Trudeau must fol­low through on elec­toral re­form

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Pat Cullen is a jour­nal­ist and com­mu­nity vol­un­teer who lives in Car­bon­ear. She can be reached at 596-1505 or cullen.pat1@ gmail.com.

In the af­ter­math of a dis­ap­point­ing win for a can­di­date who couldn’t be less pres­i­den­tial if he tried and who didn’t cap­ture the ma­jor­ity of votes, we must ex­am­ine our own coun­try’s at­tempts at mak­ing our vot­ing sys­tem more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the pop­u­lar vote.

Justin Trudeau promised Cana­di­ans that 2015 would be the last elec­tion in which the First Past the Post method of vot­ing would be used. Cana­di­ans like me were ec­static. My vote has rarely counted and for the last twelve years, my views and val­ues have not been ad­e­quately rep­re­sented in our leg­isla­tive as­sem­blies.

In May of this year, the fed­eral Lib­er­als an­nounced that they would cre­ate an all-party com­mit­tee to study elec­toral re­form; they also en­cour­aged MPs to hold town halls about this over the sum­mer and early fall. The Min­is­ter of Demo­cratic In­sti­tu­tions, Maryam Mon­sef, held 22 Demo­cratic Re­form Tour stops from coast to coast and dozens of cit­i­zen-or­ga­nized town halls on the is­sue were held. Now, they have just an­nounced that ev­ery Cana­dian house­hold will re­ceive a post­card in the mail to find out how peo­ple feel about the way they elect MPs.

When you re­ceive your post­card in early De­cem­ber, you need to tell your elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, as the ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans speak­ing at th­ese fo­rums al­ready have, that some form of Pro­por­tional Rep­re­sen­ta­tion (PR) is what you ex­pect. Here’s why:

In a rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy, ev­ery vote should count. In the last fed­eral elec­tion in 2015 over 9 mil­lion Cana­di­ans voted for los­ing can­di­dates, and there­fore their votes didn’t count.

Of the 17 ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments we have elected fed­er­ally since the First World War, only four of them have had at least 50 per cent of the vote. In the last two elec­tions in 2011 and 2015, we elected ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments that had only 39 per cent of the vote.

Al­though Lib­er­als, Con­ser­va­tives, NDP, and Greens have sup­port across Canada, re­gional im­bal­ances emerge un­der our present sys­tem mak­ing our coun­try look re­gion­ally di­vided.

The dis­crep­ancy be­tween seats and votes means that Canada’s de­mo­graphic di­ver­sity, in­clud­ing women, is not fully re­flected in the House.

Our present sys­tem cre­ates short-term think­ing and forces par­ties to fo­cus their pol­icy de­ci­sions on the four-year elec­toral cy­cle. This ham­pers gov­ern­ments from do­ing the best thing for tax­pay­ers if they know that it will be un­pop­u­lar. It also ham­pers long-term plan­ning.

Eighty-eight per cent of the aca­demics, ex­perts and com­mu­nity groups who ap­peared be­fore the Elec­toral Re­form Com­mit­tee as wit­nesses with an opin­ion on the vot­ing sys­tem spoke for PR.

I have done what I can to con­vince my elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives to con­sider some Cana­di­an­made form of PR so that be­fore I die, my vote can count.

In 2013 when I lived in MP Scott Simms rid­ing, I made a spe­cial ef­fort to speak to him about our bro­ken democ­racy and asked him to please con­sider sup­port­ing a Cana­dian-made form of PR.

This past spring, I spoke to my present MP, Mr. Ken McDon­ald, on this same is­sue.

This sum­mer when the MP town halls were an­nounced, I wrote to my MP and asked him to please no­tify me when he hosted a town hall on this is­sue.

This past Oc­to­ber when they were in St. John’s, I asked the mem­bers of the all-party com­mit­tee on elec­toral re­form to please rec­om­mend some form of PR.

Now, I am ask­ing my neigh­bours and friends and all those Cana­di­ans who will re­ceive a post­card in the mail in De­cem­ber, to please tell your elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives that you ex­pect the govern­ment to ful­fill its prom­ise to make ev­ery vote count. I’m count­ing on you.

In the next fis­cal year the fed­eral govern­ment plans to de­crease the Canada Health Trans­fer (CHT) or the amount of money it gives to the prov­inces each year to spend on health care from six per cent to three per cent.

Our cur­rent fed­eral al­lo­ca­tion is $528 mil­lion and we can ill-af­ford any re­duc­tion at a time when health-care costs are ris­ing, our fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion is ter­ri­ble and our econ­omy is in a down­turn.

A state­ment from the depart­ment of health and com­mu­nity ser­vices says the fed­eral govern­ment is now fund­ing just over 17 per cent of the depart­ment’s ap­prox­i­mate $3 bil­lion bud­get. We may lose $15.5 mil­lion in health­care fund­ing in 2017-18 alone, if the re­duc­tion in what’s known as the CHT es­ca­la­tor is not re­versed, the state­ment read.

It added that roughly 35 to 40 per cent of the pro­vin­cial bud­get is spent on health care.

It is scan­dalous that the fed­eral govern­ment is re­duc­ing crit­i­cal fund­ing to a prov­ince that prob­a­bly has the old­est and sick­est pop­u­la­tion in Canada. The cuts are also be­ing done on a per capita ba­sis which means that New­found­land and Labrador with its sparse pop­u­la­tion may suf­fer most.

