• Sam Katz's last council meeting as Winnipeg mayor bittersweet (CBC)Sam Katz's last council meeting as Winnipeg mayor bittersweet (CBC)

    Canadians often decry the gold plated pensions of their MPs or the severance packages for their representatives from their provincial legislatures. 

    But one set of payouts that always seems to fall under the radar are the severance payments that municipal councils have often voted-in for themselves. 

    In civic elections this year in Manitoba, in Ontario and in British Columbia  outgoing councillors and mayors are collectively going to cash-in on millions of dollars. 

    According to the Winnipeg Sun, ex-Winnipeg councillors are entitled to three weeks salary for every year in office up to a maximum of six months. 

    They note that following the Oct. 22 election, the severance packages of former mayor Sam Katz and seven ex-city councillors will cost taxpayers $400,000.

    In Ontario, the total comes to almost half a million dollars.

    The Toronto Sun reports that "every member of council is eligible to collect 1/12 of their annual salary for every year of service when they leave office

    Read More »from Outgoing city councillors destined for soft landings thanks to big severance payouts
  • A Canadian's letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press is generating buzz across the United States. 

    In the letter, published on Monday, Richard Brunt  who claims to be from Victoria, B.C.  says that Canadians are confused by the outcome of last week’s U.S. mid-term elections, which saw the Republicans retake control of Congress.

    "Consider, right now in America, corporate profits are at record highs, the country’s adding 200,000 jobs per month, unemployment is below 6 per cent, U.S. gross national product growth is the best of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries," he wrote.

    "The dollar is at its strongest levels in years, the stock market is near record highs, gasoline prices are falling, there’s no inflation, interest rates are the lowest in 30 years, U.S. oil imports are declining, U.S. oil production is rapidly increasing, the deficit is rapidly declining, and the wealthy are still making astonishing amounts of money.

    "So, Americans

    Read More »from Canadian's letter to Americans: 'When you are done with Obama, could you send him our way?'
  • Lieutenant-General Jonathan Vance holds a technical briefing on combat strikes against ISIS in Ottawa. (CP)Lieutenant-General Jonathan Vance holds a technical briefing on combat strikes against ISIS in Ottawa. (CP)

    How much will Canada’s mission to Iraq cost Canadian taxpayers?

    It’s a question that’s been asked by opposition parties, media and even the Parliamentary Budget Officer but to no avail. 

    Well, we might just have an answer  thanks to a thorough analysis by some intrepid reporters at the Ottawa Citizen 

    A Citizen analysis estimates the first week of air operations against the Islamic State cost taxpayers between $2.7 million and $4.1 million.

    That means if the Canadian military aircraft tasked with helping the U.S. fight ISIL continue flying at their current pace, the initial six-month mission will cost Canadian taxpayers between $60 million and $90 million.

    Canada officially joined the United States and other allies in launching airstrikes against ISIS over Iraq earlier this month. The Harper government has committed to a six month mission deploying six CF-18 fighters, two surveillance aircraft and one air-to-air fuel tanker as a means to degrade the ongoing threat of the Islamic

    Read More »from Airstrikes over Iraq cost Canadian taxpayers $90 million: Report
  • Former teacher Fran Albrecht is upset by the Remembrance Day book decision. (CBC)Former teacher Fran Albrecht is upset by the Remembrance Day book decision. (CBC)

    The topic of religious accommodation and Remembrance Day has, again, reared its ugly head. 

    This time it’s happened in Prince Edward Island where a former teacher, military reservist and now a grandmother, is alerting politicians and the media about a librarian being asked not to read Remembrance Day stories to a visiting Grade 1 class because one of the students belonged to the Jehovah’s Witness faith. 

    "[The librarian] said she could talk about peace-making and peacekeeping, but she doesn’t read about Remembrance Day, so I was quite concerned," Fran Albrecht told the Chronicle Herald

    Andrew Sprague, a spokesman for the Department of Tourism and Culture, the agency in charge of the P.E.I. library system, told CBC News that this was just a one-off.

    "We try to be as inclusive as possible with programming at all public libraries," Sprague said.

    "We were asked to put together a program that allowed all students in one class to participate while at the same time speaking to the spirit

    Read More »from Former teacher angry after library omits Remembrance Day discussion due to religious accommodation
  • Sheila Copps pauses for a moment during a news conference in Ottawa on March 10, 2004. (CP)Sheila Copps pauses for a moment during a news conference in Ottawa on March 10, 2004. (CP)

    A couple of weeks ago, former Liberal MP and cabinet minister Sheila Copps incurred the wrath of the Twitterverse for defending former CBC personality Jian Ghomeshi over sexual assault allegations. 

    Today, she’s not only backtracking, she’s sharing a very personal story of her own. 

    I was sexually assaulted by another Member of the Provincial Parliament within a year of my arrival at Queen’s Park at the age of 28,” she wrote in the Hill Times.   

    "The incident occurred when we exited a hotel elevator after enjoying a group dinner following a day-long session in northern Ontario. 

    "I pushed back on my assailant, kicking him where it hurts, when he tried to force me up against a wall and kiss me. I never reported him, chalking the incident up to personal misjudgment."

    Copps goes on to write that she was also once raped by somebody she knew but didn’t go into any detail about who raped her or under what circumstance. 

