Connexions Digest #53 News Briefs

Compiled by Ulli Diemer

News Briefs published in the Connexions Digest #53, January 1991

Networks refuse anti–TV ads
The Telecaster Committee of Canada, the advertising standards group for the private networks, has refused to accept a series of four television advertisements produced by The Media Foundation, a non–profit organization concerned with what it calls “TV addiction”. In one of the ads, a father struggles to pry a television set from off his head while his son pleads, “Dad! Dad! Talk to me, Dad!” According to the Media Foundation, the Committee demanded that it “prove” its ads are true, and that they carry a disclaimer stating they are the opinions of the Media Foundation. Apparently no other advertisers are required to meet similar conditions.
For more information contact: Adbusters, 1243 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver, B. C. V6H 1B7.

Danger: sticky yellow notes
The Canadian Conservation Institute, the association of Canadian archivists, has warned that self–sticking yellow note pads pose a danger to archives. The tabs, such as 3M’s Post–it Notes, can leave some of their adhesive behind when removed from documents. The residue collects dirt and causes papers to stick together. The adhesive also lifts away some typewriter and photocopier inks. “The results of these tests lead to the recommendation that self–sticking notes not be used on documents, books or any other subject of importance or value,” said conservation specialist John Grace in an article in The Archivist.

105,000 jobs lost to free trade
According to the Canadian Labour Congress, at least 105,000 jobs have been lost to free trade since the agreement was ratified in 1989. The Congress adds that this is almost certainly a low figure, since only manufacturing jobs that can be directly traced were included in the figures. Many thousands of other jobs have been lost as companies have gone bankrupt.

“Open skies” coming?
Federal Transport Minister Doug Lewis has announced that the Progressive Conservative government intends to negotiate what it calls an “open skies” agreement with the United States. However, what the government is in fact proposing is a bi–lateral aviation deal with the United States, not a general international “open skies” arrangement. The intent is to bring about further deregulation of the airline industry, eliminating all remaining government–imposed restrictions except those related to safety. The government’s intentions were criticized by PWA president Rhys Eyton, who said unlimited competition with the U.S. carriers could destroy the Canadian airline industry and shift thousands of jobs to the U.S.. Equally critical was the CAW union, which represents many aircraft workers. According to the CAW, “‘open skies’ is more likely to lead to a reduction in the number, size, and scope of Canadian air carriers.” CAW president Bob White said that “In a country as vast as Canada, strong national links in transportation are essential. Canada–U.S. free trade in airline service would do just the opposite. It would enhance north–south relations at the expense of our national links.” The CAW points out that U.S. airlines enjoy significant cost advantages, including lower interest costs on debts to finance aircraft and lower fuel costs. The sheer size of the major American carriers also gives them significant economies of scale, while their control of take–off and landing slots and airport gates enables them to keep potential competitors out of their own markets.
Source: Canadian Tribune and CAW. (Canadian Tribune subscriptions are $20/year from 290A Danforth Ave., Toronto M4K 1N6).

Black settles on pensions
Canadian capitalist Conrad Black has agreed to pay $44 million to 10,000 former employees of Dominion Stores to settle a long pension fund battle. Black, the chairman of Hollinger Inc., and his brother Montegu touched off the battle in 1986 when they withdrew $38 million from the pension fund at a time when the chain was planning store closings and layoffs. The union fought the move and the Ontario Supreme Court ordered the Blacks to return the money. The union also argued that inflation had reduced the value of the pension money in the meantime, leading to a court–approved settlement which saw the Blacks paying $44 million to the former employees.

$300,000 for government video
The federal Finance Department is spending about $300,000 to produce and distribute 40,000 videotapes justifying government economic policies. The 12 1/2–minute video, entitled Where Do Your Tax Dollars Go?, featuring pie charts and clips of Canadians at work in offices, factories, and fields, promotes the government view that spending cuts are necessary to control the deficit. Copies of the video are being mailed free to libraries, associations and businesses. The $300,000 cost comes in addition to $1.3 million spent early in the fall to send out 10 million brochures promoting the government’s economic policies.

GST discriminates against co–ops
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) discriminates against co–operatives, according to Tom Webb of Co–op Atlantic. Members who pay for shares in a co–operative will be forced to pay 7% GST on top on the transaction, while individuals who buy shares in a for–profit corporation will not have to pay GST. In addition, the way in which the GST is applied to local co–operatives which belong to a larger co–op will mean double the administrative costs for them than it does for privately owned businesses in the same field. According to Webb, government officials “don’t understand what a co–operative is. They don’t care... Whether it puts a whole alternative business form in jeopardy is of no concern to them at all. They couldn’t care less.”
From Pro–Canada Dossier. Subscriptions from Pro–Canada Network, 251 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 904, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J6.

