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Tuesday
Mar142017

From special report: Sexual Dealing: Today's Sex Toys Are Credit Cards & Cash: A Report on the Sex-for-Money Revolution

 

Porn Again: More Ways to Get Off, But Should We Regulate the Sex Industry?

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), October 3-16, 1996

Meet Steven Wang. The young Toronto distributor of porn magazines and videos is jerking his arm up and down as he describes what sells adult videos.

“Explicit boxes – dick in the mouth, cum in the face makes it sell,” says Wang as he tells me about packaging the videos he distributes.

Wang doesn’t fit the stereotype of a smut dealer. He is wiry, well-groomed and fits in easily amid Toronto’s army of yuppies. Despite the topic of our conversation, he isn’t shy about being graphic in a public place.

Wang admits his parents aren’t too keen about his success as a smut dealer, but he proudly tells me about his latest project, Cybercafe (located on Toronto’s main goodtime drag, Yonge Street). Banks of computers line the walls of the cafe, and a few customers bang away on keyboards and swivel mouses. Blinders on video terminals are quickly jerked forward by shy internet users as each new customer walks by.

Wang thinks the internet is the way forward for porn distribution.

“It’s heading more to bondage, violence – anything that is weird. Haven’t seen it, want to see it. You can only find penetration on VHS (video), though fisting is allowed.” continues Wang, who prides himself on foreseeing trends. “Now that people have seen these things, they want to go to the next step. Because you can only get these things on the internet, 80 per cent of the people are there for the adult material. Internet is the future, period.”

Wang got into distributing porn videos in 1990, just as the Ontario government began to relax the restrictions on hardcore porn movies, as long as they didn’t contain sex involving violence, coercion, bondage, sado-masochism, degradation, incest, animals, or minors under the age of 18.

Wang says he has made some good money, but it’s time to start looking to the next trend. He says those who consume his products have an insatiable appetite for sex in all its forms.

Money-for-sex revolution

The 90s have seen a quiet revolution in the sale of sex. While paying for sex is nothing new, never before has such a plethora of choices been so openly peddled in Ontario’s newspapers and magazines, mostly at a male audience. There are escort services, so-called massage parlours, phone sex, adult videos, sadism and masochism shops and clubs, strip clubs and swingers’ clubs. On the internet, 127 sex news groups compete with over 200 sex services on the World Wide Web, many charging for the privilege to peek at sex photos. And the sex trade comes at a price, with evidence showing lack of regulation means youths continue to be drawn into the business, while users search for bigger and better thrills.

Toronto weekly Now Magazine has been a pioneer in sex advertising. In September 1989 the magazine’s back pages of classified ads contained around 130 “business personals,” ads placed by the city’s working prostitutes.

In the September 26, 1996 issue of Now, in seven pages of telephone personals and phone sex ads, there were 514 “Adult Classified” ads, a cornucopia of “massage” parlours, prostitutes, and escort agencies offering shemales, “hot Asian” and “Swedish” beauties.

While there isn’t any one source for accurate information on the size of Ontario’s sex industry, it is obvious it has not only grown in visibility, but in size.

“There definitely seems to be more of everything,” says Detective-Constable Austin Ferguson of the Metro Toronto Police’s vice section. “Look at how pornography video stores have blossomed – the spas, whatever you want to call them. Look through the yellow pages for strip bars, escort agencies.

“You got Now, Eye, pink pages, green pages, you can pick up the Toronto Star, The Sun. The phone lines are everywhere you look. I love it, it’s a great business,” says Ferguson sarcastically.

“Even five years ago, there were only a few massage parlours. Now there are 400 to 500 massage parlours in Toronto alone. It has quadrupled since 1990.”

“It’s an underground revolution,” says Sue McGarvie, a sex therapist and Ottawa talk-radio personality. “You go out on the street and see how many prostitutes there are, and how much more open it is, how many more night clubs there are that are gender neutral, that are fetish.”

McGarvie doesn’t think it necessarily means more people are turning to commercial sex.

“We are having as much sex as we ever had, we have as much sexual desire as we ever had,” says McGarvie. “I think the outlets are changing, so that we are going to have to be flexible about that.”

Steven Wang estimates 3,000 out of 5,000 Metro Toronto video stores carry adult videos. Another 1,250 exclusively carry adult videos. A manager at Toronto’s Adult Video Superstore says, “Sales and rentals have gone up in the last three years.” The Adults Only Video chain, founded by Kitchener-Waterloo resident Randy Jorgensen, now spans Canada with 51 stores, 12 in Toronto. And what internet user hasen’t taken a few minutes (or hours) to play voyeur on the many adult web sites or chat lines?

An Adults Only Video survey found, out of 2,000 customers, 56 per cent watch adult videos with a partner. It also claims 20 per cent of renters are women. Many are skeptical about these claims.

Barking through what sounds like a speaker phone, Larry Gayne, president of sex toy mail-order company Lady Calston, says “It’s all men who look at the back of Now. Some claim as much as 50 per cent of adult video watchers are women. I don’t know if I believe that figure.

“Sex is a US $40-billion business in North America alone. In 1992, more sex aids were sold than breakfast cereal.”

The businesses manufacturing sex try to distance themselves from the more visibly seedy porn stores.

