Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No Means No. Maybe!

While there may be no longer any combat troops in Afghanistan after 2011, this does not mean that no troops will be there. There could very well be still quite a few non-combat troops devoted to training etc. and these troops could very well be involved in combat in self defense. The article makes no mention of this issue nor of course did Prime Minister Harper. This is from the Globe and Mail.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 9:48 AM
No means no, PM tells Clinton
Jane Taber

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this morning that Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan ends in 2011.

Mrs. Clinton did not ask that Canada keep troops in Afghanistan past the 2011 deadline, a Harper official told The Globe. Rather, the issue came up as the two were speaking about issues in Iran and Afghanistan.
“In the discussion on Iran and Afghanistan the Prime Minister reiterated [Canada’s position],” a senior Harper official said.
Mrs. Clinton made headlines across the country yesterday when she said in an interview with CTV that the United States wanted Canada’s military to stay beyond its deadline.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Military mission in Afghanistan will be over in 2011 but will troops remain?

Cannon's answer is clear and at the same time unclear about whether troops will remain in Afghanistan. The U.S. probably will request more troops and I would not be surprised if Ignatieff might support this if they are involved in other than combat roles. Right now he is just trying to embarrass the Conservatives a bit and put them on the spot. However, he is eliciting nothing but a weasel word response as might be expected. This is from the Globe and Mail.

Afghan withdrawal date puts
Lawrence Cannon in hot seat
Jane Taber

Michael Ignatieff is demanding a vote in Parliament on any extension to the military mission in Afghanistan, accusing the government of conducting foreign policy in secret.
The Liberal Leader was reacting to a report in The Globe and Mail today that the U.S. government will request Canada keep as many as 500 to 600 troops in Afghanistan after the military mission ends in 2011. According to the story, sources inside and outside government say the formal request is expected to come toward the end of the year through NATO.
“Will someone in this government tell us what in heaven’s name is going on?” Mr. Ignatieff demanded in Question Period. “The government didn’t bring this before the Canadian people. This is no way to run the foreign policy of a serious government.
“Will the government commit to putting any deployment in Afghanistan past 2011 to a vote in Parliament?”
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon dismissed the report, saying no request has been received. “Let me reassure the Opposition Leader that our military mission will end in 2011 as we’ve indicated in the Speech from the Throne,” Mr. Cannon said.
The Conservative government has repeatedly said the military mission will end in July 2011.
Earlier today, Stephen Harper, who was in London, Ont. to make a job announcement, called talk of this request entirely speculative. “We’ve received no such request. The Canadian Forces continue to plan for Canada's end to the military mission in 2011,” the Prime Minister said.
But the opposition is having trouble with that.
The NDP is suspicious the government is wording its answers in such a way as to leave the door open for troops to remain in Afghanistan. “Yes or no, all troops gone from Afghanistan in 2011? Yes or No?” demanded NDP deputy leader Thomas Mulcair after accusing Mr. Cannon of answering one way in French and another in English.
“Two very different answers,” Mr. Mulcair said. “One refers to the military mission, the other is a very general statement that we are gone.”
Replied Mr. Cannon: “The military mission will end in 2011.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ignatieff the Great Liberal Thinker...

Ignatieff may be thinking while Liberal political fortunes burn up. So far he has not been able to catch up with Harper in the polls so he and his party will be left trying to explain to everyone that Canadians do not want an election now. Now will be however long it takes for Liberal fortunes to improve considerably. This is from the GlobeandMail.

Michael Ignatieff puts his thinking cap on
with 'practical Canadians'
Jane Taber

MONTREAL – Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told participants at his thinkers conference this morning that it felt good to get out of the Ottawa bubble and put partisan politics aside.
As he said that some of the most partisan Liberals in the country were staring right back at him – former prime ministers Jean Chrétien, John Turner and Paul Martin; former Liberal leaders Bill Graham and Stéphane Dion; former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna; a whole host of Liberal MPs and some former party strategists thrown in for good measure. They are here for part or all of the three-day conference.
Billed as a non-partisan exercise aimed at fostering discussion and new ideas in anticipation of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, the crowd of about 250 looked anything but.
Mr. Chrétien spoke to reporters about what the party has to do to succeed: “Liberals have to do their best,” he offered.
Calling the conference “an accomplishment” in itself, Mr. Martin said: “For Liberals to hear what experts in a wide range of areas have to say is going to contribute to developing a Liberal vision.”
Interspersed among the Liberals were some businesspeople, leading academics, former senior bureaucrats and other experts in their fields, including former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge. He is to lead the discussion tomorrow on Canada’s financial future – perhaps he'll also talk about taxes and the economy, a subject the Liberals in Ottawa seem averse to broach.
“I look at you and you are being described as a bunch of thinkers and intellectuals,” Mr. Ignatieff told the participants. “But you are much more than intellectuals and thinkers, … you are also doers.”
He characterized the people attending the conference as “practical Canadians” who are visionary but also know how to get things done. “This weekend we can broaden our horizons,” he said. “We can put partisan politics aside and heaven knows we can get out of the bubble of Ottawa and that feels good.”
Mr. Ignatieff and his Liberal team did not have a good week in Ottawa; they botched their own motion on maternal health, losing a vote in the House because some of their own MPs opposed it. The national opinion polls have also not been kind to the Grits of late.
But never mind. The Liberal Leader said this weekend is about “reflection, debate and provocation.”
Quoting the late Lester Pearson, who held a similar conference in Kingston in 1960, Mr. Ignatieff said that “if you can’t lead you can’t listen.”
And that’s what he is here to do this weekend – except when he’s talking.
Mr. Ignatieff apologized for speaking far too long in his opening remarks and noted he has a press conference to attend at midday. Then he will be finished talking and will move into listening mode.
(Photo: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Coulter safe and maybe sound at Calgary

