Wednesday Night #1381
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // August 20, 2008 // Alexandra T. Greenhill, Arctic and Antarctic, Canada, Cleo Paskal, Contributors, David/Terry Jones, Economy, Environment & Energy, Geopolitics, Government & Governance, Health & Health care, Herb Bercovitz, Mark Roper, Olympics, Politics, Reports, Wednesday Nights, West Wing (WWWN) // 9 Comments
PLEASE see the Issues page on the candidate’s website
One local topic we would like to bring up is what Anne believes the federal MP’s role should be with respect to lobbying on behalf of the City of Montreal and regional development. We are impressed with Mr. Layton’s pledge of $591 million for our transit system but as we are sadly aware, Quebec jealously guards its municipal affairs file.
Last week coincided with the 5th iteration of our young Vancouver sibling, West Wing of Wednesday Night and this week its presiding spirit, Alexandra Tcheremenska-Greenhill will be in town and joining us. It has been far too long since we have seen her and we are all looking forward to hearing her news, along with that of her monthly Wednesday Nights. We are struck by the very different issues addressed in our respective salons and are hoping she will be able to tell us whether this is merely the East-West divide, or something less Canadian.
Alexandra will bring as her guest Dr.Albert Schumacher, past president of the OMA and CMA and Director of the Schumacher Leadership Institute. Dr. Schumacher is a nationally recognized leader in health care advocacy and public health protection and promotion and, according to Alex, “a great speaker/debater”. We can look forward to an interesting discussion on public/private healthcare, especially as the NDP has identified healthcare as a major platform issue.
Celebrating the return of at least one of our OWN economists, we must put the questions of the economy front and center. While the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ABCP decision is coming down on Monday, in plenty of time for disscussion on Wednesday, Terry Jones forwarded this item to us to make sure that we aren’t overly cheerful: Read and weep – or at least sniffle.
How Did Canada Get Into This Mess?
Canada is now in a very rough spot, much rougher than expected earlier this year. It now appears Canada’s growth in 2008 will be significantly weaker than that in the United States as well as most other G-7 countries.
The Jones family seems determined to keep us on our toes, as David forwarded his piece on Canada’s [in his view dubious] claim to the Northwest Passage. Meanwhile from Cleo Paskal comes a companion piece to David Jones’ article: Russia leads scramble for Arctic.
Question for the candidate: How do you respond to the mantra that Canada cannot afford the environmental policies of the NDP, (or for that matter Liberals or Green Party)?
Will Barack Obama have announced his choice for Vice President by Wednesday Night? Trial balloons -or just rumors - have been launched with the enthusaism (but sadly, not as colorful) of the Corel hot air balloons.
The Beijing Olympics have passed the half-way mark and, while not taking away from Mark Phelps’ extraordinary performance, we admit to being more thrilled by some of the surprise medallists from smaller countries. As always, the developed world and other populous countries count medals and are loudly upset when they lag in medal count. That’s why it is such a delight to see the aptly-named Jamaican, Usain Bolt win the 100m dash. WOW! Still, we also are very happy that Canada has ended the medal drought and done so well over the weekend.
It was indeed a star-studded evening. Even more so than expected, with the arrival of Anne Lagacé Dowson’s special guest, Jack Layton.
The NDP in Westmount-Ville-Marie and in Canada
Introducing Jack Layton, Peter Trent reminded us that the Layton family have been influential figures in Montreal for four generations, and Jack elaborated recounting the story of his great-grandfather, the founder of Layton Brothers pianos, and how he founded the Montreal Association for the Blind
In explaining her reasons for leaving her career as a successful radio host to run for the NDP, Anne cited the quasi abandonment of the foundations of Liberal thought (The Just Society, the Charter of Rights, Peacekeeping) and their support of the Harper agenda in Parliament; her children’s concerns for the environment, and her strong identification with the values of the NDP, “the party whose founders (Tommy Douglas, Frank Scott, etc.) have shaped Canada”, introduced Medicare, created the CBC, etc. It is the only political party that represents real opposition to the Conservatives. There are winds of social democratic change blowing through the Americas and indications that Canadians are ready to support parties whose agendas are more in tune with Everyman’s issues.
Opposition parties can
– raise pressure on the government to address the issues
– provoke and participate in public dialogue
– generate action in The House through standing committees, hearings
(It’s amazing how much consensus can develop around standing committee tables)
– listen and incorporate good ideas in the party platform
One criticism levelled at the NDP is that it is the party of the unions, while many people believe that unions are part of the problem, not the solution, particularly in the public sector. Today, the relationship has changed. The NDP does not receive any funding from unions; donations are limited to $1100 and come from individuals. Workers should have the right to organize, and workplace health and safety will always be issues, but today things are changing with unions becoming more flexible, rethinking their positions with regard to industrial strategy and green business (i.e. the alliance in the U.S. between the steelworkers and the Sierra Club)
Star-studded evenings have their drawbacks, however. Wednesday Night prides itself on the range, expertise and quality of its participants, many of whom do not have the same opportunities to intervene with their wisdom when ‘stars’ dominate the evening’s discussion. Tonight’s discussion was highly focused on two topics, healthcare and the environment with a surprising degree of agreement.
