By Ken MacQueen - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
Ken MacQueen on the state of Canadian health care
On March 28, Maclean’s hosts “Health Care in Canada: What Makes Us Sick?,” a town-hall discussion at the Mack Theatre, Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown. The free event—focusing on the social conditions that influence the health and longevity of Canadians—is held in conjunction with the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). It will be broadcast by CPAC. The conversation on the health impact of disparities in income, education, housing and employment continues in April in the magazine, at a town hall in Calgary, and online at healthcaretransformation.ca.
As Canadians, we love our health care system to death. But in fact health care systems around the world—be they publicly or privately funded and all the variations in between—are but one part of the complex web of social supports and personal and governmental decisions that determine our life course. Health care may be a misnomer, and we have an effective—if expensive—“illness care system” to mend us when we break, as many participants noted during the town hall meetings staged this winter by Maclean’s and the CMA in Winnipeg and Hamilton. But set Canada against its peers—the world’s wealthiest democracies—and we are at best a middling performer when it comes to health outcomes. Many blame a waning concern for creating the living and working conditions that maintain healthy lives.
The Conference Board of Canada, an independent body researching economic and social policy issues, publishes one of the most comprehensive comparisons of international health outcomes. Its most recent survey, “How Canada performs,” puts Canada a mediocre 10th place among 17 industrialized nations. It is well behind the leading nations on such key indicators as infant mortality and deaths due to cancer, diabetes and such musculoskeletal diseases as arthritis, osteoporosis and muscular dystrophy—though Canada’s relative rate of health spending exceeds the top six countries that outperform it: Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Finland and Sweden. It’s true that Canadians are living longer and with better outcomes for many diseases, but other wealthy countries are improving at faster rates, said Dr. Gabriela Prada, director of health innovation, policy and evaluation for the conference board.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 7:11 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A new report says Canada’s social fabric is being torn by rising…
OTTAWA – A new report says Canada’s social fabric is being torn by rising income inequality and stagnant child poverty rates.
The Conference Board of Canada report compares Canada with other developed countries on 16 “society indicators” including unemployment, voter turnout, life satisfaction and economic and cultural yardsticks.
The annual social report card says that while Canada gets good grades in areas such as serious crime and tolerance of diversity, its overall “B” ranking placing it 7th out of 17 countries, is largely due to high poverty rates for children and working-age adults.
It also says the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer people, and the fact that women are often paid less than men for the same work, are additional factors in Canada’s less than stellar social performance.
Author Brenda Lafleur says economic growth is put at risk with roughly one in six children living in poverty, and one in 10 adults also falling below the poverty line.
She says the growing child poverty rate — up nearly 20 per cent since the mid-1990s — could put Canada’s economy at risk, since youth who don’t benefit from the economy are less likely to upgrade their skills through more school.
Lafleur also pointed to signs that income mobility — which netted Canada an “A” grade — is becoming more and more “sticky,” meaning children are less likely to out-earn their parents.
But she said poverty rates and the economic and “moral problem” of income inequality are not insolvable problems. She said they can be fixed through public and political will, just as elderly poverty rates plummeted to the current five per cent from 30 per cent three decades ago after it became a national scandal.
“If we want to address a problem like child poverty or working-age poverty, we know we can do it — we just have to work together and actually decide that it is a problem,” Lafleur said.
Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland and Austria took the top six spots — all earning “A” ratings in the Conference Board report.
“(Canada’s) position below the Nordic countries is not surprising; the Nordic countries have long outperformed Canada,” the report stated.
“But our country now also ranks below the Netherlands and Austria,” the report said. “Our middle-of-the-pack ranking means we are not living up to our potential.”
The United States placed last behind Japan, with both countries earning a “D” rating.
The Conference Board said Canada is a top performer in acceptance of diversity and above average in areas such as life satisfaction, income mobility, disabled income and suicides.
Canada needs improvement in the areas where it is “significantly below average” such as child poverty, working-age poverty, income inequality, the gender income gap, and voter turnout, the report said.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 2:31 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A new report finds that a soaring number of jet-setting Canadians are border-hopping to catch cheaper flights.
The Conference Board of Canada report, issued Wednesday, said that about five million Canadians now cross the U.S. border by land every year to fly out of American airports.
Higher airfares and fees and taxes in Canada, as well as differences in wages, aircraft prices and industry productivity makes it 30 per cent cheaper to fly out of the U.S.
The Conference Board says fees and taxes make up about 40 per cent of the cost of an airplane ticket in Canada.
The report suggests that while other factors are beyond government control, small reductions in the airfare differential could lead to traffic gains for Canadian airports and carriers.
It estimates that changes to Canadian policies alone could bring more than two million passengers a year back to Canadian airports.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters Wednesday that Ottawa is “concerned” about the issue and that federal Transport Minister Denis Lebell “has been working on a consultation project with the airlines, with the airport authorities in Canada to try to see what we can accomplish.”
