Friday, April 30, 2004

Nice commentary about the Green Party on Le Blog de Polyscopique

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Colby Cosh scores points against the Mother Corp.

In recent years the CBC has spent millions rebranding itself and trying to make us forget that it is, in fact, a state broadcaster. But the fact remains in the world, placidly resistant to the spin. CBC employees are government employees. Collectively, their livelihoods depend on the willingness of the present government to continue propagandizing and entertaining the citizenry at the citizenry's own expense. There are people that the CBC does not want elected, assuming it possesses the same self-interest as any other tribe of primates, and others that it does want elected. It sometimes appears to decide on what we see and hear according to that hypothetical self-interest, and according to a self-reinforcing, clubby political ideology. To deny any of this is to engage in damnable lying.

Read the rest...

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There are too many opportunities for mean, nasty titles and comments for this one, but I will behave myself

Legislature approves health bills

CP 2004-04-30 03:05:48

TORONTO -- The Ontario legislature has given approval in principle to two private members' bills aimed at protecting children. One bill would result in free vaccines for children, while the other would force Ontario bars and beer and liquor stores to warn women that drinking could cause fetal alcohol syndrome.

Belleville-area Liberal Ernie Parsons's bill to amend the Liquor Licence Act is named Sandy's Law in honour of his 25-year-old son, who died last winter from the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome.

"Part of me says it's a wonderful tribute to my son," Parsons said after his bill received unanimous approval on second reading, with Premier Dalton McGuinty among those voting in support.

"But the best part is I think it will save children from facing challenges in life that's there's no need to."

The bill would require signs be posted in licensed establishments and anywhere liquor is sold that warn pregnant women about the risks drinking poses to a fetus.

"We're still looking for the cures for cancer and for diabetes, but we have the cure for fetal alcohol syndrome," said Parsons.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is characterized by abnormal facial features, growth retardation and central nervous system problems. Affected children may have physical disabilities and problems with learning, memory, attention and problem-solving.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Cheap money ... These are usually the same people who think we need a raise in minimum wage, taxes, and social spending. Let's just give everybody a raise! My new $20/hr will be worth exactly what my current $10/hr job is worth, except that I will have to work harder to support the new taxes. Sounds like a bad idea. Besides, just like minimum wage, why should anyone get a raise for nothing?

Protesters demand increase in Ontario welfare benefits

CP 2004-04-30 03:05:48

TORONTO -- The placards and angry rhetoric that marked eight years of Conservative rule returned to the Ontario legislature briefly yesterday as protesters demanded the Liberal government restore their dignity by increasing welfare benefits. More than 100 people chanted and sang songs of protest demanding "real change, not small change" from Premier Dalton McGuinty.

"I told so many people, 'You vote him in, you're not going to get anything anyhow,' " said Jim Youngs, a march organizer and recipient of Ontario Disability Support Program benefits. "All you're going to get is higher taxes."

Youngs, 51, was injured in a construction accident in 1990 that left him suffering from a host of ailments, including osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and arthritis.

He receives $930 a month from the disability program, almost all of which goes to pay taxes, mortgage and hydro bill, he said.

"Restore our dignity," Youngs said as protesters displayed an oversized, hand-painted quarter to symbolize the "spare change" they say they're getting from the province.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Health-care upgrade critical over next decade, experts say

PATRICK MALONEY, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-30 03:05:52

The next decade is crucial to nursing Ontario's ailing health-care system back to form, two health experts said here yesterday. George Smitherman, the provincial health minister, and Michael Decter, a former Ontario deputy health minister and a highly touted health-care consultant, spoke at the Thames Valley District Health Council's spring forum.

Both agreed the next few years -- and the new Liberal government -- are key to upgrading the condition of primary health care in Ontario.

"(It) is the linchpin of the transformation of our health-care system," Smitherman said. "Improving the performance of our primary system isn't just important -- it's essential."

To the public, however, those words may ring hollow, Smitherman said, because little progress has been made in recent years on that front. The Dalton McGuinty government is focused on improvements, Smitherman promised.

"We were elected on promises to enhance the primary services in this province," he said. "Our government believes bold, system-wide changes are needed."

In Ontario, and across Canada, the changes are long overdue, Decter said.

Compared with other western nations, Canada's primary health system saw little improvement in the 1990s, he said. But the next decade will spawn great advancements, predicted Decter, who is chairperson of the Health Council of Canada.

"We will look back on this decade in a very positive way."

The first step is getting doctors with solo practices -- many of whom are overwhelmed with patients -- to adopt new operation "models" that would involve nurse practitioners and other care providers.

Though London's doctor shortage is an urgent health-care issue, Decter said simply getting more students into medical school isn't the solution.

"If you've got a solo doctor and they're trying to look after the health needs of a couple thousand people, they are working very long hours and they don't have a lot of job satisfaction," he said.

"If you've got a group of doctors and nurses . . . looking after the health needs of, say, 20,000 people, there's a lot more (flexibility) in that model."

Paul Huras, director of the Thames Valley District Health Council, agreed.

"Poaching doctors doesn't solve the problem. It just moves the problem," he said. "You're not going to solve the doctor shortage tomorrow. That's a long-term issue."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Ottawa's rolling out 'horrible' pot: activist

DENNIS BUECKERT, CP 2004-04-30 03:05:53

OTTAWA -- There's a new scandal creating a buzz on Parliament Hill. Bad weed. Nearly a third of the patients who obtained marijuana through Health Canada's medical access program have returned the product, says an activist who sees that as proof federal pot isn't worth smoking.

"High school students in a cupboard could grow a product that is better and safer than what we're getting," said Philippe Lucas, who obtained the figures through the federal access to information law.

"I think it's much weaker than the government claims. I'd really suggest their testing is off."

Lucas, director of Canadians for Safe Access, said tests commissioned by his pro-pot lobby group have found the federal product contains only 5.1 per cent THC, rather than the 10.2 per cent claimed by Health Canada.

It doesn't even look appealing, he added.

"Visibly, it's horrible. There's visible stock and stem and it's ground far too fine to actually roll, so you're forced to use it in a pipe -- and when you do it burns very black with dark, acrid ash.

"They know it's no good and they send it out to people who aren't just suffering from minor aches and pains, but in some cases have AIDS and cancer."

Health Canada spokesperson Catherine Saunders said 29 out of 92 approved users either returned their pot or cancelled their orders.

However, she said she did not know the reasons.

Saunders insisted that the marijuana is as potent as claimed.

"It's tested, it's research grade, it's fully characterized and it's documented according to good manufacturing practices guidelines."

She said the THC content is 10 per cent plus or minus 1 1/2 per cent. That's comparable to black market pot, which averages 10 per cent, she said.

The government marijuana is grown for the government by Prairie Plant Systems of Saskatoon in an abandoned mine at Flin Flon, Man.

Lucas said the marijuana is so widely reviled that Prairie Plant Systems includes a return form with every order.

"Having smoked it myself, I think they're having a lot of problems with the way they're treating it, post-cultivation. That's why this product is burning black and barely burning at all, frankly."

Given that Prairie Plant System is in the fourth year of a $5.5-million, five-year contract, and has shipped 279 ounces of pot, he estimates that each ounce costs the government $16,000.

"Absolutely outrageous," said Lucas. "Black market cannabis currently goes for $150 to $200 an ounce. That's for triple A (top quality).

"As a medical marijuana user, I'm absolutely shocked, bowled over and offended by what's going on at Health Canada. But as a Canadian taxpayer, I'm even more bothered."

Saunders said Health Canada does not calculate the cost of its medical marijuana program on a per-ounce basis.

She said the benefits of the program for patients who are seriously ill, and for researchers, are much broader than can be broken down by ounce of product.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Thursday, April 29, 2004


Edible oil products on hold
CP 2004-04-29 03:04:30

TORONTO -- The Ontario government will delay allowing the sale of certain edible-oil products that resemble dairy products until it can ensure the province's consumers and dairy farmers are protected from fraud, Agriculture and Food Minister Steve Peters said yesterday. Peters introduced legislation to delay the repeal of the Edible Oil Products Act, which was to take place this year to allow the sale of a greater range of edible-oil products, such as soy-based beverages and spreads.

But Peters said existing federal regulations still don't adequately protect consumers and dairy farmers from wrongly or fraudulently labelled products that could be mistaken for real dairy items.

"We want to ensure that a consumer knows very clearly what they are consuming," Peters said after question period.

"We do not want imitation products on a shelf that leave the impression that it is a dairy-based product when it is a soy-based product."

He cited the word "buttery" as an example of how some products can be made to sound like they contain dairy produce when in fact they don't.

"We want to ensure that if a term such as 'buttery' is being used, that there is true dairy product in that product."

