Sunday, October 29, 2017

What is the government doing about the crystal meth crisis in Manitoba?

On Thursday, in Question Period I asked the government about their plan to address the crystal meth crisis in our province.   Recent reports have shown a staggering increase in meth use in Winnipeg and it is of great concern to me and many other Manitobans.   Sadly, the Premier's response was off topic.  Unfortunately, as you can see below, he is not taking the issue of the meth crisis in Winnipeg seriously. Below is the transcript from Hansard.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, there's an explosion in crystal meth's use in Winnipeg with devastating effects on young people, on families and on children in child welfare.
      In opposition, the current Minister of Health toured Manitoba and pronounced crystal meth a very, very significant issue, as I table.
      Recent credible reports indicate that people with meth addictions are being told to get arrested because they'll get help faster in jail than in the health-care system.
      Why, given the Health Minister's knowledge of this issue, has he, in a year and a half, failed to implement a plan to tackle addictions and mental illness, not a plan to put people in jail?
Hon. Brian Pallister (Premier): Well, there's a bit of a contradiction in those questions, Madam Speaker. I think the member recognizes that. And this is the danger of asking ghost-written questions.
      The fact is the member started his preamble by suggesting we should not listen to anyone outside of Manitoba, continually espouses positions developed in Ottawa or in the gallery now, Madam Speaker. The fact is, he also labelled a sincere exercise that was participated in by over 30,000 Manitobans as garbage. And he should be ashamed of himself for that assertion.
      Deliberative democracy should engage Manitobans, and we should encourage all Manitobans to feel this place is their place, that they have the chance to come here and express their views, whether we agree with them or not. And the fact of the matter is deliberative democracy and civic engagement are very important to this government. If they are not to that member, then that is a shame, Madam Speaker. But they are important to us, and we do not call the active participation of over 30,000 Manitobans in our prebudget consultation, we do not call that garbage here.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Dwarfism Awareness Day for Manitoba

With Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk after the resolution passed.
Samantha celebrating
Samantha and her family together with myself and Dougald Lamont, our new Manitoba Liberal Party leader.
Samantha with Cindy Lamoureux, Judy Klassen and myself. 
The reception

There are in Manitoba about 30 people with dwarfism.  They are often stigmatized and discriminated against because of their short stature.   Yet, in all respects, except for their short stature, they are like other Manitobans.   The run businesses and work in jobs around the province.  They get married.  They have children.   They participate in our community volunteering and helping others.  To draw awareness to their condition and to seek to remove stigmatization and discrimination, I sponsored a resolution on October 24th, to have a Dwarfism Awareness Day on October 25th.  The resolution passed unanimously, being supported by all MLAs. 

I want to thank Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk, the President of the Little People of Manitoba, for her help and her advocacy for people in her community.  Samantha, the human resources manager for Price Industries, is an energetic, engaging and passionate public speaker.   I got to know Samantha in relation to my work on Bill 200 to put physical size and weight under the Human Rights Code in Manitoba.  This summer I attended a barbeque organized by the Little People of Manitoba and was able to join them in their joy in getting together and in enabling their children, some with dwarfism, to play happily together. 

As I said, when I introduced the resolution in the legislature: We need to be able, as Patrick Falconer, of Barrier-Free Manitoba, and many others are working toward, to increase accessibility for all in Manitoba.  We are now moving to increase accessibility and to set new standards and rules to have greater accessibility throughout our province.   It is important that we include in our design of accessibility standards, access for those with dwarfism, and that we make sure that people with dwarfism are comfortable and able to live, play and work well in Manitoba wherever they are. 

The full text of the resolution I introduced is below:

WHEREAS October is Dwarfism Awareness Month in many countries of the world and is dedicated to increasing public knowledge, creating positive awareness, changing negative misconceptions and increasing opportunities for people born with dwarfism; and
WHEREAS today, various Little People organizations exist worldwide, including Little People of Manitoba (LPM) because of the parent organization Little People of America (LPA) formed in 1957 by people like actor Billy Barty and his commitment to inclusiveness and his dedication to our community; and
WHEREAS the first LPA meeting was monumental for a group of people who were severely mislabeled and misunderstood by society and the LPM is a non-profit, registered charity, dedicated to creating awareness about prominent issues and providing social support for people with dwarfism; and
WHEREAS it is the mission of LPM to create awareness and to educate the general public about dwarfism; to promote a positive image of people of short stature; to provide social, emotional and educational support to people of short stature and their families; to encourage life-long acquaintance­ship; and to enhance life opportunities for all little persons in Manitoba; and
WHEREAS in declaring October 25 as Dwarfism Awareness Day, LPM hopes to raise awareness that "People with dwarfism are no different than any other person. We may just need a well-placed stool."; and
WHEREAS established in Winnipeg in 1981, LPM is part of a worldwide network of Little People organizations with membership consisting of persons of short stature, as well as families and friends from different genders, ethnicities, socio-economic status and sexual orientations; and
WHEREAS approximately one in 40,000 people are born with dwarfism, eighty percent of them have average height parents and siblings who have a 50‑50 chance of passing the dwarfism gene on to their child; and
WHEREAS it does not generally affect cognitive abilities, there are over 200 distinct forms of dwarfism and skeletal dysplasia which affect bone growth resulting in a typical height range of 2'8" to 4'5"; and
WHEREAS in July 2009 the word "midget" was declared inappropriate and offensive and persons born with dwarfism prefer to be referred to by their own name, other acceptable terms are: having dwarfism, short stature, little person, LP, and the medical terminology use of dwarf.
      THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the provincial government be urged to increase opportunities and promote awareness for persons with dwarfism and dedicate October 25th annually as  Dwarfism Awareness Day.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Basic Income Program for all Manitobans

Gerrard will create a task force to develop basic income
program ready for 2020.

