Sunday, February 28, 2010

The five-point health care fix.

Somewhat refreshing to see an article that makes sensible recommendations for health care reform without starting with the premise that what we need to do is privatize as much as possible and offload costs from the government to the individual health care consumer. While rising health costs are certainly a problem there is no need to slash coverage. Certainly the US system is very much more expensive than ours and less equitable with poorer overall results. Ours may not be the best system in the world but for the ordinary citizen it is superior to the US and ranked much higher by the WHO. I am always amazed when US politicians claim that the US system is the best health care system in the world. Certainly it is a very good system if you have lots of money for high quality health insurance but otherwise it is not that great at all and it costs the US taxpayer much more than most advanced capitalist countries pay for equal or better quality care.

The five-point health fix
It’s not impossible to save taxpayers money without sacrificing high-quality care for Canadians

André Picard
From Saturday's Globe and Mail

With an increasing array of new drugs, technologies and specialization, and Canada's seemingly insatiable appetite for services, the cost of delivering health care has increased relentlessly. From 1975 to 2009, it rose from $12.2-billion to $183.1-billion.

In that period, the only time year-over-year spending dipped was from 1993 to 1996, when the provinces, saddled with massive deficits, took Draconian measures and public expenditures fell 8 per cent. But the tactics used – laying off nurses, shutting hospitals, imposing across-the-board cuts on programs and decentralizing administration – resulted in longer wait times for patients and were deeply unpopular.

Because of the backlash, governments reversed course and, over the next four years, spent like there was no tomorrow – 18 per cent from 1996 to 2000.

Today, with recessionary pressures and health accounting for an ever-larger part of public spending, there is a new push to control costs. So how can governments do the seemingly impossible: rein in spending while ensuring universal, high-quality care? Here are some strategies worth trying.

Predictable, stable funding

The pattern in Canada has been to impose dramatic cuts and then make huge reinvestments, creating administrative whiplash and inconsistency in service delivery. Health-care providers need to live within their means but, to do so, they need to know their budgets. Under the 10-year Canada Health Transfer, funding from Ottawa to the provinces and territories has been clear and predictable (though some would say inadequate). Provinces need to provide the same clarity to regions, hospitals and other providers. While it does not serve the public good to be indifferent to costs, when there are cuts they should be targeted and surgical, not reactionary and willy-nilly.

Human-resource planning

The single biggest expense is labour – personnel accounts for about 80 per cent of total costs. The generous contracts signed with physicians and nurses in recent years and the large influx of practitioners (5,000 new physicians in the past five years, for example) have created built-in inflation that will make it difficult to keep costs down. At some point, Canadians will have to ask: “What's the right price to pay for labour?” The answer is not necessarily to cut salaries – doing so would set off a war with powerful unions and professional associations – but to ensure we get value for money with a rational division of labour. In Canada's health system, we have a lot of high-wage employees doing relatively mundane tasks.

Better co-ordination of care

We don't tend to use people's skills efficiently. There is a lot of territorialism, a good part of it driven by funding methods that encourage volume rather than reward quality. We invest massively in health professionals but spend relatively little on support services. From the patient perspective, the care is disjointed and there is a lack of continuity. We need more interdisciplinary delivery of care – or teamwork to use a more simple term. Patients also have to be more active participants in their care, not just passive recipients.

Sort out drug funding

The fastest-growing expense in the system is the cost of prescription drugs. But which ones are covered when and where varies wildly, depending on a person's province, age, income and the place where he or she is treated. There is a strong argument to be made that creating a national (not federal) pharmacare plan – or at the very least, a catastrophic drug plan – would ultimately save money, as well as make the system more fair. In the meantime, provinces need to do a better job of ensuring drugs are prescribed appropriately, and of negotiating better prices with pharmaceutical companies (particularly generics). Canada has a National Pharmaceuticals Strategy, one that looks good on paper, but it has not been fully implemented.

Focus on quality and safety

There is a lot of rhetoric about cutting waste and bureaucracy but the reality is that the health system is pretty lean. That said, record-keeping is poor, transitions within the system (say, from a family doctor to a specialist, or from critical care to home care) are often pained, and we are slow to implement the latest evidence-based care. The result is a system where efficiency, quality and safety are not what they should be – and, just as important, where there can be marked variations from one institution or one region to the next. Over the long term, improving quality and safety is where the true savings will be found. But doing so requires significant investments, in electronic health records, in data collection and in monitoring mechanisms.


Despite popular mythology to this effect, health-care spending in Canada is not out of control: After adjusting for inflation and population growth, spending increased 2.5 per cent last year.

Still, the political environment, post-recession, is such that Canadians are more conscious of the need to control costs, and doing so is wise to ensure sustainability.

But the prescription for what ails our health system is not simply throwing more money into it or, conversely, slashing and burning.

Rather, we need wise investment in strategic reforms to ensure that the system is organized in a manner that ensure the most appropriate care is delivered at the right time, in the right place and to the right patients.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Half of Canadians Unhappy with both PM and Ignatieff

Even though Canadians are unhappy polls do not show much movement away from the two party system to the NDP, Greens, or other parties. I have never understood why this is so. A lot of people claim that a vote for a third party is wasted at least in areas where third parties will not win. Strangely enough one does not hear that about voting Liberal in an area that is sure to see a Conservative win or vice versa. Some people want to be on the winning side and end up voting for a person whose policies may be quite different than the person who votes for the person just to be on the winning side.
These polls ensure that Harper is safe from an election this Spring unless he provokes Ignatieff to such a degree that he has to vote against the government. Of course it is always possible that Harper could do something that makes him quite vulnerable but his close calls last year and late 2008 should teach him to be a bit more cautious.

Half of Canadians unhappy with PM, Ignatieff: poll

CBC News
More than half of Canadians disapprove of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s job performance, but nearly as many feel the same way about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, a new EKOS poll suggests.

The poll, released exclusively to CBC News on Thursday, asked Canadians if they approve of the way Harper, Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton are handling their respective jobs.

Around 52 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they disapprove of the way Harper is handling his job, and 48 per cent said they disapprove of Ignatieff’s job performance.

But more people in the survey approved of Harper’s performance than Ignatieff's (33 per cent to 22 per cent).

Thirty per cent had no opinion about Ignatieff's job abilities, while 15 per cent had no opinion of Harper's.

Layton was the only leader with a positive job-approval rating, with 40 per cent of those polled saying they approve of the job he is doing and 29 per cent disapproving.

Despite Harper's slightly higher disapproval rating, the Conservatives have opened up a small three-point lead over the Liberals after weeks of being in a virtual tie, another EKOS poll suggests.

Asked which party they would support if an election were held tomorrow, 33.4 per cent of those polled chose the Conservatives and 30.3 per cent backed the Liberals.

While Layton has the highest approval ratings, his party remains in third place with 15.8 per cent support and lags considerably behind the other two parties, the poll indicates.

