News you may have missed...

Hillary Clinton becomes more popular as she does less...

More Americans approve of Hillary Rodham Clinton's performance as first lady than at any time since 1993, a U.S. News & World Report poll suggested recently.

The poll showed 59 per cent of registered voters have a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, and 67 per cent approve of the way she handles the position of first lady.

The poll found voters evenly divided as to whether she should take a more traditional first lady role. Forty-eight per cent said they would prefer that she call attention to children's issues by interacting directly with children, avoiding any role in Clinton administration policy matters. An identical percentage of respondents said she should work to shape government policies affecting children.

The poll of 1,000 adults has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

We can't pick on Hillary Clinton and forget her husband...so here goes: Former pot smoker who laughingly 'admitted' that all he did was inhale decries pop culture glamorization of drugs

President Clinton blamed pop culture for glamorizing illegal drug use and said government must step in to "reach our children with the right message before it's too late."

In his weekly radio broadcast on October 11, the president said drug use has nearly tripled among eighth graders while the number of anti-drug public service ads has fallen by more than a third.

"Movies, music videos and magazines have filled the gap ... too often with warped images of a dream world where drugs are cool," Clinton said.

Noting that young people who have not used drugs by age 21 will probably never use them, he added, "That's why we must reach our children with the right message before it's too late."

Since last year's release of statistics showing that drug use by young people had doubled, Republicans have accused Clinton of ignoring America's drug problem. GOP presidential challenger Bob Dole made the issue a centerpiece of his 1996 campaign against Clinton.

In October, the president signed a spending bill that contains $195 million for what he called "an unprecedented, high-profile, prime time media campaign to reach every child in America between the ages of 9 and 17 at least four times a week."

The message will be straightforward, he said: "Drugs are wrong, drugs are illegal, and drugs can kill you."

He urged business leaders across America to match the funds to expand the program. And to the entertainment industry, he urged: "Never glorify drugs. But more important, tell our children the truth. Show them that drug use is really a death sentence."

British Petroleum boss "occupies" Greenpeace platform

Enter Stage Right loves when enemies of the environmentalist movement adopt their strategies, such as the forestry workers who blockaded two Greenpeace ships in British Columbia for a week during the summer.

British Petroleum's chief executive John Browne did that in October, but missed an important opportunity to show environmentalist what they really were, and instead played their game.

Sharing a podium with Greenpeace activists who want to stop all oil drilling, Browne got an earful as one speaker started off by comparing BP to "a snake in the jungle."

Despite a cartoon backdrop showing BP as a frightened but bloated elephant trying to crush a tiny Greenpeace (tiny though it reaps millions every year in donations) through litigation, Browne kept cool after reiterating his company's thoughts - revolutionary for an oil giant - on cutting back global warming.

"This is the first time I've been invited to speak at a Greenpeace event, and I believe that makes me - in a reversal of our normal roles - the first BP executive to occupy one of your platforms," he deadpanned.

Greenpeace recently tried to stop BP energy operations in the North Atlantic by illegally occupying offshore oil equipment, a common tactic for the group.

The environmental group has accused many big oil companies of actively making global warming worse by drilling for more oil and ignoring the effects carbon dioxide emissions are having on the planet.

Browne suggested an upcoming global climate conference in Kyoto, Japan, could lead to worldwide targets for reducing carbon emissions by 2005 or 2010.

"The next step will be to develop the means through which any target can be achieved," he said, adding later that BP has no targets in mind.

Strange words from Big Oil. But it was a strange encounter, albeit one described by an audience participant at the annual Greenpeace business conference as "amazingly passionless" after the high-profile feuding at sea between BP and Greenpeace.

Browne earlier this year broke ranks with other major oil company executives by acknowledging carbon dioxide emissions as a likely cause of climate change that must be addressed. He hopes to ease the conflicts with environmentalists by talking things out.

"I think the fact this event is taking place does indicate efforts are being made to develop the relationship between the environmental movement and business," he said.

Browne said that while the ultimate scientific impact of carbon dioxide emissions are unproven, "there is an effective consensus that there is a discernible human influence on the climate."

He said the sun generates enough energy to meet all of the world's needs, but now accounts for just one-hundredth of one per cent. By 2020, solar and other renewable energies could rise to five per cent and in 50 years, it could be 50 per cent, he said.