Peters said the legislation he introduced yesterday would give the government six more months to work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to develop new labelling regulations.

The bill will likely win speedy passage.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Police welcome chance to test for drugs

The federal proposal would allow police to have drivers tested for impairment by drugs.
DEIRDRE HEALEY, Special to The Free Press 2004-04-29 03:04:34

WOODSTOCK -- Local police are welcoming the federal government's push to give police the testing powers to nab drivers high on drugs as politicians move to decriminalize small amounts of pot. "It's great news," said Oxford community police deputy chief Harry Paterson. "There are a lot of people out there that abuse drugs and drive and are every bit as dangerous as someone impaired by alcohol."

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has introduced drug-test legislation as a companion bill to Ottawa's efforts to decriminalize possession of less than 15 grams of pot.

If passed, the legislation would give police the authority to demand physical tests such as taking samples of saliva, urine or blood so they can detect and deter drivers impaired by drugs.

Paterson said approximately 90 per cent of single-vehicle crashes involve an impaired driver -- whether it is alcohol, drugs or both.

"Your response time is affected when you are impaired. There could be a corner that you have driven around 1,000 times, but when you are impaired you may drive an inch off the road, lose control and hit a tree."

Drug-impaired driving is already an offence that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment when it causes death to another person. However, there is currently no equivalent test to a breathalyzer to measure drug impairment.

Refusal to allow samples to be taken would be a criminal offence under the proposed legislation.

Breathalyzers, the only tool presently available to police, often don't tell the story of what's in a driver's blood system, said Paterson.

"People can be high on a combination of alcohol and drugs and it won't register. It doesn't mean they aren't impaired. An officer can still pull them off the road if they think they are impaired, but it's harder to make it hold up in court without evidence."

MP John Finlay (Oxford--LIB) said the proposed legislation will go a long way towards helping officers convict drug-impaired drivers.

"It frustrates me to see someone get apprehended only to be let go a because of a lack of evidence," said Finlay. "This is trying to combat that."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Board split on city business issue

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-04-29 03:04:38

The city's board of control is deadlocked on whether to let council members and city staff do business with the city. The board met yesterday to consider options but deferred a decision until a special meeting Monday before council has its regular session.

City staff has recommended the purchasing bylaw be amended to let staff and council do business with the city provided they declare a conflict of interest.

But some members of council, including half the board, want the city to maintain a policy approved last fall that bans staff and council from doing business with the city.

"We shouldn't be seen to have financial dealings with the city when we're sitting on council," Coun. David Winninger told the board.

"It's a sacrifice that has to be made when you seek public office."

But others on council, including Controller Bud Polhill, said such tight restrictions in the purchasing bylaw discourage business people from seeking public office.

Polhill said it could even cause problems for the city issuing contracts.

"I have a problem with being so restrictive because it causes us a problem by putting us in a corner you can't get out of," he said.

Polhill pointed to the city's recent purchase of a special pool liner produced by only one company.

"What if a member of council owned that company? Where would be then?"

The board will resume the debate before next weeks' regular council meeting when staff will present new wording for both options.

At one point, Controller Gord Hume, who also supports less restrictive conflict rules, complained he was being unfairly "vilified" in public by members of council over the issue.

Hume is publisher of The Londoner, a free weekly newspaper which recently published a city ad, sparking the debate.

Several councillors, led by Joni Baechler, argued that the ad violated the bylaw, which now prohibits council members and city employees from doing business with the city.

That led to the staff-proposed change in the conflict-of-interest rules of the bylaw.

Staff advised council that an outright ban on staff and council members doing business with the city is so restrictive, a councillor who holds shares in Bell Canada could be deemed in conflict because the city recently awarded fibre-optics contracts to Bell.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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McGuinty, Sorbara out of tune on lotto tax

JAMES MCCARTEN, CP 2004-04-29 03:04:38

TORONTO -- Premier Dalton McGuinty and Finance Minister Greg Sorbara left the oddsmakers shaking their heads yesterday as they sent sharply different signals about whether the provincial government is planning to tax lottery and gambling winnings. Before his morning cabinet meeting, McGuinty repeated a now-familiar message of austerity and sacrifice in the face of a towering deficit and refused to rule out the possibility his government would tax lottery and casino jackpots.

"No particular ideas have been ruled in or ruled out on that score," he said of the idea, which came from a series of public consultations conducted by an Ottawa policy research firm.

"We've got to make some tough choices here . . . the question we are asking . . . is, 'So just how far are you prepared to go to support health care and education?' "

But by the time question period was over, McGuinty's financial lieutenant seemed to be putting his money on a very different pony.

"I'm just going to say, don't bet the family farm on a lottery tax," Sorbara said.

The tax is one of a number of possible initiatives that have crossed Sorbara's desk in recent weeks, he said, but he "wasn't very impressed with the results we might gain from it."

But Sorbara didn't expressly rule out a tax on winnings from gambling enterprises like Casino Niagara and Casino Windsor -- a tax New Democrat Peter Kormos is convinced will be in the May 18 budget.

"One of the attractions of Ontario casinos to Americans and other non-Canadians is that our winnings are tax-free as compared with U.S. casino winnings," said Kormos, who represents Niagara Centre.

"To tax casino winnings would put a real impediment on our ability to draw out-of-country gamblers, which are the gamblers we should be drawing to our casinos," Kormos said.

In the case of Casino Windsor, roughly 80 per cent of the clientele is from the U.S., said Joe Vecsi of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission. In Niagara Falls, fully half the gamblers at Casino Niagara are from across the border, he said.

There are no jurisdictions in Canada that currently tax lottery or gambling winnings, Vecsi noted.

Alfie Morgan, a retired University of Windsor business professor, said a tax on gambling would devastate the Ontario economy, to say nothing of the southernmost corners of the province.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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City lawyer pushes to quash affidavits

PATRICK MALONEY, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-29 03:04:38

Trust in London city hall will be dealt a black eye unless a court strikes down affidavits by two council members alleging an illegal vote was held behind closed doors, a lawyer argued yesterday. Jim Caskey, representing the city, made the comments in Ontario Superior Court yesterday as part of the city's bid to quash the signed affidavits of Coun. Roger Caranci and Controller Bud Polhill.

The statements say city hall's planning committee voted privately in January to recommend a temporary zoning bylaw along a stretch of Richmond Street.

The bylaw would effectively freeze development in the burgeoning area until zoning issues could be sorted out.

Besides seeking to strike down the affadavits, the city wants development lawyer Alan Patton, who asked the two men for the statements, removed from a related case.

"The motion to strike (these) affidavits is of vital importance to the city . . . and indeed to all municipalities," Caskey told Justice John Kennedy. "(Otherwise) the business of the city will be forever changed. The essential element of trust will be destroyed."

But Patton, who was acting on behalf of client RSJ Holding Inc., maintained he and the two councillors have done nothing improper since the bylaw was passed in January.

The so-called interim zoning bylaw essentially stops any development on Richmond Street between Huron and Grosvenor streets. That area includes a property RSJ hoped to turn into a four-plex.

Trying to get that bylaw quashed, Patton obtained the affidavits from Caranci and Polhill, both saying the bylaw's passing was preceded by a vote behind closed doors.

Those statements could be used against the city by Patton.

Votes held behind closed doors are illegal under Ontario's municipal law.

The only improper act was the committee's alleged vote in private, Patton said yesterday in court.

"The clear implication from what Polhill and Caranci said is that there was a vote taken. It was a done deal," he said. "That's a violation of the Municipal Act."

Polhill and Caranci's statements reveal nothing confidential -- such as who voted how or details of legal advice -- but only the truth about the vote, Patton said.

A city staffer, he added, all but confirmed a vote must have been taken to move the recommendation forward.

"She said . . . 'To move a recommendation to the next level a vote needed to be taken,' " Patton said.

"There had to be a vote."

Patton likened passing such a zoning bylaw to "dropping a nuclear bomb" on developers.

To Kennedy, the main issue yesterday wasn't the quashing of the affidavits, but whether Patton should be removed as RSJ's solicitor of record.

While the judge said he was unsure what damage, if any, was caused by Patton, Caskey insisted he be removed for not consulting the city's lawyers before approaching Polhill and Caranci.

"When he knew the city was represented by lawyers, he approached members of the municipal council that were in a decision-making role," Caskey said.

"These people are the directing minds of this municipality. To say that they're acting against the municipality's interest is an understatement."

The case was adjourned until Monday.

The issue has caused friction between councillors, some of whom disapprove of the actions of Caranci and Polhill and dispute their statements.

Coun. Joni Baechler, who has spoken out against the affidavits, attended court yesterday with fellow Coun. Judy Bryant.