“The explosion in triple X video stores is the only seedy end,” continues Gayne. “The sad part is you take away those triple X stores, there is no seedy part to this industry. Not behind the scenes, not in front. It doesn’t exist. There is nobody seedy at our level. Those people don’t exist, they are just normal businesses. There is in fact a downside to the triple X stores.”

Sue McGarvie is an enthusiastic supporter of greater sexual liberation, even if its expression is through the sex industry.

Speaking between clients from her Ottawa office, she says 36 new adult video stores have opened in Ottawa in the past five years.

“Some are small sections of regular video stores,” says McGarvie. “I’m a big believer, I’m still under 30, my generation is one of the first generations that is no longer attending church as a regular part of what we do. Sex is no longer a moral issue. But people are saying ‘wait a minute, because of STDs I’m going to be stuck with my partner for the rest of my life? I better make it the best damn sex we possibly can have.’ Vibrators are outselling any other appliance.

“I’m poised on the industry of the next decade, the next millennium. Sexuality as an expression is the second most powerful drive after food.”

McGarvie doesn’t think that what is in the adult video stores is unhealthy. “Porn as a term is not right, either. Porn is illegal, but the stuff in the video stores is not illegal.”

McGarvie also doubts adult videos are contributing to an atomised world, similar to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where the government controls a population anaesthetized by the buzz of orgasms and drugs.

“I don’t necessarily think it is causing people to be less intimate. The industry needs to stop being in the shadows. Our lives are busy. People are having a hard time connecting with others, but I think that is a separate issue. I think there is a new sexual revolution going on, and if our reality checks catch up with our sex drive, we’ll be okay. We don’t have socially acceptable ways of meeting people that isn’t in a bar when people are drinking.”

Toronto swinger and strip club DJ Ron Michaels thinks the tables are turning on the money-for-sex industry.

“A lot of adult video stores are closing. A lot of strip clubs are on the verge of going under,” says Michaels. “It is like a ghost town in there. I don’t see it is a growing trend. Perhaps it is more front page, more visible. I don’t think it’s any larger than is has been before. I think our society in general is far more sexually liberated than we were 50 years ago. Certainly more than 100 years ago.

“A lot of people thought they could make a fast buck off of it. The market can’t support that number,” according to Michaels.

Child porn

But is this really just good fun? Unfortunately, there is too much evidence showing a direct connection between a robust sex industry, and the sexual exploitation of minors and demand for degrading sex. A booming sex industry just can’t be disconnected from the exploitation of youths and an absorption in degrading, freaky sex, like defacation or bestiality. The industry may not be directly connected to the much-publicized paedophile rings in the news, but the mainstream sex industry is not adverse to exploiting youths and an appetite for sex with minors to sell videos and magazines.

“We have laid charges on people who were initially operating a reputable business,” says Ferguson, “until they found there was a demand for the seedier stuff.”

Sue Miner, the head of Toronto’s Street Outreach Services, says high unemployment rates amongst youth feeds the sex industry with a steady supply of desperate teens.

“It’s indicative of people needing to survive and not having jobs. I’ve heard enough young people saying they needed some money to pay the rent. A lot of young people do it to survive – survival sex.”

“I have yet to come across an escort agency that uses minors,” claims Ferguson, admitting that because he hasn’t, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. “It’s usually a bit more classier than that. You don’t get your Parkdale hooker types. Pimps don’t run escort agencies.”

A 1984 government study on prostitution, the Badgley Committee on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youth, found one-half of prostitutes had entered the sex trade under the age of 16, 96 per cent had become prostitutes before the age of 18.

The overwhelming majority of prostitutes have run away from home at least once. Street prostitutes leave home at an earlier age than other children, at an average age of 13.7 years, compared to 17.3 years.

The most difficult porn to regulate, as most governments know, is on the internet.

Detective-Constable Ferguson says having photos of bestiality and paedophilia, for a few seconds on a harddrive, is considered by the law to be possession. He also admits because of the ethereal nature of computers, the law is totally unenforceable.

“You would have to get online with that person. Get to know them, chat with them.”

He does warn any internet cafes to stay clear of the stuff. “They are totally nuts to have obscene or child pornography available because somebody would spill the beans pretty quick.”

Escorts

As for prostitution, the police have a harder time controlling escort agencies because they are careful to never make a deal on the phone, says Ferguson.

“They are only going out for dinner and dance, eh?,” chuckles Ferguson. “Somebody sees a business opportunity to run prostitutes. They are harder to crack. It’s a long, long process to take one of these places down because of all the undercover work involved. What you can, can’t do. It’s no easy task.

“They won’t make a deal over the phone. They might say ‘you can have my service for $150/$200 an hour,’ as soon as you say ‘what do you get for that?’…click.”

McGarvie says she wouldn’t be too happy if her husband went to a prostitute to cope with sexual stress if they were too busy to have sex. On the other hand, she thinks the escort industry would decline if there were more healthy outlets for sexual release.

Toronto feminist and author Susan G. Cole, in her book Power Surge: Sex, Violence and Pornography, and ironically a Now Magazine editor, has called for greater regulation of pornography, arguing the industry really has no claim on freedom of expression. The public, Cole says, can accept a regulatory role for government when it comes to other industries, so why the exception for the smut trade?