"It is in this context we see solar as a significant long-term business opportunity," Browne said.

British Greenpeace campaigner Chris Rose contended the company is not doing enough - despite BP executives' statements that they can't rush into investing too much in alternative energies until they're sure of a market.

And Rose made it clear that Greenpeace activists will keep fighting to try to stop companies from finding more oil.

Instead of seeking a "relationship between the environmental movement and business", Browne should have defended his business as one that quite literally powers the world, one that also provides Greenpeace with the ability to send its ships across the world and drive their cars to the various protests. Insead, Browne played their game and admitted "culpability"...another missed opportunity.

Happy Birthday Reform!

October 30, 1997 marked the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Reform Party of Canada. It's hard to believe that a convention that began in Winnipeg in 1987 would end up end up as the Official Opposition of the House of Commons.

At the inaugural convention which chose him as the party's leader, Preston Manning promised to push for an elected Senate, economic justice for resource-based regions, elected members who put their constituents ahead of the party line, political leaders they can trust and reform of a patronage-riddled system.

Debt reduction, law and order, privatization, a tough stand on Quebec separatism: "In a sense, Reform ideas won the last two elections," says political scientist Peter McCormick of the Univeristy of Lethbridge. 

To celebrate Reform held a little party with than 500 people invited, including all 59 Reform MPs, about 100 Parliament Hill staffers, 30 party officials and all 360 members of the parliamentary press gallery.

Federal candidates party like it was 1999...

Like all cabinet ministers, Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy is a fairly natty dresser but even his greatest admirers would have to confess that there's nothing special about his hairdo.

Perhaps the honorable member for Winnipeg South Centre got mucky traipsing through the Manitoba flood to meet voters, but during the federal election he racked up a $1,150 bill for "personal grooming." Not even U.S. President Bill Clinton could spend that much on haircuts in one month!

And that didn't include his laundry, which cost another $204.

New election spending statistics show that ego and vanity cross party lines.

Despite winning the job of Opposition leader, Reform's Preston Manning waited four days before entertaining his senior troops.

His extravagance wasn't fine wine, champagne or a personal groomer, but a personal photographer who cost $1,337 for the evening - paid from campaign contributions. Each campaign worker had their photograph taken with the leader.

These facts and more are to be found in the reams of election expense accounts pouring into Ottawa this week. Winning and losing candidates must file detailed reports on who gave them money and what they spent it on.

Parties - as in popping champagne corks - were a major item on the spending side.

Those who weren't at Defence Minister Art Eggleton's victory party at the Monte Cassino in Toronto missed out on a great bash.

The bill for Monte Cassino was $7,213 and when you add other incidental party expenses of nearly $1,000 it amounts to one of the priciest evenings of post-election hoopla. Eggleton, MP for York Centre, also spent $149.50 at an establishment called Incredible Clothing so he must have looked sharp for the occasion.

Over in Don Valley East, the Wild Fire Restaurant and Rawhide Corral Bar and Grill both did very nicely courtesy of Transport Minister David Collenette who was obviously over the moon at winning his seat. A dinner for campaign staff at the Wildfire cost $2,061 and a victory party at the Rawhide another $4,014.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien rewarded his supporters with a more modest $5,000 victory party.

Celebratory pizza, Andres wine and microbrewery beer were on the menu at Sheila Copps's post-election bash. The Heritage Minister spent $512 on the wine, $798 on the beer and for those who preferred something more haute cuisine than an all-dressed from Dominos, she ponied up $990 for food.

Copps also rented a sound system for $1,725, a stage for $138 and a TV for everyone to watch election night returns. It must have been a big TV because it cost $72. Still, it would have been a relatively modestly priced party had it not been for the $770 claim for election-night damage to the roof of a volunteer's car. The circumstances are not explained but they party good in Hamilton...and I've been to Liberal parties in Hamilton, believe me, it's true.

Human Resources Minister Pierre Pettigrew, MP for Papineau St. Denis, held
what must have been a fine lunch for some of his people at the Buffet Mont Royal. Cost: $1,652. Finance Minister Paul Martin treated his followers to a $2,165 repas at an unnamed Montreal location.

