Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NB government will open door to private health clinics in 2009

As with Alberta, New Brunswick is doing away with local control and centralising administration. At the same time they are increasing the for-profit private portion of health care. This represents the continuing trend of making health care a for profit business rather than a public service based upon need and delivered at cost. Since many people cannot possibly pay for this very costly health care much of it remains paid for out of the public purse. However, there is also a tendency to offload costs onto individuals. In clinics for example there will be tray fees etc that will not be covered under existing medicare benefits.

The administration will be more and more "professional" as power is centralised in an elite who know better than those crass local boosters who are always out for their own local narrow interest!!

N.B. government will open door to private health clinics in 2009
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 11:27 AM ET
CBC News
Health Minister Michael Murphy will continue his reforms to the health system in 2009 with additional cuts to departmental administration and unveiling legislation that will set the stage for private health clinics.
Murphy said the legislation will settle who is allowed to own private clinics as well as address any potential conflicts of interest. But the health minister maintains the use of private clinics will not violate the Canada Health Act.
"We respect that and we will adhere to that," Murphy said.
"Publicly-funded health care is going to prevail, but that doesn't mean that every piece of equipment will be owned by the public nor every particular person treating you will be employed by the public sector."
The legislation will be introduced after the legislature returns in March. Murphy said the proposed law will stipulate who can sell privately-delivered health services to the province.
The health minister launched a set of health reforms in 2008. The Liberal government slashed the eight regional health authorities down to two, sparking a legal fight initiated by a francophone group over minority language services in the Moncton area.
He also set up an oversight health council and a shared-services agency meant to reduce duplication within the health system.
Murphy said other changes are in the works, including improvements to breast cancer screening, and a more integrated patient record system.
Even after changes to regional health authorities in 2008, Murphy said the government is also looking at more cuts.
Murphy said the province is looking to cut more "fat" from hospital administration.
The New Brunswick government must also sign a new collective bargaining contract with registered nurses. The province's nurses union is in a legal strike position but has agreed not to strike during the holiday period.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ignatieff targets Quebec in bid to rebuild Liberal party.

Ignatieff is taking advantage of the obvious mistakes Harper has made on Quebec. Harper managed to very quickly lose all the good will he had built up in Quebec and now Ignatieff is quickly moving into the vacuum to build up the federal Liberal party in Quebec.
Ignatieff has the advantage of speaking excellent French and his academic credentials and experience living in other countries is no disadvantage in most of Quebec. As the article notes if he can establish a physical presence in different areas this will help gain support.

Ignatieff targets Quebec in bid to rebuild party - Canada - Ignatieff targets Quebec in bid to rebuild party

December 29, 2008 Andrew ChungQUEBEC BUREAU CHIEF
MONTREAL–Wearing a long, heavy black coat and his black fedora, sprinkled with snowflakes, Michael Ignatieff set foot in Quebec City on Dec. 17 for the first time officially as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. He was greeted by a lone TV crew curious to know his intentions and the agenda for his breakfast that morning with Premier Jean Charest.
"I am going to visit other premiers, but I am starting in Quebec," he said politely, "and that is a sign of the importance I attach to Quebec."
There's nothing new in a politician trying to woo Quebec, or helpful strategists imploring them to back that up with symbolic heft. Prime Minister Stephen Harper began the last election campaign in Quebec, when it was thought he had the province in his back pocket as he walked toward a majority.
But Harper's Quebec support dried up. In the vacuum, the question has become: Is Ignatieff the man who will reawaken Quebecers' moribund interest in his party?
Close associates, analysts and those on the ground say Ignatieff is well-positioned to take advantage of Tory problems in Quebec to reinvigorate the Liberal brand here, not only by virtue of his political calculations, but also good timing.
Since the Liberals are less likely to win over the more conservative West, Quebec becomes vital to their hopes of regaining government. Ignatieff's Quebec assault will begin as early as next month as he starts to visit communities.
The day he was crowned leader, Ignatieff said he recognized the problems the Liberals face in Quebec and that he intends to change things. "We have a lot of work to do," he said. "I have to go to ... all the small communities in the regions of Quebec. ... I have to give speeches in small rooms, big rooms, in churches, everywhere."
"Here in Quebec the human aspect is very important. To see the person, to shake their hand, it counts very much," says Montreal MP Pablo Rodriguez, an Ignatieff organizer who had been planning Ignatieff's Quebec tour before he took the helm.
It's a well-worn path, especially by successful provincial politicians, from René Lévesque to Robert Bourassa to Charest himself. After he lost the 1998 election, Charest embarked on a five-year get-to-know mission all over Quebec. In 2003, he won a majority.
"He was present everywhere, every region," says Liza Frulla, a former federal and provincial Liberal politician who is now a political analyst. "So he sort of built his confidence, but also a rapport between Quebecers and himself. It's a time-tested strategy."
Ignatieff also thinks it's the right time to do it. He says Harper has lost the confidence of Quebecers since he aggressively denounced as a "separatist coalition" the Liberal-NDP alliance that formed with support from the Bloc Québécois in the aftermath of the government's Nov. 27 economic statement.
Christian Bourque, vice-president of the Léger Marketing firm, says Ignatieff could be received well in Quebec for a few reasons.
Quebecers, unlike voters in the West, don't prefer to have their leaders to reflect the "Average Joe," he says. They want someone who is a notch above average. "Style-wise he reminds (Quebecers) a bit of a slightly older (Pierre) Trudeau. There's a bit of an aristocratic air to the guy, which will be fairly popular here in Quebec."
His skill in French is always helpful. And the fact Ignatieff spent the better part of his life outside the country isn't considered a negative, Bourque says. Ignatieff has begun to broadcast his message. He mentions that he and his party are not the great "centralizers" that many Quebecers loathe them for.
While Harper has received most of the credit for recognizing in Parliament the Québécois as a nation, it was Ignatieff who first broached the idea of a Quebec "nation," and he would like to capture some of the momentum himself.
Still, Ignatieff leads a Liberal party that turned off many federalists and soft nationalists in Quebec following the sponsorship scandal.
In the last election, save for the Montreal region and a few other key areas, the Liberals were all but non-existent in Quebec. The party's organization on the ground in the regions is in shambles.
"It's been a tough ride for the party," Rodriguez admits. "The last three to four years have been very difficult."
But the signs are there for a renaissance, he says. For instance, during the short-lived leadership campaign following Stéphane Dion's announcement that he would step down, the Ignatieff team in Chicoutimi and Jonquière received support from former partisans of Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy and other former leadership contenders."There was no real fight here in Quebec. We were getting support here from pretty much everybody."
But it will be a long, hard haul to rebuild the party here.
One person in the Ignatieff entourage says there will have to be more links with Charest's party. But a strategist close to Quebec's Liberal party says close links would not be advised. "The two parties have had a long history of not getting along."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

International Community calls for end to violence in Middle East

Gaza is like a large prison under the control of Israel which controls the flow of vital supplies into it. Israel expects that it can make raids to target Hamas militants without any response from the prisoners but this is not the way it works. The militants in revenge send rockets into Israel. This in turn provokes more reprisals by the Israelis.
Even though Gaza elects its own govt. since that govt. is regarded as a terrorist govt. by Israel the jailors do their best to isolate it internationally and overthrow it and support instead the Abbas govt. Since they have been unable to neutralise the Hamas militants they are now escalating the conflict even though the humanitarian consequences are horrendous for the Palestinians. The next step will be a ground invasion. The west will say Tut tut, and ask Israel to be careful about civilian casualties with the weapons provided by the US and of course the blame for all the violence will be squarely placed upon Hamas.
In the short run any hope for peace seems dim. As long as Israel thinks it can defang Hamas militarily it will continue with the attacks.

