Thursday, December 31, 2009

Harper takes a holiday to pack Senate.

Harper is the most imaginative piece of crookedness we have seen in some time. In spite of his humdrum appearance he is great at using all the tricks available to advance his agenda. He saved himself from defeat last Xmas and now for no good reason except his political agenda Harper shuts down parliament. He will take the time to pack the Senate with Conservatives--this the great campaigner for a reformed Senate! I suppose he must regard the packing of the Senate with appointed Conservatives is a great leap forward. Meanwhile Ignatieff can be left to fume and fuss and try to hire some new help to put his Humpty Dumpty image back together again. This is from the Star. This is Harper's New Year's message. I am the same old Harper as last year. Happy New Year everyone.

Back to Commons shut down, opposition furious
Les Whittington

OTTAWA–Furious opposition MPs accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of muzzling the House of Commons after he moved for the second time in a little more than a year to suspend Parliament.

Mired in controversy over an alleged cover-up on the torture of Afghan prisoners and eager to increase the Conservatives' power in the Senate, the government is closing down Parliament until March 3, the Prime Minister's Office said Wednesday.

The decision is "about one thing and one thing only – avoiding the scrutiny of Parliament at a time when this government is facing tough questions about their conduct in covering up the detainee scandal," Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said in a statement.

"Mr. Harper is showing his disregard for the democratic institutions of our country."

Harper spoke Wednesday by telephone with Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, who agreed to the suspension, a PMO spokesperson told the media in a hastily arranged telephone news conference. The Prime Minister did not comment publicly.

The prorogation of Parliament until after the Winter Olympics in Vancouver will likely scuttle dozens of pieces of legislation, and give the Tories a chance to increase their representation on Senate committees.

Instead of coming back to Ottawa on Jan. 25, MPs will return on March 3 to hear a throne speech setting out the government's new political agenda, followed the next day by the 2010 budget statement.

The government has been on the defensive for weeks over allegations it failed to act on information that prisoners being passed to Afghan authorities by Canadian soldiers were at risk of being tortured. But the Commons committee holding hearings on the detainee issue is being disbanded as a result of Parliament's suspension.

"Harper is showing that his first impulse when he is in trouble is to shut down Parliament," Ignatieff said.

Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas flatly denied the government is suspending Parliament to slow investigations into the Afghan prisoner controversy. "The answer is no," he told reporters. "The (Commons) committee ... has found absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing by Canadian soldiers, diplomats and the Armed Forces."

It was just over a year ago – on Dec. 4, 2008 – that Harper went to Jean to have Parliament suspended, or prorogued, to avoid the defeat of his minority government by the opposition parties, which claimed Harper's lacklustre response to the economic crisis had destroyed their confidence in his ability to govern.

While it is within the power of the Prime Minister – with permission of the Governor-General – to wrap up a session of Parliament, the opposition said Harper is manipulating the rules to favour his own political needs at the expense of the rights of elected MPs.

"This kind of thing can't happen in the U.S. or most other parliaments – it's the kind of thing you hear of in dictatorships," NDP Leader Jack Layton said in an interview.

"It's a slap in the face and it's a denial of the democratic process. He has absolutely no good reason to prorogue the House."

Layton said urgent action is needed on the pension crisis, the Afghan detainee issue, the high jobless rate and Canada's follow-up to the Copenhagen climate-change summit.

The government is halfway through a two-year plan to combat the economic recession and needs to look ahead, Soudas said.

Sources said Harper would like to make suspending Parliament before the annual budget a regular practice so the government can bring in a throne speech to give the economic message a wider context.

Soudas told the media Harper will use the break to undo what his party sees as a Liberal logjam in the Senate. By filling five vacancies with Conservatives, Harper's party will hold more seats than the Liberals in the 105-seat Upper Chamber and can strengthen its position on Senate committees.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

66 per cent of Canadians say Afghan war is unwinnable.

Nevertheless Canadians continue to die and taxpayers continue to pay and even after the date for the combat mission expires Harper in consultation with Obama will continue to find something for us to do and Canada will probably stay to continue our role as junior partner to the US empire. Just this evening there is a report that five more Canadians have been killed including a journalist from the Calgary Herald. The article below is from presstv.

Canadians say Afghan war unwinnable
Tue, 29 Dec 2009 05:50:26 GMT
Font size :

Two out of three Canadians say a victory in Afghanistan is impossible.
As new troops pack their bags to go to the war in Afghanistan, a new poll shows that a majority of Canadians say the eight-year conflict is not winnable.

The Ipsos Reid survey said on Tuesday that 66 percent of Canadians disagreed that "the build-up of troops will ultimately create a military victory over the Taliban."

Only 34 percent of Canadians thought the Afghan war was winnable, the poll found.

The opinion survey of 1,038 adults was conducted on behalf of Canwest News Service and Global National.

Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama ordered an increase of 30,000 forces to the war-torn country. With the extra troops pledged by NATO allies, some 150,000 foreign troops will be stationed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Experts have warned that the new surge will lead to more battles and a higher death rate among foreign soldiers as well as Afghan civilians.

Canada currently has about 2,800 soldiers in southern Kandahar province. Since 2002, 134 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.


Ignatieff: Canadians do not want an election.

Translation: The Liberals do not want an election. We will be back to playing Dion II with Ignatieff supporting Conservative legislation at least whenever he thinks the opposition might not support it. Ignatieff says: "somehow we got stuck with the idea that we want an election at any price". I thought that was his idea an idea the popped into his mind because he finally decided he didn't want to any longer support the Conservative government at any price. Ignatieff had better hope the Canadians do not see him as he really is before the next election since they are not likely to elect an incompetent leader.

Canadians don't want election, Ignatieff says News Staff

Updated: Mon. Dec. 28 2009 5:41 PM ET

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says that Canadians want an "alternative" to the Harper government but is backing off from earlier tough talk of forcing an election.

"What Canadians want is an alternative to the Harper government, and they want to believe that I can be a good prime minister and give them an alternative government," Ignatieff told CTV's Question Period in an interview that aired Sunday.

But when asked what his biggest mistake of 2009 was, Ignatieff responded that what "(Canadians) didn't want is someone talking about an election. And somehow we got stuck with the idea that we want an election at any price."

It was a tough year for a Liberal leader who took over his party with the weight of high expectations. Instead of rebounding after the much-maligned performance of former leader Stephane Dion, the Liberal party watched its poll numbers rise briefly under Ignatieff, then drop to the same historic lows of Dion's.

Still, Ignatieff said, "It's been an interesting year, but I'm feeling good."

In the late fall, pollster Peter Donolo took over as Ignatieff's chief of staff and quickly jettisoned most of the leader's inner circle for a new team.

"If things aren't working you need to make changes. I'm unafraid to make the changes we have to make," Ignatieff said of the move.

Looking towards 2010, the Liberal leader says his priorities are holding the government to task on the economy and on the environment.

"We've got a $56 billion deficit. We've got a million-and-a-half Canadians out of work. We've had four years where they had a chance to do something about climate change and the environment and (the Harper government has) done nothing," he said.

The Liberal party is holding a conference in Montreal in March to address such policy challenges as "meeting the climate change challenge without ... harming the economy, getting pension security for Canadians, making sure we get the economy growing again," he added.

Staying put

Ignatieff bluntly addressed rumours and some media speculation that he was considering a return to academia, saying, "I'm here to stay."

"The idea that I'm just passing through is more of that Conservative propaganda. I love my country. I've come back to serve. And I want to be a good prime minister," he said.

As they did with Dion, the Conservatives used attack ads against Ignatieff that most analysts have said have effectively branded him to many Canadians.

Ignatieff admitted as much.

"The other guys have spent many millions of dollars trying to rough me up. So a lot of Canadians only know me through the frame of the other guys," he said.

"It's my challenge in 2010 to get Canadians to see me the way they really are -- see that the things I care about are the things they care about."

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NATO kills 10 more Afghan Civilians

So much for McChrystal's concern about civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Since regular forces are withdrawing from remote areas Special Forces are now operating to try and disrupt Taliban leadership in the areas but this is the result. The forces operate clandestinely and with impunity it would seem. They are in effect part of the department of dirty tricks. McChrystal led these forces formerly. He will use them in areas where regular forces have withdrawn no doubt along with air support that will cause even more civilian casualties. Drones are also part of this grab bag of new programs that are part of a new offensive. The drone attacks kill even more civilians but probably much less than Pakistani attacks in the tribal area which seem to involve a scorched earth policy that kills many civilians and causes massive refugee problems. But who cares about that except for the Taliban who find the camps good grounds for recruiting.

News From -
NATO Forces Kill 10 Afghan Civilians, Mostly Children

Posted By Jason Ditz

NATO forces engaged in a raid in the remote Kunar Province of Afghanistan killed at least 10 civilians, eight of them schoolchildren, according to numerous Afghan officials including President Hamid Karzai.

NATO officially denied having any information about any operations going on in Kunar, but western officials privately conceded that US special forces have been operating in the Taliban-heavy area. A spokesman for the NATO forces promised to “look into” the reports.

Provincial police could provide only sparse details about the killings, and said that a full investigation would take several days, owing to the difficulty in even traveling to the area of the incident. US officials have yet to comment at all.

