The News Rundown
- Canada's health care system has been crumbling for years now even before the Covid-19 pandemic tossed a whole slew of new problems into the mix. As we approach the 3rd anniversary of the start of the pandemic, we're looking at a system that is on virtual collapse. Many Canadians, especially those in Canada's westernmost province of BC, cannot get family doctors, emergency room wait times have climbed higher, and surgeries often have months long or even years long periods in between diagnosis and delivery of treatment, which in many cases has led to the deaths of patients before the system can even begin to fix the problems, which in this day and age can be something as complex as cancer, or as simple as a infection.
- With the premiers in Ottawa to meet with Justin Trudeau for the First Minister's meeting, it was clear that healthcare was the biggest priority, with all the provinces on board with one simple thing - the federal government has to come up with more in federal health transfers so that the provincial governments can adequately fund the system that's been gradually falling apart for years now.
- The federal government is now pledging to increase health funding to Canada's provinces and territories by $196.1 billion over the next 10 years, in a long-awaited deal aimed at addressing Canada's crumbling health-care systems with $46.2 billion in new funding. While Trudeau is billing the Liberals' commitment as "a major federal investment in health care," early indications are, the offer hasn't satisfied provinces' demands.
- This new cross-Canada offer includes both increases to the amount budgeted to flow through the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) as well as federal plans to sign bilateral deals with each province and territory that are mindful of each system's unique circumstances.
- This funding influx is coming with an expectation that in order to access new federal dollars, provincial and territorial governments have to maintain their current health spending levels and commit to new transparency and accountability requirements around how health information is collected, shared, used, and reported to Canadians.
- Ahead of the meeting, Trudeau said that while Canadians are proud of the universal public health-care system, it hasn't been delivering up to the level expected. From staffing shortages and a cold-weather surge of illnesses compounding extended wait times in emergency rooms, to hundreds of thousands of surgeries and medical procedures backlogged due in part to COVID-19 cancellations, there have been steady calls from those in the sector for urgent action as Canada's population continues to grow and age.
- Chair of the Council of the Federation and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson during a post-meeting press conference said: "There wasn't a lot in the way of new funding that is a part of this package. I think we were a little disappointed at that." Stefanson said the offer was 'significantly less than we were hoping for'.
- The premiers’ longstanding ask has been for the federal government to increase the share of Canada's health-care costs that they cover, from the current 22 per cent to 35 per cent. This deal does not satisfy this demand. Seeing the CHT increased by the amount premiers' had called for would mean the federal government would have to send out an additional $28 billion to the provinces annually. Based on the new funding put on the table on Tuesday, what Trudeau has offered instead works out to on average less than $5 billion in new funding a year.
- One of the major issues of the system is that Canada has a massive shortage of doctors, and there is little in the way of this announcement that suggests that the issue will be alleviated anytime soon. Canada will be short about 44,000 physicians by 2028, with family doctors accounting for 72% of the deficit. In addition to closing that gap, Canada will need to train or hire 30,000 more physicians by 2028 to match the average number of doctors per capita among OECD peers. Limited residency spots, a lack of professionals to evaluate prospective physicians, and funding shortfalls have created a chain of bottlenecks, and the shortages are adding pressure to an already strained healthcare system, as patients unable to find family doctors turn to emergency rooms instead.
- Finding a family doctor in Canada is getting harder. Roughly six million Canadian adults don’t have access to a family doctor—up from 4.6 million in 2019. The situation is particularly alarming in rural communities where only 8% of physicians are serving nearly one-fifth of Canada’s population. The pain of this shortfall is already being felt in the broader healthcare system. Family doctors are often the first stop for patients seeking medical attention. And without quick access to them, patients are turning to emergency departments already overwhelmed by the pandemic.
- The crisis is set to deepen. Canada is estimated to be short nearly 44,000 physicians, including over 30,000 family doctors and general practitioners, before the end of the decade. Though 2,400 family physician positions were advertised on government websites by the end of 2021, just 1,496 family doctors exited residency training that year.
