Current Events - Demo

The following is a sampling of questions from our Current Events (1994 - 1995) testbank.

English-French Relations Demo

Sample of Portion of Copy

The last edition of Current Events examined the Quebec election and the likelihood of a referendum being held in Quebec. The last edition speculated how Parizeau would address the referendum issue. Since that edition, Quebec's Premier Jacques Parizeau has indicated the form that that referendum and referendum will take. This edition of the Referendum will examine the proposal as well as an analysis of how the sovereigntists and federalists will likely approach the upcoming referendum.

While Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau and his Parti Quebecois government have decided to pose a sovereignty question in a referendum, they have attempted to improve upon the chances of that referendum question succeeding by setting the question within a given context. The referendum bill will asking the independence question in an indirect manner. Parizeau made his announcement in a public address to the citizens of Quebec on December 6, 1994. Parizeau proposed having the provincial government pass an act proclaiming the independence of the province first. This bill would include a description of the relationship Quebec would maintain with Canada. A referendum would then be held asking the citizens of Quebec if they supported the independence bill. The specific referendum question, which Parizeau table in the Quebec Legislative Assembly, will read as follows: "Are you in favour of the act passed by the national assembly declaring the sovereignty of Quebec? Yes or No."

The draft bill or "independence bill" assumes "sovereignty association", a term detailed in the last edition of Current Events. Sovereignty Association assumes political independence for Quebec while still maintaining economic and defence ties with Canada. The bill assumes that Quebec and Canada will negotiate a division of federal and/or common assets as well as the division of the common debt.

The "draft bill" includes the following elements:

  1. A constitution will be developed for a sovereign Quebec which will include a charter of rights and guarantees for both English and Aboriginal Quebecois. Native Canadians will be allowed the right to "native self-government".
  2. Quebec will apply for admission to international agencies like the United Nations and La Francophonie on their own.
  3. Quebec will continue using Canadian currency.
  4. Quebec will continue as a member of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
  5. the Canadian Criminal Code will serve as the basis of the Quebec judicial system.
  6. Quebec will maintain its current border with Quebecois and Canadians being able to move across a free border without passports. The draft legislation proposes that Quebecers be able to maintain their Canadian citizenship.

Parizeau also outlined the manner in which the PQ would approach the referendum. Parizeau laid out the following process:

  1. First the government would prepare a draft bill which details what form sovereignty will take. Parizeau indicated that a copy would be sent to each household in the province.
  2. The government would then hold public forums to allow Quebecers/Quebecois to react to the draft bill. Quebecers will also be able to indicate how they define sovereignty. The draft bill does not provide a definition for sovereignty in its preamble, but rather a blank is left to be filled in after the public consultations. The proposal is that Quebecers can determine what form sovereignty will take at these public forums.
  3. Introduce and pass the bill in the Quebec Provincial Legislature.
  4. Hold a referendum asking Quebecers the referendum question.
  5. Negotiate with Canada the issue related to Quebec's withdrawal from Canada. The draft bill allows for one yearıs negotiation with Canada, after which time Quebec would declare its independence.
  6. Formally declare Quebec's independence from Canada.

Student Exercise # 1

  1. What is meant by the reference to the referendum question being asked in "an indirect manner"? Why do you think Parizeau did this?
  2. What are the key elements of the draft bill? Are there any portions of the draft bill which you disagree with? Why?
  3. What does Jacques Parizeau assume about the Canadian reaction to Quebec's secession from Canada in his draft bill?
  4. What process has Parizeau laid out for Quebec's secession from Canada? Do you think that the process is appropriate? Why or why not?
  5. Why do you think that Parizeau left the definition of sovereignty to be worked out at the public consultation meeting?

World Crisis Teaching Unit Demo

Portion of Article on Bosnia

The Hostage Crisis In Bihac

The hostage crisis began in late November, 1994 when Serbian gunmen violated the 83 square kilometer "safe zone" created in Bosnia, near the town of Bihac. The "safe zone" was created by U.N. forces in the region as part of their attempt to restore peace between the Serbs and Bosnians in their two and a half year civil war. In this war the Serbs have been fighting to take back control of Bosnia in a hope of restoring Bosnia back into the former united state of Yugoslavia under Serb rule. The Bosnians, on the other hand, have been struggling to maintain their territorial sovereignty against Serb attack. It was the Bosnia and Croatian declaration of independence, which broke up the former state of Yugoslavia, which precipitated this terrifying civil war almost three years ago. This vicious war has including "ethnic cleansing" and the destruction of much of what was previously the united state of Yugoslavia.

