Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Harper tells banks to expand abroad

This is from the Financial Post.

This may not be good advice. Many foreign banks are for sale at rock bottom prices because they have been investing in risky investments. Icelandic banks can perhaps give better advice on expanding into foreign countries!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Harper tells banks to expand abroad
Financial Post
Hyungwon Kang/Reuters
Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged Canadian banks to acquire assets abroad in an interview with the Financial Times.
The newspaper reported Tuesday that Mr. Harper said Canada's banks could lead the charge toward consolidation in the world financial sector because of the relative strength of their balance sheets.
Canada's big banks, which have stayed profitable throughout the global financial crisis, now rank among the 50 largest banks in the world.
"I'm not going to try running banks, but I hope our banks will see this as an opportunity to build the brand – the country's brand, their own brand – and to expand their scope and profitability over time," Mr Harper told the Financial Times. "I can assure you that the steps we're taking in the financial sector will not be designed to promote greater protectionism."
© 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Alberta Health Superboard gets super pay raise

It seems that the abolition of the local boards now will provide the funds for raising the pay of the super board. The whole issue of centralization of authority together with increased bonuses should raise super ire among Albertans.

Critics blast Alberta health board's 25% raises
Last Updated: Friday, March 27, 2009 | 7:27 PM MT
CBC News

Provincial critics are furious about a 25 per cent pay raise that the Alberta Health Services board voted for themselves earlier this week.

Board members approved the increase at a meeting in Red Deer on Wednesday. It will see them take home $50,000 a year for the part-time position, as well as $750 for each board meeting.

Chairman Ken Hughes will be paid $75,000 annually, as well as $1,000 for each board meeting he attends. There are about four board meetings a month.

"Board members shouldn't get bonuses for attending board meetings — that's their job," Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said on Thursday.

Rates released in June for the interim board had set honoraria at $40,000 annually for the 15 board members, and $60,000 for Hughes.
Money could be better used in health

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann said the money could be better used to find and hire more doctors and nurses, and to build more capacity in the province's hospitals.

"These board members are taking home so-called honorariums that are worth more than most people make in a year at full-time jobs," Swann said in a statement on Thursday. "And we're asking seniors to pay more out of pocket for prescription drugs?"

The Calgary MLA questioned the timing of the increases when the Alberta Health Services board faces a deficit of $1.3 billion.

'We're serving because we think we can make a big difference.'—Ken Hughes, Alberta Health Services board

An Alberta Health official said this week that Health Minister Ron Liepert asked the board to send him a proposal based on compensation for other boards of groups that are a similar size.

Hughes said Wednesday that Liepert approved those numbers.

"Most of us are not serving for the honoraria," Hughes told reporters. "We're serving because we think we can make a big difference."

The superboard is in charge of delivering health care in Alberta, after Liepert dismantled the province's nine former health regions and three other organizations.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said it's too early to be paying increases to people who have not yet proven themselves, and that raises should be given in relation to improvements to the health-care system.

"This government is doling out bonuses to every fat cat with their hand out," Mason said. "Meanwhile, 30,000 Albertans who have lost their jobs have been told to tighten their belts

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Information on RCMP in Dziekanski case

This is a good bit of muckraking journalism. Some of the RCMP officers involved in the incident certainly have a less than spotless record. When this type of event happens and everything seems to be done to clear the police it is no wonder that the public begins to lose confidence in the police.

National Post

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Presented by

Just who are these men?

Brian Hutchinson, National Post

Benjamin Robinson Andy Clark, Reuters Files

Before slamming his Jeep into a young motorcyclist, the off-duty RCMP corporal had been drinking. Only two beers, consumed at a late-afternoon party, insisted Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, to a Delta, B. C., police officer who attended the fatality.

But his eyes were bloodshot, according to the officer's written report. His speech was slurred. A "strong" smell of liquor emanated from his breath and from his person.

This was in October, 2008, one year after Cpl. Robinson and three other Mounties had confronted an agitated Polish traveller at Vancouver International Airport. Robert Dziekanski died after receiving five jolts from an RCMP-deployed Taser and being man-handled on the ground.

