Categories
Health Media

As WHO affirms link between meat consumption and cancer risk, Canada frets over bacon

Figure 3. Non-linear dose-response meta-analysis of red and processed meats consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer

Source(s): Chan DS, Lau R, Aune D, et al. Red and processed meat and colorectal cancer incidence: meta-analysis of prospective studies. PLoS One 2011; 6: e20456.

This week, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), released a long-overdue monograph1 affirming the link between meat consumption and cancer risk.  After reviewing more than 800 studies, the IARC decided to classify processed meat as a known carcinogen (Group 1), and red meat in general as a probable carcinogen (Group 2A). The agency urged public health officials to re-examine their dietary recommendations. Those anticipating the Canadian media to objectively inform the public of the news and start a rational dialogue may have been disappointed.

A news segment by Canada’s national broadcaster interviewed a cattleman who viewed the report as “an attack“ on his industry. The reporter referred to it as an “added hit” to declining beef and pork sales before queuing up a spokesman for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. He urged Canadians to ignore the findings and follow Canada’s Food Guide recommendations, as did the family physician who closed the segment.

Canada’s ‘national newspaper’ fared no better. It published an editorial that was criticised by readers for insulting their intelligence, and a column by its public health reporter that urged readers to ignore the supposedly misleading report – even as it misrepresented its content.

Categories
Employment Governance

Is Statscan’s latest job vacancy survey another Kijiji jobs report?

Chart 1 Job Vacancy Statistics (JVS), February 2015 (3MMA)
JVS_201502

Chart 2 Job Vacancy and Wages Survey (JVWS), Q1 2015
JVWS_2015Q1

Source(s): Statistics Canada

Last month’s inaugural Job Vacancy and Wages Survey (JVWS) release by Statistics Canada – which the agency emphasises was undertaken on behalf of Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC) – raised more questions than it seemed to answer. When initially contacted for comment, Statscan indicated it would be releasing more data by the end of September. That data, along with  additional feedback provided by the agency, points to problems with the survey. It’s worth mentioning that ESDC was the source of the now infamous Kijiji jobs report – because the JVWS bears a striking resemblance to it.

Categories
Environment Health

Earth Day 2015: On 45th anniversary, little cause for celebration

If American television is anything to go by in the lead up to the 45th Earth Day anniversary (on April 22, 2015), there should be some concern about how many more remain to be celebrated. Given the increasingly unnecessary to downright unhealthy reasons for the continued exploitation of our limited natural resources, there seems little sense to the ever-expanding environmental destruction.

Categories
Accountability Governance Transparency

2016 NHS: Long-form census fiasco as FAMEX redux

Shady
2011 NHS: How much less we now know, illustrated * 2011 NHS: How much less we now know, illustrated *

Canada’s 2011 long-form census fiasco was brought to the fore again last week with the introduction of Bill C-626. The private member’s bill seeks to amend the Statistics Act to mandate the long-form survey and provide the Chief Statistician with greater administrative autonomy. While there’s no debating its voluntary replacement rendered useless results at exorbitant cost, the proposed legislation, even if successful, won’t necessarily assure the long-form census’ future success.

It’s been written those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Although never mentioned in the ongoing public discourse, what’s happening with the long-form census is basically the Survey of Family Expenditures (FAMEX) all over again. And that didn’t turn out well.

Categories
Financial security Governance Monetary policy

Is Canadian housing price inflation an intended policy outcome?

Bank_of_Canada

During the press conference following the Bank of Canada (BoC) July 2014 Monetary Policy Report, bank governor Stephen Poloz was asked whether the Bank was making up excuses – likely in response to his “serial disappointment” remark – to avoid raising its target rate. A lower rate benefits the federal government in a number of ways, primarily by lowering its debt servicing and public spending costs. However, the dangers of an extended period of low interest rates include excessive household debt accumulation, particularly mortgage debt.

But what if the BoC views excessive housing price inflation as a key economic driver – and that view is affecting its policy rate decision?

Categories
Employment Financial security Governance Immigration Justice Race and ethnicity

Why Canada avoids asking about race, and why that’s a problem

Making waves in his first speech after taking office in 2009, outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder then described his country as a “nation of cowards” afraid to confront racial issues. While the US had made remarkable progress on civil rights in the latter half of the twentieth century, election of a biracial president aside, there’s evidence to suggest it has recently regressed. There are anecdotes, like recent incidents in Detroit, Michigan and Ferguson, Missouri. But there are also race-based statistics collected, compiled and published by various US government agencies, from Justice to Labor to even the Federal Reserve.

If fear of confronting race is cowardice, what does one call fear of even asking about it? Because that’s where Canada is at the moment.

