Sunday, November 30, 2008
It is called Myths for Profit: Canada's Role in Industries of War and Piece. The video shows the way in which our role of peacekeeper and aid giver has been stressed rather than the way in which we in effect have helped out the military industrial complex.
Harper prorogues Parliament, sets new session
Could set the stage for confidence vote and election
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2007 5:48 PM ET
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday he will ask Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament, short-circuiting the current session, which was set to resume Sept. 17.
MPs will be recalled Oct. 16 to start a second session of the 39th Parliament with a speech from the throne, he said in a statement.
There is no mention of any need for the opposition parties to consent to the action. I do not know where people get the idea that it would require the consent of the opposition. Here is what the official government site has to say about proroguing parliament:
Prorogation of Parliament
The prorogation of Parliament ends a session. This is done by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, either by means of a special ceremony in the Senate Chamber, or by the issuing of a proclamation published in the Canada Gazette. Both the Senate and the House of Commons stand prorogued until the opening of the next session.
During a period of prorogation (or recess), the Speaker, the Prime Minister, Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries remain in office and all Members of the House retain their full rights and privileges.
The principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to end business. All government bills that have not received Royal Assent prior to prorogation cease to exist; committee activity also ceases. Thus, no committee can sit after a prorogation.
In order for government bills to be proceeded with in a new session, they must be reintroduced as new bills or they may be reinstated, if the House agrees to this.
The Standing Orders provide for the automatic reinstatement of all items of Private Members' Business in a new session. Committee work may also be revived either by motion in the House, or in committee, depending upon the nature of the study.
Prorogation does not affect Orders or Addresses of the House for the tabling government reports required to be tabled by statute. Requests for responses to committee reports or petitions are still valid following a prorogation. These continue in force from one session to another, but are ended by dissolution.
The governor general has the power to grant the request of the opposition to form a coalition govt. if the existing government loses the confidence of the house. Spector himself says he is not claiming that the governor general does not have the right to deny dissolution. So if that is so how can he claim there is a constitutional problem? Duh!
Is Canada headed toward a constitutional crisis?
Norman Spector, today at 8:47 AM EST
With Mr. Harper in full retreat, it's still not certain that the opposition parties will defeat his government on December 8. If they do, however, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean would have to decide whether to accept the Prime Minister's request to dissolve the House for another election.In an interview in last Saturday's La Presse, Ms. Jean was asked whether her relations with Prime Minister Stephen Harper were "generally good." She replied:"They are what they must be between a Governor-General and a Prime Minister.That's to say: mutual respect. Because this is part of respect for democracy. The people choose their government."I'm still skeptical that the Liberals will be able to work out their internal rivalries. Or, that they, the NDP and Bloc could put together a common program to present to the Governor-General that would last two years—as was the case in Ontario in 1985. If I'm wrong, however, Ms. Jean would be wise not to forget that in Canada, "the people choose their government." An election, while costly, would present Canadians with a clear choice between Mr. Harper's Conservatives and the coalition being proposed by the three opposition parties. The alternative is the very real possibility of a constitutional crisis. If Ms. Jean were to decide to hand power over to a Liberal-led coalition, Conservative voters would be furious. Western Canadians, in particular, would feel that the government had been stolen from them. Outside Québec, there would be strong resentment against a party dedicated to breaking up Canada having a role in governing the country.Ms. Jean was appointed by former Prime Minister Paul Martin. At the time of her appointment, she also held French citizenship, which she wisely renounced in the ensuing controversy. There was also considerable controversy over whether she and her spouse, Jean-Daniel Lafond, harboured separatist sympathies; in his case, few of those who know him believed the denials.In the circumstances, if the government is defeated next week, an election would be the less costly option for Canada.
UPDATE: Nothing in the above is meant to question the constitutionality of the Governor-General using the reserve power to deny dissolution. I'm simply arguing that it would be better for Canada if she used her constitutional discretion otherwise. And, as one whose written three very supportive columns in the Globe, in the thick of the controversy surrounding Ms. Jean's appointment, I also believe it would be in her personal interest to accept the Prime Minister's request for an election if his government is defeated.
That's what's happened in every case in our history with one exception. And, several factors distinguish that unique case-the so-called Byng-King affair-from the current set of circumstances.
This explains why the precedent most often being cited these days is the 1985 accord that brought David Peterson to power supported by the NDP.
However, in that case, Premier Frank Miller did not request dissolution; indeed, in his letter of resignation, he suggested that Mr. Peterson would be able to gain the confidence of the House and that he should be asked to form a government. The Lieutenant-Governor accepted that advice.
As to the other precedent being cited, Adrienne Clarkson's musings about what she would have done had Paul Martin lost the confidence of the House, those were just musings.
The Conservatives have already backed down on their plan to cut public subsidies to parties and also to take away the right to vote to public workers. But there remains the pay equity issue, the equalisation payment cuts, and the sale of crown corporations and perhaps other issues I have not covered. So far there is no movement on these or on providing an immediate stimulus package. It seems doubtful that the Conservatives can or will do much more. The next step will probably be procedural stalling. The first step has already been taking by delaying the vote on their motions until Dec. 8. There are rumours about proroguing parliament but I am told this would need the consent of all parties.
Perhaps the Conservatives may face lawsuits over revealing private conversations among the NDP. I wonder how they got the number to connect to the conference call. There must be lax security in the NDP.
Conservatives listen in to NDP caucus on coalition
2 hours ago
OTTAWA — A Tory insider says a closed-door NDP strategy session on bringing down the government was secretly recorded by the Conservatives after they were mistakenly sent a code for a conference call.
CTV News is reporting that NDP Leader Jack Layton can be heard on the tapes boasting to his caucus that he had prepared scenarios to bring down the government with the help of the Bloc Quebecois well before the Conservatives issued their recent economic statement.
A spokesman for the New Democrats says there is no difference between the latest NDP-Bloc discussions and similar talks aimed at bringing down the Liberal minority government in 2004.
Stephen Harper, who was leader of the Opposition at that time, held lengthy discussions with Layton and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe aimed at supplanting Paul Martin's Liberal government without an election in the fall of 2004.
NDP spokesman Brad Lavigne says the Conservatives are merely trying to deflect attention from the government losing the confidence of the House of Commons.
Conservative officials were not immediately available to respond to queries about the the recording of the NDP caucus call.
Press, "Psy Ops" to merge at NATO Afghan HQ-sourcesJon HemmingReuters North American News ServiceNov 29, 2008 01:56 ESTKABUL, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. general commanding NATO forces in Afghanistan has ordered a merger of the office that releases news with "Psy Ops", which deals with propaganda, a move that goes against the alliance's policy, three officials said.
The move has worried Washington's European NATO allies -- Germany has already threatened to pull out of media operations in Afghanistan -- and the officials said it could undermine the credibility of information released to the public.Seven years into the war against the Taliban, insurgent influence is spreading closer to the capital and Afghans are becoming increasingly disenchanted at the presence of some 65,000 foreign troops and the government of President Hamid Karzai.Taliban militants, through their website, telephone text messages and frequent calls to reporters, are also gaining ground in the information war, analysts say.U.S. General David McKiernan, the commander of 50,000 troops from more than 40 nations in NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), ordered the combination of the Public Affairs Office (PAO), Information Operations and Psy Ops (Psychological Operations) from Dec. 1, said a NATO official with detailed knowledge of the move."This will totally undermine the credibility of the information released to the press and the public," said the official, who declined to be named.ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Richard Blanchette said McKiernan had issued a staff order to implement a command restructure from Dec. 1 which was being reviewed by NATO headquarters in Brussels, but he declined to go into details of the reorganisation."This is very much an internal matter," he said. "This is up with higher headquarters right now and we're waiting to get the basic approval. Once we have the approval we will be going into implementation."But another ISAF official confirmed that the amalgamation of public affairs with Information Operations and Psy Ops was part of the planned command restructure. This official, who also declined to be named, said the merger had caused considerable concern at higher levels within NATO which had challenged the order by the U.S. general."DECEPTION ACTIVITIES"NATO policy recognises there is an inherent clash of interests between its public affairs offices, whose job it is to issue press releases and answer media questions, and that of Information Operations and Psy Ops.Information Operations advises on information designed to affect the will of the enemy, while Psy Ops includes so-called "black operations", or outright deception.While Public Affairs and Information Operations, PA and Info Ops in military jargon, "are separate, but related functions", according to the official NATO policy document on public affairs, "PA is not an Info Ops discipline".The new combined ISAF department will come under the command of an American one-star general reporting directly to McKiernan, an arrangement that is also against NATO policy, the NATO official said."While coordination is essential, the lines of authority will remain separate, the PA reporting directly to the commander. This is to maintain credibility of PA and to avoid creating a media or public perception that PA activities are coordinated by, or are directed by, Info Ops," the NATO policy document says."PA will have no role in planning or executing Info Ops, Psy Ops, or deception activities," it states.The United States has 35,000 of the 65,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, operating both under ISAF and a separate U.S.-led coalition operation, but both come under McKiernan's command.Washington is already scheduled to send another 3,000 troops to arrive in the country in January and is now considering sending 20,000 more troops in the next 12 to 18 months, further tipping the numerical balance among ISAF forces."What we are seeing is a gradual increase of American influence in all areas of the war," the NATO official said. "Seeking to gain total control of the information flow from the campaign is just part of that." (Editing by John Chalmers)Source: Reuters North American News Service
Harper had a minority mandate. He has shown that he is not willing to respect the fact that he is in a minority. As a result he is paying the price for his hubris in thinking that the Liberals must swallow anything he puts on their plate. Now Harper is paying the price in that even some of his own supporters question his wisdom in provoking the Liberals and causing this crisis when he should be consulting the opposition in order to make parliament work. The co-operative spirit is completely gone and not likely to return for some time.
