Doctors battle Ottawa on refugee health cuts

Changes cause "mass confusion"

Dr. Doug Gruner, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Health Care, Dennis Gruending photo

Doug Gruner is a doctor at the Bruyère Family Medicine Centre in Ottawa and a member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care. He says that the Harper …

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Ottawa’s bogus claims about refugees

Government attacks the most vulnerable

Shopkeeper in Aleppo, Syria in 2010, prior to a cruel civil war. Dennis Gruending photo
In 2010, I visited Syria with my family and we found the people there to be friendly and gracious. But a cruel civil war has now forced an estimated two million Syrians to seek refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and even Iraq, neighbouring countries ill-equipped for such a surge. The UN has pleaded with countries, such as Canada, to provide a home for at least some of those displaced people. Sweden agreed to accept 15,000, Germany 5,000, the U.S. 2000, and in July 2013 Canada agreed to accept 1,300. In March 2014, however, the Toronto Star reported that only about 10 government-sponsored refugees had managed to enter Canada the previous year.

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Revamping the carbon economy

Greening, alone, will not stop climate change

Greening is not enough, Creative Commons image
I have participated in numerous discussions about climate change and usually they veer off into talking about recycling, composting or church greening. But those efforts, while personally commendable, are completely inadequate.
“The key …

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Continuing to discuss climate change

It’s real. We caused it. But what do we do now?

IPCC scientists say climate change is real, Polaris Institute image
Early in April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its fourth – and most urgent – report on …

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George Tomita’s marriage ministry at age 92

He calls couples on their anniversary



George and Amy Tomita. He calls each of 170 couples that he married on the day before their anniversary

Our telephone rang early one morning a couple of years ago. “Hello, this is George Tomita calling. You have a …

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Nonviolence, spirituality and social transformation

A conversation at Saint Paul University

Heather Eaton, conflict studies professor at Saint Paul University. Photo courtesy of SPU

Heather Eaton says that Canadians have much to learn about nonviolence and its effect on social change. Eaton, a …

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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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