Canada NOTES

October 21 1996

Canada NOTES

October 21 1996

Canada NOTES



The Quebec government agreed to remove a number of barriers that have made it difficult for Ontario workers and companies to secure construction jobs in Quebec. Among other things, Quebec will end the requirement that Ontario contractors take competency exams and will eliminate the $100 administrative fee now charged to Ontario workers. Ontario had threatened to close the boundary to Quebec construction workers if these measures were not adopted.


Groups representing disabled people expressed dismay after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a lower court ruling that said it was unconstitutional to force students with disabilities into special classes. “The boards of education can now discriminate,” said Gordon Simpson, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres. “It’s appalling.”


Keith Milligan was sworn in as the new premier of Prince Edward Island along with a cabinet that is identical to the one that served under his predecessor, Catherine Callbeck. Milligan, a 16-year veteran of the P.E.I. legislature, won the Liberal leadership race over three opponents on Oct. 5. He is widely expected to call a provincial election for later this fall.


Retired physician Harold Swanson, 67, upstaged Alberta Premier Ralph Klein by winning more than 25 per cent of the vote at a meeting that confirmed Klein as the Conservative candidate in the riding of Calgary-Elbow. Swanson got a standing ovation at the meeting by railing against provincial health-care cuts.


Montreal’s Concordia University welcomed back professor M. N. S. Swamy after he was cleared of allegations of misuse of research funds. Swamy, the former head of the university’s engineering and computer science department, was first implicated in alleged wrongdoing by Valery Fabrikant, the engineering professor who killed four colleagues in August, 1992. Last week, Concordia also unveiled a memorial to the slain professors.

The battle for Banff

The trend towards unfettered development in Canada's oldest and most popular national park must end if it is to sur-

vive as one of the nation’s most treasured resources. That was the central conclusion of a $2-million, 27-month-long federal task force investigation into the future of Banff National Park, released last week. “Banff can become a model for ecotourism into the 21st century,”

Heritage Minister Sheila Copps told a news conference at the park. But, she warned: “If we don’t get our act together, this park may not exist in 50 years.” Five million people are drawn each year to Banff’s spectacular mountains, lakes and wildlife, injecting an estimated $750 million into the local economy. If recent patterns continue, the report predicts that as many as 19 million visitors will descend on the 2,600square-mile preserve in the year 2020. To ensure that development pressures do not overwhelm the ecological integrity of the park, Copps immediately acted on several of the task force’s 500 recommendations. Among them:

ordering that no new parkland will be available for commercial use; capping the permanent population in the town of Banff at 10,000 people (it is now 7,600); and closing a small airfield and military cadet camp that blocks a wildlife corridor. Jim Abbott, the Reform party’s heritage critic, denounced the whole tenor of the task force report. Its recommendations, he said, catered to “environmental elitists.”


Taxing options

Finance Minister Paul Martin said he was resisting temptation. With a federal election looming, Martin told the House of Commons finance committee that the idea of offering a substantial tax cut held some allure. But such a measure, he added, would damage Canada’s reputation in the financial markets and require more spending cuts. “Those who propose broad-based tax cuts,” said Martin, “never tell people which major programs would be [sacrificed] to compensate."

Liberal members of the finance committee applauded when Martin confirmed that the federal deficit figure for 1995-1996 would be $28.6 billion—a full $4.1 billion lower than the government had forecast. Reform party Leader Preston Manning, who was expected to unveil his own spending and tax cut proposals this week, said that “only in the never-never land of Ottawa” would a $29-billion deficit receive an ovation.

Remembering Bourassa

More than 2,000 people pressed into Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica for the state funeral of former Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, who died on Oct. 2 at age 63 after a long battle with skin cancer. Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte told the mourners—who included Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard and many other prominent Canadian politicians and foreign dignitaries—that Bourassa was a “man of compassion.” Cardinal Turcotte added that “no one will be able from now on to tell the story of Quebec without mentioning his name, his work.” Within two days, however, Bourassa’s name—or at least the use of it—had become the source of controversy. A front-page story in La Presse reported that Montreal city council’s executive committee wanted to rename historic Sherbrooke Street after Bourassa, who served as premier from 1970 to 1976 and again from 1985 to 1994. Anglophones inundated City Hall and local radio stations with calls expressing outrage over the prospect of giving one of their favorite thoroughfares—home to McGill University and the RitzCarlton Hotel, among other landmarks—a French name. Montreal Mayor Pierre Bourque quickly assured them that, while the city was looking for a public area to name after Bourassa, the story citing Sherbrooke as the choice was “unfounded.”