Sunday, June 29, 2008

Liberal energy policy: Lights are on, no-one's home

On a bright day, June 25, 2008, at Sand Plant hill between St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, the QEW - part of Liberal MPP Jim Bradley's vast transportation realm, was fully lit for miles.


Isn't Jim Bradley, the pompous Peterson environment minister who always huffed and puffed about conservation, about cutting down on energy use, etc., now hypocritically wasting energy in his own ministry? Is this why Jim Bradley's Liberals now want to build more nuclear plants in Ontario without full environmental assessments, because Jim can't FLICK OFF the lights on his own highways?

I wonder how many smog-related deaths can be attributed to these lights being left on, and to the coal-fired generators, run by Bradley's Liberals, which helped generate that power?

Back in his opposition days, reporters were fooled into thinking that Jim Bradley would actually do something about his smug complaints. Ian Urquhart of the Toronto Star actually predicted Peterson-era dinosaur environment minister Bradley would be McGuinty's energy minister: "Bradley... will have credibility as he explains why the coal-fired plants are still spewing out pollution while the government searches for alternatives," wrote Urquart.

Credibilty - Jim Bradley?! Why, the McGuinty government lied about closing down all the coal stations! Bradley, nor McGuinty have any credibility whatsoever. The coal-fired plants ARE STILL "SPEWING OUT POLLUTION" - while McGuinty's government "searches for alternatives"! And they've been searching for five years now! Good call, Ian. How about writing a follow-up on that?

In opposition Bradley once smugly proclaimed: "This is a very embarrassing day for Ontario," (Niagara Falls Review, May.2, 2003) when Americans were complaining about the pollution wafting towards them from Ontario. Yet, strangely, Bradley isn't embarrassed now, when after five years of Liberal rule, nothing has changed regarding his Liberal-run coal plants!

Bradley agitated that Nanticoke should be converted to gas, in a Welland Tribune story (Jun.28, 2000) frighteningly titled "Smog expected to kill 85 in Niagara this year": "Bradley said the government needs to reinvest in public transportation, and create programs that will reduce ground-level smog emissions from cars and convert coal-fired plants, such as Nanticoke, which is west of Hamilton, to natural gas."

Well, it is now June, 2008 - have Bradley and his Liberals done that? Strangely, now the media don't seem to report how many are expected to die from smog in Niagara under Jim Bradley's government this year. This information is mainly useful only when Jim is in opposition, you see.

The St. Catharines Standard wrote in"Pollution fighters point finger at Nanticoke for creating smog: Ontario emissions focus of Buffalo demonstration" (Jun.13, 2000):

"Bradley said it was "somewhat embarrassing" that Ontario once pressured the U.S. to take action on pollutants and emissions. "Now, in New York state, their rules are tougher for coal-fired plants than in Ontario."
On Monday, he raised the issue in the provincial legislature, but said he wasn't satisfied with the response from Dan Newman, environment minister.
The minister said Monday he'd put a moratorium on coal-fired generation plants in the province, which was a "positive step forward."
"He doesn't answer the question, because he doesn't know the answer," said Bradley, the Liberal environment critic. "It says nothing about how the plants are operating."
Bradley said emissions from plants such as Nanticoke causes acid rain, lake pollution, agriculture damage and harms human health.
The Ontario Medical Association has estimated 1,800 premature deaths per year are caused by smog in Ontario, said Bradley. "Nanticoke is a major plant and a major source.""

So what has changed now, in 2008? Isn't Nanticoke still "a major plant" and still "a major source"? Bradley or his government don't have any 'answers' themselves, running blindly from one energy plan to the next. Bradley won't answer how many thousands of smog-related deaths have occurred in Ontario since his Liberals took over in 2003 - but according to Jim Bradley's own citations (when he was a smug, finger-pointing, power-hungry opposition member) then probably 10,000 Ontarians have prematurely died under McGuinty's Liberal government since 2003.

Yet Jim Bradley's Liberals have done nothing to even install scrubbers on Nanticoke to help prevent that. Shameful.

Liberals: their lights are on all day, but no one's home.

Above: The Ontario government's Nanticoke coal-fired generating station on the shore of Lake Erie, just east of Port Dover, on a grey Jun.29, 2008.

Friday, June 27, 2008

McGuinty's Liberal health-care gulag

Carol Anne Hunt of Niagara Falls, Ontario, posted this on the St. Catharines Standard website, Jun.25, 2008:

“I'd like to comment on the story I read in the June 25 online edition about the diligence of NHS hospitals tracking C.Diff - and I have to say, having recently been in hospital, I beg to differ. Last January, I had the unfortunate experience of a kidney stone and went to GNGH for treatment, about 10 pm. In extreme pain, it was at least 2 hours before anyone admitted me to the ward, another 3 hours before it was diagnozed as kidney stone and so at approximately 4 a.m. i finally received pain management.During this 6 hours, I lay on a bed with my boyfriend next to me, and very rarely saw a nurse, had no doctor see me until 4 a.m., had two nurses try to put i.v.'s in two different hands because one did not know one had already been inserted, and when i vomited from pain, not one nurse came to check. My boyfriend found me a pan to be sick in, and when he asked the nurse where to put the waste, he was told 'wherever, that garbage can over there is fine' as she whisked past him, not caring what was actually in the pan. The open garbage can was right in the middle of the pathway where nurses, doctors, visitors, and patients travelled.Now, if the nurses were all busy, I would have understood, but there were half a dozen at any given time in their little cubicle where the computers are right across from where i was ....Well, all i can say is, .... hygiene? patient care? monitoring? ummm ...i didnt see any of it.”

