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Thursday, 30 August 2012

The race to be worst - negative incentives as a public health driver

The Ontario Common Front, a collaboration of social action groups released a provincial assessment with the claim that Ontario is falling behind other provinces in their social programming.  It is a good read, and filled with wonderful tidbits of information.  Falling Behind.  Of particular interest are the analyses of the impact of the 1990’s “tax cut competition” that has greatly impacted provincial government revenues, contributing to the compromised ability to mitigate the recessive economic period that we continue to struggle to climb out of. 

Just to remain equitable and not covet Ontario’s claim to fame on the worst record on social programming.  Here are a few other claims about being at the bottom of the stack for the provinces only (ie not including the territories)

BC:  child poverty after taxes, drivers, minimum wage and a list at BC - The worst record in Canada   

Alberta : worst and rudest drivers

Saskatchewan – both worst roads and worst impaired drivers may contribute to the documented worst injury rates, scenery (yup – somebody actually polled on it), family violence

Manitoba – hip replacement waiting time, child poverty before taxes.

Quebec – worst managed province, least  friendly

New Brunswick – fiscal management

PEI – minimum wage, quality of life, mental illnesses

Nova Scotia – performing economy

Newfoundland and Labrador – perhaps perfect in almost every way.  Still - worst on myocardial infarction events, stroke events, C-section rates

There are multiple efforts that attempt to measure the best locations, most liveable cities, most equitable societies, most caring communities.  When playing with statistics and numbers, there will be a top and a bottom impacted by individual or organizational biases that selectively present data to support their position.  Whether looking at the Fraser Institute or various poverty coalitions – data presentation becomes skewed .

Even our esteemed Statistics Canada is subject to subjective filtering.  For a discussion on how poverty and income are measured and interpreted, two contrasting opinions written a decade apart by senior Statistics Canada staff Zhang 2010 Fellegi 1997 which contain similar concepts but reflect changing perceptions.  

Who really wants to be worst?  Change is stimulated by success and positive reinforcement – not focusing on the negative.   Shaming political leaders does invoke a stimulus that may lead to short term change, but rarely long term sustained improvement

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