Saturday, February 28, 2009

Walkom: Obama's very own quagmire

This is from the Star.

This article sums up the Obama policy in Afghanistan so far quite nicely and accurately. Possibly his policy may change after his review but so far Obama is following in Bush's footsteps but with more troops engaged. Once the coffins start flying back to the US in greater numbers the American citizenry may oppose this campaign as do many in Europe and Canada.

I will be away in the Philippines for a month so my posts might not be very frequent.

Obama's very own quagmire - Opinion - Obama's very own quagmire
February 25, 2009 Thomas Walkom
Will Barack Obama provide a way out of Afghanistan? Perhaps. But I'm not optimistic. The new U.S. president talks about the importance of diplomacy and development. However, his actions so far have focused on extending the war.
Obama is continuing the policy, started by his predecessor George W. Bush, of bombing suspected Taliban hideouts in Pakistan. As well, the U.S. has sent about 70 military "advisers" into that country.
We shouldn't be surprised. When he was campaigning for the presidency, Obama promised to vigorously pursue the Taliban into their Pakistani sanctuaries. At the time, he was criticized as naive. The smart money said he'd never follow through. Apparently, the smart money was wrong.
In fact, Obama's Afghan strategy seems remarkably similar to that of Bush. Bush, too, embraced the so-called three D's, defence, development and diplomacy, all of which have been U.S. and NATO orthodoxy since 2003.
It's true that in the early years of the war Bush focused solely on force of arms. As then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously noted, America wasn't in the business of nation-building.
But by 2003, that began to change. As the Taliban regrouped, the U.S. realized that it was caught in a full-scale insurgency that required a more sophisticated response.
That in turn led to the development of so-called provincial reconstruction teams, military-led operations aimed at providing both security and development to Afghan villagers. It also led the U.S. to have NATO allies like Canada take on a larger role.
Ordinary NATO troops would provide on-the-ground security for Afghan villagers; commando units would locate suspected Taliban militants; air power would kill them.
That was Bush's strategy. And it was the strategy pursued by the man he chose to replace Rumsfeld, Robert Gates. Given that Obama has kept Gates on as defence secretary, this appears to be the new president's strategy as well.
The key difference is that Obama plans to operate on a larger scale. He is sending 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan. He will almost certainly send more.
The problem with the Bush-Rumsfeld-Gates strategy was that it didn't work. Too often, the commandos shot up the wrong compounds. Too often, the airplanes bombed the wrong buildings.
The U.S. and NATO won all the military engagements and lost all the political ones.
On the ground, foreign troops had to spend too much time defending themselves from attack to encourage development.
Over the years, as casualties mounted, NATO countries like Canada switched from battling the Taliban to training Afghans to battle the Taliban.
That hasn't worked either. Obama now plans to arm tribal militias to do the job.
On the diplomatic front, American officials are finally talking to all neighbouring countries, including Iran. But there is no indication that the new administration wants to encourage serious talks with the Taliban. Indeed, Obama seems to be disowning Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has tried such negotiations.
Obama is to formally lay out his full Afghan strategy next month. But his actions to date give a good idea of what it will be: more money; more troops; a wider war.
Shades of Vietnam. Shades too of Lyndon Johnson, the U.S. president whose decision to send in the Marines turned that so-called brush-fire war into an all-out conflagration.
Thomas Walkom's column appears Wednesday and Saturday.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama mainly continuing Bush foreign policy

Certainly on domestic issues Obama has taken some new inititiatives although on such matters as bailout funding even the Bush administration initiated considerable spending. While Obama's spending is much larger he still refuses to nationalise failing banks a step that even Greenspan the Ayn Rand devotee suggested might be the best policy. However, on foreign policy Obama is for the most part toeing a Bush line or being even more aggressive.

True, Obama is to close Guatanamo and he has also outlawed some of the severe---aka torture--methods used by Bush. However at the same time he will allow rendition. In effect, Obama is outsourcing torture. He has also defended the use of the state secrets defence to avoid giving information to those suing the government. On warrantless eavesdropping he has flip flopped and now takes the same tack as Bush did.

On Iraq withdrawal, he is now going to leave 50,000 troops in place after withdrawal including some who may have a combat role. This is no doubt something Bush could live with and some Republicans indeed support his new position.

In Afghanistan, he has already sent 17,000 more troops far more than anything Bush had done. In Pakistan he has continued the drone attacks. The Pakistan situation is getting worse for the US--and for Pakistanis as well.

Obama refused to say anything much about the Israeli attack on Gaza and Israel arranged matters so that the attacks were in effect over by the time he took office. Certainly Obama has tried his best not to offend the Israel lobby. However, it is possible that there will be conflict with the next right wing Israeli govt. since the US has supported attempts to reconcile Fatah and Hamas and also favors Egyptian peace negotiations.
On the whole however in the area of foreign policy Obama is following in Bushean footsteps.
It remains to be seen if Obama is able to do anything positive in the Palestine Israel conflict or if he will be able to arrange a better modus vivendi with Iran. There are some signs that Obama is a bit more conciliatory than Bush and certainly it could be in US interest if Iran were to help the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Govt: Cost of Afghan mission could reach 11.3 billion

This estimate is actually below another estimate that was over 18 billion or 1500 dollars per Canadian household. This present estimate does not include long term medical expenses. The long term health care costs are not included in this estimate because they are difficult to account for. This is an interesting excuse. Obviously if you want to have a lower estimate leave out whatever is difficult to account for!
Added to the monetary costs are the lives lost as well as the loss of quality of life for the wounded. However on the plus side one has a great stimulus package for the military-industrial complex.

Cost of Afghanistan mission could reach $11.3B, government says
Last Updated: Thursday, February 26, 2009 5:15 PM ET CBC News
The Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan could cost taxpayers around $11.3 billion by the time it ends in 2011, according to a new government estimate.
But the report, posted on the government website Canada’s Engagement in Afghanistan, suggests that the 10-year cost estimate for the mission could change, depending on the circumstances.
“Afghanistan is an enormously complex and challenging mission. Operations are constantly changing and adapting to the security situation on the ground,” the report states. “As such, cost estimates are constantly refined and adjusted to reflect this changing reality.”
Around $9 billion of the costs are Defence Department-related and include expenses for personnel, equipment, supplies, maintaining bases and medical needs.
The report also lays out $2.3 billion of mission expenses in other departments, including $1.7 billion for the Canadian International Development Agency, $400 million for the Foreign Affairs Department and $150 million for Veterans Affairs Canada.
Long-term health-care costs are not included because they are more difficult to account for, as health-care issues can be the consequence of cumulative mission experiences, the report says.
In October, parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page offered different estimates, saying the mission costs could reach as high as $18.1 billion, or $1,500 per Canadian household.
Page reported that Canada had spent $7.7 billion to $10.5 billion on costs related to the mission in the past six years, and could spend $13.9 billion to $18.1 billion by the end of the 2010-11 budget year.
Page's report also said a lack of government consistency and transparency made it difficult to come up with estimates, and the figures likely understate the full costs of the mission.
Canadian special forces troops were on the ground in Afghanistan in late 2001 and the country has maintained a full battle group in Kandahar since early 2006.
Currently 2,850 soldiers, aircrew and support staff are officially in the war theatre, but temporary-duty assignments add to that total.
Since the mission began, 108 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died as part of the mission, while roughly 375 troops have been wounded.With files from the Canadian Press

Third Child Dies After Afghan Explosion

One would think that range practices would take place only in specific areas that are well marked and off limits to locals but maybe that would be difficult. In any event the area was obviously close to a village and not properly cleared before being abandoned.
Events such as these just make the occupiers even less welcome. However, as far as I am concerned we should never have been there from the very first. We are simply helping to promote the aims of US imperialism.

3rd child dies after Afghan explosion
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 10:18 AM ET CBC News
A third child has died from wounds sustained an explosion in an Afghan village that residents alleged was caused by a shell left by Canadian troops.
The Canadian military announced Monday it was launching an investigation into the incident in the village of Salehan, about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.
A Panjwaii district elder claims the children were killed and two others were wounded when they came across an unexploded Canadian rocket in the area around the village.
The elder said he believes the children were scavenging for bits of scrap metal and found what may have been unexploded munitions in a field after Canadian soldiers conducted a range practice.
The Canadian Press reported that hospital officials in Kandahar identified the third victim as four-year-old Juma Gul, one of three children treated for shrapnel wounds after the explosion. Two other children, a 13-year-old identified as Sadar Mohammed and 12-year-old Amed Jan, were killed instantly.
The allegation sparked an angry protest Monday outside the provincial council office in Kandahar city. Demonstrators shouted "Death to Canada" and "Death to America" as bodies of the two children were carted off to the gates of the Kandahar governor's guest house.
Army spokesman Maj. Mario Corture confirmed troops were in the area Sunday conducting firing exercises. But he said they followed standard procedure and swept the fields before departing.With files from the Canadian Press

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Canadian Climate-change action to move at snail's pace.

This is from the Chronicle Herald.

It is clear that Canada is going to drag along behind the U.S. The carbon capture technology still may not be actually employed significantly for years yet and it is quite expensive. Harper so far has done little even with respect to programs he announced some time ago. Harper is quite happy with moving at a snail's pace but moving fast when it comes to rhetoric on environmental issues.

