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What happened last week in Canada

Canada withdraws from UN drought convention

Last Wednesday, the Government of Canada informed the UN of its withdrawal from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)—an initiative that builds resilience to land degradation and drought in developing countries while increasing security of essential resources.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird suggested the withdrawal, which was ordered by the federal cabinet last week.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said only 18 per cent of Canada’s contribution to the UNCCD goes to programming, while the remainder is spent on bureaucratic measures.

“It’s not an effective way to spend taxpayers’ money,” Harper said during question period in the House of Commons on Thursday.

Following the announcement of the withdrawal, the UNCCD thanked Canada for annually contributing just over three per cent of the Convention’s budget, which amounted to $350,000 last year.

The Convention is the only one of its kind that addresses desertification and drought. Canada is the only country of 193 member states to withdraw from the Convention.


Drug bust on the high seas

A Canadian Armed Forces ship seized approximately 500 kilograms of heroin, valued at $100 million, from a boat in the Indian Ocean on Friday. The heroin, which was seized without incident, will be destroyed.

A boarding team from Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Toronto found the drugs while performing an inspection of the transport boat. HMCS Toronto tracked the transport boat for some time before boarding it.

“We ascertained [their crew] were not being truthful about their mission, their voyage, so we continued on with a full search of the vessel and discovered the drugs,” Commander David Patchell told CBC News.

In a release from the Department of National Defence, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said this is among the largest heroin confiscations to occur in a marine setting.

HMCS Toronto currently patrols the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea as part of a Canadian Forces naval task force with a counter-terrorism mission.


Ralph Klein, 12th Premier of Alberta, dies

Ralph Klein, who led Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party for 14 years, died on Friday at the age of 70 in a long-term care facility.

Before becoming premier, Klein was mayor of Calgary, his hometown, for nine years. He is remembered for bringing the 1988 Winter Olympics to Calgary, as well as striving to balance the provincial budget.

Klein was Premier of Alberta in four consecutive majority governments, during which time he instituted the “Alberta Advantage”—a low-tax, low-regulation stance that paved the way for Alberta to become the only debt-free province in 2005. Klein stepped down as Premier in 2006 due to a decline in his approval ratings, and was subsequently replaced by Ed Stelmach.

Klein was also made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012. He leaves behind a wife, five children, and grandchildren. 


Conservative backbenchers stand up against Harper

Four Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) took a stand against Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons last Thursday, and denounced his control over House proceedings.

This backlash comes after Harper denied B.C. MP Mark Warawa permission to read a statement in the House last week, according to The Globe and Mail. The Tory backbenchers expressed frustration with Harper’s ability to control who speaks in the House, and asked Speaker Andrew Scheer to grant MPs more autonomy in this regard.

“The very existence of parliamentary questions and the opportunities that they provide for the representatives of the people to question the government of the day are of constitutional importance,” New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson told the House.

According to The Globe, Tory MPs are often assigned the statements they must deliver in the House, and their questions reserved for Question Period are also written by the government, which prevents them from voicing their constituents’ concerns. Williamson has also asked Scheer to change the rules.


PQ abandons L’Hôtel-Dieu renovations for new hospital

Last Wednesday, the Quebec government announced that it has cancelled the former Liberal government’s plans to renovate the L’Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Quebec City. Instead, the government will pursue construction of a modern hospital, which will be built outside the city.

Founded in 1637, L’Hôtel-Dieu is one of three teaching hospitals which form the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec (CHUQ). L’Hôtel-Dieu was the first medical institution of its kind in North America.

According to The Globe and Mail, the Hôtel-Dieu renovations were projected to cost the provincial government over $800 million, which was double the original estimate. However, the new hospital’s price tag currently reads upwards of a billion dollars. A more concrete estimate will not be available until June.

Premier Pauline Marois noted that the Parti Québécois will not be receiving financial assistance from the federal government for the new medical centre. Ottawa has also refused to fund several other key infrastructure projects in Quebec, according to The Globe and Mail.

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