Tidbits
News you may have missed...

BC Reform Party elects leader

The British Columbia Reform Party elected a new leader recently. With a difference of only 100 votes, Wilf Hanni was narrowly elected the new leader.

Because the preferential voting system was used it was expected that only one round of voting would be necessary. But the race between Hanni and second-place finisher Adrian Wade was so close the second choice votes had to be counted.

"Yes it was close and I knew it would be close," Hanni said shortly after the ballots
were counted. "I think I'm better known around the province," he added.

It was Hanni's second try for the leadership. He lost to former leader Jack Weisgerber in the last race.

Hanni, who has never held elected office, plans to run as the Reform candidate in the Kootenay constituency in the next provincial election. He lives in Cranbrook with his wife and two sons and works as an oil industry consultant.

A recent poll showed the party in the lead in popularity despite having only two elected members and no leader.

One of the major issues facing Hanni is speculation that Reform could join a coalition with the Liberals and other centre-right parties to fight the New Democratic Party government. There are hopes that Progressive Democratic Alliance leader Gordon Wilson can be persuaded to join with Reform MLAs, which would bring their number to three. Hanni said he hopes to meet and consult party members throughout the province about any new alliances.

Congratulations to Hanni and good luck!

Public review of judges good idea, says retired Supreme Court Justice

Canada should adopt a public review of Supreme Court appointees similar to the process used in the United States, says retired Justice Gerard La Forest, billing himself as a heretic on the issue.

"The thing about which I am a bit of a heretic is that I think we should have a vetting process of some kind, but they cause difficulties sometimes as you know," La Forest, 71, said in an interview with The Hill Times weekly newspaper.

In Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien named replacement for La Forest from nominees selected by Justice Minister Anne McLellan.  Some legal scholars say Chrétien shouldn't have the decision all to himself.

Patrick Monahan, a constitutional law professor at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, says "there's no opportunity for discussion of alternatives, who's going to be on the short list."

Jacob Ziegel, who teaches business and commercial law at the University of Toronto, calls the selection process undemocratic.

"Constitutionally, he doesn't have to consult anyone, much less members of the public," Ziegel says.

Both men say Supreme Court appointments should be reviewed by parliamentary committees because of the court's role as final arbiter.

Rand movie out...plans for "We the Living"

A documentary about controversial author Ayn Rand is coming to the big screen.   "Ayn Rand -- A Sense of Life" looks at Rand's career as an author, philosopher and screenwriter, as well as her personal life.

The Russian-born Rand wrote more than dozen books including "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." She was a staunch defender of individualism and capitalism who once declared, "Altruism is the curse of the world."

The documentary comes at a time when Rand's writings are the basis for a number of dramatic features in development, including Oliver Stone's remake of "The Fountainhead." The original was released in 1949 starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal

Written and directed by Michael Paxton and narrated by Sharon Gless, "Ayn Rand -- A Sense of Life" will be distributed domestically by Strand Releasing.

Ayn Rand's first novel "We the Living," which she wrote in 1936 and claimed was "near to an autobiography as I will ever write," has been optioned for a movie.  Chicago-based lawyer/producer Marvin J. Rosenblum acquired the rights for an undisclosed sum. 

Set in the Soviet Union, "We the Living" follows an 18-year-old Russian girl who is torn between the love of an aristocrat and a commissar. The melodrama explores how the lives of the Russian people are changed under the totalitarian regime of the Soviets.

Rosenblum said "We the Living" was Rand's "only real filmmable book," noting its visual style and epic elements. He also said the lead role was one of Rand's strongest female characters, although he would not comment on whether any actresses had been approached for the role.

The film will be shot in St. Petersburg, Russia -- the novel's setting and Rand's birthplace. Russia's Rustam Imbragimbekov (who co-wrote Burnt by the Sun) will pen the script.

There's more! In March of next year that rag Time will profile the 100 most important people of this century. Go to http://www.time.com and vote for Ayn Rand! She's currently in the top ten and lets keep her up there.

Workers choose freedom in Smyrna, Tennessee

The United Auto Workers  failed for the second time in eight years to unionize the 5 000 hourly workers at Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corp. After a month long campaign by the UAW, fewer than half the workers had signed on. The union had said it would seek a federal certification election if it gained the support of two-thirds of the employees.

"We have felt all along that our employees, after evaluating the facts, would conclude that a union-free environment is best for them," said human resources director Bucky Kahl. In 1989, Nissan workers rejected the union by a 2-1 margin.

