Nova Scotians have an opportunity to participate in an important public dialogue on the continuity of services in our health-care system. On May 15, Premier Rodney MacDonald announced plans to introduce legislation this fall for a fair and impartial system to prevent service disruptions in the health-care and related sectors. He asked my department to engage in a dialogue with employees, unions and employers in these sectors, and all Nova Scotians with an interest in acute-care facilities, long-term-care facilities, homes for special care and ambulance services. We have just released a discussion paper that I hope will contribute to that dialogue. I look forward to hearing responses to it, which we will summarize in a report to the public. Strikes in the health-care sector, even short ones, are far more than an inconvenience. As an example, the mere prospect of a strike at the IWK forced the cancellation of more than 700 appointments. That illustrates just how tight the tolerances are in a modern health-care system. This is more than just a paperwork problem: it causes real, lasting hardship to the patients who could not get access to health care. Take a moment to recall the last time you used our health system and try to imagine your reaction if the doors had been closed. The pressure on the system is greater than ever. Thanks to advances in outpatient treatment, for example, the patients in acute-care centres are far more ill than they were 20 years ago. The same goes for residential centres, where residents are older and more infirm than they once were. These tight tolerances mean adapting to a loss of services at one centre can put tremendous pressure on those that have to take up the slack. This includes health-care workers, who have responded admirably. Essential-services agreements, which require a striking union to provide a minimum level of service, are not the answer. Despite the phrase “essential services”, there is no guarantee the number of staff left on duty will be enough to protect public health and safety. Even under an essential-services system, job action must cause a disruption in services, otherwise a strike has no impact. And in a modern health-care system, any disruption is serious. Also, the staffing in the health-care sector during strikes tends to focus on emergency services rather than essential services. The result is often a level of service that is simply too low. To use the IWK example again, between 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the striking union’s members were available during that disruption. The experience with the essential-services model in other jurisdictions hasn’t been encouraging. Both New Brunswick and Newfoundland have had to enact back-to-work legislation in the health-care sector when the essential-services model failed to protect the public interest, even when as many as 75 per cent of the workers had been deemed essential. The truth is that no government can tolerate a significant strike or lockout in the health-care sector. The almost inevitable result will be back-to-work legislation, usually leading to arbitration. Indeed, in recent years, many disputes in health care have been avoided or ended by arbitration. Unfortunately, by then a strike, or preparations for a strike, had already caused problems for patients. And, to correct a misconception, there is nothing in the Trade Union Act that allows government to force binding arbitration on the parties in a contract dispute. That would require an act of the legislature, which can easily take a week or more, even if there is general agreement among parties and the House is already sitting. These are the facts driving the government’s decision to introduce legislation. However, we also understand that the legislation we propose is something we should discuss with the affected parties and the public. So, as the premier requested, my department is engaged in that process. Responses to the government’s plan to date have warned that it is neither a “magic wand” nor a “panacea”. Our discussion paper acknowledges that, but clearly explains why we believe binding arbitration is the best option. However, when the premier made the announcement May 15, he said we would consider a “truly compelling alternative”. That has not changed. My message is please participate in this dialogue. This is an opportunity to have the discussion without the pressure that will surely abound if we wait until another crisis is upon us someday and emergency legislation becomes necessary. Your readers can find the discussion paper at www.gov.ns.ca/enla. -30-
This is the fourth in a series of four stories featuring the finalists of Monster Pitch, the annual student business competition hosted by the Goodman School of Business student club Brock Innovation Group. This year’s competition will be held at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre Monday, Jan. 8.Two Brock students have created a company with the goal of making a meaningful impact in the community.Chipewyan “Chip” McCrimmon, a fifth-year Political Science student with a minor in Business, and Marina Radovanovic, a fourth-year Business Communications student, came together to form HeroHub, a social enterprise designed to help make charitable efforts easier for individuals and non-profit organizations.After discovering they had a mutual passion for community involvement, the pair decided to find a cause to volunteer with together. After struggling to find information online about charity events, volunteer opportunities and in-kind donations, they realized they could make an even bigger impact by solving this problem.Armed with market research, the students have been working on their business for a year with support from BioLinc. McCrimmon was part of BioLinc’s Kick-Starting Entrepreneurship program two years ago, which taught him about what it takes to start a business and helped him build his network.McCrimmon and Radovanovic are building a website and mobile application that will house an event calendar, opportunity board and donation tool. The central hub will help community members find a suitable charity where they can donate items or time, and to help non-profit organizations promote their events as well as volunteer and job postings.“Our goal is that whether you have a vehicle or furniture to donate, or you have some extra time that you want to spend helping a charity, you will be able to go to HeroHub and find out how and where to do that,” said McCrimmon.While they are starting with the Niagara community, they have dreams of scaling their venture up to make a global impact.“Although it sounds like a cliché, we really do want to change the world,” said McCrimmon. “We want to make a big impact on our community and by helping others get involved and by helping non-profits be more efficient and find people for their opportunities, we can make a big change.”Competing at Monster Pitch will be a dream come true for McCrimmon, who has attended the competition for the past three years.“I remember sitting at the back of the crowd at Monster Pitch and being so impressed with everybody and thinking that I could never be on that stage,” he said. “I let my fear control me. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life and now my motto is to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Even two years ago, I never would have applied to Monster Pitch because I was afraid of talking in front of everybody, but I’ve had a lot of encouragement since then and have learned that you can’t be afraid of failure because it’s a huge part of success.”Monster Pitch will see four short-listed student entrepreneur groups pitch their business ideas before a panel of judges for a chance to win a funding and startup services package worth $14,000.The sold-out event is hosted by the Brock Innovation Group in partnership with the Goodman School of Business and BioLinc and is sponsored by Spark Power Corp.The judging panel includes David Chilton, author of The Wealthy Barber series, and returning judges Bruce Croxon, co-host of BNN’s The Disruptors and CEO of Round 13, Deborah Rosati, corporate director and co-founder of Women Get On Board, and Jason Sparaga, co-founder and co-CEO of Spark Power Corp. and founder of Spara Capital Partners.