1 week 3 days ago

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 11:07

Topic Privatization Private services waste our money

Public services create valuable assets for you and me.


Private services create money for shareholders. Why would we pay to do that? It just doesn't make any sense.

Public services create valuable assets for you and me. Things like the power grid, safe water and sewer systems, schools, hospitals, airports, dams—all things with real tangible value that we own.

Privatization just doesn't make any sense. It’s like selling your house that you worked hard to pay for and own free and clear and then paying rent to live in it.



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2 weeks 2 days ago

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 10:05

Topic How Fair is That Greyhound bus bails on two million riders

GREYHOUND BUS HAS LEFT VERA PETERS STRANDED. She’s not alone. She’s just one of the two million Canadians who won’t be able to count on Greyhound bus to stay connected any more.

Vera Peters: Stranded in Edmonton

GREYHOUND BUS HAS LEFT VERA PETERS STRANDED. She’s not alone. She’s just one of the two million Canadians who won’t be able to count on Greyhound bus to stay connected any more.

Vera lives in Edmonton. The Greyhound decision to abandon its bus service in Western Canada means she won’t be able to visit any of her three children.

“Sure there’s flights from Edmonton to Vancouver where one of my daughters lives, but for low-income people like me, there’s no way we can afford it. As for visiting the other kids in small communities, you can’t get a flight there. The bus was the only way in.”

For Vera, it also means the end to a low-cost and quick way of sending parcels.

“We could just pop it on the next bus and it would be there the same time the bus was. With Canada Post it’s a lot more expensive and it takes forever.”

By October 31 Greyhound will have cancelled all bus service in Canada west of Ontario. This move will throw 415 people out of work. It will also leave over 2 million riders scrambling to find other ways to connect with each other—something Greyhound has been doing since 1929, when it first began operations in BC.

A lot more than a bus service

For riders who use the bus to access healthcare, the news is heart stopping.   

Jean Grassick of Dauphin, Manitoba takes the bus to Winnipeg for regular treatments to halt a progressive eye condition. She told CBC News that without the treatments, she’ll go blind.

UBC professor, Penny Gurstein, believes that the federal government should step in because these route closures will effectively limit access to essential services like medical care, putting people’s health and lives at risk.

AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas agrees and is calling on the provincial and federal governments to help First Nations and others living in remote communities create a subsidized, sustainable transportation network.

“The more that we take the opportunity to take over these types of things — to provide services for ourselves — the better off we all are,” he said.

Escape route for abused women

Even more ominous is the threat these closures pose for women fleeing violence.

Abusive partners often control the purse strings so their victims have no access to the means of making an escape. Women in these situations have relied on shelters paying the bus fare to get them to safety, whether that be to a shelter or to supportive family and friends in another location.

Joanne Baker, executive director of the BC Society of Transition houses, puts it bluntly. “It is vital that women in rural and remote communities have access to safe and affordable transportation. Without it, they may have little choice but to remain with their abuser.”

For indigenous women, the stakes are even higher. They are in danger not only from abusive partners but from predators who treat them as disposable, and who seldom face consequences for raping, brutalizing, or even murdering them.

Jody Leon, a member of the Splatsin First Nation in BC states their concerns. “There’s a lot of people in Indigenous communities right now that have a lot of fear around the cancellation of the Greyhound line.”  

The Native Women’s Association of Canada has issued a news release in response to the cuts, asserting that a lack of safe transportation is “encouraging travellers to resort to less safe means of transportation such as hitchhiking or walking unsafe highways.”

An essential service for indigenous people

As Grand Chief Doug Kelly says, “If they’re hitchhiking, they’re vulnerable; they’re  vulnerable to violence, they’re  vulnerable to murder.”

In his role as chair of the First Nations Health Council in BC, he sees bus service between remote communities as an essential service without which vulnerable women and girls are put in an even more dangerous position.

Yet Greyhound Canada senior vice-president Stuart Kendrick said in an interview with The Canadian Press that “Simply put, the issue that we have seen is the routes in rural parts of Canada­­—specifically Western Canada—are just not sustainable anymore.”

Peter Hamel, Greyhound’s regional vice president for Western Canada, said that the company has been running deficits and have no profitable routes left in Western Canada.

“That’s the argument that we’ve been making [to the government]. This is the message that we’ve been trying to communicate this year and for five years — that no private sector company can be sustainable in these markets, in these regions, without some sort of assistance.”

So what’s the solution?

Some government officials have said they expect the private sector will jump in and fill the gap. It seems an odd assertion to make when one of the largest and most established private sector players is abandoning bus service for the entire region.

Nicole Sarauer of the Saskatchewan NDP doesn’t buy it. She points out there has been no private sector backup ever since the shutdown of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company. “We’ve seen little of that so far. And now with the shutdown of Greyhound, it’s even more concerning.”

Sarauer also believes losing the bus is a health and safety issue: it affects those who need to travel to get medical care in the larger cities, and impacts women fleeing domestic violence and dangerous situations.

Others have suggested that ride sharing would provide an alternative to bus service.

Leon isn’t so sure that this is a good solution for indigenous women and girls. “We know, based on past history, that some of our people have gone missing utilizing things like ride share.”

Publicly-owned bus service

Stop the Cuts member Chelsea Flook thinks she has the answer.  She believes the best alternative includes accessing funding from the federal government for inter-city transportation, and starting up a scaled-down version of the formerly publicly-funded Saskatchewan Transportation Company.

“We would like them to see the consequences of their actions—that their whole idea that the market is going to step in, that’s not true, so they now need to get serious about coming up with alternatives,” she said.

Three BC Council of Canadian members, Joanne Banks, Eric Doherty and Anita Strong make a case for creating a publicly-owned and operated highway bus network that would be superior to the service Greyhound is abandoning.

Not only would it serve the safety needs of indigenous women and girls, as well as those of other women living in rural communities, it would also lead to fewer traffic accidents. Most of the communities served experience severe weather conditions, especially in winter. Keeping more drivers off the road during storms and icy driving conditions would keep everyone safer.

They also argue that it would cut down on green-house gas pollution and help meet Canada’s Paris climate conditions.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shown a willingness to spend billions to nationalize and expand an oil pipeline. Low-carbon transportation for people should be his funding priority instead. Regardless of what name is on the buses, the federal government must step up with funding.”

Vera Peters agrees with all their conclusions. And she adds another one. A publicly-funded bus service would create greater equality between all Canadians.

“These cuts to bus service make me feel like a second-class citizen. I’ll be cut off from my family. But it’s even worse for others who won’t have access to emergency services without buses. I think the government should supply the service. That’s my opinion.”

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3 weeks 2 days ago

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 16:47

Topic The Ways We Win Closing the digital divide aims to make democracy more open to all

CANADA COULD USE A LITTLE URUGUAY. In 2013, The Economist named Uruguay the “country of the year.” How did an obscure, little country located in the southeastern region of South America win such an honour? By being one of the most liberal and advanced nations, not just in Latin America, but in the world at large

The Uruguayan government plan put a computer in the hands of all 300 000 students in the country's public schools

CANADA COULD USE A LITTLE URUGUAY. In 2013, The Economist named Uruguay the “country of the year.” How did an obscure, little country located in the southeastern region of South America win such an honour? By being one of the most liberal and advanced nations, not just in Latin America, but in the world at large.

Marijuana use, same-sex marriage, and abortion are all legal in Uruguay. Political corruption and income inequality are low, and the free press is highly respected. Uruguay also works hard at bringing the possibility of participating in its democracy to all its citizens by eliminating any “digital divide.”

The publicy-owned Administración Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Antel) is Uruguay’s main telecommunications company. Movistar and Claro offer mobile wireless phone services, but the government-owned Antel has a monopoly of landline, telephony, and all hard-wired data services in the country. Antel makes sure the internet is available to everyone, almost everywhere.

Democracy goes digital

According to the website Euro Investor, Antel “has a strong commitment to universalize broadband access and has taken firm steps to eliminate the digital gap, with the current deployment of a nationwide fiber optic network.

The infrastructure offered by Antel is essential to the success of the Uruguayan Digital Agenda for an Information Society launched in 2008 by the government of Dr. Tabaré Vázquez.

Vázquez wrote the key objective of the program would be to: “increase the access of citizens—including the most marginalized—to government services and public institutions through the use of the Internet.”

Vázquez  said “overcoming the digital divide” was a key to “creating a culture of citizenship with clearly defined rights and responsibilities.”

