Against the Grain
Our closest neighbour and supposedly best friend internationally is at it again. The United States’ department of Commerce is once again beginning investigation into Canada’s trade practices (see: http://webapps.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/minpub/Publication.asp?FileSpec=/Min_Pub_Docs/105580.htm&Language=E). This time it is with how we trade wheat from Canada into the U.S.
Never mind that this will be the tenth such investigation into wheat since 1990, or that of those, not one has shown that Canada is violating the Free Trade Agreements. Never mind that this investigation is coming from the country that pays its farmers to grow nothing at all so that their grain price stays stable. Never mind that the most recent report about Canadian wheat pricing comes from the United States’ own international trade commission as recently as February 2002 and “found that Canadian wheat was being sold at prices comparable to U.S. wheat prices in the U.S. market.” Further, it reported, “Canadian durum wheat was found to be priced generally higher than U.S. durum wheat.”
Unfortunately, with all the talk about war against Iraq, such minor things as the bullying of a neighbour country and the complete waste of American taxpayer dollars on a repeat investigation is probably going to fly under the radar.
These repeated suits not only cost the American taxpayers, they also cost Canadian taxpayers, as we have to spend resources defending our trade practices and providing various types of information to the United States government.
Of course, this won’t stop happening until there is some penalty established on trade duties when they are found to be improperly applied. My own preference is for the wronged country to receive all duties paid plus any interest, plus a penalty amount of 10% to 50% depending on how much damage those duties did to the wronged country. Such a penalty might make the American government at least check out all the facts before they start trying to kill our businesses.
The Costs of Health Care
The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science, and Technology recently released a report that took them over two years to produce (see: http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/2/parlbus/commbus/senate/com-e/SOCI-E/press-e/notesoct02-e.htm). The report says that Canadians must contribute an additional five billion dollars per year in order to make our health care system sustainable.
This means that we as Canadians must pay more. Those of us in the lowest tax bracket will have to pay about $180 more per year, while those in the highest tax bracket (making over $103,000 per year) would have to pay an additional $1460 per year.
The Committee goes farther to suggest that if this money is not found, the health care system will soon not be able to deliver health care in a timely fashion, and that the justice system might force the government to allow a private health care system to form in Canada. Unfortunately, when we examine the private health care systems that exist in the world, we find that they are really no better for servicing people in a timely fashion — unless those people are wealthier than the norm.
When you further consider that it is those people who are economically and educationally behind the average Canadian that most often require the health system, it becomes easy to see that a private system is really no cure either.
The worst part is that this is not a problem that will get any cheaper as time goes on unless we start to take dramatic steps in how we approach health care. Steps that the Senate Committee, for the most part, does not seem to consider.
The Senate Committee present the story of a man who’s family is having to spend $55,000 per year on a drug called Folan and the peripherals and other drugs required to properly administer it. The Committee recommends that family expenses for medications be capped at 3% of a family’s yearly income, with the remainder paid for by the government. While this certainly sounds like a great reassurance for those of us on lower incomes, it fails to look at another side of the problem which is the high cost of patent protected drugs, and the phenomenal profits made by private pharmaceutical companies.
Similarly, the report does not look at approaching health care from the point of preventative treatments, which tend to cost many times less than curative. To simply say “Raise taxes and continue business as usual” is no plan for the long term.
You would think that in a report taking over two years to create, someone involved would have had the thought of “what can we do to keep these costs down”, rather than simply “what are the costs we have to pay for.”
Chronic Wasting Disease on the Move
And finally, a scary story for Halloween.
The Saskatchewan government has confirmed a case of Chronic Wasting Disease in a deer near the Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. Previous cases were all found near Lloydminster (see: http://www.gov.sk.ca/newsrel/2002/10/24-828.html). These two locations are about 400km apart, which is about a third of the height of the entire province.
Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is the variant of Mad Cow disease that affects wild deer. The Saskatchewan Provincial Government maintains that CWD poses no known risk to humans or domestic livestock according to current science. Unfortunately, the science of the day also predicted that that the variant found in sheep, known as “scrapie”, would not be able to transfer over to cattle, and later, that it would not be able to transfer from cattle to humans. We have sadly learned that this is not the case for either cattle or humans.
We can only hope that this time, the science is right.
A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.