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UPDATE: Campaign-related news – Mon. Jan. 16

Canada Health Accord

(Vancouver Observer) – The premiers’ conference starts tomorrow here in Victoria. I spent the weekend preparing, and today attended two very different events anticipating the two-day gathering. This morning, the New Democratic Party (NDP) hosted a roundtable on the future of health care, in which advocates for safeguarding and strengthening Canadas public system heard from medical professionals and experts. I spoke with Libby Davies, Vancouver-East Member of Parliament and the NDP’s health critic, as well as the Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow – who will be profiled in an in-depth interview tomorrow here on VO – and health care activist Colleen Fuller. Participants at that gathering warned of a Conservative agenda to gut public medicare and move towards a two-tier private system – which they said is being sneaked in through the backdoor with recent federal funding announcements. Ottawa, they argued, needs to take stronger leadership in health care because it is the leading issue of concern for most Canadians, they said. …Check back here over the next few days for updates. Tomorrow: VO sits down with renowned Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow to discuss the future of public health care.

(rabble.ca) – January 15, 2012, on the eve of the Premiers conference on health care (the Council of the Federation), the NDP hosted a roundtable dialogue on the future of medicare with key civil society and NGO advocates. Libby Davies, MP for Vancouver East and NDP Health Critic and Deputy Leader, and Council of Canadians Chairperson, Maude Barlow, took a few minutes to speak about the Premiers’ conference and the future of medicare.

(Globe and Mail) – Canada’s premiers and territorial leaders remain divided over the new federal health-care funding plan, with one suggesting Canadians may have to get used to what he called “roughly comparable” health care in different parts of the country. Manitoba’s Greg Selinger raised the possibility Sunday as leaders gathered in B.C.’s capital for a Council of the Federation health-care meeting that has been shaped by a non-negotiable funding plan that is to last through to 2024. Mr. Selinger said the Canada Health Act will continue to act as a framework for health care, but there’s room for flexibility on innovation. “That doesn’t mean they have to be the same types of services. There could be lots of innovation in there to respond to specific needs in each province,” Mr. Selinger said in an interview.

(Postmedia) – A strong majority of Canadians believe the federal government has an “important” role to play in the country’s health-care system and to ensure provinces are accountable for the money spent on medicare, according to a new poll. The national survey by Ipsos Reid was commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association, which represents the nation’s doctors. Among the poll’s findings:

  • 97 per cent of Canadians think the federal government’s responsibility for the Canada Health Act is important. In return for receiving federal money, provinces must adhere to the principles of medicare as outlined in the Act. Those principles include accessibility to services, universal availability, and portability from province to province.
  • 70 per cent say they are “worried that without accountability to the federal government, provinces will have no incentive to achieve health care efficiencies.”
  • 88 per cent are worried that “without national standards, Canadians will have different levels of health care depending on where they live.”
  • 74 per cent believe that health care is a shared responsibility between the provincial and federal governments. Few believe it is solely a provincial (13 per cent) or federal (11 per cent) responsibility.
  • 56 per cent are not confident that the premiers will be able to agree on a plan to improve health care in Canada.
  • 69 per cent “strongly agree” that they would encourage their premier to “adopt a series of principles that make the health-care system more concentrated on the needs of the patient.”


(Chronicle Herald) – About 50 sign-waving protesters stood beside the Canso Causeway on Saturday denouncing the plan to drill an exploratory oil well near Cape Breton’s Lake Ainslie. As they were receiving honks of support from motorists navigating the roundabout there, about 200 demonstrators gathered 265 kilometres away in Halifax’s Grand Parade to demand a 10-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting oil and natural gas that is also known as fracking. …For Eva Nicholas (who had travelled to the Canso Causeway from Whycocomagh) and a group of First Nations grandmothers, it was their fifth protest at the causeway against the Lake Ainslie exploration since September. Those attending the Halifax protest, which was organized by Occupy Nova Scotia, also wanted to bend the government’s ear. ‘We really need to let the provincial government know that they need to make the right decision’ and ban fracking, said Angela Giles of the Council of Canadians. “There is no question that there are too many issues around fracking to allow this to occur in Nova Scotia.”

