Friday, July 31, 2009

No Fall Election?

Perhaps Ignatieff wants to wait and see if he will ever get poll numbers near a majority; otherwise, it would seem he would rather work with the Conservatives than the Bloc and NDP. The Liberals are no real alternative to the Conservatives just more of the same but a little bit slower perhaps in moving to the right. Both Ignatieff and Harper are pro-US and will make sure that we lose more lives and spend more money to be junior partners in the U.S. empire building.
If anything Ignatieff is even more pro-US empire than Harper. The latter is just an admirer of the U.S. conservative movement whereas Ignatieff is a big fan of U.S. humanitarian imperialism so much so that he even supported the war in Iraq at first.

Summer poll could cool talk of election -- Summer poll could cool talk of election

July 30, 2009
Tonda MacCharles
Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA–The political rhetoric is still flying, but are Canadians listening?

A survey by Angus Reid Strategies for the Toronto Star shows the federal Liberals with 34 per cent support and the Conservatives with 33 per cent – a statistical dead heat. The result is a warning for any party thinking of plunging into a fall election: No wind of change is blowing across Canada.

The poll shows the shaky economy is still voters' top concern, despite a declaration by Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney that the recession is over, and no party's leader has clearly won the trust of a majority of Canadians on the issue.

If anything, Canadians trust Carney more than either Prime Minister Stephen Harper or his Liberal rival Michael Ignatieff to manage the economy, but Carney's trust ratings dropped after his suggestion the economy was finding its footing again.

Yesterday, cabinet ministers distanced the Conservatives from Carney's economic optimism.

"To say we're out of the woods – I don't think that's the position of our government," said Industry Minister Tony Clement.

"We're still focused on the economy. We're not focused on a fall election, quite frankly. That's what the Liberal leader of the Opposition is focused on, but that's not our focus. Our focus is the economy."

Still, politics, and not the economy, appeared to dominate the agenda, with Conservatives and Liberals trading accusations of political bad faith and skulduggery as the Tories concluded a summer caucus meeting yesterday.

Conservatives privately fanned a CTV report that suggested Liberals planted a false – and since retracted – story with a New Brunswick newspaper that the Prime Minister pocketed a communion wafer. The Liberals called the suggestion nonsense, and pointed to a CPAC video of the incident as self-explanatory.

Publicly, the talk turned to employment insurance reform, on a day after statistics showed a sharp spike in claims for jobless benefits.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said Ignatieff is living in an "academic fantasyland" by clinging to a proposal to set 360 hours as the national standard for accessing unemployment benefits.

Finley is member of a bipartisan working group struck in June to study EI reform – part of a deal Harper worked out with Ignatieff to avert a summer election.

Ignatieff, who had suggested he'd be flexible on a national standard as long as EI was reformed, then slammed the Tories for failing to bring forward to the working group a single "serious" proposal to help the self-employed, as promised.

The Angus Reid poll offers little encouragement for such tough talk.

Conducted Monday and Tuesday, it shows public approval for the opposition Liberals stands at 34 per cent – an increase of four points from two weeks earlier.

The governing Conservatives' support held at the same level as two weeks ago at 33 per cent. The poll of 1,012 people has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, which means the two parties are in a virtual tie.

The NDP was at 16 per cent support, down two points. The Bloc Québécois was at 10 per cent and the Green party 7 per cent.

Meanwhile, Ignatieff's momentum score has dipped 5 points since early July. After Ignatieff took over leadership of the party last December and through the spring, his momentum grew as Harper's numbers dropped. Now, the poll shows Harper's momentum is holding steady.

"What we have seen in the summer is that Ignatieff's numbers have come back down to earth a little bit," said Jaideep Mukerji, a spokesman for the polling firm.

He said Ignatieff's honeymoon period appears to have ended, due in part to Tory attack ads and a poorly executed ultimatum over EI reforms as the parliamentary session ended.

According to the poll, slightly more people are unhappy with how the federal government has handled the economic crisis, but overall more Canadians still trust Harper to manage the economy over Ignatieff.

"With the numbers as they are, clearly no party is in a position to get a majority, and neither party seems to be able to get a clear advantage over the other," said Mukerji.

"It would be difficult for any of the parties to look at these numbers and think that they've got a great shot at really shaking things up."

With files from Joanna Smith


Ontario: eHealth spending mess deepens

While the untendered contracts are no doubt an issue, the $1.65 for a cup of tea does not seem excessive especially if it was specialty tea. If a board member is off in Florida one would think that they would just absent themselves rather than dinging the taxpayer for all the travel back and forth. Since these people are supposed to be updating medical records by putting them on line maybe they could also update their meeting process by having their meetings on line as well! - Ontario - eHealth spending mess deepens

Tanya Talaga
Rob Ferguson
Queen's Park Bureau
EHealth Ontario awarded $11 million more in untendered contracts than previously revealed, new documents show.

The documents, released in response to freedom-of-information requests, also indicate board members have billed for travel expenses from as far away as Florida to attend Toronto meetings.

They show the value of untendered contracts awarded by the agency is about $16 million – more than triple the $5 million revealed this spring.

The Liberal government released seven black binders with thousands of pages of documents yesterday after requests from the provincial Progressive Conservative party regarding eHealth Ontario.

The eHealth agency, established to bring Ontario health records online by 2015, was at the centre of a spending scandal this spring after it was revealed millions of dollars worth of sole-sourced contracts had been awarded to consulting firms, and that high-priced consultants had billed taxpayers for expenses such as a $1.65 cup of tea.

The government said it handed out the binders in the interests of transparency.

"It is in the public interest for us to be accountable and transparent and that is why we are handing out the information in an open and unaltered way," Health Minister David Caplan said in a phone interview.

But opposition leaders say the Liberals released the documents during the Legislature's summer recess deliberately.

"The government is trying to flood the information out there in the hopes the story will go away," New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath said yesterday.

The eHealth Ontario scandal dominated the House in May and June. Opposition MPPs accused eHealth board chair Dr. Alan Hudson and CEO Sarah Kramer of awarding untendered contracts to acquaintances and questioned why Kramer received a $114,000 bonus after five months work.

Hudson and Kramer have left their roles at the agency.

The $16 million in sole-sourced contracts were given to firms such as Courtyard Group, Accenture, Anzen Consulting Inc., and others from September 2008 to June 8, 2009. One Anzen contract worth $737,800, was tendered, according to eHealth Ontario spokesperson Deanna Allen.

Last month, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced new rules under which Ontario government consulting contracts must be put out to tender. As well, consultants can no longer bill for food and incidental costs.

Opposition members are also angry a promised review by PricewaterhouseCoopers was dropped this month because of potential overlap with provincial Auditor General Jim McCarter's investigation.

Caplan told the Star that board members will no longer bill for travel from outside Canada.

But Allen said board expenses for travel are consistent with the agency's travel policy. "They would have received approval by the board chair at the time," she said.

Board member Khalil Barsoum has travelled from Florida to attend eHealth Ontario board meetings, the documents show. An eHealth board expense claim form stamped March 31, 2009, shows Barsoum billed $1,374 for airfare, $117.02 for car rental and parking in Toronto, and $133.77 for car rental for the drive home in Florida.

"I will not comment, I am afraid," Barsoum, a retired IBM executive who resides in Toronto and Florida, told the Star last night.

The current board chair, Rita Burak, is interested in ensuring when future meetings take place they coincide with when members are in town or that they "maximize the use of conference calls," Allen said.

