Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - May 3, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
THE IETHBBIDGE HERALD Mey 3, 1973 Swift action needed Dog, Ontario and Minamata, Japan, share two things in common __ their citizens reside on shorelines of lakes and rivers contaminated by mercury and their diet consists chief- ly of fish. Since the 1950s more than 50 Japan- ese have died from mercury poisoning which attacks the nervous system and slowly destroys the body. No cures have been found. At Dog and nearby Grassy Narrows Re- serve in Northern Ontario tests have shown that some Indians have levels of mercury well over 200 parts per billion, a level the Japanese say is detrimental to health- Chiefs Ray McDonald of White Dog and Art Assim of Grassy Narrows are rightly asking what alternative their people have to their long fish- eating habits. Are they to starve? Since the mercury scare their peo- ple are losing their two main occupa- tions, guiding and commercial fish- ing. The Indians now sit at home, drawing welfare cheques which mush- roomed to ?90.000 last year compared to in 1970. They report their people have lost the will to work, the alcohol problem is increasing daily and no one knows how to slop it. The source of the mercury pollu- tion has been traced to the Dryden Chemical Co. Ltd., in Dryden." The problem begins when the chemical dumped into the water sinks to the bottom of lakes and rivers where bacteria help to change it into organ- ic methvl-mercury, a substance pick- ed up by uni-cellular plant organisms. Ihis is the first step in the food chain that sees the mercury concen- tration gradually grow. The 600 resi- dents oi the lonely Ojibwa settlement, 00 miles northwest of Kenora fear their dogs will die in the streets and pregnant women will give birth to ueiormed children just as is hap- pening in Minamata. To compensate for the Japan- ese tragedy 112 Japanese victims last month were awarded in a suit (which had been in the courts four years) against Chisso Corpora- tion, a fertilizer manufacturer. The Ontario government has ig- nored investigators' recommenda- tions that Indians in northwestern On- tario eating mercury-poisoned fish be supplied with an alternative food source. Instead they have announced an educational program to warn In- dians of the danger involved in eat- ing the fish- The investigators have also recommended settlements be made to fishermen and tourist oper- ators with the provision of loans for relocation or conversion of their oper- ations and that swift action be taken to deal with the social problems of the Indians and Metis of the srea. action will indeed be needed if the Ojibwa Indians are to be help- ed socially and economically. Action should also be taken against the chemical company which filled the Wabigoon-English river systems with death. Cambodian 'Communists Confusion reigns in Western minds at least over who it is that opposes the loyalists to Lon Nol, head of the Cambodian state. It had generally been thought the insurgents were Cambodian Communists but lately they have been called "Viet- namese forces" with the unmistak- able inference that they are from North Vietnam. Officials in Phnom Penh, with en- couragement from U.S. advisers, want the world to believe it is the North Vietnamese who are assault- ing the Cambodian capital. Censors have forbidden correspondents to use such phrases as "Cambodian in- surgents" in dispatches. Even refer- ences to Communists have to be changed to make clear it is the NorJi Vietnamese who are involved. Government management of the news is enough to make most people suspect an uncomfortable truth is being covered up. It is probable that few, if any, North Vietnamese are engaged in the fighting in Cambodia. It is even possible that the Cambodian ''Ccmrnuni'-'is'1 may be largely left- wing opponents to Lon JN'ol's riehtist military regime. The Far Eastern Economic Re- view, published in Hong Kong, says: "Nixon, the former McCarthyite is still apparently unable to make the basic distinction between 'popular forces' and 'leftwing guerrillas' be- tween a Communist and a Social Democrat, or between a leader of the 'free world' and a military dic- tator. So Cambodian peasants are dying to shore up the validity of the twisted Nixonian view of Southeast Asian realities." Regardless of who the insurgents turn out to be, it seerns incredible that the United States should be teet- ering on the brink of getting recom- mitted to war in Indochina. The casserole Undoubtedly there Is substance to the regular complaints about the shortcomings of the prison system, how brutalizing it can be, and how inadequately it performs what should be its most important purpose, the rehabilitation of the prisoner. But on the other hand, there are equally frequent re- ports of convicts on extended leave French or otherwise a country club atmosphere in some so-called prisons, peo- ple going to college white ostensibly con- fined, special menus and even servants for the privileged, remarkably liberal arrange- ments for visitors, etc., etc. To the last list there can be added anoth- er homey little item, the nature of which can be inferred from the announcement that Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Carlton, convicted