Monthly Archives: September 2018

Justice price tag climbed as crime rate fell – National

OTTAWA – Per capita spending on criminal justice — including federal and provincial jails, court costs and policing — has climbed 23 per cent over the last decade even as the crime rate fell 23 per cent, says a new study by the Parliamentary budget office.

The report, a first-of-its kind, comprehensive look at criminal justice costs over time, put the price tag at $20.3 billion in 2011-12.

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The authors looked at direct public spending on policing, courts and corrections, including parole. They excluded costs such as victims compensation, private security and non-criminal matters such as family, environmental and competition law.

Almost $15 billion of the total last year, or 73 per cent, was carried by the provinces and municipalities.

“It is important to note that in Canada, the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction to make criminal law, unlike the United Sates where each state has this power,” the study states.

“With regards to the enforcement of criminal law, it is the responsibility of the provinces and territories.”

The Conservative government has been on a seven-year push to increase sentences and introduce new laws, citing its own internal study that claims crime costs victims $100 billion a year in Canada.

In January, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews warned a policing conference in Ottawa that rising police costs cannot be maintained.

“A decade ago, the average Canadian readily accepted, almost without question, steady increases in police budgets,” Toews told the conference in a prepared speech.

“Today, however, there are increasing calls to demonstrate the value of the investments that all governments make in public services, including policing.”

The budget office report released Wednesday shows a direct correlation between Prime Minister Stephen Harper taking office in 2006 and a jump in criminal justice spending, both in Ottawa and elsewhere.

Crime rates, meanwhile, have been on a steady decline since 2003 — a trend the office says it included in the report “for illustrative purposes only.”

“This paper is not policy advice,” the authors state.

That didn’t forestall a heated policy debate over the report in the House of Commons.

NDP justice critic Francoise Boivin said costs are “sky-rocketing” — and landing on provincial ledgers — even though the crime rate was already on the way down when the Harper government came to power.

“This report proves the Conservative crime agenda is more about photo ops and partisanship than getting results,” she charged.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson responded that his government “makes no apologies for cracking down on crime,” adding the Conservatives have introduced 30 pieces of legislation on the file since 2006.

Nicholson said the “cost of crime is borne by victims; that’s the side (New Democrats) are never on.”

Bob Rae, the Liberal interim leader, also waded in, saying in a release the report confirms “what Liberals have long suspected about this government’s so-called ‘tough on crime’ agenda: that it is, in fact, tough on taxpayers.”

The report is the last to be released under the watch of Kevin Page, Parliament’s first fiscal watchdog whose eventful five-year term ends Monday.

Provincial security and court costs, as well as federal corrections costs all climbed by more than 40 per cent between 2002 and 2012, while federal security costs rose 53 per cent, the study said.

Policing costs were “relatively flat” before beginning a steady climb in 2007, the same year corrections costs reversed course and began rising. Court costs — including judges, prosecutors, legal aid and youth justice — had been decreasing, but started up again in 2006, although they still haven’t reached 2002 levels.

Court costs shifted toward the provinces and territories and off Ottawa over the study period.

In 2002, the federal government carried 32 per cent of criminal court costs, but that had fallen to 22 per cent by 2012. The provincial share, meanwhile rose 10 points to 78 per cent.

Provincial incarceration rates were also on the rise, while federal rates actually fell, the report said.

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OMA wants action on antibiotic use in farming – National

TORONTO – The Ontario Medical Association wants the federal and provincial governments to crack down on antibiotic use in farming.

The organization is issuing a call to arms on the problem of antibiotic resistance, warning the world is in danger of losing these drugs because of misuse.

A policy paper drafted by the OMA says Ontario should ban the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in food animal production.

Farmers currently feed antibiotics to healthy animals both to prevent them from becoming ill and to accelerate growth.

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Many more tonnes of the drugs are used in agricultural operations than in human medicine and experts say the practice is fuelling development of resistance.

OMA President Dr. Doug Weir says Canada has been slower off the mark to act to protect antibiotics than countries in Europe and the United States.

For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has barred the disease prevention use of a class of antibiotics called cephalosporins in animal production, but the practice is not banned in Canada.

