Friday, April 08, 2011

My wish list for government in Canada

A promise that no matter how hard the entertainment industry lobbies for it, there should be no new copyright bill that favours this stubborn business cartel over the consumer. Period. Copyright should foster innovation and protect consumer rights. All else is greed.

Our universal health care system is no longer universal. This needs to be fixed now before it is too late. Nobody should have to pay extra to get an MRI or an X-ray or surgery in a reasonable amount of time. If the public system can't make this happen, then it is broken and needs an immediate overhaul. All that a two-tiered system does is marginalize the poor. Want proof? Look south across the border.

While we're on the topic of health, one of the biggest obstacles to reducing health costs is the now overt lobbying by 'big pharma' toward doctors. It is so easy to draw correlations between drug company sponsored events and perks and sudden and sustained increases in drug prescriptions by those companies. This is only a tiny part of a bigger problem - lobbying in general is getting out of hand and needs to be outlawed. If you knew how many government and public health officials were in the pockets of corporations, your head would spin. It is the number one cause for costs spiralling out of control.

Our education system is not doing a great job of educating our kids. Teachers are overworked, underpaid and their class sizes are ridiculous. How about we spend the money we were going to use to give students a break on their tuition and spend it on new schools and more money for teachers.

Students spend a small fortune getting an education for jobs that probably won't exist by the time they're finished school. There's a smart combination - massive student debt load and no relevant job to pay the loan off. We need to start getting smart about what training is available to students by partnering with corporations to identify and groom (and subsidize) future post-secondary students who will go on to work for the company in the identified field of need. Yes - this requires cooperation and something called planning between schools and industry.

On that note, let me take a moment to send out a quick message to Pharmacist graduates: Kiss your future career goodbye. Newly introduced regulation for pharmacy technicians just changed things so that they will be doing much more of your work. That means you just became redundant. Enjoy your new degree and be sure to thank your provincial government(s) for a boneheaded decision.

Canada is making a small fortune (or at least key companies are) from fossil fuel. Some of this money needs to be used to develop the next source of energy that we'll require as fuel prices continue to rise while fossil fuel supply continues to fall behind increasing world demand. Note that I didn't even mention the 'GW' words.

There are technologies that exist right now that are not commonly known by the general populace, let alone being leveraged by the construction industry to keep environmental and family costs down. One of these technologies, which does not add a lot of cost to home construction is known as 'Passive House', a new building standard using better materials and thicker walls to greatly reduces the energy needed to keep a building warm (or cool in summer). This kind of technology needs to be explored and promoted now and become the new standard. It will save billions in energy consumption and make owning a home even more affordable.

Some people have already figured out that the car culture is no longer sustainable. I know - it sucks - but there's really no getting around it. Europe has already begun to do what is necessary to tilt the balance in favour of public transportation and we need to do the same. Our national train network is a joke, our growing road network is getting harder to maintain and those without a vehicle are made to suffer in an antiquated mobility system that makes it difficult just to get to work on time. Part of the problem is that many of the people with the most power to do something - the public servants - have no interest or stake in public transit. Car-centric politicians and citizens forced to use public transit for a month would change their tune and their priorities in short order.

The CRTC needs a new mandate. The time for Canadian corporate protectionism is over as it has led to unopposed oligopolies in entertainment media, music and telecommunications. What we need now is an organization that exists for the sole purpose of protecting consumer interests. We can start by making sure that the people running the CRTC have no affiliation with big entertainment or big telecom whatsoever. In fact, I think the people most qualified to help protect consumer interests are regular consumers.

I think that's a good start, eh?

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