Opinion: Debate did nothing to change the equation

Debate changed nothing

Everything was going so well for John Horgan on Tuesday night.

He was having great success during the televised B.C. leaders debate, heading into election day next Saturday. 

He was easily and confidently swatting the criticisms and jabs from the robotic Andrew Wilkinson, the leader of the B.C. Liberals. The poised B.C. Greens leader Sonia Fursteneau was getting in some nice shots but she wasn’t landing tough combinations to unbalance Horgan, allowing him to roll with the punches.

Horgan’s undoing came from a question he should have handled easily, especially because Wilkinson got to go first, leaving Horgan bonus time to consider his response.

Moderator Shachi Kurl, who earned universal praise for keeping the leaders in line, asked a broad but well-worded question about white privilege that specifically asked for their personal understanding of the issue.

Like every answer, he delivered Tuesday night, Wilkinson’s point was decent but not stellar, delivered with little emotion or even enthusiasm. He simply stated that he’s come a long way from his younger days when he had little knowledge of or exposure to people of colour but learned a lot during his medical career (he mentioned he’s a doctor numerous times Tuesday night) and continues to educate himself.

And then Horgan.

A white person claiming they don’t see colour and then identifying their person of colour friends is so blind to their white privilege lens that they can’t see the contradiction slapping them in the face.

In the case of Horgan, if you don’t see colour, how do you know your buddies you played lacrosse with as a boy were Indigenous? 

To Horgan’s credit, he apologized quickly and articulately in the media scrum after the debate and again on Wednesday morning but the damage was done. The conversation was now about how Horgan didn’t see people of colour, rather than how Wilkinson sat and said nothing on a weekend Zoom call while one of his female colleagues made inappropriate jokes about a female, well-liked NDP MLA.

In the end, however, the leadership debate changed nothing. Their various supporters loved their performances and their detractors still don’t like them much.

Fursteneau did nothing to change the impression that she is a well-meaning, caring person who wants to power the province with good intentions, rather than actual jobs and development.

Horgan did nothing to change the impression he’s a charismatic Joe who easily falls back into cockiness and bluster under pressure.

Wilkinson did nothing to change the impression that he’s super book smart and a decent enough fellow but, like many doctors, lacks a warm bedside manner.

That benefits Horgan in the end because he just needed to keep the impression people already have of him while making sure people’s impression of Wilkinson and Fursteneau stayed the same, too. He knows B.C. voters are historically attracted to charismatic leaders and he knows he’s more charismatic than the other two leaders.

Tuesday’s flub on white privilege was bad but he acted quickly to contain the damage. Barring any surprises over the next 10 days (and even less time with so many people voting early by mail-in ballot), Horgan appears like he’s cruising to re-election.

Op-ed: Get your bubble vaccinated

IH urges vaccination

Right across Canada, more than ever, we need people of all ages and walks of life to get vaccinated against influenza.
The more we reduce the presence of respiratory illness this winter, the better positioned we are to continue fighting against COVID-19.
When we assess a patient’s respiratory symptoms, our job is easier if they have had the flu shot because it helps us determine if the illness is more likely influenza or COVID-19.
So far, Interior Health has been fortunate that our health-care system has kept up to the demands of COVID-19. But I can share with you, we are seeing challenges in some places, such as testing sites and labs, and we have entered a fragile time with the cooler weather. We need to avoid the influx of really sick patients with influenza, which, combined with COVID-19 pressures, could push our health-care system to the edge.
I know from more than 30 years of experience in health care that getting the flu shot helps prevent the system from surging over capacity.
If you are under 40, you may think influenza and COVID-19 are nothing to fear, but we need everybody to think of others during this difficult time. While the symptoms for you may be mild, as with COVID-19, you could unknowingly pass the flu to loved ones and it can be fatal.
Our seniors and elders have been there for all of us and they need our support today. I can’t think of a better way to show appreciation than by taking advantage of any defence that will protect their health when they need us the most.
The flu shot is a tool in the tool box. The choice is yours to decide whether to use the tools to protect yourself and the ones you love.
Over the next few weeks, you will hear more about Interior Health’s public campaign to encourage vaccination. We will be working with many different providers to promote our influenza campaign this year.
The flu season typically ramps up in November, but before it reaches our communities, talk to your bubble, your neighbours’ bubble, and your social media bubble. Encourage everyone to get their bubble vaccinated.
Even if you have never felt the need to get the flu shot before, please do it this year. Help protect each other and the health-care system we all need.

