Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spy Agency went too far.

So the CSIS violated rights and sent him to certain jail etc. in the US even though he was a Canadian citizen and under Canadian law was liable to no criminal prosecution here. Instead of waiting for some US extradition order the CSIS managed to get him to "voluntarily" go to the US where he confessed to terrorist activity and is waiting to be sentenced. The CSIS could care less that they violated his rights and did not give him legal counsel. Those responsible will go scot free and no one will complain since Jabarah is an admitted terrorist--although who knows how the admission came about. SIRC seems to have a bark but no bite.

Spy agency went too far, watchdog says
CSIS exceeded mandate and violated the rights of Canadian `terrorist,' review panel reports

Oct 31, 2007 04:30 AM
Jim Bronskill

OTTAWA–The Canadian Security Intelligence Service violated the constitutional rights of a citizen and strayed beyond its security mandate into the realm of law enforcement, says a federal watchdog.

In its annual report tabled late yesterday, the Security Intelligence Review Committee said Canada's spy agency "arbitrarily detained" Mohammed Mansour Jabarah in contravention of the Charter of Rights.

Jabarah, a Canadian citizen, is an admitted Al Qaeda member and leader of a terrorist cell that plotted to bomb the American and Israeli embassies in Singapore and Manila. He was apprehended in Oman in March 2002 after the plan was derailed.

"Jabarah is a terrorist but also a Canadian citizen, and no matter how despicable his actions, the Charter conferred on him certain fundamental rights," the review committee says in the report to Parliament.

CSIS officials travelled to Oman and arranged for Jabarah's return to Canada and subsequent transfer to the United States on a government-owned aircraft, since he apparently could not be charged with a crime under Canadian law.

He pleaded guilty in the U.S. to a number of terrorism-related offences. Jabarah has not been sentenced and remains behind bars.

The review committee, which reports to Parliament, examined CSIS's investigation against service operational policy and procedures, ministerial direction and applicable Canadian law, including the CSIS Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The committee also obtained legal advice from Gerard LaForest, a former Supreme Court justice and Charter expert.

The report found Jabarah's decisions, made without the benefit of any independent legal advice, resulted in his self-incrimination and surrender to U.S. authorities.

"SIRC's review raised questions regarding CSIS's contention that Jabarah's decisions were made freely and voluntarily."

The committee said a court would also have considered various factors, including: Jabarah's age, his emotional state, whether his fear of the alternatives influenced his return to Canada from Oman, the length of time he spent in the company of CSIS officials while in Canada, and the circumstances surrounding his decision to surrender himself to a foreign jurisdiction.

A CSIS official told the committee Jabarah was not "read his rights" because CSIS isn't a police service. "This response, subsequently confirmed in writing by the service, demonstrates a misunderstanding of the application of the Charter to government representatives carrying out their official duties."

The committee found Jabarah could not be prosecuted for any crime in Canada, since his terrorist activities pre-dated Canada's Anti-terrorism Act. Therefore neither CSIS nor the police had any right to detain him. Based on these and other circumstances, the committee concluded Jabarah was "arbitrarily detained" by CSIS in violation of the Charter.

In addition, his rights to silence, to legal counsel and to remain in Canada were breached, the report says.

The review committee also concluded CSIS "strayed from its security intelligence mandate into the area of law enforcement."

CSIS did not immediately respond to the report.

A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the government fully accepts the review committee's findings.

Dion: Liberals would consider repealing GST cuts

Fortunately, for Dion it is unlikely that Dion will have the luxury of worrying about that issue for some time unless he manages to gather up enough courage to actually vote against the Conservatives some time before Xmas! This is from the Star. I suppose Dion feels obliged to prattle on like this because he opposes the GST cut. Maybe he would decide to reduce corporate taxes further that would help the Liberal economy, that is donations to the Liberal party.

Liberals would consider repealing GST cuts: Dion
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | 1:55 PM ET
CBC News
The federal Liberals would consider rescinding the Conservative government's GST cuts if they come into power in the next election, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said on Wednesday.

Dion told reporters he would open a debate on the idea during an election campaign.

When asked by reporters whether he would reverse the tax cuts, Dion responded: "We will consider that."

Dion made the comments a day after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty unveiled a mini-budget that outlined $60 billion in cuts to personal and corporate taxes as well as a one percentage point cut to the GST.

Dion said the money from the two per cent cut to the GST — which includes a one percentage point cut implemented in 2006 — could have been spent in other areas or put into different types of tax cuts.

"That [the proposed GST cut] means $6 billion, $7 billion every year, on an ill-advised choice," Dion said.

Continue Article

"We will not be alone. We know that a lot of people will say it was the wrong decision for Canada and when the next election will come we'll say to Canadians what we'll do."

Hours later, the Liberals abstained from voting on the mini-budget in the House of Commons, ensuring its passage.

The vote was considered a confidence motion that would have triggered an election had it been defeated. Instead, it passed 127 to 76 in the House of Commons. The Liberals remained in their seats while both the Bloc Québécois and NDP voted against it.

Dion said that while he opposes plans for the additional GST cut, he and the Liberals did not bring the government down over the mini-budget because they feel Canadians do not want another election.

Earlier, during question period, as Dion accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of breaking a number of promises, Harper referred to Dion as the "king of abstention" — a reference to the Liberals' decision to abstain on the speech from the throne and now the mini-budget.

He said Dion on Monday had "drawn a line in the sandbox, the line was that he would never tolerate an increase in the GST, and today's he's gonna let one pass.

"Imagine lectures from a guy like that."

The Leadership Debate in Saskatchewan

This is from the CBC.I will also post one blog commentary below this article from the following blog. I read several blogs and the opinions on Karwacki were quite divided. The blog her thought he was not bad but others thought he was terrible. It does not sound as if anyone clearly won.

Sask. political leaders pump up the volume at debate
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | 10:04 PM CT
CBC News
While Saskatchewan's political leaders kept their fingers on hot-button issues, viewers of Tueday's debate might have been excused for keeping theirs on the volume button.

The one-hour televised debate had Liberal Leader David Karwacki, NDP Leader Lorne Calvert and Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall explaining their platforms and trying to reach out to voters, but there were also numerous times where it turned into a verbal free-for-all, with shouting galore.

Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall (left) looks on as Liberal Leader David Karwacki (centre) mixes it up with NDP Leader Lorne Calvert.
(CBC) Host Holly Preston interrupted the leaders, who were trying to talk over one another, on a number of occasions.

Between the skirmishes, the candidates answered questions about provincial finances, handling Saskatchewan's booming economy, greenhouse gases, waiting lists in the health-care system, crumbling highways and violence in small communities.

Six of the nine questions were put to the leaders by members of the public via video clips. The other three questions, submitted by Global TV, CTV and CBC, were posed by Preston.

Throughout the 60-minute event, which was held in CBC Saskatchewan's Regina galleria, there were a number of quips and digs.

Continue Article

Calvert took Wall to task over his party's promise to appoint a panel of experts to an agency called Enterprise Saskatchewan to manage economic development.

During a discussion about managing the provinces finances, Calvert noted that Wall had worked for the debt-ridden regime of Progressive Conservative leader Grant Devine.

"How many budgets did you balance?" he asked.

Wall replied that the NDP has used a fiscal "shell game" in the past to stay out of the red.

Wall also blamed Calvert's government for long waiting lists, the poor state of the highways and failing to hire enough police officers.

Wall took aim at Karwacki for a Liberal platform that he said had an $800-million hole in it.

Karwacki, whose party didn't elect any MLAs in 2003, attacked both Calvert and Wall after their MLAs adopted what he called a "gold-plated" health-care plan.

"We need to have Liberals in the legislature," he said.

The Liberal leader also aimed some sharp jabs at Calvert, turning his back on him at one point after saying, "I don't believe you're going to form the next government."

When Karwacki kept talking, Calvert replied, "I guess when you're short on votes, you go long on words."

Later, Karwacki referred to Calvert's promise to put a $15 cap on the price of prescription drugs for another dig at the NDP leader, saying Calvert should get a $15 prescription for "truth serum."

Wall, who has engaged in numerous fiery debates with Calvert in the legislature, struck a more serene tone Tuesday night. Calling the NDP government "tired and old" has been a virtual mantra over the past three weeks of the election campaign, but he didn't use the phrase once during the debate.

Calvert worked on delivering a message that he has repeated many times on the campaign trail — that Saskatchewan is more prosperous than it has ever been and the NDP deserves another mandate.

The election is Nov. 7.

from a blog;

Sask. leaders' debate observations
Last night, the Saskatchewan election leaders' debate took place in Regina between Brad Wall (Sask. Party), David Karwacki (Liberal) and Lorne Calvert (NDP and incumbent premier).

