Saturday, March 31, 2007

Harper urged to pass revised Clean Air Act.

The Conservative government is now placed in a difficult position. The government really does not want to pass this bill. Baird has even made the ridiculous statement that the new bill is weaker than the original Clean Air Act. Of course he gave no evidence of this and the statement flies in the face of the evidence and statements by the main environmental groups who support the amended bill. My prediction would be that the Conservaitives will let the bill die on the order paper and make their own announcements about their brave new world of environmental initiatives. I doubt the Conservatives want to fight an election after having been defeated for not supporting this bill but we shall see!

Pass overhauled clean air bill, Harper urged
Last Updated: Friday, March 30, 2007 | 4:37 PM ET
CBC News
Environmental groups urged the Harper government on Friday to pass a bill rewritten by a special Commons committee because they say it takes real action on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Climate Action Network, Pembina Institute and Sierra Club of Canada said the bill, now called the clean air and climate change act, is much stronger now than it was when it was first tabled in the House of Commons in October.

"We expect that the government will respect the bill, put it before Parliament and respect the will of the people," John Bennett, executive director of the Climate Action Network, said in Ottawa. "This is a moment of truth for government."

Opposition parties revamped the bill through more than 100 amendments. Originally called Canada's clean air act, it was sent to the special legislative committee after it passed first reading.

"This is a government bill. This is their bill. They agreed to have it brought to a committee. Two-thirds of Canadians voted for MPs who made these amendments," he said.

The bill requires the government to make regulations to set hard targets for industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels, starting in January 2008.

Levy on carbon emissions
It includes a $20 levy for every tonne of carbon emissions a company produces above its target. And it requires that vehicle fuel consumption regulations match international best practices.

Clare Demerse, a climate change policy analyst at the Pembina Institute, said there is no question that the bill is stronger because it requires the government to regulate heavy industry. The bill provides a standard by which to measure any new targets announced by the Harper government, she said.

Environment Minister John Baird has said the government plans a few weeks to bring in new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He declined to say in question period on Friday whether he will bring the revamped bill before Parliament for a vote.

Demerse said she is surprised that Baird said the revamped bill is weaker than it was in its original form.

"I want to know why the minister think the bill is weaker. I think the bill is acceptable. It's not perfect, but there are targets for large emitters put right in the bill. That's what we supported," she said.

"If they are going to go ahead and make their announcement, we now have a standard. The standards are in the bill," she said.

Industrial output
Stephen Hazell, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, said the bill is a much improved version of the old bill because its targets are not based on the level of industrial output.

If, for example, previous Canadian governments had relied on what are known as intensity-based targets to deal with the problem of acid rain, Canada would still have the problem of acidic lakes, he said.

"The committee has squeezed the hot air out of the clean air act and turned it into the real deal. It's a real bill," he said.

As of Friday, the bill heads back to Parliament and into the hands of Baird.

It is up to Baird to act on the amended proposal, and decide whether he will bring it back to the House for a vote or leave it languishing on the order paper.

Election call possible
The government can accept the changes in the bill as proposed by the committee or use them to trigger an election call.

Under the first reading version of the previous bill, there was no mention of the Kyoto Protocol and there were no hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions until 2020 or 2025, but the government said it would seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 to 65 per cent by 2050.

Also, its emissions regulations on large polluters did not take effect until 2010.

"We're going to take some time to look at the entirety of the changes they've made. I can tell you I'm not happy," Baird said Thursday. "I think they've weakened the bill and not strengthened it."

But NDP MP Nathan Cullen said all parties made compromises and hailed the new proposal as an act that could become one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation in decades.

"Just accept defeat on the things that you've lost, and accept the fact that there are things you've voted for, and that's how the Parliament works when you're in a minority position," Cullen said.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said the government agreed to send the bill to the committee and now it must act on it.


Ethanol gas emissions no greener than regular gas.

Although this test is limited in nature it shows that the benefits of ethanol in gasoline are probably over-rated in terms of the environment. Of course the subsidies will help ADM and corn farmers!
To be fair it would make sense to test cars that run on pure ethanol and gasoline.
However, there is also the whole issue of whether there is much if any savings of energy at all if ethanol is made from corn. There apparently are more savings if it is made from other sources such as sugar cane as happens in Brazil.
These factors do not even consider the point whether a food crop should be diverted to be used as fuel.

Ethanol auto emissions no greener than gasoline: study
Last Updated: Friday, March 30, 2007 | 8:18 PM CT
CBC News
An unpublished federal report appears to undermine the belief that commercially available ethanol-blended fuel produces cleaner emissions than regular gasoline.

Many Canadians believe filling up with ethanol-blended gasoline reduces the emission of greenhouse gases that damage the environment.

Advertising sponsored by the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association encourages the idea, telling Canadians renewable fuels are "good for the environment," and even some provincial governments, including Manitoba and Saskatchewan, say the fuel "burns cleaner" than gasoline.

The federal Conservative government committed $2 billion in incentives for ethanol, made from wheat and corn, and biodiesel in last week's budget.

But based on Ottawa's own research, critics say the investment is based more on myth than hard science.

'Not a lot of difference'
Scientists at Environment Canada studied four vehicles of recent makes, testing their emissions in a range for driving conditions and temperatures.

Continue Article

"Looking at tailpipe emissions, from a greenhouse gas perspective, there really isn't much difference between ethanol and gasoline," said Greg Rideout, head of Environment Canada's toxic emissions research.

"Our results seemed to indicate that with today's vehicles, there's not a lot of difference at the tailpipe with greenhouse gas emissions."

The study found no statistical difference between the greenhouse gas emissions of regular unleaded fuel and 10 per cent ethanol blended fuel.

Although the study found a reduction in carbon monoxide, a pollutant that forms smog, emissions of some other gases, such as hydrocarbons, actually increased under certain conditions.

Bill Rees, an ecology professor at the University of British Columbia and longtime opponent of ethanol, has read the report and thinks Canadians need to know its conclusions.

"I must say, I'm a little surprised at that, because it seems to fly in the face of current policy initiatives," he said.

"People are being conned into believing in a product and paying for it through their tax monies when there's no justifiable benefit and indeed many negative costs."

Other benefits: minister
Federal Environment Minister John Baird said he knows about the report, which was commissioned under the previous Liberal government. However, he said, he is looking at the big picture.

"I think there's an issue between the tailpipe and the whole cycle," he said. "The whole cycle is better than the tailpipe."

Other ethanol proponents agreed, saying tailpipe emissions are not the only statistic that matters.

Ethanol is made from a renewable resource, they noted, and — although there is much scientific debate on this point — they argue ethanol produces fewer greenhouse gases when the entire production cycle, from gathering to refinement to emissions, is taken into account.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Ontario grants licences for more foreign trained MDs

Even with the increase in licences demand outstrips supply. Interesting that US trained doctors are not regarded as foreign trained. The Ontario College must be a fan of deep integration with the US! Perhaps we should be required to pay a certain amount to any third world country each time we hire one of their doctors.

Licences for foreign trained MDs on increase
Ontario body issues overall total of 2,961

The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons licensed more foreign-trained doctors than ever last year, according to a new report.

As well, the regulatory body issued the highest number of overall medical licences in 2006. Fully 42 per cent of the 2,961 new licences -- or 1,247 -- were given to internationally trained medical graduates, more than the 37 per cent for Ontario graduates, according to a report released by the college yesterday.

"At the moment, we are quite dependent upon these people and they provide a great source of expertise that we need," said Jeff Turnbull, president of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.

However, just over one-third of the newly licensed foreign-trained doctors -- 469 -- were certified for medical practice, according to a college spokeswoman. The remainder were granted education licences, including positions for postgraduate training and university instructors.

"Given the shortage of medical doctors that we have, the numbers should be much greater," said Aurelia Tokaci, manager of employment services at the Settlement and Integration Services Organization, a Hamilton-based group that helps foreign-trained doctors.

Indeed, despite the new physicians, the number of family doctors in Ontario who are accepting new patients, for example, continued to decline. Just 9.6 per cent of general practitioners are expanding their practices, down from 39 per cent just seven years ago.

The shortage of family physicians is largely because doctors are retiring, leaving medicine or moving out of the province, Dr. Turnbull said. As well, the population of Ontario is growing and there is higher demand for health services.

"On the one hand, yes, we're giving more licences, but the supply side is limited; the demand side is growing," he said.

The college said that the foreign-trained graduates' share of total licences had tripled since 1995. And 2006 was the third consecutive year that more licences were issued to international medical graduates (a category that does not include those who trained in the United States) than to Ontario medical students. The foreign-trained doctors received their education in 96 different countries; the top sources were India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

The province's increase in international medical graduates (IMGs) is partly due to more government-funded residency spots, an increase in out-of-province IMGs, higher numbers of foreigners seeking specialized training and new registration policies, the college said.

In recent years, governments and those in the health-care field have recognized the role foreign-trained physicians play in easing the doctor shortage and have changed policies to better accommodate international credentials. In Ontario, 200 spots are available annually as part of a provincial government program for IMGs to be assessed and trained to work as physicians.

However, Joshua Thambiraj, president of the Association of International Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, said the college's figures mask the stark reality that Ontario already has large numbers of foreign-trained doctors who are unable to enter the system even after passing all required exams.

"There's a huge human resource here and there's a human need and how do we match this huge human resource to the human need?" he said.

