Sunday, January 31, 2010

Walkom: A whiff of danger for Harper.

Somehow I am sceptical about the supposed danger that Harper faces if he does nothing--which is exactly what I expect him to do. While legal theorists and human rights activists are rightly concerned about human rights the government's violation of them in Khadr's case, Khadr is quite unpopular and human rights apparently are only for those not accused of being terrorists. One only needs to look at the case Obama who is arguably a bit more progressive than Harper and certainly knows more about law. The Obama administration is content to hold 47 Guantanamo suspects indefinitely without trial. So much for habeas corpus. Why have a Star Chamber court when you just imprison people and throw away with the key with no trial at all. Where is the outrage at this? Compared to this Harper's transgressions are hardly newsworthy.

This is from the Star.

Back to Walkom: A whiff of danger for Stephen Harper
Walkom: A whiff of danger for Stephen Harper
January 30, 2010

Thomas Walkom

With its deftly worded decision in the Omar Khadr case, the Supreme Court has put Stephen Harper's government on notice that no, it cannot simply abandon the Canadian citizen now imprisoned as an alleged war criminal at Guantanamo Bay.

It has also put its considerable moral weight on the side of those who have argued that the youthful Canadian, captured in Afghanistan when he was 15, has been shabbily treated by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.

In their judgment, the nine justices of the nation's top court unanimously ruled that Canada's participation in illegal and coercive interrogations at the U.S. prison camp on Cuba clearly continue to violate Khadr's constitutional rights.

They said that as a result, the 23-year-old Toronto-born man deserves justice.

In what was a partial success for the government, the court declined to say what form this justice should take.

It said it didn't have enough information, particularly about diplomatic negotiations between Canada and the U.S., to uphold a lower court ruling ordering Ottawa to press the Americans for Khadr's repatriation.

And it said it didn't know if such a request would even accomplish anything.

But the judges did make it clear that they expect the federal government to do something.

"We ... leave it to the government to decide how best to respond to this judgment in light of current information, its responsibility for foreign affairs and in conformity with the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms)," the court said.

For the Conservative government, Friday's ruling is a most hollow victory.

It had gone to court arguing that government alone has the right to conduct foreign affairs and that the courts should butt out.

In their ruling yesterday, the judges explicitly rejected this claim. They said that all government actions – including those in the field of foreign policy – must conform to the Constitution and that judges have the right to intervene and order changes when this condition is not met.

However, they also said that the courts should exercise this right cautiously since judges don't usually know all of the intricacies of foreign affairs.

What Friday's ruling will do for Khadr is uncertain. While indicating that the government should do something for the imprisoned Canadian, the court did not demand anything specific.

For Harper, however, the ruling carries a whiff of political danger.

True, Omar Khadr is not universally popular in Canada. He is accused of fighting on the side of the Taliban in Afghanistan and of killing a U.S. soldier during a battle there.

But Harper is not universally popular either. More to the point, his casual indifference toward Khadr seems to mirror his government's attitude to other Canadian citizens who have found themselves in trouble abroad.

The great irony is that the worst abuses cited in yesterday's court decision – such as Khadr's subjection to sleep deprivation – occurred when the Liberals were in office. But it is Conservative Harper who has chosen to be the standard-bearer for those who misused Khadr during his seven years at Guantanamo Bay.

And it is Harper who argues that the U.S. military commission system – regardless of its gaping legal flaws – should be allowed to run its course.

Now that the top court has weighed in, that I-don't-give-a-damn position may no longer be as politically astute as it once was.

Thomas Walkom's column appears Wednesday and Saturday.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Supreme Court rules that Harper need not try to repatriate Khadr.

Although the Court did not order Harper to ask for the repatriation of Khadr it did note that Khadr's human rights were violated by Canadian officials. Of course the Harper government will just ignore this part of the ruling. No officials will suffer any penalties. Canada is the only country not to try to repatriate its citizens from Guantanamo. Khadr will be left to be tried by a US military tribunal most likely even though he should have been treated as a child soldier.

Khadr repatriation overturned by top court
By Emily Chung, CBC News
Omar Khadr shown at a U.S. military hearing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in January 2009. (Canadian Press) The Supreme Court of Canada has overturned lower-court orders that the federal government must try to repatriate Toronto-born Omar Khadr from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

However, the top court agreed Canadian officials violated Khadr's human rights, and that he continues to be threatened by the effect of those violations.

In a unanimous decision released Friday, the court declared that Canadian officials breached Khadr's right to life, liberty and security of the person under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, it concluded that ordering the government to ask the U.S. for Khadr's repatriation to stop the continuing violation of his rights would interfere with the government's jurisdiction over foreign relations. Therefore, it chose not to issue the order, even though it had the authority to do so.

"We … leave it to the government to decide how best to respond to this judgment in light of current information, its responsibility for foreign affairs and in conformity with the charter," the ruling said.

Khadr, 23, has been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since he was arrested in Afghanistan at age 15, accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier. He is scheduled to be tried in July by a U.S. military court on charges of murder, conspiracy and support of terrorism.

Charter rights violated
Details of the Supreme Court ruling
The Supreme Court ruled that Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was breached in Omar Khadr's case, as Canadian officials contributed to the violation of his rights to life, liberty and security of the person.

It noted that CSIS officials obtained evidence from Khadr under "oppressive circumstances" during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003 and then shared that evidence with U.S. officials. The ruling said the interrogation "offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects," as:

Khadr was a minor and had been denied adult counsel.
He had been repeatedly deprived of sleep over a three-week period using a technique designed to make detainees more compliant.
The interrogation was designed to elicit statements about "the most serious criminal charges."
The information was to be shared with U.S. prosecutors.
The court agreed that Khadr's rights continue to be violated given the role of the information in his upcoming trial. It also concluded that bringing Khadr back to Canada would stop the violation of his rights by preventing him from facing trial.

However, it said ordering the government to demand Khadr's repatriation was not a suitable remedy for the violation of his rights as:

It gives too little weight to the government's constitutional responsibility to make decisions on matters of foreign affairs in the context of complex circumstances and Canada's national interest.
The court lacks the government's knowledge of foreign relations. "We do not know what negotiations may have taken place or will take place between the U.S. and Canadian governments over the fate of Mr. Khadr.
Therefore, the court felt it was not appropriate to give direction to the government about diplomatic steps to address the rights breaches.
Khadr's lawyers had asked for a judicial review of the government's decision not to request his repatriation. They argued that returning him to Canada would stop the violation of his human rights.

The lawyers alleged the violations were due in part to Canadian intelligence officials who interrogated him at Guantanamo Bay in 2003-04, knowing he had been repeatedly deprived of sleep, and passed the information on to U.S. officials.

The Federal Court of Canada had agreed and ordered the government to request his return in April 2009. A panel of the Court of Appeal upheld that ruling in 2-1 decision in August, prompting the government to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decision doesn't prevent the government from voluntarily asking for Khadr's return. However, even if the government does make the request, there is no guarantee that U.S. officials would agree.

Nathan Whitling, Khadr's lawyer, said he didn't think Khadr would be surprised by Friday's ruling.

"He has never had a whole lot of hope in terms of the Canadian government, in any event," Whitling said.

Whitling said he doesn't expect further assistance from the Canadian government and the focus of Khadr's legal team will now shift to the trial proceedings.

Dennis Edney, another one of Khadr's lawyers, said he will be heading to Guantanamo Bay on Monday, where he will continue to negotiate with U.S. officials and inform Khadr of the ruling. Edney said that while he doesn't have faith in the Canadian government's conduct, he will try to give Khadr a more optimistic message.

"I will say that the court has the belief that ... the Canadian government has a moral conscience and will do the right thing," he said. "I will tell him, 'And that's what we have to pray and hope.'"

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the ball is now in the government's court.

"The only thing it can’t do is to do nothing because the court clearly said that the rights of a Canadian citizen have been violated."

He added that the Liberals recognize that Khadr was a child soldier and had been calling for him to be brought back to Canada from the beginning.

But Edney said neither Stephen Harper's Conservative government nor the Liberal government before it did anything about Khadr's situation.

Human rights group Amnesty International echoed the opinion that the government has to respond to the ruling.

"It is not open to the Canadian government to just yawn and not take that seriously now," said Alex Neve, a spokesman for the group.

"There has to be an effective response that demonstrates that this government is prepared to stand up for rights of Canadians and is prepared to take seriously judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada, even if the court did not feel inclined to say specifically what the Canadian government has to do here."

Read more:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ignatieff pledges to give Federal watchdogs more bite

Some of these proposals have a telltale odor of opportunism about them. Ignatieff is taking advantage of the fact that Harper has tried to get rid of watchdogs or clip their wings so to speak. Ignatieff refuses to go into details but is trying to make hay while the gloom shines on Harper! Polls seem to suggest that perhaps Ignatieff's policy of saying little positive but launching a few jobs when he can may be working as Harper continues to punch himself.

Ignatieff pledges to give federal watchdogs more bite

Daniel Leblanc and Colin Freeze

Ottawa — From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

.Weakening the office of the prime minister has emerged as a new theme for Michael Ignatieff, with the Liberal Leader promising yesterday to strengthen agencies that oversee the Canadian Forces, the RCMP and other federal bodies.