Winnipeg, MB – Today Jon Gerrard announced together with David Northcott, a task force to
develop a province-wide basic income program for all Manitobans.

Jon Gerrard said, “Should I be elected leader of the Manitoba Liberal party on October 21, one
of my first acts will be to appoint David Northcott as chair of a task force to develop the basic
income program. He will utilize his experience with Winnipeg Harvest along with guidance
from those with lived experience to create it."

A basic income, or guaranteed minimum income program, has been talked about for years, and
pilots are underway currently in Ontario. The plan to be developed by the Task Force chaired by David Northcott will be a province-wide basic income program which uses the tax system to implement it, and
will include supports for community and social engagement through volunteerism. The program will decrease poverty and protect the dignity of recipients while maintaining essential services

“In my training as an economist, and subsequently, I have watched the work on a basic income
program as it has evolved, and I believe the time is now to deliver it,” said Gerrard. “It is
important now, more than ever, not just to help those who are poor, but to ensure a basic
income level for those who find themselves out of work and in transition to a new job.
It will allow, for example, a more adequate period of retraining than is allowed under current

The Task Force will include Sid Frankel, Associate Professor of the University of Manitoba
Faculty of Social Work, and Les Johnson, Economist and President of The Manitoba Institute of Management, as well as the chair David Northcott, former executive director of Winnipeg Harvest. “I am excited by the prospect of designing a workable system for Manitoba,” said Northcott. “I have long dreamed of the day when we could have a basic income program to support people to reduce poverty and reduce the need for food banks.”

“As a political economist, I believe this program could be revenue neutral in 4 years,” said Les
Johnson, “it can quickly become a matter of fact with a tax revenue analysis.”

See this link for a short video of announcement

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Thank you Bertha Travers, Jack King and Clarice Leader for your support in the contest for the leadership of the Manitoba Liberal Party

This leadership contest is about building the Manitoba Liberal Party and improving our province, Manitoba.

See the videos of their comments by clicking on the links below:

First Nation’s advocate Bertha Travers -

former President of the Twin Lakes Beach Association Jack King 

and technology and community internet leader Clarice Leader

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Manitoba falls short in supercluster area because Premier did not put enough effort in.

On Monday the results of the first round in a national competition for funding for a supercluster were announced.  Manitoba was shut out.  Supercluster funding is designed to move a major effort forward to create national centres of innovation such as have happened in Silicon Valley in the United States.

Nine superclusters have passed the first round.   Four of these superclusters were in western Canada, one in Saskatchewan, two in Alberta and one in British Columbia.  Manitoba should have had a proposal pass the first round but we did not.

There were a number of important components in this major competition which were vital to success.

1) The Premier, if he is to be believed, did not take the time to understand the nature of the competition and the requirements for success.  He said yesterday that he was going to ask Ottawa for the criteria for the competition.  Asking after the competition is over is too late.  He should have found out before as they were publicly known.

2) Central to the supercluster effort is the creation of a very active centre of innovation in the community.   This, to date, Pallister and his government have failed to do.  Pallister may have talked about innovation but he has done little.

3) In the lead up to the competition, there was federal matching funding for post-secondary education infrastructure projects.  As an example, I understand that the University of Winnipeg had put in a proposal for infrastructure support for machine learning which is a central component of the EMILI (Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative) project which was at the centre of the Manitoba submission for the supercluster competition.  However, the province did not provide any funding and the federal government which requires matching provincial funding for such infrastructure funding could not provide funding because the province did not step forward.   So the lack of foresight by the province and the lack of provincial understanding of how this proposal fit into building a supercluster here held Manitoba back.

4) A group of technology investors from southern Ontario, who have already invested in the Province were ready to put $60 million into EMILI's venture arm but the province did not follow up and did not come forward with matching funding for this critical effort to create a supercluster here in Manitoba.  The Premier had an opportunity to bring major technology innovators to Manitoba to play a major role in building the supercluster.   But this he failed to do.  If you do not build the blocks one by one as opportunities come forward then you lose and lose and lose.

5) The EMILI project builds on one of the major contributions of Canadians to computer learning and artificial intelligence.  This field is moving fast.   Premier Pallister should have jumped in with support for EMILI (and not just verbal, also financial support) so that it could build in its efforts and would have the best possible chance to move forward rapidly.   This the Premier failed to do.  Because the Premier waited a year and a half and still has not provided significant funding to EMILI  this whole field is moving fast elsewhere and we have fallen behind because of the Premier's inaction.

