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Key politicians in the Ontario Liberal government faced gauntlets of health care workers today as workers across Ontario challenged their “local health integration networks” (LHINs) in health care.

In the name of local control, and with no public consultation, the province is moving fast to radically restructure how health care services are funded and delivered. But there’s nothing local about it.

Under the LHINs, provincially appointed board members will have the power to reduce community access by moving health services now available at local hospitals or agencies to other locations in a given area. LHINs will also introduce the disastrous “competitive bidding” process already used in home care delivery. This would force health care decisions to be driven by the bottom line, not by health concerns. Other threats include loss of local control, job instability and wage cuts. Input from front-line staff will also be shut out.

In Ottawa, workers from health care locals from around the Ottawa area picketed outside various MPP offices, including Premier Dalton McGuinty’s constituency office in Ottawa. Workers from Pembroke, Arnprior, Renfrew and Ottawa joined together to voice their concerns and demand full public consultations.

They were a spirited group as they picketed for hours, handing out flyers to passers-by and keeping each other’s spirits warm as snow and ice coated the trees around them.

Under the LHINs system, many people will be forced to drive two or three hours to get the health care service they need,” said National President Paul Moist, who joined the picket line.

We can’t, and we won’t, let the McGuinty government get away with this,” Moist said. “They are doing what the Mike Harris Conservatives never dared to do and we will stop them.”

The province is fast-tracking this reckless agenda by skirting public consultation and trying to ram legislation through the provincial legislature as people focus on the coming holiday season.

Legislation was introduced Nov. 23. But CUPE workers vowed to take the fight right through the holidays if need be.