Board members are entitled to $380 per diem for the board meeting, and the chair $600, she said.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Federal NDP hopes to improve standing in Alberta

Hope springs eternal. I suppose the NDP has as much hope of doing better in Alberta as the federal Liberals who are also courting provincial voters. For some reason Albertans historically seem to take an all or nothing approach usually electing members from just the Conservative party with maybe one or two from other parties at the very most! Iggy's position on the Oil Sands developments is much more positive than that of Layton but whether that will help the Liberals much is doubtful. Voters in Harper's home province are not about to leave the Conservative fold in any large numbers I expect!

NDP hopes for inroads in Alberta

If at first you don't succeed, run, run again.

Alberta has historically been somewhat infertile ground for the federal NDP, but leader Jack Layton is hoping that "perseverance and determination" will lead the party to improve on its one-seat standing in the next federal election.

Layton was in Edmonton on Monday to see former Alberta NDP leader Ray Martin and aboriginal activist Lewis Cardinal acclaimed as the party's candidates in Edmonton East and Edmonton Centre.

Cardinal is new to the federal party, but despite his long service as a member of the Alberta legislature -- he led his party to win 16 seats in the 1986 provincial election -- Martin has tried and failed to be elected in three different federal votes dating back to 1997.

That doesn't discourage Layton, who remains upbeat about NDPer Linda Duncan's squeaker of a win -- by a 463-vote margin -- over four-term Tory incumbent Rahim Jaffer in 2008.

"We often find that our candidates run two, three times before they win," said Layton, noting that Duncan's victory came on a second try.

"We think that Linda Duncan's breakthrough in the last election was the start of something big."

He said that last time around, there might have been a sense among Alberta voters that NDP candidates wouldn't have a chance, so why waste the vote?

"Now that Linda has won a seat, I think that's changed. And I think people will now say, 'look at that. We can elect a federal NDP member to stand up for us and that's a good thing and we're going to get behind them.' It's a growing process."

Of course, Layton isn't the only opposition leader laying the groundwork for a breach of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's big blue juggernaut -- every seat in Alberta except Duncan's is held by the federal Conservatives.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has spent time in the province recently, suggesting that Albertans are disgruntled by Harper's policies and ready for a change.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Harper's communications chief resigns..

Perhaps there is more behind this than meets the eye but the article certainly doesn't suggest much except perhaps the problems that Harper had at the G8 meeting. However, Teneycke does not seem to have been directly responsible for the error. Nevertheless he should have verified the material before letting Harper end up in a very embarassing situation.

PM communications chief Teneycke resigns
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 12:38 PM ET .
CBC News
Kory Teneycke, Stephen Harper's director of communications, is shown on Sept. 11, 2008, in Montreal. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)Kory Teneycke, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications, is resigning, CBC News has learned.

Teneycke said he told Harper just after Canada Day and before the G8 meeting in Italy earlier this month that he was going to step down.

"It's time to do something else, and the summer is a natural time to leave political jobs," he said.

Teneycke leaves the post just over a year into the position. He had replaced Sandra Buckler.

Teneycke added that his decision to leave had nothing to do with Harper's troubled G8 trip.

During the summit, Harper had to apologize after he publicly attacked his rival Michael Ignatieff for a comment the Liberal leader never made. One of Harper's senior assistants, Dimitri Soudas, stepped forward to take the blame for the misattribution and for misinforming his boss.

Teneycke said he wants to spend more time with his two boys, ages two and four, and that "family is an important part of this decision" but is not the only reason for his departure.

He said he will stay at the Prime Minister's Office until a replacement has been found but did not say what he would do next.

"I recommend public service to everyone, but this is a job, not a career," he said. "This is not something you do forever."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Canadian jobless numbers continue to rise..

These figures no doubt underestimate the jobless problem since many without jobs will not qualify for EI. However, the two main political parties are content to set up a panel to study the issue!
While profits may be inching up in some cases this is often due to cost containment rather than increased sales. Those on unemployment or having to spend all their money on their debts are not able to stimulate the economy through increased purchases. This is from the Globe and Mail.
Meanwhile the Conservatives are becoming more confident and expect the Liberals to again pass on forcing an election. As usual the deficit is being used to cut social services such as health care in B.C. Liberal and Conservative governments alike will take advantage of the deficit as an excuse for cutting social entitlements. Military entitlements are not included in this calculus.

The number of Canadians collecting jobless benefits is climbing sharply, hitting record levels certain to stoke mounting controversy over the program.

In May, Statistics Canada said Tuesday 778,700 people received regular benefits under the Employment Insurance program, up by 65,600 or 9.2 per cent from April.

It was the highest number since the federal agency began collecting such statistics in 1997.

The number of EI beneficiaries has jumped almost 56 per cent, or by more than 278,000, since employment in Canada peaked last October.

Alberta and Ontario showed the fastest rates of increase in May, Statistics Canada said.

The sharp rise surpassed the increase of 3.7 per cent in April.

The statistics are certain to raise the ire of those pushing for change to the employment insurance system, to make benefits more accessible to those thrown out of work during the recession. Critics say many more Canadians have been shut out from benefits.

Last spring, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff threatened to vote against the government if it failed to meet demands for an overhaul. In the end, the Liberals and Conservatives agreed to set up a panel that would study the issue.

Tuesday's numbers continue to show growing problems in Western Canada. Alberta, once Canada's boom province, marked the largest percentage growth in beneficiaries over the seven months since employment peaked. Following Alberta were British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, each marking record levels.

In May alone, the number of claimants in Alberta, where the jobless rate has spiked to 6.6 per cent from 3.7 per cent seven months ago, surged 16.8 per cent. That was almost matched by Ontario, where the number of beneficiaries soared 16 per cent.

Quebec, Manitoba and the eastern provinces have, over the past seven month, posted increases below the national average of 55.6 per cent.

Statistics Canada cited hefty increases in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and southwestern Ontario, home to the battered auto industry. Some centres – such as Kelowna and Cranbrook, B.C., and Windsor and Guelph, Ont., have seen their numbers more than triple.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Canada's Credibility on line in Americas

Whenever democracy is spoken of or emphasised I am always sceptical about what is up. Often democracy means the replacement of a system in which a ruling oligarchy of the powerful is replaced by a system where the same people rule but with a party system and voting that changed little. Arias was key in negotiating such a changeover in Latin America and that is why he is both a recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize and also a good ally of the U.S. It helps as well that he is an ardent free trader and champion of the sort of neoliberal economic policies that Washington loves.
The military in Honduras are led by the same people who were trained in the School of the Americas and helped the contras in Nicaragua.
Canada will be content to follow the lead of the U.S. Although keeping a somewhat low profile, the U.S. is behind the Arias talks and indeed probably helped write the negotiating terms. So far the coup leaders are not very co-operative but of late the military have said they would support an Arias type solution. This may be a sign of an incipient deal with the coup hardliners finally giving a little. Why they have waited so long I can't fathom since Zelaya will return as a lame duck president for a few months with reduced powers and there would be amnesty for the coup leaders. Things would go back to what they were pre-Zelaya and opposition forces will be repressed away from the news media who will busy with the latest murder or celebrity death!

Canada's credibility on line in Americas
Peter Mckenna. The Chronicle Herald.

The military-backed government in Honduras, after ousting democratically elected President Jose Manuel Zelaya in late June, has defiantly thumbed its nose at the hemispheric community of states ? essentially buying time until the scheduled November presidential elections.

