It had all the trappings of an election — lawn signs, leaflets, TV commercials, media coverage and an army of volunteers knocking on doors. This vote, however, wasn’t run by any level of government but by a group of citizens opposed to the privatization of a new public rehab and psychiatric hospital planned for Kingston.
The government plan calls not only for the design and building of the new hospital by the private sector, but also adds in a costly 30-year financing deal and long-term maintenance into the package. It is the latter two elements that are controversial and are generating public opposition to the deal. The Kingston Health Coalition estimates developing this new hospital using the discredited public-private partnership model will add $100 million to the cost. That’s $100 million that won’t be applied to other needed public services — including the care provided within the walls of that hospital.
Almost 10,000 Kingston residents came out to vote April 13 on the plan. 96% said yes when asked if they were in favour of keeping the proposed new Kingston rehab/psychiatric hospital entirely public.
While non-binding, the vote sends a clear message to Queen’s Park that Ontarians expect their public infrastructure to remain in public hands.
On April 13th we were there! Watch our video by clicking on the window above.
Kingston City Council’s Jim Neill urges residents to vote on Princess Street.
It had all the trappings of an election. There were lawn signs, TV commercials, and door-to-door campaigners. The local media solicited the views of both politicians and citizens as everyone scrambled to become informed before the vote.
Saturday Kingston residents got the opportunity to express their preference on whether a proposed new hospital facility in their community was going to be entirely public or be under a 30-year finance and maintenance contract with a private for-profit consortium.
While this election wasn’t conducted by Elections Ontario or Elections Canada, it had the feeling of being the real deal. Citizens were given the opportunity by the Ontario Health Coalition to consider a private or public option even if the result will be non-binding.
After five weeks of public debate, the answer was clear. 96% of the 9,885 votes cast at more than 50 polling stations said yes to keep the new hospital entirely public.
We have had one “official” election on this issue before. In the 2003 provincial election Dalton McGuinty opposed privatizing public infrastructure, campaigning against two “public-private partnership” (P3) hospital deals set up by then Premier Ernie Eves.
Like the results in Kingston, in 2003 the public instinctively bridled against the idea of privatizing key elements of Ontario’s public infrastructure. It helped give McGuinty the first of his two back-to-back majorities. Ontarians were already aware of what a bad deal the province got from privatizing Highway 407. They were worried about the impact of deregulation and privatization of electric power, particularly after a devastating outage in August of that year that took out much of the continental northeast.
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Tagged AFP, Chris Cormier, Hospital privatization, Jim Neill, John Gerretsen, Kingston P3 plebiscite, Mark Gerretsen, Ontario Health Coalition, Public Private Partnerships, Royal Ottawa Health Group, William Osler Health Centre