The News Rundown
- An exclusive report by Global News shows that the federal government has quietly rolled back what it pays hospitals to take care of military members, according to multiple sources. The federal government made major changes this spring to the fees it reimburses to hospitals when they provide health care to military members — and that’s leading to fears some members could be denied health care services. Unfortunately, we're just finding out about those changes now in the midst of an election campaign, thankfully not after though.
- Under the Canada Health Act and provincial health acts, members of the military are not eligible for public health coverage under provincial plans. Instead, the federal government is constitutionally responsible for providing comparable medical care to all members, although more advanced medical care like surgery or MRIs is provided at the same hospitals used by civilians. The military then reimburses the cost of providing those services to the hospital. It’s effectively the same model used for treating out-of-province patients.
- But sources say that the Department of National Defence ordered a cut to military healthcare spending earlier this year, and the fees reimbursed to hospitals for seeing military patients was one of the first items on the chopping block.
- Set fees for services are laid out by provincial health plans. For example, Ontario has one set of rates for services to provincial residents — those covered through OHIP — and uses a set of fees laid out by the Ontario Medical Association for services not covered by OHIP, which would apply to military members not covered by the provincial plan.
- The federal government used to reimburse the cost of those at Ontario Medical Association rates, which can be roughly three times more expensive than OHIP rates. Physicians could bill $105 for a psychiatric assessment under OHIP fees, for example — but under the OMA fees, they can charge $240 for providing that same service to those not insured through provincial health plans. What those changes mean concretely is that the military will cover less of the fees physicians charge for services, leaving hospitals on the hook for millions of dollars.
- Pembroke Regional Hospital, located near the Canadian Forces Base at Petawawa, ON, projects a shortfall of $3.4 million as a result of the change. The Kingston Health Services Centre, located near the base at Kingston as well as the Royal Military College of Canada, estimates a shortfall of $2.3 million. In total, Ontario hospitals are estimated to take a hit of at least $10 million.
- A spokesperson for Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro also said that province had not been consulted and would be pushing the Department of National Defence to reconsider the change: “We recently received new rates for payment by the Department of National Defense (DND) for hospital services provided to eligible Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members.”
- Daniel Lebouthiller, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, said the military is engaging with the provinces and territories: “The Canadian Forces Health Services Group has been actively working with provincial and territorial governments, and civilian hospitals and institutions with respect to recent billing changes for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who receive health care from non-military facilities or providers.”
- The question being raised now is whether those cuts could lead to military members being denied services or having to pay a greater amount to access the services they need. Sources say at least one unnamed hospital is no longer accepting military patients for some specialized services.
- David Perry, vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a defence expert, said, “It all kind of depends on the way things get structured out. Because we tend to locate military members in areas that are more rural, more remote, harder to get specialized talent, the end result in this could be that you do have some increases in the demand for service, folks that are outside of the major metropolitan areas having to move, to travel to seek specialized care.”
- He added that he isn’t surprised to hear the change isn’t landing well: “For a Department of Defence that’s spent several years saying its people are its priority, it’s going to look bad if one of the areas where there is an effort to reduce spending is on the health side.”
- A spokesperson for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan sent a statement on his behalf late Tuesday night. It says: “I can assure you that high quality health care services are and will continue to be provided to the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces. Our government reversed the cuts that the Harper Conservatives put on the women and men of our armed forces. Our Defence Policy put people at its heart."
- However, that statement is contradicted by what Trudeau has said in the past. At a February 2018 townhall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is fighting some Canadian veterans in court because they are asking for more than the federal government can afford: "Why are we still fighting certain veterans groups in court? Because they're asking for more than we are able to give right now," Trudeau said, answering a question from a veteran, who said he lost his leg to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
- Does that sound like a government who has a defence policy that puts "people at its heart"?
- The NDP alleged on Wednesday that Trudeau’s changes would mean downloading costs on provincial hospitals. But the Liberal leader billed the decision simply as an assessment to ensure “fairness,” when quizzed by reporters at a campaign stop in Markham, Ont.