November 30, 2008
Harper's constituents resent election talk
By RENATO GANDIA, SUN MEDIA
Constituents in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's affluent Calgary riding were fuming about Ottawa's political showdown that might send Canadians back to the polls, just six weeks after the last election.
"It's disgusting what he's trying to do," said Charlene Dyck, 46, a stay-at-home mom who voted for Harper in the past two elections.
"He obviously wants a majority and he's not going to get it now," she said yesterday as she stood below the signs of Harper's Calgary Southwest constituency office in Glenmore Landing. "Who wants to go to the polls merely six weeks after the last one?"
Joey Quinn, a 36-year-old carpenter, lives in the neighbourhood but he didn't vote for Harper this year.
"The country is in disarray economically and that's what they're doing in Ottawa," said Quinn. "They should stop this political bickering now, because that's not why we sent these MPs to Parliament in the first place."
Nadine Hall, 42, shook her head at the thought of going back to the polls.
"Why can't he and other leaders make it work?"
Mount Royal College political scientist Keith Brownsey said he thinks the Conservatives have made a fundamental error.
"I think they're in a great deal of trouble now," he said, "and they certainly don't look good right now including the prime minister. He looks very, very nasty."
Brownsey said Harper is taking advantage of the worldwide economic downturn to pursue his political goal of "essentially eliminating the Liberal party and quashing any opposition to Conservatives."
i) The sale of crown assets at fire sale prices into a buyer's market for the sole purpose of making it look as if the financial situation is not so bad.
ii) caps on public sector wages. now that sure helps purchasing power and stimulates demand.
iii) doing away with the right to strike for public workers.
iv) cutting of equalization payments, a sure way for the Conservatives to lose seats in Quebec.
v) sabotaging pay equity suits.
No doubt there are many others. What sort of an opposition and a competitive press do we have when most of these issues are just ignored in favor of the lack of a stimulus package and funding of politicial parties. Even if neither of these were an issue the economic update would still be simply mask a clear right wing agenda that Harper is trying to push through in spite of the fact he only has a minority. He may end up not even having a government.
Tories blink first in showdown TheStar.com - Canada - Tories blink first in showdown
TOM HANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes a statement regarding the Oppositions' plan to form a coalition government, in front of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Nov. 28, 2008.
Plan to slash subsidies for parties is withdrawn, but opposition still aims to defeat government
November 30, 2008 Les WhittingtonTonda MacCharlesBruce Campion-SmithOttawa Bureau
OTTAWA—An unexpected climbdown by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on a key element of his explosive economic package is unlikely to halt the opposition’s joint effort to oust the minority Conservative government.
In a stunning about-face, Transportation Minister John Baird went on television yesterday afternoon to announce the Harper government would reverse its controversial proposal to strip political parties of federal subsidies.
"It's not worth going to an election over," Baird said on CTV, referring to the subsidies. "We'll leave that political debate for another day."
And there were hints there could be further retreats in store. A Conservative official said the government "will put more water into their wine" when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty makes an announcement today in Toronto, The Canadian Press reported. But the official said the announcement will not include any new economic stimulus.
The plan to axe subsidies was one of several elements of a Conservative economic package that have the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois poised to vote down the Conservatives and replace them with a coalition government.
Late yesterday, the Liberals and NDP said the Conservatives' flip-flop on political party subsidies is not enough to keep the Harper government from being voted down at the first opportunity in the Commons.
Sources told the Star last night that high-level talks are afoot to choose someone other than departing Liberal leader Stéphane Dion as the interim leader of a coalition government. One prominent name being mentioned is former Liberal finance minister Ralph Goodale.
"It can't be Dion because Canadians so massively rejected him," said one senior Ontario Liberal. Meanwhile, Conservative MPs are on "high alert for a return to campaign mode," even as they launch an all-out media blitz to discredit the possibility of a Liberal-NDP coalition government, attacking the idea as an "insult to democracy."
A memo from Harper’s office, obtained by the Star, instructs MPs to take to their local airwaves and have supporters call in to talk radio.
But opposition MPs are accusing the Prime Minister of hypocrisy, charging that Harper is overlooking his own efforts to forge a coalition to replace Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government in 2004.
Harper, then Conservative leader, even joined with NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe to write then-governor general Adrienne Clarkson, urging her to look at "options" if Martin's government fell in the fall of 2004, mere months after it won a minority mandate on June 28.
"We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation," read the Sept. 9, 2004, letter from the three leaders.
"We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority."
That message is in stark contrast to the one Harper delivered Friday night, when he charged that Liberals don't "have the right to take power without an election."
"The opposition has been working on a backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election without seeking the consent of voters. They want to take power, not earn it," he said in a statement.
Now Conservative MPs are being instructed to take that message to Canadians.
The scripts were sent out to caucus members, along with clear instructions from Harper's chief of staff, Guy Giorno, on the key messages and how best to deliver them.
"While our preference would be for the opposition to respect our clear mandate and allow speedy passage of the legislation accompanying the fiscal update, we are nonetheless prepared to return to the polls over this issue," Giorno said.
Angered by Thursday's economic statement that delivered no financial boost to Canada's ailing economy — but served up provocative measures such as cutting political party subsidies, curbing public servants' right to strike and modifying pay equity rules — the NDP, Liberals and Bloc have united in opposition.
Both the Liberals and NDP said last night their main objection to the Tories' economic policies is the lack of measures to jump-start the struggling economy — not the political subsidies issue the Conservatives backed down on.
"To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it's the economy, stupid," John McCallum, a Liberal spokesperson, said after Baird’s announcement. "If the government still doesn't understand, if they think this is going to get them off the hook, they’re missing the point."
NDP spokesperson Brad Lavigne said: "This changes nothing because for the New Democrats, it was never about public financing."
The opposition has accused Flaherty of failing to understand the severity of the economic crisis facing Canadian businesses and workers. Harper said earlier this month that Canada needs unprecedented stimulus in the form of new government spending or tax cuts to pump up the economy.
But Flaherty, despite acknowledging the economy is in recession, said Thursday that Canadians would have to wait until he delivers a full-scale budget next year to see what new actions the Conservatives think are needed to stimulate the economy.
Since Thursday, the Harper government had said it had no intention of backing down on its plan to scrap the $30 million in annual subsidies for federal parties.
But, in an interview on CTV yesterday, Baird said that measure would be dropped from the legislation to implement the policies announced in the economic statement.
MPs will vote on the legislation early next month and its defeat would topple the government, leading to a snap election or a move by the opposition parties to take power with a coalition.
The Liberals had threatened to topple the Conservatives in a confidence vote tomorrow, with the hope of eventually replacing them with a coalition. That forced Harper to announce late Friday that he was delaying all votes that could defeat his government until Dec. 8.
Opposition parties continued to talk yesterday to hammer out details around a possible coalition government.
