Vol. 16 No. 2
We sometimes wonder if our advocacy efforts have any effect on the legislation that the Government passes. While we usually are not the only organization urging the Government to a particular action, our combined efforts do sometimes generate results.
For instance, our resolution from last year, “Banning the Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Protect Food” was a topic taken up by several environmental groups and resulted in the Provincial Government recommending an 80% reduction in acreage planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will consult with stakeholders and if the proposal moves forward, new rules will be in place by July 1 – in time for the following year’s planting season.
Another of our resolutions from 2014 was “Legislation to Prevent Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation”. The Ontario Government reintroduced in December its “Protection of Public Participation Act” which had been introduced previously but died when a provincial election was called. SLAPPs are used to silence criticism by threatening activists, publishers and others with large legal bills they cannot afford. As of March 5, 2015 the legislation is undergoing second reading debate. If it passes, the legislation will make Ontario only the second province in Canada, after Quebec, with an anti-SLAPP law.
In 2010 we asked the Government to expand the mandate of the Ontario Ombudsman to include the authority to investigate complaints against all publicly-funded services and institutions. In July 2014 there was first reading of “An Act to amend the Ombudsman Act with respect to investigating specific health care services.” It proposes that the ombudsman be allowed to investigate long-term care homes, community care access corporations, hospitals, ambulance services, boards of health and retirement homes.
Even if we are one of several organizations urging the Government to action, our combined efforts help to convince the Government that the public is concerned about an issue. Let’s keep those resolutions coming!
HOUSING CHOICES FOR SINGLE SENIOR WOMEN
It’s time to downsize from a family home for a variety of reasons – the loss of a partner, changes in financial circumstances, etc. The selection of new living styles includes: purchasing a condo, renting an apartment, moving into a retirement home, sharing accommodation with a friend. One other option is shared housing, which seems to be becoming more available. A large family home is reconfigured into four or five independent units, each with at least a private bedroom, bathroom and sitting area. The kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry are shared common areas. Such an arrangement would be suitable for women who can continue to live independently, but would benefit from companionship and more affordable accommodation.
How common is shared housing in Ontario? Do you think it is a good choice for single senior women? Please let me know and I will report back in a future Newsletter whether this is an idea that should be advanced.
Luba Podolsky, VP Seniors Issues firstname.lastname@example.org
HPV: THE CASE FOR GARDASIL: IS THIS PROGRAM GENDER-BLIND?
The drug Gardasil has been a hot topic in the news of late. The Toronto Star has been chastised for writing a recent article on some young girls who have suffered unfortunate medical problems, indeed in one case death. Their families have questioned the possibility that their daughters’ injection of Gardasil could, in some way, be connected to their daughters’ ill health or death.
In a counter piece, The Hamilton Spectator has also published an article by journalist, Steve Buist, who has thoroughly debunked the Star’s investigative piece on the premise that the Star report has, according to dozens of angry medical experts based its claims on misleading conclusions and a misreading of science. Since 2008, medical experts state that hundreds of thousands of teen girls in Canada have safely taken Gardasil to prevent HPV. In addition, these experts claim that no one has yet established that there is a direct connection between being vaccinated and getting sick.
Subsequently, the public editor of the Toronto Star criticized the Star’s Gardasil story, telling the reader that “what we need to know and understand fully is the fact that there is no scientific medical evidence of any ‘dark side’ of this vaccine.” Apologies have been offered by the Star’s editor who wondered, “…why the Star published this article at all…”
Well, this reader is very glad both the Star and the Spectator have published this Gardasil story. However, I think that one vital piece of the story is missing by both these eminent newspapers. That is, the vaccine works best when given to young people before they become sexually active (which includes sexual intercourse, genital skin-to-skin contact and oral sex.) The goal is to protect young people before they are exposed to the HPV types that the vaccine covers. Yes, you read this correctly. Young people include boys and girls. Women and men need protection from sexual transmitted diseases as well. It has been scientifically evidenced that HPV is responsible for virtually all cervical cancers, and some anal, penile, vaginal and even some head and neck cancers.
HPV occurred within my close circle of friends; one an older woman who was diagnosed with vulva cancer, and one middle-aged man who was diagnosed with cancer of his throat. One was beyond treatment and she died a painful death, the other was surgically spared from that prospect and is doing well. Quite rightly, Canadians should applaud prevention methods of such a terrible disease. There is a huge question, however, that remains unanswered. Why do we have a program only for girls? Why are we not strongly advocating that young boys and young men must also be vaccinated? Are they not at risk for this disease and are they not putting their sexual partners at risk?
In my opinion, the media have been gender-blind on this matter; consequently parents are still not well informed about HPV. Unless this dangerous risk is remedied quickly in this age of Fifty Shades of Grey, both genders and their future partners are in jeopardy. When is the public going to read more about this?
