Saturday, July 31, 2004

"It seems the CRTC is governing the country, not the government"

Can't quash CRTC ruling, Frulla says
By KIM LUNMAN
OTTAWA -- It's not up to the federal government to decide if Quebec City's most popular radio station should be allowed to stay on the air, Heritage Minister Liza Frulla said yesterday.
Last week, 50,000 protesters marched in the streets in Quebec to protest against a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission not to renew CHOI-FM's licence, citing crude comments by the hosts of its morning show.
The government cannot interfere in such matters, Ms. Frulla said.
"According to Article 28 of the Broadcasting Act, the decision of the CRTC cannot be appealed to the government," she said in a written statement. "Therefore, [the station's parent company] Genex Communications Inc. has two options: to appeal the CRTC decision to the Federal Court or to apply for a new broadcasting license should the company decide to meet the criteria established by the CRTC."
The radio station has been lobbying Ms. Frulla to reverse the decision in a case that has sparked debate over freedom of speech and become a political hot potato for Prime Minister Paul Martin. Quebec Premier Jean Charest, NDP Leader Jack Layton and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have voiced concern over the decision.
The federal government's response is sure to raise more ire in Quebec, where the Liberals were trounced in the June 28 election.
"It's incredible the government doesn't take a position," station owner Patrice Demers said. "It's silly. By the decision, it seems the CRTC is governing the country, not the government."
The station is planning to broadcast from Parliament Hill next month in protest, said Mr. Demers, who calls the ruling censorship.
If the decision not to renew the licence is upheld, he stands to lose a $25-million business that attracted up to 380,000 listeners.
The controversy stems over two shock jocks who were the target of 92 complaints for repeatedly making crude and insulting comments about local personalities, foreign students or disabled people.
Jean-Francois (Jeff) Fillion, host of the 6 to 10 a.m. slot, and Andre Arthur, of the smaller sister station CKNU, were the co-hosts of a now defunct 30-minute segment.
Among some of the more shocking comments were suggestions that psychiatric patients should be gassed and that African students at Laval University were children of cannibals and plunderers.
It is the first time that CRTC has not renewed a commercial licence solely because of verbal content.
CRTC chairman Charles Dalfen has defended the regulator's actions, arguing that freedom of expression is not absolute when there is a pattern of "abusive comments" being aired.
CHOI lost its licence, which expires Aug. 1, because it did not clean up its act after several warnings. Its lawyers are preparing a request for an injunction to suspend the decision while it is being appealed in early August in Federal Court.
"I believe we'll win in court," Mr. Demers said. "I hope so."

The Globe and Mail &copy 2004

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Ontario appeals ruling on Highway 407 tolls

CP
2004-07-31 01:54:48

TORONTO -- Ontario's Transportation Ministry filed an appeal yesterday of an arbitrator's ruling allowing Highway 407's owners to hike toll fees without prior government approval. The province says it's legally entitled to renegotiate the tolling portion of its agreement with the owners every five years.
"We would be negligent in our duty to protect the public interest if we failed to fight for a better outcome on this important issue -- we have solid legal grounds for an appeal," Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar said in a statement.
During last fall's election campaign, the Liberals promised to take action on rising fees on the 108-kilometre highway. In the past four years, rates for some peak hours on the highway have gone up more than 200 per cent, prompting complaints from drivers.
The issue came to a head in February, when 407 International Inc. raised tolls by one cent to 13.95 cents a kilometre without government approval.
The province argued that the highway's lease, signed for $3.1 billion in 1999 with the previous Conservative government, stipulates that the province must approve any toll increases. The owners disagreed, saying it was not part of the agreement.
An arbitrator ruled July 10 in favour of the owners.
With 94 years remaining in the contract between the company and the government, Takhar said it was "critical" the government file the appeal to protect consumers.
Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie

Premiers push drug plan
They're demanding Ottawa pay the cost - $7 billion a year.
DENNIS BUECKERT, CP

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE -- Canada's premiers and territorial leaders dropped a bombshell on the federal government yesterday, demanding a national drug plan that would cost more than $7 billion annually. They got an extremely cautious response from Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, who said Ottawa is keen on a more limited program that would cover so-called catastrophic drug costs, those which could bankrupt a patient.
The premiers want Ottawa to pay full costs for a full-fledged drug program, which would replace all provincial drug plans except Quebec's. That province would maintain its program, but receive federal funds to cover its costs.
Premiers also pushed the federal government to bring its level of health-care funding up to 25 per cent of overall health spending, which would likely take another $2 billion to $3 billion annually.
They refused to provide cost estimates, but the combined demands probably would cost at least $50 billion over five years, exceeding the prime minister's offer of $9 billion over the same period.
"All 13 provinces and territories have developed and signed on to an action plan to reform and improve universal public medicare," Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said.
"Prime Minister Paul Martin has committed to fixing health care for a generation. Well, we've got the plan to make it happen."
Martin is scheduled to meet with the premiers and territorial leaders in September to hammer out an agreement. First Nations representatives -- who met with the premiers Wednesday to demand a seat at the table -- will be included.
"We are supportive of aboriginal leaders being part of the solution, including participating in a special meeting with first ministers in September to discuss aboriginal health care," McGuinty said.
The premiers made little reference to other health reform goals set by Ottawa.
The federal government's health care goals include shortening waiting lists, a national home care program and greater accountability in the spending of health funds.
The premiers were unable to bridge their differences over whether to accept conditions on federal transfer payments for health.
Dosanjh said Ottawa will start negotiations immediately with the provinces on all issues ahead of the Sept. 13 first ministers' meeting, but emphasized there's only so much cash available.
"Whenever premiers meet, historically, their demands are much larger than the final settlement," Dosanjh said in Ottawa.
"Regarding pharmacare, all jurisdictions agree that no Canadians should incur catastrophic drug costs. The strategy for pharmacare is one of numerous reform elements that we must discuss with the provinces.
"We have a lot of work to do. It is in everyone's interest to discipline costs."
Quebec Premier Jean Charest said the premiers' plan fits with Martin's own election promises. "Mr. Martin has committed to this," he said.
During the federal election campaign, Martin proposed to work together with premiers on a national pharmacare program, but did not suggest the federal government would pick up the full cost itself.
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein called the proposal for a national pharmacare program a "stroke of brilliance" that "allows the federal government to get involved where they've been talking about getting involved for a long, long time."
By presenting the bold plan, the premiers placed Ottawa on the defensive and distracted attention from their own differences of opinion, especially on the issue of conditional federal funding.
Charest said he would never agree to accept targeted federal funding, which would have to spent on a specific purpose set by Ottawa. "Quebec will not accept any conditions," he said.
Klein took the same position, while some other premiers, including McGuinty, said they would be open to discussions on the issue.
Some critics hailed the idea of a national drug plan but decried the absence of any discussion about national standards or private, for-profit health-care delivery.
Conservative health critic Steven Fletcher applauded the pharmacare proposal and urged the federal government to "get on with it," although he was more cautious on the issue of cost.
"We need to find out what the actual numbers are before we can have a thorough debate on that," Fletcher said. "But I think what's important is the principle that there is recognition that a national pharmacare program -- its time has come."
Premiers also want to tie the health negotiations to the issue of equalization payments.
P.E.I. Premier Pat Binns said the leaders are asking Ottawa to restore equalization payments for Canada's less wealthy provinces to 2001 levels.
"This is part of the package," he said.
"Equalization cannot be ignored; it's how a lot of us pay for health care, at least in part."
Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Friday, July 30, 2004

The Mayor's Wish List

Mayor’s New Year’s Honours List Policy 14. (19) That, on the recommendation of the General Manager of Finance and Corporate Services, the following changes to Council Policy I (4A) as it relates to the Mayor’s New Year’s Honours List BE ADOPTED: (a) part (a)(i)(6) be amended by deleting therefrom the words “The Physically Disabled” and by substituting therefor the words “Persons with Disabilities”; (b) part (a)(i)(7) be amended by deleting therefrom the word “Humanitarian” and by substituting therefor the word “Humanitarianism” (c) part (a)(ii)(l) be amended by deleting therefrom the words “Advisory Committee on the Arts” and by substituting therefor the words “London Arts Council”; (d) part (a)(ii)(6) be amended by deleting therefrom the words “London Paratransit Service Advisory Committee” and by substituting therefor the words “Accessibility Advisory Committee”; and (e) part (a)(ii)(7) be amended by adding thereto after the word “London” the words “Diversity and”. (32.1.4.)

