Maria Cabral gets worried whenever she hears about the latest Doug Ford attempt to attack or privatize Ontario’s universal healthcare system.
“I’m afraid for what it means for workers and their families and I’m worried for the future and my grandchildren,” said Cabral, a member of the local union executive board who works at Maple Leaf Poultry. “We will be in big trouble if Ford succeeds, and healthcare becomes more privatized. People won’t be able to afford care and they will die. Ontario will be just for the rich people and the rest of us will just suffer.”
Long wait times and staffing shortages are often cited as reasons for privatization. However, the reason the system is suffering, with many Emergency Rooms closing, is due to deliberate under-funding by the Conservative government.
In 2020, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario reported that the province spent the least per person for health care in the whole country. For 2021-2022, the conservatives refused to spend the $1.8 billion already allocated for healthcare. Overall, the CBC reports the province did not spend $7.2 billion as planned – money that could have helped maintain the healthcare system and levels of care.
“I think about the bills that families would have to pay with the growing privatization, and the discrimination that will take place against people who cannot afford or don’t have insurance,” said Anita Hurley, a member of the local union executive board who works at Swiss Chalet. “We have to protect our universal health care system because with privatized healthcare, you have to decide between your health or paying the bills or buying food.”
The Conservatives have continuously engaged in a series of attacks on the universal healthcare system in Ontario:
- The CBC reported the Conservatives will increase the amount of publicly funded surgeries performed at existing private clinics. Shifting resources and funding to private clinics will undermine the quality of care in public hospitals.
- They have said they will expand private for-profit clinics and hospitals, according to the Ontario Health Coalition. The Conservatives also indicated they are opening up paediatric surgeries and cancer screenings to be conducted by private institutions.
- The Conservatives have also refused to properly fund and rectify the nursing and health professional short- ages that have compromised the quality of care for Ontario residents.
- Critics report Ontario has the fewest nurses to patient ratio in Canada. They passed the highly punitive Bill 124, that attacked the wages of nurses and other healthcare professionals despite many serving on the frontlines in the toughest of conditions during the pandemic.
- The Conservatives continue to privatize long-term care.
- The Conservatives’ actions led to emergency rooms shutting down and/or scaling down – which never used to occur with this frequency.
- They privatized COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Having free universal public healthcare is important to all Canadians because everyone should be treated equally regardless of their income and status in life,” said Jaime Jesalva, a member of the local union executive board who works at Aramark. “These attacks on our healthcare system will affect not only my family but the ordinary worker who will have to pay more for continued access to healthcare. We, the ordinary workers, will have more trouble accessing health services, and will have poorer care and poorer outcomes.”
The labour movement continues to rally and raise awareness about this issue.
“It’s devastating to see Doug Ford gutting our healthcare system so he can privatize it,” said President Wayne Hanley. “Workers depend on our universal health care to keep them and their families healthy and safe— we must come together to advocate to keep our system public. Quality healthcare should not only be for the rich and well-off but for everyone. Our union is proud to stand up for fair- ness and equality in our community, and that means standing up for a public service that so many of our members use and need. Make your voice heard and help protect our public services.”