Canada Eyes Kazakhstan as a Top Priority Market

January 30, 2015 9:37 am

On December 16, folk festivals, parades, displays of traditional food and fireworks took over many cities across Kazakhstan. Cheering crowds flooded main streets to celebrate the country’s 23rd birthday.

In connection with Kazakhstan’s Independence Day, prominent Canadian politicians and members of the business community shared their experiences of working with the Central Asian country. In recent years, Canada and Kazakhstan have been actively cooperating in many branches of economy, security and health care.

Stephen Millar, a former Ambassador of Canada to Kazakhstan from 2009 to 2014, says Kazakhstan and Canada have common factors that provide opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another.

“I want to stress how similar we are: We are both bilingual, multicultural societies. We are northern countries. We know what winter is, we know how to grow crops in conditions of harsh winter climates,” Millar says.

2.Deepak Obhrai, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, says Kazakhstan is Canada’s primary market in Eurasia.

Deepak Obhrai, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, says Kazakhstan is Canada’s primary market in Eurasia.

Deepak Obhrai, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, says Canada has already laid a strong platform for the bilateral relations growing each year.

“Our Global Markets Action Plan identifies Kazakhstan as a primary emerging market—there are opportunities for Canadian businesses,” Obhrai says, referring to the new trade plan released last November by Ed Fast, the Minister of Trade and Development of Canada.

Today, Kazakhstan is Canada’s number one trading partner in the post-Soviet region and in Eastern Europe. In the past two years, trade between the two countries has clinched $6 billion. Canada is also among the top ten largest trade and investment partners of Kazakhstan.

Cameco, Bombardier and Peace Country Petroleum are among some Canadian companies running their operations in Kazakhstan. There is a major cooperation in agriculture, mining, oil and gas industries. Recently, Kazakhstan bought 10 Q400 NextGen aircrafts from Bombardier worth $225 million. This partnership will also establish ADC—a new domestic airline in Kazakhstan.

Last November, during the visit of Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird in Astana, the top two uranium producing countries signed the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. The agreement will enable both countries to export and import controlled nuclear materials, equipment and technology under oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Eva Slawecki, director of project development at Canadian Society for International Health, finds many opportunities for cooperation in the health sector too. Both countries provide their population with universal health care. Both countries share common challenges.

“We can learn a lot from each other,” Slawecki says. “We have a lot of similarities in terms of our countries geographies and growth of populations, and I think it’s a valuable experience that we can share.”

Slawecki says there is a lot of work needing to be done, but over the years of independence, Kazakhstan has come a long way.

“People in Kazakhstan are very professional and very interesting to work with. It’s good to see that there is such a desire to learn from Canada, to learn the best practices in health.”

In a multiethnic country, there is also a great demand for manufacturing resources. Canada Pork International Agency has already taken care of this opportunity. The company provides Kazakhstan with resources for meat manufacturing.

Jacques Pomerleau, president of Canada Pork International, says the agency struck an agreement with Kazakhstan Meat and Dairy Union three years ago.

“We need to revive it. In light of sanctions by Russia, we want to develop a full class relationship with Kazakhstan, and not going through Russia or any other country,” he says.

In the future, Pomerleau says the agency intends to develop a much closer relationship with Kazakh consumers by customizing products to closely meet their needs and requirements.

3.Canadian political scientist Piotr Dutkiewicz says Canada and Kazakhstan are ready to expand cooperation into science and culture.

Canadian political scientist Piotr Dutkiewicz says Canada and Kazakhstan are ready to expand cooperation into science and culture.

Kazakhstan is a good partner for Canada because the country enjoys economic and social stability, says Piotr Dutkiewicz, a professor of political science at Carleton University. Yet, he says, it’s time to extend cooperation of the two countries beyond economy.

“Judging by the economic facts – these relations are pretty strong,” Dutkiewicz says. “On the other hand, we don’t have too much of the scientific research and cultural exchange—that’s what is missing in our relations.”

Dutkiewicz says Canada should open a visa section in its embassy in Astana to increase scientific and cultural exchange.

“What is now slightly problematic is that going to Kazakhstan—we can get visas in Ottawa, but Kazakhs, who are going to visit Canada—they have to make their visas in Moscow, Russia,” Dutkiewicz says.

It’s clear there is much to celebrate in Kazakhstan and Canada relations. Both countries are similar in many ways, allowing them to perform well on the economic stage. It’s also clear both partners are ready to leave their comfort zone and undertake other stages of cooperation.

In light of the upcoming Expo-2017 in Astana, Canadian companies, start-ups and travellers should take note. There are still many more unexplored opportunities in this distant yet akin central Asian country.

Quebec’s Proposed Health Reform Ignores Best Evidence

January 28, 2015 11:30 am

Mega-mergers in healthcare don’t save money or improve health outcomes

Quebec’s Bill 10’s objectives are the improvement to the access and quality of health and social services in the province, while diminishing bureaucracy and increasing efficiency. To accomplish these objectives, the proposed law merges all public health and social service institutions in a given region into an integrated center of health and social services (CISSS). The Montreal region, due to its size, will be divided into five new distinct regions.

As professors in the Department of Health Administration in the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal, we are in agreement with these objectives; however, we seriously question the ability of this reform to achieve them. Scientific evidence has shown mergers of institutions in the healthcare sector do not generate economies of scale nor do they reduce bureaucracy—and have had little or no effect on the integration of services or an increase in accessibility. The centralization resulting from this reform will not allow for the stated objectives to be achieved and will likely have important negative consequences.

Mergers and their cost: Bigger is not better nor less expensive
The debate surrounding the optimal size of a healthcare institution has been going on for decades. This debate reached a crescendo during the 1980s in the United States and Great Britain. Experience shows there are no cost savings in increasing the size of an acute care hospital over 200 beds. Hospitals with over 600 beds cost more to run than those hospitals of smaller size. Evidence also indicates that not only are costs not reduced with bigger institutions, but there are unexpected and negative effects on the offering of services, most notably in the delays in the development and improvement of those services. There was even a national conference held in 2001 in the U.S. on the theme of “The Failure of Mergers.”

Many studies, both in England and the U.S., as well as Quebec, have looked to explain the impact of integration on health and social institutions and their missions. These studies show very positive effects on the integration of care but that they were achieved through contractual agreements between autonomous organizations and not through mergers. Contracts between autonomous institutions to share the provision of services by implementing corridors of care achieve much better results than do mergers.

Less bureaucracy: Not true
We could ask: are there too many bureaucrats? The question is complex and difficult to answer without objective data. Instead one can observe the evolution of administrative expenses as a portion of government expenses in health and social services in Quebec in the past and compare them to like expenses in other provinces.

In Quebec, according to the data from the Canadian Institute on Health Information (CIHI), the portion of administrative expenses in healthcare spending has decreased since 1975 from a four per cent rate in the seventies to 1.3 per cent into 2011, and then started slowly increasing to 1.6 per cent in 2014. General administrative expenses in other provinces have followed the same tendency. From 2.6 per cent in 1975, they were reduced to 1.1 per cent in 2014. In fact, these expenses were more significant in Quebec than Canada between 1975 and 2004 and very comparable from 2005 onward.

General administrative expenses in Quebec were similar to other Canadian provinces after the Couillard reform when the role of regional agencies was reinforced. However, between 2011 and 2014, the portion of general administrative expenses in Quebec’s healthcare system did not follow any development in regionalization. In this context, it is difficult to associate regionalization with an increase or a reduction in administrative expenses. It is also difficult to imagine how the abolition of regional agencies would lead to a reduction in these expenses.

Centralization is not a guarantee of efficiency in our public healthcare system
Scientific data show clearly that a decentralized system is closer to the centers of decision- making and allow for health and social services to be better adapted to populations needs, especially those of the underprivileged or those living in rural or outlying communities. Contrary to industry, which seeks the production of uniform and standardized services at the best price, health systems need to be able to adjust services to the needs of the populations being served.

The disappearance of local institutions risks standardizing services throughout a regional territory, hence diminishing access to more marginal populations while increasing the inequalities of health. The creation of regional mega structures will result in an important loss of linguistic, cultural and community identity. Those institutions serving their community for many years and are essential for their role in maintaining community ties and supporting community development will be lost.

Scientific evidence does not support the presumption of Bill 10 that there will be a reduction in bureaucracy with the centralization of decision-making. National and international experience has shown time and time again that the proposed reform will not have the desired effects and, in fact, will make healthcare delivery more complex. We should learn from these experiences instead of increasing the centralization of decision-making in our healthcare system.

Unfortunately we have the peculiar trait of trying the same solutions over and over again even when they have been already shown not to work.

Beland_FrancoisBy Paul Lamarche, Réjean Hébert et François Béland

The following professors in the Department of Health Administration in the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal have signed this letter:

Nicole Leduc, Régis Blais, François Champagne, François-Pierre Dussault, Lambert Farand, Marie-Josée Fleury, Mireille Goetghebeur, Mira Johri, Lise Lamothe, Nicole Leduc, David Levine,  Michèle Pelletier, Louise Rousseau, Claude Sicotte, José Carlos Suarez Herrera.

Three Things We Can Do to End Poverty in Canada

January 16, 2015 9:50 am

Poverty degrades our economy, changes the nature of our cities and the cohesion of our society

“Time to end poverty in Canada” has been the message from the Salvation Army coming across our TV screens this holiday season. A great idea from an organization that fights poverty every day in our country—but is it realistic?

Yes, it is.

Poverty doesn’t just cost the poor their dignity and a reasonable standard of living, it costs us all.  A study guided by noted economists for the Ontario Association of Food Banks found that poverty costs the government about $30 billion a year, much of which was health care expenditures because being poor frequently means poor health.

Consider also the homeless. Numerous studies have found that it costs three to four times more to leave someone on the street (in and out of shelters, hospitals, jails) than to give them a home with support services.

And that doesn’t include the millions spent on provincial welfare systems which entrap people with thousands of bureaucratic rules. To which the late Senator David Croll once said, “We spend billions every year on a social welfare system that merely treats the symptoms of poverty but leaves the disease itself untouched.”

It is astounding that here in this rich country that one in seven lives in poverty according to Statistic Canada. For these fellow citizens every day is a battle. Just struggling to get by, these families can’t even dream about getting ahead.   

