Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Canada's population aging but toddlers surging too

Canada now has a higher proportion of seniors than ever before but at the same time the number of Canadians under five has also grown. The under five group has grown by 1 per cent a reversal of previous trends.

Laurent Marter from Statistics Canada said:"I wouldn't call it a baby boom, although I think we can call it a significant increase," But the most prominent increase is in people over 65.

In the last five years people over 65 have grown by 14.1 per cent. At the same time population growth overall has been just 5.9 per cent. The group is poised to grow even faster.

People aged 60 to 64 is the faster growing group increasing by 29.1 per cent since the last census five years ago. In contrast those under 15 grew by just .5 per cent. In a short time Canada will have more seniors than children.

. The median age in Canada is 40.6 the highest ever. Two decades ago it was 33.5. The Atlantic provinces and Quebec are aging more quickly than the west. In the Prairie provinces the proportion of seniors did not change at all. Perhaps this is because many seniors on the prairies move to more temperate climates such as BC. For much more see this CBC article.

Monday, May 28, 2012

CP rail workers may be legislated back to work as government tables bill

A strike by 4,800 workers at Canadian Pacific Railway has been ongoing for six days. Now the Conservative government's minister of labour Lisa Raitt will table back to work legislation this afternoon (May 28)

The strike has shutdown the company's freight operation and many companies dependent upon those operations have been urging the government to legislate the workers back on the job.

Raitt said: “Our government is really concerned that a disruption at Canadian Pacific will damage Canada’s fragile economic recovery,” A main stumbling block for the union is that the company wants to slash its pension costs. The new board at CP will probably be even harder on labor than the former board. CP rail is anxious to cut its costs and improve efficiency. No doubt much of this will come at the expense of labor. For much more see this Globe and Mail article.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quebec student leaders to negotiate with Charest government

The federation of Quebec university students says that negotiations between leaders of the three main groups and the provincial government will resume on Monday May 28. More than a month has passed since negotiations broke off. There have been nightly protests in Montreal for 33 days now.

The same day as negotiations begin Quebec's festival season begin. Organizers worry that protests will keep tourists away from events.Gilbert Rozon founder of the Just for Laughs comedy festival said:“I’m concerned about the whole tourism industry because it’s one of the major industries in Quebec,” “It's $11 billion every year and 400,000 employees, so it's a lot, a lot of business and … we're losing a lot of reservations — people are cancelling.” Student leaders have said there are no plans to disrupt any events. For more see this article.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Student groups file legal challenge against Bill 78

Friday student federations and other groups filed motions against Quebec Bill 78 whose main aim is to limit student protests. The bill sets out stringent rules governing demonstrations. Any demonstration of more than 50 people must give 8 hours notice to police. The organizers must give details as to the route time and duration of the protest. The students are supported in their legal challenge by labour federations and other groups.

Leo Bureau-Blouin head of the college student federation said:"We are doing this because we are genuinely worried that basic important rights such as freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to hold peaceful demonstrations are being attacked," Many community groups, ecologists, and individual artists also support the challenge.

The first of the two motions presented will be heard next Wednesday. This will involve just a temporary suspension of the law. The second motion would strike down the law as unconstitutional. There is an anti-mask bylaw in Montreal that may be challenged as well. For more see this article. The students have been protesting tuition hikes for months now.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Conservative government imposes stricter rules on recipients of unemployment benefits

The Conservative government has been cutting away at government services and the social safety under the universal mantra of cutting deficits. Of course the Stephen Harper government would not think of raising taxes on corporations or the rich as a way of cutting the deficit but the unemployed are fair game.

The new rules will make it particularly difficult for frequent users of EI (Employment Insurance). The announcement of the changes were made yesterday by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.

The new rules require that EI recipients must accept job openings that are an hour or even further away the distance being based upon regional commuter patterns. Toronto was given as an example where even longer commutes could be expected.

Language in the existing bill that set out conditions under which recipients could refuse a job as not suitable has been removed and new stricter rules put in their place. In the new regulations there are three tiers of EI recipients. The longer that recipients are on EI the broader their job searches must be and the lower the salaries they must accept.

