The Ford government set for changes to the planning act, education and health care

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They’re back and should be busier than ever.

MPPs return to the legislature Tuesday after the Christmas break with a full slate on their plates.

“We’re moving at breakneck speed on all kinds of stuff. We’re going to have a robust schedule when the house resumes,” government house leader Todd Smith said in an interview Friday.

First up will be a revised version of Bill 66 to eliminate an amendment to the Planning Act that would have allowed municipalities to bypass existing development requirements and restrictions for companies creating jobs.

Projects would have been granted expedited provincial approvals within one year, allowing businesses to begin construction, but critics warned that would have put prime farmland and the 1.8-million acre Greenbelt around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area at risk.

Smith said another piece of legislation in the days ahead will be Health Minister Christine Elliott’s bill to reorganize the health-care system.

A draft version — which confirmed the incorporation of a new “super agency” called Health Program Initiatives that the Star revealed in January — was leaked to the NDP and a mid-level bureaucrat was fired Feb. 4 for the breach.

While the New Democrats claim the bill will usher in additional privatization to health care in Ontario, Elliott has dismissed that as “fear mongering.”

Also expected this month are potentially controversial bills on policing oversight from Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones and on schools from Education Minister Lisa Thompson.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who has already called for the resignation of Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod over the Tories’ contentious revamping of funding for autism services, warned the government is in for a bumpy ride on many fronts.

Horwath pledged to “fight for the services people care about, whether that’s young people, whether that’s children with autism, whether that’s our public health system that we so fiercely want to defend, that’s what we’re going to be doing.”

“Doug Ford is not the king of Ontario. He has to answer for his actions,” she said Friday.

With such rhetoric, Smith conceded it should be an emotionally charged session.

“They scream that the sky is falling no matter what we do. They seem to be a protest party and they like to plan protests,” the house leader said of the New Democrats.

Still, Smith said autism funding is “a tough file” and the Tories are bracing for the issue to dominate question period this week.

The opposition parties will also be hammering the government over its bid to appoint Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, a 72-year-old friend of Ford’s, as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.

That OPP posting is now subject of an ethics investigation by integrity commissioner J. David Wake.

Horwath said she will be highlighting the “tidal wave of criticism” over the appointment.

The government, which took office last June, is also looking ahead to its first budget.

Although Ford has promised to cut 4 per cent of spending — the equivalent of $6 billion on a $150 billion budget — he’s insisted “not one job” will be lost as the Tories move toward balancing the books.

“We’re going to be responsible. If it takes a year longer, so be it,” the premier said Thursday, referring to the timetable for being back in the black.

“I’ve said over and over again, I’m not going in there hacking and slashing, and with a chainsaw cutting it up. It’s not going to happen under our administration. We’re going to find efficiencies.”

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, who is hoping to reduce a $13.5 billion deficit, is signalling Ontarians to gird for austerity measures.

“We have to start with the understanding that the previous government was spending $40 million a day more than they brought in,” said Fedeli of the Liberals of former premier Kathleen Wynne.

“We know that in this budget we must also indicate our path to balance. It’s mandatory in this budget,” he said, declining to tip his hand on when the province will be out of the red.

“I like to use my Goldilocks reference: it won’t be too soon, because, quite frankly, nobody would believe it; it won’t be too long, because anybody can do that; it will be just right.”

Asked what that means, Fedeli smiled and said: “It means that the 2019 budget will see a detailed path to balance.”

With files from Rob Ferguson

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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Don’t give opioid-based cough, cold medication to children, Health Canada warns

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Young children and adolescents should not be given cough and cold products containing opioids, such as codeine, after a safety review found early opioid use « may be a factor in problematic substance use later in life, » Health Canada says.

In an advisory issued Monday, the federal agency said « as a precautionary measure, » those under 18 should not use products containing codeine, hydrocodone and normethadone — the three prescription opioids authorized to treat cough symptoms in Canada.

Health Canada said the safety review of cough and cold products « did not find any strong evidence linking cough and cold products that contain opioids with opioid use disorders in children and adolescents, » but found « early use of opioids may be a factor in problematic substance use later in life, » the advisory says.

The agency also found there is « limited evidence » to support the effectiveness of these products in those under 18, noting other products are available to help relieve cough and cold symptoms in children.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its guidelines for such medication last year, saying the « risks … outweigh the benefits » for those under-18.

