Members of the provincial legislature, in Windsor Tuesday for pre-budget consultations, were greeted by protesters calling primarily for increased healthcare funding.
Natlie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said members of her organization have appeared at these consultations for nine years, but the Liberal government hasn’t listened to demands to improve healthcare services.
“We’re going to mobilize in a much bigger way, a much more assertive way to make sure that you hear this does not reflect the values and priorities of the vast majority of people in Ontario,” said Mehra outside Caesars Windsor in below freezing temperatures. “They don’t want to see these services cut.”
Local speakers included Windsor & District Labour Council president Brian Hogan, Essex County Health Coalition chair Kim DeYong and Pathway to Potential director Adam Vasey.
Progressive Conservative finance critic Vic Fedeli, NDP finance critic Catherine Fife and NDP Essex MPP Taras Natyshak also joined the crowd during the rally.
“We’re paying the price for the province’s fiscal mismanagement and certainly from what we’re hearing today, members of this community aren’t going to stand for it,” said Natyshak.
Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which is organizing these protests at every consultation stop in Ontario, said the “austerity measures” of the Liberal government go further than healthcare.
“We’ve had enough of no investment in this province to create good-paying jobs,” said Buckley. “We have rising student debt. We have inequality across the province. We have people that are forced to work in low-wage, precarious work jobs.”
Inside Caesars Windsor, parliamentary assistant to the minister of finance Laura Albanese said her government respects the way the protesters brought the message forward.
“I think we are just as concerned as the protesters outside in making sure that we provide the healthcare that Ontarians need,” said the Liberal MPP for York South—Weston.
Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj made a presentation to the consultation panel about the concerns he has about the Health Based Allocation Model of hospital funding, which accounts for 40 per cent of all hospital funding.
Last week Musyj said this was the reason the hospital has a $20 million shortfall and will have a net loss of 86 full-time jobs this year. During the consultation, he said HBAM really only helps hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area because they earn more due to higher growth projections.
Albanese, while not a part of the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, said that model will likely be reviewed.
“My expertise is not in health, but it’s a formula that the government applies to all of the province,” she said. “I’m sure that will be evaluated and looked at. We’ll have to wait for (health) minister (Eric) Hoskins to comment on it, but certainly it’s taken in great account.”
Natyshak, who was part of the Windsor pre-budget panel, said healthcare issues dominated the morning consultations.
The consultations collected Tuesday will be summarized and included in a report which will inform the preparation of the 2016 Ontario budget, said Albanese.
Other ways for Ontarians to participate in these consultations are included on the provincial government’s website.