Friday, August 31, 2007

Murray Dobbin: Canada up for grabs

Day's and Harper's remarks are rather reckless but it remains to be seen how much if any effect they will have. As Dobbin notes the Liberal introduced the SPP and it was no less secretive then than now. Interesting that according to Dobbin Dion sees the Afghan war as part of the SPP agenda.

Canada up for grabs
>by Murray Dobbin
August 30, 2007
Stephen Harper's behaviour around the NAFTA leaders' Security and Prosperity Partnership summit was politically reckless, and he will pay a price for it. The summit was really about the deep integration of Canada with the United States, a major concern to anyone concerned about Canada's sovereignty, our ability to manage our borders and regulate trade and corporate behaviour.
Harper's dismissal of the demonstrators outside the Montebello summit as “sad” and his condescending rejection of critics from every opposition party leaves the impression that Mr. Harper thinks he is a monarch, not a minority prime minister.

Even worse, Stockwell Day's outrageous fabrication after the Sûreté du Québec admitted sending agents among the demonstrators: “They were being encouraged to throw rocks.... That's the irony of this. Because they were not engaging in violence, it was noted that they were probably not protesters. I think that's a bit of an indictment against the violent protesters.”

There was no violence, no rock-throwing at the site of the incident—not even the police make this claim.

But if Day and Harper believe they can continue to portray the SPP as the jelly-bean initiative, they may be in for a nasty surprise. All the opposition parties have taken a critical stand on the SPP and deep integration in general.

The NDP has been leading the charge for months, and successfully flushed out the government on the issue of energy security by forcing SPP hearings in the International Trade Committee. New Westminster MP Peter Julian has been digging up dirt on the process for over a year, and has identified a massive deregulation effort involving some 300 public policy areas. Leader Jack Layton is making speeches across the country on the issue.

Orchard's bounty

On the Friday before the summit, the Liberals got in the game in a major way with a 14-page position paper—courtesy, I expect, of anti-free trader David Orchard. Orchard was the low-key kingmaker at the Liberal leadership convention, delivering the win to Stéphane Dion with his 100-plus delegates. The Liberal position paper, called “Strong and Free: The Liberal Blueprint for the North American Leaders Summit,” takes extreme liberties with the truth when it claims the Liberal conception of the SPP “was one all Canadians could embrace.”

In fact, Paul Martin's version of the SPP (he initiated it at the first summit in 2005) was every bit as insidious and secretive as Harper's. Nonetheless, Dion has now staked out a new position: demanding complete transparency in the process, identifying the Afghan war as part of the SPP agenda and reiterating the party's position that the mission end in 2009, calling for water exports to be taken off the table, and demanding the return of Canadian Omar Khadr from Guantanamo. The energy issue—the massive, Kyoto-killing tar sands expansion—however, was conspicuously absent.

The Green Party's Elizabeth May also has a lot riding on the deep integration issue, having stated several times that it will be the core of the party's next election platform. The Greens held a counter-summit in Ottawa, with their U.S. counterpart also taking a stand against the SPP. The party is focusing much of its attention on the North American Competitiveness Council—the body of 35 corporate CEOs (the U.S. gets 15, Canada and Mexico 10 each) that has been formally established as the only non-government body making recommendations to the three governments.

Even the Bloc has taken a critical stand, a reversal of the sovereigntist position on free trade and NAFTA.

How the opposition parties decide to play the SPP and its critical component parts—the environment, energy security, Afghanistan, the militarization of Canadian culture, water exports and the relentless corporatism of the process—in the next election remains to be seen.

The Bloc has already threatened to try to bring down the government over Afghanistan. The NDP is extremely well placed to take the issue on, but seems reluctant to make it the centrepiece of their electoral vision. The Green Party's intentions are good, but they have almost no resources to carry them out. And the Liberals always run from the left, so their “strong and free” document is likely to suffer the same fate as other such promises (like Paul Martin's Red Book), even if does end up in their platform.

Creating traction

Despite these positive signs, if the opposition parties believe deep integration has little traction, they will drop it as an issue. So it will be up to the social and environmental movements and organized labour to make deep integration and the SPP the central issue of the next election. That it should be the central issue seems obvious. There is no better time to reverse 20 years of Americanization of Canada. We will likely still have George Bush as U.S. president, a gift to Canadian nationalists. The U.S. itself is in rapid decline by most measures, and Canadians' alarm over global warming creates a perfect context for challenging the power of oil companies to determine Canadian public policy.

The Montebello summit, and the unprecedented exposé of police provocateurs, marked the end of the secrecy phase of deep integration. The parallel with the fight against the Free Trade Agreement of Brian Mulroney is striking. Following years of secrecy, Mulroney and his Bay Street cronies finally had to come out in the open and defend the substance of the deal—and they almost lost the 1988 election. But the NDP got it wrong that time and Mulroney walked away with the spoils. This time the stakes are even higher. Everyone will have to get it right or we really will lose the country.

Murray Dobbin writes from Vancouver. This column has appeared in The Tyee.

Ignatieff falls for loyal, clean, puffin

I agree with the scientist that birds should not be judged in terms of humans. Birds do not create Weapons of Mass Destruction and they do not watch hour long memorials on the tenth anniversary of Princess Diana's death. They go about their bird business. It seems that there are in most societies linkages between birds and animals and human culture though.
Liberals may approve of hiding excrement to keep their politics clean but the opposition will go to any length to dig it up again. The puffin is hot a very good flyer and has to work like the devil to keep aloft. It often crash lands. This is a good metaphor for Liberal fortunes.

Ignatieff falls for loyal, clean puffin
'A Symbol For Our Party'
Craig Offman, National Post
Published: Friday, August 31, 2007
Move over, mighty eagle. Here comes the proud puffin.

Outside the Liberal party caucus retreat being held in St. John's yesterday, deputy leader Michael Ignatieff praised the morals of Newfoundland's provincial bird and suggested his party make it the symbol for the Grits.

"It's a noble bird because it has good family values. They stay together for 30 years," Mr. Ignatieff said, adding that the bird is an industrious creature that embodies Liberal values. "This seems to me a symbol for what our party should be."

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Atlantic Puffins nesting on Machias Island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick.
Diane Doiron/National Post

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Font: ****The MP and philosopher also added that "they lay one egg [each year]. They put their excrement in one place. They hide their excrement. ... They flap their wings very hard and they work like hell," according to a report from The Canadian Press.

Formerly called the common puffin, the Atlantic puffin is one of four species in the Alcidae (Auk) family of seabirds and the most prevalent in the Newfoundland area. In the late 1800s, scientists gave it the Latin name fratercula arctica, or "little brother of the north." A potential pun, the puffin's black and white plumage resembles the robes of a friar, or brother.

Dr. Stephen Kress, an ornithology professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and the director of the Seabird Restoration Program of the National Audubon Society, said he agrees with Mr. Ignatieff 's assessment of the bird's nobility, though he questioned the Liberal MP's estimate of their conjugal time.

"They are noted for monogamy," said Dr. Kress. "But we don't have any records for birds who stay together that long."

The bird's typical life expectancy is 20 years, but on occasion can stretch to 30.

Dr. Kress said the birds are discriminating mate-pickers. They have an engagement period and will cohabitate for a year before having a chick. This happens around the age of five. During the five-week incubation period, the parents share responsibility in the home, which is often nestled in soil burrows on sides of cliffs. Both father and mother will take turns keeping the egg warm under their wings. Indeed, only one egg is laid annually, and the same burrow is kept every year.

Once the chick is born, parents fret over cleanliness, which in part entails a separate spot for the young bird to relieve itself. "The puffin goes to great lengths to keep the burrow clean," added Dr. Kress. Oils from the excrement could damage a young bird's feathers. As the chick matures, the toilet is moved closer to the burrow entrance, eliminating the risk of exposure.

Contrary to common perception, puffins don't starve their young so that they'll leave. Parents collect fish for their chicks, who leave of their own volition, and then protect the area from invaders. The puffin wards them off by puffing up their cheeks and showing the orange insides of its mouth, a form of what scientists call "gape display." No noise is made during the exchange.

While some Liberals might welcome the suggestion, some scientists might be dismissive. "In my view, birds shouldn't be judges in terms of humans. This is what scientists have been fighting for centuries," said Michel Gosselin, an expert on birds who works at the Canadian Museum of Nature. "There is no such thing as a noble bird. What? Would the bird be more noble if he laid 20 eggs a year?"

The "other" war at home.

I don't know why Riley thinks it is obvious that Canadian troops will be withdrawn in 2009. Harper probably wants to extend the period and no doubt some people in the military as well. The drug trade depends on the co-operation of many people besides the Taliban and many of those who profit have connections with or are even part of the government. Partial destruction of the crops is worse than useless. It hurts the farmer's concerned who will then turn to the Taliban but the dealers remain unscathed as drug prices go up because of the relative scarcity and so their income may not decline at all. For some reason the news media never mentions that under the Taliban production was severely curtailed.

Susan Riley . The "other" war at home

Susan Riley
The Ottawa Citizen

Friday, August 31, 2007

It is amazing the way politicians can make simple things so complicated. It seems obvious, for instance, that Canada's troops will be withdrawn from Kandahar in February, 2009, as originally planned.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the final decision will be made by the Commons, where a majority of MPs support withdrawal - in the case of the New Democratic Party, immediate withdrawal. Even if New Democrats insist, as they have before, on their own timetable and no other, it would be suicidal for them to support the government if it risks extending the mission, even if it risks prolonging the ambiguity.

