By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 0 Comments
And on that note, his second sentence. ”We have no intention,” he said, “of changing any benefits.”
Clearly. At least so far as those with no short term memory could be concerned. For the rest of those listening, there was what the government had sent up Wai Young to say no more than 90 seconds earlier. ”We will implement any changes fairly,” the dutiful backbencher reassured the House with the last intervention before Question Period, “allowing lots of time for notice and time to adjust.”
So the government has no intention of making changes. But if—for whatever reason—it should be struck with such intent sometime between now and the tabling of this spring’s budget, you are to be assured that those changes will be implemented fairly. Indeed, even with these changes existing only in the theoretical, the government presently lacking even the intent to make them, Ms. Young managed today to congratulate her side for having had the courage to change. “In fact,” she reported, “the National Post gets it with its front page headline today, ‘Tories on the right side of pension reform.’ ”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 4:19 PM - 0 Comments
Megan Leslie didn’t get an answer from Joe Oliver yesterday, so she asked him again this afternoon to clarify his understanding of climate change. And then she asked him again. And then she asked him again. Here’s how that went.
Megan Leslie: Surely the minister knows the basics of his file and he must know that hydrocarbons are a leading cause of climate change. So can the minister tell us if he agrees with the scientific link between hydrocarbons and climate change, yes or no?
Joe Oliver: Mr. Speaker, what I said yesterday, as the government’s policy, is that we will only approve projects that are safe for Canadians and for the environment. We are in favour of projects which will create jobs and economic activity and which will be nation builders for Canadians right across this country, from coast to coast to coast.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 2:05 PM - 0 Comments
After deigning to tolerate a day of discussion yesterday on its pooled pension legislation, the government side voted this morning to put a limit on debate. They did not though move quite fast enough to deny Bob Rae the opportunity to do as he does.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 2:01 PM - 0 Comments
Canada’s GDP numbers for November came out this morning, and it was a rude awakening. The economy slowed down unexpectedly in November, with output dipping 0.1 per cent, as opposed to the consensus forecast of 0.2 per cent growth. “While it initially appeared that the Canadian economy smoothly decelerated late last year, it now looks like Canada stumbled as it approached the 2011 finish line,” CIBC quipped in a note.
Dragging down overall output was a 2.5 per cent drop in oil and gas extraction activity, possibly due to low oil and gas prices and softening demand for exports. Notably, construction in both the residential and non-residential sector was down 0.3 per cent.
The November slowdown is expected to bring down quarterly growth from a projected two per cent annualized expansion. Recession–defined by economists as two consecutive quarters of negative growth–isn’t necessarily upon us. But with Europe teetering on the brink of fiscal disaster, global demand cooling, and the Canadian housing market possibly due for a downturn–which could shave as much as one per cent off of GDP, according to some estimates–is it really time for the Harper government to pull the breaks on public spending?
Another concern is that, with rates already at record lows, there’s little the Bank of Canada can do to soften the impact of deficit cuts with expansionary monetary policy. As Stephen Gordon noted yesterday, there are steep costs associated with introducing austerity at the wrong point of the business cycle.
By Peter Nowak - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 1:38 PM - 0 Comments
The New York Times tried to stir things up over the weekend with a lengthy investigation into the working conditions at Apple’s manufacturing plants in China. The story detailed all the gruesome details at supplier companies such as Foxconn: unsafe working environments, unfair overtime, overcrowding in dormitories, violations of employments codes and so on.
It’s a damning story, intended to appeal to peoples’ consciences when it comes to the electronics they buy. It is, after all, hard to feel warm and fuzzy about your new iPad when you think of the human cost that went into making it.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 1:36 PM - 0 Comments
“There are tough, important choices that must be made,” Stephen Harper wrote to his caucus 16 days ago. All righty then. Let’s talk about choices and Old Age Security. One thing I’m going to resist doing is handing out white hats and black hats. There are fewer heroes and villains in this story than, well, choices.
Here (.pdf) is the Ninth Actuarial Report on the Old Age Security Program As At 31 December 2009, tabled before Parliament three months ago. The government says it took a look at that report and had a fright. “Demographic changes will have a major impact on the ratio of workers to retirees,” it says, with the result that “Total annual expenditures are projected to increase… from $36.5 billion in 2010 to… $108 billion by 2030.”
