In a not surprising or atypical—yet completely ridiculous—move for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, Calgary Tory campaigners were recently made to take down ‘24 hour surveillance’ stickers that were purposely posted to Stephen Harper campaign signs (by a member of the local campaign) in Harper’s Calgary riding. Wow, are they serious? How very Stephen Harper and how very Bill C-51 of them! Why not just put up ‘1984’ stickers or stickers with the far-more catchy warning: ‘Big Brother’s Watching You!’ While the national Conservative campaign team claims ignorance of the surveillance stickers (and were the ones who told local campaigners to take them down) and claim that the stickers have only appeared on signs at one particular home, CBC reports that stickers have popped up in other locations. Local campaigners allege that the stickers were put on to deter vandalism to Harper campaign sings, which has been an issue since August. Whatever the reason and regardless of the supposed ignorance of the national Conservative campaign team, nothing could be a more ironic reminder of Harper’s creeping surveillance (errr police) state and more of an in-your-face reason not to vote for Harper and the Conservatives in the upcoming election, than a sticker that warns the public that the Conservatives are indeed watching us! Continue reading
The other day I was speaking with a dear friend who happens to be an American living in the US. He had injured his foot and suspected he may need stitches and a tetanus shot but did not want to go to the hospital cause of the expensive co-pay he would have to pay (over $1000). I couldn’t wrap my head around this for a couple reasons. First he works in the medical industry and makes a six-figure salary. If anyone in the US has good health insurance, surely it is he! Second, and most importantly, as a Canadian I literally cannot wrap my head around the idea of having to pay (twice) for health care.
In Canada we have universal health care, meaning all doctor and hospital visits, all medical tests and treatments (from blood work to vaccines, MRI’s to chemotherapy) are covered by our (provincial) health care plan. Many Americans like to call this free health care, but in reality universal health care is not “free” since all of us pay for it—to varying degrees—through our taxes (income taxes, sales taxes, etc), which are higher than US taxes. While certain provinces, like the one in which I live, have a semi two-tiered system where you may have to pay for a service (like blood work or an ultrasound) if you see the physician at a private practice, there is always the option to have these things done for “free” if you visit the physician at a hospital.
While I am well aware that the US does not have any form of universal health care, I assumed that those in a high-income bracket had full health coverage through their employers. I guess I know much less about the US than I thought. Now, I am not trying to promote the myth of the “Canadian utopia.” I am very critical of Canadian government policies in much of my research and writing elsewhere, especially in matters of foreign policy and geo-politics. And the wait-time for public health care is getting worse and worse. However, following another conversation with an American friend living in Canada, about the fact that few employers offer paid maternity leave beyond limited period and that there is no government subsidized child care anywhere in the US, it has dawned on me how behind US public spending is compared to other industrialized nations.
Almost all western European nations have universal health care and some level of paid maternity leave and subsidized child care. And they have Canada beat when it comes to subsidizing post secondary education! Though thanks to globalization, the EU, and the spread of “American-style” capitalism and economic austerity around the globe (which often entails the privatization of social services like health and education), public spending in all areas is declining in Europe. But even with ever-declining government social services (which are largely paid for through public taxes), the rest of the first world is light-years ahead of the US. Ironically, the “leader of the civilized” world seems rather uncivilized by comparison. Continue reading
AS the world watches the tragedy of the Kurdi family unfold—where two young children, Aylan and Galip, and their mother drowned to death (along with several others) while trying to seek refuge in Europe—there has been public outcry against the Canadian government for refusing Abdullah Kurdi and his family, who fled Syria for Turkey due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, refugee status. While the deaths are no doubt a tragedy, such criticism is shortsighted and misplaced. The real problem is not that the Canadian government refused the family’s application for refugee status (Abdullah Kurdi has a sister in Vancouver that was trying to sponsor the family) but that it (along with Western allies like the US and France) directly or indirectly helped to create the Syrian “civil conflict” and the ensuing refugee crisis in the first place! Continue reading