- The number of doctors per capita in Canada is well behind that of peer countries like France and Germany, according to OECD data. What’s more, due to data comparability issues, these figures paint a rosier picture for Canada by including non-practicing doctors (educators, researchers, managers, etc.) in overall physician statistics. With Canada’s population set to rise 7.7% by 2028, addressing this primary healthcare crunch is critical, especially when you factor in the Liberal government's obstinate policy of bringing in far more immigrants than most of the country wants.
- One of the problems of Trudeau's overspending for years going back to his first election in 2015 is that there was not any extra money in the coffers when the pandemic begun, which led to massive debt spending, and yet the systems that Canadians need to rely on are still not working as intended. It's clear that the amount of money that we have gone into debt for should be accounted for, as there has been little in the way of finding out just where exactly the almost trillion dollars spent during the last few years has actually gone.
- Still, the prime minister remained complimentary of the system that has failed so many. Trudeau said: "The pandemic reminded each and every one of us just how important our health is. It also put enormous pressure on our health-care systems and on our health-care workers, and it made us take a hard look at the long-standing issues facing our healthcare. As leaders, we've come together to deliver tangible actions and outcomes today, while building a more modern system to ensure results for all Canadians for the future."
- While his words offer an optimistic view that the system can be fixed, a growing number of Canadians believe that the public health care system, as is right now, is now redeemable.
- As some provinces turn to the private sector to address pressures in the health-care system, a new poll suggests more Canadians than ever are open to the idea of private delivery of health care. The Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News between Jan. 19 and Jan. 23, 2023 found 59 per cent of the 1,001 adults surveyed expressed support for the private delivery of publicly-funded health services. Sixty per cent of respondents were also in favour of private health care for those who can afford it.
- Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, says in the 30 years he has studied public opinion in Canada, he has never seen such a shift in support toward privatization.
- “This is the first time I can recall in which you actually got numbers like that, where you’d have a majority of Canadians saying they’re open to considering private methods of delivery. Where we are now is, people are feeling that the system is so challenged that they’re open to considering other types of options.””
- Until now, maintaining Canada’s public health-care system has been a “cornerstone” of Canadian politics and any mention of privatization has been met with strong resistance — even repulsion — and has elicited fears of moving toward an American-style system of access, Bricker said. But given that a vast majority of Canadians surveyed, 85 per cent, now say they believe “drastic changes” are needed in the health system to meet the needs of the community, attitudes toward privatization appear to be shifting.
- Regionally, Quebec residents were most open to private health care options, the data showed, including strong support for private care for those who are able to pay. This idea had the support of 75 per cent of Quebecers surveyed, which is 15 points higher than the national average.
- Despite high levels of concern over access to health services, only one-third of those surveyed said they would be willing to go to the United States for routine health care if they needed it, and a smaller number – 29 per cent – would travel to the U.S. for emergency care.
- However, younger Canadians in the 18-34 age range were more likely to say they’d travel to and pay for care in America and those who identified as “Gen Z” and “Millennial” were more likely to support the idea of private health-care delivery options.
- Bricker noted that while it’s clear younger Canadians appear to be more open to privatization, older respondents — especially those over 55 — were less supportive. He said: “Older people … the people who are most likely to vote, are the ones that are most firmly attached to the system that we have today,” he said.
- And that's the crux of the matter, if Canadians want health care to change, they'll have to vote for it. Until then, if the healthcare system is to continue as it is, it's clear that massive changes need to happen, and neither level of government seems willing to do what's needed to either fix the system, or move to a better one. The end result is that Canada stagnates, and our country falls well behind others as a result. That's something the media has been ignoring for years now, and needs to stop.
- The election has not been called yet but the week looks as though it was one in which the campaign was on here in Alberta.
- The NDP opposition is calling on Danielle Smith to clarify her lobbying past.
- In particular, NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley called it a “huge concern” and hat Danielle Smith is now doing the bidding of those who put her in power.