The third category of recipients are termed frequent users who have collected 60 or more weeks benefits in the last five years. At present 58 per cent of recipients fall within this group. Frequent recipients will only have six weeks to find a job in a "similar occupation" at at least 80 percent of pay. After that the applicant must accept any job the applicant is qualified to perform (or can be trained for) at 70 per cent of former earnings or more. So recipients must accept up to a 30 per cent pay cut or lose benefits. The new regulations will particularly hurt Canada's maritime provinces such as Newfoundland and Labrador where many communities have workers involved in seasonal activities such as fishing. During the off season these workers have depended upon EI to support them until the following season. Most rural coastal communities face the same situation so it would be difficult to find work nearby. The provinces most hurt are quite angry since they were not consulted about changes. For more see this article.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Almost 700 arrested in Quebec protests May 23rd

Pressure is mounting on the Liberal Quebec provincial government to do something about the continuing student protests other than simply arrest more people. Protests still occur nightly even after the passage of a draconian new law that can see many of those arrested facing large fines.

The Quebec Education Minister Michelle Courchesne noted that "the situation is really, really quite serious," and that a resolution must be reached. She said that a third round of talks with the three main Quebec student groups would happen in the next few days she promised. The province put forth policies earlier that were widely rejected when students voted on them. All three student groups including CLASSE the largest and most militant have agreed to resume negotiations. However a CLASSE spokesperson said:"If the government really wanted to show its intention to discuss with us, the best move would be to suspend or repeal Law 78," "That would have a concrete effect on tension in Montreal streets." However the Liberal government so far has refused to discuss Bill 78 the new laws governing protests. The Bill has actually broadened support for protests.

In Montreal alone last night police used the controversial tactic of kettling protesters and arrested at least 518 people. Many more were arrested in Quebec city. Demonstrations in both cities broke the provisions of the new law in that organizers would not give police descriptions of their routes.. Although kettling is widely used in Europe a recent report on G8 demonstrations in Toronto criticized the technique as it rounded up many uninvolved bystanders in the herd and they ended up being arrested and hauled away. Students have been protesting tuition hikes planned by the Charest government. Until now Quebec has the lowest tuition rates in Canada. For more see this article.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Canada ranks 6th in Better Life Index rankings

Australia came up on top of the rankings in the Better Life Index of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Each of eleven categories were ranked in 36 countries.

In spite of the highest rankings the Labor government of Julia Gillard has low ratings in polls in Australia! However, the Index stats are excellent. Life expectancy is 82 years two years above the OECD average of 80. Employment is also well above the average.

After Australia the next best country is Norway. Coming in a respectable third is the U.S. in spite of having a relatively high unemployment rate. Canada is further behind coming sixth after fourth place Sweden and fifth place Denmark. Turkey was in last place.

The new scale was used beginning in 2011 as a way to measure well being of countries in more ways than simply economic growth. As well as income and education, the scale includes work-life balance and life satisfaction.

Canada shows increasing income inequality. The report notes::"In Canada, the [household net-adjusted disposable income] of the top 20 per cent of the population is 53,988 USD a year, whereas the bottom 20 per cent live on 10,077 USD a year." Canada does not fare well on work-life balance or civic engagement either.

The average voter participation in OECD countries is 73 per cent while Canada is just 61 per cent. For more see this article and also here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mass Montreal protests on 100th day of student strikes

Many protesters wear red or sport red felt squares emblematic of the protests. They are marking the 100th day of student strikes in the province of Quebec. The students are protesting the Quebec government plan to hike tuition fees. Now they are protesting as well legislation to stifle protests.

.Although the Montreal march is the main event there are smaller gatherings in other places in Quebec. Events are also taking place in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and even New York and Paris.

The huge demonstration is taking place shortly after a new Quebec law was passed restricting demonstrations. The main demonstration conforms to the requirement of the new law. There can be huge fines for breaking the law. Some demonstrators plan to break off from the main route to challenge the law.

The crowd comprised a wide range of people from students carrying revolutionary slogans to senior citizens, mothers of students, and people bused in from outside. Although many Quebeckers support the tuition increases they are angry at the Quebec government for passing the restrictive law and also for other issues such as corruption charges. The major and more radical of the student groups CLASSE is encouraging a group of protesters to veer off the main route to defy the new law.

