Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wages not keeping up with productivity in Canada

The entire study is available through the link listed at the bottom. The data are not surprising. The labor movement is declining in strength and global competition puts downward pressure on wages in developed countries with higher wages. This is exactly how global capital wants it and why stock markets are still doing well for now.

Press Release
Canadian workers’ paycheques in 30-year holding pattern : Study
June 28, 2007 | National Office | Topic(s): Economy & economic indicators, Employment & labour | Publication Type: Press Release

OTTAWA – Canadians are working harder and smarter, contributing to a growing economy, but their paycheques have been stagnant for the past 30 years, says a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

Rising Profit Shares, Falling Wage Shares finds that Canada’s economy grew steadily and workers’ productivity improved by 51 per cent in the past 30 years, but workers’ average real wages have been stuck in a holding pattern all this time.

“Canadians are constantly being told they need to improve their productivity and grow the economy – which is exactly what they’ve done, but their paycheques aren’t growing to reflect their work effort,” says study co-author Ellen Russell, CCPA senior economist.

The study finds that Canadian workers’ wage share of national income is the lowest it’s been in 40 years. If workers’ real wages had increased to reflect improved productivity and economic growth, they could be earning an average of $10,000 more each year on their paycheques (in 2005 dollars).

Instead, corporations – not workers – have been banking the lion’s share of the benefits of economic growth and improved productivity.

“Corporate profit shares are the highest they’ve been in 40 years – and we’re not talking peanuts here,” says Russell. “In 2005, corporations banked $130 billion more in gross profits than they would have if the profit share had remained at 1991 levels. Sharing those earnings with workers could have gone a long way to reducing Canada’s growing income gap.”

The full study, co-authored by Ellen Russell and Mathieu Dufour is available at and


For more information contact: Trish Hennessy, CCPA, (416) 263-9896.

Download the Report/Study:
Rising Profit Shares, Falling Wage Shares - PDF File, 301 Kb
Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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Mel Watkins on Foreign Investment in Canada

Mel Watkins was a key member of the Waffle group as well as author of the Watkins report. This article strikes me as quite weak, accurate enough on many points but completely idealistic and out of touch. The present global capitalism is hardly laissez faire. The world is replete with agricultural subsidies and and intellectual property rights that are meant to prevent competition and ensure profits. The hegemon's (US) economy is best described as crony capitalism in which success depends as much on connections to the elite as free trade and entrepreneurial skills.
There is tremendous regulation most of it in the interests of larger corporations.
When Mel Watkins talks of the real economy being one where efficient resource development benefits local areas-he must mean ideal! Of course resource development does usually in some ways benefit local areas but as in the Tar Sands it will also cause negative effects for others such as aboriginal people or any who depend upon water resources etc. that may be negatively affected by development. And where does efficiency come in? If all the environmental costs of oil development in the Tar Sands were figured in there might not be even a net benefit even in conventional economic terms. But this is irrelevant. The whole development is tied in to the needs of the US hegemon and political goals of becoming less dependent on "unreliable" oil. That is the real economy.
Watkins in the end does not even seem to call for public ownership. National ownership by which he means Canadian private ownership he sees as a necessary first step. THe reasons why Canadian capitalists are better than international capitalists is not clear to me. Historically many Canadian owned companies such as the now defunct Eaton's have been reactionary to the bone. The idea of a democratic socialist Canada seems to be banned from the discourse of this champion of the Waffle Manifesto. Maybe it is still there but just banned from being mentioned as too radical!

Laissez-faire isn't working
Canada's non-policy on foreign takeovers is sheer folly -- we need to act in our own interests, and those of the world

Mel Watkins
Citizen Special

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Forty years ago, in Canada's centennial year, eight economists laboured in Ottawa to produce a report for the Pearson government on foreign ownership and what to do about it, this being a matter much on the public's mind. Though it was disowned by the government when it was published in early 1968 and, by default, named the Watkins Report after its chief author, a young and little-known economist, in the subsequent decade its key recommendations, to create the Foreign Investment Review Agency and the Canada Development Corporation, were implemented.

The elections of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney meant the death and undoing of such interventionism in Canada and elsewhere, in the name of laissez-faire and globalization and the fuller reign of the market.

But if you live long enough, the wheel turns full circle and the old becomes new again. So it is that the business press is now dominated by stories about takeovers and mergers and rising foreign ownership in Canada. What is to be done?

There are, as always in such matters, two answers: do nothing and do something. With Stephen Harper at the helm, do nothing is the policy of choice. But as policy goes, it seems to miss the point of what is happening.

Canadian economic development has from the outset been dominated by resource development for export. There is a logic to Canadian capital finding its strength in those sectors where Canada has its comparative advantage. It would seem to make sense, if the Canadian business class and the Canadian state are serious about playing the capitalist game, that it would create and nurture national champions in its resource sector.

But, as York University political economist Daniel Drache puts it, Canada is a careless country. Rather than creating national champions, if one emerges anyway, like Inco slowly over the years, we stand idly by and actually invite its takeover. In the 21st century, with resources such as oil and gas and uranium and nickel becoming the jewels of the global economy, Canada's non-policy is sheer folly. The great liquidity created by escalating commodity prices is being used to deprive Canada of ownership of its own resource industries. Somehow, this does not compute.

Companies themselves have become mere commodities to be bought and sold on a day-to-day basis. The relationship between that casino economy and the real economy of efficient resource development creating local benefit is obscure. Forty years ago the concern was with American ownership. Now our companies are targeted by Brazil, Russia, India and China, but our corporate and government elites remain passive.

It so happens that all of these countries have state-owned companies in the petroleum sector. Once upon a time we had PetroCanada but it was privatized. Now the response of the Harper government is not to reconsider state ownership but to worry that other countries' state enterprises may not be "neutral." This does rather miss the thrust of what is now happening in the world.

We now know something else that we didn't know before, and that is that the exploitation of resources, notably oil, can spell the end of the world at least as we know it. The fact is that the history of Canadian resource development is also the history of environmental degradation. What was once a local issue, a matter of national shame, is now a global matter in which everyone has a stake.

Countries that are resource-rich, it might be thought, have a special obligation to control development in the name of the global good. Alienating resources into the hands of giant corporations run from elsewhere and, in the last resort, accountable to no one, is unlikely to be helpful.

As mergers and the increasing concentration of capital sweep the world, it may just make sense not to embrace globalization yet more tightly but to contemplate some de-linking, some loosening of the ties. National ownership is a necessary first step. It builds a better base for Canadian companies to go outside Canada but, frankly, given what such companies are already doing to aboriginal rights within Canada and human rights abroad, this should not be seen as a priority.

It turns out that managing Canadian resources wisely in the interest of Canadians may be the best way to serve the good of humanity.

Mel Watkins is professor emeritus at University of Toronto and adjunct professor at Carleton University. He headed the federal government's Task Force on Foreign Ownership in the 1960s.

BC govt. ignoring court ruling?

For those who don't know, HEU is the Hospital Employees Union-part of CUPE the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Victoria is short for the British Columbia provincial govt. locate in Victoria BC. It sounds as if the BC govt. is going ahead with plans that depend upon a bill that has been declared unconstitutional.

News Release
Victoria gambles by ignoring high court and pushing ahead with plan to lay off Okanagan health workers
HEU demands public disclosure of any commitments given to foreign banks about the future of Bill 29
June 27, 2007

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The provincial government today issued a list of qualified bidders for hospital projects in the Okanagan that could include firing hundreds of health care workers using legislation ruled unconstitutional by the country’s highest court earlier this month.

The Hospital Employees’ Union says that the province is exposing taxpayers to future liability if it pushes ahead with plans to turn over hospital cleaning and maintenance to the three foreign banks that are backing bids to expand hospitals in Kelowna and Vernon.

More than 300 hospital employees could lose their jobs as a result.

On June 8, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down key sections of Bill 29, the 2002 legislation that removed contracting out protections from health care collective agreements.

HEU assistant secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic says it would be “prudent” for the provincial government to consider the full ramifications of using the unconstitutional legislation to turn over public services to for-profit companies.

“Victoria is in total denial about the court’s ruling,” says Bosancic.

“The court gave them one year to deal with the repercussions of the ruling. But they did not hand this government a free pass to continue to fire workers or make long-term business deals based on an unconstitutional law.”

Bosancic adds that if government has provided any commitments concerning the future of Bill 29 to the three foreign banks backing the approved consortiums, it must disclose that information to the public immediately.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

First Union of foreign farm workers in Canada

There are no details given but I am a bit surprised that the 43 who said they were misled by the union and did not want to join were simply ignored it seems. I guess if you sign on that is it. I wonder if the 43 were encouraged by their employer to sign the statement about being misled etc. Something must have prompted them.

Manitoba decision certifies migrant farm workers union
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 | 5:46 PM CT
CBC News
A group of migrant farm workers in Portage la Prairie, Man., has become unionized following a Manitoba Labour Board decision released Tuesday.

The certification means that dozens of workers at Mayfair Farms, a fruit and vegetable farm, are the first unionized group of foreign farm workers in Canada.

The United Food and Commercial Workers applied for certification at Mayfair Farms in September 2006.

The union said it had signed up more than 65 per cent of the 59 workers, which under Manitoba law entitles the group to automatic union certification.

The company argued the workers were not legally employees under the Labour Relations Act, so collective bargaining rights would not apply to them.