- “The reality is, the federal government is being charged significantly higher prices for the same services for military members as it offers to other Canadians, and we’re just looking at making sure the system is fair for everyone,” Trudeau replied.
- “What we are looking at will not cut any services to any service members, nor will it negatively impact hospitals or service providers,” he added. After a later question, Trudeau said his government had established a “working group” to probe whether their changes would impact hospitals’ bottom lines. It's clear from the original story that hospitals are quite clearly being affected, so establishing whether they are or not is a moot point now.
- At a campaign stop in Mississauga, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer alluded to this story shortly after it broke Tuesday evening: “We know that not only do these endless deficits lead to higher taxes, we also know that they threaten services. And just again today, we found out that Justin Trudeau’s government was cutting back on services to veterans.” Scheer then says the Conservatives would “make sure” veterans “get the health care they need.”
- Speaking of cuts, the media has been trying to portray the release of the Conservative platform today as "heartless cuts to services".
- Overall, Scheer is pledging that between today and 2024-25, a Conservative government would spend $49 billion on tax cuts and new programs, but would bring the budget back into balance by raising $69 billion over the same period through new revenue streams and cuts to existing programs and initiatives. The budget would be brought back to balance in 5 years time.
- Scheer touted income tax cuts for everyone in his platform: "From students to seniors and everyone in between — if you pay income tax, you will pay less under my government," Scheer is quoted as saying in the opening pages of the document.
- The Conservative platform, unlike the Liberals, was released fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which means that all promises and spending and cuts have a price tag attached to them.
- Scheer also said that it was imperative to reduce spending and deficits in case of an economic downturn: "Justin Trudeau has spent our way out of having any type of flexibility if there is a downturn. Those massive deficits are weighing down our economy. It means more and more money has to be taken out of our economy ... or by paying higher interest payments on the debt, which is just going to banks and bondholders."
- Scheer said that a Conservative government would "protect core services while we make government more efficient." Rather than cut things off straight away, the idea is to wean government spending down gradually to not induce shock to systems. On infrastructure for example, Scheer said he would respect all agreements for projects currently under construction or planned for construction but going forward he would change the priority list.
- According to the platform document, the Conservatives would reduce the deficit by coming up with $6.463 billion in savings and new revenue streams in 2020-21, rising to $20.424 billion annually by the 2024-25 fiscal year. The steps the party would take to save money and boost revenues include:
- Freezing hiring in the federal public service — maintaining jobs at 2020-21 levels until the budget is balanced — for a projected saving of $558 million by 2024-25.
- Reducing operating expenses by cutting the use of consultants, clamping down on travel and hospitality expenses, tightening procurement tools and scaling back on government-owned real estate for a projected saving of $5 billion a year by 2024-25.
- Earmarking less money for infrastructure by focusing on projects that are ready for construction for a projected saving of $6.726 billion a year by 2024-25.
- Cutting corporate welfare payments by $1.5 billion annually.
- Cancelling planned increases to international assistance to save $726 million annually by 2024-25.
- Cutting foreign aid by 25 per cent for a saving of $1.5 billion annually.
- Imposing a three per cent tax on tech giants that operate social media platforms, search engines or online marketplaces in Canada, bringing in an additional $610 million annually by 2024-25.
- Allocating $750 million from other as-yet-unnamed government departments to set up a Tax Gap office that would crack down on tax evasion, to bring in a projected additional $3.37 billion a year by 2024-25.
- Forcing tobacco companies to pay for anti-smoking campaigns to the tune of $58 million a year.
- Withdrawing investments from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to save $9 million a year.
- Repealing parts of the 2019 federal budget, such as subsidies to companies for the purchase of electric cars and eliminating the Canada Training Credit, for a projected saving of $362 million a year by 2024-25.
