October 19, 2004

Visionless Leaders of Canada

Straight and to the point, Canada is experiencing a deficit when it comes to Prime Ministers and political leaders with a real vision of where to take our country. Paul Martin seemed headed in the right direction at one time with his talk of recognizing municipalities more, with his proposed expansion of health-care and his constant talk of rejuvenation. Yet, he has seemingly lost his focus. Arguably he spent too much time trying to wrestle power from Chretien. Now that he's got that power he doesn't seem to know much else.

When you've spent so much time only trying to get power, it becomes all you know how to fight for. That is much like anything and anyone. Harper has no real vision except his right-wing agenda (not conspiracy), which aren’t so much a vision but a marginalized and regionalized outlook. Jean Chretien began to show glimpses of something like a vision in his end of days as prime minister, but it was a little too late. Gilles Duceppe is probably the closest thing Canada has to a man of vision. Unfortunately his vision doesn't do much for Canadians outside of Quebec. Actually, there are probably many leaders that have regionalized visions that if given the power to make change would have progressive outcomes. Howard Hampton has a great Ontario-based vision; Quebec has had several aside of Duceppe including Rene Levesque and Lucien Bouchard. Yet, as far as leaders with a vision for all of Canada, it is safe to say we are sorely lacking.

It is a sad state of affairs really. Especially since there have been many leaders in our past with grand visions for our nation. Sir John A. MacDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada and a founder of Canada, united the English and French colonies and envisioned a unified nation under a railway that would connect the coasts. He believed in the vision of our country and worked to the best of his ability to see this vision become real.

Other great leaders with Canadian visions include men such as Lester Pearson who introduced a national labour code, national health care and our current flag. And these are only some of his accomplishments. There is also Tommy Douglas, a man who never held the Prime Minister post but didn't ever believe he needed to, to affect change. He is the man who introduced the idea of national health care to Canada and pushed for social welfare and Canadian pension programs all because he believed Canadians deserved better. Then there is Pierre Trudeau, Canada's own 'philosopher king'. He envisioned a unified Canada under the Official Languages Act and then finally under Canada's own constitution. Others that can also be included are: John Diefenbaker, introducer of the Canadian Bill of Rights; J.S. Woodsworth, fought for social reform and class equality; and Nellie McClung, led the fight to achieve women’s' right to vote and was outspoken on social change.

There are others in our history that could also be included, and there must be some that are present today. But as far as our prominent leaders go, there is surely a deficit. Too many of our leaders are tied into specific agendas and only possess marginalized ideas, far from what could be considered a Canadian vision. There needs to be a return to the open, optimistic way of thought. This is where true visions and real progress lie for Canada. Our history has shown that Canada was built on a foundation of progressive ideas that were done for the benefit of all Canadians and not just the few. This then is where our future also lies and Canadians need to begin looking for a leader of vision.

News Round-Up

I thought of instead having one large, single-item focussed entry today, I would have some quick reviews on various interesting news items. Ontario Liberals vs. Hospitals Smitherman, our health minister, has been accused of 'bullying' hospital administrations into being quiet about forced cutbacks. Much of the controversy so far has come from one administrator, Cyndy De Giusti, formerly of the Hospital for Sick Children, who has made such claims. She is formerly from the hospital because shortly after making the comments she was forced to give her resignation. While there is no direct evidence linking her forced resignation to Smitherman's so-called bullying, the opposition parties do have a point. It is quite suspicious that this apparently prominent administrator has been forced from her job only days after publically blasting the government. I'm in no position to say that the government itself forced her resignation but someone in the hospital board, probably closely tied to the government, probably did at the very least. That's if there are no other reasons for her departure. U.S. Seeking Canadian Flu Vaccine I'm not the first to point I won't be the last to point out the irony of G.W.Bush asking Canada to fill part of the demend gap for the flu shot to Americans. It has been only weeks since the last time Bush backed the claims of drug companies that their own drugs coming from Canada may not be as safe as their drugs available in America. Yet when there's a vaccine shortage who is the first country the American government turns to to help out? Canada. I guess our drugs are safe after all! Fascinating to say the least. Martin Allows Vote on Missle Defence Plan Is this a suprise? No. Why not? It has longed been believed that Martin supported it anyway so why not have a vote in the House of Commons. While this may seem like the democratic thing to do, the reality is a majority of MPs, which can be made up by the number of Conservative MPs and Liberal MPs, support this signing. By having the vote Martin can see the signing take place, which is probably what he wants, but then can blame it on his minority government status and having to give into the opposition's, aka Harper's, demands to have it as a vote. The problem with this is that it has been consistantly shown that the majority of Canadians do not want the missle defence plan signed, hence the reason why Martin will be looking for someone to blame when it happens. This raises the question about the interests of politicians versus the representation of their constituence. Toronto Looking to get Green(er) Finally I have found something to be excited about when it comes to being in Toronto. Toronto has decided to invest in a composting plan and has even bought 'green' boxes to push forward their new plan. Looking to cut back on disposable waste Toronto will be giving out these green boxes to households and will be cutting their regular garbage service from weekly pick-ups to bi-weekly pick-ups with the green boxes being collected in the alternating weeks. This is a big step for the large city that has continued to struggle with the amount of waste they have produced and dump. While it may not seem like much due to compostable waste often only regarded as food scraps, the program will actually take in more items than one may think. Items such as soiled diapers and used coffee filters can also be composted along with regular stuff such as chicken bones and apple cores. There is also a financial benefit; there will be less garbage required to go to the Michigan landfills, which means less trucks to fuel, repair, etc. These savings will at least in part offset the costs of buying also the green boxes. Now only if Mississauga, the city I live in and one of Canada's fastest growing cities, would adopt this program!!

