Ontario government to allow more healthcare privatization: NDP

Eli Ridder | Report

A leaked confidential draft bill from Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario government released by the New Democratic Party on Thursday outlines a plan to create an overarching health agency to establish efficiencies, allowing more privatization.

The so-called “super agency”, that would be set up with the Health System Efficiency Act 2019 would centralize powers to “designate” providers of integrated care to serve at least two healthcare wings: hospital care, primary care, mental health and others.

The draft bill wipes Local Health Integration Networks and gives the power to “consider whether to adjust the funding to take into account a portion of the savings from efficiencies that the super agency generated in the previous fiscal year”.

The legislation was leaked by the New Democrats, days after the Toronto Star reported the PC’s plans for the agency. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said earlier Thursday that “it’s very clear in this bill that the privatization of healthcare is the agenda.”

Minister of Health Christine Elliott dismissed Horwath’s claims that her government plans to further privatize the healthcare system — saying that the New Democrats “got pretty much everything wrong. We are committed to our public healthcare system.”

Elliot did not go into further detail, but confirmed that the leaked legislation was legitimate.


‘Farm out’ healthcare: NDP

Andrea Horwath said the Health System Efficiency Act would “farm out” healthcare services to other organizations, including private providers — saying that it also proves the Progressive Conservatives will not be conducting public consultations in good faith.

The legislation was preceded by a public report from Dr. Rueben Devlin of Premier Ford’s Council on Improving Health Care and Ending Hallway Medicine, a handpicked panel of 11 senior administrators that is led by a close ally of Ford.

The report said that increasing the number of beds in Ontario’s health-care system won’t on its own solve the problem of hospital overcrowding and that too many patients head to emergency rooms for conditions that could be treated elsewhere.

The Devlin report and leaked bill show a PC government prepared to attack the provincial tradition of public healthcare, Horwath said, adding that “if Doug Ford plows ahead with this healthcare privatization bill, he has got one hell of a fight on his hands.”

The opposition New Democrats during the provincial election last year promised to expand and invest further in the universal healthcare system for Ontario, working to add dental care into the coverage.

Minister Elliott said that the New Democrats has been “crying wolf” about the privatization of healthcare for years, including under the previous government of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal Party.


Liberals support local care

The Liberal Party’s interim leader, John Fraser, welcomed the Devlin report as it found “much to be proud of within our healthcare system” but “identified common barriers to access in our system” — including community care “close to home”.

“Navigation is a serious barrier to care in our system and it must be addressed to improve the lives of those who need care,” Fraser wrote in a statement released by the Liberals on Thursday.

“The solutions to the challenges our health care system faces are community-based. They depend on local leadership being given the capacity to drive the outcomes their communities need.”

Fraser said that the report shows Premier Ford’s government is attempting to take decision-making out of local communities and centralize them in Toronto — saying that Ford is “heading rapidly in the opposite direction of what is outlined in this report.”

Noting that the report calls for more investment in mental health, MPP for Ottawa-South Fraser says that the “government has drastically cut planned investments in mental health.”

“Healthcare isn’t one-size fits all and improving our health care system is not a job with an end date,” he went on, adding that is it ongoing, complex and costly work but that it “is not simply a balance sheet — it’s about people and families and their care.”

“The people of this province need to be the first consideration in health-care decision making,” he concluded.


‘Disturbing, if true’: Campus Liberals

The University of Guelph Young Liberals told The Avro Post that “the news is indeed disturbing, if true”, adding that “even more concerning is the obvious absence of any moderation on the policies coming out of the premier’s office over the past month.”

“Ford’s ministers continue to leak radical policies and expects us o applaud when they rein them in,” the Liberals added.

The Avro Post has reached out to the University of Guelph Conservatives and New Democrats for statements, as well as party members at Guelph-Humber.


Image of Christine Elliot from her website.

 

Crown requests 10 years for Humbolt Broncos crash truck driver

Eli Ridder | Report

Crown prosecutor Thomas Healey requested a sentence of 10 years in jail for Jaskirat Singh on Thursday, who drove the semi-trailer that slammed into a bus carrying the Humbolt Broncos hockey team last year, killing 16 and injuring 13.

