Review: When The World Was Bigger

In 1955 a round-trip flight from Toronto to Rome was a staggering $677, the modern equivalent of $6,100. It was the cost of a full order of household appliances or a good used car – not that it mattered. Most Canadians went their entire working lives without ever stepping on an airplane for a holiday. Not till 1944 did any province even mandate two weeks’ annual holiday pay for wage earners. A simple vacation was luxury, let alone travel abroad.

“Don’t you get tired of just reading about things?” the frustrated traveler George Bailey is asked in It’s A Wonderful Life. Bailey, like the film audience, accepted he could never get away. So, they dreamed. The phenomenon inspires this compelling book documenting the aspirations of the “middlebrow”, a pejorative first coined in 1924.

Trump Tweeted, Feds Bought

Internal records show the Department of Health rushed to stock a malaria drug after then-U.S. President Donald Trump endorsed it on Twitter as a Covid treatment. Managers in a censored memo rushed to buy hydroxychloroquine based on “media articles,” they said: "That’s all it is, just a feeling."

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Too Generous For Truckers

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan’s office in correspondence with a senator said paid sick leave for the private sector should be not be too generous to avoid abuse by workers. The letter claimed employees like truck drivers would take advantage of automatic benefits such as ten days' paid sick leave per year: "Give it to me in writing."

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Question Grocers On Bonus

New Democrat and Liberal MPs yesterday said they'd like to recall grocery executives for questioning over alleged wage fixing. Legislators and the Commissioner of Competition have proposed to outlaw collusion between employers on workers’ pay: "Have them come back and explain."

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Rate Is Worse Than Botswana

First Nations hamlets under federal care have higher Covid death rates than Botswana despite more than a billion in emergency spending by the Department of Indigenous Services, data show. Management yesterday had no explanation: "Is that enough? No."

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$500K Too Rich For Manitoba

A Manitoba judge has discounted a defamation award by 90 percent after concluding Prairie courts are much more modest in awarding damages for libel. A Winnipeg developer who'd won a half million at trial saw his damages cut to $50,000: "Awards for defamation in that amount are virtually non-existent."

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Costs Squeezing Families: PM

Rising prices are “real pressure” for Canadians, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday told reporters. His remarks followed new Statistics Canada data that the cost of living is now rising at the fastest rate in 30 years: "What is the government’s plan to try and combat it?"

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$82M Budget Item A Mystery

The Treasury Board says it does not have a single document, email or memo explaining an $81.9 million budget line item to promote vaccinations in the public service. Board President Mona Fortier could not explain the cost when questioned earlier in the Commons: "No information related to your request exists."

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Everyone Could Get Cheques

The Department of Employment yesterday budgeted up to $4 million to pay lockdown benefits to the equivalent of 100 percent of tax filers in a remote Québec hamlet. The department would not comment on discretionary cash awards approved by cabinet order: "The supports we have for people are there to be used."

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Court Issues Vax Gag Order

A Brampton, Ont. judge has issued a gag order forbidding a father from criticizing the federal vaccination program within earshot of his 10-year old son. Anything that “calls into question the safety or efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine” is not allowed, ruled Ontario Superior Court.

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Budget Office Warns On Debt

Cabinet spent half a trillion since the outbreak of the pandemic including billions that had nothing to do with Covid, the Parliamentary Budget Office said yesterday. There was little sign of restraint, added analysts: "Are we headed for very tight fiscal discipline, or are we headed for mild discipline, or are we headed for no discipline at all?"

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Hotels For Illegal Immigrants

The Department of Immigration yesterday said it booked at least eleven quarantine hotels for foreigners who illegally crossed the border. It follows an abrupt fortyfold increase in illegal crossings to the highest levels since the outbreak of the pandemic: 'The department is responsible for providing temporary accommodations to asymptomatic asylum seekers.'

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Few Details On Lavalin Deal

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos yesterday could not explain a $150 million Covid contract from his own department to SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. The sole-sourced deal  was finalized almost two years ago for “urgently” needed mobile hospitals that were never used: "We're not getting a lot of clarity here."

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Xinhua Seeks Parliament Pass

Media directors of the Parliamentary Press Gallery yesterday met behind closed doors to consider membership for Xinhua, the official propaganda agency of the Chinese Communist Party. The Gallery said it had not discussed the matter with the Prime Minister’s Office: "The Gallery is not bound by any outside political considerations."

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Agency Defends Data Scoop

Public Health Agency monitoring of millions of cellphone users did no harm to privacy rights, the president of the Agency said yesterday. Dr. Harpreet Kochhar said managers at no time collected information that personally identified any of 33 million cellphone users: "No personal information was asked or was received."

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