The New Democrats held a special caucus meeting to brief MPs on developments and seek their input. Eleven of the MPs were in Ottawa, the rest participated by phone.
New Democrat MP Libby Davies (Vancouver East) said "progress is being made" as discussions centre on common points of policy.
On the Liberal side, an official said that representatives of the parties were in discussions and that talks were "going well."
Around the country, many Conservatives were furious that Harper's inner circle had failed to consult more widely before delivering the fiscal update.
One senior Conservative said Harper had shot himself in the foot for ideological reasons — much as he did when he announced $45 million in arts funding cuts last summer, which cost his party seats in Quebec in the Oct. 14 federal election.
"These guys think it's campus politics, so they get too cute by half and then f--- everything up," he said. "We're in the middle of an economic crisis and they pull a stunt like this?"
Saturday, November 29, 2008
In most media the equalisation cuts mentioned by Flaherty do not even come up but obviously it is a big issue in Quebec. Quebec unions are also concerned about the public sector unions losing the right to strike and having salary caps as well.
Economic statement draws fire on Quebec election trail
Updated Fri. Nov. 28 2008 6:27 PM ET
The Canadian Press
MONTREAL -- While prompting political turmoil in Ottawa, the Conservatives' economic statement was also coming under fire Friday on the Quebec election trail.
The Tories' fiscal plan was being used by sovereigntists as ammunition against Premier Jean Charest.
The Parti Quebecois accused Charest of watching idly as the feds cut equalization payments to the province by $1 billion, and described the move as a catastrophic financial loss for the province.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois insisted the Charest Liberals knew in advance about cuts contained in federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's economic statement and did their best to cover them up.
"The facts have been hidden from us, we have been manipulated to make us believe things are going well," Marois said in Sept-Iles.
The PQ leader drew links between the federal economic statement and the financial update delivered by Quebec Finance Minister Monique Jerome-Forget on the eve of the provincial campaign for the Dec. 8 election.
Jerome-Forget has been accused of fudging the numbers and exaggerating the revenues anticipated from private corporate investment in Quebec.
The PQ suggests that was done to cover up the hole left by the reduced equalization payments.
This is the same guy who hired a high profile Conservative to hunt for board members for his giant new Health Board.
If the cure for health problems and costs is to cut income, perhaps Liepert should have his income cut along with the highest paid executives in the Health Dept. As I understand it, delisting services would be quite limited because the Canada Health Act would not allow it. Anyway this would be cost shifting rather than cost saving. Liepert seems to be more concerned about cutting the growth of any democratic control over the system as much as he is concerned about costs. Otherwise, why would he not commit to bulk drug buying as other provinces such as Manitoba have. I guess his friends in the pharmaceutical industry do not like the idea.
Saturday » November 29 » 2008
Alberta 'pretty sloppy society,' says Liepert
Tough times will be good for our health
Saturday, November 29, 2008
A squeeze on disposable income as the economy nosedives could lead to healthier lifestyle choices, the province's health minister suggests, including fewer addictions and less obesity.
Speaking to the Canadian Club of Calgary on Friday, Ron Liepert said the financial high of the past 10 to 15 years has spawned a "pretty sloppy society."
"Somehow we've got to get Albertans to accept more personal responsibility for their behaviour," he said.
"I guess I'm hopeful that if people don't have the money to spend on Jolt and booze and everything else, maybe they won't become quite as addicted."
Less prosperity may also lower Albertans' expectations of what services should be covered under the public health-care system, added Liepert, who's leading the Alberta government's major over-haul of the medical regime.
"We're going to have some tough decisions to make in the budget coming next year and I think people are going to start to say, 'OK, maybe government shouldn't be covering everything,' " the health minister said after his speech.
Liepert's comments, which Calgary Liberal MLA David Swann labelled as "blame-the-victim" mentality, come as more health care changes are set to roll out.
On Monday, the province is unveiling a new plan broadly outlining the government's medical reforms. The plan will focus on sustainability of the medical system, whose costs have ballooned to $13.4 billion from$4.6 billion in 1998. However, the thorny issue of delisting services will not be addressed then, Liepert said.
Several other health announcements are planned, as the province's Dec. 15 deadline for this year's reforms looms.
A new continuing care strategy and pharmaceutical plan are on the horizon. Liepert said the pharmaceutical initiative will mention drugs for rare diseases, but a bulk-buying drug plan isn't yet in the cards. The Alberta government currently spends $1.2 billion annually on prescription drugs.
The province's medical reforms, which included dissolving nine health boards and creating a single entity, have sparked unease among opposition parties.
Swann said health professionals worry they're not being consulted. The new 15-member Alberta Health Services board includes just one physician.
"He's done none of this on the basis of evidence," said Swann, who took in Liepert's speech.
A former family doctor and medical officer of health, Swann pointed to Liepert's comments on the possible health benefits of an economic downturn as an example. Swann said problems such as drug addictions, sexually transmitted illnesses and obesity are fuelled by myriad factors.
"That's a blame-the-victim approach that has been consistent in the Conservative ideology," Swann said. "They fail to see the social conditions that are creating the conditions in which people are making poor choices."
Calgary dietitian Sarah Remmer also isn't certain less disposable income will lead to healthier food choices. "A lot of people eat fast food because it's inexpensive," said Remmer, adding studies have shown people living in lower-income communities are more overweight or obese.
© The Calgary Herald 2008
Copyright © 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.
However the point is that an elected government must have the confidence of the house. If it doesnt then it is entirely proper for opposition parties to ask the governor general leave to form a new government that has the confidence of the house. The government so formed has the same obligation as this government to gain the confidence of the house. Of course it is possible that if Harper's motion is not passed that Harper could go to the governor general and ask for an election.
Harper is no doubt scheming to see what other procedural roadblocks he can throw in the way of opposition plans. Given the way that the Liberals caved in the last session and their weak position no doubt Harper thought that he could push anything through parliament. As he said at one point during the campaign, he would govern as if he had a majority whether he did or not.
He seems to have made a serious miscalculation. For a few brief moments it seemed as if Harper might take a more bipartisan consultative tack but this economic update shows that this was just another cynical game. Of course all politicians seem to play games and spout ridiculous rhetoric. I just heard Scott Brison on CBC claiming that this was not about politics! Right of course Scott, it is all about the interests of the Canadian people, completely apolitical and having nothing to do with party politics!
Harper scrambles to retain power against coalition TheStar.com - Canada - Harper scrambles to retain power against coalition
Steps to a coalition government:
1 Stephen Harper's Conservatives must lose a motion scheduled for Dec. 8 that is regarded as a test of confidence in the government.
2 If the motion is lost, Harper would then see Governor General Michaëlle Jean (below), who could refuse a request for a new election.
3 Jean would then have to decide whether a Liberal-NDP coalition, with the support of the Bloc, could form a workable government for a reasonable time.
Could lame-duck Liberal leader make an effective prime minister?
New Democrat leader asked Ed Broadbent to feel out Jean Chrétien about a coalition.
Bloc leader says he would support a Liberal/NDP coalition on the economy.
Liberal non-confidence motion:
"In light of the government's failure to recognize the seriousness of Canada's economic situation and its failure in particular to present any credible plan to stimulate the Canadian economy and to help workers and businesses in hard-pressed sectors such as manufacturing, the automotive industry and forestry, this House has lost confidence in this government and is of the opinion that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons."
November 29, 2008 Tonda MacCharlesBruce Campion-SmithJoanna SmithOttawa Bureau
OTTAWA– Prime Minister Stephen Harper, teetering on the brink of defeat, has won himself a one-week reprieve in the face of extraordinary opposition efforts to form a coalition government to replace his minority Conservatives.
But opposition MPs appear unbowed by Harper's bid to delay their move to defeat his six-week-old government. Negotiations on the shape, form and leadership of the coalition government are expected to continue through the weekend.
In a stunning revolt just one week into the 40th Parliament, the three opposition parties revealed yesterday that formal talks were well underway to replace the minority Conservative government.
Late in the afternoon, an angry Harper was forced to publicly announce that he will delay until Dec. 8 any parliamentary vote that could topple his government. That includes a vote on a ways and means motion flowing from the government's fiscal update Thursday and a motion of non-confidence introduced by the Liberals yesterday, which had both been scheduled for Monday.