Link: Humbolt Bus Crash

Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving causing death and bodily injury earlier in January, and the Crown is aiming for him to serve each count concurrently over a decade, with an additional 10 years driving prohibition.

Healey drew the situation of the crash, explaining that there were four signs before Sidhu would have reached the crash site, including one that was a large flashing stop sign, along with a vehicle parked on the other side of the intersection.

“How do you miss all those signs? How is that possible?” the prosecutor asked, according to reports from the courtroom, adding that “all he had to do was stop. Just stop. And we wouldn’t be here today.”

Lawyers for the Crown and defence launched their final arguments in a Saskatchewan courtroom.

“I take full responsibility for what has happened. It happened because of my lack of experience,” Sidhu told the court as the victims’ families and friends cried, looked down or stared at him, reported CBC.


More details to follow. Image of the driver from 

Let’s talk: Get involved in Bell Let’s Talk Day 2019

Casiah Cagan | Life

Jan. 30, 2019 is Bell Let’s Talk Day, one of the most anticipated events for Canadians as they use the power of technology to help end the stigma surrounding mental health.

Bell began to plan the initiative back in 2010, when talk about mental health was still fairly quiet.

The main goal was to simply get Canadians to begin conversations on mental health, but Bell additionally decided to donate money to mental health programs whenever Canadians talked about mental health in order to make help more accessible to Canadians who needed it.

Once Bell Let’s Talk Day was launched in 2011, suddenly millions of Canadians, from athletes to media personalities to ordinary people began to open up about their own or a loved one’s struggles with mental illness in addition to messages of support for those struggling.

When the initiative first began, Bell was only seeing about 66,079,236 interactions on Bell Let’s Talk Day, but that number has multiplied to become 138,383,995 in 2018, and the amount of contributions only continues to grow.

Bell Let’s Talk states that they are built on four key pillars to promote awareness: fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting research, and leading by example in workplace health.

Nine years later, Bell Let’s Talk has been able to raise $93,423,628.80 to donate to mental health programs across the country, and they anticipate that this year’s Let’s Talk Day will break the $100 million barrier.

So, how can you get involved in Bell Let’s Talk Day 2019?

In the University of Guelph-Humber Atrium from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. students can sign a poster to support mental health awareness, share a selfie and get themselves from free gear.

On the national scale, Bell will donate 5¢ to Canadian mental health initiatives every time you begin a new conversation on mental health.

If Bell is your service provider, every text message and call — local and long distance — will count towards a donation, but anyone, regardless of service provider, can tweet using the hashtag #BellLet’sTalk and use the Bell Let’s Talk Snapchat filter or Facebook frame to help contribute.

And if social media isn’t quite your thing, every view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video goes towards the donation initiative.

https://twitter.com/Bell_LetsTalk/status/1090452040118165504

So, what are you waiting for? Start the conversation, bring awareness to mental health, and let’s work towards a stigma-free Canada.


Featured Image from Bell Let’s Talk

Petition to stop Ford’s cuts to OSAP to hit 50K

Eli Ridder | Report

A petition found online at Change.org to stop Premier Doug Ford’s provincial cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, specifically around grants, was set to hit 50,000 signatures on Saturday evening — two days after the announcement was made.

The ruling Progressive Conservatives said on Thursday that the current OSAP model installed by the previous Liberal government for grants and its grace period was “unsustainable”.

Starting in the fall semester, post-secondary students will experience a 10 per cent tuition cut but also will be significantly more limited in terms of how many more non-repayable grants will be available through OSAP.

The growing petition, started by a user that goes simply by “RG”, was just short of 49,000 and rapidly climbing at 11:30 p.m., with hundreds signing throughout today.


Image of Doug Ford from CityNews.

Exclusive: ‘Putting students first’: MPP says on Ontario tuition cuts

Emily-May Werginz, Eli Ridder | Report

David Piccini, a top official of the post-secondary institutions file, told The Avro Post in a campus publication exclusive on Friday that the Ontario government is “putting students first” with its tuition cut, optional student fees and other changes to student life.

The sweeping changes announced on Thursday included a 10 per cent tuition cut, eliminating free tuition for students from low-income families, giving choice to students over what student fees they want to pay and changing the rules around the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

Mr. Piccini, member of provincial parliament for Northumberland-Peterborough South, said that all the changes would be come into effect by August, in time for the start of the new school year.

