Thursday, 20 November 2008

Need Action, Not Another Report

Letter to the Editor in the 20 Nov 2008 issue of METRO (Toronto), in response to the launch of the 'Roots of Youth Violence' report. -Bryan

Re: Probe links youth violence to mental health neglect, Nov. 14


Dear Editor(s)

The links between mental health and violence have long been raised by clinical and social scientists, youth agencies, and community advocates. In raising the profile of the cause, we hope the recommendations of McMurtry & Curling to address the ‘Roots of Youth Violence’ are adopted so that real action is finally seen in communities at risk.

In a new approach, any provincial reorganization should consider a revised definition of ‘youth’ so that young people transitioning from the childhood to adult mental health system no longer lose proven crime and homeless-prevention services simply because they have turned 18 and no longer qualify.

The Roots of Youth Violence is an excellent study with serious recommendations. The time is now for those involved to demand real action from the Premier, and not allow this to be another report that ends up sitting in a library without affecting meaningful change.

Bryan Heal, Public Health Consultant

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Life imitating Art imitating Life

Some interesting connections between between the ascention of Barack Obama, and that of NBC’s The West Wing …

- A minority candidate from the democrats, only in Washington for a few years after a long resume in his community, runs for president while calling for unity and a different kind of politics.
- In the democratic primary he fights a long, hard and divisive campaign against an establishment candidate that everybody expects to win.
- He comes out on top after a divisive convention that threatens party unity going in.
- He delivers an inspiring speech at his party’s convention that makes people wake up and feel like he may be something special.
- In the general election, he goes up against a straight talking Republican from a western state known as a maverick in his party and more liberal than most republicans.
- He delivers an important address about race relations at a time when his poll numbers need a boost.
- A major crises hits the US which irreparably hurts his opponent’s support.
- He wins the Presidency.
- He appoints, as his Chief of Staff, a veteran of the last democratic
president with a big reputation for getting things done in often dramatic and unorthodox ways.

While these points can certainly describe Obama’s rise in real life, I had the TV character Matt Santos in mind while writing them. Not bad scripting, eh, for a show that ended well before Obama even announced he was running for President. Oh, a couple more things …

- The inspiration for the West Wing’s Matt Santos, was Barack Obama himself, after his convention speech way back in 2004.
- The political advisor the show’s writers consulted was David Axelrod, Obama’s Chief Strategist.
- Obama’s Chief of Staff, Ramh Emanuel, named just a few days ago, was the inspiration for the Josh Lyman character on the West Wing.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Let Stockwell be Stockwell

I’m lucky to have a truly great MP in Dr Carolyn Bennett – it made my decision in our recent election pretty easy.

Partisan friends aside, I’ve never before spoken to so many people utterly bored with the political process, unhappy with their choices, contemplating strategic voting and other measures to vote for the lesser of all evils than actually *for* somebody.

The result: Not a whole heap of change. On the eve of an exciting and historic US election, it’s all a reminder of just how much we could use some fresher faces and a new kind of politics in our own system.

We do have a new cabinet though – so perhaps there’s still a chance for a shuffling of tactics as well. While he’s called for more reaching out and a team approach towards competence - the looming question going forward is whether or not the Prime Minister will give his Ministers more independence to be creative with their portfolios than lead with the firm, controlled, highly centralized grip we have seen since first taking office.

As a result of that centralized approach, most people seem to know Harper and what he stands for quite well, but so many of the rest of the players in the Conservative Party remain relatively unknown on the national stage (a couple newsmakers a la Baird, Bernier aside).

Not that I’m expecting it – but I’d personally love for him to go beyond the new job titles and really shake things, loosen the strings on his crew, and open us up to all the characters new and old. Radio personality Peter Kent, for example, finally gets his turn in office – let’s give him a good test to see whether is diplomatic skills can match his ambitions; We’ve got a rookie MP (Nunavut) tapped for Minister of Health – let’s get to know more about Leona Aglukkaq; And in an era of geopolitical races against time, we have another rookie MP (Oakville) tapped for Natural Resources – do we not want to learn more about her ideas for future directions in uncertain times.

