Thursday, April 28, 2011

Harper and Health Care

I thought health care would have driven more of the debate on the North Shore.

Canadian Press. "Harper also said co-payments by patients, user fees and delisting of some Medical services would help repair the Health System"

Research conclusively shows that user fees drive costs up not down. People do go to the doctor less often, but that is the problem. Many small treatable aliments go undiagnosed until they become more serious and much more costly to treat and people with chronic diseases visit the doctor far less than is good for themselves or the health care system.

Of course, there is one thing Canada can do to greatly reduce health care costs and both the NDP and Liberals are least partially receptive to idea, but which Stephen Harper has never had any time for and that is a national pharmacare program.

"For the past 20 years, prescription medications have been the fastest-growing segment of health-care spending: according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), from 1985 to 2007, the share of drugs in the total health expenditure increased from 9.5% to 16.5%; last year the drug bill totalled a whopping $30 billion."

But rather than seek ways to keep costs down, the evidence suggests that government has for years continuously and consciously overpaid. Part of the problem, it seems, is that drug coverage is fragmented — government picks up about 45% of the tab while private insurers and individuals pay the rest — which has acted as a disincentive. Instead of bargaining with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices, says Marc-AndrĂ© Gagnon, an assistant professor at Carleton University's School of Public Policy and Administration, "the whole pricing system is based on the idea that we need to artificially inflate costs to create a more business-friendly environment." (In exchange for higher prices, drug companies pledged to invest at least 10% of Canadians sales on research and development.) But as he argues in a recent paper, this practice has raised prices without prompting significant spinoff investment: Canada now pays up to 40% more for drugs than other industrialized countries. (He estimates that adopting a national pharmacare program would save an estimated $10.7 billion annually."

You would think that a man who spent 3 years heading up an organization dedicated to the destruction of public health care and two more years as VP would know more about health care economics, but I guess we should not expect too much of him given his views about higher education.
Stephen Harper "I think we're vastly over-invested in universities. Universities should be relatively small"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ignatieff should have mentioned Harper's "Separation, Alberta-style: It is time to seek a new relationship with Canada."

Ignatieff was in North Vancouver yesterday. A sizable crowd came out to see him speak. One of the issues he spoke about was Stephen Harper's claim that a Conservative majority is the only answer to Quebec separatism. He said the Conservatives are fear mongering and he is right. They are. However, I was disapointed in his response. After all, leaving aside the fact that most Quebecers hate Harper guts and a Harper majority would likely increase support for separation, Harper record leaves a lot to be desired.

This is a man who wrote a paper called "Separation, Alberta-style: It is time to seek a new relationship with Canada."

This is a man who said Albertans had a lot to learn from Quebec Separatists.

"It is to take the bricks and begin building another home -- a stronger and much more autonomous Alberta. It is time to look at Quebec and to learn. What Albertans should take from this example is to become "maitres chez nous."

This is a man who held up Belgium, a country on the verge of breaking up, as a model for Canada

"I think we should look at more creative ways of dealing with some of the demands for change in the country," Harper said. "I used the Belgium model."
... "I want my party to consider how this model could be adopted to Canada," Harper said in a prepared text of the speech.

This is a man who has repeatedly denigrated Canadian public opinion.

"Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status, .... "

"Any country with Canada’s insecure smugness and resentment can be dangerous".

"We [Alberta] are the only province in Canada keeping pace with the top tier countries in the world. Now we must show that we will not stand for a second-tier country run by a third-world leader with fourth-class values."

"Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it"

And this is man who downplayed the importance of a yes vote for separation and said it was of secondary importance to him.

"Whether Canada ends up as o­ne national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mayor and council respond to Irwin's letter.

OCP process a careful balancing act
North Shore News April 16, 2011

Dear Editor:

This letter is written in response to the April 8 letter to the editor, Say Goodbye to North Van's Character.

The District of North Vancouver's official community plan engagement process began two years ago with one of the fundamental goals being to encourage community participation and input. In response to this invitation more than 5,000 participants from across the district have been involved in over 75 consultation events. Based on that input and with the guidance of a citizen's advisory group created to ensure that the draft plan reflected the input received, a draft plan has been prepared that council will be soon be considering through the public hearing process.

With any updated OCP, there is bound to be a variety of views, however the discussion should be based on the facts, not misrepresentations. In last Friday's letter, the author refers to approvals of "a 600-unit high-rise project in Seymour pushed through despite the support of a meagre four per cent of the residents, an 11-storey high-rise in Parkgate approved despite an almost riotous public hearing, and a high-rise apartment complex at Capilano Road and Paisley in Edgemont, opposed by 98.6 per cent of the community."

