Canada

Canada NOTES

MARCH MADNESS:

March 30 1998
Canada

Canada NOTES

MARCH MADNESS:

March 30 1998

Canada NOTES

MARCH MADNESS:

Calgarians were getting around any way they could after the city’s worst-ever March blizzard dumped up to 60 cm of snow in less than 24 hours, paralyzing traffic, cancelling surgeries and causing mayhem with flight schedules. Schools, colleges and the University of Calgary cancelled classes and the downtown core looked like a ghost town. The storm brought out the best in some Calgarians: car dealers allowed dozens of volunteers to borrow four-wheel-drive vehicles to deliver 600 Meals on Wheels lunches to stranded seniors. “There’s an unwritten rule that goes back to the pioneer days, that people will pull together in a crisis,” said local psychologist Shannon St. Pierre.

Chrétien to Manning: 111 sue

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Reform Leader Preston Manning sparred in the House of Commons, after Chrétien named an old friend, B.C. Liberal stalwart and mining promoter Ross Fitzpatrick, to the Senate. Commenting on a business deal between Chrétien and Fitzpatrick 11 years ago that gained Chrétien more than $45,000 in one week, Manning accused the PM of selling the upper chamber seat. Outside the Commons, where MPs’ remarks are not protected against libel as they are in the House, Chrétien threatened to sue. “I hope that Mr. Manning will come in front of you and repeat, ‘Did he buy the seat?’ ” Chrétien told reporters. “If

he repeats it, I will see him in court.”

In 1987, Fitzpatrick sold Chrétien 10,000 shares in his company, Viceroy Resource Corp. Chrétien, who was out of politics at the time and had recently been named a Viceroy director, paid only $8 a share for the stock, which was trading publicly for $12.75. A week later, after the stock rallied, Chrétien sold 5,000 of the shares at $17.13, netting him $45,650. Chrétien, Fitzpatrick said last week, “was in private life. It was a business transaction and there’s no connection whatsoever [to the Senate].” The federal ethics commissioner, meanwhile, said there was no conflict of interest because Chrétien had left politics.

A fight for gay rights

The Supreme Court of Canada began hearing a landmark case involving a lesbian couple’s dispute over alimony. Two Ontario women—identified only as M and H—met in 1980. Their relationship ended in 1992 with M destitute. They settled out of court in January, but Ontario appealed after lower courts said

preventing same-sex couples from claiming support violated their constitutional rights to equality. Ontario lawyer Bob Charney told the court that the province’s family laws protect women in traditional marriages who sacrifice paid work to raise children. Countered Justice Beverley McLachlin: “Why isn’t it an appropriate remedy when the couple have lived together and there is an economic imbalance?”

LIBERALS JUST SAY NO

Federal Conservative Leader Jean Charest had yet to declare whether he wanted the leadership of the Quebec Liberal party, but several potential challengers for the job were already saying no to running against him. Quebec Liberal MNA Pierre Paradis, who ran in the 1983 leadership race but lost, said he would not run again. The next day, federal Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard also declined to run.

HISTORIC HOT ZONE

Indian Affairs Minister Jane Stewart said she would investigate a report that Ottawa knew in the 1930s that aboriginals faced health risks while mining uranium used in the first atomic bombs. CBC TV said Ottawa recruited aboriginals, most from Deline, N.W.T., to mine the uranium without protection-even though a 1932 department of mines report warned of a risk. A number of miners later died of cancer at a relatively early age.

FATAL BRAKE FAILURE

Mechanic Robert Tremblay told an inquiry into the worst bus accident in Canadian history that only one of the vehicle’s two front brakes worked. Tremblay, who inspected the bus after the Oct. 13 crash, said the brakes were 30 per cent efficient. Forty-four people died when their bus missed a turn at the foot of a steep hill and crashed into a ravine in Les Eboulements, 110 km northeast of Quebec City.

A SOCIALIST TAX CUT

Saskatchewan’s NDP government released its fifth straight balanced budget, while cutting taxes. Income taxes will drop two percentage points, to 48 per cent of the federal rate, effective on July 1. Finance Minister Eric Cline said a family of four earning $50,000 will save $123 a year; at $20,000, the same family would save $1,392. The budget also forecasts a $106-million surplus.

FIGHTING BACK

The Canadian Sealers Association launched its first public relations campaign against the powerful antisealing lobby with a $170,000 educational campaign that stresses the nutritional and health benefits of seal meat. At the same time, the International Fund for Animal Welfare presented a one-million signature antisealing petition to Canada’s high commissioner in London.