See the relevant politically correct section of the city policy

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Like it or not - More taxpayer money allocated to mindless entertainment and propaganda

150th Anniversary Celebration

That, on the recommendation of the Chief Administrative Officer, the following actions be taken with respect to the development of a 15Oth Anniversary (Sesquicentennial) celebration of the Incorporation of the City of London as a ‘City’:

the Civic Administration BE AUTHORIZED to proceed with the development of a celebration for the 150th Anniversary (Sesquicentennial) of the Incorporation of London as a ‘City’; it being noted that while the key focus of the celebration would include showcasing specific community festivals, events, activities and assets taking place during July 1 to August 1, 2005, other opportunities throughout the year will also take place;

funding in the amount of $50,000 from the 2004 budget BE APPROVED for the development of the Sesquicentennial celebration to hire a coordinator and cover space and material costs, and that new funding for this initiative in the amount of $250,000 BE CONSIDERED for 2005 budget approval;

a Steering Committee BE CREATED to oversee this Sesquicentennial celebration; it being noted that the Steering Committee would be responsible for the development of a plan for the celebration which would be presented to Council for approval; it being further noted that the Committee would be made up of representatives of the arts, heritage and corporate communities, Tourism London, the Chief Administration Office, and other civic departments, the City Clerk and interested members of Council;

and an interested member of Council BE APPOINTED by Council as the Chair of the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee.

the 28th Report of the Board of Control - July 28/2004

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Human Rights - The Canadian Way

Thanks to Trudeaupia for posting a link to this blog entry from Mike Brock

It’s very scary that our school system seems to have instilled within our young a much skewed version of what human rights and liberty truly mean.  It seems that if you’re not parading around waving a Liberal logo and espousing support for same-sex marriage, the right for immigrants to flow to the country unabated, and enforced bilingualism on the entire country, you’re somehow not on the side of human morality.

Her logic for enforced bilingualism was such, and I quote her as best as my mind serves me: “Shouldn’t it be a right for a Quebecer to move anywhere in their own country (Canada) and be able to speak their own language?”

I was dumbfounded that a human being could actually subscribe to such logic.  I mean, let’s look at what she’s saying here:  Somebody in Quebec should have the right to come to Toronto, talk to somebody in French and expect to be answered in French. 

I know what you’re thinking at this point, you’re saying, “wait Brock, she probably just means government services!” Wrong, reader!  I asked her specifically, “Are you saying that I should be expected to learn and know French fluently as a regular citizen in order to ensure ‘equality’ for francophones, working self-employed as I do?”

I could not believe for the life of me how she replied, “The government shouldn’t give you a business license if they can’t conduct business in both official languages.”

Read the whole article here:

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The Ontario Liberal Motto - Pay more for less!

Ontario needs health user fees: report

GILLIAN LIVINGSTON, CP   2004-07-30 01:45:17  

TORONTO -- Ontario's controversial health premium will have to triple by 2008 to deal with the exploding cost of medicare unless the province turns to user fees and private health care, a Fraser Institute report released yesterday suggests. To manage skyrocketing health-care costs and long waiting lists, every province in Canada will have to embrace the idea of private-sector health care delivery, said Brett Skinner, the institute's manager of health policy research.

"Other provinces are faced with similar situations," said Skinner, author of the study entitled Paying More, Getting Less: Ontario's Health Premium and Sustainable Health Care.

Ontario, which requires taxpayers earning more than $25,000 a year to pay between $300 and $900 annually, is the third province, along with British Columbia and Alberta, to charge a premium -- essentially a health-care surtax based on income.

Public costs and private care are hot topics as Canada's premiers meet in Niagara-on-the-Lake in a three-day bid to forge a financing plan to be put before Prime Minister Paul Martin in September.

The report found that the government estimates growth of 3.3 per cent over the next two years -- an "unrealistic expectation" in the face of figures that show spending has grown by nearly six per cent since 2000.

It also found that the premium -- so unpopular that it was blamed for a plunge in Martin's polling numbers during the federal election campaign -- would have to triple by 2008 if it was to cover all the cost increases.

In other words, warned Skinner, as long as governments insist on a system funded exclusively by public dollars, taxpayers should be prepared to hand over more money to cover rising costs.

Nonsense, said Peter Coyte, a professor of health economics at the University of Toronto, who dismissed the idea of a tripling of costs as "bogus."

Since 1960, inflation adjusted health-care growth is about five per cent, so costs only double every 14 or 15 years, Coyte explained.

Health Minister George Smitherman also dismissed the report, although saying he hadn't seen it.

"I think it's off-base," Smitherman said, although he acknowledged that the report addresses the problem of Canada's ever-increasing health-care costs -- precisely the same issue the premiers are hoping to solve.

"This meeting is the beginning of a process that is designed to get more resources for provinces like Ontario to continue with the reforms that we've making, to contribute to the sustainability of medicare for the future generations."

The report finds other faults with Ontario's premium, particularly that it has no impact on costs.

"There is no incentive for users to control their demand responsibly," said Skinner, who suggested that instead, it should be a user fee or else act like an insurance premium, where people pay more depending on their use.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Martha Stewart burns while these guys make off with the public funds

Canada Post boss under fire in audit

JIM BROWN, CP   2004-07-30 01:45:18  

OTTAWA -- Suspended Canada Post president Andre Ouellet has circumvented corporate hiring practices, meddled in contract tendering and flouted expense account rules, a new audit indicates. He was cited for interfering in the tendering process for three contracts worth $35 million; failing to provide documentation for travel and hospitality expenses, ranging up to $327,000 a year; and for 83 "special hires" described as personnel officers.

The findings, which follow earlier criticism of Canada Post's role in the scandal-plagued federal sponsorship program, sparked quick action yesterday by Revenue Minister John McCallum.

In a news release, McCallum, also minister responsible for Canada Post, called the latest audit results "troubling" and said he has given Ouellet seven days to reply in writing.

After that, McCallum said, he will consult officials of Treasury Board, the federal financial watchdog, and take appropriate action.

The process resembles the one used in firing other Crown corporation executives in similar controversies since Prime Minister Paul Martin took office. Shane Diaczuk, a spokesperson for McCallum, said the minister has not yet drawn any conclusions.

"There will be no decisions made as to what further actions are until Mr. Ouellet has had an opportunity to respond," said Diaczuk.

Ouellet was suspended with pay earlier this year after Auditor General Sheila Fraser included Canada Post among the federal organizations singled out for criticism in the sponsorship affair.

The government said at the time his ultimate fate would depend on a followup audit by the private firm Deloittte Touche, which was asked to look beyond sponsorship to wider management practices.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

London to rely on divine intervention

Maybe they could phone in the prayers

MARY-JANE EGAN, Free Press City Hall Reporter   2004-07-29 01:29:52  

It's one thing to have people pray for councillors, but do they have to do it at city hall? That was the concern yesterday of Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell, the only London controller who seemed to have reservations about an offer from a pastoral group to open city council chambers twice a month so volunteers could pray for council members.

Rev. Joe Campbell, senior minister of Cornerstone Community Church, has asked council to let his lay volunteers and ministers conduct non-denominational prayers when chambers aren't in use, to help guide council in decisions. He noted other councils, from Nova Scotia to B.C., have welcomed the prayers.

"I don't understand why they have to use council chambers," Gosnell said.

Countered Controller Russ Monteith: "Because they're praying for us."

But, asked Gosnell, "can't we ask them to do it long-distance, from their own chambers?"

Monteith suggested Gosnell was missing the point, noting Campbell had provided letters of support from other municipalities where the practice was allowed, stating they'd noticed major improvements since the prayers commenced.

"OK," Gosnell quipped. "We can tell them if we don't see any improvements in six months, they're outta here."

That prompted Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco to deadpan, "I think it will take more than six months."

The issue goes to full council Tuesday.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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City seeks feedback, but nothing will change

Scrutiny of council touted
The new city manager sees feedback from the public as crucial to the operation of London.
MARY-JANE EGAN, Free Press City Hall Reporter  

The public should have a chance to rate the performance of London city councillors, similar to report cards, new city manager Jeff Fielding said yesterday. "We need public input. You need to know what the community thinks of you," Fielding said as he presented the first draft of his "strategic direction for council" since he joined the city staff in the spring.

Details of how that input will be sought and other strategic plans will be set out in September, Fielding said.

He said he wants council's goal to be to position London "within the top rank of Canadian municipalities."

Fielding -- the fifth person in two years to fill the controversy-plagued top job at city hall -- said city employees are understandably uncertain about their position in the organization.

"We haven't done the best job of communicating with our employees," Fielding said at yesterday's board of control meeting.

"Employees are wary of change, but not resistant to change," he said.

"They've just been told so much that hasn't happened."

He called city staff "incredibly resilient" and said he wants all employees to be proud to work for the city.

Fielding said that goal will require the improvement of city hall's workplace culture as well as the strengthening of public confidence.

"We need to consolidate our relationship with our unions," he said.

He urged council members to e-mail city staff to compliment them for a job well done.

"That can mean a lot," he said.

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said she welcomes reaching out for feedback on council's performance.

"I don't think it's just going to be about council, but just in general, are we doing some good things and where have we fallen behind and can improve?"

DeCicco said she also welcomes honesty.

"I don't think we should fear what people might say. Every time we go through an election, we're judged the same way -- you're returned or you're not."

She said she hopes the community won't overlook improvements to the downtown, the new Central Library and the John Labatt Centre.

Fielding, formerly chief administrator in Kitchener, replaced Bob Blackwell, who filled in the top spot last spring after the departure of city manager George Duncan.