On June 7 of last year, the Progressive Conservative Party swept to power in Queen’s Park.


On student fees

One of the main concerns raised by organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian University Press is that the optional student fees would threaten the existence of student governments and clubs, including campus publications.

Piccini said that he had written for the Fulcrum while at the University of Ottawa and had been a coach of a university team, saying that he understood the importance of both clubs and student newspapers.

With the changes, however, Piccini explained that the Progressive Conservative government was “empowering students to make the decisions that are important to them”, noting that if students found the clubs and publications important, they will choose to fund them.

“I’m confident in the value” of student publications, he told The Avro Post.

Beyond that, Piccini confirmed that health and dental services, tagged as “essential”, would continue and would not be affected by the “Student Choice Initiative”, the title given to the optional fees.

Piccini did not go into details on how exactly the student fee options would look for those paying tuition, saying that it would mostly be left up to the post-secondary administrations themselves.

The student union for the University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College, IGNITE, is funded by student fees from both schools and has a budget of around $10 million per school year.

The Avro Post reached out for an interview with IGNITE over email and in-person regarding the new legislation that allows students to choose what student fees they pay, but they declined to respond.


Changes to tuition

Part of the announcements given on Thursday by the government under Premier Doug Ford was several changes to how tuition loans and grants work across the province.

Mr. Piccini stated that because “our commitment here, is to provide relief to Canadians” that international students will be ineligible for the 10 per cent tuition cut. 

One of the more contentious moves by the Ford government was to force students to take out loans for second-entry programs, such as law and medical school. Piccini said there was a lot of inaccuracies around that part of the announcement.

According to the new rules set to come into play this August, second-entry students will still be able to access certain grants, there will just be less of them in lockstep with post-secondary grants.

Students will still have the six month grace period to pay back their loans after they are finished school but it will no longer be interest free. 


Image provided by the office of David Piccini.

10 major changes by the Ontario government that affect you

Eli Ridder | Analysis

The following list are 10 major changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program and other education changes that you need to know about as part of Ontario’s education announcement.

  1. Students will be able to opt out of student union dues when paying student fees at the beginning of the year, which could threaten the existence of IGNITE and some of the health and dental plans.
  2. International students, who are already pay the highest tuition fees, are ineligible for the 10 per cent cut announced by the Ontario government.
  3. Students pursuing second-entry program such as law or medicine will have to take out a loan. This includes those classified as low-income.
  4. The six-month grace period from ending school before graduates have to start paying OSAP loans back is now gone.
  5. Students from families brining in less than $50,000 will be now forced to take a loan as part of the financial assistance offered by OSAP, rather than the Liberal-installed grant that covered the average cost of full tuition.
  6. The expected parental contribution amount, determining how much financial assistance students receive, will now increase.
  7. Universities will face a $360 million cut to revenues and colleges $80 million–a move the Canadian Federation of Students says will be downloaded onto students and workers.
  8. Students will receive the “dependent” classification if they have been out of high school less than six years now, with parental income factored into their financial assistance despite the situation.
  9. Students from families with incomes between $50,000 and $140,000 will obtain more repayable loans to grants in OSAP.
  10. Families that have incomes between $140,000 and $170,000 will not be eligible for any grants, and will have to pay everything back in loans.

The Progressive Conservatives, who were voted into office on June 7 of last year with leader Doug Ford, vowed to cut back spending and seek a way for Ontario to get out of debt and curb deficits.

It’s not only education where cutbacks are taking place, the Ford government has made significant cuts to health services and green energy initiatives.


Image from Pexels stock photo.

Ontario government discounts tuition, cuts free tuition for low-income

Eli Ridder | Report

The Ontario government under Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives announced on Thursday their plans to cut tuition fees while discarding free tuition for students from low-income families.

The Ontario Student Assistance Plan grants, which do not need to be paid back, had become unsustainable and the government wants to focus on the students in the most financial need, the post-secondary minster said.

“The previous government believed in handing out OSAP money to some of Ontario’s highest income earners with virtually no meaningful criteria for success,” Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Merrliee Fullerton said.

The previous Liberal government increased the number of grants and made it possible for low-income students to attend college or university free of cost.