The root cause of this war in the former Yugoslavia was described by Calgary Herald writer, Catherine Ford as follows:

"We will probably --- eventually --- ignore Bosnia, and its atrocities, committed in the name of nationalism and self-determination. These are the words used to justify aggression and fury and death.

There are different words for what has been happening for nearly three years of conflict: territorial imperative, ethnic purity, xenophobia, tribal terror and just plain old religious hatred. But we are leery of telling the truth, of saying that conflict is not about any high principles, but is a dirty, nasty civil war of pure ethnic hatred. We aren't supposed to say that religion and race and colour are still matters to be settled by death."

The immediate cause or spark to the war in Bosnia started in April, 1992 when Serbs living in Bosnia rebelled against a vote by the majority Muslim Bosnians in Bosnia and Croatia who decided to break away from Yugoslavia, a nation dominated by its Serb majority. The Bosnian and Croatian populations broke away to free themselves from Serb domination, hoping to achieve cultural self-determination. The long standing ethnic divisions and hatred, described in the quotation above, have led to more than 200,000 people reported dead or missing since the start of the conflict.

The current crisis in Bosnia began when Serb forces violating the U.N. protected "safe zone" around Bihac. As Serb gunmen violated this region, it appeared that the Bosnians would lose their battle to maintain their sovereignty, with U.N. peacekeepers on the ground being unable to intervene to prevent against the Serb violation of the region. Indeed, the Serb attack of Bihac highlighted the inability of U.N. ground forces to prevent against aggression. In order to assist the Bosnian government against the Serb attack, and to bolster the U.N's position, NATO forces carried out air attacks against the attacking Serb forces. In retaliation, on November 23, 1994, the Bosnian Serbs took over 400 U.N. peacekeepers hostage, including 55 Canadians. The purpose of the hostage taking was to pressure NATO to stop their air attacks. The Serb strategy proved to be successful as NATO air strikes stopped with the taking of the hostages. In conjunction with the hostage taking, Serb forces hit U.N. compounds in Visoko with rocket fire attacks. Visoko is situated kilometers from Sarajevo, the former capital city of Yugoslavia. Canadian soldiers had their compound in Visoko pounded with at least two rounds of rocket fire; fortunately no casualties occurred.

During the hostage period, all reports pointed to the hostages being well treated. Indeed, most hostages upon release indicated that the primary difficulty they encountered during this period was fighting boredom. U.N. forces were able to send in supplies to those held captive during this period. Nonetheless, at least one hostage, a peacekeeper from Bangladesh, died of a heart attack as he was not allowed to leave the compound where he was held.

During the hostage period, facing a barrage of pleas for the hostage's release, the Bosnian Serbs indicated that they would release hostages only if replacement hostages were provided.

This position changed and the hostage taking episode saw its first sign of resolution on December 4, 1994 when the Bosnian Serbs released seven Ukrainian hostages and released another 53 Dutch hostages the next day. After the release of these hostages, however, the Serbs again returned to their position that hostages would only be released if replacement hostages were provided. This position was transmitted to Canada, regarding the release of the 55 Canadian hostages on December 7, 1994. This position was taken by the Bosnian Serbs, despite previously having agreed to return the Canadians unconditionally. The Serbs took the position that they required hostages to prevent against NATO air strikes against them.

During this period, the NATO states continually put pressure on Serbian leader Slobodan Miliosevic to persuade Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to return to the negotiating table. This demonstrates the complexity of the situation in the former Yugoslavia. Even Serb leaders, representing different constituents in different regions of the former Yugoslav state, can't agree on a course of action. While Miliosevic felt that it was time for peace talks, Karadzic felt that Serb gains in Bosnia had to be reinforced. During this period, it was intimated by NATO and UN members that the 23,000 peacekeepers in the area might be evacuated if the two sides didn't return to the bargaining table in hope of bringing peace to Bosnia. The reaction to the hostage taking, and the debate as to wether Western peacekeepers should remain in Bosnia, will be discussed later in the article.

Eventually, the dialogue between the Serbian leaders, coupled with threat of U.N. peacekeepers leaving the area led to the release of the hostages on December 8, 1994. This was after two weeks of detention for the hostages. Besides releasing the hostages, the Serbs agreed to allow U.N. convoys to bring supplies into the town of Bihac once again. Prior to and during the hostage taking, the Bosnian Serbs had cut off the roadways into "safe zone" of Bihac. The hostages were released without a formal agreement being reached. No assurances were given that hostages wouldn't be taken in the future.

