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With profound regret, we take this opportunity to inform all our readers, advertisers and supporters that due to lack of resources, CASJAFVA’s current issue (90th) of our Web-Quarterly will be the final full issue after 15 years of publication. However, we hope to add worthwhile articles to the 90th issue from time to time without fixed schedule. We take this opportunity to thank you all for your unflinching and unwavering support.
The General Editor & the Publication Committee
For those not living in
Most non-Quebecers watched in disbelief as tens of thousands of students took over entire cities opposing an extremely modest increase in tuitions, spread over the better part of a decade.
A handful of commentators chalked
this up to a combination of the usual radicalism that pervades North American
university campuses and
In the shadow of the eurozone debt
crisis, some in
Quebecers enjoy a lavish welfare
state with $7-a-day daycare and the lowest tuition fees in
In such fiscal straits,
Rock-bottom tuition fees have been a
basic entitlement in
But this is not he message that they
are carrying with them, and even if it were, it would not provide a solution
for maintaining the status quo. Even if what is transpiring in
While a solid majority of Quebecers opposed the student strikers, enough of them voted for the Parti Québécois to make Pauline Marois premier of minority government. This is the same Pauline Marois who wore the emblematic red patch in solidarity with the strikers/rioters. One of the most radical student leaders was even elected to the National Assembly under the PQ banner.
In one her first acts as Premier, Marois cancelled the tuition hike. This will be subject to the politics of a minority government however, as both the opposition Liberal Party and the upstart Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) support the tuition increase.
But as we witnessed, threatening
Going to court for the health of it
“Access to a waiting list is not
access to health care.” These words, from the 2005 Supreme Court of Canada
decision in Chaoulli v.
Dr. Darcy Allen was forced to stop practicing dentistry in 2009, due to extreme, debilitating and continuous back pain. What started in 2007 as a seemingly minor injury from playing hockey, gradually turned the dentist’s life into a nightmare of around-the-clock pain. Normal tasks, like shoveling snow or tying shoelaces, became impossible. On the occasion, Dr. Allen watched helplessly as his one-year-old daughter, while crawling on a bed, lost her balance and fell off, and he could not move to catch her. When not working, all he could do was lie on his back, in a futile attempt to ease his pain.
Dr. Allen finally received a
referral for surgery in 2009. In spite of some helpful political interference
Unable to work, unable to enjoy
life, unwilling to continue living in a state of forced unemployment and
unwilling to face many more long months of continuous and severe pain. Dr.
Allen paid $77,503 out of pocket for back surgery in
Small businessman Richard Cross face
a similar challenge, living in a state of severe and continuous pain for years,
with no surgery available to him in Canada. He paid $24,236 for back surgery in
In defending its ban on private
health insurance against these new constitutional claims, the
When Tommy Douglas established
Monopolies don’t work. They don’t serve the needs of people who cannot buy a product or service elsewhere. When politicians refuse to abandon the failing policies of the status quo, a court action is often the best option to push them in the right direction.
Ex-police-chief jailed 15 years in scandal
A Chinese court sentenced the former
police chief who exposed a murder by a Chinese politician's wife to 15 years in
prison Monday in a decision that sets the stage for
The Intermediate People's Court in
the central city of
The sentence is lighter than the 20-year prison term suggested in sentencing guidelines and reflects what prosecutors at his trial called his "meritorious service" for co-operating in uncovering the central element in the scandal – the murder of a British businessman by the wife of Wang's former boss, once political high-flyer Bo Xilai.
The scandal has been the messiest, most public one Communist party leaders have had to confront in decades, triggering bruising internal jostling as the leadership prepares to transfer power to a younger generation. In the scandal's wake, Bo was removed from the leadership, his wife confessed to the murder and relations among the leaders were strained. As a result, arrangements for a party congress to install the new leadership this fall were complicated.
After Wang's sentencing, the leadership is expected to announce long overdue dates for the congress and dispose of the scandal's stickiest issue – whether merely to expel Bo from the party or hand him over for criminal prosecution. Pronouncing judgment on Bo will allow the new leaders to take charge without the scandal's overhang.
Wang's trial and conviction mark the
spectacular downfall of a publicity-grabbing police official who rose to
nationwide fame by leading a high-profile but law-bending crusade against
organized crime in the inland city of
According to an official account of
his trial, Wang had grown close to Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and after she confessed
to murdering Briton Neil Heywood, Wang covered it up until his estrangement
from her, and later Bo, drove him to flee to the U.S. Consulate in
"When mafia members break up
with their bosses, they can attempt to seek police protection. But in
The official account of Wang's trial, carried by Xinhua, portrays Wang as unbound by the law. It says he ordered surveillance of people without authorization and took bribes from businessmen connected to Bo in exchange for releasing suspects from detention.
While he first told Gu he would hide evidence and cover up her crime last November, the account said he secretly recorded her confession to poisoning Heywood, a business associate whom she said had threatened her son's safety in a dispute over money.
After his falling out with Gu and Bo, Wang ordered subordinates to gather up the evidence and in February fled to the U.S. Consulate, where he applied for political asylum, though he later surrendered to Chinese authorities. Gu was convicted of the murder last month and given a suspended death sentence.
Xinhua has portrayed Wang as being contrite. "I acknowledge and confess the guilt accused by the prosecuting body and show my repentance," Wang was quoted as saying in court last week. "For the Party organizations, people and relatives that have cared for me, I want to say here, sincerely: I'm very, very sorry, I've let you down."
As for Bo, who was dismissed as
party boss of
John Martin's defection signals more trouble for B.C.
The B.C. Liberals spent the week planning “a little surprise” for the B.C. Conservatives and sprang it mid-day Friday, on the eve of the rival party’s annual general meeting.
“John Martin Resigns from B.C.
Conservative Party, Seeks B.C. Liberal Nomination,” said the press release from
the governing party’s headquarters, as the Liberals displayed their newest
recruit at a press conference in
Martin, a criminologist and
right-of-centre media pundit, had been touted as a star candidate by the
Conservatives when they persuaded him to run for them in a byelection in one of
He’d given the party one of its best showings in a provincial election in three decades, winning 25 per cent of the vote on a shoestring campaign.
Still, the third-place finish (behind the Liberals and the winning New Democratic Party) wasn’t good enough, Martin conceded Friday.
He’d gone with the Conservatives believing they were on the rise and likely to supplant the Liberals as the party of choice for voters not wanting an NDP government. “I was wrong,” he told reporters, noting the party’s slide in the opinion polls.
On Thursday, for instance, Ipsos Reid reported the Conservatives were at 12 per cent support among decided voters, a loss of about one quarter of the 16 per cent support they’d registered in a similar poll taken in June.
Plus there were the party’s internal
troubles, on display in a series of leaked memos and coming to a head at this
weekend’s annual general meeting in
“The party has not performed up to expectations,” said a disillusioned Martin, explaining his decision to switch to a party that he’d wanted nothing to do with just a few months ago.
He says he still has significant
differences with the Liberals. He doesn’t like the carbon tax and opposes a
regional garbage incinerator in
“It’s not that far a leap,” Martin insisted. “I’m a free enterpriser. It’s a big tent.”
But it was a big leap in rhetorical terms, witness the fabulous quotes that were readily available from even the most cursory troll of the media coverage of the byelection campaign.
Among the Martin characterizations of the Liberals that are certain to be recycled by his opponents in the next election: “Theirs is a legacy of deceit, incompetence, and financial mismanagement.”
Then there’s Premier Christy Clark’s klutzy, if true, response when some of the Martin comments were played back to her Friday: “We all say things when we are trying to get elected.”
For his part, the newest member of the party of deceit, incompetence and financial mismanagement – a.k.a. the party that will say anything to get elected – came as well prepared as could be expected for the inevitable media barrage.
Joking with reporters, Martin advised that his private hobby is competitive barbecue and “if anyone can make that crow that I’m eating taste good, I’m probably the guy to do it.”
But in fairness, he is hardly the first B.C. politician to switch parties out of an estimation that it was the best way to get a seat at the cabinet table and/or keep the party on the other side of the political divide at bay.
Examples abound: Liberals Pat McGeer, Allan Williams, Garde Gardom, Jack Davis and Bill Vander Zalm and Conservative Hugh Curtis crossing to Social Credit in the mid-70s. Reformers Richard Neufeld and Jack Weisgerber going to the Liberals in the late 1990s. Ex-Liberal turned Progressive Democratic Alliance leader Gordon Wilson joining the NDP cabinet in 1999.
Recently you had Liberal supporter
Liberals fumed that Trasolini and van Dongen were traitorous opportunists and good riddance to them. New Democrats in the first instance, Conservatives in the second, welcomed the new recruit for having finally come to his senses and acknowledged a winner.
With the situation reversed Friday, so were the politically self-serving nature of the responses. More significant was the question of what the Martin switch means for the fortunes of the respective parties.
It surely adds to the troubles of the Conservatives, who go into this weekend’s meeting having lost the momentum they had in the spring. Less certain is Martin’s claim that his move might help generate winning momentum for the Liberals.
“I don’t want to wait until Adrian Dix and the NDP are elected to unite forces,” he said. “I have made this decision to prevent that from happening.
As things stand today, it remains doubtful whether the party he joined can really make that happen.
The Ipsos poll had the New Democrats at 49 per cent, 17 points ahead of the Liberals and well into landslide-winning territory, however many parties are arrayed against them.
NDP leader Adrian Dix has been warning supporters to expect the race to tighten up. But it would have to tighten up a great, great deal to head off a change of government next spring.
Why Obama will be a one-term president
As much as I do not like it, Barack Obama will be a one-term president. Why? Because his 2008 election win took so much effort, resulted from such unusual circumstances at a unique time, and cannot be duplicated.
In 2008, Obama was running against
the record of an unpopular president who doubled the
Obama was also running against an
uninspiring septuagenarian senator who chose an ignoramus as a running mate,
and who became the campaign’s laughing stock. George Bush at least knew he
could not see
Given all that, Obama should have won easily. He did not. It took extraordinary, enormous, unprecedented effort to identify, organize, and register millions of citizens who had never voted before and get them to the polls to cast that ballot. It was an effort that resulted in the highest percentage voter turnout in 40 years. And Obama was able to raise and spend much more money than McCain.
But, in the course of the campaign, to extract both the funds and the votes, Obama raised expectations so high for so many that, even in good times, they could not be met.
He has not been able to make real the dreams and aspirations of so many of his supporters, largely because Republicans have gridlocked almost everything in Congress, slowing economic recovery, and obstructed dealing with the national debt. Obama can rightfully complain, but politics is an unforgiving business. This time, there will not be that degree of enthusiasm, that outpouring of emotion, money, and organizational effort.
Why is Obama doomed?
Three reasons: First, much of the idealism and freshness of the Obama image has been lost, and too many of his 2008 supporters have lost heart, and will just not vote. Others have had their Obama-fostered idealism rubbed off.
Second, the Republicans are four years away from the policies, performance, and problems of George W. Bush. And vice-presidential candidate Ryan is a knowledgeable, competent, articulate, serious politician, in stark contrast to Palin.
But most important, in 2012, is money, which every practical politician anywhere will tell you, “is the mothers’ milk of politics.” In 2008, McCain did not have enough. This year, Mitt Romney will have too much, certainly much more than Obama. The Republicans will almost be embarrassed by the tsunami of cash flooding into their election coffers, and, since court decisions in 2010, there is now no limit to how much money can be spent by third-party advertisers, specifically Political Action Committees, or Super PACS, of which there are now about 220. Of even greater concern is that billionaires are giving millions of dollars, while the merely rich are donating in never-before-seen amounts. One very rich couple, the Sheldon Adelsons had, as of July 1, contributed $38.6 million US to various right-wing PACS. The Adelsons say they are prepared to spend $100-million this year to support right-wing candidates
The numbers gathered by the U.S. Federal Election Commission concerning expenditures during the first half of 2012 are truly startling. Of the $312 million raised by Super PACs of all political stripes, 73.8 per cent of donors gave an average of $19,944, and 94 per cent of donors gave over $10,000. But 57 per cent of individual contributors gave a total of $230 million, with 47 individuals giving more than $1 million each.
This is not the grassroots
fundraising using Facebook and Twitter popularized by Obama. This is a blatant
attempt by a few very wealthy people to drown out the voices and choices of the
many. Worse, many of the Super PACS are not required to disclose the identities
of their donors. Former president Jimmy Carter estimates that $6 billion will
be spent in this
Evidence of the corruption in
What does this kind of campaigning
Dangerous-offender status change process unjust, judge
A relatively new section of the
Criminal Code makes it too easy to label certain serial offenders as
"dangerous offenders" and infringes upon the principles of
fundamental justice under the Charter, an
Typically, when prosecutors want to designate someone a dangerous offender – a label that carries the possibility of an indefinite prison sentence – they have to call on the opinion of experts, such as forensic psychiatrists, and prove beyond a reasonable doubt the offender is dangerous.
But in 2008, the Tackling Violent Crime Act streamlined the process for certain serial offenders. If someone was convicted at least three times of certain serious or violent offences, he was automatically presumed to be dangerous and the burden fell on the defence to prove otherwise.
This presumption and the reverse onus of proof, wrote Ontario Superior Court Justice Alan Bryant on Sept. 13, is a fundamental change in the dangerous offender process and a "significant" infringement of Section 7 of the Charter.
The ruling stemmed from the case of
Roland Hill, a
Hill had previously been convicted in 2000 of sexual assault and in 2004 of assault causing bodily harm. Each of those previous cases had resulted in sentences of at least two years in prison.
Crown lawyers argued Hill met the dangerous offender criteria spelled out under Section 753 (1.1) of the Criminal Code.
They said the streamlined dangerous-offender designation process applied only to a "small class of individuals who have been proven to be very dangerous in the community."
But the judge did not accept the argument.
"I do not accept the Crown counsel's submission that there is a pressing need to streamline the process for labelling a small class of individuals as dangerous offenders," he wrote.
"A breach of an individual's (Section 7) rights cannot be justified or condoned in a free and democratic society because the class of affected individuals is small."
The judge noted that between 1978 and 2005, just under 400 people had been designated as dangerous offenders.
The judge also cited the testimony of forensic psychiatrist, Philip Klassen, who evaluated Hill. The expert was asked whether he could offer an opinion about whether Hill was a dangerous offender based solely on the knowledge of his previous convictions.
"I would decline to do it," Klassen replied.
Even though the judge found the law's presumption that certain serial offenders are dangerous to be a violation of the Charter, he still concluded based on the Crown's evidence that Hill was a dangerous offender.
Hill is due to be sentenced in October.
Still, Hill's defence lawyer, Peter Behr, said Tuesday the ruling is significant because it upholds the concept that when someone has been found guilty, aggravating facts that could lead to a harsher punishment still need to be proven by the Crown beyond a reasonable doubt.
"The prosecution should have the burden," Behr said. "The burden shouldn't be shifted to the person whose liberty is at stake."
A spokesman for
Tolerance turned tyrannical
Elaine Huguenin, who with her
husband operates Elane Photography in
But instead of being allowed a reasonable zone of sovereignty in which to live her life in accordance with her beliefs, she is being bullied by people wielding government power.
In 2006, Vanessa Willock e-mailed Elane Photography about photographing a “commitment ceremony” that she and her partner were planning. Willock said that this would be a “same-gender ceremony.” Elane Photography responded that it photographed “traditional weddings.” The Huguenins are Christians who, for religious reasons, disapprove of same-sex unions. Willock sent a second e-mail asking whether this meant that the company “does not offer photography services to same-sex couples.” Elane Photography responded that “you are correct.”
Willock could then have said regarding Elane Photography what many same-sex couples have long hoped a tolerant society would say regarding them – “live and let live.” Willock could have hired a photographer with no objections to such events. Instead, Willock and her partner set out to break the Huguenins to the state’s saddle.
Willock’s partner, without
disclosing her relationship with Willock, e-mailed Elane Photography. She said
that she was getting married – actually, she and Willock were having a
“commitment ceremony” because
Instead, Willock, spoiling for a fight, filed a discrimination claim with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, charging that Elane Photography is a “public accommodation,” akin to a hotel or restaurant, that denied her its services because of her sexual orientation. The commission found against Elane and ordered it to pay $6,600 in attorney fees.
But what a tangled web we weave when
we undertake to regulate
more and more behaviors under overlapping codifications of conflicting
rights. Elaine Huguenin says that she is being denied her right to the “free
exercise” of religion guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and
a similar provision in the New Mexico Constitution. Furthermore,
Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law thinks that Huguenin can also make a “compelled speech argument”: She cannot be coerced into creating expressive works, such as photographs, that express something she is uncomfortable expressing. Courts have repeatedly held that freedom of speech and the freedom not to speak are “complementary components of the broader concept of ‘individual freedom of mind.’ ”
New Mexico’s Supreme Court is going to sort all this out, which has been thoroughly reported and discussed by the invaluable blog the Volokh Conspiracy, where you can ponder this: In jurisdictions such as the District of Columbia and Seattle, which ban discrimination on the basis of political affiliation or ideology, would a photographer, even a Jewish photographer, be compelled to record a Nazi Party ceremony?
The Huguenin case demonstrates how advocates of tolerance become tyrannical. First, a disputed behavior, such as sexual activities between people of the same sex, is declared so personal and intimate that government should have no jurisdiction over it. Then, having won recognition of what Louis Brandeis, a pioneer of the privacy right, called “the right to be let alone,” some who have benefited from this achievement assert a right not to let other people alone. It is the right to coerce anyone who disapproves of the now-protected behavior into acting as though they approve of it, or at least into not acting on their disapproval.
So, in the name of tolerance, government declares intolerable individuals such as the Huguenins, who disapprove of a certain behavior but ask only to be let alone in their quiet disapproval. Perhaps advocates of gay rights should begin to restrain the bullies in their ranks.
Not the government’s kids
Last week an advocacy group called The Parental Rights In Education Defense Fund (PRIEDF) held a press conference to seek support for the view that educational authorities should “accommodate the religious beliefs of a Christian parent.” I went on automatic pilot, scribbled “you bet” on the margin of the press release, and threw it into the garbage.
This being the 21st century, I did it electronically – a good thing, too, because I had less trouble retrieving it when something started bothering me a few hours later.
I must say, fishing something out of the electronic trash isn’t as grimy as fishing it out of garbage of the other kind. Hmm, just as I thought. The press release illustrates how tricky it is to formulate these things.
Next thing I knew, I split in two like an amoeba, starting a spirited argument with myself.
Why specify “a Christian parent”?
You can’t, can you? What if the parent’s religion requires the ritual sacrifice of a maiden to an Aztec god, Tlaloc, say, or Tezcatlipoca, every month? How should the school authorities accommodate him? By not mentioning the subject, or not mentioning that it’s wrong? By excusing his child from attending a class that deals with controversial topics, like human sacrifice? Or by subsidizing sacrificial virgins, maybe?
Don’t be silly, there’s no such religion today. Why worry about something extreme that isn’t likely to ever occur? Cross that bridge when you come to it. I predict you never will.
Oh really? What about female genital
mutilation? That’s pretty far-fetched by our standards but it does occur. How
do they accommodate parents who object to it being discussed critically? Can
schools say it’s wrong? Hint at it, maybe? Or can they say only that it’s a
By the way, just what does “accommodate” mean? Say there’s a church on school property that rings its bell every day at as Catholic (and many Protestant) churches have done for over 500 years. The bells toll to celebrate a Christian victory over Islam that was a big deal when it occurred in the 15th century.
How do you accommodate a Muslim parent who objects to his child being reminded every day, precisely at noon, as ordered by Pope Callixtus III, to mark the moment in 1456 when the Christian general Janos Hunyadi, in charge of Belgrade’s defenders, lifted the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II’s siege of the city, thereby delaying Islam’s expansion in Europe by three-quarters of a century?
How? I don’t know how. Stay awake all night and worry about it if you like. No one raised church bells at noon. You don’t have to solve extreme examples no one is asking about. Why not deal with what’s on the table?
Okay, what’s on the table?
Well, it says in the press release that, “The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board has denied the father of two elementary school children the right to be notified about lessons which may contradict his Christian beliefs. This prevents him from withdrawing his children from such classroom lessons or exercises.”
What kind of Christian beliefs? Sex?
What difference does it make? Yes, it includes sex.
Well, maybe the father thinks they’re too young to discuss sex.
That’s not being argued. The press release says: “This family holds sincere religious beliefs which guide their views on various issues, including marriage, family and human sexuality.” It seems this guy has certain values, and he doesn’t want his children exposed to contrary views until he’s good and ready. He’s entitled to that, isn’t he?
Does the school board think he isn’t?
Well, according to Lou Iacobelli, chairperson for the legal defence fund, “the father was met with the condescending suggestion that if he didn’t like the curriculum, he ought to put his kids in a private school or homeschool them instead.”
Well, that’s probably what I would suggest to him. If he can afford it.
Sure, that’s fine as private advice, but it’s pretty arrogant if you have a duty to accommodate someone. The educators don’t seem to dispute that he’s entitled to take his children out of certain classes, but having to warn him is a big nuisance, and they just want to make it difficult for him. That’s a kind of petty, bureaucratic vengeance.
Well, what do you expect? That’s government. Shakespeare called it the insolence of office. It’s the same all over the world.
What about the merits? Who is right?
The whole point, surely, is that it doesn’t matter who is right. What I think about sex education is probably closer to what the school board thinks, but it’s immaterial. The applicant, a Dr. Steve Tourloukis, said he is seeking a court order “to acknowledge my inherent parental rights to direct the spiritual and moral education of my own children. They’re my kids, not the government’s.”
Unless someone suggests he’s an unfit parent, and no one has, there’s nothing more to be said.
Cutting corporate welfare helps
Canadians value our mixed economy because it offers the best of both worlds: a system in which people who work hard can get ahead, while the poor, sick and infirm are protected by a generous social safety net. We can squabble about how much freedom the market should have to distribute goods and services or how much money should be put toward social programs, but there is one thing that all of us – small- and big-government advocates alike – should be able to agree on: Corporate welfare is bad for society.
And yet, between 1994 and 2007, the
A new report from the Fraser
Institute analyzes the loans and grants distributed by Industry
According to the Fraser Institute,
Mark Milke, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and author of the study, concludes that “peer-reviewed research on business subsidies does not support claims that corporate welfare is responsible for economic growth or job creation, two of the most oft-heard claims. At best, a generous interpretation of the literature suggests that subsidies may, in very specific locations, produce some effect on local economic behaviour. Also, this impact is typically offset by losses elsewhere in the economy from tax rates that are greater than would be the case without business subsidies.”
It is important to remember that businesses already receive private funding through the stock market, loans and private investment. When the government provides businesses money at rates that undercut the market, it is either taking business away from the banks (which would otherwise have supplied the needed funds to businesses with a good chance of making a go of it), or supporting ventures that have little chance of success. After all, in cases where the government needs to step in with interest-free loans or grants to keep a business afloat, there was probably a very good reason that private lenders didn’t see enough value in the investment to get involved. The bottom line is that corporate welfare serves either to needlessly enrich businesses that would have been just fine on their own, or to prop-up businesses that would, and should, have failed under normal market conditions. In all cases, corporate welfare makes competition unduly difficult for new businesses, or foreign companies, that aren’t receiving the preferential treatment.
This is not an issue of partisan
Reducing the amount of money we spend on business subsidies would go a long way toward furthering the government’s goal of maintaining a healthy, stable and competitive economy, while reducing the debt burden that is left behind for future generations.
Marijuana smoking linked to testicular cancer: study
Young men who had smoked marijuana
recreationally were twice as likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer than
men who have never used marijuana, according to a
Researchers whose findings appeared in the journal Cancer said the link appeared to be specific to a type of tumour known as nonseminoma.
"This is the third study consistently demonstrating a greater than doubling of risk of this particularly undesirable subtype of testicular cancer among young men with marijuana use," said Victoria Cortessis of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, who led the study.
"I myself feel like we need to take this seriously now," she added, noting that the rates of testicular cancer have been rising inexplicably over the past century.
The research isn't ironclad proof that the marijuana is to blame, and even if it is, the danger isn't overwhelming. According to the American Cancer Society, a man's lifetime risk of get-ting testicular cancer is about one in 270 – and because effective treatment is available, the risk of dying from the disease is just one in 5,000.
So far, little is known about what causes it. Cortessis said undescended testicles, in which the testes remain in the abdomen beyond the age of a year, are a risk factor. Both pesticide and hormone exposure have also been associated with the tumours. Cortessis and her colleagues used data from 163 young men who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and nearly 300 men in a comparison group without the disease. Both groups had been interviewed about their health and drug use between 1987 and 1994.
Among the men with cancer, 81 per cent had used marijuana at some point, whereas that was the case for 70 per cent of the comparison group.
By contrast, cocaine use was linked to a smaller risk of the tumours. That's important because it signals that men who have been diagnosed with cancer aren't just more honest about their drug use, thereby creating a spurious link between marijuana and cancer, Cortessis said.
It's not entirely clear how marijuana would influence men's cancer risk, but Cortessis said developing testicles may somehow respond to the drug's main active ingredient.
The new study is
"interesting," said Carl van Walraven of the
For instance, it didn't find an increased risk among men with higher marijuana use, and it was relatively small.
But Cortessis highlighted the consistent results from all the studies so far.
"It is hard to imagine a scenario whereby it is due to chance and I can't think of a systematic bias that would cause this. I will feel very confident that this is cause and effect once we have worked out the biology," she said.
B.C. government continues to fail
The B.C. government is failing to protect the rights and freedoms of children in the polygamous community of Bountiful, continuing a years’ long pattern of indecision, indifference and, at times, sheer naiveté.
Since January, a number of boys have been banished. At least 40 children have been taken away from their fathers and parcelled out to “new” dads after their biological fathers were deemed unworthy and expelled by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
One source says there are fewer than 30 men left among the nearly 500 FLDS followers in the southeastern B.C. community.
Those followers are taking their
orders from their prophet Warren Jeffs, a pedophile jailed in
Jeffs, the convicted sex offender, is directing every aspect of children’s lives from his jail cell.
Four children whose father was declared apostate have been banished. They range in age from six to nine.
FLDS leaders following Jeffs’s
orders have all but shuttered the
Mothers have been ordered to minimize physical contact with children. Fathers – even those who haven’t been expelled – are forbidden from having any physical contact with their children, warned that they will be deemed to be “adulterers” if they even hug a toddler or pat a little one on his or her head.
Play is forbidden. Toys, games, sports and all other recreational activities are banned.
Six of the expelled men – fathers to 40 children – said in sworn affidavits last week that they’re concerned their children’s education will come from listening to hour after hour of Jeffs’s sermons, both taped and accessed through YouTube, now that the Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School has been all but shuttered.
And what has the B.C. government done? Nothing.
And that is “very disturbing,”said Child and Youth Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in an interview Monday. Following the “egregious behaviour” by the FLDS, she said, what happens next is “a test of the government,” which has “tiptoed around the issue for a long time.”
This test, as she described it, comes on the heels of the lengthy and expensive reference case that was decided by Chief Justice Robert Baumann. He determined that polygamy is so inherently harmful to children, women and society as a whole that it justifies limiting religious freedom and freedom of association.
But while it may be a relief to some
taxpayers not have to spend $1.1 million supporting
Some of Jeffs’s tapes from the 1990s
were entered as evidence in his
Even if BESS opens later this month, as the school authority has promised the Education Ministry, children will no longer be required to be taught by accredited teachers.
What Turpel-Lafond wants – and what anyone who cares about the welfare and protection of children should support – is more aggressive and more creative action from the government.
She wants more vigilance from the Education Ministry to ensure that Jeffs’s sermons – the words of a convicted sex offender – are not being read or played to children or any home-schooled FLDS children.
Attorney-General Shirley Bond should consider a Canadian court order to bolster the American restrictions on Jeffs to include a ban on him having any contact with Canadian children via social media or taped sermons, Turpel-Lafond said.
If necessary, she said, the government should not shy away from charging mothers or anyone else who carries out Jeffs’s orders.
Meantime, Turpel-Lafond said, child welfare officials need to step up investigations within the FLDS community to ensure that children are not being neglected, abused or “passed like baggage from one home to another.”
But she rightly acknowledged it’s not easy. Even banished FLDS members have little experience in the outside world, and even if they are aware of their rights and what services are available, they’re distrustful.
None of the six fathers told child
welfare officials that their children have been stripped from them, that they
were concerned about their children’s schooling or that their children may not
have enough to eat. None of the boys who have been kicked out of
This banishing of men and boys, rearranging of families and the forced marriages of girls shouldn’t be happening here or anywhere.
While laws and regulations can’t
cover everything, the B.C. government needs to catch up to the egregious and
disturbing reality of
Illegal Citizen Probe Widens
A widening federal crackdown has identified a record number of people suspected of acquiring their Canadian citizenship and immigration status through fraud, according to a government source.
The number of newcomers under investigation for misrepresenting themselves in their dealings with Citizenship and Immigration Canada has ballooned to an historic 11,000 as a result of nationwide enforcement.
The figure is almost double the
6,500 identified by federal officials less than a year ago, suggesting that
Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, was expected to brief reporters on the new figures on Monday. A source said he would announce that officials were stripping 2,900 Canadians of their citizenship for fraud.
The announcement comes nine months after Mr. Kenney said his department was working with the Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP to combat the problem, and vowed to prosecute those involved and strip them of their Canadian status.
Since then, dozens of charges have been laid, mostly against immigration consultants accused of helping clients defraud the government. Mr. Kenney has said consultants were collecting "upwards of $25,000" per family for this service, making it a multi-million dollar racket.
At least 5,000 of the 11,000 now
under investigation are permanent residents suspected of committing residence
fraud, which occurs when an immigrant claims to have moved to
Immigrants are required to actually
They then return to their home
countries. Nonetheless, they pretend to be living in
Many of those involved in the scam
are from the Middle East, particularly
"Anecdotal evidence suggests
that a percentage of applicants from the
The study, released under the Access
to Information Act to
Only residents of
The problem is also said to be acute
"As a result," reads
another government report released to Mr. Kurland, "many permanent
resident applicants are reluctant to leave the Gulf to settle in
A common scenario involves immigrant
families. While the spouse and children do live full-time in
A source said the spike in the fraud
numbers was also the result of a new case management system that alerts
enforcement officials when a large number of immigrants give the same address
as their home in
Revoking permanent resident status from fraudsters is fairly straight forward, but a Cabinet order is required to strip citizenship from a Canadian. Some are expected to fight the decision through the courts.
About 3.4 million of the city's seven million people are eligible to directly elect just over half the seats in the 70-seat legislative council at a time when anger over perceived Chinese influence in the former British colony is growing.
"It will, at least, contain the damage, and I'm sure it will relieve the pressure on the pro-establishment and the pro-Beijing candidates," said political scientist Joseph Wong.
Hong Kong is a freewheeling
capitalist hub which enjoys a high degree of autonomy, but
Sunday's polls are a rough barometer of public support for Leung and his pro-Beijing allies on the one hand, and the opposition pro-democracy camp on the other, which is seeking to maintain its one-third majority to give it veto power over policies.
A host of China-linked controversies have dealt a blow to Leung and may help bolster the pro-democracy par-ties at the ballots, analysts say, making it more difficult for his administration to enact policies in a fractious legislative council.
"I see many more voters this
time round. Usually the mornings are quieter," said one voter surnamed Hon
as ballot centres opened across
"Before it didn't matter so much who got in, but this time, I thought it was important to vote to stop people and parties I didn't want from getting into the legislature," said another voter surnamed Chan.
In 2003, a demonstration by half a million people against Hong Kong's first China-backed leader, Tung Chee-hwa, led to the scrapping of a controversial anti-subversion bill and his resignation midway into his second five-year term in 2005.
While tensions have grown over mass Chinese tourism, an influx of mainland mothers giving birth in the city and the national education plan, others said livelihood issues were crucial. "I vote for people who can help us the most," said Anthony Tsang, a deliveryman voting at a rural polling station in a sleepy offshore island. "I care about livelihood, housing costs, wages and medical care."
Over the past week, the
administration has scrambled to quell some of the anger by providing more
afford-able housing and mitigating the impact of mass
Hong Kong to vote amid discontent over
Tens of thousands of people
But the results are likely to reflect a recent upsurge in anti-China sentiment, which has been exacerbated by a plan for a school curriculum extolling the achievements of the Chinese Communist Party.
Thousands of people have
demonstrated outside government headquarters for the past week demanding the
school program be scrapped, forcing Leung Chun-ying to cancel what was to have
been his first major international engagement as Hong Kong's leader at an
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in
On Friday evening, the crowds swelled further as tens of thousands of citizens, many dressed in black, denounced the curriculum as Communist party propaganda that glossed over the darker aspects of Chinese rule, hitting a nerve in the former British colony that remains proud of its freedoms 15 years after London handed it over to Beijing.
"I am really scared (about) this national education," said a retired fireman in the crowd with his five-year-old grand-son. "They really aren't talking the truth. They are telling a lie to the children."
Organizers said 120,000 people showed up, while police put the figure at 36,000.
The protests have included hunger
strikes and the parading of a replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue that
was erected in
The demonstrations have also thrown a spotlight on a new generation of activists deter-mined to have their say.
"He feels that just by
repeating the same lines, the problem will go away," Lo Chi-kin, a public
affairs consultant, said of Leung, who has had deep-rooted ties to
"These post-'80s and -'90s young people will not just go away after hearing the government utter the same old lines. They really want a part in the decision-making process – and if you don't give them an equal chance at being a part of that process, the only way is for them to take to the streets."
Hong Kong is a freewheeling
capitalist hub that enjoys a high degree of autonomy, but
The latest outbreak of discontent
represents yet another headache for
Three more Liberal MLAs announce their exit plans
Premier Christy Clark lost two more high-profile cabinet ministers Thursday as Education Minister George Abbott and Children's Minister Mary McNeil confirmed they would not seek re-election in May.
The pair joined Chilliwack MLA John Les, parliamentary secretary to the premier, who announced his retirement earlier in the day.
Neither Abbott nor McNeil resigned from their ministries, and they will continue to sit as the MLAs for Shuswap and Vancouver-False Creek, respectively, until the next election.
"That cabinet will be comprised of MLAs who are committed to running in 2013," he said. "That's exactly the right thing to do, and that's what I would have done, as well."
The trio of retirements followed that of Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, who resigned Wednesday.
A former legislative intern, Abbott was first elected to the B.C. legislature in 1996 and joined cabinet immediately after the Liberals took power in 2001.
He has served as minister in the health; aboriginal relations and reconciliation; community, aboriginal and women's ser-vices; and sustainable resource management portfolios.
Abbott acknowledged that he would
have run again had he defeated
"I would not be here, taking this step, were I to have the extraordinary opportunity to be premier, but history didn't work out that way for me, so one gets to do some other things," he said.
Nor does he have any plans to return in the future. "For me, never is never. I've had a great run politically, but I've exhausted that part of my life."
To date, 10 sitting Liberal MLAs have indicated they would not seek re-election.
Two others – Iain Black and Barry Penner – departed last year, triggering byelections that the Liberals lost to the NDP. John van Dongen, a former solicitor-general, jumped to the upstart B.C. Conservative Party earlier this year.
Despite those departures and the
government's sagging popularity, Abbott refused to rule out
"She is a remarkable campaigner, a remarkable communicator," he said. "She has, I think, an opportunity because of those assets to turn this around."
But NDP leader Adrian Dix said
Dix said the Liberals had lost their way since the 2009 election, and that the government's principal legislative achievement remains the HST, which was withdrawn in the face of public pressure.
"The challenge for them is that, since the 2009 election, they haven't delivered on what people expected from them and they seem to be out of gas," he said.
Dix contrasted that with his team,
which he said is united and strong.
"There is traditionally in election campaigns an advantage for the government at the candidate level because they have cabinet ministers and they're better known," he said. "I think clearly the team that's strong is the NDP team, and I think our message of positive politics is resonating."
Future pension payouts to age 80 for B.C. MLAs who will have left office before the next election.
Gordon Campbell – 15 years Vancouver-Point Grey left office in 2011
$1.7 million $98,175/year
Bill Barisoff – 17 years
$1.57 million $90,992/year
George Abbott – 17 years Shuswap
$1.54 million $89,084/year
$1.54 million $89,000/year
Kevin Krueger – 17 years
$1.5 million $87,700/year
Barry Penner – 15 years Chilliwack-Hope left office in 2011
$1.35 million $78,500/year
Kevin Falcon – 12 years Surrey-Cloverdale
$1.09 million $62,893/year
Harry Bloy – 12 years Burnaby-Lougheed
John Les – 12 years
Dave Hayer – 12 years Surrey-Tynehead
Iain Black – 6 years Port Moody-Coquitlam left office in 2011
Kash Heed – 4 years Vancouver-Fraserview
Mary McNeil – 4 years Vancouver-False Creek
Ineligible for MLA pension with less than six years of service
Michael Sather – 8 years Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge
Dawn Black – 4 years
Ineligible for MLA pension with less than six years of service
Doctors among worst offenders for poor hand hygiene
Nearly one-third of hospital workers are not washing their hands regularly, despite strong evidence that it is one of the primary ways to prevent the spread of infection in hospitals.
A recent report from the Provincial Infection Control Network found that while sanitation-compliance rates have improved since 2007 – when regional health authority programs were set up to tackle hand hygiene issues – the latest statistics show physicians and nurses are still falling well short of the 80-per-cent compliance target.
Good hand hygiene practices can help mitigate the spread of germs like C. difficile, a virulent stomach bug that causes diarrhea and may progress to bowel perforation, sepsis and even death, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO recommends washing with soap and water as the preferred way to deal with C. difficile, which is resistant to hand sanitizer.
The Provincial Infection Control Network documented close to 1,500 cases of C. difficile in B.C. during the past year, with almost half of them in the Fraser Health region.
The Infection Control Network's study found that hospital-acquired infections like C. difficile kill 8,000 to 12,000 Canadians a year.
Physicians were among the least likely to wash their hands both before and after contact with patients, according to the report. Nurses, with a 73percent hand-sanitizing compliance rate, were the most likely to do so. Slightly more than half of the physicians observed by auditors made use of basins or alcohol-based handrubs.
"There's no excuse for not cleaning your hands," said Dr. Shelley Ross, president of the B.C. Medical Association. "There's probably as many reasons as doctors as to why it doesn't happen, but we're planning to send out a little reminder [to physicians] that it's good practice, and to please remember that the patient's wellbeing is at stake."
The BCMA sends its members an information circular twice a month, Ross said, adding that the hand hygiene reminders will be included in the next issue.
In another attempt to stem the spread of viruses, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall introduced new rules last week that would require health care professionals to get a flu vaccination or wear a mask to stem the spread of influenza.
To monitor hand washing, the Provincial Infection Control Network sends trained auditors across B.C. every quarter to observe a sample of staff in acute care facilities. The compliance rates in the report reflect how often workers wash their hands when the opportunity presents itself. Some of the barriers identified by the study include lack of sinks, availability of hand hygiene products, and people feeling that they are too busy to be washing their hands all the time.
"We know compliance is better
if you have hand wash stations close by," said
A provincial mandate to tackle the
hand-cleaning issue is in place,
Initiatives include putting up posters reminding staff to wash their hands, placing alcohol-based sanitizers in strategic areas, and getting patients in the habit of asking caregivers if they have washed up, he explained.
Care facilities in B.C.'s Northern Health Authority, in particular, have been making strides to ensure more hand sanitizers and wash basins are readily available and accessible, said Fraser Bell, the authority's vice-president of planning and quality.
