Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Unaffordable and bankrupt medicare

The London Free Press,
By Rory Leishman

The Canadian health-care system has many problems, but at least it shelters all Canadians from catastrophic medical bills in the event of a serious illness. The same, of course, cannot be said for the United States, where literally millions of people – some estimates put the figure as high as 47 million – have no health insurance.

Granted, several million of the uninsured in the United States are young people in good health who can well afford private medical insurance, but choose instead to spend their money on a fancy car or some other luxury. These people who gamble with their health deserve little sympathy if a serious illness drives them into bankruptcy.

Millions of other Americans want comprehensive medical insurance, but simply cannot afford it. The federal and state governments provide comprehensive medical care for the elderly, the disabled and poor children. Why, then, does the United States not follow the Canadian lead, by outlawing private medical care insurance in favour of a universal and comprehensive public system for all?

There is a good and sufficient answer to that question: The Canadian system is heading for bankruptcy.

British Columbia Finance Minister Carole Taylor has documented the problem in her province. In a report last September, she warned that if public spending on medicare in British Columbia were to continue to increase at recent annual rates, it would absorb 71 per cent of the provincial budget by 2017. That’s obviously out of the question.

In a paper published on January 11, Brett Skinner of The Fraser Institute noted that at least four other provincial government studies and a federal Senate report have also concluded that the rate of increase in Canadian health-care spending over the past several years is unsustainable.

Skinner has conducted his own study of the developing crisis. Based on figures going back to 1975, he concludes: “Government health spending in six of the ten provinces is on pace to consume more than half of total revenue by the year 2020, two thirds by the year 2035, and all of provincial revenue by 2050.”

The Canadian medicare system is fiscally broken. As costs escalate, governments cut services with the result that more and more Canadians have to put up with progressively longer wait times for ever fewer treatments.

There can be no solution to this problem without some fundamental reforms: Skinner persuasively argues that Parliament and the provincial legislatures must, at the least, introduce a system of affordable co-payments by patients to curb frivolous demands on the public system.

In this respect, Quebec is leading the way with a new law that will allow private hospitals which receive public funding to charge extra fees to patients for services covered by the province’s public plan. In this way, the Quebec government hopes to increase both the number and quality of services available to all Quebecers.

In the United States, President George W. Bush proposes to make private health insurance more affordable by means of a substantial tax deduction that amounts to $15,000 for family coverage and $7,500 for single coverage through a qualifying health-insurance plan. While this measure would bring comprehensive private health insurance within the means of millions of additional taxpayers, it cannot help millions of others who have little or no taxable income.

Several of the state governors in the United States have advanced proposals of their own for making adequate private medical insurance available to all residents, regardless of income. Switzerland already has such a plan in effect: Thanks to a system of government regulations and subsidies tied to income, every resident of Switzerland can well afford to purchase a mandatory health insurance plan from one of several competing private firms.

In a recent study of the Swiss health care system, the British think tank, Civitas, concluded: “Swiss attachment to universality guarantees an extremely good quality of care to all with little if any rationing.”

Would that the same could be said about the Canadian medicare system. Is it any coincidence that the Swiss system encourages vigorous competition among private-sector medicare providers, while Canada stands alone as the only non-communist country in the world that maintains a public-sector medicare monopoly, by forbidding the purchase and sale of competing private health insurance?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An egregious abuse of judicial power

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In a classic 18th-century text, The Spirit of the Laws, Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, pointed out that the separation of legislative and judicial powers is essential to freedom under law. He wrote: “Were (the judicial power) joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would then be the legislator.”

Sir William Blackstone likewise warned in his magisterial Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-69): “Were (the judicial power) joined with the legislative, the life, liberty, and property of the subject would be in the hands of arbitrary judges, whose decisions would be then regulated only by their own opinions, and not by any fundamental principles of law; which, though legislators may depart from, yet judges are bound to observe.”

Until recently, the great majority of Canadian judges agreed with Montesquieu and Blackstone. Instead of arbitrarily changing the law to conform with their ideas of what justice requires, they undertook to uphold the plain text of the laws and the Constitution of Canada as enacted and originally understood by elected representatives of the people in the legislative branch of government.