Here is what I noticed last night, written in point form:
1. The format of the debate must have ticked a lot of people off.
While the statement speeches were handled quite well, I felt that the bickering that occurred during the actual debate times must have turned off people who already had a hunch that politics is 'skum-bag' sport.
2. Brad Wall focused much more on the NDP's history and his independent review than his actual policy.
Last night, Wall focused on two broad points: a) his platform has had an independent review by an economist (and that economist said it was balanced); and b) Saskatchewan pretty much is falling apart under Calvert. However, Wall really didn't mention much about his exact ideas and—for the ones he did bring up—how those ideas will make Saskatchewan better. I think if people should know exactly what this change that's being proposed to them is, and how this change is actually constructive and will make everyone's lives better (i.e. that the change is not like switching from sugar-packed Lucky Charms cereal to sugar-packed Captain Crunch cereal).
3. David Karwacki did surprisingly well.
While I am in no way handing my support to Karwacki's platform, I was surprised how well Karwacki did in the debate. He didn't seem like the unelected leader of a third party who-has-no-current-MLAs type of guy. He did truly seem like a real contender who has a good chance.
4. Lorne Calvert ought to have made the point more clearly that the boom was started under his government.
While Calvert did mention several times that Saskatchewan is experiencing a boom and has increased prosperity, I never actually heard him take credit for that. The job boom logically means that there is more jobs, meaning that either companies are starting here or are expanding here, meaning that the business climate is good here, and since the jobs are getting filled, it means that people have a desire to live here. That is definitely something worth taking credit for; all of this did happen under this NDP government.
5. Karwacki was fixed on Saskatoon.
While Wall and Calvert gave a pretty provincial take on things and issues, Karwacki's points were very much Saskatoon-centric. He was talking about Saskatoon crime, Saskatoon traffic and infrastructure, Saskatoon as a young people magnet, and Saskatoon people who he talked to during the campaign. While it is true that his own constituency where he is running is in Saskatoon, and his party's only real shot is in some select Saskatoon constituencies, it really doesn't make him look fit to be a party leader—never mind a premier—who actually has the interests of such foreign places like Estevan and Regina in mind (kinda reminds me of Gilles Duceppe's 'geographical bias').
6. The taped questions by Saskatchewan residents often had a bias against the NDP.
I noticed that many of the questions asked by the people had a strong, obvious bias against the status quo (a.k.a. the NDP). For instance, one guy from Swift Current said that the roads in Saskatchewan are terrible and that it's impossible to drive somewhere without stuff falling off your car. Since it's currently the NDP who is in charge of the roads, and is backing up their track record on highways, that question is completely out of line. The question itself shouldn't have a political position.

And finally my number seven point, which, while not really having much to do with anything, is something I still think should be said for those who missed the debate. I noticed that after the first question (which was asked by an older guy in Regina with the subject of what are you damned politicians going to do with my hard-earned money), Karwacki actually laughed a bit (this was caught on tape because he was the first one to answer the question). I think this was because, with absolutely no offence to the questioner, the guy did have a kind of 'funny' or 'different' voice/vocal expression. I am not at all saying that Karwacki is losing all electoral chances to do this, but it does make him look like a snobby jerk.

Despite my above points, there was enough substance in last night's debate. However, I do not believe that there was an actual winner; no one really screwed up or said anything down-right stupid. A week until the election … isn't it all so exciting?

Written by Alex at 9:00 AM

Labels: election, Saskatchewan, summary

Economic Update gives 12% cut to wealthy corporations

As this article shows the tax cuts benefit the corporate sector most and that part of it that is doing best already. As it points out the depressed areas that are not making profits will not being paying taxes in any event so they do not benefit at present by a tax cut. The half percent reduction of the lowest bracket is just giving back what the Harper government had taken away. The Liberals would probably be no better. In fact they want to show the corporations that they will give them even more! THis is from the Harper Index.

Economic update gives 12% cut to wealthy corporations, misses opportunities

Oil industry and banks are chief beneficiaries

OTTAWA, October 31, 2007: Finance minister Jim Flaherty's pre-election "fiscal update" distributed small benefits to individual Canadians and large ones to corporations. At the same time, it committed no new funding to fight climate change, repair municipal infrastructure or improve social programs.

Corporate tax was cut by nearly 12 percent (from 22.12 percent currently to 19.5 percent in 2008). Harper and Flaherty claim this will help firms in sectors like forestry that have been hurt by the rising Canadian dollar, but since these firms aren't making profits, they are not paying taxes either.

"The cut in the corporate income tax rate will primarily benefit the booming oil and gas and mining sectors, which accounts for about one sixth of all corporate pre-tax profits today and will account for even more tomorrow given the demise of much of our manufacturing sector," wrote Canadian Labour Congress economist Andrew Jackson on the Progressive Economics blog. "The highly profitable financial sector accounts for about one third of all profits."

A better alternative for beleaguered exporters, he says, would have been targeted incentives to new investment in training, machinery and equipment. "Those losing money and going under because of the high dollar will get nothing because they have no profits to pay tax on."

Jackson says "corporate Canada gets the lion’s share of the tax cut, and working Canada gets a tiny tax cut at the expense of our social future."

For instance, the announced GST reduction will amount to about enough to buy a pizza a month, according to estimates.

"In the end, this is huge upper-income tax cut," writes economist Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, "because the ownership of corporate Canada is pretty concentrated in the top decile [ten percent of the population]."

Lee writes that one impact of the corporate tax cut will be to increase the profits of US-based subsidiaries, which will, in turn, "simply be paying that tax to the US treasury instead of the Canadian treasury. Why this is seen as good economic policy is rather baffling."

This contrasts with small benefits for ordinary taxpayers in yesterday's update. "The statement re-announced a cut in the basic personal income tax rate from 15.5% to 15%, and raises the basic exemption by about $1,000, worth $150 to most taxpayers," estimates Jackson. "The $6 Billion spent on the GST rate cut would have helped lower income families much more if it had been directed to an increase in child tax credits or other refundable tax credits which give most to those who need it most."

Michèle Demers of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) is concerned the update "commits no money to investment in repairs on the country's aging infrastructure, support for scientific research, or measures to ensure the safety of the country's food supply."

Nearly half the bridges in Quebec and a third of those in Ontario are structurally deficient

She points to the Johnson Report into the collapse of the Laval overpass, which indicated that "nearly half the bridges in Quebec and a third of those in Ontario are structurally deficient." She believes "the government should be putting money into the renovation of infrastructure essential for the health and well-being of Canadians ­ like the country's bridge network."

Demers says "Instead of putting $10 billion on the debt, the government should be hiring more food inspectors and veterinarians and taking the necessary steps to ensure that imported children's toys are safe. If the government can't invest in public health and safety now, when it's running huge surpluses, when will it be able to make those crucial investments?"

Security Intelligence Review Committee Annual Report

I haven't read this yet but it seems that they have uncovered some shady dealings by CSIS that violated rights but that is hardly surprising. There are links to the full report.

Attention News Editors:

SIRC releases 2006-2007 Annual Report
OTTAWA, Oct. 30 /CNW Telbec/ - The Annual Report of the Security
Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) was tabled in Parliament today by the
Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety. The Report summarizes -
to the extent privacy and national security permit - nine reviews completed by
SIRC in 2006-2007 as well as five decisions rendered in complaints cases.
SIRC was established in 1984 to provide assurance to Parliament that the
Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is acting appropriately in the
performance of its duties and functions. In doing so, SIRC safeguards
Canadians' fundamental rights and freedoms. SIRC is the only independent,
external body with the legal mandate and expertise to review CSIS activities,
so it is a cornerstone for ensuring the accountability of one of the
Government's most powerful organizations.
The Chair of SIRC, the Honourable Gary Filmon, noted that this year marks
the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "The
bedrock values articulated in that historic document have helped to define
what it means to be Canadian," he said. It is against this backdrop that
SIRC's Annual Report features a summary of a Section 54 Report submitted to
the Minister of Public Safety. It concerns Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a
Canadian citizen and an admitted al Qaida member, convicted of
terrorist-related offences in the United States. In reviewing CSIS's role in
this case, SIRC found that some of its actions violated certain rights as
guaranteed by the Charter. "No matter how despicable his actions," Mr.Filmon
stated, "the Service must comply with the Charter in carrying out its
The remaining eight reviews summarized in SIRC's Annual Report cover a
range of CSIS activities. Among them are two counter-terrorism investigations;
the operations of a security liaison post and a CSIS regional office;
collaboration and exchanges of intelligence post-9/11; security screening
outside the federal government; and the activities of CSIS's Counter Espionage
Investigations desk. SIRC made a total of eight recommendations, intended to
improve the Service's operational policies and procedures.
SIRC is also responsible for investigating complaints against CSIS. In
2006-2007, SIRC dealt with 61 complaints. Not all complaints resulted in an
investigation: some were either redirected to another government institution,
deemed to be outside SIRC's jurisdiction or withdrawn by the complainant. SIRC
issued five written reports and made a total of 11 recommendations.
By examining past CSIS operations and investigating complaints, SIRC
makes findings and recommendations designed to improve the Service's
performance. To the best of its ability and within legal constraints, every
review undertaken and every complaint acted upon, is reflected in SIRC's
Annual Report to Parliament.


1. Summary of Reviews, 2006-2007

2. SIRC's Role and Responsibilities

3. Section 54 Reports

For further information: about SIRC, please contact: Tim Farr, Associate
Executive Director, (613) 990-2955 or consult

Ottawa slow to go green: Critics

As always the government motto is: Do as I say not as I do. I am sure the hot air from the senate and parliament aggravates global warming as well.

Ottawa slow to go green, critic says - News - Ottawa slow to go green, critic says

October 30, 2007
Allan Woods
Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA — The federal government has put tough rules in place to make industry and individuals clean up the environment but it has shirked its own commitment to go green, a new audit has found.

The federal environment commissioner says Ottawa has been promising since 1992 to put in place a sustainable development strategy to clean up the actions of its departments but has little to show for it 15 years later.

"It's one of the many tools that the government introduced ... to manage environmental sustainable development well," commissioner Ron Thompson said.

"It's a matter of great concern to us that that tool simply is not working."

Auditor-General Sheila Fraser added that the government's continued neglect of this plan to factor the environment into departments' decision-making process is a "major disappointment."

The goals that have been laid out by the government provide little in the way of expectations for departments to help clean up the air and water, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and make more intelligent use of natural resources.

"Nor does it provide baselines or targets against which departments could monitor or report on their progress," says the report, which puts the blame on the shoulders of Environment Canada.

