Monday, April 30, 2007

Prisoners in Afghanistan

The Tories can't seem to get a common line established on this matter. This certainly leaves them open to criticism by the media. O'Connor does not seem to perform very well when under the gun so to speak although he is no doubt well liked as someone who is stocking the military larder. This is from the
There seems never any mention of US torture in Afghanistan or the payment for prisoners and rendering them to Guantanamo. See this site.


Tories at odds with NATO on torture
'We have yet to see one specific allegation of torture,' Van Loan says as NATO boss welcomes probe

OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF; With a report from Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- Reeling from the fallout over reports of abuse against Afghan prisoners, the Harper government has changed its position again, now disputing the very existence of allegations that prisoners handed over by Canadian troops were tortured.

As members of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission were finally granted monitoring access to a detention facility at the centre of the story, Tory Government House Leader Peter Van Loan backed off earlier suggestions from the Prime Minister and senior military officers that serious allegations have been revealed in The Globe and Mail.

"We have yet to see one specific allegation of torture," the minister told CTV's Question Period. "The issue is that people like [Liberal MP Ujjal] Mr. Dosanjh keep repeating that there are accusations of torture. If they have a specific name, we'd be happy to have it investigated and chased down, but they continue to repeat the baseless accusations made by those who wish to undermine our forces there."

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has welcomed just such an investigation. He is the head of the alliance that commands Canadian and most other troops in Afghanistan.

"We have seen that the Afghan authorities are ready to make an inquiry into these allegations - it's still allegations - on the way some detainees were treated. We are in Afghanistan, Canada is, and 36 other NATO allies and partners are there, to uphold and defend what I call universal values. Part of [those] universal values is an adequate treatment of detainees and of prisoners. I'm happy with what I saw, on the basis of these universal values, that the Afghan government is ready to launch an inquiry."

In Europe for a meeting with NATO allies, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said over the weekend that the fate of the allied operation in Afghanistan -- in which 54 Canadian soldiers have died so far -- could reach a "tipping point."

"While I don't want to sound alarmist, I think there is going to be a tipping point unless we are able to stabilize [southern Afghanistan, especially], unless we are able to get on with building the economy, rule of law and government institutions."

A Globe investigation, based on 30 face-to-face interviews with men recently captured in Kandahar province, uncovered a range of horrific stories and a clear pattern of abuse by Afghan authorities who work closely with Canadian troops.

Some of the allegations were made by four men, whose names were published, and who were originally detained by Canadian forces.

Mr. Dosanjh, appearing on the same segment of the program, said Mr. Van Loan's comments were "bunk."

Officials from the Prime Minister's Office and the Department of Defence had no comment, but the Tory minister repeated the government's request for apologies from those repeating the accusations, as various arms of the civil service dispute who is responsible for the Afghanistan mission.

A government document says that federal civilian agencies involved in the Afghan reconstruction were hesitant to help modernize jails slated to house detainees captured by Canadian soldiers.

The document, prepared in January, 2006, by defence officials for a meeting of deputy ministers, says that National Defence planned to approach the Canadian International Development Agency and Foreign Affairs for help to construct buildings for detainees handed over by Canadian troops, but that the civilian departments were disinclined to help.

"DND will approach CIDA and FAC for support of Canadian programming," said the briefing note for the meeting, which has exacerbated internal bickering about who is responsible for the mission. "CIDA officials have been reluctant to get involved in corrections work, arguing it is not listed as one of the assistance priorities in the (Government of Canada) Country Strategy. ... Foreign Affairs has shown support but similarly would not like to see a major change in priorities set for Afghanistan," said the document, which was created for a meeting of deputy ministers in Ottawa on Jan. 24th last year.

The document, unearthed by the NDP through an access-to-information request, comes as government departments involved in the Afghan mission engage in a public display of infighting after a week in which the Conservatives were rocked by reports that detainees turned over by Canadians soldiers are being tortured.

NDP MP Dawn Black said departments seemed to want to get out of the way of a difficult and controversial file. "It was a hot potato between the different departments of government and no one wanted to take leadership and deal with it directly."

Asked about the briefing note, a senior defence official said on the weekend that it shows the Canadian Forces are the driving force on the mission in Afghanistan, even on an issue such as the human rights of the detainees that could have been tackled by other departments.

"Defence is simply doing too many things that are not in their security mandate because the absence of CIDA and [the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade] is putting the success of the military mission at risk," the defence official said. "In order to succeed in Afghanistan, we'll need the three departments, plus Public Safety, to work together."

On the issue of detainees, the official added the document is "proof that Defence has to push everyone to make things happen."

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has also complained privately that he felt that he was left isolated by other departments on the issue of the detainees.

Canadian forces routinely hold detainees for a few days of questioning at Kandahar Air Field, then give them to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's feared intelligence police. But detainees described how Canadians tied their hands with plastic straps, marking the start of nightmarish journeys through shadowy jails and blood-spattered interrogation rooms.

None of the abuse was inflicted by Canadians, and most Afghans captured -- even Taliban sympathizers -- praised the Canadian soldiers for their politeness, their gentle handling of captives and conditions in their detention facility.

CBC News yesterday said that members of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission were allowed into the prison run by the National Directorate of Security. The report said the monitors were "warmly received" by directorate agents, although two agents followed them as they tried to interview detainees.

The issue of whether detainees captured by Canadian troops are being properly treated in Afghan jails has troubled the Conservative government -- Mr. O'Connor in particular -- since last year when it was revealed that the agreement between the Canadian military and the Afghan government offers weaker human-rights safeguards than a deal struck with the Dutch.

In March, Mr. O'Connor was forced to acknowledge in the House of Commons that the International Committee of the Red Cross does not inform Canada of the treatment of detainees captured by Canadian troops and transferred to Afghan authorities.

The government's changing story

Officials of our government will be following up these allegations with officials of the government of Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday

[We're] taking this matter seriously

Brigadier-General Al Howard on Tuesday

We have heard these allegations. We always take these allegations seriously.

Primer Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday

... to make that suggestion [of torture] solely based on the allegations of the Taliban, I think is the height of irresponsibility.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper later on Wednesday

If they have a specific name, we'd be happy to have it investigated and chased down.

Government House Leader

Peter Van Loan yesterday

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Closed-door meetings in Calgary discuss US energy security.

Interesting to hear about these closed door meetings. The press is virtually silent on meetings such as this. Canada does have an energy policy. Develop energy resources to export for US needs. As Laxer points out we do not even have a strategic oil reserve.

Energy security for U.S. = insecurity for Canada

What would Canada do in a supply crunch during an Arctic cold front? We do not have enough pipeline capacity to bring Western oil to meet Eastern Canadian needs.

>by Gordon Laxer
April 26, 2007

Today (April 26) and tomorrow, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an American right-wing think-tank based in Washington is the lead host to two closed-door meetings in Calgary. They are discussing ways to enhance American energy security by getting more Canadian oil and gas. Why are Canadians involved in discussing American energy security when Canada has no energy policy, and no plans ensuring oil for Eastern Canadians during a supply crisis?

The roundtables, two of seven planned meetings, are part of the “North American Future 2025 Project”. It is intended to feed into the SPP — the Security and Prosperity Partnership — begun in Waco, Texas by the three “amigo” governments of North America in 2005. The stated goal is to enhance the security and competitiveness of North America. The real goal is more about integrating Canada and Mexico into the American way of doing things. It's also about getting our energy and water, and Canadian participation in U.S.-led, pre-emptive wars.

The CSIS roundtables are funded by the U.S. and Mexican governments, but not by Canada. CSIS bills itself as being launched “at the height of the Cold War, dedicated to the simple but urgent goal of finding ways for America to survive as a nation and prosper as a people.” The Conference Board of Canada, and CIDE, a Mexican think tank, are co-hosts.

These roundtables are part of a broader, largely subterranean process to pull our country deeper into the U.S. orbit. There is buy-in from élites in invitation-only meetings, but the public is left in the dark, because most would be opposed. Why isn't Parliament debating this initiative, and the government holding public hearings?

While rising Canadian oil exports are helping to wean America off Middle Eastern oil, the Canadian government is shirking its responsibility to protect Canadians. Rising Canadian oil exports, are perversely leading Canadians to rely more on Middle Eastern imports.

The National Energy Board (NEB), whose mandate is to “promote safety and security … in the Canadian public interest” admitted to me in an email: “Unfortunately, the NEB has not undertaken any studies on security of supply.” This is shocking.

In reference to my question on whether Canada is considering setting up a Strategic Petroleum Reserve under its membership in the International Energy Agency, the NEB stated that Canada “was specifically exempted from establishing a reserve, on the grounds that Canada is a net exporting country whereas the other members are net importers.”

But it is not safe to assume that Canada is immune to oil shortages because we produce more oil than we consume. Last year, Canada imported 850,000 barrels of oil per day, to meet 90 per cent of Atlantic Canada's and Quebec's oil needs, and 40 per cent of Ontario's. A rising share, 45 per cent last year, came from OPEC countries, primarily Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Meanwhile, a falling proportion (37 per cent) of Canadian imports come from safe North Sea countries — Norway and Britain.