Out went the talking points. The cost of the program will triple! Something must be done! They were more reticent about the next paragraph, which says cost of the program as a fraction of GDP is projected to rise from 2.3% in 2010 to 3.1% in 2030, before declining after that. So 2030 will indeed be a high-water mark in the entire history of the OAS program’s cost, but it’s not really a tripling because everything, including our ability to pay, will have increased in the meantime.
Still, big bump up. Point taken. But then there’s this. Here’s (.pdf) the Second Actuarial Report on the Old Age Security Program As At 31 December 1991, tabled in Parliament on Feb. 7, 1994 — about the time a 34-year-old rookie Reform MP named Stephen Harper would have been getting used to his new job. That report said the total annual cost of OAS would grow from $34 billion in 2010 (it’s in the chart on page 4) to $119 billion in 2030. An even bigger increase than the one projected by the most recent report, but pretty much the same scale. And indeed, on Page 3, that actuary 19 years ago picked 2030 as the peak date for the cost of the OAS program.
Demographics doesn’t change radically from year to year. So anyone reading the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th or 8th Actuarial Reports on the Old Age Security Program would have seen the same trend lines that the government says spurred it to action now. Never mind last May’s election — this could have been an issue in any of the last six federal elections. (As we’ll see, and as many of you already know, it sort of was, once early on.) There quite literally could not possibly have been more warning.
So that’s one thing.
Then there’s this. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 12:51 PM - 0 Comments
The Conservative party platform for last year’s election contained two references to Old Age Security. One was a tangential reference, noting that seniors could withdraw funds from Tax-Free Savings Accounts without “any clawback of their OAS or GIS payments.” The other reference is a boast that the Harper government “eliminated Old Age Security payments to prisoners.”
News coverage of Old Age Security during the election seems to have been minimal, but in April the Peterborough Examiner reported on a forum with local candidates that included the question, “What would you do about old age security?” The Examiner relayed the following from Conservative incumbent Dean Del Mastro.
The Conservative government removed one million low-income seniors from the federal tax rolls. “The last thing we should be doing is increasing their burden at a time when we see they are burdened enough.” He pointed to top-ups to the pensions of low-income seniors in the 2011 budget…. “We got back into the affordable housing business.” The government made investments in seniors housing. “Progress is being made.” The federal government needs to look at keeping costs for seniors down, such as energy costs.
Perhaps interestingly, Liberal candidate Betsy McGregor countered with the following. Continue…
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 12:23 PM - 0 Comments
But Gingrich promises long fight for Republican nomination
After more than a week of vitriolic stump speeches, “Super PAC”-funded attack ads and televised debates, voters in Florida are finally casting ballots in the state’s Republican primary. Mitt Romney is widely expected to take the day, heading into the vote with polls showing a double-digit lead over his chief rival, the fiery Newt Gingrich.
But that doesn’t mean Gingrich, the unexpected winner of the South Carolina primary earlier in January, is backing down. Speaking at a Baptist church in the city of Lutz, the former House speaker said his party “will not nominate a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase moderate from Massachusetts,” predicting instead that “this is going to be a straight out contest for the next four or five months.”
That may indeed be the case, thanks in no small part to new rules governing Republican primaries this year. In order to win the nomination, a candidate needs support from 1,144 delegates at the Republican convention later this year. But, for the first time, Republican primary votes held before April aren’t operating on a winner-take-all basis. Instead, losing candidates can take a percentage of a state’s delegates. As the New York Times wrote Tuesday, “under that system, finishing second can be nearly as fruitful as winning.”
That means Gingrich, who is vying for support from the Tea Party and Christian evangelical wing of the party, may well be able to have enough support to take the Republican fight all the way to the convention floor.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Baird urges Palestinian leaders to restart direct talks with Israel
As one Palestinian official noted Monday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird can be a frank, straight talking man. “There’s no mistaking where he stands,” he told the Globe and Mail.
No kidding. Baird and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are currently touring Israel and the West Bank. On Monday, the duo met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other senior Palestinian officials, where they expressed Canada’s opposition to their bid for recognition as a sovereign state by the UN. Baird reportedly called it “profoundly wrong.”
The foreign minister also lined up in support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling the Palestinian leadership he believes they should return to peace negotiations with Israel without any preconditions. For months, Palestinian leaders have refused to hold direct talks, pointing to the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. According to the organization Peace Now Israel, the rate of settlement construction in the West Bank jumped 20 per cent in 2011.