Jamie Varga wrote this letter to the editor in The St. Catharines Standard, Jun.26, 2008:

“In the past couple of years, our family has had to make one too many trips to the emergency room at the St. Catharines General Hospital -- the latest when the garage door came down on my fiancee's head, leaving a gash that needed stitches.

The dreaded wait was something we were expecting, but the problem I have every time we've been there is the disgraceful behaviour and attitudes from the emergency nurses.

Right there, up on the wall where patients wait, is the patient bill of rights: As a patient I have the right to be treated at all times with compassion, professionalism and respect and express concerns or complaints and expect the hospital to to make the best efforts to provide a timely response to questions.

What a laugh! So after four hours of not being acknowledged, no questions answered or my fiancee's head even being looked at, we came home more frustrated than ever.

Here's a tip: If you are not a people person, or you lack empathy, don't become a nurse. That is the very tip of this iceberg.

The NHS has a plethora of problems and our MPP is going to hear about it from me personally.”

I guess that MPP would be Good Ole Liberal Jim Bradley in St. Catharines. Good luck getting Bradley to answer any questions, especially regarding health-care in Jim’s own riding! Remember, during the election, not that long ago in Oct. 2007, the Liberals pretended there were NO PROBLEMS in their health monopoly!

Besides, why should Jim Bradley be bothered to respond to his constituent’s concerns? His Liberals have a majority government, and they can, frighteningly, do whatever they want, such as ... oh … spend billions on new nuclear plants which they have conveniently fast tracked from environmental assessment worries! How special! A highway such as the Mid-Pen takes years of various environmental-impact studies, but if you need a nuke plant built in McGuintyland – here you go, start tomorrow! (Weren't windmills McGuinty's great energy solution several years ago?)

McGuinty’s Grit gang were once opposed to carbon taxes – now suddenly they’re in favour of them (St. Catharines Standard, "McGuinty supports carbon taxes, despite costs", Jun.26, 2008). Astoundingly, McGuinty is now essentially condemning his coal-generated power plants (the ones he lied about closing) to a new liability of untold billions more in Dion taxes!!

Who’s going to pay for that? The "revenue -neutral" charade only applies to the government!

What shell-game is big enough to hide this audacious federal Grit Tax-Gouge: well, conveniently, the McGuintyites just resurrected a dead mini-Kyoto with Quebec…and viola – their complementary provincial scam of cap’n’trade is all set and waiting in the wings !

McGuinty is supporting Dion’s ridiculous Shaft-Me tax, which will shift the costs onto our own plants such as Nanticoke which (as Bradley was fond of bringing up when he was in opposition but not so much now) is responsible for ‘thousands of smog related deaths in Ontario’.

So the McGuintyites will now sacrifice billions (of our tax dollars) to Stephane ‘Bumbledore’ Dion’s Tax-Grab – yet the McGuintyites have no money for scrubbers on their plants? And, over the past five years, how many thousands more lives have been sacrificed due to McGuinty's broken promises? Jim Bradley should know – after all, he smugly and ever-so-righteously blustered about them when he was in opposition.

So yes, apparently Bradley and McGuinty have billions to spend on nukes and on Dion’s Shifty-Tax, but as far as health-care goes – well, they imposed a new tax on that too, gave Ontario’s system a budget, and told us we just have to live within that! At least that’s what the now-thankfully-canned Smitherman kept saying.

The Liberals don’t want to have any oversight into their health monopoly. They are afraid of a prying, nosy Ombudsman hovering over them with bothersome questions and issuing pesky, factual reports.

McGuinty and his gang at Queen’s Park simply want us to believe them; that they are telling the truth - you know, the truth, as when an oh-so-sincere McGuinty signed his name on a no-tax-pledge; or when an oh-so-sincere McGuinty said ‘I’ll close all the coal plants by 2007’; or when an oh-so-sincere McGuinty says now ‘C. diff – hey, we’ve got it under control, trust us … hey, only 264 people (that we’ve told you about) died, so what’s your problem?? Didn’t you hear me? I said you better trust me.’

And this is the kind of glorious single-payer, universal health-care system that the Michael Sicko Moores and American Democrats are agitating for? This is what they want? A doctor-shortage plagued health-care monopoly hidden from scrutiny, immune from patient/taxpayer/opposition control, where patients wait days in hospital ER’s before they can get a bed??

Who is liable for these C. diff deaths in Ontario’s government-run system? What real accountability is there? The same jokers agitating for socialist medicare are the ones who also like to limit liability, limit investigations, limit oversight, limit responsibility, limit standards, limit individual choice … after all, it is SOCIALIZED medicare, it’s not better medicare: it’s a system where no-one is really held responsible in any true sense of the word. The 'buck stops nowhere'; someone else is always to blame. Welcome to your rights in a single-payer-monopoly.

(David Suzuki not long ago blabbed about jailing politicians who have broken their environmental promises. This would mean that Suzuki’s enviro-jails would be full with McGuinty Liberals. Yet what if Suzuki’s gulag also included broken political health-care promises? I guess the McGuintyites would then also be serving consecutive terms for forcing Ontarians into their failing health-care gulag).

