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Is Ontario's Healthcare System Getting Privatized?

For many Canadians, healthcare is the top issue, ahead of inflation. All provinces are going through a healthcare crisis due to years of underfunding, budget cuts, covid-19, labour shortages, and governments unwilling to improve the status quo. Healthcare associations, hospitals, and healthcare workers have been sounding the alarm, and now the problem is blowing up in the face of Canadians.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative party has unveiled new measures to tackle the province’s healthcare crisis. Among fears of attempted privatization of the Ontario healthcare system, the province is promising to invest “more to increase surgeries in pediatric hospitals and existing private clinics covered by OHIP.”

Essentially, the province is suggesting that more surgeries be done at the hands of private clinics in Ontario. The surgeries done in private clinics will be covered by public insurance. Doug Ford assures Ontarians that “no one will have to pay (for health care) with a credit card,”

The province is also investing in personal support workers, the creation of two new medical schools, financial investment in nursing programs, the shoring up of domestic production of personal protective equipment, and the creation of 3,000 new hospital beds over the next decade.

Some of these policies were already part of the government’s proposal in their 2022 election campaign, in which the PC party campaigned for more investments in healthcare. The government got reelected with an even stronger majority. 

Opposition parties and critics of the government’s response to the healthcare crisis argue that the government is slowly engaging in a long-term plan to hand over healthcare delivery services to the private sector. Critics argue that the government would first start with private delivery that is publicly covered, and then eventually introduce a fully billed private system. 

The Interim Leader for the Ontario Liberals claims that the government is attempting to “set up a parallel system” in which private and public delivery co-exist simultaneously.

Ontario’s Green Party leader Mike Schreiner argues that the government is “clamouring to try to do something” due to extreme pressures on healthcare. As a result of pressure from workers, patients, and the media, the government is looking toward the private sector to alleviate the issues. 

The Premier has countered this narrative by stating: “We're gonna fix it. We're gonna deliver health care in a different fashion, through the sector's advice, not through our government's advice, through the experts.”

Ontario’s Health Minister, Sylvia Jones, says “We need to be bold, innovative and creative”, and that “Ontarians will always access health care with their OHIP card”. 

At the same time, provincial governments including Ontario are also calling on the federal government to increase its share of federal healthcare funding to the provinces. Arguing that in a national healthcare crisis, the federal government needs to be cooperating with the provinces to provide national healthcare solutions. 

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