$11.5 billion to care for Afghan veterans; Media gets Vancouver’s Eastside Wrong; Toronto Transit Merger – 31 March 2009 Headlines

Post traumatic stress disorder is expensive
A new Tyee series reports that caring for Canada’s Afghanistan veterans could cost as much as $11 and a half billion dollars.

Carleton University researcher David Perry estimates that by July 2011, 41,000 Canadians will have served in Afghanistan and long-term care will require big spending.

Already over 360 Canadians have come home wounded. More than 4,000 Canadian Forces veterans are receiving benefits for post-traumatic stress or “operational stress injuries.”

One estimate predicts about 27 per cent of Kandahar veterans will experience mental health problems.  The report claims little is being done to address a condition called traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

Caused by the detonation of an improvised explosive device, TBI can lead to dementia, seizures, psychoses, aggressive behaviour, depression and memory problems.

Canadian Forces don’t keep track of their TBI cases because it isn’t “essential in supporting our primary responsibility of patient care.”  That’s despite a report by the American Military last year flagging the condition among American veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside doesn’t need middle-class fixer uppers
That’s according to Vancouver East’s Member of Parliament Libby Davies.

The NDP MP singled out the Globe and Mail’s recent investigative series on the neighborhood, saying headlines like, “The Nation’s Slum: Fix It,” are both infuriating and provocative.

Residents are not a helpless throng waiting to be saved by the middle classes she wrote in a column for rabble.ca.

She says the community’s come a long way since the 70s and that’s all due to local residents fighting for social housing, new infrastructure and justice.

Davies says the problem isn’t the neighborhood residents but failed government policies on social housing, income distribution and health.

She says the popular solution of moving middle classes into the neighborhood isn’t going to fix anything – instead she wants the right of residents to stay in their community recognized.

Meanwhile the B.C. government is coming under fire for re-writing the definition of who counts as homeless
No longer will couch surfers and those who have been homeless for less than 30 days be counted as homeless under the Ministry of Housing and Social Programs new rules.

Anyone living in temporary housing, like women’s transition housing and those living in homes with no running water or heat – will also be classified as housed.

Critics say this will result in a dramatic drop in the number of welfare recipients classified as homeless.

The Ministry’s spokesperson told  the Tyee that the categorization is for internal use only and will help them better track homeless people.

But critics say the new counting method is just a ploy to reduce the optics of homelessness in Vancouver and lack of a proper count will result in misguided policies.

A bully in the Arctic
Yesterday Russia defended its recent plan to create a special military force to protect its Arctic oil and gas interests, saying it’s no bully.

The Russian ambassador to Canada was reacting to comments by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon who told the International Relations Council on Arctic Sovereignty on Friday that “Canada will not be bullied.”

Ambassador Mamedov says while Russia is out to protect its Artctic sovereignty, it’s not out for any “outlandish power grab.”

Merger they wrote…
The Ontario government is merging Go Transit, the GTA’s transit operator, with Metrolinx, the agency that plans public transit’s future.

The province says the move will help get projects started quickly.

Kiss Free Parking Goodbye
That’s what Metropass holders who drive their own cars to the subway are doing today.

The TTC estimates cancelling holders’ parking privileges starting tomorrow, will net it another $4 million a year.

Drivers will now have to fork out up to $12 a day.

Sorry isn’t the hardest word for Premier Dalton McGuinty
He apologized yesterday for “muddying the waters” with his back and forth on the minimum wage hike.

Just a day after announcing a minimum wage hike in the new budget, the Premier backpedalled, saying the planned raise in 2010 might be put on hold because of the recession.

He’s now sticking to his original promise.

Minimum wage rises by .75 cents today to $9.50 and on the same date next year it will go to $10.25.

Politics blocks Federal funding political organizations
A 13-year federal program giving money to the Canadian Arab Foundation for language classes for new immigrants hasn’t been renewed.

And the Foundation claims it’s because Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, does not like the organization’s criticisms of Israel.

But Executive Director of the Foundation told  Vancouver Co-operative Radio show Redeye that Minister Kenny was upset with the Foundation’s advocacy role so it cut the $1 million program when it came up for renewal. He stressed that taxpayer money never went to lobbying activities, but only to helping new immigrants settle in.

The organization’s President, however, did call the Minister a “professional whore” for supporting Israel last month.

A Ministry spokesperson said that comment had no weight in the decision, instead he says the government isn’t in the business of funding organizations that promote anti-Semitism.  The Canadian Arab Foundation retorts that criticizing Israel does not equate to anti-Semitism.

Live Long and Prosper Toronto Coyotes
Well the Coyote that’s been roaming the beaches – and has killed one dog and attacked at least two more – won’t be killed if it’s ever caught.

That’s a reversal on the City’s original plan to euthanize the coyote because an Ontario law forbids authorities from relocating animals more than one kilometer from where they’ve been captured.

But the City won an exemption from Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield.

And City Authorities now suspect the attacks are the work of more than one coyote.

Cansfield’s department has been trying to capture the coyotes for five weeks – and if it does they’ll be relocated to a local zoo or wildlife sanctuary.

EXTRA:  a reactionary blog against the city’s rapid mobilization to save the coyote.


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