What is also disturbing is that over a million are children even though 25 years ago the House of Commons said it was going to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.

And then there is the wide gap in wealth and income levels that has come about in the last 30 years now posing a threat to our social fabric. Cities once dominated by middle income neighbourhoods are giving way to greater polarization between high and low income communities. More and more are living pay cheque to pay cheque (if they have a job) with heavy debts. As the TD Bank states in the title of a recent report, it is time to recognize “The Case for Leaning Against Income Inequality in Canada.”

Let’s be clear: poverty and inequality are not obscure issues that only concern economists or policy wonks. It’s degrading our economy, changing the nature of our cities, creating unequal health outcomes and impacting the cohesion of our society.

So, what do we do about all of this?  Here are three ways we can end poverty:

  1. Education is a great enabler and leveller in any society. While Canada overall does fairly well in post secondary education statistics, there are pockets of the population that need attention. For example, the aboriginal high school dropout rate is four times higher than the national average. Improving literacy rates, early childhood learning and skills development to reflect the ever changing job market are all good investments that will pay long term dividends.

And let’s make sure kids don’t go to school hungry. They can’t learn on an empty stomach.

  1. We need to explore a basic income plan for Canadians. It would start moving people off the costly social welfare systems to an income tax managed formula. It wouldn’t provide for the ‘good life’ but it would ensure that no one in this country goes without the basic needs of nourishing food, warm clothing and decent shelter. We put such a plan in place for senior citizens back in the 1970s and it brought most of them out of poverty. Also, at that time, an experiment in Manitoba called ‘Mincome’ demonstrated a reduction in health care costs and higher school graduation rates.

While there will be transitional costs, overall we don’t need to spend more money, we need to invest smarter, more efficiently and effectively.

  1. It is time to get serious about tax reform. The last major federal overhaul arose from the Carter Commission in the 1970s. Federal corporate taxes, which stood at 29 per cent in 2000, have been reduced to a current level of 15 per cent without a discernable effect on the rate of employment. Let’s improve the fairness and progressivity of our tax system, tackle tax havens and loopholes and establish a carbon tax.

Yes, it is time to end poverty and reduce inequality in this rich country we are blessed to live in. It’s time to improve equality of opportunity and a better sharing of our prosperity.

By Art Eggleton

ArtEgiltonArt Eggleton is a former Toronto mayor, Member of Parliament, and is currently a Canadian Senator.

Oil: A High-Stakes Game of Chance

January 15, 2015 11:30 am
Oil Pump Jacks

Popular wisdom has it that the only certainty in life is death and taxes. Until a few short months ago, most economists, politicians, political pundits and journalists would have added to that short list a perpetual increase in the price of oil. But, in today’s interconnected world, much can happen to a global commodity like oil within the period of a few months.

A generally lethargic global economy, a hedged bet by OPEC (the intergovernmental Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) as well as an upswing in production of unconventional oil in America’s shale oil fields have all contributed to a significant oversupply of crude in the global market, resulting in a substantial decrease in the price of the world economy’s hydrocarbon lifeblood. The consequence: global oil prices have fallen by upwards of 50 per cent.

Rapidly descending oil prices have undoubtedly been a boon for motorists and should also serve as a form of stimulus for the global economy that is still recovering from the financial downturn that began in 2008. At the most basic level of pocketbook analysis, lower crude oil prices encourage greater consumption and therefore help to stimulate the global economy. Lower prices put extra income in consumers’ pockets, income that can be spent on purchases and services which might not otherwise be consumed. But the current sliding oil prices are also a boon for oil-dependent industries. For instance, lower prices increase the sales of automobiles although, to the dismay of many environmentalists, they typically spur the sale of less fuel-frugal vehicles. Lower oil prices reduce the operating costs of airlines and other transportation-centric industries, in a perfect world, should translate into lower consumer prices for the products being transported. However, as we all know, does not always happen.

TrafficOther beneficiaries of today’s lower oil prices are the countries requiring imported oil to subsist. Unfortunately countries, like the consumers who inhabit them, are more likely to spend rather than save the extra money that, in the past, would have been earmarked to cover transportation costs. To claim otherwise would be mere wishful thinking.

But, if the current slackening of global oil prices constitute a boon for individual consumers and oil importing countries, they are a bane for oil producing and exporting countries. Since Canada is a net energy exporter, this means that the slump in oil prices will directly affect the Canadian economy. While Canada’s oilsands will undoubtedly be negatively impacted by the sudden sharp decrease in the global price of oil, the jury still remains out on how adverse that impact will be. A continuing slide in prices could render numerous projected oilsands extraction projects economically untenable, thereby reducing the amount of capital investment in Canada’s energy sector. Furthermore, on a broader level, the decline in oil prices could increase Canada’s trade deficit and substantially reduce previously predicted budget surpluses based on a higher international price of oil. And here is where both OPEC and the American shale oil industries come back into the picture.

Typically, when global oil prices slide, OPEC makes the conscious decision to bolster the price by reducing the amount of crude that its members pump into the world’s oil market. Because of OPEC’s dominant position in the area of oil production, this has the effect of controlling fluctuations and ultimately stabilizing the global market price of oil. However, in an unforeseen turn of events, OPEC has not indicated that it will pursue its usual price-bolstering strategy. Instead, its member states will refrain from curtailing oil production in an effort to prop up the sliding price of oil. It appears OPEC will not put the brakes on the global slide in the price of crude.

Many economists are speculating that this uncharacteristic action is aimed at undercutting the United States’ burgeoning shale oil industry. In other words, the hand that OPEC appears to be playing is to let the global price slip below a point where most of America’s lucrative (and rapidly expanding) shale oil projects cannot break even with the cost of exploration, extraction, transportation, and refining. If the global price of oil is below the American shale oil industry’s break-even price, investment in American shale oil will dry up. Existing firms will have to take on more debt to cover their costs when the commodity itself is worth less with each passing day.

The trump card OPEC seems to be counting on is this: the lower global oil price could limit future investment in America’s shale oil deposits thereby making that industry uneconomic. Prodigal investors and consumers would go back to OPEC’s own traditional light sweet crude. But why take the risk?

With the advent of recent advancements in extraction engineering procedures, America’s oil production has risen to approximately 9 million barrels per day. That tally is uncomfortably close to Saudi Arabia’s—OPEC’s most lucrative and productive member—daily output. In fact, there is now only about a million barrels separating the American daily output from that of Saudi Arabia. The American oil industry is nipping at the heels of the longstanding reigning champion in oil production and that reigning champion is taking evasive action to curtail the growth of its new and vigorous competitor. Before OPEC and the American oil industry finally turn over their cards (and the price of oil eventually stabilizes), Canada’s oil industry could become collateral damage in what increasingly appears to be a high-stakes game of chance. But no matter what the outcome, until then, consumers will smile all the way to the pump.

Preventing Radicalization: Two-Decade Social Experiment

December 17, 2014 4:00 pm

The Assembly of Nations unites all 140 nationalities living in Kazakhstan to promote cooperation and to give them political voice. Nine representatives of the Assembly are elected to the legislative chamber of the Parliament.

On Wednesday, October 22, Ottawa woke-up to the sounds of shooting coming from Parliament Hill, the heart of the nation’s capital. Once peaceful and tranquil, Ottawa stood vulnerable and insecure.

This attack in Ottawa, and an earlier one in Montreal, has prompted Members of Parliament to consider additional protective measures. The government is planning to give more power to the police to deal with suspects and to expand surveillance operations. Some experts, however, question the proposed actions. They say safety measures should not only protect, but prevent attacks in first place.

The government proposed tough measures for Canada and expects government accountability, says Fen Hampson, the director of Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“It’s an issue in a democratic society, where you have civil liberties, freedom of speech – it’s very difficult having these kind of calls,” Hampson says. “The question is should the police have power to not only conduct surveillance operations, but to detain individuals, and if necessary arrest them on the grounds of suspicious activities.”

Having more police and more surveillance won’t guarantee full security as long as the society stays disengaged in government’s strategy, says another expert Michael Kempa, professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa. Kempa says Ottawa needs preventive social measures too. So far, Canadians—especially new immigrants—are left out in the government strategy, he says.

“We think that if we get the surveillance right, and the law right, that everything will be safe—this is, to an extent, true. But without right economical and political structures that encourage people to fully participate in Canadian society, we will never achieve full safety,” Kempa says.

So, what kind of social measures can be taken to prevent future attacks?

For security and protection, Canada has looked at measures taken in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Yet, for prevention, perhaps Canada should look farther to the East. There, in Central Asia, Canada would find Kazakhstan—the country facing the same very question since gaining independence from the USSR in 1991.

Representatives of different nationalities pose in front of the Pyramid of Peace in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Pyramid, constructed in 2006, represents country's spirit of tolerance and peace.

Representatives of different nationalities pose in front of the Pyramid of Peace in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Pyramid, constructed in 2006, represents country’s spirit of tolerance and peace.

Kazakhstan seems so distant and so different from Canada, yet, there is so much in common between the two countries. Like Canada, the ninth biggest country in the world, Kazakhstan’s vast steppes are sparsely populated with just over 17 million people.

Like Canadians, Kazakhstanis are diverse and multiethnic: 140 ethnic groups, representing over 40 religious communities live together. Armenians, Germans, Koreans, Poles, Turks and many other nationalities call Kazakhstan home.

Both countries opened their arms to welcome new people on their lands. Canada has gained its diverse population from immigration and Kazakhstan from the Soviet Union’s resettling policies. Many ethnic groups came to Kazakhstan to cultivate wheat and other cereal grains. Later, Kazakhstan’s land, rich of coal, gas and oil, attracted many Europeans.

Unlike Canada, Kazakhstan faced a more treacherous path to unity in the country. When the country gained independence, it had no budget to keep people happy and positive. Ethnic groups had no interest to stay united. The land bore a sleeping bomb that could tear the country apart with any slight discontent or protest. The newly independent country had no choice but to rely on preventive measures. Without realization, the country has engaged in a successful social experiment that still keeps the nation in peace.

In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms kept Quebec from separating from Canada. The Charter has guaranteed the rights and freedoms for all Canadians, and made English and French official languages. Kazakhstan has entrenched equal rights and freedoms for all citizens without any discrimination in its Constitution. Kazakh and Russian were proclaimed as two official languages of Kazakhstan.