Why shouldn’t a political cabinet, and individual politicians, be held liable for the blowback of their incompetent decisions, in the same way a board of directors can be held liable for certain breaches of its expected duties?

Why should they be shielded from accountability? When their political health-care rhetoric meets medical reality and patients start dying in their no-other-choice health-monopoly, the politicians conveniently muzzle independent investigation into the causes!

What a gig!! Why is Jim Bradley not publicly calling for the Ombudsman to be able to investigate the Liberal health-system? What’s MPP Jim Bradley going to say if, despite reasurrances, a C. diff outbreak does occur in the Niagara Health System this summer?

We don’t need no stinkin’ investigations…we’re oh-so-sincere Liberals, remember?

All you have to do is trust us!


If only one more patient dies from here on in, these Liberals should be sued – again, on a constitutional basis, like the McCreith-Holmes case now proceeding against the Ontario government.

What else can we do??

It’s unconscionable that this smug, unresponsive Liberal government can be so utterly blasé about this outbreak in their own health monopoly.

Had this happened in a private setting, wouldn’t heads have rolled?? Instead, Smitherman got a promotion!!

Socialists point to all the supposed-savings of universal medicare – where is it here? A private facility couldn’t afford to expose its patients to this kind of unmitigated risk, and then try to hush it up, without being sued. That’s the accountability part of ‘check and balance’. But the Liberal medicare-monopoly simply disregards these risks and steamrollers ahead – because, well, IT CAN !! There is no layer of responsibility – which is the beguiling attraction of this scheme for those who peddle it. Universal single-payer health-care: sounds good until you actually need it.

Opposition leader John Tory said of McGuinty’s Liberals (St. Catharines Standard, Jun.26, 2008):

“There can be no explanation for their absolute failure to have anybody take a look at this, as has been done in Scotland, the Netherlands, and so on, other than they want to cover it up and put politics ahead of the public interest.”

Tory said he had “every reason to believe” that more C. difficile deaths will be reported because the Liberals refuse to allow an inquiry to find out what went wrong, and how to prevent further outbreaks. “I think they’re paralyzed with the political fear about actually having the truth come out in terms of their own negligence.”

Former health minister George Smitherman said a C. diff inquiry wasn't needed because it would cost too much. Yet, McGuinty just dumped billions of tax dollars into Smitherman's new sand-box to build nuclear plants, and, McGuinty simply acquiesced to Dion's multi-billion dollar carbon tax-increase on Ontario.

Trust us - we're not negligent.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

One-horsepower cruise down the Niagara River

It's not often, that's for sure, that you see a horse paddling his way in the Niagara River!!!

This horse and rider turned boater's heads this afternoon (Jun.25) as they made their way along the mouth of the Niagara River where it empties into Lake Ontario.

In the distance is Fort Niagara, on the American side of the river.

Photo by R. Bobak

Bumbledore Dion shafted by his own greenness

‏Poor Stephane 'Bumbledore' Dion, the Clouseau of Canadian politics, Canada's own Kramer, keeps stumbling and fumbling from one disaster to the next.

Dion just released, as he calls it, his "Green Shift" tax-increase plan, intended to gouge (screw!) all Canadians everywhere.

But now the Liberals are being told by an Ontario company - which has had that name since 2001 - to stop using their legitimate name for Dion’s tax-grab manifesto.

So now, Dion will have to call it something else … hey – why not just call it KYOTO II, which is what it was in the first place?! Or, Dion can send Iggy and Rae some magic markers and let them blot out the “F”, thereby revealing a more honest Liberal title: the "Green Shit Tax". No? What about Horse-Shift? Bull-Shift? Green Shaft Tax? Gouge and Shift Tax? Gouged and Green Tax?
Shaft'N'Gouge Tax?

Sigh – these Bumbledorian Grits are too sad to even be funny anymore, with their ridiculous predicaments and pathetic kyodiot policies.

Well, the bright side is that Bumbledore now has another new top priority to add to his burgeoning list of previous top priorities – how to rename an old bag of crap so it doesn’t look, sound, feel, and smell, like an older bag of crap.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Don't forget to blame Bradley for health-care mess

Regarding the St Catharines Standard’s editorial of June 14, 2008, titled “Offload delays are still a concern”, the Standard wrote that ambulances are forced to wait, while patients have no place to go, in the St. Catharines hospital ER. The situation was made worse by the first local heat wave of the year, Jun. 7-9.

This situation is a very real danger to everyone in the city, because first, there are fewer ambulances available for other calls, and second, once (or if!) you do get to the ER, you might have to wait days for a bed.

The Standard wrote that health minister George Smitherman “allowed this issue to fester during his entire first term, and has made little more than token gestures since.”

True - but was Smitherman the only government official responsible for this real health-care mess here in St. Catharines?

Yet: what exactly was St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley’s role in this desperate situation??!

What did Bradley do for the last five years? No one really knows! The editorial certainly doesn't tell us!

This is all happening under Jim Bradley’s nose, yet the Standard's editorial doesn’t even mention a word about Bradley and HIS “token gestures”!

Let’s not somehow pretend Smitherman was the only fall guy – this is entirely a Liberal, majority-government, systemic problem. (See: "Liberal Healthcare Duplicity, An Ontario Overview 2003-2007 " for full story)

A smug Jim Bradley, in opposition, got a lot of mileage blustering about the supposedly-nefarious health system under Mike Harris, yet Bradley’s Liberal health monopoly is worse by far.