Duncan lasted less than a year in the job after replacing acting city manager Jeff Malpass. Malpass left the post in the spring of 2002 amid revelations he was paid more than $1,000 a day in overtime during an outside workers' strike in which he was the city's chief negotiator.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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As usual, blame the smokers and the fatties

London ranks 15th for life expectancy

JOE BELANGER, Free Press Reporter and new services

Londoners live shorter lives than residents in 14 other Canadian cities, a new study says. And if they want to increase their life expectancy, they need to protect their health more, says a local health official.

London ranked 15th in life expectancy among 25 cities, according to the Statistics Canada report that makes international comparisons for life expectancy.

"I'm surprised," said Mary Lou Albanese, manager of chronic diseases and injury prevention at the Middlesex-London health unit.

"But I guess when you look at the issues, the risk factors, especially obesity, is a big issue in London and we are working on getting more people physically active."

Londoners have a life expectancy of 78.8 years, compared to people in Vancouver, who enjoy Canada's highest life expectancy of 81.1 years. The national average is 79.4 years

People in the nickel-mining city of Sudbury typically die before their 77th birthday.

Sudbury is the lowest of the 25 cities.

Smoking, heavy drinking, obesity and high blood pressure were blamed for cutting lives short. Higher education and income, along with influxes of new immigrants, tended to enhance life expectancy, says the study released yesterday.

London's year-old smoking bylaw and the fact fewer people are smoking should help improve overall life expectancy, Albanese said.

Smoking, lack of physical activity and poor eating habits are the major culprits for Londoners, she said.

Albanese said it's important for London to send the message of healthy living to children.

"We'd like to get better (at all age groups), but especially for our children because they'll be the measure for life expectancy in the future," Albanese said.

The top-ranked Canadian cities, Vancouver and Toronto, are on par with Japan and Switzerland. Sudbury ranks with Denmark, the U.S., Ireland and Portugal.

Residents of Greater Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Windsor were least likely to describe their health as good. Nearly one-fifth of Windsorites, who live across from Detroit in a region renowned for poor air quality, reported unmet health-care needs.

Those most positive about their health lived in Quebec City, Chicoutimi-Jonquiere, Que., and Calgary.

Victoria and Vancouver have the most physically active populations, while residents of Sherbrooke, Que., are statistically least likely to get off the couch, says the report.

Internationally, Canada ranked fifth among 22 countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, with a life expectancy of 79.4 years for those born in 2000.

The top-ranked Canadian cities, Vancouver and Toronto, are on par with Japan and Switzerland. Sudbury ranks with Denmark, the U.S., Ireland and Portugal.

LIFE EXPECTANCIES IN CANADIAN CITIES

Life expectancy at birth in Canadian cities in 2000:

Vancouver: 81.1

Toronto: 81.0

Victoria: 80.9

Calgary: 80.0

Edmonton: 79.8

Quebec City: 79.8

Kitchener: 79.7

Ottawa: 79.5

Montreal: 79.5

Hamilton: 79.4

Oshawa: 79.3

Saskatoon: 79.1

Sherbrooke, Que.: 79.1

Halifax: 79.1

London: 78.8

Windsor: 78.6

Trois-Rivieres, Que.: 78.6

St. Catharines- Niagara: 78.5

Saint John, N.B.: 78.3

Winnipeg: 78.1

Regina: 78.0

Chicoutimi-Jonquiere, Que.: 77.7

St. John's, Nfld.: 77.4

Thunder Bay: 77.3

Sudbury: 76.7

Source: Statistics Canada

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Ontario - The Province of Non-Identities

Birth-certificate wait drags on
Assurances that a backlog has been cleared ring hollow for a London father.

APRIL KEMICK, Free Press Reporter
  
Despite assurances from the province that the worst of a birth-certificate backlog is over, one London father says he'll believe it when he sees it. Ontario Consumer Minister Jim Watson said yesterday the bureaucratic back-up for birth certificates is cleared, with wait times down to six to nine weeks from five-month delays in March.
But Rich Tetreault -- who has waited more than five months for his infant son's statement of live birth to be registered before he can apply for a certificate --said he's skeptical of Watson's claims.
"If I ran my business the way the government is running theirs, I'd be out of business," Tetreault said.
To obtain a birth certificate for their five-month-old son, Adam, the Tetreaults first had to send in a statement of live birth to be registered by the Office of the Registrar General in Thunder Bay.
Once that statement is registered -- wait times are pegged at 30 weeks for the document -- the family can apply for a birth certificate for Adam.
Tetreault said even if delays in obtaining a certificate have been cut, the seven-month wait for a statement of live birth remains.
"If (the Office of the Registrar General) were to give us a statement of live birth acknowledgment, we could send in an application," he said. "But I'm still waiting on that."
Tetreault and his wife, Wendy, planned a September vacation with their son.
But without a birth certificate for the baby, the couple is worried about leaving the province with him. And they aren't counting on the ministry's claims of speedier document processing.
"My wife and I have started talking about the fact that we might need to go ahead and cancel the trip," Tetreault said.
Yesterday New Democrat consumer critic Peter Kormos slammed the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services for laying off half the 300 employees it hired earlier this year to cut the backlog.
The 150 employees at the Thunder Bay processing centre are to be laid off Friday when their contracts expire, ministry spokesperson Jason Okamura confirmed yesterday.
They were hired to deal with the backlog created by heightened security concerns after the 9/11 attacks, Okamura said.
"It's elementary that if you lay off 150 employees, the waiting time for documents will only get longer," Kormos said.
The other 150 employees will have their contracts renewed, Okamura said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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A London Free Press Error rectified - or is it?

CORRECTION Waiting times incorrect
Staff  

Waiting times for birth certificates will be reduced to six to eight weeks by August. A story in Monday's editions contained incorrect information.

The Free Press regrets the error.

London Free Press © 2004

read the original article 
and let us know why this correction is necessary. Your responses will be posted to the blog!

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City Steals more money for entertainment

City wants big blow-out for its 150th

MARY-JANE EGAN, Free Press City Hall Reporter  

Break out the champagne and get set to party -- the city of London turns 150 on Jan. 1. A city committee is planning a year-long celebration starting New Year's Eve to ring in the official birthday.
Before Jan. 1, 1855, London was just a town -- not a city.
With London police also marking their sesquicentennial next year, there's double cause to celebrate, said Cynthia Lockrey, a city communications specialist involved in festivity planning.
Board of control will be asked today to approve $50,000 from this year's budget to hire a co-ordinator to help plan events. Controllers also will be asked to consider approving $250,000 from next year's budget to help pay for the festivities.
Lockrey said a committee to include council members, civic departments and representatives of a cross-section of community groups will be set up to plan a series of "signature events" for the year.
Established events such as Doors Open, which celebrates the city's heritage, will be incorporated into the 150th celebrations, she said.
"We want to help Londoners celebrate the city in which they live and the diversity of our heritage starting from the Forks of the Thames," Lockrey said.
Among the events proposed are sponsored days, such as the London Chamber of Commerce sponsoring a history of business, and the incorporation of community festivals into the 150th celebrations.
Lockrey said the city hopes the celebrations also will draw ex-Londoners and tourists.
Controller Bud Polhill said he's open to earmarking $250,000 from next year's budget for 150th events.
"There are things that are extremely important in your history and this is one of those," he said.
"I'd want to see where the money goes and what it's for, but I'm certainly prepared to consider it."
Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

London Dirties

MARY-JANE EGAN, Free Press City Hall Reporter

Waste Budget Could Double

A provincial goal of more than doubling Ontario's solid waste diversion by 2008 would hit London taxpayers hard -- adding another $4 million to the city's solid-waste collection budget now standing at $3.2 million, a council committee warned last night. City engineer Peter Steblin said such an aggressive approach -- aimed primarily at centres like Toronto which have used up their landfill space and are trucking trash to the U.S. -- would unfairly penalize such cities as London, which have a secure landfill site because of "advance planning."

Steblin said London has more than 20 years left on its landfill but the provincial proposal is putting a global target on an issue that should be looked at on a city by city basis.

He won support at last night's environment and transportation committee meeting for his call to have the Environment Ministry seek "realistic financing solutions" for such an aggressive approach to waste diversion.

Specifically, the province is proposing that municipalities begin including organic waste in garbage pickups, such as kitchen wastes and compostable materials.

That would require a new system mirroring the Blue Box program, in which a tub of organics would be placed on the curb for pickup.

Pat McNally, the city's director of water, environment and customer relations, said that while the new provincial Liberal government has indicated a willingness to assist municipalities in financing recycling efforts, there has been no offer of funding to cover organic waste diversion.

"The province shouldn't be dumping this on local municipalities," said Controller Gord Hume. "Property taxpayers are simply not in a position to absorb that additional cost due to some new provincial regulation."

The committee agreed to fire off its concerns to the Environment Ministry if city council upholds its recommendation next week.

Steblin said he wasn't suggesting organic waste won't at some point become part of waste diversion in Ontario.

"We're just suggesting these targets need a longer time-frame because the pilot projects that have been tried (in the Toronto area) are not well advanced and the technology is still very uncertain."

