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Slow re­sponse to oil spill in Van­cou­ver prompts con­cerns

An oily pur­ple-blue sheen of fuel be­lieved to be leak­ing from a bulk car­rier ship has coated wa­ter and land in Van­cou­ver’s pic­turesque English Bay. The spill of the black oil-like sub­stance is rais­ing ques­tions about a slow emer­gency re­sponse and lack of no­ti­fi­ca­tion to both city of­fi­cials and the pub­lic at a time when tanker traf­fic through Van­cou­ver wa­ters is ex­pected to in­crease. An emer­gency re­sponse team was called in on Wed­nes­day night to deal with the oil slick on the bay that is sur­rounded by apart­ments, busi­nesses and touches on the city’s jewel, Stan­ley Park. The sub­stance had orig­i­nally been iden­ti­fied as bunker fuel, but later Thurs­day of­fi­cials said they couldn’t iden­tify the oily black sub­stance. The coast guard’s Capt. Roger Girouard said the worst-case sce­nario would be that the fuel is raw crude. Girouard said at a news con­fer­ence that 1,400 litres of the sub­stance had al­ready been skimmed from the wa­ter by clean up crews. Of­fi­cials with the city said they were not no­ti­fied un­til 6 a.m. Thurs­day morn­ing – more than 12 hours af­ter the port and coast guard first re­ceived re­ports of a spill. “This is ob­vi­ously some­thing that no one in Van­cou­ver ever wants to see – this kind of con­tam­i­na­tion of our beaches and our sea­wa­ters,” said coun­cil­lor Ge­off Meggs at a news con­fer­ence. “We will want to find out more about the gap be­tween the spill it­self and the no­ti­fi­ca­tion of our city re­sources.” On Thurs­day af­ter­noon, glossy wa­ter coated in a film of pol­lu­tion lapped onto the shores of English Bay and Se­cond Beach. Sev­eral tankers could be seen on the hori­zon and he­li­copters flew over­head. The City of Van­cou­ver warned res­i­dents to keep their dogs and boats out of the wa­ter. Mayor Gre­gor Robert­son said in a state­ment that man­age­ment of the spill is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment through the Cana­dian Coast Guard, the port and Western Canada Marine Re­sponse Cor­po­ra­tion. The city opened its emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­tre Thurs­day and de­ployed ma­rine units from the Van­cou­ver po­lice and fire and res­cue ser­vices, he said. Park rangers were dis­patched to mon­i­tor the beaches and bi­ol­o­gists and wildlife ex­perts were on site to as­sess the im­pact of the spill on the shore­line and wildlife. “Any spill of this na­ture is met with grave con­cern by all Van­cou­ver res­i­dents, and un­der­scores both the im­por­tance of ro­bust oil spill re­sponse ca­pac­ity in our lo­cal wa­ters and the need to pro­tect our shores from all such risks in the fu­ture,” the mayor said. Girouard said they be­lieved the spill had come from a cargo ship an­chored off the bay, but the ship’s crew de­nied any­thing was com­ing from the ves­sel. The red and black ship named Marathassa was sur­rounded by an or­ange oil-ab­sorb­ing boom early Thurs­day morn­ing. Sev­eral ships with spe­cial equip­ment were seen clean­ing up fuel near the ves­sel. John Parker-Jervis of Port Metro Van­cou­ver said five boats were out re­cov­er­ing fuel oil through­out the night. “I don’t know if I would char­ac­ter­ize it as a big spill but, you know, a sig­nif­i­cant op­er­a­tion to en­sure clean­ing it up.” But Meggs said what may seem like a small spill to an off­shore mariner, is “very, very sig­nif­i­cant” to the peo­ple of Van­cou­ver. “It un­der­lines it cer­tainly for those who are very con­cerned about the pro­posed in­creased tanker traf­fic, the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of our beaches, the pos­si­bil­ity that there could be a spill,” he said. Spencer Chan­dra Her­bert, en­vi­ron­ment critic for the Op­po­si­tion New Democrats, said the spill raises con­cerns about Kin­der Mor­gan’s pro­posed Trans Moun­tain pipe­line ex­pan­sion, which would in­crease tanker traf­fic. “Kin­der Mor­gan wants to put oil tankers with di­luted bi­tu­men here which could likely sink into our wa­ter,” he said. The Van­cou­ver Aquar­ium said in a news re­lease that it had de­ployed its rapid re­sponse team to en­sure the pro­tec­tion of any fish, seabirds and ma­rine mam­mals that may be put at risk from the toxic spill.

