law on May 8.   

“Mr. Ford was denying that they were privatizing our services. They were funding, doubling the funding to $36 million a quarter at that same time, that was over a year ago,” Steward said.    

Several voting locations opened during May in Guelph and Wellington County, as the Guelph District Health Coalition (GDHC) joins others who oppose privatizing health care services in Ontario. The coalition said Bill 60 will negatively affect all local public hospitals, and the delivery of healthcare in small and rural towns. The first 500 in-person voting locations were announced on May 10. Seven were in Guelph while three others were in Wellington County.   

“Private clinics take only the lightweight cases, all the human resources from our public system go with it, and this leaves our public system desperate for people and money,” Stewart said.    

The Ontario government promised to invest $80 billion (about $250 per person in the US) dollars into the healthcare system in 2023. The OHC however feels this allows for even fewer frontline staff.    

“I believe it means that we’re looking at low cost, labour delivering high volume surgeries to maximize profit. We won’t have access to any information in the private clinics. That will be protected under privatization,” Stewart said.   

Under the current Independent Health Facilities Act (IHFA), the Director is an employee of the Ministry who is appointed by the Minister. Under Bill 60, the Ford government has enabled any third party, which may include a corporation, to have power to create new private clinics. There is no requirement in that bill that prevents conflict of interest in the Director(s), nor are they required to be financially transparent.    

“It [healthcare] needs to be funded. And we have an opportunity here to build a more resilient, fully funded public health care system that will deliver better outcomes at a lower cost,” Stewart said.   

 The Waterloo Region Health Coalition is made up of community members and healthcare workers. They are dedicated to protecting and improving the Canadian healthcare system. Under Bill 60 the Ford government has given the Director sole discretion over which persons or corporations receive licenses to operate clinics.    

“We have the operating rooms. Our public hospitals simply do not have the funding and support to staff them,” the Referendum states.    

The referendum focuses on redistributing resources the Ontario government has rather than a complete overhaul towards privatization. The OHC advises the Ontario public that Bill 60 takes away the need for public notice, no requirement for Cabinet approval, no 30-day notice period when changes are made.   

“Even if our government funded our hospitals to the average of the rest of Canada, we would clear the backlogs and wait lists for surgeries and diagnostic tests in our local public hospitals,” the referendum states.    

Province-wide results will be announced outside Queen’s Park on May 31 at 10 a.m. The people of Waterloo region and its OHC want the Ford government to listen and respect the democratic process. The OHC wants citizens of Ontario to be informed about their public healthcare system and what they can do to defend it.    

For more information, visit ontariohealthcoalition.ca.