COMMONS TRUTHS

3 weeks ago

COMMONS TRUTHS
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Thu, 09/20/2018 - 10:23

Topic This Working Life MPs open up about life on the ‘barbecue circuit’ and other disappointments

MOST OF US THINK OUR MPS COULD DO BETTER. SO DO THEY. And they are not afraid to say so.

Scott Brison, MP at a barbecue this summer in Hants County NS

MOST OF US THINK OUR MPS COULD DO BETTER. SO DO THEY. And they are not afraid to say so.

That is just one of the revelations in ongoing research released in July by the Ottawa-based Samara Centre for Democracy.

Samara’s research comes “straight from the horse’s mouth.” It is the result of 54 one-on-one, frank and candid interviews with former MPS who sat in parliament from 2011 to 2015. The former MPs belonged to all the different parties and came from every region of Canada—but they all agreed that they rarely got to be the MP they wanted to be for one main reason: confusion over what an MP can do, and should do; confusion over where the real action is.

Where is the real action?

There never used to be any confusion: MPs were supposed to go to Ottawa to debate and fashion national policy that would deliver the greatest good to the greatest number. It was serious work that kept them in Ottawa for most of the year.  Few had offices in their constituencies. That changed in the early 60s.

The job of governing was “hollowed out.” All the important work and thinking was taken over by cabinet ministers and party staffers. The job of MPs was reduced to little more than knowing when to "show up for the vote."

With less required of them in Ottawa MPs used their time to pay more attention to work in their constituencies. Soon constituency offices were a requirement, not an option. MPs spent a lot more time back home “being seen” on the community “barbecue circuit”, “consulting” with various community groups and doing “case work” for individual constituents.

All worthwhile. Yet not directly engaged in governing. Recent public opinion data finds that a majority of Canadians would rather see MPs stay in Ottawa and focus their energy on governing.

The simple fact is parliament, and only parliament, is where the action is when it comes to keeping Canada on track. As one MP in the study put it:

“When I read MPs that say, ‘Oh well, Ottawa’s all theater, and the real work is when you can solve a problem for your constituent,’ I think that’s bullshit. That’s the work I used to do [before I was elected]. I did not put my name on a ballot so that I could do more of that work."

'As puff-pastry-thin as possible'

Constituency work is not an option these days. One MP told the researchers:

“I did about seven to nine [events] a day… And still, people felt that I wasn’t showing up… I spread myself as puff-pastry thin as possible and yet, still… I just constantly felt like I was letting people down.”

Another MP recalled:

“We had enormous pressure to go to events, and it was the driving, fundamental outreach strategy to make sure your MP was visible and at events, all the time. At certain events, they tracked your attendance…. [The PMO] tracked whether or not you were going and how many you went to, and would talk to you about it…. I never thought it was a good use of time.

When researchers suggested to one former MP that events could provide opportunities to hear the concerns of constituents, their response was blunt:

“That’s crazy talk. I’m sorry, but that’s crazy talk. ...Events—that’s where you’re drinking and socializing…. You don’t have time to have a fulsome discussion.”

'Guys at mics'

Samara reports some MPs strenuously tried to consult their constituents on a range of issues. One MP recalls just how futile their efforts proved:

“I really tried hard. I had, like I said, three to four town halls every year on various topics and I would send direct-mail letters and a “ten percenter,” and they were in a different area of the riding. I’d blanket the entire area. Let them know when it is, it’s free, there will be coffee and snacks: ‘Come and talk to your MP.’ It seemed to me that I generally got the same people every time. It didn’t matter where I held them. The turnout was always low.”

Another MP described the challenge of “guys at mics”:

“You put up the note that you’re going to have the meeting on something. You get up. You speak. And I call it ‘guys at mics’ come next. Because it’s always [the same] guys at mics. Wherever you are.”

Six million pieces of literature

Most of the MPs interviewed described how other aspects of constituency work had crowded out opportunities for thoughtful and innovative consultation.

“At the end of it all, I really don’t know how to connect with the broad range of constituents. I door-knocked every Friday for four and a half years. I held town halls. I did my social media. I sent out something in the neighbourhood of six million pieces of literature. Really trying actively for engagement. I don’t know that there was any real uptake in engagement.”

Buried alive in casework

Casework has grown to take up almost all the time of constituency staff. A result of the continuing cutbacks to frontline public services and the personal face-time that constituency offices offer.

