The Opioid Crisis: It’s time to rethink our national strategy

Within the last several years, many cities and towns across the country have found themselves plagued by what we have come to call the ‘opioid crisis’. Most evidently, this crisis is typified by the surge in fentanyl-related overdoses.

The stats are simply shattering. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 16 Canadians were admitted to hospital for opioid toxicity per day within the last year. In just one weekend in the summer of 2016, fentanyl claimed the lives of 36 people in Surrey, British Columbia – the province which has been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic. According to the BC Coroners Service, fentanyl took the lives of 368 British Columbians between January and April of this year. In 2016 alone, more than 2800 Canadians lost their lives to opioid-related overdoses, and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) estimates that there will at least be 3000 more opioid-related fatalities by the end of 2017.

Despite the Prime Minister calling the opioid scourge a ‘national health crisis’, many are criticizing the federal government for not doing enough to address the situation. The government’s most vocal critics are found amongst the ranks of Canada’s New Democrats who are urging the federal Liberals to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under the Emergencies Act, authorizing the government to take “special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies and to amend other Acts in consequence thereof.” Don Davies, the NDP health critic, believes that enacting the Emergencies Act would allow the federal government to more easily and more swiftly fund measures to combat the opioid crisis.

Although stats on opioid-related fatalities are readily available for Canada’s western provinces, no official figures have come out of Ontario within the last two years, making it difficult to assess the full impact of the opioid crisis in the province. This being said, we must not forget that our neighbourhoods could be the next victims of this crisis. It is equally important to realize the need for a reorientation of our national strategy to tackle drug addiction.

How to cook vegetables and maximize nutritional value

There is some truth to the old adage, “Eat your vegetables.” A diet rich in vegetables has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, hypertension and certain types of cancer. It is also true that cooking methods alter the nutrient composition of vegetables. And, while several studies have indicated cooking can degrade some nutrients, it can increase the availability of others.

As a general rule, it is ideal to keep cooking temperature, time and the amount of liquid to a minimum. Steaming is considered the best way to cook most vegetables, especially broccoli. Steaming is a gentler way to cook because the vegetables do not come in direct contact with the cooking water.

When on a time-crunch, microwave. That is because microwaving uses less heat, little to no water, and shorter cooking times, thus, preserving nutrients such as vitamin C.

Sautée, do not fry. Sautéing in a little cooking oil, such as extra-virgin olive oil, is an ideal way to prepare many vegetables. This method will enhance flavour, and the addition of olive oil appears to increase the absorption of phytochemicals like phenols and carotenes.

Roasting and baking is another healthy way to prepare vegetables. Adding fats such as olive oil is a good idea, since many of the nutrients in vegetables are fat soluble, and the body absorbs them better in the presence of fat. Studies indicate that cutting and heating tomatoes, with the skin and seeds still intact, opens up cell walls and allows greater access to the antioxidant lycopene. Adding some fat, such as olive oil, makes the nutrient more bioavailable.

Griddling is great. Griddling involves the use of a pan with raised edges and is typically prepared in the oven or on the stove. Vegetables such as green beans, broccoli, and asparagus, cooked with a drizzle of olive oil, can increase flavour and be quite healthy.

Boiling is the least favoured cooking method. Studies have shown the process leaches water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins into the water, which is fine if the cooking water is to be consumed. Carrots are the exception. Boiling and steaming increase the levels of beta carotene which converts to vitamin A.

Other Notables:

Wash on demand. Wait to wash vegetables until just before use. This will safeguard water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Also, soaking vegetables can remove key nutrients such as vitamin C.

Depends on how you slice, dice and cut it. Cooking vegetables whole preserves water soluble vitamins and nutrients. When this is not possible, cut vegetables into large, uniform pieces that will cook evenly.

The final choice words; regardless of the cooking or preparation method, “Eat your vegetables.”


Ontario Liberals on Trial

Former Ontario Liberal staff members have been on trial twice in the last month on allegations of bribery and allegations of deliberately destroying emails related to the gas plant scandal.

The bribery allegations were related to the by-election of Liberal MPP and Minister, Glenn Thibeault, in Sudbury. It was alleged that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s former Chief of Staff, Patricia Sorbara, and Liberal organizer, Gerry Lougheed, had bribed Andrew Olivier, a prospective candidate, with a position to convince him not to run for the Liberal nomination in the 2015 by-election. It was also alleged that positions were offered to Thibeault’s staff to convince him to run in the by-election. The trial led to Kathleen Wynne appearing in court as a witness where she discussed delegating broad tasks related to the Sudbury by-election to Sorbara and Lougheed, and tried to convince the court, as well as the province, that she did nothing wrong.

The decision was eventually made to dismiss the charges, leading Ontario NDP MPP Gilles Bisson to say that the Liberals “got off on a technicality.” Sorbara said that they were grateful, and Lougheed said that the decision was a great relief.

The other trial is related to the 2010 and 2011 Liberal decisions to cancel the gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, which according to the Auditor General of Ontario cost at least 950 million dollars to close down, significantly more than what the Liberals originally promised.

The trial is for David Livingston, former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Chief of Staff and Laura Miller, McGuinty’s former Deputy Chief of Staff. The allegation is that Peter Faist, Miller’s common-law spouse, was hired by the two Liberal staff members to destroy documents related to the cancellation of the two gas plants – in particular, to wipe hard drives that were in McGuinty’s office during the transition period to Premier Kathleen Wynne. According to Faist, around 20 government hard drives were cleaned.

The trial for Livingston and Miller is ongoing and both have pleaded not guilty to breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system.

These two trials have caused many people to call into question the credibility of the Liberal government. The NDP has said that the Liberals have lost in the court of public opinion and the Progressive Conservatives have said that this is a scandal-ridden government.