In the nation's capital, Marcel Masse showed his gratitude after his victory to the tune of nearly $4,000. The Treasury Board president stayed behind after the election to tidy up: For $170, he rented a shredding machine to destroy documents. No word on which documents.

At the other end of the party stakes, Liberal House Leader Don Boudria spent a mere $1,000 on his victory shindig for his workers in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell - including $150 for the music and another $150 for the hall.

Veterans Affairs Minister Fred Mifflin was also a frugal host though he did think to buy his wife a $57.50 bouquet of flowers on election night - claimed as an expense, of course.

Mary Brown Chicken, a fast food outlet in his Bonavista, Nfld. riding, benefitted from the Mifflin election coffers to the tune of $233.

But none of these matched the Presbyterian frugality of Minister for Youth Ethel Blondin Andrew who forked out a $100 victory cake for her crew in the Western Arctic. If they had drinks, she didn't buy them.

The federal government gives back 50 per cent of most election expenses to candidates who get 15 per cent of the vote in their ridings. Costs of victory parties are not usually reimbursable although other personal expenses are.

Individuals and businesses who contribute the candidates' spending money get a tax credit up to a maximum $500.

Ontario's premier gets C+ rating from conservative think tank

Ontario's municipal affairs policy has been "largely misguided" and may lead to higher property taxes, the Fraser Institute warned recently.

The institute said the consolidation of Toronto and neighboring municipalities into a single mega-city "will likely result in greater inefficiencies as competition among local governments is stifled."

The right-wing think-tank made the assessment in a mid-term report card on Premier Mike Harris's government.

The government also got a poor grade for its privatization strategy, which the institute described as a "non-strategy."

The authors were critical because few services have been sold and the government appears to be "dragging its heels" in seeking bids for Ontario Hydro, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and other corporations.

But overall, the report card gave the Conservative government a C plus and said Harris is on the right track with lower taxes, welfare reforms and labor law changes the authors feel encourage hard work and job creation.

"Reductions in welfare benefit rates and changes in eligibility rules have reduced welfare rolls significantly, and this should help break the cycle of dependency that is characteristic of so many welfare programs," the report said.

On the subject of health care, the Fraser Institute applauded efforts to eliminate waste, but said not enough has been done to open up the sector to market forces. It said increased private sector involvement in health care would reduce costs.

Private hospital opens despite federal threats

Alberta's first private hospital has started treating patients - five months after a federal health minister said he would shut down the for-profit facility if Premier Ralph Klein didn't.

David Dingwall was turfed in the June federal election and Health Resources Group quietly opened its $6-million, 37-bed hospital in early October.

The hospital has taken over the former Grace Hospital in Calgary which was closed in 1996 as part of the Klein government's budget cuts.

HRG offers services such as cosmetic and dental day surgery not currently insured by the province's medicare plan. The company has not received permission from the College of Physicians and Surgeons to perform operations which would require an overnight stay.

Jim Saunders, HRG's president, said he's not in business to compete with the public sector, but is offering "additional choice" to health system managers.

He said HRG continues to seek accreditation to offer insured services such as orthopedic surgery at what he said is a more competitive price and would be more efficient.

"What's happening to the health system is that in order for the system to control the quality, access and price, it doesn't have to own and operate everything," Saunders said. "They can operate some and contract out others."

HRG hopes to grab a chunk of the $73-million-a-year Workers' Compensation Board medical market which operates outside of medicare. It also wants to attract aboriginal clients, the military and RCMP which are funded federally.

Provincial Health Minister Halvar Jonson said he continues "to monitor HRG's operations very closely" to see the Canada Health Act is respected.

Liz Reid, chairman of the Friends of Medicare, said she fears Alberta has paved the way for two-tier health care where some must endure long waiting lists while paying customers jump the queue.

She wants federal Health Minister Allan Rock to make good on Dingwall's promise.

"The whole point of medicare, the agreement we have with ourselves as citizens, is that if you have money or if you don't and you need health care, you get it," she said.

"If (HRG) is allowed to continue, more for-profit projects like this are sure to follow."

An aide to Rock said the situation in Alberta is being closely monitored but HRG appears to be operating within the rules.

"That's an important debate," said Cyrus Reporter. "The whole issue of private hospitals and private, for-profit facilities is a delicate and important one."