In October, 43 of the workers signed statements saying they were misled by the union and did not want to join.

In its decision, the Labour Relations Board said their objections were "untimely" and "did not allege misconduct," so they had no further standing at the hearing.

The five-page decision says the board determined the act did apply to the workers and Mayfair Farms was their employer.

UFCW officials said Tuesday the union will now begin bargaining for a collective agreement for the workers, most of whom are from Mexico.

About 18,000 foreign agricultural workers come to Canada every year under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. About 1,000 work in Manitoba.

What did the IMF say?

I read the speech as well and found nothing about inter-provincial trade barriers. This gives new meaning to the phrase "reading between the lines".

What Did the IMF Say?
Posted by Erin Weir under federalism, TILMA, financial markets.
June 22nd, 2007
Comments: 1

Under the headline “IMF Admonishes Canada,” the Financial Post reported on Wednesday:
The IMF added its voice yesterday to the growing chorus of observers urging Canada to undertake a 21st-century overhaul of its financial system, saying it should create a single securities regulator, open its banking system to foreign competition and mergers and tear down interprovincial trade barriers.
. . .
Rodrigo de Rato’s three suggestions to improve Canada’s financial systems: 1.Create a single securities regulator 2.Open the banking system to more foreign competition 3. Tear down interprovincial trade barriers
I cannot find any mention of “interprovincial trade barriers” in the published text of Rodrigo de Rato’s speech, nor does the National Post outline what he said on this topic. I can think of two possible explanations:
1. Mr. Rato said something that was not in his written text, in which case it would be interesting to know what it was.
2. The Harper government and others have been so successful in conflating the sensible notion of a national securities regulator with the hazy rhetoric about “interprovincial trade barriers” that a speech on the former prompts reporters to reflexively mention the latter.
UPDATE (June 25): The Financial Post has run another story (FP2 in today’s paper) containing the following statement:
Visiting Canada last week, Rodrigo de Rato said Canada should create a single securities regulator, open its banking system to foreign competition and mergers and dissolve interprovincial trade barriers.
All of the story’s quotes relate to the first two topics. Again, there are no specifics on “interprovincial trade barriers” or what Mr. Rato said about them.

Manufacturing and Construction Jobs in Canada

Seems to me that the growth in service industry jobs might help erode job quality. Even though construction wages may be lower than manufacturing Macjobs a probably less than half the wages per hour of construction jobs. Weir is right that construction jobs tend to be temporary and move from area to area but nowadays manufacturing jobs may b e temporary too!

Manufacturing and Construction
Posted by Erin Weir under labour market, free trade.
June 26th, 2007
Comments: 1

Recent commentaries from CIBC and Export Development Canada argue that the manufacturing crisis is not eroding job quality. Both note that a surge in construction employment, added to the relatively few new jobs in non-renewable resource extraction, nearly equals the number of manufacturing jobs lost in recent years.
As emphasized on the front page of yesterday’s Financial Post, this argument contradicts what the Canadian Labour Congress has been saying. It also contradicts a previous CIBC study that linked an overall decline in job quality to reduced manufacturing employment.
The more recent CIBC document and Export Development Canada’s document overlook a critical fact: average hourly wages (for hourly-paid employees) are more than 10% higher in manufacturing than in construction. Including overtime, manufacturing paid $23.61/hour and construction paid $21.20/hour in May 2007. Excluding overtime, these figures were $22.90 and $20.46 respectively.
Certainly, increased construction employment is good news. The building-trades unions, supported by the labour movement in general, are working to improve construction wages. However, the fact remains that replacing manufacturing jobs with construction jobs tends to reduce average wages.
Another important difference is that, whereas manufacturing employment is rooted in particular communities, construction employment is temporary because it is tied to particular projects. Construction and non-renewable resources are notoriously volatile. Canada’s current position at or near a cyclical peak in these sectors does not compensate for the underlying loss of stable manufacturing jobs.
One must also ask why Export Development Canada would seek to downplay the manufacturing crisis. Could it be because the federal government is currently negotiating a “free trade” agreement with Korea that would eliminate even more Canadian manufacturing jobs?
The loss of jobs in manufacturing, an industry heavily engaged in international trade, reflects poorly on Canadian trade policy. It seems odd that Export Development Canada’s countervailing success story is construction, the classic non-tradeable industry.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Relaxed gun rules for foreign police.

This is another example of deep integration through harmonising our rules with those of the US. It is done on the quiet. It is interesting that Bush appointee and former ambassador Paul Celucci is sought out for commentary. He was notorious for his obnoxious remarks as amabassador. Here is an example.

Sent to a meeting of Canadian businessmen (the Bush White House is always more comfortable in the company of businessmen), Celucci excoriated the Chretien government for its position on the US-Iraq war (let us please call it what it actually is), and, curiously, called on Chretien to "muzzle" the Canadian press.

There is no need to muzzle the Canadian press since most of the time it is sleeping anyway. Just let sleeping dogs lie while things are quietly changed.

Relaxed gun rules eyed for foreign police here
Jun 26, 2007 04:30 AM
OTTAWA–The federal government is quietly proposing to relax rules for foreign law enforcement officers who carry weapons into Canada, CTV News reported last night.

The network reported that the proposal was posted on the government's official publication, the Canada Gazette.

The posting says, "In a reciprocal agreement with the U.S., the regulation would exempt officers – including police and air marshals – from a `foreign state' from having to obtain permits for sidearms."

The major benefit of the proposal would be that both domestic and foreign officers could enter and exit Canada with their weapons – without the requirement of an import and export permit.

CTV says critics of the plan argue that it could have wider implications for sovereignty and gun control in the country. Canadian government officials would not comment on the report.

Among the critics is NDP MP Joe Comartin, who says the plan would give "carte blanche'' to foreign police officers. The plan was also criticized by Dan McTeague, Liberal MP and opposition critic for consular affairs.

But the network quoted Paul Celucci, former U.S. ambassador to Canada, as saying the regulation would make the border safer. That view, it said, is shared by Canadian Police Association President Tony Cannavino, who says it will make it simpler for police to investigate cross border crime.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Waffle Manifesto

I managed to find the text of the Waffle Manifesto as it was brought before an NDP Federal Convention by the Waffle group. James Laxer was a prominent member of the group and Ed Broadbent signed the Manifesto among others. I worked in the group as well although I was always a bit sceptical of trying to use the NDP as a vehicle for promoting the policies of the Manifesto. The NDP now would no doubt never allow the Manifesto near any federal convention!

Manifesto for an Independent Socialist Canada
From Wikisource
Waffle Resolution 133

1. Our aim as democratic socialists is to build an independent socialist Canada. Our aim as supporters of the New Democratic Party is to make it a truly socialist party.

2. The achievement of socialism awaits the building of a mass base of socialists, in factories and offices, on farms and campuses. The development of socialist consciousness, on which can be built a socialist base, must be the first priority of the New Democratic Party.

3. The New Democratic Party must be seen as the parliamentary wing of a movement dedicated to fundamental social change. It must be radicalized from within and it must be radicalized from without.

4. The MOST urgent issue for Canadians is the very survival of Canada. Anxiety is pervasive and the goal of greater economic independence receives widespread support. But economic independence without socialism is a sham, and neither are meaningful without true participatory democracy.

5. The major threat to Canadian survival today is American control of the Canadian economy. The major issue of our times is not national unity but national survival, and the fundamental threat is external, not internal.

6. American corporate capitalism is the dominant factor shaping Canadian society. In Canada, American economic control operates throughout the formidable medium of the multi-national corporation. The Canadian corporate elite has opted for a junior partnership with these American enterprises. Canada has been reduced to a resource base and consumer market within the American Empire.

7. The American Empire is the central reality for Canadians. It is an empire characterized by militarism abroad and racism at home. Canadian resources and diplomacy have been enlisted in the support of the empire. In the barbarous war in Vietnam, Canada has supported the United States through its membership on the International Control Commission and through sales of arms and strategic resources to the American military industrial complex.

8. The American empire is held together through worldwide military alliances and giant monopoly corporations. Canada's membership in the American alliance system and the ownership of the Canadian economy by American corporations precludes Canada's playing an independent role in the world. These bonds must be cut if corporate capitalism and the social priorities it creates are to be effectively challenged.

9. Canadian development is distorted by a corporate capitalist economy. Corporate investment creates and fosters superfluous individual consumption at the expense of social needs. Corporate decision-making concentrates investment in a few major urban areas, which become increasingly uninhabitable while the rest of the country sinks in underdevelopment.

10. The criterion that the most profitable pursuits are the most important ones causes the neglect of activities whose value cannot be measured be the standards of profitability. It is not accidental that housing, education, medical care, and public transportation are inadequately provided for by the present social system.

11. The problem of regional disparities is rooted in the profit orientation of capitalism. The social costs of stagnant areas are irrelevant to the corporations. For Canada, the problem is compounded by the reduction of Canada to the position of an economic colony of the United States. The foreign capitalist has even less concern for balanced development of the country than the Canadian capitalist with roots in a particular region.

12. An independent movement based on substituting Canadian capitalists for American capitalists, or on public policy to make foreign corporations behave as if they were Canadian corporations, cannot be our final objective. There is not now an independent Canadian capitalism and any lingering pretensions on the part on Canadian businessmen to independence lack credibility. Without a strong national capitalist class behind them, Canadian governments, Liberal and Conservative, have functioned in the interests of international and particularly American capitalism, and have lacked the will to pursue even a modest strategy of economic independence.