If his Liberals were to form the government, Mr. Ignatieff said he would gladly deal with headaches stemming from the independent criticism of their actions. The proposal was made one day after he said he wanted to limit the prime minister's ability to prorogue Parliament, in the hope of capitalizing on anger toward Stephen Harper.

"All of these are pre-commitment strategies to limit and control the authority of a prime minister in a democratic system," Mr. Ignatieff said at a news conference.

"I'm saying as clearly as I can, if the public decides that is what they want to do with us, I'm willing to accept those limits."

The Conservatives responded by mocking the Liberal record on governance, pointing to the sponsorship scandal that marred the Chrétien and Martin governments. The Prime Minister's Office said the government appoints only qualified people to watchdog positions, and the jobs are not "lifetime sinecures."

"The Liberal record speaks for itself, and we will not take lessons from them," said PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall.

Mr. Ignatieff was accompanied by two former watchdogs who complained about their treatment under the Conservative government.

Paul Kennedy, former chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, criticized his replacement by estate lawyer Ian McPhail, who conceded having little knowledge of police matters and will do the job part time.

Peter Tinsley, the former chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, called for greater legal independence for some oversight bodies, which could answer directly to Parliament like the Office of the Auditor-General.

"Every one of these agencies is a creature of Parliament and perhaps Parliament should have a way of looking at its creatures," he said.

The Liberals will look at giving more power to some watchdogs, but Mr. Ignatieff didn't want to provide further details. He said that Mr. Harper has abused his powers since coming to office in 2006, and that checks are needed on future prime ministers.

"Our democracy has been eroded in the last four years, and we need to strengthen it," Mr. Ignatieff said. "I think you judge a prime minister by his willingness to accept limits on his own authority, and we think this Prime Minister does not."

Still, Mr. Ignatieff acknowledged he will also have to learn some lessons from previous Liberal governments. Former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien had no qualms in 1997 about pulling the plug on the public inquiry into the actions of the Canadian Forces in Somalia, and he has been a critic of the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal.

At a forum organized by the Liberals, the former chief executive at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said that administrative tribunals are "under attack by the federal government."

Linda Keen recounted how she was fired by the Conservative government in 2008.

"I said at the time this is going to send a chill through federal tribunals," she said in a videotaped message. "Are we in an era where tribunals must be more interested in meeting the needs of the government than in doing their jobs?"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Canadians becoming more suspect of their politicians and government.

These results are not surprising. Fortunately, Canadians are finding new methods of expressing their political views and influencing public opinion. The party operatives will be kept busy finding ways to co-opt these new methods and most likely turn them to their partisan advantage. This is from the Star.

Canadian political disconnect 'growing'

Tonda MacCharles

OTTAWA–A new study, on the heels of public clamour over the suspended parliamentary session, claims Canadians are jaundiced about the state of democracy here.

The report, to be released Wednesday by the Institute of Wellbeing, says Canada is experiencing "a huge democratic deficit, with trust in Canadian government and public institutions on a steep decline."
These results are not too surprising. Fortunately, it seems that Canadians are finding new ways to be involved in politics and influence public opinion. No doubt this will present a new challenge for party operatives to co-opt and neutralise or more likely to use for their own partisan purposes.

"The disconnect between Canadians and those who govern on their behalf is deep, wide, and growing," said the institute's Lynne Slotek.

"At a time when people are demanding greater accountability and transparency, they see their government institutions becoming more remote and opaque."

The report on "Democratic Engagement" comes coincidentally amid protests over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's New Year's decision to halt the last parliamentary session and reconvene only in March. A review of 10 years of data, it does not take into account the reaction to the government's move.

National opinion surveys in recent weeks suggest that Canadians, rather than being disengaged, have reacted strongly to Harper's decision to prorogue. It has cost the federal Conservatives, whose support in polls has dropped to an almost statistical tie with the Liberals.

Slotek said in an interview the public's obvious dissatisfaction with that decision "is an affirmation of what our report says – that people are interested in politics, they want to find ways to participate, and if they can't, they'll look at other activities such as signing petitions, Facebook or the Internet."

The report says while voter turnout has declined from a high of 69.6 per cent in the 1993 federal election to the historic low of about 59 per cent in 2008, it does not mean Canadians are uninterested in politics. Hard data on "voter interest" in the 2008 election isn't yet available, but the group looked at other indicators over 10 years, she said.

It says the volunteer rate for "formal political activities, such as participating in law, advocacy and political groups" has been low – around 2 per cent – over the years, but the volunteer rate for "informal ones, such as, protesting, signing petitions and boycotting, has been relatively high." The report cites a 2002 study that found 54.6 per cent of Canadians said they participated in one political activity, either "traditional or non-traditional."

Citing results of past Canada Election Studies, it said an "overwhelming" majority of Canadians feel the policies of the federal government have not made their lives better. Only 12 per cent said their lives had been improved by federal policies when last surveyed in 2006.

Since 1997, women have held about 20 per cent of the seats in Parliament, a "low and flat" figure that Slotek says shows there is a "clear problem in terms of engagement of all Canadians."

Slotek said the study found that in Nordic countries, and in a growing number of European countries, that percentage is higher. But the study did not investigate whether democratic satisfaction is higher in those countries as a result.

The report is one of a series being released by the institute, an independent and "non-partisan" organization that launched last June to gauge the well-being of Canadians on the basis of eight broad social indicators, not just economic ones.

It recommends ways to increase the influence of citizens' voices in politics, including greater use of citizen assemblies to shape public policy; more civics education in the core school curriculum; making voting easier and accessible; and mentoring programs for "promising leaders from diverse communities" to learn how to organize political campaigns or run for office.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How low can the Harper government stoop?

Not content with proroguing parliament so that it can avoid more questions about what it knew about torture of Afghan prisoners the government is now refusing to pay legal fees of Richard Colvin after the testimony he gave was damning to the government. I hope that Ignatieff summons enough courage to defeat this government along with opposition help but that is probably wishful thinking.

Colvin being punished by government: lawyer
Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service

REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA -- Richard Colvin, the man who alleged that the government turned a blind eye to his allegations of torture in Afghan jails, is being punished for his revelations, says his lawyer.

In a letter Monday, Toronto attorney Owen Rees asserted there is a "reasonable belief" that the government is retaliating against Mr. Colvin by refusing to pay his legal bills for an independent lawyer.

Mr. Rees, in his letter to the Military Police Complaints Commission, said that the government stopped paying Mr. Colvin's legal fees in November - after his damning testimony at a House of Commons committee - and has ignored requests for the funding to continue.

"This a matter of grave concern for Mr. Colvin," Mr. Rees wrote. "The government of Canada's continued inaction in this regard is impeding our client's ability to participate as a witness before the commission with the assistance of independent legal counsel," wrote Mr. Rees.

Mr. Colvin has been called to testify at the commission, which is conducting an inquiry about what Canadian troops knew or should have known about the fate of suspected Afghan insurgents whom soldiers handed over to local authorities.

The government, citing national security concerns, has been trying to block his testimony.

"Coupled with the government's public attacks on Mr. Colvin . . . our client is left with the reasonable belief that the denial of further legal indemnification is a reprisal for his participation before the committee and the commission," Rees wrote.

Mr. Colvin has said that he repeatedly warned the government of the risks of torture in Afghan jails while he served as a top diplomat in Afghanistan in 2006-2007.

He is now deputy head of intelligence at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

© 2010 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Where or where is Liberal policy gone?

It seems that there is a deliberate Liberal strategy of representing nothing to anyone except to be an alternative to Harper for everyone! Imagine a supposed intellectual saying that he does not want to scoop himself. Rather he does not want to lay out any policies that the Tories might attack and take attention away from their own faults. But if he had a decent set of policies that Canadadians accepted a Conservative attack would simply be counter productive for them. The idea that Harper is simply going to defeat himself may be correct but more likely it is wishful thinking.

In search of Liberal policy
By Susan Riley, The Ottawa Citizen
Will the thinking never end? The federal Liberals are competitive in the polls again, but how sustainable is their revival if they continue to be coy about their agenda?

Not that they appear to have an agenda, hidden or otherwise. All leader Michael Ignatieff offered on a recent tour of university campuses was predictable criticisms of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's style and polite evasions.

He didn't want to "scoop himself," he told those inquiring about his employment policies. "You're taking me farther than the Liberal party is prepared to go," he said, in answer to a detailed critique of university funding. The tarsands, he repeated, are a fact of economic life -- nothing he can do about that.

He encouraged anti-prorogation organizers in a Facebook posting this week, and confirmed he will be attending Saturday's protest in Ottawa, but refuses to back Jack Layton's call for legislation limiting future use of prorogation. When asked to define his political values, he paused then replied: "I'm passionate about freedom." So was George W. Bush.

On the pressing issue of looming deficits, he told reporters it isn't his problem, it's Harper's problem -- and he, Ignatieff, isn't about to help his rival out of the swamp. (Never mind what happens to the rest of us, I guess.)

He continues to answer questions with questions, urge patience and promise a bold new vision any time now. He sounds like Karlheinz Schreiber: wait until next week, then the true story will emerge.

