Resolving Timeline Issues

Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

First, if you haven’t read this post, you need to in order to understand where I’m coming from.

Done? Okay, so to recap: we (“the electorate”) regularly vote in and have the opportunity to vote out governments. In order to get our votes, politicians campaign and make promises and threats. More recently, there have been a lot of threats.

This, incidentally, is why President Obama was so successful – he told people what he was going to do and inspired hope rather than fear.

Also in the post linked above I asked you who should be afraid of whom.

What if I told you that it’s the politicians that should be afraid of us? After all, we have the power to vote them in and out.* But that would require voting. In the last election, somewhere around 50% voted. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less.

And by not voting, you are allowing fear to rule you – fear that you’re going to change the status quo.

So the next time there’s an opportunity to vote, think about why you’re not voting. Is it really apathy? Is it really a feeling that you can’t change anything?

Or has fear-mongering gotten the better of you and made you somewhat of a coward?

I’d encourage you to make your representatives accountable – demand service from there. Remember, they’re paid to serve you. Keep bugging them. Demand their help. Show them who’s in charge.

*Okay, so the system is a bit skewed in Canada due to the first past the post system, but the general principle applies.

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So, kids, let’s talk about democracy. Because I’d rather do that than stuff diapers at the moment.

I’ll start off by saying that we (and by “we” I mean “Canadians”) live in one of the greatest countries of the world. We’ve got a nice blend of capitalism and socialism – decent health care and other social services, freedom from illegal search and seizure, and so on.

And it’s because we live in a democracy. Every four or five years (give or take – I’m not getting into how elections get scheduled here) we vote for a new government. It could be the same as before, it could be different – but each election is a chance for change.

Often, because of the way the electoral system works, there is only a change when people are good and pissed off. This is what is known as the protest vote. People come out in droves to vote because they finally have an opinion, usually about the outgoing government.

Are we good so far? Do you have my main point? That it is the electorate – citizens – that control who is in power.

Since 2001, there has been a marked change in how elections take place. Throughout campaigning, there has been an emphasis on fear. What I have noted over and over is that politicians need to tell me why to vote for them and not why I shouldn’t vote for the other guy. All they tell me is that if I vote for Candidate X, that will guarantee Armageddon.

And here I thought the Mayans said that would occur in December 2012.

Fear is politics’ commodity. It’s been effectively used before against populations: Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, various pre-democratic and democratic monarchies. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing: fear disguised as hope. And it is, unfortunately, being used far too oftenby politicians against citizens, in what are, ostensibly, democratic countries.

Now given that we live in a democracy, or at least a country with democratic tendencies, who should be scared of whom?

Come back later, and I’ll let you know what I think and give you a reason to unfollow me. But I have to get the roast ready for dinner now.

B.C. will introduce a harmonized sales tax of 12 per cent, replacing the PST and GST effective July 2010, Premier Gordon Campbell announced Thursday morning in Vancouver.

– Obtained from CBC Website. Article dated July 23, 2009.

“I think that before people start talking about tax increases, they should start talking about savings in their own organization,” said Campbell.

– Premier Gordon Campbell, regarding TransLink shortfall and plan for acquiring new revenues, August 1, 2009. Quote obtained from The Vancouver Sun.

Talk out of both sides of your mouth much, Mr. Premier?

The HST is effectively a tax increase for the average consumer. Many things that are now exempt from PST will see the entire new 12% tax put on it. Including things like strata fees.

Oh, and TransLink? You’re screwed.

TransLink had counted on boosting a tax on commercial parking spaces, which now brings in $18 million a year, to raise $57 million annually.

But because the parking tax is a sales tax, it is being eliminated and will be rolled into the HST when it is launched next July 1.

TransLink and transportation ministry officials were scrambling to find a way to fix the problem.

Vancouver Sun, September 3, 2009.

Good thing there’s a review of operations happening at TransLink, eh? Oh, hey, I have a suggestion for you: reduce the number of (unelected) people on that decision-making board. There are nine members. You don’t need more than 5. That’ll cut the costs pretty much in half.

Oh and if they’re not physically present for a meeting? DON’T PAY THEM. That’s right folks – they get paid even if they only have virtual attendance.

Cross-posted at Wet Coast Women.

This post is part of the Carnival of Maternity Leave over at Strocel.com. Visit http://www.strocel.com/maternity-leave for more posts on maternity leave from August 3 – 15, 2009.

