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: http://www.ppao.gov.on.ca/

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.