Moral of the story: The people have spoken and have given Harper another minority, but are increasingly disengaged and just plain bored. Let’s add some excitement to the game and let our ministers be ministers for a change.

Passed by a one legged man!


We’ll no records were falling at this year’s Toronto International ½ Marathon, but it was both a fun & strong finish to what’s generally been a pretty tough race season.

The day’s high was simply doing it – the downhill course, fall temp & tree colours down the long Rosedale Valley kept a smile on my face throughout.

The most interesting moment must have been the reality check where, after catching up to the pacer I wanted after a late start, and passing all kinds of tall people along the way – I suddenly found myself two thirds of the way through eating the dust of one dude who must have been pushing 100, and another with a prosthetic left leg!!

The low point was my seemingly obligatory 17-19k struggle where I wished I had followed Kei’s lead in doing some more progression runs in training. Thankfully this funk didn’t last too long – what helped snapped me out was remembering some race management tips from the courses’ “psyching team” at the Expo, and then thinking about where I am today compared to where it all started for me last year when I was clocking 40min 5k’s at NTO Yorkville on Thursdays!

So what’s next? We lay low, build up our strength, and wait till next season which hopefully will feel like just around the corner (if for any other reason than the winter will be over!). Next big goal: Ironman 70.3 (the ½ IM) in Muskoka … guess I better learn how to swim:)

Friday, 5 September 2008


The words below were penned by my cousin Paul, whose sentiments I fully endorse in Micha being a great guy and that he has produced the best theme song entry in the field. Any comments or rating with CBC or further circulation of the link is greatly appreciated!

Hello Friends,

I hope everyone is well.

Have you heard of Mischa Chillak? He's a dude. He's also my good friend and a talented producer. We won't get into what he's worked on over the years (the score for Love Sex & Eating The Bones, Cheetos Chips jingles, a Glass Tiger remix, tons of production for Canadian hip hop acts...sorry), we'll just focus on one project in particular.

Long story short, CBC recently lost their licensing rights to the theme song for Hockey Night in Canada. So, they've created a contest where anyone can compose a new theme song, submit it, and CBC will select the best one. The winner receives a cash reward and hopefully opportunities for more projects.

Mischa’s entry, entitled ‘Dinny Dinsmore,’ can be heard at:

If you like (and I'm confident you will), please take a moment to sign up and leave a comment. There are countless other submissions, and I’ve put aside my bias when saying this, but nothing else I’ve heard even comes close.


Monday, 18 August 2008

Action on Air Quality: A Failing Grade

A statement from Dr Carolyn Bennett (MP, St Paul's) on the recent CMA report on the health and economic costs of declining air quality, and the federal government's poor performance in this area. --Bryan

Conservatives must act now on air quality – Bennett
For Immediate Release August 13, 2008

OTTAWA – A medical report issued today is further evidence that continued inaction by the Conservative government on air pollution is costing Canadian lives, Liberal Public Health Critic Carolyn Bennett said today.

‘The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) makes it clear that we have to act now on air quality,’ said Dr. Bennett. ‘The government talks a lot, but they aren’t taking this issue seriously.’

Dr. Bennett was commenting on a report released today by the CMA that predicts air pollution will claim the lives of 21,000 Canadians this year alone, and expects another 710,000 deaths because of long-term exposure to air pollution by 2031.

‘The health and economic costs are staggering and it is obvious that we need to take real action to improve air quality,’ said Dr. Bennett.

The report also predicts the economic impact of air pollution because of worker absenteeism, higher health care costs and other factors will reach $10 billion and could total more than $300 billion between now and 2031.

‘The Harper government is not fulfilling its responsibility to protect the lives and health of Canadians. Their inaction is the equivalent of playing poker with their lives.’

Today’s report comes the same week that Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn came under fire for pandering to the fast food industry over the issue of idling vehicles and the dangers of the emissions they cause. Mr. Lunn chose to ignore scientific evidence and Canadians’ health by tampering with his department’s website, and increasing the recommended maximum time that cars should idle.