    She did say, however, that police told her it would be “impossible”

    Read More »from Former Liberal cabinet minister Sheila Copps says she was sexually assaulted
  • Youngsters play as NDP Leader Tom Mulcair holds a press conference at a daycare in Ottawa. (CP)Youngsters play as NDP Leader Tom Mulcair holds a press conference at a daycare in Ottawa. (CP)

    If you pay for daycare in Toronto, you’re getting the short end of the stick. 

    A new report, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, examined the average infant, toddler and preschooler child care fees in the country’s biggest cities. 

    What they found is that, for each category, the costs vary significantly depending on where you live. Median fees range from $1,676 per child per month in Toronto to just $152 per month in Quebec  thanks, of course, to that province’s $7/day program. 

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    The report’s authors also created an affordability index  looking at daycare fees as a percentage of earnings in a given city. 

    "Brampton is the least affordable city with child care consuming 36 per cent of a woman’s pre-tax income," notes the report.

    "Put another way, an average woman in Brampton can expect to work for over four months of the year just to pay for child care that year.

    "The most affordable city for child care is Gatineau where child care only consumes 4 per cent of a

    Read More »from Toronto tops list of most expensive daycare in Canada: New study
  • Gregor Robertson unveils Vision Vancouver affordability plan (CBC)Gregor Robertson unveils Vision Vancouver affordability plan (CBC)

    In Canada, we’ve seen some high profile instances of politicians suing their political rivals over libel or defamation. 

    The latest case comes from Vancouver in what’s turning out to be a very nasty mayoral contest. 

    On Thursday, current Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and city councillor Geoff Meggs launched a libel suit against the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) and their mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe.

    The suit alleges that “the defendants published or caused to be published…false and defamatory words concerning the plaintiffs” about the nature of a union donation. 

    The full suit can be read here

    LaPointe and the NPA responded with a this press release:

    Today, the Non-Partisan Association and I received a legal action by Vision Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson and Geoff Meggs in an attempt to stop our criticism of their party’s record and behaviour.

    The NPA recognizes intimidation by lawsuit as a typical tactic of Robertson and Vision. This legal action can now be added to the
    Read More »from Vancouver mayoral race becomes the latest election campaign with a lawsuit
  • Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma gestures as he speaks to PM Harper on Nov. 7, 2014. (Reuters)Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma gestures as he speaks to PM Harper on Nov. 7, 2014. (Reuters)

    Stephen Harper, Barack Obama and the leaders of all the Asian Pacific countries are being urged to make China’s human rights record a focus at next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Beijing.  

    Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International deride the state-party’s censoring of media, alleged unlawful imprisonment of democracy activists and religious leaders and the crackdown against China’s so-called ethnic minorities, including Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Mongolians.

    For the west, engagement with the Communist Party of China has always been a delicate balancing act  western politicians have had to weigh the access to a market of 1.4 billion people versus speaking out against human rights abuses that they and their domestic populations clearly deplore.  

    In recent years, however, North American and European countries have seemingly tilted towards the pursuit of economic and commercial interests.

    At least that’s the way it’s been in Canada.

    In 2006, Harper was

    Read More »from What can Stephen Harper do to curb human rights abuses in China?
  • Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa October 23, 2014. (Reuters)Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa October 23, 2014. (Reuters)

    The allegations of ”personal misconduct” against two Liberal MPs are shedding some light on the very complex world of harassment prevention and resolution procedures on Parliament Hill. 

    On Wednesday, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced that he was suspending his ethics critic, Scott Andrews, and Quebec MP Massimo Pacetti after two female New Democrat MPs alleged they were harassed by the two men in separate incidences.  

    Liberal Party whip Judy Foote forwarded the matter to Speaker Andrew Scheer’s office noting that “there is no precedent or established process for dealing with a situation such as this.”

    She was right.

    Surprisingly  in 2014  there is no system in place for dealing with harassment allegations between members of parliament. 

    That, suggested NDP MP Megan Leslie, has helped facilitate a “locker room mentality.”

    "As one of the few young women in Parliament, I have had MPs discuss my clothing: “Hey, Megan, those are some pretty pink tights you have there.” When I

    Read More »from Sifting through Parliament Hill's hodge-podge of harassment prevention and resolution procedures
  • Canvasser Jenny Smith leaves campaign flyer to drum up support for Oregon's Measure 91 (REUTERS/Steve Dipaola)Canvasser Jenny Smith leaves campaign flyer to drum up support for Oregon's Measure 91 (REUTERS/Steve Dipaola)

    Pot activists in Canada are celebrating today, thanks to the residents of three jurisdictions in the United States who voted in favour of liberalizing marijuana laws.  

    In ballot initiatives included in Tuesday's mid-term elections, Alaska and Oregon decided to join Washington and Colorado in legalizing the drug. In Washington, D.C., voters approved the possession of cannabis for personal use.  

    Dana Larsen (via CBC)Dana Larsen (via CBC)Dana Larsen — the man who spearheaded the drive for decriminalization in British Columbia last year —  suggests that the U.S. referendum results buoy the ‘legalize movement’ in Canada. 

    "I’m very happy today. It’s pouring [rain] outside but that’s okay, it’s sunshining in our hearts," he told Yahoo Canada News in a telephone interview from Vancouver.

    "The final argument from prohibitionists in Canada has always been, ‘If you legalize it, America will punish us…they’ll shut down our border.’ That’s always been the last refuge of the prohibitionists. [President] Obama is not even punishing his

    Read More »from Canadian pot activists celebrate U.S. votes to legalize marijuana

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