A victory at Nissan would have been a boost for the UAW, which has seen its membership drop by nearly half since the late 1970s. It has been unable to unionize any foreign-owned U.S. auto plants.

In late July, the UAW began circulating petitions among Nissan employees asking if they would support the union as their bargaining agent. UAW organizers say retirement benefits and safety at Nissan are lower than those at UAW-represented plants, including GM's Saturn Corp. in Spring Hill, about 50 kilometres away.

Nissan employees earn $20 to $24 per hour. Last year they also received several hundred dollars in bonuses. The plant was named the most efficient auto plant in North America for the fourth straight year by consulting firm Harbour and Associates Inc.

At Saturn, hourly wages are slightly lower, but the 8,300 workers each received a $10 000 bonus last year.

How to spend $30 000 to reward a 15-year old high school dropout

In September Canada's fearless Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced that he would spend $90-million to provide jobs for 3 000 youth, many of which couldn't find jobs because they had dropped out of school, as federal civil service interns.

The Federal Public Sector Youth Internship Program was spawned after meeting with the heads of several major corporations. Ottawa's new program will hire 1 000 young people aged 15 to 30 in federal government jobs across the country for one-year internships in each of the next three years.

It this month month with the hiring of 100 young people in pilot projects in Toronto, Halifax, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver. The full one-year program begins in January.

Half of those hired in the new program will be "disadvantaged youth," or those who haven't finished school and have had employment problems in the past. Officials say many of these young people just need a chance to get work experience to become more employable.

The other half of those hired will be young people who have finished their education, but have still had trouble finding meaningful jobs. One criteria for the program is that young people who apply must not be attending school full-time.

Must be sweet. How many struggle with school and balancing a job so they can make the most of themselves while 1 500 others drop-out and get a ride to a civil service job...

New Democrats call for tax cut...pigs begin flying

The federal NDP has hopped on the tax-cut bandwagon with its own twist.

While Reform and the Tories, and to some degree the governing Liberals, have focused on cutting income taxes to prime the economy, the NDP wants the seven per cent GST cut to five per cent immediately, with more to follow.

Income taxes would not be touched.

NDP finance critic Nelson Riis says it is time to reward the 1.4 million unemployed Canadians, those who have lived through cuts to social programs, and those left behind by good economic times to enjoy a tax break.

"I suspect we're going to hear a lot from the minister of finance and the Liberals taking credit for winning the deficit war," Riis told a news conference.

"The real heroes of this successful war have been 1.4 million people who . . . are unemployed today.

"The people who have paid this incredible price in this war on the deficit ought to be the ones who receive the benefits of the dividend."

The problem? The GST nets the federal government about $17-billion a year. A two per cent cut to the tax would mean the government loses $5-billion of revenue, meaning that social programs would be cut even more. And anything not cut would mean the deficit would begin to balloon again.

In addition, since the Commons finance committee concluded in 1996 that Canadians pay 35 per cent more in income taxes than Americans, the NDP proposal does not do anything about a serious disincentive.

Riis said, without providing details, that when we have one the fiscal surplus should also be used to nurse health care back to strength, restore education services and gradually pay down the $600-billion federal debt.

Surely Riis and his socialist cronies realize this plan is unworkable. This call is merely a response to the Reform Party who have been making some political gain with their pledge to cut taxes. The New Democrats may be realizing that the only way to get elected or support is to pretend to be a conservative. It worked in the United States and England, why not Canada?

Yeah, but they're worth it...

What better way to reward poor performance than to give yourself a pay raise!

Unless they missed it, not that it got a lot of play in the press, Americans will be pleased to find out that House members will no longer have to make do with $133 600 a year. In September House leaders surprised rank-and-file lawmakers by allowing a $2 700 a year increase to pass unchallenged, bring pay up to $136 300 in 1998.

"The members have been four years without a raise…they have expenses, they have families."
—Dick Armey, R-Tx

Rep. Linda Smith, Republican of Washington, had wanted to offer an amendment to hold salaries at $133 600 for 1998, but was told when she reached the House floor her amendment was out of order.

With little debate, the House approved the $12.5-billion Treasury Department, Postal Service appropriations bill for the coming 1998 fiscal year on a vote of 231-192. It passed with 102 Republicans and 129 Democrats voting yes.

If it becomes final, party leaders will receive a $3 000 raise and will make $151 400 a year in 1998. The increase is 2.3 percent for lawmakers and 2.8 percent for other federal officials.

You blocks, you stones...

Americans like to talk about freedom, but not many apparently know much about the actual freedoms they enjoy and their origin.

Only 5 per cent of those responding to a national telephone survey could correctly answer 10 basic questions about the constitution.