Though the Taliban has established a growing presence in the province, Kunar has been comparatively ignored by international forces since this summer, when provincial officials accused a US soldier of throwing a hand grenade into a crowd of civilians in a marketplace. The grenade killed two people and injured 56 others.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Egypt impeding humanitarian aid to Gaza

You would think the caravan was trying to get permission to travel through Israel given the troubles that Egypt is making for them. Egypt certainly does not seem to be much a friend of the Palestinians. It is much more interested in good relations with the US and even Israel. This is from presstv.

Egypt using 'bureaucracy' against besieged Gazans

British lawmaker and anti-war activist George Galloway says Egypt is using bureaucracy as a pretext to impede humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Galloway and 449 other human rights activists who are part of the Viva Palestina aid convoy are currently stuck in Jordan, since Cairo has denied them permission to Egypt via the Red Sea.

Galloway said "it does not seem sensible to allow hundreds of tons of medicine to go off and to be spoiled and vital equipment for ill and injured people in Gaza to be stopped just because of a bureaucratic and technical difference."

The Egyptian authorities have barred the convoy from taking the most direct route into Egypt by entering the country via the Red Sea, directing the activists towards the el-Arish port on the Mediterranean coast — which is hardly accessible for the group.

"They say that we are welcome, but we have to go by certain routes. That route cannot be achieved from where we are and where we always intended to be," Galloway added.

Originally christened Lifeline 3, the convoy, the third international one headed to Gaza, comprises 210 trucks laden with basic food items and medical supplies.

Galloway, however, said, "We hope to persuade Egypt to find a way through, underlining that "There are sensitive negotiations and there are many parties involved…the government of Turkey, the government of Malaysia and the Viva Palestina Convoy itself."

He had earlier reminded that "the Turkish prime minister personally appeared on live television in Damascus three days ago and asked the Egyptian government to facilitate this convoy; so this is a slap in the face, you can say, to the Turkish government."

The Gaza Strip has endured more than two years of an Israeli-imposed blockade, which has deprived the Gazans of their most-direly-needed requirements.

Ottawa politicians fail to impress voters.

Canadians are not very well satisfied with the job that politicians have done. However, politicians should take heart as we also do not expect newly elected politicians to do much if any better. So future politicians have the advantage of low expectations not as with Obama in the US where he seems doomed to defeat due to the high expectations many had for him. Should Harper or Ignatieff get in next election they can safely muddle on without worrying about increased expectations!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Presented by

Ottawa fails to impress voters: poll
Politicians have accomplished little in past year, Canadians say

David Akin, Canwest News Service

Todd Korol, Reuters
Canadians think politicians do not get along well, that they have accomplished little in the past year, and few would want their children to grow up to be one.

Results of a poll, conducted for Canwest News Service and Global National, show voters are less than impressed with their representatives in Ottawa.

However, "despite the cynicism of our system and what goes with it, two-thirds of Canadians still say they are politically engaged -- slightly greater in number than actually show up to vote -- so maybe we've managed to find a balance of sorts politically where the little bear's porridge is just right," said John Wright, senior vice-president of pollster Ipsos Reid.

Ipsos Reid asked Canadians if they would "encourage any family member to run for public office because it is a noble calling." Most Canadians polled -- two out of three, or 66% -- said no.

The findings of the poll, which measured how Canadians feel about politicians in general, and not any one particular party, reveal that, at the very least, MPs may have a public relations problem.

The Conservatives, for example, have argued that a lot was accomplished in 2009.

For example, after releasing his government's most recent update on its Economic Action Plan while travelling to China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper boasted that 97%, or $28-billion, of federal stimulus funds had been committed to more than 12,000 infrastructure projects across the country.

The government introduced 70 bills in the House of Commons and the Senate on everything from extending employment-insurance benefits to the self-employed, to combatting child pornography. Thirty-one of those bills were signed into law.

Leaders of other parties have also held year-end news conferences to highlight their 2009 accomplishments.

Yet 72% of those surveyed by Ipsos Reid said they disagreed with the statement "Politicians in Ottawa got a lot done this year." And that opinion was consistent across sex and regional lines.

The problem does not seem to be a lack of voter interest. When asked if they agree with the statement, "I've tuned out of participating in any kind of political activity, including voting," better than two out of three, or 67%, said they disagreed with that statement.

Still, the last time there was a general election, in the fall of 2008, just 59% of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot. That was an all-time low turnout for a general election.

The poll also asked if Canadians were satisfied with the minority government. Canadians have not had a majority government in Ottawa since the 2004 election, when the majority Paul Martin's Liberals inherited from former prime minister Jean Chretien was whittled away.

Five years later, 55% of Canadians surveyed said they do not believe that the minority government is working well.

That said, Canadians in Western Canada were more pleased with the performance of the minority government in 2009, with a slim majority of survey respondents in British Columbia and Alberta agreeing that it worked well this year. In Saskatchewan, 61% of those surveyed like the minority government. Quebecers and Ontarians, though, are bearish about the minority government, with 64% and 56% respectively saying it was not working well.

And it looks as if Canadians do not think it will get much better in 2010.

Asked, "If we elect a new set of political leaders to the federal Parliament, will things be better?" 62% of respondents said "No." That response rate was similar, coast to coast to coast.

Ipsos Reid surveyed 1,038 Canadians in a weighted online poll on Dec. 9 and 10. The pollster says its results are accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

© 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rough Year for Alberta Health Bosses.

There is nothing about the bosses being fired or about their pay being cut. The real rough year is for the clients of the system. The system has been centralised in a Super Board so the real losers are all those local boards who were simply shut down to completely sabotage any real local control over the system. From 660news.

Rough year for Alberta health bosses
Kelly Turner Dec 26, 2009 09:11:50 AM
From hospital bed closures to colossal line-ups for the H1N1 vaccine program, it's been a rough year for Alberta's Health bosses.

So much so, that Liberal Health Critic Kevin Taft says Health Minister Ron Liepert and Alberta Health CEO Stephen Duckett should be run out of town for what they've done to health care in Alberta.

Alberta Health also came under fire in September, after it announced plans to close 300 acute care beds in Calgary and Edmonton.

Alberta Health says it plans on creating 800 community living spaces for patients instead, something that is expected to save $50 million.

According to the Calgary Sun, both Liepert and Duckett have declined year end interviews.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Don't Count Ignatieff out yet!

Perhaps this article is correct. Certainly Harper did survive his bout with low poll numbers. However, there does not seem to be any sign of Ignatieff recovering very much. I think that Ignatieff''s best bet is if Harper manages to make himself unpopular. So far any attempt to boost Ignatieff's image does not seem to have worked at all. He does not seem to have put forward much in the way of policy that has engendered much positive interest. The public is often fickle however and perhaps Ignatieff can hope for the New Year. This is from the Winnipeg Free Press.

We can't count Ignatieff out yet
Liberal leader sits low in polls, but so did Harper
By: Hill Talk / Mia Rabson

OTTAWA -- Michael Ignatieff was named by Forbes last week as someone to watch for in 2010.

The magazine said that if an election is held next year, the Liberal leader could become the Canadian prime minister "with the biggest international profile since Pierre Trudeau."

The honour was met by a lot of eye rolls around Parliament Hill.

The Liberals have been in a free-fall for much of the fall, and overall support is only marginally better than it was during the 2008 election. You know, that election in which their support was the worst it has been since 1867.

One recent Angus Reid poll had only one in six Canadians approving of Ignatieff. While that was up slightly from the previous month, it's still only about half the number who approve of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Last December, Ignatieff was touted as the saviour who would lead the Liberals back to victory. This December he spent fighting off rumours of a coup against his leadership and suggestions he will pull the plug himself and run back to Harvard with his tail between his legs.

For the moment, he seems resolved to stick it out. A good thing, as history has shown being down does not mean being out.

Even Stephen Harper could tell him that, if the two ever exchanged more than barbs.

In January 2003, 10 months after Harper was elected leader of the Canadian Alliance, the party's poll numbers had plunged.

An EKOS poll showed 10.5 per cent of Canadians supported the Alliance, compared to 52.1 per cent for the Liberals. It was down from the 25.5 per cent the Alliance received in the 2000 federal election. Even combined with the Progressive Conservatives' 13.8 per cent -- this was before the two parties merged -- the right-wing options in Canada were outstripped more than two to one by the Liberals in popular support. Comparatively, Ignatieff is doing pretty well.

And within 18 months, Harper had merged the two parties, won election as the new leader and turned more than a decade of Liberal majority rule into a minority.

Ignatieff certainly has a steep hill to climb, but as Harper showed, nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Single Payer group criticises Obama health care bill.

This group is for a single payer national health plan. What the Democrats have come up with now is so compromised that in their opinion it should be voted down. The insurance companies among others have so influenced the shape of the plan that it is not really a reform at all. The article details some of the msot obviously flaws in the present bill. Usually news reports are of right wing critiques of the present health care bills but many on the left also do not think what will come out of all the negotiations will be worth passing. Change is US health care it would seem will result in deform rather than reform. Any type of universal care in the US is regarded as socialised medicine a boo word in the US even though every other advanced capitalist country has some form of universal system. The US has managed to develop the most expensive system in the world with gross inequities and so dominated by well heeled corporate players that it seems incapable of being reformed.