Dr. Thambiraj is an example of the challenges many international physicians face. An orthopedic surgeon who did his specialty training in England, he has passed all required exams in Ontario but has not been able to enter the system -- for reasons he says no one will share.

The 53-year-old worked as an orthopedic surgeon for 24 years before coming to Canada five years ago and makes a living by filling in for other physicians in faraway countries, including in Britain, India, Africa and Malaysia.

"I have passed all the exams, I'm not able to get licensed -- that is a waste of a human resource, especially when the waiting list for hip replacements, knee replacements [is] a year and more."

RCMP: No Whistleblowers Need Apply

I imagine the problem is greater within the force than in public perception. This article does not mention the problem of overseers of the force. A former head of the complaints commission, Shirley Heafey, has written much and complained much of the lack of co-operation she received in her job. The Iacobucci inquiry may also reveal more problems in the intelligence work of the RCMP. The issue that really bothers me is that no one suffers any punishment from errors or misdeeds. In fact if the Arar case is a good example precisely the opposite happens. As in isolating and punishing whistleblowers no bad deed goes unrewarded it seems.

Long list of Mountie miscues precedes claims of high-level corruption

Sue Bailey
Canadian Press

Friday, March 30, 2007

OTTAWA (CP) - Allegations of a pension scandal covered up by RCMP brass may be the straw that broke the horse's back.

Claims by RCMP officers of high-level corruption are just the latest round of embarrassing misadventures for a storied national police force that's had no end of bad press in recent years - from the Maher Arar affair to the infamous break-in at 24 Sussex Drive.

If true, the claims can't be dismissed by simply pinning the blame on former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, says University of Ottawa criminologist Wade Deisman.

It's apparent that something is rotten at the force's core, he said in an interview.

"Now we have a laundry list - a litany of misdeeds, corruption, lawlessness, failures of oversight, coverups.

"I think the government is kidding itself if they think the decision to have another inquiry is going to get to the heart of the issue. I think the heart of the issue now is about the public having lost confidence in the RCMP."

The men and women who wear the revered scarlet serge have been beset by stumbles and fumbles for at least a decade.

A commission of inquiry into the Arar case last year found that the Ottawa engineer's year-long torture nightmare in Syria very likely stemmed from faulty data passed on to the U.S. by the Mounties.

The force has been skewered for an epic but virtually fruitless investigation into the Air India bombing. Much of the bungling was blamed on former turf wars between the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Other notable fiascos include a libellous letter sent by the Mounties and the federal Justice Department to Swiss authorities in the initial and ill-fated stages of the Airbus probe. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney received a $2-million settlement in compensation for the libel.

A shameful security snafu saw a mentally ill man slip undetected into the prime minister's residence in 1995 while the Mounties stood watch. Aline Chretien slammed the bedroom door shut and called the crack RCMP squad on duty while Jean Chretien armed himself with a heavy Inuit carving. They were not injured, and the intruder was arrested.

The government's decision to call a narrow inquiry into the pension allegations is "backward looking," Deisman says. More vigourous measures are needed for Canadians to have their faith in the national police force.

"To restore public confidence they have to create a forum to discuss how we can have more transparency, and more robust mechanisms of oversight and accountability."

Especially disturbing are rampant reports of internal harassment campaigns against anyone who speaks out, he said.

"What it suggests more than anything else is there are not the proper rewards or protections in place for people on the ground in the RCMP who see this stuff going on and want to report it, but fear for their futures."

A senior investigator who left the force after being blacklisted for years said anyone who crosses superiors is in for a long, tough fight.

"If you open your mouth, say, in a small detachment in Northern Manitoba you're going to be crucified," the officer said on condition of anonymity. "In a larger city ... they'll reassign you.

"You're refused trips, you're sent to places you don't want to go."

Toronto law firm Doane Phillips Young, which represents several Mounties pursuing complaints against their employer, called last fall for a ministerial inquiry into the RCMP.

In a letter to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day dated Dec. 7, 2006, the firm cited an "institutional culture" that protects "troublesome" supervisors to the detriment of the rank and file.

"Faced with unrelenting harassment, sexual and racial discrimination, abuses of authority and widespread corruption among management, many regular RCMP members, like the public itself, have become disillusioned."

© The Canadian Press 2007

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Neoliberalism conquers Quebec?

I am not exactly sure what neoliberalism is supposed to mean in this context. It would be helpful if the author gave examples of how exactly neo-liberalism is triumphing. Perhaps he means cutting social programs and lessening size of government reducing subsidies etc. The author really doesn't give any detail either of how the left is supposed to re-invent itself whatever that means. The whole article is at Rabble. I am not sure how some aspects of Quebec conservativism such as prejudice against immigrants and wanting immigrants to assimilate is related to neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism conquers Québec at last

We need to actively forge new collectivities and new forms of organization which can wage ideological battle against neoliberalism by developing compelling alternatives to it that go beyond social democracy, beyond the old socialism, beyond isolated struggles.

>by Corvin Russell
March 29, 2007

The old politics and certainties of the Québec left have now been pronounced dead. Monday's election sealed what has become apparent in recent months: Quebec has reached its “Mike Harris moment,” the victory of neoliberalism in the political and ideological spheres. The three main parties — the Liberals, Action démocratique du Québec, and Parti Québécois — split the vote almost evenly, with the ADQ and the PQ leading among francophone voters. But the numbers do not tell the decisiveness of the result.

In recent years, the left in the PQ had gradually lost control to the technocratic, managerialist wing of the party: a younger generation of sovereignists who are economically satisfied and less passionately committed to sovereignty.

In André Boisclair, the PQ chose a leader who is attractive and ambitious, but lacking in substance, and neoliberal to the core. This superficial choice reflects the state of the party. Despite a makeover of sorts, rebranding him as a defender of Quebec's traditional social democracy, Boisclair could not speak credibly to class issues, alienating the left wing of the party and the working class vote in the regions.

Repeating a pattern often seen elsewhere, when deprived of an expression of convincing class-based resistance to élites, many voters channeled their disaffection to right-wing populism, in the form of the ADQ. The ADQ also benefited from xenophobia and homophobia, which it subtly stoked.

These are expressions at the electoral level of the deeper changes that have taken place in Québec. Polls have tracked a slow rightward shift in popular attitudes in Québec during the last decade. All three major parties had been neoliberalized for some time. But outside the party system, the persistent hold of a social democratic ideology tied to nationalist aspirations, and the ability of the social left to mobilize opposition, as in the student strike of 2005, kept the neoliberal revolution in check. Now, however, there is a palpable change in mood, as in the days of Mike Harris in Ontario.

Despite four years of intensive mobilization against Jean Charest, after this election, the social left has less leverage on the political process than before. Already in February, Charest defied the student movement that beat him in 2005, by introducing more ambitious tuition reform. The labour movement is demobilized and beset by bitter conflict. Both the Liberals and the ADQ campaigned on anti-labour measures.

The media have marginalized the social movements, and a critical mass among media élites has become convinced of neoliberal arguments put forth by Lucien Bouchard, among others, that Québec labour is unproductive and requires major structural reform to cure what ails it. The consensus around social solidarity and the national bargain between labour and Québec Inc. have been broken.

At the same time, opposition to neoliberalism has hollowed out from the inside, and the social left has failed to present compelling new alternatives. In its first province-wide election campaign, the new left-wing party, Québec Solidaire, which calls itself “a party of the ballot box and of the street,” offered an old-style social democratic program, not a sense of the radical revisioning we need to challenge neoliberalism.

The loss of traction of the ideal of the social state, and the lack of expression of an effective oppositional politics of class, have resulted in a broader loss of ideological control, with the political initiative now firmly entrenched on the right. Québec joins holdouts Sweden and France, where, whatever the economic manifestations of neoliberalism on the ground, there has been until this year intense resistance to the ideas of neoliberalism at the social and political levels. In different ways, in all three places that resistance has dramatically weakened.

The national question is not dead. But left-wing sovereignists may have to choose whether they can continue to support a neoliberal sovereignty movement. The old formula that “the social and the national move together,” which was the ideological glue binding an alliance of labour, left-wing, petty bourgeois, and reactionary nationalist forces together, was always a fiction — the structural alignment of forces in Quebec has always tilted to the right, but the need to construct a nationalist alliance has amplified the power of the left in Quebec, and paradoxically, therefore, in Canada as well.

Federalists have conceded ground on social questions to undercut the national-social linkage; this has also given leverage to the left in Canada. This formula has been decisively refuted: an organic political alignment has been exposed that underlay the sovereignty movement and threatened to emerge once the persistent dynamic of sovereignist-federalist politics had somehow been broken through a sovereignist victory, or a decisive sovereignist defeat.

Zaccardelli: A Coverup?

At least there was enough money to cover Zaccardelli's coaching for his testimony in which he in effect perjured himself. Nothing was done about the RCMP's "mistakes" in the Arar case insofar as punishing anyone was concerned. It seems that internal coverups are equally immune from anyone being held accountable. We shall see what the Iacobucci inquiry comes up with and whether it causes much more than a temporary ripple in the calm polluted waters inhabited by the RCMP big fish.

Zaccardelli may respond to RCMP allegations
Updated Thu. Mar. 29 2007 10:35 AM ET News Staff

Former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli should be given a chance to respond to stunning allegations about corruption and cover-up within the RCMP, says the head of the committee that heard the allegations.