- For perspective, the Liberal platform promises roughly $30 billion in net new spending over the next four years, and $94 billion in borrowing, $32 billion more than projected in the Parliamentary Budget Office’s “baseline.” The NDP, which released its platform costing Friday, would increase both spending and taxes by $130 billion over the same four years. The Greens, not to be outdone, would add fully $294 billion in new spending.
- So in comparison, the Conservatives have by far the best economic platform that will keep the economy on track. And as we've seen with the military health cuts, the Liberals will raise taxes and spend more, but will still cut services where they can.
- Edmonton, Beiseker, Swift Current, and small towns in Nova Scotia. What do these have in common?
- Individuals living in each of these places have reported receiving voter information cards when they are not Canadian citizens.
- Richard and Christine Burgin in Edmonton, living in Canada for 18 years, originally British, received voter information cards. They also received the cards in 2015.
- In 2015 Elections Canada was “in denial” and claimed something like this could not happen.
- Paul Gabriel living in Beiseker, Alberta, also British, has lived in Canada for 20 years and received a voter information card.
- What’s more, one of his co-workers who is also not a Canadian citizen received the card.
- He shared this story on Facebook and was shared more than 18,000 times.
- Elections Canada says, “The VIC is not a ticket to vote. It’s a card that provides information on where your polling station is and the hours of voting, so if you’ve received a VIC, which says on it you do need to be 18 years of age and a Canadian citizen to vote, you should contact Elections Canada and we’ll get you removed from that list.”
- Moving on to Swift Current, SK, Lisa and Glenn Ludlow both received voter information cards. Lisa is a Canadian citizen but her husband Glenn is Australian and received a voter information card.
- Glenn also received a voter information card in 2015 as well.
- CTV’s Atlantic Bureau reports that “there are non-Canadian citizens here in Nova Scotia who are still on that list registered to vote in just over two weeks.”
- It is illegal to vote in Canada if you are not a Canadian citizen.
- Penalties range from a fine of up to $20,000 or imprisonment for a term up to a year. On conviction or indictment, the fine can jump to $50,000 or a jail term of no more than 5 years or both.
- Proof of citizenship cannot be demanded when you go and vote.
- In order to vote in Canada you need one of the following.
- One piece of ID including a drivers license or any other card issued by a Canadian government (federal, provincial/territorial or local) with your photo, name and current address
- Two pieces of ID. Both must have your name and at least one must have your current address. (Ex: Voter information card and bank statement or utility bill and student ID). Other forms of ID can include: band membership card, birth certificate, passport, firearms license, credit card, employee card, or a hospital card.
- If you don’t have ID you can declare your identity and address in writing and then have someone who knows you and is assigned to your polling station vouch for you. The voucher must be able to prove their identity and address.
- Now this all seems like it’s a problem that Election’s Canada probably missed.
- Back in May Elections Canada told CTV that they had identified and planned to eliminate 103,000+ people from the voters list who had been determined to be on that list because they are not Canadian citizens.
- “That is not something that we want, obviously, because it appears as an invitation to vote. We will have tools that we didn’t have in the past to monitor that,” he said, including tracking who voted through a new electronic list. “We will be able to follow up after the election and check if people have attempted to vote or voted while being non-citizens.” Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault told CTVNews.ca.
- 40,000 of these names have been on the list since 1997.
- Elections Canada found these names due to the federal government’s Bill C–67 which allowed Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada to share information with Elections Canada.
- Back in May, elections Canada told CTV that the goal was to clean up the list for the campaign period we are in right now. Obviously it wasn’t cleaned up since multiple of these cases are still manifesting themselves.
- Fast forwarding to today, Elections Canada told CTV yet again, “Following the election, we will be able to cross reference our data with IRCC’s data, and determine if anyone who is not a Canadian citizen cast a ballot. Cases will be referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections when appropriate.”
- They will be able to do this because you do need to surrender your Voter Information Card upon voting.
