Posts Tagged ‘ndp’

Is there really any point in talking about it?

Almost every blogger I’ve read in Manitoba who’s covered political issues had mentioned that the NDP has been up to something. Manitoba Hydro Smash-and-Grab, Public Utilities Board Gouge-and-Grab, WRHA Mad-Cow-Expansion-and-Grab, PST Change-The-Law-To-Take-More-Money-and-Grab

But what’s the point in talking about it anymore? So we keep whining about it, and then maybe if we’re “lucky” the NDP will lose and the “Progressive” Conservatives will win and we can start complaining about the upcoming Hydro Privatization-and-Switch, or the Health Care Slash-and-Switch, or the Education Blah-Blah-and-Switch

It’s gangrenous turtles all the way down, folks.

The system rewards parties who polarize. The system rewards candidates who focus on politics at the expense of leadership. And the system rewards the non-partisan bodies that help to maintain it.

So let’s change the system!


Do we really care enough to do that? To do more than write the occasional diatribe on the Free Press website, more than show up at the occasional reverse-the-decision-now-that-it’s-too-late-to-change-it rally, more than whine at McD’s or Timmies or Sals about those stupid politicians with their heads up their asses?

Not really.

You see, I know this first hand.

I have a blog. And I’ve organized those kinds of rallies more than once. And I can bitch and moan with the best of them. But I don’t think I care enough to see things through…

…because my kids are still healthy, my wife occasionally lessens the pressure of her heel on my throat, and I can still afford to spend lunch at Polo Park sampling thirteen different varieties of steamed white rice at the food court.

So what can I do to change that? What can I do to care more?

Not much. I don’t want Winnipeg to start looking like an exploding slice of Syria just so people start to give a damn.

I’ll take the complacency.

It’s like our lovely Conservative government in Ottawa. I know that Stephen Harper is destroying the Canada I’ve gotten somewhat fond of, tearing down the things that make us special, like our (almost) even-handed foreign diplomacy, our public broadcasting system, our once sacred separation of Stupidity and State.

But all I can do is bide my time and wait for him to screw this country up enough that people finally start voting Liberal again, whether or not the Liberals actually deserve their vote. (actually, this time I think they might deserve it again, but that’s another post that I probably won’t write)

I don’t even have that hope in Manitoba.

I’m worried (and I’m at about one step short of being totally convinced) that Manitoba has fallen into the trap of two parties taking turns screwing things up. The NDP know that no matter how poorly they’ve messed up the books (and I’m getting the impression that it’s as bad as I’d thought), they’ll be re-elected again once the PCs mess things up (probably with the books, too — poor books).

So the NDP raise the PST, so we get angry and vote PC. The PCs don’t end up lowering the rate, and mess up some new stuff. So then the NDP get back in and finally give into the super secret demands of the WRHA to build an 80-story Fortress of Bureaucracy that’s mostly made out of parking garage. So then the PCs take over and pour money into a Pro Skeeball Team, Arena and Condo Complex to “revitalize” Assiniboine Forest. This could go on forever, until finally we look back and say “hey, it doesn’t seem so ridiculous by comparison that the NDP thought they could just change all the laws they didn’t feel like following”.

I’m Canadian. I don’t plan on changing that, like, ever. But I don’t think of myself as a “Manitoban”. Sure, I could make idle threats about moving away, as if I have any real say in the matter (married with children, you see)… but that’s not really the issue. The issue is that I haven’t been a Manitoban for a few years now… I don’t follow local news as much as I should, I let my work deadlines get in the way of my community obligations… and I’ve given up hope that I’ll ever think of myself as a Manitoban again.

To me, that’s sad. Meanwhile, to my neighbours — who think I need to mow my lawn more often — it’s a hopeful harbinger of me finally packing up and leaving forever.

Don’t let my (reasonably justified) neighbours win. Show me that this province is still alive and kicking.

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AP Photo / Hasan Sarbakhshian

Voting in Iran - AP Photo / Hasan Sarbakhshian


Gary Doer, Premier of Manitoba

I’ve been pretty timid about the election financing issue, and this is mostly because I myself have a return to submit to Elections Manitoba, and I understand how daunting the procedures are.  I certainly hope that I haven’t made any mistakes, since the personal and political repercussions can be huge.  But I decided that I should voice my opinion on the issue because it doesn’t feel right to be silent just because the issue is a sensitive one for those of us who have stood for election.

