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Friday, March 28, 2014

Carol Goar: Fighting for help for voiceless seniors (in The Toronto Star)

"Minoo Shakibai sometimes wants to weep as she examines a patient’s ulcerated feet. Many of the chiropodist’s clients are elderly and diabetic. They come to the Dufferin Foot Clinic thinking she can fix the “small cuts” on their feet.

"In severe cases, she sends them straight to the emergency department of the nearest hospital, knowing the lesions are gangrenous. In less urgent circumstances, she cleans and dresses their wounds and tells them to make an appointment with their family doctor immediately. Most don’t. ...

"Too often, the young chiropodist watches seniors — mostly Italian and Portuguese immigrants from the neighbourhood — walk out the door, knowing they’ll eventually face amputation.

"This month, she launched a one-woman crusade to raise public awareness and get help for seniors with no private health coverage. “They deserve to be taken care of and treated right,” she appealed to then-MP Olivia Chow, who passed her entreaty on to Shakibai’s federal representative, Andrew Cash, before launching her mayoral bid. He phoned Shakibai back and gently explained that health-care services are a provincial responsibility, promising to raise the issue with his counterpart at Queen’s Park, Jonah Schein.

"Shakibai doesn’t know much about politics, as she readily admits. She has no allies or advisers. She’s never spoken out before. But she can no longer remain silent."

Fighting for help for voiceless seniors: Goar | Toronto Star

A classic case of "penny-wise, pound-foolish".  If you've had a friend lose a foot because of an untreated ingrown toe-nail, it seems a no-brainer!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stephen Bede Scharper: Wrecking the climate is bad business | Toronto Star

"Last month, Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church unanimously voted to ensure that its own funds are not invested in the world’s 200 largest fossil fuel companies.

"The vote emerges from a growing concern over “climate justice,” which asserts that while wealthy industrialized nations are the most responsible for carbon emissions engendering climate change, the most destructive effects of climate change are often felt by impoverished groups who are the least responsible for global warming. ...

"As recent reporting by Carol Goar in these pages has suggested, the clean technology industry in Canada, with Ontario as its epicentre, now employs more than the forestry, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries, generating 2,300 jobs alone last year, upping the total number of jobs to 41,000. This industry spawns $5.8 billion in export revenues, is tops in research and development investment and exhibits promising resilience, continuing to show growth even during the 2008-2009 financial debacle.

"The fossil fuel divestment moves by Trinity St. Paul’s and the investment risks posed by climate change in the Mercer study both point to the wisdom of moving away from a climate changing, fossil fuel extracting economy to a life-affirming, clean and more equitable financial — and moral — environment.

"It turns out wrecking the climate is bad business all around."

Wrecking the climate is bad business | Toronto Star

Stephen Bede Scharper is associate professor of environment at the University of Toronto. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rick Salutin: Kathleen Wynne backs down from the great tax debate (in The Toronto Star)

"Another golden moment is slipping away. I don’t mean the Leafs (not only). I mean the Ontario election we might have had, the one about taxes, with a debate on what it means to be a society....

"... What makes us human? It’s our interconnectedness and interdependence. That conditions everything, from crossing a street to turning on a tap. We are webs of interconnection. Most good things cost money and taxes are how we monetize many of those mutual needs. Among good things are non-dehumanizing transit, decent schools, roads that don’t rise up to devour your car — the pensions issue bites because it raises those issues not just horizontally, in space, but vertically, through time, between generations. Everyone stretches out their hands to embrace and support everyone around them, often informally but sometimes via taxes paid. I’m for fairness and I hate the free ride the rich routinely get, but it’s more urgent to construct a social reality that serves most people than be sticklers for it all balancing out. Their time will come, eventually.

" ...One peculiar implication of this debate is that the best way to make taxes more acceptable is to raise them so that people see results, like better transit and pensions. They have to be high enough to accomplish something. That’s why high tax countries generally register fewer complaints than low tax places like us or the U.S. It makes perfect sense, since people who see fewer results rightly ask why they’re paying taxes. That’s the Harper-Ford formula: cut taxes, services languish, people don’t see the point and don’t wanna pay. Vote for me and I’ll cut your pointless, useless taxes.

" ...Alas, it wasn’t to be. ... I grant, reluctantly, it sounds savvier, but I’ll sorely miss the debate that didn’t happen and never may."

Kathleen Wynne backs down from the great tax debate: Salutin | Toronto Star

In my view Rick Salutin is saying some very important things about the relationship between the individual and the state.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thomas J. Duck: Echoes of Walkerton in Environment Canada cuts (in The Toronto Star)

"In May 2000, the water system of Walkerton, Ont., suffered an E. coli outbreak that left nearly half the community’s 4,800 people ill. Seven died. ...

"Underlying the failures of the Walkerton PUC and the MOE, however, were government of Ontario cutbacks. How deep were the cuts? In the years leading up to the Walkerton tragedy, the MOE’s budget was reduced by 68 per cent and its staffing by 40 per cent. These numbers are comparable to what Environment Canada is experiencing today. Consider, for example, that Environment Canada’s climate change and clean air program is having its budget reduced by an astonishing 77 per cent. The cuts are so deep that they appear designed to break Environment Canada once and for all.

"It is interesting to note that three members of that Ontario government have played key roles in Stephen Harper’s federal cabinet: Jim Flaherty (the outgoing minister of finance), John Baird (minister of foreign affairs), and Tony Clement (president of the Treasury Board). Flaherty, Baird and Clement were there when Ontario’s cuts were made and witnessed the result. Surely they must see the parallels now. So why haven’t they spoken out about the dismantling of Environment Canada?"

Echoes of Walkerton in Environment Canada cuts | Toronto Star

Thomas J. Duck is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rick Salutin: The century that knew too much (in The Toronto Star)

"... the novel, The Man who Loved Dogs , by Leonardo Padura. It’s built around Leon Trotsky’s assassination in Mexico City in 1940. But it’s also about the 20th century, especially the Soviet Union, RIP, 1917-1991: 74 years, the lifespan of a normal person. It asks how the most beautiful dream humanity ever dreamed, a world of peace and social harmony, became its most awful nightmare."

The century that knew too much: Salutin | Toronto Star

We tend to forget that this dream attracted a lot of bright, energetic N. Americans to Russia in the early '30s. We need to study what went wrong.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Rick Salutin: Putin may be crazy, but it doesn’t matter (in The Toronto Star)

"If you designed a computer program to react “rationally” on the model of great power leaders pursuing what’s consensually viewed as the National Interest, it would probably “behave” as Putin has, or perhaps more drastically. ...

"The dilemma of the squares. There have always been spontaneous outbreaks of democratic will, like the Paris Commune or slave revolts. There’s a collective as well as an individual need to control one’s life. ...

"The trick is finding a way to link the genuine popular outbursts to institutionalized, constitutional, representative forms. I know that’s a mouthful but I don’t think anyone’s come up with a solution. Yet who wants to be stuck with merely voting in the occasional election, then going to sleep for another four years?"

Putin may be crazy, but it doesn’t matter: Salutin | Toronto Star