Let Par­lia­ment start de­bate on doc­tor-as­sisted dy­ing

Ear­lier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada is­sued a unan­i­mous judg­ment strik­ing down the ban on physi­cian-as­sisted dy­ing. Death, and the ways in which it touches our lives, is not eas­ily dis­cussed. In the few short weeks that have passed, I’ve had many dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions with those who ap­plaud — and those who con­demn — the court’s de­ci­sion. The rul­ing ap­plies only to com­pe­tent adults with en­dur­ing, in­tol­er­a­ble suf­fer­ing, who clearly give con­sent to a physi­cian-as­sisted death, but even within that scope, Cana­di­ans have dif­fer­ent — and strongly held — opin­ions and be­liefs. Mine is informed by the ex­pe­ri­ence of car­ing for my fa­ther in his fi­nal days. It is my per­sonal be­lief that we need our laws to up­hold the Supreme Court’s rul­ing be­cause it is the right thing to do. We need to hear from oth­ers. Whether they are informed by re­li­gious con­vic­tion, per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence or pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise, Cana­di­ans’ voices de­serve to be heard. More­over, if we are to have a re­spect­ful, re­spon­si­ble dis­cus­sion on this im­por­tant is­sue, we need suf­fi­cient time to hear from Cana­di­ans — from the pa­tients who will be af­fected by the leg­is­la­tion, from their fam­i­lies, from med­i­cal and le­gal ex­perts. Un­der­stand­ing the na­ture of that process, the Supreme Court wisely pro­vided a dead­line of one year to draft leg­is­la­tion. With the sum­mer re­cess and a fall elec­tion, par­lia­men­tar­i­ans will have barely more than 12 sit­ting weeks to deal with this is­sue. That gives us enough time to do this, but no time to waste. For that rea­son, this week, our party put for­ward a mo­tion call­ing on the House of Com­mons to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion. We asked that a spe­cial com­mit­tee be ap­pointed to con­sider the rul­ing of the Supreme Court, and that it con­sult with ex­perts and with Cana­di­ans. This com­mit­tee would make rec­om­men­da­tions for a leg­isla­tive frame­work that would re­spect the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms and Cana­di­ans’ pri­or­i­ties. The gov­ern­ment, how­ever, did not ac­cept our pro­posal. As Con­ser­va­tive MP Steven Fletcher noted, the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion has “given us a clear path” to “move for­ward quickly but thought­fully.” There is no ad­van­tage to de­lay­ing de­bate. In­deed, given the time­line of­fered by the Supreme Court, if Par­lia­ment has any in­ten­tion of ad­dress­ing this is­sue be­fore the next elec- tion, these con­sul­ta­tions must be­gin im­me­di­ately. We need to have a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion on dy­ing with dig­nity, which in­cludes how we care with em­pa­thy and re­spect for those who are suf­fer­ing at the end of their lives. We must have a frank dis­cus­sion about the qual­ity of care al­ready avail­able, and whether there is eq­ui­table ac­cess to qual­ity pal­lia­tive care. Que­bec’s ex­pe­ri­ence shows us that re­spect­ful and re­spon­si­ble de­lib­er­a­tion is pos­si­ble. It re­minds us that when po­lit­i­cal par­ties set aside their dif­fer­ences in ser­vice of the pub­lic good, co-op­er­a­tion can fol­low. Con­sen­sus can be found — even on an is­sue as com­plex and sen­si­tive as end-oflife care. The Supreme Court of Canada’s de­ci­sion on physi­cian-as­sisted death was not only unan­i­mous — it was un­am­bigu­ous. It now falls upon us, as leg­is­la­tors, to act. Cana­di­ans ex­pect lead­er­ship from their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Given that the gov­ern­ment did not sup­port our pro­posal, the prime min­is­ter now has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to share his plan with the coun­try. A re­spect­ful, re­spon­si­ble dis­cus­sion on dy­ing with dig­nity re­quires time to hear from Cana­di­ans, in­clud­ing pa­tients and med­i­cal and le­gal ex­perts

