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The Columbia Journal
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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Four   September 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    Civil Servants urge Government to Back Off Selling Health Administration to US Firm

    Jim Lipkovits

    The BC Government and Service Employees Union is appealing to the BC Liberal government to delay its target date for signing up U.S.linked companies to administer personal data until the B.C. Privacy
    Commissioner tables his report.

    Medical Records"The Campbell Liberals seem determined to finalize the contract to administer the Medical Services Plan and PharmaCare with the U.S. based company, Maximus, by the end of August," said George Heyman, BCGEU president.

    "That's several weeks before the Privacy Commissioner has said he will be able to review the over 500 submissions he received and issue his opinion on whether MSP and other personal data can be protected in the face of the USA Patriot Act.

    The BCGEU is one of over 500 organizations that have made submissions to Privacy Commissioner Loukidelis expressing their concerns about the risk to their private and confidential information if administration is outsourced to American companies. Several submissions reportedly have warned that under the USA Patriot Act, the FBI and other federal authorities could demand those companies hand over our data without the knowledge of anyone.

    Despite repeated promises during the 2001 election not to privatize health care services, the Liberals have engaged in wide-spread, and often disastrous and expensive, privatization initiatives. The recent move to sell the MSP administration services has been mired in controversy.... continued

    BC’s economy still lagging

    Marco Procaccini

    Hidden AgendaDespite a recent slight drop in BC’s climbing jobless rate, and media hype over predictions of an upcoming turn-around, the province’s economy continues to stagnate, as wage rates fall and the consumer-price index widens, according to recent statistics Canada reports.

    The BC Statistics web site says the unemployment rate in B.C. fell slightly in July 7.5 per cent, down from a high of 7.8 per cent in May. But it warns this may not be enough to off-set the overall rise in unemployment since 2002. In the spring, when summer hiring often causes a brief jump in new jobs, it says BC suffered a net loss of over 15,000 jobs.

    Statscan also says while consumer spending, which dropped substantially in 2003, has improved slightly since the beginning of the year, it is minimal and the economy remains overall stagnant. It also reports that overall consumer savings in BC have now dropped to the lowest in the country. The consumer price index, the measure of consumer spending power relative to prices, widened again over the summer.... continued

    Government failing on energy security and sustainability, Report Says

    Dale Marshall

    British Columbia is headed for an energy crunch if it doesn't make sweeping changes to the sector with a new focus on energy security, renewable energy and conservation, says a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the David Suzuki Foundation.
    Released today, the report says the province's fixation on extracting as much oil and gas from the ground as quickly as possible, and then shipping these non-renewable resources to the US, is creating more greenhouse gases and exporting jobs. Greenhouse gases cause climate change, which is linked to an emerging pattern of drought, declining salmon stocks, heat waves, insect infestations and forest fires in BC.
    "We need to change the way we produce, consume and export energy in this province," said report author Dale Marshall, a Suzuki Foundation policy analyst. "BC's energy sector is fundamentally unsustainable. We are giving up long-term security to achieve short-term goals. We have no plan for when these oil and gas resources run out, either for the province's energy needs or for the communities that depend on these industries for jobs."....continued

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