Thus Canada neither supplies its own market, nor has a Strategic Oil Reserve as do the U.S. and 21 other countries in the International Energy Agency (IEA). The U.S. is doubling its Reserves to withstand an international oil crisis beyond the 67 days supply it currently has. Of the 24 countries in the IEA, only Norway and Canada have no Reserve. Norway doesn't need one. Sensibly, it supplies its own needs before exporting surpluses. Canada then, is the most exposed member of the IEA, established by industrial countries in 1974 to counter the boycott power of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

What would Canada do in a supply crunch during an Arctic cold front? We do not have enough pipeline capacity to bring Western oil to meet Eastern Canadian needs. The Sarnia to Montreal pipeline, built in the 1970s to bring Western oil East, has been reversed and now brings imported oil through Ontario's heartland. It could revert back to its original purpose, but would supplant only 30 per cent of imports.

Strategic Petroleum Reserves are good for short-term energy crunches, but not long-term shortages. The best insurance for Eastern Canadians is to bring back the rule of no energy exports unless there are 25 years of proven supply, and build another oil pipeline on Canadian soil.

Rather than pledging allegiance to U.S. energy security in secret Calgary meetings, Canada should look after the security needs of Canadians. After all, the U.S. has a National Energy Policy (NEP), not a continental one, emphasizing national security, self-sufficiency, even American ownership of energy corporations.

Canada had a NEP, flawed as it was, but buried it in the Free Trade Agreement. Now, we have a new NEP, “no energy policy.” Ironically, Canada's current position was eloquently expressed in a popular Alberta bumper sticker in the early 1980s — “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark.” Is this what is meant by a Security Partnership?

Gordon Laxer is a political economist, and the Director of Parkland Institute, a research policy network at the University of Alberta, working for the common good. He is writing a book on energy security and climate change.

Suzuki versus Baird!

I suppose it is not surprising that Suzuki would rake Baird over the coals. It is interesting that Baird claims the Conservatives are ready to fight an election over the environment. It would seem risky to do this given the Conservative record and the constant withering criticism of their plans by environmentalists. However, the Liberal record is disastrous as well. Maybe the Conservatives think that this will neutralise the issue so that neither party will win many votes because of the environment. The issue may not have that much effect on the outcome after all if there is an election.

Suzuki confronts environment minister over green plan
Last Updated: Friday, April 27, 2007 | 8:22 PM ET
CBC News
Environment Minister John Baird defended his government's climate change plan Friday, which included fending off a public confrontation with Canada's best known environmentalist.

Environment Minister John Baird defends his government's climate change plan at the Green Living show in Toronto Friday.
(Peter Hadzipetros/CBC) Baird had just kicked off Toronto's consumer Green Living Show when he was approached by David Suzuki, who let the minister know what he thought of the government's plan.

"It's a disappointment, John," Suzuki said as he beat a path to the minister.

"You know what you promised was a long way from what you delivered."

Baird countered that "this is more action than any government in Canadian history has ever taken."

Continue Article

But Suzuki was not impressed, saying that it's not enough.

"He promised all kinds of great things and it's been a big disappointment to see what it is. It's all smoke and mirrors and what he's going to do is allow industry to continue to increase their emissions."

Environmentalist David Suzuki, right, talks to Environment Minister John Baird about the Conservative government's environmental plan.
(CBC) Suzuki later told CBC News the Conservatives' new plan is an embarrassment because it falls short of what is needed and what Canadians want.

"What the government is trying to do is give the illusion of movement by talking about reducing the intensity, and hard targets," he said.

"The reality is it's really a cover for allowing industry to increase its pollution, so it's not seriously addressing the emissions problem."

But Baird said the Conservatives' path to curbing greenhouse gas emissions is a "balanced" approach.

The plan, entitled Turning the Corner, calls on Canada to reduce its current greenhouse gas emissions by 150 million tonnes by 2020 and will require most industries in Canada to reduce greenhouse gases by 18 per cent by 2010.

Baird says he's ready for election on plan's merits
"We think we struck the right balance," Baird told CBC News on Friday. "This is a strong, balanced, and fair plan."

Baird said he was ready to go to an election on the plan's merits, but added it wasn't up to the government to decide.

"If the Liberals or the NDP want to take it to the people, that will be their call, not mine," he said.

Some industrial leaders have grudgingly accepted the plan, while opposition parties and environmental groups are slamming it.

The plan sees Canada reaching its Kyoto Protocol emissions targets between 2020 and 2025, instead of 2012 as laid out in the international plan to curb climate change.

Industry isn't facing hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions, but is asked to meet "intensity-based" targets, based on units of production.

This means companies must reduce the amount of emissions used to produce their individual products, but they don't have to reduce emissions overall. If a company ramps up its production, its total emissions can rise.

'Time to move forward'
Baird acknowledged environmentalists' demands Friday.

"In Canada, environmentalists have demanded perfection, yet nothing has happened," Baird said.

"It's time to move forward; our plan does that."

Baird again took aim at Stéphane Dion and the previous Liberal government for the delay in reaching its Kyoto targets, noting the Liberals allowed greenhouse gases to go up by 27 per cent while they were in power.

"I can't turn the hands of the clock back," he said. "I can't take responsibility for 13 years of inaction … but our government can take responsibility for taking action now."

Technology the 'real answer': Baird
Baird also said significant environmental and economic benefits would emerge through developing technologies such as carbon capturing.

"I think technology is going to be the real answer," he said.

The Conservatives estimate the plan will cost the Canadian economy between $7 billion and $8 billion a year at most, but not many jobs will be lost.

"Some in industry say it goes too far," Baird acknowledged.

The government says there will be benefits to implementing the plan. By 2015, it expects to save $6.4 billion in health-care costs because fewer people will be suffering from pollution-related illnesses.

The plan touches on emissions from cars, trucks and household appliances, but primarily the plan takes aim at industry, which accounts for nearly 50 per cent of Canada's total emissions.

Canada's industrial sector will be responsible for 40 per cent — or 60 million tonnes — of Canada's total 150-million-tonne greenhouse gas reduction.

Companies that were set up before 2004 will be required to cut back their greenhouse gas emissions by 18 per cent by 2010. After that, they have to reduce amounts by two per cent a year.

With files from the Canadian Press

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Post Secondary education an election issue in Manitoba

This is from the CCPA Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The Feds reduction in funding for colleges has placed poorer provinces in a difficult position as they must make up the difference even if they are just to keep funding at the same levels. I don't know where they get the figure that one in four children in Manitoba is aboriginal. That seems rather high although certainly birth rates among aboriginals are much higher than in the general public and among those in their seventies such as myself.

University and College Education is an Election Issue
Filed under: Education — ccpamb @ 10:44 am
Like other public services, universities and colleges in Manitoba went through tough times in the 1990s. Federal and provincial funding cuts paved the way for a 130% increase in tuition fees, declining enrolment, the elimination of bursaries and grants for students, faculty and staff strikes, and deteriorating infrastructure.

In 1999, the provincial government changed direction.

Tuition fees were reduced by ten percent and have been frozen ever since. Students in Manitoba now pay the third-lowest tuition fees in Canada. There are other benefits: the freeze has contributed to huge enrolment increases (35 percent since 2000) and provincial grants to universities and colleges have risen by nearly 60% under the freeze.
However, there is no denying that more funding increases are required both to make education more affordable and end the legacy of the 1990s-$7 billion in federal funding cuts to transfers for education and training.

Federal cash transfers to Manitoba made up only 15 percent of funding for post-secondary education in 2005, compared to 25 percent in 1993. Provincial funding increases have helped prevent further decay, but these pale in comparison to tax cuts. The provincial government must set its priorities straight.

In the absence of a government plan for public universities and colleges, the public debate on post-secondary education is dominated by the privatisation-friendly local press. For example, you may have heard that the tuition fee freeze constitutes a subsidy by low-income Manitobans to the wealthy and that tuition fees are not an important barrier to participation in university and college by low income students. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Tuition fees and student loan payments punish those who can least afford to pay by privatising the costs of education: the less money you have, the bigger proportion of your income tuition fees make up. That’s why, for every $1000 in tuition fees increases, low-income students are 19 percent less likely to complete their post-secondary education.

While it is true that students from high-income backgrounds are more likely to go to university, high-income earners in Canada pay more taxes over their lifetime. Low-income families pay less tax and benefit more from affordable university and college education, the way it should be.G

Governments allow tuition fees to rise and fund education inadequately because they fail to prioritise a strong public post-secondary education system. They ignore the fact that post-secondary education provides benefits to society as a whole, not just the individual. In Manitoba, where one in four children is Aboriginal, providing access to high quality public education is crucial. Even in narrow economic terms, post-secondary education creates vital social capital, and post-secondary graduates generate most of Canada’s income tax revenue.

A 2006 poll by Viewpoints Research showed that 82 percent of Manitobans agreed or strongly agreed that tuition fee reductions benefit everyone. An equal percentage of middle-income respondents expressed support for the continuation of the tuition fee freeze. In the same poll, nearly half of those polled said that they would be more likely to vote for a party that makes accessible post-secondary education a priority.

But polls don’t mean a thing unless we demonstrate our support for education publicly. Make accessible, well-funded post-secondary education an issue when candidates are at your door!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Manitoba Election: Tories would ban sale of Hydro!

So here is the same guy who boasted about being involved in the privatisation of MTS (Manitoba Telephone System) saying he would ban the privatisation of Manitoba Hydro. Well if that is what it takes to get elected I guess it is a small price to pay. He could always sell off Manitoba Autopac a government auto insurance monopoly. Last time around the Conservatives thought it was a bit too risky I guess.

Tories would ban sale of Hydro

Updated at 6:26 PM

By Mary Agnes Welch

Tory leader Hugh McFadyen,and Riel candidate Trudy Turner salute clean water outside Manitoba Hydro's head office on Taylor Avenue.