When I found out I was pregnant last year, we were surprised. Not at the pregnancy itself, but at the timing. You see, I’d gone off birth control in March or so when my prescription ran out. By September I was pregnant. My job was really going to hell in a handbasket, and there’s somewhat of a major event happening in Vancouver next year – I didn’t want to commute while that was happening. This couldn’t have been better timing.

In December, Darren quit his job – for the best really since he was miserable there and was out of work for 3 months. He’s in a much better place now, making more money and is able to leave work at work. It did however, drain our savings.

I went on maternity leave about 5 weeks (give or take) before my due date. It was Easter, a long weekend and seemed like a good time to break off. On April 14, I applied for Maternity and Parental EI benefits and was told that it would be about a month before its approved, given the state of the economy and the larger than usual numbers of people applying for EI.

Me: A month? So if I don’t hear anything in about 6 weeks I should call?
EI Agent: No, no, no. It’ll only be 4 weeks. I promise.

(Dude, I work for government; I know that 4 weeks usually means 6 or longer)

On May 17th, the Poptart was born; my EI claim still hadn’t been processed. I waited another couple of weeks then phoned because I was getting these reports in the mail to fill out even though I had asked to be exempt from them. Every time I phoned or went to the Service Canada office, I was told I didn’t have to fill them out – yet they kept sending them. None of the agents had any idea why I was receiving them.

 Normally, the wait wouldn’t be an issue, but my employer provides a 6 week top up to 95% and we were running kind of tight at that point.

At the six week mark, I phoned the automated system again and listened to the whole message which said that I had to fill out the reports in order to get my claim processed.

Me: [hits 0, listens to muzak]
Agent: How may I help you?
Me: So I applied for my maternity EI over a month ago and a decision still hasn’t been made. Also, I keep getting these reports to fill out in the mail, and I asked to be exempt from them. Your automated system tells me I need to fill them out in order to have a decision made. The agents tell me I don’t need to fill them out. So which is it?
Agent: Okay, first, I’ll flag your account and have the agent dealing with your file contact you within 48 hours. And I’ll check with my supervisor as to the reports.
Me: And I would like an email explaining that either I do or do not have to fill out the reports.
Agent: What?
Me: I want something in writing that I do or do not have to fill out the reports. This is ridiculous.
Agent: [goes away, puts me on hold]
Me: [Muzak]
Agent: Okay, you don’t have to fill out the reports.
Me: You’re sure? Because your system says differently.
Agent: Yes, because your file hasn’t been processed, its just in the pile with all other applications.
Me: So where’s that email?
Agent: Its coming. Is there anything else I can do?…

Within 12 hours I got a call saying my file would be processed that day. I got a back payment within 72 hours.

Anyways, it got me thinking: maternity EI should be a no brainer once your Records of Employment (ROEs) are in, especially if your ROE is submitted electronically by your employer. Maternity and Parental EI is based on the number of hours you’ve worked in a certain period of time. I knew I had the requisite number of hours for the maximum benefit. How difficult is it to create an algorithm that runs a check against the number of hours and performs the calculation of your benefits and trigger a conditional approval? All that would be necessary would be for a quick check to make sure that everything is in order. Those Maternity/Parental EI forms could be dealt with by a few agents once a week. And that would reduce the stress on new parents who not only have a newborn to deal with, but also have to deal with government bureaucracy to get a pittance of EI benefits.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to have a year off to spend with my daughter. This is MY year with her because in a few years, she’s going to be Daddy’s Girl. I don’t think its fair that my income is cut in less than half – yes, you get 55% of your income to a maximum of $447/week. So its not 55% if you earn more than $812/week. Which I do.

I don’t like running that tight on money. There’s enough, but we have a bit of a cashflow issue, particularly at the beginning of the month after the mortgage, strata fees and my continuation of benefits have come out. We’ve trimmed pretty much everywhere we can, and quite honestly, my complaints are not those of a lot of other people. I should feel lucky that we all we had to do was go down to one car, cut out the maid service, cook more, and go to using my own cloth diapers rather than having a service. And I do feel lucky.

But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Canada has a low population growth rate; it may even be negative now. If the government wishes to maintain its population, then it’ll have to change the way maternity and parental benefits are. In addition to streamlining the process so that approval is immediate, it would be great if it would be an actual 55% of your income. Or more. It somehow only seems fair to do that and relieve some of the pressures on new parents so that they don’t have to choose between work and family.

At the end of the day, though, being able to spend this time with my daughter really, really makes up for it.

So remember when I wrote this?

