We can’t all be astronauts.

bondar

Yesterday I listened to a radio retrospective from 1969 where excited children were interviewed just after the moon landing.

 

One of the children was asked, “Do you want to go into space one day?”

 

The child responded, “Oh yes.”

 

The interviewer asked, “Do you think you will?”

 

The child responded, “No”.

 

When asked why not the child said. “Because I am a girl.”

 

In such a short piece it was laid out so clearly how our primitive societal outlook held back the hopes, dreams and aspirations of so many children based on things such as gender, race or even family status. This was not all that long ago at all but thankfully in the developed world we have grown beyond those attitudes incredibly in just one generation. There are still archaic attitudes held by some and still unfair limitations being presented to some but we are working towards ending those.

 

As with so many things though, we have reached a target and then continued pushing right past it to the point where we have created a whole new problem. We no longer have a generation that feels that they can’t do certain things simply because of race or gender but we have created a generation that is marked by a very deep sense of entitlement.

 

We have told our young people over and over that they have the right to become whatever they want to be. The reality is that what we are creating is the equal opportunity to pursue certain careers but we can’t guarantee that the pursuit will be fruitful. Let’s face it, if every young person could become whatever they dreamed to be, we would be a world full of singers, firefighters, movie stars and of course astronauts. In the real world the openings for those roles are rather limited.

 

In Quebec we have seen riotous protests for over a year as thousands of students with a profound sense of entitlement protested an incredibly modest increase in the cost of their already hugely subsidized tuition. During the whole “occupy” thing the year before we saw young people feeling entitled to illegally squat wherever they please to demonstrate a sense of general discontent that they could not get everything they want from society. As that generation hits the working world the cold wash of reality is going to be terribly hard on them.

 

In the real world we don’t all get a ribbon for participation. We never should be trying to crush or limit the aspirations of young people. We do need to add a dose of reality though.

 

In the world of the arts we see this sense of entitlement at it’s height. Embittered interpretive dance graduates and people with doctorates in advanced finger painting are tiring of serving coffee and are demanding that the public fund them so they may work in the field of their choice even if there is no demand for it. Arts lobbies are having some degree of success as politicians fear being swarmed by unemployed mimes at election time so tax dollars keep getting tossed into the arts pit for more substandard productions. In Alberta SOFA has been yelping to a fever pitch acting as if art will outright vanish from the world entirely if we do not tax the productive further to pay for it. That of course is simply untrue. Heavily subsidized arts do lead to crappy quality arts though as I laid out in this posting.

 

Though I am sure there are people who could be more diplomatic than I about it but it has to be said to some. Not every person is actually any good in their field of choice. Somehow the interpretive dance major has to be coaxed into another trade and the finger painter informed that his work is shitty and will never sell. If these delusions are not punctured at some point, the dancer will often find herself swinging around a pole with money in a g-string while drama majors find themselves in grimy West Coast studios in a branch of the film industry that they never really dreamed of entering. Which reality dose is more painful? The first one or the second?

 

Our collective sense of entitlement has led to mass overspending provincially. Redford now is ineptly cutting from post-secondary education which has led Mount Royal University to cut some of their arts and journalism programs. Hey, we can’t have it all and if we are going to cut that is simply where it needs to be done. This does not mean that there is no arts education or journalism available, it is just that the opportunities are re-modelling a bit to reflect a realistic demand.

 

What am I to say to a person with a degree in philosophy aside from: “No thank you, I don’t need fries with that.”? How many openings for careers in women’s studies do we really ever think there will be? We have to get realistic with what we are teaching and those taking the courses need to be realistically informed about the chance of their being employed in the field of their choosing.

 

I do not owe anybody a living in their field of choice.

 

The dreams do not need to be squashed but they do need to be tempered with reality. A person can paint part time while working on a different career. A person can still attend weekend casting calls while working as an engineer. Hey, if you get your break that’s wonderful but if perchance you don’t make the cut your bills will still be paid and I won’t have to listen to the enraged howls of entitlement from you.

 

It needs to be taught that a person is not a failure if they end up in a career that was not their first choice in life. Nothing makes a job more of a drudgery than thinking that you were supposed to be elsewhere. As I type, I am in Oklahoma supervising the survey of an oil exploration program. I deal with countless nightmares at times from drug addled staff, to gross hotel conditions to picking ticks from myself nightly after having walked through the bush for a day. Rest assured I did not daydream of doing this as a child. Despite this not being my first career choice, I am comfortable with it and accept that it is what I do. Why depress myself or demand that others facilitate a change for me? If it was all that bad, I could seek something else. I have learned to enjoy the travel and the outdoor aspects.

