More Than 94,000 Ontarians Join in Grassroots Referendum to Stop Devastating Hospital Cuts

Voting was held at Downtown GM

In order to protest hospital cuts the Ontario Health Coalition held a “voting referendum” with the results being forwarded on to the Provincial Government.

From across Ontario representatives from dozens of communities facing devastating cuts to their community hospitals carted thousands of ballots to the Ontario Legislature. The votes – 93,840 of them as of earlier in the week – were cast in a province-wide voluntary “referendum” on Saturday, May 28 and in lead-in advance polls held in the last two weeks. Since Tuesday the coalition has received hundreds more votes, putting the total over 94,000. Hundreds of votes continue to be sent in to the coalition every few hours. To put the size of the vote in perspective, a very large petition presented to the Legislature might have 20,000 signatures at most.

More than 40 communities took part in the referendum and more than 1,000 volunteers took to the streets on the weekend to staff voting stations outside grocery stores, corner stores, busy retailers, in Legions and churches and other high-traffic areas. In total, there were more than 1,000 voting stations, including advanced polls. Chris West set up a “polling station” at Downtown GM for people to have their say. Health Coalition volunteers collected oaths from those voting, asking people to swear that they are 16-years or older, the age of consent for health-care decisions, and that they would only vote once. People were asked to leave their postal code to help ensure the integrity of the vote wherever possible.

In more than 40 communities, volunteers set up voting stations and collected votes as part of the grassroots referendum, including: Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Joseph Island, Timmins, Kapuskasing, North Bay, South River, Ottawa, Smiths Falls, Brockville, Kingston, Quinte West, Northumberland, Durham, Kawartha Lakes, Peterborough, Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara, Guelph, Orillia, Midland, Penetanguishene, Oxford County, London, St. Marys, Stratford, Seaforth, Chatham, Wallaceburg, Sarnia, Essex County, Windsor, and others.

Ontarians were asked to vote yes or no as to whether Ontario’s government should stop the cuts to community hospitals and restore services to meet the population need for care. More than 99.6% voted in favour of stopping the cuts. Everywhere, people expressed their gratitude to volunteers for holding the referendum and for doing something to stop the cuts in their communities.

The results as of Tuesday were: Ontario’s government must stop the cuts to our community hospitals and restore services, funding and staff to meet our communities’ needs for care.

Yes – 93,501: No – 308: Spoiled – 31: Total – 93,840

The coalition is calling for Ontario’s government to restore public hospital funding to the average of the other provinces. By every reasonable measure, Ontario’s hospital funding is at or near the very bottom of all the provinces in Canada. The coalition is also calling for public hospital funding to go to care and vital support services.

“The huge turnout is representative of deeply-held values that cross all political line and all regions in our province,” reported Natalie Mehra, executive director. “The message we received was overwhelming. People are angry about their communities’ hospital cuts. In no uncertain terms, they want the services restored and they want to ensure that funding is adequate and it goes to care and support services, not executive tiers and consultants. They were happy to be able to vote on it.”

She concluded: “We were certain before, but having gone through this massive undertaking and having spoken with more than a hundred thousand Ontarians, we can say with more certainty than ever that our current provincial government fails to listen to the will of Ontarians at their peril. Ontarians urgently want to find a way to have their voices heard, to stop the cuts and bring back the services that they are losing in their local public hospitals.”

The coalition is asking the public for donations to help cover the costs of the volunteer-led referendum.

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