I believe in democracy: elected officials -- whether in government or representative organizations -- should and must be the voice of their people.
I also believe that elected officials should respect their electorate. Ordinary people who vote them into power can just as quickly strip them of it. A famous quote states: "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people."
At some point in the next three weeks, doctors across Ontario will vote on the most controversial, contentious Physician Services Agreement (PSA) in recent history.
After a bitter two-year impasse in negotiations, the contract should have been greeted with open arms. Instead, it was met with open alarm.
Reports of unsettling circumstances shadow negotiations. Generally a mild-mannered profession, whistle-blowing doctors now denounce the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). Observers speculate on potential mutiny.
Physicians face an ultimatum. This is not good-faith negotiation.
All that aside, though, physicians find this six-page contract tight on deadlines, severe in consequences and unnervingly light on details. It seems odd that even IKEA instructions are longer and more detailed than a contract for a $12-billion portfolio.
Many are baffled by the OMA's aggressive and single-minded endorsement of a contract that OMA board members admit has "warts and all." Many worry about the long-term fallout of the vague terms. Many are angry that the OMA has stonewalled discussions, delving into the downsides of the new deal.
Many believe the contract reflects a sham negotiation: OMA infographics imply: "a No-Vote will mean more unilateral actions." In most labour talks, rejection of a first offer prompts the bargaining of a second. Instead, physicians face an ultimatum. This is not good-faith negotiation.
With this in mind, physicians are told to trust the government again. A government famous for slipping through loopholes and breaking promises. The Liberals have imposed unilateral actions twice before. They have set a new precedent for dismantling physician services.
It's no surprise that in the dog days of summer, a public rally of 300 physicians and patients descended on Ministry of Health and OMA offices to express dismay with the new contract.
It's no surprise that nearly 3,000 physicians --- family doctors and specialists alike -- signed a petition to stall the vote. They want the OMA to call a General Member's Meeting to discuss the pros and cons of the tentative contract without rhetoric or propaganda. After some critical thinking and thoughtful debate, they want an informed vote. A vote that is binding on all levels of the OMA hierarchy.
To me, this petition shows the power ordinary people wield over elected officials. Will this herald an evolution in the OMA? I hope so. For now at least it has stopped the vote.
For those watching the conflict unfold: save your sympathy.
Instead, get mad.
Your elected government, the Ontario Liberals, made a mockery of our health-care system. They outsource services to the U.S. -- services that now cost more than they would if provided here. They waste much-needed health-care dollars on bureaucracy and failed ventures. They ignore ordinary people as they die on ballooning wait lists. They offer Band-Aid solutions to complex problems, igniting a massive fight among doctors. This is not acceptable.
Get mad. If doctors cannot afford to maintain or upgrade their equipment, you are the one who loses. If doctors cannot afford to keep their clinics open, you are the one who loses. If doctors leave, you are the one who loses.
So I vote No.
Your turn: make this government fear the vote and the voice of the ordinary person.
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