Tag Archives: Don Drummond

Would the PCs slash health spending even further?

The Ontario PCs have released a new video with finance critic Peter Shurman suggesting the Liberals cannot balance their budget on schedule by restraining health care to 2 per cent and education to 1 per cent.

The timing appears a bit off. The video was released just a day after it was revealed the deficit will be $5 billion lower than expected, coming in a $9.8 billion rather than $14.8 billion for 2012-13.

It’s almost laughable the Tories are still using Don Drummond’s ridiculous projections that we are on our way to a $30 billion deficit when the numbers are clearly heading in the opposite direction.

Unfortunately Shurman doesn’t really provide the detailed answer to his mythical problem, although ominously he suggests a plan of action and the “courage to implement it” is what’s needed. That courage, so we are led to believe, includes more tax cuts.

He complains that the government’s spending plans are only known for three years. That means there are no budget details beyond 2015-16. To Shurman, this is his big “aha!” moment.

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The best of Diablogue in 2012

It’s time for us to take our seasonal break and wish the best of the season to all our readers and posters. Next year will be challenging for health care activists as hospitals continue to shed services to balance their budgets, home care faces unrealistic and high expectations over relatively modest funding increases, bed shortages compound wait times in long-term care and all health providers try to find ways to better work together.

If you are new to our BLOG, or are an occasional viewer, you may have missed some of our postings throughout this year.

Here is a sampling of some of our more popular stories from 2012:

1. In recent days we have been unpacking the contents of the Auditor General’s chapter on long-term care in his 2012 annual report. Much of Ontario’s bed shortage problem is based on the Health Minister’s insistence on holding the line on opening new beds, noting Denmark’s success in diversifying long-term care options. But Denmark still has more nursing home beds per capita than Ontario and has made massive investments in home care. To read more, click here.

2.  When the province introduced its new Long Term Care Act, it was to include stepped up inspection. Problem is, they never hired enough long-term care inspectors to get the job done. Most Ontario nursing homes have not had a thorough inspection since 2009, and some may never see a detailed inspection. To read more, click here.

3. Norma Gunn won a disability rights award this year from the Ontario Federation of Labour for telling her own story about being assaulted at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences and coping with the subsequent post traumatic stress disorder. A psychiatric nurse at the Whitby-based hospital, Gunn has been at the center of a struggle to reduce incidents of violence at the hospital. In recent days we’ve learned that CEO Glenna Raymond is stepping down in April. Will it be an opportunity for the hospital to press its own reset button on this issue and repair its relations with the staff who work there? To read more, click here.

4. This spring we were in Thunder Bay for a rally around the closure of the Canadian Blood Services plasma donor clinic.  Canadian Blood Services was created following the tainted blood scandal of the late 1980s and the subsequent inquiry by Justice Horace Krever. As we probed the decision by CBS to close down the Thunder Bay donation centre, we began to wonder if all the lessons from the inquiry were truly learned. To read more, click here.

5. One of our most popular stories this year was a posting about corporations stashing away record amounts of “dead” cash and the rich squirreling away billions in tax havens while insisting on further tax cuts. The impact is juxtaposed against a backdrop of hospital cuts across Ontario as the province claims it is broke. To read more, click here.

 6. This was the year that P3s (Public Private Partnerships) came back into the news. This summer we were reminded of how bad the situation is in Britain, the birthplace of these schemes. These so-called PFIs — Private Finance Initiatives — are saddling generations of Britons with a mountain of debt. Worse still, the actual value of these projects is about half the size of the accumulated debt, raising questions about value. Ontario represents more than half of such P3 projects taking place in Canada. To read more about the British experience, click here.

7. Ontario is the only province where the ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over the health sector. In BC the ombudsman has made significant contributions to staffing issues in that province’s long-term care homes. Why not here in Ontario? Click here.

8. What would Diablogue be without its bad hospital food stories? Truly if there is one issue that galvanises everyone — including hospital administrators concerned about patient satisfaction scores — it’s bad hospital food. Now the evidence would suggest it’s about more than just tasteless taters and mountains of wobbly Jello. Click here for more.

9. It’s a catch-22. We criticize much that takes place within our public health system. Then we defend the hell out of it when someone suggests we should replace it. This post reminds us of what it is we are fighting for. Click here.

10. Another of our more popular posts this year was the analysis of how former bank executive Don Drummond has skewed his economic projections to make it look like Ontario was in an even worse crisis than actually existed. To what end? Click here.

See you all back in January!

10 Insights from the Action Assembly Weekend

“Either I pay taxes or have my mother live with me,” said Neil Brooks with a sly smile. Brooks, co-author of The Trouble With Billionaires (with Linda McQuaig) underlined the value of taxes during the keynote address at this year’s Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) Action Assembly Weekend.

