The Mail

Klein's challenge

April 17 2000

The Mail

Klein's challenge

April 17 2000

The Mail


Klein's challenge

The major problem with Alberta’s proposed health-care privatization legislation, Bill 11, is that it tries to hide the real reason why it was introduced (“The Alberta test,” Special Report, April 3). Section 1 says: “No person shall operate a private hospital in Alberta.” That’s exactly what the majority of Albertans want—no private, for-profit hospitals. But Section 2 (b) allows “an approved

surgical facility.” Most people realize that an approved surgical facility is a private, for-profit hospital under a different name. Premier Ralph Klein loudly proclaims that “approved surgical facilities” will not lead to two-tier American-style health care. With all the changes he has made without consultation with the people, with all the cutting of medical facilities and loss of jobs by nurses and other health-care workers, with all the billions his government has handed to private industry over the

years, we tend to be just a little bit suspicious that his assurances aren’t worth the videotape they are recorded on.

Don Mayne, Edmonton

With Bill 11a watershed in Canadian health care, it is important to recognize that all Canadians are affected by forprofit hospitals in Alberta. Despite this, federal Health Minister Allan Rock’s response is rhetorical at best, with serious flaws. First, the Liberals are complicit in Bill ll’s creation, dating back to a 1996 dispute over for-profit eye clinics in Calgary. Then, the Liberals cut a secret, 12-principle deal that forms the building block for Bill 11. By allowing doctors to practise in public and for-profit systems, the Liberals sowed the seeds Ralph Klein now reaps. Rock says he will wait for Alberta to pass Bill 11 before he decides whether to act. He risks NAFTA taking effect, meaning Alberta’s law will not only affect us all, but Rock won’t be able to act even if he wants to. All Canadians should be concerned about the federal government’s complicity in Bill Ils creation and absence from the resulting debate.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis, MP, NDP Health Critic, Ottawa

Health care in Canada has been in a crisis for several years. Now, the Ontario government is spending money on TV ads blaming the federal government for the health-care problems, and the federal government is spending money on newspaper ads rebutting the Ontario claim. Neither claim nor rebuttal is correct. The federal and provincial ministers of health might do well to inform their cabinets and their caucuses that the citizens want action, not ads. Let their leaders go on their own destructive paths. They may find a curse on both their houses in the coming elections. David Sansome, Lombardy, Ont.

The cost of gas

Ross Laver’s “The reality of gas prices” (April 3) was a welcome change from the usual ranting about the recent high cost of gas. I would take a step further and point out that some of us would like to see even higher gas prices in an effort to curtail people’s willy-nilly approach to gas consumption and its environmental effects, and to encourage walking, biking and the use of public transport and manual lawn mowers.

Katherine Kilpatrick, Kingston, Ont.

You mention that Alberta’s bid to expand private health care is, in large part, a response to Calgary’s Health Resources Group, which wants to perform overnight procedures at its facilities in a former public hospital. It is interesting to note that the HRG’s chairman is the husband of Jocelyn Burgener, an MLA in the Klein government. The same Peter Burgener is also a columnist for the Calgary Herald, a newspaper that provides supportive coverage of the government’s private health-care initiatives. Bruce Chambers, Calgary

Thirsting for water

Andrew Phillips dismisses my contention that water is increasingly being viewed as a commodity to be sold on the open market for profit and calls the threat of bulk water exports a “phoney issue” (“They don’t want our water,” March 27). Perhaps he’s been in Washington too long. Last year, Newfoundland came within a hair’s breadth of allowing the commercial export of water from Gisbourne Lake. Similar export schemes have been proposed in Ontario and British Columbia. And the day after the International Joint Commission opened the door to water exports from the Great Lakes with its recent report, a Greek shipping company, Aquarius Water Transportation, declared it is ready and eager to start exporting Canadian water with massive water bags. Phillips is also wrong that trade agreements don’t threaten Canada’s water. (Remember similar claims about the Auto Pact and splitrun magazines?) I have just returned from the World Water Forum in The Hague, where private water corporations were unapologetic in their calls to commodify the world’s water for profit. Curiously, J. E. Loomes accuses me of fixing on this issue as “a very nice way to make a living” (“Selling ‘our water,’ ” The Mail, April 10). As volunteer chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, I receive no payment for my work.