As a Liberal cabinet minister, Bradley was - AND STILL IS - as equally culpable for the situation in his own city’s hospital as is Smitherman.

If we take the tact that ‘it’s all solely Smitherman’s incompetent doing’, we are left with a problem: Smitherman has been shuffled out of the health portfolio on Jun.20, 2008. Are we to believe that because the designated bad guy health-minister is now gone, MPP Bradley somehow remains aloof and unconnected to all this?!

What will the Standard have to do now, rewrite their health-care editorials that mention Smitherman (but not Bradley), and rerun them with new health-minister David Caplan's name?

Do we have to now rehash all the same old stuff again and again so as bring the new minister up to speed on Niagara’s health-care problems?

How long will that learning curve take?

Already we've seen that Caplan is stonewalling the Ombudsman to prevent any independent oversight into the machinations of the Liberal's secretive health sector. And where does Bradley stand on expanding the Ombudsman's investigative power into the health-sector - again, no one knows!! What's Jim Bradley got to hide?

Bradley’s job - and it's been a piss-poor one - is to represent St. Catharines, no matter which new ministers come along.

If Smitherman failed, then Bradley failed even more. Bradley's no innocent bystander.

So now we start the game all over again:

"Oh ... so you're building a new hospital down there ... Really?! What's this about some kind of 'review of the reviews' at the old hospital, anyway?? I heard from Smitherman they're spending like "drunken sailors" down there ... what, they need more money?? But..? Say, who was Suzanne Aucoin, anyway? ... You had coupla hundred surgery cancellations...what?! When?! The St. Catharines hospital has the third-highest patient mortality rate in Canada ... say what? Since when? You're kidding, right? Say you're kidding me . . . yeah, yeah, yeah, we don't need no ombudsman sticking his face where we don't need'm ..."

Bloody frightening.

Monday, June 23, 2008

How to promote Bumbledore Dion's Bull-Shift tax on CFRB

I had the unfortunate experience of listening to a snippet of the John Moore radio show today, June 23, 2008. I enjoy listening to Toronto's CFRB 1010 AM newscasts, but found Moore a Liberal-bootlicking boor in the past, so I have tuned out Moore from my drive-home schedule. (Note to advertisers: there are so many other, better stations around at that time slot!)

So I tuned in for the news just a minute or two before 5 pm, and found the loathsome Moore was still on. Oh well, a minute or so of his drabble won't hurt and then the news’ll be on, I thought. Seems like Moore’s topic at the time was Stephane Bumbledore Dion’s Liberal Bull-Shift Green-Scam tax, which Moore, not surprisingly, was trumpeting as the best thing since sliced bread. Anyway, some caller was on, who was apparently not in agreement with Moore, and suddenly Moore simply yells at the caller, inexplicably, saying that’s it, you’re cut off, and dumps the caller!!

Anyone else hear this strange occurrence just before the five o’clock CFRB news cast, where The Great Libertarian of the Airwaves arbitrarily censored a caller he disagreed with? Moore then said something about that this caller had said this same thing before, but Moore wasn’t clear why this should be of relevance to us listeners. The caller was not swearing or anything, he was just talking about this Liberal Horse-Shift tax-increase plan.

The 5:00 news came and went, and then before I had a chance to switch away from CFRB, Moore was back. Moore then explained that he dumped that caller because, according to Moore, this caller had seemingly written down his talking points (what a crime!), and then explained that this caller had been on earlier during the Michael Coren/Stephen LeDrew “Bald Guys” CFRB show, where he had said the same thing. Wha..?

According to Moore, because a caller says something on one CFRB show, then says it again, by legitimately calling another host, being screened, and waiting in the call line-up like everyone else - that is grounds for censoring! What a lame excuse to dump a caller who didn’t fawn over Moore’s seeming fondness for taxes and Liberals.

I’m sure Moore never re-hashes stale Liberal propaganda! Moore never re-hashes topics from previous host's shows!

The thing that CFRB must realize, is that listeners who tuned in have no idea whether Moore was right in what he told us, or in what he did.

I just happened to tune into Moore's censorship act, and I suppose I just have to take Moore’s word that this caller said the same thing twice. Maybe he did … BUT SO WHAT ??!

I DIDN'T HEAR IT earlier – so to me, that WAS the first time. And John Moore smugly censored this caller, who I would’ve liked to hear, by cutting him off.

Anyway, for me, this is yet another reason why the John Moore show on CFRB isn’t worth listening to.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Smitherman: the Homer Simpson of Ontario's nuclear program?

Good riddance to George Smitherman, who has left his position as Ontario’s Health Minister in a McGuinty cabinet shuffle made official Jun.20, 2008. Unfortunately for Ontarians, Smitherman will now become the Homer Simpson of Ontario’s new nuclear program. D'oh.

Smitherman cocked up the health portfolio since day one, with his dogmatic and hard-assed partisan utterings and actions. A CFRB commentator yesterday called Smitherman “accomplished” in a weasel word description of this controversial minister – but what exactly did Smitherman ‘accomplish’?

