Archive for March, 2008

We must need more

Friday, March 28th, 2008

By Ken Waddell
The Banner

“Once we invite Big Brother into our families, we’ll find it very difficult to ask him to leave.”
That’s the closing statement in a column issued from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy concerning the Province of Ontario deciding to legislate against people smoking in cars if there’s children on board.
Smoking bans were generally welcome in public places like restaurants. The ban wasn’t very welcome in bars, lounges and cabarets. Worse yet the Province of Manitoba hasn’t got the courage to enforce a the somewhat needless “smoking in a bar ban” on Indian Reserves. The First Nations Communities don’t want a ban or so they say. They are smart enough to tell the government to take a hike. The point being that if enough people want a nonsmoking restaurant or a nonsmoking bar, then perhaps it’s up to the marketplace to provide that. Certainly in some of our rural communities there were nonsmoking restaurants before the general ban. There were at least two in Neepawa and they got most of the nonsmokers’ business when they implemented their own ban.
Now the very easy to swallow argument about kids, smoke and cars is that children can be harmed by smoke. That’s true. Parents shouldn’t be so self-destructive as to smoke in the first place and certainly shouldn’t smoke around kids. However, there’s a problem.
Once a government is able to legislate against smoking in cars, what’s to stop them from other legislation. Overweight kids are a health risk and both a potential and a real cost to the health system. Watching too much TV is harmful. Too much time in front of a computer is a problem. Certain kinds of TV shows are a problem. Certain kinds of computer activity is potentially harmful. Riding on a bike without a helmet, playing any sport without a helmet is potentially harmful. Climbing trees is risky, might break an arm or a collarbone.
The real problem is that family and community standards have been erased. The idea of parents, teachers or police taking a firm stand is a thing of the past. The church’s influence has been downgraded and mocked into a state of fearful retreat. The education system is paralysed when it comes to actual discipline.
No, it’s only the government and the hordes of civil servants who can decide for us what’s best for us.
We are headed down the wrong road. It’s time for the governments to back off. And if a kid sniffs some smoke in the back seat of a car, then that’s a risk we’ll have to take. At least he’ll be seat belted, have his bike helmet ready to put on along with any other safety padding he needs at his next government sponsored day care session or play date. His diet will be regulated by a government dietician and when he does fall out of tree there will be an emergency room ready to mend his broken little bones.
Oh sorry, I forgot, the health care system has already been run into the ground by the government and hordes of civil servants so that won’t work either.
What’s a parent to do?
Do the best they can?
Hope for the best?
Pray for the best for their kids?
Teach kids to grow up and look out for themselves?
Teach kids how to make sound decisions?
No, that’s never worked before has it, so we better spend some more government money on looking after children.
Perhaps that’s why government run Child and Family Services has so many clients and is so successful. Right?

The bottom line, the final answer

Friday, March 21st, 2008

By Ken Waddell

As a business person, and as one who like to know the parameters, the phrase bottom line is one that brings about a certain sense of comfort and freedom. It’s nice to know the bottom line, the final answer.

In life and in business, we find that adversity isn’t what kills us emotionally, it’s uncertainty. Take for example a person who takes sick and the doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong. After months of diagnosis, the word finally comes. It’s cancer and it’s terminal. There’s usually a short period of grieving for a life that’s faced with an imminent end but usually there’s almost a sense of relief. Now they know what they are facing and they can move on.

Business is like that. We like to know the outcome or at least be able to reliably predict what will happen. We need a bit of risk in our lives to keep us going, to provide some excitement, but we are largely bottom line or final answer people.

A pioneer out on the prairie faced risk and would build a sod house, then later a log house or frame house. They would get an improved wood stove and a bigger pile of firewood. Preparations of many kinds were made each year so they could survive and even thrive during long cold winters. The bottom line was well known, be prepared or freeze to death in a cold tent or sod shack.

So it is in business, in communities and in life itself. What’s the bottom line, the final answer. What’s going to happen. When will we reach success, when will we hit a wall, when will we…. ??

And so it is in life
And so it is in death.

There’s no doubt that people die but we also know, or should know, that our spirit (or soul if you like) lives on. As my old and now departed friend Percy Ford used to say, “There’s a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun!” As we celebrate Good Friday and Easter this weekend and look at the old story again, we can celebrate the fact that our bottom line, our final answer can be much brighter than it might have seemed at first glance.

Good Friday. What a strange name for the day that Jesus was crucified. What can possibly be good about that. Very simple. Without Good Friday there could have been no Easter Sunday when Jesus triumphed over death. A Christian song says, “Because he lives I can face tomorrow.”

The bottom line, the final answer is a very good scenario for those who make sure their final answer, their bottom line is the one that God has provided.

MNU strike threat produces winners and losers

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

By Ken Waddell
The Banner
Foreshadowed by the strike that never was going to be, the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) and the province of Manitoba have settled their differences.
The nurses got 10 per cent over 2 years. That’s in addition to a substantial increase in the last agreement. Nobody would argue that we shouldn’t pay nurses properly. They do a huge service to our communities. They are often literally life-savers.
However, the issues that could be legitimately raised are numerous.
During the last 10 years, Manitoba hasn’t improved very much in the number of nurses. The biggest problem is that 59 per cent of nurses work part time. We have an 800 nurse shortage. The solution is mathematically simple. Take 1600 part-time nurses and give them full time positions. It’s not rocket science. The younger nurses, the ones with student loans and potentially with higher family expenses might welcome full time positions. The nurses union wouldn’t like it because the more nurses they have the more basic fees they collect. It’s in the union’s best interests to have more nurses working part time than having fewer nurses working full-time. It’s a numbers game.
The MNU may also protest about overtime shifts. That’s appropriate, overtime is expensive, exhausting and often an indicator of bad planning. However, the union gets their dollars off wages and it would be interesting to know what percentage of the unions dues (if any) come from overtime wages.
If the union directly benefits their coffers from higher rates of overtime wages they aren’t likely to really want to reduce overtime.
Another issue is if health care in Manitoba has indeed been turned over to the Regional Health Authorities, then why is the province negotiating the collective agreements with the MNU. It may be the best way to go but what it does show is that the RHAs have very little control over their budgets. The health department still calls all the shots and in doing so hamstring the RHAs. The RHAs are as big a farce to the province as the District Health Advisory Councils (DHACs) are to the RHAs.
And the biggest question is when a strike vote was announced, did anybody really take the MNU seriously? After all, in 2007, the MNU ran expensive TV ads proclaiming how wonderful the NDP government was. The fact that not much has improved was glossed over but the major point was the MNU said the NDP were doing a wonderful job and warned the voters to not vote for the conservatives. Main message, NDP good, PC bad, bad, very bad. So when the MNU threatened to strike against the NDP government, nobody took them very seriously. It was a charade.
The final question would be, how much money did the MNU actually spend to swing the election to the NDP. Whatever it was, it will likely be offset quite quickly by increased union dues on their negotiated pay increase. The ads were a good investment for the MNU. The union probably isn’t out of pocket at all.
The sum total of what happened is this. The MNU ran ads favouring the NDP, the NDP took taxpayers dollars and caved in to the MNU without so much as a whimper and the MNU gets their money all back. It’s a great deal for the unions. It’s a great deal for the NDP.
The losers? Well there’s two losers. One is the truth and the other is the public.

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

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