Towns take Post Office to court
Rural Dignity and the residents of four Canadian communities are taking Canada Post, and Harvie Andre, the Minister responsible for Canada Post, to court in a challenge to decisions to close Post Offices in Arran, Saskatchewan, Falmouth, Nova Scotia, and Meductic and Aroostock, New Brunswick. Among other things, the case charges that the closures effectively deny the right to postal services to aged and other residents who don’t have cars and are therefore unable to drive to another town for postal service.
Even as the case is before the courts, Canada Post, acting under federal government orders to show a profit no matter what, is continuing to remove mail boxes and close post offices, all the while denying it is reducing service. A typical recent example came from Walkerton, Ontario, where the Post Office removed 11 of the town’s 12 mailboxes this fall. According to Tom Dalby, the manager of media and community affairs at Canada Post’s Huron Division, the removal of street letter boxes is a way of “increasing efficiency”.
From Pro–Canada Dossier and Walkerton Herald Times

Varity pulls out with taxpayers’ money
Varity Corporation, which owes its existence to a $200 million government bailout of its predecessor, Massey–Ferguson, is moving to the United States. Varity will pay a $25 million penalty for breaking its promise to keep its head office and a specified number of jobs in Canada, and a further $27 million in severance pay and benefits to its laid–off Canadian employees, including 1,400 workers laid off without severance pay in 1988, and 3,000 pensioners whose benefits it had cut off in 1988. However, it gets to keep the $200 million, for a net profit of approximately $150 million. Varity is not the only company to make such a move: for example, Tridon Ltd. announced in October that it is moving to the United States, wiping out 550 Canadian jobs, after picking up $9 million in government assistance.

Rule change may hide executives’ pay
Canadian corporate executives may have found a way of concealing the size of their pay cheques from Canadians. At present, corporations whose shares are listed on American stock exchanges, including many large Canadian companies, are required by U.S. disclosure rules to reveal the amounts top executives are paid. Companies listed on Canadian exchanges are only required to disclose the aggregate amount paid to top executives as a group. A proposed set of new rules, the Canada–U.S. Multijurisdictional Disclosure System, expected to be adopted early in 1991, would waive the disclosure requirement for Canadian executives. This would mean that in the future Canadians would not be able to use U.S. information to find out that, for example, Inco chairman Don Phillips made $1.9 million in 1989, while BCE president Raymond Cyr and Magna Corp. chairman Frank Stronach had to struggle by on $1.2 million each. The move comes at a time when the gap between the pay of top executives and ordinary workers in growing larger than ever. For example, a recent study by Hewitt Associates showed that executives received increases of 6.6 per cent last year, compared with 5.6 per cent for hourly workers.

Benefit to Canada no longer matters
The National Energy Board, the federal agency that is supposed to regulate Canadian energy exports, has dropped its ‘benefit–to–Canada’ test for deciding whether an export should be approved. The test itself was a much–diluted criterion after the Free Trade Agreement forced it to abandon its previous mandate to ensure that Canada maintain at 25–year reserve of energy at all times. It dropped the ‘benefit–to–Canada test’ after American energy companies pressured the Canadian government to drop the test. The federal government has also taken away from the NEB the power to rule on hydro–electric exports, thereby allowing provinces such as Quebec and British Columbia to contract hydro deals with U.S. customers without any public input.

Energy Board OKs pipeline subsidy
The National Energy Board has approved a $2.6 billion pipeline expansion project which will see Canadian consumers subsidizing the construction of a pipeline designed exclusively to serve American customers of TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. Sixty–four of TCPL’s current industrial customers had objected to having to pay the costs of the new pipeline, saying that the cost of constructing the pipeline should be paid for by the U.S. customers it is designed to serve. The NEB’s ruling reflects its similar policy for the Hibernia megaproject, where $2.7 billion of Canadian taxpayers’ money is being used to support a project whose entire output is slated for export to U.S. markets.

