Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/1/2012 (3367 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Distorting health facts
In Manitoba feeling the squeeze (Jan. 21), you report that federal cost-sharing of health care has fallen from 50 per cent to only 20 per cent.
In fact, in 1977, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements and Established Programs Financing Act transferred tax points to the provinces equal to about 78 per cent of the amount of funds provided by the federal government. This saw the federal government reduce its share of health-care costs by 78 per cent and allowed the provinces to simply increase their taxes by a similar amount. This is called tax transfer, and it gave each province the ability of raising more of its own money, without costing the taxpayer any more money.
It is a complete distortion of these simple facts to say that the federal government reduced its coverage of health-care costs. In fact, the transfer of tax points brought the federal share down to only 16 per cent of total health costs.
In the last 10 years, we have seen federal funding of health rise to 20 per cent of the total. This has allowed the provinces to cut back on their funding of increases, which almost all of them, including Manitoba, did.
We're already starting to see the effects of Stephen Harper's "starve the beast" tactics imported from the U.S. Republican party. Lowering Canada's already low corporate tax rate and reducing the GST has created a budget crisis.
First up on the chopping block? Federal health-care spending. Have-not provinces such as Manitoba, who are not rich in natural resources, could eventually be forced to adopt a private health-care system in the years to come as costs continue to mount, while the federal government refuses to consider alternatives that would save money -- like a national drug plan.
Soon enough, Manitobans and other Canadians could share the same pain as the family of Sarah Burke, and of millions of U.S. citizens, who cannot afford private health insurance. At least we still have money for multibillion-dollar, no-bid contracts on fighter jets and ideologically driven crime bills.
The public option
Re: Review all 'public' servants (Editorials, Jan. 21). The real issue here isn't the size of MP pensions. The real issue is the fact that most people simply are unable to save for their retirement. Over the last 30 years, since the Reagan revolution, we have seen increasing social stratification, accompanied by suppression and reduction in the wages of middle- and working-class families. At the same time, the wealthiest have seen their incomes grow by more than 300 per cent.
Both in Canada and the U.S., overall productivity has significantly increased, and while workers are working longer, they continue to gain nothing. Meanwhile, governments have cut back services and support for the majority of Canadians at the behest of nameless, and identity-neutral groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, are trying to cut the retirement rug out from under all Canadians at the behest of their wealthy Bay Street backers and other anonymous right-wing, pro-corporate elites.
There needs to be a serious discussion of the need for a truly fair and just public pension system. The resources are there. And it is time for the Free Press to acknowledge it is simply enabling the preservation of a one-sided frame to this issue at the expense of the future well-being of all Canadians.
Definitions of power
The Jan. 21 article Bipole may face delay says the Public Utilities Board suggested that a combined-cycle gas turbine "similar to the one in Selkirk" would be a cheaper way to generate power.
There is no combined-cycle gas turbine plant in Manitoba. The Selkirk plant is a conventional steam turbine plant, which was converted to run on natural gas instead of lignite coal. The gas-turbine plant is in Brandon, but it is not a combined cycle.
This means that although the Brandon plant can start and take up a load quickly in emergencies (unlike a steam turbine plant), it is not as efficient as a combined-cycle plant. In a combined-cycle plant, the hot gas from the first-stage turbine is used in a boiler to raise steam. While this greatly improves efficiency (some plants turn 50 per cent or more of the energy in their fuel into electricity), it means that the plant takes longer to start up.
The difference is important; a simple cycle plant like the one at Brandon is suitable for peak loads, but too expensive to run for long periods for the "base load." A combined cycle plant, due to its higher efficiency, will be more suited to base load.
Neither variety has lower carbon dioxide emissions than hydroelectric, wind or nuclear power.
The Public Utilities Board says "it may be cheaper to build a natural gas-fired combined-cycle combustion turbine plant in southern Manitoba."
I am appalled that in this day and age, when everyone is promoting renewable energy and a green environment, that the PUB should endorse a scheme that involves burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. While hydro dams cause some environmental damage, it is restricted to a relatively small area. Burning fossil fuels affects the entire globe.
Ensure proper training
Re: Q: How does geography affect Manitoba math scores? (Jan. 14). Geography does not affect Manitoba math scores as Don Metz states; admission and degree requirements for teacher training programs are the problems.
Instead of asking the minister of education for more money for professional development, we should be asking: "Why are we having to retrain teachers rather than ensuring teachers are trained properly in the first place?"
The courses needed for admittance to university and the required credit hours in mathematics in order to qualify for a degree in education have decreased for the last generation of educators. Currently, to be qualified to teach students up to Grade 9, the requirement is Grade 12 consumer math and three credit hours of math at the university level.
It seems more plausible that education students are not effective in teaching mathematics because a solid understanding of math is not required to get a teaching degree. Instead of awarding teaching degrees to undertrained people, change the program's admission and degree requirements to include a greater math requirement.
IT incentives needed
Re: IBooks, OK... but an iPad? (Jan. 20). I can get a tax break for my kids to play hockey and do art that may never be more than play, while information technology offers real employment opportunity for people.
It's essential that our federal or provincial governments look at ways to provide incentives, whether through tax breaks or other means, so all students can get equal access to computer technology throughout their education.