Tuesday, June 28, 2005

An Act Representing Certain Aspects of Legal Capacity for Marriage for Civil Purposes has passed

Yeas 158
Nays 133

A historic day. Canada has become only the third country in the world to legally recognize Same Sex Marriage. This is a day in which Canadians, all Canadians, should be proud. We bravely and painfully fought for the extension of equality to all our citizens. We did it through (mostly) respectful democratic debate. Some people should great courage and principles in both directions, and I salute all of them (though I have questioned some of their tactics).

From here what happens?

Well, unless you are gay and want to get married, nothing. Its done. After passing the Senate and achieving Royal Accent, life will continue in Canada as it always has. In 6 months, we will wonder what the big deal was.

I have never felt more proud to be a Canadian. Once again we have shown the world we believe in freedom, equality and human rights.

And for those who are religious and worried, please read this from Pastor Kevin Powell and don't worry, religious marriage is the same today as it always has been. Religious marriage will not change until you want it to, as it has in the United Church of Canada.

And congrats to Rick Barnes and all those who fought for this moment.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Something to keep in mind on 'Tax Freedom Day'

Linda McQuaig has really nailed it.

The Fraser Institute's so-called 'Tax Freedom Day' is a less than honest accounting of how much tax we pay.

Some highlights:

"The institute's own numbers show that, for low-income earners, Tax Freedom Day would arrive in late February; for the huge group of those who straddle the middle range of incomes, Tax Freedom Day would arrive by mid-April."


"Failing to mention the extra government benefits we now receive is like complaining the family's Loblaw's bill is 40 per cent higher, without acknowledging the family now gets a lot more groceries on each shopping trip."

I'm sure that 'Tax Freedom Day' is going to be one of the CPC's attack points now that the NDP budget has passed. Monte Solberg has already started the propaganda (with nice responses here and here) . So feel free to inform our conservative friends and supporters of these facts when they bring them up.

Now why would I take Linda McQuaig's opinion over that of the Fraser Institute? She just a Left-Wing shill, right? How about her co-author:

Neil Brooks teaches tax law and policy at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Mr. Brooks might know a thing or two about tax law and policy in Canada. And, as a tenured professor at one of the best Law Schools in the country, I doubt he'd put his name to anything that he, or Osgoode Hall, was not willing to stand by.

In reality most of us missed 'Tax Freedom Day' - it was in April. Incidently, 'Corporate Tax Freedom Day' is in late January. Something else to keep in mind when people talk about the need for corporate tax breaks.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

In which Mike Comment-whores for Pooh - Er, I mean Eeyore

Edward T. Bear doesn't allow comments on his blog.

I do.

He has written an exceptional article about the US actions in other countries. It is truely exceptional. Please read "Italian Courts, Rattlesnakes, and Atomic Bombs."

Then come back here and comment.


My bad. The article was penned by Eeyore. Thanks to Pretty Shaved Ape for pointing out my blunder. Anyway, read it and add comments.

Friday, June 24, 2005

He was 'Out-Generalled'

So said Andrew Coyne last night on CBC, talking to Peter Mansbridge and his pundit panel about Stephen Harper.

The results of last night's surprise vote on C-48, the "NDP Budget" is simply the latest in a long line of events this spring that show it. Stephen Harper didn't see it coming and had the non-confidence rug pulled out from under him. And now he faces the prospect of another week in Parliament to debate the Same Sex Marriage bill, which will easily pass.

And now the vitrol is once again flowing from the benches of the CPC:

"When push comes to shove the Liberals will make any deal with anybody," Harper said after the vote. "And it doesn't matter whether it's with the socialists or with the separatists or any bunch of crooks they can find."


"It's a very sour end to an acrimonious and bitter session and does not bode well for the future workings of Parliament. If this is the kind of diabolical, sneaky, treacherous, behind-the-scenes activities that are going to go on..."


"We have to start thinking that Hannibal Lecter is running the government and they'll do anything they have to do to win."
Diabolical? Treacherous? Crooks? Hannibal Lector? Oh my, it's getting thick now.

All of this for a budget that is well liked and well received around the country, that doesn't run us into deficit, that provided much needed cash for cities (and creating lots of jobs too). All this for a budget that the CPC themselves was willing to make a deal to support, at the cost of delaying Same Sex Marriage? Somehow, all the moral indignation about principles sounds hollow when you remember what Stephen Harper was saying only 1 week ago.

Harper and the CPC can't decided whether that taste in their mouths is bitter bile or sour grapes. A bit of both I suspect. All parties had the same parliamentary regulations in front of them. The importance of the vote on C-48 has been headline news for weeks. The CPC themselves have been drilling us for 4 months that the Liberals are not to be trusted. In that atmosphere, if I were the Leader of the Opposition, I would have every party hack and lawyer I knew going over the regulations and rules of the house, just to make sure something like this couldn't happen for such and important vote.

I think this shows that while Stephen Harper may do very well on policy, he is not a good leader or manager. He's fallen for the "Mr. Dithers" routine at least twice. He is a man that is starting to believe his own press releases. He let his guard down and then got upset when Paul Martin took advantage of it in a Parliament on edge in no small part due to Harper's own creative use of the rules for his own ends (remember the "Confidence Vote" that wasn't? Remember shutting down the House for 3 or 4 days?).

The CPC got wupped at a game they say they are ready to play and ready to win in. They clearly underestimated Paul Martin again. Stephen Harper now has the whole summer to try to explain how he was out-foxed again and, despite being poised to do so, allowed the Liberal government not only to survive, but to pass 2 major pieces of legislation that the CPC opposed.

Yes, a long hot summer it will be.

Friday, June 17, 2005

In Defence of Public, Universal Single-Payer Health Care

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision on private health insurance, the debate over whether we should have public, private or mixed system has been re-ignited. I believe that the best choice for us is a fully public, universal single-payer system - fix our current system so that it operates as it was intended.

Why a Public System?