Categories
Governance Health Justice Transparency

In debate over drug legalisation, it’s worth revisiting Prohibition (which actually worked)

Canada’s pot policy needs to sober up
Andre Picard, The Globe and Mail August 21, 2014

Sometimes, you catch news items a bit late. Today, that item is Globe public health reporter Andre Picard’s recent write-up on Canada’s marijuana legalisation discourse (which closely mirrors that taking place in the US).

As succinctly stated, a more sombre reflection on the possible / likely ramifications of legalisation than what’s so far passed as ‘debate’ is needed. Mr. Picard seems to pull back a bit in his August 2014 column, grouping pot as a, “recreational drug, such as tobacco and alcohol”. In an earlier (April 2014) column, the ‘recreational drug’ reference was to opioids, such as abused prescription OxyContin and heroine.

While cannabinoid and opioid are distinct, they “share several pharmacologic properties”. The science is far from settled on whether in therapeutic use the combination of the two is more beneficial or harmful. The science is far clearer on the combination’s recreational / mis-use: It’s quite harmful, and can be fatal. Since it targets similar (but not the same receptors) as opioids, cannabis can likewise be addictive (the distinction between ‘habit-formation’ and ‘addiction’ is more art than science).

Decriminalisation, or legalisation?

Cannabis use can be quite socially harmful, to individual users’ health (cognitive development, mental health), and to the greater public (motor vehicle, workplace accidents). There’s also economic harm, to individuals (criminal record implications), and to the state (enforcement, rehabilitation). The interesting debate, it would seem, is whether to simply decriminalise possession or legalise commercial trade (production, distribution, sale).

The interesting line in, and jump-off point from, Mr. Picard’s column:

But there are a lot more alcoholics than there are stoners.

Yes, there are. Now. When one can purchase alcohol at just about every convenience and grocery store. Along with a pack of smokes. For less than ten bucks. Will that still be the case when a pack of marijuana cigarettes is sold alongside the Players and duMaurier for a similar price?

One of the most disingenuous arguments put forward for marijuana legalisation is that government regulation will keep it out of children’s hands – like alcohol and tobacco. It’s a transparently absurd argument to anyone who’s attended Canadian high school any time in the past half century. Because Canadian high school kids don’t have access to alcohol and tobacco.

Similarities to Prohibition debate

Did Prohibition Really Work? Alcohol Prohibition as a Public Health Innovation
Jack S. Blocker, Jr, American Journal of Public Health February 2006

Actually, Prohibition Was a Success
Mark H. Moore, New York Times October 16, 1989

 

Categories
Employment Immigration Race and ethnicity Trade and investment Women Youth

How the labour movement has failed minorities in Canada

How the labour movement has failed
Rachel Decoste, Huffington Post Canada September 2, 2014

Kudos to Rachel for her thoughtful and informative critique of the Canadian labour movement’s historical under-representation of racial minorities. It’s actually more cleverly written than it first appears (and it’s pretty clever as-is); the embedded web links make some interesting implicit connections.

Categories
Financial security Housing Monetary policy

Canada’s housing price stats likely contributed to inflating bubble

Chart 1 Statistics Canada,Bank of Canada and Teranet-National Bank housing price indices
Chart 1 Statistics Canada , Bank of Canada and Teranet-National Bank housing price indexes

At the July 2014 Monetary Policy Report (MPR) press conference, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz announced the Bank would be keeping its policy rate in “neutral” for the foreseeable future. While introducing a new catchphrase – “serial disappointment” – the MPR report and the Bank governor’s comments gave short shrift to the over-heated Canadian housing market, which continues to be fuelled by historically low interest rates. Despite conceding “particularly strong” price growth over the past year and “near record-high house prices and debt levels,” the Bank insists housing is in for a “soft landing”.

While the lack of housing market information has been a popular topic of late, a closer look at the little available info on housing prices may shed some light on why the Bank has downplayed rising home prices, and why if or when the housing bust happens the Bank will say it didn’t see it coming.

Categories
Monetary policy

Exclusion of wealthy households from CPI among issues likely confounding Bank of Canada

Bank_of_Canada

A few months ago, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz announced he was giving up on economic models as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) stubbornly remained at or below the Bank’s target minimum rate. Then suddenly the CPI rose and remained at or above the Bank’s target midpoint as other economic indicators continued to show slack. Last week Mr. Poloz attributed the recent price surge to “temporary effects” while announcing the Bank was exploring a ‘neutral interest rate’ policy, effectively abandoning inflation targeting.

A closer look at how the CPI is produced may shed some light on why the measure has confounded the Bank of late.