It should also be pointed out that fighting continued between Serb and Bosnian forces in the area around Bihac both during and after the release of the hostages.

Student Exercise # 1

  1. What is the conflict between the Serb and Muslim citizens of Bosnia? What is the goal of each group?
  2. What role has the United Nations attempted to play in Bosnia?
  3. The article talks about "ethnic cleansing", "ethnic purity" and "xenophobia". What do you think the first two terms refer to? Use a dictionary to define the third term. Provide evidence to detail the extent to which these activities have taken place in the former Yugoslavia.
  4. What was the long term cause of the conflict in Bosnia? What was the immediate cause of the conflict?
  5. Why did the Bosnian Serbs take members of the U.N. peacekeeping force hostage?
  6. Who is Radovan Karadzic? Who is Slobodan Miliosevic? What is their relationship? What does this relationship indicate about politics in the former Yugoslavia?
  7. What forces brought the hostage taking to its conclusion? Why did this hostage taking likely establish a dangerous precedent?

The New Political Right Demo

Sample of Article on the "Klein Revolution"

Philosophic Bend of the Alberta Revolution

The primary objective of the Alberta Conservatives, according to their stated platform, is the need for Alberta to cut its deficit. The government has proposed reducing the deficit through siginificant cuts to social programs. In a televised address to the public outlining introduced this policy Klein made the analogy of Alberta being like a family spending beyond their means by living on credit. He extended this analogy of Alberta, by paralleling the Alberta economy to an indebted family having to curb their spending before they faced the "debt wall". Klein and his cabinet colleagues, especially Provincial Treasurer Jim Dinning have continually pointed to Alberta having "a spending problem, not a revenue problem". This rhetoric coincided with their policy of introducing massive spending cuts to the human resource departments, while hoping to stay in the public's favour by promising not to introduce any tax increases.

What is the size of the "debt wall" which the Klein Tories feel they have to attack so aggressively? The accumulated Alberta debt as of March 31, 1994, was estimated to be $31.7 billion. To insure that this administration, as well as future governments bring down this debt, the Alberta Tories have passed the Balanced Budget and Debt Retirement Act which proposes retiring the debt in 25 years, by the year 2021-22. This bill also states that future Alberta governments will not allow this debt to increase by legislating that only balanced budgets will be allowed by statute starting in 1996/97. How will the government bring in their balanced budgets?

This movement towards balanced budgets began in 1993 when Treasurer Jim Dinning and Premier Klein indicated that they hoped to achieve a balanced budget within three years. They actually accomplished this goal in a single fiscal year by severely cutting the human service areas of their budget coupled with increased oil and gas revenues. The government actually had a $110 million surplus for the 1994-95 fiscal year, ending April 1, 1995. In order to insure that Albertans didn't derail the Tory plan to continue cutting social spending despite the fact that a balanced budget was already achieved, Dinning supported staying the original course through two arguments. First he emphasized that the cuts had to continue given the volatility of oil prices, in short Albertans had to be prepared for a potential drop in oil prices. Second he shifted his focus to paying down the accumulated debt rather than simply eliminating the deficit. Interesting, however, was an announcement that the upcoming 1995/96 year would yield a deficit of $506 million, a figure most economic observers see as being most unlikely given Dinning's projection being based upon lower than expected oil prices. In bringing down this budget, Dinning announced that it would be the last deficit allowed in the province, although, again, most observers believe that a balanced budget is actually the final outcome for the 1995/96 fiscal year. Dinning conservatively created a "revenue cushion" by setting aside $391 million to offset potential cuts in oil and gas revenue. This despite the fact that most economic forecasters see the price set for oil in his projections as already being conservatively lower than expected. Oil was projected to be $18 U.S. a barrel in Dinning's budget despite the current price being higher than that amount. Likewise energy royalty prices were set lower than expected, being pegged at $95 million lower than the previous year. Also, economic growth was projected to be just 2.7% despite the fact that it was 4.5 % the previous year.