Health Canada noted the use of prescription cough and cold products with opioids has fallen among children and adolescents over the past five years: youth prescriptions represent only about four per cent of the total dispensed in Canada.

Non-prescription products containing codeine are already labelled to make it clear they should not be used by children.

Health Canada is also asking manufacturers to update their product safety information to reflect the recommendation.

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Don’t allow cannabis edibles that look like candy, medical officer of health says

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Cannabis products made in shapes that appeal to children — such as gummy bears or lollipops — should be banned when the sale of edibles becomes legal later this year, Toronto’s medical officer of health says.

The city’s board of health should also urge the federal government to ban cannabis vaping liquids that are offered in “youth-friendly” flavours that mimic candy or soft drinks, Dr. Eileen de Villa said Friday.

“One of the major objectives of the legislation is to actually protect health and, in particular, to protect youth from the potential harmful effects associated with cannabis,” de Villa said.

“We feel the best thing to do in terms of protecting youth, is to avoid having these edible products in a gummy bear, lollipop or other shapes that might be appealing to youth.”

De Villa added that there’s a need for clearly defined labelling, which includes both dosing information and warnings about the risks of combining cannabis edibles with alcohol or highly caffeinated drinks.

Consultations on those amendments are set to end next week.

Villa also supports on how much THC — the primary active component of cannabis — is available in one-time-use vaping devices, and would like them to include a mechanism that limits the maximum quantity inhaled in a single puff.

“The federal regulations already have quite a bit in this regard,” she said.

Industry consultant Mitchell Osak commended Toronto Public Health for what he deemed a list of prudent suggestions ahead of the products becoming legal.

“The recommendations are consistent with the federal government’s objective around safe and responsible usage and protection of youth,” said Osak, a managing director of business consulting and technology services at Grant Thornton LLP, who advises companies in the Canadian cannabis industry including licensed producers, investors and governments.

Despite their illegal status, edible cannabis products are currently being sold at stores throughout Toronto.

A spokesperson for one dispensary visited by the Star this week said its customers are being given “childproof” bags to prevent youngsters from accidentally eating cannabis products that come in the form of a candy or a cookie.

That doesn’t go far enough, says Osak, who believes that restricting the colour and design of the products is the right approach.

During a visit to a Cannabis and Fine Edibles (C.A.F.E.) location on Harbord St. this week, the Star observed a wide array of edibles ranging in potency from 55 to 300 milligrams of THC.

All of them exceeded the government’s proposed limit of 10 milligrams, which Osak described as “a little too cautious.” He’s concerned that such low levels of THC will push customers towards the black market.

Information labels on products sold at C.A.F.E caution users to start with a small portion in order to determine one’s tolerance level.

C.A.F.E. spokesperson David Thompson said “childproof” bags and information on packaging are some of the ways the underground cannabis retailer — which has several locations across the city — is trying to improve safety for customers.

“We make sure to try to place our edible dosing guidelines on each and every package that leaves the store,” Thompson said, adding, “We believe Health Canada’s position to begin at ultralow dose concentrations is warranted.”

He said C.A.F.E. is advising edible producers to read the regulations that are being discussed and to begin implementing the recommendations.

“Health Canada has to be a beacon and a responsible steward to affect change over time,” he said. “We do not see any of this as a problem.”

Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca

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Indigenous groups, nurses’ association say Ontario left them out of the loop on health reforms

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Groups that could be affected by a major overhaul of the province’s health system say they are troubled they have been left out of the loop.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said he was surprised to learn through the media that government officials have proposed “outsourcing” the ORNGE air ambulance service. Approximately 60 per cent of ORNGE’s transports are from northern Ontario, including from First Nation communities.

About 60 per cent of ORNGE’s air ambulance transports are from northern Ontario, including from First Nation communities.
About 60 per cent of ORNGE’s air ambulance transports are from northern Ontario, including from First Nation communities.  (TARA WALTON / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) said it too is concerned it has not been consulted about health reforms that appear to be well underway.

The provincial New Democrats caught the provincial government off guard by releasing to the media leaked government documents on proposed and planned health restructuring — one batch earlier this week and the other the week before.

The documents state that Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet approved “the full health-care transformation plan” at a Jan. 16 cabinet meeting. The documents included draft legislation to create a health “super agency” out of more than 20 smaller agencies, including local health integration networks (LHINs) and Cancer Care Ontario.

Although ORNGE was on the list, Health Minister Christine Elliott has said it will not be privatized.