- What’s the issue?
- Under Premier Smith the UCP is planning a pilot project that would grant $100m in royalty credits to clean up old and abandoned oil wells.
- Oil companies are required to do this as part of their license to operate in Alberta.
- When Danielle Smith was President of the Alberta Enterprise Group she wrote and met with Energy Minister Sonya Savage to pitch something known as the “RStar” program.
- Upon coming to power, RStar was made a key priority for current Energy Minister Peter Guthrie.
- The allegation by the NDP is that the money, $1.3m, that Smith used in her campaign came from these companies. Donors to the UCP leadership candidates have not been made public yet.
- A Scotiabank analysis report on the matter said that the companies most likely to take the most benefit from the program were some of the biggest in the energy industry here in Alberta whose revenues totalled about $5b last quarter.
- The NDP for their part is calling it a scam but we have to pull back the layers and find out where this story originated.
- As we do that, keep in mind that while some may be against the idea of energy companies getting royalty credits to clean up their wells, the idea that these companies donated to Smith’s campaign is presently unsubstantiated.
- Yes she was a lobbyist to the UCP government but we do not know if these companies funded her leadership bid.
- One of the first sources to run this story was Press Progress.
- For those listeners unaware, Press Progress was founded in 2013 by the Broadbent Institute, an NDP oriented think tank.
- Press Progress was the online publication that in the 2019 election was responsible for many of the episodes of fake news in that race that took on a life of their own on social media.
- The interesting part is that in 2019 no one did the due-diligence on those stories and one of them even went to court.
- The 2019 cases focused around potential UCP candidates in key including the same riding today where NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley won her seat after the Press Progress story regarding candidate Caylan Ford caused Jason Kenney to swap candidates.
- The defence’s case, Karim Jivraj, who ultimately fed the story to Press Progress had his defence struck down in September last year and was noted in being in default of a $7.65m defamation claim.
- This story likely cost the UCP a competitive seat in Calgary and now Press Progress is following the same path with the Premier, albeit bigger this time.
- Now here comes the part of the story that the media won’t tell you, the NDP has this exact same kind of lobbying relationship, except theirs is with a myriad of unions.
- Union members donate (unions can’t) to the NDP. Many NDP candidates are former union bosses and as we saw, NDP policy in 2015 was heavily influenced by the province's unions as were staff decisions throughout the government.
- So with that, what’s the difference between how the NDP operates and how the NDP alleges the UCP is operating today?
- The difference is private vs. union and a different industry, but it’s the same thing. No one bat an eye in 2015 but this story is likely going to wind up on the Press Progress fake news pile.
- Since the campaign is on, by proxy, it’s only fair that we take a look at what the NDP is up to in Calgary.
- First the NDP candidates for Calgary-Elbow and Calgary-Glenmore, Samir Kayande and Nagwan Al-Guneid both have ties to the Pembina Institute.
- The Pembina Institute is an environmental group that in the lightest form could be described as anti-oil.
- The NDP has also nominated Dr. Luanne Metz in Calgary-Varsity who is an accomplished medical researcher but she has also stood by Dr. Joe Vipond who was a media figure during the COVID pandemic always arguing for tougher restrictions. The catch though was that he was later exposed as a prolific NDP donor.
- Why is this important? Calgary-Varsity is the seat of UCP Health Minister Jason Copping which he only won by about 2%. This speaks to a very clear targeting of this seat by the NDP.
- Expect fireworks on this one and the same style we saw through the Press Progress story absorbed into the media.
- The campaign may not have begun officially but rhetoric and media coverage signals it has begun.
- It's hard to decry new BC Premier David Eby's willingness to tackle the major issues that need fixing, as he's seemingly been hard at work to make progress towards the province's problems. It's something that a poll from Leger seems to agree with, that shows Eby is more popular than his Opposition opponents and the New Democrats would handily win if an election were held today.