The Conservative government of Stephen Harper ? which has made hemispheric affairs a centerpiece of its foreign policy universe ? has trumpeted democracy promotion as one of its major tenets. But has its fine words actually translated into tangible deeds?

As a leading member of the inter-American community, Canada has been noticeably timid and even obstructionist on the current Honduran crisis. It should quickly change policy gears and aggressively promote the restoration of the Zelaya government.

Since joining the OAS as a full-fledged member state in 1990, Canada has consistently and vigorously sought to strengthen democratic pluralism in the region. Through its active involvement in the initial Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD), the 1991 OAS Resolution 1080 on representative democracy and the Organization's Inter-American Democratic Charter, Canada has been steadfast in its support for promoting and consolidating democracy in the Americas.

It has done so because brutal military ousters were commonplace in the region throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s. More recently, there have been golpes de estado (military coups) in Haiti in 1990, Guatemala in 1993 and Paraguay in 1996. In each case, the OAS was seized by the crisis and quickly moved to act ? with varying degrees of success.

Obviously, this recent irregular disruption of constitutional power will be a major challenge not only for the OAS, but also for Canada's new policy thrust toward the Americas. Neither the region's principal political institution, nor the Canadian government, can afford to fail this time around.

As Argentine President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has warned: this whole unseemly episode has reminded her of "the worst years in Latin America's history." Indeed, military governments in Latin America were among the worst of the worst in terms of unspeakable brutality, leaving in their wake hundreds of thousands of butchered innocents. No one wants to see a return to this chaotic and murderous period.

But instead of making its voice heard loudly and clearly in defence of democracy, Canada has remained strangely reticent. It has been less than enthusiastic about Zelaya's return to power, opposes the imposition of sanctions (urging countries to merely "review their relations" with Honduras), and prefers to negotiate with the "interim," though illegal, government of Robert Micheletti.

Peter Kent, Canada's Minister of State for the Americas, has said that Ottawa needs to "maintain diplomatic initiatives," without explaining what exactly these initiatives would entail.

As per the original Charter of the OAS and the OAS Democratic Charter itself, the Canadian government must be prepared to impose punitive and purposeful sanctions (as both Washington and the EU are in the process of doing) against the unconstitutional regime in Tegucigalpa. It simply cannot permit a military-backed government to stand in Honduras. To be sure, a fainthearted response would send out the wrong message to the armed forces in the region ? that is, that military institutions now have free rein to intervene and disrupt the democratic process without fear of internal or external reprisal.

In addition, the Harper government should consider using its "good offices" to mediate a peaceful and appropriate end to this hemispheric crisis. We could start by utilizing our able officials at the OAS in Washington, our friendly diplomatic contacts in Central America or by dispatching our Foreign Minister, Lawrence Cannon, to the country itself (much like former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy did when he practised his own brand of nimble diplomacy to defuse a crisis in Peru in 2000.)

If need be, and as a last resort, Ottawa policy-makers should not discount the option of using military force ? especially since it now looks as if the Honduran army is not going to back away from consolidating its own governmental structure. That means that deploying military assets might be the only way to dislodge them from fortifying an unconstitutional regime.

We should not forget that Canada deployed three naval vessels around Haiti ? ostensibly to enforce an OAS and UN sanctions package ? in the early 1990s. While we were reluctant to be part of a first wave of military units to forcibly remove the military from Port-au-Prince, we did agree to be part of a second clean-up phase. And as it turned out, Canada was one of the leading countries in a subsequent peacekeeping operation in Haiti.

Simply put, Canada should not shy away from using military means to restore the Zelaya government. But it should do so, of course, by working in concert with other OAS member states.

By remaining on the sidelines, Canada actually runs the risk of seeing the OAS coming apart at the seams ? as Latin American states grow increasingly frustrated at the lack of meaningful action by anglo member countries.

Make no mistake: Canada's credibility in the Americas is on the line here. It must make its presence felt and ensure the sustainability of the OAS itself. For as the Nobel Peace Prize-winning President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, has cautioned himself: "This is a lamentable step back, not just for Honduran democracy but for Central American democracy and throughout the hemisphere."

Peter McKenna is an associate professor in the department of political studies at the University of Prince Edward Island and is presently working on a book about Canada and the Americas.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

B.C. police ordered to rein in Taser Use.

This is certainly heartening news. Hopefully, other provinces will also change their policies in light of the recommendations. Not much detail in this article. No mention of any blame attaching to some of the officers involved.

This is from the Ottawa Citizen.

B.C. police ordered to rein in Taser use
Recommendations of Dziekanski inquiry accepted in full
Canwest News ServiceJuly 24, 2009
The provincial government has directed "all police, sheriffs and corrections officers in B.C." to immediately "severely restrict the use" of Tasers in response to recommendations by the Braidwood inquiry.

B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed announced Thursday the government accepts all 19 recommendations made by retired judge Thomas Braidwood in his report on the first phase of the inquiry.

Braidwood, the head of the inquiry, called for "the threshold for use" of the weapons to be "significantly revised from 'active resistance' to the much higher standard of 'causing bodily harm.' "

The retired judge said Thursday his report "bluntly states" that the provincial government has abdicated its responsibility to establish province-wide standards for the use of Tasers.

"In my view, it is the province's responsibility to set the rules about conducted-energy-weapon use and officer training. It is the duty of law-enforcement agencies to train their officers and deploy the weapon in accordance with those policies," he said.

The inquiry was called after the high-profile death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after being hit with a Taser at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

The incident was captured on amateur video, which resulted in international public outcry.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Flin Flon loses marijuana mine!

The new location of operations seems to be a secret! It is too bad that the pot producers could not get HudBay minerals to allow them to run the mine themselves but it seems the mining company is keen to close the mine down completely.
I wonder if the company will auction off the remaining plants to locals! That would be a nice going away party!

Patrick White

Winnipeg — From Globe and Mail
.Flin Flon is kicking its dope habit.

For nine years, the hardscrabble mining town more than 700 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg has been home to Canada's biggest legal grow op – the ganja mine, as it was known.

But thanks to a row between Prairie Plant and HudBay Minerals, the mining company that owns the high-security shaft where the marijuana is cultivated, the entire venture is going up in smoke.

“We've moved out; we're gone,” said Prairie Plant Systems President and CEO Brent Zettl. “It boils down to a disagreement between us and the senior management at HudBay.”

.................We found we could grow the plant really well under secure, environmentally isolated conditions and make money at it,” Mr. Zettl said.

That didn't mean it was out of sight, out of mind. A local entrepreneur sold 10,000 shirts bearing the slogan “Marijuana Capital of Canada,” elbowing out the town's previous claim to fame as the birthplace of hockey hall-of-famer Bobby Clarke in the process.

.....................HudBay's head of operations in Flin Flon, Tom Goodman, refused to comment on why it wouldn't negotiate a new lease. “It's quite simple, our contract with Prairie Plant has expired,” he said. “Things have come to their logical conclusion.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

EI panel begins looking at EI reform

This is the type of exercise that the two big parties love, behind the scenes discussions with the great unwashed masses not even looking in to see what is happening. They are not even going to talk publicly about the process. This is real democracy at work.

Expectations low as panel begins looking at EI reform
Updated: Mon Jul. 20 2009 10:59:58 AM

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A panel of federal Conservatives and Liberals will hold its first face-to-face meeting this week to negotiate reforms to Employment Insurance.

