• Alberta Premier Jim Prentice.Alberta Premier Jim Prentice.

    It turns out not everything’s bigger in Texas.

    As Alberta braces for what will be a disappointing budget for one group or another, a new Fraser Institute report compares the Prairie province’s fiscal performance to the U.S. state with a very similar economic history.

    While Alberta outperformed Texas on most economic indicators from 2000 to 2013, the same cannot be said for its bookkeeping, says Mark Milke, a senior fellow at the public policy think tank and author of the report.

    “Alberta’s got a spending problem,” Milke tells Yahoo Canada News.

    Oil and gas revenues fluctuate regularly, he says. Alberta shouldn’t bank on the boom years.

    “If it had better controlled spending over the past decade, it would still be producing budget surpluses. Instead, it’s staring a lot of red ink in the face because it couldn’t control its spending.”

    Oil and gas accounts for 26.8 per cent of Alberta’s gross domestic product. In Texas, it amounts to 11 per cent.

    Both jurisdictions have seen relatively

    Read More »from Report urges Alberta to cut public sector spending ahead of budget
  • Former CBC ombudsman LaPointe says there's one key skill a good ombudsman needs. (Handout)Former CBC ombudsman LaPointe says there's one key skill a good ombudsman needs. (Handout)

    Former CBC ombudsman Kirk LaPointe didn’t hesitate when asked to name the one character trait that someone in a top watchdog role – whether for a corporation or government – absolutely must possess to get a difficult jobdone.

    Is it better to be thick-skinned? Stubborn? Tenacious?

    “You have to have a lot of patience,” LaPointe told Yahoo Canada News.

    “A number of people are bringing their complaints with a fair amount of anxiety. You have to sit back. Don’t judge. Get the complaint fully understood and then do your own investigation.”

    At the same time, he said, “You have to find a way to make sure you’ve got the buy-in of the institution (you represent). You can’t be seen as an unfair figure who isn’t going to listen to them, as well.”

    “It takes a lot more patience than you might imagine.”

    Related stories:

    Fiona Crean, Toronto's ombudsman, not returning after delivering final report

    Winnipeg pharmacist 'inappropriately accesses' 56 patients' health info: WRHA

    Wounded vets with no

    Read More »from Being the bad guy: What makes the ombudsman’s job so difficult
  • REUTERS/Phil NobleREUTERS/Phil Noble

    There was a time when living past age 85 was a rarity, a result of some tightly held secret of longevity or a testament to the outstanding quality of one’s DNA.

    But the “oldest old,” as they’ve been dubbed, are the most rapidly growing segment of Canadian society, says a new report.

    In 1971, just 139,000 Canadians were 85 years and older.  By 2013, there were 702,000. By 2060, that number is expected to hit 2.7 million.

    “They are coming,” Jacques Legare, a demographer at the Universite de Montreal and lead author of the study, tells Yahoo Canada News.

    “This has never been experienced. It will be the first time in history.”

    This generation of extreme seniors will result in a demographic shift in the country, he says.

    Policy makers need to prepare to deal with their rapidly expanding ranks, says Legare, who presented the study recently to a group of researchers and policy makers in Ottawa.

    Statistics Canada estimates there are now about six million Canadians aged 65 and over. By 2060,

    Read More »from The oldest old: The changing face of Canadian seniors
  • A drug being introduced to Canadian streets has an explosive potential — one that police and authorities are worried could cause dangerous consequences for innocent bystanders.

    The drug itself is extremely potent, but there is a great deal of concern about the danger of explosions or fires from methods used to convert or “manufacture” marijuana into highly potent concentrates.

    The new drug is called “shatter”; it looks like maple syrup or thin toffee on wax paper. But its looks are deceiving. The drug is similar to hash oil, is also known as honey oil or budderand contains a THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) level of up to 80 per cent, which can give hallucinations. Top grade marijuana on the streets usually measures about 20 per cent.

    It sells for about $100 a gram and it takes about eight grams of marijuana to make one gram of the concentrate.

    Shatter is a hardened extract made from marijuana resin that is processed with highly flammable materials that have caused an untold number of fires

    Read More »from Manufacture of emerging drug ‘shatter’ on Canadian market poses dangers to users and makers: police
  • It's time to move away from these photos on mental health stories, says Time To Change (Thinkstock)It's time to move away from these photos on mental health stories, says Time To Change (Thinkstock)

    You’ve likely seen it before: A photo of someone alone with theirhead in their hands to show you just how depressed a person is. It’s enough to make you shake your head and wonder: Why can’t the media stop using these overwrought ‘headclutcher’ images?

    You’re not alone. British actor and advocate Stephen Fry is the latest to voice his disdain for these stereotypical images to depict mental health issues.

    London-based charity Time To Change launched the Get the Picture campaign to shine a light on the issue and provide the media with free high-resolution alternatives to the often cheesy stock photos.

    The charity recently conducted a survey of nearly 2,000 people and 58 per cent of respondents said that the ‘headclutcher’ image was stigmatizing, while 76 per cent said that it made others think that people with mental health problems should look depressed all of the time. Over 80 per cent also said the image did not convey how it feels to have a mental health problem.