However, the auditor general found last month that costs for that program jumped by 25 per cent and warned it could grow to $2 billion annually by 2020 to 2021.


More details to follow.

Shoppers Drug Mart launches online store for medical marijuana

Jacob Argintaru | Report

Shoppers Drug Mart launched its online store for selling medical marijuana on Tuesday after being licensed by Health Canada.

To buy from the store, patients must fill out a prescription and be approved by a specialist.

The site is accessible nationwide but products will only be sold to patients in Ontario.

Cannabis sold by Shoppers will be supplied by 10 licensed producers along with oils and paraphernalia.

Cannabis was legalized in Canada last October and is only available online for recreational users in Ontario until physical stores open in April of this year.


More details to follow | Image from Vice.

RCMP to remove Indigenous blockade protecting land

Eli Ridder | Report

The RCMP are currently enforcing an injunction to remove Wet’suwet’en First Nation clans defending two checkpoints blocking the construction of a pipeline in northern British Columbia.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have breached at least one of the checkpoints and are carrying firearms. There are unconfirmed reports that Canadian military forces are present at the Unist’ot’en camp.

The Mounties cut Internet service to the camp and so there are only text updates coming from the camp currently, Indigenous outlet Sub Media told The Guelph Post.

Reporters with APTN, CBC News and others stationed at either one of the two checkpoints–Gidumt’en and Unist’ot’en–have largely been silent on Twitter since reports of the breach came through.

The hereditary chiefs who represented the clans of Wet’suwet’en in negotiations with Coastal GasLink on near Gidimt’en checkpoints failed, APTN News reporter Kathleen Martens reported in the early evening.

Coastal employees will dismantle gates and any blockades to the Unist’ot’en camp, and not the RCMP. The road to the camp will be blacked throughout the night, Martens reported.


Earlier Monday

The RCMP earlier on Monday said they planned to enforce an injunction and remove Indigenous land defenders from the Gidimt’en and Unistoten fortified checkpoints blocking access for pipeline construction in northern British Columbia.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have halted company workers from passing their checkpoints into “unceded territory”, saying that they need consent from hereditary chiefs, who the RCMP offered to meet with.

At this point, the federal police are waiting on Coastal GasLink, who own the pipeline, on whether the company will enforce the injunction to remove the group at from their checkpoints. They are currently blocking road access to the barriers from certain directions.

B.C.’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police released a morning statement saying that exclusion zones and road closures would be set up for “police and public safety reasons”.

“We are very hopeful that there will not be violence or disorder as we enforce the court order,” the federal police said in the press release, adding that “the safety of the public and our officers is paramount”.

The RCMP Aboriginal Liaison Unit’s interacted for the first time Monday with the protestors at the Gidumt’en access point just before 11 a.m. local time, giving an ultimatum that only the chiefs could pass the exclusionary zone to meet with officials.



The protests are taking place over the Coastal GasLink Pipeline that will take natural gas from near Dawson Creek in B.C.’s north to the coast where a processing LNG Canada facility is to be built.

Those that have consent are allowed to pass through what Coastal GasLink has called “blockades”, the group who set up the checkpoints have said, according to one of the leaders.

The RCMP issued an injunction last month ordering that those blocking the small forestry road needed by CoastalGas workers to stop putting up barriers and allow the company through.

Local media reported that TransCanada has already signed agreements with all Indigenous nations on the pipeline route, but the hereditary chiefs of the five Wet’suwet’en First Nation clans say the deal does not apply to traditional territories.

Video from the scene shows a wooden barricade with barbed wire, while those part of the Indigenous-led Gidimt’en group huddle for warmth but stand defiant in the face of the RCMP.


Protests at TransCanada

Protesters at TransCanada’s offices in Toronto.

There were several protests on Monday against the actions being taken by the RCMP, CoastalGas and TransCanada across the country, including at the TransCanada company office in Toronto in support of the Wet’suwet’en.

There was a pipeline protest in downtown North Bay where some 20 people gathered in support of the Indigenous land defenders, part of some 25 peaceful protests taking place in Canada, reported Bay Today.

So far, there has been no news of scheduled Guelph-based protest, but there are some 20 protests and gathering taking place on Tuesday across southern Ontario, Canada and even a few internationally.

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