"We expected Environment Canada to have managed this issue more consistently and proactively."

Government departments have been producing sustainable development strategies every three years since 1997 and the environment commissioner has written 10 reports so far on the substandard progress that has been made.

But despite consistent promises to take "appropriate action," little improvement has occurred.

Part of the problem, the audit suggests, is the poor attitude of officials who view government plans to go green as a "compliance requirement" rather than a new way of doing business.

"It is apparent to us that departments are working to satisfy the statutory requirements set out in the Auditor General Act. We are concerned that they are working to meet the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it."

Environment Canada is conducting a check of all the departmental programs designed to address sustainable development, something the auditor's report dismissed as a "simple catalogue of activities."

"In our 2002 report, we said that trying to gauge progress toward sustainable development by examining a collection of disjointed strategies that listed thousands of activities was like trying to assemble a complicated jigsaw without the picture on the box. Our view has not changed."

Instead, the environment commissioner is calling for strong federal strategy on sustainable activities that sets out clear guidelines for government departments.

He also calls for parliamentarians to be more vigorous in their oversight of the government's approach.

Environment Canada responded to the audit with a promise to "improve the government's approach" by October 2008.

"There will never be a better time to carry out this review," Thompson said.

"Canadians are highly interested in environmental issues and there is time for government to adjust its approach before the next round of strategies is tabled in 2009."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tories didn't get an election but still come out ahead

This is from the National Post. The minimum tax rate was raised by Harper to 15.5 per cent. Now it is put back to 15. Big gift for those at the lowest tax bracket. However the corporate tax rate will go from 22% to 15% by 2012.
The Liberals come out looking as if they are wimps, as they are. However, polls show the Tories actually going down in support at just 33% or so. Maybe they should be happy that the Liberals are wimps.

Ivison: Tories didn't get an election but still came out ahead
Here's hoping they didn't give out too much, too soon

John Ivison
National Post

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You knew the moment that Jim Flaherty appeared in the National Press Theatre yesterday, grinning like a Jack O'Lantern, that he'd be handing out more than peanut butter pumpkins. The Finance Minister was seeking to banish the ghost of Halloween past, when he announced his decision to tax income trusts, by distributing cash like candy in a pre-election giveaway.

While his claim that the government is "keeping its promises" may stick in the craw of income trust investors, this time the Conservatives were as good as their word, living up to a campaign pledge to cut the GST by another one percentage point.

Liberal leader Stéphane Dion decided that bringing down the government, just as it was handing back $10-billion a year to Canadians, would make him look like the grumpy neighbour who puts a "No Halloween" sign in the window, so he quickly dampened expectations of an election.

"It's a big mistake but we will choose our time to put this government down and it will not be tomorrow," he said.

From Stephen Harper's point of view, this mini-budget will have achieved its objective, even though it has failed to provoke Mr. Dion into taking a stand. Every time the Liberal leader turns the other cheek when challenged by the Prime Minister, he plays into the Conservative narrative that he is "not a leader."

It had the added advantage of giving the government the chance to offload some of the bags of cash that have been cluttering up the federal Treasury. Over the next six years, the government will forgo $34-billion in GST revenue, a further $14-billion in corporate income tax revenue and $11-billion in personal income tax receipts (the lowest band has been reduced retroactively from 15.5% to 15% and the basic personal exemption
raised marginally).

No one is going to get rich. One economist estimated the first GST cut saved the average family $13 a month. Department of Finance figures suggest a two-earner family with two children, bringing in $60,000, would save $363 a year, rising to $427 for families with total income of $150,000 as a result of yesterday's income tax cuts. Not a king's ransom but it will buy you a 20-inch flat-panel LCD TV. And while economists might not like giant TVs, voters really, really do.

Neither do economists have much time for the GST cut, which has been panned universally as doing nothing for Canada's productivity problems. The government yesterday moved to counter Mr. Dion's claims that even the federal Finance Department would prefer not to cut the sales tax, by making deeper than expected cuts to corporate income tax -- a reduction to 15% by 2012 from 22% today. "This is a substantial shot of adrenalin for all Canadian businesses," said Mr. Flaherty.

He will now attempt to persuade those provinces that have not harmonized their sales tax with the GST to make that move in order to reach his stated target of a combined corporate tax rate of 25% (GST is not charged on capital equipment and machinery, so harmonization by provinces like Ontario
and British Columbia would have the effect of a tax cut).

The Finance Minister is betting that some of this medicine begins to work -- that the GST cut and personal income tax reductions help keep the cash registers ringing; that the business tax cuts start to encourage investment -- since he painted a far from rosy picture going forward. Challenges ranging from a strong Canadian dollar, escalating house prices, weakening export markets and competition from emerging economies all suggest economic and fiscal fundamentals "as solid as the Canadian Shield" may be starting to soften.

The Conservatives' enthusiasm for an early election is not unrelated to concerns that there are economic storm clouds on the horizon. Mr. Flaherty's concerns will be shared by the rest of the nation tonight -- the hope that we haven't given away too much candy, too early.

National Post

Poll shows 15 per cent spread for Sask Party

This is from the Star Phoenix. Although it does not look good for the NDP there is certainly no rout because in the two large cities the NDP is still ahead. There are also a large number of undecided as yet. Much of the Sask Party vote is in rural areas where the NDP seems to have lost out entirely except perhaps for the north. I would hazard a guess that the Sask. Party will get a majority and quite possibly a substantial but I would be glad to be wrong!

Tuesday » October 30 » 2007

Sask. Party has commanding lead in poll
Numbers show Wall headed for majority

James Wood
The StarPhoenix

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

REGINA -- A new poll released Monday shows a whopping Saskatchewan Party lead and a mood for change in the province as election day on Nov. 7 looms.

The poll, conducted for the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association by Probe Research Inc. on Oct. 25 and 26, shows the Sask. Party with the support of 50 per cent of decided voters compared to 35 per cent for the NDP and 10 per cent for the Liberals.

The one bright spot for the NDP is that it continues to hold its traditional, if in this case narrowed, lead in urban areas -- 45 per cent over the Sask. Party's 37 per cent and the Liberals' 12 per cent in Saskatoon and Regina combined.

While a majority Sask. Party government appears to be on the horizon, the NDP's continued life in the two cities means the seat count could still be relatively close. Saskatoon and Regina account for 23 out of the 58 seats in the legislature, 20 of which are held by the NDP.

In the area outside the two cities, the Sask. Party holds a commanding lead of 61 per cent to the NDP's 26 per cent and the Liberals' nine per cent.

Probe Research president Scott MacKay said it's a mug's game predicting how his poll numbers would translate into seats, but the 10-point swing between the NDP and Saskatchewan Party since the last election is bad news for Lorne Calvert's party.

"The numbers are huge for the Sask. Party outside of the two major cities. They don't need many seats to win a majority," said MacKay from Winnipeg.

In 2003, the NDP won 44 per cent of the popular vote and 30 seats while the Saskatchewan Party took 39 per cent of the vote and 28 seats.

The NDP holds 10 seats in Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Yorkton, Meadow Lake, The Battlefords, Saskatchewan Rivers and the two northern constituencies of Athabasca and Cumberland.

The poll was based on 600 telephone interviews conducted on Oct. 25 and 26. The margin of error is four per cent and the results can be considered accurate 19 times out of 20.

When the numbers are broken down further between urban and rural voters, the margin of error increases to six per cent, said MacKay.

The poll shows 31 per cent of respondents either undecided or unwilling to state their preference.

MacKay said 21 per cent of respondents are undecided, which is high for this late in the campaign.

"Certainly in the last week, you expect to see those numbers going down to 10 per cent, and we're still at 21, so we're still kind of high," he said.

Of the poll's respondents, 54 per cent said it was time for a change while 26 per cent said the NDP deserved to be re-elected. There were 20 per cent undecided.

Sask. Party Leader Brad Wall was picked as the best choice for premier by 37 per cent of respondents, compared to 25 per cent for Calvert and 12 per cent for Liberal Leader David Karwacki.

Nancy Heppner, the Saskatchewan Party candidate and incumbent MLA for Martensville, said the poll was good news and the party expected to pick up seats in Regina and Saskatoon based on those numbers.

"I think people are responding positively to the Saskatchewan Party and to our platform and our numbers are actually rising in the cities," she said.

But Kevin Yates, the NDP candidate and incumbent MLA for Regina Dewdney, took heart that his party remained strong in the cities and what he said was the small sample size of the poll.

"It does indicate we have to continue to work harder to win the respect and support for the people of Saskatchewan over the next week or so," he said.

Liberal spokesperson Michel Liboiron, whose party has repeatedly said it expects a Sask. Party victory, said the dynamics of local races aren't reflected in the poll but there are lessons to be learned from it.

"The Saskatchewan Party is going to form the next government by all accounts. The NDP's vote is bleeding, their support is soft, and we have to get the organization on the ground that will capitalize in those sort of key ridings we have put our resources in," he said.

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

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

Iacobucci Inquiry: Secrecy is Sacred

If Iacobucci and his Torys LLP crew have any reputation left it is sure melting fast in the hot air emanating from government that sounds just like the US mantra of national security interests. Of course the Canadian Muslim trio are not on trial but they are accused of being terrorists and have suffered at the hands of the Syrians in part it seems because of the actions of officials. Apparently there is not going to be any assessment of the evidence against the three as there was in the Arar Case.
This government is strong on human rights as long as it has nothing to do with the rights of those accused of terrorism. Arar was the first and last innocent accused who got a fair hearing in spite of the fact the no one was punished for their misdeeds. Even if Iacobucci finds there were misdeeds, no heads will roll, and the Canadians who suffered will have had no opportunity to clear their names.
The inquiry seems to be content to stonewall even censoring letters of complaint!
Iacobucci will not even face the media--a director of Torstar!