1. Public Healthcare serves the Public good, not private stockholders

A public, single-payer system exists to provide healthcare for the citizens of Canada. All decisions made within the system have as their sole criteria the health needs of the patient. Private Insurance and private health delivery exist to make money for their owners and stockholders. They must maximize profits and minimize payouts. Private health insurance is no different. Insurance companies will find reasons to not pay, to disallow claims, to raise rates or to refuse insurance all together (for "pre-existing conditions,"for instance). It is a bitter irony that Mr. Zeliotis, one of the complainants in the Supreme Court decision that opened the door to private insurance, would not have qualified for the coverage he sought.

In the end, private insurance will make money for insurance companies but will not help sick people get faster service. Wendy Hope, vice-president of external relations for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, says that if insurance for medically necessary service comes into being, people on waiting lists won't be eligible. People with pre-existing illnesses or conditions wouldn't qualify for coverage.

"Insurance is a product that protects against the eventuality of something happening," Hope explains. "You can't buy insurance if you're already ill."

If you are sick "that's why there is public insurance."

Only the public system will serve the sick.

That is not to say that I think out system is working properly right now. I agree with the Supreme Court - waiting lists are too long and that does constitute a violation of a person's life and security of the person. It needs fixing after years of mismanagement and underfunding. The solution is not to allow private insurance, which won't help anyway, but to fix the system we have - add new funding and implement the recommendations of the Romanow Report.

Or we can have a healthcare system that is run like our dental care system.

2. Public Health Care is good for business

General Motors pays $1500 per car in health insurance costs in the private system in the US. It pays $500 per car in Canada. That's between 5 and 10% of a car's value. Having a publicly run and administered healthcare system can actually make Canada more attractive to large businesses like GM, because of the money they save on paying for and administering these benefits.

Now they may have to administer extended benefits (extra medical not covered by the public system. These are procedures deemed not medically necessary or extras like single-rooms or free ambulance rides), but this is still much cheaper than the full blown version in the US.

3. Public Health Care is Cheaper to Administer

According to Dr. Arnold Relman, Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Emeritus Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, public health care is cheaper to administer and the experience in the United States is that private insurance actually drives up administrative costs. The US spends $752 per capita more than we do on administration. According to some pretty good research by Ezra Klein, that's 300% more. Private ownership also drives costs up.

Clearly then, introducing private healthcare will not make the system more efficient, but actually make it more expensive. That is just not good fiscal responsibility.

Basically, from a more pragmatic point of view, these are the biggest reasons to stay with public healthcare and not allow more private care.

Public healthcare is more client responsive and client focused, is better for business in general and is cheaper to run. It makes good economic sense as well as being more equitable and fair.

Other Questions:

1. 'But France is #1 and it has a mixed system. Why can't we?'

Canada is not France. Their culture, economics and government are different enough that implementing a French-style system here simply won't work. The 'private' part of the system is funded from mandatory deductions similar to the public system:

"The funds are private entities under the joint control of employers and unions, which are in turn supervised by the state. As might be expected, that doesn't work particularly smoothly, and there's a constant battle for authority and control. Creative tension, one might kindly call it. The funds are mandatory, no one may opt-out, and they're not allowed to compete with each other nor micromanage care." - Ezra Klein
There is no way that will work in Canada. In France, even their 'private' healthcare is heavily controlled and managed by the government and unions. French doctors are paid 1/3 what doctors in the US and Canada are paid. How many doctors would be willing to take a pay cut, considering doctors in Ontario almost went on strike a few months ago in order to get a long-overdue raise? Not many.

While the French model may seem great on the surface, it is clearly unworkable in Canada and not the kind of 'private' that the conservatives in this country would support.

2. What about the rest of Europe? They all rank ahead of us with mixed systems too?

The same issues exist. Most European countries do not have the same kind of federal structure to government that we have and if they do, they do not have the same separation of powers between the federal government and the provinces\states that we do. What may work for Germany or Sweden or Japan will not work in our unique Canadian federation, devised by Sections 91 and 92.

Also it is noteworthy that advocates of the mixed system pick these countries. One of the few countries in the world that is most like our own (in government division) is Australia where this didn't work. The advocates of mixed systems never mention Australia.

3. Having a parallel system will reduce the wait times the court talked about.

No according to recent studies. In England and Australia, these studies have shown that wait times in the public system actually increase when a parallel private system exists. In Manitoba, patients whose doctors worked in both systems had to wait 2.5 times longer for cataract surgery than patients whose doctors worked only in the public system (26 weeks v. 10 weeks).

Doctors in such systems have a "perverse incentive" to keep public waiting lists long - it forces people in to a private system where they will pay more and doctors will earn more.

4. User fees will reduce abuse and lower medical costs

Again, according to the Canadian Health Research Foundation, this is not true. What this does is discourage the poor, who are less healthy in the first place, from not seeking early medical attention. They let their illnesses proceed until they end up costing the system much more in the long run. "Penny wise and Pound foolish" best describes the situation. Ironically, this very situation was one of the major factors that lead Saskatchewan to create the first Medicare system in Canada in the first place. Medicare is the solution to this problems, this problems isn't a solution for medicare.

Conclusions and Possible Solutions:

I firmly believe in equality of opportunity and access for all Canadians in healthcare. I believe strongly that healthcare decisions should be made on medical need, not ability to pay. The very rich should not be able to hire away the best medical expertise or buy their way to the head of the queue.

That being said, I recognize that long waiting lists for procedures are in fact endangering Canadians lives and causing undue suffering. I agree with the Supreme Court decision. I also recognize that the very rich can already buy their way to the head of the line by going to the US or to the very clinic our PM attends in Montreal. I recognize that in some instances and in some provinces we have a defacto two-tier (or more) system. What this means is that I recognize that our public system is broken and needs to be fixed, not replaced.

1. Return Federal funding eventually to 50%, as it was in the 70's. This is long term. A good start would be to get it to at least 25%. This will help alleviate 12 years of budget cuts and underfunding.