Caranci also attended but sat separately.

Polhill was not there.

The case was adjourned until Monday.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Outta space

An astronaut centre is looking for a new home after its London facility is sold to a boat maker.
JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-04-29 03:04:34

The world's first privately-operated civilian astronaut training centre may take off from London before it ever serves its first customer. The Canadian Arrow Space Centre on Fanshawe Park Road East is looking for a new home.

The facility that houses Canadian Arrow is being taken over by a London business success story, Hudson Boat Works, one of the world's top three racing-boat makers.

And, unless it cuts a deal of co-existence or finds a new city home, Arrow may be headed to another city.

"Everything is up in the air," said Geoff Sheerin, team leader of Canadian Arrow.

"I need to find a new location and I may need to move out of London," he said. "I'm not sure the money we need to propel this project is in this community. So, just from a financial perspective, we may have to move."

Canadian Arrow has been offered financial incentives to move. Windsor and Sarnia have expressed interest.

The company's bad news was delivered at city hall's board of control yesterday, where Sheerin gave an update on the space centre and its progress toward the X Prize.

Aside from training civilian astronauts, the Arrow team is trying to beat 24 other teams in a worldwide race for the $10-million US X Prize, which goes to the first team to launch a manned rocket twice within 14 days at least 100 kilometres into space before a January 2005 deadline.

The prize, privately funded by donors such as author Tom Clancy and actor Tom Hanks, was set up to encourage commercial space travel.

But the big prize for Arrow and London isn't the contest but a new industry -- space tourism.

Sheerin said a study by a Texas consulting firm estimated an established space tourism industry would generate about $95 million US in business each year and upward of 650 local jobs.

Globally, it's estimated space tourism will eventually become a multi-billion industry as the world's wealthy elite look for ways to have fun.

And that's an industry the city doesn't want to lose, says Steve Glickman, director of business growth and retention for the London Economic Development Corp.

"Our first priority is to find them a home and we're working on that," Glickman said.

"We're optimistic."

Glickman agreed the fledgling industry is one the city wants to keep.

"They have many different avenues they could follow to succeed and one is winning the X Prize."

The Canadian Arrow team successfully tested its 25,900-kilogram thrust engine for its rocket last month. It's expected to launch an unmanned flight off a barge in Lake Huron in the next few months, followed by a manned flight later in the year.

The uncertainty of where the company will locate has delayed the space centre's plans to train astronauts.

But work on the X Prize project continues. Sheerin said he remains confident the Arrow can meet the Jan. 1 deadline for the prize.

Canadian Arrow pilots and passengers would shoot off a barge in Lake Huron, about

5 1/2 kilometres from shore.

They'd experience about

4 1/2 minutes of weightlessness and the same view of Earth astronauts get, before splashing back down in the parachute-equipped capsule.

Sheerin said the company needs to find a similar 25,000- square-foot site in a similar park-like setting.

He said part of the company's problem in building interest from the financial community is people don't take the company seriously.

"We're a real industry and the real industry is launching people," he said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Pot houses 'toxic,' police chief warns

HANK DANISZEWSKI, Free Press Business Reporter 2004-04-29 03:04:34

Homes used for marijuana grow operations can turn into "toxic chemical wastelands" -- and potential buyers should be warned, says London police chief Murray Faulkner. Speaking to the Better Business Bureau's annual meeting yesterday, Faulkner said real- estate agents should be concerned about the soaring number of illegal home-grow operations in private homes.

London police have busted 182 home-grow operations in the last two years, he said.

In most cases, the homeowner didn't live in the house, but just used it to grow pot.

Fire officials have noted home growers often bypass electricity meters, creating a fire hazard. Large amounts of power are required to fuel lighting for home grows.

Faulkner said the high humidity and strong pesticides used in the growing process can cause health hazards.

"When that house goes back on the market, it is a toxic chemical wasteland because of the pesticides used and the mould inside."

Across Ontario, home grows have become such a problem, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police held a special summit on the issue in March.

Faulkner said one of the strategies considered at the summit was to require home sellers to warn potential buyers the house was once used as a grow operation.

Faulkner noted a similar warning was required years ago for homes with urea formaldehyde insulation.

He said some Ontario municipalities are investigating the legalities of making warnings mandatory and London police are watching.

"It's something that we are going to be examining because we think it's a public safety issue," he said.

Faulkner also said he's concerned scandals now rocking Toronto's police force will hurt the reputation of all police officers.

He said he's confident the public still has strong faith in the London force, but is concerned about a spillover from the Toronto investigations.

"If the public reads something about the police, we are all painted with the same brush," said the 30-year police veteran, recently named chief.

Four more Toronto police officers were slapped with charges Monday -- another black eye for a force recently stung by allegations of drug dealing, money laundering and discreditable conduct.

Faulkner said Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino, once his boss as a former London chief, will take swift action.

"He will root this out and will not stop until he is confident that everyone involved is held to account."

Faulkner said police have always ranked near the top in surveys rating public trust in professions.

But he noted in one poll last year, police dropped eight per cent in public confidence and fell another point this year, putting them below 80 per cent for the first time in 20 years.

"I will do everything to keep that trust above 80 per cent where it should be," he said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice; in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear

How Compassion-Pimps do cry
Every black'ning Community Centre appalls,
And the hapless Social Worker's sigh
Runs in blood down Arena walls

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Gay Marriage hearse

With apologies to W.B.

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New legislation would give police powers to do roadside drug tests

Canadian Press

Monday, April 26, 2004

OTTAWA -- The federal government introduced legislation Monday to help police catch drug-impaired drivers.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said police need the authority to demand physical tests and bodily fluid samples so they can detect and deter drivers impaired by non-alcoholic drugs.

The proposed reform is part of the government's plan to strengthen drug laws while it decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Under that plan, anyone caught with less than 15 grams of pot would face a fine instead of a criminal charge, but penalties against marijuana grow operations would increase.

Drug-impaired driving is already an offence that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment when it causes the death of another person.

Monday's bill would allow police to conduct roadside attention tests and demand saliva, urine or blood samples if drivers fail.

Refusal to comply with a demand would be a criminal offence.

Lawyers say the proposals give police too much power and will spawn Charter of Rights court challenges.

Cotler countered that the bill provides the same powers allowed for alcohol tests, and has been Charter tested to withstand legal attacks. Drug users are disproportionately involved in fatal accidents, he added.

© Canadian Press

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Gay marriage proponents reveal election blacklist

Globe and Mail Update

Acknowledging that same-sex marriage could be a hot-button issue in the next federal election, several advocacy groups banded together Wednesday to call on Canadians to vote for candidates who favour equality for gays.

Canadians for Equal Marriage launched its campaign Wednesday in what the group's co-chairman, Alex Munter, called a "defensive manoeuvre" against other, Christian groups such as Focus on the Family, which Mr. Munter says is planning an expensive campaign during the election.

Many are now predicting that Prime Minister Paul Martin will call a federal election for this spring, likely for a June 14 date.

Now that three of Canada's most populous provinces, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, allow the marriages, and the federal government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on the constitutionality of gay marriages, it's an issue that will likely be a trigger point during the campaign.

Mr. Munter told that the group, which is made up of a number of left-leaning organizations such as the Canadian Labour Congress, Egale and the United Church of Canada, wants to get their message out "in a targeted way."

"We want to get Canadians to support equality in the polls."

CEM is targeting specific ridings where the battle will be between two candidates who have opposing views on same-sex marriage. Although Mr. Munter says the list will grow as CEM continues its research, it is backing three high-profile candidates for now.

"Today we announced three key races as examples of what will be our priorities. It is our priority to support Andy Scott in Fredericton and Stephen Owen in Vancouver Quadra, and to defeat Dennis Mills in Toronto Danforth," said Craig Mynard, CEM co-ordinator in British Columbia.

Mr. Mills is on a preliminary blacklist of candidates released by Canadians for Equal Marriage, which held simultaneous gatherings in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver to launch its Vote Equality 04 election campaign plans.

Coalition spokeswoman Cicely McWilliam said Mr. Mills is on the list because he is a long-standing opponent of lesbian and gay rights "and of equal marriage in particular."

Mr. Mills was quick to reject the suggestion that he is anti-gay.

"That's all right, we don't mind them demonstrating," he said in an interview from Ottawa. "People who know me, know that's not true. I have people on my staff, volunteers who are active in the gay community. I've had advisers who are gay. I've even had people live with me who are gay."

When asked for his position on gay marriage, Mr. Mills refused to answer directly.

Mr. Munter noted that the list is not in support of a particular party, but rather, in support of those who back gay marriage as a rights issue.

"The list will include mostly Liberals, NDP, but we hope there are some Conservatives on there," he said.