But expectations are being kept very low and both parties have agreed not to talk publicly about the process.

Prime Minister Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff agreed to the six-person working group last month as the modest price for skipping a summer election.

No details on exactly when or where the panel will meet are being released.

The low-key process is contributing to a perception of the Liberals falling off the political radar.

Little has been seen or heard from Ignatieff since the Commons adjourned last month.

Political observers say he's suffering the fate of all Opposition leaders in summer.

It's a time of year when the most productive work is often the nuts and bolts of party organization and low-profile tours to make grass-roots connections.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Brandon TV station sells for one dollar!

Years ago when I lived in Brandon and the Craig family owned CKX it was a cash cow! Now the udder has dried up. It remains to be seen whether the new ownership can make a silk purse from this sows ear to mix metaphors! Times are certainly changing as owners of local TV and newspapers are finding. The future is in cable and on the internet it would seem because that is where the advertising dollars have gone.
Claasen the head of the media company that bought CKX previously worked at a defunct Montreal newspaper. Sounds encouraging!
This is from the CBC.

CTV sells Brandon TV station for $1
Last Updated: Thursday, July 16, 2009 CBC News
CTV is selling its CKX-TV Brandon television station for $1 to Bluepoint Investment Corp., a Canadian company headed by media-industry figure Bruce Claassen.

The Brandon station, formerly owned by CHUM and before that by Craig Media, has been in danger of closing.

CTV had said it would not renew the station's licence and CBC has decided not to renew its affiliation agreement.

Bluepoint is expected to take ownership Dec. 31, pending approval from the federal regulator.

"We are delighted to announce our acquisition of the Brandon station, the first part of our strategic plan to become a significant media player in North America," Bluepoint chief executive Colin Berrie said.

In hearings before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CTV has said it cannot afford to produce local programming in small markets.

CTV has told the CRTC it is facing financial constraints because of declining advertising and competition from other electronic media.

Recently, the CRTC increased the pot of funding available for local programming by small market stations to $100 million annually. CKX-TV Brandon is expected to be able to take advantage of that fund.

CTV spokesman Paul Sparkes said 39 people currently work at the Brandon station and the takeover is good news for local jobs.

The station was previously slated to be sold to Shaw Communications for $1, but the Calgary-based cable company later pulled out of the deal.

Claassen is head of media management firm Genesis Vizium, based in Toronto, and previously worked at the now defunct Montreal Star newspaper.

With files from the Canadian Press

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Alberta MLA turfed out of Tory Caucus for health policy criticism

Given the large majority that the Tories have in Alberta I guess they will not worry if they lose the odd member who feel a member should represent the interests of those who elected them. Health care cutbacks seem to be bipartisan these days as the BC Liberal government goes back on its election promise to save health care. For banks bailouts for health care cutbacks.

Alberta MLA kicked out of Tory caucus over health spending spat
Fort McMurray member Guy Boutilier has been asked to leave caucus after he made public complaints over funding delays for a long-term care facility in his constituency
“Last week, Mr. Boutilier spoke out against a government decision to delay building a long-term care facility in the oilsands boomtown that had been approved 18 months ago. Health minister Ron Liepert said the construction would be put off for four years.

Mr. Boutilier, who has held cabinet posts in both environment and international relations, said it doesn't make economic sense to put seniors in acute-care beds in hospitals.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Budget Officer: Tax hikes or deep spending cuts necessary for surplus budget

This is exactly what the Conservatives do not want to hear. Flaherty unrealistically thinks that natural revenue growth when the economy turns around will put the budget back into the black. Given the choice between tax hikes and program cuts no doubt the Conservatives will cut back social programs claiming it is all those " entitlements" that cause the deficit and have to go.
This is from the Vancouver Sun.

Tax hikes, spending cuts needed for federal surplus: budget officer
By David Akin, Canwest News ServiceJune 12, 2009
OTTAWA - Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page says tax hikes or deep spending cuts are the only way the federal government's finances can return to a surplus position.

Page is the latest economic expert to suggest Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's plan to eliminate the deficit is unrealistic.

``Based on our analysis, even the analysis we did a few months ago, it will be very difficult to see a surplus within the next five years without significant discretionary actions,'' Page said in an interview with Canwest News Service and Global National.

Flaherty, on the other hand, believes the natural growth of tax revenues when the economy returns to normal growth will be enough to clear the deficit.

``As we come out (of recession) and the revenues get better, as they will, as the economy starts to grow, we will be able to work our way out of deficit, into surplus,'' Flaherty told reporters before leaving for Italy to attend meetings this weekend of G8 finance ministers.

But Page said the Canadian economy is experiencing ``massive structural changes'' and, even when the recession ends, growth rates likely will be slower than Flaherty has predicted. Page cites the changes in the auto and forestry sectors as examples.

``It may be that our potential growth rate is lowering, and we need to look at that,'' Page said.

Page's comment echoes a report released last week by The Toronto-Dominion Bank, which predicted that the federal government will still be running an annual deficit of more than $19 billion in five years. TD, too, sees persistent deficits, because post-recessionary growth rates will be muted.

The Parliamentary Budget Office has been asked by the House of Commons finance committee to prepare its own five-year fiscal forecast by July 6, and Page believes that forecast, like TD Bank's, will show the government to still be in deficit in five years. In the January budget, Flaherty said Ottawa would balance the books by then.

``We haven't made any change in that plan,'' Flaherty said, following Thursday's budget update. ``In the fall, we'll do an economic statement, as we usually do, and assess the situation where we are then, but we're maintaining our plan to watch the economy be stimulated, and then come out of deficit and move into surplus and pay off the interest or the deficit that we're incurring now.''

Page thinks more will be required.

``We don't think it's realistic. We think discretionary actions would be needed to get the deficit back to balance within a five-year period,'' Page said.

But Page said it may not be necessary to be back in surplus in five years. The appropriate timeline, he will tell MPs, is one that ensures the economy returns to normal growth, and that could take longer than five years.

Whenever the decision is made to bring the government out of deficit, Page believes the government of the day will need to make some ``hard decisions'' to eliminate the deficit: make massive program cuts or hike taxes.

.....program spending by Ottawa has grown an average of five per cent each year, or about $10 billion annually. This year, because of stimulus spending and other measures forced upon him by the recession, spending will skyrocket by an estimated 14.5 per cent, or nearly $35 billion.

Page and many other economists say the best way for Ottawa to restore fiscal balance once the economy has fully recovered in four or five years, is to raise a consumption tax such as the GST. A one percentage point hike in the GST would add about $7.5 billion a year to the federal treasury and do the least economic damage, they say. ..........................................................

Harper government spending record

2006-07: +$13 billion (+6.9 per cent)

2007-08: +$11.2 billion (+5.6 per cent)

*2008-09: +6.8 billion (+3.3 per cent)

*2009-10: +34.9 billion (+14.5 per cent)

Source: Department of Finance. Compares all government spending minus public debt charges.

*Finance Department estimate.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Thursday, July 16, 2009

CSIS ignored Khadr's human rights.

It is hardly news that CSIS or RCMP intelligence ignored human rights. What would be news is if anyone were ever held responsible for it. Arar was paid millions by Canadian taxpayers for the wrongs done to him but no one in the intelligence agencies were punished. The US still considers him a member of Al Qaeda or at least that is the grounds upon which they rendered him to Syria for interrogation and torture. Arar has not even been able to get a court case off the ground in the U.S. for reasons of national security. Even Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper who are hardly left wing wackos thought the secret evidence the US revealed to them was no ground for changing their own opinions. Yet nothing happens.
Again Abdelrazik was on a no fly list at the request of the U.S. No evidence that can be revealed no evidence that could bring a charge so he just suffered in the Sudan and until Harper was forced by a court decision to allow him back to Canada.

