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Part 1/5 – Privatization of Health Care – The Backgrounder

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: Privatization of health care – Part 1

April 27, 2011 12:07 PM

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Region: Ontario Topics:

The backgrounder

By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, ON)

 

amy-macpherson-hs-2.jpg  I couldn’t have picked a more complicated beast to wrestle and it’s no wonder we don’t see health care in the headlines very often, but I humbly plead for your patience as I attempt to explain our conundrum. This impacts the Simcoe-Grey riding more than anyone realizes, because our voters may play a large role in deciding the fate of this truly dear, Canadian treasure.

We’re already familiar with challenges to our public health system. Private surgery clinics and medical facilities in British Columbia have admitted to double billing the government and patients (see Cambie Clinic); as well as privately billing convenience fees that allow patients to jump the queue. Up to five provinces (including Ontario) allow this transgression, resulting in a culture of for-profit health care. Although this practice is illegal according to the Health Canada Act, under the Harper government these clinics are not being prosecuted.

In fact, Stephen Harper has taken every opportunity to promote the privatization of health care since his early days with the NCC:


This position was maintained throughout previous elections and includes the 2011 Leaders’ Debate:


That’s the easy part out of the way, but you’ll have to bear with me through the next stage of explanation. As it might not be readily apparent, the following are facts you’ll need to navigate through Part ii.

Dr. Kellie Leitch is our official Simcoe-Grey, Conservative Party of Canada candidate. Her arrival on our scene was also a source of ruffled feathers. The local riding president teed off with the PMO over having Leitch “parachuted” into their meetings. These are not my words; they’re from the party itself. At the time it was all the talk around town, as many were demanding answers for Guergis – and still are.

In an act of solidarity the riding president quit at the onset of elections, as did many others in the local executive. The split doesn’t appear to be amicable, as they went public with their opinions and didn’tmince any words. On a positive note however, this left the association free to re-establish itself with new support at the helm.

This wasn’t the only divisive controversy though. For weeks a saga dragged on between the mayor of Wasaga Beach and Dr. Leitch’s election campaign. On every local radio station the mayor gave interviews. On television and in newsprint the battle continued. It was a he-said, she-said dispute about the legitimacy of candidate endorsements. Leitch defended herself in turn and after a month of bickering, the two camps finally compromised.

The good doctor endured a challenging welcome upon unveiling to locals, but she’s remained steadfastand generated a swelling of support to her credit. Dr. Leitch continues to dominate our front page on consecutive weeks with visits from high profile Conservatives. Senator Hugh Segal attends consistent events; Defense Minister Peter MacKay was the guest of honour last week and former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino has most recently joined the Simcoe-Grey campaign alumnae.

Needless to say when national personalities frequent the back woods, there’s a ripple effect amongst residents. Waiting in line at the convenience store can lead to chatter. So too can the gas station. The coffee shop, gymnasium, pharmacy, grocery store and dog park are a list of places you can share your two cents worth. Our townsfolk are still debating whether Helena Guergis should have been kicked out of her party and the majority I’ve spoken with are sympathetic to her plight. You could say there’s been a tug-of-war between loyalty and star-power either way.

Now you have the basis of how we came to meet Dr. Kellie Leitch. She is greatly esteemed in her craft and was appointed as Health Canada Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth. In Part 2, I’ll elaborate on the pertinent, professional contributions that tie our local flavour to the title of the story. Thanks again for your patience.

– Part 2

Part 2/5 – Privatization of Health Care – Dr. Who?

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: Privatization of health care – Part 2

April 27, 2011 12:07 PM

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Region: Ontario Topics:

Dr. Who?  By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.) 

amy-macpherson-hs-2.jpg  To look at the players in this movement to privatize health care, we need to examine Kellie Leitch, our Simcoe-Grey Conservative candidate. Again, these are just the facts that constitute pieces of the puzzle our riding has been fumbling with.

