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Bits of News from the Political Front

 

Life in a Town Without Poverty
…by Dr. Evelyn Forget, professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.
Issue – What is the impact of poverty on health?
Approach – Dr. Forget studied the health care use of the citizens of Dauphin, Manitoba who, from 1974 to 1978 were guaranteed freedom from poverty through an annual income supplement.
Impact – Dauphin’s hospitalization rates fell relative to the control group particularly for mental illness and accidents and injuries.
A new look at a radical experiment in Manitoba 35 years ago shows that guaranteeing people an annual income leads to better health.
Once upon a time in Canada, there was a town where no one was poor.  That might seem like a fairy tale, but it’s an historic fact. From 1974 through 1978, as part of a labour market experiment called MINCOME, all of the almost 13,000 citizens in and around Dauphin, Manitoba were guaranteed annual income support to keep them above the poverty line.
The $17-million experiment was expected to “make an important contribution to the review of Canada’s social security system” according to the press release that preceded its launch. Unfortunately, MINCOME ran into challenges when interest rates soared in the mid-1970s, taking the inflation-adjusted payments along with them. As well, political interest in the concept of guaranteed income waned. As a result, the data collected was never analyzed. Instead, it was warehoused and the radical social experiment was largely forgotten.  Until now.
“I knew about the existence of this old project for a number of years,” says Dr. Evelyn Forget of the University of Manitoba. “I wondered whether it would be possible to find out what the effects were on health.”
With support from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CHIR), Dr. Forget has spent three years comparing the administrative health care records of Dauphin’s citizens between 1974 and 1978 with those of a control group of people living in similar Manitoba communities at that time. She found that people appear to live healthier lives when they don’t have to worry about poverty.
“We found that, overall, hospitalizations in Dauphin declined relative to the control group. We also looked at accidents and injuries and they also declined. You can argue that accident and injury hospitalizations are strongly related to poverty. We have found consistently in other studies that accidents and injuries are strongly related to income level.”
The people of Dauphin also seemed to fare better in terms of mental health.  “During the 1970s we still hospitalized people with mental health issues. If you believe that poverty is related to stress, you should see an effect there. Hospitalizations for mental health issues were down significantly.”
In similar experiments in the United States, researchers claimed to have found that birth rates ballooned. That didn’t happen in Dauphin.  “Politically, there was a concern that if you began a guaranteed annual income, people would stop working and start having large families,” says Dr. Forget, who presented her findings at the Institut national d’études démographiques in Paris. “But we found that, if anything, birth rates among the youngest women declined.”
The Study
The original MINCOME study took place in Winnipeg and Dauphin, Manitoba. It received 75% of its funding from the Government of Canada and the balance from the Province of Manitoba.
Participants were guaranteed an annual income. In Winnipeg, participant families were chosen randomly and were compared against other randomly selected “control” residents who did not receive income support. Dauphin, however, was a “saturation site” where all residents and members of the surrounding municipal area were guaranteed income support if their incomes fell below various support rates.
Universal health care arrived in Manitoba in 1970. Using administrative records, Dr. Forget was able to compare health care statistics of the citizens of Dauphin versus residents of similar communities in Manitoba.
Along with the positive health results, Dr. Forget found that teenagers stayed in school longer, likely because their families were assured of a minimum income.
“Finishing high school in rural Manitoba during that period was not the cultural norm. There were decent jobs around, so a guaranteed income helped some families make the decision to let a potentially employable adolescent stay in school a little longer. The long-term health and social effects would be dramatically different for somebody who went to Grade 12 compared with someone who did not finish high school.”
“I think people living with poverty are living with a great deal of stress. In fact, stress is almost too mild a word for the kind of terror that people live in while trying to care for their children and make good decisions for their children when they don’t have the capacity to enact those decisions.”
…by Dr. Evelyn Forget

Regarding the Monument to the Three Young Men who Died in Afghanistan!

I need to get something off my chest. It’s sensitive and I don’t want this to be misinterpreted (even though sometimes that is unavoidable.) I have concerns about the placement of the monument in Waverley Park to commemorate the three young men (soldiers) who died in Afghanistan.