Judicial activists know no such restraint. They have no compunction about arbitrarily enacting their ideological preferences into law by unilaterally amending statute laws and the Constitution through judicial interpretation.

Consider in this respect the recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in A.A. v B.B.. At issue in this case, were two lesbian partners – A.A. and C.C. – and a man – B.B. – who had donated sperm so C.C. could give birth to a child.

According to court records, A.A. and C.C. began living together in 1990. By late 1999, A.A. had completed her law degree and C.C. had become a university professor, so they decided to start a family. They agreed that C.C. would be the birth mother and that their mutual friend, B.B., a university professor with three children, would be the father.

The child of this union, D.D., refers to both A.A. and C.C. as “momma.” B.B. visits D.D. twice a week. The trial judge relates: “On Tuesdays, he has time with the child independently of A.A. and C.C. On Thursdays, he joins them for a family dinner together which sometimes also involves his other children and the woman with whom he cohabits.”

The birth mother, C.C., and the father, B.B., are the child’s legal parents. With the support of C.C. and B.B., A.A. petitioned the court for recognition as a third legal parent.

In a ruling on April 11, 2003, the trial judge, Mr. Justice David R. Aston of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, expressed sympathy for A.A.’s request. Having noted that she is fully committed to a parental role for D.D., he said he was prepared to declare that she is a legal parent of the child “if there is jurisdiction to do so.”

As it is, the Ontario Children’s Law Reform Act plainly states that a child can have only two legal parents, either natural or adoptive. That settled the matter for Aston.

In his judgment, he wrote: “If a child can have three parents, why not four or six or a dozen? What about all the adults in a commune or a religious organization or sect?”

He added: “Polarized views exist concerning the definition of the modern family. Court decisions may sometimes necessarily impact on that debate, particularly where Charter considerations are engaged. However, when it comes to creating or shaping social policy, political considerations belong to the legislature.”

A.A. appealed the ruling. In a unanimous judgment on January 2, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal including Chief Justice Roy McMurtry conceded: “It is apparent that the (Children’s Law Reform) Act contemplates only one mother and one father.”

However, unlike Aston, McMurtry and his colleagues did not abide by the law: Instead, they presumed to change it to conform with their belief that it would be in the best interests of children like D.D. to have three legal parents.

Do any of our elected representatives in the Ontario legislature object to this gross judicial violation of the separation of legislative and judicial powers under the Constitution of Canada? Apparently not.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Canadian troops deserve support

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In a Christmas Day address, Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of the defence staff, told a gathering of Canadian troops serving in the combat zone of southern Afghanistan: “There are millions of wishes passed on from Canada ... You've got incredible support back in Canada for what you do -- absolutely incredible support.”

Indeed, millions of Canadians are profoundly grateful for the courage and tenacity of our troops in combating the Taliban. But alas, there are also many Canadians who oppose any combat role for Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

NDP leader Jack Layton thinks Canadian troops should no longer engage in either combat or reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. At his behest, the great majority of delegates to a national policy convention of the New Democratic Party in September adopted a resolution summoning the Harper government to begin the “safe and immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan,” but steadfastly to "support the continuation of development assistance to Afghanistan and democratic peace building."

NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough backed the motion. She said: "This (resolution) sends a loud clear message from New Democrats: Democracy building is what the Afghan people want, not more violence and instability. A comprehensive peace plan is what is critically important to building democracy and peace in the region."

The absurdity of this new NDP position is hard to credit: It should be evident even to the meanest intelligence that the Taliban have no interest in building peace in Afghanistan except on the basis of their return to power.

New Democrats esteem themselves as champions of human rights. In a press release on December 20, Layton denounced the International Olympic Committee for having decided “to deny women the right to participate in ski jumping in the 2010 Olympics Games in Vancouver.”

Why, though, is Layton no less concerned about the fate of Afghan women should the Taliban seize power once again? Does he not recall how the fanatical leaders of this Islamist organization banned women from the professions, barred girls from attending school and subjected both men and women to public lashings, limb amputations and executions in the Kabul soccer stadium?