Dec. 22, 2009

David Himmelstein, M.D.
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.
Oliver Fein, M.D.
Mark Almberg, PNHP, (312) 782-6006,

To the Members of the U.S. Senate:

It is with great sadness that we urge you to vote against the health care reform legislation now before you. As physicians, we are acutely aware of the unnecessary suffering that our nation's broken health care financing system inflicts on our patients. We make no common cause with the Republicans' obstructionist tactics or alarmist rhetoric. However, we have concluded that the Senate bill's passage would bring more harm than good.

We are fully cognizant of the salutary provisions included in the legislation, notably an expansion of Medicaid coverage, increased funds for community clinics and regulations to curtail some of private insurers' most egregious practices. Yet these are outweighed by its central provisions -- particularly the individual mandate -- that would reinforce private insurers' stranglehold on care. Those who dislike their current employer-sponsored coverage would be forced to keep it. Those without insurance would be forced to pay private insurers' inflated premiums, often for coverage so skimpy that serious illness would bankrupt them. And the $476 billion in new public funds for premium subsidies would all go to insurance firms, buttressing their financial and political power, and rendering future reform all the more difficult.

Some paint the Senate bill as a flawed first step to reform that will be improved over time, citing historical examples such as Social Security. But where Social Security established the nidus of a public institution that grew over time, the Senate bill proscribes any such new public institution. Instead, it channels vast new resources -- including funds diverted from Medicare -- into the very private insurers who caused today's health care crisis. Social Security's first step was not a mandate that payroll taxes which fund pensions be turned over to Goldman Sachs!

While the fortification of private insurers is the most malignant aspect of the bill, several other provisions threaten harm to vulnerable patients, including:

* The bill's anti-abortion provisions would restrict reproductive choice, compromising the health of women and adolescent girls.

* The new 40 percent tax on high-cost health plans -- deceptively labeled a "Cadillac tax" -- would hit many middle-income families. The costs of group insurance are driven largely by regional health costs and the demography of the covered group. Hence, the tax targets workers in firms that employ more women (whose costs of care are higher than men's), and older and sicker employees, particularly those in high-cost regions such as Maine and New York.

* The bill would drain $43 billion from Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals, threatening the care of the 23 million who will remain uninsured even if the bill works as planned. These threatened hospitals are also a key resource for emergency care, mental health care and other services that are unprofitable for hospitals under current payment regimes. In many communities, severely ill patients will be left with no place to go -- a human rights abuse.

* The bill would leave hundreds of millions of Americans with inadequate insurance -- an "actuarial value" as low as 60 percent of actual health costs. Predictably, as health costs continue to grow, more families will face co-payments and deductibles so high that they preclude adequate access to care. Such coverage is more akin to a hospital gown than to a warm winter coat.

Congress' capitulation to insurers -- along with concessions to the pharmaceutical industry -- fatally undermines the economic viability of reform. The bill would inflate the already crushing burden of insurance-related paperwork that currently siphons $400 billion from care annually. According to CMS' own projections, the bill will cause U.S. health costs to increase even more rapidly than presently, and budget neutrality is to be achieved by draining funds from Medicare and an accounting trick -- front-loading the new revenues while delaying most new coverage until 2014. As homeowners seduced into balloon mortgages have learned, pushing costs off to the future is neither prudent nor sustainable.

We ask that you defeat the bill currently under debate, and immediately move to consider the single-payer approach -- an expanded and improved Medicare-for-All program -- which prioritizes the advancement of our nation's health over the enhancement of private, profit-seeking interests.

Oliver Fein, M.D., President
David U. Himmelstein, M.D., Co-founder
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H., Co-founder
Physicians for a National Health Program

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The NDP changes its tune and its colours.

Most politicians seem to be of the chameleon species no matter what their political stripes. The NDP certainly changed its tune once Ignatieff got serious about voting against the Conservatives. Of course now Ignatieff is quiet about that as well. Layton's opportunism does not seem to have hurt his poll numbers but then it has not helped them either. The NDP seems stuck in the doldrums. The only great leap forward in the NDP seems to be that of Gary Doer the former Manitoba premier, who is now busy defending Harper's environmental policy as Canadian ambassador to the US. This is from the Star.

Hébert: For Jack Layton, a year of playing chameleon

Chantal Hébert

For Jack Layton and the NDP, 2009 was a year of greater opportunism than opportunity.

Over a period when the opposition parties took more hits from the ruling Conservatives than they inflicted, his party turned out to be the most resilient.

Unlike Gilles Duceppe, Layton did not suffer the humiliation of losing a party fortress to the Conservatives in last month's by-elections. Unlike Michael Ignatieff, the NDP leader's own members are not questioning his competence these days, or at least not openly.

As a bonus, Green rival Elizabeth May was off the national radar for most of the year.

Layton had spent the bulk of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first mandate on the sidelines but managed to carve out a more central role for his party in the second Conservative minority Parliament. That has translated into more presence in the media.

According to a year-end content analysis published last week by Influence Communication, Layton was the fourth most mentioned federal politician in the Canadian media this year, ahead of most of the Conservative cabinet. The Prime Minister, the leader of the official Opposition and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took the top three spots.

Taken together though, none of the above adds up to an imminent rendezvous between the NDP and government or even the second-place role of official opposition in the House of Commons.

Two recent polls pegged NDP support nationally at around 16 per cent, within the margin of error of its score (18 per cent) in the last election. That suggests the New Democrats did not benefit in any lasting way from their greater visibility and/or from one of the worst Liberal falls on record.

So far, greater NDP relevance in Parliament is not translating into greater relevance with the voting public. And that may explain why, in 2009, the NDP got away with the political equivalent of murder on the issue of consistency.

First, there was the reversal – on a dime – of the party's long-standing policy of non-cooperation with the Conservatives on confidence issues.

In September, Layton latched on to adjustments to the EI regime as a reason to keep the Harper government in place even more quickly than he had dismissed the more substantial EI concessions of the previous Conservative budget in January.

Then in November, a third of the NDP caucus and half-a-dozen Liberals voted with the Conservatives against the long-gun registry. Ignatieff took a lot of flak for that, in particular in Quebec; Layton increased his share of the vote in a downtown Montreal riding.

Finally, there was the NDP decision to use the purview of the Commons to wage war on the economic policies of Ontario and British Columbia. By campaigning aggressively against provincial plans for a harmonized sales tax, Layton is hoping to ride the wave of populist discontent that attends their upcoming advent.

In the last election, a similar move against Stéphane Dion's carbon tax paid off for the NDP. But it also indisposed a large significant section of Canada's environmental community.

The HST crusade is at least as questionable for it sends a troubling message as to Layton's rather elastic vision of federalism, in which it is apparently okay for the federal government to intervene in, even put a spoke into, the fiscal policies of its provincial partners.

Looking back on 2009, one can only marvel at Layton's ability to surf on the contrary waves that came his way.

He truly seemed to bask in the eternal sunshine of a spotless policy mind.

Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Alberta Health Grinch almost stole Xmas from the mentally ill.

Alberta Health seems to be going from bad to worse ever since they managed to jettison any local control and centralise the system in a Super Board. All Stelmach needs is more unpopular policies to make sure the Conservatives drop even lower in the polls. This is from this site.

Cutback plan dropped overnight

By Archie McLean,
EDMONTON — A plan to save $70,000 a year by taking free toiletries and snacks away from mentally ill patients was overturned by the Alberta government Saturday in a hasty flurry of goodwill.

"Something like this only adds to the feelings of stress and uncertainty that both patients and families are feeling right now," Fred Horne, MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford, said about the new cost-saving measures at Alberta Hospital Edmonton.

"It will be rescinded immediately."

Horne first learned of the policy by reading Saturday's Journal. He then spoke by phone to Health Minister Ron Liepert, a member of the premier's office staff and finally Alberta Health Services president and CEO Stephen Duckett, who was asked to kill the plan.

The policy was supposed to save $70,000 for the government by eliminating free items such as toothbrushes, face soap, feminine hygiene products, razors and nail clippers, as well as coffee and snacks for patients who live at the hospital.

...A spokeswoman for Alberta Health Services on Friday described the move as "part of aligning and standardizing our supplies across the province."

Horne is the premier's representative on a committee currently looking at how to implement the closure of 246 acute care beds at the hospital in northeast Edmonton. He expressed regret on behalf of the committee.

"We want patients and their families to know that they're at the centre of this process," Horne said.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said the flip-flop means the government is sensitive to recent polls showing their support falling across the province. He said the original policy was petty, small and unsurprising, given the government's approach to cutting spending.

The senior's ministry recently announced a $6-million clawback of funding to agencies that support people with developmental disabilities.

"They always turn on the most vulnerable among us," Mason said.

..Swann said the change of course raises questions about who is making policy, when a backbench MLA is able to reverse AHS policy with a few phone calls.

The Liberals have been calling all fall for Health Minister Ron Liepert to resign over his handling of the province's health reforms and the H1N1 vaccination program.

Austin Mardon, a prominent mental health patient activist who also has schizophrenia, applauded the government for acting so quickly to reverse the policy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin replies to critics

The detailed information that Colvin gives is in contrast to the rhetorical and insulting garbage thrown at him by the likes of Peter McKay. Although Hellier has joined the garbage throwing crew, Natynczyk has at least been professional about all of this.

Colvin fires back at critics in military and government

Diplomat's 16-page rebuttal accuses Ottawa of dragging its feet, losing track of detainees in covert jails
OTTAWA — From Thursday's Globe and Mail

.The Canadian government lost track of some detainees transferred to Afghan interrogators in 2007 because captives were shipped to covert "black site" jails - beyond the reach of Ottawa's efforts to monitor them for signs of torture, diplomat Richard Colvin says.