Time spent on casework is stolen from time that could be spent on attending to the job of legislating. Also, since casework amounts to solving a personal problem for one individual constituent, there is a real concern about favouring some over others. Not something our government is ever supposed to do.

The never-ending demand for casework suggests a deeper  problem: namely, an inadequate level of government services overall.

Former MPs questioned why this kind of work wasn’t the responsibility of the public service. As one MP remarked, “We were basically running a subset of the Federal Government of Canada in our constituency office.” Another recalled “I had great [staff]. But I’d think, ‘Why are you doing this work? There’s a Service Canada office just down the road.’”

Piecemeal solutions doled out one person at a time are not what is needed. Rather the need is for national, permanent, and system-wide solutions. MPs should push for those solutions, and they can do that most effectively in Ottawa—not from barbecues back home.

The Samara document ends with a call for the “reenvisioning of modern-day constituency work." A reenvisoning that “should mean connecting the local to the national, by bringing debates in Parliament to constituents in ways that empower informed participation, and by seeking national solutions to community problems.”

And for the reconfiguring of constituency offices “so that they become the shopfront not for public service delivery, but for innovative consultation and democratic deliberation.”

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BEYOND THE BARBECUE:
Reimagining constituency work for local democratic engagement

 

 

 


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MEAN STREETS

4 weeks 1 day ago

MEAN STREETS
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Sun, 09/16/2018 - 14:48

Topic How Fair is That Low-income renters forced to live on Vancouver streets

THEY ARE NOBODY’S DREAM HOMES. Taking a bath could bring the whole room crashing down. Rotting floors make many toilets unsafe to use. Rats, mice and cockroaches are everybody’s uninvited roommates. Yet the the dozens of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels in Vancouver are home to thousands of people down on their luck.

Jack Gates brought his mattress to the mayor

THEY ARE NOBODY’S DREAM HOMES. Taking a bath could bring the whole room crashing down. Rotting floors make many toilets unsafe to use. Rats, mice and cockroaches are everybody’s uninvited roommates. Yet the the dozens of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels in Vancouver are home to thousands of people down on their luck.

The problem is, fixing the situation of thousands living in buildings “unfit for human habitation” in one of the richest nations in the world is not easy in the hottest real estate market in Canada.

Millions for a burned out hulk

Vancouver is now the third least affordable city in the world. One study found that Vancouver has undergone the worst deterioration of any major housing market in the world in recent years.

In August, a property agent revealed that a house that burned down last year in the high-end Kitsilano neighbourhood is on the market at $3.9 million. All that remains of the house is a pile of rubble.

Even so, the agent says its worth the price tag because of the location and the opportunity for the new owner to build from scratch. He claimed that the ruins of a house in the city centre would have sold for around $10 million.

The city’s long-term goal is to continue to replace aging SROs with social-housing units that have private bathrooms. The catch is that closing SROs leaves hundreds homeless.

The SROs are very valuable property to their owners. They are also very valuable housing for our poor. Activists ask: “Is building luxury condos the only viable industry left in B.C.? And why is the benefit from development not going to solve the housing problem in B.C.?”

Pile of rubble worth millions Activists join residents to press for change

Residents and activists have long campaigned for action to provide immediate decent housing for those still living in dilapidated SROs and to eliminate any need for them at all by building plenty of public low-income housing.

Jack Gates has few fond memories of the 15 years he lived at the Regent Hotel. He says he found nine people dead in their rooms over those years. He got another nasty surprise the day he turned over his mattress to find dead mice hanging out of it.

Gates took his mattress down to Vancouver city hall and propped it against mayor Gregor Robertson’s office door. He attached a note that read: “Would you sleep on this mattress, Gregor?”

Balmoral Hotel residents also occupied the Vancouver city council chambers last summer to protest the city’s refusal to enforce by-laws against the hotel owners.

Protests are bound to increase as the housing crisis deepens.

A report earlier this year found that average rent in Vancouver’s SROs rose by $139 last year to $687 per month. That means, after paying their rent, someone living on welfare only has $23 left for food, clothing and personal care for a month—less than a dollar a day.

Meanwhile, the homeless population in Vancouver has risen by 30 percent since 2014. Indigenous people make up 40 percent of the total homeless population.