- Elections do have consequences. Being a Canadian citizen is not a right. However, voting if you are a Canadian citizen, is a right. We want this election to be fair and conducted properly. These issues should have been ironed out before the cards were sent out now that Elections Canada has new powers.
- In BC this week, Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green Party announced his intent to resign as leader, but he said it won't affect the fragile minority NDP government and his intent is to not do anything that would force an election.
- The decision appears to have little immediate consequence for the power-sharing deal between the ruling NDP and the Greens. Weaver said he has no intention of doing anything to force a new election, and said he is not stepping down as MLA. Regardless of who is selected as the party’s next leader, “it would be very difficult” for that person to pull the party out of the confidence and supply agreement with the NDP, should they seek to do so, said Stefan Jonsson, a Green Party spokesman.
- The agreement is not technically between the parties, but rather, between the 44 MLAs who individually signed on, Jonsson explained. Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen, the Green Party MLAs who round out the party’s ranks in the legislature, and of course Weaver himself, have each committed to seeing the agreement through to the next scheduled election, he said.
- If Furstenau or Olsen were to be selected as leader, neither of them could axe the agreement because they’ve already agreed to support the NDP government. If an unelected leader who had not signed on to the agreement was selected, and they really wanted to end it, they would need to get two out of the three members of caucus on board in order to tip the balance of power, Jonsson said.
- While Weaver's resignation was unexpected, and his resignation press release didn't have anything health related, in early September Weaver took ill and a trip to the hospital led to a diagnosis of labyrinthitis, a serious inner ear infection with debilitating symptoms of vertigo, nausea, upset balance and loss of hearing. While he says he is fully recovered, likely that health scare prompted his resignation. We'll follow up to see how this affects government.
- But instead of talking more about Andrew Weaver, for this week's BC story, I'm going to be taking aim at a specific law that has seen a lot of media attention over the past week and a half, specifically the law prohibiting "distracted driving". Every province in Canada now has a form of law against distracted driving, with Newfoundland being the first province to enact legislation in 2002, with Alberta being the last province in 2011.
- BC first put its law in place in 2010, with penalties originally being 3 demerits on your driving record, and a $167 fine. In 2016 the penalties were drastically increased to 4 demerits and a $378 fine, plus a $210 "ICBC penalty point premium" for a total of $588 for a first infraction. For just a first time infraction, the costs do not stop at just the fine however, as you will be paying more in insurance for your car for the rest of your life. With the notable exception of Ontario, BC has some of the highest penalties for distracted driving in the country.
- Drivers who get two or more distracted driving convictions in a three-year period are charged a Driver Risk Premium (DRP), which is billed annually and is separate from any insurance premiums you may have. This amount will increase for each additional conviction. For example, drivers with two or more convictions for the use of electronic devices while driving over a three-year period could pay as much as $2,000 in penalties - an increase of $740 - in addition to their regular vehicle insurance premium.
- At this point, you're probably thinking, ok, so what's the problem? The problem is that while the definition of distracted driving is laid out in the letter of the law, in practice, police have a huge discretion over what actually gets ticketed, due to ambiguous language in the law.
- According to the Motor Vehicle Act of BC, "A person must not use an electronic device while driving or operating a motor vehicle on a highway", with an electronic device including hand held devices with telephone or texting functions, or other "prescribed classes". Use of the device includes holding the device in a position in which it may be used; operating one or more of the device's functions; communicating orally by means of the device with another person or another device; taking another action that is set out in the regulations by means of, with or in relation to an electronic device.
- The only exceptions are if you need to call emergency services, if you a part of the emergency services themselves, or if a device or activity is specifically allowed. If you have your full license, you can also use your device if it is set up as hands free. Novice drivers without their full license are banned from using hands free devices either way.
- And you'd think that'd be clear cut. However, the ambiguous nature of "taking another action in relation to an electronic device" and not laying out the "prescribed actions" has led to police making some very scummy decisions on who they ticket.