It was under Smitherman’s watch that the McCreith/Holmes constitutional health-care case began, the LHIN's government-apparatus health-firewall was formed, previous health-care coverage was cut by the Liberals, catastrophic drugs were denied to patients, and a new multi-billion dollar health tax was imposed upon Ontarians for the first time. Doctor shortages and wait-times are increasing, people still can’t access doctors. Smitherman conveniently gets shuffled just as the C. dif fiasco, which occurred under his watch and killed several hundred people, is now being seen by the public in its sad, incompetent totality.

An American woman visiting Toronto was shown on CTV yesterday saying ‘it’s great you have free health care here, but at least I know that when I need it, I don’t have to wait’ … of course, though, not only do we have to wait in our government-run monopoly, we have to pay for it whether we want to or not – our system is NOT FREE – the costs are hidden as taxes, and the health portfolio eats up half of the province’s entire budget! Also, we have no idea where the government is spending our money, as Smitherman himself once said. Seeing that we are forced to pay for this sub-standard system which has been run by Smitherman for the last five years, we are also unable to assess whether the government is spending our money in an effective manner. The Ombudsman doesn’t have access to oversee what the government does in the hospital system, and the majority Liberal government doesn’t have to tell us.

Here is hoping the new Liberal health minister, David Caplan, will not continue using bulldog Smitherman’s tact of butting heads as an arrogant Grit political hack. Maybe Caplan will be open to instituting transparency and accountability in his ministry (LHIN’s are not that!). Caplan’s (whose mother Elinor was another arrogant health minister in David Peterson’s government in the 1980's) first action should be to call for the Ombudsman to have oversight into the health system. After all, Caplan did work with the Ombudsman investigating the lottery scandal in his previous ministry.

How can independent scrutiny into Ontario’s hospital and health system harm anything?

It is unacceptable that there is a legal roadblock to the Ombudsman (and by extent, to the tax-paying public and patients) shielding the government-run health monopoly from scrutiny (and accountability).

The cosy arrangement which exists now under the Liberal-run government health-care needs to be examined.

Smitherman once admitted that the government can’t do it all when it came to health-care – then he proceeded to ignore his own revelation and butchered the health-care system into a Liberal bureaucracy-laden mess, where the health of patients became secondary to maintaining the health of the monolithic health-monopoly itself. (See:Liberal Healthcare Duplicity, An Ontario Overview 2003-2007 )

When Ontario patients are forced to leave their own province to get their health-care in the United States, Liberals should have recognized that their dogmatic, government-fiat-run, health-monopoly system was in trouble.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Time to investigate Liberal health-care system: Stale Smitherman should resign.

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin wrote in “Office brings special investigative skills to complex, systemic issues faced by health sector”, (Toronto Star, Jun.17, 2008):

“Ever had a beef about a hospital or a long-term care facility? Who hasn't?
Whether you feel you were badly treated at a hospital, or know someone who died of a hospital-acquired infection, or have a relative living in unspeakable conditions in a long-term care home, no doubt you've asked yourself at some point: Who holds these places accountable?
If you live in any province but Ontario, you can ultimately turn to your ombudsman for help with your problem.
As I will do today when I release my annual report, the ombudsman can shine a spotlight on festering issues in the public sector, and recommend workable solutions. My office helps thousands of people every year with their individual problems with government, and our systemic investigations have sparked the province to improve its programs for millions.
But no such luck if your complaint is about a hospital. There's no chance of an independent, impartial investigation or much hope of a resolution – unless you are determined and rich enough to go to court. Hospitals and long-term care facilities are among the privileged few public agencies to live in a zone of immunity, largely unaccountable and unanswerable to the outside world – even though they receive some $18 billion in government funds each year.
Why has the government resisted calls to open up hospitals and long-term care to independent oversight – calls that go back 33 years, to the very first ombudsman? Certainly not because all is well. On the contrary, the government is so concerned about hospital mismanagement and substandard service that it has taken over an unprecedented number of hospitals this past year. From 2002 through 2006, the province assumed control of just four hospitals. But in 2007 alone, it took over four, and a fifth in early 2008.
Now it is grappling with the stunning revelations of patient deaths from C. difficile infections in our hospitals – some 260 in just seven hospitals since 2006. By all accounts, C. difficile infection is horrific. It affects the most frail and vulnerable, robs them of dignity and isolates them from their families. As more and more Ontarians demand answers about the superbug, there have been threats of group lawsuits and calls for a public inquiry.
In my view, the C. difficile issue is tailor-made for an ombudsman investigation – it's a complex systemic issue that should be looked at impartially and efficiently. Indeed, Quebec's ombudsman, who has had the power to investigate hospitals for a few years now, has helped families of patients get more information about the superbug, and one of her investigations resulted in the creation of a special hospital team for maintaining sanitary conditions in C. difficile patient rooms.
Here in Ontario, the health minister has said he doesn't see the benefit in handing this or other hospital-related issues to "someone whose skills are outside of the medical arena." That's understandable. It's also a common misconception about the way my office works.
I freely admit my staff and I aren't medical experts. But we are experts in independent, impartial investigations. We have years of experience in probing sensitive, high-profile administrative issues, and completing our work quickly and cost-effectively. We are experts in analyzing complaints, rooting out the administrative problems behind them and recommending ways to ensure they don't recur.
When we investigated "insider" wins at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., the "experts" at the top levels of the corporation told us it would be impossible to get players to sign their tickets, much less register retailers or subject them to background checks. Today, a year after our investigation, the OLG is doing all that and more.
When we investigated the province's newborn screening program in 2005, the "medical experts" were doing just two tests for treatable disorders – meaning some 50 babies per year were dying or left severely disabled, unnecessarily. Though the government sounded defensive when we first began our investigation, things changed for the better when we published our findings and recommendations.
Refreshingly, both the premier and health minister committed to transform the newborn screening program from the "worst to the first." Now Ontario screens for 29 disorders, saving and improving the lives of hundreds of children. It was investigative know-how, not medical expertise, that cracked that case.
I'm often asked, if you could investigate complaints about hospitals, what would you do? We'd do the same things we do for people who complain about the 500-odd other government organizations we oversee. Most of the time we resolve issues informally, helping people navigate through bureaucracy. In other cases, we uncover truly unjust, unreasonable situations and recommend fixes. Our recommendations have been overwhelmingly accepted and appreciated by the government because, in the end, they improve public services.
We received 276 complaints this past year about hospitals and long-term care facilities. A change in my mandate would do more than simply give these people somewhere to turn for help. Ombudsman oversight can also act as an early warning system, identifying problems in institutions before they explode, and it can motivate organizations to respond to public concerns more effectively.
With C. difficile having resulted in six times more deaths than SARS — and counting – we need to have all our warning systems on alert. That includes bringing the ombudsman's office to the front lines of the battle.”