Harper gets overwhelming approval among Conservatives who were surveyed, but his disapproval rating is almost as high among supporters of each of the other parties.

Disapproval of Harper is about the same among men (51.8 per cent) and women (51.5 per cent) who were surveyed and among similar among age groups, with the exception of Canadians 65 and over, who are more split on whether they approve or disapprove.

Disapproval of Ignatieff is highest in the survey among Conservative supporters (71 per cent), men (52 per cent) and older Canadians (45 to 64 at 50.5 per cent, and 65 and older at 50.8 per cent).

The random survey of 6,553 Canadians aged 18 and over was conducted between Feb. 10 and Feb. 23 and claims a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Read more:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Danny Williams could have had his surgery done in Canada

Here is the evidence.

However, Dr. Asim Cheema, a cardiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, told QMI Agency that mitral valve repair is routinely performed in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.Williams told NTV that his doctor recommended he have it done at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, Fla., where the procedure is minimally invasive. The ailing premier talked about his medical ordeal for the first time Monday in an interview with NTV, a private TV station in St. John’s, N.L.

Williams obviously chose to accept the advice of a Dr friend in NJ who recommended he go to Miami Florida. The idea that he was not offered the operation in Canada is just political posturing. He could have gone there but chose not too. Like a loyal rich Canadian he jumped the queue and went to the US. As a result he had to pay for the operation himself.

Most of the media skirt over all of this. Much of the mainstream media in Canada are becoming almost as putrid and uncritical as the media in the US.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Danny Williams heart operation not available in Canada?

I wonder if this is true or what. Surely Canada would have the ability to perform such an operation. Did the government pay for Williams to go to Florida. If he truly could not get it here they should I suppose. Or did Williams just choose to go there even though he could have had it here if he had waited. This is from the CBC.

The mitral valve is a special surgery," he said in the interview broadcast Monday evening. "It's not a typical open heart surgery where your arteries are replaced ... so, they recommended that I look at going outside the province ... what was ultimately done to me, the surgery that I eventually got ... was not offered to me in Canada."

Read more:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mostly sweetness and light as US governors meet with Canadian Premiers

Since the deal on the Buy American policy no doubt the atmosphere in US Canada relations has improved considerably. But there are still some irritants remaining as the article notes. Not too surprising that Brad Wall should impress the Americans, since he is both right win and able to quote famous Americans in keeping with the context! Gary Doer seems to be keeping a relatively low profile as Harper's ambassador to the U.S. Maybe that is the way Harper likes it!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

U.S. governors sing the praises of Canada
Sheldon Alberts, Washington Correspondent, Canwest News Service

WASHINGTON -- Canadian politicians have long complained about the challenges of getting their voices heard in America's halls of power. But for seven Canadian premiers, there's no longer any reason to complain.

Armed with arguments and statistics in favour of free trade, and employing a bit of Canuck charm, Canada's provincial leaders got an enthusiastic welcome this weekend from U.S. state governors who generally endorsed calls for stronger cross-border ties and commerce.

By the end of the premiers' first-ever meeting Saturday with the National Governors Association, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was singing a gravelly voiced rendition of O Canada. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour proclaimed the Canada-U.S. relationship as "breathtaking" and unique to the world.

And yet another governor, Minnesota Republican Tim Pawlenty, stressed the importance of Canadian crude oil to his state's economy.

Mr. Pawlenty, touted as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said it would be "very ill-advised" for the U.S. to impose any sort of barriers to Canadian oil.

That was music to the ears of western premiers who worry U.S. state and federal lawmakers will pursue environmental and trade measures to curb Canadian petroleum exports.

"Today's meeting with the National Governors Association was a huge step forward," said New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham, whose province supplies about 60% of refined petroleum products into the Northeastern U.S. states.

"Security of supply of energy is critical for the U.S. economy to recover."

The recent resolution of Canada's dispute over Buy American provisions in the U.S. stimulus package contributed to the positive tone of the hour-long session at a downtown Washington hotel.

Mr. Rendell, a Democrat, was coaxed by a Canadian reporter into singing a verse from O Canada.

"I can't sing. I sound like a sick squirrel, but I will try my best," Mr. Rendell said.

Improvising his own lyrics, Mr. Rendell sang: "O Canada, proud, brave and free. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee."

Mr. Barbour, a Republican, said he was impressed with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who cited a famous quote by president John F. Kennedy on the strength of the Canada-U.S. relationship.

During a 1961 visit to Canada, Mr. Kennedy told Parliament "geography has made us neighbours. History has made us friends."

Mr. Wall "spoke to what every one of us here feels," Mr. Barbour said.

"The Canadians are not just our closest neighbours, they are our best friends," Mr. Barbour said. "There is hardly any place in the world where you could have an open border of this distance."

The premiers also met Sunday with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to raise ongoing complaints over country-of-origin labelling rules that Canada says unfairly damage exports of meat and food products to the United States.

The Buy American agreement saw 37 states sign onto World Trade Organization rules that will allow Canadian companies to bid on U.S. procurement projects, in exchange for American access to the Canadian market.

The premiers' meeting with the governors followed two high-level meetings on Friday with senior White House officials, including Larry Summers, economic czar, and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he pressed U.S. leaders about the depth of protectionist sentiment caused by the recent recession.

"I have been reassured that, while it always has some seductive appeal, there is a new awareness ... that we have to guard against protectionism and keep our trade linkages strong," Mr. McGuinty said.

Premiers now hope Canada will get a permanent exemption from future Buy American measures.

"I think there is a good possibility they [will] recognize the need for a preferential treatment for Canada," said Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger.

"I don't think any of what they have tried to do . . . was intended to side-swipe Canada. But now we have to be there so they think about us when they make these kinds of decisions."

Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the U.S. and a former Manitoba premier, said the governors' relationship with the premiers can serve as model for how Ottawa and Washington get along.

Several premiers and governors, for example, had already developed close ties over the years through cross-border meetings at the regional level.

As premier of Manitoba, Mr. Doer negotiated the Western Climate Initiative with several states that set regional greenhouse gas emissions goals.

Deals struck between some provinces and states on tailpipe emissions are now being used as a model for national standards planned by Ottawa and Washington.

"It's a visible example of how premiers and governors are working on issues that could be left for international discussions, but rather can be solved in a more practical way," Mr. Doer said.

"All the work that states produce will be helpful to the U.S. government and all the work that provinces are able to achieve helps the government of Canada."

Alberta's Ed Stelmach, British Columbia's Gordon Campbell and Newfoundland and Labrador's Danny Williams were the only premiers who did not make the trip to Washington.

© 2010 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Canadian Household Debt at Record HIgh

The average household debt is 96 thousand dollars quite a sum to my ears but then our household debt is less than ten thousand! The Conservative government is making mortgages slightly more difficult to get but not so much as to have a drastic effect on demand. Already more mortgages suffer from overdue payments. In general it would seem that there may be somewhat of a slowdown in demand with these debt levels. But in the housing sector this may be to the good and prevent another bubble. As the moment the housing market seems to be a bit too hot in many areas.