Baird added Monday that, “whether it is rockets raining down on Israeli schools, or the constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and delegitimization, Israel is under attack.” He went on to frame Canada’s unequivocal support for Israel as a brave move that flies in the face of dominant anti-Israeli sentiment amongst the international community. Clearly, Baird is working to entrench Canada as one of the world’s most unbending supporters of the Israeli government.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:53 AM - 0 Comments
League claims broadcasts can’t be shared with company’s wireless competitors
The National Football League has suited up and joined forces with BCE Inc. in its rumble with the Canadian Radio and Television Commission.
The CRTC ruled in December that BCE—which owns Bell Mobility, CTV and TSN—would not be allowed to restrict its hockey and football broadcasts to its own wireless subscribers.
The NFL, evidently, begs to differ. As reported in the Globe and Mail, the football league is arguing that no wireless providers except BCE can offer its content.
If you’re worried about how this is going to affect your Super Bowl party, don’t be. The NFL’s beef with the CRTC is only for content delivered on mobile devices like smart phones. (The league is refusing to allow Bell to share its NFL broadcasting rights with competitors like Telus, Inc.)
Now, it’s up to the CRTC to decide what to do. The commission can either let it slide, or set up a mad-dog blitz for a federal court ruling. Game on.
By Jen Cutts - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
Former U.K. chief of staff admits what the Russians already knew
It sounds more like an episode of Inspector Gadget than one of international relations, but a former U.K. official has admitted that Britain used a fake rock to spy on Russia. Six years ago, Russia’s security service, the FSB, claimed British agents had been using handheld computers and a transmitter—concealed inside a plastic rock and planted in a Moscow park—to retrieve data planted by Russian double agents. At the time, then-prime minister Tony Blair downplayed the accusations. But Jonathan Powell, Blair’s former chief of staff, said in a BBC documentary that aired on Jan. 19 that Britain had indeed been caught red-handed.
“They had us bang to rights,” Powell confessed. “There’s not much you can say. The spy rock was embarrassing.” Russia was apparently tipped off to the rock’s significance after the device stopped working. Surveillance footage showed several men slowing as they walked by the rock; one stopped to give it a kick (using the favoured technique of DIYers everywhere), another carried it away.
And why has Powell chosen to break the first rule of spying now? It’s certainly a humbling revelation for Britain’s spy service. Not only was the espionage work so bumbling, but the U.K. was violating a post-Cold War agreement not to spy on Russia. (That said, the number of Russian spys in London “has not fallen since Soviet times,” according to MI5’s website.) Nikolai Kovalyov, a Russian politician and former FSB head, told a Russian news agency that Powell’s admission “is a serious signal from London that it is time to improve our relations.” Perhaps a step forward in an often rocky relationship?
By Emma Teitel - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Our gravy-conscious government should pay more attention to which belts they’re tightening
The verdict is in: governments far and wide must “tighten their belts,” “cut the fat,” “purge the gravy” and “stop the insanity” in order to curb their enormous debts. The euro is hanging on for dear life (apparently), America is going to hell in a handbasket (allegedly) and Canada is—though decidedly okay—accumulating household debt at a very risky rate, according to our patron god of finance, Mark Carney. Ontario, or Onterrible, as it’s known elsewhere, is particularly gifted in the art of acquiring debt (the province is supposed to exceed $250 billion) and Toronto’s most polarizing mayor in history—Rob Ford—has, of late, spent more time tightening his own belt than his city’s. By “eating like a rabbit,” says a slowly shrinking Ford, he has shed up to 10 lb. in the past week. Toronto’s fiscal situation, meanwhile, hasn’t been so fortunate—and its citizens (myself included) haven’t exactly warmed to the idea that controversial budget cuts may be in order. So what to do? Can Ford curb the debt? And more importantly, can any Canadian leader curb his constituents’ debt without slashing popular public programs and policies?
Probably not. It would be a potential insult to our intelligence to think so. But I have a proposal: why don’t leaders cut every program and initiative that offends the average person’s intelligence, and save money in the process. What programs, you might ask? Take the one I encounter every time I use a public washroom:
“This is a message from the Public Health Agency of Canada: Wet your hands. Put a small amount of liquid soap in the palm of one hand. Rub your hands together for 20 seconds so you produce lather. Rinse your hands well with clean running water for at least 10 seconds. Dry your hands with a single use paper towel. Use hand lotion to put moisture back into your skin if your hands are dry. Model good handwashing technique to your children … Have them sing a song like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while rubbing their hands together to teach them the amount of time it takes to clean their hands properly.”