International community calls for end to violence in Middle East
Last Updated: Saturday, December 27, 2008 7:55 PM ET CBC News
Jordanian protesters shout anti-Israeli slogans and wave Arabic and Hamas banners during a demonstration Saturday in Amman, Jordan. (Mohammad abu Ghosh/Associated Press)
International reaction to Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip was swift Saturday, with many around the world calling on both sides to halt attacks and end the violence that has left more than 225 people dead in less than 24 hours.
Leaders in the U.S., U.K., Canada and in the Middle East, as well as at the Vatican and the United Nations, have all called for an immediate restoration of calm.
"The [UN] Secretary-General is deeply alarmed by today's heavy violence and bloodshed in Gaza, and the continuation of violence in southern Israel," United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.
The secretary general condemned Israel's air strikes, which were launched at various targets in Gaza just before noon, as an "excessive use of force." Hamas officials have said all of its security compounds were destroyed in the blasts, while Israel Army Radio reported 40 targets hit.
Ki-moon also implored Gaza militants to end several days of rocket attacks on Israeli towns and communities.
Rocket attacks
Israel's offensive against the Palestinian territory, spurred dozens of rocket attacks on Israeli targets this week, is some of the worst the region has seen in years. It comes after a six-month ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants ended eight days ago.
At least 400 people were wounded in Saturday's attacks, most of whom were security officers although an unknown number of civilians are also amongst the dead.
Hamas has retaliated with up to 70 rocket attacks on Israeli border communities, and is threatening to resume suicide attacks.
The United States has blamed Hamas, the Islamist political and military organization that holds de facto control of Gaza, for breaking the ceasefire, saying it was "completely unacceptable" for militants to launch attacks on Israel after the sustained truce.
"The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.
Canada defends Israeli action
Canada's foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon, also issued a statement in which he pointed to Israel's "clear right to defend itself" against continuing attacks by militants he accused of "deliberately" targeting civilians.
"First and foremost, those rocket attacks must stop. At the same time, we urge both sides to use all efforts to avoid civilian casualties and to create the conditions to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need in Gaza."Israeli police officers scuffle with Israeli activists during a Tel Aviv protest against the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip on Saturday. (Ariel Schalit/Associated Press)
Cannon also urged renewed efforts to reach a truce. While the ceasefire brought some calm to the coastal area around Gaza and saw fewer rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns, both Israel and Hamas have accused one another of violating the terms of the agreement.
The 22-member Arab League has scheduled an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the situation, which has sparked angry protests throughout the Arab world.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a senior member of Hamas's rival Fatah party and ruler of the West Bank, condemned Israel's actions.
Speaking from Riyadh, Abbas said "there are no reasons for the Israeli raids," according to Britain's Press Association.
Neighbouring Egypt, which helped broker the ceasefire in June, has summoned the Israeli ambassador to express condemnation and opened its Rafah border crossing to allow ambulances to bring the wounded to Egyptian medical facilities.
Egypt blames Israel
In a statement issued Saturday, the Egyptian presidency said it holds Israel responsible for the casualties in Gaza, according to Reuters.
"Egypt will continue its contacts to prepare an atmosphere conducive to restoring the period of calm and achieving reconciliation between the Palestinian groups," it said.
Protests against the Israeli offensive were staged across the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Hebron on Saturday, as well as in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and in Pakistan.
Elsewhere, Palestinian-Canadians called on the Canadian government to pressure Israel to end its offensive — even as a senior Israeli military source said the campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip "may last for a long time" and even expand to the use of ground forces.
Farid Ayad, a Toronto-area community leader who represents about 12,000 Palestinian-Canadians under the organization Palestine House, called the strikes "outrageous" and characterized them as an act of "genocide."With files from the Canadian and Associated Press

Federal Pols completely out of touch.

This is from the Toronto Sun.
The first order of business for political parties is to advance their own power and interests. They compete for the support of the ruling class but also for votes from the public at large. As the article notes this group is less than two thirds of those eligible to vote. Harper is quite business friendly as is evident in his choice for his advisory panel. He has to in the first place make sure their interests are met. However, he has a core right wing constituency that he regularly has to feed policy morsels to keep them happy. Although he himself shares most of the views of this group in order to remain in power he has to at times accomodate to other more centrist opinions.
You can be sure that both Harper and Ignatieff will make noises about co-operation to meet the needs of the very people from whom they are so disconnected. They may even be successful in toning down their competition over the short term. However the main needs to be met first are those of capital. 'The first order of business will be a stimulus to get the capitalist economy moving again. This will certainly help ordinary people to some degree as well especially in the case of infrastructure expenditure and job creation.
It is not really true that the polls are out of touch. They need to be in touch to keep their seats and always have their antenna out to detect the public mood. As Plato noted it is always necessary for the democratic politician to be aware of the moods of the great beast who votes them into power. The politician must understand these moods to use and manipulate them to serve the interests the politician represents and remain in power.
This is from the Toronto Sun.

Comment Editorial
Federal pols completely out of touch
Last Updated: 28th December 2008, 5:00am
Could Parliament be any more disconnected from the day-to-day lives of ordinary citizens than it is right now?
Will weary Canadians be treated to the same partisan goon show when the House of Commons reconvenes a month from now?
Most of all, do politicians and their spin doctors, holed up in fat city in Ottawa, even understand, much less care, about the mood of the country?
If, as leaders and MPs from all parties tell us, these are unprecedented times of economic upheaval, why are they still acting like partisan hacks, as if nothing has changed?
Do any of the political plotters involved in this increasingly meaningless dance realize the public has stopped listening?
That people worried about their jobs, pensions, life savings and hopes for their children's future, really don't care if Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton or Gilles Duceppe has the best 10-second sound byte on the nightly news?
Most Canadians (at least the fewer than six in 10 who still vote) see themselves as falling somewhere within the mainstream of the Conservative and Liberal parties.
That's where they want the government's response to address the ongoing recession to come from.
They don't want Harper and the Conservatives ruling as if they have a majority -- because they don't.
They don't want the Liberals and NDP, backed by Quebec separatists, defeating the government and installing an untested, rookie, Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, as prime minister, presiding over an unstable coalition government.
Finally, they don't want to waste more time and another $300 million on a fourth election in less than five years, little more than three months after the last one.
They want Harper and Ignatieff to agree on an approach to addressing the recession that both their parties can support and then get on with it.
This isn't rocket science, since the outlines of such a political deal are known -- such things as going into deficit to pay for more infrastructure spending, worker retraining, improvements to Employment Insurance, getting credit flowing again.
One sign of the disconnect between politicians and the public is that while there's support or grudging acceptance among the political classes for the $4 billion Ottawa/Ontario loan package recently committed to the auto sector, Canadians are deeply divided on the wisdom of such a move.
We believe broad-based tax cuts -- letting people keep more of their own money to spend on their priorities, rather than having the government take it away to spend on its priorities -- should be a substantial part of any stimulus package.
When the House of Commons reconvenes next month, we'll see whether its 308 politicians still believe they know what's better for the public than the public does.
Sadly, the way they've all behaved up to now, it appears they still think that, indicating an arrogance almost beyond measure.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

ABCP: Flaherty confident risk to taxpayers is low.

If the risk were all that low, there would be no need for govt. backing in the first place. The whole idea of govt. backing is to provide a guarantee that financial institutions are not willing to give to the plan.
This is from the Globe and Mail.

Flaherty confident 'risk to taxpayers is low'
December 27, 2008
OTTAWA -- Finance Minister Jim Flaherty doubts the guarantee that he and three provinces put up to save a restructuring of $32-billion in asset-backed commercial paper will ever be used.
"I am confident that the use of this backstop facility is not likely to be required, and the risk to taxpayers is low," Mr. Flaherty said in statement released by the Finance Department yesterday in Ottawa.
The statement revealed that the federal portion of the government rescue is $1.3-billion. Quebec, Ontario and Alberta contributed the balance of the $3.5-billion guarantee, which became necessary after a previous deal began to unravel.
Much of the $32-billion in ABCP is tied to the market for U.S. subprime mortgages, which collapsed more than a year ago. Investors and counterparties agreed in August, 2007, to freeze the assets to avoid a fire sale. Governments intervened at the 11th hour to keep that agreement from unravelling, allowing for a new deal on Christmas Eve.
"The government's decision to support this restructuring plan reflects its ongoing commitment to protect financial stability and ensure the health of Canada's capital markets in these very challenging times," Mr. Flaherty said.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Harold Pinter playwright dies at 78

This is from AP via Yahoo.
As well as earning the Nobel Prize in literature, Pinter was famous for his outspoken criticism of Bush and his lapdog Blair!

Nobel-winning playwright Harold Pinter dies at 78
By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer – Thu Dec 25, 9:44 am ET
LONDON – Harold Pinter, praised as the most influential British playwright of his generation and a longtime voice of political protest, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 78.
Pinter, whose distinctive contribution to the stage was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, died on Wednesday, according to his second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser.
"Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles," the Nobel Academy said when it announced Pinter's award. "With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution."
The Nobel Prize gave Pinter a global platform which he seized enthusiastically to denounce U.S. President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law," Pinter said in his Nobel lecture, which he recorded rather than traveling to Stockholm.
"How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand?" he asked, in a hoarse voice.
Weakened by cancer and bandaged from a fall on a slippery pavement, Pinter seemed a vulnerable old man when he emerged from his London home to speak about the Nobel Award.
Though he had been looking forward to giving a Nobel lecture — "the longest speech I will ever have made" — he first canceled plans to attend the awards, then announced he would skip the lecture as well on his doctor's advice.
Pinter wrote 32 plays; one novel, "The Dwarfs," in 1990; and put his hand to 22 screenplays including "The Quiller Memorandum" (1965) and "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1980). He admitted, and said he deeply regretted, voting for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Tony Blair in 1997.
Pinter fulminated against what he saw as the overweening arrogance of American power, and belittled Blair as seeming like a "deluded idiot" in support of Bush's war in Iraq.
In his Nobel lecture, Pinter accused the United States of supporting "every right-wing military dictatorship in the world" after World War II.
"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them," he said.
The United States, he added, "also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain."
Most prolific between 1957 and 1965, Pinter relished the juxtaposition of brutality and the banal and turned the conversational pause into an emotional minefield.
His characters' internal fears and longings, their guilt and difficult sexual drives are set against the neat lives they have constructed in order to try to survive.
Usually enclosed in one room, they organize their lives as a sort of grim game and their actions often contradict their words. Gradually, the layers are peeled back to reveal the characters' nakedness.
The protection promised by the room usually disappears and the language begins to disintegrate.
Pinter once said of language, "The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear. It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place. When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness. One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness."
Pinter's influence was felt in the United States in the plays of Sam Shepard and David Mamet and throughout British literature.
"With his earliest work, he stood alone in British theater up against the bewilderment and incomprehension of critics, the audience and writers too," British playwright Tom Stoppard said when the Nobel Prize was announced.
"Not only has Harold Pinter written some of the outstanding plays of his time, he has also blown fresh air into the musty attic of conventional English literature, by insisting that everything he does has a public and political dimension," added British playwright David Hare, who also writes politically charged dramas.
The working-class milieu of plays like "The Birthday Party" and "The Homecoming" reflected Pinter's early life as the son of a Jewish tailor from London's East End. He began his career in the provinces as an actor.
In his first major play, "The Birthday Party" (1958), intruders enter the retreat of Stanley, a young man who is hiding from childhood guilt. He becomes violent, telling them, "You stink of sin, you contaminate womankind."
And in "The Caretaker," a manipulative old man threatens the fragile relationship of two brothers while "The Homecoming" explores the hidden rage and confused sexuality of an all-male household by inserting a woman.
In "Silence and Landscape," Pinter moved from exploring the dark underbelly of human life to showing the simultaneous levels of fantasy and reality that equally occupy the individual.
In the 1980s, Pinter's only stage plays were one-acts: "A Kind of Alaska" (1982), "One for the Road" (1984) and the 20-minute "Mountain Language" (1988).
During the late 1980s, his work became more overtly political; he said he had a responsibility to pursue his role as "a citizen of the world in which I live, (and) insist upon taking responsibility."
In March 2005 Pinter announced his retirement as a playwright to concentrate on politics. But he created a radio play, "Voices," that was broadcast on BBC radio to mark his 75th birthday.
"I have written 29 plays and I think that's really enough," Pinter said . "I think the world has had enough of my plays."
Pinter had a son, Daniel, from his marriage to actress Vivien Merchant, which ended in divorce in 1980. That year he married the writer Fraser.
"It was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years. He will never be forgotten," Fraser said.

Edmonton bird count for the birds, lowest tally in 23 years.

I can't imagine what goldfinches and a robin would be doing in Edmonton at this time of year. Maybe some bird watcher was a bit high having had a bit too much to try and keep warm. The birds had more sense and stayed wherever they could keep warm.
Here there were only a few birds as well. The house sparrows as usual but also redpolls and some black capped chickadees. We have a resident squirrel who is still active and raids the feeder almost every day.

Edmonton's birds of a feather count together for lowest tally in 23 years

Hanneke Brooymans
Edmonton Journal
Friday, December 26, 2008
'Twas the weekend before Christmas, when all through the city, not a creature was stirring, not even a house sparrow.
OK, so there were a few house sparrows spotted during Edmonton's Christmas Bird Count this past Sunday--4,158 to be exact. But overall, Edmonton's birds behaved like humans do when it gets bitterly cold--they hunkered down in the warmest spot they could find and didn't move around much.
That made it challenging for the 385 volunteers involved in the count to spot them. Particularly since the vast majority of those volunteers were watching bird feeders from the cozy confines of their homes, with only a hardy few outside beating bushes.
Ultimately, 29,042 birds of 49 species were counted, the lowest number of species tallied in 23 years. The combination of less active birds and fewer participants this year meant some species likely got missed, said Kim Blomme, who compiled this year's results.
Some of the more common species were relatively scarce, too. Even the tough black-billed magpie was at its lowest number (1,698) since 1996.
A few species spotted in Edmonton appear to have made dubious decisions about where to spend their winters. A lone varied thrush could have followed its kind to California, where they're normally known to spend the chillier months of the year, said Blomme.
Four American goldfinches spotted at one feeder may also be kicking themselves around now.
Usually the species heads for the southern U. S. or Mexico at this time of year, she added.
The Christmas Bird Count is conducted in Canada, the United States and 19 countries in the Western Hemisphere. Birds are tallied over a 24-hour period in early winter in hundreds of count circles, each 24 kilometres in diameter.
The purpose of the count is to track the long-term health and status of bird populations.
Edmonton stands out on the continent in its enthusiasm for the count, frequently having more participants than any other count circle. Even though the number of participants was down this year, the city will probably still top the chart in North America, said Dave Ealey, who has frequently compiled the bird count results in previous years.
Other bird count sightings, presented in a Twelve Days of Christmas form, included: - One varied thrush - Two bald eagles - Three ruffed grouse - Four northern saw-whet owls - Five American robins - Six great horned owls - Seven northern goshawks - Almost eight hoary redpolls (there were seven counted) - Nineladiesdancing(just kidding, that's not a bird species) - 10 purple finches - 11 common goldeneyes - 12 European starlings

Liberals face their own economic challenge

This is from the Star.

This article makes it clear that as a supporter of the ruling class and capitalism the Liberal Party has to forge a new ideology. Of course as any libertarian will tell you all the crapola about free markets has always been that. There is not now nor has there ever been a free market capitalism. Just to give one crucial example, global economic agreements are based upon the protection of patents a scheme to ensure that protected products cannot face competition. Intellectual property rights are at the forefront of global trading. Another obvious example is the protection that advanced countries grant their agricultural producers most often. It is true however as the article points out that there has been an emphasis upon less government regulation and an increased rhetorical emphasis upon free markets. What could have been noted as well is that there has been increased privatisation and opening of areas to profit such as jails, ancillary health care services, security, and even roads.
As the financial bubble bursts and profits in many areas begin to shrink more socialisation of risk is demanded of the capitalist class. This is what the emphasis upon greater state involvement entails. However that involvement will also see increased government debt that will be left for future generations to pay. As is made eminently clear governments do not want structural deficits. As soon as recovery begins in fact before that there will be pressures to cut social programs and unions. The Flaherty attack on public sector labor unions and cutting subsidies to political parties is part of that. Only the parties who are able to finance themselves with donations from the well off will survive. The Liberals have to prove themselves a fit vehicle for the ruling class to rule and that is why they need a new ideology to sell themselves. With a newly crowned leader blessed by the kingmakers Liberal bagmen should be able to refill their coffers. The Liberals simply need a middle of the road economic and social policy. They will probably avoid what was for a time quite trendy environmental issues. Of course there will be considerable rhetoric but little policy action the same as when they were in power. The environmental brand promoted by Dion did not sell so it will be unceremoniously consigned to the dustbin of history. Harper will need to show himself a moderate for the near term and swallow the new ideology of more govt. involvement and necessary deficits even though it makes him a bit nauseous so that he will always try to sneak in some old ideological favorites to ease the nausea.

Liberals face their own economic challenge - Opinion - Liberals face their own economic challenge
December 26, 2008 David Crane
The Liberals have a new leader, Michael Ignatieff. But this is not enough. The once-proud political party is today a pale shadow of its former self and needs to rethink what it stands for. The Liberal party needs new ideas as well as a new leader.
While the most immediate concern is how to deal with next month's federal budget, the bigger challenge is to define what the Liberal party will stand for in the global society of the 21st century.
Over the next decade and beyond, the world will be transformed by globalization and the shift of economic power and wealth from the West to the East, continuing and rapid technological change, the need to address climate change before it is too late, and competition for energy, mineral resources, food and water.
Where will Canada fit in this world and how will we prosper at a time of intensifying competition for jobs and growth? As a hint of what lies ahead, a Chinese company, BYD, has just unveiled the world's first mass-produced plug-in hybrid car, two years ahead of GM's planned Volt.
The ability to provide a 21st-century agenda for a successful Canada is critical if the Liberals are to appeal to more voters, attract more members, recruit better candidates and spark more grassroots funding. Attacking the Harper government is not enough.
As prime minister, Jean Chrétien succeeded in restoring Canada's fiscal health and putting Canada on the path to sustained budget surpluses along with tax cuts. This was a major accomplishment. He also boosted Canadian spending on fundamental science and higher education. But he was not interested in recharging the Liberal party as a force for broad policy leadership
His successor, Paul Martin, displayed an enthusiasm for many different policies, but seemed unable to set priorities. As leader of the Opposition, Stéphane Dion was fixated on a single idea, a carbon tax, which was a good idea if clumsily presented. But he, too, lacked a broader view of the challenges facing the country.
To start, Liberals need to redefine the role of the state in the 21st century. What is it that we should expect government to do, on its own or in partnership with business, labour and NGOs?
The global financial crisis has demonstrated, at enormous human and economic cost, the failings of the ideology that has dominated policy-making for the past generation. That ideology is grounded in the Thatcher-Reagan revolution, which celebrated low taxes, deregulation, small government and the minimalist state. It is now abundantly clear that markets are not all-wise.
A key role of the state must be to set the rules of the game and vigorously enforce them, not rely on a blind faith in the "invisible hand" of market forces. The cost of light-touch regulation of financial markets is clear. But this applies in other areas as well, from climate change, safe workplaces and land use to clean water and food safety.
In the free-market world, social policies were criticized as unaffordable or ineffective given the faster pace of change. Government polices to boost innovation were denounced as meddling and inefficient interventions in picking winners and losers.
But the state is now seen as a necessary force to help countries achieve collective prosperity and good jobs. Globalization and rapid technological change are big reasons why. We are now moving to a new era of the active state.
The shift to an active state should not mean, however, a return to bigger government, or the abolition of the role markets and competition can usefully play.
But the worst crisis since the Great Depression certainly points to the need for more active government, with a clearer role in helping individuals cope with globalization, providing appropriate regulation and ensuring that businesses can capitalize on opportunities for the future economy.
A challenge for the Liberal party is to demonstrate that it recognizes the fundamental importance of an innovative, entrepreneurial economy where the state is an active and supporting partner. For example, that Liberals should champion government that is more proactive in facilitating innovation and entrepreneurship to create the businesses and jobs of the future. It also means stronger support for city-regions, which are crucial engines of innovation and job-creation.
Markets do a poor job, by themselves, of supporting the kind of higher-risk, long-term investment that leads to new technologies and new industries. Nor are markets reliable in addressing long-term societal goals – such as dealing with climate change – unless governments use their powers to create a different market through regulation and incentives.
Good social policy is also important. As Peter Mandelson, Britain's Secretary of State for Business, said recently, some countries have fallen into the trap of using the share of government spending in the economy as a measure of freedom or efficiency.
"But where that spending is done well it can actually be a measure of the extent to which a state has adapted to the fundamental reality of living with rapid global economic change," he said, arguing that "a society that leaves individuals to cover the often catastrophic costs of health care or unemployment will spend less collectively." But "it will be an insecure society, and insecure societies are not societies equipped for long-term success."
Canadians need a new unifying set of ideas that show how to build a prosperous, just and sustainable society in a world where the old ways are collapsing.
The question is whether the Liberals are capable of rising to this challenge. If they can't, who needs them?
David Crane is a commentator on economic issues. He can be reached at

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ignatieff warns PM against use of hardball tactics in Parliament

Interesting that Ignatieff expresses pessimism that Harper will come up with a budget that the Liberals can support. Personally, I think that it is unlikely that Harper will come up with a government that the Liberals will not support. Ignatieff would rather moan and groan and swallow all sorts of crap rather than go to an electon. Remember it was Dion who was in power when the Liberals finally decided enough was enough. At this point in time I doubt that Ignatieff has the least wish to provoke an election or join a coalition if he can in any way avoid it. Unless Harper really goes off the deep end as with Flaherty's economic update he can rely on Liberal support or at least that they will not defeat him.
Interesting that Ignatieff seems to think that things have gone too far as far as govt. intervention is concerned and claims that governments actually control the banking system now. If government has such control why is it they do not own private banks themselves and why are they not able to force banks to lend instead of hoarding cash. Why do they not also force banks to lower their interest rates to the same extent govt. lowers rates?

Ignatieff warns PM against use of hardball tactics in Parliament
December 24, 2008
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has issued a warning to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he won't tolerate the misuse of confidence votes or hardball parliamentary tactics when MPs return next month to decide the government's fate.
In a year-end interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Ignatieff said he asked Mr. Harper during a recent meeting to instruct Conservative House Leader Jay Hill to try to remove ill will by meeting with Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale.
"The ways in which he makes everything a confidence motion is, in our view, unacceptable," Mr. Ignatieff said.
"He took the wrong signal from the election. The signal he took was that he could try anything he wanted to and he grievously underestimated the Liberal Party of Canada. We've got our act together, got a leader chosen, and he can't keep making these misjudgments of the mood of the House and hope to survive."
Mr. Ignatieff, installed as Liberal Leader earlier this month, expressed pessimism that the Harper government would unveil a budget in January that his party could support.
The Liberals have inked a deal with the New Democrats to take over government in a coalition, but Mr. Ignatieff has indicated he could back the budget if it delivers the appropriate economic help to increasingly anxious Canadians. The coalition came together after opposition parties were infuriated by an economic statement that, among other things, would have eliminated voter subsidies for political parties and suspended the right to strike of civil servants.
"The thing that frankly concerns me is that the autumn statement so failed the test of leadership that Canadians required of the situation, that I'm not optimistic that the government will come up with a budget that meets Canada's needs," Mr. Ignatieff said.
"But I live in hope, as it were, that Mr. Harper will rise to the demands of the hour."
Despite the tough talk, the newly minted Liberal Leader acknowledged in a wide-ranging discussion that his party has far to go before recapturing its former glory. To that end, Mr. Ignatieff proposed a new policy conference based on the celebrated Kingston get-together of 1960 and the Aylmer, Que., meeting of 1991, when the then-opposition Liberals met to sort out new policy directions.
The party, he said, needs to look hard at why Liberal governments have difficulty delivering on their best intentions, such as ideas for helping native people and building infrastructure.
Nonetheless, Mr. Ignatieff said liberal parties around the world are best positioned to take advantage of the current economic turmoil. International conservative leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush rode the wave of looser market regulation that has been blamed for sparking the global financial crisis.
"The market meltdown has been a moment of truth for conservative ideology, and a moment of validation for liberal ideology," Mr. Ignatieff said.
"Liberal parties have a view that the country needs compassionate, centrist government and, in tough times, Canadians look to government to protect the most vulnerable."
Asked whether his own party had lost some of its economic credentials in recent elections, Mr. Ignatieff admitted that Liberals need to figure out their direction on the issue.
"I think we have a lot of intellectual work to do, because I think everybody is uncomfortable that the pendulum has swung so far that governments are basically running the banking system of most industrialized countries," he said. "Nobody thinks that's a good idea in the long term."
Mr. Ignatieff said his party will come up with its own ideas on what it needs to see in the budget before deciding whether to support the government.
He added that Mr. Harper has not given him an answer on whether Mr. Hill and Mr. Goodale will get together in the new year, but he said Mr. Harper needs to let parliamentary committees do their job.
"He has been told in no uncertain terms there's a problem of confidence that isn't just constitutional, but a question of personal relations across the House," Mr. Ignatieff said.

Xmas present for ABCP holders courtesy of federal and provincial govts.

It seems that the old free market let losers fail philosophy is now being abandoned by govts. in power no matter what their political stripes. Of course this is all just temporary. The enduring legacy for all these govt. stimuli, bailouts, etc. will be debts for future generations and in time no doubt monetary inflation rather than deflation. The next steps will be to further erode social programs and also attack labor unions. This is already being done quite successfully in the auto bailout.

Governments to back ABCP deal with $4.45B

Dec 25, 2008 08:29 AM
The federal government, in conjunction with three provinces and other parties, will provide a total of $4.45 billion in financial backstops to rescue a restructuring plan for a massive slice of this country's commercial paper market.
An investor committee responsible for restructuring $32 billion worth of non-bank asset-backed commercial paper revealed those key details last night, nearly one week after Ottawa struck a deal with Ontario, Quebec and Alberta to prop up the problem-plagued retooling.
The exact amount of the "senior funding facility" was not disclosed at that time. The investor committee initially told Ottawa that it needed $9.5 billion in further guarantees to salvage the restructuring after foreign banks threatened to walk away from the deal.
The committee now says that Ottawa and the provinces, together with certain participants in the restructuring, will provide $4.45 billion of additional margin facilities to support its restructuring plan. That means margin facilities for the plan now total $17.82 billion.
"We are obviously delighted with this support from the governments of Canada, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta as well as from the asset providers and the Canadian banks. We are equally pleased to have crossed a major hurdle in completing the restructuring plan," said Purdy Crawford, chair of the investors committee, in a release.
"... As a result of these latest developments, we can begin the process of completing this restructuring with the posting of documents today."
Next steps will occur in early January when the committee seeks court approval of the closing process, which could finally mark the end of its 16-month restructuring ordeal.
Canadian non-bank ABCP, a type of short-term commercial debt, has been in crisis since seizing up in August 2007. The market experienced a dearth of buyers over worries that American subprime mortgages were among the assets backing the securities.
The investor committee drafted a restructuring plan last winter that proposes to convert the short-term securities into longer-term investments with maturities of up to nine years.
While the bulk of the frozen notes is held by big institutional investors, about 2,000 retail investors are also affected by the restructuring plan, known as the Montreal Accord.
The retail group represents about $400 million or 1 per cent of the total ABCP outstanding.
Most of them have struck separate bailout deals with their brokers, but getting their money back hinges on the completion of the main restructuring.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ignatieff to keep Harper on short leash!

Harper being such a mad dog, Ignatieff will probably not be able to even get Harper on a leash in the first place. Harper probably has more control over Ignatieff than vice versa. My prediction is that Ignatieff will go along with the Conservative budget, for the good of Canadians of course, even though he might not like it. Unless Harper puts as much poison in the budget as in the economic statement Ignatieff will cave in.

Ignatieff says he’ll try to keep prime minister on a short leashBy THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO — Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is warning Prime Minister Harper he won’t tolerate the misuse of confidence votes or hardball parliamentary tactics when MPs return to the Commons next month to decide the fate of the government.
In a year-end interview with the Globe and Mail, Ignatieff said it’s “unacceptable” for Harper to make “everything a confidence motion.”
The Liberal leader says the prime minister inferred from the Oct. 14 election that “he could try anything he wanted.”
However, Ignatieff adds Harper “grievously underestimated” the Liberal party, adding the prime minister “can’t keep making these misjudgements of the mood of the House and hope to survive.”
Ignatieff says he’s “not optimistic” the government’s Jan. 27 budget will meet the country’s needs, but the Liberal leader says he lives in hope that Harper “will rise to the demands of the hour.”
Even though the Liberals have inked a deal with the New Democrats to take over a governing coalition, Ignatieff suggests he could back away from toppling the government if next month’s budget delivers the slumping economy a big enough shot in the arm.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top-court appointment bypasses review process

This is from the Globe and Mail.
Harper is very busy even though parliament is prorogued and he really doesn't have the confidence of parliament. Indeed, that is why he must be so busy giving out Xmas senate seats and now appointing a conservative judge to the supreme court. Again he has broken his promise to have judicial reviews. Maybe Harper is going to provoke the opposition in January and wants to have 18 senators and a judge already in place just in case. But then Ignatieff has blessed the appointment so who needs reviews. Maybe Ignatieff has already blessed the budget as well. Perhaps there is a blessed Liberal Conservative coalition as an Xmas present for the Canadian people.

Top-court appointment bypasses review process
December 23, 2008
Prime Minister Stephen Harper surprised the legal community yesterday by filling a long-standing vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada and in doing so bypassed a parliamentary review process that his own party had fought hard to institute.
Mr. Harper appointed Mr. Justice Thomas Cromwell - a hard-working, judicial conservative with a flair for clear and persuasive writing - reasoning that it had been eight months since Mr. Justice Michel Bastarache's retirement left the court one judge short.
"The Supreme Court must have its full complement of nine judges in order to execute its vital constitutional mandate effectively," the Prime Minister said in a statement.
Mr. Harper emphasized that his sudden move was an exception, and that future Supreme Court candidates will undergo parliamentary scrutiny before their appointments are made final.

However, his assurance failed to appease critics who believe that his Conservative government has been consistently erratic in its approach to the Supreme Court appointment process.
"This is a shocking, stumbling way for an appointment to be made," said University of Toronto political scientist Peter Russell, an expert on the judiciary. "We should be ashamed of this stumblebum process of selecting people for our highest judicial office."
Prof. Russell criticized the government for first ignoring an all-party process used to compile a list of finalists for the vacancy, and then bypassing the parliamentary review stage.
Notwithstanding this "stupid, wrong and foolish" approach, Prof. Russell said that Judge Cromwell is a well-regarded jurist who can be expected to use the Charter of Rights and Freedoms sparingly to strike down legislation, and who will generally place the interests of policing ahead of the rights of the accused.
Appointed to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in 1997, Judge Cromwell, 56, is a specialist in civil procedure and labour law. He trained in music before commencing his legal education.
"This appointment is a very great honour, but it brings with it a humbling public responsibility and a considerable professional challenge," he said in a statement yesterday.
"I am reminded of a passage read at my law school graduation which has always stayed with me: 'From everyone who has been given much, much will be expected and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked,' " he said.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said in a statement that Judge Cromwell "is a judge of the highest ability, integrity and intellect. In addition to his vast experience on the Bench, he also brings a profound understanding of the role and the challenges of the Supreme Court."
During the summer, Chief Justice McLachlin urged a prompt appointment to prevent the rest of the Supreme Court bench from having to shoulder an added burden. Throughout the court's fall term, she dropped one judge off of each appeal panel in order to prevent the possibility of a 4-4 tie.
Mr. Harper noted in his statement yesterday that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was consulted about the appointment and welcomed it.

Harper blasted for Senate picks

Harper always loved US style politics now he is able to dispense pork on a grand scale taking advantage of our special Canadian characteristics of appointing people to our senate unlike the US. All those Conservative hacks and fellow travellers and august Conservative bag people have been awarded 130 k per year sugar plums until the ripe old age of 75. Of course critics may point out that perhaps Harper or a successor may have reformed the Senate by then.

Harper blasted for Senate picks

PM's choices include 2 journalists, an athlete and a philanthropist
Dec 23, 2008 04:30 AM
) Tonda MacCharles Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tapped the ranks of card-carrying Conservatives and others sympathetic to his agenda to fill 18 Senate vacancies, a move critics blasted as an abuse of power at a time when opposition parties are threatening to topple the minority government.
Harper's patronage appointments include broadcasters Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, a former separatist politician in Quebec, several defeated Tory candidates and other prominent Conservatives, including the party's chief fundraiser.
The appointments mark a change of heart for Harper, who has derided the Senate and tried to bring in reforms that would cap Senate terms to eight years, as well as start down the path to an elected Senate. But facing possible defeat in just a few weeks, Harper instead moved quickly to fill the existing vacancies with Conservative appointees.
David Christopherson, NDP democratic reform critic, slammed Harper's appointments as "hypocritical and undemocratic."
"The problem is that it's filled with so many identifiable Conservative hacks," he said in an interview.
Christopherson said Harper should have waited until after Parliament resumes on Jan. 26 and it becomes clear whether the Tory government will survive threats by the opposition to defeat it.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff did not speak publicly yesterday. In a statement, he said, "in appointing 18 senators while Parliament is prorogued, Stephen Harper has shown once again that he cannot be trusted."
Christopherson (Hamilton Centre) called on Governor General Michaëlle Jean, who must ratify Harper's picks, to hold off until after that date.
He cited a letter by constitutional lawyers to the Montreal newspaper La Presse, saying that a "growing body of expert opinion suggests the Prime Minister may be violating the Constitution by making these appointments without the confidence of the House of Commons."
With another 11 spots due to come open because of retirements in the next 12 months, the Prime Minister will likely be making further appointments, an aide said, if he remains in power.
"Our objective is to get a majority of senators in the Senate who support reform. That is our objective. Once reform is passed, everyone will be standing for elections," he told reporters at a background briefing yesterday.
"Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate," Harper said in a statement that accompanied the list of appointees.
"If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for," he said, referring to the Liberal-NDP coalition agreement that was signed before Harper sought prorogation of Parliament earlier this month to avoid a confidence vote.
Senators may sit until age 75, at an annual salary of $130,400.
There are 105 seats in the Senate. There are 58 Liberals, 38 Conservatives, three Progressive Conservatives, four independents, one independent New Democrat and one senator with no affiliation.
Duffy, 62, a long-time Parliament Hill journalist and host of a politics program on CTV, was named to the upper chamber as a representative for Prince Edward Island.
He'll be joined by Wallin, 55, his former colleague, who more recently has served as Canadian consul general in New York City as well as on an independent panel that made recommendations about the future of Canada's Afghan mission. Wallin was a reporter for the Toronto Star from 1978 to 1980.
Nancy Greene Raine, 65, who won gold and silver medals in alpine skiing at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics and overall World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968, is also a new senator.
Also among those named are former federal candidates Fabian Manning, defeated in a Newfoundland riding in the recent election; John Wallace, former New Brunswick candidate in 2006; and Yonah Martin, a former B.C. candidate.
Irving Gerstein, credited with filling the party's war chest as head of the Conservative Fund, was named to an Ontario seat, as was Nicole Eaton, who chaired the past two party conventions.
The list includes Michel Rivard, a former Parti Québécois MNA who ran for the Canadian Alliance under Stockwell Day and is an organizer for the right-wing provincial Action démocratique du Québec.
Asked about the optics of appointing a former separatist to the Senate, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office defended Rivard's appointment, saying "people are allowed to change their beliefs."
It also includes Leo Housakos, a prominent Greek Montrealer, long-time Tory supporter and party organizer who is a close friend of Harper press aide Dimitri Soudas.
The federal ethics commissioner cleared Soudas and Housakos of allegations they intervened on behalf of a Montreal real estate developer involved in a legal dispute with the public works department.
A senior aide to Harper yesterday rebuffed criticisms that the picks were partisan, saying people on the list "have distinguished themselves in their chosen profession."
He singled out Gerstein, a businessman and Order of Canada recipient.
"It would be very difficult to say that this is someone who is unqualified to sit in the Senate. I think the Senate will be a better place for having him there," the aide said.
According to Harper's office, yesterday's appointees have all promised to support his plans for Senate reform, including eight-year term limits. But they are appointed under the same rules as all other senators for now.
Patrick Brazeau, an Algonquin who is chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents off-reserve natives, said in an interview he made no promises to anyone about legislation he hasn't seen. However, he said that as a card-carrying Conservative, he supports Senate reform, including term limits, and will work to promote change.
Brazeau, at 34, will be the youngest sitting senator currently in the Red Chamber. "It's an honour and a privilege. Let's face it, very few people have an opportunity to do this. At my age, I couldn't say no."
Wallin said she couldn't refuse the promise of "another adventure."
She expects the Canada-U.S. relationship – "at the core of our economic success" – will be among her priorities when she takes her place in the Senate next month, thanks to the time she spent in New York.
She said that, contrary to some public perceptions, the Senate is tackling important policy issues.
"I think we're seeing other people take on issues and use that forum as a place to make change. You've got younger people who are energetic. I sense a change in the place. I'm really looking forward to it," she said in an interview yesterday from her parents' home in Wadena, Sask.
Wallin also expressed support for Harper's reform plans, even if it means running for election to keep her Senate seat.
"I will do what the Prime Minister and the premier, more specifically, expect of me," she said.
The Senate appointments are a blow to Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory's political prospects at Queen's Park.
Tory, who has been without a seat in the Legislature since losing the October 2007 election to Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberals, had hoped one of his MPPs would be named to the Red Chamber. That would have opened up a seat for him to contest in a by-election.
Joyce Murray, Liberal critic on democratic reform issues, said the "key issue isn't who, it's what and the timing of this."
She said the Prime Minister's failure to honour his promise to only name elected senators, and to do so at a "time of historical lack of confidence in elected leaders," contributes to Canadians' cynicism about public life.
The advocacy group Democracy Watch called the appointments a continuation of Harper's practice of "patronage politics as usual, in violation of his promises not to do so."
- With files from Robert Benzie

Alberta: Big budget deficit for health care.

This is from the Edmonton Sun.

It is somewhat surprising that the government allowed the regional health authorities to submit such large deficit budgets. As Swann the Liberal leader points out it would seem that the government is not paying too much attention to health care professionals. With the new superboard lacking representation from medical professionals but with plenty of business representatives it is not clear that the new regime will be at all sensitive to patient needs or listen to the concerns of professionals and with the abolition of regional health authorities regional needs will count for less as well.

December 22, 2008
Big budget deficit for health care
Department bleeding red ink
CALGARY -- As the province gets set to revamp health care in the new year, including ditching premiums in January, the ministry has become plagued with a large deficit.
A source told The Canadian Press that the health department is facing a deficit of up to $1.3 billion.
Premier Ed Stelmach confirmed the department is bleeding red ink.
"Part of the billion is the accumulated deficits of the regional health authorities," Stelmach said.
"Some of it is due to our labour agreements, some of it is due to growth in programs ... new therapies, new drugs."
The province might end up putting a lid on health spending increases over the next few years, he said.
To Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann, the solutions to overspending lie with better planning to address quality, accessibility and cost efficiency of the system.
"We need to bring research to the table and listen to the front-line professionals ... they know what's working," he said.
By not doing so, the province is not getting the best bang for its buck, Swann said.
"We stopped looking at where the money is going," he said.
Swann said technology, drugs and the 200,000 or so people without family physicians contribute to the high costs, which could be reduced with good health promotion and prevention.
"People are going to the wrong place or are not sure where to go ... we're not supporting family doctors and primary health care," Swann said.
Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert acknowledged the province spends more per capita on health care than any other jurisdiction, but said the department will not know if it faces a billion-dollar deficit until the new fiscal year.
"The health regions combined submitted a projected deficit of $400 million," Liepert said.
But addressing rising health-care costs is one challenge outlined in Liepert's Vision 2020, which includes providing more health care in community settings and more care options for seniors.
"It's aimed at trying to ensure we do the right thing in the right place and make the system more accessible in the future," he said, adding it has to be more sustainable, not just less costly.
Liepert trimmed $30 million from the prescription-drug program by tripling some premiums and bringing in a $7,500-deductible for high-income earners.
Long-term care is also being overhauled to reduce costs by trying to keep seniors in their homes longer.
-- With files from The Canadian Press

Monday, December 22, 2008

If you cant get elected get appointed to Senate

Interesting that Harper thinks that not only do Senators not need to be elected they can even be defeated candidates providing they are Harper loyalists.

Defeated MP Manning lands Senate seat
Last Updated: Monday, December 22, 2008 3:28 PM NT
CBC News
Fabian Manning, centre, seen during an August appearance in his riding with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been appointed to the Senate. (CBC)
Fabian Manning, a Conservative defeated just two months ago in the federal election, was appointed Monday to the Senate.
Manning is one of 18 appointees that Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced for the upper chamber. Other high-profile appointees include CTV broadcaster Mike Duffy, Olympic skiing champion Nancy Greene Raine and former broadcaster Pamela Wallin.
Manning, 44, lost a bid for re-election in Avalon riding, and was unable to push back against the "anything but Conservative" campaign that Premier Danny Williams waged against Harper and the federal Conservatives.
Manning and Williams have clashed several times in recent years, starting with Manning's expulsion from the provincial Progressive Conservative caucus in 2005, after Manning spoke out publicly against his own government's fisheries policy.
He was first elected to the House of Commons in 2006.
During the most recent federal election campaign, Harper's only campaign appearance in Newfoundland and Labrador was in Manning's largely rural riding.
Manning was not available for comment Monday, although he has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday.
Jack Harris, the NDP MP for St. John's East, said he was surprised that Harper — an advocate of an all-elected Senate — would install a failed candidate so soon after an election.
"To appoint someone to the Senate who was just defeated in an election seems to me to be a pretty undemocratic statement," Harris said.
Manning had frequently been touted as a potential cabinet minister in a Conservative government — at least until Williams's ABC juggernaut saw the party lose its three seats.
Close to Harper
David Cochrane, legislative reporter for CBC News in St. John's, said the appointment shows Manning enjoys a close relationship with Harper.
Manning really took the brunt and suffered the consequences of the ABC campaign, perhaps more than any of the incumbent Conservatives in the last election, because [fellow MPs] Loyola Hearn and Norm Doyle both retired right before the election," Cochrane said.
"Manning is the guy whose career was cut short, whose income was cut off, and whose options were really reduced by that political defeat, and I guess in some ways this is a reward and a payback for staying loyal to the prime minister throughout the whole ABC campaign, and fighting the good fight, at least from the federal Conservatives' perspective."
Williams did not comment on Manning's appointment, but an official said the premier wishes Manning "all the best in his new role."
Manning made his debut in elected politics in 1993, representing a southern Avalon Peninsula district in the house of assembly. He was defeated in 1996, but was re-elected in 1999.
After the Progressive Conservative caucus expelled him in 2005, Manning sat as an independent PC.

Harper Senate Appointments

Most of the appoiintees I know little about. I assume most have some Conserative connections. Pamela Wallin also served on the Manley Afghan independent farce. Maybe Harper has a crush on her. There are not that many women. I wonder if Duffy will still have his Mike Duffy live. Maybe he could broadcast from the Senate.

That Harper did this while the house was prorogued and while he clearly did not have the confidence of the parliament shows how little respect he has for the parliamentary system. Harper says that the appointments should be made by an elected govt. even though that govt. did not have the confidence of parliament which is why he got parliament prorogued. Actually more people voted for the parties in the coalition than for the Conservatives.

Wallin, Duffy among 18 named to fill Senate seats
Last Updated: Monday, December 22, 2008 2:17 PM ET
CBC News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks away following a television interview with Mike Duffy in Ottawa in February 2007. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)Prime Minister Stephen Harper named 18 people to the Senate on Monday, filling all the vacancies in an effort to balance out the Liberal-dominated chamber before the possibility of an election in the new year.
Among those appointed to regionally distributed seats in the upper house were former broadcaster Pamela Wallin (Sask.), Olympian Nancy Greene Raine (B.C.) and CTV broadcaster Mike Duffy (P.E.I.).
Harper's announcement sets a record for the most Senate appointments by a prime minister in a single day.
Others who were named to the Senate are:
Former MP Fabian Manning (N.L.).
Lawyer Fred Dickson (N.S.).
Stephen Greene, former deputy chief of staff to N.S. Premier Rodney MacDonald (N.S.).
N.S. businessman Michael L. MacDonald (N.S.).
Long-time New Brunswick MLA and cabinet minister Percy Mockler (N.B.).
Lawyer John D. Wallace (N.B.).
National chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Patrick Brazeau (Que.).
Former MP and teacher Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (Que.).
Director of Via Rail Canada Leo Housakos (Que.).
Former Quebec MNA Michel Rivard (Que.).
Nicole Eaton, member of the prominent Eaton family (Ont.).
Businessman Irving Gerstein (Ont.).
Co-founder of the Corean Canadian Coactive (C3) society Yonah Martin (B.C.).
Provincial cabinet minister Richard Neufeld (B.C.).
Former Yukon MLA Hector Daniel Lang (Yukon).
Move thwarts coalition appointments
The prime minister said he filled the vacancies to prevent a potential Liberal-NDP coalition from getting the opportunity.
)"If Senate vacancies are to be filled … they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for," Harper said in a press release.
He vowed to continue pushing for Senate reforms, and said all incoming Senators had promised to support eight-year term limits and other Senate reform legislation.
"For our part, we will continue working with the provinces and reform-minded parliamentarians to build a more accountable and democratic Senate," said Harper.
Opposition parties have been critical of Harper's decision to make patronage appointments during a time when Parliament is prorogued, saying the prime minister does not have the confidence of the House of Commons.
In early December, Harper asked Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament until Jan. 26, a move aimed at avoiding a confidence vote in which opposition parties planned to topple his minority government and try to bring a Liberal-NDP coalition to power.
But the opposition parties could still trigger an election on Jan. 27 when the minority Conservatives introduce their annual budget, and Harper is worried about losing the chance to fill the seats, said CBC's Margo McDiarmid.
2 prior Senate appointments
Harper's appointment of senators marks a significant departure from his long-held position that Senate members should be elected.
Until now, the prime minister held off filling the 18 vacancies in hopes of reforming the Senate to make sure members are elected, but he has been unable to pass any legislation to that effect.
Prior to Monday's appointments, Liberal-affiliated senators occupied 58 of the 105 seats, while 20 were held by Conservatives. Other seats are held by Independents and senators of other party affiliations.
The Tories had previously only named Quebecer Michael Fortier and Albertan Bert Brown to the Senate since coming to power in early 2006.
Following the January 2006 election of a Conservative minority government, Harper gave Fortier a seat in the Senate and then appointed him to a cabinet post, a decision he said was to ensure representation for Montreal. The Montreal lawyer resigned from his Senate seat for an unsuccessful bid in the October election.
Brown won his seat in an election in Alberta, the only province to elect senators. In November, Saskatchewan introduced legislation to allow voters to choose senators.
Also Monday, Harper made another high-profile appointment — naming Thomas Cromwell of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.
By doing so, the prime minister bypassed a parliamentary hearing process he has championed to more openly scrutinize nominees.With files from the Canadian Press

Harper readies to fill 18 Senate seats.

After managing to get parliament prorogued to save his government from certain defeat because it did not have the confidence of the house, Harper now fills 18 Senate seats during the period of prorogation. Of course he can get away with it even though it is certainly at the very least unseemly in a parliamentary system.
The Great Foe of an unelected Senate now is appointing 18 senators at one stroke the most in human history. Certainly Harper is no Grinch but the Great Santa dispensing plums of patronage. Of course Santa Claus is hardly giving out these rewards just to show Xmas spirit. Harper wants to ensure that these vacancies are filled before parliament resumes just in case by some mischance the coalition could end up governing if his government loses the confidence of the house again.