The Northern Health Authority ranked last among the six B.C. health regions observed by the network last quarter. Auditors noted only 58 per cent of the health-care staff cleaned their hands before and after working with patients.
"It's most assuredly a number
we want to raise," said
The Northern Health Authority's
efforts to raise compliance levels is largely in line with what other regions
are undertaking, said
Information and education campaigns and in-house auditing run alongside an employee recognition scheme, where the names of fastidiously clean staff are posted on the health authority's website.
The push for better hand hygiene
seems to be moving in the right direction,
But Dr. Bonnie Henry, director of the BC Centre for Disease Control, said the study is not definitive. The report's reliance on audits is a potential weakness, she said, and is one of the reasons why the target performance rate is pegged at 80 per cent and not higher.
Auditors may not be given access in certain situations to collect data and observe, Henry said, such as when staff are in rooms meeting with patients. Nevertheless, she insisted the report's value as a means to raise awareness cannot be discounted.
"It's a big-picture indicator that helps us understand what's going on," she said. "The report focuses [the health authority leadership's] attention on the issues. It's very important that authority CEOs look at this and say, we need to do something."
Hand washing is considered an effective way of preventing infections for hospital patients. Between 8,000 and 12,000 Canadians die every year from infections they acquire during hospital stays. Below are the hand hygiene compliance rates for health-care workers in B.C. last year:
Source: Provincial Hand Hygiene
Working Group of
Asylum-seekers rush to
About 150 people were aboard an
overcrowded wooden fishing boat that sank off the
The emergency was the latest created by a growing human smuggling trade in which thousands of would-be refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka attempt dangerous sea voyages from Indonesia to Australia.
The new approach will begin when the
The numbers have been steadily climbing: More than 9,800 asylum seekers have arrived this year, more than double the total for all of 2011.
"People smugglers are running a
closing-down sale," Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said. He predicts
asylum seekers will stop paying people smugglers $10,000 or more to trans-port
them more than 400 kilometres from
A previous conservative government
established camps in
A Labor government closed the camps after winning elections in 2007, a year when only 339 asylum seekers arrived by boat. As the numbers have grown, the influx, and the deaths of would-be migrants at sea, have angered many Australians.
No asylum-seeker deaths have been confirmed
since the policy change was announced, but more than 300 have lost their lives
making the perilous journey across the
Authorities also fear the worst for
67 asylum seekers who have not contacted family or friends since they left
In the latest incident, a boat
reportedly carrying 150 asylum seekers sank off the main Indonesian
The crew of a merchant ship taking part in the search, Liberian-flagged APL Bahrain, spotted survivors in the water early Thursday 75 kilometres southwest of Java and rescued six, Clare said.
"There are grave fears for a lot more," Clare told reporters.
Nistorescu said the six rescued, all Afghan men, appeared to be in good condition and had been in the water for almost 24 hours. There were also women and children aboard the asylum-seeker boat when it sank, he said.
He added he believed he saw bodies in the water. "I think I saw some of them dead," he said.
Other merchant ships, Indonesian government ships and Australian military boats and planes also were involved in the search.
B.C. NDPer leaning to the Red
When last seen, B.C. New Democrat Jagrup Brar was making a long point about welfare rates in his province. The MLA from Surrey-Fleetwood spent a month last winter living on $610, the current welfare rate for a single, employable adult in B.C.
"I've not been able to buy
enough food," Mr. Brar complained one day in January, as he walked to a
temporary new home in
Recently, he went to
Sure, Cubans may not "have as much right to free speech" as Canadians, and they "lack the freedom to travel outside the country," which Mr. Brar ascribed only to their relative poverty. "The business community there as a percentage, compared to ours, is quite low," conceded Mr. Brar, the NDP's small business critic. But these were niggling concerns, because "the gap between the rich and poor does not exist."
This was too good to ignore. The
ruling Liberals pounced. "Jagrup Brar expressed over the top admiration
for nanny state communist
A caucus, British Columbians hardly need reminding, that will likely form part of a new NDP government after May 14, 2013, when the next provincial election is scheduled. The NDP has for months enjoyed a commanding lead in voter-intention and opinion polls, much to the chagrin of right-leaning B.C. voters, many of whom can no longer support the Liberals and have migrated to a third party, the B.C. Conservatives. A Liberal-Conservative vote split would almost guarantee an NDP victory in 2013.
On Wednesday, B.C. finance minister Kevin Falcon announced his resignation from cabinet, effective immediately. He will not seek re-election next year. A scrappy politician with a reputation as a strong fiscal conservative, Mr. Falcon finished second to Christy Clark in the Liberal party's 2011 leadership contest. He's the highest-profile government member to bail from cabinet. Rumours have swirled around the province's brainy education minister, George Abbott, who came third in the leadership race. He could be the next big name to fall.
Mr. Bennett, on the other hand, will definitely run again; he made public his intentions just last week. That may not be a good thing for B.C. Liberals; he's a notorious hot head who was turfed from caucus a few years ago after intemperate attack on former Liberal leader Gordon Campbell, whom he described as a verbally abusive bully. Mr. Campbell once got so angry with him, he recalled, that "he got in my face, he actually spit in my face. He is not a nice man."
Now he's being mocked for desperate,
hyperbolic "red-baiting." This, just as Ms. Clark announced her plans
for another trip to
This is B.C. It gets stranger. What,
precisely, did Mr. Brar tell his radio interviewer? The National Post asked the
two-term MLA for an interview; the request was turned down by NDP officials in
The Liberals provided a transcript
of his Radio India interview, translated from the Punjabi. According to the
transcript, Mr. Brar told his radio interviewer that in
He went on at length about
There is no crime in
"He told me that the 'rat race' that exists in our society doesn't take place there. He said they enjoy their lives and live their lives to the fullest. That's the type of life there," Mr. Brar said. "People roam free in the streets whether in the cities or the villages. I witnessed young women in the streets catching rides or waiting for the bus."
Everything is spic and span in
A socialist's paradise, in other
words. Free of crime, free of dirt, free of worry, free of wandering cattle,
free of critical thinking. Where "everyone is dressed the same."
Coming soon, to
Ryan pledges shake-up of status quo
"I think people are going to like what they see because we are offering specific bold solutions to get people back to work, to get this country back on the right track," Mr. Ryan said. He acknowledged having a stricter anti-abortion stance than Mitt Romney but said he's comfortable with the Republican nominee's position "because it's a vast improvement on the status quo."
Mr. Ryan was speaking in a television interview before making a late night speech to the Republican National Convention that was expected to both energize and reassure conservatives who had been wary of their nominee to unseat President Barack Obama.
Mr. Ryan's address will highlight
the convention's second day, after Mr. Romney's wife and others played to the
deep economic anxiety of
In his speech, Mr. Ryan wanted to talk policy, but Mr. Romney's team wanted him to focus more on his immigrant family and small-town values.
"Words matter a lot and I'm putting a lot of effort into them," said Mr. Ryan, a former speechwriter to 1996 vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp and former Education Secretary William Bennett.
Mr. Ryan, a 42-year-old congressman, is the author of a tough Republican budget plan that makes heavy cuts in social programs.
In advance of Mr. Ryan's speech, the Obama campaign released an online video targeting him as a politician from a "bygone era." The video criticizes him for being the architect of a budget that would overhaul the federal health care system for seniors and for seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, a national nongovernmental organization that provides health care to poor women and counsels those seeking abortions.
Mr. Romney ducked out of
The military budget and many other
government programs face deep cuts after Congress failed to agree on a spending
plan that would work toward reducing the
"This president's greatest failure has been his failure to deliver those jobs" for veterans, Mr. Romney said.
Also scheduled to speak Wednesday
night was Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state under former President
George W. Bush. She told CBS television earlier in the day that the
Delegates rocked the convention's first
night with enthusiasm for Mr. Romney, the multi-millionaire former
Ms. Romney recalled meeting her husband at a high school dance and described how he had attacked every challenge he has faced – from reviving the struggling 2002 Salt Lake Olympics to helping her battle multiple sclerosis and breast cancer.
"At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance has helped lift up others," she said. "He did it with the Olympics, when many wanted to give up.
"This is the man
She added, "I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a 'storybook marriage. Well let me tell you something--in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer.
"A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage."
Mr. Romney, who will give his convention-ending speech on Thursday night, made a cameo appearance on stage after his wife finished her speech. He gave her a kiss on the podium and waved to the roaring crowd before leaving as a band played My Girl.
The problem with being nice
It would be lovely to think that Liberal senator Joyce Fairbairn, who is sadly afflicted with Alzheimer’s-style dementia and was declared legally incompetent in February, was allowed to continue performing her duties in the Red Chamber – i.e., vote along party lines – as a gesture of universal compassion and goodwill among her colleagues. Logic suggests her illness would have been well-known. And Conservative senators David Tkachuk, chair of the Senate’s board of internal economy, and speaker Noel Kinsella were both made officially aware of her condition last month, at the latest, and hadn’t made a fuss.
But according to at least one Senate source, this is too much to ask: While Mr. Tkachuk and Conservative Senate leader Marjory LeBreton expressed their well-founded concerns delicately, one of their colleagues anonymously voiced his frustrations to a National Post editorial board member on Tuesday.
“[Senate Opposition Leader] Jim
Cowan [is] a serious guy who was appointed to the [Senate] by
This claim is unproven but plausible, unfortunately, and indeed the senator’s stated intent to go on sick leave, as opposed to resigning, has somewhat the same effect (though admittedly, it does seem heartless to deny someone sick leave simply because her condition is irreversible).
But even if it had been a gesture of compassion and goodwill from her colleagues – as Liberals insist it was – it would have been a misplaced one – not simply because it made perfectly legitimate controversy of a widely respected senator’s unfortunate medical condition; but because it brought Parliament into disrepute. Letting a mentally incapacitated senator run out the clock professionally serves to insult the body that Joyce Fairbairn herself has long loved and taken seriously
Many commentators have focused on the obvious tie-in with the Senate’s do-nothing reputation. While that reputation is not entirely deserved (there are a number of very hard working senators, including some whose op-eds regularly appear in these pages), any tolerance for incompetence among its members – whether due to illness or disposition – certainly exacerbates it.
The far more insidious argument is to allow Senator Fairbairn to run out the clock because it would be a “nice” thing to do, and because it wouldn’t make a difference to the outcome of any vote. Never mind important committee work, which requires keen analytical minds. To argue, effectively, that it doesn’t matter who sits in a seat is to argue that Parliament itself is irrelevant.
One could make the same case for this misplaced compassion – in fact a stronger one – if Senator Fairbairn had been, say, a Conservative MP in a majority Parliament. What difference does it make, the argument might go, if the member for Canuckton East is doped up, drunk or asleep most of the time, or non compos mentis? She’s just there to vote to enact the Prime Minister’s Office’s wishes.
The fact that Parliament is ever
more irrelevant, and that most MPs and Senators are in
On the bright side, anonymous
kvetching aside, the obvious discomfort those inside the
Falcon's departure adds to premier's re-election challenge
Kevin Falcon played the family card while resigning as finance minister and backing out of the commitment he made during the Liberal leadership race to run in the next election, win or lose.
No doubt his desire to spend more time with his family played a part in his decision. He has a young child and his wife is pregnant. But he leaves Premier Christy Clark with yet another challenge.
Falcon was careful to express
That speculation is fuelled by her failure to turn around the party's dismal standing in public opinion polls and the number of senior Liberal MLAs who are announcing they won't face re-election. In advance of every election, MLAs decide not to run again for a variety of reasons. But the prospect that those who are re-elected may find themselves in opposition for the next four years rather than as part of a government will undoubtedly be part of the decision they make this time.
All of this adds up to an uphill
Her first challenge will be to find a credible replacement for Falcon, who has been a competent administrator and a credible salesman for the difficult decisions a finance minister has to make.
That appointment may have to wait until some of her other veteran ministers declare their intentions. The next time she realigns her cabinet it will be in the form of a team that she will have to persuade British Columbians is a better alternative than the group Opposition Leader Adrian Dix is able to assemble.
The finance minister will play a pivotal role, as will the budget that she or he will present in February. That budget will have to reflect the fiscal reality of a sluggish economy while showing optimism for a brighter future that politicians who hope to be elected have to be able to promise to deliver.
The creation of a new team will also be an opportunity for Clark, who has been labouring under the heavy bag-gage left by the departure of former premier Gordon Campbell under the cloud of the disastrously imposed HST.
But if she can beat the odds and put together a winning team and a winning platform on the back of a sound fiscal plan, it is not too late for her to use a clean slate for her advantage.
Falcon leaves Liberals in dire straits
As the B.C. Liberals prepared to pick a new leader in early 2011, Kevin Falcon made a supreme effort to undercut front-runner Christy Clark.
The Falcon campaign commissioned and
circulated two opinion polls showing that
“Christy Clark is the candidate who poses the greatest risk to the coalition, and thus the future success of the party,” declared Ryan Beedie, Falcon’s key backer in the business community, in a missive leaked to the news media on the eve of the leadership vote.
Falcon himself took aim at Clark’s other weak spot, the suspicion that she was only interested in the leadership and would likely reclaim her spot as a host on radio station CKNW if she didn’t win.
“Christy, I’ve made a commitment to run in this election win or lose,” he challenged during the most pointed exchange in the campaign’s only televised debate on Shaw TV. “So whether I win or lose, I’m going to be a candidate for the party.”
She rose to the occasion, appointing him deputy premier and minister of finance, putting him in charge of keeping the government on track to balance the budget within two years.
She also deferred to his determination to try to save the harmonized sales tax in lieu of her own notion, floated at the outset of the leadership race, that the thing was beyond rescue.
It was. But even after the government wasted six months and millions of dollars on that exercise in futility, she stuck by him. She did the same when his fingerprints turned up all over the botched naming rights deal with Telus for BC Place Stadium.
This spring he fired off a memo to all members of cabinet, warning them not to make big spending announcements without first ensuring that every penny was approved by the ministry of finance. She backed him.
Even as the rumours multiplied that
he would renege on the commitment to run again,
At her big fundraiser in June, she praised him as a finance minister who “sweats the details” on fiscal matters, “putting in the late nights away from his family,” leaving others to speculate about how much longer the restless Falcon would be staying in her government.
Not much longer as it turned out. Wednesday Falcon announced that he was leaving the cabinet for the proverbial more time to spend with family and greener pastures (meaning “greenbacks”) in the private sector.
His accompanying statement, as carefully crafted an exercise in not burning bridges as I’ve seen in many years, even included a thanks for provincial news media. The man is shameless.
As a once and future leadership candidate, he didn’t even pretend to be going for good. “Never say never,” he told reporters, adding, in the course of an interview with Bill Good on CKNW, that he didn’t want to say any words that he might be obliged to “eat” in the years to come.
As for that pledge he made back in the leadership race, he offered variations on “that was then, this is now.” The away-from-home grind of the ministry was getting to him. He and his wife are expecting a second child about the time he’d have been delivering the next provincial budget.
But as a dedicated player of the political game, he knows as well as anyone how this action will be interpreted. He’s leaving party and premier in the direst straits, just 18 months after he vowed to stick with them win or lose.
Ironically, the one member of the government who can’t complain publicly about being left in the lurch is person who defeated Falcon for the leadership. For as Clark noted in a press conference that followed closely on the heels of his announcement, his departure bore a more than passing resemblance to her own exit from provincial politics eight years ago.
Sept. 16, 2004: Christy Clark resigns from the cabinet of the then first-term B.C. Liberal government to pursue what proves to be a successful and lucrative career in the private sector.
She cautions reporters against interpreting her departure as a comment on the government’s political fortunes: “This is a personal decision not a political decision.” She wants to spend more time with her son: “The government’s going to be able to find another politician but Hamish is never going to find another mother.”
What about a comeback? No
She wrote the script. But this time around, somebody else is following it.
Falcon bows out, premier expects more to leave soon
Just hours after Kevin Falcon announced his departure from politics Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark promised to soon unveil the inner circle of cabinet members she will take into the next election.
Speaking at an afternoon news
To help combat the perception of a mass exodus, the party is also expected on Thursday morning to issue a list of nomination meetings that have been scheduled in the first half of September for 11 returning Liberal MLAs, including John Yap, Bill Bennett and cabinet minister Margaret MacDiarmid.
"That cabinet is a cabinet that is ready to take on the task over the next eight months, and into the election, of making sure that we are assuring the future for B.C. families, creating jobs all across the province and making it possible for our kids and our grandkids to take advantage of the kinds of opportunities that we have."
So far, two of
Those include former cabinet ministers Murray Coell, Kevin Krueger and now Falcon.
It is not uncommon for several government MLAs to retire before an election, especially when the government is facing a tough fight, as the down-in-the-polls B.C. Liberals are now.
In advance of the 2001 election, 15 incumbent NDP MLAs, about 40 per cent of the then government caucus, chose to retire rather than face the electorate.
Fifteen Social Credit MLAs retired in advance of the 1991 election, which spelled the end of their days as a governing party.
On Wednesday, Falcon said his decision to leave was both a personal and a practical one, explaining he and his wife are expecting a second child in February.
"After almost 12 years in public life, I wish to return to the private sector in a yet-to-be-determined role," Falcon said, adding he is hoping to find a proper balance between his family and work lives.
Falcon also gave up his role as
Falcon said he did this in part because he would have had to deliver a budget in February, when his wife is due to give birth.
But he also said Clark's government needs a finance minister who will not only make the tough calls needed to return the government to a balanced budget – as it has promised to do this coming February – but who can also fight for those fiscal decisions during the next election campaign.
Falcon's departure robs
"What we are going to be doing is building a very broad coalition of really exciting candidates that are going to be going forward in the next election."
Falcon will remain the MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale until the 2013 election, and said he does not have any job offers at the moment.
New Democratic Party finance critic Bruce Ralston said he thinks Falcon will be a difficult minister for the Liberals to replace.
"He was a very strong performer, a very capable minister who approached his job with gusto," Ralston said, adding it would be a mistake to interpret Falcon's departure as a definitive sign that Clark and her B.C. Liberals are done.
"Obviously they're experiencing some difficulty, but what our leader Adrian Dix has said is that as we approach the election, the numbers will tighten up," he added.
"It will be a competitive election and we are certainly not underestimating the ability of the B.C. Liberals to recuperate."
In a statement, B.C. Conservative Party leader John Cummins thanked Falcon for his contribution to public life, but said he believes the departure is a sign of greater discord for the governing party.
"Kevin Falcon's announcement
today signals the beginning of a dramatic change in
"It is evident that both the government and the governing party are in turmoil."
At the sentencing, Judge Robin Baird said the Crown's request of two to three years in prison was "too lenient." The defence had asked for an 18-to 24-month conditional sentence followed by probation, or an intermittent sentence.
Bencze, 45, will also have to register as a sex offender and is prohibited from using electronic devices to contact minors for the next 10 years and from going to such public areas as parks, schools, playgrounds, community centres and daycare centres for the next 20 years.
Bencze was arrested in January 2011, and later charged with nine sexual offences related to three children. He pleaded guilty in July to one count of sexual assault involving a boy, who is now 14. The offending began when the boy was around six years old.
A number of other related charges against Bencze were stayed by the Crown.
Bencze has been on bail for 18 months, unable to live at home with his wife and three children and only able to visit his children while supervised.
Bencze's assaults on the boy included sexual touching and acts, as well as sexually explicit text messages.
Judge Baird read statements the boy and his mother made previously regarding the offending.
"I feel that I have missed out on a childhood that was meant for me, not the tainted one that I have experienced," the boy wrote.
Clerk under fire for travel expenses
IntegrityBC released documents Tuesday showing Craig James – acting chief electoral officer from June 2010 until August 2011, and now clerk of the B.C. legislature – claimed $43,295 from Elections BC for travel between Aug. 25, 2010 and December 12, 2010.
"This is an individual who
chose to fly in the lap of luxury whenever possible on flights, and to stay at
some of the finest hotels throughout
"It demonstrates a sense of a culture of entitlement," he added, saying his non-profit organization requested the travel expenses after receiving a tip about the costs.
Documents show James' expenses
included $14,523.58 for him and his wife to fly to
Other expenses included almost
$6,000 for James to attend a National Conference of State Legislatures in
Disclosure documents posted to Elections BC's website show James' successor as chief electoral officer, Keith Archer, has spent only $15,409.17 on travel in his first 11 months on the job.
James stayed at the Cosmos Club in
On Tuesday, James defended the expenses saying they were all legitimate, and that all bookings were done in accordance with the policy of the day.
"The trip to Kenya was the annual conference for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and [New Democratic Party MLA and then deputy speaker] Claire Trevena and her husband Mike, and the speaker [Bill Barisoff] and his wife, and myself and my wife attended this conference," James said in an interview, adding he gave a talk at the conference on the recall and initiative process.
James said he was asked to give the talk because he had been overseeing the high-pro-file initiative vote on the Harmonized Sales Tax.
James said he was able to bring his wife because of a policy allowing senior Elections BC staff to expense two tickets – for themselves and a spouse – if they are cheaper than one business class seat.
"The practice has been that you can take that business class ticket and split it in two, provided the economy fare doesn't exceed the business class fare," said James.
Documents released Tuesday show that policy at Elections BC was contained in a document approved by James himself, shortly after he took the job.
James also said that much of his travel was subsidized by other organizations, and so taxpayers are not footing the entire cost of his travel.
"A lot of my travel is with the
World Bank, the Common-wealth Parliamentary Association and most recently with
La Trobe University, which has now been shifted over to
Documents obtained by IntegrityBC
through a freedom of information request show James submitted documentation
showing an executive class trip on Air
The release by IntegrityBC comes at a time of widespread fiscal austerity in government, with Finance Minister Kevin Falcon having cracked down on executive salaries and perks recently at several Crown corporations.
The release also came on the same day James was overseeing the first public meeting by the committee that oversees the management of the legislature and its spending.
In that meeting, James pro-posed that on a quarterly basis he would provide the commit-tee with a financial report on the legislature's activities and spending.
On Tuesday, Elections BC spokesman
Don Main said James's
"That trip was planned before
he started with Elections BC, but because that happened in his tenure while he
was at Elections BC, Elections BC would have paid for that,"
That policy states that travel expenses of a spouse can only be expensed when "a spouse is formally representing the government and a written invitation has been issued to the spouse," when "travel is to a pre-retirement seminar or awards function," or when the employee is relocating.
The Speaker's office did not respond
to a question about the budget for Barisoff and Trevena to go to
The NDP said Trevena's trip was funded entirely by the Speaker's office.
Economic downturn spurs Romney's momentum
After a long summer of bombarding each other with attack ads, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney enter the convention season almost exactly even.
Not only do the polls have them within a percentage point or two nationwide, but in the crucial swing states, where the Electoral College will be won or lost, the race has demonstrably narrowed.
Narrowed, that is, in Romney's
If you're a Democrat, you're comforted Romney is not doing better, what with the state of the economy and all.
But if you're a Republican, you're astonished the Democrats have not been able to put Romney away, given the resources devoted to "defining" (politics for "smearing") him as a tax-dodging, job-killing, out-of-touch phoney. With more money left in his war chest, and millions more to spend via "independent" political action committees, the convention is Romney's chance to "redefine" himself as thoughtful, decent and caring.
Conventions matter, don't get me wrong. If they are no longer the place where the substantive business of picking a nominee or drafting a plat-form is done, they are important showcases all the same.
And not only for the candidate. An impressive speech, in a political culture that, much more than ours, values oratory, can launch a career in national politics, as witness the performance by a little-known state senator from Illinois in 2004.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's keynote will be closely watched, as will Florida Senator Marco Rubio's introduction of the candidate, and of course Paul Ryan's acceptance of the nomination for vice-president: the race for 2016 or even 2020 has already begun.
But elections, especially in the States, are hardly ever determined by a single event.
We media types have just spent several weeks pulling our hair out over a succession of gaffes and slip-ups (oh my God, did you see what the British press said about him?) that were sup-posed to have sealed Romney's fate by now: Todd Akin's musings about rape and pregnancy are the latest in a long line.
It hasn't turned out that way. By election day they will all have been forgotten.
Likewise, if Romney's vastly off-putting public persona – the smarminess, the clumsy ad libs, the Thurston Howellish references to his enormous wealth, the periodic casual exchanges of one position for another – were going to sink his candidacy, they would have done so long ago.
Like George Bush the elder, whom he resembles in many ways, Romney seems to erect a mental screen between private life (generally upright) and politics (wildly unscrupulous): politics is that nasty thing you do on the way to governing. People know that about him, and have largely discounted it.
So whatever the convention's gauzy attempts to present the "sensitive" side of Mitt Romney, I don't think that's what will close the deal. Rather, he has to convert widespread public disaffection with Obama over the economy into a conviction that he can do better.
The Republican base is as lukewarm
about him as ever. At a pair of rallies on the eve of the convention, one
organized by the socially conservative Faith & Freedom Coalition, the other
by the small-government Tea Party, his name was barely mentioned – and raised
scant cheers when it was. What drives both groups is a determination to be rid
of Obama, who they are convinced is leading
Well, there was one reference to Romney that was guaranteed to elicit whoops at both rallies: his choice of Ryan as his running mate. Socially conservative enough to reassure the Christian right, fiscally conservative enough to excite the most ardent Tea Partier, Ryan has given Republicans a positive reason to show up at the polls, beyond dishing Obama.
At the expense of frightening off
centrists and independents? At other times, his radical plans to reshape the
Obama may have extended health insurance to the (sizable) minority without it, but the already insured majority are concerned what it will mean for them. On the economy, like-wise, it is not the eight per cent who do not have a job who will decide this, but the much larger number who worry they will be out of a job before long, if things carry on as they have.
Is Obama responsible for the state of the economy – for good or ill? Probably not, even if neither side wants to admit it.
The financial crisis predated his presidency, as did most of the important measures that prevented crisis from becoming collapse: the Federal Reserve's massive purchases of private and public debt, and the bank bailouts.
Probably there was little anyone
could have done to boost economic growth beyond that: recovery from
"balance-sheet" recessions is almost always a painfully slow
business. Probably, too, the
What can be fairly argued is that
Obama's stimulus efforts have plunged the
That is the case Romney needs to make: if not that he can restore the economy to full health, at least that he can stop the government from dragging it down. The convention is as good a place as any to start.
Legislature's financial oversight committee lets the sun
For the first time in a long and secretive history, the all-party committee in charge of managing the affairs of the B.C. legislature is scheduled to meet publicly in the provincial capital Tuesday.
Observers, including news media representatives, are welcome to attend. Hansard is recording the proceedings for those unable to make it for a long-overdue moment in open government. The six-member legislative assembly management committee (LAMC), which has been around in various con-figurations for 25 years, decided late last month to let the sun shine in at its next meeting.
Or rather, it was shamed into doing so by a devastating report from Audi-tor-General John Doyle, who documented the lack of proper controls over the assembly's $70-million annual budget and his own five-year struggle to get those in charge to fix the problem.
With the committee having also decided to accept Doyle's recommendations, there's some thought that the opening of its meetings may turn out to be somewhat anticlimactic news-wise. But I doubt that will be the case with the one scheduled for late next month, when his scrappy-ness him-self, auditor-general Doyle, is scheduled to make an appearance to defend his findings.
Tuesday's proceedings are also expected to take up another lingering controversy arising out of the Doyle report, namely the role played by the office of the clerk of the legislature.
The auditor-general spread the blame around for the lapses documented in his report to include the committee as well as the offices of the Speaker and the office of the clerk.
The committee, as noted above, has moved to clean up its act. Speaker Bill Barisoff, duly chastised, has recently announced he will not seek re-election, though he was already contemplating that course before the Doyle report came out.
The clerk through most of the time when Doyle was auditing the assembly was George MacMinn.
He is one of the most respected
figures in the 140-year history of the provincial assembly and the
longest-serving legislative clerk anywhere in the
As an authority on parliamentary procedures here in B.C., he has no equal. He literally wrote the book on it: Parliamentary Practice in B.C., now in its fourth authoritative edition.
But as the senior clerk, he was also the administrative overseer of operations for the assembly, including the chamber, Hansard services, security, the library, the gift shop, and, ahem, the keeping of the accounts through the office of the legislative comptroller.
While there is plenty of blame to go around on this issue – I fault the Speaker and both parties for lack of due diligence, first and foremost – the fact remains that Doyle's repeated warnings went unheeded, for the most part, on MacMinn's watch.
His concern, from all appearances, was to preserve the assembly's hard-won independence. But to what end? The question arises from a report on the controversy regarding the legislature accounts that was commissioned by MacMinn's successor as clerk of the assembly, Craig James.
He also warned that in the public realm, there were other risks to the assembly's reputation besides the loss of independence.
"There is a risk of a loss of public confidence in the operations of the assembly and its members," he wrote, taking note of the fiscal shenanigans that brought disrepute to the mother of parliaments in the United Kingdom as well as to the legislatures in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
"A series of financial indiscretions can raise questions about the over-all integrity of the legislature," said van Iersel in the report delivered last fall and released this summer. "It is extremely important, therefore, for the assembly to have a well functioning internal control system – including well-developed oversight by the committee as well as periodic audits." The office of the clerk cannot operate as an office unto itself. Without proper oversight and periodic audits, the assembly risks its standing with the public. It is hard not to interpret those comments as a verdict on the goings-on at the B.C. legislature.
MacMinn retired a year ago after more than 50 years at the clerk's table, to be replaced by James.
But the octogenarian former clerk remains on contract to the assembly as a consultant until September 2013 at the not-inconsiderable fee of $240,000 a year, as disclosed earlier this month by reporter Rob Shaw of the Victoria Times Colonist.
Severance or not, the continuing payout to MacMinn has proved to be too much for the New Democrats.
"I'm disappointed he's still being employed by the legislature," declared NDP house leader John Horgan, strongly suggesting the clerk consultant should leave altogether after Doyle's damning report.
Attempts to persuade MacMinn to go quietly have to date failed. As the day ended Monday, Horgan was planning to raise the issue at LAMC, ensuring its first public meeting will not lack for controversy.
Chaotic first day back to school
UNIVERSITÉ DU QUÉBEC À MONTRÉAL
Small groups of masked protesters, armed with lists, sought out classrooms in faculties where students voted to remain on strike. They interrupted the classes by shouting and shutting off the lights. Some of the classes were cancelled.
One professor, who teaches students from departments that are on strike and others that aren't, summed up his dilemma.
"I was hoping that either everyone would show up, or no one would show up – so I wouldn't have to make the decision whether to teach or not," said the professor, who declined to provide his name.
As it turned out, when masked students barged into his class shortly after 9 a.m., he was there by himself and the class had been cancelled.
In one psychology class a masked protester attempted to convince another student of the democratic legitimacy of the disruption. The actions, he explained, came after legitimate strike votes were held by student associations.
"We're only disrupting classes in departments that voted to strike," he said.
But the student simply turned her back on the protester.
The striking students continued to bang on desks and blew an air horn until the professor raised his hands in frustration and cancelled the class.
Protesters blocked media cameras and one demonstrator muttered: "It's voyeurism."
UNIVERSITÉ DE MONTRÉAL
Seven protesters were detained at the Université de Montréal, but released without charge.
A standoff had erupted in the corridors between security guards and masked protesters as they tried to free the seven demonstrators who had been detained in a fourth-floor classroom.
Lines of guards stood shoulder to shoulder to block a hallway against a couple of dozen protesters.
The guards faced a barrage of shouts and a couple of plastic garbage cans were tossed in their direction.
At one point, the protesters held a vote about whether to charge the line of guards. The group decided against rushing the line after not enough people in the huddle raised their hands in agreement.
Moments later, word spread that riot police had entered the building. The protesters scattered, knocking over garbage cans and chairs in their wake.
One protester, who said he was caught between security staff and angry demonstrators, sported several red finger marks on his neck.
"A security guard grabbed me by the throat and pushed me," MarcAntoine Bergeon said outside the school after the confrontation.
"It's really intense because there's so much negative energy."
Two protesters, their faces covered with clothing, warned a news photographer at the school that he had better not try taking pictures of them: "Be careful," a woman told him.
"They're going to take care of you."
When Paul Ryan MET 'WMR'
It is refreshing to see the
metamorphosis of the
The earlier part of 2012 was filled
with the snipers of the Democratic media – especially the giggly sharpshooters
of the New York Times, Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins – aiming their derision at
the ludicrous succession of Republican challengers that originally contested
with Mitt Romney. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was exposed as a parrot for
hypochondriacal vaccine-averse mothers on the primary trail. Texas governor
Rick Perry, who jogged with a handgun and had his father-in-law (i.e. the
grandfather of his children) perform a vasectomy on him, and had his infamous
"Oops" moment at a televised debate, returned to the Lone Star state
a laughing stock. "Hermanator" Cain, a pizza executive, was flying
high until his extra-marital paramours massed in such numbers that they could
not all have been shoe-horned into the Republican convention hall in
As each rose to rival Willard Mitt Romney, they rushed over the wire and entered a conviction-free zone whose answer to the economic crisis was 59 platitudes interspersed with shrieks of "Freedom!" – and then fell away under the withering fire of the Democratic shooting gallery and Romney's attack ads. All the while, the administration, which has been guilty of the worst fiscal mismanagement in American history and the most unsuccessful foreign policy since Jimmy Carter, if not Warren Harding, did nothing more than stand at a safe distance from the battlefield and take pot shots at Romney and his Republican allies. "Wedge issues" popped up like bunnies, and muddied the pre-convention waters while Mitt dispatched the non-Mitts, but ineffectually decried the volcanic hemorrhages of federal debt – a failing that Ryan was brought in to remedy.
Todd Akin's remarks about "legitimate rape," and the failure of the Missouri GOP candidate to drop out of that state's Senate race, serve to obscure the truth that it was Obama who first provoked controversy in the bioethical arena. The Roman Catholic Church was ordered by the administration to pay for the contraceptive desires, including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization treatments, of employees and students in Catholic institutions. When objections arose that this was a violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, and that it was both offensive and illegal to try to force the Church of 80 million Americans to pay for what it disapproved of (though in practice the widespread recourse to contraception by Catholics is not deemed a hindrance to their good standing in their Church or eligibility for its sacraments), the administration and its national media amen corner perceived a Republican "war on women." Maureen Dowd instantly uncovered a plot by the Republicans to "force women back into chastity belts" (a device that not 50 women in American history had worn, and a plot that not one sane American remotely wished).
Until Ryan was picked, the country
was evidently discouraged by this dismal contest. Never in
Taxes would be reduced and greatly
simplified under Ryan's policies, and Medicare (which in the
Now the president will have to make the statist argument and plead his case before the country. The Republicans will have to fend off an avalanche of fear-mongering, but the country knows that their vastly wealthy nation has been chronically mismanaged by both parties and all levels and branches of government. The trivial, demeaning claptrap and back-biting that was all that has been politically on offer in that country since the piping days of Ronald Reagan will give way to debate on serious subjects, no matter how tinged with pyrotechnics about impending misery and bankruptcy (even if the incumbent vice-president, Joe Biden, an amiable malapropistic airhead, kicked off by telling an African-American audience last week that Romney and Ryan would put them "back in chains").
What was shaping up as a real snoozer of an election between a failed president and a preternaturally unexciting challenger, may turn out to renovate the whole corrupt, hackneyed, clichéd, blowhard American political process, and generate the debate the times and the country require. If WMR,(I know it hasn't caught fire like FDR, JFK or LBJ, but I still can't chin myself on calling a possible successor to Washington and Lincoln "Mitt"), can make such a tactically and substantively inspired choice of running mate, he may be able, as the oath requires, to "faithfully execute the office of president."
Playing identity politics
You wouldn’t guess it listening to Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois these days, but there was a time when the separatist party courted ethnic minorities rather than treating them with suspicion. “We have to form with the cultural communities a new world, a model society, better, free, open and welcoming,” said Gérald Godin, immigration minister under René Lévesque in the 1980s. “For cultural diversity is the guarantee of a nation’s enrichment and open-mindedness.”
The contrast with the PQ’s current campaign is striking. If elected, the party says it will prohibit public-sector workers from wearing such religious symbols as the hijab, yarmulke and turban. It will force immigrants to pass a French test before they can run for public office, submit a petition to legislators or make political donations. And it will block new arrivals and their children from attending English post-secondary colleges, going further than the original architects of Bill 101 dared.
Now when Ms. Marois declares her openness to immigrants, there is a significant “but” that follows.
“We insist on conserving our
identity, our language, our institutions and our values,” she says. Those
values “are not negotiable. We do not have to apologize for who we are.” What
has traditionally been a party of the left, attracting voters as much for its
social-democratic program as its independence project, has veered sharply to
the right on the question of
Pierre Bosset, a law professor at Université du Québec à Montréal, said he was a lifelong PQ supporter until the party transformed after finishing third in the 2007 election. Leader André Boisclair, who had proposed removing the crucifix from the National Assembly and defended accommodations for religious minorities, was squeezed out and replaced by Ms. Marois, who immediately adopted tougher language.
“For me, that is the ugly strain of
“I think it’s significant that people who have been sovereigntist for a very long time and voted for the Parti Québécois, who voted Yes in both referendums, are leaving the PQ,” he said.
Jacques Pelletier, a literature professor at UQAM, is an indépendentist who quit the PQ decades ago. He sees the party’s embrace of an inward-looking nationalism as a reaction to the failure of the PQ’s sovereignty project. “It’s a return to a kind of traditional nationalism that defends a history, defends a culture, defends a past, rather than a project for the future,” he said.
Daniel Weinstock, a law professor at
The current PQ approach, he said,
has a dual purpose. On the surface, it is an appeal to francophone Quebecers
But the PQ’s proposed secularism
charter, which would ban public servants from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols
(a crucifix on a chain would be OK) and its citizenship law, which would oblige
candidates for office to have an “appropriate knowledge” of French, also seem
designed for constitutional challenges. Mr. Weinstock said the initiatives
would never survive a Charter challenge, which would allow a PQ government to
“It’s a way of trying to create
winning conditions [for a referendum], not by proposing a positive inclusive
Jean-François Lisée, who advised Ms. Marois on the citizenship initiative when she first proposed it in 2007, is running for the PQ in the Montreal riding of Rosemont and would be a shoo-in for a cabinet post should the party be elected.
He said opinions are divided on
whether the PQ’s plans would withstand a court challenge, but he acknowledged a
defeat in the Supreme Court of Canada would not be all bad. It would be a
rejection of a “reasonable demand” by judges “named without our advice or
consent,” interpreting a Constitution “that was adopted without our advice or
consent,” he said. “Will that say something about our ability to be free within
Mr. Lisée said the restrictions the
PQ proposes are necessary to protect the French language and the core values of
gender equality and the neutrality of the state. He cited demographic studies
predicting that people whose primary language is French will be a minority in
“We’re in peril of losing critical
The PQ might have helped its case if Ms. Marois had managed to present its identity platform in a more coherent fashion. The party has never specified which religious symbols it would ban and for which jobs. Mr. Lisée said there might be a more “laissez-faire” approach to religious symbols among hospital staff. On citizenship, Ms. Marois said the French requirement would apply to all Quebecers, before correcting herself a day later to say anglophones and First Nations members would be protected by a grandfather clause.
The PQ proposals are not in the same
league as the discourse of far-right parties in
Mr. Bosset fears the PQ platform, if
enacted, will strain inter-cultural relations. “The message it sends is that it
is acceptable to discriminate against new arrivals in
Breivik sentence should keep him in prison for life
Right-wing extremist who killed 77 apologizes to 'militant nationalists' for not executing more people
By Karl Ritter
Accepting a sentence that could keep him imprisoned for life, Anders Behring Breivik regretted not killing more people in a bomb and gun massacre that left 77 people dead.
