Wednesday Night #1381

We are delighted that Anne Lagacé Dowson, the NDP candidate in our by-election will be joining us this Wednesday. As all of you who have not been hibernating (what would be the summer verson of hibernating?) in the woods, absent all forms of print and telecommunications news, the race in Westmount-Ville-Marie is predicted to be hotly contested between the Liberals and NDP. We are looking forward to hearing Anne’s views on a number of subjects knowing that her extensive experience as CBC radio host has  proven her interest in both local issues and far more wide-ranging topics. Speaking of which, we urge you to view the Reports of the last two weeks on China and Russia & Georgia, each with its own experts to comment.
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)?

The geopolitical ramifications of the Russia/Georgia conflict continue to fascinate and frighten us. Although there appears to be some serious movement towards withdrawal of Russian troops, analyses indicate that the situation is fraught with  danger for other former client states –  and their allies, not to mention control of oil & gas resources. Interesting too to see the aggressive role that France has taken in peace broking. Hard to tell whether Mr. Sarkozy was thrilled with the attention-grabbing by Bernard Kouchner, never one to shrink from the limelight.
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.

The Report

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  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

The Economy

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.

9 Comments on "Wednesday Night #1381"

  1. Diana Sanderson August 17, 2008 at 8:56 pm ·

    The Canadian Medical Association is meeting this weekend, and they plan to discuss the privatization and commercialization of health care. Canadians should be very concerned this. Already across the country, the number of private clinics extra billing, user fees, and other illegal practices are growing while Health Minister Tony Clement and the Conservative government refuse to administer or enforce the Canada Health Act.
    But not all doctors want privatization. In fact, many of them want to protect, expand and improve public health care, rejecting the CMA’s push to privatize. CUPE applauds these doctors for resisting for-profit medicine, and asks you to join us in making that support clear to Minister Clement.
    Please use this form to send a message in support of public health care, and share the link with your friends, family, and networks.

  2. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 20, 2008 at 10:44 am ·

    NDP joins in battle against health care privatization
    MONTRÉAL – NDP Health Critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North) today … pledged NDP support for Québécois’ fight against privatization.
    “Protecting public health care is a priority for Québécois and it is a priority for the NDP,” said Wasylycia-Leis. “Equal access to health care is at the core of NDP policy and our track record proves we will fight to the finish for Québécois on this issue.”
    Wasylycia-Leis is in Montréal to attend the annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and to hear from NDP by-election candidates Anne Lagacé Dowson (Westmount-Ville Marie) and Richard Marois (St-Lambert) on health care concerns.
    Wasylycia-Leis cited former Québec Health Minister Philippe Couillard’s new job as a privatization strategist in the for-profit sector to underline the need for strong, committed voices in Parliament to counter the for-profit sympathizers.

  3. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 21, 2008 at 8:30 am ·

    Star-crossed CMA proposals
    DANIELLE MARTIN Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare
    The new CMA chief has the support of the entire medical community when it comes to bringing prescription drugs into medicare. When it comes to introducing profit-making into the provision of medically necessary services, it’s a different story.
    Already we have seen private, for-profit clinics select the healthy, lucrative patients, while leaving the expensive and sick for public hospitals; charging patients directly for basic care or demanding payment for non-insured services as a condition of gaining access to basic care; and increasing unnecessary procedures.
    Instead of increasing support for these private for-profit surgical and diagnostic facilities, we need to improve capacity within our public system – which the international evidence demonstrates provides greater efficiency, quality and equity than private for-profit care – as well as focusing on preventive-illness and community management, inter-professional teams, and implementation of electronic health records.

  4. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 21, 2008 at 9:09 am ·

    Pour un système de santé public et accessible, faisons place au privé!
    Marcel Boyer
    (Le Devoir) Plusieurs personnalités du domaine de la santé ont affirmé leur volonté de défendre le régime public afin d’assurer la qualité et l’universalité des soins.
    Dans leur Déclaration de Montréal, ces médecins contribuent à semer la confusion entourant la présence du privé en santé. Ils associent système de santé public et prestation des soins par des organismes gouvernementaux. Or la qualité d’un système de santé public n’exige aucunement que la prestation des soins elle-même soit assurée par un monopole bureaucratique gouvernemental. La seule façon pour les citoyens et les patients de se convaincre que le système est efficace, c’est de mettre en concurrence tous les fournisseurs de soins de santé. C’est ce qu’on pratique dans presque tous les domaines de notre vie privée et publique. Pourquoi pas en santé?

  5. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 21, 2008 at 2:40 pm ·

    Private care gains support: new CMA boss
    Dr.[Robert] Ouellet, a former head of the Quebec Medical Association, was one of the first doctors in Canada to successfully implement a for-profit scheme in the public system, delivering CT scans and MRIs to paying patients at five Montreal area clinics since 1987.
    Medicare not universal without coverage of prescriptions, new CMA head says
    MONTREAL — Canada’s medicare system cannot truly be considered universal until it starts providing access to prescription drugs regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, the new president of the Canadian Medical Association says.
    “If access to diagnosis is universal, why isn’t access to drugs?” Robert Ouellet asked yesterday in his inaugural address.

  6. AD August 23, 2008 at 2:20 pm ·

    On the “foreign doctors” issue, the real story is budgetary. The Med. Ec. literature has some evidence that physicians can and do create demand for their own services. So do garage mechanics! Governments try, (Que. has a long and dishonourable history on this ) to control their health-care budgets by keeping down the supply of practitioners, available services, and budgetary outlays. The same people doing this will swear publicly to the one-payer system being the only route to salvation.The patient will only see, and blame, the micro phenomenon: the doctor will not see him, the nurse keeps him waiting etc. In other words adhering to the single payer system in principle is the vote getter, starving it for funds is not a vote loser.
    Note, that automobile repairs not being a single- payer government outlay, no one keeps out foreign-born or trained automobile mechanics.

  7. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 25, 2008 at 6:54 am ·

    On Pharmacare
    ‘Two-Tiered system’. It’s like a massive subsidy to the drug industry, health coalition says.
    Quebec’s public drug insurance plan was put into place in 1997 by the Régie de l’assurance-maladie du Québec, the government body responsible for medical insurance here. The purpose of the plan, which is mandatory for all Quebecers who do not have private group insurance, is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable prescription medication. Though the plan has made significant improvements over the years and is free for children, welfare recipients and some seniors who benefit from a guaranteed income supplement, some Quebecers struggling to make ends meet find the premiums, deductibles and co-payments prohibitive.

  8. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 25, 2008 at 8:41 pm ·

    Thanks also for the warm reception at the Wednesday night last week. I was very impressed by the scope and range of the company, and very pleased to be invited. I think Jack Layton also enjoyed the evening, and being back in the family stomping ground.
    Anne Lagacé-Dowson

  9. Westmount Examiner August 27, 2008 at 8:37 am ·

    Voters get a close look at candidates
    Westmount voters got their first real chance to see and hear the candidates in the Sept. 8 federal by-election on Wednesday night at the traditional Meet the Candidates evening, put together by the Westmount Municipal Association and the Examiner.
    … most [of the contingent of NDP supporters in attendance] came away reassured by former CBC radio host and political neophyte Anne Lagacé Dowson.
    “I think Anne was even better than I hoped she would be,” said party supporter Corinne Brown. “She understands people, and she answers questions directly and clearly,”
    Whether or not Lagacé Dowson did enough to sway wayward Liberal voters, however, remains to be seen. But given that residents were willing to brave the auditorium’s heat to give her the chance, anything, as they say, can happen.

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