Throne Speech Reactions
Before we get into the newsletter today, a quick update on a piece we ran yesterday by Meryam Haddad about her expulsion from the Green Party leadership race. Following, a successful appeal, Ms. Haddad was today reinstated as a candidate in the race. Here’s an update from her.
This is your Passage Daily newsletter for September 24. My name’s Sarah Krichel (@sarahkrichel), and I’m a writer and editor based in Toronto with a passion for all things independent. When I’m not in your inbox, I’m managing socials for The Tyee, coaching emerging writers or watching reruns of 30 Rock and BoJack Horseman. Thanks for welcoming me into your inbox!
Today’s newsletter will cover: reactions to yesterday’s Throne Speech; five weeks of B.C. Premier John Horgan ignoring drug user activists’ demands for government consultations; long-term care and the dawning second wave; Canada Post still refusing to deliver mail to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Throne Speech Reactions: ‘Western alienation’ among Erin O’Toole’s main concerns right now
Yesterday, Canada’s federal party leaders reacted to Governor General Julie Payette’s Throne Speech, which outlined the Liberal government’s agenda for the upcoming legislative session.
The speech prioritized the COVID-19 recovery strategy, but the Liberals also claimed they would focus on climate action, promising to: continue their plan to ban single-use plastics by 2021; support manufacturing, natural resource and energy sectors to create well-paying jobs for farmers, foresters, and ranchers; invest in the blue economy, looking for opportunities for fishers and coastal communities, but still promising to maintain reconciliation and conservation efforts.
They sure promised a lot. Here’s how others reacted:
- Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, who has tested positive for COVID-19 along with his wife, named “western alienation” as a concern for Canadians, stating, “We must show our fellow Candians that we value them and respect their contributions to our country. Resource revenues contribute to building of roads and hospitals in every corner of this great country.” Among other things, O’Toole’s message was about unity (Or lack thereof? You can’t really tell), job security and faster access to COVID-19 testing options for provinces.
- NDP leader Jagmeet Singh opted for a different approach, listing off the groups that the party has fought for, such as seniors and those living with disabilities. Singh said, “We need to be serious about tackling [COVID-19] and create jobs while we make investments. I know people are worried about how we’re going to pay for all of this.”
- Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet, who has also tested positive for COVID-19, highlighted his upset and apparent naiveté in a tweet last night: “Nothing good for Quebec. We will have our own plan.” He said that the prime minister has one week to “unconditionally increase” health transfers to help take care of their senior population.
- David Moscrop of the Washington Post chimed in, too, calling the speech “full of old promises and unrealized hopes,” and stating, “Observers might be forgiven for doubting the many promises made — which can only be enacted in the budget and future legislation — given that so much of what was announced was previously promised by this government and others, including national child care and pharmacare (public insurance coverage for prescriptions). But maybe the government really means it this time.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan has been ignoring drug user activists’ for five weeks now
Yesterday evening, activist and writer Garth Mullins tweeted out a statement calling out B.C. Premier John Horgan for ignoring drug user activists’ requests for consultations with his government to address the ongoing opioid crisis in Vancouver’s downtown eastside.
The statement notes that drug users and activists, who have lost children to overdoses, reached out to the NDP’s office out of concern for the “record deaths and a stalled provincial response.” The NDP hasn’t responded in the five weeks since.
The statement was published on behalf of Mullins, who is part of The British Columbia Association People on Opiate Maintenance and host/executive producer of the Crackdown podcast, Laura Shaver, treasurer of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and Hawkfeather Peterson, president of the BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors.
“Horgan has rejected the smallest request in the history of negotiating,” Mullins said in the statement.
As a snap election looms, NDP’s response to the opioid crisis still lacks
During a presser announcing the upcoming B.C. snap election, Horgan said one of the primary reasons for calling it was because of the BC Greens’ refusal to support a bill allowing youth to be detained in-hospital for up to seven days after an overdose. And yet, back in July, the bill’s progress was ceased because the government said they ran out of time for necessary consultations.
Mullins believes the bill is just a pretense to call an election, noting it’s one of the only times Horgan has acknowledged the drug-using community. The other was back in July, when Horgan made stigmatizing comments about drug users claiming their “dependencies” are due to their “choices,” and, “Once people make those choices, they are no longer in a position to stop making those choices without intervention.”
Mullins, Shaver and Peterson also say they’re concerned about toxic drug supply, which they expect will set new records for death caused by overdose. B.C. recorded another 147 deaths linked to overdoses in August, which surpassed COVID-19 related deaths that month (13), and pushed the 2020 overdose death toll past the total number for 2019.
Last week, Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry issued a public-health order allowing users to access pharmaceutical alternatives to help achieve a safer supply.
Is the solution to long-term care really just reports and commissions?
A Montreal Gazette report back in April exposed the horrors of long-term care in Canada, when documents obtained showed that most of the staff abandoned their posts in light of an apparent COVID-19 outbreak. The Gazette reported that Health Minister Danielle McCann announced she’d appointed a special inspector, a police probe, a coroner’s inquiry and a public health investigation to review the handling of the outbreak where at least 33 people had died.
Yesterday, two more reports were published, looking into both Résidence Herron in Dorval, Que., as well as a public long-term care home north of Montreal where 100 residents died.
As a result of a lack of official death tracking in public, private and for-profit care homes by the government of Canada, Passage columnist Nora Loreto created a database which tracks the ongoing number of deaths in residential care by facility. There are currently more than 9,240 deaths recorded in the database.
Back in February, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government formed an external advisory group — supposedly made up of experts, academics, stakeholders and thought leaders — to advise long-term care homes on staffing. Then, in July, a commission was made to track how COVID-19 spread throughout long-term care and to investigate potential preventative measures.
But on Monday, unions called on the Ontario government to do more to be prepared for a second wave.
“Clearly we have learned nothing from the first wave of this virus and residents and staff are again at risk of losing their lives,” said CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennick at a news conference. “No more empty promises. We need a government that will put in place guaranteed protections, proper staffing levels and adequate funding.”
In yesterday’s Throne Speech, the Liberal government promised it would amend the Criminal Code to penalize negligence of seniors under care, and that it would work to set new standards for long-term care along with provinces and territories.
ICYMI: Canada Post hasn’t delivered mail to Vancouver’s downtown eastside in six months
It’s been six months since the residents of Vancouver’s downtown eastside have received their mail from Canada Post, The Tyee reported yesterday. Canada Post cited the lack of ability to practice social distancing in the neighbourhood due to its crowded streets as a reason for cancellation. But The Tyee noted that when they visited the residential Tellier Tower in the area, “the sidewalk in front of the building was clear and the building’s lobby was empty.”
“I just think it’s blatant discrimination against the poor,” a resident told The Tyee.
From the article: Liane Gladue, [Jo] McRobb’s neighbour, said the delivery disruption meant that her disability cheque has sometimes come two days late, forcing her to borrow money to tide her over. One week, the late payment put her in a scary situation. “I borrowed money, $20 from a gentleman, and he was livid,” Gladue said. “I was trying to explain to him and he was like ‘Yeah right, yeah right.’ I ended up having to [pay] him double — I had to pay him $40.”
The Tyee also reported that Elections BC has been in touch with Canada Post and has “delivery arrangements” in place for when it’s time to mail in voting ballots for B.C.’s election, just more than a month from now.
The CBC reported back in June that the Portland Hotel Society was doing deliveries instead, picking mail from Canada Post depots for residents.
That’s your Passage Daily. Join us tomorrow for another round-up of Canadian and global politics with perspectives you won’t get elsewhere.