Household debt at record high: report
CBC News
Canadian household debt soared to a record average of $96,000 last year, and more families were behind in paying their mortgages, according to a study by the Vanier Institute of the Family.

The number of mortgage payments at least 90 days late was up 50 per cent in 2009, compared with 2008, indicating that while the recession may "technically" be over, it could be a long and challenging recovery for Canadian families, the study found.

The average debt per household of $96,100 includes consumer and mortgage debt and represents an increase of 5.7 per cent from a year ago.

"The effects of this recession will test the resilience of many Canadian families," Clarence Lochhead, the Institute's executive director said in a news release Tuesday. "While the stock market may be up, the improvement for families will lag behind in terms of employment, increases in income, and a return of net worth."

The 11th annual study, entitled The Current State of Canadian Family Finances, stresses that personal debt is an increasing problem at the kitchen table.

The number of credit card holders who were behind at least three months in their payments was up 40 per cent in 2009.

Study author Roger Sauvé also flagged growing concern over the likelihood of a housing bubble. He noted that over the past 20 years, house prices have averaged 3.7 times household earnings but are now five times earnings, with real estate now providing 48 per cent of the net worth of Canadian households, the highest it has been in 20 years.

Another trend noted in the study is that the rich continue to get richer.

Although average family incomes have risen over the last two decades, not all families have benefited equally. In 1990, the top fifth of families took in 37.1 per cent of the incomes generated by all families in the economy. This increased to 39.7 per cent by 2007.

Read more:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Canadian Democracy Promotion equals Promotion of US foreign policy and political warfare.

THere will not be much about this in the mainstream media and what news there will be will be filled with great applause at our mission to promote democracy globally. Of course many US NGO's and in particular the National Endowment for Democracy have acted to destabilise regimes not liked by the US and promote pro-US political groups everywhere. This is fom this site.

Foundation for “Political Warfare”
Takes Cue from U.S. Strategy
Anthony Fenton
Indicating further integration with its closest neighbour and ally's foreign policy priorities, the Canadian government is in the advanced stages of establishing a foundation to promote liberal democracy, akin to the controversial U.S. National Endowment for Democracy.

Last December, the minority Conservative government of Stephen Harper quietly tabled in parliament a bipartisan blue panel report titled, “Advisory Panel Report on the Creation of a Canadian Democracy Promotion Agency.” The panel is recommending that the government create the Canadian Centre for Advancing Democracy, with a proposed budget of between 28 million and 65 million U.S. dollars per year.

Since it assumed power in 2006, Harper's government has touted its commitment to placing democracy promotion as “one of the four core principles of its foreign policy.” Speaking recently in Davos, Switzerland, as global elites gathered for the World Economic Forum, Harper included democracy promotion among the issues which “require the close cooperation of friends and like-minded allies.”

Steven Fletcher, Harper's minister of state for democratic reform, said he was given the responsibility to “construct and implement” the new democracy foundation. To do so, his office gathered “experts in the area of democracy promotion.” Now that their report has been tabled, Fletcher told IPS that the government “will be plotting the appropriate course,” but would offer no timeline on when it may be legislated.

Canada already has an array of existing organisations that promote democracy abroad. In 2005, the then-Liberal government established the Democracy Council, which is an informal forum of Canadian organisations actively involved in democracy promotion who meet biannually. Once in power, the Conservatives kept the Democracy Council in place, and accelerated Canadian collaborations with the U.S., including funding several National Endowment for Democracy (NED) related projects.

Stealth Policies
Dennis Pilon, a professor of politics at the University of Victoria, says the Harper government is “taking a lot of their cues from the Americans, particularly the Republicans,” and adds that they conduct a lot of their policies “by stealth.”

“And I think this [democracy foundation] is an example of the stealth; they think that a democracy institute will allow them to more effectively integrate their efforts with the United States, which will then allow them to gain all sorts of kudos and points with the Americans,” Pilon said.

Fletcher said the new foundation “will be a made in Canada agency that will complement what other countries are doing but it will be run by Canadians to explain the importance of emerging and post-conflict countries.”

Recent developments also follow an extensive study on democracy promotion that was conducted by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2007. The Committee's final report declared, “The creation of a new foundation to carry out our nation's democratic development efforts is the most significant recommendation resulting from our deliberations.”

Two federal parties, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party, issued “dissenting opinions” against the report. The Bloc cautioned that “the types of measures recommended in this report may lead to political interference in the domestic affairs of another country,” while the NDP warned, “'Democracy' promotion can be, and has frequently undermined indigenous democratic processes around the world, when abused for the partisan foreign policy purposes of an external state.”

Fletcher told IPS that the dissenting opinions are “just not valid. This will be an arms-length agency to help countries develop democracy, and we know that democracy is the best way to empower people.”

In a statement e-mailed to IPS, the NDP's foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, said “It's rather ironic for the government to be pitching the creation of a democratic development organization at a time that our parliament has been shut down by the prime minister.”

Instead of returning to session as scheduled on Jan. 25, Harper suspended parliament until Mar. 3, following the conclusion of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Critics say he did so to suppress debate over allegations that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan handed detainees over to Afghan security forces who, in turn, tortured them.

Mark Neufeld, a professor in the Department of Political Studies at Trent University, said Canada's role as an “occupier” in Afghanistan precludes it from promoting democracy there.

“You can argue the occupying and intervention legacy of Canada in Afghanistan means that it can never be a democracy promoter there. People will never trust us to be some kind of neutral purveyor of good governance along a democratic model. We've been there mainly propping up a government that's not democratic.”

Several U.S. experts have indicated that a Canadian democracy foundation would be welcomed. In the Standing Committee's report, former USAID consultant and advisor to the NED, Gerald Hyman, was described as stressing to committee members “that there is a role for Canada...where the U.S. carries a lot of counter-productive baggage...[Hyman] acknowledged that Canada can do things that the U.S. cannot.”

Robert Pee, who is completing a PhD on the NED and the use of democracy promotion as a tool of “political warfare” at the University of Birmingham, attributes such sentiments to the “tactical flexibility” that such a Canadian foundation might provide as a complement to U.S. efforts.

In an e-mail to IPS, Pee explained,

“Such a foundation would be able to operate more under the radar than the NED itself; thus, it seems likely that its creation would result in a division of labour between it and the NED, with the Canadian foundation working in areas that are too 'hot' for the NED to touch.”

Political warfare, says Pee, citing since-declassified definitions produced by Cold War U.S. policy planners “is the employment of all the means at a nation's command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives.”

Created in the waning days of the Cold War by President Ronald Reagan, since then the NED “continues its core mission of protecting U.S. national security interests.” The Barack Obama administration has continued to provide the NED with unprecedented levels of funding.

