Fed Watch!

BC’s Hike Beats Alberta’s

Another province is starting to address the supply side of the health-care difficulties that Canada is going through. British Columbia has announced (http://os8150.pb.gov.bc.ca/4dcgi/nritem?5027) a program which will almost double the number of doctors that they graduate each year. The government is chipping in the $134 million that it will cost to build facilities to house and train all these doctors. No doubt part of this money will come from BC health care premiums that are taking a significant jump (http://www.healthservices.gov.bc.ca/msp/infoben/premium.html) on May 1 of this year.

In Alberta meanwhile, the health care premiums are going up and the only thing to show for it currently is a lighter pocket book and a broken promise. The provincial government argues that a health care premium isn’t a tax, so Premier Klein’s claim that “The only way taxes are going in this province is down,” is still valid. But you must pay the premiums at the legislated rate, the rate is affected by your income, and it must be paid directly to the government. The only thing that makes it different from a tax is that there’s no chance of a refund.

Personally, I never expected better from Premier Klein since the first election he ran in when he claimed, at least to universities, that education was his number one priority, and then proceeded to slash funding to every post-secondary institution in the province. Perhaps now that we’re out of the “good times” here in Alberta, the rest of the province will start to see what the less fortunate have been getting for most of Mr. Klein’s reign.

Unfortunately, even if they do, I doubt we’ll see a viable alternative to vote for in provincial politics. After all, the liberals are as right wing as the conservatives these days, and to think that the NDP would win in Alberta is a pipe dream.

Mental Health Given Help

Mental Health in BC is also getting a financial boost (http://os8150.pb.gov.bc.ca/4dcgi/nritem?5028) to the tune of 263 million dollars over the next six years. These funds include a major capital infusion to build new mental health areas that are closer to communities. Given the amount of cuts throughout the province in other areas such as education and social services allocating money for mental health seems to be a good idea. This is especially true when you consider the number of people who will be experiencing severe stress as they find the social-welfare rug pulled out from under them.

BC’s Minister of Health Services, Colin Hanson, says that “People stay healthier and live better lives when they are close to their own communities and families,” which is the reasoning behind moving to a community based mental health care system. Someone should inform the government that people also stay healthier and live better lives when they don’t have to deal with the stress of seeing their income suddenly cut or eliminated, or having to somehow find more money to pay for health care premiums.

What is most disturbing is while health care premiums, which affect everybody equally, are going up, taxes, which affect the rich far more than the middle class, are going down.

Ontario Teacher Evaluations

In Ontario it is now legislated (http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/nr/02.03/nr0315.html) that students and parents be provided with the chance to have input in teacher appraisals. Whether parents and students will take advantage of this is another matter entirely. Experience here at Athabasca University suggests that it won’t happen, although there are a lot of differences between Athabasca University and the Ontario School System.

The most obvious difference is that Athabasca University is post-secondary and the Ontario teacher evaluations are for the K-12 grade ranges. Oddly, you would expect this would give Athabasca University a higher response rate because we are more directly responsible for our own education, and if we receive a poor one have every right to let AU know about this.

Of course, there might be some difference in that parents and students will likely be provided forms to send in without having to ask for them, while Athabasca University students have to contact tutor services (tutserv@athabascau.ca) to get an evaluation form – something that many students are completely unaware that they can do, and even if they did, many likely wouldn’t bother doing so unless it was for a severe complaint. Understandably this makes tutors nervous about supplying tutor evaluation forms with every course, though if they did there might be the chance that the good tutors would get recognized.