He said he sees this type of campaign by special interest groups in an election growing.

"As we move toward an era where there are more and more free votes, this kind of advocacy will persist."

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Canada - The Land of the Free (as long as you don't open your mouth)

Robinson's bill on gay hate crime passed by Senate


OTTAWA (CP) - The Senate passed a bill today to extend hate-crime protection to homosexuals, but MP Svend Robinson wasn't there to enjoy his hard-won victory.

The openly gay New Democrat was in self-imposed exile from the political limelight as his private member's bill jumped the last major hurdle to becoming law.

Not that Robinson, disgraced after admitting he stole an expensive ring on April 9, was far away.

He was seen exchanging hugs and high-fives with jubilant supporters on a street within sight of Parliament Hill.

Robinson has declined interview requests since taking a medical leave from his job. He cited stress and "emotional pain" at a tearful news conference two weeks ago.

"He is under orders from his medical professionals that he's not to engage in any activities that are parliamentary," said Ian Capstick, a spokesman for the NDP caucus.

Robinson was only in Ottawa for a day to complete related paperwork and retrieve some personal items, Capstick said. The timing coincided with the vote by coincidence, he said.

Senators voted 59-11 to pass the bill as applause echoed through the ornate red chamber. It now requires the final formality of royal assent to become law.

It was a rare feat for an opposition MP but a tempered victory. Robinson, who publicly apologized for the theft, could still face charges.

A special prosecutor in B.C. is reviewing whether he should be charged.

"It's a real mixture of sadness and happiness," said New Democrat MP Libby Davies, a close friend of Robinson's.

"It's sort of bittersweet that he's put so much into it and he's not able to be there at the Senate to see it go through."

Davies, who represents Vancouver East, called Robinson right after the vote but didn't tell reporters he was in town.

"He has a lot to go through, including a possible court case," she said in an earlier interview. "But right now his focus is on getting the help he needs."

Robinson, a 25-year veteran of federal politics, had worked since 1981 to add gays and lesbians to a list of groups legally protected from incitement of hatred and genocide under the Criminal Code.

The bill cleared the House of Commons last September after raucous debate. At the time, the former Canadian Alliance - now part of the new Conservative party - and some Liberals fought the bill over fears that freedom of speech and religion would suffer.

Opponents raised concerns that the bill could be used even against religious leaders who condemn homosexuality from the pulpit. They also attacked the logic of singling out certain groups for specific protection, arguing that violence against all people should be prosecuted equally and is already outlawed.

The bill's passage in the Liberal-dominated Senate alarmed critics.

"Unfortunately, most Liberals in both the Senate and the House of Commons chose to support an NDP-sponsored law that could put fundamental Canadian freedoms in jeopardy," said Conservative MP Vic Toews, a former attorney general of Manitoba.

Supporters dismissed such claims, citing the frequency with which gays and lesbians - particularly homosexual men - are targeted.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Professional Police Association supported the bill.

Police have so far been powerless to prosecute the likes of Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kan., who runs a website that declares God hates homosexuals.

Supporters of Phelps have entered Canada twice in the last five years to hold anti-gay rallies.

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What has happened to capitalists here in London? But we must not forget that this is a sycophantic London Free Press article. The title should probably read: Developers Welcome Overlords' Protection of Their Turf or The Benevolent Shining Wisdom of City Council

Developers welcome controls on growth

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-04-28 03:05:25

Far from being upset, London's development community is "delighted" the city wants to manage growth more tightly. The reaction comes a day after city staff advised the environment and transportation committee the city's sewage treatment capacity was getting low and required restrictions.

"I'm totally in support of it," said Steve James, president of London Development Institute, representing the city's development industry.

"They're bringing forward a strategy to deal with (sewer) services in the city and I think it's the right thing to do."

City staff want the city to set development priorities, including keeping the core as a top priority, followed closely by industrial development.

"This (plan) is standard practice everywhere else -- to capacity of the (pollution control) plants. It's necessary," James said.

Staff explained the Greenway sewage treatment facility -- which treats 60 per cent of the city's sewage -- has about 10-per-cent capacity remaining, including five per cent set aside for maintenance. That means it can handle another 13.6 million litres a day.

The city's total approved capacity at its six sewage treatment plants is 254 million litres a day, of which 204 million litres is now being used, leaving a total of about 27 million litres available. The balance of capacity is set aside to maintain equipment.

A public meeting on the issue is set for June 7.

Staff estimate the city will need another 54.5 million litres a day to accommodate growth over the next 20 years, which means the $75-million Southside pollution control plant will have to be built during that time.

Staff say if the city restricts development, such as prioritizing the type of development and location, the existing capacity will be sufficient to delay Southside until 2016, six years later than planned.

The delay will give the city more time to put aside money to pay for the plant, staff said.

The city currently has a "wide-open" growth policy that allows growth anywhere, any time.

"I think the city has been loose in the past in terms of what it was giving priority to in terms of development," James said. "(With this plan) a developer can't just go into an area and build something that overburdens the system."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Future TheLondonFog bloggers?

City teens depressed more than average
PATRICK MALONEY, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-28 03:05:25

Teens in London face a greater risk of depression than their peers across Ontario, a community report card says. Statistics compiled by Investing In Children, a non-profit city organization that completed a so-called "snapshot" of life for the city's youth, show nearly 16 per cent of those between 15 and 19 dealt with depression last year compared to a provincial average of slightly more than 11 per cent.

"London teenagers seem to be at greater risk," said executive director Jan Lubell. "(The difference) isn't major but it's enough to grab your attention."

The statistics suggest 15.7 per cent of London teens are faced with "probable/possible" depression. In Ontario, the overall rate is 11.4 per cent. The figures are based on data from the 2001 census.

Lubell said the London group, which collects statistics from such sources as school boards and the federal government, works to improve the lives of local youths.

The latest report is the third the group has issued (others were in 2000 and 2002), but Lubell said the organization doesn't comment on possible causes for the figures.

"What we really do is raise awareness. We'll put out a red flag. If this is so . . . (we) say, 'What can we do about it as a community?' "

University of Western Ontario psychologist Alan Leschied, who chairs the group's board of directors, offers several examples of stresses that could trigger depression in teenagers.

Although noting that London's figures correspond with national numbers, he said the overall increase in depression rates is nothing short of alarming.

"If it were a physical illness, we would be calling it an epidemic," he said, noting that a lack of family stability or confusion can trigger depression.

"Depression (is) consistent feelings of sadness, not the odd blue Monday. With awareness comes recognition that we can do something."

The study covers health, recreation, education and family life. In most categories, London was among the Ontario and national averages.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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This may be the first time I have agreed with anything the Ontario Liberals are up to, but why do we need public input into this? If something is the right thing to do, then a collection of special interest groups or even an arbitrary sample of Ontario citizens cannot be said to represent "wisdom" (otherwise, there would not be a Liberal government in Toronto).

Ontario plans to end forced retirement
CP 2004-04-28 03:05:25

TORONTO -- Ontario is committed to ending mandatory retirement at age 65, and plans to consult the public this summer on how that should be done. "We're going to do it, absolutely," Labour Minister Chris Bentley said yesterday outside the legislature.

"We agreed that we would end the practice of mandatory retirement and give workers the right to choose whether they wish to work beyond 65," the London West MPP said.

"We want to make sure we do it in a way that will give people the right to choose but protect people's right to leave work at 65 if they want to."

To start, the province will hold discussions with Ontarians this summer to find out what concerns or issues there might be with the change. After that legislation would be introduced.

The Liberals have been in favour of ending mandatory retirement although it was part of the Conservative's pre-election platform released prior to last fall's campaign that brought the Liberals to power.

Mandatory retirement at age 65 is seen by many as a discrimination against older workers. Certain laws allow companies and union contracts to force workers to leave their jobs when they turn 65.

Many jurisdictions have already ended mandatory retirement so the province wants to examine how that was accomplished, Bentley said.

"We do have a population that is not, unfortunately, getting younger. People want the option," Bentley said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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So, why do we need all these money-sucking heritage bureacracies and their decay-inducing restrictions on what people can do with their own property, when citizens don't really even care about these heritage buildings?

Old library building draws little interest

JOHN MINER, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-28 03:05:25

London's quest to find a new use for the former downtown central library building has failed to ignite much interest. Earlier this year, the city advertised for alternative-use proposals for the aging building, at 305 Queens Ave.

"There was a very limited response," said Jim Hobbs, London's director of fleet, facilities and departmental resources.

"I don't believe at the moment that we've got a really viable project."

Hobbs said a report is being forwarded to the city's board of control, seeking direction.

The former library building has been empty since 2002, when the library moved to a new location in Galleria London.