Nowadays Antel has a total of 70% of households across the country connected to the Internet and more of 50% of those has fiber optic access. Antel is the first company in Latin America providing customers with LTE technology, placing Uruguay among the top 10 countries with the highest mobile broadband average.”

There was a move, in the early 90s, to privatize government-owned companies in Uruguay. A referendum rejected the attempt. This allowed Antel to stay public and continue to bring these services to the majority of the people.

In 2008, Antel expanded their monopoly on services even further by putting restrictions on cable companies which would keep them from providing internet with their cable services.

Some have argued that these actions are unconstitutional because consumers should have a choice of internet providers. But there are arguments to be made in favour of the status quo in this case.

In other countries, including Canada, private, for-profit cable companies are able to charge people more money for additional services, and as cable TV subscriptions are becoming less common thanks to the popularity of streaming services like Netflix, internet prices through cable companies are continuously increasing.

Here in Canada, cable and internet provider Bell got themselves into hot water last year when some of their customers received misleading internet prices and usage-based billing. This is something that could be avoided with the type of public internet service they have in Uruguay—a service that is provided as a public utility and separate from private ownership by cable companies.

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1 month ago

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 16:10

Topic Privatization Public services free us to get on with our important stuff

Public services free us to get on with our important stuff

We wake up, take a shower, brush our teeth, make coffee and breakfast. We don't need to think twice about any of it--thanks to public services.

We all depend on public services to make it through the day, every day. We expect them to be there so we don’t have to sweat the small stuff. And they always are. So, we grow to take them for granted. Yet, we couldn’t achieve anything without them.

Public services make sure there's plenty of safe water in the taps, safe ingredients in the toothpaste and bacon and eggs inspected and cleared safe for human consumption. Then we go off to work or elsewhere on public transit, on public roads maintained year-round by public-sector workers.

Overhead, we see a plane heading towards the airport, guided by air traffic controllers and rigorously inspected for safety. We take an elevator, again safety-inspected, or head directly onto a job site (ditto).

Even non-union employment must meet minimum standards of pay and working conditions, enforced by public employees. If we’re retired, on Old Age Security, we head to a public park, knowing the day will be sunny because Environment Canada has provided a weather report.

Thanks to industrial pollution controls, we breathe more easily. That night we sleep soundly. Firefighters and police are on the job to make sure of it.


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1 month ago

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 11:04

Topic The Ways We Win Public service workers picked as best to preserve quality services

THE GOVERNMENT OF NEW BRUNSWICK HAS DECIDED TO TRUST THE EXPERTS. It will continue to work with public service workers to improve hospital food and cleaning services. It will not contract out their work to a private company.

THE GOVERNMENT OF NEW BRUNSWICK HAS DECIDED TO TRUST THE EXPERTS. It will continue to work with public service workers to improve hospital food and cleaning services. It will not contract out their work to a private company.

The June 18 decision was a major victory for unions and citizen activists in New Brunswick anxious to preserve public services.

The Liberals wanted to sell off the publicly-owned food and cleaning services to the multi-national Sudexo. A broad coalition objected. Union members, everyday citizens, health professionals, economists came out in support of public healthcare, rather than private interests

New Brunswick farmers brought it all back home: “It is almost a given that large corporations like Sodexo do not deal with local farmers,” said Rébeka Frazer-Chiasson, a member of the National Farmer’s Union board in New Brunswick. “If Sodexo partners with the Liberal government to provide hospital food services, little New Brunswick food will find its way onto the trays of patients.”

Overall, broad popular opposition focused on the belief the privatization would be all pain and no gain. Critics believed the deal would result in a sharp decline in the quality of services in the hospitals, would callously steal jobs from 280 experienced and dependable workers and yet would not reduce the cost of government in any significant way.

Government, union co-operation

The government decision came as a result of the December 2017 formation of the Task Force on Food, Environment and Portering Services—a rare collaboration between government and the union representing the threatened workers.

The mandate of the task force was to identify the current gaps and opportunities with respect to the provision of food, environmental and portering services within the regional health authorities. What they found was that keeping these services public would allow them to run more effectively.

Norma Robinson, president of CUPE Local 1252, pointed out that if the government had spent time speaking to workers rather than corporate executives from Sudexo, they would have realized much sooner that keeping the services public was the best solution.

“When you speak with frontline staff, you get the clear picture of what is needed to make those changes within the public system, which is exactly what the task force was able to prove to the government,” said Robinson.

The unions will now work with the government and regional health authorities to draft a plan to move forward. However, unlike the unaccountable corporate decision-making process that would have taken place if Sudexo was in charge, the public will have a voice in these discussions through the joint committee.

“We will be the watchdogs over this. We will be the people on this watching to ensure that this goes forward as predicted, and we will deal with things as they come up,” stated Robinson.

Broader privatization drive

The unions have been leading a broader campaign against the Liberal government’s plans to privatize other areas of healthcare. At the  beginning of the year, the government handed a ten-year contract to Medavie, a private company, to manage the province’s medical home care program. Susie Proulx-Daigle, president of the New Brunswick Union/NUPGE, said at the time, “The government has stated this move will not save money. It admits the program is working very well as is, so the question is why do this at all?”

New Brunswickers agreed. A protest of several hundred took place last December against the deal, and petitions were organized and meetings held to oppose it.

The fact that the government refused to make details of the contract with Medavie public until it was signed caused particular anger. It demonstrated the lack of control citizens have when public services are hived off to profit-making business interests. Protesters also pointed to the problems experienced by the province’s ambulance service, after it was taken over by Medavie, as an additional reminder of the perils of privatization.

The New Brunswick Health Coalition, a public advocacy group, produced a report detailing the government’s privatization plans and demonstrating how maintaining public ownership in healthcare will ensure more efficiency and better services. The report noted that a national pharmacare program would save New Brunswick $180 million annually, called for the extramural program to remain in public hands, and urged an end to plans to contract out ancillary services within hospitals.

“Privatization schemes have led to negative health outcomes for patients and poor working conditions for healthcare workers,” noted the report. “The negative consequences of privatization are disproportionately borne by seniors, women, and minority groups. Privatization also poses a threat to New Brunswickers being able to receive healthcare in the official language of their choice.”

Victory points the way forward

The positive news that the government has abandoned its privatization plans for food and cleaning services is a first step in the fight to defend public services in the province. More battles undoubtedly lie ahead.

The unions’ success in mobilizing public support behind the campaign to keep food and cleaning services public provides a powerful example of how labour-led campaigns can help defend public services and protect the interests of people in New Brunswick and across the country.

Following the example of CUPE 1252 will go a long way to achieving an efficient, high-quality public healthcare system across the province.

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1 month 4 weeks ago

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 09:40

Topic Feed Your Head Movie stars, and other quacks, are dangerous to our public health

“I’M NOT A DOCTOR, BUT I PLAY ONE ON TV,” WON’T CUT IT. Yet millions of people are taking health advice from celebrities and all kinds of other people with no medical degrees. This is the latest—and most potentially dangerous—turn in our ever-expanding self-help craze.

Gwenyth Paltrow, with everyone’s favourite self-help guru, Oprah Winfrey

“I’M NOT A DOCTOR, BUT I PLAY ONE ON TV,” WON’T CUT IT. Yet millions of people are taking health advice from celebrities and all kinds of other people with no medical degrees. This is the latest—and most potentially dangerous—turn in our ever-expanding self-help craze.

The most immediate danger here is to the individuals who get sucked in by the heal-yourself quackery. But, there is a greater danger—to our entire public health care system. The whole idea that we don’t need doctors applying medical science to keep us healthy too easily leads to the idea that we don’t really need a robust and fully-funded public health care system. Do-it-yourself medicine will be good enough.

Who takes health advice from a movie star?

Gwenyth Paltrow, the Hollywood actress, is one of the most popular champions of this “don’t trust science” brigade. She makes money through her magazine Goop and by selling a line of oils, lotions, potions and magic rocks.

Goop recently told women to put $66 egg-shaped jade gemstones into their vaginas to increase “chi, orgasms, vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy.” The item is sold out on Goop’s online store—which means that actual people are actually doing this.

It’s not a good idea. Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN in San Francisco, told the Washington Post, not only is it “biologically impossible” for a rock to have an effect on your hormones, but it’s also a great way to cause problems like bacterial vaginosis and toxic shock syndrome.