She has tried to play down the leaks, telling the media that while “transformation” is coming, nothing has been “finalized” and that the government will continue to consult with the public.

Fiddler said he is not quite sure what is happening but was puzzled to learn through the media that ORNGE has even been on the table: “It’s concerning that these discussions may be happening without involving those who would be most impacted.”

As part of Ontario’s health system, ORNGE has access to some of the province’s premier critical care and trauma specialists who provide consultations to remote, mainly Indigenous communities, former deputy health minister Dr. Bob Bell explained.

“If ORNGE’s responsibilities were outsourced to the lowest bidder, it is unlikely that citizens would have access to the same quality of medical consultation that ORNGE provides,” he warned.

The leaked documents warn that shuttering LHINs could result in a “service disruption” and labour disruption with ONA.

A written statement provided by ONA on Friday said the organization, which represents 65,000 nurses and health-care professionals, is in the dark about what to expect:

“ONA does not have any information about whether these policies may or may not be government policy. ONA is in contact with the premier’s office and the ministry of health, which we are hopeful will lead to further engagement around the government’s planning for Ontario’s health-care system.”

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said he was surprised to learn through the media that government officials had proposed "outsourcing" the ORNGE air ambulance service. Ontario's health minister says it won't be privatized.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said he was surprised to learn through the media that government officials had proposed « outsourcing » the ORNGE air ambulance service. Ontario’s health minister says it won’t be privatized.  (Tanya Talaga/Toronto Star FILE PHOTO)

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told caucus members on Friday, the last day of a three-day retreat in Durham Region, that the party plans to hold the government to account on the reforms when the Legislature resumes sitting in just over a week.

“A looming overhaul of health-care delivery … will open the door to for-profit corporations getting access to public health-care dollars,” she warned.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked by the media on Thursday about the NDP’s concerns that Ontario is opening the door to two-tier health care.

He responded that the federal government will always stand up for its responsibilities to defend the Canada Health Act and ensure universal access to a strong health-care system, The Canadian Press reported.

Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association, took to Twitter to call on the prime minister to put his money where his mouth is:

“Personally I feel this is posturing. Ontario hospitals are overcapacity but the (Government) of Canada is on the retreat when it comes to health-care transfers. Without adequate financial federal support it will be that much more difficult to end hallway health care.”

Meantime, the Star has learned a recruitment firm is already searching for a CEO to head the new super agency. It is seeking an individual with a business background as opposed to health-care expertise, said a source close to government who spoke on condition of anonymity. The source was not authorized to speak to the media.

Theresa Boyle is a Toronto-based reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle

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Don’t panic over Ontario’s looming health care overhaul, former top bureaucrat says

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A prominent member of Premier Doug Ford’s health advisory council is urging Ontarians not to panic over a looming overhaul of the health-care system, saying “relax” until the plan is made public.

The advice from Michael Decter, deputy health minister in former premier Bob Rae’s NDP government of the early 1990s, comes amid conflicting versions of the shape a “transformation” acknowledged by Health Minister Christine Elliott will take following the leak of confidential draft legislation.

While New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath, whose office has received other leaked documents related to the creation of a new health-care “super agency” with powers to increase privatization of medical services, Elliott flatly denies the charge and has insisted nothing is “finalized.”

“People should just relax a little bit and not see this as the start of a war,” Decter said Wednesday, noting he was speaking for himself and not for the council headed by Dr. Rueben Devlin.

“Nothing really moves that fast in health care.”

A “status report” from the second week in January warns of several risks, including moving home care from existing Local Health Integration Networks to new integrated care models could lead to “service disruption” during the transition period and “potential labour disruption” by care co-ordinators who are members of the Ontario Nursing Association, whose labour contracts expire in March.

“Ford and his government have been doing all this behind closed doors, in secret,” Horwath said in a statement.

Elliott’s office said earlier this week that “much of the material released by the NDP has ever even crossed the minister’s desk, let alone made it to the cabinet table.”

However, the super agency has been incorporated as the Health Program Initiative, as indicated in the documents released by Horwath, according to a search of public records.

Decter, who has advised governments of all three stripes on health-care matters over the last three decades, said health is a massive ministry and that opposition parties need to be cautious when receiving leaked papers.

“I’m sure all of the documents are real but when the minister says I never saw those ones I tend to believe her. I had a minister that used to say that to me fairly often: ‘where the heck did this come from?’”