Coulter thrives on goofiness. She is glad to be in the English Speaking part of Canada but everyone knows that Albertans speak Texan. I have not heard that Coulter spoke any French at the University of Ottawa and no doubt most of her audience were anglophones.
At least University of Calgary authorities did not engage in any stupid warnings to her that she ought to make sure she does not trespass hate laws! As one would expect nothing untoward happened. How come Coulter has not made it to some no fly list? This is from the National Post.

Coulter on tour: U.S. should annex 'everything from Calgary west'
Kevin Libin, National Post

The first public comment Ann Coulter made after touching down at Calgary's airport on Wednesday evening was "Already I feel safer."

And on Thursday night, at the University of Calgary, there was nothing like the of the pandemonium that greeted Ms. Coulter at the University Ottawa earlier this week, where masses of protestors demanding the U.S. author and pundit be denied a podium - after their provost had warned her she risked being charged for hate speech while on his campus - were able to make it so by prompting security officials to cancel the event out of "safety" concerns.

In Calgary, about 40 protesters were nearly outnumbered by the reporters sent to cover them. The anti-Coulter demonstrators stood gathered outside the entrance to the Red and White Club at Calgary's McMahon Stadium waving homemade signs and chanting "Ann Coulter go home" and "free speech not hate speech," while about 900 students and ticketholders filed in quietly and orderly.

Inside, Ms. Coulter was greeted with repeated standing ovations as she offered up an hour of jokes about political correctness and U.S. politics.

But the closest she came to targeting any minorities was when she cracked three or four jokes about gay activists. At one point she criticized how gays compared their struggle to that of segregated blacks.

"You'd think there were ‘straights-only' water fountains," she said. "As if a gay male would ever drink non-bottled water."

Several students politely argued with Ms. Coulter about her positions in the question and answer session that followed, but several people in the crowd said they had come specifically in response to the University of Ottawa episode.

"I'm not going to let some mob push me around," one latecomer said.

Ms. Coulter said she was relieved to be in the "English-speaking part of Canada," and said she planned to campaign for the U.S. to annex "everything from Calgary west."

National Post

© 2010 The National Post Company. All rights rese

Friday, March 26, 2010

James Travers: Liberal Fest Will be Lost Weekend

Maybe the Liberals need a grassroots tea party goading them. Ignatieff needs some sort of hearing aid so that he can listen to the base rather than go off on a weekend thinker's conference that as Travers claims is full of experts trying to figure out what would be the best way to create some new props to attract votes. The parties are to raise funds and do all the grunt work on campaigns. A few hacks may get some payback but mostly the grass roots are meant to stay underground and just feed the tops. This has nothing to do with a green shift by the way! This is from the Star.

Travers: Liberal fest will be lost weekend

By James Travers
National Affairs Columnist
Drape the long-suffering political party in mourning. Another nail is being driven into the coffin of grassroots democracy by a weekend Liberal conference dominated by professionals, not the eager amateurs whose energy and ideas once propelled parties forward.

For the second time in a little over a year, Liberals are about to sacrifice accountability to expediency and a show. Last winter the party elite scuttled a leadership campaign to crown Michael Ignatieff with scant regard for his values, campaign readiness or rank-and-file opinion. Now those same insiders are posing him, like Auguste Rodin's celebrated sculpture, as thinking hard about where to take party and country.

To keep it sound-bite simple and silence dissent, the caucus is being advised to stay away. Counterintuitive and embarrassing, that's only one superficial symptom of a deeper, wider malaise.

Beyond raising cash and providing campaign workers, political parties don't matter much any more. They have little control over the leaders they choose and even less influence over defining policies or election platforms.

As Conservatives learned to their surprise just weeks after the 2008 federal election, card-carrying loyalists are merely one among multiple groups of "stakeholders." No matter how profoundly felt or long held, the ideology that attracted them to the Reform party and now binds them in the Conservative coalition carries about the same weight with the leader and now Prime Minister as nagging advice.

That evolving reality is on a sliding scale. On one end is an NDP that talks often and earnestly about divisive issues and expects its leaders to be sensitive when adjusting convention resolutions to changing circumstances. On the other are Liberals who became the Western world's most successful political organization largely by resisting the temptation to let principle get in the way of the pragmatic pursuit of power.

It's that pragmatism that took Liberals to nearby Aylmer in 1991 to distance themselves from John Turner's lost battle against free trade. It's that pragmatism that's taking them back to Montreal, where they hope to regain past glories by persuading voters that Ignatieff – impressions of uncertainty notwithstanding – has a compelling plan.

