Dec. 6, 2017

Reining in council question period is long overdue

By Merv Unger

171017 - The city's move to tighten up the question period process at counci meetings is the best news in a long time.

It has been a long time since that section of the council agenda has really been about asking questions. In most instances, the questioners already know the answers, they are simply grandstanding for the television cameras.

On many occasions – on most occasions – question period has been used as a podium for citizens making speeches rather than asking questions. A number of those have been using the question period as a launching pad for the next election, getting free television exposure.

In most instances, people with legitimate questions can get the answers from city staff before council meetings. Question period could be moved to Commitee of the Whole. The only difference would be that questioners could not be TV stars.

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Our health care planning is seriously ill

By Merv Unger

0925 - When you monitor the news as closely as I do you run into many stories often hidden within stories.

A case in point was the report on the weekend that 210 Canadians remain virtually trapped in the wake of Hurricane Maria, in Puerto Rico and surrounding islands. The Dominica airport is shut down, and port facilities can’t handle ships that could effect the rescue.

One thing stood out in the report – among 196 Canadians stranded on Dominica are 148 Canadian students at Ross University School of Medicine. Why would we have that many of our citizens in an offshore medical school?

Having had a family member graduate from Ross University a number of years ago I am totally familiar with this situation, and it doesn’t seem to have changed in the last decade. The question arises, how many of those 148 students at Ross University will even consider coming back to Canada?

We are living in a province, as are people in other provinces, who cannot find a family doctor, we just don’t have enough to go around. There’s no shortage of people anxious to get into medical school right here at home, the problem is they can’t get admission to our medical schools.

Some British Columbians are going to other provinces to get into their universities because of the long lineups in B.C. That doesn’t guarantee success though.

It was the same story for our family member who could not get into the University of British Columbia. He then pursued a spot at the University of Alberta, based on the fact that he was born in Alberta. Even after taking additional related studies at the U of A, he still could not break through. It was the same story in Manitoba, where he had been resident since early childhood. All that essentially did was cost him a number of years delay before finally heading to the offshore school.

You might say it’s great to have the option of going to the Caribbean or other offshore schools, but that does not guarantee a return to the homeland. Once trained, there are virtually unlimited opportunities elsewhere. In our case, that ended up in the United States where Dr. Unger is now an established anesthesiologist and assistant professor of anesthesiology at West Virginia University School of Medicine. His American wife, also a doctor, and their two young daughters will never become Canadians because he has cast his lot where he had the opportunity.

I know of other families in Nanaimo whose children had to go elsewhere for medical school. I don’t know the latest figures, but the last I saw was that British Columbia admits 240 medical students a year, and it must be noted that not all who enter actually graduate.

Our population of doctors is aging along with the rest of the population, and that raises the question whether 240 students a year is even filling the replacement needs of retiring doctors.

With governments struggling with providing health care, a much greater emphasis must be placed on creating a home-grown solution – training more doctors in our own province.

In the meantime, the brain drain continues and we will still have a doctor shortage.


What a starting lineup for the cannabis train

By Merv Unger
Sept 17, 2017

Canada’s justice ministers met in Vancouver last week, with marijuana legalization being at the top of the menu. With the July, 2018 target date, it is of note who is who in the production and marketing end. I found an interesting website that claims federal Liberal elites have all the front row seats when it comes to getting LP status. (LP stands for Licensed Producer, not Liberal Party). The list is dotted with party notables as well as a former prime minister, a former premier, former cabinet ministers and upper echelon former RCMP brass.

It’s really easy to find information on the internet, too often falling into the fake news or gossip category, so I double checked the websites of some of the largest cannabis companies. There are the names and smiling faces of former politicians listed as heads of companies or senior directors. The headline is somewhat misleading, NDP and Conservatives politicians permeate in the list as well.

There is no suggestion of impropriety, but should we expect to see the names of former political brass and the RCMP in the driver’s seat of this new industry? Somehow there’s that strange feeling with the hair on the back of your neck standing up. The current crop of politicians are making the rules, and their past cohorts are the ones waiting in line to cash in.

The website lists the following.

Mike Harcourt, Chairman of True Leaf Medicine Inc – former B.C. Premier

Kash Heed, strategic consultant with National Green BioMed – Former B.C. Solicitor General and former West Vancouver police chief

Herb Dhaliwal, Chairman, National Green BioMed – former Vancouver MP and federal cabinet minister.

John Reynolds, advisor to Vodis Innovative Pharmaceuticals Inc – former MP with the Progressive Conservative, Reform and Canadian Alliance parties

Senator Larry Campbell, advisor to Vodis Innovative Pharmaceuticals Inc. – former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and Vancouver mayor. And sitting Senator.

Barry Daniel, Wildflower’s head of security – Former Abbotsford police chief.

John Turner, medicinal marijuana applicant in Ontario (With Kash Heed) – Former Prime Minister of Canada.