Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Affordable Care vs Canadian Universal Health Care
September 30, 2017

I grow weary of the news stories about Affordable Health Care (Obama Care and the repeal of…) featured in the news from the United States these past months. I just cannot understand why the US Federal Government cannot find a way to provide affordable universal health care for all of its citizens. Especially, when as of 2009 there are “…58 countries in the world with legislation mandating Universal Health Care, along with > 90% health insurance coverage…” upon which the US might use as models.

My guess is that none of the models is perfect. There will always be those in a society who attempt to take advantage of whatever system is put in place. And regardless of the coverage, for some it will never be enough. Yet, the good of the society’s health in these countries is the motivational factor. So, what is the problem with the leaders in the US Federal Government?

The Toronto Star recently reported, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence blasts ‘failings’ of Canadian health system. Comments made by the Vice President on the “failings” of the Canadian Health Care system were made to the listeners of a radio broadcast in Alaska. It reminded me of a recent conversation I had with some visitors from the US to northwestern Ontario, Canada this past summer. Our conversation turned to health care to which I responded with a comment about my sadness for the American people who cannot seem to convince their leaders that this is a basic need of all citizenry. I shared in our conversation that I cannot remember the last time I had a bill for any medical procedure including the birth of our children and all of the various medical attention required for the cuts, scrapes and broken bones that appear to follow active kids in judo, dance, acrobatics and foolish play. This would include the 12 hours we spent in Emergency at the hospital in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec when my son was injured during the Ironman competition in Mont Tremblant.  Or, the number of times I have had to go to the nearest hospital while away from home and have always received exemplary and immediate care (and no bill for service).

It is easy to focus on the negative comments. It seems that those comments are always the loudest and the ones that ‘make the news’. I have no doubt that the stories we hear about the ‘failings’ of our system are true, yet I hasten to add that I believe they are in the minority. I live in a small, rural northern community, 3.5 hours drive from the nearest urban hospital. I see my family physician (in community) and my diabetes nurse at least twice a year. I receive notice of the need to get my flu shot each fall from Public Health and from my local Health Clinic. When I am not well, and believe I need to see a physician, I have always been seen in a reasonable length of time either at Emergency, or by appointment at the local Health Clinic. I have had few delays in getting appointments with specialists in what I deem reasonable time. Other than producing my current government health card and a list of current medications, I need nothing else to receive health care in Ontario.

In Canada, everyone pays into our Health Care through taxation. The pool of money, managed by Federal and Provincial Health Agencies, while not infinite is available to support the needs of the population. Money I pay is available for those in need at times when I don’t need the care. At those times when I need professional health care the funding is available to cover my needs. That we share in ensuring one another’s well-being on a national scale, speaks to our concern for one another and helps strengthen  what some like to call the Canadian identity.

So, Vice President Pence, with respect I ask, before you denigrate the Canadian model of  Universal Health care again to your citizens, I would appreciate you engaging in both sides of the Canadian picture of public universal health care instead of focusing only on the negative aspects. It is always easy to dwell on the negative!

The Sixties Scoop…
February 15, 2017

My wife and I are the parents of an adopted First Nations Child whose adoption took place within the time-frame of the legal action against the Canadian Government titled The Sixties Scoop. Details of the class action suit can be viewed here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixties_Scoop. This action, on behalf of indigenous children adopted by non-indigenous families, has been eight years in the process with the Canadian Government taking all legal actions available to avoid having this case heard. The absolute shame was the federal Government wanting to avoid the judgement to enable them to settle out of court-to set aside 8 years of process. I shake my head at our arrogance in attempting to avoid justice in this case.

Government asks judge to postpone ruling in ’60s Scoop case, outraging plaintiffs

This is a case more directly aligned with the concept of cultural genocide than about any other explanation, in my opinion. It is about the assimilation of indigenous children into the society of the day and is an off-shoot of the Residential Schools program in Canada that had it’s roots in “1860[,] Indian Affairs is transferred from the Imperial Government to the Province of Canada. This is after the Imperial Government shifts its policy from fostering the autonomy of native populations through industry to assimilating them through education. (see A timeline of Residential Schools)” In reality it began in the 1600s and the process of assimilation continued well into the late 1900s.

