Friday, May 6, 2016

When A Government Overstays Its Welcome

I am convinced that all institutions have a 'best-before date,' after which it is time for massive renewal. Comfort with the status quo, a sense of entitlement, a growing separateness from those they serve are all compelling reasons for 'creative destruction.' We have seen that process of renewal take place recently with the election of Pope Francis to head the Catholic Church, a hoary old institution much in need of a shakeup from its massive corruption and complacency. Unfortunately, such dramatic renewals are the exception rather than the rule.

In the political arena, we saw it federally with the election of the Trudeau government, tantamount to a massive rejection of the old fogyism and abuse of power that had become rampant in the Harper regime after almost 10 years. Whether true renewal is actually taking place under the new administration is something that only time will determine.

Then there is the sad case of politics in Ontario. After almost 13 years in power, power that should have ended in the last election but didn't thanks to a new leader, Kathleen Wynne, the Liberal government is showing all the signs of one that is tired, directionless, corrupt and increasingly out of touch with the citizens it 'serves.' To be honest, I reluctantly voted for that party's re-election, but only because there was no viable alternative. NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who had held the balance of power, sacrificed that influence by forcing the election in a bold and venal gambit for power. Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative leader at the time, was never a viable option for anyone except those who fancy village idiots leading their province.

And so we are left with the current situation: a government that apparently wanted power for its own sake, has made a fetish of eliminating the deficit by 2017-18, (hence the horrifying sell-off of 60% of Hydro One), and appears to be engineering policy on the fly. It is an administration that has become highly reactive in nature.

Examples abound, and almost all of them result from Toronto Star investigations. Take the issue of fundraising. Thanks to investigative work by Martin Regg Cohn, Ontario is soon unveil new rules that will surely minimize the corrupt practices of the past.
While there is still some way to go, the sweeping measures would represent a dramatic departure from past decades of what amounted to limitless contribution limits by companies and unions in Ontario. The main thrust, announced in late March by Premier Kathleen Wynne after Liberal fundraising practices were detailed in the Star — notably secret targets for cabinet ministers — would be a complete ban on corporate and union money starting next year.

Healthcare in this province is deteriorating. I was talking to a neighbour the other day who told me that he is being treated for lymphoma, but confirmation of his disease was not an easy task. He needed what is known as an ultrasound directed biopsy, but because hospitals are only funded for two per day, they could not even give him an approximate date for the procedure. Fortunately for him, however, he knew a nurse who arranged for a technician to do it for free on his lunch hour. Without that advantage, he might still be waiting.

Again, thanks to another Star investigation, those facing an even more dire situation, leukemia patients awaiting a stem-cell transplant, will get some relief from the risk of long waits due to funding problems, waits that often result in the end of their remissions, making the transplant far less likely to proceed. Indeed, up until now, the Ontario government refused to authorize transplants for those whose remissions had ended.

Thanks to the reactive nature of this government, in response to that investigation the province's Health Minister, Eric Hoskins,
introduced a critical policy change on Sunday that will make an entire group of cancer patients — those who have relapsed after chemotherapy — eligible for life-saving stem cell transplants.

It’s one of several measures Hoskins announced in a statement following an ongoing Star investigation into the systemic collapse of stem cell transplant programs in Ontario hospitals.
The minister, among other things, has committed to:

- Expanding access for stem cell therapy treatment, in Ontario and out of country, where clinically recommended, to leukemia patients who are not in complete remission after chemotherapy.

- Opening a second stem cell transplant centre in Greater Toronto at Sunnybrook hospital to take pressure off of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, which closed its doors to new transplant patients in March. Princess Margaret’s medical director told the Star it would be “irresponsible” for the hospital to add patients to its eight-month waiting list when they know these patients must receive a transplant within two to three months of diagnosis for the best chance of success.

- Streamlining the convoluted referral process for patients sent out of country, a process that takes weeks as Cancer Care Ontario stipulated that a special review committee must vet all cases before funding is approved.

- Creating a ministerial task force to provide the government with “immediate and ongoing advice.” (A ministry spokesman could not say which experts have been assigned to the committee.)
The Star, as it is fond of saying, "gets action," but is this the best way to formulate policy, as a response to public embarrassment and odium?

I could cite a wealth of other examples, but since I am not a believer in long blog posts, I'll end here as I began: reactive policy-making and visionless government are the hallmarks of a tired administration, underscoring once more that famous observation attributed to Winston Churchill:

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”


  1. Our little hospital here used to be pretty good, Lorne. Now only a few beds are left. Everything has been sucked to the larger hospital at the centre. The deficit grows and services shrink.

    The irony is that out little hospital used to run in the black.

    1. That is sad news, Owen. In Southern Ontario there have similar disruptions in smaller Niagara-area communities. Unfortunately, the typical response from our government is that these changes are being made to serve everyone better. Clearly, there are some students of Orwellian disposition in the current administration.

  2. Yeah, but, can you survive a reincarnation of Mike Harris? By the way, what do you think you could give us for Christy Clark? She could be yours, "if the Price is Right."

    1. Invoking the spectre of Mike Harris is especially cruel. The psychic trauma of his foul rule haunts us still. Shame on you, Mound. Shame.

  3. Andres has lost her (slim ;) chance. Brown is too scary to contemplate. What to do? Wait on more Star investigations? Or... "This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it." Ralph Waldo Emerson