The Conference Board analysis focused on Vancouver International Airport, Pearson International Airport in Toronto, and Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, along with their cross-border competitors.
By Sunny Freeman, The Canadian Press - Friday, August 31, 2012 at 10:23 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – A new condo report suggests first-time buyers, retirees and population growth will continue to fuel demand and price growth for the compact living spaces over the next few years.
The study by Genworth Canada found that average condo resale prices are expected to rise next year in seven of the eight metropolitan centres studied.
Prices in Toronto are projected to jump 2.5 per cent to $312,352.
The highest increase however, is expected to be in Edmonton where prices could rise 3.2 per cent.
Vancouver is the only city where condo prices are expected to drop, by two per cent to $348,152.
The report stands in contrast to warnings from economists and officials that the condo market in some hot markets is reaching bubble territory that could soon burst.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 12:39 PM - 0 Comments
Workplace mental health is as important as physical safety, say experts
Monday morning—time for another work week. But it’s raining. You feel numb, sluggish and burnt out. The days roll by without lustre, and, at the worst of times, you feel alienated and powerless in your job.
Sound familiar? Don’t be surprised. These are common feelings associated with work-related mental health issues, symptoms of a problem that is much more widespread in Canada than you may think. A survey of employees and managers published last summer by the Conference Board of Canada found that 44 per cent of respondents had personally experienced a mental health illness, whether it be anxiety, depression or work-related stress. In 2007, Ipsos Reid released a study showing that 26 per cent of Canadian workers suffer from depression.
It’s a problem that, until recently, hasn’t received adequate attention, says Ian Arnold, professor of occupational medicine at McGill University and an expert on psychological health in the workplace. ”Very few workplaces in Canada have systems in place to deal with mental health,” he says.
That’s something many hope to change. Michael Kirby, a former senator and past chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, helped launch a campaign this month called Not Myself Today. The campaign’s website calls on Canadians to share stories of how mental illnesses have affected them or their loved ones, and invites them to sign a pledge to push for improvements in mental health. More than 13,000 people have signed on so far, and the organization behind the campaign, Partners for Mental Health, has raised $5 million in the past six months, mostly from private sector donations, says Kirby. His ultimate goal is to mimic the success of campaigns to fight breast cancer by creating a grassroots initiative to combat mental illness.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 12:45 PM - 12 Comments
Like all other industrial economies, Canada foolishly mirrored American tax policy and has paid many of the same prices. The Conference Board of Canada recently reported that the gap between low and high-income earners is every bit as striking in Canada as in the United States. In our modest Canadian way, we too run structural deficits to pay for annual tax giveaways to those among us who need help the least.
Mr. Reagan’s tax policies belong in his museum. If these times call for belt-tightening – a highly debatable proposition, to say the least – then let’s start among those with the largest belts. A good place would be with a new top-tier income tax bracket, and a careful look at loopholes and giveaways that embarrass even American billionaires – some of whom are now leading the growing chorus for change.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
A premium industry on the rise
Insurance is big business in Nova Scotia. According to a recent Conference Board of Canada study, the industry directly contributed about $470 million in GDP to the provincial economy in 2008, and is expected to grow by 25 per cent in the next three years. With around 4,500 people (up 20 per cent since 2005) currently working for one of more than 360 insurance businesses, Halifax has the second-highest concentration per capita of insurance employees of any Canadian city (only Regina has more). And the jobs pay well, too. The average insurance industry worker in Nova Scotia earns $51,000, which is 38 per cent higher than the provincial average. “It doesn’t make a lot of noise but it’s been one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy for a long time,” says Fred Morley, chief economist with the Greater Halifax Partnership, an organization dedicated to attracting new companies to the city.
An insurance hub since the early 1800s, Halifax has the infrastructure needed to encourage and maintain growth. Being centrally located between Toronto, London and New York, Halifax provides workers the opportunity to live in a low-cost region and be just a short flight from major business capitals. That’s helped entice large international companies—including Admiral Insurance, a British firm—to set up shop. Richard Nason, an associate professor of finance at Dalhousie University, says insurance is one of the few industries that hires students straight out of school, making Halifax—with its six universities—a hotbed for new talent. A real benefit for an industry that, as noted in the Conference Board’s report, is faced with an aging workforce.
And, says Nason, the city is a great place for young workers to settle down, offering a small-town setting with big-city benefits. “You get to have your cake and eat it too,” he says.
