Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Secret gov. study backs $50 carbon tax

A secret report to "Canada's New Government" from a "world renowned energy economist" (quote from Green Party website) has concluded that a $50 carbon tax would in fact lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and have an insignificant effect on Canada's economy—contrary to what Prime Minister Harper would have you believe.

(see the Green Party press release)

While there has been no commentary yet by Harper or Environment Minister John Baird (at least to my knowledge), I am not even certain that they could start fighting the findings of this study. Thanks to this study, Canadians can now know the truth—the truth about a carbon tax; and the truth about this government.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Very soon, C.N.G. (Canada's New Government) must implement Kyoto

Do you still remember that private members' bill by Pablo Rodriguez to legally force the government to implement Kyoto? Well, it is poised to pass the Senate today, making it law for "Canada's New Government", along with succeeding governments, to meet the Kyoto targets.

Harper's government said it would not be in the interest of the country to implement Kyoto, and is willing to go to court about it (Steve sure likes going to court). So while it is a toss-up whether this bill means anything or not, it is still an achievement for Canada to have such legislation passed, and I applaud Mr. Rodriguez for drafting this bill.

But if this does go to court, it might very well bring out the less-Canada oriented side of "Canada's New Government".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Jack made no wrong at "private clinic"

You may have heard the critisizm of Jack Layton that he went to a private clinic for a hernia operation. But according to the article below, he in fact made no wrong (meaning not abandoning the public system) by doing so:

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton has a legitimate beef with Dr. Brian Day, the new head of the Canadian Medical Association.
Day is calling Layton a hypocrite for having a hernia repaired at a private clinic while denouncing private health care in the political arena.
He is referring to the Shouldice Clinic, a specialty operation north of Toronto where doctors perform nothing but hernia repairs.
Day is right insofar as the clinic is privately owned, but Jack didn't pay much out of his own pocket. The Shouldice has been in operation since 1945 and was grandfathered into the national health plan when medicare was introduced.
Thus, Ontario patients have the procedure paid for by their provincial health-care plans. Other provinces reimburse patients at a level equivalent to their own fee schedules.
Thus, Layton's hernia repair involved no hypocrisy because the public system paid for it. This is the kind of health-care model Day says he supports.
It seems odd that he would attack a politician for using it.


        - Randy Burton, The Saskatoon Star Phoenix, June 19, 2007

Friday, June 15, 2007

Commons Environment committee crashes

Yesterday, another House of Commons committee crashed thanks to, yet again, the Conservative chairperson.

This marks the second time a House of Commons committee has been shut down since the leak of the handbook for Conservative chairs to shut down committees. This 200-page handbook also outlines how to control witnesses for the benefit of the Conservatives. (Yet another undemocratic habit of the Conservatives.)

It is completely unacceptable for the government to be orchestrating a Commons committee's 'malfunction', especially when it has such important work to do (for the environment), which includes hearing witnesses.

Well, in the next election, the Conservatives are going to have a lot of explaining to do to sort this all out to the public (especially MP Bob Mills, who was the chairperson who literally walked out from the committee). As was shown in a recent Decima poll, the Conservatives are lagging behind the Liberals; their support is slipping.

I doubt there is any Canadian who truly believes that it is acceptable for a government to interfere with democracy. The Conservatives are going to lose support for doing this; and since, according to a poll released ealier this week, the majority of Canadians don't want Stéphane Dion to be prime minister, there is a great opportunity here for the NDP in the next election.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Great Hill Times Poll (it's a different type of poll)

The Hill Times (a popular weekly Canadian politics newspaper) has now published it's annual survey of MPs. Who and about what did they survey? They surveyed political staffers, MPs and interns (for a total of 102 people) on everything from who's the "hippest" MP to the "Biggest Gossip":

Sexiest Male: Peter MacKay (Conservative)
Sexiest Female: Ruby Dhalla (Liberal)
Best Dressed Male: Scott Brison (Liberal)
Worst Dressed Male: Myron Thompson (Conservative)
Best Dressed Female: Belinda Stronach (Liberal)
Worst Dressed Female: Sylvie Boucher (Conservative)
Best Sense of Humour: Peter Stoffer (NDP)
Worst Sense of Humour: Stephen Harper (Conservative)
Best House Orator: Stephen Harper (Conservative)
Best Speeches Outside the House: Michael Ignatieff (Liberal)
Most Discreet: Paul Martin (Liberal)
Biggest Gossip: Belinda Stronach (Liberal)
Hardest Working: Ralph Goodale (Liberal)
Hippest: Rahim Jaffer (Conservative)
Best Hair, Male: Pablo Rodriguez (Liberal)
Best Hair, Female: Helena Guergis (Conservative)

To see the profiles and pictures of these MPs yourself, go to the list of current MPs.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Medicare Part 4: We can afford a better system

For the last part in my medicare series, I want to focus on how we need to make our current system work. The reason that we are having so many problems with wait-lists, hospitals closing down and doctors moving to more urban centres is because we are not properly funding the system. Essentially, we are starving our hero and wondering why he doesn't make as much of a difference as he should. Without an adequately funded health system, it is obvious that it won't work to the degree that we'd like it to.

