‘Nt’l Decriminalization’ Cited

Cabinet was willing to “use all tools at our disposal” under its drug policy including “national decriminalization,” says a federal document. The memo to Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks is dated just five weeks before British Columbia abruptly ended its experiment with decriminalized drug use on complaints of public disorder: ‘Tools include approaches to decriminalization.’

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Gun Buyback Worries Gov’t

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc’s department is refusing comment over its hiring of forensic auditors to assess risk of a “national compensation program.” Staff would not confirm they anticipated millions in fraud and waste through a costly gun buyback scheme scheduled in 2025: “Help.”

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Phoenix Failure Is Now $3.7B

The federal Phoenix Pay System failure has now cost taxpayers $3.7 billion and counting, the highest figure disclosed to date. The latest damages are cited in a Department of Public Works briefing note: “It gives us all kinds of lessons about how to build a better public service.”

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Caution CBCers Over Tweets

CBC employees should not “feel compelled to weigh in on controversial news stories” on Twitter, says a network ombudsman. The advisory followed one CBCer’s tweet in sympathy with a Palestinian activist arrested for threatening to kill Jews and drink their blood: “The journalist should have included more context.”

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Summer Jobs Plan Is Audited

A performance audit of the Canada Summer Jobs program is underway with investigators’ findings due by year’s end, says a federal memo. It is the first audit since program managers were accused of withholding hire-a-student subsidies from employers who did not subscribe to cabinet’s political views: ‘Follow-up focuses on religious beliefs.’

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Sunday Poem: “Old Stones”

 

Old stones, ancient lines.

Boundaries.

Demarcated. Decimated.

The blind lead the Blinded.

 

Summer unfurls, thunder rumbles;

in the distance.

Special reports, queries.

Dimly perceived, a whiff of malfeasance.

 

Foundations laid bare.

A People laid bare.

Old stones, ancient lines.

 

There is nothing quite like a prairie sunrise.

 

By W.N. Branson

Review: Memories

Thursday, August 6, 1981 was a day to remember. At 11 am Eastern the Bank of Canada raised the prime rate to 21 percent. The country had a million unemployed for the first time since the Dustbowl. Farmers and small business owners had a hunted look. Mortgage and trust companies collapsed, 17 of them, and then the banks.

No one who survived the summer of ’81 ever forgot it. “Scarring,” the economists call it now. At a 2017 hearing of the Commons agriculture committee, members were chattily debating farm debt when an oldtimer, then-MP Bev Shipley (Lambton-Kent, Ont.), spoke up. “I remember the 1980s,” he said. The room froze.

Author Aaron Hughes’ 10 Days That Shaped Modern Canada omits that date to remember. Hughes acknowledges his work is necessarily subjective. Hughes’ favourite dates are neither mine nor yours. That is not the point.

“Not all days are created equal,” writes Hughes. “While the vast majority of days ebb and flow in a repetitive fashion, some become singularly momentous to a nation’s formation and outlook that, although their importance is recognized at the time, the true significance becomes apparent only after the fact.”

Memory is selective and intimate. It rarely travels well. In 1927 Maclean’s magazine asked readers, “Who is the greatest living Canadian?” The top response was Charles Saunders. Find the Maclean’s editor today who could identify Saunders (a plant geneticist) or recall what he did (developed Marquis Wheat that made Canada a global food exporter).

Hughes is a professor of humanities at the University of Rochester. He has not lived in Canada in ten years. “I have had to listen to Americans talk about themselves,” he writes.

“In all of these conversations I frequently find my eyes glazing over while asking myself questions like: What does it mean to be a Canadian?” he writes. “What dates and events have shaped us as a nation?” 10 Days is quirky and compelling. It is excellent book club material. It is a good way to start a fight.

Hughes’ Top Ten list includes bizarre entries. He cites July 21, 1988, “the day the Multiculturalism Act was signed into law” (!) and August 6, 2016, “the day of The Tragically Hip’s last concert” (!!)

He omits the January 1, 1989 enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement that cost 495,000 factory jobs. He makes no mention of the October 26, 1992 Charlottetown Accord referendum, “a defeat for the elites of this country,” said Izzy Asper, then-chair of CanWest Global Broadcasting Corp.

Professor Hughes’ memory, like each of ours, is his own creation. “This vision is largely liberal, progressive, anglophone and centralist,” he writes. “As universal as it may seem however, it is nonetheless important to realize it is by definition also particular.”

“Just as the book was going to press a large truck convoy rolled into Ottawa and blocked some border crossings with the United States protesting Covid-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions,” writes Hughes. “The convoy and its protests ended after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau temporarily invoked the Emergencies Act thereby suspending the rights of citizens to free movement or assembly. Clearly modern Canada is still in the process of being shaped.”

By Holly Doan

10 Days That Shaped Modern Canada by Aaron W. Hughes; University of Alberta Press; 288 pages; ISBN 978-177212-6327; $27.99

CBC Jumped To Revise Story

CBC managers “pushed through the correction” of a news story mildly critical of the federal government, Access To Information records show. CEO Catherine Tait has repeatedly denied any political interference in ensuring “correct” CBC News coverage: “Complaints are treated as confidential.”

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O’Regan Joins Departing MPs

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan yesterday abruptly quit cabinet. O’Regan is the third Liberal MP to confirm he won’t seek re-election in Newfoundland and Labrador where a provincial Liberal government has campaigned against the federal carbon tax: “Nerves are rubbed raw.”

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A Case Of Click, Send, Uh-Oh

A hasty email breached privacy rights of more than 1,000 Canada Student Loan borrowers, says Northwest Territories Privacy Commissioner Andrew Fox. The Commissioner yesterday detailed his investigation into a hurried email that mistakenly disclosed two years’ worth of financial records on borrowers: “A moment’s inattention led to a privacy breach that affected 1,159 people.”

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Business Partner Admits Lie

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault’s business partner yesterday admitted he lied to reporters about company dealings. Stephen Anderson, an Edmonton importer, was threatened with contempt by the Commons ethics committee: “The jig is up.”

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Senate Chauffeurs Get 11.7%

Senate chauffeurs, mail clerks and maintenance workers have won a three-year wage hike compounded at 11.7 percent. Total spending by the Senate is estimated at $134.9 million this year, according to budget documents: “We have not looked at the impact of potential reductions.”

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