On the other side, there isn't much political downside in voting for withdrawal. If anything, support for the war is likely to wane, rather than rise, with mounting casualties and increasing evidence of the mission's futility. Nor can Canada be accused of cutting and running, given the costs born by our much-admired military and the conspicuous reluctance of other countries to join the battle.

But instead of accepting reality and beginning the crucial debate on what role, if any, Canada should play in Afghanistan after Kandahar, the parties are consumed with domestic positioning. Gilles Duceppe has declared that he will not vote for the Throne Speech, expected in October, unless it confirms plans to leave Kandahar by 2009. Duceppe has little choice: with Quebec opinion massively against the war and hardening with every death, it is his best wedge against a resurgent Conservative party.

Yesterday, Liberal Leader Stphane Dion was more circumspect: he appears not to want a sudden election, but he keeps pushing Harper to make Canada's position clear to our allies. He has a point: why prolong the uncertainty, when everyone knows we are headed for the door? On the other hand, Harper - accused by Dion of wanting to extend the mission, not end it - has no reason to hurry. Anything could happen in the next 17 months (including, of course, increasing pressure for a speedier withdrawal). Whatever, even a delayed decision by Canada to pull out will hardly surprise our NATO allies; they read newspapers, too.

While this petty skirmishing continues, only glancing attention was paid to a report from the Senlis Council this week, an international research agency headed by Canadian lawyer Norine MacDonald. The council found scant evidence that Canada's aid money is finding its way to Kandahar. Although CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) has earmarked $5.3 million for Kandahar's main Mirwais hospital, for instance, MacDonald's team found starving children on the wards and over-taxed doctors dealing with acute shortages of drugs, beds and cleaning staff. As for $350,000 allocated by CIDA for a maternity facility at the hospital, MacDonald's video team found only an empty tent that was removed after it finished filming.

Newly appointed CIDA minister Bev Oda said MacDonald didn't have "all the information" and insists Canadian aid money is finding its way to Kandahar - even though CIDA only has three officers in the country and a small local staff to track it.

But whom to believe? A minister, two minutes into her job (and not a notable success at her last), confined, as are all Harper's ministers, to reading approved lines from the PMO? Or MacDonald, who has lived and worked in Kandahar for more than two years and travelled widely in the region, sometimes disguised as a boy? Nor does Senlis have a notably anti-Tory agenda: it supports the mission in Afghanistan and believes premature withdrawal would mean disaster for the people it is trying to help.

However, it is also urging western governments to divert some of Afghanistan's flourishing poppy crop to the production of legal medicines, much needed in poorer countries. This seemingly sensible suggestion has been met mostly with silence from our government. Meanwhile, U.S. forces continue destroying poppy fields, while some NATO countries quietly disagree, others take a hands-off position - and Afghanistan produces a record heroin crop destined for the world's most squalid neighbourhoods.

There are, in fact, two wars in Afghanistan: the real one that MacDonald, and other eye-witnesses describe, the one the Taliban and the drug lords appear to be winning. There is also the largely notional war being waged by western ideologues and politicians.

The fact that the Taliban is now killing our soldiers with roadside bombs, instead of bullets, for instance, is offered as evidence that we have beaten them on the battlefield. (Talk about Pyrrhic victories). The $1 billion earmarked by CIDA for reconstruction is advanced as proof of our humanitarian concern, although there is little to show for the money on the ground.

Never mind. This is the war we are winning.

Susan Riley's column runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday.


© The Ottawa Citizen 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Slogan on Billboard endorsed by National Citizens Coalition.

Support our troops has always been politicised. You can hardly support the troops and not the mission when supporting the troops has come to mean supporting them in the mission. We should support the troops by bringing them home.
This pitiful patriotic mindless but emotionally compelling drivel about supporting the troops is imported from the USA together with the ribbon logo. The constant coverage of the cruel losses and heartbreak of families shown on TV reinforces the effects. So far we have not had the absolutely nauseating maudlin ads that are now being inflicted on the US public that are even more transparent in misusing people's natural feelings for purely propagandistic purposes.

Support our Troops slogan endorsed by National Citizens Coalition

Toronto's famous political billboard confirms politicization of the slogan.

TORONTO, August 29, 2007: A billboard at the intersection of Bay and Gerrard that is usually used as a political message board is currently rented to the right-wing National Citizens Coalition to promote the "Support Our Troops" slogan. Promoters of the slogan who stage "red rallies" and lobby to put bumper stickers on public vehicles usually maintain the slogan is not political and does not promote Canada's warlike mission in Afghanistan. This slogan's prominent endorsement by the organization of which Stephen Harper was President before returning to politics - Canada's leading right-wing lobby group - argues otherwise.

Dion urges Harper to pull troops from Afghanistan in 2009

There is no danger of the Liberal motion causing much problem for Harper since the NDP will vote with the Conservatives since they take the view that the troops should be withdrawn right now.
Not only regular troops and some support people serving in Afghanistan but our secret special forces are serving alongside their US counterparts. Nothing like togetherness of the spooky groups. I quote:
The Department of National Defence has also admitted that Canada's secret special forces, Joint Task Force Two, has been operating alongside the American and other special forces units in Afghanistan but no details have ever been released.

Dion again urges Harper to pull troops from Afghanistan in 2009
Last Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2007 | 2:29 PM ET
CBC News
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion again urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to commit to a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2009 and to notify NATO and participating countries of that plan so they can find a replacement.

(CBC) Parliament had approved the mission until February 2009. If the Conservative government doesn't commit to end the deployment at that time, Dion said he will make the issue the Liberal's first motion when Parliament reconvenes on Sept. 17.

"We'll do that as our first gesture in the public," Dion said at a news conference following the party's caucus retreat in St. John's, where members have been plotting strategy for Parliament's fall session.

Dion said he won't make it a confidence vote, but that there may "come a time we'll not be able to keep this government alive."

The Liberals have said the government may be planning to extend the mission because it is buying military equipment, including some equipment that may not be ready until after combat operations in Afghanistan are scheduled to end.

Other opposition leaders have also been calling for the government to firmly commit to the withdrawal date.

Earlier in August, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe vowed in the wake of the deaths of three Quebec-based soldiers to bring down the government if it does not commit to a full troop withdrawal in 2009.

Duceppe also said if Harper does not soon notify NATO of Canada's plans, the Bloc will vote against the expected autumn throne speech with the hopes of bringing the government down. Duceppe would need the Liberals to vote with his party in order to succeed.

NDP Leader Jack Layton has been calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops.

In April, a Liberal motion to end Canadian combat operations in southern Afghanistan by February 2009 was defeated in the House of Commons.

Canada has more than 2,500 soldiers serving in the NATO-led international deployment in Afghanistan. Sixty-nine soldiers and one diplomat have died since the mission began in early 2002.

US tourism to Canada declines

There is no specific data on tourists from countries other than the US. The by the numbers section does not list the money spent in Canada by Americans. In spite of the decline perhaps there is still a balance in Canada's favor. Who can tell the way the data is presented.
It is not surprising there is a decline given the fact that our dollars will soon be close to par. The tourist gurus of course think of the issue in terms of branding. We should up our image to an exotic but more expensive destination. However much of Canada is similar to the adjacent US states. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota and part of Montana are quite similar except that Winnipeg is larger than any city in North Dakota. As mentioned as well worries about border crossing may be a factor.
On the matter of being cheap, friends who live near the border in Manitoba go to the US because they think it is cheap with our dollar so strong.


Boring and not-so cheap

August 30, 2007

Fewer Americans made the trip north in the first three months of this year, making it the weakest first quarter for overnight visits from the U.S. in a decade.

According to data from Statistics Canada, there were fewer than 1.8-million overnight trips to Canada by Americans in the quarter, down 6.3 per cent from the same quarter of 2006. It was the eighth consecutive year-over-year quarterly decrease.

"I think we have a 'lack of an image' problem," said Mark Weisbarth, president of Due North Communications, a Toronto advertising agency. "I think we are just not seen as exotic or interesting in the way that other countries are."

Martin Beauvais, creative director at Toronto ad firm Zig Inc., said Canada's image problem lies in not being expensive enough.

"We're probably in their minds a cheap place to go, or a cheap alternative to the States, which is terrible," he said. "You want to go to London, you want to go to Paris ... you go to Canada because it's cheap."

Gas prices were only slightly higher in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2006, according to the report.

Some said the confusion over passport rules may have contributed to the decrease.

Since January, anyone flying between the U.S. and Canada has been required to carry a passport. Although the law doesn't apply to those travelling by car, experts suggested many thought it did.Howard Blank is the vice-president of Richmond, B.C.-based Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns 18 casinos and race tracks across Canada, many within driving distance of the U.S. border.

"We have noticed the U.S. visitor has gone down while some of the other countries' visitors have either remained the same or gone up," he said. "I think that is all due to the fact that many U.S. visitors are worried about the border, and passports and identification whereas in the past it was basically show your driver's licence and you're in."

