Health Canada has strikingly revised its position on the health risks of asbestos exposure, bringing the federal government more in line with other developed countries.
The recent changes to the department’s website are significant, with the page about asbestos replacing information that was dated from 2012.
Among the shifts, the site no longer says one form of asbestos – chrysotile, the type that Canada mined and exported for years that is still most commonly used – is “less potent” and does less damage than other types. The World Health Organization and other medical bodies have long said all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic.
In addition, Health Canada no longer says the danger comes when asbestos is inhaled in “significant quantities” (the WHO says there is no safe threshold); and it now clearly says that “breathing in asbestos fibres can cause cancer and other diseases.”
The last line represents “a landmark shift” by the government, “an important fact that was not previously acknowledged on the website,” said Linda Reinstein, an asbestos widow and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. The changes are “promising, but it is just the first of many steps required to protect the public from asbestos.”
Free expression is democracy. Without it, political choice is a farce. You can have all the elections you want and they will mean nothing without the secure right to express, share information and advocate for your views. But the boundaries of these rights of citizenship are always vulnerable, and right now, political, technological and commercial forces are converging into a chilling anti-freedom force.
Canada's federal government has been no friend of the right to know since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power. It was a shock back in 2008 when Linda Keen, then president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, was fired for publicly disclosing safety concerns and refusing to restart the Chalk River nuclear reactor. This doesn't surprise us now because being terminated for speaking out has become routine in Canada's civil service.
Remember Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin, whose credibility was attacked by the government in 2009 for exposing the fact that the Canadian military was turning over Afghan detainees to torture? Then there's Sylvie Therrien, who got the axe in 2013 for revealing that Employment Insurance investigators had to meet a quota of savings by denying EI applicants their benefits.
The public service has got the message loud and clear. Everyone knows they will keep quiet or pay with their jobs.
Strict new voting rules make it so hard for some Canadians to cast a ballot that the public may lose faith in the legitimacy of the upcoming federal election, a lawyer for two advocacy groups argued Thursday.
Tens of thousands of eligible voters could be turned away at the polls, according to the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students. So the two groups have asked the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to grant an interim injunction against one aspect of the Fair Elections Act, allowing voters to use the voter information cards they receive in the mail as valid ID at the polls.
MULTIMEDIA Everything you need to know about the Fair Elections Act The groups say the cards, which are no longer accepted as ID in the name of preventing fraud, would allow many people who might have trouble presenting other acceptable ID – including students, aboriginals, elderly people living in care homes and the homeless – to vote this fall.
Lawyers for the government, which passed the Fair Elections Act last year, will make their arguments on Friday.
A former Newfoundland and Labrador cabinet minister will run for the federal Conservatives this fall despite stating publicly just a few years ago that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had "no integrity."
Kevin O'Brien, a longtime Progressive Conservative MHA who was shuffled out of Premier Paul Davis' cabinet in March, has reportedly been green-lit as the federal Tory candidate for the new riding of Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame. O'Brien will take on veteran Liberal MP Scott Simms.
The news was broken online Thursday by CBC journalist David Cochrane, who tweeted that O'Brien will resign as the MHA for the riding of Gander.
How to encourage Canadians to boost their savings is shaping up as a key issue for the fall election, as the left-leaning Broadbent Institute takes aim at the Conservatives’ expansion of tax-free savings accounts.
The institute is releasing an in-depth report Monday by Simon Fraser University professor Rhys Kesselman that argues new data prove the increase will benefit high-income Canadians more than previously understood.
Study bolsters arguments against more tar sands exploitation
FRISCO —A new study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory will add fuel to controversy over development of tar sands oil.
The analyis shows that gasoline and diesel refined from Canadian oil sands release about 20 percent more carbon into the atmosphere over its lifetime than fuel from conventional domestic crude sources.
The research, which was conducted in collaboration with Stanford University and the University of California at Davis, shows some variability in the increase of greenhouse gas, depending on the type of extraction and refining methods.
OTTAWA - Three elections. Three cheats. One party leader.
We’re talking about the Conservative Party of Canada and its leader, the incumbent prime minister now actively seeking re-election, Stephen Harper.
For three elections in a row, a judge determined that a Conservative or the party itself cheated. And there could be more.