This fresh revelation came as the foreign service officer fired back at critics in the military and government establishment who have dismissed his testimony alleging Canada turned a blind eye to the torture of suspects after they were handed over to Afghan authorities.

In a 16-page, point-by-point rebuttal sent to the Commons committee probing detainee transfers, Mr. Colvin depicts Ottawa as only grudgingly agreeing - in the face of public pressure - to monitor prisoners as a means of discouraging their torture.

Even after May of 2007, when Canada put in place new safeguards to make Afghans more accountable for the suspects that they took from Canadian soldiers - some detainees simply disappeared from the radar.

Mr. Colvin, a former staff member in Canada's Afghan embassy, writes that he spent months trying to learn the fates of three suspects handed over to Afghanistan's notorious intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

"According to good sources, they were likely in Kabul, but at an NDS 'black site' to which we were not given access," Mr. Colvin writes, noting that these unofficial jails "permit interrogation of detainees without interference from human rights monitors."

The diplomat's disclosure demonstrates the limits of Canada's much-touted 2007 agreement to safeguard prisoners that Canadian soldiers handed off to Afghans.

The Geneva Conventions make it a war crime to transfer prisoners to those who would abuse them.

If detaining powers believe captives being transferred are abused, they're supposed to ameliorate the situation or take them back.

There are a number of "black site" - off-the-book - detention centres in Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, facilities to which the Canadian government has had trouble gaining access.

In yesterday's rebuttal, Mr. Colvin marshals more evidence for his allegation that Ottawa had ample official warnings in 2006 of problems with the handling of Afghan prisoners.

He lists six reports that year from Canada's embassy in Kabul, including one that says "torture" is rife in Afghan jails, as are "extrajudicial executions and disappearances." A Dec. 4, 2006, embassy report noted allies' concern that detainees may "vanish from sight" after transfer - as well as the risk they would be "tortured."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

CANDU reactor division for sale by government

Surely this is the role of government to provide opportunities for private enterprise after socialising the costs of development of the technology under state ownership. Even the Liberals do not disagree. They just want to ensure tfhat the capital is Canadian! The Liberal government in Ontario is actually doing the same thing but with corporations that are winners the LCBO and the Lotteries. It is just a shame that profitable businesses should help out the bottom line of the government rather than of the private capital that supports the two main parties.

Ottawa puts CANDU reactor division up for sale

Natural Resources minister confirms government is inviting investors to submit bids, move won't affect Chalk River facility
•Ottawa and Toronto — Globe and Mail Update

.Stephen Harper travelled the world pitching Canada's “state-of-the-art” – and state-owned – nuclear reactor technology, but finding no takers at home or abroad and facing record budget deficits, the Prime Minister is selling off the Crown-owned CANDUs.

The Harper government confirmed Thursday it is calling for bids on the reactor-wing of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

With interest coming from a mix of foreign and domestic firms, opposition critics say they're concerned technology created at public expense is at risk of leaving the country.

“They're going to be selling Canadian know-how and intellectual property, probably to a foreign bidder, at bargain-basement prices,” said Liberal MP Geoff Regan. The MP compared the sell-off to the mysterious cancellation of Canada's iconic fighter jet program in 1959.

“We're concerned that this is effectively Canada's new Avro Arrow,” he said.

The sale won't include the research wing of the Crown corporation – namely the Chalk River nuclear facility that produced most of the word's medical isotopes until it was shut down for repairs earlier this year.

The government will also retain responsibility for storing nuclear waste.

Sources close to the industry say it is likely an international competitor such as Paris-based Areva or U.S.-based Westinghouse will want the CANDU side of AECL.

“The real asset is what might be called its human capital,” said one source, who spoke on condition of not being identified.

With the dispersal of Nortel's work force, AECL arguably possesses the most highly educated workers in Canada.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Unconstitutional to ban gang colours: Saskatchewan judge.

The ban strikes me as a bit ludicrous in any event. Perhaps the swastika should be banned as well or the hammer and sickle. What next? It will be interesting to see if the province bothers to appeal the decision.

Banning gang colours unconstitutional, Saskatchewan judge rules

By Jason Warick, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

A Saskatoon judge threw out charges against a member of the Hells Angels who had been charged under a new provincial law for wearing Hells Angels clothing in a Saskatoon ,
SASKATOON — Wearing gang colours in public is a matter of free expression — protected by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms — a judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Albert Lavoie's decision, issued Thursday afternoon in Saskatoon provincial court, struck down a provincial law that prohibited gang members from wearing gang patches or colours in bars or other public places.

"The benefits of the legislation, in its present form, are minimal while the deleterious effects on freedom of expression are so far reaching as to outweigh the benefits," Judge Albert Lavoie wrote in his 33-page decision.

Lavoie ordered that charges be dropped against Hells Angel Jesse Leigh Bitz, charged for wearing his colours in a Saskatoon bar in August 2007. The judge also declared Section 60.1 of The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act to be unconstitutional.

Crown prosecutor Melodi Kujawa said the decision came as a surprise. Since the law has been declared unconstitutional, Saskatchewan prosecutors likely won't recommend charges in any similar cases for now, she said.

"What we're trying to do is keep gang colours out of bars. I think that's pretty easily understood, very straightforward. I don't think the legislation encompasses anything beyond that," Kujawa said.

The Crown has 30 days to decide whether to appeal.

Bitz declined to comment following the ruling. His lawyer, Mark Brayford said the law does nothing to make communities safer and argued the Saskatoon chapter of the infamous biker club is not, in fact, a criminal association.

A hearing for similar charges against several other people has been adjourned until Jan. 11.

The Crown argued during Bitz's trial that the wearing of gang colours is a form of public intimidation — not expression. Leonard Isnor, a gang expert who testified during the trial, called it the "power of the patch."

The law was created to help police deal with gangs, drug trafficking, prostitution and child exploitation, but Brayford argued its wording is so broad it could persecute striking workers

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another security certificate bites the dust..

While it is certainly heartening to see that the courts have ruled against the certificates in these cases, it is after a very long time. Almrei was after arrested in 2001! He was only released earlier this year under strict monitoring conditions. As with the case of Maher Arar much of the evidence seems to be circumstantial and not backed up or even verified. No one ever seems to suffer as a result of this sloppy work. The taxpayer ended up shelling out millions to Arar but probably the people held on security certificates will not be able to get any compensation. No one in the CSIS will suffer at all. If the Arar case is any precedent some of the players may be promoted!

Back to Man hounded by Ottawa loses 'terrorist' tag at last
Man hounded by Ottawa loses 'terrorist' tag at last
December 15, 2009

Michelle Shephard

"I cannot describe how happy I am," Syrian native Hassan Almrei said Dec. 14, 2009 after a judge threw out the security certificate against him.

Hassan Almrei, pegged by CSIS after 9/11 as a terror suspect linked to the "Bin Laden network," celebrated the defeat of the federal government's deportation case against him by having a drink, a non-alcoholic one, with his Toronto lawyers.

Meanwhile, his team of lawyers toasted victory with champagne: "This is a huge decision," said lead lawyer Lorne Waldman.

On Monday, more than eight years after Almrei's arrest, a Federal Court of Canada judge threw out the security certificate against him, concluding the evidence – both secret and public – against the Syrian native does not hold up to scrutiny.

In a landmark ruling, Justice Richard Mosley declared "unreasonable" the security certificate that deemed Almrei a threat to national security.

The judge's decision throws further doubt on the federal government's legal regime for trying to deport foreign nationals it deems a national security threat. Ottawa says it has undertaken a sweeping review of the mechanisms used to deal with such threats.

Earlier this fall, a different judge threw out another security certificate against Montrealer Adil Charkaoui, after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service withdrew secret evidence, fearing its disclosure would jeopardize its sources. Three other men are still fighting in court to avoid efforts to deport them.

Almrei, first arrested in October 2001 but released earlier this year under strict monitoring conditions that include an electronic tracking bracelet on his leg, said he had waited a long time for this day.

"I'm glad. I cannot describe how happy I am," he said from his lawyer's office. "At the same time, I'm sad it took me more than eight years."

Almrei, who entered Canada on a forged passport and was granted refugee status, said the "stigma" might never go away.

"It may take some time to prove one's innocence but at least now I can stand and look you in the eye and say ... you can believe Justice Mosley now. He's not my friend, or neighbour, or my lawyer – he is a judge and he decided based on evidence before him."

Mosley was a federal assistant deputy justice minister who helped draft Canada's post 9/11 anti-terror laws before being named to the bench in 2003. He ruled that while there were "reasonable grounds to believe that Hassan Almrei was a danger to the security of Canada when he was detained in 2001," he concluded "there are no longer reasonable grounds to believe that he is a security risk today."

"The court is satisfied that Almrei is not and was not a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe has engaged in terrorism," wrote Mosley.

Waldman said the controls governing Almrei's release might be formally lifted within days. There is still the possibility the federal government could seek to appeal.

The court was critical of CSIS and the federal ministers of public safety and immigration who signed a new certificate in 2008 against Almrei and four others. That followed a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada forcing Ottawa to provide more protection in cases where secret evidence is relied on.