And now that the Canadian dollar is trading closer to par with its American counterpart, U.S. travellers aren't getting as much bang for their buck as they once did. "It wasn't five years ago that if you were an American coming up to Canada, fundamentally you could stay two nights and the third night was free when the dollar was trading at 66 cents," said Tony Pollard, president of the Hotel Association of Canada. "Now the dollar is 94 cents and it doesn't make any difference any more."

Of the10 states that supply the most overnight travellers to Canada, eight sent fewer than last year. Michigan travellers posted the largest decrease with 16.9 per cent fewer overnight trips in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2006.

Christine Melnyk is the general manager of Quality Suites Downtown hotel in Windsor, located just across the Detroit River from Michigan.

"Our numbers are down, particularly earlier this year when I think there was confusion about the passport issue," she said. "January and February were very soft for this market. There's still a fairly high level of confusion on the passport issue."

American spending in Canada was down 5 per cent compared with the first quarter of 2006, at an estimated $915-million.

Real Robichaud, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, said the Atlantic provinces have seen fewer Americans on their streets over the past three or four years.

"Certainly there's the exchange rate," he said. "Price of gas is another reason, but you also have the security aspect."

Part of the problem is that Americans typically travel less while they're at war, he said.


By the numbers

3.6 million

Number of overnight trips by Canadians to the U.S. in the first quarter of 2007, up 4.8 per cent from the same period last year.


Amount of money Canadians spent in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2007, up 5 per cent from the same period last year.


Amount of money Canadians spent in the U.S. in 2006, up 7.3 per cent from the previous year.

1 million

Number of overnight trips by Canadians to Florida - the most popular state to visit - in the first quarter of 2007, up 14 per cent.


Amount of money Canadians spent in Florida in the first quarter of 2007, up 10 per cent from the previous year.

Ontario Election Polls

The Liberal ads I have seen on TV seem mainly negative directed against Tory (pun intended) policy on health care and funding of faith-based schools. The present polls seem to indicate a minority government. A minority government might be better than either of the major parties gaining a majority. The suggestions offered the parties all smack of the importance of selling over any concern about policies per se. But then this is what contemporary politics is all about branding your product. Perhaps as suggested here the NDP's relation to the Greens will mimic that of the Liberals to the NDP. A vote for Y the smaller party is a wasted vote so vote for X the bigger brother.

August 30, 2007

Ontario voters waiting for a leader to emerge

An SES-Sun Media poll released on the eve of the provincial election campaign delivers bad news for all three provincial party leaders.

The poll reveals 40% support for the Liberals; 34% for the Tories; 19% for the NDP and 8% for the Greens.

And that, says SES pollster Nik Nanos, means there's no good news for anyone.

Sure, Premier Dalton McGuinty has a six-point lead going into the election, but that means a minority government for the Liberals.

Progressive Conservative leader John Tory isn't making any of the gains he needs. His support is stalled. And New Democratic leader Howard Hampton is fighting wars on two fronts -- against the Liberals on his right and the Greens on his left.

All elections are about leadership, but on Oct. 10 it's going to be even more vital, Nanos says.

"If one of the party leaders shines or does a good job, that could have a significant impact on the campaign, much more than usual, just because there is a significant block of voters who are unsure who would make the best premier," he says.

And Nanos offers some strategies for the parties as they await the drop of the writ Sept. 10.

For McGuinty: "As the incumbent his best strategy is to try to make the election about someone else -- i.e. John Tory -- and not about the Liberals, and also have an appeal to NDP supporters in order to block the Conservatives.

"In a way it's a variation of the federal Liberal strategy: Demonize the Conservatives and scare New Democrats into strategically voting for the Liberals," Nanos says.

For Tory: His problem is the religious school issue, says Nanos.

"He has to change the channel on that to ensure that the election is not about him and his policy on faith-based schools, but about the Liberals and their record related to tax promises, etc."

"He needs to re-cast all those Liberal goodies that have been announced as sheer political opportunism."


Nanos says Tory's best hope is for the Liberals to make a major goof during the campaign.

"This election is really about whether the Liberals make a mistake and lose the election," said Nanos.

For Hampton: Nanos says the NDP leader has the toughest job of all the leaders, since his political life is on the line.

"Now he has to fight a two-front war. On one front he has to make sure he doesn't bleed support to the Liberals. On the other front he has make sure the Green Party doesn't become the protest vote -- the 'none of the above,' for voters.

"His best strategy for the Green Party is to say he likes a lot of what they stand for, but it's a wasted vote. He has to move those Green votes into the NDP column without offending them," he said.

Interestingly, the so-called "Slushgate" scandal, where millions of dollars in unaccountable dollars went out the door in grants, doesn't seem to have hurt the Liberals. Nanos says people simply aren't paying attention to politics in the summer.

"Now it would be a much different environment."

Nanos attributes the Liberals' bump in the polls partly to the flurry of funding announcements they've made recently and says the opposition parties need to get proactive about branding them as election-motivated.

So, it seems, McGuinty's best plan is for the long hot summer to continue into October. Tory must show leadership -- and pray for a Liberal gaffe. And Hampton needs a shield and a sword -- to fight off the Greens on one side and protect against the Liberals on the other.

What an election this is shaping up to be!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dave Coles on Montebello protests

The Harper Index often has interesting posts. Coles shows quite convincingly that the undercover cops were not doing as the official police story claims.

Democracy threat countered by Youtube and indie media - union leader Dave Coles

Agents provocateurs only the tip of Montebello story.

HALIFAX, NS, August 27, 2007: Yesterday, interviewed Dave Coles, the union leader at the centre of the Montebello agents provocateurs story, by phone during his stop at the Halifax airport. Coles is President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers of Canada. He has been active in union organizing since 1967, and got his start with the local representing pulp mill workers in Crofton, British Columbia. We present excerpts of the interview: A week later, how do you feel about Montebello?

Dave Coles: I feel disappointed and disgusted. I've been around people being infiltrated all my life in the labour movement. It never stops. These people will resort to every dirty trick in the world.

It's not uncommon in the progressive movements for either the corporate cops or the state police to do this kind of thing. They have used these types of tactics for 100 years, from the Pinkertons to the RCMP.

HI: What's new here?

Dave Coles: What's new here is they tried to agitate or cause trouble with demonstrators who clearly were no threat to anyone. We were dressed in suits and jackets and dresses and sandals, no masks to be seen. We were holding a police line back and held it back for hours.

The police were trying to move on six young protesters who had stopped their line and were sitting in the road, but they didn't have masks on. We had backed away from main gates of Montebello when the police forces got pretty rough with us. A couple of times during the day, some of the direct action kids came to our line trying to get us to do something provocative, and I talked them down.

An hour or so earlier, we were being taunted by the police. They stole from one of my staff a flagpole with a CEP flag and ran through the graveyard taunting us with it.

Our union has a very critical story to tell. Harper and his crew don't want it out.

HI: Was this done by plainclothesmen?

Dave Coles: No, it was the cops, the Darth Vader crew. This is why I maintain that somewhere up the political ladder someone is giving instructions to not let us tell our story. Our union has a very critical story to tell. Harper and his crew don't want it out.

That's why we were in Montebello. It's all about Canada's energy security. The SPP has nine working groups on energy, all corporate executives and bureaucrats. There's nobody there from civil society or politicians. The Harper government is bowing to every American wish possible at the cost of energy security for Canada.

There is no pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to refineries in eastern Canada. All production, to get to eastern Canada, must go through the United States of America. Ninety nine percent of all Canadians, including most politicians, don't understand that.

The Harper government has been pushing through the FTA [Free Trade Agreement] to speed up pipeline expansion proposals to export bitumen [unprocessed oil sands]. There are pipeline applications to export 5 million barrels a day of this stuff by 2015. We have applications saying this ain't right. The stuff should be processed in Canada so we get the economic value from it, and the jobs, and society gets to determine the overall value we will get from it. Harper and his gang want it sold and shipped directly to the States. Canada, and especially Alberta, get the pollution, and the U.S. gets the jobs.

When Canadian raw crude oil has to go through the U.S. before it can get to any eastern refineries, including the big Irving refinery in St. John, New Brunswick, don't we have the right to ask "What about Canada's energy security?"

The same applies for electricity. There's no east-west grid, it's all north-south. Ontario is landlocked from Manitoba. All we want to do is make sure these questions get asked so Canadians see how these questions are dealt with. The SPP should be dealt with in the House of Commons. Politicians should be the ones dealing with it, not the corporate elite.

That's why I believe there's corporate interference in our movement. Provocateurs are sent in. The mainstream media won't cover us. What they want to cover is rocks and tear gas. Some mainstream media belittled me in the beginning. I think it's a disrespect to democracy and a threat to democracy.

HI: What was it like on the ground in Montebello?

Dave Coles: There really was hardly any trouble in relative terms to many actions I've been around and seen in the past. This was a church picnic. They had to stir it up. If the real reason the Council of Canadians and we were there were understood, the public would be up in arms about the SPP. It's treated as trivial, they call us the left wing loons, they keep giving us the back of the hand, only this time they got caught.

HI: Who took the video and posted it?

Dave Coles: A young chap from Nanaimo hired by the Council of Canadians, as well as a bunch of citizens taking still photos. I knew in my heart, after I looked these guys in the eye and they shoved me around, that they were cops. I'm a union leader. I've been on picket lines all my life. These guys looked like, acted like and smelled liked cops.