In 2006, top party officials along with the party itself were accused of cheating in a complicated scheme to skirt spending limits on the national campaign. This was the so-called in-and-out scandal.
The charges against party officials were dropped but the party itself pleaded guilty to exceeding election spending limits and submitting fraudulent election records. A fine of more than $230,000 was paid.
In 2008, it was a Conservative MP, Dean Del Mastro, who would play the role of Conservative cheater. Del Mastro was convicted last November on three counts of violating Canada’s election laws, also having to do with spending limits. This week, a judge sentenced him to a month behind bars, another four months of house arrest, and a $10,000 fine.
Del Mastro is appealing and on Friday was released from jail on $5,000 bail until that appeal is heard.
In 2011, it was a Conservative campaign worker, Michael Sona, who was convicted of cheating in the Ontario riding of Guelph. His crime involved robocalls in an effort to prevent people from voting.
Also alleged to have cheated in 2011: The campaign of former Conservative MP Peter Penashue, where there are yet more charges of campaign overspending and attempts to hide those infractions after the fact. The trial of Penashue’s campaign manager continues in August.
On June 25, in Manitoba’s remote community of Norway House Cree Nation, 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg, the 33 Grade 12 students at the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre graduated with their high school diplomas.
Helen Betty Osborne, a Cree from Norway House, would have been 63 if she were alive, perhaps principal of the school – her ambition was to be a teacher and she had moved west to The Pas to complete her secondary school education (there was then no high school in Norway House) and prepare to enter a teacher-training program.
Instead, on Nov. 13, 1971, at age 19, she was abducted by four young, white men on a street in The Pas, raped and murdered with a screwdriver.
It took 16 years before the RCMP, under intense pressure from the province’s native people, implicated her killers. Only one was ever convicted. A provincial aboriginal justice inquiry concluded that racism, sexism and indifference stained the police investigation from its outset. The RCMP finally closed the case on Feb. 12, 1999. The Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw (the Cree word for “people”) Education Resource Centre opened in 2004.
A majority of Canadian business leaders believe the economy is too dependent on the oilsands and other natural resources, according to a new survey.
Nearly two-thirds of Canadian executives polled —including about 60 per cent of Albertans surveyed — said they believe the country should be less reliant on resources. They think Canada should invest more in technology and innovation in sectors such as aerospace and clean energy, according to the latest quarterly C-Suite Survey.
About half of all respondents said the country relies too heavily on Alberta’s economy and its natural resources.
There's little more than a weeded-over parking lot and shuttered doors now at the old Freightliner truck factory in St. Thomas, a small town about a 30-minute drive south of London, Ont. It wasn't that long ago that the site was a hive of activity and a centre for manufacturing in Canada.
But in 2008, German automaker Daimler closed the shop and moved production to greener pastures elsewhere, part of a $600-million cost-cutting plan that saw 1,400 people thrown out of work.
It was a cliffhanger of an outcome – in a critical election between two candidates from opposite ends of the medical spectrum.
Dr. Alan Ruddiman garnered 945 votes, but Dr. Brian Day got one more, at 946.
And then, miraculously, in a recount, a single overlooked vote was found. And that single vote went to Dr. Ruddiman, which led to an exact numerical tie.
As a result, the organization that Drs. Ruddiman and Day aspire to lead — Doctors of BC — has decided to run the election again (a third candidate who attracted fewer than 300 votes has been eliminated).
Most doctors in British Columbia didn’t actually vote the first time around. Out of 10,000 eligible physicians, only about 2,100 actually cast their ballots. The initial winner thus received a mandate from fewer than 10 per cent of eligible voters.
That is indeed surprising, because this tight election outcome was between two candidates who are different in every fundamental way.
A group of more than 100 leading scientists from both Canada and the United States called for a moratorium on new oil sands development at a June 10 telephone press conference.
The scientists laid out 10 reasons why continued expansion of the oil sands is incompatible with keeping climate change at a level that does not cause widespread harm. These include: a lack of adequate protections and baseline data; contamination of the Canadian boreal zone; a lack of land reclamation; oil sands development and transport undermining First Nations land rights; developments in North America setting a precedent for combating climate change elsewhere; controlling carbon pollution not being an economic threat; cumulative impacts of oil sands development being ignored by current policies; and a majority of both Canadians and Americans wanting their leaders to address climate change.
