Jun 192014

By James Hutt, the provincial co-ordinator of the Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network and a member of Solidarity Halifax. Originally published in The Chronicle Herald.


At its recent annual general meeting, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia announced that it is getting ready for the privatization of health care. It will look at ways to regulate private health care as part of its strategic two-year plan.

This is a mistake — one that will put patients at risk. The college has a key role to play in setting the quality of care. It is the regulating body for all physicians and surgeons in the province. Part of the college’s mandate is to ensure the highest standards of care in all of its members’ practices. There is no way to do that with for-profit medicine.

Decades of research have shown that private health care is less safe than public health care. Whether it’s private hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes, private care cuts corners to maximize profit at any cost.

Recent studies at McMaster University have demonstrated that patients are more likely to die in for-profit hospitals. Since the National Health Service opened up to privatization, it has led to a huge increase in infant mortality in the U.K. Here in Nova Scotia, we often hear from residents in private, long-term-care homes about policies for staff to weigh diapers to make sure they are as full as possible before changing them.

There is no way to regulate private health care to be as safe as the public system. No matter where you look, private health care delivers worse health outcomes. By regulating, the college will give its stamp of approval to substandard care.

Nor will regulation prevent private health care from draining public resources and “cherry-picking” patients who are healthy, wealthy and young.

Regulation of private health care in other jurisdictions has proven costly and less than effective. The United States has the highest regulated private health sector out of the OECD countries, spending over $169 billion per year. Yet, it stills reports hundreds of billions of dollars lost to health fraud and abuse. The U.K. and Australia have also experimented with regulation, but consistently report lower health outcomes in private, for-profit clinics and hospitals, not to mention extra-billing.

Even within Canada, regulation hasn’t worked. The college is looking to model its own policies after B.C., yet that province has struggled to regulate private providers. The province is now embroiled in lengthy lawsuits against private clinics for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraud.

The safest and most cost-efficient health care is delivered by non-profit and publicly funded providers. Trying to regulate for-profit medicine is both costly and ineffective.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons needs to turn away from private health care completely and uphold the highest standards of care for patients. The college, its doctors, and all Nova Scotians should settle for nothing less.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Jun 182014

On June 13, 2014, the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG) convened a rally in support of Pictou Landing First Nation and Solidarity Halifax members were present to show our support. The following Monday morning, June 16, Solidarity Halifax and NSPIRG organized an information picket at the corner of Barrington St and Duke St to show our support for Pictou Landing First Nation and raise awareness about what is at stake.


The Halifax Media Coop covers the June 13 rally.

Amplifying a strong voice: Haligonians show support for the Pictou Landing First Nation blockade

Place the marker at 1:30 to see a short CTV report of Monday’s info picket in solidarity with Pictou Landing First Nation.

CTV Atlantic: CTV News at 6 for June 16, 2014

Placez le marqueur à 1:14 pour entendre une entrevue avec Sébastien Labelle, membre de Solidarity Halifax, au sujet du blockus érigé à Pictou Landing et des raisons pour lesquelles nous sommes solidaires avec la communauté autochtone.

Radio-Canada: Le réveil – émission du 17 juin, 2014: Entente pour l’assainissement du site de Boat Harbour

See photos below of both Halifax events in support of Pictou Landing.


Photos: Tori Ball, Yolande Grant and Angela MacIvor (CBC).

Jun 152014

Solidarity Halifax extends full support to the Mi’kmaq of Pictou Landing who have blockaded access to a spill at Northern Pulp mill and are demanding to be consulted in clean up efforts following a chemical leak near their ancestral burial ground. This current disaster is just the latest chapter in a nearly 50 years saga of untreated toxic waste being dumped into Boat Harbour, severely impacting the surrounding communities. Despite years of attempts to negotiate land rights, the abuse of aboriginal land by corporations and the government continues to go unchecked.

Northern Pulp’s toxic legacy is a clear case of environmental racism. While the pulp and paper mill has received over a hundred million dollars in tax payer bailouts over the years, Pictou Landing First Nation has been forced into legal battles to gain any compensation whatsoever. This injustice is made even more stark as the provincial government is now being forced to pay for the clean-up of Boat Harbour rather than it being the responsibility of Northern Pulp, the corporation that owns the facility. Capitalism reinforces colonial behaviour, and once again we have a private company denying their role in destroying the environment of an Indigenous community and refusing to clean up after themselves. This is an issue of profit trumping people and environmental degradation being forced on the most marginalized and vulnerable communities while benefiting only the few. This struggle once again places First Nation peoples on the front lines in opposition to the expansion of profit over the environment and our communities.




