Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lessons from Italy

He is a crook.

He is a womanizer...favoring 18 year olds by the boat load.

He is richer than God.

And in some circles, more powerful.

He has had more plastic surgery than Joan Rivers and even his hair plugs are dyed.

Perhaps, most impressive - he has a pizza named after him. (I have a Crepe David at a little neighbourhood cafe, but a Pizza! Oh, the pure jealousy!)

He is Silvio Berlusconi and he is the Prime Minister of Italy.


In spite of being indicted half a dozen times on a very democratic broad range of charges, he manages to sweep the popular vote and dash into office at will.

For the casual observer, the inevitable question is, "Why?"

Are these people mad? Have they no good common sense? Has he promised them all a free bottle of Prosecco once a week?


It is much simpler than that.

And here's where Carole James and Iggy Pop and Jack the 'Stache come into the picture.

Berlusconi - love him or move to Malta - keeps getting elected and re-elected because:

a) He is tremendously organized, and

b) The other guys aren't.

"The other guys" constitute about 94 other parties, each one dumber than the last and all clawing away at each other over the fine print, while Silvio skates across the finish line again.

Travel is refreshing and instructive.

I recommend it for certain other also-rans.

You see different buildings. You eat different foods.

And you get a glimpse of how some people have figured out the basics, while others gab, gab, gab...

To Your Health

It's not often that you'll find me in agreement with something coming from the fountain of wisdom known as B.C. Health Minister, Kevin Falcon.

But in this case, "Right on, Kev."

Speaking of the need to hold the line or better on inevitable increases in health care spending, Falcon warns, “Because if we don't do this, our system will implode under the weight of its own excess and inefficiency.”

The only problem with that statement is that it doesn't answer the question, "Oh, yah? Then what are you doing about it?"

Take the mandarins who head up the regional Health Boards, for example...please.

Salaries in the $300,000 range.

And every time one of them is sacked or decides to go fishing, the buy-out is in the half million dollar range.

These folks must calibrate, before taking on the job, the exact best pay-off moment to head into the sunset.

And the endless bureaucracies that support them.

And the top-heavy hospital management teams.

And the refusal to tally up the real cost of any surgery and position oneself to take remedial action in buying habits for supplies and equipment.

The province has consistently reduced services for mental health, addictions and seniors.

How has that helped the bottom line?

Almost no money goes for treatment in addictions, yet millions go to giving users more of their favorite free drugs and clean places to use.

In short, if Falcon is right - and for once, he is - that we must stop the mounting health costs, where is the Plan?

Is he the Man with the Plan?

Doesn't look like it.

The same government has announced a $50 Million commitment to a new Vancouver Art Gallery, when anyone with an abacus handy knows that such an animal will cost at last 10 times that number.

Planning is not Victoria's long suit.

And never forget that there always has been and always will be one single villain who drives the machinery of health care costs.

That is your friendly neighbourhood Federal Government, who many years ago covered half the costs of health care across the land.

Today, Ottawa pays 25% of the bill.

The next time, some rube posing as a politician asks for your vote in a national election, ask him or her when Ottawa will return to paying its full share of the health bill.

Rube or Ruby won't have an answer for you and will not deserve your vote.