A mansion tax and an end to ‘renovictions’

The lack of housing for low-income people in Vancouver, combined with the millions being raked in by property investors and real estate agents, makes the search for a solution a hot topic in the ongoing election campaign for city council.

Jean Swanson, a long-standing campaigner for social justice in the city, is running for city council on a platform that includes a four-year rent freeze, and a mansion tax on all properties worth more than $5 million. “We need to insist that social housing goes everywhere, so we can be an inclusive city,” she said in a recent debate.

Although the City of Vancouver has imposed an empty homes tax, housing activists believe the housing crisis can only be overcome with serious provincial and federal government investments in public housing.

The Vancouver Tenants Union has long campaigned for investment in public housing and rent controls on housing units. In recent years, the Tenants Union has stopped over 20 “renovictions”, the term it uses to describe an eviction caused by higher rent prices after a unit is modernized.

The group is also looking beyond these successes by encouraging its members and supporters to fight for policy change. “We strongly distrust the popular narrative of a market-driven ‘supply solution’ to the housing crisis, which is doomed to failure without addressing speculation or the requirements of unit affordability,” writes the group.

“[T]here is the reality of a large population of working class and low-income people in need of adequate housing that the market will simply never provide of its own accord.”

The leading right-wing candidates for mayor oppose all such ideas. Instead they  try to outdo each other with offers of concessions to real estate developers and investors: such as, cutting taxes, deregulating the planning process, and allowing increased density of housing construction.

Vancouver city elections are set for October 20.

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GROUP THERAPY

1 month ago

GROUP THERAPY
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Mon, 09/10/2018 - 12:06

Topic How Fair is That Better health for all depends on better life for all

J. GARY PERLINE DIDN’T CHOOSE TO BE SICK. He didn’t choose to be poor either. But he was. Poverty didn’t make him sick. But it did make him more likely to get sick.

J. GARY PERLINE DIDN’T CHOOSE TO BE SICK. He didn’t choose to be poor either. But he was. Poverty didn’t make him sick. But it did make him more likely to get sick.

The impact of poverty and other “social determinants” on our health is just one of the hidden truths Andrew McLeod sets out in his new book All Together Healthy: A Canadian Wellness Revolution. They are truths health care policy makers work hard to have us ignore.

They make it sound like good health is all up to us. It all depends on each one of us making the right personal choices. They know it is not true. They know income inequality and other social factors hugely affect—and predict—the choices we will make.

‘My life was fucked before it started’

Consider someone like J. Gary Pelerine. What real “choices” did he ever have. McLeod writes:

"The story of his life included becoming a parent while still a teenager himself, divorce, estrangement from his children, a workplace back injury, hearing loss from working on loud job sites, and a suicide attempt. It started with a childhood lived in poverty in New Glasgow in northern Nova Scotia. “I grew up shithouse poor. I mean poor,” he said, drawing out the “poor” to stress just how poor he meant.

“I used to get off the school bus sometimes, change out of my school clothes into my hunting clothes, and if there wasn’t a rabbit in one of my snares when I got home, back from my trip through the woods, there wasn’t anything on that fucking table for dinner that night, buddy.

"There were four kids in the family and he was working on a farm baling hay by the time he was fourteen. Pelerine wasn’t blaming anyone for how his life had turned out, describing it as a long run of bad luck, but he observed, 'My life was fucked before it started.'

"It’s true that many people make choices that they know are bad for their health. It’s also true that everyone comes from somewhere."

Factors none of us can control

McLeod writes that decades of evidence show that most of what determines a person’s health is beyond the individual’s control. To individualize the problem is to imply that if you are fat, diabetic or sick, it’s all your own fault.

There is abundant evidence, for example, that type two diabetes, which accounts for 90 per cent of cases, is closely tied to income.  And yet the fact that the chances a person will become diabetic increase, at each step down the income ladder, is glossed over by Diabetes Canada.

In a 2015 report, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) found that despite heavy spending on health care there was still a persistent health outcome divide between rich and poor.

Low income earners still had worse health outcomes overall including everything from mental health, to obesity, infant mortality and smoking. The reality is: not only are poorer people more likely to smoke, they are more likely to get sick from it.

Money even affects the likelihood that cancer treatment will succeed. For the wealthiest people living in Canada’s cities, there’s a 73 per cent chance they will survive five years after they are diagnosed. For the poorest, the five-year survival rate is 61 per cent.