It saddens me that we, my wife and I,  were complicit in the continuation of this abominable program out of our ignorance as non-indigenous adoptive parents and the failure of the Canadian government and its agencies to inform us of their and our responsibilities to our child to maintain her cultural identity. The good news is we live on the doorstep of two First Nations communities, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Pic Mobert and many of our children’s classmates and friends were indigenous children. By osmosis, for want of a better term, our child spent considerable time in Biigtigong Nishnaabeg community with her best friends family. She was one of the lucky ones regularly exposed to her indigenous culture more by luck-of-the draw than by intent on our part or that of the Canadian Government.

I am overjoyed that the courts brought this case to fruition and yesterday, Valentine’s Day 2017 the “Federal government [was] found to have breached its “duty of care” by failing to protect cultural identity of indigenous children removed from their homes”. That we decided to add our voices to this cause, for justice for our adoptive child and all of the children of the Sixties Scoop, as witnesses for the plaintiff might have some small influence on this decision, helps to begin the healing process of right relations between us and our indigenous 10687098_10154816122320118_1482540786689546829_nneighbours and to apologize to our child for our ignorance.

Today, our chosen child is a strong beautiful First Nations woman who has chosen a career path to help other First Nations women of Northwestern Ontario reach their potential as healthy, proud indigenous women. As an aside, I was listening to a piece of music yesterday when a text arrived from a contact at the hearing to say the Judge ruled in favour of the Sixties scoop. The song happened to be Shed a Little Light performed by James Taylor. A prophetic moment indeed.

How Would You Like That Delivered?
April 13, 2016

Canada Post, in its wisdom, has chosen to phase out home delivery of snail-mail and mailbox-messreplace that system with curb-side Post Office boxes. While I believe it is an ill-advised change it will have little effect on me. I live in a community in Canada that has never had home delivery of mail. It is a comfortable walk (wasteful to drive) to the Post Office to check the mail each day. That’s what I’ve done each day for the fifty plus years I have lived here. Other than the obvious, what’s the problem?

As with many people these days, I have become an on-line shopper. This came about because at the best of times I dislike wasting the time to go in and out of stores. I recognize in today’s ‘consume more’ society I might be seen as some form of throwback; a consumer Neanderthal. Yesterday, I placed an order for coffee through a Canadian on-line company that I have purchased from frequently in the past. I processed everything in the same manner as before. The difference this time was that an error message came up indicating that they could not deliver to a Post Office box. Yet, they use Canada Post to deliver their products and my “correct” mail address is a Post Office box. As has happened in the past when companies do not include my correct mailing address I receive notification from the post office to update my personal details with the company from whom I make purchases. At issue is the Post Office could refuse delivery without the proper address on the package.

I called the company to let them know that there was a problem with their software not accepting postal box numbers as legitimate addresses. The response was that they knew about this and that they just could not ship to a post office box.

Does this make any sense in a country that is moving away from home mail delivery and forcing everyone to use a post office box for mail? Canadian business get with the program. Especially if you expect to do mail order business or Internet business and ship by postal service.

My second call yesterday was to an on-line company based in New York from which I recently did business and they shipped to my mailing address. As before, I placed my order only and again was told that they were shipping by US Postal service and couldn’t deliver to a post office box. I called the store’s  help line to explain that my mailing address was a box number; they accepted it on my previous order; where is the problem?

For some strange reason their on-line software no longer will allow delivery to Postal Boxes. What a dilemma! In Canada, many of us have two legal addresses–our street address and a mailing address. They are not necessarily the same. Perhaps the solution is to go back to wandering in and out of stores as I used to do when I wanted to buy an item. If that’s the case, I’ll save a lot of money by not shopping unless necessary. Problem solved!