Leitch, a pediatric surgeon, holds numerous professional positions, and I applaud her courage to take on so many projects.  She is a professor at the University of Toronto; regular adviser toHealth Canada; board member of Genome Canada; trustee at Dundee REIT; chair of pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario; assistant dean at the University of Western Ontario’s school of medicine and dentistry; pediatric -orthopedic  surgeon at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto; and chair of the UWO business school ‘s Centre for Health Innovation and Leadership. She maintains part-time medical practices in at least three different regions.

LeitchDebate_AmyMacPherson.jpg  If only I could squeeze that many hours in my day, I would begin to feel a deeper connection with Wonder Woman. (I borrowed that line from a dear colleague because I could certainly relate.) Clients of community resources must often rely on assistance from elected officials to work out some of their difficulties.  It might involve expediting a birth certificate, advocating grants for a women’s shelter, managing relations with Veterans Affairs or trying to obtain information about income tax.

If you’ve ever tried to call a government office and sat on hold for two hours, you should understand how valuable an MP’s time is. Can Leitch really juggle so many responsibilities at the same time? At the onset of campaigning, she sought additional hospital privileges in our area and promised to run a clinic out of Orillia, Ont., as well. If she made the leap to politics, we could lose the precious services of a doctor.

Throughout the course of our riding debates, however, constituents changed sentiments. The public is a finicky bunch. Once the crowd accepted she would remain engaged in health care delivery, they began to pressure Leitch on her role as parliamentarian. Her response at recent events has changed to say she will now be a full-time MP. Depending on your point of view, some groups would have to be disappointed with her decision. Regrettably, no one can be all things to all people.

As Kirk Whitlock, a newly graduated teacher, says, “I am concerned how a professional with such extensive external demands elsewhere (volunteer, chairperson, dean, director and surgeon) can truly commit to being our full-time MP.”

Prior to Leitch’s bid for office, she advised Health Canada, helping the Conservative government develop their proposed fitness tax credit. It’s unfortunate this benefit won’t be expanded until the deficit is eliminated, but it shows her good relationship with the party.

Sitting on the board of directors at Genome Canada, another of her positions, is no small feat. They’re working on human DNA, genetically modified fish, plants and food. Some locals are particularly curious about this endeavour, and it doesn’t help that their questions have gone unanswered. Kirk told me his “queries have been dismissed and I confess it makes me uncomfortable.”

But it’s Leitch’s position at UWO’s Centre for Health Innovation and Leadership that concerns us most, and I’ll address it next.

Photo above: Kellie Leitch at 2011 candidates debate in Collingwood, Ont. (credit: Amy MacPherson)– Part 3

Part 3/5 – Privatization of Health Care – The Know How

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: Privatization of health care – Part 3

April 27, 2011 12:08 PM

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Region: Ontario Topics:

The know how

By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)

 

amy-macpherson-hs-2.jpg  Leitch’s post at UWO’s Centre for Health Innovation and Leadership, an institution that seeks to provide health care professionals with a degree in business health, has seen her become a driving force in translating entrepreneurial pursuits to the realm of health care. In an official white paper she states, “Since the health of a population is directly related to its economic productivity and global competitiveness, then health care delivery must be viewed as an economic engine and not a cost.  The health care sector in Canada is the largest ‘business sector’ in the country, yet few think of it in this way.  More often, health care is seen as an extension of government or public service, and not as a key component of our economy capable of producing greater wealth and prosperity.”

Leitch and her co-authors go on to say the Canadian health care system is adverse to her innovation and requires new policies to accommodate it.  She claims UWO’s health innovation centre was created to “remedy these problems.”  The paper mentions renegotiating health care funding in 2014 and includes quotes from Tony Clement in support of her proposal. It goes on to argue for two-tiered funding that would allow private “financial drivers” into our system, but oddly, Leitch denied these very notions to our local newspaper as recently as yesterday.

The health innovation centre’s plan is to create “living laboratories” of the basic elements of health care: everything from paramedics to the doctor’s office, from the emergency room to the operating room. They especially would like to engage “consumers of health care” in technology. The white paper broaches the subject of health information technology in particular. It mentions expanding e-health into personal health records that patients can access from Microsoft, Google, Facebook or even their smartphones.

