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In a plebiscite in Hamilton, Ont., residents have voted almost 98 per cent in favour of keeping their hospitals publicly funded, financed, owned, administered and operated.

Our vote has given people an opportunity to send a strong message to our politicians that the health system is ours and we expect them to operate it in our interests, not in the interest of profit-seeking businesses,” said Hamilton Health Coalition co-chair Lois Boggs.

The results in this voluntary vote are much bigger than any petition in recent memory. The Dalton McGuinty government and local Liberal MPPs (members of the provincial parliament) ignore this significant opposition to the P3 hospitals at their own peril,” she added.

We now have an astounding 50,000 votes against P3 privatization of our hospitals from four communities across Ontario,” said Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

We are gearing up for the next several community-wide votes very soon,” she said “We will continue city by city to make sure that Ontarians know McGuinty plans to break his election promise to stop the P3 privatization our hospitals.”

Other countries have learned the hard way that P3 hospitals cost more than publicly financed ones.

The high costs will take money away from clinical budgets and beds,” said Dr. Ted Haines, the local health coalition’s other co-chair. “The P3 hospital policy has serious implications for our future health care system. We are asking the premier to stop this privatization strategy. McGuinty must build our hospitals publicly and run their services on a non-profit basis.”

The March 25 vote attracted more than 28,000 Hamilton residents. They “cared enough about this issue to get out and vote,” said Boggs. “Hundreds of volunteers staffed polling stations all over the community to give residents an opportunity to have a say. People thanked us for doing this and expressed their deep concern about the privatization of hospital buildings and services.”

The plebiscite garnered about 29,000 votes, a number that should be of significant concern to local elected officials. In the last provincial election, the winning Hamilton MPPs got between 15,000 and 24,000 votes each, and Liberal MPP Marie Bountrogianni was elected by 23,524 votes in the last election.