I can’t honestly say that the situation in Iran, where electoral fraud is suspected by supporters of the runner-up, is the same as the situation in Manitoba, where the opposition Tories and Liberals are publicly stating that they have lost confidence in the Chief Electoral Officer.  But what I can say is that there’s a slippery slope between having an independent elections office that does not need to answer questions from the opposition and a guardian council who refuses outside or independent observers and limits possible candidates to those they deem worthy.

There are many people with knowledge and experience of Iran on both sides of the electoral fraud argument.  There are convincing arguments that it’s highly unusual that voters who overwhelmingly chose reform in 2000 would have switched their allegiance to the hard-line Ahmadinejad, while there are also strong arguments that the official result was realistic and expected.

The problem with the Iranian election is that there is really no way to know if there was any vote-rigging because the process was not transparent.  Apparently some of the candidates’ representatives were not allowed to supervise the vote count as they are supposed to be able to do.  While there was an apparent leak of results that showed Mousavi having won with 19 million votes (from an Interior Ministry official who is reported now to have died in a mysterious car accident), no hard evidence has been presented so far.  It’s unlikely that any hard evidence will be found of wrongdoing, and it’s also unlikely that the Iranian government could ever convince the protestors that the election was fair.  This is the result of a closed and unaccountable electoral system, where outside observers are not allowed and where the Guardians Council (six clerics and six legislature-appointed legal experts) make all decisions on recounts and even which candidates are allowed to run in the first place.

Here in Manitoba we have an election financing debacle.  As a former candidate, I know that it’s hard to keep track of expenses, donations, and advertising during the campaign.  It was hard enough for me to even remember where I was supposed to be on a given day.  So I don’t want to presume that whenever there is an irregularity in a candidate’s return, that it’s a malicious attempt to commit elections fraud.  But there are some things that need to be explained by the NDP and Elections Manitoba:

1.    Finance Minister Greg Selinger felt that the false returns were dangerous enough for him to request a letter exonerating him of any wrongdoing.  This act seems to indicate that he felt that someone in the NDP was involved in wrongdoing.
2.    There are many unanswered questions involving the conduct of the NDP towards the auditor chosen by Elections Manitoba, as well as the conduct of Elections Manitoba itself towards that auditor.
3.    The Premier of Manitoba has refused to indicate who informed him of the false expenses in 2001, and will not indicate a more exact date for when he was told.
4.    The NDP has freely admitted that it has been filing the same type of false returns since the mid-1980s, yet Elections Manitoba and the NDP held private negotiations resulting in only the $76,000 from 1999 being paid back.

So why do questions need to be answered on these concerns?  Is it so that the Tories and Liberals can win more seats in the next election?  Or is it to force Gary Doer to resign?

The reason these questions need to be answered is because the integrity of Elections Manitoba is being questioned by both major opposition parties and many Manitoba voters.   There is a discussion on Curtis Brown’s blog about this issue, with several anonymous posters (2 or 3, from my count) who are disagreeing strongly with Curtis’ views.

I also disagree with Curtis’ opinion, as I believe this situation was not manufactured by the opposition.  While they obviously hope to gain advantage from the issue, that does not preclude other, less partisan, motivations.  The fact that Tories and Liberals are working together on this issue shows that they believe it to go beyond politics.  This situation was caused by the secretive behaviour of both the NDP and Elections Manitoba.  We do not know that there was a conspiracy, collusion, or any wrongdoing by Elections Manitoba; it’s the Chief Elections Officer’s refusal to answer questions that is leading a good number of Manitobans to assume that they are complicit.

It’s true that the opposition parties could gain support by pursuing this issue further; however, there is also the chance that there will be a backlash as voters decide that the opposition is dwelling on the past rather than confronting the issues that matter to Manitobans right now.  In the end, unless Premier Doer calls an inquiry (which is about as likely as the Premier actually committing funds to a better Disraeli/Louise plan, so not likely at all), the only thing that’s clear is that Elections Manitoba will lose its aura of independence and fairness.  The fact that the Premier and his NDP government are willing to sacrifice the reputation of Elections Manitoba is a clear sign of their lack of concern for our electoral system.