- Steve Mossop, Leger executive vice president, said Eby’s popularity is surprising, given that historically the successor to a very popular leader — in this case Horgan — struggles to gain favour with the public, saying that 'he's done very well.
- The next election is set for October 2024 and while opposition leaders have speculated Eby could call an early election, he has said he has no intention of doing that.
- While many of those surveyed are largely happy with the government's direction, many said they’re unhappy with how the government has handled health care and the economy. One in five people are without a family doctor, cancer patients are facing longer-than-usual wait times for life-saving treatments and many rural emergency rooms have been forced to close because of short-staffing. Respondents said their top three concerns are housing affordability, health care and inflation and rising interest rates.
- With BC running a surplus, Eby is using some of that money to fund infrastructure in municipalities all across the province. It’s part of Premier David Eby’s pledge to use the province’s $5.7-billion surplus to deliver services that British Columbians “can see, feel and touch.”
- B.C. municipalities, many of which are experiencing record population growth, will soon be able to tap into infrastructure grants from a new $1-billion government fund. All of B.C.’s 188 municipalities and regional districts will be eligible for funding from the $1-billion fund in order to pay for new infrastructure and amenities, such as recreation facilities, transit services, parks and water treatment plants.
- According to B.C. law, any surplus not used before the end of the fiscal year, March 31, must be used to pay down the provincial debt. BC's provincial debt sits at roughly $90b but we do not have up to date numbers for the past fiscal year as of yet.
- All of B.C.’s 188 municipalities and regional districts will be eligible for funding from the $1-billion fund in order to pay for new infrastructure and amenities, such as recreation facilities, transit services, parks and water treatment plants.
- Speaking from a news conference inside the Newton Recreation Centre in Surrey, Eby said B.C. “cities of all sizes are on the front lines of this historic level of growth.” Eby stood alongside Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke and noted that Surrey is one of B.C.’s fastest-growing communities, growing 10 per cent since 2016.
- Municipalities will not apply for the funding. Instead the money will be distributed by the province based on a municipality’s population size and growth, Eby said. He said, for example, the smallest municipalities can be eligible for $500,000. His office would not specify how much larger municipalities will get.
- The grants will be distributed by the end of March. The infrastructure and amenities, Eby said, will also support new home construction. Eby has promised to set housing targets for municipalities through the Housing Supply Act. Municipalities that meet housing targets will be rewarded with provincial cash and those that don’t meet targets could be overruled by the province, which will have the power to rezone areas it believes could be densified. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said last week the eight to 10 pilot communities for the housing targets will be selected this spring.
- Eby said “This is a one-time, billion-dollar investment to help communities meet the demands of record population growth, aging infrastructure and support those communities impacted by downturns, for example in the forestry sector.”
- Surrey's Mayor Brenda Locke is hopeful Surrey’s slice of that pie could be up to $80 million. She said: “I don’t have anything firm, I just know that given our population size and the growth – and that’s what they’re basing it on – we are really hopeful that Surrey will get somewhere in the neighbourhood of $60 million to $80 million. It’s a significant amount of money, I am so grateful for this. It will be so helpful for us in building the infrastructure we need.”
- Eby was also in the Fraser Valley on Friday to announce a $5-million flood protection investment that will pave the way for a major, long-term diking project to go ahead for the Fraser River. The $5 million for riprap erosion protection is aimed at shoreline stabilization through erosion control to protect the people of different First Nations and Chilliwack from the Fraser River.
- The province’s $5-million project will smooth the way for a long-term $45-million diking project, originally announced by the federal government in 2019, to now move forward, after riprap erosion-control measures were recommended to better protect the affected communities.
- The $45 million dike project will eventually see eight kilometres of new dikes, a new floodgate structure crossing the Hope Slough and a new drainage pump system. The bulk of the funding is from Infrastructure Canada’s disaster mitigation and adaptation fund, with $13 million from Indigenous Services Canada and $7 million from the City of Chilliwack.
