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Part 2/2 – Where Your CPP Money Really Goes

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/cpp-money_b_2487663.html

 

Part II: Where Your CPP Money Really Goes

Posted: 01/22/2013 12:30 pm

In part one of this two-part series, we examined the Canada Pension Plan’s (CPP) investment in drones, computerized soldiers, land occupation and an infamous prison scandal. Part two is dedicated to the many potential conflicts of interest — yours, mine, the executives’ and the PMO’s. Some might be moral. Some might be something more.

 

If you look at the CPP Investment Board of Directors, you will find that all but one executive was appointed since the determined change in strategy under the Harper government. These board members are skilled leaders from different industries, but no matter their background, most of them share something in common.

 

Robert Astley was the President of Sun Life. CPP purchased $109 million worth of stock in Sun Life. (See CPP domestic portfolio and foreign portfolio, PDF)

 

Ian Bourne is Chief Executive Officer of SNC-Lavalin.  CPP invested $21 million in SNC-Lavalin in spite of the company being plagued by ties to the Gadhafi regime and fraud charges that are still winding through the courts.

 

Bourne is also the Director of Canadian Oil Sands Limited, which has a large stake in the Syncrude project — the project at the heart of a lawsuit involving Greenpeace and the death of wildlife.  Syncrude was convicted and fined more than half a million dollars. Our CPP investments in this company total $80 million.

 

David Suzuki continues to educate about the misnomers of “ethical oil” and points to other companies in business with the Alberta oil sands. Exxon Mobil has a history of major oil spills. CPP gave them $553 million. Exxon funded a lobby against the Kyoto Protocol, and Canada eventually cancelled our commitment to the international community.

 

BP is responsible for the tragic Gulf Coast oil spill that may cost more than $7 billion in legal settlements to cover the damage.  And if we look in our CPP foreign column, we’ll find $347 million invested in BP.

 

Nexen is another curious entry with $62 million in CPP investments.  It’s unclear what will happen to this particular investment, since Harper made waves by allowing the company to be purchased by China.  The deal was embroiled in controversy regarding national security.  CSIS raised concerns about compromising Canadian intelligence, while the United States rebuked the purchaser’s energy partnership with Iran.  Still, it went unreported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had to freeze assets to investigate cases of Nexen insider trading that resulted from our sell-off.

 

CPP also has $218 million invested in TransCanada Corp. They’re the ones fighting for the Keystone XL pipeline that was met with public backlash across the continent. We have another $201 million socked away in Enbridge, which has challenged Native land rights in preparation for the Northern Gateway pipeline.

 

Moving along in our Board of Directors, we arrive at Pierre Choquette was the CEO of Methanex.  Douglas W. Mahaffy is the current director of Methanex.  This company is the world’s largest producer of methanol for petrochemical use.  It received $38 million from CPP.  Choquette further served as a director at TELUS, which received $116 million from CPP.  TELUS employs two former consultants linked to the E-Health scandal that rocked Ontario.

 

Heather Monroe-Blum sits on the Board of Directors for the Royal Bank of Canada.  RBC received $707 million from CPP and is the Plan’s largest domestic holding. That’s putting a lot of our eggs in one basket, which seems unwise, especially when that one company has been implicated in the LIBOR scandal .

 

Karen Sheriff heads Bell Aliant as the CEO and president. CPP invested $21 million with that company.  Joe Mark Zurel is listed as the Director of Major Drilling Group, which also received $12 million from CPP.  Nancy Hopkins is the Director of Cameco Corporation. CPP invested $43 million there.  Robert Brooks was the Vice Chair of Scotiabank.  CPP invested $537 million in the company.  Brooks also headed Dundee Wealth and CPP invested $20 million with Dundee’s parent company.

 

In addition to these revelations, the CPP is a substantial partner of Onex. The Onex Corporation purchased Raytheon’s air division in 2006. Raytheon is a defence contractor. It’s the world’s largest producer of guided missiles and nuclear warheads. These weapons are involved in conflicts from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Libya to Syria and everywhere the U.S. military sets foot. The acquisition of Raytheon’s flight technology created the Hawker Beechcraft company, putting Onex in the business of peddling combat planes to governments.

 

The managing director of Onex was Nigel Wright. He took leave from the position to become our Prime Minister’s chief of staff, exactly two months after CPP entered a multi-billion dollar partnership with his company. While the Conservatives called this “great news for Canada’s economic policy,” the NDP’s Charlie Angus cautioned Wright to “follow the rules” regarding conflict interest.

 

Wright was recently cleared in an ethics probe about the same issue with Barrick Gold (in which CPP holds a $330 million stake). The founding family of Barrick sat on the Onex board of directors and there were questions about personal lobbying that could have led to the PMO.