    Time To Change also

    Read More »from Time To Change charity aims to expose what depression really looks like
  • A worker walks on a construction site in Hamilton, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron LynettA worker walks on a construction site in Hamilton, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

    Public sector employees work less and earn thousands of dollars more than their private sector counterparts, says a new report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

    The business group says public sector workers earn between three and 13 per cent more than people working for private businesses at comparable jobs, which equates to roughly $8,150 per year.

    With benefits added to the mix, that gap grows to between 18 and 37 per cent, depending on the particular sector, Ted Mallett, chief economist and vice-president of the federation, tells Yahoo Canada News.

    “When you take simply the occupations where there are direct occupational comparisons between public and private sector, there remain some pretty substantial gaps between wage levels,” he says. “And when you add things like the benefits side of the equation … the gap grows considerably larger.”

    Based on the 2011 National Household Survey results, the federation looked at the wages, sick days, hours of work and

    Read More »from Government workers earn thousands more, work less: report
  • Tintin is a widely popular character, but some of the books featuring him have come under fire. (Reuters)Tintin is a widely popular character, but some of the books featuring him have come under fire. (Reuters)

    The Winnipeg Library has pulled copies of the comic Tintin in America to review the portrayal of indigenous peoples in the 85-year-old book.

    It’s a sensitive case that pits censorship against historic racism in a city recently branded the most racist in Canada.

    But can we really sanitize the past? And should we?

    “You don’t really serve anybody’s interests by whitewashing the past; by pretending that bad things didn’t happen,” Franklin Carter, who is from the Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee, told Yahoo Canada News.

    The best solution is to move the books to adult sections and allow the historic portrayals to inform public discussion today, he said.

    “Adults can learn how perceptions of aboriginal people have changed over the years, and they can learn something about stereotypes,” Carter said.

    Neither Chapters nor the Winnipeg Public Library responded to requests for comment.

    Four years ago, new editions of Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and

    Read More »from Racism vs. censorship: Winnipeg Public Library grapples with comic complaint
  • The mother of Tim McLean, who was stabbed and beheaded by Li in 2008, is 'horrified' by freedoms granted to himThe mother of Tim McLean, who was stabbed and beheaded by Li in 2008, is 'horrified' by freedoms granted to him
    New studies that suggest a lot of success from programs for people found not criminally responsible for offences they commit due to mental illness have done nothing to sway federal policy makers on how they should be treated by the justice system.

    Four studies and an overview that are part of what’s known as the National Trajectory Project were published this week in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

    Among other things, researchers found the recidivism rate for patients classed as not criminally responsible due to mental defect (NCRMD) was 17 per cent, about half the rate of reoffending by prisoners released from Canadian prisons.

    The rate for NCRMD patents who committed the most violent offences was even lower, 0.7 per cent of the 1,800 cases examined from B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

    And yet there remains a perception, based largely on media coverage of the most shocking offences, that NCRMD patients are time bombs who shouldn’t be released back into society or are feigning mental

    Read More »from Get-tough policy for not criminally responsible offenders unnecessary, studies find
  • He may look cute, but if you're eating this bunny in February, it's probably too early. (Getty Images)He may look cute, but if you're eating this bunny in February, it's probably too early. (Getty Images)

    “Please, please, pleeeese, can I have a Creme Egg!!!!”

    When your child starts screaming for Easter candy at the store, resist the temptation to give in.

    “Parents have to be assertive and have to say no,” Dr. Tom Warshawski, a pediatrician and chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation in Vancouver told Yahoo Canada News in an interview.

    Of course, it’s often the big kids (a.k.a. adults) who findit hard to resist. Making things trickier for Canadians of all ages is the fact that Easter candy has been on the shelf for weeks, and in some cases months. Just like there has been seasonal creep in other seasons, with Pumpkin Spice Lattes to celebrate fall going on sale in August, there has been Easter Creep.

    In recent years stores tear down their Valentine’s Day candy displays Feb. 15, only to immediately replace all those chocolate hearts with chocolate eggs and bunnies. Last year, Easter Sunday was on Apr. 20, and this year it’s Apr. 5. By the time the holiday actually rolls around this

    Read More »from Easter Creep: Hop away from Easter candy, until it’s actually Easter
  • Samuel Trego plays with 'Stewart' at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County in Birdsboro, PA. (Reuters)Samuel Trego plays with 'Stewart' at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County in Birdsboro, PA. (Reuters)

    Annette and Mannie Lewis of Annapolis County, Nova Scotia loved animals, that much we know for certain.

    In the couple’s final years, they lavished their attentions on their beloved cat, Maggie May.

    An article in the Chronicle Herald made it clear that Maggie enjoyed the best life could offer: “The best cat bed money could buy, the best food, the best toys, the best treats, the best of veterinary care and, most of all, unconditional love and affection.”

    The couple also gave generously to the local animal charity, the Companion Animal Protection Society, from which they adopted Maggie May in 2005, the paper reported.

    But it was really only when Annette died in August at the age of 73 that the full extent of their care for orphaned and abandoned animals became known.

    Her obituary offered a hint of what was to come, noting that since Mannie’s death in 2008, it was Maggie who was Annette’s “loving and constant companion.”  

    Then came the reading of the will.

    As it turns out, Annette had

    Read More »from Private estate worth $1.7M in Nova Scotia goes to the dogs (and cats)


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