I find it really insulting they say they were carrying rocks to blend in. This guy assaulted me, he shoved me, he fingered [gave the finger to] me. They were marching on a line that didn't have a mask. There's no mistake what they were doing or what we were doing.

HI: What are your next steps? Do you intend to press charges

Dave Coles: We have legal counsel working all weekend on this. We are going to file complaints, when it's to our advantage to expose this assault on democracy.

There are a number of issues that concern us. The reporting of the media and how they refuse to take our issues seriously. There's the issue of the infiltration by the police of a democratic process. There's entrapment, personal assault against me and my staff, the whole issue of political direction. Which politician made that determination they should infiltrate us?

HI: What made the story take off? Technology is a marvelous thing. We had the Youtube and digital pictures, and more pictures coming. We had two or three pretty clear shots of their faces. The cops knew we were going to Facebook them. The media had been talking to me. Sooner or later, somebody in Quebec was going to say "That's my neighbour." There was no way. Facebook, all the blogs. They got caught. Without a democratic free press, there is no democracy. Right now indie media is what's saving our butt in the democracy. Very few Canadians understand the importance of it. The Web is going to be the foundation of democracy for a while.

HI: Do you feel you successfully undermined Stephen Harper's agenda as a result of last week's events?

Dave Coles: Harper, he's just a mouthpiece for corporate capital. Think of the power of the oil companies. Their role in Iraq, the SPP...

A number of media insiders have told me that if they really wanted to have a meeting that didn't have a confrontation, why wouldn't they fly into Camp David or some other armed fortress and leave? They set it up so they could send their goons in. Why would the police steal our flag and taunt us with it, running through the graveyard. We didn't get any pictures, but lots of witnesses saw it happen.

HI: What makes you think it's coming from the Prime Minister's office?

Dave Coles: Past practice, and also history. The guy doesn't like us to start with. I want to know if it's Stockwell Day or the Prime Minister himself who's behind it.

HI: We'll never know.

Dave Coles: We intend to find out.

Judy Rebick on the Quebec Social Forum

Somehow I must have missed mainstream coverage of this event. It is good that we have sites such as that can fill us in. I find it a bit ironic that students should be berating unions for their elitism. If anything students are a more elite group than unions and the complaint will hardly foster co-operation.

Social Forum showcases strong Quebec Left

The largest gathering of the Left in the history of Quebec, the FSQ united all the social movements in the province in one place.

Photo > Judy Rebick

>by Judy Rebick
August 28, 2007

Vastly exceeding the predictions of organizers, more than 5,000 people participated in the first Quebec Social Forum (FSQ) in Montreal last weekend. It was the largest gathering of the Left in the history of Quebec.

Facing a rise of the Right in Quebec, consolidated in the last election where the right-wing ADQ (Action Democratique du Quebec) displaced the PQ (Parti Quebecois) as the official opposition, the FSQ showed that the Left is alive and well in Quebec during this difficult time.

Like in other places around the world, the Social Forum process permitted a gathering of all the social movements in Quebec in one place. More than 300 workshops over two days discussed a vast range of issues including a full day seminar on the impact of Canadian mining companies around the world; a series of workshops on various aspects of the feminist struggle; a strong participation of poor people and international guests, including World Social Forum founder Chico Whitaker; and a number of indigenous workshops.

There were also quite a few discussions on the political impasse in Quebec where the Parti Quebecois is widely seen as having moved to the right and the new party Quebec Solidaire, which emerged from the social movements, has yet to elect any members. The Forum concluded with a cross Quebec, cross sectoral call for action on January 26, 2008 as part of the World Social Forum global day of action.

At the end of the forum, the social movement assembly adopted a poetic appeal for solidarity entitled, “United for the future of Quebec and the world.” In the discussion during the social movement assembly a vice-president of the CSN (one of Quebec's main three labour federations) acknowledged that the labour movement had fallen down on its responsibilities in terms of social solidarity and that they were inspired by the participation at the forum and intended to improve.

At a workshop entitled, “Is an alliance between workers and students possible,” the leaders of three union federations listened while they were berated by students for their lack of solidarity and their elite position in society. The Quebec student movement succeeded in turning back a tuition hike through a student strike in 2005, keeping post-secondary fees the lowest in Canada.

The unions did help to finance the forum but with the exception of some CSN unions and the postal workers there was little evidence that they had mobilized their members to participate. Others like the women's, housing, anti-poverty, environmental and student movements were highly present.

The most visible absence, however, was from what the Quebecois call the cultural communities. The diversity of Montreal was not at all reflected with the exception of a strong participation from the Latin American community. On the other hand, almost one third of participants came from outside the Montreal area, showing that the Left is strong around the province.

One of the unique aspects of the Quebec Social Forum was the emphasis on the environment. Across from UQAM (University of Quebec at Montreal) in Place Émilie-Gamelin, an Ecofest was held and recovered free food was served for delegates and local homeless people. In fact, homeless people were quite integrated into the event especially in the downtown park, where I saw several of them dancing to some of the music. Homeless people slept in some of the display tents in exchange for providing security.

As one of the few participants from English Canada, it felt like Quebec was already a separate country. While there were workshops discussing solidarity with most other countries, there was no discussion on solidarity between English Canada and Quebec, except in the context of a plenary on Solidarity in the Americas in which Maude Barlow participated. There were also very few discussions of Quebec independence.

Judy Rebick holds the Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University in Toronto. She is a founder and former publisher of Her most recent book is Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution.

James Laxer on the Stelco Sale

I thought that at one time Laxer was a socialist but in this article he seems to be a great defender of the Canadian nationalist bourgeoisie against the encroachments of global (particularly US) capital. There is no call for nationalisation of private companies or of worker control. Historically many Canadian owned companies have been far from progressive.
Probably most Canadian capitalist are themselves internationalist and don't care a whit about whether companies are owned in Canada or elsewhere. Anyway most large companies now will have shareholders from all over.
US foreign policy is to make Canada a reservoir for much needed energy, water, and mineral raw materials and that would probably occur whether or not companies involved were globally or Canadian owned. You have a government committed to serving as a handmaid to the US, that is the problem.

U.S. Steel Takes Over Stelco: Requiem for what was once a Canadian Owned Industry

US Steel, historically the mighty American rival of Stelco, the Steel Company of Canada, has reached a deal to take over its Canadian rival for $1.16 billion. With Stelco in foreign hands, the once domestically owned industry will be wholly under the control of companies based outside of Canada.

Last year, Dofasco was sold to foreign interests and earlier this year, Algoma Steel and Regina-based Ipsco were purchased by foreign companies.

The take over of Stelco marks the end of the century long saga of Canadian owned steel companies. The steel story was a remarkable one because unlike automobiles and petroleum, where foreign owners predominated from near the beginning, Canadian companies ran the industry.

And it didn’t happen by accident. What made the Steel Company of Canada especially noteworthy when it was established in 1910 was that the company reversed the usual pattern of Canadian economic relations with the outside world. Instead of exporting a raw product for manufacture elsewhere, Stelco imported American iron ore and coal to produce steel in Hamilton, Ontario. It was Canada’s rejoinder to Pittsburgh.

Stelco was created as a deliberate act of national policy, involving both British and Canadian entrepreneurship. The notion was that an industrialized country required its own steel industry, owned and controlled domestically.

Recently the C.D. Howe Institute---that ever faithful lobbyist on behalf of foreign ownership and deeper integration of Canada with the US---released a report arguing that this country needs far more foreign investment.

The C.D. Howe Institute and its scribes are wedded to the theory that all mergers and acquisitions are beneficial because they promote greater productivity and higher returns on invested capital. The only thing this theory ignores is the real world. Repeated studies have shown that in manufacturing industries, Research and Development facilities and parts, components, and capital equipment manufacturers grow up around a central producer such as Stelco. These networks are crucial sources of cutting edge innovation and of employment, much of it highly skilled. Shift the ownership of the key company outside Canada and the R and D and other network functions will also shift outside the country. The net result, as will be the case with Stelco, will be lost innovative activity and employment.

The timing of this boggles the mind. The middle to long term outlook for producers of steel and other commodities is extremely bright in today’s global economy. Only a dull and unimaginative business community was choose this as the moment to lose its control of the steel industry, and only a witless government would stand by and allow it to happen.

How much of Canada would the C.D. Howe Institute put up for sale? Based on their track record---all of it. Perhaps their final act, when everything else has been sold, will be to put themselves up for sale and turn out the lights.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Costs of Canadian Afghan Mission

This is over a year old so the expenditure by now will be far greater. However, the amount is quite substantial. It would be good if some economist could list some of the opportunity costs of the mission listing some of the things that could have been achieved by spending that amount of money on other projects.

Cost of Afghan mission
$2B and rising: Tally includes only a fraction of new costs in Kandahar; Forces could be there for years

David Pugliese
The Ottawa Citizen

Friday, March 03, 2006

CREDIT: Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his son, Ben, were at the Canadian Forces Appreciation Night at the Ottawa Senators game last night, along with about 1,500 Canadian Forces staff and their families.

Canadian taxpayers have spent more than $2 billion on the country's ongoing military mission to Afghanistan, with the cost of the latest deployment to Kandahar largely still to come.

So far, the Canadian Forces commitment to Afghanistan, which started ramping up in late 2001, has cost $1.7 billion, according to figures provided by the Department of National Defence. But that overall figure, which represents what the department calls "incremental costs," does not include the wages of military personnel or wear and tear on aging equipment used overseas.

