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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 23, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta Thur.doy. Umch -.3, WJ THE LETHBR1DGE HERALD 5 'Anthony Westell. That needless auditor-genera hassle QTTAWA Tlie running public halllc between tiie auditor-general and the govern- ment is one ot lire most dan- gerous ami misunderstood is- sues of recent years. It has been provoked largely by the Opposition in the House of Commons, which has stead- ily built up the myth of an arro- gant government harassing an officer of Parliament as lie strives to protect the taxpayer. This strategy involves pushing the auditor-general, who should be beyond partisan reach, onto the centre of tiie political stage just before an election. The in- tegrity and influence of the of- fice are bound to suffer, and the Opposition action could be justified only in most serious circumstances. The fact is thai while the government has not always been right or wise, it has made serious and sustained efforts to meet the f-uciitor-general's needs and has even publicly offered him more indepen- dence than he has ever sought or the Commons lias been ready to approve. The Conservatives have had some help in creating their po- litical myth from the auditor- general, Maxwell Henderson, who is prone lo making con- troversial statements. They have been aided also by Prime Minister Pierre Tni- deau and ministers, who have occasionally made provocative remarks. But the main agents giving currency and credibility lo the myth have been the me- dia. It is easier to report color- ful charges than to examine evidence, and polemics aro more readable than analysis. I don't pretend to know what Trudeau really thinks about Henderson or what private views Henderson may have about the government. But I can read the public record. The record is mainly the pro- ceedings of the public accounts committee of the Commons. It is the only committee which is chaired by an Opposition mem- ber and on which the govern- ment does not have a majority. This 20-member committee has spent meeting after meet- ing in recent years examining the issues between the auditor- general and the government. The story dial emerges from a reading of tbis record is so dif- ferent from Ihe mylti that it is hard to know where to start disentangling. But let's start with the leg- end, repeated routinely in tbo press, that Die government in- troduced in 1970 a bill that would have severely restricted the power of the auditor-gen- eral, but that it was forced to withdraw in the face of opposi- tion protests. There never was such a bill. The committee decided in 19GS that the characteristics, duties and functions of the of- fice of auditor-general should have the dignity of a special act instead of a section in the genera! Financial Administra- tion Act. The committee asked the auditor-general to draft such an act, and he published the proposed hill as an appen- dix to his report for 1958-69. The committee then held pub- lic hearings on IJie bill during the spring of 1970, and niet in private, as is customary-, on June 17, 18 and 23 to write its report. There is no evidence in the record of serious differences of principle in the committee. The report was adopted un- animously by tlio M MPs at the final meeting; 10 Liberals, three Conservatives, one New Democrat. It raised no interest when it was tabled in the Com- mons on June 26, 1970. That was partly because the House was adjourning for Ihe sum- mer but also because the re- port, while it did not meet all the auditor-general's vishes, did not propose ctanges in bis powers. The government accepted ttie committee's report and turned it into a bill. When the bill was presentee! to the Commons in November, the Conservatives suddenly decideu it was a plot to gag the auditor-general and promised to fight it to ihe end. The government slnngged and withdrew Ihe bill, rather than spend days fighting aljout it in the House. So much for Hie plot. Uut there are now allegations built around Henderson's statement that be lias been denied Ilic re- sources bo needs to do bis work. The auditor-general's budget has to be approved by treasury which is controlled by a minister, C. M. Drury. Appoint- ments to Ihe auditor-general's slaff are made by Uie public service commission, which is an independent bony set up to guard against political patron- age. Civil service job specifica- tions and salary levels, includ- Dream fallacy NEA Service ALTHOUGH many picture th.2 Great American Dream as getting away from it all to a quiet little place in the country, Univcrsily of Wis- consin sociologists don't believe it. Few people, say James Zuiclics and Glenn Fuguitt, are actually moving to isolated rural areas. In fact, they