Specifically, this sentence:

Where’s my tax credit for doing what I can? Where are my chits for locally grown meats and vegetables? Why not start there where its something more tangible?

Well, there’s an opportunity now. My diaper service has a petition in the Canadian House of Commons to ask for a tax credit for those that use cloth diapers and/or use a diaper service, and to increase taxes on disposable diapers. I have a copy of the petition to sign and I’m asking for your help.

Simply put, the more signatures that are collected, the better the chance at having a tax credit implemented.

So here’s the deal: if you want to sign and you’re in the metro Vancouver/west Fraser Valley area (up to Chilliwack), I’ll meet you. We can have lunch, coffee, whatever and you can meet the poptart. I mean, with this much cuteness, how can you say no?

oh baby baby

You can leave a comment or email me at rtissues (at) gmail (dot) com.

If you’re not in the metro Vancouver Area, and you’d like to sign, you can contact the Happy Nappy Service in your area and see if you can sign.

Update: If you’re not local and have no access to Happy Nappy, or even if you are local and want to take it around to your friends/family/cloth diapering aficionados, I have a PDF of the petition. Leave a comment if you would like it sent to you. Note, the original needs to be sent back to Happy Nappy in Langley by July 31.

Cross-posted at Wet Coast Women

I thought I should get this posted before I, oh I don’t know, go into labour.

anytime, kid, anytime.

One of the dilemmas I’ve been having is diapers. I’ve been reading quite a bit about cloth diapering here and here. And I like the idea of cloth diapering. I really like it. Its good for the environment. Its better for your baby. The diapers are cute beyond belief. But I am lazy and it just seemed so much easier to throw out a disposable diaper, than to spray down diapers, wash them put in any inserts and how to use the damn things. And I was overwhelmed anyways because of a various ISSUES that made me want to drink, but oh hey, pregnancy and CAN’T.

Ice cream is a good substitute, however. Until your intestines disagree with this.

Oh and the scariness of Braxton-Hicks contractions didn’t help.

But I digress. Sort of.

I went out and bought some diapers because hello, baby on the way and I had coupons.

And then I had a shower and got a diaper cake, lovingly prepared by Sunshine. Which leads me to the current stash of disposable diapers:

diapers-003

diapers-005

diapers-009

 

 

 

 

 

And I thought, that’s not too bad – should last awhile. And then I realized that newborns go through up to 10-12 diapers per DAY. And my inner green person started feeling guilty. Because all that plastic and shit (Ha! get it?!) equals billions of years of biodegrading. Or something like that to my pregnant brain.

And there’s an extra half pack of diapers in the hospital bag along with some loose samples I received from various companies.

And so cloth diapering reared its head again. But again I am lazy and cheap. And when you’ve got more than one kid who will be using diapers, I’m positive cloth diapering is cheaper when you buy your own diapers. One kid? Not so much.

I was at the doctor’s office. There’s this counter I go past on the way to the bathroom – and there was a pamphlet for a diaper service and a sample of the diaper they supply. So I took a flyer, fondled the diaper (soft, cute, yellow) and showed the flyer to Darren, who as usual was exceedingly helpful when it came to making a decision on diapering: “So how do you feel about cloth diapering?” “You’re the one who’s going to be home. Its up to you.”

Thanks, hon.

So I crunched some numbers: disposable diapers = about $20/week. Diaper service = about $25/week. Oh and they pick up and deliver clean diapers once a week. THEY CLEAN THE DIAPERS FOR YOU.

I think it goes without saying that it appealed to my inner green lazy person.

So I ordered the diapers. They have this pre-birth delivery that consists of this:

Reusable Diapers 001

Diaper pail with charcoal filtre.

And inside is a wetbag with diapers. You line the pail with the bag, put the diapers in your changetable and done.

 

Reusable Diapers 005And they’re yellow and adorable.

Now I just need some diaper covers.

 

 

This shipment arrived the day I was writing my last post about how adequate and accessible pre- and post-natal care for expectant mothers and their babies make for healthier communities.

In the industrialized world, we’re very much aware of the environmental impact of our actions. Its just unfortunate that the costs of making better environmental choices, community choices (and if you want to get all political-sciencey, choices in the interest of the public good) are a damn sight more expensive than the disposable choices. If you’re having to pay for medical insurance, or god forbid, medical care because you have no insurance, you’re not able to make those choices.

That $5/week difference may mean the difference between:

  • cloth diapers and food on the table
  • cloth diapers and medical insurance
  • cloth diapers and medical care.

