Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

March 12, 2003

TOBACCO COMPANY GETS BURNED

The RCMP has filed criminal charges (http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/news/nr-03-08.htm) against RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company (a subsidiary of RJR Nabisco) and a host of its former executives for illegally smuggling cigarettes into Canada.

Between 1991 and 1996, the RCMP alleges that the company and the executives worked together to defraud the government of over 1.2 billion dollars in tax funds. Since those years, the company has been reorganized, and many of the executives have gone on to other companies, including two to Japan Tobacco International, located in Geneva.

One of them, however, hasn’t been so lucky and is already in jail in the United States for smuggling related offences.

All have been summoned to appear before a Justice on Wednesday, March 26th. The RCMP says that it is not finished yet, and there is a possibility that more charges will yet be laid.

For comparison’s sake, 1.2 billion dollars is equivalent to 30,000 full student loans from the Alberta Government. To give more meaning to that number, consider that Athabasca University has approximately 25,000 undergraduate students currently taking courses.

Of course, if the charges are true, the chances of getting that much money out of the company is pretty slim.

But we can dream, can’t we?

FUN WITH NUMBERS

The Ontario Conservative Government is pleased to announce (http://www.newswire.ca/government/ontario/english/releases/March2003/07/c8146.html) that over 22,000 more people have been removed from the welfare rolls. These people join the already 600,000 people that have been removed since the Conservative government came to power. Brenda Elliot, the provincial Minster of Community, Family, and Children’s services said “As a result of our reforms and Ontario’s strong economy, more than 620,000 people have moved from welfare to work since June 1995”

Hopefully that “more than” means 2,000 more than 620,000 because otherwise we are looking at about 2,000 people who have just been sent out to starve in the streets.

They’re probably students, too.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

I should probably give credit where credit is due. And to their credit, the Ontario Provincial Government has proudly announced (http://www.newswire.ca/government/ontario/english/releases/March2003/03/c6435.html) a cheque for up to $364,423 for the government’s Information Technology Training for Women Program (ITTW). This comes from the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues in Ontario, Dianne Cunningham, for International Women’s Week.

The ITTW program is a good one in that it provides IT training for low-income women, hopefully giving them the skills they need to find a decent paying job in a sector that’s traditionally under-represented by women.

It’s just too bad that programs like these are the exception across the country.

MORE FUNDING FOR RESEARCH

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation is giving (http://www.innovation.ca/media/index.cfm?websiteid=266) 17.7 million to various universities across the country to promote new faculty research programs.

Some of that money will be going to the University of Calgary for research into a “electrophysiology and laser stimulation system for assessing the synaptic regulation of the stress response. ”

Of course, this means of Calgary that it has still had to cut almost 30 million dollars from its budget.

Research funding is nice. Research funding is necessary. But so is enabling the next generation of researchers to take the education they’ll need. Forcing a university to cut thirty million dollars from its budget and then being proud of giving eleven million to the entire post-secondary system in the province is like stealing a bottle of pop but expecting praise for giving the bottle-refund back to the store.

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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