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Health

Rain, wind equals no 4-20 blow out for Parliament Hill, but West Coast shines

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OTTAWA — It was a blow out, man, the kind that’s a total drag.

Protesters dotted one half of Parliament Hill’s front lawn on a blustery, rainy Saturday at the climax the first 4-20 “Weed Day” demonstration since Canada legalized recreational marijuana.

The turnout disappointed organizers who expected thousands more, but a festive atmosphere prevailed as the Peace Tower clock struck 4:20 p.m., sparking simultaneous smart phone photography and the lighting of joints, bongs and pipes.

“The weather didn’t co-operate. It kind of shut us down,” Shawn Mac, a program director for 4-20 Ottawa, said moments earlier. “Coming and going, we’ve probably seen about 3,000, but right now, probably about a thousand.”

A bout of blowing rain earlier in the afternoon meant the shutdown of a public address system, and a made for a sparse gathering of perhaps several dozen people, most huddled under plastic ponchos or tarps.

Sara Bakir, 29, of Ottawa was one of early arrivals, dressed in a dark hoodie under a black umbrella.

“It’s still nice to be out with a few like-minded people,” she said laughing, and casting her eyes at the empty and soaked brownish yellow lawn. 

Organizers learned a tough lesson even before the rain started falling — new freedoms bring great bureaucracy.

Mac said his group is encountering more red tape Saturday than on past April 20 protests.

Organizers can’t use the steps to the now-closed Centre Block, which means spectators will need a front row position on the lawn to see or hear — something Mac calls a “huge letdown.” 

“Hearing is already a problem so not being able to see is a crushing blow,” he said.

Organizers have also been told to limit musical performers to just two, Mac said, adding that isn’t in the rules of how to hold a public event on the Hill. 

New limits on auto access also meant organizers had to haul equipment and material by hand up to the lawn from Wellington Street, he added.

“It’s frustrating because legalization was supposed to … make things easier and not more complicated,” he said.

Lingering post-legalization concerns are sustaining a sense of protest among 4-20 event organizers across the country.

They include concerns over the government’s decision to tax medicinal marijuana, slow progress on legislation to expedite pardons for people previously convicted of simple pot possession, and the fact that provincial and municipal governments are grappling with retail sales and land-use laws for growing pot.

The federal government also has yet to legalize edible marijuana products and has six more months to set rules to do so. 

“Everything about legalization has made things harder, which is the opposite of what is was supposed to be,” said Mac.

Others were more upbeat and saw Saturday’s event as an inspiration to the world.

“Again, the world is watching, and I’m very proud of Canada today and Canadians,” said Kelly Coulter, a cannabis policy adviser based in British Columbia.

She said Canada is helping change global attitudes and policies as the first G7 nation to legalize pot, and she expected people from Germany and Britain to take part in Saturday’s festivities on the Hill.

It was a far cry from Ottawa’s subdued festivities on the West Coast, as hoards of people crowded Vancouver’s Sunset Beach to mark the city’s 25th annual 4-20 event warmed by rays of glorious spring sunshine amid a low lying marijuana haze.

A much smaller crowd gathered at the front lawn of British Columbia’s legislature in Victoria, but the mood was equally celebratory and defiant.

“Today, in many ways, is bittersweet for us,” said long-time marijuana activist Ted Smith, who led the countdown chant to 4:20 p.m. in Victoria. “We’re happy it’s legalized, sure, but there’s a lot of things to protest.”

Smith, in between puffs from a large joint, said the current marijuana rules are biased against entrepreneurs who want to sell their products in much the same way as craft brewers and winemakers.

And a downpour didn’t dampen the festivities at Woodbine Park in Toronto’s east end, where revellers trampled through the muddy grass to the steady thrum of house music.

Cannabis artisans sold their wares at tarp-covered stands, many expressing hope that they could one day emerge from the “grey market” to set up shop at brick-and-mortar storefronts.

Justin Loizos, owner of the Just Compassion marijuana dispensary in Toronto, said the mood Saturday was more celebratory than in past 4-20 gatherings, which felt more like protests.

The current regime may not be the “legalization people asked for,” Loizos said, but the cannabis community should take heart in just how far Canada has come.

“I see a lot of people complaining, whatever — don’t,” he said. “We’re just going to celebrate here and enjoy the day.”

— with files from Adina Bresge and Dirk Meissner.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press



Community

Canada’s First Female Astronaut coming to Red Deer for Health Fundraiser

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From the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation

The world’s first neurologist in space is coming to Red Deer

The Red Deer Hospital fundraiser also features comedians from CBC Radio’s “The Debaters”

Red Deer Regional Health Foundation is pleased to announce a new event, The Lunch Box Experience, featuring three of Canada’s brightest stars, all coming together over lunch to raise funds for critical equipment for Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut and first neurologist in space, will be the keynote speaker on Monday, September 23, 2019 at Cambridge Red Deer Hotel & Conference Centre.  To motivate and inspire audiences, Dr. Bondar draws on her remarkable depth of expertise as an astronaut, physician, scientific researcher, author, and leader.

