Overture The Week That Was

Overture The Week That Was

Upset in the separatist heartland

October 15 2001
Overture The Week That Was

Overture The Week That Was

Upset in the separatist heartland

October 15 2001

Overture The Week That Was

Upset in the separatist heartland

Batting .500 isn't good if you’re the Parti Québécois contesting four byelections in traditional PQ strongholds. Premier Bernard Landry’s party held on to two ridings on Oct. 1-albeit by a mere 54-vote margin in one—maintaining a majority of 72 seats in the 125-seat national assembly.

But two byelections went to Jean Charest’s Liberals, including, shockingly, the riding of Jonquière, which had been held by former leader Lucien Bouchard. There were many reasons floated for the losses: unpopular municipal mergers, hospital closings, the economic downturn. But some observers also said the election setback was a result of Landry’s continuing separatist rhetoric at a time when polls show Quebecers are tired of the old debateand reaffirming an attachment to Canada in the ^ uncertainty following the ! terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. 1 Landry acknowledged as If much when, after the byelections, he said the PQ would, for the moment, put sovereignty on the back burner. “My convictions are wellknown," said the premier, who in a recent ad in The New York Times expressing his sympathy over the destruction of the World Trade Center signed himself as the “Prime Minister of Quebec.” But, Landry continued, “there is a time for everything, and at this moment my duty is to dedicate my energy to face the economic situation."

Mandatory labels?

Health Minister Allan Rock said all genetically modified foods imported or produced in Canada should carry mandatory labelling. His statement contradicts the position of the departments of industry, international trade and agriculture, as well as a national task force that recommended in August that Ottawa allow voluntary labelling for foods that have had their genetic makeup altered. But Rock said Canada should follow the European example and impose mandatory regulations. “It’s about time the government caught up to the will of Canadians to be reasonably informed about what they are putting in their bodies,” he added. While those in the biotechnology industry say genetically modified foods are safe, critics contend they pose significant health and environmental risks.

Thousands of judges

In national elections, the people of Rwanda elected 260,000 judges to local courts.

Nearly 120,000 Hutus remain in jail over their involvement in the 1994 massacre of almost 800,000 members of a rival tribe, the Tutsis. Many Hutus could die in jail waiting for a trial, but the election of the new judges, who dispense traditional gacaca justice based on confession and apology, could speed their cases and promote national reconciliation.

Pillaging victims

Researchers sifting through the files of former East German

secret police found evidence that agents dug up a mass grave of Holocaust victims in 1971 and stole the gold from the victims’ teeth. Researcher Andreas Weigelt said the police took about a kilogram of gold, which has yet to be recovered. The exhumed bodies are still missing.

Bucks for the airlines

Air Canada asked for billions but got just millions. Transport Minister David Collenette announced a $ 160-million package to compensate

Canada’s airlines for losses resulting from the closure of the country’s airspace following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As the nation’s dominant carrier, Air Canada will get about $100 million. The airline, which has announced 12,500 layoffs since last December, says it will accept the money in “partial compensation” for post-Sept. 11 losses.

RED-LIGHT REVOLT

Dutch prostitutes, vowing to fight for better pay and working conditions, plan to set up the world’s first trade union for hookers. Those working in the Netherlands’ 2,000 brothels earn on average about $7 an hour, and the organizing campaign, led by the Rode Draad (Red Thread), hopes not only to increase their ! pay but also to lobby for tax e breaks for work-related expenses,

2 such as condoms and clothes.

Elephant march

In the biggest elephant relocation program ever attempted, South Africa will transfer 1,000 of the giant animals from Kruger National Park to neighbouring Mozambique. Former South African president Nelson Mandela opened a gate on the border during a ceremony on Oct. 4 when the first batch of elephants moved to their new home.

Ipperwash affidavits

Ontario’s information and privacy commission ordered Premier Mike FI arris to sign an affidavit regarding any meetings he had with police and cabinet ministers on Sept.

6, 1995. That’s the day native protester Dudley George was shot and killed in a standoff with Ontario Provincial Police

at Ipperwash Provincial Park. Harris has repeatedly denied he influenced police operations against natives occupying the disputed park on Lake Huron. But in his order, assistant information commissioner Tom Mitchinson said significant questions remain unanswered about any meetings that may have taken place. The order was a response to a freedom of information request from Liberal MPP Gerry Phillips. Also named in the order are two cabinet ministers, one former minister, three deputy ministers, five former and current police officers, and more than 30 others.