Last year, it appeared the building, which opened in 1940, had a bright new future as a TV production centre for Pandora's Closet, a television series that would have created about 150 jobs in the city.

But that fell through when the Canadian Television Fund pulled its funding in favour of established TV series such as This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Red Green.

It was also suggested last year that the building might serve as office space for some of the city's 3,000 staff, more than half of whom work at satellite offices because of a space shortage at city hall.

Hobbs said the city is maintaining the building's utility services.

"We are just keeping it there until we receive some further direction," he said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Fiscal policy report blasted

CP 2004-04-28 03:05:25

TORONTO -- The Liberal government's bid to take Ontario's pulse on fiscal policy culminated yesterday in a report that endorses running a deficit, implementing user fees and taxing lottery winnings -- a report critics angrily denounced as a waste of taxpayer dollars. The $200,000 report is the result of a series of six day-long sessions with 250 randomly selected people by Canadian Policy Research Networks, an Ottawa policy think-tank.

In it, participants endorsed what CPRN president Judith Maxwell described as a balanced approach: eliminate the deficit, but do it slowly and not on the backs of the poor, by slashing services, or by raising income taxes.

"They value public services, from health care to education, transportation, safe water and healthy communities, and they'll pay more if necessary," Maxwell told a news conference.

"But at this stage, they're still in a show-me mood. There's no green light to raise income taxes or the retail sales tax now."

But since the participants had mainly Liberal ideas to work with, the report bears a striking resemblance to the Liberal election platform, as well as policy ideas the government has been talking about for months.

"The government provided the facts and the context for the workbook, and we provided the template," Maxwell said.

When asked whether any Conservative or New Democrat platform material was provided to the participants, Maxwell replied: "I doubt that."

Maxwell noted her company billed $200,000 for its work; media reports have estimated the total cost to the government at more than $500,000. Yesterday, the government circulated documents showing the company's projected invoice for the project would be $237,525.

The report endorsed raising taxes on alcohol, tobacco and luxury items like boats and "large cars," taxing large lottery and gambling windfalls and increasing the cost of hunting and fishing licences and vanity licence plates.

It also encouraged the government to preserve natural resources with incentives for those who use less and penalties for waste -- something the Liberals have been talking about for months.

"The report says that in exchange for not cutting the core programs and services they most value -- particularly health care and education -- Ontarians would be prepared to pay more in interest on the debt, for the short-term," Premier Dalton McGuinty told the legislature.

McGuinty said the province's fiscal context has changed since his government discovered a $5.6-billion deficit inherited from the Conservatives, as well as $2.2 billion in unfunded liabilities this year.

Critics assailed McGuinty for what they called a cheap political trick designed to get the government out of its promise to balance the budget during its first year.

"You have lost the trust of the people of Ontario because of your broken promises," NDP Leader Howard Hampton said when question period resumed.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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We can change 'ugly' world, Trudeau sons tell Canadians

RITA TRICHUR, CP 2004-04-28 03:05:25

TORONTO -- The world is an "ugly place" rife with violence and human misery, but Canadians have the power to change that, Justin and Alexandre Trudeau said yesterday during a ceremony to rename a university centre after their late father. The sons of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau helped unveil the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto -- an important first step, they said, on the path to global peace.

"I don't think it's overstating the case that the world has become a very ugly place these days," Justin Trudeau, 32, told the crowd brimming with scholars and dignitaries.

"This new century needs to be one of dialogue, understanding and peace."

The former teacher, who's now spending much of his time promoting the Katimavik youth volunteer program, said empowering "young minds" will help solve raging conflicts in a world thirsty for stability.

"We are truly at a pivotal point in the history of humanity. We are at a place where what we do or don't do this century will simply determine our future."

His brother, Alexandre Trudeau, 30, a documentary filmmaker, acknowledged Canadians are lucky to "live in a country where there is peace, justice and tolerance while the world is on fire."

These Canadian values must be championed abroad, he added, citing his father's idealism.

"We struggle to understand what went on now more than ever, because things seem to be getting worse and worse."

The brothers expressed gratitude to the university for renaming the centre for their father, who was lauded by former Ontario premier Bob Rae as "a great prime minister and a great Canadian."

"All of us who have been in public life over the last 50 years have been profoundly affected by his example," said Rae, who chairs the centre's advisory board.

The centre promotes research on the root causes of mass violence -- including wars, ethnic strife, terrorism and genocide -- and ways to lessen its occurrence.

The ceremony also launched a $4.3-million campaign to raise funds for visiting scholars, scholarships and bursaries, mentorship programs and an annual lecture series. The money also will refurbish the centre's study space, seminar rooms and a resource centre dedicated to Trudeau's speeches and letters on foreign affairs, justice and public policy.

Pierre Trudeau, who was prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and 1980 to 1984, died in September 2000. During his life, he witnessed the effects of global conflict, travelling to Europe, the Mideast and Asia.

For professor Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the centre, the former prime minister emulated the values he believes students and faculty strive to reflect.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Board passes gay policy

Trustees give final approval to a plan to make schools safer for homosexuals.
JONATHAN SHER, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-28 03:05:25

Trustees on the Thames Valley District school board gave final approval last night to a plan they hope will make schools safer for homosexuals. Trustees capped a month of heated debate from members of their communities, expanding a program designed to make schools safer to include elements that will help gays.

But unlike an earlier meeting where security kept tabs on vocal supporters and opponents, last night's gathering was subdued because the board let its intentions be known two weeks ago.

A few dozen opponents sat quietly in the gallery, later expressing dismay.

"I object to my little grandchildren looking at plays portraying it's OK for men to be with men and women to be with women," said Margaret Carter of St. Thomas.

"I think young people are in jeopardy," she said.

But trustees Peggy Sattler and Linda Stevenson, both vocal supporters of the plan, said it was desperately needed.

"I think it's a significant step," Stevenson said.

Sattler said that until now, some school principals were reluctant to address the safety of homosexuals because of pressures from some within their communities. As a result, only some schools had addressed the issue, she said.

"This signals to principals they will be supported system-wide," Sattler said.

The measure passed after manoeuvring about who would put changes into place. A motion that empowered principals could mean schools could opt out of the plans, said Sattler and Stevenson, who agreed to a rewording that would mean all schools would participate.

Parents are evenly split on the plans, said Brenda Hopkins, chairperson of the district school council.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Ontario Fog

Toronto out-dumbs London!

Tight budget? Toronto buys wine, smokes for homeless

Peter Kuitenbrouwer, National Post

TORONTO - The city will continue to fund free wine and cigarettes at a homeless men's shelter this year, Toronto council decided yesterday, even as it asked staff to consider "alternatives" to the controversial program.

Staff defended the program as a safe alternative that keeps the men of Seaton House Men's Residence from begging for change to buy Listerine and Lysol, or smoking butts they pick up off the sidewalk. It is also an effective bribe, they said. "If someone is in need of a shower, we may trade a cigarette for a shower," said Eric Gam, commissioner of community and neighbourhood services.

Councillor Rob Ford (Etobicoke North) said bribing the homeless with cigarettes is "sad and sick," and he called the free wine program "scary."

"I know myself after a couple of glasses of wine I get a little light-headed. These guys must be half-smashed. You could kill somebody giving somebody who hadn't ate for a couple of days, 12 glasses of wine a day," Mr. Ford said.

"hasn't eaten". It's Tuesday, so no charge for tips on our language's very difficult present perfect tense.
Councillor Joe Mihevc (St. Paul's), a strong opponent of smoking, defended the programs. "Whenever you give your teenage daughter or son a taxi chit you know that they are going to do something to their bodies which is not of the highest order, so you are taking action for harm reduction," he said.

"We have to get rid of the demon cigarette, but that ideal is not achievable. You need to be pragmatic."

Do these 'tards really, actually talk like their brain dead temperance forebears?

Apparently so.

Oh, so I won't be able to smoke "in public" any more, but obnoxious smelly people who contribute less than nothing to society get FREE SMOKES while I pay $7 or so a pack, the majority of which goes into the bread-line that Mihevc and his client victim group all eat from.

Council voted 30-8 in favour of keeping the free wine program, and 29-9 in favour of continuing the free cigarettes.

But council also voted 20-19 to ask Mr. Gam's office to "report to the community services committee providing alternatives to the distribution of cigarettes and alcohol at Seaton House."

The city pays Derry Food Ltd. $20,000 a year to provide cigarettes to some men at the 550-bed Seaton House, who can smoke them in designated rooms.

In 2002, the city awarded Vintage Brew, a Toronto "U-brew" shop, a $144,000, three- year contract to produce red and white wine for Seaton House.

Vintage Brew makes the wine for $3 a litre. Each day, men at Seaton House drink about 45 litres of the free wine.