 

As deficit budgets continue on all levels of government while we pursue the same crash the Europe is enjoying, we see a looming reality check where spending will inevitably have to be cut. When we re-balance our education system we must work to ensure that we model public-funded education based on our national needs rather than entitled wants. If we keep taking the path of least resistance we will have a mountain of unemployed arts grads while we madly draw even more immigrants to fill the labor voids created by our tilted system.

 

You never see a plumber working as a barista. Let’s work to find that balance with our youth between encouragement and reality.

 

We need not destroy dreams, but we have to let youth know that they don’t always (in fact rarely) come true.

 

 

 

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Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien had the right idea.

trudeau

It is a rare occasion when I agree with Trudeau or Chretien’s ideas on much of anything but way back in 1969 they addressed one of Canada’s most pressing issues in drafting a policy document called the “White Paper”. Unfortunately the lawyers, activists and other assorted parasites within the growing “Indian Industry” had already been entrenching themselves well and managed to exert enough pressure to get the Trudeau government to back off on a policy direction that would have worked towards bringing hundreds of thousands of people out of the misery of poverty, crime, health issues and general social dysfunction living racially segregated under Canada’s racist Indian Act.

Many activists within the Indian Industry speak against the Indian Act and demand that we adhere to treaties and the obligations within them. These same activists go utterly haywire when somebody actually proposes the abolition of the wretched Indian Act or points out that Canada already goes well and beyond the obligations laid out in treaties. The bottom line is that there is a large and well organized element of parasitic people who thrive on the horrific status quo of native affairs in Canada and these people fervently and effectively fight every possible effort to end their existence based on the misery of countless natives living in the horrific racially segregated enclaves that we call Indian reserves.

The Statement of the Government on Indian Policy is a relatively short (24 pages) document and is concise on the goals for changes to native policy and the means to reach those goals. I strongly recommend that this document be read from end to end.

I will highlight some parts from the document below. In the past and currently supporters of the status quo of native misery have predictably dismissed the document as racist and having no goal aside from assimilation. That as usual is utter garbage but the hot-words of racism never fail to quell rationed policy debate thus the shallow self-serving supporters of the Indian Industry never fail to claim racism whenever something may threaten their income from the system. The irony of it all is that the White Paper was explicitly working towards ending policies of racism in Canada.

Below is the preamble from the paper which gets to the gist of things:

 

Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969
Presented to the First Session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament by the Honourable Jean Chrétien, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

 

To be an Indian is to be a man, with all a man’s needs and abilities. To be an Indian is also to be different. It is to speak different languages, draw different pictures, tell different tales and to rely on a set of values developed in a different world.

 

Canada is richer for its Indian component, although there have been times when diversity seemed of little value to many Canadians.

 

But to be a Canadian Indian today is to be someone different in another way. It is to be someone apart – apart in law, apart in the provision of government services and, too often, part in social contacts.

 

To be an Indian is to lack power – the power to act as owner of your lands, the power to spend your own money and, too often, the power to change your own condition.

 

Not always, but too often, to be an Indian is to be without – without a job, a good house, or running water; without knowledge, training or technical skill and, above all, without those feelings of dignity and self-confidence that a man must have if he is to walk with his head held high.

 

All these conditions of the Indians are the product of history and have nothing to do with their abilities and capacities. Indian relations with other Canadians began with special treatment by government and society, and special treatment has been the rule since Europeans first settled in Canada. Special treatment has made of the Indians a community disadvantaged and apart.

 

Obviously, the course of history must be changed. To be an Indian must be to be free – free to develop Indian cultures in an environment of legal, social and economic equality with other Canadians.

What is most striking is how even 40 years later, the statement above is just as valid as it was then. Today problems are much larger and more acute on native reserves though and until we change things they will only get worse.

Below are the policy recommendations of the paper. Native life would be so much different (and far better) had the Canadian government of the day stuck to it’s guns and implemented these policies.

 

1. that the legislative and constitutional bases of discrimination be removed;

 

2 that there be positive recognition by everyone of the unique contribution of Indian culture to Canadian life;

 

3. that services come through the same channels and from the same government agencies for all Canadians; 4 that those who are furthest behind be helped most;

 

5. that lawful obligations be recognized;

 

6 that control of Indian lands be transferred to the Indian people.