In regard to the leak, an unnamed civil servant was fired Monday by acting secretary of cabinet Steven Davidson for breaking the oath of confidentiality, with the Ontario Provincial Police anti-rackets squad now considering whether to investigate. Horwath’s office said it has not been contacted by the OPP.

In the meantime, the bargaining agent representing civil service managers and professional staff is representing the worker in a grievance, as is “routine” in cases of dismissal.

“We have no comment on the concern expressed by some that the person dismissed is not the person who leaked material to the NDP,” the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario.

Horwath and others including former deputy health minister Dr. Bob Bell, who served under the most recent Liberal government, have raised concerns that the world-renowned Cancer Care Ontario would be subsumed into the super agency and lose effectiveness.

But Decter said this could be a way to use the cancer agency’s expertise and model to improve mental health and other forms of care.

“Rather than seeing it as cancer loses, maybe you see it as mental health learns from cancer how you run something province-wide and measure quality,” he added, noting Cancer Care Ontario is already helping improve kidney dialysis.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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Diplomats sue Ottawa for $28 million for health problems suffered in Cuba

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OTTAWA—A group of Canadian diplomats and their family members left ill after serving in Cuba are suing the federal government for $28 million, charging that Ottawa “badly mishandled” a crisis that has left them suffering debilitating brain injuries.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Federal Court, paints a picture of a federal government that was more concerned with keeping a lid on a worsening health crisis that first surfaced for the Canadians in early 2017 in Havana.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“Throughout the crisis, Canada downplayed the seriousness of the situation, hoarded and concealed critical health and safety information and gave false, misleading and incomplete information to diplomatic staff,” the lawsuit claims.

It says the department failed to provide “reasonable or appropriate” medical support to diplomats and their families suffering an array of symptoms that has left them struggling to return to work and normal life.

Indeed, it claims that Global Affairs interfered with the health treatment of Canadians, at one point calling a Miami physician to press him to alter his assessment that one family was determined to have traumatic brain injuries.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland declined to comment on the case Wednesday but said that she has met with some of the affected diplomats.

“They told me about their situation. I’m really concerned about them. They have Canada’s utmost sympathy and support,” Freeland said in Washington, where she was attending a meeting of nations involved in the fight against Daesh.

“They were in Cuba. They were representing us. They were representing their country and their health and safety absolutely needs to be a priority,” Freeland said.

The lawsuit covers 14 people in all — five diplomats along with their spouses and children — and alleges that they were “targeted and injured, suffering severe traumatic harm.

“These mysterious but extremely serious and debilitating attacks have resulted in brain injuries,” the lawsuit states.

It’s believed the “attacks” began in late 2016, originally focused on American diplomats and intelligence officers, it said. Individuals were “targeted” in their homes. For some, symptoms followed unusual sounds or sensations of pressure, it said, such as a “loud screeching metallic noise . . . that seemed to bombard and suffocate” one Canadian.

For others, there was no warning, “leaving an individual gripped in pain, blinded by a headache, or doubled over in dizziness or nausea, confused and disoriented.”

Global Affairs has stated publicly — as recently as last month — that it has no idea what has caused the health symptoms, despite an RCMP-led investigation. But the lawsuit says that the department was immediately concerned that it was some form of sonic or microwave attack, “potentially by a hostile foreign power.”

“The plaintiffs are clearly the victims of some kind of new weaponry, or method of attack,” it states.

The incidents left personnel with symptoms consistent with traumatic brain injuries, including headaches, loss of memory, dizziness and balance problems, the lawsuit states. “Neurological assessments of victims’ brains actually show damage consistent with that seen in cases of concussion,” it states.

The lawsuit accuses the federal government of putting diplomats and family members in harm’s way despite knowing the “high and growing risk that they would sustain the brain injuries.”

It also alleges that the Ottawa kept diplomats in the dark about the risk and gave them false assurances of safety.

And later, federal officials suggested the problem was psychosomatic, leaving ill personnel to “contend with rumours that they were faking it.”

The lawsuit charges that the federal government has frustrated efforts by the ill diplomats and their family members to get proper medical treatment, restricting what medical professionals they see and what information they can share.

It even alleges that brain experts at the University of Pennsylvania — who were treating American diplomats — were instructed to “stop testing the Canadians,” cutting short the assessments of individuals who had travelled to Philadelphia at their own expense.

