Ralph Surette

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Ralph Surette is a veteran freelance journalist living in Yarmouth County.

Next steps for health-care reform in Nova Scotia

At last. We have the best plan ever on health care with the recent report by Dr. John Ross. And the government has accepted all his recommendations to stream patients away from overcrowded emergency rooms through ER reforms, collaborative care clinics and in other ways. But what now?

Here's the skeptical argument first, from my Deep Throat in the system, an ER doctor with many scars from the bad old days of politicized health care. Notably, as a consultant, he was involved in the Alberta reforms of a few years ago -- similar to what's being proposed here -- that now seem to be coming apart because of political bungling.


Nova Scotia's NDP government at 18 months

The NDP government, you may have noticed, is suddenly a hive of activity. At 18 months, with its many studies and policy processes maturing, it's making the stands that will mark its mandate. Some of its moves are more successful than others.

On the positive side, the long and bitter forest policy debate seems, remarkably, to be coming to an adequate conclusion. Clearcutting is to be reduced by half within five years, among other things. Environmentalists are happy. The industry not so much, but it seems willing to give it a go. If it holds -- there are still many ifs -- this is big. Not just for forestry, but as a demonstration that bitter division can be overcome and some things can be made to work in Nova Scotia. For the longest time, we doubted that.


The destructiveness of war-mongering

White poppies. Sometimes something rings a little bell amid the gloom, like a bird singing after a catastrophe, or a light in a raging storm. It's a symbol of peace, first introduced in Britain by the Co-operative Women's Guild in 1936. The notion that hope for peace might live, however, is apparently so outlandish that the symbol is little known and only makes rare appearances, as it did in P.E.I. this Remembrance Day, and always seems to upset someone.


Collapsed bridge raises infrastructure questions in Nova Scotia

I was playing pool with some buddies in Carl's shed in Tusket on Tuesday night, when Gordon said, "What's that rumble -- is that a big truck?" We checked the window. No truck.

A few minutes later, Eddie got a call. His face went stiff and his eyes darted. The Tusket bridge, a half kilometre upstream, had collapsed.

What!? When we arrived, there was a lineup of cars plus a large flatbed truck with a road machine on board -- all within minutes of crossing the ill-fated structure.


It's now or never for Nova Scotia health care

One thing about our health care system in Nova Scotia: It produces good reports on what to do. It's doing it that's the problem. Now, at the end of a string of studies going back a decade and a half, the one by Dr. John Ross on emergency care nails it once and for all. If nothing happens now, we're really in trouble.


Transforming public attitudes about energy costs

Hearings into power rate increases are on again, and the talkback lines crackle with the usual dismay. "When will it stop?" comes the plaintive cry.

"I can't afford to both heat and eat."

"Business will be crippled."

"Why can't the government do something?"

Some answers. First, it's not going to stop. Not until we're into another mode of energy and things stabilize.

And the government is, in fact, doing something: caving in to public and business pressure to keep rates from rising faster. But that just damages its policy of moving Nova Scotia to the world of energy efficiency and alternatives where we need to be.


Rethinking the Halifax convention centre: What if it didn't go ahead?

I'm anxious to stop bleeding electronic ink on the subject, but it looks as though the convention centre saga is far from over and will be keeping the opinion mills running for some time. The province supports it, but that's far from a clincher. The city could have trouble swallowing its third of the $160-million bill and the federal third seems to me particularly iffy.

We've been talking as though the federal share is a foregone conclusion, but in fact Ottawa has still to be asked to cough up a $47-million lump sum when the project is finished, and it's not the kind of outfit that coughs up just like that.


It's decision time on Halifax convention centre

Be a man, stop shilly-shallying and give this revitalizing project the go-ahead, says one side.

Be a man, stop shilly-shallying and stop this foolishness dead in its tracks, says the other.

This is what Premier Darrell Dexter is getting in both ears as decision time draws nigh on the proposed convention centre/hotel complex for downtown Halifax.

Since it's going to get scorched no matter what, minimizing the outrage is the best the NDP government can hope for politically.

It is, therefore, proper that the premier and his divided cabinet ignore the hollering and take the time to make a decision they can reasonably defend -- whatever it is.


Igor's destruction sends message to coastal communities

The devastation is astounding in a place where the once-cold waters of the North Atlantic used to break up hurricanes into post-tropical depressions by the time they made landfall. Towns cut off, great chasms in roadways, the army and navy to the rescue -- and people struggling to make sense of it all.

There's a message in Igor's assault on Newfoundland. Something to pick up our attention that has wandered since hurricane Juan smacked Halifax in 2003, since Katrina destroyed New Orleans in 2005 and even as behemoths of unprecedented enormousness keep either roaring by unpredictably or taking random potshots at the east coast of North America.


The twisted politics of the gun registry

The gun registry was created out of the worst instincts of Canadian Liberalism: set up a huge, suffocating, expensive bureaucracy that misfires, ends up dividing the country, and provokes a permanent political insurgency against it.

Now, 15 years later, we have the move to kill it according to the worst instincts of what passes for Conservatism these days: right-wing yahooing, "cold dead hands" rhetoric, and with U.S. gun radicals applauding and maybe even financing the effort.

In itself, the gun issue and Wednesday's vote on the registry, with its razor-thin margin to keep it, is not all that important.

The issue is almost all symbolism, emotion, ideology and twisted politics, with hardly a real fact in sight.

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