Connexions Digest #51 News Briefs

Compiled by Ulli Diemer

News Briefs published in the Connexions Digest #51, May 1990

CBC budget cut again
The Progressive Conservative government cut a further $20 million from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s budget in the February 1990 federal budget. The additional cuts are on top of a $140 million reduction in the CBC’s budget announced last year, which resulted in layoffs for 500 people.

CBC advertising may go
Federal Communications Minister Marcel Masse has stated that he is considering requiring the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to stop carrying advertising. The action is being considered because private broadcasting companies have been putting pressure on the government to stop the CBC from competing with them for advertising revenues. Advertising accounts for 21 per cent of the CBC’s budget, but Masse would make no commitment that the government would make up lost revenues if the CBC was no longer allowed to take ads.

Fish or Cut Bait
Two Halifax film–makers have accused the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of censoring the voices of Atlantic fishery workers by refusing to air a documentary on the unionization of the industry. William McKiggan and Thomas Burger have produced a documentary “Fish or Cut Bait”, on the struggle to unionize fish plants in 1980. However, the CBC has declined to show the documentary. Unions representing fishermen and fish plant workers have lobbied hard to have the film shown on television, but the CBC refuses. The unions say that the film provides information about a long–term corporate plan to eliminate fish plants, and that they want other fish plant workers to know that cutbacks in the industry have been deliberately planned.

Human rights violations in Latin America
The Inter–Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America reports that during 1989 there were sharp increases in gross and systematic human rights violations in Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru, despite the fact that each of these countries has an elected civilian government. In its annual report, released in March 1990, ICCHRLA presents in–depth analyses of the situation in Latin American countries, with special attention to enforced disappearances, torture, summary executions, and the role of the police and military.

U.S. claims jurisdiction abroad
The United States Supreme Court ruled on March 1 that U.S. agents have the right to break into, search, and seize evidence from buildings on foreign soil without obtaining a search warrant or other authorization from the country concerned. The court was ruling on a case in which U.S. ‘law enforcement’ officers searched the home of a Mexican citizen, in Mexico. The court upheld their actions, and went on to say that “other foreign policy operations which might result in searches or seizures” were also permitted. The ruling comes in the wake of a U.S. Justice Department directive in October 1989 — shortly before the U.S. invasion of Panama — which states that F.B.I. agents are empowered to arrest and seize suspects anywhere in the world without asking other countries for permission first.

Federal budget cuts
The new federal budget contains severe cuts to programs for senior citizens, women’s centres, and native organizations. Especially hard hit were funds for communication, such as newspapers, broadcasting, and groups that provide information and services directly to the public. Among the budget highlights:
• A funding freeze was placed on federal transfer payments for existing programs for health and post–secondary education. The cutbacks are expected to amount to $2.4 billion over the next two years.
• Savage cuts were made to funding for Native programs, with Native communications (newspapers and broadcasting) being targeted with the heaviest cuts. The cuts of $9.8 million come on top of cuts of $3 million cut last year.
• 80 women’s centres had their core funding cut 100%.
• Secretary of State Women’s Program funding cut by 15%.
• Spending limits were placed on the Canada Assistance Program for Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. This is the funding mechanism for shelters for battered women, child care, and social assistance.
• Funding for multicultural programs were cut by $4.1 million, after having been cut by $2 million last year.
• The Seniors Initiatives Program, which is designed to “encourage and support the self–care and mutual aid efforts of seniors and promote the availability and accessibility of resources which support the social, welfare, health and education of seniors”, was cut by $3.5 million.
• $1.75 million was taken from the Childcare Initiatives Program, often cited by Health Minister Perrin Beatty as the reason it was not necessary for the government to proceed with the national child–care program it promised before the last election.

72,000 jobs said lost
The Pro–Canada Network, a coalition of labour, farming, women’s, church and environmental groups opposed to free trade, has estimated that 72,000 jobs were lost due to free trade in the first year of the deal. The vast majority of jobs affected, according to the Pro–Canada Network, were firms that closed or scaled down operations to relocate them in the United States or Mexico. According to Duncan Cameron, the first nine months of 1989 alone also saw $12.6 billion worth of mergers, buyouts, or takeovers of Canadian firms by foreign companies. By comparison, there had been $3 billion worth in all of 1988.

Unemployment rise deliberate, CLC says
The Progressive Conservative government is deliberately pushing up the unemployment rate so that workers will be too demoralized to fight for higher wages when the Goods and Services tax hits next January, the Canadian Labour Congress has charged. The new federal budget will “add a point or two to the unemployment rate,” according to Andrew Jackson, chief economist for the CLC. Finance Minister Michael Wilson himself has forecast that the official unemployment rate will rise to 8.5 per cent from the present 7.8 per cent. This rate translates into about 1.1 million Canadians being out of work.

Canada Post raises prices to North
Canada Post is eliminating cheap rates for sending food shipments to Northern Canada, a decision expected to result in sharp increases in food prices in the North, which already has the highest prices in the country. Food prices are expected to rise by 15 to 20 per cent as a result of the decision. For example, the cost of a loaf of bread will go from $1.74 to $2.09. Canada Post said that it was forced to increase the rates because the federal government has cut the subsidies for the service.