The lawsuit notes that in April, 2018, Global Affairs deemed Havana an unaccompanied post, meaning that family members would no longer be allowed to join diplomats. In November, it gave Havana the same rating as missions based in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in January, Global Affairs announced it would be looking at reducing its embassy staff by half, to eight, after yet another diplomat had been confirmed with health symptoms.

As was first revealed in the Star, the lawsuit notes that an American diplomat had warned his Canadian neighbour about the potential dangers. That information was passed to the Canadian ambassador, along with the symptoms suffered by the Canadians, yet the embassy “took no apparent action.”

Within weeks, the U.S. embassy officially informed the Canadian embassy that its personnel were getting ill, “possibly because of sonic attacks.” Yet that information was not shared with the Canadian diplomatic staff nor were steps taken to ensure their safety, the lawsuit states.

Even as the Americans were evacuating staff and family members, Canada took a “business as usual” approach insisting that there was no reason to believe the Canadians were being targeted,” the lawsuit says.

With files from Daniel Dale

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

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Funeral workers launch peer support group to help their mental health

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Organizers of a peer-counselling group for funeral home workers in Ottawa say they had a hard time finding help for their industry’s mental health challenges, so they made their own service.

« We’re trying to create a network, » said Melanie Giroux, an embalmer with Ottawa’s Hulse, Playfair & McGarry funeral home and co-founder of Ottawa Funeral Peer Support.

« We want to be able to bring people into our group, to allow them to grow this in other parts of Canada, so we can help every funeral director in Canada. Everyone needs it. » 

There is not a lot of research into the trauma experienced by people working in the death industry, but a peer counselling facilitator for the group said he’s been struck with how similar their stories are to the experiences of paramedics and police officers

« It’s a different level of trauma, but there’s been no support, » said Tom Kelly at a meeting on Tuesday night.

‘Vicarious trauma’

Giroux said she’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

« I think the injury is vicarious trauma, » said Giroux of the day-to-day experiences of workers.

« We deal with the trauma other people are experiencing. »

Melanie Giroux helped start Ottawa Funeral Peer Support. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Co-founder Michael Dixon was first diagnosed with depression and PTSD three years ago.

He is a supervisor for Ottawa Mortuary Services, which transports human remains —  often working with police and the coroner, sometimes attending horrific collisions and homicide scenes. 

Last month he went to the scene of the fatal bus collision at Westboro station

He said when he started sharing his experiences caused by on-the-job trauma, he began hearing from colleagues who wanted to share their own. 

During the same period, he said two colleagues killed themselves and others had left the business. 

Creating a service

When Dixon went looking for some kind of peer counselling, he said not only was there none in Ottawa — but he couldn’t find any in Canada. 

That’s when he and a handful of colleagues got together to design the group.

Now about a dozen members — mostly funeral directors and other employees in the death services industry — meet to share their experiences.

They talk about how they build support networks to talk about « a really terrible call » and if a colleague is in crisis, they can line up professional counselling.

Dixon said the group has changed the way he monitors his staff and checks in after disturbing jobs. 

Giroux said the meetings help her understand the power of mutual support.

« I’ve learned I’m not alone, » she said.

Giroux said the group has been approached by workers in other communities and some of its members are planning to travel to meet with them.

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Health Canada suspends licence of Winnipeg cannabis producer Bonify

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Health Canada has suspended the sales licence of Winnipeg-based cannabis producer Bonify.

The federal agency barred Bonify Medical Cannabis from selling cannabis on Monday due to safety and public health concerns.

« The department found that Bonify Medical Cannabis was possessing, distributing and selling product that was purchased from an illegal source, and selling product that did not comply with the good production practices as required under the Cannabis Act and cannabis regulations, » Health Canada spokesperson Eric Morrissette said in a statement.

The case has been forwarded on to the RCMP and Canada Revenue Agency, said Morrissette.

The announcement comes after Health Canada issued a recall on two Bonify strains in December over contamination concerns on products sold in Saskatchewan.

The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba, which regulates the cannabis retail sector, and the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation, the wholesaler of cannabis in the province, followed suit and suspended the sale of Bonify products.

A third-party investigation found the company sold unauthorized product at retailers in Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw.

The investigator alleged senior managers of threatened staff members to look the other way when 200 kilograms of unlicensed cannabis arrived at the Winnipeg facility. Three Bonify executives were subsequently dismissed.

The company has 10 days to respond to the suspension and give Health Canada a reason to reconsider.