murderers who have been serving their 10 to 50 year sentences in New Mexico State penitentiary since August 1969, are expect- ing their first baby in June. Now, if the liquor commission will only authorize bar service in the prison lounges. students of these "best, regardless of na- tionality" professors aren't good enough to hire, perhaps it's time to re-examine the criteria for Thousands of people who have been driv- en to near distraction by the pounding and yammering of air-compressors, contrap- tions that seem to be more and more popu- lar in this energy-mad world, should be pleased to hear of a new, screw-type com- pressor that has been developed in Ger- many. It is unusually quiet even in its crude state, but a technical discovery now per- mits the fitting of a silencer, so that con- versation in a normal tone of voice is possible when standing right beside the ma- chine. As harried consumers struggle harder and harder against mounting prices, it must be a real comfort for them to know their elected representatives are struggling right along with them. Take the other day, for instance, when harduwking MPs spent almost an entire afternoon cutting sales taxes, eliminating or trimming tariffs, on a whole host of things. And they really meant business, too, be- cause in addition to purely token reductions on a lot of stuff some people hardly ever use, they even cut tariffs on such popular everyday staples as feathers, live poultry crates, and even get this, now! lob- ster-claw wedges! Don't it make you proud? The 165th annual meeting of the Ameri- can Chemical Society, meeting in Dallas, Texas, has heard the startling news that straw, ordinary waste straw, can be con- verted into a board that will do anything that plywood can do. The means whereby this miracle is accomplished is very com- plex, of course, and involves several esoter- ic chemical processes, but the product is of good quality and can be produced at com- petitive prices. In short, almost exactly what prairie farmers were told by a Swedish Stramit, wasn't it? nearly thirty years ago. There is still an argument about foreign professors, especially American ones. One faction claims the universities hire too many foreigners, and that Canadian citi- zenship should be a condition of tenure; the other side rejects this position as hop> lessly chauvinistic, and insists that academ- ic probity dictates that only the best be hired, regardless of nationality. Well, it is hard to quarrel with the idea of always hiring the best. But if that's what's been happening all along, why is it necessary to continue importing? If the As a matter of interest, it seems there was substance to a recent editorial warn- ing of increased prices for oil products. Readers may recall, too, the accompany- ing suggestion that Canada Alberta, if they prefer should not be stampeded into selling oil abroad at fire sale prices. Recently Sun and Shell, two major oil companies, posted new 25 cents a barrel price increases on top of very recent 15 cent incrcasus for Louisiana and West Texas crude oil. These latest price hikes bring Louisiana crude up to a barrel and West Texas crude to At the same time Continental Oil Ltd. raised its price for sour crude in Montana and Wyoming by 30 cents, to a new high of a barrel. Not even the most dedicated hold-lhe- liners pretend this is anything more than the beginning. Preventing abuse By Dave Humphreys, Herald London commentator The booming civil service By Maurice Western, Herald Ottawa commentator OTTAWA There is nothing in the latest intelligence from Statistics Canada to suggest that the Public Service has any cause to fret at nights over toe business cycle or the threat dis- cerned by some in automation. The year that ended on Sep- tember 30, 1972 was marred by high unemployment and serious intlaticn. But the service came through in splendid shape. Ac- cording to the official figures, the number of federal employ- ees increased by six per cent while the monthly payroll jumped by 19.4 per cent; alto- gether a very healthy perform- ance. It is obvious that there were special reasons in 1972 for this impressive growth; one of them being the conviction of the Gov- ernment that the public sector must play an appropriate role in providing jobs for the job- less. But we have probably reached a stage in our develop- ment in which special reasons will always be in play. When times are good, it will be clear to our governors that we can af- ford more public servants and the climate is unfavor- able, it will be even more clear that there is a duty to provide them. The principles of growth in cur public service have yet to receive searching study by a Canadian Professor Parkinson. It seems obvious that his gen- eral law; that work expands to fill space; applies with full force in Ottawa. Tt may, in fact, derive additional strength from special factors here, such as the operations of federalism and the perceived need of recruiting larger numbers of bilingual or French-speaking personnel. Visitors to the capital will ob- serve, however, that in Canada the law has its complement. Space must be provided to ac- commodate work and its vari- ous equivalents. Owing to the healthy tensions that character- ize