Brooks said that as we shift the line between what’s public and what’s private, the cost to individuals rises as government services become far more expensive to replace privately.

The Action Assembly is the OHC’s annual meeting to plan priorities for the coming year as well as review the victories of the previous one.

November 17-18 the meeting hall at the University of Toronto’s Hart House was packed as health care activists travelled from across the province to meet.

Here are 10 insight moments from this year’s 2-day meeting:

1. Switzerland is a criminal state. Neil Brooks, a tax law professor at Osgoode Law School, said governments have begun to recognize how much money they are losing to tax havens that protect the wealthy from paying their fair share back in their country of residence. It is estimated that $20-$30 trillion is salted away in tax havens, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars to public treasuries. Brooks says more money is leaving Africa for tax havens than all foreign aid coming to the continent.

Neil Brooks, law professor and author.

Neil Brooks, law professor and author.

2. Actor Michael Caine says increasing taxes on the wealthy amounts to government interference. But Brooks suggests that Caine is overlooking the copyright laws passed by the same government that secure his wealth. When it benefits the wealthy, it’s not interference or big government. As top marginal tax rates dramatically decreased in the last 30 years, so did the spread between income growth between the wealthy and the rest of us. Brooks says that with the massive number of films Caine has made, the odds would suggest some of them had to be good.

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Rachlis tireless in myth-busting around health care sustainability

It’s good to see Dr. Michael Rachlis on the opinion pages of today’s Toronto Star.

Rachlis has been tireless in his myth-busting around the sustainability of health care.

As he points out today, total health care costs as a percentage of the economy have been falling for the last two years. Not only that, but they have also been falling as a percentage of provincial expenditures across Canada. Falling, not rising.

On average, provinces are now spending 38 cents on the dollar for health care, a far cry from the 50 cents or 70 cents that Don Drummond, Brian Mulroney and David Dodge have been projecting to scare Canadians into accepting something less.

Rachlis also states that public reform – not privatization – can go much further to increase access to family doctors, specialists and elective surgeries.

Between 2000 and 2011 Canadian governments (provincial and federal) cut taxes by nearly six per cent of the size of our economy. That means there is $100 billion less to pay for services that Canadians rely on. When Canadians hear that, he says, they are ready for Medicare to cover drugs and continuing care.

“The medical profession, almost all the provinces, and most of the Canadian elite opposed Medicare 50 years ago. Fortunately, the Canadian people strongly supported Medicare then and they still do,” writes Rachlis.

Rachlis will be speaking November 18th at the upcoming Ontario Health Coalition Action Assembly/Conference weekend. He will be joined that day by economist Hugh Mackenzie and Osgoode Hall tax law professor Neil Brooks.

Click here to go to Dr. Michael Rachlis’ website.

Reality checks in – austerity plan based on exaggerated deficits

In February we attended a forum hosted by the Centre for Policy Alternatives looking at the manufactured crisis the Liberals are using to bring in a far-reaching austerity agenda.

At the time, we noted that Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has a consistent history of grossly exaggerating the forecast deficit. In 2010-11 Duncan was off by 43 per cent with his forecast. Progressive economists were forecasting the actual deficit for 2011-12 would not be $16.3 billion, but come in closer to $12 billion.

They weren’t far off.

There was little attention last Thursday when Finance Minister Dwight Duncan revealed last year’s deficit was in fact $3.3 billion lower than forecast, coming in at $13 billion.

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Budget 2012: McGuinty government brings even greater restraint to health care

Ontario’s 2012 budget will leave health care facing even greater restraint than recommended by the Drummond Commission on Public Service Reform.

Drummond’s recommendation to restrain health care funding to increases of 2.5 per cent per year was previously considered unworkable. Tuesday’s provincial budget limits increases in health care spending even further — to an average of 2.1 per cent over the next three years. This year it will be 2.45 per cent.

In dollars, that amounts to $1.1 billion more this year, $1 billion more in 2013-14, and $900 million more in 2014-15.

Gone will be increases in excess of $2 billion per year that were experienced in recent years.

Hospitals will be the hardest hit – their core budgets set at zero. The government has set aside 2 per cent in envelope funding for specific hospital programs, such as wait times initiatives.

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Drummond report mostly ignores mental health despite the high cost of doing nothing

The McGuinty government says they are committed to implementing about half of the recommendations from the Drummond Commission on the Reform of Public Services.

The other half will be subject to study (read: likely to drift away into the ether).

In health care most of that should be relatively easy given a significant number of Drummond’s 105 recommendations are already in the McGuinty government’s plan, from the implementation of a new funding formula for hospitals (Health-Based Allocation Model) to his endorsement of the government’s sketchy mental health strategy.

Given the recommendations are intended to be implemented over the next four years, it may take some time to ultimately figure out what is really in and out.

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