Breivik's gruesome and defiant
statement Friday marked the end of a legal process that has haunted
Prosecutors said they, too, would
not appeal the ruling by
"Since I don't recognize the
authority of the court, I can-not legitimize the
Then, Breivik said he wanted to issue an apology, but it wasn't for the victims, most of them teenagers gunned down in one of the worst peacetime shooting massacres in modern history.
"I wish to apologize to all militant nationalists that I wasn't able to execute more," Breivik said.
Earlier Friday, Breivik smiled with apparent satisfaction when Judge Wenche Elisabeth Arntzen read the ruling, declaring him sane enough to be held criminally responsible and sentencing him to "preventive detention," which means it is unlikely he will ever be released.
The sentence brings a form of
But it also means Breivik got what
he wanted: a ruling that paints him as a political terrorist instead of a
psychotic mass murderer. Since his arrest, Breivik has said the attacks were
meant to draw attention to his extreme right-wing ideology and to inspire a
multi-decade uprising by "militant nationalists" across
Prosecutors had argued Breivik was insane as he plot-ted his attacks to draw attention to a rambling "manifesto" that blamed Muslim immigration for the disintegration of European society.
After first telling the court they needed time to review the verdict, prosecutors later told reporters Norway's chief prosecutor had decided not to appeal. Breivik argued authorities were trying to characterize him as sick to cast doubt on his political views, and said during the trial that being sent to an insane asylum would be the worst thing that could happen to him.
"He has always seen himself as sane so he isn't surprised by the ruling," Breivik's defence lawyer Geir Lippestad said.
The five-judge panel in the
"He has killed 77 people, most of them youth, who were shot without mercy, face to face. The cruelty is unparalleled in Norwegian history," Judge Arne Lyng said. "This means that the defendant, even after serving 21 years in prison, would be a very dangerous man."
Some far-right leaders argued
Friday's verdict played into their core beliefs, though they have spoken out
against his violent rampage. "It was obviously wrong what he did, but
there was logic to all of it," said Stephen Lennon, the 29-year-old leader
of the English Defence League. "By saying that he was sane, it gives a
certain credibility to what he had been saying. And that is, that Islam is a
Survivors of the attacks and relatives of victims welcomed the ruling.
"I am very relieved and happy about the outcome," said Tore Sinding Bekkedal, who survived the Utoya shooting.
"I believe he is mad, but it is political madness and not psychiatric madness," Bekkedal said. "He is a pathetic and sad little person."
Per Anders Langerod, another shooting survivor, said he would like to visit Breivik in prison "and yell at him for 15 minutes."
"I don't want to hurt him because I have a problem with violence, now more than ever," Langerod said. "But I want to yell at him. I want to explain to him what kind of egomaniac mass murderer he is and how he has affected so many people so terribly."
Wearing a dark suit and sporting a thin beard, Breivik smirked as he walked into the courtroom to hear his sentence, and raised a clenched-fist salute.
Breivik confessed to the attacks
during the trial, describing in gruesome detail how he detonated a car bomb at
the government headquarters in
Eight people were killed and more than 200 injured by the explosion. Sixty-nine people, most of them teenagers, were killed in the shooting spree on Utoya island. The youngest victim was 14.
In testimony that stunned relatives
of his victims, Breivik said he was acting in defence of
Breivik's lawyers say he is already at work writing sequels to the 1,500-page manifesto he released on the Internet before the attacks.
Breivik most likely will be sent back to Ila Prison, where he has been held in pretrial detention. He has access to a computer there but no Internet connection. He can communicate with the outside world through mail, which is checked by prison staff.
Fighting the flu
New regulations require B.C. health care workers to get shots or cover up when treating patients
By Tara Carman and Manori Ravindran
Health care workers in B.C. will be the first in the country required to either get influenza vaccinations or wear masks when treating patients.
The regulations, to be introduced this year, were announced on Thursday by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall. They are designed to improve the low rate of vaccinations among health care workers and reduce the risk of infections among the most vulnerable people in the province.
"That's way lower than we'd like to see and it's actually been dropping over the years," he said.
Hospital Employees' Union spokesman Mike Old said the union supports improving the vaccination rates among staff, but would prefer to keep vaccinations voluntary.
The B.C. Nurses'
Micheal Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said the advocacy group will be studying the issue "very intently."
"In particular we would be interested in finding out what the scientific evidence is that the government is relying on to make the claims that it makes. This is a highly contested medical field and the claims are bold and very general," she said, referring specifically to the claim that such a measure will save lives.
"A million questions arise as to what we are getting for what we are losing. It's a very draconian step to mandate a medical intervention and in order to justify that, the benefits have to be crystal clear and [of] a very high standard."
The new regulations were backed by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
"Patients should not have to worry that they could get sick from their care provider," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, director of communicable disease prevention at the BCCDC. "Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect patients, as well as health care workers themselves and their families."
Similar policies have been
introduced at some facilities in the
"We have an older population in our facility and they are the ones that are most likely to have full efficacy from [staff] getting vaccinated, so we wanted to protect our vulnerable patients," she said.
Hagar noted that in 2005 – the first year her team implemented the policy – five employees left the hospital due to the mandatory vaccination and two were terminated for non-compliance. In recent years, however, vaccination rates among hospital employees have increased to 99.5 per cent from 54 per cent.
Although the effect of the high vaccination rates on transmissions to patients has not been evaluated, Hagar said the hospital has observed a decrease in employee sick leave during peak influenza season.
There are no U.S. states that require influenza vaccines for all public health care workers, according to a database maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though some require employees to provide a writ-ten declaration of having refused the vaccine.
A press release issued Thursday by
B.C.'s Ministry of Health declared that
However, Susan McQuade of the New York Committee for Occupational Health and Safety, said in an interview Thursday that an order requiring the shots- issued as an emergency measure in response to the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 – was rescinded a couple of weeks after it went into effect.
That happened after health care workers balked at the prospect of the shots and lawsuits were filed, said McQuade, whose group was among those opposing the measure.
"There was tremendous pushback from a lot of the workers in saying that you cannot be forcing me to get a vaccine."
Programs to educate health care
workers about the importance of getting the flu shot and make it easily
accessible have been successful at increasing vaccination rates in the
Health officials in B.C. have always
encouraged workers to get vaccinated, but too few people have followed that
"It's always been a bit of a puzzle. Some people believe they're healthy and they don't get influenza, some believe the vaccine will give you influenza, which is a myth. There is no way the vaccine can give you influenza."
He also said masks can be very effective in reducing the spread of the flu. Masks covering people's mouths pre-vent the transmission of droplets. The HEU's Old, however, said such a method could get expensive, considering half of health employees are not getting vaccinated.
In a good year with a vaccine that matches well with the dominant influenza strain, protection in adults can reach up to 80 per cent. In a bad year, that figure drops to about 40 per cent.
"It's not perfect, but it's
better than no protection at all,"
Do you really want a guy like Paul Ryan for VP?
Well, early last Saturday morning we
learned that Congressman Paul Ryan, Republican from
What are we to think of this
selection? He's not a graduate of
Show me the money
National Post – August 23, 2012
By Father Raymond J. De Souza
President Barack Obama was in town yesterday. The Sisters knew it at the crack of dawn.
I was offering daily Mass at a
convent on the
“Obama must be coming today,” one of the sisters said. “They usually put those up when he is coming.”
It’s routine enough, I expected,
that the U.S. President would have to visit
Whatever else might be said about the Obama presidency, he has left no pocket untouched in the search for campaign cash. As fundraiser-in-chief, Obama has exacerbated the already lamentable centrality of fundraising in American politics.
The Sisters recognized the
barricades because they are up with ever greater frequency. Last night was
Obama’s 39th fundraiser in
Obama is setting new records for presidential time devoted to fundraising. He has held more than 200 re-election fundraisers since launching his re-election bid in April 2011. In contrast, George W. Bush held 86 fundraisers in his entire first term.
Why does Obama spend so much time fundraising? He evidently feels he has to, and the evidence is compelling. Despite apportioning an enormous chunk of presidential time to raising cash, Obama’s campaign is behind Mitt Romney’s. The Romney campaign had some $186-million on hand at the end of July, whereas Obama had only $124-million.
Obama’s campaign is also outgunned by the so-called “super PACs” – groups that stand nominally apart from the campaign but which can spend money in ways that support the campaign. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that conservative super PACs have already spent some $220-million in this election cycle, while liberal super PACs have only spent a quarter of that, some $55-million.
American politicians have lamented for generations the pressures of fundraising, even as they keep running ever faster on the cash treadmill. Recent developments have changed the fundraising environment.
George W. Bush demonstrated that it was possible to privately raise far more cash than the amounts provided through public funding. Obama followed his lead, and consequently there are no effective limits on presidential campaign spending. With no limit on spending, there is no end to fundraising.
Online fundraising made it possible to raise large sums from tens of thousands of small donors. That should have been salutary, with fundraising becoming more democratic and participatory, reflective of public opinion rather than monied interests. Obama’s record haul of nearly $750 million for his 2008 campaign was praised in large part for including online small donors.
But the vast amounts raised online only increased the desire of wealthy interests to maintain their positions of influence. With a Supreme Court ruling striking down contribution and spending limits on corporations and unions, the super PAC was born – agents that can take millions from individuals and use them for activities ancillary to, but not run by, the candidates’ campaigns.
Money is the mother’s milk of politics, but its effects are not entirely benign. Money is for buying things, and those who give a lot of money to candidates are buying something – prestige and goodwill, perhaps, but more likely access and influence.
Money cannot be entirely banished from politics, and one shouldn’t wish it anyway. The ability to raise money is a reasonable facsimile of popular support, and the freedom to spend one’s money on politics is a democratic right. Yet it is a matter of degree, and the immoderate pursuit of funding is corrosive. I would like to think that the president, having lost his umpteenth evening to fundraising here last night, would agree.
Pauline Marois’ assault on democratic values
National Post – August 23, 2012
Given the close scrutiny that
surrounded the recent
So why has there been comparatively
little uproar over Ms. Marois? It is as if Canadians in the rest of the country
have become so accustomed to watching
This week, for instance, Ms. Marois
revived a 2007 proposal that would bar non-French speakers from holding public
Indeed, the idea is so outrageous
that on Wednesday, the PQ was forced to backtrack – putting out a statement to
the effect that anyone already residing in
And yet, this doesn’t even rank as
the worst idea Ms. Marois has put forward this month. Her proposed “Charter of
Secularism” would prevent public-sector workers from brandishing “conspicuous
religious signs.” But the rule doesn’t even pretend to be non-discriminatory:
Crosses and crucifixes – like the big one that hangs in
Not all of Ms. Marois’ ideas are creepy and discriminatory. Some are merely terrible. For instance, her plan to bar non-Anglophone-raised students from attending English junior colleges (CEGEPs) has raised the ire of thousands of students, most of them francophone. And for good reason: Many of these students rely on anglo colleges to perfect the English skills they will need in the working world. These are the same student voters whom Ms. Marois has been courting with her cynical toadying to the protest leaders who reject Jean Charest’s (sensible) tuition increases.
In a desperate bid to play to that constituency, Ms. Marois is telling university students not to pay their tuition fees. The decision came after the party discovered on Tuesday that Concordia, McGill and UQAM already have sent students a tuition bill, including the annual $254 increase planned by Mr. Charest’s budget, payable by Aug. 31. The PQ’s spokesperson on the matter of post-secondary education, Marie Malavoy, told Le Soleil: “If I were a student, I would not pay my bill before the election.”
Fortunately, many voters seem to
have had enough of Ms. Marois’ extremism: A new National Post poll suggests
that the Liberals have overtaken the PQ in total voter support. One hopes this
trend is sustained:
National Post – August 22, 2012
Parti Québécois leader Pauline
Marois is walking a tricky path in her campaign to become
But this balancing act is hard to
sustain. Educated young people in
The prime example lies with Ms. Marois’ recently announced policy of blocking most of the province’s Francophones (and allophones) from attending two-year junior colleges (CEGEPs) whose language of instruction is English – a step that would extend the province’s intrusive and discriminatory language laws into the domain of higher education. French youth – many of whom traditionally have used English CEGEPs to perfect their language skills before applying to universities or entering the workforce – have been among the policy’s biggest critics.
“I am proud to have done my studies
in English at
Her Facebook page, which may be found at http://on.fb.me/NeP9iJ, has 44,000 “likes.” There are also more than 5,000 comments, including many thoughtful insights, such as this one from a young educator named Andrea Di Tomaso: “I am the product of a bilingual marriage – Anglo father and Francophone mother. I am also an English teacher in a French private school. My position? Languages are keys that open doors, the more keys, the more opportunities. I value both cultures and think its a pity the PQ have adopted such a defensive and aggressive approach to linguistic heritage.”
The PQ justifies this policy, as
with so many others, on the basis that the French language is in crisis in
On Sept. 4,
It is one thing to respect the
French language and take reasonable measures to protect its survival – measures
Right to Life request causes flap in B.C. city
National Post – August 22, 2012
By Jake Edmiston
The flagpole outside
But when city council faced a request from a local antiabortion group for a turn, the city axed the program.
When reports surfaced last week of the Kelowna Right to Life Society's bid to fly its flag during an awareness week in September, Councillor Luke Stack watched the letters of complaint pile up.
"This had been bothering me for some time," said Mr. Stack, who proposed the removal of the courtesy flag program at Monday's city council meeting – an attempt to "put an end to controversies."
The council unanimously backed the motion.
"The whole exercise seems somewhat inappropriate for city hall," he said Tuesday. "It just seems to excite some members of the city but it also angers others. City Hall should be a place where we're unifying people, not trying to establish camps on different political spectrums."
Councillors also took issue with the fact that the provincial flag had to be taken down to make space for the courtesy flag.
Following the decision Monday, the Right to Life Society released a statement questioning why Pride Week was permitted a spot on the pole.
"I had hoped they would have treated us the way they treated other groups, and allowed our flag to fly before they abolished the project," said the society's executive director Marlon Bartram in an interview.
The policy will not allow any submission that "promotes a point of view or organization of a political, ethical or religious nature." If approved, groups are forbidden to give the impression that they are endorsed by city hall.
Right to Life's proposed flag used the slogan, "From Conception to Natural Death" paired with a "Pro-Life" label and a photo depicting the progressing stages of life from infancy to old age.
"The Pride flag conveys a message. It's possible to do so without wording," said Mr. Bartram. "There's a lot of people in the country who support the idea that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. So I wouldn't say that these festivities ... are something shared by everybody."
In an email, city staff said "A flag that represents the Kelowna Right to Life organization is acceptable, but it cannot contain words that promote a political, religious or ethical point of view."
So Mr. Bartram submitted a second proposal – the same flag with only the slogan removed. Communications supervisor Tom Wilson was in the process of reviewing the group's second proposal when Monday's city council decided to cut the program.
"[City council] was a little embarrassed over the media coverage and wanted to put this behind them – that's what I got from sitting in on the discussion," Mr. Wilson said.
"They felt it was detracting from the serious business. They needed to move on."
The council will work to detail a
policy in the coming weeks that would only allow courtesy flags to be flown in
special circumstances, such as when a diplomat or head of state visits
The decision also ruffled organizers of the local pride week who will no longer see their flag at city hall.
"My first reaction to it is disappointment," said Wilbur Turner, co-chair of Okanagan Pride. "At the same point I empathize with the councillors, because I believe they were kind of put in a tough position."
News agency wanted notes for
National Post – August 22, 2012
By Kathryn Blaze Carlson
Mark Bourrie had just finished
listening to the Dalai Lama speak at the Ottawa Civic Centre with his wife and
daughter when he says his cellphone rang: It was his boss – the
On its face, the request was not an odd one. Mr. Bourrie, an award-winning Canadian journalist and author, had for two years worked as a full-time freelancer for the news agency and had covered the Dalai Lama’s speech at a convention the day before.
But by this point a series of what
he called “odd” requests by bureau chief Dacheng Zhang had Mr. Bourrie
concerned the news agency was gathering intelligence on Chinese dissidents and
sending information back to
What then, did Xinhua want with Mr. Bourrie’s coverage?
“They tried to get me … to write a
report for the Chinese government on the Dalai Lama using my press credentials
as a way of getting access I wouldn’t otherwise have,” Mr. Bourrie, a long-time
freelancer who has written for several major Canadian newspapers, said in an
interview with the National Post. He alleges there are individuals within
Xinhua who are acting as spies, seeking to “monitor [practitioners of the
spiritual movement] Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama and any other critics of the
Chinese government in
An email to Mr. Zhang was not
acknowledged by deadline on Tuesday. The National Post also tried to reach him
Mr. Bourrie recounts his two years working for Xinhua in the upcoming issue of Ottawa Magazine, which comes out Thursday, where he offers the first real glimpse into an organization that has long raised eyebrows in the intelligence community for its close ties to the governing Chinese Communist Party.
Last fall, the state-run agency came
under intense scrutiny when news broke that Conservative MP and parliamentary
secretary Bob Dechert had exchanged flirtatious emails with Xinhua’s
Charles Burton, a
“The function of the Xinhua news agency is to gather information for the regime,” he said. “I think some of them are spies under the cover of being reporters for the Xinhua news agency.”
Julie Carmichael, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said in an email she “cannot comment on matters related to national security” and that “all credible threats are investigated by the appropriate authorities.”
Xinhua’s Chinese presence in
Mr. Bourrie said “90%” of his assignments
were “normal” and that all of his own work was “legit,” but he also said there
were warning bells along the way. The first sounded in June 2010, when he was
asked to determine not only the identities of those who protested Chinese
president Hu Jintao’s arrival at the G20 Summit in
“‘Canadian reporters don’t do that,’ I explained,” Mr. Bourrie writes in his upcoming Ottawa Magazine exposé. “The subject was quickly dropped, and I went back to my regular work for the agency, writing about Bank of Canada announcements, new crime and immigration laws, Royal visits, and quirky news.”
But later he said he started
receiving “weird” requests, including an assignment to determine how
Mr. Bourrie noticed that while he
had covered Falun Gong press conferences and events on Parliament Hill, those
stories, as far as he could tell, were not published online. He said he is now
under the impression the information was sent to
Mr. Bourrie cut all ties with Xinhua on April 28, 2012, the day of the Dalai Lama’s press conference, and immediately notified the parliamentary Press Gallery of his concerns.
“At today’s news conference, you informed me the material that I was to send you would be forwarded to the Chinese government,” Mr. Bourrie wrote in an email to Mr. Zhang, which was also copied to the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery chief, Terry Guillon.
Mr. Zhang, who along with Ms. Shi is listed as a press gallery member, responded saying “any message released at news conference is news, and news is open to every one, including the government.”
Mr. Bourrie says in his magazine
article that Xinhua swiftly replaced him with another accredited freelancer in
The president of the press gallery, which grants the accreditation that gives journalists access to government buildings, politicians and press conferences, said the executive is “aware of the disagreement” between Mr. Bourrie and Xinhua.
“The Executive has asked both sides to come and explain their views,” president Chris Rands said in an email. “We are in a process at the moment and I cannot pre-judge any decision the Executive may, or may not make” concerning Xinhua’s media accreditation.
Different shades of honour
National Post – August 22, 2012
By Jonathan Kay
Five years ago, Waqas Parvez
strangled his 16-year-old sister Aqsa to death in their
More than any other single crime, the murder of Aqsa Parvez by her Pakistani Canadian Muslim family woke Canadians up to the phenomenon of honour killings. In denouncing this particularly "abhorrent motivation" for murder, the judge gave voice to our understanding of honour killings as a pathology quite distinct from ordinary domestic violence.
As Phyllis Chesler and Nathan Bloom write in the Summer 2012 edition of the Middle East Quarterly, "honor killing is the premeditated murder of a relative (usually a young woman) who has allegedly impugned the honor of her family." Unlike other forms of spousal or child abuse, honour killings invariably are conspiracies involving multiple family members, often including the victim's own siblings, parents and in-laws. As the authors note, the practice "tends to predominate in societies where individual rights are circumscribed by communal solidarities, patriarchal authority structures, and intolerant religious and tribal beliefs. Under such conditions, control over marriage and reproduction is critical to the socioeconomic status of kinship groups and the regulation of female behavior is integral to perceptions of honor, known as maryada in many Indian languages and as ghairat in Urdu and Pashto."
We tend to use the term "honour killing" generically, to describe any murder conspiracy of this type. But as Chesler and Bloom demonstrate in their MEQ article, honour killings actually fall into several distinct and identifiable types. An understanding of the typology is crucial for preventing them from becoming common in Western immigrant communities.
Worldwide, most honour killings take
place in Muslim countries –
But look behind the absolute numbers, and you find significant differences in murder motive – which Chesler and Bloom were able to analyze by studying samples drawn from both countries.
In the case of Pakistani honour killings, the researchers found, three motives prevailed: punishment for "illicit relationships" (often involving a woman who elopes with a mate of her own choosing); "contamination by association" (in which family member are killed for the moral sins of their sister or daughter); and "immoral character," in which the woman or girl (the average victim age is 22) is punished for going unveiled, or otherwise flouting the standards of dour piety expected of Muslim women in backwards societies.
This last category is particularly dominant in Western-resident Pakistani-origin immigrant communities, where the "immoral character" motive accounted for 65% of honour killings in the authors' studied sample (with 97% of the murders being committed by the woman's family, and 59% of the victims being tortured before death). On this point, they speculate: "This may be because there are so many more opportunities for 'immoral' assimilation/independence in the West, and young Pakistani women living there may be pushing boundaries more forcefully. In that regard, Aqsa Parvez is a tragically representative example.
In Indian honour killings, these factors sometimes are present. But the dominant motivation is something entirely different: caste.
Hindu religious law and tradition, which still has a stubborn hold on parts of the country, prohibits marriage between members of different castes, as well as with someone within the same sub-caste. It is the violation of this obsolete code – not any generalized accusation of "immoral" or "Western" behavior – that motivated the majority of Indian honour killings in the sample studied by Chesler and Bloom.
This difference in honour-killing
motivation is tied to a difference in the murder sanctioning decision-making
The difference in Indian/Pakistani
honour-killing motivations also leads to another striking statistical gap
between the two nations: "In 40% of the cases, Indian Hindus murdered men,
while Pakistani Muslims murdered men only 14% of the time in
From a policy-making perspective,
this analysis suggest that there is more hope in
The Indian government, which is
eager to burnish the country's growing bona fides as a progressive liberal
democracy, has unambiguously denounced honour killings, and is clearly keen to
crack down on the khap panchatays' stubborn grip on popular attitudes in
northern India. In
Political Islam also is a
complicating factor in
Moreover, the authors write in the
MEQ, "under Shari'a-based provisions of
From a strictly Western point of view, the most interesting conclusion from the Chesler/Bloom study is this: Pakistani immigrants to the West sometimes bring the seeds of a deadly honour culture with them, while Indian immigrants typically do not.
That is because the belief that a
family's honour lives and dies with the perceived chastity and obedience of its
female members is deeply culturally ingrained in
Chesler and Bloom's work should be
required reading for Canadian police officers, social-service workers and
child-protection officers who work with
In other words, our goal is to protect the next Aqsa Parvez.
Scathing audit reveals spiralling costs
CEO to resign as finance minister troubled by Crown corporation's lavish culture of spending
By Jonathan Fowlie
Number of ICBC 54 employees earning more than $200,000
Number of management positions added 272 over the past five years
Amount paid in signing bonuses $365,000 over five years
Highest signing bonus paid $40,000
Amount of perk allowances paid to senior managers $15,500 to $18,500 per year
Jon Schubert will resign as CEO of
the Insurance Corp. of
The government audit determined the number of people earning more than $200,000 at ICBC has grown 315 per cent in just the last five years, mainly because of an explosion in the number of executives.
Since 2007, the company has added 272 management positions, the audit found. In the same period, it reduced unionized employees by 43 positions. "That is something – the combination of more people and higher wages – that is both unacceptable and something that is going to change, and change very quickly," Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said Thursday as he released the audit.
Falcon said the lavish culture for executives at ICBC is especially troubling, given that it came at a time of widespread economic turmoil, and when government itself was significantly reining in spending.
"In 2009, in government, as we started realizing how serious the downturn was, management staffing in government fell by seven per cent and total compensation was down by one per cent," he said.
"At the same time, over that same period from 2009-11, ICBC's management staffing actually increased by 23 per cent and their compensation increased by 15 per cent," he said, adding this demonstrates ICBC was tone deaf to the fiscal realities that surrounded it.
"It shows a real disconnect, in my view, between what British Columbians and those around the world are really feeling in the economy and what was taking place at ICBC."
The audit also found ICBC has over five years handed out $365,000 in signing bonuses for its managers, has been giving up to $18,500 in annual cash allowances to senior executives for perks, and paid one executive $131,000 to move when hired, including about $4,500 per month for temporary accommodation.
It said senior managers were getting perks and bonuses even after being terminated. Instances included payments of $17,000 for perks, a $57,000 bonus payment and a $110,000 non-competition payment.
Recently appointed ICBC board chair Paul Taylor said Thursday that Schubert has come to a mutual agreement with the board to resign on Nov. 15, but will be paid his full salary for another seven and a half months after that to serve as a consultant.
"He will provide advisory services to the board and management until the end of June," said Taylor, who could not say how often Schubert would be called on during that time.
"It will depend on need, but his day-to-day duties end on November 15 and he'll be there to provide advisory services as needed on insurance matters."
If Schubert had been terminated, government regulations would have afforded him a severance of 14 to 16 months.
In 2011, he made $486,541 in total compensation.
Schubert, who has been CEO since November 2008, did not return a request for comment Thursday, but in a memo to all staff confirmed his departure.
"This is a mutual decision reached with the board. I am very proud and feel privileged to have served as CEO of ICBC," Schubert wrote in the short memo.
"I am committed to working toward an orderly transition to ensure that ICBC continues to fulfil its man-date," he added.
"Literally, thousands of you have supported me and for that, I'll always be grateful."
He said the company will eliminate almost 200 positions over the next two years, the majority of which will be management.
He said he intends the company to return over-all operating costs to 2008 levels, which he said would save about $50 million by the end of 2013.
"Implementing this report is a
top priority for the company and for our employees,"
"We are committed to doing what is right for our customers and treating our employees fairly."
He said that as of this week, five of the audit recommendations had been fully implemented, eight had been partly implemented and the remaining 11 were in progress.
ICBC increased rates by about 2.1 per cent this year, meaning drivers have paid an average of about $27 more for the year.
On Thursday, Falcon said that despite the troubling findings on executive compensation, ICBC has kept rate increases low for its consumers, averaging about 0.8 per cent each year over the last 10 years.
"I am pleased that ICBC has done a good job in keeping rates for drivers down overall," he said.
The audit found the number of unionized employees at ICBC decreased over the last five years to 4,049 from 4,092, for a loss of 43 positions.
The 272-person increase in management was bro-ken down as senior management rising to 69 from 49; management rising to 692 from 537; and non-union technical and administrative positions such as accountants and communications professionals rising to 366 from 269.
It said senior managers saw about a 70-per-cent compensation increase over five years, while unionized workers' compensation increased by less than 10 per cent.
The audit detailed 24 recommendations, including a suggested reduction in management staffing, more oversight of expenses and improved provincial oversight of the Crown corporation.
Mable Elmore, New Democratic Party critic for ICBC, said the problems identified at ICBC are similar to ones the government has found at other public organizations, including BC Hydro and Community Living BC.
"The Liberal government has really mismanaged these corporations and these files. I think it's really demonstrated incompetence," she said, adding there needs to be more effective oversight.
"B.C. taxpayers, I think, expect that Crown corporations are competently man-aged and show value for money," she said.
"I don't think this is what we're seeing under the Liberals."
A government review into BC Hydro released last summer found staff levels at that organization had increased excessively in the previous four years, and recommended 1,000 job cuts to a total workforce of 6,000.
In an interview earlier this year, Debbie Nagle, BC Hydro's senior vice-president and chief human resources officer, said that by 2014, her Crown corporation expects to have reduced its staffing by 700.
Falcon has promised similar reviews of other Crowns.
Last month, Falcon also announced a crackdown on lavish pay packages for executives across most commercial Crowns in B.C., including an indefinite wage freeze for executives and a reining-in of the perks they can receive.
The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, which represents ICBC employees, said the audit "has clearly reaffirmed what our union has long been saying about ICBC's unfair compensation structure.
"The number of managers and their salaries has skyrocketed while the number of positions providing services to the public has decreased," COPE 378 vice-president Jeff Gillies said in a written statement.
Gilles also questioned what government planned to do with the savings.
"Drivers and unionized ICBC employees providing services are the ones that have been left behind," he said.
"We need to know that any money saved by cost constraints won't be heading straight to government but will be used to reduce rates for drivers and keep the unionized workforce at ICBC from falling further behind."
Xenophobia lives on
National Post – August 16, 2012
By Tasha Kheiriddin
Racist or not? When it comes to the
First, Coalition Avenir Québec
leader François Legault lambasted young Quebecers for being interested in
living "the good life," unlike children in
Mr. Legault's comments bring to mind
similar views expressed in 2010 by then aspiring-Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who
remarked that "Asians work like dogs." Those observations were
understandably not well received by members of the Asian community in
But Mr. Legault stood by his comments. He then tried tying them to economic issues, remarking that "we can't continue to live above our means, have the highest debt, have the same social programs, and an average income that is lower than others. At some point we have to be realistic, it doesn't compute."
On that score, Mr. Legault is right:
His remarks pale in comparison,
however, to the xenophobic tone of those made by Parti Québécois ledaer Pauline
Marois, and worse yet, the mayor of
On Tuesday, Ms. Marois unveiled her party's desire to implement a "Secular Charter" which would ban the wearing of any religious symbols by government employees. With, as my colleague Chris Selley tartly notes on these pages, one notable exception: Symbols of Christian faith, such as the cross which hangs over the Speakers' Chair in the National Assembly. In other words, a crucifix necklace, good: hijabs and yarmulkes, bad.
The irony is that the
Then on Wednesday, Mr. Tremblay took
xenophobia one step further, when he launched a tirade against Djemila
Benhabib, the Parti Québécois candidate in Trois Rivières. On a popular radio
show, Mr. Tremblay let loose: "I am shocked that we, the softies, the
French Canadians, will be told how to behave, how to respect our culture by a
person who comes from
This, in response to the fact that Ms. Benhabib, a respected writer and journalist, had previously called for the banning of all religious symbols, including the aforementioned cross, from the public sphere. The irony here is that Ms. Benhabib is known as an outspoken critic of militant Islam, and many of its symbols, including the niqab, the full face covering that many people find offensive not for religious reasons, but because it prevents women from fully engaging in western society, where an uncovered face is key to social interaction.
This lack of knowledge about Ms.
Benhabib only further highlights the ignorance of Mr. Tremblay's remarks. It
also highlights the fact that there are two
This divide has played a role in
Xenophobia is alive and well in
No sure answer for treatment of pedophiles
By Daphne Bramham
It's hard to feel sorry for Donald Bakker, a sexual deviant and social pariah whose name, face, age, weight and height have all been broadcast to warn the public that's he's at high risk to re-offend.
Abbotsford police went a step further a few weeks ago. It published a map outlining the neighbourhood where Bakker is living.
The harm Bakker did to three young
He served his full seven-year
sentence. Partly because of his refusal to participate in pro-grams aimed at
rehabilitating his deviancy, strict conditions were placed on his release in
Bakker can't be anywhere near children, use the Internet or be out after 11 p.m.
Even if Bakker had gone through the prison programs aimed at reforming pedophiles and sexual deviants, he'd still be dangerous. How dangerous is an open question.
While Public Safety Canada emphatically states on its web-site that treatment is effective, research done exclusively on pedophiles indicates something quite different.
But that wasn't recidivism – a re-occurrence of sexually offending. It's the percentage of all offenders – not just pedophiles – who were arrested or convicted again after already serving time for sexual offence.
According to a June 2010
It also notes that one challenge in studying pedophilia is that experts estimate that only one in 20 cases of child-sexual abuse is ever reported.
Among the scant research on pedophiles is a 1982 study of 197 child molesters. Published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, it found 42 per cent of the 197 pedophiles studied were re-convicted for sexual crimes, violent crimes or both. Of those, 10 per cent were re-convicted 10 to 31 years after being released.
Another peer-reviewed study published the same year in Crime & Delinquency found what it described as "undetected recidivism." In interviews with researchers, incarcerated rapists and child molesters, on average, admitted to two to five times more sexual assaults than the number they were convicted of having committed.
Sexual predators are abhor-rent. I've seen the faces and heard the stories of too many young Cambodians sold into brothels as children. I've talked to far too many Canadian victims of sexual assault.
Like the people of
It's too late to change Bakker's sentence. It's too late to declare him a dangerous offender and keep him indefinitely in prison.
Yet even if those were possibilities, warehousing sex offenders for life in prison at a cost of nearly $114,000 a year doesn't seem to be a good answer.
Demanding therapy for pedophiles or men who refuse to participate is largely meaningless.
They've talked about setting up special zones for them to live in – similar, I suppose, to penal colonies.
While effective in some ways, research echoes what seems like an obvious assumption that, as social pariahs, men like Bakker are more likely to re-offend if they can't find a place to live or are being constantly hounded out of communities.
There's also mounting evidence that
without an international sex offenders registry and only a few countries (
Beyond shunning and shaming, there are no comfortable answers to the question of what to do with these men.
But until we're willing to embrace the uncomfortable ones, the rights of women and children will be circumscribed and the onus placed on individuals and parents to protect them-selves and their loved ones.
Identity theft victim's name tied to attempted murder
National Post – August 10, 2012
By Gordon Hoekstra
But when Yoos, a chess master, did an Internet search and discovered the attempted murder suspect's name and age exactly matched his own, he realized it wasn't funny.
After a further search turned up a news photo of the suspect, whom Yoos recognized, he said he immediately knew his identity had been stolen.
Yoos said he met the suspect casually through friends about a decade ago but hasn't seen him since.
He said he was told the man also gave his Social Security number, though he doesn't know how the suspect might have obtained it.
Yoos, who is an American citizen,
said he's been living in
"Identity theft is upsetting enough, but to have it tied to a serious violent crime is way more disturbing," said Yoos, 43, who goes by the name Jack. "It's also a terrible violation of a person's privacy. I don't like having my name splashed across the world press," said Yoos, noting he is a private person.
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office is looking into the false identity allegation, a person familiar with the case said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The suspect is being held without bail on attempted murder and other charges related to a hammer attack of a Spanish tourist last week.
The tourist, Hugo Alejandre of
Bystanders wrestled the hammer away, and Alejandre was treated for a spinal fracture and deep cuts, said prosecutors.
Yoos works in the finance sector and has been regularly mentioned on chess sites that post Canadian tournament results. He is a master chess player according to the World Chess Federation. When Yoos finally linked up with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, he said he had already had electronic copies of his birth certificate, Social Security card and passport ready to send. "Once I sent them that stuff, [my identify is] not really in doubt," he said.
He praised the DA's office for investigating, but maintains a simple Internet search would have identified the real John C. Yoos.
At a court proceeding last week,
legal aid lawyer Alyssa Gamliel said the suspect in the hammer incident was
unemployed and had lived in
Gamliel said the suspect had only
one prior, minor brush with the law, involving an unpaid fine, in
Letting son meet genetic father too 'risky': judge
National Post – August 9, 2012
By Tom Blackwell
The potential risk of introducing a
The decision marks the first round in a key test case of the uncertain law around exchanges of human sperm and eggs, as increasing numbers of Canadian children are born by "assisted" reproduction.
A full trial is scheduled for this October to consider the man's demand for paternity rights – and add some clarity to the tangled issue – but Rene deBlois had requested access to the boy pending the final wrap-up of the case.
The two women had argued that 22-month-old Tyler Lavigne, who has never met Mr. deBlois, might become confused and insecure if he encountered the donor now, noted Justice Norman Karam of the Ontario Superior Court in Cochrane, Ont.
"Despite the child's young age, it is impossible to know what disclosure of [Mr. deBlois's] status as his parent might mean," said the judge. "All circumstances considered, the risk of there being an adverse effect to the child is too great to ignore."
Justice Karam said he considered imposing limitations on the access to deal with those concerns, but decided the restrictions would be virtually impossible to enforce.
He said he also found "very convincing" the couple's argument that by allowing access to the child now, he could inadvertently affect the outcome of the trial, expected to be closely watched by legal analysts, parent groups and others.
Selena Kazimierski and Nicole Lavigne say the donor – a former high-school acquaintance of Ms. Lavigne – signed an agreement that he would never contact the baby born in October, 2010, with the help of his artificially inseminated sperm. They fear the family life they have built for their son would be unduly disrupted if that changed.
The donor says he no longer honours the deal, partly because Ms. Lavigne failed to follow through on her verbal commitment to have a baby for him, too.
Legal experts say the case offers up a relatively straightforward set of facts, allowing the court to directly tackle a question overhanging many such arrangements.
Growing numbers of children are
being born in
When donations are obtained anonymously from sperm banks, and in the few provinces with relevant laws, parenthood is generally uncontested.
In situations where couples and single people make arrangements with sperm donors they know, however – especially in provinces that lack such legislation – the rights of the various parties remain largely unresolved.
A smattering of mostly lower-court rulings have addressed the question, but most of the cases have had complicating factors, such as a past relationship between the donor and recipient.
Lucia Mendonca, Mr. deBlois's lawyer, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Ms. Lavigne voiced relief at the ruling on interim access, saying it would have been too disruptive for everyone to allow the genetic father and son to meet, when the trial might rule Mr. deBlois has no paternity rights.
"It would – just cause pain on all sides," she said. "It would be hard on him, if he got attached, and now 'You're never going to see him again.' "
The decision correctly analyzed the
law – and applied pure common sense to the situation, said Michelle Flowerday,
"It is common sense to delay creating a relationship between a child and a stranger unless there is a guarantee that the relationship will continue," she said.
"There is no guarantee here. We may well succeed at trial."
The judge also said that he would not consider a legal motion by the couple to reverse an earlier decision, made when the women were represented by a different lawyer, to essentially void the sperm-donation contract. It is expected that issue will be considered at the trial, due to start Oct. 21.
Justice Karam also rejected a
request by Mr. deBlois for an investigation by
‘Eat mor chikin’
By Robert Knight
Each day brings new evidence of the left's hatred for Christians and other traditionalists, but the smear campaign against Christian-owned Chick-fil-A sets a new low.
The Atlanta-based, 1,600-restaurant chain, famous for its misspelling-prone cows that urge consumers to "eat mor chikin," is under a full-scale fascistic assault, complete with obscene celebrity tweets and government bullying.
Acting more like Benito Mussolini
than Paul Revere, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he will block Chick-fil-A
from opening a restaurant in his city. Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno said
he will stop Chick-fil-A from building its second
What has the dastardly company done? Chick-fil-A's management, while not political, is an unapologetic defender of traditional values. Like the Boy Scouts, the company has enraged liberals who are at war with nature and nature's God.
This isn't the first time Chick-fil-A has been singled out. In February 2011, homosexual activists launched an unsuccessful boycott when they found out that the company donated food to the Pennsylvania Family Institute's marriage retreat. Seriously, it doesn't take much to tick them off.