In Iran, the Guardian Council knows that the number one threat to its power is any public perception that the government is corrupt.  Voters may very well have forgiven Ahmadinejad’s failed economic policies because he is known as a strong leader who fights against corruption and who stands up to foreign governments.

In Manitoba, we seem to believe that the NDP’s corruption is just politics as usual.  It seems that we are able to withstand the various scandals, whether it’s Crocus, the WRHA, Photo Radar, or the To-Be-Announced Scandal of Fall 2009, as long as we still post modest economic growth.  We seem to believe that it’s okay for Manitoba’s murder rate to skyrocket as long as our cars aren’t getting stolen as often these days.  And we seem to believe that the death of an independent body for overseeing elections is not so bad since we do have that ban on union and corporate donations.

Will someone in the NDP stand up for Elections Manitoba?  Rather than spewing empty words about trust, this government needs to ensure that Elections Manitoba is cleared of any wrongdoing through a public inquiry.  This government needs to protect the integrity of Elections Manitoba and of free and fair elections in our province at all costs.

Again, it’s a slippery slope between an electoral process where no one can have their questions answered and an electoral process where no even knows for sure if the votes were counted properly.  We need to call a stop to this slide, and restore the public confidence in how elections are conducted in Manitoba.  If we can’t do that, there’s nothing to stop us from becoming a place where elections are more theatre than they are democracy.

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The NDP has decided that Dr. Gerrard’s private member’s bill for mandatory booster seats for children under 8 years old is not worth a second reading.  Despite the fact that there is no dispute about the necessity of booster seats for all children under 80 lbs and less than 5 feet tall, the NDP government has decided that booster seats are a lifestyle choice.

We believe in education instead of legislation.

Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux  (Winnipeg Free Press, Jun 2, 2009)

Lemieux’s reasoning is that a voluntary campaign will gradually increase the use of booster seats, since bike helmets have become more commonplace among children.

First of all, I personally believe that bike helmets should be mandatory for children, as they should be for skateboarding, skiing/snowboarding, and equestrian activities.  Brain injury is very likely to result from a serious head-first fall if a helmet is not worn.  If the concern is cost, the government could look at various incentives to make the purchase easier.

But more importantly, there are two very big reasons why it is ridiculous to compare bike helmet use to booster seat use:

  1. Most cycling accidents resulting in death or serious injury are on higher speed thoroughfares, as opposed to residential streets and sidewalks.  These accidents usually involve adult cyclists, as children are less likely to be found riding bikes on high-speed routes.  The chance of a child riding a bike on a busy street without a helmet is much, much smaller than the chance of a child sitting in a car without a booster seat.  That would be true even without a bike helmet education campaign.  There are far more car accidents involving children than bike accidents on high-speed streets, and those car accidents have led to child deaths.
  2. Bike helmets are much better known to the public than booster seats, and the rules of use are easy to understand: everyone should wear a bike helmet.  Adults make their own decisions on when to wear their bike helmet, but children should always be told to wear theirs.  Booster seats are not only less visible (even if an education campaign was launched, they still won’t be outside where everyone will notice them), and they are also less understood.  How many parents know when a booster seat should be used?  How many parents are aware of the fact that seatbelts are designed for a 165 lb male, and that a 60 lb child cannot handle the pressure caused by the seatbelt in a crash?  How many parents have heard that in Saskatchewan, children four to eight years old strapped into adult seat belts are 33 times more likely to be injured or killed than children in child restraints?

My opinion is that the NDP government knows full well that booster seats are a more important safety requirement than bike helmets, and that mandatory booster seats will save lives.  I would think it’s pretty hard to find a politician in North America who would oppose such a bill, which is why booster seats are mandatory in every province except Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and are also becoming mandatory in the large majority of US states, including Texas, where legislation similar to Dr. Gerrard’s will take effect on September 1st, 2009.  Our neighbours in North Dakota currently require mandatory booster seats for children under the age of 7, but use the same height and weight minimums for adult seat belt use.

So why is the NDP wanting to be in last place for legislation that saves lives?  The only answer I can think of was also mentioned in the Winnipeg Free Press:

A spokesman for the Manitoba Car Seat Coalition said it will lobby the NDP to change their minds.

And they may do that. The Doer government has a history of reworking opposition private member’s bills into their own legislation.