“Put another way,” writes McLeod, “if 100 rich people and 100 poor people are diagnosed with cancer, 12 more of the poor people than the rich will be dead within five years.”

The CIHI’s report argued that major progress on health inequities was unlikely without taking a broader social approach, including boosting people’s incomes. Lower taxes and cuts to social assistance in the mid-1990s had contributed to a widening gap, it said.

Mapping life and death

McLeod points out how health levels skew widely by postal code. It’s concrete proof of the effects of social determinants of health. Simply put: rich neighbourhoods are good for your health and poor neighbourhoods aren’t. We can even map it.

There are thousands of maps online that link life expectancy to where you live. In Toronto, for example, the Toronto Community Health Profiles Partnership has an online map of Toronto neighbourhoods (2006-2008), mapped to show where inhabitants tend to live longer than others.

Factors that make your neighbourhood so important to how healthy you are include the education level of residents, income, having the tax base to support good schools, unsafe or unhealthy housing, access to nutritious food, and opportunities to exercise.

The 2016 My Health My Community survey of people in Vancouver found that the likelihood of someone saying their health was “good” or “excellent” was directly linked to which neighbourhood they call home.

None of this is a secret. Reports by the federal government linking improved social conditions to better public health date back to one written in 1974.

Justin Trudeau made Dr. Jane Philpott his health minister. When Philpott’s daughter entered medical school she posted a blog advising her daughter: “the social determinants of health actually set the stage for all those biomedical actors… Do your part to influence those social determinants. Speak up when you see the impact of poverty, unemployment, violence and more.”

However, in Trudeau’s mandate letter to Philpott, the words “social determinants of health” were never mentioned.

So, we are today about where former federal health minister Monique Bégin left us in her 2010 forward to Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts:

“What good does it do to treat people’s illnesses, to then send them back to the conditions that made them sick?”

It’s a simple question, massive in its implications. The more our leaders find ways to avoid answering it, the more it becomes obvious we will just have to find our own ways to make them.

The work Andrew McLeod does in All Together Healthy: A Canadian Wellness Revolution will help us find those ways and realize that revolution.

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AIRLINE SELFIES

1 month 1 week ago

AIRLINE SELFIES
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Sun, 09/02/2018 - 10:52

Topic Privatization Airlines freer to use company standards to test company pilots

IS AIR SAFETY TOO IMPORTANT TO BE LEFT ALL TO THE AIRLINES? Transport Canada doesn’t seem to think so.

IS AIR SAFETY TOO IMPORTANT TO BE LEFT ALL TO THE AIRLINES? Transport Canada doesn’t seem to think so.

The federal agency has decided to give the airlines even more responsibility for keeping us safe in the air. Starting this fall Transport Canada will let the airlines decide whether or not the people testing their pilots are qualified enough to do the testing.

That is: an airline like Westjet will be deciding, on its own, whether certain Westjet pilots are qualified to be testing other Westjet pilots to see it they should be flying for Westjet airlines.

The obvious conflict of interest here, and potential increased public risk, is lost on the government agency—and roundly dismissed by airline industry flaks.

Public vs corporate priorities

“Public safety is inevitably going to be challenged by corporate priorities,” said Greg Holbrook, director of operations with the Canadian Federal Pilots Association, the union representing 450 government aviation inspectors.

In order to maintain their credentials, pilots must regularly undergo what is known as a “Pilot Proficiency Check,” which tests their abilities under regular and emergency flying conditions.

But Transport Canada doesn’t have nearly enough inspectors to do all the testing required, so for the last 25 years the department has used “check pilots.” These pilots are employed by commercial airlines like Westjet or Air Canada, and have been approved to administer the tests. They often work for the same company as the pilot they are evaluating.

Transport Canada inspectors set higher standards. Overall pilot failure rate is small, less than 4%. But, from 2005 to 2016, twice as many pilots were failed by Transport Canada inspectors than by industry-employed check pilots

With the policy change Transport Canada inspectors will be less involved in ensuring those who are testing and signing off on Canada’s pilots as up to par.

Holbrook believes conflicts are inevitable. He described how an evaluator conducting a pilot proficiency check on a friend and workmate might feel pressure to pass their colleague, even if he or she didn’t quite meet the standard.

Holbrook says the evaluator is bound to ask himself: “Do I have to satisfy Transport Canada, or do I go along with what my boss wants, with the one who signs my paycheck, and pass the guy?”