The arrivals from the CMA dinner mentioned at the outset of their discussion that they were hugely disappointed (mild version) with Minister Tony Clement’s opposition to Vancouver’s supervised injection sites.
What follows is a summary of points raised. The only truly collective agreement is that the Canadian healthcare system is in trouble and provincial jurisdictions aggravate the problems.
While healthcare is a provincial jurisdiction, the concept of Medicare as a universal right must be addressed by the federal government, (perhaps by introducing a constitutional amendment recognizing overarching federal responsibility?) and the question of tax cuts must be examined in this context.
We need a national strategy to address:
– our lack of self sufficiency in medical resources (adequate training)
– how to overcome the need to export millions of dollars in healthcare to the States because treatment is not available or wait times are too lengthy in Canada
–the need to encourage and develop a Canadian biotech industry to meet Canadian healthcare needs – every piece of equipment today is made outside Canada
Healthcare costs have risen steadily over the past decade. This situation (Canadian Institute for Health Information) has prompted the CMA to look at alternatives (e.g. private as a complement to public healthcare) that would reduce the financial burden on public finances – primarily provincial and territorial -while improving the system. Public/private partnerships in other domains appear to be more efficient and less costly – should we not be talking about applying the same principles to healthcare?
There needs to be a public dialogue on such questions as whether public monies should be spent to ensure that the very latest medical technology is available to all.
The Romanow Royal Commission was a national dialogue, everyone was there – even though they may not agree with all its conclusions and recommendations (The NDP does).
The Commission addressed questions like the rising costs of pharmaceuticals, not a likely sector for public/private programmes, and recommended that Pharmacare be implemented. To alleviate the lack of hospital beds, it identified homecare as an essential service for long-term care patients.
Canada is the least efficient healthcare system of 30 OECD countries; we must understand that many of our inefficiencies stem from the size of the country and spread-out population (number one line budget item in Nunavut is jet fuel).
One of the critical issues for Quebec residents is the dearth of physicians, leading to long delays whether in emergency rooms or in obtaining consultations with specialists, tests, or surgery. While acute in Quebec, it is a common problem across the country.
Canada has always had a lack of medical resources. We need to be self-sufficient in the production of home-grown medical human resources, not just doctors, but nurses and technicians. This means adequate training. Foreign-trained doctors are not always the answer, although some 70% in B.C. are foreign-trained from countries like the U.K., India, Ireland. The situation in Quebec is, of course, more complicated because of the language laws. Our standards are higher than those in U.S. or anywhere in the world and inter-provincial mobility is a huge problem (It would be easier for me to be licensed in Ohio or Michigan than in BC or Alberta). But the root of the problem is that the provincial governments control the number of slots in medical schools, the number of residencies, the number of nurses, hospitals, ORs, etc.
It is difficult to maintain the high standards of the CMA in our medical schools and virtually impossible to ensure that those standards are met by training in OECD countries, let alone the rest of the world.
There is a suspicion that the medical associations and colleges of physicians are part of the problem, acting as guilds with the same spirit of protectiveness as their medieval predecessors.
Canada and the Arctic
Cleo Paskal, author of the soon-to-be-published (but curiously already available through Amazon.com) book “Global Warring: Environmental Change and the Looming Economic, Political and Security Crisis” , has just returned from Churchill. The presence of a Russian ship in port and another due, underline the two fundamental issues of Canada’s environmental and Arctic policy: territorial claims which will likely be resolved by UNCLOS, and sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.
In opposition to the U.S. position that the Northwest Passage is an international body of water, Canada’s position is that it is “internal waters”, a position supported by some factions in the U.S. security establishment (although disputed by Wednesday Nighter David Jones ) as the current situation with no control is dangerous to U.S. and Canadian interests. Resolution of the issue will be political and requires the support of Europe, which must be convinced that opening the Northwest Passage as an international waterway brings security risks to European ports. Professor Michael Byers, one of the leading Canadian thinkers on this issue, travelled to the Arctic with Jack Layton last summer, is an influential advisor and now Vancouver Centre NDP candidate.
[His] book, Intent for a Nation , is a brilliant read – he is relentlessly optimistic about this country, which is in fact, the subtitle of the book
We are being hit by the North American business cycle, particularly because our economy is being held up by the raw material crisis. Canada has also had severe financial crisis, in many ways inherent in allowing banks to act as merchant bankers, rather than commercial bankers. The good news is that cycles, by their nature, turn around sooner or later, whether or not we do anything. Southern Ontario’s automotive industry will not turn around – those jobs are not coming back. There must be a new strategy on green energy; we need to transform the automotive industry, protect the tool and dye industry, develop electrical, hydrogen-powered cars, wind energy. The NDP fully endorses these suggestions, believing that there are enormous possibilities for transforming the economy through changing our energy policies.