 

The Government would be prepared to take the following steps to create this framework:

 

1. Propose to Parliament that the Indian Act be repealed and take such legislative steps as may be necessary to enable Indians to control Indian lands and to acquire title to them.

2. Propose to the governments of the provinces that they take over the same responsibility for Indians that they have for other citizens in their provinces. The take-over would be accompanied by the transfer to the provinces of federal funds normally provided for Indian programs, augmented as may be necessary.

 

3. Make substantial funds available for Indian economic development as an interim measure.
4. Wind up that part of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development which deals with Indian Affairs. The residual responsibilities of the Federal Government for programs in the field of Indian affairs would be transferred to other appropriate federal departments.

Race based policy created the abhorrent state that Canadian natives live in. Only through ending race based policy will we see an easing of the disaster that is our reserve system. While pointing out what is required is simple, actually getting to a racially blind system in Canada is anything but. With the passing of 40 years problems on native reserves have gotten far worse by every measure and Canada is no closer to implementing the simple measures that are absolutely required to work towards ending this misery.

Canada has known for over a generation what needs to be done with native affairs. The only question now is how horrific will things have to get in our system of racial apartheid before a government gets the courage to face-down the defenders of the Indian Industry and make the changes that must be made.

It is the 21st century and still Canada insists on maintaining racial segregation though the Indian Act. It is embarrassing and it is a disaster. Even Trudeau knew this. Alas, Trudeau chose to make the Charter his legacy instead of the abolition of the racist Indian Act in Canada.

 

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Culture and race are totally different things.

While the statement in the title to this post should be self-evident, it sadly is not.

Race is something we are born into. No person can either choose nor change their race (despite the best efforts of Michael Jackson). There are some pretty clear but overall minor physiological distinctions between races but it is pretty commonly understood that no race is inherently superior or inferior to another race. It is because of that fact that most people rightly find racial supremacism to be abhorrent in it’s very basis and call down those trying to practice or spread such repugnant ideals.

Culture is not like race. While some cultures are more predominant among some races and indeed of course originated among racial groups; culture is not at all like race in that a person can choose whether or not to practice a culture. Cultures can and do evolve and change and people may take on some elements of some cultures while rejecting elements of other cultures. While the differences between races are truly small once the clear aesthetic differences are set aside, the differences between cultures can be and are indeed often vast.

While we can’t realistically or morally be critical of an immutable state such as a person’s race, we can and should keep a critical eye on cultures.

Many have put culture on a pedestal next to race and tried to halt all discussion of the merits or shortcomings of any cultures. Many have acted as if cultures are things that cannot or should not ever be allowed to change or evolve. Some have treated cultures as if they are sacred things that must be preserved no matter how repugnant or obsolete some of their practices may be.

We need to get something straight in this increasingly hypersensitive world; not all cultures are equal, not all cultural practices and ideals are worthy of embracing or preserving and there is not a damn thing wrong with saying so!

Should we really accept the disgusting cultural practices against women in many parts of the Middle East simply because those traditions have been in place for centuries? Will we ever see live fox-hunts come back into fashion in England? How about bullfighting? What about some of the ingrained acts of animal cruelty in parts of Asia? Is the caste system of India worthy of preservation? Are we allowed to be critical of widespread female genital mutilation in Northern Africa? What about warlike cultures or those that practiced cannibalism?

None of the above cultural practices are acceptable to most modern eyes. Those practices are fading quickly thanks to our living in a world where the widespread sharing of information and a general and growing empathy has led to outside pressures being able to effect entrenched but outdated and often cruel cultural practices in some societies. This is a great trend for humanity in general and I look forward to seeing this new modern empathy spreading. It has not been through direct intervention in culture that cultures are evolving like this nearly as much as a general spreading of education and of modern world values.

One thing that will hinder this fast leap in worldwide cultural evolution though is the practice of acting as if cultures are immutable things that are above critique and must be protected from change at all costs. Cultures change and shed practices all the time and this is a good thing.

Healthy cultures are things that are constantly evolving to reflect and respond to a changing world. Some aspects of culture are retained while others fall by the wayside as time passes. Some cultures have gotten more complex and evolved more than others for a number of reasons leading to some cultures being more functional in a modern world than others. Some have had to make larger leaps in evolution to keep up with the modern world than others and it has led to challenges. Cultures with written languages had more complex social and legal structures than those who still remained in a hunter-gatherer stage until relatively recently. This is not an insult to those who’s ancestors were so recently nomadic gatherers, it is simply a statement of fact and it has utterly nothing to do with race.