The opposition parties unanimously oppose Harper's provocative economic update, which contained billions of dollars in spending cuts, the suspension of the right to strike by public servants, a clampdown on pay equity and a small but significant reduction of public funding for political parties.
Harper's announcement was ostensibly made to give Canadians more time to absorb the extraordinary developments that could result in an NDP-Liberal coalition government.
It buys time for Harper to get himself out of his self-made crisis – but also allows the opposition parties time to negotiate just who will lead the "alternative" government that would be proposed to Governor General Michaëlle Jean.
One Liberal strategist said an agreement had been reached to have Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion at the helm – but that could change quickly if the Liberal leader proves a liability for a new government.
A senior Liberal added the coalition leader would not be any of the three Liberal leadership contenders – MPs Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc. The strategist also noted the Liberal caucus has not given its blessing to Dion as coalition leader and predicted the proposal could run into trouble among MPs and senators.
Dion was holed up in Stornoway yesterday and was not available for comment.
It is expected that NDP Leader Jack Layton would have a place in the new cabinet, and "various players would play different roles," an NDP official said.
The Liberals and NDP are entertaining the demands of the Bloc Québécois, which would not formally be part of a coalition, but would support it as long as Quebec's interests are met.
"We said that we won't be part of a coalition and having ministers from the Bloc; this is very clear. But we'll consider a coalition that would respect more Quebec values and interests," said Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe.
Talks between the NDP and Liberals began Thursday evening after former NDP leader Ed Broadbent and former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien stepped in to act as intermediaries.
Layton contacted Broadbent Thursday night to seek his counsel as a "statesman," party spokesperson Karl Belanger said, and asked him to contact Chrétien to attempt to chart a way forward.
Broadbent declined to discuss any specifics of their conversation, as did Chrétien.
"He and I both discussed what would be a good situation here for the people of Canada, for Parliament and we'll see what happens," Broadbent told reporters after a morning meeting in Layton's office.
It is clear the Conservatives were caught off guard by the vehemence of the opposition's attack on the economic update. Yesterday afternoon, Harper attempted to paint the opposition bid as an undemocratic attempt to usurp power from his newly elected government through a "backroom deal."
"The opposition has every right to defeat the government but Stéphane Dion does not have the right to take power without an election," Harper said. "Canada's government should be decided by Canadians, not backroom deals. It should be your choice, not theirs."
Harper said his party has acted "to keep cutting job-killing business taxes," accelerated construction of roads bridges and other infrastructure projects, injected "tens of billions" of liquidity into Canada's credit markets, and "acted to ensure a long term structural balance in the federal budget."
But Liberal MP John McCallum (Markham) echoed the Liberals' complaint that the Conservative economic statement delivered on Thursday was silent on big-ticket measures to boost the flagging economy. "We in the opposition believe that the Canadian economy needs support from the government. Stephen Harper does not. That is the essential difference between us," McCallum said.
McCallum said a new government would roll out a stimulus package that was "a whole lot faster and a whole lot bigger than anything they would provide."
He even tried to reassure investors jittery about a possible change in the country's leadership.
"I want the business community and the financial community to know that should we form the government, the stability of our financial system and of our economy will be uppermost in our mind every step of the way," McCallum said.
Many Conservatives had been gleeful about the "poison pill" item in the update: the plan to slash $30 million in taxpayer subsidies for political parties. But as the political fallout takes hold, Harper's move is widely seen as a terrible political miscalculation.
A Conservative government source said yesterday the idea was Harper's.
Sources said "most" of the Conservative caucus is perplexed why the government moved to put such controversial measures in now. "It makes no sense," said one.
"To date, Harper has been a master at dividing and conquering his opponents," said Conservative author Bob Plamondon.
"But by moving to end the subsidy to all political parties, he has given the three opposition parties unity and purpose. It is a rare strategic blunder for Harper and a miscalculation not seen since (former PC prime minister Joe) Clark toppled himself in 1979."
Conservative insiders across the country were flabbergasted.
"It is 1979 bravado with 1985 facts," said one plugged-in Tory, referring to Clark's bungled confidence vote in 1979 and the 1985 Liberal-NDP accord that ended 42 years of Tory rule at Queen's Park. "The government will fall," he lamented.
With files from Robert Benzie
Manitoba premier hints at dropping public funding for political parties
Last Updated: Friday, November 28, 2008 7:56 AM CT The Canadian Press
Manitoba Premier Gary Doer is hinting his government is set to backtrack on a controversial subsidy for political parties.
The province is looking at changing a law, passed October, that awards parties $1.25 a year for every vote they received in the most recent election.
The subsidy could cost taxpayers just over $500,000 a year, with almost half going to Doer's NDP.
"It's becoming a distraction," Doer said Thursday. "We have other things to be focused on with this economy."
Doer has been under fire from the Progressive Conservatives, who have promised not to collect their share of the subsidy.
"We just don't think it's necessary, we don't think it's right, to force people to contribute through their taxes to a party they might not support," Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen said.
Doer's pronouncement came the same day the federal Conservatives vowed to eliminate the $1.95-per-vote subsidy given to federal parties. He refused to go into detail when asked what changes he had in mind, telling reporters that everything is on the table.
"I do believe in the principle of banning union and corporate donations and supporting particularly other parties in a democracy with partial public financing," Doer said.
"Having said that, we recognize times will be tough in 2009 and we'll judge ourselves accordingly."
Changes before spring
The per-vote subsidy was introduced partly to make up for a ban on corporate and union donations that the NDP imposed eight years ago. But the idea ran into opposition from taxpayer groups and others who called it a tax grab.
Doer told reporters changes could come before the spring budget.
The subsidy was part of an omnibus elections law that also restricts legislature members from using partisan statements in publicly funded brochures and other items that are mailed to constituents.
That part of the bill led to accusations from the Opposition that the government was trying to censor free speech. The Tories put out the battle cry to party members, who signed up en masse to speak at public hearings that ran day and night earlier this year.
© The Canadian Press, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Liberals will try to bring down government: report
Last Updated: Friday, November 28, 2008 2:40 PM ET
Former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien refused to comment on whether he met with former New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent while on his way to his office in Ottawa on Friday. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)
The federal Liberals plan to bring down the Conservative government in a confidence motion on Monday, saying they have a viable alternative, the Canadian Press reported Friday.
But Harper could still avert the immediate defeat of his minority government, re-elected six weeks ago, through procedural tactics.
According to the Canadian Press, the Liberal motion, which has the approval of the NDP and Bloc Québécois, reads:
"In light of the government's failure to recognize the seriousness of Canada's economic situation and its failure in particular to present any credible plan to stimulate the Canadian economy and to help workers and businesses in hard-pressed sectors such as manufacturing, the automotive industry and forestry, this House has lost confidence in this government and is of the opinion that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons."
A source says the opposition parties have agreed that Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion would lead the government for the next few months.
The announcement comes hours after reports that former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien and ex-NDP leader Ed Broadbent were talking about a potential coalition between the two parties following widespread disagreement over measures proposed in the minority Conservative government's fiscal update, which were announced Thursday.
More to comeWith files from the Canadian Press
Harper must hope that the Liberals will lose their nerve after the party funding issue has been neutralised. However, if the Liberals cave in they will look to be their old selves and in effect verify exactly what the Conservatives claim, that the Liberal opposition is solely about their losing funding! Harper may be right but certainly he is risking defeat without any good reason and giving the lie to the idea that he is now a team player interested in governing by consensus.
Conservatives drop party-funding cuts from key motion
Last Updated: Friday, November 28, 2008 1:18 PM ET
The government won't include a controversial proposal to end public subsidies of political parties in an upcoming confidence vote on the fall fiscal update, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office confirmed Friday.
Kory Teneycke told CBC News that only tax measures will be part of the ways and means motion to be voted on by MPs on Monday.
"The portion dealing with political subsidies … will be part of a later bill," said Teneycke. "It will not be part of the ways and means on Monday."
It's a sharp reversal for the minority government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
When the fiscal update was delivered on Thursday, government officials and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the party financing measures would be considered matters of confidence.
Federal parties currently receive $1.95 for every vote they receive in a federal election, provided they win at least two per cent of the nationwide popular vote. The annual subsidy is used to pay for staff and expenses.