It also doesn't include the purchase of major new equipment for the mission. So far the Canadian Forces has spent or set aside another $330 million for emergency equipment purchases for Afghanistan, ranging from new armoured vehicles to surveillance drones.

In addition, Afghanistan has also become Canada's single largest recipient of bilateral aid. According to figures provided by the Canadian International Development Agency, Canada will have provided $616 million in aid to Afghanistan by 2009. In the years immediately preceding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., Canada had given about $10 million in annual aid to Afghanistan.

Over the last four years, Afghanistan has become the major focus of Canadian defence and foreign affairs policy. More than 7,000 military personnel have served in that country so far.

Details of the costs come as Canadian casualties mount in Afghanistan. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated his strong support for the mission yesterday, saying it is important to global security.

The $2-billion-plus pricetag, however, could only be the tip of the iceberg on the actual cost of the Afghanistan mission.

The full costs of the deployments won't be released by the Defence Department until this fall. Estimates of the cost of keeping 2,300 troops in Afghanistan over the next year are also not being released at this time.

The Foreign Affairs Department would not provide the amount it has spent on Afghanistan, but an official noted that a large number of resources and personnel are involved in the file.

Liberal Senator Colin Kenny said the Canadian public deserves to be fully informed as to what the Afghan mission is expected to ultimately cost, both financially and in the number of casualties to troops. He also questioned the effectiveness of the money being spent on aid to Afghanistan.

"You can't get figures from CIDA for the current year," said Mr. Kenny, the former chairman of the Senate defence committee.

"More than that, you can't get figures that break it out on what we're spending in terms of aid in Kandahar."

Mr. Kenny noted that most of the aid is being funnelled through United Nations organizations. "There's no way on God's green earth we'll be able to measure if those programs are worth a damn," he added.

CIDA said that its officials who deal with Afghanistan were tied up in meetings yesterday and could not immediately respond to the senator's concerns.

The $1.7 billion the Canadian Forces has spent so far includes estimates of the cost of the latest Afghan mission to Kandahar, Operation Archer, but only up until the end of the month, because the government's fiscal year ends March 31. So far that operation has cost $286 million.

Canadian troops will be operating in Kandahar until at least next February but military officials have suggested in the past that the commitment to Afghanistan will continue for years. On Tuesday, Canadian Brig.-Gen. David Fraser assumed command of the multinational brigade responsible for southern Afghanistan. The brigade includes 6,000 soldiers from Canada, Britain, the United States, the Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, Romania and Estonia.

The new equipment purchased by the military for Afghanistan could be of use in other missions. Some of it had already been on the military's wish list but not planned for acquisition until after 2010. Because of the Afghan mission, the purchase of that gear was fast-tracked.

The figures provided by the Defence Department also do not account for the wear and tear on Forces equipment.

But in the U.S., congressional budget experts have determined that the war in Iraq is using military equipment at five to 10 times the peacetime training rate. Pentagon officials have asked for billions of dollars in emergency funds to replace wornout gear.

While Canada's military effort is nowhere near that of the U.S. in Iraq, it is considerable nonetheless. For example, by last March, Canadian Hercules transport planes had flown 5,000 hours in support of Operation Athena, an earlier mission to Afghanistan.

The office of the Auditor General, the watchdog of the government purse, has never done an audit of the Afghan mission. A spokeswoman for the Auditor General's office declined to say whether there were any plans to do so.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2006

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

Polls on Support for Afghan Mission

This is from a military oriented blog. The article illustrates well that percentages vary directly with the particular phrasing of the question. What the article calls making the people better informed is in effect casting the mission in a more favorable light and not surprisingly it increases the number in favor of the mission. So the obvious solution often used by polling that is meant to support a certain position is to ask the question in a form that will generate the desired response.

Polls, damned polls and questions
A lot depends on what you ask:
As the Canadian death toll climbs in Afghanistan, conventional wisdom would suggest that public support for the bloody mission will plummet in direct response.

Polling data accumulated over the past year and a half, however, tells a more complex tale, indicating that opinion on the divisive issue has held relatively stable -- sometimes even after troop deaths -- and that Canadians may be more likely to approve of the historic military mission when they are told more about it.

"It's been incredibly consistent," said John Wright of pollster Ipsos Reid. "We've polled during some of the worst times for the Canadian military, we've been in the field when there have been six soldiers killed ... We've been sure we can [conduct polls] whenever sentiment would be worst, and it seems to have held."

In fact, what pollsters ask people would appear to have almost as much impact on opinion as what is happening in Afghanistan itself [emphasis added], some analysts say.

When questions in a Defence Department poll emphasized protecting civilians and rebuilding the country, support for the mission shot up.

When asked by Decima Research if they thought the number of Canadian casualties was acceptable, on the other hand, two-thirds of respondents answered in the negative.

The deaths of soldiers from the Quebec-based Van Doos regiment could alter the whole equation. In the one province already firmly opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan, a CROP survey partly conducted after the death of Private Simon Longtin on Sunday recorded an 11 percentage point increase, to 68%, of Quebecers opposed to their compatriots being involved in the conflict. That was before the two most recent deaths.

But until the past few days, at least, opinion levels were surprisingly predictable.

A series of polls conducted by Ipsos Reid for CanWest News Service and Global Television since January, 2006, all asking the same question, has seen support for the mission roller-coaster from 44% to 52% [an eight percent variation is a "roller'coaster"?], then back down below 50%, then up again to a peak of 57% last fall. There has been a slow slide to 50% support since then, but the results over 18 months plot a relatively flat line that has hovered around 50% backing...

Strategic Counsel has recorded similar fluctuations and a similar range of variation in its polls since early 2006, after a fast drop from 55% support in March of that year.

The difference is that its surveys have backing for the mission hovering around the 40% mark, 10 points below those of Ipsos Reid.

A spokesman for the company refused to comment on its results, citing its contract with another media outlet. Rob Huebert of the University of Calgary's Centre for Military and Strategic Studies suggested the difference in the two pollsters' results can be traced to the questions they pose.

Ipsos Reid asks respondents about their support for "the use of Canada's troops for security and combat efforts against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan."

Strategic Counsel asks simply about "the decision to send Canadian troops to Afghanistan."

"They set up the issue differently," Prof. Huebert said. "It is not a coincidence that the one that clearly defines the threat gets the higher response ... People won't think immediately of why we are there. If you mention Taliban and al-Qaeda, people will clue in."

In a string of polls for the National Defence Department in late 2006 and early 2007, Ipsos Reid tweaked the questions even further, and found dramatic differences in response.

When the question referred to military operations that help to secure "the environment for the civilian population" through activities "that include combat," backing shot up to the low 60s.

After a lengthy preamble that said Canada is trying to improve human rights for women and build a more free and democratic society in Afghanistan, another question drew support from 81%.

It suggests that explaining the purpose of the mission is all-important if the government wants to boost the tepid support among Canadians for the operation, said Alex Morrison of the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies.

"The polling has indicated to the government that it is not doing a good job of communicating why we are in Afghanistan. The government recognizes that but consistently refuses to do anything about it," he said.

"Unless the government starts telling Canadians often, frequently, why we are there, I don't think the numbers will change very much."

Canadian support for the mission holding steady: poll
Albertans at 72% are most likely to back deployment, while nearly two out of three Quebecers are opposed

SQ spooks face up to flip-flop

This is from Rabble although the author seems to be an American. I didn't realize that demonstrators typically fire on police in Florida! The author is probably correct though that there the purpose of the infiltration has nothing to do with public order but with discrediting the protest. It also provides a good opportunity to give police practice in charging, dispersing, and arresting protesters. Many in the public already associate protests with property damage, trashing, and violence against police. Make sure that this perception does not fade.

SQ spooks face up to flip flop

Rogue cops hidden among anti-SPP protesters suggest a dystopic future for North American law enforcement.

>by Keith Gottschalk
August 28, 2007

So the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) inserted three agents provocateurs in the recent protests at the Montebello Masters of the Universe Threesome in order to incite a riot.

Of course, this is nothing new for either the SQ or for the Masters of the Universe in general.

I have an Aislin cartoon from the Montreal Gazette drawn during the standoff at Oka in 1990 showing a similarly storm trooper clad SQ cop confronting a woman with groceries pushing a baby stroller. Her reply: “you guys don't embarrass very easily do you?”

Indeed, if the tap dancing both the SQ and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day are doing over this incident is any indication, embarrassment or shame is in short supply nowadays.

It seems incredible that a public official can claim with a straight face that masked men, holding rocks in menacing manner, doing their best to incite other protesters according to union leader David Coles in the Globe and Mail, were not inciting violence.

Thanks to Coles' quick action, the three stooges were unmasked before something unfortunate happened. Something unfortunate the media now tut-tutting this incident, would have blamed on the protesters.

In light of the eyewitness testimony and the fact that the whole keystone cops episode was caught on film and broadcast on YouTube all over the world, one might ask a la Groucho Marx 'who you gonna believe, the government or your own eyes?'

But it's really all for the protection of the public, right?

The Globe and Mail even quoted an 'unnamed former senior police officer' as saying “if somebody takes a gun out and shoots a police officer or the head of state, how do you identify who did it if you don't have people in the crowd? You can't afford to make that mistake.”