13. Capitalism must be replaced by socialism, by national planning of investment and by the public ownership of the means of production in the interests of the Canadian people as a whole. Canadian nationalism is a relevant force on which to build to the extent that it is anti-imperialist. On the road to socialism, such aspirations for independence must be taken into account. For to pursue independence seriously is to make visible the necessity of socialism in Canada.

14. THOSE WHO desire socialism and independence for Canada have often been baffled and mystified by the problem of internal divisions within Canada. While the essential fact of the Canadian history in the past century is the reduction of Canada to a colony of the United States, with a consequent increase in regional inequalities, there is no denying the existence of two nations within Canada, each with its own language, culture, and aspirations. This reality must be incorporated into the strategy of the New Democratic Party.

15. English Canada and Quebec can share common institutions to the extent that they share common purposes. So long as Canada is governed by those who believe that the national policy should be limited to the passive function of maintaining a peaceful and secure climate for foreign investment, there can be no meaningful unity between English and French Canadians. So long as the federal government refuses to protect the country from economic and cultural domination, English Canada is bound to appear to French Canadians simply as part of the United States. An English Canada concerned with its own national survival would create common aspirations that would help to tie the two nations together once more.

16. Nor can the present treatment of the constitutional issue in isolation from economic and social forces that transcend the two nations be anything but irrelevant. Politicians committed to the values and structure of a capitalist society drafted our present constitution a century ago. Constitutional change relevant to socialists must be based on the needs of the people rather than the corporations and must reflect the power of classes and groups excluded from effective decision-making by the present system.

17. A united Canada is of critical importance in pursuing a successful strategy against the reality of American imperialism. Quebec's history and aspirations must be allowed full expression and implementation in the conviction that new ties will emerge from the common perception of "two nations, one struggle". Socialists in English Canada must ally themselves with socialists in Quebec in this common cause.

18. CENTRAL TO the creation of an independent socialist Canada is the strength and tradition of the Canadian working class and the trade union movement. The revitalization and extension of the labor movement would involve a fundamental democratization of our society.

19. Corporate capitalism is characterized by the predominant power of the corporate elite aided and abetted by the political elite. A central objective of Canadian socialists must be to further the democratization process in industry. The Canadian trade union movement throughout its history has waged a democratic battle against the so-called rights or prerogatives of ownership and management. It has achieved the important moral and legal victory of providing for working men an affective say in what their wages will be. At present management's "right" to control technological change is being challenged. The New Democratic Party must provide leadership in the struggle to extend working men's influence into every area of industrial decision-making. Those who work must have effective control in the determination of working conditions, and substantial power in determining the nature of the product, prices and so on. Democracy and socialism require nothing less.

20. Trade unionists and New Democrats have led in extending the welfare state in Canada. Much remains to be done: more and better housing, a really progressive tax structure, a guaranteed annual income. However, these are no longer enough. A socialist society must be one in which there is democratic control of all institutions, which have a major effect on men's lives and where there is equal opportunity for creative non-exploitative self-development. It is now time to go beyond the welfare state.

21. New Democrats must begin now to insist on the redistribution of power, and not simply welfare, in a socialist direction. The struggle for worker participation in industrial decision-making and against management "rights" is such a move toward economic and social democracy.

22. By strengthening the Canadian labor movement, New Democrats will further the pursuit of Canadian independence. So long as the corporate elite dominates Canadian economic activity, and so long as worker's rights are confined within their present limits, corporate requirements for profit will continue to take precedence over human needs.

23. BY BRINGING men together primarily as buyers and sellers of each other, by enshrining profitability and material gain in place of humanity and spiritual growth, capitalism has always been inherently alienating. Today, sheer size combined with modern technology further exaggerates man's sense of insignificance and impotence. A socialist transformation of society will return to man his sense of humanity, to replace his sense of being a commodity. But a socialist democracy implies man's control of his immediate environment as well, and in any strategy for building socialism, community democracy is as vital as the struggle for electoral success. To that end, socialists must strive for democracy at those levels that most directly affect us all - in our neighborhoods, our schools, and our places of work. Tenants' unions, consumers' and producers' cooperatives are examples of areas in which socialist must lead in efforts to involve people directly in the struggle to control their own destinies.

24. SOCIALISM is a process and a program. The process is the raising of socialist consciousness, the building of a mass base of socialists, and a strategy to make visible the limits of liberal capitalism.

25. While the program must evolve out of the process, its leading features seem clear. Relevant instruments for bringing the Canadian economy under Canadian ownership and control and for altering the priorities established by corporate capitalism are to hand. They include extensive public control over investment and nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy, such as the essential resources industries, finance and credit, and industries strategic to planning our economy. Within that program, workers' participation in all institutions promises to release creative energies, promote decentralization, and restore human and social priorities.

26. The struggle to build a democratic socialist Canada must proceed at all levels of Canadian society. The New Democratic Party is the organization suited to bringing these activities into a common focus. The New Democratic Party has grown out of a movement for democratic socialism that has deep roots in Canadian history. It is the core around which should be mobilized the social and political movement necessary for building an independent socialist Canada. The New Democratic Party must rise to that challenge or become irrelevant. Victory lies in joining the struggle.

Retrieved from ""

James Laxer: Toward a New Canadian Foreign Policy

Laxer was one of the key figures in the Waffle movement in the NDP years ago. The Waffle Manifesto was also quite nationalist but there was much more socialism than anything here in this article. Although Laxer's analysis and criticism of continentalism seems quite convincing his positive Canadian alternative seems quite undeveloped. Perhaps in his next article he will flesh it out more.

Afghanistan: Toward a new Canadian foreign policy

Nationalist conservatism has remained a significant sentiment in Canada, but as neo-conservatism grew, it lost its place in the Progressive Conservative Party. Today's Conservative Party of Canada is firmly locked within the logic of the Continentalist School of Canadian Foreign policy.

>by James Laxer
June 22, 2007

(Mission of Folly: Part ten — 1) For Canadians, the Afghanistan operation has been a mission of folly. Canada blindly followed the United States into a war that is not winnable, a war from which no positive results can be anticipated. Now that American public opinion has turned sharply against the war in Iraq, U.S. involvement in Afghanistan will not long endure. Americans will move on to other engagements, other power struggles and new priorities. By the time the Bush administration is out of office, the chances are that the Afghanistan mission, if not finished, will be on its last legs.

As Americans pursue a modified foreign policy, the opportunity opens for Canada to chart its own course in the world. In recent years, it has become commonplace for critics on the political right to decry Canada's waning global influence. Those critics have called on Canada to rearm and to reassert itself alongside its military allies.

What these critics really wanted was for Canada to line up solidly with the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to make a fourth in the “Anglo-Sphere.” In Afghanistan, these critics got their way. Canada took its place in the Anglo-Sphere in a shooting war and Canadians suffered their most serious military casualties since the Korean conflict. For Stephen Harper, who observed that these casualties were the price of greater global influence, this made sense.

In truth, however, Canada's global influence has not been increasing. If anything, it has been diminishing. In Afghanistan, Canada has been engaged in a hopeless American adventure. In the Middle East, Canada has aligned itself so closely with Israel as to strip our country of whatever small influence it formerly had. The pursuit of influence in the military adventures of the Anglo-Sphere has proved to be a dead end for Canada.

Canadians need to think through the principles on which a new Canadian foreign policy should rest. Although discussions of Canadian foreign policy often skirt around this, the starting point for any foreign policy needs to be the furtherance of Canadian domestic interests in the international sphere. And while there is no necessary contradiction between the two, the second goal of Canadian foreign policy should be to advance the principles to which Canada is committed in the wider world.

Canada's vital national interests have always been much easier to spell out than to realize. That's what comes of living in a unique neighbourhood in which an otherwise potentially influential country is left feeling quite impotent because it is located next door to the world's only superpower. The power imbalance between Canada and its puissant neighbour has always made Canadian foreign policy a peculiar amalgam of resignation and utopianism.

On the resignation side, a species of lobbyists whom I would call “continentalists in realist clothing” have argued that Canada cannot challenge the wishes of the United States on fundamental issues and that its best course of action is to accommodate to the direction America is determined to take and to obtain the greatest influence and the best bargain in the process.

In 1964, a former U.S. ambassador to Ottawa and a former Canadian ambassador to Washington collaborated to write a report (the Merchant-Heeney Report) that set out this approach. The report called on Canada to negotiate vigorously with the United States on bilateral issues, but to recognize the special global role of the U.S.

On wider international questions, therefore, where Canada disagreed with American policies, Ottawa ought to pursue what the report called “quiet diplomacy.” Canada ought to refrain from public disagreements with the United States on global issues that did not directly concern Canadian interests. The Merchant-Heeney Report quickly became notorious because it recommended what most people saw as an unacceptable abandonment of Canadian sovereignty, an unnecessary acceptance of American suzerainty on global issues.

While the Report was not adopted by Ottawa, the approach it advocated has been advanced repeatedly in one form or another, by pro-American lobby groups over the past four decades. The C.D. Howe Institute, the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (formerly the Business Council on National Issues) have tirelessly promoted the notion that Canadian foreign and defence policies should be closely coordinated with those of Washington.

