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Death by four hundred cuts

Our Health Care campaigner Adrienne Silnicki and I recently attended a meeting of civil society leaders in Toronto to discuss the latest neo-liberal attack on healthcare and the public service in Ontario- the Drummond Commission. Last Spring, Premier Dalton McGuinty hired former TD Bank executive Don Drummond to lead a commission to “find efficiencies and improve value” in the public sector. Mr Drummond has spent the past year trying to convince the public that the economic situation is so dire that we must make drastic cuts to avoid disaster. Drummond says he will make 400 recommendations in his final report (due sometime in the next few weeks) which will give the provincial government plenty of political cover and enough choice to do what they please- nobody would expect them to act on all 400 recommendations of course! And while the Drummond Commission’s report is not allowed to make recommendations that would lead to the privatization of health care, Mr. Drummond has been front and centre in the media for months now doing just that, his credentials bolstered by the commission and seemingly enhanced by the controversy over his $1500 per day salary.

Governments love to create commissions to “study an issue” when they don’t want to do anything about the problem at hand or if they need to delay action. The Drummond Commission allowed the Ontario Liberals to delay the cuts they want to make until after the provincial election last autumn. The Drummond Report has even more value to them now that they have a minority. In addition to using the report as a tool that will make Ontarians desperate enough to accept the need for its “solutions” it gives them their choice of four hundred items to use as carrots or sticks with the opposition parties. The Premier may well end up giving Mr. Drummond a generous tip when all is said and done.

The Council of Canadians will be working closely with our allies to ensure that the Drummond Commission is not the only relevant voice that is heard in the lead up to the spring budget and we will continue to defend our health care system from the threat of privatization.