October 15, 2004

Smoking for the children

Smoking ban urged in cars This is similar, but in a lesser capacity, to the recomendation to ban smoking in homes when children were present. That came out several years ago and had my support. This new recomendation also has my full support. From my perspective, parents and smokers do not even have a case here to make against this idea. Despite all the claims from smokers and liberty groups that banning smoking is against personal freedoms, it actually isn't. The fundamental basis of rights is that you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't harm another person. That's it. Plain and Simple. That is why the courts are able to override our freedom of speech when it comes to hate/racist expressions. Second-hand smoke harms people therefore if you're in a non-ventilated area you shouldn't be able to smoke because you may be harming those do want to inhale your biproducts. You can harm yourself all you want but in no way are you allowed to harm another person in the process. But if this isn't enough to convince people that smoking in cars (or even houses) when children are present should be banned what about our duty of care to children. Every parent and every custodial adult is charged with the duty to care for the youth that cannot care for themselves. We must keep children from harm to the best of our abilities. How can someone say they are doing the best they can when they willing subject children to second-hand smoke? They can't. This alone is enough reason to ban smoking in close and closed quarters with children present. We should be worrying more about their health than our fix. This cannot be overlooked or even talked around. Any person that tries should either recognize they have a problem or they don't care enough about the kids they are charged with caring for.