Changes to marketing boards coming
Despite assurances from Prime Minister Mulroney and Agriculture Minister Don Mazankowski that agricultural marketing boards would not be affected by free trade, the boards are now coming under severe pressure. Faced with cheaper agricultural costs in the U.S., marketing boards and provincial ministries of agriculture are being forced to choose between losing out to cheaper imports, or abandoning the protection that farmers received from marketing boards.

New job for Reisman
Simon Reisman, the Mulroney government’s chief negotiator in the free trade negotiations, has landed himself as highly paid job as president of the Trade Investment Advisory Group. The company specializes in advising American companies on how to cash in on the deal.

Fishing jobs threatened
Ninety per cent of jobs in West Coast fish processing plants could be lost as a result of the free trade agreement, according to Jack Nichol, president of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union. According to Nichol, the processing industry is “completely exposed” by the government’s failure to prevent the export of unprocessed fish to the United States, with the result that British Columbia processing jobs are now being lost to plants in the State of Washington.

Petro–Canada to be sold
The Progressive Conservative government has announced that it intends to sell the publicly owned petroleum company, Petro–Canada.
Petro–Canada was first formed in response to the OPEC oil crisis of 1973–74, when members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries quadrupled world oil prices and imposed an embargo on oil sales to the United States and some other countries. Petro–Canada was supposed to ensure that Canadians would have a secure supply of oil, which had emerged as a major concern with 90 per cent of Canada’s own oil and gas industry being foreign–owned, a concern made more acute when it was revealed that U.S.–owned oil companies were diverting supplies destined for Canada to the U.S. instead. Coupled with this were other indications that the industry was more interested in immediate profits than in research and development to ensure a long–term supply of energy. Petro–Canada was also supposed to help ensure that oil and gas development resulted in spin–off benefits to Canadian engineering and other energy–related services, in contrast to the practice of the U.S.–owned companies, who automatically used the same U.S. service firms as their U.S. parent company.
Petro–Canada’s mandate was to accelerate oil and gas exploration, to secure cheaper oil imports, and to give Canadians a direct share in the wealth generated by energy projects. Under the Mulroney government, Petro–Canada has been told to stop pursuing its public policy mandate and to operate strictly as a commercial company.

Refund on tires suggested
A $5 refundable deposit should be charged on every tire purchased, an association of tire dealers has suggested. The deposit would be refunded when a used tire was returned to a dealer, who would then return it to a recycling facility, Jean–Marc Bernard of the Quebec Retreaders and Tire Dealers Association said. The deposit would discourage discarded tires from winding up in dumps or along the roadside.

Fish Missing
A drastic decline in the numbers of some fish, sea birds and whales has been observed along the British Columbia coast this spring. “The steelhead are gone. There’s a big hole in the river,” said Joe Saysell, who has fished the Cowichan river for more than 30 years. The large sea–going trout have virtually disappeared from some British Columbia rivers.

Great Lakes cleanup
Environmental groups are calling on the Canadian and American governments to take more action on cleaning up the Great Lakes. “Neither government is enforcing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement”, said John Jackson of Great Lakes United at a press conference in March. “We see no concrete plans. We’d like to see a timetable and plans for achieving it.” In a document released by the Sierra Club, the groups call for measures to force local, state, and provincial governments to abide by the agreement; to clean up 15,000 toxic sites around the Great Lakes; to use farm legislation to reduce sediment, pesticide, and fertilizer pollution; and to protect wetlands and coastal areas.

Budget hits veterans
More than 5,000 aging Canadian war veterans confined to chronic care hospitals will have to pay more than $3000 each for their bed and board as a result of the Progressive Conservative government’s new budget. Another 60,000 veterans living at home will lose some of the home care and help currently being provided to them because of cuts to the Veterans Independence Program.

B.C. abortion clinic vandalized
The Everywomen’s Health Centre, an abortion clinic in Vancouver, was attacked on February 25. Two men used crowbars to break into the clinic, and then smashed medical equipment in the building, doing about $30,000 damage. Police were called, but by the time they arrived, the men had fled. The clinic has been subject to frequent harassment and attacks since it opened a year ago.

Union has right to be in mall
A trade union has the right to try to organize workers in a mall even thought the mall is privately owned, the Supreme Court of Ontario has ruled. The court was ruling on a case involving Cadillac Fairview Corp. and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Members of the union were arrested for trying to hand out information flyers to Eaton workers in the Toronto Eaton Centre. The court upheld a ruling by the Ontario Labour Relations Board which gave the union the right to approach workers in public areas of the Eaton Centre. Lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, who handled the case for the union, said that the decision will make it easier to organize workers in modern settings such as malls or large office buildings. “It is a basic victory for fundamental human rights over property rights — the court has decided there is no such thing as absolute property rights when they are balanced against the right to join a trade union and have access to labour information.”