It has to be accepted though that embracing elements of the more evolved cultures is critical to these current dysfunctional cultures in North America that are caught straddling a fence between pressures from academics and naïve urban dwellers who want to keep some sort of anthropological zoos of ancient culture in what we call native reserves and the cultural demands of a generation exposed to modern communications and seeing the advantages of living within the current modern culture even if the path to that lifestyle is muddied.

Cultural evolution is not assimilation!! The most destructive assholes we truly have in society today are those have convinced themselves and as many reserve dwelling natives as possible that all change from a primitive hunter-gatherer society is “assimilation” or even “genocide”. This leads only to cultural confusion and has made such a damned mess of the culture on reserves that most of the residents there reflect neither modern North American culture nor ancient Native culture; they simply now are mired in a culture of defeat, depression, misery and dependency. It is indeed a unique culture but it is a revolting one to observe in a modern world.

What is needed is not an attempt to intervene in cultures. Indeed, it is much of that idiocy that led to the residential school system and attempted forcing of cultural evolution that failed terrible and caused so much damage. What is needed now is to damn well leave culture alone. It is not the role of government, nor academics, nor non-profits, nor activists, nor pretty much anybody not living on a Native reserve to change or preserve Native cultures. Culture on native reserves will evolve to wherever it belongs as soon as we quit messing with it.

Getting back to that original point; we can’t treat cultures like races as they are utterly different. The cultural evolution of all modern people will be stunted if we let this foolish trend of shutting down all critique and objective examination of cultures through the screeching of “racism” at all who may dare question the cultural status quo. The lightning fast evolution of world cultures in this last century has been one of the most breathtaking advancements in the evolution of humanity. Let’s not let fools try to halt or stunt this progress through hysteric and unrelated comparisons to things like race.

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Let’s have a peek at those treaties.

Few things make it more clear that the usual union backed “occupy” layabouts have jumped on to the “Idle No More” native protests than hearing the vague and disparate grievances and demands being made. Problems whether real or imagined are being highlighted while no solutions are being proposed. Entitled and unrealistic demands for meetings with the Prime Minister are tossed out while uncoordinated efforts are being made to hinder vehicular traffic.

Like “occupy”, this movement is fast proving to be pointless and self-serving. The best martyr the cause can find is Chief Theresa Spence who has a rather questionable history of band management and is on a “hunger strike” which includes eating soup and other unspecified “medicines” while she refused to meet with the Minister of Indian affairs and is raising money for through her boyfriend’s account!

Really, how costly would a real hunger strike be? One would think she would be saving money.

Now a vapid call we often hear from supporters of this messed up movement is that: “We must abide by treaties!”, or “treaty rights are being violated!”

I contend that those making the aforementioned statements likely have never actually read Canadian treaties or at least really do not know what they are asking for.

The image at the beginning of this post displays all the Canadian regions under numbered treaties.

Canada’s treaties are very accessible and are actually some pretty straightforward documents. I will link to them all below and invite anybody to read them. They are all pretty similar in the obligations from both government and the natives who signed them.

Treaties 1 & 2

Those treaties demand that schools be built on reserves and that $15 per family of 5 or the equivalent in items such as twine and blankets be provided. Even with inflation taken into account, this has been provided way above and beyond treaty obligations.

Treaty 3

Treaty three provides $5 annually per head on the reserve and has some provisions for oxen. The evolution of the treaties is evident.

Treaty 4

Treaty 5

Treaty 6

Treaty 7

Treaty 8

Treaty 8 has a much improved breakdown of compensation obligations as compared to earlier ones.

Treaty 9

Treaty 10

Treaty 11

Other non-numbered treaties can be found here. They are much the same in obligations and spirit.

Noteworthy among the treaties is that they all provided clauses for possible expropriation of lands for future development if need be and extinguishment of future claims. That means that if anybody is breaking treaty obligations it is many native bands who are fighting ongoing land claims!

Here is a typical clause verbatim from Treaty 7:

“And Her Majesty the Queen hereby agrees with her said Indians, that they shall have right to pursue their vocations of hunting throughout the Tract surrendered as heretofore described, subject to such regulations as may, from time  to time, be made by the Government of the country, acting under the authority of Her Majesty and saving and excepting such Tracts as may be required or taken up from time to time for settlement, mining, trading or other purposes by Her Government of Canada; or by any of Her Majesty’s subjects duly authorized therefor by the said Government.”

