99% of Peterborough-area voters against health-care privatization: health coalition referendum

The Peterborough Health Coalition referendum polls included the Amalgamated Transit Union-hosted polling station across from the Simcoe Street bus terminal in downtown Peterborough. Peterborough Health Coalition/ Facebook

Nearly 99 per cent of voters in the Peterborough, Ont., area are against the privatization of public hospitals, according to a citizen-led referendum held late last week.

On Tuesday morning, the Peterborough Health Coalition — part of the Ontario Health Coalition — reported that of the 9,445 votes cast on Friday and Saturday in the city and county, 9,345 individuals voted “no” when asked, “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics?”

Only 100 individuals voted “yes,” according to the local coalition — equating to one per cent of the votes.

Of the in-person votes cast in the city and county, there were 4,866 voting ‘no’ and 65 voting ‘yes.’ The votes include some workplace votes, the coalition notes. The county votes included Douro-Dummer Township, Otonabee-South Monaghan Township, Cavan-Monaghan Township and Selwyn Township.

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Online voting saw 4,479 votes cast for “no” and 35 for “yes” for health-care privatization.

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The local coalition says there are still some workplace votes that remain to be counted.

The city of Peterborough’s population was over 83,650 in 2021, according to the 2021 census.

The vote locally is part of a provincewide campaign, with the overall Ontario results expected to be announced on Wednesday. The campaign targets the controversial Bill 60 or the Your Health Act, which passed earlier this month. The bill aims to cut long wait-lists by allowing more private physician-owned clinics to offer some publicly funded procedures and diagnostic work.

“The numbers are great. It was a massive effort that far exceeded our expectations,” said Peterborough Health Coalition co-chair Marion Burton.

Burton said Ontarians did not have a chance to express their concerns on the privatization of health care prior to the 2022 election.

“Why would you not continue to invest in our public system that you have underfunded for way too long?” Burton said last week. “We have the facilities already there. They are excellent facilities, why would you not fund them?”

Peterborough-Kawartha Conservative MPP Dave Smith argues that since the clinics are being funded via OHIP, they are not private clinics. He said while the current health-care system needs support, he doesn’t believe that further funding is always the answer.

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“You have to do things somewhat differently than what you were doing in the past, because what we were doing in the past just isn’t working anymore,” he told Global News. “This group (Ontario Health Coalition) can come up with however many ballots as they want — it doesn’t make any difference.”

— with files from Sam Houpt/Global News Peterborough

Click to play video: 'Community referendum on Bill 60 kicks off across province'
Community referendum on Bill 60 kicks off across province

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