Mosley said CSIS and the ministers "breached their duties of utmost good faith and candour to the court by not thoroughly reviewing the information in their possession, prior to the issuance of the February 2008 certificate."

"The implication of what is being said here is: what was reasonable in 2001 because we didn't know a lot, isn't reasonable in 2009," said Waldman.

The evidence against Almrei was based on informants' tips, wiretaps, and his admission of travel to places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CSIS queried foreign agencies about Almrei, Mosley wrote, but he "was not known to be an extremist suspect by the authorities in the jurisdictions canvassed."

Ottawa's case against Almrei was based on outdated and sketchy knowledge of Al Qaeda and other extremist Islamic groups, and was loaded with information that "could only be construed as unfavourable to Almrei without any serious attempt to include information to the contrary."

"Certain of the human sources relied upon by (CSIS) are not credible," said Mosley, who gave a classified version of his ruling – with more detail – to the government.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the Conservative government "inherited" the system for managing terrorist threats "from the previous Liberal government." But the Conservatives rewrote the rules after being directed to do so by the Supreme Court in 2007.

Van Loan insisted "no new security certificates have been issued by our government as long-term control instruments." One was used to deport a suspected Russian spy who did not challenge it.

Still, Van Loan acknowledged the review is necessary. "An increasingly complex legal environment, and the significant costs associated with outstanding certificates, are factors in the current review we are undertaking of this system."

A spokeswoman said CSIS had nothing to add to Van Loan's comments.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ontario Liberals look like Harper Conservatives

What next? The Liberals will sell off crown corporations even when they provide the province with all sorts of income. However, the Liberal party will get some income into its own coffers when it offers the private sector public enterprises at firesale prices. It seems to make no difference whether Liberals or Conservatives are in power they are all for making sure their corporate friends make all the profits and not the province. Although there will be a one time windfall from the sales that could be used to pay down the debt there will be a decrease in income for the province in perpetuity from the money that would have come in from Lottery and Liquor Board profits. This does not matter as long as there is more opportunity for private profit and subsequent donations to the Liberal cause. This is from the National Post.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ontario looks to sell assets to bring down $25-billion debt

Ashley Fraser
TORONTO - To offset a record $25-billion deficit, Ontario's premier said Wednesday he's considering selling the province's most prized assets, which include utility Hydro One, the liquor control board and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

"We've got a responsibility to take a look at all of our assets to make sure that we're getting the best bang for our buck," Dalton McGuinty said at Queen's Park Wednesday. "Especially now in the context of a recession and a significant deficit."

The highly profitable LCBO and OLG are just some of the cash cows that could be sent to market.

The liquor board delivered $1.4 billion dollars last year and the lottery and gaming corporation has been a multibillion-dollar cash cow for years.

Opposition leaders however slammed McGuinty for what they consider changing his tune, saying that in opposition he vowed the province was through selling off public assets.

"This is an unprincipled government," said Progressive Conservative opposition member Peter Shurman. "It's been called the worst government ever in Ontario and it's proving those words are absolutely true."

"It's a quick cash grab for the government," argued Ontario New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath. "People will pay through the nose in the long run."

The government has hired experts with CIBC and Goldman Sachs to estimate the value of the Crown assets to make sure taxpayers get fair value if there's a sale.

Some observers note the announcement could be a trial balloon designed to gauge public appetite for the idea and doesn't automatically mean the sales will take place.

© 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Our military mission in Afghanistan is supposed to end in 2011 but of course it won't.

No doubt the US is pleading with Harper to provide more help for this ill-conceived illegal and misbegotten mission. The Canadian taxpayer will continue to help out the US in its hopeless attempt to enforce its will in Afghanistan. We will pay not only in our money but in useless sacrifices of life and limb.

Canada preparing a military role in Afghanistan beyond 2011, say experts
By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

Canada is sending two surveillance aircraft to Afghanistan in a move some defence analysts see as laying the groundwork for a military mission in Kandahar beyond the announced 2011 pullout date.

Although the federal government has not made any details public, the U.S. army issued a news release on Monday that an American company had been awarded a $12-million contract to modify two aircraft being provided by Canada. Work on the surveillance planes would be done in the U.S. and in Afghanistan and would be completed by June 15, 2011.

Canadian Forces officials have said their military mission in Afghanistan would end in July 2011 but questions are now being raised about whether that will happen. Officials with the Prime Minister’s Office have said that soldiers may stay beyond that date but they won’t be involved in combat.

However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been adamant that all parts of the military portion of the Afghan campaign will be wrapped up. “We are very much planning to have the military mission end in 2011,” Harper said in October, in trying to end confusion about Canada’s future role in Afghanistan.

But on Monday, Ben Rowswell, Canada’s representative in Kandahar, pointed out that the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team, with several hundred soldiers, will remain in Afghanistan after 2011.

Canwest News Service also reported that while Parliament has voted to end the current combat mission in Afghanistan in July 2011, discussions are underway between the U.S. and Canada over a continued Canadian presence in Afghanistan post-2011, according to U.S. officials. Michele Flournoy, U.S. undersecretary of defence for policy, did not rule out a future military role for Canada, but she appeared to suggest other options also were under discussion.

Defence analyst Allen Sens said the contract for the surveillance aircraft shows that Canada’s Afghan military mission is not yet over.

“This seems to support the idea that we will be staying on with a military mission,” said Sens, an analyst with the University of British Columbia. “I was always under the impression we would continue with some kind of military presence such as JTF2 (Joint Task Force 2), PRT assets and a headquarters battlegroup.”

He acknowledged, however, the Canadian public would not have been left with that impression because of Harper’s statements that the military mission was finishing in 2011.

According to the U.S. army, Telford Aviation in Bangor, Maine, was awarded the contract to outfit the surveillance systems on the two King Air 300 commercial aircraft provided by Canada. The bulk of the installation on the small propeller-driven aircraft would be done in the U.S. but about a quarter of the work would be taken care of in Afghanistan, it noted. The contract was a sole source deal.

The Defence Department could not comment on the U.S. army release of information.

Stephen Priestley, a researcher with the Canadian-American Strategic Review, said what Canada is doing with the King Air planes is similar to programs undertaken by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

He noted that if Canada uses private contractors to fly the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, it could say it was contributing to Afghan security in a non-military way.

“It might be argued that ISR flights are not directly related to combat,” Priestley added.

“Seen in that light, performing ISR over Kandahar would not be regarded as an extension of the CF’s combat mission.”

Priestley said Telford Aviation is well-known for successfully adapting civilian airframes for surveillance and reconnaissance roles. In addition, the Canadian Forces has experience with the King Air aircraft since a similar plane is used at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont., he noted.

But Steve Staples of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa said the aircraft contract appears to be a way for the Harper government to do an end-run around Parliament on the 2011 pullout date.

“It draws into question the government’s own statements that the military mission will end,” said Staples, who has been critical of the Canadian Forces mission to Afghanistan. “Canadians should be concerned by these moves because it creates confusion about a mission that so many people expect to end in 2011.”

Ottawa Citizen

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Canadian soldiers keep watch during a joint foot patrol with U.S. and Afghan National army in Arghandab district, Kandahar province Oct. 31, 2009.Photograph by: Omar Sobhani, Reuters

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Year to forget for Liberals

Actually Ignatieff's challenge to Harper was not entirely reckless. Ignatieff was in danger of falling into the same trap as DIon who constantly propped up the Harper government. This time Ignatieff was rescued by the NDP so he was fortunate that he did not actually have to pull the plug and probably lose the election. Surely to characterise Ignatieff's action as opportunist is rather strange since the polls were not that favorable to the Liberals and quickly turned back down. What was the opportunity that Ignatieff was taking advantage of?
The so-called age of aquiescence has to do only with poll numbers. If the poll numbers change back in favor of the Liberals the age will be history!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Presented by

A year to forget for the Liberals
Don Martin, National Post

Chris Wattie, Reuters
It didn't quite work out the way he intended, but a reckless one-sentence ultimatum from Michael Ignatieff defined the person, the party and ultimately his popularity for the entire fall session of Parliament.

"After four years of drift, four years of denial, four years of division and discord-- Mr. Harper, your time is up," the Liberal leader harrumphed on Sept. 1. After four months of discussion, rarely has a political statement proven to be so laughingly wrong.

By making the declaration without the approval of his MPs, he was shown to be a self-absorbed leader. By sending the country careening toward its second election in less than a year, Mr. Ignatieff defined himself as a shameless opportunist.

By not advancing a compelling reason to justify a snap vote, Mr. Ignatieff portrayed himself as an empty alternative.

The public response was not surprising. Since he had disappeared for the entire summer, their first impression of Mr. Ignatieff was entirely negative. His polling numbers went into a free fall from an approximate tie with the Conservatives to a basement below the approval level for hapless former leader Stephane Dion.

That's when the wheels really started falling off.

After taking it on the chin with a blitzkrieg of attack ads paid for by the Conservatives, Mr. Ignatieff limply responded with his own commercials, portraying himself as a policy wonk in casual clothes against a forest backdrop that turned out to be located in Metro Toronto.

Stung by the media-christened nickname of Iffy, he played leadership hardball in arbitrating a Quebec riding nomination decision, only to lose Quebec lieutenant Denis Coderre in a reactionary huff, who went down while declaring his leader brainwashed by too many Torontonians.

After denying any such thing, Mr. Ignatieff cleaned out all the loyalists who brought him back from his nomadic globe-trotting and they all returned to, um, Toronto.

