Canada Notes

April 24 2000

Canada Notes

April 24 2000

Canada Notes

New salvos in the fight for the right

The fight for the right heated up with word that Tom Long, a longtime adviser to Ontario Tory Premier Mike Harris, intends to seek the leadership of the new Canadian Alliance party. Formed from the mostly westernbased Reform party, the Alliance, which hopes to garner support east of Manitoba, suffered a public relations setback recently when Ontario cabinet minister Frank Klees withdrew from the race, claiming that a potential donor had insisted he agree to throw his support behind another, unnamed candidate. Now, observers say Longs entry into the campaign could represent a serious Ontario challenge to others vying for the job, among them former Reform leader Preston Manning, Alberta Treasurer Stockwell Day and B.C. Alliance MP Keith Martin. “I am inclined to say he is a very attractive candidate,” Edmonton Alliance MP Rahim Jaffer said of Long.

Long is expected to make it official within weeks. Whether the backroom organizer can attract enough western votes to make a viable run for the leadership is questionable. But he can certainly bring Ontario Tories into the Alliance fold—and shake up the federal Conservative party whose members the Alliance is trying to woo.

Long is well known in federal Tory circles, having worked for former prime minister Brian Mulroney, and having been active in the early 1980s movement to oust Joe Clark.

Now Clark is back as federal Tory leader, and last week he suffered some highly publicized defections to Long. Pauline Browes, a longtime Tory who served as a cabinet minister in the

Mulroney government, said she will join the new party and support Long. And Tim Powers, who recently resigned as Clarks policy chief to work at a political consulting company, said he will join Long’s leadership campaign. Meanwhile, Tories waiting to hear Clark defend his turf were disappointed when the federal leader spoke to a partisan but subdued crowd in Toronto—without once mentioning the Alliance or Reform.

Courtroom faceoff

Longtime friends and legal rivals John Rosen and Austin Cooper squared off over lawyer Ken Murray’s handling of Paul Bernardo’s murder case. Murray is on trial in St. Catharines, Ont., for suppressing videotapes that show the sex killer and his former wife, Karla Homolka, sexually assaulting teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. Cooper, who is defen-

ding Murray, cross-examined Rosen, who took over from Murray to represent Bernardo at his 1995 trial. He asserted that contrary to what Rosen had testified previously, Murray had not mishandled the case. “I would suggest to you this file was in an immaculate state when you took over,” said Cooper. “From a client’s point of view,” countered Rosen. “When I said the file was a mess, I meant from a lawyer’s perspective.”

New protection for wildlife

Conservation groups panned the federal government’s proposed endangered species legislation, even though Environment Minister David Anderson insisted the bill would provide the strongest wildlife protection in the world. Although the bill has stiff penalties for those who deliberately kill endangered animals, environmentalists are especially upset with the fact that cabinet ministers, not scientists, will decide which species are at risk.

A casualty of Rwanda

Lt.-Gen Romeo Dallaire, 53, announced he is taking early retirement— as a self-described casualty of peacekeeping. Dallaire, a 35-year veteran of the Forces, led a 2,500-member UN mission in Rwanda, where he witnessed the 1994 massacre of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu extremists. When he returned, he experienced nightmares and flashbacks and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Job cuts in Nova Scotia

Civil servants expressed outrage at the budget tabled by Nova Scotia’s Conservative government, which includes the elimination of 1,600 public service jobs. Finance Minister Neil LeBlanc said his first priority is to reduce the province’s $268-million deficit. Cape Breton, where the unemployment rate is 20 per cent and hundreds of coal miners and steelworkers are about to lose their jobs, received scant attention. LeBlanc set aside only $500,000 of the $ 5-billion provincial budget to encourage investment on the island.

No answers in a tragedy

After 22 days of testimony, a coroner’s jury in Wallaceburg, Ont., said it could not determine how 10-year-old Myles Neuts ended up on a coat hook at his Chatham elementary school on Feb. 6, 1998. Neuts died in hospital six days later. The boy’s father, Mike Neuts, had argued that one or two Grade 6 boys placed his son on the hook, causing his death. He had hoped for a verdict of homicide at the inquest, where evidence included 27 hours of videotaped police interviews with the boys.

A ruling against native logging

Joshua Bernard of the Eel Ground First Nation in Miramichi, N.B., was found guilty of illegal possession of Crown timber, in a case closely watched by natives as they wage a legal campaign to win greater access to natural resources. Provincial court Judge Denis Lordon said there was no treaty and no aboriginal title that gave Bernard the right to harvest trees on Crown land. Bernard, who was fined $300, said he expects the case will continue through the various appeal stages, ultimately going to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Heston preaches for firearms

Actor Charlton Heston, president of the U.S.-based National Rifle Association, railed against gun control in Canada during a speech in Prince George, B.C. Heston, best known for his 1956 film portrayal of Moses in The Ten Commandments, told 300 delegates at the B.C. Wildlife Federations annual convention that it will be a sad day on Jan. 1, 2003, when every gun in Canada has to be registered with the federal government. “You may not be absolutely free when you own a firearm,” he said. “But I guarantee you will never be free when you can’t.”

A landmark case goes to trial

The so-called fudget-budget hearing into the NDP’s financial miscalcu-

lations during the 1996 provincial election campaign started in B.C. Supreme Court. Lawyer David Lunny, who is representing the citizens’ group Help B.C., alleges the B.C. government created a “monumental deception” when then-premier Glen Clark called the

1996 election on the same day he boasted that the 1995-1996 and 1996-

1997 budgets contained small surpluses. Months after the NDP won the election, voters learned the government was significantly in the red. If Lunny’s case is successful, it could result in a provincial election.

Concerns over the RCMP

In his latest report to Parliament, federal Auditor General Denis Desautels was especially critical of the human resources department, saying it is sending Employment Insurance cheques to re-

cipients faster—but with a greater risk of inaccurate payments. But he also said he has “serious concerns” about RCMP computer backlogs and delays in laboratory tests that could compromise law enforcement and endanger the public. Desautels acknowledged a cash infusion may help Human Resources, but he believes the Mounties’ problems are more managerial than monetary.

Upholding French

A Quebec Superior Court judge upheld the province’s language law, which says that French must predominate on commercial signs. The case involved two anglophone store owners in the Eastern Townships whose sign featured equal-sized French and English lettering. Meanwhile, a report released last week by the Parti Québécois government said the French language is particularly threatened in Montreal.

Royal assent for a treaty

The controversial Nisga’a treaty became law after it was passed by the Senate and received royal assent. It will give the natives of the remote Nass Valley in northern British Columbia some 2,000 square kilometres of land, about $253 million in cash and benefits, and a form of self-government. But the treaty is also facing lawsuits from other native bands and the B.C. Liberal party.