It would seem that Dinning is intentionally underestimating revenues to insure that Albertans don't demand restored funding to education, health care and social services, or don't demand that cuts be spread over a greater number of years given the improved health of the Alberta budget. Given the balanced budget already being achieved, Albertans might be concerned with the ongoing cuts in human resource areas, the 1995/96 budget proposed a further cut of $276 million in health care spending as part of a total cut of $478 million in government spending this fiscal year. The majority of cuts would continue, as was the case the year previous, in health care, education and social services. And the cuts don't stop there. The government's long range business plan proposes further cuts of $354 million in the 1996/97 fiscal year.

An Edmonton Journal editorial on February 22, 1995, the day following the budget being brought down, made the following observation:

"From a political perspective, the debt and deficit 'crisis' must continue. The aura of hard times must be maintained, if the Klein revolution is to continue.

To admit to a balanced budget now would undermine Klein's efforts to fundamentally reshape government. It would be an admission that the last two years of deep cuts and wrenching change could have been avoided. That the chaos in health care, and the profound shock of layoffs in the Edmonton economy, really wasn't necessary after all."

The Alberta Tories have argued that cuts couldn't be gradually introduced over a longer time span as their critics have advocated. The Tories proudly announced that change had to be radical and quick to insure that the momentum of deficit cutting wasn't lost. Citing the Roger Douglas model from New Zealand, the Alberta Tories stated that true change would occur only if it was significant in scope and accomplished rapidly. Underlying Douglas's philosophy, as detailed in his book, was the idea that government had to overwhelm people with change before any united opposition to these ideological changes could coalesce and organize. Treasurer Jim Dinning made this clear when he asked Ottawa to follow the same course of rapid budget cutting as Alberta has. Dinning's comments were:

"The go-slow, no-pain option simply will not work. Canadians know it. And if Ottawa is listening, they know it too."

Another reason for underestimating revenues is to be able to present surpluses as an election draws nearer. As Opposition Leader Grant Mitchell observed, "(Dinning intentionally) delaying the balanced budget so by the end of the next year they can say, 'look we have come in with a balanced budget.' ".

This dovetails with the New Zealand approach where Roger Douglas proposes never wavering from the ideological move to the right. In his book, "Unfinished Business", former New Zealand Prime Minister, Sir Roger Douglas had the following to say:

"The battle of consistency and credibility is always ongoing and never finally won. If confidence starts to waver, push the reform program forward the next big step, and do it quickly."

The current Alberta ideological platform borrows heavily from the political right of the U.S. under Ronald Reagan and the U.K.'s Margaret Thatcher in the 1980's as well as the current Republican platform in the United States. Indeed, when Barron magazine in the U.S. compared Klein to current Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, Klein was flattered by the comparison and quipped that perhaps he might be called "Newt North". One has to wonder if Albertans would see Gingrich's policies, the policies of the "new right" being appropriate for their province. Readers who wish to know more about Newt Gingrich's policies should look at the article, "The New U.S. Right" included in this edition of the "Current Events".

The Conservative platform is based on "supply side" or "trickle down" economics. Like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher before them, the Tories believe that if one lets the wealthy keep their profits they will reinvest and spark economic growth for the public at large. This is why the Alberta government is committed to keeping corporate taxes low, it is often cited how Alberta has the lowest tax levels in Canada, if not North America. This sentiment was expressed by Alberta Treasurer, Jim Dinning when he told his counterparts from the other provinces, and the federal Finance Minister, that they should commit themselves to reducing expenditures through social cuts, and not cut deficits through taxation reform which would increase corporate taxation. Dinning's comments included the following:

"A government that is anti-wealth and unfriendly to wealth creation is a government which is out of touch with the times. To think you can somehow milk the rich and solve the problem is bonkers.

If you have individuals who lose confidence in their ability to create wealth in this country, and they have a fear that some greedy guy is going to come along and take it all away, why would they go to all the sweat, blood and tears to do that?".

Spring '95 Topics

Hiroshima Bombing Anniversary

Arguments Against the Bombing

The primary argument against the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was that the Americans and the Allied forces would have won the war eventually using conventional means. It was argued that this made the killing of civilian populations, by dropping the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, unjustifiable. Many critics who hold this point of view believe that the dropping of the atomic bombs was an immoral act given the American capacity to win the war without using these weapons. It was argued that killing women and children, rather than hitting military installations was an unconscionable act.

It should be pointed out, however, that air strikes on civilian populations during World War II were common. Germany and Britain had dropped bombs over civilian sites throughout the war. This, however, is countered by those who opposed the bombing of Japan, by pointing out that the bombs dropped in the European arena were conventional weapons, which were nowhere as lethal as the atomic bombs tested on the Japanese cities. Indeed, the two "A-bombs" dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in more civilian deaths than all of the bombs dropped by Germany on British cities during the Battle of Britain. The Battle of Britain for wagered for a full year.

