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Will students pay more for economics than English? University to find out

Simona Chiose

Are students willing to pay more for a degree in economics than in English? The University of Alberta could soon bet on the answer, part of a move by universities in the province to pass more of the costs of postsecondary education to students.

The plan, currently making its way through the university’s administration, would see fees rise by $150 an economics course for domestic students and $554 for international students. Professional programs at many Canadian universities charge higher fees already – the proposal extends differentiated tuition to an undergraduate major. Jobs for economics graduates in Alberta take months to fill and have starting salaries of over $90,000, said Lesley Cormack, the university’s dean of arts. Demand for spots has exploded and the department can’t keep up: economics professors command 35 to 40 per cent more than those in humanities and other social sciences.

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Failure to address mission creep fears could cost Harper in the future


Stephen Harper will have to decide how far he can wade into battle at a time when the public does not want to give him too much latitude.

He will have to reveal within days whether he’ll send Canadian fighters to join air strikes against Islamic State, or take up some other direct role in the fighting.

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Better health coverage needed for temporary foreign workers

André Picard

It’s apple-picking time so, the next time you savour the crunchy goodness of an apple or the sweet delight of mom’s apple pie, spare a thought for those who harvest our fruits and vegetables, many of them migrant farm workers from Latin America and the Caribbean.

There are about 40,000 migrant farm workers employed across the country each year under the seasonal agricultural workers program. (They are just a fraction of the 340,000 who come to Canada under the temporary foreign worker program, which has drawn a lot of fire recently.)

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Harper's rare advice for Republicans, conservative parties


Stephen Harper is famously scripted. News conferences are rare and tightly controlled. His answers in Question Period are deliberately repetitive and often aimed at not saying anything interesting at all.

While columnists and “Conservative insiders” regularly opine on the Prime Minister’s political strategy, the Prime Minister himself avoids the kind of punditry that he once performed on television before becoming a party leader.

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How Christy Clark has opened her door to labour leaders

Justine Hunter

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has long been cast as an enemy of organized labour. Her B.C. Liberal government has a history of contract-stripping and tough budget cuts that shrank the size of government. She was the minister of education who, 12 years ago, triggered a war with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation over class size and classroom support for special needs.

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Advocates demand more transparency from oil sands, environmental groups

Shawn McCarthy

When it comes to reporting on influence in politics, an old adage is ever apt: follow the money.

A recently formed group, Canadians for Responsible Advocacy, is attempting to do just that. But after trying to determine who is financing lobbyists on energy and the environment, the group is demanding greater transparency so it is clear exactly whose interests are being promoted.

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Harper wants to talk security, not climate. Here’s why

Campbell Clark

It’s foreign-policy week for Stephen Harper, and not all international issues are equal.

Trade and international security are what he wants to talk about. Climate change is on a list of things he doesn’t have much time for. The foreign issues themselves don’t change many votes, but what he really wants is to look like a world leader. Some issues make a better backdrop than others.

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The secret meeting that broke the B.C. teachers’ impasse


Premier Christy Clark and her chief of staff quietly slipped into the Vancouver Delta Suites hotel last Friday for a meeting that would turn the tide in the provincewide teachers’ strike – a dispute that had already cost students four weeks of schooling with no end in sight.

Ms. Clark and Dan Doyle were there to meet, discreetly, with Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF). The union and the government were publicly at war and this pivotal meeting would be kept secret until the dispute was resolved. It was only after the ballots were counted on Thursday night and teachers accepted a tentative agreement that both sides agreed in interviews with The Globe and Mail to reveal how the impasse was broken.

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Scotland’s No removes potent example of how secession could work


There was muted relief in Ottawa that Scotland voted No to independence, and a sense of quiet satisfaction from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. But federalist politicians dodged a bigger bullet than they realize.

Just as many Canadians seem to be embracing the idea that Quebec’s sovereignty movement is in near-terminal decline, a Yes vote would have given it a touch of timely inspiration and a practical example in breaking up a country. Perhaps it’s worth learning from what didn’t happen.

