November 26, 2007

Former Sask ministers take on critic duties as NDP moves to Opposition
Former finance minister Pat Atkinson is taking on a new role as the New Democrats move to the Opposition side of the Saskatchewan legislature. Atkinson has been named the NDP's deputy leader and will assume critic duties for agriculture, co-operative development and immigration.

Businessman into total philanthropy
Travel company operator Hal Taussig buys his clothes from thrift shops, resoles his shoes and reads magazines for free at the public library. The 83-year-old founder of Untours also gives away all of his company's profits to help the poor -- more than $5 million since 1999. He is content to live on Social Security. Taussig takes a salary of $6,000 a year from his firm, but doesn't keep it. It goes to a foundation that channels his company's profits to worthy causes in the form of low-interest loans. (About seven years ago, the IRS forced him to take a paycheck, he said, because they thought he was trying to avoid paying taxes by working for free.) If he has money left at the end of the month in his personal bank account, he donates it.

Native business network gets help
More than 60 residents of the Big River First Nation are hoping that spring 2008 brings new economic opportunities. The group hopes to have its artisan co-operative incorporated as a business by the end of March, a move that will increase both economic activity and cultural works in the community, said Marie Prebushewski, western Saskatchewan network developer with the Aboriginal Business Service Network (ABSN). A one-time funding commitment of $168,300 from Western Economic Diversification Canada toward the ABSN, announced Friday, will help the network continue to bring business information and planning resources to First Nations and Metis communities across Saskatchewan, she said. When communities such as Big River turn ABSN lessons into real business, the whole community benefits, Prebushewski added.

Canada's housing shortage most prevalent in North: report
Canada's housing shortage is felt most by people in the northern territories, according to a report released in Ottawa Wednesday. The report, prepared by housing market analysts Will Dunning Inc. for the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, used data from the 2001 census to look at the number of people in need of acceptable "core" housing — that is, housing that is affordable and in adequate condition, and that has enough space to accommodate its residents. About 1.5 million Canadian households, or about 14 per cent, reported a "core housing need," according to the report. About 11 per cent of individual Canadians said they were in households with a housing need, the report found.

Aid programs miss their best targets: Increasing move to privatization misses those who need help most
Like colleague Jody Paterson, I'm having trouble getting my mind around the idea that a U.S.-owned corporation is now responsible for helping welfare clients find jobs. So are a number of smaller non-profit job placement agencies, who are worried about being left even further out in the cold than they already are. At the same time the B.C. firm that pioneered the privatization model sold out to a U.S. giant, the federal government is handing over responsibility for all its employment and training programs to the provinces. In B.C., that has the potential of creating a windfall for private companies that have created a lucrative industry over the past 10 years in moving people from welfare to work.