Winnipeg Free Press, Jun 3, 2009

Only time will tell if the NDP will introduce legislation in the fall that will include mandatory booster seats.  If they do, we can expect to wait even longer before such a law will be passed and take effect.  Like other initiatives the NDP has sat on until they could introduce it themselves, mandatory booster seats will have to wait until Premier Doer decides that it’s the right time politically to protect the lives of Manitobans.

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So now the province is responding to the surprisingly popular sentiment by the Provincial Tories to ban mobile photo radar.  They are going so far as to have a big press conference to talk about this very subject.

UPDATE: The NDP government refuses to refund money, calling the unjust issuance of tickets a “legal technicality” and saying that it’s the city that didn’t want to give the money back.  I wonder if a class action suit will be coming.

See Winnipeg Free Press

As the loyal opposition for the province of Manitoba, why can’t the Tories bring about this kind of result on the big issues that have been dragging this province down for over a decade?  Where is the Tory campaign to save health care?  Where is the Tory campaign to deal with the death by neglect of aboriginal Manitobans?

The answer: the Tories put politics above all else, and they see photo radar as a way to make the NDP bleed.  So the NDP will respond, and will do their best to marginalize the Tory position, and they’ll probably succeed, as Crocus and the “Vote Tax” issues show.  You see, the NDP puts politics above all else, too, and they’re better at it.

There is only one party that puts principle before politics in Manitoba, and that can be seen time and time again by the work of the Liberal party on all of the issues that matter.  The Liberals aren’t into the “flavour of the month” style of politics demonstrated by the PCs and NDP; that’s why the Liberal platform is the most reasoned and respected of the Manitoba parties.

As more Manitobans compare the fad politics of the other parties with the common sense policies of the Liberals, they’ll see that there’s only one party that puts the task of making Manitoba better first.

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The Elmwood by-election has come and gone now, and it was certainly an interesting occasion.  We ran a strong campaign in Elmwood, where we did some things well and some things not as well.  The end results were a little embarrassing for everyone, as turnout dropped and the number of registered voters took a dive.

I haven’t been keeping up with the chatter on the blogs or in the papers, but I can guess that there are a good number of people who are relishing that the Liberal vote share did not increase as much as some people, including myself, had hoped.  I know that there is one loud individual (“fanman”) who has always had a problem with me (even though I don’t think I’ve ever met him and he refuses to ever actually discuss how I’ve wronged him) who posts on several sites about how annoying and stupid I am, and then usually makes a mention of the horrible work I did trying to save the Kelvin Community Centre.  My best guess is that he’s one of the people who let Kelvin decline due to their own petty squabbles, and doesn’t appreciate that our group of volunteers brought the community together to improve the club.  It’s funny that so many people have an opinion about politics and especially politicians, but never seem to show up when it’s time to work on real issues.

Anyway… here are the conclusions I’ve reached based on the results:

1. Turnout was an all-time low and that means quite a bit. The poor turnout was partly due to weather but was also the result of undecideds who never came up with a final decision.  Our polling indicated that the vast majority of voters were still very undecided in the last days.  In addition, the majority of our supporters never made it to the polls at all.  One of the problems with an area that has been taken for granted by politicians for so long is that most residents haven’t felt for years that their vote mattered.  We had dozens of people on election day who said that they just weren’t going to come out, because “one vote doesn’t matter”.  We’ll need to work hard to change that perception.

2. The NDP and Tories took this by-election seriously. On the one hand, it’s disappointing to have been outnumbered on election day by NDP and Tory campaign workers, but it’s nice to see people paying attention to Elmwood, if only for just a week or so.  What was interesting was the sight of NDP and Tory cabinet ministers (and Hugh McFadyen himself) walking the streets knocking on the doors of their supporters, along with scores of their legislative staff.  Apparently Mr. Doer also lent his voice to the effort.  If only those two parties had put one percent of that effort into any of the issues affecting Elmwood before the last week of the by-election.  I guess we’ll see how many of them stick around to work with the community on the issues that matter to residents.

3. Voters need more time to get to know me. I was surprised to hear that some voters didn’t know that I am raising my family in Elmwood, and even the media are apparently unsure of what I do for a living.  There’s also some talk that my work to better the community seems to indicate that I don’t like the community, which doesn’t make any sense since my wife and I choose to live in this community.  It also seems that my name is recognized in some parts of the constituency, but I’m pretty new in much of the north.  It’s going to take some time for people to learn who I am and what I stand for.