What is the Liberal gang at Queen’s Park hiding?

Why is the McGuinty gang at Queen’s Park afraid of having their oh-so-vaunted health-scare system’s hospitals subjected to external, independent scrutiny?

Where’s the transparency? Where's the accountability?

Ontario Liberal Health Minister George Smitherman himself said several years ago he had little idea of where his multi-billion-dollar hospital budget - our tax money - was going: “We don’t even actually know exactly what we’re buying”, Smitherman told Osprey News”. (St. Catharines Standard, Aug.8, 2005) (see:Liberal Healthcare Duplicity, An Ontario Overview 2003-2007 )

When I contacted my Liberal MPP, St. Catharines Liberal MP Jim Bradley (see: Liberals ignore call for health-monopoly investigation , see: Medicare's secretive death rates and Liberal unaccountability ) about having the Ombudsman investigate Ontario’s Liberal government-run monopoly, Jim Bradley didn’t bother to respond. This smug and arrogant Liberal cabinet minister simply ran away from the concerns brought to his attention.

This is indicative of the smug and arrogant mentality of McGuinty's Liberal government. This is a sign of a dangerously dogmatic majority government which has now circled its wagons to deflect any un-wanted and un-controlled scrutiny of the policies emanating from their Star Chamber. Cabinet ministers refuse to even discuss the problems in their health system - a no-choice system we are forced by Liberal law to financially support, but cannot question.

A Nov. 2007 CIHI study found that the hospital in St. Catharines (in Liberal Jim Bradley's own riding!) had one of the highest patient mortality rates in Canada; when contacted, Liberal Jim Bradley couldn't be bothered to respond. (see: Hospital death-rate in Liberal Jim Bradley's St. Catharines: third-worst in Canada)
Since Nov. 2007, no one from the Liberal government has yet explained the high death-rate found in St. Catharines, in the Niagara Health System. 190 patients have also had their surgeries inexplicably cancelled; and patient-stacking in emergency rooms continues, with patients waiting up to three days (St. Catharines Standard, Jun.10, 2008) on stretchers in the ER before they can actually get a bed. This is not quite the sepia-toned health-care Utopia painted by Michael Sicko Moore, is it?

The Liberal's handling of the C. diff outbreak was a bungled fiasco.
Let's recall how outraged Ontarians - especially smug Liberals - were about Walkerton: six times more people have died in this outbreak, and the Liberals just fumbled their way through it: when a massive C. diff outbreak hit Quebec first, the Liberals in Ontario had plenty of warning; plenty of time, to prepare for the worst.

What, if anything, did they do? How will we ever know?

There's no way this smug and arrogant Liberal government will tell us anything but their version of events.

Even hospital officials are disputing that they didn't know the extent of the outbreak!!

The Hamilton Spectator (Jun.6, 2008) wrote that Don Scott, CEO of Burlington's Joeseph Brant Hospital, "said no information on how to deal with C. diff or what to look out for ever trickled down to his hospital. He doesn't recall a letter that was sent by the Ontario Hospital Association warning hospital CEOs that C. diff was out there.
Scott's comments are contrary to Health Minister George Smitherman's claims that information existed to inform hospitals and the public about risks, including the coroner's review from Sault Ste. Marie, where 26 died in an outbreak in 2006. "

Contrary to Smitherman's claims!?!

And no investigation?!? That is unbelievable.

The story of Burlington's hospital problems are similar to those in St. Catharines - systemic problems. CEO Scott says the hospital is underfunded and needs $300 million in renovations: "We have a hospital here that has totally inadequate facilities. There's people's garages that are in better shape than our operating rooms. They're terrible. We don't have private rooms to accommodate people. We're isolating patients right now so we have 10 rooms that are out of service because of isolation of people. That's 10 more people backed up in emergency department who can't get in. We have 45 people here today who should be in a long-term care facility. That would get our emergency department empty but there's nowhere for them to go."