The Quebec government has taken to showing that the law is not that draconian by citing other cities such as Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles that have as tough or tougher laws. It is claimed that Los Angeles requires 40 days notice. The Quebec law requires 8 hours notice. No doubt this just shows what wimps anglophones are as far as CLASSE is concerned. For more see this article. The day and night are not yet over so there could be problems later today as happened over the weekend.

Monday, May 21, 2012

More Montreal protests against Bill 78

Police pepper spray bar patrons in Montreal

This is the 27th consecutive night of protests in Montreal. Protests have surged if anything since a draconian new bill was passed by the Liberal Quebec government of Jean Charest. The bill has infuriated students who have for months been protesting planned tuition increases and have boycotted classes.

However, the new bill is opposed by a much wider group including unions, lawyers, and civil rights advocates. Another municipal bylaw has been passed in Montreal making it an offense to wear masks at demonstrations.

There was a large demonstration on Sunday night with about 5,000 people. They chanted:"Devrait pas nous f√Ęcher," (You shouldn't get us mad.)Demonstrators also gathered earlier at the University of Quebec in Montreal and headed downtown. The police declared the demonstration illegal under the terms of the newly passed laws which requires giving police notice of the event 8 hours before the demonstration and the route to be taken and at what time. Protesters reject such restrictions.

. Two journalists were arrested. One was wearing a ski mask to protect against chemical irritants.and suffered minor injuries. Both were released within half an hour.

The largest and most radical of the Quebec student groups CLASSE had hoped to broaden the movement beyond just student issues. The passage of the bill restricting protests seems to have done that. Several major Quebec labor unions as well as environmental and political groups oppose the new bill and have thrown support behind the protesters.

Michael Moore documentary film maker calls the Quebec student movement amazing. On Sunday he tweeted: "Canadians are in revolt in Quebec over new gov't law limiting democratic rights. No news of it in US press. Their uprising is inspiring #ggi." The most popular hashtag of the protest is #ggi (greve generale illimite (greneral unlimited strike)) The protests are primarily but not exclusively at Francophone institutions hence many of the protest signs are in French. The Quebec government website has been subject to cyber attacks. Student claim that about 150,000 college and university students are still on strike i.e. boycotting classes. For more see this article.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Canadian 12 year old criticizes Canadian banking system

A video of Victoria's talk at a recent conference of the Public Banking Institute in Philadelphia has been posted on You Tube by her father. Her ideas are no doubt influenced by her father as well.

Her speech is noteworth for the clarity of argument and being simple and straightforward. Grant points out that until the 1970''s the government borrowed money directly from the Bank of Canada. However now the government borrows from private banks and thus has to pay interest to them. Canadian taxpayers are thus having to paying interest on these loans for private banks' profit instead of borrowing directly from our own central bank. The reason for the change is obvious. It provides greater profit for private capital.

Grant's argument is not new. George Crowell writing for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives last year argued that borrowing directly from the central bank “would make available tens of billions of dollars that are urgently needed to rebuild our public infrastructure, protect our environment, and strengthen Medicare and other social programs so vital in meeting human needs.” However it would not provide the banks more profits from interest!

Critics argue that the move would cause inflation as the government would print money whenever it liked. But was there greater inflation before the earlier practice was stopped? Imagine even a Green Party representative comes out for the bank ripoff. Ard Van Leeuwen a Green Party of Canada activist said:"At zero percent interest we would actually be subsidizing, and hence encouraging, government borrowing," So would that not be a good idea to encourage green energy projects? I have included the You Tube speech. See also this article.

Chicago Summit: Harper supports limited NATO goals in Afghanistan

The U.S. will be playing the role of beggar at the Chicago NATO summit begging any NATO member who will listen to give more money towards financing the Afghan military between 2014 and 2024.

Even the Canadian Prime Minister has not committed yet to the new mission. Canada has 900 troops in a training role until 2014 but NATO wants Canada to keep troops in Afghanistan after that. Harper is usually eager to support the U.S. and NATO but in this case he still seems to be pondering whether the political fallout would be worth it. France has already announced that it is withdrawing combat troops by the end of the year.