Paltrow has also advised women to “steam” their vaginas—yet another thing that doctors warn can cause health problems—and to start every day by drinking a smoothie made up of ingredients that cost approximately $200, and have approximately zero actual proven health benefits.

More than a little dangerous

This sort of thing has always been around, of course: pseudo-scientific “alternative” medicine, lurking in the shadows, attracting those suspicious of the medical establishment. It can prove dangerous to your health. Now, with social media, this risky nonsense has been amplified many times over, to the point that it’s within nearly every credulous person’s reach. (A Google search for “natural remedies” yields nearly thirteen million results.)

Health care authorities are doing little to protect us from this quackery. However Graham MacKenzie, the pharmacist who owns Stone’s Drug Store Baddeck, in Nova Scotia, has taken direct action to protect his customers from wasting their money or harming themselves. He  recently pulled homeopathic products from his store shelves for a simple reason: they don’t work.

 “For quite a while now I’ve been thinking there are some things I’ve been putting on the shelf that I really, I can’t back up at all,” MacKenzie said.

“There’s a growing sentiment I think with professionals that these things really shouldn’t be sold at all. You have to be able to sleep at night when you’re selling stuff to people that doesn’t have anything in it. It’s tough to do that, so I just said, enough is enough, I’ll take it out of my store and, as much as I can, I’ll try to only keep evidence-based products here.”

Most “alternative therapies,” it is true, may not do much good but at least won’t do much harm either, especially in combination with regular medical treatment. But when people are aggressively warned against conventional medicine that could save lives we invite calamity: a young child dies from meningitis after being treated with garlic, onion and horseradish; “anti-vaxxers” dominate social media, warning parents against immunizing their children—measles, mumps and whooping cough make a comeback.

Unwell individuals are given “medicine” in solutions so diluted that not a molecule of the allegedly active ingredient can be found. Apricot pits are still being marketed as a cure for cancer.

Big Pharma doesn’t make it any easier for good medical practice to prevail. Its notorious penchant for medicalizing common conditions, and its marketing of expensive pills as remedies, can sow distrust and may unwittingly drive people into the arms of quacks.

A serious threat to public health

The public health system in Canada has become badly compromised. “We are…at a crisis point,” said the authors of a grim assessment in the Canadian Journal of Public Health last year. Public health “is under siege in many jurisdictions across Canada, where it has been weakened and marginalized and cannot be fully effective.”

They identify four critical areas where we have fallen short:

  • Diminished status of public health within Canadian governments and health authorities, with the result that primary prevention is diminished as well as long-term public health planning;

  • Erosion of the independent authority of medical officers of health—they have been fired or muzzled for speaking out against government policy;

  • Diminishing the scope of public health by combining public health and person-centred  clinical care—two radically different forms of professional expertise;

  • A steady reduction in public health funding across the country.

Public health is mostly about prevention, popular education being a major part of that. But government cutbacks in this field—as deep as an alarming 33% cut to the budgets of Quebec regional public health units in 2015—have severely restricted the ability of public health workers that remain to do their jobs.

Canada now has one of the worst immunization rates in the developed world, in part because of anti-vaxxer misinformation, but also due to the more general lack of health awareness caused by the erosion of public health capacity.

Shrinking public health outreach creates a vacuum soon filled by “health populists,”  like Gwenyth Paltrow. Poor public policy helps to create the conditions for this climate of ignorance.

A robust and efficient public health system is the best cure for that. Far better than any of the bogus cures celebrities and the gullible can offer us.

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2 months 2 weeks ago

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 13:03

Topic How Fair is That Young drivers’ sky-high premiums add to calls for public auto insurance

YOUNG DRIVERS IN ONTARIO ARE HOSTAGES: If they want to drive they have to pay sky-high insurance premiums because they are not 25-years old. It’s the ransom they have to pay for being young.

YOUNG DRIVERS IN ONTARIO ARE HOSTAGES: If they want to drive they have to pay sky-high insurance premiums because they are not 25-years old. It’s the ransom they have to pay for being young.

“This is only happening because Cameron is a 19-year-old boy,” says Tony Sottile “That’s it, the only reason.”

Sottile’s existing insurer wanted $6,000 more to add his son Cameron as a principal driver on an 11-year-old car. The story is just another example of the huge penalty for being a young, male driver in Canada’s most expensive car-insurance market.

Insurance companies get away with this kind of discrimination because “it’s only business.” They say their intent is not to punish young people for being young—but the reality is that they do.

Tony Sottile went to work to find a better price. “I got a high of $32,000 and a low of $6,100 per year.

 “I don’t know where these brokers are getting their prices. Some are using the same companies, but there are vast differences in prices for the same criteria. Are they pulling these numbers out of the air?”

“Some kids are paying more for insurance than their car,” says Joe Daly, a spokesman for Desjardins Insurance.

In 2003, a study by the Consumer Association of Canada found, “good young male drivers pay more than bad older drivers with high priced vehicles.”

Unfair to good young drivers

John Podedworny was one young driver who didn’t think any of it was fair. He explained why in an article printed in the Hamilton Spectator in 2014—the day after he got his drivers license. He wrote:

“Here’s a thought, instead of welcoming me with the highest rates of any age group, give me a merciful rate and let my driving history determine how much I will pay in the future.

“If I am a good driver who takes care of my car, reduce my rates. Leave the excessive charges to the Justin Beibers of the world who think it’s cool to drag race and endanger the lives of everyone around them.... the people causing the accidents should be paying for them. Not someone who just happens to be young.”

Gouging Ontario auto insurance buyers

Ontario’s 9 million drivers pay the highest car insurance rates in Canada. They also receive the poorest coverage and the poorest benefits if they are in a serious car accident.

But the big, multi-national insurance companies that administer auto insurance in Ontario, have never had it so good.

A report released in May 2018 provides alarming new data on just how much profit exists in the auto insurance system in Ontario.

The updated report, conducted by York University Schulich School of Business Professor Dr. Fred Lazar reports that Ontario auto insurers made $1.5 billion pre-tax income in 2016, up nearly 60% over the last four years alone.

Lazar also calculates that Ontario drivers continue to pay excessive auto insurance premiums.

Lazar reports: “I estimate that in the last five years alone, the overpayments might have totaled $5 billion.”

Public auto insurance cheaper and better

BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec all have public auto insurance, and drivers in those provinces pay significantly less than Ontario drivers:

  • Quebec has the lowest average insurance rates of any province, ranging between $600-700 annually

  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan come out at around $1,000

  • BC drivers spend approximately $1,100 on average.

Ontario is by far and away the most expensive province, with drivers shelling out on average $1,700 per vehicle. For those who live in some parts of the GTA, that figure increases to over $2,000.

The Consumer Association of Canada report stated: “Finding #1—Public auto insurance systems offer the lowest rates for consumers.”

The first public auto insurance system was introduced by Tommy Douglas’ CCF government in Sakatchewan in 1945. NDP governments in Manitoba and BC in the early 1970s also brought in public auto insurance plans.

In BC, the popularity of public auto insurance has compelled every government since, even avowedly right-wing BC Liberal governments, to declare their support for ICBC. The public insurer’s recent problems are the direct consequence of a decision to semi-privatize the system.

The return of a key election issue?

The NDP surprised Ontario with a victory in the 1990 provincial election. A key to the win was the NDP promise to create a public auto insurance plan. An even greater surprise was the NDP government decision to formally abandon that promise a year later.

Some observers believe the time for public auto insurance in Ontario has come again.

Dennis Pilon, an associate professor at York University, urged a party to come forward with a plan to introduce a public model like BC’s or Manitoba’s. “If you had a party that came out and said, ‘We’re going to do X,’ then I think you would start to see the issue register,” he told CBC.

Adriano Marcoccia, a 28-year-old Toronto resident with a clean driving record,  is one voter who agrees. He told CBC that the position political parties take on auto insurance rates would influence his vote in the June 6 election.

“I don’t think many Ontarians know how much more they’re paying compared to other provinces,” says Marcoccia.

Efforts to widen the push for public auto insurance are also growing in Newfoundland, where drivers pay the highest rates in Atlantic Canada. Trade union representatives there have filed a proposal to an ongoing government consultation to create a public insurer. They argue that this move will cut premiums, and also allow funds generated by the system to be reinvested in the province, rather than going to private profit.