But shouldn't you know where you want to take the country when you enter politics? Should you have to consult so widely to unearth your deepest convictions?

This policy striptease is supposed to end next week, when the Liberals hold mini-seminars on selected issues, including the job market, governance and Afghan detainees. We'll see if concrete, memorable proposals emerge -- but the precedents are not encouraging.

To date, Ignatieff's "substantive" speeches -- on foreign affairs, the environment, the economy -- have fallen flat. They are a predictable mélange of Harper-bashing and recycled nostrums about Liberal values. Nothing daring, nothing novel, nothing remotely appealing to disaffected voters.

All demands for more precision (including from anxious Liberals) are now fobbed off with the promise of a thinkers' conference in March in Montreal, an ecumenical gabfest designed to prepare policy for the Canada of 2017 to coincide with our 150th birthday.

No one -- well, hardly anyone -- is against thinking, particularly long-term thinking. In fact, outside the hothouse of daily politics, it happens all the time.

The challenges of coming decades have been exhaustively chronicled and are obvious to any alert citizen: climate change, the shift in economic power from North America to India and China, an over-taxed and inadequate health-care system, to name a few.

But while Liberals ponder the future, they are vague, or mute, about present-day problems. Making development aid effective. A $56-billion deficit. Unconstrained greenhouse gas emissions. A limping health-care system. Disappearing pensions. Persistent unemployment. (Let's add, for mischief, the ludicrous expense of shipping snow to the ill-chosen winter Olympics site.) At the same time, the prime minister isn't idle, one day distributing remaining stimulus cash, the next talking gravely about cutting unspecified federal programs -- madly peddling the fiction that further punishing an already demoralized public service, along with a robust economic recovery, will be enough to get us back to surplus.

If Liberals want to be taken seriously -- if they differ from the government in anything but style -- they would join a growing consensus calling for a temporary increase in the GST to help pay down future deficits. Former Liberal finance minister John Manley, now president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, is the latest to endorse this approach.

If the Ignatieff Liberals were truly visionary, serious about courting youth, they'd revive the idea of a national carbon tax, too -- to hasten the transition to clean energy and replenish depleted federal revenues.

Unfortunately, there is only one leader with the guts and cunning to try something that daring and Harper is hardly going to endorse a GST hike, given that he created the monster cuts in the first place. (He has tempered his anti-carbon-tax rhetoric somewhat, however.)

The sorry truth is that no major party is honest enough, or respectful enough, to present Canadians with hard choices. Easier to pander, or ponder.

At least Ignatieff is emphatic about one thing. He wants Liberals to stop thinking of themselves as the natural governing party. He says: "If I can achieve one thing as leader of this party, it's to get that out of the vocabulary."

He's succeeding. Polls aside, it is increasingly hard to see the Liberals as an obvious alternative -- in fact, it is hard to imagine them saying anything pertinent about anything.

Susan Riley writes on national politics.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Canada's former ambassador to Tehran Ken Taylor was a CIA spy.

It is hardly surprising that those who were supposed to be working for Canadian interests were actually working for US interests. The fact that our two interests might conflict or diverge doesn't come into the picture nor does the fact that the Canadian public had no idea that our public servants were serving as spies for a foreign country. There is no public right to know things like that. Even when it should be obvious that our present mission in Afghanistan is actually as a junior partner in US imperialism spreading the pain through NATO this never comes up. It is off the radar of the mainstream press. This is from the Globe and Mail.

Canada's man in Tehran was a CIA spy

Former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor. Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail
The diplomat praised for sheltering Americans during the Iranian Revolution tells The Globe he was made 'de facto CIA station chief' in a secret deal between a U.S. president and prime minister Joe Clark

• Michael Valpy

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

.Ken Taylor, the Canadian diplomat celebrated 30 years ago for hiding U.S. embassy personnel during the Iranian revolution, actively spied for the Americans and helped them plan an armed incursion into the country.

Mr. Taylor, ambassador in Iran from 1977 to 1980, became “the de facto CIA station chief” in Tehran after the U.S. embassy was seized by students on Nov. 4, 1979, and 63 Americans, including the four-member Central Intelligence Agency contingent, were taken hostage.

Had his espionage been discovered, Mr. Taylor told The Globe and Mail in an interview this week, “the Iranians wouldn't have tolerated it. And the consequences may have been severe.”

His intelligence-gathering activities were kept secret by agreement between the Canadian and the U.S. governments, although his role in sheltering six Americans and helping to spirit them out of Iran was later made public, winning him and the Canadian government widespread U.S. gratitude.

Trent University historian Robert Wright, author of Our Man in Tehran , a new account of the incident released today, strongly implies that then-prime-minister Joe Clark insisted Mr. Taylor's spying be kept quiet, fearing a negative political fallout if the Canadian public learned that one of its envoys was a U.S. spook.

Mr. Taylor himself said he never expected the story to come out. “It had been under wraps for 30 years, and my assumption was that it would be for another 30 years. I didn't expect to be here to talk about it.”

The phrase “de facto CIA station chief” appears in Prof. Wright's book, the manuscript of which Mr. Taylor saw and approved in advance of publication.

The request that he provide “aggressive intelligence” for the Americans was made personally by U.S. president Jimmy Carter to Mr. Clark, likely in a telephone conversation on Nov. 30, 1979, according to Prof. Wright.

Mr. Clark gave his approval, and informed his foreign minister, Flora MacDonald, who passed the request on to Mr. Taylor. He instantly agreed.

“I saw this [the hostage-taking] as something that wasn't right,” Mr. Taylor said. “Anything in a modest way that I could contribute … looking for some sort of solution to this, I was quite prepared to do. I felt strongly about it. And I felt we could get away with it. They weren't going to catch us.”

From that point on, what amounted to the U.S. intelligence operation in Iran was run by Mr. Taylor from the Canadian embassy. The daily information he sent out was seen by only two officials at what was then the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa – Louis Delvoie, director of the intelligence analysis division, and Pat Black, assistant undersecretary for security and intelligence.

They showed the cables to Mr. Clark and Ms. MacDonald before passing them on to the U.S. ambassador in Ottawa, Kenneth Curtis, who in turned forwarded them to Washington.

What precisely Mr. Taylor was doing needs careful definition. In reality, he was managing a Canadian, not a U.S., intelligence station, which the Americans – because they had no network of their own after their embassy was seized – wanted to join.

The first CIA agent sent into Iran after the hostage-taking was rejected by Mr. Taylor as unsuitable. He left the country. The second agent sent in, code-named “Bob,” won Mr. Taylor's approval and thereafter operated out of the Canadian embassy.

Mr. Delvoie had the job of insulating Mr. Taylor from interference from CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. Thus, Mr. Taylor on his own managed Bob, and all of Bob's reports were sent to his Langley spymasters through Mr. Taylor. He was in charge.

The ambassador's chief accomplice was Jim Edward, head of security at the Canadian embassy. He, like Mr. Taylor, was given the choice of whether to spy for the Americans and, like Mr. Taylor, readily accepted.

He became a clandestine operative assigned by the ambassador to snoop for military intelligence while mingling inconspicuously with crowds of Iranians outside the U.S. embassy – an unlikely mission for the fair-haired, blue-eyed, broad-shouldered, six-foot-tall Canadian Forces sergeant.

The two men – at times in collaboration with Bob – assessed potential helicopter landing sites, arranged for trucks to be garaged at a secret location in Tehran and analyzed other logistics in preparation for a commando raid, dubbed Operation Eagle Claw, to free the hostages held at the embassy.

Sgt. Edward's specific job was to report on the number of guards at the embassy, how they were armed and when they changed shifts, ascertain where specifically the hostages were being held and track the daily movement of people and goods in and out of the compound – particularly the inward passage of foodstuffs and outward movement of waste, which allowed Mr. Taylor to calculate the hostages' daily caloric intake and assess their general health.

In conversation with The Globe this week, Mr. Taylor said he felt confident taking on the U.S. intelligence enterprise because Iran at the time was in chaos and the risk was minimal (although Sgt. Edward and his Iranian girlfriend Layla at one point were detained and questioned for five hours by Revolutionary Guards).

Mr. Taylor also said he was sure he could have got the “houseguests” – the six Americans sheltered in his and embassy immigration counsellor John Sheardown's residences – out of Iran without U.S. help, but the Americans didn't want the Canadians to move alone.

What frustrated Mr. Taylor and Ottawa was that the Americans wouldn't stay focused on the houseguests, although there was evidence that The New York Times and Jean Pelletier, Washington correspondent for Montreal's La Presse, had got wind of their presence in Canadian hideouts.

Ms. MacDonald decided to press her U.S. counterpart, secretary of state Cyrus Vance, to do something, providing a fascinating footnote to Canadian political history: the details of why she wasn't in Parliament on Dec. 13, 1979, for the vote that felled Mr. Clark's minority government.

She was in Brussels for a NATO ministers meeting. The meeting ended but Ms. MacDonald took advantage of being in the same city as Mr. Vance to seek a meeting with him. Face to face, she told him the Canadians would put the houseguests “on donkeys and send them across the border” if the Americans didn't move.

She then missed her flight across the Atlantic, and missed the vote.