Cpl. Robinson was the senior officer in charge and the most experienced of the four. He came under special scrutiny this week at the inquiry now underway into Mr. Dziekanski's death. His three subordinates testified before inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood earlier. All four officers admitted to making erroneous statements about the Taser incident to investigating officers,making Mr. Dziekanskiouttobe an attacking, stapler-swinging adversary. The officers blamed their flawed statements on fatigue, confusion, and an inability to "articulate."

None of the officers have been formally accused of any wrongdoing in connection to the Dziekanski death. The B. C. Crown announced late last year that no charges are forthcoming, much to the dismay of many observers. Public anger rises with every new revelation made at the inquiry.

Just who are these men? They are still Mounties, although none of the four work at the RCMP's Vancouver airport sub-detachment any more. All four have been reassigned, at least three of them to indoor duty.

Still in his twenties, Constable Bill Bentley is the youngest of the four. A former Canadian Border Services officer from Windsor, he arrived at the RCMP's Regina training depot in 2005. After the Dziekanski incident, he was removed to a desk job and works with the RCMP's 2010 Olympic Games detail. Constable Gerry Rundell, 48, is the oldest of the four. A former fish farmer from Vancouver Island, he had only two years of RCMP service the night that Mr. Dziekanski died. He has been reassigned to Vancouver Island.

Constable Kwesi Millington, 32, is physically the largest of the four officers. Holder of a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Ryerson University in Toronto, he attended depot training from 2004 to 2005, and began working at the YVR sub-detachment in July 2006. Const. Millington is the officer who deployed a Taser five times at Mr. Dziekanski. He has been reassigned to desk duty. Of aboriginal ancestry, Cpl. Robinson is a graduate of Trinity West-ern University in Abbotsford, B. C., and is a 13-year RCMP veteran. He's been in at least one legal tussle before.

In August, 2005, a B. C. man named Greg Garley launched a civil lawsuit naming eight defendants, including Cpl. Robinson. The lawsuit was briefly mentioned during a lawyer's cross-examination of Cpl. Robinson at the Braidwood inquiry on Tuesday.

Mr. Garley is a former pizza parlour operator who claims to have had many unsatisfactory encounters with RCMP officers. In fact, in 2004 he was unlawfully struck with a Taser while detained in an RCMP jail cell, in Princeton, B. C. The Taser was ordered deployed by a Mountie who later pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon. The officer received a conditional discharge in court and was reassigned to a neighbouring detachment. Mr. Garley is suing him.

In an unrelated, 2005 lawsuit, Mr. Garley alleged he was assaulted by other defendants, and that Cpl. Robinson and another officer failed to respond to his medical needs. Mr. Garley later checked himself into a hostpital for treatment. Mr. Garley's lawyer, Robert Levin, says the allegation against Cpl. Robinson was essentially one of "neglect." The matter has been settled. Terms cannot be disclosed, says Mr. Levin: "It was not really a big deal in the grand scale of things."

The death in October of 21-year-old motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson [no relation to this reporter] certainly is. Cpl. Robinson still faces a possible charge of impaired driving causing death.

Allegations and findings of fact contained in a Supreme Court of British Columbia file paint an ugly picture. According to the police report made the night of the accident, Cpl. Robinson claimed that he'd left the fatality immediately, before investigators arrived, and walked home, where he downed two shots of vodka and then walked back. All in 10 minutes.

The attending officer was skeptical. "Police opinion [is] that symptoms far more set than two shots in that time period should indicate," she noted.

Cpl. Robinson was administered two breath tests. He blew well over the legal limit for alcohol both times, according to the police report. His blue, 2002 Jeep was impounded.

One month later, in November, 2008, Cpl. Robinson applied to have his 90-day driving prohibition reviewed. His lawyer argued that the Delta police evidence was unreliable.

An adjudicator from the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles disagreed. He found Cpl. Robinson's story about consuming alcohol after the fatal crash incredible. "I note that there is nothing in the [police] report that the witnesses [at the scene] indicated you left the scene," wrote the adjudicator. "I find it unlikely that after witnessing you having a collision that the witnesses would then allow you to leave the scene."