4. The messages were confusing. Only one candidate had actual step-by-step plans to deal with the major issues affecting Elmwood, but the information was lost in a flurry of half-truths and flip-flops from other campaigns.  We tried to get the message out at the door and with flyers, but it wasn’t enough this time.  We have some ideas on how to improve our communication to Elmwood voters, so we should see some strong improvements there.

We had some great successes, and we certainly had our share of challenges.  We lost a campaign team member to a personal emergency, and my basement flooded the day before Election Day.  I was called more than my share of bad names: “fat s***” (from the NDP campaign team), “traitor” (from the Greens), “a**hole” (from the president of a nearby Liberal constituency), and of course, my personal favourite was “f***ing Liberal c***sucker” (an irate voter who apparently doesn’t like Liberals).  We called for a debate in week two of the campaign, but the news media didn’t take the story until the Tories called for one two weeks later.  Of course, Mr. Blaikie refused to attend.  We scheduled a press conference for 1pm, and the NDP had one at 11am on the same topic.  We scheduled another one for 11am, and the Tories decided on 10:45am for theirs.

It’s hard not to take some of the things that happened personally.  Egos are bruised when people shake your hand and say they’ll vote for you but then don’t end up voting at all.  But egos aren’t what matter here in Elmwood.  I’m not doing this for my ego, I’m doing this because Manitobans deserve better.  Manitobans deserve a government that doesn’t try to cover up the deaths of its own citizens due to failed policies.  They deserve a government that doesn’t hide its billion-dollar debt.  They deserve a government that doesn’t take its citizens for granted.

The Manitoba Liberal Party is gaining ground in Elmwood and in other parts of our province.  What the NDP don’t want you to know is that they lost 1500 votes from last time, even with a “star candidate”.  What the Tories don’t want you to know is that their supporters are starting to realize that the Liberals actually work to represent all Manitobans, including conservatives.

What I want you to know is that we have been building our Liberal machine over the past six months.  We have a strong team in Elmwood and in a growing number of other constituencies, and we’ll be working together over the next two and a half years to make sure that our message of working for all Manitobans is known to every voter.  We will take the lessons we’ve learned from Elmwood and we will put them to use in the rest of the province.  You will be seeing more Liberals on the streets, knocking on doors, working in our communities, and standing up for the rights of all Manitobans.  And yes, you’ll be seeing more of me (sorry, “fanman”).

The NDP and Tories pulled their votes in this by-election, and they did it well, emptying the Manitoba legislature in the process.  But in the next general election, they’ll be fighting dozens of strong Liberal campaigns.  And they’ll be fighting against a growing tide of Manitobans who realize that they haven’t been getting their money’s worth from those two parties.  It’s time for Manitoba to step out of this past life made up of bickering parties who only represent some of the people.  It’s time for all of us to demand better.

I’ll be taking the next few days off from politics.  I’ll still be working on some important issues, such as the new Kelvin facilities and the Disraeli plan, but I do hope to spend some time catching up on my personal life.  I’ve missed out on important time with my daughter, such as her first ride on her new tricycle, so I want to make sure I’m there for her first steps.

I’ve learned many things from this campaign, and I’ve received advice from hundreds of people.  So what I’ve done is cobbled together everyone’s advice from this campaign to determine my next step.  And the final message that I’m taking away from this is as follows: “There’s more work to do but there will be time to do it.  So for today, take a break and spend some time with your family, you f***ing Liberal c***sucker!”

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Here’s an interesting column from Kevin Engstrom: All talk, no substance

All talk, no substance

Doer’s sudden interest in Disraeli closure is a cynical attempt to woo voters

Attention, Elmwood residents: the premier is trying to fool you.

Last weekend at the NDP convention in Brandon, Gary Doer talked about northeast Winnipeg’s looming 16-month traffic nightmare that is the Disraeli Bridge closure.

He spoke as if it is an important issue personally to him, that he has a genuine desire to work with the city to come up with ideas to keep the bridge partially open to motorists during construction.

Of course, the fact Elmwood residents think it’s an important issue at a time when Doer’s best bearded buddy Bill Blaikie (try saying that five times quickly) is attempting to win a byelection there is pure coincidence.

Uh huh.