Ottawa wants Syria investigation kept secret

Probe about Canadian officials' actions, not Muslim trio, brief says

Oct 27, 2007 04:30 AM
Tonda MacCharles

OTTAWA–The federal government is fighting any move to open up the secret inquiry into how three Canadian Muslim men came to be detained and interrogated under torture in Syria.

"In short, this is not a public inquiry," the government says in a written submission to the inquiry led by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci.

The government's legal brief flatly states the men are not at the heart of the inquiry; their reputations are not at issue; and they are in no way on trial.

"They do not face a finding of misconduct. They have no case to meet."

Rather, the inquiry's sole purpose "is to inquire into the actions of Canadian officials and no one else," government lawyers argue.

The government's submission rebuffs calls by lawyers for Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki, and Muayyed Nureddin and civil liberty groups for a more open, transparent review of the actions of Canadian officials that may have led to the men's detentions and torture.

Almalki, an Ottawa electronics engineer, was detained in Syria in 2002 and held for 22 months.

El Maati, a Toronto truck driver, was arrested in Syria in 2001, then sent to Egypt in early 2002. He was imprisoned there almost two years.

Toronto geologist Nureddin was held for 34 days in Syria in late 2003 and early 2004.

Iacobucci, who is also Torstar chairman, is expected to rule on the motion within a couple of weeks.

Inquiry spokesperson Francine Bastien declined a request from the Star to interview Iacobucci, saying he has chosen to "speak through his rulings" not to the media.

NUPGE on Sask. Election

THis comes from the NUPGE site.

The guide is available at the site above. It is in PDF form and 13 pages so I didn't reproduce it here!

SGEU Election Guide emphasizes quality public services

Protecting public services is a critical issue when Saskatchewan votes Nov. 7

Regina (30 Oct. 2007) - The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE) has produced an Election Guide to assist members in making the "important choices" that confront them when they go to the polls in the Nov. 7 provincial election.

At the top of the list is the critical question of "which political party supports quality public services," the union says.

"Quality public services make Saskatchewan a great place to live. They keep our families safe and healthy. They provide good jobs for Saskatchewan people, especially in rural areas. Protecting public services is a critical issue in this election," SGEU says.

The guide "offers some facts and potential questions to ask political candidates" and is meant to "help members sort through the information and advertisements of different political parties during the election campaign." NUPGE

Brad Wall

THis is a useful thumbnail sketch of Wall and his progress within the Sask. Party. It will be interesting to see if Wall goes back to the Devine privatisation scheme that shed many crown corporations to eager capitalists who now no doubt will be happy to see the NDP go. However, the NDP has done nothing to reverse the Devine actions. In fact the NDP recently sold its half interest in an oil upgrader. The NDP is little different from the Sask. Party on tax cuts including to corporations and also is reactionary on oil royaltie and says zilch about government ownership in the oil area. The NDP under Calvert as under Romanow turned sharply right and shows no sign of changing. Notice that Calvert has said boo about the Wheat Board all through this campaign. He has just written off the rural constituencies a rather ironic situation for the successor to the CCF!

Brad Wall
Swift Current [ Saskatchewan Party ]
Kevin O'Connor | CBC Online News | Updated Oct. 10, 2007

After many hours on the practice field and some pre-season action, football fan and Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall is finally getting his chance to go for the big trophy — forming a government.

His playbook on the campaign trail will no doubt contain a number of lessons from the last two general elections; 1999 and 2003 were both cliffhangers where the Saskatchewan Party under former leader Elwin Hermanson had strong showings, but failed to topple the governing NDP.

Soon after the 2003 loss, Hermanson announced he'd be stepping down as leader. Wall ran unopposed for the leadership and took over the reins of the party a year later.

Before politics
Born in Swift Current in 1965, the University of Saskatchewan graduate's resumé includes a number of activities outside the legislature. He was once Swift Current's director of business development, and managed the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame museum. He also started a tourism-related business.

Still, Wall, 41, who has three children with his wife Tami, has been involved in politics for much of his adult life. He began as an assistant to Progressive Conservative cabinet ministers Graham Taylor and John Gerich during the Grant Devine years, a connection the NDP would later repeatedly try to use against him.

His first attempt at running for office was for the PCs in Swift Current, in the 1991 election that would return the NDP to power. Wall lost that race, but had better luck running as a Saskatchewan Party candidate in 1999, defeating the NDP's John Wall (no relation).

Winning 25 seats in that election was considered by some observers as an extraordinary accomplishment for a party that had been created less than three years earlier following the merger of four Liberal MLAs and four Progressive Conservative MLAs.

In 1999, the Saskatchewan Party wasn't able to oust NDP Premier Roy Romanow from his office (despite being in a minority government position, the NDP forged a coalition with the Liberals and clung to power), but it did win the contest for the popular vote.

Coming close in 2003
That wasn't repeated in 2003 election, with the New Democrats getting more votes than the Saskatchewan Party as well as its two-seat majority. Many saw Hermanson's musings on the campaign trail about selling Crown corporations as a turning point in the 2003 campaign.

Wall has since declared that a Saskatchewan Party government wouldn't touch the Crowns.

Nevertheless, the issue of privatizing provincially owned enterprises has remained an exceedingly sensitive one for the party. When one of his MLAs, Dan D'Autremont, recently talked about winding down burglar alarm company SecurTek, an arm of SaskTel, because it competed with the private sector, Wall was quick to say that wasn't the policy at all.

Wall hasn't seen any challenges to his leadership, although one of his MLAs — Weyburn-Big Muddy's Brenda Bakken Lackey — stepped down, saying little about why except to suggest she was having trouble bringing her constituents' concerns forward.

With Wall at the helm, the Saskatchewan Party has stepped up attacks on how the NDP is managing health care. During question period, the Opposition has focused on waiting lists for cancer treatment. It has also focused on jobs and the economy, repeatedly blaming the long-term exodus of young people from Saskatchewan on NDP policies.

It has asked dozens of questions on the case of Murdoch Carriere, the fired provincial government manager who was convicted of assaulting two of his own employees and who received a $275,000 settlement. It has also raised a 15-year-old case of a former NDP caucus employee who inflated her own pay cheques, allegedly helping herself to thousands of dollars of public funds she wasn't entitled to. In the fallout from that debate, the police became involved, a senior NDP staffer resigned and a cabinet minister, Glenn Hagel, stepped down.

A move toward the centre
A number of academics and media observers have noted Wall's Saskatchewan Party was originally right of centre on the political spectrum, but has moved toward the centre in recent years.

Wall, however, has resisted such characterizations, calling the Saskatchewan Party a mainstream party.

The right-left distinction has been further blurred as some policies that were once the domain of the Saskatchewan Party, such as calls for major cuts to personal and corporate taxes, have been embraced by the NDP since 2003.

The Saskatchewan Party, meanwhile, has changed direction on the controversial TILMA interprovincial trade deal. A year ago, Wall was urging the NDP government to show more enthusiasm for the agreement that Alberta and B.C. had already signed. Later, Wall said his party had decided TILMA, which allows a freer flow of jobs and commerce across interprovincial lines, was a bad idea after all because it might hurt the Crowns.

In social policy, there has been moderation in Saskatchewan Party policies, too. The Saskatchewan Party once supported sending young offenders to "boot camp," a proposal that didn't catch fire with the public and has been quietly dropped.

The NDP says Wall's voter-friendly policies are a recent development and in TV commercials has literally portrayed the Saskatchewan Party as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Football in hand
Wall's response has been to try to reassure voters that they're not "scary" and to accuse the NDP of being fearmongers.

That was the theme of a recent TV commercial showing a casually dressed Wall with a football in his hand at his son's football practice.

Will a new quarterback make the difference for the Saskatchewan Party in 2007? Saskatchewan is about to find out.

Flaherty poised to shell out tax cuts

There is little likelihood that the Liberals will vote against the mini-budget even though they continually oppose a cut in the GST. The last budget the Conservatives actually raised the lowest tax rate! Maybe they will give that back plus add on a lot more cuts for those already well off and of course those big corporations that always need to be "competitive".
The sales tax is a regressive tax. Economists don't seem to care about that but surely a politician such as Dione should. It makes perfect sense to cut the GST as the Conservatives are doing except that the whole tax cut policy ignores the opportunity costs of spending surplus all on tax cuts. Layton is right in that investment in infrastructure is very important. The conservative ploy however is to cut taxes so as to buy votes. When there are deficits and pressing infrastructure needs can no longer be ignored this is a great opportunity to cut social programmes.

Flaherty poised to shell out tax cuts
Income, corporate and sales taxes on table in mini-budget today

Oct 30, 2007 04:30 AM
Les Whittington
Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA–Canadians could see hefty income tax breaks announced this afternoon in a federal mini-budget that will capitalize on a rising tide of government cash.

Last-minute planning has been shrouded in secrecy but sources say the government has been preparing to surprise Canadians with personal income tax cuts that would save the average taxpayer about $700 annually.

The government was also weighing when to proceed with its promise to reduce the the goods and services tax by another percentage point, to 5 per cent.

Cuts in corporate taxes have also been in the works in recent weeks as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government prepared to turn the annual fall economic statement into an actual budget complete with tax measures.

This year's surplus now looks to be headed higher than last year's $13.8 billion figure.

"We certainly feel that Canadians pay too much tax," Flaherty replied yesterday when asked if the government would trim the GST again. The Tories reduced the GST to 6 per cent from 7 per cent in 2006 and have promised a further one percentage-point cut.