Far from the worst of recent ideas, the weekend conference accepts that more than a decade in office made Liberals dependent on bureaucrats for ideas. Loose and begging top-down manipulation, that process also recognizes the urgent need to put something fresh in the window for the coming election.

But there's a crucial distinction between safely parading experts across a stage and the risky process of asking Liberals to decide what's now important about being Liberals. That difference separates being in the crowd from being a player and, among other things, helps explain why less than 5 per cent of Canadians now bother to join political parties.

It's true, as Conservatives were reminded by Stephen Harper's cameo appearance when they last gathered on a blustery Winnipeg weekend, meeting the party in public sometimes leads to awkward moments we-the-media gratefully exploit. Questions better left unanswered are asked by those ignorant to the fluid twist and turns demanded of leaders determined to win and hold power.

Still, democracy is messy and fragile. Its component parts are connected by the chain of accountability that stretches to the snapping point when elites take their parties for granted.

That, too, is something Liberals should think about this weekend.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Canadian Universities are not Bastions of Free Speech.

It is not clear how the protesters managed to prevent Ann Coulter from speaking. It was not the police or university that cancelled the speech it was her own organisation. Surely protesters have a right to protest just as Coulter has a right to speak.
It seems that Coulter's organisation should have arranged for a much larger venue for her speech. Part of the security concerns had to do with the size of the accommodations versus the size of the expected audience. That being said the Provosts caution letter was bound to provoke a response from Coulter and fits in with what Coulter loves to hate, political correctness. There is certainly a considerable amount of truth in what Hunter has to say about that and the role of universities in promoting it. However, Canadian universities are less finishing schools for political correctness than research associates and training grounds for Canadian business, political correctness is just a collateral by-product.

Ian Hunter
Universities are bastions of free speech? Not in Canada

The Coulter saga: Our universities can best be understood today as finishing schools in political correctness

Ian Hunter
From Thursday's Globe and Mail

The louts and yobbos who prevented Ann Coulter from speaking at the University of Ottawa this week must have gladdened the heart of the university's vice-president academic and provost, François Houle, who had pre-emptively sent her a warning not to say anything too controversial lest delicate Canadian sensibilities be ruffled.

Given that Mr. Houle's boss, Allan Rock, a former federal justice minister and attorney-general, is president of the university, the threat of unleashing Canadian law against an invited speaker could not be blithely ignored.

Of course, Canadian universities long ago forfeited any claim they ever had to be considered bastions of independent thought and speech. In fact, all universities shelter within their grey headquarters petty bureaucrats called “equity officers” whose job it is to ensure that groupthink prevails at all times.

Last year, Queen's University went further, hiring students to surreptitiously eavesdrop on other student conversations lest anything untoward be said. This plan was dropped when some alumni objected, but it gives a good indication of the mindset of university administrators. You might recall that, a decade ago, administrators at the University of Western Ontario did everything in their power to make psychology professor Philippe Rushton a pariah on campus because of his unorthodox research conclusions on race and IQ.

Our universities can best be understood today as finishing schools in political correctness. From pre-kindergarten days, students have been brainwashed by the liberal consensus on all issues – political, moral, social. The university exists to round that off with a little learning. So the Ann Coulter saga is neither the first nor the last to expose the corrupt heart of the university.

Ms. Coulter, who says she has given hundreds of talks at North American campuses without incident, said the risk of physical violence in Ottawa was too great for her to proceed. “I'm guessing the scores to get into the University of Ottawa are not very challenging,” she told The Globe and Mail. Even if true, that's not the source of the problem.

Canada's aversion to free speech has two legislative sources. The “hate literature” sections of the Criminal Code prohibit any communication that may expose a person to hatred because of colour, race, religion or ethnic origin. Since a Crown attorney is not required to prove either specific intent or actual harm, this section has a chilling effect on free speech, even though prosecutions are infrequent.

Even more totalitarian are the provisions of provincial human-rights legislation; these statutes routinely dispense with most of the safeguards built into the criminal law, including the presumption of innocence, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, an impartial court, and truth as a defence. The cost of defending oneself before kangaroo tribunals will incline most people to keep quiet.

Ms. Coulter has promised to file a human-rights complaint over this week's cancellation, portraying herself as a victim of “hate speech.” Take my advice, Ms. Coulter: Save your breath to cool your porridge. Human-rights commissions are not interested in your rights. To human-rights types, the political right has no rights. You are the problem. What you say might cause offence, and we can't have that.

Truth to tell, I don't feel much sympathy for Ann Coulter. I looked through her 2009 book Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America and considered it mostly puerile nonsense. I feel no sympathy at all for the University of Ottawa, its ex-politician president and his administration, or its coddled and mostly illiterate students. I do feel sympathy for a handful of professors who try to teach there, that dwindling band who retain a vestigial memory of what a university should be. To them I say: Soldier on, retirement beckons.

Ian Hunter is professor emeritus of law at the University of Western Ontario.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Manitoba NDP government asks public-sector workers for two year wage freeze

As usual it is the worker's that have to pay for the recession. It was a Conservative govt. that last tried to carry out a program such as this. There may be considerable resistance from the unions. Also, if Manitoba health care workers salaries as a result of the freeze go much below those of other provinces there will be an out migration of workers even as Manitoba is so short of nurses , for example, that is must recruit from the Philippines. It seems that the NDP is also imitating Obama in taxing tanning salons! Polls show that the NDP is losing support. If they lose their working class base or even if they do not turn out to vote NDP they may be gone next election.