A Progressive Conservative government won’t sell off Manitoba Hydro and would introduce legislation to prove it, Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen vowed Wednesday.
Whatever, responded NDP Leader Gary Doer.

In what could be the defining squabble of the election, the two rivals squared off Wednesday over whether voters ought to trust the Tories with Hydro.

McFadyen, standing in front of the Hydro headquarters on Taylor Avenue, said he would introduce legislation requiring unanimous support from all 57 MLAs to alter ownership of Manitoba Hydro. That would give veto power to every MLA. Taking it one step further, McFadyen said that rule could only be changed with the consent of all MLAs.

"We want to be very clear about our commitment to public ownership," said McFadyen. "We know the NDP are going around the province trying to scare Manitobans, and before those phoney ads start running, we wanted to be very clear."

Legislation already requires a referendum to sell off Hydro, making McFadyen’s move largely symbolic, especially since any government in power can alter legislation. But the PC leader’s move could neuter the NDP’s criticism, one that Doer repeats relentlessly.

Wednesday, Doer said McFadyen’s past actions speak louder than his current words.

He said McFadyen was a chief adviser to the former Tory government during the sale of MTS — something McFadyen boasted about in his biography on the website during his Tory leadership campaign last year. And Doer said McFadyen also was an adviser to the Ontario Tory government when that province deregulated hydroelectricity.

"We know the public doesn’t trust the Tories with Hydro,’’ said Doer.

"They're smart. I think today he went out there to deny it, but we don't trust him either."

--With files from Mia Rabson

NB Minister Open to User Pay Health Care

User fees are not allowed under the Canada Health Act and so if they were used transfer payments ought to be stopped from the Feds. Of course there are already under the table user fees (tray fees in private clinice etc.) and de-insuring of some items. The Canadian system is not very generous in what is covered compared to many other countries. Generally speaking all universal systems have been evolving so that more expenditures become out of pocket rather than out of taxes. This is part of the continual erosion of the entitlements of the welfare state.
Of course user pay is a misnomer since users pay anyway. However they can pay collectively through taxation on the basis of income or individually out of pocket--or more likely by private insurance.

Friday » April 27 » 2007

N.B. minister open to user-pay health care
Wants option on table

Tom Blackwell
National Post

Friday, April 27, 2007

A key member of New Brunswick's Liberal Cabinet has signalled an unexpected new openness to private-sector involvement in health care, suggesting for-profit companies be allowed to compete for public health dollars and patients permitted to pay for medical services out of pocket.

Michael Murphy, the Minister of Health, also said in a speech yesterday that the health care system could make millions of dollars by selling surplus capacity in operating rooms to workers compensation boards, private insurers and corporations.

It could all be part of what he called a North American health care "hub" in the Atlantic province.

Mr. Murphy, the Minister for just seven months, acknowledged his ideas will be considered controversial, and he stressed that patients must continue to have speedy, equal and free access to health care.

But he said soaring health care costs and New Brunswick's determination to shed its dependance on federal transfer payments mean new ways of managing the system have to be explored.

"Right now, there are probably New Brunswickers in the United States, in India or even another province in Canada obtaining a health service that they'll pay for entirely on their own," the Minister said in his speech.

"What if they could do that here? This could reduce the demand on our public system."

"We need to open our minds to new possibilities in health care," he added. "We need to share ideas and, at the same time, respect other people's opinions."

Mr. Murphy said none of the suggestions in his speech to the Fredericton North Rotary Club are government policy yet, and his ultimate goal is to strengthen the universal system.

But his statements quickly generated controversy.

Dr. Gerald Maloney, head of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said the Minister should be lauded for being "brave" enough to float the sort of proposals that often backfire on Canadian politicians.

"He just wants to have a debate. He's not trying to prejudice any decisions," said Dr. Maloney, a family physician in St. Martins, N.B. "As long as the system allows for timely access by all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, then I think we're on side with holding discussions."

But Michael McBane, a spokesman for the union-led Canadian Health Coalition, a staunch defender of the public system, said the ideas have been proven ineffective and would only make health care more expensive and less accessible.

"These are the kind of stale ideas that have been batted around for decades," Mr. McBane said. "It doesn't work and it's been studied to death."

He said it is ironic that New Brunswick is looking at free-market health care when many in the United States are backing away from that approach and Alberta's Conservative government abandoned a similar plan it proposed last year.

An analyst with The Fraser Institute, a conservative think-tank, however, encouraged Mr. Murphy to follow through on his ideas, which he said would create parallel public and private systems similar to those of countries like Sweden and Switzerland.

"New Brunswick is actually having the conservation that we should be having in every province," said Nadeem Esmail of the institute's Calgary office. "These discussions are definitely a good thing for the residents of New Brunswick."

Mr. Murphy said he did not think a separate private health system would ever become very large in his province of 800,000, but suggested people should have the choice.

"Is it really right for us to tell people how to spend their money?" he asked in an interview.

His also proposed giving for-profit operators more opportunity to compete for public funding of services that would be available free to all.

If a private company can offer the care more cheaply, "We have to give this a very close look," he said.

The Minister asserted that operating rooms in the province's hospitals often go unused, even during the day, because of an "archaic" system of matching surgeons with patients.

Even if those problems could be solved and medicare patients served more quickly, there would still be excess capacity, he maintained.

That could be sold to the workers compensation board, insurance companies that want their clients to get treated faster or even "global corporations" anxious to get their sick or injured employees back on the job, Mr. Murphy said.

© National Post 2007

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

Moment of Truth for the Opposition?

This is typical rhetorical garbage from the National Post calling the opposition and environmentalist's names but it is true that it is time that the opposition stood up for what they supposedly believe and defeat the Conservatives on their environmental posturing. It is better for them to topple the government on this issue than on the many crime bills that they have lined up waiting to pass. Harper is busy lobbying cops to get out their nightsticks and lobby for his crime bills. Better for the opposition to get out their batons and beat the Conservatives on their environmental record. Of course the Liberals may have a bit of a credibility problem on the issue!

Moment of truth for opposition
Now that Kyoto is dead, do parties support new plan?

Don Martin
CanWest News Service

Friday, April 27, 2007

CREDIT: Peter Redman, National Post
Environment Minister John Baird unveils his "Turning the Corner" plan for pollution reduction yesterday in Toronto. The strategy calls for measures to stop the rise in greenhouse gas emissions within five years and cut them by 20% against current levels by 2020.

TORONTO - Let the green scream begin. Kyoto's targets for Canada are dead, the government's revamped clean air act is missing and the Alberta oilsands can expand without risk of suffocation by carbon-cut environmentalism.

But the big question stemming from the Conservatives' greenhouse gas attack released yesterday, which is less aggressive and more loopholed than expected, is whether it will trigger a non-confidence motion by furious opposition parties seizing on the plan as a proof of climate change in government denial.

There was no way the Harper government could win over wildly opposed special interests when it unleashed emission reduction plans against the nation's largest polluters.

So the Conservatives threw out a target -- a three-year, 18% emissions cut that will be hard to achieve for some, easy for others and give the most desperate a pass -- and called it their best compromise.

No imagination was required to predict environmentalists and opposition party critics would unleash a hysterical hissy fit against this, the final obituary for the first phase of emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Better luck in the next round after 2012, apparently.

This plan surrenders to the fact Canada would be unable to meet its treaty obligations without triggering an economic meltdown and proposes an alternative that will please nobody on many fronts.

For starters, it confines the hammer to "intensity" reductions, not a hard-capped cut. The end result would still see Canadian industry achieve actual reductions in a few years, but that won't appease a green movement demanding them immediately.

The price for those forced to buy carbon rights in lieu of curbing their own output has been set at a modest $15 per tonne initially, far below the $30 or so environmentalists demanded.

And then there's the Alberta "breathe easier" amendment, a three-year grace period for oilsands expansion and any other new industry before it has to engage modest curbs in gas output.

Still, this is no oilpatch cakewalk.

Officials said existing oil plants and refineries will be subject to the 6% annual emission rollback, evidently failing to qualify for an escape clause sparing industries from their obligation if meeting them would force a production shutdown.

That's a head scratcher. The plants scoop tar-soaked sand, cook it in gas-fired ovens and separate it into sand and heavy oil. Yet cement kilns -- which scoop limestone and cook it in gas-fired ovens to extract lime and cement -- were singled out for the special exemption.

Officials insisted the oilsands could clean up its act and switch to alternative energy sources (you can't build nuclear power plants overnight, ya know) to meet its targets. It doesn't seem right and they have cause to object, but the oilsands owners might want to get cracking on carbon sequestration pipelines to be safe.

For what my opinion's worth, the plan is the least flawed alternative for a government stuck on a tightrope between end-ofthe- world environmentalists and pivotal industries hooked on carbon discharge.

The economic tab is high-- up to $8 billion in some years -- but instead of the 6.5% plunge in economic output they envisioned under Kyoto, this scheme predicts a 0.5% wrist-slap to the GDP.

The plan's more aggressive hard-cap attack on air pollution fits with the Conservative preference to act for tangible benefits people understand. We see and

breathe air pollution. Greenhouse gases are invisible byproducts of processes like, um, human exhalings.

Are there weaknesses? Absolutely.

For starters, there's that carbon tax, which breaks a solemn Conservative vow to never inflict such an evil concept on Canadians in general and the oilpatch specifically.