The current hysteria began after Mr. Cathy, son of the chain's founder, gave an interview that ran in the Baptist Press on July 16. Mr. Cathy noted that Chick-fil-A's management is "based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us." When asked about the company's positions in support of marriage and family, Mr. Cathy went on to say, "Well, guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit."
This was too juicy to ignore. CNN ran a July 19 religion blog post that read, "Chick-fil-A's marriage stance causing a social storm." Casually striking a match while pouring the gasoline, writer Brad Lendon wrote that "the comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage to Baptist Press on Monday have ignited a social media wildfire."
It doesn't matter that Mr. Cathy never brought up "gay marriage," as noted by the Weekly Standard's Mark Hemingway. All Mr. Cathy did was defend the company's stance that families are paramount and that the company supports the family unit "in its biblical definition."
That's what marriage laws do, too – they
define the institution. It's no accident that the media routinely describe
marriage laws as "gay marriage bans," as if marriage didn't exist
until recently, when it was invented solely to vex homosexuals. You think I'm
joking? That's what openly homosexual U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker
essentially said in his bizarre ruling striking down
This madness has gone so far that
simply defending marriage is enough to get you banned in
Perhaps the American Civil Liberties
Union will step forward to represent Chick-fil-A. Perhaps the
Comic and Green Party favorite Roseanne Barr joined the Chick-fil-A bashing on Wednesday, tweeting, "anyone who eats [expletive]-Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens 4Christ."
As reported by the
On July 25, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank accused Mike Huckabee of pushing "obesity" because Mr. Huckabee has called for people who honor "godly values" to fight back by eating at Chick-fil-A on Aug. 1. Mr. Huckabee's "defense of the fast-food restaurant will make Chick-fil-A a fat target in the culture wars and will further divide Americans," Mr. Milbank asserted.
Right. Mr. Huckabee is the divisive one for helping the mugging victim. The message here is if he were a good American (like Mr. Milbank), he'd just stay silent (unlike Mr. Milbank).
Up in Boston, where consistency is
not necessarily a virtue, Mr. Menino didn't mind giving a taxpayer-subsidized
sweetheart land deal in 2002 to the Islamic Society of Boston, which has been
linked to terrorist groups. But on the Freedom Trail, where the American
Revolution began, Mr. Menino says Chick-fil-A "doesn't send the right
message to the country. We're a leader when it comes to social justice and
opportunities for all." Except for Christians, who are about as welcome in
Stand for natural marriage, and you'll get the left's version of social justice: an iron fist in a lavender glove. The endgame is to criminalize Christianity and replace it with a state-approved false religion that retains enough trappings to fool the unwary.
No, perhaps not in a town where Al Capone's spirit animates its politics. Psalm 12:8 says, "The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men."
As for Mr. Cathy, "We intend to stay the course," he said. "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."
I know where I'm having breakfast, lunch and dinner on Aug. 1 – do you?
Wife's trial a way to provide drama in a system that has already found her guilty
By Jonathan Manthorpe
All cultures have stories of the
noble male hero who is brought down by his attachment to a dark-souled and
In the past century and a half,
In the mid-20th century, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was believed by many to have been corrupted by the power and money lust of his wife Soong May-ling.
And Mao Zedong's wife Jiang Qing who was taken to court with her "Gang of Four" after the Great Helmsman's death in 1976 to account for the horrors of the Cultural Revolution.
But it is grossly unfair and unjust to blame the wives of Mao and Chiang for the depredations of their husbands.
Both men were vile in their own right, and to blame their Dragon Lady wives for the evils of their regimes is merely an easy way to avoid accepting the obvious.
What the Communist party seems bent on avoiding now is any serious political instability flowing from the Bo/Gu affair as the top echelons pre-pare a transfer of power to a new generation of leaders later this year and early in 2013.
Bo Xilai, the son of Bo Yibo who was one of the senior revolutionary generals and Mao's close comrade in arms, has a strong coterie of support in the upper reaches of the party and also in the People's Liberation Army.
He is one of the most high profile
and charismatic "princeling" sons of the founders of Communist China.
Bo has forged an unusually public political career first as reforming mayor of
the northeastern city of
Bo, who according to insiders believes that he and not Vice-President Xi Jinping should be taking over the presidency and party leadership later this year, needs to be treated cautiously.
Damage limitation is dictating at
the moment that the resolution of the
The much larger questions about Bo's
corruption and his evident use of extra-legal tactics in his anti-crime
campaign while governor of
There are no political leaders in
Gu and her personal assistant are
due to go to trial Thursday for the murder of Heywood, who had helped her move
hundreds of millions of dollars out of
The exact motive for the murder is unclear, but when it was announced on July 26 that she would be charged, the statement said: "The evidence [of her guilt] is irrefutable and substantial."
The way the legal system works in
Suit fights for right to access private care
Long waits in public health system akin to death sentence, doctor heading lawsuit claims
By Pamela Fayerman
Four B.C. patients, including two students, a cancer survivor and a terminally ill cancer patient, have joined private clinic owner Dr. Brian Day in a lawsuit against the Medical Services Commission, the Minister of Health Services and the attorney-general of B.C.
All the patients suffered while enduring long waits in the public system, according to the case, which contends they should have the right to seek expedited care in the private system.
"B.C. effectively imposes the death penalty on patients through its policy of rationed care," Day said, at a press conference Tuesday in the board-room of the Heenan Blaikie law firm, which is representing him in the case. Day expects it will go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and ultimately reshape the health care system. "Those guilty of supporting or enforcing this legislation [preventing access to private care] while propagating the myth that such laws are good, should reflect on whether they are guilty of complicity in the causation of ... deaths," Day said, noting a poll of doctors found one-quarter had patients who died while waiting for care.
He also referred to a landmark 2005 Quebec case (Chaoulli) in which the Supreme Court of Canada stated: "The evidence shows that delays in the public health care system are wide-spread and patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care."
None of the plaintiff patients attended the news conference. Day pleaded with the 20 journalists present to respect the plaintiffs' privacy by not dogging them at home. He said no one twisted their arms to take part in the suit and they won't be expected to pay any legal fees in the case.
All the plaintiffs sought care from Day or his clinics when they faced long waits in the public system. In a few of the cases, Day did not charge them. He said that was on compassionate grounds, given their financial and health circumstances, not because he wanted to include them in the case.
The Canadian Constitution
Foundation, a registered charity, is collecting donations for the litigation,
as it is for a similar case in
"Our purpose in the current
litigation is to ask that B.C. patients suffering on waiting lists have the
same protection under the laws of
In court documents filed Tues-day, all of the plaintiffs, including Day, co-owner of the Cambie Surgery Centre and the Specialist Referral Clinic, contend that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms should give them the right to seek expedited care in the private system, just as "preferred beneficiaries" can for medically necessary, publicly insured services.
Preferred beneficiaries, as defined by federal and provincial statutes, include injured workers who are WorkSafeBC claimants, RCMP officers, federal prisoners and federal armed forces members.
The four patients in the case are:
● Chris Chiavatti, a
Chiavatti saw Day instead, in late 2009, and was diagnosed with a tear in his meniscus. Within weeks, he had surgery at the Cambie clinic. The court documents note the irony that if Chiavatti's teacher, rather than the student, had been injured in the physed class, "the teacher would have been eligible for expedited treatment because of his status as an injured worker, covered by [WorkSafeBC]."
● Mandy Martens, a 36-year-old
The private procedure confirmed
colon cancer and then she had a resection operation at
● Krystiana Corrado, a 17-year-old elite soccer player who attends Vancouver's Notre Dame high school who was put on a year-long waiting list for surgery after injuring her knee. Earlier this year, she had reconstruction surgery with Day and now has a chance at a soccer scholarship, the court documents state.
Day said thousands of plain-tiffs could have joined the suit but four is a manageable number.
The health minister was unavailable but Ryan Jabs, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said: "Our hearts go out to patients and their families when they are struggling with a medical illness and need care, and we want to assure the public that our entire health care system provides appropriate care as quickly as possible.
"In the vast majority of cases, people receive excellent care in a timely fashion. When a physician determines that a patient has an urgent clinical need, the patient does not wait for surgery," Jabs said, noting about 514,000 operations were per-formed in B.C. in 2010-11 and of those, 214,000 were wait-listed while the rest were done on an urgent basis.
MLA expenses now open to public scrutiny
Changes come after damning report by auditor general
By Jonathan Fowlie
British Columbia MLAs will begin publicly disclosing all travel and other related expenses starting this fall, a legislative committee announced late Tuesday afternoon as it promised a new era of openness and transparency.
"This will dramatically change things," said Shane Simpson, a New Democratic Party MLA and a member of the six-MLA Legislative Assembly Management Committee.
Liberal Gordon Hogg said actions, not words, will be crucial: "I believe that if we do follow through on the things that we've laid out that we will be in a position of being able to generate [public] confidence.
"I don't think we can talk ourselves out of things we've behaved ourselves into," said Hogg, also a member of the LAMC, which oversees operation of the legislature and its finances.
Following a three-hour closed door meeting at the legislature, members of the until-now secretive committee vowed they will begin conducting most of their business in public.
"Future LAMC meetings will be open and structured in a manner similar to a select standing committee. Meetings will be recorded by Hansard and will only be in camera when needed," said LAMC chair and Speaker Bill Barisoff.
"Meetings will be held quarterly or at the call of the chair should more discussions be required."
That move alone is significant, given that LAMC has only held two very brief private meetings in the past year.
Tuesday's announcement follows a damning report by Auditor-General John Doyle into legislative assembly finances, which found significant deficiencies in how expenses have been tracked and reported.
Doyle said the books were in such bad shape he could not yet tell if any money had gone missing.
He said the legislature did not have the necessary oversight procedures in place, and that LAMC "does not appear to be actively involved in the legislative assembly's operational activities."
Heading into Tuesday's meeting, Barisoff vowed to fix every issue the report raised.
"It is embarrassing, but we're certainly in the process of trying to address all the findings of the auditor-general," said Barisoff, also a Liberal MLA.
Asked why it took a public shaming to introduce public transparency to the committee, members did not have an answer, but said they were glad to see the changes that have come as a result.
"It's a gift horse. I'm just grateful it happened," said committee member and NDP house leader John Horgan.
"Why did it take a crisis? That we can talk about in the history books. Today we're making progress as a group and that's a positive thing."
On MLA expenses, Barisoff said itemized claims will be posted online every three months staring this October.
"The expenses will be put online ... and anybody wanting to look at that can look at the receipts," he said.
Barisoff said the first disclosure will include expenses going back to this past April.
Until now, MLA expenses have been disclosed at the end of each fiscal year, and have only been presented as a total amount for each MLA.
Last fiscal year, MLAs charged more than $1.7 million in travel expenses.
The committee said it will also look to find ways MLAs can report the $119,000 they get to run their constituency offices, an item that cannot be reported now because of privacy concerns.
"The concern, of course, is the fact that individual members are individual contractors, so they don't fall under the same rules as the legislative assembly," said Barisoff, adding this means the wages of people employed by an MLA cannot be publicly disclosed.
Barisoff said the committee will work with Doyle and the province's information and privacy commissioner to deter-mine how more information can be disclosed.
Barisoff said the committee will also contract two experts for a period of six months to "enhance financial controls at the legislature."
He said the experts have yet to be named, but one will be from the office of the auditor-general, and the other from the office of the government's comptroller-general.
Barisoff said the legislature has also created the position of executive financial officer.
These moves are all in addition to an internal audit the consulting firm Deloitte has been doing of the legislature since April.
The committee said it shared its recommendations via conference call with Doyle before making them public.
Doyle was in
Committee members said they hope the measures will help restore confidence with the public as well.
"One of the key issues around public trust is the issue of transparency and accountability. The first steps for us, and I believe in many ways the most important and compelling steps in what we're doing is opening this process up, allowing a light to shine on the process and from that I think people will see how the operation works," said Simpson.
"We clearly need to deal with the accounting failures of the system and that work will be done in bringing in this additional expertise."
Horgan said he thinks the new moves will mean a significant culture shift for the once-secretive committee.
"I think as a group today we did a positive thing for our-selves, for our colleagues and for future MLAs," he said.
"We have taken, in my view, enormous steps forward."
LAMC will hold its first public meeting at the end of August.
MLA EXPENDITURES IN PERSPECTIVE
A comparison of three provinces assembled by The Sun using publicly available information.
Average MLA travel (2011-12): $20,412
Average capital city living allowance per MLA (2011-12): $14,390
Average salary per MLA (2011-12, including ministerial pay): $118,151
Average MLA travel (2010-11): $23,658
Average capital city living allowance per MLA (2010-11): $23,276
Average salary per MLA (2010-11, not including benefits, but including ministerial pay): $118,073
Average MPP travel (2011-12): $14,336
Average capital city living allowance per MPP (2011-12): $10,732
Average salary per MPP (2011-12, including ministerial pay): $138,680
Time for leaders to sheath swords in pipeline palaver
By Barbara Yaffe
. First, B.C. is legitimate in demanding greater fiscal benefit from what's widely viewed in the province as an environmentally risky, politically unpopular project.
British Columbians feel bombarded
with requests for piping from
Aside from the business com-munity, people here would be happy to see the Enbridge proposal – even with its associated construction jobs – disappear. They, of course, fear oil spills that will be as inevitable as rain, and don't trust oil companies to properly carry out spill-response plans or grant adequate financial compensation when mishaps occur.
They also don't want to see a legal dogfight, which surely will ensue with B.C. aboriginal groups opposing the project.
Further, many regard Enbridge's choice of Kitimat as a port for oil exports as egregiously irresponsible when Prince Rupert, while more costly, is obviously the sounder environmental choice, positioned on the Pacific coast.
● Second, B.C. has a strong bargaining position in the dispute, which accounts for Premier Clark's bold statements last week at the premiers' conference.
Through permitting, B.C. could impose all manner of operating fees and taxes.
● Which suggests Clark may be
misfiring in asking
This may not be easy, however, since an Enbridge spokesman last week dismissed the current controversy as "a government-to-government issue."
For that matter, what about other
B.C. products transiting
In fact, it's only practical and
reasonable that goods and services be permitted to travel unfettered across
● Finally, the federal cabinet cannot
afford to line up behind
In the 2011 election, Conservatives won 21 seats in B.C. to the New Democrats' 12.
Early-July polling by Ekos Research reveals significant provincial support has since shifted to Tom Mulcair's party, which is opposed to Northern Gateway. Conservative sup-port – 45 per cent in B.C. in the 2011 vote – is now down to 28 per cent.
Moreover, it's in Harper's and
Redford's interest to find an early compromise with
The three political leaders, individually, each have compelling reasons to scale back the rhetoric.
Better than the alternative
National Post – July 26, 2012
By Tasha Kheiriddin
Next week, Quebecers will most likely be plunged into an election, the third in five years. Premier Jean Charest will be seeking his fourth mandate. Does he deserve it? Based on the last Leger Marketing poll, one third of Quebecers would answer yes, another third would pass the torch to Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois and the rest are split between Francois Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), the provincial Green Party and the socialist Québec Solidaire.
Rewind eight months, and both Mr. Charest and Ms. Marois looked as though they were on their way out. Mr. Legault’s yet unnamed party seemed poised to sweep the province, capitalizing on public fatigue with both major parties. The Liberals stood accused of corruption tied to the province’s construction industry, with Mr. Charest fighting the holding of an inquiry into the matter. Meanwhile, Ms. Marois was battling for her political life amid rumours that former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe was gunning for her job.
What changed? As they say in politics: events, dear boy, events. In November 2011, Mr. Charest announced the Charbonneau Commission to begin hearings into the corruption scandal. That same month the CAQ attained party status and began to come under public scrutiny. By February, its milquetoast platform and merger with the Action démocratique had started driving down support. At the same time, Mr. Duceppe rethought his ambitions and Ms. Marois survived to fight another day, earning the sobriquet “the concrete lady.”
And then, on March 22, 2012, the
Despite the havoc they wreaked, both
major parties should thank the students, for their antics provided more than a
distraction: They created a paradigm shift in public discourse. The discussion
quickly broadened beyond initial demands for a reversal of planned tuition
hikes to a full-scale questioning of the role of the state in
The result is that in this election,
rather than a stark choice between federalism and separatism, voters will be
asked to choose between two visions of
There is another important difference between the two main parties, which Mr. Charest correctly identified after the recent announcement that former student leader Leo Bureau Blouin will run for the PQ. It’s their positions on respect for democracy and the rule of law. While Mr. Blouin was a moderate compared to some of his colleagues, it remains true that the student movement represented the triumph of mob rule. Only one third of all students supported it. The demonstrators ignored court injunctions sought by their fellow students to compel classes to continue. They terrorized fellow students in their classrooms, blocked access to class, planted smoke bombs in metro stations and shut down bridges and roads. And they justified it by saying that they were on the side of “democracy.”
That’s not democracy – it’s anarchy.
The student movement was no “Arab Spring”, as its leaders would have Quebecers
believe. Unlike their Middle Eastern counterparts,
Mr. Charest was right to stand firm
in the face of the protestors. But is taking this position enough to merit
another term in office? Very few leaders win four terms even when their record
is good, and Mr. Charest’s record, on many levels, is not.
By these measures, Mr. Charest does not deserve to be re-elected. But unfortunately, the PQ would be worse. Not because, as the Premier claims, Ms. Marois’ agenda is to hold another referendum on separation. But because on fundamental issues – respect for law, order and the voter – the PQ has made its bed with those who would overturn those institutions, and create a new Leviathan in the process.
By Jock Finlayson
This summer marks the third anniversary of the economic recovery that began following the 2008 global financial crisis and recession that descended upon much of the world in its wake. By any measure it has been a subdued economic rebound, particularly for many of the “advanced” countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Although a few OECD countries,
A little more than halfway through
2012, the signs point to both a faltering global economy and a deteriorating
near-term picture in
In the eurozone – consisting of 17
European nations that have adopted a single currency and central bank – GDP
growth is close to zero, reflecting positive but low growth in the “northern”
A glance at the daily headlines
shows the eurozone mired in a serious economic crisis that features
ever-widening performance gaps between “core” and “peripheral” members,
inadequately capitalized banks, a general drying up of credit, and sky-high
government borrowing costs for countries like
Turning to the
At the heart of this wealth shock was a steep fall in housing prices across much of the country. Today, almost one-quarter of American homeowners with mortgages find themselves with “negative equity” in what, for most, is their single most important asset.
What about the emerging markets, whose brisk growth arguably has been the main factor keeping the world economy afloat since 2007?
Unfortunately, many of these
economies are also losing momentum. Growth is slowing in
All in all, it’s now prudent to
scale back the outlook for
In today’s world,
Winning a war by any means necessary
National Post – July 21, 2012
By Conrad Black
The assassination on Wednesday of the Syrian defence and deputy defence ministers (the latter of whom was President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law) and a senior general, raises interesting questions, and not just about the life expectancy of the blood-stained Assad regime.
The rules of thumb in insurrections are that if the regime won’t fire live ammunition at the insurrectionists, and isn’t a democratically chosen government, it is in serious trouble; if it does give the order to fire and the order is not followed, it is doomed; and if it gives such an order and it is followed and the insurrection continues, the regime will not last indefinitely, as conscript forces won’t shoot on their own people for long.
The Shah of Iran and
As I have written here (and
elsewhere) before, the only morally consistent way to treat recidivist
terrorist states such as
As the steady escalation of
terrorist outrages prior to the infamous attacks on the
The authors of Wednesday’s
The point is not that the coalition
of Syrian rebels who’ve risen up against the Assad regime is a completely
desirable group; it obviously includes some terroristic fanatics, and these
jihadists may even be preeminent in some places. The point is that the West
should be assisting the opposition in
The Iranian-sponsored (according to
Benjamin Netayahu) attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria this week, killing
seven and injuring 30, is another indication, added to so many, of the need for
the application of counter-force to Iran. For some still unknowable reason,
The Obama administration has
inflicted some inconvenience on
Margaret Thatcher famously said, in
refusing to join sanctions against
At the risk of seeming to flirt with
a notion of the redemptive powers of assassination, and suicide-bombing in
particular – and I repeat my disapproval in principle of both murder (but not
in self-defence) and suicide – if Count von Stauffenberg, who placed the bomb
in his brief case beside Hitler in the Nazi leader’s headquarters at Rastenberg
on July 20, 1944, had not left the building to save himself, but had stayed and
moved his brief case when Hitler moved, the death camps and the rest of the
Nazi murder apparatus would almost certainly have consumed the lives of at
least 1.5 million fewer innocents (including Anne Frank and Dietrich
Bonhoffer); the war in Europe would have ended at least eight months earlier,
saving another million or so lives, and Stauffenberg would have died only one
day before he did, and less unpleasantly than, as he did, before a firing
squad. He would have spared many hundreds of Hitler’s victims among his alleged
fellow-plotters, including Field Marshal Irwin Rommel and Admiral Wilhelm
Canaris and the scores of brave Germans dragged through “Raving Roland”
Freisler’s infamous People’s Court and strangled with piano wire, gruesome
spectacles which were recorded on film for the Fuehrer’s personal delectation.
This was the
When it comes to terrorism, it is
the motive, even more than the act, that is wicked. Most of us in relatively
free countries are placatory and seek peace; but if we are pacifists, we will
be endlessly assaulted and ultimately enslaved. This is why the West must
assist the Syrian opposition and prevent a militarily nuclear
Court’s awful ruling taxes our patients
By Robert Knight
When is a tax not a tax? Answer: When you're busy pushing a major expansion of government like Obamacare. The tax that is not a tax becomes a "penalty" or a "shared responsibility payment" in the text of the bill. In campaign lingo, it becomes an "investment."
That's what the Democrats told us
when they rammed Obamacare down
As soon as it hit the courts, however, the tax that is not a tax morphed back into a tax as Mr. Obama's attorneys justified it through Congress' Article I power to tax and spend. The White House, which lambasted opponents for calling the mandate a tax, argued in court that the mandate's enforcement under "Assessment" and "Collection" are right out of the code for the Internal Revenue Service, which will collect the tax, er, penalty, er, uh, tax. Yeah, that's it.
Keep in mind that the individual mandate is only one of 20 new or higher taxes Obamacare imposes on American families. Without the mandate, all parties agreed, Obamacare and those tax increases would go down. People would avoid buying insurance until they get sick, and the system would collapse.
Thursday's jaw-dropping 193-page decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., sounds good at first but ends like a bad novel. By a 5-4 margin, the court upheld the largest tax increase in American history and a massive power grab imposed through trickery, lies, smears, bribes and class warfare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even managed to step on Christmas. Of course, none of this is germane to whether the bill is constitutional. I just like reminding people of how it went down.
The ruling did curb the reach of the commerce clause, the phrase that has empowered several generations of power-hungry liberals, and that part must taste like sour milk in their otherwise delicious smoothie. In his opinion, Justice Roberts wrote: "Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely becausethey are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do."
Citing research that suggests obesity is responsible for 10 percent of health care costs, or about $147 billion annually, the court warned about Congress' temptation to regulate, saying, "Under the government's theory, Congress could address the diet problem by ordering everyone to buy vegetables." Michelle, put down that phone.
Even the court, at least at this juncture, decided that would be a bit much: As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent, joined by Justices Samuel Anthony Alito Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas: "If Congress can reach out and command even those furthest removed from an interstate market to participate in the market, then the Commerce Clause becomes a font of unlimited power, or in Hamilton's words, 'the hideous monster whose devouring jaws ... spare neither sex nor age, nor high nor low, nor sacred nor profane.' "
Justice Roberts' take isn't as colorful, but it does the job: "The Commerce Clause is not a general license to regulate an individual from cradle to grave."
That's great, but who needs the commerce clause when you can justify the same thing via Congress' power to "lay and collect taxes?" The ruling provides an expansive view of the power to tax: "Suppose Congress enacted a statute providing that every taxpayer who owns a house without energy-efficient windows must pay $50 to the IRS. ... No one would doubt that this law imposed a tax, and was within Congress' power to tax."
Really? We can be forced to buy a type of window – or else? No wonder the court thinks it's OK to tax someone just for breathing and not buying health insurance.
The ruling, as bad as it is, does whack the federal government's ability to punish naughty states that don't take more Medicaid candy from the nice men in the parked van with D.C. plates. The feds can dole out Medicaid money with strings, but "[w]hat Congress is not free to do is to penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding."
Most important, the court's shocking decision sets up a scenario similar to the one that produced the Tea Party-GOP tsunami in 2010. Some observers credit Justice Roberts with Machiavellian intent, saying he has guaranteed Mitt Romney's election. Others say the chief justice's ruling, combined with the immigration decision against most of Arizona's law, is proof that he has "gone Washington" and is worrying about what's said at cocktail parties, like many previously conservative GOP appointees before him whose names I won't mention (Justices Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens and Earl Warren).
I hope Justice Roberts is sounder than that, even if this decision rots. His opinion might simply reflect his conservative bent that big issues need to be decided at the ballot box, not in the courts. Indeed, Justice Roberts wrote: "Members of this court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our nation's elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."
No, the court won't save us. We must get involved in November's election as if our children's and grandchildren's future hangs in the balance.
That's not too taxing for freedom-loving Americans, is it?
Will the last American please turn off the light when he leaves
One – Chief Justice John
Roberts betrayed the Constitution and
1. The rapid increase of divorce
which weakened the family, the foundation of society
Historian Will Durant, author of the
11-volume “Story of Civilization,” essentially agreed with both Toynbee and
Gibbon. “A great nation is not conquered from without until it has destroyed
itself within. The essential causes of
Jason Kenney couldn’t ‘kill compassion’ if he tried
National Post – July 17, 2012
By Marni Soupcoff
When a young protestor was thrown out of a Conservative party barbecue over the weekend for interrupting a speech by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, I expected complaints. Charges of police brutality, or censorship, or closed-mindedness. Instead, the protestor in question, 17-year-old Bashir Mohamed, has been quite cheerful about the whole affair.
“The police were very nice,” he said not long after being released from police custody with no charges. “They just wanted to figure out what was going on. I have nothing against the police.”
Mohamed did fall while being pulled out of the event, but he says he was not hurt. (He was still able to shout out “Jason Kenney is killing compassion with his health care cuts!” in the process.) In fact, the only thing the teenager, who says he was born in a Kenyan refugee camp, is now requesting for is a 10-minunte, one-on-one debate with Kenney about the government’s cuts to health care for refugees.
Mohammed gets bonus points for not inventing lame police brutality claims, or heading straight to a human rights commission to whine about being silenced by the man. He has quite a lot of nerve, however, to suggest that rudely shouting at Kenney during a talk qualifies him above all other critics for face time with the minister.
Besides, it seems unlikely Mohammed could add much to the debate. Because arguments against the cuts – that they will harm the most vulnerable people in society, that they will cost the government more in health-care costs in the long run – have been made quite vociferously since the changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) were first announced. Mohammed could call Kenney cruel and inhumane. But he wouldn’t be the first to do so. There’s already a “We’re Ashamed of Jason Kenney” petition available online for the signing.
Anyway, we already know what Jason Kenney would say in such a 10-minute battle, too. All refugees are still entitled to the same level of health care as Canadian citizens, which is to say all necessary medical treatment is covered. The cuts only apply to supplementary coverage for things like dental and vision care and medication – things the rest of us pay for out of our own pockets – and even then, the cuts only apply to some asylum claimants. Bogus claimants will be deterred. The federal government will save $100-million over five years. And given the government’s other changes to the refugee claim process, provincial governments should save even more money, since false claimants will spend less time in the country.
And so on and so forth. The interesting thing is that the debate seems to focus on how big a deal it is if refugee claimants can’t access dental care or medication. But why do we assume that ending government coverage of these things inevitably dooms refugees to go without them? Isn’t that an underestimation of both the claimants’ resilience and our society’s level of caring?
First the resilience: Legitimate
refugee seekers come from terrible situations and arrive with few resources or
contacts in a new country. Landing a job in
There is help available for
claimants searching for work, in any case, from charitable organizations – everything
from the Red Cross to Catholic outreach ministries to provincial
not-for-profits – which brings us to Canada’s level of caring.
Far from banishing refugee claimants to inevitable misery, Jason Kenney is reminding us of what living in a compassionate country really means.
Supreme Court backs guilt by association
Ruling supports police fight against crime gangs
By Peggy Curran
Should you happen to get caught delivering cocaine for the mob, here's a tip. Playing dumb is not a strong defence.
If the people you are dealing with walk like the Mafia and sound like the Hells Angels, the Supreme Court of Canada said Friday you shouldn't be surprised to find you've been cited under a law that outlaws association with a criminal organization to commit a crime – even if you aren't a card-carrying member of the gang.
That's good news for police, who in recent years have relied on large-scale raids, under-cover moles, wiretapping and elite squads to crack the whip on gangsterism.
The ruling appears to open the way for police to close in on street gangs, cybercrime and other types of criminal activity that depend on structure, leadership and planning.
Section 467.13 of the Criminal Code, the guilt-by-association clause, had been challenged as vague and unconstitutional.
But Friday, in a 7-0 ruling, the country's highest court said it was designed to tackle the specific problems posed by motorcycle gangs, drug cartels and crime families.
"Organized criminal entities thrive and expand their reach by developing specializations and dividing labour accordingly; fostering trust and loyalty within the organization; sharing customers, financial resources and insider knowledge; and in some circum-stances, developing a reputation for violence," wrote Justice Morris Fish. "A group that operates with even a minimal degree of organization over a period of time is bound to capitalize on these advantages and acquire a level of sophistication and expertise that poses an enhanced threat to the surrounding community."
The case dates to 2006, when a
Venneri was convicted on eight counts for his role in sup-plying Dauphin, the drug king-pin, a man the court identifies simply as D.
His lawyer appealed, and argued Venneri was not a member of the drug-trafficking ring headed by D, but had been called upon as a backup.
In restoring a charge of involvement with organized crime, the Supreme Court rejected Venneri's quibbling about what "in association with" means.
"There is ample evidence that V knew that D was operating a large drug-trafficking organization – or made himself wilfully blind to that," Fish wrote, citing evidence showing Venneri had bought cocaine from Dauphin in the past and later became "an important pillar" of his supply network.
The Supreme Court decision is intended to clear some of the ambiguities arising from the murky question of what constitutes a criminal organization.
Fish argues the justice sys-tem needs to stay flexible when dealing with the underworld. The court cautioned against law enforcement officials using Section 467.13 too loosely.
"Structure and continuity are still important features that differentiate criminal organizations from other groups of offenders that sometimes act in concert," Fish wrote.
There are plenty of old-fashioned offences to handle criminal conspiracies that don't qualify as gangland activity, he said.
Fish said the law must not be interpreted so rigidly that it only covers "the stereotypical model of organized crime – that is, to the highly sophisticated, hierarchical and monopolistic model."
"Some criminal entities that do not fit the conventional paradigm of organized crime may nonetheless, on account of their cohesiveness and endurance, pose the type of heightened threat contemplated by the legislative scheme."
S&M Mountie won't be asked to quit
But Bond disappointed by officer's actions
By Lori Culbert
Justice Minister Shirley Bond is disappointed and unhappy about the actions of a Coquitlam police officer who posted online sexual images of him-self domineering women, but stopped short of demanding the corporal resign.
"I am clearly unhappy about the kind of message this incident sends to the public. It's important that British Columbians have confidence in the men and women who serve in our communities every day as police officers," Bond said in a statement Thursday.
"We expect more from our police and I am disappointed in this particular situation."
Bond noted Brown has been placed on administrative duties and said she could not comment further until a review of the RCMP's handling of the case is completed by an outside police agency.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart did not return several messages Thursday asking for comment on whether he has any concerns about Brown working in his city.
Hilla Kerner, who works at Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter, said she and her colleagues were out-raged by the thought of a police officer engaging in sexualized images that portray women in a demeaning way.
"It is absurd to think that his personal, private behaviour has nothing to do with his professional role as a police officer," she said.
Kerner added it is stories like this one that have made some women hesitate to report sexual assaults to police.
"We do not trust this man, and the agency he is part of, to protect women from male violence," she said.
"While it may be emotionally questionable to onlookers, in fact, ethically speaking, there is nothing wrong here. We have a tendency to equate people with their professional standing and that is unfair," Kluge said.
"One should never confuse an emotional reaction with what is ethically appropriate."
"It is possible to have an interest in S&M photos, for example, and not necessarily have an aversive [unpleasant] personality in your personal life or any other aspect of your life," Paulhus said. "In particular, the S&M community seems to be a group of people who are normal in every respect, except for their interest in sadistic and/or masochistic activities."
Paulhus allowed such research might be surprising to some, but said the results shouldn't be applied any differently to Brown because he is a police officer. "Other than for public relations purposes – it is going to look pretty bad because of the association of any kind of unusual sexual behaviour."
That is of little comfort to Lilliane Beaudoin, whose sister Dianne Rock was one of the 26 women Coquitlam pig farmer Robert (Willy) Pickton was accused of killing. Beaudoin accused Brown, who played a small role in the Pickton investigation, of discriminating against women in the photos.
"To me, he broke the oath he took when he became a police officer. I think it is disgusting and he should be reprimanded and should lose his job," Beaudoin said.
Dickson also took umbrage with Brown's comment to The Sun that there were no victims in his photos.
"As [a] former police officer still working with the women in the Downtown Eastside, I found it extremely offensive that the officer would suggest there was no victim," Dickson said in an email to The Sun.
Maureen McGrath, a nurse who hosts CKNW's Sunday Night Sex Show, said many people are into consensual bondage and submissive/masochistic sex acts. "Photographing these scenes is [however], unnecessary and disgusting, and to post them even worse," she said.
McGrath added it is disturbing behaviour by a police officer: "the very person one would look to help us in this kind of crisis."
Survival tips for the next generation to get started in life
By Stephen Hume
I too was once a teenager faced with the scary, exhilarating, daunting prospect of leaving home for a first full-time job in a distant city.
My late mother sat me down and matter-of-factly advised on survival tactics.
They have served me well.
As a new generation of teenagers prepares to depart home for the world of work, bills, taxes and other distractions, I thought I'd share them.
Top of the list for useful tips was her ironclad rule for bank accounts. There's only one – more money comes in than goes out, no matter what. For a young person, running in the red is like trying to swim in the tar pits – there's only one direction, down, and on a small income, once in, it's almost impossible to crawl out.
Furthermore, pay yourself first. Always divert a small fixed amount right off the top of every paycheque into a savings account and forget you ever had it. It's there for that day of disaster you never foresaw.
There's no free money. Educate yourself about interest rates. Credit cards are convenient, but the rates are not. Until you figure out how to manage credit, restrict purchases on plastic to what you know you can pay before the grace period ends. Be ruthless about this.
Don't mistake what you want for what you need. There's a vast industry out there dedicated to persuading you to want what you don't need and to need what you don't want. Don't be that sucker the hucksters hope will be born every minute. Learn the power of "No!" Especially said to yourself.
Start a file, even in a shoebox. File all your receipts, debit slips, paid bills, cheque stubs and bank statements, even if you just open the lid and toss them in. The day you get your first rude notice that a bill hasn't been paid when it has, or that your warranty has expired when it hasn't, you'll thank that shoebox. Ditto for income tax; remember, tax collectors don't care whether you live or die, just that you pay – and if you don't pay promptly, you'll wish you had died.
Used is useful. Today's fashion is tomorrow's trash for some with disposable income. But anyone with imagination can dress with flair from the consignment and thrift racks. You can furnish an apartment with what less discerning consumers think unfashionable. And the difference in performance between last year's laptop and next month's model is almost imperceptible; why pay a premium for what you won't notice?
Friends are made, not born. You have to make an effort to find them and when you do, you have to invest in nurturing the friendship – which, please remember, is not all about you, but about them.
Sound friends will bless you in ways you can't imagine, not least by good-naturedly telling you when you're being a jerk or foolish.
Sound friends will bless you in ways you can't imagine, not least by good-naturedly telling you when you're being a jerk or foolish.
Speaking of friends, my mother advised, there will come a day when you meet somebody for whom you wish to prepare a meal, not hockey snacks. Here is the menu she bequeathed. It is simple, cheap, elegant, can be whipped up on the spur of the moment and works for dinner, lunch or breakfast.
The perfect salad: one bunch of fresh spinach, stalks removed; toss with a bit olive oil and balsamic vinegar; toss it again with walnut halves and bits of creamy blue cheese.
The perfect omelette: all you need are eggs, a small piece of brie cheese (you can substitute just about any cheese but grate it if it's a hard one) and steamed fresh asparagus (canned works, too), or some fresh spin-ach leaves, sliced black olives, chopped tomato, sliced avocado or whatever takes your fancy.
Use two to three eggs per omelette, depending on appetite; whisk frothy with a table-spoon of water; pour into a hot, greased or non-stick fry pan over medium heat and when eggs just begin to set, lay thin slices of brie or grated cheese topped with asparagus – or whatever – on half the omelette; when firm enough, fold the naked side over the dressed with a spatula and slide onto a serving plate. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and alternating rounds of red and green peppers.
The perfect romantic dessert: separated egg yolks – two per serving; sugar – one tablespoon for each yolk; sherry – two table-spoons for each yolk (supermarket cooking Marsala works just fine); a cup of whipping cream and a pint of fresh strawberries (or blackberries, blueberries or whatever).
Slice the strawberries, toss them in some sugar to coat and set aside. Whip the cream until stiff and set aside. Vigorously whisk together egg yolks, sugar and sherry until frothy and yellow. Heat the egg mixture in a double boiler or a steel mixing bowl above – but not touching – simmering water. Whisk the sauce until it is thick and frothy. Fold it gently into the whipped cream with a spatula. Spoon this warm over the berries. Or put your berries into some cups, top with the sauce and put it in the fridge to chill. Either way, it will be a hit.
For a beverage, just sparkling apple juice or orange juice with a buzz of ginger ale.
Finally, for the neophyte's kitchen, two little cookbooks (find them used): Frugal Feasts by Mary Spilsbury Ross provides more than a hundred inexpensive, easy recipes for single-serving meals; and The Book of Ramen by Ron Konzak provides scores of surprisingly tasty recipes using instant Asian noodles and other simple ingredients from the cupboard.
So there you go, sound finances, fine friends and good cheap food. What else does anyone need to get started in life?
Doctors lag behind public on assisted suicide
Many physicians are uncomfortable with the idea of assisted suicide and the idea they would be involved
By Sharon Kirkey
A majority of Canadians are in favour of legalizing medically assisted suicide, but the doctors expected to help carry out this most difficult decision aren't so sure whether they want to be involved.
Earlier this month, a B.C. court
The issue is fraught with emotion and controversy – so much that many doctors declined interviews for this story. Some said they still haven't sorted out their own views; for others, the issue is just too controversial to touch.
Doctors are divided because the concept of euthanasia, administering a lethal injection of barbiturates, with or without muscle relaxants, with the sole, specific intent to end a life, or doctor-assisted suicide, where the doctor provides a lethal prescription and the patient uses the drugs to kill himself, "is not part of our formation, it's not part of the values that make up medical practice," says Dr. Ken Flegel, an internal medicine doctor in Montreal and a senior associate editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In the United Kingdom, when 1,001 doctors were asked whether they would personally want the option of a medically assisted death if they were terminally ill and suffering unbearably, 33 per cent said yes; 34 per cent said no. The remainder were either unsure or chose not to answer.
To some degree, doctors say, physician-assisted dying is already happening. It can sometimes take ever-increasing amounts of morphine to control terminal pain; morphine at high doses depresses breathing.