The CIA working with Mr. Taylor arranged for the houseguests, using Canadian passports, to “exfiltrate” Tehran on a flight to Zurich on Jan. 27, 1980. Mr. Taylor then closed the embassy and left with his staff.

The last of the U.S. embassy hostages were not released until Mr. Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan, was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1981 – 444 days after the embassy had been overrun.

Prof. Wright started working on a book about the hostage incident at the suggestion of his editor at HarperCollins Canada who noted that the 30th anniversary was approaching.

To his surprise, Mr. Taylor said he was telephoned by a senior spokesman at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Rodney Moore, and asked whether he wanted to participate in the project

Friday, January 22, 2010

Layton wants to limit power to prorogue parliament

Layton's changes would make prorogation much more democratic. But one cannot expect Harper --who wants an elected Senate but uses the time during prorogation to pack it with Conservative hacks-- to press for more democracy when it would actually make the system more democratic.

Layton calls for limits on powers to prorogue
CBC News
There should be limits on the ability of the prime minister to prorogue Parliament, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Wednesday.

He said his party will call for legislative changes that would require a majority vote of MPs for the prorogation of Parliament.

"This will inform the governor general of the will of the majority in the House of the people — that their work has been completed and they want to reset and prepare for the future," Layton said in Ottawa after a caucus meeting. "It shouldn't happen whenever the prime minister feels like it."

He also called for MPs to be brought back before the March 3 return date set by Prime Minister Stephen Harper when he prorogued Parliament.

The house was to have resumed sitting on Jan. 25, before Harper's move.

As with the Liberals, NDP MPs plan to be on Parliament Hill on Monday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Harper charts Conservative course for ship of state.

Ivison could have mentioned that Harper also wanted to get rid of all the pesk parliamentary committees that caused him to issue directives on how to sabotage them. Also, the great helmsman who wants an elected Senate wants to pack it with Conservative appointees before the next session. Harper wil have to squeeze the civil service and wreck their pensions, do away with entitlements in the name of reducing the deficit. This will all have to be done while producing the least fuss possible. We will have to wait and see how much Harper is willing to cut. Certainly he will need to keep his eye on the polls or perhaps he will just do his duty and collect his reward after he is defeated with some nice job or jobs in the private sector.

Harper charts conservative course
PM preparing his government for fiscal prudence

John Ivison, National Post

Stephen Harper sees nothing wrong with power, as long as he is the one wielding it. He once said governments that avoid dissent rapidly lose their moral authority to govern. He doesn't think that any more.

He'd clearly prefer not to have to defend himself against accusations of war crimes from opposition MPs over the Afghan detainee issue while the world is watching the Vancouver Olympics. But that doesn't mean he is dissembling when he says the main reason he prorogued Parliament was the need to "recalibrate" the government's agenda.

The Cabinet shuffle Mr. Harper announced yesterday adds weight to the idea that the government is using the extended parliamentary break to gird itself for the period of fiscal restraint to come.

The mandate letters circulated to ministers by Mr. Harper before Christmas make clear that this time should be used to come up with low-cost policies to address the government's outstanding commitments.

The Treasury Board has traditionally been seen as backwater and the job of president a form of purgatory for errant ministers. In reality it is an incredibly powerful Cabinet committee that controls the public service and, consequently, the government of Canada. Since the Prime Minister has already ruled out tax increases and cuts to provincial transfers, the public sector is going to be the source of future cost savings. This explains why one of the government's most senior and highly regarded ministers, Stockwell Day, has been handed the spending reins. Officials were at pains to point out that the former Alberta treasurer has not been demoted.
With nearly one-third of his Cabinet in new jobs, Mr. Harper was smart to give ministers six weeks to master their new briefs before they face enemy fire in Question Period.

As we approach Saturday's fourth anniversary of Mr. Harper's 2006 election victory, he has now put in place his first truly conservative government -- that is a ministry that has been told to limit spending increases to a rate lower than its Liberal predecessor. The Conservatives will spend $50-billion more this year than they did when they entered government. Program spending has risen at an annual average clip of 5.9%, even if this year's exceptional stimulus package is removed from the equation, compared to the Liberal average of 2.9% through the Chretien-Martin years.

Stephen Harper has been accused of trampling democracy, of eroding democratic accountability and avoiding troublesome issues in the House of Commons. There's no doubt that his views on the primacy of Parliament have evolved since he became Prime Minister -- he now seems to think that Guy Fawkes was on the right track.

But the Afghan detainees issue wasn't hurting his government badly enough to risk the backlash against prorogation. Rather, the Prime Minister should be taken at his word when he says he is preparing his government to confront unequivocally the fiscal anxieties of the age. There will be blood.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Federal Civil Service Unions worry about Conservative attack on pensions.

No doubt public service union workers are well advised to be ready for the Conservative onslaught on workers and especially unionised workers. As Milton Friedman once observed deficits are in some ways useful in that they provide a justification for cutting out social programs and entitlements such as are involved in these public sector union pensions. Recessions also are useful to capital in that they lower wages and make it difficult for unions to improve the lot of workers. This in turn will increase profits once there is any sort of turnaround. Notice that since last March stock markets have been going up even though unemployment especially in the US is at record low levels.

Federal civil servant unions gird for battle over generous pensions

By Kathryn May, Canwest News Service

OTTAWA — Canada's 18 federal unions are meeting in Ottawa for two days starting Tuesday to develop a united front against what they believe is the Harper government's gathering assault on the public service.

Facing one of the largest deficits in Canadian history, union leaders are braced for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to turn to the public service to balance his books.

One big concern is persistent rumblings about cutting to the public service's generous pensions and benefits.

John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says the Conservatives have long grumbled about public service pensions. The government has said it won't cut transfers to the provinces or raise taxes, but will rely on economic growth and government spending cuts to eliminate the deficit.

Flaherty has said the "handsome arrangements" of all public servants came up at a recent federal-provincial meeting in Whitehorse on pension reform.

But union leaders say the government should be prepared for an all-out fight if it tampers with their defined benefit pension plan or tries to convert it a defined contribution plan as has happened in the United Kingdom.

Ron Cochrane, co-chair of the National Joint Council, which represents public service management and unions, said "nothing would galvanize even the most apathetic public servant like touching their pension.''

And the unions will be the first to pounce on MPs, judges and deputy ministers whose pensions are even richer than those of the rest of the public service.

The most talked about way for the government to reduce the pension costs of its employees is to make public servants, who now make about 32 per cent of the contributions to the plan, to pick up half the share of the cost.

Federal employees paid $1.2 billion in contributions into the plan in 2007-2008 while the government kicked in $2.6 billion.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Flaherty claims he will balance budget without spending cuts or tax increases

Flaherty's predictions do not seem at all in line with those of Kevin Page the parliamentary budget watchdog. Flaherty seems to have an exceedingly optimistic view of economic growth and how that could improve the budget; alternatively, he may have an ostrich approach burying his head in the sand and ignoring upcoming continuing deficits. Perhaps he is anxious to avoid setting out a budget later that has spending cuts and tax increases as that might galvanise even Ignatieff to vote against the Conservative budget.

Flaherty stands by claim to balance budget
CBC News
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is standing by his assertion that he can deal with the deficit without spending cuts or tax increases.

He made his comments during a news conference Friday after speaking at a business conference in Toronto on the Canadian economy.

Parliamentary budget watchdog Kevin Page predicted Wednesday that the deficit will still be $18.9 billion by late 2013 — more than $8 billion higher than Flaherty's own forecast.

Flaherty said he's confident that with reasonable economic growth government tax revenues will rise along with economic activity "and, if necessary, restrain the rate of growth of government program spending, that we can get to a balanced budget in the medium term."

"The IMF and others think we will have reasonable growth, the best economic growth in the G7, in the next several years," he said.

'I don't get to speculate. I get to deal with budget-making'
—Finance Minister Jim Flaherty"I see speculation," he told journalists. "I don't see a lot of evidence. I see editorial comment without numbers, without analysis. I don't get to speculate. I get to deal with budget-making."

The minister said he has been told repeatedly in his recent pre-budget consultations with business owners and managers that tax reductions have been good for them and as a result he is unwilling to introduce tax increases.

The government will release its budget on March 4.

In response to a journalist's question, Flaherty said he has no intention of following the American example of imposing taxes on executive bonuses in the financial sector, because there has been no government bailout of banks in Canada

Friday, January 15, 2010

Alberta invests in family medicine program

Stelmach no doubt is reacting to his poor polls and criticism of Alberta Health. The money is directed to Calgary where Stelmach is probably least popular. This is a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease with no money going to Edmonton or elsewhere. However, no doubt doctors who pass through the program will probably practice throughout the province and the need in Calgary does seem quite high.

$8M aimed to fix shortage of family doctors
CBC News
The Alberta government is spending $8 million to help direct more medical school graduates toward family medicine, where there is a chronic doctor shortage.

The funding, announced Thursday, will go to the family medicine department at the University of Calgary to:

Train more medical students and physicians in family medicine.
Create five new faculty positions.
Support research.
"[The funding] helps stabilize our department. It helps it grow and build greater capacity," said Dr. David Keegan, the department's undergraduate education director.

Despite there being 4,000 family doctors in Alberta, it's estimated there's a shortage of more than 1,000 family physicians for the province's 3.5 million residents.