In his maiden speech in the House of Commons as Leader of the Opposition in 2003, Stephen Harper, then leader of the Canadian Alliance, excoriated the record of the Liberal government on the issue of Canadian-American relations. He accused the Liberals of having undermined the relationship with Washington by taking holier-than-thou positions on issues such as the treaty banning the use of land mines. He concluded that anything that substantially harmed the United States would devastate Canada.

Adherents of this school of thought make the case that on important military questions Canada has no choice but to align itself with the United States. In a study for the C.D. Howe Institute several years ago, historian Jack Granatstein advanced this argument.

We can label this the Continentalist School of Canadian foreign policy. The essential tenet of this school is that Canada is an economic, political, cultural and military extension of the United States, a lesser power whose larger fate is bound up with that of its neighbour. This school of thought was enormously influential in its advocacy of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in the 1980s and NAFTA in the 1990s. The members of the Continentalist School have been the most consistent advocates of a coherent approach to Canadian foreign policy in recent decades.

Over the course of Canadian history, there have been other coherent approaches. From the time of Confederation in 1867 until the Second World War, the dominant school of Canadian foreign policy could be called Imperial-Nationalist. At the beginning of this historical period, of course, Canadian foreign and military policies were legally in the hands of Westminster, although Canada had control of its domestic affairs.

This makes the term foreign policy premature and indeed, for decades the Canadian foreign ministry was called the Department of External Affairs. The great architect of the Imperial-Nationalist school was John A. Macdonald, Canada's first Prime Minister, whose tory-nationalism was the ideology that suffused the Canadian state and its economic policies for many decades.

The Imperial-Nationalist approach to foreign or external affairs grew out of the proposition that the supreme threat to Canadian nationhood arose not from Canada's colonial relationship with Britain, but from Canada's uneasy position vis-a-vis the United States. Macdonald believed that Canada needed Britain to offset the threat from the south. During the Second World War, Winston Churchill's policy was to call on the power of the New World to redress the balance in the Old. Macdonald's policy was the reverse of that: he called on the power of the Old World to redress the balance in the New.

The Second World War destroyed the power relations in the North Atlantic on which the Imperial-Nationalist school was based. The British Empire disintegrated in the years following the war and the American Empire took its place. Canada could no longer seek a balance in its relationships with two great English speaking powers. Britain's decline spelt the end of the Imperial-Nationalist school of Canadian foreign policy. The sentiments on which the school had rested outlived the disappearance of the geo-political basis for the implementation of its policies, however.

Nationalist conservatism has remained a significant sentiment in Canada, but as neo-conservatism grew, it lost its place in the Progressive Conservative Party. Today's Conservative Party of Canada is firmly locked within the logic of the Continentalist School of Canadian Foreign policy.

Over the past four decades, as political and cultural movements have arisen to contest the degree of American domination of Canada, the basis for a new school of Canadian foreign policy has emerged. We can call it the Canadian School.

The Canadian School seeks to achieve two large goals. The first is to promote the survival of Canada as a sovereign power in North America. The second is to promote the values to which Canadians are committed in the wider world. The first goal grows directly out of Canadian domestic policies. As is appreciated by all Canadians who have embraced their country's potential as something far greater than the quest for immediate material gratification, Canada has the capacity to enlarge itself in human terms over the course of this century.

Americans in the 19th century perceived their country's potential to achieve more in the future than it had in the past. Canadians, who are not bounded by the limiting confines of neo-conservatism and the subservience of the Continentalist School of Canadian Foreign Policy, realize that they are creating a country that will be greater in the future than it is today. That gives the present generation of Canadians an immense responsibility to realistically pursue the interests of Canada today in such a way as not to foreclose on the potential of the country for the future.

For the present, Canada needs a foreign policy with one eye on the long-term future, and the other on the present. The mixture that is needed is one that combines realism with a dose of utopianism. The Canada to come over the course of this century can expect to play as large a role in the world as the United Kingdom or France.

Consider the course of the past century. At the beginning of the 20th century, with a population of five million, Canada was five per cent as populous as the United States. When the century closed, Canada was more than ten per cent as populous as its southern neighbour. Laurier's boast that the “20th century belongs to Canada” has always seemed more than a little over the top, but he was not entirely wrong.

Not only did Canada's population more than double relative to that of the U.S., its economy more than doubled in size in relation to that of the United States during the 20th century. Reluctant and non-visionary though the country's leadership has often been, Canada has thrived over the course of the past hundred years.

Like the British Empire of the 19th century, Canada has grown in a fit of absence of mind. For our good fortune to continue, however, a more concerted approach is needed. The Canadian School needs to drive home the point that the Continentalist School is guilty of taking an extremely short-term approach and not even doing a good job of that.

The curious thing about the Canadian business lobbyists, for whom the Continentalist School speaks, is how lacking in serious ambition they are. Living as they do on a piece of real estate that is among the greatest on earth, and that is inhabited by a population that is highly motivated and well educated, you would think that Canadian business lobbyists would aspire to more than playing second fiddle to the Americans. One might imagine that Canadian business would want real power for itself, willing to engage in commerce with whomever, but always realizing that they could occupy a larger place in the global scheme of things.

In the 19th century, American business moguls had that sense of themselves. John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, and the world's first billionaire, built his global petroleum empire through a peculiar combination of cutthroat competition and Christian piety. He was seriously religious and believed in a social Darwinist business ethic in which the stronger prevailed and the weak perished. Standard Oil set its sights on the domination, not only on the American petroleum market, but the global market.

The Rockefeller story has been repeated many times over in the annals of American business, right down to the present epics of the Waltons and Bill Gates. By contrast, Canadian business moguls have usually been full of bluster, but highly derivative in their ambitions, wanting little more for themselves than acceptance from their British and American counterparts. The consequence is that they have been quite prepared to concede the genuine power that could have been theirs in return for a comfortable seat in someone else's vehicle.

Under the circumstances, an alternative vision of Canada's place in world and its foreign policy will have to be based on other social forces. At first glance, this may seem to be a rather dim prospect. There are reasons for hope, however. For several decades, Canada has been that odd case, a country whose population has grown ever more committed to its survival in the face of business spokespersons who have largely abandoned this cause.

The collapse of the Bush administration's strategy in the Middle East and Central Asia makes the prospects for a shift in Canadian foreign policy brighter. Those who have been most inclined to follow the Bush line in Canada — the Harper Conservatives and the business lobbyists — have damaged their cause immeasurably in their stolid adherence to the lost cause. Theirs will be the fate of spear carriers through the ages who have wound up on the wrong side.

The new Canadian foreign policy should aim at preserving Canadian sovereignty and on lending Canada's weight in the world to greater political and economic justice and environmental sustainability. Canadians need to recognize that in the world of the 21st century national sovereignty is an immeasurably valuable asset.

The American novelist Mark Twain once advised people to buy land on the grounds that “they're not making any more of that.” The same thing is basically true when it comes to sovereign nations. It is true that a rash of them became sovereign in the great age of decolonization in the several decades following the Second World War. Then there was a second rash that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. And Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were severed into pieces.

But the point stands. Not many new sovereign states will be created over the course of the present century. Those that exist will prize their sovereignty as an asset that gives them admission to international decision making bodies and that allows them to shape affairs on their own territory to a considerable extent.

These assertions fly in the face of much received wisdom in the so-called age of globalization. With the fall of the Soviet Empire, the world entered the brief era of the supposed End of History and the Borderless World. The curtain rang down on that brief epoch on September 11, 2001.

The terror attacks were followed by the rediscovery of the state — in fact, it had never gone away. The American state, which presided over the greatest empire of our time, under the direction of the Bush administration, staked its claim to remaining the world's paramount military power in permanence. The contradiction at the heart of the American Empire was that while it was able to shape the course of politics, the economy and society in many countries, it relied on the state in each country to administer affairs locally.

The great fact of our age is that we live in a world dominated by the American Empire, but a world in which the sovereign state is increasingly valued as a priceless asset by peoples everywhere. Empire and nationalism co-exist today as they co-existed in the age of the great European empires.

James Laxer is a professor of political science at York University in Toronto. This is part 10.1 of a 10.2-part series that has run regularly on

Harper says consensus needed to extend Afghan mission.

I wonder what Harper is up to? Is it a face saving tactic or does he really think that he will gain support from the Liberals or BQ great enough to claim a consensus. It will be a strange consensus if some parties oppose any extension at all as the NDP might unless the role is solely aid for reconstruction.

'Consensus' needed to extend Afghan mission: PM
Last Updated: Friday, June 22, 2007 | 2:25 PM ET
CBC News
The Conservative government will not extend Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan beyond February 2009 without a consensus in Parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday.

"I will want to see some degree of consensus among Canadians on how we move forward on that," Harper told reporters Friday in Ottawa.

"I don't want to send people on a mission if the opposition is going to, at home, undercut the dangerous work they're doing in the field."

The 2009 deadline was set in May 2006, when the Conservatives announced a vote on a two-year extension for the mission and, a few days later, squeezed it through Parliament in a vote of 149-145.

But Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion has since made it clear that his party will oppose any extension of the mission beyond February 2009.

'He wants to stay': Dion
Dion accused Harper on Friday of deliberately creating ambiguity over Canada's future role in Afghanistan.

"If he were responsible, he would tell the Afghan government and our allies that the Canadian combat mission in Kandahar would end in February 2009 and they should prepare themselves on that basis," Dion told reporters after Harper spoke.