This also comes on the heels of news that the Conservatives’ much-touted air quality regulations, which were so badly designed that both environmentalists and industry opposed them. Not a single regulation has even been drafted due to Conservative mismanagement and the government has turned the whole thing over to an Advisory Committee to sort out the mess.

‘For the last two and a half years the Harper government has been claiming it is serious about addressing air quality and environmental issues, but the reality is the opposite,’ Dr. Bennett added.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Dr Sheela Basrur

Public health in Canada lost a giant yesterday with the passing of our ever inspiring 'diminutive dynamo', Dr Sheela Basrur. Below is the statement released by Deputy Minister Sapford (MOHLTC) ...

I am greatly saddened to announce that Dr. Sheela Basrur passed away
earlier today after a valiant fight against a rare form of cancer. On
behalf of the staff of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care I
want to express my condolences to Dr. Basrur's family and to her many
colleagues both here in the ministry and in Ontario's health system.

Dr. Basrur was a former Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario
and a former Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto.
During her distinguished career, Dr. Basrur was instrumental in
proposing Ontario's first arms-length agency for health protection.
She led the development of Ontario's tobacco-control strategy. And
her leadership and expertise as Toronto's Medical Officer of Health
during the SARS outbreak of 2003 brought her world-wide recognition
and the respect of both her public-health colleagues and the people of

A private funeral will be held for Dr. Basrur. At a future date to be
announced, a public memorial will celebrate the life and professional
contribution of Dr. Basrur.

I know many of you worked closely with Sheela and had the utmost
respect for her. I would encourage you to take the time to share
memories and thoughts of her with eachother.

Donations may be made in memory of Dr. Basrur to:

The Grand River Hospital Foundation
835 King Street West
Kitchener, ON N2G 1G3

Monday, 2 June 2008

Dramatic automakers

Today’s business section of the Toronto Star reproduced a story from The Associated Press describing the big three U.S. automakers as in “Crises Mode” due to a consumer shift away from trucks and SUV’s. In it, the former chairman of American Motors Corp testifies that the industry has been caught flat footed without enough smaller, more fuel efficient cars to sell.

What strikes me odd about this whole thing is how on Earth they didn’t see this coming. While the reality of rising gas/petrol prices may have only set in after current production decisions were made, the issue of climate change has been prominent for years now and one has not needed to be an insider to observe the world moving in an increasingly fuel efficient direction.

It’s one thing to have anticipated a continued demand for big gas guzzlers, but to not have a risk management plan that could address the possibility of an ‘08 demand for more efficiency seems like pretty poor decision making – the kind that might put many companies out of business were they to misread the market environment this way. But this is the auto sector, and we need their jobs, so I’m sure one level of government will soon come along with an “incentive” to get them back on track!

Sunday, 1 June 2008


While I took a good lesson in how much I'll have to train for the Fall - last weekend's ING Ottawa Half Marathon was a great start to the '08 running season. A gorgeous route, perfect weather, and the energy of the thousands made for an unforgettable race that will certainly be marked on next year's calendar.

Of particular coolness were all the friends and fam who were around – it really felt like a home away from home during those few days! BIG CONGRATS to Cousin Eva on an outstanding 1st half marathon; to Regina's Dirty Dozen for continuing to inspire; to Kei & Elaine who were the greatest photographer-spectators ever; and to the whole Arcola Private crew for hosting an all-round great weekend.

The biggest shout out of all is reserved for 'lil D, who successfully completed this half marathon at the age of 12!! I WAS a runner at that age, and distance running meant 3000 metres – a fraction of the 21Km he logged last Sunday. It may take him a few years to fully appreciate what he accomplished in Ottawa – but rest assured he'll have a chorus of reminders until he does=)

For all interested - here's a link to some race day photos:

Honouring the Past, Shaping the future

This past week I was delighted to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of Ontario’s Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office (PPAO). Downtown Toronto’s Delta Chelsea played host to the gathering of consumer survivors, policymakers, human rights leaders, mental health advocates, and friends old and new to honour the service of an agency who has been at the forefront of patients’ rights for the past quarter century.