On Wednesday, senior RCMP personnel alleged that senior management has tried to block their investigation into the possible misuse of group insurance and pension funds at the national police force.

During their testimony before the House of Commons public accounts committee, current and former officers pointed the finger at Zaccardelli, among others, for what they say is a cover-up of their investigation.

The allegations sent shockwaves through the committee and dominated headlines Thursday morning.

John Williams, the Alberta Conservative MP who chairs the committee, told Canada AM that Zaccardelli should be given a chance to respond to the allegations.

"I think we have to give him an opportunity to come forward and explain his role," Williams said, adding that his committee could force the former chief to appear.

Williams added though that he's not sure whether his committee is the appropriate forum to get to the bottom of the allegations.

"I think that I would rather see a judicial inquiry into this, because, as I say, the forum of the public accounts can never get to the bottom of this," Williams said.

A team of serving and retired RCMP officers have been, for years now, probing allegations of possible misuse of millions of dollars in members' insurance and pension funds.

There have been no criminal charges so far and very few senior RCMP people have been affected.

On Wednesday, some of the investigating officers alleged that Zaccardelli and others have gone so far as to remove some who were asking uncomfortable questions.

"While trying to expose these wrongdoings, which were both criminal and code of conduct violations, I had face to face meetings and complaints up to and including Commissioner Zaccardelli," alleged Ron Lewis, a retired RCMP staff sergeant.

"I was met with inaction delays, roadblocks, obstruction and lies. The person who orchestrated most of this cover-up was Commissioner Zaccardelli."

RCMP Chief Supt. Fraser MacAulay added: "For the past few years, the RCMP has had a small group of managers who, through their actions and inactions, are responsible for serious breeches in our core values, the RCMP code of conduct and even the Criminal Code."

In blaming the leadership, Lewis alleged, "a culture was created by several senior executives where it was a danger for employees to report wrongdoings."

Williams said he found the accusations stunning.

"The orders from the top seem to be, 'Stay quiet, don't say a word. We're the RCMP; we have to be clean or look like we're clean' -- and they're not clean," he said to CTV News.

CTV News tried to reach Zaccardelli for comment but was unsuccessful.

Hours after the hearing, the deputy commissioner in charge of human resources, Barb George, stepped down. CTV's Graham Richardson reports she will move to another job within the force.

Richardson says Zaccardelli will likely be called to testify in the coming days, given what was heard Wednesday.

Auditor General's report

The allegations stem from a matter already investigated by the Auditor General's office. However, the officers who testified Wednesday said the auditor's timeframe covered only one year, but the problems were spread over several years.

In her November 2006 report, Auditor General Sheila Fraser wrote about fraud and abuse allegations in the management of the RCMP's pension and insurance plans, stemming from 2003.

"In June 2005, the Ottawa Police Service announced that its 15-month investigation had found abuses of the pension and insurance plans, nepotism, wasteful spending, and override of controls by management," the report said.

"Significant unnecessary or wasteful expenditures resulted, including money spent for work of little value. The Crown counsel advised that there was 'no reasonable prospect of conviction on criminal charges'. However, two senior officials of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) resigned, and the RCMP considered disciplinary action against others," the report said.

At the time of that audit, the pension fund had a value of $12.4 billion. The insurance plan had about $30 million on deposit, it said.

Among the report's findings:

The NCPC (National Compensation Policy Centre) Director established consulting contracts valued at over $20 million, overriding controls to avoid competitions for the contracts. These contracts resulted in some work of questionable value being performed, and excessive fees for administrative services of little or no value being charged to the pension plan.
About $3.4 million in improper expenses were charged to the plan
"An estimated $1.3 million was charged to the pension and insurance plans to pay for commissions or products that provided little or no value, and for excessive payments to employees' friends and family members hired as temporary staff." About $270,000 of that had been repaid.
The RCMP persuaded the insurance carrier to subcontract work to a second firm to administer insurance plans on behalf of the RCMP. As a result, there was no competition for a $4.6 million contract.

The RCMP found there were grounds to proceed with disciplinary proceedings against four of its members and civilian employees, but didn't do so because too much time had elapsed, the report said.

"The former Director of NCPC told us that, to his knowledge, RCMP staffing and contracting policies and practices were followed," the report said.

With a report from CTV's Graham Richardson in Ottawa

Wheat Board loses monopoly on barley marketing

The mantra of free choice seems to be very attractive to farmers. As the National Farmer's Union points out there is really no difference between removing the Wheat Board altogether from marketing barley and the choice option because the Wheat Board will be unable to compete with the large grain companies as it lacks the capital and facilities. The Harper government is dedicated to following the wishes of the US big grain interests that have been fighting the Wheat Board for ages. This is the beginning of the end for the Wheat Board, not that the Liberals were much better since they would have ended up bargaining away the Wheat Board monopoly as well most likely. It is only a matter of time until the Wheat Board becomes a thing of the past just as the Mantoba Wheat Pool and many Dairy Co-operatives. The farmers seem to have given up on the successful farmer run organisations that helped protect them from domination by large agricorps. With Harper the agricorp victory will be complete but then it was evolving that way anyway. Harper is just the Libeerals moving more quickly. It is interesting that no option got a majority but the government in effect picked the largest minority position.

There was less than 40 percent of those eligible who voted indicating that well over sixty percent of farmers dont even have enough interest to vote! Pitiful. It is farm groups that were very active in establishing such progressive institutions as co-operatives, credit unions, and even the first North American medicare system in Saskatchewan. As usual the Alberta vote is most to the right.

Farmers vote to end wheat board's barley monopoly
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2007 | 1:46 PM ET
CBC News
Western Canadian farmers have voted to end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on barley sales.

"It's time to move to more marketing choice, and we want to move to that as quickly as possible," federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl said Wednesday in Ottawa.

Barley Plebiscite Results
Retain single desk 37.8%
CWB loses monopoly, farmers can sell to other buyer 48.4%
No CWB role in marketing barley 13.8%
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
A total of 62 per cent of just over 29,000 farmers who cast eligible ballots in the mail-in vote said they wanted the board out of the barley market altogether, or for the board to be maintained in a competitive market.

Another 38 per cent said they wanted to maintain the status quo.

Of those who didn't want the status quo, about 48 per cent said they wanted to choose where to sell their barley and about 14 per cent said the wheat board should have no role in selling barley.

Strahl said he will now take steps to revise the rules to remove the barley monopoly by Aug. 1.

Instead of amending the Canadian Wheat Board Act through Parliament, it will be done through changing the regulations, Strahl said.

"We're quite sure we can take it out through regulation," Strahl said.

The board's directors have said that without a monopoly, the wheat board will have to get out of the barley market, because it won't be able to compete without government funding for access to ports and grain elevators.

Strahl said farmers have spoken and the wheat board should heed what they're saying.

"They have an obligation to come up with a business plan that addresses that concern," he said.

National Farmers Union president Stewart Wells called the plebiscite "hideously flawed" and misleading.

"I’m not surprised at the outcome, because when you ask a misleading question, you will get a misleading result," Wells said in a news release. "The anti-CWB options, combined together, received 62 per cent, but Option 2 was deliberately misleading and offered farmers an unrealistic expectation."

The plebiscite results showed that the strongest support for the single desk system to continue was in Manitoba (51 per cent) and Saskatchewan (45 per cent), while in Alberta, only 21 per cent supported the status quo.

On the other hand, Alberta farmers were the most likely to support having a choice in where to market their barley. About 63 per cent said they supported that option. In Saskatchewan, the figure for the "CWB plus marketing choice" option was 42 per cent. In Manitoba, it was 34.6 per cent.

The debate over possible changes to grain marketing has been the talk of farm country for months.

Supporters of the government say they've waited for years for the right to decide how to market their own grain and the change will let them take advantage of the best spot prices.

Farmers in favour of the wheat board argue the status quo helps guarantee stable incomes and the best prices.

Even with barley taken away from the wheat board, the board will retain its export monopoly on wheat.

Strahl said earlier this year there's no immediately plans for a wheat plebiscite, but one will be held at some point.

Of the roughly 80,000 ballots sent out, 29,067 were returned. That includes 15,327 votes from Saskatchewan, 9,881 in Alberta, 3,703 in Manitoba and 156 in B.C.

With files from the Canadian Press

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

NDP member calls for probe of US deserter's arrest.

Why was he not allowed to dress before being taken to the cell! This same fellow actually went back to the US believing he had a deal that would see him discharged with no jail time but when he got back to Kentucky they ordered him to join his unit in Missouris. He then went into hiding again and is now back in Canada. He warns deserters not to go back because the military cannot be trusted if they make a deal.

NDP calls for Ottawa to probe U.S. deserter's arrest
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2007 | 4:12 PM PT
CBC News
The NDP are asking the federal government to look into the arrest of an American military deserter in Nelson, B.C.

Alex Atamanenko, who represents the riding of British Columbia Southern Interior, told CBC News Wednesday he suspects the Nelson police were responding to a request from the U.S. army in February when they put Kyle Snyder in jail.

Wearing only his boxer shorts, Snyder was held in a cell for several hours before he was released after agreeing to a future meeting with immigration officials.

Snyder was not charged and police won't say what prompted his arrest.

Snyder, 23, who says he is applying for permanent residence in Canada, is wanted by the U.S. army because he deserted in 2005 after fighting in Iraq.

Atamanenko said Snyder should not have been arrested because being absent without leave from a foreign military is not an extraditable offence and Snyder has no criminal record.