‘Further erosion’ inevitable

Transport Canada’s own risk assessment last year found that implementing the new system would result in “a further erosion” of its ability to keep an eye on how the industry polices itself.

In 2017, Transport Canada inspectors performed 300 pilot proficiency checks compared to 15,000 by industry-employed testers.

Newly released statistics seem to bear out critics’ fears. Until last year, the number of accidents and incidents involving commercial aircraft were on a steady decline in Canada.

But in February, the Transportation Safety Board revealed that there had been 94 incidents involving commercial aircraft operators in 2017, a jump from the 63 recorded in 2016 and much higher than the five-year average of 79.

“If there was ever a time for Transport Canada to get into the cockpits, to get back to providing oversight, to get back to providing checks on a regular basis, the time is now,” said Greg McConnell, national chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association (CFPA), which represents government pilots and inspectors.

“I hate to say we’re on the precipice of something bad, but we are.”

Cutting into profits always an issue

Failing a pilot means grounding them, and potentially sending them back into a flight simulator to practice.

If a company doesn’t own their own simulators, they need to pay to use one and often pay extra to cover the pilot’s hotel room and per diems during re-training. The company might even have to adjust its flight schedule, shuffling other pilots around to compensate.

Transport Canada’s inspectors don’t care about any of that, McConnell noted.

The new Transport Canada policy just pushes the industry one step closer to self-regulation, said McConnell.

“It’s a good (regulatory) system, it requires more vigilance, it requires more oversight on behalf of transport Canada,” he said. “You need to have the cops on the street.”

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MARKET FORCES

1 month 2 weeks ago

MARKET FORCES
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Sat, 08/25/2018 - 10:02

Topic The Ways We Win Trump doesn’t like how we sell milk. Tough!

BETTINA SCHUURMAN DIDN’T WANT TO DIE FOR SUPPLY MANAGEMENT. She wanted to live for it. That’s not how it worked out.

Henk and Bettina Schuurman: ready to take to the road

BETTINA SCHUURMAN DIDN’T WANT TO DIE FOR SUPPLY MANAGEMENT. She wanted to live for it. That’s not how it worked out.

Bettina, 55, was killed July 9 when a semi-trailer hit her John Deere 6430 tractor on a rural stretch of highway between Saskatoon and Langham, Saskatchewan. Her husband Henk survived.

Bettina and Henk were on a mission. They wanted to raise awareness and support for the supply management of milk. They planned to drive the 4,300 km from their dairy farm in Elmira, Ontario to Vancouver on their 40 kph tractor. It would be a bold adventure to bolster Canadian commitment to supply management. Sixteen days into the trip Bettina was dead.

Trade talks put them on the road

Bettina and Henk fixed a giant plastic cow, nicknamed Maple, to the back of their tractor, along with a sign that read: “Honk to support quality milk produced by Canadian farm families.”

A big, sign on the front of their tractor read, “Keep my milk 100 % Canadian.”

The couple said they would camp and stay with other farmers along the way. “We are looking forward to seeing the country,” Henk said in an interview the day the couple left Elmira.

Bettina and Henk had created a good life for themselves as dairy farmers in Elmira. They needed supply management to keep it that way. It’s the same for all our egg and chicken farmers. But, current trade talks have put supply management on the table and under threat.

Henk and Bettina Schuurman with their tractor in Elmira, Ontario Let’s talk supply management. Not!

Supply management has three big things going for it: it’s Canadian made; it works for farmers and consumers and...Donald Trump hates it.

Yet, talk of supply management is a conversation stopper. Few of us know what it is. Fewer still want to listen to talk about it. So, we are generally ready to let it go. This is unfortunate.

Supply management is important in practice and in principle.

In practice: it stabilizes the prices we all pay for milk, eggs and chicken and it stabilizes the return milk, egg and chicken farmers will get for their work.

Consumers get a steady supply of safe and affordable food. Thousands of farmers get to make a decent living from farming.

In principle: it gives everyday people (milk, egg and chicken farmers) a way to break free of the dictates of the not-so-free market system.

Doesn’t cost us a thing

Federal government direct subsidies to farmers were once common in Canada. But a crisis of agricultural overproduction in the 1960s made such subsidies too high to bear. Supply management offered a way for the government to help farmers without asking the rest of us to foot the bill.