One danger for the Canadian foundation lies in the possibility that it will emulate the NED's mission. A document dating to 2006, obtained by IPS from Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs through the Access to Information Act describes the little-known Democracy Council as an “incarnation of earlier models such as NDI (National Democratic Institute) and NED in the United States.”

As Pee told IPS,

“The issue is that the NED does not decide which groups it will support on the basis of determining which group would be best for the ordinary people of the country concerned, but on the basis of which group would best serve the strategic or economic interests of the United States.”

Pee offered a warning for Canadians, where “citizens will find that their taxes are being used, not only or primarily to implement their own government's 'political warfare' programmes – which would be bad enough – but largely those 'political warfare' programmes which the U.S. would like to see carried out as part of its foreign policy. Thus, Canadians will be paying to implement the foreign policy of the U.S.” •

Anthony Fenton is an independent researcher and journalist in British Columbia, Canada, who covers Canadian and U.S. foreign policy. This article first published by IPS.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Researcher suggests lay panel to help make health-care decisions

This seems to be an interesting idea and certainly a different way of getting public input into the decision making process. As Menon claims often surveys are slanted to try and obtain the results that politicians want although no doubt it does not always work and even a slanted survey gives a general idea of where people stand. This is from the Vancouversun.

U of A researcher proposes lay panel to help make health-care choices
By Keith Gerein, Edmonton

U of A researcher Dev Menon is putting together a "citizens jury" of 16 Albertans to discuss what health services should get priority.
Should the government cover new cardiovascular drugs for seniors, or should the money be used to recruit specialists in child illnesses?

Is it better to fund surgical procedures that provide relief for cancer patients, or buy new technology to protect nurses from infectious diseases?

Health policy leaders are often confronted with these kinds of heartbreaking scenarios, yet their decisions sometimes fail to include a sufficient level of public input, says a University of Alberta scientist.

That's why Dev Menon is attempting to address this deficiency with his latest research project, an unusual experiment that calls for the creation of a "citizens jury" of 16 Albertans, randomly chosen, to consider questions of funding, care and priorities.

As the Stelmach government pushes for more public consultation in its health system, Menon believes the method can serve as a superior example of ensuring societal values and informed opinions are passed on to the decision-makers.

"I'm a cynic, so take this for what it's worth, but it's easy to send out surveys to get the answers you want," said Menon, a scientist in the U of A's school of public health.

"Poorly conducted public engagement is sometimes worse than no public engagement ... so let's do it in a scientifically robust way that captures people's true beliefs and values. People have to be informed and have to deliberate before they make choices on difficult things."

Menon's jury will be constructed in a similar way to those in the criminal court system. They'll gather for three days, initially listening to "witnesses" including patients, government health leaders, doctors, pharmacists and executives from medical technology companies.

Then come the deliberations, as participants must rule on some difficult scenarios of health funding. The scenarios are designed to pit different groups against each other -- children versus seniors, people with chronic diseases versus terminally ill patients, caregivers versus people from marginalized communities.

"We'll pick two health technologies that will help populations with different mixes of some of these value attributes -- age, current health status, how long they have been ill, if there are no alternative treatments and so on," Menon said. "And the jury will have to choose one of the technologies.

"Sometimes the public doesn't understand that all of these decisions are trade-off decisions. When you say you're going to fund something, you're implicitly saying you can't fund something else."

Menon has tried a citizen jury project once before, and they have been used in the United Kingdom and Germany, often ending with interesting results.

For example, if a decision comes down to helping babies or seniors, people typically choose babies, he said. But the issue gets more difficult when caregivers are included, because it's believed such people should be protected. There is also sympathy for patients who have no other treatment options available.

"What we want to do is get an idea of what values the public considers important and should be considered when making decisions on resource allocation," Menon said. "It can't be just technicians or commissions or bureaucrats who set the standards for what should be funded, because values need to come into play."

Menon said he hopes to have the report finished in May. He plans to present it to the province, not just for the opinions it contains, but as a model of how the government can improve its public consultation.

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky said last week he wants to see more public input in the health system, which was a key recommendation of the recently completed Advisory Committee on Health report.

Zwozdesky said his department is still figuring out how such public consultation will be achieved.

"We are already strategizing on the best way to do that," he said. "You certainly have traditional methods of questionnaires and surveys, but you also have this wonderful thing called the Internet, so we will probably set up a website."

He said he didn't know enough about the citizen jury concept to comment, but would be interested in reading Menon's report.

"Anything that allows the public to become more aware of health-care scenarios is precisely what the premier said we're going to do. So we would welcome that."

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
U of A researcher Dev Menon is putting together a "citizens jury" of 16 Albertans to discuss what health services should get priority.Photograph by: Candace Elliott, Journal, Edmonton Journal

Friday, February 12, 2010

McGuinty prorogues Ontario legislature.

While it may be true that McGuinty's prorogation is relatively brief it is still akin to Harper's move in that it is done for purley political reasons as the article points out. Will Ignatieff come out and criticise his provincial Liberal comrade? We will see. It is about time for the public to realise that the Liberals and Conservatives are not all that different. I hope that the public begins to give more support to third parties. Otherwise we will end up with the same situation as in the US with two dysfunctional major parties and no choice for the public.

McGuinty prorogues legislature
Brief break to be followed by throne speech
By Robert Sibley, The Ottawa CitizenFebruary 10, 2010
Stephen Harper did it, so why not Dalton McGuinty.

The Ontario premier said Tuesday he will "briefly" prorogue the provincial legislature, probably next week, and then begin a new legislative session following the Olympic Games with a throne speech.

However, in announcing his intentions, McGuinty emphasized his prorogation is nothing like that of Prime Minister Harper, who has been the subject of considerable criticism for shutting down Parliament for two months.

"We will not follow the federal government's example of an extended break before we have that throne speech," the premier said. "The throne speech will likely come after the Olympics are over, just so you know."

Not surprisingly, the Tories found McGuinty's announcement both cynical and hypocritical. Nepean Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod, for example, linked the prorogation to the March 4 byelection in Ottawa West-Nepean. McGuinty, she said, doesn't want the legislature in session and the government subject to criticism with such a "game-changer" vote in the offing.

Beth Graham, a longtime community activist who once managed constituency affairs for MacLeod, is representing the Conservatives in Ottawa West-Nepean. She faces Liberal candidate Bob Chiarelli, a former MPP and two-term Ottawa mayor.

"We sort of knew McGuinty was going to (prorogue the legislature)," MacLeod said. "It's always been our suspicion that with the hottest seat in play since McGuinty's been premier, they don't want to be in the House during this byelection. They want to avoid facing questions from the opposition during a hot byelection."

A second byelection is also being held in Leeds-Grenville, to replace longtime Conservative MPP Bob Runciman following his appointment to the Senate. Tory candidate Steve Clark faces Liberal Stephen Mazurek.