CSIS ignored Khadr's human rights: report

CBC News
CSIS ignored human-rights concerns and did not take Omar Khadr's age into account in deciding to interview him at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay prison, says a report from the independent committee that oversees the spy agency.

The Toronto-born Khadr, now 22, is being held at the U.S. detention centre in Cuba for allegedly throwing a grenade in Afghanistan when he was 15, killing an American soldier. He is the only Western citizen still detained at Guantanamo.

A report from the security intelligence review committee (SIRC), released Wednesday in Ottawa, said documents also show Khadr's U.S. captors threatened him with rape, kept him alone and would not let him sleep. Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers questioned Khadr at Guantanamo Bay in 2003 and shared the results of their interrogations with the Americans.

However, the report did not find that CSIS was complicit in Khadr's alleged torture at the hands of U.S. interrogators.

The committee recommended that CSIS take human-rights issues into consideration in future probes and also establish a policy framework to guide its dealings with young people.

"As part of this, the service should ensure that such interactions are guided by the same principles that are entrenched in Canadian and international law," the SIRC report said.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Canada's minority fatigue.

Raphael Alexander: Canada's minority fatigue. Actually the poll results show that a coalition government is preferred by a greater number than any of the four options offered in the poll of a Liberal majority or minority or a Conservative majority or minority. Interesting that the pollsters already frame the poll questions in terms of a two party system. No bias there of course.

This is from the National Post.

A new Harris-Decima survey seems to indicate that Canadians tire of the long-standing stalemate in Ottawa, and long for a majority government. 64% of respondents would prefer a majority government over a minority one, up from 52% recorded in a similar survey in 2007.
As the Harris-Decima poll concludes, Canadians who might initially have believed a minority government would create cooperation between parties have instead been treated to four years of the rankest bitterness and petty squabbling. The constant election threats, posturing, and showdowns over minor policies, such as Employment Insurance reform, has given people the desire for one ruling party:
The pollsters gave respondents four scenarios to ponder: A Liberal majority or minority, or a Conservative majority or minority.
The Liberals came out on top in both respects — with 30 per cent preferring a Liberal majority, and 14 per cent a Liberal minority, as compared to the 24 per cent who backed a Conservative majority and nine per cent who wanted a Conservative minority.
Walker said the results are an indication that the Liberals are the second choice for a majority of Canadian voters, and that could be a significant factor in the next election.
I still don’t see the results of this poll changing the events on the ground; that is, there continues to be a stalemate in the polls, and opinion isn’t likely to shift either way for quite some time. I don’t believe either party has shown they deserve a majority mandate either, although to be quite honest I would be very curious to see whether the Conservatives would begin to make some genuine conservative policy under a majority mandate.
Is it a majority government that Canadians want to see, or just something that better resembles stability? If Canadian politics wasn’t so hard-wired toward confrontation on every little issue, or if each policy wasn’t challenged as some kind of threat to Canada, more might actually get accomplished. While it is the obligation of the opposition to hold the government to task, it seems a more cooperative approach would be possible if they did not seem to oppose every suggestion made by the government.
Another surprise from the Harris-Decima survey is that 45% if Canadians would support the idea of a coalition government after the next election. Although some people see a coalition government of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc as a desperate grab for power, I think it’s also a reflection of the genuine frustration with the current ineffectiveness of our government. Perhaps some people think a coalition would be just what is needed to let one side rule undeterred for a while, a view that is backed up by the fact that the Conservatives have been seen as the sole party that opposes the fragmented leftwing voter bloc. And here’s another thought. Although the Conservatives could win another election against Michael Ignatieff, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Liberals came very close to restoring all the seats they lost since 2006. If that’s the case, the possibility of a deal being hatched between the Liberals and NDP or the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois is a very serious one indeed.
National Post

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Study: U.S. border security too rigid.

I would think that a universal approach would also ignore important differences at crossings even within Canada or Mexico. I notice from comments on this article that a lot of Canadians are becoming increasingly upset by their experiences crossing the border. Personally I have decided that I will never go through the U.S. when flying to the Philippines. Unlike other countries they take all your bags off the plane and you have to go recheck them. In Japan I just blithely walked from one part of the Narita terminal to another part where my plane to the Philippines was waiting. No customs no nothing and my bags were just automatically transferred to the other plane. My wife could not even come with me since she would have required a visa just to transfer to a different plane at the airport in the U.S.
One would think that business and tourist groups would be up in arms over this sort of regulation. But security even trumps business and tourism I guess.

U.S. border security too rigid: study

The Associated Press
A new study finds fault with the American "one size fits all" approach to border security following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, saying it has helped slow trade and commerce between the U.S. and Canada.
A report by the Brookings Institution released Tuesday found that American federal officials now treat security at Canadian and Mexican crossings into the U.S. the same, despite the differences between its southern and northern neighbours.
The Washington, D.C.-based research group began work on the study last year with the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Detroit and Windsor, Ont., crossing is the busiest Canadian-U.S. corridor. It sees about 400,000 people each day and about 16 million cars, trucks and buses going back and forth each year.
The current border strategy has "emphasized uniformity, with one-size fits-all rules" that inaccurately equates conditions at the Canadian border with those "at the more difficult U.S.-Mexican border," the study found.
The auto industry forms the biggest portion of U.S.-Canadian trade, with daily shipments to and from Detroit's three automakers and suppliers. Security concerns following Sept. 11, 2001, have resulted in long delays, with trucks often lined up at crossings for hours.
"We think there are unique situations of customer mix, geography, and really our history on the northern border that really requires a slightly different approach," said Sarah Hubbard, vice-president of governmental affairs for the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Among them, she said, was the heavier foot traffic along the Mexican border.
The study makes several recommendations to ease the flow of people and goods across the border. The report suggests that President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper work together to improve collaboration between their countries, such as creating a state-level Homeland Security network.
It also calls on the U.S. Congress to authorize funds for a project to test new security ideas.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Flanagan: Have the Liberals gone soft?

No doubt negative ads have a long history but there are negative ads and then there are negative ads. Many such ads give information out of context so as to lead people to incorrect conclusions. The Bloc Quebecois voting against minimum sentences for trafficking children under 18. The conclusion people probably would draw is that the Bloc is soft on the worst sort of criminals whereas their objection is simply that there are all kinds of cases and circumstances and judges should have the discretion over sentencing.
Flanagan notes that the Liberals too have used negative ads. This is a fine example of the tu quoque fallacy. Just because the Liberals do it too does not make the ads right.
Some negative advertising does indeed have significant informative functions. The attack ads against Ignatieff rightly point out that he was away from Canada much of his life and that he spoke of the U.S. as being his country but often attack ads are primarily emotive and the factual elements are often distorted or incidental to the intended emotive effect. Of course attack ads can go too far and have the opposite emotive effect actually causing people to feel more favorable to those attacked. Who knows maybe the Liberal righteous indignation at Conservative attacks ads may actually work. I doubt it though.

