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Paid Sick Days: Are You Outraged Enough to Pay for It?

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by Nick Kossovan

 

 

 

As a part of the solution to get out of this COVID19 pandemic mess, which keeps sticking to us like sidewalk gum to a shoe on a hot July day, we need universal paid sick days.

 

On Monday, April 26th, for the 21st time since 2016, the Ontario Conservatives voted against provincial paid leave. Michael Coteau (Don Valley East, Liberal MPP) had put forward a bill that would have guaranteed 10 paid sick days for all workers in Ontario. Coteau’s bill was voted down 20 – 55.

 

Pandemic or no pandemic, should all workers in Ontario have easy access to paid sick days? Of course! All Canadians on a payroll, working full-time (no less than 35 hours per week) regardless of whom they work for, the industry they work in, or their employer’s size, should.

 

The lack of paid sick time is a public health concern. Long overdue is universal paid sick days. Workers need to be able to stay home and not bring sicknesses into the workplace.

 

However, as with any social program, especially when birthing a new one, who pays is the thorny question. The last time I checked, Canadians don’t like tax increases or any increase in living costs. It’s as if Canadians, many at least, believe the many social services and social safety nets Canada offers don’t have any expenses attached to them.

 

For universal paid sick days, permanent and adequate, to happen in Ontario, taxpayers will have to pay. This can be equated to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), which provides universal healthcare regardless of income, place of employment or any other factor other than being a resident of Ontario, being funded by taxpayers. I feel sick leave should be part of OHIP, where the government absorbs the cost up to a daily limit. This can only be achieved by increasing taxes while businesses absorb lost productivity.

 

For the record, I’m okay with my taxes being raised to make universal paid sick days a reality.

 

Yes, you read that right. I was brought up if you want something, you must pay for it. As a taxpayer, I want universal paid sick days (10 days annually), and I’m willing to have my taxes increased to pay for it.

 

That’s the “who pays” side of the equation. However, there’s also the political side to entertain.

 

It’s not a stretch to consider because Coteau’s bill was an opposition bill, the vote result was a juvenile rejection. If Coteau’s bill had passed, that would’ve been a massive win for the Liberal. The Conservatives couldn’t have that.

 

A few days later, this past Thursday, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton tabled a bill that was quickly passed through the legislative process. The legislation gives Ontario workers 3 paid days of emergency leave. Businesses are expected to foot the upfront cost, which will be reimbursed up to $200 per day, per employee, through the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB).

 

This program has an expiry date of September 25th, as if at midnight on Saturday, September 25th, COVID will suddenly become history. Therefore, on Sunday, September 26th, workers in Ontario with no paid sick days provided by their employer will be back to square one.

 

Michael Coteau’s bill and Monte McNaughton, now legislated bill aren’t even remotely comparable!

 

Political partisanship has its place governing economic direction, but not when it comes to public health. COVID has taught us many deadly lessons, including how dangerous it is to approach a health problem as a political problem. Ford’s handling of this pandemic, which undeniably has been guided by appealing as much as possible to his voter base, is a case in point. As well, to deflect, Ford has been leaning heavily on the federal government’s Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) program to claim an Ontario paid sick leave program would be redundant.

 

The debate around paid sick days has been made into a political issue by politicians of every political stripe. There isn’t a political party that can claim not to have been leveraging the social injustices COVID has bubbled up to serve their political agenda.

 

The largest private-sector union in Canada, Unifor, recently conducted a poll to gauge the level of support for paid sick days (Never judge public appetite by social media posts. Most “social justice” posts are virtue signalling.). Unifor’s poll found 70 percent of Ontarians support 5 days of paid sick leave, and 64 percent support 10 days of paid sick leave.

 

Business interests are often touted as the main reason behind the lack of action on measures like paid sick days. There’s much truth to this. Not one person reading this doesn’t benefit from profitable businesses populating Canada’s landscape. While the yin yang between political power and economic health is complex, it boils down to people wanting good-paying jobs.

 

For good-paying jobs to be created and exist, a business-friendly environment needs to exist—an environment that’s conducive to do business in. Providing businesses with a competitive “cost of doing business” environment, when compared to conducting their business elsewhere (e.g., other provinces, overseas and let’s not forget our next-door neighbour, the USA, where most states don’t have paid sick leave.), will be the spark for rapid economic growth post-COVID.

 

Then there’s also automation, contracting out, et al., to consider which businesses migrate toward as ways to look after their profit margins. Mandating businesses to take on the financial cost and productivity loss of providing paid sick days will be another incentive for businesses to move elsewhere, outsource work to contractors, fast-track implementing automation, or simply close shop.

 

The common narrative, born from a sense of entitlement, is that because a person owns a business, they are rich and living off the back of their employees. That perception is completely incorrect.

 

Many small business owners—owners of restaurants, convenience stores, mom and pop travel agencies, dry cleaners, coffee shops, retailers—can’t afford the financial cost (paying people not to work) coupled with the production loss (work not being done) to offer their employees paid sick days. Imagine the negative impact, financially and productivity-wise, on a flower shop with 5 employees and 2 call in sick or an autobody shop with a staff of 7.

 

The application of economic principles and the ecosystems they create for businesses to thrive can’t be dismissed.

