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Archive for ‘Dennis Gruending’

Flying with Gordie Howe

How I met my childhood idol

Gordie Howe was my childhood idol , Creative Commons photo

Gordie Howe will soon  turn 86. The man called Mr. Hockey was born into a poor family near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1928. I idolized him when I was a boy and wanted desperately to play professional hockey one day. When, as an adult, I finally encountered Gordie back in 1994, I was pretty well tongue tied.

It was early March and minus 30 degrees in Regina, Saskatchewan. The prairies had endured a two-month deep freeze. I was awakened in my hotel room that Saturday morning by the growling sound of car motors turning over slowly, then dying, and the distinctive crunch that tires make on snow when it is that cold. Later, at the airport terminal, I learned that my flight to Edmonton was delayed so I half-heartedly turned to reading a newspaper.

When I looked across the small waiting room, I noticed a slope-shouldered man leaning against the wall. Big, but not bulky, he was perhaps 60 years old, with deep lines in his tanned face and thinning grey hair. He was dressed casually in a pair of beige cotton twill pants and he wore a dark blue sweatshirt over a white turtleneck. He squinted at the clock across the room and blinked several times in quick succession. There was something about him which was familiar.

The next time I looked up, he was being approached by a stout woman in a bright red coat. She offered him a writing pad and a pen, blushing robustly as she did so. He took the pen, signed deliberately and handed the autographed page back with a slight smile which brought an even brighter flush to her face.

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Whither the Canada health accord?

Costs being downloaded to provinces

Paul Martin negotiated health accord, Creative Commons photo

The existing health care accord between Ottawa and the provinces and territories is set to expire on March 31, 2014 and the long term consequences are alarming. The issues are complex and the amount of money involved is in the many billions, but the key to understanding what is happening is this: Canada has a public, single payer health system for visits to the doctor and stays in hospital thanks to earlier political leaders, including Tommy Douglas, Woodrow Lloyd and Lester Pearson. Publicly-funded expenditures account for about 70% of all health care spending in Canada. The remaining 30% is private spending on items such as dental and vision care and pharmaceutical drugs. When publicly funded health care was first introduced in the 1960s, its costs were shared on a 50-50 basis by Ottawa and each of the provinces, which actually deliver most of that care. That cost-sharing arrangement has evolved greatly and will change even more dramatically in future, given a unilateral announcement made in 2011 by Jim Flaherty, who was Canada’s finance minister at the time.

Federal contribution dropping

According to a 2013 study by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and Society of Actuaries, health care transfers from Ottawa to the provinces, which once accounted for 50% of all public expenditures, had fallen to 21% in 2012. The actuaries estimate that the federal contribution would drop to a mere 14.3% by 2037 under the revised formula announced by Flaherty.

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CBC's Nahlah Ayed on the Middle East

What the future holds

 

CBC’s Nahlah Ayed on the Middle East

Nahlah Ayed, London-based foreign correspondent for CBC Television, says the Arab Spring that erupted in the Middle East beginning in late 2010 was born in euphoria but its legacy is mainly one of dashed hopes. Ayed spoke recently to several hundred people at Carleton University in Ottawa at the invitation of the School of Journalism and Communication. She was a graduate of that program in the 1990s and later worked for five years as a Canadian Press reporter covering politics in Ottawa. Then she took a bold step and left in 2002,  determined to cover developments in the Middle East. For the next decade she lived and reported from the region for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She was on the ground when the Arab protests and uprisings spread across northern Africa, notably in Egypt, and eventually into other countries such as Syria.

Ayed described in her talk a region where “fatalistic resignation” has long been the overwhelming sentiment. “There was always something that would ruin hope,” she said. “The Arab Spring provided a glimmer of new hope when young people took to the squares demanding change, but that hope is in great danger of being dashed.”

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Canada and the propaganda war in Ukraine

Deadly name-calling

Vladimir Putin trades propaganda barbs with the West

Truth, as the saying goes, is the first casualty of war. There is no war in Ukraine yet, but the potentially violent standoff has been accompanied by an inflated war of words, …

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Preston Manning and Stephen Harper

A pained and strained relationship

Preston Manning’s painful relationship with Stephen Harper

The Manning Centre’s annual Ottawa-based gathering of Conservatives has come and gone for another year. Reform Party founder Preston Manning and his wife Sandra created the organization in 2006 to act as a training ground for …

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Canadian CEOs make 171 times the average

It’s time to talk about a maximum wage

Peter Drucker, “limit executive pay,” Photo courtesy Creative Commons

In November 2013, people in Switzerland voted in a referendum on something called the 1:12 Initiative for Fair Pay. Under that proposal no one in a Swiss company would earn more in a single month than someone else in that company earns in an entire year. Corporate spokespersons in Switzerland and some in government warned of dire negative economic consequences if such a proposal were accepted. Although it was defeated by a significant margin, it is significant that the issue was being discussed at all.

It is a debate that we should have in Canada. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports that in 2012 Canada’s top 100 CEOs pocketed an average of $7.96 million. That was an income equal to 171 times that of the average Canadian worker, and 194 times that of the average female worker.

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Canada's war in Afghanistan

Was it worth it?

Canadian soldiers firing artillery in Afghanistan, Courtesy Creative Commons

The long war in Afghanistan has receded from our attention, but as we  prepare to pull our last troops out the media spin cycle has been renewed …

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Edward Snowden's future

Whistleblower pulls back curtain on CSEC

Whistleblower Edward Snowden, Wikipedia photo

Some people believe that Edward Snowden is a traitor and would haul him into a U.S. court if they could get their hands on him. However, countless others believe that Snowden, a young technician who exited …

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