Monsters Under the Beds (Or in the ERs)

Last week, Nova Scotia Liberal MLA Dave Wilson appeared at a news conference along with an ER physician claiming that the emergency room system in Nova Scotia is in crisis. According to Wilson, the Liberal Health Critic,

“In 2006, ERs in Nova Scotia were closed for over 3,700 hours – that’s 154 days. That is almost 1,600 more hours than the year before,” he says. “In fact, since 2001 ERs in this province have been closed for a total of almost two years. That is unacceptable.”

Wow, that does sound excessive. Is the system failing Nova Scotians?

Wait, that’s really the point, isn’t it – IS the system failing us?

The trouble with this particular iteration of monster-shouting is that the information presented lacks any sort of context to prove that this is, in fact, a particularly dangerous or even unusual state of affairs.

Has anyone died or suffered debilitating disease due to a lack of ER services? Has anyone been turned away because the ERs were closed? There is no indication either way according to the information we are presented with. Is the solution to this problematic condition to keep all emergency rooms open 24-7?

I needn’t tell anyone with a modicum of fiscal intelligence how impractical that idea is. Smaller communities, while needing some degree of emergency response and treatment facilities, lack the population density to have the type of constant demand that exists in larger centres. I, for one, don’t think the Liberal critic would be any happier if these small-town ERs were staffed constantly, because it would be an obvious waste of money, and without any indication of how the situation is negatively affecting the citizens of the province, it would be completely irresponsible in many other ways, as well.

While I agree that there needs to be much more encouragement for medical students to enter into emergency medicine (a stressful specialty, to be sure), and for our local med school graduates to remain in the province, without the evidence of harm or even actual need, this ‘crisis’ is constructed from nothing but fear.

The press conference was clearly designed to elicit the anxiety of the public, and serves no one’s interests except those of the Liberal party. I’m not equipped to dispute the information presented, but if you’re going to convince me that this is nothing more than cynical exploitation of the fears of the elderly and the infirm, you’ll need to show me some proof.

That goes for any of these types of assertions – can you prove to me that beds that are closed in small hospitals are actually needed, or are you playing on the fears of older citizens, who will then ask themselves, “But what if they are needed?” You can’t govern or budget according to what if’s. As my boss says, “What if a Martian lands and asks for something?” It’s an illustration of how absurd the ‘what-if’s can get.

The way I see it, the political script goes like this:
1) create anxiety where there is none
2) exploit the anxiety for political gain
3) get elected
4) continue making decisions or investments in the same way
5) repeat as necessary

This type of blatant politicking, if you’ll pardon the expression, makes me ill. Wow, lucky I don’t live in a rural area, isn’t it?

Stirring base emotions is not solving problems or shedding light on truth, it’s pure politics, which, quite frankly, our health care system could use a little less of. Show us proof, Mr. Wilson, or shut up.


The Time has Come!

The BBC reports on a document created by the UK Office of Science and Innovation’s Horizon Scanning Centre that robots could demand legal rights, including housing and ‘robo-healthcare’ (what we would refer to as maintenance, I suppose) some day.

No real point to make, except that I’m stockpiling food for the inevitable day when robots rise and overcome their fleshy masters and rule us with a cold, metallic, emotionless but potentially benevolent hand and guide the future destiny of mankind into some form of slavery in which all of our children will be forced to enter vocational schools and soon the only professions will be those that benefit our computerized despotic rulers…

As I said, no real point to make, but we’d better be careful of…

Have a nice day, and do not anger our future monarchs. Return to normal activities. Nothing to see here.

(Watch the toasters…)


Budget woes in Canada’s ocean playground

Do they still call Nova Scotia that?

Anyway, it seems that Lord Rodney and his merry band have their hands full trying to maintain the small surplus they’ve managed to wrangle out of the budget. It is now down to about $3 million. Those expensive election promises might come back to haunt him.

We here at blevkog try to lend a helping hand every now and then – we’re all in this together, right? So Rodney, I have this way, see, of maybe saving say, $131,000 this year, you listening?


Remove Sookie, Insert Foot (A Vignette in the Sookie Saga)

I thought I’d add a little bit of information on the Halifax School Board debacle, to make the picture more complete, if I can. I hope Kevvyd doesn’t mind, since he’s doing an excellent job on this, but this ended up being a little lengthy for a comment. I’ve done a fair bit of legal research and worked to get legislation passed, so, while not a lawyer, I’m becoming pretty familiar with interpreting the law.

This morning, in the Daily News, fired Board chairman Gary O’Hara assumes that the rest of us can’t or don’t want to look into things on our own (he may be right, but that’s what we’re here for – to do the reading that you don’t wanna) by stating

“The only people that have the right to fire me are the people that elected me,” he said. “If you look at the legislation in the Education Act, it says that the minister has the right to strip the school board of its powers, but it doesn’t say she has the right to fire us.”

Au Contraire, Mr. O’Hara. Here’s Section 68 of the Education Act (emphasis mine):

68 (1) In carrying out its responsibilities and in exercising its authority under this Act, a school board shall comply with the policies of the Department of Education and Culture and the directives of the Minister issued in accordance with this Act.

(2) Where, in the opinion of the Minister,

(a) the health, safety or educational welfare of the students of a school are endangered or the resources of a school board are not being used in a responsible manner;

(aa) a school board has failed to meet the standards referred to in subsection 64(6); or

(b) the school board has failed to comply with a request of the Minister to take corrective action,

the Minister may appoint a person who shall carry out such responsibilities and exercise such authority of the school board as the Minister determines and in such manner as the Minister determines and, to the extent the Minister determines, the school board ceases to have such responsibilities or authority. 1995-96, c. 1, s. 68; 2002, c. 5, s. 12; 2004, c. 3, s. 18 .