More than half of 1 000 people polled didn't know the number of U.S. senators (100 - two for each state) and one in six believed the constitution makes America a Christian nation. (It actually guarantees freedom of all religions.)

Although they're hazy on the fine print, the survey shows Americans are big on emotions about the constitution. More than 70 per cent of those polled said the constitution influences current events; 91 per cent said it's important to them; 88 per cent said they're proud of the constitution and 77 per cent said it makes a difference in their daily lives.

Other findings:

  • "The constitution states that the first language of the U.S. is English." Only 58 per cent got it right. The U.S. Constitution doesn't carry language guarantees as in Canada.
  • Only 19 per cent knew when the constitution was written. (1787.)
  • Only 23 per cent knew the number of voting members in the House of Representatives. (435.)
  • Almost one-quarter couldn't name a single right guaranteed by the first amendment of the constitution (such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion).

Union violence rears head in Montreal

Firefighters in Montreal have a bad reputation which goes back to 1974. That year the firemen went on a wildcat strike, and during a few days now known as "Red Weekend" 140 houses burned down.

It may be happening again.

In mid-September firefighters arrived at a raging blaze in Old Montreal only to discover their hoses were speckled with holes - the likely result of internal sabotage.

More than 1 500 metres of hoses had been punctured, so that when the water was turned on, the firefighters looked like they were using garden sprinklers to fight the fire.

The holes reduced the water pressure, although there was enough left to reach the heritage building, gutted by the blaze. The pressure also provided enough water to drench chief of operations Jacques Proteau. It was the second time during the labour dispute that firefighters have turned the water hoses on the on-site chief. Two firefighters were suspended for the latest incident.

The incidents come on the heels of computers in fire stations mysteriously going on the blink and fire engines breaking down. When they are on the road, the firetrucks are plastered with stickers depicting Montreal Mayor Pierre Bourque as the devil. The captions read: "Management from hell."

In one incident, the tires of the car used by the section chief were punctured by nails.

But perhaps the ugliest incident in the dispute occurred Friday, when death threats against three fire chiefs circulated through the internal computer and ended up on some bulletin boards.

The chiefs have been placed under 24-hour protection; a criminal investigation is under way.

Union president Gaston Fauvel has denied union involvement in the sabotage. If anyone is putting public safety at risk, it's the mayor's cuts, Fauvel said.

Outside fire stations, that warning is written on imitation black tombstones that hang from windows.

The city wants to trim the ranks of the city's firefighters by 125 through attrition.

In fire station 26 - where some of the equipment damage has occurred - the number of firetrucks has been reduced to one from two, and the number of firefighters per shift has been cut to five from nine. The cuts have increased response time and the union says it has left some Montreal neighbourhoods poorly protected from fires.

"What citizens have to understand is that we have a mayor who is spending money planting flowers around the city while cutting fire protection," a firefighter named Jean-Claude told a radio call-in show.

"We look like monsters now, but we're doing this to save lives."

More difficult to explain is the union demand for $456 000 to outfit firefighters with new Bermuda shorts and polo shirts for the summer. The union also wants a 3.7 per cent raise annually for three years, three hours of guaranteed overtime each week and a doubling of "seniority bonuses" that amount to as much as $325 a year. The average salary is $52 000.

Nixon said he should have burned the tapes...some in Alberta may go one step better

Some provincial departments may be destroying records to dodge Alberta's freedom of information law, says a government lawyer. "Some departments, I've heard anecdotally, simply destroy everything," Douglas Mah said recently  at a workshop on public access to information.

But Alberta's information and privacy office said it hasn't heard of any cases, which would carry fines of up to $10,000. Office director Frank Work said he's never heard of a department destroying documents to avoid possibly having to hand something over. "That would be major," Work said. "I hope it's just anecdotal. We'd be really ticked off if we had word of that."

Mah said some departments feel that if they stamp "draft" on papers - even final versions - they'll escape the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.   Departments have different rules for what files they keep, Work said, but simply stamping "draft" doesn't get around access legislation. "That's kind of the fundamental underpinning of the whole system."

Mah, who works with the Workers' Compensation Board, said he was trying to make a case for setting "reasonable limits" on access. He said freedom of information's most insidious effect is it restricts freedom of thought.

"It can actually control the outcome of policy discussions."

Mah also states that during policy discussions the question of whether something will be available under access legislation often comes up.

"If it is, the answer usually is 'We'd better not put it in writing.'"

Work acknowledged it is possible some officials avoid putting ideas on paper, but added "there's no requirement that things be put in writing."