 

Despite the investigation’s positive outcome for Wright, MP Angus took issue with the commissioner’s process. When additional conflict issues were raised by OMERS, they were dismissed as mistakes in a hasty response from the Prime Minister on Wright’s behalf.

 

As we’ve seen, Harper’s chief of staff is also connected to Lockheed Martin (incidentally CPP holds $78 million in that company as well).  Nigel Wright’s duties as director of Onex included oversight of Hawker Beechcraft, the partner to Lockheed Martin, which produced the fighter jets at the centre of F-35 debacle. This places the CPP in a bizarre love triangle with Onex and Lockheed, well beyond anything we purchased in stock.

 

Hawker Beechcraft’s Onex deals with Lockheed include supplying the US Air Force and Homeland Security with cannon equipped fighter jets. They produce a handful of warplanes with rocket capability and their accounts include the Canadian, American, Greek, Israeli, Iraqi, Moroccan and Mexican military. One of the shared executives (PDF) managed the Lockheed F-35 file before coming to head government relations at Onex’s Hawker Beechcraft.

 

So that introduces our business partner.

 

In July 2010, CPP and Onex purchased Tomkins PLC together, for $4.5 billion (£2.9 billion) with our retirement dollars. We are equally listed owners and our acquisition provides hydraulics to the oil, gas and mining industries.  Tomkins was also the previous owner of Smith and Wesson guns before we bought them out.

 

In November 2012 CPP deepened its relationship with Onex to acquire Tomkins Air Distribution for an additional $1.1 billion (PDF); meaning when Nigel Wright leaves his position with the Prime Minister’s Office, he’ll presumably return to managing our CPP partnership from the private industry end.

 

With the 2012 expansion, Onex and the CPP came to own all subsidiaries under the parent heading. One of those spinoffs is Titus, a company that provides data security to the military in Canada, the U.S., Australia, Belgium and Denmark. Titus provides services to the whole of government, aerospace, police and financial industries.

 

The moral of the story is we’ve got to come clean about the unethical use of our retirement funds. There isn’t enough money to expand CPP because the surplus was earmarked to boost the military-industrial complex. When our hard-earned money isn’t being used to cause bloodshed, it’s going to companies affiliated with the CPP’s own CEOs and the Alberta oil sands.

Unedited: An Intimate Interview With Harry Fear About Palestine & Israel

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/harry-fear-israel-palestine_b_2433043.html

Harry Fear Has a Message for Canadians

Posted: 01/08/2013 1:28 pm

 

He graced our television sets with live reports from the most recent conflict between Palestine and Israel. Now that a ceasefire has been reached, British filmmaker and human rights advocate, Harry Fear, has embarked on a world talking tour to share his knowledge about the social, political and economic ramifications from a firsthand perspective.

 

He arrived in Toronto Monday, amid much ado from Canada Customs the moment he stepped off the plane. That curious greeting will leave a lasting impression; complete with grilling about his political perspective, examination of his website, a list of domestic associates and questions regarding which side he supported. It used to be that a British passport could get you into Canada, but now not so much. Now it depends on where you stand and if your freedom of speech is acceptable to the Harper government.

 

Thankfully Fear passed the interview and wasn’t turned away like British diplomats before him, due to peaceful and sympathetic views that include the Palestinian people (see MP George Galloway). Sometimes we’re luckier than we know to receive communication from the outside world and in this rare glimpse; Harry provides extensive interview to help us understand what our handlers already had the benefit of gleaning from his experience.

 

Fear’s lectures, Aggression in Gaza – A Talking Tour, are scheduled for numerous venues across the country. Tonight, he speaks at University of Toronto, followed by engagements at respective universities in Hamilton, London, Windsor and Calgary. Due to the overwhelming response, more dates and locations in various provinces are still being determined and you can keep an eye on the itinerary here.

 

2013-01-08-1HarryFear.jpg
(photo credit: SPHR McMaster University)

 

For those who can’t make it, he was kind enough to provide us with two hours of intimate answers to our deepest questions, unedited. Via Skype video recording, Harry Fear compels us to think harder about what we’ve been told. He points to concerns about our current leadership’s role in perpetuating the conflict by taking a hard stance that may not be conducive to a peaceful resolution. In fairness, Fear identifies a North American mindset that falls short of grasping the repercussions or why it is so important for us to sit up and take notice.

 

These topics do not shy away from what amounts to controversy in the western world. We do, however, stand alone in our foreign affairs policy toward the situation, as seen by the United Nations vote for Palestine’s observer status and our lonely opinion against them. One hundred and thirty eight countries gave their nod of approval and Canada was amongst the nine to object. We’re also in the minority to label Hamas a terrorist sect, but Harry does a thorough job of explaining international law and how our opinions translate on the streets of Gaza.