Patagonia dams
(El Mercurio, translated from Spanish) – The World Bank (WB) is giving warning lights for the effects of climate change on Latin American economies. …”If you see the cost hydropower, it is not only cleaner but also cheaper,” describes the economist Pablo Fajnzylber, one of the authors of the paper “Low Carbon: Latin American Responses to Climate Change” to be presented today at the headquarters of ECLAC. …For HidroAysén and other large projects in the region, the economist notes that are part of the solution. “As these projects are designed so as to minimize impacts and considering the benefits they have on the reduction of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), we think they are an important part of the answer that Latin America can give to this problem,” he says.

(World Business Council on Sustainable Development in the Guardian UK) – I believe water is the lifeblood of a green economy. In a green economy, natural capital is valued as a critical economic asset and also as a source of benefits for the poor. The outcomes of the upcoming Rio conference in 2012 should therefore adequately reflect the interdependencies between water, energy and food as well as their underlying natural resources: water, land and soil. This has not been the case so far as water is not yet on the agenda for Rio – but it should.

Bottled water
(Winnipeg Free Press, Tom Ford column) – It’s a small sign, but it may not be a good one. At the official meetings of the European Union this month, the host nation, Denmark, will be serving not bottled, but tap water.

The bottled water will be replaced by “good pure Danish tap water,” Denmark’s European affairs minister Nicolai Wammen told journalists in Copenhagen.

Winnipeg water
(Winnipeg Free Press) – Mayor Sam Katz is supremely confident that an aboriginal claim on Winnipeg’s water supply is without merit, but he would be wise to show a little more concern. The former site of Kapyong Barracks, remember, was supposed to have been developed by now, but the future of the land is uncertain after several First Nation bands asserted their rights through the courts. The dispute will not dry up Winnipeg’s water supply, but it could easily lead to a protracted and costly legal battle. More immediately, the city is being threatened with an injunction to halt its plan to sell water services to West. St. Paul.

(Mississauga.com) – Peel Region’s fluoride debate hasn’t been fully flushed despite a decision last April to continue fluoridating our drinking water. Councillors passed a motion yesterday urging Health Canada to classify fluoride for drinking water as a drug, and that the substance, used to prevent tooth decay, be assigned a “drug number” which, much like over-the-counter medication, lets users know the product is subject to stringent government regulations.

Regional councillors made the move following a lengthy debate and after hearing from several residents opposed to water fluoridation.

Trans Pacific Partnership

(Peterborough Examiner) – The federal government has no intention of sacrificing Canada’s supply management system on the table at international trade negotiations, Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro told about 30 farmers gathered Monday in Norwood. …Asphodel-Norwood Reeve Doug Pearcy, Havelock-Belmont-Methuen Mayor Ron Gerow and Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal also sat in on the meeting, which was organized by local farmer and township Deputy Reeve Joe Crowley in part to talk about attacks on supply management in the media by Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson and Maclean’s columnist Andrew Coyne, both of whom argue that the system creates a closed market that won’t be tolerated by countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal. Simpson bluntly called the supply management system “a racket.” But Del Mastro and dairy farmers such as Will Vandershorst said some critics are wrong to argue that the monopoly on wheat prices practised by the Canadian Wheat Board before the passage of Bill C-18 are mirrored in the practices of supply management in the dairy and chicken sectors. …Leal, who studied economics and has done an in-depth study of the supply management system, said he came to the conclusion “that it’s the best model available for producers and consumers.”

Perimeter security
(Ottawa Citizen) – At least 50 travellers considered so low risk the federal government granted them access to a special program that speeds their passage across the border were caught trying to bring unauthorized passengers into the country in 2010, newly released documents show. The Nexus program allows those who have gone through a pre-screening process to pass through special lanes when they are travelling back into Canada from the United States. The idea is to make border crossing faster for everyone by getting those who are least likely to break the law through with minimal surveillance.