Basically the above treaty clause means that government bills such as C-45 are perfectly valid as agreed to by treaty.

Do we really want to go literal with these treaties? Do we want government to simply build the odd school, provide blankets and whetstones and expropriate at will due to clauses in the treaties?

Our entire reserve system is irreparably broken and it is an abhorrent system of racial apartheid being supported by the naive and the self-serving within the indian industry. We need some serious changes and some serious discussions if we ever want to see an end to these corrupted enclaves of misery that we keep people on. The Indian Act itself is vile and should be destroyed as a document. Race based policy is only adding further damage to what older race based policies created.

Discuss the items in the above paragraph if you really want to address some issues with natives in Canada. The second you start yelping about treaty rights being violated, I have to assume that you either do not know what you are talking about or you are purposely being deceptive. Either way, that discussion will not lead to any meaningful progress on what is a complicated and terrible issue in Canada.

Treaties and government adherence to them is not the problem in Canada.

 

 

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I am an artist! No handouts required thanks.

Thanks to the occupy movement, a common theme in political discussion lately has been entitlement. The complainers squatting in our city park and the keyboard quarterbacks who support and enable the squatters regularly display an astonishing level of entitlement and an almost complete lack of any sense of personal responsibility for anything. Those two traits often go hand in hand of course.

Few can demonstrate a sense of entitlement better than some elements of Canada’s arts community. The lobbying is endless and it is essentially implied that all forms of art will simply wither and die without massive subsidies from taxpayers.

I contend that the over-subsidization of forms of art actually reduces the quality of the art itself. I blogged on this a few years ago and detailed some of the wonderful productions we have seen with tax-funded art.

To go further, I can demonstrate first hand that art can and does exist without a dime of tax funding.

I spent three winters in Canada’s Arctic working on oil and gas exploration programs. I was always impressed by some of the fine carvings produced by the Inuit and Inuvialuit people up there. One season I decided to try my own hand at carving upon returning home. I already had some means for stonework due to having done some fossil restoration work and  gem cutting so aside from some more specialized rasps and some rough material, my investment was little.

With a great deal of dust, countless failed efforts and many pounds of wasted rock I began to produce some reasonably acceptable sculptures. I generally stuck to wildlife and native themes as they were what I was familiar with and they were what were popular sellers at the outlet in Canmore that began to carry my pieces. Sales were sporadic but carvings did sell for a modest price and I was simply happy to see that some people were willing to spend a few bucks to own some work done by a middling artist like myself.

The last few years have not left me much time for carving. I sold all but the carving pictured below so that is all that I can display here.

I decided one weekend to let go with a large piece of stone and to simply see where it took me. I clearly had something on my mind that weekend but I simply could not put my finger on it. Either way, my imagination produced the freeform abstract piece pictured below. I felt that Jane was my inspiration for this one so instead of selling it like all the others I kept it and gave it to Jane.

Jane muttered something about Freud and gave the carving a spot of prominence in her office.

Now as can be seen, I am not going to be a master sculptor. I sold some carvings and made a few bucks and I am happy with that. There is simply a combination of a lack of demand and a lack of skill on my part to make a living through the carving. I can accept that. Sure I would rather spend my days working on my own schedule and carving what I please. That simply isn’t in the cards for me so I make my living in the energy sector while I enjoy myself carving and making a few extra bucks now and then.

I like to think I am no less an artist than any other. I create for my own enjoyment and I hope that some others enjoy what I have created. Is that not what it is all about? Well, this sort of creation is clearly quite possible without government subsidy.

Now for contrast, let me introduce you to a Calgarian artist named Len Cochrane. There are countless artists in Calgary of course. The reason I am singling out Len here is that Len has been a prominent, belligerent and abrasive supporter of the “occupy” Calgary squatters on social media. Len is one of those who attacks all who question the squatters, yet can’t be bothered to put his own butt on the line and camp down there himself as far as I can tell.

Len also displays that great sense of victimhood, entitlement and bitterness that our local squatters and some of the arts community hold in such a clear manner that I could not find a better example to demonstrate just who is demanding tax funding for arts. Below is a snap from Len’s website where in a couple sentences we pretty much see what it is all about.

OK, in the first part of his FAQ Len advises all starting artists to quit while they are ahead and implies that Canada does not support artists. I am not sure how much support it will take for artists to feel supported but clearly it has not been enough for poor Len here.