There was a lot of denial over that label, of course, but a forced contribution to a technology fund from desperate industries unable to meet their obligations any other way makes that a carbon tax by another name.

Then there's the ongoing blitz of consultations, which used to be a Liberal specialty, before pollution controls and auto sector regulations are imposed. We have been told repeatedly that time for talking is over. So let's get walking.

For the opposition parties, they face a moment of truth. They've sworn allegiance to the Kyoto Protocol as a sacred cow, but the Conservatives have put it out to pasture for at least another 13 years.

They're now confronted by the option to put forward a vote of non-confidence to back up their principles -- or curl up in a fetal position and whimper as their beloved Kyoto turns into a belch of hot Canadian air.

© National Post 2007

CAIR-CAN report on Iacobucci Inquiry etc.

Not a peep out of the government concerning any further investigations. I would be pleasantly surprised if anything at all is done.

CAIR-CAN Granted 'Intervenor Status' on Detainee Case


(OTTAWA, CANADA - April 4, 2007) The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) and the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association (CMCLA) have been granted intervenor status at the inquiry into the cases of three Canadians who were wrongfully detained and tortured, between 2001 and 2004, in Syria and Egypt.

Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin believe their detention and torture was the result of false information being shared with Canadian officials and foreign governments. The inquiry will be presided over by former Supreme Court Justice the Honourable Frank Iacobucci.

"The Iacobucci Inquiry is a necessary follow-up to Arar. Justice Denis O'Connor's recommendations have yet to be implemented by the current government; the most important, establishing review bodies for the RCMP and all security agencies, so their practices and procedures can be scrutinized," said Karl Nickner, Executive Director of CAIR-CAN.

"Iacobucci's Inquiry will help bring fairness and justice to Canadian Arabs and Muslims, the first victims of "the war on terror" and overzealous security practices."

"Racial and religious profiling of Canadian Arabs and Muslims by government agencies cannot continue," said Mohamed Boudjenane, CAF's Executive Director.

"We hope the inquiry will outline measures to increase confidence in Canada's security agencies. The level of trust that Canadians of Arab and Muslim heritage have for CSIS and the RCMP is at an all time low," said Faisal Kutty, legal counsel for CAIR-CAN and CMCLA.

Additionally, CAIR-CAN, CAF and CMCLA are calling for a government inquiry into the cases of Torontonian Benamar Benatta, an Algerian air force defector held by U.S. authorities on suspicions of terrorism for almost five years, and Montréaler Mohamed Omary, detained by the Moroccan government for two years. Both applied to be heard at the Iacobucci Inquiry alleging that Canadian officials had a hand in their detention; however, the inquiry's restricted government mandate prevented their cases from being heard.


CONTACT: CAIR-CAN: Sameer Zuberi, Communications Coordinator at 613-795-2012; CAF: Mohamed Boudjenane, Executive Director at 416-889-6764; CMCLA: Faisal Kutty, Legal Counsel at 416-647-4178

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Opposition, environmentalist slam Tory greenhouse targets.

The Tories are doing everything possible to avoid actually presenting a bill on the environment that could be debated in parliament. I wonder if this could be because any bill they would wish to present would be defeated and there is no Conservative majority on the horizon as yet.

MPs, environmentalists slam greenhouse gas targets
Last Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2007 | 8:29 PM ET
CBC News
Opposition members of Parliament and environmentalists slammed the Tories' emission plan Thursday, saying the government has turned its back on Canada's international commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.

The new plan, which requires most of Canada's industries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 18 per cent in three years, means Canada will be at least eight years behind meeting its requirements.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said the Tories have abandoned Kyoto as well as Canadians.

"It's not a plan; it's a scam. There's no real effort to go somewhere where emissions will really go down … The clean-air part of their plan is a fake and the climate-change part of their plan is an abdication of our responsibility towards Kyoto."

NDP Leader Jack Layton said it was a "disappointing day.

"This won't get the job done. With this plan, we fall further behind our international obligations."

NDP Leader Jack Layton called on the Conservatives to take their proposals to the House of Commons for a vote.
He called on the Conservatives to take their proposals to the House of Commons for a vote.

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty said Thursday's announcement means the government is clearly saying it has abandoned Kyoto.

"Never has so much PR delivered so little," he said.

Because Canada will be in breach of the protocol, industry will not be allowed to engage in carbon trading on the international scene and that means emissions will continue to rise for at least another five years, McGuinty said.

"What we're seeing here is no absolute reductions, intensity-based reductions, which means it keeps on going up.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe called the plan deceptive and bad for Quebec.

He said Quebec industries have taken steps to cut greenhouse gas output, but won't be able to sell emission-reduction credits on the open market based on past achievements.

"Quebec will be penalized by that because we made efforts in the past. Those efforts are not really considered since there will be not such a thing as a [market] to exchange credits for those who made the efforts in the past."

Government 'on wrong side': wildlife interest
Keith Stewart of World Wildlife Fund Canada said there are flexibility mechanisms built into Kyoto that would allow Canada to meet the protocol, but the government is walking away from them.

"I don't think another decade of delay is anything that Canadians want, and I think the government's on the wrong side of the science and they are going to be on the wrong side of history."

John Bennett of ClimateForChange, a new Canadian environmental group, said the plan doesn't go far enough to deal with global warming.

"We were told this was their green plan, but what do we get? A few vague numbers, no hard targets … I am really shocked. I thought this plan would be tougher than this.

"They're not trying to deal with climate change."

He said industry will never meet the 18 per cent target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in three years.

"They're not going to make it. There's not enough teeth in the regulations for industry to meet it. The only tough thing about the plan will be selling it to Canadians."

Saskatchewan and TILMA

TILMA is the Trade Investment and Labor Mobility Agreement. The Conference Board figures show great benefits for BC but the data and the technique for calculation of benefits were as this article points out quite suspect. Critics worry that these agreements are part of deep integration with the US and curtail the powers of municipalities.

Saskatchewan and TILMA
Posted by Erin Weir under TILMA , economic models

Today, the Government of Saskatchewan initiated a process of legislative consultations on TILMA and released the Conference Board’s assessment of this agreement’s potential impact on Saskatchewan. This document is the sequel to the Conference Board’s BC assessment, which Marc and I critiqued on this blog and in our paper.

I have not yet read through the 55-page document, but will provide some initial impressions. The Conference Board has retained its matrix of industries and regions, but dropped its GDP-impact scale in favour of simply treating the final “score” as a percentage of GDP. This “methodology” is still completely arbitrary, but produces appreciably less extreme results. Whereas the Board projected gains equal to 3.8% of GDP and 78,000 jobs for BC, it projects 0.92% of GDP and 4,400 jobs for Saskatchewan. These Saskatchewan estimates are still unbelievably high, but also so dramatically different from the BC estimates as to constitute a repudiation of the Conference Board’s previous work.

Interestingly, the provincial government has released the Conference Board’s document in conjunction with other materials. Brian Copeland’s excellent paper, which Marc and I cited and which used to only exist in hardcopy, is now available online. The government has also provided reviews of the Conference Board’s assessment by two academic economists, Dr. John Helliwell and Dr. Eric Howe.

The following are some key quotes from pages 6 and 7 of Helliwell’s piece:

“The principal source of data for the paper was a survey that asked representatives of firms, organizations and government agencies and departments to list what they thought to be the most important barriers to inter-provincial trade in their company, region or industry, and then provide qualitative rankings of winners and losers by region and industry. The latter were then converted to measures of long-term changes in income and employment by Conference Board staff. Since there was no research or quantitative base for this translation, it has no empirical basis, and hence cannot be treated as evidence. . . . In my view, this is an inappropriate use of the survey instrument, akin to estimating national GDP by asking households how they think everyone else is doing these days. . . . there is no empirical support for the Conference Board estimates of GDP and employment changes.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Canada should not risk torture of Afghan prisoners

Not a word about US prisons in Afghanistan! Of course Canadians too have been accused of mistreating prisoners. There is no mention of the Iacobucci Inquiry as a positive step in dealing with issues of torture.

Canada shouldn’t risk torture of Afghan prisoners, panel hears
Maria Babbage, The Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2007
TORONTO — Canadian soldiers shouldn’t hand over prisoners to Afghan authorities if there are reasonable grounds to believe they may be tortured, an international panel of jurists heard Tuesday.

Instead, the Canadian military should consider building its own detention facilities to ensure prisoners are treated humanely, University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach said, echoing the suggestion of other human rights experts in the wake of the Afghanistan torture allegations.

“Under the (Charter of Rights), it is clear that a Canadian police officer who goes abroad is subject to the Charter, so I would argue the Canadian Forces are really no different,” he told the panel, which is examining the impact of anti-terror policies on human rights around the globe.

It may be expensive, but it may be the price of complying with the Charter.”

Media reports suggest detainees have been kicked in the head, whipped with cables, or electrocuted by Afghan authorities after being turned over. The Conservative government dismissed the allegations Tuesday as the unsubstantiated ramblings of Taliban killers.

Roach was among a number of experts appearing at the first of two public hearings in Canada before an independent panel appointed by the International Commission of Jurists. The second session will be held in Ottawa on Wednesday.

The panel’s representatives for the Canadian hearings include Arthur Chaskalson and Robert Goldman.

Chaskalson is a former chief justice of South Africa and leading human rights lawyer who acted as counsel in the 1960s during the Rivonia trial, when Nelson Mandela and several members of the African National Congress were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Robert Goldman is an American professor and former UN expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.

