Health Minister stays out of the Legislature - except to vote on her Bill and then scoots out of town. Health Coalition advises new clinics not to set up shop

By Staff

May 10th, 2023



When it came time to finally pass Bill 60, Your Health Act, into law yesterday, Health Minister Sylvia Jones wasn’t in the chamber to answer questions about the bill her government spent months arguing would end the dysfunctional status quo that leaves Ontarians languishing on wait lists for basic surgeries and diagnostic tests.

Health Minister Sylvia Jones wasn’t in the chamber to answer questions about the bill her government spent months arguing would end the dysfunctional status quo that leaves Ontarians languishing on wait lists for basic surgeries and diagnostic tests.

Jones’ decision to duck questions — in favour of attending a federal funding announcement with Solicitor General Michael Kerzner, where she did not actually speak — prompted suggestions from opposition parties that the PC government wants to put the controversial bill behind them. Its opponents, meanwhile, are vowing to make sure that does not happen.

Jones returned to the house at the tail-end of question period, in time for the third reading vote and just in time to answer the very last question of the morning.

“Bill 60 will actually improve community and surgical centres in the province of Ontario. Why? Because we don’t want people having to wait an inordinate amount of time for their surgeries,” Jones insisted.

After voting on the bill, Jones was gone again, dodging questions from reporters at Queen’s Park.

She didn’t have time, the government said, because she was giving a keynote speech to the Federation of Northern Municipalities.

Opposition leaders suggested the minister’s manoeuvring indicates the government is not feeling as confident about the legislation as it has previously professed.

“After the vote today, even their applause was lukewarm,” noted NDP Leader Marit Stiles.

“I don’t think that this government is really interested in engaging with or responding today,” said Liberal Health critic Adil Shamji. “The minister of health’s conduct is extraordinarily emblematic of the conduct of this government as a whole.”

They are looking for more than 1 million referendum. votes – be one of them. This matters

A Bill 124 redux

Opponents say they will not let the PCs turn the page on the controversial legislation — echoing the way in which Bill 124 has dogged the government since its passage in 2019, before being struck down late last year.

“We will fight this legislation until the end, even if it means through to the next election, because this is a pivotal moment in Ontario’s history for its public health-care system,” said CUPE Ontario regional vice-president David Hurley during a press conference at Queen’s Park ahead of the final vote.

Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra said her group will start its pushback with a “formal complaint” to the federal government or possibly “legal action,” arguing the province is already violating the Canada Health Act by not preventing existing clinics from charging Ontarians illegal fees for OHIP-covered services — which the PCs deny is happening.

Mehra told Queen’s Park Today her organization may go to court to seek a writ of mandamus, which is an order requiring the government to perform a duty owed to the public. In this case, that would be enforcing the Canada Health Act’s provisions against charging people for medically necessary care.

The Mayor and the Minister at a meeting of the Ontario Big Mayors Group. Meed Ward is on the left with the Minister almost opposite her. Bonnie Crombie, Mayor of Mississauga (and the next Liberal leader if I have it right) is next to Marianne

The coalition and its allies are also organizing an unofficial “referendum” on Bill 60, with thousands of volunteers set to begin canvassing Ontarians across the province to cast a ballot answering the question: “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics?”

The effort will involve 1,000 voting stations collecting ballots on May 26 and 27. Organizers are aiming to get one million people to participate, a level of engagement they believe will make the poll too politically damaging to ignore.

“We have held tens of thousands of volunteers out in front of grocery stores, coffee shops, legions, union halls [and] faith-based organizations asking Ontarians to vote,” said Mehra. “If you are a private clinic owner in Ontario and think you’re going to set up shop here and charge OHIP and patients on top of that, you have another thing coming.”

Oppo warns investors not to set up shop
Opposition parties warned potential clinic owners and investors to save their money because the new system being put in place will not outlast the PC government.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles.

“It’s not over yet. We are going to continue this fight,” said Stiles, noting that provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec are already backing away from their own private clinic experiments due to the high cost of such clinics and their impact on the public system.

“I will say to those people who are thinking of investing in for-profit clinics: listen up, there’s going to be another government elected here in three years,” Stiles added.

“Is it a great investment? Probably not,” agreed Liberal Leader John Fraser.

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