Continue Article

The incident left the MP wondering whether other young Americans are being arrested.

"Our concern is that there could be other Kyle Snyders in Canada," Atamanenko said. "We know that there are a couple of hundred other war resisters here. Are there those that are being apprehended now?"

In a written statement, Nelson's police chief has said Abbotsford police will investigate the Nelson force's actions, and Abbotsford's chief will have the authority to take disciplinary action.

Alberta Medical Assoc. stands by whistleblower colleague.

Actually the complaint against O'Connor seems to be his "reward" for being a whistleblower. It is good that the Alberta Medical Association at least supports him.
The complaint really has nothing to do with his medical practice per se. Even if he exagerrates the situation the very fact that Health Canada reacts with a complaint creates suspicions. As the natives mention they have raised the same concerns for ages. Maybe Health Canada should sanction the natives somehow!

Alberta doctors support outspoken peer
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | 12:11 PM MT
CBC News
The Alberta Medical Association has passed a unanimous motion supporting a doctor at the centre of an environmental controversy in northern Alberta.

In February, Health Canada officials filed a complaint against Dr. John O'Connor, who raised concerns about high rates of cancers and other illnesses in a community downstream from Alberta's oilsands developments.

Dr. Gerry Keifer, the Alberta Medical Association's president, said Monday that doctors have a right to voice concerns.

"We want to make sure the federal minister of health and public authorities are aware of a physician's professional obligation and his right to speak out when he observes something."

A letter of support for O'Connor has been sent to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, as well the the federal and provincial health ministers, Keifer said.

O'Connor alerted the media last year to what he believed was a disproportionately high incidence of colon, liver, blood and bile-duct cancers in patients who live in Fort Chipewyan, a small community downstream from major petroleum refineries.

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In filing the complaint against O'Connor with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, Health Canada did not explain the action, but said the doctor was causing undue alarm.

First Nations back O'Connor
The complaint has made O'Connor a celebrity of sorts. His name is mentioned at environmental rallies and on internet blogs. Opposition parties, both federally and provincially, have taken up his cause, as have First Nations leaders.

Chief Jim Bouchier, who speaks on behalf of the Athabasca Tribal Council that represents the five First Nations in northeastern Alberta, said O'Connor repeated concerns First Nations people have raised for years.

"In our estimation, Dr. O'Connor is doing things in the best interest of his patients," he said.

"Health Canada as well as other health care providers in the region have failed in their duty and responsibility with respect to ensuring that the interests of the First Nation people are taken care of."

Health Canada still won't talk about why it thinks O'Connor is unduly raising concern, while O'Connor can't talk until the complaint with the the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta is resolved.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

James Laxer: The Significance of the Quebec Election Results

I find this an exceedingly interesting article. If Laxer is correct new national programs are very unlikely since the provinces must initiate them. This will weaken the federal government substantially. The Federal government can concentrate on building up the military to help out in US pre-emptive wars and national social programs can wither away. This is from Rabble.

Quebec, and Harper's 'Grand Bargain' of the right

The rise of Mario Dumont's ADQ, which ran a close second in Quebec is even more helpful to Harper than the mere re-election of Jean Charest's Liberals would have been.

>by James Laxer
March 27, 2007

The results of the Quebec election open the door for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act on a proposal he made a few days before Quebeckers voted that has fateful, long-term implications.

Along with delivering so much money to Quebec in the recent budget that the Bloc Québécois has decided to support it, Harper declared that if Quebeckers elected a federalist government, Ottawa would negotiate a deal with Quebec that would severely restrict the power of the federal government to undertake spending initiatives in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

The federal government's right to spend on whatever it likes, the so-called “spending power,” has underlain Ottawa's initiation of national shared-cost programs, the classic case being medicare. Another case is the Trans Canada Highway. These programs, in areas of provincial jurisdiction, were launched when the federal government enunciated the principles on which the plans would be based and offered money to those provinces that agreed to set up such programs on their territory.

In return for Quebec's acceptance of this version of a dramatically de-centralized federalism, Harper would either legislate (or seek a constitutional amendment) to remove Ottawa's right to make such initiatives in the future. The new rules would apply to the federal government's relationship with all the provinces, not just with Quebec. This Grand Bargain would fundamentally remake Confederation.

Such a change in the basics of Canadian federalism would, for instance, bar Ottawa from launching the kind of national early childhood education program to which both Liberals and New Democrats are pledged. In a more distant future, it would block any attempt on the part of Ottawa to substantially lower the cost of tuition for colleges and universities in an effort to prevent post-secondary education from again becoming the preserve of the privileged.

With his proposed Grand Bargain, Stephen Harper would bring his over-arching objective of a Canada, not only with a market economy but with a market society as well, much closer to fruition. Gone would be the potential to establish national programs to create common standards across the country. At the federal level, progressive liberals and social democrats would be blocked from undertaking initiatives to advance the cause of greater social equality.

Harper's Grand Bargain, the re-casting of Canada according to a right-wing agenda, was implicit in the election in 2006 of a Parliament in which neo-conservatives and sovereignists held the majority of seats. If it were consummated, the Grand Bargain would complete the work begun with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA in the 1980s and 1990s. It would constitute the social counterpart to the economics of free trade. Not coincidentally, it would rest on the Quebec-Alberta alliance that gave birth to the FTA and NAFTA.

The rise of Mario Dumont's ADQ, which ran a close second in Quebec is even more helpful to Harper than the mere re-election of Jean Charest's Liberals would have been. Harper may soon try to maneuver the calling of a federal election in which he hopes to win seats where the ADQ has blazed the trail.

Dumont is even further to the right than Charest and would make an ideal partner for Harper in Quebec. His ADQ is reminiscent of the old Union Nationale and Dumont is making a bid to be the Maurice Duplessis of the 21st century, a politician who wants to govern Quebec on the basis of his hold on small towns and cities, a vague romantic nationalism, and an antagonism for Montreal.

There has always been a potential progressive alternative to the Grand Bargain of the right. It would rest on Ottawa making a deal with Quebec to establish an asymmetrical federalism in which federal initiatives would be carefully circumscribed in the case of Quebec but not in the cases of the other nine provinces.

Over the past two decades, progressives have repeatedly failed to see and act in terms of the larger strategic picture. They have allowed themselves in their shortsightedness to be defeated piecemeal by the right, in battle after battle. Progressives have not yet lost the battle over the Grand Bargain. But they are well on their way to losing it.

Stephen Harper's Grand Bargain with Quebec would place the capstone on the edifice of a right-wing Canada, which neither Quebeckers nor English Canadians want. Progressives who reject the idea of a stripped-down market society need to understand the stakes in the next federal election. It is one they cannot allow the Conservatives to win.

James Laxer is a Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto.

Paul Martin on Quebec election results

Maybe they don't want a referendum right now--or at least many don't but if they are not satisfied with attempts to rectify the fiscal imbalance things could change quickly I expect. It will be interesting to see how long the Liberals can surive. The ADQ and PQ could very well get together where they share common ground and perhaps influence legislation and certainly they can modify Liberal bills or force an election.

Quebec election result 'significant': former PM
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | 1:02 PM ET
CBC News
Calling the Quebec election result significant, former prime minister Paul Martin says the Parti Québécois's third-place finish shows Quebecers don't want "never-ending referendums."

"This is the first time in almost two generations that neither the government in office, nor Official Opposition is a separatist party," said Martin, who spoke to CBC Newsworld a day after Jean Charest's Liberals eked out a minority victory in the provincial election.

Former prime minister Paul Martin says the election of two parties that want to stay within Canada speaks 'to the mood in Quebec.'
(CBC) "You have … two parties that essentially want to stay in Canada and want to make Canada work and have another agenda, other than an immediate referendum.

"I think that does speak to the mood in Quebec," said Martin, who acknowledged federal Liberals are disappointed Charest didn't form a majority.

Charest's Liberals won 48 seats in Monday's vote, down from the 72 they held before the election call. Mario Dumont and the conservative Action Démocratique du Québec will form the Official Opposition with 41 seats, while the Parti Québécois dropped to 36 seats.

It's the first minority government the province has seen in 130 years, raising speculation about whether party leaders can work together.

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All three party leaders will hold news conferences on Monday afternoon.

Tom Pentefountas, a former vice-president of the ADQ, said it is an "open question" whether Dumont will work with Charest.

"I think we're going to have to sit down, the leadership of the ADQ, Mario Dumont, obviously, and we're going to have to decide what's in the best interest of Quebec," he said.

'We'll work night and day' to make federation work
Pentefountas said Dumont on the weekend shut the door "completely" on the idea of a coalition with Andre Boisclair and the Parti Québécois.

"Mario Dumont and the ADQ as a party believes that Quebec's future is within Canada," he said. "We'll work night and day to ensure that everyone gets along within this federation."

While campaigning on Sunday, Dumont rejected Boisclair's suggestion that a coalition between the two parties could push ahead with a sovereignty referendum.

Pentefountas said he's hopeful the strong support for his party marks the end of the traditional division of Quebec politics along federalist-separatist lines.

"During that time, we were bogged down by these two old parties and not discussing the issues that most healthy democracies are dealing with," he said. "We have $125 million in debt, our infrastructure is falling apart, education is falling apart, health care."

Pentefountas admitted even party insiders were taken aback by the strength of voter support.

"We were all surprised and that's the honest to God truth," he said with a laugh.