Currently, there are more than 32,000 troops from 37 countries – including roughly 2,500 Canadians – serving with the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Their mission is to establish governmental stability in Afghanistan and to eliminate all remnants of the Taliban’s terrorist regime.

This allied mission has the solid support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government. In a recent address to a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Association in Quebec City, Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor explained: “We can’t allow the Taliban to return to their former prominence — to take over Afghanistan and resume their regime of terror and tyranny; to flaunt their disregard for human rights; to punish and terrorize their own people; to murder innocents; to harbour those who would threaten us and our families at home and abroad."

Canadian leaders have not always understood the need for Canadian troops to engage in collective international security. In 1924, the government of Canada opposed all such operations on the ground that Canada is "a fire-proof house, far from inflammable materials." That naïve assumption was disastrously wrong then as it is now.

In the 1930s, the allied democracies could easily have prevented the Second World War, by taking timely action to prevent Hitler and the Nazis from seizing power in Germany. In view of this experience and the succession of terrorist strikes that have hit the United States, Britain, Spain and numerous other countries in recent years, it would be folly for the democratic allies to allow the Taliban terrorists and their Al-Qaeda allies to regain power in Afghanistan.

The Canadian troops serving under NATO and UN auspices in Afghanistan are playing a key role in protecting the Afghan people from the Taliban. And in so doing, they are also helping to safeguard Canada and the other democracies from attack by Afghan-trained Islamist terrorists.

During the Second World War, the Canadian armed forces distinguished themselves in battle. And now in Afghanistan, they are doing so again. In the words of Gen. Hillier, these valiant Canadian combat troops deserve “the absolutely incredible support” of all Canadians.

Monday, January 01, 2007

No closure for true marriage

The Interim
By Rory Leishman

Notwithstanding the decision by most members of Parliament on December 7 to refuse even to reconsider the abolition of the traditional definition of marriage in Canadian law, this issue is not closed. And it never will be closed, until the great majority of our MPs and judges recognize that they have no more power to change the fundamental nature of marriage than to transform a man into a woman.
That said, Parliament now seems bent on experimenting with so-called same-sex marriage for quite some time. The vote to reconsider the enactment in 2005 that abandoned the traditional legal definition of marriage lost by the decisive margin of 175 to 123. Only 13 Liberal MPs backed the motion, while an equal number of Conservative MPs, including six cabinet ministers, were opposed.
Just six years earlier, Parliament voted 216 to 55 in favour of a motion declaring: “It is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.” What accounts for this turnaround?
Judicial activists bear much of the blame. In a rogue decision in 2003, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal imposed same-sex marriage on Canadians in defiance Parliament and centuries of judicial precedents.
The Liberals under the unprincipled leadership of former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin went along with this judicial usurpation of legislative power. And in 2005, with the backing of the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois, the Liberals enacted same-sex marriage into law.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the great majority of Conservatives continued to uphold the primordial understanding of marriage. In February, 2005, Harper told the Commons: “It will come as no surprise to anybody to know that I support the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, as expressed in our traditional common law." He added: “I believe this definition of marriage has served society well, has stood the test of time and is in fact a foundational institution of society.”
There is good reason to believe that Harper was sincere in advancing these arguments and that he still recognizes the vital importance to Canadian society of reaffirming the traditional legal definition of marriage. Nonetheless, in response to Parliament’s decisive rejection on December 7 to so much as reconsider the marriage issue, he said: “I don't see reopening this question in the future."
Likewise, Justice Minister Vic Toews has been, and remains, a stalwart supporter of traditional marriage and the natural family. Yet, like Harper, he views the December 7 vote as decisive for the legal definition of marriage. “I don't think there's any intentions of reopening (this issue),” he said. “There's been no commitment in that respect and I don't see any prospect in that respect."
Evidently, Harper and Toews think the Conservatives must indefinitely postpone any attempt to revive the traditional definition of marriage in Canadian law if they are to have any reasonable chance of winning the next federal election. In making this political calculation, they might be wrong, but the evidence against them is thin.
Recent opinion polls on the marriage issue have been inconclusive. On December 7, Pat O'Brien, the former Liberal MP who now heads Defend Marriage Canada, could only say: "I think there's a very large proportion of this country, perhaps even a majority of the country, that doesn't endorse same-sex marriage.”
Clearly, all of us who support traditional marriage and the natural family in Canada face a tough challenge, just as we did 16 years ago, when Parliament failed even to mitigate the calamitous 1988 Morgentaler decision of the Supreme Court of Canada that abolished all legal protection for the lives of babies in the womb. On no account must we Canadian pro-lifers give up the struggle. In the face of any and all setbacks, we must resolve all the more firmly to uphold the sanctity of human life and the natural family.