Amplifying the damage caused by those developments, Mr. Ignatieff endured a scathing Facebook-posted analysis of his party's fickle behaviour by Mr. Dion's spouse. There was talk of defections, the mutter of mutiny and a series of discouraging by-election results to shrug off.

At any point Mr. Ignatieff could have been forgiven for writing off the Liberal leadership as a failed academic exercise and returning to the ivory tower. He has wisely decided to surrender instead.

The undeniable ascendency of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is more than just a matter of enhanced personal popularity played out to the tinkle of piano keys while singing a Beatles classic.

This is the dawning of the age of acquiescence, a de facto majority rule by a minority government that wants an election but can't persuade all three opposition parties to accomplish the mission. So they will govern by whim and iron will until they are taken down.

Peter Donolo, Mr. Ignatieff's new chief of staff, has decreed that the Official Opposition will no longer serve as an election-threatening Conservative antagonist. Unless the polling numbers rebound, it seems likely the Liberals won't even vote down Stephen Harper in next spring's budget.

But Mr. Harper's majority-flirting popularity level is even more surprising because the government has been whacked by a series of issues effectively raised by the Liberal bench.

The Official Opposition's research showed irregularities in the government's stimulus spending habits.

There were many signs -- and not just the ones hoisted on signposts by the federal government -- that the handouts were selectively targeted at Conservative ridings. That sense of tax-dollar entitlement was best illustrated by oversized publicity cheques for infrastructure projects sporting Conservative logos or MP signatures that are now under an ethics probe. Even so, the public yawned it off the radar screen.

The government's readiness for the H1N1 pandemic had the potential to fill a Conservative body bag or two in the next election. The Liberals furiously denounced the late order for vaccines from a single source and warned hospitals were overflowing as the rollout ran into production slowdowns.

But the pandemic appears to have fizzled, hospitals have not filled with life-threatened flu victims, the vaccination clinics are starting to close due to lack of interest. There hasn't been a lead question on swine flu in the Commons for weeks now.

Now comes the detainee abuse kerfuffle. This is not an attack on soldier behaviour, as the Conservatives allege. It's about the government's secretive, obstructionist conduct with key ministers using the soldiers as cover from Opposition fire.

But the government tactic seems to be working and the issue will languish now that the Christmas recess has sent MPs scurrying back to reality for six more weeks.

Like everything else this year, every break has gone the Conservatives' way. Even Liberals admit they have recorded their second annus horribilis in a row this year. Their only comfort is that 2010 can't possibly get much worse.

© 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ratio of Canadian Household Debt to Income of 140 percent.

Given the low interest rates it is not surprising that Canadian real estate sales are doing well and house prices are rising in contrast to the US. However as this article shows the result of low interest rates is that consumers are piling on debt as well and this may not bode well for the future especially if there are more job losses or a decrease in economic activity.

Increasing household debt stirs concern
Bank of Canada worries about jump in borrowing
By PAUL VIEIRA, Canwest News ServiceDecember 11, 2009
Rising levels of household debt and deteriorating budget balances in several countries will emerge as the most prominent risks to the Canadian financial system over the next few years, the Bank of Canada said yesterday.

In its semi-annual review of the Canadian financial system, the central bank said the level of vulnerability to an adverse near-term shock has declined modestly. Furthermore, the likelihood of a renewed global downturn has diminished since the release of its previous assessment in June.

"At the same time," it warned, "several medium-term risks have intensified."

Two were singled out: rising levels of household debt, perhaps spurred in recent months by consumers looking to take advantage of record-low borrowing costs; and an inability to resolve global trade imbalances, which the bank warned could cause a "disorderly" adjustment in exchange rates.

The central bank said the review is meant to provide an assessment of downside risks that could cause stress in financial markets, even if they are low-probability events.

Nevertheless, it acknowledged the ratio of household debt to income has climbed to "historically" high levels of more than 140 per cent.

"The medium-term risk to financial stability arising from the household sector is judged to have increased," it said. "This judgment is predicated on concerns that the sustained growth of household debt in the context of rising interest rates will increase the vulnerability of households to an adverse shock over the medium term."

Asked yesterday about the issue of household debt, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters an increase in this area is "to be expected during what has been a serious economic downturn."

He added, however: "Well, you know, we certainly want people to be careful because interest rates are very low now and there's lots of liquidity in the system. There's lots of money being lent and I do ask Canadians to be mindful of the fact that interest rates will not be low indefinitely."

Financial Post

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wild Roses thorn in Stelmach's side.

These are rather amazing numbers especially after Stelmach received a 77 per cent endorsement as leader not long ago. One just wonders if the usual kingmakers are doing an end run around the Conservative party especially since the Wild Roses seem to be gr0wing strongest in the two big cities not just in rural areas.
Of course polls did not look all that marvelous for Stelmach before he gained his big majority in the last election and Ralph Klein was even worse off before he stormed back and won an election a year later. Nevertheless it is hard to put any positive spin on these results as far as Stelmach is concerned.

Wildrose No. 1 in Alberta, poll finds
Tory support falls to lowest in 17 years
By Jason Fekete, Calgary HeraldDecember 11, 2009 6:36 AM

CALGARY - The surging Wildrose Alliance would form the next provincial government if an election were held in Alberta, according to a new poll that pegs the party with a double-digit lead and the dynastic Tories at their lowest popular support in 17 years.

An Angus Reid Public Opinion survey of 1,000 decided Alberta voters finds 39 per cent of the electorate would cast a ballot for party leader Danielle Smith and the right-of-centre Wildrose Alliance if they went to the polls today.

The fledgling party is pulling away from Premier Ed Stelmach's Progressive Conservatives, who are tied with David Swann's Liberals for second place, with the backing of 25 per cent of decided voters provincewide.

Brian Mason and the NDP are in fourth spot with the support of nine per cent of Alberta voters, while two per cent said they would vote for another party.

The Wildrose Alliance -- buoyed by their recent leadership race and byelection win in Calgary-Glenmore -- is solidly in first place in every region of the province, according to the poll.

The Tories have slipped to third place in both Calgary and Edmonton amid challenging economic times, and continued public criticism over the government's financial management and H1N1 vaccination rollout.

"It's no secret that the Wildrose Alliance have been gaining momentum," said Angus Reid pollster Hamish Marshall. "Right now, they're on track to form a government."

The current survey data, which reflect similar trending from other recent opinion polls, would put the Wildrose Alliance "right on the line" between a majority or minority government, he said.

But Marshall cautioned the numbers reflect a snapshot in time and that the next provincial election is likely at least two years away.

The latest poll numbers are believed to be the worst for the Tories since 1992, when Laurence Decore's Liberals were in the low 40s, before Ralph Klein's PCs stormed back to win the provincial election the following year.

They also come about a month after Stelmach's own party gave him a 77 per cent vote of confidence in the Conservative leadership review.

The Angus Reid results show support for the Wildrose party is growing in every corner of the province -- at the expense of the Tories, who've ruled Alberta since 1971.

In Calgary, the Wildrose Alliance is backed by 38 per cent of voters, followed by the Liberals with 30 per cent, Conservatives at 23 per cent and NDP at six per cent, according to the poll.

"Clearly people seem to have turned their backs on the PCs and the Stelmach government," Marshall added.

In Edmonton, the Wildrose party leads with 36 per cent support, the Liberals are at 26 per cent, PCs at 25 per cent and NDP at 12 per cent.

In rural Alberta -- historically the bedrock of Tory support -- Smith's party is way out in front with the backing of 44 per cent of voters outside the major cities, compared to 25 per cent for the PCs, 21 per cent for the Grits and seven per cent for the NDP.

"If these numbers are true, it's beyond worry (for the Tories). I think they should be terrified," said David Taras, political analyst at the University of Calgary.

"With these numbers, it's really a race to the bottom, a toboggan ride to nowhere."

One of the most worrisome points for the Conservatives, he said, is that the Wildrose Alliance is leading by large margins in all regions of the province.

While the latest poll results are open for debate, Taras noted one thing that's certain is the trend line for the ruling Conservatives continues to sink -- while the Wildrose Alliance continues to improve -- which indicates changing public opinion.

But the deeper question for the provincial political landscape goes beyond public opinion, to whether Albertans have made a judgment on Stelmach as premier, he said.

"Public opinion can change, but it's much more difficult to change a judgment," he added.

Several question marks remain, however, with the Wildrose Alliance and its leader, Taras said, noting the party still must clearly define some of its policies and carve out an identity prior to the next election, expected in 2012.

What's more, he said Alberta's decreasing voter turnout could also play a large role in whether survey numbers hold true on election day, noting the Tories' sliding poll results prior to the 2008 election before they stormed to a massive majority.

Three separate polls over the past few months have shown a steady decline in backing for the Conservatives and an increase in support for the Wildrose Alliance.

An early October poll conducted by the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College found 38 per cent of decided voters would support the Tories, while subsequent polls later in the month from Return on Insight and Environics both had the Conservatives at 34 per cent.

Those same surveys pegged the Wildrose Alliance at 22, 25 and 28 per cent, respectively.

The new Angus Reid online poll of 1,000 randomly selected Albertans was conducted Nov. 23-29 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The regional breakdowns have a margin of error of 5.6 percentage points in Calgary, 5.7 in greater Edmonton and 4.9 in the rest of Alberta.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, left, and Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith.Photograph by: Archives, Calgary Herald

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Top Canadian Commander admits beaten man was in Canadian custody.

