The official results are in following a province-wide “people’s referendum” aimed at stopping the privatization of Ontario’s public hospitals.
The citizen-run referendum, led by the Ontario Health Coalition with support from local branches, including the Simcoe County Health Coalition (SCHC), saw nearly 1,000 voting stations set up in the hopes of letting the provincial government know how Ontarians really feel about Bill 60, which is the Conservative-led legislation to privatize hospital services.
According to SCHC officials, 382,306 votes were cast across the province, with 376,223 votes cast against privatization and 6,083 votes in favour of privatization.
“The Simcoe County Health Coalition is very proud of these results," said SCHC co-chair Anisa Carrascal during a news conference this afternoon at Sunnidale Park in Barrie. "We ran a campaign that included 60 advance polls and 20 polls on the two main dates of voting. We obtained votes from residents in over 39 towns.
"The level of participation has been very positive,” she added.
The rest of the province has also spoken “loud and clear” throughout the six-week campaign, Carrascal noted, adding that 98 per cent of Ontario residents who voted were against privatization.
“This should be a clear indication for the government and they should pay attention, because we are not going to stop until Bill 60 is rescinded, the plans to move towards privatization are scrapped and the government starts properly funding our public health-care services," she said.
Carrascal says she's optimistic the government will see the results and scrap its plans for privatization.
“A normal petition, either online or in person, has never gone over 20,000 people, so this has teeth," she said. "This has people actually going to the streets and voting.
"The important part is not necessarily the number of votes at the end of the day, but the conversations we started in the community. A lot of people didn’t know this was happening," Carrascal added. "They didn’t know that Bill 60 had been passed. They didn’t know what Bill 60 implied and the wider picture of privatization. When we started those conversations, that was the important part of the campaign."
She hopes the provincial government listens to the results.
“They have backtracked on other issues where there was a considerable amount of people (speaking out against it). We will make sure they, at the very least, answer this call," Carrascal said.
Health-care workers from across the province are set to descend on Queen’s Park tomorrow (May 31) to deliver the massive pile of ballots, including members of the SCHC as well as OPSEU Local 346, which represents 240 health professionals at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie.
“We work on the front lines and many of us in direct patient care," said OPSEU Local 346 president Elizabeth Watts. "We have suffered through ongoing and persistent disrespect that we’ve seen from this government, but we’ve pushed through and adapted. This majority government is threatening our family, friends and our patients, and we are saying enough is enough.
"We are uniting, we are organizing and we are standing together to say no more,” Watts added.