Angels and Insects

Toula Foscolos
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The highs and lows of this past week

In a light-hearted attempt to pay homage to the Montreal Mirror, (in my opinion one of the best alternative English cultural weeklies in this city, and one I will dearly miss after being a faithful reader for over two decades), I decided to replicate their Angels and Insects section.
This past week has been particularly fruitful for inspiration…

Toula Foscolos

Insect:

Let’s start with Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, who decided to call Parliament Hill reporter Jen Ditchburn the “B” word (on Twitter, no less) simply because she wrote a scathing (but, well-researched and factually correct) article on the attendance records of various senators. According to her findings, Brazeau was absent for 25 per cent of the 72 sittings between June 2011 and April 2012. He also missed 65 per cent of meetings at the aboriginal peoples committee on which he sits and was away for 31 per cent of the meetings of the human rights committee, where he is deputy chair.

Senators are allowed to miss up to 21 days for personal reasons or travel. After that they get fined $250 for each day missed. Aside from how objectionable it is to see someone paid with our tax dollars react with such unprofessionalism and vitriol on a public forum, it also offends me that a paltry $250-fine per day is exacted from people who make a salary that far exceeds the average Canadians.

Instead of getting upset at a journalist who’s simply doing her job, why doesn't the Senator (who eventually did apologize) expend the energy at improving his attendance record? If you missed a quarter of your workdays, would you still be employed? And yet… he’s far from an exception. Ditchburn’s story revealed that many others also have pitiful attendance records.

Personally, this Twitter spat only served to re-affirm my long-held belief that one way to solve the Senate attendance problem would be to simply abolish the Senate. Considering that members are not voted in, but appointed by the Prime Minister (nepotism at its finest), members rarely reject bills passed by the House of Commons (making them a highly-paid debating society, at best, and adding very little value to the “sober second thought”), and they can serve until the age of 75, there’s a lot that I’ve always found questionable about the institution.

Of course, abolishing the Senate would be nearly impossible, since it would require the consent of all 10 provinces, and we all know how easy that would be…

Angel:

I seriously let out a cry of joy when I heard that an application was finally available for iPhones, allowing us to pay for our parking remotely. No more fretting, running around to get to you’re a parking metre in time to avoid a ticket. With the P$ Service mobile de Stationnement de Montréal you can now do it from the comfort of your restaurant seat. Sure, it costs 40 cents per use, but that’s a small price to pay to avoid a $52 parking ticket.

"Call me a dreamer, but I think it would be great if getting medical attention were as easy as getting a gun." Andy Borowitz

Insect:

When Obama’s healthcare reforms were recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, angry Republicans and people generally unclear on the concept unleashed a string of Twitter comments, threatening to move to… Canada. This, of course, makes as much sense as me threatening to move to Yellowknife to avoid the cold and snow. The level of ignorance, while entertaining, is sometimes staggering.

Angel:

The mere fact that Obamacare was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court means the possibility of real healthcare for people who otherwise would not be able to afford it. You can debate the terms (is it a tax or a regulation?) all you want, but, there’s something morally wrong about the lack of a universal health coverage in such a rich democracy. As American comedian Andy Borowitz said: “Call me a dreamer, but I think it would be great if getting medical attention were as easy as getting a gun.”

Reforms never go unchallenged and it takes time to move forward. People forget because our comprehensive universal healthcare coverage is such a quintessential part of being Canadian, but when the our Medical Care Act came into place in 1966 many doctors, medical associations, private insurance companies (and basically anyone who stood to gain from the status quo remaining) opposed it vehemently. Now, most of us can’t imagine this country without it.

Despite the protests of anger in the States that they’re dangerously veering towards “socialism”, they’re nowhere close to that; the hard cold facts are that the bill is still highly flawed and many Americans will still remain uninsured, but it’s admittedly a step in the right direction.

Even without the universal coverage that we Canucks enjoy, the U.S. spends much more money on healthcare than Canada, on both a per-capita basis and as a percentage of GDP, while our life expectancy is longer in Canada, and its infant mortality rate is lower than that of the U.S. Of course, many other factors and underlying causes come into play to account for these differences, but how anyone can be opposed to something that would improve healthcare coverage for so many in need is beyond me. The very first thing to consider the minute you’ve been handed a devastating medical diagnosis shouldn't have to be your bank account.

 

Organizations: U.S. Supreme Court, House of Commons, Canucks

Geographic location: Canada, U.S., Yellowknife

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