Some doctors believe a change in law
is all but coming given the social movement toward greater patient autonomy and
choice. It's about control, says Dr. Peter Kirk, director of the division of
palliative care at the
"If you're the kind of person who's been an independent person – who's done everything for themselves, and wanted to do everything for themselves – and then you become this person who has to have their bottom wiped and their mouth cleaned and helped with their feeding ... I think we would all fear that a bit."
But there's an "uncomfortableness," he says, with giving someone the power to end another person's life when they say they want it to end.
"That worries me a little bit, the kind of slippery slope."
Most patients, he says, choose the opposite, telling him: I want every day you can give me.
"Personally, I have nothing against physician-assisted suicide or even euthanasia, but don't ask me to do it. Because my role is that, if I see a patient suffering, I will do everything in my power to relieve that suffering."
The Canadian Medical Association,
which opposes euthanasia and medically assisted suicide, says equal access to
palliative care for all Canadians is needed before any changes in the law can
be considered. The best palliative care requires an "exquisite
attentiveness" to physical, psychological and spiritual issues, says Dr.
Harvey Max Chochinov, Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care and a
distinguished professor in the department of psychiatry at the
Chochinov said the issue is how having assisted-suicide as an option "would affect how we practise medicine and how society approaches those who are vulnerable and those whose lives are drawing to a close."
Doctors "who feel less adept at, and are less exposed to, care for the dying" are more likely to endorse "death-hastening options," he said, and that hopelessness – whether it lives in the patient or the doctor – "can be infectious."
Much of English
Half of people outside la belle province don't feel separation would affect them
By Mark Kennedy
Half of Canadians living outside
The nationwide survey on Canadian
values commissioned by Postmedia News and Global TV suggests the national
landscape has changed, with a general election possible in
Whereas Canadians once watched to see if the Parti Quebecois – which advocates separatism – would emerge as an election winner, the trend out-side the province is that people simply don't care.
"Over the years, it's just one of those things where you get threatened so many times," Ipsos Reid president Darrell Bricker said in an interview Thursday. "I think people have sort of walked away from this debate and the country has moved in a new direction."
The poll found high levels of support for bilingualism, at 61 per cent, and 59 per cent believe any senior official in the federal government should be fluent in English and French.
Bricker said the survey shows many
Canadians no longer feel threatened by the thought of
Albertans (56 per cent) are the most likely to say Quebec separation is no big deal, followed by British Columbians (51 per cent) and Ontarians (50 per cent). Quebeckers themselves do think it's important – an overwhelming 92 per cent said it's a big deal. But that doesn't necessarily mean support for separatism is strong.
The pollster says there doesn't
appear to be strong support for sovereignty in
Those findings within
However, they are much different
from the razor-thin margin in the 1995
In recent days, the federal
government has been preparing for the possibility that national unity and
But Bricker said it's important to
consider that much has changed to shift public opinion about
The figures come from two Ipsos Reid polls carried out June 11-18 and June 20-25. The first involved 1,101 Canadians and had a margin error of 3.0 percentage points for national results. The second involved 1,009 Canadians and had a national margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
Proud of the oil sands
National Post – June 28, 2012
By Father Raymond J. De Souza
As Thomas Mulcair can attest, it is
rather easier to speak about the oil sands than it is to actually get up here
and see what is going on.
Three years ago, upon the occasion
of the merger of oil sands pioneer Suncor with Petro-Canada, this column
examined some of the ethical questions posed by oil sands development. The
argument then was just emerging about "ethical oil," namely that
The argument is actually stronger
than comparative politics, with "democratic" oil trumping
"tyrannical" oil. Only some 25% of the world's oil reserves are
developed by private companies; the vast majority are state enterprises. Of
that quarter of global reserves, half are in the oil sands. The oil sands are a
minority phenomenon in the oil business – development by private companies
subject to the rule of law, accountable to public shareholders, and disciplined
by market forces. Those displeased with the oil sands can lobby Suncor and the
other companies operating here, they can shape the public policy environment,
they can even invest and become shareholders, something rather easier to do in
Indeed, the oil sands exist in a public environment shaped largely by their adversaries. Being toured around for the day by the folks at Suncor, I had to remind myself that energy production was the whole point of the endeavour. Aside from the actual extraction plant, where the liquefied black gold oozes forth, all the talk is about the environment, aboriginal relations and community involvement. It's almost as if an enormous social development project – recreation centres, health clinics, mobile dentistry units, school funding, investment in aboriginal enterprises, immigration assistance, translation services – was the main task, with a lucrative sideline in energy production to fund it all.
Without irony, our earnest guide spoke glowingly of the vast bus network employed by the various companies to get thousands of workers to the sites, proudly boasting of the reduced emissions the bus fleet achieves.
Environmentalists ought to be pleased that the proudest boast of the oil sands is not their oil production but their environmental reclamation projects, and that new technology that may obviate the need for tailings ponds altogether.
Like all first-time visitors to the
oil sands, I was struck by the scale of the projects. Some are apparently
scandalized by this, but the sheer human ingenuity behind the engineering is
surely inspiring. From a scientific and technological standpoint, there is much
to take pride in, a global success story developed right here in
Many objections arise from a lack of
comparative sensibility. The gigantic shovels and trucks do create mining pits
of vast size, but the utter vastness of
It is true that an open pit mine is
not a lovely thing, but then energy generation is rarely aesthetically
pleasing. It is not obvious that a large mine, destined to be reclaimed, is any
worse than the flooded land upstream of a hydroelectric dam, or the enormous
towers of a nuclear reactor. Or to make the point more generally, how is a mine
in a remote part of
The oil sands, like any major industrial project, are not without tradeoffs. Yet I have never been to any operation where more attention was paid to mitigating effects than to the principal enterprise. I understand why the oil sands are defensive, which is rather the proper response when being attacked. But there should also be pride in the massive entrepreneurial, technical, and human achievement of harvesting the earth's bounty. That pride belongs naturally enough to Albertans, but Canadians as a whole should share in it too.
Turning union dues to don'ts
National Post – June 28, 2012
By Andrew Coyne
Recently, one of
The work is performed by members of the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council, with whom the TDSB is required to contract for virtually all such projects. But even outside contractors, where they are permitted, must kick in a portion of their wages in "dues" to the Trades Council, much as the TDSB's in-house construction workers must.
The Trades Council's president, Jimmy Hazel, is unapologetic. Asked by the newspaper about the electrical outlet, which took four hours but for which the board was billed 76, Mr. Hazel replied, "we don't need to f---ing prove anything to anybody about costs."
No, indeed. This is perhaps an extreme example, but it illustrates a more general principle. Unions are unique among private organizations in Canada in that they have been assigned what amounts to the power to ta to collect dues, via the usual paycheque deductions, not only from their own members, but also those who exercise their legal right not to join the union, who are nevertheless required to pay the same dues as if they had – an arrangement known in Canada as "the Rand formula."
Of course, this applies only within the minority of Canadian workplaces that are union shops: just 16% of private sector workers now belong to unions, a figure that has declined over the years as output and employment shifted to non-unionized firms and sectors. But in the public sector, where membership is still north of 70%, unions have the power not only to tax their members, but thanks to the state's monopoly in the provision of many public services, the taxpayers as well. So Mr. Hazel is right: He really doesn't need to f---ing prove anything to anybody.
So ingrained is this status – the
Rand formula has been with us for more than 60 years – that it is little short
of astonishing to see a major political party in Canada proposing to challenge
it head on. Yet that is what the Ontario Progressive Conservative party has
just done. The party's white paper on "Flexible Labour Markets"
proposes a raft of reforms to the province's labour laws that would, taken
Amid a number of measures – outside
supervision of certification votes, a leaner mandate for the Ontario Labour
Relations Board, the right to opt out of the provincial workers compensation
system in favour of private insurance – two stand out. The party would abolish
the closed shop in public tendering, opening the bidding to all contractors,
union and non-union alike. More radically still, it would abolish the
In the main, these are long overdue
reforms. Whether or not the
Still, there's no arguing this would do much to undercut the power of unions, which will be deeply upsetting to those of the conviction that unions are all that stand between the population and penury: notwithstanding that unions today are a disproportionately white-collar, upper-educated, public-sector phenomenon. The contrary view, as in the 23 U.S. states with "right-to-work" laws (to which, the paper notes, more than five million Americans have migrated in the last decade), as in Australia, New Zealand and some European countries, holds that prosperity is not ultimately based on coercion, but on productivity. While unions can command a premium over market wages (about 8%, according to Canadian research), that is generally sustainable only where competition is constrained – to the cost of consumers and/or taxpayers.
In any case, monopoly is not an
It is particularly gratifying seeing PC leader Tim Hudak pick up this mantle. Under his leadership the party ran a dispiriting, cynical campaign in the last election, avoiding substantive differences with the governing Liberals in favour of a string of populist gimmicks – and squandering a double-digit lead. That disaster has clearly taught him, and them, a lesson. Since the election the party's message has been notably sober-minded and constructive.
It is as if they mean to make a case
to the public for why they should be elected, rather than the other guys
"The world has changed, and our economy has changed with it," Tory leader Tim Hudak said. Among the suggested changes:
- Provincial rules should be changed to block the mandatory paycheque deductions of union dues, and give workers the option of not joining a union in workplaces with collective agreements
- Unions should be forced to release information on their finances and what they spend money on
- Workplace insurance, currently exclusively provided by the Workplace Safety Insurance Board for some industries, should be opened up to competition from the private sector
- End the practice of "closed tendering" for government contracts
National Post – June 27, 2012
By John Ivison
The Conservatives talk constantly about ensuring taxpayers get value for money. But the reality is the politicians don't control the spending process as tightly as they like to think they do. The bureaucracy is the real power in the land – and its interests are often best served by growing the size of government.
Take this example of bureaucratic empire building: The federal government allocates funding for office accommodation according to a formula equivalent to 13% of total salary costs. As a result, any increase in salary costs also increases funding for office accommodation.
Think about that for a moment. If total wages for public servants go up – and they have risen from $25.5-billion in 2007 to $31.1-billion last year – then Ottawa increases spending on accommodation by a commensurate amount, even if there is no need for more space.
And there isn't – the government
already has millions of square metres of unused space and will have millions
more once it completes new properties, reduces headcount and increases density
in its existing buildings. The feds are in the process of building six new
office towers in the
The Public Works department manages seven million square metres of property, more than half of which is in the National Capital Region. Sixteen buildings in the region have unoccupied space of 50% or more.
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," said one veteran private sector real estate expert, when he heard about the funding formula. "Does a company like TD automatically pay 3% more for office space, if salary costs go up 3%? Categorically, no."
The existence of the 13% formula is probably news to most members of the government. It certainly surprised Doug Finley, the Conservative senator who unearthed the information at a Senate finance committee hearing into the supplementary estimates.
The news went unreported – maybe because so few reporters cover the Senate these days; maybe because no one could quite believe what they were hearing.
Last November, Senator Finley asked Bill Matthews of Treasury Board's expenditure management sector why Public Works was getting an extra $38-million. He was told it was because of the funding formula. "It's a kind of proxy for inflation," said Mr. Matthews.
When Mr. Matthews returned to the Senate committee with a colleague last March to defend an additional $54-million in request spending by Public Works, Senator Finley again badgered him on the formula. "Who determines what the percentage will be? Has it ever decreased?" he asked.
It has always been 13%, he was told. And, no review has been carried out in recent memory.
It's almost beyond satire – a system where no one can effect change but everyone can stop it. A number was picked, apparently arbitrarily, at some point in a past so distant that no one can recall why it was chosen. It continues to dictate increased spending on office space on a seemingly inexorable trajectory, regardless of need.
The elimination of 19,000 public
service jobs will reduce
Hard on the heels of the F35 debacle, the office space funding formula ruse offers another example of where the real authority lies in government – with a system designed to outlast the itinerant politicians who wield the illusion of power.
Ecstasy trade in B.C. has deadly consequences
Health officers urge policy reform to cut out dealers who often substitute other drugs
By Tamsyn Burgmann
Glowsticks, fuzzy pants and DJ
Johnny Fiasco were the recipe for a
But after a Canada-wide RCMP bust cleared out stockpiles of ecstasy one August weekend in 1997, the 19-year-old dealer lost his usual source.
So he scooped up 200 pills from some guy in the back of a car, having no clue they were the hallucinogen PCP cut with horse tranquillizer.
“We ended up with a party full of
sick kids,” said the 34-year-old, who now lives in
Similar misadventure have occurred countless times in the ensuing years, the latest a rash of 16 deaths across Western Canada in nine months from an ecstasy batch laced with PMMA, a chemical not previously seen here.
Several top public health officials
are now proposing a rethink of illegal-drug policies they say exacerbates a
global problem involving ecstasy, one that even the White House says is made in
But the suggestion for dialogue about a careful, science-based crafting of new health-oriented regulations comes at the same time the federal government has taken the opposite course with its omnibus crime bill.
In mid-March, the class of drugs that includes the substance MDMA – considered the pure and original form of ecstasy – was bumped up to a Schedule I drug under Bill C-10, giving it heightened status alongside heroin and cocaine.
The boost has the health officers and other advocates of change warning the tough-on-crime approach will not curb street ecstasy’s use or its associated dangers, but instead will further play into the hands of organized crime
They want a public conversation around combating it.
“We need to involve multiple
Responsible for deaths
Police say street ecstasy is killing an average of 20 British Columbians each year.
“This is a very emotive, controversial topic for a lot of people,” he said. “Do I see a consensus coming out of it in the short run? No ... But I still think that it would be a conversation that’s worth having from an evidence-based perspective.”
One “hypothetical” way users could obtain ecstasy, he said, would be through licensed, government-regulated stores. Under such a scheme, the drug would still be illegal to minors, and consumers might be permitted to only buy a certain amount each week or month. Promotional advertising would not occur.
He likened the scenario to the way
booze was sold to him in
“When I wanted to buy liquor, I went
into a government-run store, there was a list of products on the wall. I went
to a man who was behind the counter, he wore a brown overall,”
Kendall has co-authored an open paper
urging an evidence-based reevaluation of federal illegal-drug policies with the
provincial health officers of
He and the host of doctors argue
that implementing public health-oriented regulations would decrease usage
rates, as has occurred in
That would vastly reduce sales to minors, they contend, and prevent deaths because even if teens did use, they would more likely be getting a cleaner product.
“It means getting away from
ideologically based approaches,” said Dr. Robert Strang,
Since last July, 10 people in
Arrests of two alleged small-time traffickers were made in February, though as recently as early May, RCMP in Penticton were warning the toxic batch had surfaced there.
RCMP have targeted the domestic ecstasy inventory by raiding synthetic production houses and by cracking down on the supply channels of the chemicals that go into it. Investigators say those strategies have made some dents.
The police line is firm: no amount of ecstasy is safe.
The federal Conservatives’ rescheduling of amphetamines such as MDMA generally means dealers now face one-year mandatory minimum sentences, producers face two years and harsher punishment will be meted out in instances of possession for trafficking or exporting.
Unlike a decade ago, pills on the street are much cheaper, Smartie-like tablets of pressed powder stamped with decals like the Olympic rings.
B.C., the province stirring the pot
on drug policy reform, also happens to be
The United Nations, the White House, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the RCMP have fingered the province as a global manufacturing hub, where mainly Chinese gangs cook up the substance for wholesale distribution across international borders.
The gangs source the precursor
chemicals – like MDP2P which comes from the sassafras plant – from connections
It says that ecstasy tablets are no longer just MDMA, but rather a “cocktail of chemicals,” as Canadian organized crime groups “demonstrate a willingness to utilize whichever chemicals are readily available to them.”
Pills that mimic MDMA, resembling
candy or children’s vitamins and seized around
He said it’s only within the past
four years or so that
“They set up labs in British Columbia, they got in the tools and the dies and the formula and the expertise, so that they didn’t have to import any longer, they just made it there,” he said.
Four million ecstasy tablets were
seized at the Canada-U.S. border in 2010, up from two million in 2006, said D.
E. A special agent Jeffrey Scott in
He doesn’t believe its regulation will reduce gang activity.
“If you take one substance away from them it’s not likely that they’re suddenly going to go run McDonald’s or go open a retail store,” he said. “They’re just going to shift to another illicit substance.”
Those intimately familiar with the drug, dubbed “Dr. Death” in some circles, say they wouldn’t touch the stuff today.
“For me, MDMA is white. It’s not purple, it’s not pink, it’s not blue. It’s fluffy, it smells like delicious licorice,” said Kevin, who began capping the powder on his dining room table himself after the party poisoning incident, but has long since stopped.
“But you don’t find that any more. It’s just a bunch of crap that some dude in his basement, who owns a print shop, is scraping into pills – pressing them and then selling them for 50 cents apiece.”
He believes crushing the drug’s illicit aura would benefit society.
“You can ask any drug dealer,” he said.
“They will tell you that if they have a good product – and a bad product that’s cheaper – 85 to 90 per cent of their clients, they’re going to spend the extra money for the product that’s going to be clean.”
Mobile immigrants test Canadian court’s reach in divorce
National Post – June 25, 2012
By Adrian Humphreys
A high-stakes divorce between a
wealthy businessman and his wife – who immigrated from
The acrimonious marital split has already brought accusations of parental child abduction, scuttled an initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange, drawn evidence of $165.5 million in tax havens overseas and revealed the couple’s $3-million Toronto home has been only occasionally occupied.
And now, the family’s on-again,
off-again residency in
Similarly, the children have been
shuttled back and forth between
After declining to intercede further, Judge Jarvis’ ruling is now under appeal with the hope of new and clearer rules on when a court can act.
“It will be very helpful for the
Court of Appeal to decide on tests of residency in cases such as this,” said
Andrew Rogerson, a
“We have a multicultural country where people have come from virtually everywhere in the world and it makes the issue confronting the judges of Ontario more internationalized than would happen in a country that didn’t have such a mosaic.
“It is indicative that
This family’s problems first came to
court in April when the wife, Hong Wang, 39, sought an
She feared her husband, who had been successful in real estate, would move money beyond her reach in any divorce settlement.
She won that round.
“My order was sweeping and was quickly
followed by an order of the High Court of Justice in the
But much is still left to decide.
Born and married in
The mother and children became
Canadian citizens but because of the husband’s travels, he lost his permanent
residency status. In 2010, they were reunited in
“[He] told me that the marriage was
definitely over and he would not give me any money to go away now, but would
later give me two condos in
She complained the amount was only about 2% of their assets.
She returned to
Judge Jarvis said Ms. Wang’s affidavit “was artfully composed” to make it seem she qualified.
“It is clear to me that Ms. Wang was
not ordinarily resident in
But as Judge Jarvis was deliberating
last month, Mr. Lin reported the children had gone missing without a trace in
She had moved them back to
“Ms. Wang complained about the food, rudeness of the people and had the temerity to testify that many Chinese found money to be their most important motivator,” Judge Jarvis said.
Mr. Lin’s lawyer argued the children
had been wrongfully taken and ask they be sent back to
Judge Jarvis questioned how much
real power he had in the case. He declined to order the children back to
“This case highlights the fairly
recent trend of wealthy Chinese nationals who obtain permanent residency in
“The question of divorces and custody battles with international and immigration implications will continue to be of increasing importance given the diversity of our immigrant population, their ability to travel frequently and their continuing ties to their countries of origin,” he said.
“It is not surprising that these fights become more legally complex and with much more money at stake.”
Bill would expand minister's power over deportations
By Stephanie Levitz
New legislation introduced Wednesday
by the Conservative government gives greater powers to the immigration and
public safety ministers to determine who gets to come and stay in
It's the latest in a series of changes that have given the immigration minister in particular far more individual say over immigration matters.
The proposed law, called the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, seeks to cut off avenues for convicted criminals to appeal their deportation. Now, anyone who is not a Canadian citizen and is sentenced to less than two years in prison can appeal the automatic deportation order that comes along with a jail term.
But the proposal would see that
right cut off for sentences of greater than six months, even for permanent
residents who have been in
"I'm more concerned about the
rights of law-abiding Canadians who have been victimized by foreign criminals
who have delayed their deportation, than I am about the rights of foreign
national citizens who committed serious crimes in
The government argues that convicted
criminals abuse the existing appeal system to avoid deportation and, in the
meantime, remain in
Kenney said many immigrants convicted of crimes avoid deportation because they are sentenced to less than two years in prison.
According to Statistics Canada, 86 per cent of prison sentences in 2010-11 were for six months or less. Officials with the immigration department say there are more than 2,700 deportation orders currently being appealed, with the average file taking 15 months to process.
The proposed legislation also makes
it more difficult for those convicted of crimes abroad - and their families -
to get into
It also removes the right to appeal
on humanitarian or compassionate grounds for people refused entry to
Those turned away do have the right to appeal directly to the minister of public safety, but the new law would only require the minister to take only national security and public safety factors into account, not humanitarian concerns.
Another provision would allow the minister of public safety to overturn a ruling of inadmissibility "on his or her own initiative."
The department said this would, for
example, allow the minister to admit heads of state into
Officials were quick to clarify this wouldn't mean war criminals.
Meanwhile, the immigration minister
would be given the power to deny someone entry into
Since 2008, Kenney has quietly been amassing more control over immigration, beginning with the use of a device called a "ministerial instruction" that revamped the skilled worker program in a bid to eradicate a major backlog of applications.
In the government's refugee reform bill, before the Senate, the minister is given singular power to draw up a list of safe countries from which those claiming refugee status would receive greater scrutiny.
B.C. judge strikes down law banning assisted suicide in
Plaintiff suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease calls ruling a 'blessing' for seriously and incurably ill
By Neal Hall
A B.C. judge ruled Friday to strike
down the law that makes physician-assisted death illegal in
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith ruled that the current law violates the constitutional rights of the three plaintiffs who led the landmark legal challenge, launched by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
"They succeed because the provisions unjustifiably infringe the equality rights of Gloria Taylor and the rights to life, liberty and security of the person of Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson," the judge concluded in a 395-page written judgment released Friday.
While declaring the law against
euthanasia invalid, the judge suspended that declaration for one year to allow
Parliament to determine what requirements are needed to make the law comply
"During that period of suspension, a constitutional exemption will permit Ms. Taylor the option of physician-assisted death under a number of conditions," Smith ruled.
The judge set out the conditions in her ruling: Taylor, who is terminally ill, must provide written consent, her attending physician must attest that she is terminally ill and near death with no hope of recovery, and the physician and a consulting psychiatrist must attest that Taylor is mentally competent.
Once those conditions are met,
The judge found that "palliative care cannot relieve all suffering" and accepted that legal end-of-life practices allow doctors to withhold life-sustaining treatment and administer palliative sedation to the point of hastening death.
"There are respected practitioners who would support legal change," Smith wrote.
"They state that providing physician-assisted death in defined cases, with safeguards, would be consistent with their ethical views," she added.
The judge acknowledged public opinion is divided on the issue. "The most commonly expressed reason for maintaining a distinction between cur-rent accepted end-of-life practices and physician-assisted death is that any system of safeguards will not adequately protect the vulnerable," Smith wrote.
"The evidence shows that risks exist, but they can be largely avoided through care-fully designed, well-monitored safeguards," the judge ruled.
The case is expected to be appealed by the federal or B.C. governments, which opposed striking down the law.
Their position was that very good medical care is available for the dying, including palliative sedation to reduce end-of-life pain for patients suffering terminal illnesses such as cancer, ALS and Huntington's disease.
"We hope the government will not appeal," Joe Arvay, the constitutional lawyer rep-resenting the plaintiffs, said Friday.
He said his client, Taylor, cried with relief when she heard the judge had ruled in her favour.
"This decision allows me to approach my death the same way I tried to live my life – with dignity, independence and grace."
The judge fast-tracked the case so
Making physician-assisted death illegal puts it in the back alley, similar to abortion before it was legalized, Arvay told the court.
BC Civil Liberties Association lawyer Grace Pastine told reporters, "This case is a major victory for individual rights at the end of life."
Pastine said the ruling is a major
step forward in the protection of human rights in
"This is a case about real people with serious illnesses who through this law can find some measure of peace and comfort knowing they have a choice," she said.
"The court has recognized that the government has no place at the bedside of seriously ill Canadians who have made firm and considered decisions about the amount of suffering to endure at the end of life and the level of care they will or will not receive in their final days."
The other plaintiffs in the case
They sought to have the court
declare Section 241 (b) of the Criminal Code unconstitutional because it
violates sections 7 and 15 of
The Farewell foundation for the Right to Die was granted intervener status and sup-ported the plaintiffs' position.
One of the interveners opposed to striking down the law was the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of B.C.
"We're disappointed but not surprised at the radical nature of the decision today," Dr. Will Johnston, the coalition's coordinator, said outside court.
"We think this judgment decided to minimize and to disregard the evidence of harm in other jurisdictions where assisted-suicide and euthanasia has been practised," he said.
"And we are extremely concerned
about the situation of elder abuse, which is a major issue in
"I think this will be a disaster
for Canadians, who expect themselves to be protected by the law,"
"To suggest that we can have one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake I think is unrealistic. It's not accurate to say that we can draw a bright line between competent people, who have only physical illness and are close to death, and depressed people."
The case was the most comprehensive challenge of the law since Sue Rodriguez lost her case 19 years ago in the Supreme Court of Canada. Rodriguez also had ALS.
Most of the case decided Fri-day was determined through the affidavits of 71 witnesses, but the court heard the testimony only of a handful of medical experts.
The few Western countries that allow
it are the Nether-lands,
The full 395-page judgment is online at: http: //bit.ly/
Vancouversun.com readers respond to Friday's right-to-die ruling
‧Finally we are one step closer to having the rights that should be ours. I wish my mom, who died from ALS in 2005, had the choice to end her life on her terms. She suffered greatly.
‧This really is insanity! Once again we have a fundamental political issue decided by the personal political whims of an individual judge. We no longer have any kind of democratic system in this country. Elections are fundamentally a fraud because elected politicians no longer have the ability to decide anything.
‧The groups and
individuals opposed to a dignified death always cite evidence of harm and elder
abuse as part of their opposition to individually agreed, doctor-assisted
chosen death. However they never pro-vide any actual vetted evidence of this
abuse and harm. I have never seen any evidence of abuse of doctor-assisted
‧This is not something that a judge should be deciding but rather Parliament. The present law has already been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada so it is a matter for Parliament to change. I am in favour of assisted suicide but only if the appropriate legal safeguards are in place and are not amenable to a judge-made law.
‧This ruling is indeed good news for countless people suffering from terminal illnesses and being forced to linger on with their suffering. Life is precious, but forcing people to endure horrible deaths with-out dignity is wrong. As an individual I should be able to decide how much I am willing to endure, and should be able to seek qualified medical assistance to deal with my suffering. ... At present I have no devastating illnesses, but when I do I want the right to take considered action. Both of my parents suffered unnecessarily with their demises and expressed the wish to move on, antiquated laws at that time did not allow them to do so and removed dignity from their last days.
Little to celebrate on Tax Freedom Day
Watermark arrives later this year, thanks to increased EI premiums and higher health levies
By Milagros Palacios & Charles Lammam
If you've ever tried to calculate all the taxes you pay in a year to all levels of government, you've probably given up somewhere along the way. While most of us can easily decipher how much income tax we pay – it's right there on our tax returns – it's a lot more difficult to gauge how much we pay in not-so-obvious taxes.
For Canadian families to reasonably estimate their total tax bill they'd have to add up a dizzying array of taxes, including visible ones like income taxes, sales taxes, social security taxes, and property taxes as well as hidden ones like profit taxes, gas taxes, alcohol taxes – and the list goes on.
This is no easy task. That's why the Fraser Institute calculates Tax Freedom Day every year. Tax Freedom Day is an easy-to-understand measure of the total tax burden imposed on Canadian families by federal, provincial, and local governments.
If Canadians were required to pay all taxes up front, they would have to give governments each and every dollar they earned before Tax Freedom Day.
In 2012, we estimate that the average Canadian family consisting of two or more people will earn $94,258 and pay a total tax bill of $41,627 or 44.2 per cent of income.
This results in Tax Freedom Day falling on June 11. From then on, Canadians start working for themselves and their families rather than the government. While that alone is reason to celebrate, you may want to keep the champagne on ice because the good news ends there.
Tax Freedom Day arrives one day later than last year. And there are two main reasons for the delay.
First, several Canadian governments have increased taxes, from increased Employment Insurance premiums at the federal level, to a higher provincial sales tax in Quebec, to increased health taxes in British Columbia and a new tax on high earners in Ontario. Indeed, these and many other tax increases underscore a worrying trend across the country.
Second, Canada's economy is still recovering from the recession and as incomes continue to increase, a family's tax burden increases to a greater extent because of Canada's progressive tax system, which imposes higher taxes as Canadians earn more money. For instance, the top fifth of income earners face an average total tax burden amounting to 54 per cent of income while the bottom fifth face an average burden of 18 per cent.
Don't pop the cork just yet; there's more bad news.
The federal and almost all
provincial governments are running deficits this year. (
It is important to remember that
budget deficits incurred by
By kicking today's debt down the road, governments are passing on the burden of repayment to young Canadian families.
It is ultimately up to Canadian families to decide whether June 11 is an acceptable Tax Freedom Day.
But therein lies the value of the calculation; it gives families important information to help make that assessment.
On that note, happy Tax Freedom Day, although maybe "happy" isn't the right word.
PM promotes 'Canadian approach' to economics
By Mark Kennedy
As uncertainty builds about the
fragility of the global economy, Prime Minister
Harper made the comments Monday in a
bluntly worded speech at an international conference in
He urged other governments to avoid the politically motivated "false choice" of assuming they have only one option to rescue their faltering economies: "austerity or prosperity."
"The Canadian approach is what the world needs," said Harper. "An approach that includes both fiscal discipline and other growth measures."
The speech came at a key time in
world affairs – as European leaders attempt to stem the economic meltdown on
that continent, and leaders from the G20 prepare to meet in
Moreover, it occurred as the
Conservative government came under fire in the House of Commons for joining the
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty blamed European countries for running deficits and failing to promote economic growth.
"Because of that, they are in
the difficult situation, the crisis they are in today," said Flaherty.
Harper focused on how Europe needs
to get its debt problems under control and also consider
"As Canadians, neither are we
able nor do we desire to impose our views on the world," said Harper.
In recent months, a historic and often tense political debate has played out among senior European leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pressured debt-ridden countries on the continent to aggressively cut their costs as part of an austerity program to restore confidence in the markets.
Meanwhile, newly elected French president Francois Hollande has resisted those calls, having been elected on an anti-austerity platform that included controversial spending promises.
Several months ago, Harper's emphasis was on the need for austerity, but recently he has adjusted his tone, insisting governments can do two things: cut costs through austerity drives, while promoting policies to create economic growth.
"This will be
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said the
Tories are making a mistake that will harm
"Our fate is intimately
connected to what happens in
Memo to small investors: steer clear of Wall Street's IPO machine
By William D. Cohan
You know that the hand-wringing over the 32-per-cent drop in the value of Facebook's Inc.'s stock since its May 17 IPO has reached a new level of disproportion when ABC's Good Morning America weighs in with the idea that maybe Mark Zuckerberg should have abandoned his honeymoon and returned to Silicon Valley to somehow make things better for the gullible investors who got singed.
Lots of reasons have been posited for the Facebook IPO "debacle" – as the news media like to describe it – including that perhaps Zuckerberg, the company's founder and chief executive officer, and his management team failed to disclose declining quarterly advertising revenue in a timely way. Or that Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. failed to process initial purchase and sale orders properly on IPO day. Or that some underwriters passed "quiet guidance" to big, institutional investors about Facebook's financial prospects but not to smaller investors. Or that technical "trading glitches" caused the problem. Or that Morgan Stanley, Facebook's lead underwriter, botched the whole IPO process.
Burned investors will grasp at anything – except their own role in fuel-ling Wall Street's Facebook IPO hype machine – in an effort to recoup some of the billions of dollars they have lost as the stock continues to slide. On May 23, the plaintiffs' bar got into the act by filing three separate share-holder lawsuits accusing Facebook's management, board and underwriters of failing to provide material information about the company's second-quarter financial performance to small investors during the road show, while providing the same information to some institutional investors. This, the suits claim, caused the small investors to lose more than $2.5 billion after Facebook's IPO.
The New York Times managed to find Robert Diepersloot, a dairy farmer in Madera, Calif., who said the Facebook IPO "confirmed all the fears and suspicions" that led him and his wife to take all of their savings – in the tens of thousands of dollars – out of the stock market and invest it, instead, in real estate. (Good luck with that, Mr. Diepersloot.) "We just pulled out completely," he told the paper. "We've lost trust in the whole scenario."
Okay, once and for all: When will small investors finally get the message that investing in IPOs is a fool's game and that yet again they served as mere grist for Wall Street's IPO selling machine? The current IPO market, controlled by Wall Street's cartel of five or six leading firms, exists only to benefit three groups of constituents.
Foremost are the Wall Street banks themselves, which reap hundreds of millions in fees from the IPOs, whether the resulting stock price goes up or down. Either way, Wall Street makes money.
The second group consists of Wall Street's big institutional trading partners – the ones that provide banks with huge fees every day of the week, whether or not there is an IPO to be hyped and priced. For obvious reasons, Wall Street wants to keep these big investors happy. That is why they are sometimes given (inside) information about a company that small investors are not given – as has been alleged in the Facebook shareholder lawsuits.
IPOs are priced to put money in these big shareholders' pockets, either by under pricing the company in the first place so that it "pops" when it begins trading, allowing the institutional shareholders to flip the stock quickly after it rises in early trading, or by giving them information that will allow them to get out fast while smaller investors are getting in.
Third on the list of priorities is the company being taken public. The Wall Street underwriters strive to get just enough value in the IPO to keep the company's management and early investors happy, while also leaving enough on the table so institutional investors get their "pop." Wall Street wants its IPO clients to stick around for the longer term, so additional fees can be generated from future secondary offerings, as well as future debt offerings, mergers and wealth management services. Wall Street is engaged in a delicate balancing act between its fee interests and those of its institutional trading partners and its corporate-finance clients.
You'll notice, of course, that small investors don't make the list of important constituents. Their concerns are nearly irrelevant to the Wall Street cartel, despite the marketing dollars that big firms often invest in attracting small investors to their brokerage businesses. Not that banks hate small investors – they generate fees (through churning those brokerage accounts) and they provide liquidity to the market, for example, in the form of misplaced demand for IPOs. But Wall Street sees little point in keeping them informed or helping them make wise decisions.
That Facebook's IPO would be a product of the Wall Street hype machine was obvious from the beginning. For at least the past 18 months – starting perhaps with the January 2011 investment by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. into the company that valued it at $50 billion – Facebook has been awarded one ridiculous valuation milestone after another.
It's easy to blame Wall Street for all this hype, and it's easy to blame Face-book's management for whipping up the valuation frenzy. It's also easy to blame Nasdaq for botching the orders or Morgan Stanley for mismanaging the process.
The truth is that if small investors simply remembered they are nowhere to be found on the list of important constituents for an IPO such as Face-book's, and simply stayed away, the traditional Wall Street IPO machinery would break down. Is that a les-son that can be finally learned, once and for all?
Individual pastors in the state church will, however, not be obliged to marry homosexual couples if they feel it goes against their personal beliefs, according to the bill.
Danish Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs Manu Sareen, who initiated Thursday's legislation, said she was thrilled it had passed.
"This is equality between couples of the same gender and couples of different genders. A major step for-ward," she told reporters following the vote.
The only party to vote against the bill as a whole was the populist Danish People's Party, which maintained that marriage in Christian terms was between a man and a woman, and that the church should not be forced to make a religious marriage ceremony available for homosexual couples.
The Christian Democratic Party, which is no longer in parliament, meanwhile announced Thursday it aimed to initiate a class-action suit against the new law, which is set to go into effect on June 15, saying it was an infringement on the right to free religious belief and was thus unconstitutional.
Per Oerum Joergensen, a former member of parliament for the Christian Democrats, told the Politiken daily he had seen a recent poll showing "that some 440,000 members of the church were considering renouncing their membership because of all this."
"They will be able to join the suit against the state," he said.
Around 80 per cent of Danes, or around 4.5 million people, are members of the state church.
New gay marriage law faces challenge
Weddings delayed as group collects 200,000 signatures to force referendum
By Mike Bake
Preserve Marriage Washington submitted the signatures just a day before the state was to begin allowing same-sex marriages. Officials will review the signatures over the next week to determine if proposed Referendum 74 will qualify for a public vote, though the numbers suggest the measure will make the ballot easily.
"The current definition of marriage works and has worked," said the group's chair, Joseph Backholm.
The law, passed by the legislature
and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year, would make
National groups have already
promised time and money to fight the law, including the
Gay marriage supporters, expecting that the referendum would qualify, have already been raising money to protect the law. Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, expects both sides to raise millions of dollars.
"It's fair to say it's going to be an extremely expensive race."
The issue has implications on ballots across the nation.
President Barack Obama recently
declared his support for gay marriage. In
A poll by
Perry Gordon lives in
"Would you want somebody to tell you that the only recognized marriage should be between a man and a man or a woman and a woman? How would you feel about that?" said Gordon, who is gay and would like to get married at some point in the future.
Backholm raised the spectre of
polygamy and marriage within families while making his case against gay
marriage. He said the law would redefine marriage as it's been known for
generations and suggested a possible slippery slope to other types of marriage.
Gay marriage is legal in
Despite a record for brutal violence, killer gets a break
Judge makes dangerous offender designation
By Ian Mulgrew
A just-completed dangerous offender
Nearly four years to process a man who pleaded guilty after he was caught at the scene and on camera stomping a man to death over a bag of potato chips?
There was an agreed statement of facts – chronic offender Matthew Scott Pelkey, now 29, savagely beat 42-year-old San-jay Ablak to death in the middle of a downtown street at about 2: 20 a.m. on Dec. 8, 2008.
A passing police car stopped and Pelkey was arrested for drunkenness as he staggered away.
Everyone agreed, too, that normally the appropriate range for manslaughter under such circumstances is eight to 10 years.
For a violent alcoholic with a record as long as your arm, however – including a 2004 aggravated assault, a 2007 aggravated assault and an assault causing bodily harm that occurred only days before Ablak's fatal stomping – more was required.
As well, Pelkey had been convicted of numerous offences arising from breaching bail or conditional sentence orders – usually by repeatedly ignoring bans on consuming alcohol.
With his history, the Crown rightly moved to have him declared a dangerous offender. And no one argued, not even his lawyer, that Pelkey did not meet the statutory criteria.
Hearing no argument on that issue from Pelkey's lawyer, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Macaulay made the declaration.
"There is no evidence here," he noted, "of Pelkey as an adult ever functioning in society without having consumed alcohol to the point of intoxication and disinhibited violent conduct. To the extent that alcohol treatment has been available to Pelkey in the past when he was not in custody, he has never carried through with it."
From 2003, when he was 20, until this incident when he was 25, Pelkey spent most of his time in prison – roughly four and a half years, by the justice's reckoning.
He was as violent behind bars as on the street.
Yet when the dangerous offender hearing wrapped up last week, Macaulay did not throw the book at Pelkey.
Based on his time in pre-trial custody, the 10-year sentence he was given amounts to seven years and four months. He is eligible for release after serving one-third, statutory release after two-thirds.
The judge also placed him on a 10-year supervision order.
I think most ordinary people would be puzzled why such a break went to a man described by a psychiatrist as being at a high risk to reoffend.
An indeterminate sentence, by comparison, which was the option, is like a life sentence.