To knit all distinctive ethnic groups into one social fabric, President Nursultan Nazarbayev established the Assembly of Nations. The institute unites all ethnic groups and gives them legislative powers. Nine representatives of the Assembly are elected to the legislative chamber of the Parliament. The members oversee all laws, making sure they do not violate any rights or freedoms of any ethnic group.

Today, like the rest of the world, Kazakhstan faces threats of radicalization by ISIS and other extremist groups. Even though threats are mild and don’t hold serious grounds, Kazakhstan is taking special measures, says Serik Belgibay. Belgibay is a Kazakhstani political scientist and the director of RealPolitik—a non-profit aiming to present an objective research and analysis of the country’s domestic and foreign policies.

Belgibay says all traditional religions enjoy full freedoms and are accepted with high tolerance in Kazakh society. There are some untraditional streams of religions too, and a few who hold radical views.

In general, both the society and the state have a cautious attitude towards them [untraditional religions]. But most powerful oversight goes against radical faiths with radical tendencies,” Belgibay says.

Kazakhstan, like the rest of the world, is also trying to prevent ISIL from getting to young minds through social media. For this purpose, Belgibay says the government has launched e-Islam, an online portal providing educational resources on traditional Islam for teachers and followers. Some universities also provide free-courses on Islam studies.

Protection measures also play a part, says Belgibay.  All religious movements have to undergo mandatory registration. Unregistered movements face fines. Groups with radical inclinations are closely watched by the police and can be banned.

Over these 20 years of keeping different nationalities together, Kazakhstan has learned a few lessons to share with Canada and with the rest of the world. Belgibay says a country should be careful not apply too much force and pressure to any religious groups. It will just give them a motivation to use their religion as a tool for violence. It’s better to keep an ongoing social dialogue on how to live together in peace and in harmony.

Next year, Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, will host its fifth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. The leaders will get together to discuss how to prevent radicalization of young people. In previous years, the leaders discussed how to fight religious extremism at home and abroad, the role of women in religion and multiculturalism.

As Canada is getting ready to give more powers to the police, to expand surveillance operation and to beef up security around the public institutions, it should take time to answer one question: Will these measures help Canada to prevent future attacks?

Perhaps it’s also a good time to think about preventive measures.  In that case, why not look at Kazakhstan’s measures, at how the country is managing to keep peace, tolerance and mutual understanding with such a diverse population.

U.S. and China: Capping Economic and Environmental Controversy

December 2, 2014 2:55 pm

The United States and China, which are liable for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas-emissions, have agreed to get a handle on pollution. But concerns of potential business restrictions, tax increases, job cuts and inefficiency in planning have created political controversy.

The arguments focus on longevity, healthcare costs and sustaining global natural and renewable resources versus the sensibility of the agreement and the impact on the economy.

A meeting in November between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi not only landmarked a breakthrough in the U.S.-China rapport, but has finalized an agreement of goals to initiate and lead global followers. The objective is to surface a multi-national treaty at The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, in 2015.

Finalizing two days of meetings between Obama and Xi on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, was a public announcement of the emissions agreement from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

£¨Ê±Õþ£©Ï°½üƽͬÃÀ¹ú×Üͳ°Â°ÍÂíÔÚÖÐÄϺ£¾ÙÐлáÎî“If China and the United States can work together, the world benefits,” Obama affirms.

China and the United States maintain the world’s largest economies, and trump all others’ per category on the GDP. Currently in China, a new coal plant develops every 8-10 days. The cost of mortality in China, from air pollution is 10 per cent of the GDP. Pursuing change will aid to reform public health overall.

An academic journal, Global Commission on The Economy and Climate published in the report, ‘Better Growth, Better Climate,’ suggests there is a need to strengthen resilience to climate change and build a relationship between economic growth and positive climate action.

The United States promises decreases in greenhouse-gas emissions by twice the existing target–26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. The intent is to reach 17 per cent below 2005 emissions levels by 2020. And the U.S. has made a national commitment to decrease emissions by March 2015.

According to the Office Of The Press Secretary of the White House, China agrees to increase non-fossil fuel share of energy production to 20 per cent by 2030. China also promises to target a cap on carbon emissions, which have been rising steadily. The aim is to begin reducing emissions by the year 2030.

The necessary changes will begin in 2016, adhering to Goal 13 ‘urgent action to combat climate change’ of the United Nations sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In China, five provinces and eight cities will cap-and-trade pilot programs.

Shanghai, Guangdong and Beijing have set regional caps and are introducing pilot projects for trading rights and o cut emissions by 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.

The agreement comprises of goals to boost trade in energy efficient technology and outlines municipal level frameworks for low-carbon economic growth. It will introduce new pilot projects in China to study various renewable energy sources, and also increase funding for US-China clean energy research center—a research initiative developed by Obama and former Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2009.

There is no current evidence as to whether other countries will support the agreement. However, more than 190 countries will be involved in negotiations. The goal is to decrease carbon emissions and fossil fuels and increase the use of non-fossil fuels, bearing less detriment to the environment. Non-fossil fuels are most commonly renewable energy sources, such as solar power, and energy generated through wind or water. They will not deplete the world’s current supply of oil, coal and natural gas.

Market investments are grounded in U.S.-China relations. This agreement could potentially have a big social, economic and environmental global impact.

The agreement could potentially take a huge hit on the Canadian economy. A hotly debated issue; the oil sands and the expansion of pipelines, such as Keystone XL, predict greenhouse gas-emissions will triple if the plans for pipelines are approved. This will leave the Canadian government in a struggle between needs for economic prosperity and environmental initiatives.

Proponents of the agreement support Obama in full force, claiming beliefs that Obama has authority to target new goals without further Congress approval.uschina1

Republicans argue China will fail in action and implemented rules by the Environment Protection Agency will detriment the American economy. Concerns are grounded in unanswered questions about the economy. What are the costs to the taxpayers? How will costs be fairly distributed between Nations?

Capping greenhouse gas and coal emissions inevitably results in higher energy costs. The Republicans question whether increased costs will force companies to relocate, invariably cutting jobs in North America.

A concern is whether the economic benefits of this new China-U.S. rapport outweigh the North American costs to residents and businesses.

The fight against climate change will not occur overnight.

It is a process of great importance for Obama—a central issue he hopes to harmonize during his remaining years in office. He hopes to accomplish this through regulations on power plants and vehicles to cut emissions, increased international relations, examination and new treaties surrounding critical global issues.

IS it safe to assume this agreement and initiated process of change will remain enforced once Obama leaves office? The answer is unknown.

Obama insists global threats cannot be conquered alone and combined efforts are imperative for change.

Successful leaders have the courage to take action.

But it appears only time will reveal the success of our leaders and the actions we will take.


Youth on the Streets: Anything but Hopeless

November 18, 2014 1:01 pm
1 Sign

Kevin Belisle begs for money and attention.

He sits on Bank Street, holding a carton that reads, “Extremely hungry. Please help.” In his backpack: high school equivalency, a criminal record and a dirty jacket.

Homeless Kevin Belisle, 23, asks the government for a job, so he doesn’t have to beg for food.

Homeless Kevin Belisle, 23, asks the government for a job, so he doesn’t have to beg for food.

Belisle, 23, doesn’t have a permanent address or a job. For a living, he paints walls, does yard work and helps people with moving. When he doesn’t have a job, he begs for money on the streets. At night, he couch-surfs at one of his friends.

Belisle is not the only one with such living arrangements in the nation’s capital. There are many more stretched hands with youthful eyes, looking up–still full of hope and full of life.

The question is, how many of them are there?

The research by the Homelessness Partnering Secretariat (HPS) estimates between 150 and 300 thousand individuals experience homelessness in Canada every year. Nearly every fourth homeless person is a youth under the age of 25.

Last year, roughly 1400 youth stayed in Ottawa’s shelters. This number, however, is not a true reflection of youth homelessness, says Mike Bulthius, the executive director of the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa (ATEH).

Bulthius says there are many more youth without stable housing. They are not visible, because they, like Belisle, can wander from relatives to friends without reporting their homelessness. He says research indicates the population of homeless youth is at least double of the known.

The causes of youth homelessness are similar to that of adults, Bulthius says. The difference is that youth come from somebody’s care: whether it’s a family, a community or the government.

“Breakdown of the family is the key. A lot of them are living in family situations that are not positive for them,” Bulthius says. “Whether it’s a history of abuse or rejection by a family–a number of youth come from foster care and group homes.”

Every fourth homeless person in Canada is a youth under 25-years old.

Every fourth homeless person in Canada is a youth under 25-years old.

Belisle says, this is what happened to him.

His parents divorced when he was six-years-old. He bounced between different foster families, group homes and shelters. Sometimes, he spent weekends with his father, where he says he felt unwelcomed by his stepmother.

When he turned 16, Belisle decided to live on his own. He worked at different minimum wage jobs, but he could never afford his own place.

Lack of affordable housing is another issue that weighs on youth homelessness, says Stacey Lauridsen, the director of Community Services at the Youth Services Bureau (YSB). Today, in Ottawa, there is a shortage of safe affordable housing in general, especially for youth, he says.

“If you are an at-risk youth trying to find affordable private market housing, you are facing stigma, marginalization, along with the need for specific supports–it’s just not there,” Lauridsen says.

Michel Overlette, 25, who panhandles on Bank Street, knows what barely affordable housing is.

In fact, he says, he is on the verge of becoming homeless. Overlette says he lives in a house on Preston Street. He shares the rent with his girlfriend and his friend.

“We try our best to make ends meet, but sometimes it’s hard,” Overlette says.

4 Michel OverletteHis income comes from construction jobs, he says. But, there are days when he doesn’t have any job. The rent comes up, unpaid bills pile up on the table, and the refrigerator gives a hollow sound. Overlette says he has nothing to do but to panhandle.

“It’s not that I can’t spend money properly, it’s because they [employers] don’t give me enough work to pay rent. They just make you have enough to live–that’s what it is,” he says.

Over the last few years, Ottawa has made positive steps towards supporting homeless youth.

In 2013, the City of Ottawa passed a 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan. According to the plan, the city promises to build 130 new units and renovate 200 homes for low income and homeless people by the end of 2015.