More broadly, council yesterday approved spending $273-million on shelter, housing and support. About $226-million goes to social housing and $41-million goes toward the city's 4,200 hostel beds. The city owns five shelters and helps fund another 60 shelters across Toronto.

The shelter beds are an undue burden on city taxpayers, staff said yesterday. The province promises to fund 80% of the cost of each shelter bed, but only gives Toronto $30 per bed per day, based on its estimate that such a bed should cost just $38 a day.

In fact, said Phil Brown, general manager of the shelter division, each bed costs the city $54 a day. City taxpayers make up the difference.

"We've been told there's a spirit of collaborative efforts," Councillor Peter Li Preti (York West) told council.

"We look to the province for leadership. If we had a downturn, what would happen to the ability of the city to look after their [the homeless's] needs?"

Councillor Case Ootes (Toronto-Danforth) said the city's generosity to the homeless means, "We're becoming the depot for the homelessness of the country, the more beds and more services we provide."

But Councillor Howard Moscoe (Eglinton-Lawrence) shot back: "I wouldn't want to spend the night at Seaton House."

Council begins its seventh day of budget debate today. The council had hoped to finish by tonight, but the debate now appears set to drag on through the week.

National Post 2004

Congratulations Toronto, you're even DUMBER than London -- now that's "world class".

Psssst... wanna buy an arena?

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Speaking of Colby Cosh, this is a gem about Paul Martin's confusion about whether Canada invaded the Beaches of Norway or of Normandy.

Which confirms me in my predisposition to perceive this blunder as the symptom of a uniquely Liberal disease ...

...It happens naturally enough, I think, to a man whose relationship to his country's past is antagonistic. Mr. Martin was bred into the Liberal tribe that incinerated the old flag, rewrote the old constitution and rebranded the former Dominion. It allowed that disaffected ex-soldier Paul Hellyer to unmake the Canadian army, navy and air force in 1968 and purge those who dared espouse the cause of living military tradition. It has committed itself self-servingly to perpetuating the highest rates of mass immigration in the Western industrial world -- a policy that must inevitably create an electorate less mindful of, and invested in, Canadian history. It has promoted multiculturalism, which, by definition, is anathema to the notion of history as a common frame of reference. Its propaganda agencies present the deeds of our forebears as a record of atrocities for which an infinitude of apologies can never suffice. Of course its members don't know their Norway from their Normandy: History is both reproach and obstacle to them.

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The Liberals are at it again -- Class Size Reduction is a nasty political ploy that will cost us lots of money and, as usual, produce unintended negative consequences for the very people that it is supposed to benefit. Colby Cosh sees through the pond-scum as usual in the National Post...

The one point on which CSR [Class Size Reduction] was successful was in improving parents' general satisfaction with their children's education, even though there was no objective benefit. In sum, it basically ended up being a ploy to placate freaked-out, superstitious middle-class parents at the expense of minorities, the poor, and those facing barriers to learning. That couldn't possibly be why the Premier of Ontario finds the idea attractive -- could it?

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Sewer limits a worry for city
JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-04-27 03:21:16

London is quickly running out of sewer capacity and should put restrictions on development, city staff warned last night. Otherwise, they said, the city could soon find itself unable to accommodate growth and turning away economic development opportunities.

The warning came at city council's environment and transportation committee meeting.

However, Peter Steblin, city engineer and general manager of environmental and engineering services, whose staff prepared the report, said "it's not a crisis."

"But we're talking about a limited resource and we have to start thinking seriously about tradeoffs in terms of allocating that resource."

In other words, the city should put some restrictions on development, such as setting priorities on the types of developments and where they'll go for the remaining sewer capacity.

Currently, the city has a "wide-open" growth policy that allows growth anywhere, anytime.

But with sewage treatment capacity dwindling, decent growth the last three years and the proposed new Southside sewage treatment plant about a decade away from construction, that must change, city staff say.

They recommend that growth in the core area remain a top priority, followed closely by new industrial development and housing.

A public meeting on the issue is set for June 7.

A sombre committee listened to the presentation.

"It's not a crisis -- not a panic, but it is serious," Controller Gord Hume said later.

"And I think it's wise for us to get a handle on it now."

The two major challenges council faces are the estimated $75-million price tag for the Southside plant and the idea of having to "tell developers where they should go" at a time when the city needs more growth, Hume said.

"I'm not sure I"m comfortable with that."

Coun. Fred Tranquilli was equally concerned.

"This is very, very important for our economic growth and we're probably late having this discussion," he said.

In a report to the committee, the staff said the Greenway sewage treatment facility -- which treats 60 per cent of the city's sewage -- has about 10-per-cent capacity remaining, including five per cent set aside for maintenance.

That means it can handle another 13.6 million litres a day, slightly more than enough to accommodate the land already approved for development in the city's southwest corner.

The city's total approved capacity at its six sewage treatment plants is 254 million litres a day, of which 204 million litres is now being used, leaving a total of about 27 million litres s available.

The balance of capacity is set aside to maintain equipment.

The staff report estimates it will need another 54.5 million litres a day to accommodate growth over the next 20 years.

Although the city established a sewer surcharge in 1999 to put money aside for the new treatment plant, much of it has been spent upgrading Greenway and replacing sewers on Gordon Avenue because of a problem with sulphuric acid.

The two projects cost a total of about $30 million, not to mention money spent on other projects, such as major repairs to stop basement flooding.

Although the five-year sewer surcharge bylaw expired this year, it's likely the city will have to continue it and possibly increase it, Hume said.

That issue is part of a development charges review now underway.

The Southside pollution control plant was slated for construction in 2009, but staff is recommending implementing the control measures to extend the date to 2016, giving the city five more years to save some money.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Service project for immigrants gets $102,746 federal grant

PETER GEIGEN-MILLER, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-27 03:21:16

A research project aimed at helping immigrants find the services they need to settle in Canada received a big boost yesterday from the federal government. A $102,746 grant was delivered to the Community Services Co-ordination Network of London's (CSCN) "wrap-around" initiative yesterday by London-North-Centre MP Joe Fontana.

"Our government is committed to respecting all cultures that make up our society, reinforcing our shared citizenship and ensuring that all Canadians have access to the services they need," Fontana said.

He made the announcement on behalf of Jean Augustine, minister of state for multiculturalism and the status of women.

Liz Prendergast, executive director of the Community Services Co-ordination Network, said the federal money means the agency will be able to start reaching out to families who have language and cultural barriers that make it difficult to access services.

"This will allow us to find the leaders in those communities and have them come together and tell us what it is about the service system that makes access for new Canadians difficult," she said.

The research will result in family and children's services organizations incorporating cultural diversity into their organizations.

Wrap-around refers to families developing their own plan for the services.

They do that by building a team of supports around them, Prendergast said.

"Wrap-around works with families who have many multiple, complex needs. We help them find and build a network of support and help them develop a plan that meets their needs and their strengths."

Help doesn't come solely from social agencies with professional staff, she said.

Help can come from a wide range of people, including clergy, neighbours, scout leaders and friends, Prendergast said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Labour, business criticize proposed workplace laws

GILLIAN LIVINGSTON, CP 2004-04-27 03:21:16

TORONTO -- Changes to workplace legislation introduced in Ontario yesterday drew complaints from both ends of the spectrum, with labour leaders saying it doesn't end the 60-hour work week and businesses complaining about the focus on enforcement. As Labour Minister Chris Bentley introduced legislation to cap the work week at 48 hours, Wayne Samuelson of the Ontario Federation of Labour said that doesn't mean the 60-hour work week is dead, or workers won't be coerced into working longer hours.

"The 60-hour work week is there if the ministry says OK and employees sign something," he said. "What employee in a non-union workplace is not going to sign some document if the employer puts it in front of them?"

New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton said the legislation doesn't protect workers at all.

"All the employer has to do is to say 'you work 60 hours or you'll be out of here,' then (the workers) sign."

Bentley, MPP for London West, also announced the province will focus more resources on enforcing workplace laws.

The target is 2,000 inspections next year, up from only several hundred in previous years, he said. Resources will be shifted within the department and no new inspectors will be hired.

Len Crispino, president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, said that move suggests there is more of a problem with workplace issues than there is in reality.

"We're less than happy with what appears to be an excessive reliance on enforcement," he said.

While "there might be a few bad apples out there that, of course, the minister should go after . . . we just don't believe from the data that we've got that the issue is as widespread perhaps as the minister might imply."

Samuelson said the changes are meaningless unless the government hires more inspectors to enforce the rules.

More enforcement "is critical," said Mary Gellatly, with the Employment Standards Work Group, which helps workers having problems with employers.

