Autumn View Edition 1, 2019

A message from the Chair


We are the stewards of this earth and it is our obligation to do what we can to protect and in fact do what we can to make it better.

In spite of this, we in our complacency, blatantly ignore what is taking place around us and all around the world. We put our own special interests and focus selfishly on how the needed changes will affect us, in our pocket book and our local economy and not on our Carbon Footprint and how that will affect the earth we live on.

Our politicians are of little help in this matter. Premiers like Scott Moe of Saskatchewan or Doug Ford of Ontario are racing to stop the Federal Carbon Tax because according to them, it is bad for business and they seem to care less about the environment and show this by cutting funding and staffing on environmental issues, where improvements were being made.

The Federal Liberals talk a good game, but are just as guilty of under funding and cuts as their provincial counterparts. We negotiate the Paris Accord which results in obtainable targets and proceed to ignore those goals. We all love to jump on Trump as a nut case that is a climate change denier, who is doing more and more harm to the environment as each day passes.

Realistically however, what are we as the earth’s stewards doing to counter act these politicians. As this is being written, we are just starting into the New Year. Please make it your 2019 resolution, as an individual, to do something for the environment. Green your travels, use public transit, car share and if you can, ride a bike or walk. Refuse plastic bags. Recycle as much as possible. Use renewable energy where you can and try LED lighting to save energy. Buy local food from your groceries and consider planting your own garden to grow your own food. Tell your friends and family about your efforts. Finally, in October 2019 vote for people who care about your environment.

Ed Faulknor, Chair
OPSEU Retired Members Division
 

30 days to better finances

Do some financial spring cleaning with our one-month challenge.

With plenty of priorities competing for our attention, money matters can sometimes be pushed to the back of the shelf. But, just like an annual decluttering at home, getting our financial house in order can make a big difference to daily life.

Make a commitment to take our 30-day challenge and set out on your way to better financial housekeeping.

Examine your spending

Days 1 to 7: Track your everyday spending for the week. Include all the little things – coffee, meals, dry cleaning, etc. Consider using a tracking app or other online tools.

Day 8: Analyze your weekly spending. Are you willing to bring your lunch to work a few times a week or forgo that daily latte? Figure out how much you could save – and where else you might put that money.

Days 9 to 11: Add up your fixed monthly expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities, cable, Internet, phone, insurance, etc.), and take a deeper look. Are there areas where you can reduce costs? Inquire with your current provider or shop around for a better deal. Ditch the memberships or subscriptions that you don’t use.

Day 12: Go through your banking transactions for the last month and note any fees. Can you reduce or eliminate them?

Day 13: Budget challenge! Limit yourself to spending no more than $10 today. Challenge your spouse, friends or family members to do the same, and compare your results.

Understand your debt

Days 14 to 16: Add up the total amount you owe, including car loans, student loans, and mortgage and credit card balances, and note the interest rates you’re paying. Explore ways to reduce your debt and make a note to ask your advisor about strategies to manage your debt more effectively.

Day 17: Order a free copy of your credit report through TransUnion(www.transunion.ca) or Equifax (www.equifax.ca ). See if there’s anything you don’t recognize and report it immediately.

Income and benefits

Day 18: Get to know your pay cheque and payroll deductions (income tax, employment insurance, pension, etc.). Find out if you can participate in an automatic savings option, group Registered Retirement Savings Plan or another savings plan in which your employer matches employee contributions.

Day 19: Talk to your human resources department to review what’s included in your employee benefits package. Check that you’ve submitted all of your eligible expense claims and that they’ve been paid. Don’t forget to coordinate benefits with your spouse if you can.

Get organized

Day 20: You’re just 10 days away from completing the challenge! Schedule a meeting with your advisor for next month to review your progress and discuss the next steps.

Day 21: Organize your important files (receipts, insurance policies, statements, tax returns). Create or update a document that lists the location of all your financial accounts and the contact details for your advisor, lawyer and accountant.

Day 22: Get and stay informed. Sign up to receive a personal finance newsletter or follow a personal finance expert on social media.

Savings and investments

Day 23: Gather your savings and investment statements. Total your investments and note their rates of return. Set these aside to review with your advisor.

Days 24 to 26: Make a list of all of your savings goals – a down payment on a home, a family vacation, your children’s education and any others. Determine when you want to accomplish them, how much they will cost and how much you will need to put aside on a regular basis to be successful.

Your advisor can recommend a savings plan or vehicle (for example, a Tax-Free Savings Account) to help you meet your goals and grow your savings faster.

Day 27: Budget challenge! Limit yourself to spending only cash today – no credit or debit cards.

Family matters

Day 28: Is there someone else who affects your finances, such as your partner, parent or child? It’s time to have an honest conversation about money. Find a time and place with minimal distractions and begin the dialogue by sharing how you feel about your current financial situation.