When I first heard this suggestion, I found myself quite alarmed. What about safety, privacy, fraud, misdiagnosis and cost to the patient? Overall, I thought it must be a theological argument. That was until Leitch made national headlines with her proposals.

The Financial Post article describes Leitch’s scenario of “a mother waking up to find her baby with an odd-looking rash. In an ideal health care environment, the mother can upload a picture of the rash to a website using her smartphone, be connected to live video conference with a doctor and have the proper ointment prescribed which she can pick up on her way to day care, without ever having to visit a hospital or clinic.”

Residents who’ve read the article have taken issue. Wasaga Beach has many senior citizens who aren’t always comfortable using smartphones. A lot of other residents are unemployed and can’t afford a cellphone or medical apps to receive service.

“Low-income families will not be able to access doctors through smartphone applications.  The Wasaga Beach and surrounding area is already battling with severe unemployment, and many of the clients I work with have a hard time putting food on the table, let alone paying for internet,” says domestic violence worker Kim Stubbington. “I also work with older clients who wouldn’t be comfortable operating a smartphone or talking about their problems in the open.”

Then there are some who wonder how many times that rash could be misdiagnosed or medicine prescribed that may cause an adverse reaction. Would everyone know the difference between flesh eating disease, skin cancer and gout from a smartphone picture? Could it decipher between a sprain and a fracture? Apparently other companies have already seen the dollar signs and created a smartphone plugin that can detect cancer for just $200.

The UWO health sector MBA program that Leitch oversees seeks to cross-train our doctors, nurses and researchers as partners to big pharma and corporations with vested interest. The core curriculum consists of: pharmacoeconomics; intellectual property, licensing and the regulatory environment of health; health care management; financing private health care sector enterprise; managing the political and economic environment; and private health sector strategy.

Considering the names of the courses, I don’t think there’s any denying a private push for health care, and this is making a lot of folks uneasy.  Leitch’s white paper also asserts we should discourage accomplished health professionals from leading our institutions if they haven’t completed her program.  Controversial, indeed.

In Part 4, we’ll add Telus, TD Bank and the University of Toronto to the mix.

Part 5/5 – Privatization of Health Care – When Corporation Meets University

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: Privatization of health care – Part 5

April 27, 2011 12:10 PM

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Region: Ontario Topics:

When corporation meets university
By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)

amy-macpherson-hs-2.jpg  In changing society’s mindset, it is best to start with schools and educators. This is one of four goals emphasized by Kellie Leitch and the UWO’s Centre for Health Innovation and Leadership conference. In a separate presentation by the doctor under the University of Toronto brand, she sheds light on how these plans may impact students here and throughout Ontario.

The presentation lays out definitions of innovation and commercialization. Innovation means to introduce a new idea, device or novelty. Commercialization, according to Leitch, is to “manage a business for profit and to leverage quality for more profit.”

I asked Angela Regnier, executive director of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, about the presentation. She criticized it: “It’s very disappointing to see faculty at the University of Toronto unabashedly engage in profiteering of research. Selling off university research to private enterprise skews the goals of university research, by creating an atmosphere of misconduct and preventing research for the public good. Our faculty and universities should be accountable to the public, not for-profit corporations.”

After a passionate and personable conversation, Regnier provided a report that details student concerns with the commercialization of education and research. It’s titled Public Risk Private Gain, produced by the Canadian Federation of Students, and it’s certainly worth the read. It would appear private enterprise has been a challenge to our higher learning institutions for some time, and they are consistently fending off corporate interference.

So I guess we know where the vote mob stands. The final nod will be up to Simcoe-Grey residents on May 2. The bigger question remains: Do all of us know the choice we’ll be making?