Climate-change action to move at snail’s pace A lot of Canada’s strategy depends on what U.S. does
The Canadian PressSat. Feb 21 - 5:44 AM
OTTAWA — Curious about those heady plans for Canada and the U.S. to trap nasty greenhouse gas emissions underground? Don’t hold your carbon dioxide.
Ditto for new fuel emissions standards on gasoline, Canadian greenhouse gas reduction targets and a common position on the next phase of the Kyoto Accord on climate change.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a new dialogue on climate change following their meeting this week, with a focus on developing new technologies to stem emissions from the coal and oil industries.
Carbon capture and storage is a process in which carbon dioxide is taken from the air and buried away from the atmosphere.
But the timelines for when such technologies could actually begin reducing the carbon footprint of the big polluters are unclear.
Other climate-change initiatives that have been in the Conservative pipeline for years have now become contingent on what the Obama administration comes up with.
Environment Minister Jim Prentice said work on the environmental tech-nology strategy starts immediately, beginning with high-level meetings with Obama’s top environmental adviser and international climate-change negotiator. Both governments have earmarked substantial amounts in their stimulus plans for carbon capture and storage research and development.
"What’s quite exciting about all of this is that with the dollars that the U.S. is talking about and the dollars we have put forward . . . essentially as North Americans we will be leading the world in carbon capture and storage," Prentice said in an interview.
Still, the Alberta government has set a date of 2015 for so-called demonstration projects to come online. Questions of who will pick up the bill for the expensive processes have not yet been addressed.
Matthew Bramley of the Pembina Institute said costly environmental technologies won’t be adopted by industry until they have a tough incentive to do so.
"The only way to make carbon capture actually happen on a large scale is to put a tough cap on emissions and make sure the industry pays for it," said Bramley. "There were a lot of warm-sounding words (Thursday) on technologies, but no discussion of the policies that are actually needed to deploy the technology on a large scale."
While there is widespread agreement that carbon capture and storage can effectively reduce emissions from coal and oil projects, observers underline that governments must also step up work on reducing dependence on fossil fuels. More investments in renewable fuels and energies are needed, says John Drexhage of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
"I think some of what (carbon capture and storage) can provide is being oversold. There is always a tendency to try and find as simple solution as possible and find those magic bullets," said Drexhage. "CCS can go some of the ways there, but it’s in no way going to be all of the solution."
Meanwhile, the federal government has still not published greenhouse-gas emission reductions, two years after it announced its policy with much fanfare. Even once the reductions come online, some industries with new facilities won’t need to cut emissions for three years.
Prentice says imposing targets before it’s clear what Washington decides to do might penalize Canadian industry.
"Part of the challenge is that we share the same economic space with the United States," said Prentice. "It is extremely difficult and quite counterproductive to bring in on one side of the Canada-US border an industrial regulation that deals with greenhouse gases when you don’t have any regulations on the other side."

Canadian Churches take up cause of five Guantanamo detainees

Groups in the US have also offered to help the Uighurs adjust if they were sent to the US. Originally a US court ordered them released to the US but this was overturned by an appeals court. Sweden has accepted one detainee.

Given that the detainees were originally detained by US authorities in Guantanamo and declared way back in 2004 that they were not enemy combatants it would seem that the first US court decision was only fair given that the detainees might not face fair treatment in China.

There is no sign that Harper is making any moves on these detainees or even on Omar Khadr who is a Canadian citizen.

Canadian churches take up cause of five Guantánamo detainees
The churches have applied to help the men – who cannot be safely returned home – resettle as refugees in Canada.
By Jane Lampman Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 23, 2009 edition
Anwar Hassan, in limbo after seven years of imprisonment at Guantánamo, has a glimmer of hope. A group of churches in Toronto has applied to the Canadian government to sponsor him as a refugee.
One of 17 Chinese Muslims who a military tribunal determined in 2004 were not enemy combatants, Mr. Hassan is still in the prison camp because he could be persecuted if sent back to China, and no other country has stepped forward to accept him. A US appeals court last week overturned a decision that would have released him and his countrymen of the ethnic Uighur minority into the US.
With President Obama deciding to close Guantánamo within a year, Canadian churches are joining a growing international campaign to resolve the cases of 60 men – of a total 240 at the prison – who cannot be returned to their homelands safely.
As members of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), various Christian denominations have taken up five cases, including those of three Uighurs, an Algerian, and a Kurd from Syria. The Catholic Diocese of Montreal is sponsoring two of the Uighurs, who remain nameless for fear of repercussions against their families in China.
Several Toronto congregations of the United Church of Canada, a Protestant denomination, hope to help Hassan build a new life. "Our commitment is to support him practically and financially for at least a year," says Moira Mancer, a member of the churches' refugee committee.
Last week, CCR called on Canadian immigration to expedite all five cases. "We're hoping the developing political landscape will favor the government giving positive consideration to them," says Janet Dench, CCR's executive director.
CCR worked with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which has lawyers representing Guantánamo prisoners, to identify men who meet Canadian criteria: The men must not have charges against them, and they must not be inadmissable because of criminality or posing a security risk.
"They'll be assessed against a fairly stringent criteria," says Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, adding, "Under no circumstances will we be taking steps to expedite the applications."
Not all Canadians are happy about the idea. "Some have heard the Bush administration say these are 'the worst of the worst,'" Ms. Dench says. "There have been hostile comments and hate mail, but also people who are supportive and pleased to see Canadians playing this role."
While some European governments have recently seemed willing to accept Guantánamo detainees, Canada has not yet done so.
Votes of confidence
But those involved in selecting the five detainees are confident of their choices. "These men certainly are no risk to anyone and should be productive members of Canadian society," says J. Wells Dixon, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights. "I'd encourage [immigration officials] to travel to Guantánamo if given the option.... It would allay any concerns."
Hassan had fled China for Afghanistan after being imprisoned for his religious practice, and was living in an Uighur community at the time of the 2001 US invasion. To escape the bombing, the Uighurs fled to Pakistan, where they say they were picked up by Pakistani police and sold to the US for bounty. The Algerian and the Syrian Kurd also say they were sold for bounty.
Participating Canadian churches all have experience supporting refugees who've come out of traumatic situations. Still, Trinity St. Paul's United Church in Toronto held lengthy congregational discussions before voting to move forward. Trinity has applied to sponsor Maasoum Abdah Mouhammad, the Syrian Kurd.
"We wanted to go into this with our eyes wide open," says church member Sonya Wu-Winter. "At the heart of this is offering ourselves as a community of welcome. The material things are critical, but the core of friendship you can't live your life without."
Ultimately, "there was very strong support in the congregation for this effort," Ms. Wu-Winter adds.
It helps that Canada has large Kurdish and Uighur communities, which the churches can draw upon.
The Anglican Diocese of Montreal has applied to sponsor Djamel Ameziane, an ethnic Berber from Algeria who fled persecution during his country's civil war 16 years ago. Mr. Ameziane's lawyers allege he was brutalized during interrogations at Guantánamo and kept in solitary confinement for over a year. He has never had a judicial review of his case.
"We feel he's been wrongfully detained, and he has never been accused of anything," says Glynis Williams, a pastor who directs Montreal's Anglican-Presbyterian refugee ministry.
Support for a new life
As for Hassan, the sponsorship application was filed last May, and the Toronto church committee – known as Don Valley Refugee Resettlers – hopes the change in US administration will speed up action.
Once a visa has been granted, the committee will locate an apartment, ask their congregations to supply the furnishings, plan an ethnic meal, and meet him at the airport, Ms. Mancer says. They'll then help sort out the health and social insurance forms, orient him to community resources and language classes, and set up a bank account.
Each church makes an annual donation and holds fundraisers. Once the committee feels refugees are stable, "we transfer into their account the money they need for rent and expenses, and check in on how they are handling it and saving," Mancer says. They help those who know English find part-time work. Immigration pays the airfare into Canada, but refugees have to repay it.
Church members aren't worried about any psychological problems, they say – most of the refugees they've helped have come out of extreme situations.
Mr. Dixon, who has talked with some detainees, concurs. "In general, these men have faced persecution most of their lives. A lot ended up in Afghanistan because they faced persecution elsewhere," he says. "At this point, they would be happy to settle anywhere where they can be safe, work, have a family, and lead a quiet life."

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NDP's Martin wants details about what crown agencies are to be sold.

This is from the Winnipeg Free Press.

As Martin says this is the absolute worst time to sell anything. The whole review is about trying to implement standard conservative ideology which tries to open anything and everything to private investment through privatisation whether it makes sense or not. The excuse in this case is the budget deficit but even if selling some of these assets did make sense, selling them in present circumstances is a bit of idiocy from the standpoint of the public interest. Only from the viewpoint of the buyers who probably would be Conservative supporters does the sale make any sense.