One in four Calgarians don't have a family doctor.

"Our goal is that by 2013, half of our graduates are choosing family medicine as their first choice of career," said Keegan.

In 2008, only 18 per cent of medical graduates in Calgary pursued family medicine as a career, he said.

"That was the lowest in our history. It's gone up a bit since then, but it's still only 26.9 [per cent] when we really want to be looking at about 50 per cent," said Keegan.

Dr. Cathy MacLean, president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and head of family medicine at the U of C, said the provincial money should have a quick impact.

"One of the nice things about family medicine is our training program is only two years. You actually get to see those docs out in practice within about a two-year timeframe, so it's pretty quick," MacLean said.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Harris Decima poll: Federal Tory Lead slipping

This decline is not surprising and it comes despite the fact that Ignatieff waited a couple of weeks after the announcement to come back to Canada. Now of course the negative ad machine is trying to play catchup. Harper has again shown himself to be a master at manipulation that just makes people mad. He also seemed to suggest that democracy was bad for markets. Maybe Ignatieff is doing things right, leave a policy vacuum and let Harper self-destruct. However, the Tories are still ahead and no doubt when the parliament reconvenes Ignatieff will carry on the strategy of the Dion days. Sustain the Conservative government until the polls are better. Or the mantra will go that Canadians do not want an election! This is from CTV.

Prorogation takes hit on Tory lead: poll

The Canadian Press

Updated: Thu. Jan. 14 2010 4:05 PM ET

OTTAWA — A new poll suggests Prime Minister Stephen Harper is paying a price for underestimating opposition to his decision to suspend Parliament.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey shows Harper's personal popularity has taken a big hit and his party's lead over the Liberals has been cut almost in half.

The number of Canadians with a favourable impression of the prime minister has dropped seven points since last November to 44 per cent; the ranks of those with an unfavourable impression have jumped seven points to 48 per cent.

Overall Conservative support is unchanged at 34 per cent, the Liberals are up three points to 30 per cent, while the NDP stand at 16 per cent and the Greens at nine per cent.

The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted Jan. 7-10 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ignatieff says fixing unemployment should be first priority.

Ignatieff certainly is not showing any leadership and he seems to avoid policy pronouncements like the plague. He seems to fear if he sets forth any policy that somehow the Conservatives will shoot it down. His only strategy seems to be to hope that Harper makes big mistakes and that he will win by default. Ignatieff outlined no policies for reducing unemployment himself. He does not want to scoop himself. What a clown.
Ignatieff may be fortunate that Harper may be alienating people by proroguing parliament. But it seems that Ignatieff is too chicken to challenge Harper again on the budget. Ignatieff will have to sniff the polls but it is unlikely they will be likely to make the Liberals high enough to force an election. We will likely see a return to the Dion days of propping up the Conservatives.

Ignatieff sets sights on students
Fixing unemployment is job No. 1: Liberal chief
By HUBERT BAUCH, The GazetteJanuary 13, 2010

Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said yesterday his priority when he summons his caucus back to work in Ottawa this month will be to come up with constructive suggestions for the next federal budget to be presented when Parliament resumes sitting in early March.

But he added he will not set any absolute conditions in advance for its passage, an indication the Liberals are reluctant to force a federal election this spring triggered by a defeat of the budget, particularly since they have a major policy conference scheduled for late March.

Ignatieff was in Montreal on the second leg of a cross-country speaking tour, during which he will be angling for the youth vote by speaking primarily to university students. Yesterday, he spoke before audiences of several hundred at both HEC (École des Hautes Études Commerciales), the Université de Montéal's business school, and Concordia University.

In a session with local reporters, he said the budget's most pressing concern should be to bring down current high unemployment caused by last year's recession.

"I think the key file is unemployment. We're in a situation where unemployment is present - at 8.5 per cent - and double that among young people. We think there are all kinds of things a smart government can do to make it easier for employers to take on labour, to take on young people, and it's in that area that we'll have proposals."

For the moment, however, he had nothing specific to propose. Rather, he said he and members of his caucus will meet with experts to work out concrete suggestions.

"I don't want to scoop myself at this point. I want to give us time when we get back to Ottawa on the 25th to work on specifics. It's one of the positive things an opposition party can do, and we'll be doing that."

Ignatieff's speaking tour is being run in conjunction with a new Liberal advertising campaign roasting Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his year-end decision to prorogue Parliament until March - characterizing it as a democratic travesty.

Yesterday, he seized on a comment by Harper in an interview that the poisonous atmosphere in Parliament of late is undermining confidence in the Canadian economy.

"It was the funniest thing I've heard in politics in a long time. The idea that the exercise of democracy causes instability is ridiculous."

He said Harper appears to have a fundamental problem with accepting legitimate constraints on his power as prime minister.

"He'd like the calm quiet of total authority, but that's not how our system works. I accept our institutions and the democratic constraints in our system."

Ignatieff's message to his university audiences is that higher education is the key to Canada's future prosperity in what will have to be a knowledge-based economy staffed by people in school today.

"Our prosperity in years to come will be based on intellectual property, not natural resources," he told his Concordia audience. "The future of our prosperity lies between your ears."

He said the top priority for Canadian governments in coming years must be to give every Canadian a first-class education.

"Until we achieve that, we will not have an equal society, we will not have an efficient society."

Ignatieff also urged his student audiences to overcome the current widespread cynicism and disillusionment with the political process, deploring the fact that in last year's federal election, which saw a record low turnout, only one in five young Canadians eligible to vote for the first time turned up at at the polls.

He said a low turnout favours parties with a narrow, committed base. "Some of my adversaries are only too happy to have you stay home. That way they can get their base out and they get to drive the bus. My response is to give you something to vote for."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Canada and US economies to grow slowly in 2010

In spite of the relatively modest growth forecasts for next year stock markets in both countries have staged a remarkable comeback from their March 2009 lows. Perhaps they will be due for a correction some time early this year. Most of the growth in profits has been through cutting back costs rather than through increased demand for goods. Soon the government will cut back stimulus money and begin trimming programs to try and bring deficits under control and this could very well stall the recovery.

Canada, U.S. GDP growth in 2010 to be 'tepid': forecast
CBC News
The economies of Canada and the United States will grow about half as much in 2010 as they did in previous recoveries, according to a new forecast released Wednesday.

A group of five prominent Canadian economists, speaking at the Toronto-based Economic Club of Canada, said Canada and the United States will see gross domestic product growth of between 2.5 to three per cent in 2010.

"Not particularly vigorous for the first year following a recession. We normally in Canada and the U.S. after a recession grow by [as much as] five per cent — so somewhat tepid," said Don Drummond, chief economist for TD Financial Group and one of the experts who developed the forecast.

Drummond and the other bank economists — Craig Wright of the Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank's Warren Jestin, CIBC's Avery Shenfeld and BMO's Sherry Cooper — presented their predictions to a business audience of approximately 1,200.

Coming out of the darkness
Both economies are recovering after a difficult year in which financial markets seized up, businesses cut jobs and consumers stopped buying, the economists noted.

The experts also said they do not expect American consumers, who are the driving forces of the economy, to begin shopping again with the same unbridled passion as in past years.

"Everybody's view was predicated on the view that U.S. households would resume spending but at a fairly moderate pace relative to previous years," Drummond said.

"Will they spend their brains out again? Maybe they'll go out and buy a lot of things and hence have stronger growth in the short term," he said.

An aging population — intent upon increasing retirement savings — and higher per-capita debt levels likely will place a ceiling on rising consumer spending, the economists noted.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Harper insists military mission in Afghanistan to end by 2011.

What is noticeable about this article is not that the military mission will end so much as the assumption that some other types of missions will be continued. Many other missions will require military protection. Of course this could be carried out by other NATO troops. Hopefully there will be debate about whether there should be any further missions in Afghanistan. I expect that the Liberals will be happy to go along with any mission that is non-combat and perhaps even the NDP might support such a scheme of throwing good money after bad and ensuring that there are still some Canadian casualties. This is from the Globe and Mail.

PM unequivocal on Afghanistan withdrawal
Gloria Galloway

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his ministers – notably Defence Minister Peter MacKay – have been saying for some time that the military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011.

At some points, however, they have talked about the withdrawal of the troops being followed by a humanitarian effort led by civilians – which has provided fodder for those who say they actually plan to keep Canadian soldiers on the ground. Any humanitarian effort would naturally require security and that may require a military presence.

But Mr. Harper makes it absolutely clear in this interview with David Akin of Canwest New Service, published Tuesday, that the more than 2,500 Canadian troops will be coming home.

"We will not be undertaking any kind of activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become a strictly civilian mission," Mr. Harper said.

"We will continue to maintain humanitarian and development missions, as well as important diplomatic activity in Afghanistan. But we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy."

Mr. Harper goes on to say that the NATO allies have lowered their objectives for the mission in Afghanistan. "I think the reality is that all actors over the past few years have been downgrading their expectations of what can be achieved in Afghanistan."

"But it is still important that we have a viable, functioning state in Afghanistan that has some acceptable democratic and rule of law norms. If we don't, we run the serious risk of returning in Afghanistan to what we had before. No matter what differences people have on the mission, everybody agrees that the mission has the purpose to ensure that Afghanistan does not return to being a failed state that is an incubator of terrorism."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Spector: Harper already looking for a new job?