Walter Cronkite slams corporate greed...forgets liberal bias

Retired CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite has urged media companies not to pursue "unconscionable" profits at the expense of journalistic integrity. Accepting an award at the Radio and Television News Directors Assn. conference in New Orleans in September, Cronkite admitted the idea was "utopian," but said it might combat what he perceives as "the 'tabloidization' of too much of our work."

"Our big corporate owners, infected with the greed that marks the end of the 20th century, stretch constantly for ever-increasing profit," Cronkite said. "A solution might be found in educating the shareholding public to their responsibility in owning this business... If they understood the nature of this public service and treated their investment in it accordingly, we would be saved from compromising journalistic integrity in the mad scramble for ratings and circulation."

It would be tempting to hammer Cronkite for his clearly collectivist views on news reporting and his obviously anti-capitalism, but I'll throw a cheap shot and simply laugh how Mr. Cronkite, "God of News," ignores the rampant pro-collectivist, pro-leftist bias of the press in the United States.

Civil liberties group supports court decision favouring Christian college

A civil liberties group applauded a court ruling in September that overturned a teachers' college's decision not to certify a teaching program at Trinity Western University because of its code of conduct.

Trinity, a private Christian school, took the Teachers College to court after it refused to approve the university's teacher certificate program, saying Trinity had a policy that discriminated against premarital sex and homosexual activities.

"The judge agreed with us that what matters is the professionalism of our graduates, not their views on sexual morality," said Trinity vice-president Guy Saffold.

He said all of the roughly 2 500 students at the Langley university are taught that Christians must follow Jesus' example of love and forgiveness.

The civil liberties group supported the court's decision to overturn the punitive action against the private university.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered the teachers' college (British Columbia College of Teachers or BCCT) to approve the certificate program. Westwood said it was wrong and illegal for the teachers' college to "misuse its powers to punish a private institution because of that institution's moral or religious beliefs."

 There was no proof that Trinity's teachers or graduates discriminate against homosexuals, said John Westwood, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

"If any individual teacher ... whether considered a Christian or Muslim or atheist was biased against homosexuals, harassed homosexuals, or did not protect homosexual students in the classroom then that teacher ought to be severely disciplined by the (teachers') college on an individual basis."

More than 200 students are currently enrolled in Trinity Western's teacher-education program, which has been operating for more than a decade under the auspices of Simon Fraser University.

"More significantly, it is a victory for those who believe religious liberty and fundamental freedoms must never take a back seat to the politicized agendas of the elites and bureaucrats. The court has provided a refreshing reminder that fundamental rights still exist, and that the system still works in Canada," stated Michael Horowitz, the first professor of civil rights law at the University of Mississippi after racial integration.

"The BCCT argued at trial that Christians hold `values inimical to our society'," Horowitz observed, "a chilling echo of the language used by despotic regimes to curb fundamental freedoms and oppress vulnerable Christian minorities elsewhere in the world." Calling the Davies decision "a definite rap on the BCCT's knuckles for over extending its jurisdiction", Horowitz stated, "The fact that they are appealing indicates subtle patterns of religious suppression have taken firm root in powerful corners of Canada."

British Columbia plans jihad against the still legal product of tobacco...the same that the province allowed the sale of  and has reaped billions in tax from...

The B.C. government hopes precedent-setting settlements between the U.S. government and tobacco manufacturers will help force U.S.-owned Canadian companies to pay for health-care costs caused by tobacco addiction.

Health Minister Joy MacPhail was in Washington, D.C., in September to meet with senators and anti-tobacco advocacy groups to discuss how the U.S. government obtained the agreements.

This includes a proposed $512-billion Cdn settlement from the U.S. tobacco industry.

MacPhail said her trip is necessary to help lay the groundwork for a class-action suit the province intends to launch in the fall under newly passed provincial legislation.

In July, the provincial legislature unanimously passed the Tobacco Damages Recovery Act, which allows the province to sue tobacco companies for recovery of health-care costs created by tobacco addiction.

"They are going to have to be pushed and dragged and found guilty, I think, in every single jurisdiction in this world before they will pay up," MacPhail said. "It is very disappointing."

What is disappointing is the vile hypocrisy that politicians engage in. As stated in the lengthy title to this tidbit, the government of British Columbia, and Canada for that matter, allowed the sale and use of tobacco. They have, and continue to, reap billions in taxes from the tobacco companies. That money, in part, was to go to healthcare. It is hypocrisy to maintain the legality of a product and then sanctimoniously declare the evil of the companies selling it.