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:37 AM - 0 Comments
Band leaders are asking a judge to overturn Ottawa’s decision to send in an outside manager
Even though the issue has somewhat faded from view—what’s all this about an “honour killing” trial?—poverty and substandard housing remain in the northern Ontario First Nations community of Attawapiskat. Community leaders are in court today to fight the federal government’s decision to send a “third party manager” to take control of the First Nation’s finances. The band wants Chief Theresa Spence to regain that power, and accuses the government of trying to redirect attention away from the impoverishment of the community towards the band’s management of the community, which announced a state of emergency last year.
“Never did we think that one party would come to us and say, ‘You cannot deal with this yourself. We are the government here, and step aside, we’re coming in,’ ” said grand chief of northern Ontario Stan Loutitt, quoted by the CBC. “To me, that is morally and legally wrong.”
The decision to send in an outside manager is currently under judicial review. The result isn’t expected until late April.
Meanwhile, the government has promised to deliver 22 new modular homes to Attawapiskat. But their delivery has been delayed as officials wait for the solidification of an ice road, the only land route into the community.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
The government sent up Joyce Bateman during QP yesterday to lament that the NDP wanted to expand the Canada Pension Plan. Specifically, the NDP’s plan in the last election was to gradually double CPP over a period of seven years.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was not present to hear this, which is perhaps just as well, seeing as how Mr. Flaherty also used to support an expansion of CPP. And, as David Akin notes, Mr. Flaherty also just allowed an increase in those dreaded payroll taxes.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:24 AM - 0 Comments
WikiLeaks founder will be featured in an episode of The Simpsons and has a Russian TV show in the works
Between staining his teeth with another cup of English Breakfast tea and twiddling away the hours under house arrest in Britain, Julian Assange managed to record his lines for an upcoming episode of The Simpsons. That’s right. The controversial founder and figurehead of Wikileaks is playing himself on an episode set to air Feb. 19, which just so happens to be the show’s 500th episode. Known details of the plot are few, but one can imagine the possibilities for humour: poking fun at Assange’s cold intensity, swollen ego and status as a thorn in the hide of the American political establishment.
Voicing his character on The Simpsons isn’t the only thing Assange has been up to as he awaits the possibility of extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual misconduct. He’s also been filming a new talk show, funded by the Kremlin, to appear on English language Russia Today. (Assange is the host.) According to Reuters, Assange will lead talks with 10 “key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries.” It’s called “The World Tomorrow” and it’s slated to air in March.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:05 AM - 0 Comments
‘Brunswick News’ subscribers save $3 on their online subscription if get a hard copy
How much is a newspaper worth in the age of the Internet? If you live in New Brunswick, the answer might be nothing at all. Or perhaps even less.
The Irving family, owners of Brunswick News, which controls most of that province’s newspapers, recently erected a strict paywall for their online products. If you want to read so much as a headline of the Telegraph-Journal, the Daily Gleaner, or any other Brunswick News paper online, you now need a subscription, which at the moment costs $19.95 per month. But under a deal now available on Brunswick News websites, customers can get full online access for $16.95 per month. The only catch? They have to accept physical delivery of a daily paper as well, at no additional cost.
The Irvings are essentially paying online customers $3 a month to take their printed paper six days a week. The company declined to comment on its motives, but the move appears designed to shore up the print advertising business that still provides most newspaper revenues. At the same time, it may hope to entice some online-only customers to become print readers, too. The risk is that, faced with a paywall, customers used to free news online may become readers of no news at all.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Jammeh promises to wipe them out unless they become more productive
“Lazy workers” will be the target of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh in his new term in office. The long-serving leader, who has been in power since a coup in 1994, was sworn in for a new five-year period on Jan. 19 after a November election widely seen as tainted. In his inauguration speech, Jammeh vowed to “wipe out almost 82 per cent” of workers if they don’t become more productive.
Exactly what he meant by that is unclear. Massamba Jagne of the Gambian Canadian Cultural Association of Toronto says, “He’s the one who’s lazy.” Jagne adds that “Gambians are not lazy. Actual Gambian citizens are developed. Not the government. The little development that is in Gambia is being done by actual citizens who are building businesses.”
A country of 1.8 million, Gambia has an average annual income of $456. Jagne, who was in Gambia during the November presidential election, says he witnessed blatant government abuse of advertising space for political purposes. “In the middle of the night—that’s when you would see the opposition’s ads. During the daytime, it was all Jammeh,” he says. No wonder Jammeh won with 72 per cent of the vote.
