Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Danyaal Raza highlights how Canadians can treat an election year as an opportunity to discuss the a focus on social health with candidates and peers alike:
Health providers are increasingly recognizing that while a robust health care system is an important part of promoting Canadians’ health, so is the availability of affordable housing, decent work, and a tightly knit social safety net. Upstream-focused clinical interventions, like the income security program available where I practice, are increasingly meeting that need – but no such program works in a vacuum.
Thinking differently requires speaking differently. Each of the presenters shared meaningful stories of their own experiences and stories of the impact of the social determinants of health on the lives of patients they’ve cared for during their careers. From this ‘SDOHrytelling’ to advocating trading the GDP for a measurement of greater meaning like the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, reframing public discourse is an act of social change.
As Canadians head into a federal election year, we need to put this perspective into practice. Upstream thinking and action on the social determinants of health should not be a single election issue. Rather, this should be the lens we apply to the promises and platforms of all parties, as we ask the key question “what is your plan to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of this country?” That is the standard by which any prospective leader should be judged, and when they are it will empower them to work with Canadians to build a truly healthy society. 
- Meanwhile, Janelle Vandergriff rightly argues that it's time to shift from talk to action in eliminating poverty. Bryce Covert notes that care workers are particularly likely to face precarious job conditions and low wages. And Keith Naughton, Lynn Doan and Jeffrey Green write that the labour movement may be poised for a significant comeback in the U.S., while Joanna Mack discusses the connection between union strength and greater equality.

- But of course, any effort to actually improve the lives of the non-elite is bound to meet well-financed (if untrustworthy) opposition. On that front, Andrew Jackson slams the Cons' bluster about balanced budgets as being destructive to responsible fiscal management. And Lana Payne points out that the corporate lobby is only increasing its attacks on unions even as the disastrous effects of disempowering workers become obvious:
The global lobby against workers’ rights is among the fiercest and best financed. And it has reached a fever pitch, including an assault by employers at the International Labour Organization (ILO) against the right to strike.
Corporate power and employer organizations have had a good friend in right-wing governments (and some not so right-wing) around the world.
It is no coincidence that the attack on workers’ rights and freedoms, such as the right to join a union and to fair and free collective bargaining, have gone hand in hand with unparalleled growth in inequality.
Unions, organized labour, remain the single greatest counterbalance to corporate power. Simply, they force wealth to be shared. No country on the planet has achieved shared prosperity without strong unions and decent collective bargaining coverage for workers.

A 2012 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report looking at the growth in income inequality concluded: “arrangements that strengthen trade unions also tend to reduce labour earnings inequality by ensuring a more equal distribution of earnings.”

This is important for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is inequality hampers economic growth (even the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank now agree) and damages civil engagement and democracy.
- Doug Cuthand examines the tragic fires at Makwa Sahgaiehcan and other reserves as just the latest examples of how chronic underfunding and neglect affect First Nations.

- Finally, Stephen Maher comments on the ugly, bigoted campaign the Cons are planning to run in order to cling to power, while Andrew Coyne notes that Stephen Harper's eliminationist rhetoric only serves to make Canadians less safe. And Ralph Surette discusses how the Cons' work to terrorize Canadians fits into their broader focus on electoral propaganda over good governance - and how there's plenty of work to do in countering it.

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