(Pictured: Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt)By Steve RennieThe Canadian PressOTTAWA–Canada’s Department of Aboriginal Affairs has been robbing Peter to pay Paul.In this case, “Peter” is the department’s infrastructure budget and “Paul” refers to its cash-strapped social and education programs.A new document shows Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) shifted half a billion dollars meant for infrastructure over a six-year period to try to cover shortfalls elsewhere.The result? The department’s already strapped infrastructure program is starting to buckle while its social and education needs are still falling short.“Significant reallocations from infrastructure to other programs have occurred over the past six years,” says the June 2013 document. “For example, AANDC has reallocated approximately $505 million in infrastructure dollars to social, education and other programs to try to fill the shortfall in these areas.“Since infrastructure was not able to cover off all of social and education needs in each year, other internal resources were used to cover off the remaining shortfall.“This ongoing reallocation is putting pressure on an already strained infrastructure program and has still not been enough to adequately meet the needs of social and education programs.”Using infrastructure money for other purposes has a real impact on aboriginal communities, said Franklin Paibomsai, chief of the Whitefish River First Nation in northern Ontario. Schools don’t get built and communities get put under boil-water advisories, he said.“So those are the impacts. They’re real, because they really hit home. They’re bread-and-butter pieces for every community,” Paibomsai said in an interview.“Somehow people don’t realize that, OK, we took half a billion dollars away to put into social programming to help First Nations, now somebody doesn’t have access to potable water. I mean, that’s real. That’s as real as it gets.”The 22-page document, which appears to be a slide show presentation, is buried within a mountain of paperwork filed as part of First Nations advocate Cindy Blackstock’s long battle at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to get aboriginal children the same funding from the federal government as non-aboriginal kids get from the provinces.The Liberal party’s critic for aboriginal affairs, MP Carolyn Bennett, said the document shows First Nations communities are not getting the funding they need.“Mr. Harper’s government can no longer hide their severe and chronic underfunding of critical needs like housing, clean water and education on reserve,” she said in a statement.“It is time for the federal government to work in good faith with aboriginal communities to properly fund these programs rather than hiding its mismanagement with dishonest shell games.”The end result of shifting infrastructure money elsewhere is an “inability to provide provincial-like services on reserve,” says the document.The federal government acknowledges it has no idea how its spending on aboriginals compares to provincial and territorial spending on the rest of Canada’s population.“No broad-based work has been undertaken comparing estimates of federal spending on Aboriginal Peoples to spending by provinces and territories on the general Canadian population,” says a memo given to Finance Minister Joe Oliver this past June.“Therefore, we are unable to contrast the $11 billion in annual federal spending on Aboriginal Peoples with aggregate spending on other groups.”The Canadian Press obtained the memo to Oliver, which is marked “secret,” under the Access to Information Act.Aboriginal Affairs is responsible for about $7.9 billion of the $11 billion spent by all federal departments and agencies on programs for aboriginals. That doesn’t include general programs and services that may also happen to benefit aboriginal people, such as old-age security.Since the mid-to-late 1990s, however, increases in spending on most on-reserve programs and services have been capped at two per cent annually. The slide show document says the cap isn’t keeping pace with rising expenditures.“Because price and volume pressures are greater than the two per cent annual escalator currently permitted, AANDC is redirecting funding from infrastructure programs … to meet current pressures within social (income assistance and child and family services), education, governance and emergency management.”The cap has long been a bone of contention between aboriginal leaders and past and present federal governments.Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office was asked a series of detailed questions about the document, but responded only with a boilerplate statement blaming the education funding cap on the previous Liberal government.“Our government has made investments in education, infrastructure and key areas that are well-beyond the two per cent cap,” the statement said.“Our government will continue to make targeted investments that go beyond the minimum two per cent escalator when necessary and when it is a responsible use of taxpayer funds to encourage the conditions for an improved quality of life on reserve.”
Spaceplane that takes off from airport runway could be ready in 10 years The proposed launch system, called Startram, doesn’t use rockets or rocket fuel, but instead is based on the concept of a mass driver. Also known as an electromagnetic catapult, a mass driver acts like a coilgun to magnetically accelerate a magnetized holder containing a payload. Although mass drivers commonly appear in science fiction and a few other concepts have been proposed, none has yet been built.But according to its designers, Startram uses available technology and is commercially feasible, suggesting that it could potentially be built. The developers, Dr. James Powell, who co-invented superconducting maglev trains, and Dr. George Maise, an aerospace engineer who previously worked at Brookhaven National Laboratories, have as much experience as anyone to push the idea forward. Explore further As the developers explain, building such a system is within reach of current technology, with the biggest challenge being one of scale. Even though the velocities for the system would need to be about 50 times faster than today’s maglev trains (which travel at speeds of up to 600 km/hr [373 mph]), much of the engineering is the same. Also, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have performed an initial “murder-squad” investigation of the concept and found no obvious flaws. On their website, Powell and Maise cite many reasons why having a Startram launch system would be useful: defending the Earth against large asteroids, harvesting solar energy, mining raw materials from asteroids and comets, building space-based industries, and space colonization. While it’s easy to imagine what might go wrong with such a scheme, the researchers say the levitation force is more than strong enough for this purpose. They argue that Startram’s cost advantages compel serious consideration. Currently, launching 1 kg (2.2 lb) of payload into LEO by rocket costs about $10,000. The researchers estimate that StarTram could do the same for just $50. For space travelers, Startram could decrease the cost from $20 million (the current cost of sending a person to the International Space Station) to about $5,000. Citation: Maglev track could launch spacecraft into orbit (2012, March 13) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2012-03-maglev-track-spacecraft-orbit.html More information: www.Startram.comvia: Gizmag The researchers have proposed two different models: a cargo-only version (Generation 1), which would cost about $20 billion and take about 10 years to build, and a passenger version (Generation 2), which would cost about $60 billion and would need about 20 years for completion. While the cargo-only version could be built up the side of a tall mountain without the need for levitated tubes, the passenger version would require levitated tubes to hold the track up.According to their plans, the Generation 2 magnetically levitated track would run about 1,609 km (1,000 miles) long, heading upward to an altitude of about 20 km (12 miles). While the track would be securely tethered to the ground, it would be held in mid-air completely by magnetic levitation. The entire track would be enveloped in a vented vacuum tunnel to avoid sonic shock waves that result from the spacecraft’s hypersonic speeds of up to 9 km/sec (5.6 miles/sec). Once it exits this track, the spacecraft would be in position to reach LEO. © 2011 PhysOrg.com This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. (PhysOrg.com) — With the aim to make it easier to launch spacecraft into low Earth orbit (LEO), two researchers have turned to maglev technology to catapult a payload hundreds of miles above the Earth. While the concept may sound far-fetched, the researchers argue that the potential benefits to humanity far outweigh the costs.