"To keep saying these ambiguous things, it's because he wants to stay."

Harper said Friday that he didn't believe Canadians wanted "simply to abandon" the democratically elected Afghan government and said he hoped for a "meeting of minds" in determining Canada's role beyond the deadline.

His comments came a day after NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer appealed for Canada to remain with the fighting and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan beyond 2009.

Since Canada started its Afghan mission in 2002, it has lost one diplomat and 60 soldiers, including three soldiers who were killed this week by an improvised explosive device.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

RCMP "tightens" the intelligence standard.

This is unadulterated rhetorical garbage. The tightening is simply applying the norms that were already in place but that were not followed in the Arar case because the RCMP thought that the rules about vetting and placing caveats on the use of data were not in play. At least that is what the RCMP claimed but CSIS claimed otherwise. How the RCMP can be assured that the FBI always follows the rules about caveats is anyone's guess. It is again just saying the right thing.


RCMP tightens intelligence standard

June 20, 2007

The RCMP is assuring Parliament that it has officially entered a post-Arar world.

Senators asked a top Mountie this week whether dubious intelligence from Canada could ever again be used by the United States to deport a suspect to a third country to face torture.

It was precisely this scenario, in 2002, that appears to have led to the Maher Arar affair and its fallout.

Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell testified that terrorism investigations are now highly centralized within his office, where he and his officials carefully examine all information input and output. He says the national security criminal investigations squad runs on discipline.

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"We are very careful about staying within our mandate," the official repeatedly stressed to the Senate committee on national security. He added that he can even ensure international partners don't cross lines either.

"I am satisfied that in my dealings with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, my information will be protected and that I will be notified and consulted before any action is taken with respect to the information I provide to the bureau," Mr. McDonell testified.

"I am satisfied that, if I said the information could not be used in a certain way, we could work through that."

Five years ago, there was confusion about how information was gathered and how it was treated.

In 2002, Syrian-Canadian engineer Maher Arar was flagged as an "Islamic extremist" on an international no-fly list after the Mounties spotted him while monitoring another suspect.

When Mr. Arar passed through a New York airport, authorities there labelled him an al-Qaeda member and flew him in shackles to Syria, where he was detained for nearly a year.

A Canadian judge who spent years looking into this found that inaccurate information from Canada likely led to the engineer's ordeal.

Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor also found that Mr. Arar was tortured in Syria, though he had never represented any threat to Canadian national security.

Mr. McDonell says that today, the Mounties have "gotten out" of strategic intelligence work and left that job entirely to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

"We take our strategic national security priorities from the service," he told the Senate committee. "We do not produce them."

He added that most of Judge O'Connor's recommendations related to the Arar affair have been "fully implemented" by the Mounties.

In fact, "we were well on our way to that before the recommendations came out" last winter, he said.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Scheffer claims Canada fighting to preserve universal values in Afghanistan.

The entire article is at the Globe and Mail.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, standing before the Vandoos's red-coated honour guard in Quebec City's historic Citadel, told the soldiers they were fighting to preserve universal values.
Scheffer does not say what the universal values are. In Afghanistan we are preserving the war lords, the religious police, the death penalty for converting from Islam to any other religion etc.etc. Perhaps one of the universal values is US global hegemony.

Deputy Commissioner of RCMP steps down.

I wonder if there is any salary reduction in his new position. The position itself is a bit strange for a person who is in effect being forced out of his position because of his lack of proper oversight. Perhaps it is just a position manufactured to enable a lateral transfer out of the hot spot.

RCMP deputy commissioner steps down amid controversy
Last Updated: Friday, June 22, 2007 | 9:19 PM ET
CBC News
A deputy commissioner at the RCMP has stepped down, one week after he was criticized in an investigation into the police force's pension fund scandal.

Paul Gauvin announced Friday that he is leaving his position, but not the RCMP. He will serve as the force's special adviser on major capital projects.

Gauvin, a former public servant who joined the RCMP as a civilian member in 1999, was singled out in a report released June 15 by federal investigator David Brown.

Brown was appointed by the Conservative government to investigate allegations that senior RCMP officers covered up problems in the administration of the force's $12-billion pension and insurance fund.

The alleged problems included doubtful expense-account claims, improper contracts and nepotism in hiring.

Brown, in his report, said Gauvin didn't take any responsibility for the problems, even though he was deputy commissioner of corporate management and comptrollership, which meant he was the top official in charge of RCMP finances.

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"He has consistently refused to accept accountability for problems exposed in the administration of the pension and insurance plans," Brown wrote in the report.

"I do understand [Gauvin's] point when he says that the RCMP is a large organization and that he cannot be expected to be aware of every transaction. However the chief financial officer of any organization must accept accountability for failures in the finance and comptrollership functions."

Brown compiled his report after reviewing multiple investigations and inquiries into RCMP management that had been conducted since 2003. Brown also hired forensic accountants to study 400,000 documents and e-mails and interviewed about 25 witnesses.

In his report, Brown did not call for a public inquiry but did recommend that a task force of police, government officials and private-sector experts examine RCMP culture and governance. Brown said there needs to be major changes to the way the organization is managed.

He strongly criticized the management style of former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, saying officers who came forward with concerns about the management of the pension fund were treated poorly.

Some of the officers testified earlier this spring to a parliamentary committee, claiming that when they unearthed irregularities, their senior managers responded by punishing them or blocking investigations.

Day and the RCMP scandals

Wow! If I were Day I would be a bit paranoid about the media after reading articles like this. I think maybe Day has caused our rainy weather out here too and the tornadoes that touched down near Winnipeg! Of course Day must bear some responsibility for the mess in the RCMP but it is successive governments not just the Tories or Day who have not cleaned things up. Maybe I have low expectations of Day! Day did after all refuse to tag along with the US when it came to agreeing that Arar should be on the US no fly list. He even said that the secret evidence he saw did not change his mind clearly implying that there was nothing of significance that the US had on Arar. Surely Day deserves some credit for his stand on Arar.
Having said on this it certainly would be a better idea to have a full inquiry into the RCMP than to follow the Day policy.

POLITICS AND POLICE - comment - Day the one inescapable constant in RCMP mess
Day the one inescapable constant in RCMP mess
Jun 21, 2007 04:30 AM
Andrew Mitrovica

Stockwell Day is a fortunate man. He has so far escaped being held to even a semblance of account over a cascading series of scandals that have debilitated this nation's federal police force. The outrages are fuelled by deceit, incompetence and rot deep inside the RCMP.

Here is a synopsis of the force's recent travails:

A damning verdict by Ontario's former associate chief justice detailed the central and disastrous role the RCMP played in Maher Arar's illegal deportation and torture.

Charges from within the force's ranks pointed to corruption, cronyism and cover-up by top Mounties in connection to millions of dollars in an employee pension fund.

A disgraced commissioner resigned after offering contradictory accounts of his role in the Arar affair and a deputy commissioner was suspended after allegations of perjury before a parliamentary committee.

And now a report that lays bare the dictatorial character of the RCMP's most senior officers and their petty, vindictive response to internal dissent.

It is a portrait of a police force nearing implosion. The RCMP's dysfunctional state is an indictment of a government that routinely warns us that we are vulnerable to attacks from amorphous enemies at home and abroad. The implications of this disaster for Canadians' safety and security are incalculable. The one inescapable constant throughout this mess has been Day.

But the only thing Canada's public safety minister seems to be busy safeguarding these days is his refurbished reputation with much of the Ottawa press corps. If you are inclined to believe Day's recent press clippings, you would likely surmise that the minister is a quietly competent action man who is determined to rapidly right the sinking ship called the RCMP.

Day promoted this disingenuous image by commissioning David Brown, the former head of the notoriously limp Ontario Securities Commission, to produce a report containing a conclusion that anyone with a functioning pair of eyes and even a mild interest in our national security infrastructure knew long ago – the RCMP is dangerously adrift.

In the aftermath of Brown's headline grabbing finding that the RCMP is "broken," the minister has, once again, apparently seized the day. He has opted to strike a task force of eminent persons, rather than a full-fledged public inquiry, to determine how best to repair the RCMP because, Day says, "we've got to take action now."

This Pablum masquerading as "action" is, of course, classic crisis management. Day and his advisers have plucked the ready and predictable tricks from their public relations grab bag to get out "in front" of a damaging story.

They have constructed an exculpatory narrative of a minister who is in command, marshalling the resources of his department and government to quickly rehabilitate the RCMP's tarnished reputation in a belated effort to reassure you and me.

For the most part, the media have parroted the story line tailored by Day and company. He has, as a result, avoided uncomfortable questions concerning his whereabouts while the RCMP has been disintegrating so publicly.

There are other questions that demand answers. Why did Day turn to a Bay Street investigator to do his job? Isn't it the public safety minister's responsibility to probe the causes of the malignancy inside the RCMP? Why is the impatient minister content to wait until the end of the year, when the task force is expected to issue its findings, before overhauling the RCMP?

It is has been quite a metamorphosis for the former leader of the now deceased Canadian Alliance. During his tumultuous tenure as Opposition leader, he earned a reputation as a barely competent politician, who often exercised questionable judgment.

He was dethroned by a caucus mutiny triggered by a string of embarrassing faux pas, culminating in his party's hiring (and firing) of a former undercover agent linked to the Hells Angels biker club to "get the goods" on Jean Chrétien's Liberal government.