Day 29: Take a moment to think about what would happen to your loved ones if you were injured or no longer around. Have you set up a will and power of attorney, or purchased life or disability insurance? These aren’t pleasant thoughts, but they are important to consider. Make a note to talk to your advisor about how to best protect those close to you.

Day 30: Give yourself a pat on the back! This kind of in depth examination of your finances is something too many Canadians put off for another day. You did it – and you’re now on your way to better financial health. You’ll also be better prepared for that upcoming conversation with your advisor, who will help you figure out the next steps towards achieving your financial goals.

Compliments of Leony deGraaf Hastings, CFP, EPC Certified Financial Planner
deGraaf Financial Strategies 769 Old York Rd Burlington, ON www.dgfs.ca   leony@dgfs.ca  905-632-9900

Tax slip surprise

The value of my investment is lower – so why do I have a tax bill?

It’s something that puzzles investors every tax season: they have an investment in a mutual fund or segregated fund contract that declined in value between January 1 and December 31, and yet they’ve received a tax slip listing taxable interest, dividends or capital gains.

There’s a straightforward reason for the tax slip: the fund has either received income (interest or dividends) from its underlying investments during the year or sold underlying investments at a capital gain. Even though the price of the fund has dropped, the taxes due on transactions within the fund have to be passed along to investors.

Let’s look at some examples to see how this works.

Example 1: The fund earns income

Imagine you own a small apartment building. The current value of the building may be less than when you purchased it, but you will still have to declare any rent you collect as income. In a fund, the principle is much the same. Any interest or dividend income earned by the fund’s underlying investments must be taxed in the hands of investors – so investors receive a tax slip even though the fund’s price has declined.

Example 2: The fund realizes capital gains

When you sell an investment that has increased in value, you may realize a capital gain. The capital gain is calculated as the difference between your selling price and your adjusted cost base (ACB). The ACB isn’t always the purchase price. Rather, it’s the amount of the investment that has already been taxed. A number of factors can affect your ACB.

Similarly, when a fund manager sells an investment that has increased in value, the fund realizes a capital gain – also calculated as the difference between the selling price and the adjusted cost base. And, the gain is flowed through to the fund’s investors. As a result, you may receive a tax slip for capital gains even if some of the capital gain occurred before you bought your units and even if the value of your fund units has dropped.

For simplicity, let’s assume a fund holds only one stock and you are the only investor. You paid $100 for your investment on January 1. On December 31, the value of the investment is $80. However, the fund manager bought the one stock 10 years ago for $10. If the manager sold the stock on June 30 when the stock was valued at $85, the fund would realize a capital gain of $75. As the only investor, you would have to report this $75 capital gain on your tax return – even though the value of your investment has dropped.         

That said, investors never pay tax on more than they actually make in profit. After you pay tax on the $75 capital gain, your ACB increases by $75 – in this example, to $175. If you sell the investment while the price is still $80, you will realize a capital loss of $95. If you wait and sell the investment when the price is $150, you will still realize a capital loss of $25 even though the value of your investment rose to $150 from your purchase price of $100. Discuss tax minimization strategies with your advisor.

There are a number of approaches you can take to reduce the impact of reported capital gains on your taxes. For example, if the value of your fund units is lower than your ACB, you could sell to realize a capital loss and then reinvest the money in a different fund. In the example above, you could sell at $80 and realize a capital loss of $95, which more than offsets the $75 capital gain generated by activity within the fund. If you have no other capital gains reported, you can use the remaining $20 capital loss to offset capital gains in the three previous years, or in any future year. Your advisor can recommend the best strategy for your situation.

At a glance

January 1, 2008: Fund manager buys stock for $10

January 1, 2018: You buy fund units for $100

June 30, 2018: Fund manager sells stock for $85

December 31, 2018: Your fund units are worth $80

Result:

The value of your investment has dropped from $100 to $80, but you receive a tax slip for $75 in capital gains and your ACB increases to $175. WHEN DOES YOUR ADJUSTED COST BASE CHANGE?

Here are three common reasons your adjusted cost base (ACB) may not be the same as your purchase price:

1. You buy units in the same fund at different times, at different prices

If you pay $100 for 1 unit in a fund and nothing else happens, your ACB is $100 per unit. But if you pay $120 a year later for 1 more unit, your ACB per unit will be adjusted. It becomes the average cost, calculated as the total cost divided by the total units: ($100 + $120) / 2 = $110 per unit.

2. You receive a year-end distribution or allocation

At the end of the year, mutual funds often pay distributions and segregated funds often allocate to investors. The distribution or allocation consists of income and capital gains received within the fund and, as discussed above, the amount is taxable. If you reinvest your distribution from a mutual fund the amount is added to your ACB. If the amount is deemed as an allocation from a segregated fund, this also increases your ACB, however the insurance company tracks your ACB for you. When you sell your investment, this decreases your capital gain or increases your capital loss.