By Charlie Gillis and Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
High stakes and big bucks lure athletes, who risk injury, and their lives, for sport
These are the days when sports confound. In a cruel split second, the steady rise of a gentle, pioneering athlete destined for Olympic stardom lurched, violently, to tragedy. Canada’s Sarah Burke, the winningest female freeskier in the history of the sport, crash-landed an alley-oop flatspin trick in a Utah half-pipe. Her death, nine days later, has given the sport momentary pause.
Burke had pulled the simple manoeuvre time and again, according to her friend, skier Peter Olenick, who was riding with her in Park City. In landing, her ski “caught an edge,” whiplashing her, head first, into the icy pipe. The impact knocked her unconscious. Initially, Olenick figured she’d broken her collarbone. Soon, however, emergency personnel swarmed her, performing CPR. Burke, who had no pulse and could no longer breathe on her own, was rushed by helicopter to hospital where Olenick, among others, began a bedside vigil.
The only word on her condition came from Olenick’s younger sister Meg, another pro skier. In a message that appeared momentarily on Twitter, the 21-year-old said Burke’s eyelids fluttered and her heart rate increased when she was spoken to. Few, even within skiing’s tight-knit community, understood the severity of Burke’s injuries. After all, they’d seen her bounce back from countless injuries, and far worse falls.
By Kate Lunau - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:50 AM - 0 Comments
Jon Turk and Erik Boomer dodge polar bears and elude death during their 104 day journey
Jon Turk and Erik Boomer recently completed a circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, in Nunavut—the first time this has ever been done, so far as published history tells us. It took them 104 days to complete the 2,400-km trip by ski, sea kayak and on foot. Boomer is a professional photographer; Turk is a science writer who’s lived in the North and now splits his time between Montana and British Columbia. Maclean’s spoke to Boomer, 26, in San Diego, Calf., and Turk, 66, in Fernie, B.C.
Q: Why Ellesmere Island?
JT: In 1988, I travelled there, and I totally fell in love with the place. Ellesmere is one of the most wild and pristine places on Earth. I thought, I would like to circumnavigate Ellesmere. I decided it was impossible, and shelved it. But something was nagging at me that I was just making excuses for myself, that it really was possible. Years went by.
Now I’m in my mid-sixties, and I said I have to go into the ice one more time. I was planning the trip with [professional kayaker] Tyler Bradt. He recommended we bring another person: his friend Erik Boomer. We plan the trip, ship food, get the boats, get the sponsors, and then Tyler breaks his back doing a waterfall jump in his kayak. [He has since recovered.] So it’s just me and Boomer. There was a big question: do we go or do we wait? And I say, I can’t wait. I’m pushing the age barrier, and if we push this off a couple of more years I’m out, so we’ve got to do it now.
EB: I wrote down the pros and cons—the worst case scenario of being rescued, starving, not making it, failure. I wrote out the pros and after looking at it, it was pretty obvious I wanted to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity I was given.
Q: How did the trip begin?
EB: We took off for Ellesmere Island at the beginning of May and headed out on the circumnavigation [leaving from Grise Fiord, Nunavut] May 7. We headed out on completely frozen sea ice, and we were pulling sea kayaks over that ice. Our kayaks were packed with all our gear: sleeping bag, stove, fuel, tent, water, lots of food. You’re skiing on cross-country skis, and pulling this 220-lb. kayak. You basically become a hauling machine.
The 24-hour Arctic sun was something I wasn’t used to, and allowed you to have really big, full days. Ellesmere Island has some of the highest mountains in the Arctic Circle. Along our right the whole way, there were these 3,000 to 6,000-ft. peaks reaching down into the ocean. It was quite amazing. At times, you’re weaving through this maze of these deep blue icebergs.
JT: It’s not flat ice. You have currents and wind and the ice starts to freeze, and then buckles. You have chunks of ice that can be two metres thick and 10 m high, and vertical, or near-vertical. It becomes very important to your mode of travel what the ice is like, and what the seascape is like—how smooth it is, how much you’re going to have to drag your boats over 10-m-high chunks of blue ice. The mountains were pretty background scenery, but I remember the intimate moment-by-moment structure of the ice.
Q: Did you have any close encounters with the wildlife you encountered?
JT: We had lots of beautiful moments with wildlife, and some intense ones. This one day, we were sleeping, and the wind was blowing, and the tent had a billowing motion in the wind. You learn to sleep with that; it’s soothing. All of a sudden there was a different motion. A polar bear had bitten a hole in our tent and stuck its face inside.