An Election Hangover – The Morning After

CBC News  Politics

Wasaga Beach: An election hangover

May 4, 2011 9:10 AM

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Region: Ontario Topics:

By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)Amy-MacPherson-52.jpg  Simcoe-Grey has handily elected Conservative candidate Kellie Leitch, a pediatric surgeon, with 49 per cent of the vote. Results came in quickly, placing the NDP’s Katy Austin in a distant second and independent Helena Guergis and Liberal Alex Smardenka roughly tied for third. Green Party candidate Jace Metheral was dealt a blow, losing 2,000-plus supporters compared with the election before. The Liberals lost nearly 4,000 votes while the NDP made gains of around 5,000. It was a historic moment for the Orange Crush movement in our riding, as it nearly doubled support and cracked a glass ceiling in Conservative territory.

Although voter turnout was 66 per cent for the riding, it seems Wasaga Beach still has a few bumps to work out itself. Nearly half our polling stations present challenges for people with disabilities, an issue that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Elections Canada volunteers. Central poll supervisor David Trafford says, “Anyone in a wheelchair wouldn’t be able to open the steel doors. And first they have to make it across a gravel parking lot to reach the doors. I intend to include this in my accessibility report.”

amy1-election-night.jpg

Around noon, there weren’t any lineups and plenty of parking was still available. By dinnertime, the flow had increased, but voters continued to be in and out within five minutes. Accessibility may have been an issue, but so too was voter response to attack ads. Resident Billy Burch confessed, “That’s why I didn’t vote!” But he continued to praise Leitch’s medical qualifications and hopes: “She encourages kids’ fitness with ideas like tax incentives to get involved in sports.”

amy2-election-night.jpg

Perhaps adding to voter frustration were the locations of and lack of signage identifying polling stations. One of our polling centres was situated deep within a private, adult gated community that is normally off limits to the public and requires a security code to enter by vehicle. It was meant to serve surrounding neighbourhoods on election day, but there was no indication the public could attend for this special occasion.

amy3-election-night.jpg

So the mood seems mixed following the ballot-box tally. Personal support worker Melanie Lopes was a bit more cynical in her assessment, lamenting, “Hopefully, I get my surgery before health care is taken away!” Small-business owner and stonemason Darren Ellis was disappointed after voting NDP because “everyone else seems to have ego in the way but [Jack Layton’s] transparent.” It will be his first official summer as an entrepreneur, and he’s at odds with how a Conservative agenda will impact his pursuits.

Speaking with those who are happy with developments, we see a boatload of hopes pinned on Leitch’s ability to translate social and health care into politics. Private foster care operator Leslie Listro gave her nod to the local Conservative because “the lack of resources and supports for this community is significant,” and she was impressed with the doctor’s verbal response to her concerns. Candice Labuick adds, “I want to see us reduce more debt and regain stability in our government.” Only time will tell which group hedged their social investment well.

Before I go I’d just like to thank everyone at CBC for this wonderful opportunity to get the grassroots more engaged in the electoral process.  If you’d like to stay up to date with all things Simcoe-Grey and social issues in Ontario, please follow me on Twitter via MsAmyMacPherson.  Cheers to my fellow bloggers and the CBC community for a job well done!

Photo credit: Amy MacPherson.

Gap Between Rich & Poor – A Photo Essay

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: Before you vote, a real picture

April 30, 2011 8:50 PM

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Region: Ontario Topics:

Amy-MacPherson-52.jpg  By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)

With the aggrandizement of party leaders and political personalities this election, I have to say we may have let them off the hook regarding the issues themselves.

Essentially, all our cares collaborate to represent one thing: How government translates to the family pocketbook at the end of each week. We have our ideals addressing foreign aid; hopes to find a party that can translate policy into real jobs; forethought to protect our army and additional worry for staples like health care, child care and education.  In the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs however, these are all secondary and dependent upon a family’s ability to carry the burden of fulfilling these goals.

On the frontlines and amongst social service advocates, we’re painfully aware of the gap between rich and poor. We’ve been watching this unfold and don’t need to hear from statistics to endorse our beliefs.  The pictures I’d like to share with you are inspired by the families I help through Wasaga Cares (community resource) and demonstrate their story beyond any thousand words I could choose.