This should be extended to the rest of the sex trade, she argues. Body-rub parlours, escort services, street prostitutes, strip clubs and phone sex, should not be allowed to remain in regulatory limbo, only subject to police attention when community groups kick up a storm.

Back at the Cybercafe, Steven Wang is trying to be heard over the Pet Shop Boys’ pounding dance beats.

If anybody wants to protest outside one of Wang’s two Toronto stores, or any other adult stores his videos are distributed in, he would probably make the placards. “Business goes up when we get pickets, negative reviews are always positive for the business – automatically sales go up that day,” says Wang smiling.

Swing Shift: Sexual liberation is back in style

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), October 3-16, 1996

Deep in the bedrooms (and livingrooms) of the home-owning classes, the sexual liberation movement marches on: swingers’ parties are back. Those libidinous libertines many thought were lost in a 70s disco haze, according to a Toronto swinger, are back in greater numbers than in those polyester days. 

In contrast to the many people (mostly men) looking for the anonymous and on-demand buzz of escort agencies, porn videos and sex toys, it seems to me swinging is the most idealistic camp in the army of sexual liberation. There isn’t any sneaking around behind your spouse’s back - in fact, you bring them along for the good times. 

Swingers were usually the subject of the porn movies I watched at the base cinema during my army days. They weren’t real people, but some sort of myth from more electric times. 

Ron Michaels, 41, is an unabashed proselytizer for swinging. A strip-club DJ and erotic and commerical photographer, he’s also co-owner, along with his wife, of swingers’ club Eros. A confident and articulate spokesperson, he has been swinging since he was 17. 

“We believe honesty is the cornerstone of our lifestyle - that makes it work,” he says. “The people engaging in back-alley sex are being dishonest. It’s the same with having an affair - wanting your cake but not being able to share it with the rest of us. 

“Swinging is a moral alternative to having affairs.” 

The divorce rate among swingers, Michaels maintains, is only five per cent, compared to 51 per cent for the general population. The one wrinkle in this impressive “fact” is Michaels’ other admission that many swingers are on their second “married relationship”.

Interviewing Michaels, I feel like I’m talking to a Rotary Club member or a boy scout leader, not a swinger. The talk is about clubs, memberships ($69 a year per couple), trips. It’s a hobby, sport and lifestyle to many swingers, claims Michaels. 

“We have regular weekly functions throughout the year. Some of them are organized by the members. We organize trips and holidays. Weekends in the Caribbean. Like any other social club.”

That can’t be wife/husband swapping he’s talking about, can it?

Michaels’ Toronto Beaches home leaves no doubt as to its occupant’s lifestyle choices: “If you don’t swing, don’t ring,” says a brass plaque nailed to the door. 

Michaels is very proud of swinging’s growth in the 90s. His group has grown from 300 member-couples 14 years ago to 1,800 today. Michaels ambitiously estimates that between 100,000 and 200,000 Southern Ontarians are into swinging, between 20 and 25 million across North America. 

So, how does swinging in the 90s work?

Michaels says most clubs operate more as matchmaking parties than full-out orgies. Couples get to know each other and make the arrangements to meet away from the club’s party. Michaels is quick to disassociate his club from drop-in style swingers parties. 

“Canadians are much more conservative than Americans. In New York they are more hardcore, less selective of their partners. When they get there they are more like, ‘let’s find the first available body and get to it,’ whereas people at social clubs want to get to know you. We are talking about four-way compatability here.”

According to Michaels, the big victory for Canadian swingers took place in 1992. “Our Mississauga club was raided back in ’92 and we took it through the courts for a year. We were acquitted and set a legal precedent, making swingers’ clubs legal.”

To many men, the whole swinging thing seems like the best of both worlds: you keep your wife and get to taste the fruits of other trees at the same time. But Michaels says this male teenage fantasy doesn’t pan out in reality. 

“That wears off pretty quickly. Let’s face it, men have a much lower capacity for sex than women do. Men need a longer recovery period and don’t have as many orgasms in a night. Women can just go and go. Guys can’t compete with that. After a while the fantasy wears thin, and it’s the guy that wants to drop out of the lifestyle.” 

And what about that oher most-asked-question: what’s it like to see your spouse having the time of their life with your neighbour?

“They don’t get into those kinds of comparisons. How can I describe this? It’s not a competitive thing where you try to outperform each other. Most swingers appreciate each other as being unique and different, rather than this is bigger, this is harder, this is faster, this is better. Each new experience is taken at face value, ‘Hey, it’s a good time’. You move on to the next one or you go back to your regular partner.”

“Cock Tales” too much for Hamilton

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), October 3-16, 1996

Steeltown is a little less hot now that View, Hamilton’s alternative weekly, has dropped a controversial sex columnist in the face of complaints from distributors. The fracas has raised a thorny issue: to what extent should a newspaper stand behind a controversial writer?

My Messy Bedroom, a weekly column by Montreal journalist Josey Vogels, mixes graphic language and humour in its look at sexuality. The dispute erupted over a column in the August 22 issue entitled Cock Tales 1 (Cock Tales 2 will not run in View). 