If you believe that, and Doer sure hopes you do, then you might also think the world is flat and the breasts of all SUNshine Girls are real.

We weren’t in Brandon last weekend, so we can’t say with certainty if the premier had his fingers crossed while saying all of this. However, for those who have been paying attention, Doer’s commitment to finding a solution to the coming chaos on the road appears only slightly more sincere than O.J. Simpson’s pledge to find the real killers.

Fact is, the premier has known about the Disraeli project for nearly two years. If he cared at all about the daily road rage coming Elmwood’s way, it stands to reason he would have done something about it by now.

After all, it’s not like he has an aversion to wading into city issues when he thinks it’s important (see overpass, Kenaston and Community Club, Southdale for examples).

But sources say the premier only spoke to Mayor Sam Katz about the bridge a few weeks ago, with no follow-up meeting scheduled (Blaikie, meanwhile has never met with the mayor on the issue).

If Doer really wanted to solve the problem, he’d throw some provincial money at it. That would allow the city to build two separate bridge spans, with one staying open to traffic for the duration of construction. Instead, Doer has already ruled out giving any new money to the city to allow that to happen.

To sum up, then, the premier wants to see something happen but waited almost two years to tell anyone about it and is unwilling to part with any money to ensure anyone listens. Gee, Gary, way to show the people of Elmwood you think this is important.

We strongly suspect the only reason the premier said anything at all about the Disraeli is to help Blaikie. The ex-MP’s efforts to get elected were obviously hindered by the NDP government’s lack of a position on the riding’s top issue, so Doer came up with one.

The fact the position his government has taken is devoid of any substance whatsoever is something he figures most Elmwood voters won’t realize until well after the election is over and they’re stuck in traffic.

Such a cynical move from the leader of this province is disappointing. Even more disappointing is the sinking suspicion we have it will probably work.

Like the voters in Elmwood, Mr. Engstrom recognizes that the Premier’s Disraeli “announcement” is simple more empty words from the NDP.  Of course, as someone who has been speaking to the people of Elmwood for some time now, I can tell that the NDP’s distraction is not going to work.

Until the NDP government is willing to put in its fair share for the Disraeli/Louise projects, it will be clear to the voters that the NDP still haven’t learned that Elmwood won’t be taken for granted any longer.

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This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, when I’m not out campaigning or working on other specific issues.

For some reason, the NDP’s complete failure to fix healthcare has been a difficult issue to communicate.  I imagine it’s because healthcare is such a complex issue, affecting every Manitoban in a different way.  But no matter what your experiences have been, there are some universal problems with our healthcare under the NDP, and I’m going to list them now:

The Big Six Failures of NDP Health Care

1. Hallway Medicine: Patients are still left in the hallways of our hospitals with no privacy, and with no improvement in sight.

2. Exploding Bureaucracy: While doctors and nurses leave Manitoba for better work conditions, the WRHA bureaucracy has TRIPLED in size since 1999.  The WRHA is building two new office buildings to make sure they have room to hire even more managers.

3. No Accountability: The preventable death of Brian Sinclair led to a bungled internal investigation, a health minister who said she was too busy to comment, and a Premier who tried his best to hide from reporters.  No one is being held accountable.

4. Patient’s Rights: The NDP continually refuse to support Dr. Gerrard in his work to guarantee the rights of patients for timely treatment and access to their own health information.

5. Urgent Care: The NDP refuse to consider the creation of new Urgent Care clinics to reduce the strain on Winnipeg’s ERs.

6. Health Care Funding: The NDP way of funding healthcare funnels money to bureaucrats instead of supporting the work of nurses and doctors.  The NDP refuse to introduce a more efficient and accountable funding system based on the delivery of services.

Not Enough Talk About Health

A good number of people have been asking me why we haven’t been hitting harder on health care during this by-election.  The truth is, too many people I’ve met have given up on the idea of improvements in health care.  Having lived through decades of failed health policies, many voters have started to believe the NDP government’s idea that what we have is the best we can do.

But this notion that we can’t have something better is going to stop.  We are hitting hard on health care this week, making sure that every voter in Elmwood is aware of just how the NDP is failing in healthcare, and how the Liberal party and our leader, world-renowned physician Dr. Jon Gerrard, will continue our fight to reform healthcare for all Manitobans.

And how do we reform?