What is next? Heart disease caused by poor lifestyles is the single largest killer of Canadians. Will the beef industry be the next to be demonized? Will alcohol, source of road fatalities and broken lives and homes be the next to be declared public enemy number one? Will free choice be taxed in the future? Silly me, it already is.

ESR doesn't just report the bad news...

Helen Pernice couldn't have asked for better neighbours than Fidelity Investments, who bought the property and moved in next door to her home in Covington, Kentucky. When the multi-billion company started construction on its massive new complex, the generous firm sent 92-year old Pernice on an all expense paid two-week cruise to the Greek Islands and even threw in a new set of clothes and a purse. The generosity continues as employees of Fidelity carry her mail to her door daily, driver her to the grocery store and even shovel her walk. The elderly woman, whose dilapidated home is technically on the property of Fidelity Investments, has lived in the same house since 1914. "I have never been treated better," says Pernice of her new neighbour.

In the battle between trees and commerce, Sheila Copps will make sure trees win

Heritage Minister Sheila Copps turned down a proposal by Banff city council in September that could have seen nearly 80 000 square metres of new commercial development in the mountain community.

"The Banff National Park Management Plan represents a balance of commerce and community which is put at risk by the scale of commercial development in your proposal," Copps wrote in a letter to Banff Mayor Ted Hart.

What was responsible for this luddism?

It's called the "no net-environmental impact principle," and it could be coming to your town.

"The no net-environmental impact principle for planning in the town of Banff could become a model of environmental planning throughout Canada," said Peter Pool, director of the Banff Environmental Action and Research Society.

The Banff National Park Management Plan was approved by Copps last April. In it, the boundaries of Banff townsite and nearby Lake Louise were frozen while some areas of the park were set aside as environmentally sensitive with restricted access.

Apparently shooting women in some parts of Newfoundland isn't that bad...

The mayor of St. John's, Newfoundland apologized in mid-September for a remark he made about violence against women in a speech.

John Murphy was extolling the virtues of living in the Newfoundland capital when he suggested one of the benefits is a low crime rate.  "We don't have a real bad crime rate," he said. "Well, the odd fellow shoots his girlfriend, which is understandable, but you can go out at night without too much trouble."

There was loud laughter at the comment  from delegates at the Canadian Waste Management Conference.

Unfortunately for Murphy a member of the press was setting up his microphone and captured the comment on tape. Later that night the comments were heard nationally.

"I was illustrating the fact that we are a crime-free city and it was all very jocular and so on, and then this hideous statement of mine came out," a sheepish Murphy said afterwards.

He said he telephoned Joyce Hancock of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women and apologized. Hancock apparently accepted his apology.

New doctors flee to U.S....lack of respect blamed

About 40 of the 100 family doctors who graduated from the University of Toronto last spring have already fled south, estimates Dr. Walter Rosser, chair of the department of family and community medicine. Rosser said  that he won't know for sure until sometime in October when a final tally is done, but all evidence indicates the number has jumped from the 30 who left in 1995 and 1996.

The medical brain drain has gathered strength since Ontario brought in new rules limiting new doctors' pay and encouraging them to settle in under-serviced areas.   But doctors insist the key issue is respect, not money. ``It's almost like a cult and there's a very high level of paranoia that the government is going to do just about anything to them,'' Rosser said.

``There is a significant feeling among new physicians that they're not wanted and that working in Ontario will be detrimental to their own health,'' said Sandro Galea, past-president of the Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Ontario.

The funny thing about doctors is how they bitch for more money and an expansion of the socialist medicare system, than they cry how the system is screwing them

If there are any Canadian doctors reading this, pay attention. You have chosen to accept gold plated slavery. You have chosen to become a civil servant to shield yourself from the free market. Don't cry for respect again.

Finance minister forgets to pay taxes...

Quebec Finance Minister Bernard Landry acknowledged that he's behind on his taxes for a condo he owns in Old Montreal. The Montreal Gazette reported  that Landry and his wife, a Quebec judge, are as much as six months overdue on 1997 property taxes for their
posh condo.

The newspaper said they missed installment payments due in March and June and owe the city
$6 122.

"I admit a certain negligence in paying the taxes for the property on St-Paul
St., which is occupied by a tenant," he said in a statement from Argentina, where he was on a trade mission at the time.
 

"When I get back the situation will be corrected and the services of an administrator should avoid a re-occurrence of this situation," he added. Montreal sent Landry a letter dated July 5, followed by a second lawyer's letter in September.