The only context I’d like to offer is that Wasaga Beach doesn’t offer much in the way of affordable housing.  Our working poor live in little boxes and many are forced to take up residence in cottages throughout the winter.  The lowest rent for any of the properties I’ve photographed is $650 per month, which is well above the maximum income for a single person on welfare.  To compound their woes, we have a 0.9 per cent rental vacancy rate in our area and 25 per cent of our population is now surviving on the food bank.

And then, there’s the middle class, which should be better insulated better from the recession. Their homes have appeared for sale in pairs as neighbours come to terms with financial hardship.  When we speak about the gap between rich and poor, this is exactly the group we’re talking about – although 7,000 sq. ft. mansions are abandoned just the same. What you won’t see in the photographs are rows and rows of election signs.  There may be one or two noting property forfeiture, but not anyone praising a politician.

The Lewis family is one group who’s spent the past few years living in motel.  Mike counts his blessings saying, “I’m just lucky to have a position that helps me pay the rent.”  He’s the property manager for Bay Breezes and estimates fifteen families live there permanently.  Remaining units are rented out to passersby and tourists.

MikeLewis_AmyMacPherson-300.jpg
Mike Lewis, property manager of the Bay Breezes Motel in Wasaga Beach, Ont. Mike is photographed with his children, his children Mariah, left, and Ethan. (Amy MacPherson)
Despite the absence of a playground, his children Mariah, 9, and Ethan, 7, entertain themselves in the parking lot.  At the sole low-income housing complex across town, you’ll see what those kids get for play equipment.  And let us not forget that current government direction has turned a great deal of families away from bricks and onto thatch.  If this doesn’t tell us tax cuts aren’t working, I don’t know what will.

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Federal Election 2011: Sparks Fly At Simcoe-Grey Debate

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: Sparks Fly At Simcoe-Grey Debate

April 23, 2011 3:21 PM

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Region: Ontario Topics:

Amy-MacPherson-52.jpg  By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)

It was standing room only – as far back as the foyer, where the late crowd could only listen by loudspeaker.  Electricity could be felt amongst the candidates, so tangible even a light exploded!  The audience was a tad unruly, although entertaining with their hoots, hollers and odd heckle for good measure.  Simcoe-Grey [voters] are vocal participants in their politics.

Instead of characterizing and paraphrasing, I’d like to share some of the more pointed moments with video.  It helps that we have a supply of political Hollywood in our riding, but I think the mood and personalities all do a wonderful job of speaking for themselves.

Conservative (CPC) candidate Kellie Leitch tested constituents with the party line on coalition governments and took a dig at her opponent, Helena Guergis (Independent Conservative) about who was the real deal.  The audience offers its opinion on negative attacks in our debates, though.

Helena Guergis, embattled by bitter and false attacks on her reputation, was admirably poised in her response about mistakes and forgiveness.

The night included a hotbed of issues, including abortion and women’s rights.  Jace Metheral of the Green Party was charming and witty, surely winning best quote of the night.  When questioned on age and experience he offered the he was “only 22 and had the least time to be corrupted”!  Everyone laughed heartily, but when confronted on the topic of pro choice his answer seemed to waiver.

The recession impacted the Georgian Bay area so severely that we lost a vast majority of all factory work, never to be replaced. This led to questions regarding the different party strategies to help struggling families.  Responses were wide ranging and in some cases went beyond the party line.

Liberal Alex Smardenka believes the Competition Bureau should play a great role in alleviating the family burden:

NDP candidate Katy Austin believes the solution involves caps on credit card interest and chastises Smardenka for comparing family struggle to the cost of golf magazines:

Conservative Kellie Leitch wasn’t shy on using the family to invoke the coalition argument again.  Still the audience remained unmoved.