Manitoba's NDP government asks public-sector workers for two-year wage freeze
WINNIPEG - Manitoba's NDP government issued a surprise warning to its workers Tuesday - accept a two-year wage freeze in any new collective agreements or face job cuts.
"We are going to try to negotiate a pause in further wage increase for the next two years," Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk said. "If we can get a pause, we will not have any layoffs."
The warning comes as the province prepares to talk salaries with two of its largest unions: the 11,000-member Manitoba Nurses Union and the 13,000-strong Manitoba Government and General Employees Union. Wowchuk's words threaten to derail a decade-long smooth relationship between unions and the NDP government.
"It's a bit disappointing to have this discussion in the media when we've had no discussion at the bargaining table with regard to wages," said nurses union president Sandi Mowat.
Freezing salaries "just prolongs, in our view, a recession and ultimately reduces government revenue because people aren't spending," said Peter Olfert, head of the MGEU.
Wowchuk argues the freeze is needed to keep the province's finances in order. The province is forecasting a $592-million deficit for the fiscal year that ends next month and is expecting limited economic growth in 2010-11.
The salary freeze will be demanded not only from government workers as contracts expire, but also from hospital staff and others whose salaries rely on provincial funding, Wowchuk said.
"Times are tough," she said. "We have to have realistic expectations."
The government has already frozen the top-up pay given to cabinet ministers, which was scheduled to jump soon. It is considering a similar freeze on the base pay of all legislature members, which is scheduled to rise in April to $85,564 from $83,722.
Manitoba has not seen large-scale labour strife since the mid-1990s, when the Progressive Conservative government of Gary Filmon instituted a wage freeze and unpaid days off in an attempt to balance the budget.
After the NDP took office in 1999, it hired more health-care workers and boosted public-sector salaries, aided by a growing economy and strong transfer payments from the federal government. Former NDP premier Gary Doer, who had previously headed the MGEU, was frequently given standing ovations at labour conventions.
With the economy in recession, that relationship under new Premier Greg Selinger is showing signs of cooling.
"We're really worried that the government is too worried about the deficit," Olfert said. "They can't slay the deficit by just cutting back on the public sector, but they can deal with the deficit by growing the economy."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Canada and the US health care overhaul.

A key difference between government involvement in Canada and the US is that in Canada the federal govt. helps fund single payer provincially run insurance plans but in the US the government is subsidizing private for profit insurance companies for the most part.
While the new US bill will provide coverage for millions more Americans than before, there will still be 18 million left uninsured. The administrative costs of the US system are astronomical in a country famous for bashing large bureaucracies. Americans do not seem to understand that a single payer system involves far less bureaucratic expenses as the article points out. Even with the reforms of this bill the U.S. will remain the sole advanced industrial state without some sort of universal system and it will still be the most expensive in the world with little sign that this bill will stop continuing cost escalation.

The Canada comparison
An epic U.S. health-care overhaul

CBC News.
Patients line up on hospital beds outside a crowded emergency room at Montreal's Sacre Coeur Hospital in 2002. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
It took more than a year of partisan bickering, deal making and amendments, but the U.S. Congress has approved sweeping changes to the way health care is delivered in the United States.

Despite the passage of legislation by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the United States political establishment remains bitterly divided over the American health-care system. The almost $1-trillion bill that will eventually extend coverage to as many as 32 million previously uninsured Americans passed without a single Republican vote.

It's the first time in U.S. history that such a major piece of legislation has been approved solely on the votes of the governing party.

Opponents of the bill derided it as a march to Canadian-style "socialized medicine," arguing that it gives the government too much say over the way health care is delivered.

"This isn't radical reform," U.S. President Barack Obama said after the legislation was approved on March 21, 2010, "but it is major reform."

Key changes to U.S. health care

Very little change for people with coverage through their employer.
More lower-income people under 65 would be covered by Medicaid, the federal health insurance program.
Low- and moderate-income people would receive subsidies to help offset the cost of health insurance.
Insurance would be available through state-run exchanges.
Fines for people who do not buy health insurance.
People who lose or change jobs would be able to buy coverage through the exchanges, so they would not lose coverage.
Dependent children can stay on parents' coverage until they turn 26.
Many plans will be prevented from placing lifetime limits on coverage and they would not be able to cancel coverage for people who become sick.
Children could not be refused coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Adults who have been unable to get coverage because of pre-existing conditions will be eligible for coverage through a high-risk insurance program.
Higher taxes for high-income families.
Expensive insurance programs would be subject to a new tax.
While the legislation will soon ensure that more people than ever have access to health insurance, the new rules will mean the U.S. remains the only industrialized nation in the world without universal health-care coverage.

The countries that make up the World Health Organization adopted a resolution in 2005 encouraging countries to develop health financing systems that would provide universal health care, which it defined as "securing access for all to appropriate promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services at an affordable cost."