 

Not only was Fear present for the onslaught of bombing in Operation Pillar of Cloud (aka Pillar of Defence), he is also a scholar from Oxford in the discipline of political science. In our personal exchange he goes on to explain the reason for that name change, in that Pillar of Cloud is a religious reference to a children’s playground. It might not have been good optics in a public relations war, that sees them dying and sometimes burnt to the bone by white phosphorus.

 

From the bombing of kindergarten humanitarian schools on International Children’s Day to the demoralization of depending on foreign aid for food, Harry Fear is not too timid to express in real terms what their day to day reality is like. He is passionate about this suffering and urges us to understand the majority of civilians in Gaza are children. He says the violence and occupation punishes them as if they were responsible for the adults and world politics.

 

Fear also paints a picture of arbitrary detention, in a system where kids are imprisoned and even tortured for throwing stones. He describes some as having to defend themselves in a foreign court, in a foreign language, all alone. Moreover he amends the terminology of PTSD to say the children are coping with “continuing stress disorder”. This presents with symptoms of bed-wetting, separation anxiety and consistent shell shock that does not have a chance to heal.

 

The dialogue isn’t nearly confined to children though and broaches topics such as apartheid, “with a small ‘a'”. This involves road systems that Palestinians aren’t allowed to use in their own territory and colour-coded licence plates to alleviate racial profiling by identifying their vehicles for interrogation. In other strange measures, Palestinian males can be guilty of a crime for failing to announce their ethnicity to a prospective sexual partner.

 

Nearly every aspect of the Israel-Palestine conflict is touched upon in this account, underlining unemployment, education, Hamas and perceived terrorism, as well the dangers to Israeli citizens. But where the West has been led to believe the Jewish people strictly oppose Palestinians, he challenges us with information about their protests in support. Fear outlines the difference between a Zionist, an Israeli and those who practice Judaism, explaining many Jews decry the occupation and complain their religion was hijacked by politics. Contrary to North American beliefs, the truth of the situation is that Rabbis for Human Rights are some of the most active Israelis campaigning against the illegal settlements in search of peace for all (in English and the original in Hebrew).

 

Fear offers a balanced and honest assessment from both perspectives, right down to the pros and cons of Palestine obtaining observer status. He breaks down the structure of their government, so Canadians are able to understand the nature of each territory, the reasons for disjointed leadership from the West Bank to Gaza Strip and where they’ve been able to work together.

 

He discusses the different tactics of oppression in each of the areas. In Gaza it’s predominantly violence related and an open air prison, surrounded by the Israeli Defence Forces. In the West Bank it’s entirely occupied and they rely on humiliation, complete with constant control of Palestinian movement.

 

He brought this message to Canada and the U.S. to draw attention to superpowers that are aiding and abetting the occupation. One example through my research is the Canada Pension Plan. Our citizens are retiring based on our government’s investment in the very companies that supply arms and build the illegal wall (more here, including photographs).

 

Harry mentions the G4S company, that provides armed security for illegal settlers also contrary to international law. A number of significant entities have already divested to clear themselves of supporting that violation as well as the maltreatment of child prisoners. And yet here is G4S Canada, thriving without an ounce of recognition in the Canadian consciousness.

 

Our collective CPP investments (domestic companies list and foreign companies list — PDF) include Elbit; responsible for drone smart cars and the newest patrol of Palestinians with the ability to kill by remote control. Whether it’s on the ground or in the air, drones are being used to target citizens 365 days a year regardless of any ceasefire. Our retirement is doubly invested in CAE, which has partnered with Elbit to provide similar technology on Canadian soil.

 

The University of Alberta partnered with the government in Alma, Quebec, to develop and test Israeli drones for greater human impact and profit. This was accomplished through an Israeli economic mission to Canada last spring, unbeknownst to most Canadians. So not only is our retirement tied to keeping the conflict going, but we’re also developing the unmanned machines to kill Palestinians in our own backyard.

 

The Canada Pension Plan is heavily invested in construction of the illegal wall. That too was reprimanded by United Nations, but we’re paying for it through Elbit, CHR and Caterpillar. As Fear says, this places blood on all Canadian hands and we are morally compelled to guide our leaders in an ethical direction. For a running list of companies in the divestment campaign, please see Stop the Wall. (PDF)

 

Finally Fear addresses the Canadian government, asking the Harper Conservatives and federal Liberals to rethink their stance in support of Israeli violence without question. He notes the NDP may have represented our country better under Jack Layton and was surprised to learn even they haven’t condemned the occupation or spoken of divestment under new leadership.