 

 

Farewell Mr. Mayor…
March 30, 2016

Two stories have been dominating Canadian news of late; the run-up to the Presidential nominations in the States and the death of Rob Ford, ex-Mayor and Councillor of the city of Toronto. Both stories have all the elements required to be main features in the likes of the National Enquirer. Most significant to me at this moment is the Rob Ford story.

It is indeed sad that one so young as Rob Ford has died at the young age of 46! No question! But please, please Canada quit making him greater that who he was in life–at best a scoundrel. That is probably the kindest thought I’ve had about Mr. Ford since his rise to fame through municipal politics and his fall from grace at the same time because of his addictions and the antics in council. But please stop with the glorify stuff that is now creating a new-age hero.

I have been taught to respect those who serve in public office. And that Rob Ford presented himself to the people of Toronto as a candidate for council and later as mayor is commendable. And, I respect Mr. Ford for taking on that mantle. Public office is never an easy chioce for anyone to make. But once in office I believe it reasonable to expect our elected officials to behave with some element of decorum. We elect our representatives to represent us in what ever court they are seeking to serve.

That is where Mr. Ford failed.  All the good deeds attributed to him don’t make up for the absolue abysmal behaviour he displayed in council chambers, in the media, and in his private/public life. I was especially dismayed the day he made inappropriate sexual comments about his wife during a media scrum. The media have come 360 degrees in their comments about Rob Ford now that he has died; quite a shift from their villification of him while he as alive.

Mostly I am saddened that such a fuss is being made of a man whose contributions to society are questionalble at best yet we take so little notice of the quiet heros who embed themselves in our lives and leave us without fanfare; often without thanks or any kind of recognition.

So, You’re Electing a President…
March 14, 2016

It seem months have gone by with Canadian news stories about the upcoming Presidential elections in the USA. The fact is we have almost as much coverage of the American electoral system as we do the Canadian system at election time.

Of course, the biggest story is of the rise of Donald Trump as possible Republican candidate for the Presidency. What a fiasco that has turned out to be! I have been waiting to hear, from Trump and any of the other candidate hopefuls, something about their hopes for the nation. What economic policies do they hope to introduce? What foreign policy will cement relationships between the US and other world nations? How will the “American Dream” be lived out under the watch of any of the candidates leadership? Sadly, if there are any policy statements in all of the rhetoric, they are lost in the fall from grace that has taken place over the last months. All I see are a bunch of boys on the playground shouting one another down and name calling.

So, here I sit in Canada, smug in the knowledge that we are somehow better than that. Thank God the process is not so complicated as in the States. OH! Wait! Canada has just come through a federal election where the Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper was soundly trounced by the Liberal Party. As memory serves, this was a long campaign, longer than ever before in the history of Canadian elections and was replete with rhetoric not dissimilar to that we are now hearing from south of the border. And suddenly I find I need to apologize to the people of the United States for my smugness.

I am sorry that you are having such a time in this election with representatives who, like many of ours in Canada, have forgotten that they are elected to serve the populace; not just the moneyed powerful, but all of us who elected them into power in the first place.

I am reminded that we, too, have our Donald Trump waiting in the wings for the Liberal Party to falter. Rumour has it that Kevin O’Leary is being touted as a possible candidate to lead the Conservatives in Canada. Take a look at the person and compare O’Leary to Trump and see how you assess that against what is currently happening win the Republican party of the US. Listen to Kevin O’Leary on CBCs “Dragon’s Den” and the language he uses when talking to his peers and to those who approach seeking financial assistance to take their dream to the market place. Count the number of times you hear O’Leary tell us the he is most interested in that which will make him wealthy. Wealthier!

To our American friends, I apologize for my smugness and in doing so thank you for reminding me that as the electorate it is our responsibility to be well informed and knowledgeable on the electoral process and about the people we charge to work for us in public office. We need to remember that not all of us are interested in doing the work of elected officials in our societies and that those who do choose to serve as elected and/or elected wannabes, deserve our respect for wanting to attempt to make a difference.  I am reminded of the number of people in the world who are not allowed to choose their leaders and weep for those of us who treat the process with too little respect.

