Nice work, if you can get it
The federal government wants to make sure those collecting employment insurance benefits really are looking for work. For years, Canadian companies in certain sectors have been filling openings with temporary workers brought in from abroad. That’s true even in areas like New Brunswick’s North Shore, where local unemployment remains high. The Conservatives want Canadian workers to apply for those jobs. If they don’t, then under a new plan they could lose their EI benefits. It’s not clear yet how it would work, but something needs to be done in areas where constant cycling through EI is a fact of life.
NHL minnows like the Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators thrived in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, showing that, for whatever else is wrong with the league, it has achieved remarkable parity in the salary-cap era. Unfortunately for the Vancouver Canucks, that parity came at a cost. The NHL’s best regular-season team for the last two years, the Canucks lost in the first round to the underdog Los Angeles Kings. But the unexpected defeat was greeted with more of a shrug than a meltdown in Vancouver, a welcome change from last year’s violent, and infantile, riots.
PM on the dock
A special court in Iceland convicted Geir Haarde, the country’s former prime minister, of negligence for failing to prevent the 2008 banking collapse. Thousands of Icelanders lost their jobs or saw their savings evaporate in the crisis, which many blamed on a wilfully ignorant political class. Haarde won’t be punished for his failures, beyond the shame of being convicted. But that, like the trial of former U.S. presidential hopeful John Edwards currently under way, is a nice reminder that politicians should be held accountable.
Students in Toronto will soon be belting out O Canada at assemblies and other special occasions without the help of a backing track. It’s a fine move toward a cappella patriotism, meant to stop students from mumbling along to the national anthem. Now let’s just hope they remember all the words.
Rot at the top
A Tunisian businessman has accused Quebec’s SNC-Lavalin of soliciting bribery, claiming he was shut out of the bidding for a contract after refusing to pay off a senior official in the company’s North African branch. It’s the latest scandal to hit the engineering giant, already under fire for its ties to Libya’s Gadhafi clan. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s stock dropped nearly five per cent in one day after the New York Times brought bribery allegations to light. According to the newspaper, Wal-Mart knew about the accusations years ago and swept them under the rug. Guess they never heard it’s the cover-up, not the crime, that gets you.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty agreed to raise taxes on the wealthy, bowing to pressure from the NDP, in order to get his budget passed. It was a perfect display of everything wrong with minority governments. The Conservatives vowed to vote against the Liberal’s budget before seeing it. The NDP made their vote contingent on a series of economically dicey promises. To avoid an election, McGuinty agreed to one of them, a special surtax on those who earn more than $500,000 a year.
Organizers at Surrey, B.C.’s annual Vaisakhi parade chanted the name of a convicted terrorist and praised the group long blamed for planning the Air India bombings. Balwant Singh Rajoana helped organize the assassination of an Indian politician in 1995, and is currently on death row in India. But at the parade in Surrey, he was lauded as a hero. So, too, was Babbar Khalsa, a Sikh separatist group banned in Canada and long thought to have been responsible for blowing up a 1985 Air India flight, which killed 329 people, most of them Canadian citizens.
Sinners, not saints
State police in Louisiana are investigating claims the New Orleans Saints illegally wiretapped opposing coaches. The football team already admitted this year to running a dangerous bounty program targeting opposing players. If the new allegations prove true—the team has denied them—the Saints may go down as being among the most comically dirty squads in NFL history.