A surprised and angry Vogels says she only found out her column had been dropped when id called her in September. Vogels believes the problem was with the frank discussion by men of their sexual tastes. “Maybe it was the opening line. ‘Mouth on my cock, finger in my butt, looking me in the eyes,’ then a joke: ‘Would you like fries with that?’”

Vogels maintains View knew what it was getting into when it picked up the syndicated column in June, 1995. “You can’t say you want a column because of its nature, then say you don’t like it.”

Vogels says she co-operated in the past when the magazine asked her to tone down a column. “But there is a line where my integrity is at stake.”

Tucked away among five pages of classified ads, My Messy Bedroom was the only piece of journalism with a sexual theme in View

Editor Veronica Magee says View received complaints that children were reading the column, and some distributors refused to carry the paper. In a rambling editorial in the September 5 issue, Magee defends the decision to drop the column, saying it was time the paper made some changes. 

Magee writes that Vogels’ column taught “sexuality is something clean, not dirty,” but admits some urban weeklies aren’t so urban, and must cater to a more conservative, suburban readership. “Hamilton is a conservative city,” she claims. 

In an interview with id, Magee admitted View’s attitude towards the column was “what can we get away with - let’s push the limit.

“Some people argue she should have known better. Although I’m sure people will believe we are making the writer suffer for a decision we made, that is not the intent.”

But the publisher and editor of View offer conflicting explanations of who actually pulled the column. “It was a collective decision,” says Magee. 

Sean Rosen, one of View’s two publishers, told id the magazine had been considering dropping the column for some time. But Rosen says the decision was solely Magee’s. “The editor decided it had run its course, trying to be sensational for the sake of being sensational.” 

Other stories from the special feature: 

“Barely Legal”: Scummy New Generation of Mags Evades Anti-paedophilia Laws by Nate Hendley

Randy for the People: Conservative Ontario City Home to Porn Empire by Nate Hendley

Is Stripping Worth It? by Cynthia Tetley

Those Old Crusaders: Pornography and the Right by Eric Volmers

Feminists for Porn by Nate Hendley

The Sex Trade Down the Ages by Fiona Heath

Id was published in Guelph, Ontario, Canada in the 1990s.

Monday
Mar132017

Truckus Maximus: The big boys with the big toys do some hardcore pogo at monster truck show

 

“I got laid off too many times. Now, I work harder for less money. But I get to do what I want to do. Not many people get that.”

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), February 6 to 19, 1997

The little tiger-striped four-by-four is definitely going too fast. In an instant, the diminutive Suzuki stands balanced, its front wheels squashed at 90 degrees. A millisecond later, it’s on its back like a ladybug flipped over by the wind. The cacophony of the crowd reaches a crescendo. But the noise had been building; the Skydome crowd saw the writing on the wall for the little jeep. 

Frantic helpers pry open the door of the jeep, wrestling free the driver, Dwayne Robichaud. He emerges in an orange jump suit and prances around, looking vaguely like the Oklahoma bomber. The audience lets out an even louder cheer as he walks away, smug and happy. 

Half an hour earlier, two monster trucks, Young Gun and Samson, line up behind a pile of crushed cars, with a dirt ramp at each end. The methanol engines let out a roar like the mother of all hairdryers. The revving turns into a drag race. The pulsating white noise rattles the cavernous Dome. The effect on the audience is almost sexual: the stomach rattles, the heart skips a few beats. It is a short buzz, but it is good. And the noise? I begin to notice that everyone around me has ear plugs and I realize I'm going to regret this in 20 years. 

The exhaust fumes are starting to reach toxic levels 40 minutes into the rally. I shake my head and feel the motion a few seconds later. I’m getting a CO2 buzz, too. It’s the USA Motor Spectacular monster truck derby at Toronto’s Skydome. But monster trucks are just a small part of the show, there for the crowd to ogle while they get off on the noise. There is the amateur truck rally involving the tippy Suzuki and other monster-truck wannabees, and a ridiculous car-eating, fire-breathing robot called Robosaurus for the kids. The metal bashing of the demolition derby serves to satiate the audience’s thirst for damage - and is truly the highlight of the night. 

I can’t get out of my mind comparisons to spectacles in Roman times. Titans of spectacle, the Romans set the benchmark by which all other public entertainment must be judged. On the spectacular scale, Roman bloodsports involving gladiators, wild animals and the sacrificing of Christians definitely rate a 10 - anything else falls below. I figure monster trucks rate about 4. Watching pick-up trucks with over-sized $10,000 tractor tires crush cars can’t match the gore and death of ancient Rome but it will do for now. 

If monster trucks join professional wrestling and American Gladators as today’s answer to blood sports, why does this spectacle seem to lack that je ne sais quoi? Maybe it’s the sanitization of risk. The cabin of a monster truck coddles the driver. There are cushioned seats, a kidney brace, a five-point racing harness, neck braces, helmet restraints and a roll bar. Several drivers tell me that the job only looks dangerous. At half time, Young Gun’s Saskatoon-based driver, Kevin Weenks, tells me he doesn’t seek out danger. “I think some of those (amateur) guys are nuts and want to do the crowd a big favour [die]. You don’t want to run it hard. A win isn’t worth flipping over.” 