2. Alleviate waiting lists with the assistance of the medical profession. Look for creative ways to prevent the system from being overwhelmed - specialty clinics instead of ER for frontline diagnosis, SARS like protocols for entry to ERs (I got the fastest service in 10 years when I had to get stitches during the SARS crisis - a lot of people who normally clog up the ER with things that can be looked at by a walk-in clinic or family doctor were not there.).

3. Hire and train more doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners. Much of the strain on the system is because we do not have the people to do the jobs we expect. More doctors will certainly shorten waiting lists.

4. Re-allocate responsibility. In consultation with healthcare professionals, see what kinds of medical attention can be taken care of by professionals other than doctors - nurse practitioners, nurses or mid-wives, for instance. Spread the work more intelligently, so the doctor shortage stops being a bottleneck to care.

5. Reduce costs in other places. Drug costs have eaten up most of the new spending on healthcare. Stopping the "evergreening" of drugs, which prevents the introduction of cheaper, generic version.

6. Invest in new diagnostic equipment and the staff to run them, again to help with early detection so that cheaper, faster treament options are used.

7. Implement the Romanow Report. It's been out for 2 years. The government has done nothing.

8. See number 7.

None of the above needs to mean higher taxes. A re-commitment and re-allocation of funds could certainly do it. This is a combination of spending and conservation.

There may be other ways to help. But we must do something now to ensure that we have a world class healthcare system that can serve all Canadians, regardless of their status of location in the country, rather than give perks to the rich and business opportunities to insurance companies.

What do you think?

For your Reading Pleasure:

The Canadian Health Sciences Reseach Foundation Mythbuster page.
Dr. Relman at the Healthcare Coalition. They also provide more compelling evidence for public healthcare rather than private.
Rick's blogs entries below. Besure to follow the links.
Policagrll has two entries that discuss her personal experiences with the dental system and the drug system, which demonstrate that private insurance won't help. a very compelling read.

The Canada Health Act and an overview.

The Report of the Romanow commission.

Not a read, but be sure to watch this video series about the birth of Medicare in Saskatchewan. See if you can see how many of the same arguments for private insurance weren't born out in reality.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Sore Loser Threatens Democracy


Well, now that this is over with, lets move on to passing some other legislation and generally doing our job on the hill, shall we?


So, on a historic day when the Canadian Armed Forces have their first gay marriage, London-Fanshawe MP Pat O'Brien decides that he knows better than the majority of parliamentarians and the (slim) majority of Canadians. He plans on voting against the budget with an un-named Liberal co-conspirator, in order to bring down the government, so he can stop the Same Sex Marriage vote on Thursday.

Even the Conservatives don't want that right now.

But Mr. O'Brien figures he knows better than the 75-80% of Canadians that don't want an election right now. Even though he got his extra 22 witnesses before the committee (almost all of whom were against SSM). Even though he's getting amendments to ensure his worries about SSM and religious freedoms are dealt with. Even though the budget itself is popular with most Canadians and the mayors of almost every city in Canada.

No. Its more important to deny Canadians their rights. Or actually just cause a big hassle and re-elect another Liberal minority, since even if its defeated, SSM will be the law in 7 provinces and 1 territory.

Sore Loser.

Please send Mr. O'Brien and e-mail telling him what you think of his shenanigans:


Better yet, give his office a call: (613) 995-2901

Now, don't SPAM him. Don't hassle him with war dialers. Just send a personal e-mail expressing your disappointment and call and leave a message on his answering machine as I did - polite, personal but firm.

Let him know he can't get away with hijacking Parliament.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Why we need Public Health Care

I was going to write a long eloquent post as to why we need a strong public healthcare system in Canada.

Rick Barnes beat me to it. Please go there and read this article and this one.

Good job Rick.

Lets start going hard and publishing our reasons and ideas for saving the system. I want to challenge to other Dippers and the Progressive Bloggers to help create the solution rather than wringing our hands about the problem.

More to come...


Scott Tribe has taken up the challenge. He makes some good points and stimulates debate. I am not going to comment on his position (yet), but he is taking a rational, calm approach.

As a backgrounder on some of the history, have a look at this CBC documentary. A lot of arguements should seem familiar.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Chaoulli v. Quebec part II: The boiled down version

So, after reading the judgment again and going over some threads in other blogs, I think its time to boil the case down and make it as simple as possible, so there is no confusion as to what it says and what it may or may not mean. Here is my interpretation:*

The Facts:

1. The wait times for service in Quebec (and the rest of Canada) are very long. People were dying waiting for procedures, waiting so long that the procedure would no longer help or they were waiting in, at times, excruciating pain.
2. Mr. Zeliotis had to wait 1 year for a hip replacement, in 1996 (meaning the wait today would probably be much longer)
3. Quebec's Health Insurance Act (HEIA) , section 15 and Hospital Insurance Act (HOIA), section 15
prohibiting Quebec residents from taking out insurance to obtain in private sector health care services already available under Quebec’s public health care plan:

15. No person shall make or renew a contract of insurance or make a payment under a contract of insurance under which an insured service is furnished or under which all or part of the cost of such a service is paid to a resident or a deemed resident of Québec or to another person on his behalf. . . .

11. (1) No one shall make or renew, or make a payment under a contract under which

(a) a resident is to be provided with or to be reimbursed for the cost of any hospital service that is one of the insured services;

(b) payment is conditional upon the hospitalization of a resident; or

(c) payment is dependent upon the length of time the resident is a patient in a facility maintained by an institution contemplated in section 2. . . .

4. The Quebec Charter of Rights, section 1 states:

"1. Every human being has a right to life, and to personal security, inviolability and freedom." This is similar to the Charter's section 7, but deemed to be more widely interpreted than section 7."

5. Mr. Chaoulli was Mr. Zeliotis' doctor who wished to perform the operation in a private clinic, legally operating in Quebec (and opted out of the public system) and be paid by this insurance.

