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Alberta to create its own parole board

The Alberta Parole Board would determine parole or early release eligibility for those serving sentences in provincial correctional facilities

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The UCP government is making good on an election promise and creating the Alberta Parole Board.

The Alberta Parole Board would determine parole or early release eligibility for those serving sentences in provincial correctional facilities, which are sentences less than two years. Currently, Alberta contracts with the federal government to have the Parole Board of Canada make these determinations.

“Albertans expect, and deserve, a faster, fairer and more responsive justice system that holds criminals responsible. Our government’s platform committed that we would ensure repeat offenders, including parolees, are not able to re-victimize them. This is an important part of getting a fair deal for Alberta, and of getting more Alberta and less Ottawa,” said Premier Jason Kenney.

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, said: “Our government has heard loud and clear that Albertans want us to do everything we can to protect them, keep our communities safe and prevent people from being victimized. By creating an Alberta Parole Board, Alberta is taking control of a key component of the administration of justice in this province.

“It will help end the ‘revolving door’ justice system and will be more in touch with the current realities facing law-abiding Albertans who are frustrated with a justice system that does not make them feel secure and protected.”

The group representing Alberta municipalities praised the move.

“RMA has consistently expressed concerns regarding the impacts that repeat offenders have on police services and the justice system in rural Alberta. The creation of the Alberta Parole Board is intended to offer solutions to the current ‘catch and release’ system, contributing to increased safety for our rural communities through responsive oversight,” said Al Kemmere, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta

The Alberta Parole Board would also supervise provincial parolees through community probation officers who will closely monitor offenders released on parole from provincial correctional facilities.

Provincial correctional centre caseworkers and probation officers who will continue to do much of the same work for the Alberta Parole Board that they already do for the federal parole board.

If passed, the government plans to have the Alberta Parole Board in place and operating starting Jan. 1, 2021. It’s expected to cost $600,000 a year to operate.

In February’s Throne Speech, the UCP promised Alberta will be cancelling its contracts with the federal government for the parole board and creating a provincial board.

During the election in March of 2019, Kenney claimed prisoners released by federal parole authorities were playing a role in the province’s rural crime problem.

Quebec and Ontario have their own parole boards, Alberta contracts with the arm’s length federal institution to provide the service.

Parole allows cons to serve the remainder of their sentences in the community under supervision.

Parole eligibility varies for each inmate.

Federal inmates who are not subject to a parole ineligibility period are normally eligible one-third of the way through their sentence.

During the campaign, the UCP said a new Alberta board would look after provincial inmates – those sentenced to less than two years – while the feds would still look after federal inmates.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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NDP MLA under fire for mocking death of British PM Margaret Thatcher

“The only thing I regret about Margaret Thatcher’s death is that it happened probably 30 years too late,” said Marlin Schmidt

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An Edmonton NDP MLA is being slammed for mocking the death of the Iron Lady – former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“I can still go on to enjoy the fact that Margaret Thatcher is dead. The only thing I regret about Margaret Thatcher’s death is that it happened probably 30 years too late,” said Marlin Schmidt, MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar, in the Legislature Wednesday afternoon.

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Thatcher is known around the world as a conservative icon.

Schmidt’s comments drew the ire of former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

“Keepin’ it classy. @abndpcaucus” Wall tweeted.

Thatcher served as British PM from 1979 to 1990. She was the first woman to hold the position.

A Soviet journalist dubbed her the “Iron Lady.”

Thatcher was also credited with crushing the powerful British union movement and being in charge when Britain defeated Argentina in a war over the Falkland Islands.

Thatcher died in 2013, at the age of 87, after suffering a stroke.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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UCP bill will allow private sale of blood

Tany Yao, UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, has brought forward Bill 204 that will repeal Alberta’s ban on the private purchase of human blood.

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The UCP is about to repeal a law in Alberta that bans the private sale of blood.

Tany Yao, UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, has brought forward Bill 204 that will repeal Alberta’s ban on the private purchase of human blood.

In 2017, the NDP passed the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, which banned everyone except for the Canadian Blood Services from paying for plasma and other blood products.

“A secure supply of plasma is a cornerstone of a modern twenty-first century health care system. The repeal of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act will help patients by making our plasma supply less dependent on international supply which can be unreliable,” Yao said.

Bill advocate Whitney Goulstone, Executive Director Canadian Immunodeficiencies Patient Organization (CIPO), noted last summer Canada experienced its first IG (Immune Globulin) shortage.

Kate van der Meer, said the bill, if it becomes law, will make her life easier.

“I was originally scheduled to switch to SCIG (Subcutaneous Immune Globulin) in May 2019. Due to the shortage, this did not happen. Instead, I had to continue traveling to the hospital every 3 weeks, and struggle to care for my 3 young children while recovering from each intravenous infusion. This continued until the end of September 2019 when the shortage eased and Canadian Blood Services began allowing patients to switch to SCIG again,” she said, in a statement in the government press release.

“Patients have suffered because of our apathy, and because of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act.”

Canada as a whole only supplies 13.5 per cent of the plasma needed for the production of the IG and other plasma therapies used for the treatment of Canadian patients.

The NDP is on the record as opposing the new bill.

“If passed, this bill will divert donations away from Canadian Blood Services to private buyers, who can then sell them to the highest bidder on world markets,” said NDP Health Critic David Shepherd.