ADQ becomes official opposition in Quebec

Given that the ADQ has quite a few right wing policies I wonder if this will increase Harper's position federally in Quebec? There seems to be a reaction to immigration in Quebec especially in rural areas. You would think the reaction would be stronger in urban areas where the immigrants settle. It seems that prejudice can be even worse against those that people do not have any experience at all with. I remember a sociologist friend at Brandon did a survey in his class on feelings towards different groups. The strongest prejudice was not against aboriginals as I had thought might be the case but against Turks. Most of these students have probably never encountered a Turk in their whole life!

ADQ becomes Quebec's Official Opposition
Last Updated: Monday, March 26, 2007 | 8:42 PM ET
CBC News
The Action Démocratique du Québec captured 41 seats in Quebec's national assembly, and with them the title of Official Opposition in the new minority Liberal government.

Action Démocratique du Québec Leader Mario Dumont speaks to supporters at election night headquarters Monday.
(Clement Allard/Canadian Press) "This election campaign makes it official — we are a new voice, and this will allow us to shine both here and throughout the world," ADQ Leader Mario Dumont told supporters at his party headquarters in Rivière-du-Loup on Monday night.

The victory marked a coming of age for the party, which held five seats in the last session and needed only 12 to gain official party this time around.

Dumont said the results were "a very strong political message — a message of change.” Specifically, the ADQ's success signals a political shift to the right in Quebec.

The ADQ successfully tapped into latent conservatism in Quebec's francophone heartland with promises of:

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A one per cent reduction in government spending.
An increase in private health-care delivery.
A reduction in the number of Quebecers on welfare.
Dumont, a 36-year-old married father of three, also emphasized family policies such as a child-care tax credit.

The ADQ's strong success also suggests Quebecers are tired of fighting every election on the issues of sovereignty.

Although Dumont supported sovereignty during the 1995 referendum campaign, he backed away from that position during this year's election campaign.

Instead, he said he supported an autonomous Quebec within Canada, and indicated he would not support any post-election bid for another sovereignty referendum by the Parti Québécois.

The ADQ, its leader and its right-of centre platform became a main target for both Liberal and PQ attacks after polls showed the ADQ was poised to snatch many more provincial legislature seats in 2007 than in 2003, and had become the favourite among francophone voters.

Bumps on campaign road
But the campaign was not always smooth for Dumont.

He was attacked for his position on Quebec sovereignty, which was interpreted differently by Liberal Leader Jean Charest and PQ Leader André Boisclair.

Charest warned voters that the ADQ was a "waiting room" for sovereigntists.

In contrast, Boisclair originally lumped Dumont’s sovereignty position in with Charest’s and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s. But near the end of the campaign, he suggested Dumont might support a PQ bid for another sovereignity referendum — something that Dumont himself denied.

Dumont criticized for platform
Dumont was also attacked by his opponents for not revealing the financial details of his $1.7-billion platform until after the release of last week's federal budget, and was later accused of being unrealistic about how much the platform would cost.

In addition, the ADQ leader faced trouble from within his own party — he was forced to drop two candidates and rebuke a third for their controversial remarks about minorities and events recognizing violence against women.

In the latter part of the campaign, polls found that the number of respondents who thought Dumont would make the best premier slipped, causing some commentators to speculate that the party had peaked too early to maximize its success at the ballot box.

Come a long way
In the end, that speculation appeared unfounded. The 2007 election results show the ADQ and its leader have come a long way since Dumont co-founded the party with former Liberal Jean Allaire in 1994.

Dumont took the Rivière-du-Loup riding in 1994 to become the first ADQ member in the legislature.

He was re-elected as the sole ADQ representative in 1998, but the party won four more seats in subsequent byelections.

The ADQ took four seats in 2003 with 18 per cent of the popular vote and later won a fifth seat in the Vanier riding during a byelection in September 2004.

Monday, March 26, 2007

NS gets funds for establishing wait time guarantees

Giving wait time guarantees not only will help to prevent long queues for some treatments but will also encourage provincial systems to invest in imaging and other equipment since otherwise they will be faced with costly transportation expenses to send patients to other jurisdictions. As long as there are no guarantees jurisdictions will simply refuse to pay for sending patients elsewhere since nothing forces them to do so. This encourages even longer queues and a two tier system where the rich will simply not wait but go to the US or elsewhere and pay themselves.

N.S. gets millions for wait-time guarantees
Updated Mon. Mar. 26 2007 10:05 AM ET

Canadian Press

HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia became the first province Monday to sign on to Ottawa's plan to establish wait-time guarantees for health care.

Federal Health Minister Tony Clement said Nova Scotia will draw $24.2 million from a $612-million trust fund -- announced in last week's federal budget -- to establish a wait-time guarantee for cancer radiation therapy by 2010.

The agreement states that patients needing radiation will wait no longer than eight weeks for treatment. If there is a longer delay, the patient will be given other options, including transportation to another jurisdiction.

"Today, ladies and gentlemen, Canada's health-care system truly enters the world of patient wait-time guarantees,'' Clement told a news conference in Halifax.

The province will also be eligible for up to $48 million over the next three years to implement other health-care wait time initiatives.

The funding announcement was expected to be the first in a series regarding the national program.

"We know that Canadians demand and deserve a better health-care system,'' he said. "This kind of agreement, between Canada and Nova Scotia, indicates it can be done.''

Nova Scotia also launched two wait-time pilot projects, the money for which will be drawn from a separate $30-million federal fund.

One project aims to improve diagnostic imaging for orthopedic patients, while the second will develop a centralized waiting list for people in need of hip and knee replacements.

"I feel very, very passionate about this agreement,'' said Nova Scotia Health Minister Chris d'Entremont.

"I'm extremely proud that our province is taking a leadership role today.''

Clement said Nova Scotia will also be eligible to benefit from a $400-million Health Canada fund that aims to develop electronic health records for the so-called Canada Health Infoway.

Many Canadians stripped of Citizenship!

This is rather surprising. A lot of these people probably have no idea they may not be citizens until they apply for a passport or old age pensions etc.

Thousands stripped of citizenship, CBC investigation finds
Last Updated: Monday, March 26, 2007 | 6:10 AM ET
CBC News
The number of Canadians who have lost their citizenship through obscure sections of the 1947 Citizenship Act is far greater than the federal government has admitted, CBC News has learned.

The issue gained attention at the beginning of this year when thousands of people applied to get passports after the U.S. toughened entry rules — only to discover that they were not considered Canadians.

While Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley says her department is only dealing with 450 cases of so-called "Lost Canadians," new documents obtained late last week by CBC News show that her department has stripped citizenship from at least 4,000 Canadians in just seven years.

They include the wives and children of Canadian soldiers who were born abroad, anyone born abroad whose parents failed to sign a Registration of Birth Abroad form, people considered to have been born out of wedlock to a non-Canadian mother and people who fall into several other categories.

CBC applied under the Access to Information Act for computerized records from the Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) Department's case-processing centre in Sydney, N.S. Those records show the number of people who have had their citizenship denied or taken away under five sections of the 1947 Citizenship Act.

In total, there were 3,962 cases of people who lost their citizenship between 1998 and 2004, an average of 566 people per year.

CIC says it does not have records for 2005 and 2006, or prior to the introduction of their computerized system before 1998. However, the same laws have been used to take citizenship away from Canadians for 60 years, indicating that tens of thousands of people may have been affected during that time.

Thousands of others could be at risk

In addition, it's believed there are thousands more people who are at risk of losing citizenship, but who have not yet been identified by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Currently, for the year 2006-07, CIC is dealing with an additional 450 cases, bringing the number of known Lost Canadians in the past decade to well over 4,000.

The data appears to contradict what Finley has previously said. Earlier this year, she told the Commons citizenship and immigration committee that her department only knows of a small number of cases.

"While the problem is real and deserves immediate attention," she said at a committee hearing Feb. 19, "there's no evidence it’s as massive as has been reported in the media, or has been portrayed by some honourable members."

But demographics expert Barry Edmonston of the University of Victoria said the recent findings correspond to the research he's already done for CBC on the issue of Lost Canadians.

Edmonston studied census and immigration data to estimate how many people are at risk of losing their citizenship under sections of the 1947 Citizenship Act.

"If you add up the six different groups, it's somewhere in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 people affected by the 1947 Citizenship Act."

He says many of those people may have dealt with their citizenship issues already, but he believes the majority are still at risk if they try to apply for passports or Old Age Security.

"Thousands and thousands, if they were to have their citizenship reviewed, would have potential problems, and that's the number I'm trying to deal with."

The hearings into the issue of Lost Canadians resume in Ottawa Monday at 11 a.m.

Edmonston is the star witness, but the Commons citizenship and immigration committee will also hear from several highly placed staff members within the department

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Are Subprime mortgages a problem in Canada?

It would seem that we do not have much of a problem with subprime mortgages here. However, people can still suffer problems even with standard mortgages if the economy slows and house prices go down or interest rates rise.

The U.S. subprime mortgage meltdown
Will it spread to Canada?
Last Updated March 23, 2007
CBC News
Would you like a mortgage that lends you more than the value of your house?

Would you like it structured so that your first payments are extra low?

If the mortgage weren't structured that way, would you be unable to afford the payments?

Are you convinced that real estate prices will continue to rise?

Do you have a poor credit history?