Thelma McGillivray, VP Education
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE NEED FOR UNIVERSAL CHILD-CARE
Hamilton is a city with significant poverty, particularly among children. The Hamilton Spectator published an article by Judith Bishop, a former trustee with the Hamilton Board, titled “Hamilton must do better for its poorest citizens: Uneven distribution of child care spaces, insufficient subsidies imperil children living in poverty”. (The Hamilton Spectator, February 17, 2015). Ms. Bishop quoted the “Business Insider”, that stated:
“Sir Christopher Pissarides, Nobel laureate economist at the London School of Economics said that the most brilliant, simple idea to spur economic growth is subsidized child-care. Both parents can then afford to work, a third worker in the child-care field is added, and all three pay taxes”.
I encourage people to read this article in which Judith Bishop shows the reader that the licensed child care spaces in Hamilton by locality compared to the total child population are not evenly distributed. I noted that it is not especially surprising in that most licensed care is in the affluent areas have spaces for 32% of all children. By comparison, rural and inner city areas are underserved with spaces for only 12.4% of all children, where people with lower incomes reside. The writer asks:
“in light of the needs of Hamilton’s children and the economic benefits that licensed child-care brings, how can Hamilton do better?”
What this article does not cover are the figures for unlicensed child care which is a service that many parents use. This is a recognized legitimate service the Ontario government welcomes in which a new act, Bill 10, the Child Care Modernization Act passed its third reading in December, 2014, in the Ontario legislature. This Act has raised some debate in that it restricts the number of children who can be looked after in unregulated home child care, especially for children under the age of two.
Pertinent to the issue of child care services, I recently had the privilege to attend a town hall meeting in my area addressing this very need. This took place in an out-of-way facility called “Momstown Burlington”. This is a national organization, and one I had not heard of previously. My background research shows that there are numerous Momstown services running across Canada. Their source of funding derives from a reasonable fee that they charge parents: one year at $85.00, six months at $45.00 with a monthly installment of $7.99, which includes a one-year (12 issues) subscription to Today’s Parent.
Momstown.ca appears to be a unique blend of early education programming and mama support, delivered both online (a 24 hour message board) and in person. With a Momstown program pass parents can choose from an extensive range of programs for children 0 to 6. These programs are based on curriculum created by early childhood education.
The day I attended, there were 20 moms with their tots. The question posed to them was “do you have a need for child-care?” I took some notes and discovered that with no exception, these moms were in need of child care now or in the near future. Many have been on maternity leave from their jobs; teachers, lawyer, office workers, shift workers etc. Some of the concerns expressed were the following:
-Child care needs to be have more flexible hours for part-time work and shift work
-Many travel by Go-Train in the early hours of the morning to get to their workplace and licensed child-care is not available in off-hours
-Home child-care charges an extra $20 per half hour or $15 for 15 minutes if early or late hours are needed, ie, if their G0-Train is late
– Mothers with two children in need of child-care and working shift work must still pay for the two children the week she is home
-Moms put themselves on the list for child-care when they were 4-5 months pregnant and are due back to work soon and have not made the list yet for their child
– Moms who now use home child-care complain that the new act, Bill 10, does not allow more than two infants under the age of 2
– A teacher mom pays $1200 a month for child-care now. When she is off for the summer she must pay a retainer fee or lose her spot.
-Most moms preferred the home child-care because of the cost, $59 vs $39 a day
– Moms asked for a national census to be conducted on the need of child-care
In summary, the moms made it very clear that they want and need accessible, affordable quality child-care and this lack causes them to feel a lot of stress. They believe that they should not have to struggle with this lack of child-care services, which they believe penalizes them for having children. It reminded me so much of when I was a working outside my home, needing care for four children and what a sacrifice and stress it was on my family trying to find and keep good child-care. Moms like me learned to work around it by taking shift-work jobs so one parent was home, or spending most of my earnings for child-care until my children attended school. In those days, if my child-care provider was ill, I would have to phone in ill myself to be allowed to stay at home with my children. I felt enormous empathy with these young, stressed moms. Some moms mentioned they had partners who were working but needed the extra income to provide for their families. We did not hear from a mom who was a lone parent, but I am sure some were there. In my time, as in theirs, two incomes are needed to afford a home in a decent neighbourhood and provide the costs of raising a family. I echo Judith Bishop’s urgent question, only I am asking, how can Canada do better and soon?
Thelma McGillivray, VP Education
Ontario’s lowest paid workers will earn $11.25 an hour starting this fall says Antonella Artuso, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief. The increase from eleven dollars to $11.25 will take place effective 1 October 2015. Ontario Liberals have tied the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) so that it increases with the increased cost of living. There is always the hope that wages for Ontario workers will keep pace with inflation.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said in a recent statement:
“This puts more money in people’s pockets, gives our businesses better predictability and helps build a more prosperous economy while ensuring a fair soci…