I’m not alone in this feeling. Others have also expressed this opinion privately because it would be easy to take the remarks as lack of respect for the young men. Waverley Park is my neighbourhood park and I volunteer there, pruning trees, weeding flower beds and helping to organize park picnics. The Cenotaph is in the park and I go down once a year on November 11th to remember those who fought for Canada. I seriously reflect on what those men have given so that I can live in our great country.

I just know that these three young fellows won’t be the last to die in combat and I don’t want a walkway of memorials to soldiers in Waverley Park. I want the park to be full of life not full of sad memories.

I do have a suggestion. In Ottawa there is a triangular piece of land at the intersection of three busy streets. It’s just down from the Parliament Buildings and it is dedicated to the Unknown Soldier. It makes quite a statement and is beautiful. Connaught Park across from Waverley Library has similar potential. It could be developed into Thunder Bay’s Park to remember significant military events and memorials. For special occasions like Remembrance Day, Red River Road and Waverley Street in front of the library could be closed. Seats could be set up on the pavement on both sides of the park for those of us a little older or in need of seating. The parkade is conveniently located right across from the park.

Connaught

I’m not naive enough to think it could happen overnight or without some major dollars however I can see it being someone’s dream to see this happen and over the years it would be something all residents of Thunder Bay could be proud of.

Please though, let’s not make the second oldest municipal park in Ontario into a memorial for those who die in combat.

Seniors in Thunder Bay Housing Authority’s

Senior Complexes are Living in Fear.

There is a Better Way.

 

 

Over the last couple of years Thunder Bay Housing Authority has been moving homeless people into Seniors Low Rental Housing Complexes, citing the Human Rights Commission as justification. Many of the seniors I have spoken with say they are now living in fear. Their sense of community is gone and if they could afford it they would move. The Housing Authority is making a mistake. It is the wrong thing to do.

My closest cousin, Bob, was homeless and a street person most of his adult life. My mom was from a small village in Manitoba. When I was young, Dad used to take us there to see Grandma and Grandpa and our cousins Bob and Marie twice a year; every Christmas and for summer holidays. I have many fond memories of those trips. I learned to jive in the basement of my cousin’s house. My uncle Herb owned a service station and he used to build stock cars for the local race track. I think my uncle Herb was a genius. He was very creative and always had wonderful things for us to do. My Aunt Doris had the best sense of humour and made me feel like I was the only person in the world that counted. Unfortunately they were alcoholics and when drunk that humour was brutal and could cut to the quick. Nevertheless Bob and I were best cousins. We had great times together.

Bob had a disability. When he was born the Doctor accidently dropped him leaving him with very limited mobility below the waist. As a young adult Bob moved into Winnipeg, fought with depression and alcohol and never held a job for long. At some point he stopped trying. He received a disability pension but couldn’t remain stable enough to hang on to a place to live. On one visit he was being evicted from a very old apartment because he had set off the fire alarm twice. He had an old flip down toaster and kept forgetting the toast. Another time he had a great place in a senior’s complex but had to leave because of his drinking. Another time I visited he smelled really bad (worse than usual) and he showed me the bathtub saying that he had fallen twice trying to get in and out of it. It was too high. He wasn’t bathing any more.

At some point Bob moved into an apartment complex for homeless people or for those who were not able to function well in our society. Initially, I thought of it as ghettoizing the homeless but he didn’t. He was happy. He felt safe. He didn’t have a phone but the fellow across the hall would accept calls from us and call Bob. There was a medical clinic on the main floor where Bob was known. He proudly took me to the clinic and introduced me to the support staff. They had a library. Bob loved to read.

I don’t think integrating street people and the homeless into seniors low rental housing is the answer. The seniors fear for their safety. They used to leave their doors unlocked, now they can’t. Those who can, have moved to low rental seniors complexes that are just for seniors. By and large, homeless people are homeless because they have other issues — far greater than difficulties then finding or affording a place to live.. mental health issues and addictions to name a couple. They need a place with an abundance of supports so that they, and others, can feel safe.

