Rob Norris Misses the Point on Graduate Retention Program

The SaskParty talks about innovation, but according to a story in yesterday's Saskatchewan newspapers, apparently they are not innovative enough themselves to recognize the value of advanced education in a creative, productive society.

Strange as it may seem, their current Saskatchewan Graduate Retention Program does not even recognize graduate degrees.

And the Minister of AEEL appears to be satisfied with the current focus of his program -- not to mention being blind to the irony that what this program recognizes are actually considered UNDERgraduate degrees in academic circles. (Ask your wife, Minister Norris. With her PhD, she'll be able to explain.)

He also appears satisfied that the close to 4,000 graduate students in the province receive adequate support -- a position the presidents of the grad students associations at both UofR and UofS were at the Legislative Assembly to deny on Wednesday.

As originally happened with undergraduates, Saskatchewan graduate students who've had to leave the province to study elsewhere -- and those from other provinces who might consider moving here -- simply aren't on the Minister's rather limited radar.

Can it be that the Minister of Advanced Education, who claims to have an MA -- although what exactly the note on his official bio "Alberta, with courses completed in Saskatchewan" means, I'm not sure... Can it be that he doesn't know that Saskatchewan universities don't offer all fields of study, at either entry or advanced levels?

Or can it be that he doesn't know that for advanced study, it's wise to work with different experts at different research centres for the cross-fertilization and growth of ideas that will result? Or that Saskatchewan has only two universities, and therefore to gain an expanded range of exposure, experience and knowledge in their fields, many students have to leave the province? Or, again, that the term "Graduate" itself refers to programs beyond the Bachelors level?

Cam Broten of the NDP is right. The Government should expand this program to include Masters and Doctorate degrees, to more fully back the learning and innovation they claim to support.

If they continue to refuse to include graduate degrees, they should come clean and either admit that this is just an ill-conceived promotional stunt to try to get votes, or they should change the name to the "Undergraduate Retention Program."

Globe & Mail off Base on George Baker's Comments

I confess that I am a big surprised by the brouhaha around Senator George Baker's comments this week. Baker has often been a bit too liberal with his response in situations, particularly when he thought his home province was getting the short end of the stick. In an earlier life as a Liberal Cabinet Minister, Baker was someone the media went to when looking for a colourful remark.

Frustrated by the current Government's treatment of Newfoundland, George told St. John's radio listeners Monday that "People will be advocating, you know, that we can't remain in the confederation in which we are discriminated against and not respected for the great contribution we make." he didn't back away a few days later on CTV suggesting that Newfoundlanders form their own separatist Party.

Baker, along with Danny Williams and I suggest the majority of Newfoundland are fed up with Harper's treatment of their Province.

Now the Globe and Mail's editorial writers have their nickers in a knot with a headline which screams "Intolerable in a National Party" and Stephen Harper is suggesting that the Liberals should kick him out of the party.

Hang on a minute. It wasn't so very long ago that Stephen Harper, as the head of the National Citizens Coalition, (A lobby group for extreme right wingers) was stirring up dissent in Alberta with his Alberta Manifesto advocating building a firewall around Alberta.

So little Stevie should just back off before more people remember some of his past statements.

The Globe & Mail should take a vallium and

I say "Right on George" we need someone like you here in Saskatchewan who will speak out when the Government breaks their promises. (Pamela Wallin, I hope you are lsitening)


Children's Books Banned

There are two kinds of book lovers in this world;

· There is the uncluttered soul that reads a book, enjoys it, or not, then passes in on to someone else, quickly so they don’t pile up..

· The other kind of reader, and I place our whole family in this category, hordes books like gold and only trims the library down when it has become completely unmanageable.

We have recently been through a book purge although at this point only half of the discarded books have found their way into boxes and none of them have actually left the house.

As well as the novels, poetry collections, short stories, classics and text books there are hundreds of children’s books. Old children’s books.

So, what to do with them? Up until recently I think we thought we’d just hold on to them and pass then on to our future grand children, when they come along. Little did we know what a harmful idea that was.

I try to keep up with current issues but I must have missed this story, which may shift our thinking about what we do with those old books.

As of February 10th the American Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which imposes strict limits on the amount of lead permitted in anything intended for use by children aged 12 or younger, came into effect. Who knew but, I guess there was lead in the ink in the bad old days. Anyone who tries to sell, give or lend old books to kids containing lead may be in serious trouble. By serious trouble they mean subject to $100,000 fines and prison time, regardless of whether any child is harmed. In fact, in the USA, you would be at risk for giving a child any book published before 1984.

How many books would a, 11 year old have to scarf down before coming to harm one has to ask? Are books worse for kids than a Big Mac with cheese?

So what do with the damn things? You can’t burn them. You can’t bury them. And you can’t give them away.

So will Stephen Harper follow suit? He just might you know. He has the look of a book banner, doesn’t he?

Stay tuned but in the meantime, don’t snack on any old tomes, no matter how tasty they might seem.


Canada's Foreign Policy Skewed. Cannon drops the Ball

The conference for the reconstruction of Gaza began today hosted by Egypt. Leaders from Europe and North America are meeting to determine what help they can contribute to the rebuilding of Gaza after the destruction wrought upon it by Israel in their recent, brief attack.

About 1,300 Palestinians, of whom 412 were children, were killed and thousands of homes, schools, medical facilities and businesses were destroyed in December and January as Israel tried to bring an end to cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. It is estimated that Gaza needs $2.8 billion for reconstruction. Saudi Arabia has already agreed to contribute $1 billion and the USA has offered another $900 million.

One of the hurdles is still the Israeli blockade which prevents supplies from, entering Gaza. All but essential supplies are still stopped from entering Gaza at the crossing points, controlled by Israel. Building and raw materials deemed by Israel to be useful to militants as well as civilians have been banned.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said now was the "time to think freshly, to lead boldly". The UN Secretary General is optimistic if he expects that kind of thinking from Canada.

Although Canada is at conference but one has to wonder how serious the Harper Government is when it comes to helping the people in Gaza. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is there but he claims to be their only to "take stock" and to listen so he can report back to his colleagues and give them a sense of what has taken place.

In an effort to get a real sense of what Gaza needs Cannon visited Israel in advance of the conference. He met with Israeli politicians to reconnect with Israel and to emphasize the "great and important relationship that Canada has with Israel."

Out of step with most western leaders what he did not do was visit Gaza to see the destruction, first hand. I am sure Cannon thinks the briefing he got is Israel is all he needs.

Harper is once again out of step with the majority of Canadians in this issue. His government's unabashed support of Israel during the brief war was an embarrassment to most Canadians who want to our government to take an active but unbiased role in seeking a peaceful solution in the region.