Housing demand grows

There are 5,020 families waiting for affordable housing in the city, a council committee learned. Coun. Susan Eagle told the community and protective services committee that while the provincial government says it is committed to funding affordable housing, it is a fixed amount that isn't keeping up with demand. Louise Stevens, the city's director of municipal housing, noted that rent rose by 21 per cent in the last year for the poorest while incomes dropped nine per cent.

No more criminal checks

London and Middlesex Housing Corp. won't run criminal checks on people on the waiting list for its affordable housing, a city committee was told. The London Homeless Coalition had expressed concern such police checks might be introduced. Louise Stevens, the city's director of municipal housing, said the city is taking more proactive steps to address safety concerns in social housing units, such as introducing better lighting and modifying regulations that may be causing applicants difficulty. She noted that while some municipalities had conducted criminal checks in the past on those waiting for social housing, the practice was banned in 2001 under the province's Social Housing Reform Act.

City ahead on accessibility

London is ahead of most cities in trying to improve accessibility for the disabled, a city committee has been told. A working group involving workplaces, hospitals, schools and various agencies has made a "meaningful start to barriers reductions" for the disabled, the community and protective services committee was told.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Ontario Schemers

Insurance rate cut evaporates in details

JONATHAN SHER, Free Press Reporter   2004-07-27 02:05:04  

Ontario motorists could be dinged nearly $200 million extra for auto insurance because their government passed reforms that didn't require an oft-promised 10-per-cent rate cut. Staff with Ontario's Finance Ministry said yesterday the Liberal reforms didn't require the 10-per-cent cut.

The news came weeks after Finance Minister Greg Sorbara said he was disappointed insurers cut rates by an average of only seven per cent.

The insurance reforms left untouched a key figure: Insurers are still allowed to keep rates high enough to project a 12-per-cent return on equity.

Sorbara has criticized insurers for the rates, but yesterday wouldn't criticize bureaucrats who agreed to the rates.

If the rates stay in effect for a year, drivers will pay nearly $200 million more than they would have with a 10-per-cent reduction, according to calculations using industry data.

The insurance reforms empowered Ontario's superintendent of insurance to impose lower rates, but that power wasn't used.

Instead, the regulator and insurers negotiated each rate.

Sorbara said yesterday the superintendent might take action to lower rates later.

"The superintendent will be requiring some companies who didn't file for a 10-per-cent rate reduction to refile later in the summer if their financial position improves."

Asked why his government didn't require a 10-per-cent reduction -- much as it required a rate freeze last fall -- Sorbara said: "That would be a simplistic approach to a very complex market. The approval of rates had to be based on ensuring as well that these (insurance) companies remain solvent."

But solvency, or the ability to stay in business, wasn't an issue for almost any insurers, ministry staff said yesterday.

A more pressing matter is that while insurers expect provincial reforms to save them money, many don't believe those savings will amount to 10 per cent.

Just over half of the industry accepted a 10-per-cent rate rollback without submitting their own projections. But the rest calculated cost savings more in line with rate reductions they agreed to, an average cut of 3.59 per cent, ministry figures show.

Sorbara said his government will reach the 10-per-cent target soon, but didn't offer a timeline. The province helped that along recently by lifting a ban on insurers who want to refile for new rates, he said.

Asked if lifting the ban also enables insurers to raise rates, Sorbara said, "As a theoretical matter, yes. As a practical matter, no."

The future of the industry is prosperous, so there will be no need to raise rates, he said.

The smaller rate reduction was the second blow to drivers hoping Liberals would quickly roll back premiums.

The office that processes rate changes couldn't handle the avalanche of applications that had to be filed by Jan. 23, delaying the average rate cut until October and costing drivers about $575 million, The Free Press revealed earlier this year.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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LCBO not on the table, Sorbara says

Canadian Press

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

TORONTO -- Finance Minister Greg Sorbara was backing away Tuesday from reports that the Ontario government is considering an initial public offering in the Liquor Control Board of Ontario that could be worth more than $10 billion.

Bloomberg News reported that the province is evaluating proposals to convert the LCBO, the world's largest purchaser of liquor and spirits, into an income trust in an effort to help the government balance its books by 2008.

Income trusts are an increasingly popular investment vehicle that allow investors to buy into businesses that are stable and generate reliable cash flow, which can be used to pay dividends.

But before Tuesday's weekly caucus meeting, Sorbara insisted that the income trust idea is just one of many that the province has been considering in recent months, and denied a plan is afoot.

''The story arose when I said that we receive on a regular basis proposals that come to the government and my ministry to create income trusts, whether it's with land, with hydro, with the LCBO,'' Sorbara said.

''I find all of those of interest, but we're going to stick to the policy that we set out in the budget which was not to sell assets in order to pay for this year's groceries.''

When asked if the LCBO was off the table, Sorbara replied: ''That's right.''

The LCBO generated record sales of $3.3 billion in the last fiscal year, resulting in a $1.04-billion dividend for the Ontario government.

If that amount were available for distribution to investors, the business would have a potential market value of nearly $12 billion, and could sell off just enough of the business to retain control while still paying off the budget deficit, Bloomberg reported.

The liquor board, created in 1927, operates nearly 600 stores across the province and enjoys a monopoly on the sale of spirits in Ontario, competing only with beer and wine stores operated by the province's brewers and vintners.

© Canadian Press 2004

The National Post © 2004

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User fees, tolls, private partnerships could be used for infrastructure
 
Gillian Livingston
Global Television

TORONTO -- Ontario residents could be paying road and bridge tolls and higher user fees for water and other services under a $100-billion plan unveiled Tuesday to rebuild the province's infrastructure over the next three decades.

But the government is still looking at how to apply such tolls and fees in order to ''make sure the public is not inappropriately taken advantage of,'' Infrastructure Minister David Caplan told a news conference.

Caplan's plan outlines how the forthcoming projects to build and improve hospitals, schools, sewers, water systems and roads will be financed and what overriding principles will be used to approve them.

Money will come from all three levels of government, low-interest loans from the province, public-private partnerships, or P3s, and user fees, Caplan said. The private sector will also be tapped to kick in up to 25 per cent of the necessary funds, he added.

Some critics warned that private-sector involvement would end up costing taxpayers more than necessary.

''There's a huge amount of money here, there's a huge amount of profit to be made by the private sector and I think the Liberal government is signalling to the development community that, 'It's full speed ahead and let 'er rip, boys, because the treasury is open,'' said New Democrat house leader Peter Kormos.

Others complained that by pledging to keep hospitals, schools, sewers and water works in public hands, the government is missing a chance to allow the private sector to get projects on the go more quickly and at a lower cost.

In any event, Kormos said Ontario residents can expect to pay more.

''Caplan promised higher user fees . . .in areas where people never imagined they'd be paying user fees,'' such as bridges, Kormos said.

''The sky's the limit on what Ontarians will be charged on a user-fee basis.''

Caplan said the government won't get into any bad deals, such as the former Conservative government's decision to sell off Highway 407 in 1999. That deal wasn't worth the money and didn't remain under public control, he said.

© Global Television 2004

The National Post © 2004

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Humans trying to play God

As printed in "The Guardian", Tuesday July 27, 2004
Ian Sample, science correspondent

"A modern version of Noah's Ark, designed to save thousands of creatures from extinction, was launched yesterday by scientists at the Natural History Museum.
The extraordinary project was set up to protect a vast array of animals, not from epic floods, but from the threat of imminent extinction thanks to humankind's actions. Thousands of species are expected to be wiped out within the next few decades because of pollution, war and the destruction of natural habitats.
Rather than being offered refuge on a giant wooden boat, the threatened species face a more prosaic salvation at the bottom of a deep-freeze unit in one of the museum's laboratories in west London.
While entire colonies of some creatures will be frozen, in most cases only DNA and tissue samples of endangered species will be stored.
Scientists behind the project, dubbed the Frozen Ark, are keen to preserve the DNA of endangered animals so they can continue research into their evolutionary histories even if they become extinct. More ambitiously, scientists hope one day to be able to use cells from the frozen tissue samples to recreate extinct animals using advanced cloning techniques. "

Read the whole frightening article here:

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'Prisoner in Ontario'

'The lack of a birth certificate frustrates parents who want to travel with their baby.
APRIL KEMICK, Free Press Reporter  

A bureaucratic backlog holding up birth certificates has left one London family worried they won't be able to take their five-month-old son on a vacation next month. Rich and Wendy Tetreault assumed they'd have no problem getting a birth certificate for their son Adam in time for a planned trip to Los Angeles.
But despite the fact they sent away the needed paperwork the day after Adam's Feb. 23 birth, the Tetreaults still haven't had confirmation of the registration of his birth.
"We've got money invested in airline flights, we have hotels booked and now we're looking at potentially losing all this money because (border officials) could stop us at any point," Rich Tetreault said.
To get a birth certificate, new parents must first send a statement of live birth to the clerk's office at city hall.
That document is then sent to the Office of the Registrar General (the Tetreaults' document left city hall March 10) to be processed and returned to the family.
Until that document is registered, parents can't apply for a birth certificate.
A spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Consumer and Business Services said new parents should expect a 30-week -- or seven- month -- delay for statements of live birth to be processed.
Once those documents are processed, it takes six to 10 weeks for a birth certificate application to be processed, said ministry spokesperson Jason Okamura.
"We realize the waiting time is a bit on the high side," he said. "But the ministry is working hard to improve service delivery. We've hired more than 200 new staff and invested more than $2.5 million into the Office of the Registrar General."
Okamura said birth-certificate delays should be cut by six to eight weeks by August.
He said higher demand for birth certificates -- spurred by post 9-11 security concerns -- is partly responsible for the delays.
"The number of applications we receive is more than 7,000 per week," Okamura said. "A lot of people are realizing it's a very important document to have."
The Tetreaults have tried to speed the process by complaining to their MPP and the ministry, but nothing has helped.
The family obtained a formal "travel letter" from the clerk's office at city hall in case their son's birth certificate wouldn't be ready in time, but Tetreault said he's not convinced border officials will consider it legitimate ID.
The letter says the city doesn't certify use of the document.
Rich Tetreault said neither the ministry, the city clerk's office nor London West MPP Chris Bentley's office has pushed the process forward.
"My child is a prisoner in Ontario," he said.
Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Ends Justify the means - even if that means poisoning vast numbers of Londoners

Fluoride in our water: Is it helpful or harmful?