Under supply management, a national marketing agency, mostly made up of farmers, determines production amounts for each commodity and then sets production quotas for each province.

In order to sell their products, a farmer must hold a quota (basically a license to produce up to a set amount.) The quota system prevents market gluts that would cause prices to dip and disrupt farm incomes.

As of 2015, there were just over 16,000 quota holders in Canada—most of them dairy farmers in Ontario and Quebec.

Supply-managed producers are guaranteed a minimum price for their products. Through provincial marketing boards, farmers negotiate minimum “farm gate prices” with processors.

Trump just blowing smoke—again

Effective supply management also depends on protecting Canadian producers from foreign imports that could undercut Canadian prices. This requires high tariffs on foreign imports.

It’s this policy in particular that annoys Trump, who has said the policy is unfair to American farmers.

In fact, overproduction is the main source of the financial problems plaguing dairy operations in the USA.

Persistent overproduction drives farm-gate milk prices far below the cost of production and more and more American dairy farmers into insolvency. Recently, a surge in dairy-farmer suicides caused national alarm in the USA, drawing attention to what the New York Times called “the widespread hopelessness afflicting the industry”

Bruce Muirhead is a historian at the University of Waterloo who has written extensively about supply management. He told CBC News that while U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed Canada to dismantle our supply management system, many dairy farmers in the USA envy what our farmers have.

Muirhead said Wisconsin farmers in particular are beset by production issues that have caused prices to tank; the state has more cows than all of Canada and produces more milk.

“Those guys are massively in favour of supply management. It would stabilize their industry,” he said.

Canada leaves about 10 per cent of our domestic dairy market open to foreign imports.

The United States gives foreign dairy products access to only 2.75 per cent of its domestic market. Europe offers just 0.5 per cent access for foreign poultry.

In 2016, Canada imported dairy products from the US worth five times more than the small amount it exported there.

Trump has it all wrong once more. But that doesn’t mean he won’t bully his way to what he wants. It is the fear that he might that cost Bettina and Henk Schuurman so much. That alone should give us all reason enough to support and defend our supply management system.

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ALL FIRED UP

1 month 3 weeks ago

ALL FIRED UP
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Sun, 08/19/2018 - 13:21

Topic This Working Life Forest fire firefighters prove their worth and a lot more besides

RICHARD SOLOMON IS A HERO TODAY. He is also living proof of the value of a strong public service.

Exhausted firefighters take a break from battling BC forest fires

RICHARD SOLOMON IS A HERO TODAY. He is also living proof of the value of a strong public service.

Richard is on the government payroll. He works for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). He is one of hundreds of firefighters deep in the Ontario woods doing the exhausting, dirty and dangerous work needed to extinguish raging forest fires in Ontario—fighting to save homes and keep people safe.

That’s not a reality conservatives like. They prefer their own make-believe reality of a public service that they like to say “costs too much and delivers too little.” Richard and his fellow members of Ontario Public Service Union (OPSEU) Local 623 do not live or work in that kind of reality. Their job is public service: regardless of risk or reward. And they are good at it.

‘It’s in our blood’

“We are looking after safety, and looking after Ontario. It’s in our blood,” says Len Sedore, OPSEU Local 623 president.

Richard’s crew worked 19 days in a row in early July, with only a two day break, before returning to fight the fire. The firefighters live in tents in forest camps, far from their homes and families. The forests are infested with bugs, the smoke and heat is inescapable.

“We work four per crew,” says Richard. “We go where the fires are, and where we are needed—out to North Bay, Sudbury, then back to Cochrane. The new people team up with the seasoned firefighters and we help each other out.” Crews from Nova Scotia, PEI, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia have all come to aid the Ontario fight.

No matter how good you think you are there’s always a risk, says Richard. “We knock down the fire by putting water all around it, and then start working inside the fire ASAP so it doesn’t jump above the water. But the wind can come out of nowhere.”

“Everything switches with the wind. It just takes you by surprise, and you never know.”

“Safety is number one. We all work together’” says Len Sedore. He is part of a close-knit team in the Sudbury area, including firefighters as well as IT, engineers, pilots, and warehouse and administrative staff.

“All hands are on deck, and we are working flat out,” says Sedore. “Helicopters and water-bombers are doing missions all day long. We are working around the clock bringing clothes, food and resources to the firefighters out in the field.”