I was perplexed there were no questions asked about poverty or affordable housing.  Instead there seemed to be much ado regarding illegal immigrants for some reason.  Independent Conservative Helena Guergis melded immigration with bringing seniors back into the workforce.

Jace Metheral of the Green Party, used the issue as a segue into affordable housing by contrast.  He was the only candidate to broach the idea of a national housing strategy.

The NDP’s Katy Austin was also alone in mentioning the word poverty, sadly.  She bravely addressed the gap between rich and poor, challenging the strategy of corporate tax cuts.  With emphatic quotes from both Jesus and Robin Hood, Ms. Austin managed to solicit a joyous round of applause.

The event started out with a big bang and as you can see there was a regular exchange of mortar for the duration.  You’re welcome to visit thisYouTube channel to view the full menu of Simcoe-Grey debate clips, but please be forewarned the audience felt like this by the finale:

What Are The Parties Doing For Homelessness?

CBC News  Politics

Wasaga Beach: What are the parties doing for homelessness?

April 18, 2011 6:18 PM

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By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, ON)

amy-macpherson-hs-2.jpg  We’re in the heat of an election campaign and I still haven’t seen a vision put forward by the right, left or centre to deal with our rapidly growing list of disadvantaged. My local queries have gone nervously unanswered and the community resource network is anxiously awaiting recognition. The charity of churches and individual donors can’t possibly put a roof over everyone’s head.

I attended the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH) annual report card unveiling Sunday in Collingwood, Ont. The Chair of the meeting, Trevor Lester, is a passionate and educated advocate on behalf of the epidemic.  This year’s release focused on the plight of women and how they’ve been impacted by different socio economic factors. After the speeches concluded he was kind enough to speak to me:

Liberal Alex Smardenka was the only candidate in attendance, which surprised me.  I was perplexed and disappointed he didn’t speak, though, nor did he stay after the presentation for questions. I understand the campaign trail is busy, but Smardenka vacated the building before closing applause could finish. We weren’t able get information on the Liberal platform at all and he only appeared to visit as a spectator.

Other notable attendees included Harry Chadwick, a former Conservative MP in the Mulroney government (1988-93). Chadwick is also a kindred community member who’s given his time to many causes.  He’s mild mannered, chipper and looks like everyone’s favourite grandpa, but in the context of homelessness and the federal election he offered a sobering comment.

“My party has evolved from the PC party to the Reform, to the Reform Alliance… and now to the Conservative Party of Canada, CPC.  And it would appear my party has lost its heart.”

MPchadwick_AmyMacPherson.jpg

Pastor Seagram of the Wasaga Beach Ministerial Food Bank, former MP Harry Chadwick, Mayor of Wasaga Beach Cal Patterson and Mayor of Collingwood Sandra Cooper. (Submitted by Amy MacPherson)

Locally, and in most of rural Ontario, access to affordable housing is scant and community based services have eroded to skeleton referral systems. As we’ve seen our numbers skyrocket over the recession, the federal government has backed further away from its commitments. On any given night there may be 2,900 women in Simcoe County alone, who are braving the elements or coping with dangerous situations. To give you some perspective, our total county population compares to one-fifth of Toronto and these statistics aren’t accounting for homeless men or children.

The Wellesley Institute discovered affordable housing will be zeroed out by 2014 under the federal government’s current mandate. This would place all responsibility for homelessness on the backs of provinces and individual communities, with $1.22 billion being cut from this year’s budget alone. The full phase out occurs over three years, although the initial wound will virtually defunct the program well before its official retirement.

The Conservative government has since found more than $1 billion in funding for a variety of programs, including infrastructure repairs, disaster relief and snowmobile clubs in the 2011 budget. As Lester put it, “Why aren’t we jumping up and down with numbers like these in our communities?”

Others on the frontlines have questioned the trade off, especially when the consequences are unmistakable. According to SCATEH:

37 per cent of women living on the streets were physically assaulted in the last year
21 per cent were sexually assaulted once or more in the last year
50 per cent were turned away from shelters that were already full
42 per cent are living on $2,400 or less per year
25 per cent suffered from pneumonia
43 per cent are experiencing problems with their feet
43 per cent are also going hungry

It costs us more than $2,500 to keep them in hospital when there is nowhere left to go, per patient, per visit.