Derby destruction

Thirty demolition derby wrecks crawl into the centre of the Skydome. The flag is dropped and an orgy of car crushing begins. It goes on for half an hour. Now I’m not bored. Cars are still driving despite engine fires and rear-ends that stand at 45 degrees. It is down to two cars: one more or less intact, the other driving on its hubs, engine on fire, half its back a mangled piece of crumpled paper. The driver doesn’t give up. His engine stops, then starts again. This is repeated three times until, exhausted, he concedes defeat. 

After the derby it’s time for Robosaurus. The press release claims the hunk of grey metal stands five stories tall and costs $2.1 million. The driver flicks on the switch on a very expensive stereo system and Robosaurus starts to growl like Godzilla. Two guys with radio headsets help direct the beast onto the floor. It burps and farts for a while before picking up a pre-cut car. It crushes it, drops it to the floor and incinerates it with a flame thrower. The crowd roars.

It seems things haven’t changed with spectacles. The Romans drew on slaves, freed men, foreigners and the lower social orders to provide fodder for their spectacles. Monster trucks are driven by farmers hired for six months at a time. The amateur drivers are a hodgepodge of laid-off workers, farm labourers and guys who make a meagre living fixing four-by-fours. 

Wearing a waist-length monogrammed racing jacket is Don Frankish. The shy and patient Alberta grain farmer owns two of the four monster trucks in Canada. He has been racing for seven years and divides his year 50/50 between farming and tours on the monster truck circuit, which mostly takes him through the U.S. 

He is definitely attracted to the excitement of the stadium, but not necessarily a love of death-defying acts. “It’s the rush of the crowd as they get behind you, talking to the kids who look at you as a superhero,” he says. “I like the speed, the unpredictability. We know the risks. There is a danger to it. But the Monster Truck Racing Association makes sure we have a killer radio to shut off the engines if the truck is out of control. The worst I’ve ever seen is a truck going end over end three times - it just destroyed the truck.” I ask him about insurance and he laughs. “We can’t get insurance!”

Pit boys

Down in the pit, the air is thick with exhaust fumes. The pit boys are milling about, patting each other on the back. A sprinkling of pit girls hang around, with hairstyles straight out of Xena: Warrior Princess. The dress for today is black: black t-shirts and black jeans. Don McGuire, 32-year-old partner in the Three Stooges four-by-four shop in Brampton, sports a mischievous grin as he tells me with pride about his chosen vocation: mud bog racing. It’s the messier outdoor version of tonight’s amateur truck rally. McGuire has been a mud bog racer for 10 years and isn’t doing it for the money. “First prize is just $200 - I spring for more money than I would ever win,” he says. “We do this for the pure adrenaline. It’s just heart and soul. It takes bucks per cubic inch to win in this business,” he says resentfully, looking across the Skydome to where the monster trucks are parked. Big Foot’s sponsorship by Ford seems to be a sore point with racers who spend thousands of their own dollars to come here. 

McGuire gave up a $700 a week job to earn $300 a week and race. “I got laid off too many times. Now, I work harder for less money. But I get to do what I want to do. Not many people get that.”

 

Tuesday
Mar072017

Critics blast government long-term care reforms

 

“They cut hospital beds and lay off staff without having community health care services ready…”

“When the elderly… decide that facility-based care is the best option, they can’t get it…”

By David South

Today’s Seniors (Canada), October 1992

Seniors should keep a close eye on the Ontario government’s proposed long-term care reforms. According to critics, the plan has more than a few bugs. 

The term long-term care encompasses an often confusing web of services, from home-provided community services like meals on wheels to institutional care including homes for the aged, seniors’ apartments and chronic care hospitals. 

Like other provincial governments, the Rae government is trying to rein in escalating health care costs - and long-term care services aren’t immune. They hope that emphasizing prevention and healthy lifestyles, plus providing more services in the home and community, will reduce reliance and expensive health care services like high-cost drugs, surgery and high-tech equipment. According to health minister Frances Lankin, this will preserve medicare in the age of fiscal restraint. 

The government has outlined seven goals for its long-term care reforms: prepare for the coming surge in the over-65 population; cater services to better reflect the cultural, racial and linguistic make-up of Ontario; eliminate confusion over what services are available; involve the community in planning so that services reflect community needs; lessen reliance on institutions; provide support to family caregivers; tighten regulations governing government-run and private facilities; and improve working conditions for the largely female caregiving workforce. 

But many people are wary of the proposed reforms and worry that if they aren’t managed properly, some seniors will fall through the cracks. 

A report released in July by the Senior Citizens’ Consumer Alliance for Long-Term Care Reform blasts the government for being simplistic in its plans. The report compares the present reforms to the failed attempt in the 1970s to move psychiatric care out of the institutions and into communities by closing 1,000 beds. The tragic result in that case was homelessness for many psychiatric patients who found community services unable to help, or, more often than not, non-existent. The Alliance fears seniors - the biggest users of health services - could fall victim to reforms in a similar way. 

Emily Phillips, president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, is blunt: “The NDP’s plans sound good on paper, but they can’t give a budget or direct plan on how they hope to carry out reforms. They are going about things backwards. They cut hospital beds and lay off staff without having community health care services ready.”

The Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS) - which operates charitable and municipal homes for the aged, non-profit seniors’ apartments. chronic care hospitals and community services serving over 100,000 seniors - says 4,300 seniors are on waiting lists for their member facilities right now, and things won’t improve if the government continues to reduce the number of long-term care beds. 

But Lankin insists that beds are available in homes and hospitals and it is funding formulas that prevent them from being filled. 

To help carry out its reforms, the NDP will reallocate $647 million by 1996-97. In bureaucratese, this funding is said to be “back-end loaded”, or mostly spent close to 1996-97. 

The problem with this, according to the Alliance, is that the government has already embarked on a radical “downsizing” of hospitals, closing beds and laying off health care workers. Lankin claims the worst case scenario for layoffs this year won’t exceed 2,000, but the Ontario Hospital Association claims 14,000 jobs are in jeopardy. Because of this, the Alliance wants money to be spent earlier to avoid gaps in services. 

Phillips believes it will be hard to pin down the extent of job losses. “For every full-time job cut many part-time and relief positions go with it,” she says. 

Dr. Rosanna Pellizzari, a member of the Medical Reform Group and chair of the Ontario Association of Health Centres, wants better community accountability for hospitals before they lay off staff and cut services. “Sometimes it makes sense to bring people to hospitals,” she says. “Planning must be at the community level, open and democractic. Health care workers, who are mostly women, should not be scapegoated for financial problems. Doctors and management should go first. Physicians experience very little unemployment.” 

Many nursing and charitable homes for the aged are facing financial crisis. According to OANHSS, six charitable homes for the aged have closed since 1987 due to deficits. In 30 homes, the total annual deficit has increased 125 per cent since 1987. The Ministry of Health recently allocated special funds of $8.1 million to ensure these facilities survive until January, when a new, needs-based funding formula will be introduced. It is intended to better match the actual care requirements of the 59,000 consumers living in long-term care facilities. 

Michael Klejman, executive director of OANHSS, agrees with helping seniors to stay in their homes. “But when the elderly and their care-givers in Ontario decide that facility-based care is the best option, they simply can’t get it,” he notes. “We know from experience that many of them remain in acute care hospital beds with a cost to the province of about four times what it would cost them to fund a long-term care bed. And many, unfortunately, remain in their own flats or apartments at considerable risk to themselves, isolated and dependent on a patchwork of services.” 

Beatrix Robinow, who worked on the Alliance’s report, was not impressed with the government’s initial plans, especially the proposed creation of 40 service coordination agencies whose mandate would be to control the delivery of home care services to seniors. Robinow thinks this would add to the confusion and just be another layer of bureaucracy. Many people who appeared at the Alliance’s public hearings expressed confusion over how the long-term care system worked. 

Robinow says that the government could save money by trimming the bureaucracy and using present organizations like the little-known District Health Councils. 

“District Health Councils have nothing to do with social services,” says Robinow. “But we want them to be expanded to include long-term care and general supervision of community services. We are waiting to hear if they are interested. I would urge the government to make sure that services are in place before pushing people out of institutions.” 

The health minister is cautious about the government’s next steps. “The Alliance’s report has been very helpful,” she says. “We are in the process of developing options. Two other ministers are involved and we also need to take this through Cabinet.

“Ontario is much larger and more complex (than other provinces). The range of services is more developed. We also have a mess in jurisdictions between municipalities and the province. And in Ontario there isn’t a concensus that this is the way to go. 

“We have been doing a lot of rationalization and streamlining for longer than other provinces. Most thinking people looking at the situation agree that doing nothing would hurt the system. It is not sustainable at present. You hear a lot of things about user fees. That would be the slippery slope for medicare. That would make people think they could buy better services.”

Ironically, user fees were recently endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association, suggesting the minister will have a fight on her hands with angry doctors. 

Amidst all the confusion, Dr. Perry Kendall was appointed on Aug. 24 as the provincial government’s special advisor on long-term care and population health. This veteran of both the City of Toronto as Medical Officer of Health - and the groundbreaking Victoria Health Project in British Columbia (often seen as the model for community services to seniors) seems well qualified. “One problem in the past has been the creation of smaller and smaller organizations every time somebody felt the system was not responsive to their needs,” he says. “This created organizational chaos. The challenge  now is to get all the organizations back together to share their expertise.”

Lankin says she hopes to have a conference on the reforms in the fall. 

Monday
Mar062017

Cut services to elderly, says doctors’ survey… but leave our salaries alone!

 

“With a guaranteed income and job security, I don’t know one doctor who has suffered in the recession…”

By David South

Today’s Seniors (Canada), January 1993

If the results of a nation-wide survey of doctors are right, Canadian physicians love medicare but abhor government attempts to make them accountable for its costs. It also suggests that doctors are more willing to talk about cutting services to seniors and people with “unhealthy lifestyles” than to discuss cutting their own wages to save money. 

However, according to some doctors, physicians’s anger with the provincial government is founded on ignorance and poor analysis of the larger forces affecting health care. 

The survey, Breaking the Wall of Silence: Doctors’ Voices Heard at Last, was commissioned by The Medical Post, a national newspaper for doctors. It sent questionnaires to 12,000 doctors, receiving 3,087 responses. The Post also conducted in-person interviews to better gauge the mood of doctors. 