Cutting the subsidies would effectively gut the opposition parties, who are far more dependent on them than the Conservative party.
The Liberals and New Democrats quickly rejected the proposal and launched a series of discussions about forming a potential coalition government if the confidence motion fails to pass and the government is defeated. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien and former NDP leader Ed Broadbent are steering the talks, according to reports.
Teneycke said opposition parties are not acting out of concern for the economy, but because they're worried about losing the subsidies.
"It's surprising the opposition parties would act in such an undemocratic fashion," he said.
Teneycke said the government still supports cutting the subsidies during this economic downturn and will introduce them at a later date.
"The prime minister believes political parties need to do their share," he saidWith files from the Canadian Press
This is from the MEtimes.
Many former British Colonies are becoming junior partners in US imperialist adventures. Our peacekeeping role is reduced to about zero. Of course our General Natanczyk has received a medal by the Canadian government for his service to US imperialism in Iraq. How suitable that he now head up our armed forces. We must be ready to stand on guard for US imperialism as part of the Co-operative Spirit 2008 .
Troops undergo urban warfare training
Published: November 26, 2008
HOHENFELS, Germany, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- A unit of Canadian soldiers is at a multinational training facility conducting exercises to prepare for evolving risks in an urban combat zone.
The 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment is at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany as part of the Cooperative Spirit 2008 training initiative along with troops from the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, the Canadian National Defense Force reported.
The monthlong urban combat training initiative is part of an effort to test the allied countries' communication interoperability and whether they can work together effectively. Officials say the exercises include shoot-house scenarios and other live-fire training in an urban combat environment.
"ABCA (America, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) countries have experience in many different areas; a lot of useful knowledge that Canada can use," Cpl. Scott Preeper said in a statement.
"We are getting some very high-speed training. The instructors have been very helpful."
© 2008 United Press International. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be reproduced, redistributed, or manipulated in any form.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
But that may not be the Conservatives' only source of opposition. Noting that huge salary hike expectations aren't reasonable right now, public sector pay increases will be scaled back to 1.5 per cent. And perhaps more importantly, the unions' right to strike will be "curtailed" for the next two years.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada has already agreed that desperate times require desperate measures and has said its members are willing to scale back their demands.
But how they and other collectives across the country will feel about having the right to walk off the job scaled back is another matter that doesn't just affect salary.
What else was in Flaherty's announcement? He confirmed that the feds will also sell off some government and Crown corporations, netting the treasury $2.3 billion. But with two exceptions, the names of those assets weren't revealed.
"We have no intention to sell either Canada Post or the CBC," he declares. But nothing else is off the table. "[We'll] look at the value of what we own and whether it should be part of a public/private partnership."
Government programs will be cut wherever possible, with an eye to saving $2 billion.
Equalization payments will be scaled back, something that could hurt the new have-not Ontario.
Imagine selling off crown assets into a buyer's market. Apparently the main stream media sees nothing wrong with this as most articles say nothing about it or just mention it in passing. The whole package is a right-wing monstrosity that uses the recession as an excuse to get rid of whatever they dislike.
The opposition should give Harper an election for Xmas and Canadians should ring in the New Year by turfing out those old crafty Tories. Perhaps the governor general will be more sensible this time around and ask the opposition parties to form a government if they can before allowing Harper to have an election. After seeming conciliatory to the opposition Harper comes up with this stuff. His strategists must think that the Liberals will swallow anything at this time. Let's hope he is wrong.
Opposition parties won't support Tory economic update
Dion says PM must 'look at his options' to avoid fall of government
Last Updated: Thursday, November 27, 2008 5:29 PM ET CBC News
Canada's opposition parties said Thursday they will vote against the Conservative government's fiscal update, sparking speculation the country could face another election in the midst of a global economic crisis.
The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois said they would not support the update introduced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty because it contained no stimulus package to spur Canada's slumping economy and protect Canadian workers during the crisis.
The update is a confidence vote on Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government and could be voted on as a ways and means motion as early as Monday evening.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said the parties' decision to reject Flaherty's proposals means it's up to the prime minister "to look at his options."
"We will vote against this plan," Dion told reporters outside the Commons.
NDP MP Thomas Mulcair also said his party would "do what this it's done in the past, stand up to the right-wing agenda of Stephen Harper."
Moments later, a fuming Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe told reporters his party "will categorically oppose" the update.
Dion did not respond when asked whether a handful of his MPs might be absent for a vote on the update, a move that would give the government enough numbers to survive. In the last Parliament, the Liberals used the tactic several times to prevent triggering an election.
Speaking to reporters later in the day, Liberal finance critic John McCallum promised his party's MPs would not be offering a "token vote."
" It will be all members voting against," McCallum said.
Coalition talk 'premature': Brison
Should the update be defeated, Mulcair said the constitution allows room to avoid another election only weeks after Canadians returned the Conservatives to power with another minority government.
"There are a lot of other things that will happen before we would have an election, especially so soon after the last one," Mulcair said.
Among other options, the opposition parties could try to form a coalition government or reach agreement to give the Liberals, who came second in the Oct. 14 election, a chance to govern.
But Liberal MP Scott Brison told CBC News parliamentary editor Don Newman that any talk of a coalition government is "premature," because opposition parties were surprised by "how bad" Flaherty's update was.
"These are pretty early days," he said "Today ought to have been about people, not politics, but about people who are losing their jobs."
Proposed party funding cuts 'attack democracy': Layton
The parties have also assailed Flaherty's plan to eliminate the $30 million in public subsidies all political parties receive, saying the Conservatives were more interested in playing politics than protecting Canada's threatened economy.
Flaherty told the House the proposed cut, to take effect on April 1, 2009, would ensure there is "no free ride for political parties."
"This is the last stop on the route; there will be no free ride for anyone else in government, either," Flaherty said.
"Canadians pay their own bills, and for some Canadians, that is getting harder to do. Political parties should pay their own bills, too, and not with excessive tax dollars."
NDP Leader Jack Layton said the Tories were trying to "attack democracy" and protect their financial advantage over other parties.
"I’m asking the prime minister how such an attack is going to create one job or protect one pension," Layton told the House. "Why are they protecting the Conservative party?"
The prime minister replied that the government had acted "early and strongly" to deal with the economic crisis and ensure Canada's fiscal position remains the strongest of all G7 nations.
The Liberals should vote against the Conservatives but since it is a confidence motion and the Liberals fear Dion II even more than bankruptcy we will have a replay of the Hand wringing Hand sitting Liberals of the last session.
Opposition takes hit as Tories move to cut $27-million subsidy for parties
Flaherty expected to predict first deficit in 13 years
STEVEN CHASE AND KEVIN CARMICHAEL
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
November 27, 2008 at 1:08 AM EST
OTTAWA — The Harper government is proposing to end a $27-million subsidy for political parties in today's fiscal and economic update – a measure taken in the name of federal belt-tightening that also threatens to hit opposition parties especially hard in the wallet.
The Conservatives have traditionally fared the best at grassroots political fundraising and depended less on a per-vote subsidy, introduced by former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien when he passed legislation in 2003 ending corporate and union donations to federal parties.
The controversial measure is likely to distract attention today from looming fiscal problems facing the Tories.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is expected to announce in the update that the federal government could run its first budget deficit in half a generation next year – a historic slide back into the red that could deepen when the Tories introduce a planned economic stimulus budget early next year.
The Tories are expected to publish a range of forecasts today including projections showing a deficit in the 2009-2010 fiscal year – which would be the first shortfall in 13 years.
Opposition parties denounced the proposal to end per-vote subsidies in the name of economic restraint as a partisan power play.
“They're using the update to hurt their rivals … it's playing Karl Rove politics – getting people upset against the political class generally,” said NDP finance critic Thomas Mulcair, referring to a former adviser to U.S. President George W. Bush.
The Tories are expected to make it costly for rival parties to fight their proposal by introducing legislation to eliminate the subsidy, worth $1.95 per vote annually. The legislation is expected to be a money bill and therefore a confidence vote, which means defeating it could trigger another election. If this happened, the Tories could blame rival parties for refusing to make sacrifices.
“We will see who wants to lead by example,” Conservative government House Leader Jay Hill told MPs in the House of Commons yesterday.
The Tories would lose the most money in absolute terms – because the subsidy is distributed according to the number of votes received in the last election – but the proposal would hit other parties such as the Liberals and Bloc Québécois more because these organizations are less successful at fundraising and more reliant on the per-vote subsidy.
Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said his party was still deliberating on whether to oppose the proposal, but said it marks an early return to political gamesmanship by the Tories after the election.
“Stephen Harper is trying to change the channel,” he said, accusing the Tories of trying to redirect attention from Ottawa's weakened financial state.
The Tories, however, will defend their proposal, saying parties would still benefit from generous tax credits for individual political contributions and taxpayer reimbursement of candidates' expenses.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Leaders flex muscles in Quebec debate
PQ, ADQ leaders attempt full-court press against Jean Charest
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 12:03 AM ET
PQ Leader Pauline Marois, ADQ Leader Mario Dumont and Liberal Leader Jean Charest chat before Tuesday night's debate in Quebec City. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)Liberal Leader Jean Charest fended off his opponents who hammered away at his government's health care and financial record in office in what turned out to be a feisty election debate Tuesday night.
Charest launched the two-hour televised election debate by appealing to Quebecers to trust him during these turbulent economic times.
"The issue of this election campaign is the economy," the Liberal leader stated plainly during his opening remarks. "The question you must ask yourselves on Dec. 8 is who you can trust to handle our economy."
Charest, who called a snap election this fall with the hopes of securing a majority after heading up a 20-month minority government, said the Liberal party is best prepared to handle challenges arising from the global financial crisis.
ADQ Leader Mario Dumont promises to help middle-class Quebecers. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois, who made her first leaders' debate, said Quebec needs a "government that takes decisions, and that tells Quebecers the truth."
Voters in the province didn't want an election, she said, accusing Charest of calling an election to avoid coming clean about Quebec's financial health.
"Mr. Charest has a new slogan – Elections Now, the Truth Later," said Marois.
Action Démocratique du Québec Leader Mario Dumont, who drew third place for the debate's opening statements, said middle-class Quebecers need more cash flow, and an ADQ government would help them with that.
Dumont, who is suffering from dismal poll showings in this campaign, played up his recent stint as Opposition leader in Quebec's legislature, saying his team "is readier than ever to work for you."
Both Dumont and Marois pressed Charest on Quebec's pension fund, suggesting it has bled more money than the government is ready to admit.
Leaders clash over health care
Charest and Marois traded barbs about Quebec's health care system, accusing each other of damaging the system while in power.
The Liberal leader said Marois was behind waves of nurse and doctor retirements in the 1990s when she was health minister under PQ premier Lucien Bouchard. Her decision back then precipitated the current staff shortages, Charest said.
Liberal Leader Jean Charest was the main target in Tuesday night's debate. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)Marois said she'd "never do that again," reminding Charest that when Bouchard and the PQ took power late last decade, "we faced a deficit, and we saved the health care system."
The Liberals, on the other hand, have created a "fiasco" in their efforts to improve the health care system, Marois said.
"You haven't even been able to build a hospital," she quipped, referring to the repeatedly derailed and bloated master plan to build a CHUM mega-health centre in Montreal.
Charest attacked the ADQ's private sector-friendly health-care proposals, accusing Dumont of comparing health care to going to a restaurant when he talks about creating "à la carte" services.
Dumont shot back later, saying, "If I understand correctly, you don't have any solutions," referring to long pediatrician waiting lists.
When a viewer's question about caregiver support was broadcast, Dumont paid subtle tribute to popular Quebec singer-songwriter Chloé Sainte-Marie, who has singlehandedly campaigned on the issue while caring for her ailing partner, filmmaker Gilles Carle.
Polls suggest health care remains a top priority for Quebec voters.
National question loses some fervour
The two-hour French-only debate at the national assembly focused on four separate topics: health, the economy, education and family, and Quebec's future.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois says Quebecers want a government that 'tells the truth.' (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)The new debate format, with leaders sitting around a round table, did not discourage anyone from interrupting or talking over the other. The debate frequently burst into cacophony, which prompted moderator Stéphane Bureau to interject several times in an attempt to restore order.
But when it came to Quebec's perennial core issue – sovereignty – the discussion was more subdued than in any recent election campaign.
Marois and Dumont both indicated their intention to eventually relaunch constitutional talks, while Charest underscored the urgent need to address economic matters instead of sovereignty.
The Liberal government won more powers for Quebec by brokering agreements with the federal government on key issues, including health, Charest said.
Dumont stressed the importance of negotiating a new place for Quebec in the Canadian Constitution, while Marois reiterated the PQ's ultimate goal of achieving sovereignty to improve the province's future prospects.
Québec Solidaire weighs in online
Left-wing party Québec Solidaire failed in efforts to join the leaders' debate, but spokeswoman Françoise David is hosting a simultaneous online forum during Tuesday night's event.
"People will see me in little clips, where I will talk about health, education, family, environment, culture, etc.," David said prior to the debate. "I will also say what I think [about] what the other leaders propose and [comment] on the debate."
Viewers were also invited to chat online about election issues, she said
This is from Truthdig.
Talk about getting the fox to guard the chicken coop. Obama has given the foxes control of the chicken coop. The great deregulators who helped get us into this mess and many of whom made millions along the way now are in charge of determining policy. Of course they change their tune but only because the old tune no longer sells. You need fear and a new tune. Buddy can you spare a hundred billion.
It will be interesting to see what Harper decides to do for a stimulus package. It seems so far as if he is waiting until next year and the budget.
Obama Chooses Wall Street Over Main Street
Posted on Nov 25, 2008
By Robert Scheer
Maybe Ralph Nader was right in predicting that the same Wall Street hustlers would have a lock on our government no matter which major party won the election. I hate to admit it, since it wasn’t that long ago that I heatedly challenged Nader in a debate on this very point.
But how else is one to respond to Barack Obama’s picking the very folks who helped get us into this financial mess to now lead us out of it? Watching the president-elect’s Monday introduction of his economic team, my brother-in-law Pete said, “You can see the feathers coming out of their mouths” as the foxes were once again put in charge of the henhouse. He didn’t have time to expound on his point, having to get ready to go sort mail in his job at the post office, but he showed me a statement from Citigroup showing that the interest rate on Pete the Postal Worker’s credit card was 28.9 percent, an amount that all major religions would justly condemn as usurious.
Moments earlier, Obama had put his seal of approval on the Citigroup bailout, which his new economic team, led by protégés of Citigroup Executive Committee Chairman Robert Rubin, enthusiastically endorsed. A bailout that brings to $45 billion the taxpayer money thrown at Citigroup and the guarantee of $306 billion for the bank’s “toxic securities” that would have been illegal if not for changes in the law that Citigroup secured with the decisive help of Rubin and Lawrence Summers, the man who replaced him as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.
As Summers stayed on to ensure passage of deregulatory laws that enabled enormous banking greed, Rubin was rewarded with a $15 million-a-year executive position at Citigroup, a job that only got more lucrative as the bank went from one disaster, beginning with its involvement with Enron in which Rubin played an active role, to its huge role in the mortgage debacle. It is widely acknowledged that Citigroup fell victim to a merger mania, which Rubin and Summers made legal during their tenure at Treasury.
Yet despite that dismal record of dismantling sound regulation, Summers has been picked by Obama to be the top White House economic adviser and another Rubin disciple, Timothy Geithner, is the new Treasury secretary. Geithner, thanks in part to the strong recommendation of Rubin, had been appointed chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank after working for Rubin and Summers during the Clinton years. Once at the New York Fed, he was the main government official charged with regulating Citigroup, a task at which he obviously failed. Yet over the weekend, it was Geithner who hammered out the Citigroup bailout deal with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and a very actively involved Rubin.
As the Washington Post reported, Paulson had indicated last week that no further bailouts were planned before the new administration took office until “Rubin, an old colleague from Goldman Sachs, told Paulson in phone calls that the government had to act.” Rubin conceded in an interview with the Post that he had played a key role in the politics of the bailout.
This outrageous conflict of interest in which Rubin gets to exploit his ties to both the outgoing and incoming administrations was best described by Washington Post writer Steven Pearlstein: “The ultimate irony, of course, is that just as Rubin and Co. at Citi were being bailed out by the Bush Administration, President-elect Barack Obama was getting set to announce a new economic team drawn almost entirely from Rubin acolytes.”
