Most readers of this column know that while my career has recently hit some heavy seas of late, I believe that navigating such a trying storm has provided me with tremendous opportunities. The experience has allowed me to contemplate my values, who and what I am and where my heart is leading me. It has not been fun; however, it’s one of those ‘what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger experiences.’ So, rather than seeing grey skies and gloom, I’m encouraged by the path before me.
I shared the above with readers because the other day sitting in a coffee shop, a gentleman recognized me and initiated a conversation. Listening to his concerns, it was evident that he suffered from fatigue. He told me he read one of my recent columns and asked, “Mike, how do you do it? I’m tired of hearing on the news how so many families live on the edge and feel hopeless. I’m tired of hearing our politicians are scheming and lying rather than constructively planning and helping. And I’m tired of losing hope every time I am able to dredge a bit up.”
I have heard a lot of similar comments in recent years, but this gentleman’s remarks really hit home for me. I quickly realized the man’s observation was an ideal comparison of how Doug Ford is handling the issue of our healthcare system. It is already no secret that Mr. Ford is orchestrating a mammoth-sized and injurious crisis so that he can say the only way to fix the problem is by privatizing the system.
Premier Ford is not so much planning but rather scheming to privatize healthcare. He wants Ontarians to believe his claims that he is doing everything humanly possible to save public healthcare, but he is well-practised in the art of distraction. Some readers will recall the column Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain in which I compared the Premier to the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz story. The thing is that Mr. Ford’s act is getting old now. People have witnessed his sleight of hand so many times that everyone knows what he’s up to. Now, they don’t even bother to look to see what he is doing or saying. This leads me back to my original comment that people are absolutely fatigued by political scheming and half-truths in the name of patronage and financial gain.
Here’s an example. Create a shortage of a necessity, such as water. At first, it’s just a hardship to be tolerated. But, deprive people long enough, and they’ll pay for the water, which has been free until now. Eventually, if you prolong the artificial shortage, people will ultimately be willing to pay any price for just a small bottle. Ever seen how much they charge for a little bottle of water in those vending machines at rest stops on Hwy 400 or 401? So the tactic works.
Look at Ontario’s healthcare system. A shortage of doctors was not only anticipated but orchestrated by the government by way of deliberate inaction and underfunding. The lack of doctors has led to unending waitlists for surgeries and treatments. And, just as with the water example, after languishing on endless waiting lists, people who can afford it will gladly pay for healthcare if it moves them up the line, leaving those with lower financial resources out in the cold. This is just wrong all the way around.
Premier Ford’s mantra is that privately delivered healthcare is cheaper than publicly funded care. For example, on March 14, 2023, the CBC posted that the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) did a study that found “ knee replacement surgery in a public hospital, paid by the province, costs about $10,000. The same surgery in a private clinic can reportedly cost patients up to $28,000.”
It seems to me that Mr. Ford’s bottom line is very much open to interpretation. Premier Ford tells Ontarians the bottom line is to provide Ontarians with world-class public healthcare. But the facts do not bear out his claims. We need to sit up and take notice when it comes to our healthcare system. Ontarians must clearly understand and approve of what our own bottom line is. Many healthcare professionals and patient advocates warn us that Ford’s bottom line is to fill the wallets of healthcare facility owners and investors, even though he denies it.
Premier Ford’s solution is Bill 60, which was passed by the Conservatives this week. Voters did not give Mr.Ford an election mandate to cut core services such as surgeries and diagnostics from our public healthcare system. Bill 60 transfers such services to private for-profit hospitals and clinics. The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) states, “Initially, they (the government) plan to move 14,000 cataract surgeries to new private day hospitals that they want to have up and running by next fall. The government has already announced repeated rounds of tens of millions of dollars for private clinics, even while underspending on public healthcare and failing to meet population needs for care. They announced that they plan to privatize hip and knee surgeries by 2024.”
And if privatizing these surgeries and more were not enough, the OHC goes on to point out that Bill 60 also privatizes “oversight of private clinics and deregulates health care staffing including who can call themselves a doctor, a surgeon, a nurse, an MRI technologist, a respiratory therapist and more.”
Unfortunately, Doug Ford is leading us down a twisted pathway to disaster from which our healthcare system will never recover. So it is worrisome that Mr. Ford’s scheme might be working. He’s playing on people’s waning resolve and strength.
Like the gentleman I met at the coffee shop, we all are weary of turmoil, strife and stress in our daily lives. Many of us are scared because we fear losing out as we sit mired on some waiting list. But know this; all those waiting lists result from political scheming and distracting sleight of hand. So we must make things right now, for us and our children and grandchildren, before it is too late.
We cannot and must not allow weariness and apathy to set in. In representing the people of Algoma-Manitoulin, my bottom line has nothing to do with profits and financial payoffs. My bottom line is to provide all Ontarians with access to a level playing field of excellent healthcare for everyone, regardless of geographic location or income.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at my new address, email@example.com or by phone Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député