Flaherty will roll out the economic package about 4 p.m. today in Ottawa. It comes on the eve of the first anniversary of his still-controversial Halloween decision to phase out income trusts.

Recent plans for tax cuts have been under discussion for weeks at the highest levels of the government. Including tax measures in his announcement would up the political ante because they would be subject to a vote of confidence in the House of Commons within days.

The Liberals are adamantly opposed to another GST cut on the grounds that it does little to boost Canada's long-term economic health. But defeating the government on a confidence vote would force an election that the weakened Liberals want to avoid right now.

It would also allow Harper to campaign late this year on an upbeat platform of attractive tax cuts.

The spring budget is normally when Ottawa unveils tax changes and spending measures. But Harper's minority government – flush with excess cash – appears eager to make good on its oft-repeated promises to reduce the tax burden on individuals and businesses.

Also, a budget that fulfills tax-cut pledges today would help blunt reminders of the broken promise in the 2006 campaign not to impose new taxes on income trusts. The decision ate into the portfolios of millions of investors and alienated many traditional Conservative supporters, some of whom plan to protest on Parliament Hill tomorrow.

Liberal MP Garth Turner (Halton) called the mini-budget's timing "very convenient," and part of a communications strategy.

"People who felt that they lost billions of dollars, collectively, still feel that way a year after Flaherty's income trust move. In fact, the situation has gotten worse for them. They're all a year older and they're just as angry as they were last year."

The Conservatives are under pressure from their core supporters to reduce the amount of cash Canadians send to Ottawa. Despite promising to do that in the last election campaign, Flaherty actually raised the lowest personal income-tax rate by a half percentage point, to 15.5 per cent, in his 2006 budget.

Also, continuing wealth gains among the richest Canadians and soaring corporate profits, particularly in petroleum and financial services, are leaving huge budget surpluses – something the Conservatives branded unacceptable while in opposition.

"I don't think it's any secret that this government is going to want to see further tax reductions," Harper said shortly after announcing that Ottawa collected $13.8 billion more than it spent last year.

But tax breaks – or even promises of tax breaks in next spring's budget – will raise urgent questions about the government's priorities when Canadians are recognizing they face an environmental crisis in global warming and cities are clamouring for help with urban transit and decaying roads and bridges.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said broad-based tax cuts, as promised by the Conservatives in the throne speech, threaten to worsen the income gap "between those who have and those who don't.

"We think that corporate tax cuts to big banks, big oil companies, are the wrong direction for Canada. We need right now to support communities. We need investment in infrastructure. We need assistance in a whole series of areas," Layton said yesterday.

"We have a surplus. It's a golden opportunity to take this kind of action."

Municipal leaders, including Toronto Mayor David Miller, have also called for a greater share of the federal pie to cope with huge bills to repair urban infrastructure.

In a speech in London, Ont., Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion came out strongly against another cut in the GST. He argued that economists agree that cuts to income tax give the economy a bigger boost.

"It seems there is only one person who studied economics that wants to cut the GST. And his name is Stephen Harper," Dion said.

Dion promised that a Liberal government would cut corporate and personal taxes but also do more to eliminate inequities in Canada.

He also said a plan to fight poverty is urgent, citing figures that half a million seniors and more than one million children live below the poverty line.

Sale and Leaseback of federal bldgs a bad deal for Canadians.

This is from the Harper Index. This is typical of what the Harper govt., helping its friends profit at the expense of the public. Only the unions that are directly impacted by the policy seem to show much interest in the matter. Muckraking journalists do not seem to pay much attention.

Sale / leaseback of federal buildings a bad deal for Canadians - PSAC president

Government "shedding" federal buildings while banks benefit from sell-off; land claims talks save taxpayers millions.

by John Gordon

OTTAWA, October 29, 2007: The Harper government's recent Throne Speech committed to ensuring that Canada has a modern infrastructure based on a foundation of sound fiscal management. Canadians had a preview of what that might mean over the summer when Public Works and Government Services Minister Michael Fortier decided to virtually give away nine government buildings to the private sector.

Research for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) undertaken by the economic consulting firm Informetrica showed that the government significantly undervalued its assets, which in the end resulted in close to a $400 million windfall for Larco Investments - the company that won the bid to buy the buildings.

However, a recent ruling by the Federal Court of Canada has changed the equation somewhat. On September 28, the court granted an injunction to stop the sale of two of the buildings located in Vancouver pending the disposition of an aboriginal land claim. Evidently the government forgot that it had an obligation to consult with the Musqueam Band on whose traditional territory the buildings are located.

In response, PSAC has learned, the government has removed the Vancouver properties from the deal entirely. This changes the overall sale price from $1.6 billion to $1.4 billion. And, as a result of withdrawing these properties and maintaining public ownership, Canadian taxpayers will save $10.3 million next year alone.

Despite a lack of consultation with either the public or with Parliament, the government remains intent on selling the remaining seven buildings. In addition, the Harper government is also looking at the possibility of selling or redeveloping 31 additional properties, including Tunney's Pasture, the Pearson Building, the National Library and Public Archives, the Wellington building and 20 others in the Ottawa area, many with heritage and ceremonial significance. This is a bad deal for taxpayers. The decision to sell the remaining seven should be reversed before the final contract is signed.

The government ensured that all of the details of the sale were kept secret from the public

Good fiscal managers aren't known for throwing money away, but that is exactly what this government is doing. Most homeowners would consider it absurd to sell their property and then rent it back in order to pay for a new roof or other routine maintenance. Moving from ownership to being a tenant just doesn't make sense. As James McKellar of the Schulich School of Business said in the Ottawa Citizen (February 1, 2007), "It is really short-term gain for long-term pain."

The government initiated the sell-off by hiring the real estate wings of two banks - BMO and RBC - to examine alternatives for "shedding" the original nine buildings. Not surprisingly, they recommended the sale-and-lease-back plan as the preferred option. More surprisingly, the same two banks were also hired as real estate agents to facilitate the sale of the buildings. They then earned a multi- million dollar commission for carrying out the recommendation that they had been paid to make!

Even the most casual adherent to the principle of fiscal responsibility might be pardoned if they betrayed some skepticism about these transactions.

However, this is just the beginning of the Harper government's unusual recipe for fiscal responsibility. By adding a measure of this government's renowned secretiveness to the mix, the government ensured that all of the details of the sale were kept secret from the public, the existing tenants, other interested parties and even other Members of Parliament until after the sale was finalized. Only the groups that wanted to buy the buildings saw the information.

With so much information being withheld, it's reasonable to ask: What is the government trying to hide and what can taxpayers expect?

Subsequent to the buildings being sold, and after it was too late to challenge the sale based on accurate information, the confidential information package was released. PSAC commissioned experts at Informetrica to dig deeper and what they found is not a pretty picture for taxpayers.

Using a conservative cap rate of 6 percent, Informetrica estimated that the buildings were sold for at least $350 million below what they would actually be worth at the end of the 25 year lease. The cap rate defines the percentage number used to determine the current value of a property based on estimated future operating income.

The government's recipe for fiscal responsibility gets even more experimental. Larco agreed to a schedule of capital improvements during the first 10 years of the lease for an amount totalling $77 million. Larco also agreed to undertake certain structural improvements over the full term of the lease. Other than that, the taxpayer is still responsible for all maintenance and operating costs, property taxes and capital improvements not specified in the schedule. The public is still responsible for about 30 per cent of the capital costs too. Furthermore, any additional costs and overruns on operations remain the liability of the public.

In short, taxpayers remain on the hook for millions in capital improvements and maintenance costs over the life of the lease, even though taxpayers no longer own the properties. So much for Mr. Fortier's argument that the sale would transfer "ownership risk for major building capital costs to the private sector."

The real estate advisors, RBC and BMO, contended that another reason that the sale was a good idea is because the private sector is 20 percent more efficient than the public sector. This supremacy assertion of private sector efficiency has never been substantiated, and we would argue it is completely false. Using this claim as rationale for selling the buildings is illogical, given that the government already contracts out most of the work to the private sector through traditional competitive tender mechanisms.

The final lease between the government and Larco is still secret but the draft lease contains about 80 pages of legal conditions that are supported by lengthy annexes. Despite this formidable inventory of conditions, the contract monitoring costs were never considered in the recommendation to sell. Contract management costs are estimated by the Brookings Institute to be ordinarily worth 10 percent of the value of a transaction or, in the example at hand, about $165 million.

The Harper government's recipe for fiscal responsibility can't be very appetizing for most Canadians. When you add it all up, even with the removal of the two Vancouver properties from the package, taxpayers still lose about $300 - $350 million in today's dollars as a result of this transaction. Annual costs to taxpayers will more than double after the sale.

Costs for the Harry Hays Building in Calgary will actually quadruple for the upcoming year. While the Government would have paid just over $5 million dollars next year to operate it and house its employees with public ownership retained, instead they will pay the private sector just over $20 million for the privilege. Furthermore, the government has abandoned future flexibility to adapt its space requirements to its changing workforce or to incorporate non-traditional and environmentally sound work arrangements into its long range human resource planning.

The secrecy continues. Larco, the new owner, will likely borrow significantly to finance the deal. Control of the properties could well be held by non-Canadian interests, despite Fortier's commitment that foreign ownership wouldn't be entertained. Moreover, the final recommendations of the federal government's advisors have not even been disclosed.

Canadians should be demanding full disclosure. "Fiscal Responsibility" should be a good deal for the Canadian public not just empty rhetoric used to fool the public. The government should stop this deal now.