Energy strategy

(Postmedia) – Politicians, industry and environmental groups across Canada are bracing for a lengthy battle to define how governments will balance competing demands to exploit national energy resources and protect the environment. Premier Alison Redford has launched an ambitious bid to secure a pan-Canadian energy strat-egy, which she will discuss this week when she meets provincial and territorial leaders in Victoria for Council of the Federation meetings. The idea has deep roots in the province’s most conservative think-tanks and tied to key strategists in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s inner circle. …The Ottawa-based Council for Canadians has been lobbying for a Canadian energy strategy since 2009 and wants the government to put citizens’ interests first. “A primary goal of an effective plan must look at how we can transition off of fossil fuels dependency,” energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue said. “We feel this is a responsibility we have to ourselves and future generations in the face of climate crisis, and it’s really planning that should have started years ago.” Harden-Donahue said she believes Redford’s push for a national strategy is designed to legitimize the oilsands. “When you have the premier of Alberta pushing for this sort of a strategy, it’s a way to have the oilsands formally accepted as legitimate. Alberta and the federal government have been arguing at the European Union and in the U.S. that the oil-sands are no different than any other energy source, when the reality is quite starkly different.”

(Blog) – Viewers of Ethical Oil’s disingenuous new ad campaign aren’t being told about the intricate web of industry influence peddlers behind the effort and their connections to the Harper government and oil interests. In the middle of this web is Hamish Marshall, a Conservative strategist deeply connected to oil interests as well as both the Conservatives and ultra-right wing Wildrose Alliance Party. …Hamish Marshallis the President and COO of GoNewClear Productions. He is a well-known strategist and activist trainer within Conservative circles, and also served as one of two British Columbia representatives on the federal Conservatives’ national council between 2008 and 2010.

(UPI) – Some of the largest energy companies in the world announced plans to start exploring for hydrocarbons in the deep arctic waters off the coast of Canada. The Canadian divisions of Chevron, Statoil and Repsol announced plans to conduct exploration activity off the western and eastern coasts of Canada.

Nuclear waste

(Globe and Mail) – As roadside attractions go, “Home of Canada’s Nuclear Waste Burial Ground” isn’t one you’d normally put on a souvenir keychain. But strange as the title sounds, nine Canadian communities are in the running to claim it – along with the opportunity to host the country’s spent uranium in underground bunkers for the rest of time. The towns, scattered across Saskatchewan and Ontario, are responding to a call for volunteers from an organization the federal government has charged with finding a permanent resting place for Canada’s radioactive detritus. They’re a combination of native reserves, old mining and lumber towns and cottage enclaves. …Environmentalists and nuclear skeptics opposed to the project argue there are too many unanswered questions behind the high-tech task of burying an eternity of nuclear waste. They say these towns are crazy to even consider the idea. “There’s all sorts of technical uncertainties,” said Brennain Lloyd, a co-ordinator at Northwatch, an environmental activist group in Northeastern Ontario. “This waste will be hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years.”

(Globe and Mail) – After years existing in semi-captivity, Canada’s most storied independent publishing house has merged fully into the multinational behemoth known as Bertelsmann AG, owner of Random House and its affiliates, the world’s largest trade book publisher.

(Naomi Klein) – Personally, I think the greatest possibility lies in bringing together the ecological crisis and the economic crisis. I see climate change as the ultimate expression of the violence of capitalism: this economic model that fetishizes greed above all else is not just making lives miserable in the short term, it is on the road to making the planet uninhabitable in the medium term. And we know, scientifically, that if we continue with business as usual, that is the future we are heading towards. I think climate change is the strongest argument we’ve ever had against corporate capitalism, as well as the strongest argument we’ve ever had for the need for alternatives to it. And the science puts us on a deadline…