As opposed to the far tougher deal negotiated on the bailout of AIG, the arrangement with Citigroup leaves the executives, including Rubin, who brought Citigroup to the brink of ruin, still in charge. Nor is there any guarantee of the value of the mortgage bundles that taxpayers will be guaranteeing. That is because, as candidate Obama clearly stated in his major economics address back in March, the deregulation pushed though during the Clinton years ended transparency in banking.
Why then has he appointed the very people responsible for this disaster to now make it all better? Why not ask him? Heck, yes, it is time for the many of us who responded to his e-mails during the campaign to now challenge our e-mail buddy as to why he suddenly acts as if the interests of Wall Street and Main Street are one and the same.
Robert Scheer is the author of a new book, “The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.”
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
They have his ear: Lawrence Summers, left, is just one veteran of Clinton-era deregulation who has found his way into Obama’s inner circles.
A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.Copyright © 2008 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Canada to be hit by recession, 7.5% jobless rate, OECD warns
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 8:24 AM ET
The global financial crisis could increase jobless numbers in OECD countries by eight million people, hit Canada with a recession and boost the country's unemployment rate to 7.5 per cent, according to a report.
The latest Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development outlook said Tuesday the world is entering the worst economic downturn in decades.
"We project that 21 out of 30 member economies of the OECD will go through a protracted recession of a magnitude which has not been seen since the early 1980s," said Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel, the OECD chief economist.
Among some of the OECD forecasts:
U.S. output will decline through the first half of 2009, but will pick up gradually as the effects of the credit crisis wane. GDP is projected to fall 0.9 per cent next year, before rising 1.6 per cent in 2010. But the recovery will be "languid" because consumption will be held back by losses in households' wealth.
European economic activity will also fall over the next six months but gradually recover. GDP is forecast to fall 0.6 per cent in 2009 and climb 1.2 per cent in 2010.
Japan's output will stagnate over the second half of 2009. GDP will fall 0.1 per cent in 2009 then rise by 0.6 per cent in 2010
Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom will also suffer severe effects from the economic downturn.
The gloomy outlook predicts Canada's economy will shrink in the fourth quarter by 1.6 per cent and in the first and second quarters of 2009 by 1.4 per cent first and 0.3 per cent respectively, meaning the country will be in recession.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has said that the country is not in a recession right now, but that going forward the country may have a technical recession.
A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of gross domestic product contraction.
While real GDP growth is not expected to return until the second half of 2009, the outlook predicts real GDP growth in Canada with be down by 0.485 per cent for that year. But real GDP will climb in 2010 by 2.131 per cent.
The outlook also predicted that Canada's jobless rate will climb to seven per cent in 2009 and 7.5 per cent in 2010. The rate currently stands at 6.2 per cent.
According to the report, 1,281,312 Canadians would be unemployed in 2009, increasing to 1,377,528 in 2010.
As well, the OECD said that crashing commodity prices and declining tax revenues will cause the federal and provincial governments to post deficits in 2009 and 2010.
But the report says that deficit is a "largely cyclical outcome that is not alarming" but "underlines the need to keep a lid on discretionary expenditure increases."
Among OECD countries, the outlook warns that jobless numbers could rise to 42 million by 2010, from 34 million currently.
Also, economic activity is expected to fall by an average of 0.4 per cent in 2009, before rising slowly to 1.5 per cent the following year.
Schmidt-Hebbel cautioned that the uncertainties associated with the outltook "are exceptionally large, especially those related to the assumptions regarding the speed at which the financial market crisis — the prime driver of the downturn — is overcome."With files from Reuters
Dumont must be using reverse psychology by admitting he has floundered as a leader of the ADQ. Maybe he should pull a Dion and claim he is underestimated! This should assure his failure! So far Charest seems to be on his way to doing what Harper found impossible, to gain a majority.
Quebec leaders gird for crucial debate
The Canadian Press
November 24, 2008 at 1:41 PM EST
MONTREAL — Quebec's political leaders were honing their rhetorical skills Monday in preparation for the crucial debate that some are calling the real start to the provincial election campaign.
With Jean Charest's Liberals holding a comfortable lead in the polls, observers point to the televised debate Tuesday as perhaps his opponents' final chance to turn the campaign around.
One Parti Québécois MP — Bernard Drainville — told a television talk-show panel that the real campaign was about to begin.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois will be making her leaders' debate debut while Mr. Charest and Action démocratique du Quebec Leader Mario Dumont have already squared off in previous elections.
Mr. Charest put up a lacklustre performance in 2007, but until then had earned a reputation as a fiery debater. His performance on debate night in 2003 quickly turned a tight race into a rout that vaulted his Liberals into power.
Mr. Dumont is aiming to build his credibility among voters after having admitted he had floundered as Opposition leader.
Mr. Marois was the only leader to stick her head out of debate prep on Tuesday, taking a potshot at the Liberals to accuse them of being amateurs in their handling of investment forecasts.
Citing a newspaper report, the PQ Leader said the Liberal government overestimated by $11-billion the sums companies planned to invest in Quebec.
Finance Minister Monique Jerome-Forget replied that the government figures were on target, and provincial public servants supported her claim.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Well golly gee lucky we aren't facing a real recession just a technical one. Maybe we will just have a technical deficit as well.
It is rather ironic that two of the most free market anti deficit ideologues are now spouting off about deficits being necessary and government intervention as well. What we need apparently is the heavy inefficient hand of government to rescue those efficient private enterprise corporations sailing bravely in the free market seas to discover new products and profit delights but now they must ask the bloated bureaucratic inefficient government for a handout and of course the taxpayer ultimately pays. The invisible hand is truly invisible and now everyone is also mute about its beneficial operations.
Canada could face 'technical' recession: Flaherty
18 hours ago
OTTAWA — The Canadian economy could be on the verge of slipping into a "technical" recession, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty warned Sunday.
In an interview on CTV's Question Period, Flaherty said the current slowdown in economic growth could turn into an outright contraction in GDP over the winter and spring.
"We may well be in a technical recession the last quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year," he said. "It's quite possible that Canada will be below the line slightly in both of those quarters."
Economists define recession as two consecutive quarters of negative growth - a scenario that Canada ha narrowly avoided so far, despite deteriorating conditions in the United States and other western nations.
"The American economy is clearly in recession, all the other G7 economies are in recession," said the finance minister.
"Canada is doing better than everybody else, but we're not an island . . . We're likely going to see more unemployment in Canada, we're likely going to have to provide further stimulus to the economy."
The likelihood of Canada dipping into recession has been widely debated among private-sector analysts, and even Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney has conceded it's a possibility.
Flaherty, by contrast, has been reluctant to use the politically loaded R-word. But his new candour was echoed Sunday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at an Asia-Pacific economic conference in Lima, Peru.
"The most recent private-sector forecasts suggest the strong possibility of a technical recession the end of this year, beginning of next," Harper told reporters.
"I am surprised at this. I'm also further surprised, more importantly, by deflationary pressure that we're seeing around the world. This is a worrying development."
The prime minister suggested - without going into detail - that the situation may require Ottawa to take "unprecedented" fiscal stimulus measures.
Flaherty is due to deliver a formal economic update to Parliament later this week.
He has warned it won't include any detailed spending initiatives to boost economic activity or help the beleaguered auto industry. Those kinds of measures may have to wait for a full-fledged budget in February or March.
Flaherty has indicated, however, that the update to be presented Thursday will outline plans to reign in government spending - including a strategy to restrain the future growth of public service wages.
"I'll be addressing the compensation issue," he confirmed Sunday. "We should not have public-sector salaries and wages ahead of private-sector salaries and wages - particularly at a time of economic challenge, where businesses are challenged to keep their employees working."
Flaherty appeared to rule out anything as drastic as a rollback in civil service salaries. "I'll be looking forward, I won't be looking back," he said.
He reiterated that, in the longer run, the Conservative government is looking at a stimulus package that will include speeding up infrastructure spending.
And although he doesn't want to run up continuing "structural" deficits, he said he won't try to balance the budget "artificially" at all costs.
Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer, reported last week that Ottawa is likely headed for deficits of around $3.9 billion next fiscal year and $1.4 billion the year after.
Page warned, however, that if economic growth lags far enough the deficit could go as high as $14 billion next year and continue in the double digits for another three years after that.