In addition to the history of progress and vision statements presented, one of the big highlights of the event was the launch of what will likely be remembered as a groundbreaking report titled “Honouring the Past, Shaping the Future: 25 years of progress in mental health advocacy and rights protection”.

It’ll take me a little while to get through it all, but this collection of over 100 insightful articles from consumers, advocates, political figures, physicians and lawyers already appears to be an important read for anybody with an interest in understanding recovery from mental illness and in shaping the systemic changes of tomorrow.

The report can be downloaded from the PPAO’s website, at:

A committee for the future

A recent issue of NOW Magazine had an article describing one of David Suzuki’s long held desires for Canada – to establish a super-ministry of the biosphere, with a mandate and enough inter-jurisdictional clout to ensure green progress is a part of what all the other ministries are doing.

I’m not sold on the super-ministry idea as is, but the concept of a body dedicated to vetting new laws and policies against long term interests could be interesting. For it to work it would have to go beyond the biosphere and consider all interests from economic to health, education, and reducing social inequalities. In 1992, the Finnish Parliament had a similar thought when they established the brilliantly named “Committee for the Future,” tasked with the overarching goal of keeping Finland on a path for meeting its long term development goals. It’s hard to say how transferable their model is or even if it’s as holistic as we’d need – but in Canada where governments have term limits and reelection providing incentive for “short term” successes, having an independent public body keeping their eye on the bigger picture might be worth giving some thought to.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

What not to do ...

With all the travels of the past month, the training has kinda been on hiatus for a while. Today was supposed to mark my comeback with a slow 21K prep for next week's ING Ottawa race. Boy was it painful! Not that that wasn't my own fault or anything ...

It didn't help that yesterday flew by without me really eating (brunch being the lone meal of the day).

It didn't help going out last night - good times were had, but we didn't exactly "take it easy" as was planned=)

It didn't help starting the 21 dehydrated, not to mention still running on yesterday's brunch and whatever drink calories added up to.

And the rain and wind made it all the more wonderful!

As the running season officially begins, I think I broke just about every pre long run rule in the book. Big shout outs to Kei and Nelson for putting up with my pace this morning - next week I'll be in FAR better form!

Now for the nap of all naps.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

A nice touch

I had a nice experience on my last flight to Denver. In addition to a smooth ride, not terrible food, and a high quality of service - the flight crew of United Airlines 1136 carried out a particularely cool gesture.

After the standard safety procedures snoozefest, the crew asked the passengers if any of us were serving with the Canadian Armed Forces. One dude raised his hand to the applause of the airline, and the pilot went on to thank Canada for its shared sacrifice with the US in Afghanistan, while upgrading the gentlemen to First Class.

I didn’t think they did those sorts of things in the airline biz anymore. Whether it’s a rare gesture, or one that happens more frequently than I think – it was a nice moment.

Saturday, 26 April 2008


A reproduced story from the 23Apr2008 issue of the Globe and Mail about our beloved mother, daughter, sister, auntie, teacher and friend. Read below or view the following link:

Facts & Arguments: LIVES LIVED

Matriarch, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, caregiver, music teacher, school concert organizer. Born Sept. 28, 1944, in Trinidad and Tobago. Died Feb. 23 in Toronto of brain cancer, aged 63.

April 23, 2008

All her life, Diane gave. It was a duty thrust upon her at an early age, but one she chose later in life.

Born Diane Kassie, her mother died when she was 8, leaving her father with six children, including a newborn just two hours old. Diane, the first-born, helped raise her siblings.

She took piano lessons and, with her musical skills, became the pianist at her church while still in her teens.

In 1968, Diane immigrated to Toronto. She worked and took night courses, eventually graduating from the University of Toronto. In 1972, she began her teaching career - primarily in music - with the Toronto Board of Education.

Diane met Doug Longley in Toronto. They married in 1978 and raised two children, Catherine and Kelly.

Diane was a sociable person with a wonderful laugh and a sense of humour that shone through any situation. After she was diagnosed with cancer, as she arranged for her burial, she said, "Well, I just bought myself some new property!"