Andre Corriveau, a Landry aide, said he can pay whenever he wants in 1997 in a lump sum with interest. Marvin Rotrand, a Montreal city councilor, said he was shocked that a Quebec finance minister "did not set an example and make sure his obligations were acquitted."

Shocked? A slaver driver not wanting to face the same obligations as his slaves...oh yea, I'm shocked.

Here's a novel bit...if politicians lie, take them to court!

On Monday, September 29, 1997 the British Columbia Supreme Court  began Class Action Certification Hearings regarding the election fraud suit against the NDP government.

National Citizens' Coalition president David Somerville attended the hearings on Monday
The NCC is running media campaigns to publicize the fraud suit and is helping to pay the legal costs for those behind the challenge.

The backers of the suit say Premier Glen Clark's government deceived voters before the 1996 election by claiming the province had a balanced budget.

They haven't a chance, but good luck to those who launched the suit!

I just don't believe someone actually said it out loud...

Indians will never be treated equally in Canada until they assimilate, a Reform party official
says.

Instead of looking to the past and claiming special status, they should get out and be part of the social mainstream, said Gee Tsang of Saskatoon, head of Reform's effort to reach out to ethnic communities.

"The way they think, they will never become Canadian. They will never be treated as equal." Tsang's comments come at a time when Reform is trying to overcome the perception of racism that has long dogged the Calgary-based party.

The party proudly points out that five of its 60 MPs come from visible minority groups, which is more than any of the other opposition parties.

He said the biggest obstacle to breaking down barriers to Indians was their attitude that they were different from everybody "because that was our land." He said this attitude sets Indians apart from other ethnic communities in Canada.

"They (other ethnic communities) do not want to say, `Okay we are different you know, from all the rest.' But if you want to have national unity negotiations, then please include us, you know, as the natives do, as a separate entity.

"I don't think the other minority groups have that kind of mentality," he said. "That's my perception. "They (Indians) should look forward and use the past as a lesson for the future rather than just dwell in the past all the time."

Tsang wasn't the only Reform MP to speak out loud on the issue. Just one day later Calgary East Reform MP Deepak Obhrai backed him up.

"They (Indians) need to come into the mainstream and take advantage of the opportunity that Canada is facing," said Obhrai.

Obhrai, president of the Hindu Society of Calgary, said assimilation should not be seen as a dirty word. "Assimilation does not mean that you lose your culture, or your heritage, or your history, you see." Asked whether he considered himself to be assimilated, Obhrai replied: "Yes, I see myself being part-and-parcel of the Canadian mainstream. "I am very proud of what I am: an Indian, with my own culture, language, history and everything, but I am also part-and-parcel of Canada," he said.

Reform leader Preston Manning refused to back up Tsang and Obhrai, stating that Reform does not advocate assimilation of Indians.

"Reform's position is neither to favour assimilation nor isolation, but to balance uniqueness with equality," Manning said.

"But, basically, we've never talked about assimilation. We don't like isolation. The challenge is how to acknowledge uniqueness and still treat everyone equally."

Manning told reporters  that Reform's policy on aboriginal peoples is "decentralization of powers. Give local aboriginal governments the powers they need to preserve their uniqueness while still being part of the over-all picture."

Environmental group proposes logging plan

An environmental group wants to get into the logging business on Vancouver Island.

The Friends of Clayoquot Sound is offering $500 000 to Interfor for a tree-farm licence in the Sydney Valley.

Spokeswoman Valerie Langer said a private investor has agreed to bankroll the plan. She said Interfor admits losing money on its Clayoquot Sound division, once head-office costs are balanced against the earnings. The environmentalists are proposing a selective cutting operation.

Only 10 000 cubic metres a year would be harvested instead of the 75 000 Interfor is presently allowed.  However, the job level would be maintained at 30.

The proposal also calls for all the wood to be processed locally instead of being shipped out as raw logs.

The group said this would create a further 100 jobs. "Under our plan, everybody wins," Langer said. "We'll have more jobs, real environmental protection and Interfor will stop losing money."

This sounds to me like French Prime Minster Lionel Jospin's idea to cut the working week back to 35 from its present 39 with no loss of pay, to create hundreds of thousands of jobs with no cost to anyone, well you get the picture. But this does present an interesting scenario...environmentalists who log trees...the moral implications are stunning.

Tough immigration laws come into force in U.S.

After years of rancorous debate in Congress, the stroke of midnight Saturday, September 27  heralded a tough new set of rules for deporting illegal immigrants.

After midnight, people who have been in the United States longer than six months after their visas expired can be deported. They will also be barred from returning to the United States for three years.

