January 13 1986


January 13 1986


Pay day in the House

Last year, to set an example of budgetary restraint, Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his cabinet took a small pay cut. Mulroney collected $129,900 in salary and expenses in 1985, a decrease of $800 from the 1984 total of $130,700 for the job, and ministers earned $110,300, a $500 drop. But a Jan. 1 salary increase for all members of ParLament more than made up for last year’s restraint. After the annual increase—calculated at

about one percentage point below inflation under a complicated formula which took effect in 1981—Mulroney will collect about $133,000—his basic salary of $78,800 plus a taxfree allowance of $54,200. The sum does not include such perquisites as free residences and transportation. Mulroney’s 38 cabinet colleagues will earn $112,900, while the basic income for MPs rises to $74,500 from $72,800 last year. The government is studying a report by two former MPs which recommends that members should get a raise to about $86,700 because of their long hours and heavy workload.

A sombre new search

Acting on a request from the U.S. army, RCMP investigators will conduct a follow-up search this week on the scorched hillside at Gander, Nfid., where 248 American soldiers and eight crew members died in the crash of a DC-8 airliner on Dec. 12. Searchers will erect five wood-frame shelters to cover the site as they melt snow and earth over an area nearly the size of a football field, looking for missing parts of bodies of the crash victims. American officials asked the RCMP to conduct the new search after pathologists at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware had been able to establish positive identifications for only 100 of the 256 victims. Authorities said that unless more remains are found at the site it will be difficult to make further identifications. Pathologists encountered an unexpected setback when they discovered that many of the dead soldiers’ medical records were aboard the jet. Meanwhile, the first funerals for those already identified were held in the United States on Dec. 28. And in Ottawa Canadian Aviation Safety Board technicians began last week to disassemble the chartered DC-8’S four engines—including one whose thrust reverser was found in a deployed position—for clues to the cause of the crash.

A struggle over secrecy

The announcement by Justice Minister John Crosbie opened a brittle new chapter in a protracted Ottawa power struggle—the clash between the federal government and Auditor General Kenneth Dye over access to confidential cabinet papers. At a news conference last week in his home town of St. John’s, Crosbie said that the government had decided to appeal a Nov. 1 ruling by the Federal Court of Canada giving Dye the right to see cabinet documents relating to PetroCanada’s 1981 purchase of Petrofina Canada Inc. Dye, who is responsible to Parliament, not the government, went to court in July, 1984, in an attempt to get the documents. He argued that he needed them to determine whether the former Liber-

al government wasted taxpayers’ money in the $1.7-billion Petrofina takeover. Crosbie said that the government could not let the Federal Court ruling stand because without confidentiality ministers would not be free to discuss issues frankly in cabinet. But he also held out an olive branch to Dye, declaring that beginning on Jan. 1 the cabinet would make available to him all nonpolitical documents. “If he wishes, he can accept our new regime and the matter can be dropped,” said Crosbie. But Dye promptly rejected the proposal as “a total nonstarter.” He added that it would not give him any documents which he had not already seen. Declared Dye: “It looks good, but it doesn’t achieve anything.”

Cape Breton’s relief

The pledges of government aid—and more jobs—added lustre to New Year’s celebrations in economically depressed Cape Breton. First, Industry Minister Sinclair Stevens announced that Ottawa will contribute 70 per cent of the $150 million needed to install a new electric forging furnace at Sydney Steel Corp. (Sysco). Then, Nova Scotia Premier John Buchanan agreed to fund the balance. The modernization, allaying fears over the future of the troubled company, was designed to preserve about 1,200 jobs. The aid was extended 30 days after Buchanan broke ranks with other premiers at a Halifax meeting of first ministers in November and backed the federal plan to restrain transfer payments to the provinces. But Independent Cape Breton MLA Paul MacEwan, for one, charged that 1,800 additional Sysco jobs will be lost because the new furnace will require less labor. Meanwhile, federal Environment Minister Tom McMillan unveiled a $24million project to clean up Sydney’s noxious “Tar Pond,” a lagoon polluted by more than 750,000 tons of liquid waste from Sysco’s coke ovens—and laced with heavy metals and hydrocarbons. But the cleanup, expected to employ about 120 people, will not include action against airborne emissions from the ovens, which have been linked to local health problems.

Holding a delayed poll

When British Columbia’s Social Credit government fired all the members of two local school boards last May for failing to submit budgets that met its restraint guidelines, many voters and trustees claimed that Education Minister Jack Heinrich, who replaced the boards in Vancouver and the Vancouver Island community of Cowichan with two appointed trustees, had exceeded his powers. Now, after eight months of controversy Hein-

rich has relented and announced new school board elections for Jan. 30. While most school officials welcomed the news, Vancouver Mayor Michael Harcourt complained that Heinrich’s decision to hold the elections on a Thursday, rather than the customary Saturday, would result in a low turnout, particularly in working-class areas that previously elected left-of-centre trustees. But last week the provincial cabinet announced that the elections would go ahead as planned. The first task of the new trustees will be to prepare new budgets, and many education officials are predicting yet another round of disputes.