Weir says Canadians do not appear to understand that if antibiotic use isn’t curbed, the world faces a future in which some infections will be incurable.

“This is a serious problem. We have to take serious action,” Weir says.

The position paper suggests access to antibiotics for agricultural operations should be limited to cases where veterinarians write prescriptions for the drugs.

And both Ontario and the federal government should close legal loopholes that allow farmers to import large quantities of the drugs for use in their operations without surveillance or regulation.

On the human health side, the OMA suggests Ontario should establish an independent institution that would use the latest scientific evidence to advise doctors on when and how to best prescribe antibiotics for their patients.

The organization is also calling on the federal government to fund research and educational campaigns on the issue of antibiotic awareness.

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Who’s who: The cast of characters in the Bolshoi attack

MOSCOW – Bolshoi principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze is expected to attend the first hearing of a civil lawsuit he is bringing against the Russian theatre.

Tsiskaridze has long been highly critical of theatre management and has been seen as manoeuvring to take over the theatre himself. He is a suspect in the acid attack against the Russian theatre’s artistic director.

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  • Battle for control over Bolshoi escalates

The story of the acid attack on the Bolshoi ballet chief has plot twists and colorful characters worthy of the grand Moscow theatre.

Here is a look at the cast, which includes the Bolshoi soloist who confessed to organizing the attack, his ambitious dancer girlfriend and the ex-con accused of throwing the jarful of acid at the ballet chief on a dark winter night.

The artistic director, a boyish 42-year-old former Bolshoi dancer, suffers severe burns to his eyes and face in the Jan. 17 attack, which the theatre management links to Filin’s power to decide which dancers are awarded the prized roles. The attack exposes a culture of fierce competition and intrigue at the famed theatre, where Filin’s rivals include a veteran principal dancer and his proteges.

Sergei Filin

The artistic director, a boyish 42-year-old former Bolshoi dancer, suffers severe burns to his eyes and face in the Jan. 17 attack, which the theatre management links to Filin’s power to decide which dancers are awarded the prized roles. The attack exposes a culture of fierce competition and intrigue at the famed theatre, where Filin’s rivals include a veteran principal dancer and his proteges.

Artistic director of the Bolshoi’s ballet troup Sergei Filin attends a press conference at the university hospital in Aachen, Germany, Friday, March 15, 2013.

AP Photo

Pavel Dmitrichenko 

The 29-year-old soloist admits to organizing the attack, but tells a Moscow court he never intended for it to cause such harm to Filin. In his most famous roles the dancer plays villainous or violent men, and his new real-life role adds a creepiness factor to the photographs of him leaping across the stage with a dagger or sword in hand. Dmitrichenko says he was angry at Filin for what he describes as corruption and favouritism at the theatre, while reports have played up his relationship with a young ballerina who feels she has been unfairly passed over for starring roles.

Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko listens in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 7, 2013.

AP Photo

Anzhelina Vorontsova

The talented young ballerina is brought to Moscow in 2008 to finish her studies courtesy of Filin, who expects she will then join him at the other Moscow ballet company where he is then artistic director. Instead, she goes to the Bolshoi. The newspaper Izvestia, citing interviews with unidentified fellow dancers, reports that Vorontsova, who is Dmitrichenko’s girlfriend, asks the ballet chief in December to cast her as the lead in “Swan Lake,” but Filin turns her down, making disparaging comments about her weight and choice of teachers. Ballet critics concur on the extra pounds and note that Filin then gives the ballerina a major role in the showcase ballet “The Nutcracker.”

In this photo made Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 Bolshoi ballet dancers Nikolai Tsiskaridze, left, and Anzhelina Vorontsova talk during a rehearsal in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia.

AP Photo

Nikolai Tsiskaridze

The veteran principal dancer takes Vorontsova under his tutelage when she joins the Bolshoi and, according to the dancers cited by Izvestia, understands that Filin’s criticism of the ballerina is directed at him as her teacher. Tsiskaridze has long been highly critical of theatre management and has been seen as manoeuvring to take over the theatre himself.

In this photo made Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, Bolshoi dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze leads a rehearsal in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia.