Martin wants details about what's on chopping block
By: Mia Rabson
OTTAWA - Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin is demanding the finance minister outline exactly what crown corporations are on his chopping block and why.
Martin said the “fire sale” of government assets is unacceptable and said Jim Flaherty owes Canadians an explanation of exactly what he is planning to do.
“We’ve seen no business case as to the economic sense of this,” said Martin.
In the recent federal budget Flaherty said the assets and crown corporations within four departments - finance, natural resources, transport and infrastructure and Indian affairs - were being reviewed to see how they fit with the government’s current agenda.
The assets among those departments include the Royal Canadian Mint, VIA Rail and Canada Post.
Any assets deemed to be worth selling could be privatized although there are no specific plans to sell anything yet finance officials have said.
Flaherty is looking for $4 billion from cost-cutting measures or the sale of government assets to keep his budget deficit at $34 billion.Martin said there is no business case to sell anything at all in the current economic climate.
“It’s a stupid time to sell anything,” said Martin. “This is just neoconservative ideology to get government out of the way.”
Martin said Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not mention anything about selling off government agencies in the election.
“Nobody gave Stephen harper the mandate to sell off our national institutions so he can balance the books,” said Martin.
Martin is asking for Flaherty to testify before the Government Operations Committee to explain what is going on. He said when questions were posed at committee about the plan to sell assets, officials from finance, the Privy Council Office and Statistics Canada, did not answer the questions.

Report: Health Bang for Buck Unclear

The bang for the buck that the public happens to get for spending in the health care section is collateral good that may or may not accompany the bang for the buck private companies obtain from the expenditures. The greater the expenditure the greater the profit other things being equal. In some areas margins may be lean because of competition but in such areas as prescription drugs manufacturers are protected from competition by patents over long periods of time.

February 24, 2009
Health bang-for-buck unclear, report charges
OTTAWA -- Health-care spending has more than doubled in the last decade, but no one has any idea whether we're getting good value for all that cash, says the Health Council of Canada.
"We can account for how money is spent, but not, in any precise way, for what it achieves," the council says in a blunt report that asks whether citizens are getting the full return from their costly health system.
"Canadians don't need to spend vastly more but we do need to spend smarter."
Between the public and private sector, Canadians drop about $172 billion a year on health care - more than $5,000 per person. That accounts for 10% of gross domestic product. In 1997, spending totalled $79 billion.
The federally funded council is issuing "a wake-up call to Canadians," said CEO John Abbott.
"As we do in all other services that we consume, whether it's our Internet service, our telephone service, our automobile services, we always make a determination about how much we're prepared to spend for the value we get from that purchase," he said.
"Can we adopt that same attitude when we consume and use our health-care system?"
One American study, cited by the council, concludes that 30% of health spending in the U.S. is wasted through unnecessary or inefficient practices.
In Canada, the council says that while procedures such as cataract surgery are highly effective, sometimes they "provide poor value" - for example when performed on people with only slight vision loss.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Canadian December Retail Sales drop 5.4 percent

This is from the CP.

It seems that Canada is less immune from the global recession than was first thought. Only last fall Flaherty was telling us how well off Canada was. At least he has dropped all that and adopte a more realistic stance. However his stimulus package is relatively small and it is not clear how much it will achieve.

December retail sales suffer biggest monthly drop in over 15 years
1 hour ago
OTTAWA — Widespread declines in all sectors pushed retail sales down 5.4 per cent in December to $33 billion - the largest monthly decline in over 15 years.
Statistics Canada says three-quarters of the December retail decline was rooted in the automotive sector, without which retail sales fell 1.8 per cent. In volume terms, the agency says retail sales fell 4.1 per cent, mostly reflecting a large reduction in unit sales of motor vehicles at new-car dealers.
The automotive sector posted, by far, the largest monthly decline in December, with sales falling 12.7 per cent, mostly on a 15.1 per cent sales decline at new-car dealers, who suffered their largest monthly drop in sales numbers since January 1998.
Sales at gasoline stations fell 11.7 per cent in December, and have dropped 28.8 per cent since September 2008, largely reflecting falling prices at the pump.
In non-automotive retailing, the largest decline in December was in building and outdoor home supplies, where retail sales fell 5.6 per cent.
Significant monthly decreases were also registered in sectors traditionally associated with holiday shopping.
Sales in the clothing and accessories stores sector fell 3.7 per cent in December, continuing several months of declines. Sales at furniture, home furnishings and electronics stores and miscellaneous retailers (such as sporting goods and book stores) declined by more than two per cent. Sales at general merchandise stores fell 0.4 per cent.
Retail sales fell by at least three per cent in all provinces in December, with the largest decline coming in Alberta, at 6.2 per cent. Ontario retail sales fell six per cent.
Countrywide, retail sales increased 3.2 per cent to $425.3 billion in 2008, following gains of 5.8 per cent in 2007 and 6.4 per cent in 2006. In volume terms, retail sales rose 2.9 per cent in 2008, compared with 5.2 per cent in 2007.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

This is from the Canadian Press.

This is rather puzzling. I suppose the eight hours is the average aimed at for both those with complex and non-complex conditions. As the article points out they want an average of four hours for less complex conditions.
One would think that a more relevant statistic would be wait times rather than time spent in emergency. It is the wait time that is crucial.
In my area in the boondocks whenever I have gone I have never waited more than ten minutes! Even when I used to live in a city in Brandon, I never waited more than twenty minutes or half an hour.

Ontario to set eight-hour target for time spent in emergency rooms
3 days ago
TORONTO — Health Minister David Caplan is setting a target today to have patients spend no more than eight hours in the province's emergency rooms.
The provincial government will also be releasing ER wait times from hospitals across the province. According to government figures, nine out of 10 patients with complex conditions spend a maximum of 13.5 hours in the ER from registration to discharge.
The majority of patients with less serious conditions spend about 4.6 hours in the ER.
The province wants to reduce that time to four hours.
The government says it's the first province in Canada to set targets for time spent in the ER, and will report local information about ER wait times on a provincial website.

Nurse practitioners to head 3 new Ontario clinics

This seems a progressive move given the shortage of doctors. Also, many of these duties can be performed as well if not better by nurses with the proper extra training that nurse practitioners have. No doubt these duties are also less expensive when carried out by nurse practitioners and can free up doctors' time for other duties.

Nurse practitioners to head 3 new Ontario clinics
Last Updated: Friday, February 20, 2009 4:08 PM ET
CBC News
Nurse practitioners in Ontario can treat common illnesses and injuries, and order diagnostic tests. (CBC)
The Ontario government is going ahead with three new clinics headed by nurse-practitioners, the first of 25 set to open by 2012.
The clinics will focus on primary care, including chronic disease management and health promotion, the Ministry of Health said Friday.
They are intended to fill gaps in primary care, especially the shortage of family doctors.
"Today’s announcement is the answer thousands of people have been waiting for," Wendy Fucile, president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, said in a comment posted on the ministry's website.
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with additional education in health assessment, diagnosis and management of illnesses and injuries.
As well as treating common ailments and injuries, they can order lab tests, X-rays and other diagnostic procedures.
Ontario’s first nurse practitioner-led clinic, which opened in Sudbury in 2007, provides health care to about 2,000 patients, the ministry said. Nurse practitioners are increasingly popular, but still represent a tiny proportion of the nearly 258,000 registered nurses in Canada, the Canadian Institute of Health Information reported in 2007.
Between 2003 and 2007, the number of licensed nurse practitioners almost doubled to 1,346, the institute said. Every territory and province except the Yukon Territory had licensed nurse practitioner programs in 2007, it said.
The three new clinics in Ontario will be opened in Belle River, about 30 kilometres east of Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ontario gets set to see red.

Ontario now joins Alberta and BC in having deficit budgets but that is hardly surprising given that manufacturing has been hard hit in Ontario. Of course the Conservatives would like to use hard times to cut spending and wages where possible. The opposition is united in their view that delay in releasing the budget also delays stimulus programs.

This is from the Toronto Sun.

Ontario gets set to see red
After weeks of delay, province announces March 26 budget
The deficit-heavy provincial budget will be released March 26, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said yesterday.
It will be Duncan's third budget and the first after five years of straight surpluses to record a shortfall.
The extent of the deficit is not yet known but it is widely expected to be at minimum $5 billion and perhaps as high as $10 billion.
"There will be a significant deficit," Premier Dalton McGuinty said recently.
Duncan said last fall the province would record at least a $500-million deficit.
Since then, provincial revenues have plunged and the government has committed to spending billions in economic stimulus, including a $1.3-billion auto-sector bailout and up to $5 billion in infrastructure spending.
The exact date of the budget has been subject to considerable discussion at Queen's Park since Duncan had first suggested he would table the government's recession-fighting and deficit plan in late February or early March.
He defended the delayed release of the budget, which has angered the opposition parties, who were hoping for an early push on infrastructure and job stimulus to help struggling workers.
Yet despite staring down a multibillion-dollar deficit, McGuinty seems unwilling to make the tough calls needed to manage it, argued Opposition Leader Bob Runciman.
"Right across the spectrum, whether it's teachers or whatever else, he's saying, 'We're not going to touch that. We're going to go ahead with that,' " Runciman said.
"He should be out there inspiring people through leadership, to say, 'Come on board, we all have to be part of the solution.' "
In the legislature yesterday, McGuinty pointed to infrastructure investments announced over the last few weeks as a sign his government is taking steps to help the economy now.
"We're not waiting for our budget to do things," he said.
NDP critic Peter Tabuns said the shortfall was inevitable, since "no government is going to abandon its people and abandon its economy."
"The simple logic is that revenues are down, expenses are there and in fact growing, so there will be deficits," Tabuns said.
Among the other provinces, Alberta announced yesterday it was now expecting a deficit of more than $1 billion, as years of economic growth come to a crashing halt. And the B.C. Liberal government tabled a budget Tuesday forecasting a $495-million deficit for the fiscal year 2009.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sudbury Star: Layton's Ideas worth debating.

