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99 per cent of Ontarians reject hospital cuts: referendum

Toronto – The results of the referendum are in, and the people have spoken clearly and overwhelmingly: Ontarians do not want the provincial government to cut or privatize the services that hospitals provide in their communities.

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) held the informal referendum on May 28 at 1,000 polling stations in 40 communities across the province. Of the almost 94,000 people who voted, 99.6 per cent demanded that the government halt the cuts to hospital funding and services.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which proudly represents a large and diverse number of hospital workers, mobilized its members to be volunteers for the campaign leading up to the referendum. Sara Labelle, chair of OPSEU’s Hospital Professionals Division, said hospital workers want to continue providing the vital public health care services that people need and rely upon.

“Our members are there every day to provide the public with public services. People who come to community hospitals don’t worry they’ll be turned away. They don’t have to ensure they’re rich enough to pay for services. And Ontarians have said it’s got to stay that way.”

According to the OHC – a grassroots umbrella group whose members include community organizations, seniors, anti‑poverty groups, student organizations, women’s groups, unions and individuals – Ontario’s hospital funding is the lowest, or almost the lowest, in Canada. Only Mexico and Chile have fewer hospital beds per resident in the developed world.

In addition to closing beds, the Ontario Liberals have cut emergency departments, birthing and surgical units, and palliative care. They have slashed or privatized health care positions, labs, diagnostics, outpatient clinics, housekeeping and support services.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was not surprised by the results of the referendum.

“There’s a huge disconnect between what the people want and what the government does,” said Thomas. “These Liberals don’t listen to the people. They listen to profiteers who want to get their hands on more public cash. That’s why they’re slashing hospital funding, privatizing public services, and doling out billions to wealthy corporations in fat tax cuts year after year.

“Almost 100,000 Ontarians have resorted to a referendum to get their message across. I strongly recommend the Liberals listen this time – and not wait for the bigger referendum two years down the road.”

For more information: Sara Labelle, 905-914-4037