Thunder Bay Housing might consider making McIver Court into a complex for street people and the homeless. The Herb Carroll 55 Plus Centre (on the main floor of McIvor Court) would make an ideal medical clinic with offices for support staff. It would mean relocating the Herb Carroll Centre and building more low-rental housing for seniors. This will soon be necessary anyway given our aging population.

My cousin Bob was probably the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. Being disabled, an alcoholic and suffering depression was just too much for him to manage. Given a warm place to live, a community of friends and the necessary supports he was able to live his last 10 or so years in relative peace.

Seniors are more vulnerable then younger people. They have done the hard work that has given us the living standards we in Thunder Bay have come to enjoy. Placing homeless individuals, many who have mental health issues, in the same housing buildings as seniors is morally irresponsible and completely lacks the respect these individuals deserve.

 

Ontario Government Protecting Consumers from Energy Retailers

In recent years, too many people have been strong-armed or deceived into signing long-term electricity and natural gas contracts. Our government is introducing new rules that will help stop unfair practices by some energy retailers. As of January 1st, 2011, Ontario’s energy retailers will face some of the toughest rules in Canada. These rules will help protect families and seniors from predatory energy retailers.

Under the new rules, Energy Retailers must:

• Disclose how the contract price they are offering compares to the price offered to you by the local utility.

• Provide training to their staff to ensure they understand and abide by the new rules.

• Offer cancellation without penalty in a number of circumstances, and limit the cancellation fees that consumers can be charged.

The new rules include numerous safeguards to address the unfair practices that were taking place.

If you are considering signing a contract with an energy retailer before the changes come into effect on January 1st, 2011, please take steps to ask questions, compare prices and understand your options.

Bill Mauro, MPP

Thunder Bay-Atikokan

(807) 623-9237

MOTION TABLED TO REDUCE PARTISANSHIP,
ALLOW CROSS-PARTY LEGISLATION
MP Bruce Hyer introduces motion to allow cross-party stewardship of legislation

OTTAWA – New Democrat MP Bruce Hyer tabled a motion today to increase cross-party cooperation on legislation in the House of Commons. Currently, private legislation can only be introduced by individual MPs, and thus bills are often branded an initiative of the MP’s party. Hyer’s motion would change the rules of the House, known as the Standing Orders, to allow MPs from more than one party to co-sponsor Private Members’ Bills and Motions.

“Parliament is getting more and more partisan, more and more dysfunctional.” said Hyer. “The tribal bickering and political games have a real cost – it’s hard to build support for good bills or motions when other parties are reluctant to see a MP from another party achieve success. Solutions often get delayed, or killed.”

Hyer’s own Bill C-311, the country’s only federal climate legislation, was killed last week in a bout of Parliamentary partisanship. Hyer spent two years manoeuvring the bill through Parliament, and no amendments to the bill were proposed by any party. The government chose to kill the bill on a surprise vote rather than debate or improve it in the Senate. As a result, Canada now has no law on the books or bill before Parliament to reduce the country’s growing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Canadians don’t send us here to just to defeat each other’s initiatives, they want us to make progress, to get things done.” said Hyer “We need to be debating ideas, not ideology. If bills and motions were shared initiatives of MPs from more than one party, MPs could co-operate across party lines to build consensus even before initiatives are tabled. Private legislation would hit the ground running and have a better chance at passage. Politics would be less of a zero-sum game.”

“Parliament needs to work better to serve the needs of Canadians.” said Hyer “I put extra effort into working with MPs from all parties to improve the lives of Canadians, but we’re now spending years re-introducing and re-debating legislation that’s already been before the House, and making little progress. It takes well over two years, on average, to pass private member’s bills into law, but in modern times we seem to have an election every two years that wipes all progress out. We need to change the system to give important initiatives a fighting chance.”