The parole board has full discretion on the eligibility for release – commencing after four years in custody, calculated from the date of arrest for day parole and after seven years for full parole.
If released, the offender remains on parole for life to protect the public.
The board reviews any refusal of parole every two years to determine if the risk has changed.
That would appear to have been called for here.
But Macaulay explained that Supreme Court of Canada directions on sentencing aboriginal offenders compelled him to consider "systemic factors" that may have come into play.
Reared on the Tsawout First Nation reserve near Victoria, Pelkey was of first nations descent and "the output of the history of colonialism, displacement and residential schools -" The judge said that those who believe this approach gives first nations "a race-based discount" on sentencing are wrong and should read the high court's reasoning in two rulings, R. v. Gladue (1999) and R. v. Ipeelee (2010).
In his opinion, Macaulay added, Pelkey was ready to turn his life around and deserved another chance.
Too bad the evidence to support that optimism seems threadbare.
Freedom of worship or freedom of religion?
The wrong answer spells doom...
Christian Governance – June 4, 2012
By Tim Bloedow
Some time before his death, Chuck
Colson started to regularly warn about the cunning transformation in
The following article explains the
distinction very well. It's a lengthy article, and we only include an excerpt
below. It is highly recommended reading for Christians who want to understand
the thinking behind the increasing marginalization of Christianity in
Unfortunately, the problem we face is not "out there". Different Christian traditions come down in different places on the key theological issues at play in this question. For Christians who support the Humanist goal of eliminating Christendom, the logical eventuality is the complete marginalization of Christianity into a tolerated corner – if that – for private worship. Because there is no such thing as neutrality, Christianity will be replaced by something else, likely Humanism or Islam.
The notion of a sustainable neutral pluralism exists only in the academic constructs of creative theoreticians. Even EFC (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) lead Bruce Clemenger, in his latest Faith Today column, “How Broad is Your Gospel?”, emphatically stated that there is no such thing as neutrality: "... those of us who affirm the Lordship of Christ can get caught up in the debilitating myth of neutrality".
It's probably not the first time he's said that, but I don't read every one of his columns. He did say that it was a newer understanding for him in that it wasn't part of his thought process when in university – but that was a while ago. His challenge to the broader Evangelical church was to join him in recognizing that there is no such thing as neutrality; that Christian truth should be brought to bear on every area of life.
Mr. Clemenger and Christian Governance would come down at different places on numerous issues when it comes to our attempts to apply Biblical truth to life, but simply recognizing that there is no such thing as neutrality is huge for the modern Church because most Evangelicals still don't believe this, having been schooled in various theories of common sense, common ground, natural law and pluralism, which are predicated on one notion or another of moral and epistemological neutrality.
There is no neutrality, therefore the abandonment of Christendom will be met by a replacement. Today it is an increasingly intolerant, post-modern Humanism. It is marginalizing Christians by redefining freedom of religion to limit it to freedom of worship, and banning Christian thinking from law and public policy. As long as Christians continue to embrace the notion of neutrality, the only outcome will be increased marginalization. If Christians, on the other hand, rediscover the vision of Christendom with its explicitly Christian vision for culture and civilization, for the family, law, education, the civil government, journalism and architecture, etc., then Christianity will rise again because no other vision or worldview can withstand a genuine Christian vision for life and godliness.
June 5, 2012
By Michael Coren
A considered and empathetic opposition to same-sex marriage has nothing to do with phobia or hatred, but that doesn’t stop Christians, conservatives, and anybody else who doesn’t take the fashionable line from being condemned as Neanderthals and bigots. This is a lesson that Canadians have learned from painful experience.
Same-sex marriage became law in
Although precise figures about gay
In 2011, for example, a well-known television anchor on a major sports show was fired just hours after he tweeted his support for “the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage.” He had merely been defending a hockey player’s agent who was receiving numerous death threats and other abuse for refusing to support a pro-gay-marriage campaign. The case is still under appeal, in human-rights commissions and, potentially, the courts.
The Roman Catholic bishop of
In the neighboring
But no. Even though the gay couple had had their marriage, they decided to make an official complaint and demand that the commissioner be reprimanded and punished. The provincial government argued that, as a servant of the state, he had a duty to conduct state policy, but that any civilized public entity could accept that such a fundamentally radical change in marriage policy was likely to cause division, and that as long as alternative and reasonable arrangements could be made and nobody was inconvenienced, they would not discipline their employee for declining to marry same-sex couples. Anybody hired after 2004 would have to agree to conduct such marriages, they continued, but to insist on universal approval so soon after the change would lead to a large number of dismissals, often of people who had given decades of public service. This seemed an intelligent and balanced compromise. Yet the provincial courts disagreed, and commissioners with theological objections are now facing the loss of their jobs, with the situation replicated in other provinces and also at the federal level.
So far, churches have been allowed to refuse to consecrate same-sex marriages, but a campaign has begun to remove tax-free status from religious institutions that make this choice. When asked about how this would undermine charitable efforts in behalf of the poor and homeless undertaken by numerous Christian churches, one of the leaders of Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere, a Canadian gay-rights advocacy group, replied: “We’ll only take away charitable status from the buildings where the priests live and where the people pray.”
As colossally ignorant and
threatening as this sounds, it is also downright disingenuous. Four years ago,
a Christian organization in
As I write, two Canadian provinces
are considering legislation that would likely prevent educators even in private
denominational schools from teaching that they disapprove of same-sex marriage,
and a senior government minister in
The Canadian litany of pain,
firings, and social and political polarization and extremism is extraordinary
and lamentable, and we haven’t even begun to experience the mid- and long-term
results of this mammoth social experiment. I seldom say it, but for goodness’
sake learn something from
Is this the New Norm?
By Jim Hnatiuk, Leader of the Christian Heritage Party
Imagine going to work as you do every day – “same old, same old.” Then you open your mail. Your day is thrown into a tailspin when you open a parcel and receive a human foot.
Or perhaps you take a leisurely shopping expedition – and suddenly shots ring out. You and those around you are thrown into a frenzied panic, fleeing for your lives while those weaker and slower are knocked down and trampled in the stampede.
In the last week, the world’s
attention turned to
For the first hundred years, most Canadians shared a worldview that was the very foundation on which our country was built: our Christian heritage. Characteristics of this heritage were equality of opportunity such as the world has not seen under any other worldview; respect for the rights of others – the natural outgrowth of the biblical mandate to love one’s neighbour, freedom to believe and speak according to conscience; and the freedom of movement and association without restriction.
This shared worldview produced a common understanding that our fellow citizens should be treated with respect, and that those who violated this principle would be disciplined, either by their own family or by the justice system, depending on the severity of the violation.
Today, things are different! The government emasculates the family, usurps the family’s responsibilities, and then deals ineffectively with the family’s role.
Trying to regulate the lives and behaviour of 35 million citizens – all with their own challenges, frustrations, disappointments, and desires – (in a broken justice system) has become an impossible task. When governments abandon the moral underpinnings that once allowed the people both freedom and personal responsibility, they are inevitably tempted to use the power granted them to extend their domain, rather than to protect their citizens. The responsible use of the authority of the state requires restraints that are determined by someone greater than the state or the individual.
This is the secret strength of the CHP policies and platform. They are based on unchanging principles that uphold the dignity of humankind submitted to the guidance of a loving God. Christian Heritage Party policies are based on what is determined from above, not the selfish and often foolish policies adopted by desperate societies. Our policies recognize that there are at least four spheres of government: self-government (the first and most important), family government, church government (that voluntary submission to a shared system of beliefs and ethical practices), and civil government in its various forms (municipal, provincial and federal).
When an individual fails to govern himself (i.e., when self-control fails) – as happened with the perpetrators of the above crimes, and in many other socially maladapted people; when family control fails to curb or prevent violent antisocial behaviour as it obviously failed with the perpetrators of the above crimes; when people have not placed themselves under a moral authority such as the church;then the civil government must step in to protect its citizens and to establish non-negotiable standards of behaviour.
At that point, excuses must not be allowed to derail justice.
All citizens must be held accountable for their actions. Attempting to moderate the demands of justice in response to “extenuating circumstances” (such as a criminal who has come from a dysfunctional family) is not what society needs. A gentle rap on the knuckles can never be an appropriate response to violent crime. Violent offenders must be dealt with in a manner that protects society. The role of government is not to protect offenders from the consequences of their actions by providing an excuse for their behaviour. The role of government is to mete out justice to those who have offended the standards set by society.
“Why?” is a valid question when analyzing the conditions that precede violence but an attempt to understand cannot be considered an adequate response. Rather, “Never again!” must be the response and the commitment of civil governments; and that commitment must be backed by consistent action!
A person who has killed and dismembered his fellow man, needs to feel the unified and uncompromising response of a society that is horrified by such uncivilized behaviour and will not accept it. The government must fulfill the responsibility it bears for meting out a justice that says “never again.”
The person who made the decision to shoot a “gang rival,” wounding bystanders in the process, the person who caused a terrified crowd to stampede and trample one another in their flight, that person must feel the full force of a society that is horrified by such behaviour and will not condone it for any reason.
Let the cry for justice go up from Canadians! We cannot tolerate lawless behaviour. We owe it to all law-abiding citizens – and the generations yet to come – to enforce the rule of law and to establish unchanging standards of behaviour. Canadian victims should not be further victimized by a legal system that – in misguided compassion – shows more concern about a perpetrator’s troubled past than his victim’s heartache and loss.
CHP Canada will firmly enforce the just provisions of law to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. Your family and mine must be protected from lawless and violent offenders. Peace, order, and security for all citizens can only be maintained when the rule of law is based on unchanging moral principles, and when it is enforced without bias or feeble excuse.
Those who think they are above the law must be taught to respect the rights of others. If they have not formed a habit of self control, if their parents have not taught them self control, if they have submitted to no moral guidance beyond the selfish desires of their own hearts, then they must learn it at the courts of criminal justice.
The types of crimes we have seen in
the last week must not be allowed to become the “new norm.” They must be
treated as blights upon
'Lay litigants' add to delays in B.C. courts
Study finds as many as 80 per cent of people going solo in the legal system
By Kim Nursall and Neal Hall
As many as 80 per cent of people involved in civil or family legal cases choose to represent themselves in B.C. courts, leading to more problems and delays for an already back-logged justice system.
The high percentages were discovered
The number of self-represented litigants found in the study came as a surprise to B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman.
"The numbers are much higher than we would have expected," he said in an inter-view Monday. "We would have said 20 to 25 per cent. We thought 20 to 25 per cent were matters of concern."
Bauman said the courts do not see "lay litigants" as a problem clogging the courts, but rather as an unfortunate result of the poor economy, which has resulted in cuts to legal aid.
"They have every right to be there," Bauman said of self-representing litigants.
But he conceded some people do get "lost at sea" when trying to navigate the legal system, which he acknowledged can be complicated for the average person.
"They take longer than a lawyer would."
While some self-litigants have a negative experience in court, Bauman said rudeness from judges is not appropriate.
"In fairness, these situations become very frustrating for all involved," he added.
But people are intelligent and are using online services such as Click Law (www.clicklaw.bc.ca) to learn about the legal system before coming to court, Bauman said.
Study author Macfarlane said the numbers are troubling because the system is not designed for litigation by non-lawyers.
"Obviously it's a problem ... if there are a large number of people using the system who either don't know how to use it, or have unrealistically high expectations of what they're going to be able to do," she said in an interview Monday.
"There's a big gap between what the public imagines they can get by going to court, and what the courts can actually offer them."
Macfarlane's concerns echo the conclusion of a 2011 report by the B.C. Public Commission on Legal Aid which warned that more self-representing litigants would cause further delays in B.C. courts.
The report found individuals who self-litigate are generally unable to navigate the pre-trial process. Consequently, cases are forced to go to trial as opposed to being settled faster and less expensively out of court.
Macfarlane said the majority – 75 per cent – of those who choose to self-represent are lower-income individuals who do not qualify for legal aid but cannot afford a lawyer. The remainder are largely individuals who are able to pay for counsel, but feel a lawyer is a waste of money.
Both groups, Macfarlane said, consistently express the same frustrations navigating the court process, including not being taken seriously by the judge and not being provided with help in filling out forms.
Helen Smythe, 52, said her experience self-litigating was horrible.
"It had to be the most
humiliating thing that I've ever been through in my life," said the
Smythe – who estimated her family income is approximately $100,000 a year – used a lawyer during the first part of her divorce proceedings but decided to self-represent because she got "absolutely nothing" for the "huge amount of money" she was paying.
She ended up abandoning the court process out of frustration and convinced her ex-husband to go to mediation to resolve their dispute.
"The judge wasn't really interested in hearing from some-body who is self-represented, and he shouted at me and his whole manner was really offensive," she said. Nonetheless, Smythe said she would self-represent again.
Vancouverite Grimm Culhane described an entirely different experience in court.
Culhane, 46, said he lost his legal aid lawyer due to time constraints during a battle with his ex-girlfriend over child support payments. He said he chose to go it alone because he had "nothing else to lose."
"The judge did actually show me courtesy and respect as someone who is not a lawyer," he said, although the lawyer for his ex-girlfriend did not take him seriously, he added.
Culhane said he was able to successfully argue for a reduction in the child support payments he is required to pay, and said he'd self-represent again if he found himself facing another court battle.
"I found it very stressful. The learning curve was very high ... but I would go through all of that again for sure," he said, adding that he doesn't have a "hefty" lawyer bill while his ex-girlfriend does.
Anti-bully measures unveiled
Premier announces $2-million, 10-point strategy to keep kids safe
By Dirk Meissner
British Columbian students who feel they are being bullied will soon be able to report the behaviour anonymously on a new smartphone app being introduced by the provincial government.
Teachers are also being asked to dedicate one professional development day per year to deal with bullying as part of a strategy aimed at reducing the corrosive behaviour, going beyond laws to punish offenders.
On Friday B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced a $2-million, 10-point strategy to combat bullying and ensure every child feels safe, accepted and respected.
She said the fight against bullying needs more focus than laws that punish the offending behaviour because laws can't weed out the root causes of bullying.
The ERASE program – Expect Respect
and a Safe Education – goes beyond proposed amended anti-bullying laws in
"We are moving well past that and building in education and training tools for folks in schools and resources for parents to make sure they can deal with it to try and raise the pro-file of it across the province," said Clark in Surrey where she announced her strategy.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has said he's pre-paring to amend that province's Accepting School Act to prohibit Catholic schools from vetoing student gay clubs.
"My advice to
Clark said her strategy, which is set to be introduced in B.C. schools next September, will lead the country in addressing bullying, with a five-year training program for teachers and community workers that helps identify and address the problem.
The plan also includes dedicated safe-school coordinators in every school district, stronger codes of conduct for schools and provincial guidelines for threat assessments.
"What educators need are the
tools to be able to deal with conflicts in an appropriate way,"
"They need tools to recognize when bullying is happening and administrators need to know that creating a positive school culture is part of their everyday jobs."
Statistics reveal about one in 10 children have bullied others and as many as 25 per cent of children in Grades 4 to 6 have been bullied.
A 2004 study published in the medical Journal of Pediatrics found that about one in seven Canadian children aged 11 to 16 are victims of bullying.
Equalization makes ‘have-nots’, more dependent, not less
The 55-year-old redistribution scheme may be constitutionally entrenched; but governments are not without options heading toward new agreement in 2014
The Taxpayer – Spring 2012
By Lorne Gunter
Here’s the one thing taxpayers need to keep in mind as Ottawa and the provinces negotiate a new transfer and equalization agreement to replace the current 10-year pact that will expire in 2012: Since the program began in 1957, every province but one has grown so much stronger economically that now only Prince Edward Island would still qualify for equalization under the original formula for calculating which are the “have” provinces and which the “have-nots.” But because federal governments of all stripes have sought to win the favour of voters in the smaller provinces and Quebec, the definition of which provinces qualify for a share of the $16 billion Ottawa annually doles out has been expanded and expanded and expanded again so often that six of 10 provinces – PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba – qualify.
If the purpose of equalization – like all welfare whether individual, corporate or government-to-government – is to help poorer recipients until they can make themselves fiscally independent, then the program has been a colossal flop. In the past 55 years, more than $300 billion has been paid out in equalization. Yet despite all that time and all that money, there has been a net gain of just two “have” provinces. Whereas in 1957 there were two – Ontario and B.C. – today there are just four – B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Here is another important fact about
What all of this cash has done is
make the recipient provinces more dependent on
The first equalization payments were
created to convince
The payouts, however, largely put an
It’s a problem that continues to this day. Quebec sits atop vast shale-gas deposits but it can afford the luxury of not tapping them in the name of environmental concern because it knows Canadian taxpayers are good for $8 billion or more annually above and beyond the billions Ottawa sends Quebec (and every other province) in transfers for health, education and welfare.
“Here is another important fact
When then-Prime Minister
Equalization distorts the fiscal and economic decisions made by poorer provinces and, if anything, deepens and prolongs their have-not status.
Equalization’s costly tab and challenging the status quo
Not surprisingly, a recent study by
the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation at the
The stated objective of equalization
is to enable have-not provinces to provide the same level of public services as
the “have” provinces at roughly comparable levels of taxation. But most of the
have-nots have substantially lower costs of living than the “haves,” so
providing services there costs less.
This makes the system even more
distorted. For instance, while
The bad news on equalization is that it is entrenched in the Constitution. Barring an amendment, we have to have an equalization system. But the good news is the amounts and formulas are not set in stone. Equalization doesn’t have to be over-rich and apply to far too many provinces. Nothing put political cowardice stands in the way of proper over-haul of this outdated, distorting program before the 2012 deadline to put a new agreement in place.
Loophole used to pay Basi-Virk defence should be closed
Almost a year and a half after picking up a $6-million legal bill for two public servants who pleaded guilty to corruption charges, the provincial government has finally clarified the legal basis for the transaction.
What’s clear from the explanation is that the foul odour that has been attached to the deal from when it was first announced after Dave Basi and Bob Virk agreed to plead guilty will not be going away any time soon.
The mystery has always been how two deputy ministers were able to approve a deal involving so much public money on their own. Previously, the authority cited for the decision taken by the then deputy minister of finance, Graham Whitmarsh, and then deputy attorney-general David Loukidelis, was the Finance Administration Act. But it contains a section that limits to $100,000 the ability of civil servants to cancel a debt owed to the government without a cabinet order.
According to the explanation given to Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer over the weekend, that section didn’t apply because the debt did not exist yet at the time the decision was taken, even though the decision anticipated that it would be. As a result, the public servants could let their political masters off the hook by taking responsibility for a politically toxic deal.
Health Minister Mike de Jong, who was then attorney-general, was able to say he didn’t make the decision but only approved it after it was made.
The legal bills were being paid as an undertaking under a policy that required them to be repaid if Basi and Virk were found guilty. The decision that let them off the hook was an amendment to that undertaking that said the bills would be paid regardless of the outcome of the trial. The decision had no dollar amount attached, even though the consequences were known at the time.
That paved the way for Basi and Virk to plead guilty without having the additional consequence of paying back the $6 million they had racked up in legal bills.
British Columbians have rightly been scandalized by the deal, which gave two convicted criminals a break that they in no way deserved. The government has defended the agreement as a means of saving taxpayers a much larger bill by ending a case that had no end in sight.
But as we have argued before, the only reason Basi and Virk were able to spend so much on their defence is that they had a blank cheque from taxpayers in the form of a policy that was originally intended to protect civil servants from lawsuits but was later extended to criminal charges.
As their bills mounted, so did the motivation to leave no stone unturned in their defence. Hence the deal to end the trial, since pleading guilty without it would have been financially ruinous.
Now we know that the government used what was in effect a technicality to craft a deal that allowed both politicians and the court to say that it wasn’t part of a plea bargain, even though the guilty plea would not have been achieved without it.
That may have been within the law, but it doesn’t pass the smell test. No public servant should be able to commit $6 million without political approval, especially not in a questionable deal.
Faithful & fed up
National Post – May 5, 2012
Michael Coren is growing
increasingly impatient. He sees the world around him becoming dangerously
intolerant of Christianity. In the just-released Heresy: The Lies They Spread
About Christianity, his 14th book, he writes that Christianity has become the
most abused faith on Earth. "I believe the evidence is overwhelming ...
that Christianity is the main, central, most common, and most thoroughly and
purposefully marginalized, obscured, and publicly and privately misrepresented
belief system in the final decades of the twentieth century and the opening years
of the twenty-first century." He rails that the same intellectual class
that so quickly condemns anything Christian will do cartwheels to explain away
Islamic terrorism. National Post religion reporter Charles Lewis spoke to Mr.
Coren in his
Q You start off in Heresy with the
statement that Christianity has become the "most thoroughly and purposely
marginalized belief system in the world." Certainly Christians are under
physical threat in much of the Middle East and
A There's a radical difference in
the life of a Christian in the Islamic world and the life of a Christian in the
West. And any North American Christian who says we're being persecuted should
really hold on a minute. This is not the same as the Coptic Christians being in
physical danger in
Q So how do you see things here in
A Christians are marginalized, they're mocked, they're told their views don't belong, they're told to keep their views out of the public square and keep their religion at home. And where it can be quite sinister is at universities where Christian students are told that their ideas are stupid. I've even seen it with my children who are in university. Somehow Christianity is not a valid area of thought any longer.
You can bring your socialism, your feminism, your homosexuality, your anti-Zionism into the class but if you bring your Christianity that's not to be taken seriously.
Q But there is a lot about Christianity that can seem unreal: the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Jesus. Is it any surprise that people sometimes have trouble taking it seriously?
A Christians are mocked for believing in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection but really what they are mocked for is the moral consequences of their beliefs: that life begins at conception and ends at natural death, that abortion is wrong, that promiscuity is wrong. We live in a culture where no one wants to hear the word "no."
Q There is a tone of exacerbation in your book. Are you getting fed up with have to defend your faith?
A When you get it from intelligent people it's particularly irritating, because they will give other ideologies and other religions a great deal of room to try to understand. When it comes to Christianity they seem to assume that any sense of fairness or sympathy should be thrown out the window. They will say things that are blatantly stupid and that's irritating.
Q Like what?
A To say Hitler once said he was a
Christian so he must have been a Christian and Nazism came out of Christianity.
Nazism was the antithesis of Christianity. The idea that because a tiny number
of Catholic priests acted in an appalling manner should jaundice everything
said by the Roman Catholic Church is also so illogical. You might as well say
that no comment by a Canadian should ever be taken seriously because there are
some serial killers in
Q In the book you say how angry you are that Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, is constantly referred to as a Christian. Yet before it was known who the perpetrator was most people assumed it was a Muslim. If it's okay to label one criminal with his religion, why not the other?
A When the Norwegian massacre took
place I said the chances are that this is a Muslim attack. I said that because
there had been an attack in
Q But who is to say that these Muslim terrorists are devout Muslims and that the Christians are not devout?
A Muslims read the Koran just before they attack and declare what they're doing is in the name of Allah. The Koran supports violent acts. And I'm afraid many ordinary Muslims rejoice in these attacks. But no where in the New Testament does Jesus justify violence. Jesus never led armies and was not a warlord. The few Christians who do these terrible things do it despite their Christian faith. Those Muslims who commit acts of terrorism do it because of their faith. Brevik hadn't been in a church in 17 years. There is just no evidence for Christian terrorism today.
Q But I'm sure a lot of ordinary
Muslims would disagree with you, especially those living in
A I did a radio show and a Muslim
called and said, "Well I believe it's wrong to attack Christianity and I
think you would find most every Muslim in the world would agree with me."
And I said: "Sir, I cannot listen to this. I've held a Bible soaked in the
blood of Nigerian Christians slaughtered by Muslim fanatics. I've held the
bullets fired from the guns of Muslim fanatics attacking Christians in a
Q Do Christians in
A First of all, forget mainstream
Q What about Catholics? In
A I think certainly Roman Catholics and evangelicals should have stood up more to Bill 13. We are being told our view on homosexuality is somehow wrong.
Q Could the Catholic Church leaders be afraid of being labeled homophobic?
A They're going to be called homophobic whatever they do. I think the Catholic Church has spent too much time worrying about the reaction it might get rather than reacting itself.
Q Let's talk about homosexuality a bit more. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts represents "grave depravity" and "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered – and under no circumstances can they be approved." It also says gay people should be loved and respected. You say you have gay friends.
Wouldn't most gay people be insulted by being told their behaviour is "intrinsically disordered?"
A If someone calls me a homophobe because I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, then I would rejoice in that. But frankly, with gay friends, I try to avoid the subject. They know I am opposed to gay marriage and they also know I'm fond of them as people and would defend them against personal attack. But let me be clear, anyone who hates gay people is a moral criminal.
Q But a gay person might still ask, how can you be my friend when you think what I do is "intrinsically disordered."
A First, I would never use the same language as the Catholic Church. It sounds too clinical. A young gay woman once asked me if God loved her. I told her, "We all face challenges. You are loved as a person but you are more than your sexuality. We're all sinners and we're all struggling. I just can't affirm homosexual behaviour."
Q I was surprised you devoted a chapter to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. It seemed odd to me you would choose something that is now fairly old and forgotten. Even Opus Dei, who were portrayed as assassins, no longer seem to care.
A Well, it has influenced millions of people. They've been led by the book to read other books that oppose Christianity. Brown quotes real people and he makes a lot of it seem like non-fiction. I thought it was worth taking on again. I wanted to make sure that what is in The Da Vinci Code is just not true.
Q In Heresy you say one of the myths is that Christians are obsessed with abortion. But in the chapter on abortion you too seem obsessed with it. Can you explain what you were getting at?
A Christians, I believe, react so strongly to abortion, so intensely because they're part of an institution given by God – so they feel it more when the most vulnerable are destroyed. And they feel it more intensely than other people. I guess we are obsessed because it is such a tragedy. And if we dare to mention it, the world tells us to be quiet.
Whither the labour movement
National Post – May 3, 2012
By Tasha Kheiriddin
It’s hard to blame the May Day
protesters: Receiving 4,000 pink slips from Ottawa the day before would make
anyone don a “
On the same day, in
Meanwhile, PSAC is asking its members for an additional $2.84 per month in dues to pad its “political action fund,” to fight the Conservatives’ trimming of the federal payroll, and keep the perqs for their union warriors. Most of the money will be used to sustain the pension plan for 340 people who work for PSAC, which is facing a $30-million deficit by 2015.
Mind you, not all members approve of this idea: As public servant Katherine Nowalkoski put it, “To even suggest a levy or any sort of increase in dues is completely outrageous … I believe PSAC has lost touch with its membership as well as reality.”
The federal government likely is betting on more people feeling that way, especially non-unionized workers. In tough economic times, it’s hard to feel a lot of solidarity with our more organized brothers and sisters.
This isn’t the early 1900s: Most unionized workers are not toiling in collapsing coal mines, or living in leaky company housing, or suffering any more than non-unionized workers are. Yet union jobs command an estimated 7.7% premium, even after controlling for employee and workplace characteristics. According to Statistics Canada, in 2010 the average unionized full-time worker pulled in $26.71 per hour, vs. $22.71 for his or her non-union counterparts.
For whom do most of those unionized workers toil? Answer: the state, a.k.a. you and me.
Sixteen percent of private-sector workers were unionized in 2010, compared to 71% of public-sector workers. Their higher wages are thus being subsidized by taxpayers earning lower wages for the same types of jobs. The labour movement’s answer would likely be that all workers should organize and get better pay. But artificially inflating wages beyond what the market commands, simply by exerting union pressure, means employers would be able to afford fewer employees; and more unemployment is the last thing the public wants.
The federal government thus feels comfortable in taking a pickaxe to the bureaucracy, not only to meet its deficit-reduction targets, but also to make good on its promise of a more efficient government.
In fairness, the Tories grew the size of government during the first few years of their minority mandates, continuing a trend that started in 2000. According to the Privy Council Office, after the cuts under Jean Chrétien in the 1990s, federal public spending and the size of government bureaucracy exploded. Between 2000 and 2008, real program spending shot up 32%, the civil service expanded by 25%, while population increased by less than 10%. So a retrenchment was overdue.
Unions need to be careful how they engage in this battle. While they have a political champion in the NDP opposition, and can play to fears of service cuts, they have to be realistic in their expectations. Comments such as “I do not want to work until I’m 67,” voiced by one Will Parker, 20, as he marched this week with his parents at the PSAC demonstration, only make you shake your head. In the real world, Will, people are already working longer and harder.
Unless you want
Asinine proposal: free college for all
May 3, 2012
By Lee Duigon
Some went farther than that. Forgiving the debt – that is, sticking the taxpayers with another trillion dollars in deficit spending – is not enough, they said. What the country really needs is “free universal college education,” paid for by the government – that is, sucked out of the American people’s paychecks.
Free, eh? Do you think the professors will take pay cuts? And on top of it, we’d have to create yet another mammoth, money-burning bureaucracy to administrate our folly.
At the same time, I heard on my local radio station a public service announcement from some entity called the County Transportation Authority, exhorting us all to “ride our bicycles to work” instead of driving cars.
Our glorious leaders wish to consign us to perpetual childhood.
I call your attention to a scientific paper by a British researcher, Bruce Charlton. Charlton observed in 2007 that “adults in modernizing liberal democracies increasingly retain many of the attitudes and behaviors traditionally associated with youth.” In other words, they don’t grow up. He theorized “that the major cause of PN [Psychological Neoteny – a slowing of maturity] in modernizing societies is the prolonged duration of formal education.”
Charlton thought this might not be so terrible, “because people need to be somewhat child-like in their psychology in order to keep learning, developing and adapting to the rapid and accelerating pace of change.” Meanwhile, they don’t work, marry, or raise children.
As we cannot help seeing from the escapades of the Occupy This-or-That movement, prolonged formal education also lumbers its recipients with some other “youthful” traits that are not so desirable – petulance, wishful thinking, excessive credulity, self-absorption, an inability to distinguish wisdom from sophomoric jaw-flapping, creative thought from pretentious twaddle, or coherent ideas from neo-marxist drivel; and, above all, a monumental sense of entitlement.
But what do you call someone who sits in school all day and rides a bicycle instead of a car?
Our freedom-eating ruling class has good reasons for wanting everyone to go to college.
It keeps them out of the job market.
Ignorant, child-like people who can only travel as far as they can pedal a bicycle are much easier to control than adults who own cars.
College students are the easiest people in the world to manipulate. All you have to do is tell them how smart you think they are, and you can make them do or believe anything you want. Sock puppets put up more resistance than college students.
Because they are so easy to manipulate, and because they have not acquired a grown-up understanding of the world and how it works, college students are the ideal voting base. Stroke their immature egos, serve them up a smorgasbord of empty promises that anyone but a college kid could see through, and they’ll fawn on you and wag their tails and bark enthusiastically as you take away their freedom and destroy prosperity.
Remember when college used to be where scholars went? Not anymore! Because so few individuals have the desire or the ability to be scholars, herding vast throngs of them into college will require the creation of many degree programs that are totally meaningless. Already we have multitudes of students wasting four, five, or six years of their lives to get degrees in women’s studies, queer studies, urban folklore studies, environmental justice, the erotic literature of the Hittite Empire, and what-not. Our illustrious Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has even suggested that the schools – all the schools, in fact: not just the colleges – teach “techniques of protest.” How eager will employers be to hire immature individuals with degrees in protesting?
When, if ever, these hordes of students graduate, the only possible employment for them will be as professors and teachers of their inane and futile subjects. Or they can always embark on careers as day laborers or convenience-store clerks – if those jobs are still around by the time they finish getting educated.
They will also be superbly qualified
to be helpless pawns in our ruling class’s lunatic schemes to save the planet
by “developing down.” That’s weasel-speak for plunging the Western nations into
But what do we care? Once you have universal “free” college, universal “free” grad school won’t be far behind. And if we’re still writing term papers and listening to lectures when we’re old and grey, and it’s getting harder and harder to pedal off to college every day, we probably won’t even notice we’ve been played for suckers all our lives.
Don’t negotiate with violent students
National Post – April 27, 2012
Late on Wednesday night, the latest
in a long series of student protests turned violent in downtown
On Monday, the government agreed to
meet with student groups that would commit to a 48-hour “truce,” meaning
refrain from disruptive or violent protests. After a protest announced by the
student union CLASSE turned violent on Tuesday, the
After vandalism was reported, police ordered the crowd to disperse. The real violence began soon after, with windows smashed, fires set and rocks hurled at police. There were eight reported injuries, including four suffered by police officers. As of press time, 85 arrests have been made.
Violence in the streets is never
acceptable in a society as fair and equitable as
In 2017, after the fee hike is
Seemingly blind to the comparatively
easy ride they have thus far enjoyed, some of the student protesters – especially
some who belong to CLASSE – have ludicrously begun to drape themselves in the
noble rhetoric of the oppressed. Some protesters, quoted by local
Oh, please. In the countries swept up in the recent Arab Spring, protesters took to the streets in the name of fundamental freedoms, not the right to somewhat cheaper tuition. And when those protesters hurled bricks at the security forces, they received bullets and mortar shells in return. That Quebec’s students feel their situations are at all comparable to the youth of the Middle East, who lacked basic rights and endured unemployment rates that in some places approached 50%, says far more about their disconnect from reality than it does about the rightness of their cause.
Of course, as is always the case,
the violence is being driven by a small, radical fringe, using the anonymity of
an otherwise peaceful mob to wreak havoc. Both
Until and unless that happens, we
And in the meantime, order must be
maintained. Violence should be met by a firm police response. Those found
breaking the law should be punished to the fullest extent possible. Anything
less will signal that violence is an acceptable option in Canadian public life,
and add further to the absurd sense of entitlement that
Handing a bunker-buster to separatists
National Post – April 25, 2012
By Barbara Kay
In February, Justin Trudeau shocked
Canadians when he told a Radio Canada interviewer that if the Canadian
government put any constraints on abortion or repealed gay marriage,
"maybe I would think about wanting to make
The only explanation his defenders
could scrape together for this diamond studded gift to the ever shrinking base
What excuse, then, can anyone offer
Michael Ignatieff for Monday's monumental gaffe? During a BBC Scotland
broadcast of an interview about
Unlike his infamous, impulsive
observation about Israel's actions in Lebanon during the 2006 war being
"war crimes" (an objectively unsupported opinion he was forced to
retract and apologize for later), Ignatieff's stance in this case seems to
arise from intellectual conviction. Both
Maybe that is true and maybe it
isn't. Logic doesn't mean very much in politics, and (as
How many years did Ignatieff spend in active politics? How many times has he seen a mushroom cloud of media mania erupting from a firecracker-sized remark?
And given the answers to these questions, how obtuse can an intellectual of his calibre be not to know the difference between a professor's private hypothesizing to 40 students in a classroom, and a former politician's bruiting his implicit blessing of Quebec independence to the entire world via a foreign journalist?
Because "blessing" is
exactly how it will be interpreted by the ideological jackals of the separatist
movement. Michael Ignatieff, former leader of the party of Pierre Elliott
Trudeau, contender for the leadership of
Oh, of course he backtracked later in the interview to say, "it is my fervent hope that separatists are defeated," but that rings a little hollow from someone who has just handed those same separatists a metaphorical bunker buster.
As an anglo Quebecer, I am simply
flabbergasted by Ignatieff's facile comparison of
Ethnic nationalism is not always
unhealthy. When an ethnic group is actively persecuted within a larger, hostile
body, seeking an independent political status as a means of securing its own
safety and freedom to self-actualize is justified. I can't speak to the roots
of Scottish ultranationalism; that's not my bailiwick. But I can speak to the
roots of ultra-nationalism in
All that stands between us
Danielle Smith says Wildrose
By Karen Kleiss & Keith Gerein
Premier Alison Redford said Tuesday
her Progressive Conservative government won an unexpected majority government
by appealing to a broad array of
Polls in the past week all had the PCs and Wildrose neck-and-neck, with some giving Wildrose the edge. When it was over Monday night, the Conservatives took about 44 per cent of the vote and 61 of 87 seats, compared with 34 per cent for the Wildrose, which won 17 seats. The Liberals and NDP each got less than 10 per cent of the vote.
"Last year, the Progressive
Conservative party had a leadership campaign,"
"I don't intend to spend the next four years explaining and differentiating on an ideological basis what that means."
She will face Smith and her 16
Wildrose colleagues who will become
Smith said Tuesday a chastened Wildrose will revisit some of its more controversial policies that seem to have driven undecided voters to the Tories late in the campaign.
"We have some soul-searching to
do as a party," she said Tuesday after a defeat that saw Wildrose almost
shut out of the province's major cities and northern
"Our members have now seen that some of our policies were rejected by Albertans, quite frankly," she said in an interview. "We will be revisiting some of those."
Asked which policies in particular,
Smith mentioned the "Alberta Agenda" items that call for the province
to establish its own pension plan and to replace the RCMP with a provincial
police. Such ideas were touted by a group of conservative thinkers in a famous
letter written a decade ago that called for
Smith also mentioned her party members' endorsement of conscience rights, which would allow a marriage commissioner to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage or a Catholic doc-tor to decline writing a prescription for birth control.
"There may also be a stronger statement to make about climate change and our policy around greenhouse gas emissions," she said.
Smith said she expects such policies
will be on the agenda when Wildrose holds its annual general meeting this fall.
Smith said she intends to press
"The government still has the same problem today as they had yester-day," she said. "They don't have a realistic budget and now they have all these new spending promises to keep. Frankly, I don't see any way that Premier Redford can balance the budget."
Christian prayer rankles volunteer
National Post – April 23, 2012
By Betty Ann Adam
Ashu Solo, a member of the city's cultural diversity and race relations committee, was among the guests at the dinner last Wednesday, where Councillor Randy Donauer said a blessing over the meal in which he mentioned Jesus and ended with "Amen."
"It made me feel like a second-class citizen. It makes you feel excluded," said Mr. Solo, who is an atheist. "It's ironic that I've now become a victim of religious bigotry and discrimination at this banquet that was supposed to be an appreciation banquet for the service of volunteers like me."
The inclusion of a Christian prayer at a municipal government event violates the separation of religion and government, Mr. Solo wrote in a lengthy email to Mayor Don Atchison, which he later distributed to council.
Mr. Solo also takes issue with a
prayer that "clearly gives primacy to one religion over all other
religions" at a municipal event paid for with
"This is not a Christian country or a Christian city. It is a secular, multicultural country and secular, multicultural city with people from numerous religions as well as spiritual people, agnostics and atheists," Mr. Solo said.
Municipal officials should not use their offices to "perform religious bigotry, as this is," or "to impose their own religious beliefs on others."
Mr. Atchison said he was caught off-guard by the complaint because many of the events he attends include a prayer before meals.
"I've never given it any thought at all," he said, adding he was sorry to hear Mr. Solo felt excluded.
He suggested in the future, the dinner could feature prayers from different religions on a rotating basis. There could even be a dinner with no prayer at all for atheists, he said.
Mr. Solo said that would not work because there are thousands of religions.
He wants an apology from the Mayor
and a promise there won't be any more prayers at City of
Culture Guard charges School Board with promoting hatred
VANCOUVER, April 18, 2012 (CultureGuard) – Culture Guard has filed a human rights complaint against the Vancouver School Board, charging that the VSB has used and promoted in its meetings, policies and its schools, the use of hateful, defamatory and demeaning terminology and has facilitated and endorsed the “Out In Schools” program, a program that is designed to promote hatred and contempt for identifiable groups, contrary to the BC Human Rights Code.