This may be a bit of a weak link, but I can tell you now that if I had to pay for medical insurance vs. cloth diapers? I’d choose the medical insurance.

Because I don’t have to worry about medical insurance, I’m in a position where I can make the choice that is better for my community – I can afford that extra fee and make it easy on myself to make that choice.

There are many direct and indirect benefits of providing accessible medical care. And this might just be one of them.

Since I’ve been on maternity leave, I’ve fallen into a habit in the mornings. Darren wakes me up when he needs a ride to the train, I drive him there, come back and flake out on the sofa for awhile. From 10-11am the Space channel shows one of my favourite shows of all time: the original Star Trek series.

Yes, I know how much of a geek that makes me. And I really, really want to see the new movie that opens tomorrow, but I refuse to go to a movie on opening weekend. This means I should see it sometime around Christmas.

Today’s episode is called “Friday’s Child” and involves a very pregnant, alien (although human-appearing) woman, whose culture allows no man other than her nearest male relative to touch her. Of course the good Doctor McCoy ends up delivering the baby, yadda, yadda (click the last link for a full, painfully detailed synopsis). My point is: she gets medical care.

Over the last 6.whatever months I’ve seen the doctor more times than I ever have in my life. Because my pregnancy has been astoundingly normal, I’m on the usual schedule of once a month for the first two trimesters or so, then once every two weeks from 28 to 35 weeks and once a week from 36 weeks onwards. I expect if I go longer than 40 weeks, it’ll be once every couple of days until showtime.

Add in there a trip to the clinic when I spiked a fever, and a diagnostic ultrasound at 20 weeks and I imagine this is a fairly costly process.

Yes, I said I imagine. Because really, I have no idea how much each visit costs. I know the ultrasound, had it been performed in California, would have been in the $2000 (US) range. All of those visits have cost me not one red cent. And I could have gotten genetic testing as well.

What I paid for out of pocket: 3 months of prenatal vitamins (because my extended medical didn’t cover it) at about $35/month (or slightly more than $1/day – because I’m in a high enough income bracket that I don’t get government assistance and my extended medical doesn’t cover vitamins) and a 3D ultrasound at $185 after taxes (because it was for “entertainment purposes” and therefore not covered by either basic or extended insurance).

When I give birth, its at a hospital with the latest medical equipment. If I go into a ward, there’s no cost for the room – its billed back to the province. If I want a private room its $180/night (including meals of course!) – which I can claim back from the two sets of extended medical insurance we have.

I shouldn’t say that this hasn’t cost me one red cent. It has because I pay it through my taxes. Because I’m in a high enough income bracket, I also pay a premium to the province for my medical care – its around $60/month; when we become a family of 3, it goes up to about $130/month. This is for basic care. My employer pays 75% of that – even though I’m not working for the next year.

Yes, I have a really good contract.

My employer also pays for my extended medical premiums; Darren’s employer pays for his and between the two we have nearly 100% coverage on everything. I think my extended medical premiums for the two of us are somewhere around $15-$20/month. Those premiums are low because provincial medical care offsets the true costs of medical care.

My point: we don’t have to pick and choose what kind of medical care we want. We don’t have to worry about being bankrupted by medical costs by doing something that is absolutely natural for human beings: having a baby. Every time I go into the hospital or doctor’s office, there’s no copay.

This is because it is my right, embodied in Canadian law, to receive medical care. Put another way, I cannot be denied medical care because of an inability to pay.

Why does this matter? Well, because there are women just south of the 49th who are denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions – or what their insurance companies have deemed to be pre-existing conditions. Like pregnancy.

And all over the world:

Every minute a woman dies in pregnancy and childbirth. Each year more than 536,000 women die due to complications developed during pregnancy and childbirth1 and 10 million more suffer debilitating illnesses and lifelong disabilities. Seventy-five percent of maternal deaths occur during childbirth and the postpartum period. The vast majority of maternal deaths are avoidable when women have access to vital health care before, during and after childbirth.

The old saying: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is worth listening to. With proper prenatal and postnatal care, you not only get healthy mothers and babies, but healthy communities.

The MOMocrats are asking for assistance:

MOMocrats support Mother's Day Every Day

High quality and accessible medical care for expectant mothers, mothers and their children make for less economic and social strife. Its pretty simple; Maslow said as much in his Hierarchy of Needs.

Except my story doesn’t stop there. The next post* will be about what extra benefit I’m able to provide because of the low cost of my extremely generous health care and my good luck in being Canadian.

*No promises as to when it’ll actually be up.


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