Copyright © 2008 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
Consumer confidence weakens on economic uncertainty
Last Updated: Monday, November 24, 2008 8:51 AM ET
Canadian consumer confidence is continuing to erode, and has now fallen to levels not seen since the recessionary years of 1982 and 1990, the Conference Board said Monday.
The Ottawa-based research group said its index of consumer confidence slipped 2.9 points from October's reading, and now stands at 71 points.
"The ongoing troubles in equity markets undoubtedly had a negative effect on consumers' view of their family financial situations and future job prospects in their communities," said Paul Darby, the conference board's deputy chief economist.
"The one area for optimism is that 25.9 per cent of respondents said it was a good time to make a major purchase, up slightly from the October results. The increase on this question may indicate that the slide in the index is bottoming out," Darby said in a release.
The index is based on a survey conducted from Nov. 6 to 13. The conference board said the poll is accurate to within 2.19 percentage point, 19 times out of 20.
The research group said consumer confidence fell in the Prairies by the largest one-month decline on record. Sentiment in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec also declined, while the index in Atlantic Canada rose by just 0.2 percentage points.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Cluster bombs a threat for 440 years
22/11/2008 -- 10:13 PM
HCM City (VNA) – An estimated 98 percent of victims of cluster munitions worldwide are civilians, with children accounting for one third of that number, according to Nguyen Thi Kim Hoa of the Landmine Survivors Network Vietnam . “An unspecified large amount of unexploded cluster munitions remain in the ground from the war,” said Hoa while opening a seminar on Nov. 21 on international cooperation on clearing cluster munitions and assisting Vietnamese victims. Cluster munitions are large-sized weapons dropped from the air or shot from the ground that produce hundreds of smaller-bombs when they reach their target. Statistics show 20.2 percent or 6.6 million ha of land are affected by unexploded ordnance in Vietnam . About 104,000 people have been injured or killed this way since 1975. Nearly 97 million tonnes of bombs, of which 296,000 are cluster munitions, were carpeted across Vietnam between 1965 and 1975. Every geographic area in Vietnam, both rural and urban, has been contaminated with 16 different types of cluster bombs and ammunition. Most of it was found at depths of 30 to 70cm, said Nguyen Trong Canh, director of the Vietnam Bombs and Mines Clearance Action Centre. He said it would take at least 440 years and 10 billion USD to clear this left over ammunition across the nation, adding that it would have an enormous impact on human life, socio-economic development and the environment. Canh said unexploded munitions would discourage people from cultivating their land, reducing farm productivity and hampering socio-economic development. Each year the Vietnamese Government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on clearance and other mine action activities. Funding comes from several non-governmental organisations and foreign donors. But Chuck Searcy from the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation said foreign donations had fallen recently, which might force Vietnam to deal with generations of victims itself. A total of 107 countries, including Vietnam , ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dublin last May in an effort to strictly ban the use, production, transport and storage of cluster munitions globally.-Enditem
The story here is the collapse of the ADQ. It looks as if Charest will be able to pull off what Harper was unable to do a majority. Even though Charest used some of the same excuses for an election as Harper the situation is different. Even with infighting and Dion as leader the federal Liberal party was not about to collapse in the way the ADQ has done.
Rosy picture for Charest: poll
Voters see him as best leader, by far. Marois trails premier 44% to 36%, while Dumont's numbers are lagging badly at 12%
L. IAN MACDONALD, Special to The GazettePublished: 18 hours ago
Jean Charest's Liberals are close to majority territory in the Quebec election, leading the Parti Quebecois by 44 to 36 per cent, with l'Action démocratique du Québec trailing badly at 12 per cent, in a Nanos Research poll for Policy Options magazine, made available to The Gazette.
Quebec Solidaire and the Green Party each received four per cent in the poll of 505 Quebecers, conducted by telephone between Nov. 14 and 18, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 per cent.
Leaving aside the horse race, Charest dominates a series of questions on leadership, and the Liberals have a clear advantage on the best party brand. Charest's leadership attributes have improved substantially from a Nanos poll conducted in the middle of the last campaign in March 2007, while Mario Dumont's leadership numbers and the ADQ brand have gone south.
"The underlying indicators on leadership and party brand show the fundamentals for the Liberals look very good," pollster Nik Nanos said. "While the election isn't over, the Liberal fundamentals are very strong."
In comparative research with identical leadership questions in the last campaign, "Charest has substantially strengthened his position," Nanos said. "He enjoys an advantage on all major leadership measures." PQ leader Pauline Marois receives "good, but lower, ratings than Charest." Dumont's leadership numbers have tanked.
"There has been a significant erosion in the positive perceptions of Mario Dumont and the ADQ since the last election," Nanos said.
Charest has a positive perception among 47 per cent of voters, with a negative perception among 22. Marois enjoys a positive perception of 43 per cent, with a negative perception of 27. Dumont has a positive perception of 28 per cent, but a negative perception of 34 per cent.
On the question of "which leader has the best vision for Quebec," Charest leads at 34 per cent, to 25 per cent for Marois, and 15 per cent for Dumont. To the question of "which leader is the most competent," Charest dominates at 48 per cent, to 25 per cent for Marois and eight per cent for Dumont. To the question of which leader is most trusted, Charest leads at 36 per cent, to 25 per cent for Marois and 15 per cent for Dumont.
On the question of which leader "has the character to be premier of Quebec," Charest dominates at 48 per cent, to 24 per cent for Marois and 12 per cent for Dumont. To the question of "which leader has the brightest political future" Charest leads at 45 per cent, to 23 per cent for Marois and 13 per cent for Dumont.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The government uses all sorts of our money to inject liquidity into the banking system to get credit growing and the banks simply sit on the funds no doubt placing them in safe havens but still refusing to lend except for the least risky purposes. It never seems to dawn on anybody that the solution to this might be for the government to buy a bank outright and lend to the car market instead of wasting time and money hoping by moral suasion to get the banks to act responsibly. Of course doing anything like this would not be ideologically allowable even for so-called socialists these days. I can remember ages ago when even the Alberta govt. bought an airline because it thought Alberta was not getting sufficient air service. It built up the airline,got better air service for Alberta, made money and sold the airline at a profit.
Financing drying up, auto dealers say TheStar.com - Business - Financing drying up, auto dealers say
Association calls on Ottawa to push banks to make money available
November 22, 2008 Richard BrennanOttawa Bureau
OTTAWA–Canadian automobile dealers say the country's car market is threatened by banks refusing to lend them money to buy vehicles for their showrooms.
"We are seeing the financing that dealers receive dry up," Hugh Williams, director of public affairs for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, told a news conference yesterday.
The CADA is calling on the federal government, which has put up billions of dollars to ease the banks' credit crunch, to ensure that financing is made available to the 3,500 auto dealers.
Williams said it is hard to understand why banks have suddenly changed their tune on lending dealers money when the industry is on track to sell more than 1.6 million vehicles this year, which he says reflects the "pent up demand" in the Canadian marketplace.
That compares with a 16-year low for car sales in the United States, where consumers can't get financing because of the credit crunch south of the border.
Williams said the "phone has been ringing off the hook" for several weeks now with calls from dealers complaining that bank financing is drying up.
"There is an anomaly in the Canadian marketplace that we're tracking to have one of the second or third best years in history on a retail basis ... (and yet) dealers are getting into trouble with respect to not being able to get ... financing," he said.
Williams said the association can't get a straight answer out of the banks as to why the dealers are suddenly considered too risky to lend money to.
Calls come "every day from multiple dealers across the country ... expressing their problems with financing deals that were acceptable before this crisis took place that are now out the window," he said.
The Canadian Bankers Association said banks make lending decisions on a case-by-case basis based on risk.
"If the current global economic difficulties have had a negative impact on a business' financial situation, then the risk to the bank of lending to that business could increase," stated the CBA in an email.
The CBA released data this week showing the six largest banks continue to lend and have increased credit to businesses of all sizes by more than 11 per cent from October 2007 to October 2008.
CADA president and CEO Richard Gauthier said the public and policy makers must understand that the auto industry is the engine of the entire country's economy.
Automotive dealers employ more than 140,000 people across Canada and are represented in almost every community.
"Predictable and accessible credit is the oil in the auto industry's engine. Any effort by government to support the banking sector must be accompanied by a strong message to the banks that they must continue to support small, sound business," he said.