Susan Brown, President and CEO, Interior Health

Opinion: BC is leading the global digital health revolution

BC at the forefront

When we entered the new 2020 year, few people were prepared for the tremendous global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been no pandemic as severe since the 1918 H1N1 Spanish flu, which killed more than 50 million people worldwide.

Despite how COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we live and operate, we have seen examples of how innovation has risen to the challenges to create opportunities and accelerate health technology advances.  

B.C. has taken up the global race for digital health innovation, and it did so well ahead of the pandemic. We’ve since seen the health-care industry move past institutional barriers and with rapid uptake of virtual and online health services. It has been possible to leverage advances in artificial intelligence, data mining and high performance computing to update archaic systems of disconnected health data buried within a labyrinth of hospitals and clinics.

I’ve witnessed rapidly evolving health-care innovations that are now disrupting barriers to clinical care. Nearly every medical practitioner is now finding innovative ways to treat their patients virtually. We are observing quickly acquired literacy around innovation and digital solutions focused on leveraging technology to improve health outcomes.

In Surrey, the Health and Technology District has a number of organizations that are pioneering digital health technologies to change healthcare delivery. It began well ahead of the pandemic to bring innovative solutions to busy hospitals like Surrey Memorial. The pandemic effect has been to rapidly accelerate the implementation of these solutions. 

Companies like the Surrey Neuroplasticity Clinic immediately ramped up their telehealth neuro-rehabilitation services and offered patients one-on-one virtual physiotherapy sessions. They were created to support the sudden need for virtual services, with new ideas like online laughter yoga, sleep management workshops and mental health education sessions. They launched several new virtual treatment programs, such as neuro-feedback and concussion treatments, and shipped specialized equipment safely to their clients’ homes.

Another example is Conquer Experience Inc. and its PeriopSim virtual reality-based medical simulation training software for perioperative clinicians. PeriopSim provides virtual surgical training that grew from B.C.’s expertise in the video game industry. The company is now rapidly expanding safe virtual surgical procedure training to leading medical centres around the world.

Wellin5 Inc. is a team of ambitious forward-thinkers in the field of mental health who developed an online counselling platform to combat mental health challenges. Their app connects patients with counselling and mental health services through virtual online and video chat platforms. The benefit to using a digital health platform like Wellin5 is the “stigma-free approach” to accessing mental health counselling and treatment options discreetly, without the fear of others knowing.

To lead by example, our HealthTech Connex team discovered new ways to apply the NeuroCatch Platform, an objective measure of cognitive function that records brainwaves and outputs event-related potential (ERP) information (measured brain responses) using a portable device. ERPs have been used extensively by clinicians for many brain conditions and injuries such as concussions, dementia, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and brain performance optimization. The recent increasing linkage between COVID-19 and brain health has accelerated NeuroCatch applications to find effective, economical and accessible innovations in treatment.

Technology-driven health-care advances often come as a result of crises. COVID-19 is no exception. What is exceptional is B.C.’s head start as an established health technology leader. The prior acceleration of digital health solutions resulted in direct benefits to our pandemic readiness and response, and it is important for B.C. to continue to invest and strengthen this industry sector, along with our overall innovation economy. •

Ryan D’Arcy co-founded the Health and Technology District and HealthTech Connex. He is a professor at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

Opinion: Farewell to rock’s mischievous genius

Farewell to Van Halen

I was late to the Van Halen party.

Not gonna lie – I initially thought the shredding, the fret tapping, the whammy bar and other insane effects of Eddie Van Halen, who died this week of cancer at just 65, was more sizzle than steak. 

The clownish frontman David Lee Roth, the cheesy vocal harmonies, the schizophrenic detours, the bad-boy party shtick, turned off a kid who wanted his guitar gods to be serious, sombre deities, like Clapton or Page. 

When I came around, I fell hard for Van Halen. 

It was Diver Down, the band’s fifth record, released in 1982, that I won by being caller seven one night while doing my homework and listening to the radio, that made me a convert.

It’s a ridiculous record, with 12 songs crammed into 31 minutes, featuring five covers – three rock classics in Where Have All The Good Times Gone, Pretty Woman and Dancing In The Street and two old-school nuggets faithfully recreated in the jazzy 78-rpm of Big Bad Bill Is Sweet William Now (with Eddie’s dad on the clarinet) and the sweet barbershop of Happy Trails.

As my teenage musical appreciation broadened into other genres and then deepened into history, the record sounded better and better. Within a few months, I was hearing what Eddie, his equally incredible drumming brother Alex, rock-solid bassist Michael Anthony and macho man Roth wanted me to hear – a rollicking guided tour through the musical styles they adored.