I think that Spector is a bit premature. Probably Harper would at the least like to retire after achieving a majority government but that may not be soon or may be never! Liberals are already mounting an attack ad campaign and if the polls shift away from Harper the Liberals along with the opposition may decide to bring down the government in the Spring. However so far there does not seem to be any swing towards Ignatieff and without that Harper is safe.
This is from the Globe and Mail.

The beginning of the end for Stephen Harper
Norman Spector

Perhaps Prime Minister Stephen Harper genuinely thinks that Gilles Duceppe will not lead the Bloc into another election — thus opening the door in Québec to his ministrations. Or maybe Mr. Harper truly believes that Canadians will warm to the kinder gentler Prime Minister we’ve been seeing in his increasingly rare appearances in the Commons for Question Period, as well as in recent interviews. There will be no shortage of self-interested aides and lobbyists feeding him these and other dubious reasons to delay an election — reasons that Mr. Harper appears to have bought, judging from his CBC interview with Peter Mansbridge.

I don’t know whether former CBC-man Don Newman would agree, but I still think that Stephen Harper’s position will grow weaker after the HST is introduced in July in Ontario and British Columbia, and as the stimulus program gives way to the need for fiscal restraint in the 2011 budget. In fact, having served a premier and a prime minister on their way out of office, it looks to me as though Mr. Harper already has, as his priority, acquiring an additional year or two of contacts and of credential-burnishing experience before looking for his next job in the private sector.

The Prime Minister and those around him will deny it assiduously, if only to minimize any premature jockeying for position among the not inconsiderable number of Conservatives who see themselves living at 24 Sussex one day. But they (and you) can judge for themselves from an exchange that takes place at the end of this interview of Mr Harper by John Ivison and David Akin of Canwest news:

AKIN: One last question: You mention John Diefenbaker a lot in your speeches I've noticed as I follow you around ...

HARPER: Yeah, in some contexts ..

AKIN: Now, he retired -- actually, he died as an MP.

HARPER: Yeah, he did.

AKIN: Do (you) see yourself in a decade -- you may not be prime minister -- do you see a career for yourself after this? I don't sense you're the board of directors type but I don't know, maybe you are -- an academic? What do you want to do? Where are you in a decade?

HARPER: Well, first of all, I think to be fair, let's give the people of Canada an opportunity to retire me before I have to cast my mind to this . . .

AKIN: Well, let's assume one day they will, it might be 20 years, who knows?

HARPER: I would hope not to die in office. My wife sometimes thinks I may be headed that way but, now that I'm 50, we're trying to live a somewhat better lifestyle . . . But look, I'm not going to speculate. I'm honoured to have the job that I have I plan to do it a while longer but I don't plan to be a lifer in politics. I'm not sure that that's really in anybody's interests. I don't think it's in the country's interests or the party's interests or my own interests but, in my own judgment, I still have a while to serve but ultimately at some point the Canadian people will be asked to make that judgment for me.

(Photo: The Prime Minister gives an interview Tuesday, his first since shutting down Parliament. CBC)


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Nova Scotia NDP: Old Wine, New Bottles,

Perhaps Fodor has the situation reversed. What you have is New Wine the Conservative ideology in the Old leftist bottles. The left in the UK managed to transform itself into a form of Thatcherism lite and the NDP in Canada is to a considerable extent trying to create the Third Way with Canadian characteristics! Note that no one sees anything remarkable or outrageous about Gary Doer-the former NDP premier of Manitoba-- being Harper's man in Washington or vigorously defending the Conservative environmental record. Tired of being out of power the NDP sees moderation as being the key to obtaining power and moderation means adopting policies associated with the right. Before the left can take power in any meaningful sense it must be able to attract voters to a leftist program. J.S. Woodsworth once remarked that a federal election was a great victory for the CCF because something like 16 per cent of the electorate had voted for a socialist platform. Nowadays of course the power seekers in the NDP would consider that a crushing defeat--well maybe not since after all the moves to the right the NDP federal vote is not much if any more than that! The phrase "conservative progressive"used by Dexter to describe himself is certainly symptomatic of the third way disease and fits in with Fodor's view of the situation. This is from the socialistproject.

The Dexter NDP: Old Wine, New Bottle?
Matt Fodor
“I’ve waited all my life to see a socialist government in Nova Scotia. I’m still waiting.”

— Voter email read on CBC Newsworld on election night.[1]

On June 9, 2009 the New Democratic Party (NDP), led by the self-proclaimed “conservative progressive” Darrell Dexter, swept to power in Nova Scotia, forming the first-ever NDP government in Atlantic Canada. The NDP won 45 percent of the popular vote and 31 of 52 seats. Despite this historic outcome, it should be noted that the NDP ran on a modest and uninspired platform. Therefore, it is difficult to declare the election a victory for the Left.

At the August 2009 federal NDP convention in Halifax, the newly-elected Premier Dexter called on the party to reach out to business. He argued that past efforts to do so were undermined by the party's ‘rigid’ ideology. Dexter’s comments stood in sharp contrast to those of former federal leader Ed Broadbent, who made the case for defending traditional social democratic values. Broadbent stressed that universal healthcare, affordable education, government pensions and other measures supported by social democrats should be paid for “by adequate levels of progressive taxation.” Dexter insisted that his advocacy of tax cuts and reaching out to business was not a betrayal of the NDP’s core values, stating that: “The party is rooted in some very core values, and as long as we are grounded in those values I think we are free to take initiatives right across the political spectrum.” Dexter’s message was simple, get with the times: “This is not a party of the 1960s, we’re not a party of a generation ago, we’re a new modern political party.”[2]

Like other social democratic parties around the world, the NDP has been greatly impacted by the Third Way. In what is seen as a strategic response to the challenges of globalization and declining electoral fortunes, the NDP accepts many neoliberal precepts and a greater role for markets. Third Way social democratic parties move to the right on such issues as taxes, welfare and crime in an opinion-poll driven attempt to appeal to the broad electorate. The Third Way is presented by advocates such as Anthony Giddens as an updated version of social democracy that serves as a middle ground between traditional social democracy and neoliberalism.[3] The federal NDP, which unlike most social democratic parties has never formed the national government, continues to be embroiled in a debate between ‘traditional’ social democrats and those who advocate a more ‘pragmatic’ and centrist “Third Way” course. An examination of party platforms and policy positions over the past decade, however, suggests a rightward turn.[4] It is generally accepted that NDP governments at the provincial level since the 1990s, most notably those of Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert in Saskatchewan and Gary Doer in Manitoba, have adopted the Third Way. This can now also be said to be true of the Dexter government.

From Official Opposition to Power
The Nova Scotia NDP has pursued a Third Way course since at least the late 1990s. In the 1998 election, the party, led by Robert Chisholm, had its then best-ever performance, when it tied the incumbent Liberals in the number of seats won (the Liberals remained in power with the support of the Conservatives). In their 1999 budget, the Liberals broke their electoral commitment to balanced budgets to make investments in healthcare. The NDP joined the Conservatives in denouncing the Liberals for breaking that promise, resulting in their defeat. Jim Stanford observed that “it is strange indeed to see a left party taking the rhetoric of balanced budgets so far as to actually defeat a government on the grounds that it was spending too much on human services.” In the subsequent election, the NDP ran on

“ extremely moderate...platform, stressing its commitment to fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets, and support for small business. The central goal was to emphasize that voting for the NDP did not mean voting for deficits, inefficiency, and turmoil. Third Way party strategists and even conservative newspaper columnists heralded the Nova Scotia NDP, under popular leader Robert Chisholm, as representing an energetic new wave for the party.”[5]

Despite this excitement in conservative quarters, the party lost ground but maintained their Official Opposition status, and the Conservatives swept to power on a right-wing platform. Tory cuts to public services were soon met with much public opposition. The NDP was unable to capitalize on this grassroots movement in support of public services, however. As Stanford, writing in 2001, observed: “By bringing down a government on the grounds that it failed to balance the budget, and making ‘fiscal prudence’ a centerpiece of its own campaign, the NDP clearly contributed to the emergence of the current regressive trend in Nova Scotia.”[6]

Dexter replaced Chisholm in 2003 and continued the centrist course. For instance, the NDP supported a Tory tax cut that benefited the wealthy, men and the Halifax region over the poor, women, and the other regions of the province.[7] The 2003 election saw the NDP capture 31 percent of the popular vote and 15 seats (and maintain Official Opposition status); in 2006, the party received 35 percent of the vote and 20 seats (just one seat less than the Conservatives and far ahead of the Liberals). In the most recent election, the Tory government of Rodney Macdonald suffered a humiliating defeat, coming in third behind the Liberals. With the NDP again promising tax cuts and balanced budgets, Brendan Haley notes that “the Conservatives’ [sic.] ‘Risky NDP’ Socialist Red Scare campaign was totally absurd and fell completely flat with voters tired of the ineptitude of their existing premier and comfortable with Darrell Dexter.”[8]

Specifically, the NDP ran on a platform called Better Deal 2009: The NDP plan to make life better for today’s families, with seven key commitments:

•create the secure jobs Nova Scotia’s economy needs
•keep emergency rooms open and reduce health care wait times
•ensure more young people stay and build a life in Nova Scotia
•take the tax off home energy and make life more affordable
•fix rural roads and keep communities strong
•give seniors the options to stay longer in their homes and communities
•live within our means
The commitment to “live within our means” is perhaps the most revealing of the party's Third Way orientation, in which the platform attacks the previous Tory government for fiscal irresponsibility. It states that “Darrell Dexter and the NDP know that debt and deficits are not the road to prosperity.” It includes a commitment to balancing the budget within their first two years in office and an “expenditure management review” with a target of a 1% reduction (or $73.5-million) in non-essential spending.[9] The NDP appeared so committed to balanced budgets and curbing spending that the Halifax Chronicle Herald (May 16, 2009) commented that:

“Mr. Dexter sounds excessively cautious in saying future capital spending should not add to the debt. That would mean running budget surpluses large enough to cover new capital, often making it hard to both balance the budget and keep infrastructure up to date. A better approach is to keep the carrying costs of borrowing for new capital at a manageable level in the operating budget.”[10]

The inability to undertake necessary investments is hampered further by the call to “take the tax off home energy and make life more affordable” – which comes at a price of $28-million and is by far the most expensive part of the platform. Eric Newstadt notes that the rest of the platform planks “are either relatively inexpensive and uninspiring band-aids or based around temporary tax rebates similar to federal programs implemented by the Harper Tories.” Thus, “only the proposed cut to the HST on home energy use and the plan to balance the Province’s Budget really demonstrate the logic driving the new NDP government.”[11] Indeed, the second most expensive election plank (at an estimated $10.5-million) to encourage home construction with a one-year HST rebate. The Globe and Mail columnist Andrew Steele praised Dexter’s moderate direction, yet noted that:

“...the party was focused on power over policy. Taking the HST off of home heating is bad policy and good politics, the equivalent of the GST cut pledged by Stephen Harper in 2006. The pledge to balance the budget was disingenuous at a time when the state of the finances is in flux, but necessary communications short-hand to demonstrate a commitment to sober management of the books. There was no vast manifesto of detailed pledges to addressing every faction the party grassroots feels is rightfully aggrieved, but a slender leaflet designed for sales, not debate. In fact, the platform was silent on poverty, arguably the core issue to the NDP across the country.”[12]

Not only did the party have little to say about poverty, but it was also silent on wages and the gap between rich and poor. There was no call whatsoever for furthering progressive taxation. Nor was there was a call for anti-scab legislation or strengthening trade unions despite the NDP’s historic links to labour. Even a call for public automobile insurance from the previous election was dropped. If the pursuit of equality is a core social democratic value, it is difficult to see at all what is distinctively social democratic about the current Nova Scotia NDP.

What specifically are the “core values” of the NDP that Dexter spoke about at the Halifax convention? Regarding the lackluster platform on which the Dexter government was elected, Larry Haiven remarks:

“...the NDP will no doubt refer to Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan. They may remind people...that Douglas insisted on balancing his province’s books as one of his first priorities. But Tommy Douglas was not just about balancing budgets...Tommy Douglas had social imagination; he had great ideas of what he was going to accomplish, like medicare, public automobile insurance, rural electrification, children’s dental care and many more. He announced these things publicly and lifted people’s spirits in the promise of what they could do collectively. He and his immediate successors took on the vested business and professional interests and rallied people to demand better. In recent years, NDP governments across Canada have been all about dampening people’s spirits, especially the party grassroots. The NDP has become a promise of better management of crisis.”[13]

Scaling Back Ever-Modest Goals
While many in the labour and social movements have expressed hope that the election of the first NDP government in Nova Scotia is a step in the right direction, there is little reason to be optimistic. There is already evidence of the NDP ending up on the opposite side of the popular movements when the Conservatives were in power and the NDP remains firmly committed to the neoliberal mantra of tax cuts, fiscal austerity and balanced budgets. And to dampen things further, the Dexter government has reported that the province’s finances are in worse shape than expected.[14] Haiven argues that this process may in fact be politically motivated. Given the current political orientation it is likely spending cuts are further ahead in order to maintain its major commitments, and it is necessary to convince the traditional NDP constituencies (for whom further spending cuts would be very unpopular) of this ‘necessity.’[15]

In the Throne Speech on September 17, 2009, Dexter reiterated the party's key campaign platform themes. He noted that they had already reduced the size of the Cabinet from 18 to 12 members, and they had taken the HST off of home electricity. And they would follow through on the home construction rebate. Dexter stressed the party's commitment to “living within our means” and warned that “[i]f we do not make changes, Nova Scotia’s deficit will balloon to $1.3-billion by 2012. That is not the legacy this government wants to leave to future Nova Scotians.”[16] In the budget address the following week, Finance Minister Graham Steele stated that: “While this is the first budget tabled by this government...we do not consider it to be our budget. This budget is substantially the same as the budget introduced last May 4th.” The government forecasted a deficit of $592.1-million for 2009-2010, but maintains that it will balance the budget next year.[17] We have yet to see an “NDP budget” for Nova Scotia, but there is little reason to believe that it will represent a break from politics as usual. Angella MacEwen and Christine Saulnier remark that “maybe we could have used a few surprises. Something more creative than dumping $325-million into roads (the most money a Nova Scotian government has ever spent on roads in a single year).”[18]

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has outlined a more progressive economic strategy for Nova Scotia in its annual Alternative Budget. It rejects the emphasis on balanced budgets and maintains that adequately funded healthcare, education and social services should be a higher priority in a recession. It argues that the removal of the HST on home energy is misguided, noting that it saves the average Nova Scotian a mere $10 per month but deprives the government of a significant amount of revenue. A better solution would be a subsidy for low income households. The re-nationalization of Nova Scotia Power would also enhance energy security. The report warns against the mantra of tax cuts, citing a study by CCPA economist Armine Yalnizyan that found that governments of all levels across Canada reduced their revenue by $250-billion, depriving them of ability to sufficiently fund healthcare, education, social services, infrastructure, etc. The Alternative Budget stresses the need for a well-educated workforce in order for the province to come out better from the recession, which includes increasing funding for the province’s neglected schools, investments in childcare, and reduced post-secondary tuition. Poverty reduction is also crucial, with the Alternative Budget calling for a 30% increase in social assistance rates. The Alternative Budget would be funded by increased taxes on the wealthy, with income above $150,000 being taxed at a marginal rate of 30%.[19]

It should not be a surprise that priorities of the Dexter government are very much at odds with those of the socialist Left. Yet, it is striking how much they have moved from traditional social democratic goals. The first NDP government in the history of Atlantic Canada is, like recent provincial NDP governments elsewhere, continuing the project of pursuing more humane version of neoliberalism. Broadbent’s call for an all-out assault on inequality sounds downright radical by today’s standards. •

Matt Fodor is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at York University.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

NDP slams parliament suspension..

While Harper may in part be trying to avoid criticism what is probably more important is to pack the Senate and get rid of parliamentary committees that bothered Harper. Harper considers parliament and parliamentary processes as some sort of barrier to be overcome or disbanded when he does not like what they are doing. Here is the champion of a party that wanted a triple E senate now packing it just as those terrible Liberals would do if they got a chance. So much for change and accountability.

NDP slams Parliament suspension

Two prominent local NDP members slammed the Conservative government for suspending Parliament until March 3.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to avoid criticism from the elected members of Parliament on not properly handling prisoners and violating the Geneva Convention, NDP riding association president Norm Slater said.

"When Jean Chretien prorogued Parliament in order to avoid criticism of the sponsorship scandal, Stephen Harper was the first one to criticize him," Slater said. "He's doing the same thing Jean Chretien did. I think the word hypocrisy comes to my mind."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government announced on Wednesday that Parliament would be shut down until March 3, with a budget presented the following day.

Parliament was originally scheduled to return on Jan. 25.

Proroguing Parliament allows the government to focus on the Vancouver Olympic Games, to fill the five vacant Senate seats to give the Conservatives a majority on Senate committees, and to disband Parliamentary committees, Peterborough Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro has said.

"We will effectively take a majority position in the senate in the coming weeks which will allow us to take... bills that have been blocked by the Liberal senators," he said.

Del Mastro said the proroguing of Parliament has nothing to do with the Afghan detainee issue.

MPs are elected to work, not to go home and to go on vacation, Slater said.

"For some reason (Harper) doesn't want to face Parliament and deal with the people who are elected to run the country. I guess he thinks he's the emperor or something," Slater said. "Democracy seems like a bother to him."

Local NDP candidate Dave Nickle said the Conservatives continuously contradict their election platform of being open and accountable with the Canadian people.

"But we are just getting more of the same," he said. "I don't think anybody who looks at the record of this government believes them."

Nickle said the Canadian people will view the decision to suspend Parliament "very cynically."

"I hope people really start to look beyond the fluff and look at the real workings of government," he said. "Whenever the going gets tough for this government, they take an extended holiday."

Peterborough Liberal candidate Betsy McGregor and local Liberal riding association president John Nichols couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff issued a statement after the announcement of the prorogation.

