This Week: Good news/Bad news

Plus a week in the life of Stephen Harper

Face of the weekFace of the week
Actress Emma Watson (a.k.a. Hermione Granger) at last week’s New York premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A week in the life of Stephen HarperA week in the life of Stephen Harper
The PM earned kudos from Sir Bob Geldof for his stand on African aid. But his good work at the G8 summit in Italy was overshadowed by gaffes and controversies. First Harper was accused of palming a communion wafer at a state funeral. Then he publicly attacked Michael Ignatieff for something he never said, sparred with the parliamentary budget officer, changed tack on the deficit and almost missed the photo call (again). Who says Canadian politics is boring?


P‘tit gars, big honour
The Queen has named former prime minister Jean Chrétien to the Order of Merit, placing him in the exalted company of such notables as Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer. The award, founded in 1902, is for “individuals of exceptional distinction.” Chrétien becomes the third Canadian PM to be admitted to the very exclusive club—just 24 Brits, plus a handful of foreigners—following in the footsteps of William Lyon Mackenzie King and Lester B. Pearson. After 40 years of public service, he deserves it and our sincere congratulations. We assume the former PM won’t feel obliged to follow the precedent he set for Conrad Black and choose between the honour and his Canadian citizenship.

Bye-bye Karlheinz
The Ontario Court of Appeal has put an end to Karlheinz Schreiber’s legal shenanigans, ruling the federal justice minister doesn’t have to keep responding to his endless motions. This clears the last hurdle to the extradition of the arms dealer back to his native Germany to face charges of corruption and tax evasion. Now that both Schreiber and Brian Mulroney have had their say at the inquiry into their business dealings, it’s clear the public is always going to be left with nagging questions, rather than fulsome answers. It’s time for Karlheinz to face his own accusers.

Bitchin’ Camaro
Good news for auto workers. Chrysler has backtracked on plans to cut a third shift at its Windsor minivan plant, saving 1,200 jobs—part of a hopeful trend that saw layoffs across Canada slow over the past three months. (Just 7,800 net job losses versus 273,000 during the first three months of the year.) Over at GM, Canadian auto workers are also keeping busy. The Oshawa-built Camaro has been a huge hit, with GM selling nearly 10,000 of the revamped muscle cars in June alone. That’s more than its entire Buick division sold. Reassuring news, considering that we, as Canadian taxpayers, now own a big chunk of the company.

Four-letter cure
Swearing actually does make it easier to withstand pain, according to a new study. Researchers in England asked volunteers to submerge their hands in a tub of ice water for as long as possible. One group were told to stay silent; the other invited to curse away. The potty-mouths were able to keep their hands in significantly longer. Scientists think swearing may trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response, helping to help dull the pain. But will this all lead to soundproof recovery wards? Scream *#&% and call me in the morning.


Isotope dopes
Canada’s Chalk River reactor, which usually produces one-third of the world’s supply of medical isotopes, will be off-line until the end of the year—or later, says Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. The Crown corporation took the facility out of service in mid-May when it sprang a heavy water leak. Now comes news that the Dutch reactor that has been picking up much of the slack is due to be off-line for a month for maintenance. Doctors, already contending with a scarce supply, fear what may happen next. Given the predictability of this crisis—and the shorter-term shutdown last winter—shouldn’t somebody in Ottawa have thought of a backup plan?

Wither weather?
Parched Alberta and Saskatchewan finally got some rain this past week, but too late for many farmers whose crops have failed, or never made it into the ground. Meanwhile, below-average temperatures have much of Central and Eastern Canada (frost warnings in July) wondering what ever happened to summer. And the long-term forecasts aren’t any better. An el niño is building in the Pacific, say scientists, a sure indication of more wacky weather to come. During the last big one in 1997-’98, California experienced torrential downpours, Australia and Brazil baked under extreme heat waves, and the African continent was either under water, or dry as a bone. It all begs the question, when was the weather ever good?

Party poopers
Female ski-jumpers lost their bid to be included at the Vancouver 2010 Games when a B.C. court ruled that it doesn’t have the jurisdiction to tell the International Olympic Committee to join the 21st century. Recently unveiled security plans will see designated “free speech” protest zones—just like Beijing!—and the installation of 900 closed-circuit TV cameras. Residents of Whistler are starting to get peevish about Olympic-related tax hikes and ever more costly plans. And Ottawa has returned more than 1,000 tickets to organizers as part of government austerity measures. Is it just us, or is the party starting to sound a little lame?

Cruel Britannia
An act of kindness ended up being a royal pain for Queen Elizabeth II. When the skies opened up during one of her summer garden parties last week, the Queen invited 60 soaked members of the public to take shelter in her personal tent. But it seems that the great unwashed repaid the courtesy by making off with several pieces of antique silverware, and cups and saucers from her majesty’s prize collection. Where were the corgis when all this was happening?