Hundreds of health care workers, farmers, local food activists, steelworkers and environmentalists came on buses from Sudbury, Hamilton, North Bay and Ottawa, and in the case of Hope – a black and white dairy cow – that crossed on the ferry from Howe Island to lend support to a community campaign to bring local food to patients at Kingston General Hospital (KGH).
The marchers called on their local MPPs to push Ontario’s health minister to act now to stop the KGH food deal with a factory-food operation more than 300 km away from Kingston.
Rolf Gerstenberger, the president of Local 1005 of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) and his union members, rode the bus from Hamilton.
“What’s happening in Kingston – the lack of government support for the local economy – is happening in Hamilton. What we’ve seen in the steel industry is that governments support the interests of corporations like the one that will be making factory food for Kingston patients over what’s best for communities and workers,” said Gerstenberger, whose members joined the nearly 1,000 marchers and carried a large ‘health care is a right’ banner through Kingston’s downtown on Monday, March 28.
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario President Fred Hahn told the marchers that “there is a profound democratic deficit on the part of government when the voices of thousands in communities like Kingston are being ignored.”
Throughout the province, hospital workers and local food activists are appalled by the lack of commitment by the Ontario Liberal government to local sourcing and adherence to the government’s own procurement policies in order to boost local economies.
“The public sector and the provincial government must show leadership in supporting and growing local economies. The Ontario Liberals are going against the growing number of people in communities across Ontario who support the local food movement. It’s these people – in Kingston, 14,000 people signed cards and petitions – calling on the Liberals to act now and stop the KGH deal. But they are being ignored,” said Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (OCHU/CUPE).