According to  Stats Canada, governments on all levels spent a cumulative total of almost $10 billion on culture in 2008-2009. It has only gone up since. Culture covers a broad range of things of course. As the site points out, much of it is in parks and broadcasting. Broadcasting has been used a great deal in the promotion and display of our arts of course particularly through our $1.2 billion per year behemoth called the CBC. Museums, galleries and events are all promoted through the culture department. Rest assured, billions are being spent on the arts.

On the private level a similar level is directed at Canadian arts. Many large corporations sponsor countless events and venues. The squatters may note that they are camped next to the Epcor center for performing arts. Large corporations commission and purchase millions in art every year too. Then there are the millions and millions of dollars spent by individual Canadians purchasing everything from $10 handmade keychains to seven figure paintings and everything in between.

So how much would it take before poor Len feels that the arts are supported in Canada? $15 billion? $20 billion?

Is it really a case that the arts are not supported in Canada or is it simply a case that Len’s art has not seen any direct support?

From what can be gathered from the website, it looks like Len has been a victim of the police and health services due to an apparent basement tattoo parlour. Of course Len feels he has done nothing wrong and claims that police and health services corruption are what got him. It was all a conspiracy to shut him down.

There are reasons for health regulations Len. Tattooing involves piercing people’s flesh repeatedly with a needle. If somebody is going to charge for that service, yes I expect a degree of regulation to be involved. Were you claiming the revenues from that operation by the way? One wouldn’t like to think that you were withholding income taxes that should go towards other starving artists.

Every self-styled starving artist has a story to tell and excuses to be made. Art like everything else requires dedication and hard work for success in most cases. That is the true hurdle that holds back many of these entitled artists.

The world does not owe us a living in whatever endeavor that we choose. So you want to make a living painting? Good for you. I hope it all works out. In the meantime instead of whining and blaming the world for your woes how about getting a job and paying your own way until your art blossoms?

I met an unlikely sort of fellow last year who was pumping gas at a Medicine Hat gas station. He was an interesting little fellow and was always practicing on his well-worn violin when cars were not about. He had travelled the year before to Montreal where he met some other kindred souls. They formed a group, all chipped in and had a CD pressed with some of their music. A local artist designed a very funky jacket for it too. He sold me a copy for $15 and then went on to the next gas customer. The music was interesting but not to my taste. All the same, I have no regrets on that small purchase. That fellow was overjoyed with the sale of the CD. I could tell that his joy was not so much for the $15, but simply that somebody would listen to what he and his friends produced.

That man is an artist and I have nothing but respect for him. Instead of sitting, begging and making excuses he went out and had his product produced. He works to pay his bills and works to spread his art at the same time. He is a true artist in every sense.

To the other artists who do nothing but complain and expect success handed to them I say the same thing that I always do when I encounter them: “No thank you. I don’t want fries with that.”

 

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Some healthcare rambling.

Consistently in Canada we see opinion polls that indicate that healthcare is at the top of people’s concerns. It is undeniable that the vast majority of Canadians consider the provision of healthcare as one of the most important roles that government has. Despite such concern on the part of Canadians, the closed-minded attitudes and profound ignorance demonstrated by Canadians when it comes to any discussion of healthcare is staggering. One would think that an issue of such apparent importance would compel people to educate themselves on the issue itself. Alas, one would be thinking wrongly in that case.

Canada’s health system has been turned into a sacred cow. The only discussion allowed regarding our system is one of how much extra spending to dedicate to it. Should anybody dare peep about changing the status-quo in any sort of way they will be greeted with shrill hysteria and the discussion will be shouted down.

I frequent quite a few discussion forums on the web. Some I participate in and some I simply lurk on. One site I particularly enjoy is the Calgary Puck Forum.  The puck forum is a Calgary Flames fan site predominantly. Due to the volume of posters (that being due to the vast numbers of Flames fans out there of course) and the seasonal nature of the sport, there is a very busy off topic forum.  Things discussed in that forum range from light distractions to some pretty deep political issues. What I really enjoy at the site is that this is not a political based site of one stripe or another. There is no mandated left or right leaning to the discussions. Reading sites like that gives a person a much better idea of the thinking of the general public than any outright political site would be able to provide. I stick to lurking and not posting there as they have a great site and do not need my opinionated arse messing with it.

