2012 protest in Thunder Bay against the closure of CBS’ plasma clinic. Health Canada claims — without any evidence — that self sustainability in blood products in impossible under a volunteer system, but we’ll never know if CBS continues to downsize its operations.
The Ontario Tories recently have appeared to be distancing themselves from some of the more unpopular positions adopted by the party under Tim Hudak.
Voting for second reading of an Act intended to close the door on paid collection of blood and blood components by the private sector, the Tories n one-the-less seem incapable of parking their ideology at the door as Bill 21 finds its way into committee.
For two days the committee is conducting hearings into the legislation, seeing a parade of mostly private sector lobbyists lined up on one side and mostly family and survivors of Canada’s last tainted blood scandal on the other. Each presentation was limited to five minutes, followed by three minutes for each party to ask questions. In the case of the Tories, that three minutes was frequently used to make their own case that somehow we can’t do anything in this province without the involvement of private corporations.
David Harvey, a lawyer who represented patient groups at the 1990s Krever Inquiry, made the point the legislative committee was trying to come to a decision in just two days of public hearings over an issue that took Justice Horace Krever four years to resolve. By contrast, the Krever Inquiry included 247 days of public hearings by 474 witnesses, testimony and submissions filling 50,000 pages and another 100,000 pages of exhibits. Even former Premier Mike Harris admitted the Krever report was “detailed, it was exhaustive and it was complete.”
Yet the Tories appear to be siding with the private lobbyists as they toy with the idea of reversing one of Krever’s key recommendations – that paid collection of blood and blood components be banned except in rare circumstances.
Bill Walker walked into the room with a big smile but his body language gave away his discomfort of being a Tory MPP in a union hall. He constantly fidgeted with his purple scarf and never strayed far from the door.
The MPP from Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound was asked to come to a media conference OPSEU was holding in his community. We were pleading the case of 35 low-wage VON personal support workers that were likely to be on strike the following week.
Walker arrived late – about 20 minutes after the media had left.
When asked point blank whether he would join the workers on the picket line, he didn’t hesitate in saying “no.”
Walker said it wasn’t his place to interfere in the bargaining process. Yet barely a moment later he made it clear that it was his party’s position to interfere.
Walker said he supported his leader’s call for a two-year across-the-board wage freeze for everybody in the public sector – no exceptions. That includes these 35 part-time workers who are struggling to make ends meet for their families on a wage that for most falls below $14 an hour.
These workers have already had their wages frozen for six years.
It’s one of the reasons they chose to unionize.
Walker shrugged off the six years, noting as an MPP his wages had also been frozen. Of course, Walker didn’t get to the legislature until October 2011, meaning he himself has only sustained a wage freeze for a little over two years.
If the Tories thought that yesterday’s new health care white paper was likely to change the channel on the byelection defeats, they likely woke up this morning disappointed.
Despite health care’s long standing ranking as the number one issue among Ontarians, there was little media coverage of the white paper.
Of those that did comment, most appear baffled by the plan.
Health Minister Deb Matthews wondered why the paper had been authored by deputy health critic Bill Walker, and not Christine Elliott, who has far more experience in the health care portfolio.
The new Ontario Tory plan for health care is simple – eliminate the Local Health Integration Networks and the Community Care Access Centres and let between 30-40 “hub” hospitals run the health care system – or at least the bits not run by the municipalities or the doctors.
The new PC Caucus white paper, Paths To Prosperity: Patient-centered Health Care, is thin on specifics and long on rhetoric – much of it borrowed surprisingly from the McGuinty government. Aside from attacks on the LHINs and the CCACs, the broader strokes are not that different from the government’s own plan, including the Triple Aim we continually hear so much about. The “Triple Aim” sets goals to enhance patient quality and satisfaction, improve population health and reduce costs. Who could be against that?
While dumping the LHINs and the CCACs, the Tories would create physician-led “Primary Care Committees” which would link to the hospital hubs. The role of these committees is not clear beyond giving physicians more of a say in how the health system runs and somehow charging them with scrutinizing their own performance. How nice.
While this plan appears to centralize decision-making functions to the hospitals, the Tories counter that this represents a “decentralized and delayered” system. At the same time they sing from the George-Smitherman-Career-Memorial integration songbook. Decentralize and integrate? Confused? We all should be.