Last week, McGuinty suggested the criticism Harper has received over prorogation prompted him to think carefully about any such decision on his part.

"I think it's kind of lent it a different complexion," he said. "Prorogation has been an important and respected parliamentary tool for centuries. But it's important that you don't abuse that."

Elsewhere, NDP leader Andrea Horwath found it "unacceptable" for the premier to be "playing a bit of guessing game with the public in terms of his intentions." Horwath, who spoke before the announcement, said provincial politicians should be working at dealing with the economy, lost jobs, hospital funding problems and the effects of the harmonized sales tax.

Conservative leader Tim Hudak also called prorogation an attempt to "avoid facing questions" in the legislature. "We all saw what happened last session -- a government battered and adrift, a government that is increasing taxes, that had been involved in a huge eHealth boondoggle."

Strangely enough, Hudak's party will actually benefit from prorogation. In December, Tory MPPs Randy Hillier and Bill Murdoch were banned from the legislative chamber. With a new legislative session, they will be able to reclaim their Queen's Park seats.

McGuinty said the brevity of the break will ensure none of the government's legislation is lost.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Drones and the Law

This is one of the rather rare articles that actually considers the status of drone attacks under International Law. Most discussion seems to ignore the issue and concentrate upon the question of whether they are useful or counterproductive. This article argues that the main arguments for their legitimacy under international law do not stand up to critical investigation.

Drones and the law[Translate]

Dawn By Rafia Zakaria 27 January 2010

Supporters of the Labour Party rally against the United States and condemned drone attacks on militants in tribal areas along the Afghanistan border, Friday, Dec. 4, 2009 in Lahore. – Photo by AP.
In recent months, international and local attention has begun to focus on the legality of these attacks and the international instruments that control incursions by one government organisation into the territory of another.

In the United States, some of these questions have begun to arise as commentators begin to evaluate President Obama’s first year in office in relation to the promises of his campaign. In Pakistan, debates have been instigated by the attacks themselves as well as recent threats of their reach being expanded to beyond the immediate border areas and South Waziristan.

The doctrine of jus ad bellum or the right to wage war is the subject of several international treaties that together provide a legal framework that defines the parameters for lawful conflict between nations. Article 2(4) of the UN charter provides that: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

Based on the article, unless justifications are provided, drone attacks in their current form are in contravention of the UN charter and hence a violation of international law.

The most prominent justification offered by the US is that these attacks are occurring with the consent of the Pakistani government. Consent, it seems, obviates any violation of the UN charter. Specifically, Article 20 of the UN’s ‘Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts’ states: “Valid consent by a state to the commission of an act by another state precludes the wrongfulness of the act in relation to the former state to the extent that the act remains within the limits of that consent.”

Simply speaking, the argument is that since Pakistan implicitly agrees to the use of drones on its territory, it consequently precludes the possibility of complaining against any international law violations. As noted by Sean Murphy in his article on the legality of drone attacks, the problem with this justification is that it has been based almost entirely on news reports and ambiguous indications by unnamed officials.

Indeed, one Washington Post report of September 2008 states that while Pakistan “formally protests such actions as a violation of its sovereignty, the Pakistani government has generally looked the other way when the CIA conducted Predator missions or US troops respond to cross-border attacks by the Taliban”.

The consent justification also becomes problematic in the light of the actual statements that have been made by Pakistani leaders. Mere days after the report mentioning the tacit agreement with Pakistan, Gen Ashfaq Kayani stated: “There is no question of any agreement or understanding with the coalition forces whereby they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border.”

Ultimately, however, the consent argument is problematic because a covert or tacit agreement suggests the absence of a written instrument that demarcates the boundaries and instances of such incursions and the nature of those that are being consented to. The absence of such an agreement at worst makes the drone attacks a violation of international sovereignty and at best relegates them to the status of legal limbo. There is simply no stipulation of what is allowed, what area it covers and how long such incursions may occur, all crucial questions given the indefinite nature of the war on terror itself.

A second legal argument offered in justification of drone attacks is based on their status as acts of self-defence against attacks by non-state actors. Article 51 of the UN charter allows such actions provided that the military force used is necessary to achieve a defensive purpose and does not cause a disproportionate loss of civilian lives and property. Furthermore, it is necessary also that the non-state actors whose actions have motivated the defensive action are actually in control of the state.

In the present case, this argument would be based on the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks — was arrested in Pakistan and is accused of having planned the attacks there. The obvious problem, however, is that there is no proof whatsoever that the non-state group in question, Al Qaeda, is under the control of the Pakistani government.

Furthermore, if the argument for self-defence is based on the fact that the Taliban are conducting raids against allied and US forces from across the border in Pakistan, it runs into a different problem. If the drone attacks are seen as motivated by the ‘hot pursuit’ doctrine through which they are actually pursuing Al Qaeda operatives who have attempted to escape across the Afghan border, then they must be connected to specific operations.

Instead, it is common knowledge based on statements made by various US defence and military officials that the drones are actually launched in response to intelligence gathered from reconnaissance also conducted through drone aircraft, making the hot pursuit doctrine inapplicable in this situation.

While there has been much anger and public outcry against the drone attacks in Pakistan, there have been few attempts to present objections to international forums where the violations of international instruments can be noted. Commentators in the Pakistani media have focused exclusively on the utility of these attacks in killing foreign fighters rather than their legality. The problem with the former approach is that it evaluates the attacks from the angle of political and tactical considerations at the expense of the legal.

Given the increasing frequency of drone attacks in Pakistan, as well as the likelihood of the expansion of the programme, it is imperative that human rights and civil society groups in Pakistan unite in protesting the illegality of the attacks and attempt to garner the support of the international community against them.

The writer is an attorney and director at Amnesty International, US.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ottawa appeals injection site ruling.

One would think that the Conservatives would be in favor of provincial rights. Also, health care insurance plans are under provincial jurisdiction rather than federal. The real reason that the government is appealing is because they want to do everything possible to stop the sites because the Harper government simply opposes them on principle. Even so, it will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court has to say. The last provincial ruling even imposed the costs on the government that is the taxpayer!

Ottawa to appeal injection site ruling
CBC News
The federal government is asking the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal a lower court ruling that sanctioned Vancouver's supervised drug injection site.

The case has raised important questions about the division of powers among federal and provincial governments that need answers, said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson on Parliament Hill Tuesday.

"The case we’ll be presenting before the court is to ask for clarification," he said. "I think it is important to do that."

Nicholson pointed out that there was a dissenting opinion in the lower court ruling. "I think it is appropriate for me to seek leave to appeal," he said.

The minister agreed that drug addicts need assistance, pointing out that the federal government's anti-drug strategy is aimed at prevention, and treatment for addicts.