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3 months 2 weeks ago

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 12:26

Topic The Ways We Win ‘We Own It’ campaign aims to be key to Ontario election win

SMOKEY THOMAS SAYS THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT. This time a union is going to affect who wins an election. He might actually be right.

OPSEU president Smokey Thomas

SMOKEY THOMAS SAYS THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT. This time a union is going to affect who wins an election. He might actually be right.

Thomas is president of the 155,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). He knows history is against him. He knows many unions have tried and failed to do what he says his union can do now. He also knows he has something no other union has ever had. He has We Own It.

We Own It is a force to be reckoned with. It started as an OPSEU community organizing campaign to push all political parties to abandon privatization altogether.
OPSEU has built it into a mass-based mobilization that Ontario politicians can’t dismiss or discount—if they want to win.

Thomas is never shy about making that point. ”We’ve got 57,000 people signed up on this campaign—that’s a heck of a voting block,” he told a packed house at a We Own It town hall in Kenora on April 5.

“I’ve been all over the province, holding these forums, and I’m telling you: we can turn this election.”

People in the crowd were quick to agree.

In it to win it

We Own It town halls are just one of a staggering array of efforts OPSEU has created and sustained since the campaign launched in September 2016. The numbers alone are impressive:

  • Nearly 60,000 individual sign-ups
  • More than 1,800 public events attended or hosted
  • More than 1,000  presentations and town halls
  • More than 150 politician endorsements
  • Nearly 60 organizational endorsements
  • 18 municipal endorsements
  • 6.5 million views on social media
  • 46 million billboard and transit ad views

The union has also 50 members trained as campaign organizers, with 16 members on full-time bookoff to work on the campaign

“We Own It is a great campaign, and we have to get behind it,” said Pat Brett, a Kenora LCBO employee. “We have to make sure that it hits harder and harder as we get closer to the election. We have to make sure privatization is an issue.”

Melissa Pearson, an Ontario Disability Support Program employee from Fort Frances, is also enthusiastic about the campaign.

“I love the language of We Own It,” said Pearson. “It gives us a real chance to talk to people about the value of public services and the dangers of privatization in a way that makes sense.”

Vote for better not backwards

“Ontarians are realizing that privatization is the pay-more, get-less plan, and that more privatization will just keep us falling backwards,” Thomas said. “We just have to make sure that we remind people that when they vote, they should vote for better, not backwards.”

OPSEU launched the campaign with the goal of making public services and privatization a major issue in this provincial election. It’s working.  Public opinion research shows that more than two-thirds of Ontarians now prefer public services to privatization.

The final step in the campaign for OPSEU will be the launch of “The We Own It Report.” It will be a comprehensive report card showing where each candidate in every riding stands on privatization. Something OPSEU hopes will influence who gets to be the next premier of Ontario.


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3 months 3 weeks ago

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 12:18

Topic The Ways We Win Dr. Danielle Martin

DR. DANIELLE MARTIN KNOWS HOW TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER. She became famous for it. It's all part of her fierce and proud commitment to Medicare.

DR. DANIELLE MARTIN KNOWS HOW TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER. She became famous for it. Her YouTube video doing it has 1.6 million views. But it is her fierce and proud commitment to Medicare that makes her so important to all Canadians.

It is that commitment that makes her YouTube video so compelling. In it she uses plain and simple facts coupled with deep personal conviction that overwhelm a US senator’s attack on our Canadian Medicare.

Her “in the moment” response to a question about long wait times in Canada emphasized how the values that are the foundation of our Medicare matter as much as the care that it delivers.

“I waited more than 30 minutes at the security line to get into this building today. And when I arrived in the lobby I noticed across the hall that there was a second entry point with no lineup whatsoever.

“Sometimes it’s not actually about the amount of resources you have, but rather how you organize people...most effectively. And that’s what we’re working to do. Because we believe that when you try to address wait times you should do it in a way that benefits everyone—not just people who can afford to pay.”

When Senator, Richard Burr, took another cheap shot by asking Danielle how many Canadian patients died each year while on a waiting list for care, she quickly replied: “I don’t know sir, but I know there are 45,000 in America who die waiting because they don’t have insurance at all.”

Dr. Danielle Martin appears before US Senate committee in 2014   Of life, death and family

Danielle Martin never met her grandfather. But it is his way of living and dying that set her on her life’s course.

Jacques Elie Shilton emigrated from Egypt with 10 of his family members. A hard-working and accomplished man who spoke seven languages, he came to Canada with the hope of a better life for his family. A few months later, he suffered a heart attack that dramatically affected his health and finances.

With no Medicare system to support him, he had to pay for his own treatment. This led to debt, family breakdown and financial ruin, and meant that he often had to go without the drugs and treatment he needed. The stress of his situation and his inability to afford the care he needed led to his early death. He was only 54.

Danielle Martin grew up with the family tragedy weighing heavily upon her. Her mother’s painful account of finding her grandfather’s lifeless body and her belief that his illness and resulting financial difficulties destroyed the family, led Martin to become an advocate for Medicare long before she ever entered the medical profession.

Her mother, a dean at Ryerson University and her father, a labour activist, encouraged her in her activism.

“I grew up being taught and therefore believing that everyone should be pitching in and doing what they can to make the world a better place,” she explained.

After receiving a science degree from McGill in 1998, she took a job as assistant to Gerald Kennedy who was Liberal health critic in the Ontario Legislature at the time.

When she did decide to apply to the University of Western Ontario’s medical school, she was sure she had scuttled her admissions interview after she went on a tirade about issues that needed to be addressed within the medical system. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and she graduated as an MD in 2003.

Danielle worked as a family physician worked in areas across northern Ontario that had few of the services those in larger cities took for granted. She got to see firsthand the challenges facing Canadians in more remote communities.

This experience strengthened her resolve to protect and improve the single-payer system. In 2006, Danielle was one of the founders of Canadian Doctors for Medicare—an organization opposed the increased privatization of Canadian health care and the development of a two-tier health care system.

A head and heart connection

Danielle Martin has a high-profile career: she is the vice-president of medical affairs and health system solutions at Women’s College Hospital, and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. But she has never stopped being a family doctor.

She maintains a thriving family practice in Toronto. She says it is what connects “my brain to my heart.”

But her support for Medicare doesn’t stop her from addressing the problems within the system.

“I do not presume to claim today that the Canadian system is perfect or that we do not face significant challenges,” she told the senate committee. “The evidence is clear that those challenges do not stem from the single-payer nature of our system. Quite the contrary.”

Danielle Martin has continued that theme in her new book Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care. She outlines her proposals for improving healthcare in Canada. with provocative headings like “A Nation with a Drug Problem,” and “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There.”

These include such things as ensuring relationship-based primary healthcare for every Canadian, which she calls the “secret sauce of primary care,” and bringing prescription drugs under Medicare—commonly referred to as Pharmacare.

Her ideas expand the whole idea of what makes up a complete medical care system. For example, she maintains full health care should include a basic income guarantee. “Like medicare, a basic-income guarantee is a form of insurance against hard times,” she writes. She believes it should be deemed “a right of citizenship rather than an act of charity.”

Together with fellow policy expert, Dr. Pierre-Gerlier Forest, Danielle Martin has just wrapped up an external review of the federally-funded pan-Canadian health organizations (PCHOs) and released a report which calls for a major overhaul that would eliminate duplication and tackle the huge policy gaps that exist.

How the findings will be implemented is yet to be determined but it is one more step forward in Martin’s push to improve healthcare and better serve the needs of all Canadians.

Martin does have a private life. She lives in Toronto with her partner, Steven Barrett, a well-known labour lawyer, and her young daughter Isa. But the memory of the grandfather she never knew because there was no Medicare system to support him when he needed it continues to impel her fight to protect and enhance the system that could have saved him.

Hockey is good, Medicare is better

Danielle Martin joined Bernie Sanders and 14 other US senators in September 2017 news conference when they introduced their own single-payer medicare bill. Danielle spoke about how important Medicare is to Canadians. She told them a Canadian poll found: “94% of Canadians say that our healthcare system is a source of personal and collective pride, even more than ice hockey,”

Danielle Martin is someone who demonstrates that reality every day. The task for us all now is clear, as she says, what we need to do is: “less talk about whether Medicare is good, more talk about how to make it better.”

Dr. Daneille Martin is someone we can count on to keep that talk going until we make our Medicare better and still better.





