CANADA

Canada Notes

February 5 1996
CANADA

Canada Notes

February 5 1996

Canada Notes

Sixth on the Rock

Amid widespread speculation about an imminent snap election call, Newfoundland’s sixth premier, Brian Tobin, was sworn into office. The former federal fisheries minister, who reappointed all 13 cabinet ministers who served under his predecessor, Clyde Wells, indicated that an election call was indeed around the corner as he urged Newfoundlanders to have “a rest this weekend and be ready for an interesting week.” But Tobin, 41, declined to outline any new policy initiatives for the province, saying that, ‘We don’t intend to have policy written on the back of an envelope.”

Still, he pledged that his government would be socially and fiscally responsible, while working towards the revitalization of rural communities and the maintenance of quality health care and education, as well as a united Canada. For Wells, 58, who formally resigned earlier in the day, the moment was clearly bittersweet. “There will always be a twinge of re-

gret that you’re no longer involved in the exciting and challenging aspects of governing the province,” the former premier noted.

Blood scandal

Lawyers for more than 40 groups and individuals—including the federal government, eight provinces and the Canadian Red Cross Society—are to appear in the Federal Court of Canada this week to argue that the 23-monthlong federal commission of inquiry into Canada’s tainted blood scandal has contravened Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court action, spurred by notices of possible misconduct sent to various parties by the inquiry on Dec. 24, will argue that the commission’s chairman, Ontario Court of Appeals Justice Horace Krever, has no right to assign blame in his final report. Representatives of the more than 13,000 Canadians infected through transfusions or blood products with either AIDS or Hepatitis C during the 1980s argued that the legal action is a cynical attempt to keep the truth hidden.

A BIG-TIME BUST

After a 31/2-year undercover operation, the RCMP laid about 1,100 charges involving drug trafficking, money laundering and currency violations against 90 people across Canada and the United States— with further charges expected. As part of a massive sting operation known as Project Eyespy, RCMP officers operated a currency exchange office in downtown Vancouver. The office handled $40 million in criminal cash during the investigation.

FIGHTING OYER WELFARE

In an escalating row over welfare payments, the B.C. government launched a provincial Supreme Court suit against Ottawa, demanding that the federal government turn over $47 million in welfare funding. Ottawa has withheld money because of the province’s controversial three-month residency requirement for welfare applicants. British Columbia claims that because of a 1990 cap on federal payments, federal money for the province ran out two months before Dec.1, when the new residency requirement came into effect, and the $47 million is owing for last October and November.

REPRIEVE FOR RCI

Newly appointed Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, whose mandate includes the CBC, announced an 11th-hour reprieve for the national broadcaster’s shortwave service, Radio Canada International. RCI, which received half its annual $16.5-million budget from the foreign affairs department, was to be closed on March 31. Now, Copps said, she and the new foreign affairs minister, Lloyd Axworthy, have agreed to free up funds for RCl’s continued existence.

BRUTAL MURDER

A 13-year-old boy was convicted of second-degree murder in connection with the brutal murders of an Anglican priest and his wife in suburban Montreal. The youth was one of three teenagers charged in the killings last April of Rev. Frank Toope, 75, and his 70-year-old wife, Jocelyne. The boy faces a maximum of three years in prison.

NO ELECTION—YET

Lucien Bouchard, who is to be sworn in as Quebec premier this week, said he has no intention of calling a provincial election this year. In a speech in Jonquière, where he is running uncontested in a Feb. 19 byelection, Bouchard also said that another referendum on independence will not be held until Quebec straightens out its fiscal problems. But, he added: “That day is not far off.”