If the Health Department intervenes in Alberta, he said, it throws into question a variety of clinics across the country which legally provide everything from abortions to eye surgery.

The possibility of another private hospital is already being raised.

Australia's largest health-care management group wants to take over a hospital in Canmore, Alta., an hour west of Calgary.

New Democrat Leader Pam Barrett criticized the group's bid to take over the Canmore Hospital.

NDP Leader Pam Barrett slammed a bid by Health Care of Australia to assume control of the Canmore Hospital.

"What we are talking about is the management of a hospital system that is paid for by tax dollars and health-care premiums," Barrett said. "A private, for-profit foreign company has no business funneling money into their pockets at the expense of our health system."

Politician lectures business on values

Canada must avoid joining a "rush to the bottom" to compete in the global economy, New Democrat Premier Roy Romanow said recently.

There are some who believe that Canada needs to adopt lower wages and lower environmental standards to succeed in today's international economy, Romanow told the Canadian Institute of International Affairs national foreign policy conference.

But that's simply not right, the premier said to a crowd of about 250.

A Canada whose people are well-educated, fairly rewarded for their labor, protected from deprivation, and safe in their own communities is ideally suited to compete as globalization takes place, he said.

And rather than "a rush to the bottom" at home to match the standards of Third World countries, a "leveling up" of international standards must take place, he said.

Leveling up, he said, means a standard of "comparable human dignity" in all jurisdictions.

Globalized markets must provide benefits for Canadians, but people at home take no satisfaction participating in a global economy where people suffer, starve, are exploited or killed, he said.

Romanow noted that some have predicted that as globalization continues, the importance of politics will "diminish."

He said he's skeptical about that point, although he added some people in government have concerns about how state-owned firms and government regulation will fare under globalization.

Asked following his speech how an international "leveling up" policy applies to Saskatchewan's trade policy, Romanow said it's a complex issue, partly because foreign policy is under federal jurisdiction.

Still, it's appropriate for Saskatchewan to raise human rights issues, "politely but firmly" when the need arises, he said.

Romanow said he supports "liberal trade," which can allow democracy values, as well as good and services, to be offered to the world.

"Open and fair trade is a ramification of human freedom," he said.

Yes, but will you feel safer? Public safety sacrificed at the altar of the politically correct

The RCMP have relaxed their fitness requirements to allow more women to join the force.

A federal review indicates recruiting officers were alarmed last year about the high number of failures among female applicants when they were asked to complete the force's new Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation, or PARE.

"The main reason was lack of upper-body strength," said an employment equity report prepared by the Mounties.

Up to half the women who took the test flunked, even after repeated attempts, said Jean Bonneau, a senior civilian administrator with the RCMP.

It was a poor showing compared to men, of whom about 80 per cent passed and usually on the first try.

"Maybe it's a reflection of society," Bonneau suggested.

"Females, in general, don't seem to be as fit as males. They fail the fitness test, even though the norms are made for females."

Prior to recent changes, most women needed three cracks at the test before passing. There are now fewer failures, but Bonneau couldn't provide an updated pass or fail ratio.

"If you're a bigger person, the test is easier, no doubt," said Bonneau. "But it's doing us a favour. It's getting people to the academy who are are motivated and have the best possible qualities to be a police officer."

Except, perhaps, the physical ability to be a police officer.

Before recruits are shipped off for basic RCMP training in Regina, they're asked to run six laps around a track - or about 350 metres. There's an upper-body weight exercise that requires pushing and pulling. It's that routine that causes the most trouble for females.

Recruits must also complete a standing broad jump of about two metres and pick up and carry a heavy bag for 15 metres.

A portion of the testing is timed and must be completed in 4 minutes, 45 seconds.

RCMP recruiters began last fall to give women a series of exercises to improve their fitness before the test is given. They also shortened the broad jump requirement earlier this year by about 10 centimetres.

Those were the only changes, although the upper-body test is being reviewed. Trainers aren't sure how it can be made easier without compromising the RCMP's requirements.

Bonneau said each of the exercises is meant to simulate something a police officer might be called upon to do, including chasing a suspect on foot, carrying an injured person from an accident scene.

The PARE test is the subject of a complaint before the Canadian Human Rights Commission. A Montreal woman, who was turned down by the Mounties, complained the test was discriminatory.

