Campaign heats up over immigrant-hiring tax credit

A Liberal proposal to give a tax credit to businesses that hire certain new Canadians has received a staggering amount of attention in the first week of the campaign, and the second week began no differently, reported Canadian Press Sept. 12 in a story picked up in newspapers nationwide.

But since it was announced in the Liberal platform a week ago, the campaign has seen unrelenting bluster from the Progressive Conservatives in the form of radio ads and press releases, and from Leader Tim Hudak himself.

York University political science professor Robert Drummond said he would have expected to hear a lot from the opposition parties about the spending controversy over eHealth, the agency that is creating electronic health records and squandered more than $1 billion without much to show for it.

At the heart of what the Conservatives seem to be saying is that unemployed people who couldn’t take advantage of the tax credit are being neglected by the Liberals, Drummond said, though the choice of language may have distorted the message.

“The way in which the Conservatives have phrased their opposition…that’s enabled the (Liberals) to take the moral high ground,” he said. “I think if I were in the (Liberals’) shoes at this point, I’d be trying to find some way to say, ‘I’m doing something about general unemployment and jobs in general.”’

  • Drummond’s remarks were also aired on AM640 (Toronto) and regional radio stations around Ontario, Sept. 13.  

Should judges mix courts with religion?

On Tuesday, as they do every September, judges in Ontario will assemble in a house of worship for some religion, fellowship and celebration, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 13.  

The occasion is an annual “interfaith service” that kicks off a day of pomp and ceremony to mark a new term for Ontario’s courts. The service, which takes place this year in the picturesque Church of the Holy Trinity behind the Eaton Centre, has been a fixture on the court calendar in Toronto since 1955. 

But some legal experts question the degree to which religious symbolism should be mixing with the official business of the state, including the workings of its justice system. 

Canada’s Constitution doesn’t stipulate a formal separation of church and state, as does its American counterpart, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says Canada was founded upon principles that recognize “the supremacy of God". 

But Canada has developed a strong tradition of keeping church and state separate and the idea of injecting religious imagery into the legal system makes many people uncomfortable, says James Stribopoulous, a professor specializing in criminal and constitutional law at [York’s] Osgoode Hall Law School. 

“We don’t have the debates you see in the US about displaying the Ten Commandments at a courthouse,” Stribopoulous said. 

But Canada also has a long tradition of government and religious organizations working alongside each other, noted Benjamin Berger, an Osgoode professor who counts religion and law among his specialties. That said, tethering religion to the justice system is bound to give some people pause, Berger contends. 

After all, judges are the people we turn to when disputes erupt over religious freedom, public prayer or state support for religious schools, and their jobs involve trying to sort out where religion should fit in the complex relationship between citizens and the state, he said. 

“Why is the opening of the courts the time to signal anything about religion?” [asked Berger.] Those are the kinds of questions that, for some, will raise eyebrows.” 

Suppliers’ lax standards can mar company brand

It is hard for companies to keep track of the kinds of damage their sub-contractors might do to their reputations, wrote the Financial Times Sept. 13. Most big brands use hundreds of manufacturers, which could be anywhere from Egypt to El Salvador, Chile to China. 

Defenders of international manufacturers sometimes say it is wrong to apply developed country labour standards to emerging markets. When western trade unions complain about the treatment of workers in far-flung factories, critics allege they are simply trying to protect their own jobs. But no one can defend environmental degradation, which is attracting growing local opposition in China. (No one should defend violation of local labour laws either.) 

Apple does not generally say who its contractors are.

The clothing and sportswear industry has done it differently. In 2005, Nike posted the names and addresses of its suppliers on its website. Levi Strauss and Adidas, among others, have done the same. 

It wasn’t an easy decision. David Doorey [human resources management professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] of York University in Toronto says Nike spent some years resisting student protesters who demanded to know where their campus clothing was made. Nike was worried that campaigners would uncover even more abuses at its factories and that competitors would steal its intellectual property. 

In fact, Doorey says, once the information became public and rivals realized they were using the same factories, they found that they could cooperate to enforce common standards. Suppliers whose locations were published had an interest in abiding by those standards, too.

Civic virtue: kisses and baggies

Moral instruction doesn’t end in grade school. Once your child gets to university, she’ll be bombarded with endless messages about respect, tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness, human rights and social justice, wrote Margaret Wente in The Globe and Mail Sept. 13.

Sept. 13. She’ll be hard-pressed to find a Great Books course or any other course that might teach her about the civic virtues through the ages. But she’ll have lots of chances to attend campus-sponsored events like Can I Kiss You?, which offers answers to hard-hitting questions such as "How do you know how far your partner really wants to go with you?"  

These events are offered because universities believe their students are too witless to arrange their sex lives on their own without running afoul of human-rights codes, wrote Wente.

"Many new students may not fully appreciate how vulnerable they could be in certain situations," says Noël Badiou [director of the Centre for Human Rights] of York University, which sponsored a Can I Kiss You? night last week. "The University recognizes this potential vulnerability and is taking action to increase safety for all York U members."  

Postal union to test back-to-work law

The postal workers’ union is launching a court challenge to back-to-work legislation imposed by the federal government in June to end their labour dispute, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 13.  

"One of the fundamental rights in collective bargaining is the right to strike," said Gayle Bossenberry, the union’s first national vice-president. "We think it was just wrong."  

While the case has not been filed with the courts yet, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued a bulletin on Friday, saying it believes "there is a reasonable basis to challenge Bill C6 as a violation of the right to freedom of association protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."  

Carla Lipsig-Mummé, a York University professor who specializes in work and labour relations, said that chances of success in the planned court challenge are not known. "It is early days, and we do not know enough to judge the details of the case," she said.

York student seeks seat in St. Paul’s

“I was an English teacher for 10 years, both here and in Japan,” David Hynes, NDP candidate for St. Paul’s, said in a Q & A about election issues published in Metroland’s City Centre Mirror Sept. 12. “Currently, I am studying corporate responsibility and economic policy at York University in pursuit of a career in government. I believe the growing inequality of the last 30 years is the biggest problem facing Ontario. There is still too much homelessness, crime and ill health. If I’m elected, I will work with the community toward a more healthy and equal society.”  

Business students focus on energy

The idea for this kind of [energy] club for MBA students is well-established at leading business schools, reported Mississauga News Sept. 12 in a story about one at Queen’s University. The Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario has a sustainability initiative for MBA students involved in the energy and green fields. The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management has had an energy and natural resources club for many years. And the Schulich School of Business at York University has two clubs focused on green energy.