- On October 1st, Richmond senior Randi Kramer was upset after receiving a $368 distracted driving ticket for having her cellphone in the cupholder of her car. Kramer was driving along West Georgia Street in Vancouver when she stopped at a red light by the Hotel Georgia on Tuesday. Her son Trevor told a reporter: “She was sitting at a red light with both hands on the steering wheel when she got a tap on her passenger-side window.” The officer came around to the driver’s side and asked for her licence. He said that it was Safe Driving Month and he was going to ticket her for having her cellphone charging and visible, and received a $368 ticket, despite not using or touching her phone.
- Defence lawyer Kyla Lee on Twitter said to Trevor "Police ticket for having the phone charging. It’s ridiculous as it is not the distraction the government wishes to prohibit. Tell your mom to call me. We will help her out."
- Trevor Kramer worries about seniors who don’t have anyone to advocate for them: “Think of the people who don’t have a son who knows how to go on Twitter. A lot of people don’t know the process to dispute [a ticket], or don’t understand the legislation.”
- The very next day after the story blew up in the media, the Vancouver Police Department apologized to the senior and cancelled the ticket. However, others haven't been as lucky.
- A Vancouver Island man is heading to court to challenge a distracted driving ticket he says he was given for having his phone in his cup holder. It’s the second such incident in less than a month.
- Josh Delgado was given the ticket on Sept. 23 in Saanich while he says he was stopped at a red light. Delgado said the phone was face down, plugged into a USB charger and connected to his work van’s stereo via Bluetooth as his employer requires.
- He said: “The officer knocked on my window, I rolled the window down, asked him what was going on he said he saw me looking down. And then he looked down and saw my phone,” he said. I told him I’d dispute it and I think he might have even said something like, ‘You probably have a good chance’ and went on his way.”
- Delgado said he was particularly frustrated because the phone was hooked up properly through the Bluetooth system, so any calls or texts would come through the vehicle’s speakers.
- “‘I’m definitely against distracted driving, I just had a co-worker pass away in a motorcycle accident recently, so it’s not something I’m out there doing,” he said, adding that he felt a warning would have been more appropriate in the circumstances. "But it just shows that that’s not what they’re trying to do. They’re not trying to prevent people being on their phone they just seem to be trying to collect money.”
- A spokesperson for Saanich police said the department had reviewed the ticket, but wouldn’t be cancelling it.
- “Based on the observations of the officers, the phone was being used by the driver and as a result he was stopped and issued this ticket,” said Sgt. Julie Fast in an email.
- Lawyer Kyla Lee with Acumen Law, who represented Richmond senior Randi Kramer in the earlier case, said if Delgado’s account of the situation is accurate, he has a good chance of having the ticket thrown out.
- “According to rulings from the B.C. Supreme Court, police are not allowed to issue tickets for people who just have a phone loose in the vehicle, whether it’s in the cup holder, the centre console, loose on the passenger seat, that is not an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act,” she said. Lee went on to say there is “a lot of confusion” about what constitutes distracted driving, both because of government messaging and differing interpretations of court rulings: “We see as well police officers interpreting the law inconsistently. A lot of police officers tell me, ‘I’m never going to issue a ticket for having a phone in a cup holder, I don’t believe that’s the purpose of the law,’ but there are lots of police officers who do ticket for that.”
- This was the perfect opportunity for the BC government to provide clarification on the matter, but unfortunately, they did it in the wrong way.
- B.C.’s public safety minister Mike Farnworth says the province’s distracted driving laws are “clear” that keeping a phone close in your cup holder is not OK, and that the law is on the officers’ side in both cases.
- Farnworth did not say whether the cup holder issue would influence any amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act, which he defended in its crackdown on distracted driving. He said: “I can’t comment on individual cases, but what I can tell you is that the law is clear. The cellphone is supposed to be mounted, and it’s not accessible. The police do have some discretion, and obviously if people feel that they were ticketed unfairly, they have the ability to fight that in court.”