EB: When you encounter a bear, you’re such a foreign object that they’re extremely curious. I always had the gun ready when they were within attack range, just in case. And we would do everything in our power to let them know that we were a potential threat, and if they mess with us, they’re going to get hurt. When that bear put its head in our tent, we looked it in the eyes and yelled and screamed, and luckily we convinced him we were tougher than he was. I never thought I’d be tough-talking a polar bear.
Walruses are also really big and aggressive, and they know how to use their tusks. Another day, in the early morning, we were paddling through a really beautiful iceberg area, it was so serene and monotonous. Literally in the snap of a finger, this walrus exploded out of the water and I found myself bracing. It charged me multiple times and I couldn’t get away—it was incredibly scary, and I felt really vulnerable. I had about a 15- to 20-second struggle, and then, just as quick as it came, it was gone. It was almost like a dream.
JT: That was scarier than any of our polar bear encounters. With bears, you have time.
Q: How did the conditions change?
JT: We started out on solid ice. And then went to melting ice, where there’s meltwater on top and you’re pulling through slush. When we got to the northeast corner, where Ellesmere and Greenland are just 12 miles apart, it was early July, and summer is progressing, and the ice starts to break up. To the north there’s no more land, it’s just the North Pole ice cap. And you have this old, multi-year, roughed-up, banged-up ice flowing down from an ocean full of ice, pushed into a strait that’s 12 miles across, smashing into these cliffs. This is the kind of compression that sunk many, many ships. You get into that kind of compression and it breaks things. Certainly it will kill a kayaker.
We get here and go, ‘How are we going to get through this?’ By working the tides and momentary lapses in the wind, staying very close to shore, we eked along the coast about 17 miles in 17 days, going really short distances, working really hard. Sometimes we paddled at high tide, and then a big chunk of ice would come in and leave us a channel, and we’ll paddle a few hundred yards to a mile. Sometimes we unloaded our boats and carried them on land to the next spot. During that time period, we were getting frustrated because we weren’t getting anywhere. One day we said, this is crazy, we have to make a move. So we went out on the ice floe.
EB: We went out to the ice and hopped on, and literally sailed a massive ice chunk through the channel. We had our GPS out, and we’re moving one mile an hour south, feeling like we’re on a huge cruise ship, and we’re about to get around this point we’d not yet been around. So we set up tent [on the ice floe] and decided to let her go. We were startled to wake up in the middle of the night to find we’re going three miles an hour, and when we checked our heading, we were going three miles an hour north, and we were blown into the ocean from where we’d begun this ice journey.
Q: What happened?
EB: We were once again humbled and scared by the power of nature and the power of the ice. We hightailed it back to shore in this lull period between tides when the water doesn’t move much for an hour. We had to work our way back up the coast to get back where we were. It wasn’t until the wind blew from the southwest, which didn’t happen that often, that it pulled the ice off and created a channel for us to paddle through.
JT: The ice seemed to be dispersing. So we got up at nine in the morning, we paddled out, looked at the ice, got terrified, and ran back to camp. We went out again in the late afternoon, and the same thing happened. And then, at nine at night, it really seemed like the wind was holding the ice off, and we had room to paddle in. So we paddled out, looked at each other and said, we’ve got to go for it.
Q: How was the finish?
JT: The last two days of the trip were easy paddling. We had a good time of it. We cruised in. But my body had been fighting so hard to stay functional that once it was no longer imperative to function, it let its guard down. Thirty-nine hours after completing the trip, I went into total metabolic shutdown. It was really scary. The clinic in Grise Fiord contacted the global rescue we had an insurance policy through, who contacted a medical team at Johns Hopkins University. They said, ‘Go get him, he’s dying.’ They flew me to Ottawa General hospital. I was met there by a team of nine doctors. And they whipped me back into shape. I just needed to be jump-started.
EB: It was really amazing that it didn’t happen out on the land, where it would take even longer to get him evacuated.
Q: How did it feel to complete a circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, something that had never been done?
EB: I just feel honoured and lucky I was able to be a part of it. The most powerful thing out there is this overwhelming sense of freedom, and a sense of knowing you could kind of go anywhere. And there’s nothing out there to distract you.