John Gordon is the National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada

Bob White on the Magna Deal

It is a strange kind of innovation that removes tools that make unions more powerful against the power of corporations such as the right to strike. Innovating by increasing the power of union members are certainly a good idea. The Magna deal hardly does that. As other critics have shown the Magna deal is considerably more undemocratic than standard union operations. You would think that White would surely know that Frank Stronach an opponent of traditional unions would not sign on to the Magna deal unless he thought it was in the interest of his shareholders.
While it is true that other unions also lack the right to strike it is because they are in essential services and hence are by law deprived of that right. To compare this with the Magna case is just goofy. Similarly the claim that unions do at times choose binding arbitration is not a justification for the binding arbitration in the Magna deal. Traditional unions choose to go to binding arbitration. They are not forced to do so from the get go. THe situations are quite different.
White's apologia for his comrade Buzz is not very coherent. Maybe the fact that union representation has been on the decline for years says something about the "innovations" that have been flowing from the increased pressures of globalisation. Business unionism is bound to weaken under global competitive pressures.

THE MAGNA DEAL | comment | Unions have to innovate to better serve workers

Oct 30, 2007 04:30 AM
Bob White

A strong union leader must challenge employers to respect workers' rights and treat their employees fairly. But equally important, a strong leader must also challenge our own movement.

Unions can't stay static (employers certainly don't). Unions must always take on new issues, and find new ways of making progress. But recognizing those new realities, developing responses, and leading the movement in new directions is never easy. It often encounters controversy and sometimes division.

I am no stranger to controversy over new strategies and new directions. When I was leader of the Canadian sector of the U.S.-based United Auto Workers, we fought concessions in innovative ways and we had to fight with our own union to do so. In order to make real progress in the future we left the UAW and created a Canadian union, with a much more democratic and fundamentally different structure.

We negotiated agreements in new ways, when it made sense and strengthened our ability to represent workers. For example, in the late 1980s we crafted an agreement at the new CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll which was radically different from our existing Big Three contracts in many ways – but which has proven immensely successful to the 2,000 people who work there.

Throughout that period and since then many of our decisions and innovations were very controversial in some parts of the labour movement. Yet in retrospect, those innovations were the right thing to do.

Given this history, I am not surprised by the controversy and – in some circles – criticism that has greeted my union's effort to build a new collective bargaining relationship with Magna International. However, I am surprised and disappointed by the arrogant tone of many of the critics. They forget and show no respect for Magna workers. It is they, not armchair critics or academics, who will make the final decision whether or not to approve this arrangement.

Many aspects of the CAW-Magna deal are fully consistent with standard union practice. CAW members at Magna will have a quality contract. Changes to that contract are negotiated every three years, and ratified by secret ballot. The contract is enforced by a dispute-settlement system that includes, as a last step, binding arbitration. Members get annual wage increases and high-quality benefits. They will be served by full-time local representatives, and benefit from the resources and programs of the national union.

This possible extension of fundamental collective bargaining rights to as many as 18,000 new members, at Canada's largest automotive company, would be very beneficial for the workers, the CAW and the labour movement. It occurs at a time when some other auto parts employers are responding to the industry's current crisis with an attack on workers' wages and benefits that is unprecedented – worse than I ever experienced in the 1980s.

But for Magna to accept these union rights, without opposing the union as other employers have fiercely done, some modifications were made. Most important, contract disputes are referred to binding final-offer arbitration instead of work stoppages.

Critics have attacked this as a sell-out that will undermine the whole labour movement. What nonsense. There are hundreds of thousands of workers – most, but not all, in the public sector – who do not have the legal right to strike, including 30,000 CAW members. Did those unions just throw up their hands and say, "Since we don't have the right to strike, we might as well give up"? No, they did not. Important gains have been and will continue to be made by those members and their unions.

Some bargaining units have even voluntarily accepted binding arbitration instead of work stoppages without being compelled by law. And elsewhere, where thousands of jobs have been lost, work stoppages are almost ineffective because of economic circumstances.

Unionization in the private sector has been slipping steadily for a quarter-century, down to around 17 per cent today. Strike frequency is a tiny fraction of the 1970s levels.

I think it is important to keep finding new strategies and innovations to make a positive difference in workers' lives, as long as workers have the ultimate say in determining whether they accept the union and the collective agreement, as they do in the CAW-Magna agreement.

When I had the privilege of being president of CAW, we challenged ourselves to build a new union that would do things differently than when we belonged to the U.S.-based UAW. Under the current leadership, the courage to challenge the status quo by new and sometimes controversial decisions is completely within the tradition of our union.

Bob White was founding president of the CAW, and is also past president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Alberta Tories sending mixed election signals.

This article points out that an energy expert and advisor to the government thinks that Stelmach's royalty decisions are a sell-out, a different tune than your friendly neighbourhood oil patch PR people paint.
I don't see that Stelmach could lose in an election. He could surely campaign on his royalty scheme as a reasonable compromise that at least gives Albertans a lot more from oil and gas development than before. The arrows from left and right are not likely to do more than generate a few minor flesh wounds.

Tories sending mixed election signals
Stelmach says they're ready; insider disagrees

Jason Fekete
Calgary Herald; with files from the Edmonton Journal

Monday, October 29, 2007

Alberta Tories wrapped up an election preparedness conference Sunday in Calgary with Premier Ed Stelmach insisting the party is ready to go, despite campaign organizers saying they've got a lot of work to do.

Party officials said in a closed-door, election overview session with members that they haven't yet crafted a campaign message -- a critical component they said was missing during the 2004 provincial vote.

It was during that election -- dubbed "Kleinfeld," the campaign about nothing -- that more than 200,000 fewer Tories voted compared with the previous election.

A Tory strategist, who is part of the election-planning process and was in Sunday's meeting, said they currently "don't have a message" developed for the campaign but are getting there.

"It's coming together, but it will take time," said the senior organizer, who asked not to be identified. "I don't know what mechanism the leader could pull to get everything ready (for a fall election)."

The party needs to secure candidates in about 30 of Alberta's 83 ridings, with Tory nomination meetings scheduled until late November.

Over the next few weeks, the Conservatives will select candidates for key ridings of Calgary-Varsity (now held by the Liberals) and Calgary-Buffalo -- a former Liberal seat being vacated by retiring Tory MLA Harvey Cenaiko.

"We're preparing. Always have to be prepared earlier for an election," Stelmach told reporters Sunday.

"Somebody said maybe now is the time in terms of a popular decision on royalties. This isn't about political expediency," he added. "We've got a few more things to announce."

Stelmach has refused to rule out a fall election campaign, but said he would first like to fulfil his commitments on a few issues, including solving the teacher pension liability issue, implementing a new crime-reduction strategy and completing a 20-year capital plan.

The premier also noted he'll be making "a major announcement" tonight in Calgary on the city's homelessness initiative.

Other issues aside, some political analysts have argued that public opinion on the government's new royalty policy is the make-or-break component of whether Albertans head to the polls before Christmas.

The royalty situation has NDP Leader Brian Mason convinced Stelmach will call a vote within a week.

"I think the government is clearly in the track to launch an election," Mason said Sunday. "Stelmach said in his television address they would be rolling out further announcements in the days and weeks ahead. Why do a rollout in October and November if you're planning an election in March?"

He thinks that Stelmach wants to avoid scrutiny on his new royalty framework and on the auditor general's report that found the province was not collecting the billions in royalties that were due to it.

Add the fact that there will likely not be a federal election this fall, and Mason is convinced it will be called to the extent that he is rushing out his MLA newsletter to constituents, which can't be done during an election campaign.

Expert criticism is mounting that the government's new royalty framework won't deliver a fair share of energy development to Albertans, the owners of the resources.

The new strategy is expected to deliver an additional $1.4 billion in energy royalties in 2010 -- 20 per cent more than currently projected -- but it falls nearly half a billion dollars short of what was recommended by a government-appointed expert panel.

Pressed Sunday whether he should seek a mandate from Albertans before implementing a policy that affects the entire province, Stelmach said there's no need.

"The royalty framework affects all of Canada and we're not going to go to Canadians for the vote," the premier said. "The decision has been made. It's over, done with."

But one of the expert panel members told the Herald a few days ago the new plan is "a blatant deceit" to Albertans, and that it's based on politics, not economics.

And world-renowned energy economist Pedro van Meurs, who's worked extensively with the provincial government in recent years, said the new royalty framework is "highly detrimental to Alberta" and won't collect a fair share of oilsands revenues.

"This is in my view a complete giveaway," van Meurs said Sunday in an e-mail message from overseas.

As the government battles growing criticism on the policy, poll data suggests the Tories are facing their lowest levels of public support since Stelmach took office -- but are still comfortably ahead of the Liberals.

Stelmach, however, suggested Sunday he doesn't pay attention to poll numbers.

"If I would have paid attention to polls, I wouldn't be standing before you," he added, referring to repeated surveys that suggested he was a long-shot to win the Tory leadership.

There is, however, some support in Stelmach's caucus to go to an election right now.

Rural Tory MLA Doug Griffiths said he's anxious to go to the polls and expects a critical issue to voters will be the new royalty policy.

"I'm ready to go. When you're ready to start a race and the motor is revving, you want to get started," Griffiths said. "I don't know if it's the best time or the best strategy."

© The Calgary Herald 2007

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

Will Canada stand with its allies

NATO was a cold war defence organisation directed mostly at the USSR. After the end of the cold war it found a new mission as a handmaiden to US policy when the UN was not amenable or not capable of carrying out the policies. Of course the US had to convince NATO allies to be able to use it but that was often possible as in the defeat of Serbia and breakup of Yugoslavia.
This article is an apologia for continued involvement with the hegemon (our traditional ally) the paragon of democratic virtue and our shared values. We still have to erect our Guantanamo but we think that a former 15 year old Canadian who was there for years will get a fair trial by our traditional ally.
We should be encouraging our NATO allies not to be involved in Afghanistan and we should not be throwing away our money and that of others in an immoral and illegal occupation. Let the UK and Australia remain little yelpy running dogs of the USA.