Let's remember: during the 2007 election the Liberals white-washed and shrugged off suggestions that there were any inadequacies or problems in their glorious government-run health Utopia. Did the Liberal government do all it could to warn hospitals - and warn single-payer-monopoly-trapped patients as well - of the imminent danger of C. diff? Or were the Liberals trying to downplay - if not cover up - the extent and potential danger of the outbreak which occurred on their watch?

Well, certainly the Liberals won't tell us.

Furthermore, they have the privilege of not having to tell us. Liberal politicians such as Jim Bradley can just ignore your questions.

They are deathly afraid that shining a light on how they run Ontario's health-care monopoly could expose their incompetence.

There are way too many unanswered questions at every level of Ontario's health monopoly.

A stale Smitherman should resign as health minister.

The Ombudsman should be able to investigate the Liberal government's (mis)management of Ontario's health monopoly.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Crystal Beach, Then and Now: The Comet

I found myself today, on this sunny, breezy Saturday, on the sandy shore of beautiful Lake Erie at Crystal Beach, Ont., at a spot that I had last visited perhaps some 15 or more years ago.
Enough cannot be said of the magic that was old Crystal Beach. The great beach with its wide, sand-rippled shallows was a summertime memory for millions of visitors over the years. The shops along Derby Rd. teemed with people. Who can’t remember their famous suckers, and waffles, and Crystal Beach Loganberry Juice?!
Of course, the big attraction was the Crystal Beach amusement park, and its star roller coasters, the Comet, and the Giant (or Yellow) Coaster.
I looked in awe at how things had changed since I had last been here.
Standing on the east side of the now-former amusement park site (it closed in 1989), I looked west towards where the Comet had once stood, its tracks hugging the very edge of the break-wall at the water’s edge. Here once roared a summertime’s worth of collective excited screams from countless daring thrill-seekers.
Today, the view was serenely quiet, with only the seagulls chattering above a row of new waterfront homes which have since sprouted like sentinels on the Comet’s former site. In fact, the whole former park grounds have been developed into a gated subdivision. The once-bustling commercial areas of Erie Rd. and Derby Rd. were today virtually empty of traffic.
I took photos the last time I was at the old Crystal Beach amusement park, when it was being demolished, in Oct. 1990. The Comet is shown with a crane visible at its west end, and only the east end of the coaster was still standing.
I recall how eerie and quiet it was then on the shore of Lake Erie, with this once-vibrant park completely empty as I walked through it; with its vibrant, brightly-painted deco facades laying partially-demolished in the middle of the midway.
I was witnessing the quiet end of another era that day.
Here are some of my memories of how Crystal Beach Park had looked as I saw it on its very last days, prior to its disappearance forever.
below: St.Catharines Standard report, Oct.2,1990                                                                  

(click on any photo to enlarge!)

Below: The Comet shown being taken down, view looking westward. The break-wall and water of Lake Erie can be seen at the left. Note that in the left distance, the western half of the roller coaster has already been disassembled: a crane is working its way towards removing the eastern end of the coaster.
The Comet is still alive, having been bought in 1989 at auction for $210,000 and rebuilt in the winter of 1993-94 at an amusement park in Lake George, New York. Photos taken by R. Bobak, Oct. 1990.

Above: Same view on Jun.14, 2008 ... a new lakeside gated community has risen on the site of the former amusement park, with the same breakwall along the Lake Erie shore.
Below: The geometric, colourful facade of the Arcade building, with its pylon sign towering over the midway. Photo by R. Bobak, Oct.1990.
Below: The exuberant form and flow of the canopied entrance to the Giant Coaster (also known as the yellow coaster) is a classic of midway vernacular. The pink, curving massive marquee; the flagpoles; the turquoise-edged descending discs over the round pillars - classic!! Photos taken by R. Bobak, Oct. 1990.

Below: The vivid-red painted facade of the Laff In The Dark ride. Photos by R. Bobak, Oct. 1990.

Above: The Laff In The Dark facade toppled over and being demolished. The above sad picture I took became my last memory of Crystal Beach Park.
Below: Crystal Beach along Derby Rd., as seen Jun.14, 2008.

Above: These now-quiet streets, just north of the park, were once a commercial tourist hub, teeming with park and beach visitors. View is looking south towards Lake Erie in the distance, down Derby Rd. towards the new gated-community's fence and gate along Erie Rd. at the upper left. This had been one of the park's entrances.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Niagara Falls, then and now: 1967 map

(Click on photos to enlarge!) Above: This cairn is located on the south-west corner of Morrison St. and Stanley Ave. in Niagara Falls.
It reads: "To commemorate the Erie and Ontario Railway between Queenston and Chippawa. The first railway in Upper Canada, built 1831-1841. This cairn erected 1931 on original line."


Below: Looking northwards at the remnants of the Erie and Ontario Railway/ later Michigan Central railroad bridge which once crossed the Welland River in Chippawa on its way from Niagara Falls to Fort Erie/Buffalo. The Erie and Ontario tracks had earlier gone from the Queenston dock to Slater's dock at Chippawa; later tracks extensions were made from Chippawa to Fort Erie, and from Queenston to Niagara-on-the-lake.  The red striped chimney is on the site of the Norton Abrasives Plant in Chippawa, which in 1942-45 provided significant research as part of the Manhattan Project.