To give Natynczyk his due at least he admits when he is wrong. Unlike MacKay and Hellier Natynczyk has not joined the gang who are trying to discredit the testimony of Richard Colvin the Canadian diplomat who blew the whistle on this whole affair. MacKay is such a sorry spectacle of humanity even among politicians that he ought to be asked to resign.

Top general changes story on Taliban suspect
Beaten man had been in Canadian custody
CBC News
Gen. Walter Natynczyk now says a suspected Taliban fighter abused by Afghan police in June 2006 had been detained by Canadian troops, contrary to what he said Tuesday. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Canada's top military commander, is now saying a suspected Taliban fighter abused by Afghan police in June 2006 had been detained by Canadian troops, contrary to comments he made Tuesday.

"The individual who was beaten by the Afghan police was, in fact, in Canadian custody," Natynczyk told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Natynczyk had told a parliamentary committee that Canadian troops questioned the man, picked up during operations in Zangabad. But Natynczyk said it was the Afghans who took him into custody.

On Wednesday, the defence staff chief said he has received new information and learned that Canadians had taken the suspect into custody before handing him over to the Afghans.

Field report transcript

20:00 14 Jun 06 [location redacted]

Stopped along Rte [redacted] and held up a vehicle that was proceeding south down the route. Stopped and searched the three individuals in the white van and got a very weird feel from one of them.

Had the terp [interpreter] come and he [unclear] that the individual was in all probability Enemy (Taliban) due to his accent and his false story of being from Kandahar City. So I had him lie down on his stomach, then conducted a detailed search. (I had him empty his pockets prior to this) catalogued all his items and then took down his particulars (name [redacted] from Uruzgan).

We then photographed the individual prior to handing him over, to ensure that if the ANP did assault him, as has happened in the past, we would have a visual record of his condition.

The ANP Section Comd, [redacted] then arrived, asked the suspect a couple of questions and concurred with our assessment that the individual was enemy.

We in good faith handed the PUC [person under control] over to them so that he could be transported to the Zhari District Center [Forward Operating Base Wilson] where [watchdog] (a radio call-sign for military police) could get him. That was the last I saw him. [redacted] is one of [redacted] men.

(View the report)
Natynczyk read from a report on the incident by the section commander, who said the Canadians had the suspect get down on his stomach before they conducted a detailed search, which included emptying the Afghan's pockets and cataloguing all the items.

But the sergeant also wrote that the man was photographed "prior to handing him over, to ensure that if the [Afghan National Police] did assault him, as has happened in the past, we would have a visual record of his condition."

"I did not have this information in May of 2007 nor yesterday when I made my statement," Natynczyk said. "But I am responsible for the information provided by the Canadian Forces and I am accountable for it today."

Natynczyk said he will investigate the incident and why it took so long to get the information about what happened.

Canadian troops rescued man: general
Natynczyk said that after the Taliban suspect was taken into custody by Canadians, he was given to the Afghan police.

The police then started beating the man with their shoes, boots and weapons. Natynczyk said that prompted Canadian troops to rescue the man.

"I am proud that our soldiers acted courageously and ethically when they retrieved the individual from the Afghan National Police when it was apparent that he had been injured," Natynczyk said.

The Conservative government has said there is no evidence that Afghan detainees in Canadian custody who were subsequently handed over to Afghan officials before 2007 were abused.

The detainee issue has come to the forefront following allegations by Richard Colvin, a former senior diplomat with Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

Colvin, now based in Washington, said prisoners were turned over to Afghan prison officials by the Canadian military in 2006-07, despite his warnings to the Canadian government that they would be tortured.

The Conservatives have questioned the credibility of his testimony.

Colvin's lawyer said on Wednesday that her client is working on a written submission to the parliamentary special committee looking into the detainee issue "that will clarify some of the inaccuracies made in recent testimony regarding the transfer of detainees."

Ignatieff concerned with trust
Natynczyk's comments renewed calls for a public inquiry into the issue and demands for Defence Minister Peter MacKay to resign.

"When Gen. Natynczyk corrected his account this morning, he did so, he said, in order to restore trust in his office and in his institution," Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said during question period in the House of Commons.

"The issue here is trust. We can’t trust this government, we can’t trust a word that comes out of the mouth of this minister. When will the prime minister fire him and call a full independent public inquiry?"

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the facts confirm what the government has been saying, that when the Canadian Forces see substantive evidence of any case of abuse, they have taken corrective action.

"That’s what they did in this case. And frankly, Gen. Natynczyk today, correcting the record on a particular point, indicates once again that the Canadian Forces — from the highest level down to the man in the trenches — act with the highest integrity at all times," Harper said.

Speaking before the special parliamentary committee, MacKay stressed that torture is abhorrent and can never be tolerated

"Let me be clear, the government of Canada has never been complicit in torture or any violation of international law by wilfully allowing detainees, Taliban prisoners, taken by the Canadian Forces, to be exposed to abuse," MacKay said.

"No one ever turned a blind eye."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Saskatchewan agency to help recruit doctors

Probably a lot of doctors esepcially specialist like to go to larger cities with a more temperate climate than Saskatchewan. There has always been a problem with getting doctors to work in rural areas. No doubt Sask. will have to continue to rely on importing doctors from foreign countries. At least this agency is a step in the right direction even though as the NDP points out it does not solve the immediate shortage.

Agency aims to address Sask. doctor shortage
By Jenn Sharp, For The StarPhoenix
December 8, 2009 8:10 AM
The province is hopeful a new recruitment agency that begins its work in the spring will help address a shortage of physicians in Saskatchewan.

The agency is aimed at bringing more physicians to rural and urban Saskatchewan and keeping them in the province.

Plans for the agency were announced earlier this year. It has been allocated $1.5 million and will be led by a nine-member board. The board members will be selected from the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA), health regions, the University of Saskatchewan college of medicine, the Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the provincial government.

"If there is one issue I hear more than anything else around the caucus table, . . . it's about the shortage of physicians," said Health Minister Don McMorris, who launched the agency at a press conference Monday.

He said the agency will be a one-stop contact point for physicians seeking to set up practice in Saskatchewan. It will improve co-ordination and communication among health regions, communities and University of Saskatchewan medical graduates. The agency will also reduce competition for doctors among health regions and communities, and provide recruitment expertise.

McMorris outlined the goals over the next four years for the agency and said one of the main issues is the annual turnover of physicians in Saskatchewan. The rate is between 12 and 13 per cent, and McMorris says the goal is to reduce that number to less than 10 per cent.

The agency also aims to increase the number of U of S medical students and residents who train outside Saskatoon by 25 per cent and increase the number of Canadian-trained doctors working in the province by 10 per cent.

Another goal is to increase the number of graduates establishing practices in Saskatchewan by 10 per cent.

"Initially, the agency will focus on retaining our U of S graduates so that the people of Saskatchewan benefit from the dollars spent training doctors here in this province. At the same time, we will promote Saskatchewan to physicians as a great place to live and work," said McMorris.

Dr. William Albritton, dean of the U of S college of medicine, feels the main reason graduates leave the province is because "they don't feel wanted here."

He says many graduates say they were never asked to stay in Saskatchewan.

The agency will increase the number of post-graduate and residency seats to retain graduates, he said.

Along with ensuring the province has enough doctors, more personal support for spouses and family is also needed, according to Dr. Martin Vogel, executive director of the SMA.

"The ability for you and your family to be happy is critical," he said. "Our goal has to be for Saskatchewan to become the preferred place to practise medicine in this country."

The biggest hurdle the program faces, according to McMorris, is a lack of "uniformity" among health regions and communities.

The NDP Opposition says the physician recruitment agency is a long-term solution that does not address the current needs of rural communities. Health critic Judy Junor says the Saskatchewan Party government has had two years to address the doctor shortage in the province and "hasn't done anything.

"There's a lot of announcements but no action."

Junor points to regions such as the Cypress Health Region, which will not have acute-care services during the Christmas holidays. These services will not be available at Maple Creek's hospital from Dec. 28 to Dec. 31, which Junor says is "alarming. . . . Waiting until the spring to launch this program is too late."

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Liberals may demand product recall as Ignatieff cannot be sold to Canadians

It seems that the Liberals are just unable to find a product that they can successfully package and sell to a majority of Canadians. The tired old reliable old Harper who from time to time does a little dance or dons a new sweater seems to outsell the supposed great thinker and human rights prof. Ignatieff. Having recalled Dion since the Green Shift was seen as wildly too expensive for Canadian tastes the Liberals have now set their sights on repackaging the recycled NDP ex provincial premier Bob Rae. Maybe the party might try putting forth some new ideas instead of repackaging their products. This is from the Star.

Back to Liberal MPs plot early retirement for Ignatieff
Liberal MPs plot early retirement for Ignatieff

Angelo Persichilli

Last year at this time, the Liberals were trying to get rid of Stéphane Dion and put themselves in the hands of their saviour, Michael Ignatieff. After 12 months, they believe that Bob Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario now turned Liberal, is the new saviour.

Last year the opportunity to reboot the party's fortunes came after Dion forced the Liberals to embrace the Bloc-supported coalition with the NDP. This year the spark might be Ignatieff's support for the HST. The question many ask is whether Ignatieff's leadership will last until the end of the year.