The B.C. Appeal Court ruled Jan. 15 that provinces, not the federal government, have jurisdiction for health care, which includes services such as supervised injection sites for addicts of illegal street drugs.

The January decision upheld a lower court ruling, but the federal government is appealing on the basis that there was one dissenting opinion in the B.C. Court of Appeal ruling.

The Conservative government's decision to launch an appeal is certain to disappoint proponents of the facility who had hoped that more injection sites could open in other cities.

Mark Townsend, executive director of Portland Health Society, which runs Vancouver's Insite facility said, "The courts have now ruled twice in favour of Insite. Last time, they thought the feds were so out of line they made them pay all the costs.

"We wish [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper would stop wasting court time and the taxpayers' money and start helping to solve the drug problem in our community," he said in statement released Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ottawa cuts funding to First Nations University

This is sad news. There is not that much detail as to why such drastic steps have been taken. One would think that the government and First Nations represenatives could have met to iron out the problem and create a new board with more financial accountability. Perhaps the budget should be part of the University of Regina budget. At Brandon University where I taught the Native Studies department had an extensive range of classes and outreach programs but the budget was part of the general university budget and was vetted in the same way as any other department.

Ottawa cuts funding to First Nations University
CBC News

The federal government has decided to cut funding to First Nations University of Canada.

Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Chuck Strahl announced Monday that the department will not continue with about $7 million in annual funding to the university, which has its main campus in Regina, starting in the new fiscal year, April 1.

The cut is being made because FNUC has failed to make progress on "long-standing, systemic problems related to governance and financial management," Strahl said in a news release.

"We need to be accountable and transparent to all Canadians, including First Nations," Strahl said.

The move to cut funding follows a similar decision made by the Saskatchewan government last week.

Saskatchewan Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris said Wednesday the province's $5.2 million annual grant would not continue past April 1.

For the province, the final straw was a late report dealing with how the university would reform its board of governors.

For years, critics have argued that FNUC's board was too large and gave too much power to First Nations chiefs and other politicians.

Norris said there were also questions of financial accountability.

An internal report obtained by CBC News alleged $265,000 in staff vacation pay was paid out as cash and raised concerns about business trips to Las Vegas, Hawaii and Montreal at a time when the university was struggling financially.

With the federal Indian Affairs and provincial grants eliminated, FNUC has lost about half its revenue.

Academics, students shocked
Many people in the academic community said they were shocked.

"It's very, very disappointing," said Penny Stewart, the president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. "It's a very short-sighted move."

The latest move also stunned students, who are worried about whether or not they will be able to finish their studies.

"It's just a slap in the face to me," Indian fine arts student Adam Martin said, adding that senior administrators deserve much of the blame for what has happened.

"It's just the greatest shame they could allow this to happen."

After the province cut funding last week, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the organization that controls FNUC, dissolved the board of governors and put a number of senior administrators on leave.

FSIN was hoping the government would change its mind about the cuts or, failing that, that Ottawa would backfill the lost provincial money. What happens next is a matter of intense discussion around campus. Many people think the University of Regina, which neighbours FNUC's main campus and issues degrees on its behalf, will take a larger role.

But Jo-Ann Episkenew, an associate professor of English at FNUC, expressed skepticism that the U of R will be able to duplicate the aboriginal-themed courses currently being offered.

"Will they be hiring all our faculty?" she asked.

About 900 students attend FNUC at its main campus in Regina and satellite campuses in Saskatoon and Prince Albert, the federal government said.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

In Ontario child care cut hits poor and results in job losses

This is taking place under a Liberal provincial government. This is just the tip of the iceberg. No doubt federally as well cuts to various safety net programs will be coming thick and fast as moves are made to reduce the deficits on the backs of the most vulnerable and least powerful.

This is from voiceoftoronto.

Ontario child care cut hits poor kids, results in 6,400 job losses
A pending $63.5 million cut to Ontario’s child care programs would eliminate thousands of jobs and leave 7,600 children from low income families without child care.

The Centre for Spatial Economics crunched the numbers on the impact of the provincial government eliminating $63.5 million that supports child care fee subsidies for single and low-income parents. The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC) who commissioned the study is tabling it at the province’s budget hearings today and will be available for comment at 10:30 a.m. outside Rm. 151, Queen’s Park.

“The report shows there’s a lot more at stake than lost child care spaces,” says OCBCC Coordinator Andrea Calver. “A $63.5 million cut to subsidized child care would result in a $148.3 million drop in Ontario’s GDP through job losses and increased demand for welfare. The losses far outweigh Ontario’s contribution for child care subsidies that are a lifeline for vulnerable children and their families.”

The study shows $63.5 million in child care cuts would result in:

- The disappearance of 7,600 subsidized child care spaces for children
from low-income families
- The elimination of 1,800 child care jobs and another 1,100 jobs in
the related economy
- Another 3,480 jobs vacated as parents are forced to leave work
because they have no other child care options;
- Growing welfare rolls as out-of-work parents turn to social
“The future is now,” says Rosemary White, Executive Director of Bond Child and Family Development Centre in Toronto. Her program provides care and intervention services for children with autism and other special needs and children from low income and refugee families. “We have a long waiting list of families who need support yet 39% of our spaces are vacant because of the subsidy freeze. Another cut and our program will close by September,” she predicts.

The OCBCC is urging the Ontario government to front end the child care savings that will be realized from full day learning. The province has calculated a $119-million savings in public child care costs as four and five year olds move into full day, school-operated programs. This money should be advanced to stabilize affected child care programs and expand learning

Saturday, February 6, 2010

RCMP complaints to be independently probed.

This is a step in the right direction. Provinces need to ensure that each has its own oversight group. I gather that not all have at this stage but I could be wrong. I wonder how many of these investigations have any public hearings so that the public can see what is going on?

RCMP complaints to get independent probes
CBC News
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott pledges independent investigation of the force's members whenever possible. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)
The RCMP will bring in independent agencies to investigate, whenever possible, if a member of its own force has been accused of serious offences, the RCMP commissioner said.

"I believe that the RCMP has in the past conducted impartial and thorough investigations of our members. This has been validated time and time again by the commission for public complaints against the RCMP, " William Elliott said on Thursday as he announced the new policy.

"However, I’m convinced that we collectively need to raise the bar in terms of how we respond to situations where life is lost, serious injuries sustained, or sensitive matters of public confidence and trust are raised."

Elliott acknowledged that the policy does not eliminate the possibility that the RCMP could investigate itself or address the broader subject of the police investigating the police.

"But it does incorporate in policy what we have been saying, what I have been saying is the RCMP is in favour of independent investigations," he said. "And wherever possible that is what we will look to."

In cases where the RCMP has been involved in the serious injury or death of an individual, or if an RCMP employee is suspected of contravening the criminal code, the investigation will be referred to a provincially or federally established independent agency, Elliott said.

If that type of agency isn't available, an external law enforcement agency will be requested. In other cases, the RCMP may bring in officers from a different province than the one in which the incident occurred.