And those who have been in the United States illegally for more than a year will have to wait 10 years before they will be allowed to return legally.

"We literally have people leave our office today and go straight to the airport," said immigration attorney Michael Wildes.

Critics say the new rules -- which apply to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants -- are unnecessarily harsh, and could break up families.

Many of the illegal immigrants are eligible for visas, but for whatever reason have not done their paper work. Some do not speak English, while others are low-paid day laborers who say they could not easily take the time from work.

On Tuesday, September 30, a provision expired which has allowed immigrants already approved for residence permits, known as a green cards, to remain in the United States while completing their immigration process. The process takes at least a year.

Thousands of people have descended on Immigration and Naturalization Services offices throughout the United States in the last week to apply for their green cards.

A congressman said the new law will reverse a policy that lured immigrants to come into the United States before applying for their visa, rather than waiting in their home country during the application process.

Welcome to Sweden! (or the Canadian hellish version that CFS wants)

Days after Prime Minister Jean Chrétien unveiled a $1 billion student endowment fund, the Canadian Federation of Students came out swinging against it to demand tuition fees be abolished.

"In keeping with the principle that public post-secondary education is a public responsibility and a public benefit, funding for post-secondary education should be paid for by the public, paid through taxes collected by the federal government," said a 79-page report by CFS.

A Blueprint For Access, A Strategy For Change also calls for the Prime Minister to appoint a minister for higher learning, and create a national advisory council on post-secondary education. It also called for:

  • Public administration so that colleges and universities are nationally planned and governed on a not-for-profit basis. They are now a provincial jurisdiction.
  • Accessibility for everyone, regardless of background.
  • Comprehensiveness, so that public education ensures a complete range of learning options.
  • All academic credits be transferable between institutions and barriers between schools in different provinces be eliminated.
  • Mobility so that provincial residency requirements for student grants and awards would be eliminated.

It also notes that tuition is free to all students in Germany, that Ireland abolished tuition fees in 1995-96, no tuition fees are charged in Sweden or Cuba and that most students in Britain have grants to cover their entire tuition.

In France, students pay the equivalent of about $200 for tuition and student loans are provided at no interest, the report states.

Funny how all those nations named with free tuition are just a little on the leftist side. But only just a little.

Are we really sending kids this stupid to school?

Wait a minute, then why are we "contributing"?

The Canada Pension Plan is worth rescuing as an essential part of Canadians' retirement schemes but people should also save outside the CPP for their old age, Finance Minister Paul Martin said  at the end of September.

He made the comments on the Sunday Edition program on BBS Television, less than a week after the Liberal government announced legislation that would raise Canada Pension Plan premiums.

The legislation, introduced days after the Throne Speech in the House of Commons, suggests premiums increase gradually from the current 5.85 per cent of pensionable earnings to 9.9 by 2003.
 Coupled with future legislative changes, these plans are intended to save the ailing pension plan from collapse.

But Martin said the plans should not deter Canadians from saving more retirement money to supplement their CPP payments in old age.

"There is tremendous opportunity and tremendous advantage in saving," said Martin. "I would encourage every Canadian to save for their retirement," he said, adding that there is a substantial tax advantage in putting money into RRSPs because the tax is deferred.

Martin defended the CPP overhaul proposal, saying it wasn't just Ottawa's idea. "The provinces and the federal government have come together jointly to say that the Canada Pension Plan is an essential part of everybody's retirement scheme," Martin said.

Wait a minute, Martin is all but saying RRSPs are the best way to go, yet he still is intent on "saving" CPP through increased "contributions"...riiiight

Newt's a real conservative...if you don't believe in keeping the efforts of your own production

On September 30 Newt Gingrich and other House Republican leaders spoke at a press conference on ways to use expected U.S. surpluses in future years.

Rather than give any future surplus back to their rightful owners, that is taxpayers and the holders of the debt, Gingrich supports putting future U.S. surpluses in a "rainy day fund" so the budget could be kept in balance in the event of negative forces such as a recession.

"For myself, I would say our first rule of thumb ought to be to keep the surplus, that is, when in doubt let's get to a rainy day fund like Hong Kong has," Gingrich told reporters. "We ought to have some kind of margin for error every year, so if we do slip into recession or we do have some kind of emergency, we nonetheless maintain a balanced budget."

Rep. Mark Neumann, a Wisconsin Republican, has put forward a House resolution that would dedicate any budget surpluses in fiscal 1998 to repaying the national debt and cutting taxes.

