The Progressive Conservatives, led by Doug Ford, took 40.6 per cent of the popular vote and 76 of 124 seats in the Ontario legislature after the June 7 elections. Wikimedia commons

Election result good news for Catholic doctors in Ontario

  • June 8, 2018

In the wake of Ford nation storming the citadel of Queen’s Park, Catholic agencies and groups are already adjusting to the new reality.

For Catholic doctors trying to assert their right to refuse any participation in assisted suicide, the new government is good news.

“We have a commitment from the (Progressive Conservative) caucus that they will pass conscience protection legislation,” Christian Medical and Dental Society executive director Deacon Larry Worthen told The Catholic Register the day after the Doug Ford-led party took 40.6 per cent of the popular vote and 76 of 124 seats in the Ontario legislature.

“I’m very assured that they will follow through on it. It was certainly something that was supported by all the candidates for the (PC) leadership,” Worthen said. “We’re anticipating something will happen there.”

There is no danger that the government countermanding the policies of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario would undermine self-governance of the medical profession, according to Worthen. 

“It’s only the provincial government that can properly balance all the interests in this matter,” he said. “The college doesn’t have the capacity to create mechanisms to provide access (to assisted dying) while at the same time protecting conscience rights.”

The CMDS, supported by the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies, is currently appealing an Ontario Divisional Court decision which ruled that the policy forcing doctors to refer for assisted suicide does violate the religious freedom of doctors but that the doctors could simply change their area of practice to avoid participation in assisted dying. The appeal will likely continue, whether the new government passes conscience protection laws or not, Worthen said.

“Would the legislative solution incorporate all conscience issues? That’s an important question. Another question is, we still have the precedent. We would want to make sure there is a settlement with the college to ensure that this didn’t re-occur,” he said.

Meanwhile, Catholics who serve the poor are not so enthusiastic about the new regime.

“I am always fearful of governments that talk about these (business-friendly, balanced budget) priorities, as history tells us they are usually accomplished by making cuts in services that are essential for those living in poverty in Ontario,” said Society of St. Vincent de Paul National Social Justice Committee chair Jim Paddon. “It would appear that addressing the state of poverty in Ontario is not a priority for this government.”

Paddon would rather that the Conservatives not roll back minimum wage increases passed by the previous Liberal government,.

“I would suggest raising the minimum wage another dollar to $15 an hour is more important than reducing the price of beer by one dollar,” Paddon said.

The organization that speaks for Catholic health care in Ontario is keeping its powder dry.

“We look forward to working with the new government to enhance healthcare delivery to our communities,” said Catholic Health Association of Ontario president and CEO Ron Noble.

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