 

In the video he encourages everyone to visit IfAmericansKnew.org to get a real handle on the numbers and to visually grasp the disparity between them. Fear describes the Israel-Palestine conflict as a case of David and Goliath and asks us to take one minute out of each day to learn more, write a letter or anything we can to make a difference. A solution must be found and 60 years of suffering hasn’t improved by us ignoring it. The rest of the world doesn’t perceive Canada as the good guys anymore and it’s high time we restore our reputation for the benefit of these many children.

 

Without further explanation, here is the answer to every burning question you’ve ever had about Palestinians and what Fear was able to see for himself. If you would like more information, please visit HarryFear.co.uk or GazaReport.com. You can also follow Fear on Twitter via @HarryFear.

 

Is This Politician Insulting War Vets?

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/grant-humes-remembrance-day_b_2109220.html

 

Is This Politician Insulting War Vets?

Posted: 11/11/2012 7:59 pm
Remembrance Day Canada 2012
It all began when Conservative MP Bev Oda resigned her position with the Harper government. The disgraced Minister of International Cooperation was responsible for a series of scandals that including being the first sitting cabinet minister to be found in contempt of Parliament, extravagant use of taxpayer dollars and repeat performances defying the law by smoking in her parliamentary office. Her eventual departure from politics spawned a by-election in the Ontario riding of Durham and all eyes across the nation are now fixed on the candidates vying to become her replacement.

 

Campaigns kicked into high gear for this second chance to win the public’s support and federal Liberal Grant Humes has managed to generate controversy amid the excitement. As his election sign was revealed on social media leading up to Remembrance Day, it generated negative responses from veteran families the candidate wasn’t expecting.

 

2012-11-10-LIBsign0022.jpg 

Facebook followers of the campaign page shared their criticisms ranging from “offensive” to “publicity stunt,” “classless” and “shameless as stealing a poppy box.” A concerned Afghanistan vet voiced disapproval and others indicated they would not vote for Humes as a result of this material.

 

Part of the problem was confusion about the sign itself. The candidate’s name does not appear and it seems to be an invitation to a patriotic website in support of veterans. Upon arrival at Durham4Vets.org, visitors are greeted by press clippings regarding veterans’ issues, followed by Grant Humes’ reasons for seeking office and a bit about his work history.

 

Clicking the petition displays a form to collect personal information, requests a $20 contribution toward the veterans awareness campaign and support for “sound National Policy” — although there is no petition.

 

In the same navigation bar clicking the “donate” option will cause a different box to appear; this time displaying the candidate’s Liberal Party of Canada donation page pertaining to the by-election.

 

To clarify, I contacted Humes and he put me in touch with campaign manager Quito Maggi to respond on his behalf. By telephone and follow up email exchange, Maggi explained the purpose of the site and how it relates to the by-election. I also learned animal cruelty is an issue dear to the candidate’s heart and a similar venture was set up to address those matters at StopTheCruelty.org. Both endeavours are authorized as part of the Grant Humes Liberal campaign, but some donations are separate for advocacy about the featured issue at each website. Manager Maggi elaborates,

 

“Any money raised through the Durham4Vets.org website goes right back into the public awareness campaign (and) yes the money raised from the animal cruelty campaign goes towards keeping that website active and paying for magnets that have been designed (a number have already been produced and distributed).”

 

When asked about support for these projects, the campaign cited intimidation from the Harper government as a reason veteran groups were afraid to speak up. As a result there were no official endorsements of Humes’ initiatives to report. Regarding the websites and their strategy to educate with continued monetary support; the candidate said he planned to establish veterans and animal advocacy prior to any knowledge of an election. Maggi affirms,

 

“The websites were registered before the writ was dropped (on October 21) and there was no way for us to know when the writ would be dropped.(Referencing veteran website advertising on election signs,)

“If we could keep the signs up after the election we would, but the sign bylaws are very strict.”

 

StopTheCruelty.org and Durham4Vets.org are collecting funds through Liberal party mechanisms in the meantime. Whether a by-election campaign or public awareness for cherished issues, this confusion could result in consequences for those who are unable to tell the difference. The timing of a federal election coinciding with the candidate’s project is reported to be incidental, but surely they should be kept apart for the public to perceive ethics in politics.

The last word is offered by Grant Humes who summarized,

“It’s important we respect our Veterans and give them the benefits they deserve. What the government is doing is wrong and I hope people will add their voice and call on the government to take action.”

 

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

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/myelection/yourtake/2011/04/wasaga-beach-privatization-of-health-care—part-1.html

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

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/myelection/yourtake/2011/04/wasaga-beach-privatization-of-health-care—part-2.html

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

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/myelection/yourtake/2011/04/wasaga-beach-privatization-of-health-care—part-3.html

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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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.”

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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.