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North Bay leader's debate draws union demonstrators

'Every one of theses sectors has been starved for funding deliberately'

A group of high-profile union leaders were among the close to 75 protesters that gathered on the street to voice their displeasure over Tuesday's Northern Leaders Debate which was scheduled to take place inside the Capitol Centre. 

"We are sick and tired of Fords cuts and sick and tired of conservatives," yelled Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario's president. 

"We can and we will elect a labour friendly government. We are tired of them calling health care workers heroes and then take away their rights."  

The event, organized by the North Bay and District Labour Council, asked speakers to bring up questions they would have liked to ask the leaders during the northern debate.  

However, Henri Giroux, president of the North Bay Labour Council, pointed out that to attend the event at the Capitol Centre, the guests needed to pay $125.  

"I don't know about you, but I cannot afford $125," Giroux said to the crowd.  

"And I don't think anyone else can afford $125 so we know they wanted people in there that they wanted in there."  

JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO Ontario's new president would have liked to pose a multiple choice question to the leaders.  

"Which piece of anti-worker legislation are you going to repeal first, Bill-124, Bill-106, Bill-195, or all of the above?" she said which was met with a loud cheer from the small crowd of more than 70 on Wyld Street in downtown North Bay. 

Hornick believes the public sector in Ontario is suffering. 

"Every one of theses sectors has been starved for funding deliberately," said Hornick. 

"There is a desperate staffing crisis in every ministry. The privatization of the LCBO has been increasing every year. It is the same with Service Ontario and it is the same with the health care system and that was in crisis before this pandemic even began and it accelerated a problem that already existed."  

See related: Leader's debate forces closure of some downtown streets

While some speakers talked about the sad state of health care in the province, Giroux also addressed the fear of more privatization in healthcare including private clinics and private hospitals.  

"We have never had private hospitals in Ontario since 1971 when OHIP was created, now they think they need to bring it and they hide behind COVID-19 because we need this hospital," said Giroux.

"We know that private hospitals like they have in the U.S. are the worst hospitals that there is. The service is terrible and most of the time the patients end up going back to a public hospital," claims Giroux.   

North Bay Pride's Geri Atrick, who will moderate a local all-candidates debate set for May 13 at Nipissing University, yelled at Doug Ford's bus as it drove by the protest. Geri asked the Conservative leader to come to the microphone amid cheers from the supporters.  

Meantime, the bus for NDP leader Andrea Horwath was met with applause and loud music welcoming her to the all-candidates debate as her bus passed the protest.