By Rachel Mendleson - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 11:22 AM - 1 Comment
In Canada, written media struggles without much help, while other countries find creative ways to boost industry
To say it has been a difficult year for written media is an understatement. For publications already teetering perilously close to the edge, the global economic recession was the nudge that sent them tumbling off the cliff. In the U.S., as newspapers and magazines from Seattle to Philadelphia cut corners and closed up shop, some 90,000 print jobs were lost. Meanwhile, in Canada, the future is not looking much brighter. According to a new report released by the Cultural Human Resources Council, the recession has not been kind to creative industries, but print media, it seems, has been hit the hardest. Thanks to a sharp decline in business advertising, written media is expected to see a 6.1 per cent drop in real revenues by the end of 2009. At the same time, it is the creative sector that benefits from the least amount of public funding—which raises the question: should government be doing more to save print?
Currently, Ottawa’s investment in written media is minimal. According to the Conference Board of Canada, which put together the report, “The Effect of the Global Economic Recession on Canada’s Creative Economy in 2009,” in 2006-07 the “literary arts” received a mere 3.6 per cent of the total $3.71 billion the federal government contributed to culture. While the broadness of the category—literary arts includes everything from books to newspapers—makes it difficult to determine precisely what each sub-category receives, according to Magazines Canada CEO Mark Jamison, government is responsible for a fraction of industry revenues. Of the more than $2.2 billion in total operating revenues Canadian periodicals earned in 2007, Jamison says only $80 million came from government in the form of postal subsidies and grants. Aside from small community papers, which also get a postal subsidy, newspapers are entirely free of government intervention.
Historically, the impetus for any government money that written media receives has had more to do with the promotion of Canadian content than propping up industry. Says Jamison, “A lot of our support for content creation in Canada is a way to try and balance the overwhelming impact of American culture in Canada.” (The same is true for broadcast media: while independent producers of Canadian TV shows and films receives hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and tax credits annually, aside from the CBC, which gets $1.1 billion in taxpayer funds per year, according to Tara Rajan, vice-president of research and policy at the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, broadcasters don’t get any direct government support.)
Despite the challenges facing print, Jamison says more government funding is not the desired path to financial security. Since pre-confederation, periodicals have operated “quite independently,” he says. “We’re not as quick to pick up the phone and find out where the government money is.” John Hinds, executive director of the Canadian Newspaper Association, echoes the desire to retain a sense of autonomy. “We pride ourselves on being a free press,” he says. ‘If you start to go too much to government, that does come with strings.”
But as the recession continues to hammer print media outlets the world over, other countries are finding creative ways to negotiate this very quandary. In India, for instance, government introduced a short-term stimulus package in February involving, among other things, a rate hike for government advertisements. (The package was extended another six months in July.) In France, meanwhile, the government is spending some US$22.5 million over three years to offer 18-to 24-year-olds a free newspaper subscription of their choice in a bid to increase abysmal youth readership levels. And in Germany, the new governing coalition is promising to shore up online journalism with more stringent copyright legislation.
It’s still too early to tell the extent to which any of these tactics can help to keep print media afloat. But in Hinds’s view, the most important contribution government can make is to keep from making policy decisions that contribute to the sinking of the industry. “We want to make sure that government isn’t doing things that will make life difficult for newspapers,” he says, applauding the Ontario government’s recent decision not to impose an additional tax hike on newspaper subscriptions with the introduction of the HST. As Jamison sees it, the government’s role “is about ensuring that Canadian voices can be heard and acquired through a variety of means,” he says. “It isn’t just about saving print.”
By Steve Maich - Friday, September 25, 2009 at 8:30 AM - 1 Comment
A weekly scorecard on the state of the economy in North America and beyond
My colleague Paul Wells is fond of saying that when everyone in Ottawa knows something about federal politics, it invariably ends up to be false. While there’s no doubt this is true, it’s an affliction that is not unique to our nation’s capital. It applies just as much to the economy.
Right now, the accepted truth on our immediate economic future goes like this: “Oh sure, the worst might be over, but this is probably just a sucker’s rally. And even if we can avoid another nasty relapse on the markets, the recovery is going to be long, gruelling, and almost as bleak as the downturn itself.” No doubt, there is a strong rationale to back up this hardening consensus. After all, job losses continue in both Canada and the U.S., and while consumer confidence is rising, it’s still fragile. We are still bracing for the worst. Continue…
By The Editors - Friday, August 21, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Plus a week in the life of Y.E. Yang
Face of the week
Suaad Hagi Mohamud is reunited with her son in Toronto after spending three months in Kenya due to an identity dispute
A week in the life of Y.E. Yang
The 37-year-old South Korean arrived at the PGA Championship in Chaska, Minn., ranked 110th in the world. On Friday, he scored a two under par 70, leaving him six strokes behind the leader and odds-on favourite, Tiger Woods. But a 67 on Saturday drew Yang within striking distance of Woods, and on Sunday, he clinched victory on the 18th with a brilliant shot over a tree. After the win, Yang received a congratulatory phone call from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Continue…