At the time, Day was described by one columnist as "a disaster waiting to happen."

She was right.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Charkaoui meets CSIS dept. of dirty tricks.

Here we go again. This is the same pattern as happened with Maher Arar. Documents are leaked to the news media that show someone is a terrorist. These are classified documents. This technique seems to be a common underhand method for CSIS to justify itself. There is no way of verifying the truth of the documents. In the case of Arar the inquiry did show that the documents leaked to the press in his case involved confessions obtained through torture in Syria among other things. Although it is a criminal offence to reveal classified documents in this way no one has ever been found guilty of doing so in the Arar case and no doubt the same will be true in this case. The RCMP burned barns. The CSIS burns people's reputations.

Charkaoui denies talking about terrorist plot
Moroccan-born Montrealer demands federal inquiry into his security certificate
Last Updated: Friday, June 22, 2007 | 2:14 PM ET
CBC News
A Moroccan-born Montreal man accused of being a terrorist denies new reports alleging he was part of a plot to hijack a plane and fly it into a building in Europe.

Adil Charkaoui, who has been accused of being an al-Qaeda sleeper agent, said Thursday he has never been involved in a terrorist plot.

( Charkaoui is calling for a federal and police inquiry into allegations against him, and has demanded the outstanding security certificate in his name be revoked. "A line has been crossed," he said on Friday.

The French teacher, 33, was responding to a report in the Montreal newspaper La Presse. It cited a Canadian Security Intelligence Service document that alleges Charkaoui followed two Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, and in 2000 talked about plans to fly a plane into a building in Europe with another man, Hisham Tahir.

The document, called Former Terrorist Training Camps in Afghanistan: Major Sites and Assessment, was the basis for a security certificate issued against Charkaoui in 2003. The certificate brought about his arrest and detention for nearly two years without him being charged with anything.

Charkaoui accused the federal government of leading a smear campaign against him by leaking classified information even his lawyers haven't seen.

While he admits he did know Tahir, who attends the same Montreal mosque and once worked at his pizzeria, Charkaoui insisted in all their conversations they never talked about a plot to crash a plane.

"These are pure lies. And I think the context is really surprising," he said in French. "I cannot trust [federal Public Safety Minister] Stockwell Day."

Charkaoui is asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to launch an inquiry to investigate how CSIS handled the security certificates, and also wants the police to intervene.

On Friday, Harper said he wouldn't comment on Charkaoui's concerns.

"This is a case in front of the courts. The government does not make comments. But it is a serious case," he said in French.

Document 'supposed to be secret': lawyer
Charkaoui's lawyer, Johanne Doyon, said the publication of the document violates federal law.

"This is a document that is supposed to be secret," she said. "We are flabbergasted that there was a CSIS leak. And we wonder what the real objective of this leak actually is."

Charkaoui's lawyers have not been able to access the document despite their lengthy court battle against the security certificate.

The Supreme Court agreed last winter to hear an appeal from Charkaoui, who wants to contest the security certificate proceedings launched against him by Ottawa on the grounds CSIS tainted evidence used to detain him.

The country's top court has already struck down the security certificates in a groundbreaking decision released in February 2007 that determined they violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But the court suspended the ruling for 12 months, to allow the government enough time to rewrite security laws, effectively meaning the security certificates are valid until further notice.

Charkaoui's Supreme Court of Canada case is expected to be heard sometime next year.

Harper: Govt. can't comply with Kyoto law.

Lets see. Harper will not ignore the law but then he won't comply with the law either. So he might as well have ignored it. Liberals are not very good horsetraders. They traded passing the Conservative budget for passing a Liberal law that means nothing it seems.

Government can't comply with Kyoto law: PM
Last Updated: Friday, June 22, 2007 | 4:15 PM ET
CBC News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he will not ignore a law passed Friday that requires the government to meet Kyoto's emission-reduction targets — but warned that he has no constitutional authority to implement it.

The bill — which gives the government 60 days to table a detailed plan outlining how Canada will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions — was introduced by Liberal backbencher MP Pablo Rodriguez and passed in the House of Commons in February, despite Conservative opposition.

The Liberal-dominated Senate passed the bill on Friday.

"I'm not saying I'm going to ignore it at all," the prime minister told reporters on Friday.

"But I don't believe that either the House of Commons or the Senate would want to force the government to do something that it doesn't have the constitutional authority to do."

Since the Conservatives came to power in January 2006, Harper has repeatedly said Canada's commitments under Kyoto — signed under a previous Liberal government — are not achievable by the 2012 deadline because it would devastate the economy.

Harper said Friday that the Speaker of the House has ruled the legislation is not a money bill — one that lays out government spending — so there are strict constitutional limitations in terms of what can be achieved.

"The bill cannot impose billions of dollars of costs on the government or on the Canadian economy," he told reporters.

Under the international Kyoto protocol, which was signed by Canada in 1998 and ratified in 2002, the country agreed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels by 2012.

In an interview with the Canadian Press before the vote, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan also played down the significance of the Kyoto legislation.

"It's a very odd piece of legislation," he said, noting that it commits the government to achieving emission-reduction goals without spending a dime.

He added "there's some similarity" between the bill and a toothless motion passed years ago by Parliament to eliminate child poverty by 2000.

"Abstract goals like that are a tough thing to enforce as a law."

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said Harper should respect the legislation said he won't bring down the Conservative government over the issue.

"There are many, many things that I find wrong in this government. It's not a reason for me to say because these things are wrong, I'm ready to call an election," Dion said.

"At the end of the day this law will be helpful to see how the government is not doing the right thing."

James Laxer comments on the no-fly list

This is an excellent analysis of some of the shortcomings of the no-fly list. He could have noted that some suspected of immediate plots and being monitored are not on the list because agencies do not want them to be alerted to that fact.

No Fly List, Other Spook Lists, and the Court of Star Chamber

The federal government’s No Fly list came into effect this morning. Ottawa’s list includes the name, date of birth, and gender of persons who supposedly could pose a threat to aviation safety, if they were to board a flight.

The No Fly list is being provided to all airlines that fly within Canada or in and out of Canada. The list is administered by Transport Canada. It has been compiled secretly, no one will say by whom, and no one will tell us how many names are on the list.

According to a Globe and Mail story, the Canadian No Fly list is expected to contain fewer than one thousand names. The Globe provides no source for this.

The United States has a similar No Fly list and one of the reasons Ottawa is drawing up its own list is to reassure Washington that we are doing all in our power to aid in the War on Terror. The American list, which contained as many as 70,000 names at one point, has been the cause of numerous “false positives”---people with the same name or similar names to those on the list---being barred from taking a flight. Among those caught in the net have been Senator Edward Kennedy, and Edmonton Conservative MP John Williams.

The way the Canadian system works is as follows. All passengers when they are at the airline counter to pick up their boarding passes will have their names checked against the No Fly list. If the passenger’s name is on the list, the airline employee hands the person a printed form that explains that he or she is on the No Fly list. Instructions are included about how to contact Transport Canada and how to appeal for the removal of one’s name from the list. Once the printout has been handed to the rejected passenger, the airline ceases to be involved.

You could be in Toronto, Tokyo, Cairo or Washington when this administrative fiat comes down on you. That’s tough. There’s no way to find out before you plan your trip whether you’re on the list. And just because you’ve been allowed to fly to Paris doesn’t mean that your name won’t be added to the list before your return flight home. You can, of course, take a passenger ship home if one is available. That is unless the security forces in the airport pick you up when they see that you haven’t been allowed to board your flight. That might not happen in Moncton, but I’d be less happy-go-lucky about this in Beijing or New York.

What about the rights of other passengers to board their flights in the most secure possible circumstances, you were about to ask? Don’t their rights trump those of the people whose names were put on the No Fly list for a very good reason? People with nothing to hide have nothing to fear, the old saying goes.

We’ll return to the rights issue, but first the security question. Any sensible person will agree that people are entitled to the best possible security protection when they board an aircraft. Few who have examined the matter would claim that Canada’s procedures provide the best possible security. The major hole in this country’s arrangements---from the time of the bombing of Air India in 1985 to the present---has been the failure to X Ray all baggage being loaded onto aircraft, and where there have been specific warnings, to use other measures as well, such as the use of sniffer dogs. This costs money. Let’s spend it.

The American experience with a No Fly list has done nothing useful except to provide jokes for late night comics. Almost no one thinks that future terrorists who board a plane will carry ID that will show up on the No Fly list.

This takes us back to the rights question.

The idea of drawing up a secret list and asking airlines to administer it is frightening. Foreign airlines and governments will get to know your name is on the list..

People on the list are presumed to pose a terror threat. If this is true they ought to be arrested and charged with a criminal offence. Instead, we’ve cooked up a new category of person----someone too innocent to be charged with an offensive, but too guilty to be allowed to board an aircraft.

Those who are on the list are not permitted to face those who have accused them in a transparent judicial proceeding.

Those on the No Fly list are not allowed to fly inside Canada. Worse still, they have had their right to travel internationally effectively removed. One of the rights guaranteed in the Canadian Constitution is that of mobility. Section 6: 1 reads: “Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.”

This is not the first time that “spook lists” have been drawn up to harass citizens. I have had some personal experience with this.