our confederation, the new monuments that grace (or at least alter) the Ottawa skyline, must also be of a character to inspire observers with satisfac- tory awe of the federal pres- ence. There have been sugges- tions that the Pyramids by the Nile served a similar function. Even at this late date the quaint suggestion is occasion- ally made that 'there is some re- lation between the size of the service and national need. But the surge of 1972 tells its own story. When persons are re- cruited for reasons of economic slack, they remain recruited vhen the slack is history. Pri- vate employers seek men for the jobs; government has an additional of creating jobs for those who have already been found. The growth of the public serv- ice may also have certain social effects, which have been largely neglected in research. Most people continue to work in the privstc sector which does not and cannot provide the security snd manifest benefits assured to the service by a guardian government strong in the re- sources which only the taxpayer can provide. In the inflation-ridden society at large, certain rifts have al- ready appeared as powerful un- ions in strategic positions have bsen able to assert themselves as a new class. Within this new class, however, the unionized public service is in a special po- sition. This does not result solely from the control of con- stituencies, which is clearly im- portant. Even more significant is the fact that whereas a pri- vate employer, when too hard pressed, may go out of business or at least order massive lay- offs, the Government does nei- ther since it can always rely on a faithful response from the na- tion's taxpayers. This point was well illustrated during Easter week in re- sponse of the Professional In- stitute of the Public Service to Marc Lalcnde's new working psper on social security. Noting that the Government of Canada now favors full escalation of pension benefits, Leslie Barnes, executive director for the In- stitute, called on C.M. Drury to remove 'the present ceiling on adjustment of superannuation As Mr. Barnes insists (al- though he attributes a different view to the there is nothing more than a coinci- dental relationship between the Canada Pension Plan and the Public Service superannuation scheme. The retired public ser- vants for whom he speaks are obviously seeking, like everyone else, some son of insurance against the rapidly rising cost of living. But such aspirations are rea- listic only for those who deal with the Government. The exis- tence of a private business de- pends on its balance sheet; it cannot be expected to assume continuing responsibility for those who left its employment, probably on the basis of super- annuation settlements, years ago. The Government, in fact, makes no such demand on busi- ness and, in regard to most businesses, lacks constitutional power to do so. Mr. Barnes, however, can count almost certainly on politi- cal support for his demand. It will be said, and rightly, that superannuated workers are being seriously hurt by rising prices and lack adequate means of self-protection. The same can be said, with equal truth, of all superannuated workers. There is emerging, however, a clear difference in status for while most retired workers can rely only on general Instruments such as the Canada Pension Plan, those with claims on the Government, and thus on the public Treasury, can aspire to what others are bound to re- gard as a privileged position. The public service was once small and was considered ill- paid in comparison with the pri- vate sector. It is now wall-paid, very large and demonstrating a most remarkable capacity for growth. The larger it gets the more will the amenities pecu- liar to the service appear to other worers as unfair advan- tages accruing to a class within a class. It is probable that this feeling exists already in the country; it may indeed be much more widespread than is real- ized by leaders of the service unions negotiating with govern- ment in the soaring office build- ings of Ottawa. Nonsensical family allowances By Anthony Westell, Toronto Star commentator It may be too late when I get back from holiday next month, so just let me say: Family allowances have be- come so much a part of our lives and social security sys- tem that we seldom s.op to question the principle. But if you think about them, what is the logic of making payments based on the number of chil- dren in a family? Are we trying to increase the birth rate the more kids you have, the more money you get? That would be ridiculous in the age of the population ex- plosion. Are we saying that families with children have higher costs than people without children and therefore need special help? That might make sense if we took into account the incomes of the families. But it is obvious nonsense to pay the same de- gree of state support to the fam- ily with four kids and a year as to the family with four kids and a year. Yet that is what we do with univer- sal family allowances. The comforting illusion is that we tax back the allowances from the family. But we don't, because the top rate of personal income tax is about 60 per cent, declining to 50 per cent under tax reform. So even the wealthiest family pays back in