Congratulations if you answered "Yes" to most or all of those questions! You're an ideal target for a subprime mortgage lender.

Of course, there is a downside amid all the fine print, as hundreds of thousands of American consumers are now finding out. Mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures are way up. Dozens of companies that lent money to anyone with a pulse have gone belly up. And suddenly, some economists are starting to worry that the whole mess could send the U.S. economy into recession.

How did this happen?

What makes a mortgage "subprime"?

The term "subprime" isn't well known in Canada because most of our mortgage lending is "prime," or conventional. In the U.S., however, rapidly rising house prices and a poorly regulated industry combined to create a mortgage monster that is now busy running amuck.

"Subprime" refers to the risk associated with a borrower, not to the interest rate being charged on the mortgage. Typically subprime mortgages are offered at interest rates above prime, to customers with below-average credit ratings. Subprime mortgage lenders in the U.S. tend to target lower-income Americans, the elderly, new immigrants, people with a proven record of not paying their debts on time — just about anyone who would have trouble getting a mortgage from a conventional lender such as a major bank.

Their pitch is irresistible and it unfolds along lines like this: "You want to buy your first house? We'll make it happen! And don't worry about a down payment. In fact, we'll even lend you more than the house is worth. We'll even charge you a super low rate [the "teaser"] during the first year or two to keep your payments low. Sure, the loan will eventually reset at prevailing rates, but since housing prices are rising by 20 per cent a year, all you have to do is refinance your house to keep your payments low!"

Needless to say, the subprime bubble soon burst. After enjoying a short period at low fixed rates, people with subprime "bargains" suddenly found their loans were being reset at rates that were in the double-digits. U.S. housing prices, which had been soaring, started falling. People with subprime mortgages found they could no longer count on the increasing value of their homes to refinance their way out of the mess.

By late 2006, one subprime loan in eight was in default across the U.S. Foreclosures were soaring. More than 20 subprime lenders were bankrupt. And the National Community Reinvestment Coalition estimated that as many as 1.5 million Americans could lose their homes by the time all the damage is done.

Could it happen in Canada?

Subprime mortgages are available in Canada. But it's a different story up here. For one thing, the subprime market share is much smaller in Canada. About 20 per cent of all U.S. mortgages are of the subprime variety in 2007. That compares to just five per cent in Canada, according to industry figures.

All high-ratio mortgages in Canada — those with less than 25 per cent down — must be secured by mortgage insurance, through, for example, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. In addition, Canadian financial institutions do not finance more than 100 per cent of a home's purchase price, and that value must be verified with a separate appraisal.

Canadian mortgage lenders have been scrambling to assure the population that there are major differences between the subprime markets in the two countries. "We have not seen the aggressive lending practices common south of the border," said Paul Grewal, chair of the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals. The association says Canadian underwriting practices are "more prudent."

Outside analysis backs up that assertion. Benjamin Tal, an economist with CIBC World Markets, noted recently that "only 22 per cent of subprime borrowers in Canada use variable rate mortgages — half the rate seen in the U.S." Tal also says there is no evidence linking the use of subprime lending in Canada with the increase in house prices. In the U.S., there is a "very high correlation," he says.

"Our view is that the price appreciation in the U.S. housing market over the past two years was, in many ways, artificial — boosted by aggressive lending and irresponsible borrowing."

Overall mortgage arrears in Canada are at just 0.5 per cent, the industry says, near record lows.

Xceed Mortgage Corp., a Toronto-based "non-traditional" mortgage lender, puts the default rate on Canadian subprime mortgages at 2.1 per cent — less than one-sixth the American rate. And to drive home the message of the comparative health of the alternative mortgage market in Canada, Xceed recently raised its corporate dividend and reported higher profits.

That doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about in Canada. A drop in Canadian housing prices and increases in interest rates would pose problems for borrowers. But with Canadian real estate showing fewer of the warning signs, with fewer subprime mortgages in this country, tighter borrowing restrictions and fewer mortgages at floating interest rates, the risks do seem to be considerably lower.

Still, even if Canadian lenders and borrowers are more responsible, some wonder if the U.S. subprime damage will spread to the wider U.S. economy. That could lead to lenders tightening the liquidity tap. It could make the American consumer less likely to spend. If that happens, the Canadian economy would also take a hit. So far, that's not happening. But central banks on both sides of the border are watching closely for signs of subprime fallout.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Iacobucci Inquiry: The Right to View Evidence

Full story is here.
Fairness is contextual. This means I presume that in the context of his inquiry fairness might not involve access to the evidence against the three! Way to go Frank!
If the lawyers cannot be at these hearings it makes sense for them to simply walk out. Perhaps there is some compromise possible in that some of the evidence might be available. The Tory LLP people in negotiation with the govt. could perhaps work out something. Otherwise the whole process has zilch credibility.

The terms do allow Iacobucci to conduct some public hearings if he considers them "essential" to his work, and he signalled Monday that he will take advantage of the opportunity.

"I intend to take that provision most seriously," he declared.

But commission counsel John Laskin said it's premature to speculate on exactly how much of the evidence will be available to the media and the general public. He also dodged the question of whether the three complainants and their lawyers will have access to closed-door sessions.

The issue is reminiscent of the debate over federal security certificates, the legal vehicles used by Ottawa to deport non-citizens suspected of terrorist activity.

In a landmark ruling last month, the Supreme Court struck down the system because it relied on judges hearing key evidence in private, with neither the defendants nor their lawyers present.

Laskin suggested, however, that the procedural rules deemed essential for a court case may not apply at a commission of inquiry.

"The Supreme Court has said many, many, many times fairness is contextual," he told reporters. "And the context here is a different context."

The matter won't be resolved until another hearing is held in mid-April.

Jasminka Kalajdzic, one of the lawyers for Almalki, said security-cleared counsel for the complainants must have access to closed-door proceedings.

Almalki seconded that opinion during a break in the hearing Monday, saying he needs to know the evidence against him to clear his name.

He added that he's looking to the inquiry to finally get to the truth of what happened to him - and to hold those responsible accountable.

"I don't think we can afford (to have) people in our government who are complicit in torture stay in their positions."

Nureddin, who attended the hearing, declined to speak about his case.

El Maati was absent because he's just undergone back surgery - the latest of seven operations to repair injuries suffered at the hands of his foreign jailers.

El Maati, a Toronto truck driver, was arrested in Syria on a visit in 2001, then transferred to Egypt in early 2002 for further interrogation.

Almalki, an Ottawa electronics engineer, was detained in Syria in 2002 and held for 22 months, while Nureddin, a Toronto geologist, was held for 34 days in Syria.

Their stories bear striking similarities to that of Maher Arar, who was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2002 and deported to face torture in Syria. Arar's name was cleared by another inquiry that concluded he was the victim of misinformation supplied by the RCMP.

Iacobucci Inquiry: The Process

If the lawyers for the three complainants cannot view the evidence what is the point in their even being there? This is what worries me about an inquiry that involves evidence that will be routinely be classified and as not in the public interest to reveal. How could one hope to have confidence in this process even if Iacobucci does find failings in the intelligence services? There still has been not a single person held responsible for the Arar case. In fact several people involved were promoted. Zaccardelli had to resign because of his perjury not because of the RCMP wrongdoings or errors as in officalspeak.

Inquiry into torture of three Canadians to be mostly private: judge Canadian Press
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 Article tools

OTTAWA (CP) - Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci is promising to get to the bottom of the role played by the RCMP and CSIS in the arrest and torture abroad of three Canadians accused of terrorist ties - but the public may never see most of the evidence.

In an opening statement Monday, Iacobucci acknowledged that the bulk of his work will be carried out behind closed doors for national security reasons. He expressed hope, however, that the secrecy won't undermine public confidence in the proceedings.

"Having been a judge for some 17 years, I have a profound respect for the principles of independence and acting in the public interest," he said.

He went on to offer an assurance that he will be "as vigilant as I can to ensure that the inquiry is as independent, thorough and fair as it can possibly be under the circumstances."

Iacobucci also noted the terms of reference handed to him by the Conservative government do allow for some public hearings if he considers them "essential" to carry out his mandate.

"I intend to take that provision most seriously," he said.

Commission counsel John Laskin said it's premature to speculate about how much of the evidence will be available to the media and the general public.

He also declined to offer an opinion on whether security-cleared lawyers for the three complainants will be allowed to sit in on closed-door sessions dealing with sensitive documents and testimony. That issue will likely be hashed out at another hearing scheduled for mid-April

Iacobucci was appointed last December to investigate the ordeals of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, all of whom deny allegations of terrorist links.

They say their detention and torture in Syria and Egypt resulted from misleading information supplied to foreign officials by Canadian police and security officers.

© The Canadian Press 2007

Iacobucci to be "vigilant" about secrecy level.

While Iacobucci says he will hold some hearings in public it remains to be seen what the scope of them will be and how much of the other processes are made public. Most of this inquiry will be a meeting of the Torys LLP law firm with the Tories. Even much of the Arar report was heavily censored oftn against the wishes of Justice O'Connor.

Terror inquiry head to be "vigilant’ about secrecy level

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci is promising to dig into the roles played by the RCMP and CSIS in the arrest and torture abroad of three Canadians accused of consorting with terrorists at home.

But the public may never see most of the details he unearths, because of tight restrictions placed on the inquiry in the name of national security.

In an opening statement Wednesday, Iacobucci acknowledged his work will "generally" be done behind closed doors under the terms of reference laid out for him by the Conservative government.