AP Photo

Yuri Zarutsky

The thuggish ex-con with tattoos on his hands is accused of carrying out the attack. Dmitrichenko says Zarutsky offered to rough up Filin for him and he agreed, but that he did not tell him to use acid. Police say Dmitrichenko paid Zarutsky 50,000 rubles (about $1,600).

Yuri Zarutsky is escorted out of a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, March 7, 2013.

AP Photo

Andrei Lipatov  

He is accused of driving Zarutsky to and from the scene of the crime, but Lipatov insists he had no knowledge of the planned attack.

©2013The Associated Press

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Battle for control over Bolshoi escalates – National

MOSCOW – The foes make a striking contrast — a bald, stolid general director versus an extravagant dancer with an opulent mane of dark hair.

And the stakes could hardly be higher: control over the storied Bolshoi Theater in a battle that has gone into overdrive since the January acid attack on the artistic director that exposed rivalries reminiscent of the Hollywood movie “Black Swan.”

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    Russia’s Bolshoi Theater reopens after $700 million reconstruction effort

In a surprising twist, principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze may be gaining the upper hand against General Director Anatoly Iksanov, who has been in the top job for 13 years.

Both are believed to have backing from senior government officials and Kremlin-connected business tycoons eager to extend their influence over a state theatre that has been a symbol of national pride for centuries, and even features on the 100-ruble bill. The Bolshoi’s annual budget also is not too shabby: $120 million, up from $12 million only 10 years ago.

Iksanov accuses Tsiskaridze of creating an atmosphere of intrigue that set the scene for the Jan. 17 acid attack on the Bolshoi’s artistic director. Tsiskaridze rejects the claims and in turn points to the attack as evidence that the theatre has descended into crime and violence under Iksanov’s watch.

After weeks of increasingly venomous attacks from both sides, Tsiskaridze’s star was seen as rising when he grabbed a high-profile platform for his case on state-run television. The exposure came even as Tsiskaridze has endorsed the grievances of the Bolshoi dancer accused of staging the attack on artistic director Sergei Filin, and defended the dancer in public. Tsiskaridze himself has not been accused of any involvement in the attack.

On Sunday, the 39-year-old dancer appeared on a live talk show on state-controlled NTV television, a channel that the Kremlin has used to attack its opponents or those who have fallen out of favour. Dressed all in black and with an air of sad rebuke, Tsiskaridze poured scorn on Iksanov, accusing him of botching the Bolshoi’s reconstruction, ruining its repertoire and treating dancers like slaves.

Asked bluntly whether he was ready to take the general director’s job, Tsiskaridze answered with a proud: “I am absolutely ready.”

More than anything else, the NTV show signalled that Iksanov’s job could be in jeopardy. The station has often been used to broadcast documentary-style films about Kremlin foes, which often served as precursors for criminal investigations. A biting attack on the general director would not have been possible without a blessing from the top ranks of the government.

Tsiskaridze was joined on the program by an equally sharp-tongued former Bolshoi prima ballerina, who alleged that Iksanov oversaw a practice of ballerinas being used essentially as high-class prostitutes for members of the Bolshoi board and other influential people.

Some Russian media have reported that Tsiskaridze’s patrons include Sergei Chemezov, a former KGB officer close to President Vladimir Putin who now serves as the CEO of Russian Technologies, a state-controlled industrial conglomerate.

Iksanov looked tired and tense on Tuesday at a news conference called to promote a big ballet festival this spring. He said he would not comment on “the nonsense and dirt” aired on the television show and shrugged off Tsiskaridze’s ambitions.

“It’s up to him to think that he’s capable of taking charge of the Bolshoi,” said Iksanov, who has led the theatre since 2000. “I don’t think so, because beyond scandalousness and fame other qualities are needed.”

Infighting has raged at the theatre for years, but the two sides dropped all decorum after the Jan. 17 acid attack on Filin.

The barbs began to fly even faster after police arrested Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko on March 5. Facing a Moscow court, Dmitrichenko admitted that he had agreed to an offer from a thuggish acquaintance to rough up Filin, but he insisted that the man had used acid on his own initiative.

