Uncle Sam leans on New Brunswickers
John Williamson, a rookie Tory MP and Stephen Harper’s former director of communications, heard an earful this summer about American taxes. Many of the constituents in his large riding of New Brunswick Southwest (which shares a border with the U.S.) have been affected by Uncle Sam’s new zeal for enforcing overseas tax-reporting rules. For some, it’s easier to cut through Maine than to tackle the seasonal, inter-island ferry service; pregnant women sometimes go to Maine hospitals, which results in many dual citizens. Williamson says many of these constituents are being forced to pay accountants thousands of dollars to file years’ worth of returns, even though they will end up paying nothing to the U.S. government. It’s a crisis for those who do not have that kind of spare income. The border is something constituents have to deal with frequently. When Williamson himself recently attended a BBQ fundraiser to support volunteer firefighters on Campobello Island in his riding, he had to drive through the States to get there.
There’s more border drama than just the tax issue. People who cross into the U.S. through shared waters are being required to check in with border service agencies. It is something that started being heavily enforced this summer. Previously, it was required only if people actually laid anchor or landed on U.S. soil, not if you were taking a leisurely boat ride and happened to cross the border. Williamson himself has a sailboat but says this summer it never got used because he has been touring the riding so much. He did manage to fit in one book for leisure: Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England. Williamson jokes Stephen Harper has nothing to worry about.
On Sept.15, Nova Scotian Barb Stegemann, CEO of the 7 Virtues Beauty Inc., received a “Women Innovators” award from the U.S. State Department at a conference of women from Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) countries. The event was hosted in San Francisco by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Stegemann was asked to join the Canadian contingent by Rona Ambrose, minister for status of women. Stegemann and her company launched perfumes using essential oils from Afghanistan as a way to help the war-torn country by giving farmers an opportunity to move away from opium crops. She wanted to do a new fragrance using essential oils from another devastated region. The Canadian International Development Agency, which helped her find a supplier in Afghanistan, suggested she contact the NGO Peace Dividend Trust, which works on creating more effective humanitarian missions. The Trust suggested Haiti and thus was born the Vetiver of Haiti fragrance. Vetiver is used in men’s fragrances, so she decided this scent would be for men and women. The Ottawa launch of the fragrance is at the Bay in the Capital’s Rideau Centre on Sept. 21, in honour of International Day of Peace. Rona Ambrose will be speaking at the event. Stegemann says landing a deal with the Bay—her fragrances are sold in more than 90 stores—was a dream come true. All that, she quips, without “the skinny models, movie stars or big budgets.”
NDP leadership and hypnotism
Before the death of Jack Layton, NDP deputy leader Libby Davies was booked for French immersion in Quebec. She had to cancel it due to the funeral. Recently, many people have been pushing her to run for leader, an option she is considering. Davies is seen as a stalwart of the left wing of the NDP, a champion of the rights of sex-trade workers and drug-harm reduction. Insite, the safe-injection site, is in her Vancouver riding. She admits her French is not so great, which could be a problem, though she has Quebecers telling her language is not an issue because they respect her values. One NDP supporter rooting for Davies asked her: “Can’t you take one of those hypnotist courses and learn French over a weekend?”