They are expected to meet with Margaret Bloodworth, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s national security adviser, and other government officials Thursday before delivering some of their preliminary conclusions Friday.

Tuesday’s hearing took on a broad range of issues, from the country’s legal stance on torture to the use of special lawyers in the top-secret trials of terror suspects.

The panel also heard that while Canada has made “significant” mistakes trying to root out terrorism, recent steps by the government and courts have helped to restore some faith in the system.

The federal government’s apology and settlement with Maher Arar — who was deported to Syria and tortured but later cleared in a public inquiry — was a “huge psychological step forward,” said Ziyaad Mia of the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association.

The Arar case, and other court decisions striking down legal provisions that allow terror suspects to be detained and deported, shows that Canada has acknowledged some of the errors it has made in trying stop terrorism, he said.

“The tide seems to be turning,” Mia said. “I think there’s a sense that we’ve made some mistakes in haste.”

One of those encouraging signs came in February, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that federal security certificates — which allowed the federal government to deport non-citizens suspected of terrorist activity — were unconstitutional and gave Parliament a year to bring the law in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mia also noted that two provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act — which gave police the ability to make preventative arrests without warrant and gave judges the power to compel witnesses to testify in terrorism cases — were allowed to expire in March.

“I would say the pendulum is shifting back from the extreme reaction of 9-11,” he said. “But there’s still a ways to go.”

© The Canadian Press 2007

Manitoba NDP 7 point plan

Well its nice that in Manitoba at least privatising Manitoba Hydro can still be frightening! So Doer got the idea of a few priorities listed as a plan from Tony Blair! There is an election blog at this site.

April 24, 2007

NDP: 7 key pointsDoer unveils election platform


Premier Gary Doer unveiled a platform that promised seven broad initiatives to improve the lives of Manitobans, but provided few specifics on how his party would deliver results if elected.

The seven-point action plan is up from Doer's traditional five-point plan used in past campaigns.

"We wanted the seven areas as priorities and we didn't want to eliminate any," said Doer, who initially used the strategy in 1999 that helped him win his first majority government.

"I want to give credit to where the idea originated. It originated with the 1997 campaign with (Prime Minister Tony) Blair in England and I used it in 1999. Some of our ideas are our own and some ideas we're attracted to and use," said Doer.

The NDP platform pledges to keep health care as its top priority, followed by a commitment to clean up the environment, keep young people in the province, improve safety, build better roads and infrastructure, keep government affordable and keep Manitoba Hydro as a Crown corporation.

Doer said some of the initiatives in the seven-point strategy would be in addition to promises already made during his last throne speech and recent provincial budget.

"There'll be announcements in this campaign that are going to be new but there'll be lots of announcements in this campaign that basically deal with services that people care about," said Doer.

As part of his strategy to improve health care, Doer promised to add 700 new nurses and nurse practitioners over the next four years.

"It's very simple, if you have more nurses on the front lines you'll have less patients on the waiting list," said Doer. "The cornerstone of any wait times strategy is a plan to hire, recruit, retain and educate nurses, doctors and other valued health-care professionals."

Paul Thomas, political science professor at the University of Manitoba, said it's a smart strategy to come out with a limited five- or seven-point action plan.

"It's now become a popular formula," said Thomas. "In a world of diminished expectations (of government), that seems to be the way things are done these days."

Thomas said it's better for politicians to promise only a few things they are certain they can deliver. The public has no appetite for grandiose promises from politicians, he added.

"When everything's a priority, nothing's a priority," Thomas added.

U of M political science professor Kim Speers said the NDP platform lacks depth and leaves many questions lingering.

"Every party wants to improve health care, but how? What is the plan they're proposing?" Speers asked.

"Are they going to keep the tuition freeze? And where's the economic development in the NDP platform? It's not there."

The last promise to preserve Manitoba Hydro is merely a scare tactic the NDP is using to make Opposition Tories appear frightening, she added.

Harper's Hit on Grain Farmers

This is gives a bit of interesting history of the Board. It is so evident that the big grain traders are opposed to the board and the US govt. that it is amazing that so many farmers have fallen for the dual marketing option on the barley plebiscite. This article is a bit misleading in that although the plebiscite did show that only a few wanted the board removed from marketing barley at all, if you add those who wanted dual marketing (the largest minority) than you have a majority against the monopoly. This is what the Harper government conveniently did. The whole three question plebiscite was a cleverly engineered farce which as usual uses the sucker phrase "free choice" to dupe the farmers. I really do not have any faith in the Liberal's desire to preserve the board. They were about to sabotage it at trade negotiations as I recall. The Liberals were the Conservatives going slow as far as the Board is concerned.

Harper's Hit on Grain Farmers
Ag Minister Chuck Strahl. Tories will aid US firms by gutting Canadian Wheat Board.
By Albert Horner and David Orchard
Published: April 23, 2007
For a year the Harper government has been threatening to destroy the power of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). Agriculture minister Chuck Strahl (who represents Chilliwack, B.C.) says barley will be removed from the Board's jurisdiction by August 1; a decision on wheat will follow.
In the early 1930s, there was no CWB. Prairie farmers took the price offered by the large grain companies or took their wheat home. Grain sold for a few cents a bushel. Farmers were driven off the land in droves.
In response to pressure and thousands of farmers demanding an end to the unfettered power of the grain giants, R.B. Bennett made a historic radio address referring to "unconscionable monopolistic purchasers" and "economic parasites." He set up the CWB as a single seller of prairie wheat. In the 1940s Mackenzie King extended the Board's power to include oats and barley.
Starting from nothing in 1935, the Board has grown into the world's largest marketer of wheat and barley, one of Canada's biggest earners of foreign currency and perhaps the most prestigious marketing board in the world.
A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study described as "huge" the $1.6 billion annual economic impact of the Winnipeg-based Board, "with Western Canada as a major economic beneficiary."
As OPEC gave undeniable clout to oil producing countries, so the CWB's quasi-monopoly put marketing power in the hands of farmers.
'Communist' upstart?

Since its founding, the U.S. grain companies dominating the world grain trade have fought this impressive upstart. Earlier, they called it "communist." In the last 15 years, the U.S. has mounted a dozen trade challenges seeking its demise.
The reason is simple. The Wheat Board returns all revenue earned to the farmer, minus a miniscule per bushel administrative charge.
Loss of the CWB would move the Canadian grain trade into U.S. hands virtually over night. Hundreds of millions more in profits annually would drain from the farmer to the "five sisters" that dominate the international grain trade, none Canadian. The Port of Churchill -- with the bulk of its business from the CWB -- and the entire east-west rail system including the great grain terminals in ports from Québec City to Prince Rupert would be at risk.
If the Canadian Wheat Board goes, who believes the rest of Canada's supply-managed agriculture is safe?
Since assuming power the Harper government has waged an unrelenting attack on the CWB -- firing its popular CEO, Adrian Measner, stacking the board with government appointees who detest it, and holding a fraudulent barley "plebiscite" (complete with gag orders, a secret voters' list, traceable ballots and deliberately misleading questions). Still, only 13.8 per cent voted to remove barley from the Board.
This unprecedented assault on the internationally respected CWB by its own government has not gone unnoticed. Standard and Poor's recently downgraded the Board's formerly pristine credit rating, and according to the largest buyer of Canada's wheat, China's Yang Hong," Once the CWB's single-desk system is abolished, we think the Canadian wheat industry may lose advantages to other competitors." He said his company may turn to other countries if Canada can no longer guarantee reliable supply and quality. Mexico's Grupo Altex president wrote, "We would hate to see you adopting the U.S. model, where we have to deal with the large trading houses that always try to take advantage of both farmers and clients like us and very seldom, if ever, deliver what they promise."
Harper majority will seal fate
But the Wheat Board is not gone yet. For over 70 years it has -- with Ottawa's backing -- withstood American hostility. Now the Harper government is about to do what the U.S. alone has been unable to accomplish; it plans, by order-in council, to strip the Board of its marketing power on barley.
Once before, a Canadian government joined the Americans against its own farmers. Following its signature on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1989, the Mulroney government took oats from the Board. In 1993, it tried the same with barley, but was stopped by a successful court challenge. The government changed and Ralph Goodale and Jean Chrétien held a fair vote among farmers, restored barley to the Board, where it has remained ever since, and introduced the Canadian Wheat Board Act putting farmer elected directors in control.
This time, too, a court challenge may follow. However, as in 1993, only a change of government will secure the Board's future. A Harper majority will see the CWB gone, and quickly. The new Liberal leader, Stéphane Dion, behaving more like a friend of the western farmer than the Alberta based Harper administration, has promised to restore the Board's powers putting full control of its future back into farmers' hands. Whatever changes the CWB needs -- and every farmer knows of some -- will be made by farmers, not imposed from Ottawa or Washington.
Today, the Liberal party is truer to John Diefenbaker's defence of the West than the party claiming his name.
Related Tyee stories:

Tories unveil new climate change targets

The Tories seem to be doing an end run around the revamped clean air act. As of yesterday they were still denying that the act was dead but the continual dribs and dabs of policy suggest that the revamped act is stillborn. Many of the amendments are simply unacceptable to the Tories.

Tories launch revamped climate change targets
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 | 10:28 AM ET
CBC News
Canada will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 150 million tonnes, or 20 per cent, by 2020, Environment Minister John Baird said Wednesday, in a speech launching the Conservatives' revamped climate change program.

Baird's highly anticipated announcement outlining the government's greenhouse gas targets for industry was expected in Toronto on Thursday.