She was a dedicated teacher and had a keen interest in the world around her. Never one to mince words, she expressed her thoughts with passion, colour and wisdom. Her words were not always soft, but her heart was.

Music brought joy and peace to Diane's life. It was a love she shared through teaching - students would return from her classes humming tunes, and concert audiences would often be moved to tears.

Her empathy was extraordinary. You could count on her when times got tough. As a mother and aunt, she taught the younger generation many life lessons. She believed in cultivating strong relationships with family and friends, encouraged finding one's potential through education and urged choosing a career that fed one's passion.

Diane taught the difference between a house and a warm and loving home, frequently welcoming visitors to a home-cooked meal.

At Toronto Grace Hospital, where she lived her final days, she charmed staff and visitors, celebrated birthdays and gathered her children, nieces, nephews and friends to tell them witty life stories, evoking howls of laughter - so alien in a palliative setting.

Her niece, Roshini, a trombonist, captured Diane's aura at her farewell: "You will always be the music in my life, Auntie Diane, and I will always play for you. I will always remember your wonderful stories and smile - always with music in my heart."

Rawle Kassie is Diane's brother, and Barb Broadbent is her colleague and friend.

Monday, 21 April 2008

GTA Clause Skepticism

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been up to speed on the recent contract dispute between the TTC workers, management and the City of Toronto. All I know is that expectations of a transit strike were widespread and that many of us who depend on it were actively making contingency plans on how to get to work this week.

So after finding out a deal had been reached I happened to read a couple stories on the 11th hour settlement, where one of the key terms - the "GTA Clause" left me puzzled. This clause stipulates that TTC workers would be guaranteed to have the highest wages of all transit workers in the GTA region over the next three years.

For one, the enforcability of how to "guarantee" such a clause is questionable - especially seeing as it's not the province that is footing the bill for the wage increases. A transit worker from York Region or Mississauga might legitimately ask why a transit worker from Toronto is worth more than them. Does the TTC have side agreements in place with other regional transit operators to not raise wages to much? I can't help but wonder what would happen if workers from either of those jurisdictions decided to fight for equal footing with their counterparts in TO.

All in all, I'm happy I can still ride the subways, but will be keeping an eye on developments over the term of this contract. With all the uproar and scrambling of the past week, along with the pre-weekend weigh in by Premier McGuinty - it may also be interesting to see if a more serious effort gets under way for the province to declare the TTC an essential service.

Running Ridiculousness

So Paulette (P) and Bryan (B) looked at some bikes this past weekend ...

B missed his original morning plan and goes to the Nike Lounge to test out some new kicks over a quick 5k, just as P is coming back from leading a short 3.5K clinic

B says: Ya know, Endurosport's store and clearance outlet are both in akward locations for TTC - whadda ya say we hit 'em up over a long run?

P says: Hmm interesing i dunno ... how far would that be?

B says: It's not that bad - the store is about 6 and the outlet about 11 ... a slow 21-22K would take us there and back

P says: That could work ... lemme go home after work, drop off my stuff, and we'll head out this afternoon

B says: Great - I'll just head out for a quick test run and will see ya in a bit

B gets back, and P ups the ante with this line: There's also this Trek shop up on Yonge ... how about we hit 'em all up and make it a 30K?

B now says: Hmmm interesting i dunno ... I haven't hit that distance yet this year. Why not - let's give it a shot - go big or go home, right?!

A LONG TIME LATER - Booster Juice felt like finding White Castle, both of us could barely walk, and we felt great!

And the bikes weren't to shabby either:)

Friday, 18 April 2008

Great running routes Toronto: Warden Woods - TNRL

Length: 18Km
Time: 99min

Weblink to map of route:

Description: Warden Woods to Toronto Nike Runners Lounge (TNRL)@ Summerhill,
via Taylor Creek Park - DVP - Riverdale Park - Rosedale Valley

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Obama: Destiny is in the blood?

Interesting bit of into reported by the Associated Press yesterday ...

A research project conducted by The New England Historic Genealogical Society recently uncovered some remarkable family connections for the three US presidential candidates. Of them all, the lineage of Barack Obama is most associated with political power.

