Citing a troubled conscience and a desire to concentrate on his blossoming career as a lounge-style piano player, Prime Minister Harper's office has publicly announced that the highly unpopular member of parliament from Calgary Southwest will be retiring from politics effective immediately. "Laureen and I just don't have time to foster all the cats we want to. This governance thing is really just getting in the way," wrote Harper in an emotionally candid press release.
With the fiscal year starting April 1st, there has been significant outcry over new wording in Federal funding agreements to First Nations communities. New agreements allegedly contain a demand to sign onto new federal policies or risk having funding completely withdrawn for the coming year. “If we don’t sign, there will be third party co-management imposed,” says councillor Bartibogue from Burnt Church First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada's poorest postal code. “It’s take it or leave it.”
Cree youth from Whapmagoostui, Quebec braved the winter elements and walked a distance of almost 1600 kms to their final destination of Parliament Hill. Along the way, the Nishiyuu youth were joined by other Cree, Algonquin and non-Indigenous peoples, in support of the Idle No More movement. Prime Minister Harper was not present to meet them in Ottawa; instead, he chose to welcome two Chinese panda bears at Toronto's Pearson Airport.
Prime Minister Harper took Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's passing as an opportunity to send a misplaced and paternalistic message to the people of the Bolivarian revolution. “At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights,” said Harper. What Harper forgot, perhaps, is that, since 1999, Chávez won 15 out of 16 elections under an electoral system former United States President Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world.”
Walking away from the project earlier this month, the Hemholtz Asssociation of German Research Centres appeared to value their institute's reputation over a $25 million Canadian government-funded sustainability contract doing tar sands research. “As an environmental research centre we have an independent role as an honest broker and doing research in this constellation could have had reputational problems for us, especially after Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol,” said Professor Frank Messner, Helmholtz UFZ’s head of staff.
No longer pretending that Canadian foreign aid is somehow kept at arm's length from Canadian foreign policy, the Harper government has merged the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The federal budget was generally seen as a downer by most analysts across the country. At the yearly federal budget watch in Halifax, representatives from all walks of life at least had each other to commiserate with. “I would have been very depressed to watch this budget by myself at home,” said Tony Tracy, Atlantic regional representative of the Canadian Labour Congress.
Canada became the only UN member to pull out of a United Nations convention to combat desertification, signed by 194 other countries.
In Montreal, on the one-year anniversary of the Quebec student strike, police swiftly used the legally questionable technique known as "kettling" to arrest 294 protesters. Those arrested, including the famous Anarchopanda, were issued $637 tickets under municipal law P-6.
In Toronto, anti-poverty activists, homeless people and their allies temporarily occupied Metro Hall. Citing numerous homeless deaths over the past year, with shelters at nightly capacity forced to turn people away, people took over the building after Toronto council voted down a motion to hold an emergency debate on the state of the city’s shelter system. Police eventually forcibly removed the occupiers and issued tickets.
In Vancouver, the Canada Border Services Agency brought along a National Geographic television crew to film raids on undocumented workers. Serious outcry arose against this latest version of "reality TV". It has been revealed that Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and the Prime Minister's office were aware of - and government resources are subsidizing – the undertaking.
In Vancouver, (formerly) Homeless Dave launched a hunger strike to protest against gentrification and to demand adequate social housing in the Downtown East Side.
Estimated costs to clean up over 200,000 tons of arsenic trioxide dust at the now-defunct Giant gold mine in Yellowknife, NWT are twice as high as official numbers suggested. New documents show costs are now estimated at close to $1 billion.
Fearing extinguishment of existing Peace and Friendship treaties, Idle No More organizers in Nova Scotia combined an eleven-day hunger strike with the collection of thousands of petition signatures to force a halt to the 'Made in Nova Scotia Process', the name given to the twelve-year-old negotiation process between the federal and provincial governments and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs.
Atlantic Industrial Services, the waste water treatment facility in Debert, Nova Scotia, has been cleared to dump "treated" fracking waste into the municipal sewer system. Concerns raised suggest this will clear the way for accepting fracking waste from the gas fields of New Brunswick, where seismic testing looks – to the chagrin of locals - to be ready to go for the spring season.
Minister of National Defence Peter McKay paid a visit to his home riding of Central Nova, handing local New Glasgow police the keys to a decommissioned cougar that saw some action in the Balkans and Somalia. “It may never be used, but if it’s needed, we will have the capability,” said Const. Ken MacDonald of his department's new armoured personnel carrier.
Hunger strikes by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have intensified. Lawyers for the incarcerated men say that the majority of the 166 prisoners are now on strike.
An estimated 50,000 people marched through the streets of Tunis to open the 2013 World Social Forum. The WSF is touted as the people's equivalent to the gathering of the world's elite power brokers at the yearly World Economic Forum.
After being shut for almost two weeks, banks on the beleaguered island of Cyprus had re-opened by the end of March. Cash withdrawals are limited to 300 Euros per day over fears of mass withdrawals, in light of EU-imposed measures seeking to re-coup approximately $10 billion from Cypriot banks.
Yearly bluster and rhetoric aside, North Korean leaders are visibly angered by war games involving nuclear-armed B-2 bombers played by their South Korean neighbours and the United States of America. North Korea claims to have rockets on standby, aimed at U.S. military targets in the area.
But seriously folks. Be more like Stephen Harper. Get your pets spayed or neutered. And foster a cat!