After U.S. pressure Britain, Australia, and Germany have pledged between 100 and 200 million U.S. a year to fund the Afghan military. However this is a small part of the estimated 4 billion a year even a reduced Afghan force would require. The lion's share of the burden will fall on the already stressed U.S. taxpayers.

Obama of course stresses the fact that U.S. combat troops will be leaving by 2014 and is declaring that he is keeping his promise to wind down the war. However the other part of the story is that he has extended the U.S. commitment from 2014 to 2024.

U.S. troops will stay after 20024 it has just not been decided how many and under what terms. It is clear that special forces will continue with night raids and that also drone attacks will as well in spite of some restrictions in the Strategic Partnership Agreement.

The goals of the NATO mission are deflated considerably. No one talks of ensuring democracy and good governance or building more schools and ensuring more girls go to school.. Stephen Harper said that the goal should be to ensure that Afghanistan did not become a haven for international terrorism. Obama's security adviser Tom Donilon said:. “The goal is to have an Afghanistan that has a degree of stability such that forces like al-Qaeda and associated groups cannot have safe haven unimpeded,” “No. 2, an Afghanistan that has a set of security assets that allow it to provide for that modicum of stability and to be able to protect itself against groups like that.” NATO is even expected to reduce the size of projected security forces from 352,000 to a much smaller force as few as 228,500. But NATO may have problems even obtaining the financing for that. Even this smaller force will require a subsidy of about 4 billion plus per year. NATO publics faced with already serious debt problems and cuts in programs are not likely to put up with questionable expenditures in far off lands. For more see this article The U.S. at present is spending about 100 billion a year on the war

Saturday, May 19, 2012

New Quebec bill sparks more protests and condemnation

New emergency legislation in Quebec designed to end the student protests ended up causing protests itself. There were protests against the legislation overnight (May 18) in Montreal involving about 10,000 people.

Bill 78 sets strict rules for public demonstrations and there are heavy fines for violations. Legal experts, union leaders, civil rights groups and of course student groups have all criticized the bill. Even a well known retired judge Gomery has weighed in. See this article.

The president of a Quebec teacher's union Pierre Saint-Germain said:

"I'll tell you, frankly, that with this bludgeon law, it's becoming harder and harder for people and organizations, from students to unions, to express themselves publicly."

Le Devoir a prominent Montreal newspaper had an editorial describing the law as an abuse of power. Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey said of the bill:"What I note in this law is that there is no opening for discussion — what kind of education we want to have, is higher education a question of preparing for the job market, or a more academic question, to promote learning? There is none of that.This is simply an attempt to end a debate, to appear strong and determined."

The law has three main parts. The bill suspends the winter semester in schools where many students boycotted classes. At the same time it imposes heavy fines for anyone attempting to block anyone from accessing schools. Finally it restricts public protests.

The largest student group CLASSE vows legal action against the bill immediately. A spokesperson said:"It's one of the basis of democracy, that citizens are allowed to go [in the streets] whenever they want, wherever they want.With this law, this government is consciously breaking, destroying this fundamental right," Of course more and more there are all sorts of rules and restrictions on protests. If large enough numbers protest it may be difficult to enforce the new law. For more see this article.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nude painting of Stephen Harper promotes Tim Hortons!

In Kingston Ontario a nude painting of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was submitted by Kingston artist Margaret Sutherland to the Arts Council's Annual Juried Art Salon.

The painting is titled "Emperor Haute Couture" . Its on display in a Kingston Public Library. I presume that the entrance to the library has some suitable warning about this library contains adult content etc..However the library decided that the painting would be removed when children's events are held in the room where the painting is displayed. The artist objected to this so a compromise was reached. The nude is now covered with a cloth making it opaque to the naked eye when children are present.

The painting is a political satire and is a takeoff on an 1863 painting by Manet called Olympia.which features a Venus like nude attended to by a slave. In the Sutherland painting the nude Harper is attended to by a headless woman in a power suit who gives him a Tim Hortons coffee on a silver plate. There is a dog in the painting.

The prime minister's office issued a release pointing out that everyone knows that the prime minister is a cat person. An opposition member said that this was one time when he was in favor of a Conservative cover up. For more see this article and here in the local paper.