Have the Liberals gone soft? Why are they upset over attack ads?
Tom Flanagan
From Monday's Globe and Mail Last updated on Monday, Jul. 13, 2009 08:45AM EDT

See that your whole campaign is full of show, glorious and colourful; and see that your competitors are smeared with an evil reputation for crime, vice, or bribery.
- Quintus Tullius Cicero, 63 BC
These words come from the world's first campaign manual, reportedly written by the brother of the Roman statesman Cicero. Not much has changed since then. Election campaigns have always been, and always will be, both positive and negative.
Elections are an exercise in comparative judgment. Campaign professionals understand the need to give voters reasons to support their candidate and reject the others. It's pretty simple, really - about as obvious as the need for both running and tackling in a football game.
In modern Canadian politics, the Liberals have been the masters of negative campaigning. In 1988, they ran ads almost accusing Brian Mulroney of treason, of selling out Canada to the United States through the free-trade agreement. In 1991, Sheila Copps compared Preston Manning to David Duke, the former Louisiana Ku Klux Klan leader. In 2000, Warren Kinsella went on television to ridicule Stockwell Day's alleged (never demonstrated) belief in Young Earth creationism.
In 2004, the Liberals eked out a minority victory with wave after wave of negative ads about Stephen Harper's supposed “secret agenda” - hard to refute publicly because it was secret by definition. Showing the preternatural gift of prophecy, the Liberals also ran ads about the “$50-billion black hole” in the Conservative budget projections. There was no evidence for it in 2004, but it came true in 2009
Late in the 2006 campaign, the desperate Liberals released a suite of negative ads that backfired against them. Like every other tactic in politics, negative advertising is only effective if it is well executed. These ads were so far over the top that they were parodied by the late-lamented Frank magazine: “Is Stephen Harper the Antichrist? We just don't know. He refuses to talk about it. Now why would he do that?”
Since then, however, the tough-as-nails Liberal warriors have begun to sound like whiny schoolgirls, complaining about Conservative negative ads. Not only do they whimper when the Conservatives run their ads against Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, but they complain when the Conservatives attack the Bloc Québécois for having voted in Parliament against minimum sentences for trafficking in children under 18.
All these Conservative ads belong to the most moderate and usually most effective genre of negative campaigning. They focus on the public record, repeating the words and recounting the deeds of political opponents. Mr. Dion said it's not easy being a leader; Mr. Ignatieff was out of Canada for decades; the Bloc voted against Bill C-268. The ads contain no invented allegations, no exposé of private affairs, no attacks on family members - just the recall of past news stories.
So why are the Liberals so upset? Have they really gone soft? Actually, I suspect their response is more cerebral. ........................... So-called negative advertising is an integral part of informing voters so they can make up their own minds.
Tom Flanagan, a former Conservative campaign manager, is a professor of political science at the University of Calgary.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tories ship flack into key EI slot.

This is from the EdmontonSun.
Seems that it pays to be a Conservative attack dog even if you have been suspended for attacking people gratuitously. Where did the fuzzy blue sweater kind and gentler Harper go?

Tories ship flack into key EI slot

A Conservative communications official suspended from his job during the last election for accusing a fallen soldier's father of being a Liberal supporter has been promoted.
Ryan Sparrow is the new director of communications for Diane Finley, the minister of human resources and skills development -- the government department responsible for employment insurance.
Sparrow was suspended from the Conservative campaign team in September after he sent a television station an e-mail accusing Jim Davis, the father of Cpl. Paul Davis, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006, of wanting to attack the government because he supported Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

Davis had earlier criticized Harper's announcement the Canadian military operation in Afghanistan would end in 2011 regardless of whether the job was done. Davis said the campaign promise of an early withdrawal would mean his son had died for nothing.
When Sparrow's e-mail became public, Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned the remarks as not meeting the "tone" Harper had hoped to set during the campaign.
Last week, Sparrow was still working as the senior spokesman for the Conservative Party of Canada, a non-government job in which he reported directly to Finley's husband, Doug Finley, who is the party's national director and campaign chairman.
In his new position, Sparrow's paycheques will come from the taxpayer rather than the Conservatives -- and that has some opposition critics fuming.
"If the Conservative party wants him as their poster boy then they should pay him, but they shouldn't pay him with public money," said NDP MP Thomas Mulcair. "Ryan Sparrow's return to a civil service job is completely unacceptable."
Liberal MP David McGuinty said Sparrow is basically a conservative attack dog who did his job during the election and is being shuffled into the ministry responsible for EI because it's a hot file that could damage the Conservatives.
"Obviously, the prime minister has confidence in Mr. Sparrow," said McGuinty. "This is Harper's way of saying to his minister that he doesn't trust her communications management so he is putting someone in their office that he trusts, someone that will use hard-ball Republican tactics."
Sparrow refused interview requests from Sun Media, saying by e-mail he didn't "comment on staffing," including himself.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New Afghan marriage law revised.

This is from my post to Allvoices but revised.

Sections of a new marriage law that to many observers appeared to legalise marital rape have been revised or left out. No doubt there was a great deal of pressure from outside Afghanistan to revise the law. Now the wife does not have to agree to have sex every four days just to do any housework she agreed to do. I wonder if the hubby has to agree to do his share too? Provisions now allow the wife to use her property without the husband's permission and also a section requiring her to get her husband's permission to leave the house has been removed. This law applies only to Shia women.
This article is from the CBC.
Meanwhile back in Saudi Arabia a staunch US ally there is no prolonged outcry or demand for real justice it would seem. Oil can smooth relations even in the face of outrages such as this: from AFP (2007). However in Saudi Arabia in spite of all restrictions more women than men are seeking higher education!

DUBAI (AFP) - Women in the ultra-conservative Muslim powerhouse of Saudi Arabia navigate through life amid harsh restrictions imposed by a rigid interpretation of Islam and stringent tradition. NOTE:The girl's sin was to be with a male who was not a relative unaccompanied.
These constraints were highlighted again this month after a judge sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes of the whip a 19-year-old woman who was kidnapped at knife-point with a male companion and then gang-raped.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Health workers in Alberta told to shut up.

Notley is right. The weasel words in the document about conduct that is detrimental to the Alberta Health Care Services resulting in possble disciplinary action even termination if workers speak out is quite intimidating. Any criticism of the Super Board or of the way that the system fails to meet Alberta health care needs could theoretically be taken as detrimental to the Alberta Health Care Services. Almost any criticism of the system could be interpreted detrimental to Alberta Health Care Services if it happens to go against the interest of the powerful within that body.Indeed probably many actions that would better Alberta health care might be detrimental to Alberta Health Care Services at least in the opinion of those who count in that august Institution.

This is from the Edmonton Sun.

Health workers told to shut up

Alberta health-care workers need whistleblower legislation to allow them to speak out about flaws in the system, says NDP house leader Rachel Notley.

The Edmonton-Strathcona MLA is concerned about the recently released Alberta Health Services code of conduct, saying it's intimidating to workers.

"Health-care workers who are critical of government cuts are being told that if they don't shut up, they'll be fired," Notley said.

"The government needs to immediately draft whistle-blower legislation allowing these people to freely express their opinions."

Notley is particularly concerned about a segment of the document that reads: "Conduct that adversely affects the interests of Alberta Health Services ... could result in disciplinary action, even dismissal or termination."

She said it's vital workers be able to speak up amid news of hiring freezes, reduction in accessibility to MRIs and fears over closures of long-term care facilities.

"Just last month at an NDP health-care town hall meeting in Lethbridge, we heard from a nurse who feared repercussions for speaking out," Notley said. "This code of conduct is her fears come true."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Canada to spend 5 billion on armoured vehicles and repairs.

