Governor General Mary Simon billed more than $90,000 to visit her home town, newly-released records show. “It’s good to be home,” said Simon on her brief tour of Kangiqsualujjuaq, Que. last May: “Over the years I have exchanged stories with Canadians about favourite childhood memories.”
Fed Blacklists Went Far, Wide
A federal blacklist of Freedom Convoy sympathizers was emailed to foreign banks with offices from Wall Street to Beijing, records show. The RCMP placed no restrictions on distribution of the blacklist: “Information was shared.”
Still Doing Huawei Business
Canadian researchers continue to work with Huawei Technologies despite a federal ban on use of the Chinese firm’s equipment. Conservative MP Dan Mazier (Dauphin-Swan River, Man.) yesterday tabled patent filings by two universities with Huawei: “Do you continue to work with Huawei in any form?”
MPs To Vote On Fraud Probe
An expected Commons vote today will see MPs attempt to take control of an investigation into suspected election fraud. Opposition parties yesterday said Parliament, not the Prime Minister, must direct next steps in determining whether the Chinese Communist Party interfered in the 2019 and 2021 campaigns: “The Prime Minister must be hiding something really big.”
Says Feds Are Faking Results
Federal managers set easy performance targets that only seem difficult to achieve, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux said yesterday. Executives were skilled in pretending to be ambitious, he said: “I speak of my own experience of having been in the public service for more than two decades.”
Execs’ Recession Bonus OK’d
Cabinet approved millions in executives’ back pay and bonuses last year even as Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland warned taxpayers to brace for a recession, records show. Almost every executive at every department and agency, 98 percent, received a bonus: “Times feel tough.”
Even Full Timers Use Charity
Food is so costly a third of users at Toronto food banks have a full time job, the Commons agriculture committee was told last night. “Things are upside down,” said the CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank, the nation’s largest: “It does not make sense.”
Bill Hikes Air Fines Tenfold
Consumer groups yesterday endorsed a private New Democrat bill to tighten compensation for air passengers including a tenfold increase in fines on carriers. “This bill is about setting our expectations,” said MP Taylor Bachrach (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.), sponsor of the bill: “We need to see a much stronger enforcement approach.”
Feds OK Electronic Vote Lists
Elections Canada this year will introduce first-ever electronic voting lists, says Stéphane Perrault, chief electoral officer. Perrault in a report to Parliament said he also intended to store more information on foreign computer servers but detailed no new security measures to counter election fraud: “Considering the status of cybersecurity, your entire election could be hacked.”
Bungled Payroll Now $685M
Compensation for federal employees shortchanged by bungled payroll software has cost taxpayers more than two-thirds of a billion so far, records show. Cabinet is still calculating the total cost of the 2016 Phoenix Pay System failure: “We saw how that didn’t work.”
“Mixed Feelings” On Holiday
A federal paid holiday in memory of Indian Residential School children draws “mixed feelings” among First Nations, says in-house research by the Privy Council Office. Indigenous people said they were more concerned about crime and clean drinking water: “Very few believed the Government of Canada had made much in the way of tangible progress towards addressing the most pressing concerns.”
Security Sweep On Air Cargo
The Department of Transport is demanding advanced reports on more than 100 million air cargo shipments a year into Canada. The mandate is not for tax collection but security, regulators said in a legal notice Saturday: “Half of all cargo that is transported by air travels on passenger flights.”
Riskier Than Snowboarding
Sledding is a riskier winter pastime than snowboarding, new Public Health Agency data show. A federal review of six years’ worth of emergency room admissions documented a higher accident rate involving sledding and tobogganing: “Risks highlight the importance of personal safety.”
Sunday Poem: “Concussion”
of the Canadian Football League
sees no evidence
to connect game-time head injuries
with long-term neurological disorder.
Despite doctors’ opinions.
by the American league.
Much like the former commissioner.
It appears our football fields
are more dangerous
than previously thought,
causing brain damage
the organization’s top echelon.
By Shai Ben-Shalom
Review: Grab, Run
Forty years after the Titanic sank, newspaperman Walter Lord tracked down survivors to ask what they took as they headed for the lifeboats. Lord recited the grab bag of mementos in his 1955 bestseller A Night To Remember. One brought a Bible, another a pistol. There were pocketfuls of cigars or cookies, fur coats, a sapphire necklace and a music box that played the Portuguese tango. One Toronto passenger retrieved three oranges but left behind a tin box containing $200,000 in bonds.
Author Therese Greenwood calls this “telescoping,” a phenomenon experienced by people under stress when their vision tunnels to objects literally in front of them. Greenwood’s What You Take With You explores this intriguing theme in the million-acre Fort McMurray fire, a near-disaster of Titanic proportions.
“Everyone tells me what they would pack if they were caught in a similar situation, usually baby and wedding photos, something sentimental,” writes Greenwood. “The younger ones mention laptop computers, hard drives, phones. ‘My phone is my life,’ they say. What you think you will pack as you look around your comfortable living room and what you snatch when smoke chokes the air and flames lick the sky are entirely different.”
On May 3, 2016 residents were ordered to drop everything and flee as flames spread through Fort McMurray at the rate of ninety feet a minute. There is one road out of the city. Greenwood lost her Riverview Heights home but notes residents count themselves lucky. “I’m still afraid of dying in a fire,” she writes.
She fled the inferno to the jolly tinkling of bells. “Do I hear sleigh bells?” her husband asked: “‘I packed my grandfather’s sleigh bells.’ ‘Smart thinking,’ Steve said. ‘Sleigh bells will come in handy today.’ It was thirty-four degrees Celsius inside the car.”
Greenwood also retrieved a family Bible, two cans of club soda, bank statements, a rolling pin and chipped, foot-high plaster statue of Saint Therese, yoghurt, a chrome-plated pen and two guitars: “You should have let them burn,” her sister said. “I would have thrown them into the flames.” Lost were four generations of family photos and an urn containing her father-in-law’s ashes.
“Driveways and front lawns were filled with scurrying people stowing suitcases, laundry hampers, plastic bins and diaper bags into trucks and vans and cars,” Greenwood writes. She recalls children clutching stuffed animals, and how traffic slowed to a dead stop right by the local cemetery, “ironically”.
Greenwood is part memoirist, part police reporter, skillfully weaving anecdotes from the day a whole city nearly burned to the ground. She remembers canned music on the radio station – announcers had joined the evacuation – and a local donut shop emptying shelves as giveaways. Just because the business was to burn was no reason to waste donuts. “Every vehicle on the road that day contained its own story,” she writes.
What You Take with You: Wildfire, Family and the Road Home, by Therese Greenwood; University of Alberta Press; 160 pages; ISBN 9781-77212-4491; $24.99