In the late 1980s, when they were in their late seventies, my parents who had quit the Communist Party of Canada in 1956, were flying back to Toronto from Europe. Their flight was re-routed to Chicago due to bad weather. When the passengers deplaned in Chicago, my parents were taken aside and held by a U.S. government agent in a special holding room. When there was a flight available to Toronto, they were escorted onto the plane by an agent. Three decades after they had left a legal political party, they were still not allowed to enter the Land of the Free.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was involved in the Waffle Movement in the NDP, an open and democratic political movement. In March 1971, the Security Service of the RCMP, in a brief on the Waffle group submitted to the Solicitor General of Canada Jean-Pierre Goyer, noted that:

The prime aim of the Waffle Group within the NDP is the establishment of an independent socialist Canada to be achieved through the existing structure of the New Democratic Party. The Waffle group hope to change the NDP from within and radicalize the NDP socialist policies. Considering the Waffle group as a whole, it is felt they will be a viable political force within the NDP.

Apart from their assessment of the political viability of the Waffle, the spooks got the story right. What matters is that the Waffle was neither the first nor the last political movement to be spied on by the security forces of the Canadian government. Trade unionists, student activists, socialists, anarchists, and Quebec sovereignists have had their phones bugged and their names entered onto spook lists.

The idea that we would allow the government of Canada to ask its thoroughly discredited security agencies to draw up a new spook list---the No Fly list---is appalling. On the list will undoubtedly be some who are being profiled because of their religion or their ethnicity. In addition, the list could contain the names of political activists, writers, odd balls or people not to the liking of the current government. The point is that we can’t find out what criteria have been used to draw up this list.

Truly worrying is the creation of categories of citizens whose rights are removed in the absence of any judicial process. By judicial proceeding, I mean a criminal trial, of course. But I also mean an administrative hearing in which a non-criminal complaint could be made. In both of these cases, the accused person would have the right to a defence.

The No Fly list is the kind of secret, arbitrary injustice that was meted out by the Stuart monarchs in England by the infamous Court of Star Chamber. The horrors committed by the Court of Star Chamber motivated England and later Canada to embrace the principle that no one should be secretly charged with an offence and that everyone has a right to hear the charges against him or her and to a defence in a transparent proceeding.

It won’t be long before outraged people complain about the ways the No Fly list has negatively affected them. Let’s hope that we are not serving up another Maher Arar to some arbitrary government when some hapless Canadian citizen tries to fly home from a less than civil libertarian foreign city.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Afghanistan: The Dept. for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice

A little less than a year ago this progressive step towards democracy was taken in Afghanistan to lure the fundamentalists into supporting the Karzai government.
Of course this did not lead the western occupiers to cut off aid or indeed do anything but grumble a bit and carry on with building the new free and democratic Afghanistan. Of course these departments are also found in other countries such as Saudi Arabia another shining example of democracy, freedom and human rights.

The Return of Afghanistan's Vice Squad?
Thursday, Jul. 20, 2006 By RACHEL MORARJEE/KABUL Under the Taliban, officials from the Department for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue struck fear into women's hearts, beating those who let a glimpse of wrist or ankle peek out from beneath their burqas. The hated religious police were disbanded when the hard-line Islamic regime fell in 2001. But President Hamid Karzai is planning to resurrect them, much to the alarm of human rights groups, parliamentarians and Western diplomats.

During the Taliban's reign, the religious police would beat women who were seen on the street without a male relative — an impossible demand to meet for the millions of women widowed by the civil war — and would thrash men who did not pray five times a day or keep their beard at the proper length. Afghan officials have said the new department — which was approved by the cabinet last month and is pending approval by parliament — would be a kinder, softer version of its Taliban predecessor and would not enforce such harsh penalties for moral transgressions. Instead, the organization would mirror those in other Islamic countries that aim to "promote morality in society," Presidential spokesman Mohammad Karim Rahimi said.

However, many fear it could open the door for conservative clerics to abuse women and ethnic minorities and to quash free speech using loose definitions of virtue. Hard-liner clerics have been flexing their muscles in recent months. In March, an Afghan man charged with converting from Islam to Christianity was forced to flee the country after he faced a possible death penalty in the Afghan court system. Sam Zia Zarifi, director of research of the Asia division of New York-based Human Rights Watch, warns that the new vice and virtue cops could be "an instrument for politically oppressing critical voices and vulnerable groups under the guise of protecting poorly defined ideas of virtue." Zarifi said this would be especially true of women, who often find their basic human rights infringed in Afghanistan under the cover of morality.

Indeed, it remains murky what the department's powers would be, and where the money would come from to fund its workings. Nematullah Shahrani, the minister of Haj and Religious offices, has said it would focus on alcohol, drugs, crime and corruption, but those issues are already addressed by the country's criminal laws.

Many in the country's fledgling parliament are also up in arms and say President Karzai has resurrected the department to placate conservative mujahedin warlords and fundamentalist clerics. With a violent insurgency in the south and riots in Kabul highlighting the government's unpopularity, Karzai is seeking to shore up his support base by courting conservative Islamists. Most girls' schools have already closed in the south and southeast under spiraling threats, and groups like Human Rights Watch are concerned that policing public morals could divert attention from the bigger battle to stem unrest in the volatile southern provinces.

Shukria Barakzai, a Member of Parliament and analyst, said the new department is a "symbol of the past" and worries that even if it is staffed by competent people, it would be difficult to monitor in coming years. "The president could appoint people who are good today, but what about tomorrow?" she said. "It could be the same as the Taliban, and allow people to deliver violence against women, against freedom of speech."

Abdul Rahman and the rule of law in Afghanistan

A longer entry on Rahman is at Wikipedia. Although a limited religious freedom is granted by the Afghan constitution in this case the courts applied a type of Sharia law that demands the death penalty for apostasy. That this type of law is obviously at loggerheads with anything one might consider as falling under the rubric Canadian values one wonders why we are defending such a law. This is the sort of law that the Taliban could applaud. Officials who blather on about democracy and the rule of law of course ignore these matters. Recognising them might cause cognitive dissonance.

Abdul Rahman (Persian: عبدالرحمن) (born 1965) is an Afghan citizen who was arrested in February 2006 and threatened with the death penalty for Apostasy from Islam when he converted to Christianity. [2] On March 26, 2006, under heavy pressure from foreign governments, the court returned his case to prosecutors, citing "investigative gaps."[3] He was released from prison to his family on the night of March 27.[4] On March 29, Abdul Rahman arrived in Italy after the Italian government offered him asylum.[5]

Abdul Rahman's arrest and trial brought international attention to an apparent contradiction in the Constitution of Afghanistan, which recognizes both a limited form of freedom of religion and the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, which mandates the death penalty for an apostate. The case attracted widespread international condemnation, notably from the United Kingdom and the United States, both of whom led the campaign to remove the fundamentalist Taliban regime in 2001 and are the main donors to Afghanistan.[6]

[edit] Arrest and trial
In February 2006, after a custody dispute concerning Abdul Rahman's daughters, members of his family reported him to the police.[12] He was arrested after police discovered that he possessed a Bible.[13]

Legal experts say Abdul Rahman's case existed because of contradictory laws in the Afghan Constitution recognizing both freedom of religion and the Hanafi school of sharia law. Article 130 of the Constitution of Afghanistan enables prosecutors to charge him for apostasy "in accordance with the Hanafi jurisprudence." The text of the article says:

In cases under consideration, the courts shall apply provisions of this Constitution as well as other laws. If there is no provision in the Constitution or other laws about a case, the courts shall, in pursuance of Hanafi jurisprudence, and, within the limits set by this Constitution, rule in a way that attains justice in the best manner.[14]

Prosecutors asked for the death penalty for Abdul Rahman, calling him a "microbe."[12] Prosecutor Abdul Wasi demanded his repentance and called him a traitor: "He should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed." The Afghan Attorney General was quoted as saying that Abdul Rahman should be hanged.[15]

Afghan judge Ansarullah Mawlawizadah holds the Bible found with Abdul Rahman.Abdul Rahman's judicial proceedings, which began on March 16 and became widely known in the international press on March 19, were overseen by three judges in the public security tribunal of Kabul's primary court. Ansarullah Mawlawizadah, the chief judge in the case, said that Abdul Rahman would be asked to reconsider his conversion: "We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance. We will ask him if he has changed his mind. If so we will forgive him." [16]

Ansarullah Mawlafizada also said "the Prophet Muhammad has said several times that those who convert from Islam should be killed if they refuse to come back, Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, kindness and integrity. That is why we have told him if he regrets what he did, then we will forgive him".[17]

The judge added more: "If [he] does not repent, you will all be witness to the sort of punishment he will face."[18]

When facing a possible death sentence, Abdul Rahman held firm to his convictions: "They want to sentence me to death and I accept it… I am a Christian, which means I believe in the Trinity… I believe in Jesus Christ." [19]

After his arrest, authorities barred attempts by the Associated Press news agency to see him, and he was unable to find a lawyer in Kabul willing to represent him.[8]

Dewmonstrations Against Suspension of Female Legislator

Parliament's rules prohibit legislators from criticising one another! What sort of idiotic rule is that! If Canada's legislators were suspended each time they criticised another legislator then parliament would be empty!

New protest against suspension of Afghan female MP
May 30, 2007

KABUL -- About 300 people marched through the Afghan capital Kabul Wednesday in the latest in a series of countrywide demonstrations against parliament's removal this month of an outspoken woman legislator.

