EDDY ALMEIDA PROMISED DOUG FORD A FIGHT. He had 8000 people ready to back him up. They were gathered on the lawn in front to the Ontario legislature on October 23 to warn the Ontario premier not to make cuts to their health care.
“Ford keeps saying that he’s ‘for the people’,” said Almeida, the First Vice-President / Treasurer of OPSEU (Ontario Public Services Employees Union.)
“Well look at this crowd. We are the people. We’re here and we’re not going to let him cut our health care!”
Many OPSEU members at the rally signed their names to a banner that read: “We are the people,” before joining thousands of others from across Ontario to march up University Avenue to Queen’s Park to demand the provincial government back off any and all plans to cut, freeze, and privatize health care.
Almeida told the rally: “We’re here to tell Doug Ford: we don’t pick fights, but we don’t back down from them either.
"We’re here to tell Ford: touch our public health care and you’ll get burned! We will keep coming back in larger and larger numbers until the cuts are stopped and health care services are improved and expanded.”
Hands off our health care
The crowd chanted “Hands Off Our Health Care” and joined hands to encircle Queen’s Park, at the largest rally there since Doug Ford became premier in June.
Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, told the crowd: “In the five short months since the provincial election, Doug Ford has cut OHIP (Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan) and mental health funding,
“He has also released a major report calling for means testing, user fees and privatization of health care and other services. This is intolerable. He never talked about doing any of this in his campaign.”
Cold shoulder from Ford
Ford was the only Ontario political leader to refuse to address the rally. He also refused to send anyone to represent him or his party.
John Fraser, Interim Liberal Leader and Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party pushed for more investment in the public health care system, not cuts. The message being sent to the Ford government was clear, expand care not cuts.
Ontario New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath told the crowd: “Families want to know that when a loved one needs to visit the hospital, they won’t be stuck in a hallway.”
Patients and advocates called for improvements to health care and seniors care, hospital overcrowding and homecare, including reopening closed hospital beds, a long-term care minimum care standard of four hours per resident per day, and also that all new capacity in hospitals, long term care and community care to be built as pubic, non-profit services and not privatized.
Michael Hurley, President, OCHU/CUPE said, “This government plans to cut the heart out of healthcare funding. We expect the closure of 3,000 hospital beds by the time the dust settles, unless we push back hard—which we will.”
“Pre-election, Doug Ford promised to end hallway medicine, but instead he’s hired former B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, who slashed health care in favour of privatization. Unifor is here to say hands off our health care,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.
The many other groups and unions in the rally included the Council of Canadians, a variety of local health coalition chapters, and other unions like Unifor, CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees), ONA (Ontario Nurses Association) and UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers.)
This article was originally published by The Canadian Labour Institute.
Reprinted with permission for CALM Members use.