Good news, bad news

A mining tycoon enters Australian politics and wildcat strikes in Alberta

Good news

A good fix

A firestorm followed news that the Royal Bank of Canada planned to let 47 of its IT workers go in favour of outsourcing to another firm, which in turn hired employees under the Temporary Foreign Worker program. That left the feds little choice but to tighten the rules. In this case at least, policy on the fly works. The RBC fiasco, though overblown, revealed enormous room for abuse. Businesses are now complaining they’ll lose the 15 per cent discounted wage the program permitted them to pay, but opening up jobs to foreign workers—what the feds intended in the first place—will keep wage inflation tamped down.

An open letter to Canada Post

Shares in Britain’s Royal Mail became available this week to its workers, the first stage in the privatization of the country’s mail service that will soon lead to an IPO. The governing Tories promised this will make for more efficient service, as it’s done in Germany, and free the Royal Mail from dependence on public debt. It’s a step even Margaret Thatcher couldn’t countenance, so it makes one wonder, if it’s happening there, why not at Canada Post, which a Conference Board of Canada report says could be losing $1 billion a year by 2020?

Big bucks, bigger smile

Economists at the University of Michigan have confirmed, once and for all, that money does buy happiness. Their latest research debunks the widely held theory that once you reach a particular annual salary ($75,000) more cash can’t make you happier. It can. Want to know what else money can buy? An awesome private spaceship. Sir Richard Branson, a multi-billionaire, has announced that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo completed its first test flight, breaking the sound barrier and moving his company closer to commercial jaunts into space.

Float the political boat

Aussie politics have always been dull, but the entrée of mining tycoon Clive Palmer may change that. Best known for his grandiose plan to launch a revamped Titanic, Palmer wants his new United Australia Party to compete in this fall’s elections. “It will sink if you put a hole in it,” he’s quipped of his ship, but the same may be true of the Aussie right: he’s sure to split the vote.

Bad news

Crossing the chemical line

The Syrian civil war has already killed tens of thousands of people, but to borrow a phrase from U.S. President Barack Obama, the conflict may have crossed a critical “red line” this week. Amid the attempted assassination of President Bashar al-Assad and two more deadly rebel bombings, reports began to circulate about the possible deployment of chemical weapons. Western nations, including the U.S., are still trying to confirm the reports, but Obama was clear: if Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his own people, “we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us.” U.S. intervention has never looked more inevitable.

The right to die—at home

Afflicted with a degenerative disease and determined to die on her own terms, Winnipeg’s Susan Griffiths boarded a flight to Switzerland for what’s still illegal in her home country: assisted suicide. The right-to-die debate has divided Canadians—and our courts—for decades, but Griffiths’s dramatic journey proves, yet again, that the current laws are neither fair nor humane. Griffiths, 72, should have been allowed to end her suffering in her own bed, with loved ones nearby. Instead she could only find relief elsewhere. Sadly, she won’t be the last.

Nowhere to go

Like many Canadians, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was “disturbed” by the revelations: Raed Jaser, one of two men charged in an alleged terrorist plot to derail a Via passenger train, was ordered deported nine years ago due to a string of criminal convictions, including for uttering death threats. The hurdle for authorities? Jaser is a “stateless” Palestinian, and therefore couldn’t be removed elsewhere. Instead, the soon-to-be accused was pardoned for one conviction and granted permanent residency. Kenney wants a review of the file. He’s almost a decade too late.

Wildcat, or Sylvester the Cat?

As job actions go, wildcat strikes are the bad boy of the genre, sexy and reckless. But the ones in Alberta, which spread after guards at a remand centre walked off the job, represent a low point: the province says it’s paying $1.5 million a day for RCMP and other police to staff its jails—more than it might have cost to settle the dispute.