Book Review — Canals Or Clinics?

When they wrote the Constitution in 1867 life expectancy was 42, few cures for disease were known, and a physician’s practice was comprised mainly of delivering babies and amputating limbs. Health care was so cheap and uncomplicated the Fathers of Confederation left it to the provinces, and assigned the really heavy lifting to Parliament – like regulation of railways and canals.

“The provisions of the Constitution were based on the realities of life in 1867,” writes Prof. Raisa Deber; “Things were designated as national responsibilities because they were expensive or because they were important to nation building.”

“Although few realized it at the time, these provisions have proven critical in determining who would have responsibility for health care in Canada,” writes Deber. Here we are, 151 years later, with a medicare system many Canadians rate as mediocre outside of treating babies and broken limbs

Calls To Rewrite Labour Bill

Union executives and MPs yesterday said a significant rewrite is needed to a federal workplace harassment bill. Witnesses testifying at the Commons human resources committee complained the bill does not define harassment: 'It is critical you actually have it in the law.'

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Feds Win Student Loan Case

The Canada Revenue Agency has won a $54,895 judgment against a student borrower who went eight years without making payment on a federal loan. Write-offs of unpaid loans cost taxpayers nearly $3 billion: "This is a case that is appropriate for summary judgment."

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$1M Fine In Car Rental Probe

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Canada Co. has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a federal investigation into misleading advertising. The agreement with the Competition Bureau is the latest in a probe of car rental agencies dating back seven years: 'Consumers will now be able to trust the prices they see advertised.'

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Feds Track Pot Thru Sewage

Statistics Canada is testing sewage to gauge the country’s marijuana consumption before and after legalization. The agency yesterday acknowledged the survey of trace cannabis flushed through municipal wastewater systems is uncertain: "StatsCan is using non-traditional methods to acquire as much information as possible."

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G.G. Ceremony Cost Tripled

Governor General Julie Payette tripled the budget of her predecessor for swearing-in ceremonies last October 2, according to financial records. Payette’s investiture cost nearly $650,000. The Governor General appealed for an end to poverty: 'It's our duty to diminish inequity here.'

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MPs Unsettled By Workplace Data: 19% Of Execs Harassed

MPs yesterday expressed dismay over data that 1 in 5 federal public service executives are harassed at work. Members of the Commons human resources committee said reforms are needed: "That statistic is very worrying."

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Schools Sue On Copyright

School boards nationwide are suing for millions in refunds from copyright owners over fees paid to photocopy textbooks. The Federal Court case is the first since a key ruling last July that educators cannot indiscriminately copy works free of charge: "This will get interesting."

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Immigration Loan Fees Cut

Cabinet yesterday abolished interest on loans to refugees charged under a program for nearly 70 years. The Department of Immigration acknowledged most groups it consulted opposed the measure as unfair to immigrants who already made payments: 'It will give refugees more time to focus.'

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Local Markets Fail Inspection

Federal inspectors report 59 percent of farmers' market producers surveyed nationwide are in breach of pesticide regulations. Spot inspections by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency found numerous violations including use of unregistered chemicals: "This is an area of concern."

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High Gas Prices A “Positive”

Cabinet will not establish a federal gasoline price monitor, says Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr. In an Inquiry Of Ministry tabled in the Commons, Carr said higher fuel prices help consumers by encouraging conservation: "Prices can have a positive impact."

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Fed Harassment Investigated

Unacceptably high reports of harassment in the federal workplace warrant further investigation, says a professional association. Nineteen percent of senior federal managers surveyed said they were verbally harassed or tormented at work: "That's unforgivable."

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Taxi Budget Up 14 Percent

Federal departments and agencies spent 14 percent more on taxis last year even as cabinet urged Canadians to “be part of the solution” by taking public transit. Two departments spent the equivalent of more than $7,000 a day on Ottawa cabs, according to accounts: "Invest where it counts: public transit."

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Cheques Down But Not Out

The Government of Canada cut 25 percent fewer cheques last year but still mailed millions of payments after suspending a mandatory direct deposit program. The Department of Public Works had hoped to save 69¢ in paper and processing costs for every cheque it mails: "I don't trust it."

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Feared Tax Would Kill Jobs

A national carbon tax would put jobs at risk and undermine Canada’s economic competitiveness, says an Access To Information staff note from the Department of Natural Resources. The note was written a year before cabinet announced its carbon tax: "That is out of step with our largest trading partner, the United States."

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