say, the trend is in quite the opposite direction. Basing their statements on data from the 1070 census and n survey of their home state of Wisconsin, the researchers say that most people actually want to live in small towns or rural areas but within commuting distance of a large central city. "These results do not mean that rural development should bo discouraged." Zuicbes says, but if rural development pro- grams are (o succeed, they must take into account areas near metropolitan centres the most preferred residential loca- tions." So Tney Say It (the Apollo 11 moon mis- sion) was tJie first time in ail history that explorers went to a new land without weapons of any sort. Armstrong, first man on the moon, urging con t in tied peaceful exploration of space. ing those for lite cral's office are set by the treasury board. In the Commons on April 21, J970, Drury announced: ''The auditor general has suggested that, he be freed of any limita- lion by government laic for all sides to pull back. The gov- ernment desires no confronta- lion. Henderson wants to cool il. So also should the Opposi- tion and the press. (Toronlo Slar .Syndic-flic) Give up Quebec? By Dennis Briillhwaile, .THOUGH the latest Gallup Poll on the subject shows that 58 per cent of Canadians are worried afxnit the effects of Quebec's leaving Confederation, there seems to be much less concern among politicians, academics and opinion-makers. In the current Uniled Church Observer, Conservative Leader Robert Slanfield ad- mits thai lie finds less inclination by En- glish Canadians to accommodate French Canada today than in but lie doesn't even make a stab at suggesting some kind of solution to (he principal problem facing this country today, its possible, some would say, likely or even inevitable, break-up. Recently, I look part in a panel discus- sion at Atkinson College on English-French relations in the aftermath of the Front dc Liberation tlu Quebec (FLQ1 crisis of Oc- tober, 1970. The key panelist was Claude Charron, a 25-year-old Parti Qucbecois member of the Quebec legislature or as it has been symbolically re-christened, National Assembly. Charron, an attractive and intelligent partisan, began by saying it was a pleas- ure lo again visit and though there were some titters from the audience, he hadn't meant it as a joke. After his cool, inlellectualized analysis of (he current state of the independence movement in Q u e b e c, questions were in- vited. "Is it too late to keep Quebec in Con- one young man asked wist- fully. Charron replied, wilh a certain condescension, "it is loo late.'' Next ques- tion. Well, there weren't any more; not real questions. Some separatist sympathizers in the audience took the microphone to offer supporting statements in the form of ques- tions. But not a single soul challenged Charron's confident assertion that the jig is already up for Canada. When I did so, my remarks were re- ceived with hostile silence, some headshak- In The Toronto Star ing and, once, a smattering of laughter. Yet, there was a burst of spontaneous ap- plause when I suggested that the dissolu- tion of Canada was no laugliing matter. My impression was ttiat a handful ol sludenls who have bought Ihe Quebec in- dependence thing, because it's chic, or anli- establishment, or Waffte-ish, or whatever, were (here to make a show of solidarity with the brother from Quebec, and that tlieir noisy assertiveness intimidated, the rest into remaining silent. This was confirmed at the end when panel chairman Dr. Henry Best, assistant dean of Atkinson College, told me the ma- jority of those present probably agreed v.'ith my general position but "they're not the vociferous ones." What brought giggles from the activists was my assertion that an independent na- tion of Quebec, if it were socialist in make- up, which is at least a possibility, would in- vite economic and cultural aid from Rus- sia and that this in turn would panic the Americans and prompt them to apply somo counter-vailing pressure on the new coun- try or on "old" Canada. In short, the power-politics game would begin to he played right on our soil, in- stead of around us and reasonably far away, as at present. It seems a reasonable assumption to me. Added to the loss of nearly one-third of our population and liome market that Quebec's separation would cause and other disasters that aren't hard to imagine, it about makes the night- marc complete. Of course the majority, Including the Quebec majority, is opposed to separa- tion. But Rene Levesque has already stated that if the Pari Quebecois wins Ilia election he will take that as a mandate to pull Quebec out; there'll be no referen- dum. Ttie next Quebec election will be In two years three if the Bourassa government goes the legal limit. Isn't it lime