- But recent rulings from B.C. Supreme Court have called into question whether police can issue fines to drivers who have phones loose in their vehicle, whether it’s in a cup holder, the centre console or on the passenger seat.
- In March, a judge struck down a fine against a Vancouver man who was caught by police with his phone wedged in the cushion of his passenger seat — technically within sight, and technically unsecured. Crown and defence ultimately agreed, however, that the “mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough to secure a conviction.”
- The judge’s decision noted, “The appellant emphasizes that since the officer never saw [the man] touch the device in any way, there was no ‘further accompanying act,’ and so [the man] cannot be found to have been ‘using’ his cell phone.”
- So what we see is enormous discretionary powers given to the police, a draconian law and penalties being held up by the government, and unfair tickets given to people who will have to pay for the rest of their lives. It's time for something to change on this matter.
- Election attack ads are a common occurrence in day to day campaigning.
- These ads rely on media footage that the party’s often source from news networks. Most ads will attribute the source in the corner of the ad (CBC, Globe and Mail, Global, etc.)
- The CBC is suing the Conservative Party for copyright infringement.
- In particular the CBC takes issue with the CPC using news clips on their Not As Advertised Website and posting debate clips on Twitter.
- A video entitled “Look at What We’ve Done” contained excerpts from CBC News programming that were deemed in violation of copyright law.
- The CBC also cited a number of short (< 45 second) video clips from the English language debate as copyright infringement.
- The lawsuit lists CBC journalists Rosemary Barton and John Paul Tasker and the lawsuit also says that the Conservatives “violated Barton’s morale rights” in that it may make her and the CBC look biased.
- Michael Geist, an internet law professor at the University of Ottawa said, “The CBC obviously has rights as the copyright owner in its broadcast, but those rights are constrained by limitations and exceptions under the law that allows for use of its work without the need for further permission. The CBC itself (like all broadcasters) regularly relies upon those exceptions to use the work of others without permission. There are strong fair dealing arguments in favour of reasonable usage. Moreover, the claim over short clips over debate footage is enormously troubling, considering both the importance of broad dissemination of the debate and the fact that the debate involves little specific contribution for any individual broadcaster.”
- Media in Canada uses clips from Canadians every day. We’ve even used them here at Western Context. This falls under fair use.
- Fair use can fall into 3 categories: research and private study, criticism or review, and news reporting.
- For the latter cases the source must be mentioned and if available the author, performer, maker, or broadcaster must also be mentioned.
- Keep in mind: We are not lawyers but if the CPC stated these, they should be covered under fair use in Canadian copyright law.
- Let’s consider the context. We are less than 10 days from the vote and advance voting has begun. The CBC is seeking to limit the transmission of one of their broadcasts that anyone who has a basic cable package will see and a debate that was streamed on countless other platforms.
- The Conservatives issued their own statement on the matter and as we’d expect it is overly partisan but they did shine some light on what Elections Canada has to say on the matter.
- They asked Election’s Canada before the campaign began: Can a political ad contain a “news clip” without the approval of the broadcaster?
- The answer winds and weaves but eventually says, “If a news clip is relatively short and is not a substantial part of the audiovisual work from which it was taken, the broadcast of the news clip in a political ad would not infringe the copyright of the owner of the audiovisual work and would not require the permission of that owner to be broadcast.”
- It is a bit odd that 10 days before the conclusion of a national election the CBC decides to raise this issue when ads have been carried out like this for decades and Election’s Canada seemingly OK’ed the practice.
- We’ll be watching to see where this goes in the final days of the campaign as this is a fresh story as of only a few hours ago.
Word of the Week
honour system - “a system of payment or examination that relies solely on the honesty of those concerned.”
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Cuts and Grabs
Teaser: The Liberals quietly cut military health spending, non Canadian citizens end up on the voting list, and a visible cell phone induces distracted driving tickets from police. Also, the CBC sue the Conservatives over copyright, inviting partisan criticisms.
Recorded Date: October 11, 2019
Release Date: October 13, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes