Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Abdelarazik (Sudan) case and the Iacobucci Inquiry

There have been a number of articles about the case of a Canadian citizen in Sudan who was imprisoned in the Sudan at the request of Canadian authorities it seems and whose return to Canada is being sabotaged by his own government. Here is a snippet from a recent Globe and Mail article:

" Officially, Mr. Abdelrazik has been told by Canadian diplomats he's welcome to go home. But his efforts to return have been stymied at every step by Canada's refusal to issue him a passport, the claim that they can do nothing about his "no-fly" status, and perhaps most startlingly, by thwarting offers by Sudan to fly him back to Canada.

The document trail obtained by The Globe ends in early 2006, but Mr. Abdelrazik's limbo continues. He remains under police surveillance in Khartoum. He makes frequent visits to the Canadian embassy, which has been doling him out $100 a month from a special fund for distressed citizens. He's being allowed to telephone his family in Montreal, but the embassy hasn't issued him a passport or travel documents, which could hold the key to his return.

At the same time, he is a Canadian citizen facing no charges, and in a world of unsubstantiated security targeting, a suspected terrorist believed to be so dangerous that he must be kept out of North America.

The trove of documents makes clear that the "highest levels" of both the past Liberal and the current Conservative governments were kept fully informed of Mr. Abdelrazik's case and concurred in its handling. More recently, Mr. Abdelrazik's lawyers sent letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding his intervention. Last month, officials from Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier's office met with Mr. Abdelrazik in Khartoum.

Late last week, The Globe and Mail sent the Harper government written questions concerning Mr. Abdelrazik's case, including asking why the government had decided to deny a Canadian citizen a passport and had failed to repatriate him. No replies have been received from Mr. Bernier's office.

Documents make it clear one of Ottawa's biggest concerns was the potential political furor if the case became public. Briefing notes, cleared by CSIS and the intelligence sections of Foreign Affairs, were prepared to carefully coach ministers. They include carefully worded replies to questions about whether Canadian authorities shared intelligence about Mr. Abdelrazik with the Sudanese or U.S. governments, whether Canada was the originator of information that resulted in on him being placed on "no-fly" lists and how to respond if asked about parallels to Maher Arar's case, in which another Canadian originally fingered by CSIS ended up being tortured in a Syrian prison."

The same putrid policy has been consistently followed by both Liberal and Conservative governments. The Arar case showed how clueless and uncareful the CSIS and RCMP(in particular were). Parallels are drawn between the two cases. However, there are even more similarities with the three cases being investigated by the Iacobucci Inquiry. So secretive and out of the media limelight is the Inquiry that so far I have not even seen mention of this parallel. Here is the preamble to the terms of reference of the Iacobucci Inquiry:
"whether the detention of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin in Syria or Egypt resulted, directly or indirectly, from actions of Canadian officials, particularly in relation to the sharing of information with foreign countries and, if so, whether those actions were deficient in the circumstances,

whether there were deficiencies in the actions taken by Canadian officials to provide consular services to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin while they were detained in Syria or Egypt, and

whether any mistreatment of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin in Syria or Egypt resulted, directly or indirectly, from actions of Canadian officials, particularly in relation to the sharing of information with foreign countries and, if so, whether those actions were deficient in the circumstances;"

All of these three were imprisoned in Syria or in one case Egypt seemingly on information provided by Canadian authorities and all seem to have been interrogated using questions supplied by Canadian intelligence. Iacobucci should be investigating this case as well but he won't since his mandate is too narrow. Iacobucci is to report in September after an extension of time from January.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Khadr (Omar) 'not a risk' Commons committee told.

What if he is a risk? What difference should it make? Canada can arrest him and try him if there is enough evidence to bring forward a case against him and surely there is. The point is that there is no chance of a fair trial in Guantanamo and Canada is disgracing itself in not trying to rescue Khadr from the clutches of U.S. injustice.
While the fact that Khadr was a "child soldier" is relevant I think that Khadr was certainly a willing participant in jihad. I can't go along with the idea that he is somehow just a passive product of brainwashing. Why is this so at fifteen but not at eighteen or even thirty five? The fact that his family --even the CIA snoop who loves U.S. video games?--is hated by Canadians is neither here nor there. All that it shows is that many Canadians have no clue about justice.

Khadr 'not a risk,' Commons committee told - Canada - Khadr 'not a risk,' Commons committee told

Omar Khadr being persecuted because of his father and his family, U.S. military lawyer says

April 29, 2008
Michelle Shephard
National Security Reporter

OTTAWA——Omar Khadr is being tried for the sins of his father and would not pose a risk to Canada if returned home, his U.S. military lawyer told a parliamentary committee today.

"Omar's story is one of victimization by everyone who has ever had authority over him and punishment for misdeeds of others," U.S. Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler told the committee members.

Kuebler argued that the Toronto-born detainee would be convicted if he goes to trial at Guantanamo Bay for war crimes — not because the evidence shows his guilt, but because the military commissions are designed to ensure convictions.

The hearing today before the subcommittee on international human rights marks the first time that Canadian politicians have held public hearings to discuss Khadr's continued detention and upcoming trial.

Now 21, Khadr has been in U.S. custody since July 27, 2002, following a firefight in Afghanistan. The Pentagon alleges that Khadr threw a grenade at the end of the battle that fatally wounded U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.

The committee intends to call at least a dozen witnesses, including Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire and Louise Arbour, the United Nation's High Commissioner of Human Rights and former Canadian Supreme Court Justice.

The unconfirmed list of witnesses also includes Khadr's family members, who have been vilified in Canada since admitting ties to Al Qaeda and by condemning Canada's culture and foreign policy while asking for the government's help.

Kuebler spared no criticism of the family today and said they were to blame for Canada's reluctance to call for Khadr's repatriation.

An Angus Reid Strategies poll released last week showed that only 33 per cent of Canadians believed Khadr would receive a fair trial if tried at Guantanamo, but less than half of the 1,015 Canadians polled believed he should be brought home to face justice here.

Kuebler told the committee that Canadians likely worry that Khadr would pose a danger to Canada if returned.

"Such concerns are understandable — understandable in light of the deplorable and offensive behaviour of certain members of the Khadr family, understandable in light of the lies that have been told about Omar and his actions in the July 2002 firefight in Afghanistan, and understandable in light of Canadians' justifiable anger with the actions of Omar's father."

But Khadr views himself as a "victim of the decisions made for him by his family," Kuebler said, and does not have the "dreams of a dangerous jihadist" but wants to get a job and "begin living, as best he can, the ordinary and normal life of a Canadian citizen."

Outside of the hearing room, Conservative MP Jason Kenney said the federal government's position on Khadr's case has remained consistent.

"We've taken close note of the case (and) we remained in constant contact with Mr. Khadr. We've pressed the American authorities to ensure he received proper care and we've asked that they take into account his age," Kenney said.

But when asked if the government considers Khadr a "child soldier," Kenney dodged the question.

The Toronto-born detainee was 15 when he was captured and his lawyers have argued that international law protects child soldiers who are captured in armed conflict.

Prosecutors have countered that the Military Commissions Act — under which Khadr was charged after U.S. President George W. Bush signed it into law in October 2006 — does not prescribe a minimum age for prosecution.

U.S. Army Col. Peter Brownback, the military judge presiding over Khadr's case, has yet to rule on the defence's motion arguing that the case should be dismissed due to Khadr's age.

If Brownback grants the motion, it will be the third time that charges against Khadr have been thrown out.

In a landmark ruling in June 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Bush administration's first attempt at war crimes trials illegal. Then Brownback dismissed the charges against Khadr again last summer, ruling he didn't have jurisdiction to hear the case. A Washington appeals court overturned that decision.

Khadr will appear before Brownback once again next week for another pre-trial hearing.

Ottawa reviews case of Canadian stuck in Sudan

This is from the Star. This is another case Iacobucci should be looking at. Of course no one will. The Iacobucci inquiry is virtually invisible these days and the mandate is so narrow that there is no way Iacobucci would look at the case even though the situation is in some ways identical to what happened to Almalki et al.
This article does not even mention the no fly issue for some reason. The Canadian government obviously tipped off the Sudanese government and Abdelrazak was subsequently imprisoned and interrogated. As with the U.S. intelligence services our intelligence services think nothing of turning suspects over to be imprisoned in places we know practice torture. I just wonder what Iacobucci will conclude not that it will matter much. His inquiry has no concern at all with clearing Almalki, et al of any wrongdoing as the Arar inquiry did. Of course no one has paid for the "mistakes" made by intelligence services in the Arar case. Some involved have since been promoted.

Ottawa reviews case of Canadian stuck in Sudan - Canada - Ottawa reviews case of Canadian stuck in Sudan

April 29, 2008
Alexander Panetta

OTTAWA–A man stranded in Sudan took refuge in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum while seeking a resolution today to his five-year ordeal.

A lawyer for Sudanese-Canadian Abousfian Abdelrazik says his client has been allowed to stay at the embassy and plans to remain there until he gets answers from Ottawa.

Lawyer Yavar Hameed is accusing the federal government of duplicity and disinformation, with a mounting trail of evidence suggesting it has been blocking efforts to bring his client home.

Abdelrazik went to visit his ailing mother in 2003 and was caught in legal limbo after accusations he has terrorist ties; no criminal charges have been filed against the former Montrealer.

He suffers from asthma, heart problems, and an ulcer, and is living on a $100 monthly loan from the Canadian government.

Abdelrazik's ex-wife has demanded that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier deal with his case.

"He is not a terrorist. He is a Muslim. He is a practising Muslim but a peaceful Muslim," said Myriam St-Hilaire.

"He is a Canadian citizen and he has rights and I'm just asking the government to take in consideration this fact."

She said their son is only 5 years old and doesn't understand what has happened to his father – whom he can't even remember.

"I'm asking Mr. Bernier: What am I supposed to answer him when he grows up and he tells me, `Why wasn't my dad able to be next to me when I was a child?"' St-Hilaire said.

"Mr. Bernier, what am I supposed to answer him?"

Hameed said his client's only contact with Bernier's office has seemed more like an inquisition than consular assistance.

He said Bernier's chief of staff and Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai peppered him with questions about his views on the 9-11 attacks, and on the state of Israel.

He said the Canadian government has done nothing to renew his client's passport or get his name off a no-fly list so that he can take a commercial flight home. He said Ottawa has also rejected an offer from the Sudanese government to fly him to Canada.

Bernier's office said it was reviewing the case, but added that Abdelrazik remains a terrorism suspect. After avoiding comment for two days, the foreign minister's office issued a statement:

"We continue to provide Mr. Abdelrazik with consular assistance. Services include medical and financial assistance, facilitating communications with family and lawyers, as well as providing 'temporary safe haven' at our embassy in Khartoum," the statement said.

"Mr. Abdelrazik is unable to return to Canada of his own accord because he is currently on the United Nations list of terrorism suspects alleged to be affiliated with Al Qaeda, the Taliban or Osama bin Laden."

During Abdelrazik's visit to see his mother, he was arrested by Sudanese officials on a tip from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said his lawyer.

He was released when investigators found no evidence to support criminal charges.

Family of Canadian stranded by no-fly list to make public appeal.

This is from the CBC. I wonder if there are no sail lists and no bus lists as well. You would think that Abdelrazik could travel by land and then sea if he can't fly.
It looks very much as if Canada again is involved in rendition lite. Rendition lite is opportunistic in that Canada waits until someone whom they want to interrogate goes to another country and then they inform the country that the person is a terror suspect. The person is then imprisoned and interrogated and often tortured as well. In the war on terror you are guilty until the authorities decide otherwise. Maybe one of those U.S. rendition planes is flying empty back to North America and Abdelrazik could hitch a ride.

Family of Canadian stranded by no-fly list to make public appeal
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 | 8:14 AM ET Comments37Recommend18CBC News
Abousfian Abdelrazik The family of a Montreal man stranded in Sudan for five years because he's on a no-fly list will make a public plea to the Canadian government Tuesday to help bring him home.

"The family just wants to deliver a very clear message … to our prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, simply to bring [him] back. The children want their father back in Canada," his lawyer, Yavar Hameed told CBC News. "He has a life here, he has connections here, and they want him back."

Abousfian Abdelrazik, who was detained by Sudanese authorities while visiting his mother in 2003, has since been released from jail, but remains under police surveillance. Abdelrazik, who is a dual citizen of Canada and Sudan, hasn't been charged with any crime in either country.

Hameed said his client has been deemed a security threat over Canadian Security Intelligence Service suspicions that he's an al-Qaeda agent, something he denies. CSIS documents suggest it was CSIS agents who asked the Sudanese government to arrest Abdelrazik, Hameed said.

Ottawa has been putting up roadblocks to thwart Abdelrazik's attempts to return to Canada, Hameed said, adding that Canada has ignored Sudan's offers to facilitate Abdelrazik's return to Canada.

He said that while Foreign Affairs has said it's been doing everything it can to bring Abdelrazik back, that's clearly not the case.

"The government has been suppressing information, been giving misinformation, has not been telling us what's going on."

Hameed said the Canadian government is willing to offer Abdelrazik one-time travel documents. But Hameed said that's no help because Abdelrazik is still on the no-fly list, no airline will take him, and the Canadian government isn't offering any more help.

Foreign Affairs refused to comment on the case, citing privacy concerns.

Ford reaches early labour pact.

This is from the Star. The by the numbers introduction fails to mention the wage freeze! This in effect means that with inflation pay is going backward but apparently not nearly as much as in the U.S. or to the degree that GM and Chrysler want. If the workers gave up to thirty dollars an hour than given that production technicians earn only 33.90 an hour they would receive under the minimum wage and even skilled tradespeople receive just 40.30 so they would get just $10.30!
I wonder if there is much contact between North American unions and unions or auto worker organisations in Japan and South Korea. Capital is globalised but labor is fragmented, a good recipe for disastrous competition between workers to the bottom. The best one can say about Hargrove's agreement is that it is not as bad as the UAW cave in and two tier agreement. Ford is obviously in good shape compared to the other two ageing auto giants. Kerkorian's investment may be a good move for him.
Given that TTC employees rejected the union negotiated agreement perhaps the same could happen with this agreement.

Ford reaches early labour pact - Business - Ford reaches early labour pact

CAW president Buzz Hargrove announces the centrepiece of a three-year deal between the union and Ford. BY THE NUMBERS

workers covered

"productivity and quality" bonus on ratification

payment in exchange for vacation time

3 years
length of agreement

1 week
of vacation given up

1 year
extension for the plant in St. Thomas



DETROIT–United States billionaire Kirk Kerkorian has made yet another foray into the troubled automotive industry with an offer to expand his stake in Ford Motor Co. to 5.6 per cent.

Kerkorian's investment company, Tracinda Corp., sees signs the automaker's turnaround plan is working and plans to offer $8.50 (U.S.) per share in cash for up to 20 million additional shares. Yesterday's offer represented a 13.3 per cent premium over Friday's close.

Tracinda said Ford's first-quarter results reinforced the view that the company is having success in its turnaround efforts, despite the difficult U.S. economy.

On Thursday, Ford posted a surprise profit of $100 million for the first quarter, the first since the second quarter of 2007.

"Tracinda believes that Ford management under the leadership of chief executive officer Alan Mulally will continue to show significant improvements in its results going forward," Tracinda said.

Associated Press

Canadian Auto Workers' chief says tougher times behind move to bargain outline of deal in advance

April 29, 2008
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

The Canadian Auto Workers stunned the auto industry yesterday by announcing it had reached agreement with Ford Motor Co. on key monetary items for a three-year deal that would freeze wages for current workers, cut one week of vacation pay and trim some retiree benefits.

In a dramatic shift from traditional bargaining at the Big Three automakers, the union revealed it had negotiated the "centrepiece" of a new deal five months earlier than in past contract years and it would set the pattern for subsequent bargaining at General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC.

"We do recognize the problems of the companies and the industry and we recognize the times are different and we (have) got to do things different," CAW president Buzz Hargrove said in an interview.

"I've read a lot about the tsunami. If I was on low ground and saw it coming I would be heading to high ground. That's what we did here."

Hargrove said union and company negotiators would now drive for a tentative contract, including resolution of local issues, by the end of the week at a Toronto hotel.

If the two sides reach a deal, about 9,000 workers in Oakville, Windsor and St. Thomas would vote on it within a week.

Ford spokesperson Lauren More cautioned that a tentative contract will depend on successful agreement on local issues specific to each operations.

If workers ratify, the union would press for similar deals at GM and Chrysler, which have taken a harder public position on the need to cut labour costs significantly so they can compete with Japanese-based rivals.

The Ford deal could set the stage for a major confrontation. Hargrove, however, avoided using the word strike.

Analyst Dennis DesRosiers said the monetary terms with Ford put GM and Chrysler in a difficult position that could ultimately give an edge to the Japanese auto giants, which have no unions in North America.

"Both these companies (GM and Chrysler) were looking for the CAW to give back a lot more than this contract ended up giving up so they are going to be very disappointed," said DesRosiers. "They were looking for upwards of $30 per hour and this agreement doesn't even come close to that number."

The union has said this year's bargaining would be the most difficult round of negotiations in its 23 year-history because of the continuing slide in market share by the Big Three, competitive pressures and significant concessions in last year's deals by the United Auto Workers in the U.S.

The current contracts in Canada affect more than 30,000 workers and expire in mid-September. Production technicians currently earn about $33.90 an hour while skilled trades people receive about $40.30. They are among the highest paid industrial workers in the country.

Under the Ford deal, the starting wages of new employees would drop to 70 per cent of full rates but they would gradually increase to 100 per cent after three years. In the current contract, new workers start at 85 per cent and move to 100 per cent after three months.

Although the provision cuts starting rates, Hargrove stressed that the union had successfully beatenback the controversial two-tier wage and benefit system that the UAW accepted last fall in efforts to slash labour costs at U.S. operations.

But under terms of the Ford deal here, the union agreed to an immediate freeze in a cost-of-living allowance until September next year and a reduction in vacation pay by 40 hours or one week annually.

In exchange for the freeze, Ford would give workers a $2,300 bonus this fall and a $3,500 special payment the following year for the loss of vacation pay over three years.

The union said it had also gained a reprieve on any decision about the future of the company's sputtering assembly plant in St. Thomas until the fall of 2011. The plant operates on only one shift and Ford had committed to production only until 2010.

Union officials acknowledged that the monetary cuts won't match the labour savings in the UAW deals in the U.S. But CAW economist Jim Stanford emphasized that the Big Three operations in Canada are more productive so the deal shouldn't jeopardize future investment.

The union's main bargaining committee has endorsed Ford's offer, which followed secret negotiations during the last two weeks.

Hargrove explored early bargaining but found little interest from the automakers and indicated recently that chances of success were remote. But the union and Ford found common ground to spur full bargaining two weeks ago.

And thousands of retirees won't get an increase in their inflation-indexed pensions for a year as protection will resume in the second and third years.

The sides also negotiated a stricter limit on long-term care expenses for retirees plus a 10 per cent increase in prescription drug payments to a maximum of $250 annual per family.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Neoconning of the U.S. : Eric Margolis

This is from the Toronto Sun. This article repeats the claim that one aim of revealing "intelligence" about the Syrian reactor at this stage is to sabotage nuclear talks with North Korea that the neocons oppose. But the article also reveals another motive and that is to prevent accomodation between Israel and Syria. Perhaps Margolis is correct that the neo-cons want a confrontation with Iran before the next election because they think that this will get McCain elected. Perhaps the neocons are right but given the public opinion polls on the Iraq war and the state of the U.S. economy a new war may not be that popular.

April 27, 2008

The neoconning of a nation
Vice-President, shilling troupe of retired generals, deliver fantastic tales for their cause


PARIS -- U.S. intelligence released a dramatic video last Thursday, supposedly taken by an Israeli spy, that purportedly showed North Korean technicians helping build a nuclear reactor in Syria.

The reactor was destroyed seven months ago by Israeli warplanes.

Until now Israel and the U.S. have remained silent about the attack. Syria claimed a warehouse was hit, but curiously said nothing more about what was an act of war. Washington offered no proof the reactor, if it was one, would have produced weapons rather than electric power. U.S. and Israeli intelligence have long stated Syria had no nuclear weapons capabilities.

Vice-President Dick Cheney and fellow neocons forced the CIA to release the James Bondish video in an effort to sabotage an impending six-nation agreement to end North Korea's nuclear program. They bitterly oppose the deal for being too soft on Pyongyang. Neocons long have worried the possibility of North Korea selling nuclear technology to Arab states posed a potential threat to Israel.

This mysterious imbroglio also is being used by Israel's rightwing Likud Party, a close ally of U.S. neocons, to attack political rival Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Party.


Olmert has been involved in Turkish-brokered, back-channel peace talks with Syria for years. Likud and its U.S. allies are determined to sabotage any deal with Damascus that would return the Golan Heights, which Israel conquered in the 1967 war, to Syria. The Likudniks also sought to derail efforts by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to encourage the Israeli-Syrian talks, and get Israel and the militant Palestinian movement, Hamas, to talk.

Under the purported deal, Israel would return the Golan Heights in exchange for Damascus' agreement to sever its close links with Iran, Lebanon's Hezbollah, and Hamas. Syria also would grant Israel important water rights. The fate of up to 250,000 Syrian inhabitants driven from Golan remains uncertain.

Israel, backed by the Bush administration, certainly has been using the carrot of a return of Golan to entice Syria away from Iran. But there is also a big stick: Ever-stronger threats of a U.S.-Israeli attack on Syria. Israel's September attack on Syria was a clear warning.

Cheney and fellow militarists are pushing hard for attacks on Syria, Lebanon and Iran before President George W. Bush leaves office. Neocons have flocked to Sen. John McCain's banner -- in spite of Hillary Clinton's vow to "obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. They believe U.S. attacks on Arab states and/or Iran would prove decisive in winning the presidency for McCain this November. A U.S. attack on Syria could well be the first step of a broader air war against Lebanon and Iran.


Meanwhile, Cheney and allies in Congress and the media are also using the Syrian reactor hubbub to undermine efforts by the U.S. state department, a primary hate object for neocons, to implement the nuclear weapons freeze with North Korea. State department boss Condoleezza Rice has run for cover, leaving her chief negotiator with North Korea to twist in the wind.

As the latest furor builds over the nefarious North Korean, we should remember that this scare story comes from the same Washington fib factory that manufactured all the alarms and "evidence" about Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida.

North Koreans are pretty scary, but their nuclear capabilities and the threat they supposedly pose have been exaggerated. South Korea and European intelligence agencies, for example, are cautious about Washington's claims about North Korea and Syria.

The New York Times revealed last week what this column has long said: The Pentagon has duped Americans and Canadians by organizing a bunch of retired U.S. generals -- mislabelled "independent military experts" -- to shill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Watch these rent-a-generals again prostitute themselves on TV by promoting the administration's party line about the great Syrian nuclear menace.

Conservatives "tightening the screws on the federal government"

This is from straightgoods. Flanagan is one of Harper's key advisors on strategy and part of the "Calgary School". Part of the strategy is to make Harper look to be a moderate while skilfully introducing right wing policies by degrees. As this article shows Harper has made it difficult if not impossible to introduce new federal programs. Of course NAFTA also makes many new programs impossible if the involve nationalisation since investors would have to be compensated for lost profits. This makes new public auto insurance programs virtually impossible.

Harper's "nation of shopping centres"

Conservatives have re-engineered the budget to prevent any future government from introducing new national programs.

Dateline: Monday, April 21, 2008

by Frances Russell for the Winnipeg Free Press

Tom Flanagan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's longtime confidant and former chief of staff, is delighted at the Conservatives' success in "tightening the screws on the federal government" to dramatically reduce its significance in the daily lives of Canadians.

The Conservatives' three budgets have left Ottawa financially incapable of offering any new national social program like affordable housing, higher education or day care. Although overall spending went up, mostly on the military, measures were taken to deplete revenues to the point future governments' hands will be tied unless they raise taxes or run deficits, both prescriptions for political suicide.

By 2010, federal revenues as a share of GDP will fall to their lowest level since John Diefenbaker left office in 1963. Three years before national medicare, revenues were 14.9 per cent of GDP. They rose to a peak of 19.5 per cent in 1974-75 but are projected to drop to just 15.3 per cent in 2009-10.

In fact, the federal Finance Department's fiscal monitor, released at the end of March, shows that revenue growth came to a sudden halt in January, shrinking that month's surplus to a mere $600 million as the GST and personal income tax reductions started eating into Ottawa's tax take

"They've gradually re-engineered the system. I'm quite impressed with it," Flanagan told The Canadian Press in an interview last month. "They're boxing in the ability of the federal government to come up with new program ideas... The federal government is now more constrained, the provinces have more revenue and conservatives should be happy."

Harper "really didn't have the option of the cataclysmic approach because you can't do that without a majority," Flanagan continued. "So he's made the incremental approach work — all the time having the insecurity of a minority government. It's really quite a performance, I think... Over a period of a few years they've got all this in place and they never appeared to be making a radical shift. But the cumulative impact of all these together is creating a new profile."

Not only have the Conservatives boxed in the federal spending power in general, he said, but "they're also boxing in the Liberals from being able to campaign on expensive promises."

Flanagan is impressed that Harper managed to execute his stealthy revolution in Canadian public policy with barely a whimper from the public. But that, too, was the strategy according to the University of Calgary professor and Reform party founder....

For the whole story, please go to the related site below.

Frances Russell is a Winnipeg-based freelance journalist and author. She is a regular contributor to the Winnipeg Free Press and is the author of two books, Mistehay Sakahegan — The Great Lake, a historical "biography" of Lake Winnipeg which won her the 2000 Manitoba Historical Society's Margaret McWilliams Award for popular history, and The Canadian Crucible — Manitoba’s Role in Canada's Great Divide, an examination of how French-English relations in the "Keystone" province affected the course of Canadian history. It received the 2003 Manitoba Historical Society's Margaret McWilliams Award for popular history.

Related addresses:

URL 1:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Air Canada charges for extra luggage.

This is from the Star.
West Jet can probably take more passengers from Air Canada by not going along with the increase. It might be better just to increase fares a bit. Air Canada must want its budget service competitors with West Jet to fail. Maybe West Jet loaned an advisor to Air Canada! Notice that the headline says extra luggage making one bag the norm!

Air Canada charges for extra luggage - Business - Air Canada charges for extra luggage

Second bag will cost $25 on certain flights to help offset rising fuel costs in move following U.S. lead

April 26, 2008
Chris Sorensen
Business Reporter

Citing soaring fuel prices, Air Canada has decided to follow a move by several U.S. carriers and begin charging some passengers $25 to check a second piece of luggage on certain flights.

The country's largest airline, which already charges fees for a number of formerly complimentary services, said that passengers flying within Canada or to the United States on its cheaper "Tango" or "Tango Plus" fares will now be permitted only one piece of checked luggage for free.

Air Canada said the decision to move away from the previous industry standard of two pieces of checked luggage won't be applied to passengers who purchase more expensive fare classes, fly on international routes or hold certain frequent flier status.

"The Americans led on this one and we are just aligning ourselves," said Isabelle Arthur, an Air Canada spokesperson. "It's very important that Air Canada find ways of responding to the pressures of dramatically rising fuel costs.

"With this specific change customers can choose to control their own costs because they can choose to pack lighter."

While the two affected fare classes are the airline's most popular, Arthur said Air Canada research shows that only about 20 per cent of those passengers check more than one bag.

In February, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to deviate from the standard policy of two free checked bags by charging some passengers $25 for a second piece of luggage.

Since then most of the other major U.S. carriers have followed suit. The list includes Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and US Airways.

Even some low-cost carriers are implementing the extra charge. JetBlue Airways recently said it would begin charging $20 while AirTran Airways said it would charge $10.

Air Canada, though, has gone further than most when it comes to asking passengers to pay for extras that used to be given away free.

Since exiting its restructuring in 2004, the airline has started charging fees for everything from pillows and blankets to enhanced customer service when flights are cancelled because of airport delays or bad weather.

Richard Bartrem, a spokesperson for WestJet Airlines Ltd., said the Calgary-based carrier had not yet decided whether it would match Air Canada's luggage fees.

Carney: Economy Stalling

In Canada there will obviously be a big difference between provinces such as Ontario on the one hand and Alberta and Saskatchewan on the other. Canada will always have lots of demand for our natural resources recession or not so the oil industry and potash for fertilizer will still thrive even if some sectors slow down a bit. Ontario is probably already in recession.

Economy stalling: Carney - Business - Economy stalling: Carney

Full recovery not seen until 2010 as anemic exports stifle growth

April 25, 2008
Les Whittington
Robert Benzie
Staff Reporters

OTTAWA–Acknowledging that the economic storm sweeping North America is worse than expected, the Bank of Canada said yesterday that the Canadian economy is sagging and won't recover fully until 2010.

With weak export sales as the main culprit, Canadian economic growth will drop to a very weak 0.3 per cent in the April-through-June period, significantly lower than the 2 per cent forecast by the central bank only three months ago.

But that's better than the outlook in the United States, which Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney indicated is now experiencing a recession marked by marginally declining economic growth in the first six months of this year.

"Growth in the global economy has weakened" since January, Carney remarked at a news conference to release the bank's latest Monetary Policy Report.

He said this deterioration reflects "the effects of a sharp slowdown in the U.S. economy and ongoing dislocations in global financial markets." As a result, the Canadian economy will expand by only 1.4 per cent this year and 2.4 per cent in 2009. Not until 2010 will growth reach 3.3 per cent.

Carney said "some further" rate cuts may be needed but gave no indication of the timing. The bank chopped its benchmark rate on Tuesday to 3 per cent from 3.5 per cent, echoing a similarly aggressive cut in March.

TD Bank economist James Marple remarked that the main thrust of the report is "that worsening conditions in the domestic U.S. economy, working in combination with continued problems in credit markets, are expected to bring about a substantial slowdown in global growth."

"We believe that the case for continued monetary stimulus remains strong," Marple concluded in a commentary on yesterday's statement by the Bank of Canada.

Carney told reporters Canada has so far dodged the runaway price inflation on food and other items experienced in other countries. This is because of the price-reducing effects of the federal government's GST cut and the loonie's rise to near parity with the U.S. dollar.

Consumer price inflation, on a year-over-year basis, averaged 1.8 per cent in the first three months of this year.

But there is a threat of higher inflation if demand for commodities in China, India and other emerging economic powers remains robust, the bank said. It said global inflationary pressures "could spill over to Canada and lead to higher-than-projected inflation through increased costs for imports."

The bank also said that business and consumer sentiment in Canada is expected to soften a bit this year.

Yesterday's gloomy prognosis lends credence to those who say Ontario, whose economy lives and dies by exports, will record negative economic growth for the first half of this year.

At Queen's Park, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan was asked about the growing consensus that the province is already in recession.

"We're experiencing challenges in the economy. I wouldn't accept the premise of that question," Duncan told reporters, noting only one major economist has declared Ontario's economy is contracting.

"We continue to see the consensus estimate predicting growth in each of the next two years – that is not to underestimate the challenges that are before us."

Tim Hudak, Progressive Conservative MPP for Niagara-Glanbrook, said the evidence is clear that "a Dalton McGuinty recession has now hit the province of Ontario."

NDP Leader Howard Hampton said it's time to face the music.

"With jobs vanishing by the thousands, will the McGuinty government admit that the Ontario economy is in recession," he asked.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Metro (Vancouver) Filipinos ship rice to families back home..

Maybe this makes sense but I just wonder if it might not be better just to send funds to buy rice. I guess the problem there might be that it would be used not to buy rice but beer, gin, or brandy, which are all very cheap in the Philippines.
We send a box or so a year to my wife's relatives usually with a lot of clothes from Thrift shops and stuff from garage sales but also instant coffee!

Friday » April 25 » 2008

Metro Filipinos ship rice to families back home
Gift packages from Canadian residents ease shortages in homeland

Joanne Lee-Young
Vancouver Sun

Monday, April 21, 2008

Filipino expatriates and, in particular, workers who go abroad seeking employment, are famed for remitting significant cash earnings to support their families back home.

But aside from wiring money, many also regularly send by sea so-called balikbayan boxes filled with gifts from abroad: toys, used clothing, shoes, toiletries and specialty treats that are hard to find in the Philippines -- everything from cans of sockeye salmon to Swiss chocolate bars, depending on where they are in the world.

Businesses that focus solely on the delivery of these balikbayan boxes to the Philippines have "mushroomed" in Metro Vancouver, just as they have in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and several U.S. cities with significant Filipino populations, according to Carmelita Tapia, president of the Canada-ASEAN Trade Council.

In the past few weeks, as the Philippines finds itself at the centre of the global rice shortage, some Metro Vancouver residents have been watching the news overseas, hearing the complaints of friends and relatives there, and slipping an extra 40-pound sack of rice or two into these balikbayan boxes.

"Did you see the lineups of people [in the Philippines] trying to get cheap rice?" said Cesar Lim, who runs San Freight, a balikbayan shipper on Fraser Street.

Every day, he makes a round across Metro Vancouver to pick up balikbayan boxes. One morning, he is in Surrey, New Westminster and Vancouver's east side. The next day, he heads to North Vancouver and West Vancouver. "I talk to customers and they tell me that they are sending rice. They fill out declaration forms. And I can feel it. I can sense that [the boxes are] heavy."

Indeed, while many Metro Vancouver shoppers and small businesses are watching rice prices and looking for special deals at their local Real Canadian Superstore or T&T Supermarket, some are, at the same time, keeping up with more dramatic rice news in the Philippines.

It is the world's biggest importer of rice. As global prices surge, tight supply has become a very sensitive topic in the Philippines.

There is, at the very least, a snowballing sense of crisis among ordinary families. People have been lining up in huge queues to get rice at government-subsidized prices. There have been small-scale protests. Cabinet ministers are urging fast-food chains to halve their steamed-rice portions. The president is talking about a moratorium on converting agricultural land for building condos and golf courses. And she has vowed to get tough on rice stealers and hoarders by sending them to jail.

"It's different in the Philippines," said Morris Torivio, a part-time driver for Delta-based UMAC Express Cargo, a large chain that sends balikbayan boxes to the Philippines from around the world.

He has noticed more customers sending one or two large sacks of rice in balikbayan boxes in the past few weeks and has, himself, sent two to family members who live in the Philippines' central Luzon region.

"They are in the 'rice bowl' [of the country], so the impact for them isn't as bad. In Manila, it is more congested. There are more big boys hoarding [rice there] and prices are a lot higher in the city.... My brother is doing well, so he can go out and get rice elsewhere [if he has to], but we have poorer relatives and he has been distributing some to them."

Torivio, who has been living in Vancouver since 1975, said: "Rice prices here are going up, yes, but we can afford to send two bags. It's just a buck or two or a few more [per bag]. You can get Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, and even some U.S. rice here. In the Philippines, you can't do that. There isn't the selection, the supply or the quality."

One San Freight client, Lu Ning-ning Silvestre, put two 20-pound sacks of rice into a balikbayan box last Wednesday. "I have been reading stories in the Filipino newspapers," said the 66-year-old who has lived in Vancouver for 13 years, working as a janitor, cleaning corporate offices, before recently retiring.

Every three months, Silvestre packs up old clothes, toothpaste, soap and some canned goods and ships them in a balikbayan box to her daughter in Antipolo City, just east of Metro Manila. In January, for the first time, she included a 20-pound bag of rice. Last week, "my friend came from the Philippines and told me that it is very hard to buy rice in the Philippines. She said a sack of rice is 1,700 pesos [or about $40]. I asked my daughter to give some of the rice to my sisters and my brothers in the provinces. They are very poor, " she said.

The price of rice in the Philippines fluctuates, depending on when and where you buy it in the country. Pundits are filling the blogosphere with all sorts of comparisons. A bag of Thai rice at, say, Costco or Safeway costs this much in Vancouver or Los Angeles, plus shipping compared to X amount at this store in Manila. Some tally up the math and proclaim that it's not worth it, that concerned relatives might as well just wire $35 to their relatives instead of shipping a sack of rice around the world.

With many variables, it's hard to say what is more helpful, but what is drawing people to use balikbayan boxes for shipping rice gifts from Vancouver to the Philippines is its flat rate. Balikbayan boxes come in a few standard sizes and customers are charged according to volume, not weight. Balikbayan folklore has seen everything from roofing tiles to television sets to small sofa chairs go into these boxes, along with the more typical care-package items.

A regular 20-by-20-by-23-inch box, which can cost about $60 to ship, can fit two 40-pound rice bags. "It's perfect," said Torivio.

Most senders are very careful to emphasize that they are just sending one or two sacks of rice as gifts or personal effects. The Philippines' National Food Authority very strictly monitors the supply of rice and aims to clamp down on any flow of black-market product into the country.

Tapia, the president of the Canada-ASEAN Trade Council, recalls that a few years ago, a Vancouver-based grocery shop owner sent "huge quantities of rice in many, many, many, many balikbayan boxes. There wasn't a rice shortage in 2002, but this guy wanted to make a fast buck. The Philippines' government went after him in court. They considered it smuggling."

Today, Tapia said that she knows of lots of people in Metro Vancouver who are sending one or two rice sacks to help friends and relatives in the Philippines. "That's okay. These are small amounts, gifts," she said.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Copyright © 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

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

Manitoba introduces lemon law..

This may be a good idea but I am not sure how useful it will be. The extra work for dealers will be passed on through increased prices for used vehicles I expect. In many cases it may be impossible to get much history of a vehicle especially one that has changed hands and locations several times. The burden is not imposed on private sellers as the dealers point out so many sales will still be without any history.
I have found that I have purchased just as many lemons privately if not more than from dealers. I always buy old clunkers of three thousand and under so I don't expect much and I don't expect much but sweet talk about junk from dealers. Actually I have found them not that bad and I frequent the lowest level who are the only ones willing to flog old beaters. Used car dealers are more reliable than politicians!
I think that on the whole I have been lucky and enjoyed years of cheap transportation. The fact that cars have to be safetied now to be licenced at least means that they are safe to drive home but of course you might not get that far!

Manitoba introduces lemon law for used vehicles
Last Updated: Friday, April 25, 2008 | 9:23 AM CT Comments5Recommend8CBC News
Buyers of used vehicles in Manitoba could soon have greater protection from defective vehicles under proposed legislation. (CBC)Used car buyers in Manitoba could soon get some "lemon aid," the provincial government announced Thursday.

The newly introduced consumer protection legislation would require used vehicle dealers to provide potential buyers with details about a vehicle such as its collision history, repair record and whether it has been designated a lemon, that is, a car with significant problems that the dealer or manufacturer has been unable to resolve.

Failure to provide the information would be considered an unfair business practice.

Finance Minister Greg Selinger said the proposed bill would help consumers make informed decisions before they buy.

"The bill recognizes that buying or leasing a new or used motor vehicle is one of the most important transactions for consumers," Selinger said in a release. "It will help to ensure consumers are provided with important information about the vehicle before they make a decision to buy or lease."

"Manitobans have the right to receive accurate and complete information to help them comparison shop and make informed decisions when buying a car."

The new law follows a CBC News investigation in November that found more than 130 cars officially designated as lemons under United States law were being sold in Manitoba.

Law should be tougher: dealers
Used Car Dealers Association of Manitoba spokesman Nick Roberts told CBC News that while the new law is a good step toward protecting consumers from lemons, the legislation should apply more broadly.

He said the law targets dealers, whom he estimated sell between 60 and 70 per cent of the province's used vehicles, but not individuals who privately sell lemons.

"I don't think it goes far enough," he said. "I think if you're going to try and protect consumers against … lemon vehicles, it has to be for everybody. You can't just tell dealers that they need to do certain requirements, where private individuals who bring in a lot of these vehicles from the U.S. don't have to comply with the same rules."

Additionally, he said, the law doesn't help dealers trace lemon designations. Roberts explained that dealers already have the ability to provide vehicle history to potential buyers, but when a car crosses the border they cannot tell whether it has been deemed a lemon.

"The problem with a lot of it is with these U.S. vehicles go from state to state and the titles get washed and [neither] consumers nor dealers would be able to know that that vehicle had that designation at some time."

Selinger said the government plans to hold consultations on the types of information that should be disclosed, as well as when and how the details should be presented.

Canadian forces paid for friendly fire deaths

This is from the Globe and Ma The payments are made without accepting any liability. I am not sure that Afghans would be able to sue NATO soldiers in any event. These events are fleetingly noted usually by the press.

Forces paid for friendly-fire deaths, files show
Afghan families got up to $9,000 each for losing a family member – but without any admission of liability from Canada

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

April 23, 2008 at 11:20 PM EDT

OTTAWA — On a single day in the summer of 2006, the Canadian Forces were involved in at least half a dozen instances of "friendly fire" that left two Afghans dead and four injured. The Forces ended up paying about $35,000 in compensation, even though it admitted no liability for the deaths.

Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail through access-to-information legislation show more than 30 instances since January of 2006 where the Canadian Forces compensated Afghan citizens for everything from lost cellphones to the accidental killing of relatives by Canadian soldiers. The military labelled the vast majority of the payments "ex gratia," meaning they were made voluntarily and with no admission of liability.

Although the forms don't say so directly, several of the friendly fire compensation claims appear to stem from an incident on Aug. 26, 2006, in a key district west of Kandahar city. On two occasions that day, Canadian soldiers opened fire on vehicles they thought belonged to the enemy, when in fact they were carrying Afghan security forces. The Canadians claimed the vehicles, travelling at high speed, were unmarked and non-uniformed Afghans responded to warning shots with gunfire of their own.

The claim registries that note how much money was handed out contain very little detail about what actually happened that day. One of the forms outlining the $8,959.99 paid for one of the friendly-fire deaths simply states: "Settlement of ex gratia claim arising from incident of friendly fire that occurred on 26 Aug. 2006 in the Zheray district where [Redacted]."

The Forces paid the same amount for each of the two Afghans who were killed. Those injured received either $1,800 or $4,500 each, but the extent of those injuries is not described.

The documents shed light on the kinds of challenges facing Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. On more than one occasion, the military paid thousands of dollars after Afghans were injured or killed during "rules of engagement" escalation, where soldiers fired warning shots that then ricocheted and hit civilians. One such instance in February of last year left one person dead. The Forces paid $8,500 in that case, but the details of what happened are redacted.

Some of the claim forms don't specify whether Afghans were killed or injured as a result of these force escalations. The Forces often paid somewhere between $8,000 and $9,000 when deaths occurred, but it is unclear if this amount was reserved for members of Afghan security forces or simply related to how much the claimant requested. In another case, "rules of engagement" escalation left an Afghan civilian dead — the Forces paid what the claimant asked for, $2,000.

Many of the other compensation claims relate to private property damaged or destroyed by Canadians during operations. Those claims range from $33 to several thousand dollars. The Forces, it appears, also have a habit of losing cellphones they hold for safekeeping when Afghans enter Canadian compounds.

However, it is difficult to tell what all the compensation claims deal with — in some cases there is no explanation for why the money was handed over. In other cases, the explanation is completely redacted.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Background on the SPP and the New Orleans meeting of the Three Amigos

This is from straight goods. This is the sort of article that should appear in the mainstream press. The New Orleans meeting has not produced much in the way of significant articles. Most mainstream journalists cannot be bothered digging below the surface to find out what is really important. They are content to publish a photo of the three Amigos or snippets of information about the general import of discussions. The relationship of the whole meeting to corporate agendas and the fact that the three meet only with corporate executives for the most part is glossed over.

Round four of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) talks

The SPP is the umbrella under which hundreds of trilateral initiatives have been assembled.

Dateline: Monday, April 21, 2008

by Bruce Campbell

As the NAFTA leaders and their big business counterparts gather in New Orleans a few days from now for the fourth North American Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit, it is worth reflecting on its role in North American integration.

The SPP was conceived by business and political elites as a vehicle for expanding and deepening the North American integration process entrenched under the NAFTA model. While its long-term (unstated) goal of a unified business friendly continental market may be ambitious, its strategy for getting there is slow and covert — small incremental steps out of the public eye and away from parliamentary scrutiny.

The SPP takes privatization of public policy-making to a new level.

The SPP is the umbrella under which hundreds of trilateral initiatives (both new and preexisting) have been assembled. Legions of bureaucrats work diligently on trilateral accords, understandings, protocols, etc. But they operate under centralized political control.

NAFTA leaders and key Ministers meet regularly with business representatives under the guise of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC). Business conveys its demands, the politicians respond, consensus is reached, and civil servants implement. This takes the privatization of public policy-making to a new level.

Under the SPP process information is scarce. There is no public input or access to decisions made behind closed doors. Without our knowledge, the cumulative effect of many small steps may indeed be hugely significant for Canadians' health and safety, environment and civil liberties.

For instance, the US national energy security strategy calls for grabbing as much Canadian oil as it can get its hands on. The Stelmach government, with the Harper government's blessing, has enthusiastically ramped up tar sands production to accommodate US demand.

The SPP role is to help reduce regulatory barriers that stand in the way of getting the product to US markets quickly. Bilateral pipeline agreements have been signed; understandings have been reached on regulatory approvals, environmental assessments, etc.

Little is known about these accords. However, this much we do know: the National Energy Board recently approved the construction of two massive pipelines to carry raw bitumen from the tar sands to the US. Together their capacity exceeds the total volume of Alberta's 2006 oil exports. And once the oil flows, the US will, under the terms of NAFTA, have secured a proprietary claim.

This raises important policy questions: Why is Canada accelerating the export of this most polluting of fuels (to say nothing of other forms of environmental havoc) that is single-handedly preventing Canada from meeting its international commitments to reduce greenhouse gases?

Why in the name of Canadian energy security are no pipelines being built to eastern Canada, which is heavily dependent on imported oil, much from unreliable sources? And why are we exporting the raw resource and not doing the value-added work here in Canada?

Another example: At the last SPP summit in Montebello, the three countries signed an agreement on the regulation of chemicals. The Canadian chemicals regulation regime was, till then, positioned somewhere between the more stringent safety-first regime of the European Union's REACH program, and the business-friendly (so-called risk-based) American approach.

The Montebello accord shifts the ground, placing Canada firmly in the American camp. What's more, the US chemicals industry is using this accord in its global lobbying campaign to dilute and diminish the global impact of the European approach.

NAFTA — 15 years after its signing (20 years in the case of the Canada-US FTA) — remains controversial among citizens of all three countries. The fact is NAFTA did not fulfill its promise of shared prosperity.

Inequality has grown dramatically. Average incomes have stagnated or fallen for most families over the last 20 years; and job insecurity is widespread. Wealth and profits may be at record levels, but most people have not seen the benefits of economic integration.

Change is in the air. US presidential candidates are threatening to tear up NAFTA unless fundamental changes are made.

If NAFTA is reopened, as it may well be, the SPP will probably go into temporary hibernation. This would provide an opportunity to fundamentally rethink the SPP process and goals as well, and to bring it into line with democratic practice and the public good.

Bruce Campbell is Executive Director (since 1994) of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He has spoken and written widely on public policy issues, and is a frequent media commentator. For many years he coordinated Centre's Alternative Federal Budget project. His most recent books are: Medicare: Facts, Myths, Problems & Promise, (with Greg Marchildon) James Lorimer & Company, 2007 and Living with Uncle: Canada-US Relations in an Age of Empire (with Ed Finn), James Lorimer & Company, 2006.

Charles McVety, evangelical heavyweight roams in Harper's halls of power.

This is from the Harper Index. Bill C-10 is no doubt a sop thrown to Harper's right wing evangelical social conservative base. On the whole though Harper's whole strategy is to portray himself as a moderate conservative. This tactic is meant to expand his base and in time to achieve a majority. McVety just serves to remind us the direction in which Harper is likely to go if he ever gets a majority.

McVety, Charles – Evangelical heavyweight roams in Harper's halls of power

Lobbyist who helps run Christian pressure groups will testify on Bill C-10.

by Dennis Gruending

OTTAWA, April 15, 2008: Reverend Charles McVety says that he has many friends among the Harper Conservatives who govern in Ottawa. This week he will testify before the Senate banking committee in support of legislation that he says occurred partly as a result of his lobbying. It would [retroactively] deny tax credits to films that the government deems offensive. It's a move that critics say is an affront to freedom of speech and a threat to the Canadian film industry.

McVety is a busy man. He is president of the Canada Christian College in Toronto. He leads the Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC), a group that he says has 40,000 members. The CFAC describes itself as a Bible-centred organization "with a vision to see Judeo-Christian moral principles restored in Canada." This is code for Christian reconstructionism, a belief that "God governs" and that government and all of society must submit to the Bible's moral principles, as interpreted by the reconstructionists. Others call this theocracy.

McVety also leads the Defend Marriage Coalition, which is comprised of several religiously conservative groups: McVety's Canada Family Action Coalition belongs, as do Campaign Life, the Catholic Civil Rights League, and REAL Women of Canada. Campaign Life is an ardent anti-choice organization with a traditional base among Catholics but increasingly it is attracting evangelical support. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a self-appointed watchdog protecting Catholicism against what it considers unwarranted attacks, particularly in films, books and popular culture. REAL Women is an anti-feminist organization with Christian reconstructionist overtones. The group has joined McVety's campaign regarding films and lobbied in 2006 to have the federal government abolish Status of Women Canada, and to eliminate support for the Court Challenges Program. (The Harper government quickly granted many of REAL Women's wishes.)

In the 2006 federal election, the Defend Marriage Coalition produced a pamphlet titled Returning Stability to Canada and had it distributed in various churches across the country. The pamphlet served as a skewed report card on the political parties, a tactic that is commonly used by the American religious right. This pamphlet attacked Liberal and NDP candidates for supporting same-sex marriage, and then accused them of being in favour of physician-assisted suicide and child pornography. McVety and his coalitions also helped a number of religious conservatives in attempts to win contests for Conservative nominations in 2006, including an unsuccessful run by Rondo Thomas, vice-president of McVety's [Canada] Christian College.

McVety is active on other fronts as well. When hostilities broke out between Israel and groups in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, he emerged as the Canadian chair of a group called Christians United for Israel, an offshoot of the Christians United for Israel - America. That organization included prominent evangelicals such as the late Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as well as Reverend John Hagee. He is a prominent Texas televangelist and author of Jerusalem Countdown, a book predicting that the world will soon end in Armageddon. Hagee was guest speaker at an Israel support rally that McVety organized at his college in Toronto. At about the same time, McVety also appeared on television news to say that the fighting in Lebanon created conditions that resembled end times as predicted in the Bible. (The belief in end times is common among Christian reconstructionists.)

McVety made common cause with several Canadian Jewish organizations lobbying the Harper government to take a pro-Israel position in the conflict. The prime minister did not disappoint, when he described an Israeli campaign that took 1,000 Lebanese lives as a "measured response" to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.

Not along ago, McVety's organization, and other groups participating in his Defend Marriage Coalition, would have been seen as occupying the fringe right. Today the Conservatives appear to be courting them in an attempt to build an enduring political coalition that includes religiously conservative evangelicals, Catholics, Jews and others. When federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty presented his first budget in May 2006, McVety was his guest in the House of Commons VIP gallery. He had been drafted to help sell the government's child care policy - one that scuttled the Liberals' plan to provide a national child care program and replaced it with a tax break for families with children.

McVety is a religious entrepreneur of the American variety. The creation of overlapping coalitions and organizations (such as the Canadian Family Action Coalition) is another tactic long used by the religious right in the U.S. It aims at garnering publicity and creating the impression of numbers and momentum. Such groups are now becoming increasingly common in Canada. All of this must be frustrating for mainstream organizations such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), which was created in the mid-1960s to represent evangelicals in the halls of power. The CFAC does not belong to the Evangelical Fellowship and nor does McVety's Christian College. Don Hutchinson, an EFC director, has been quoted as saying: "There's a broad spectrum on the evangelical meter. Charles may be the representative of one end, probably the extreme end, of that spectrum."

McVety's apparent cultivation by the Harper government raises questions about how much influence social and religious conservatives have with the prime minister. Harper attends a Missionary Alliance Church but he is arguably more of a social than a religious conservative. He is determined, however, to embed the religious right in a political coalition that will remake Canada into a leaner and meaner state. The strategy is to put a Conservative majority government into power, but beyond that to move Canadian public opinion away from its liberal and social democratic tendencies toward a rock-ribbed conservatism. McVety and his supporters have played along but he, at least, is beginning to sound disappointed with Harper's failure to deliver on issues such as rescinding the legislation enshrining same sex marriage. Religious conservatives remain largely allied to Stephen Harper but the relationship is becoming wary.

Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based writer. The above article is also posted on his blog (below).

Province Discovers Life Beyond the Oilpatch.

This is from the Edmonton Journal. As the article describes the situation Alberta Enterprise Corp. will actually allocate the funds to Venture Capital Funds. I assume that the funds attempt to make a return on invested capital. Anyway it will be a good injection of money into those funds. Alberta might even make some money. Of course it could lose as well as critics will no doubt note!
In spite of the mantra about government not intervening in the marketplace as a matter of fact few capitalists will turn down government money to retain their purity uncontaminated by government support! The relationship between government and capital is usually more symbiotic than antagonistic. However, since governments are voted into power something must be given to ordinary citizens to gain their acceptance of the domination of capital.

Province discovers life beyond the oilpatch
Tech funding meagre, but better than neglect

Gary Lamphier
The Edmonton Journal

Thursday, April 24, 2008

EDMONTON - As budget initiatives go, they're modest at best.

With Alberta's Tory government projecting record spending of $37 billion this fiscal year on revenues of $38.6 billion, the $100-million funding commitment to the soon-to-be formed Alberta Enterprise Corp. is a drop in the bucket.

Ditto for the estimated $60-million annual cost of rolling out Alberta's new scientific research and experimental development (SR&ED) tax credit, which will merely put this province on the same footing as other jurisdictions.

Still, after years of fruitless lobbying, arm-twisting and plaintive cries for support, Alberta's chronically ignored and underfunded high-tech and biotech sectors finally got some payoff in Tuesday's budget.

After more than a decade of thumbing their noses at the province's knowledge-based industries, the Tories have finally woken up and sniffed the coffee. Yes, there is more to a healthy economy than oil and gas.

So let's give credit where credit is due. Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach may not qualify as a bold thinker. But at least Stelmach and Doug Horner, Alberta's Minister of Advanced Education and Technology, are willing to listen, and act.

That marks a seismic shift from the approach adopted by Stelmach's predecessor. Ex-premier Ralph Klein

either didn't understand the importance of nurturing Alberta's tech-based industries, or he was unwilling to take the heat for backing corporate start-ups that might flop.

His oft-repeated mantra -- that Alberta isn't in the business of being in business -- was a laughable bit of spin aimed at justifying his government's unwillingness to support venture capital (VC), even as it owned its own bank.

Already, Stelmach's $100-million commitment to the Alberta Enterprise Corp. -- which is expected to allocate those funds to private-sector VC firms that will actually decide which start-ups merit support -- is paying dividends.

Today, Montreal-based iNovia Capital, which has already raised roughly $150 million of seed capital and early-stage funding for junior tech companies, including $107 million in its newest fund, will announce the formal launch of its Alberta operations at Enterprise Square.

Horner and a trio of iNovia execs -- including CEO Mark de Groot -- are expected to lay out the firm's investment plans and approach.

Like most VC funds, iNovia likes to reduce risk by co-investing with other VC funds in early-stage companies. Thus, Alberta's willingness to put its money where its mouth is signals that Alberta is no longer a venture-capital wasteland.

"I think it's great. We've been fighting for this for a number of years, and now, to actually get some attention, and see both the venture fund and the SR&ED credit come to fruition is just outstanding news for our industry," says Ryan Radke, president of BioAlberta, an industry lobby group.

Ashif Mawji, CEO of Edmonton's Upside Software, and another vocal proponent of the need for both high-tech venture capital and provincial tax credits to encourage more product development, also gives the government two thumbs up.

"I think this is a very good start. This is something we've been raising all along and the government listened," he says.

"With this move, I think we're giving ourselves a better opportunity in future to see companies like RIM (Research In Motion) develop in Alberta."

Of course, since Alberta's belated support for venture capital comes literally decades after the formation of what are now sizeable VC funds in places like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, it has a lot of ground to make up.

The top VC funds in California's Silicon Valley, which now manage billions of dollars worth of investments, are for the most part too large to be lured to Alberta, despite the government's funding commitment.

The most likely co-investors in Alberta startups are smaller, Canadian-based VC firms such as Vancouver's Yaletown Venture Partners or Ventures West Management, and Toronto's XPV Capital, which focuses on water-related investment plays.

Despite the generally upbeat reaction to the government's new VC fund, tech execs such as Mawji say it's just a start, and much more needs to be done.

In particular, he notes the City of Edmonton has yet to make any firm commitments to contribute to a local VC fund, despite Mayor Stephen Mandel's vocal support for the concept in recent years.

"I think the city now needs to ante up as well," he says. "It's been talking all along about the need for this, so I think city council and the mayor need to add some funds, and the feds need to put in their share as well."

To maximize its impact, Mawji says he'd like to see Alberta Enterprise Corp. partner with a single established VC house, rather than spread its investments among a large group of VC firms.

He'd also like to see Alberta's new SR&ED tax credit enriched, so it's superior to that of other provinces. Under Alberta's current plan, qualifying firms will receive a refundable credit worth up to $400,000 per year.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Much is at stake for Elections Canada

This is from the Star. Interesting that Hebert speaks of political party brands which reminds of e e cumming's line 'as freedom is a breakfast food'. Parties are in effect brands marketed to the public. A type of democratic junk food composed mostly of the same high moral rhetoric and illusions to keep the masses content.
Well climbing down from my own high rhetoric, Hebert is probably right that Elections Canada has a lot at stake but if Elections Canada is right the effect may be negative enough that the Liberal party polls will rise high enough for them to declare that Canadians want an election right now!

Much is at stake for Elections Canada - Canada - Much is at stake for Elections Canada

April 23, 2008
Chantal Hébert

OTTAWA - Given the headlines of the past week, this will come across as counterintuitive but when all is said and done, Elections Canada has more at stake in its escalating feud with the Conservatives than Stephen Harper.

If it turns out that the Conservatives did break the election rules in 2006, there will undoubtedly be a political price for the party to pay but in the end, a lost battle over its past campaign spending will not destroy it.

One only needs to see the Liberal resilience in the face of the sponsorship debacle to know that it takes more than a bit of acid to permanently corrode a major political brand in this country.

As a rule, voters tend to be more forgiving of parties' ethical breaches than politicians are of each other and more discerning in their application of the tar brush. Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, who emerged personally unscathed from a scandal that literally took place in his political backyard, has cause to know that.

But if it should turn out that Elections Canada overplayed its hand, the cost to its institutional reputation could be prohibitive. A failure to make a persuasive case against the Conservatives would bolster allegations that vindictiveness played a part in its approach. It might never totally recover from the loss of confidence that would ensue.

Over the past decade, Elections Canada has gone from election watchdog to arbiter of Canada's democratic life, taking on a more central role in every aspect of federal electoral politics, including the leadership campaigns of the various parties. It has never been easier for a politician to run afoul of its regulations.

But in this affair, its moral authority is on the line.

By calling in the RCMP to assist them in executing a warrant against the governing party, election officials had to know that they were hanging the Conservatives out to dry, creating a perception of guilt that will not be easily dissipated and a sense of wrongdoing that may yet not live up to the facts.

Having forced his way into the filing cabinets of the governing party, elections commissioner William Corbett has now staked his credibility on building an airtight case.

Given the high stakes for both sides, chances are that this issue will not be put to rest until all legal avenues have been exhausted. The Conservatives are unlikely to abandon their oft-repeated contention that they did nothing wrong until proven otherwise in a court of law.

Given all that, the dispute could linger beyond the next election campaign, even if one did not take place until next year.

Should Harper secure a majority in spite of the cloud that is hanging over his party, he would almost certainly treat it as validation of the Conservative defence and an invitation to shorten the leash of Canada's election watchdog.

But that's not even necessarily the worst-case scenario. Should the Conservatives take a hit at the ballot box on account of this affair and it then turns out that Elections Canada was not able to make a winning case against them, the episode would leave an indelible black mark on the agency's reputation.

One way or another, having taken a very public shot at the Conservative net last week, Canada's election referee is in the awkward position of having a stake in the outcome of the next federal campaign.

Chantal Hébert's national affairs column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

On that Freedom Tower ad....

The nauseating ad that uses the tragedy to turn a tidy profit is actually a rewrite of an even more nauseating ad that made it look as if the coin were U.S. government backed and legal tender. The commemorative coin actually was originally issued in such a way that it was supposed to be legal tender in a tiny group of islands administered by the U.S. but as this court order notes the islands have no right to issue money. The original ad did not give the amount of silver in the coin. The silver could be from vaults beneath the tower since silver stored there was sold off. The company that produced the coins is based in the U.S.
Spitzer of course has since been debased and is out of circulation but the Freedom Tower ad continues to be sold!
Here is the original court order that caused the company to change its ads.

Attorney General Criticizes Collectible Item as Attempt to Profit from Tragedy

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has obtained a court order temporarily halting sales of a collectible item fraudulently and misleadingly marketed by a private company as a real coin issued to commemorate the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

An order was issued today against National Collector's Mint, a private company based in Port Chester, N.Y. The order halts sales of the company's "Freedom Tower Silver Dollar," which has been heavily advertised on national television and in other venues.

"This product has been promoted with claims that are false, misleading or unsubstantiated," Spitzer said. "It is a shameless attempt to profit from a national tragedy."

Beginning in September, National Collector's Mint began marketing its "Freedom Tower Silver Dollar" with a number of claims that Spitzer's office believes are improper.

First, the company's ads claim the medallion is "a legally authorized government issue silver dollar." The medallion also simulates official U.S. currency by using the phrase "In God We Trust" and the inscription "One Dollar," both of which appear on U.S. coins. The "legally authorized" claim in the ads and the official appearance of the medallion have led many consumers to complain that they were misled into believing that it was issued or authorized by the U.S. government.

Spitzer noted that the company's sales representatives have told consumers that the medallion is official legal tender. In reality, the medallion was produced by SoftSky, Inc., a private company in Wyoming, in connection with a licensing agreement with the "Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands." The 14 tiny islands comprising the Northern Marianas Islands are U.S. territory, but have no authority to issue U.S. currency.

The company's ads also claim the coin was "minted from pure silver recovered from ground zero" and that the coin is "100 Mil .999 pure silver." The lawsuit contends that the company's claims about the silver content of the medallion are misleading and create the impression that it is solid silver rather than plated in silver. In fact, Spitzer said, the silver content of the "Freedom Tower" medallion is infinitesimal compared to the silver content of a pure silver coin.

Spitzer's office maintains that these and other claims made by the company violate the state's false advertising and general business laws.

The lawsuit also seeks the following:

A permanent injunction barring the company from making false representations and from engaging in deceptive practices;
Full disclosure in all advertisements that the company's products are not issued or endorsed by the United States Government;
An accounting of consumers who have already purchased the Freedom Tower coin and an offer of full restitution to those consumers; and
Civil penalties for violations of law.
The court order was issued yesterday by State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Cannizzaro in Albany.

Individuals seeking to file a complaint against National Collector's Mint can do so by going to the Attorney General's website at or by calling the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Barbaro of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alberta budget comes down Tuesday

Given the deficit in expenditure upon infrastructure this might not be the best time to salt away savings. Expenditure on infrastructure has not kept pace with

development. Stelmach's plans seem to address this gap to some extent.

Alberta budget comes down Tuesday
Last Updated: Monday, April 21, 2008 4:47 PM MT
CBC News
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach will unveil his government's second budget in the legislature Tuesday amid speculation that spending is likely to increase above last year's record $33 billion.
During the campaign for the March 3 election, Stelmach promised billions for new schools, health-care facilities and roads.
"Its a big job actually, but I'm looking forward to it," said Finance Minister Iris Evans, as she prepared to present the province's spending plans. It will be her first budget since being appointed to the finance position in March.
Many observers will be watching to see whether the government has a plan for saving more of its energy wealth for the future, when non-renewable resources could run out.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce has called on the province to salt away between 30 and 40 per cent of those revenues, about $3 billion to $4 billion a year.
The Alberta Heritage Trust Fund, started in 1976 by former Premier Peter Lougheed, has not grown substantially in the past 20 years. Its value stands at about $16 billion dollars.
Government commissioned report on savings plan
The government recently commissioned a study on a possible new saving plan, headed by Jack Mintz, the chair of the School of Policy Studies at the University of Calgary.
The government is not ready to release that report yet, said Evans.
"I expect to release it in the future, but I'm not saying just quite when. I've met with Mr. Mintz and it's going to be forthcoming but not for a while."
Mintz said he hopes to see some sign of a new government savings plan in the budget.
"They said that they wanted to have a new approach to savings which is really what this report is all about. So I would hope that the budget also reminds Albertans that the government is committed to looking at a new approach," Mitz said.
The provincial budget will be released at 3 p.m. in the legislature.

Three Amigos have full plate on last day of Summit

This is from CBC. As the article shows this summit enables 30 key corporate bigwigs to meet with and advise the three leaders. This is just another sign of who counts most when it comes to policy. There is no citizen input on the issues. Where are all the protesters?

Three Amigos have full plate on last day of summit
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 9:41 AM ET
Issues of border security and trade are expected to dominate the second day of the Three Amigos summit Tuesday in New Orleans as talks resume between the North American leaders.
Details of the two-day summit will be made public during a joint news conference in the afternoon attended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
After breakfast, the three leaders will meet privately with the North American Competitiveness Council — 30 private-sector representatives, or 10 from each country, who make recommendations on issues ranging from border security to trade.
"This is what the anti-globalization [protesters] say is what's wrong with this meeting," CBC's Keith Boag said. "It takes place in secret … and it addresses only the agenda, in their view, of the corporate interests. It doesn't address the agenda of civil society."
Talks will be attended by members of Harper's cabinet including Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Industry Minister Jim Prentice.
Boag said that of the possible announcements that could come from the meeting, anything about the Windsor, Ont.-Detroit border would be the most important to Canadians.
U.S. officials have hinted at a possible announcement about improving the border crossing, a four-lane bridge built in 1929 that handles one-quarter of all Canada-U.S. trade.
"There's been a lot of talks over many years about how to speed up traffic across that crossing. There may be something big to announce on that today," Boag said.
Lots of oil, auto talk expected
Tom d'Aquino, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives who is also attending the summit, said border delays are a large worry for Canada's business community.
"Perhaps it means some deterred investment, and we're deeply concerned about that."
Other issues that were expected to dominate the New Orleans agenda include oil, Cuban and Venezuelan leadership, carbon sequestration and food testing. The U.S., meanwhile, has said it will push for common regulations in the auto sector, including rules about fuel efficiency.

Minister Verner takes issue with Oscar winner's view on Bill C 10

Perhaps the Conservatives should be copying Afghanistan's new ban on five soap operas. Surely they have no redeeming artistic value! Or maybe the Conservatives will create also a Ministry of Virtue and Vice as the Afghans have done.

Minister Verner takes issue with Oscar winner's view
April 22, 2008
Toronto -- Acclaimed director Ang Lee has ruffled the feathers of Canada's Minister of Canadian Heritage, Josée Verner, by criticizing pending legislation affecting the film industry. If passed, Bill C-10 will deny tax credits to Canadian-made films and videos deemed offensive to the public.
During a talk with young Vancouver filmmakers on Saturday, Lee urged them to "make a noise, whatever" to stop Bill C-10. "It's almost like censorship."
Upon hearing of his comments, Verner issued a statement yesterday: "I'm surprised about the comments of Mr. Ang Lee, director of the world acclaimed movie Brokeback Mountain."
In addition to pointing out that Lee, as a non-Canadian, is exempt from being denied the particular tax credit included in the bill, Verner denied Lee's charges of censorship.
"Our government is determined to ensure freedom of expression and will continue to support the production of entertaining and high-quality content," the statement said. "We are reaching out to industry to work with them on Bill C-10. Together, we will find the best solution for the industry, for Canadian citizens and taxpayers."
That raises another issue for critics of the bill such as writer Susan Swan, the chair of the Writers' Union of Canada. She says the arts community has no intention of working out guidelines with the minister. Swan was in Ottawa last week to deliver this message to a senate committee.
"None of the delegates from the other arts organizations at the Senate banking committee last week expressed any interest in doing it," she said. "There are already guidelines in place for government funding of film. Why would we want to add another tier?"

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Integration of the US and Canadian military

Given the recent news about Canadian military personnel serving in the Iraq war, this old article from August 2007 is relevant. The present meeting re the SPP in New Orleans also makes it relevant since military harmonisation will no doubt be a topic there although this never seems to be mentioned in the press. This is from the Harper Index.

SPP is built around secrecy and US military command according to law expert.
Michael Byers says SPP is part of a larger process that threatens Canadian sovereignty and autonomy.";

OTTAWA, August 20, 2007
I was asked to speak about one aspect of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, namely security, or more specifically, the military. In the immediate aftermath of September 2001, plans were devised within the American and Canadian governments to put the entire Canadian Forces under the umbrella of the US Northern Command. To put all our soldiers, sailors and pilots and all their equipment under the operational control of the United States, in a much- expanded version of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Fortunately some sunshine was let in upon that thinking before it could be taken too far. Some serious credit needs to be given here to a former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, who took advantage of being out of Cabinet to let the rest of us know what his former colleagues were up to.
So those who wanted to pursue the efforts of further integration of the Canadian and US military decided to take their efforts underground in arrangements that bear striking similarity to the SPP. And the SPP is part of a larger process. The Bi-National Planning Group was the military sister or brother of the SPP. Essentially it was a transborder committee of unelected bureaucrats, military officers and consultants who were given task of studying and then reporting on the options for improving the efficacy of the North American defensive system. The goal was simply to allow us to respond faster and better to the various kinds of threats that might arise.
The military officers worked away quietly in Colorado Springs, Colorado, headquarters of NORAD, as well as the US space command... Canadian military leaders quite liked playing with the big boys and using the best military equipment in the world...
The proponents of closer military integration could not believe their luck when Stephen Harper was elected. And very shortly after Mr. Harper came to power, they released their final report... which sets out four different options for the closer integration of the Canadian and US military. Most of the report is concerned with public relations, noting that Canadians are particularly attached to sovereignty.
Imagine how you might actually explain that closer military cooperation enhances sovereignty because giving up sovereignty is an exercise in sovereignty! You actually affirm your sovereignty by giving some of it away..
The report was very very clear that its preferred option was full integration, the option that had been floated internally in 2002, the assignment of Canadian Forces to what looked like an expanded NORAD, to an umbrella command where operational control would ultimately rest with the US military.
Some steps have been taken in that direction, including, last year, the NORAD agreement to expand the sharing of maritime surveillance including within the Northwest Passage. It wasn't much noticed at the time. Only one party opposed it in Parliament, the New Democratic Party of Canada.
When the report actually came out and was put up on the website of the Bi-National Planning Group, some smart people, including possibly the Prime Minister of Canada, decided that you were not yet ready for this. That somehow it wasn't the time to make the public case for the full integration of Canadian and US forces because Mr. Harper didn't get that majority he so desperately desired. And so it was shuffled away once again, it disappeared off the website, and the Bi-National Planning Group was shut down, and who knows what they're talking about in Montebello.
But something did happen, and I'm talking about Afghanistan.... We are seeing the implementation in theatre of precisely the kind of planning that was going into the Bi-National Planning Group. We are seeing the Canadian Forces being given more and more equipment. We're even buying new tanks. We're seeing the integration of attitudes and rules of engagement with respect to issues like the treatment of detainees. Why did we not adopt the Western European approach to detainee transfer rights, following models that were provided to us by the British, the Dutch and the Danish? Because Washington wanted to do it another way. And why should we volunteer for the most dangerous mission in Afghanistan, a forward-leaning, war- fighting search and kill mission supported by US airstrikes and working in tandem with a US-led and -commanded mission that is not part of the NATO command?
Why have 67 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan? Why did Private Simon Longtin die today? The simple explanation, and it's only a partial explanation, is that there are people who want to transform the Canadian Forces into a miniature version of the US Marine Corps and want Canada to only choose missions that involve fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States; that want us to acquire equipment that integrates seamlessly with the US military, including in the relatively near future new F35 fighters. The same people who will tell you that peace-keeping is dead, that we really don't need new search-and-rescue aircraft in the second largest country on Earth, and who will tell you that those who stand up for the rights of detainees are expressing disrespect and a lack of support for the brave young Canadian men and women who serve this country in whatever mission they're given because they love this country just as much as you and I.
The integration of the Canadian and US military is not officially part of the SPP, but the SPP and the integration of the Canadian and US military are part of a larger project, and we need to address that larger project, and understand that what we're up against here does not involve the existence of an independent Canada. But as we saw with the Bi-National Planning Group, a little bit of sunshine can chase these plans away. When I look at this room I see a whole lot of sunshine