What the United States and Canada have in common when it comes to health care is that it is administered by insurance companies. In Canada, those companies are public, funded by tax dollars and controlled by the provinces and territories — like British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

In the U.S., those companies are — for the most part — private for-profit corporations that sell you or your employer coverage plans. For those who are unemployed, there's Medicaid a government-run insurance program that provides basic benefits to the very poor — only if they meet certain eligibility requirements that vary from state to state.

For those over the age of 65, there's Medicare — another government-run program that provides universal health care for seniors, as long as they meet residency requirements and have paid into the program. It does not cover the cost of prescription drugs or vision and dental care. There are private options that offer that coverage.

Waiting times for some procedures may be longer in Canada, but you won't be billed afterwards. (iStock photo)In 2008, there were 43.6 million Americans under the age of 65 with no health insurance. For most of them, their main option for care is to go a hospital emergency department when they get sick. Under U.S. federal law, a hospital must treat a person who shows up in the emergency department, regardless of their ability to pay. The hospital can bill the patient and try to collect.

You have to qualify for health-care coverage in Canada as well. Normally you have to live in a province for three months to be eligible. You have to be a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant. If you're out of work, you're still covered for whatever services your province insures.

Canada's 5 'pillars'

The Canada Health Act sets out the primary objective of health-care policy across the country. That objective is "to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers."

The federal government transfers money to each province or territory to cover part of their health-care budget, as long as they meet the following five criteria:

Public administration: provincial and territorial health insurance plans must be administered and operated on a non-profit basis by a public authority whose books are publicly audited.
Comprehensiveness: a health-care insurance plan of a province or territory must cover all insured health services provided by hospitals, physicians or dentists in a hospital setting. The services of other health-care practitioners may be covered.
Universality: health insurance must be available to all who meet residence requirements on uniform terms and conditions.
Portability: you're covered by your home province if you're in another part of the country on business or on vacation.
Accessibility: you should have reasonable access to hospital, medical and surgical-dental services on uniform terms and conditions — and not be charged extra for insured services.
While it may take longer to access some of those services depending on which part of the country you live in, you will eventually receive care.

Under the proposed changes in the United States, as many as 32 million previously uninsured people will join the ranks of the covered. Health insurance would be mandatory — unless you had a religious objection. Anyone else who declined to buy insurance would pay a fine. Low- and moderate-income people would receive government subsidies to help pay their insurance premiums.

It's estimated that as many as 18 million would still be without health insurance. A third of them would be illegal immigrants. In a move to placate Hispanic lawmakers, Obama pledged changes to immigration laws that could make it easier for people in the country illegally to apply for citizenship.

Modified status quo?

Health insurance plans would still be administered by large corporations. The Senate bill does not include a provision for a government-run insurance company as an alternative to the private companies.

In the U.S., health care is administered by many for-profit insurance companies. Canada's system is also based on insurance plans, but they're administered by the provinces and territories. (iStock photo)Employers and people without coverage at work could buy plans in a national exchange. But there would be some key changes: insurance companies won't be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies would not be able to charge higher premiums based on medical conditions or gender — and they would not be able to set lifetime limits on health coverage.

Even with health-care reform in the United States, Americans will still be paying substantial out-of-pocket expenses. Depending on the details of the legislation that President Barack Obama signs, health insurance may cover anywhere from 60 to 90 per cent of a patient's expenses.

The American Medical Association has come out in favour of both pieces of legislation, saying the changes will improve choice and access to affordable health insurance coverage and eliminate denials based on pre-existing conditions.

One of the key goals of reforming the American health-care system is to get costs under control. Health insurance premiums have been rising much faster than incomes have grown and — depending on which study you believe — administrative costs eat up anywhere from 12 to 31 per cent of all money spent on health care in the United States.

The U.S. spends more on health care ($7,439 per person in 2007) than any country on the planet — yet fails to deliver consistent care to about 15 per cent of the population.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2003 found that the U.S. was spending a lot more than Canada on health-care administration — and that the gap grew from $307 per capita in 1999 to $759 per capita in 2003. The study concluded that the U.S. could save a lot of money by adopting a Canadian-style health-care system.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/12/22/f-health-care-canada-us-reform-access.html#ixzz0j0Y8VMQK

Monday, March 22, 2010

Poll: Conservatives still ahead of Liberals.

The Conservatives do not seem to be able to build toward a majority and the Liberals are going nowhere fast as well. You will now hear a constant refrain from the two major parties that Canadians do not want an election. If the Conservatives or Liberals had polls that would give them a majority their would be a different tune. Expect the Liberals to support the Conservatives unless they are sure one of the other parties will do so! At least the NDP seems to be increasing its vote a little. In BC the Liberals seem to be far behind!

This is the Vancouver Sun.

Harper Tories still lead Liberals: poll


The Conservatives have the support of 34 per cent of decided voters, down three percentage points from the last poll earlier this month, while the Liberals secured 28 per cent of voters, down one percentage point.
Photograph by: Chris Wattie, Reuters
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives have lost some support but would still emerge victorious if a federal election were held today, according to a poll conducted for Canwest News Service and Global National.

The Conservatives have the support of 34 per cent of decided voters, down three percentage points from the last poll earlier this month, while the Liberals secured 28 per cent of voters, down one percentage point. The New Democratic Party was in third with 18 per cent of the vote; 10 per cent of Canadians would support the Green party.

The Ipsos Reid poll is the first to ask Canadians who they would vote for since MPs returned to Parliament Hill following their prorogation break and since the budget was delivered on March 4.

With these results, a majority government remained out of reach for the Conservatives and the Liberals and neither party appeared to have made significant progress in boosting its popularity.


The poll of 1,001 Canadians was conducted between March 16 and 18 and the results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

In the battleground of Quebec, the Conservatives have a lot of catching up to do to close the gap with the Bloc Quebecois which has 35 per cent of the votes. The Liberals have 27 per cent followed by the Conservatives in third at 20 per cent. The NDP has 11 per cent and the Green party would garner eight per cent, according to the poll results.

"Their Quebec strategy from the last election that failed, continues not to get them anywhere," Bricker said of the Tories' poor performance in Quebec.

The Liberals still have a grip on voters in Ontario where they would get 36 per cent of the votes compared to 33 per cent for the Tories, 19 per cent for the NDP and 10 per cent for the Green party.

In British Columbia, however, the Liberals are far back in third place at 17 per cent, behind the Conservatives, at 43 per cent, and the NDP with 22 per cent. In fact, the Liberals were in a statistical tie with the Greens, who had 16 per cent support.

Support for the parties has been relatively stable since the last federal election and with these latest poll results, Bricker said it's unlikely any of them would want an election in the near future. None would be able to secure a majority government, if the current numbers hold through an election campaign, he added.

"Unless the Conservatives can find a way to make a big breakthrough in Ontario or Quebec or the Liberals can get a big lead in Ontario and then establish some beachheads in some other places, you just don't see it for anybody," Bricker said.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Walkom: We are all Red Tories

Maybe Canadians are all Red Tories or a majority of us but there seem to be a lot less Red Tories in the Conservative Party. Who are they? No doubt there is some truth in what Walkom has to say but the Conservatives no longer even bother to put Progressive in front of Conservative and they are still able to survive. Contrast the recent NDP governments in Saskatchewan actually selling off government assets while warning the voters that the Saskatchewan party would do that! Consider the same government adopting a royalty system that was more generous to the oil companies than that of Alberta Tories! The Manning poll may be wrong about whether individual Canadians have moved to the right in their ideas but certainly Canadian political parties have long done so. The NDP new slogan might be summed up as Long Live the Third Way. This is from the TorontoStar.

Walkom: Why we're all Red Tories

By Thomas Walkom
National Affairs Columnist
Are Canadians becoming more conservative? Those around Prime Minister Stephen Harper believe so. I'm not so sure. I think they are confusing how Canadians view the world with the Conservative government's success in rearticulating that view.

While close, the two concepts are analytically separate. And that's important.

But first the evidence. The notion that Canada is undergoing an ideological shift has been around for a while. It got a boost last week when the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a conservative think tank, released a poll that concludes the political centre is indeed moving rightward.

"The colour of the centre has shifted from red to blue," think-tank head and former Reform Party chief Preston Manning declared.

His poll appears to jibe with the continued success of Harper's Conservatives who, although twice unable to capture a majority of Commons seats, have at least won the country's grudging acceptance.

And its implicit lesson for both the Liberals and the New Democrats seems to be that if they are to succeed, they must move even further to the right.

I say "seems" because the Manning Centre poll, once examined more carefully, doesn't indicate much that is new about the Canadian electorate.

If anything, it reveals how divorced mainstream Canadians are from the politics of both the Manning Centre itself (which, among other things, wants to gut medicare) and the hard core around Harper.

For instance: Fewer than half those polled firmly believe that a strong military is essential to Canada. Four out of five support Canada withdrawing its troops from the Afghan war. More than 80 per cent think government should have a major role in managing the economy.

Only a minority (26 per cent) strongly believe that private enterprise is the best way to solve economic problems. About the same number (31 per cent) say that such problems could best be solved through government action.

A striking 82 per cent want government to play some role in alleviating income inequality between the rich and the poor. And 84 per cent of those who define themselves as centrist are adamantly opposed to private hospitals.

None of this is hard core conservative doctrine. Quite the opposite. So why the confusion?

Part of the answer is that this interpretation suits the aims of those who paid for the poll. The Manning Centre, according to its website, was set up to build a coherent conservative movement in Canada. And it's been doing its best – running a campaign school for conservatives, a program to link political and religious rightists and a how-to course for conservatives who think they might win power.

But most of this confusion, I think, stems from a fundamental misunderstanding about where Canadians situate themselves ideologically.

The first truth about mainstream Canadian ideology is that it is invisible. Canadians insist they have no ideology. That's why the vast majority always identify themselves as centrist.

But, like everyone else, Canadians have views about what the world is and should be – which is what ideology is. Ideologically, Canada is, in many ways, small-c conservative. It always has been.

So when the Manning Centre pollsters find that the majority of Canadians value family above all else, prefer incremental to radical change and think that the best way to solve problems is by learning from past experience, no one should be surprised.

Liberals value their families no less than Conservatives. Successful New Democrats, such as former Manitoba premier Gary Doer or Saskatchewan's Roy Romanow, prospered through their mastery of incremental change. Tommy Douglas, the iconic social democrat viewed as the father of Canadian medicare, was eminently practical.

The Manning poll found that 60 per cent of those polled strongly believe that abortion is morally wrong. But it also found that most believe government should not try to regulate morality.

Again, what's new? This was the position of former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien as well as his successor Paul Martin, both of whom opposed abortion privately but supported the right of others to make their own choices.

When Pierre Trudeau famously declared that the state had no business in the bedrooms of the nation, he was tapping into a heartfelt and ultimately conservative Canadian notion that governments should keep their noses out of private affairs.

But the other half of Canadian ideology is its tendency toward communalism. The original reasons for this lie deep in our history and are well-known: We are a small population in a large land faced with a not-always-friendly neighbour to the south and dominated economically by large interests – from the Hudson's Bay Co. to the Canadian Pacific Railroad to the nickel mining giant Vale Inco.

All of this has produced, in Canada, an ideological willingness to use government and other kinds of communal organizations –such as co-ops, trade unions or agricultural marketing boards – as countervailing forces.

In the United States, conservatism and communalism (described there as liberalism) are constantly at war with one another. In Canada, they have quietly merged into what political scientist Gad Horowitz famously labelled the ideology of the Red Tory.

In fact, most successful Canadian political movements are variations on the Red Tory theme – from the Progressive Conservatives, who governed Ontario for four decades, to the federal Liberals, who operate under the slogan of combining fiscal conservatism with social liberalism.

Even the New Democrats are inherently conservative, struggling not to revolutionize society but to buttress it against the excesses of an inherently unstable, global, free-market world. Harper's skill so far has lain in his ability to tap into those elements of Canada's dominant Red Tory view of the world and redefine it in a language that supports his own, more robust, American-style brand of conservatism.

He killed a national child care scheme that he viewed as ideologically repugnant by replacing it with the classic Liberal baby bonus system – one that married Canadians' love of family (let parents decide what's best for their children) with their equal penchant for government grants (in this case, $100 per young child per month).

Then he defined it as a victory of choice over the nanny state.

He sold his decision to increase military spending by focusing on Arctic sovereignty, which in turn appealed to the country's mythic view of itself as an imperilled northern nation in need of strong state support.

But in spite of his efforts, he was never able to persuade the country that this newly beefed up military should be used to indefinitely support the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. Harper has done much to make his version of conservatism palatable to Canadians. But my guess is that in the end, he too will be constrained by the country's ideological contradictions.

As the Manning poll found, we may not think that the federal government is terribly relevant to our lives.

But we believe – again as the Manning poll found – that it should be.

Thomas Walkom's regular column appears Wednesday and Saturday

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Seniors are good for something! Pharmaceutical's Profits.

Perhaps there needs to be a study done to get some idea how many of these prescriptions are necessary and desirable and how many are just a waste of money or worse. As with many people I rely on my doctor's knowledge although I have looked up the drugs I am taking. All of them seem relevant for the medical problems I have. Fortunately, I do not have any adverse reactions. I am fairly confident without many of the drugs I am taking I might very well be dead years ago!

Study warns about seniors' prescriptions
Two-thirds of retirement-age Canadians are taking five or more prescription medications

PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTER — From Friday's Globe and Mail

Take a peek into your grandma's medicine cabinet: It may well be bursting at the seams.

A new study shows that almost two-thirds of Canadians over the age of 65 are taking five or more prescription medications.

That includes one in five seniors who are taking 10 or more drugs and one in 20 seniors who are taking a staggering 15 or more meds to manage a variety of conditions, from high blood pressure through to Alzheimer's, according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

“There some cause for alarm in that we see polypharmacy – or multiple medications – becoming the norm,” Steve Morgan, associate director of the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at the University of British Columbia, said in an interview.

“Five or more drugs used to be a sign of inappropriate prescribing, but times have obviously changed,” he said.

Dr. Morgan, who was not involved in the research, emphasized that the data do not indicate whether the prescriptions for individuals are appropriate or not.

His underlying concerns are that prescription drugs are rarely tested on seniors, that multiple medications greatly increase the risk of dangerous drug interactions, and that there is little co-ordination of care and tracking of prescription drugs, in large part because electronic health records are a rarity in Canada.

“Many doctors who are prescribing drug number 10 have no idea what the other nine drugs are,” Dr. Morgan said.

Canadians spent $25.2-billion on prescription drugs in 2008, the most recent year for which detailed data are available. That includes $14-billion in private spending (private drug plans and out-of-pocket) and $11.2-billion in public spending.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Newman: How Harper might trigger the next election

While Newman's scenario is a possibility it seems to me much more likely that Harper would just introduce a bill that none of the opposition parties could stomach. They would have a choice of supporting a bill that goes completely against what they were supposed to stand for or bringing down the government. In such a situation the opposition might very well bring down the government even if the polls were not that great for them. Of course this may be underestimating the Liberal capacity to cave in and sell out their principles - or perhaps one of the other opposition parties. This is from the CBC.

Don Newman

How Stephen Harper might trigger the next election

Rideau Hall

Could the prime minister again claim there was a logjam in Parliament and that an election was needed to clear the air, even though the government had not been defeated? He could try.

