Book Review: “I’m Betting On You…”

From 1949 to 1955 cabinet created two Royal Commissions on culture, one on arts and literature, the other on broadcasting. After beating Hitler and mastering hydro dams, the country for the first time was affluent enough to ask what it meant to be Canadian. Ordinary people subscribed to the Book Of The Month Club, and their children read W.O. Mitchell at school. Canadian writers – Morley Callaghan, Mordecai Richler, Farley Mowat, Al Purdy – were genuine celebrities, and dailies like the Winnipeg Free Press ran a weekly Young Authors contest.

The University of Alberta Press documents the era through the warm, nostalgic filter of private letters between one of the country’s most acclaimed novelists and her publisher. It is a sweet book, funny and angry by turn, and a delight to read.

PM Pays $100 Ethics Penalty

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been fined $100 for another breach of Parliament’s ethics code, this time involving a gift from the Premier of Prince Edward Island. Neither the breach nor fine were disclosed until Parliament prepared to adjourn for summer recess: “The Prime Minister has great respect for the work of the Commissioner.”

Stamp Prices To Rise 6%

Canada Post is raising stamp rates 6 percent in a hike originally vetoed by cabinet three years ago. The rate increase would see consumers pay up to $1.05 to mail a domestic letter that cost 54¢ as late as 2010: "It hurts small business more than others."

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Accommodate Or Pay $20K

Federally-regulated employers are liable for compensation payments of up to $20,000 to individuals who suffer discrimination on the basis of ability. A cabinet bill says offences would include “attitudinal” barriers to the disabled: "The legislation has to have teeth."

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Seeks $30M Privacy Penalties

Corporations that flagrantly breach federal privacy law would be subject to maximum $30 million fines under a Commons bill. It follows complaints by the House privacy committee that scofflaws face few sanctions in Canada: "What we need is a regulator."

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MP Protests Corp. Crime Bill

A Conservative MP yesterday protested quick passage of a cabinet bill waiving jail time for white-collar criminals. The provision inserted in a 560-page omnibus budget bill passed into law without debate or committee scrutiny: "How does that make Canadians safer?"

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More Carbon Tax Exemptions

Cabinet has quietly approved another carbon tax exemption, this one for commercial aviation in the Territories. A Conservative senator who won the concession predicted more appeals for tax waivers as the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act takes effect: 'The precedent has been set.'

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1 In 5 Do Not Trust Gov’t

One in five Canadians do not trust federal departments with their personal information, says in-house research by the Treasury Board. The findings echoed a 2017 study that found a significant minority is wary of surrendering bank account numbers to the government for direct deposit of tax refunds and benefits: "Is it safe?"

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Senate Wary Of Budget Chief

Senators yesterday expressed wariness over the appointment of a Canada Revenue Agency manager as the next Parliamentary Budget Officer. The Agency spent five years stonewalling requests for information from the last Officer, senators said: "That is a question I’ve asked myself a lot."

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Hope Wheat Ban Is Short

An Asian ban on Canadian wheat exports should end by August, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency yesterday told the Commons agriculture committee. Japan and South Korea suspended shipments after an unlicensed strain of genetically-modified wheat was found in southern Alberta: "This is new for us."

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Cannabis Bill Is Law 55-29

The Senate last night by a vote of 52 to 29 passed into law a bill to make Canada only the second country after Uruguay to legalize recreational marijuana. Opponents predicted quick court challenges: "We certainly don’t want to bring confusion to this at all."

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Failure A Stain On Gov’t

Auditor General Michael Ferguson yesterday described the $1 billion Phoenix Pay System failure as a stain on the federal government. The bungled program illustrates a mania for civil service box-checking instead of problem-solving, Ferguson told the Commons public accounts committee: "What were the root causes?"

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85% Of Drugs Fail Check

A Health Canada spot check of cross-border pharmaceutical shipments identified 25 percent were fake, and another 60 percent were unfit for sale. The findings were based on thousands of shipments intercepted by the Canada Border Services Agency in a single week-long period last September: "This is alarming."

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Girl’s Death Prompts MPs

The Commons health committee yesterday recommended new regulations on the sale of caffeinated alcohol drinks. The proposed reforms follow the death of a Québec schoolgirl: "Ask the producers: What exactly are you trying to do?"

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Will Repeal Blasphemy Law

A 19th century law against blasphemous libel is outdated and should be repealed, scholars have told the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee. The Criminal Code provision was last used to prosecute a film distributor over the 1979 Monty Python production Life Of Brian: "This offence is obsolete."

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