The survey’s title is somewhat misleading, considering that doctors have been making noise over a number of issues this year; targets included proposed right-to-treatment legislation, cuts to the Drug Benefit Plan, capping of yearly billings at $450,000, and inquiries into charges of sexual abuse by doctors. And most significantly, the last conference of the Canadian Medical Association passed a resolution calling for a two-tier health system in which those with money can hop the queue. 

Post editor Diana Swift says the poll shows fairly strong support for limiting services to the elderly, although the survey question is short on details: “I feel it is reasonable that access to high-cost services such as transplants should be rationed according to such parameters as the patient’s age and/or unhealthy habits.”

Yet just under 70 per cent of doctors opposed any capping of their salaries, despite 56 per cent of the public supporting this measure according to a 1991 Globe and Mail-CBC poll. 

When questioned, Health Minister Francis Lankin expressed surprise that doctors felt so strongly, and denied the government is considering rationing services to seniors. Lankin feels the volatile mood of doctors is a reaction to the rapid changes taking place in health care. 

Dr. Michael Rachlis, health care critic and author of the book Second Opinion, says the survey’s low response rate means that the answers reflect “redneck physicians, who are more likely to respond.” Swift admits to a high response rate from young male physicians, who since the 1986 doctors’s strike in Ontario, have been considered the profession’s most militant. 

One response which some may find alarming was towards the “Oregon model.” In that American state, medical procedures are rationed to seniors and individuals covered by medicare. Anybody needing uncovered emegency treatment has to pay for it themselves. A disturbing 65 per cent of survey respondents supported such a move. 

Dr. Gerry Gold, associate registrar at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, feels that some doctors lack perspective. “The complaints are a reflection of frustration with increasing involvement of government. But if physicians understood the role of the government in the U.S., they would realize they, along with insurance companies, intervene far more.”

Gold says doctors have had the same complaints ever since the beginnings of medicare. “Many front-line doctors lack the information to make informed comment,” he says. “They aren’t being consulted or informed by the government.”

Rachlis says many doctors fail to realize how privileged they are. “Canadian physicians don’t realize medicare has protected their autonomy more than in the U.S.,” he says. “Doctors are always angry because they have large chips on their shoulders from being brutalized in their training. They don’t realize the government has given them a privileged monopoly over health services. With a guaranteed income with job security, I don’t know one doctor who has suffered in this recession.”

Gold doesn’t foresee strikes or job actions by doctors, but predicts further government cuts, and more services being de-insured by OHIP. A recent example involved removing coverage for third-party medical exams such as those requested by employers or insurance companies. As medical procedures end up outside of OHIP, Gold foresees physicians charging whatever they like. 

A perennial idea is the user fee. This is one of the few ideas that gathers support from a majority of doctors and the general population alike. But Rachlis feels these measures are meanspirited and avoid the real problems plaguing health care. “When Saskatchewan introduced user fees for physician and hospital care in 1968,” he says, “health costs remained the same and it discouraged the elderly, the poor and people with large families from seeking service. 

“When providers are allowed to charge users for care, as in the United States, where more than 20 per cent of health care costs are paid our of pocket, overall costs go up.” 

Monday
Mar062017

Redneck renaissance: A coterie of journalists turn cracker culture into a leisure lifestyle

 

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), August 22 to September 4, 1996 

What happens when rednecks pick up a lesson or two from the world of identity politics? Mostly ridiculed by smug urbanites, or just plain ignored by the general population at large as cultural fads come and go, angry rednecks are standing tall in these conservative times. 

Part Mark Twain-like satire, reverence and condescension, a cottage industry promoting the southern American redneck lifestyle is starting to resemble past struggles for cultural pride. 

Just think of the gay rights movement in the 70s and 80s, which turned the derogatory word queer into a touchstone of homosexual pride. 

In the 90s, dismissing rednecks as a bunch of dumb crackers can not only ensure free dental work in many an American bar, it can also be seen as an affront to white American values. But while some want to stereotype this culture as the heart and soul of white working-class American ideals, it is hard not to be disturbed by this phenomenon. Can God, beer, the American Constitution and guns weave together a stable lifestyle? 

Author, radio personality and Redneck Olympics MC Bo Whaley was interviewed in a phone booth across from the bomb site at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic park. During the interview Bo was kicked out of the phone booth by Atlanta police for talking too long. He picked up the interview from a truckstop near Dublin, Georgia. 

id: What is a redneck? 

Bo: A redneck to me is a lifestyle, that's what it is. I relate rednecks to people who work hard, men of the soil. They look for the common things in life. They enjoy the outdoors, enjoy hunting and fishing. They aren't too interested in status or setting the world on fire. They like to do their own thing. Real close to being what we call a good ole boy. They enjoy life - they work hard and they party hard. 

There is nothing put on by them. They are down to earth. I really enjoy them, they are on the level. If you ask them a question they will tell you the truth. They aren't trying to impress anybody, just trying to be themselves. 

Go to the local bar and they are listening to the juke-box, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. We can make fun of ourselves down here, we enjoy it. We laugh at ourselves. Poke a lot of fun. I'm having fun with people who live on farms, live in small towns. Like to hunt, like to fish. They drink beer. I have lived in the south for 24 years. I try to look at people and write what I see. I also wrote The Field Guide to Southern Women


id: I heard the Redneck Olympics didn't go down so well with the city council. 