Federal and provincial fixing of the game finally ends rebel milk marketers

Financial ruin is staring into the faces of a group of rebel dairy farmers in the Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver.

They've fought a lengthy, losing battle to sell their milk outside the milk marketing system, and now face the destruction of their herds and the loss of their homes.

October 13 was the last day the 15 farmers can sell their milk to Bari Cheese Ltd., the only independent cheesemaker that continued buying from them in defiance of marketing quotas.

The rebel dairy farmers were able to sell all of their milk to the company, outside of the regulated quota system of the national milk marketing board.

But Bari Cheese Ltd. has struck a deal with the board and will no longer take their milk.

So now, 11 of the farmers can only sell their milk to the provincial milk pool, at less than half the price paid to licensed producers. Four others, for a variety of reasons, are not even permitted to do that.

For all of them, it's a devastating loss.

"It wouldn't be as bad if it was only myself, but I have a family too," said Adrie Stuyt, 35, of Agassiz.

"The milk board doesn't seem to look at it that way."

Even if he was able to sell his farm, he fears he'd still be in a financial hole because the milk board wants him to repay what they say he owes it.

"I was born and raised on a farm and that is all I've done," said Stuyt.

"The milk board is trying to collect levies from me of $550,000 for being over quota levies. But I don't even have quotas, so how can I be over quota levies?"

The farmers' fight began some 13 years ago after B.C. withdrew temporarily from the national marketing program during a federal-provincial dispute.

When B.C. rejoined the program, the rebel farmers elected to challenge it.

The marketing board strictly regulates prices given to producers, to ensure an adequate supply of dairy products and a good price to farmers.

If Stuyt wanted to be licensed under the regulations, he would have pay his share of the provincial quota, which for his 150 cows, would cost him $1.6 million.

That is not an option, he said.

The 15 unlicensed farmers have won several court battles along the way, but after each victory the law was rewritten to support the marketing board by either the provincial or federal government.

Jim Durham of the B.C. Milk Marketing Board says some of the farmers have had more than a year to come to a deal with the board or to make alternative arrangements.

"I think they felt they were going to be successful and they really didn't pick up any olive branches that were extended to them," Durham said.

Governors, mayors cry about Internet taxation...or the lack thereof

"It is the most significant challenge to state sovereignty that we have seen in the past 20 years," Ohio governor George Voinovich said at a news conference. "The legislation coming out of the House would lead to a virtual sales tax collapse."

Several U.S. governors and mayors recently appealed to the Congress to give up plans that would see a moratorium on new Internet taxes. Voinovich, president of the National Governors' Association, says that local economies would die as people began buying goods and services over the Internet tax free.

"What sounds good isn't really going to be good for our communities," said Fort Wayne, Indiana, Mayor Paul Helmke.

What's got them all riled up is the Internet Tax Freedom Act, sponsored by Representative Chris Cox (R-California) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). The intent of the bill is to make sure that cities, states, and local governments do not impose Internet-specific taxes. Such levies might include special charges for Internet service providers, or charging higher taxes for online transactions.

In part to answer such complaints, Wyden will introduce a substitute version of his bill to clearly set out what taxes may apply to the Internet, spokesman David Seldin said.

"The substitute spells out very precisely the taxes that could be levied," Seldin said. "We feel it addresses concerns raised by local officials."

The two bills, which are supported by the Clinton administration, would place a four- to six-year moratorium on applying new taxes to online services or Internet-specific transactions. During that time, the administration would examine Internet taxation and make recommendations to Congress.

In early October, two House subcommittees passed the Cox bill, and two full committees are expected to approve the bill in the next few weeks.

The governors and mayors believe that "Main Street" will die because people, who despite what politicians think, know what's best for them, which is the best product at the best price.

"How do you make up those revenues?" Voinovich asked. "Mail-order houses are a very similar and ongoing problem to the Internet."

But bill sponsors say that the legislation would actually help local businesses by not entangling them in additional taxes for selling wares on the Internet.

"The people who are going to be helped by this bill are the mom and pop stores going online," Seldin said. "The Internet is the main street of the future."

And Voinovich and his cronies are the voices of the past. Capitalism will be reborn on the Internet and governments can't do a damn thing about it!

Pressure group warfare anyone?