Environmental data lacking
According to the members of an expert panel assembled to prepare environmental “report cards” on the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, they had to abandon one of their main objectives, that of compiling key indicators of environmental quality, because so much of the needed information does not exist. “I was flabbergasted, not only at the gaps, but at the lack of correlation across the country,” said panelist Peter Vivian, corporate vice–president of Bell Canada International. “I’d say we know nothing,” said panelist Digby McLaren, a former president of the Royal Society of Canada. Information not being collected includes data on the amounts of toxic substances in fish (only Ontario collects detailed information on this); data on hazardous wastes (again, only Ontario compiles this); the extent of remaining wetlands and the rate at which they are disappearing; changes in the quality of soil or the losses caused by erosion; the rate of pesticide use by farmers and whether it is increasing or decreasing. There are also no common standards for what constitutes successful replanting of logged forests, and there are no national studies on human exposure to hazardous chemicals. The panel also complained that existing information is often out of date.

Ecosystem research threatened
The future of Canada’s most important ecosystem research program, the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) program, is in doubt because of funding cutbacks. The ELA, located just east of Kenora, consists of 47 lakes and associated streams and watersheds. The area was set aside in 1968 for long term study. The ELA has since become known around the world as a uniquely important centre for whole ecosystem research, especially for research on the causes of lake eutrophication and acid rain. However, the program, funded primarily by the federal department of fisheries and oceans has been frozen. When the effects of inflation are taken into account, the project has suffered a 70 per cent funding cut since 1976.
Source: November–December 1990 issue of Alternatives, c/o Environmental Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo Ontario N2L 3G1.

Auditor raps waste dumping
Federal negligence is allowing polluters to dump waste into northern rivers in clear violation of their licenses, according to Auditor–General Kenneth Dye. He blames the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for failing to enforce its regulations for waste discharge. In one example cited by Dye, the Justice Department wanted to lay charges against a company that had dumped excess waste for about 100 days in 1989, including arsenic for 50 days. Instead, Northern Affairs renewed the company’s license. Across the country, according to Dye, only 50 per cent of Canada’s mines were complying with effluent regulations in 1988, a serious decline from 1982 when 85 per cent of mines were obeying the rules.

Ban on disposable diapers
The town of Saanich, British Columbia, is in the midst of legal battles after passing a bylaw banning the use of disposable diapers. The bylaw came out of concern for the waste disposal problems and health hazards caused by disposable diapers. (A baby will use something like 3,000 pounds of diapers before toilet training. Diapers alone account for about 2 per cent of the contents of landfill sites.) The bylaw would make it an offense to dispose of the diapers, and provides for fines and withdrawal of garbage pickup for repeat offenders. Saanich’s action brought swift legal action from Procter & Gamble, which sees the bylaw as a dangerous precedent threatening its $400 million a year market in Canada.

Japan suspends some driftnetting
The government of Japan has announced that it is suspending driftnet fishing in the South Pacific for the 1990–91 season which began October 1990. The Japanese announcement comes just before the July 1, 1991 deadline for ending all driftnet fishing set out in a UN General Assembly Resolution. This leaves only Taiwanese driftnets active in the South Pacific. South Korea had already withdrawn its South Pacific driftnet fleet before last year’s season began. Taiwan has said it will abide by the UN ban, but in the interim Japan, South Korea and Taiwan will all continue driftnet fishing in the North Pacific.
(From Tok Blong SPPF, July 1990, and Pacific Report, July 19, 1990)

Rights group criticizes Canada
The British–based international human rights group Article 19 has released a lengthy report documenting violations of basic freedoms by federal and provincial governments in Canada. The report, submitted to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, accuses the Canadian army and the Quebec police of violating the freedom of speech of journalists during the armed standoff at Oka this summer. Other actions criticized were the seizure of publications by customs officials, cuts in support for aboriginal language programs, and failures of government officials to co–operate with freedom of information legislation.

Court rules Ottawa negligent, ignorant
The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the federal government acted “negligently and ignorantly” towards a journalist seeking information about the impact of free trade. Toronto Star writer Martin Cohn attempted back in 1985 to gain access to government studies on the potential impact of the then–proposed free trade agreement with the United States. He was told by government officials to file a request under the Access to Information Act — which he proceeded to do — and then was stonewalled for eight months. Cohn, with the support of the federal Information Commissioner, then filed suit against the Department of External Affairs. The government’s stonewalling was later shown to have been part of a deliberately adopted strategy of withholding any meaningful information about free trade as a way to prevent it from becoming a public issue. In ruling against the government’s actions, the Federal Court of Appeal said that the government “delayed unduly”, sought extensions that “were not justified”, “acted unreasonably”, “breached the requirements” of the Act, and “acted negligently and ignorantly outside the spirit of the Act”. When eventually released by the government, the studies were heavily censored on the grounds that the contents would be “injurious to the conduct of international affairs.” The deleted passages later turned out to be those portions which documented the potential negative impacts of the trade deal most clearly.

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