“These are true heroes,” says OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “They make us all proud.”

“The bravery and commitment of these OPSEU members is extraordinary. They are putting their own lives and safety at risk, so that our communities are safe from the dangerous flames and smoke. I could not be more proud of these workers on the front lines as they continue to face down the fires and protect our province.”

Regaining control

The successful efforts of firefighting crews are evident all over the province. In Henvey Inlet First Nation near Parry Sound, for example, their efforts allowed residents to start making their way back home August 8.

Angele Dubois is one of almost 200 people the fires forced out of the community, in mid-July. She says she’s just happy to be able to return home.

“I just have a whole new appreciation for day-to-day life there, the nature that surrounds us, the community itself, all the structures, the buildings, the services we have,” she said.

Dubois also gave her thanks to ministry firefighters and local officials for “coordinating all of this and making sure everyone was safe.”

As of August 14 there were 5,915 forest fires burning in Canada—at least 50 in every province and territory except PEI. BC, Alberta and Ontario each had over 1000 active fires.

Dedicated and brave public service workers are on the front line working long and hard to extinguish every single one of those fires. Something to remember the next time someone starts huffing and puffing about a make-believe public service that is supposed to “cost too much and deliver too little.”

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LEFT TO OURSELVES

1 month 3 weeks ago

LEFT TO OURSELVES
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Thu, 08/16/2018 - 18:05

Topic Feed Your Head Progressive populism is as Canadian as maple syrup

DONALD TRUMP GIVES POPULISM A BAD NAME. The “populism” he purveys is not even real populism. It is a deformed and twisted version of populism—a dark evil twin of true populism, whether of left or right.

DONALD TRUMP GIVES POPULISM A BAD NAME. The “populism” he purveys is not even real populism. It is a deformed and twisted version of populism—a dark evil twin of true populism, whether of left or right.

Wikipedia says: “In politics, populism refers to a range of approaches which emphasize the role of “the people” and often juxtapose this group against “the elite.” Differences over the best ways to unseat the elites is what separates right wing populists from left wing populists.

True populist parties, of the right and left, have had their day many times in Canada and the USA over the past 150 years.

“The Wizard of Oz”, for example, was probably written as an elaborate metaphor to support the rise of a third-party populist campaign in Kansas and other mid-western states in the USA in the 1890s. The campaign aim was to wrest power from bankers and business leaders. (Think gold for the yellow brick road and ounce for Oz and you begin to get an idea of the true meaning under the so-called children’s fable of the Wizard of Oz.)

But, no truly populist campaign ever traded in the hard-bitten hate and calculated incitement to hate that Trump uses to “fire up his base.”

Our kind of populism

Canada has a long and robust tradition of progressive populism, going back at least to 1915, when the Non-Partisan League, a socialist agrarian protest movement originating in North Dakota, was imported into the prairie provinces. It became a serious force here after its American counterpart swept the North Dakota elections in 1916.

Active in electoral politics at both provincial and federal levels, the League lobbied on behalf of small farmers against eastern banks and corporate interests. In 1917, it captured two seats in the Alberta legislature.   

The United Farmers of Alberta (UFA), originally a progressive non-partisan grassroots lobby group, launched its own political arm and absorbed the League in 1919. It went on to be spectacularly successful provincially, winning a majority in the Alberta legislature in 1921, and remaining in power until 1935. Like the League, the UFA opposed political parties, insisting that its elected members be guided entirely by their respective constituency organizations.

The United Farmers movement was not confined to Alberta. The United Farmers of Ontario formed the provincial government from 1919-1923, in coalition with the Independent Labour Party (ILP). It introduced allowances for widows and children and a women’s minimum wage, expanded Hydro into rural areas, and created a provincially-owned bank that would lend money to farmers at a lower rate. It undertook major public works, too: a massive reforestation program and beginning the construction of our modern highway system.

The United Farmers of Manitoba won power in Manitoba without a leader in 1922, and governed until 1942. Its elected representatives called themselves the Progressive Party of Manitoba. It was less progressive, however, than the other United Farmers’ governments—and in 1942, it was a co-founder of the federal Progressive Conservative Party.

Till power is brought to pooling

Till Power Is Brought to Pooling is the title of a book of speeches made by Tommy Douglas, one of the most successful progressive political leaders Canada has ever had. The title reaches back to a forgotten time. Yet, although obscure today, there could be no Canadian reference more fitting for a book praising and promoting the power of progressive populism.