October 13, 2004

McGuinty' new healthcare deal

McGuinty refuses to say how much MDs deal to cost It doesn't take a genius to realize that after you've already sprung a surprise on people and screwed most of them that maybe you shouldn't get involved with something similar - especially when it's your political career on line. Then again there are not many Ontarians that believe McGuinty's a genius since he hit Ontarians with a health-care tax and service cut earlier this year. With this new issue only time will tell if he's just making more mistakes and the final judgment will come in. However, there do seem to be some merits to the details that have thus far been released. One of the major pieces is the cutting back of drug prescriptions. All I can say to this is 'it's about time!' Too long have pharmaceutical companies been dictating how people are to get healthy. It seems as though almost every other week another drug has major warnings being released about it because of nasty side effects. One only has to see a drug ad to hear what medications can do to you while it may or may not actually deal with the problem you're taking it for (Vioxx is the most recent example). Furthermore, we are constantly being warned about the over prescription of many drugs and as a result they are becoming ineffective or being used as short-cuts. Three examples of this problem can be seen with antibiotics, anti-depressants, and Ritalin. By asking doctors to prescribe less and only to the absolute necessary we can begin to cut back on the false sense of security that prescription drugs has given us, the problems of side-effects, and the cost to our health-care system to cover the amount of medications that are out there. Another benefit of the new deal is not only for doctors but all of Ontario and that is the supposed promise to give doctors pay increases by cutting back on prescriptions. It is completely apparent as to why this is beneficial to doctors. They'll get more money! Who wouldn't want to get a pay increase for doing the right thing, such as not over-prescribing drugs? So how does this benefit all of Ontario? By paying our doctors more we are likely to at least partially deal with the so-called 'brain drain' of our MDs to the US. Since it has always been argued that part of the reason we have this drain is because of lower wages, we are essentially dealing with this. I am not saying that we aren't going to continue to lose some MDs, but with higher wages we are likely to lose less and that is a benefit because we are already facing problems of people not being able to find family doctors and having massive wait times for medical procedures. Lastly - and this is where my leftist views really emerge - the third benefit is a kick-in-the-nuts to drug companies. For far too long have they been brain washing us that we need there drugs and have done so while charging outrageous prices for them. There are two things that I very disturbing about the large drug companies. 1) they have become so influential that their arrogance has begun to show. Next time you watch a drug ad, listen carefully and you'll realize that they are essentially telling us that we should be telling our doctors what drugs we need. To loosely quote Bill Maher, 'when we begin telling doctors what drugs we need, they are then just our dealers'. 2) the power of the drug companies has also become too vast. For one thing they are somehow able to have drugs approved for public consumption despite them being worse for you then many illegal narcotics. For another, it's amazing that they can criticize their own drugs' safety and effectiveness when they are from Canada and government agencies do not even so much as blink. By having prescriptions curbed, the power and influence of drug companies will slightly decrease. Though this may not be a major crush to these companies, it is a start to taking control back and having positive influences and proper treatments become the norm once again. Don't get me wrong however, I don't think that all prescriptions are bad and that includes drugs such Ritalin or some anti-depressants. I've seen first hand the benefits that these drugs can hold for those that truly need it. Yet, I've also seen those that probably didn't need them and still took them and used them as short-cuts to a short-term gain. And this latter point is hopefully what will be partially taken care of to the very least. Yet while I see these benefits emerging from the deal's so-far released details, I do worry about what has not been released. The opposition parties have done well to pressure McGuinty's government to release everything that was agreed to. If we can only go on past experience, then what the Ontario Liberals aren't talking is probably the worst part of all. Much like the budget they released earlier this year, they talked about many things leading up to its release. It was generally those things that didn't appear in the budget, but we were hit with some nasty surprises and as a consequence they lost the trust of the people. Let's hope they have learned their lesson and have decided to only save the best for last instead of leaving us with more distrust for this government.

October 02, 2004

Blair, Powell Apologetic; Bush Still in Denial

Powell regrets saying Iraq had weapons stockpiles Blair splits with Bush on Hussein arms cache Presidential Debate Transcripts (refer to pages 2 and 3) Early in the Iraq invasion when the main reason to enter was to remove the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) there were many media centres and columnists that often were quoted as calling them Weapons of Mass Distraction. Several years later the general public now realizes all too well that this latter term is more accurate. Even more recently it seems that both Powell and Blair have also conceded this to be the case. Two men that were instrumental in trying to convince the world of these WMD's have both claimed to regret using the non-existent WMD's as justification for attacking Iraq. Powell, being the Bush's voice in the UN and Blair, Bush's biggest international ally have both turned their backs on Bush in regards to these 'weapons'. This is not what I found to be of most interest though. Both statements were made prior to the US Presidential Debate, a debate that focused mainly on Iraq and terrorism. In spite of these statements Bush, during the campaign, still held up the claim that there were and, but to a lesser extent, there still is WMD's present in Iraq. This is clearly a man in denial. UN inspectors, Powell, Blair and an Iraq inquiry have all said that the weapons are simply not there yet Bush carries on completing ignoring everyone. The question that comes to mind is, "what does it take to have Bush himself apologize?". Don't consider this entry as a rant. It isn't. It is an entry about examining the motivations of a man. What is the motivation behind pushing misleading/ falsified information? Is it not more likely that holding onto such false claims could get you sacked because you will constantly be called on it? This is what I find most interesting about all of this. I can only imagine keeps Bush clinging to these claims. Is it because the people that are likely to vote for him reject the claims of Powell et al? Are the American public highly misinformed about the apologies? This would all make for a fascinating enquiry. On a lesser note it is also interesting that Kerry, during the debate, did not point out the prior apologies of Powell and Blair. If I were him I would have been all over them, especially at the times when Bush still pushed the WMD claims. It may have been helpful in passing such information to the public since the numbers of people watching were massive.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)