The chamber of commerce was concerned about the image. We attract a lot of industry to the town, they were afraid what was going out was a negative image of the lifestyle that is going on in Dublin. 

We didn't know it was going to catch on like it did. At the opening ceremony we were expecting maybe 250 maybe 350 people - and we had 4,000! The national and international media has got into it. 


id: Are rednecks all right-wing? 

On the right of the political spectrum, yeah. Happy with Newt Gingrich. I don't think we take politics as seriously as up north. (Former U.S. president) Jimmy Carter is not very popular with the rural people here in Georgia. Well, I think when he went to Washington his values changed. I can name many, many people including me, who don't like him. Right now I'm five minutes from the Carter Centre in Atlanta. I've never been to it. Not really interested in what Carter is doing. 

He is trying to solve all the problems of the world. He looks at himself as more of a missionary than an ex-president. He goes to Haiti, he goes to South Africa, Bosnia. He calls these peace conferences and by-passes the established government in the United States to try to do his own thing. It's a self-serving thing. 


id: What do you think about the militia movement? 

I do not agree with them. Right now I'm standing across from Olympic park where they had the bomb go off. People that I talked to have no sympathy for the militia, they say let the established investigators handle it and they don't have any use for (the militia) at all. 

id: Do you think the militias are a symbol of the frustration a lot of rednecks are feeling? 

I agree. But they do a lot more talking than they do acting. 

id: Why do they distrust the federal government and imagine black helicopters are helping the U.N. to set up a totalitarian state? 

I think what they feel is that they know more about handling a situation than the government does and they want to do it on their own. I don't agree with that. The government's not perfect here nor in Canada. As long as it is the government I'm going to support it. I was not a Clinton fan but once he was elected he became my president. I have to support him until he gets out. But I don't support everything he does. 

id: Is the redneck style locked in the 70s? 

The redneck symbol is more popular than it has ever been. A lot of people in offices in stuffed shirts and ties who would love to get out and live this way but they can't do it on account of losing their jobs. They like to get in a jeep or ride on a motorcycle and say "whee" and to the heck with it. Everybody in the world needs some quiet time, time to yourself to do what you want to do. 

id: Do you think rednecks are in danger of extinction in the age of the Internet? 

They are on the increase. They don't know about high-tech stuff. They haven't even got into electric typewriter yet - they are still on manual typewriter. 

id: Do they have any heroes or heroines? 

They are beer people, and if they have any drug they smoke marijuana. 

id: I mean heroes. 

Many are country music fans, like Garth Brooks and Hank Williams Jr. They are big on country music. Female rednecks admire shows like Designing Women

Oh lord, they love T-shirts. The T-shirts say "Opry land," "Dollywood," "Get your heart in America or get your ass out." They don't like plain T-shirts.
 

id: Can you give an estimate of the number of rednecks in the U.S.? 

I travel more in the South Eastern states. In my hometown, in my home county, there are 37,000 people. Most of the people there, I'd say 75 per cent are working people, they either farm or work in factories. Out of those people, I'd say 20 to 25 per cent fall in the category of what I call redneck - they work hard all day and they play hard all night. Nationwide, I have no idea. I can tell you towns that have a lot of rednecks. Chattanooga, Tennessee - lot of rednecks. Columbus, Georgia, it's a military town. In Montgomery, Alabama they work real hard at being rednecks. 

id: Is there a problem with blurring rednecks with more negative elements like the Ku Klux Klan? 

No, I really don't see that. Most of the people I know can't stand the Klan. They give country people a bad name. 

id: Some guy at the Redneck Olympics had a Klan T-shirt on. 

I'm not surprised by that. The main thing you are going to see them wearing if they have anything to do with a symbol of patriotism is a Confederate flag saying "God bless America" and "God bless the South." 

id: What about the rebel flag? 

They do not want to give it up. There is some legislator in Atlanta who is trying to ban it, and this has to do with trying to appease a faction for their votes. But you get out into rural Georgia, rural Alabama, they want to keep that flag. To be truthful it has a lot to do with the civil rights movement.

id: That it means it's an affront to the civil rights movement? 

Yeah. 

id: Are there yuppie rednecks? 

I know a neuro-surgeon living in Birmingham, Alabama, I met him through his wife while I was signing books. She came up and said "I've got to have one of those Redneck Handbooks," and I said "Why?" She said, "Because my husband is a neuro-surgeon and he's from Arkansas and all day long on in his office he's got his blue buttoned-down shirt, his navy blue suit and his spit shine shoes and driving his Mercedes. When he gets home in the afternoon he puts on his blue jeans, and denim shirt gets the pick-up truck, the dog gets in back and he starts riding in the woods." He's a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type. I see a lot of that. They kind of let their hair down. It's a release for them. 

id: Do you see the redneck lifestyle as a different kind of leisure lifestyle, a more working-class leisure lifestyle? 

I think so, David. They put on ragged jeans, say to the world "I am a redneck." 

What they like to do is go fishing. They will go to the coast and go deep sea fishing. Especially they like to go to stock car races. Big stock car fans. The faster that car goes the better they like it, and the more wrecks they have the better they like it.
 

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