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Private health care dollars swell Eves' campaign trough

Then guess what? Tories give green light to private MRI and CAT clinics

A report by the National Union of Public and General Employees

The Ontario Tory party has always reeked of corporate influence and the stench has never been greater than the one surrounding the rise of Ernie Eves to the premier's office this year.

New Elections Ontario figures show Eves spent a record $3 million to win the office when Mike Harris stepped down in April. And the total campaign bill for all five Tory leadership candidates added up to an astonishing $8.6 million.

 

The stench of corporate money surrounds Ontario Premier Ernie Eves

Some of the biggest donations Eves received came from private health care companies that are now poised to cash in on Ontario's decision to allow 20 private for-profit MRI clinics and 5 private for-profit CAT clinics to operate in Ontario. Private fees for private scans range from $700 to $1,200.

The decision on private clinics was announced in June, just two months after Eves became premier. Here are some of the donors and lobbyists behind his victory:

Big health care contributors to Ernie Eves:

* The Dynacare Health Group contributed $25,000:

   Dynacare is the third largest provider of clinical lab services in North America and the largest private laboratory company in Ontario. It specializes in diagnostic testing. The company has been expanding operations by purchasing labs in public hospitals, For example, the company benefited in 1995 from the privatization of a
laboratory at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre.
Anthony Fell contributed $10,000:
   Tony Fell is a former deputy chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada. He is currently vice-chairman of the University Health Network, which comprises the Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and the Princess Margaret Cancer Hospital. Last year, Fell appealed publicly to the Tories to open private MRI clinics.
* Canadian Medical Laboratories Limited contributed $10,000:
   CML's Healthcare and Diagnostic division provides lab testing and medical imaging services across Canada. Last November, CML added medical imaging to its portfolio of healthcare services by acquiring DC DiagnostiCare. DC DiagnostiCare is Canada's largest single provider of non-hospital based imaging services with revenue in 2001 of approximately $70 million.

Meanwhile, Eves' staff of political insiders features several former health care lobbyists.

* Steve Pengelly, Eves' chief of staff, worked for Endopisis Medical Inc., lobbying for "hospitals, privatization and outsourcing."
* Kristina Filmer, senior advisor to Eves' chief of staff, was a lobbyist for Canadian Radiation Oncology Services, the private, for-profit cancer clinic that operates at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
* Charles Harnick, former Tory cabinet minister, is registered as a lobbyist for the same for-profit company.

The Ontario Health Coalition and the Ontario Association of Radiologists say that for-profit health care clinics will do little to reduce waiting lists in Ontario, despite Tory claims to the contrary.

Meanwhile, politicians in other parties have also been quick to make a connection between corporate influence and government policy.

"These companies, having contributed generously to this government, and to this premier, are now asking that the rules be such so that they can make a lot of money," says Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton, citing companies that have profited since hydro deregulation. "That's exactly what's happening."

In retrospect, Eves signaled strongly when he was campaigning for Harris' job that he was willing to do much more than listen to appeals of private health companies for a piece of Canada's multi-billion-dollar health care industry. Here is an excerpt from his campaign platform last winter, and a list of all campaign contributors over $5,000:

Premier Ernie Eves' leadership document on health care:

Ernie will:

* Introduce innovative ways to make diagnostic and treatment procedures accessible to all Ontarians, including the possible use of private providers under a publicly funded system, as is current practice for certain procedures, such as kidney dialysis.
* Continue to increase public private partnerships to strengthen the healthcare system.
* Produce itemized quarterly OHIP statements to help people understand the real cost of health care.

 

For more information, please contact Mike Luff at 613-228-9800