Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pfizer executive officer appointed to health funding body

Since the reality is that lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry no doubt have great input into govt. funding decisions I guess that the government thought that no one would question the appointment of a pharmaceutical executive officer to the funding board itself. The conflict of interest is obvious but then perhaps what is good for the pharmaceutical industry must be good for Canada. After all don't we want more research here and wont all that investment create more jobs etc. etc. etc. as the mantra goes. This is from the CBC.

Appointment of Pfizer exec to health funding body criticized
Last Updated: Friday, November 27, 2009 5:32 PM ET Comments88Recommend52Anna Sharratt, CBC News
Prominent bioethicists have expressed alarm at the recent appointment of a senior pharmaceutical executive to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the government's funding arm for medical research.

They hope to have their concerns about the three-year appointment of Dr. Bernard Prigent, vice-president and medical director of Pfizer Canada, to the governing council of the CIHR addressed at a parliamentary meeting Monday.

That's when the House of Commons standing committee on health will meet to discuss Prigent's appointment, which was announced on Oct. 5.

The issue was brought to the attention of the committee by NDP health critic Judy Wasylecia-Leis, who raised it in question period.

"Dr. Prigent brings extensive pharmaceutical research industry experience to CIHR's governing council," Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a news release announcing Prigent's appointment.

"His understanding of research and development partnerships will be a valuable asset."

The publicly funded CIHR gives grants to researcher across the country working in various fields of health and medicine. Its governing council consists mainly of scientists, medical practitioners and health administrators drawn from Canadian universities.

Wasylecia-Leis told CBC News Friday that she has been granted seven minutes on Monday to discuss what she sees as a serious conflict of interest.

"He's the VP of the largest drug company in the world, and he says he'll keep that separate. How effective will that be?" she said.

"We are troubled by it," says Matthew Herder, a research fellow at New York University and soon-to-be assistant professor at Dalhousie University's bioethics department in Halifax.

"The appointment of a prominent corporate executive to Canada's flagship health research funding agency risks sending a disturbing message to Canadians," Herder wrote recently in a letter to the president of the CIHR, Alain Beaudet.

Jocelyn Downie, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at Dalhousie, concurs.

"My primary concern is that a senior executive from a pharmaceutical company has been given a seat at the highest governance table for the national health research funding agency," she said in an email.

"This person is in an intractable conflict of interest — on the one hand, he has an obligation to serve the shareholders of his company (as an executive at Pfizer), and on the other hand he would have an obligation to serve the public interest (as a member of the CIHR governing council).

"Given the divergence of interests between the shareholders and the public, he cannot serve these two masters."

Herder, Downie and Françoise Baylis, Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy at Dalhousie, drafted a petition opposing the appointment on Wednesday. As of Friday, it had 1,320 signatures.

Wasylecia-Leis says she will present the petition to the committee and to the House of Commons, but she's worried that the committee is stacked against her. The chair of the committee has turned down her request to present witnesses who can authoritatively discuss the issues Prigent's appointment raises, she said.

But she's hopeful Monday's meeting will focus attention on the issue of "people with connections to industry sitting on committee that decides where the money goes."

"We need to ask questions about our research bodies," said Wasylecia-Leis. "To be silent would condone the process."

CIHR spokesperson David Coulombe said he was not in a position to comment.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Air passenger bill of rights grounded

Perhaps the best Maloway can do is bring the matter to public attention and this may put pressure on the Conservatives to come up with a bill. Private members bills rarely get passed but they can help light a fire under the governing party to consider important issues such as this.

Committee grounds air passenger bill of rights
Globe and Mail

.New Democrat MP Jim Maloway's efforts to forge an air passenger bill of rights are veering off path. Under his private member's bill, the Winnipeg MP said he wants to shift power to consumers and clamp down on airlines whenever flights go awry. But the federal transport committee stalled for six months, and then voted by a 7-4 margin to send the bill to the House of Commons without amendments, Mr. Maloway said in an interview yesterday. He blamed the Bloc Québécois for joining the Conservatives in opposing his bill. Faced with the airline industry's lobbying, Mr. Maloway said he was willing to make compromises, but to no avail. The MP said he still hopes to gather political support in January, by which time winter storms could trigger cancelled and delayed flights.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

CMA wants national debate on health care issues

The Assoc. is certainly correct there needs to be a national debate on the issues mentioned but the CMA seems bound and determined to have more offloading of costs to individuals from the govt and this will make medical care more regressive in that quality of care will depend upon income and ability to pay. It will be a boon for private for profit interests who already have a gold mine in providing drugs and equipment for the system. If the CMA has its way there will be more private clinics etc. which will rake in profits for doctors. Instead of more being covered under the public system there will probably be less. No doubt the CMA would like to see the Canada Health Act changed so that there can be more co-pays.
The patient's charter of rights is a good idea but patient groups should be involved as important stakeholders. Certainly it is a postive move that the CMA should bring this matter up.

Canadian Medical Assoc. writing patients' charter, wants national debate
By Susanna Kelley (CP) – 15 hours ago

TORONTO — A national debate is needed on what health services should be provided in the future and how they will be paid for, the president of the Canadian Medical Association said Wednesday.

And a new definition may be needed of what is necessary to ensure a healthy life for Canadians, Dr. Anne Doig told a business audience during a luncheon speech.

"The Canada Health Act narrowly defines insured health services as medically necessary hospital, physician, and surgical-dental services provided to insured persons," said Doig.

"We must agree on the definitions of medical necessity and we must agree on the appropriate levels of societal responsibility for medically necessary services."

Aging baby-boomers will demand more and better health-care services in the years to come, she noted, adding if that costs more, the public will have to decide if they are willing to fund them and if so, how.

"We have failed to recognize the first-dollar coverage in a system funded solely by taxation demands an increase in taxation revenues if the system is to continue to meet the needs of our citizens," she said.

"If we are unwilling or unable to increase the burden of taxation, we must debate alternative sources of funding. We must decide how broadly and how deeply to extend our publicly funded insurance."

In the meantime, the national doctors' association is developing what is calls a "Patient Quality Charter."

The charter is a "clear vision for quality care" that will lay out what is needed to provide the better health care aging boomers will demand, said Doig, who also slammed federal politicians for a failure to lead the health-care debate.

"Canada's federal politicians have completely abdicated their duty to fulfill the legacy of our once-proud health-care system. Instead they prefer to wrap themselves in the Canadian flag, dismissing any criticism of our health care system as unpatriotic," she said.

"Political posturing is not leadership."

She told the Economic Club of Canada it's not doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals that are failing Canadians but health-care insurance.

She says in the 1984 when the Canada Health Act was passed, physician and hospital services made up 57 per cent of total health spending but that has dropped to 41 per cent.

At the same time Doig noted current efforts on what she called "our shocking waiting times" have focused on the length of time between booking a surgical procedure and actually getting it.

"Up to now, we have failed to address the often even longer waits for patients to obtain a diagnostic service such as MRI, or to be seen in consultation by a specialist for a non-emergency condition."

The federal-provincial health care accord is up for renewal in 2014.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hillier: Colvin testimony on torture ludicrous.

Hillier is just one giant puffed up buffoon with a humongous mouth. This should make him an excellent Conservative candidate because he is also praises the military every time he has a chance and to give him his due he does stand up for his troops.Perhaps the Conservatives might not be that happy if Hillier were to be in parliament because he could be a loose cannon who might not buckle under to Harper. Hillier's testimony should be contrasted with that of another military official involved Michel Gauthier:

Michel Gauthier
Position: Retired lieutenant-general who was the former commander of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command. Gauthier was responsible for all of the Canadian Forces' overseas missions. He ran Canada's military mission in Kandahar from his Ottawa headquarters. Colvin says he sent some of his memos to Gauthier.

Response to Colvin's testimony: In an email to CBC News, Gauthier said the following:

"First of all let me say I am deeply troubled by Mr. Colvin's testimony before the Special Committee. It's pretty clear, from what he said yesterday, that he has for some time had a deep-seated concern about Govt of Canada practices regarding detainees. I look forward to providing an absolutely frank view of some key aspects of Mr. Colvin's testimony when I appear before the committee next week.

"In the meantime, I simply want to assure you and all Canadians that, in my capacity as Commander of CEFCOM, I very clearly understood my responsibilities under international law with respect to the handling of detainees, and I would certainly not knowingly have done anything — ever — to expose our soldiers and commanders in the field, our government, or myself to complicity in war crimes or other wrongdoing as Mr. Colvin suggests. I can also say with complete confidence that personnel under my command were not in the habit, as a matter of either policy or practice, of ignoring important reports from the field, quite the opposite. In light of our potential liability as commanders under international law, one would have to ask why any of us would knowingly and deliberately ignore substantial evidence from the field that could ultimately implicate us in a war crime.

"I applaud Mr. Colvin's courage in coming forward, but there will evidently be more than one side to this story. "

Although Gauthier also no doubt disagrees with Colvin, he shows him some respect and recognises as well the virtues of whistleblowing.

Colvin testimony on torture 'ludicrous': Hillier
CBC News
Canada's former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier slammed a diplomat's testimony that all detainees transferred by Canadians to Afghan prisons were likely tortured by Afghan officials, saying it's "ludicrous."