The offensive terms specified include (but are not limited to) terms like “homophobe”, “homophobic” and “homophobia”.
“Such terms are designed to promote hatred and contempt, they are used to isolate, marginalize, and belittle individuals and groups that hold opinions at variance to those of the sex activists within the education establishment,” Culture Guard president Kari Simpson stated. “They have no legitimate use; they give the appearance of medical or psychological terminology, but they don’t appear in recognized medical or psychological dictionaries. They are simply slurs invented for hateful propaganda purposes.”
The Culture Guard complaint asks the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to instruct the VSB to immediately cease the use of materials and policies “that project, advise, counsel and/or indoctrinate students, staff or the broader community, in any manner, that the terms ‘homophobe’, ‘homophobia’, ‘homophobic’, etc. are acceptable.” It also seeks an official apology from the VSB to “all individuals and groups harmed, belittled, demeaned and/or otherwise adversely affected by the Vancouver School Board’s failure to respect all individuals and groups, by cultivating hatred, ignorance and contempt for their opinions, religious beliefs and/or cultural practices as they pertain to issues directly related to biologically and economically harmful sexual practices and the requirement of students and staff to ‘celebrate’ the aforementioned practices.”
Ms. Simpson is acting on behalf of Chinese Christians but anticipates a number of other groups and individuals will be added if the Vancouver School Board fails to remedy the situation.
As a former Madam and woman who was prostituted, I know why prostitution must be made illegal
By Tania Flolleau
First, it cruelly subjugates
vulnerable migrant women into the dreadful
darkness of sex-slavery. Migrant trafficking is an estimated $32 billion
business, annually exceeding the sales of Google, Starbucks and Nike combined.
Another reason why prostitution
should be illegal in
A further reason to make prostitution illegal is that it utterly destroys the mental and even physical integrity of the prostituted woman. Approximately 80% of women entering into prostitution have been victims of rape. Prostituted persons, however, are literally raped multiple times daily, as much as 8 to 10 times per day. They are the most raped class of women in human history. One study found that prostituted women exhibited many of the same characteristics as soldiers returning traumatized from war. More than 75% of prostitutes surveyed in the study met the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The average number of prostitutes suffering PTSD from sex slavery was seen to be 14% higher than the average number of soldiers suffering PTSD after returning from intense combat on the front lines.
As a forward-moving nation, we Canadians should make prostitution illegal. We should not, however, make the laws as tough for women caught prostituting as we should for the pimps, Johns, and recruiters, since most women caught in prostitution did not choose that lifestyle nor can they easily escape from it. Where there is a demand, there will always be a supply. To reduce the demand for the prostitutes, we need to throw the book at the Johns, recruiters and the pimps. Making stiff laws for the Johns, recruiters and pimps will greatly lower the number of prostitutes.
The recent ruling in
Some people think that legalizing brothels will make the prostituted women safer and allow them to lead better lives. This is far from the truth. Many of the women working in brothels have already been abused by human trafficking, enslavement to pimps, or by being controlled by criminal organizations through fear and oppression.
Whether brothels are legal or not, a prostituted woman will always be the one who loses out in the end. The vast majority of prostituted women that work in brothels eventually end up working on the street. This happens once the signs of a woman’s sex slavery start to show on the outside of her body. She become too worn out and haggard-looking to appeal to the Johns that frequent the brothels. Not being able to keep up with the younger sexier recruits, she is eventually cast out on the street like garbage. Many brothel managers will throw out a prostitute when her drug addiction becomes too much for her to handle. Legalizing brothels does nothing for the problems faced by street prostitutes as virtually no brothels will hire drug addicted street walkers. Research shows that less than 3% of prostituted women ever get out of the sex industry.
A staggering two-thirds of children born to prostituted women end up imitating their mother’s lifestyle or entering into a life of crime. For the sake of protecting children alone, brothels and prostitution should be made illegal.
Approximately 80% of all prostitutes murdered are killed by their Johns, pimps, or through the abuse of drugs. Most prostitute homicides are never resolved and the Johns and pimps are never brought to justice.
By legalizing brothels, we are only enabling a serious social problem to fester and grow worse for our future generations and entire nation. Making brothels legal will only act as an incentive for women who are lured by the prospect of easy money. The number of women entering the so-called ‘sex trade’ will climb higher every day. Once they enter the trade, it become almost impossible to exit. The prostituted woman becomes addicted to the fast money, the comfort provided by the pimp, and to the drugs. The younger ones who lack education hardly stand a chance of ever getting out. I know this first hand as an ex-prostitute who works tirelessly to rescue these poor abused women from their dire situations.
In a 1998 report of prostituted persons across five countries, 92% of women said they wanted to escape prostitution immediately if they had the resources. Women who sell themselves are often coerced, forced or drugged into it—sometimes even at gunpoint. They feel they have no other skills or abilities to succeed in life. The thought of trying to escape is often not a reality when fears of being caught and killed or severely beaten start to kick in. Many times the exploited and demoralized women simply lack the self confidence or education to think and act for themselves.
Many of these girls that come on working visas, and then are forced into sex slavery, can’t go to the police for help for fear that their families will be murdered back home. It is very hard to escape the industry, since most girls have no sense of purpose other than what they do. They are ashamed. Without resources or knowing where to go, these women become society’s lost women.
We live in a country where women are very important. Many women are honourable doctors, chief executives, lawyers and judges. Legalizing brothels and calling prostitution a ‘trade’ has done nothing to elevate the status of women in this country. It has only demeaned them and turned them into expendable chattel that can be bought and sold.
In reality, prostitution is not a trade. It is a criminal enterprise. We need to keep our young women in school and encourage and empower them to strive towards good careers instead of taking the fast, easy approach of prostitution whereby they become uneducated and spiral down in a dehumanizing pattern that can only end in their ultimate desolation. Sadly, most women are liberated from the slavery of prostitution through death.
The diseases that are spread through prostitution are vast. Although the law will make the prostituted women undergo testing for diseases, this will only keep the Johns safe, not the prostitutes. Our Pharmacare system, which is also government run, stands to make a large profit from the medications used by prostitutes that become ill from their sex-slavery as they develop drug habits, succumb to AIDS, STDs, depression, or other mental illnesses. Legalizing prostitution only fosters the growth of sex slavery rather than doing anything to eliminate it.
Shame on you Justice Susan Himel and your entire court of appeal. You are the real criminals for authorizing the sexual slavery of women and children who are at many times forced into their abject situation of misery and suffering through no fault of their own.
We don’t need laws permitting brothels. We need laws that instill the fear of long jail sentences and stiff penalties into the pimps and brothel owners who are making dirty money off of vulnerable women and children. Many brothels lure unsuspecting women through advertisements such as: “Female owned and operated. Earn up to $2000.00 daily. Fun friendly, safe environment”. This is how I got lured into it. It is all a lie that conceals the horror of the trade in human flesh for sexual exploitation.
Let us not forget that prostitution includes young girls and boys being sold for sex to pedophiles, something that we rarely hear in the mainstream media.
In conclusion, it is a tragedy for any young girl or women to enter into the hell of prostitution. They become our nation’s lost women. They become victims of a dark and sinister sex enslavement. Their life is one of agony and horror. Jail-time and social humiliation is too little of a punishment for those who engage in or perpetrate the crime against women that is now to be legally sanctioned in brothels by Justice Susan Himel.
What we need is more organizations to help women exit prostitution. As a society, we need to drastically focus on prevention. We need serious legal deterrents for the Johns and pimps. We need to raise awareness on the effects prostitution has on society. We need to get into the high schools and colleges to do preventative work with our nation’s children before it is too late.
The women of our country are worth it. Our young girls are worth it. The future of our nation – which now stands at a cross road – is worth it. Legalized Brothels and prostitution cannot be an option.
Margaret Thatcher’s problem with the Charter
National Post – April 17, 2012
By Frédéric Bastien
Thirty years ago, on a warm spring day in April, the Constitution Act, 1982, was officially proclaimed and the Charter of Rights came into being. There was a grandiose ceremony on Parliament Hill, overshadowed only by the absence of René Lévesque and by a thunderstorm mixed with hail that struck in the middle of the festivities.
There was another notable absence,
though. Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister, had declined Pierre
Trudeau’s invitation. She’d supported his patriation package all along, despite
the initial strong provincial opposition and the reluctance of many
Thatcher’s reaction was
representative of the sense of uneasiness that existed at the time in British
political circles. While ministers, MPs and peers wanted
Trudeau’s strongest argument in favour of including a Charter in a repatriated constitution was that Canadians would regain their freedoms. How would this be achieved? By virtue of the fact that judges would now be able to interpret the general provisions of the Charter and, in the name of fundamental rights, strike down statutes enacted by the people’s elected representatives.
Margaret Thatcher believed that this approach was wrong. In one of her first speeches as prime minister, she explained that her government was determined “to return to one of the first principles which have traditionally governed our political life … the paramountcy of parliament for the protection of fundamental rights.” By that, the Iron Lady meant two things. First, rights are not absolute in a democracy. For example, a man cannot yell fire in a crowded theatre in the absence of a blaze and then justify his action in the name of freedom of speech. There is always a limit to individual rights. Thatcher thought it essential that elected politicians should have the power to draw the line, not judges. Second, she was convinced that parliamentarians were better at defining and protecting rights through vigorous debates, arguments and counter-arguments, while letting the people decide, at election time, which party is the best defender of their liberties.
This is the system that existed in
Hence Thatcher correctly foresaw
that the Charter would fail to improve respect for human rights in
Ford’s predictions were well
The Charter was supposed to give us
a new sense of nationhood and pride. Instead, it added a whole range of new
divisive issues to the ones that already existed.
Application to exclude $5 million in pot dismissed
Judge denies attempt to have evidence set aside because police dog bit accused during raid
By Neal Hall
A judge has dismissed an application to exclude $4.8-million worth of pot seized by police from a huge grow operation near Kelowna because one of the accused was bitten by a police dog when its handler failed to properly restrain the animal.
The dog bite was cited as one of a number of violations of the rights of the accused, Kiet Tu Ly, that should have resulted in the evidence being thrown out, according to his lawyer.
Ly was one of three people arrested and charged with cultivating marijuana and possession for the purpose of trafficking after police raided a rural property and seized 5,102 marijuana plants from 15 greenhouses on Sept. 3, 2008.
The crop was a few weeks away from
being harvested at the 39-acre property at 8405 Highway 33, located 30
The trial judge was told that at maturity, each plant would have produced about seven ounces of bud marijuana.
The entire crop would have produced about 2,200 pounds of pot valued at about $4.8 million, if sold by the pound at prevailing 2008 prices.
The greenhouses were initially spotted by police from a helicopter as it flew over the property, prompting an investigation.
The court was told that shortly after Ly was arrested at the scene, he was sitting quietly on the ground when the police dog, Bak, who was on a leash, suddenly and without warning lunged at Ly and bit him on the calf.
Ly's lawyer, Neil Cobb, added that while the police executed the search warrant, a second police dog bit another accused, Siu Shing Wong, who suffered puncture wounds on the face and head.
The Crown, Clarke Burnett, said Ly's bite was an "unfortunate accident" involving not much more than momentary contact between the dog and the accused.
Cobb argued, "that a prone, hand-cuffed and defenceless individual who had complied meticulously with every police direction to that point in time was subjected to an unprovoked and prolonged attack which, according to the best available evidence was both terrifying and extremely painful."
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Barrow concluded the dog bite was unintentional and the injuries were not serious. The judge concluded that admitting the evidence from the search would not "bring the reputation for the administration of justice into disrepute."
He dismissed the defence application to bar its admission based on the dog bite and the other cited breaches of Ly's rights.
The ruling came at the end of a voir dire at the trial of Ly and co-accused Cheuk Bun Lee.
The trial continues June 1 in
At the start of the trial last year, Wong, the third accused, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last October to 18 months in jail.
The full judgment is online at: http: //bit.ly/Hv7kZQ
Lets' get this straight;
What should be moment of celebration is marred by scars 'not ready to be healed'
By Andrew Coyne
Thirty years later they are still at it: the grievance nursers, the unity warners, the federalism renewers and the statesman solvers and the whole shambling constitutional industry, still rolling, still meeting, still funded. Still.
There are people approaching their fifties who were not old enough to vote when the Queen signed the Constitution Act 1982 into law, snipping the last legislative strings tying the Constitution of Canada to the Parliament of Britain, entrenching a homegrown process of amendment within it, adding a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and much else.
After several decades of failed attempts, this ought to have been a moment for great national celebration – as it should be now, on its 30th anniversary. But that is to reckon without this country's capacity for pointless politicization, sterile debates and perpetual indignation. And so the only people who will be marking the occasion, aside from a little gathering of Liberals in Toronto, will be the ones most convinced the country suffered some terrible calamity with patriation that they alone can put right: the constitutional industry, again.
Polling data presented to a
three-day conference in
As always, the remedy is more powers
Let's just hold it right there.
There is no sense, none whatever, in which
Even the provincial government,
while it has never "signed" the 1982 Constitution – as if that were a
requirement – has never hesitated to avail itself of the same document's
protections, whether arguing from its premises in court or invoking the
not-withstanding clause. The only reason it has refused to formally endorse it
is because it has not wished to lose a useful point of leverage over the rest
of the country. And the only reason it has enjoyed such leverage is because of
the readiness of the rest of
But it wasn't done without
But weren't those Quebec Liberal MPs massively rejected at the next federal election? Yes: in common with Liberals across the land. We'd just come through a vicious recession, and after 21 years of nearly unbroken Liberal rule, the country was heartily sick of them. Or if patriation was such a gift to the separatist movement, how is it that support for separation sank to such lows in the years afterward? How did the Parti Quebecois come itself to be so massively rejected in 1985?
If the intervening decades were
tumultuous, it had nothing to do with any reduction in
It gave powers to the provinces – over
resources, for example, to say nothing of the amending formula – while imposing
several obligations on the federal government of particular interest to
The only respect in which the powers
of the provinces were diminished was via the introduction of the Charter of
Rights – though even here all provinces had access to the notwithstanding
It was, rather, the very efforts of
the constitutional industry to close this supposed wound that condemned us to
so many years of constitutional torment, beginning in 1986 with the long
process of constitutional negotiations that led to the
And yet, all these years later, they are still at it. Still.
Users free to bake cannabis cookies
Court strikes down section of law that restricts use to dried form only
By Louise Dickson
People authorized to use medical marijuana can now bake it in brownies and spread it on toast, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Friday.
Justice Robert Johnston concluded
that the section in Health
"The remedy for this breach is
to remove the word 'dried' where it appears in the Marijuana Medical Access
Regulations and I so order," said
The decision comes out of a constitutional challenge by Owen Smith, the head baker for the Cannabis Buyers' Club of Canada.
Smith, 29, was charged on Dec. 3, 2009, with possession for the purpose of trafficking and unlawful pos-session of marijuana, two years after an apartment manager complained to police about a strong, offensive smell wafting through the building.
Police obtained a search warrant for the apartment and discovered substantial quantities of cannabis-infused olive oil and grapeseed oil and pot cookies, destined for sale through the club.
At the time he was charged, he was producing oils and topical and edible cannabis-based products for the club.
Smith's trial began in January with a voir dire – a trial within a trial – on a charter application challenging the restrictions in the MMAR which allow authorized users to possess medical marijuana in dried form only.
Defence lawyer Kirk Tousaw argued the laws were unconstitutional and arbitrary and did not further the government's interests in protecting the health and safety of the public. Instead, the regulations predominantly forced critically and chronically ill Canadians to smoke medical marijuana, which is potentially harmful.
"Even an authorized person,
During the trial, patient witnesses testified they wanted the opportunity to drink tea infused with cannabis, or eat pot cookies or apply topical oils infused with cannabis. These other modes of ingestion are more effective and less harmful than smoking or vaporizing dried marijuana, said Tousaw.
Non-dried options, however, are
available already through some distributors of medical marijuana in
The British Columbia Compassion Club Society lists a daily menu of its products available for medical users.
While the bulk of these items are intended to be smoked – either dried marijuana or hashish – the club also had a section of "non-smokables" on Friday, which included cookies, brownies, muffins, lollipops and pesto.
Tousaw also sought a judicial stay
of proceedings for Smith.
In previous cases, the government has appealed adverse rulings, he said.
Outside court, Owen Smith said he felt a flutter in his heart at the word "unconstitutional."
"I'm really proud of all the work we've done so far. Lots of patients and members of the club have been very supportive. We're going to keep going and do just as good a job in the next round in front of a jury," said Smith.
It's hard to think a jury would deny others a safer form of medicating, he said.
Ted Smith, the proprietor of the Cannabis Buyers' Club of Canada, said he wasn't surprised by the decision.
"I had a firm belief in the law being wrong," he said.
Smith, who is no relation to the accused, said he's not intimidated by the prospect of a jury trial.
"I'm confident no jury in this country will convict Owen for making cookies and skin products. It will give us another opportunity to change public opinion.
An attack on red ink, not on teachers
National Post – April 13, 2012
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is annoyed with Premier Dalton McGuinty. In last month's provincial budget, Mr. McGuinty's government announced that it was freezing the wages of teachers (and everyone else who works for the province). They aren't breaking any existing contracts, as that's a whole other can of worms, but have declared they will not award any raises when contracts come up for renegotiation. For the teachers, that means August.
The unions obviously aren't happy, but most of them are at the table with the province. An exception is ETFO, whose representatives walked out of talks after only an hour. They have stated that they intend to bypass provincial negotiators, and will deal only with local school boards. This won't necessarily be of much use: The school boards can spend only the money the province gives them, as they don't raise their own funds and don't maintain reserves. But ETFO clearly wants the province to know how miffed they are, and refusing to negotiate with the province is one way of doing that.
Oh, and in case that wasn't clear enough, ETFO president Sam Hammond has also declared the wage freeze to be "an attack on women." Uh, OK.
It's worth noting that, technically, ETFO has the right to bypass the province, and negotiate directly with school boards. The province itself has indirectly acknowledged this by indicating that this week's provincial-level talks with the EFTO were voluntary. But the unions have sat down with the province before, including as recently as 2005 and 2008. On both occasions, Dalton McGuinty, the self-styled "Education Premier," was happy to agree to generous wage and benefit packages for his beloved teachers. All in the name of "labour peace."
Indeed, labour peace is clearly at
the heart of the matter. Mr. Hammond, speaking to reporters in
That, likewise, is within ETFO's rights. Their contract expires on Aug. 31, and they'll be in a legal position to strike.
But as with the teacher's option to
negotiate directly with local school boards, this wouldn't necessarily matter
much in practical terms. In unusually blunt language,
It's understandable that Mr. Hammond doesn't much like his options. The province has played hardball from the outset. No wonder he feels the need to ramp up the rhetoric to try and put the government into an awkward situation.
"Our membership is mostly women," he told reporters. "The government proposal is an attack on women, an attack on unions and an attack on public-sector workers."
The last two are arguable. The first one? Not so much. In fact, it's downright odd: Does Mr. Hammond fear that the female teachers who deal with rambunctious students and hostile parents on a daily basis must be protected from that notoriously woman-hating Minister of Education, (Ms.) Laurel Broten, and the kindly Mr. McGuinty, better known as Premier Dad?
Mr. Hammond's rhetoric is offputting
– particularly to the men who teach in
Teachers perform a hugely important
social function. And
This is not an attack on women. It's an attack on red ink.
National Post – April 13, 2012
By Brendan Steven
With cries of bloquons la
hausse, a small army of
Student activists have orchestrated a series of strike actions in opposition to the tuition increase. The name of the game has been hyperbole: accusations that Charest seeks to implement “American-style” privatized education, and claims that accessibility for low-income students will be ravaged by the changes.
The province’s 2011-2012 budget frames the university-financing crisis in stark terms. Post-secondary education in this province was underfunded by $650-million dollars in 2010, up from $373-million in 2002. Less money is spent on operations in university budgets than in any other province in the country. Collectively, Quebec’s universities accumulated a deficit of $483-million in 2009.
In response to this crisis, the
Charest government has proposed a financing plan to inject provincial
universities with $850-million in new revenue by 2015-2016. As part of this new
plan, students are being asked to pay a fair share of their own education. They
certainly don’t pay their fair share now. In 2008-2009, a paltry 12.7% of total
university revenues came from tuition fees. Even after the supposedly apocalyptic
increases starting this year, that number will increase only to 16.9%. By the
time that five-year period ends,
And therein lies the unfairness of the current policy: Students, many of whom come from high-income families, are paying only 13¢ on the dollar for the service they are consuming. More than 60% of current revenue, meanwhile, comes from government sources. Canadian and Quebec provincial taxpayers, the majority of whom have never attended university and will never send their own kids to university, are being asked to cough up to pay a very expensive bill.
Strike activists have argued that
despite the imbalance of payment, low tuition is an important part of
Statistics show that the children of
low-income families are less likely to attend university than their
counterparts from richer families. This reality, no doubt, negatively affects
income mobility. But is
The answer is a resounding no. A Statistics Canada study in 2007 by Marc Frenette attempted to answer the question of why such a large gap exists in university attendance based on income levels. Parental influence, high-school quality and other social factors accounted for a whopping 84% of the difference.
What about financial constraints? That accounted for a measly 12% of the difference. If the student movement is truly concerned about improving access to university for low-income families, an already minuscule tuition fee is the least of their problems.
There is simply no observed
This is not to say that higher
tuition leads to higher accessibility. Certainly, the Frontier Centre’s
researchers note that tuition can be so high it becomes a genuine barrier to
It is a favourite pastime of the
In countries where students pay some
portion of the cost of their own education, the money follows the customer.
Universities can rely on a predictable baseline of revenue – which permits them
to embark on long-term projects, such as building infrastructure. Where no
tuition exists, universities live on the whim of government for their
financing. Education mandarins in
Despite promised tuition increases,
The proposed changes to
Positive spin on mixed economic data
Spring has brought optimism to
In a survey by the Bank of Canada, 58 per cent of firms said sales will increase at a greater rate than in the previous 12 months, 55 per cent said they plan to add staff and 46 per cent said they intend to make purchases of machines and equipment.
It's the most bullish outlook in two years and a sharp contrast with the previous quarterly survey, which was the worst in the three years.
The abrupt change from negative to
positive suggests a growing belief that the recession is truly behind us and
the recovery, however modest, is real and sustainable. And there appears to be
some statistical support for their bullishness. For instance, the Canadian
economy churned out 82,300 jobs in March, the biggest one-month gain in three
years and far beyond analysts' forecasts of 10,500 jobs. As a result, the
national unemployment rate fell to 7.2 per cent from 7.4 per cent. While the
jobs report was not as encouraging for
The unemployment rate in B.C., 7.0 per cent, is still below the national average.
Meanwhile, the economy has been chugging along and the gross domestic product was 2.2 per cent higher at the end of the fourth quarter of 2011 than at the end of the same quarter in 2010. Retail sales were up 4.7 per cent in January over the same month in 2011, although the 0.5 per cent jump in January from December was due entirely to increased car sales.
The Bank of Canada surmises that
with improved expectations for economic growth in the
The survey also indicated businesses see future inflation within the Bank of Canada's target range of one to three per cent, albeit at the higher end, and that credit pressures will ease.
Against all this good cheer,
unfortunately, we have the real world.
There are concerns about an economic
Neither should we read too much into last week's jobs report. "One very good report is not yet enough to reverse the flattening trend in Canadian jobs," said Scotia Capital economist Derek Holt.
Add to this the high level of Canadian household debt, mainly in mort-gages, and a softening real estate market.
Here in B.C., small and medium size
business owners are more subdued than in the rest of
Given this good news/bad news backdrop, if Canadian business can keep its spirits up, invest more, create new jobs and boost sales, their optimism may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We hope so.
The colour of conformity
On the ‘Day of Pink’, nothing says ‘celebrate diversity’ like forcing everyone to dress exactly the same
National Post – April 11, 2012
By Mark Steyn
You go away for 10 minutes, and come back to find there’s a new acronym in town. “Duelling Queen’s Park Protests Planned Over GSAs,” reports Xtra. “OECTA Comes Out In Favour Of GSAs,” reports The Catholic Register. “Obama Blames Bush For GSA Scandal,” reports Fox News.
Honestly. Is there anything that
isn’t Bush’s fault? No, wait. That last one turns out to be an American GSA –
the Government Services Administration, the government agency that picks out
the office furniture for the other government agencies and is currently under
fire for flying itself to Vegas and throwing itself a lavish party with clowns
(professional clowns, not just government bureaucrats) and a fortune teller,
who curiously enough failed to foretell that the head of the agency would shortly
thereafter lose her job. By contrast,
“Accepting?” One would regard the very name of this bill as an exquisite parody of the way statist strong-arming masquerades as limp-wristed passivity were it not for the fact that the province’s Catholic schools, reluctant to accept government-mandated GSAs, are proposing instead that they should be called “Respecting Differences” groups. Good grief, this is the best a bigoted theocrat can come up with?
Bullying is as old as the schoolhouse. Dr Thomas Arnold, one of the great reforming headmasters of 19th century England, is captured in the most famous novel ever written about bullying, Tom Brown’s Schooldays in what, by all accounts, is an accurate summation of his approach to the matter: “‘You see, I do not know anything of the case officially, and if I take any notice of it at all, I must publicly expel the boy. I don’t wish to do that, for I think there is some good in him. There’s nothing for it but a good sound thrashing.’ He paused to shake hands with the master … ‘Remember,’ added the Doctor, emphasizing the words, ‘a good sound thrashing before the whole house.’ ”
These days, a Thrashing Schools Act
mandating Thrashing Out Differences groups across the province would be the
biggest windfall for Chief Commissar Barbara Hall and her
So it’s just like every other bloody
boring day in the
Meanwhile, Cable 14 in Hamilton, Ont., has been Tweeting up a storm: “National Day of Pink/Anti-Bullying Day is tomorrow. What will you be wearing?” Er, I don’t think I have a lot of choice on that front, do I? “For schools holding Anti-Bullying events in April, you still have time to order shirts at a discount.”
That’s great news! Nothing says “celebrate diversity” like forcing everyone to dress exactly the same, like a bunch of Maoists who threw their workers’ garb in the washer but forgot to take the red flag out. If you’re thinking, “Hang on. Day of Pink? Didn’t we just have that?” No, that was Pink Shirt Day, the last Wednesday in February. This is Day of Pink, second Wednesday in April. Like the King streetcar, there’ll be another one along in a minute, enthusiastically sponsored by Scotiabank, Royal Bank, ViaRail and all the other corporate bigwigs.
If you’re thinking, “Hang on. Pink awareness-raising? Isn’t that something to do with breast cancer?” No, that’s pink ribbons. Unfortunately, all the hues for awareness-raising ribbons are taken: not just white for bone cancer and yellow for adenosarcoma, but also (my current favourite) periwinkle for acid reflux. We need to raise awareness of how all the awareness-raising ribbons have been taken, so anti-bullying groups have been obliged to move on from ribbons to shirts.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it is. P.G. Wodehouse, The Code Of The Woosters(1938): “Don’t you ever read the papers? Roderick Spode is the founder and head of the Saviours of Britain, a Fascist organization better known as the Black Shorts …”
“By the way, when you say ‘shorts’, you mean ‘shirts’, of course.”
“No. By the time Spode formed his association, there were no shirts left. He and his adherents wear black shorts.”
“Footer bags, you mean?”
Pink Shorts Day is the second
Wednesday in October in the
Yes, there have been a small number of bullied teens driven to suicide, and these particular deaths are tragedies for the families involved that blow a great big hole in their lives that can never be repaired. But they are not a cause for wrongheaded public policy. Hard cases make bad law, and hard cases hijacked by social engineers, backed by state bureaucracies and bankrolled by dimwit boardroom patsies make bad law on a catastrophic scale.
According to the Toronto District
School Board’s own survey, the most common type of bullying is for “body image”
– the reason given by 27% of high school students, 38% of Grades 7 and 8, and
yea, back through the generations. Yet there are no proposals for mandatory
Fat-Svelte Alliances, or Homely-Smokin’ Alliances. The second biggest reason in
What about if you’re the last non-sexualized
tween schoolgirl in
Why, of course! GSAs are officially
welcoming of gays, straights, and even those freaky weirdy types who aren’t yet
into sexual identity but could use a helpful nudge in the right direction.
“Advisors Say GSA Also For Straight Students,” as the headline to a poignant
story in yesterday’s edition of the
From a lack of gay bake sales and
gay car washes, the GSA has now advanced to a lack of gays. “The students just
stopped coming,” said Mrs McCrum, the new Spanish teacher who took over the GSA
at the start of this school year. This is the homophobic reality of our
education system: a school gay group that has everything it needs except gays.
Mrs Yackanin is reported by the
And now the model that has proved so
When you shrink from punishing the
bullies (as our schools do), when you pursue phantom enemies (as our “human
rights” nomenklatura do), when you use the victims as a pretext for ideological
advancement (as the Ontario government is doing), all that’s left is the
creepy, soft totalitarian, collectivized, state-enforced, glassy-eyed
homogeneity of “uniting to celebrate diversity” (in Peggy Nash’s words). So
Canada will have GSAs from Niagara to Nunavut; and for the lonely and unsocial,
the lumpy and awkward, real bullying will proceed undisturbed in the shadows;
and ideologically-compliant faux-bullying will explode, as a generation of
children is conscripted into a youth corps of eternal victimhood, alert to
every slight, however footling. In
“Awareness-raising”? I think we need
to raise awareness that, unless you’ve got the T-shirt concession, all these
Pink Days are worthless crap that do nothing for the problem they claim to be
addressing. If you’ve chanced to see me in person, you’ll know I often wear a
pink shirt (I may even wear one on stage in
Cost cutting begins at home
National Post – April 10, 2012
One of the great benefits of budgets to governments is the ability to bury the unpleasant under mounds of excess information. So much news comes out of most budgets that it takes considerable time to digest it all properly. So people may have noted in passing that last month's federal budget glossed lightly over the issue of MP pensions and compensation. But then it was on to other things.
Pensions have become a major issue
across the country. While just about everyone hopes to ease into retirement at
some point in life, financing that dream has become increasingly difficult. The
question of how to pay for life in old age affects most of the population – except
for politicians. Governments across the land have become increasingly
vociferous in their alleged determination to cut costs by reining in the pay
and benefits enjoyed by public servants – except themselves.
But federal members of Parliament still get a free ride. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty shows no fear of a confrontation with union leaders or provincial counterparts. Upsetting his fellow MPs is evidently a more fearsome task. Mr. Flaherty told Global News in a post-budget interview that he's still working on plans for MPs, and there will be changes in due course.
"We have to have some more consultations, discussions about the age, but we're moving the age for public servants up and the intention is to do the same for Members of Parliament." (Emphasis ours.) Mr. Flaherty continued: "We have to be consistent if we ask that public service to go in a certain direction that we go in the same direction as well."
Spot the difference. The government was brave enough to raise the eligibility age for Old Age Security from 65 to 67 over an extended period. It had no trouble summoning the nerve to increase the retirement age for civil servants and reveal plans to make them pay more for their pensions. But when it comes to MPs, much more care and caution is required. There need to be "more consultations." Concern has to be shown for MP expectations, and their ability to adjust.
Why all the delicacy? Why the wait?
What makes the career expectations and family concerns of MPs so much more
critical than those of every other Canadian? Mr. Flaherty's pledge that he'll
get around to this stuff next year sometime – if other issues don't intrude,
presumably – is hardly reassuring. Delay is a tool politicians often deploy
when they're hoping to avoid action. Mr. Flaherty notes that getting MPs to pay
50% toward their own (rich, guaranteed) pensions (collectible at age 55 and
after just six years in office) is "a lot of money." He's correct on
that, as many teachers will know, since they're already contributing at that
level. MPs make much more than teachers – $157,000 plus perks for MPs, versus
about $90,000 for teachers in
One canard in this discussion has
been the extra $100,000 added on a prime minister's pension at age 65. The
Liberals sought to make hay on this, not realizing it was their own revered
Lester Pearson who introduced the provision, and Pierre Trudeau who lowered the
qualifying age from 70 to 65. Pearson may have needed the money; Trudeau
certainly didn't, nor did later Liberal leaders John Turner or Jean Chrétien,
both of whom made a tidy pile while not in office, or shipping magnate
But the prime minister, whatever party he or she may be from, is an exception. Other MPs have no excuse for continuing to feed at the trough while demanding the rest of Canadians tighten their belts. And Mr. Flaherty has no excuse for making it possible.
Terrace nurse loses licence, found incompetent and unprofessional
She failed to administer medications correctly, college says
By Pamela Fayerman
An incompetent nurse who was fired
from a B.C. hospital after putting patients' lives at risk has had her licence
revoked by the
The college suspended Juliet Walsh's licence on an interim basis in December 2009. In April 2010, she was found by a disciplinary committee to be incompetent and unprofessional.
Walsh worked at
Among other things, she was found guilty of:
˙ Failing to notify a doctor and allowed a patient to go home, even though the patient had no detectable blood pressure and a heart rate of only 30 beats per minute. Instead of accepting responsibility, she faulted the blood pressure equipment.
˙ Giving incorrect amounts of medications in intravenous (IV) drip bags in a 2007 case, resulting in an insufficient dose for the patient.
˙ Incorrectly programming an anti-cancer drug IV pump at 800 cc/hour rather than 600 cc/hour.
˙ Failing to release a clamp on an IV pump, resulting in a cancer patient not getting the chemotherapy drug.
˙ Using improper methods for blood transfusions.
˙ Lacking awareness of protocols regarding chemotherapy drug administration.
˙ Giving a post-operative gall-bladder removal patient a dose of an anti-nausea drug that was wrong and ineffective.
The Walsh case had the distinction of being the first quasi-judicial, public disciplinary hearing of its kind in 13 years and the first since the CRNBC was formed in 2005. The previous licensing/regulatory body was the Registered Nurses Association of B.C.
Nurses facing complaints usually enter into consensual com-plaint resolution proceedings that lead to remedial actions, a process that may spare them disclosure of their name as well as details of their conduct.
In the past month, for example, several nurses have signed off on consent agreements following professional conduct investigations.
An important weekend – even for non-believers
National Post – April 7, 2012
By Robert Fulford
When the lunar calendar and Christian tradition align so that Passover and Easter arrive among us on the same weekend, even unbelievers find their thoughts turning to religion.
I'm a one-time Anglican with some Catholic and Jewish connections, but in anything to do with government and the law I'm a militant secularist. The proudly politicized Christianity of Rick Santorum, for instance, fills me with distaste, even a trace of fear.
On the other hand, in matters of the imagination I find many aspects of religion highly sympathetic and nourishing. In my own life the presence of religion has been so important that it feels essential. I can't imagine doing without the many riches, verbal and visual as well as moral, that the Judeo-Christian tradition has directly and indirectly put before me.
That's why I've not been tempted to enlist in the growing ranks of atheists. They seem to me dense, narrow and unserious.
In recent years, atheism has ceased to be the heresy that dares not speak its name and has turned into something like a fashion. In books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens, among others, atheism has been shouting its name with an arrogant vehemence, apparently as compensation for the many centuries when it was silenced. It's even embraced the worst intellectual characteristic of many religions: the belief that it alone embodies the truth.
What comes through is not a critique of religion but a condemnation, as if the history of religion consisted exclusively of one hateful crime after another. What Northrop Frye called the "appalling historical record of Christianity" should never be forgotten. But it is only a part of history, for the most part the result of priest-authorized prejudices now largely abandoned.
As a non-believer, I appreciate both Judaism and Christianity more now than I did 50 years ago. Decades of reading and thinking have taught me the virtues of the Bible.
That magnificent anthology of narratives and arguments directs our civilization like a DNA sequence, shaping the structure of our feelings and our imagination. It provides verbal energy and cultural contexts, usable by believers and unbelievers alike. The challenge of Christianity continues to act as a force for moral seriousness.
The Bible's influence is so diffused that today it profoundly affects people who may never have studied even one of its books. This is not always to the world's advantage; communism was, among many other things, a Christian heresy.
We get from the Bible the original versions of our most vital stories, the myths of creation and fall and redemption. Examined carefully, it's a permanently useful account of human relations.
We don't need to believe in God to
learn from the story of Cain and Abel or Joseph and his brothers. It's not
necessary to accept the Exodus version of the parting of the
The years also have taught me that Christianity, in its Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican forms, was for a millennium or so the greatest patron of architecture and art. Under Christian direction, the visual arts reached their highest level. It won't be approached again until some benign democracy decides to devote a few centuries to a similar project.
Whether we choose to ignore the
Judeo-Christian tradition or study and appreciate it, we nevertheless find
ourselves living within a version of it. What we often call the West was
organized within the framework of religious beliefs. The European nations of
today, and their offshoots in the
In the last two centuries, much of
religion's ancient power has been transferred to science. Since
But even as science pushes outward toward an understanding of how the universe came to be, physicists reveal amazing new questions along with new realities. Even the most brilliant science should be understood as a continuation of the same impulse that caused early humans to look at the stars and wonder about their meaning – an essentially religious impulse, the contemplation of mystery.
When will the red-meat Tories rebel?
National Post – April 2, 2012
By Michael Den Tandt
Call it the great Budget headfake of 2012.
Signal that you're going to throw the Hail Mary pass, an epochal transformation. Scare the daylights out of the public-service unions. Rattle the opposition parties' cages, leading them to rear up on their hind legs, shake their fists and promise a fight for the ages.
Then deliver a budget that, while it does reiterate some previously announced, common-sense longer-term reforms in immigration, resource development, research and old age security, and while it does proffer some public-service layoffs, is not revolutionary at all. It's rather humdrum. It's downright inoffensive.
Thus, the opposition leaders'
imprecations lose their sting. The media responds with a collective shrug. And
the mainly centrist, moderately conservative populace, especially in vote-rich
Policy-wise, Budget 2012 was a tepid document. The only surprise therein, which wasn't much of a surprise at all, was the slaying of the penny. That, too, was calculated to set just the right tone: A feel-good human-interest headline guaranteed to displease no one, save for a few crackpots and coin fetishists.
Politically, the document is already proving to be a winner, to the extent that it shores up Mr. Harper's left flank, which has grown vulnerable in recent months following a series of controversial moves, such as the end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly and the abolition of the gun registry, as well as the continuing robocalls scandal. Mr. Harper needed to burnish his credentials as a moderate. Now he has.
But the budget raises another
question, which one suspects is already quietly being asked in Conservative
drawing rooms out west, and in rural
Remember that the Reform Party,
progenitor of the Conservative Party of Canada, arose as a Western-backed
populist rebellion against Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives. The
Mulroney Conservatives were deemed to be in thrall to
In 2012 we have a Conservative government that recognizes Quebec as a nation within Canada; has boosted federal spending to levels far beyond those of the Liberal years, and will maintain it at those levels despite the moderate cuts announced last week; and is throwing money and resources into the reserve system (rather than abolishing the Indian Act and starting over). This budget, like all six previous Conservative budgets, is jam-packed with baubles targeting various groups. It is no more conservative, philosophically, than Jean Chrétien's budgets in the 1990s were liberal. Indeed Harper is beginning to look a great deal like Mr. Chrétien, policy-wise.
Until now, there have been few hints of dissent to the Conservatives' right. Senior members of Alberta's Wildrose Alliance, which now looks in a position to win the provincial election, get on well with the federal Conservatives (far better, if truth be told, than do Alison Redford's Alberta provincial Progressive Conservatives).
Tom Flanagan, a seminal conservative thinker and former advisor to Mr. Harper, mused during the minority years that "incremental" conservatism seemed to be a winning formula: Move the country steadily rightwards, but without making any sudden moves.