The Canadian government is spending billions of our money to help support US imperialism wherever it may rear its head but right now the main focus is on Afghanistan. The carnage resulting from US and NATO misadventures in Afghanistan are costing many Canadian, American and Afghan lives and there is no end in sight. In fact the US is trying to convince the government to commit to Canadian involvement after 2011. Might as well start spending now so the military industrial complex involved can start to profit right away when most sectors are suffering from the recession.

Canada to spend $5B for armoured vehicles, LAV III repairs

The LAV III is well liked by soldiers because of its ease of handling and protection. The LAV III is well liked by soldiers because of its ease of handling and protection. (Paul Hunter/CBC)

The federal government confirmed Wednesday it will spend $5 billion to purchase new combat vehicles and maintain the existing fleet for the Canadian Forces.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay made the announcement at CFB Gagetown in Oromocto, N.B., after word of the new funding leaked out on Tuesday.

Of the $5 billion, roughly $1 billion will be spent on upgrading and repairing 550 LAV IIIs, with an option to upgrade 80 more.

The rest of the money will be spent on three new types of vehicles, including:

  • 108 close-combat vehicles (with an option to buy 30 more) to work with the army's Leopard tanks.
  • 500 tactical armoured patrol vehicles (with an option to buy 100 more).
  • 13 force mobility enhancement vehicles (with an option to buy five more) to carry equipment such as plows and building materials.

Contracts to manufacture and assemble the new vehicles, as well as long-term contracts to service and maintain them, will be awarded in 2011, said the government.

The first of the new vehicles should be in operation by 2012, with the "fully operational" fleet ready by 2015, said the government. Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan is set to end in 2011.

"Our government is committed to providing the army with the modern robust equipment it needs to fulfil its missions in today's dangerous operating environment," MacKay said.

"Wherever in the world Canadian soldiers find themselves, we owe it to them to give them the protective equipment that they need to do the job we've asked them to do."

Leslie said repairing the army's fleet of LAV IIIs at plants in London, Ont., and Edmonton could boost the country's sagging manufacturing sector, hit hard by the global recession.

London, Ont.-based General Dynamics Land Systems Canada will be the prime contractor to upgrade the LAVs.

Tom de Faye, the company's director of marketing and business development, said recent missions have taught them a great deal.

With files from The Canadian Press

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

U.S. trying to convince Canada to stay in Afghanistan after 2011

This is hardly a surprising development. What is surprising isk Brewster's claim that Harper personally does not want have Canada stay on after 2011. However, his views could change if the US actually formally makes requests but perhaps not. The mission is not popular and as casualties mount it will become even more unpopular.
Ignatieff on this issue is probably worse than Harper. He at one time supported the Bush invasion of Iraq and he is an intellectual cheerleader for U.S. humanitarian imperialism. Although the Liberal party is split on the issue many Liberals such as Harper's favorite John Manley are very much hawks on Afghanistan. Manley has served the Canadian business elite well and is now rewarded with a top job:

John Manley has been doing Tom d’Aquino’s job for years, says Council of Canadians
Ottawa - The appointment of former Liberal MP John Manley as president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) gives North America’s big business community a powerful new voice in Ottawa to push for deregulation, privatization and deep economic and security integration with the United States and Mexico, says the Council of Canadians.

This is from the Globe and Mail.

U.S. probing ways to keep Canada in Afghanistan
Murray Brewster
Ottawa —
Obama Democrats have quietly sounded out power brokers in Ottawa looking for advice on how to convince war-weary Canadians to keep military forces in Afghanistan after 2011.
Conscious of the deep political and public opposition to extending the mission further, American officials - political and military - are struggling to understand concerns and identify the right arguments to make to the Harper government to "keep Canadian boots on the ground," defence sources said.
The United States has not formally - or even informally - requested Ottawa extend the deployment of 2,850 combat troops, trainers and aircrew in volatile and bloody Kandahar, where 120 soldiers and one diplomat have died over seven years.
The questions being asked are meant to lay the groundwork for a potential request, which the administration could make late this year or in early 2010, said a source familiar with the process.
It's unclear whether the U.S. would ask Canada to stay on in Kandahar or elsewhere.
The sophisticated, below-the-radar effort reflects Washington's new approach to dealing with allies, and marks a sharp departure from the days when former U.S. president George W. Bush declared: "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror."
The informal exercise comes as no surprise to seasoned diplomats, who say Canada's self-imposed pullout deadline of 2011, and a Dutch plan to withdraw its troops in July of next year, complicate the U.S.'s long-term strategy in the region.
President Barack Obama has made it clear Afghanistan is the central front in the war against al-Qaeda and terrorism.
Any discussion of Canadian involvement beyond 2011 will likely make Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government squirm because there's no appetite for extending such a costly war.
Contrary to the picture often painted by opposition parties, Mr. Harper is personally opposed to staying beyond the end date and has said privately that if Parliament "hadn't imposed a deadline" on him, he would have done it himself because an "open-ended war is not in the best interest of the country - or the army."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nova Scotia: Inquiry into Tasering case resumed

The term excited delirium seems to be used only in special contexts usually when people die in police custody. Although it is a nice sounding phrase it is not recognised psychiatric terminology except perhaps by those testifying or writing for Taser Int. or police groups. For a coroner to use the term in a report just serves to help absolve police and Taser Inc. from blame.

Restraint, Taser use under scrutiny as Hyde inquiry resumes
Last Updated: Monday, July 6, 2009 10:48 AM AT
CBC News
An inquiry has resumed into the 2007 death of Howard Hyde, a Nova Scotia man who died 30 hours after he was jolted with a Taser.
Hyde, 45, was arrested Nov. 21, 2007, and taken to police headquarters in Halifax, where officers used a stun gun on him. He died in a Dartmouth jail after a struggle with guards.
Lawyers gathered in a Halifax courtroom Monday morning to discuss whether video surveillance tapes from the police station and the jail should be available online.
The inquiry is being webcast — the first time a fatality inquiry in Nova Scotia is visible to people outside the hearing room.
Judge Anne Derrick is expected to hear opening statements from lawyers later Monday, but no testimony.
Kevin MacDonald, the lawyer representing Hyde's family, said his clients are looking for more detail about what happened when Hyde was arrested.
"They're not sure what role the Taser played," MacDonald told reporters. "There are other aspects of this that are just as concerning to them, such as the way Mr. Hyde was restrained."
Nova Scotia's chief medical examiner ruled last fall that Hyde died of excited delirium due to paranoid schizophrenia, and declared his death accidental.
The inquiry, ordered by former justice minister Cecil Clarke, is expected to focus on the circumstances surrounding Hyde's death, including the transfer process from police headquarters to the jail.
Derrick can make recommendations relating to any matter that arises during the hearing.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ignatieff shafts the Green Shift

The Liberal Party must never again run against such potential contributors to the party funds as the Alberta oil industry. No doubt Ignatieff will be able to hammer out some wonderful compromise on environmental issues with the Conservative party.

This is from the Calgary Herald.

