Freeland, Trudeau are true believers, but free trade mantra blows up

Chrystia Freeland says free trade raises all boats, but does it really?
Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister. Creative Commons photo.

Canada’s new minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, was recruited into politics by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and is influential in his inner circle. They share a belief common amongst international bankers, industrialists and many politicians that free trade and globalization are automatically good for us and that it would be dangerous to tamper with them. Continue reading Freeland, Trudeau are true believers, but free trade mantra blows up

CSIS spying on Canadians: needles and haystacks

The Liberal government promised to undo aspets of draconian anti-terror Bill C-51. We are still waiting.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Photo by Art Babych

In June 2015, the Conservative government passed the Anti-Terrorism Act, which is also known as Bill C-51. It gave sweeping new powers to Canada’s spy and security agencies. For example, the legislation broadened the definition of “security” in a way which could criminalize peaceful protests. It also permitted agents of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to disrupt events preemptively rather than being limited to monitoring them. Continue reading CSIS spying on Canadians: needles and haystacks

Year-ender in which a humble scribe admits mistakes

Scientist and evangelical Katharine Hayhoe talks effecrively to fellow Christians about climate change
Katharine Hayhoe, scientist and evangelical. Photo courtesy of Katharine Hayhoe.com

Jeffrey Simpson, the excellent but now retired columnist for The Globe and Mail would write at year’s end about what he got right — and where he had been wrong. I intend to try something similar with this blog posting. Continue reading Year-ender in which a humble scribe admits mistakes

Justin Trudeau “disengaged” on nuclear weapons file

Critics say Justin Trudeau is “disengaged” on the nuclear weapons file.
Justin Trudeau “disengaged” on nuclear weapons file. Art Babych photo.

At the United Nations in late October 123 countries voted in favour of a recommendation endorsing the launch of negotiations aimed at prohibiting nuclear weapons. Canada voted no. Douglas Roche, this country’s former Ambassador for Disarmament at the UN is clearly piqued. “The government turned its back on an important nuclear disarmament initiative,” he says, “and sided with the nuclear weapons states that want to keep and modernize their nuclear arsenals for the rest of the 21st century.”

Roche adds, “The blame for the Canadian diplomatic debacle belongs squarely on the desk of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose office won’t even answer letters or phone calls from high-ranking persons trying to alert him to the need for Canadian action.” Roche says that Trudeau seems “disengaged” on nuclear arms control and that his government has undermined the nuclear disarmament work championed by his father Pierre Trudeau.  Continue reading Justin Trudeau “disengaged” on nuclear weapons file

Canada’s first ministers and climate change, no room for cynicism

Canada's first ministers and climate change
Canada’s first ministers and climate change, no room for cynicism. Dennis Gruending photo.

Prime Minister Trudeau called the first ministers together in Vancouver recently to begin mapping out a plan for Canada to meet commitments made at December’s Paris Climate Conference. The Paris meeting  was a last ditch attempt to prevent the most dramatic impacts of global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels whose emissions remain trapped in the atmosphere. At that gathering 195 nations reached an accord committing them to lowering greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) although they did not say by exactly how much. Continue reading Canada’s first ministers and climate change, no room for cynicism

CMA’s Demand A Plan a winner in 2015 Canadian election

Canadian Medical Association (CMA) President Dr. Cindy Forbes. Photo courtesy CMA.
Canadian Medical Association (CMA) President Dr. Cindy Forbes. Photo courtesy CMA.

I belong to Ottawa’s Parliamentary Press Gallery and had access to a rich variety of information circulated during the 2015 federal election campaign. The most impressive advocacy that I saw was the Demand A Plan campaign, which was launched by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and several supporting groups. Now, that campaign has been shortlisted for an international prize in the annual Reed Awards, which will take place in Charleston, S.C. on Feb. 18.

Multi-media campaign

The Demand A Plan alliance last year waged a multi-media advocacy campaign, calling for a national seniors’ strategy. According to the CMA, more than 30,000 Canadians used the campaign’s website and sent roughly 25,000 letters to candidates across the country, asking where they stand on seniors’ issues. The campaign website also provided a “promise tracker” tool, which allowed visitors to compare the policy statements of different political parties.

Medicare must adapt

Although it was created more than 50 years ago, when the average age was much younger, medicare has not adapted well to serve the growing number of elderly Canadians. By 2036, people aged 65 and over will make up a quarter of the population and account for 62 percent of health costs.

The alliance says that it supports universal public health care but fears the system won’t survive unless seniors’ care is redesigned. For example, the group says that it takes nine months to get a hip replacement in Canada because hospital beds are crowded with seniors — many of them suffering from dementia and other chronic diseases without long-term care and home-care support. Interestingly, the group says that caring for someone in a hospital costs $1,000 a day, compared to $130 a day in long-term care and $55 a day at home.

Dr. Cindy Forbes: “momentum”

“We cannot lose momentum as we continue to push for federal leadership in the development of a national seniors’ strategy,” CMA President Dr. Cindy Forbes says, adding that the alliance has documented the Liberal Party’s election promises as they relate to seniors’ care (Those, too, are published on the website). They include negotiating a new Health Accord with the provinces and territories; investing $3 billion over the next four years to deliver more and better home-care services for all Canadians, including access to high-quality, in-home caregivers, financial support for family care, and, when necessary, palliative care; and investing in affordable housing and seniors’ facilities.

This spring, the CMA and its alliance partners want the Trudeau government to convene a meeting of provincial and territorial premiers to discuss seniors’ care. They also want to see a national seniors’ strategy in place by 2019.

No mention of pharmacare

Unfortunately, there is no mention in either in Demand A Plan or in the Liberal government’s promises, of a national pharmacare plan. Pharmaceuticals are the fastest growing component in health care costs and the need for such a plan is urgent.

They’ve come a long way

Still, there is no doubt that Canada’s doctors have come a long way since the CMA strenuously opposed the introduction of Medicare in Saskatchewan in 1962, and just as adamantly opposed recommendations for a similar national program by the Hall Commission in 1964.

A version of this piece ran in the United Church Observer on February 18, 2016.