Letters to the Editor

should be addressed to:

Maclean's Magazine Letters 111 Bay St., Toronto, Ont. M5W IA7 Fax: (416) 596-7730 E-mail: letters@macleans.ca Maclean ’s welcomes readers’ views, but letters may be edited for space, style and clarity. Please supply name, address and daytime telephone number. Submissions may appear in Maclean's electronic sites. E-mail queries about subscriptions or delivery problems should be addressed to: service@macleans.ca

Maude Barlow, The Council of Canadians, Ottawa

Phoney passports

“Passports for sale” (Cover, April 3) left me feeling frustrated that Canada’s laws are so lax in dealing with carriers of phoney passports and illegal refugees. Canada should deport refugees before they start the appeal process that costs taxpayers millions of dollars. Anyone possessing false documents should be immediately deported. The world’s airlines would likely increase their security if the fines they had to pay for bringing passengers to Canada with forged documentation were raised. The Canadian government should draft more stringent laws to get the passport problem solved. Ashley Weld, Toronto

Stroke treatment

Congratulations for profiling the work being done with t-PA at the Foothills hospital in Alberta (“Taming the stroke,” Health, March 20). As a colleague of Dr. Alistair Buchan, I am well aware of the profound impact t-PA and related interventions are having in the treatment of stroke and on-stroke care in general. In southeastern Ontario, through the collaboration of dispatchers, paramedics, hospitals and community providers, a Regional Acute Stroke Protocol has been developed. This coordinated system response makes it possible for patients to get to the regional stroke centre, Kingston General Hospital, in time to receive t-PA regardless of

where they live in the region (an area of 20,000 square kilometres). With corresponding attention to stroke prevention, we may have a chance of dealing with the increased demands that will be generated by an aging population.

Dr. Richard Riopelle, Neurologist, Kingston General Hospital, Kingston, Ont.

Thanks to t-PA administered when he showed signs of a heart attack, my dad is alive. But due to this same drug, he is now dealing with some of the stroke-like paralysis it is supposed to save people from. I have no doubt this drug will aid many individuals. But it has side-effects, and a chance exists that people may be “one of the stats.” For my dad and all Canadians who’ve benefited from this drug during a heart attack or stroke, thank-you. For those left in the community that is lacking adequate resources, be careful.

Audrey Carter, Ottawa

As an ICU nurse in Grande Prairie, a small city in northwestern Alberta, I have had the opportunity to care for individuals who received t-PA in the treatment of acute ischemic stroke. We have seen great improvements using t-PA and another similar dmg (Streptokinase) in the treatment of heart attack, the other major disease it is used for. This is also a time-limited treatment; however, it can be safely begun in the smallest emergency room in the most remote rural hospital in the country, with only an ECG and some basic monitors at hand. Stroke is different. The biggest problem with this treatment is it is limited to those who have their stroke in a city where there is a CAT scanner. Our city has the only one in Alberta northwest of Edmonton. If a person in a smaller town has a stroke, by the time they are brought to the rural hospital’s ER, assessed and diagnosed, and airevacuated to Grande Prairie, they run into that three-hour window. It is not practical to place a CAT scanner in every rural hospital in Canada. What is needed is for researchers to work on treatment safe to administer in any ER Gerald Macdonald, Grande Prairie, Alta.