In cases where there is no choice but for the RCMP to investigate itself, cases would be assigned to a two-member team who will be screened for any possible conflicts of interest, Elliott said.

The rank of the primary investigator, whenever possible, would be higher than the subject being investigated, he said.

Elliott said the new policy standardizes some practices that are fairly common by making them a mandatory requirement.

"The best solution is to take those investigations out of the hands of the police, as has been done in Ontario, but unless and until governments take the step to do that, we have to do the best we can with the tools available to us."

"We see this as an interim and partial solution. It is not a complete solution and we don't pretend that it is."

Paul Kennedy, former chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, said the initiatives are a "significant good gesture" but that there's more to do.

"It still leaves a variety of responses across the country, some of which will fall short, I think, of what public expectations are."

Kennedy said that many of the provinces don't have a regime in place that the RCMP can look to, meaning they will be looking to another police force to take over the investigations or they will have to do it themselves

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Rex Murphy on Danny William's Heart Surgery in the US

There are some facts after all that it might have helped Murphy make a less clueless commentary.

1) Williams chose to have his surgery in the US rather than Canada.
2) There is no evidence that he could not have had the surgery in Canada outside of Newfoundland and Labrador.
3) The issue is political after all as Murphy himself shows in his article. It has been commented on by US talk shows such as Ó'"Reilly. Williams is premier of NL and as such where he gets his health care is an issue..
4) His choice reflects badly on the Canadian Health Care System.
5) In effect he probably did jump a queue. He might have had to wait in Canada if he had chosen to have the operation here. Hence, he may very well have gone to the US to avoid the wait.
6) I assume Williams is paying himself for the operation although this is not entirely clear. So only those with funds are able to avoid queues and able to go to the US. Ordinary Canadians would not have this privilege or freedom as it is called!

These are some of the facts that Murphy might have considered. As for our having no right to the facts I do not understand why not. I want to know if Canada is paying for this surgery. I want to know why he could not get the operation done in Canada. I want to know why Williams chose to go to the US and reflect discredit on our health system. Finally I want t0 know why CBC continues to air the fatuous rhetorical flatulence of Murphy.

Rex Murphy: The private life of Danny Williams
Rex Murphy
The following is a transcript of Rex Murphy's Point of View commentary from the Feb. 4 broadcast of The National on CBC Television.

Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland, had or is having major heart surgery in the United States.

I'm sure everyone wishes him and his family the very best with the operation.

His going to the U.S. has stirred a great volume of controversy and comment -- almost as much, by informal measurement, as the prorogation of Parliament. Both here and in the U.S. Heavens, it's even been brought up in that Shangri-La of Socratic disinterest, FOX News' Bill O'Reilly show.
Not surprising, many might say. Danny Williams is a lightening rod of his own construction. He's aggressive, combative, partisan -- and back home, largely without any real opposition. My own personal take on him, for what its worth, is that I admire the ferocity of his feelings for Newfoundland while I sometimes deplore the bullying and bluster it occasionally leads to.

But I see it as more than awkward that his surgery, and his choice -- perhaps on the advice of his Newfoundland doctors -- of where to have it, has become the great political football that it has. I've never been a fan of that wretched slogan "the personal is political" for the very obvious reason it demolishes the barrier that should -- must -- exist between our genuine private lives and the wide-open, reckless and supercharged arena of politics.

It's his heart, it's his surgery, and it's his choice. Danny Williams, Premier or no Premier, and his family are the only ones at this point who have any real say about where he chooses to have life-threatening surgery. Further, as most commentary admits, the actual facts upon which he made his choice, and the counsel he has received from his Newfoundland doctors is not known to us -- nor, by the way, should it. So the river of commentary, both here and in the states, is taking place in a vacuum of fact.

A larger reason for refusing to politicize the moment however is a simple one: It parallels Trudeau's dictum that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Likewise, politics should stop at the edge of the operating table. It's his life and it's his business.

He hasn't, using his standing as Premier, jumped some queue, lined up an MRI by cutting off someone less connected, hasn't displaced some other Newfoundlander waiting for surgery. Something like that would make a genuine case for debate of condemnation.

So -- the decent civil course would be to wait till the operation's done, wish him the best, wait for his recuperation -and if then, he wants to unfold his personal circumstances, and offer some thoughts on the "politics" of his choice, we can all hear him out.

But for now, leave him be. Politics, as I've said, should stop when the man in the white coat is reaching for the scalpel.

For The National, I'm Rex Murphy.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Boss! I want to prorogue too!

I thought of this as well and wondered is someone would post something along this line! Obviously parliament is not an essential service since we can function quite well without it being in session and it can even prorogue when it is necessary to terminate bothersome committees and pack the senate with Conservatives. This is from midnorthmonitor.

But boss, I want to prorogue too! But boss, I want to prorogue too!
Posted By Rosalind Raby

Just over a week ago, Canadians gathered in several communities, including Sudbury, outside government buildings to protest the prorogation or suspension of the Canadian Parliament until March 3rd,.

On Dec 30th, Prime Minister Harper used the procedural maneuver to close the Senate and House of Commons until after the Vancouver Olympics in the midst of an allegation of torture of innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

In addition to this, 37 bills that were being debated in Parliament have now been suspended. Discussion on bills will need to start from scratch in March, wasting time and hard work invested by ALL parties.

Bills affected by prorogue include new crime legislation, limits on credit card insurance rates and more.

I wonder what would happen if I prorogued the newspaper for a couple of months? Or the police, fire or health services prorogued their jobs? Let's be blunt here - the Mid-North Monitor would likely have to close its doors, people would be fired and the public would not tolerate a loss in vital services, such as police, fire or health. So, how is that members of Parliament get to take this time off from their jobs with no wherewithal or thank you very much? I think it is absolutely ridiculous, especially when bills that MPs have been working on for months, let alone years, are scrapped because of this 'extended' holiday. Not a good move, Mr. Harper.

If it proves anything, it proves the public sector of government workers, we like to call them bureaucrats, are the ones that 'really' keep things going in this country. Do we really need elected officials? Why bother having elections, the wheels of government continue grinding as it is ... it's just a thought?

On Tuesday, January 23 an estimated 30,000 protesters gathered in over 60 communities across Canada to protest the suspension of Parliament. Many participants joined the movement through a Facebook group named 'Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament,' which now claims over 200 000 members.

While proroguing Parliament is legal and often innocuous, the disruptive nature of this interruption to the workings of the Canadian government has galvanized action with the 15-point lead Harper held over the opposition Liberals diminishing according to an EKOS poll released exclusively to the CBC. Further national and local protests are expected in the coming weeks including a torch relay planned to coincide with the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The new forum site, was created on the day of the national demonstrations.

In addition to providing a platform for sharing and preserving records of the January 23rd protests, the forums will give participants an opportunity to organize further events, discuss their concerns about governance and to educate the public.