An example of greater honour in defeat

Catholic Insight
By Rory Leishman

Truly, there is sometimes more honour in defeat than in victory. A case in point is the loss of Dianne Haskett in the November 27 federal byelection in London North Centre.
Liberal Glen Pearson won the riding with 35 per cent of the votes, while Haskett, running for the Conservatives, finished third with 24 per cent, behind Green Party leader Elizabeth May who garnered 25 per cent. Megan Walker of the NDP ended up fourth with just 14 per cent of the votes.
Throughout the election campaign, Haskett’s opponents reminded voters that during her first term as mayor of London in 1997, she was convicted and fined by an Ontario human rights board of inquiry for refusing on religious grounds to issue a gay pride proclamation at the request of the Homophile Association of London Ontario (HALO). In a letter to the editor published in The London Free Press two days before the vote, Clarence Crossman stated: “The gay community offered Haskett accommodation at every point in our dispute with her, trying to find a way to live together in a diverse community. Haskett's response was deception and ducking her legal and moral obligations.”
Crossman is the pastor of London’s Holy Fellowship Metropolitan Community Church, a congregation that describes itself as rooted in the city’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual community. It’s he, Crossman, not Haskett, who is the practitioner of deception.
Consider the evidence. On May 12, 1995, Richard Hudler, president of HALO, and Crossman wrote a joint letter to mayor Haskett in which they suggested that if her religious beliefs as an Evangelical Christian motivated her decision to refuse to issue a gay pride proclamation, she should consider delegating her discretion to make proclamations to a vote of City Council. Hudler and Crossman added: “We agree that it is not fair to force you to make a proclamation about something you believe to be wrong.”
Haskett concurred. The issue was referred to City Council, which promptly joined Haskett in refusing to issue a gay pride proclamation by a vote of 15 to four.
Meanwhile, Crossman has hardened his position. Despite what he wrote 11 years ago, he now denounces Haskett for having refused as mayor to issue a gay pride proclamation which she as an evangelical Christian believed to be wrong.
Mary Anne McKellar, the board of inquiry adjudicator assigned to the Haskett case, was no less dismissive of the rights of Christians. Despite the ostensible guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion in section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, McKellar held that Mayor Haskett had a moral and legal obligation to issue a gay pride proclamation upon request by HALO.
Haskett repudiated this unjust ruling. In testimony before the board, she avowed that she could not separate her religious convictions from the performance of her duties as mayor. She said: “I think at the very least a person who separates themselves from their deeply held beliefs, at the very least, they are a hypocrite and at the very worst, they are turning their back on God, and I can’t do that.”
Joe Fontana, the previous Liberal incumbent in London North Centre, took a different view of his religious obligations. To get himself elected to Parliament and appointed to the federal cabinet by former prime minister Paul Martin, he had no compunction about supporting same-sex marriage and abortion on demand notwithstanding his fundamental moral obligations and religious beliefs as a Catholic.
The determination of the Harper government to reopen the issue of same-sex marriage was a major issue in the London North Centre byelection. Of the four leading candidates, three -- Haskett, May and Pearson -- professed to be Christians, but only Haskett upheld the Biblical definition of marriage as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman.
On this basis, Haskett went down to electoral defeat. But at least, she emerged from the contest with her integrity intact. And in doing so, she set a good example for all Christians, by resisting the temptation to pursue popular favour and political gain through deliberately turning her back on God and renouncing the traditional teachings of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.