A Supreme Court ruling that requires the broadening of eligibility for affirmative action programs administered by the Small Business Administration will allow an additional 3,000 "socially and economically disadvantaged" contractors to benefit from preferences. Minority groups already covered by the program are reportedly alarmed because, based on the Clinton administration's estimates, the newly qualified firms are likely to be those headed by white women.

Maybe California needs more Proposition 209s...

In the first meeting of President Clinton's $4.8 million board racial advisory board, California lawyer Angela Oh called for the creation of a federal department charged with promoting racial harmony. The department, she explained, would be modeled on the "ministries of nunity" in Indonesia, where the government has undertaken population transfers in order to achieve racial balance.

The more things change...

It seems that even when the world is finally rid of Fidel Castro, we won't be rid of Castro.

Cuban President Fidel Castro has urged Cubans to accept his brother as his successor, raising new questions about his health and plans for the future.

"Raul is younger and has more energy than me," Castro, 71, said of his 66-year-old brother in a recent speech in Havana.

Castro urged Cubans to remember his brother's succession would "guarantee the revolution," which officially began with the former guerrilla leader's takeover 38 years ago.

The comments marked the first time that Castro has endorsed his brother so specifically as successor and counter long-held theories that "El Lider Maximo" supports any one of several younger contenders for his job.

Since discussion of Castro's health is virtually taboo in Cuba - and since political signals must be read obliquely - it's clear comments about his succession are being analyzed with great interest.

In recent months, there has been increased support in Cuba - especially among the post-revolution generation - for Castro, even if he's healthy, to step aside and take a sort of governor-general's post so his death wouldn't throw the country into turmoil.

Castro has never discussed such a possibility.

His designated successor in case of death or incapacitation has always been his brother, who is vice-president, deputy Communist party head and defence minister.

However, in the past, it was always thought Castro favoured - and would eventually endorse - other candidates. They include Carlos Lage, in his early 70s, also a vice-president; the much younger and robust Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina, in his mid-30s and considered a Castro favourite; and Osman Cienfuegos, in his 50s, whose father fought with Fidel in the Sierra Maestra.

All of these candidates are considered to be reformers, supporters of a mixed economy and far less hard-line than Raul Castro.

New Brunswick elects new Progressive Conservative leader

Political rookie Bernard Lord won the leadership of the New Brunswick Conservative party in October in a decisive second-ballot victory over his nearest rival. The lawyer from Moncton, N.B., garnered 1 830 votes on the winning ballot. Runnerup Norm Betts, an economics professor at the University of New Brunswick, received 1 413 votes.

The other two candidates -- Fredericton lawyer Cleveland Allaby and former journalist Margaret Ann Blaney -- dropped out after the first ballot.

Lord, 32, will replace Bernard Valcourt, who is stepping down because of declining popularity within the party.

Lord will have to regenerate a party that has been out of power, and generally out of favor, for the past decade.

The Conservatives are the official Opposition, but hold just six of the 55 seats in the New Brunswick legislature.

Good luck to Lord and let's hope he actually acts like a conservative.

Unionists receive jail time for violence

It was just last month that Enter Stage Right carried a piece on union violence, and during that month two union leaders were to sentenced to six months in prison for their role in a 1993 demonstration by municipal workers who vandalized Montreal city hall. Jean Lapierre and Denis Maynard were among six city workers who were convicted in June of participating in the riot that caused thousands of dollars of damage to the landmark building in Old Montreal.

"This was a premeditated crime," Quebec Court Judge Serge Boisvert said in handing down his sentence. "They conspired with other people to commit a violent act.

"Even if Jean Lapierre and Denis Maynard themselves avoided doing the most incriminating acts during the demonstration, it seems to me that they desired or wanted this violence to be perceived as coming from the union because it was by this violence that they sent their message to the population."

Lapierre, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local, and Maynard, the local's secretary-treasurer, have been released pending an appeal.

Boisvert also sentenced three other blue-collar workers to two-month prison terms, to be served in the community. They must also pay a $300 fine.

A sixth blue-collar worker was fined $300.

The riot occurred while the union was negotiating with the city for a four-day work week and other issues.

Hundreds of blue-collar workers, some wearing hockey helmets and many carrying wooden planks, arrived at city hall on Sept. 15, 1993, and mixed with a loud but peaceful protest against a city surtax.