Will Canada stand with its allies?
Oct 29, 2007 04:30 AM
Rosie DiManno

Nations, like people, are known by the company they keep. There are formal alliances for the purpose and informal affiliations.

Sometimes, though, a common principle – moral prerogative, security, commitment to a foreign undertaking – is the tie that binds, most especially between individual countries with a shared history and similar values. These are the key relationships within a coalition.

NATO is a western bloc, with newer additions. Afghanistan was to be NATO's 21st century reinvention and relevancy in a post-Cold War world.

It's not working out that way, with European capitals unbudging in their refusal to commit sufficient combat troops and treasure to the mission. They'll deploy soldiers but remain insistent on keeping them out of harm's way.

But what they do – or rather don't do – can't be the deciding factor for what Canada itself decides in the coming months. The chimera of military involvement in Afghanistan for a majority of European nations must not be used as an excuse for pulling our frontline troops out of Kandahar.

It has become obvious that only a handful of nations are in for the long haul, which will be very long indeed. Will Canada stand with its traditional allies and do the same? The answer to that question is about us, not anyone else.

The Americans will stay because Afghanistan, despite the U.S.-led coalition that deposed the Taliban in 2001, is primarily their war. No Democratic presidential candidate has said a word about retreating from Afghanistan; quite the opposite, even as they rail over Iraq. The British, as Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed last week, will not abandon Helmand province, however protracted the mission – and they twice suffered defeat on Afghan soil in the 19th century. The Dutch have given notice they will hang in beyond August of 2008, the deadline originally set, doing far more conventional fighting in Uruzgan than had been anticipated.

Canada is ... thinking about it, Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicating in the throne speech he would prefer troops to remain beyond 2009, at least till 2011, possibly in an exclusive training capacity.

This, I think, is a fig leaf – political cover to render the mission more palpable to both opposition parties and the public. Afghanistan doesn't need our 2,500 troops to train their security forces. They need them to fight, as warranted, and to provide protection for reconstruction projects and aid agencies.

There were embarrassing contradictions last week between the PM and Gen. Rick Hillier even about the training timeline, the latter suggesting it would take a decade before the Afghan army is ready to take over after Harper predicted the army could defend "its own sovereignty'' by 2011.

While Hillier has since clarified his comments – he'd meant Afghan troops assuming responsibility for the whole country, not just Kandahar – he was actually right the first time. Afghan's army, unlike the Afghan police, is immensely respected by the civilian population. They are professional soldiers, relatively free of corruption, and brave. But only two brigades have graduated and are now in the field, with another coming down the pipe. That's nowhere near enough to hold the insurgency at bay and they won't be close to having reasonable troop strength in three years time.

Further, those troops are abysmally lacking in proper military vehicles and equipment. On joint missions, the ANA goes out front – in pickup trucks, with exposed machine guns propped in back.

So, forget pleading with NATO members for more boots on the ground. Won't happen. Hit them hard for money, for helicopters, for kitting out Afghan security forces.

They won't risk blood. But there's no risk in cold, hard cash. They've got it.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Justice denied

This case shows the state of justice in the USA as far as suspected terrorists are concerned even when they are obviously innocent. In El-Masri's case it was mistaken identity. El-Masri has met a stone wall in the US. The same excuse of national security was used as has been used against Arar in the US. In Canada the government refuses to release documents to Omar Khadr in Guantanamo and of course it has done zilch to have Khadr sent back to Canada. The US refuses to do it. Khadr was kept in prison without charge while still just a juvenile. The Canadian govt. apparently thinks that Khadr will get a fair trial at a military tribunal in Guantanamo.!

Justice Denied

By William A. Cohn

10/26/07 "ICH" --- - It was a case of mistaken identity. It could have happened to any one of us.

And yet, in 2007 it is hard for us to imagine the ongoing nightmare endured by Khaled El-Masri, the German citizen whose story helped to expose the ugly underbelly of the US-led global war on terror. On October 9th, Masri’s last hope at getting justice in the US was dashed when the Supreme Court declined to review the lower court rulings dismissing his case based on the government’s assertion that to give Masri his day in court would require the disclosure of state secrets and thus harm US national security.

His Kafkaesque plight brings to mind the inquisitorial “justice” meted out by totalitarian regimes. That the High Court refused to hear his case without comment is all too fitting for the silence and secrecy Masri encountered in his search for answers in the US. Now, Masri must turn to the European Court of Justice in the hopes that Europe will afford him the justice he was denied in America. Since the US is not a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Masri should bring suit against Germany for its complicity in his mistreatment in order to obtain an adjudication affirming the mistreatment he received at the hands of US agents.

The Supreme Court decision, which the New York Times called a “Supreme Disgrace,” in essence accepted the Bush administration’s contention that the judiciary must ‘trust us’ that allowing Masri’s case to proceed would harm national security. But the constitutional rule of law is based on distrust, not trust. That is why, recognizing as axiomatic that ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ the Constitution established a system of checks and balances by means of a separation of powers aimed at accountability. By rubber-stamping claims of executive privilege, the judiciary shirks its constitutional duty, and thus fails us all.

Masri’s story has been one of the most widely reported cases of so-called ‘extraordinary rendition’, the practice of secretly abducting suspected terrorists and indefinitely detaining them, often in countries known to torture prisoners. On December 6, 2005 Masri filed a lawsuit in US federal court against former CIA director George Tenet, and others, alleging that the defendants, acting as agents of the US government, kidnapped, wrongfully imprisoned, abused and tortured him. The 44-year-old married father of five alleges that on December 31, 2003 he was forcibly abducted while on holiday in Macedonia, detained incommunicado, handed over to US agents, then beaten, drugged, and taken to a secret prison in Afghanistan, where he was interrogated in a cruel and inhuman manner. His allegations have been investigated and substantiated by the German state prosecutor and the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights watchdog.

It seems that Khaled El-Masri was thought to be Khalid al-Masri, the name given to the CIA by the Hamburg-based terror suspect Ramzi Binalshibh as the person who helped Mohammed Atta’s 9/11 cabal make contact with a senior Qaeda member in Germany. Likely, the CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ produced false ‘intelligence’ and they chased a fictive person with reckless abandon. The validity of Masri’s German passport was never checked before he was flown to Afghanistan. German Chancellor Merkel told the press that US Secretary of State Rice acknowledged to her the mistake with Masri. Rice’s staffers subsequently denied any such admission having been made. Rice, like all Bush officials, has refused to comment on Masri’s claims.

Masri’s lawsuit sought an apology and monetary compensation. US District Judge T.S. Ellis III held that Masri’s “private interests must give way to the national interest in preserving state secrets,” adding that if the allegations are true “all fair-minded people must also agree that El-Masri has suffered injuries as a result of our country’s mistake and deserves a remedy.” Indeed, there is no justice without a remedy for a legal wrong. But following the Supreme Court refusal to review his case, it is now a certainty that Masri will never obtain a remedy through the US legal system.

The Masri case reveals much of what has gone wrong in the ‘war on terror.’ The Supremes let stand the March 2nd Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which upheld Judge Ellis’ dismissal of the lawsuit because it could expose state secrets. These decisions have brought widespread disbelief, disappointment and disgust. Following the Fourth Circuit ruling, ACLU attorney Ben Wizener said: “This is doubly insulting. Everyone knows that Mr. El-Masri was a mistaken victim of the rendition program. He is now a victim of the misuse of the state-secrets privilege.”

Masri’s is not the only such case to be so dismissed. For instance, Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen taken to an Edgar Allan Poe-like secret prison in Syria, also had his case thrown out of US federal court by a state secrets ruling. The Canadian government substantiated Arar’s claims and offered an apology and compensation for its role in his ‘rendition’. Sadly, the current US administration lacks the strength to ever apologize.

The once-obscure state secrets privilege has been expanded and used ever-more since it was created in the 1953 case US v. Reynolds. Information declassified half a century later reveals that the state secrets claim in the Reynolds case was a lie – the government was seeking to hide its mistakes and protect against embarrassment, not to protect the country’s security. This revelation has fueled calls for reform by legal scholars, public interest groups and the American Bar Association. Since 1993, judges have required in-camera review of the disputed documents underlying state secrets claims in less than an eighth of cases, opting instead for blind deference.

On October 11th, the Times opined, “this administration has repeatedly relied upon [the state secrets doctrine] to avoid judicial scrutiny of its lawless action . . . courts need to apply a healthy dose of skepticism to state secrets claims.” Recently, parts of the judiciary have awakened. Federal judges have denied state secrets claims, noting that to defer to a blanket assertion of state secrets would be to abdicate their duty. On October 10th, a federal judge, citing domestic and international law prohibiting torture, barred the transfer of Guantanamo Bay inmate to Tunisia, marking the 1st time the judiciary has blocked the government transfer of a terror detainee. Perhaps this signals a new willingness to question claims of executive privilege.

As part of a community working to instill respect for the rule of law in post-communist Europe, these are challenging times. America should lead by example in assisting new democracies to root out corruption and establish transparency and accountability in governance. Yet its refusal to cooperate with German prosecutors in Masri’s case, the Canadians in Arar’s case, or the Italians in a rendition investigation there, erodes international cooperation. And revelations of secret torture memos, secret prisons, and secretive government under a novel ‘unitary executive’ theory undermine efforts advocating a rule of law agenda.