I realized I had been fooled, mistaking Van Halen’s carefree style as carelessness. Instead, this was a band that took having fun seriously and prided itself on delivering short, sharp, shiny gems with smirks on their faces.

By the time 1984 came out in that same year, I still hadn’t done more than a drive-by of their existing catalogue but I was ready and waiting for new material. 1984 made them superstars on the strength of a holy trinity of smash singles – Jump, Panama and Hot For Teacher. The videos were cheap and silly but perfect MTV fodder.

There was only one album that universally loved in my high school and it was 1984 because Jump and I’ll Wait worked for the Top 40 kids, Panama and Hot For Teacher appeased the headbangers and the other tracks were party time solid rock.

Even after Roth’s departure, the Van Hagar records with Sammy Hager on lead vocals and the reunion couldn’t diminish Eddie’s unique brilliance in the guitar god sky.

If Clapton and Page are the Thor-like guitar gods of rock, then Eddie was no doubt Loki, the mischievous imp who simultaneously mastered blues-based classic rock and refused to stay within its constraints. 

For him, the guitar was far more than some clumsy hammer, it was a magical wand with which to cast dizzying musical spells, to reveal other worlds and endless possibilities. 

Opinion: CBC has outlived its usefulness

CBC outlived its usefulness

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) should go the way of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp. (FFMC).

In 1969, the federal government passed the Freshwater Fish Marketing Act (FFMA). It created a federal Crown corporation that acted as the sole buyer of freshwater fish caught in western Canada, northern Canada and parts of northern Ontario. The FFMC also acted as a single-desk seller of that catch in international markets.

Over time, almost every province or region that was a signatory to the act withdrew from its provisions and the control of the corporation it created, which had become centred in Winnipeg.

First northwestern Ontario withdrew in 2011. That was followed by Saskatchewan’s withdrawal in 2012. Alberta withdrew in 2014. Finally, Manitoba – which was one of the most significant parts of FFMC’s reach – withdrew in 2017.

The Northwest Territories is the only remaining jurisdiction active in the corporation, but there are significant complaints about the monopoly – from Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers, as well as territorial politicians.

You might wonder what a single-desk fish marketing board has to do with a massive broadcasting corporation with reach all over Canada.

There’s much that’s similar in terms of original policy rationale compared to today’s reality. Both the CBC and FFMC were founded in periods of Canadian history very different than today.

The FFMA came out of the 1966 Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Freshwater Marketing (the co-called McIvor Report). Looking at the economic environment at the time, the report concluded fishermen received low prices for their fish largely due to a lack of bargaining power. The report concluded Canadian fishermen were effectively “indentured servants” to large fishing companies, many based outside Canada. Also, fish processing was spread out across several independent plants.

Fast forward to now and fishers are more sophisticated and Internet-savvy. They could find better deals and prices for their fish at the click of a mouse. Fishers are no longer overpowered by foreign fish companies. They were itching to make deals on international markets, especially in a growing Asian market. Fishers had become an independent and entrepreneurial group constrained by an FFMC they deemed too slow.

The CBC was also created out of a government commission of inquiry. In 1929, the Aird Commission recommended the creation of a nationally-owned broadcasting corporation. CBC/Radio-Canada was founded to counter the growing influence of American radio on Canadian airwaves.

There was also a pressing national imperative to ensure all Canadians had access to vital information. The service provided rural and urban audiences with information on an equal basis.

Finally, the government created an international service bringing Canadian programming to domestic and foreign audiences.

But today we have a multitude of Canadian programming options for citizens, including online. The Internet has given rural and urban Canadians similar access to media sources from Canada and elsewhere.

The policy rationale for the existence of the CBC no longer meets the reality of the modern age. As with the FFMC, the market and the demographics have all changed.

With the CBC, there’s a case for ensuring that underserved communities receive vital information. But does the CBC have to be that provider? Why can’t the federal government use the legislative and policy tools at its disposal to meet these national interests?

For example, there are not-for-profit actors that can be provided with incentives to meet these needs. There’s a case for non-profit media content. But there are ways for the government to engage those media entrepreneurs with its other policy levers.

On a cultural level, one could make a legitimate claim that there’s a compelling state interest in ensuring Canadian voices tell our stories on our broadcasting system to counter the massive information juggernaut south of the border.

But why do so many assume only a Crown corporation can deliver that?

It’s time the CBC went the way of the FFMC.

Joseph Quesnel is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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