3. You receive return of capital

When an investment pays you “return of capital,” that amount is not taxable because it’s part of your original investment. However, any return of capital is subtracted from your ACB. When you sell your investment, this increases your capital gain or decreases your capital loss. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to track the ACB for your investments – and it’s critical to do so in order to pay the right amount of tax when you sell. Talk to a tax professional if you have questions about the ACB of any of your investments and to make sure your ACB calculations are accurate.

Léony deGraaf Hastings, CFP, EPC 905-632-9900 Certified Financial Planner
1-800-775-7047 Retirement & Estate Planning Specialist www.dgfs.ca

5 Tips to Promote Heart Health

In observance of Heart Month this February, Home Care Assistance is raising awareness around heart disease and stroke prevention by sharing 5 tips for heart health. Worldwide, heart disease is a leading cause of death and a major cause of disability. In 2015, cardiovascular disease caused over 17 million deaths worldwide with numbers expected to increase year-over-year.

As part of our commitment to community education around topics related to health and wellness, here are 5 tips to promote heart health.

1. Cook for your heart. Eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the best ways to protect your heart. Ideally, a diet that is low in fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar and high in fruits, veggies, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids and dark chocolate (yum!) has the most heart-health benefits.

2. Quit smoking. Smoking is the second leading cause of cardiovascular disease after high blood pressure with a direct link to almost 10 percent of all cases. More importantly, smoking is 100 percent avoidable. Within five years of quitting smoking, the risk of having a heart attack decreases by 50 percent; this is reason enough to quit if you are currently a smoker.

3. Get your heart pumpin. Obesity can increase the risk of coronary artery disease ten-fold while lack of exercise can double the risk of heart disease. We recommend 15 to 20 minutes of moderate exercise five days per week to work out your body and your heart.

4. Reduce stress. With warmer weather right around the corner, the sunshine, fresh produce and easy access to outside activities all come together to reduce stress and promote heart health.  Practicing meditation or engaging in your favorite hobby are also great stress relievers and promoters of healthy mind, body and spirit.  Research has shown that depression increases the negative effects and risk of heart disease so seek professional help if needed.

5. Get routine check-ups. Most important, schedule regular appointments with your primary physician or cardiologist. Follow doctor-recommended advice to control blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and other factors to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

For more information about the risk factors of heart disease and stroke, read our blog “A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart”. Controlling risk factors by following these 5 heart-healthy tips can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by 80 percent. If you are encouraging a senior loved one to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle, we recommend texting or calling him or her with motivational reminders; working towards a proactive, healthy lifestyle is easier with a support system.

In recognition of Heart Month, individuals can request complimentary copies of Home Care Assistance’s Patient Guides for Cardiac Rehabilitation and Post-Stroke Care from any local Home Care Assistance office or download a copy from the company’s website.

For more information, visit www.HomeCareAssistance.com/HeartMonth.

Signs of stroke

Stroke is a medical emergency. If you experience any of these signs, call 9-1-1. Do not drive to the hospital. An ambulance will get you to the best hospital for stroke care.

FACE is it drooping?

ARMS can you raise both?

SPEECH is it slurred or jumbled?

TIME to call 911 right away!

Canada’s unions call anti-pension bill C-27 a betrayal

Canada’s unions are organizing against Bill C-27 a new piece of federal legislation that enables Crown corporations and federal private-sector employers to back out of defined-benefit pension commitments.

“This bill was announced without consultation or advance notice, though it directly contradicts election promises to stabilize and improve retirement security,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff, who wrote a letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau outlining the CLC’s opposition to the bill.

Currently, defined-benefit (DB) pensions provide stability and security to employees because employers are legally obliged to fund employees’ earned benefits. Already earned benefits are legally protected. Bill C-27 removes employers’ legal requirements to fund plan benefits, which means that benefits could be reduced going forward or even retroactively. Even people already retired could find their existing benefits affected, after paying in their entire working lives.

The bill would also invite employers to establish inferior, less-secure target-benefit (TB) plans, and persuade individual members to give up their DB benefits in exchange for the new plan.

“Bill C-27 invites employers and other plan sponsors to abandon their pension promises to employees and retirees, downloading virtually all plan risks brought on by market volatility from employers to workers and retirees,” Yussuff wrote to Morneau. “This is an unconscionable betrayal of the legal rights and protections of plan members.”

In 2014 Stephen Harper’s Conservatives launched public consultations on a similar framework, but after overwhelmingly negative feedback from unions, retirees and other stakeholders, they scuttled the idea. 

“This is very dangerous legislation that was even rejected by Harper’s Conservatives, and I’m urging the current government to abandon it now,” said Yussuff.

Yussuff noted the sole jurisdiction where employers are allowed to back out of promises to pay already-earned DB pensions is New Brunswick. Since 2012, when New Brunswick’s Conservative government introduced their legislation, New Brunswick has seen class action lawsuits, constitutional challenges, and plummeting defined-benefit planned membership. 