 As with any site that has a degree of political discussion, Canadian healthcare pops up now and then. Like any other sites on that issue, the discussion became extended and heated quickly.  The only real sad part was how quickly that conversation degenerated into the usual myopic and unproductive path that dominates Canadian healthcare discussions.

 To begin with, the shrill defenders of the status-quo immediately trot out horror stories within the American health system. This is standard tactic and unfortunately is effective. The debate immediatelybecomes polarized and turned into some sort of all or nothing debate discussing the merits of fully private provision versus fully socialised provision.

 Lets get something straight here:

CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES ARE NOT THE ONLY HEALTH JURISDICTIONS ON THE PLANET!!!!!!!

 Both systems are flawed and unsustainable. Think of it this way, are you more dead when you die on a waiting list or more dead when you die due to lack of coverage? Doesn’t really matter now does it?  

There are dozens and dozens of healthcare systems in the world. Many of those systems rate well above both the American system and our own when outcomes and cost are measured. In the last world ratings Canada had plummeted down below 30th place and was still falling.

 So what are the other 29 (and growing) countries doing that we are not? To hell with the American system. I don’t care what they do. I want to see successful systems. I am saying that again as when discussing this in person I have yet again reached a point where it is realized that I would like to change our system and somebody feels that it is time to try and sidetrack to the USA model again.

 To begin with. we have to look at why Canada’s system has been dropping in the rankings. Sadly, only Cuba and North Korea share Canada’s outlook of actually outlawing private healthcare. Think about that. Our system strangles any chance of innovation and reform and our almost religious-like protection of it assures that discussion of reform is stunted as well. If we can’t even discuss or try minor reforms within the system itself, it is inevitable that the system will stagnate.

 The demographics of Canada are changing. The baby boomers are getting on and thus need more and more treatment. Drug and diagnostic technology has grown by leaps and bounds but it is getting more expensive as well. The bottom line is that we need to spend an ever increasing amount of money simply to maintain our current standard of service. The real tragedy is that we have made massive increases on the amount spent on healthcare and the services have still declined.

 Socialized medicine means rationed medicine. Recent court rulings have literally found the waiting lists in Canada to be unconstitutional and the lists only grow longer. In scanning the newspapers around the country, one can find a person almost daily who has died while waiting for treatement in Canada. The stories of people living in agony while waiting years for knee or hip treatments are endless. Increased spending has done nothing to aid with this.

 In summary, our spending is exploding and our outcomes are deteriorating. While most would agree that such a trend is completely unsustainable, most still see challenging the status-quo as being akin to blasphemy. I wonder and fear how bad things will have to get before Canadians finally begin to treat what they see as one of their most cherished institutions with a little critical thought?

 France has consistently led the world rankings in healthcare systems. While the French have not mastered personal hygiene, they have clearly found something in healthcare that works. The French system offers universal coverage (yes everybody is covered), spends less per-capita on healthcare than Canada and has no waiting lists. How is this possible? Here comes the dirty word. The French have created a system that mixes private and public involvement. Here is where the average Canadian tries to digress into a hysterical comparison with American care again. Well shrill defender of the status-quo, blow it out your ass. I am seeking solutions not religion. Bringing up the American system when discussing Canadian healthcare is essentially an intellectual Godwin award.

 The public/private mixture in France provides many advantages. I am going to commit another form of Canadian blasphemy; I am going to compare healthcare provision with a business. The patient is the consumer. Now, what in every situation on the planet is the worst circumstance possible for a consumer? If you said “a monopoly” you are absolutely correct. The consumer is inevitably shafted when there is only one provider of a service or product. In Canada healthcare is a government monopoly and it shows in the terrible outcomes. Competition in some form or another is essential in the provision of any service. Why and how would any institution innovate if there was no competition? What incentive is there? Competition need not be a wide open free for all, it can be limited and regulated. Currently in Canada there is zero competition. Competition is illegal. In Alberta we are not even allowed to see the ratings of our hospitals for fear that it may shame the management of one or another of them.

 OK lack of a competitive model is stunting the management of our system and the efficiency. Now what else is causing the intolerable waiting lists? LACK OF SPECIALISTS. Unions have framed the debate well in this regard. When it comes to allocation of our increasingly scarce dollars the unions scream and demand that we have more beds. Not more diagnostic equipment, not more surgical theaters they only want to see more beds. Why so you ask? Well that is the normal self-serving nature of unions. You see more beds means more unionized nurses, LPNs, laundry services, dietary services etc. Machines and doctors don’t fill the union coffers even if indeed they do cure people.