UPDATE: You are too late the painting has been sold for 5,000 dollars. The buyer's identity has not been revealed. Probably a good investment. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

UN right to food envoy finds milllions of Canadians are food insecure.

Olivier De Schutter is the UN right to food envoy. His report on Canada made the Harper government go ballistic DeSchutter said: 'It’s even more shocking to me to see that there are 900,000 households in Canada that are food insecure and up to 2.5 million people precisely because this is a wealthy country. It’s even less excusable.'

Schutter said that Canada had a self-righteous attitude about being a great country which it needed to drop. Instead Canada needed to deal with a widespread problem of food insecurity. He noted too that Canada had an appalling record as far as acting on UN human rights recommendations were concerned.

De Schutter just finished an 11 day mission to Canada. This is his first visit to a developed country. His findings show that food insecurity can be a problem in developed as well as undeveloped countries.

De Shutter visited poor inner city neighborhoods as well as remote aboriginal communities. Some critics complain that De Shutter should be visiting under developed countries where there is widespread hunger and starvation. No doubt such critics do not like the spotlight being turned on the failings of developed relatively rich countries.

The Conservative government paints a rosy picture of Canada and certainly does not appreciate the UN report. However, the Conservative government did not arrange any meetings with cabinet ministers. De Shutter complained about this while he expressed appreciation for the time technical staff spent with him. For action on problems he said key politicians need to be involved. For much more see this article.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Report slams police actions at G20 summit protests

The Ontario office of the Independent Police Review Director was quite critical of police actions during protests at the G20 summit two years back in Toronto..The report claims that police detained people illegally, used excessive force and violated protesters' civil rights.

Among other criticism the report charged that the temporary detention center was poorly designed and operated. Many people who were detained there were detained illegally. More than 1100 people were arrested but most were released without charge. The report noted:"Some police officers ignored basic rights citizens have under the Charter and overstepped their authority when they stopped and searched people arbitrarily and without legal justification,"

The report was also critical of a kettling tactic used downtown that captured many people not even involved in the demonstration. The report said the action was not just unreasonable but unlawful and not necessary. Even one officer noted that the commander seemed a bit maniacal and said "Where are they going to give them a chance to disperse?" one officer asked.

The report made a total of 42 recommendations. The Toronto police received the most criticism. The Review Committee had received 356 complaints about police action. For more see this article.. While watching the demonstrations one particular action that bothered me was police driving peaceful protesters out of an area that had been specifically designated as a place where they could protest.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Peter MacKay chastised over low estimates of Libyan mission cost

Canada flew over 400 missions above Libya part of the costly mission that was part of enforcing the no fly zone over Libya and supposedly protecting civilians by bombing Gadaffi forces and installations. However the total cost includes costs that would have been paid in any event. The added costs however still come in at around 100 million but that is according to department estimates.

There is considerable criticism of Defense Minister MacKay who told CBC the Libyan mission cost less than 50 million. McKay said at the time last October:"As of Oct. 13, the figures that I've received have us well below that, somewhere under $50 million," "And that's the all-up costs of the equipment that we have in the theatre, the transportation to get there, those that have been carrying out this critical mission."

MacKay has defended his figures. Technically MacKay is correct as a military officer testified but he pointed out that MacKay at the time also knew that the estimate for the total was 100 million. MacKay is expert at giving misleading low ball figures. The New Democratic Party foreign affairs critic said:"Peter’s (MacKay's) got problems with his math yet again and this government’s got problems with trying to figure out how to cost things," MacKay also gave a very low figure for the cost of purchasing F 35 fighter planes but the difference in that case was in the billions of dollars! For more see this CBC article.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

MacKay has to apologize over photo of Russell Williams

The defence minister Peter MacKay had to quickly offer an apology after a Department of National Defence booklet was issued containing a photo of former commander Russell Williams now a convicted murderer.

Mackay said that he "immediately ordered the military to destroy all copies of the collected booklets" There are no details as to what booklet was involved or how many copies were printed or distributed.

