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CMA backs OMA plans for constitutional challenge

The Canadian Medical Association has supported Ontario Medical Association plans to launch a constitutional challenge to the Ontario government under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to reverse unilateral physician fee cuts and impose binding arbitration.

“We believe Ontario doctors have the right to a fair dispute resolution process,” said CMA President Cindy Forbes following the unanimous decision by the OMA Board of Directors.

“The CMA laments the Ontario government’s unwillingness to negotiate with doctors in the province and stand with the OMA in its attempts to bring the government back to the bargaining table.”

The CMA position reinforces three resolutions passed by representatives across the country at the association’s General Council meeting in August in Halifax. At that time, delegates gave overwhelming support to OMA-sponsored resolutions condemning the provincial government for unilaterally imposing a cap on physician billings and supporting the OMA’s call for a binding dispute resolution.

Another motion adopted at the meeting calls on the government to take responsibility for fully funding all necessary physician services in the province.

“We have to stop this and we have to stop this now,” said B.C. physician Dr. Brad Fritz at the time. “The slippery slope is if the government sees they can get away with it in Ontario, they will do it in every province.”

The OMA board made its decision to pursue legal action following a failed meeting with the health minister and senior staff the previous day.

Currently, the OMA argued, a significant power imbalance exists between the government and the OMA and if not corrected, the government will continue to adopt unreasonable bargaining positions and take unilateral action in its dealings with the OMA.

The OMA argues the right to binding arbitration – as it exists for physicians in eight other jurisdictions – will help correct the current impasse, provide stability moving forward and allow doctors to deliver high-quality, patient-focused care.

In the Charter challenge, the OMA will ask the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to strike down the health ministry’s unilateral fee cuts and find that a binding dispute resolution process must be established to resolve future bargaining disputes between the OMA and the ministry.

At the same time, the Board announced the OMA would participate in a government task force to make recommendations for improving and funding physician services.

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