The women in this study were homeless for an average of three years. They suffer quadruple the rate of diabetes and quintuple that of heart disease. Without a home they aren’t able to receive steady treatment though. Without a home they are ten times more likely to die.

A Collingwood woman wanted to share her personal experience. She once enjoyed a middle class life, but was forced on the street through a series of challenges. In the past she was a business manager and her family participated in the community, supporting the food bank and other charitable causes. It was a harsh reversal of fortune, but she points out it could happen to anyone:

If those statistics don’t force us to take a harder look at this recession, then consider what theRegistered Nurses’ Association of Ontario published. There’s been a 51 per cent increase in the homelessness of single parent families. There’s also been a 60 per cent increase in children taken into foster care, as a direct result of food and shelter issues. This is the street level view of have-not Ontario and we need the federal parties to sit up and take notice.

The women in our province are mothers and caretakers. Some call it a matter of welfare and others see it as a disservice to our communities. What is the overall cost of taking 60 per cent of their children into state care, compared with providing affordable housing? Speaking of government priorities, the Fraser Institute calculated $182 billion already spent in corporate welfare hasn’t managed to benefit the average family yet.

The Executive Director of Georgian Triangle Housing Resource Centre, Gail Michalenko reports our area suffers from a 0.9% rental vacancy rate. At Wasaga Cares we also see a long list of clients who are in need of a home. Many of these families are working poor who can’t afford the rent either. They’ve been asking which party has developed a plan to address their wellbeing and on their behalf I submit this question to all party leaders.

The Art of Promising an Un-promise

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: The art of promising an un-promise

April 15, 2011 5:55 PM

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Region: Ontario Topics:

Amy-MacPherson-52.jpg  By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ontario)

Like countless others I tuned into the English Leaders’ Debate and managed to be one of the four million who absorbed the performance from beginning to end.  I choose the word “performance” carefully in that lines were for repetition, shoulders squared for the correct camera, and hand movements choreographed as if conducting the words that followed.

All cynicism aside, I think it would have been worth the ticket price had they changed the event to a “Leaders Debate on Ice.” Just imagine the improv we might have seen if they were handed skates and a hockey stick.

Social media, on the other hand, was forthcoming with opinion and – as expected – the airwaves were vibrantly a-Twitter. I soon found I was not alone in my reluctance to embrace the event. Few watchers enjoyed the constant finger wagging or how very few of the questions were actually being answered. A query about immigrants was quickly flipped by Stephen Harper to suggest Quebec was somehow separating. If that didn’t make any sense then neither did Duceppe’s response that Harper signed a coalition in 2004. In any event, six million viewers and the overwhelming majority turned the channel for some reason.

Those who remained were treated to a very special lesson in the art of promising an un-promise. I have never seen a campaign based on programs that might start five and ten years down the road, but that’s the platform the Conservatives were offering. We would have another election before then and even longtime supporters have been wondering who this mandate benefits.

In Simcoe-Grey riding we have numerous small business owners, especially geared to cottage country. I spoke with Tim Wardell of Wasaga Beach, Ont., who has a shop in town. Traditionally he has always identified with right wing ideologies, but after watching the leaders’ debate he’s decided to change his vote. Here’s what he had to say:

The Conservative Party is offering tax breaks for the middle class, but only after the deficit is paid. They’re offering art credits and fitness credits, also after the deficit is paid. The only things they’ve budgeted in the next term are jetssubmarine bombsprisons, Quebec’s HST subsidy, andcorporate tax cuts. Harper has been very clear about where our money is going, except he uses a certain way of describing it: tax cuts!

It’s a very catchy phrase, but if you try to say it too many times you’ll stumble on the words before long. The biggest problem with this picture is these tax cuts are for corporations and not at all for the family or the little guy. The reality is we have a record deficit and it’s only the richest of the rich who stand to benefit. Anyone else will need a good psychic to peer through the next decade to see what happens.