1. We can spend more on health
Many anti-medicare groups say that Canada can't afford to spend more on our medicare system, or else we'll have serious financial troubles. What they don't see, however, is that a private system would in fact cost more; the only difference is that it will cost Canadians more and the government a lot less. No matter if we have a public, private or a two-tiered system, it will still cost people money, if not by taxes, then it will cost more by hospital bills.

A private system would only serve to add profits to healthcare. We would be paying more (for those who could afford it) and only getting slightly better service. However, if we instead put some more money into our public system, we would have less wait times, more hospitals and better care for all Canadians. Obviously the latter is much more in the interest of the public.

2. Isn't health worth the cost?
Canada spends so much money on the military and corporate tax breaks, yet the anti-medicare advocates (often the same people who support big spending on the military and corporate tax breaks) say that we don't have the money to sustain a good public health system, therefore we should dismantle it and institute a private, for-profit system.

Health is one of the most basic components of life; it can't be put behind corporate tax cuts and the military. We are talking about providing healthcare to all Canadians, we can't just limit that to those who can pay.

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As I have shown in the past four posts on medicare, we cannot continue on the track that we are on now. We desperately need to expand our public health system so that people can get care faster and be able to receive the necessary drugs in order to get healthy (pharmacare). Too many Canadian provincial governments—and the federal government—are simply ignoring the issue of health, and trying to give the responsibility to the private sector. We need to show these governments that health needs to be a much bigger priority for their governments. Without it, all too many Canadians will simply be 'turned down' for health.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Why can't Sask. MPs do the same?

As we all know by now, Bill Casey, a Nova Scotia MP (who at the time of the vote was a Conservative MP), defied his government by voting against its 2007 budget. By doing so, he was kicked out of the Conservative caucus.

Here in Saskatchewan, there has been a lot of talk about why the Saskatchewan Conservative MPs also didn't dare to vote against the budget, seeing that many—if not most people (including some members of the media)—people here are upset that Stephen Harper broke his promise to Saskatchewan. While people (particularly the provincial NDP government) have been talking about that for quite some time, this debate has very recently got to be more interesting: If a Nova Scotia Conservative MP can put his province first, why can't a Saskatchewan Conservative MP do the same?

Saskatchewan Conservative MPs have clearly shown a lack of leadership; MPs are supposed to put their constituents before their party, just as Mr. Casey did for Nova Scotia (and it did pay off for him; many news articles, such as in The Star Phoenix, have said that Mr. Casey has had an even greater popularity boost for doing what he did). It has clearly been shown that the people have Saskatchewan are upset that the federal government has broke a promise, and they are also upset that their elected representatives are not standing on their side.

Already, the polls have shown that the Conservatives have been having some problems in Saskatchewan (particularly with the Wheat Board). With this issue added on, I think these MPs are going to have a lot of explaining to do if they are to get any decent portion of the vote in the next election.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Medicare Part 3: Extending the system to cover health

Going back to the medicare series, I will be talking about two crucial elements for the next generation of strong medicare: home-care and pharmacare. The reason we needs these two more elements is simple: health doesn't just include a trip to the doctor or hospital. Health means taking medication to get better, and having medical and domestic help while resting at your own home.

1. Pharmacare
While "Canada's New Government" has been trying to pretend that the concept doesn't exist, the NDP has lately been raising the issue of a national drug plan (which Manitoba already has a version of) so everyone has access to the proper medication.

Obviously, Canada has had our "medicare" system for quite some time, and we've been proud of it. We have been saying that everyone has access to the proper treatment, and thus we are all a bunch of health Canadians. However, while our system does provide access to see a doctor, or even get surgery, etc., our system still doesn't guarantee the access to prescription drugs. For many, if not most, somewhat major health problems, a free surgery won't do the trick without having the proper medication after the hospital visit.

The above means that we need to have a national pharmacare plan soon. Without it, people still won't have the proper treatment. Without it, we can't at all claim that everyone has access to health, when drugs are one of the most common ways of treating a health problem.

As a quick side note, I would also like to provide the cost of a pharmacare system, as told by Joel Lexchin. He says that currently Canadians spend about $20 billion every year on drugs. A pharmacare plan, thanks to bulk buying, price negotiations, etc. would only cost $7-8 billion, and everyone would be covered!

2. Home-care
Once again, I will start off with information that I learned at the conference. From what I understand, our current system only provides home-care, to people who need it, for two weeks. While in many (not most, though) circumstances that would be enough to 'rehabilitate' the patient medically, that person still may not be able to do many things on their own: shopping, picking up medications, going to the doctor, taking a bath, etc.

So in those circumstances, when the patient does not have adequate insurance to pay for home-care, the only people remaining to help are family members. In Canada, there are only approximately 50,000 home-care workers, however, there are 3 million family members who help—on average—ten hours a week (many insurance plans don't even pay for ten hours a week of home-care).

As you can see, there are problems pertaining to the current home-care system. Home-care should be just something for people who can afford it, or who have hard-working, willing family members; home-care is something that is a right, just like a visit to a doctor is currently a right in Canada. Too many people need assistance at home with, in addition to medical help, help with basic day-to-day items which most of us take for granted the ability to do them independently.

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So as I have shown, we in fact currently do not have a full service, 'health-to-all' medicare system. Until everyone has access to both drugs and home-care, there will still be people who are not receiving the care/treatment that they need in order to be healthy. And in Canada, health is supposed to be a right. Let's actually act by our principles.