Pandemic priorities—firefighters or MPs?

Mitchel Raphael on pandemic priorities—firefighters or MPs?

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Putting the brakes on Justin Trudeau

Four years ago, former Liberal MP Mike Savage spent a day in a wheelchair on the Hill to create awareness on behalf of the Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) about the challenges faced by disabled people. Since then, the CPA has seen a number of MPs and senators from all parties take on the challenge of being in a wheelchair for a day. This year the politicians also raced in an obstacle course. Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau battled it out with Yukon Conservative MP Ryan Leef. Before the race started, the two tried to lock the brakes on each other’s wheelchair. Vancouver Liberal MP Hedy Fry, known for her glitz and glam wardrobe as well as killer stilettos, pointed out she was forced to wear flat shoes in order to participate. Most MPs wore gloves to protect their hands. Ontario NDP MP Glenn Thibeault sported his Icon Sub Redeemer motorcycle gloves complete with skulls and bones. Thibeault regularly rides a Victory Hammer motorcycle. Since this was not the MP’s first time in a wheelchair for a day on the Hill, he noted he ran into the same problems as before. Washrooms that say they are wheelchair accessible still have a lip on the front door entrance, which means Thibeault had to pop his chair up or gather some speed to ride over it. Toronto Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan said she did not need gloves because she is a former gymnast and her hands are quite callused. “I have hands like a construction worker,” she quips. Duncan has long fought for people with disabilities but this was her first time spending a day in a wheelchair. It opened her eyes to new challenges, from needing to allot extra time for travel to, in one instance, nearly being run over on the Hill as a car was backing up and failed to see her.

How it’s decided who gets vaccinated first

Canada’s firefighters hit the Hill last week to try to convince MPs to bump them up to Tier 1—priority vaccination—in case of a pandemic. One member of the International Association of Fire Fighters noted that, in urban areas, close to half of all calls are health, not fire, related. During a pandemic, he argued, firefighters should be considered on par with front line health workers. Since each pandemic, whether H1N1 or SARS, has played out differently, said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the government has to monitor every new outbreak, then make a decision about the order of vaccination. “It has to be based on the science,” she said. When asked where politicians—some of the biggest handshakers in the country—fall on the pandemic priority scale, the health minister stated that they are part of the general population. “Just because you are an elected official does not bump you up the list.”

Unilingual Michaels irks NDP MP

NDP official languages critic Yvon Godin was not impressed by Stephen Harper’s appointment of unilingual Justice Michael Moldaver to the Supreme Court, and the proposed appointment of unilingual Michael Ferguson as the country’s auditor general. It doesn’t matter if the appointee is anglophone or francophone, he says, as long as they are bilingual. Godin had tried to get a bill passed that ensured all Supreme Court judges are bilingual. Godin says each country has a main issue of tension: in the U.S. it’s race; in Ireland it’s religion; in Canada, he says, it’s language.

Tory would use wheat board if . . .

Ted Menzies, the minister of state for finance, is also a farmer who has cheered his government’s push to end the Canadian wheat board monopoly. If it made financial sense, he’d have no problem with the wheat board, he says. Menzies figures he’s lost a dollar a bushel by selling his grain to the wheat board rather than on the free market. When it comes to other crops, the best way to sell them, he says, is on the Internet, by monitoring commodity prices. The official Opposition, however, called on Menzies and six other Conservative MPs who are, or are related to, wheat farmers, to abstain from the wheat board votes because they felt it was a conflict of interest.

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