YSB has a youth drop-in center; runs a youth-health clinic, has a range of mental health and employment services and provides special programs for specific youth populations such as at-risk young women, Aboriginal youth, LGBTQ youth and new immigrants.

Two years ago, YSB partnered with Canadian Mental Health Association to introduce an Intensive Case Management (ICM)–a program that works with youth experiencing serious mental issues. The program allocates case managers to help youth find housing, education and other support programs.

“While the programs we offer have proved to be effective, they currently can’t be expanded without additional funds,” says Lauridsen.

Sleep Out for Youth Ottawa! Spend the night with community on November 21 to raise funds for homeless youth programs.

Sleep Out for Youth Ottawa! Spend the night with community on November 21 to raise funds for homeless youth programs.

As a nonprofit and a charity, YSB depends on government, corporate funds and public donations. Right now, the organization’s ICM program is funded for just four intensive case managers, who are working with over 40 youth with severe mental illnesses.

To end youth homelessness, Lauridsen says, Ottawa must develop a strategy including government, communities and youth.

“We need youth voice in what works to resolve homelessness. To understand youth, we need to listen to them and ensure they have their say in the process and strategies that affect them,” he says.

If anyone wants to listen, Belisle is ready to give his voice. He says there is only one feeling homeless people experience on the streets: I can’t do anything.

“Because no one is going to listen, no one really wants to listen,” Belisle says.

When asked what he would say, Belisle simply replies: “Give me a job.”

Homeless youth may not have great expectations, but they still have hopes.

Belisle dreams about writing a book about creation of a new world. He says, this world will be the world of opportunities and challenges that people can overcome by always choosing to do something right.

In his world, he says, people will all live together.

Overlette is also drawing his future plans.

He says, he would like to start a construction company to help people with painting, redecorating and building. Then maybe, he says, his dream will come true.

“My dream is to own a house, so I can live amongst everybody else,” Overlette says. “I am only 25, and I know, there is more to future than it is now.”

Belisle agrees. “You can never have too many dreams.”

On November 21, join the community in Sleep Out for Youth Ottawa event to raise funds to take youth off the streets.

Why does Canada’s Innovation Government Funding Support not Working?

November 14, 2014 12:00 pm

In spite of significant tax incentives from many levels of government, Canada continues to lag its Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) peer countries in innovation performance. The Conference Board of Canada report concludes the following:

  • Despite a decade or so of innovation agendas and prosperity reports, Canada remains near the bottom of its peer group on innovation, ranking 13th among the 16 peer countries.
  • Countries that are more innovative are passing Canada on measures such as income per capita, productivity, and the quality of social programs.
  • So far, there are no conclusive answers or solutions to Canada’s poor innovation ranking.

Canadian companies are rarely at the leading edge of new technology and often find themselves behind the productivity growth achieved by global industry leaders. Canada has lost its global technology leader Nortel, and once the global dominant RIM/Blackberry is struggling to survive. Nor does it appear that any other Canadian companies are prepared to step up on the world stage.

According to the Conference Board Report, countries that are more innovative are passing Canada on measures such as income per capita, productivity, and the quality of social programs. Innovation is critical to environmental protection, a high-performing education system, a well-functioning system of health promotion and health care, and an inclusive society. Without innovation, all these systems stagnate and Canada’s performance deteriorates relatively to that of its peers. Innovation is essential to a high-performing economy.

So why are there no conclusive answers to Canada’s poor innovation performance?

Canada has a good technical infrastructure with universities, engineering schools, teaching hospitals, technical institutes, an excellent quality of life and advanced knowledge workers. So why does the country fail to take the steps that other countries take to commercialize its research as a source of competitive advantage?

According to the Conference Board, there are three explanations for the poor innovation performance:

  1. Poor public policies, such as taxation, R&D tax credits, and regulations
  2. A general lack of sufficient risk capital, scientists, engineers, or qualified business managers to support the innovation process
  3. The countries’ poor entrepreneurial behaviour, such as management reluctance to take risks or to build globally competitive large corporations because of the Canadian oligopoly market structural issues

As a result, Canada has largely become an innovation laggard country of comfortable oligopolies and ‘pick and shovel” resource companies.

Canadian Companies Lack Innovation Strategies

Canada must overcome its endemic poor entrepreneurial behavior, and encourage its companies to become global leaders, otherwise public innovation grant and tax policies, and creating sufficient pools of risk capital will continue to remain ineffective to improving the economy.

Few Canadian businesses take a systematic approach to innovation. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the available evidence indicates that the most successful companies approach innovation in a holistic and systematic way. They develop an innovation strategy that fully integrates with their business mission and goals, and aligns with their organizational culture and organizational systems.

Innovation becomes inherent in everyone’s job description. Google, Apple, 3M, Nike, Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon, to name a few are global leaders because they have an innovation strategy.

Innovation is much more than what comes out of the company’s R&D process. Innovation can occur in a company’s business model, in its value proposition, how it sells its products, and to whom it sells its products. Companies like Dell, SW Airlines and Virgin, became market leaders through business strategy innovation. Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook created new industries by technological and business model innovation.

For any organization, innovation represents not only the opportunity to grow and survive, but also an opportunity to influence the direction of the industry. According to management consultant Peter Drucker, “Innovation is the effort to create purposeful focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential.” That statement very accurately positions innovation as the agent for change and a crucial tool for every Canadian CEO. However, many Canadian CEO’s believe their strategic innovation investments are failing, because many companies fail to implement a formal innovation strategy and process.

Innovation, like many business functions, is a management process that requires an innovation strategy with specific tools, rules, and discipline. Execution is simple once it is clear how the pieces fit together. An innovation strategy is an integrated framework, formal processes and tools that all managers can use to create top- and bottom-line growth from innovation. It is simply the use of standard management tools (such as strategy, organizational design and structure, management systems, performance evaluation, people, and rewards) to dramatically increase the payoffs from innovation investments. How a company innovates is what it will ultimately innovate.

Developing a business environment that supports and promotes innovation often requires extensive changes in organizational culture and systems, which can be difficult to achieve, not to mention disruptive, costly, and time-consuming. Though the potential long-term benefits are considerable, many Canadian firms often focus on short-term gains, and cost reductions and are unwilling to invest time and resources into organizational transformation efforts. The high risks of failure associated with major organizational change projects is also a Canadian deterrent.

Overcoming Canadian Corporate Entrepreneurial Resistance by Changing Government Tax Incentives Requirements

Canada’s low levels of innovation call into question the effectiveness of Canada’s generous innovation tax incentives. There are a numerous tax incentive programs in Canada among the various levels of government.

The flagship, federal Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program is the largest and most popular program in the country, and like the other programs, is flawed. The SR&ED program, administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) encourages businesses of all sizes, to conduct Research and Development (R&D) that will lead to new, improved, or technologically advanced products, processes, devices, and materials. Canada has one of the most generous tax incentive R&D programs among OECD countries. Each year the SR&ED program provides approximately $4 billion in investment tax credits to over 18,000 claimants.

What Determines an Eligible SR&ED Project?

According to CRA qualification criteria, a Canadian-controlled private corporation can earn an Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 35 percent up to the first $3 million of qualified expenditures for SR&ED carried out in Canada, and 20 percent on any excess amount. Other Canadian corporations, proprietorships, partnerships, and trusts can earn an ITC of 20 percent of qualified expenditures for SR&ED carried out in Canada.

To qualify for the SR&ED program, work must advance the understanding of scientific relations or technologies, address scientific or technological uncertainty, and incorporate a systematic investigation by qualified personnel. The CRA list work that qualifies for SR&ED tax credits as including experimental development, applied research, basic research and support work.

Interestingly, there are no requirements for a company to demonstrate that they have a successful record of accomplishment of innovations, or a formal innovation strategy, linking to the business strategy.

Applying for a SR&ED grant or tax credit requires a complicated amount of paperwork to satisfy the funding conditions and technical requirements. This has spawned a lucrative third party consulting industry where specialized financial technicians adept at filling out the qualification forms, act on behalf of clients to secure the maximum tax grants and credits. KPMG estimates this to be in the order of $137 million or 3.7 per cent of the total 2011 expenditure of $3.6 billion. The same report also suggests that some firms charge clients as much as a 30 per cent contingency fee to complete SR&ED documentation.

The SR&ED and other government tax grant and credit programs are not working for Canada, given our 13th country placing on the OECD list of 16 peer countries. Many ask if this is innovation, or corporate welfare that reduces operating and capital expense costs!

So what can the Canadian Governments do to increase the effectiveness of the many tax grants and credit programs available to Canadian companies?

The CRA and other government agencies add to the existing program requirements to qualify for SR&ED and other government tax incentives, provisions to ensure that qualifying Canadian businesses demonstrate that they have an existing innovation strategy linking to its business strategy. This includes parameters such as organizational design, management systems, performance evaluation metrics, people, human resource policies, and incentives resulting in successful innovations. In addition, qualifying businesses need to demonstrate a record of successful innovations ensuring that these programs reward success. Most international businesses that are successful at innovation have an innovation strategy that fully integrates with their business mission and goals, and aligns their organizational culture and systems.

By Ronald J. Pickett

About the Author

Ronald J. Pickett resides in Newmarket, Ontario. He is President of RDM Management Group, specializing in innovation, business, and technology strategy consulting. Ron has an MBA from the University of Phoenix, a Master’s Degree in Innovation Leadership from the University of Fredericton, and publicly speaks on and teaches innovation leadership strategy to Laurentian University Students at Georgian College.

How U.S. Midterm Elections might affect Online Gambling Regulations in the U.S.A.

November 13, 2014 2:48 pm

Last week the U.S.A. saw the holding of midterm elections for represented positions in the United States Senate.

The Republican Party had a considerable win and was able to pick up many seats in these elections, and in turn ensured they now command the majority of the voting power in the any issue before the U.S. Senate.

The outcome from these elections will have a significant impact on U.S. policy making and implementation for at least the next two years, both domestically and internationally.

One area that will be looked at in the coming term is the issue of online gambling regulation, throughout the states of the U.S.A..

Following we take a look at four U.S. states where online gambling regulation is of note; the results that occurred within them, and the possible implications for online gambling in each of them.


The result in Florida is of some concern, as Republican and current Governor Rick Scott was  re-elected. Governor Scott is known to be a supporter of land-based casino identity Sheldon Adelson, who has previously campaigned against online gambling; presumably to protect his own significant land based gambling interests.