Hillier also told the House of Commons committee investigating the issue that is it was "absolutely false" to say he saw Richard Colvin's 2006 reports alleging abuse during his time as Canada's top soldier.

But Hillier said that the reports, which he subsequently reviewed, contain no warnings of the suspected torture.

"He said the reports written in May and June of 2006," said nothing about abuse, nothing about torture or anything else that would have caught my attention or indeed the attention of others."

"There was no reason based on what was in those reports for anybody to bring it to my attention and after having read that, I'm absolutely confident that was indeed the case," Hillier said Wednesday.

The retired general appeared before the committee joined by Maj.-Gen. David Fraser, who led troops on the ground in Kandahar, and Gauthier, who was responsible for overseas deployments in 2006.

Hillier repeated what he said publicly last week, that he never heard suggestions that Canada may have been indirectly complicit in the torture of detainees in Afghanistan.

His testimony comes a week after the testimony of Richard Colvin, a former senior diplomat with Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

Colvin alleged that prisoners were turned over to Afghanistan's notorious intelligence service by the Canadian military in 2006-07 despite warnings that they would be tortured.

Colvin said that all detainees were likely tortured.

"How ludicrous a statement is that from any one single individual who really has no knowledge to be able to say something like that, and we didn't see any substantive evidence to indicate it was that way," Hillier said.

Colvin had said he began informing the Canadian Forces and Foreign Affairs officials about the detainee situation in 2006 with verbal and written reports.

Colvin also testified he sent a least one letter directly to Hillier and sent almost all his reports to senior military commanders, both in Afghanistan and Ottawa.

But Hillier said it was "absolutely false" for anyone to suggest that he had known about this or had read the report.

'Nothing could be further from the truth'
Hillier also slammed Colvin's claim that many of the detainees who had been arrested were innocent people, saying "nothing could be further from the truth.

"We detained, under violent actions, people trying to kill our sons and daughters, who had in some cases done that, been successful at it, and were continuing to do it."

Hillier said they may have detained the occasional farmer, but that they were "almost inevitably immediately let go."

The Conservatives have also claimed they never saw any of these reports and have questioned the credibility of Colvin's testimony.

Colvin now works as a senior intelligence official at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

Gauthier also denied he had heard any allegation of torture in 2006.

"To be clear and precise about this, last week’s evidence states categorically that the very high risk of torture in Afghan prisons was first made known to senior members of the Canadian forces in May of 2006 and repeatedly thereafter," Gauthier said.

"In actual fact, I and others received such warnings in a substantial way for the first time more than a year later than that."

Gauthier also said that Colvin's 2006 reports from May to September never mentioned the risk of torture or suspected torture. He said the word torture does appear in a Dec. 4 report, december but could be "reasonably interpreted to be a warning of torture."

"I can very safely say there is nothing in any of these 2006 reports that caused any of the subject matter experts on my staff nor by extension me to be alerted to either the fact of torture or a very high risk of torture. Nothing," Gauthier said.

He said during his time in Afghanistan, no one, at any time, raised allegations concerning torture in Afghan jails.

Fraser also said he was never told about the alleged torture of prisoners: "If I had, I would have done something about it," he said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised the committee will get "all legally-available" documents, but Colvin's lawyer said the Justice Department has clamped down on his client and won't allow him to make public his reports.

With files from The Canadian Press

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

McKay and Hillier attack Colvin the Whistleblower

This is truly a disgusting spectacle. MacKay and Hillier both are beneath contempt. This is meant to warn anyone who dares question the teflon integrity of the top brass in the CANADIAN FORCES and the CANADIAN GOVERNMENT that they will pay dearly for it. At least Natynczyk has the integrity and guts to come out and admit that several times transfers were stopped due to concerns about torture. There had been earlier concerns of torture and the transfer protocols had been changed which in itself is evidence that the brass new about torture. But Hillier and his buddy MacKay have the motto: Hear no evil, see no evil and shut up everyone.

Globe and Mail

.The Harper government is training its guns on a diplomat whistleblower who says Canada was complicit in the torture of captured Afghan prisoners, trying to undermine Richard Colvin's credibility as pressure builds to hold a public inquiry into the matter.

“There are incredible holes in the story that have to be examined,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay told Parliament Thursday, even as he rejected opposition calls for a probe into Mr. Colvin's serious charges that Canada's soldiers handed over Afghan prisoners with the knowledge they'd likely be tortured by local interrogators.

The long-simmering detainee issue, ignited again by Mr. Colvin's explosive testimony Wednesday, looks set to dominate the agenda into next week when top military commanders will be hauled before MPs to answer the accusations.

Retired general Rick Hillier, who led Canada's 2006 military foray into southern Afghanistan, joined the Conservatives in dismissing Mr. Colvin's story. He told a Toronto audience Thursday night that he can't recall ever coming across reports from the diplomat, who was a senior Foreign Affairs staffer in Afghanistan for 17 months.

Mr. Hillier derisively compared the political uproar that surrounded Mr. Colvin's parliamentary testimony to people “howling at the moon” and said nobody ever raised torture concerns with him during the 2006-2007 period in question.

“I don't remember reading a single one of those cables [from Mr. Colvin] ... He doesn't stick out in my mind,” Mr. Hillier said of the diplomat's warnings and criticism.

“He appears to have covered an incredibly broad spectrum, much of which I'm not sure he's qualified to talk about.”

The former soldier rejected suggestions Canada was “complicit in any war crimes” – saying Ottawa had a responsible system in place. He also played down the fact Afghan prisoners got hurt in jails.

“Even in our own prisons [in Canada] somebody can get beaten up. We know that.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Malalai Joya on the Afghan Mission

Joya has always been opposed to the occupation but she has also opposed the Karzai government and the warlords. She pointed out in parliament that there were warlords with atrocious human rights records in the Karzai govt. The reward for her criticism was to be suspended from the body. Apparently such criticism violates the rules. What kind of parliament is that? She has been a thorn in the side of both the Taliban, the Warlords and the occupation forces and as a result she wears the burqa whenever she goes out to avoid being recognised and no doubt assassinated.

'Liberation was just a big lie'Outspoken Afghan MP says Canadian mission is a big waste of time
By Olivia Ward
Malalai Joya, who was in Toronto to promote her book, A Woman Among Warlords, says Canada and the United States should pull their troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. (Nov. 18, 2009)

She sleeps in safe houses, with a rotating squad of bodyguards securing the doors. She goes out only in a billowing burqa. Even her wedding was held in secret.

Elected the youngest member of the Afghan parliament – and suspended for her outspoken criticism of the country's top officials – Malalai Joya has been labelled the bravest woman in Afghanistan.

Small, soft-spoken and now 31, she has survived at least four assassination attempts and is angry at the oppressive life she is forced to lead, dodging enemies she has denounced as bloody-handed warlords and drug kingpins.

As Afghan President Hamid Karzai is inaugurated Thursday for another four years in office after a fiercely disputed election, she says his term is already tainted by the corruption, criminality and violence of those around him.

"(Prime Minister) Stephen Harper says this election was a success," she said. "But Karzai has not only insulted, but betrayed the Afghan people."

Karzai has vowed to launch anti-corruption investigations under pressure from Washington. But, Joya insists, Canada is wasting blood and treasure on keeping his government in power.

"Canada should pull its troops out now," she said in Toronto on Wednesday, where she was promoting her book A Woman Among Warlords, co-written with Canadian peace activist Derrick O'Keefe.

And, she says, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is considering a surge in troop levels to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban, should think again.

"The United States should go, too. As long as foreign troops are in the country we will be fighting two enemies instead of one."

Yes, she says, there is a risk of civil war, as happened when the Soviet Union gave up the fight against U.S.-backed Afghan Islamists 20 years ago. But it would still be better than "night raids, torture and aerial bombardment" that killed hundreds of Afghan civilians while the Taliban made steady gains.

"Liberation was just a big lie." Joya believes Afghans are now better prepared to battle the Taliban alone – if the warlords are disarmed, and the international community helps build a society that can push back against extremism.

It is a tall order, she admits. But "resistance has increased, and people are becoming more aware of democracy and human rights. They need humanitarian and educational support."

But not, she adds, at the point of a gun.

Joya has firsthand experience with the Taliban, as well as the brutal warlords who forced her family into refugee camps after the exit of the Soviets in 1989.

As a teacher in the secret schools that educated girls – strictly banned by the Taliban – she walked around western Afghanistan at the end of the 1990s with books hidden beneath the enveloping burqa.

"Once we were stopped and searched but the burqa saved me," she recalled in her book. "They ordered me to stretch out my arms but because they did not pat me down they never found the school books."

But after the Taliban's violent repression of women, Joya says, Karzai's Afghanistan has done little to ease their plight.

Religious extremism is rife, and even a 25 per cent quota for women in parliament has produced few female politicians who are willing to fight for women's rights.

That is what makes Joya an inspiration for those who greet her tearfully on her heavily guarded visits to clinics, community groups and an orphanage she supports.