Bruce Hyer Responds to Jim Fould’s Article on the Long Gun Registration in the January issue of Thunder Bay Seniors Paper

Jim Foulds, one of the finest MPP’s to ever represent Thunder Bay North and a good friend, made a persuasive argument in favour of the “long gun” registry in his January column.

While we share the same objectives, we have different opinions on how best to get there.

Jim and I agree wholeheartedly that violence against women and children is a grave issue that urgently requires more attention and resources. Domestic violence is an awful and persistent social TRAGEDY with heavy costs not only for women and children, but for all of us. I am proud to work with my New Democrat caucus colleagues, as Jim has done throughout his remarkable career, to fight for strengthened services for women including a national housing strategy, access to education, training and job opportunities, improvements to the minimum wage, adequate support for transition houses, a national child care program, a fair electoral system that will see more women elected to public office, a meaningful anti-poverty strategy, improved access to health care and medicines, and women’s reproductive choice. Our progress on these issues is too slow, but we are making progress.

Where our views diverge is with respect to the effectiveness of the registration of hunting rifles and shotguns as an instrument in reducing all-too-common incidents of domestic assault and murder.

The registration of non-restricted rifles and shotguns is essentially a redundant system and one that, in my opinion, does not add any protections to those provided by the stringent regime already in place under the Possession and Acquisition Licensing (PAL) program, a program that will remain in place regardless of the future of the registry.

Under the terms of the PAL program, in order to acquire, possess, store, lend, borrow, or transport any firearm, an owner must be subjected to extensive Canada-wide police background checks. Applicants must divulge sensitive personal information, and are screened to detect potential public safety risks. Continuous eligibility screening is conducted over the term of the license to identify any public safety risks that may arise over time. One must also pass a rigorous firearms safety course (and it’s a tough test!).

Licenses are refused or revoked for a number of reasons, including: a history of violence, mental illness, potential risk to oneself or others, unsafe firearm use and storage, drug offences, or providing false information.

Through that process, police know who every legal firearms owner is, and where they are.

Violence against women is a complex and pernicious problem, requiring a multi-faceted response. However, I don’t believe the long gun registry is an effective contribution to that effort.

Surely our energy and resources ought to be spent keeping guns out of the hands of the violent, rather than asking them to register the weapons they might possess.

I should add that my views on the long gun registry have been consistent over many years. I have stood for office three times, each time making my opposition to the registry clear. I made a promise that if elected I would vote to end the long gun registry, and I have kept my word.

Bruce Hyer, MP Thunder Bay – Superior North

The Federal Conservatives Cut 60 Million from the Arts

The Federal Conservatives cut 60 million dollars from funding to arts and culture groups this year. This probably isn’t a big deal for most of us. I mean, what’s more important creating jobs or creating art. That is the comparison the Conservatives want us to make. Jobs or Arts.

Therein lays the problem. It should never be an either/or situation. Art plays a very important role in a healthy society and we risk a great deal by not understanding this.

History shows that civilizations that are successful and at the top of their game have a thriving arts and cultural community. The arts are like the canary in the mine. So I would suggest that investing in the arts community makes sense. More practically speaking, a thriving arts and cultural community is an indication that the government is strong and not afraid of criticism. The arts community is very often critical of government and the establishment, rightly or wrongly. The arts community often holds up a mirror to the establishment pointing out the follies. A strong society values this and is able to laugh at its self or in more serious cases attempt to make the changes needed to correct problems.

There is an ideology that would have us believe that each person will survive, succeed or excel on their own merit and that government should not interfere in that process. While at some level we all would like to believe this, it just doesn’t work very well.

Being a dancer, writer, painter, doesn’t pay very well. I don’t know any artists who don’t have to work at other jobs in order to support their passion. In fact, I would venture to say that in the majority of cases pursuing one’s love of art leads most often to a life of being economically strapped. Not a life most of us would put up with. So when an artist gets a Canada Council for the Arts grant that allows her or him to focus on their work they feel like they have died and gone to heaven. Now they can focus! Now they can dedicate time to their first love! Not many will produce masterpieces but that’s not what it is all about. For me it’s about valuing the importance art and artists play in a healthy society.