Con­ser­va­tive words don’t match record

The Con­ser­va­tives talk a good game on free­dom, but their words don’t match their record. Their in­stincts are now to be sus­pi­cious of peo­ple who do not share their be­liefs, to harden di­vi­sions with peo­ple whose views dif­fer from their own. This is an ex­ten­sion of Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s pol­i­tics of fear and di­vi­sion. They have ac­cused two lead­ers of the NDP of sym­pa­thiz­ing with ter­ror­ists, ac­claimed hu­man rights ac­tivist and for­mer jus­tice min­is­ter Ir­win Cotler of anti-Semitism, and de­clared that ‘ you’re ei­ther with us, or you’re with the child pornog­ra­phers.’ Such rhetoric might work po­lit­i­cally in the short term, but it’s cor­ro­sive over time. It stokes anx­i­ety and fo­ments fear. That’s not how we do things in Canada. While we’ve had dark mo­ments in our his­tory - like the in­tern­ment of Ukraini­ans, Ja­panese and Ital­ian Cana­di­ans dur­ing the First and Sec­ond World Wars - we have had thou­sands more hope­ful, open mo­ments - like the Un­der­ground Rail­road or the Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism Act - that have come to de­fine who are as a coun­try. Un­like many oth­ers, we have built our coun­try around shared val­ues and our core value is a very Canadian idea of lib­erty: in­clu­sion, and it is deeply wo­ven into our public in­sti­tu­tions. From the pro­tec­tion of both of­fi­cial lan­guages to the ac­cep­tance of refugees flee­ing per­se­cu­tion, Canadian in­clu­sive­ness should be cel­e­brated. In this coun­try we un­der­stand that peo­ple are de­fined both by the things that unite and dis­tin­guish us from one an­other. Yet de­spite th­ese tra­di­tions, it will take po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to sus­tain lib­erty in Canada. Re­cently we have seen our prime min­is­ter telling women what they can and can­not wear on their head at public cer­e­monies. That ought not to be his busi­ness. What­ever hap­pened to dis­agree­ing about some­one’s choices, but de­fend­ing their right to make them? The prime min­is­ter ought never blur the line be­tween a real se­cu­rity threat and sim­ple prej­u­dice. Fear is a danger­ous thing. Once it is sanc­tioned by the state, there is no telling where it might lead. We must re­ject Mr. Harper’s pol­i­tics of fear. Canada is strong not in spite of our dif­fer­ences, but be­cause of them. Our lead­ers must work to bring Cana­di­ans to­gether, not divide them against one an­other.

Trudeau launches ad cam­paign

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s Lib­er­als, strug­gling dur­ing a po­lar­iz­ing de­bate be­tween the Con­ser­va­tives and NDP on war and na­tional se­cu­rity, are launch­ing a pre-elec­tion ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign Wed­nes­day aimed at get­ting Cana­di­ans to think about the econ­omy. The four ra­dio ads, pro­vided in ad­vance Tues­day to The Van­cou­ver Sun, are tar­get­ing key vo­terich ar­eas in­clud­ing B.C.’s Lower Main­land. The ra­dio cam­paign fea­tures Trudeau’s voice-over blast­ing Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment pol­icy on pen­sions and promis­ing a Lib­eral gov­ern­ment will cancel the $2-bil­lion-a-year in­come­s­plit­ting pro­gram, which econ­o­mists say favours the rich, and use that money to help the mid­dle class. The ra­dio ads — three are 30 sec­onds, one is a minute — are the first by the Lib­er­als to fo­cus on spe­cific pol­icy po­si­tions. They are be­ing un­veiled at a time when the na­tional de­bate has fo­cused on the mil­i­tary cam­paign against the deadly Is­lamic State group and Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s pro­posed na­tional se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion. Both the gov­ern­ment and the New Demo­cratic Party have clear po­si­tions in favour and op­posed, while Trudeau has sought a nu­anced po­si­tion on both poli­cies that has drawn some crit­i­cism. The ads fo­cus on a Lib­eral prom­ise to re­verse Harper’s de­ci­sion to grad­u­ally in­crease the el­i­gi­bil­ity age for Old Age Se­cu­rity and Guar­an­teed In­come Sup­ple­ment cheques from 65 to 67. Trudeau also prom­ises to work with pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments to re­form and en­rich the Canada Pen­sion Plan. He also goes af­ter the Harper gov­ern­ment’s in­come-split­ting pro­gram, which al­lows a high­ere­arn­ing tax­payer with at least one child un­der 18 to trans­fer part of their in­come to a spouse in a lower tax bracket. “I’ll cancel that tax break for the rich and use that money to help our mid­dle class and those work­ing hard to join it,” Trudeau says. “You know — the peo­ple who ac­tu­ally need the help.” The cam­paign tim­ing is good, ac­cord­ing to Uni­ver­sity of Vic­to­ria po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Kim­berly Speers, and not just be­cause the Con­ser­va­tives are un­veil­ing a bud­get in April. “It’s tax sea­son and Cana­di­ans are pay­ing ex­tra at­ten­tion to their own fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion and likely wish they were in a bet­ter sit­u­a­tion.” Speers, who lis­tened to the four ads, said they should be ef­fec­tive in reach­ing the Lib­eral tar­gets — older Cana­di­ans ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment, who tend to vote in larger num­bers than youth, and the so-called “mid­dle class.” The mes­sage could res­onate with Cana­di­ans but only if Trudeau, who has been crit­i­cized for lack­ing solid poli­cies, comes up with a com­pre­hen­sive plat­form for “wa­ver­ing Cana­di­ans” to back up the rhetoric, she said.

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