It has also made her a target for radicals, as well as the warlord factions she denounces. Since she called for the prosecution of highly placed warlords and drug smugglers in a landmark 2003 meeting on the country's constitution, the threats have not stopped.

When Joya returns to Afghanistan this month, she will resume her perilous career as a rallying point for the country's downtrodden and disenchanted – and hope she will live to see genuine change.

"It will be a long struggle," she wrote. "A river is made drop by drop ... you can kill me, but you can never kill my spirit."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ipsos Reid Poll: Ignatieff behind Dion!

No doubt some of those in the Liberal party who were glad to see Dion pushed out will be wondering whether it was a good idea. Or perhaps they will just sharpen their knives for a new round of suicidal attacks on their own leader. Harper must be smiling. Instead of a green shift we seem to be getting a blue shift under Ignatieff! This is from the Vancouver Sun.

Ignatieff behind Dion in latest poll
By David Akin, Canwest News ServiceOctober 25, 2009
A new poll shows support for the federal Liberal party has weakened so much that, were an election to be held today, Michael Ignatieff would lead his party to a worse showing than his predecessor, Stephane Dion, did last October.

"The Liberals, these days, just have no traction at all," said Darrell Bricker, CEO of polling firm Ipsos Reid, which provided its latest results exclusively to Canwest News Service and Global National.

Dion received 28% of the popular vote last fall. The Ipsos Reid poll suggests that, last week, the Liberals would have done even worse, with just 25% of support among all Canadians.

Ipsos found 40% of survey respondents said they would vote Conservative. But while 40% is usually good enough for a majority -- Jean Chretien won a majority with 37% in 1997 -- Bricker said the Conservative vote tends to be "inefficient," that is, it's concentrated in provinces like Alberta where, even if their support shot up to 100%, it would not translate into more seats and a majority.

Nationally, NDP support remained stable through the month at 13% and the Green Party has the support of 11 % of voters, an improvement of three percentage points since Ipsos Reid last polled Canadians in early October.

In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois is the choice of 42 % of voters.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Arar's lawyer: Afghan torture a case of deja-vu.

The vicious attack by Peter MacKay on Richard Colvin is truly alarming. MacKay strikes me as worse than his Reform Party comrades. Not only is he a promise breaker but he tries to discredit a civil servant just for blowing the whistle. It is clear that the government did know that something was going on since they had already changed their practice after earlier complaints. That upper echelons had never heard about what was going on is completely incredible. There has obviously been tacit acceptance of the practice of torture but for the sake of expediency the reality has been ignored and then denied when it is revealed. This is from the Star.

Arar-case lawyer sees torture déjà vu
Afghans' rights record should have led officials to suspect prison abuse, Cavalluzzo concludesRichard J. Brennan

Afghanistan's widely criticized record on human rights should have been enough for Canadian officials to suspect detainees in Afghan prisons were being tortured, says Paul Cavalluzzo, the senior commission counsel at the Maher Arar inquiry.

"In light of the human rights record of Afghanistan, you would expect that officials would check it out either themselves or through non-governmental agencies like the Red Cross as to what may be occurring," Cavalluzzo told the Toronto Star Friday.

The Conservative government has steadfastly refused to acknowledge widespread torture in Afghan jails despite testimony this week from senior Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin, who said that while at the Canadian embassy in Afghanistan in 2006 he repeatedly warned senior government and military officials of allegations of physical and mental abuse.

Cavalluzzo, a respected Toronto lawyer, cited similarities between the Conservative government's hard-line position and Canada's role in the torture of Arar in a Syrian prison.

Arar, a Canadian citizen, was passing through New York on his way home to Ottawa from a vacation in Tunisia seven years ago when U.S. officials held him, wrongly accused him of links with Al Qaeda and sent him to Syria, where he was jailed for months and regularly beaten.

"I saw many similarities because his (Defence Minister Peter MacKay's) position seems to be that unless you see the torture occurring then you don't have proof of it. In one of the key lessons of the Arar report, the commissioner was critical of consular officials (in Syria) who basically said the same thing," Cavalluzzo said.

Dennis O'Connor, the associate chief justice of Ontario who headed the federal inquiry into the Arar affair, cleared the telecom engineer of terrorism allegations, and found the actions of Canadian officials likely led to his being deported by U.S. authorities to Syria.

In 2007, Arar received $10.5 million compensation from the federal government and an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

After Colvin reignited the Afghan torture controversy, Conservatives launched an all-out effort to discredit the 40-year-old diplomat, saying his allegations were based on hearsay and not first-hand knowledge.

"There was no credible evidence in Mr. Colvin's testimony, not a shred of specific evidence," said Transport Minister John Baird, who fielded questions on Afghan detainees in the House of Commons Friday.

Cavalluzzo said Canadian embassy officials in the Arar case also said they didn't suspect torture because they didn't see it happen.

Cavalluzzo said O'Connor found that "in situations like that you've got to be more analytical in the sense that you have to look at the human rights record of the country, the human rights records of the detention centre where the person is, and you make an educated decision.

"It seems in this instance that's what Mr. Colvin was doing. He didn't see it, obviously, but he recognized it and when he made these reports alarm bells should have rung in Ottawa and a thorough investigation should have occurred at that time. In my view, Colvin was acting quite appropriately ... because he has an obligation to bring it forward to his superiors."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Critics say Tory flyer suggests Liberals are anti-Semitic

While the flyer may not directly suggest that the Liberals are anti-Semitic they suggest it quite obviously.
Of particular note was Ignatieff's criticism of Israel's tactics in Lebanon his first lesson in how the truth on human rights is trumped by political expediency when it comes to Israel. To suggest the Israel might have committed war crimes is just beyond the political pale in polite discourse. Such comments cause collateral political damage that is just not worth it. Ignatieff very quickly changed his tune and has never looked back since! This is from the Toronto Star.

PM's Jewish pitch hits a new low, critics sayTory flyer suggests Liberals are anti-Semitic
Richard J. Brennan

OTTAWA–Angry Liberals Wednesday accused the Conservative government of reaching a new political low by circulating flyers characterizing the Liberals as anti-Semitic.

The flyers, which feature a photo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, target ridings with large Jewish communities.

They accuse the Liberals of participating in the 2001 UN racism conference in Durban, South Africa, which the pamphlets describe as overtly anti-Semitic, and of supporting terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. The flyers go after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for accusing Israel of committing war crimes.

"It is the lowest that I have seen in all of my experience on Parliament Hill. ... Nobody could have ever imagined that the Prime Minister of Canada and a Conservative party could stoop this low. It's the worst of the worst," Toronto Liberal MP Joe Volpe (Eglinton-Lawrence) told reporters.

The one-page flyer, which is a type known on Parliament Hill as a "10-per-center" for the rule that allows them to be mailed outside an MP's riding to a number of households equivalent to 10 per cent of those in the MP's riding, contrasts what it says are the Conservative and Liberal records on global anti-Semitism, Israel and Hamas.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the flyer notes a difference in records on issues of interest to supporters of Israel and to the Jewish community, and he denied the Conservatives were trying to suggest the Liberals were anti-Semitic.

"Anyone who's suggesting that is being completely over the top and mischievous," he told reporters.

The pamplets ask voters to choose which federal leader "is on the right track to represent and defend the values of Canada's Jewish community."

And they compare Harper's strong support for Israel to alleged waffling on the part of the Liberals.

They say, for instance, that Harper's Conservatives "led the world" in boycotting the second UN-sponsored conference on racism in Durban, dubbed a "hate fest against Israel."

By contrast, the previous Liberal government "willingly participated in (the) overtly anti-Semitic" first Durban conference in 2001, the pamphlets say.

Whereas Harper "strongly backed Israel's right to self-defence against Hezbollah" during the bombardment of Lebanon in 2006, Ignatieff "accused Israel of committing war crimes," the pamphlets say.

And whereas the Harper government "led the world" in halting funding to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, the leaflets say, Liberals opposed the move and wanted Hezbollah delisted as a terrorist organization.

Montreal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who is Jewish, was visibly shaken by the flyer, which went to his Mount Royal riding as well as Volpe's riding, Liberal MP Anita Neville's Winnipeg South Centre riding, Liberal MP Bernard Patry's Pierrefonds-Dollard riding and New Democrat Thomas Mulcair's Montreal riding of Outremont.

"This is totally misleading, it's false ... and it basically seeks to associate the Liberal party with anti-Semitism. This is shocking ... this has no place in Canadian politics," Cotler said.

The former Liberal justice minister noted it was a Liberal government that banned financial support to Hamas and Hezbollah.

"Let the facts show ... that it was the Liberal party in 2002 (that) listed Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. This notion that we somehow sought the delisting of Hezbollah or somehow (we are) indulging terrorism is a scandalous misrepresentation," Cotler said.

The reference to Durban, the controversial UN World Conference against Racism held Aug. 31 to Sept. 8, 2001, which provided a platform for anti-Israeli sentiment, is also misleading, the Liberals said.

Cotler said he went to Durban as an observer and he noted the Israeli government of the day specifically asked Canada to remain at the conference "and make its voice felt and bear witness to what was happening."

Cotler said Ignatieff did accuse Israel of committing war crimes in one instance during the 2006 conflict in Lebanon, but later publicly apologized.