JT: This is something that’s been on my mind since 1988 and I’ve completed it. But that sense of accomplishment is the least of my feelings. I’ve had a lifetime of adventuring, and I set out to go into the ice, and to live in this landscape one last time. It’s not like I’m going to retire and never go outside again, but I’m never going to push my body this hard again. And so for me, there was this wonderful feeling of accomplishing this goal, and also this, not really a sadness, just it is what it is. You get old. This is what happens. But just the fond reminiscing of this life I’ve lived, and to realize that I’m not going to go there again.
By Angelina Chapin - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
Freedom 85, anyone?
It was after a series of four 20-hour days that Barbara Bergen decided to switch careers. She was producing a TV commercial in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains that required early morning and late afternoon light, leaving a short window in the middle of the day for trying to nap at the hotel. Her cellphone buzzed incessantly with more to do. When it was over, she did a face plant into her bed and didn’t get up for two days. “At 52, I woke up and smelled the coffee,” says Bergen from her new home in Nelson, B.C. “At 53, I made the change.”
If that seems late in the game to be switching careers, consider this: according to Statistics Canada, 34 per cent of Canadians 55 and older were employed in 2010, compared to just 22 per cent in 1996. The road to retirement is paved with, well, more years, and making it toward the end often requires a mid-life job change. For Bergen, who had worked in the film business for 26 years, it meant something less physically demanding: she began an online business in 2007, selling urns that she designs and manufactures. “I needed something I could do well into my old age,” she says, “and thought this would be relatively bulletproof.” Then, in 2008, after already losing money in a divorce the previous year, her RRSPs were hammered by the stock market crash. She was left with a quarter of her savings.
Bergen, now 58, is an example of two key problems Canadians are facing when it comes to retirement: we are living longer and it’s harder to save. According to the Public Health Agency, by 2026 one in five Canadians will be 65 or older (in 2001, it was one in eight). Life expectancy has increased to 79 years for men and 84 for women. But with age comes responsibility, and two-thirds of pre-retirees responded to a 2011 MetLife Retirement Income IQ survey saying the odds of living longer is their number one financial risk. In a poll by the Canadian Payroll Association, 40 per cent said they were planning on late retirement due to a lack of savings. “Freedom 55 is a miss,” says Diane McCurdy of Vancouver-based McCurdy Financial Planning Inc., “and Freedom 60 is vanishing.” According to Bergen, “it’s Freedom 85” or bust. And if you’re part of Gen Y or younger, it’s not unimaginable living—maybe even working—until you’re 100.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
A resident files a human rights complaint after city officials dig up his past
The city of Gatineau in Quebec laid out its “statement of values” for immigrants late last year and immediately set off a firestorm of criticism. Among Gatineau’s instructions to immigrants: avoid cooking “smelly foods,” maintain good “personal hygiene” and abstain from bribing. One of those incensed by the guide was Kamal Maghri, a 38-year-old Moroccan immigrant who moved to Canada 11 years ago. But when Maghri sent an email to the city to say he would like to file a complaint, what he got back surprised him. City officials accidentally copied him on an internal exchange that showed they’d dug extensively into his background, calling a local Islamic centre to ask about him and prying into his financial situation.
In the emails, one employee noted Maghri had come to Canada “just before the September 11 attacks” and that he was in debt. “I was shocked. This is racial profiling,” he says. Even more astonishing, he says he later learned that the city official who wrote the email was a “diversity coordinator.” “They [Gatineau City] have people working on diversity and integration of immigrants who don’t even believe in it,” he says. Only after Maghri went to the media did officials apologize to him.
In mid-December, Maghri was contacted by the Montreal-based Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations offering to help file a human rights complaint, which he did in mid-January. The complaint claims discrimination and racial profiling on the part of the city of Gatineau, both based on the values guide and on the email that Maghri read.
At least one expert believes Maghri has a strong case. Jeffrey Reitz, a professor with the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and an immigration expert, says the guide “stereotypes immigrants in a negative way,” portraying them as “a threat” to our society.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
The archetypal “have not” province is bringing in foreign workers to help fill jobs
There may be no more surefire sign of an economic boom in Canada than a shortage of staff at the local Tim Hortons. It happened in northern Alberta when Fort McMurray exploded with oil sands-related activity. And now it’s happening in Deer Lake, in western Newfoundland. “We’re in the midst of a period of poor availability,” says local Tim Hortons’ owner Oral Clarke. He plans to bring in foreign workers from the Philippines to ﬁll out his staff.