Shortly after the blue-collar workers arrived, protesters smashed windows and broke down a side door with a home-made battering ram.

The west really is more "conservative"

Convicted child killer Clifford Olson should be released into the general prison population so the "moral prisoners" of Canada's justice system can deal with him.

That's the opinion of Alberta Treasurer Stockwell Day, expressed during his keynote speech at the Roots of Change conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The conference was designed to look at ways of uniting Canadian conservatives.

He was attacking the refusal by the federal Liberals to change Section 745 of the Criminal Code which gives convicted killers sentenced to life in prison the chance to apply for parole after 15 years.

"People like myself say 'Fix the problem. Put him in the general population,'" Day said. "The moral prisoners will deal with it in a way which we don't have the nerve to do."

Day also hammered Progressive Conservative Leader Jean Charest, Finance Minister Paul Martin and the liberal media.

He also said he blames Canada's education system for failing to impart Canadians with more conservative sensibilities.

Regulate all you want, stop making the average citizen enforce those regulations

A convenience store owner in Pictou County (Eureka, Nova Scotia) is fighting the province's laws on tobacco sales.

Lea Nicholas was found guilty of selling cigarettes to a minor last year after an underage government agent entered her store to buy cigarettes.

Nicholas is appealing to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, saying the law is unconstitutional, because it requires her to enforce it.

ESR wishes Nicholas all the best in her struggle!

Canadian citizens reamed for $44-million in "unexpected expenses"

The federal government shelled out more than $44 million during the past year on unexpected expenses.

The 1996-97 federal public accounts tabled in the Commons in late October show an array of expenses ranging from theft to accidental destruction and damage.

The government also paid out $144 million worth of fraudulent EI claims, $4 million of which it does not expect to recover.

The Department of National Defence had another rough year. The AIM-9 missile cost $145,237 to fix while $354,012 in miscellaneous vehicle parts went missing and $109,066 worth of damages occurred in vehicular accidents.

The department also was nickled and dimed by small claims such as $44 for missing "Rayban" sunglasses, $654 in missing keys and $256 in missing flags.

Soldiers should watch their step because someone seems to have removed a $4,236 removable stairway. Also missing is a night vision set valued at $34,916.

Someone in Indian Affairs in Alberta had a 'golden' notebook stolen worth $4,000.

The government also lost thousands of dollars in phony travel expenses and to credit card thieves. Computers - laptop and otherwise - continue to disappear left and right. For instance, Transport Canada had more than $70,000 worth of computer equipment stolen, including three cases of laptop computers.

One retired government employee was reimbursed $269 for a broken side-mirror on his car, damaged during a local United Way car wash put on by the department of Agriculture.

An M. MacKenzie was compensated $3,000 by Canadian Heritage for the loss of his canoe while it was being used in a rescue during Hurricane Hortense. A B. Froese received $2,500 for the death of his bull on Crown land.

An exploding bottle of ink caused $140 worth of damage to L. Seto's clothes at National Revenue.

G. Pattison was compensated $100 for personal injury after apparently getting caught in one of the government's automatic doors while B. Drake at Indian Affairs received $137 to replace his pants after they were torn at work.

D. Fraser got $101 for tearing his trousers on a desk chair at National Revenue.

Meanwhile, A. Lambert was compensated $584 after he lost his wristwatch and eyeglasses when his boat capsized at Fisheries and Oceans.

National Revenue had to pay out $1,127 after a gate at a border crossing damaged the rear trunk, roof and antenna of W. Sallarch's vehicle.

Watch out for falling pillars. The federal government paid out about $3,000 after two vehicles were hit.

Possible exposure to Hepatitis A in a restaurant to H. Staines while he was on a course at a staff college cost Correctional Services $114.

The public accounts also showed that Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy was cabinet's top traveller, racking up $106,565 in travel expenses, followed closely by Secretary of State (Training and Youth) Ethel Blondin at $102,637 and Industry Minister John Manley at $92,994.

Among backbenchers, former Liberal MP Jack Anawak (Nunatsiaq) was the top traveller by chalking up $196,382, mostly travelling back and forth to the Northwest Territories.

For the second consecutive year, Auditor Denis Desautels suggested the federal government is violating its own accounting rules by overstating the 1996-97 deficit by $800 million.