Health officials disagree on the long-term effects

By MAUREEN FINN Special to The Londoner

Is the fluoride routinely added to London’s drinking water helpful or harmful to your health?

London health and water officials say the amount of fluoride used is within safe limits, but a University of Toronto researcher isn’t so sure, claiming fluoridated drinking water contains cancer-causing agents.

Fluoride has been added to many Ontario drinking water supplies, including London’s, for more than 30 years for the purpose of preventing tooth decay. But recent research suggests that long-term fluoride ingestion may be detrimental to general health while providing little to no dental health benefits, says Hardy Limeback, head of preventive care at the University of Toronto’s school of dentistry.

Dr. Limeback says the health risks involved in ingesting fluoride stem from the type of fluoride added to water. Hydrofluorosilicic acid – liquid fluoride – is added to the majority of drinking water supplies in Ontario, including London’s, he says. 

“(Liquid fluoride) is a toxic waste side product from phosphate fertilizer,” Dr. Limeback says. He explains it is used to fluoridate water because it is cheaper than purified pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride – a powdered form of fluoride that is safer to consume because it doesn’t contain some of the carcinogens that liquid fluoride does. 

But Andrew Henry, manager of regional water supply, says fluoride added to London’s water is at such a low concentration – 0.8 to 0.5 parts per million – that a considerable amount of water would have to be consumed to create a health risk.

David Banting, a professor in the division of practice administration at the University of Western Ontario’s school of dentistry, says fluoridated water has a beneficial effect, but potential problems can arise if too much is consumed. He adds that public health officials monitor water to ensure fluoride levels are safe.

Dr. Banting says fluoridated water is an easy and cost effective way to get fluoride to people. “Putting fluoride in water is a way of getting it to people regardless of social class. If it is taken out of water, it then involves a direct out of pocket cost,” he says, adding that some people may not be able to take on the costs of purchasing fluoridated toothpaste or visiting the dentist regularly, and their dental health could suffer as a result.

London’s drinking water supply systems are governed by the Ontario’s Fluoridation Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, which set out allowable amounts of fluoride concentration in water.

“(Health officials) won’t spend money to remove trace contaminants – known carcinogens – from water,” Dr. Limeback says.

Liquid fluoride is an industrial grade source of fluoride that contains trace amounts of radium and arsenic and it has not been tested for human health, Dr. Limeback says. “Arsenic is purposely being added to water because of this cheap source of fluoride.”

Dr. Limeback says there is no proof that fluoride itself can cause cancer, but toxic waste products in humans – from drinking fluoridated water – have not been tested for carcinogens. “(Fluoridated water) contains trace amounts of radium and it has not been tested for human health,” he says. “Just one atom of radium in the human system increases risks of cancer.”

Dr. Limeback says the accumulation of fluoride in bones also increases the risk of fractures.

Fluoride is added to water to decrease tooth decay, but Dr. Limeback says consuming fluoridated water does not make a difference in one’s dental health. His research suggests that the general decline of tooth decay world-wide, both in non-fluoridated and fluoridated areas, is the result of the widespread use of fluoridated toothpaste, improved diets, and overall improved general and dental health.

Dr. Limeback says fluoride does not need to be ingested to be effective – brushing with fluoridated toothpaste and proper dental care provide enough fluoride for good dental health.

Dr. Limeback says that because there are only trace amounts of carcinogens added to water, public health officials do not think they have to advise the public about them. But he says the public should be made aware of what is in their water.

“Warnings should be on water bills, and if not, fluoride should be taken out of public water. But public health people are never going to do that.”

People who are unable to eliminate fluoride under normal body conditions, such as people with kidney impairments, or those who ingest more than average amounts of water including athletes and diabetics, are at greater risk of being affected by the toxic effects of fluoride accumulation, Dr. Limeback says.

Furthermore, he says infants fed formula made with fluoridated tap water are at higher risk of developing dental fluorosis – a condition caused by ingesting too much fluoride during the teeth forming years.

Dr. Limeback says although government recommended fluoride levels in water are generally followed, it is impossible to control the levels of fluoride being consumed, as some people consume large amounts of water. He believes that adding liquid fluoride to water supplies is dangerous because people are consuming carcinogens—both in large and in small amounts depending on how much water they consume—and are therefore at increased risk of developing cancer.

However, Mr. Henry says the current allowable amount of fluoride in water has been reduced by half of what it was two years ago because health officials realized that such levels of fluoride were not necessary to contribute to dental health.

“Large concentrations of fluoride are considered to be potential health hazards,” he admits, but says only small amounts of fluoride are added to London’s drinking water to ensure good public dental health.

But the type of fluoride added to drinking water in London may be of concern.

Mr. Henry says that hydrofluorosilicic acid, or liquid fluoride – the type of fluoride Dr. Limeback says poses health risks – is added to London’s water. He says this is because it is less expensive than the alternative, and because the handling of powdered fluoride – the type of fluoride Limeback suggests is safer to add to water – poses a health risk when handling, as it can become airborne and it is dangerous if inhaled. 

Mr. Henry says liquid fluoride has to meet certain standards that ensure the quality of products being added to water. The fluoride added to London’s water is a chemical that is manufactured specifically for the water industry.

Fernando Inocencio, a professor at the School of Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, says adding fluoride to water is a controversial issue. Despite research, such as Dr. Limeback’s, that suggests fluoridated water is unnecessary and perhaps dangerous, he says he is an advocate of fluoridated water.

“It is a good way to reinforce the amount of fluoride necessary in the body,” Dr. Inocencio says, adding that it is important to dental health but does not replace brushing with fluoridated toothpaste or regular visits to the dentist.

Dr. Inocencio says there are some areas in which the concentration of fluoride in water is dangerous and that such high levels can be poisonous. “But this is something that’s easy to control once it is realized.” Health officials regularly monitor the amounts of fluoride in water and add decreased amounts if necessary, he explains.

The Londoner 2004

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How to Lie with statistics the Canadian way

Pot use doubles during 13 years
The highest rates of use of marijuana or hashish were with Canadian teens.
SHERYL UBELACKER, CP   2004-07-22 02:13:23  

TORONTO -- It seems more Canadians than ever are going to pot -- smoking up, toking up and generally embracing the sweet weed. In fact, the proportion of Canadians who admit to indulging in marijuana or hashish almost doubled over 13 years -- and the highest rates of use were among teens, a report released yesterday by Statistics Canada suggests.

That translates into about three million Canadians, or 12.2 per cent, who used cannabis at least once in the previous year, the federal agency said in its 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey. In 1989, the figure was 6.5 per cent.

Prime Minister Paul Martin said in Ottawa that his government is committed to marijuana decriminalization and will reintroduce legislation after Parliament resumes in October.

And Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said while he is concerned about the reported rise in drug use, he doubts the arguments of those who say decriminalization would further boost the use of marijuana.

"My view is that, if you make something illegal, some people are more attracted to it," he said. "It's just the high in getting something in a stealth(y) fashion . . . If you allow people to possess it in small quantities for personal use, the allure kind of disappears for some people."

While the issue of decriminalizing cannabis has been much in the media spotlight, the latest national figures don't reflect those discussions. This survey was done in 2002, the year before an Ontario court judge made a precedent-setting ruling that possessing a small amount of pot was not illegal and before Jean Chretien tried to ram through a decriminalization bill before stepping down as PM.

The hike in marijuana's popularity comes as no surprise to Edward Adlaf, a research scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, which has reported similar trends. "We've been finding during the '90s among students -- and these are seventh graders to 12th graders -- that fewer and fewer students perceive great risk in using cannabis," said Adlaf.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Retards at the license factory

Eww, look at Section 3 of the Broadcasting Act.

CRTC, I fired all of you over a decade ago. Get out of my bread line.

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CRTC protecting Canadian values

Apparently there is more to CHOI than boobie jokes.