But the minister was forced to release the speech in advance after it was mistakenly faxed Wednesday to Liberal environment critic David McGuinty.

Baird said the Tories intend to halt the rise of greenhouse gases in three to five years by forcing 700 of the largest industrial polluters in Canada to reduce their emissions.

"We need to do a U-turn," he said. "We don't want to replace 10 years of bad environmental policy with 10 years of bad economic policy.”

The plan, dubbed Turning the Corner, calls for industries to make in-house reductions, participate in domestic emissions trading, purchase energy offsets and invest in a technology fund.

It also pledges national fixed emissions caps for industrial pollutants to cut air pollution in half by 2015.

"If the Liberal government had instituted this plan in 1998 when they signed Kyoto, Canada would have achieved its emissions target," Baird said. "Canada would be at Kyoto today."

Inefficient bulbs banned by 2012
Baird's speech came as Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn announced the government would ban the sale of inefficient light bulbs by 2012

Lunn said the plan could see Canadians saving up to 4,000 megawatts of power a year, or up to $4 billion in energy costs.

The plan to phase out most incandescent bulbs follows a similar proposal announced recently by Ontario.

"We must have strong national standards to support provinces and territories that are making their own standards," Lunn said.

Compact fluorescent bulbs use around 75 per cent less electricity than standard incandescent bulbs, which will be banned in Europe beginning in 2009 and in 2010 in Australia.

Previous clean air bill in limbo
Baird's announcement comes after the Tories' previous emission targets bill — the clean air act introduced last fall and heavily reworked by opposition parties in committee — remains in limbo.

On Monday, Baird said the federal government was still weighing its response to the amendments and declined to say whether he will bring the altered bill before Parliament for a vote.

Last week, Baird warned a Senate environment committee of dire economic consequences if Canada were to meet its Kyoto promises on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A private member's bill, introduced by Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez and passed by the Commons, calls for the federal government to honour Canada's commitment under the Kyoto treaty.

Baird said the Liberal bill was a "risky, reckless scheme" that would cost 275,000 Canadians their jobs by 2009

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Manitoba Election May 22

I have not been following Manitoba politics for some time. I used to be actively involved in the NDP during the Schreyer regime and later but the party is now so far to the right that I can't be bothered. All the parties are just slightly different shades and defenders of capitalism; although I guess there is green capital, blue capital, and perhaps the NDP is pink capital! Green capital doesn't even have a seat yet.
As the article mentions what should have been a very progressive investment fund turned into a disaster. Even I thought of investing in it except it turned out I didn't have any surplus funds to invest!
Doer has been very careful and moderate for the most part. The Conservatives have a new leader and the Liberals are far back in the polls. It is quite possible that Doer will be able to muster enough votes to stay in power but it could be thatj there are enough people tired of the NDP that they will opt for the Conservatives once again. The NDP came reasonably close last election in my constitutency but this time I am not sure they will have as good a candidate. The Conservatives capture most rural seats except in the north and sometimes in the interlake area. Most NDP seats are in poorer and ethnic areas of Winnipeg and two are held in Brandon. It may be difficult for the NDP to hold the west end seat.

Gary Doer calls May 22 election in Manitoba
Last Updated: Saturday, April 21, 2007 | 8:21 PM CT
CBC News
Manitoba NDP Leader Gary Doer has formally dissolved his majority government and called an election for May 22, the Tuesday after the Victoria Day long weekend.

"We have shown that Manitoba has changed," Doer told cheering supporters at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. "We have changed because we have become a can-do province, and we will continue to be a can-do province."

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer attends a funding announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Winnipeg on Friday afternoon before announcing in the evening that Manitobans will go to the polls May 22.
(John Woods/Canadian Press) Doer, who has led the province since 1999, is seeking his third term as premier. The NDP holds 35 of 57 seats in the legislature, while the Conservatives have 18 seats and the Liberals have two.

Denis Rocan, a Conservative MLA until he was kicked out of the caucus this week, is now sitting as an Independent. There is also vacant seat, Kirkfield Park, which had been held by the Conservatives until Stuart Murray, the party's former leader, resigned.

While making the election call, Doer touted major developments his government has brought to the province, from colleges to downtown office buildings.

"The endangered species of the building crane has been returned to Manitoba with some of our development," he said.

Continue Article

Doer's party won the 2003 election with almost half of the popular vote, the largest percentage since 1915. At the time, Doer campaigned hard on a health-care platform, and it is expected health will be a critical issue again in this election.

Critical about health care
The opposition parties have criticized the NDP for failing to provide enough beds in Manitoba hospitals. The NDP has argued throughout both of its mandates that the previous Conservative government was to blame for making cuts to health care that the party says created the problems in the first place.

Another hot issue in the election could be the government's role in the Crocus Investment Fund, which collapsed in 2005, resulting in a loss totalling millions of dollars for the 34,000 Manitobans who put money into the fund.

The election is expected to be a tight race between the Conservatives and the NDP, especially for crucial seats in the southern area of Winnipeg, such as Riel, St. Norbert and Seine River.

Those seats have been held by the Tories in the past, and party officials say they're much better organized this time around than they were three years ago.

Poll suggests close race
A Probe Research poll conducted in early March indicated the NDP and Conservatives are in a dead-heat race, although other recent polls suggest Doer is one of the most popular premiers in the country.

Winning a third term in Manitoba has proven elusive for other Manitoba premiers. Conservative Premier Gary Filmon and the NDP's Ed Schreyer both lost power after two terms.

This will be Hugh McFadyen's first election as leader of the Conservatives. The rookie MLA was first elected in December 2005, and took over the party leadership from Murray in April 2006.

"The economy has been growing across North America, and Manitoba has not been keeping up," said McFadyen, who argues that private-sector investment has lagged behind other provinces.

At the helm of the Liberal party is Jon Gerrard, the only Liberal in the legislature from 1999 to 2003, before he was joined by Liberal Kevin Lamoureux of Inkster.

Gerrard launched his campaign Friday evening in front of a hospital that has struggled to address a physician shortage.

"(The NDP) has not been able to fix the problems that existed under the Tories," Gerrard said.

Andrew Basham leads the Green party, which has never elected an MLA.

Both the Tories and the NDP say they expect to spend about $1 million on the campaign. The Liberals expect to spend a record amount of money for the provincial party: $400,000.

With files from the Canadian Press

NDP joins Conservatives to Defeat Liberal Motion

Presumably the NDP supported the Conservatives because they want Canada to withdraw immediately or as soon as possible. However there is no chance of a vote passing to withdraw immediately so rather than defeating a motion that at least put a date for the mission to end the NDP is in effect leaving the Conservatives free to extend the mission and stay the course indefinitely. This is a piece of prime stupidity not a position of principle. Politics is the art of the possible not the art of being as stupid as possible.

Juliet O’Neill and Mike Blanchfield, CanWest News Service
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2007
-- As MPs defeated a Liberal motion to halt Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan in February 2009, the head of the European Commission in that war-torn country appealed to Canadians to stay the course.

"It would be sending a very negative signal if today, for example, one nation, which is seriously involved here, would decide to call it off and to pull back its troops," Hansjorg Kretschmer, the European Commission ambassador to Afghanistan, told CanWest News Service Tuesday in an interview from Kabul.

The motion, which called upon the government to notify NATO allies immediately that Canada’s combat operations in southern Afghanistan will conclude in February 2009, was defeated 150-134 later in the day by Conservative and New Democratic Party MPs.

The Liberals were supported by the Bloc Quebecois.

Kretschmer said a withdrawal of military forces would compromise the billions of international dollars already invested in rebuilding Afghanistan.

Canada pledged $1.2 billion in development spending to Afghanistan between 2001-2011, making it the single largest recipient of Canadian aid money.

The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union, which has pledged more than $5.5 billion over five years to Afghanistan.

And Kretschmer said the real work in rebuilding Afghanistan would begin after the current Taliban insurgency is pacified by NATO troops and would entail a long-term commitment of many years.

"When you look at the need to build the education system, build the economic structures, to build a functioning government, a functioning court system, this is not done within two, three, four years," Kretschmer said, hours before the vote on the Afghan motion. "So everyone in the world that is contributing to this effort of building Afghanistan must be aware of that … It will be a long haul exercise."

In question period earlier, a heated debate erupted over alleged abuse of Afghan prisoners transferred by Canadian military to Afghan intelligence police.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it was "disgraceful" that opposition critics would impugn Canadian troops on the basis of unverified allegations of torture from Taliban prisoners.

But he promised to take corrective action if necessary.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, at a terrorism conference in Quebec City, characterized the majority of detainees as brutal cowards who show no regret about mowing down children with machine guns, decapitating or hanging elderly women, or torturing innocent people.

Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor, under pressure from opposition parties to resign, said the government had not received any confirmation of reports in the Globe and Mail that as many as 30 detainees were tortured by intelligence police or that the Afghan human rights commission does not have the resources to provide oversight on prison treatment.

O’Connor said the Afghan human rights officials are in regular contact with Canadian military and diplomatic representatives and "they have not raised any issues."

The Canadian military has operated in Afghanistan since 2002 and now includes about 2,500 troops.

Last year, the mission was extended for two years to February 2009 in a Commons vote in which the Conservative government was supported by a group of Liberals who broke party ranks.

Harper and O’Connor have repeatedly told the Commons the current mission is until February 2009 and that if the government wants to extend the mission, it will seek Commons approval at the appropriate time.

Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre issued a statement saying Canadians deserve to know how long and under what circumstances Canadians will remain in Afghanistan.

"We cannot ask our military to continue to shoulder such a large share of this burden for an indefinite period of time," Coderre said.

During question period, deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe attacked the government over the detainee question, saying Canadian troops may be breaking international law.

"The honour of our country is at stake," Ignatieff told reporters. " We have - our military have - a great record of compliance with the Geneva Conventions but we’ve got to get control of this situation."

O’Connor said Afghan human rights officials have confirmed "they can do what we asked them to do" under an agreement with Canada to provide oversight of prisoner treatment and report abuse to Canadian authorities.

When Ignatieff accused the government of disgraceful handling of the situation, Harper replied that if the prisoner transfer arrangements are not being respected, "we will obviously act."

"But what is disgraceful is to simply accept allegations of Taliban suspects at face value," Harper added. "That’s not appropriate for a Canadian member of Parliament."

Harper also said it was the height of irresponsibility "to suggest that Canadian Forces would deliberately violate the Geneva Convention and to make that suggestion solely on the basis of allegations of the Taliban."

Day said at Quebec City the detainees are "people largely who’ve been captured in the firefights, who realize they’re overwhelmed and even though they encourage others to commit suicide aren’t prepared to do it themselves and they lay down their arms- the majority of the people."

Day said they are interrogated for up to 72 hours by Canadian soldiers and handed to Afghan authorities because Canadians do not have the right to detain other people in their country.

"And quite rightly we should be concerned about their human rights," he said.

Day also rejected Liberal Leader Stephane Dion’s suggestion Canada bring its Taliban prisoners home to Canada.

“We want the Taliban to stay in Afghanistan,” he said.

Ottawa Citizen/with a file from Kevin Dougherty (Montreal Gazette)

© CanWest News Service 2007

NDP to support Conservatives?

This is typical of many news articles. Nothing is explained. Why would the NDP support the Conservatives? The NDP is opposed to the mission so it makes sense for them to vote against it. They do not even have the excuse that this would bring down the government at an innoportune time since it is not a confidence motion. If the NDP supports the Conservatives they can expect to be worse off in the polls than they are now.

MPs to vote on motion to take troops from Afghanistan by 2009
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 | 7:17 AM ET
CBC News
A Liberal motion that would ensure Canada end its combat operations in southern Afghanistan by February 2009 is slated to be voted on in the House of Commons Tuesday, but it is not expected to pass.

The NDP is expected to join the Conservatives in defeating the motion, which was introduced by Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre on April 19.

A bill before Parliament would have Canadian soldiers like Gunner Darren Aulenback, from Springfield, N.S., shown at the forward operating base in Sperwin Ghar, leaving Afghanistan in 2009.
(Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press) The motion calls on the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to serve notice immediately to NATO that Canada will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in February 2009.

Harper has declined to say whether he plans to ask for an extension of the mission. On Monday, he said NATO is not demanding an answer from Canada on the issue right now.

In May 2006, the House of Commons narrowly voted to extend the deployment in Afghanistan until February 2009, but the Conservatives have said they reserve the right to ask for an extension of that deadline.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has suggested troops could be needed until 2010.

Coderre has said other NATO countries, particularly European members, should be taking a more active combat role in the war-torn country.

Canada has more than 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the majority stationed in the volatile southern province of Kandahar. Fifty-four Canadian troops have been killed in the troubled country since Canada first sent troops there in early 2002.

The Canadian mission in Afghanistan, however, is not limited to combat operations. Canada maintains an embassy in the capital of Kabul and has committed itself to providing millions in development aid in the hopes of rebuilding the country.

Monday, April 23, 2007

More evidence of Afghan abuse

Why is there no question of transfer to US custody? US prisons in Afghanistan have also been singled out as places where torture occurs. There is no questioning of our presence in Afghanistan defending a country that practices torture. It also is the world's main supplier of heroin.

Latest Afghan abuse claims spark cries for O'Connor's resignation
Last Updated: Monday, April 23, 2007 | 8:54 PM ET
CBC News
The opposition made calls for the defence minister's resignation Monday, after the publication of a damning report about the torture Afghan detainees face when Canadian soldiers transfer them to Afghan security forces.

The Globe and Mail published interviews Monday with 30 men who say they were beaten, starved, frozen and choked after they were handed over to Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, a notorious intelligence police force.

Some of the men said they were whipped with bundles of electrical cables until they fell unconscious. Others said they were stripped naked and left outside all night, when Kandahar temperatures dipped below freezing.

One man said he was hung by his ankles and beaten for eight days, while another said he was choked while a plastic bag was held over his head.

In the House of Commons Monday afternoon, the NDP, Bloc Québécois and Liberal parties attacked the Conservative government about the allegations and called for Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor to step down.

"The torture in Afghanistan is awful," NDP Jack Layton said.

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"Will the government do what must must be done now and stop transfers immediately, and launch a public inquiry, and fire the defence minister?"

Allegations taken seriously: O'Connor
O'Connor, along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, countered that Canadian soldiers treat detainees properly and with care.

Still, the allegations will be looked into, Harper and O'Connor said.

"We take these allegations seriously, O'Connor said. "The [Afghanistan Independent] Human Rights Commission promised to advise us if any of our detainees are abused."

Opposition leaders weren't the only ones attacking the government over the allegations on Monday.

Law professor Michael Byers, who specializes in international law and human rights, questioned whether O'Connor, as well as chief of defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier, can remain in their positions.

Byers, who teaches at the University of British Columbia, said the Globe's allegations are extremely serious. The report would suggest the Canadian military is aiding in the act of torture, by handing detainees over to torturers, he said.

"If this report is accurate, Canadians have engaged in war crimes," he said at a press conference in Ottawa.

'Transfers must stop immediately': professor
Another law professor and human rights expert, Amir Attaran, said the Canadian military must stop the transfers by the end of the day on Monday.

"There is no room for manoeuvre, no room for bargaining," Attaran, a University of Ottawa professor, told CBC News. "The transfers must stop and must stop immediately."

He said Hillier signed an agreement in December 2005 that allowed for the transfers, but didn't include a clause giving the Canadian military the right to inspect detainees after transfers have taken place.

He said European countries that have transfer agreements have included this clause, which is crucial.

"If we hand detainees over to known torturers … and we tell them, 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we will not be back to inspect them,' that gives them a lot of latitude," Attaran said.

Other allegations of torture
Attaran brought other allegations of abuse to light in February.

Through the Access to Information Act, he said he received documents from the Department of National Defence that show three Afghan prisoners were abused while in the custody of Canadian soldiers.

Those allegations are being investigated by the military and the Military Police Complaints Commission, a civilian agency.

When those allegations surfaced, O'Connor came under fire when he suggested on March 4 that Canada would get reports and updates about alleged detainee abuse from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

On March 19, he admitted the Red Cross is under no obligation to report to Canada, only Afghanistan.

Canada does have an agreement with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission stating the commission will monitor the treatment of detainees on Canada's behalf as an extension to the agreement Hillier signed in 2005.

Baird expected to announce new emissions regulations

While the revised clean air act is still awaiting legislative approval the Conservatives keep announcing new environmental programs while spouting scary rhetoric about the recent bill sponsored by the Liberals that has already passed parliament. Where does all this end? In an election. Perhaps the Conservative strategy is to make the debate on the environment so absurd that people will become cynical and not vote on the basis of environmental issues at all!

Feds expected to introduce emission targets this week
Last Updated: Monday, April 23, 2007 | 8:34 AM ET
CBC News
Federal Environment Minister John Baird is expected to announce new regulations this week that would force industrial polluters in Canada to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.

The plan will be part of the Harper government's response to the revamped version of its environment bill, now called the clean air and climate change act. The original clean air act was drastically rewritten by a special Commons committee over the winter.

Baird has declined to say whether he would bring the altered bill before Parliament for a vote but he has repeatedly promised new targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Following Earth Day celebrations on Sunday, Baird told CBC News that attempts to meet Canada's obligations under the Kyoto Protocol are not realistic.

Canadians are growing cynical of governments that make big promises and fail to follow through on them, he said, and his climate change plan will be "reasonable" and take into account the health of the economy.

"Listen, if Kyoto could be implemented very easily with no cost, the Liberals would have done it years ago," he said.

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Baird spent part of Earth Day helping to plant trees at a school in Ottawa, saying all Canadians can help fight climate change and teach their children about the importance of clean air.

Baird told students, parents and teachers of Lakeview Public School in Ottawa that the federal government has made the environment a priority.

"Canada's new government is serious about tackling climate change and protecting the air we breathe but we know we can't do it alone," Baird said. "Taking steps at home and teaching our children to protect the environment will be the key to securing a healthier future for all Canadians."

Baird was sharply criticized by environmental groups last week after he appeared before the Senate environment committee and said the only way to meet Canada's obligations under the Kyoto Protocol would be to manufacture a recession.

On Sunday, he said he was focusing on small steps that Canadians can take while the government prepares to unveil its larger plan on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Earth Day is a great opportunity to reflect and be proud of what we've accomplished and to think about how we can all continue to work to protect our environment," he said.

"The trees we planted here today are a great example of a concrete action that all Canadians can take, right in their own backyard, to help improve the air we breathe."

Baird, who is expected to speak to an environmental group in Montreal on Monday, said the government will regulate 700 of the largest polluters in Canada through its new environmental measures.

Last Thursday, Baird said a Liberal bill calling for the government to honour Canada's commitment under the Kyoto treaty is a "risky, reckless scheme" that would cost 275,000 Canadians their jobs by 2009.