On May 2, 2011, however, the game changed. The Conservatives have carte blanche. If they don't dare reveal themselves as true conservatives now, then when will they ever? That won't get easier, presumably, as they get closer to re-election in 2015. The social-conservative wing of their party was jettisoned years ago. If fiscal conservatism goes too, then what's left?
Mr. Flanagan himself still sees no threat to the Conservatives' right. "Things would have to get completely out of control," he told me Friday, for that to happen.
But consider this: In the lead-up to the budget, the overwhelming majority of the Tory caucus was pushing for spending cuts greatly in excess of those announced last week. In the range of $4-billion to $8 billion, these MPs were pushing for the full $8-billion. They wound up with $5.2-billion.
The relative modesty of these cuts means the Tories may not be able to campaign on a balanced budget in 2015. That will depend on the rate of economic growth, and on interest rates. The budget forecasts a small deficit that year, with a return to surplus in 2015-16.
Therefore, back to the question: At
what point do the most stalwart Conservatives and conservatives in
Compromise may not be pretty, but it's not bad
Political parties' desire for ideological purity is a recipe for their defeat
By Barbara Yaffe
What is the value of political purity? Nada, zero, zilch, in my humble opinion.
Music and gold should be pure. Politics works best as an alloy.
The Conservatives, from the intellectual right and from within their own ranks, have weathered charges that after six years in power they've sold the family farm. The crystalline libertarian ideology of the Reform years – zero deficits, an end to asymmetrical federalism, a radical curtailment of the welfare state, a return to self-reliance – has been set aside in the pursuit of power.
The New Democrats, from the left and often from within their own ranks, are weathering charges that after less than a full year as the main Opposition party, they're about to sell the family farm. The socialist ideology of the Broadbent years – punish the rich and corporations through higher taxes, nurture the unions, bash the Americans, bolster the welfare state – will at last be set aside, in the pursuit of power. Compromise, leader-ship candidate Brian Topp argues, will be the NDP's moral undoing.
And here we have the Liberals, drifting in the purgatory of a suddenly crowded centre, shouting: We're the true compromisers! The Liberals, watching the inexorable disintegration of Canadian political ideologies to their left and to their right, have been reduced to pleading: If you must choose a party that places pragmatism over principle, choose us. We have a lot more practice at selling out. In fact for us it's a virtue.
But few voters appear to be listening, because all the parties now boast the same virtue, or virus, depending on your point of view.
It is small wonder that compromise, which is rarely beautiful in the abstract, raises hackles. Judging from the mail I receive, many engaged politicos today have little appetite for it. In my view, that is because the principal medium of modern political engagement is the Internet – and the Inter-net perpetuates tribe.
Marshall McLuhan anticipated this a generation ago. McLuhan predicted that, with the return of the visual and the personal as primary means of communication – (because pre-Gutenberg, most communication was oral and visual and personal, apart from manuscripts hand-illuminated by monks) we'd see a return to tribal, totemic forms of social organization. He was, of course, right. Prescient.
In the stark simplicity of social media – "friend" or "unfriend," "groups," status updates and 140-character tweets – nuance is increasingly difficult to effect. Indeed its only true home, any more, may be the novel.
Increasingly, the consumer – for a politician, the voter – actively rebels against nuance. It is as though, in the vast ocean of information, the rigid polarity of predictable opinion and category are somehow reassuring.
The corollary in political organization is obvious. Partisans, be pure. Uphold your brand without which you are nothing. Under no circumstances should the Liberals and NDP merge, or the Conservatives shift leftward, or the NDP rightward, because if they do, they'll no longer be who they've been. But here's the wrinkle with that: In a democracy, on the ground, purity translates almost immediately into failure and the loss of influence. (In a dictatorship it translates into barbarism – witness the Khmer Rouge. But that's another column.)
example, the case of
Rather than be
defeated, the Harper government unveiled the multibillion-dollar infrastructure
budget that, something like the end-of-recession infrastructure spending rolled
out by the Chretien Liberals in 1994, set the populace at ease. That spending
had a material impact on thousands of large and small communities across
Was it dishonest, because it came from Conservatives rather than Liberals, in whose intellectual playbook that budget more rightly belonged? A purist would say yes. But it got the Tories re-elected with a majority, so that they're now in a position to implement a longer-term, smaller-government agenda. How, precisely, is that bad, from any conservative or Conservative's point of view?
Even now, as the
Conservatives prepare to unveil major structural changes they believe will
How, precisely, is that kind of com-promise bad?
Labour pains threaten health care
Uncertainty for patients as anesthesiologists vow to withdraw services
By Pamela Fayerman & Andrea Woo
The B.C. government is facing stiff demands from more than 100,000 health care providers now bargaining for better contracts in a climate of wage freezes and cost containment.
Efforts to negotiate a settlement with nearly 11,000 doctors, who were quiet when the government released its budget last month, have failed. They have now agreed to participate in phase two, a conciliation panel chaired by a retired judge.
The union representing B.C. nurses has agreed to a zero wage increase but is demanding the province hire more than 2,000 nurses to remedy what it calls a "dangerous" staff shortage. Adding that many nurses would likely cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars.
Anesthesiologists have for months been in an ugly, public back-and-forth over money and staffing levels. They are threatening to withdraw services for elective surgery on April 1 if they are not allowed a seat at the conciliation table.
The Health Sciences
Association, representing more than 17,000 workers, and the Hospital Employees'
The stormy labour relations climate is creating uncertainty for patients and places big demands on the government, which already spends $17-billion a year on health care.
Health Minister Mike de Jong said he can't comment on negotiations with doctors, nurses and other health care providers.
"I am not going to negotiate through the media. But there is no question that we are in tight fiscal circum-stances and parties have to acknowledge that net zero gains ... are the government's position."
The president of the B.C. Medical Association said the physicians have agreed to retain retired Supreme Court of Canada judge Frank Iaccobucci to chair a conciliation panel and have not given up on a settlement.
If that process does not succeed, arbitration would be the last and final step, Dr. Nasir Jetha added.
"We're trying to reach a meeting of the minds," Jetha said, noting this is the first time in several years that the BCMA has had to resort to conciliation.
president of the B.C. Nurses'
"Our members are not confident that they can deliver safe care any more to their clients," she said.
In long-term care, one registered nurse is often responsible for more than 75 patients, she noted. The shortage of nurses has led to "record high" levels of absenteeism and injury among union members, she said.
McPherson described the nurses' pleas as "heartbreaking."
"They tell me that they go home from work crying, that they maybe have to sit in their car for 15 minutes and cry before they can even drive off, that they feel overwhelmed."
The union has not yet calculated what the new positions might cost the employer, but McPherson said it is incidental next to the potential cost of human life.
The Health Sciences Association, whose members include diagnostic technicians, clinical professionals such as respiratory therapists and rehabilitation workers, want wages that closer reflect their education levels, said association president Reid Johnson.
He noted his members have the second highest level of post-secondary education next to doctors, on average, and hefty workloads that often include being called in a few times a night between regular shifts.
"That's driving people out of the professions," he said. "They're going to go work in a private imaging clinic, or a private lab somewhere, where they only have to do days. That would be more expensive for British Columbians."
Health sciences professionals
in B.C. are paid $6-$10 less per hour than those in
But it is the anesthesiologists who are grumbling the loudest.
On Tuesday, the BC Anesthesiologists Society signalled it's still planning to withdraw services as of April 1 if it is barred from participating in the conciliation process. The BCMA insists it should be handling all the bargaining and accused the anesthesiologists of renegade activity.
The anesthesiologists are engaging in "a political and media campaign designed to embarrass the government and compel it to enter into further negotiations on anesthesiology compensation," said a BCMA briefing note.
The provincial government agrees. "We negotiate with the BCMA and they negotiate on behalf of the specialists," de Jong said.
The government has
filed a formal complaint against the leaders of the anesthesiologists' society
to the doctors' regulatory body, the
The complaint, written by deputy health minister Graham Whitmarsh and obtained by The Vancouver Sun, asks the college to "censure" Dr. Jeff Rains, Dr. Roland Orfaly and other members of the BCAS executive.
Orfaly said he doesn't know anything about the complaint.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the college said it expects the parties will resolve the compensation dispute through ethical and professional negotiations and "avoid using access to care as an issue in a contract dispute.
"If a complaint is filed against a physician regarding unethical practice, the college will investigate the com-plaint according to its legal authority and due process. The college is not able to comment on any ongoing investigation."
The health minister said lodging the complaint was an unusual move on the government's part, taken because of the unusual threat of job action by the specialists.
"I get that
people want more money and that anesthesiologists see their counterparts in
He accused the anesthesiologists of being "unprofessional and unethical" for threatening to withdraw services for all but urgent and non-urgent surgical cases.
"Let's not kid ourselves, this is a dispute over money and the anesthesiologists want to hold patients hostage because of that," de Jong said.
The BCMA says it has helped anesthesiologists get fee increases of 36.2 per cent over the past 10 years, com-pared to 22.3 per cent for all other doctors. It says that does not include side deals of $15.6 million for obstetric anesthesia services across the province and a $1.4-million "labour market adjustment" to help with recruitment and retention over the past decade.
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of anesthesiologists in B.C. increased by just over 35 per cent while overall growth in the profession was 23.5 per cent. There are about 475 anesthesiologists in the province.
Anesthesiologists have accused the BCMA and government of being "irresponsible" for not hiring more anesthesiologists to decrease surgical waiting times. The society maintains vacancies in its field are next to impossible to fill because B.C. pays such specialists far less than most other provinces. Orfaly said a poll of members on how many were in favour of service withdrawals showed 80 per cent who voted were in favour.
Tories use majority to pass crime omnibus bill
National Post – March 13, 2012
By Tobi Cohen
The Conservatives have used their majority to pass the so-called omnibus crime bill within the first 100 sitting days of Parliament as promised, despite continued opposition from Canada's largest provinces which vowed Monday not to sit back idly as the measures come into force.
The deeply polarizing Safe Streets and Communities Act, which passed by a vote of 154 to 129, effectively will become law in a matter of hours, if not days, when the bill receives royal assent. The Tories will mark their 100 day milestone on Friday.
"These are very reasonable measures. They go after those who sexually exploit children, people in the child pornography business and it goes after drug traffickers," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said hours before the final vote.
"This will be welcomed, particularly by victims, those involved with law enforcement and, as we know, Canadians are supportive of what we are doing in this area."
While critics fear the bill will have little impact on reducing crime and may even harden some offenders, Nicholson offered little about how the success of the bill might be measured.
"We have a number of strategies," Nicholson said. "But, again, this sends the message out to people (that) if you get involved with this kind of activity, there will be consequences."
As per his promise to the provinces, Nicholson said the implementation of the various aspects of legislation will be "spaced out" over a period of time, though it seemed to provide little comfort to his regional counterparts.
Safety and Correctional Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur said in a
statement Monday that: "
opening of the two new state-of-the-art facilities . . . we have taken
appropriate steps to address
She called on
"We would have
preferred Parliament accept the amendments put forward by the
The amendments were
brought forward by
While the province supports a number of the provisions contained in C-10, he said the bill as a whole "harms" the province's prevention and reintegration programs.
He said his government would unveil Tuesday new measures to combat recidivism.
"As the attorney general, it is my responsibility to apply criminal laws but it's also my responsibility to safeguard the public and prevent recidivism," he said.
The final vote on C-10 was to take place last week but the NDP employed a series of procedural delaying tactics, including trying to adjourn the House of Commons, which saw the vote pushed back to Monday.
Justice critic Jack Harris made no apology for stalling the bill, which does far more than target child sex offenders.
Had the Tories broken the bill up into bite-sized pieces, Harris said the official Opposition would have been happy to support elements related to mandatory minimums for child sex offenders.
"They refused to do that and, you know, the contentious parts of the bill are still there," he said. "We think it will lead to more punishment but not safer streets, not a deterrence against criminals and in fact there will be more victims, more crimes and less safety on our streets."
Comprised of nine bills, many of which failed to pass in previous Parliaments when the Conservatives had a minority, C-10 also cracks down on pot producers, young offenders, Canadians imprisoned abroad who are seeking a transfer to a Canadian institution and ex-cons seeking a pardon.
It also provides for
victims of terrorism who are seeking to sue the perpetrator and eliminates
house arrest for a number of different crimes, something
The government has been coy about the overall cost to the provinces and has insisted the entire Safe Streets and Communities Act will run the federal government $78.6 million over five years.
Is there a conservative in the House?
National Post – March 10, 2012
By Andrew Coyne
This is from some
remarks I'll be making this morning to the Manning Centre conference, a
gathering of conservatives, and Conservatives, in
I confess I'm not particularly interested in defining conservatism. I do not see the point of knowing whether a given idea is or is not conservative, or in asking how a conservative would respond to X or Y. This strikes me as an odd way to think about the world: to start with a box and try to make your views fit inside it.
What I believe in are a set of principles having to do with the freedom of the individual, the usefulness but not infallibility of markets, and the legitimate but limited role of the state. There are, in brief, a few things we need government to do, based on well-established criteria on which there is a high degree of expert consensus. The task is simply to get government to stick to those things, rather than waste scarce resources on things that could be done as well or better by other means: that is, government should only do what only government can do.
As I say, these ideas are not novel, or controversial. Indeed, you would find support for them, to a greater or lesser degree, across the political spectrum.
Nevertheless, there was a party, once, that believed in these things, to a somewhat greater extent than the other parties. That party called itself conservative, whether with a small or a large C, so I suppose you could call the things it believed conservatism. But you are no longer that party.
For example, that party favoured balanced budgets. But you are not that party. In fact, you boast of how your decision to add $150-billion to the national debt saved the economy.
That party favoured cutting or at least controlling spending, after the massive spree of the Liberals' last years. But you are not that party. In fact, you boast of how you have increased spending by 7% per year – $37-billion in one year!
That party favoured a simpler, flatter tax system, that left people free to decide how to spend, save or invest their money for themselves. But you are not that party. In fact, you boast of the many gimmicks and gewgaws with which you have festooned the tax code.
That party favoured abolishing corporate welfare. But you are not that party. In fact you boast of the handouts you make, often accompanied by ministers or indeed MPs bearing outsized novelty cheques. In some cases, you even put the Conservative logo on them.
That party favoured privatization, deregulation, reform of public services. But you are not that party. Employment insurance, Via Rail, Canada Post, the CBC: you have no plan for reform of any them. Transportation and telecommunications remain as protected and over-regulated as ever, while your support for supply management in agriculture borders on the hysterical. You even boasted, through two elections, of how much more intrusive and heavy-handed your environmental policy was, compared to the marketoriented measures preferred by your opponents. To be fair, you have not actually nationalized anything. Oh, except the auto industry.
That party was for a robust Parliament, with more powerful MPs, free of the party whip. Needless to say you are not that party. That party was for a balanced federation of equal provinces. But you are now the party of asymmetric federalism and nations within nations.
That party was against breaking election promises. That party was against patronage and pork-barreling. And that party was against corruption and political dirty tricks. I don't know whether you are still that party.
This isn't a question of incrementalism, but of going in entirely the wrong direction. It isn't just that you failed to do the things you should have. It is that you did things you should not have. And, what is worse, you did them, not reluctantly or shamefacedly, but enthusiastically. You didn't just sell out. You bought in.
I don't want to say it's been all bad. You fought the last election on cutting corporate tax rates, and have introduced or promised some other useful tax reforms. Your trade policy is tremendously ambitious, and you have made some tentative, if largely unsuccessful, efforts to untangle the mess the provinces have made of our own domestic market.
And now, we are told, we are about to see unveiled a "breathtaking" budget that will finally begin the turn towards smaller government; that, having increased spending by nearly $70-billion since taking office, you might cut as much as $8-billion from it; that the conservatism you largely abandoned over the last eight years can be reconstructed in the course of an afternoon.
Good luck with that. You have spent your time in office educating people in what they should expect from government in general, and your government in particular. You have established the criteria by which they should judge you: as the party that brings home the bacon. They might be forgiven some distress at finding their bacon rations have suddenly been shortened. And they will be disinclined to trust you as you begin to tell them some hard truths, since you have been so little disposed to earn their trust until now.
Perhaps you will succeed, nevertheless. You have your majority, after all. But consider that even if you do, in 2016, after 10 years in power, you will still be spending more, after inflation, adjusting for population growth, than the Liberals you replaced.
So before you ask, where is conservatism going, perhaps it would be better to ask: where has it gone?
The human right to convenient parking
National Post – March 10, 2012
By Rex Murphy
How does that great warning go again? Oh, yes … “First, I couldn’t get a parking space for my Mazda 5 … And then the horror descended … parking on the street! That passage, of course, taken from the great dystopian novel – A Day in the Life of the Ottawa Commuter.
editorialists have weighed in on the Jobean tribulations of Patricia Howson of
There should be a sign at the beginning of that laneway, I gather: “Lay off the clutch, all ye who enter here” or whatever is the equivalent for a modern day automatic.
Well, all of us know what a trauma it can be when one or more of your side-mirrors gets dinged. On the scale of oppression and misery it’s even worse than a flailing, about-to-fall-off wiper, and just short of an oil pan leak – milestones of grief and torment both. So, as the Post’s editorial board detailed, and columnist Matt Gurney ever so industriously expanded upon, the much beset Ms. Howson went to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, pleading – obviously – a diminishment of her human rights.
Ms. Howson is herself a former investigator for the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, so she brings to this matter an expertise that only first-hand exposure to the nebulous clouds of current human rights thinking can supply.
I struggle to keep this matter in proportion. Granted, frustration about parking the family Mazda 5 is not perfectly parallel (if that word may be forgiven in this context) with Cambodia under Pol Pot, Ukraine in the perfidious days of the sadist Stalin, China under Mao or the Congo in those days of unspeakable horror when Leopold of Belgium set the world to weeping by his cruelties and brutality.
The municipal regulations of Ottawa are not even, in their various inflictions upon the innocent commuter – as my colleague Gurney so worthily pointed out well before me – strictly speaking, equivalent to the torments of contemporary Syria, with its daily shootings, beatings, detentions and Lord knows what other outrages.
I struggle to keep this matter in proportion. Granted, frustration about parking the family Mazda 5 is not perfectly parallel (if that word may be forgiven in this context) with Cambodia under Pol Pot, Ukraine in the perfidious days of the sadist Stalin, China under Mao or the Congo in those days of unspeakable horror when Leopold of Belgium set the world to weeping by his cruelties and brutality.
The municipal regulations of Ottawa are not even, in their various inflictions upon the innocent commuter – as my colleague Gurney so worthily pointed out well before me – strictly speaking, equivalent to the torments of contemporary Syria, with its daily shootings, beatings, detentions and Lord knows what other outrages.
fortunately however, have a broader understanding of such matters. We begin
with the idea that here in
This latest reality-playlet
There is a cost to this nonsense. The more ludicrous the claims being made under the human-rights banner, the more the concept itself is stretched and mauled completely out of shape, the more that the real elements of human rights are degraded or forgotten. Human rights are not a sticky post on which you paste the latest silly thing that annoys you.
Canadians have been
alerted to the mischiefs – and injustices – being played out in this field for
some time now. This latest illustration from
Abbott promises report cards after Bill 22 passes
By Jonathan Fowlie
Teachers will be obliged to send report cards to parents shortly after the government passes its back-to-work legislation, Education Minister George Abbott said Thursday.
"What we will be doing, effective with the passage of this bill, and effective with completion of spring break, is to have the schools proceed as expeditiously as they can to prepare report cards," Abbott told reporters Thursday.
He said he expects the report cards will update parents on student progress for the entire school year.
But B.C. Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert said the union has no plans to comply.
"Minister Abbott is ignoring a commonly accepted labour relations principle: struck work is simply not done," Lambert said in a written statement Thursday, referring to the fact that as part of their job action, teachers have not filled out report cards all year.
"Clearly a requirement to make it up would render any strike ineffective," she continued, adding many teachers have been communicating with parents via other means.
"It is unfortunate that Mr. Abbott is once again needlessly inflaming an already tense situation. His comments show once again the disrespect this government has for teachers and the work we do."
Responding to Lambert's comments, Abbott said he was "surprised and disappointed."
"I think it's really unfortunate and we will be examining all of our options," he said late Thursday.
"We believe both the law and the bill itself are firmly on our side.
"We believe report cards are a responsibility," he added. "It is a part of the work of teachers that they would produce report cards and we expect that they will."
In other developments Thursday, the BCTF said it will not take advantage of its legal right to strike for one day next week, and will decide what to do next at its annual general meeting to be held March 17-20.
Also Thursday, New Democratic Party house leader John Horgan introduced an amendment to Bill 22 that has the potential to add several days to the debate.
The amendment – which almost certainly won't pass as it would require a majority – seeks to delete the bulk of the bill and replace it with a statement in support of an independent mediator.
Before the amendment was introduced, Abbott had said he hoped the bill would pass as early as the end of next week.
Liberal house leader Rich Coleman did not immediately respond to the amendment, but said before it was introduced that he was willing to cancel the legislature's spring break the week of March 19 if the bill had not passed by that point.
"The NDP have tools, and if they want to drag it out, they can drag it out," he said.
"If they want to continue, they may find themselves sitting during spring break."
Bringing soft totalitarianism into the classroom
National Post – March 8, 2012
By Father Raymond J. De Souza
Who decides what children get taught when it comes to moral and religious questions? Parents or the state?
These questions are
being asked in
The Alberta HRC was
the kangaroo court exposed by Ezra Levant when he was prosecuted for more than
two years for publishing the Danish Muhammad cartoons, and which ordered a
Christian pastor in
The real courts
slapped the human rights commission senseless on that one, but not until the
accused had been comprehensively abused by the one-sided process. Freedom of
the press, freedom of religion, fundamental legal rights of due process – none
of these carry much weight at the human rights commissions. Sensible people
around the country are endeavouring to have their pernicious scope restricted.
Which led to an odd protest at the legislature here on Monday by several hundred home-schooling families, worried that the new Education Act's drafting would expose parents to human rights prosecutions if determined activists didn't care for their religious and moral teaching. The protest was odd because the education minister showed up at the rally himself, saying that his proposed law would do no such thing; and affirming the principle that the parents were advocating, namely that the parents' right to teach their children should not be impeded by the state's various bureaucratic arms.
But sweet words are
no match for a determined bureaucrat of ideological zeal.
It's a battle that will only grow more intense in the years ahead. Education policy has for several generations now been creeping into ever more sectors of civil life. Having done such a bang-up job of teaching little Edith to read and write and do algebra, the education bureaucracy is eager to ensure that she has proper eating habits (first graders sent home shamefacedly when they bring brownies rather than celery sticks for snack time) and the correct ideas about social policy (high schools facilitate access to birth control but make bottled water contraband).
And those parents who
do not wish to lazily hand over the formation of their children to the state?
They now have to fight to discharge the duties that are properly theirs, as
they did here in
Straight.com – March 5, 2012
By Ray Ferris
When in care they have the following rights. They have a right to continuity and stability of care. Right? They have a right to be placed with relatives and to continuing kinship contact. Right?
Young children have a right to timely resolution of their cases. This means not being left long in damaging limbo. Right? They have a right to privacy. Right?
They have a right to the protection of the courts from unwarranted removal. Right? The ministry director has the responsibility to prove his case. Right? Parents have a right to protect their own children. Right?
Wrong on all counts because in practice, they get none of these rights. The system simply cannot deliver them. The Child Family and Community Services Act says that a temporary order on children under five cannot exceed one year and can only be in three monthly increments.
This protects against the emotional damage known as attachment deficit disorder. The courts often stretch this temporary care to years before any hearing of evidence. They just relabel it as interim custody.
The indefinite limbo of interim custody causes the same damage. At the first hearings, called presentations, courts rubber-stamp approval of social workers' actions, because there is no time to hear arguments. All the judges want to do is to clear the list and not get seized (stuck) with a case.
Contested cases will not be heard for over a year. Kids are often moved from home to home and disclosure is withheld. (Protection of privacy you know.) Children have even been moved from safe relative care to protect privacy. Nobody asks the kids if they are grateful.
The truth is that children's rights can often come into conflict with each other and judgement is needed to strike a balance. That judgement is in the hands of those with power. This means the ministry's regional directors, until a judge rules otherwise.
The paramount right declared in the act is "the best interests of children". The big problem with that is that the best interests are always a matter of opinion. Only the opinion of those with power counts and that can be biased and self-serving.
Family courts have become as adversarial as criminal courts and just as expensive. Some parents who got back their kids had to sell their homes in order to raise the legal fees to do it.
Ask how this in the best interests of the children and you will be told that cannot be discussed to protect privacy. Or that the safety of the children must come first.
In a case recently covered on CBC's Go Public segment and the fifth estate program, three children were kept in limbo care for nearly four years before the parents got them back. The children suffered multiple moves and all had anxiety disorders.
That effort bankrupted the parents and cost the taxpayer an estimated half-million dollars. The act allows the judges to make protection hearings quite informal, so sticking to the rigid, expensive processes is not necessary.
This informality only seems to extend to the social workers and not to the parents. Social workers are allowed to enter as evidence any piece of hearsay, gossip or conjecture. The same leeway is not given to parents, who may not be allowed to say anything at all.
It takes a certain amount of collusion to be able to dodge all the important guidelines and time lines of the act. Collusion between ministry employees, judges, and counsels for both prosecution and defence. Obviously the adversarial process generates much more income than a conciliatory process, so there is little incentive for lawyers to speed things up.
One device is to stack the court with far more witnesses than necessary. Parents are simply outgunned by the legal financial clout. The end result is that child welfare gets drowned in the culture of the courts.
VSB ‘censures’ out of context: accused
The B.C. Catholic Paper – March 1, 2012
By Nathan Rumohr
Trustees still under fire for perceived 'homophobic' behaviour
Bedlam broke out at a recent Vancouver School Board meeting when school trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo, members of the Non Partisan Association (NPA), faced more questions about speaking against same-sex attraction.
The two trustees were censured in January for perceived gay fear-mongering. They were recorded at a picnic last August warning a Christian group that Vision Vancouver was considering forcing schools to teach same-sex-attraction issues.
The issue did not make it onto the VSB's agenda, but the video "went viral" through YouTube, and led to the two trustees being labelled as "homophobic." According to Denike, the content of the video was taken out of context.
"One of the sources (of the curriculum change) was (Vision candidate) Ryan Clayton's Twitter," Denike told CKNW's Simi Sara during a Dec. 20 interview. "We assumed that he had some understanding of what Vision's policies were and changes that were to come."
Because of this, Woo and Denike, who both support "anti-homophobia" policies passed by the VSB in 2004, felt the need to warn voters of this before the civic elections held last November.
Activist groups and Vision/Cope trustees who attended the Feb. 7 meeting continued to question Woo and Denike, insinuating they had taken an anti-gay stance. Denike responded: "Wait a minute. No!"
As soon as the trustee was about to defend himself, school board chairwoman Patti Bacchus quickly intervened.
"We're not going to debate here, this is question period from the public; it's not a time for the trustees to question the public," she said.
"If a person comes up, demeans your character, and then you can't ask a question? Come on," responded Denike.
Bacchus then asked Denike to "be in order."
"I agree with the anti-homophobia policy," said Woo, who also spoke to CKNW's Simi Sara. "The concern is about parents' choice. The issue is choice."
The VSB meeting also focused on concerns raised by conservative groups over graphic images that appeared on the VSB-funded website Outinschools.com.
The gay support website, which runs nationally and is supported by major companies like TD Bank Group and Coast Capital Savings, had run sexually suggestive ads on their website. The ads were removed after complaints.
"You are allowing sex activists under the guise of anti-bullying programs that have nothing to do with stopping bullying, but everything to do with changing the value system," an audience member said.
Bacchus defended the VSB's support of the website.
"Out-in-schools website was fully appropriate in 2004 when it was created, but later it changed," Denike said.
Five-year sponsorship freeze aims to curb sham marriages
Kenney hopes to end 'heartbreak' for Canadians duped by their immigrant spouses
By Tobi Cohen
A crackdown on bogus marriages of convenience falls short of addressing the real problem, critics said Friday, shortly after Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced the regulatory change.
Starting immediately, Kenney said spouses will have to wait five years from the day they are granted permanent residence status before they can, in turn, sponsor a new partner.
The move is meant to prevent people from fraudulently marrying Canadians for the purposes of immigration only to leave them and then sponsor a new partner while their Canadian spouse is still financially responsible for them for three years.
"I held town
hall meetings across the country to hear from victims of marriage fraud,"
said Kenney, who made the announcement in
NDP immigration critic Don Davies, however, said the new rule fails to address those cases in which Canadian citizens are complicit in these bogus marriages.
"Of all the problems in the immigration system – we have a backlog of a million, wait[ing] times are appalling, we have hundreds of thousands of families in this country who are unable to sponsor their parents because there's a freeze – and Minister Kenney thinks the most important thing to legislate on is the relatively small number of people who are engaged in marriages of convenience. I don't think that that's where the focus of immigration reform should be," he said.
"Where I would put my focus is on prevention rather than the defeatist position of the minister, which is simply to ramp up penalties after the problem has occurred and after the pain has been caused."
Davies fears the government will cut resources for overseas missions by five to 10 per cent as part of austerity measures being taken by all departments in a bid to erase the federal deficit by 2015.
The regulatory change comes fewer than two years after the Conservatives promised to tackle marriage fraud. In the fall of 2010, the government held online consultations to gather public opinion and ideas on how to address the issue.
It also comes just
weeks after outspoken
Towell, a performance artist who made national headlines when she donned a wedding gown, strapped a red door to her back and marched on Parliament Hill to draw attention to the issue of marriage fraud, welcomed the announcement but also raised concerns about manpower shortages within the department.
The government, she suggested, can pass all the laws and regulations it wants, but if there aren't enough staff around to answer people's complaints and conduct investigations, they're not a lot of good.
The measure officially came into force on Friday and is just one of several actions the government is considering.
will begin in the coming weeks on a proposed conditional permanent-residence
provision that would deter people in newer relationships from attempting to
gain quick entry to
It's not clear
exactly how many cases of marriage fraud occur every year in
Students back job action, need for smaller classes
By Mike Hager
About 500 high school
students crowded the steps of the
A line of students snaked through the masses on the stairs as they waited their turn to tell the crowd about their concerns, which centred around smaller class sizes (less than 30 students), more support staff for special-needs students, and an increase in funding for extra-curricular activities.
"We really want to say that students have a voice and we want to let the government know that they should negotiate with the teachers, and that education needs more money," said one of the rally's organizers, Windermere secondary school student Cinzia Barucci, 16. "During school on Monday we thought we should do something. We put the event on Facebook and it just grew really fast."
Most students skipped their last period of class (which started at 1: 50 p.m.) to attend the rally, but others came from as far away as Surrey to voice their anger at large class sizes and lack of support for special-needs students.
"I believe that our education has really been suffering," said Kaitlyn Fung, 16, a Windermere student. "Nobody in our school has been able to go on field trips because of the job action. Some of the special programs are get-ting less and less funding."
Her special leadership pro-gram has been much different this year, she said. With no money for transportation, their trips and projects in the community have been cut back.
Amett Vanderwall, 17,
attends Purpose Independent secondary school in
Just after 4 p.m.
about half the students marched to Premier Christy Clark's office at
The B.C. Teachers' Federation announced Thursday the province's 41,000 teachers will strike for three days, beginning Monday.
First graders urge Abbott to stop ‘bullying’ teachers
The Greater Victoria school district is investigating an incident in which a teacher sent Education Minister George Abbott a package of letters from her Grade 1 students, urging him to stop bullying teachers.
The teacher's cover letter says her Grade 1 students were celebrating Anti-Bullying Day on Feb. 29 and discussing strategies to deal with bullies. It was in that context, she said, that her students also discussed Bill 22, the B.C. government's legislation aimed at ending the teachers' labour dispute.
Abbott said he was dismayed to see the letters on his desk.
Tara Ehrcke, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers' Association, said the union regrets the incident. She said the teacher acknowledges it was an error in judgment.
LifeSiteNews.com – February 24, 2012
By The Editors
February 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The great English writer G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.”
But if what
Chesterton says is true, then
In the past week we
have witnessed the Supreme Court of Canada dismiss
the appeal of a Quebec family for permission to exempt their child
from that province’s controversial ethics
and religious culture course, which critics say is “relativistic,” and
teaches that all religious are equally valid. And we have heard a spokesperson
These two developments come amidst the ongoing efforts of the Ontario government to impose their “equity” program, “diversity” curriculum, and transparently ideological “anti-bullying” bill on all schools – whether Catholic or public. Already the largest school board in the province has said that parents will not be permitted to exempt their children from parts of the curriculum they deem unacceptable.
It is perhaps ironic that this has happened at the same time that the Canadian Parliament voted a second time to repeal the country’s much-ballyhooed Section 13 “Hate Crimes” provision, which has been used to drag conservatives and Christians through lengthy and expensive “human rights” proceedings for nothing more than publicly speaking opinions that someone else deemed “offensive.”
But while the Canadian Human Rights Commission may soon no longer be able to use Section 13 as the club to beat politically incorrect Christians into submission, or at the very least into silence, the Canadian provinces are doing their very best simply to make sure there won’t be any more such Christians in the first place. Mandatory “diversity” education imposed on all schools, including home schools, without parental right to opt out is the chosen method to achieve this goal.
But those who care about freedom and democracy must call out and oppose this effort for what it is – tyranny.
While even conservative commentators are urging caution in the interpretation of last week’s Supreme Court ruling, which was narrow in scope and not the final word on the Quebec course, what is certain is that the decision, whether intentionally or not, has already sent a booming message across Canada: namely, that the authority to educate children comes from the state, and not from parents. The decision leaves the distinct impression that the state is no longer in loco (in the place of) parentis, but is the parent, and holds the final say in matters of education.
While the justices demurred from deciding with finality whether the Quebec course violates the parents’ ability to transmit their faith to their child, because there was insufficient information about the course and its content entered into evidence to make that decision, this reasoning ignores the central point: namely, that it doesn’t matter whether the court thinks the course really harms the parents’ ability to raise their child in the faith. The important thing is that the parents think it does.
In saying that it needs more proof that the course harms the parents’ rights in this way, the court is implicitly saying that it doesn’t believe the parents, and might very well know better than them. But it should be obvious that the parents, and not the court, are in a far better position to say whether the course is hampering their ability to educate their child according to their values: because it is their child, and their values.
Let’s be perfectly clear: parents are the first and primary educators of their children, not the state. Period. This principle is the basis of a free and democratic society. Wrest this authority from parents for any reason less grave than serious abuse or neglect, and you have not simply paved the way for tyranny, but you already have a tyranny. For without the right to educate our children as we choose according to the values we choose, what do we have left? State-imposed orthodoxy. Totalitarianism.
The only difference between the totalitarianism of other regimes and the totalitarianism being imposed by the Canadian provinces is that the Canadian breed of totalitarianism is couched in the Orwellian doublespeak of “tolerance,” “multiculturalism,” and “diversity.” But simply because the language is new and more soothing does not make the reality any less frightening.
We who have witnessed the slow but steady drumbeat of Canada’s soft tyranny know by now that “tolerance” increasingly applies only to those who hold to the official state-sanctioned opinions, or who remain silent; “multiculturalism” is only deemed a virtue insofar as the cultures in question jettison any part of their heritage that might be deemed “offensive”; while “diversity” is mainly a celebration of superficial differences whilst demanding a deeper ideological similitude.
If, as Chesterton says, the family is the ultimate test of freedom, then homeschooling is the ultimate expression of that freedom. For homeschooling is founded on the radical notion that when it comes to the most important things in life – most especially the raising and educating of children – it is the common man who is to be trusted, and not the “expert” or the state. It is not coincidental that this is the same principle that stands at the very root of democracy.
targeting homeschoolers, and/or by explicitly forbidding the right of parental
Don’t let them do it.
Falcon prescribes tough medicine for uncertain times
After years of expansion, the provincial government is heading for a big squeeze if Premier Christy Clark is able to follow the course laid down by her finance minister.
The first full budget from Finance Minister Kevin Falcon lays out what will be seen as a grim scenario by most ministries and the people and businesses that depend on their services. Most ministries are being flatlined over the next three years. Even health and education are being squeezed with rates of increases in their budgets that won't keep up with inflation and increased demand for services.
Even so, the path back to a balanced budget for next year is perilous. Falcon has adopted what he hopes are prudent assumptions about economic growth – about 10 per cent below the consensus of private forecasters – in estimating revenue and forecast allowances and contingency funds on the spending side.
Falcon rightly claims that Liberal governments have a good record of meeting fiscal targets, with only one spectacular failure after the last provincial election. But in the uncertain global economic climate and with volatile commodity prices, it won't take much of an ill wind to blow away his hopes of a return to a balanced budget after a string of deficits.
It will also take political courage to stick to this budget, which Falcon is selling as a necessary act of tough love at a time when other governments are being punished for their failures to keep spending in line with revenues.
The debt crisis in
Falcon is even extending his restraint demands for spending outside of the direct control of government, with a call for administrative efficiencies from colleges and universities, enforced by a budget that will be $50 million less in three years than it is for the coming year.
These are extraordinary demands and call for a level of restraint not seen in more than a generation.
But these are also
extraordinary times. The economic recovery since the global recession has been
fragile at best. The underlying problems in the
The story today is
about successfully sticking to a balanced-budget plan; the stories that will be
dribbling out are the stories driven by the cuts to come. Falcon and
On balance, while some of it will be hard to swallow, Falcon's budget is the right prescription for the times.
But in this volatile global economy, conditions can change very quickly. Moreover, the severe restraints imposed may produce unintended consequences in some ministries. Budgets are always a plan that over time can be changed. Even more than usual, the direction set in this budget for years two and three should not be considered as carved in stone. If conditions, change the government must be prepared to change with them.
HST to drop on more new homes to help the shift back to the PST
Transition period could be chaotic for housing without changes, Falcon says
By Jonathan Fowlie
The provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax is about to drop to two per cent on all new homes sold for $850,000 or less, a move widely praised by those in the beleaguered home building industry.
Announced by Finance Minister Kevin Falcon on Friday, the move is meant to help smooth the transition from the HST back to the old PST.
“The rules we are announcing will ensure that purchasers and builders are treated equitably throughout the transition period,” said Falcon, adding the new home sector is one of the most complicated areas for the transition.
On Friday, Falcon officially confirmed the province will return to the PST on April 1, 2013 – a date he called the earliest moment that government could “responsibly” accomplish the transition.
To help ease the transition in the sale of new homes – where an overnight move from HST to PST would have led to a dramatic change in prices – Falcon announced that on April 1 of this year, his government will significantly increase the threshold for its HST rebate program.
The move means new homes costing up to $850,000 will now be subject to only two per cent of the provincial portion of the HST, as opposed to the full seven per cent.
Currently, only homes up to $525,000 qualify for that rebate program.
Falcon said his government is also introducing a similar rebate for new recreational homes that are outside the Capital and Greater Vancouver regional districts.
Currently, there is no HST rebate for new second and recreational homes of any price anywhere in the province.
As of April 1, Falcon said, new recreational and secondary homes outside those two regions will qualify for the rebate if they are sold for $850,000 or less. The five per cent federal portion of the HST charged on new homes will remain unchanged in the transition, officials said, adding the federal HST/GST rebate programs will also not change.
Falcon said he chose the $850,000 level because that captures about 90 per cent of the market, adding people who pay