Quebec’s plans to open new winter clinics comes too late, according to nurses – Montreal

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The Quebec Nurses Federation has been sounding the alarm for months about the need to adopt new measures to help ease the overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms (ERs).

Now, the province’s new health minister, Danielle McCann, has confirmed that her ministry is working on the final details before making it official and opening so-called “winter clinics” starting next week. A spokesperson for the ministry said the goal is get as many clinics up and running by mid-January until the end of March.

The new winter clinics will operate within existing GMF clinics (groupe de médecine familiale), also known as super-clinics, by extending operating hours and increasing patient capacity on evenings and weekends. They will offer non-urgent care in an attempt to free up overcrowding in ERs.


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“Some South Shore hospital ERs are operating at 250 per cent,” said the health minister’s press attaché, Alexandre Lahaie. “We took measures before the holidays, but the flu has come back with a vengeance.”

But those measures should have been put in place much earlier, according to the Quebec Nurses Federation, considering medical specialists had been warning about the early start to the flu season months ago.

“It’s late because we knew the flu would hit sooner this year and there was nothing planned by the government,” said the federation’s vice-president, Denise Joseph. “It’s late but it’s going to help.”


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According to the ministry, 25 GMF clinics on the island of Montreal have already offered to collaborate, but Lahaie insists the regions with the biggest needs will be prioritized such as the south shore of Montreal, Laval, the Laurentians and the Lanaudière.

The ministry claims there will be no extra cost for doctors, since the amounts were already budgeted for, but that the biggest expense will likely for extra nursing staff in the winter clinics.

“We’re being criticized but our government wasn’t operational until November 2,” Lahaie said, while pointing out that they would have had to start planning back in September in order to be up and running in time for December.

“We hope that this government will learn,” said Joseph. “Every year around the same time or so there’s always the flu, there’s always something going around, and it’s always at Christmas that it starts.”

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Canada Post back-to-work bill passes during late night Commons sitting

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Legislation ordering postal workers back to work was passed in the House of Commons during a special session that dragged on into the wee hours of Saturday morning.

Bill C-89 passed third reading by a vote of 166 to 43.

The Senate is now set to sit Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday, to deal with the bill, which would go into effect at noon eastern time on the day following royal assent.

The legislative push came as Ottawa, as well as smaller towns in Ontario and British Columbia, and Sherbrooke, Que., became the latest targets of rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Despite the rush to pass the legislation, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu encouraged Canada Post and CUPW to remain at the bargaining table.

« They can still pull a deal off, » she said.

Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Minister Patricia Hajdu speaks about back-to work-legislation Friday in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

That said, Hajdu added: « Obviously, we would prefer that the parties are able to negotiate an agreement together, but the time has come that we need to be prepared to take action if they cannot. »

Hajdu referred to mail delivery as an « essential service » and said small businesses that rely on the postal service to deliver their goods over the busy Christmas season could go bankrupt if the situation isn’t remedied quickly.

« And when I say small, I mean really small. I mean people that, you know, sell marmalade or handmade goods, that this is the most profitable time of their year and if they are unable to make their earnings this time of year, they very well might be facing the end of their business. »

NDP, labour leaders slam bill

Labour leaders and New Democrat MPs slammed the government for undermining the collective-bargaining process. The government has removed all incentive for Canada Post to reach a negotiated settlement now that the agency knows workers will be ordered back to work by early next week, they charged.

« The right to strike is an integral part of the collective bargaining process, » said Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff. « Without it, an employer has no incentive to bargain in good faith, and workers have no recourse to demand a fair process. »

Canada Post seems to have convinced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Christmas wouldn’t come without a back-to-work bill, added CUPW president Mike Palecek.

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers occupy Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna’s community office in Ottawa on Friday. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

« The mail was moving, and people know it, » he said. « People have been getting their mail and online orders delivered. That was the point of our rotating-strike tactics, not to pick a fight with the public. »

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused the Liberals of hypocrisy, professing to believe in the right to collective bargaining while bringing in what he called the « worst, most draconian » back-to-work legislation.

« They’ve shown their true face … that this government is not a friend of working people, » Singh said.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh thanks members of Canada Post following a news conference Friday in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

New Democrat MPs had voted against a motion to speed up debate on the back-to-work legislation, with many making an elaborate show of walking out of the Commons after voting, raising their fists in salute to postal workers watching from the public gallery. The votes of those who walked out were not counted.

Six New Democrats remained in the chamber — representative of the small number the party maintained would get a chance to speak during the subsequent expedited debate on the bill.

Constitutional concerns

CUPW maintains the bill is unconstitutional and is threatening to challenge it in court.

The union won a court challenge against back-to-work legislation imposed on postal workers in 2011 by the previous Conservative government. The court ruled in 2016 that by removing workers’ right to strike, the bill violated their right to freedom of association and expression.

Hajdu argued that her bill is « dramatically different » from the « heavy-handed » approach taken by the Harper government and takes into account the concerns of both the union and Canada Post.

But two independent senators, Frances Lankin and Diane Griffin, wrote Hajdu to express their concern that the bill may not be constitutional. The pair said Hajdu had promised to issue a government analysis detailing how the bill does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but it still had not materialized by Friday evening.

Watch: Canada Post strike in Moncton

Raw footage from Moncton of the ongoing Canada Post strike. Canada Post is in its fifth week of rotating strikes by thousands of unionized workers, with no sign yet of a breakthrough in contract negotiations. 0:30

CUPW members have held rotating walkouts for a month, causing massive backlogs of unsorted mail and packages at postal depots, though Canada Post and the union dispute how big the pileup is.

Canada Post says it could take weeks — even stretching into 2019 — to clear the backlog that has built up, especially at major sorting centres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

CUPW’s 50,000 members, in two groups, are demanding better pay for rural and suburban carriers, more job security and minimum guaranteed hours.

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Work to build new STM express lane 10 years late – Montreal

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Finally, after more than a decade of discussions and promises, people working and living near Pie IX Boulevard are getting a Bus Rapid Transit system.

The express BRT system is a reserved lane for STM buses that is physically separated from the rest of traffic.

Construction began on Monday and is scheduled to last four years.

The route will run 11 kilometres with 17 stops from Boulevard Saint-Michel in Laval to Pierre-de-Coubertin near the Olympic Stadium.

The BRT is supposed to fill a void along the North-South corridor that lacks a fast, efficient public transit system.


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Ridership is expected to increase to 70,000 a day from the current 40,000.

“It’s already tough enough to be in traffic so you hope that taking that extra step would allow you to get from one place to another a lot faster. So, I could definitely see it being a benefit,” Robyn Lahiji told Global News outside the Pie IX metro station.

The project was first discussed and promised in 2008 when Gérald Tremblay was mayor of Montreal with an original scheduled delivery date of 2012.

Now, it’s supposed to be fully operational by the fall of 2022.

“It takes time to do the homework properly. So we had to do pre-feasibility studies; feasibility studies; preliminary design; detailed design. This is one of the reasons,” Marc Dionne, the BRT project manager told Global News.

The project is slated to cost $394 million.


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© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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