Above: Looking northward, just past the Norton plant, the former EandO/MCR track is still seen (far centre-left) between Niagara Falls and Chippawa; Marineland rides can be seen in the distance. Photos taken Apr.9, 2008, by R. Bobak.
Below: Remains of the south abutment of the Erie and Ontario (later Michigan Central, later New York Central) railroad line which ran from Chippawa/Niagara Falls to Niagara On The Lake. This extension of the Erie and Ontario down to NOTL was opened on July 3, 1854, after the line was rebuilt to an easier grade by Samuel Zimmerman, who converted the line from having horse-pulled cars on iron-strapped-rails, to a steam-locomotive-powered line.  The Erie and Ontario's sole steam locomotive was the 4-4-0 Clifton, from the Amoskeag Co. of Manchester, New Hampshire. The bridge shown here once crossed York Rd. (at Concession 2) at a sharp angle as it climbed southwards up the side of the Escarpment. View below is looking in a south-west direction. The old right of way is now a walking trail. Above: The same E&O/MCR/NYC right of way (centre of photo, where the trees are), at intersection of Line 9 (to the right) and Concession 1 (to the bottom), not far from the bridge in last photo. This view is looking south, with the Escarpment in the distance. After crossing the railway bridge over York Rd. at Con. 2, (which in the above picture would be to the far right in distance), the tracks gently curved down at a north-easterly angle towards Con. 1. Above, the tracks would have crossed the intersection of Line 9 and Con. 1, and then paralleled Con.1 (on the east side) all the way north in a straight line to NOTL. (see map here)

Shown below: Dept. of Energy, Mines, and Resources map, produced in 1967. Interestingly, this map still shows Highway 8 (York Rd.) at Queenston crossing the Niagara River to Lewiston into the United States (it closed in 1963!) This is where the old Queenston-Lewiston Suspension Bridge had been located. The map also shows the 405 crossing the Niagara River over the new Queenston-Lewiston bridge.
Note the "abandoned" railways marked on the map - the former E and O / MCR / New York Central is shown going south from downtown Niagara On The Lake and curving up the escarpment. (See photos above)

Another NYC rail line shown abandoned is seen south of Chippawa that used to run to Fort Erie.
(see photos above)

Another is the line that ran from Niagara Falls, (a little south of, and parallel to, Thorold Stone Rd.) directly west towards the Welland Canal. This once was the Niagara Central Railway, which in 1899 was sold to the NST, and was electrified to run streetcars from Niagara Falls to Thorold, then north to St.Catharines.

Another abandoned line shown was seen in west-end St. Catharines running towards east Port Dalhousie. Another is shown abandoned in the northend running parallel to the Welland Canal.

Another is shown as "electrified" running parallel to and slightly west of the canal, in St.Catharines'  north end; it can still be seen today as a bike trail running north-south (running in-between Bunting Ave. and Grantham Ave.) and used to be called the Lakeshore Spur. I still remember this as a working rail track, only decomissioned approx. late 1990's (?) Along here once ran a streetcar line that ran from downtown St. Catharines, by way of Facer St., past Grantham Ave., turning north to Port Weller, crossing the canal at Lakeshore Rd.,, and then running east all the way to Niagara On The Lake, where it met the MCR tracks at Queen and King Sts. Interestingly, electric streetcars ran from St.Catharines to NOTL, but not trains; yet from NOTL to Niagara Falls there was a train (Erie and Ontario/MCR), but there was never any electric streetcar service. The streetcars which headed north from Niagara Falls only went as far as the Queenston docks at the foot of the Escarpment; they never went all the way to NOTL. By the way, what in St. Catharines was "Ryderville", as seen on the map? I'd never heard of it!

Also, another "electrified" line (former NST, later owned by CN) is shown running from Thorold, through Fonthill, to Welland - how neat was that, to be able to take a streetcar to all these places. If you follow these old routes from Google Earth, in many cases these track right-of-ways are still clearly visible.

Couldn't these right-of-ways be restored and used once again for interurban streetcar service?
(click on photos to enlarge!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

St. Catharines Then and Now: 136 St. Paul St.

(Please click on photos to enlarge!)

Below: 136 St.Paul St. in downtown St. Catharines is in the process of being demolished. The following 'before' photos were all taken Apr.2, 2008; the 'after' photos were taken on Jun.12, 2008, by R. Bobak.



Above: View from across St. Paul St. (it's as if the vehicle at the left hadn't moved!)


Above: View from the rear of the property: the first Welland Canal once ran here in the lowel level. The danger sign warns of asbestos on the site.



Below: Advertising signs painted on the brick walls of the two neighboring buildings were revealed as #136 was demolished. These relics, hidden from another age, probably last saw sunlight a hundred years ago. Below is the wall of the building which was to the right of #136.
Below: the next four photos show the ads painted on the brick wall of the building to the left of #136.

Below: there was more writing further below almost at the bottom of photo. The best I could make of it was "...& of all kinds of mill...". Note the interesting archway seen in the brick wall - was the neighbouring building built on an arch, and was it once open below?


Below: A scene not seen for probably a hundred years - that is, looking from St. Paul St., through where the demolished building used to stand, right out to the valley behind.


Above: closer view from the rear lower level.

Above: the building has been demolished, now a bit of a facade from a building on St. Paul St. can be seen peeking through the new opening, and the grey slab of the Corbloc building can be seen further back. Taken July 25, 2008 by R. Bobak.