The only problem with that twisted logic is: (1) the protests were kept so far from the conference its doubtful if even a well designed trebuchet would have been able to reach the heads of state and, (2) in all seriousness how often do protesters at public events in Canada whip out pistols and shoot police? This is Quebec after all, not Florida.

At least in Canada there is some light and heat being shed on these tactics and of course, having video evidence helps enormously.

In the U.S., it has long been alleged, to put it mildly, that local, state and federal police agencies employed the same tactics, especially at the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 and the Miami Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) protests in 2003 which the mayor of Miami called a “model for Homeland Security.”

Space does not permit a detailed list of the police misconduct and provocations at both protests but Indymedia sites exhaustively covered the details and other Internet-based alternative websites did as well. Of course, the mainstream U.S. media parroted the official line about 'anarchists' and such, and middle America went to bed smug with the knowledge that the people clubbed, gassed and jailed were nothing but un-American troublemakers.

The intent there and at Montabello is for police to provoke any response by protesters in order to wade in with overwhelming force and violence and therefore paint any protest against the Masters of the Universe as coming from violent anarchists and communists.

I am also convinced that instructions to the various police agencies to launch these provocations come right from the top—the powerful who are, as Naomi Klein wrote, seeking to combine Canada, the United States and Mexico into one national security superstate for the benefit of the global financial elite.

After all who needs borders when everyone and their personal transactions are under surveillance?

Not that there wouldn't be the pretense of 'democracy.' After all, according to Klein's column, the protesters could be 'seen and heard' on closed circuit TV at Montabello. Perhaps the Big Three Guys watched the fun while sipping Dom Perignon and trading witty bon mots (or in President Bush's case, dirty jokes). Somewhere George Orwell has a knowing, yet rueful smile.

Provocation and reprisal used to be done in far cruder fashion such as the Haymarket Riot in Chicago. Now, protest movements are infiltrated far in advance by often clumsy cops who haven't done their homework on the movements they're trying to 'join.'

Noting all of the preparation that goes into these operations, one has to believe that there's less of a concern for public safety in these events and more of a definite plan to discredit and disrupt otherwise peaceful protests against the global elite.

So the next time you're at a protest and you see three nervous guys who look like defensemen for the Maple Leafs in ill fitting 'anarchist' garb, clutching rocks and looking for a little action, just say to yourself they're not rogue cops.

They're the future of North American law enforcement.

Keith Gottschalk has written for daily publications in the Midwest U.S. and was formerly a radio talk show host in Illinois. He frequents babble as the Américain Égalitaire.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Nova Scotia activists demand inquiry in Montebello incident.

I wonder why it is just Nova Scotia activists. I expect there will be more such demands. The police explanation doesn't fit in with what can be seen on TV or with the reports of anyone else who was there. I doubt that Stockwell Day will do anything unless there is a lot more political pressure. Day's most positive accomplishment was not to cave in and agree with the US when he was shown some of their secret material on Arar. He was surprisingly steadfast in repeating his view that Arar was innocent. It just goes to show even the bad guys are not always bad. Of course nothing further has been done to challenge the US on Arar or Khadr or Benatta.

Nova Scotia activists demand inquiry into Montebello protest
Last Updated: Monday, August 27, 2007 | 7:10 PM AT
CBC News
Nova Scotia activists are calling for an inquiry into the tactics used by undercover police at the leaders summit protest one week ago in Montebello, Que.

About 15 human rights and labour groups gathered at a news conference in Halifax Monday to demand an investigation into why three Quebec provincial police officers dressed up like masked protesters and took part in the demonstration on Aug. 20, one of them carrying a rock in his hand.

"They've been exposed in this situation, exposed by a labour organization, but have there been others?" Rick Clarke, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, asked.

"We don't want to be suspicious of people that come out when we're having peaceful demonstrations."

Police came under fire Tuesday when a video surfaced on YouTube that shows the three disguised officers in the midst of protesters. At one point, the three are confronted by union leader Dave Coles, who demands they put down the rock and take off their masks.

Coles, who is president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, repeatedly accuses them of being police "provocateurs."

Continue Article

On Thursday, Quebec police admitted their officers were undercover at the protest, but denied they were there to provoke protesters and instigate violence, as activists have been alleging.

Police insisted they were there to identify aggressive demonstrators, and said that one officer was holding a rock only because a protester gave it to him.

But activists at the Halifax press conference disagreed with this position.

"If that's true, it raises the question, 'Why were they still holding the rocks? And why were they holding them when one of the labour organizers was asking him to drop the rocks?'" asked Vince Calderhead, a legal aid lawyer who specializes in human rights.

"When I see the video and the photographs and so on, what I see are masked demonstrators, or masked men holding weapons in a threatening way, and that in and of itself is very problematic."

A 'chilling effect' on free assembly
Calderhead said Quebec police created a "shroud of criminality" over a legitimate protest when they went undercover at the event. He added that the police tactics had a "chilling effect" on people's right to assemble freely.

Other organizations, including the federal New Democrats and the Council of Canadians, have already called for an inquiry into the incident, but Public Security Minister Stockwell Day has so far refused. He has encouraged people to take their concerns to a formal police complaints board.

The protest at Montebello occurred outside the Fairmont Le Château Montebello hotel, near Ottawa, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon. The summit about border security, free trade and other issues began Aug. 20 and ended the next day.

Protesters said they gathered to voice their concern about Canada losing control of its energy and water resources and borders. Others decried what they called a high level of secrecy at the summit.

With files from the Canadian Press

UN horrified by expansion of opium production in Afghanistan.

The article leaves out some important facts. Although production may be most in the south certainly the drug trade is also in the north. No doubt many who profit from the trade are also in the government or "former" warlords. While Taliban no doubt are involved there are countless others including many supporters of the Karzai government. Another fact that is left out is that during the Taliban era they were paid to stop production and did so. Colin Powell presented them a check for their good work not all that long before everything turned sour and after 9/11 of course there was no more dealing with the Taliban. The Taliban never did completely stop drug dealing.
Anyway the mission in Afghanistan can at least record one outstanding economic success.

UN horrified by surge in opium trade in Helmand

Despite 7,000 UK troops, Taliban-backed production up 48%

Declan Walsh
Tuesday August 28, 2007
The Guardian

Britain's drug policy in Afghanistan's Helmand province lay in tatters yesterday as the UN declared a "frightening" explosion in opium production across the country, led by Taliban-backed farmers in the volatile south. Opium production soared by 34% to 8,200 tonnes, accounting for 93% of world supply and most of the heroin sold in Britain and Europe, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported.
The record crop was fuelled by Helmand, where, despite the deployment of 7,000 British soldiers and millions of pounds in development spending, opium cultivation surged by 48%.

The sprawling and violent province is now the world's single largest source of illegal drugs - greater than coca from Colombia, cannabis from Morocco or heroin from Burma, countries with populations up to 20 times greater.
A despondent UNODC noted that no other country has produced illegal narcotics on such a scale since China in the 19th century. "The situation is dramatic and getting worse by the day," said its director general, Antonio Maria Costa.

The sole bright spot was a sharp fall in poppy cultivation in the north, where the number of drug-free provinces doubled from six to 13. Balkh province, which produced 7,200 tonnes last year, eliminated poppy cultivation entirely. The disparity highlights a widening gap between relatively stable northern Afghanistan, where the Kabul government enjoys some authority, and the insurgency-racked south, where it has virtually none.

Favourable weather, Taliban insurgents and corrupt government officials all contributed to this year's record poppy haul, which has edged Afghanistan perilously close to becoming a full narco-state. The opium trade involves 3.3 million of Afghanistan's 23 million population, according to the UNODC, and accounts for more than half of its estimated $7.5bn (£3.7bn) gross domestic product.

Western countries, led by the US, have spent several billion pounds trying to eradicate the trade since 2001. But it has only grown stronger, and this year's dismal results are likely to revive a controversial debate on aerial crop spraying that pits America against the UK.

The US ambassador, William Wood, who was previously posted to Colombia, advocates dispatching squadrons of pesticide-filled crop duster planes to spray the poppy fields. Ground-based eradication destroyed 19,000 hectares this year, or one tenth of the total crop. But British and Afghan officials are trenchantly opposed to aerial spraying, arguing that it would only anger Afghan farmers and drive their families into the arms of the Taliban.

The Taliban have firmly entrenched themselves in the trade. Having vehemently opposed opium as "un-Islamic" in 2000, when the crop was virtually eliminated, the insurgents are now among its greatest champions. In Helmand, Taliban fighters protect poppy-growing farmers in exchange for a slice of their profits, and some commanders help to smuggle drugs. Their profits pay for arms, logistics and militia wages, the UN said.

Embarrassingly for the British, the Taliban have also linked poppy growing with military strategy. The town of Musa Qala, which the British military ceded to Taliban control last February, has become a major drugs hub. Opium is traded openly in the town bazaar and heroin processing labs have moved to the area.

The drug barons run little risk of being caught. No major smuggler has been arrested in Afghanistan since 2001. Yesterday Mr Costa urged President Hamid Karzai to submit a dozen major traffickers - whom he did not name - to the UN Security Council for inclusion on a Taliban sanctions list.

Frustrated western anti-narcotics specialists are also searching for fresh ideas that work. A senior British official said the UK will spend £10m on development projects in Helmand and contribute to a £13m "good performance" fund that rewards drug-free provinces.