Hopes in the iGaming community were high for Florida, which was seen by many as a good candidate to adopt online regulated gambling in the near future. Governor Scott’s re-election might put those hopes on hold for now, but in the grand scheme of things, all is not considered lost.


Its goodbye Democrat Pat Quinn and hello Republican Bruce Rauner in the state of Illinois, as a changing of the guard takes place.

Quinn was known to be staunchly anti-land based casino, so his exit won’t cause too many tears in the gambling community. The incoming Governor Bruce Rauner has previously expressed his dislike for gambling (a hardly unique position for an un-elected politician to hold); though he has said he might be ok with land based casinos if the community is already on-board with the idea.

If the commonly held belief that land-based gambling supports the cause of online gambling regulation holds true, than it could be considered that Illinois’ overall position has shifted for the better which will benefit slots such as Jack and the Beanstalk, general casino sites, as well as sportsbook and poker rooms.


It could be observed that there were both wins and losses coming out of the Massachusetts vote.

On the positive side, voters rejected an attempt to retract a law from 2011, which allows for the licensing and construction of three land based casinos in the state, and this might indicate an overall approval for gambling related activities by the public, though the creation of jobs and projected annual revenue from these casinos should not be discounted either.

On the negative side, the election of Deb Goldberg as the new Massachusetts treasurer could be of concern, as she has voiced anti-online gambling opinions in the past, and was supporting the repeal of the previously passed laws from 2011.

Just how things will progress in Massachusetts remains to be seen. The new land-based casinos revenue will almost certainly be welcomed by the politicians of the state, and perhaps this can be extended to an online platform within time.


Tom Wolf of the Democrat Party took the top prize in Pennsylvania in the voting held there.

While he has espoused anti-online gambling rhetoric in the past, things are always different and easier when you are not sitting in the hot seat.

With a bag full of election promises to fulfil, Governor Wolf will no doubt be raiding the coffers for every penny possible, and the lure of gambling gold might be enough for him to soften his previously held position.


Is It Time For Canadians to Demand Action on Child Care?

November 6, 2014 10:05 am

After years of inaction from Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, it is time for Canadian families to join together to demand high quality, affordable child care. As it stands right now, millions of parents lack access to affordable, quality day care in Canada, with one care space available for every five children who need one. Without action, the crisis in day care will continue. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

During its first term in office, the Harper government abandoned Canadian families by tearing up agreements with provincial governments to create a national child care system. The Conservatives opted instead to give families a $100 monthly Universal Child Care Be, in many communities throughout Canada, annual day care fees are higher than the cost of university tuition.

The UCCB’s $2.8 billion annual cost would be much better spent as an investment in a nationally-integrated and affordable child care system. Such a system would not only make sense for parents, but also for the economy. Studies show that publicly-funded day care systems, such as the one that exists in Quebec, pay for themselves through job creation, increased tax revenue, and better health and education outcomes for children.

For example, a study undertaken by Pierre Fortin and two colleagues from L’Université de Sherbrooke determined that for every dollar Quebec invests in child care, $1.05 is returned to the government in the form of higher tax revenues and lower overall program spending, with an additional 44 cents returned to the federal government.

Another recent study, conducted by TD Economics, recommended that public-funded day care become a top priority for governments due to the long-term economic, social, and health benefits that child care provides to children and society as a whole. It also noted that Canada is last among its peer countries in public spending on day care.

We know that universal, low-cost child care spaces are essential to helping more parents enter and remain in the workforce, and that Canadians want their government to make it easier for parents to raise families while working. For instance, a 2012 poll by McAllister Opinion Research found that 66 per cent of Canadians support the creation of a publicly-subsidized, $10-per-day day care program.

And so, as the leading voice for working families across the country, UFCW Canada and our allies have developed a national campaign to make day care services a priority for government. Dubbed Take Action on Child Care, the campaign seeks to make access to high quality, affordable day care a reality for families and children across Canada. You can add your voice to this important campaign by visiting and sending a letter to Prime Minister Harper urging his government to make day care a national priority, and to work with the provinces to establish a high quality, affordable child care system.

Heading into the 2015 federal election, UFCW Canada and the Canadian labour movement will also be working with citizens and community partners to elect a family- friendly federal government that is committed to creating a publicly-funded, national day care program. With Canadian families desperately in need of affordable, high quality day care spaces, we can no longer wait to take action.

By Paul R. Meinema

Paul-Meinema_UFCW-Canada-2014Paul R. Meinema is the National President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada), which represents more than 250,000 workers in various industries across the country.

Is it Time to Allow Assisted Suicide?

October 21, 2014 3:40 pm

Most Canadians do not have access to comprehensive palliative care

This week, the Supreme Court of Canada has been hearing an appeal by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association that could grant terminally ill Canadians the right to assisted suicide. With this impending ruling and the passing of Bill 52 in Quebec (Medical Aid in Dying) and rumblings from parliament of another private members bill on assisted suicide, Canada is at a crossroads.

The Court faces a daunting task. The arguments they will hear are complex, diverse and impassioned, given our societal fear of death and the process leading to it. While some will try to reassure the court that many Canadians support physician hastened death, others will caution that popularity is hardly a trustworthy guide to constructive and just social policy reform. But first, the Court must consider whether their decision will improve care for the terminally ill.

Dying in Canada can be a scary prospect. According to a parliamentary report from 2000, most Canadians do not have access to comprehensive palliative care. Most will die in tertiary care settings due to inadequate community resources to support a home death. Furthermore, there are no national standards pertaining to pain control, symptom alleviation, psychosocial care and spiritual support. For First Nations, Metis or Inuit, receiving culturally sensitive palliative care is unlikely. Many patients in rural areas have little or no access to comprehensive palliative care.

The court must also consider who they would empower to carry out assisted suicide. By the time they reach licensure, many Canadian doctors have received less training in pain management than their counterparts in veterinary medicine. Most physicians have knowledge deficiencies that impair their ability to manage cancer pain and are poorly equipped to address end of life conversations. Other studies suggest that doctors who treat fewer terminally ill patients and know the least about symptom management are most likely to be in favour of assisted suicide, while those with more experience tend to oppose it.

Autonomy can be a risky argument for legislative change. In some jurisdictions with death hastening legislation, euthanasia or assisted suicide has been provided to infants and children, people with dementia or chronic conditions, those who have not given explicit consent, the mentally ill and most recently, an inmate who preferred death to incarceration. Permissive legislation will also increase feelings of vulnerability amongst those with disabilities, those feeling a burden and those who society perceives as unproductive. Also, the more autonomy is granted, the more it becomes a perceived entitlement. In the Netherlands and Belgium, groups have been advocating for the availability of death hastening measures for people over seventy years of age who are expressing ‘tiredness of life.’

The design and representation of studies examining the outcome of death-hastening can sometimes be misleading or falsely reassuring. Take for example studies suggesting that families of patients who opt for euthanasia or assisted suicide do not experience negative psychological consequences. Currently, there are no studies examining the bereavement experiences of family members that were not informed of their loved ones’ decision to pursue hastened dying. In Oregon, 10 per cent of patients refused to include their family in the discussion and in another six percent of instances the physician did not know if families were aware of the request. Quebec’s Bill 52 stipulates that patients can refuse to have their families consulted.

The Court may wonder if palliative care can include physician-hastened death. Palliative care demands vigilant monitoring of the patient and individual responses to assuage physical, psychosocial and spiritual distress. Palliative care is a process of caring applied over time. As such, short of asking dying patients to dislocate from communities that lack appropriate resources, most Canadians will simply have to make do—or, if the law changes, take cold comfort in knowing that they can access death-hastening alternatives.

Palliative care cannot eliminate every facet of end-of life suffering. Preserving dignity for patients at the end of life requires a steadfast commitment to non-abandonment, meticulous management of suffering and a tone of care marked by kindness. In response to this dignity conserving approach, the former head of the Hemlock Society conceded that “if most individuals with a terminal illness were treated this way, the incentive to end their lives would be greatly reduced.”

That is a lot for the Supreme Court of Canada to consider. The country will anxiously await its verdict.

By Harvey Max Chochinov and Balfour M. Mount

Chochinov_Harvey_high resHarvey Max Chochinov is an expert advisor with and a Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care and Director, Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba.  

balfour_mount_IMG_7275Balfour M. Mount is the Eric M. Flanders Professor Emeritus of Palliative Medicine at McGill University

Back to the Ballot Box

October 15, 2014 12:14 pm
Election Logo black Transparent 2014

What you need to know about the Mayoral Candidates for Ottawa’s 2014 Civic Election

Do you know who you will be voting for on Monday, October 27? With the civic election approaching, OLM took a look into what each candidate envisions for the city, should they be elected to office.

Here are the main points of the platforms of the candidates running for mayor.

Bernard Couchman Media Pic 2014Bernard Couchman

Bernard Couchman believes the City of Ottawa needs change and that he can provide that change. Overall, Couchman’s goal is to unite what he currently perceives as a fragmented city. For him it’s about, “getting us on the same page—we’re all Ottawa.” As a mayoral candidate, Couchman says he is about productivity over visibility. His main platform hones in on health, economics, the environment and education. Through all of this, Couchman has a vision of moving the City of Ottawa forward.

Mike Maguire

Mike Maguire PhotoBorn in Montreal, Mike Maguire now calls Ottawa home. What he wants to see for the city is a bold new approach to waste management. He believes the cost of Ottawa’s current waste management approach is too high. Maguire would like to address the city’s dependency on landfills and envisions reducing present and future need for them. The high and rising price of electricity is also something Maguire would like to address. He believes it would provide relief in hydro costs. His proposed solution to these issues is for the city of Ottawa to adopt the incineration method. Incineration would save money by not creating another landfill, discourage the expansion of landfills and generate electricity. “We’re facing unprecedented financial pressures from all sides but we also want to be as environmentally responsible as possible so our beautiful city is preserved for future generations,” he says.

