The reason I care what my provincial government does is simple: health care in Ontario is in a downward spiral -- I see it everywhere, even in my small town family medicine practice. At this point, the government must step up and stabilize the situation. I've been in independent practice for seven years. In that short time, I have watched resources dwindle.
It was another tumultuous week in Ontario, as the province's seemingly never-ending battle with its physicians continued. The grand Hoskins scheme now seems to be to sow discord amongst physicians so they fight amongst themselves. He knows that if physicians unite against Bill 210, as they did against the tPSA, he will never be able to succeed in implementing his plans.
Did you know interest payments on debt are already the third highest expenditure in Ontario's budget? Interest payments cost more than the entire budgets for transportation, college and universities, children and youth services, even slightly more than social services. Only health care and education have higher budgets than interest payments on debt.
On August 10, 1974, Edward Nolan died by suicide in a segregation cell at Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ontario. Each year on August 10, we commemorate Prisoners' Justice Day to remember Nolan and all of the prisoners who have died in custody, and to renew calls to respect the basic human rights of prisoners housed in jails, correctional centres, and penitentiaries across the country.
Lets be honest. The tentative Physician Services Agreement negotiated between the OMA and the Ministry is not a good deal. Anyone with any experience in negotiation, law, or with any common sense can realize that this barely qualifies as a contract. But I'm voting yes, and I strongly encourage my colleagues to do the same.
Part of this strategy includes something that makes us all uncomfortable and would make any politician unpopular very quickly if they ever suggested it: patient, government and physician accountability. We all take responsibility for making our health care system sustainable. Seems simple in principle, but what would that really look like?
Pickering is already 15 years past its best before date. It's the fourth oldest nuclear station in North America and the seventh oldest nuclear station in the world. Given its age, it is not surprising that Pickering is one of the most unreliable and poorest performing nuclear plants in North America.
Imagine the public outcry if the Ontario government ignored mercury poisoning in the Grand River watershed in southwestern Ontario. The public pressure to clean it up immediately would be overwhelming. The government would rigorously explore every option to clean it up. Yet, the sad truth is that for over 30 years the Ontario government has ignored scientific reports on the need for and ways to clean up the mercury poisoning in the English-Wabigoon River System in northwestern Ontario. The Grassy Narrows First Nation has paid the price with losses to their health, economy and culture.
Climate change is the biggest challenge of our generation. We are running out of time to address it, as the risks and costs of the crisis grow. For far too long Queen's Park has failed to muster the political will to tackle it. The good news is that Ontario finally has a climate action plan. The not-so-good news is that many aspects of the Liberal plan are intentions to develop a plan for future actions -- a bit fuzzy, given the scale and immediacy of the problem. The even worse news is that the plan is weakest in the area that it needs to be the strongest to be effective: its carbon price.
We anticipate the Ontario Liberal government's long-awaited plan to address climate change will finally roll out soon. Unfortunately, the Liberal's cap-and-trade legislation gives over 100 of Ontario's biggest polluters a free pass. Handing out free pollution permits undermine the effectiveness and integrity of the cap-and-trade system.
After being shamed into action by media report and letter writing campaigns, the Ontario Liberals have finally introduced an election financing reform bill. Unfortunately, it doesn't go far enough. The changes move the dial in the right direction -- by banning corporate and union donations, for example. But privileged hands can still find their way into the cookie jar. Quebec may have the solution to this problem.
If someone gave you $80.5 million dollars, you'd probably feel pretty good about them. You may want to shout it from the rooftops that you think they're great -- and you may even be willing to pay a million dollars or two to shout it, especially if it meant the money would keep rolling in. In essence, that's what auditor general Bonnie Lysyk found was happening in Ontario with the Wynne government's secret payments to teachers' unions. The total amounts paid by the government to teachers union organizations is astounding: since 2000, $80.5 million in taxpayer money has been funneled to teachers' organizations.
The Ontario Liberal government has introduced legislation that will ban corporate, union and association political contributions and impose lower limits on those made by individuals. I am agnostic about this fundraising issue. In many ways, Ontario's current system works. All donations are made public. There are limits to how much each organization can give. Lobby rules require advocates to disclose their activities on a public registry. It is far less underground than people think.
When the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP agree on something, the issue must transcend ideology. On Tuesday the PCs, supported by their opposition colleagues, will move that the Ontario government restore funding for Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy for children five years of age and over.
In case you think I'm asking you for more money for health care, I'm not. The $51 billion currently budgeted is enough, it just needs to be spent more efficiently. There will be significant immediate cost savings from cutting the bureaucratic bloats. But will this be enough to get you the election win you so badly desire in 2018?
We need health-care reform. To do that, we need an honest conversation between patients, government and front-line workers about what can be covered, what should be covered and what must be covered. We can't have it all. So we need to talk about what we all can have. To get there, doctors must be part of the conversation.