GRB

Truth in the News Media…
July 1, 2015

Last night I watched a YouTube video clip titled “The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER” posted by James Bouder. ( http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=16K6m3Ua2nw&feature=youtu.be ) It is an excerpt from the beginning of HBO’s The Newsroom Season 1: Episode 1 and, in my opinion, is a wonderful rant on why the USA is no longer the greatest country in the world but can be–once again. I’m not certain that it really matters which country is the best in the world. Persons who are happy where they are living will likely choose their country as the best in the world. Regardless, I encourage all to watch the whole of the first episode. It speaks to me of what the news media once was but has lost somewhere along the way–reporting the facts.

It strikes me that we have become societies of thrill seekers in north America. We look to the news media to report on current happenings and to develop opinions about the story because we are unable to do so ourselves.

Dilemma of Olympic Proportions…
March 5, 2010

We recently returned from a trip to British Columbia to visit our eldest son and his family. The opportunity to be with our son and his partner and our granddaughter was the draw. Neither of us was really excited about being in B.C. The last two visits were disappointments; it was cold and damp and grey most of the time; it was crowded and noisy and had far too much traffic. There are certain expectations and images one has of Canada’s “Lotus Land” and those have yet to appear for me.

Our first two visits–one in november and another in January–three and two years ago respectively left me longing to return to Ontario; the need was for the winter sun that is usually in abundance in January and February at home. Those first two visits aided in the formulation of my opinion about “lotus land”.

The November trip was wet and foggy most of the time. I recall disappointment at not being able to see the mountains. There was one day in the fourteen we were there that the rain stopped and the Golden Ears in all their majesty shone forth. All-be-it viewed through the sieve of buildings, overhead wires and the general clutter of humanity. It was cold. It was to the core damp and cold and I found it difficult to warm up even while sitting in front of the radiator and asking my son to turn up the heat.

The following year saw much of the same. Great adventures with family but the weather left me disappointed. Eight days of sunshine out of 21 and temperatures hovering around the freezing point. It snowed the night we landed in Abbotsford. Another disappointment to be sure–mostly based on preconceived expectations.

This year’s holiday was, to my surprise, an improvement over the previous two visits. It didn’t rain nearly so much. At least part of the mountains were visible most days and the temperatures were on average about 8 C. It made for comfortable walking and actually made me want to be outside most days. And it goes without saying that time with family was wonderful. Especially after a two-year absence.

No, the difficulty I came away with this year was the Olympics. The cost of hosting the Olympic Games appears to me to beyond excessive. I was staggered by the announcement that $900 million was being spent on security alone. That was reported on the same day as the Vancouver Sun reported many lower mainland school boards were having difficulty funding their school systems. The decision was to lay off teachers and increase class size.  A no-fly zone was in effect that encompassed much of the lower mainland. Air security was such that flying schools chose to shut down rather than take the chance of students accidentally entering the no-fly space. It will be interesting to see if any of them have had to go out of business as a result. There were parking restrictions that affected retail outlets thus reducing the number of people who had access. Instructions to employers within security zones were to create flex hours for employees or allow work from home. The homeless were considered an eyesore; there were excessive cost overruns in the construction process. Don’t get me started on the gouging for tickets and rooms and food and … And the list goes on… All in the name of sports.

So I wonder what ever happened to sport for the sake of sport? To game? When did we get to the point that all of this needed to be so big. After all we are talking about sports–games–play. I am dumbfounded that we equate our excitement for sport with patriotism. That one truly baffles me. Does the fact that I don’t support the olympics or that I cheered for all the competitors when they did something spectacular make me less patriotic than my friends who are really into the Olympic thing? The events that I watched were great and I rejoice in the skill and dedication of the players. But they are games. People playing games.