But Cpl. Robinson didn't accept the decision. Last month, he petitioned the Supreme Court of British Columbia to overturn it. Mr. Justice Mark McEwan refused. The petition was dismissed three weeks ago.

This week, Cpl. Robinson came before the Braidwood inquiry, where he acknowledged his having made statements to police that bore little semblance to the truth. Pending any new development, he will return to his assignment with the RCMP's Vancouver 2010 Olympics detail.

© 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Taser shock to head may cause seizures

This is just another example of the dangers of using tasers, the sort of evidence that Taser International hates to see. It is rather ironic that this particular case involves a policeman as victim!

Stun gun shock to head may cause seizures, doctors warn
Last Updated: Monday, March 16, 2009 | 4:45 PM ET Comments91Recommend44CBC News
Most reports of Taser-related side-effects have concentrated on cardiac complications. (Toby Talbot/Canadian Press/AP)A police officer who was mistakenly hit in the head by a stun gun suffered seizures, Canadian doctors reported on Monday.

The officer was in his 30s and previously in good health. He was hit by a Taser shot meant for a suspect involved in a police chase, Dr. Richard Wennberg and coauthors from Toronto Western Hospital and the University of Toronto reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"Until now, most reports of Taser-related adverse events have understandably concentrated on cardiac complications associated with shots to the chest," the study's authors said in their case report.

"Our report shows that a Taser shot to the head may result in brain-specific complications. It also suggests that seizure should be added to the list of Taser-related adverse events."

Taser stun guns are manufactured by Taser International in Scottsdale, Ariz. and are used by law enforcement personnel to incapacitate people with an electric shock.

The stun gun was fired once, sending two barbed darts into his upper back and back of the head, according to police records.

The report didn't specify what police force the man was from.

Not the usual symptoms
After the officer was hit, he collapsed, lost consciousness and was not breathing, the doctors reported.

His eyes rolled upward, he was foaming at the mouth and his arms and legs jerked for about one minute. He was confused for several minutes.

These symptoms distinguish the episode from the usual, short-term incapacitation induced by stun guns, the researchers said.

A neurological assessment of the patient diagnosed mild traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome related to the head impact from the Taser shot or falling to the ground during the seizure.

The patient has not had any more seizures since the incident more than one year ago.

He continues to have symptoms of anxiety, difficulties concentrating, irritability, dizziness and persistent headaches, the researchers said in describing his treatment.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Strike ends at Brandon Medical Clinic

Good to see a strike end with an agreement by both parties rather than being forced back to work. I will be able to arrange an appointment for a checkup when I get back from the Philippines the end of March. The thirty plus temperature here takes a bit getting used to. No doubt the snow will still be on the ground when we return!

Strike ends at Brandon medical clinic
Last Updated: Friday, March 13, 2009 | 11:06 AM CT Comments7Recommend2
CBC News

The strike at one of Brandon's largest private medical clinics is over.

The Brandon Clinic Medical Corporation and the union representing its 57 striking support workers have reached a new three-year collective agreement that provides for a six per cent wage increase this year, and four per cent for the following two years.

Temporary workers have been keeping the clinic open since staff hit the picket line in mid-February.

The clinic issued a news release Friday stating staff will be back at work on Monday.

The unionized members, whose duties include clerical work, greeting the public and assisting in setting up appointments, escorting clients to meet doctors and cleaning the facilities, had been seeking wage increases of seven per cent while the company was offering four per cent.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Harper:Ottawa doing better than most other countries

This is from the Toronto Star. Harper cannot seem to make up his mind whether he is going to stress the severity of the recession or give a more upbeat speech as he does here. As mentioned his article simply ignores unemployment for the most part and the loss of manufacturing jobs. He did not mention either the fact that he prorogued parliament to avoid defeat. I guess that is ancient history!

March 10, 2009

OTTAWA – While job losses are mounting and stock markets plunging, Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists Canada is faring better in this global recession that most other nations.