"We've seen over the past eight years that this act hasn't been enforced and it's been open terrain for bosses to break the law."

Some companies work staff, many of them immigrants, for long hours then file for bankruptcy to evade paying back wages, she said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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RC board outsources custodial jobs

The move is expected to save $1.5 million over three years.
JONATHAN SHER, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-27 03:21:16

Facing threats of labour disruption and claims they were turning their back on religious values, trustees on the London District Catholic school board voted last night to award custodial services for nine schools to private companies. The contracts, which also include one to service a board office, will save the board $1.5 million over three years, board chairperson John Ferris said after last night's meeting.

"That's the kind of money we need to have to provide better education to our students," Ferris said.

But members of the local Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which includes custodians and maintenance workers, said the savings come with a unconscionable price.

Jobs that should go to CUPE members have instead been awarded to companies that offer no benefits or pension and pay little more than minimum wage, the union said.

"We're a Catholic school board and they're acting in bad faith," said Dave Dreher, a board maintenance worker.

CUPE members said they were especially upset the board made a decision last night when the union had asked for a deferral to May 10, when a local Catholic priest, Rev. Frank O'Connor, was prepared to speak against out-sourcing of custodial work.

"It's underhanded," said Bob Martin, a custodian at John Paul II.

But Ferris said the board gave the union ample opportunity to make its case, listening to its Ontario president last month and extending invitations to meetings this month.

The board was told O'Connor was on a retreat and wouldn't be ready until May 10, Ferris said.

"We had to proceed with business," he said.

Ferris took issue with those claiming the outsourcing ran afoul of Catholic teachings.

"I don't think this is a religious argument though some may try (to make it one)," he said.

Ferris said he didn't know the private workers' pay scale or if they received benefits.

"We obviously know they make less money but I think social justice applies to both sides," he said. "We owe it to kids to give them the best possible education."

The board did what it was entitled to do under its collective agreement, Ferris said. The agreement allows the board to contract out jobs for new schools as long as CUPE members don't lose jobs, he said.

Eight of the nine schools have private custodial service while the ninth, St. Catherine of Siena in London, is opening in the fall.

The contract expires in August and CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan has said he'd draw a "line in the sand" over the issue.

Ferris, asked if the board would seek to expand its ability to contract out jobs, would not say what the board would seek in bargaining.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Check this out ...

Eagle backs housing as a priority

MARY-JANE EGAN, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-04-27 03:21:16

Affordable housing will be front and centre for Coun. Susan Eagle tonight as city council holds its first meeting to set budget priorities for the next three years. Armed with a new report with bleak statistics on London's affordable housing situation, Eagle said London needs a wakeup call.

"When you have 5,000 London households on a waiting list for subsidized housing and our housing access centre is only able to answer half those calls . . . because they are so overwhelmed by the number of calls from people trying to get on the list, I find those numbers staggering," Eagle said after last night's community and protective services committee meeting.

Eagle won unanimous support for her call to widely distribute the latest information from a report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) that contained statistics on the quality of life in 20 Canadian cities, including London.

The report comes on the heels of a report 18 months ago that found London was the most desperate city for affordable housing on Ontario's rental-starved landscape, losing more than 10 per cent of its private rental stock in 10 years.

A key finding of this latest FCM report was that while average monthly rents for the lowest end of the rental market increased in London 22.1 per cent between 1991 and 2001 ($430 to $525), incomes for the bottom 20 per cent of families dropped 9.8 per cent.

The report also found 12.6 per cent of London families were living below Statistics Canada's low-income cutoff levels, up from 11.7 per cent in 1991.

"These are very sobering statistics and I'm going to make it very clear (tonight) that we need to have a leadership committee of council that looks at housing needs in the community because this report spelled out very clearly that we're losing ground both in terms of low-income Londoners having less income than they previously did and in low-income rents going up faster," Eagle said.

Although London set aside $2 million in this year's budget for affordable housing, Eagle said it's crucial matching funds be pursued annually from both the provincial and federal governments.

"Our projection at the local level is that we need $2 million every year and if there's a year we don't set that aside, we make up for it," Eagle said. "But it's very important other government levels are at the table."

The province announced in February it had approved long-delayed federal and provincial housing funds -- a total of $56 million to build 2,300 units across Ontario. London will build more than 100 units -- a $12-million apartment building on Burwell Street near King Street to be completed next fall and a $1.7-million townhouse complex in Pond Mills.

Eagle called the grim statistics in the latest housing report "just the tip of the iceberg.

"This report shows London has a fragile (affordable housing) environment and if we don't respond, we're going to face a bigger problem down the road and people will be saying, 'You had the indicators, why didn't you do something?' "


What: Public meeting on setting budget priorities for 2005 to 2007

Where: Council chambers

When: Today, 4:30 p.m.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Games an $8M boost

With 2,000 athletes expected from 55 countries, London stands to reap more than $8 million next year when the city hosts the 2005 World Transplant Games, a city committee was told last night.

The games -- to be held July 16-24 -- celebrate both sport and the camaraderie transplant recipients share, said Heather Fisher, one of the organizers. Fisher, who was the second person in Canada to receive a liver transplant, noted last week she celebrated her "21st liver-versary" -- 21 years since her ground-breaking transplant.

Group tries to block circus

An animal rights group wants London to block the circus from coming to the John Labatt Centre. But the London Animal Alliance found little support last night at council's environment and transportation committee meeting. The alliance says the JLC is negotiating to bring Garden Bros. circus to town and that the wild animals, such as elephants, pose a threat to the health and safety of residents. The alliance says the "majority of Londoners consider it degrading to force" the animals to perform and urged council to block any deal. However, the committee noted the city is in the process of reviewing a bylaw on animal acts that won't be ready until December.

Dearness costs lowered

London got some good news last night on its ongoing $30-million Dearness Home project. City engineer Peter Steblin told councillors last November the contractor was seeking an additional $500,000 after bad soil samples required extra time and money in the construction of the seniors' home. A city committee learned those costs had been negotiated down to $134,000.

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City moving on stink from downtown sewer

PETER GEIGEN-MILLER, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-27 03:21:16

The city is moving quickly to eliminate the big stink assaulting the noses of patrons at a downtown restaurant. The smell has been coming from a sewer grate outside Mark Kitching's new restaurant, Waldo's on King.

Kitching said the smell has been so bad at times it has driven patrons from his restaurant's patio.

The problem hit the front page in a story in yesterday's Free Press.

Coun. Cheryl Miller has personally experienced the smell and agreed with Kitching something has to be done about it.

Yesterday, Miller asked for help from fellow Coun. Roger Caranci, chairperson of the city's environmental and transportation committee.

Caranci, in turn, asked city staff what could be done to eliminate the odour.

The issue was on the committee's agenda last night. But in the meantime, Caranci has talked to city staff about finding a solution.

"We're going to make sure we are able to take care of it as best we can," Caranci said.

He doesn't want to delay a solution by taking the usual city hall route of asking for a staff report on the problem.

"If there's something we can do, we should just go ahead and do it," he said.

Kitching was delighted yesterday to hear the city is moving to solve the problem.

"That's excellent," he said.

In the meantime, a large city vacuum truck arrived on the scene yesterday and the crew cleaned out a sump in the problem sewer.

A city staff member said the cleanout was part of routine, scheduled maintenance.

The vacuum sucked out an accumulation of leaves, garbage, grass and sand, he said.

Kitching said he had calls from three independent engineers yesterday who identified the sewer problem and said it could be fixed.

Miller said she and her husband first experienced the smell in early spring while leaving a hockey game.

"It smells like raw sewage," she said. "It stinks."

Miller recalled a similar installation in 1998 outside the London Convention Centre.

That problem was solved by installing a device to trap sewer gases.

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Caranci defends proposal for tenant checks

The public housing proposal would focus only on records of violent crime, he says.
PATRICK MALONEY, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-27 03:21:17

Coun. Roger Caranci is defending a proposal to bar some former criminals from London public housing, a plan several current subsidized tenants call "unfair." The move would disqualify some prospective tenants with criminal records from the 5,000 subsidized housing units in London and Middlesex County.

In response to the criticism, Caranci, who chairs the city's housing board, stressed yesterday that the screening would focus only on records of violent crime.

"We will be concentrating on people with past criminal behaviour that involved violence," he said.

Although the plan has been criticized -- specifically by Coun. Susan Eagle -- Caranci said he considers criminal background checks are fair.

"I feel comfortable in what I'm trying to do -- protecting the safety of people who live under London-Middlesex Housing roofs," he said.

"If you do have this type of (violent) background and there is an issue of you maybe doing it again, we don't want you."

However, several tenants at a subsidized highrise apartment building on Simcoe Street don't consider police checks a good idea if they block some potential tenants.