This is from the Sudbury Star.

Layton doesn't get that much publicity compared to Harper or Ignatieff and not often relatively favorable mention as in this article. The article is critical of Layton for not costing out his suggestions but that criciticism is certainly fair enough!

Layton's ideas worth debating -
Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton was at his provocative best during a town-hall style meeting with Xstrata workers and other union members in Sudbury on Tuesday night, but there is some merit to his methods, even if the firebrand tactics are eye-rolling.
Parliament isn't sitting at the moment, so Layton has organized a travelling road show (he went to Sarnia on Wednesday) to take his message across the country campaign style.
He is pressing the federal government to lift the two-week waiting time for laid-off workers to collect employment insurance, he wants Ottawa to force Xstrata to honour its pledge not to lay off operations personnel until at least July, and he wants the federal government to lift rules that require municipalities -- and often the province -- to match federal funding for infrastructure projects to aid cash-strapped towns and cities that cannot raise capital dollars for needed investment.
Layton's suggestions are worth debating, but they're costly, and he hasn't said where the money will come from. (Ottawa's money comes from taxpayers, too.)
The federal government recently announced it will extend benefits for EI recipients for five more weeks to a total of 50, at a cost of $1.15 billion. That translates into $230 million a week, so the two extra weeks of EI would likely cost around $460 million. Considering those on layoffs are not likely to be big spenders, it's not likely to boost the economy much, but it would provide laid-off employees with a little more security while they search for work.
As for the demand that Ottawa force Xstrata to honour its agreement -- it essentially boils down to seven more weeks of pay. Xstrata had supposedly agreed, in July 2006 when it was purchasing Falconbridge Ltd., not to lay off operations personnel for three years. But in laying off 686 people recently, the company claimed it faced circumstances beyond its control. After negotiating with the Mine- Mill/CAW union, Xstrata agreed to pay workers another 16 weeks. That leaves the company almost two months short of its promise. Since the actual agreement has not been made public, we do not yet know if Ottawa has legal authority to force Xstrata to pay workers until the end of July. The NDP's demand that the document be made public -- or at least the relevant parts -- is reasonable.
As for infrastructure money, everyone -- even the federal government -- wants that money flowing quickly into communities to keep people working and introduce investment into local economies. Typically, infrastructure money from Ottawa must be matched with equal contributions from the province and municipalities, but Layton wants that rule lifted. Said the NDP Leader: "They've got to take away the conditions that the city of Sudbury has to match the money in order to get any of it because the city hasn't got the money right now."
Yet, here's a quote from Mayor John Rodriguez offered on Jan. 27: "In its recent budget, the city has $50 million in capital which allows us the flexibility of taking advantage whatever project presents itself."
OK, so Layton didn't do his homework. And lifting the matching funds requirement entirely would mean there would be only enough funding for smaller projects, since Ottawa cannot pay for everything. Matching funds from the province and municipalities means larger projects are possible. However, it might be worthwhile, as a temporary measure, to allow municipalities to make a lower contribution, say, 15 per cent. That would make more projects eligible without forcing more debentures or higher taxes on municipalities.
Layton's suggestions on government spending aren't entirely without merit, but he hasn't costed them, and they won't gain traction unless he does, and spells out where the money will come from.

Obama will listen to us on Afghanistan: Ignatieff

In another interview Ignatieff mentioned that he would ask for the repatriation of Khadr but most articles do not mention this any more. Both Harper and Ignatieff seem to envision a non-combat role in Afghanistan even after 2011 dumping more money into the Afghan sewer. Also, even non-combat roles can involve casualties and a role can involve self defence and conflict even if it is not directly a combat role.

Obama 'will listen to us' on Afghanistan: IgnatieffLast Updated: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 2:39 PM ET Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he will press U.S. President Barack Obama during their meeting on Thursday in Ottawa for a clear, consistent strategy for Afghanistan, while also urging the U.S. leader to take more action against protectionist trade measures and ensure a free-flowing border.Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, shown, is scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama for 20 minutes on Thursday at Ottawa International Airport. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)Speaking to reporters on Wednesday in Brossard, Que., Ignatieff reiterated that the Liberals would not accept an extension of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan, which is scheduled to end in February 2011.Ignatieff, who is scheduled to meet briefly with Obama at Ottawa International Airport on Thursday afternoon before the U.S. leader departs for Washington, said he has "a lot to say" about Canada's experience in Afghanistan and the direction of the NATO-led mission beyond the 2011 end date."We are looking for a strategy that will provide for some coherence and consistency in the NATO mission," he said."We’re at the centre of that mission and we believe that Mr. Obama will listen to what we have to say about the Canadian experience in Afghanistan, and we’ll be sharing all of that with him."Ignatieff said Canada must pursue its engagement in Afghanistan after 2011 by focusing on development, as well as political and diplomatic efforts."We have a great deal to contribute even in terms of strengthening our presence on the humanitarian and development side," he said."And we will be able to continue the mission, but not on a military basis."'You can certainly do a lot in 20 minutes'Protocol dictates the president meet with the leader of the Official Opposition during a visit to Canada. But the Liberals have questioned the selection of a less-than-public location for the meeting and its brevity — details they say were determined by the Prime Minister's Office.Ignatieff, who counts some of Obama's advisers as his friends from his days teaching at Harvard University, scoffed at the idea he had the right to demand a minimum amount of time with the president.But he said he expects an amount equal to the 20 minutes then Opposition leader Stephen Harper had in a meeting on Parliament Hill with George W. Bush during a presidential visit in 2004."You don't make demands to the president of the United States," he said. "My problem is with Prime Minister Harper and not with President Obama.…You can certainly do a lot in 20 minutes."When asked whether he was concerned about his relative lack of visibility with the highly popular American leader, Ignatieff said he expects Thursday's visit to be the first of many."This president is going to be around for a long time; it will be up to the Americans to decide how long," he said."If he’s here for five hours or five minutes, he’s welcome on Canadian territory. He’s a neighbour, an ally and a friend, and we hope to see him much more in the future."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Major Canadian Government Assets could be sold.

This is the same crap that was in the original economic update that got Harper in so much trouble that he had to prorogue parliament to stay in power over the holidays. Now he is at it again but there is hardly a peep from the opposition. The opposition did ask for a list of the assets that might be sold. Now this article makes clear what some of them are. Where is the outcry?
The government is supposed to fund a multi-billion dollar bailout but owning something that might make some money to fund social programs that is heretical.
Even if it did make sense to sell some government assets now is the worst time because they will be bought only at fire sale prices. This government is not even interested in making a good deal. All it wants is to sell out the people's property to corporations friendly to the Harper govt.

Major Canadian government assets could be sold

By Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News ServiceFebruary 17, 2009

The Harper government is pressing ahead with a review that may lead to the sale or privatization of several well-known Crown corporations, including Via Rail.

OTTAWA — The Harper government, under pressure to prevent the federal deficit from ballooning, is pressing ahead with an asset review that could lead to the sale or privatization of several well-known Crown corporations, including Canada Post, Via Rail, the Royal Canadian Mint and the agency that oversees security at Canada's airports.
The government signalled its intent to sell Crown assets last fall, but it was only in the federal budget that it identified the four ministerial portfolios to be reviewed first: Finance, Indian and Northern Affairs, Natural Resources, and Transport and Infrastructure.
Some of the Crown corporations that fall under the authority of those departments have been known to be on the block for some time, such as Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
But the review also will cover some names likely to raise eyebrows, especially in the Transport portfolio, which includes Canada Post, Via Rail, the mint, and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
In the next few months, Finance Department officials will ask each of the four departments to identify assets that could be sold, including any real estate in their portfolios. Although the process is still at a preliminary stage, Finance officials have not ruled out any Crown corporations from the review.
"The corporate asset review is proceeding as planned," Mike Storeshaw, a spokesman for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, said in an e-mail. "Departmental officials will be working over the coming year to analyze the relevance of specific assets to the government's core responsibilities."
The budget states that Finance officials could conclude that "selling an asset to a private-sector entity may generate more economic activity and deliver greater value to taxpayers."
The challenge for the government is that its budget forecast is based on the aggressive assumption that officials will be able to raise as much as $4 billion through sales or privatizations by the end of March 2010.
Flaherty started musing publicly about selling Crown assets in November, but department officials only formally launched the review process after the budget was introduced on Jan. 27. That gives the government about 14 months to oversee a large-scale divestiture of assets, a complex process that will involve numerous layers of bureaucracy, might require major legislative amendments, and could create serious political headaches for the Harper cabinet.
If officials can't find enough assets to sell, the government could be forced to revise its forecast to show a bigger deficit for 2009-10, when the deficit is already expected to hit $34 billion.
In a recent analysis, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page warned of a "significant risk" that the government might not climb out of deficit as quickly as projected, because of several assumptions that might not pan out, including a quick recovery in tax revenue and expected savings from spending cuts and asset sales.
Don Drummond, chief economist for TD Bank Financial, said the review should be a useful exercise for assessing the value of the government's holdings, but he recommended waiting until asset values recover to close any deals.
"If you're not getting good value for them, or if there's a more efficient way of delivering the public service they're providing, I think you should always be looking at selling them," Drummond said in an interview. "That said, asset values are depressed right now, and, if you try to unload them, now might not be a great time to do it."
In deciding which assets to put on the short list, Finance officials will consider a number of criteria, including whether Crown corporations are still meeting their stated policy objectives, whether assets can be sold within the tight time frame set by the budget, and how best to maximize returns for taxpayers.
"The government will only proceed with transactions that realize fair value for taxpayers and make economic sense," said Storeshaw.
Eventually, the review will be expanded to include all government departments. The review of the Canadian Heritage portfolio, which includes the CBC and the Canada Council for the Arts, could be a political minefield.
Another option for the government will be to expedite the transfer of surplus real estate from departments to Canada Lands Co., a Crown corporation that sells rezoned federal lands to private developers.
"We have had calls from different people in the government who know our work and respect us and wanted to know . . . whether we thought we'd be able to take on more properties," said Canada Lands vice-president Gordon McIvor, adding that the company plans to sell numerous assets this year, including a residential development on a former military base in Calgary and parts of a harbour-front redevelopment in Montreal. "We've said, 'Absolutely, we're ready and able and willing.'"
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