Fillion's audience is made up of young francophones, the kind of voters who are expected to comprise the shock troops of separatism. Day in, day out, he encourages them to refuse the herd mentality of the statist, Quebec model. His ideology is libertarian. (Last winter, for instance, he was one of the few Quebecers who defended Don Cherry's right to say what he did about French hockey players.) And he believes the separatists' national project would add nothing to the rights, freedoms and prosperity we already enjoy. On the contrary, he believes the corporatism and protectionism underlying the nationalistic project threaten these rights. As Fillion sees it, separation would allow Quebec politicians to dramatically extend the interventionist politics that have sprouted since the revolution tranquille.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

60 years ago

Germany's Schroeder Honors Nazi Resisters
Tuesday July 20, 2004 8:16 PM

By MATT SURMAN
Associated Press Writer

BERLIN (AP) - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder marked the 60th anniversary of an army plot to kill Adolf Hitler by honoring the country's small Nazi resistance, giving Germany a chance Tuesday to remember its few heroes of that era as the nation increasingly sheds the debilitating legacy of the Third Reich.

Speaking at the former Nazi military headquarters in Berlin where the leading plotters were executed after Hitler survived the July 20, 1944 coup attempt, Schroeder cited their courage as an emphatic example of why Germany belongs in the European community.

Commemorations focused on Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, the aristocratic Nazi army officer whose attempt to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb placed under a conference table failed because an aide moved the briefcase. But Schroeder also recalled the labor and church leaders, leftist politicians and students who opposed Hitler - and often paid with their lives.

``Only today, 60 years later, can we make this European legacy of the resistance a reality,'' he said in the nationally televised ceremony. ``The struggle for freedom and justice, against tyranny and military aggression is the most important foundation for what unifies us in Europe.''
However, Schroeder - at 60, the first German leader with no personal memory of World War II - also acknowledged that the resistance never gained popular support among Germans. At their peak, the Nazis controlled territory from the English Channel to the gates of Moscow, and killed 6 million Jews and millions of others in their genocidal war of aggression.

The high-profile commemoration held particular symbolism in a year of reconciliations long sought by Germany, such as Schroeder's invitation to D-Day ceremonies in France. Next month, he is to visit Warsaw on the 60th anniversary of a failed uprising by Polish resistance fighters against five years of Nazi occupation. In contrast with the last major remembrance 10 years ago, eastern European countries that found themselves behind the Iron Curtain after the war have now joined the European Union's fold.

The July 20 bombing killed four people but only superficially wounded Hitler. Immediately after World War II, Germans widely viewed the plotters as traitors, a label that stuck for many years. Even now, historians still argue about their motives and - given their conservative views and early support for Hitler - their commitment to democracy.

But Germans have increasingly accepted the day's significance as wounds over the war heal and the rest of Europe grows comfortable with Germany's place in the continent.

``It has arrived in the collective memory of the Germans, `` said Johannes Tuchel, director of the German Resistance Memorial center, who noted that the many streets across Germany named after von Stauffenberg would once have been unthinkable.
Beatrix Zech, daughter of von Stauffenberg's nephew, Otto Philipp Schenk von Stauffenberg, said change has been slow.

``What a change we see today, compared to the bad press - or nothing at all - of the 1950s,'' she told The Associated Press by telephone. ``It's strange, but you cannot change people's minds so easily.''

German President Horst Koehler laid a floral wreath during the ceremony on a plaque honoring the July 20 plotters at the Bendlerblock building, now the Defense Ministry. But overnight in the central city of Goettingen, vandals sprayed apparent neo-Nazi slogans on a Stauffenberg memorial, police said.

Later Tuesday, Schroeder attended the swearing-in of German army recruits at the Bendlerblock site - an annual tradition designed to highlight the importance of the resistance to Hitler from within the military and its inspiration for Germany's postwar army.

Though the ceremony has been marred in the past by left-wing demonstrators who maintain it supports militarism, only one protester breached the heavily guarded compound Tuesday and was quickly detained.

Schroeder said July 20 is a reminder to Germans to ``defend again and again the values of freedom and tolerance that we consider so self-evident today.'' A recent poll of Germans age 16 indicated why that is important, finding 39 percent of them couldn't say why July 20, 1944, was a significant date.

Also at Tuesday's ceremony was Freya von Moltke, who with her husband gathered other enemies of Hitler at their castle, forming a group that became known as the Kreisau Circle. Helmuth James von Moltke was arrested before the Stauffenberg bombing and executed in 1945.

``At the high point of Hitler's success, that's when the circle began,'' the spry white-haired 93-year-old told a crowd at a Berlin church Monday. ``I'm proud.''
She, too, invoked Germany's place as a part of Europe.

``Even though we had no success and even though we were weak, we kept European humanity alive in Germany - and I mean all who stood against Hitler,'' she told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Joachim Palemba, who served in the postwar German military, traveled from the northwestern town of Vechta to attend the ceremony and pay his respects to the people who helped pave the way for Germany's rehabilitation.

``It's really important to remember that there were soldiers who gave their lives against injustice, to have a different Germany, a better Germany, a free Germany,'' he said. ``It's very important to recognize it every year.''

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A testament to the crumbling education system

Cynical age could learn from one truly good man
 
MARK RICHARDSON, For the London Free Press

"He comes to us as one unknown." -- From The Quest for the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer

Have you ever wondered why some young people are cynical? It's because they are looking for heroes and not finding them.
Working at one of the London Public Library branches for the first time on Saturday, I discovered a fellow employee was a recent philosophy graduate.
"Oh, did you study Albert Schweitzer?" I asked.
Though I knew the chances were slim, I hoped for a glimmer of recognition for the man who had once inspired me to consider missionary work. There was barely a flicker.
With that, I decided to share my enthusiasm for the man once known around the world as le grand docteur.
Schweitzer was, in fact, four times a doctor: in music, philosophy, theology and medicine. As an organist, he played a significant role in the restoration of J. S. Bach to the classical pantheon. As a New Testament scholar, he sent ripples through the church when he said Jesus saw himself as merely the forerunner of the end. As a thinker, he was ahead of his time when he developed the philosophy of "reverence for life" in any form, including animals.
But it was his sacrifice in becoming a missionary doctor in remotest Africa that inspired generations. With the salons of Europe at this feet, Schweitzer put his Christianity into practice. In 1913, he followed through on his decision to become a missionary to Africa after his 30th birthday and set out for the Ogowe River to build a hospital.
Not everyone approved. "A general," rumbled Charles Marie Widor, organ virtuoso and Schweitzer's teacher, "does not occupy himself as an ordinary infantryman in the firing line . . . If you really want to help the natives, you would do much better to give lectures."
Schweitzer was undeterred. In a letter to a friend, he wrote:
"In the colonies things are pretty hopeless and comfortless. We -- the Christian nations -- send out the mere dregs of our people; we think only of what we can get out of the natives . . . At last, I have discovered the meaning of my life does not consist in knowledge or art but simply in being human and doing some little thing in the spirit of Jesus."
Schweitzer did his "little thing" in Africa for more than 50 years. He made only occasional visits home, usually to give recitals to raise money for his hospital. When the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to him, the 78-year-old politely told reporters: "I must build my new leprosy village. The 147,000 crowns of the prize are the more welcome to me because I can buy a great deal of corrugated iron with them."
Schweitzer died at age 90 in the African village of Lambarene, the site of his hospital. By then, some had accused him of colonialism. Others had said he was playing a role. One book even speculated whether his flight to Africa had been the result of a mental breakdown.
The evidence suggests otherwise.
One morning in September 1917, Schweitzer and his wife were ordered to Europe by the next available ship. Even though the European conflict was a continent away, the Schweitzers were to be prisoners of war and the deportation meant a lot of packing of medical equipment into safe storage.
Two days before his departure, however, a native patient was brought to him suffering from a strangulated hernia. With hands trembling from fatigue and overwrought nerves, Schweitzer re-opened the cases, got out the essential instruments and, once again, saved the life of one of his African brothers.
On July 11, 1949, Time magazine's cover featured Schweitzer. Inside, it asked the question: "Man of the century?" Half a century later, however, he is forgotten.
That will change. Starving for ethical heroes, youthful idealism will, sooner rather than later, rediscover the moral greatness of Albert Schweitzer.

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Finally! A Londoner speaks some sense

West Nile victim has no interest in joining lawsuit
Londoner Bob Usher says the government shouldn't be blamed for people getting the virus.