In my opinion the time for the olympics is past. Our tax dollars would best be spent on other things. Like a $58 billion deficit that our government has gotten us into.                                  GRB

Reeee-session…
March 5, 2010

We live in a resource based community. The two major industries are pulp and gold. Mining, because it is an extractive industry has a finite life. When the gold runs out, the industry is gone. Our  community has been anticipating the decline of the gold mines for some years now. Little did we realize that our forest industry was in greater jeopardy.

The truth is that the forest industry has been under seige for some time now and we have been slow to recognize the signs. As with most industry today the world price of a product aids in the determination of life expectancy; in this case the price offered per ton/tonne of pulp has gone down; the price of gas and diesel to deliver raw materials has gone up; the distance from the harvest has become greater; past practice of not replenishing the natural resource–replanting regularly, deliberately; all culminate in the closure of many mills in Canada and more specifically here in north western Ontario.

I find myself looking at the displaced workers from our mill. Many are people I taught in either elementary school or secondary school at some point in their lives. Memories of conversations with some of them frequently pop into my head as I observe the changes in the rhythms of the community and its inhabitants. “Hey, Sir!” said one of them in a Gr. 12 Law class 25 years ago. “I’m going to graduate at the end of this semester; go to work in the Mill and buy a new TransAm!” And he did; he did; he did. I know because the following year that same student brought his new TransAm to the school to show me. So much for attempting to convince them to stay in school and get their Gr. 13 and go on to College of University. And I thought then, “How do I argue against this?” If only I knew then what I am seeing now!

That student was one of many whose attitude was that the “Company” would always be there; the money is great–I will always have enough; I don’t need more education, my life is set.

For the past year, many of those who saw the mill as a way of life; as a way through life, are finding that they cannot get jobs elsewhere because they have insufficient education to fill the expectations of current employers. Those same people are struggling to go back to school to get high school equivalency or to get sufficiently upgraded so that they can go on to higher education in order to be retrained. All are struggling to do this now on Employment Insurance along with paying the mortgage, put food on the table, heat the house for a six or seven month winter, and on and on… The Insurance should run out shortly.

It says something to me about the need for all of us to become life-long learners. Deliberately! Take a course of some kind every year of your life. Become used to the skill of learning. Make learning a habit! Wake up each day determined to learn one thing new today that will help one grow in one’s life. Plan for the future…for the unexpected. Know that nothing in our lives is carved in stone.                      –GRB

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more…
September 1, 2008

Daily we are hearing more and more in the news media that Prime Minister Harper is going to call a fall election. So here we go again with the expense and hype of an election before the term of the current parliament is up. This minority government was elected for a four year term for the second time.

The message that all parties should have received as a result of the last two elections is that none of the existing parties is worthy of being in power and all lack carismatic leadership with vision. But, mostly I am angry because the government passed into law a rule that elections be on a fixed date ostensibly to limit political whim from calling another election (see: http://www.macleans.ca/canada/opinions/article.jsp?content=20080827_106822_106822). That would make the calling of an election illegal (see: http://blog.macleans.ca/2008/08/29/an-illegal-election/).

Last night someone from the Conservative Party called and asked Joy if she would take the time to participate in a poll. She answered that she wasn’t interested and hung up the phone. Now I’m wishing that I had been the one to answer the phone because I would love to give the Conservative pollsters a piece of my mind and let then know how unhappy I am; that “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more…”.

Having said that, I have no idea what I should do about how angry, frustreated and betrayed I feel by our government leaders. They are where they are by the will of the populace and I expect them to do their jobs for the full term of their office. It is my belief that when  a minority government is elected, it is because of lack of confidence in any one party to lead. The message seems to me to be, “cooperate and do your job for the betterment of our society”. So how do I tell them that?

Let’s see. I could:

  1. write to every member of parliament telling of my displeasure
  2. write to each of the political parties telling them of my displeasure
  3. write to local papers about my displeasure
  4. move to Quebec and vote Bloc Québécois. Gilles Duceppe makes more sense than any of the other leaders
  5. Suggestions?

I wonder what else it will take to have our elected officials get the message?             GRB