Nato may also take a more aggressive role. Although western soldiers will not slash through fields of poppy - something British soldiers have always avoided - their commanders may start to target insurgents who double as drug smugglers. "There will be an overlap between counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency targets. We want people who are big in the insurgency and drugs to realise they don't enjoy impunity," said the British official.

But, he admitted, there was no silver bullet to kill the trade: "I expect it will be a long time before this problem is solved."

What's New at the Iacobucci Inquiry?

Here is the latest entry in the What's New category at the Iacobucci Inquiry website. This is indicative of the extent to which the Inquiry is keeping the public informed what is going on. The Inquiry is to give its report in January.

What's New
The hearing on April 12, 2007 is expected to be webcast on the Cable Public Affairs Channel at

Casualties begin to unravel Afghan force

Casualties are much more real to the public consciousness it seems than the lofty ideals that are always trotted out as reasons for the mission. The same tired phraseology is used after each casualty: the person believed in the mission, it would be wrong to pull out and: a) betray the people of Afghanistan (Iraq or wherever) b) leave Afghanistan (Iraq or wherever) to become a prey to i) chaos ii) terrorists iii) become a failed state. We are building a secure and democratic Afghanistan with the rule of law(Iraq or wherever) I am sure you could develop a simple computer program to spout out this stuff and dispense with commentators except to read the scripts.

Casualties begin to unravel Afghan force August 27, 2007
WASHINGTON: The US is worried about weakening Italian and German military commitments in Afghanistan as casualties mount in the International Security and Assistance Force, including the "friendly fire" incident on Friday that killed three British soldiers.

Debate is raging in Italy and Germany, and to a lesser extent in The Netherlands and Denmark, on whether they should remain in the ISAF, which is already grappling with a shortage of troops in the face of one of the most intense military engagements in decades.

"There is a good prospect that we are going to lose some" contributions from certain countries, a US administration official said, as European nations face votes at home on their reconstruction, military and training commitments in Afghanistan.

The NATO-led 37-nation ISAF and a separate US-led coalition, in total about 50,000 foreign soldiers, are together with Afghan security forces fighting to block the return to power of the Taliban after the hardline Islamic militia was ousted in late 2001.

But with the fighting at its toughest since then, Washington is deeply worried about eroding support for the effort.

"Italy and Germany are the ones that are of serious concern," the official added, citing Italy as "one that we are really concerned about".

With 2500 troops, Italy heads NATO's Herat-based regional command in western Afghanistan. Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema recently blamed a lack of co-ordination between US and ISAF forces for hundreds of Afghan civilian deaths, which he called "morally unacceptable".

In Germany, where polls show a strong 64 per cent majority calling for withdrawal, parliament would have to vote on whether to continue with commitments for reconstruction, military deployment and training of Afghan forces.

Germany has lost 25 soldiers, three police officers and four civilians in Afghanistan since 2002. The past month has been grim with the abduction by the Taliban of two German engineers, one of whom was shot dead. The other is reportedly ill and begging for his life.

Germany has contributed some 3000 troops to the NATO mission and has six Tornado reconnaissance planes helping to spot Taliban hideouts.

In The Netherlands, there is some unease about how long the Afghanistan effort will continue, but US officials believe cuts in the military deployment will be spared.

On Friday, three British soldiers were killed while fighting Taliban forces near Kajaki Dam in Helmand Province after being hit by a bomb dropped by a US fighter jet.


Naomi Klein on Montebello and the world of total surveillance

Sometimes Klein tends to exaggerate and engage in rhetorical extravagance but she is usually perceptive. I like this:
In the Bush era, security doesn't trump big business; it may be the biggest business of all.

The provision of cameras for protestors to send their messages inside is really priceless. No doubt it enables the intelligence services to add to their already bulging database about protesters. It is passing strange while this equipment was provided that the meeting refused to accept the huge petition that the Council of Canadians tried to present. Wouldn't it be helpful for security to add those names to their database of protesters. Shame on them. Missed opportunity.

Democracy's new dawn is on CCTV: the security state as infotainment

So keen are America's leaders to hear dissent they're videotaping the dissenters. Welcome to a world of total surveillance

Naomi Klein
Friday August 24, 2007
The Guardian

As protesters gathered recently outside the Security and Prosperity Partnership summit in Montebello, Quebec, to confront George Bush, Felipe Calderón, the Mexican president, and Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, Associated Press reported this surreal detail: "Leaders were not able to see the protesters in person, but they could watch the protesters on TV monitors inside the hotel ... Cameramen hired to ensure that demonstrators would be able to pass along their messages to the three leaders sat idly in a tent full of audio and video equipment ... A sign on the outside of the tent said, 'Our cameras are here today providing your right to be seen and heard. Please let us help you get your message out. Thank You.'"

Yes, it's true: like contestants on a reality TV show, protesters at the SPP meeting were invited to vent into video cameras, their rants to be beamed to "protest-trons" inside the summit enclave. It was security state as infotainment - Big Brother meets, well, Big Brother. The spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper explained that although protesters were herded into empty fields, the video link meant that their right to political speech was protected. "Under the law, they need to be seen and heard, and they will be."
It is an argument with sweeping implications. If videotaping activists meets the legal requirement that dissenting citizens have the right to be seen and heard, what else might fit the bill? How about all the other security cameras that patrolled the summit - the ones filming demonstrators as they got on and off buses and peacefully walked down the street? What about the mobile phone calls that were intercepted, the meetings that were infiltrated, the emails that were read? According to the new rules set out in Montebello, all these actions may soon be recast not as infringements on civil liberties but the opposite: proof of our leaders' commitment to direct, unmediated consultation. Elections are a crude tool for taking the public temperature - these methods allow constant, exact monitoring of our beliefs. Think of surveillance as the new participatory democracy; of wiretapping as the political equivalent of MTV's Total Request Live.

Protesters in Montebello complained that while they were locked out, chief executives from about 30 of the largest corporations in North America - from Wal-Mart to Chevron - were part of the official summit. But perhaps they had it backwards: the CEOs had only an hour and 15 minutes of face time with the leaders. The activists were being "seen and heard" around the clock. So instead of shouting about police-state tactics, maybe they should have said: "Thank you for listening." (And reading, and watching, and photographing, and data-mining.)

The Montebello "seen and heard" rule also casts the target of the protests in a new light. The SPP is described in the leaders' final statement as an "ambitious" plan to "keep our borders closed to terrorism yet open to trade". In other words, a merger of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the homeland security complex - Nafta with spy planes. The model dates back to September 11, when Paul Cellucci, the US ambassador to Canada, pronounced that in the new era, "security will trump trade". But there was an out clause: the trade on which the economies of Canada and Mexico depend could continue uninterrupted, as long as the governments of those countries were willing to welcome the tentacles of the US war on terror. Canadian and Mexican business leaders leaped to surrender, aggressively pushing their governments to give in to US demands for "integrated" security in order to keep the goods and the tourists flowing.

Almost six years later, the business leaders at Montebello - under the banner of the North American Competitiveness Council, an official wing of the SPP - were still holding up "thickening borders" as the bogeyman. The fix? According to the SPP website, "technological solutions, improved information-sharing, and, potentially, the use of biometric identifiers". From experience we know what this means: continent-wide no-fly lists, integrated databases, as well as the $2.5bn contract to Boeing to build a "virtual fence" on the northern and southern borders of the United States, equipped with unmanned drones.

In short, under the SPP vision of the continent, "thick" borders will soon be replaced with a nearly invisible web of continental surveillance - almost all of it run for profit. Two members of the SPP advisory group - Lockheed Martin and General Electric - have already received multibillion-dollar contracts from the US government to build this web. In the Bush era, security doesn't trump big business; it may be the biggest business of all.

In the run-up to the SPP summit, a spate of surveillance scandals helped paint a fuller picture. First, Congress not only failed to curtail the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping but opened the door to snooping into bank records, phone call patterns and even physical searches - all without any onus to prove the subject is a threat.

Next, the Boston Globe reported on plans to link thousands of CCTV cameras on streets, subways, apartment buildings and businesses into networks capable of tracking suspects in real time. And on August 15 confirmation came that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency - the arm of the American military that runs spy planes and satellites over enemy territory - would be fully integrated into the infrastructure of domestic intelligence gathering and local policing, becoming the "eyes" to the National Security Agency's "ears".

Add a few more hi-tech tools - biometric IDs, facial-recognition software, networked databases of "suspects", GPS bundled into ever more electronic devices - and you have something like the world of total surveillance most recently portrayed in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Which brings us back to the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Who needs clumsy old border checks when the authorities are making sure we are seen and heard at all times - in high definition, online and off, on land and from the sky? Security is the new prosperity. Surveillance is the new democracy.

· Naomi Klein's new book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, is published next month; a version of this article appears in the Nation

The Politics of Corporate Party Crashing

This is interesting as presenting one of the protest participant's point of view. It also shows some of the inner conflicts within the protest organisation process. Harder in surely premature in thinking that SPP's grave is dug. The protest did nothing to stop the process. There may be some move towards making the process more transparent but it may also just mean that the process will become even less perceptible and the yearly meetings may become just a more open show while everything important goes on behind the scenes as it has been already for the most part.

The politics of corporate party crashing

As activists assess their next steps, many wonder: can we still work together, dig the SPP's grave still deeper, and then push it in? And where do we go from there?