The 600 medium- and high-rise complex which includes rental and affordable housing units is in Lower Lynn, not Seymour, and was well supported by the local community. The 11-storey building in Parkgate is a much needed seniors complex and there were both supporters and detractors for the project at the public hearing, which was quite civil rather than "almost riotous." The Edgemont project was three stories consisting of 14 units on Capilano Road, a major transit route.

The author of the letter goes on to allege a hidden agenda in favour of development, sweeping plans to change single-family neighbourhoods, and an unwillingness to listen to the residents. Council's recent down-zoning of two commercial areas in Seymour in response to resident concerns; the intent of the OCP to focus any significant density and growth to four village/town centres in the district in order to meet housing needs while preserving the single-family character in the balance of the district; the integration of the current nine area plans into the OCP and an unprecedented community engagement process simply don't square with the allegations.

Council is very mindful of the careful balance that must be achieved in order to make changes that preserve and sustain the quality of life our residents are so passionate about. Many who have participated in the OCP process to date believe that it will achieve just that. There is still time to learn more about the OCP and get involved. Find out more at

Mayor and council

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Say goodbye to North Van's character

By Jerome Irwin, North Shore News April 7, 2011

Dear Editor:

A seriously flawed communication process over development exists between the District of North Vancouver's mayor and council and many of its homeowners and community resident associations -- especially those opposed to what they contend has consistently been a hidden agenda that time and again favours excessive, unwelcomed development, often in arrogant defiance of the community's expressed wishes and overwhelming objections.

Examples abound of the severe disconnect that exists between mayor and council and those they're supposed to represent: a 600-unit high-rise project in Seymour, pushed through despite the support of a meagre four per cent of the residents; an 11-storey high-rise tower in Parkgate, approved despite an almost riotous public hearing; a high-rise apartment complex at Capilano Road and Paisley in Edgemont, opposed by 98.6 per cent of the community; are a few of many glaring examples.

Yet the district's mayor and council continue to deny that any hidden agenda exists behind its numerous pro-development decisions. Yet there is a serious breach of trust between Mayor Richard Walton's council and those who've all but given up trying to petition the district to truly listen and respond to their frustrated desire to protect and preserve their ever-diminishing iconic North Shore way of life, one that originally drew them to live here and cherish, passionately, the heritage and rich character of their single-family neighbourhoods, the lush trees and pristine natural world around them, and their quiet, traffic-calmed residential streets.

My Lower Capilano neighbours tell me: "We won't waste our time anymore objecting to the district's development plans, because they've already made up their minds." "Development's a slam-dunk." "Nothing we can say or do will change anything." "You can't trust them." "We have the weakest council we've ever had when it comes to fighting for a liveable quality of life." "The district's bylaws, building codes and development plans are designed to be twisted in favour of development."

The recent unveiling of the goals and objectives in the second draft of the district's new official community plan should be the subject of a district-wide referendum -- hopefully rescinding them, or the pressure for high-density development will ramp up big time.

The OCP's sweeping neighbourhood and housing action plans and its proposed village and town centres in the Lower Capilano-Marine Drive, Lynn Valley and Maplewood areas suggest a potentially nightmarish reality, one that will seriously challenge the West End of Vancouver for the title Canada's densest urban environment.

If things go as dreaded, it's goodbye to the North Shore way of life beloved by hopeful dreamers.

Jerome Irwin

North Vancouver

© Copyright (c) North Shore News

Monday, April 04, 2011

John Weston and the Gun Registry

John Weston:
"We all support the licensing of people who own firearms and the registration of prohibited or restricted weapons (such as handguns). That's not going to change; this Conservative government is unwavering in that. We know full well that criminals don't register their guns and that's what makes the long gun registry wasteful and ineffective,"

Criminals can not register their guns. Being able to register a gun presupposes that one has a Possession and Acquisition Licence and a criminal record is grounds for being denied a PAL and for a PAL being revoked. However, this does not mean that some criminals do not try to register their guns. "More than 1,500 Canadians were refused licences for their guns from 2006-2009, on the basis of background checks triggered when they went to register the weapons." The most common reason for denying these gun owners a license was that they were a risk to others. "The program revoked another 6,093 licences in the same period as a result of continuous screening, court orders and complaints to its public safety line.

Semantics aside, Weston's argument does not make much sense. Car thieves can not register their ill gotten goods with ICBC either, but I do see anyone giving this as a reason for not having to register cars. To make matters worse for Weston, it is impossible for him to on the one hand throw his support behind registering "prohibited or restricted weapons (such as handguns)" and on the other hand demand that long guns no longer be registered. After all, the reason he gives for the latter is that criminals do not register their guns. So, he should be calling for the entire registry to be abolished. Weston can not have his cake and eat it too.