Saskatchewan wheat farmers used “pooling” to break free of corporate control of their lives. They took direct action to create the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in 1923—a co-operative marketing organization imagined, created, owned and controlled by the farmers themselves.

Thousands of volunteer organizers travelled from farmhouse to farmhouse to get farmers to put their futures into the hands of the untested “wheat pool.” Farmers trusted other farmers. In less than a year 45,000 farmers had signed contracts agreeing to sell all their wheat through The Pool for five years—in the full knowledge that the huge private grain marketing companies would retaliate by manipulating prices.

The Pool was a huge success—perhaps the greatest success for progressive populism in Canada ever. It delivered stable prices to prairie wheat farmers for over half a century.

Stacks of signed contracts from farmers supporting their Wheat Pool in 1926

The United Farmers of Canada (Saskatchewan Section) also pushed for progressive reforms in education and health care. In 1932, it joined forces with the ILP to form the Farmer-Labour Group, which in 1934 won five seats in the Saskatchewan legislature. The coalition then affiliated with the newly-created Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, becoming the Saskatchewan CCF, which first introduced medicare in 1962.

On the national level, there was the Progressive Party, an uneasy coalition of radical Ontario and prairie farmers and dissident federal Liberals, founded in 1920. One year later, it won 65 seats in the west, Ontario and New Brunswick, becoming the second-largest party in Parliament. The party rapidly declined in popularity, however: some of its members eventually joined the CCF, others the Progressive Conservative Party.

The co-operative commonwealth

The best known of all of these allied populist movements was the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, founded in Calgary in 1932 by a number of groups, including the UFA, unions and progressive academics. Its members embraced electoral politics, running federally and provincially, and many were elected—the CCF governed Saskatchewan by 1944, and had 28 federal MPs by 1945.

But the Cold War intervened, and as a left-wing party, the CCF was stigmatized and rapidly declined in the 1950s. In 1961, it joined with the CLC to form the NDP.

It was just one more example of how grassroots radicalism had been effectively taken over by orthodox party politics. Formal electoral politics is in many ways contradictory to a populist movement, even if the former springs from the latter. In Canada, there has always been a tension between the two.

Learning from progressive populism

Can left-populist “movement” politics be socially transformative (as proposed in the LEAP Manifesto, and a few years ago by the New Politics Initiative), instead of running out of steam as has so often been the case?

Can electoral politics be reconstructed to offer more policy options, with far more accountability to constituents between elections? Can political decision-making be decentralized, and electoral politics integrated with ongoing grassroots initiatives, so that ordinary citizens feel engaged instead of ignored?

Perhaps our history of strong progressive populism can help us find practical answers to those increasingly urgent questions.

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THE TRUTH ABOUT PRIVATIZATION #8

2 months 1 week ago

THE TRUTH ABOUT PRIVATIZATION #8
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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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END OF THE LINE

2 months 2 weeks ago

END OF THE LINE
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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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HURRAY FOR URUGUAY

2 months 3 weeks ago

HURRAY FOR URUGUAY
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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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THE TRUTH ABOUT PRIVATIZATION #7

3 months ago

THE TRUTH ABOUT PRIVATIZATION #7
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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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PUBLIC TRUST

3 months ago

PUBLIC TRUST
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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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QUACK LURES

3 months 4 weeks ago

QUACK LURES
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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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DRIVEN OUT

4 months 2 weeks ago

DRIVEN OUT
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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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VOTE GETTERS

5 months 2 weeks ago

VOTE GETTERS
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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.

WE OWN IT VIDEO
 

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WOMEN ACTIVISTS PROFILES #2

5 months 3 weeks ago

WOMEN ACTIVISTS PROFILES #2
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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.

YOUTUBE OF MARTIN AT US SENATE HEARING

BETTER NOW BOOK

MARTIN WITH BERNIE SANDERS
 

 


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BLOODY STUPID

5 months 3 weeks ago

BLOODY STUPID
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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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MEDICARE POSSIBILITIES

5 months 3 weeks ago

MEDICARE POSSIBILITIES
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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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CLICK LINK BELOW TO READ

Canadian Health Care: The art of the possible

 

 

 


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WELCOME SIGNS

5 months 3 weeks ago

WELCOME SIGNS
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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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