We owe Khaled El-Masri our gratitude for helping to expose human rights abuses committed in our name. By taking his claim to the European Court of Justice Masri can shed additional light on the self-defeating post-9/11 tactics employed in the US and Europe. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Masri was turned back at the airport without explanation when he flew to the US to appear at his first court hearing, and in the end he was denied review by the Supreme Court without comment. Mr. Masri is reportedly experiencing psychiatric problems today. Let us hope that he has the strength to continue his search for truth and fairness with the European Court of Justice. For we all have a stake in his struggle for justice.

William A. Cohn, who reported on the Masri case in the spring 2006 issue of The New Presence, is a writer, lawyer and lecturer at the University of New York in Prague

Sask. Election. Liberal Platform

Here is an article on the Liberal platform. Perhaps the Liberals will pick up some seats this time or at least elect their leader but even that is not at all certain it seems.

Liberal platform talks schools, tax cut, accountability
Last Updated: Friday, October 26, 2007 | 5:02 PM CT
CBC News
The Liberals unveiled their detailed election platform Friday in Saskatoon — a four-year, $1.4-billion plan centred on schools, a tax cut and accountability.

"We need Liberals elected in the legislature to make sure that our top three priorities are adequately addressed by the next government," Liberal Leader David Karwacki said in a news release.

David Karwacki says Liberals are needed in the Saskatchewan legislature to ensure fiscal accountability.
(CBC) The Liberals were shut out of all 58 constituencies in the 2003 election after Karwacki criss-crossed the province in his campaign bus. For the Nov. 7 election, Karwacki says, he focused on a smaller number of constituencies, mainly in the cities.

He has argued that the NDP is going to lose the election, and has urged voters to choose the Liberals as the next Opposition.

"Throughout this election, it has become clear that the two other parties are not able to focus on what matters most to the people of Saskatchewan," Karwacki said. "Instead, they are willing to promise all things to all people for the sake of power."

The Liberals are calling for residential education property taxes to be phased out, with the lost school board revenue being backfilled by the provincial treasury. Their school plan calls for a philosophy that put the school at the heart of a community.

The party is saying the numbers in the NDP and Saskatchewan Party platforms don't add up, highlighting the need for increased financial scrutiny in the legislature.

Karwacki believes the Liberal plan can be achieved within annual balanced budgets.

The Liberals also suggest they would pay off the provincial debt within a decade.

Politics of Envy and Fear in Canada

This is a from a California website. The author is a bit goofy in thinking that the NDP is socialist or even socialistic. The NDP is busy selling an interest in an oil upgrader. It has complained about Sask Party supposed plans to sell crowns when the NDP has done zilch to reverse privatisation. The NDP could be rolling in dough from uranium, potash, oil and gas but all those govt. owned companies are gone. THe NDP is now in effect advertising itself to the ALberta oil patch as having a favorable royalties regime compared to ALberta. Strange type of socialism.

Politics of Envy and Fear in Canada
October 27, 2007 1:00 AM

Saskatchewan: resource-rich and socialism-poor
PJM Saskatchewan: The attack ads are running and the half-hearted promises for change are being made. Catherine McMillan reports on the election campaign in one of Canada’s most politically-charged provinces.

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By Catherine McMillan

The Saskatchewan election campaign kicked off a full month before the election call, complete with wall-to-wall government advertising and the unveiling of the governing New Democratic Party’s “Wolf In Sheeps Clothing” attack ad against the opposition Saskatchewan Party. The NDF ad was originally intended to suggest that the Saskatchewan Party was the old Conservative Party under a new guise as represented by a dog-like wolf in sheep’s clothing. (For those who are unfamiliar with Saskatchewan politics, the New Democratic Party is on the left and the Saskatchewan Party is somewhat to right of them.)

But ironically, it was the SaskParty who did the unveiling. The latest in a summer’s full of leaks from NDP inner circles, the spot was renamed “Lambchop, The Dog-Faced Sheep” and ridiculed before the ad could even be launched. But launch it the NDP did, albeit with a more sinister looking “wolf” in place of the decidedly Alaskan Malamutish “dog” of the original version.

He must have enjoyed the ridicule, for when Premier Lorne Calvert finally dropped the writ (for November 7th) last week, he followed by teasing that Saskatchewan residents could expect the “the boldest new social program in Canada in a decade or longer.”

That program is a universal drug plan that would cap approved medications at $15 for every Saskatchewan resident, regardless of age or means. Unsurprisingly, no costing for the program was provided.

The response was immediate and overwhelmingly negative. The NDP drug plan proposal quickly became dubbed “the answer to a question no one was asking.” With 43 cents of every government budget dollar already spent on health care in the province, it reminded voters of the existing, unsolved problems of ER and bed closures, long waiting lists for diagnostics and surgery, and doctor and nursing shortages. A universal drug plan was seen as a blatant vote-buying exercise, that if implemented would only divert scarce tax dollars from more pressing needs.

And it might have been the end of the beginning for the governing NDP, had it not been for the race of the SaskParty to join them in the crosshairs.

Before the critics’ ink had dried, Sask party had responded with a “while you’re slapping them around, don’t forget us” by proposing a stripped down version of a drug plan for seniors and youth, complete with the same $15 cap. The best that could be said for the plan was that it was “a less expensive answer to a question no one was asking.”

There’s a saying about never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. While three weeks yet remain, the drug plan debacle may, in the end, serve as a metaphor for the entire campaign.

A month ago, a 16 year old union-led NDP government was bracing to survive a wave of attitudinal change sweeping over a province that has finally glimpsed “this year country” might finally be Saskatchewan.

With the second largest oil reserves in Canada (recent exploration hints that Saskatchewan’s oil sands reserves may rival those of Alberta), 25% of the planet’s uranium deposits, the source of 33% of world potash supplies, more arable land than all other provinces in Canada combined, and prices for energy, mining and agricultural commodities at near record levels, optimism for the prairie province’s long term economic health has zoomed. These prospects spurred a flirtation with the type of pro-free enterprise attitude whose absence has so long distinguished resource-rich and socialism-poor Saskatchewan from its more prosperous neighbor to the west.

Yet, despite these positives, the province’s population still can’t manage to top the 1 million mark. It is still leaking people. And private enterprise is still twitchy about making significant investments in the province.

The long-standing exodus of Saskatchewan youth to more prosperous regions has created a “donut” demographic, with the very young and elderly representing disproportionate ratios of the population, and the predictable drain on social and health resources.

Add to that a tradition of left-leaning governments with a taste for “crown corporation” ownership, unfriendly tax regimes and powerful labour laws, along with opportunistic “public investment” in vote-generating business ventures - and private capital long ago fled to other jurisdictions to invest.

This situation didn’t come about by accident. While it seems cliche to mention it some 70 years later, the psychology behind what has been called Saskatchewan’s “politics of fear and envy” still traces its origins to the dustbowl depression of the 1930’s and the profound psychic impact it had on the province and its politics. It was in the dustbowl era that the predecessor to the NDP, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was born. The CCF pledged that they would not “rest content until it has eradicated capitalism and put into operation the full programme of socialized planning,” a program that has adherents in the province and some would argue - in the NDP government - to this day.

To illustrate how strongly this mentality still pervades within elements of their base, the New Democrat campaign “wolf” ads warn that the SaskParty would “turn Saskatchewan into a carbon copy of Alberta.”

In essence, the ad expects voters to regard the prospect of becoming like Alberta — the principle driver of the Canadian economy (with a growth rate of over 4% GDP), where more jobs were created in 2006 than all other provinces combined — a province that collects no provincial sales tax and has no provincial debt — a fate too ghastly to contemplate.

The ad plays on these ridiculous fears because it works and some voters will undoubtedly reject the SaskParty on that account. Only in Saskatchewan can the phrase “quality of life” be synonymous with both “moral superiority” and “lower standard of living.”

So, with the first week of campaigning behind us, the difference between the two parties reduces to a single word - change. Are we to resist Alberta-like change, as the NDP warns, or embrace the half-hearted “we promise to be careful” change offered by the SaskParty.

In this most political of provinces (the only one in which both major parties are home grown) it won’t be those of the entrenched rural right or labour left who decide the outcome. The decision will ultimately lie with the middle-of-the-road swing voters. Will they be ready to sweep 16 years of socialist government aside for a slightly less left-of-center version?

Has the premier’s 4 year project of civil servant hiring been negated by the more recent influx of private sector migrants following the economic boom? The abundance of Alberta license plates in evidence these days suggests it might be so. (Providing they vote.)

And perhaps the most important question of all - will the Saskatchewan Party leave the security of pre-election poll results showing their party with a wide lead to campaign like a government in waiting? Is SaskParty leader Brad Wall going to step up his “football dad” image and act like a premier?

Will he lead the wave or just hope to ride the “change for change’s sake” trend to victory?

At the moment, there is a sense of the latter. He may passively ride the trend. The SaskParty platform, while well thought out and publicly detailed, is decidedly tepid. The campaign style seems haunted by the fear of misstep. They’ve forgotten that battles aren’t won by keeping one’s head low.

There is a sense here that this is a province that is ready to take off economically and demographically. Property values are rising exponentially, the decades-long pattern of young adults leaving for greener pastures finally looks to be reversing.

The fundamentals are in place. But attitudes are another matter. If the SaskParty fails to offer a well-defined and clearly articulated contrast to the current government, they’ll be well on their way to branding their party as a watered-down version of the status quo.

And in economic good times, everyone knows the best place to go for the status quo.

Elections Saskatchewan
Campaign websites:

Saskatchewan New Democrats
Saskatchewan Party
Saskatchewan Liberal Party

Catherine McMillan writes at Small Dead Animals