Saturday, October 27, 2012

Re: Bigger Reports Savings - October 25, 2012

Read the article here

To the editor of the Sudbury Star,
Published October 31, 2012

I was astounded to see Andre Rivest's comments with respect to the Auditor General's five year projection of savings relative to his audit program.  Councillor Rivest is quoted as saying "Just show us the savings up to this year, minus your office expenses. Why not go 10 years and show $4.5 million?" Indeed, why not? Is the councillor not aware that the cost of the audit is a one time expense while the savings that result are ongoing? If this is the level of business acumen sitting at the council table, the city is in real trouble.

Rather than accept Mr. Bigger's investigations as a guide to improving the efficiency of city operations, some of our elected politicians, as well as staff, seem to want to nit pick his reports. When the message makes them uncomfortable, they attack the messenger. The fact is that while Bigger nominally reports to council, his efforts are actually in the best interests of us, the taxpayers who must carry the burden of any waste and inefficiency.

So keep up the good work, Brian Bigger. Anyone who opposes the work you are doing should not get the support of any rational voter in the next municipal election.

Re: Rumours of Grits Demise Dead Wrong - October 22, 2012

Read the article here

To the editor of the Sudbury Star,

I read Warren Kinsella's column in which he predicts the resurgence of the federal Liberal Party with great interest. At the present time, the conservative end of the spectrum has been staked out by the Tories while the NDP has a lock on the far left. The Liberals exist somewhere in the middle, where he suggests the average Canadians "swing left and right, as the circumstances warrant".

The flaw I see in Mr. Kinsella's argument is that he portrays the political spectrum in one dimension featuring left, right and centre. While I agree that most Canadians are not all left or all right, I believe after talking to many that they lean one way or the other, not based on circumstance, but rather based on the particular issue at hand. There is a second axis to the political landscape, and one end of it is populated by those who describe themselves as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. This leads them to sometimes side with the Conservatives and other times to back NDP ideas. These people fit the label of classical liberal, aka libertarian, and they are not comfortable at either end of the one dimensional playing field. But they are definitely not moderate (although the popular left/right model forces them to describe themselves as such).

In my opinion, if the Liberals want to stake out grounds to rebuild the party, they should move onto this other dimension. On a fiscal basis, Paul Martin proved as Finance Minister that the Grits can be more fiscally conservative than anything the Harper government has done in the last six years. Meanwhile, on the social front, a party that steadfastly backs individual rights without the overtones of members rumbling about the government legislating private moral issues such as gay marriage, abortion and a draconian war on drugs that has been singularly unsuccessful would be welcome to many of us.

So let the redefined Liberal Party embrace the fiscal right and endorse the social left without trying to be moderate. This libertarian, who has supported the Conservatives for the last few elections as a compromise, would be happy to change his allegiance.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Re: Councillors refuse amphitheatre plan - February 22, 2012

Read the article here

To the editor of the Sudbury Star,
Published February 29, 2012

So, in addition to the ill thought out vendor area, the new Grace Hartman Amphiteatre does not have enough fixed seating to attract major events? I looked back at a news article in a competing publication from April 1, 2010 and found that " Paul Loewenberg, artistic director for Northern Lights Festival Boreal, said for his festival, a larger amount of seating would be necessary to be able to attract higher quality performers." I also noted that councillor Ted Callaghan " fought for another 400 hard seats since that is what he said user groups wanted".

But architect Paul Castellan indicated that more seating "would compromise the look of the site" and Brian Amott, a senior partner with consultant Novita, said "most user groups, including the larger festivals, were supportive of what seating was proposed"

Where is Novita today, now that larger festivals don't want to rent the venue due to unsatisfactory seating? Why are we once again hung out to dry because the words of an out of town consultant meant more than those of local people who know the issues? What good is a nice looking site if no one wants to use it and we end up funding it out of tax dollars?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Re: 'It's a bad idea to cut beds' - February 14th, 2012

Read the article here

To the editor of the Sudbury Star,
Published February 15, 2012

It is nice of Health Sciences North to put the statistics regarding Alternative Level Of Care patients in hospital on their website. In six weeks, the Memorial Site (aka Functional Assessment and Outcome Unit) will close half of its sixty beds. Checking the numbers today (February 15), I see that the Memorial Site is almost full with 56 ALC patients while the main hospital has 63. They claim no surgeries have been cancelled so far this week but thirteen patients in the ER are awaiting beds.

Despite all the claims about home care and solutions being put in place, it is obvious that the hospital remains overloaded at this time. And this says nothing about the people who need ALC services but remain on a waiting list. My impression is that our government health care bureaucrats and politicians have lots of talk but no plan. From the quotes I see, they seem to be hoping that these people will just go away. It will be interesting to see what the figures look like on April 1st.

Ontario citizens who supported health care through their taxes during their working lives deserve more than this now that they require an alternative level of care. Moreover, the rest of us should have the full benefit of the downsized hospital those short-sighted moguls of health foisted on us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Re: Province ponies up - January 24, 2012

Read the article here

To the editor of the Sudbury Star,
Published January 30, 2012 with minor editing

What kind of perverse game does the province play every year with funding for the municipalities? It seems every budget season that our city fathers and mothers go through the process with a big question mark hanging over their heads regarding what money will be forthcoming from Queen's Park. And the transitional funding might be withdrawn at any time? How do you strategize with something like that hanging over your head.

Sound financial planning requires as few unknowns as possible. In my opinion, the province owes the local governments some level of assurance as to the levels of their ongoing support. But the must like this little tease game because they also do it to the hospitals. It is a sad thing when politics meets bureaucracy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Re: Hospital stuck with 100 long-term care patients - January 14, 2012

Read the article here

To the Editor of The Sudbury Star,
Published January 18, 2011 with minor editing

Normally, I find a Yogi Berra quote amusing but, in this context, it is just sad. Why is it that all the high paid help (as evidenced by the annual Sunshine List) in the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care can't predict the needs of our community and act on those needs? Once again, Alternative Level of Care patients are impinging on the operations of our hospital. Then again, they downsized the number of beds in the new facility and couldn't even figure out how many parking spaces were required. I can't imagine where we would be if they had closed the Memorial Site as they wanted to last March.

The provincial government is, as the name of the ministry states, responsible for Health AND Long Term Care. It would be nice if they started acting like it instead of trying to pass the buck around to the alphabet agencies they have created (Local Health Integration Network, Community Care Access Network, etc.) to confuse where the it actually stops. It stops in Queen's Park on the Premier's desk.

What good is a single source government health care system if that very care is not available to the citizens who need it?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Re: Department Legal Battle Expensive - November 2, 2011

To the editor of the Sudbury Star,
Published November 4, 2011 as Letter of the Day

I am dismayed to see the expense run up in this ludicrous legal battle. The auditor general was hired and, after much wrangling, it was decided his department would report directly to council. As such, he is an agent of council and attempts by staff, including the inane arguments by the city solicitor, to shield city documents from the AG amount to shielding those documents from council.

The Mayor and council were elected by us, the citizens of Greater Sudbury, to oversee the operation of our city. The auditor general's role is to review those operations to ensure that staff is managing our tax dollars responsibly. What I expect from my elected representatives is that they issue a simple directive that staff provide the auditor general with anything he requests to further this objective on behalf of council. Or perhaps council has been managed by staff for so long that councillors are afraid to exercise the authority that they legally hold as our representatives.

If the transit fiasco is anything to go by, there is a need to shine a bright light in many dark corners of city management. Let's get on with it.