“Instead of following the Conservatives’ example, we urge the federal government to strengthen and expand pension and retirement security. If they instead go ahead with C-27, we are prepared to work very hard to ensure Canadians’ opposition is heard loud and clear,” said Yussuff.

This article taken from the CLC website.

NUPGE stands up for Power Workers' constitutional rights

"The Ford government is willfully violating the Charter rights of the Power Workers of Ontario and is trampling on the collective bargaining process by ending a strike that has not even started." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President

Ottawa ( 20 Dec. 2018) — Engaging in fearmongering and claiming that Ontarians will celebrate Christmas in the cold and dark if they do not act, the Ford government has tabled legislation to end a strike that does not even officially exist. Bill 67, Labour Relations Amendment Act (Protecting Ontario's Power Supply), 2018 is being rushed through by the Ford Conservatives, whose majority in the Ontario legislature guarantees it will be passed. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) strongly rejects the Ford government’s violation of the Charter rights of the Power Workers’ Union and calls on Ontario to respect the rule of law and collective bargaining rights.

"To legislate workers back to work when they are still working is a clear subversion of the collective bargaining process, and using back-to-work legislation to deny collective bargaining rights is a clear violation of the Canadian Charter," said Larry Brown, NUPGE President. Brown continued, "Some governments seem to feel they can ignore Canadian court rulings and that they are somehow above the courts and the rule of law. This should concern all Canadians, especially since the Supreme Court has already ruled that workers have the right to strike."

Supreme Court ruling protects collective bargaining

In Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v Saskatchewan, 2015 SCC 4, "the Supreme Court ruled that the right to strike is an ‘indispensable component’ of the right to meaningful collective bargaining under the guarantee of freedom of association in s.2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms" (Lancaster House as reported in CanLII). This ruling was referenced in 2016 when Justice Stephen Firestone, of the Ontario Superior Court, struck down Bill C-6, Stephen Harper's 2011 back-to-work legislation. Federal Bill C-6 targeted the postal workers who were on rotating strikes.

The workers of the Power Workers' Union have a right to reject the contract offer by their employer. Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) actions are inflaming the situation rather than working towards a fair settlement of the outstanding issues. NUPGE commends these workers who are demanding that 300 term workers receive the same rights as full time workers.  Brown also commended the power workers as highly trained and highly conscientious workers who every day ensure that the people of Ontario have the electricity they need. 

Exercise good faith and get back to the bargaining table

"The collective bargaining process requires both sides to go into the negotiation with good faith," said Larry Brown. "The Ford government seems undeterred by court rulings and does not hesitate to implement legislation that it knows violates the Canadian Charter." Brown was referring to Doug Ford's previous choice to invoke the Charter's notwithstanding clause after a court ruled his legislation cutting Toronto City Council was in violation of the Charter. The notwithstanding clause allows provinces to temporarily set aside charter rights.

Invoking the notwithstanding clause and introducing back to work legislation, within 6 months of taking office, clearly signals the Ford government’s willingness to ignore Canadian’s Charter rights. OPG and the Ford government should be actively negotiating with power workers towards a fair settlement. This is how to reach a fair and balanced collective agreement. There is still time to negotiate a settlement, instead both OPG and the Ontario government have rejected the opportunity to negotiate with workers in favour of actions which violate workers’ Charter rights. Governments need to put an end to flagrantly denying workers their Charter rights and respect the collective bargaining process.

This article was taken from the NUPGE website.

Caregiving: Ontario’s not-so-quiet crisis

By Danielle Van Duzer: Opinion

Dec. 20, 2018

Caregiving is sometimes referred to as the quiet crisis, a crisis that is smouldering below the surface and that requires urgent attention and action to avoid catastrophe.

With the release of The Change Foundation’s recent report, “Spotlight on Ontario Caregivers,” there is a shift happening across the province. There is an important conversation taking place that centres around the needs of Ontario’s 3.3 million caregivers — the family members, partners, friends and neighbours who provide personal, social and psychological support to someone in need.

Caregivers invest 11 to 30 hours a week, on average, providing an invaluable service to their loved one, community and society at large, Danielle Van Duzer writes.  

We can argue that caregivers are the single most valuable resource in our health-care system. With family caregivers providing roughly three-quarters of all patient care, they are enabling loved ones to remain in their home and are providing the personal, emotional and often the medical care their loved one needs, regardless of whether they know how or feel confident in their abilities to do so. Caregivers invest 11 to 30 hours a week, on average. When we calculate the hours using minimum wage, their contribution is estimated to be $26 to $72 billion dollars a year, but their contribution extends far beyond the health-care system. Caregivers provide an invaluable service to their loved one, their community and society at large.