“This is very bad for Albertans. It flies directly in the face of the Krever Inquiry.”

 The Krever Inquiry investigated Canada’s tainted blood scandal, in which tens of thousands of people were infected with hepatitis C or HIV through tainted blood products.

The inquiry’s report led to the creation of a single national agency, Canadian Blood Services. 

Ontario, Quebec and B.C. also have legislated bans on the purchase of human blood. Manitoba has a single paid-donation centre for rare blood types that predates the Krever Inquiry.

Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have private blood purchasing locations. 

Shepherd said: “This isn’t a partisan issue – our single public voluntary system has served Albertans well for decades, and through this global pandemic.  Allowing private buyers to divert donations away from Canadian Blood Services will cause terrible harm to Canada’s supply. Tany Yao’s bill is a terrible mistake, and I hope members of the UCP caucus will join us in defeating it.”

Peter Martin Jaworski, Ph.D., an Associate Teaching Professor in Strategy, Ethics, Economics and Public Policy at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has made the case for allowing blood products to be sold.

“In order to meet the demands of patients, every country has come to rely increasingly on plasma from the United States, one of the few countries that permits some form of payment for plasma. The United
States is responsible for 70% of the global supply of plasma. Along with the other countries that permit a form of payment for plasma donations (including Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Czechia), they
together account for nearly 90% of the total supply,” he wrote in a paper called Bloody Well Pay Them.

“This situation is unsustainable, a risk to security, and, most importantly, a threat to the millions of patients who currently depend on plasma therapies, those who will in future, and those who would benefit from them but do not have access.

“In order to ensure a safe, secure, and sufficient supply of plasma therapies, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia should withdraw prohibitions on voluntary remunerated plasma collections, and thereby ensure domestic security of supply for our patients, and begin to contribute to the global supply of plasma.”

David Clement, Toronto-based North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said “We applaud the Government of Alberta and MLA Tany Yao for putting this forward. A ban on paid blood plasma was ridiculous to begin with, especially considering that 70 per cent of Canada’s blood plasma supply comes from the USA, where they compensate donors.

“Blood plasma is used for a variety of medical treatments, and plays and important role in the fight against Covid-19. Our hope is that by allowing for compensation, more Albertans will donate blood plasma and help the province overcome the persistent shortages that occur. Czechia (previously the Czech Republic) legalized paying for blood plasma, and saw a 7 fold increase in donations. If that were to happen in Alberta it would be cause for celebration, not condemnation.” said Clement.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Canada now $1,200,000,000,000 in debt

The projected debt will be $1.2 trillion by March 2021, up from $765 billion a year earlier.

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Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Wednesday a deficit of $343 billion this fiscal year – taking Canada’s debt to more than $1.2 trillion.

In a what he called a “fiscal snapshot”, Morneau said spending from the COVID-19 outbreak was to blame for the massive deficit.

The projected debt will be $1.2 trillion by March 2021, up from $765 billion a year earlier.

Before the pandemic hit, the federal deficit was pegged about $34.4 billion.

“Some will criticize us on the cost of action,” Morneau said in the House of Commons. 

“But our government knew that the cost of inaction would’ve been far greater.

“Those who would have us do less ignore that, without government action, millions of jobs would have been lost, putting the burden of debt onto families and jeopardizing Canada’s resilience.”

Much of the higher deficit comes from higher than projected spending under Ottawa’s two key COVID-19 financial aid programs, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The snapshot shows that GDP will shrink by projected 6.8% this year — worst since the Great Depression. But the economy is expected to bounce back by 5.5% next year.

One of the reason the deficit is so much higher is the government predicting the amount of money it takes in will drop substantially.

Personal income taxes are projected to dip by 30 per cent and corporate taxes will be 11 per cent lower.

The national unemployment rate hit almost 14 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 but is expected that rate to return to levels closer to the pre-pandemic era — roughly 7 per cent — by the end of 2021.

“The reality is we’ve witnessed an unprecedented shock to our system,” Morneau told reporters.

“With a crisis of this magnitude, someone was going to have to shoulder the costs and the federal government was uniquely placed to take this responsibility on. We took on this role because it was the right thing to do.”

Tory leader Andrew Scheer called Morneau’s fiscal update a “dire picture of Canada’s finances.”

“The prime minister’s track record proves that he cannot be trusted to lead Canada through the recovery,” he said.

Scheer said Canada is the only G7 country that has had its credit rating cut during the pandemic and Canada has the highest unemployment rate among the group of developed nations.

“That should be a real wake-up call for this government.”

Canadian Taxpayers Federation Federal Director Aaron Wudrick said the news should alarm Ottawa.

“Unfortunately, Ottawa doesn’t seem to have a plan to manage this deep dive into debt. For all the specifics he provided today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau may as well have posted a picture on Instagram,” Wudrick said.

“Pandemic-related spending has caused the deficit to balloon by more than one thousand per cent in just four months. Much of this spending was intended to temporarily address the COVID-19 crisis, but these programs are extremely expensive and unsustainable. Minister Morneau needs to lay out a plan to turn off the taps, but he failed to do that.

“In particular, it is clear that the government must either end or significantly reform the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which creates a strong unintended incentive for people to stay out of the workforce. 

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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