Healthcare workers and community activists are hoping an Ontario-wide unofficial referendum will raise awareness of the concerns they have about provincial funding.
The Ontario Health Coalition, a group of activists working to improve the public healthcare system, is launching their campaign in communities such as Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor, Sudbury and Guelph on Monday.
"The cuts have been severe in Ontario… we're doing a referendum because this has pretty much happened by stealth or by talk of not enough resources to go around," said Albert Dupuis, co-chair of the local Ottawa coalition organizing the campaign in that city.
The group will be distributing ballot boxes to businesses, workplaces and community centres across the province.
The unofficial referendum will ask people if they're for or against the idea "Ontario's government must stop the cuts to our community hospitals and restore services, funding and staff to meet our communities' needs for care."
The group says healthcare in Ontario has been under-funded for years and is below the Canadian per capita average by about $350 per person.
The Liberals ended a four-year hospital base funding freeze in its latest budget, promising to spend $60 million on hospital budgets along with $75 million for palliative care and $130 million for cancer care, but the Ontario Health Coalition has said that isn't enough.
Corporate tax hike suggested
Members of the coalition said in Ottawa Monday Ontario has cut corporate taxes too deeply and could raise them slightly to get more money for healthcare, which would improve services for patients and their families.
"People [are] languishing on stretchers, humiliated in broom closets, racked up in hallways for days and weeks at a time," said Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.
"Families and those patients [are] hounded to get out of hospital as though they were somehow cheating the system and the Ontario taxpayer and ripping them off. It's shameful."
"I've been doing hemodialysis for six years and I was in the cardiac area for 20 years, in the dialysis area there was a change about three years ago where the ratio of patient care was increased per nurse," said Donna Dillon, a member of the Ontario Nurses Association in Ottawa.
"Since then we've seen adjustments as best we can to handle that extra work for the nurses, with less nurses… we need the support to be able to leave that job not exhausted and try to give the best care that we can for our patients."
The group wants to get their ballot boxes in as many places before May 28, coalition members said, when votes will be counted and presented to Premier Kathleen Wynne.