The Change Foundation’s report shines a light on the state of caregiving in Ontario and reinforces the urgent need to act. While the report indicates that most caregivers find the role rewarding, it also indicates caregivers are overwhelmed and frustrated in their role. For many, caregiving is having a negative effect on their own physical and mental health. It also has a negative effect on their jobs, personal relationships and finances. Caregivers are burning out, and while 50 per cent say they have talked to their doctor about their ability to physically and emotionally handle this job, others have never had this conversation and continue to suffer in silence. According to Health Quality Ontario’s recent “Measuring Up” report, caregiver distress is on the rise, with one in four caregivers now experiencing distress, anger or depression, up from one in five in 2013.

The message is clear. Our single most valuable resource is in crisis.

Focusing on the issues facing caregivers and understanding the situation in our province is important. It is the underpinning we need in order to take effective action.

The Ontario Caregiver Organization has been created to help make it easier for family caregivers. Our focus will be on raising awareness of the caregiving role, connecting caregivers to information and supports and helping to bridge the services available so all caregivers, regardless of age, condition or where they live have access to the same resources. We are not here to duplicate services that already exist, but rather to work with organizations that share the same vision and want to find new and innovative ways to expand the existing services already valued by caregivers. Our way forward will be rooted in the authentic voice of caregivers and we will use that voice to inform policy and legislation. While this will take time, we are committed to working with caregivers and service providers to make positive and meaningful change.

As part of the early work of the organization, we are building awareness of existing programs and supports available to caregivers, creating a caregiver advisory structure so all caregivers have the opportunity to share their voice and contribute to issues that matter to them. We are also starting to identify opportunities to partner with organizations to expand existing programs and services, so all caregivers have fair access to what they need.

The volume has been turned up on the quiet crisis that is caregiving. We’re excited to see momentum building across the province and a greater focus being placed on supporting caregivers in their important role.

Danielle Van Duzer is communications lead for the Ontario Caregiver Organization.

Attention Region 7 Retirees

The first Thursday of every month we will be holding
Coffee, Conversation, Cards and/or Crafts.
1 pm at Thunder Bay Membership - 326 Memorial Ave. 
Thunder Bay (across from Tim Hortons). Bring a friend, they don't 
have to be an OPSEU retiree. I'll put on the coffee and have the cards. 

Dates before our next General Meeting are Feb 7, Mar 7, April 11 and May 8th
For further info contact
Sandra Snider     Cell 807-630-4751  e-mail 13sasnider@gmail.com

Posted: October 23, 2018

Thousands Demand Doug Ford Disavow Health Care Privatization and Cuts

Other Political Parties Respond Positively to Coalition’s Demand for Services to be Rebuilt & Restored

Toronto – “Hands Off Our Health Care” chanted a capacity crowd of an estimated 8,000 people who joined hands and encircled Queen’s Park today at the largest rally at the Ontario Legislature since Doug Ford became Premier earlier this year.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition told the crowd that Premier Doug Ford had been invited to the rally to disavow plans for cuts and privatization. Mr. Ford declined to attend and did not send the health minister and or anyone else instead. “In the short time since the provincial election, Doug Ford has cut OHIP+ and mental health funding,” Ms. Mehra told the rally. “And has released a major report calling for means testing, user fees and privatization of health care and other services. This is intolerable. Ontarians are demanding that Mr. Ford live up to his promises and expand and restore services, not privatize them.”

Doug Ford alone was the only political leader to not address the rally.

John Fraser, Interim Liberal Leader and Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party pushed for more investment in the public health care system, not cuts. The message being sent to the Ford government was clear, expand care not cuts.

“Families want to know that when a loved one needs to visit the hospital, they won’t be stuck in a hallway. They need to know that a long-term-care bed will be there for an aging parent,” said Andrea Horwath, NDP, Leader of the Official Opposition.

Patients and advocates called for improvements to health care and seniors care, hospital overcrowding and homecare, including reopening closed hospital beds, a long-term care minimum care standard of four hours per resident per day, and also that all new capacity in hospitals, long term care and community care to be built as pubic, non-profit services and not privatized.

Michael Hurley, President, OCHU/CUPE said, “The Ford government cut $377 million in funding from mental health and addictions. It’s $90 million in hospital surge funding replaces $187 million – so it is cutting $97 million.

This government’s fiscal plans collide sharply with healthcare funding and we expect the closure of 3,000 hospital beds by the time the dust settles unless we push back hard. That is what we are firmly committed to do.

“Doug Ford did not mention privatization or health care cuts in the election. He has no mandate for these, We will keep coming back in larger and larger numbers until the cuts are stopped and health care service are improved and expanded,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eddy Almeida.

“Premier Ford has to address the undeniable crisis in health care – patients are feeling it and health care workers are feeling it every day,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Pre-election, Doug Ford promised to end hallway medicine, but instead he’s hired former B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, who slashed health care in favour of privatization. Unifor is here to say hands off our health care.”