"I was a little startled by Mr. Neumann saying we may be in surplus next year," Gingrich said. "I hope he's right. I'm not prepared this morning to bet the farm on surplus next year, but clearly we are much closer to surplus than anyone thought we would be even two months ago," he said.

But I'm willing to bet the farm that Newt's conservatism disappeared with his spine.

Privacy Commissioner slams feds

Imagine Ottawa secretly picking through your garbage looking for used plane tickets, or routinely knocking at your door in the middle of the night in a random search for fugitives.

Outrageous, certainly, but really no different than the current practice of data matching, says the annual report of Canada's privacy commissioner.

"Paradox perfectly describes the contradictory and confusing behaviors demonstrated (by Ottawa) in the last year in the field of privacy rights," Bruce Phillips wrote in his annual report tabled at the end of September in the Commons.

"Some of the most hopeful and encouraging developments in a decade have run parallel with some of the most disturbing and dangerous."

The privacy commissioner lauded several federal developments, most notably a promise to extend privacy legislation to the private sector.

But Phillips also warns that government can now spy on its citizenry "by prowling through its immense personal databanks on what amounts to nothing more than high-tech fishing expeditions."

He cites a federal pilot project that seeks employment insurance cheats by checking millions of customs declaration forms against all EI recipients. The goal is to find people who left the country for extended periods of time while continuing to collect benefits.

While most taxpayers like the goal, the means are unacceptable, said Phillips.

"If we allow government to carry on in this fashion, they will routinely scrutinize every record of every citizen until they unearth some evidence of guilt."

And he chastised law-abiding citizens who make the bovine rationalization that they have nothing to hide and are thus unaffected by such blanket searches.

"We must recognize the import of the value and the consequences to our liberty if we are lazy enough - and short-sighted enough - to consider (privacy) an administrative nuisance that gets in the way of efficiency and the bottom line," he wrote.

Other areas of concern for Phillips are:

  • A proposed new identity card called the Common Client Identifier to replace the social insurance number.
  • A proposed national health database.
  • A national DNA databank to be kept by law enforcement officials that proposes to permanently store DNA samples, rather than just the information taken from the samples.

"Keeping the DNA samples themselves will inevitably invite further uses of the DNA that have little to do with identifying offenders," Phillips wrote.

CSIS given huge wire-tapping powers: Did you know?

The federal solicitor general revealed at the nd of September that Canada's spy agency has been granted unprecedented wiretapping powers over the last two years.

Andy Scott admitted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has in some cases had authority to eavesdrop on people without judicial approval - a practice blasted by a Federal Court judge as unconstitutional.

Prominent criminal lawyer Clayton Ruby was flabbergasted CSIS had been handed the power to freely decide whom it could wiretap. "That's the hallmark of a police state," he said. "It's very serious."

CSIS requires a warrant approved by the court to electronically eavesdrop on a suspected terrorist or other person considered a threat to Canada.

But Scott said judges have in recent years allowed CSIS to tack a special clause onto such warrants that gives the spy agency leeway to eavesdrop on other suspects it discovers in midstream without returning to the court for permission, which presumably takes extra time and effort.

"I'm advised that this particular clause has been used, and the courts have allowed it in the past," Scott said after question period in the House of Commons. "And I understand now that the court has decided that perhaps we should take another look at it."

In a decision released on September 29, Federal Court Justice Donna McGillis rejected a recent CSIS proposal, approved by Scott, to include the special clause in warrants to investigate a particular security threat. No details of the case were revealed in the ruling.

The clause would permit CSIS to listen in on someone the service believed to be a threat to Canadian security.

In effect, it delegates to a CSIS employee powers normally held only by a federal judge, McGillis wrote.

"The proposed clause would vest in a service employee the discretion to apply the terms of the warrant against a person, without a judge ever scrutinizing the evidence to determine whether intrusive powers ought to be used against the individual."

Nothing in the CSIS Act allows such a move, which would be unconstitutional in any event, she said, citing a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision.

Scott said government lawyers were reviewing the Federal Court ruling, and that he hoped to study it in detail today.

He acknowledged signing the CSIS proposal for expanded wiretap powers that McGillis rejected, suggesting he was told the request was nothing out of the ordinary.

"The clause in question, I'm advised, has been used over the last couple of years."

CSIS spokeswoman Marcia Wetherup confirmed the service had used the clause "numerous times" in investigations of foreign nationals visiting Canada.

Scott was appointed solicitor general in June, succeeding Herb Gray, who held the portfolio for more than three years.

Ruby harshly criticized the ministers and judges who have approved CSIS use of the clause.

"They must have all been asleep."




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