>by Joel Davison Harden
August 27, 2007

The North American global justice movement just exposed the “Security and Prosperity Partnership” (SPP), the latest corporate assault on our democracy, environment and human rights.

Big business was forced to admit their elite-led project must emerge from lobbyist backrooms, and face debate in elected legislatures.

Meanwhile, other business voices (like former Liberal Deputy Leader John Manley, and the Canadian American Business Council) criticized the “lack of transparency” in the SPP process itself.

The Editorial Board of the Hill Times (a newspaper read by all federal MPs) ran a lead column demanding the SPP be brought before parliament.

This split was caused by our movement's activism, and is a partial victory in itself.

We rejected their propaganda, and refused their protest zones. We crashed the corporate Bush party in Montebello, and put big business back on the defensive where it belongs.

Even worse for Stephen Harper, that inveterate control-freak, his arrogance may finally come back to bite him.

Did Harper's apparent lack of concern for protests mask a more ominous, underhanded strategy?

Did he (or someone in his office) authorize attempts to discredit protesters through agents provocateurs?

A recent Supreme Court decision explained the Prime Minister's Office is regularly briefed on security measures for meetings when other Heads of State are involved. What might a public inquiry into this week's events dredge up?

Between this, Harper's embrace of oil barons, and his loyalty to the Bush-Cheney “War on Terror,” the conditions are ripe for activists to deliver a knockout blow this fall. The wind is back in the sails of North America's global justice movement, and not a moment too soon.

The SPP: a sign of weakness

As activists took on the SPP, we learned an important lesson, one that hints at our power.

We learned big business and government officials felt compelled to conduct the SPP process in secret, away from the prying eyes of public scrutiny.

While progressive researchers (like Teresa Healy of the Canadian Labour Congress) toiled mightily to get SPP documents, government officials largely refused access to key speeches and files.

This secrecy is a sign of weakness. A brief review of recent history demonstrates this is true.

Anyone remember the 1988 federal election that focused on a Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the U.S.? A majority of Canadians voted for parties that opposed the deal. Given the circus mirror produced by Canada's election rules, however, Brian Mulroney's Tories implemented it anyway a year later.

What about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), introduced by Jean Chretien's Liberals in 1993? When standing for election, Chretien claimed he opposed NAFTA. That, of course, didn't stop him from implementing it once his government got elected.

After these two public debacles, “free trade” advocates felt put upon. They quickly shifted to negotiating new trade deals in secret.

This led to the next fiasco in 1997, otherwise known as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).

After Maude Barlow got a leaked version of the text, she exposed the MAI for what it was: a charter of investment rights for multinational corporations, where governments could be sued for lost profits and “sheltered markets.” Mass teach-ins were held to expose the MAI and its serious implications.

Public health care, post-secondary education, and other public services were all described as “sheltered markets,” receiving “unfair subsidies” from government. The MAI proposed an international legal process to pry open these “markets” for corporate gain.

Not surprisingly, when people got wind of this, they pressured their governments to torpedo the MAI. France did so publicly in 1997, and that drove a nail into the MAI's coffin.

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) that came later would suffer a similar fate. After large protests in Quebec City (2001) and Miami (2003), South American governments took turns snubbing it. By 2005, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pronounced the FTAA “dead,” and invited the world to debate strategies for “fair trade.”

As the FTAA imploded, North American big business set to work on the SPP. This time, through the mouthpiece of George W. Bush, they had a new spin: “security trumps trade.”

After the events of September 11, 2001, the SPP was pitched as a means to deliver “security” and “prosperity” for Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.

But as progressive researchers soon discovered, these warm, Orwellian words disguised backroom deals between top officials, where domestic regulations in Mexico, Canada and the U.S. would be shoe-horned to the lowest common denominator.

To quell any fears, SPP pundits insist the process is about “fine tuning” and “adjusting national regulations” given commitments made in “free trade” agreements.

Critical analysis shows the SPP is more like a corporate-led overhaul. The process itself, directed by 30 of the planet's top CEOs, is currently reviewing over 300 areas of government regulations, tasking working groups to propose “harmonized rules” in (among other things) health care, labour standards, border security, military procurement policy, bulk water exports, and corporate licensing.

With this information at our fingertips, activists have exposed the SPP for what is truly is: a sign of weakness. After being burned before, big business and their government allies were skulking about in the dark, and we just turned the lights on.

But where do we go from here?

With the SPP protests, the elite were reminded that secrecy strengthens the dissenter's cause.

But as activists began mobilizing in May 2007, we faced our own key lesson. We learned that two broad tendencies needed to work together.

On the one hand, some wanted events to focus on the SPP summit in Montebello. Those of this view ranged between some encouraging “family friendly” demonstrations, and others keen on trying to shut the SPP proceedings down through “direct action.”

On the other hand were activists who wanted “family friendly” events in both Ottawa and Montebello. Those of this view felt it was important to plan large-scale events on the weekend that people safely attend. These efforts, it was argued, could usefully compliment other “direct action” events in Montebello, and continue the outreach needed to expose the SPP.

Initially, it appeared everyone would be happy, until a mass teach-in being organized by national groups (scheduled in Papineauville, down the road from Montebello) got canned by police. Teach-in organizers felt they couldn't risk another police intervention, so they moved their event to Ottawa.

Once this happened, protesters intent on getting to Montebello were irked. Until then, events had been scheduled in both Ottawa and Montebello, but the presence of national groups in Montebello reassured some that emphasis would be put on the SPP summit itself.

When that plan changed, the aforementioned two tendencies spent weeks fighting each other.

Then, about four weeks before the SPP summit, a breakthrough happened. At the end of a painful three-hour meeting, local and national organizers agreed to plan a family friendly protest event in Montebello for Monday, August 20, the day after large-scale events in Ottawa.

Those inclined to “direct action” in Montebello agreed to respect the family friendly event. National groups felt more comfortable financing transportation costs for Montebello plans. This hardly ended disagreements, but it gave folks a common project to work towards.

Still, on the day activists were bound for Montebello, many wondered how events would turn out. Would “family friendly” activists publicly criticize “direct action” protesters? Would “direct action” protesters respect “family friendly” zones? Would agents provocateurs insert themselves to muck up the best laid plans?

In the end, with good fortune and good intentions, things worked out rather well. The police were clearly under orders not to storm the crowd, despite the fact that we didn't stay in designated protest zones.

The Council of Canadians joined with 1,500 “family friendly” protesters to present 10,000 anti-SPP petitions to the gates of the Montebello summit. After a tense fifteen minutes, some fell back 300 feet to a family friendly “green zone,” though many stayed to join “direct action” protesters who were cheered as they marched, music blaring, to the gates.

There is a lesson in these events, and it bears repeating as global justice activism moves forward.

Communication between “family friendly” and “direct action” protesters is crucial, and must be built into future organizing in the appropriate way. As we organize separately, we must continue to find ways to support each other.

We need creative “direct action” to confront the warmongers, climate change deniers, and corporate profiteers imperiling our planet. Such confrontation, in my opinion, is most effective when assault or property damage isn't part of the plan.

We also need large, inclusive, “family friendly” events to build the largest movement possible. These events, in my opinion, are most effective when organized beyond the self-defined “Left,” and when principled, plain language is used to shift public opinion.

Both strategies came together in Ottawa and Montebello. Both are required for success in the politics of corporate party crashing. Both can mobilize bottom-up dissent to the SPP, and give voice to the thousand alternatives coursing through our movement.

Believe it: a better world is still possible. Let's get on with the task of getting there.

Joel Davison Harden is a peace activist and a former leader of the Canadian Federation of Students (Ontario, 1998-2000). He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science (York University), and looks forward to keeping big business on the run.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

April poll of Sask. Party lead in Sask.

I am sure there must be more recent polls but I imagine that the Sask Party still has a substantial lead. I hear that Calvert has new teeth in preparation for the campaign. I hope they are good and sharp!

Sask. Party enjoys big lead
Angela Hall, The Leader-Post
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2007
Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party would sweep to power if a provincial election was held immediately, according to a poll conducted for the Leader-Post.

Nearly 55 per cent of decided respondents said they would cast a ballot for the Saskatchewan Party -- an almost 25-point lead over Premier Lorne Calvert's New Democrats at 29 per cent, the Sigma Analytics poll found.

"That's a deep hole to dig out of," said Ken Rasmussen, director of the University of Regina's graduate school public policy.

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Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall is gaining popularity in the polls.
(Handout photo)

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The Liberals, led by David Karwacki, followed with the support of about 10 per cent of decided respondents, and the Green Party and its new leader Sandra Finley was last at about six per cent.

Approximately 30 per cent of respondents to the poll, conducted April 18 to 24, said they were undecided about which party to vote for if an election was held tomorrow.

The results show the Sask. Party has broken into seat-winning territory in every region, suggesting it has overcome the "fear and loathing" factor, said Cam Cooper, senior associate with Sigma Analytics.

"The concern people used to have about the Sask. Party in the last election appears to have transferred," Cooper said.

"The numbers show (the NDP) is basically under siege on all fronts."

Cooper noted the NDP showing came despite generally favourable reviews in the poll to the senior's drug plan and graduate tax exemption programs introduced in the New Democrat spring budget.

The exception to the Sask. Party lead is Regina, where the New Democrats hold a "statistically indistinct" lead, according to the poll.