The Judgment:

The Supreme Court said that because wait times were too long AND that there was no other option in the Quebec system but to wait (because of the prohibition on private insurance), Mr. Zeliotis' rights to "life, and to personal inviolability" under section 1 of the Quebec Charter of Rights (but not under the Canadian Charter of Rights) were violated (and, thus, the rights of all Quebec residents).

The Court ruled that Quebec had the power to prohibit private insurance and thus limit the section 1 rights in order to protect the integrity of the public system, but only as can be reasonably justified in a free and democratic society. The Court ruled that the prohibition could not be reasonably justified, because, as they point out in the judgement, other jusridictions don't go as far as a prohibition and don't show a degradation of the public system - specifically they point to Newfoundland, New Brusnwick and Saskatchewan in Canada and Sweden and Austria in the EU as examples.

It is the combination of long wait times and prohibition on private insurance that led to an unreasonable limit that violated Mr.
Zeliotis' rights uner the Quebec Charter of Rights (but, again, not under the Canadian Charter of Rights).

The effect is that sections 11 and 15 above are null and void. It is now up to the legislature of Quebec to remedy the situation.

In my opinion there are a few remedies:

1. Drastically reduce or eliminate wait times. This would eliminate one of the two elements that are the basis of the violation (and in my opinion the main one).

2. Allow private insurance, thus allowing people to "jump the queue." This is legally palitable but not so politically. This would eliminate the other of the two elements that are the basis of the violation.

3. Implement rules similar to Newfoundland, New Brunswick or Saskatchewan (or possibly even Sweden or Austria, but that would be national changes). The Court didn't say it outright, but implied that the measures in these provinces, because they weren't as drastic, would not have violtated Mr.
Zeliotis' rights.

I'll leave it as an excercise to the reader which two I would prefer.

As someone on CBC radio said this morning, this is like a bucket of cold water thrown onto the government. Wake up and take care of our system like you are supposed to. Or don't and let private healthcare leak in. Which position do you think will win votes in the next election? Which position will make people forget about Gomery?


Thanks to The Jurist over at Accidental Deliberations for pointing out paragraph 158 of the concurring judgement, which itself supports my conclusion and points to a solution:

"In sum, the prohibition on obtaining private health insurance, while it might be constitutional in circumstances where health care services are reasonable as to both quality and timeliness, is not constitutional where the public system fails to deliver reasonable services...(I)f the government chooses to act, it must do so properly."

* I am not a lawyer. I do, however, have a BA(Hons) in Law, with a minor in Political Science from Carleton University ('91). I sepecialized in Constitutional Law, Civil Liberties and Human Rights and Criminal Law in my studies. I am very well versed in English Common Law and I know how to read and interpret cases. I have read and analyzed most leading Constituional cases (I own the Hogg books referenced in the descision) thanks to studying under Prof. Jim Mackenzie, one of Canada's leading constitutional lawyers (and I got an 'A' in the course ;-) ). Because of this, I am quite confident in my analysis on this case, but I do appreciate any and all feedback from actual lawyers or law students.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Quick Analysis of the Supreme Court Judgment in Chaoulli v. Quebec

Update Below

The right wing is overjoyed today:

"This is the end of medicare as we know it," said the [Canadian Taxpayers] federation's John Williamson. "This is a breach in government monopoly health care in this country."

They are falling all over themselves in the belief that the public system they hate is no more.

Well, not so fast.

As I read (and am still reading BTW, so expect updates) the judgment, this issue is not the existence of a public or private system, but of wait times:

"As I mentioned at the beginning of my reasons, no one questions the need to preserve a sound public health care system. The central question raised by the appeal is whether the prohibition is justified by the need to preserve the integrity of the public system. In this regard, when my colleagues ask whether Quebec has the power under the Constitution to discourage the establishment of a parallel health care system, I can only agree with them that it does. But that is not the issue in the appeal. The appellants do not contend that they have a constitutional right to private insurance. Rather, they contend that the waiting times violate their rights to life and security. It is the measure chosen by the government that is in issue, not Quebeckers’ need for a public health care system."[Emphasis mine]
So, from this we can see that the real issue was the waiting times for medical service rather than the "right" to private insurance. The court goes on to state that it is within the power of the province to ensure that people have access to healthcare in accordance with the Canada health Act:

"On this point, and based on the division of powers analysis in the preceding section, it is indisputable that the provincial government has jurisdiction over health care and can put mechanisms in place to ensure that all Quebeckers have access to health care."
The real issue is the wait times. Essentially the Supreme Court has ruled that wait times in Quebec, combined with the prohibition on having private insurance for publicly covered procedures, jeopardized the "right to life, and to personal security, inviolability and freedom" of Quebeckers because people are dying while waiting for procedures, or subjected to undue suffering because of wait times.

The key point is the "prohibition on having private insurance for publicly funded procedures". Only Quebec, Alberta and PEI take this measure. According to Justice Dechamps:

"Ontario (Health Care Accessibility Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.3, s. 2), Nova Scotia (Health Services and Insurance Act, R.S.N.S. 1989, c. 197, s. 29(2)) and Manitoba (Health Services Insurance Act, R.S.M. 1987, c. H35, s. 95(1)) prohibit non‑participating physicians from charging their patients more than what physicians receive from the public plan. In practice, there is no financial incentive to opt for the private sector. It is worth noting that Nova Scotia does not prohibit insurance contracts to cover health care obtained in the private sector. Ontario and Manitoba prohibit insurance contracts but refund amounts paid by patients to non‑participating physicians."


"Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act, R.S.S. 1978, c. S‑29, s. 18(1.1)), New Brunswick (Medical Services Payment Act, R.S.N.B. 1973, c. M‑7, s. 2.01(a), and General Regulation ‑ Medical Services Payment Act, N.B. Reg. 84‑20, Sch. 2, para. n.1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (Medical Care Insurance Act, 1999, S.N.L. 1999, c. M‑5.1, s. 10(5), and Medical Care Insurance Insured Services Regulations, C.N.L.R. 21/96, s. 3) are open to the private sector. New Brunswick allows physicians to set their own fees. In Saskatchewan, this right is limited to non‑participating physicians. The cost is not refunded by the public plan, but patients may purchase insurance to cover those costs. Newfoundland and Labrador agrees to reimburse patients, up to the amount covered by the public plan, for fees paid to non‑participating physicians. In Newfoundland and Labrador, patients may subscribe to private insurance to cover the difference."

These show that the strict, absolute prohibition goes too far, but that the plans of the other provinces (other than BC, Alberta and PEI, which are identical to Quebec) do not.

So what is the real issue here? Wait times. Wait times cause by the critical and long term underfunding of the public system. It is clear from reading the judgment that had wait times been acceptable (although the court doesn't say what that is) this case would have failed or, more likely, never been launched in the first place.

We are experiencing this judgment and current difficulties in our healthcare system because of 15 years or more of underfunding by the Federal Government, under then Finance Minister and current Prime Minister Paul Martin. He was aided by demagoguess like Mike Harris. They have underfunded our system to the point that the Supreme Court has said that the wait times have violated our right to life and security. Now some of them are proposing a private system as the cure to the ills they themselves have created.

What is the solution?

"We have to strengthen the public health-care system so there is no need for a private system" - Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, earlier today.

In this instance I fully agree with Mr. Dosanjh. The solution is to restore the funding removed from the system and to implement the Romanow Report to elliminate the wait times. You, know, the stuff the NDP has been calling for for years?

Likely as not, what this ruling will mean in the long run is Canada will eventually have a private component to our Health Care system. The rich will be able to jump the queue. I hope we can use the example of Sweden to minimize the impact.

"Sweden does not prohibit private insurance, and the state does not refund the cost of health care paid for in the private sector. Private insurance accounts for only two percent of total health care expenditures and there are only nine private hospitals "(The Health of Canadians :– The Federal Role, at pp. 31‑33).

If Paul Martin needs an excuse to start funding our system properly here it is. Only the dramatic reduction of waiting lists will prevent actions in other provinces from succeeding.

One final note:

This judgment is not an overwhelming endorsement of private healthcare. This judgment was a 3-3 decision, with one abstention. And at the Supreme Court, a tie goes to the appellate, in this case Jacques Chaoulli and George Zeliotis.

I think the NDP has found an issue...


After having read the judgement again, and having mulled it over while laying in my dentist's chair, I am wondering if it is as bad as it seems.

Hear me out:

The Court said that the wait times have gotten so long that they were causing people to suffer and even die unnescesarily. Well, the NDP has been saying that for over 10 years. The new twist is that allowing the healthcare system to get to this level has had the affect that it was depriving Canadians of their rights to "life and personal
inviolability", which is the essentially "life liberty and security of the person" as per section 7 of the Charter. I don't think too many of us that champion the public system would disagree with that. Also, the law in question was deemed to have violated the Quebec Charter of Rights but not the Canadian Charter of Rights, because the Quebec Charter is deemed to have a wider scope than the Canadian Charter.

The Court said, based on the reading of the Quebec Charter, that because of the wait time which have gotten too long, the Quebec law forbidding private health insurance covering public service was null and void because it violated the Quebec Charter since it forbade other means of getting service and the action of forbidding private insurance could not be reasoanbly justified in a free and democratic society.

So, if waiting times were not too long, the law forbidding private insurance could be reasonably justified in a free and democratic society. The solution, for Quebec in the short term and for Canada in the long term, would be to work at ensuring that wait times are considerably shortened. For instance, George Zeliotis had to wait 1 year for a hip replacement. Would it be reasonable to shorten this wait to 6 months? 3 months? 1 month? If the wait was not too long, the court would not have found in favour of Mr. Zeliotis, as stated above.

Of course, what constitutes a reasonable wait time may depend on the ailment, but this will need to be looked into. This is the way around this to ensure the future of our single tier public health system. And this is also something the NDP has long sought. In this light, the judgment is a gift to us (and a warning to act now) and we should take it.

But let me make one thing clear for all to hear:

This is the solution that will work without invoking section 33, the notwithstanding clause. If it comes down to supporting some infusion of private health insurance or delivery or invoking the notwithstanding clause, I will support private health insurance. I will NEVER under any circumstance, for any law or programme, support the use of the notwithstanding clause. Ever.

Now that might not make me popular with some folks like Warren Kinsella, but I have my principles and I won't abandon them because something doesn't go my way.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

This is something that must be read

It is unusual to break from the excitement of Canadian politics, but I want everyone who can read this -Dipper, Tory, Liberal, Libertarian, independent or whomever - to go to Agitprop's and read this post.

Read it slowly. Take the evening. Take the morning off. Its very powerful.

After you're done, read this piece in the Times of London. And a little more analysis about it from Mark Danner.

Then, after taking a few breathes, listen to what Ralph Nader recommends.

The CalgaryObserver, in his ruminations on "western alienation" wondered why Ontarians seem to dislike Americans, and the American way of doing things (and, he supposes, by extension Albertans). Observer, this is why.

Very slowly, we are moving away from simple rhetoric about fascism taking over the US and witnessing the real thing. My grandfather hit the beaches of Dieppe, Normandy and fought through Holland to fight the kinds of people and governments that do this.

A decade ago, a President lied about getting a blowjob, and the US Congress and the Republican Party was up in arms. They tried to impeach him. Today, a President lies and conspires with his allies to start a preemptive and illegal war, based on faked evidence and phantom WMDs. And the Congress and Republicans are silent. The mainstream US media is silent. Except for Rep John Conyers, almost everyone in the US is ignoring this.

Originally, Hitler faked an invasion of Germany by Poland, using political prisoners dressed as Polish Army regulars. They "took over" a border radio station and began transmitting that Poland was invading Germany. They were all captured and shot, of course, and the next day, German troops marched into Poland.

