April 09, 2016 - 8:00 PM
OTTAWA - Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
Had he lived through the past week in Canadian politics, Franklin might have had a different view.
Certainty varies among the issues that touched Canadian lives this week: climate change (inescapable), doctor-assisted death (certain only for some), and taxes (not as certain, it would seem, as Franklin had it — at least when it comes to the super-rich).
1. ASSISTED DYING
The national debate on who should be allowed to take their own lives is about to become much more complicated, with an impact that will touch every family dealing with the end of life.
On Thursday, the government will introduce its long-awaited bill on how to legalize and regulate doctor-assisted suicide. The word this past week was that the bill — in response to a Supreme Court decision telling Ottawa to legislate the practice by June — will not be as all-encompassing as a committee of parliamentarians had recommended.
Competent adults who are suffering will have the right to medically assisted death, as per the Supreme Court ruling. But mature minors — teenagers who are almost 18 — will not, at least not right away. Similarly, those with dementia likely won't be able to request an assisted death through an advance directive.
The bill is also expected to be cautious in how it allows assisted dying for those with psychological — rather than physical — conditions.
If the parliamentary committee is to be believed, though, those groups of people will probably, eventually, win the right to die — but not without yet another court fight. Complete clarity is still years away.
Just as Canadians scrounge through their desk drawers to find tax receipts and T4 slips to file their annual returns, the so-called Panama Papers revealed this week that there is a slew of rich and powerful people around the world with discreet arrangements to hide their income offshore.
While no one is really surprised that the super-wealthy do what they can to avoid taxes, the papers are proof that the practice is global and widespread — irking the public's sense of justice and equity that Canada's tax system depends on to work. People won't pay their taxes if they believe others are gaming the system.
That's partly why the Canada Revenue Agency was quick to say officials would take immediate action to track down any Canadian details included in the Panama Papers, and beef up its own surveillance. So far, we only know that about 350 Canadian interests are mentioned in the leaked documents.
There is no indication anyone is breaking the law. But suspicions about Canadian financial flows are in top flight right now, not just because we're in the midst of filing our 2015 taxes and disturbed by the Panama Papers. On Tuesday, Canada's financial intelligence agency announced that it had fined a Canadian bank more than $1 million for failing to report suspicious dealings and transfers — but refused to say which bank had been fined.
3. CLIMATE CHANGE
Two things became clear on climate change this week: there is a growing consensus that the provinces will need to put a price on carbon in order to cut emissions and help Canada do its part to keep climate change under control. But beyond that concept, there is some disorder among the provinces about how real change will come about.
On Monday, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall won another four years in office. The day after the election, he opened the door a crack to carbon pricing, suggesting one day he would consider it. At the same time, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said twice in recent days that she wouldn't push so hard on climate change as to put national unity at risk.
On Thursday, Alberta's NDP Premier Rachel Notley came out swinging, demanding that a pipeline deliver her province's oil products to tidewater — anathema to efforts to reduce emissions, according to environmentalists and many in the federal NDP.
At the same time, federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is fighting for his political life at a leadership vote taking place Sunday in what may as well be Notley's backyard. Activists within the NDP are hoping to pull the party left, and want a strident stand against pipelines and oilsands production, along with a full embrace of emissions reduction strategies.
Meanwhile, the Ontario government reported this past week that the world's southernmost population of polar bears has lost huge amounts of body weight because of shrinking sea ice. The certainty of climate change persists.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016