CARLY WEEKS, Free Press Reporter  

A London man who contracted West Nile virus said he is surprised some families plan to sue the Ontario government for negligence dealing with the disease. "I'm not that kind of person to go grubbing for money. I don't believe in that whole process," Bob Usher, who contracted the disease in 2002, said yesterday.
An Ontario court has ruled that families can proceed with a lawsuit alleging the province didn't do enough to warn people about the West Nile virus.
Douglas Elliott, a lawyer for more than 40 families interested in pursuing the case, said an Ontario Superior Court judge dismissed an attempt by the government to have the case shut down.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Gertrude Spiegel ruled Friday that the families will be allowed to proceed with lawsuits against the province alleging negligence in how it dealt with the virus two years ago.
Elliott represents residents in the province who contracted the mosquito-borne virus in 2002.
Usher said the government shouldn't be blamed for the fact some people got West Nile.
"I got bitten by a mosquito. To be honest, we've all been told, we've all been warned," he said. "If (the provincial government) had spent more money, I don't think people would have changed their ways until people started getting sick."
He said it doesn't make sense to sue the government over something that most likely would have happened whether or not government education and awareness programs were in place.
Instead of looking for financial gain from a provincial lawsuit, Usher said he would rather see the government put more money toward finding out more about the disease.
"I would prefer if there was money (that) the money go back into research, vaccines."
Usher still suffers from daily headaches and fatigue from the disease.
"Are people dressing and doing things differently? Not a lot of people are. Even I don't as much as I should because there's still the question that hasn't been answered -- once you have it, can you get it again?"
Usher said the court decision is important because it will affect more than just West Nile victims, since it opens the door to suits of many kinds against the health-care system.
He said he believes the provincial government will "lose badly" if it continues to fight.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Moore continues to laugh - all the way to the bank

Moore smiles at Sarnia offer

PATRICK MALONEY, Free Press Reporter  

Michael Moore appears to be handling any thought of being charged by Canadian election officials the same way the Oscar-winning director handles his interview subjects -- with humour. As a right-wing Canadian activist lobbies the government to charge Moore over comments made during June's federal election, a Moore representative didn't sound too concerned in an e-mail he sent last week to Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.
"You're a good man," Jeff Gibbs told Bradley, who has jokingly offered to make Moore an honorary Sarnia resident, making any election charges moot.
"All of us evil (dissidents) have to stick together."
Gibbs also told Bradley he should expect to hear soon from Moore or his wife.
Bradley -- who was featured prominently in Moore's critically acclaimed Bowling For Columbine -- made the tongue-in-cheek asylum offer last week.
It came after Kasra Nejatian, a 21-year-old former Canadian Alliance candidate, started an online petition to have Moore charged for asking Canadian voters to not support Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.
Under the Elections Act, no foreign national can attempt to influence voters during a campaign.
Nejatian yesterday expressed disappointment that Moore's camp is scoffing at his efforts.
He said some sources familiar with Raymond Landry, the commissioner of Canada Elections, and Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley have told him they may actually charge Moore. Canada Elections doesn't comment on any such issues.
"I do think they're going to do the just thing and they're going to charge Moore," Nejatian said from Toronto yesterday. "A lot of people underestimated how serious I was.
"I'm not pretending to say this is a good law -- it's a horrible law -- but the government didn't listen to critics of this law. Somebody was going to break this law (eventually) and it was Michael Moore."
Nejatian and his supporters agree the law is stupid, but say it must be enforced equally.
No one has ever been charged under this section of the elections act and Bradley hopes it stays that way.
Admitting he is a Liberal and a full-fledged Moore supporter, Bradley is concerned any such charges would cause Canada embarrassment.
"The message around the world . . . will make us look very foolish," he said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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The Saga continues

Council split on approach to Shriners

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter  

There's little appetite on London city council to put on the "brass knuckles" in the battle for the new Shriners Canadian children's hospital. But Sarnia city council passed a resolution last night backing London's bid for the hospital worth up to $100 million.
"That kind of low-grade slang talk isn't needed," said Coun. Bernie MacDonald. "I don't think we should go that way."
MacDonald was responding to Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley's suggestion it's time for "brass-knuckle politics" to counter bids by Ottawa and Montreal for the prestigious hospital.
"I'm all for the other cities and municipalities coming forward with support for our bid," MacDonald said, noting Windsor and Chatham-Kent also sent London letters of support.
"But to go in and come on to them (Shriners) that way, I don't think you can do that."
MacDonald was joined by several other council members in welcoming Sarnia's support, but rejecting any hint of playing political hardball.
"I'm very appreciative of their support," said Coun. Ab Chahbar.
"I think it's great for showing our regional spirit. But I don't think we have to turn this into a political fight. We'll win this on its own merits."
Controller Gord Hume agreed.
"We should continue to take the high road and it's important to remember, we are the frontrunner," Hume said.
Hume also said there's no need to pressure Queen's Park for support. He said the Liberal government's role should focus on what Ontario can offer the Shriners.
A Shriners committee selected London as the site for its new hospital in April.
But Ottawa and Montreal, site of the existing but aging Shriners hospital, lobbied hard and convinced the organization at its Denver convention this month to keep their bids in the mix.
Now, the three cities are awaiting a list of questions followed by negotiations.
The successful bid will be approved next July at the Shriners convention in Baltimore.
Coun. Judy Bryant said London should put its faith in the Shriners' experience of building hospitals.
"(They) know what they're looking for and we've provided it. I think we'll do very well."
Coun Joni Baechler was the lone voice yesterday calling for a "tougher" approach.
"The fact is, Montreal and Ottawa are back in because they took a tough stance."

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Justice is never done when the Liberals are concerned

Public to pay Guite legal bills in lengthy probe

STEPHANIE RUBEC, Free Press Parliamentary Bureau  

OTTAWA -- Taxpayers should foot the legal bills for the former public servant at the centre of the sponsorship scandal, a judge has decided. Justice John Gomery ruled yesterday in favour of Chuck Guite's request his legal expenses during the lengthy Adscam probe set to start in September be covered by the federal government.
Gomery said he based his recommendation on the the Treasury Board picking up part of the legal tab for Guite during a Commons probe of the scandal.
The RCMP has charged Guite with allegedly defrauding taxpayers of $2 million and has also laid similar charges against Montreal ad executives who managed the sponsorships.
To qualify for federal funds to pay his legal bills, Guite had to prove to Gomery that he couldn't afford a lawyer.
Guite argued that his accounts have been drained by lawyers representing him at his criminal trial and accompanying him at the Commons committee probe this spring.
In his ruling, Gomery criticized Guite for failing to outline how broke he is and why he can't afford a lawyer to represent his interests in the judicial inquiry.
"Be that as it may . . . I recommend that (the lawyers' fees) be funded in accordance with the Treasury Board guidelines."
Guite, who retired from the public service in 1999, defended his administration of the $40-million sponsorship program at the Commons committee probing the scandal.
Guite said he didn't file paperwork on the sponsorships, keeping the information in his head, and distributed contracts to ad firms in a way that ensured they broke even.
During his two-days of testimony, Guite alleged that Prime Minister Paul Martin's staff attempted to influence the awarding of ad contracts.
Auditor General Sheila Fraser concluded that taxpayers had been billed three times for nearly identical reports from Groupaction under the sponsorship program.

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Martin cabinet nothing new: opposition

OTTAWA - Calling the new Liberal cabinet tired and familiar, opposition parties said Prime Minister Paul Martin didn't get the message that Canadians were looking for change in the way government works.

Martin's new cabinet was sworn in on Tuesday, blending experienced ministers such as Finance Minister Ralph Goodale and Deputy PM Anne McLellan with a host of newcomers, including a former NHL hockey player and a former forestry executive.

"This cabinet was created to hit the ground running – to provide dependable, spirited administration, to deliver real progress on the issues that matter most to Canadians," said Martin.
Conservative leader Stephen Harper called the cabinet "weak and inexperienced," dominated by Liberals loyal to the prime minister. The same team of Liberals offers no new ideas, he said. Martin left a number of key portfolios in familiar hands, but included a number of new faces.
Among the ministers staying in the same portfolios are Ralph Goodale in Finance, Anne McLellan as deputy prime ministers, Reg Alcock at Treasury Board and the Canadian Wheat Board, Irwin Cotler at Justice and the Attorney-General's Office, Carolyn Bennett at Public Health, Joe Volpe at Human Resources and Skills Development, Geoff Regan at Fisheries and Oceans, Jim Peterson at International Trade, Judy Sgro at Citizenship and Immigration, Joe McGuire for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, John Efford at Natural Resources, and Joe Comuzzi for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario.
New faces include former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh as health minister, forestry executive David Emerson as industry minister, NHL goalie Ken Dryden in Social Development and former Tory Scott Brison with Public Works.
Conservative house leader John Reynolds said Martin added more left-leaning cabinet ministers to appease the "socialists of the country." But he predicted Martin will run a right-leaning agenda.
In comments following the swearing-in ceremony, Martin promised to focus on improved health care, sound financial management, child care and environmental protection.
NDP leader Jack Layton said he was disappointed with the reduced number of women in the cabinet. Martin's December 2003 cabinet held 11 women.
Martin defended the gender balance of his cabinet by saying that of the 33 female Liberals elected three weeks ago, "18 are being sworn in as either ministers, ministers of state or parliamentary secretaries." That amounts to about 55 per cent, he pointed out.
Here are the other changes:

Stephane Dion, Jean Chrétien's former intergovernmental affairs minister, is back in favour and in the cabinet after throwing himself wholeheartedly into helping re-elect Martin, who had demoted him. He is Canada's new environment minister.
Jean Lapierre, who left the Liberals in 1990 to help create the Bloc Québécois before returning to his old party at Martin's invitation, is transport minister and Quebec lieutenant.
Former Canfor executive David Emerson of British Columbia becomes industry minister.
Toronto-area MP John Godfrey will handle the new Infrastructure and Communities portfolio, which will play a key role in shoring up Liberal support in Canada's largest municipalities.
Former transport minister Tony Valeri is the new government House leader in the House of Commons, an important role in a minority government as the Liberals negotiate with the opposition parties to move legislation through Parliament.
Stephen Owen moves from Public Works to Western Economic Diversification and also becomes minister of state for Sport.
Lucienne Robillard is the new intergovernmental affairs minister and president of the Privy Council, moving from Industry.
Tony Ianno was rewarded for beating NDP star Olivia Chow in Toronto Spadina, taking over the brand-new portfolio of minister of state for families and caregivers, under Dryden's social development portfolio.
Albina Guarnieri becomes the new veterans affairs minister.
Jacques Saada is the new minister of economic development for Quebec and minister responsible for the Francophonie.
Former veterans affairs minister John McCallum becomes minister of national revenue.
Andy Mitchell moves from Indian and Northern Affairs to Agriculture and Agrifood, taking on the troublesome mad cow disease file.
Former minister Andy Scott of New Brunswick is back in cabinet as minister of Indian and northern affairs.
Former labour minister Claudette Bradshaw is minister of state for human resources development.
Joe Fontana is the new labour and housing minister.
Mauril Bélanger becomes deputy leader of the government in the House of Commons and minister for official languages, as well as associate minister of national defence.
Raymond Chan is the new minister of state for multiculturalism.
Senator Jacob Austin remains the Liberal house leader in the Senate, to which he was appointed in 1975.
Another well-known minister, Ethel Blondin-Andrew, won't know if she's in cabinet for at least another day or two.
A judicial recount will determine whether she retains her Western Arctic seat after June 28 left her with a 52-vote margin over her nearest rival, NDP candidate Dennis Bevington.
If Blondin-Andrew's victory is confirmed, Martin said, she will become the ninth woman in his 41-member cabinet.
Written by CBC News Online staff

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Monday, July 19, 2004

Now what about doing something about those gaps between the ears...???

Bingos to get $25,000 stop-gap
Woodstock to boost charities struggling with the smoking ban and slot competition.

JOE BELANGER, Free Press Reporter  

Woodstock will spend $25,000 to shore up local charities that have seen bingo revenues plummet in the wake of slot machines and a smoking ban. Last week, city council approved the plan to top up bingo revenues using slot machine income that normally funds its community grant program.
And Mayor Michael Harding is calling on the province to accelerate plans for a provincewide smoking ban to make the situation fairer.
"Hopefully, the province is going to step in and bring legislation earlier than 2006 to ban smoking and level the playing field," Harding said.
"This move is just to keep not-for-profit groups alive until then."
Harding said bingo revenues for charities dropped after the Woodstock Agricultural Society opened its slot machines in June 2001 and again after the city passed a no-smoking bylaw in September.
Harding said the smoking ban sent bingo players out of the city to nearby municipalities such as Brantford and Stratford where smoking is allowed.
Woodstock earlier decided to waive licensing fees for bingos in a bid to soften the blow of the smoking ban.
The number of charities operating bingos in Woodstock and other parts of Oxford County has dropped to about 72 from 110 before the slots opened.
A similar situation has occurred in London, where two bingo halls have closed since the smoking ban came into effect a year ago.
London city council cut bingo licensing fees in half to help charities.
But when the city moved to reinstate the full fee, bingo operators asked board of control to form a task force to study the issue, arguing increased fees would cut deeply into revenues.
A report is expected by the end of August.
Harding said charities provide essential programs for residents across the city and county.
These include minor sports groups that pay to use city facilities such as arenas and pools, service groups that provide for the underprivileged, and arts and culture groups.
Harding said if those organizations don't have enough revenue to operate, they'll have to cut programs or even close.
"This isn't about bingos; it's about dollars," Harding said.
"Every dollar those charities raise is worth $4 to $6 to the community (in volunteer hours). And if they don't get revenue from bingos, then they'll come back to the municipality looking for money."

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Bureaucratic interference into property exchange

New hope for local landmark
A new bill could save the Monsignor Feeney Centre in Old South.

CHIP MARTIN, Free Press Politics Reporter  

New heritage preservation tools being sharpened by the province may help save an Old South landmark, says a community activist. But, says George Sinclair, the tools are only as good as the government's will to use them.
He's optimistic, however, changes to the Ontario Heritage Act may keep the wrecker's ball from the Monsignor Feeney Centre, for instance, the soon-to-be-vacated home of the London District Catholic school board.
The centre, built in 1898-99 as a school for teachers, is an example of high Victorian architecture.
The school board, rather than sink an estimated $4 million into repairs and renovations, has opted to build new offices beside Regina Mundi College on Wellington Road for about $6 million.
Bill 60, the first revamping of the province's heritage legislation since 1975, gives municipalities and the province powers to stop proposed demolition of heritage sites.
It received second reading in the Ontario legislature last month and is expected to become law this fall.
Until now, local councils have had the power only to delay demolition of structures deemed of heritage value.
"Councils need tools like this," Sinclair said. "But they have to be prepared to use them."
He was optimistic the province will prevent demolition because the Elmwood Avenue structure is the last of Ontario's original teachers' colleges, giving it provincial heritage implications.
Under the bill, private property owners would be able to appeal demolition controls to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The province gave the building to the school board in 1985 and it reverts to provincial ownership once the board moves out, school board chairperson John Ferris said.
He said tenders will be issued in six weeks for the new board offices. He expects the new centre to be open by September 2005.
"It is a heritage building," Ferris said. "It has plaques all over it."
But those who want to stop its demolition should make their case to the province, into whose hands the building will fall, rather than to the board, Ferris said.
The province might be asked to impose a designation on its own property that would restrict what it could do with it, he noted.
Still, Sinclair said he's hopeful the Old South building can be saved. He said the legislation would have been helpful in earlier efforts to save London's heritage buildings.
"In the days of the Talbot streetscape, this would have been useful," he said, referring to the block along Talbot Street that was flattened in 1989.
It stood vacant for years before the John Labatt Centre was built.
The new heritage protection measures are intended to bring Ontario's legislation in line with leading jurisdictions across Canada and around the world, Ontario's Culture Ministry announced when the bill was tabled.

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Saturday, July 17, 2004

As usual, the Liberals are absolutely shameless...

Ontario eyes purchase of private imaging clinics

DENNIS BUECKERT, CP  

OTTAWA -- Ontario is striking back at the creeping privatization of health care by preparing to buy out seven private clinics and bring them into the public sector, CP has learned. Secret talks could lead to the province taking over existing for-profit MRI and CT clinics throughout Ontario in a move that may foreshadow the federal government's plans to save medicare.
The Ontario government has been under unrelenting pressure since it re-introduced health premiums in its last budget.
An angry Conservative critic, Frank Klees, said the first millions produced by the health premiums will go to paying for the buyouts, which he said are driven purely by ideology.
He accused Ontario of making the move to position itself for coming federal-provincial negotiations on health care -- talks in which Ontario is expected to be the federal Liberals' biggest supporter.
Prime Minister Paul Martin has asked provincial premiers to come to a first ministers' conference on medicare in September. Martin has promised to pump $9 billion into a system that is groaning under the strain of an aging population.
Private clinics have popped up in several provinces, offering quicker diagnostic care for those willing to pay hundreds of dollars to jump the queue in the public system.
Ontario's clinics were set up under the previous Conservative government and have five-year contracts worth a total of $4.6 million a year, according to documents.
Clinics at Kingston, Thunder Bay, Kitchener and Richmond Hill are to be transferred to new non-profit entities, while the government proposes to purchase clinics from Diagnosticare/CML at Ajax, Huntsville and Mississauga.
Three out of four clinic operators -- Superior Imaging Inc., Kingston MRI Inc. and KMH Cardiology Centres Inc. -- have made proposals to the government for conversion of the facilities to non-profit entitites, the documents say.
A fourth operator, DC Diagnosticare Inc., is a publicly traded corporation and has offered to sell its assets to the government. Ontario has made an initial offer of $14 million for that facility.
A spokesperson for Premier Dalton McGuinty confirmed negotiations are under way.
"We are committed to delivering on our platform commitment to bring MRI clinics back to the public realm and the Ministry of Health is working hard to make this a reality," said the spokesperson.
 
You can be sure taxes will rise in Ontario, while the level of care in these clinics - along with those already publically owned - will drop

"It's consistent with our values of accessible and universal health care."
Klees said the move is a slap in the face of every Ontario voter.
"When Ontarians see that new health tax deducted from their cheque they should know that they're paying for this sham. It's clearly dogma-driven and does nothing to add one service to anyone in this province.
"What I see here is a political play leading up to the meeting that Dalton McGuinty and other premiers are going to have with the prime minister. This is all about positioning for that meeting."
All of the clinics were created under the Ontario Independent Health Facilities Act under former premier Ernie Eves.

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