Russell Williams was a prominent and decorated commander head of the Canadian Forces Base at Trenton Ontario He is serving two life terms for the rape and murder of two women, one a member of the armed forces. Williams pleaded guilty to 88 charges. For more see this article.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Parliamentary Budget Officer stymied by lack of detailed information on budget cuts

The Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has been trying to obtain specific information on Conservative budget cuts outlined in the recent budget. He has not had much luck.

Page asked all departments about a month ago to fill out a form that would detail their plans to cut their budgets. However only a few departments have even replied and the savings detailed represent just .06 per cent of the planned budget cuts!

The budget bill projected savings of 5.2 billion a year and did list cuts for each department but with little detail. Paige has been unable to find out much more. There are many other concerns about the budget bill.

The bill contains much more than just the implementation of the budget. The bill has over a hundred pages that deal with an overhaul of environmental regulations. The opposition wants to split these off for separate consideration. I have included a video dealing with this issue. Environmentalists are up in arms over these provisions. For more see this Globe and Mail article.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cleaning up contaminated sites to cost 7.7 billion

Scott Vaughan the Canadian environment commissioner says that the bill to cleanup contaminated sites owned by the federal government will be about 7.7 billions dollars. The government has made progress. It has cleaned up 9,000 sites across Canada. However, 13,000 still remain to be decontaminated.

Vaughan said of the remaining sites: "Many of these sites are buried and out of the public eye, but they will impose human health risks and environmental and financial burdens for generations to come." Vaughan's report also dealt with other issues including the government's 2020 target of having greenhouse gases 17 per cent below 2005.

Vaughan points out: “Environment Canada’s own forecast shows that in 2020, Canada’s emissions will be seven per cent above the 2005 level, not 17 percent below it,” Regulations are being drawn up for each sector. Even those three that have been written do not come into effect until 2015. There are no regulations even written yet for the oil and gas sector. These are the fastest growing emitters of greenhouse gases. For much more see this article.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Student leaders and Quebec officials reach tentative deal that may end tuition conflict

After a battle that has been ongoing for three months a possible deal has been worked out between provincial officials and leaders of the three main student unions. The deal will involve what students hope would be equivalent to a six month freeze on tuition hikes and ongoing talks.

The Quebec premier Jean Charest must call an election by 2013. The deal and the student strikes will no doubt be an issue. Most Quebeckers support the government raising tuition but at the same most also disapprove of Charest and his government.

While the government refers to the deal as an agreement the student leaders call it an offer. Members of the unions will still need to vote on the deal. There was still a demonstration in Montreal last night.

An earlier demonstration in Victoriaville Quebec led to violence. One protester lost the use of an eye due to his injuries. Another protester has a skull fracture. Quebec police arrested 109 people many pulled off a bus that was returning back to Montreal.

The students were able to achieve agreement to establish a committee that would have oversight of university finances. Any savings identified would be applied to reduce student fees. For more see this article.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Victoriaville protest turn violent but student leaders meet with officials in Quebec City

The ruling Quebec Liberal Party decided that they would hold their weekend council meeting in Victoraiville in a smaller locale to avoid demonstrations. However bus loads of demonstrators were bussed in from Montreal and Quebec City to protest.

Although the protests began peacefully and were well organized by Friday evening there were clashes with police in the town east of Montreal. Both officers and protesters were injured in the protests and several arrests were made. One tweet claimed that a bus load of protesters returning to Montreal was pulled over by police and those on board arrested. However this report is not confirmed.

The air in the area was filled with chemical irritants causing people to cough and double over having trouble breathing. Even in the venue where the meeting was to take place there was the smell of tear gas.

About 1,000 protesters showed up. They were protesting not just the tuition hike but many other government policies. I include a video involving three representative from CLASSE the largest and most radical of the three main student unions in Quebec. Their agenda goes far beyond protesting tuition hikes and is directed against the entire neo-liberal agenda of the Quebec government and its austerity plans that are gutting the social safety net.

Student leaders have been in meetings with Quebec officials, University officials and some union leaders in an attempt to negotiate and end to the strikes and disruption. For once the three student leaders were unanimous in condemning the violence. The more radical group CLASSE has sometimes been at odds with other student union leaders. CLASSE represents roughly half of the 180,000 students who have been boycotting classes. For much more detail see this article.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Conrad Black arrives in Toronto after release from U.S. prison

Rex Murphy on Black's return.