6) Getting Manitoba's supercluster funding advanced would have benefitted from a provincial team effort including all parties in the Manitoba Legislature to ensure people in Ottawa knew this was a major provincial priority.   Gary Doer understood this and on several occasions we had all party teams go to Ottawa to speak out for Manitoba's interests.  It was effective.  Sadly, the Premier spent all his time arguing with Ottawa and has done much less well in advancing positive building projects like the development of a supercluster in Manitoba.

Add it all up, and the supercluster funding was Manitoba's to win.   We lost because the Premier did not really understand how the competition works and how he has to be a player if Manitoba is going to win. 

See the initial hype on EMILI by clicking at this link - Manitoba Hype     It is sad that the Premier did not follow through to deliver on this.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Brain and Mental Health in the workplace

On October 21, I had the opportunity to talk with people at the North East Business Exchange at the L'Arche Tova Cafe in Transcona.   This is an important issue, because, as the Conference Board of Canada had found in a recent report, the yearly cost to Canada of depression and anxiety in the workplace is $50 billion.  We need to act to prevent mental illness and to help people keep their brains healthy.  My presentation is at the link below. Click on it to see the video. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Future of Education in Manitoba

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Lloyd Axworthy, former President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg from 2004 to 2014, about the future of education.  This discussion focuses on the need for new thinking in the area of post-secondary education to enable us to meet the needs of Manitobans.  Highlights include the need for an online learning system for Manitoba and a new type of Learning Centre in Winnipeg.  Click on the link below to see our discussion.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Misericordia Urgent Care shut down examined

Monday evening the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre was closed.  Tuesday, when I went by what used to be the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre, the closed sign was up.  

But the messaging as to where to go was anything but clear.  

First of all, as the WRHA have argued for a long while - urgent care is different from Emergency Care and different from primary care.   Thus logically, patients seeking urgent care should be now referred to the new urgent care centre at Victoria Hospital. Indeed, as the sign above shows this is happening.  Yet, this does not make sense for most.   65% of the people in West Broadway do not have cars.   It is a two to three hour walk from the Misericordia to the Victoria Hospital depending on how fast you walk.  If you take a bus there are several transfers.  The whole logic of the decision to close the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre was and is faulty.  The WRHA argued that they only need two urgent care centres for all of Winnipeg, and now it is obvious that few people who would have gone to the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre are likely to go to the Victoria Hospital Urgent Care.  

Even Ms Lori Lamont seemed to concede that people who would be going to the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre, but can no  longer do so, would likely make other choices than the Victoria Hospital.  She spoke to the CBC on Monday morning.  She mentioned that people could go to a primary care centre.  And yet she forgot to mention that the WRHA is closing the Corydon Primary Care Centre, which is the nearby primary care centre.  So much for that option!!!  Why have the PCs targetted the elimination of both centres in one area of Winnipeg?  And particularly when it is an area with many vulnerable people.  

The other option Ms Lamont mentioned was the Emergency Room at the Health Sciences Centre.  But this is an Emergency Room not an Urgent Care Centre.  For a long time the WRHA has been asking people with an urgent care problem, to use an Urgent Care Centre instead of clogging up an Emergency Room.  The WRHA has said repeatedly - if you have an urgent care problem and not an Emergency Care problem, go to an urgent care centre.  That advice is now looking silly as the WRHA changes its approach and is now sending urgent care patients to the Health Sciences Centre Emergency Room.  It would have made far more sense to keep the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre open and divert urgent care patients there instead the reverse.  

There is one bright spot on the horizon.  The many of us who have fought to save the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre, have won a partial victory - Misericordia will continue to have an eye urgent care centre which is open 24 hours.   This is consistent with having an eye care centre of excellence at Misericordia, as it has the Buhler Eye Care Centre.   The government’s initial intent was to completely close the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre, but they have, following pubic pressure from many people, including myself, decided to keep the eye urgent care part operating.   The important message is if you have an eye problem, including during the night, then the Misericordia Health Centre is the place to go.  They have the best expertise in this area of anywhere in the province.  This centre of excellence has been preserved because so many people came forward and because it made sense. It is important that the centre is known about and used, and it is very disappointing that the government has quickly taken down the general urgent care signs, but has been slow to put up the “eye urgent care” signs.  What is up with this?  More messing around and dilly dallying over an important item by the PC government?  

I suspect that the government and WRHA may, in a few months, see the mistake in what they have  done and reopen the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre.  So, everyone, keep the pressure on for the PC government and the WRHA to have not just a partial urgent care centre (just for eye problems), but a full urgent care centre at Misericordia which is what we really need. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mike Pagtakhan, Bonnie Bricker and Michael Paterson endorse Jon Gerrard for leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party

Thank you to City of Winnipeg Councillor Mike Pagtakhan, mental and brain health care advocate Bonnie Bricker and environmentalist and fresh water scientist Michael Paterson for their support.

You can view videos at these links

Mike Pagtakhan at this link