Reg Proulx, 66, had a friend threatened with a gun in the lobby. He said some fellow tenants are "looking for trouble."

After nearly nine years in the complex, Proulx would love to see some of his problem neighbours removed.

But he said not giving potential tenants a chance is unfair.

"If a person is trying to better himself and he's got a criminal record, where else is he going to (go)? If he's committed a crime and he's adjusted to a life of non-crime, he deserves a chance.

"You can't just judge a person, throw him into the gutter when he's trying to better himself."

For Brad Gauvin, the issue hits even closer to home.

Gauvin admits to having a criminal record, but says he has been clean for about six years.

If the proposal, to be presented to the board May 27, is approved, it won't be made retroactive and it won't affect Gauvin.

But he still considers it a poor decision by the city.

"You've got to prove yourself wrong before you get thrown out," he said.

"People, they're too judgmental. Once you done something, they just assume you're always going to do something wrong."

Caranci stressed that most criminal records won't even be relevant.

"If 20 years ago (a prospective tenant was) arrested for shoplifting, that's not really a crime against an individual."

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Glenn Reynolds is so smart. In response to the italicized quote from Pamela Bone:

Why is international public opinion not outraged at the treatment of women in Islamic fundamentalist societies? Why is it easier for millions of people around the world to see America as the great evil, rather than the countries in which governments ignore such horrific abuses of women?

Because elites around the world see American culture as a more immediate threat to their power than Islamic fundamentalism.


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Monday, April 26, 2004


Compulsory ID card trial begins in Britain
Last Updated Mon, 26 Apr 2004 12:05:38

LONDON - Britain was handing out national identity cards on Monday for the first time in 50 years as the government published a draft bill that could make the cards compulsory within 10 years.

Ten thousand volunteers will receive the high-tech cards which record biometric data including facial and iris scans, and electronic fingerprints.

Britain wants to eventually create a national register of biometric information for its 60 million citizens. It says the database would combat terrorism, as well as reduce fraud, identity theft and illegal immigration and human trafficking.

Home Secretary David Blunkett unveiled his bill amid criticism from civil liberties groups that the cards and the database could impinge on the right to privacy.

The government plans to meet the cost of introducing the cards – estimated to be the equivalent of about $7.5 billion – by hiking passport renewal charges. Critics said this amounted to an "identity tax," the BBC reported.

But Blunkett promised that the misuse of individuals' data would be guarded against, while the new cards would be impossible to forge. Britain would appoint an independent commissioner to prevent abuses such as the storage of health details and DNA.

Legislation for the cards is expected to be introduced to parliament in the fall of 2004. The first biometric passports could be issued by 2005. The proposal is expected to be hotly debated in parliament.

The government would decide whether to make the cards compulsory by 2013. By then, it expects 80 per cent of Britons will hold biometric identification of one kind or another, be it a passport, a driving licence or a voluntary ID card.

Written by CBC News Online staff

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Ontario heads back to 48-hour work week

The Liberals will overturn the 60-hour week available under the Tories.
GILLIAN LIVINGSTON, CP 2004-04-26 02:03:02

TORONTO -- Ontario is introducing legislation today that will end the 60-hour work week, forcing employers who want their employees to work more than 48 hours in a week to get permission from both their staff and the government. In addition, employers will only be allowed to ask for an extension up to a maximum of 60 hours a week.

"We want to be able to give people the choice, so they don't feel undue pressure" from employers to work long hours, a government source said.

"It ensures people aren't forced to work longer hours than they want to."

In January, Labour Minister Chris Bentley began consulting with workers and businesses on how to replace the 60-hour work week. At the time, Bentley said the changes had to "balance the needs of workers and employers."

The former Conservative government put in place the 60-hour week in 2000 and it was swiftly condemned by labour leaders.

That legislation let companies and workers enter into written agreements that permitted a work week of up to 60 hours. Government permission was only required for a work week longer than 60 hours.

It also allowed vacations in segments as small as a day and relaxed rules so the work week was averaged and didn't accumulate overtime.

Under the new legislation, companies will need approval before they can average overtime.

"It's going to be balanced. We don't want to tie up business in red tape, so it's not a return to the old system," the source said.

The system in place before the Conservatives brought in the 60-hour work week required employers to get a special permit to ask employees to work extended hours.

Businesses trashed that system because it included too much paperwork and was too time-consuming and bureaucratic.

While most employers don't ask employees to work such long hours in a week, some do, so the protection needs to be there, the source said.

Under the new legislation, businesses that want an employee to work beyond 48 hours a week will have to file an application, online or in writing, to the Labour Ministry. Included must be written consent from the worker.

There won't be any fees to file the application.

If the employer doesn't hear back from the Labour Ministry within 30 days, then they'll be able to go ahead with the extended work week.

The system will be phased in, with a target start date of Jan. 1, 2005.

There will be some exceptions that will let employers ask staff to work beyond 60 hours in a week, but they'll be special circumstances.

An example is a mining company that flies a work team to a remote area for a short time. In such cases, employers will be more stringently assessed.

When Bentley began his consultations, on top of ditching the 60-hour work week, labour representatives pushed for a 40-hour work week, higher overtime pay and more vacation time.

Employers demanded any new system be flexible, so they could deal with sudden surges in business or a lack of staff due to illness.

Elsewhere in Canada, the work week is 40 hours in British Columbia, Saskat- chewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland.

It's slightly longer in Alberta and New Brunswick at 44 hours, topping out at 48 hours in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

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Science whiz kids head east

Debora Van Brenk, Free Press Reporter 2004-04-26 02:03:04

While some children count sheep when trying to fall asleep, Jeremy Brodhagen dreams up impossible science projects. His insomnia-driven vision of a perpetual motion machine will take him and science partner Steven Kolkman to St. John's, Nfld., next month for the week-long Canada Wide Science Fair.

Then there's Gordon Ross, who was so bugged by continually missing out on a hot shower, he enlisted his buddy Matt Loft to work with him to invent a wind-powered water heater.

Ross and Loft are also heading to St. John's.

The four Grade 8 pupils are among 17 Southwestern Ontario kids whose inventions and experiments will lead them to the East Coast competition to face off against about 400 of their peers.

These kids are smart, no question.

But what struck me most about them as we talked was their wide-eyed wonder at how the world works, and how determined they are to solve its secrets.

Brodhagen and Kolkman are farm boys from tiny St. Patrick's school in tinier Kinkora, northwest of Stratford. Science is their favourite subject.

Sure, they know in their heads that a perpetual motion machine -- a mechanical means of creating energy without using continuous energy -- violates basic laws of physics and would be the equivalent of spinning straw into gold.

But they hope to manipulate those laws with a device they've made that uses magnetic energy to propel a ball-bearing and wheel around and around.

Brodhagen freely admits he likes to shoot for the moon. "And if I miss, I shoot for something else."

Kolkman dissects mechanical things around his parents' dairy farm and, he says, puts them back together better than new. "I like seeing how things work."

Ross and Loft live in Goderich and attend Victoria public school. Science, at least as they read it from their school texts, is a bit dull.

Ross confides he wants to be a psychiatrist. And Loft equivocates when asked if he would already define himself as a scientist. "I guess we are. To a degree. Well, I guess we are, since we kind of do experiments."

For this pair, theoretical physics takes a back seat to the practicalities of home comfort.

They realized early in their research that having two water heaters in a home would be too costly.

But could they cheaply preheat some water to stretch out a conventional water heater's capacity?

They built a model windmill, cadged a hand-cranked generator from a local supplier, built a tank and bought a thermometer to test their hypothesis . . . and, voila, no more lukewarm showers.

This, friends, is a far cry from the desperation-induced science projects we may recall from our school days.

"We don't see the quintessential volcano science fair anymore," says high school principal Mike Ash.

Ash, principal at Goderich District Collegiate Institute, co-chaired the Huron-Perth regional event.

"Society's science literacy has improved considerably," he says.

(I can only hope so. My grade-school volcano project didn't spew anything and years later I nearly blew up my lab partner in chemistry class. Let's say science wasn't my strong suit.)

At the Canada Wide Science Fair, participants will go whale watching and iceberg hunting, they'll trade pins and their projects will be judged at least four times.

Recruiters will offer some of them summer jobs and scholarships. Sponsors will award trips to Sweden and Australia. Oh, and there'll be the equivalent of $300,000 in prizes.

And even if participants don't go on to careers in science, their projects have taught them skills in organization, public speaking, research, teamwork and time management.

"All of those skills are going to be useful to them, whatever they do," Ash says.

Listening to these kids makes me a believer in that prediction. Or, to borrow the title of the Kinkora boys' project and use it to describe this whole kid-science movement: The Revolution Has Begun.

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