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OTTAWA A deal signed yesterday by the board of the Royal Ottawa Hospital to let a private consortium own and operate a public hospital is not legally binding, so Dalton McGuinty should have no qualms about ripping it up, says a union working to stop the privatization scheme.

It wont cost a penny to cancel these contracts, but it will cost tens of millions if they dont, says Judy Darcy, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Were urging Dalton McGuinty to follow Howard Hamptons lead and state categorically that he will cancel this deal if he becomes the next premier. Its time for McGuinty to take a firm stand against the privatization of our health care system

The Conservatives are trying to reward their corporate cronies on their way out the door, at the expense of taxpayers and the Royal Ottawa board has no legal authority to lock in a contract handing over ownership of a public hospital to big business, says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)/CUPE. Were calling on the courts to rule that anything signed yesterday is null and void and were calling on the government to hold off on any last minute deals.

Legal counsel for CUPE and OCHU has written the Ontario government demanding that they provide full disclosure about the approvals process for the privatization plans, given contradictory statements by government and hospital officials about whether Cabinet approval was given or whether the deal is final. They are also demanding that the government take no action between now and the election that would constrain a future government.

Current polls indicate the Conservatives have no chance of forming the next government. Opposition leaders have clearly stated their opposition to public-private partnership (P3) schemes in public hospitals, but Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty has balked at canceling the deal if financial penalties are attached.

Even if there were a penalty to canceling the deal, says Darcy, it would cost the people of this province far less than the cost of lining the pockets of the private consortium shareholders over the sixty years of the lease.

A recent court challenge launched by CUPE, OPSEU and the Ontario Health Coalition asks the courts to quash any deals that have been signed for the Royal Ottawa Hospital and the William Osler Health Centre in Brampton. The group argues the deals contravene the Public Hospitals Act. If the courts cancel the deals, no penalties associated with them would have to be paid.

The people of Ottawa need a new hospital, but a real public hospital that will belong to them, says Hurley. P3 schemes make us tenants in our own hospitals and cost tens of millions of dollars more over the long term. They have failed miserably in other jurisdictions where they have been tried, robbing the public of precious health care dollars and leading to higher death rates. Theres no place for them in Ontario.


For further information, please contact:

James Chai, CUPE Communications, 416-292-3999

Michael Hurley , President, OCHU, 416-884-0770