Michael St. Arnaud

Michael St. ArnaudA large part of Michael St. Arnaud’s platform focuses on the regulation of landlords. St. Arnaud draws attention to the right of the provinces and municipalities to license landlords and believes the city should exercise that right. Recognizing landlords as a business of their own, St. Arnaud holds they should be regulated and licensed, just as retail stores and automobile drivers are. With the current lack of regulation on landlords, there is no accountability or credentials from a governing body in place. This is a cause for hostility between the tenant and the landlord and often arises after an issue has surfaced. ”There should be justice, credibility and checks and balances put in place for both parties involved in any landlord and tenant dispute,” says St. Arnaud. Over all, his platform calls for a legitimization of the operations of landlords.

Anwar Syed

Potrait-Anwar SyedAnwar Syed is running his campaign for mayor on a relational basis. He would like to see more multicultural events and festivals happening in the city. Syed migrated to Canada in 1999 with his family and believes his breadth of knowledge in different backgrounds, cultures and work ethics can “take Ottawa toward greater heights.” In order to build these relational bridges, Syed proposes to make the second weekend of July a multicultural festival for the city of Ottawa. He would also like to see a Multicultural and Multilingual Institution be built in the city. Not only does Syed show interest in cultural relationships, but he also envisions “making Ottawa a safer place to live, work, and commute for all residents,” and keeping “Ottawa a secure place for residents and visitors alike.”

Jim Watson

Mayor Jim Watson_tulipsThe word surrounding Jim Watson’s platform for re-election is “progress;” progress for a better Ottawa and progress on environmental issues. In his past four years serving as mayor, Watson has made progress on a number of different fronts, including getting the construction of the light rail transit underway, giving visibility to the public about the ongoings of City Hall and establishing fiscal discipline in City Hall. With so much change happening all around the city, Watson believes “Ottawa needs strong and stable leadership for the challenges that remain ahead.” City Hall was a much different place before Watson stepped into office and he aspires to “continue the work we’ve started together.”

Robert White

Robert WhiteMuch of Robert White’s platform as mayoral candidate for Ottawa centers around economics and saving money for the city. For the first term of office, for example, White aims to freeze the wages of City of Ottawa union workers, freeze the Ottawa Police Services budget, freeze long term capital borrowing and freeze the transit budget. Cancelling phase II of the light rail transit development alone would save $2.8 billion for residents of Ottawa. White proposes to reinstate weekly garbage pickup for residents, however only during the summer. White would also like to reduce the number of City of Ottawa employees by 5 per cent per term of office, which would save on wages and salaries for extra workers. On the flip side of this, White would like to increase the amount of full time jobs available by bringing business investment for manufacturing into Ottawa and expanding business prospects to help business in Ottawa expand.

Darren W. Wood

WoodDarren W. Wood wants to give City Hall back to the people. How he proposes to do this is through the “Transparency Act.” This Act would give members of the public the opportunity to be present in City Hall whenever council is meeting. Surrounding the same issue he says, “the mayor has to be the first line of defence to protecting taxpayer dollars.” Wood stands for voter representation and intends to give voters the representation he thinks they deserve. Wood says he is “a person who believes in the little guy” and “has time and time again fought for the little guy and won.” He does not propose cuts to any areas of City Hall, but is instead reimagining and reinterpreting what the higher up levels of City Hall will look like and giving new life to it.

Gigabit City Broadband Becomes a Newmarket Municipal Election Issue

9:50 am

All Canadians need to pay attention to what is happening in Newmarket, Ontario regarding the deployment of gigabit broadband technology. The Town is not waiting around for the incumbent oligopoly Telephone and Cable companies to deploy gigabit broadband and proactively taking matters into its own hands.

In the 21st century economy, innovation leadership is necessary for economic leadership. The Canadian broadband infrastructure can be a central platform enabling innovation, and faster speeds will spur innovation. In a global economy, talent and capital can flow anywhere, and will flow to countries with the strongest innovation infrastructure. We are in a global bandwidth race, and need to ensure Canada has a strategic bandwidth advantage. Without it, the country risks watching jobs and investment flow elsewhere.

Gigabit networks can enable eServices such as genetic sequencing to treat cancer patients, creative software to support lifelong learning from home, and ways for small businesses to take advantage of Big Data. Greater network speeds will certainly lead to unexpected new inventions.

Newmarket, Ontario is one community that wants to achieve innovation and economic prosperity by deploying gigabit broadband technology starting with its business corridors.

On October 7, at the Newmarket Theatre political debate, gigabit broadband became a contentious election issue. Incumbent Regional Councillor, John Taylor, and Mayor Tony Van Bynen are clearly running on implementing gigabit broadband corridor for strategic economic development. Regional councillor contender, Darryl Wolk, and mayoralty candidates, Chris Campbell, and Dorian Baxter are clearly against the gigabit broadband – initiative and say that they will cancel it if elected.

Last month, outgoing Newmarket Council approved a Request for Proposal (RFP) for deploying gigabit broadband pilot on Main St., around the Southlake Hospital area, and the Leslie St., Harry Walker Parkway corridor. This follows the recommendation of Sandel & Associates, an American consultancy with experience in gigabit broadband city in St. Louis, and the Kansas City Google deployment. The report recommends a gigabit broadband – pilot and estimates that deploying this in the three areas will create 17 new businesses with 205 direct jobs, 126 indirect jobs, approximately $15,000,000 in new wages, and additional $13,000,000 of economic output value resulting from the new wages spend. The Town may have to invest anywhere from $290,000 to $1,140,000 to support the pilot, but will seek to collaborate with private sector businesses to implement and operate the network.

The Report also recommends assessing the pilot and determining the viability of wiring the rest of Newmarket.

Town staff is to make recommendations from the soon to be released RFP to the newly elected council early in the New Year on how to move the gigabit broadband – pilot forward.

Darryl Wolk does not support the gigabit – broadband initiative, referring to the Chattanooga, Tennessee deployment as a $330M investment that only created 1,000 jobs.

Newmarket versus Chattanooga

Comparing Newmarket to Chattanooga is not a reasonable comparison.

Chattanooga has indeed invested $330M into its city infrastructure, raising $220 million in bond money and $111.5 million in US federal stimulus dollars. The City’s power utility company, EPB is the most important fibre customer. The power company has hooked up its fibre optic network to the local smart grid, which includes 170,000 intelligent electric meters reporting to the company via Internet every 15 minutes. The grid also includes 1,200 switches that route energy around the grid. It operates 8,000 miles of fibre for 56,000 commercial and residential Internet customers. It has created more than 3,700 jobs.

Chattanooga has a population of 170,000, twice that of Newmarket. Chattanooga is over four times the geographic size covering 370 sq. KM compared to Newmarket’s 38 sq. KM. In addition, the Chattanooga service footprint covers five times the city area, which is just less than 1000 sq. KM. That is over 26 times the geographic size of Newmarket.

Chattanooga has attracted new business such as two Amazon distribution centres and the Volkswagen head office, manufacturing facility citing gigabit broadband as a reason to locate there. Many cities are following Chattanooga’s lead and consider it a model for smart grid and broadband deployment. Chattanooga also achieved worldwide attention when awarded the Global Intelligent Community of the Year, attracting further investment.

Chattanooga is not alone in pursuing broadband infrastructure as a strategic differentiator – many communities across North America and the world are doing so; Windsor, Stratford, Waterloo, Muskoka and a coalition of Eastern Ontario communities have also made these investments, specifically as a foundation for competitive economic development. There is a significant amount of research and many publications that detail the benefits of community broadband and the associated economic benefits that are freely and publicly available online, most notably at the Intelligent Community Forum website.

Newmarket Potential Gigabit City Costs

Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) costs, similar to other technology costs are decreasing. Typical broadband gigabit city FTTH costs range from $800 – $1500 per household and $20K to $40K per KM, all in costs that include electronics. The potential Newmarket all in multi-year capital cost to wire the entire Town should be in the order of $30M. There are also funding options available that do not affect the municipal taxpayer that the RFP process will identify.

Why Should the Town Support Gigabit City Broadband

As much as railroads, electricity, telephone, and paved roads were the engines of community wealth creation, the 21st Century community will depend on embracing the enabler of the knowledge economy, gigabit broadband FTTH. The major cable and telephone companies, the Telecom Oligopoly, are reluctant to invest in FTTH, choosing other higher return capital investments like cellular networks or acquiring content and media properties. Their approach is to “sweat the copper”, essentially, try to get the most out of the existing infrastructure for the least amount of investment. Further, their consideration for making investments is based on residential density and demand, not on the needs of new economy businesses, innovators and entpreneurs. For communities to prosper in the 21st Century, they will have to lead the deployment gigabit broadband city FTTH.

There are over 400 successful community-based broadband networks, with 150 deploying fibre optic networks of some form, mostly in the United States. They have overcome the Telco/Cableco resistance, and now experience increased economic activity.

A study supported by the FTTH Council, which includes telephone and cable companies, and published by the US based Analysis Group found that communities where gigabit broadband was widely available enjoyed higher GDP, relative to similar communities where gigabit broadband was not available. The 14 communities with widely available gigabit broadband that are part of the study enjoyed over $1 billion in additional GDP when gigabit broadband became widely available, relative to communities where gigabit broadband was not widely available.

The study purports incremental economic benefits from widely available gigabit broadband of an additional 1.1 percent GDP, which are consistent with the measured economic benefits from the introduction of first generation broadband technologies (DSL, cable modem).

There are also OECD studies that correlate increasing GDP with broadband penetration and speed.

In addition, the US history of community-based network deployment indicate that incumbent Telco/Cablecos only start offering competitive gigabit services in jurisdictions that have community based or Google deployed networks.

There are 19 US states, where the incumbent Telco/Cablecos have successfully lobbied the state governments to make community-based networks illegal. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering overturning these laws to increase competition an enable communities to install gigabit broadband networks.

Broad Consultation

The Newmarket initiative is not happening in isolation with a small number of people. It is built on extensive and long-standing consultations at a municipal and regional level, starting more than 10 years ago. The Region of York recently completed a Broadband feasibility study that identified both the need (service gaps) and the strategic importance of broadband to each municipality and to the Region as a whole. This process included consultations with the public, schools, hospitals, police, fire/EMS services, libraries, municipal staff, and the business community. The resulting report is publicly available on the Region’s website and has been for at least 6 months.