Volpe described the flyer as the most "egregious example of misrepresentation of facts that I have seen in all the years I've served in Parliament."

New Democrat and Bloc Québécois MPs agreed the pamphlets represented a new low in the partisan use of "10-per-center" mailings.

Mulcair, the NDP's deputy leader, called for "an examination of conscience as to how much taxpayers' money we're spending on these very partisan attacks."

Historically, Canada's Jewish voters have stood with the Liberal party, voting for it at a rate 20 per cent higher than the national average during the 1970s. However, that support fell to 8 to 10 per cent above the average in the years leading up to Harper's first minority government in 2006.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Khadr to face military commission in the US.

As the article notes the US has never recognised the fact that when apprehended Khadr was a juvenile and should be considered a child soldier. The military commissions are also as the article also points out a second class system of justice in that among other things hearsay evidence can be presented and evidence derived through coercion is admissible. Of course justice for terror suspects in the US is a farce in any event. Obama for example has already declared that the suspects to be tried in civilian courts will be found guilty! So much for the presumption of incidence. Of course as the article points out the whole idea of trying some in military courts and others in civilian courts has no justifiable rationale. All should be tried in civilian courts. Of course the government no doubt knows that if Khadr were tried in a civilian court they would probably lose. They want to only try those in civilian courts who they are certain to convict!

- Original - -

‘New’ Military Courts Still Lack Basic Safeguards

Posted By William Fisher

While conservatives complain about Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other terror suspects from Guantánamo coming to New York for trial, many legal experts and human rights groups are being equally outspoken in their criticism of the "new and improved" military commissions designated to try five other detainees.

And some are particularly incensed that Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s "child soldier" – a Canadian captured in Afghanistan seven years ago when he was only 15 and imprisoned at Guantánamo ever since – is slated to be one of the five others to be tried before military commissions.

The "new and improved" military commissions were part of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Barack Obama signed last month. It included some changes in the rules governing military commission proceedings and is intended to replace — and improve upon — the George W. Bush-era Military Commissions Act of 2006, which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional last year.

Human rights groups and many legal experts are charging that, while the new regulations improve the commissions to come extent, they remain not only unnecessary but dangerous because they establish a parallel system of second-class justice.

Furthermore, they point out, the actual implementation of military commission proceedings could be delayed for years by legal challenges – as were their predecessors.

Much of the early pushback against the military commissions is centering on the Khadr case. Khadr is a Canadian citizen who was arrested in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old, accused of throwing a grenade that killed an Army medic, and sent to Guantánamo Bay in 2002, where he has been imprisoned for more than seven years without charge or trial.

The U.S. government has refused to acknowledge his status as a child or to apply universally recognized standards of juvenile justice in his case.

The other child soldier, Mohammed Jawad, was released back to Afghanistan after the government failed to produce enough credible evidence to bring charges against him.

The only Western citizen remaining in Guantánamo, Khadr is unique in that Canada has refused to seek extradition or repatriation despite the urgings of Amnesty International, UNICEF, the Canadian Bar Association and other prominent organizations.

Last week, on the same day U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was appearing before the press, the Supreme Court of Canada was hearing oral arguments in an appeal by the Canadian government on two lower court decisions that found Khadr’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been breached when Canadian officials interviewed him at the prison in Guantánamo in 2003 and shared the resulting information with U.S. authorities.

Khadr’s lawyers argued that Canada was complicit in his abuse and maintain that the Canadian government is obliged under international law to demand the prisoner’s return.

The U.S. attorney general believes that the reforms Congress recently incorporated into the Military Commissions Act will ensure that military commission trials will be fair and that convictions obtained will be secure.

But many disagree. One of them is Prof. David Frakt of Western State University law school, the Air Force Reserve officer who successfully served as military defense counsel for Mohammed Jawad.

Frakt has strong views on military commissions. He believes that "Allowing some cases to go forward in the military commissions means that some detainees are getting second-class justice."

He is also unclear about the rationale for a system of parallel justice. He told IPS, "The administration’s justifications for which cases are being send to federal court and which cases to military commissions don’t stand up to scrutiny. For example, they claim that the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, allegedly planned by Mr. Al-Nashiri, was a violation of the law of war and therefore should be tried in a military commission, but the government has been claiming for years that the 9/11 attacks were also violations of the law of war."

"In fact, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole was definitively not a violation of the law of war because there was no armed conflict taking place at the time of the attack. Rather, it was an isolated terrorist attack, the type of murder of U.S. service members during peacetime that we have always tried in federal courts before."

Frakt is also critical of the "new" military commissions because, like their predecessors, they fail to protect juveniles.

"It is appalling that the Obama administration is allowing charges to go forward in the military commissions against Omar Khadr," he said. "Clearly, Omar Khadr, as a juvenile of 15 at the time of his alleged offences, could not be tried as an adult in federal court, so they are allowing him to be tried as an adult in the military commissions, potentially making him the first child soldier to be tried and convicted as a war criminal in world history."

Frakt believes the military commissions are still "fundamentally flawed" for a number of reasons. He noted that there is no requirement of pretrial investigation, such as a preliminary hearing or grand jury, and that evidence derived from coerced statements may still be admitted into evidence.

"Now that that the evidentiary rules in military commissions have been tightened to more closely resemble the rules in federal courts, the real reason for the creation of military commissions — the ability to gain easy convictions on tainted evidence — has largely been removed," he added. "But the taint of the original process still lingers. The perception that the military commissions are a second-class option remains."

Since the passage of its very first incarnation, the Military Commissions Act has spent most of its time in court responding to challenges to its constitutionality.

In 2006, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the Military Tribunals set up by the Bush administration to try terror suspects at Guantánamo. Congress then passed the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, "To authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war." But the MCA was also declared unconstitutional two years later.

While litigation was ongoing – and that was virtually constant – trials at Guantánamo came to a complete standstill. That is a major reason that there were only three trials in eight years.

Many in the human rights community see a similar fate awaiting the 2009 amended version of the MCA.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Conservative policy: Pretending to protect consumers.

The Conservative government is assuring itself of ample support from people associated with the credit card industry. While making motions as if to ensure consumer protection at the same time they are assuring the industry that there the code of conduct will not be enforced. This article is from this site. There is no mention of what Ignatieff had to say on the issue.

Voluntary code of conduct for credit and debit won’t protect consumers

OTTAWA – Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty today once again revealed the Harper Conservatives’ disregard for consumers with his announcement of a voluntary code of conduct for Canada’s credit- and debit-card industries.

“Why is this government hesitating to introduce legislation that would guarantee consumers are protected?” asked New Democrat Consumer Protection critic Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury). “These delays will only make it that much harder to hold these companies to account since once the new debit networks are active, it will be a much greater challenge to rein them in.”

The proposed Code of Conduct will be circulated for a 60-day comment period. During that time, stakeholders have been asked to submit their views on how best to monitor compliance within the proposed Code.

According to research conducted by consumer advocacy group Option Consommateurs, voluntary codes do not serve the best interests of consumers.

“Why hasn’t this government learned from past experiences, from failed voluntary codes of the past?” said Thibeault. “This shows the government once again is currying favour with big businesses rather than taking a hard stance that is in the best interests of consumers.”

Harper India tour aims to build relations, nuclear co-operation.

A good idea for Canada to diversity its trading relationsips and depend less on US trade. India is no doubt weathering the recession better than the US and Canada could increase trade with India. Recent US changes with respect to providing India with nuclear technology no doubt contributed to Harper's attempts to get on the bandwagon. Pakistan may not be happy with these moves. The trip to India may also be useful in convincing Canadians with an Indian background to vote Conservative!

Harper's India tour aims to build relations, grow nuclear co-operation.

By David Akin, Canwest News Service

NEW DELHI - Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrapped up a three-day tour of India Wednesday with visits to two of the country's holiest places, the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the world's largest Hindu temple in New Delhi, where he prayed for world peace.

``I took the Swami's advice when I was in the BAPS temple and said a prayer for world peace and, of course, it's hoped for more strongly here in India than just about everywhere," Harper said, after visiting the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple.

In Amritsar, the northern Indian city that is the spiritual home of Sikhs, Harper visited the Golden Temple. Thousands were in the temple during his visit and his tour of the facility was a melee of the curious and more than 60 photographers and film crews from India trying to get close to the prime minister while yellow-robed temple guards tried to keep them away.

``They're both just fascinating spots,'' Harper said after the visit. ``It really is just overwhelming. So this was just a tremendous opportunity to see and experience the roots of so many Indo-Canadians.''

Harper also said he hopes that his trip here - which was a whirlwind of commercial, cultural, and spiritual events - is the beginning of a new relationship with the world's largest democracy.

``This trip is, in a sense, the culmination, but also the jumping-off point, '' Harper said. ``It's the culmination of lot we've been doing over the past two or three years to really try and rebuild and build up our relationship with India and get it on a different plane.''

One of the things Harper's government did to recalibrate the relationship is patch things up with India on the nuclear file. Canada had suspended nuclear relations with India in 1974 after India used Canadian technology to make its first nuclear bomb. During his visit here, Harper said a new nuclear co- operation deal between the two countries would be signed soon and he met with key representatives of India's nuclear energy sector.

