A small group of people gathered in Downtown Guelph Wednesday at noon to protest what they feel is a very big issue: Bill 175.
There were 15 people gathered outside Old Quebec Street Shoppes, most of them members of the local chapter of the Ontario Health Coalition, a collective of organizations that acts as a public watchdog and advocate on public health care issues in Ontario.
The Guelph protest was one of several held throughout the province.
Bill 175, Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act, 2020 was scheduled to have its third reading in the provincial legislature on Wednesday.
The province believes Bill 175 improves patient care and accountability in the health care system, including long term care facilities. The act transfers certain powers to the new Ontario Health Teams, regional groups of health care providers who will administer health needs in their areas. This includes control over long term care facilities and home care.
Opponents of the bill, including the Ontario Health Coalition, have issues with its contents and the fact that it is being pushed through during a pandemic.
"Bill 175 is an extremely important bill," said Magee McGuire, who heads the local Ontario Health Coalition chapter that organized Wednesday's protest.
She said the issue is partly one of democracy and one of content.
"Number one, it's being rushed through with minimum public consultation. They did have public consultation, just last week, but it's already in third reading and normally in legislation there is an original paper and then they do public consultation. It was not done properly. Nobody knew about it," McGuire said.
She also expressed concerns that the Ontario Health Teams that will be making local healcare decisions will be governed by local boards that are not fully representative of the community.
"They will not have frontline workers, Indigenous or populations at risk on the boards to decide where the money will go or how it is going to be spent," McGuire said.
She called Bill 175 "dangerous," because it does not have enough public oversight or input.
"During COVID, why would you pass an act when the general public has their hands tied with COVID," McGuire said.
She said the Ontario Health Coalition supports a publicly-delivered health care system, whereas Bill 175 "endorses greater privatization than that of the Harris era."