Some critics point to the fact that the traditional bombing of Japanese cities would have been sufficient to bring about an end to war. They state that there was no need to unleash the atomic weapon on the Japanese population. Conventional bombing would have killed fewer civilians and would have achieved victory for the Americans. Indeed, Japan's Prince Konoye seemed to affirm this position, speaking after the war; "Fundamentally, the thing that brought about the determination to make peace was the prolonged bombing of the B-29's." In short, the Americans would have won the war, given their technological edge, without using their newly developed atomic bombs.

Some of the strongest criticism of the actions taken by the Americans is the claim that the U.S. acted primarily out of a desire to test their new weapons and therefore used them despite the fact that they would have won the war using conventional weapons. This is supposition, there is way of determining the validity of this argument. Nonetheless, critics have made this claim in supporting their position that the dropping of the bombs on Japan were immoral acts.

It is also argued by some that the dropping of the atomic bombs damaged the world's perception of the United States. While the Americans were previously seen as liberators of the Western democracies, entering both WWI and WWII in Europe, when victory seemed unlikely, the dropping of the atomic bomb was seen as a step away from the moral high ground. It was seen by some as the Americans acting through brinkmanship, rather than as "liberators" using reasonable force. Had the Americans slowly liberated the states of Eastern Asia from Japanese control using conventional military means, they would have retained their positive image. Resorting to the atomic solution, it is argued, seriously damaged their image.

Others believe that while the bombing of Hiroshima was necessary, the second bombing of Nagasaki was unnecessary. They argue that the first bombing demonstrated the atomic capability of the U.S. Knowing this after the first bombing, the Japanese would have eventually realized the need to surrender. Had the Americans better communicated to the Japanese that they were in possession of other atomic weapons, which they were willing to use, it is argued that the Japanese would have surrendered rather than experience a second attack on one of their cities.

Some historians believe that while the rationale for using the bomb was to bring about an early conclusion to the war, the true motivation may actually have been based on a desire on the part of a large number of Americans to punish the Japanese. The American public, it is argued, favoured retaliation against Japan for their surprise attack on Pearl Harbour, at the start of the war, and the "kamikaze" attacks near the end of the war. Some critics go so far as to suggest that bombing was partially racially motivated. They argue that the Americans would not have been willing to drop an atomic bomb on a European site, but where willing to do so against Japan. Whether these weapons would have used against Germany, if the war had continued, is undeterminable.

Regardless of whether the bombing had a racial or vengeful element to it, it is clear that the U.S. government was determined to use this new weapon to secure quick victory. Indeed, in the interim period between the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. President Harry Truman said the following: "We shall continue to use it (the atomic bomb) until we completely destroy Japan's power to make war." Again, one is not able to determine which factors were considered by the American administration when they made the decision to utilize their new weapon, the atomic bomb.

Another criticism levelled against the American actions taken in hindsight, was the fact that the use of an atomic weapon accelerated the Cold War. This event heightened the existing tension and distrust between the Soviets and Americans. The Soviets, acting out of fear, immediately embarked on a program to develop similar weapons. By 1949, the Russians were testing their own nuclear weapons. This spiralled into an ongoing arms race throughout the Cold War period. The two former Superpowers competed to see who could have the largest nuclear arsenal and who could develop the newest weapons. It is argued that the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki led directly to the arms race and the nuclear proliferation which was one of the primary components of the Cold War. One has to wonder, however, whether the arms race would have occurred in any case once knowledge of the new American weapon spread through the world community.

In conclusion, the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only ended World War II, but marked the beginning of a new age, the nuclear age. Over the past fifty years people have argued whether the dropping of these bombs were justifiable and whether nuclear weapons have ultimately benefited or endangered society.

Student Exercise

  1. What factors or conditions prompted the Americans to use their weapons?
  2. What was the initial Allied strategy against Japan early in the war? Why do you think that such a strategy was employed?
  3. Detail at least five arguments used in support of the Americans dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  4. Detail at least five arguments posed by those who feel that the Americans were wrong to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
  5. What is your opinion: do you believe the Americans were justified in bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Support your position.
  6. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki created new problems for the world community. What type of problems? List several.

Previous File Previous File .... Main List Main List .... Next File Next File

Last modified: April 14, 1999