Ford flirts with private health care at his peril

By Natalie Mehra Opinion

Mon., Jan. 14, 2019

Although it was not once mentioned in last spring’s provincial election, reasons to be concerned about the privatization plans of the Ford government are mounting.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford talks to staff during a campaign stop at Etobicoke General Hospital in Toronto last May. “Regular Ontarians in every walk of life have a role to play in standing up and insisting that (Premier Doug) Ford commit to safeguard and improve our public health care, not cut and privatize it,” writes Natalie Mehra.  (NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

 Among them:

  • In September, the Doug Ford government released a report commissioned from Ernst & Young that recommended imposing means testing and user fees for our universal social programs, such as health care and education. This would violate the Canada Health Act, which protects patients in need of care by banning such user fees. It is a direct attack on the cornerstone principles of public health care for all. This report was clearly sanctioned by the premier. Word out of Queen’s Park is that the report is “directional” and the government is working on its implementation.
  • In October, we invited Premier Doug Ford to a rally at the Ontario Legislature. It was one of the largest rallies since Ford’s election and police estimated 8,000 people in attendance. The NDP, Liberal and Green leaders came, and, to varying degrees, committed to our “asks” that they stop hospital cuts, restore health services and stop privatization. Ford‘s aide informed us that the premier was not available. Ford would not provide an alternate spokesperson, nor make any commitment to stop cuts and privatization.
  • The day after being sworn in, the Ford government cut OHIP+. It expanded public drug coverage to all Ontarians under 25. It would have replaced costly for-profit private insurance plans with a less expensive (and full-coverage) non-profit public plan. Ford’s cut forces families to seek coverage from their private drug plan first. Not only will this add paperwork and delays but private drug plans have ever increasing co-payments and deductibles. For families of kids with cancer, for example, costs can amount to hundreds of dollars per month. The very first act of the Ford government benefitted private insurance companies and hurt families with sick kids.

Ford’s election pledges to axe cap-and-trade and implement tax giveaways that overwhelmingly benefit high income earners and corporations will cost approximately $22 billion. That’s $22 billion less for health, education, roads, transit, housing, parks and so on: among the most severe cuts in our history. We anticipate these cuts to start in earnest after the federal election. They will almost certainly result in privatization, if we do not stop them.

Former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein called public health care the “electric third rail” of Canadian politics: the rail that runs between the tracks and if you touch it you get electrocuted.

It is time to electrify that third rail. Regular Ontarians in every walk of life have a role to play in standing up and insisting that Ford commit to safeguard and improve our public health care, not cut and privatize it.

Ford has no mandate for this, and if he tries to touch our public health care system, it will mark the day that began the end of his political ambitions.

Natalie Mehra is the executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

For more information on how you can volunteer, Health Care issues, events near you or rallies contact the Ontario Health Coalition at: www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca

Ontario Health Coalition
15 Gervais Drive, Suite 201
Toronto Ontario, M3C 1Y8   Tel: 416-441-2502
Email: ohc@sympatico.ca

Depression in the elderly

Clinical depression in the elderly is common. That doesn't mean it's normal. Late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans age 65 and older. But only 10% receive treatment for depression. The likely reason is that the elderly often display symptoms of depression differently. Depression in the elderly is also frequently confused with the effects of multiple illnesses and the medicines used to treat them.

Depression impacts older people differently than younger people. In the elderly, depression often occurs with other medical illnesses and disabilities and lasts longer.

Depression in the elderly often increases their risk of cardiac diseases. Depression doubles an elderly person's risk of cardiac diseases and increases their risk of death from illness. At the same time, depression reduces an elderly person's ability to rehabilitate. Studies of nursing home patients with physical illnesses have shown that the presence of depression substantially increases the likelihood of death from those illnesses. Depression also has been associated with increased risk of death following a heart attack. For that reason, making sure that an elderly person you are concerned about is evaluated and treated is important, even if the depression is mild.

Depression also increases the risk of suicide, especially in elderly white men. The suicide rate in people ages 80 to 84 is more than twice that of the general population. The National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in people age 65 and older to be a major public health problem.

In addition, advancing age is often accompanied by loss of social support systems due to the death of a spouse or siblings, retirement, or relocation of residence. Because of changes in an elderly person's circumstances and the fact that elderly people are expected to slow down, doctors and family may miss the signs of depression. As a result, effective treatment often gets delayed, forcing many elderly people to struggle unnecessarily with depression.

What Are Symptoms of Depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

•Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions •Fatigue and decreased energy •Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness •Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping •Irritability, restlessness • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex •Overeating or appetite loss •Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment •Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings •Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts.

If symptoms of depression are negatively affecting your life -- such as causing difficulties with relationships or work issues or causing family disputes -- and there isn't a clear solution to these problems, then you should seek help. Talking with a mental health counselor or health care professional can help prevent things from getting worse, especially if these symptoms of depression persist for any length of time.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or feelings, you must seek help immediately.