Health Canada plans to monitor whatever actions Bonify takes to rectify the non-compliance issue.

« Health Canada will continue to undertake unannounced inspections of cannabis licence holders to help ensure that they are in compliance with the law and regulations, » Morrissette said in a statement.

« Health Canada is disclosing this licensing decision as part of its ongoing commitment to openness and transparency. The department publishes information on its inspection and enforcement activities so that Canadians can see how industry follows the rules put in place to protect their health and safety. »

CBC News tried to contact Bonify Tuesday night for a response but did not hear back.

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Calgary Health Show scrubs appearance by David Stephan

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Organizers of a health and wellness expo being held in Calgary this weekend have cancelled a scheduled presentation by a man awaiting a new trial for the meningitis death of his infant son.

David Stephan was scheduled to speak at the Calgary Health Show, being held Saturday and Sunday at the BMO Centre on the Stampede grounds, however organizers issued a tweet Saturday morning saying his appearances had been cancelled.

« David Stephan will not be speaking at The Health Shows, » it read.

« It has been heartbreaking to witness how our sponsors, exhibitors and charities have been treated by some members of the online community.

« Out of respect for the good-hearted people who are behind these brands, we kindly ask that you stop engaging with them in a disrespectful manner. »

The Twitter account was later deleted and the event’s website was no longer active on Saturday afternoon.

The show’s organizers did not respond to requests from CBC News for comment.

Despite his appearances being cancelled, Stephan’s company Truehope remained listed as an exhibitor on the event’s website. 

Some sponsors withdrew support after learning Stephan was scheduled to speak.

Lakeview Bakery co-owner Joanne Schmidt says they decided to withdraw from the Calgary Health Show after learning David Stephan was scheduled to speak. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

« We talked for about five minutes and really, the decision was fairly clear right away that we couldn’t condone an event that would invite him to speak, » said Joanne Schmidt, co-owner of Lakeview Bakery.

In 2016, Stephan and his wife Collet were found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 19-month-old son, Ezekiel.

The conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court and a new trial is scheduled for June.

Last month, an Alberta judge rejected the couple’s request for $4 million to pay for past and future legal bills.

Justice John Rooke said at the time the request belongs in civil court.

He also told Stephan that the upcoming trial will not be an inquiry into the death of his son, but will decide on the couple’s guilt or innocence.

A screengrab of the Calgary Health Show website before it was deactivated on Saturday. (Calgary Health Show)

Stephan was scheduled to speak at a similar event in Calgary last April, but that appearance was also cancelled following public backlash.

« There was no way we would have guessed they would invite him back so, to us, it was an absolute shock, » said Schmidt.

« We’ve been to lots of expos and there’s usually lots of fantastic people there who we support, but we don’t normally look at a list [of speakers] in advance. »

Inn From the Cold issued a statement Saturday morning saying they are not affiliated with the event, despite their logo having been on the website.

« It is important for us to note that we are not a sponsor of the health show but a recipient of a third-party fundraiser, » it read.

« Our logo was put up on the website of the health show without the consent of our organization. »

The statement said they had contacted organizers to have it removed.

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Ontario health care ‘super agency’ would allow more privatization, confidential draft bill shows

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A confidential draft bill from Premier Doug Ford’s government would establish a health “super agency” to create “efficiencies” in the system and empower cabinet to privatize more services and sell medical data, according to a leaked copy.

The new “super agency” to oversee health care was first revealed by the Star on Jan. 17.

The leaked version of the Health System Efficiency Act 2019, obtained by the New Democrats and revealed Thursday, states the super agency — yet to be named — would implement the new Progressive Conservative government’s health system strategies, hinted at in a new report released Thursday from Ford’s health care czar Dr. Rueben Devlin.

Devlin said the complex health-care system is too “difficult” for patients to navigate, pointing to the need to make treatment paths more efficient and, for example, take better care of people with chronic diseases like diabetes.

Under the draft bill, the super agency would have the powers to “designate” providers of integrated care providing a mix of at least two of the following: hospital care, primary care, mental health, addictions, home care, long-term care, and palliative care.

The bill would also give Health Minister Christine Elliott the power to “consider whether to adjust the funding (of the super agency) to take into account a portion of the savings from efficiencies that the super agency generated in the previous fiscal year and that the super agency proposes to spend on patient care in subsequent fiscal years.”

A source told the Star an official announcement on the super agency, which the legislation says will have a 15-member board of directors, is expected in late February.

More to come

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