Obama’s list of (very) distant cousins (inc cousin’s "once or twice-removed") include:

- President George W Bush
- former President George HW Bush
- former President Gerald Ford
- former President Lyndon Johnson
- former President Harry Truman
- James Madison
- Vice President Dick Cheney
- former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill
- US Civil War General Robert Lee.

Not bad, eh?

Source: The New England Historic Genealogical Society. The article "Ancestry of the presidential candidates" can be found on their webpage at

Monday, 24 March 2008

Health & health care: Time to get real

We often teach our systems planners and policymakers the mantra that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is easier to provide affordable housing options for those in need rather than respond to a crises of homelessness when it arrives. Provinces that create new jobs to support an aging population will be more productive than those who are left scrambling when large numbers of baby boomers retire or need assistance with various forms of dementia. And so it goes.

When thinking about our populations' health, however - we have, until recently, done a rather poor job of adhering to the messages that we preach. Wait times for MRI's or hip replacements, access to state of the art surgical equipment, physician and nurse shortages, exploding pharmaceutical costs - All important issues, but so consumed are we with notions of "care," or the options available once people are already sick, that we forget how powerful a force improving our general overall health status' can be in keeping all these other issues in check. While healthcare demands at least 50% of some provincial budgets and there are no shortage of reports on how overburdened and inefficient our system is at risk of becoming - rarely (with the exception of education) has the "determinants of health" earned aggressive post-election action from a new government in my (not that) young life. A "determinant" in this context is a broad societal issue that has been shown to be a strong predictor of a population's health status. Examples would include poverty & housing, gender equity, globalisation & migration, the environment, education, and access to reproductive health and early child development strategies, for example. Improvements in these areas are highly correlated with better health outcomes, improved worker productivity, and reductions in healthcare usage/wait times/costs.

So what have we been waiting for? Well, political will as is usually the case with proactive solutions, has often been the limiting factor. As one of their more successful efforts, the WHO has a commission on the social determinants of health made up of influential international figures who have been quite effective at leaning on several governments to get real about these things. And it couldn't come at a better time. In response to the release of a major study on the impact of neighbourhood & living conditions on Type 2 Diabetes, for example, a prominent Ontario health official (in 2007) publicly commented along the lines of being too consumed with caring for people already with Diabetes that it is limited how much investment we can make to strategically prevent new cases. Type 2 Diabetes costs the Canadian economy over $13 Billion annually, and he is right to be concerned with preventing the costlier problems, which occur when a poorly managed case of diabetes results in complications such as stroke, kidney failure, amputations, blindness, etc. What is missing, however, is that many of the behavioural and lifestyle changes required to prevent these complications are the very same one's which would help prevent people from acquiring the disease in the first place. This is an area where a holistic upstream approach can help prevent both the disease in some and the complications in others, resulting in a tremendous potential for downstream savings in both lives and money. It was unfortunate to hear someone in his position appearing so short sighted on this issue.

But as I have indicated, there remains hope on multiple fronts. Strong public education became the defining issue of the 2007 provincial election in Ontario. Outside of unpopular wars, the environment has skyrocketed to the top of the agenda in most developed nations. With the notable exception of some marginalized populations, most pregnant woman can access quality reproductive health care, and most parents can access effective early child development training and support. Gender equity is an interesting issue - where Canada had a solid run of progress, rates of improvement in this area have somewhat stalled. I once had a conversation with a former cabinet minister under Trudeau who mentioned that a prerequisite for an issue to be taken up at cabinet during those years, was that it had to include a statement on what impact said legislation/policy/program option would have on gender. This rule applied to all cabinet ministers and it forced the highest levels of government to think about gender when developing ideas both large and small. Now one might question whether Harper & Co have implemented a similar prerequisite, but the idea is simple enough that it could realistically be adopted by a wide range of decision making bodies.

