Three thousand people from across Ontario rallied on November 21 against private clinics and in defence of public healthcare, exposing Liberal austerity.
Last election many worried about the prospect of Tory Tim Hudak coming to power and implementing his promised 100,000 job cuts. When the NDP campaigned to the centre, the Liberals tacked to the left and monopolized the anti-Hudak vote. Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne has portrayed herself as a “social justice premier” and many called her budget “progressive.”
But a closer look revealed deep cuts to social services—including a healthcare funding freeze that amounts to cuts. Over decades, federal and provincial governments across the political spectrum have cut healthcare, and now the Ontario Liberals are moving ahead with a plan to privatize.
But 3,000 people rallied at Queen’s Park against privatization and in defence of public healthcare. Organized by the Ontario Health Coalition and with a strong presence from the labour movement, the rally drew buses from across the province.
As Steelworker Michelle Robidoux said, “I am concerned about the hiving off of outpatient services to for-profit agencies. I am also concerned with the closure of community hospitals across Ontario, all of which is happening under Kathleen Wynne—who portrayed herself as a kinder, gentler Liberal, which helped get her into power.”
The labour movement was central to winning Medicare in the first place. Labour solidarity played an important role in defeating Tim Hudak and will need to continue to oppose austerity from the provincial Liberals and federal Conservatives. As Andy Savela, member of Unifor and an RPN for 18 years, said, “We should be heartened by our defeat of Hudak during the election, and we need to build on this victory.”
As Haldie Wicke, from the Ontario Nurses Union and the Ontario Health Coalition, “We need more solidarity among unions and with communities. When this happened in St. Mary’s we were able to stop the proposed closure of the ER; we went to the Local Integrated Health Network, told our stories, had our statistics, and won.”