the com- placent majority began to get a little con- cerned? Confrontation in B.C. The Winnipeg Free Press JYJUCH is being made of the labor-gov- ernment confrontation in Quebec which threateas that province witti a com- plete breakdown of labor relations and tha possibility of something approaching a gen- eral strike. Quebec, however, is not Urn only province faced with imminent labor strife. Trouble is brewing in British Co- lumbia. Basic (o the B.C. confrontation Is restric- tive legislation in the educational sector. Since 1909 in B.C. ceilings have been placed both on teachers' salary increases and on increases in school board budgets. The government has refused to share the cost of salary increases which exceed 6.5 per cent and has placed a ten-per-cent maximum on increases in school board spending. When a board's budget exceeds this amount a referendum can be called on (he petition of 100 taxpayers. In most cases so far taxpayers have voted to hold the budget line. This year the legislation is being made even more restrictive. The 6.5 per cent maximum on teachers' salary increases remains unchanged, but the maximum in- crease in school budgets is being reduced to eight per cent. Anything over that will no longer need a petition to call for a referendum; the referendum will be auto- matic. Neither teachers nor trustees arc happy id, r- with these restrictions, but the teachers are most vocal and active. They sec the restrictions as an interference with their bargaining rights and are aligning them- selves with ofher unions in the public sec- tor to fight. They are promising political action (as yet undefined) if all else fails and are building a battle-fund a day's pay from each teacher to launch their campaign. The government remains firm. Indeed, ft gives the impression of being on the offensive. It has altered its legislation so that a teacher need not be a member of the teachers' federation to leach in the province (a move calculated to open tha doors to unemployed teachers from other provinces in the event of a work stop- page) and Premier Bennett has intimated that he would be prepared to call an elec- tion on the issue. K is not difficult to see the government's reasoning, Recognizing current dissatisfac- tion with school costs, it is counting on the support of support which the results of referendums indicate it will get. But this may not be the end of the matter. The opposition of school boards or teachers alone might be coped with. But, if the teachers enlist the support of other unions, the government's victory might he a hollow one. It could lead not just to a teacher-board confrontation with govern- ment but to a situation as volatile and wide-spread as that in Quebec. Whichever way the issue is seltlcd, it is not a happy situation, It is shaping up as a confronta- tion (bat mil Jeave its scars, not feast on the educational system itself. JIM FISHBOURNE Oidy advantages in not smoking J haven't noticed those clever TV ads about smoking lately. You know the ones I mean. They were sponsored by the federal department of health, I'd guess, and the general idea was that those who smoke are slaves to a useless and often dangerous habit. The ads were very well done. None of them upset me, or influenced me eilher, as it happens. When I did quit smoking last year, it was for reasons un- connected with any campaign by anyone Having quit, however, I feel even more Impelled to say a sympathetic word to those suffering brothers who still soldier on wilh their pack or two a day, but willy- out enjoying it because of the constant propaganda of righteous do-gooders whose knowledge of the subject impresses me as being in inverse proportion to their volu- bility. They still get lo me, with their unc- tuous babbling, and if anything it sounds worse now that I know a major part of their line is straight tommyrol. Tiie anti-smoking crusader will lei] you that smoking is absolutely ruinous to your health. It wrecks your appetite and your digestion, for one thing (Or would that be It shallers your nerves, prevents your getting a decent night's sleep and leaves you miserable and surly in the morning. It makes you susceptible to colds. I-'or long-range effects, they cite heart dis- ease and greatly increased incidence of lung cancer. Well, that sounds pretty bad. So bad, in fact, (hat one wonders why Ihe govern- ment fools around wilh TV ads. Why not ban tobacco entirely, instead of paying out millions in subsidies lo encourage its cul- tivation? (Yes. (he same government: gov- ernments lend to be a hit puzzling, at times.) But is it all that bad? Not in my ex- perience, or not yel, al any rate. Naturally I cannot offer much proof (hat I will or will not be spared an early grave, but as far as the non-lethal effects are concern-