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3 months 3 weeks ago

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 13:10

Topic Privatization Unions, health activists push NS to outlaw pay-for-plasma

PAYING FOR PLASMA MAKES JASON MCLEAN SEE RED. The president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union (NSGEU) joined with healthcare activists at an April 10 news conference to make that perfectly clear.

Kat Lanteigne and Jason MacLean want province to outlaw pay-for-plasma

PAYING FOR PLASMA MAKES JASON MCLEAN SEE RED. The president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union (NSGEU) joined with healthcare activists at an April 10 news conference to make that perfectly clear.

NSGEU, the Nova Scotia Health Coalition and Bloodwatch, an organization that advocates for a safe, voluntary, public blood system in Canada called on the province to reject any thought of allowing a pay-for-plasma company to set up in Nova Scotia.

Paying for blood donations is already illegal in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. The pay-for-plasma company, Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR), has recently registered to lobby the government to allow it to operate in Nova Scotia.

Healthcare activists are against this for many reasons: number one is the fact that it would serve no useful purpose.

They point out it won’t improve healthcare for Nova Scotians. It might even make things worse—as it did in Saskatchewan. Data from Canadian Blood Services show that voluntary blood donations in Saskatchewan dropped significantly following the opening of a CPR operation there in 2014.

A World Health Organization document states that “[t]he highest prevalence of transfusion-transmissible infections is generally found among paid or commercial donors.”

The downside to allowing pay-for-plasma also includes:

  • undermining the not-for-profit bedrock principle of Medicare,
  • undermining the possibility of Canada achieving self-sufficiency in blood products
  • increasing the risk of exposing Canadians to unknown blood-borne diseases
  • exploiting the poor

“There is nothing good to come out of a private plasma broker to set up in Nova Scotia. It does not serve patients, and it does not serve people who need plasma anywhere in Canada,” said Kat Lanteigne, executive director of Bloodwatch.

Money for blood killed 8,000 of us

A lot of bad blood got into our blood collection system in the early ‘80s. It came from paid donors in Haiti and American prisons and skid rows infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C that went undetected. The Krever Inquiry into how that happened estimated the bad blood killed 8,000 Canadians and infected more than 20,000 of us with AIDS and Hepatitis C

Krever concluded one of the best ways to keep our blood supply system safe was to never pay people for giving blood.

He also proposed that we commit ourselves to consider blood a public resource and  keep access to blood and blood products free and universal.

“We need legislation to protect public blood in Canada. A ban on the private sale of plasma and blood in Canada is absolutely needed, so that justice Horace Krever’s recommendations are upheld,” says Jason MacLean.

Unpaid and voluntary is exactly the business model of the Canadian Blood Services (CBS), the not for profit organization that took over blood collection in Canada in 1998 following the Krever Inquiry.

CBS relies on a team of 4,300 staff and 17,000 volunteers to operate 36 permanent collection sites, two bloodmobiles, eight OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network field sites and more than 22,000 donor clinics annually.

All funding for CBS comes from the provincial and territorial ministries of health, which appoint directors to its board. Its functions are regulated federally by Health Canada

Using blood from the poor to get rich

It is no secret that people most ready to sell their blood are not usually the healthiest. One of the three proposed collection sites CPR proposed to open in 2013 was beside a men’s mission in Toronto, while another was to be next to methadone clinic in Hamilton.

CPR pays blood donors with a $25 Visa gift certificate. Donors are encouraged to give often: “Super Hero Rewards” members qualify for monthly draws; “silver” and “gold” donors are eligible for “prizes valued at over $2,000.

CPR claims their pay-for-plasma model will help Canada achieve blood products self-sufficiency. There is no evidence to support that claim.

The plasma that CPR collects will not remain in Canada and will not be purchased by Canadian Blood Services.

Instead it will be sold on the $11 billion plasma world market, likely to the United States, where it will be mixed in with large pools of plasma from other paid donors, to be processed into high-priced blood products. In the end there will be no “Canadian” plasma product and no greater self-sufficiency in plasma products.

Canada will still have to import 83% of its plasma-based drugs until Canadian Blood Services expands its voluntary plasma collection sites to increase supply of plasma.

In January 2017, CBS announced a seven-year, $855-million strategy to increase Canada’s plasma self-sufficiency from 17 percent to 50 percent; it would require as many as 40 new plasma collection sites collecting more than 600,000 litres of plasma per year by 2024 and “upwards of 144,000 new plasma donors” annually.

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3 months 3 weeks ago

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 17:48

Topic The Ways We Win How we can make the best Canadian idea ever even better

THERE’S GOOD NEWS ABOUT MEDICARE: we can make it even better. The proof is in Canadian Health Care: The art of the possible, a study from the Public Services Foundation of Canada (PSFC). It is the latest salvo in the foundation’s ongoing campaign to celebrate, protect and expand our Medicare.

THERE’S GOOD NEWS ABOUT MEDICARE: we can make it even better. The proof is in Canadian Health Care: The art of the possible, a study from the Public Services Foundation of Canada (PSFC). It is the latest salvo in the foundation’s ongoing campaign to celebrate, protect and expand our Medicare.

“Medicare captures the best of us,” says PSFC board member James Clancy. “It turns our desire to share our common wealth and to care for one another into something real, that does real good, to real people, every day.”

“We all need and want to keep our good thing going. Our new study will help with that.”

The paper looks to Europe for inspiration. “It seemed to us this would be much more useful than adding to the endless comparisons with the for-profit USA system,” says Clancy. “We set out to do something that could directly benefit the millions of Canadians who rely on Medicare.”

Looking to Europe

The paper reviewed the health care delivery systems in eight European countries. The goal was to find ways and practices that we could learn from. That is: discover best practices there, that are possible for us to use here.

“European countries have the same strains and loads on their health care systems that we do” says Clancy. “Yet, often have superior outcomes and bolder innovations. There is much to learn and, better still, there are good practices to emulate.”

The “best practices” European possibilities highlighted in the paper include:

  • a mobile child mental health service in Germany;
  • baby boxes in Finland;
  • free dental care for under 18 year olds in Denmark;
  • greater public involvement in health care governance including in some countries formal patients rights declarations;
  • free personal care for those over 65 in Scotland whether at home or in an institution
  • national pharmacare programs.

“This paper should open our minds to how many good ways there are to make Medicare—the best Canadian idea ever—even better,” says Clancy.

“The for-profit crowd and the naysayers are often loud. But we stand on the firm ground of sharing and caring. That has always been the story of Medicare. The lessons from Europe in this study confirm there is no reason to change it.

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Canadian Health Care: The art of the possible




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3 months 3 weeks ago

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 13:29

Topic The Ways We Win Union gives businesses a chance to display their support

THE WELCOME SIGNS ARE GOING UP ALL OVER NEWFOUNDLAND. Just the way the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) planned it.

Bridge Communications posted a picture of “Cuddles,” the office cat, lending a paw to paste a “NAPE Members Welcome Here” campaign decal on their office window

THE WELCOME SIGNS ARE GOING UP ALL OVER NEWFOUDLAND. Just the way the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) planned it.

It’s all in response to the “NAPE Members Welcome Here” campaign launched by NAPE on Janurary 30.

Businesses big and small are pasting decals on their windows, supplied by the union, to make plain their support for NAPE members and the money they spend in Newfoundland and Labrador.  “They know NAPE members are good for business.” says NAPE president Gerry Earle.

The union presents the campaign as a positive way for the union to combat attacks from the business establishment made during a recent union vote on 15 contracts covering 20,000 public service workers.

Leadership of the St. John’s Board of Trade decided to publicly insert themselves into union business in an effort to have members question the deal negotiated in good faith by NAPE and government.

The executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council also came out in public support of the Board of Trade anti-union position.

These moves outraged Earle. He made no effort to hide his anger. He held a news conference to call out the business leaders. He went on to taunt them with an offer to have them tell the union exactly which businesses did not want NAPE members to spend with them. Earle said the union would be happy to help business set up such and list and inform members exactly where not to spend.

In the end the business meddling had no effect. NAPE members in 15 public sector bargaining units, representing approximately 20,000 workers across the province, voted 88% in favour of accepting the agreement. But NAPE is not about to forgive or forget.

It ain’t over till it’s over

NAPE members will receive close to $250 million in payouts from the contracts. The union pointed out much of it will be spent in local businesses throughout the province. The NAPE “Members Welcome Here” campaign seeks to emphaize that reality in a positive way.

