Issues & Experts >  Issues & Experts Archive > Week of May 13 – 21, 2002

Week of May 13 – 21, 2002

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May 14, 2002
Reworking labour laws…A raft of controversial changes to B.C.’s labour laws is sparking mixed reaction. While the anticipated changes are aimed at improving the province's investment climate, SFU labour historian Mark Leier predicts they will dramatically shift the playing field against working people. "The existing labour code — essentially the one that was in place since the early 1970s — was not biased in favour of labour. It was, however, much more fair than the changes we are hearing about today," says Leier. "The blunt fact is that employers have much more power in the workplace than workers, even unionized workers. That has been recognized in law and in labour codes since the 1940s. Workers need the protection of the state, in law and in enforcement, precisely because the employer already has so much more power." Leier says the proposed changes will, quite simply, "make the working day worse for B.C. employees. It will slash the small protections they now have. It will make it nearly impossible for them to have their grievances redressed. It will make the working day longer, and harder."

Mark Leier, 604.291.5827;

Bees at war?…The US may have another ally in its war against terrorism — bomb-sniffing bees. The Pentagon has announced that it has succeeded in developing so-called ‘smart-hives,’ training ordinary honey bees to swarm towards the smell of minute traces of explosives, and cites a 99 per cent accuracy rate. Initially attempted to see if bees could assist with mine clearance, the project shifted to see whether the bees abilities could be used in other ways. They are now suggesting bees could be stationed at military bases, border checkpoints, or even airports. Bees would also carry tiny radio transmitters so their progress could be tracked. SFU biology professor Mark Winston, a renowned bee expert, has studied the honey bee for decades. He is familiar with the project and can look at the rationale behind it, but notes: "It's a colossal waste of resources, in my opinion."

Mark Winston, 604.291.4459;

By-elections send message to Liberals …The Liberals lost key strongholds in Ontario and Newfoundland in two of seven by-elections, sending a definite message to the party that all is not well, says SFU political science professor Patrick Smith, who is watching the fall-out. Alliance party leader Stephen Harper’s smooth sail to victory in Calgary Southwest was a "non-story" notes Smith, given the lack of opposition from the Liberals or Tories, but the win strengthens his role within the party. "Had the Liberals done a clean sweep they could rest a little easier, but, as that wasn’t the case, they will have to stop and take notice." The loss of seats comes on the heels of a public opinion poll citing concerns over corruption in government. Smith can look at what the results mean for the Liberals and Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Patrick Smith, 604.291.3088; 604.291.1544 (h)