Canadian Fed Watch! News Across The Nation:

December 11, 2002

If you Drink & Drive – Avoid Manitoba

With one of the toughest new programs to combat drinking and driving, the Manitoba government has passed a law (SEE: http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/press/top/2002/12/2002-12-02-02.html) that allows the government to seize and sell your automobile if you are involved in drinking and driving. This can even happen on a first offence if your driving leads to causing injury or death to another person. Other new penalties in this law involve the loss of your collision insurance (since in Manitoba it is a provincial program) if a collision occurs while you are impaired. Even if the accident is not your fault, you still lose $1,500 dollars worth of coverage. In addition, a surcharge of at least $300 is added to the licence renewal fee of a person convicted of driving while impaired.

Fortunately, the law is worded in such a way that you first must be convicted before they can actually sell your vehicle, so there is a chance to present a defence if you simply had the bad luck to have just finished a liqueur filled chocolate before they pulled you over for the breathalyser.

This is the kind of legislation that makes a lot of sense to me. There is no excuse for driving while impaired – taxi cabs, busses, or even calling on a friend in the middle of the night are all better options than getting behind the wheel and endangering everybody else on the road. For some people losing their licence is not enough to stop them from driving. Even the most hardened drunk driver will be hard pressed to get behind the wheel of their car if it’s been taken away and sold, however.

Chronic Wasting Disease FAQ Sheet

I have been following the progress of Chronic Wasting Disease through the elk populations of Saskatchewan (and now Alberta) with some interest. So finding this Frequently Asked Questions (SEE: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/anima/heasan/disemala/cwdmdce.shtml) list created by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency struck me as a good place to bring newcomers up to speed on exactly what CWD is and what the dangers are.

Unfortunately, the list seems to miss out on a few very important things, and in some places even goes so far as to contradict itself. One of the most important mistakes that it makes is not pointing out that one well known vector of transmission of TSEs is through animals eating infected animal products when it is ground up in their feed. This is the most common means of transmission, and is likely how wild deer have contracted the disease – by eating some infected feed of a rancher. Of course, this would also mean that a variant of the disease is possibly already in our meat supply.

Their answer to the question as to what the CFIA does to prevent the spread of CWD is actually a contradiction of their earlier answers. The CFIA claims that “Elk may now be imported under a CFIA import permit which contains specific measures designed to prevent the introduction of diseases including CWD”. However, they also say “It is not certain how CWD is transmitted”

If they do not know how CWD is transmitted, how trustworthy can their measures “designed to prevent the introduction of diseases” be to ensure CWD is not imported? Especially when they say that the presence CWD “can only be confirmed by laboratory examination of brain tissue from the affected animal after it is dead. There is currently no laboratory test available to test for the disease in live animals.”

In other words, they can only conclusively test the dead animals, and they are not sure how it’s transmitted among live ones, but we are allowing possibly infected live Elk to be imported into Canada at any rate.

Since we now have confirmed cases of CWD in Alberta and Saskatchewan and we are not entirely sure how it transmits or if it can jump species, does anybody care to hazard a guess at the economic costs of Alberta herds contracting mad cow disease, and why our governments seem to be not terribly concerned about it?

B.C. Taking Steps in the Right Direction

The British Columbia government is finally taking some steps in the right direction to increase the number of graduates that it creates. Specifically, they are putting over 21 million dollars (SEE: http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/nrm_news_releases/2002HLTH0035-001056.htm) toward better educated nurses, with almost half of that going into making it easier for nurses and doctors to take their medical training. This is being done through a number of programs. One such program is for loan forgiveness that allow doctors and nurses to be forgiven 20% of their student loans for each year they spend serving in a rural or remote community. Additional funding is also going toward developing online nursing programs and aboriginal nursing programs that will help aboriginal students have access.

It is very nice to see some money being spent on actual education rather than on educational buildings for a change. Let’s hope it continues.

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.

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