The union campaign seeks to give pro-union businesses a way to separate themselves from the anti-union approach of the Board of Trade and Employers’ Council.

The “NAPE Members Welcome Here” campaign gives businesses an opportunity to visually display their support for NAPE members in their community.  

“This is a simple, positive, and voluntary way for NAPE members to know where they are welcome, while giving participating businesses increased sales as well as free promotion,” said Earle. “It’s win-win.”

Business can log on to go union

Any business that welcomes the support of NAPE members can put a #NAPEwelcome decal on its front door or window, and post a picture of it on social media together with the name of their business and the hashtag #NAPEwelcome.

The union will post the name of that business to its campaign website for all its members to see. NAPE also mailed an invitation to participate to many members of the St. John’s Board of Trade.

The union also asked NAPE members to take a selfie when they see a business with the decal and post it to social media with the hashtag #NAPEwelcome.

Online local businesses can take part too by posting the #NAPEwelcome logo on their websites and social media accounts.

Connecting with the community

NAPE has been working hard to present a positive message about how much the economic and social health and well being of every community depends on the work NAPE members do.

Results of a 2016 NAPE poll showed how little people in the province really know about the diverse range of work NAPE members do in their home communities.
The union’s ongoing “We are community” ad campaign aims to correct that.

In its first phase the “We Are Community” campaign showcased real NAPE members in their workplaces. It features the real people behind the jobs, behind the services, and behind the statistics.

In its second phase, launched in November 2017, the campaign shifted the spotlight on to the people of the province, to tell the story of a day in the life of regular people in the province and the many ways NAPE members fit into that life.

Our message is simple, says Earle: “Public services, and the people who provide them, are more than just a cost on a ledger sheet or a statistic on a piece of paper.

“We are your friends and neighbours and a big part of what makes Newfoundland and Labrador the place we want it to be.”

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3 months 3 weeks ago

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 15:22

Topic Privatization Privatization DOES NOT save you any money

Privatization DOES NOT save you any money.



Privatization DOES NOT save you any money.

  • Privatization, more often than not, raises the costs of what we all have to pay for the public services we get from our governments.
  • Schools, hospitals, bridges, highways, health care, you name it...everything costs more when we privatize it.
  • Check out a few of the numerous examples of the huge costs we all pay because of privatization at


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3 months 3 weeks ago

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 01:57

Topic Feed Your Head

CINDY BLACKSTOCK has been described as the ‘relentless moral voice’ for First Nations equality, a ‘rock star social worker’, and even ‘Canada’s Martin Luther King’.

SOME CALL CINDY BLACKSTOCK THE "RELENTLESS AND MORAL VOICE" FOR FIRST NATION'S EQUALITY, a “rock star social worker”, and even “Canada’s Martin Luther King”. She may be all that. But what Cindy Blackstock is most is a tenacious and victorious leader in the fight for, and defender of, the rights of our 163,000 indigenous children.

Cindy leads that fight as the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. She is determined to have our indigenous children come to know how very much they matter in a world that tells them they don’t. Her basic premise is simple: First Nation’s children deserve to be treated the same as all other Canadian children.

Battling to a win

The sad truth is that in the many battles to end discrimination against our indigenous children few have been victorious. Cindy Blackstock recently led one that was. It took nine years to win it.

The battle with the federal government began in 2007. The Caring Society, together with the Assembly of First Nations, filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The complaint charged that the Harper government discriminated against First Nation’s children by underfunding child welfare programs.

The Harper government retaliated. They cut funding to the Caring Society.  They launched a secret investigation of her personal life and monitored her Facebook page. On one occasion she was the only person denied entry to an important ministerial meeting with the First Nations chiefs of Ontario.

Cindy remembers: “I cleared all the proper security clearances and everything else and was conducting myself in a professional manner when I was refused access to that meeting. In fact, the chiefs were told if I went in the room, the meeting would not go forward.”   

This abuse of power led Cindy to lodge another personal complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The commission again ruled in her favour and found that a government official had “retaliated” against her. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs was ordered to pay her $20,000. She donated it all to children’s charities.

Finally, in 2016, nine years after it began, the historic case resulted in a landmark ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It determined that the government had indeed discriminated against First Nations children on reserves by underfunding social services.

The Canadian government had spent over $5 million dollars fighting it.

A lifelong refusal to live in a lie

Cindy Blackstock was born a member of the Gitxsan First Nation in Burns Lake, British Columbia. While just a little girl, she became aware of the double standard that allowed Canadians to feel morally superior to Americans as they watched the actions of the Ku Klux Klan and the challenges to the American civil-rights movement on their TV screens each evening, while remaining oblivious to the extreme poverty and the shameful racism faced by their own First Nation’s communities and to the part the Canadian government had in perpetuating it.

“That injustice, and that refusal to accept it, was something that would just be a trajectory throughout my life,” she said.

This early awareness led her to get a degree in social work. Her work brought her face to face with the mechanisms that destroyed indigenous communities. Children were ripped from their families. Reserves had no safe running water. Hunger was normal. The government did nothing to fix any of it.

She saw the multigenerational trauma of residential schools and the tragic lack of accessible resources for the kids who were suffering. She could see generation after generation of children slipping into the black hole created by government intransigent indifference and society’s bigotry. She couldn’t stand by and let it happen.

“I really believe that the greatness of the country and of our joint society … is bound up in the possibility of raising a generation of First Nations who never have to recover from their childhoods, and a group of non-aboriginal children who never have to say they’re sorry.”

By the time she became Dr. Blackstock, with a PhD from the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto, she had come to believe that systemic issues had to be confronted at their root. She felt that the only way to change things would be to take on the entire system.

That’s what she did in the nine-year fight with the federal government. But the win there did not end that battle.

The federal government is dragging its feet. The Tribunal has found it necessary to issue an order expressing concern over the government’s lack of action, and another ordering it to cease its discriminatory conduct.

A further two non-compliance orders have been issued by the Tribunal with a third one pending. Although the government has announced plans for new funding, as Blackstock says, “It doesn’t matter how many announcements they make or how many smiles they give … we should all be accountable for what’s actually happening to these children on the ground level.”

Dr. Cindy Blackstock continues to speak out and share her message with audiences across the country. She is determined to take further legal action if the government does not live up to its obligations. Her legendary status as an activist is built upon her resolve and persistence.

No need to recover or say sorry

Cindy Blackstock refuses to give up on Canada: “I really believe that the greatness of the country and of our joint society … is bound up in the possibility of raising a generation of First Nations who never have to recover from their childhoods, and a group of non-aboriginal children who never have to say they’re sorry.”

She has been honoured by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, and Frontline Defenders among many others. She was the subject of a documentary film by Alanis Obomsawin, We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice. She has been eulogized in award-winning poetry and has inspired activists worldwide.

Yet for Dr. Cindy Blackstock, the most important honour is, and always has been, the smiles on the faces of First Nations children when they realize their true worth and are treated with full equality and respect in the country that owes them so much more than it has ever given them.  

The Caring Society

Statistics on Aboriginal Mental Health

A poem about Cindy Blackstock

Canada still has not properly funded First Nations childrens' programs

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3 months 3 weeks ago

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 13:45

Topic The Ways We Win All Together Now!
If it matters to you, we're fighting for it!

Check out the new NUPGE ad airing during CBC's rebroadcast of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics tonight at 9 p.m. (EST). It should air between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. See the direction All Together Now! campaign is taking!


Check out our new ad airing during CBC's rebroadcast of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics tonight at 9 p.m. (EST). It should air between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. See the direction All Together Now! campaign is taking!

The ad marks the launch of the next phase of our All Together Now (ATN) campaign. Sort of ATN2.

It’s still All Together Now! just fresher and a little edgier.

We’re still proposing solutions and working with our allies to find exciting ways to strengthen the movement for a fairer country; a country where people are treated as valuable resources not a cheap, disposable workforce.

Income inequality is still our prime target. It is not inevitable. We’re not the only ones talking about it now. We’ve helped build a growing movement of people and organizations who understand what we need to do to stop the growing gap of inequality.

As a union, we’re fighting for fairness for everyone.

If it matters to you, we are fighting for it!

It all started in 2008

The seeds for the All Together Now! (ATN) campaign were planted a year ahead of the global financial collapse in 2009. Our union, the 390,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), had been witnessing growing income inequality, slashes to public services by austerity driven governments and more restrictions on workers’ rights.