Jun 142014


(location of the NS Dept. of the Environment)

Monday morning, June 16 8:30 to 9:30am
at corner of Barrington and Duke St. Halifax

Organized by Solidarity Halifax and the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG)
Bring your own signs, leaflets will be there. Everyone welcome.
For more information, see www.plfn.ca (Pictou Landing First Nation Website)


Jun 102014

By Solidarity Halifax member Ben Sichel. Ben  is a teacher in Dartmouth and author of the P-12 education section for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Alternative Provincial Budget.

Also published at no need to raise your hand, Behind the numbers,  rabble.ca and the Chronicle-Herald.


What is our public education system for? To judge by much of the talk coming from politicians and business leaders, education is purely a matter of preparing students to be workers in a vaguely defined “new economy.”

Educational authorities need to be cautious about narrowing the curriculum and excluding what are perceived as non-job-related subjects such as art, music and social studies.
Educational authorities need to be cautious about narrowing the curriculum and excluding what are perceived as non-job-related subjects such as art, music and social studies.

Certainly, students need to be able to survive economically in the world. But public education is about much more than narrow job-skills training: it’s about teaching our kids how to create and sustain a healthy, engaged society.

This isn’t always reflected in the way we prioritize certain subjects in school. 

Take the example of math. A staple of the curriculum since the dawn of schooling, it’s often perceived as the most serious and rigorous of subjects. Why? Because it’s seen as the key to gainful employment, especially in higher-paid fields. Love it or hate it, many students are ingrained from a young age with the idea that their financial future depends on their ability to solve quadratic equations or prove the Pythagorean theorem.

I have nothing against math; in fact, it was one of my majors. But there are some problems here. One is that only a small percentage of jobs actually use anything beyond junior high math – about a fifth, according to a recent Northeastern University study.

Furthermore, jobs aside, is the material learned in a high school math class necessarily that much more important in life than, say, learning about one’s health, macroeconomics, a second language, or Canada’s treaty obligations with First Nations?

These are not just philosophical questions. In the U.S., a decade of education policies focusing on “career and college-readiness” – Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, and Obama’s Race to the Top and more recent Common Core State Standards – have resulted in an obsessive overemphasis on standardized test scores and narrowing of the curriculum.

As teachers spend an inordinate amount of time teaching to the test, subject matter seen as extraneous, i.e. anything not easily testable or immediately relatable to a job, is pushed to the margins.

At the global level, nearly 1500 teachers and professors have signed an open letter to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development decrying the role PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests are having in narrowing the way we think about education around the world. A recent issue of CCPA’s Our Schools, Ourselves looks at who and what is left out of a narrow, outcomes-focused vision of education, and examines socioeconomic indicators that are often left out of the increasingly standards-based education debates.

In theory, we tell ourselves we want a rich, varied curriculum. But in practice, too many media stories about the health of our education system focus on students’ performance on standardized assessments in basic math and literacy. Any slipping in the rankings sets off a kind of moral panic and further over-focus on these subjects, often framed as necessary in order for the nation (or province, or neighbourhood) to “compete” with everyone else.

Do we need an economy that provides a decent quality of life for all its citizens, and an education system that can lead us there? Sure. However, there are countless other outcomes we should be seeking from our education system. For example:

Are our kids learning enough about the challenges facing our natural environment, especially climate change, and the powerful political inertia that prevents meaningful action to address them?

Are they learning not just how to produce wealth for themselves, but how to ensure society’s wealth does not continue to be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands?

Are they learning enough about history, systems of government, law and economics, in order to stem the steady decline in political participation in our society?

Are they learning, through practice, the importance of personal and community health, including regular physical activity, proper nutrition and healthy relationships? Are they learning to cope with stress, anxiety and depression, and about the social determinants of health?

Are they learning to counter the ongoing effects of racism and colonialism, which continue to marginalize entire populations in our society?

Are they learning the importance of art in society, for both our individual and collective well-being?

Many educators in our province are doing great work on these topics and others, helping us live up to the kinds of values that guide us in our collective quest to be a “good” society: justice, sustainability, equality, democracy.

In an education system overly focused on perceived short-term economic needs, that work gets pushed to the margins of the curriculum. As part of the current education review, let’s make sure our public schools help to create the kind of society we want to live in for decades to come.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.