“We believe the time has come for scientists to speak out about the magnitude and importance of the oil sands issue and to step forward as participants in an informed and international public dialogue. Working together, we can solve the energy problems before us. It is not too late, but the time to act is now,” state the signatories of the 10 Reasons document.
Professor Wendy Palen, from Simon Fraser University’s department of biological sciences, said at the conference that decisions made around the oil sands formed part of a “legacy that would last generations,” and said that the 10 Reasons were grounded in science.
It's the most expensive weapon ever built in human history. But after decades of internationally-funded research and development at an estimated cost of a trillion dollars, a leaked report from a mock combat test reveals that the F-35 is terrible at air-to-air combat.
HALIFAX - A report commissioned by the Nova Scotia government says awareness of the province among some global business people is "virtually non-existent."
It says many business people found that their interactions with global business partners almost always necessitated an explanation of where Nova Scotia is and why they were doing business in the province.
Quoting an interviewee, the report says: "I think the overwhelming phrase is 'Where is it?' and 'What are they doing up there other than fishing?' "
The RCMP investigated the Conservative government’s appointment of Arthur Porter to Canada’s intelligence oversight agency after allegations surfaced the physician was involved in a kickback scheme in Montreal, The Globe and Mail has learned.
Dr. Porter made high-profile friends in the Conservative Party after he arrived in Canada from the United States in 2004 to run the McGill University Health Centre. He eventually got the attention of the Prime Minister’s Office, which invited him to sit on the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) in 2008.
Dr. Porter died this week in Panama, where he was fighting extradition on charges of fraud and bribery laid in 2013. According to Quebec’s anti-corruption unit, Dr. Porter received $22.5-million from the health centre’s awarding of a $1.3-billion hospital contract to engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.
The federal government hasn't provided hundreds of low-income families their full government benefits since at least 2007, an internal review has found.
A staff member at Employment and Social Development Canada recently identified a "system anomaly" that has been withholding employment insurance money from about 800 needy families in each of the last eight years.
The money was supposed to be paid as a family supplement to top up EI claimants whose household income, including spousal income, is no higher than $25,921.
OTTAWA - The federal government's marquee, multibillion-dollar infrastructure fund has been handing out money at a slow pace, newly released figures show, prompting complaints that the government is playing politics with the cash.
About 92 per cent of the $10-billion provincial-territorial stream of the New Building Canada Fund remains unspent, with about $782 million allocated through the start of this fiscal year, according to figures tabled in Parliament last month.
Infrastructure Canada, the department responsible for overseeing the cash, says that it may take some time to get the money out the door, especially given that the commitment is for a 10-year period.
"A federal infrastructure fund aimed at fixing up arenas and community centres was spent disproportionately in ridings represented by Conservative MPs, a Globe and Mail analysis shows, as the governing Tories prepare to roll out a nearly identical fund in the months before the fall election.
Ridings that elected Conservative members of Parliament in 2011 received, on average, 48 per cent more money from the $150-million Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund than ridings that elected opposition MPs, a Globe tally of more than 1,600 projects across Canada shows.
Under the program, on average, Conservative ridings received $561,332 and had six projects funded. Opposition ridings, on average, received $379,337 and had four projects."
A plan to erect a 10-storey statue in a national park on one of Canada’s most scenic shorelines has prompted outrage and sparked a growing political row as the country heads towards a general election this fall.
The statue of Mother Canada – a cloaked female figure with her arms outstretched towards the Atlantic Ocean – is intended to honour the country’s soldiers who died overseas.
But growing anger over the plan has made it a new focus of opposition to the increasingly unpopular government of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.
The proposed monument is an awkwardly remodelled, vastly upscaled version of an earlier statue, known as Canada Bereft, which adorns the memorial to the country’s first world war dead near Vimy, France.
The design has been widely lambasted both for its design and its proposed location in Cape Breton Highlands national park. In an editorial this week, the Globe and Mail newspaper described it as “offensively tasteless” and a “hubristically arrogant act of arrogant unoriginality”.