Employers were cutting wages and benefits, the tax system was benefiting corporations and the wealthy, and there wasn’t any government strategy to help hard working Canadians maintain what they had, let alone get ahead. The gap between the wealthy and the rest of us was growing and we knew we couldn’t sit on the sidelines, we had to fight.  Fight for our members and everyone else.

Solutions to rising income inequality

There was no time to sit around and complain, we had work to do.  So, we created a campaign that examined the causes of income inequality. We had some ideas about what we could all do to turn the situation around and we wanted to share those ideas.  We knew there was public support, we just needed to reach people. So, we used our best resources — our members — to engage in one-on-one conversations with friends, family and coworkers, urging them to join us to influence governments on this issue.

As a union, we knew that many of the benefits and standards won for our members are enjoyed by all workers today, such as minimum wage, health and safety regulations, and overtime. Unions have been on the frontlines of challenges to make life better, not just for our members, but for everyone. But, we knew that strong labour rights wouldn't solve income inequality alone. We needed to make the connection between good jobs, strong labour rights, tax fairness and well-funded (or stable) public services and reduced income inequality.

ATN & The Fairness Express

So, ATN was born. We canvassed our workplaces talking about the problem of rising income inequality. We presented our vision of solutions to city councils, Chambers of Commerce, employers, and lobbied politicians at every level urging them to act boldly to close the inequality gap. The campaign hit its stride, and reached way beyond our union.

We built on what we’d started by taking the campaign right to where people live. We toured the country on the Fairness Express, aka the Big Green Bus, to meet people, listen to their issues and share solutions.

We went to places where people never expected to see a union. We popped up at fairs and parks, festivals and parades. We hit big cities, and small

communities. We talked to everyday people, who had never heard of a union or the term income inequality, despite feeling the effects of it.

Often, we were asked, “Why does a union care about what’s happening to me?” Our answer was clear: Because when we all work together, we can make a difference.


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3 months 3 weeks ago

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 11:44

Topic Privatization Beware the Privatization Playbook



There are many, many, many examples in Canada and all around the world that show how privatization of a public service has resulted in reduced quality of services and an increased cost of that service. It’s no wonder Canadians are increasingly skeptical of privatization.

Corporations and their political allies that profit from privatization are keenly aware of that growing skepticism. So they have developed their own PRIVATIZATON PLAYBOOK to counter that skepticism.

They go at everything ‘round about. So, they do not make a direct attack on public services. Their strategy is to undermine public services, to make us lose our trust and confidence in public services to deliver all we want and pay taxes to get. Here’s how they do it.

The Privatization Playbook

1.    Give deep tax cuts to the top 1% to reduce the revenue collected by government.

2.    Use the decline in revenue as an excuse to “balance the books” by cutting funding to public services.

3.    Deeply reduced funding means the quality and accessibility of services deteriorate.

4.    The public gets frustrated and asks: “Why am I paying taxes for these sub-standard services?”

5.    CEOs and their political allies leap in to say: “Let the corporate sector deliver these services.”  

This strategy has been used to sell off public assets like electricity, to contract out services like home care, and to justify using Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) to build hospitals or highways. In every case we all get much less than we pay for.

Don’t be fooled by the privatization playbook. Just look at the track record of privatization — service cuts; higher costs; risk to public safety; loss of public control and accountability

 The Privatization Playbook





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3 months 3 weeks ago

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 11:34

Topic The Ways We Win Online health info you can trust

WHAT DOCTORS DON’T KNOW CAN HURT YOU. Norway created its Electronic Health Library to meet that reality head on. The library offers all Norwegians access to the best medical knowledge in the world—all online.

WHAT DOCTORS DON’T KNOW CAN HURT YOU. Norway created its Electronic Health Library to meet that reality head on. The library offers all Norwegians access to the best medical knowledge in the world—all online.

The library is publicly-funded. It negotiates purchases of licenses with all the leading medical journals to keep down the subscription costs. Maintaining this resource is estimated to cost about $9 million CDN per year—just $44 CDN per healthcare professional.

Library listings include 3,000 or more approved titles, including internationally recognized medical resources such as the Journal of the American Medical Association and Cochrane Reviews. The library also subscribes to a free Canadian vetting service, McMasterPLUS, where on-line journals are regularly checked for scientific accuracy and relevance.

Any Norwegian may access the library, although health professionals appear to be the heaviest users.

The public has free access to most of the data, and uses it, particularly the patient leaflets. Between 200,000 and 250,000 unique users access the data-base every month. Norway has a population of five million.

The editor-in-chief of this online library, Magne Nylenna, refers to this open access as the “democratization of knowledge.”  

The library offers every Norwegian access to a trove of reliable information in many other topic areas: such as, pharmaceuticals, public health, mental health, toxicology, and medical law, as well as clinical guidelines and diagnostic tools.

An antidote to the internet

One of the primary reasons people surf the Internet is to look for medical information and advice. The problem is, the web is a minefield of really, really bad, sometimes life-endangering material: anti-vaccination propaganda, quack “natural” cures, fad diets, and pitches for dodgy commercial products. Even when popular websites offer legitimate information, it is too often insufficient to make sense of one’s symptoms.

The Electronic Health Library offers Norwegians a way to get a “second opinion” on what they get from the notoriously unreliable Dr. Google.

Norway’s innovative Electronic Health Library is no substitute for actually visiting a medical professional when something seems amiss. But it is such a good idea it was included as one of the “best practices” in the CLI’s new study Canadian Health Care: The Art of the Possible.

Canadians envy Norwegian achievement

In 2010, there was an attempt in Canada to create something similar—a Canadian Virtual Health Library. It would have created a bilingual network of libraries for use by health professionals.

The Canadian Health Libraries Association (CHLA) received a $800,000 grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to get started, but no federal support was forthcoming, and the project folded after the grant expired.  

Canadians doctors do have access to online medical databases through the Canadian Medical Association, but there are significant gaps: several major resources are not included due to cost. Nurses, too, have their own online portal. But nothing approaching the Norwegian resource seems to be on the horizon.

Lee-Anne Ufholz, president of the CHLA, notes that in Canada, it’s not only health professionals who lack ready access to vital information, but also social workers and rehabilitation specialists. Her frustration is evident: “The logistics of trying to get to a pan-Canadian licence on anything—just to get all the people at the table is crazy.

“Norway’s project is beautiful and I’m totally jealous, but they just didn’t have the complexity that we were looking at,” she said.

One difference is, of course, that the Norwegian Electronic Health Library is publicly funded; in Canada, the creation of something similar was left to a professional umbrella organization.

Would federal support ease the burden of creating such an invaluable resource? A reasonable question—one that those interested in professional excellence and a well-informed public should be asking.

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3 months 3 weeks ago

This Working Life

Being indigenous is dangerous to your health far too often

ALEX CARR CONSIDERS HIMSELF LUCKY.  He finally found suitable daycare in Ottawa for his one-year-old daughter, Spencer. It’ll cost him $1,800 a month. He’s happy to pay it.

Alex Carr with his daughter Spencer

ALEX CARR CONSIDERS HIMSELF LUCKY.  He finally found suitable daycare in Ottawa for his one-year-old daughter, Spencer. It’ll cost him $1,800 a month. He’s happy to pay it.

In Vancouver Kristen Keighley-Wight pays $1,000 a month for only three days of childcare a week for their three-year-old son. That’s all her two-income family can afford.

Both families are two-income households with well-paying jobs—part of what Justin Trudeau likes to call the “middle class.” They can’t imagine how working class families or single parents find quality childcare they can afford.

Even when you can afford to pay, finding childcare takes more than putting your kids on the waiting list the moment they are born.

“We were aggressively calling them,” said Alex. “I was even thinking I’d have to delay my return to work. At the last minute, we got lucky.”  

It’s not that there weren’t any more affordable options. It’s just that they had to ask themselves, “at what price?”

As Kristen recalls, “We saw places that we just turned around and walked out of real quickly. We saw a bunch of triggers and places that weren’t safe and we said we’re not going to leave our kids there because we don’t trust them. And then we were feeling just awful because we know that some parents don’t have the option to say no to that.”

Kristen Keighley-Wight with her husband and young son

A universal childcare plan for all Canadians would solve the dilemma. It would ensure that all children are cared for in centres that meet or exceed all requisite health and safety standards, staffed with trained professionals. It would level the playing field so that everyone would be able to afford the same quality of care for their children regardless of income, financial resources or location.