In addition, it's important to understand that feeling depressed does not mean you have a depressive illness. Depression as a medical illness involves not only changes in mood, such as persistent sadness or feeling down or blue, but also changes in sleep, energy, appetite, concentration, and motivation. If you have physical symptoms such as these and find yourself feeling depressed much of the time for days or weeks on end, seek medical help.

This article was written by Michelle Ferrara Director of Community Relations New Village Retirement Residence Stoney Creek ON michelle.ferrara@responsivegroup.ca

Good deal for Canada? At best, USMCA is a mixed bag

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland claims the tentative United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a good deal for Canada. You be the judge.

The good news:

No Chapter 11. The USMCA eliminates the Chapter 11 Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions.

ISDS allowed foreign corporations and investors to sue Canadian governments if they believed they were unjustifiably harmed by a government's laws or policies.

No energy proportionality. The existing NAFTA Energy Chapter contained a provision that Canada could not reduce U.S. access to Canada's oil, natural gas, coal and electricity without a corresponding reduction in Canada's own access to these products.

Improved labour rights. The USMCA Labour Chapter requires the three partners to uphold fundamental labour rights contained in the International Labor Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The USMCA contains an Annex that commits Mexico to legislative actions to provide for the recognition of the right to collective bargaining for workers.

Auto sector improvements. The USMCA increases the North American content requirement for vehicles to 75 per cent by 2023. When USMCA is fully phased in, 40 per cent of the material and manufacturing costs of an automobile and 45 per cent of a truck will have to originate in facilities where direct production workers have an average hourly base-wage of at least US$16 per hour.

The bad news:

Extension of data and patent protections for pharmaceuticals. Canada caved in under the pressure from the high-powered pharmaceutical industry at the expense of Canadian patients struggling to foot the cost of their medications. Canada agreed to extend data protection for biological drugs from the current eight years to at least ten years. This will result in further delay of manufacturing cheaper generic medications.

Concessions in Canada's supply managed agricultural industries. The USMCA opens Canada's market to more U.S. dairy, eggs and poultry products. In terms of dairy products, this includes products that contain bovine growth hormone (BGH), a genetically modified hormone that is injected in cows to make them produce more milk. BGH has been banned in Canada due to its link to serious health concerns.

Maintaining of tariffs. The USMCA fails to eliminate tariffs on Canadian steel, aluminum and forestry products. These illegal and unjustified tariffs pose a serious threat to Canadian jobs and communities. The U.S. administration has made it clear that they have the power to override the "free-trade" elements of the USMCA for reasons of "national security." There is no protection in the USMCA to stop the U.S. from imposing tariffs on whatever it wishes in the name of U.S. "national security."

The poison pills:

State-Owned Enterprises. USMCA Chapter 22 classifies State-Owned Enterprises (SOE's) such as Canada Post, public hospitals, etc., as nonmarket entities subject to restrictions. The USMCA targets SOE's and demands that they not compete with private sector companies. The USMCA text spells out specific penalties to be paid for noncompliance if a nonmarket entity uses public money to develop an enterprise in the public interest. This has serious implications for the Bank of Canada and the Infrastructure Bank that uses public money to fund major infrastructure projects.

Macroeconomic policies and exchange rate matters. USMCA Chapter 33 gives the U.S. power over Canada's currency, government spending and taxation. Canada has agreed to let a tripartite committee monitor its exchange rate and tax policies. Chapter 33 in effect has the potential to undermine the Bank of Canada's independence.

Article 32.10 Non-Market Country. This Article will give the U.S. a veto over any future trade agreement between Canada and a nonmarket economy (code name: China). Ottawa now must notify the USMCA partners if it just intends to pursue a trade deal with a nonmarket economy. If the U.S. doesn't like what Canada negotiates, then Canada gets kicked out of the USMCA. By agreeing to Article 32.10, Canada has sacrificed its independent trade and foreign policy on the alter of the USMCA.

The government is urged to do the following prior to the USMC being ratified:

  • Renegotiate the extension of data and patent protections for pharmaceuticals to ensure that drug patents are not extended but reduced to five years.
  • Chapters 22 and 33 and Article 32.10 be redrafted to ensure Canadian sovereignty and trade independence is guaranteed.
  • All existing tariffs imposed by the U.S. on Canadian steel, aluminum and forestry products must be lifted.
  • That language be included in the USMCA text to ensure that no tariffs will be imposed by any partner on any product during the life of the USMCA.

Malcolm Buchanan is of the president Hamilton Area Congress of Union Retirees of Canada.

Gardening in a changing climate

Wrapped around the westernmost tip of Lake Ontario is an oasis of green quite unlike any other. Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) encompasses 11 square kilometres (2, 700 acres) of Carolinian forests, Niagara Escarpment cliffs, remnant prairies, shimmering wetlands, and some of Canada’s most breathtaking gardens, right in the heart of the Greenbelt. Known as Canada’s plant biodiversity hotspot, RBG is home to more species of plants than any other area in the country. Its location in the middle of the Golden Horseshoe makes RBG a magnet for people as well, and each year over 645,000 visitors enjoy a variety of experiences, from enjoying almost 50 curated plant collections to taking part in education programs, art and music events, or hiking on 27 kilometres of trails. Part of a world-wide network of botanical gardens, RBG brings people, plants and place together for the purpose of nurturing and preserving healthy growing life on our planet.