Harper readies to fill 18 Senate seats
Last Updated: Monday, December 22, 2008 10:12 AM ET
CBC News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to appoint 18 Conservatives to the Senate on Monday, in an effort to balance out the Liberal-dominated place of sober second thought.
Former broadcaster Pamela Wallin, Olympian Nancy Greene and ex-P.E.I. premier Pat Binns are rumoured to be among those in line for the jobs, said CBC's Margo McDiarmid.
Seat vacancies by province/territory:
(Source: Parliament of Canada website)
The announcement is expected around noon ET on Monday, said McDiarmid.
Opposition parties have been critical of Harper's decision to make patronage appointments during a time when Parliament is prorogued, saying the prime minister does not have the confidence of the House of Commons.
In early December, Harper asked Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament until Jan. 26, a move aimed at avoiding a confidence vote in which opposition parties planned to topple his minority government and try to bring a Liberal-NDP coalition to power.
But the opposition parties could still trigger an election on Jan. 27 when the Conservatives introduce their annual budget.
"The concern is if [Harper] doesn't appoint his own senators, that the Liberals get back in, appoint their own senators and the Conservatives will never be able to catch up," said McDiarmid.
Liberal-affiliated senators currently occupy 58 of the 105 seats, while 20 are held by Conservatives. Other seats are held by Independents and senators of other party affiliations.
Harper's appointment of senators will mark a significant departure from his long-held position that Senate members should be elected.
Until now, the prime minister has held off filling the 18 vacancies in hopes of reforming the Senate to make sure members are elected, but he has been unable to pass any legislation to that effect.
Since coming to power in 2006, the Tories have only named Quebecer Michael Fortier and Albertan Bert Brown to the Senate.
Following the January 2006 election of a Conservative minority government, Harper gave Fortier a seat in the Senate and then appointed him to a cabinet post, a decision he said was to ensure representation for Montreal. The Montreal lawyer resigned from his Senate seat for an unsuccessful bid in the October election.
Conservative Senator Bert Brown won his seat in an election in Alberta, one of two provinces that have set up their own Senate election process for the regionally distributed seats. The other province is Saskatchewan.
Harper's office has indicated his appointees would be expected to step aside if Senate reforms were passed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Abitibi Bowater urges N.L. govt. to repeal "illegal'' bill.

In closing the mill it would seem that Abitibi Bowater broke a longstanding contract with the government. As such it would seem that although the N.L. govt. would be required to pay some compensation for assets it expropriates the requirements of the NAFTA bill would not apply as far as paying for lost profits etc. Williams in fact agrees to partial compensation. Williams stands up for his province against the attempts of corporations to bully him. As he himself has mentioned the result has been successful negotiations re the oil industry. No doubt he will try to achieve something of the same sort with Abitibi and will refused to be cowed into submission.

AbitibiBowater urges N.L. government to repeal 'illegal' bill: letter
Last Updated: Friday, December 19, 2008 4:11 PM ET
CBC News
The paper company embroiled in a dispute with the Newfoundland and Labrador government over assets attached to its mill in Grand Falls-Windsor threatened Friday to take the government to court but Premier Danny Williams said his government stands by its legislation to strip those assets.
In a letter sent to Williams and obtained by CBC News, AbitibiBowater CEO and president David Paterson calls Bill 75, the bill passed by the provincial legislature on Tuesday, "an entirely unfounded and unscrupulous attack by the province of Newfoundland and Labrador on the Abitibi Canadian entities and on the parent company, AbitibiBowater Inc."
"The legislation, which is without precedent in Canada and is reminiscent of decrees emanating from jurisdictions with less democratic traditions, shocks common sensibility," the letter continued.
"We have retained prominent legal counsel, including experts in constitutional law, NAFTA and international legal principles governing expropriation, and have been advised that these actions clearly and unequivocally are illegal."
The letter spells out how AbitibiBowater believes Bill 75 violates provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement since AbitibiBowater Inc, is a U.S. corporation, incorporated in the state of Delaware. Bill 75 strips Abitibi's rights to lucrative hydro and timber resources in central Newfoundland.
The letter said Bill 75 does not meet any requirement of NAFTA's Article 1110 which includes that parties can't expropriate the investment of another party except for: a public purpose, on a non-discriminatory basis; in accordance with due process of law, and on payment of compensation.
Although the letter says it appears the province is trying to punish AbitibiBowater for closing the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor, it still urges the government to work co-operatively with the company to avoid "protracted and unnecessary legal proceedings that can bring no benefit to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."
"We reiterate our earlier recommendation to set up a joint working group so that together we can address all issues related to the permanent closure of the Grand Falls mill and the needs of its 750 employees," the letter said.
"In the absence of an agreed resolution or full and timely compensation in accordance with this international-law standard, AbitibiBowater expressly reserves all of its rights to the fullest extent available, both under applicable principles of Canadian constitutional, federal and provincial law, and under NAFTA Chapter 11 and applicable principles of international law."
When contacted, Williams's office said he had no statement, except to say that the letter was received, and the province stands by its legal opinions about the bill.

Flaherty's Advisory Council

Interesting that a provincial Liberal is chosen as chairmperson. Harper loves to co-opt Liberals as a show of bipartisanship. It also shows that some Liberals are conservative enough that Harper can rely upon them. John Manley was another example.
All the rest of the members are prominent business people. There is nary a labor rep. to be seen and nothing from consumers or any other interest group. A dollar a year is plenty to pay a bunch of business types to present ideas that will in effect represent a form of lobbying for a business friendly budget. It saves a bundle in lobbying fees.

Flaherty's advisory council
Canadians from business, academe will get a dollar a year for their help
Last Updated: Thursday, December 18, 2008 9:14 PM ET CBC News
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced a 11-member advisory panel of prominent Canadians who will advise him on the federal budget and the economy. He said the members will be paid a dollar a year for their insight.
Carole Taylor, shown at a news conference in Victoria on Nov. 30, 2007, will serve as chair of the economic advisory council. (Adrian Lam/Canadian Press)Carole Taylor Former B.C. finance minister
The chair of the advisory panel, Taylor served as B.C.'s minister of finance from June 16, 2005 to June 23, 2008, after winning in the riding of Vancouver-Langara in the 2005 provincial general election. Prior to that, she served as chair of CBC/Radio-Canada from 2001 to 2005. She has chaired the Vancouver Board of Trade, Vancouver Port Corporation and Canada Ports Corporation.
James A. Pattison Chairman, president, CEO and sole owner, Jim Pattison Group
Pattison, 80, leads a sprawling empire spanning the automotive, media, packaging, food sales and financial industries, and the Ripley's Believe It or Not! museums at 27 locations in nine countries. Headquartered in Vancouver, the Jim Pattison Group is one of the largest privately held Canadian companies. The company recently acquired the Guinness World Records business and employs 30,000 worldwide.
Paul Desmarais, chairman of the executive committee of Power Corporation, walks to the Power Financial Corporation annual meeting May 9, 2007 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press) Paul Desmarais Jr. Co-chairman and CEO, Power Corporation of Canada
Desmarais is chairman of the executive committee of Power Financial Corporation (PFC) and a director and member of the executive committee of many Power group companies in North America. Desmarais' father, Paul Sr., has controlled the financial services giant Power Corp. since the 1960s. The family has deep ties to Canadian politics, particularly with the Liberal Party of Canada. But the Desmarais clan has cultivated relationships with leader of many political stripes — including former prime ministers Jean Chretien, Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin, among many others.
Geoff Beattie Deputy chairman, Thomson Reuters
Beattie is president of Woodbridge Company Ltd., the investment vehicle for the Thomson family and the principal shareholder of Thomson Reuters. He is also a director of Royal Bank of Canada and is chairman of CTVglobemedia Inc.
James Irving President of J.D. Irving Ltd.
Irving is the great-grandson of James Dargavel Irving, who founded the family-owned company in 1882 in New Brunswick. The company now has operations in Eastern Canada and the U.S. and is one of the top five private landowners in North America with nearly 1.4 million hectares.
George Gosbee CEO, Tristone Capital Inc.
Gosbee started his company, a Calgary-based investment bank catering to energy clients, in 2000, when he was 30. It now has over 170 employees in five offices in Canada, the U.K., the U.S. and Argentina. Gosbee is also vice chairman of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, a Government of Alberta fund, and chairman of the board for the Alberta College of Art and Design.
Isabelle Hudon President, Marketel
Isabelle Hudon became the new president of Marketel, a Montreal marketing company, in November 2008. Before that, she was a member of the board of Holt Renfrew for several years. She also chairs the boards of directors of the Université du Québec à Montréal, the Société du Havre de Montréal and the Fondation les petits trésors of the Rivière-des-Prairies Hospital. As well, she sits on the board of the Aéroports de Montréal.
Mike Lazaridis, one of the key architects of the BlackBerry's success, speaks at the Empire Club on March. 2, 2006 in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)Mike Lazaridis Founder and co-CEO, Research In Motion
Lazaridis founded RIM, of BlackBerry fame, while he was a student at the University of Waterloo. He is responsible for product strategy, research and development, product development, and manufacturing at the company. Lazaridis has donated millions to help establish an Institute for Quantum Computing at his alma mater and helped establish the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, also in Waterloo, Ont.
Jack Mintz Former CEO, C.D. Howe Institute
A widely published tax expert, Mintz was appointed the Palmer Chair in Public Policy at the University of Calgary in January 2008, and is leading the creation of a new School of Policy Studies at the school. He serves on several committees including the boards Brookfield Asset Management, Imperial Oil Limited, the Ontario Financing Authority, the National Statistics Council, Statistics Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Board of Management, International Institute of Public Finance.
Ajit Someshwar CEO, CSI Consulting Inc.
Ajit Someshwar was born in Mumbai, India, and moved to London before coming to Canada. He founded CSI Consulting, an information technology and risk management consulting organization, in Toronto in 1996.
Annette Verschuren Division president, Home Depot Canada.
Verschuren began her career as a development officer with the Cape Breton Development Corporation in Sydney, N.S. She then worked as executive vice president with Canada Development Investment Corporation. Prior to joining The Home Depot, Verschuren was president & co-owner of Michael’s, the chain of arts and crafts stores.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Auto workers face pay, job cuts under U.S. bailout

This is from the Star.