Men and women, a handful of them hidden beneath blue burqas, shouted slogans in support of Malalai Joya and praised her criticism of fellow MPs who played a role in the 1992-96 civil war that left 80,000 dead in Kabul alone.

Marchers chanted "Down with fundamentalists, down with criminals who are in parliament" as they marched past offices of the United Nations and government ministries.

"She is the only person who is fighting against the warlords - these people who had killed Afghan people during their war," said one protestor, a bearded and elderly farmer named Shah Hussein, from the southern province of Kandahar.

The lower house of parliament suspended Joya, 28, May 21 until parliament is dissolved before the 2010 parliamentary elections after she was shown in a television interview comparing parliament to a stable.

Human Rights Watch said days later that while parliament's rules forbid lawmakers from criticizing one another, MPs had regularly done so without anyone else having been suspended.

Many seats of the parliament elected in 2005 are filled by former heroes of the anti-Soviet resistance accused of rights abuses and war crimes in the subsequent civil war. They are still powerful.

"Some people in parliament are against peace in Afghanistan," said a young teacher, Aria Ahmad. "She says things as they are."

A declaration distributed by organizers of the march said that parliament's "unjust action" had caused "nationwide anger."

Joya, who was elected in her home province of Farah in the 2005 parliamentary polls, was "the rightful representative of her people and no person or organization has the right to suspend her," it said.

There have been a series of small demonstrations in support of Joya in a handful of towns across the country.

NATO asks Canada to extend Afghan mission

Canada is in Afghanistan defending basic values such as the rule of law. Of course the rule of law in Afghanistan is Sharia law and among its provisions are that if you convert from being a Muslim to Christianity you are to be sentenced to death. This happened a while ago as this article illustrates.Fortunately the person sentenced was able to escape out of Afghanistan and this avoided an embarassing spectacle.
Recently the democratic legislature suspended a woman legislator for comparing the legislature to a stable and complaining about the number of warlords accused of human rights violation who were members of that body. See the following article. I have reprinted the article in the next post.
So we are defending a government whose idea of freedom of religion is to condemn converts from Islam to other religions to death. Whose idea of freedom is to suspend a member for crticising the legislature.
It the West's intervention in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq that is fueling the global jihadists project. It has less to do with the Taliban as a global terrorist threat than with the US project using NATO as its helper to establish global hegemony.

Canada should stay in Afghanistan past 2009, NATO chief says
Last Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2007 | 8:32 PM ET
CBC News
Despite mounting Canadian casualties, NATO's secretary general urged Canada to continue its military mission in Afghanistan past its 2009 withdrawal deadline.

"I think more time is necessary to create those conditions for reconstruction and development to go on," said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who visited Montreal Thursday.

The visit by de Hoop Scheffer came a day after three Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan and the same day a poll was released suggesting 70 per cent of Quebecers oppose the Afghan mission.

"I know how dramatic it is if Canadian soldiers pay the highest price," de Hoop Scheffer said an economic conference in Montreal. "But I still say, you are there for a good cause."

De Hoop Scheffer said he wanted Quebecers to understand the importance of the Afghan mission.

"Please do realize in a nation like Canada, with such an enormous tradition of peacekeeping in the framework of the United Nations … [that] helping Afghanistan, participating in what is the threat of a global form of terrorism, making reconstruction possible — you are there for a good cause," he said.

Defending "basic values" such as democracy, the rule of law and independence of the media are paramount concerns, de Hoop Scheffer said, and Canadians should remember that NATO is "still supported by the large majority of the Afghan people."

Getting the alliance of 26 nations to stay the course in Afghanistan "is a message to the Canadians as much as it is to the Dutch or to the Danes or to the Norwegians," he said. "It's a message I have for all of my allied friends in the alliance and the partners alike."

De Hoop Scheffer's pitch comes as the federal government has been under pressure in the House of Commons to define the length of Canada's commitment to the mission and make its intentions in Afghanistan clear.

In a number of speeches and public comments, both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor have signalled Canada is willing to consider an extended commitment. But they have said no final decision has been made and Parliament will have an opportunity to debate an extension.

The Valcartier base is expected to send 2,000 soldiers to Afghanistan this summer. To date, 60 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

De Hoop Scheffer later met with Harper in Ottawa.

With files from the Canadian

Generous U I systems raise productivity

But capitalists are not interested in increased productivity if it does not mean more profitability. A weak labor force that is unable to bargain for better wages or better UI is probably more important than any small increase in productivity as far as profitability is concerned. This is from this site.

Generous Unemployment Insurance Systems Raise Productivity
Posted by Andrew Jackson under Employment Insurance, labour market.
June 20th, 2007

The annual OECD Employment Outlook - the product of the Directorate for Employment. Labour and Social Affairs (DELSA) can usually be relied upon to provide a well-reasoned counter point to the extreme neo liberalism of the Economics Directorate (ECO) — and the 2007 issue is no exception.)
For a summary and details on how to access the report (full document not available on line ) see here.
Chapter 2 of this year’s report looks at the impact of labour market policies on productivity. One of the key findings is that “Reforms that reduce the generosity of unemployment benefits are likely to reduce the aggregate level of measured productivity.” (p.57)
The study finds (p.76) that there is no link between UI generosity and GDP per capita among OECD countries, suggesting that any negative impacts on employment are offset fully by positive impacts on productivity. (p.76.)
Two key reasons to expect a positive impact of UI generosity on productivity are developed with supporting evidence.
First, more generous benefit systems allow unemployed workers the time and resources to find a new job which better matches their skills and experience, resulting in a better matching of the unemployed and available job vacancies. Better matching increases overall economic efficiency. The OECD cites studies which finds that more generous Unemployment Insurance systems are associated with longer-lasting, better-paid jobs for workers once they find a new job. (p.77.) In short, forcing workers to take the first available job rather than engage in a longer job search is not good for productivity.
Second, lack of income security may dissuade workers from leaving a relatively secure but not very productive job for a new, higher productivity but more insecure job. A study undertaken by the OECD finds that countries with more generous UI systems have significantly higher levels of productivity and productivity growth in “risky” sectors where a high proportion of firms fail.
In Canada, there has been a huge focus in policy research on the supposed employment disincentives of EI generosity, and very little emphasis on the positive impacts of EI generosity on economic efficiency. This should be redressed.

Tories urged to define Afghanistan commitment

Why ask the Tories for more rhetorical garbage. The main point is to force them to withdraw as soon as possible. There is more and more nauseating patriotic stuff. Just as our TV programs often imitate the Americans so does our support the troops apparatus with ribbons etc., although we seem to delight in covering funerals whereas the US discourages this on the national scene it would seem --although I do not watch US TV much. The idea that our entire intervention was against international law and that we through NATO are just furthering the neo-conservative US agenda seems to escape most Canadians. Of course it is forgotten that even the present Afghan govt. has a department of Virtue and VIce. It is also forgotten that not long ago a Muslim converted to Christianity was sentenced to death and only escaped his demise by being allowed refuge in Italy. It is also forgotten that the allied invasion finished off the work of the worst warlords associated with the Northern Alliance. Well we must be happy with new "democratic" Afghan government with the US puppet Karzai defended by a US private security firm.

Tories urged to define Afghanistan commitment
Last Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2007 | 5:48 AM ET
CBC News
The federal government is facing more pressure to make a decision on the future of the Afghan mission as Canada mourns the loss of three more soldiers.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will meet Thursday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay in Ottawa to discuss the mission.

"I think what we're going to have is a very frank discussion about the mission itself," MacKay said outside the House of Commons Wednesday.

De Hoop Scheffer's visit comes after three Canadian Forces soldiers were killed in Afghanistan Wednesday when their unarmoured supply vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

The deaths of Cpl. Stephen Frederick Bouzane, Pte. Joel Vincent Wiebe and Sgt. Christos Karigiannis bring the total number of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the mission started in 2002 to 60.

Harper's government has been under pressure in the House of Commons to define the length of Canada's commitment to the mission and make its intentions in Afghanistan clear.

Canada has committed troops to the war-torn country until February 2009. But its allies in southern Afghanistan are starting to ask questions about Canada's combat commitment, and whether it will last beyond that deadline.

"Will he now clearly say to the House how long this combat mission will last?" Liberal Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff demanded during question period Wednesday. "Canadians deserve to know. Isn't it time for the truth?"

Canada has sustained the bulk of its casualties in and around Kandahar, where it is looking for some help from its allies, MacKay said. Some NATO countries have insisted on caveats that limit their how their troops can be deployed in the mission.

NATO chief's Quebec visit questioned
De Hoop Scheffer is also wading into the the unfavourable political climate in Quebec. He is scheduled to meet soldiers from the province's famed Royal 22nd Regiment — better known as the Van Doos — who are slated to take over operations in Afghanistan in August.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the Harper government has it wrong on Afghanistan and expressed his displeasure with the military organizing a rally and parade on Friday through Quebec City, which de Hoop Scheffer is scheduled to attend.

"We're supporting men and women for whom we've got of admiration — those in the Canadian Forces," Duceppe said. "But we are not supporting the policy of the government and we think that they're using the soldiers for their own purposes."

Quebecers' support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan is the lowest in the country, but MacKay said people in the province have a strong interest in hearing directly from de Hoop Scheffer about the mission.

"Let's not forget the Van Doos regiment — some are already deployed, more will be going. So they will want to hear about the mission and how it impacts on their sons and daughters," he said.