Climate impacts on gardening

Many of the impacts of a changing climate on gardening are already happening at rbg – and you may have noticed these impacts in your own garden.

Severe storm damage

Trees thrown over or snapped by gale-force winds.

Invasive species

Plants that were once borderline hardy now do fine without winter protection, while other garden plants are demonstrating their invasive potential by elbowing their way into nearby natural areas. In some areas, native woodland plants are quickly disappearing under a sea of aggressive invasives like Garlic Mustard and Dog-strangling Vine.

Rapid transition between seasons

Rather than slow, cool springs, the new normal includes unseasonably warm weather in early spring that pushes trees from dormancy to leaf-out over a very short period of time. Like being awakened from a deep slumber to immediately run a marathon, this places a lot of stress on trees and shrubs, and it also causes shifts in bloom timing that can put plants out of sync with their pollinators.

Extreme heat and drought

A Canadian icon, Sugar Maple is one of many species that scientists know is vulnerable to a drier, warmer climate and therefore very likely disappear from the Greenbelt in this century. RBG’s maple bush, home to the first public maple program in the province, stopped operations years ago as a result of tree stress caused by several very dry summers along with the impacts of Gypsy Moth.

Shifting “climate envelope”

Gardeners know that plants are highly adapted to the climate of their native range, and that success in gardening depends on providing a plant species in your care with conditions like those found in that species’ home. A gardener can move plants to more suitable spots, or purchase a better-adapted species, but wild species don’t have the option of picking up their roots and relocating if conditions are changing faster than they can adapt or their seeds can travel.

While any of these stressors may not outright kill plants, their cumulative impact can weaken defenses, leaving many species vulnerable to disease or pests. System-wide stress can also open the door to the devastating effects of invasive species. Monitoring on RBG’s properties turned up 10 new species in 2016-2017, all non-native, and some with invasive potential.

Action you can take

Gardening in the 20th century was largely about civic beautification, but gardening in the 21st century has a much more important role to play by helping to build community resilience and sustainability in rapidly changing times. Collectively, gardeners can both reduce their carbon footprint and play an important role in climate change adaptation and mitigation in their community! Most of the land in our cities is privately owned, and the green infrastructure each of us creates on our property will link with other gardens to create corridors across our communities. Like urban river valleys, these can ultimately connect developed areas with greenspace in the Greenbelt to the benefit of both. Whether you grow vegetables, save seeds or help pollinators on your balcony/patio or rooftop garden, or green up your yard with rain gardens, xeriscapes, native species and habitat for birds and butterflies, you are making an important difference.

Gardening for environmental sustainability means considering the footprint and functionality of your garden and garden practices from the ground up – the abiotic, or non-living world of rock, soil, water (and hardscaping); and the biotic, or living world of plants and animals – from fungi and bacteria, to worms, ferns and flowers. You can make huge changes at once or start with small changes and keep the momentum going. Here are some easy, scalable places to start:

Reduce runoff

You can turn your property into part of your community’s stormwater management infrastructure by looking for opportunities to replace cement or asphalt with permeable paving or decking that allows rain to soak into the soil. Green roofs are another way to absorb rain and reduce runoff, as are beautiful and functional rain gardens. These specially designed flowerbeds form a depression and are underlain by well-drained material. Instead of flowing into the nearest sewer, runoff is directed into the rain garden where it can pool and filter into the soil over several hours.

Don’t add water

Minimize the use of potable water by collecting water in rain barrels. And if you must water large areas, remember that much of the water sprayed from traditional sprinklers evaporates before touching the soil, so switch to drip irrigation.

Plant for functionality

Take a close look at each species you have planted and ask yourself, will this plant support wildlife by providing shelter, or nectar and pollen for insects, or seeds and fruit for birds? Does it require minimal “inputs” of water and fertilizer? Is it invasive? Will it be susceptible to pests? Native plants are a go-to group to include in your garden, and you can further reduce your carbon footprint by growing vegetables. Even patio and balcony gardens can play a role, from hanging baskets featuring flowers for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, to containers filled with salad greens and tomatoes.

Choose trees for your grandchildren

Trees reduce carbon emissions from heating and air conditioning, reduce the urban heat island effect, reduce air pollution and store carbon. Well-chosen trees can live up to a century or more, so it’s critical to keep a warm dry climate in mind when you are deciding which tree to plant.

Greenbelt Foundation
Prepared by Barbara McKean, Head of Education, Royal Botanical Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publication Date: 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - 9:30am