Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Doctors And Paralegals

Ontario is set to change laws regarding the medical and paralegal positions, and I support both those changes.

In the first instance, in an attempt to make it easier for 'foreign' doctors to practice in Canada, Ontario is allowing 'foreign' doctors to apply for residency or on-the-job training spots previously reserved for Canadian graduates.

Note my quotes around the word 'foreign' in the paragraph above. The Star's article [link] has the words foreign. A deeper reading would tell you these are immigrants to Canada, who are not foreign but our own - only they have been trained abroad. They have been allowed to immigrate to Canada because they were doctors - educated and will presumably not be a drain on our welfare. They why do we not allow them to practice? Is it not better for us to have doctors practicing medicine (particularly when there is a shortage in rural areas) rather than drive taxis or deliver pizzas? If we bring them here and then forbid them from working, we are lying when we bring them here.

Why should Canadian educated medical grads object? They have no valid reason to do so. The first round of applications is still reserved for them. No, they object because in my opinion doctors here are an elite bunch and they want to keep it that way.

The next group is paralegals. Across Canada, paralegals provide a variety of services for a fraction of the price lawyers charge, but they do it with no training standards, no regulations and no professional body to license or discipline them. Again, Ontario is set to pass Bill 14 that would regulate paralegals for the first time in Canada [Star link].

According to the article, most paralegals are not opposed to the idea of regulation. However, some think the bill is flawed. I just hope they are not given the power to regulate themselves. That will just make them exactly like the doctors. I want the government to regulate all these professions - doctors, lawyers, paralegals. Then the government can impose penalties, sets of standards and permit others to join the profession if they are capable.


Bring Back The Draft And Pray

With the US being overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to forget its other commitments in South Korea, Europe and Asia, one would think the 'bring back the draft' movement would be stronger in US than Canada. However, this week, a columnist in one of Canada's leading newspapers, The Toronto Sun, called for mandatory service in the army for high school graduates. When a reader wrote in a Letter to the Editor to complain, the response was 'Several democracies have mandatory service for youth'.

Yes, I remember reading in the Toronto Star a long time ago that some Liberals were worrying about a conservative shift in Canada. They had pointed to the conservative think-tanks being setup, the various conservative personalities installed in the media, and so on. A parallel was pointed at the conservative movement in the States - when Clinton took over first time, the momentum was with the left. Even after the sex scandal, the right was enraged by voter apathy to the President's antics.

Today, Canada is engaged in a similar battle. In another article on the Toronto Sun, a columnist says the way to solve crimes is prayer. A typical right response. While I have nothing against prayer (and in fact do it five times a day), the government's job is to solve crimes - by crime fighting methods - not by prayer. To solve the problem of crime, they would have to commit sources to prevent crime in the first place (social programs) as well as beef up the punishment. Not just pray. Similarly, when Rachel calls for the draft, she wants it because 'kids nowadays are lazy and fat'. Yes, don't deal with why kids are fat, just put them in the military.

As usual, while the right sounds right, a deeper inspection of the policies will confirm they have no substance.


Monday, April 10, 2006

The Afghanistan Debate

I called for a debate on our Afghanistan mission sometime back. After initially resistant to the idea, the Cons flip-flopped and the debate was held today. I watched the debate and came back with a sense of disappointment. The real issues facing the mission, namely consequences of our actions over there reverberating on Canada, the nature of the mission and the duration of the mission were rarely touched upon.

First, it was a shame and travesty that Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not attend the debate. He can find time to go for a photo-op to Afghanistan, but when it comes time to articulate our reasons for being there he is missing in action. If he is so passionately committed to our troops why is he not present in the first debate as PM to state that?

As expected, the Cons copied the Republican speechbook with phrases such as 'staying the course', 'supporting the troops', 'freedom and liberty to Afghans' while the Liberals just echoed ditto. It was actually the NDP and surprisingly the BQ that asked the tough questions, but got no answers.

I had a bit of a chuckle when Ignatieff spoke about his concerns over Canadian troops handing over detainees to the Americans and the fear of their torture. Asides that, these were specific questions to which I was looking for answers, but did not get them from this debate:

  1. What are the specific (military) goals of this mission?
  2. What happens if the Taliban decide to hit Canada in retaliation? Are there any plans to protect mainland Canada from their terro rism?
  3. What happens on February 2007 when the mission ends? Will there be a debate on any extension? Will there be a debate on the nature of a new mission?
  4. How are we protecting and enabling our soldiers currently over there to do their duties?

Unfortunately the whole debate was a show of optics from all concerned. The ones who asked the important questions, in my view, were the NDP, Michael Ignatieff, Ujjal Dosanjh and a couple of other Liberals. The Cons, the governing party, contributed nothing beyond rhetoric to this debate.

Tags: Canada Afghanistan

Friday, April 07, 2006

Stronach Makes A Smart Decision

Consider the tale of Italian-born Ms Sonia Gandhi. In 2004, she stunned India and the world when she led her Congress party to election victory in a huge upset, when polls had consistently predicted another landslide victory for the ruling BJP. She then had every right to become the Prime Minister of India. This would be the first time since independence that a foreign born, naturalized citizen of India was eligible to be the PM. However, she declined the position and chose her friend Dr. Manmohan Singh to lead the party. Yet, all Congress party workers know where the real star, the real power lies. This is why when Mr Bush visits India, he also pays a visit to Sonia Gandhi's residence.

Yesterday Belinda Stronach, a star of the Liberal party, announced she would not be joining the race to lead her new party. She probably took what will be in hindsight another smart decision. Her weak French, weak links with her new party, old alliances and the stringent rules of the race would probably have condemned her to lose. Yet, by now resigning from the spotlight yet not fading into the background, she is in a position to weld considerable influence on the party. It would be hard for the next leader to not include her in a shadow cabinet, or in the government front benches once we are back in power.

For a start, Stronach stated that the old way of electing leaders by delegates would have to go. She is right.
"... contribute to that goal more effectively by working with the party's rank-and-file to take kingmaking out of the backrooms and put it squarely in the hands of the party membership ..."

She also mentioned she would like to make it easier for the public to acquire memberships. Right now the rules for membership into the party vary across the country. This is not right for a federal party.

Stronach had already had a huge impact in her short time in politics. She got the right to unite - a huge incentive for the Liberals to clean up their act. They could have grown complacent had there been no strong opposition. She got the Conservatives to lurch to the left - another huge factor in making sure Canada stays progressive. She put women's issues and Canada's complex make-up at the forefront of political debate when she left the Tories. She forced us to acknowledge sexism exists in politics, when the media decided to concentrate more on her dress than her words.

Stronach is a smart person. I have always admired her bravado in identifying a specific problem and stating about dealing with it right away. We also need more women like her in politics. She would probably be a good leader of the Liberal party. Just not now.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Power of Blogs In Kennedy Buzz

Today Ontario's Minister of Education Gerard Kennedy faces an ultimatum - continue in the Ontario cabinet or step down and announce his bid for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party. Whatever decision he takes, one fact is clear. Kennedy was not one of the frontrunners for the position when it became available. Liberal blogs, including some of the big ones, was one of the first of many in the blogosphere to contribute to the buzz around him. No major newspaper did a profile of him before the blogosphere buzz became too huge to ignore. Are we seeing the true power of blogs in shaping public opinion in Canada being realized at last?