The auditor points out that the Canada Foundation for Innovation was not created until April, 1997 or funded until July, 1997 and yet it appears in the 1996-97 fiscal year, which ended March 31.

Following his accounting, it means the deficit for the past year was actually 8.1-billion, rather than the already-low $8.9 billion.

Even with last year's record reduction in the deficit the government, one would think, should try to avoid expenditures such as the lost $700 Defence Department stapler. Perhaps paper clips would suffice in future.

Canadian Finance Minister defends Canadian Pension Plan hikes...better than stocks!

Canadians are better off paying higher premiums to guarantee a secure public pension plan than investing private savings in a volatile stock market, Finance Minister Paul Martin says.

"Canadians from coast to coast made it abundantly clear through public consultations on the CPP that they do not want all of their basic retirement pension dependent on a fluctuating stock market," Martin.

Martin did not explain why millions of Canadians apparently do invest their pensions in stocks. Martin also did not explain that the difference between a subsistence living and a chance at a real retirement.

Martin was responding to Reform party charges that the Liberal government's legislation to reform the Canada Pension Plan is a tax grab that will provide inadequate returns for working Canadians.

Under the legislation, Bill C-2, employee and employer contributions will increase by 73 per cent by 2003 in order to guarantee retirement benefits under the public plan.

Through an agreement with eight of the 10 provinces, people earning $35,800 or more a year will see their premiums increase to 9.9 per cent of their wages by 2003, from 5.8 per cent this year.

Under the previous premium increase schedule, employees would have seen their contributions rise to 14.2 per cent by 2030. Even so, the pension plan would have out by 2061, according to the government's chief actuarial officer.

But Reform Leader Preston Manning told the federal finance committee the government should instead consider the example of countries like Chile, which require workers to participate in private retirement plans that earn returns from stock markets.

Reform's pension proposal would scale back CPP, moving younger workers off the public pension by requiring them to save for retirement through mandatory, private RRSPs.

But Martin argued mandatory RRSPs could not provide better returns and could be risky.

The Toronto Stock Exchange lost 6.17 per cent of its value on October 27 as investors wiped out hundreds of billions of dollars from stock values around the world.

That's exactly the kind of risk new legislation is intended to avoid, Martin said.

Martin said the Reform plan would still require a 13 per cent to 15 per cent increase in premiums unless the party plans to abandon the $600 billion liability that the government owes in promised benefits.

Candian federal law would limit police powers to enter suspects' homes

For the first time police would need approval from a judge before entering a home in search of a suspect –even in the middle of the night –under legislation introduced in late October. The proposed law is in response to a contentious Supreme Court of Canada ruling last spring that restricted police powers. 

Federal officials said the government had no choice but to table the proposed law to be in keeping with the high court decision. 

"We had to come up with something we think is constitutional," said Yvon Roy of the Justice Department's criminal law policy section. 

The Supreme Court decision stunned the legal and law-enforcement communities because until now police haven't needed a warrant if they had reasonable and probable grounds to arrest a suspect and properly identified themselves before entering a home. 

"Make no mistake about it, the process that's going to be in place here will require 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, justices of the peace available," said Scott Newark of the Canadian Police Association.  

He's angry at the Supreme Court, not the federal government, for restricting police powers. 

"That was a decision that in many ways turned law enforcement on its head," he said, adding that Justice John Sopinka, who wrote the decision, should give out his phone number so police can phone him at 2 a.m. if they need an entry warrant. 

Newark called on Justice Minister Anne McLellan to immediately take steps to ensure there are judges available around the clock in every pocket of the country. 

"That is one thing Ms. McLellan should have to answer immediately, is what the federal government is prepared to do to make that a reality so we don't have police officers at two o'clock in the morning on hold." 

In a split judgment in May, the high court decided that police would need a judge's warrant before forcibly entering a home to make an arrest unless they are in "hot pursuit" of someone. 

The Supreme Court restrictions stem from a case involving Michael Feeney of Likely, B.C., whose second-degree murder conviction was overturned in the bludgeoning death of his 86-year-old neighbor. 

The court said the RCMP violated Feeney's constitutional rights when they entered his trailer without a warrant and arrested the sleeping man, whose shirt was splattered with blood. 

Feeney is awaiting a new trial in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

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