TORONTO-Health care workers, activists, and community organizers rallied at Queen’s Park today to deliver the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) Citizens Referendum results, which revealed an overwhelmingly strong opposition to the privatization of healthcare in Ontario. The referendum saw an impressive turnout of more than 400,000 Ontarians, with an astounding 98.4% of voters expressing their disapproval of privatization.
“The resounding outcome of the referendum sends a clear message that the public is firmly committed to preserving and strengthening the publicly funded healthcare system in Ontario,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director, “The massive opposition to private healthcare in Ontario, as reflected in the citizen referendum, demands that the Ontario government halt its health care privatization agenda and invest in the publicly funded health care system now.”
The Ontario Health Coalition spearheaded the citizen referendum, providing Ontarians with a platform to voice their opinions on the privatization of services in local public hospitals and their transfer to for-profit institutions. Throughout the month of May, communities across Ontario conducted votes in various locations, including union halls, community centers, local businesses, coffee shops, stores, service clubs, places of worship, and legions. More than 400,000 ballots were cast, including by Unifor members across the province.
“The people of this province have spoken, and the message to Doug Ford couldn’t be any clearer: Ontarians refuse to accept the privatization of vital public services,” said Kari Jefford, President of Unifor Local 229 and Unifor’s Health Care Council, speaking at the Queen’s Park rally. “There is an alternative, a path that doesn’t involve selling off essential services to the highest bidder. Let us seize the moment and invest in our healthcare system. It’s time to rebuild and strengthen our public system, brick by brick.”
The referendum results arrive amidst ongoing debates surrounding healthcare policy in the province, particularly since Premier Doug Ford announced plans on January 16 to transfer thousands of surgeries and diagnostic tests from local public hospitals to for-profit hospitals and clinics. This decision carries significant implications for community hospitals, as it worsens existing staffing shortages and diverts essential resources away from public healthcare institutions, resulting in reduced staff, services, and resources.
The rally held at Queen’s Park echoed the sentiments expressed by the citizens in the referendum, underscoring the collective determination to protect and fortify the public healthcare system in Ontario.
“The results should serve as a reminder to the government of the urgency and importance of respecting and listening to the people they serve,” said Rizvi.
As the Ford government considers its next steps in health care policy, Unifor will continue to advocate for increased investments in public healthcare, reduced wait times, improved access to services, and a steadfast commitment to the principles of universality and equity.