Other ar­eas of our econ­omy are al­ready be­ing short-changed, as less money is al­lo­cated for other de­part­ments and pro­grams and di­rected to health.

Sav­ing health-care dol­lars should never be about cut­ting back on ser­vices to pa­tients, but a rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the way we spend those dol­lars is badly needed. We are spend­ing way too much on du­pli­ca­tion and ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Steve Kent, PC health critic says, “There are hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars that can be saved by con­sol­i­dat­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion within the health-care sys­tem”. Kent, who served as health min­is­ter in the govern­ment of Paul Davis, planned to con­sol­i­date the of­fice func­tions of the re­gional health au­thor­i­ties such as pur­chas­ing, pay­roll, fi­nance, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and hu­man re­sources un­der a “shared ser­vices or­ga­ni­za­tion” which would erad­i­cate du­pli­ca­tion and save money.

“We have within the health­care sys­tem in New­found­land and Labrador six in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy de­part­ments with six dif­fer­ent de­part­ments do­ing the same thing”, a sit­u­a­tion he de­scribed as “ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

He also de­nounced the num­ber of com­mu­ni­ca­tions peo­ple “26 at last count” em­ployed within the sys­tem as “out­ra­geous”, and if given the chance he would give some the chop.

“There are three po­si­tions in the depart­ment of health and com­mu­nity ser­vices, there are po­si­tions in each of the re­gional health au­thor­i­ties, the bulk of which are em­ployed by Eastern Health and there’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions staff at The New­found­land and Labrador Cen­tre for Health In­for­ma­tion, so within the health-care sys­tem in New­found­land and Labrador, there are six com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­part­ments. That’s not sen­si­ble.”

(The web­site of The New­found­land and Labrador Cen­tre for Health In­for­ma­tion de­scribes it as a pro­vin­cial Crown cor­po­ra­tion “…re­spon­si­ble for de­vel­op­ing and im­ple­ment­ing the prov­ince’s con­fi­den­tial and se­cure elec­tronic health record (EHR). It also re­ceives fund­ing from the not-for-profit group Canada Health In­foway, which funds EHRs across Canada.”)

Kent also fa­vors a na­tional phar­ma­care plan which may be the ul­ti­mate ef­fi­ciency in pur­chas­ing pre­scrip­tion drugs. One sin­gle, na­tional buyer, the fed­eral govern­ment, would use its mas­sive bar­gain­ing power to pur­chase cheaper but equally ef­fec­tive generic drugs from the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies and also use its con­sid­er­able clout to de­crease prices on brand names.

A March 2015 study in the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion Jour­nal es­ti­mates phar­ma­care would likely save Cana­di­ans $7.3 bil­lion a year in re­duced spend­ing on pre­scrip­tion drugs and this prov­ince, ac­cord­ing to Deb­bie For­ward, pres­i­dent, Reg­is­tered Nurses’ Union, New­found­land and Labrador, $200 mil­lion an­nu­ally. There’s a lot of pa­tient-ori­ented ser­vices we could de­liver with that $200 mil-

We can­not con­tinue to spend mas­sive amounts of money on health care and be sat­is­fied with a medi­ocre sys­tem or worse.

lion.

Kent is also crit­i­cal of a sys­tem which some­times in­tim­i­dates work­ers to the point of near emas­cu­la­tion. Fright­ened peo­ple never act as pow­er­houses for change.

“Lots of the an­swers to how to make the health-care sys­tem more ef­fec­tive and more ef­fi­cient lie with the em­ploy­ees work­ing in the sys­tem ev­ery day,” he said.

“I’ve seen ex­am­ples of mid­dle man­agers be­ing sti­fled by bu­reau­cracy and there­fore un­able to pro­vide the lead­er­ship that’s needed. There’s lead­er­ship needed at all lev­els of the sys­tem to drive change and em­ploy­ees need to be mean­ing­fully en­gaged be­cause they have lots of the an­swers and their voice is not al­ways heard and of­ten they’re afraid to speak out and speak up for fear of reprisal.”

Like NDP Health Critic Lor­raine Michael, Kent is anx­ious to see more com­mu­nity-based pri­mary health care — the team ap­proach taken by var­i­ous pro­fes­sion­als in both the pre­ven­tion and treat­ment of ill­ness. It is less costly and more ef­fi­cient than the hos­pi­tal-based men­tal­ity which now sees us clog­ging emer­gency rooms and doc­tors’ of­fices for the most mi­nor of ail­ments.

We can­not con­tinue to spend mas­sive amounts of money on health care and be sat­is­fied with a medi­ocre sys­tem or worse. The prov­ince’s health min­is­ter, John Hag­gie, a physi­cian, needs a firm plan and then be pre­pared to de­liver on it. Elim­i­nat­ing du­pli­ca­tion, re­dun­dan­cies in ad­min­is­tra­tion and un­der-per­form­ing clock-watch­ers at ev­ery level of the sys­tem would be a good start.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

When it’s time for Fire Pre­ven­tion Week, fire de­part­ments around the prov­ince open their doors in hopes of teach­ing the pub­lic the best prac­tices for avoid­ing fires and keep­ing them­selves safe. Plenty of times, com­mu­nity groups make trips to their lo­cal fire hall to get a close look at how things op­er­ate. On Oct. 23, the Up­per Is­land Cove CLB Com­pany put on their Hal­loween cos­tumes and headed to the Spa­niard’s Bay Fire Depart­ment. There they were shown what they should do in case of an emer­gency and even tried on some fire­fight­ing gear.

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