"This is a big distraction. It has been politicized. There is an unfortunate need for the Liberals to defend their waste of the $2 billion by continually coming up with justifications.

The Conservatives like to hammer the Liberals over the cost of the gun registry and rightly so. That said, the gun registry's 1 billion dollar price tag does not have any baring on whether long guns should be registered. What matters is whether the annual cost (between 1.5 and 4 million dollars) of registering long guns is worth it. Implying that the initial cost over runs justify dumping any part of the gun registry now is akin to saying the gazebo in Tony Clement's riding should be blown up because the Conservatives spent 1.3 Billion on a three day conference . It makes no sense.

Now as for the justifications the Liberals have given for continuing to register long guns, other than to point out that the fact that the gun registry is used x number of times each day by the police, the Liberals have said remarkably little about the gun registry over the years. Their refusal to say much more has hurt them. They would have been in much better place had the continually come up with justifications.

Moving on, it is rich of Weston to imply that the Liberals have politicized the issue more than other parties. Not only have the Liberals not continually come up with justifications, they have spent a fraction of the Conservatives have on the issue. The Conservatives have spent money on radio ads and billboards. The Liberals have not. Not much has changed since Weston made these comments. The Conservatives were first ones to raise the issue this election and seem to be the only party wanting to talk about it.

"This is a big distraction. It has been politicized. There is an unfortunate need for the Liberals to defend their waste of the $2 billion by continually coming up with justifications.
There's an Angus Reid poll that says 72 per cent of Canadians want the registry scrapped. There was a nationwide survey of rank-and-file police officers that said 92 per cent of them thought the registry was ineffective."

In 2006 Conservative candidate form Ajax Pickering famously said “The facts don’t matter.” I see John Weston is of the same mindset.

The auditor general put the cost of the gun registry at just under 1 billion, no Angus Reid poll ever showed those numbers and and this so called nationwide survey of rank and file police officers was chat room poll and so was no more scientific than Ted White's many "polls". My hat goes off to the North shore News for pointing this out.

"Setting up the registry ran notoriously over budget, reaching nearly $1 billion, according to the federal auditor general."

"In fact, the Aug. 24 Angus Reid poll of 1,005 Canadians reported that 44 per cent favoured scrapping the registry, with 35 per cent opposed and 21 per cent unsure. The police survey was an unscientific online poll conducted by an Edmonton officer on a police chat forum. The forum's operator later disavowed the survey, calling the results "mixed and inconclusive."

By the way, one of the most recent poll showed this.

"Overall, 48 per cent of those surveyed believe it's a bad idea to abolish the registry, with 38 per cent supporting its abolition. (Harris/Decima interviewed just over 1000 Canadians. A sample of this size has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.)"

John Weston:
"The answer remains that we don't have any documented cases -- that I know of -- where the registry has performed its avowed purpose," he said. "In each case, if you look closely the registry would not have saved the victim. It's not doing its job. All it's doing is intruding on the liberties of Canadian farmers, duck hunters, and other law-abiding gun owners."

The gun registry is, first and foremost a tool for seizing guns from people who should no longer have them. I doubt even Weston would deny that it makes the seizure of guns easier. This was the thrust of what West Vancouver police chief Lepine said.

"Having a detailed inventory of the 4,029 registered firearms in West Vancouver helps police with court-ordered seizures of weapons from convicted offenders, said Lepine. If legally held weapons are stolen and eventually surface somewhere in the criminal economy, the registry records give officers a place to start in their investigation, he said.

"The next one is public safety. We get calls from mental-health providers saying 'We're concerned about a particular individual.' We'll do that check and go and seize (their firearms) so they don't harm themselves or someone else."

The problem is that Weston refuses to acknowledge that sometimes legally registered weapons need to be seized because the owner has, for example, been convicted of a crime. In this he is not alone; I have yet to hear a Conservative acknowledge that there have been thousands of "Canadian farmers, duck hunters", who acquired a criminal record over the last 12 years and over the next 12 years there will be thousands more.

As for specific examples, Weston must not have looked very hard.

“I think we've probably prevented some major events,” says Dr. Barbara Kane, a psychiatrist in Prince George, B.C. The RCMP has called Kane asking whether she is concerned about certain individuals applying to register a gun. She believes such a call prevented tragedy after a millworker was fired.

“He could easily have gone into one of the mills and done something bad,” she says. “But we were able to get his guns away from him.”