CANADA

Bottom of the ninth

BRENDA BRANSWELL September 28 1998
CANADA

Bottom of the ninth

BRENDA BRANSWELL September 28 1998

Canada NOTES

HEPATITIS C IMPASSE

At a meeting in Regina, the country’s health ministers failed to reach a deal on expanding compensation for victims of hepatitis C contracted through tainted blood. Last March, the ministers agreed to pay $1.1 billion to those infected between 1986 and 1990. Led by Ontario, some provinces later broke ranks and suggested compensation for those infected earlier. Last week, federal Health Minister Allan Rock refused to increase compensation.

FIGHT OVER VOISEY'S BAY

Ontario Premier Mike Harris accused Newfoundland Premier Brian Tobin of taking a “parochial, hardline” stance in talks with Inco Ltd. over developing the giant nickel find at Voisey’s Bay. Talks have stalled over Newfoundland’s demand that Inco build a smelter and refinery. Tobin accused Harris of political posturing in time for a byelection in Sudbury, where Inco now plans to process the bulk of the ore.

RIGHT OF REFUSAL

Federal Court Judge Paul Rouleau ruled that the Canadian military was justified in refusing to allow a Jewish naval reserve officer to serve in the Gulf War because of his religion. Andrew Liebmann has asked the court to declare he was a victim of religious discrimination. But Rouleau said that cultural, religious or other sensitivities could be taken into account in deployment decisions.

RECALL ALLEGATIONS

British Columbia’s chief electoral officer ordered a forensic audit after The Vancouver Sun reported that the NDP government secretly tried to undermine three recall campaigns last winter. The paper claimed the NDP did not declare the expenses of supporters who opposed the campaigns. Premier Glen Clark denied the allegations.

THE IPPERWASH FILES

Ontario’s deputy solicitor general said computer records compiled by the provincial police officer who helped plan the province’s response to the 1995 native occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park have disappeared. The files of police Supt. Ron Fox went missing after he transferred to another job. In an affidavit to Ontario’s privacy commissioner, Fox says he is unaware of the documents being destroyed.

Angering Albertans

Toronto fashion designer Vivienne Poy, 57, became the first person of Chinese descent to be named to the Senate when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien filled four vacancies last week. But whatever positive response the federal government might have expected from her appointment, and those of two wellknown Quebec Liberals—former Montreal Gazette editor Joan Fraser, 53, and aboriginal activist Aurélien Gill, 65—was lost in the uproar

over Chrétien’s move to fill an Alberta seat.

JUSTICE

Eagleson settles

Many observers had hoped Alan Eagleson’s scheduled court showdown with former Boston Bruin Mike Gillis would shed light on the disgraced hockey czar’s mysterious finances. Eagleson’s lawyers were set to appear on Sept. 14 to present their client’s appeal of a lower court ruling under which he was ordered to pay Gillis $570,000 in compensation for an insurance claim and legal fees. But two weeks before the court date, the case was abandoned. Says Gillis’s lawyer Charles Scott: “The matter has been settled and the details are subject to a confidentiality agreement." Meanwhile, a group of former NHL players on the trail of Eagleson’s assets suffered a setback in a Philadelphia class-action suit alleging that Eagleson and some NHL owners violated U.S. racketeering laws from 1972 to 1991. Their claim was dismissed under a U.S. statute of limitations, a ruling that the players’ lawyers say they plan to appeal.

Douglas Roche, 69, may not be a Liberal—a former Edmonton Tory MP and Canada’s disarmament ambassador in the 1980s, he will sit as an Independent. But he was named to the Red Chamber only a month before a provincewide Senate election will be held in Alberta. That vote was 1 designed to pick two “senators-in1 waiting,” and put pressure on the § federal government to choose the I victors to fill vacancies. Alberta I Premier Ralph Klein called S Roche’s appointment “a slap in I the face to Albertans,” and re° ceived an ovation when he told a business group in Calgary: “The issue is simple: who should decide who represents Alberta— the people of Alberta or the Prime Minister? Clearly, it is the people.” Some observers thought Ottawa’s move might ignite interest in a low-key campaign. Only the Reform party has so far fielded candidates for the Oct. 19 vote. Reformer Ted Morton, a University of Calgary political scientist, said he will try to turn the election into a de facto referendum on Roche’s appointment. Roche, meanwhile, said he favored an elected Senate—eventually—but only as part of a comprehensive reform of the upper house.

Pension-plan concerns

Politics—or differences of opinion? That was the question last week after it was revealed that Bernard Dussault, the Canada Pension Plan’s chief actuary, was fired in August by John Palmer, head of the Office of the Superintendent for Financial Institutions, while Dussault was preparing a report on the CPP’s financial status. His dismissal raised suspicions that the report, due by December, is potentially embarrassing to the federal government. In 1995, a previous Dussault report warned that the pension fund would run out of money by 2015 unless rates were hiked, which they subsequently were. Financial experts speculated that, had Dussault been allowed to finish his latest report, it too would have raised the possibility that CPP premiums will require a further hike beyond the 9.9-percent maximum set by Ottawa and the provinces in 1997—unless benefits are cut.

Dussault, who has since filed a grievance to regain his job, said the finance department had guaranteed him freedom to do his work. But, he said of Palmer, “My boss does not like the fact that I have this control over my report.” He declined to comment further, citing his obligation to keep secret details of the report, which is now to be completed by a contract employee. Assistant superintendent Edna MacKenzie, though, said Dussault’s firing “has nothing to do with the report. This is not political.”