He expressed hope, however, that the secrecy won’t undermine public confidence in the proceedings.

"It was a condition of my accepting the role of commissioner that this is to be an independent inquiry," he said. "Having been a judge for some 17 years, I have a profound respect for the principles of independence and acting in the public interest."

Iacobucci went on to pledge to be "as vigilant as I can to ensure that the inquiry is as independent, thorough and fair as it can possibly be under the circumstances."

At issue are the ordeals of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, all Canadian citizens of Muslim extraction who adamantly deny any terrorist links. They say their detention and mistreatment in Syria and Egypt resulted from misleading information supplied to those countries by Canadian police and security officers.

Iacobucci was appointed last December to get to the bottom of the affair. But the terms of reference announced by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day define the probe as an "internal inquiry" and provide that most of the evidence be examined in private.

The terms do allow Iacobucci to conduct some public hearings if he considers them "essential" to his work, and he signalled Monday that he will take advantage of the opportunity.


Quebec polls show a minority --of some sort!

It would have been helpful if this article had given the exact date of each poll cited. If the poll that showed the three in a dead heat was the latest that would be quite significant. Harper does not seemed to have helped Charest and Charest's own comments probably are no help either. If a vote for the ADQ is a vote for the PQ then who is Charest to form a minority govt with? I guess the ADQ and the PQ should form the government.

Charest warns Quebec voters against minority government
Polls show possibility of Liberal minority
Last Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2007 | 6:35 PM ET
CBC News
Liberal Leader Jean Charest launched his final campaign blitz on Saturday by issuing a plea to Quebecers not to elect a minority government.

Quebec can't afford to give the impression of being a divided society, Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest said while campaigning in Trois-Rivieres on Saturday.
(Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press) That outcome would weaken Quebec's bargaining position with the federal government, he told reporters in Montmagny, a town 60 kilometres east of Quebec City.

Quebec can't afford to give the impression of being a divided society in its dealings with the rest of the country, said Charest, whose party is trying to win a second term.

Quebec's last minority government was in 1878.

"Quebec has never elected, or at least not for 100 years, a minority government for a reason," Charest said.

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He warned a vote for Action démocratique du Québec is a vote for the Parti Québécois.

"[ADQ Leader] Mario Dumont, ask him if he is a federalist. Ask him if the word federalist can actually come out of his mouth."

Dumont has previously defined himself as an "autonomist." He supported the 1995 sovereignty referendum, but now says he won't be supporting the PQ effort to call another such vote.

PQ Leader André Boisclair, campaigning Saturday in Thetford Mines, about 80 kilometres south of Quebec City, has promised to hold a referendum very early in his mandate if elected. Political observers say he needs a majority government to do that.

Dumont, trying to win votes in the Eastern Townships on Saturday, talked publicly for the first time in the campaign about the possibility of a minority government. He said if it comes to pass, one of the first things he'll do is push for an inquiry into the needs of seniors.

On the last weekend of campaigning before Monday's election, Charest planned to visit eight ridings, many of them in and around Trois-Rivières. Seven of the ridings are held by Liberals and all are seen as tight, three-way races.

Polls show minority government likely

With just two days left in the campaign, two new polls suggest the Liberals are in the lead, but with a level of support that suggests Quebec is indeed headed for a minority government.

Both CROP and Leger Marketing polls put the Liberals at least six percentage points ahead of the Parti Québécois and ADQ.

A third poll, conducted by Strategic Counsel, shows the three parties in a statistical dead heat, taking into account the margin of error.

Leger polled 1,000 Quebecers in the past week and the results gave the Liberals 35 per cent support, compared to the PQ's 29 per cent and ADQ's 26 per cent. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The CROP organization polled 1,053 Quebecers. It found 34 per cent support the Liberals, 28 per cent back the PQ and 25 would choose ADQ. The margin of error is the same as the Leger poll.

The Strategic Counsel poll of 1,000 people in the past week found that 30 per cent of respondents would support the Liberals. The PQ was at 31 per cent, while the ADQ stood at 28 per cent. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage

Military Lawyers Defy Defence Minister

This strikes me as rather weird. Why would the lawyers defy their own minister on this issue unless the minister questions the jurisdiction of the independent commission? Yet he publicly supports the inquiry.

Military lawyers defy O'Connor on detainees policy
Last Updated: Friday, March 23, 2007 | 7:21 AM ET
CBC News
Defence Department lawyers are trying to block investigations into the way Canadian troops handle detainees in Afghanistan, even though the defence minister has promised they would go ahead.

Minister of Defence Gordon O'Connor told MPs earlier this week that an independent commission would review allegations that military police broke the law when they turned Afghan prisoners over to the Afghan government, knowing they might be tortured.

But lawyers working for O'Connor's own department are now at odds with him.

A spokesman for the Canadian Forces legal office said lawyers are reviewing whether an independent commission would be overstepping its bounds by reviewing how Afghan detainees are treated. The lawyers may pursue legal action to stop such an investigation.

Stanley Blythe, who is working for the independent commission, sees no reason the review should not carry on. "We see this as our job, certainly. And they [defence ministry lawyers] see this as apparently not our job," he said.

A Defence Department spokesman told the CBC on Friday there was a "technical issue" to resolve and military lawyers are still reviewing how to stop the investigation in spite of O'Connor's decision.

Still, a source close to the minister said O'Connor will not back down from his word

Three Quebec parties all close in the polls

Perhaps the Quebec voters are just tired of the old parties. It is too bad that does not happen more federally although the Green party is gaining significantly. The NDP does not seem to be in a "surge". Monday should be an interesting election night in Quebec!

Changing landscape

Mar 24, 2007 04:30 AM
Chantal Hebert

Monday's Quebec election is really the second phase in a dramatic shift in the political tectonic plates of the province that first came to notice in last year's federal vote.

The polarization between sovereignists and federalists that for so long shaped the Quebec landscape is no longer the defining feature of the province's politics.

On the left and the right, the issue of Quebec's future has ceased to command the first loyalties of thousands of voters. They are engaging in the electoral process on different terms.

The result is a landscape in great flux, that will continue to change over the course of the next set of federal and Quebec elections.

From that angle, the surge of the Action démocratique du Québec party during the past month is totally in sync with the logic of the last federal vote and the 10 unexpected Quebec seats that landed in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's lap on election night Jan. 23, 2006.

It has never been more obvious that the 2006Conservative advance was not a fluke than at the end of this topsy-turvy Quebec campaign. Harper's surprising score – one in four votes – was a symptom of a larger phenomenon that has now thrown all the traditional Quebec equations on their heads and replaced them with this weekend's uncertain numbers.

Just as Paul Martin and Gilles Duceppe did not anticipate the Conservative breakthrough last year, the Quebec Liberals and the Parti Québécois have spent the past four weeks at a loss to stem ADQ Leader Mario Dumont's momentum.

Indeed, Jean Charest and André Boisclair's efforts to rally their troops under the black-and-white flags of federalism and sovereignty have mainly resulted in sending more voters to the grey zone of the autonomous ADQ.

These efforts have so spectacularly backfired that the unity issue has virtually disappeared from the radar of the last stretch of the campaign, another first of sorts for a Quebec election.

According to the last CROP poll of the campaign, the result of their common failure to polarize the election along familiar lines will likely be the first minority government in modern Quebec history.

While Liberal leader Charest is entering the last weekend of the campaign with a nominal six-point lead overall, he is still running third with francophone voters. As in 1998, he could once again win the popular vote and lose the election.

At 34 per cent, 28 per cent and 25 per cent, the Liberals, PQ and ADQ, respectively, are also all significantly below the bar of a majority government. With numbers like those, it could take a while to determine who has secured the job of governing Quebec on Monday.

Dumont could even end up having the last word on which of his two opponents becomes the next premier. A mere 48 hours to the vote, he is poised to emerge as the power-broker in a reconfigured National Assembly.

After more than a decade of largely solitary efforts, the ADQ leader is expected to command a significant caucus for the first time in the wake of Monday's vote. As of then, his party would be a magnet for the talent and money that were in such short supply in its campaign this year.

Alone among the three leaders campaigning in this election, Dumont is virtually certain to be around to fight the next one.

Depending on the outcome on Monday, the days of at least one of his two main rivals could be numbered.

In what seems to have become a best-case scenario for his Liberals, Charest may yet squeak back to power but almost certainly without a majority.

He will also return to the National Assembly diminished in more than the number of members at his command.

Earlier this week, Charest expended a chunk of his national capital on trying to turn the tide of the election in his favour.

For almost a decade, he had been making the case for a better fiscal deal for Quebec, arguing that while surpluses were piling up on Parliament Hill, the bills for maintaining a solid social safety net were piling up in Quebec City.

Harper's budget went a long way to vindicate that position. Of all provinces, Quebec secured the sweetest deal on equalization last Monday.

But by pulling the rabbit of an income tax cut out of the hat of the federal budget, Charest has undermined his own rationale. The predictable reaction outside Quebec was a nascent backlash against a federal budget that seemed designed to allow the Quebec Liberal leader to buy his way back into power with equalization money.

Meanwhile in Quebec, the reaction to the sudden prospect of a Liberal tax cut was confusion rather than celebration.

If he comes in a close second behind Boisclair and the PQ on Monday night, Charest could hang on to power and try to strike a deal with Dumont, to pre-empt a PQ minority government.