Further, the Newmarket consultation process with Sandel & Associates included three days of one-on-one and group meetings with key stakeholders and businesses within the community, including small businesses on Davis Drive and Main Street, building and landowners, developers, digital media/IT firms in Newmarket, and companies that are some of Newmarket’s largest employers. The Library, Chamber, Hospital, Town, and School Boards were all part of the discussion, and all elected officials were invited to participate in the sessions. The report was reviewed by the Newmarket Economic Development Advisory Committee (NEDAC), who are local business leaders who volunteer their time to work with Council and Town staff on key business issues. NEDAC issued a recommendation to Council to proceed with the initiative. These are the voices of small, medium, and large businesses in Newmarket.

Newmarket needs to diversify its economy and attract knowledge workers. Otherwise, it will remain a bedroom community with its residents stuck in GTA gridlock. The broadband gigabit city initiative is a necessary step in achieving this.

The facts speak for themselves. Communities that judiciously implement broadband gigabit city networks economically outperform those who do not. Unlike other municipalities, Newmarket has a tremendous opportunity to install a gigabit broadband city network because it has the potential political will and owns the local hydro. As Newmarket citizens, we should support the pro broadband gigabit city initiative and secure Newmarket’s future.

By: Ron Pickett MBA, CMC

RDM Management Group

Ron Pickett is President of RDM Management Group, a Newmarket consulting firm specializing in business innovation, and technology strategy consulting. Ron is also Vice President of the Canadian Telecommunications Consultant’s Association, and a University Instructor teaching business innovation strategy at Georgian College.

Mayor’s City Builder Award Shines Light on Vulnerable Youth

September 24, 2014 11:55 am
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Bill Robinson receives his Mayor’s City Builder Award from Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Marianne Wilkinson.
Image courtesy of City of Ottawa. 

When Bill Robinson meets me for coffee, he talks youth at-risk.

Who are these children? Robinson replies: It’s a baby born into poverty. It’s a kid facing family abuse. It’s a child with disabilities. A high school dropout; a teenager addicted to drugs or alcohol; a homeless youth.

Robinson has been an active volunteer, advocate and supporter of vulnerable children for three decades. Last month, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson presented him with a Mayor’s City Builder Award for his volunteer work with at-risk children and new Canadians.

As Robinson drinks his coffee, he says he still remembers an 11-year-old girl who came to the homework club at the Michele Heights Community. The girl didn’t know how to fill out her school trip form. She had trouble spelling her name and street address.

It was nine years ago, but he often thinks of her: Where is she now? Is she working at a farm? Is she flipping burgers? Is she pregnant? His long experience working with children at-risk paints these images.

“This was an 11-year-old girl, who just could not pick things up,” says Robinson. “In the school system, you can’t flunk more than one grade, so she would be pushed along somehow. That poor kid has never been given a chance to succeed.”

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An advocate of vulnerable youth for three decades, Bill Robinson speaks about risks youth face in Ottawa. Photo credit Damira Davletyarova

When Robinson joined the Rotary Club of Nepean-Kanata three decades ago, he did everything to help children succeed in school. He says it will be harder for a dropout to get into a college or a university, to have a good job, to afford a family or a house. They can easily fall prey to drug dealers, abuse and violence.

There are still many kids who don’t understand basic math, Robinson says. He had to explain to one kid why any number times zero is zero. Another girl feared math so much, that when he tried to help her, she broke down in tears. The government, Robinson says, should not take shortcuts in their budget when it comes to education.

“If you do spend money on education, you are going to save money down the road. I’m not convinced that a larger police force is going to solve our problems. They are treating problems, not preventing them,” Robinson says.

Yet, he says youth at-risk are in a much better position now than they were 30 years ago. The city’s schools and community centres have launched many youth programs and initiatives.

With Rotary Club members, Robinson organized and led homework clubs at Michele Heights Community House. An engineer by profession, he sought after novel ways to teach children math and computer skills. His credo: “It’s not because kids can’t learn, it’s because you haven’t taught them right.”

Together with other Rotarians, Robinson built a library at the community house. They collected books, introduced entrepreneurial and leadership programs and provided scholarships. Recently, they have installed six computers and bought a printer for the library.

It’s all about giving children opportunities to learn and to work—to have a bright future, Robinson says.

Robinson speaks fondly of Pathways to Education—a country-wide program helping youth in low-income communities graduate from high school. Prior to this program, he says kids in the Ottawa West Community Housing had a less than 50 per cent graduation rate. Pathways to Education increased the rate to over 80 per cent.

When he was asked about the Mayor’s City Builder Award, Robinson said he was honoured to receive it, but at the same time, he felt uneasy.

“I felt uneasy because so many people do so much good for the city. I feel all these people should be recognized too,” Robinson says. “A lot of recognition should go to my Rotary Club as well, because they’ve been very supportive. They work hard raising funds. They should all be getting an award.”

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Bill Robinson helps girls with math at the homework club at Michele Heights Community House in 2006. Photo credit Bill Robinson

Robinson’s recognition is the Rotary Home’s award, says Gina St. Amour, the executive director of the Ottawa Rotary Home. St. Amour says Rotarians were “ecstatic and proud” for Robinson when they heard about the award.

“He simply is a wonderful individual. He is the kind of person who jumps in with both feet,” St. Amour says. “And he likes to have fun. He will paint, or do Legos with the kids. He is just a well-rounded wonderful person. It’s a wonderful coup not only for him, but for the whole Rotary Home family.”

Dubbed a “home away from home,” Ottawa Rotary Home provides respite programs for 144 children and 53 young adults with disabilities. Families can take a break or vacation by leaving their children in the care of trained staff at the Rotary Home. It’s also a place where kids can make friends and play with other children in a safe setting, St. Amour says.

The last family survey showed 100 per cent of parents were satisfied with the Rotary Home’s services.

Robynn Collins, a community health worker in Crime Prevention at Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Centre, knows Robinson well. She once nominated him for the United Way Community Builder Award—he won that too.

“Bill has been pivotal to the success of several of our initiatives. He helped with building a library at the Michele Heights Community House. He also was a huge contributor of us implementing Kindness Week (an initiative encouraging people to care and share),” says Collins.

Collins says Robinson also helped her with co-chairing different youth working groups and projects. Through his Rotary Club, he helped fund building a new park to keep kids safe.

“We had no park at Winthrop Court. There was only concrete in the middle of a huge court yard. Now residents in the community have a safe place to gather, enjoy their children and meet their neighbours,” Collins says. “He is just a leader in the community. He really is.”

Mayor Jim Watson says Robinson has been an active volunteer and advocate of vulnerable youth in Ottawa for over 30 years. His dedication to the cause deserves recognition.

“Bill not only works tirelessly to provide opportunities for youth, he is committed to being a positive influence in the lives of all those around him. His work made him a perfect fit for the Mayor’s City Builder Award,” says Watson.

Brutal Farm Killings in South Africa: How do Victims Carry on?

September 18, 2014 12:00 pm

Statistical analysis shows South African farmers are three times more likely than ordinary citizens to be the victims of violent crime. They also show it is twice as dangerous to produce food than it is to be a policeman.

Approximately two thousand farmers and farmworkers have been killed or injured during the past two decades in South Africa. The lives of the victims who survive will never be the same. Their quality of life is often radically diminished. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after having been brutalized—sometimes for hours on end while their close family members were forced to watch.

Yet a large percentage of these farmers keep on farming after an attack. When the farmers recall these horrific violent crimes, you see the trauma in their eyes and body language. You hear it in their voices.

In my book Farm Killings—Victims Tell Their Stories, I share the stories of ten families from farms in different parts of the South Africa. Farm killers are cruel. Many are habitual criminals with no mercy for their victims.

But then why on earth would the farmers carry on farming after their farms have been turned into blood farms and murder farms?

Because some survivors believe they still have a purpose on earth; they can still create jobs and contribute to food security. While some feel they have been betrayed by their own employees, others feel they cannot leave their faithful farmworkers whose families have worked on the farms for generations, in the lurch.

So they stay. They do not want to do anything else. Farming runs in their blood.

I have often been asked why I focus on farm attacks, since housebreaking is equally rife, but to my mind there is a difference because farmers are isolated by distance. Screams for help go unheard and the gangs have no reason to hurry. Farms are easily accessible like businesses usually are. It covers wide areas.

I have also been asked about the main motives for an attack and whether racial hatred could be the driving force. Drugs, greed, cruelty and evil turn men into monsters.

Every victim reacts in his or her own way. One farmer sacked all his workers, moved elsewhere and now copes without workers. Nobody now knows where he keeps the safe and his firearms, he told me. He now lives in peace. Another farmer, a victim of cross-border raids, sold his family farm and started afresh on a bare piece of ground without a home, water or amenities, well away from the border. Like a born pioneer. Others turned to religion and experienced a new sense of nearness to God and even distributed Bibles to their attackers.

Amidst blood chilling stories about so much evil, it was uplifting to hear how friends, neighbours and sometimes an entire community would react, doing as much as they possibly could to stand by the victims. If we are forced to accept that evil exists, then we need to acknowledge that its counterpart does so as well. It was inspiring, in addition, to see the willpower and determination of the farmers.

There were heart-warming stories. A farmer’s wife told me how a farmworker carried her to the ambulance after she had been shot. When she returned home, all the female farmworkers gathered around her bed to pray for her.

farm2I admire the courage of the farmers.

One formidable woman farmer had to witness how the family’s beloved animal herder was cold-bloodedly shot by the farm killers in her cattle kraal, right in front of her eyes. After the murder she was abducted by the killers in her own car.

Fighting like a lioness from the backseat, she kicked the driver in his head as hard as she could. He lost control of the car which overturned. The attackers fled and she managed to escape. She attributes her survival to the fact that she must have used all her guardian angels on that day.

An Overberg farmer unhesitatingly went to help a neighbourduring a farm attack and miraculously survived two gunshot wounds, both fired at close range. He underwent many operations to fix his shattered jaw and back. He endures pain daily, but the community donated a golf cart to him, so he carries on farming. Like the author Ian Fleming, who wrote the James Bond books, he believes you only live twice. A lady whose husband became a hemiplegic and suffered brain damage after being attacked viciously, had to become a farmer herself. Several years later their son was attacked on the same idyllic Western Cape farm. Yet she counts her blessings because they are alive.

