Controversy continues to surround the Toronto city budget cuts, including the high-profile move to remove funding for the city’s Christmas Bureau.
The decision was made this week to take away the city’s support for the agency,
that has been in operation since 1956 working with other organizations to distribute gifts to thousands of Toronto families.
Over 112,000 children received gifts or donations in 2007 from the program’s collaborative efforts with local charities, according to the City of Toronto website.
Toronto’s Employment and Social Services partnered with Toronto Fire Services, CHUM Christmas Wish, and the Toronto Star’s Santa Claus Fund to help low-income families stuff their stockings.
Ward 30 Coun. Paula Fletcher told thedailyplanet.com the bureau was an affordable, once-a-year program, and was a great role for the city to have as the coordinator with the charities to help families in the city.
“The poor and needy in Toronto got scrooged by the mayor and 24 other councilors,” Fletcher said.
“There are a lot of people out there sad about the sacking of Santa,” Ward 29 Coun. Mary Fragedakis told thedailyplanet.com.
Fragedakis said the city is trying to outsource an external agency to pick up where Toronto left off, but they have no ideas as to who it may be.
The city staff are an integral part of the process as they assess what families are in need of the services the Christmas Bureau provides, she said.
While Fletcher is not the only councilor to express upset over this decision, Mayor Rob Ford had a very different view.
According to a Globe and Mail article, Ford said the cuts were “a huge victory for the taxpayers of the city” and the budget cuts now total just over 27-million dollars.
With the holiday season roughly three months away, time will tell how this cut will hit home for low-income families.
As Fletcher said, “Bah humbug!”
Due to the cut, families all over Toronto will have sparse gifts this year for the holidays.
A new bill has been introduced that will clarify the way citizens can display the Canadian flag on their property and also protect the way its handled.
John Carmichael, Conservative backbencher from Don Valley West proposed the bill, and told thedailyplanet.com, the Canadian flag “is a symbol of this great country and something that I believe every Canadian should have the right to fly or display 365 days a year.”
Flag vandalism is illegal in the United States, but this is the first push in Canada to have a similar law.
The bill “just seems to have absolutely taken off which we’re thrilled about, but certainly did not anticipate,” said Carmichael. “We didn’t realize that there’d be this much interest in it and we’re delighted that we can do this.”
The proposed law has faced some criticism from interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, who told The Toronto Star, “I just think these guys are obsessed with symbols.”
In defense of his private member’s bill, Carmichael said, “from the standpoint of distraction, it really doesn’t [cause distraction] because it’s not nearly of the significance of a major government bill.”
NDP MP and ethics critic Charlie Angus from Timmins -- James Bay told thedailyplanet.com, "the conservatives don’t do positive motions, they do negative motions. They’re talking about penitentiary sentences for this group of 'thugs' out stopping poor people, average Canadians, from raising the flag, and this is where I think this bill becomes a little suspect."
Some upsetting flag-censorship situations Carmichael told thedailyplanet.com about dealt with two war veterans who proudly wanted to display the Canadian flag on common condominium property.
The issue seemed slightly more complicated to the NDP critic.
"Now the poor condo board members are being told they’ll get a penitentiary sentence if they follow the condo act," said Angus. "I know we have an economic crisis, but I didn’t know we had a flag crisis."
There looks to be some debate between parties on how the Conservatives will be dealing with this private member's bill.
However, Carmichael told thedailyplanet.com one of his overall goals in proposing this bill.
“We want to try and facilitate at least discussion and mediation to find ways in which these heroes, who have defended our country, can have the right to fly that flag.”
Listen to the entire interview with John Carmichael.
The Canadian Federation of Students is denouncing a copyright bill that is currently being considered by federal government, said Roxanne Dubois, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.
"I think it shows complete disregard for the general Canadian public and students by reintroducing the same bill," Dubois told thedailyplanet.com.
Dubois said the main thing that’s problematic with the bill for students is the inclusion of something called digital lock circumvention measures, which undermine any other right that may be included in the bill.
This refers to a legal provision that exists when consumers break measures placed on content that they’ve purchased.
In other words, people that copy content for their own use that they’ve purchased legally could be charged under the law.
"Students have been calling for a balance – we do respect the rights of creators to be fairly compensated for their works. In fact, students often are creators. We do programming, we do art, we understand the importance of being fairly compensated for the work," Dubois said.
"But I think that digital locks don’t allow that – in fact, they prevent the idea of having a balanced copyright.”
Chris Gray, of the Canadian Intellectual Property Council, told thedailyplanet.com the bill is a necessity to bring Canada in step with modern content distribution to consumers.
“It’s been like 25 years since the copyright bill has been amended. No matter what side of the fence you’re on here, the bill has to be updated, because we’re now in very much a different age," Gray said.
"It’s just going to bring Canada’s copyright law up to international standards,” he said.
“I think the bill as it stands now is a decent middle ground. Everyone’s going to have to take a little water with their wine.”
Students worry a new copyright bill may infringe upon their education.
The first French language debate for the Ontario provincial election is taking place without the party leaders.
“Our invitation was to the party leaders,” said President of l’Assemblee de la Francophonie de l’Ontario, Denis Vaillancourt, who organized the debate. “We understood the fact that two of the leaders don’t speak fluent French.”
The three main political parties have delegated respective party members to represent the leaders in Monday night's debate.
“In many communities where there is a high density of francophones, there have been all-candidate meetings - maybe not exclusively French, but bilingual” Vaillancourt told thedailyplanet.com.
“The francophone community has a long historical standing in Ontario, the population has contributed to the well-being and economy of this province,” said Vaillancourt.
University of Toronto professor Nelson Wiseman said it will have an impact that the party leaders will not be present.
“Virtually everyone in Ontario speaks English,” said Wiseman. “It isn’t going to swing many votes.”
Gilles Bisson, the candidate representing Andrea Horwath and the New Democratic Party, said the debate is very important because of the large French demographic in the province.
There are issues specific to the French community, said Bisson.
“Being able to access services in French in your community, from health to education,” Bisson said. “There have been a number of disappointments about getting access to services.”
Bisson is attending for the Ontario New Democratic Party, Madeleine Meilleur will represent the Ontario Liberal Party and Jason MacDonald for the Progressive Conservative Party.