Unions have long supported the implementation of a national childcare plan. As Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) President Hassan Yussuff stated, “We must ensure all governments invest in public and not-for-profit care, because this is a key component of ensuring quality.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents the 21.5 per cent of Canadian childcare staff who are unionized and points to studies which show the positive effects of unionization on the childcare sector. Staff in unionized centres not only receive better pay, but are more likely to receive paid sick days, extended medical, life and disability insurance, paid time off for professional development training, and other benefits.

This not means that staff can afford to stay home when they’re sick rather than spreading their illness to the children. It also means these centres can attract and retain more educated and better qualified staff. And this leads to better quality child care.

The tragedy of ‘Baby Mac’

Kate Spence has two children. She has chilling first-hand experience of the harm sub-standard childcare can bring. Fifteen-month old Macallan Wayne Saini, known as Baby Mac, died at the daycare her daughter was also going to.

The death is still under investigation. The daycare operator is no longer in business. After Baby Mac’s death, it was disclosed that the daycare operator of the daycare had three previous regulation violations but was never fined.

“When my daughter was born in 2015 we put her on the wait list for licensed facilities and there was nothing. We were laughed at when we called daycares to put our names on the list and we said ‘Well who could possibly be ahead of us?’ because she was just born, but we found out that people wait up to four years to get a spot in licensed childcare here. It’s quite dire.”

Kate and her husband were unable to find licensed childcare. They finally had to settle for an unlicensed home daycare a friend recommended.

“We had some small issues with this provider but you know beggars can’t be choosers when it comes down to what you can get in Vancouver and we never thought our daughter was in danger. Ultimately, it turns out we were being deceived by this provider. It was life altering, devastating.

“It was a tragic consequence for this one family who have also become very involved in advocating for more regulated childcare, more licensed spaces, more qualifications and better wages for ECE workers so then people are staying in the profession so there’s no space for these few negligent people who are going to prey on parents’ vulnerabilities and desperation.”

Kate has also become active with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC. It appears the new provincial government there is taking steps toward a better system.

Childcare investment more than pays for itself

Lynell Anderson, CPA, CGA, emphasizes the economic benefits of universal childcare. Citing Quebec, which has such a program, she notes, “Research from Quebec shows that their childcare investment more than pays for itself already, primarily because of the revenues and economic activity associated with the substantial increase in mothers’ labour force participation.

“The benefits of quality childcare in the early years also lead to higher rates of post-secondary education, higher earnings, better health, etc.”

Even Bank of Canada head, Stephen Poloz, believes that government-subsidized childcare would assist more Canadians, especially women, Indigenous people, people with disabilities and young parents, to enter the workforce and could boost Canada’s output by $30 billion a year.  

In a study cited by CUPE it was noted that: “Better wages and working conditions is a predictor of quality and it leads to more stability due to lower turnover…. Unionization not only has a positive impact on childcare staff, but also on children in unionized centres, their parents and society.”

For all these reasons and more, it came as a shock to both parents and childcare advocates alike when the federal government’s recent, supposedly “gender equity,” budget, came up crickets on a national childcare plan.

“We are astounded Finance Minister Bill Morneau has chosen to ignore the solid evidence that lack of access to affordable childcare is the biggest barrier to women’s equal participation in the paid labour force,” states Morna Ballantyne of Child Care Now.

Child Care Now further stated in a news release that: “without more federal money, together with a much stronger federal childcare policy framework, the gaps in quality, affordability and access will widen across the country, as will the gaps between regions, social classes and women and men.”

Universal childcare will reduce inequality

The parents interviewed all agreed that without national universal childcare, inequality will continue to proliferate, making some regions of the country have-nots, widening the gap between classes, and hitting women particularly hard.

As Alex Carr noted, “You need it to be funded by all levels of government. I just see it as an extension of the school system we have which people seem to accept without question. We wanted trained ECE staff because they have a model of childcare that they ascribe to. Spencer loves it. She’s excited to go to daycare.

“Maybe there’s a gender issue there? If you have a proper daycare system, that benefits the participation of women more than it does men so maybe, given that a lot of women’s issues aren’t front and centre in most elections, maybe that’s another reason why it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.”

Kate Spence, who is herself a teacher, spoke from her experience, “It baffles me as to why some people have resistance to adopting a national childcare plan. I’m genuinely baffled.

“A lot of businesses have really jumped on the plan because they are having a shortage of workers. People can’t come back to work because they can’t find proper childcare. I see kids coming to school without kindergarten skills, without social skills and emotional regulation skills. It hurts my heart.”

But most of all, Kate Spence is concerned for the safety of children in childcare centres without trained ECE staff and proper oversight.

“What happened to Baby Mac has to stop. There was another similar case here, fortunately no children were injured or died, but these situations of deception and negligence are still happening.

“This time someone caught the daycare operator before a tragedy occurred. Someday I hope our country will be proud when we’ve adopted a national childcare plan that includes and protects all children.”

Unions have long supported universal childcare, which must include a unionized childcare workforce. As CUPE has noted, unionized teachers and nurses “are strong advocates for their field and their profession but also see unionization as a way to advance issues in their sectors,” and they believe we would see the same with a larger number of unionized childcare workers.

As mother Kristen Keighley-Wight states, “A national childcare plan has always made sense to me. It should be like universal healthcare and like our education system—available to everyone.”

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3 months 3 weeks ago

How Fair is That

Being indigenous is dangerous to your health far too often


BEING INDIGENOUS IN CANADA IS NOT GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH. It wasn’t in the bad old days of European conquest and it still isn’t.

The days of handing out smallpox infected blankets are over. But there is still a yawning health gap between our indigenous citizens and the rest of us.

Despite the real achievements of Medicare, Canada’s health and healthcare statistics reveal an uncomfortable truth: good health in Canada is unequally distributed.

The average life expectancy of Canadians, for example, compares reasonably well with that of Western European countries in general. But when that average is broken out to show the life expectancies of indigenous peoples compared to the rest of our population, we can see a significant divergence.

Inuit men can expect to live fifteen years less than Canadian males on average, and Inuit women, ten years less. For First Nations and Métis, the differences, while not as stark, are still considerable.

When it comes to infant mortality, Canada does not fare well, even on average, with a rate described by the Conference Board of Canada as “shockingly high” in relation to other OECD countries—4.5/ 1000 live births.

Indigenous baby death rate is much higher

But for indigenous peoples, those bad numbers are far worse—as much as 190% higher for First Nations and a staggering 360% higher for Inuit-inhabited areas.

Despite the fact that there is a special federal program providing prescription drugs, dental and vision care, medical supplies, mental health services, and other benefits to these groups, other health indicators present the same dismal picture:

  • the suicide rate among the Inuit is 11 times the national average
  • youths on First Nations reserves are 5-6 times as likely to commit suicide than non-indigenous youth
  • indigenous people as a whole have three times the rate of Type 2 diabetes as the rest of the population
  • dental disease is twice as prevalent
  • obesity rates are significantly higher.
Many factors to blame for this health gap

Several factors, geographical, economic and social, account for these and other sharp differences.
Many of the communities in which these groups live are geographically remote, so that healthcare delivery is often hit-or-miss.

Relatively high rates of poverty among these groups also play an obvious role. Obesity, for instance, is related to food insecurity. Indigenous peoples experience from twice to more than three times the rate of food insecurity as non-indigenous. Between 2008-2010, more than 50% of on-reserve First Nations families found themselves unable to obtain sufficient amounts of nutritious food. For Inuit, food insecurity has been described as a “national crisis.” Affordability is a key issue.

Canadian government treatment of indigenous peoples has ranged from actively genocidal to stiflingly paternalistic. Yet progress, while painfully slow and difficult, is now being made, including on the health front.

The federal government, for example, is moving away from top-down health planning towards a decentralized, Aboriginal-run health delivery model. (The previous government deeply slashed funding to indigenous health organizations, forcing many of them to fold.)

Thanks to a ten-year legal battle waged by children’s advocate Cindy Blackstock, First Nations children can now look forward to receiving the same social services as non-Aboriginal children, with obvious positive effects on their health and development.

Eliminating the health gap is a long-term project, of course—itself a part of the much larger project of reconciliation in which Canada is currently engaged. Somehow we appear to have made our way to the starting-gate, at least. Now, as equal partners, the real work begins.

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