I support tax dollars going to Canadian artists. In the big picture of where tax dollars are spent it’s not very much at all. If as a society we start to make cuts here I fear that it could mean we are on a slippery slope.

Tim Commisso: New City of Thunder Bay, City Manager

tim-commisso.jpg

August 18, 2008 – City Council is pleased to announce the appointment of Tim Commisso as City Manager for the Corporation of the City of Thunder Bay, effective Sept. 29.

“We are pleased to welcome Tim back to Thunder Bay where he started his extensive municipal career,” said Mayor Lynn Peterson. “He brings a proven track record of strategic leadership to apply to the opportunities at the City of Thunder Bay.”

Mr. Commisso, who holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and a professional accounting designation, began his municipal career with the City of Thunder Bay in the ‘80s. He started at the Canada Games Complex with responsibility for customer service and finances. Following that, he was the Manager of Budgets and Planning before leaving for Burlington.

Mr. Commisso has been with the City of Burlington since 1988. He brings to his new position a diverse leadership background developed during his extensive career in municipal government. At the City of Burlington, Mr. Commisso held a number of senior positions including General Manager of Community Services, General Manager of Development and Infrastructure, Director of Parks and Recreation and Manager of Financial Planning Services & Deputy Treasurer. He had lead responsibility for a number of major projects including the waterfront project from 2003 to 2007 as well as downtown revitalization strategies and corporate strategic plans.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity and privilege of being the new

City Manager for Thunder Bay,” said Mr. Commisso. “My family and I are excited to be returning home and I look forward to working with the Mayor and Council and leading a great staff team. Thunder Bay is a wonderful community and I look forward to meeting and working with as many people as possible to address the important strategic initiatives and issues affecting the City.”

The appointment concludes an extensive candidate search and a rigorous selection process.

June Issue

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Mauro Announces Tax Cuts For Seniors; Health Care Boost
I am very pleased to highlight progressive initiatives in our recent provincial budget that will substantially assist our senior citizens in Thunder Bay-Atikokan.
The Province proposes a new property tax grant for eligible seniors who own their own homes. In 2009, about 550,000 senior homeowners would be able to obtain a new grant of up to $250. The maximum grant would be increased to $500 for 2010 and subsequent years. This is in addition to the $125 increase in our first term that saw grants rise from $500 to $625. When combined with existing property and sales tax credit to seniors, some seniors could see up to $1,075 in total tax relief next year; and up to $1,325 in 2010.
From the fiscal year 2004-2005 and up to and including 2007-2008 the Ontario government has funded the following number of additional procedures in Thunder Bay area hospitals:
• Hip and Knee Replacements: 249
• Cataract Surgeries: 3,401
• Cancer Surgeries: 374
• Cardiac Procedures: 1,996
• MRI Exams: 24,822
• CT Scans: 8,026
Extra funding has meant there have been 38,868 additional medical procedures in the Thunder Bay area.
Finally, I am very pleased that in response to two private member’s bills I introduced, Prostate Specific Antigen testing will now be covered through OHIP starting on January 1, 2009. This blood test that can cost in excess of $30 can help detect the signs of prostate cancer in men.
These are just some of the examples of how the Ontario government is working for seniors by cutting taxes and upgrading health care services.
Bill Mauro, MPP (Thunder Bay-Atikokan)
Parliamentary Assistant
To the Minister of Natural Resources