David McNally on the Financial Crisis

There is a long paper on the financial crisis by David McNally of York U. at this site.

McNally writes in a rather roundabout and complex style but the article is quite interesting and it is worthwhile reading.

Mexico shows effects of recession

The pattern in Mexico seems to follow that in Canada with the Mexican economy showing growth in 2010 with a decline this year. It would seem this years forecast will probably be revised downward.

UPDATE 1-Mexican economy shrinks faster; peso too weak -MEXICO CITY, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Mexico's economy is slowing faster than expected and will probably shrink by more than 0.3 percent this year as the U.S. recession slams Mexican exports, the International Monetary Fund said on Friday.
'Recently released data on developments in late 2008 suggest the Mexican economy is slowing faster than we anticipated,' Vikram Haksar, the IMF's mission chief to Mexico, said in a statement.
The IMF forecast in January that Mexico's economy would contract 0.3 percent this year but Haksar said the IMF would likely provide a new forecast soon.
He said in a conference call from Washington the estimated contraction would be roughly 1 percentage point more than the IMF's current view if it factored in a recent Mexican government estimation of contraction in fourth-quarter 2008 growth.
An IMF report released on Friday also said Mexico's peso currency, which has lost around a quarter of its value against the U.S. dollar since August due to the U.S. recession and the global financial crisis, 'may be somewhat undervalued from a medium-term perspective.'
Haksar welcomed the Mexican central bank's decision to lower interest rates in January, and said there could be room for further rate cuts and fiscal stimulus.
The IMF continues to see an economic recovery in Mexico in 2010, predicting the economy will expand 2.1 percent.

Philippines economy to slow sharply this year

This is from forbes.

While the slump is from 4.4 growth last year to 2.9 this year, compared to Canada or the US or most countries in western Europe this is not a bad performance during this global recession.
Inflation also is declining but still rather high. There is no mention of wage rates.

Thomson Financial News
UPDATE 1-Philippines economy to slow sharply this year -
WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Growth in the Philippines is set to slow sharply this year as the economy faces 'strong head winds' from falling global demand and a drop in remittances from Filipinos working abroad, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.
In its annual review of the Philippines economy, the IMF forecast that gross domestic product growth will ease to 2.9 percent this year, down from a projected 4.4. percent in 2008.
The IMF said inflation targeting has helped anchor inflation expectations in the Philippines and urged the authorities to cut interest rates if inflation expectations continue to fall.
Philippine annual inflation eased to 7.1 percent in January, the lowest rate in 10 months, from 8.0 percent in December.
The IMF said the value of the Philippines peso currency was 'broadly in line with longer-term fundamentals'.
It said exposure by banks in the Philippines to failed and 'distressed' global banks was limited but urged the central banks to step up surveillance of banks' off-balance sheet activities.
'Continuing strains in global financial markets could lead to further losses on banks' security holdings, reduce the availability of external financing, and raise risks related to banks' off-balance sheet activities,' the IMF warned

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

British Columbia budget

This is from the Globe and Mail.

Interesting that while many argue for tax cuts to put money in the hands of individuals who will then spend it and stimulate the economy when it comes to wages they are to be cut even though this obviously removes money from individuals and makes them less likely to spend!
This budget is an anti-union budget. Social spending even on crime prevention is being cut, the latter by a government that is supposedly tacking gang crime as a priority. No doubt the NDP in BC will suddenly be the party that wants to be tough on crime.
At least the BC government has the sense to override its balanced budget provisions. California on the other hand is stuck with a disaster as it has to balance its budget.

In B.C., lean budget sets stage for election battle
Forecasts $740-million deficit over two years; spending cuts include clawback of wage boosts for civil servants
February 18, 2009
VICTORIA -- B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen yesterday delivered a no-frills budget to take into the spring election that sets up a battle with the Liberals' traditional foes in the public-sector unions.
In the face of a shrinking economy, the province is cutting $3-billion from spending over the next three years, including a clawback of money that was pegged for wage increases for health care workers and civil servants in 2010.
Mr. Hansen said British Columbia will run two years of deficits - this fiscal year the province will sink $495-million into the red. That's a smaller deficit than many had anticipated, and the government expects to return to surplus in three years - in part because it will reclaim the $400-million that had been set aside for wage increases.
"Given the challenges that average British Columbia families are facing today as we go through this difficult time, it's simply not possible to put into this fiscal plan any additional dollars for general wage increases," Mr. Hansen said.
Jim Sinclair, head of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said the Liberal government is seeking to pick a fight with unions, but individuals will be caught in the middle.
"I think we are going to see more social unrest in British Columbia, more people upset that the government didn't get it," he said. He said the funding shift sends a bad signal to public-sector workers, and it offers little to families worried about riding out a recession. "This budget really says to the unemployed, 'Too bad.' "
The budget allocates $50-million this year to help the public sector do more with less - a "Transformation Fund" to help government workers get "retooled to deliver quality services to citizens with fewer staff."
The budget was welcomed by a number of business leaders as a prudent fiscal plan and was warmly endorsed by the construction industry. The province will ramp up infrastructure spending this year by roughly $1.3-billion.
"It's the construction budget," said Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, an outspoken ally of the B.C. Liberals.
"I know they are trying to do everything they can. Certainly in the next 90 days, before the May 12 election, we'll have lots of announcements."
The provincial budget plan cuts government spending in almost every sector except health, education and social services.
Even public-safety services such as prosecution and court services are facing cuts over the next three years, just days after Premier Gordon Campbell promised to target gangs in B.C. with more police and prosecutors.
"The Premier stood up on Friday and said that was one of the most critical issues to deal with, the gang violence we are seeing," said Carole James, Leader of the New Democratic Party.
"But they have cut the budget for public safety. Unbelievable."
And while Mr. Hansen said the budget protects the most vulnerable, there appears to be little new money for tackling poverty and homelessness. Funding for employment and housing services will be cut, while the number of front-line workers handling income assistance will drop.
"It's about stability for B.C. families, it's about jobs for B.C. families and it's about confidence," Mr. Hansen said in a question-and-answer session with reporters shortly before he delivered his budget speech in the legislature.
The main economic stimulus effort is reserved for building new roads, schools and hospitals, while Mr. Hansen said he is counting on the 2010 Winter Olympics to help fuel a turnaround.
"Dollar for dollar, the Olympic Games may be the best investment we will every make," he said in his speech. "B.C. has been through tough times before. Each time, we've risen to the challenge. And each time we've emerged stronger."
John Winter, head of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, said it is a "safe budget," but he doubts whether the province will turn the corner next year.
"I don't know if they are planning for the worst - it could be a lot worse."
There are several key pieces still missing from Mr. Hansen's fiscal plan.
The Finance Minister could not answer questions about funding for Olympic security because the federal government has yet to sign off on the cost-sharing arrangement.
Nor could he say what the cost to taxpayers will be for building the $3-billion Port Mann bridge after the private-sector consortium in charge of construction announced it could no longer finance the new toll bridge on its own. That deal is still under negotiation.
As well, the plan calls for more cuts that have yet to be found: $250-million worth that won't be identified until after the May 12 election.
The economy is now forecast to shrink by 0.9 per cent in 2009, while the government is counting on a rebound in 2010.
Last week, the legislature was recalled early to pass legislation to set aside B.C.'s balanced-budget law so that Mr. Hansen could bring in yesterday's fiscal plan.
The Finance Minister said his government still struggled to keep spending down.
"What British Columbia families are looking for today is a sense of responsibility," he said.
"But it's also a budget that says governments need to live within their means. There is nobody around the caucus or the cabinet table that is enthusiastic about going into deficit this year."
The largest program spending increase is in health care. Health spending is set to increase by almost 6 per cent this year, an increase of more than $800-million.

Reactor shutdown affects hospital isotope supply.

This is from the Globe and Mail.

You would think that the company that supplies the isotopes MDS Nordion would be arranging for supplies from elsewhere given the age and recent history of the Chalk River source. The reactor should have been put out to pasture some time ago and has had a series of shutdowns.

Reactor shutdown affects hospital isotope supply
February 18, 2009
Another shutdown at the aging nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ont., will leave hospitals with a diminished supply of medical isotopes this week.
The reactor was shut down Sunday to repair a mechanism that extracts the medical isotope rods from the reactor, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited said yesterday. Isotope production continued at a slower pace during the repairs.
Yesterday, the reactor was brought back online, but AECL warned that production of isotopes will be slowed until Saturday.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Obama on side with Canada's Afghan policy

Huh? Canada's policy is not to send more troops but to end the combat mission entirely in 2011 as far as our troops are concerned. Is that what Obama wants? I think he would be much happier if we also sent more troops in line with the US sending more!
It is true that both Harper and Obama agree that a solution involves more than military action. Harper probably would send more troops if he thought he could get away with it politically so maybe he the article is right. Both Harper, Obama, and Bush were on the same wavelength with respect to Afghanistan.

Tuesday » February 17 » 2009

Obama on side with Canada's Afghanistan policy

Mike Blanchfield
Canwest News Service
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
OTTAWA - U.S. President Barack Obama suggested Tuesday he will not pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawal.
In an interview at the White House with CBC television, in advance of his visit to Ottawa on Thursday, Obama said the military alone cannot solve Afghanistan's problems, and that he hoped to discuss a "comprehensive" approach to the situation that also focused on diplomacy and development efforts.
Even though he is set to approve a military surge that could see an additional 30,000 U.S. troops bound for the Afghanistan, Obama's comments appear to fall directly in line with the Harper government's approach to the war-torn country.
It also appears that Obama won't use the visit to put Harper on the spot about extending the combat mission, which Parliament has said must end by 2011.
"I am absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means. We're going to have to use diplomacy; we're going to have to use development," Obama told the CBC in his only interview with a Canadian media organization prior to his first foreign visit.
"My hope is that in conversations that I have with Prime Minister Harper that he and I end up seeing the importance of a comprehensive strategy and one that ultimately the people of Canada can support as well as the people of the United States can support."
Obama said that he realizes there are concerns in both countries "about a conflict that has lasted quite a long time now and actually appears to be deteriorating at this point."
The president prefaced his remarks by acknowledging the more than 100 Canadian military deaths in Afghanistan.
"The Canadian contribution has been extraordinary. For all the families who have borne the burden in Canada, I think, we all have a heart-felt thanks," he said.......

Copyright © 2009 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

Ignatieff woos western Canada

This is from the Star.

Perhaps the former Green Shift of Dion is going to be replaced by policies similar to those of Harper friendly to the oil patch. Having abandoned the Green Shift the Liberal party has adopted the Harper Shaft as its new environmental policy as a means of attracting the power brokers in the West.
Ignatieff doesn't even mention agricultural policy or at least it was not significant enough for the article to report on it.

Igantieff woos western Canada - Canada -
Igantieff woos western Canada
February 15, 2009 THE CANADIAN PRESS
REGINA – Venturing deep into Conservative territory, Liberal Leader Michael Igantieff visited Saskatchewan and acknowledged that his party has blundered in its treatment of Western Canada.
"God knows this party has made mistakes out in the Western Canada and I know them," Ignatieff told about 300 people in Regina on Sunday.
"We have to be honest enough with our neighbours and citizens to say `We didn't always get it right. We didn't always listen with respect. We didn't always understand what had to be done.'
"The dumbest thing you can do is run against Western Canada. The dumbest you can do is run against the energy sectors in Western Canada."
Ignatieff said in the past, going as far back as the national energy program of the 1980s, the Liberal party "failed to understand the tremendous importance" of the western energy sector.
The policy, introduced by the Trudeau Liberals, is still despised by many who felt it siphoned oil revenue from the west and sent it to Central Canada.
Igantieff also acknowledged Sunday that a proposed carbon tax introduced by former leader Stephane Dion in the Green Shift environmental plan didn't go over well in the West during the last federal election.
"The retail politics of this were pretty tough for us," he told reporters.
Ignatieff said environmental sustainability will be at the centre of the Liberal vision for Canada, but also said the party has "done some reflecting" about the Green Shift and knows that it needs a policy that works with the energy sector.
"We want to bring energy policy and environmental policy together around a simple goal, which is make Canada the most efficient user of energy and the most efficient developer of sustainable energy on the planet," he said.
"When we elaborate those policies in details, I think it'll be a vote winner out west."
That could be an uphill battle – there are just two Liberal MPs in the three Prairie provinces.
In Saskatchewan, veteran Liberal MP Ralph Goodale holds the Grits' lone seat in the province. The remaining 13 of Saskatchewan's 14 federal ridings are Tory blue. Alberta voters soundly rejected the Liberals in last fall's federal election, shutting out the party. Manitoba has just one Liberal MP.
The Regina visit to mend politic fences came after Ignatieff delivered a similar message about unity to some 400 people at a brunch in Saskatoon on Saturday. It was his first trip to Saskatchewan since becoming Liberal leader.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Governor General gets a geography lesson

I suppose the Governor General should know these things but the Rockies get all the publicity and it seems when you are flying over from Vancouver to the east that there are just continuous successive ranges so perhaps they might all be the Rockies. Myself I know the Coast range and the Rockies and inbetween are just nameless mountains. Anyway it is nice to know that Senators are of some use and Nancy Greene has not had much publicity for a while. Also it is quite harmless to correct the royal representative these days. She is in no danger of going to the Tower.

Governor-General gets a geography lesson
From Friday's Globe and Mail
February 13, 2009 at 4:18 AM EST
When speaking to a group of children yesterday, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean got schooled herself - for mixing up her mountain ranges.
Ms. Jean was leading about 200 children in a light-hearted Olympics geography lesson at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, one year ahead of the opening of the Games.
"So where is Vancouver?" Ms. Jean asked warmly, before children shouted out answers. "Of course, Canada."
And so forth went her lesson.
"From that city you can see some very, very tall mountains ... and these mountains are called ..." Ms. Jean asked, before proclaiming: "The Rockies."
Cue freshman senator, B.C. resident and Olympic ski legend Nancy Greene, with a geography crash course.
"No, it's the Coast Mountains," Ms. Greene said.
In an exchange captured by CTV, Ms. Jean laughs at her mistake, turning off-camera to an unseen woman said to be Ms. Greene.
"We can also call them the Rockies, no?" she asked.
No, we can't. There are seven different mountain ranges in mainland southern B.C., including the Coast Mountains, where the Games will be held, and the Rockies far to the east. Ms. Jean skipped the Purcell, Selkirk, Cariboo, Monashee and Cascade ranges.
"She was only off by about 600 or 700 kilometres. It's sort of like putting Toronto down in the Carolinas," said Owen Hertzman, a senior lecturer of geography at Simon Fraser University in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.
"Geography 101 says there's more than one mountain range in B.C ... It's a long ways from here to the Rockies."
Confusing the ranges is a common mistake. When International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge first visited Whistler in 2005, he looked up and gushed: "I love the Rocky Mountains. I think it's fantastic" - a rare misstep for the smooth-talking Mr. Rogge.
"People from back East can't keep on top of all the ranges we have," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, a fifth-generation B.C. resident. "But I'd love to give [Ms. Jean] a tour, and brief her on the local geography."
Ms. Jean is also not the first public figure to flub Canadian geography. In 2000, Stockwell Day complained that Canadian jobs were flowing south just like the Niagara River. When told the river actually flows north, he blamed a speechwriter.
But Ms. Jean, who as Governor-General has visited B.C. twice, laughed off the geographic gaffe.
"We never stop learning," she said. "I have learned something today and I truly appreciate that Senator Nancy Greene took the time to point this out to me and to the children who were at Rideau Hall."
In an interview yesterday, Ms. Greene apologized for correcting Ms. Jean, who represents the Crown as Canada's head of state.
"I feel very badly that I might have embarrassed her," Ms. Greene said, nevertheless adding: "Hey, I'm from British Columbia, and I've got to correct these things."
With a report from Frances Bula in Vancouver

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Presidential limo coming with Obama to Ottawa

The media gets all excited by the big auto executives flying about in their corporate jets. Obama not only gets to fly around in a special jet but his limousine also gets flown about too so he can travel by it when he lands. No doubt the limousine is a hybrid that get great gas mileage with its huge weight and armour!
Given the humungous security costs it would seem more in tune with the times to have a friendly secure conference call but then where would all the hoopla and media bytes be and all the photo ops? The circuses must go on but where is the bread? I guess that is supposed to be the stimulus packages.

Presidential limo coming with Obama to Ottawa - Canada - Presidential limo coming with Obama to Ottawa
Security detail: Duty and the beast
February 15, 2009 Richard J. BrennanOTTAWA BUREAU
OTTAWA – When the president and the beast come to town Thursday, the scene will be right out of a Hollywood movie.
There will be a specially made limo – "the beast" – black SUVs, rooftop police snipers, U.S. Secret Service agents talking into their sleeves and bomb-sniffing dogs working overtime.
Behind barricades, thousands of adoring fans will strain to get a glimpse of Barack Obama.
Homeowners and the few businesses along the Colonel By Dr. route, which runs parallel to the Rideau Canal, will be told they can't open their doors or windows when the motorcade goes by. Unlike in the movies, the manhole covers won't be welded shut.
"He is an international superstar and a head of state who will receive the highest level of security," said a senior security source, who asked not to be identified.
Before Air Force One – a specially configured Boeing 747-200B – arrives in Ottawa, the air space will be closed. Restrictions will be in effect around the city, affecting aircraft movements in and around the Ottawa International Airport from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The airport will be closed from 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. and then again from 5:10 p.m. to 5:55 p.m., which hints at Obama's arrival and departure times.
During the day, there will be a no-fly radius of 12 nautical miles around Parliament Hill, with a ceiling of 12,500 feet, except for police and military aircraft, regularly scheduled commercial flights, and approved emergency or humanitarian flights.
All this for a man whose popularity around the world is enormous. Unlike the visit to Ottawa in 2004 by president George W. Bush, protesters will be few, if any bother to show up.
Ottawa police will draw on officers from as far away as London, Ont., to help out. Canada's military will provide backup in the event anything unusual occurs during the visit.
"We are well-equipped and well-positioned to handle it, that's for sure," said RCMP Supt. Brendan Heffernan. "There will be a visible heightened security presence in the city without question."
On Parliament Hill, everyone entering Centre Block, with the exception of MPs, will be required to go through metal detectors. As well, reporters who ordinarily cover Parliament will have to carry special credentials.
In a surprise move, however, members of the public are being allowed to gather on the lawn in front of the Parliament buildings.
The trick will be to see Obama as he emerges from "the beast," which was airlifted in for the event. The vehicle was specially developed by GM in Detroit based on a Cadillac chassis. It features bulletproof glass and armoured plating and is hermetically sealed to withstand chemical weapons.
At the airport, Obama will be met by Governor General Michaëlle Jean.
After entering the Centre Block on Parliament Hill, he will be met in the rotunda by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and officials of the House of Commons and Senate.
Obama will meet with Harper and lunch in Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella's dining room. Then Obama and Harper will give a news conference.
Obama will meet the leader of the Official Opposition, Michael Ignatieff, when he returns to the airport.
Even though Obama is on foreign soil, the U.S. Secret Service, known for its zealousness when protecting the president, has been calling the shots on security, sometimes to the irritation of the RCMP, sources say.
"We don't discuss very much when it comes to protection or moving the president," said Secret Service spokesperson Ed Donovan, who denied the agency dictates to local authorities.
Reid Morden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said many Secret Service agents would have been in Ottawa for several days to "suss out the route" and determine the threat level.
"I think where the president of the United States goes, (security) probably doesn't vary terrifically whether he's going to Topeka, Kansas, or Ottawa, Ontario ... these are just the times we live in," Morden said.

Harper government wants to hire economist as advisor.

Harper is an economist. Maybe he can advise himself and cut govt. spending. This should please his former bosses at the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation. On the other hand he could hire Nouriel Roubini "Dr Doom"'and get some realistic advice for a change.

Economist wanted, apply OttawaPosted in Political Bytes Posted on February 13, 2009 02:46
Companies across Canada are laying people off. But the department of finance is hiring!
Well, to be fair, it's looking for one person.

Alison Crawford
In a help-wanted ad, published in newspapers across Canada, the department says it's looking for an "experienced financial economist" to act as its Senior Chief of Economic Analysis and Forecasting.
Ideally, Finance says, it is looking for someone with a master's or PhD in economics and a minimum of five years experience in the field.
The lucky candidate's future duties will include providing strategic advice to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, representing Canada at national and international meetings, and improving the department's modelling and forecasting tools. Now that last bit might be of interest to Kevin Page, Canada's parliamentary budget officer. He has a pretty good record when it comes to predicting the financial future.
In November, for example, he accurately forecast a deficit in the billions of dollars at the same time as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Flaherty were telling Canadians the country would end the fiscal year with a modest surplus.
— Alison Crawford

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Alberta calls for Stricter Environmental Rules on Oil Sands

This is from Bloomberg.

The Alberta policy sounds quite good but as critics point out there is little in terms of specifics and has nothing that binds the developers. Perhaps Alberta wants to sound clean so that it can continue to market oil sands production to the US where Obama has said that the US will not purchase "dirty" oil. At any rate with the present price of crude the pace of increase in oil sands production is sure to decline over the short term.

Alberta Calls for Stricter Environmental Rules on Oil Sands

By Mark Chediak
Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Alberta government called for stricter environmental rules as the province’s oil sands are developed.
The province’s 20-year plan recommends that companies use less water in the extraction of bitumen, the tar-like raw material processed to make crude. It also seeks faster restoration of mined land and controls on tailing ponds and greenhouse gases.
“When it comes to Alberta’s oil sands, we believe that Canada can be a leader in finding innovative ways to ensure both economic growth and greater environmental protection,” Lloyd Snelgrove, president of the province’s treasury board, said in a statement today.
Located 750 kilometers (466 miles) north of Calgary, the oil sands may contain 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil, second only to Saudi Arabia’s 259 billion barrels, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the world’s second-largest oil company, Calgary-based Suncor Energy Inc. and EnCana Corp. said last year they would reduce plans to mine the oil sands because of falling crude prices. Petro-Canada said in November it was delaying plans for an oil-sands mining project in Alberta because of rising costs and declining prices.
“It allows us to get on with development of what is a pretty important resource,” Don Thompson, president of the Oil Sands Developers Group, an industry organization, said. “We look forward to working with the government.”
An environmental group said the proposal does not go far enough.
The recommendations will do little to slow the pace of development or improve environmental controls, said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development, a non-profit Alberta-based group that researches environmental policy.
“It’s a plan to do more planning,” Dyer, the group’s oil- sands director, said. “It lacks specifics, timelines and accountability. There’s nothing binding.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Chediak in San Francisco Last Updated: February 12, 2009 19:01 EST

Critics say new federal legislation will damage waterways

This is from Canwest.

This is an example of the Great Leap Backward on environmentalism while talking progressively about following the Obama lead to better environmental policies. Layton was quite right in saying that the Harper government cannot be trusted. I wonder what Ignatieff will have to say about this? Is this a violation of Harper's probation. Ignatieff will hold his peace or make a few harmless noises.

Critics say new federal legislation will damage waterways

Tory amendment to existing act could mean various projects will be exempt from environmental assessments

By Juliet O'Neill, Canwest News ServiceFebruary 12, 2009

Canadians face a potential loss of waterways from the stroke of a politician's pen under measures the government "smuggled" into Parliament in the budget bill, critics said Wednesday.
The government's proposed amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act removes an automatic trigger for federal environmental assessment for the building of dams, bridges, booms, causeways and other structures that may shorten or ruin the navigability of a waterway.
"You're not going to fix the economy by wrecking the environment," said Will Amos, staff lawyer for the University of Ottawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic.
They concluded the amendments would allow "unfettered discretion" by the federal transport minister to exempt projects or waterways from environmental oversight. Since some projects would interfere with navigation, it said, the federal government would be abandoning its constitutional jurisdiction over navigation.
Amos expressed "justified fear" that municipal and provincial micro-hydro dam projects will be exempt. He predicted "a cascading effect" on communities located beside creeks and rivers, and on tourism, camping, hunting, fishing and on some farmers who depend on water flows for irrigation.
The amendments would allow the federal cabinet or the transport minister to exempt "classes of works" and "classes of waterways" from oversight under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Transport Minister John Baird has said the waterways amendments are intended to remove an antiquated regulatory burden from developers and governments for "shovel ready" projects to stimulate the economy.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Acknowledging high risk of death, RCMP revamps rules for taser use.

This is from the Globe and Mail.

While this move seems an improvement in policy Elliot apparently isn't regarded by some in the RCMP as determining what happens. The chairman of the RCMP Safety Committee claims that in actual "real life situations" the situation is complicated and the supposed rule could be broken! Elliot is not himself from the cop culture so it seems that culture can contradict him and get away scot free. Will the chair of the RCMP be requested to resign for insubordination. Don't hold your breath.

Acknowledging high risk of death, RCMP revamps rules for taser use
February 13, 2009
OTTAWA -- With a report from The Canadian Press
Given the "high risk of death" in some cases, RCMP officers are now limited in their use of tasers to individuals who pose a clear threat to the public or police, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said yesterday.
Mr. Elliott used two public appearances to provide new details on the RCMP's taser policy, which has come under fire after the death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport in 2007.
The new restrictions have been in place since last June, but were laid out in full only yesterday, two months after the announcement that four Mounties who used a taser to subdue Mr. Dziekanski would not face criminal charges.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Mr. Elliott said the weapons can no longer be used against people who are simply refusing to co-operate with Mounties.
"Prior to June of last year, the RCMP's policies would have permitted the use of tasers in dealing, for example, with people who were actively resistant," he said. "We've now made it very clear that the only time the use of a taser can be justified is where there is a threat, either to our officers or to members of the public."
There have been more than a dozen deaths related to the use of tasers in Canada. Still, Mr. Elliott insisted that while the weapons "hurt like hell," they are much safer than firearms and are not lethal per se.
"I do not think there is evidence that tasers kill, but certainly, we have had some incidents where shortly after a taser was deployed, individuals died," he told reporters.
Mr. Elliott acknowledged that in circumstances involving agitated individuals, the risks associated with tasers can increase dramatically.
"All members must recognize that any use of force entails risk. Acutely agitated or delirious persons may be at a high risk of death," Mr. Elliott said.
He first informed Parliament of the new policy in a morning appearance at the public safety committee of the House. He said he could not brief MPs on the changes beforehand, given the House hasn't sat much since last summer.
Still, some MPs were unsatisfied with the RCMP's new approach to tasers. Ontario Liberal MP Mark Holland said he wants a clearer definition of a "threatening individual" who can be tasered.
"Where are they drawing the lines?" Mr. Holland asked. "I have no level of comfort at this point that the lines are firmly drawn where they need to, given that in the commissioner's own words, these weapons cause death."
Mr. Holland added that he is disappointed that the RCMP is relying on U.S. studies to justify its use of tasers. He said that there should be limits on the weapon's use against children and teenagers.
Mr. Elliott, however, said the RCMP is not prepared to go in that direction.
"Unfortunately, our officers, from time to time, encounter 14-year-olds who are extremely threatening," he said.
Sergeant Scott Warren, chairman of the RCMP's officer safety committee, said the matter is more complicated in real-life situations.
"The commissioner, with all due respect, is incorrect to say we wouldn't use them again for actively resistant people," he told CTV News.
There is an ongoing public inquiry into the Dziekanski case in British Columbia. The province's Solicitor-General, John van Dongen, said the new RCMP policy is a step in the right direction, but that the government will wait until the end of the inquiry to form a provincial set of standards.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Siddiqui: Missing out on Obama's Afghan Plan.

This is from the Star.
Actually Canada is not missing out. We are there and participating in the military and other aspects of the mission. Harper for his part has left room for a non-military involvement in Afghanistan after 2011.
The Afghans are right when they think that reforms in Afghanistan to conform with western value sounds like imperialism and colonialism. That is exactly what it is. As long as the govt. remains a western puppet client state even the progressive non-military help that Siddiqui speaks of will still be part of that project. Harper may very well divert more money to such purposes should Obama request it.

Missing out on Obama's Afghan plan - Opinion - Missing out on Obama's Afghan plan
February 12, 2009 Haroon Siddiqui
A fundamental shift is underway in American policy on Afghanistan. And Canada should be scrambling to be part of the process.
If we don't, Barack Obama will be handing us, and all the NATO members in the Afghan mission, a fait accompli in about two months.
We saw what he did Monday at his first presidential press conference. He greased the skids under Hamid Karzai. And he committed the U.S. to a broad military, diplomatic and development strategy in a "regional approach," with Pakistan as "a stalwart ally."
That was only a hint of what's happening behind the scenes in Washington and publicly in Asia, where Obama's special envoy Richard Holbrooke is on the road.
The Harper government seems clued out. There was a touch of naïveté when Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, came calling Tuesday. Ottawa's reaction was: Whoopee! He didn't ask for our military commitment beyond February 2011.
In fact, the U.S. has not only given up on the allies contributing more troops, it has decided to fight the Taliban with an overwhelmingly American force rather than co-ordinate the NATO forces.
The Obama administration has acknowledged what Bush and Harper didn't: Afghanistan is "a mess" (Joe Biden); "a narco-state" (Hillary Clinton); "our greatest military challenge" (Robert Gates); "much tougher" than Iraq (Holbrooke).
Obama is refocusing the mission. Gates: "Our primary goal is to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorists and extremists to attack the U.S. and allies."
So it's back to the future – to redo what was already done in 2001.
After toppling the Taliban and denying Al Qaeda the sponsorship of a state, the Afghan mission defaulted into a white man's burden: establishing democracy, liberating women, educating little girls, dragging Afghans into modernity, etc.
As valuable as each endeavour is, the narrative sounded to most Afghan ears as the rationale of European imperialists and colonialists.
Obama has three separate reviews/initiatives underway:
Mullen and Gen. David Petraeus will replicate the Iraq military surge. Working with relatively uncorrupted tribal leaders, they will try to minimize civilian casualties and promote local reconciliation and good government.
Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution and Holbrooke will think through all the non-military, economic and diplomatic options.
Holbrooke has been on the road in Pakistan and will be in Afghanistan and, yes, India. He has been warned that killing civilians in U.S. missile attacks in the border areas of Pakistan is no way to battle the Taliban/Al Qaeda.
A $10 billion economic package, designed by Biden for the tribal areas, is to be extended to all of Pakistan to win over public opinion and support its new, still-teetering civilian government. There will be monitoring so that aid does not end up with the military, as it did with the $10 billion given by George Bush to Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
"Pakistan needs tough love," says Shuja Nawaz of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council of the United States, in Washington, and author of Crossed Swords, a study of the Pakistan army's repeated imposition of military rule.
Obama's multi-pronged approach needs much non-military help, which he will be calling for in the days ahead. This should be music to Canadian ears. We should be offering help to strengthen the Afghan civil service, judiciary, election commission, community policing, human rights, etc., and to undertake development work in Pakistan. What we have from Ottawa instead is silence.

Cancer drugs cost soars

This article makes it clear that more expensive drug treatments are not being covered by public plans. As a result, only those who can afford supplementary private insurance will have access to the drugs. These drugs are being rationed on the basis of income not medical need. Even many who can afford extra insurance will find themselves unable to afford the co-payments involved and no doubt the private insurers will often put limits upon coverage.
No doubt patent protection makes it impossible for cheap generic equivalents to be marketed.

Cancer drugs cost soars

By Pamela Fayerman, Vancouver SunFebruary 10, 2009

With the cost of new cancer drugs spiralling out of control and cancer about to overtake heart disease as the country’s leading killer, Canadians who don’t have a private insurance plan that covers drugs should get one or risk financial ruin, says a B.C. cancer specialist and lead author of a new report.
“Anyone who doesn’t have a private insurance plan for drug coverage should get one; 129,000 Canadians lost jobs in January alone,” said Dr. Kong Khoo, a Kelowna oncologist and lead author of a report called The Cost of Cancer Drugs in Canada; Who is Bearing the Cost?
Khoo said in an interview that the price of new cancer drugs can range from $25,000 to $81,000 per treatment course, so even patients with extended private health plans can face a huge financial burden, considering that so many plans demand co-payments, with the member paying about 20 per cent of the drug cost.
About half of Canadians are not covered by private plans. But even those with private insurance plans aren’t immune from the sticker shock of new cancer drugs in pill form.
“Given the cost of new drugs, access to systematic treatment of cancer is becoming a challenge even when individuals have private health plans, because of the co-payments, deductibles and limits to coverage which are characteristic of private plans,” the report says.
The report is included in an annual report card by a patient advocacy group, The Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada (CACC).
It says companies that provide health insurance benefits to employees face a “seismic shift” in drug funding due to a rapidly emerging trend: coverage of cancer drugs in pill form is increasingly being paid for by private plans, not governments.
Khoo, who is a vice-chairman of the CACC board, said the amount of money extended health-care-plan beneficiaries claimed for at-home cancer drugs in several provinces rose nearly 200 per cent from 2002 to 2007. Saskatchewan and B.C. recorded the highest increases.
During the same period, the B.C. government — one of the most generous when it comes to cancer drugs — faced an increase of about 60 per cent for at-home cancer-drug treatment coverage.
“Employers and insurers need to be aware of these trends, but on the other hand, we don’t want to see anyone cutting back or limiting the options for cancer patients who are fighting for their lives,” Khoo said.
The report says the share of these drug costs paid by private plans has been rising faster than what public plans pay.
“In every province, the private pay has increased more than public pay,” the report says.
In 2007, government plans paid about $2,500 per patient for take-home cancer drugs, about $1,000 or 67 per cent more than five years earlier.
The report does not show what portion of the total cost cancer patients are paying out of their own pockets.
But the portion paid by private insurers in B.C. has gone up from an average of $50 per patient in 2002, to more than $500 by 2007.
“This shift of funding to the private sector, intended or otherwise by the public health plans, is steadily increasing the burden on employers and individuals who are ill-prepared to deal with these additional costs,” the report says.
Private health plans now reimburse claimants about $9 billion a year for prescription drugs. They provide coverage to about 20 million Canadians. But Khoo said a catastrophic drug plan is urgently needed, so that the rest of the population, which doesn’t have extended insurance, isn’t bankrupted by cancer medication bills.
Drugs taken at home now account for about half of what is spent on cancer drugs, and costs are expected to keep going up as profit-driven pharmaceutical companies try to recoup their research and development costs.
Khoo said it’s time governments brought together all stakeholders involved in the provision of cancer drugs to figure out how to share the “risk pool.” Only in Quebec is supplementary drug insurance mandatory, not optional, and Khoo said other provinces should consider copying the Quebec example.
Otherwise, he said, people who lose their medical benefits when they retire may face financial ruin due to the cost of medications.
Sun Health Issues Reporter