One aspect of the crisis that is little emphasized is the manner in which it enables corporations to attack union benefits. To be competitive with foreign automakers that are established in US states with very weak labor legislation the Detroit workers will have to give up all the benefits they have spent years fighting for. The recession and the bail out terms have achieved what the corporations could never achieve on their own.
Also, the financial crisis has offered up some opportunities for concentration of capital by buying out distressed firms at firesale prices. Apparently Harper will also sell some of our crown assets into this distressed market at all making sure his friends get bargains.

Notice the difference in the treatment of autoworkers and the financial wheeler dealers who brought on this mess. They are still getting bonuses that actually add up to billions to ensure that they stay on over the crisis period!

Auto workers face pay, job cuts under U.S. bailout - Business - Auto workers face pay, job cuts under U.S. bailout

'There will be pain,' concedes union chief as McGuinty, Harper poised to offer aid
December 20, 2008 Tony Van AlphenBUSINESS REPORTER
Thousands of auto workers in Canada face the prospect of pay and job cuts today after the U.S. government offered a $17.4 billion (U.S.) aid package to teetering General Motors and Chrysler that contemplates significant concessions by American employees.
Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, acknowledged yesterday his members at GM, Chrysler and Ford won't be able to avoid concessions under terms of the U.S. rescue package, which calls for more restructuring, downsizing and cost cutting by the money-losing auto giants south of the border.
Those terms will put pressure on the CAW, which represents about 28,000 workers at the three automakers in Canada, to bargain reductions so they remain competitive and not lose future plant investment and jobs to other countries, he said.
"We recognize the employers will demand comparable treatment in Canada," Lewenza said in an interview. "Absolutely. If total compensation goes down in the U.S., it puts tremendous pressure on us in the Canadian industry. There will be pain."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty plan to announce an aid package in Toronto this morning.
Provincial officials confirmed the package would be 20 per cent of the $17.4 billion (U.S.) total announced by U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday, which means the Canadian deal would be worth about $3.5 billion (U.S.), or $4.2 billion in Canadian funds.
Despite the pending aid, Lewenza also conceded that plunging demand for autos could lead to further job losses as automakers shrink their operations.
In turn, that would mean big job cuts for thousands of Canadian workers in the large auto-parts sector that supplies the automakers, he said.
In addition to compensation cuts at the automakers, the U.S. aid package calls for new deals between them and parts companies to lower costs.
Before yesterday's announcement, Lewenza had insisted Canadian auto workers have a productivity advantage that negates any need to reopen contracts and cut wages.
He had noted the union negotiated contracts last spring that would generate savings of between $750 million and $900 million at the three automakers during the next three years.
Workers, who earn almost $34 an hour, agreed to a wage freeze, a temporary cut in a cost-of-living allowance, a longer period for new employees to reach top rates and some reductions in benefits.
Although Lewenza had not mentioned concessions, he has consistently said the union would do whatever is necessary to keep the Detroit-based automakers competitive here.
Lewenza agreed yesterday the terms of the latest U.S. rescue plan could adversely affect that critical edge in productivity.
Under terms of the American rescue package, the automakers and the United Auto Workers will need to negotiate a plan by the end of next year whereby pay and work rules are competitive with foreign automakers, such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan, that operate in the U.S.
Workers at those plants earn several dollars an hour less in wages and benefits than their unionized counterparts at the three automakers.
Industry watcher Dennis DesRosiers said the U.S. package will probably result in significant cuts in wages and benefits for auto workers in Canada.
Total compensation for an average worker, including pension costs, at the three automakers here is about $70 an hour, he estimated.
DesRosiers said the three automakers will be pushing for any concessions in Canada that their U.S. parents get from the United Auto Workers south of the border.
"If the CAW doesn't move, then it will be `bye, bye' for any future investment, and all the plants will eventually be gone, too," he said.
Lewenza would not discuss areas in the current contracts where the union could reduce costs for the companies.
However, special absence days (SPA), legal aid, tuition assistance and some health-care expenses are among the benefits that are vulnerable, according to industry sources.
Meanwhile, UAW president Ron Gettelfinger said the labour conditions in the package are unfair to workers and the union would work with the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and Congress to remove them.
But Obama endorsed the package, calling it a necessary step to dodge a major hit to the U.S. economy.
Lewenza, who replaced retiring CAW president Buzz Hargrove in the fall, said he is hopeful Obama would eventually alter some of the conditions.
"It is absolutely clear that George Bush and his friends in the Republican Party are trying to punish organized labour, drive down wages and destroy the middle class," Lewenza added. "Obama will take office in the middle of the time frame to restructure operations, so he will have an opportunity to change this."
The Bush administration's package follows the refusal by Senate Republicans to accept a rescue plan last week that raised the spectre of collapse by one or more auto makers within weeks. It would cause a ripple effect that would cost more than one million jobs and a much deeper recession.
The package authorizes $13.4 billion (U.S.) worth of loan guarantees for the Detroit-based automakers, with a further $4 billion in February. They will have to pay back the money eventually – or by March 31, if the companies fail to meet the terms.
Ford Motor Co., which is also struggling, has requested a standby line of credit, but doesn't need it now.
However, if one of the other automakers failed, it would damage Ford badly because the company relies on the same suppliers.
Under terms of the package, the U.S. government's debt would have priority over any other creditors.
GM and Chrysler must also reduce their debts by two thirds through an equity exchange; eliminate dividends until repayment of loans; limit executive compensation; and open up financial records.

Harper the Evasive

Just a short time ago Harper was firm on a withdrawal in December 2011 now he leaves the door open to extending the time. With Liberals such as Manley, Iggy, et al he could no doubt manage to extend the mission with a little added piffle about peacekeeping, reconstruction, etc to soothe the Liberals sensitivity to hard combat. The reason that the situation is not yet quite as bleak as for the Soviets is that the same jihadis were much better armed by precisely the same countries that they are now fighting during the Soviet occupation or support of their own favored Afghan govt. If the US, Russian cold war heats up the Russians could support the jihadists but I think that is an unlikely scenario.

Harper dodges question on Afghan extension - SpecialSections - Harper dodges question on Afghan extension

But Prime Minister leaves no doubt deployment of troops will last until at least December 2011
December 20, 2008 Tonda MacCharlesOTTAWA BUREAU
OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appeared to leave the door open to a longer deployment in Afghanistan than the scheduled end of mission in December 2011.
In an interview taped Thursday, to be broadcast tonight on CTV, Harper discusses the difficulties of the Afghan mission, but defends the work Canadians are doing there.
Asked if Canadian troops might possibly come home any earlier, Harper said flatly, "no."
But asked about whether there are any conditions under which Canada could extend its mission beyond December 2011, in light of the vow by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to increase American efforts there, Harper called it a "hypothetical," and dodged a direct answer.
"We took a resolution to Parliament; we got agreement of ourselves and the Liberal party on the extension of the mission to 2011. We have very definite goals we want to achieve by 2011, including being in a situation where our military mission can end.
"We're aiming for that. A big emphasis is the training of the Afghan military. That is progressing, and we do want to be able to achieve what we set out to achieve. And at the moment, at the end of 2008, I'm not prepared to speculate on other scenarios for 2011. We're committed to the track we're on."
Harper, in response to a videotaped question from a Canadian soldier in Kandahar about what he believes will be achieved by then, concedes "there's no doubt this remains a tough mission."
He said troops are in the "single toughest province in the entire country. Kandahar is the centre of the resistance." But he continued to claim that progress is being made.
Harper says "the big problem" is "with the Pakistan-Afghan border" noting insurgents cross back and forth, and are causing "increasing problems in Pakistan itself."
Harper lamented the "inadequate" NATO troop levels in Afghanistan, saying "Canada, Britain, the United States, the Netherlands – there's a handful of countries (that) are carrying the load."
Canada has about 2,500 troops in the volatile Kandahar region. Since 2002, 103 Canadian soldiers have died in the conflict.
Harper insisted the situation is much different from the bleak scenario faced by Soviet troops in Afghanistan, when U.S.-funded mujahideen countered the invasion.
"The truth of the matter is we have nowhere near the kind of fighting force the Soviets had, and the insurgency is much weaker than it was in that period.
"And this is the tragedy. I think if we would all put our shoulders to the wheel, this is a problem we can deal with. It's a much smaller insurgency than we saw 30 years ago, much less effective, but it does need sustained, concentrated efforts by the allies and this is a big test of NATO." He said there has been renewed engagement by NATO allies, "but there has to be more again."