What we are witnessing here is the modern version. Shall we stand by or shall we act?

I would like everyone who has read this to write to CBC, CTV, CHUM, Sun Media, CanWest-Global and politely ask why they are not covering this story more. Include a copy of the memo. Write you local stations as well. Make enough noise and make them deal with this.

This guy would be proud.


The Jurist rightly points out that we should also consider these numbers, as well as the ones in the links above. These are conservative estimates.

Also, Edward T. Bear has another indication of the creeping fascism infecting the US government. Not just in the style of the art, but the message being sent.

Same Sex Marriage debate outside the blogshpere

Taking a wee break from the Grewal shenanigans for a minute, I'd like to share a letter I have sent off to one of our local fish-wrap weeklies, Nepean This Week. This paper is very Conservative - and yes I mean the big 'C'. This paper might as well be the propaganda wing of the local Conservative Riding Association.

Any way, this letter is a response to a letter from one Tim Carter, and can be found inside the current issue (sorry PDF). This angry rant of his, in response to an earlier letter of mine, which was a response to a hate-filled, fundamentalist-Christian rant against Same Sex Marriage and homosexuality in general.

Here is my letter in response:

"Mr. Carter,

I don't expect you or anyone else to ignore any facts. I do, however, expect you to learn what the facts are. Everything in your latest angry diatribe is false. Clearly you are being spoon-fed "facts" from places like Focus on the Family, NARTH and other fundamentalist, right-wing sources. Let me present the real facts, as gleaned from sources such as the American Psychiatric Association, The University of Western Ontario, The University of Lethbridge, John Hopkins Medical School, DeGroote School of Medicine at MacMaster University, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the US National Academy of Sciences, to name a few.

Homosexuality has been observed, in the wild, in as many as 450 species of animals. These include dolphins, bears, fruit flies,whales, penguins, salmon, and in two other primate species - Orangutans in Sumatra and Japanese Macaques. These researchers weren't looking for this behaviour, they found it while conducting other research. It was a surprise to them and was confirmed by others in the field of biology and zoology.

I could find no research that confirms you assertion that gays are more likely to be involved in "abuse." And while you are quick to point out that gay men are at a higher risk of HIV and AIDS, you seem to miss the fact that the group that is at the lowest risk or ANY demographic are lesbians. Tell me again how being gay is the cause and reason for AIDS? By your logic, we should not allow natives in Saskatchewan to marry, since, statically, they are more likely to be in abusive relationships and to re-commit crimes. Or we should not allow blacks from Africa to marry because they are one thousand times more likely to spread AIDS than white North Americans.

That HIV and AIDS are more spread by high-risk activities such as promiscuity is not in question. But if you really wish to prevent the spread, allowing gays and lesbians to enter into legally recognized, long-term , monogamous relationships will prevent the spread. Same Sex Marriage is actually a solution to the spread of AIDS and HIV, not an enabler of it.

I don't expect to change your hate-filled mind about homosexuality being a natural condition. I will not sit by while you spread false and misleading information about gays and lesbians, intended to generate hate toward and identifiable group.

Let me point out something you may have missed, Mr. Carter. Homosexuals have been allowed to adopt children for more than a decade in Ontario. Studies have shown that gays and lesbians are as good and sometimes better parents than straight parents in raising kids. And no one is being "raised gay". You can no more raise someone and teach them to be gay than you can teach someone to be straight - either they are or they are not. Our schools will simply teach children to respect other people - you know, that old "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" idea - and not "how to be gay". Your assertions are pure paranoia and pathological fear. Ontario has had legal gay marriage for 2 years and we haven't descended into chaos. Nothing has happened.

Oh, and let me point out one more thing, again, because you clearly missed it the first time. You go on though out your letter with accusatory "you want us to..." and "only your own" etc, implying I take the position I do because I am gay (and thus part of the vast "Gay Conspiracy"). As I stated in my first letter, I am straight, married and a father. I form my opinions based on researched facts, not on fear, hatred and dogma. If you can show real evidence to back up your claims, I would change my opinion. But you haven't. You have only shown to me the underlying, anti-gay bigotry that drives your opposition to gay marriage. You letter has been written a thousand times in the past, only then the word "gay" was replaced by the words "Jew", "Black" or "Catholic." Same hatred, different day."

This is the kind of ground-level hatred I have to deal with on a daily basis, and I'm not even gay. I used to wonder how the Germans could get sucked in to supporting genocide back in WWII. Not anymore.

June 16th cannot come fast enough.

Ok. You may now resume Grewal speculation...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Update on the Grewal Affair: The Grewal Pool

I asked Stephen Harper to come clean. It was free, non-partisan advice from a Dipper to a Con. Advice that could have saved us all from facing a bitter electorate, that could have helped restore some faith in our political system.

Stephen Harper chose not to listen to me (ok, I'm sure a lot of others gave him the same advice, but this is my blog!).

And now, it appears, there is growing evidence, even from those that support the Conservatives, that the tapes have been altered. Buckets of Grewal has a nice dissection of one bit. CFRA, the aforementioned Conservative-friendly source, has their own audio engineers stating that they believe the tapes have been spliced and altered, even calling it "Amateurish". As a former student of Carleton University's School of Journalism in the '80s, I can tell you, this kind of editing is easy to do - a few cuts with a razor and a bit of scotch tape and you're done. Despite what some of the CFRA callers would like to believe, VOX microphones and "speed" button miscues leave a completely different audio signature than an edit. When you do this for a living, its easy to tell the difference. And as a resident of Ottawa, I can tell you if the CFRA engineers thought the clicks could have been made by a different cause, they would be reporting that. This station has Lowell Green and Michael Harris (of the Sun Newspaper chain) as on-air personalities. Not exactly a Liberal-loving bunch.

And to top it off, Ujjal Dosanjh is claiming he has two other "independent experts" saying the same thing. Dosanjh is pointing a finger squarely at Stephen Harper as well.