A Tzaneen chicken farmer was shot in the arm and four times in the head after which he was left for dead under a rubbish heap. He survived. His arm is not functional, but he only needed to rub ointment onto his head as those gunshots wounds were superficial. He continued farming, but switched to cucumbers and Arabic horses, adding drily that you do not shoot a Boer (farmer) in the head. You shoot him in the heart.

An elderly farmer whose wife of 34 years was killed by being stabbed in the neck during a triple farm murder (two employees were also brutally killed), was so overcome with grief he had to leave the room when his daughter described to me how he had found his wife’s body under a tree. Yet he continues farming in Kwazulu Natal as well as in Congo-Brazzaville.

I visited a farm in Brits, North West Province, where a 25-year-old man asked his gravely wounded father just after a farm attack; “Dad, will they put me in jail? I’ve killed someone.” The young man shot one of the intruders dead in order to save the lives of his mother and three siblings. Walking through their farmhouse, I was struck by the row of five mattresses on the lounge floor where the whole family huddle at night in an attempt to ward off their fears and nightmares.

This to me symbolized the indescribable trauma of farm attacks.

There are hundreds of similar untold stories in South Africa. Stories that will never be published in the media.

To me these farmers are heroes.

I could not sum up the contents of my book better than Dr. Johan Burger of the Institute of Security Studies did. He said the book raises three major points: the utter brutality of farm attackers; the defencelessness of the innocent victims and the inexplicable power of faith and forgiveness.

To read a first-hand account of these stories and more, the book Farm Killings can be purchased by clicking here.

By Carla van der Spuy

Letter To The Editor: A Response From The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

September 3, 2014 3:10 pm

The following letter from Rita Notarandrea, CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, is a response to our August 27th article Canada Slow to Respond to Prescription Opioid Crisis by Dr. David Juurlink.

I agree with Dr. Juurlink’s assertion (in his August 27 article, Canada Slow to Respond to Prescription Opioid Crisis) that the harms associated with prescription drugs have reached crisis proportions in Canada. I also agree with many of his recommendations to address these harms. In fact, these recommendations are among the 58 in First Do No Harm: Responding to Canada’s Prescription Drug Crisis, a comprehensive 10-year, pan-Canadian strategy released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) in March 2013, in partnership with many committed organizations, including Health Canada.

The “volunteers” that Dr. Juurlink references are representatives of organizations that have a professional and/or mandated responsibility on this issue. CCSA brought together these organizations, which represent healthcare practitioners, regulators, patients and families, First Nations, law enforcement, the pharmaceutical industry, researchers and governments to develop and deliver on First Do No Harm. To this day, CCSA remains the backbone organization to lead this initiative and coordinate the work of the teams, who are bringing about real and positive change in areas such as prevention, education, treatment, enforcement, legislation and regulation, and monitoring and surveillance. In fact, their many accomplishments were recently highlighted in the inaugural First Do No Harm Annual Report.

Regarding these accomplishments, there is one final point on which I will agree with Dr. Juurlink. That is, much of this work was achieved with limited funding. On this, I am immensely proud of the work undertaken by CCSA staff and the many committed individuals and organizations. This being said, CCSA and our partners continue to pursue funding to support this significant undertaking. Of particular note is Health Canada’s recent call for proposals to improve the prescribing practices for prescription drugs that have a high risk of abuse or addiction.

In closing, we welcome the involvement of professionals such as Dr. Juurlink, who is clearly passionate about this issue and committed to reducing the harms associated with prescription drug misuse and abuse.

Rita Notarandrea, Chief Executive Officer (interim), Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Canada Slow to Respond to Prescription Opioid Crisis – See more at:
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Creating a Community: Cohousing at Terra Firma

August 19, 2014 1:10 pm

On Canada Day, Valerie Gapp baked strawberry and rhubarb muffins.

Valerie, her husband Thomas and their 14-month-old twins Audrey and Alexis joined their neighbours across the street for a potluck brunch. They celebrated two birthdays: Canada’s and Terra Firma’s cohousing community.

Terra Firma residents have lived together for 17 years, and are committed to building sustainable and a well-knit community. Today, Terra Firma remains the first and only cohousing community in Ottawa. It is more resilient than ever.

Knock on the door of 166 Drummond Street, and the door will open to Bob and Marlene Neufeld’s home.

The Neufeld’s residence is a unit of two townhouses joined together by a built-in infill. The infill serves as a common house and as a residence for one of the members.

The Neufeld’s unit may be among the smallest, but it certainly shows the most creativity. The whole house looks like an art exhibition of the couple’s work and passion. The walls are covered with paintings, each hung in a unique way. Numerous crafts and souvenirs rest on the shelves.

The living room extends to the kitchen and has 1enough space for two to cook. There is also a door to the shared backyard. Narrow stairs lead to the office, the bedroom and the bathroom on the second floor.

Bob and Marlene say they both grew up in villages with strong communities. They wanted their children to have the same experience—a lot of parental figures and many siblings to learn and to play with.

“It was also the idea that we could live more lightly on the planet, using less of the planet’s resources. Instead of having seven lawn mowers, we have one,” Marlene says.

Cohousing, originating in Denmark in the 1960s, reached North America 20 years later. Cohousing is a community combining private, self-sufficient residences with access to a common house where members can spend time together.

Terra Firma’s common house has a kitchen, a large dining space, a bathroom and a guest room for visiting family and friends. There is also a sauna, a laundry room and a storage room. Big boilers provide heating and hot water and there are solar panels on the roof for electricity.

The cohousing members gather in the common house twice a week for dinner which they prepare in turns. The Neufeld’s say it is also a place where members play games, hold movie nights and host different workshops, such as yoga, art, tai chi classes and drumming.

In the joined backyard, Terra Firma residents have built a common garden. The garden embraces ancient trees, fruits, vegetables and flowers.

The residents have also installed bike sheds, bought a hot tub and purchased a trampoline. They built swings and renovated an old shed into a tree house for the kids. “Our children had friends of all ages to interact, to learn, to spend a night in the tent,” says Bob.

What it is Like Living with Your Neighbours?

The Neufeld’s say living with their neighbours is like always having company for a good movie on a cold day and cohousing is being able to have someone to pick up your kids from school or get groceries for you on the way to the store. It also means on some mornings, you can be surprisingly awakened, the couple says.

“Someone can bang on my door and say, ‘Do you have eggs?’” laughs Bob.”It’s a part of being in a village atmosphere.”

Living together as a community is fun, but it is also a challenge, the couple says. There have been conflicts: pets, noise, repairs. Sometimes mediators are even called in.

But in over 17 years, nobody has moved out. All original 10 members are still at Terra Firma, the couple says.

“I think it says something about the nature of our community. Even sometimes, there are some conflicts—that are dealt with in time—we are all here,” Bob says. “So far, everybody eats dinner together.”

Dinner Together: The Batman and the Green Pea Soup with Mint

It is six p.m. and it is time to eat dinner at Terra Firma. The residents slowly fill the common house.

In charge of tonight’s dinner is John Poland. And when it comes to cooking, he means business. John was in the kitchen all afternoon.3

The chef orchestrates the menu du jour: “That’s green pea soup with mint. There— Quaker little crackers. These are beets with cucumber sauce. This is rice with tofu, celery and black olives,” Poland says. “Enjoy.”

Tonight’s special guest is Batman. Every community dinner, Ariana Simpson, five, dresses up in her superheroe haute couture. Simpson says she also has costumes of Spiderman, Superman and the Hulk. Her fashion gimmick is to never wear the same costume two dinners in a row.

Tonight’s dinner has a sweet reminiscent air as the residents remember how Terra Firma came alive.

“It is like a marriage. To be successful, it’s something you have to constantly work at,” says Terra Firma resident Steve Fick.

For almost 20 years the residents have been living together, helping and supporting each other. Whether there is a health or money issue, or simply a bad day, there is always someone to share the joys and sorrows of life.

“For example, one of the neighbours had breast cancer. There were people to support her. When another neighbour died recently, she was not alone,” Marlene says.

Fred Simpson says cohousing has changed him and his life. “It’s quite a commitment, but it’s been a learning experience—a life experience.”

Poland agrees. “I like dinners together, and community, community, community. I think what’s missing in the world is community. And some of us don’t have any relatives.”

All Terra Firma residents are especially proud that for almost 20 years, they have lived in peace and friendship.

Ottawa’s Terra Firma is Unique

Terra Firma is a unique cohousing project, says Ronnaye Matthew, director of the Canadian Cohousing Network. Matthew says many communities are trying to build their cohousing infrastructure from scratch.

“Terra Firma is the only Canadian community that has done it as a retrofit—they took existing housing, took down their fences and then added a common house. It’s rare in North America that cohousing is done that way,” Matthew says.

Speaking about cohousing trends in the country, Matthew says more Canadians want to live together.

“I started working in cohousing back in 1996, and there has definitely been an increase in interest,” Matthew says.

Today, the Canadian Cohousing Network counts 11 completed and 17 forming cohousing communities. Ottawa’s Terra Firma is the only completed project in Ontario.

Matthew says as the cohousing movement grows, so are the government regulations. The cohousing market is intricate, forcing communities to seek professional cohousing consultants that not all provinces have.

“The problem is it is very difficult to do, and it’s gotten more difficult to do,” Matthew says. “In 1996, it was actually easier to create cohousing than it is today, unfortunately.”4

Capital Ward councillor David Chernushenko says he knows the challenges cohousing projects can face in Ottawa. In the beginning, Chernushenko and his wife were part of Terra Firma project. After four years of trying to start the project, he says his family bought a private house.

Chernushenko says his group had a hard time finding land located in the centre of the town, was zoned appropriately and land all the members could agree upon and afford.

In Ottawa, Chernushenko says no policies prevent people from creating cohousing communities. But not all people are ready to give up their individual residency and embrace the idea of sharing, he says.

“We are all raised with the idea of ‘What is mine, is mine,’” says Chernushenko. “This idea of a formal sharing arrangement and joint decision making—it’s a bit of an unusual big step for a majority population to take.”


The Gapp family is impressed upon their return from the Terra Firma brunch. Before moving into their Old Ottawa South neighbourhood, Valerie Gapp says they lived all across Canada and in California. Gapp says she liked the idea that her family did not have to travel far from home to enjoy good company.

“It’s fantastic! I think this is one of the friendliest neighbourhoods we have ever lived in,” says Gapp. “It’s like another family.”

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