``We felt in opposition and it's been our position as a party that Canada really needs to get its relationship with India to another level,'' Harper said. ``But this is, in fairness, just a stage, and much more needs to be done in the weeks and months to come. India is a rising power in the world and India has, frankly, no closer cultural and human relations with any developed country than it does with Canada.''

Conservatives in Ottawa say it could also be the beginning of a new relationship between their party and the more than one million Canadians who have their origin here.

The delegation accompanying Harper included Conservative MPs Tim Uppal from Edmonton, Patrick Brown from Barrie, Ont., Nina Grewal from Vancouver, and Calgary's Devinder Shory and Deepak Obhrai.

A group of Indo-Canadian business leaders and some reporters from Indo- Canadian broadcasters and newspapers also accompanied Harper here, at their own expense.

Harper returns to Ottawa Thursday.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sellinger (Manitoba) still not considering harmonizesd sales tax

Even though the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce has been urging the Manitoba NDP to introduce the harmonized sales tax Sellinger so far has resisted. It is not a politically popular move although business groups such as the Chamber claim it will make the province more competitive. Sellinger claims there are other ways to achieve competitiveness. The short article can be found at CJOB.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ingatieff may soon be as unpopular as Dion!

This article seems to blame Ignatieff's decline on the fact that he attempted to force an election. While this may be a factor it is hard to gauge how much. Ignatieff has not brought forth any clear policy ideas nor has he even been very effective in his criticisms. Bland slogans such as: We can do better, are a poor substitute for imaginative policy. The best that can be said is that the Liberals at least are not losing more ground so that Harper will not be tempted to inject a posion pill in some legislation to force an election in the hope of gaining a majority. At least Ignatieff cannot be accused of coming near Dion territory in at least staking out some definite policy such as the Green Shift. In fact Ignatieff is perhaps shy of saying anything significant because the Conservatives might pounce on it. This is from the National Post.

John Ivison: Ignatieff closing in on Dion territory

Andrew Barr, National Post
The good news for Michael Ignatieff in a new Nanos Research poll is that he is still more popular than was his predecessor, Stephane Dion, after he lost the last general election just over a year ago.

The bad news is that another month like the one just passed and the Liberal leader will be in Dion territory -- that is, where only one in 10 Canadians think he would make the best Prime Minister.

The latest poll shows that Mr. Ignatieff's popularity has fallen off a cliff since the summer. When he became leader, he was within touching distance of Stephen Harper, with the percentage of people thinking he would make the best prime minister consistently in the high 20s, compared to Mr. Harper's numbers in the low 30s.

But his attempt to force an election in September was one of the most spectacular miscalculations in recent Canadian political history. The new survey, taken before and after Monday's byelections, suggests twice as many people think Mr. Harper would make the best PM (34.8%) as Mr. Ignatieff (17.7%). Jack Layton, the NDP leader, was considered best PM material by 15% of respondents -- a significant drop-off from his pre-coalition score last year, when he regularly out-polled Mr. Dion.

The regional polls have large margins of error but it is interesting to note that even in Quebec, Mr. Harper is considered a better bet than Mr. Ignatieff.

Nanos also asked which party respondents would support if there were a federal election. The Conservatives received the support of 38%, down one point on last month's poll; the Liberals were at 28.8%, down marginally month on month; the NDP were up slightly at 17.9%; as were the Greens at 5.9%. Again the margin of error is high regionally, but the uptick in NDP support in B.C. evident in the poll (up more than 2 points to 25%) was apparent in the byelection result in New Westminster-Coquitlam last week.

There is great concern in Conservative ranks that any gains in central Canada at the next election could be wiped out if the party lost some of its 22 seats in B.C. to the NDP over the harmonized sales tax issue. For this reason, if no other, one suspects the government will be keen to avoid a general election around the time the HST is introduced in B.C. and in Ontario next summer.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009

MacKay: Afghan election not prettty but useful

Useful to pull the wool over the eyes of those convinced by his rhetorical tripe. The election was obviously filled with fraud and was paid for and overseen by the occupying forces. The Afghan people are not the important people involved. It is the western taxpayers who foot the bill in money and lives who must be convinced of the legitimacy of the Afghan government. I have never understood why anyone w0uld ever vote for this guy.

Afghan election process 'not pretty' but useful: MacKay
CBC News
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has promised reforms to root out the corruption that has undermined trust in his administration. (Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press)Canada's defence minister says the process of electing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, while flawed, produced a result that was important for stabilizing the country in advance of Canada's troop withdrawal.

Peter MacKay, speaking from the Canadian military base in Kandahar, said Canada was still committed to its partnership with the Afghan government in ensuring the stability of the region.

But he said he would like to see the Afghan leader tackle corruption in his government and would be watching with interest to see who Karzai appointed to his cabinet.

Karzai was declared the winner of Afghanistan's presidential election after his competitor in a scheduled run-off vote — former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah — dropped out just days before the vote.

The run-off was scheduled for November after the first round of voting was marred by widespread fraud, but Abdullah dropped out because he said the run-off could not be conducted freely or fairly until changes were made to the election commission.

MacKay acknowledged problems in the way Karzai was elected.

"This process, I'll be frank, was not pretty," MacKay said. "But we have an outcome — albeit [through] a process that took a very convoluted route and was flawed in many ways — and it's important to note this was a second successful election since the fall of the Taliban."

MacKay said the hope was that Afghanistan could learn from the process and build on the experience for future elections.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, shown here with Gen. Walter Natynczyk, says Natynczyk's preparations for withdrawing all of Canada's soldiers from Kandahar by 2011 are consistent with the government's own stance. (Patricia Bell/CBC)
Having a reliable partner is important, said MacKay, as Canada works to train the Afghan security forces to take over responsibilities to protect the country's citizens ahead of Canada's planned withdrawal in 2011.

Troop pullout scheduled for 2011
MacKay also addressed the future role of Canadian Forces in Kandahar, saying the plan of Canada's top commander to withdraw all of the country's soldiers from Kandahar by 2011 was consistent with the government's own stance.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk had told CBC News in an exclusive interview that the parliamentary motion on the Afghan mission specifies that it ends in July 2011, and that means the pullout of Canadian Forces.

CBC News had previously reported that Natynczyk ordered his commanders to start preparing plans to pull out of Afghanistan and return thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars' worth of equipment to Canada.

MacKay said Natynczyk's interpretation of Parliament's instructions to withdraw from Kandahar was "reflective of what everyone from the prime minister on down views as those instructions."

But MacKay was unclear on what direction the mission would take after 2011 and whether it would involve regions of the country outside of Kandahar.

"The military mission is changing," he said. "It is obviously transitioning at 2011 to emphasis on reconstruction, development, things that we are doing now but we'll be able to do more.

"And clearly, there is discussion as to how this is going to take place. We're tasked with that now."

NDP defence critic Jack Harris says the military is trying to force the government to define the scope of the mission publicly so Canadians understand what their government is asking its soldiers to do. The problem, Harris said, is that the government is afraid to do that.

"If they intend to do something militarily after 2011, I think they better start a public debate because I think most Canadians are satisfied that the military mission will come to an end," Harris said.

In the absence of that kind of debate and direction from Parliament, the military must leave Afghanistan, just as the general indicated, Harris said.

Last month, the prime minister's spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, told CBC News that Canadian soldiers would remain in Afghanistan past 2011, though he suggested a force much smaller than the 2,800-troop mission now in Kandahar.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Khadr to face US military commission.

The Obama administration is in many respects just a continuation of the abomination administration of George W Bush. Although some changes have been made to the military tribunals they are still capable of relying upon hearsay evidence plus evidence may be used which was obtained by coercion. Ignatieff has spoken out earliers about Khadr. Will he speak out again?

Khadr to face U.S. military commission
Decision 'devastating and shocking,' lawyer says

A U.S. military commission will resume hearing the case against Omar Khadr, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday, the same day the Supreme Court of Canada heard a federal government appeal in his case.

It is unclear when or where the 23-year-old inmate will face charges, but he is one of 10 high-profile detainees to be sent to the U.S. to face justice.

Five of those inmates, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will be on trial in a federal civilian court in New York City.

Five others, including Khadr, will be tried in military commissions on a variety of terrorism charges.

Earlier, there were reports that Khadr would be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay to face justice in the United States. But the U.S. Justice Department confirmed to CBC News that no decision has been made as to where the commission will take place.

Khadr's civilian lawyer, Barry Coburn, said the U.S. government's decision to proceed with Khadr's case in a military commission was "devastating and shocking" and that he had expected more from the Obama administration.

"We thought that the incoming Obama administration signalled a new day with respect to these cases, a new respect for civil liberties, an abhorrence of torture, a respect for the time-honoured legal procedures and protections that are mandated by the constitution and enforced by the federal courts," he said.

News of Khadr's hearing came on the same day that the Canadian government pleaded its appeal in the Supreme Court on Khadr's latest case.