income tax only about half the allowances it re- ceives. So who does pay for, family allowances? The answer is all those people who do not have children. They may be hard- piressed themselves, verging on poverty perhaps, but they con- tribute through their taxes to al- lowances to the wealthy who have kids. The government recognized the injustice of the system in its 1970 While Paper on income security. It proposed to relate allowances to need by cutting off payments to families with incomes above and in- creasing them to lower-income families. There was a good deal of criti- cism of the plan, led by the New Democrats who objected to the creation of two groups in society, those who would re- ceive cheques and those who would not, depending on in- come. There was also resent- ment among middle-class wives who were accustomed to use the cheques as pocket money which came directly from Ottawa to them, instead of through their husbands. Frightened by the loss of mid- dle-class vote in the October election and dependent on NDP support in the Commons, the government has given in to the pressures, and by raising the family allowances to a month for all, it is simply com- pounding the injustice of the old scheme Those without children will be paying even more to those with children, regardless of need. It's sad to see Prime Min- ister Pierre Trudeau, who once promisiEd to do away with all "that free stuff" and tell people honestly what social security costs them, now reverting to the old political trick of bribing the voters with universal wel- fare schemes. It's sad to see NDP Leader David Lewis endorsing a mon- strous rip-off of one section of the community by another, on the blind basis of how many kids they happen to have. It's sad to see Conservatives who surely should stand for selec- tive, rather than universal, .wel- fare applauding ths new scheme. The last hope was that the provincial welfare ministers see the flaws in family allowances and reject the fed- eral plan. After all, they had been arguing for a long time that social security is really their responsibility and had been asking Ottawa to turn over money to them to spend according to their own priori- ties. But they came out in favor of the federal plan. Now Ottawa is blandly propos- ing to spend an extra noil- lion on family allowances which will not go to the root of social need. Surely the provinces could find ways to get the money to those in poverty, ra- ther than to those with kids. Think about it. Family allow- ances really dont cense. LONDON: Universal social welfare programs, like pollu- tion, cause universal problems as well. Politicians, civil ser- vants, social workers and tax- payers are engaged in Europe, as they are in Canada, with the many questions and contro- versies that have accompanied the building of the welfare state. The abuse of welfare is usual- ly among the most common and vulnerable areas for criticism. In Canada the Unemployment Insurance Commission respond- ed to public concern by ran- dom checks which have result- ed in a high proportion of dis- qualifications. In Britain the government is strengthening permanent control by appoint- ing 60 special investigators into abuse to join the 329 already in the social security department. Sir Keith Joseph, secretary of state for social services, acted on recommendations of a com- mittee which spent two years investigating abuse. Like the Canadian crackdown, Sir Keith's action in setting up the committee followed an election in which the politicians thought they detected strong objections to prevalent abuse. -The British have been more methodical and perhaps more thorough in their examination. In fact Sir Keith rejected the committee's recommendations for random checks on the grounds they would constitute unjustified snooping. But the committee had proposed they be carried out, not simply by running available jobs and the supply of qualified applicants through a computer, but by de- tailed personal investigation. The necessary inquiry would of- fend the innocent and alert the guilty, Sir Keith said, even though the committee asked for sampling to be done carefully to avoid distress to genuine claimants. The committee under the former High Court judge, Sir Henry Fisher, thoroughly ex- amined the system of special investigation which is the core of the British campaign against abuse. Inevitably it raised and attempted to answer in its 298 pages questions rele- vant wherever the welfare state operates. The inquiry covered the whole panoply of welfare of which unemployment forms a significant part, costing million in 1971. According to its own figures, while the committee was sitting special investigators saved Bri- tish taxpayers more than million. "Although the percent- age of claims which are known to be fraudulent is not great, substantial sums of money are misappropriated each the report said. Thirty special investigators at the employment department saved at least a year. The 259 who operated from the social security department in 1971 saved more than million from all claims. (The commit- tee sat for two These are the welfare state's policemen, until now people drawn from the department which they must know inside out. They do about five years of detective