While the Conservative are throwing around the same tired innuendo about "offers" and "integrity" to bash the Liberals, the Liberals seem to be coming back with physical evidence to show the same, if not worse, about the Conservatives. I mean, we can argue 'til the cows come home as to whether Tim Murphy or Dosanjh "hinted" at "possible" benefits "down the road" if Grewal switched and whether it was unethical, illegal or both. But it is getting clear that the physical evidence showing that at least Grewal (and possibly others) altered, tampered with or outright manufactured evidence against the Liberals.

Now, tell me again which is worse? Which side has now lost the "moral authority to govern?"

I suspect Mr. Grewal will have some more explaining to do very soon, and in the presence of his lawyer.

I'd like to start the "Grewal Pool." How long do you give Gurmant Grewal? Pick the date of his "retirement" from politics, the Conservative Party of Canada or both. Post them in the comments. Winner gets the accolades of all the Dippers and Progressive Bloggers.

I think he will be done everything no later than June 14th, 2005, after the Mounties forensic team gets through with the tapes.

Big Brass Alliance get a new member


The alliance is a group of Progressive Bloggers who wish to pressure the US into conduction an investigation into the Bush Regime's roll in lying to start a war. As Ralph Nader puts it:

"President Clinton was impeached for perjury about his sexual relationships. Comparing Clinton's misbehavior to a destructive and costly war occupation launched in March 2003 under false pretenses in violation of domestic and international law certainly merits introduction of an impeachment resolution."

I am proud to join the ranks of Gretchen and Mark to push for the truth and to fight the neo-con, neo-facist government that has taken over our neighbour to the south.

Hit DailyKos, well daily, to get updates on our efforts to wake up the mainstream media.

And before any of my Canadian Conservative fans start up, I want them to remember this (thanks Mark):

By Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day

Today, the world is at war. A coalition of countries under the leadership of the U.K. and the U.S. is leading a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein. Yet Prime Minister Jean Chretien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations.

This is a serious mistake. For the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need. The Canadian Alliance -- the official opposition in parliament -- supports the American and British position because we share their concerns and their worries about the future if Iraq is left unattended; and we share their fundamental vision of civilization and human values.

Disarming Iraq is necessary for the long-term security of the world, and for the collective interests of our key historic allies. It is, therefore, also manifestly in the national interest of Canada. Make no mistake, as our allies work to end the reign of Saddam and the brutality and aggression that are the foundations of his regime, Canada's largest opposition party, the Canadian Alliance, will not be neutral. In our hearts and minds, we will be with our allies and friends. And Canadians will be overwhelmingly with us.

But we will not be with the Canadian government.

Modern Canada was forged in large part by war, not because it was easy, but because it was right. In the great wars of the last century, against authoritarianism, fascism, and communism, Canada did not merely stand with the Americans. More often than not we led the way. We did so for freedom, for democracy, for civilization itself. These values continue to be embodied in our allies and their leaders, and scorned by the forces of evil, including Saddam Hussein and the perpetrators of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That is why we will stand, and I believe most Canadians will stand with us, for these higher values which shaped our past, and which we will need in an uncertain future.

The Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2003

Let the games begin!

I have been Tagged by Greg at Sinister Thoughts...

My turn to Blog about Books:

Number of Books I own: Hundreds, in varying conditions and in varying places around the house. Paper backs, hardcovers, text books, self-help, technical manuals and kids books...Oh man, loads of kids books (it pays off of course - my son who just turned 4 can read on his own).

Last Book I Bought: Can We Be Good Without God? by Robert Buckman and Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hahn, both purchased Monday at lunch. Buckman is the Toronto oncologist and Secular Humanist that appears regularly on TVO and CBC Radio here in Ontario. He is a brilliant man and this book is a study of the biological and evolutionary origins of morality and religion. I'm half done and it's a great book (spoiler: the answer is yes). I got Thich Nhat Hahn because, like Greg at Sinister Thoughts, I'm a big fan.

Last Book I Read: Hominids by Robert J Sawyer. It was the last book in a jag about a month ago. I read Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet right before - all three books in one week. All are incredible books with great stories. If you think the movie version of Hammet were good, the books will blow you away (BTW Red Harvest == Fist Full of Dollars and Last Man Standing).

5 Books that Mean a lot to Me:

1. Shake Hands With the Devil by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dalliare - You should not be allowed to hold office in this country without having read this book. It is a detailed account of the failure of the US, the UN and the rest of the world during the Rawandan Genocide. Very powerful. Dallaire dares us to take on a manifesto that destroys the idea that some humans are more human than others.

2. What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula. I had an instruction book on Kung Fu that had a chapter on the philosophy of Kung Fu. This book explained in very basic terms Ch'an or Zen Buddhism. Curious, I bought Rahula's book and discovered that everything I had come to believe and choose to live by, through science, logic and experience since age 15 were actually the tenets of Buddhism - I was a Buddhist and didn't know it! This book is the classic text introducing Buddhism to the West. Even if you are not a Buddhist, or don't want to be one, you should read this for it's insights into the human mind and an understanding of Buddhism.

3. The Art of War by Sun Tzu. As a guide to both business, military and personal conflict, you can't beat Sun Tzu. This guide to ancient battle can easily be used in our daily life to both avoid conflict we are sure to lose and to engage in conflict in a constructive way. Fully understanding the phrase "Know your enemy, know yourself and in a hundred battles you shall not lose" is worth the price of the book by itself.

4. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. This book is like your favourite dinner - no matter how many times you eat it, it tastes as good as the first time. There is nothing better in the summer than to chill around the camp fire and devour a Kerouac classic. The Dharma Bums, is another good Kerouac choice.

5. Oh the Places You Will Go by Dr. Suess. Yes, you read that right, Dr. Suess. If you've never read this, or perhaps have forgotten it, pick it up and read it again. Ted Giesel has, in a story that runs for about 10 minutes, captured the best advice for life anyone can know. I love this story and my kids love this story. I read it to them every chance I get. I think this one story, if read enough, can prepare a child for life better than any crap Dr. Phil can dish out.