Ottawa asked the top court to overturn a Federal Appeal Court decision to uphold a lower-court ruling that required Ottawa to try to repatriate Khadr, the only Western citizen still being held at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On Friday, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre told reporters that "any decision to ask for Mr. Khadr’s return to Canada is a decision for the democratically elected government of Canada and not for the courts.”

Asked whether that meant the government would ignore the Supreme Court's decision if it rules against it, Poilievre repeated that Khadr's fate should be decided by an elected government and not the courts.

As for the U.S. decision to try Khadr in a military commission, Poilievre said that “we believe the U.S legal process announced today should run its course.”

Toronto-born Khadr was captured by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15, and has been held at Guantanamo for seven years. The U.S. accuses him of throwing the grenade that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer, a medic with the U.S. army, but leaked documents have called into question the Pentagon's murder case against Khadr.

Rights breached, court rules
In a 2-1 judgment in August, the Federal Appeal Court agreed with a Federal Court judge's ruling that Khadr's rights under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — the rights to life, liberty and security of person — had been breached when Canadian officials interviewed him at the prison in Guantanamo in 2003 and shared the resulting information with U.S. authorities.

In early September, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the federal government's appeal.

Ottawa's position is that Khadr should remain in U.S. custody so the U.S. can try him, and that the court order to attempt to bring him home is meddling in foreign policy.

"In my respectful submission, we're in the realm of diplomacy here," government lawyer Robert Frater told the Supreme Court.

He denied the allegation that the government had ignored calls to bring Khadr back to Canada: "Mr. Khadr's voice has been heard repeatedly."
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said while there's no doubt Khadr had "suffered greatly," she wondered how repatriating him would fix what's now in the past.

Whitling said Khadr's predicament amounted to "a unique case."

Khadr has been stuck in legal limbo since the swearing in of U.S. President Barack Obama, who vowed to close Guantanamo and repatriate all but its most serious prisoners.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was asked during a news conference whether a Supreme Court of Canada directive to the Canadian government to request Khadr's transfer back to Canada would trump the military commission process.

"We'll look at that matter," Holder said. "At this point, it's one of the cases designated for commission proceeding.

"We will, as that case proceeds, see how it should be ultimately treated."

But Nathan Whitling, counsel for Khadr, argued Friday that returning his client to Canada would help "lessen the harm" he has suffered.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Conservatives still lead Liberals by ten percentage points.

The movements do not seem large towards any party although the Conservatives seem a bit better in Quebec. In some of the western provinces the NDP seems to be picking up a bit. Within a week however there is not likely to be much change. Certainly the Liberals are now as quiet as can be about bringing down the Conservatives! Ignatieff just does not seem to be doing anything much to improve Liberal fortunes. The strategy must be to rely on Harper defeating himself by some missteps. But Harper is a seasoned politician and perhaps he has learned a little from past missteps. He hasn't as yet used his lead to taunt the Liberals into a position where they cannot back out. This is from CBC.

EKOS Weekly: Ooh, look - it's a perfect ten!
By Kady O'Malley
A perfect ten point lead that the Conservatives have over their nearest rivals, that is, which is still the Liberals, just to be clear. We've almost hit that point in the narrative cycle during which the occasional pundit will start to predict that within a year, the prophecy will have come to pass and the NDP will leapfrog the Liberals to take over second place -- which, of course, as far as certain western provinces go, has already happened in the recent and not so recent past, is happening right now, and will almost certainly keep happening, on an on again off again basis. So far, it hasn't yet resulted in an irreparable rent to the fabric of the political universe, but hey -- you never know.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, the top line numbers, so often imbued with grave portent despite the fact that they may as well be the product of a random pi sequence generator without the accompanying regional breakdowns:

Conservatives: 36.6 (-0.8)
Liberals: 26.6 (-0.2)
NDP: 16.8 (+0.5)
Green: 11.2 (+1.2)
Bloc Quebecois (in Quebec): 35.6 (-2.0)
Undecided: 16.6 (+0.6)

Yeah, not much change from last week, really. Both front-runner parties went down -- the Conservatives by nearly a full percentage point, the Liberals by a more modest, but undoubtedly still slightly Donoloian hope-deflating 0.2 percent. The NDP fortunes, meanwhile, rose by a half percent pickup, although like every other change between this week and last, that is, of course, well within the margin of error. Still, you know which side of that MoE a party would prefer to be on, given their druthers.

To find out just where the various parties are losing -- or, in a couple of cases, gaining -- steam, we have to turn to the regional breakdowns, of course. Therein, presumably, lies the tale -- or a tale, at least:

British Columbia (MoE 5.53)
Conservatives: 36.8 (-5.0)
NDP: 25.3 (-)
Liberals: 24.1 (+4.0)
Green: 13.8 (+1.0)

Alberta (MoE 5.59)
Conservatives: 58.2 (-4.6)
Liberals: 17.9 (+0.4)
Green: 12.3 (+2.4)
NDP: 11.6 (+1.8)

Saskatchewan/Manitoba (MoE 7.13)
Conservatives: 44.2 (-4.1)
NDP: 28.8 (+5.6)
Liberals: 16.3 (-3.3)
Green: 10.7 (+1.1)

Okay , let's interrupt this fascinating series of numbers to point out that -- hey, do you notice what may be the start of a trend out west? I mean, last week, we were all snickering -- yes, I said 'we', don't feign innocence, fellow armchair pollcrunchers -- over those soaring Liberal numbers in Alberta, but honestly, if you were to present these results to a just-arrived interplanetary delegation of intelligent alien lifeforms, and ask them what their first thought was, they'd politely observe out that these "Conservatives" appear to be on the verge of maybe possibly eventually having a teeny tiny problem out west.

Although really, given the geographically quirky nature of Canadian politics, and the way the votes split, the fact that both the NDP and the Liberals are gaining, and holding, respectively does not necessarily augur future electoral unpleasantness for the government. Well, except in those ridings -- like, for instance, decent-sized chunks of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- where the Liberals are firmly out of contention, and a configuration like this could actually result in the Conservatives losing a few seats to the NDP. (I'd advise against explaining all this to the alien delegation, by the way; it's hard enough for the rest of us to get our heads around the concept, and we haven't even gotten to Quebec.)

Really, though, Alberta. Oh, Alberta. What's gotten into you lately? The Conservatives have been consistently polling below their usual 60 percent for weeks. Are you taking your discontent with Ed Stelmach out on poor Stephen Harper? Have you confused the Green Party with the Wild Rose upstart, given that both have botanically-themed names? If you keep this up, Alberta might actually become interesting on a federal level, which hasn't happened in -- possibly ever.

Alright, back to your regularly scheduled stream of raw numbers, followed by my thoughts:

Ontario (MoE 3.00)
Conservatives: 39.2 (-0.4)
Liberals: 33.8 (+0.2)
NDP: 15.5 (-0.3)
Green: 11.6 (+0.6)

Quebec (MoE 3.45)
Bloc Quebecois: 35.6 (-2.0)
Conservatives: 21.7 (+2.1)
Liberals: 21.3 (-3.0)
NDP: 10.7 (-0.3)
Green: 10.6 (+3.0)

Atlantic Canada (MoE 6.93)
Conservatives: 36.5 (+3.1)
Liberals: 32.8 (-0.1)
NDP: 25.3 (+0.4)
Green: 5.5 (-3.3)

Not much going on in Ontario, really -- a barely imperceptible decline for the Conservatives and the NDP; a statistically insignificant upward blip for the Liberals and the Green Party.

Quebec is, at least, a soupcon more interesting -- the Conservatives are back at the high point of their traditional high teens/low twenties territory, and the Liberals have slid again, but the most noteworthy number is that of the Bloc Quebecois, which -- what with this, and that unfortunate byelection result in Riviere du loup -- may be forced to start actually campaigning, instead of just showing up on election day to collect their winnings.

That said, remember how mercurial the splits can be out west? Well, it's sort of the same in Quebec, only the rule of thumb tends to favour Team Sovereignty when there are two (or more) federalist options of relatively equal strength, so perhaps Gilles Duceppe can keep doing whatever it is he does while the other party leaders are fretting and fussing.

And finally, there is Atlantic Canada, which, up until fairly recently, appeared to be the last bastion of stalwart Liberal support in the country, yet now seems to be a three(ish) way race. Without more detailed provincial breakdowns -- and yes, I know that's not feasible, what with the incalculably huge margin of error that would result -- it's impossible to know whether this represents an overall warming of sentiment towards the Conservatives out east, or if New Brunswick is turning into a tiny, Maritime-themed Alberta, but still. Any way you slice it, there's no good news for the Liberals here.

Alright, those are my musings -- you can rebut them, or post your own in the comments, with bonus points for not being boringly partisan!

Oh, and just an administrative note: this week's bonus round is all about H1N1. To be honest, I'm not sure if it really tells us anything new -- Canadians seem to be distinctly underwhelmed by the performance of the government their governments thus far, and are split on whether to be vaccinated or not -- but if you find anything noteworthy in the data, feel free to share it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ignatieff past remarks on Royals may haunt him.