MAURO DETAILS HOW ONTARIO TAX CREDITS AID SENIORS
As you prepare to submit your income tax forms by the April 30th deadline you should be aware of the different tax relief benefits seniors can apply for in Ontario. Ontario provides property and sales tax relief for eligible individuals through the Ontario property and sales tax credits. The refundable property tax credit provides property tax assistance for people with low to moderate incomes who own or rent a principle residence in Ontario. The Ontario government has boosted the property tax credit by 25 per cent increasing it from $500 to $625.
Similarly, the refundable sales tax credit provides sales tax assistance for people in low and moderate income levels as well. Ontario refundable tax credits can be received even if you pay no income tax. Ontario tax credits can be claimed on Form ON479, Ontario Credits, which is included with the federal income tax and benefit package.
Subject to age and net income criteria, the combined maximum amount of property and sales tax credits you can receive for any one taxation year is $1,125.
Furthermore, the 2007 minimum level of income guaranteed by the Ontario and federal governments for eligible senior couples is rising because of increases to Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments. This year, the Ontario government is increasing the 2007 income threshold for senior couples so that those receiving the minimum level of income from governments will continue to receive the full benefit of the credits.
Below I have outlined some of the measures in Ontario’s 2007 Budget, which contained significant supports for seniors, to help improve their financial security and independence:
LOCKED-IN ACCOUNTS
The government introduced a new life income fund (LIF) that could increase income for seniors in retirement and permit up to 25 per cent of the funds to be unlocked. The new LIF, and other modifications to the rules governing locked-in accounts, gives seniors who hold locked-in retirement savings transferred from employment pension plans increased flexibility in managing their retirement income.
The new LIF will replace all existing LIFs and locked-in retirement income funds (LRIFs). This gives seniors more flexibility by eliminating mandatory annuity purchase requirements and introducing:
• The right to an optional one-time unlocking of up to 25 per cent of locked-in funds no earlier than the early-retirement date under the pension plan from which the money was transferred (in most cases, this is age 55)
• An amended annual payment schedule that will increase retirement income and permit withdrawal of the entire remaining account balance when the LIF holder reaches age 90
• The opportunity to withdraw additional income based on investment returns in the previous year.
Additional changes allow direct transfers of unlocked small amounts to non-locked-in accounts and unlocking for non-residents of Canada. The changes have also introduced consistent rules for the waiver of spousal entitlements to locked-in funds.
PENSION INCOME SPLITTING
Starting with this 2007 taxation year, couples will be allowed to split certain types of pension income for Ontario income tax purposes. This recognizes the special challenges of planning and managing retirement income, and assists pensioners by providing a significant benefit to many couples with pensions.
Allowing individuals to split their pension income with a spouse or common-law partner for tax purposes will provide Ontario income tax savings of about $170 million to Ontario couples with eligible pension income in 2007.
If you have questions about any of the above programs or initiatives please contact my office at 240 South Syndicate Avenue (623-9237) or
bmauro.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Bill Mauro, MPP (Thunder Bay-Atikokan)
Parliamentary Assistant
To the Minister of Natural Resources

Workers finally have new law to protect their wages
December 14, 2007
OTTAWA – Canadian workers have finally won new legal protection for their wages and their pension contributions when their employer goes bankrupt. Bill C-12, a series of amendments to existing insolvency and wage protection laws, was approved by the Senate last night and received Royal Assent today. This was accomplished after an intensive three-year campaign by the Canadian Labour Congress and its affiliated unions to change bankruptcy laws that unfairly put workers last in line to get paid.
Working men and women lost an average of $50 million a year in unpaid wages when companies went bankrupt while waiting for two years to receive only 15 cents on the dollar.
“Finally, workers no longer have to fear the prospect of lost earnings owed to them while dealing with the blow of the loss of their jobs. It took three years of hard work to convince parliamentarians to put individual working Canadians ahead of banks and other financial institutions” says Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
Yesterday’s victory marks the end of a long and determined campaign by the labour movement to change bankruptcy laws which too often saw employees suffer the loss of wages, benefits and even their pension savings because banks and other creditors were given priority. The Act also provides for protection of unpaid pension contributions.
The Act also protects workers’ collective agreements from unilateral changes by bankruptcy judges. In far too many cases in the past, Judges have significantly reduced wages, benefits and other provisions in collective agreements. With this new legislation, changes can only be made with the agreement of the union, an important protection.

“Canadians have been waiting a long time for these protection measures. It is not just unionized workers that will benefit but every working woman and man in Canada – whether they are in a union or not – that will have this protection as soon as the government proclaims the Act,” says Georgetti.
The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 136 district labour councils. www.canadianlabour.ca