"The decision to prorogue is about one thing and one thing only -avoiding the scrutiny of Parliament at a time when this government is facing tough questions about their conduct in covering up the detainee scandal," Ignatieff stated. "By shutting down Parliament four times in just three years, Mr. Harper is showing that his first impulse when he is in trouble is to shut down Parliament."

The last time Harper asked Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to prorogue Parliament was in late 2008 when the Liberals and NDP agreed to try to form a coalition government.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dementia cases to increase dramatically

Thirty years is a long time and perhaps in that time many more effective treatments will be found. On reading this article one wonders whether the statistics are wrong or simply manipulated to make the situation sound more dire than it is. The accumulative cost over thirty years is 872 billion which divided by thirty gives an average cost or around 29 billion a year a little less than twice the present cost. However the data is presented by the article as a ten fold increase. Perhaps that is so although the article does not give any indication how that was arrived at. In any event this would be in 2038. We hadn't been paying anything close to that in earlier years. Nevertheless the article still shows that dementia is an important issue and everything possible should be done to lessen the effects of the increase in cases.

Huge wave of dementia cases coming, warns report
Updated: Mon Jan. 04 2010 10:40:29 AM News Staff

So many Canadians are expected to develop Alzheimer's disease and dementia in the next 30 years that a new case will be diagnosed every two minutes unless preventive measures are taken, a new report says.

The report, released Monday by the Alzheimer Society, says the prevalence of dementia will more than double in the next 30 years.

By 2038, almost three per cent of Canada's population will be affected by dementia, and about 257,800 new cases will be diagnosed per year.

Today, dementia costs Canada about $15 billion a year; those costs could soon increase by 10-fold.

"If nothing changes, this sharp increase in the number of people living with dementia will mean that by 2038, the total costs associated with dementia will reach $153 billion a year," David Harvey, principal spokesperson for the Alzheimer Society project called "Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society," said in a statement.

That amounts to a cumulative total of $872 billion over the 30-year period.

Much of the increase in cases can be attributed to the "greying" of Canada. With Canadians living longer and baby boomers aging, there is expected to be a spike in many chronic diseases that come with age, such as heart disease, arthritis and cancer.

But the expected rising rates of dementia are not just about demographics; poor lifestyles also play a role.

It's been well documented that regular physical and mental exercise can delay the onset of dementia, which includes Alzheimer's disease and other progressive diseases that destroy brain cells. For that reason, the report recommends that all Canadians over 65 without dementia increase their physical activity by 50 per cent.

"Prevention is where we need to be starting," Harvey told Canada AM.

"We know that healthy eating and active living are antidotes to dementia."

The "Rising Tide" report calls on government to fund more health promotion to remind Canadians of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

"This intervention would reduce the number of people diagnosed with dementia, resulting in a reduction in the pressure on long-term care facilities, community care services and informal caregivers," the report says.

Need for national strategy

Just as important, Harvey says, is the need for Canada's health care system to adapt to accommodate the projected rise in dementia cases.

"Dementia is one of the leading cases of disability amongst older people," Harvey said, noting that the flood of dementia expected in the next 30 years could overwhelm emergency rooms and hospitals.

His group's report calls for more support for informal caregivers -- generally, family members -- who tend to be the ones who care for patients with dementia in the early stages of the disease.

"There are services that can be put in place to support caregivers, and also economic and financial support for caregivers," he said.

By also providing caregivers with skill-building and support programs, caregivers struggling with the overwhelming emotional and financial hardships of providing care may feel better equipped to care for their loved one.

That could go far to delay admission of patients into long-term care facilities, thereby lessening the burden on the health care system.

The report also suggests assigning "system navigators" to each newly diagnosed dementia patient and their caregivers. These case managers would help families navigate the health system to find the right social services for their loved one depending on their stage of dementia.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Travers: Harper creating dangerous legacy

This article is surely a cut above most of Travers' work. Perhaps this is because most of it agrees with my own opinions! Anyway Travers makes a lot of good points. Imagine what Harper would do if he had a majority that imposed no restraints upon him. However, as Travers himself points out the opposition Liberals seem hardly a credible alternative. There are other alternatives though, that is voting for the NDP, the Greens, and other parties. It is unlikely that this will result in Tweedle Dee(Conservatives) and Tweedle Dum (LIberals) being defeated by a third party but it will put some restraints upon what the winning party can do wrong by ensuring that there is not another majority government. Unless Ignatieff begins to advance some policies that capture the imagination of Canadians and shows more skill in countering the Conservative attacks against him while attacking them successfully there seems not much hope for the Liberal party. Right now he seems to have gone back into sleep mode. Perhaps he is saving energy. This is from the Star.

Travers: Harper's dark democracy creates dangerous legacy
January 02, 2010

James Travers


No one should be more concerned about this Prime Minister's controlling methods than Conservatives. Power so expediently abused in high office becomes a cruel constraint when an election is inevitably lost.

Stephen Harper understood that in opposition. As a Reformer he preached the gospel of parliamentary primacy. As a Conservative leader using memories of ethical failures from the Chrétien era to defeat Paul Martin, Harper promised, hand over heart, to restore accountability.

That, of course, was then. Now the Prime Minister is singularly dominating national affairs. As a new year begins, there will be no one here to ask annoying questions about war and spending or distract attention from the modern Roman circus of Olympic Games.

No watchdogs will howl at how Canadians are being denied the right to know what the ruling party is doing in their name and with their money; what generals and ministers aren't saying about Afghanistan prisoner torture or how an unreformed RCMP polices much of the country without civilian oversight.

If there is a zone, a sweet spot, in federal politics, Harper is at its epicentre. Cabinet is a rubber stamp, party principles are sacrificed to pragmatism without much protest, and there's no credible alternative to threaten Harper's hegemony or test a Conservative agenda.

Other prime ministers have explored the open space created by Parliament's shrinkage. Pierre Trudeau, who began the concentration of power among whispering loyalists, snapped "just watch me" when asked how far he would go to control the 1970 October Crisis. Brian Mulroney Tories created the wink-and-nudge contracting system that Liberals elevated into the Quebec sponsorship scheme. Jean Chrétien became known as a more or less friendly dictator during three consecutive majorities.

Harper is still pursuing a first majority. Meanwhile he's constructing a bold new edifice on his predecessor's suspect foundations.

Systematically, and without explanation, the Prime Minister is testing every limit on his power. Along with successfully shuttering Parliament for the second time, he's neutering committees charged with the primary democratic responsibilities of safeguarding the treasury and forcing the government to explain its actions. He's challenging independent rulings against how Conservatives funded their 2006 election and how this government treats Canadians in trouble abroad.

Politics is an uncompromising blood sport played to win within loose rules. By learning Liberal dirty tricks, adapting to changing circumstances and reinterpreting every regulation in his favour, Harper is proving to be a shrewd and accomplished contestant.

Far less clear is what he accepts as legitimate constraint, the line in the democratic sand not to be crossed.

Last year ministers threatened to go over the head of the de facto head of state if Governor General Michaëlle Jean allowed a coalition of "Liberals, socialists and separatist" to use their Commons majority to topple his minority. This winter Harper is essentially making the argument that Parliament is getting in the way of his government governing.

Come spring or fall, there will likely be another election, one that might well interfere with what the Prime Minister has in mind and could, if experience is a prognosticator, lead to yet another response outside the boundaries of shared Canadian experience.

Whatever happens in the coming months, one reality is inescapable. In taking politics to a different, hyper-controlling and partisan level, the Prime Minister is creating a dangerous legacy his successors will gratefully accept before turning it to their benefit.

Even if Conservatives are more comfortable than other Canadians with Harper's dark democracy, they along with the rest of us should be very afraid of what will happen when, as it will, the political worm turns.

James Travers' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Drone strikes in Pakistan had 12.5 per cent accuracy.

Although these are surgical strikes according to the official spin the surgeon strikes the wrong victim about seven out of eight times. In the US everyone gets excited if a doctor takes off the wrong leg just once but at least that doctor did not kill his victim. It seems to cause little fuss not only that the drone is judge and executioner without any trial but that innocent people are often killed. What on earth is wrong with people. Imagine if authorities used drones within the USA to target criminals and as a result killed 7 inn0cent people for every criminal eliminate. Drone attacks would never begin yet alone be increased. This is from presstv.

In Pakistan, more civilians fall victim to US drones

The civilian mortalities from US missile attacks on the Pakistani soil in 2009 indicate a threefold increase in compared to the previous year.

Using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones to carry out the attacks, the US Central Intelligence Agency, in cooperation with the Pentagon, are responsible for more than 700 civilian deaths in Pakistan this year, reports say.

In 2008, there were 32 strikes that killed about 240 people, according to Reuters. The attacks in 2009, meanwhile, had a mere 12.5 percent accuracy in targeting the supposed militants in Pakistan's northwestern tribal area, raising questions about the efficiency of the method.

The attacks, believed to be initiated from airbases located inside Pakistan's territory, have also played a strong role in the growing anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

The CIA is accused of ignoring legal and moral principles in its running of deadly operations against civilians on a sovereign soil.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the attacks are hailed as a 'surgical' counterinsurgency tool. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi recently condemned the attacks as "counterproductive and unhelpful."

The latest round of the attacks left some seven people dead in the northwestern area of North Waziristan over the past two days.