The problem with having written quite a bit in the past is that anyone can search through the writings and cherry pick passages that might be embarassing such as those cited here. Personally, I think Ignatieff would be an embarassment even if he had written nothing. The two main parties are both so bad it always amazes me why they get so many votes compared to minor parties. I suppose everyone wants to pick one of the winners even though neither of them represent what the voter wants!

Ignatieff could be haunted by past musings on royals
By RANDY BOSWELL, Canwest News Service

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, visit Brigus, N.L. yesterday. The town is the historic home of Captain Bob Bartlett, who led Robert Peary's expedition to the North Pole in 1909.
Photograph by: CHRIS JACKSON, GETTY IMAGES VIA REUTERS, Canwest News ServiceWhen Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff meets Prince Charles for talks next week during the future king's visit to Ottawa, the opposition leader may have to do some fast talking to explain the decidedly anti-monarchist views he expressed in 1992 at the time of Charles's separation from Princess Diana.

In the article, published originally in Britain's Observer newspaper and later reprinted in The Gazette in Montreal, Ignatieff - then a leading British-based writer and broadcaster - argued that the future of the monarchy looked "decidedly bleak" and that it was time for the British public to "regretfully but firmly decide enough is enough," and demand a republican-style government.

"We are being told to sympathize with the private grief of the tragic couple," Ignatieff wrote.

"We are being asked to believe that the horrid tabloids are to blame. Buckingham Palace and No. 10 Downing Street smoothly assure us that the couple's private misery need have no constitutional implications.

"Enough of this nonsense. The Royal Family is not doing its job."

Ignatieff's 17-year-old thoughts on the subject of the monarchy arise in the midst of an 11-day, cross-Canada trip by Prince Charles and his second wife, Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall.

The couple's itinerary includes a brief visit with Ignatieff on Nov. 10 during a three-day stop in Ottawa, the last leg of the royal visit.

But the royal visit also coincides with the H1N1 crisis, and Ignatieff spokesman Mike O'Shaughnessy told Canwest News Service that problems with the national vaccination program - not the state of Canada's constitutional monarchy - are the Liberal leader's priority at the moment.

"The leader is focused on the issue of H1N1," the spokes-man stated. "Right now, Canadians are worried about lines for flu shots, not lines of succession. This is not an issue Canadians are focused on."

A prolific writer and distinguished academic before announcing his bid to become a Liberal MP in November 2005, Ignatieff's opinions from his pre-politics career have occasionally sparked controversy - most notably, his statements in support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

But his published views on Prince Charles at a time when the heir apparent's marriage was falling apart in full public view were strikingly blunt.

"Listening to the separation announcement, I found myself wondering exactly why this shambles was so magically preferable to an elected presidency," Ignatieff wrote at the time.

"Dignity, authority and respect - all the qualities peeling away from the monarchy by the hour - are there to behold in the distinguished figure of Richard von Weizsacker, Germany's president. He has even used his office to speak for the German liberal conscience. Could someone tell me why the current speaker of the British House of Commons could not do just as well? At least she has no family we would have to endure."

He railed against the "schizophrenic attitude" of the British news media and public: "One minute, the tabloid hounds are licking the royal hand, the next day they are biting it off" - a phenomenon Ignatieff described as "a rabid kind of porno-populism."

He concluded: "Now is the time for the republican tradition in Britain to find its voice again. Such respect for the monarchy as I have makes me believe they deserve a more honourable opponent than rabid porno-populism."

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stelmach wins 77 per cent support for his leadership

The media always seems to be down on Stelmach. Stelmach is not the choice of the party elite and power brokers especially those associated with Calgary and the oil patch. He did much better in the provincial election than people thought he would and he has done better at this convention than many thought. I wonder if the Wild Roses are becoming less disgruntled rural right wingers and more urban prickly Calgary thistles, disgruntled urban power brokers.

Stelmach still the man for the Tories Share with friends

RED DEER, ALTA. — From Monday's Globe and Mail

.Despite receiving a strong vote of confidence from his party, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach still has a lot of heavy lifting to do in order to satisfy both Progressive Conservatives and other grumpy Alberta voters.

"[The result] puts the Premier in a position of comfort ... but indicates to him there is room for improvement," Edmonton Tory MLA Thomas Lukaszuk said Saturday, shortly after Mr. Stelmach received 77 per cent support in a mandatory leadership review at the party's annual convention in Red Deer.

Heading into the vote, there were predictions Mr. Stelmach was going to fare much worse considering recent public opinion polls that show Albertans are increasingly unimpressed with both him and his party, which has governed the province uninterrupted since 1971. Many people are flocking to the upstart Wildrose Alliance Party, a right-wing rival to the Tories that recently elected Danielle Smith, a young former media commentator, to lead it.

A Tory party delegate from Edmonton, who didn't want to identified, said that she supported Mr. Stelmach in the secret-ballot vote only because she didn't want to help throw the party into a leadership race at a time when the once-booming Alberta is suffering through a recession. "I supported him now, but things better change or else I'm done," she said.

Many Albertans, not just card-carrying Tories, are unhappy with the way the government has handled several files, including the province's finances.

"Changes are coming," Mr. Stelmach promised party members during a speech after Saturday's vote. The next general election is expected to be held in March, 2012. The PCs currently hold 70 of Alberta's 83 seats.

During the convention, several party members told Mr. Stelmach that his government needed to improve its communications strategy.

"I really do feel that the policies we have are the right ones for Alberta, but it's difficult to get it through the present media that's available to us," Mr. Stelmach said, adding the government plans to use social media more to connect directly with Albertans.

There is already speculation many Wildrose Alliance members are delighted Mr. Stelmach is no longer in danger of losing his job because they believe Ms. Smith would easily outperform him in the next election.

Tory cabinet minister Ted Morton, who ran against Mr. Stelmach in the 2006 party leadership race, said it would be dangerous to underestimate the Premier, and he expects him to lead the Tories to "another big majority."

Mr. Morton said the Wildrose Alliance faces several challenges in the months ahead, including drafting policy and going "through the difficulty of building a new party."

"The honeymoon for Danielle Smith is over," he said.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The meaning of the Swastika

I was looking through a group of birthday greeting cards from the early nineteen hundreds this morning. Lo and Behold there was a swastika prominently displayed in one corner of the card. This reminded me that the swastika originally had nothing to do with the Nazis but symbolised good luck:

Until the Nazis used this symbol, the swastika was used by many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years to represent life, sun, power, strength, and good luck.

Even in the early twentieth century, the swastika was still a symbol with positive connotations. For instance, the swastika was a common decoration that often adorned cigarette cases, postcards, coins, and buildings. During World War I, the swastika could even be found on the shoulder patches of the American 45th Division and on the Finnish air force until after World War II."""

Originally the direction of the symbol whether clockwise or counterclockwise did not change the symbolism but later some cultures associated one direct with positive connotations and the other with negative:

""In ancient times, the direction of the swastika was interchangeable as can be seen on an ancient Chinese silk drawing.

Some cultures in the past had differentiated between the clockwise swastika and the counter-clockwise sauvastika. In these cultures the swastika symbolized health and life while the sauvastika took on a mystical meaning of bad-luck or misfortune. ""

The swastika is of very ancient origin:

W. G. V. Balchin says the word swastika is of Sanskrit origin and the symbol is one of good luck or a charm or a religious symbol (the last, among the Jains and Buddhists) that goes back to at least the Bronze Age. It appears in various parts of the ancient and modern world. This article mentions Christians did, indeed, consider the swastika for their symbol.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

James Travers: Ill winds blowing for Harper's ship of state.

Perhaps in the future, but right now there doesn't seem to be any wind at all in the Liberal sails according to recent polls. Ignatieff is going nowhere it would seem. The problem of swine flue vaccine will probably blow over quickly and although the economy is not doing as well as the Conservatives may have thought it is still on the road to recovery it would seem.
It is rather ironic that Harper should be charged with runaway spending. The Liberals would have spent just as much if not more on a stimulus package. However the tax cuts do no doubt cause part of the deficit but then these are part and parcel of the Conservative ideology and it is quite possible that Liberals too might have passed these crying out that they were a great stimulus since they put money in people's pockets to be spent. What would help defeat the Conservatives is some genuine new policies by Ignatieff rather than dumb slogans such as: We can do better. Yeah sure!.

Travers: Ill winds blowing for PM's ship of state.

By James Travers
National Reporter
Not much is more certain to blow a government off course than events. First observed by former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, that old axiom is Stephen Harper's new reality.

Days ago, Conservatives had a breeze at their back. Now they're twisting in winds they can't control.

First, there were those big, blue, bogus stimulus cheques and then came the swine flu with its viral mix of fear, confusion and queue-jumping. Now, watchdogs are barking at a too-sunny economic forecast and who-cares crisis readiness.

Each alone would be a problem for any government. Together they threaten the trend Conservatives count on to transform their minority into a future majority.

Given the violence of political pendulum swings, Harper could still grasp his Holy Grail. Liberals remain in disarray, and 2010, beginning with the Olympics and continuing through a long list of events that flatter prime ministers, is particularly promising.

But it's also true that the cornerstone of Conservative success is suddenly stressed and in danger of cracking. Canadians who decided that the ruling party is competent to manage the nation's affairs now have worrying personal reasons to reconsider that assumption.

