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May 13, 2004

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B.C. divorces on the upswing
Vancouver Sun, May 5

British Columbians are heading for the divorce courts in increasing numbers, bucking a trend in nine of the provinces and territories. While the incidence of divorce is going down in most places in Canada, it rose slightly in B.C. from 2000 to 2002, according to the most recent statistics collected by the federal Justice department. The numbers were also up in Ontario, Alberta and the Yukon. “It's often suggested there's something of a frontier attitude that includes restlessness in B.C.,” says SFU sociology professor Barbara Mitchell. “We also have a younger and thus more divorce-prone population. Both in Canada and the United States there is a trend of divorce rates increasing from east to west.” Mitchell said many people in the West have moved away from stabilizing influences of family support and also tend to be more agnostic.

Free trade hasn't helped Canada
Toronto Star, May 3

One of the benefits promised for Canada from a free trade deal with the U.S. was that we would attract billions of dollars of investment, creating great numbers of new jobs, from foreign multinationals that would build operations in Canada to serve the U.S. market. That didn't happen. The reason, according to SFU economist Richard Harris, a strong proponent of the trade deal, is that “perfectly secure access to the U.S. market was not achieved.” Harris said, “small countries within regional free trade agreements with uncertain or imperfect market access are at a clear disadvantage in attracting inward foreign direct investment whose purpose is to serve the regional market.” Harris noted Canada's share of foreign direct investment in the three North American Free Trade Agreement countries shrunk to 13 per cent last year from 21 per cent in 1990.

Strike by BC hospital workers to escalate
CTV News, May 1

The strike by 40,000 hospital workers in British Columbia is about to escalate. Labour leaders from other unions have now vowed province-wide job action in support. Some say it will be a general strike. The Liberal government calls the pickets illegal, but the labour movement showed it is ready for battle. “This government I think has been absolutely provocative and gone out of its way to pick fights with people,” says SFU labour historian Mark Leier. The government is calling for wage rollbacks of 15 per cent and provides no job security. Organized labour has responded and already some have had a small taste of their tactics with several schools forced to cancel classes and now threats to set up more pickets that will also shut down municipalities and public transit.

School choice to help disadvantaged
Vancouver Sun, April 30

Low education levels are linked to poverty. People living in poverty tend to also live in poor neighbourhoods. Poor neighbourhoods often produce poor schools. Poor schools produce more dropouts, more kids who can't or won't go on to higher learning. So spins a vicious circle. The poverty trap it generates is particularly apt to snare aboriginal people, regardless of whether they're on or off reserve. A new C.D. Howe Institute study by SFU business professors John Richards and Aidan Vining of aboriginal off-reserve education underlines the link between low education levels and poverty. While it's worse for those who remain on the reserve, the growing numbers - now 49 per cent of the aboriginal population - who move to cities typically fare only marginally better.

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