For a town of 5,000 that sits at a highway interchange near the entrance to Gros Morne National Park—never mind in a province with the highest unemployment rate in the country at 13.1 per cent—this may seem like a strange conundrum. But it’s indicative of a growing problem on the Rock. After decades of being Canada’s archetypal “have not” province, Newfoundland and Labrador is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom. And the record expansion brings an unfamiliar problem: an acute shortage of labour. “For years we’ve had people leaving the province because of too few jobs,” says Richard Alexander, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council. “All of a sudden there’s been a switch and we’re entering an area where we have excess jobs and too few people to ﬁll those jobs.”
More than $43 billion is pouring into major development projects across the province. Among the most prominent are the $8.3-billion Hebron offshore oil platform, the $3-billion Long Harbour nickel processing plant, and the $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls Lower Churchill hydroelectric project. The government surplus—once a rare ﬁgure on provincial balance sheets—climbed far beyond expectations to $755 million last year, thanks mostly to oil revenues, says Memorial University economist Wade Locke. In a report titled “ Outlook 2020,” the province estimated that 77,000 job vacancies will open up over the next eight years (with more projects announced since the report, that estimate is widely perceived to be conservative).
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:18 AM - 0 Comments
The Conservative backbencher deviates from the script.
In a recent commentary aired on News Talk 650 CKOM, Trost said other western democracies such as Britain and the United States are mature enough to have more vigorous debates within parties. “Contrast that to Canada, where party discipline is ironclad,” Trost said. “If everyone in a party thinks the same on every issue, not a lot of thinking is going on.”
… Trost said he admires politicians of all stripes who have voted according to their conscience or the will of residents in their ridings, rather than blindly following the national party line. “We need to have a cultural change. I think it would relax everybody,” Trost said. “The (party) whip needs to have less authority over members.”
At least for those who disagree with his views on abortion, Mr. Trust is becoming a fun test of democratic principles.
See previously: The meaning of Brad Trost
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Newt Gingrich, yesterday. “He recently vetoed the Keystone pipeline. Now, think about it! He did it to appease left-wing environmental extremists in San Francisco.”
Joe Oliver, September 27. “The NDP has decided to stand against these jobs and ally itself with a few environmental extremists who want to shutter all oil sands development.”
By Brian Bethune - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
Book by Ferdinand von Schirach
For more than half a century, the words “German” and “guilt” have had a relationship inescapably entangled in history. That legacy of Nazi crime—and postwar repentance—subtly but unmistakably resonates right through von Schirach’s exquisite short stories, and not only because he is a grandson of Baldur von Schirach, head of the Hitler Youth and a Nuremberg-convicted war criminal. Even though the setting for Guilt is present day, it’s impossible not to hear echoes of the past when a woman is asked, long after a child is raped, why she did and said nothing when she saw the girl being forced into a neighbour’s apartment. “It wasn’t my business,” Frau Halbert replies to every question. “It was nothing to do with me.”
Yet the real shadow of Nazism lying over the 15 stories is cast, paradoxically enough, by its absence. The unnamed narrator is a criminal defence lawyer (von Shirach’s former job) who represents or advises clients who have come into some contact with the postwar German legal code, which in vehement reaction to the past, now bends over backwards to protect the rights of the accused. The crimes involved range from the prosaic to the bizarre, the understandable to the horrifying. Some clients emerge scot-free, some go to jail; the narrator, no Perry Mason but a competent and compassionate professional, does his best by them all.
One story—involving psychotic but bumbling career criminals and a laxative-stuffed mastiff trapped in a luxury Maserati—is both appalling and very funny. But the rest, all told in a detached and utterly engrossing manner that plays on the opening quote from Aristotle—“Things are as they are”—leave a reader not amused but wonderstruck. There is guilt aplenty to go around. Two teenaged runaways are invited in from the cold by a friendly seeming older man. He turns out to be a pedophile and in the subsequent struggle the boy and girl kill him, half accidentally, half-deliberately. They get away clean and turn their lives around; 19 years later, solid citizens with two children of their own, they open the door to find cold-case cops with new DNA evidence. They kill themselves. Pin the guilt in that.
That’s more easily done in the jewel of the collection, “Funfair.” There, police and medical personnel must face the fact it was their haphazard handling of the evidence that will allow the perpetrators of a vicious crime to walk free. The narrator, coolly leveraging that incompetence for the sake of his clients, scarcely feels better about himself. But he gets over it, as does almost but not everyone else in Guilt, von Shirach’s ultimate theme.