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by Archives September 29, 2009

City in Brief

Water meter-gate

Only days into his re-election campaign, Mayor Gerald Trembaly cancelled a scandal-ridden contract worth over $355 million – the biggest ever awarded in Montreal – on the advice of the city’s auditor general. The contract for water metres was awarded to a private consortium in 2007, following a bidding process the auditor general deemed incomplete and irregular. The results sparked a conflict-of-interest debate last spring. Beyond a recommendation that the Mayor cancel the contract, the auditor general’s report also suggested the city overhaul its approach to awarding contracts. Two municipal bureaucrats were fired last week in connection with the contract.

Taxi trouble

A Montreal cab driver will be in court this week because he said demands to have him remove personal and religious paraphernalia from his dashboard are an infringement on his human rights. Arieh Perecowicz has received six tickets amounting to $1,400 for failing to remove family photos, small Canadian and Israeli flags, and a poppy pin from his dashboard. He also has two mezuzahs (little prayer scrolls typically affixed to the entrance of a Jewish home) on the inside of his car, between the front and back doors. The tickets were issued by Montreal’s taxi agency, le Bureau du taxi. The agency has a bylaw stating objects that aren’t necessary for the cab to be in service should never be left in the car.

Virgin’s reconstruction

Virgin Mary and baby Jesus ascended from downtown Montreal last week. The 17-foot statue that sat atop Dawson, the downtown CEGEP, was removed for repairs. A few weeks ago a crack running all the way from Mary’s head to her toes was discovered; the crack also runs through one of baby Jesus’ feet. Cranes were used to lift Mary off the top of the building and lay her on a flatbed truck. In 1946, 22 years before Dawson inherited the building from the Congregation Notre Dame, Mary was beheaded by lightning. A lightning rod was placed in her head following the incident. There is no set date to when the Madonna and Child will be back up on their perch. The cracks were discovered when one of Dawson’s physical education instructors was scaling the dome during “routine” light bulb maintenance.

Hike those rates

A proposal to start charging tuition at CEGEPs was one of the items approved at the provincial Liberals’ general meeting last weekend. The party delegates also agreed that electricity rates should be increased to market value. The proposals were presented by Finance Minister Raymond Banchard as ways for Quebec to reach its goal of balanced budget by 2013-2014. The delegates also approved proposals that would see Quebecers paying a higher excise tax on alcohol, junk food and energy drinks, and paying highway tolls. An excise tax is built into the price of domestically produced goods. The province is expecting a $3.9 billion deficit in 2009.

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Nation in Brief

Money or sex

A lusty female voice promising “tantalizing fun” greeted Maritime lobster fishermen who called a hotline looking for information on a financial aid package. Fisheries Minister Gail Shea released five telephone hotline numbers for fishermen in the Maritimes and in Quebec. One of the phone numbers linked to a sex line, instead of offering information on the short-term stimulus package announced this summer. A spokesperson for the ministry said two digits in the phone number were transcribed incorrectly. The government fixed the mistake shortly after it was brought to their attention. Still, the Liberals criticized the mix-up, calling it another example of “Conservative government incompetence.”

Bye bye 99

National Hockey League great Wayne Gretzky announced his resignation as coach with the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes last Thursday. “Since both remaining bidders have made it clear that I don’t fit into their future plans, I approached general manager Don Maloney and suggested he begin looking for someone to replace me as coach,” The Great One said on his website. He would have earned $8.5 million US this year. Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie has offered $242.5 million for the Coyotes on the condition he can bring the team to Hamilton; the NHL has offered $140 million. Before heading into what would have been his fifth season behind the bench, Gretzky was advised by his lawyer to step aside as the future of the franchise continues to be dealt with in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Arizona.

Canada hosts

Canada will host the G20 summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in Pittsburgh Friday. The summit will be co-chaired with the Republic of South Korea. It was also announced that the G20 will take over from the G8 as the board for global economic issues. Eight major countries (Canada, U.S., Germany, Japan, France, U.K., Russia and Italy) have governed global economic decisions for over thirty years. With the shift over to the G20, major emerging economies, like China, will also be included in the decision making.

Hazing boom

Carleton University’s womens soccer team is back in action following the two-game suspension it received for hazing incidents. The university investigated the team’s rookie hazing, said to have taken place on Sept. 13, and found it involved serious alcohol abuse. The hazing allegedly left one team member so inebriated, she had to go to the hospital. According to reports, the girls spent the time that they would have been on the field volunteering at a soup kitchen instead. Carleton officials said hazing will not be tolerated, and any infringements will be severely punished. The soccer team will play the rest of its season. Earlier this month, 16 boys and nine girls were suspended from a public high school in Winnipeg, and five teenagers in Lethbridge, Alta. were charged for hazing younger students.

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World in Brief

Hitler lives

DNA tests have created speculation around the story of Adolf Hitler’s death. The Nazi leader was said to have shot himself in the head while in a bunker, after taking a cyanide tablet as the Russians attacked Berlin in 1945. History books say his remains were burned along with those of his wife Eva Braun, who had also poisoned herself. Russians were said to have dug up his remains and skull fragments a year later. In 1970, the KGB cremated his remains, but saved pieces of his skull and part of his jawbone. An American archaeologist who inspected the skull fragments said the bone is too thin to be that of a man; DNA tests confirmed the bone did not belong to Hitler, according to The Sun

All the money

A man, fed up with the service he was getting from Bank of America, is suing the institution for $1,784 billion trillion, according to Reuters. To get an idea of what a thousand billion trillion looks like on paper, picture a one with 22 zeros following it. To get an idea of how much money that is, it is way more than the 2008 gross domestic product of the entire world, which was a mere $60 trillion. Dalton Chiscolm decided to sue the bank after he was unimpressed with conflicting and inconsistent information he received from a “Spanish woman” when he called Bank of America headquarters in New York. Chiscolm is seeking another $200,164,000 in miscellaneous fees.

Girls are perks

Busty female students are a perk of the job, the vice-chancellor of a British university wrote in an article. While Terence Kealey has defended his article as being tongue-in-cheek, the student union at University of Buckingham has raised a fuss about it. In the article, he says professors should admire the curves of female students who flaunt them. “Most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do? Enjoy her! She’s a perk,” Kealy’s piece was quoted as saying in the Telegraph. The piece appeared in a Times Higher Education Magazine article entitled “The seven deadly sins of the academy.” Kealey wrote the section on “Lust.”

$ = happiness

A survey found the happiest people in the United States are business owners. The next happiest groups included professionals and managers/executives, according to the Gallup survey. People categorized as happiest also, coincidentally, make a lot of money; the three types of workers who consider themselves the happiest also have the highest household incomes, according to Gallup. Workers in the manufacturing sector considered themselves to be the least happy. Gallup telephoned over 100,000 American adults for this survey.

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