“The bigger-is-better approach to art is best left to Stalinist tyrants, theme park entrepreneurs and insecure municipalities hoping to waylay bored drive-by tourists,” the paper wrote.
The project is the brainchild of Toronto businessman Tony Trigiani, who was inspired after a chance visit to a Canadian war cemetery in Italy and set up the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation to realise the plan.
FORT MCKAY FIRST NATION — When Melinda Stewart grew up in Fort McKay she used to fall asleep to the sounds of the frogs croaking outside.
Now, Stewart puts her children to bed to the pre-recorded sounds of frogs and nature so that they don’t have to listen to the continuous booming from the nearby tailings ponds.
“Now, my children, that’s what they’re used to, listening to cannons going off all night,” said Stewart.
She fears that one day her children will become “textbook Aboriginals” because their homelands are disappearing. Tears well up in her eyes as she expresses her lament over the destruction of the environment caused by oil sands activity.
“I think in 50 years, our children are going to learn from a textbook how to be native. When I take my children hunting or fishing, if there’s something nice, I tell them to take a picture because when we come back it might not be there…”
The insecticide lindane causes cancer in humans, says the World Health Organization after conducting a review. A specialist panel found sufficient evidence to link the chemical, already banned in the EU and the US, to a cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lindane is still used in some developing countries. And it is an ingredient in some head lice and scabies treatments used in some countries, including China, India, the US and Canada.
Control. I could feel it bearing down on me the second I stepped through the gates and presented my accreditation to a guard inside the booth that marked the entrance to Harperstan.
I was now inside the hulking complex of the Toronto Transit Commission and its sprawling web of warehouses and garages on Bathurst Street that, to accommodate a press conference, had been transformed into the type of militarized zone beloved by Harper— complete with police officers and guards from the PM’s own security detail, out in force to prevent anyone from straying off track.
I was tasked with finding out more about Conservative Senator Don Meredith, his illicit relationship with a teenage girl, and what vetting process the PM had used to select him for a senatorial role.
My inquiries were, superficially at least, quite unrelated to Harper’s official reason for being in Toronto on June 18 alongside with Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Mayor John Tory. Harper and Oliver had come to Toronto with a campaign-trail pledge to offer funding for improving public transit in Toronto— up to one third of $7.8 billion in ‘SmartTrack’ funding.
But Senate scandals and infrastructure investments will be only two of many factors that decide the outcome of the Oct. 19 federal election.
“This way please,” a police officer said, directing reporters from the front booth across a paved lot to a desk manned by an attractive blonde staffer, who handed out press tags and vetted our questions.
Next, journalists were directed into a holding area set up in the TTC workers’ canteen, where I caught a whiff of fish and chips from the kitchen area.
OTTAWA - Two years after they first made the commitment, the Conservatives are finally introducing a renewed crackdown on drunk drivers — but the new measures aren't about to become law any time soon.
As one of his final acts as justice minister, Peter MacKay on Tuesday introduced the Dangerous and Impaired Driving Act, a bill that reforms transportation-related offences including those relating to impaired driving.
"We are sending a strong signal to those who choose to drive impaired that this behaviour is not only unacceptable, but is also creating a serious risk to public safety and putting everyone on the road at risk," MacKay said.
Since taking control of the Prime Minister’s office in 2006, Stephen Harper’s government has waged a legislative war on scientists whose research stands in opposition to his government’s political and economic objectives.
The provincial government has asked the federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to stay out of the environmental review process of a controversial jetty that could bring in more than 120 liquefied natural gas tankers up the Fraser River.
In a letter, provincial environmental assessment associate minister Kevin Jardine asks CEAA president Ron Hallman to allow B.C.'s environmental assessment of the project substitute the federal one, in case the CEAA determines a federal evaluation is needed.
CEAA has until July 6 to make a decision on whether it will be involved.
If the substitution is approved, the B.C. environmental assessment office would conduct a single process that meets both federal and provincial requirements. The B.C. and federal governments would then make separate decisions on whether to approve the project. Federal presence needed to look out for Fraser River's wild salmon
For MP and fisheries and oceans critic Fin Donnelly, the letter raises alarm bells. He says the risks associated with the project call for federal involvement in the evaluation process.
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