The Liberal leader used his stump-style speech to tout the economic virtues and reach of Alberta's oilsands, urging Canadians to take pride in the mammoth industrial development, which has touched off international environmental opposition.
The one instinct I've had from the beginning about the industry at the heart of this economy is this is a national industry--a national industry in which all Canadians should take pride," Ignatieff told about 600 Grit supporters at the zoo. "The Liberal Party of Canada must never, ever, ever run against that industry or against Alberta."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Canada spins the truth in Afghanistan

This is an older post but relevant. News is being subtly controlled out of Afghanistan. Several days ago the police chief of Kandahar and other officers were shot by a group trained by the US and hired for anti-terrorist activity. There were a few news reports many of them murky and lacking in detail. However since June 29th there have been no new reports even though Canadians were involved in the aftermath of the attack. Supposedly the group is being sent to Kabul for a military trial. This is passing strange given that the military disavows any connection to the group. Karzai asked that they be turned over to Afghan authorities but there is no confirmation that this has happened. All the news in Afghanistan is about the US offensive in Helmand and the death of another Canadian. This article gives another example of news being embargoed when it suits authorities. The whole article is available at the National Post.

Friday, June 26, 2009
Presented by

Operation embargo: Canada spins the truth in Afghanistan
Brian Hutchinson, National Post
Peter Andrews/Reuters files
Muhammad Ehsan would rather not hold his meetings inside the living room of a safe house, on the outskirts of Kandahar city, a loaded AK-47 assault rifle at the ready.
But the Kandahar Provincial Council deputy chairman feels he has no choice. The building where Mr. Ehsan and fellow elected councillors gathered and conducted their business was destroyed two months ago in a brazen suicide attack.
Five men rushed the council office complex and blew themselves up, taking with them 13 people, including Kandahar's education minister and the province's public health deputy. Ten days later, assailants shot to death a female council member, Sitara Achakzai, outside her Kandahar city home. Again, in broad daylight.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. Since then, says Mr. Ehsan, most of Kandahar's councillors - and all of the council's female members - have left the city.
This doesn't bode well for provincial council elections to be held later this year, he points out.
The high-profile attacks did not stop there. In May, prior to my visit with Mr. Ehsan, suicide bombers attempted to assassinate Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa.
A dual Afghan-Canadian citizen, Mr. Wesa was at the time inside the governor's palace in downtown Kandahar. His wife was in the palace kitchen. The insurgents stormed the entrance but were prevented from getting inside. They killed three policemen and two civilians instead.
Such acts of murder and terror in Kandahar are nothing new. But in Ottawa, government and military officials insist - at least in public - that the Canadian mission in Kandahar is making steady progress, that the insurgency is either stalled or is slowly being beaten down.
Less often do they speak about Kandaharis. This is understandable, but dangerous.
Understandable, because the Kandahari perspective does not conform to Canada's official view of its military and reconstruction mission in the province, which began in 2006 and will end two summers from now.
Dangerous, because disregarding or downplaying what Kandaharis have to say about their own environment puts everyone at risk, including Canadian soldiers and civilians working in the province.
While Mr. Ehsan's unvarnished analysis brings little comfort, it's useful.
"The truth is, things are deteriorating," he says. "The truth is, we are despondent."
This was not what I heard three years ago. The mood in Kandahar was lighter then, even as Canadian soldiers battled Taliban directly, in the dangerous provincial districts of Panjwaii and Zhari.
The fighting displaced families. Local farmers who remained complained that they lacked water for their crops. Closer to the provincial capital, factories were closing thanks to a scarcity of electrical power. But there was a sense of optimism. The Canadians were promising change.
Last year, one could feel a shift. Most of the fighting had stopped, the Taliban having turned almost exclusively to so-called asymmetrical tactics such as suicide attacks and remote bombings. Crime was on the rise. Kidnappings for ransom were all too frequent and police were said to be complicit in them.
Businessmen who had arrived from exile in America with hard- earned cash expressed fear and dismay. The Taliban carried out gruesome assaults on schoolgirls.
This year, girls don't attend schools. The same businessmen and their families with whom I spoke have left, for Kabul, for Dubai, for the West. The lights are still out. And now, elected officials have no place to meet and do their work.
"I've received three calls from intelligence [officers], telling me that terrorists in town are looking for me," says Mr. Ehsan. "They say they plan to hunt me and kill me, like they did to Sitara."
He is resilient, and defiant. The AK-47 in his living room is not just for show; he knows how to use it. Like many Kandaharis of his generation, Mr. Ehsan fought the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, lived in exile in Pakistan during the Taliban years, and returned to Kandahar post-2001, hoping for a brighter future.
"We were accustomed to conflict, but it was different then, because we were expecting [things would be] better," he says. "People were expecting that after the Taliban left power, the international community would bring security."
But that hasn't happened and local expectations have changed. Canada's military leadership knows this. In a remarkably candid exchange with reporters earlier this year, Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, the outgoing commander of Canadian troops in Kandahar, described the results of local surveys conducted on behalf of the military.
To no one's surprise, 55% of Kandahar residents surveyed said they felt relatively safe when asked in 2007. But only 25% said the same last year.
Never before had these survey results been shared with the Canadian public. Brig.-Gen. Thompson acknowledged their importance; they showed that the Kandaharis' own personal assessment of the security situation in their province had "plummeted," thanks, he said, to new Taliban tactics.
Six weeks later and back in Canada, Brig.-Gen. Thompson went on a cross-country speaking tour and visited with editorial boards at various newspapers, including the National Post. He referred again to the survey results.
Apparently, that was more than enough clarity for the Canadian Forces. The unflattering survey results were put back in the vault. A military spokesman told me they "have been re-classified and aren't available for public consumption."
As expectations around the mission in Kandahar diminish, information about Canadian operations and results in the province are either withheld, or scrupulously finessed by the government and senior military brass. .............................................................
National Post
© 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tory Attack ads target Bloc Quebecois on crime issue

The Tories are experts at pandering to irrational fear and tainting any party that dare criticise their hard line views on crime. In this case the PQ was defending the right of judges to use their discretion. Cases often vary considerably in their details and depending on circumstances a more severe or lighter sentence would be reasonable. But not for the Tories.

New Tory attack ads target Bloc Quebecois on crime issue
The Canadian Press
The federal Conservatives have launched a new series of attack ads targeting the Bloc Quebecois on the crime issue.
The message features a blurry picture of a small boy leaving a park hand-in-hand with an older man while a nearby swing sits empty.
The campaign targets the Bloc as the only party to vote against a bill in April imposing minimum sentences for the trafficking of children.
The ad also states the Bloc prefers `sweet deals for criminals' and accuses Bloc MPs of voting `against the protection of children.'
Quebec Conservative MP Steven Blaney says the ads denounce the fact that the Bloc is voting against the values of Quebecers.
But Bloc MP and whip Michel Guimond says the party voted against Bill C-268 because it prevents judges from exercising discretion.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cannon Wants to Push Afghan Mission

No doubt Cannon is being urged to do this by the U.S. No more word on attempts of the U.S. to convince Canada to stay on after 2011. No word word either on the killing of the police chief of Kandahar and other officers by a shadowy private group of guards hired by the U.S. for counter terrorism activities. Canada was involved in securing the area afterward and perhaps also in arresting and disarming them probably at the base outside of Kandahar.

This article is from the Vancouver Sun.

Minister wants to push Afghan mission

It's time for the United Nations to significantly step up its effort in Afghanistan beyond the capital, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is expected to tell the organization's Security Council today.
While Cannon will say the UN is playing a critical role in helping to organize the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections, he will also call for greater UN presence in areas beyond Kabul where the bulk of Canadian troops operate.
"Strengthening the rule of law in Afghanistan will be a long, hard road," Cannon is expected to tell the Council's 15 member states, who will be meeting to discuss the latest periodic report on the situation in Afghanistan.