Unilateral Cuts and Arbitration

January 7, 2016 by | 2 comments

Charter Challenge

Is a Charter challenge truly necessary?

You may be aware of the government’s cuts to doctors in Ontario. You may have seen a whole slew of percentages and dollar figures being thrown around, and your eyes may have glazed over briefly before moving on with your day (I wouldn’t blame you). You may feel doctors are paid too much, too little, or just right. Regardless of it all, when all the dust settles you likely feel that doctors, like every profession, should be treated fairly. So why should you really care? Because they aren’t.

Doctors have been without a new contract since the end of March 2014 when the previous agreement expired. Negotiations with the government stalled last year and the mediation process that followed was unable to break the stalemate. So when negotiations break down and mediation fails, what is the next step? In many cases when a group feels they are not being treated fairly they have the option of striking. If they are considered essential services like firefighters, paramedics, or police officers, we don’t want them to strike and instead use an arbitration process. This is when an agreed upon individual or group assesses all of the relevant information about the potential contract and determines what they feel is fair given the circumstances. Both parties then accept the final report whether they agree with it or not – it is considered a fair way of breaking the stalemate when a strike is not an option. It happens that doctors are not allowed to strike (and would certainly be incredibly reluctant to even if were allowed). So the next step should be arbitration… but the government has refused. Instead they have gone ahead with their own contract, which is one that doctors do not feel is fair. Doctors cannot strike, and have been refused arbitration, so what are our options?

The last resort is launching a charter challenge in the court system to argue that the government’s one-sided approach is unfair and that doctors, like other essential services, need an arbitration process. This court challenge can sometimes take years, is expensive, and takes the focus away from the goal of working together to improve patient care.

The reality is that we will all be patients someday, so when the government bullies healthcare, everyone loses. We need a fair process in place so that doctors, and their healthcare colleagues, can focus on working with our system to take care of Ontario.


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About the Author

Taylor Lougheed is a physician in Family and Emergency Medicine, and passionate about sustainable public healthcare, quality improvement and patient safety, medical education, and global health.


  1. Stephen

    Straightforward and to the point. Great summary for everyone to consider!

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