Since Pierre Trudeau, no Liberal leader has left on his own terms. John Turner was shown the door by the Chrétienites; Jean Chrétien was forced out by Martinites; we know what happened to Dion and now we see Ignatieff is on the same path.

Since last Tuesday's "special" caucus meeting called by the leader to tell MPs to support the controversial HST, doubts about Ignatieff's ability to lead the party are surfacing more frequently. Many MPs openly oppose the HST, and those who backed the party's stand, like Rae, express their support only in private. No one is defending the leader in public, in the caucus or with the media. Basically, Ignatieff is alone and the question of loyalty is becoming a huge obstacle to his leadership.

Contrary to the superficial unity Liberals show in the House, a revolt is brewing underneath.

Trudeau once said that MPs are nobodies 100 yards away from Parliament. Things, it would seem, are changing. In fact, it looks like the real politics are taking place away from the Hill, especially during after-hours meetings in Ottawa restaurants like Mamma Teresa, trendy Hy's or in the dimly lit corners of the Château Laurier. Lately, the topic has been the HST and Ignatieff's leadership. In fact, one of those after-hours meetings took place last Tuesday at the Château.

It all started after a gathering to mark the retirement of Liberal Senator Jerry Grafstein from the Hill. Among those present were Ignatieff and Rae.

After they had all feted the popular senator with great words of love and affection, some MPs – invited by Rae for a drink – moved "100 yards away from the Hill" into the Château Laurier. Here the façade of unity vanished, the true face of today's Liberal party materialized and the real work of politics, which no longer takes place on the Hill, was in full swing.

Glen Pearson, an MP from London and one of those present for the nightcap with Rae, said that in his opinion Ignatieff was losing the loyalty of the party and Rae was "the only one the party trusts." Carolyn Bennet, also present at the meeting, said that David McGuinty, Justin Trudeau and others are already planning their leadership runs and it was time for Rae to do something.

Then the conversation shifted to some concrete proposals. In particular, they told Rae that many MPs believe he should become "the deputy leader with authority to manage all the files in the House of Commons," basically a kind of CEO. They also said that Ignatieff shouldn't be asking questions in the House but travelling throughout Canada "attending functions."

Some also said that Ralph Goodale should be removed from his House responsibilities because, they said, he brings no added value to the party, no expertise, no financial wherewithal and doesn't deliver seats in his own province.

Rae also was critical of the performance of the leader but said he was not interested in a coup d'état. However, he added that his loyalty is solely to the Liberal party.

Ruby Dhalla said that loyalty is a two-way street and accused the party of not doing enough to nurture the next generation of leaders. During the conversation, it was suggested that a group of MPs should meet with chief of staff Peter Donolo and present some of these proposals as soon as possible.

This was not an isolated meeting between a few MPs – it's the dominant theme of discussion among almost all Liberal MPs uncertain about their future.

I wouldn't be surprised if Ignatieff were to reconsider his political future and go back to his beloved academic world before the end of the year.

Angelo Persichilli is the political editor of Corriere Canadese. His column appears Sunday.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ignatieff and Liberals will support Harmonised Sales Tax

Ivison thinks that this action shows leadership but leadership that is not suicidal as was his earlier decision to bring down the Conservative government. Actually the other decision was not suicidal at all because the NDP stepped in to save the Conservatives . However, this decision may be quite unpopular with the general public and will help the Conservatives. Given the already steep dip in Liberal poll numbers this may just make it certain that the Conservative government can rest easy this Xmas and well into the New Year.

Ignatieff stares down his MPs
Liberals will support HST

John Ivison, National Post

Blair Gable, Reuters
There's a Spanish proverb that says if you sit by the river long enough, the body of your enemy will float by.

Judging by his performance so far, patience is not a virtue Michael Ignatieff has in abundance. Many Canadians have the impression that if he can't be prime minister, he'd rather return to his ivory tower at Harvard. But yesterday the Liberal leader gave an indication that he may be in politics for the long haul.

When he emerged from a caucus meeting, convened to discuss the Liberal response to the government's harmonized sales tax legislation, he said his party will support the HST bill that will pay British Columbia and Ontario billions in transition funding as they merge the federal GST with their provincial sales taxes.

It was not the first time Mr. Ignatieff has shown bold leadership in the face of opposition from a large number of his MPs, but it was the first time he has shown bold leadership that was not, at the same time, suicidal.

In Sudbury last September, the Liberal leader came out of a caucus meeting that was near unanimous in its opposition to a fall election and announced he was intent on sinking Stephen Harper's government.

Yesterday, he faced MPs who saw an opportunity to tap into bubbling public anger over the HST, and indicated his MPs will have to support it, which will irk those who view the controversial new tax as a gift horse.

The early reaction from those emerging from caucus yesterday suggested those who want to come out against the HST will hold their tongues.

Mr. Ignatieff had three options going into yesterday's meeting. First, he could back the Conservative legislation, on the basis that it was a request from provincial governments in British Columbia and Ontario -- a stance that could be defended because of the new tax's potential to improve competitiveness and create jobs.

Alternatively, he could have staked out the middle ground by saying that his party backed the HST in principle, just not this version. Liberal MP Keith Martin recently proposed a revamped HST that would have mitigated the impact on consumers -- for example, by exempting management fees charged on mutual funds.

Finally, Mr. Ignatieff could have come out, guns blazing, against the tax and pledged to repeal it, if he ever became prime minister. This would have enraged the Liberal governments of Gordon Campbell in British Columbia and Dalton McGuinty in Ontario but would have allowed the federal Grits to exploit anger about the imposition of what many people see as a blatant government tax grab.

That he took the first option points to an evolution in Mr. Ignatieff's political thinking.

In days gone by, he would have been tempted to plump for the middle-ground fudge, as he weighed the pros and cons of the policy. Harry Truman's plea for a one-handed economist "because all my economists say 'on the one hand ... on the other' ", is an equally valid observation to make about journalists and intellectuals like Mr. Ignatieff. As a senior member of his caucus said yesterday: "Michael is learning that politics is black and white, not grey."

The third option had the potential to be a game-changer and the possibility that the Liberals could come out against the HST was of serious concern to the Conservatives. But it would have been yet another flip-flop that would have added credibility to the Tory attack ad claim that the Liberal leader is only in it for himself -- particularly since it was the Liberals who proposed the HST in the first place.

His attempt to bring down the government in September, just as the country appeared to be emerging from the economic doldrums, reinforced the impression that Mr. Ignatieff is a self-centred political opportunist.

His decision to endorse the HST is designed to shift those perceptions and underscore that he is prepared to do the "right thing," even if it costs him votes in the short term.

The broader implications of what may turn out to be a defining decision is that it makes a federal election next year more unlikely.

Peter Donolo, Mr. Ignatieff's new chief of staff, has promised to play a long game and the decision to back the HST seems to confirm that. If the Grits were planning to push for an election next spring or fall, surely they would have come out against a measure that is likely to be reaching fever pitch in the run-up to its July 1 introduction? One Liberal MP agreed: "I don't see an election until spring 2011. We've got to lay some track."

Mr. Donolo understands that the Conservative government is only four years old and doesn't yet have the nicks and scratches that persuade voters it's time to trade it in for a different model. He understands that the time spent in Opposition is not wasted, which is the impression Mr. Ignatieff has given. Rather, it is a time when the Opposition defines itself as an alternative.

Mr. Ignatieff still seems to be a leader without a clue when it comes to the reason he wants to be prime minister. There remains a vacuum where there should be values, priorities and a sense of purpose. But there is some progress. He is starting to make good decisions as a result of the experience he gained from making bad decisions. It may be a long wait, but the prize may yet come to him.

© 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Canada re-affirms decision for 2011 Afghan pull-out.

So far Harper has shown no signs of giving in to pressure to send more troops. No doubt he fears the possible political fallout. However there still is quite a bit of time before the actual pullout, although some arrangements are already being made apparently. Possibly Harper will nevertheless simply pull out of all combat roles and yet leave considerable numbers to fill a training role or something of that type. This still would place troops in harms way. This is from the Star.

Canada re-affirms 2011 Afghan pull-out
Richard J. Brennan

OTTAWA–The United States' renewed efforts in Afghanistan will in no way affect Canada's decision to pull its soldiers out of the war-torn country by 2011, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday from Brussels, where he is attending a NATO meeting.

Cannon said while President Barack Obama's commitment of 30,000 additional troops is welcome, Canada's military role will end in July 2011 "and we will respect the (House of Commons) motion to the letter."

"Canada welcomes the additional military and civilian resources the United States will deploy to Afghanistan, particularly to the south. Additional U.S. resources will help to provide a more secure environment for the Afghan people," he said.

Cannon did say that by having more American troops in the dangerous southern part of the country will allow Canada to concentrate on training the Afghan National Security Forces and "place responsibility for security back in the hands of Afghans."

"We look forward to furthering our collaboration with the United States in order to reach our ultimate and common goal of leaving Afghans and Afghanistan that is better governed, more peaceful and more secure," he said.

Cannon said Canada is "recognized and respected" as a leader in security and reconstruction operations in southern Afghanistan, the most dangerous and difficult environment in the country, which is expected to continue in some capacity after the pullout.

"Now while our military mission will end in 2011 Canada will continue to have an ongoing development and diplomatic relationship with Afghanistan through the Canadian embassy in Kabul," he said.