The private member's bill, introduced by Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez and passed by the Commons, would require the government to honour Canada's commitment under the Kyoto treaty, which calls for a six per cent cut in greenhouse emissions from 1990 levels by 2012.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Press role in the Arar Case

This is a long article available at the Walrus website. The article analyses in great detail the press reaction to Arar and the shameful parade of leaked material from anonymous sources meant to damage his reputation. It is well worth reading in its entirety. This is the second good article in Walrus on the Arar case. However the article misses out the fact that Zaccardelli denied his early testimony that he knew for some time that Arar was not a terrorist. In fact he contradicted himself in later testimony claiming that he did not know until the O'Connor inquiry. In fact this denial and retraction of the testimony cited here is what led to his resignation. Surely the author should have noted this! An amazing oversight.

Hear No Evil, Write No Lies
« page 1 of 6 »
Maher Arar was portrayed as a sly fox, a predator working with al-Qaeda. He turned out to be a hare, an innocent family man.

by Andrew Mitrovica
Photographs by Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford
Published in the December/January 2007 issue


It was an instructive moment during an otherwise sonorous edition of the now-defunct public-affairs television program Diplomatic Immunity. Two scribes and an academic — the Globe and Mail’s Patrick Martin, veteran Toronto Star columnist Richard Gwyn, and University of Toronto professor Janice Stein — joined the show’s effervescent host, Steve Paikin. The program’s guest on April 9, 2004, was Stewart Bell, a National Post reporter and the author of Cold Terror, a thin volume under discussion that evening. Bell’s book repeated a familiar mantra: Canada was a haven for terrorists and Canadians were soft on terror.

With the exception of Stein, who dismissed Cold Terror as hyperbole, the panellists treated Bell guardedly. Toward the end of the interview, Bell was asked to comment on the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who insisted that he had been abducted, deported, and tortured by Syrian thugs masquerading as intelligence officers with the complicity of US and Canadian authorities acting on the suspicion that he was an Islamic extremist. “Well, I think I’m kind of reserving judgment on the Arar thing because we really don’t know that much about it,” Bell said. The largely restrained Martin called that reply a “convenient dodge” and snapped that the evidence clearly suggested that Arar was an innocent man who had been maligned by authorities on both sides of the border.

On September 18, 2006, Justice Dennis O’Connor delivered the judgment that Bell had been waiting for. After spending more than two years examining Arar’s story, the sober Associate Chief Justice of Ontario issued a blunt and damning verdict: Arar was an innocent victim of incompetent rcmp officers who produced worthless intelligence. O’Connor also concluded that a smear campaign had been orchestrated against Arar by Canadian officials, aided by members of the media. Leaks to the press spanned two years and constituted a campaign with the intent, O’Connor stated, not only to tar Arar’s name and reputation but also to keep him imprisoned. When that ultimately failed, the goal was to thwart a public inquiry.

Though it has received scant attention, a twenty-two-page section of O’Connor’s encyclopedic report stands as an indictment of the reporters who participated in labelling Arar a terrorist and a habitual liar. “The impact on an individual’s reputation of being called a terrorist in the national media is obviously severe . . . labels, even inaccurate ones, have a tendency to stick,” wrote O’Connor.

On September 28, 2006, none other than rcmp Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli confirmed the key findings of Justice O’Connor’s report when he admitted to a parliamentary committee that he knew within days of Arar’s arrest that the software engineer was not a terrorist; Zaccardelli also confessed that he had kept that fact a secret. “You let him rot for almost a year in Syrian prisons,” Bloc Québécois MP Serge Ménard told Zaccardelli. “For most Canadians, before the O’Connor commission report, Mr. Arar was linked to terrorists, and you knew it was false. How, as a policeman, could you leave someone that you know is innocent in prison?”

Zaccardelli insisted that no one had been misled. A look at the media record suggests otherwise. Wittingly or unwittingly, several reporters became complicit in a cover-up by perpetuating the myth that Maher Arar was a terrorist.

Buzz Hargrove on Kyoto

Hargrove is reliable in fighting for his constituency but otherwise he is an opportunist at times. Not surprisingly he wants to get old cars off the road. This will he no doubt hopes create more new car sales and work for his union workers. When it comes to gas guzzlers he thinks it is wrong to promote 4 cylinder imports over the less efficient union made vehicles! Aren't the foreign assembly plants in Canada unionised?

Buzz on Kyoto
Posted by Andrew Jackson under labour market , climate change

From today’s FP - I’ve dropped the misleading headline - this is a much more reasoned piece than some recently and widely circulated short quotes from Buzz on the implications of Kyoto for workers.

Friday, April 20, 2007

As the president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, I often find myself taking controversial positions, usually with a strong opinion on one side of the debate. But on the issue of the environment I find myself actually taking a position in the middle. I’m not used to that.

On the one hand, I have no time for those who deny the science of climate change and who steadfastly resist reductions in greenhouse gases or try to hide them with intensity targets. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Stephen Harper and his Tory colleagues were climate-change deniers.

But I also oppose those who insist that a full-steam-ahead, immediate, damn-the-consequences approach is the only answer. Instead I find myself in agreement with those environmentalists who propose the twin goals of improving the environment as well as strengthening our economy.

The CAW continues to support the objectives of the Kyoto protocol and the principle of international obligations. While it is impossible to achieve Kyoto targets in the time frames spelled out in Kyoto, Canada needs to work vigorously towards them and be part of a broader community of nations in our efforts to halt and reverse the degradation of our environment. All of which means we need clear targets, achievable timelines, the commitment and the resources to turn these goals into a workable plan.

I’m in a similar position when it comes to cars and the environment. I reject the proposition that reducing our environmental footprint means we must drive small vehicles or get rid of cars altogether. I think that Canadians are eminently practical - the top three selling vehicles in the country are a subcompact, a minivan and a pickup truck. These vehicles speak to the demands of life in Canada. Whether driving a pickup truck or a subcompact, consumers need to know that their choice of vehicles is meeting targets for fuel efficiency improvements.

It doesn’t make any sense that the federal government, in its recent budget, would announce higher incentives for imported 4-cylinder vehicles than for leading-edge, Canadian built products. For the Conservative government to introduce an incentive program that rewards imports while punishing Canadian producers with higher taxes on Canadians products is unconscionable. The government’s incentive program will encourage consumers to buy imports from Asia at the expense of our manufacturers and Canadian jobs.

I am overwhelmingly concerned about the manufacturing job crisis in Canada. This country has lost more than 250,000 manufacturing jobs in less than five years. It is a huge mistake to accelerate the problem through government policies.

The CAW understands the necessity of maintaining a clean environment as one of the most important legacies we can leave future generations. Since the formation of our union in 1985, our constitution has mandated all CAW local unions to have active environment committees.

Over the last few years the CAW has taken an active role in schools and communities throughout Canada, spending over $3-million educating students on the importance of a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Centered around Earth Day, each year CAW volunteers reach out to Canadian schools to educate youth on environmental

issues. In 2006 alone, the CAW brought this message to over 82,000 students.

Our union has already adopted a green car strategy and later adopted an Extended Producer Responsibility policy that would ensure all manufacturers must dismantle older vehicles and recycle the materials.

Our union recognizes that any solution will lead to some of our members losing their jobs. What Canada needs is a just transition period that recognizes this. We need government programs to support workers who lose their jobs and a serious retraining commitment that will allow industry to make responsible adjustments to ensure workers and their families don’t pay the price of cleaning up the environment.

Clearly, reducing greenhouse gases means reducing the amount of fossil fuel we consume. In addition to greater fuel efficiency and new technologies, we need a transportation strategy that will increase the use of renewable fuels and reduce the use of vehicles overall. This requires investments in clean and alternative fuels, mass transit, rail, as well as efforts to reduce gridlock.

The CAW supports mandatory fuel efficiency standards in the vehicle industry and believes that setting a clear target across all classes of vehicles, phased in by 2014, is achievable. These targets need to be constructed in a manner that drives improvements while at the same time strengthening, rather than undermining, Canada’s auto industry. There are real challenges to meeting those twin goals, but we can achieve both.

In addition, we need programs that support innovations in developing lighter materials, alternative fuels, green engine technologies, and fuel-efficient components. The federal government should introduce a Green Vehicle Transition (GVT) fee on each manufacturer that sells into our market, based on each company’s total Canadian sales. Companies would earn back the fees through Canadian investments in ‘green’ technologies and green production.

We need to look for opportunities to boost our economy and at the same time protect the environment.

A Ford engine plant in Windsor is closing– why wouldn’t government and industry join together to develop a new facility that produces a ‘green engine’ to replace those jobs? Through projects like these we can make our nation a leader in automotive and other green technologies. We need to find ways to protect the environment through ecologically-sound technology that create jobs.

The federal government has already recognized that incentives are needed to encourage homeowners to retrofit their homes. Similarly, we need real incentives to get older vehicles off the road. There are over 1? million vehicles that are over 20 years old on Canada’s streets and highways. Getting them off our roads will do more to solve GHG problems than any other proposal.

If the political parties are genuinely concerned with climate change, they should quit playing politics and work together to ensure that proper strategies and incentives are in place that will boost our economy and at the same time protect our manufacturing jobs. The future for young Canadians could flourish with a sustainable environment, a robust economy and a thriving manufacturing sector. A balanced approach is needed. - Buzz Hargrove is president of the Canadian Auto Workers.