Crisis in education

Thank God for Ann Dowsett Johnston (“Adjust your headsets,” March 20). While everyone in Canada, including Macleans, has been analyzing the crisis in health care to death (no pun intended), an equally important crisis has gone virtually ignored. Postsecondary education in Canada has never faced tougher times, and the country needs to know just how serious the problem is. Although the federal government just announced a one-time injection of $2.5 billion into its health and social transfer payments, the provinces have said they need it all for health care, so the schools will get none. As a student leader, I see every day the effect of spiralling tuition, larger class sizes, crumbling buildings, and fewer books and journals in the library. Many students can no longer afford to go to school, and those who can, graduate with incredible debts that average $20,000. Faculty morale is at an alltime low, and there is no new money

for innovative research projects or programs. Here at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., we just received more than $13 million in federal money to build a technology centre, but with no increase in base funding, how will we find the money to hire people to teach in it, keep it clean and keep the lights and heat on? Something needs to be done, but nothing will be done until all Canadians, and not just student groups, realize the gravity and significance of the problem, and force governments to act. I can only hope people will let their politicians know how important an educated population is to the future of our country.

Greg Seiveright, Vice-president, Student Issues, Lakehead University Student Union, Thunder Bay, Ont.

The lure of curling

Two contrasting rink-oriented news events challenged me to explore couch curling: the decision, correct in my view, to prosecute hockey tough guy

Marty McSorley for his infamous attack on Donald Brashear (“Blood sport,” Cover, March 6) and Canadas heartfelt response to the untimely passing of curler Sandra Schmirler (“In too few years, a life to remember,” Obituary, March 13). My brief introduction to curling has led to some delightful discoveries. Particularly, the joy of hearing grown men and women yelling unintelligible commands in our two official languages. And the opportunity to watch the launch of a draw shot, rush to the refrigerator for a famous Canadian beverage and be able to return to see the draw outcome 20-plus seconds later. Now, if only someone would explain the game to me.

Louis Druehl, Bamfield, B.C.

Let’s make no mistake about this: the NHL has long sold out the quality of the game to appease the groups of people who seek to pander not only to the Americans but to the outdated traditionalists as well. Its argument is that fighting and violence is a necessary part of the game. This is nonsense. No other professional sport on the face of the earth puts up with this idiocy, and comparisons to baseball and basketball are a silly waste of time. If auto racing was run by the same people, racers would still be driving in leather helmets and shirtsleeves. Sometime soon the NHL must decide to grow up and seriously consider moving ahead. Punishing Marty McSorley will not change anything because it addresses the wrong end of the problem. Until NHL executives do something about fighting (like eliminating it), the NHL will only reap what is has sown and has nobody to blame but itself.

Rick Sylvester, Mississauga, Ont.

The essence of Trent

As a Trent University alumnus, I read with dismay your article “A university at the crossroads” (Education, March 13). Though I’m Canadian, Hong Kong has been my home since 1977, apart from one year at Carleton University in Ottawa and four at one of Trents downtown colleges in Peterborough, Ont. I suppose that living in one of the fastest-paced, most businessminded cities on earth has given me grounds to value some aspects of what Trent has to offer all the more. It is clear that the university is in financial difficulty. But if you’re going to operate on a patient, you don’t remove the vital organs. The majority of Trents faculty, students and alumni, who know the university so well, are fiercely opposed to president Bonnie Patterson’s proposal to sell two historic downtown colleges. Her knife threatens the heart of Trent’s reason for being, and a move to get rid of the colleges reveals how lit-

tle the president really grasps this. Yes, the administration needs to be fiscally accountable, but not at the expense of Trents character.

Tom Warden, City University, Hong Kong

‘Making a difference’

Hats off to Maclean’s for making readers aware that many businesses are striving to make a difference in their communities (“On company time,” Life, March 20). A strong belief in the need to be involved in activities of benefit to communities and children is why the Independent Order of Foresters invests time, talent and treasure in volunteerism. The IOF’s history is rich with examples of community involvement. This is what distinguishes fraternal organizations from other businesses—a commitment to helping members and the communities in which they live.

Mike White, President and CEO, The Independent Order of Foresters, Toronto