There is no doubt that sovereignist voters would react with fury, but such an arrangement would at least spare the PQ the pain of spending another mandate failing to bring about a winning referendum.

If it manages to avoid a historical defeat and to crawl across the finish line in first place, it will largely be because of a combination of the efforts of former premier Jacques Parizeau and a favourable split in the votes resulting from the stronger ADQ presence rather than as the result of a surge in sovereignist fervour.

More so than any other sovereignist figure, Parizeau has carried Boisclair on his shoulders over the past month, tirelessly striving to bridge the gap between the PQ's disengaged traditional nationalist base and its rookie, urban leadership.

But even Parizeau cannot turn water into wine.

If the Quebec campaign had been a referendum on a referendum, the verdict would already be in. There is no impetus for a replay of the 1995 cliff-hanger vote on Quebec's political future. On the contrary, the belief that the chances for another referendum are remote has facilitated the exodus of federalist voters unhappy with Charest's first mandate to the ADQ.

Ironically, if the PQ ends up with the largest number of seats Monday night, it would do so with one of its lowest scores ever and only because so many Quebecers are convinced that in its old age, the party has become a toothless tiger.

Even the arts community, the very soul of the sovereignty movement, is branching out of the battle. In this campaign, many of its members lined up behind Quebec Solidaire, the province's fledging left-wing party.

If the PQ is returned to opposition on Monday, the search for a replacement will start on the morning after the election. But the party lacks a unifying figure. It does not have a leader of the stature of Lucien Bouchard, René Lévesque or Parizeau waiting in the wings.

The name most often mentioned to replace Boisclair is that of Gilles Duceppe. But in his role as Bloc leader – a position that involves never having to force an unpopular decision on a reluctant public – he, too, has been losing his Quebec audience, to the Conservatives but also to Stéphane Dion's Liberals and to the Green party.

One way or another, it looks like there will be no real closure for anyone on Monday. The next act in this saga will take place on the stage of the next federal election.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Quebec leaders complain of Harper interference.

Harper sometimes seems to not be well managed. Comments about negotiating only with a Federalist government hardly help federalists in Quebec but then Harper is not cosy with Liberals (the Federalists) but with BQ (federally) who support his budget so you would think he would be against Charest. But then Charest was a Conservative. It is hard to keep all these chameleons sorted out!Anyway I imagine that all three main Quebec parties would be even more upset if Harper had not intervened and given Quebec a hefty equalization payment to right the fiscal imbalance.

Quebec leaders decry Ottawa 'interference'

Globe and Mail Update

LAC MEGANTIC, Que. and QUEBEC CITY — Quebec Premier Jean Charest urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to butt out of the Quebec election and told Canadians he has nothing to apologize for in using their money to cut Quebec income taxes.

Mr. Charest responded yesterday to Mr. Harper's comments saying that Ottawa will only negotiate limits on federal spending power with a federalist government in Quebec. The statement suggested that if Quebeckers want more federal funds and hope one day to find a permanent settlement to the fiscal imbalance, they will need to elect a federalist premier next Monday.

The comment was viewed by all political parties in Quebec as an attempt by Ottawa to interfere in the campaign and influence the vote.

“Mr. Harper is not going to decide who is going to be the next government of Quebec and it is the people of Quebec who will decide what our agenda is,” Mr. Charest said Thursday in response to Mr. Harper's comments.

And to those in the rest of Canada who were upset that the Quebec Liberals would use a $700-million boost in federal equalization payments to Quebec announced in last Monday's budget to cut personal income taxes, Mr. Charest insisted he had every right to do it.

“I will never apologize to the rest of the country for the choices I have made,” Mr. Charest said in a stern response to the criticism, saying this was money that was slashed a decade ago and belonged to Quebeckers. “I fought so that we would get the money back. And now that we have it, I am master in my areas of jurisdiction. I am Premier of Quebec; I decide what we do in our jurisdictions.”

Mr. Charest defended the province's autonomy to make its choices and insisted he was not accountable to anybody but Quebec voters. “I decide what we do in our jurisdictions – it's not Ottawa, it's not the other provinces. I am not accountable to them,” he insisted.

Mr. Harper's comments also sparked angry responses from the other parties. On Wednesday, Parti Québécois leader André Boisclair accused Mr. Harper of trying to “blackmail” Quebeckers into voting Liberal.

Action démocratique du Québec leader Mario Dumont also took Mr. Harper to task for the statements he made about not negotiating with a separatist government.

“I think Mr. Harper's intervention is not appreciated. On Monday, we will decide among Quebeckers what we want for Quebec and we don't need the prime minister of Canada to interfere in that. This isn't an appropriate intervention at this time,” Mr. Dumont told reporters.

While lauding what he said is a new era of “open-minded federalism” under Mr. Harper's Conservative government, he said there is no place for those kinds of comments. “As much as I want to protect Quebec's powers when there is an election, the prime minister of Canada must stay out of it. This is interference that I don't think is useful at this point.”

The prime minister must "stay out of the Quebec [election] campaign. I don't think any other interventions would be appropriate," he added.

In Ottawa, the government backed down from the previous day's assertion that federal-provincial negotiations would only occur under a federalist government in Quebec.

“It's obvious that we will respect the choice of Quebeckers Monday evening. That being said, we will continue to reform Canadian federalism in order to allow Quebec to grow and become stronger inside a better and united Canada,” said Transport Minister and Quebec lieutenant Lawrence Cannon.

As the campaign draws to a close, the Liberals are increasingly resigned to a minority government scenario on Monday. A new Crop poll to be published today was expected to confirm the ADQ surge even showing the party leading in the bellweather riding of St-Jean.

Even Mr. Charest, who has been trying hard to block the idea of a minority government from his mind, almost mentioned the term before stopping just in time: “I am very confident. I know we will form a mino…a majority government on March 26.”

With a close three-way race in many crucial ridings, the last thing the Liberals need is for Ottawa to create the impression they want to muscle their way into the campaign, which could further irritate voters a few days from the election.

With a report from Daniel Leblanc in Ottawa

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another article on Benatta

It would be good if Iacobucci could look into this case as well but he will not have much time and it might offend Harper's good friend George Bush. Certainly the US would not co-operate.

Algerian wants probe to review his case
Man says his ordeal similar to cases of Canadian Muslims tortured in Mideast

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — A defector from the Algerian air force, detained by Canadian authorities just days before the 9/11 attacks and then deported to the United States as a terrorism suspect, is fighting to have his case investigated by a federal commission of inquiry.

Benamar Benatta, 32, who was held by the United States for almost five years, said there are important similarities between his case and those of three Canadian Muslim men who were tortured in the Middle East.

The inquiry, set up by the Conservative government in December to probe possible Canadian involvement in the three torture cases, begins its first hearings today. Lawyers for Mr. Benatta are asking for legal standing so they can present evidence of what they say is Canadian complicity in their client's illegal detention in the United States after the al-Qaeda attacks.

Frank Iacobucci, a former Supreme Court judge, who heads the inquiry, will also hear from five human-rights and Islamic groups seeking legal standing and federal financing for lawyers' bills.
Mr. Benatta's story is largely unknown in Canada, although it attracted some coverage in The Washington Post during his long struggle to be released from a U.S. detention centre.

The Algerian man is now living in Toronto. He is seeking political asylum in Canada, but has not yet had a refugee-determination hearing.

Canadian immigration officials granted him temporary residency last summer after they were unable to locate legal papers that might have justified his deportation from Canada in 2001.

In an affidavit filed with the Iacobucci inquiry, Mr. Benatta says in the 1990s he was a lieutenant in the Algerian air force with an engineering degree in aviation electronics.

He says he was jailed for insubordination for five months when he refused to participate in the "unlawful and unconscionable acts of the Algerian military" against civilians. His life has also been threatened by an Algerian Islamic militia, he says.

Mr. Benatta returned to military service and was sent to train on new aviation electronics equipment in the United States. In 2001, he deserted by refusing to go home to Algeria. Fluent in French, he felt his asylum and resettlement chances were better in Canada than in the United States.

He crossed the border at Fort Erie, Ont., on Sept. 5. Six days later, he was still being held for identification and processing at a Canadian immigration detention centre when terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

What happened next is subject to dispute. Canadian officials say Mr. Benatta voluntarily agreed to be returned to the United States. However, "there is no documentation to support this," one Canadian immigration official admits in a letter sent last year to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Willingly or not, Mr. Benatta was driven back across the border to Buffalo and handed over to U.S. authorities. He spent nearly five years at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, the same lock-up where Canadian Maher Arar was held before he was deported to Syria.

In his affidavit, Mr. Benatta says the Americans treated him harshly, kept him in solitary confinement for long periods in a cell with the lights on 24 hours a day and deprived him of sleep. He says he was beaten regularly. "I repeatedly had my head slammed against the wall."

(The mistreatment of Muslim prisoners at the Brooklyn lock-up has been documented in a report by the U.S. Justice Department's inspector-general.)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation cleared him of involvement with terrorism. But the Americans continued to hold him on charges that he used false identification to remain in the United States after his defection.

He was released last summer when Canadian immigration officials informed the Americans that Mr. Benatta would receive a temporary residency permit while he pursued his refugee claim.

Canadian records show "Mr. Benatta would be allowed to return to Canada should he wish once the U.S. authorities had finalized processing of his case," Randy Orr, a Canadian immigration official, wrote July 11, 2006.