Of all the determinants, however, action to reduce the poverty burden is arguably the most exciting area for Ontario. An important election promise with a strong commitment from Premier McGuinty, Child & Youth Minister Deb Matthews has been put in charge of the powerful new Poverty Committee. With broad membership across most ministries, this committee has been tasked with setting clear poverty reduction targets and working through a plan to achieve serious action. This level of inter-governmental cooperation is well over due, as effective action on most of the determinants requires a concerted effort from all of the non-MOHLTC ministries. After all, one might argue that the key to controlling escalating costs and an overburdened health ministry, is to do everything else better.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Super Tuesday & us

As the Super Tuesday results continue to trickle in, when it comes to politics I can’t help but find myself so much more interested in what is happening in the US than I am in that of my own country. Perhaps a minority situation and the constant talk of an election without actually having one has left me bored with our status quo. Perhaps the uniqueness of the Clinton-Obama affair is simply worth watching. Whatever the case, the outcome of the US race has undeniable implications for Canada. With McCain running away on the Republican side, and with Clinton or Obama headlining the Democratic ticket – there are already some clear issues that Canadians can take note of, irrespective of who wins the Presidency.

Each of the three frontrunners is committed to action on climate change, in developing comprehensive immigration reform, and in giving greater attention to the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Environment …

On the environment, when it comes to taking aggressive steps and joining international frameworks, the Harper government has been steadfast in Canada’s opposition to recommended action plans unless major developing country emitters (read: China & India) commit themselves as well. China and India, in turn, remain opposed as long as the world’s biggest polluter, the US, remains a holdout. Barring any major upset from Mitt Romney down south, the US position on this will be changing as soon as a non-Bush is sworn in next January. As for us – if the Con’s remain in power next year and the US/China/India all embark on a new path, the pressure to fall in line and adopt a major shift in policy will be huge, and if they don’t I can’t wait to hear the reason!

Migration …

2007 saw a surge in the number of Latin American migrants entering Canada from the US following failed immigration reforms coupled with changing national security laws. All three leading candidates have similar calls out for "comprehensive immigration reform" involving various pathways to citizenship/legality for the millions already living and working in the US in an undocumented manner. As we saw last year, however, there is enormous opposition to such reforms in both the House and the Senate. Granted Bush is having trouble getting much of anything done these - but if a new President with a decent approval rating tries to push it through and still fails, then we can surely expect to see far greater numbers of migrants crossing the 49th parallel than we already have to date.

Afghanistan …

The Manley Report has certainly re-energized the debate about Canada's role in Afghanistan. The Conservatives want to stay, but only if they can recruit additional troop support from our NATO allies. The Liberals want to stay, but only if the primary focus of the mission(s) shifts from combat to economic development and rebuilding efforts. Even though the Iraq debacle has been at the centre of the foriegn policy debate in the US, each of the leading candidates have made efforts to pledge greater attention and resources into Afghanistan. The problem for us is that we won't know what the specific nature of that support will look like until 2009 - possibly long after our MPs have voted on whether we'll stay or go. But as we are making these choices, I do wonder the extent to which a changing mood from Washington is considered by those voting on this delicate issue.

As for the actual Super Tuesday results - all predictions held true in that it's neck and neck for Democrats. Clinton & Obama - two well liked candidates each with oodles of cash to spend ... good luck sorting this one out anytime soon! I only hope that the nominee actually gets selected by primary voters, and it doesn't come down to superdelegates and the backrooms of a brokered convention. But that would make for some good television:)

Thursday, 10 January 2008

A Toronto Food Strategy

Beginning with the January 15th meeting of the Downtown Toronto & East York Local Health Committee, I will begin to be involved with discussions about the types of things that might feed into an official City of Toronto Food Strategy.

The idea would be to develop a strategy that (a) can be implemented, and (b) considers the following criteria:

- Improves health
- Is better for the environment
- Promotes economic development
- Promotes social justice

While I will be coming at this from a public health/safety perspective, food quality/cost/availability is something that we all have a stake in, and any good public policy will certainly grow alongside the views of many sectors.

This is also one of those things that has the potential to generate a wide variety of opinions. If any of you have questions, ideas, concerns, etc that would be relevant for us to consider, I would love to hear about it and welcome all comments - so please feel free to clog up my inbox!