Friday, August 19, 2022

Privatization in Ontario

 It's vital in Ontario that we understand the problems with privatization because the shift of essential services from the public to private sphere is happening right under our noses. Brittlestar does a great job of explaining it here: 

The typical disaster capital scheme goes something like this: 

  1. Wait for a crisis (or create one). Then people will be busy struggling to manage and won't have the resources to protest the government or, in all the chaos, will be otherwise willing to allow new sweeping changes to take place without a thorough democratic process. This Covid situation just fell into the laps of the uber-right-wing.
  2. Allow public services to be decimated in some way, maybe by not fixing public schools after a natural disaster as happened after Hurricane Katrina, or, in our case, by making it difficult to prevent a virus from ripping through the province by not allowing public schools to have mask mandates. Maybe make a big deal of buying beds for hospitals, but don't furnish them with health care workers. And/or pass a wage-suppression bill (124) that dramatically impacts the working conditions nurses enough to make them want to leave a profession they love. 
  3. As you erode the public system, give green lights and support to private companies: promote the construction and development of private health care companies and private education companies, particularly those affiliated with yourself or family members, so you can get rich as they make profits. Back in February, Ford announced bringing in for-profit hospitals, which don't even have ICUs, and then they can maximize profits by charging user fees and extra billing on top of OHIP. Swing a deal so you're on their board of directors, so you'll also have a say in how they operate. Make sure paid services are faster, and make people wait for the same service covered by OHIP - even when it's from the same doctor. Make sure private schools CAN have mask mandates - even deliver some to their door, so there's less Covid in that system, which just shows how much better it is!! Maybe even give money directly to parents to use to pay for private services to get them in the door! Some of the top people at the CDC are still working from home, and made sure their children's schools were well-ventilated with a dashboard to track cases. They know what needs to happen to keep our kids safe, but they're only going to help their own. Carefully encourage people to move to the private system if they're not happy with the public system. You're giving people choices which gives them more freedom, like getting healthcare at Shoppers!
  4. The rest is effortless: As more people move to the private system, the tax base for the public system is decreased, and public services become more eroded, so more people will move to the private systems if they can, but many people can't afford it or will go into deep debt for the sake of their children. This is the step that starts to create a vast rich/poor divide as the public system gets worse and more leave it, which makes the public system worse. Public hospitals and schools will no longer be able to afford the best technology or sufficient staff. We may be starting to turning this corner already! It helps if you can convince people that a segment of the population really doesn't matter as much, like the disabled, immunocompromised, and the elderly. It's better for the whole if we weed out the weak! This is easy now because so many have bought into the idea that you're pretty much worthless if you can't take care of yourself independently.
  5. Subsidize private services for a while, so people don't notice the shift too abruptly. E.g. have OHIP pay a premium for surgeries done outside of hospitals, with money from public taxes, and then gradually pay for less and less of private costs. Try to convince people the rising costs are due to inflation. 
  6. Now, as a governing official, you're even richerand you don't have to wait in the same line for an MRI or for extra help at school as those regular folks. Having money means you get to cut to the front now that you've taken a huge segment of the population out of the game!
The alternative? Put more money into health care and education to make sure they remain strong so all of society can access the best services possible. Remember what Tommy Douglas said: No extra billing! Don't allow them to erode health care even a little bit. Don't ever let them tell you that we can't afford health care! According to the Ontario Health Coalition, privatizing health care is "undermining the foundational principle of public health care which is to be provided to all Canadians based on their medical needs, not their wealth. And, devastatingly, the for-profits take only the lightest, profitable surgeries and diagnostics -- and the funding and staffing resources that go with them -- leaving our public hospitals with less funding and staff to care for those with more complex care needs." 

The problem that happens during step 4, above, is that some people who have money start to think that it was 100% their smarts and hard work that got them their wealth. It's easy to overlook the role that luck plays in all our lives, and how possible it is to end up on the other side of the tracks because of a fluke accident or stroke of fortune. If we can acknowledge that luck plays a part, then don't we want to make sure ALL of us have access to the best possible health care and education just in case we - or someone we care about - can no longer pay for it?? Also, when society permits one segment of the population to spiral down to a more and more destitute position, it negatively impacts the entire community. Some people take the position that we should just shake them off, leave them at the wayside to die (all those immunocompromised, disabled, and old people!). But isn't that just about the worst thing anyone can even consider?? 

Some people look at the problems with privatization and get on it to make sure they have funds in the bank and network connections that will guarantee a spot in the best schools and access to the best medical treatments. We have a strong survival instinct that makes a situation like this provoke us to take care of our family first, even at the long-term harm to the society (which eventually will end up harming our family unless we're in that 0.01% of wealthy that's immune to any harm except for maybe a guillotine being rolled up their lane). BUT we have to use our big brains to quash that primal instinct enough to see the bigger picture. Instead of using all our energy and resources to protect ourselves, we need to stand together and focus on protecting our society from private companies exploiting workers and citizens by making profits off of our essential needs for health, for safety, for knowledge and skills. 

And even if we each save up for a possible accident, when a company is focused on profits, then they often start to cut corners on services in order to have a better quarter for shareholders. Look at the difference between public and private Long Term Care homes. Public LTC homes report fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits: "That means that in privatizing a long-term care home, a municipality is likely to be transferring higher costs to the health care system. They are actually creating more costs for taxpayers, while also reducing publicly held assets" (CUPE). 

What can we do? The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) is working to defend the health care system from privatization that could use support. Consider supporting or following them here. READ Linda McQuaig's The Sport and Prey of Capitalists for the history of privatization in Ontario! It's a short, engaging book with lots of examples and a sense of what we could have had if we had stopped it sooner. Then explain it all to your friends and family and have them all call or email their MPP or Ford's office (416-325-1941) over and over and over. That might help, but some kind of health care walk-out might have to happen to stop this in its tracks.

Also consider checking out Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine for the history of disaster capitalism in general. It's much longer and more in-depth with examples of political actors waiting or creating a crisis in order to syphon money from citizens and including the tragic results in many countries that have been swindled to follow this plan, sometimes leading to passive or active genocides. If Ford and his buddies are doing this intentionally, which seems likely, then allowing so many to get sick and disabled or die in order to make a buck is genocidal at its core. 

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