Pt 1: GM Dealers - Last May, GM severed its ties with more than a third of its Canadian dealerships. Now that the demand for new cars is increasing, GM dealerships in the U.S. are re-opening but not in Canada.
The Canadian military's top investigator says he was unaware of a court ruling that found there were "real and serious concerns" about the treatment of Afghan detainees.
Currently, He is, however, acutely aware of how bad that looks.
This is The Current.
GM Dealers: Still in Business
We started this segment with a clip of Doug Airey. He's the General Manager of Western Pontiac Buick GMC in Edmonton. He was on The Current last May around the time that General Motors of Canada was severing its ties with more than a third of its Canadian dealerships. In a series of e-mails, GM Canada told 245 of its 709 dealers it would not be renewing their licenses beyond October of 2010 ... a move that was expected to put 10,000 people out of work.
At the time, GM Canada said cutting the number of dealerships would create "a more competitive dealer network with higher volumes." Today, the company is in a very different place. Demand for new cars is up. And 661 dealerships have been re-opened in the United States. But GM Canada says it has no plans to re-open dealerships here. Some former dealers are upset by that decision.
But according to Doug Airey, it has helped the dealerships that are left. In addition to running Western Pontiac Buick GMC, he's also the past President of the Edmonton Motor Dealers Association. And he was in Edmonton.
GM Dealers: Out of Business
But of course not all GM dealers have been so fortunate. Last May, Jerry Gazerek got the e-mail from GM Canada, telling him it would no longer be supplying him with vehicles. Last August, after 32 years in business, he closed his dealership in Pickering, Ontario. Now, he's part of a 750-million-dollar class-action lawsuit against GM Canada. He was in our Toronto studio.
GM Dealers: Analyst
We requested an interview with GM Canada. But a spokesperson for the company told us it is not accepting requests for interviews at this time. We also wanted to speak to the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association. It is left in the unenviable position of trying to represent existing GM dealers who are happy with the current situation and former GM dealers who want their dealerships back. Rick Gauthier, the association's President and Chief Executive, declined our request for an interview.
So for an independent perspective on this, we were joined by Dina Cover. She's an economist at TD Bank Financial Group and the author of a special TD report on the North American auto industry. She was in Toronto.
Essential Engineer - Henry Petroski
We started this segment with a clip of the excruciatingly tense moments as dramatized in the movie Apollo 13. What followed was a feat of high-stakes engineering. NASA engineers were handed the task of figuring out how to jury-rig a carbon dioxide filter using nothing but the materials the astronauts had on hand. Then they had to tell the crew members how to complete the task. And they had to do it all before the oxygen ran out and the lunar capsule became an orbiting tomb.
Aerospace engineers from the University of Toronto will be honoured today for their input into the solution that was put forward. Despite such impressive feats however, Henry Petroski argues that engineers still don't get the respect they deserve and that while many people consider scientists to be the biggest brains in the room, engineers are more essential when it comes to solving our deepest, global problems. Henry Petroski is the author of 15 books. His latest is The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems. He's also a professor of history and civil engineering at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Health Care User Fees
We started this segment with a clip of a few of the 40,000 people who gathered outside Quebec's National Assembly on Sunday. They were there to voice their displeasure with Premier Jean Charest's new budget. In a bid to yank Quebec out of the red, he is proposing to hike sales and fuel taxes, as well as electricity rates and post-secondary tuition.
But the thing that really has people upset is the plan to overhaul health care funding by bringing in a 25-dollar user fee for doctor visits. The protesters aren't the only ones who are upset. A poll published yesterday found that 77 per cent of Quebecers are dissatisfied with Premier Charest's government. And callers to Radio Noon -- CBC Radio's phone-in program in Quebec City -- have been giving host Sue Smith an earful on the subject. We aired a clip.
But Quebec's Finance Minister Raymond Bachand says it's time for Quebecers to accept that public services come at a price.
And -- just like that -- Quebec has put the debate over the future of publicly funded health care back on the national agenda. To take a look at the implications of Quebec introducing a user-fee, we invited two people who are following this debate closely.
Bob Evans is a Health Economist with the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at the University of British Columbia. He was in Vancouver. And Alain Dubuc is an economist and a newspaper columnist with La Presse. He was in Montreal.
Last Word: Anna Walentynowicz
Since Saturday's plane crash, Poland has been mourning the deaths of some of the country's most powerful political leaders. Anna Walentynowicz didn't qualify as that. But she had a more lasting effect on her country than many of those who did.
She was a worker at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980. Her firing triggered the strike that gave birth to the Polish trade union movement Solidarity. And that movement changed the course of the country's history. So we gave the last word this morning to Toronto resident Gertruda Elizabeth Gawlas. She met Anna Walentynowicz at the shipyard. We ended the program with how she remembers her friend.