I think that last bit needs repeating. If you want intelligent, well-rounded children that will do alright in this world, read to them. Read to your kids every day, at least once a day if not more. Read to them whenever they have the chance. You can't give you kids a better gift than your time, your voice and a good story.

Soooo, now that I'm done I tag Accidental Deliberations (welcome to the Dippers ;) ), Paranoid Left-Wing Ranting, politicagrll, The Green Lantern and The Hive.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Sordid Grewal Affair and the Bile in My Mouth

***haaack thooowey***

That's how I feel today. The Grewal Affair is a disgusting spectacle of almost comic proportions. Yes, it would almost be funny if you couldn't actually hear the hearts of the Canadian voter hardening over this. Disgust and disillusion hang in the air like an August smog bubble over Toronto.

That our national government is once again wasting our time with this petty, childish behaviour is an insult to Canadians who want things to get done. Why are we once again digging into a crisis?

First and foremost, I am angry over the behaviour of the CPC in general and of Gurmant Grewal, the instigator of this nonsense. Mr. Grewal has a questionable past. Most notably, he has claimed to be a victim of the BC Liberal Party back in 1995, who he says tricked him into stepping aside for another candidate. He later claimed that Sandy Powar of the BC Liberals, tried to bribe him with a cabinet post in a Gordon Campbell government. Mr. Grewal further claimed to have a tape of the conversation (which never materialized).

Sound familiar?

He later claimed that he "recommended to and then helped the president of Liberia to launch Green Revolution in the country" and that the Liberian government "asked me if I would like to be vice-consul or honorary consul and they were considering it, but it never happened..." During his time in BC, it was reported that he was actually an advisor to Samuel Doe, the vicious Liberian dictator.

In 2002, he claims that Prime Minister Jean Chretien, through an unidentified Liberal MP, offered him a cabinet position if he crossed the floor.

Sound familiar?

He also had ultra-right-wing(nut) barbie Rachel Marsden working in his office last year, under an assumed name. He had knowingly hired her against the express wishes of Stephen Harper. Marsden used his office e-mail to recruit people to his campaign, which is illegal. Grewal denies he knew that a person he was asked not to hire and working for him under an assumed name was doing this. Besides, she was told to stop.

But wait, he was also involved in a controversy surrounding getting visitors visas in exchange for cash last year. Although he claims that the $50 K "bonds" were refundable, given his background, it is hard to believe nothing else may have gone on. As wonderdog, puts it, I wonder what was said in those "bond" conversations. He is currently under investigation for this by both the ethics commissioner and the RCMP, at the behest of Immigration Minister Joe Volpe.

I find it clear from all of these shenanigans that Mr. Grewal is, how shall it put this, less than believable and most certainly less than trustworthy. A sordid past like this should simply disqualify him from holding any office.

Which leads me to the CPC. How can a party that has trumpeted for 8 weeks that they are the alternative to "Liberal corruption" have such a person within their ranks and make any attempt to give him credibility? After dropping the original 8-minute dud on May 19, we waited 11 days for more inconclusive nothing. And we still don't have all of the tapes! And what we do have is of questionable authenticity and quality. What was the CPC doing over those 11 days? Why don't we have ALL of the audio available?

Any thought that the CPC would take the moral high road and not have a "hidden agenda" on anything are out the door. The CPC and its leadership under Stephen Harper have proven yet again that they are no better than the Liberals they slam so often. As you see in the links above, its not like Mr. Harper didn't know about Mr. Grewal's reputation and actions. And the CPC continues to play partisan games with this in a effort to embarrass the Liberals instead of getting to work, revealing they are just as opportunistic as those they condemn.

And the Liberals. Well, we expect this from them, don't we? I am a little disgusted that they would even enter a dance with the likes of Mr. Grewal, but I am not surprised. Let me put on my best Captain Renault voice, and paraphrase:

"I am shocked! Shocked to discover that a minoity government backed against the wall and fighting for its survival would try to use any kind of wheeling and dealing to try to survive! Shocked, I tell you!"

This whole thing simply stinks. It is perhaps one of the lowest moments in Canadian political history. I will not be surprised if we have turned a whole generation off of politics because of this. I would expect a voter turnout in the mid 40% range next time.

I would also expect more protest votes for the Greens and the NDP, but not as much as there should be. People will just give up. And thanks to this, Quebec will never look to a federalist party again, and I don't blame them. The Liberals will steal from them and the Conservatives will try any sleazy trick in the book to get them. And the NDP is essentially the Bloc without the separatist agenda so why change?

Thank you Stephen Harper and Gurmant Grewal for spiraling our country and politics to a new low. Trust me, you will never get elected in Ontario after this.

My only hope is that the voters see that the NDP is actually trying to get something useful done - even if you don't agree with WHAT they are trying to get done, at least they are trying to do something besides embarrass their political foes (trust me, they are holding their noses while they do it). Hopefully this will have them look at the platform and dispel the myths and accept the NDP as a real alternative to both the CPC and the Libs. I hope they do the same thing to the Green Party as well. I think we need to rid Ottawa of BOTH the Liberals and the Conservatives.

A little advice to Stephen Harper:

Look honest not shifty. Release ALL the tapes, unedited and untranslated, to the public (and to the Mounties) and let the chips fall where they may. Right now the only thing that can help you guys is to unceremoniously dump Mr. Grewal from the party and come clean. Honesty now may help a great deal when the election comes.

Of course, I don't expect him to follow that advice. That would make sense.


Well, I guess I was right - Harper is defending Grewal and trying to use this incident to yet again embarass the Libs. What is most interesting is that they are now claiming that Grewal has handed over all the tapes. so where is the other 2 hours and 45 minutes? This thing stinks to high heaven and I personally don't believe this is it (if it is the CPC has made a crisis out of "maybe" and "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" - idiots).