work before returning to other departmental duties. Without them, the committee's report said, consequences would go far beyond loss of public funds. It discussed questions of community morality and the reaction of taxpayers who make the redistribution of funds pos- sible. "In particular the morale of the civil servants who ad- minister the system can be sustained only if proper measures are seen to be taken to prevent and detect abuse." Special investigators are Bri- tain's last ring of defence against fraud. They are called in by local officials only after they themselves have carried out routine precautions and sus- pect something. To draw unemployment pay- ments in Britain you must every week in person to the env ployment exchange. You must sign a declaration to the effect that you are unemployed, cap- able of and available for work on each of the days for which you are claiming and that you meet all the conditions. Each office has a designated "fraud officer" who not only deals with suspects and passes them to special investigators but is also expected to ensure that all staff follow prevention and detection routine. The expansion of the investi- gation staff, as it runs parallel to the growth of the welfare state, is abundant evidence of human frailty. Special investiga- tors were introduced during the 1950s. By 1964 the social sec- urity department staff had grown to 97, by 1968 to 175 and in the last five years it has more than doubled. Similarly at the employment department where there were four in 1964 there are 30 today. Their most controversial in- vestigations are those into cases of cohabitation, where a woman drawing welfare lives with a man as his wife. British law debars her from benefits if the man is working. Fictitious de- sertions are another troubled area. While agreeing that de- tection should be as unintrusive as possible, the committee re- ported that "if the abuse oc- curs (as it it would be wrong for the department to turn a blind eye to it because the people committing abuse are in a situation which attracts sympathy." However, cross- questioning of neighbors should be more limited and the prac- tice of informing should not be encouraged. The report was less illuminat- ing on other questions. Take, for instance, this observation: "There are some who do not want any job because it would interfere with their freedom to spend their time as they wish and to enjoy liberty on a low income." In fact the income for successful cheaters is compara- tively high. An unemployed married man with two children would be entitled to at least a week, well above many wage rates. What is a suitable job for an unemployed man? The report said a reasonable time should be allowed to try to find a job to match his existing skill. "Once the period has passed the range of suitable jobs should be extended to all which are within man's capacity, and which are open to him, even though they may involve a fall in status and wages below that previously enjoyed." The computer has been used only experimentally here. The report said department efforts to match skills to jobs were out- side its terms. But a reference to one survey which showed three quarters of vacancies were filled outside the employ- ment services suggests its ef- forts might be improved. The linking of local offices to a com- puter next year may be none too soon. As if in defence of its diffi- cult task, report at the out- set said it was required to re- member the obligation of de- partments "to deal promptly and sympathetically with claims to benefit from the public." In- evitably the committee had to recommend ways to detect abuse and keep it to a mini- mum. The answer of more pol- icemen for more abuse is blind- ingly simple. Underlying causes of abuse, like the causes of other crimes, remain substan- tially untouched. Letter to the editor Bad taste deplored I consider the photograph of the accident victim emblazoned on the front page of the second section of The Herald (April 26) to be in very poor taste. It is my opinion that the great ma- jority of readers are not im- pressed by this type of display; certain magazines cater to those who are. Similarly, photo- graphers, who for the want of knowing better are able to take such pictures, could be better employed elsewhere. Some months ago another photograph appeared in The Herald showing a fatality at a train-automobile crash. (I be- lieve it was in the Pincher Creek A letter of pro- test subsequently printed echo- ed my sentiments. I had hoped The Herald would have taken a hint but apparently it has not. If there is a repetition of such gross lack of consideraton J will, as a matter of principle, need to seek another news source. W. N. HARRIES Lethbridge The Uthktdge Herald 504 7th St. S., tethbridge, Alberta LETHBRIDGE HERALD 00. LTD., Proprietors and Published 1905 -1954, by Hon. W. A. BUCHANAN Second Class Registration No. 0012 Mtmbtr of Canadian Press and the Canadian Daily Newspaow Publishers' Association and the Audit Bureau of Circulations CLEO w MOWERS. Editor and Publisher THOMAS H. ADAMS, General Manager DON PILLINS WILLIAM HAY Managing Editor Associate Editor ROY F. MILES DOUGLAS K. WALKER Mvirtlslna Manager Editorial Page Editor THE HERALD SfilVES THE SOUTH"