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The inside track on five Ontario PC leadership contenders

Adrian Morrow

The Ontario Progressive Conservative executive decided Sunday that members will vote for a new leader May 3 and 7, 2015 in a preferential ballot, with the results announced May 9 at a convention-style event. With the leadership rules now hammered out, a parade of contenders are expected to enter the race.

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Five ways Canada can fix its end-of-life care

André Picard

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” Benjamin Franklin famously wrote.

How we die, however, is rife with uncertainty.

Patients and their families, by and large, are afforded too little choice, too little respect, and too little dignity in their final weeks, days and hours.

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Mulcair’s first order of business is to shore up his credentials on the left


The NDP are pulling off a few political tricks these days, all in an effort to shore up their rear flank.

Thomas Mulcair’s party has often looked sadly ignored in recent months, left out of the limelight while the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau gets all the buzz. But recently the New Democrats managed to shake that cycle a little.

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Government ad buys during NHL playoffs spiked in 2013


An ad campaign for a program that did not yet exist contributed to a major spike in federal government advertising during the NHL playoffs last year.

New information tabled in Parliament this week shows the placement of taxpayer-funded ads on television during the 2013 playoffs was up significantly, with 226 spots running at some point during the playoffs. Of those, 125 ads were part of a controversial ad campaign for the Canada Job Grant, a policy that had been announced in the budget earlier that year.

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Harper thinks the 2015 election will be all about him – he’s right


He talked about Islamic State in Iraq, Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine, crime in Canada, and tax cuts on the way. But Stephen Harper had one main message: I’m the prime minister. Accept no substitute.

The issues themselves were mustered to highlight his experience as a leader, and the portrait of a dangerous and risky world was designed to tell you why you need it. It’s a tune that’s worked twice, in 2008 and 2011, and now, behind Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in the polls, he’s turning it up louder.

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Why this Parliament is all about the next election


When Justin Trudeau got onstage in Markham Friday night and told his audience of Ontario Liberals that someone had asked him if the election campaign had already begun, they all laughed. “I think you know the answer,” he said.

It’s obvious to the parties. The election year – Canada’s first, made inevitable by the fixed election date law that sets an October, 2015, vote – is here.

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NDP hires new digital director, firm who worked for Obama

Josh Wingrove

Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats are taking a page from Barack Obama’s playbook in a bid to close the fundraising gap with the Conservatives and Liberals, ramping up their digital fundraising push as Canada’s political parties face the end of taxpayer subsidies.

This year, the NDP hired Blue State Digital – a firm with ties to Obama campaigns – and its own in-house digital director to boost the party’s online fundraising and outreach. The moves come as the NDP trails its two main rivals in total fundraising, but also as digital campaigns carve out a bigger share of party efforts.

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Health administration is costlier than we think – but not as bad as U.S.

André Picard

For a country that has so much invested in medicare – financially, politically and emotionally – we have shockingly little idea of how much it costs to administer our universal healthcare system.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information publishes an annual report on health spending – which was $211-billion last year, or $5,988 per capita – but the data on administrative costs is thin as a whisper.

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Harper is no big defence spender, and he’s learned that’s OK


When it comes to defence spending, the old Stephen Harper wouldn’t recognize the new one. The new one looks at lot more like Jean Chrétien.

Mr. Harper came to office believing that bigger defence spending paid off in terms of influence, particularly in that most important capital, Washington. But he’s since decided that the results are not worth the extra billions.

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Canada is ‘willing to act’ against ISIS, but what that means is unclear


Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signalled Canada is willing to take part in military action against ISIS in Iraq if major allies mount a coalition to strike at the extremist group.

Though Western countries have been slow to muster concerted efforts to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the United States has challenged allies to form a global coalition – and the Canadian government is now asserting it will do more.

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NDP hopes of Prairie breakthrough dimming: polls

Éric Grenier

New electoral boundaries in Saskatchewan will heighten the competition between the Conservatives and New Democrats in the next election. But can the NDP make the most of this opportunity for a Prairie breakthrough?

The Prairies, and in particular Saskatchewan, are the ancestral home of the New Democrats. Tommy Douglas, the party’s first leader, was a long-time premier for the province. But the area has not returned many NDP MPs to Ottawa over the last few elections: four in 2004, three in 2006, four in 2008, and just two in 2011. All of them were from Manitoba.

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