Along with these long range promises for middle class relief, the Conservatives have spent 10 years into the future. They’ve put us on a rent-to-own plan for purchasing the F-35s, with an unlimited price tag upon completion of contract. Unlimited. We just don’t know. The seller can demand any amount it wants.

So how will families ever get their tax cut if we have to carry this burden for another 10 years? By that time Suzy will be in college and her dreams of ballet school will have fallen by the wayside. George will be 70 instead of 60 and never made it on a treadmill to strengthen his heart.

Corporate tax cuts are proven historically ineffective for job creation. We’re already lower than the U.S. and most G8 countries. In the process we’ll remove billions of dollars from our tax base at a time when baby boomers are starting to rely on health care.

Stephen Harper’s pledge to families relies on a number of different variables: If he is elected two more times, in addition to the current vote; If we have a surplus of money after the F-35s are paid in full; If there are no disasters in the meantime; If our health care system can sustain the pressure of an aging population; If the world recovers from a global recession in our time frame; If we don’t commit to any more wars; If wages match food and energy inflation. Only then will the family unit be considered.

As far as I can see it’s campaigning on the hypothetical, the art of promising an un-promise.

Rally For Respect In Toronto

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: Rally for respect in Toronto

April 12, 2011 4:00 PM

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/myelection/yourtake/2011/04/rally-for-respect-in-toronto.html#igImgId_4171

Region: Ontario Topics:

By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)

Amy-MacPherson-52.jpg  Over the weekend I had an opportunity to attend the Rally for Respect at Dundas and Yonge Square in Toronto. It was organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour, but countless individuals, organizations and community groups came out to voice their concerns and support one another.

I’ve been to a handful of peaceful gatherings but a few things really struck me this time.  Although the event began as a statement against public service cuts and privatization, the venue was quickly embraced by every voter longing to be heard. Their issues ranged all levels of government, but united was their plea for basic, human consideration over that of corporations. That particular take-away was shared by everyone.

It reminded me of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s This or That project almost immediately. The people are aware that government has choices and they’re holding them accountable to make the right ones. If you visit the site it will demonstrate a number of key tradeoffs in proposed budget plans and as voters we are tasked with guiding their decisions – not the other way around and perhaps in spite of what advertising tells us.

I’ve included a photo gallery to share some of their sentiments. You’ll see messages regarding employment, subsidized housing, food, women’s rights, isolation of immigrants and military withdrawal to name a few. One could say these echoed the same qualms expressed during the G20, but without police in riot gear there were no violent incidents to mention.  Instead they brought the beautiful horses out to mingle and smiled for the camera in good spirits.  It was a very positive event, from all perspectives.

Ten thousand people harmoniously stood shoulder to shoulder, waving their flags and chanting in unison.  The mantras were equal parts frustration with not being valued and a certain warm strength that bonds them together.  A sign reads, “We Are One” and that’s exactly how I would characterize the crowd.  Yet their ages ranged from toddlers to grandparents and every ethnicity was represented.  These weren’t just certain groups of people, they were all the people united in one voice:  Fight back!

Now don’t get me wrong, their idea of fighting was to fill out a postcard that would bombard government offices for now. They’ll even hand deliver so postal staff won’t be overwhelmed.  That’s the thing about underestimating though. These folks send their dissent in writing, make songs that are lyrically pleasing and because they’re so peaceful the government hasn’t been listening. Is it not ironic, their political fates will come down to what these people scribble on a paper ballot then?

They’ll be writing for healthcare instead of jet planes. Childcare instead of prisons. Pharmacare instead of corporate tax cuts. I think the popular theme is reminding Parliament Hill that Canadians care about we-the-people, contrary to their sacrifice for the pursuit of sheer capitalism. You might also be surprised by the amount of young voters with opinions on Afghanistan, so until next time, I leave you with their video clip.

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