Their conclusion always made too light of the weight of evidence. Inadequate as the government's immunization plan is now proving, its financial stewardship has long been inept. Along with missing an imminent recession and hiding inevitable deficits, the faux-economist Harper gnawed through an inherited $13 billion surplus with politically charged tax cuts and runaway spending.

Canadians already concerned about family health will soon be paying the price for those financial mistakes. Kevin Page, the federal budget officer Conservatives put in place and are now trying to silence, is contradicting the Conservative claim that the return of good times will rescue the country from long-term structural deficits. If Page is prescient – and his gold standard work to date only inspires confidence – Harper will have to break his word not to raise taxes or cut services to balance Ottawa's books.

Page isn't alone in finding fault. A single thread weaves through Auditor General Sheila Fraser's Tuesday reports on the government's performance. From preparing for emergencies to guarding against abuse of foreign workers to delivering foreign aid, Conservatives boast a better game than they play.

That criticism is hardly unique: Fraser became a national icon, as well as a local voice of sanity, by showing no fear or favour in her eviscerations. But her latest deconstructions are a direct challenge to the carefully crafted illusion that Conservatives are delivering the better government they promised.

Strip that illusion away and what's mostly left is a highly secretive, hyper-partisan administration benefiting by favourable comparison to a fractured opposition that has yet to convince voters it could do any better. A similar dynamic helped Liberals form four successive governments, a string broken only when citizens, taxpayers and voters lost trust in the party's ethics and competence.

Conservatives haven't reached that tipping point. Their ability to fashion broad support from narrow interests is unmatched, as is the positive perception of the Prime Minister's leadership.

But events that blow governments off course also expose frailties. Winds that once filled Harper's sails are now in his face, slowing momentum and whipping doubt into dust devils.

James Travers' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

Friday, November 6, 2009

Do Canadians Embrace New Role for the Military>

An interesting article which shows the characteristics necessary to be a senior writer for the Globe and Mail. Start out with an interesting headline but then do not provide any evidence for your claim. This article in fact itself provides considerable evidence against what the headline claims. As the article mentions there is majority opposition for our role as a warrior nation especialy in Afghanistan. How can the Globe print such nonsense as this? In case anyone is interested since the article does not bother to quote any actual polls. Here is some 2009 actual polling on Afghanistan from Wikipedia.

October 2009 Innovative Research Group poll: The majority 76% of Canadians oppose keeping any Canadian military forces in Afghanistan beyond 2011: 53% want to end the military mission "and concentrate exclusively on humanitarian work and reconstruction", and 23% want Canada to "end to all of its activities, military and non-military" and "get out" completely in 2011. Only a minority 15% support having the military stay in some form past 2011. According to the online poll commissioned by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, 50% of Canadians oppose having troops in Afghanistan, while support was at 45%.[8][9]
October 2009 Harris Decima poll: The majority 56% of Canadians oppose the government's commitment to having troops in Afghanistan, up from 54% in May. Only 9% "strongly support" it, while twice as many, 21% of Canadians "strongly oppose" having troops in Afghanistan. The majority 86% of Canadians want the troops to be out of Afghanistan before or by the current end date in 2011: The plurality 45% of Canadians believe Canada should stay until the current end date in 2011 but not extend past it, while 41% want Canada to bring the troops back early before 2011. Only a minority 10% of Canadians support keeping military troops in Afghanistan past 2011. The plurality 49% of Canadians support ending the military mission and replacing it with a civilian mission, while 40% oppose a civilian mission after 2011. In a dichotomy between voter groups, only among Conservative voters was there majority support for having troops in Afghanistan.[10]
October 2009 Angus Reid poll: The majority 56% of Canadians oppose Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan, an increase in opposition to the war from 52% in July. 37% support the military involvement, a drop in support from 43% in July. At the time of the poll, the number of Canadian soldiers killed by the war stood at 131.[11]

Not much evidence there for Canadians warming towards the idea of Canada being a warrior nation.

Canadians embrace new role for military

As the Forces have spent money and sacrificed lives in Afghanistan, Canadians have warmed up to the country's new role as a warrior nation. But what happens after 2011?
Erin Anderssen

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published on Friday, Nov. 06, 2009 10:34PM EST

.There's no doubt that Canadians have developed a full-blown, if heartbreaking, romance with their soldiers – and, it can be argued, a more robust sense of the country's place in the world. They have become modern-day action heroes, fighting the Taliban in lethal skirmishes, chasing pirates off the Somali coast, providing a worthy air escort for the Olympic torch across the ocean. But it's an awkward love affair.

And if Canadians have accepted – and even come to admire – a military that is more muscular, they are still more comfortable with Joe, the Canadian of that decade-old beer ad who declared: “I believe in peacekeeping, not policing.”

But after decades of keeping the peace, our soldiers have become police – immersed in a deadly combat mission which, according to several polls, a majority of Canadians oppose. While tending to accept that their soldiers should stay in Afghanistan to the 2011 deadline, a war-shy public will be hesitant to commit to a future of grieving over the Highway of Heroes, however renewed their patriotism. Afghanistan, some analysts say, may be the country's last war, at least for a while. So a hard conversation looms when the fighting side of the mission ends two summers from now: Welcome home, brave soldier. But where and how will you serve next?

“The question facing Canadians – and it's very important – is what do we want to do with a better armed, better equipped, better funded military,” says Janice Stein, director of the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto. “Are we willing to use it? That's the debate that's coming.”

For a country shaped over the past 50 years by its peacekeeping identity, that means a truth-telling: “Classic peacekeeping of the kind where you interpose yourselves between two armies and play volleyball in the middle, that's gone.” Now wars are fought inside countries between armies and militants, and civilians are killed deliberately. In Afghanistan, Dr. Stein observes, “we can talk about it as a reconstruction mission or stabilization mission, but that actually involves fighting and dying. [That makes] many Canadians uncomfortable still.”

Canadians largely support a military presence in Canada's north, but that's a matter of “standing on guard” for sovereignty, not advancing into war. As Dr. Stein says, “Nobody is going to die in combat in the Arctic.”

The military – particularly under the outspoken command of Rick Hiller, now retired as chief of defence staff and promoting his autobiography across the country – has been quite deliberate in self-promotion, and successful, to a point. “If the key icons of the 80s were things like medicare and the CBC, the military became the new icon of the 21st century,” says pollster Frank Graves, president of the social research firm EKOS. Once the Afghanistan mission began, “the military became the most recognizable face of the federal government,” he said.

The lingering shame of atrocities by Canadian soldiers in Somalia has dissipated into history, the images of soldiers piling sandbags during the Red River flood or saving stranded citizens during the ice storm that struck Quebec and Eastern Ontario in 1998 sparked the return of affection. But it is the war in Afghanistan – and the steady, wrenching return of fresh-faced young men (and a few women) in coffins – that inspires the solemn crowds on those dozens of overpasses between CFB Trenton and the Coroner's office in Toronto, and the ribbons of support on car windows (or the more hostile bumper-sticker rebuke “If you don't stand behind our troops feel free to stand in front of them”). Annual Armed Forces appreciation nights have become de rigueur at professional sports events across the country. most recently at a Senators game in Ottawa, where 2,200 uniformed soldiers were given free tickets. “Ten years ago,” Mr. Hillier said during a phone interview this week, “that would have been incomprehensible.”

Standing in a line for a flight at the Ottawa airport, a couple months ago, anonymous in his civvies, he watched the mass of people in line approach the uniformed soldiers, shaking hands, even offering to buy them a Tim Hortons coffee. Less than five years ago, he observes, that would never have happened. “I don't think most Canadians would have known who they were, and even if they had known, very few of them – if any - would have gone out of their way to say ‘Thank you for what you do, our hopes and prayers are with you.' And I've seen that across the country.”

And after a long stretch of resistance to spending money on the military, support for defence expenditures has steadily risen over the past decade, rooted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in the need for a stronger military, and, at times, an even stronger desire to make work safe for the soldiers themselves.

“We have to be careful we don't romanticize the change too much,” counters Douglas Bland, chair in Defence Management Studies at Queen's University School of Policy Studies, who believes that dwindling political and public enthusiasm for combat missions makes a sequel to Afghanistan unlikely. “It's not very deep-seated.”

The public, he says, will not support big-money defence spending and hasn't responded to newly enthusiastic flag-waving by enlisting. (Every branch of the Armed Forces is struggling to replace retiring veterans with new recruits.) Bottom line, Dr. Bland said, Canadians are “not very keen on a mission that involves a lot of shooting.”

But for two more years, they will have to live with one. In the meantime, Canadians will wear their poppies and shake the soldier's hand on the bus, and sadly, inevitably, line up to honour more convoys carrying the casualties of a divisive war.

Last week, after a speech at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Mr. Hillier played a video of pictures from the Highway of Heroes, with a Canadian version of the stirring U.S. country western anthem, God Bless the USA . (“I am proud to be in Canada,” chants the chorus.) A standing ovation followed in homage to the soldiers flashed on the screen. That's the easy part – waving the flag a little higher, caring much more for lives sacrificed in service to country. Now the tough talk begins about the future of the country's finer fighting force.