Now, if it were me, and I ‘ceased to have responsibilities’ at work, I’d figure I was pretty much done. If you have no responsibilities, you have no job, by definition. The Minister has followed the law, effectively and properly, if a little slowly. The dismissal is not wrongful, even if you limit yourself to not reading the long list of responsibilities in Section 64(6), if you remember back far enough to recall the last Minister, Jamie Muir, warning the board that it should get its shit together pronto.
1. Warning,
2. failure to heed warning,
3. dismissal.
If it works that way at McDonald’s, it certainly applies here.

I’ve also seen that some former members resent being grouped in with those they consider the ‘troublemakers’. Whether you actually argued or dissented or stole or cheated or not, you contributed to the descent of the Board into chaos by your action or inaction, as the case may be. You are all responsible – omission of an action is punishable as well as action.

A final note: did anyone else notice how reasonable Doug Sparks seems without the Board pissing him off? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?


Baby want sookie! Part 2 of ?

Given the childishness of the Halifax Regional School Board over the past year, should it be any surprise that they would threaten legal action against the Minister when she pulled the soothers from their mouths? Claiming that others are consulting lawyers, as of right now it is only Wade Marshall that has openly threatened court action, saying:

I’ve done nothing wrong. I haven’t done the things that the minister is accusing me of doing. That’s wrong. And she is going to be held accountable and this government will be held accountable

It was him, Daddy, him! I didn’t do it, it was him!

The article goes on to suggest that other members of the board are being invited to participate in the court proceedings, which is kind of funny. I mean, these guys couldn’t agree on where to sit for chrissakes, I’d be surprised if they could agree on the existence of gravity. I hope the law firm they hire has a good on-site day care. When asked for comment, Debra Barlow, former member said:

Certainly, if the stipend is withdrawn I’m sure that there will probably be legal action for unjust dismissal

In other words – kick me off the board and take away my duties, fine, but take away my money and watch out! It’s nice to see someone admit to what the real issue is. What’s most surprising is that Barlow would admit that the core reason she took the position with the board in the first place was a paltry $8200 per year.

To his credit, Gin Yee is going to give his stipend, if it is continued, back to the school board – good on him. If other members want to run again in ’08, perhaps they can follow his example.


A new low for the National Post?

It’s really hard to categorize what “low” is when it comes to the dregs like the National Post. But in today’s editorial, entitled Perverting the Holy Spirit, Barbara Kay (keep an eye on this one, she’s priceless) upbraids the rabbis that attended the Holocaust deniers “conference” and the “useful idiot” Christian Peacemakers Team in Iraq. I won’t discuss the rabbi situation, as I’m not that familiar with the background or religio-political arguments they espouse, however, I do take umbrage with her remarks on the CPT.

Remember them, the guys that were held hostage earlier this year while working with Iraqi citizens? In Kay-land, this is apparently “acting as human shields”, just so you know. Anyway, remember how they got the entire Right-wing military masturbation sect into a froth by not being grateful enough for being rescued? Well, apparently putting your unarmoured ass on the line for the sake of peace is a “perverted spiritual impulse” and “hubristic”. Check this out:

Hubristically, Christian Peacemakers (comparing themselves to “Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Jesus”) has put fellow Christians and Westerners at risk by imitating a simplistically masochistic version of a theologically complex Christ.

Did you catch it? Theologically complex Christ. Yeah, it’s pretty hard to take a simple doctrine – “love thy neighbour”, stack in on top of “do not kill” and then use the same god to justify arbitrary war without making it complicated. If God’s doctrine is complicated, it’s not because of anything Christ said or James Loney did, rather it’s because of asshats like Barbara Kay trying to twist it into justifying all manner of evil. If your religious doctrine on basic issues like “do not kill” is complicated, you haven’t got a religion, you have a shell game.

So, the shorter Barbara Kay – you’re either with us or against God.

Look at me, an atheist, talkin’ Christ! Woohoo!


Say it ain’t so, Jack!

In a post, Liberal Catnip has identified the most recent outrage that Jack Layton might be contemplating for the NDP – supporting the Conservatives against a possible spring or winter election. Jack has apparently partaken of the Kool-Aid and actually believes that the New Democrats must stave off short-term blips in the polls and electoral defeats at the cost of their souls. Propping up a decrepit Tory government that will sell out Leftist concerns as soon as it is convenient is simply beyond idiotic.

The only thing drawing the two parties together is political expediency – both are dropping in the polls and a quick election would likely be ugly for both. For the Conservatives this would be catastrophic, they are just getting a taste for power and want stability and a majority government to start remaking Canada in the Harper vision (blurp). Sorry, I just threw up a little in my mouth. For the NDP, it is less of a concern, they have never had national power and are not going to get it anytime soon. Sure they would lose a few seats, but the role of the NDP would not change – it is the voice of the Left in our Parliament and snuggling up to Harper destroys any real credibility the party has with the Left. I’m not saying that they should tear the government down at all costs, but for heaven’s sake, let it sink or swim based on it’s policies, not because you’re afraid of an election call; for the NDP, that’s a fool’s game.

The only thing that Jack stands to gain is to drive committed social democrats like me toward the Greens or the Liberals. There is no short-term gain for the NDP, only long-term pain.

The NDP, more than any party in this country, needs a change at the top.