"The American economy has been hit twice as hard as Canada. The same is true for the Europeans. The Japanese have been hit four times as hard," Harper told an audience in Brampton in a noon-hour speech today.

Harper sought to put a positive spin on the economic crisis, saying that Canada's fundamentals are strong and claiming that his government has responded with "unprecedented" speed to the problems.

He pointed to Canada's strong banking system, low debt, low inflation and skilled workforce as assets that will help Canadians weather the recession better than most around the globe.

"I say to you, as businesspeople, as community-builders, as citizens, if there ever was a time to put away that legendary Canadian modesty, it is now," Harper said, in a speech to the Brampton and Mississauga boards of trade.

"Notwithstanding all the troubles around us, Canada has real advantages, real assets, and we should not hesitate to remind investors, partners and leaders around the world of the comparative strengths of our country," he said, according to prepared remarks.

Harper quoted billionaire investor Warren Buffett, saying, "It is only when the tide goes out that you know who was swimming naked."

"The global economic crisis has revealed quite a few skinny dippers but Canada is not one of them," he said.

Harper today boasted that his government is cutting red tape to ensure that its spending measures get into the economy in a "timely" fashion.

"We are cutting enormous amounts of red tape and we are doing it quickly," Harper said.

Later today, the government will release its first report on implementation of its stimulus plan, even though the budget plan is still making its way through Parliament.

Still, he cautioned that the U.S. was the source of the global recession and that the economic woes won't end until the American financial sector is "fixed," he said.

"Our stimulus plan will help us to sustain economic activity and make transitions but it cannot fix the problem of the global financial system," the Prime Minister said.

"Canada was the last advanced country to fall into this recession. We will make sure its effects here are the least severe and we will come out of this faster than anyone and stronger than ever," he said.

He took aim at the opposition, charging that they've held up the government's budget plans. Yet Harper did not mention to the audience that he was forced to prorogue Parliament in December to avoid defeat by the opposition parties.

Canada's 1.3 million unemployed got only passing reference in Harper's speech, which government officials say the prime minister wrote himself. He made mention of improved unemployment benefits but his talk was more a technical recitation of federal initiatives rather than a rhetorical attempt to lift Canadian spirits.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Alberta doctors to hear how UK cut wait times.

Alberta ER docs to hear about changes to U.K. wait times

Last Updated: Friday, March 6, 2009 | 1:34 PM MT

It is good that Alberta is seeking reform advice from experts outside the US. The US is not at all efficient and is very costly compared to most systems and also it is not universal as are Britain and most of the European systems. Personally I have never had to wait any significant length of time in an ER but I gather in some cities it is a real problem even in Winnipeg in Manitoba.

A British physician who advised former prime minister Tony Blair will speak to doctors in Edmonton on Friday about how Britain changed its health-care system so waits in emergency rooms are limited to four hours.

Dr. Matthew Cooke will talk about the "four-hour rule," whereby patients are either treated and sent home or admitted to a hospital bed within four hours of showing up at an emergency room, 98 per cent of the time.

In order for the change to occur, the country's National Health Service spent £600 million [roughly $1 billion Cdn] to create thousands of beds in nursing homes so that sick elderly patients could be moved out of hospitals, Cooke said Friday on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"If we looked in 2001 in England, there were 7,000 of these people any day in a hospital bed. Now, it's about 1,500," Cooke said.

The change means beds are now available to ER patients that require admission to hospital.

"It was a big investment but the improvements have been obvious from that investment," Cooke said.

In Alberta, emergency room wait-times average six hours, and doctors are looking to see if British-style changes can be implemented in Alberta.

Doctors at the Emergency Department Integration Conference, at which Cooke is the keynote speaker, will look at the root of the problem and talk about best practices in Alberta and other jurisdictions.

"If you told Canadians that they were going to be in and out of the emergency department within four hours, they'd say that's the best health-care system in the world," said conference chair and Edmonton emergency physician Dr. Brian Rowe.

"And we know it can be done. It requires a lot of change and change is not easy but we know now that it can be done and it can be sustained."

Cooke said the situation in Canada today reminds him of how things used to be in British emergency rooms.

"All things I'm hearing are just what was happening in the U.K. seven and eight years ago," he said.

While the rule works well in general, wait times for some patients still exceed four hours.

A few weeks ago, Cooke said he and some other doctors at his hospital were unhappy because four or five patients had gone over the time limit. But then he realized the situation used to be much worse.

"Seven or eight years ago, we would have had 30 or 40 patients at least going over," he said.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tories, Liberals escalate standoff over stimulus

I doubt that Ignatieff will be willing to have an election over this issue but then you never know for sure. Harper seems bound and determined to provoke the opposition or pull the wool over their eyes. To ask for some degree of accountability is hardly a sin when the govt. will have several weeks before the matter comes to a vote. Harper is supposed to stand for more accountability in government but he has shown precious little accountability so far.

Tories, Liberals escalate standoff over stimulus
March 04, 2009


OTTAWA – The spectre of a spring federal election loomed larger Wednesday as Liberals and Conservatives reached an apparent impasse over a $3 billion fund aimed at quickly stimulating Canada's sputtering economy.

Liberal finance critic John McCallum said his party will propose a motion next week calling on the government to itemize precisely how the $3 billion will be spent.

The move followed Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's adamant assertion Tuesday that his party will not approve the fund without details.

But a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed Ignatieff's ultimatum, suggesting the Liberals are simply playing politics with the economic crisis.

Kory Teneycke said Harper's minority Tory government will happily provide full disclosure – "after the fact" – about how the money is spent and noted that all expenditures can be reviewed by the auditor general. The government, however, does not intend to produce an itemized list in advance.

"I think this is really a PR stunt, more than anything else," Teneycke said.

"If the Opposition is serious about wanting to see stimulus move quickly, they can't then oppose every specific action to see that happen. I don't think they're being very genuine about this."

Liberals have agreed to speedy approval of the main budget implementation legislation – which received final approval Wednesday in the Commons by a vote of 204-78. But they've balked at supporting the $3 billion fund, creation of which is included in a related spending estimates bill.

The estimates are a confidence matter, which means Harper's minority government could fall if all three opposition parties were to vote against the bill.

Ignatieff told the Commons again Wednesday that bill amounts to writing "a blank cheque" for the government.

Moreover, he argued that the government already has $3 billion approved for infrastructure projects in last year's budget that it hasn't yet spent, suggesting that the prime minister is holding back the funds in a bid to "hide the size of his deficit."

Harper said the new fund is intended to ensure that money starts flowing before July towards infrastructure projects and other stimulus measures outlined in the budget.

"The country, other levels of government are waiting for this. I encourage the Liberal party to stop playing games and simply let the money flow into the economy," Harper said.

However, McCallum said the Liberals' demand for greater detail won't do anything to hold up the flow of money. The spending estimates bill is not scheduled to be put to a vote for another few weeks, which he said gives the government plenty of time to provide a list of departments and programs that are destined to get a share of the $3 billion.

"We can walk and chew gum. We can do things fast and we can do things accountably."

The Liberal motion, to be introduced Monday, is likely to receive support from the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, which have also slammed the government for trying to create an unaccountable "slush fund."

NDP Leader Jack Layton also demanded that the government spell out how it intends to spend the $3 billion. That earned him a stiff rebuke from Treasury Board President Vic Toews, who labelled Layton a "hypocrite" for simultaneously criticizing the fund and demanding immediate economic stimulus.

While the motion won't be binding on the government, McCallum said Liberals will be having discussions with the Tories to ensure that they'll comply.

Asked what Liberals will do if Harper flatly refuses to provide details in advance, McCallum said only: "We shall see."

For his part, Ignatieff seemed to play down the potential for a standoff that could force an election. He said Liberals are "in negotiations" with the government and added: "I'm confident, if they show any sense and good judgment, that we can work this out."

Harper last week warned that opposition refusal to approve creation of the fund would constitute defeat of his minority government.

"These are confidence measures. We are not messing around with this," the prime minister said.

"If the opposition doesn't like it, they will find themselves in an election."