Still chugging along
The U.S. economy continues to impress, adding 227,000 jobs in February. It is the third straight month of job gains of over 200,000. Across the pond, things are looking up, too. Greece arrived at a deal with lenders that will settle bailout conditions required by European neighbours and the International Monetary Fund. That bailout is the only thing that stands in the way of a catastrophic default by Greece. The global economy is still fragile, but there’s new reason for optimism.
Golden fist bump
Concordia University was fined $2 million by the Quebec government for “excessive severances,” worth a total of $3.1 million and paid to six people. That includes $700,000 to former president Judith Woodsworth, who was later rehired by the university as a professor. Huge settlements at publicly funded institutions are a troubling trend. For an example how far out of hand it has gone, look at Alberta, where after doing away with MLA pensions in 1993, severance payments ballooned. After Conservative MLA Cindy Ady recently said she is stepping down, it was revealed she’ll get a $512,000 severance. We could use a little more private sector-style discipline all round.
U.S. researchers discovered a drug that can flush out hidden HIV infection, previously unreachable by antiviral drug therapies. The study offers new hope the disease can be eradicated. In another impressive breakthrough, McGill University researchers uncovered a key process that leads to degeneration of brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease. It could help spur the development of treatments to delay the progression of the disease.
Sea creatures, rejoice
Japan ended its whaling season having taken less than a third of its annual target. Anti-whaling activists were blamed for the shortfall. Good on them. Japan’s hunt on the grounds of “legal research” remains a blatant violation of international laws. Meanwhile, U.S. researchers say shark fins contain toxins that can cause brain disease. What better reason to stop the wasteful harvesting of millions of sharks, killed solely to make soup out of their fins.
With many Afghans still upset about the burning of Korans by U.S. soldiers at a detention centre, levels of mistrust hit a new low after an American staff sergeant left his base outside Kandahar and murdered 16 civilians, nine of them children. The Taliban has vowed retribution and the Afghan parliament has condemned the attack. Years of hard work by coalition forces trying to win over hearts and minds of Afghans appear to be unravelling and Washington’s plans to transition power to Afghan forces this year no longer seem realistic. It is yet another devastating setback in the decade-long war.
Message not received
Canada’s banks once again lowered their five-year fixed mortgage rates to historic lows of 2.99 per cent last week. This on the same day the Bank of Canada warned, yet again, of the dangers of household debt. After three years of such warnings, the bank is beginning to sound like a broken record that many people are tuning out. A house in Toronto just sold for $400,000 over its asking price. We’ve said it before—and maybe we are starting to sound like a broken record—but we will say it again: it’s time to panic.
Disturbing allegations of robocalls in which non-Tory voters were directed to non-existent polling stations in the last federal election continue to emerge, with Toronto’s York Centre joining the list of ridings hit with misleading messages. New evidence suggests that older voters in particular were targeted. That someone tried to rob citizens of the inalienable right to vote is deeply troubling. The former head of Elections Canada, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, said the agency has the resources to wrap up an investigation in a matter of months. Here’s hoping.
Can we buy some drugs?
Doctors are postponing some surgeries and scrambling to secure drugs for cancer patients in the face of a nationwide shortage of injectable drugs—one that could last for a year. The trouble stems from a fire and slowdown at one Quebec pharmaceutical plant. Our nation’s drug supply should not be so fragile. Ottawa and the provinces need to come up with a more robust supply chain before more Canadians are put at risk.