CPR returns

After a 30-year absence, Canadian Pacific Railway Co. is once again listed on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges. In 1883, CPR was the first foreign company listed on the NYSE. But 88 years later, following a reorganization, CPR was replaced by a new parent company, Canadian Pacific Ltd. Last week, the parent firm was broken

into its five component businesses and CPR reclaimed its old ticker symbol: CP

Cut: no royal films

Prince Edward will stop making Films about the Royal Family. The decision comes after his television company, Ardent Productions, broke guidelines banning the media

from the University of St. Andrews campus in Scotland where his nephew Prince William is a student. Edward’s company was caught filming at the university during the young prince’s first days at school. Though deny-

ing the videotapes include pictures of William, Edward handed the footage over to Buckingham Palace.

How low can it go?

For the ninth time this year, the U.S. Federal Reserve dropped its key interest rate, this time by a half a percentage point. It is now at 2.5 per cent, the lowest since 1962 when John F. Kennedy was president. With inflation at 2.7 per cent, it’s an effective rate of return of below zero. The Bank of Canada meets on Oct. 23 to discuss possible rate changes.

Three new wise men

When Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed three new senators last week, he looked no farther west than Quebec. Gerard A. Phalen, 67, a longtime union leader and retired industrial mechanical instructor, will represent Nova Scotia. Joseph A. Day, 56, a lawyer and engineer, will sit for New Brunswick, and Michel Biron, 67, a businessman from the Quebec region of Nicolet, will represent that province in the Senate.

Nortel just keeps

on bleeding cash

Dire news keeps on coming for Nortel Networks Corp. Last week, the telecom giant said it will cut a further 19,500 positions around the world by the end of the month, bringing the total layoffs for the year to 49,500 employeesmore than half of its workforce.

The formerly high-flying Brampton, 0nt.-based company has been hard hit by the slowdown in the telecommunications equipment market. It lost a whopping $19.4 billion (U.S.) in the second quarter and predicts its third-quarter loss to be $3.6 million.

The company is not expected to break even until the first quarter of

next year. By then, Nortel’s 45,000 employees will focus on its core specialties of optical and wireless networking. The firm has been divesting its non-essential operations, including last week’s sale of its Clarify e-commerce software company for $200 million in cash (just two years ago, it bought the former Clarify Inc. for $2.1 billion in stock). That 10-per-cent return is better than the state of Nortel’s stock, which at week’s end was worth just $8.60 compared to its July, 2000, high of $124.50.

Last week, the company announced that its chief financial officer, 25year company veteran Frank Dunn,

would replace John Roth as CEO in November. Reaction among analysts was mixed, with some viewing Dunn as one of the architects of Nortel’s

current financial crisis. Adding to the company’s woes: three bondrating agencies downgraded Nortel’s long-term debt.

Playing the 'appeasement’ card

Evoking one of the darkest periods in human history, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appealed to the United States not to repeat the mistake European leaders made in 1938 when they allowed Nazi Germany to invade Czechoslovakia in exchange for what turned out to be a short-lived peace. Addressing a news conference in Jerusalem, the former army general and defence minister— whom Arabs accuse of being a war criminal for his involvement in the 1982 massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee

camps in Beirut-savaged Washington’s determination to seek Arab support for an international coalition against terrorism. “Do not repeat the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia," he said. “Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia.”

Sharon’s outburst came as U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld toured Muslim capitals in the region looking for support for the American-led campaign against terrorism. A spokesman for George W. Bush immediately denounced the comments as “unacceptable.” But Israeli

leaders fear that Washington, their closest ally, is warming towards Islamic nations and groups including Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority, which, in the Israeli prime minister’s view, sponsor terrorism.

On the day of Sharon’s news conference, a Palestinian gunman

fired on a group of Jewish visitors in the West Bank city of Hebron. Earlier in the day, a Palestinian dressed as an Israeli soldier went on a shooting spree inside a bus I station in the northern Israeli ^ town of Afula, killing three people 8 and injuring 14 others before being shot dead by police. Israel responded by cancelling a ceasefire agreement it had struck with the Palestinian Authority late last month, and Israeli tanks and troops thrust deep into a Palestinian-controlled area of Hebron, seizing strategic positions and killing five Palestinians in a gun battle. For Sharon, there will be no appeasement.