- Chief Lara Mussell, of the Sqwá First Nation said without effective flood mitigation, “it becomes increasingly difficult to secure a sustainable future” for their lands and people. She said: “This investment from the province toward critical shoreline protection will not only help safeguard our culture, traditions and way of life, but it will also help enhance the safety and well-being of our neighbours in the City of Chilliwack.”
- So while making announcements regarding funding for health care and housing, Eby is on hand for many other announcements as well. Hopefully he doesn't get complacent about his level of support in BC and can continue to make inroads on the problems that British Columbians face every day before they get worse.
- Roxham Road is back in the news again and in many ways that location also represents a key chapter in our podcast’s history: the ongoing problem of irregular migrants crossing into Canada from the US.
- This time it’s become clear that the administration of New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams is paying companies to run busses to bring migrants north to Canada.
- These migrants are the same suspected migrants that are being bussed to New York by states like Texas. This has been corroborated by numerous migrants onboard the busses.
- Migrant Raymond Peña told the New York Post, “The military gave me and my family free bus tickets. I am going to Canada for a better quality of life for my family.”
- When you line up the story of Mr. Pena and what happens on the border, it’s a wonder it’s not being talked about further. That’s why that’s our quote of the week.
- Roxham Road has faded from what news coverage it had but it’s still one of the busiest crossing points with over 39,000 people crossing into Canada last year illegally.
- This deluge started when Justin Trudeau tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” shortly after Donald Trump became President and enacted an executive order to ban people coming to the US from Muslim majority countries in the name of national security.
- The issue sat and got almost zero coverage initially until becoming a true crisis. The pandemic washed it away but it is still happening.
- What’s also happening is that the media has been light on coverage this week as per usual.
- The CBC ran their coverage on Friday confirming reports that this was happening with the aid of New York City administration, specifically some Customs and Border Protection agents driving migrants to the border.
- It is expected that this has been happening for months but the exact number of agents is unknown.
- The CBSA is “aware of the situation” and is in contact with the United States but no further information has been revealed.
- What’s happening is blatantly against the law, according to Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, it is forbidden for anyone to organize the entry of one or more persons into the country or to incite, assist or encourage them to enter the country.
- The biggest call to fix this issue actually came from Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette who’s said, the situation demonstrates above all else the importance of addressing the Roxham Road issue and the [Safe Third Country Agreement]" between Canada and the United States.”
- The most damning indictment on this news came from the Globe and Mail Editorial Board who ran with a headline “Justin Trudeau needs to stop stalling on Roxham Road” saying, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to get more aggressive on this file. The STCA (safe third country agreement) is clearly not working for Canada. The Liberals must find the diplomatic leverage required to get the U.S. to reopen the agreement and fix the loophole that exempts irregular border crossings. If it manages to do that, it will mean the end of Roxham Road.”
- The answer is simple and the mainstream media is finally at the point where those with knowledge of the situation were at 6 years ago: allow the situation at the border to worsen or shut it down.
- Canada is still a sovereign country and has the ability and responsibility of controlling our borders. That means if necessary, the infrastructure could be taken down and border agents and maybe the military could turn people around or prevent people from entering Canada, by force if needed.
- The Prime Minister invoked the Emergencies Act a year ago over protests and we are soon going to hear the commission report on that matter.
- The Roxham Road situation is arguably getting to a point where it’s the worst it’s ever been and the government is still moving slowly.
- The point is, if the Prime Minister was willing to go to the extremes of using the Emergencies Act last year, why won’t the government act to protect our own national sovereignty?
- Word of the Week:
Quote of the Week
“The military gave me and my family free bus tickets. I am going to Canada for a better quality of life for my family.” - Migrant Raymond Peña on his free trip to Canada and eventual entry at Roxham Road.
Word of the Week
Crisis - a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: A Time of Crisis
Teaser: Trudeau announces new funding towards health care transfers, Alberta campaign funding coverage shows double standards, and David Eby announces funding for BC’s municipalities. Also, the Roxham road issue continues to get worse.
Recorded Date: February 11, 2023
Release Date: February 12, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes