Winnipeggers want a vote on BRT

- June 24th, 2014

The vast majority of Winnipeggers want the democratic right to vote on Phase 2 of Bus Rapid Transit, according to a Probe Research poll conducted this month.
And if a referendum were held, a majority of Winnipeggers would vote against it, the poll found.
I wonder what the results would have been if politicians like mayor Sam Katz and Coun. Jenny Gerbasi actually told taxpayers the truth about this project — that the P3 Canada Fund money earmarked for it would not be lost if spent on other infrastructure and that the city has no evidence whatsoever that BRT, as proposed, would do anything to increase ridership.
If city council came clean with the public on those facts, the poll numbers in opposition to this hare-brained project would be even higher.
According to the poll, 71% of respondents want a referendum on BRT. In fact, many of those who support the project still believe taxpayers have a democratic right to vote on it.
If a plebiscite were held today, 53% would vote against BRT as it’s currently planned, the poll suggests. It’s interesting that people living in the core area of Winnipeg — who rely on transit the most — were slightly more inclined to vote against the BRT plan than the city overall.
And it’s not just high-income people who drive expensive vehicles and who never take transit who said they were opposed to the city’s BRT plan.
Some 58% of those earning less than $30,000 said they were not in favour of the BRT plan as currently proposed. That compares to 42% of those earning $30,000 to $99,000 and 43% among those earning over $100,000 a year, the poll found.
University students and those living in southwest Winnipeg were more inclined to support the BRT plan.
If this city had an honest debate about BRT, the “No” side would rise even further. Because if the facts about this project were released and honestly debated, more people would come to the logical conclusion that this is one of the biggest capital project guffaws this city has ever seen.
Imagine spending $590 million on a transit project that will do nothing to increase ridership and will do very little, if anything, to increase the travel times of commuters?
It’s incredible council has approved such a plan in the face of that information. But the reality of this project is that it’s proceeding for psychological reasons, not for rational, evidence-based ones. It’s proceeding because it’s political fashion for politicians like Gerbasi who embrace something like BRT, no matter how poorly conceived and designed.
You can read the full poll here

Lame-duck mayor is lying about BRT money

- June 23rd, 2014

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz is lying to the public when he says P3 funding from the federal and provincial governments earmarked for Bus Rapid Transit would be lost if it doesn’t go into BRT.
It’s simply not true.
But this is the argument the lame-duck mayor is trotting out in response to anyone who says the $590 million city council wants to spend on Phase 2 of BRT should go into the city’s crumbling infrastructure instead.
Some of the more level heads in this city are questioning why we’re building a rapid transit corridor with questionable to no benefits when the infrastructure we already have is falling apart. It’s like putting a pool in your backyard when the roof of your home has holes in it and your basement foundation is leaking.
Katz says the $365 million that could be coming from the province and Ottawa for BRT would be unavailable for anything else — including street maintenance — if it’s not spent on BRT.
“Let me make it very clear … the $225 million from the provincial government and hopefully $140 million from federal government are for this project only and no other project whatsoever,” Katz said at a council meeting in late May. “If we don’t use it for this project, you can wave goodbye to that money.”
katz

Actually, Katz is dead wrong. Under the federal P3 Canada Fund, local governments can use the infrastructure funding for a wide range of projects, including local roads, airport upgrades, broadband support, solid waste management and transit, to name a few.
Here is one of the categories P3 Canada Fund money can be spent on:

11. Local Road Infrastructure
i) Additional capacity and rehabilitation of roads within a municipal boundary, and high-occupancy and/or transit vehicle lanes, grade separations, interchange structures, bridges, tunnels, intersections, and roundabouts. Where provinces or territories act as a local government, or where there is a governing entity that is established by a province or territory, such projects are eligible
ii) Infrastructure pursuant to compliance with accessibility, such as wheel chair let down
iii) Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
iv) Active transportation projects, including sidewalks, bicycle lanes, pedestrian/bike/multi-use pathways as a component of a larger project
v) Rehabilitation of bridges and major elevated or depressed structures (except those on the core National Highway System which are eligible under the National Highway System Category)
Note: Rehabilitation projects must meet the definition of ‘rehabilitation’ as agreed upon by the Council of Ministers responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety in 2005.

So Katz is wrong when he says the money would be lost if it wasn’t spent on BRT. He knows that but he’s deliberately not telling the public the truth. After 10 years in office, it’s become abundantly clear that openness and transparency has not been one of Katz’s strengths. It’s one of the reasons he has plummeted in the polls and has become unelectable, which is why he’s not running again.
The bottom line is P3 funding can be used for a wide variety of infrastructure projects and Ottawa has left it up to local governments to decide how best to spend their share. If Winnipeg and the province want to spend their share on fixing the city’s crumbling infrastructure, they can.

Oswald accuses Pallister of being anti-women

- June 11th, 2014

Jobs and Economy Minister Theresa Oswald accused Tory leader Brian Pallister this week of making disparaging comments about women behind their backs, and suggesting he doesn’t care about the rights of gays and lesbians.
It occurred Monday afternoon during an Opposition Day motion on a proposed tax-hike commission which the Selinger government opposed.
Oswald, while speaking to the motion, began attacking Pallister personally, saying he pretends to care about women but then cuts them down in the “backrooms.”
“It’s the same thing as when he stands in the House and purports to care about women but in the backrooms he makes snide and demeaning comments about them,” said Oswald of the Pallister, a father of two girls. “And, in fact, he expresses his opinion that he does not support a woman’s right to choose — that is not leadership, that is pretending.”
Wow. Where did all this come from?
oswald 2
NDP Minister Theresa Oswald says Brian Pallister makes “snide comments” about women behind their backs.
Oswald went on to suggest Pallister is opposed to the rights of gay and lesbian kids because he didn’t vote in favour of NDP legislation that forces schools to support groups that want to form gay-straight alliance clubs.
“It is exactly the same, I would purport, as coming into the House wearing a jaunty pink tie and then one minute later making the decision to vote against the rights of gay and lesbian kids,” Oswald said of Pallister. “This is not leadership; this is pretending.”
Oswald went on a further rant, even though she was supposed to be speaking to the tax-hike commission motion.
“You cannot, as a leader or, in fact, as an elected official, in my humble view, pretend when you’re out in public that you care about people, to say things like, it’s okay–it’s okay that I voted against the rights of gay and lesbian kids, “ said Oswald. “It’s okay because I phoned Evan Wiens, so it’s fine, everything’s okay — I wore a pink tie today and I phoned Evan Wiens, so don’t worry, everything is just jim-dandy.
Evans Wiens was the 17-year old Steinbach student who told the story last year of how he was bullied in school for being gay.
So, is this the Selinger government’s new political strategy? To accuse the leader of the Opposition of being anti-women and anti-gay? I suppose they believe if they say it often enough — like firing 1,000 nurses or 700 teachers — they hope people will eventually believe it.
This one is pretty low, though. I thought a little more of Theresa than that.

WRHA bureaucratic costs

- April 21st, 2014

Here are the breakdowns of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s bureaucratic costs for 2008-09 and 2012-13. The Corporate Costs are broken down in these first two documents. Breakdowns of Human Resources and Recruitment as well as Patient Related administration costs are below in a separate document.
All documents were obtained from the WRHA.

March 31, 2009 Admin Cost

March 31, 2013 Admin Cost

HR and Patient Summary

Selby should read this letter

- March 28th, 2014

In response to my Friday column on Health Minister Erin Selby’s comment’s about the tragic deaths of 12 infants in the pediatric cardiology surgical program at HSC in the 1990s, Donald Epp offers some great insight into the issue.
Here’s his letter:

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Good Morning,

It was with great shock and dismay that I read your article this morning regarding the uneducated comments from the Minister of Health and her reference to the Manitoba Pediatric Cardiology Inquest. It is quite clear that Minister needs a history lesson and to gain an understanding of what has occurred in health care since the 90’s when this inquest took place.

I want to make a clarification to your article. You refer to the “pediatric surgical deaths” which is not completely accurate. This was part of the pediatric “cardiology” surgical program which, as a result of the deaths and Judge Sinclair’s report, the cardiac surgery program was terminated in Winnipeg. It would seem that this is a dark stain on the history of the pediatric cardiac program but in reality it was a “wake up” call which spurred several individuals into action and resulted in a pediatric cardiology program here in Winnipeg that is a model of Family Centred Care and a god-send to families unfortunate enough to deal with life threatening cardiac issues in their children. The Variety Children’s Heart Centre is a very unique group of physicians, nurses, and allied health.

My family is one of those families unfortunate enough to have cardiac issues. My son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at the age of three weeks and we have been a frequent visitor to Variety and Children’s Hospital ever since. Our experience there has been like no other experience we have had in health care where we as parents are treated as equal partners in our son’s health care. One of the most positive results of the pediatric cardiology inquest was the participation of Winnipeg Children’s Hospital in the Western Canadian Children’s Heart Network which has allowed Manitoba children the opportunity to be treated by the very best Doctors available in Western Canada. We are given choices. Our son has had surgery in Edmonton at the Stollery Children’s Hospital but if we chose we have been given the option to send him to SickKids in Toronto or even the Mayo Clinic. Because surgical services are not offered in Manitoba we are sent to the best Doctors out there. In the words of our Cardiologist it is simply a matter of a plane ticket, and if you have to go out of province why would you not go to a specialist who has the best reputation and the highest success rate. Imagine the concept of having choice in “our” medical system. The other huge improvement that has been made in the pediatric cardiology program is that we now have 4 pediatric cardiologists in this province. In the summer of 2008, there was only one cardiologist for all of the children of Manitoba. I cannot even imagine what that was like. Since that time 3 other cardiologists have joined our program and, not to be overly biased, I would say the program is thriving. Since 2009, the pediatric heart catheterization program has restarted, which was discontinued as a result of the inquest. There is also construction currently underway to build a new operating theater for heart caths and also a facility to do pediatric cardiac MRI. These are huge advancements for the program. Imagine a “good news” story in Manitoba Health Care. I would say the provincial government could take credit for this success but in my opinion these successes have been achieved in spite of government interference. Pediatric Cardiology in Manitoba is still talked about in “hushed” tones in government circles;recalling the issues of the mid 90’s. I wish some of the politicians and bureaucrats could take a critical look at was has been going on with pediatric cardiology. They are now a model which could be emulated by so many other programs. They actively engage families in the care of their children, they demonstrate a very open and caring environment, and most importantly are effective advocates for our children. They seek out the very best care for our kids whether that be in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, or Rochester.

What frustrates me beyond belief is how a politician, a cabinet minister no less, can use a judicial inquest and the death of children to score political points. She has no idea what caring individuals can accomplish if given an opportunity. It is time that we start thinking very differently about how we deliver health care in this province and in this country. Perhaps, looking at the success of what a small clinic that is housed in the Community Services Building on William Ave can accomplish. I could introduce you to several of those successes; starting with my son.

Personally, I would like to thank Justice Sinclair and the many participants in the Pediatric Cardiology Inquest. I would especially like to thank and express condolences to families who lost their children in the early 90’s. It is this inquest that sparked a handful of people to carry on caring for pediatric cardiology patients under adverse conditions. These people laid the groundwork for a resurgent program that I am so proud to be a part of to this day. What do you say to the people who saved your son’s life? The Minister of Health needs to become part of the solution and not continuing to be part of the problem by dredging up ancient history which she does not understand.

Donald Lepp

Member Board of Trustees – Seven Oaks General Hospital
Council Member – Family Centre Care Council – Stollery Children’s Hospital
Parent Representative – Child Health Quality Council