Fixing Health Care: Eight Steps to a Better System

Step 1: Change to funding per service instead of universal funding.  Every patient examination, every treatment and every surgery is billed to the province, reflecting a realistic cost.  Instead of capping funding for each hospital, funding is paid out as needed with no quotas or maximums.

Step 2: Legislate a Patient’s Bill of Rights, guaranteeing both timely access to treatment and timely access for a patient to personal health information.  A Medical Standards Quality Council would be created to establish provincial standards for wait times based on medical and scientific considerations rather than political ones.

Step 3: Revisit urgent care clinics as a way of reducing pressure on emergency wards.  These clinics can be run by the government or by other groups, as long as they are universal and all billing is paid by the province and not by the patients.

Step 4: Establishment of an independent enforcement office to send patients for immediate care when their right to timely access has been compromised, whether that care is within Manitoba or elsewhere in Canada.

Step 5: Build more long-term care spaces to move patients with chronic care needs out of hospital sooner.

Step 6: Implement an electronic health system to standardize health records in Manitoba.  This will allow both for proper reporting on wait times and for better access for a patient to their personal health records in accordance with the Patient’s Bill of Rights.

Step 7: Establish a blame-free reporting system and a Medical Procedure Improvement team to prevent medical errors from re-occurring.

Step 8: Bring improvements to both aboriginal health care (emphasizing prevention through better access to overlooked necessities) and mental health care with a community-based focus.

It’s time to take the first step.  With support of the people of Elmwood, I hope to work along with Dr. Gerrard and Mr. Lamoureux to bring these improvements forward in the legislature.  I also intend to bring these solutions forward to Manitobans as a whole, so that we can all expect and demand that this work begin immediately.

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Health care needs to be fixed, and I don’t think there’s a single Manitoban who would say that the Doer government is anywhere close to fixing it.

Here are some things we need right now:

1.    A Manitoba Patients’ Bill of Rights that establishes a legally enforceable guarantee of timely access to quality care.

2.    A Medical Standards Quality Council to establish provincial standards for wait times based on the best medical and scientific evidence available.

3.    An Enforcement Office which will have the authority to send patients for immediate care if they have not been treated within the mandated time, whether they be sent somewhere within Manitoba, or to another province.

4.    Eliminate the rationing of health care for Manitobans.  Quotas and global budgets are not meeting the needs of patients, and far too much funding is flowing to the bureaucracy instead of to the frontline health care providers.

5.    Reduce medical errors in the health care system with a blame-free reporting system and a Medical Procedure Improvement Team to ensure that action is taken to prevent the errors from occurring again.

6.    Improve aboriginal health care, beginning with the often overlooked basics of access to care, milk, and clean drinking water.

7.    Improve mental health care by focusing on community mental health care.

8.    Build new long-term care spaces to move patients with chronic care needs out of hospital sooner.

9.    Implement an electronic health care system that standardizes patients’ records.  This is a critical component of amodern health care system, allowing proper reporting to be done on outcomes and wait times.

These items aren’t part of an idealistic wish list; the fact that these things aren’t in place are failures of the current government.

There has been quite a bit of window dressing regarding health care, but the NDP government has continued to get it wrong in that they aren’t willing to guarantee these nine items for our province.  There has been no leadership from the government on these issues.

Several people who have worked at Concordia hospital have told me that the only time they ever saw that facility free of hallway medicine was from an hour before to an hour after any of the Premier’s visits.  We have patients waiting for 18 months for rotator cuff (shoulder) surgery, and by far the highest ovarian cancer mortality rate in the country.

Cancer Mortality by Province/Territory

Cancer of the Ovary, Females, All Ages, 2004

To better illustrate the current sentiments of Doer’s goverment, here’s an example of the NDP government’s approach to Aboriginal health care:

Flor Marcelino, MLA for Wellington: … However, I noticed that if you can be creative and practical, there are other alternatives to milk if you just want calcium. I saw in Gods Lake Narrows this school where supplies are delivered. They have several boxes of Cheez Whiz which is also a derivative of milk product containing calcium. I saw lots of bread. I thought without even thinking about this bill that this is a good alternative for milk.
So these children and adults from remote communities who, with this product which could be stored for a long time, these people from the northern communities are not without calcium in their diet. They may not have the actual fresh, chilled milk in the morning, but they have Cheez Whiz and other milk-derivative products that could be stored.