 

Ford has said, “he will not impose any additional burden on the backs of Ontario businesses.” This is a fair statement, especially from a conservative perspective and given how most businesses are struggling to stay alive under the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses are on the brink of permanent closure.

 

You don’t need to be an expert to see the economic damage the pandemic lockdowns have caused. Whenever any meaningful “recovery” happens (my guess that it’ll be mid-2023), it won’t be fair or straightforward. An environment that’s attractive to businesses starting, expanding, or entice to come to Ontario will be crucial post-COVID for any type of healthy economic recovery to take place. Keep in mind all provinces will be on the same mission. So will countries worldwide, including our southern neighbours, who are the world’s most adept capitalists and possess high energy of self-interest.

 

My empathy for employers who can’t afford to offer their employees 10 paid sick days annually, especially during a pandemic and with consumers constantly demanding cheap, is why I’m willing to pay more taxes.

 

Adding to my empathy is my enormous respect for anyone who takes on the financial risk, a risk most people won’t take, to start a business that creates jobs.

 

Due to pandemic spending, Ontario now finds itself with a historic deficit (forecasted to be about $33.1 billion for the 2021-22 fiscal year based on four percent growth in the economy). I’m surmising Ford is reluctant to raise taxes. Inevitably somewhere down the line, taxes will need to be increased—the piper always needs to be paid. Right now, increasing taxes would be political suicide, thus permission needs to be given.

 

I suggest the message to Doug Ford’s government be: “The people of Ontario are demanding permanent paid sick days! Let us help you help every worker in Ontario regardless of whom they work for. Increase our taxes if need be.”

 

All Canadian political leaders should hear such a message.

 

If such permission were granted, no political leader would have any excuse not to provide universal paid sick days.

 

Call it reverse protesting.

 

Currently, those of us, the 70 percent according to Unifor’s poll, who favour universal paid sick days, are just sitting idly by watching politicians playing politics.

 

Ontario taxpayers offering to put their money where their mouth is might be the protest required for Doug Ford’s government to finally provide universal paid sick days.

 

I’m outraged enough to be willing to pay more taxes to bring universal paid sick days to fruition in Ontario, are you?

______________________________________________________________

 

Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto.

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What is the Delta variant of coronavirus with K417N mutation?

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 India said on Wednesday it has found around 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Below is what we know about the variant.

WHAT IS DELTA PLUS?

The variant, called “Delta Plus” in India, was first reported in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation called K417N which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

WHERE ALL IT HAS BEEN FOUND?

As of June 16 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994839/Variants_of_Concern_VOC_Technical_Briefing_16.pdf, at least 197 cases has been found from 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday around 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first 5 cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the UK and Indian cases.

WHAT ARE THE WORRIES?

Studies are ongoing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination.”

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council for Medical Research.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Pune, Bhargav Acharya and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru and Alistair Smout in London; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Giles Elgood)

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Colon Cancer Rates Have Increased: How Can You Improve Your Gut Health?

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The majority of colon cancer cases are more common among older citizens. However, research has found that colorectal cancer rates have been rising in healthy people under 50. The rate has increased over the ten years. Medical professionals recommend screening from age 45. A colorectal screening test is done to ensure that the individual does not have any signs of cancer.

A study found that there has been a surge in colorectal cancer in younger generations and could become the dominant cause of cancer-related deaths by 2030. Since the risk is alarming, everyone needs to take their gut health seriously. Here are some things that people can do to improve their well-being.

Consider Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a type of colon cleanse that treats digestive issues such as constipation and bloating. Chronic constipation can lead to colon cancer, so it is vital to deal with the issue before it worsens. Colon hydrotherapy is offered at a few places, including a wellness colonic clinic in Toronto where the staff is committed to providing solutions for their clients’ digestive health.

Cleansing your colon can help improve digestion, relieve constipation, reduce gas, rejuvenate skin, and increase energy. The process involves flushing the colon with a large volume of water. It can be beneficial to speak to the professionals at the clinic and discuss your concerns with them. They will educate you about the process and answer any concerns you may have. The treatment can seem overwhelming but can also be helpful for your gut health.

 

Consume Sensibly

Your food intake plays a significant role in your gut health. If you have gut problems, it may be worthwhile to speak to a doctor and change your diet. You should also consider finding out if you have any food intolerance. There may be trigger foods such as oil or dairy that could be causing discomfort.

Even if you do not have any problems with your food consumption, it is never wrong to watch what you eat. Foods with probiotics or high fibre content can be good for you. Eating the right foods can improve your overall health too.

Stay Hydrated

Water almost seems like a magical drink sometimes. From skin problems to digestive issues, it can improve many situations. Consuming a good amount of water every day can balance good bacteria in the gut and promote your health. Hydration can also help your organs function properly and improve cognitive function.

Say Goodbye to Extreme Stress

It can be challenging to bid farewell to stress forever. However, chronic high levels of stress can impact your abdomen and your overall health. There is a connection between the brain and gut, and stress can cause your stomach to become anxious.

Long-term stress can trigger several gut problems such as indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea. Look for ways to reduce stress levels so that your gut can remain healthy.

Some health problems are inevitable with age, but you can do your best to stay healthy and deal with any issues you face. Prepare yourself to fight any disease beforehand, and your body will thank you.

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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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