Good news, bad news: May. 24-31, 2012

Slacker kids, a grandstander mayor, and a human rights hero

Good news

Good news, bad news

Fredrik Persson/AP

Smart kids

Forget the slacker image, young people in Canada are more likely to be in school, work or training than in any other G7 country except Germany, says a new Statistics Canada report. Just 13.3 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 29 are not in the labour market or education, compared to 21.2 per cent of youth in Italy, the worst-ranked G7 country. For an example of just how driven today’s youth are, consider “super intern” and Calgary native Maeghan Smulders, 24, who started a speed-interning project that saw her work at 10 companies across North America. She landed 47 offers in 112 days and starts her full-time dream job this month.

Grandstanding, writ large

In January, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his councillor brother Doug committed to losing 50 lb. each for charity. Both promised to appear on Mondays for weigh-ins. The intent was certainly noble, but the weekly appearances quickly became a sideshow, and even the mayor’s many critics should concede they weren’t doing the dignity of the office any favours. This week, the mayor said he’ll do just one final weigh-in on June 18. Good decision. There are more important things on his plate.

Long time coming

For the first time in 24 years, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, will take an international trip. This week she heads to Thailand to speak at the World Economic Forum on East Asia. In June she will be on a European tour, with stops in Dublin to share a stage with U2’s Bono and in Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded 21 years ago. This political prisoner is free at last.

Slow and steady

A Florida judge ruled last week that a man who was flashing his headlights to warn fellow motorists about a police speed trap was exercising his right to free speech and should not have been ticketed. Police in Canada who have ticketed drivers for this tactic should take note. There is nothing in the Highway Traffic Act that prohibits warning other drivers by flashing headlights. It’s not cheating nor is it obstruction of justice. It encourages others to slow down. Isn’t that the point of speed traps in the first place?

Bad news

Good news, bad news

African Union-United Nations Information Support Team//Stuart Price /Handout /Reuters

Democratic wrongs

The federal government appears content to shut down important investigations whenever it suits them. This week, the Conservatives motioned to end a House of Commons hearing into the F-35 fighter jet controversy—before the inquiry panel has met with two ministers on the file and all witnesses. The move is reminiscent of the “robocalls” scandal a few months ago, which was never resolved and has now prompted Elections Canada to consider regulating contact with voters during campaigns. So much for transparency. For democracy to work, the work of democracy must be done.

Fighting, with no winner in sight

It was another eventful week of protests. In Montreal, hardline students continued to fight post-secondary tuition hikes. In Egypt, voters unimpressed with presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafiq set fire to his campaign headquarters. And in Toronto, the Ontario Superior Court heard the case against one of the alleged ringleaders of the G20 protests in 2010. For all the violence and vandalism done in each case, none of these diverse but profound issues—political unrest, student debt, the future of youth—is near resolution.

Wave of woe

The Japanese government says the tsunami of 2011 sucked some five million tonnes of debris into the seas, and much of it is headed for the B.C. coast. One expert warns coastal residents to prepare themselves for hundreds of shoes containing human bones. On top of that, small amounts of cesium-137 and cesium-134 have just been detected in tuna dragged from the waters off San Diego last fall. The full effects of this environmental disaster are starting to reveal themselves.

Sexual tension

Canadian schools are obsessed with irreconcilable sexual politics issues. The Ontario government said last week it would amend a bill overruling the objections of Catholic schools over calling anti-homophobia clubs “gay-straight alliances.” Meanwhile, a Manitoba teachers’ union wants the province to prohibit parents from removing their children from sex education. When did school become a playground for agenda-driven interest groups of adults?