(Hansard except posted at The Great Canadian Talk Show blog.)

I think it’s pretty clear that we have a serious problem with health care in Manitoba.  And it’s on this platform that Bill Blaikie wants to join government.  Our provincial government’s approach to health is an embarrassment, and The Honourable Mr. Blaikie had better stand up and admit the crisis if he expects to show any leadership on the issue.

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately focused on issues occurring in Winnipeg proper, and I’ll be doing more of that soon (more on Plan Winnipeg II, for instance).  But obviously as a candidate for the legislature, I am also engaged in the issues that affect or are due to our provincial government.

It’s harder to write about the problems of our province, mostly because the Doer government is quite adept at spin, whereas our mayor has often had problems with how he is perceived by the general public and the media.  (Translation: Mayor Katz is an easier target.)  But the disagreements that I’ve had with the mayor about Winnipeg’s future are minor compared to the problems I have with the Doer government.

There have been serious errors by the government that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of children under the eyes of Child and Family Services, in the embarrassing health care crisis that still exists a decade after the Premier promised to fix it, and in the still-smouldering wreckage of Crocus.

But what is the overall problem with the NDP government?  What is the bottom line here?  Is it a lack of accountability by ministers and the leaders of crown corporations and agencies such as Hydro, CFS and WCB?  Is it the fact that the Premier uses his leftist ideology for window dressing (i.e., anemic program funding without any results) while he frequently flirts not only with the centre but also with the centre-right?

To me, our nine years of NDP government can be described in one word: mediocrity.

It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.

– Isaac D’israeli  (Father of Benjamin Disraeli, who was not only the Prime Minister of Britain but was also the namesake of Disraeli Street, which in turn became the namesake of the Freeway which the NDP government likes to ignore.)

Here’s a plaque that I keep on my desk:

Manitoba has so much potential, yet the Premier is content with the status quo. There is no aggressive strategy for the growth of green industry in Manitoba, as wind farms are chased out of the province and our noble Manitoba Hydro subsidizes parking for its employees while handing out “How green are we” calendars to everyone else. The rest of the country is looking to innovate and to experiment, while our government places blanket moratoriums on hog barns and school closures without offering any solutions or embracing any opportunities that are available.

To illustrate the mediocrity of the Doer government, I will post about several major provincial issues and explain why the current government is failing us. Up first will be health care, which I will be spending quite a bit of time on in the coming weeks.

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I’m sure I’m not the only person wondering why the Premier would bother parachuting Transcona’s Bill Blaikie into a constituency that already had two potential candidates.

“Blaikie said Doer approached him to run in Elmwood – not the first time the premier has tried to woo Blaikie into provincial politics.”  Winnipeg Free Press, Dec 5, 2008 – http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/Blaikie_.html

Of course, there had been several other rumours about the Premier pushing for a transplant for Elmwood:

Past rumour that Scott Smith is moving to Elmwood: http://hacksandwonks.blogspot.com/2008/10/elmwood-gossip-that-wont-go-away.html

Phil Walding, Son of Pawley-government kaibosher Jim Walding, approached to run in Elmwood by-election to succeed Jim Maloway: http://tgcts.blogspot.com/2008/10/september-guest-and-story-review.html

What’s wrong with choosing a candidate from among the people who live in Elmwood?  Why is it that citizens like Darryl Livingstone, who has worked for years with Councillor Lillian Thomas, or Ed Innes, who has been fighting alongside former MLA (and current MP) Jim Maloway on the Disraeli bridge issue, are not considered worthy of the seat?  Why did the Premier decide that he needed to search high and low for a third choice from outside of the area?

I’m not sure why an esteemed Member of Parliament would retire from politics, only to run for a provincial seat in an area he doesn’t live in.  I’ve certainly heard the rumours that Mr Blaikie wants to be the next leader of the Manitoba NDP, and/or that Mr Doer decided that he needed a favour from a big name because the voters of Elmwood have been left feeling neglected after years of, well, neglect.   All I can say is that I do not believe that Premier Doer gave any consideration to the actual needs of Elmwood when he made his choice… he seems to be more focused on what HE needs.

In these days of uncertainty about the motives of some Federal politicians, I think it’s a bad idea for the Premier to be meddling politically in a constituency that already has its local talent.   There are far more important things that our Premier should be spending his time on.

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