Group challenges bylaw
A Kingston environmental group which was barred from setting up an information booth at a local market is mounting a constitutional challenge to the decision. The Kingston Environmental Action Project had been setting up a booth at Kingston’s market square, which has been a gathering place not only for produce sellers but for advocacy groups. The city recently passed a bylaw banning political and environmental groups from renting booths in Market Square. KEAP will argue that the bylaw violates constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression.

Right to poster upheld
Anti–free trade activists who were charged with putting up posters under Toronto’s anti–poster bylaw won a victory in court in April. Two members of Citizens Concerned About Free Trade (CCAFT) were acquitted by a Toronto judge who accepted the defense’s arguments that postering is an essential form of free speech. The defence argued that postering was one of the few forms of public expression open to poor people and small organizations who could not afford to buy space or time in the expensive commercial media. Although the city defended its bylaw on the grounds that postering contributes to visual clutter, the bylaw was originally put on the books in 1930 to hamper organizing of the unemployed by the Communist Party and other radicals.
CCAFT said that the group was trying to counteract a stated government policy to try to keep the public from becoming informed on the free trade issue. CCAFT organizer Marjaleena Repo quoted a leaked report from Prime Minister Mulroney’s office which detailed the government strategy on free trade: “It is likely that the higher the profile the issue attains, the lower the degree of public approval will be. The strategy should rely less on educating the general public than on getting across the message that the trade initiative is a good idea. In other words, a selling job.”
Countering the city argument that postering is ugly, defense lawyer Robert Kellermann said that “it wouldn’t look so ugly if they weren’t scraping them off every day. Also, if postering was allowed, people would do it more carefully.”

Bank imposes ‘voluntary’ drug tests
The Toronto Dominion bank has begun including drug tests in the annual medical exams which its executives are required to take. The tests are supposedly voluntary, but critics point out that under such ‘voluntary’ arrangements, people stick their necks out if they decline to take them. A bank spokesperson characterized the tests as a “service to employees”.

Native press axed
Federal budget cuts will mean the end of most of the Native newspapers in Canada, according to Native leaders. At least 15 Native publications are expected to go under as a result of the elimination of the $3.4 million Native Communications Program. The papers have been receiving subsides from the Department of the Secretary of State because most of them publish in small, remote, poor communities which do not have the advertising and commercial base which sustains community papers in urban centres. Also hit by budget cuts was the Native Broadcast Access Program, which funds aboriginal radio and television broadcasts to remote northern villages. This program lost 16 per cent of its $2.2 million budget. The main Native organization in the country, the Assembly of First Nations, which represents 593 bands across the country, will have its entire core funding of $562,000 scrapped. Some 27 regional tribal councils will also lose all of their funding, while another seven provincial and territorial Native groups were cut 15 per cent. The Native Council of Canada will lose all of its core funding, and the Friendship Centre program will lose $1.2 million. Most of the cuts will take effect on July 1 — Canada Day.

Peace tax denied
Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a conscientious objector who was seeking to redirect the portion of her taxes destined for the military to other purposes, has been denied leave to present her case to the Supreme Court. About 550 Canadians have deposited money in a Peace Tax Trust, administered by Conscience Canada, and all of them were waiting to hear the outcome of the case. Despite the ruling, many of the conscientious objectors intend to continue to defy the government. They will attempt to present the money in the Peace Tax Trust to the government in Ottawa in return for a pledge that the money will not be spent for military purposes.
Conscience Canada members are also pursuing a complaint of discrimination through the Canadian Human Rights Commission, but are experiencing difficulty because the Human Rights Act focuses on discrimination, rather than on human rights per se. As they point out, even torture would not be considered a violation of human rights under the Act, as long as all Canadians were equally subject to torture without discrimination.
Conscience Canada, March 20, 1990. Conscience Canada can be contacted at Box 601, Station E, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2P3, (604) 384–5532

Icebreaker sunk
The proposed Polar 8 icebreaker, which was presented as a way of asserting Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic, was cut in the federal government’s February 1990 budget. The vessel would have been the only Canadian ship capable of operating in winter ice. The United States maintains that Canadian Arctic waters are international waterways, and claims that it has the right to send its warships into these waters without informing Canada. In scrapping the icebreaker, the government seems to be resigning itself to the loss of Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic, as exemplified by External Affairs Minister Joe Clark’s statement, when the government first announced plans for the ship, that “sovereignty claims you can’t defend gradually disappear.”

Women’s programs cut
The federal government’s February budget slashes $1.6 million in funding from women’s programs. Hardest hit were 80 women’s centres across the country which lose all of their funding. Three women’s publications — Healthsharing, Canadian Women’s Studies, and Resources for Feminist Research — will lose all of their government funding. Several other organizations will suffer 20 per cent cuts: the Canadian Committee on Learning Opportunities for Women, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, the Women’s Research Centre, and Noveau Depart. The National Action Committee on the Status of Women, which lost 15 per cent of its budget last year, will have its remaining $490,000 cut by another $100,000 this year.

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