Despite Dmitrichenko’s confession, many in the ballet company have stood by him, saying they do not believe him capable of staging such a crime. About 300 dancers and staff, led by Tsiskaridze, signed an open letter claiming that Dmitrichenko had slandered himself under police pressure. Encouraged by the outpouring of sympathy, Dmitrichenko then passed a note from prison to his ballerina girlfriend saying that he had not ordered the acid attack and had been “forced to accept many things.”

Dmitrichenko has been popular with dancers for his eagerness to defy management in support of other dancers. Last week the Bolshoi’s 250 dancers elected him the head of their union, even though he remains in jail.

At the time of his arrest, Russian state television suggested that Dmitrichenko had been driven by a desire to avenge his girlfriend, 21-year-old soloist Anzhelina Vorontsova, who felt that Filin had unfairly denied her the lead in “Swan Lake.” Tsiskaridze, who coaches the ballerina, said that Filin had advised her to change teachers.

Iksanov has sought to ease tensions in the ranks, promising last week that Dmitrichenko would keep his job pending the outcome of the criminal case. The reclusive, moon-faced director has been on the defensive ever since.

In an interview with the online Snob magazine last month, Iksanov said that his foes include people in the top echelons of government and business, along with their jet-setting wives who want to turn the Bolshoi into their playground.

Iksanov’s patron, former culture minister Mikhail Shvydkoi, who is now serving as the Kremlin envoy for international cultural relations, acknowledged in an interview published last month that some of the country’s most influential people are behind Tsiskaridze, but insisted that Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were staying above the fray.

Ever since the Bolshoi reopened in 2011 after a six-year reconstruction that cost more than $1 billion, Tsiskaridze has aired accusations of mismanagement and corruption, alleging that the renovation destroyed historical interiors and replaced them with low-quality replicas. The NTV show featured photos of cheap and already crumbling interior decor to illustrate his claims.

Iksanov and his backers have dismissed the criticism, saying that the Bolshoi has been restored to all of its past glory.

Raising the heat on Iksanov, former Bolshoi prima ballerina Anastasia Volochkova alleged on the NTV show that Iksanov oversaw a practice of ballerinas being used as escorts.

“An administrator would call them to say they are going to a party and a dinner ending in bed,” she said. “When the girls asked the administrator what would happen if they refuse, the answer was: You will have problems in the Bolshoi then.”

Volochkova acknowledged that she herself enjoyed the protection of a billionaire businessman and was fired in 2003 after they separated. She described the Bolshoi as a “tangle of snakes” and a “big brothel.”

Tsiskaridze and Dmitrichenko have also criticized what they describe as Filin’s unfair distribution of pay to the Bolshoi dancers.

Valeria Uralskaya, editor of Ballet magazine, said that the huge amount of money involved has made smouldering conflicts worse.

“When money gets involved in the arts, conflicts become more likely,” she said. “A lot of commercial issues have come to be part of our lives — and in the arts, too. Twenty years ago less money went around, there were fewer foreign tours then and people would spend more time training for their parts.”

Permission for dancers to go on foreign tours has been a point of conflict and has served as an instrument of control over the troupe.

“I hear a lot about grudges about this,” said Anna Gordeyeva, a ballet critic at the Moskovskie Novosti daily. “Many dancers tell me that they cannot understand why somebody gets a leave of absence and somebody else doesn’t.”

Rivalries over top parts also have continued to fuel conflicts. “There are a lot of questions about how Filin picked the dancers he wanted to promote,” Gordeyeva said.

Filin’s assistant, Dilyara Timergazina, joined Iksanov in pointing to Tsiskaridze as “a key source of the tensions.” She said that Tsiskaridze’s students “extort parts” and “are always unhappy with everything.”

On the television show, Tsiskaridze expressed indignation over the criticism.

“For 21 years. I have honestly served not only the Bolshoi but the country’s image,” he said. “I have represented the country on the stages of all the world’s leading theatres. I don’t know why I should bear these insults.”

___

AP writers Nataliya Vasilyeva and Lynn Berry contributed to this story.

©2013The Canadian Press

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