This is Dr. Bondar’s first visit to Central Alberta, and may be your only chance to experience this extraordinary woman in person.

 

Also performing are Erica Sigurdson and Dave Hemstad, comedians both regularly featured on CBC Radio’s smash hit The Debaters.  After lunch you’ll enjoy hysterical standup from both Erica and Dave, plus an episode of witty debater-style banter that will have you in stitches!

Tickets are $125 per person or table of 6 for $700; includes a unique lunch and are available now.

The Lunch Box Experience, formally part of the Red Deer Festival of Trees event line-up (Festival Business Lunch) is a fresh, new business networking opportunity.

Proceeds from this event will go towards ceiling-mounted patient lifts at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

For more information, tickets, or sponsorship opportunities, please visit

The Lunch Box Experience:  A Red Deer Hospital Fundraiser

WHEN:     Monday, September 23, 2019

11:00am – 1:30pm

Cambridge Red Deer Hotel & Conference Centre

 

 

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Health

Health Canada announces changes aimed at dropping prices of patented drugs

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patented drugs

OTTAWA — The federal government is overhauling the way it regulates the cost of patented medicines, including ending comparisons to the United States — changes that Canada’s health minister is billing as the biggest step towards lower drug prices in a generation.

Health Canada’s long-awaited amendments to patented medicine regulations, unveiled Friday, include allowing the arm’s-length Patented Medicine Prices Review Board to consider whether the price of a drug reflects the value it has for patients. 

The list of countries that the quasi-judicial board uses to compare prices and gauge its own levels will no longer include the U.S. and Switzerland, both of which are home to some of the highest drug prices in the world.

That’s a category that has also long included Canada, something Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said she’s determined to change.

“If we look at their health care system, and we also look at the economies … it is really hard to compare their health care system to what we have here in Canada,” Petitpas Taylor said in an interview.

“When we changed the basket of countries, we changed them because we wanted to make sure could compare ourselves to similar jurisdictions that have similar health care systems and also similar populations.”

Jane Philpott, Petitpas Taylor’s predecessor in the portfolio, announced in May 2017 the government was embarking on a series of consultations on a suite of proposed regulatory changes related to the drug prices board.

Philpott said the prices review board — first created 30 years ago to ensure companies do not use monopolies to charge excessive costs — was limited in its ability to protect consumers from high drug prices.  The government expressed at the time it hoped to have the new regulations in place no later than the end of 2018.

It has taken a long time for the final changes to be put in place, Petitpas Taylor acknowledged, but she said that’s only because the government wanted to ensure it consulted with all industry stakeholders, patient groups, and people who worked in the field.

Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge was brought on as a third-party reviewer to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, said Petitpas Taylor, who anticipates the amendments announced Friday will save Canadians approximately $13 billion over 10 years on patented drug costs.

“We took our time, we did our due diligence,” she said. “At the end of the day, as Canada’s health minister, my number 1 priority is making sure that medication is available for all Canadians and when we say that Canada’s among the top three countries that pay the highest drug prices in the world, that’s just not acceptable.”

The review board now has the tools and information it needs to meaningfully protect Canadian consumers from excessive prices, board chair Dr. Mitchell Levine said in a statement.

The board hopes to have constructive talks with partners and stakeholders in coming months to make the necessary changes to its guidelines and put the regulatory amendments into effect, he added.

Petitpas Taylor called the changes a “huge step” towards a national pharmacare plan — the public, single-payer system of drug coverage Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to pursue.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party appears poised to make its own proposal for a national plan a central component of its election campaign, dismissed Friday’s announcement as little more than a stall tactic.

“The best way Canada can lower the price of drugs is well documented: buying them in bulk using the negotiating power of a 37-million-person single-payer pharmacare plan,” Singh said in a statement.

“But big pharmaceutical and insurance companies don’t want that, so after meeting with them more than 700 times since 2015, Trudeau’s Liberals are stalling pharmacare, and therefore making life easier for big pharma.”

Innovative Medicines Canada, which represents the pharmaceutical industry, warned in a statement that the regulatory amendments would limit the access of Canadian patients to new, cutting-edge treatments, and would also discourage investment in Canada’s life science sector.

“Our fear is that patients will be worse off,” said IMC president Pamela Fralick.

John Adams, the volunteer chairman of the Best Medicines Coalition, a non-profit organization representing 28 national patient organizations, said Friday that he shares the concerns that patients will be adversely affected.

“If one drug developer decides not to come to Canada or to withdraw from Canada, Canadian patients will suffer and possibly die prematurely,” he said in an interview.

Adams accused Ottawa of ignoring input from patient groups, and said one of the key issues is that the government hasn’t examined drug access in the countries in the new basket over the past 15 years compared to Canada.

The list now includes Germany, Japan, Sweden, the U.K., Italy, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, France and Norway. The former list included the U.S., Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, the U.K., Italy and France.

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press


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august, 2019

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sat24aug10:00 am12:00 pmRed Deer River Naturalists Bird Focus Group Walk10:00 am - 12:00 pm MST Three Mile Bend Recreation Area

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