Now isn't that interesting - Canadians working to bring back government because their government isn't working? To be fair, some MPs are taking advantage of the time off in Ottawa to travel through their constituencies and deal with the myriad of issues affecting individuals and groups. glad hand with the public and attend various winter events. But, I'd rather see them in Ottawa dealing with some hard, government issues, such as the recession, support for Haiti, job creation and so much more.

Rosalind Raby

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

McParland: Ignatieff heads down same path as Dion.

A sense a strong anti-Liberal bias in this article but nevertheless McParland has a point. So far Ignatieff has not had much to say about what his policies will be. At least his statements about child care are a beginning. Perhaps McParland reads too much into what Ignatieff says. Ignatieff may not make the issue into his main focus as Dion did with the Green Shift. What Ignatieff fails to do is to put any price tag on his policies and in a time of increasing deficits this will surely be important to voters. This is from the National Post.

Kelly McParland: Ignatieff heads down same path as Dion

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff pledged that he would spend the days before Parliament resumes announcing Liberal policies and making clear where the party stands on the issues of the day.

It's never too late to tell voters what you believe in, even if Mr. Ignatieff has waited a curiously long time since taking over the leadership a year ago. Even with his activities this week he's still being economical on detail: His latest proposals have been vague at best, perhaps because the party is planning a brainstorming session in Montreal next month and doesn't want to spoil the show.

Nonetheless, on Monday Mr. Ignatieff declared that a national childcare system would be the No. 1 social item on the agenda of a Liberal government, even if he doesn't know how he'll pay for it.

"We will find the money, because it seems to me an excellent investment," Ignatieff pledged. "I am not going to allow the deficit discussion to shut down discussion in this country about social justice."

It's difficult to argue against daycare, since few people feel that absence of care is desireable. The devil is in the detail, and of course we're not getting much of that from the Liberals. Mr. Ignatieff doesn't do much to alleviate that problem by offering statements he may feel are self-evident in their worth, but which hint at a worryingly shallow set of presumptions.

"It's also the best anti-poverty program. I want every single child in Canada to have the opportunity to get a square meal when they come to daycare; to get loving care and tender care," Mr. Ignatieff said. "A lot of children in our country, we don't like to admit it, start in very turbulent difficult environment at home. The great thing about these programs is they give kids an equal start."

Well. So what's that tell us? That to ensure every child in Canada has an opportunity at a loving and tender environment, we should get them away from their parents at the earliest opportunity and enrol them in a state-backed institution? Forgive me if I have trouble with that notion. There is no question that too many Canadian children suffer difficult home lives; but you don't solve that by imposing a sweeping national program that gets children away from their parents at the earliest opportunity, loving or othwerwise.

Perhaps Mr. Ignatieff isn't talking about all children. Perhaps he's just talking about underprivileged children, or those from troubled homes. It's impossible to tell from his limited signals. If so, just what criteria will be used to weed out the children from bad homes, but not good homes? Will it be based on income, or parental performance? How will you induce wealthy, unsatisfactory parents to send their children to government daycare?

Trying to solve problems like that -- to fine-tune a large, national program so it helps the people you want without turning into an expensive subsidy for many more who don't -- is the problem with the kind of big splashy schemes the Liberals embrace. Mr. Ignatieff appears to be headed down the same wrong-way street travelled by his predecessor, Stephane Dion. Rather than deal with the issues Canadians say are at the top of their agenda, Liberal leaders prefer to identify a national ill and pledge their unshakeable determination to eradicate it.

For Mr. Dion it was the environment. Nothing in Mr. Dion's universe was a greater priority than the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and he devised an aggressive plan to deal with it. The Green Shift involved wholesale changes to tax laws and the rearrangement of national financial flows, with extensive potential disruption to the daily lives of ordinary Canadians. Mr. Dion was fine with that, because he figured voters shared his sense of the crisis we were facing.

Unfortunately for his party, he was wrong on that. Canadians cared more about the usual issues -- health, the economy, security. So Mr. Dion lost his job and was replaced by Mr. Ignatieff, who has decided that daycare, not gas emissions, is the crisis du jour, and must be "solved" at any cost.

Perhaps Mr. Ignatieff should pause to reflect. Most Canadian children come from caring homes run by loving parents. They don't need crisis intervention sponsored by the Liberal party. The Liberals have been down this path before, several times, having apparently convinced themselves Canadians are clamouring to have the burden of raising children off their hands. The failure of voters to take them up on the offer should have provided all the evidence necessary that most Canadians don't share their bias in favour of institutional care, nor do they need their priorities defined for them.

Mr. Ignatieff has insisted on his determination to listen to Canadians. So far he appears only to have picked up the same old Liberal preoccupation with intrusive government.

National Post

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

NDP looking to broaden base

Political parties it seems are not about policies but policies are bait so that more voters can be caught. The CCF, the precursor of the NDP, was about policies and educating the public about those policies. Sometimes votes went down as people rejected the policies but many party leaders still had faith that in the longer term people would vote for them. The CCF and now the NDP have gone further and further to the right but federally at least they do little if any better than in the times when J.S. Woodsworth ran on a true democratic socialist program. Now the NDP seems to be following the pattern of the UK labour party and the so-called third way in order to get more votes. Of course it makes sense to compromise when it can bring a party to power but nowadays it is not about compromise but about adopting whatever policies are best to gain power.

The Canadian Press NDP sees no election until next year, targets ethnic communities, seniors

OTTAWA - The federal New Democrats say they don't expect an election this year, and plan to use the coming months to mine new votes from ethnic groups, seniors and small business.

At a key three-day meeting of 150 members of the party's federal council in Ottawa on the weekend, the NDP brain trust concluded the Liberals have not had enough of a bump in the polls lately to be spoiling for an election.

Last week, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said he had no interest in an election this spring. And after talking to people close to the Liberals, the NDP believes they'd rather wait until 2011 to push another vote.

Brad Lavigne, the NDP's national director, says the party will remain election-ready, but in the meantime party strategists are targeting new areas for potential votes: ethnic communities, seniors and small-business owners.

Traditionally the NDP has relied on young people, women and union households for its core support.

But polling numbers have plateaued for the party over the last year, and now strategists are setting their sights on other parties' strongholds.

"We've got a bit of time. What are we going to do with it? ... We're going to be looking at that time to build," Lavigne said.

Ethnic communities are usually considered Liberal turf, but both the NDP and the Tories see that constituency as fertile ground for votes.

Seniors are a prized community for any party, since they usually come out in droves on voting day. And the NDP believes its messaging on pension protection and the environment will lure them to vote New Democrat.

Small businesses are also considered to be of good voting potential because of the NDP's strong stand against the Harmonized Sales Tax in British Columbia and Ontario.

Party president Peggy Nash is chairing three task forces that will put together strategies for delving into each new voter base.

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