 If we had the specialists that we need, we would not need all those beds for Canadians to languish in while waiting for specialized treatment would we? Now why can’t we retain specialists? This gets back to competition again. Set aside your ideals for a moment dear reader and have a look at reality. Specialized medical graduates have put in more than a decade of post-secondary education and are often entering the workforce six-figures in debt. These graduates are people too. They have aspirations for a family, a house, vacations etc. Now, like it or not, there is a competitive world market for these graduates. Canada’s socialized system makes it rather tough to gain or retain specialists as the compensation is capped and the specialists are overworked. While homeland and family ties are strong draws for people, it is hard for a new specialist who is deeply indebted to resist an offer of twice or more the compensation for their services in a foreign jurisdiction (not always those darned Americans by the way). The brain-drain is greatly harming our system.

 Again, a public/private hybrid need not be all or the other. Just for a ballpark example, lets say that we allow a group of specialists to open their own clinic and charge directly for services. We can still regulate this folks. Lets say that these doctors have to do 60% of their procedures within the public system at a set rate per procedure and they may charge whatever they like for the remainder of the 40% assuming they can find folks who want to pay it. This allows innovation and extra compensation to maintain these specialists.

 Now of course the envious will yelp  in indignation: “how dare people pay to get ahead of me in line!”. OK folks, this is one of the hard parts to understand. The “rich” will drive better cars, have larger houses, take nicer vacations, drink better wines, eat better foods and likely will be ****ing better looking women/men than you. Get over it. This is life. Instead of trying to drag these folks down, how about aspiring to get to where they are for a change?

 These mythical and evil rich actually make healthcare provision faster for people in the public system when hybrids are allowed. By paying extra to get faster treatment, that much public money is saved and a facility with specialists is funded. When done correctly, everybody gets faster and better treatment overall and for less public money as with in France.

  That hurdle of learning to get over the envy is tough with some folks however. I have debated many who even when it is absolutely proven that such systems benefit the whole overall, would rather stick to the current system. These people would rather see people die on waiting lists than conceive that somebody bought better or faster treatment. Yes, socialism is the equal distribution of misery indeed. Who are truly the cruel in this healthcare debate?

 A reality to be faced is that many people of means jump the line anyway. These people simply leave Canada in order to do so. If indeed this is going to be done, why the hell can’t we allow them to spend that money here? Lets keep our money and specialists in Canada. If done properly, we could supplement our health system with the revenue generated by foreigners coming here for treatment. Yes, we could actually profit from this (oops, profit is evil isn’t it).

 It is not simply “rich” people who are fleeing Canada for timely treatment. The people doing this are simply the desperate. Imagine this, you are diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition. You are scheduled for surgery in 18 months. Chances are however that you may suffer from a fatal heart episode within that period of waiting. You have a choice; roll the dice with your life and wait. or you can remortgage your home, fly overseas and get the procedure done within weeks. The home equity and RRSPs really don’t mean much when your life is on the line. This is happening all the time in Canada people.

 Is every concept that I pointed out in my extended rant completely correct? Perhaps not. Until we have a real discussion of healthcare options we will not be able to find out. Canada’s system is unsustainable and a crash is inevitable. The earlier we can set the sacred-cows aside and begin to look at what really may or may not work, the better we will be when the transition that must come occurs.

 The first step in improving Canada’s healthcare is for people to admit that the system is not perfect. We still are a long way from people generally accepting that unfortunately.

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Good to see some feds taking interest.

Now while I am generally a regionalist and am more often than not being in favor of the provinces making their own decisions, I do recognize that as long as we insist on the feds holding the purse-strings in our socialized medical system, they have the right to call some of the shots.

 Conservative MP, Pierre Poilievre says that Ottawa should cut the expenditures on sex-change operations from federal health transfers to the provinces.

 The reality of socialized medicine is that we have a finite pool of spending and that spending has to be prioritized. In a perfect world we would have a bottomless pool of cash to throw at every Prince Charming who wants to become a princess. Sadly, the world is not perfect and we have much better things to do with our increasingly dwindling healthcare dollars than to fund sex-changes.

 If a person feels that bigger breasts, a better nose or a lack of a pecker will benefit their mental well-being, hey power to ya. Spend your own money on it.

 If a person is mentally confused and thinks they are Napolean, shall healthcare pay for surgery to shorten them to help them fit the role? The possibility of surgical intervention to ease the mentally confused is endless, our taxdollars are not.

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