The former prominent press baron Conrad Black has arrived in Toronto where he has a home with his wife Barbara Amiel. Both he and his wife are prominent conservatives. Black was very quickly granted a temporary resident permit even though he has a prison record.

A U.S. court convicted Black of fraud and obstruction of justice. Black has always maintained he is innocent. He was found not guilty on a number of other charges. Black gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a member of the UK House of Lords but he has kept property in Canada. Some opposition politicians have been critical of the issuance of the temporary residence permit. Given the speed of the granting of the permit and its issuance in spite of Black's criminal record some suspect government officials may have been involved in the process to speed things up.

U.S. authorities released a short statement about Black: "Earlier today U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations effected the return of Mr. Conrad Black to Canada in accordance with the final order of removal." Personally, I think that Black is a very intelligent fellow and one point in his favor in my books is that he has been very critical of the Conservative government's crime bill! No doubt he will not fade away. For more see this article.

Trans Canada Corp seeks approval for revised Keystone XL pipe line route

The U.S. State Department has confirmed that Trans Canada Corp has submitted a revised route application for the Keystone XL pipe line from the U.S. Canadian border to Steele City Nebraska.

Obama had rejected an earlier route after objections from Nebraska and environmentalists. No doubt the new route will avoid the environmentally sensitive areas critics had identified in the earlier route.

Republicans had been critical of Obama for rejecting the earlier plan. They claimed that the rejection has cost thousands of jobs. Yet even the state of Nebraska had been critical of the proposed route.

The State Dept. did not say how long a new review of the route would take. However, they did say that some of the earlier analysis could be applied to the new route. Even so, it will well into 2013 and well after the upcoming presidential election before a decision is made.

No doubt some environmentalists will be critical of the new route. Some environmentalists are simply against further development of oil from the Alberta Tar Sands because production of this oil is in itself environmentally destructive. However, the state of Nebraska may approve the new route. For more see this article.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

James Marker inventor of Cheezies dies at 90 in his Belleville home

James Marker who invented Cheezies was with W.T. Hawkins the company that makes Cheezies since 1948. He died at his home in Bellevile where the Hawkins plant is located.

Marker worked in the confectionery business in Chicago. Hawkins after whom the company is named left the U.S. with Marker to start their own snack business in Canada. After a fire destroyed their original factory in Tweed Ontario, the company relocated to Belleville.

Marker developed the Cheezie by shaping cornmeal cooked in vegetable shortening and then coating it with aged cheddar cheese. There are now many competing brands based on the same basic principle. However the original Hawkins Cheezies are still quite popular in Canada.

The director of finance for the company Tony McGarvey said that Marker kept working right up until his death! No doubt if he had stopped working he would have died much sooner! For more see this article.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day Protests in Canada

Several hundred public sector workers staged a demonstration outside Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office in Ottawa to protest the government austerity measures. They sang, chanted, and listened to speeches. There was no violence. Some demonstrators sported buttons that read "Stephen Harper hates me!" Union officials reported that a group of students were prevented from crossing into Ontario to join in the protest. Ottawa is just across the river from Hull Quebec. I really do not understand how the students would be prevented from joining the protest.

In Toronto there was a rally at a city square around 11 AM but the crowd was not large. However, they were entertained by a street theater group. The CBC reported that police outnumbered protesters. The protest group also plans a re-occupation event this evening which will last for a day.

There were also protests in Winnipeg Manitoba, Halifax Nova Scotia, Edmonton and Calgary Alberta and Vancouver B.C. and Windsor Ontario In Montreal Quebec a new conference of leaders of two student groups was disrupted by masked hecklers. The two student groups were presenting an alternative to the concessions offered by the Quebec government. A third more radical student group did not attend the news conference. There has been considerable conflict within the student protest movement. In recent protests the minority who engage in vandalism have been roundly booed by the majority of protesters.

A later May Day march resulted in smashed windows and conflict with police. The police in turn used chemical irritants, rubber bullets, billy clubs , and tear gas in response. Dozens of arrests were made. For more detail see this article from Global News.