But that will be a harder claim to make stick if he keeps winning confidence votes and his party is shown to have effective control of the Senate, which is now the case.

It would be a tough sell to make as well to Jean, in the last months of her term and already the recipient of a good deal of criticism for allowing two prorogations for political purposes.

Of course, Jean's tenure ends this fall and a new resident of Rideau Hall will be appointed for a five-year term. Someone, this time, appointed by Harper.

It would take a rare person, recently appointed to the vice-regal post, to reject an election request from the man who just handed him the job.

Of course, if the calling of an election looked blatantly opportunistic, that might stop the prime minister from asking.

There are, after all, lessons to be learned from the prorogation backlash. But come the fall, the election clock likely starts ticking, regardless of what the fixed-date law says.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/03/18/f-vp-newman.html#ixzz0ifLvJbMr

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tories: Ignatieff has prorogued himself

The more I see of Michael Ignatieff the less likely it seems that he will ever lead a majority Liberal government. Perhaps the Liberals would have been better off to stay with Dion. At least he had a program and tried to stick to it. Ignatieff just seems to be going nowhere. The Conservatives may be hurt for a while by the Afghan detainee issue but this is hardly an issue that is going to cause Harper any long term pain. Meanwhile Harper is trying out You Tube where he can control the action. One commentator suggests it is like scoring a goal into an empty net. Well surely a goal is a goal. If You Tube is an easy way to score Harper might as well use it. Anyway the reaction certainly is not all positive. The National Post has an article on the You Tube production. The material below is from the Globe and Mail.

Tories pounce as 'Ignatieff prorogues himself'
Jane Taber

1. Easy target. After withstanding the slings and arrows of the opposition over their decision to prorogue Parliament, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are turning the tables on Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals.
“After Eight Days, Ignatieff Prorogues Himself…,” is the headline of an internal memo sent by Tory party officials in which they note the Liberal Leader was a no-show in the House of Commons Monday.
“Ignatieff is nowhere to be found,” says the cheeky memo, which is sent to Conservative officials, MPs and supporters.
Bolstering their case is that Mr. Ignatieff missed his caucus’s opposition day – a designated day on which the Liberals are allowed to debate a subject of their own choice.
Yesterday, they opted to tackle the wastefulness of taxpayer-funded mailings, called ten per centers. They argued these mass-mailing flyers are overly partisan and wasteful; they want them cut.
“Well, well, well,” the Tory memo says. “Look who’s not bothering to show up in Parliament for work today after only eight days of parliamentary sittings. That’s right – it’s Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Terms of Detainee review blasted by Liberals

I do not see why Rae trusts Iacobucci that is unless he is trusting him to carry out a review in secret and help the government avoid accountability. The government wants to avoid a disaster such as happened with the Maher inquiry where much too much about what goes on in government behind the scenes was revealed. You can also trust Iacobucci to charge a fat fee. The parliament surely has the right to see the documents period end of story. The judge is just part of a department of dirty tricks dodge to avoid accountability.

Detainee review terms blasted by Liberals

CBC News

Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci will review whether documents pertaining to the transfer of Afghan detainees can be released to Parliament. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Liberal MPs hammered the Tory government over the guidelines a former Supreme Court justice will follow in his review of documents related to the Afghan detainee affair.

During Monday's question period in the House of Commons, Transportation Minister John Baird defended the review's terms of reference, insisting that Frank Iacobucci will have access to all relevant documents.

But foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said while the Liberals trust Iacobucci, they do not trust the government.

"And that's the difference and there’s a big difference. Mr. Iacobucci does not have the power to subpoena the documents."

He also said "the test of relevance is a test that the government itself will apply. It's not Mr. Iacobucci who determines what relevance is."

Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh claimed that the government has hired Iacobucci as "yet another lawyer" who will only be allowed to see what the government wants him to see. He also suggested the government might not allow Iacobucci's report to be made public if the government claims solicitor-client privilege.

Dosanjh also complained that there is no end date for his work to be completed.

"If the government wanted answers it would give Mr. Iacobucci the mandate to conduct a full public inquiry. Or are there horrible secrets that this government is trying to hide?" Dosanjh asked.

But Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government is providing "all of the documents that are of interest" and will go back to 2001, when Canada began its involvement in Afghanistan.

"Mr. Justice Iacobucci will have a complete authorization to have a look at those and he’ll report those general findings back to the house."

On March 5, Nicholson announced that the government would enlist Iacobucci to review the documents relating to the Afghan detainee affair and whether some could be made public.

On the weekend, the government released Iacobucci's terms of reference, which included which making recommendations as to what information, if disclosed, would compromise national security; deciding whether disclosing information for the purpose of public interest outweighs the purpose of non-disclosure, and whether any information is subject to solicitor-client privilege.

Opposition parties have been trying to get the Conservative government to release the documents pertaining to the handling of Afghan detainees without heavily blacked-out redactions.

The opposition wants to see if government documents contain information about allegations that some Afghan prisoners handed over by Canadian soldiers were tortured by Afghan officials.

The Tories have said some of the documents have remained censored because of national security concerns.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/03/15/detainee-documents.html#ixzz0iIfxKrx8

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Quebec Dept of VIrtue and Vice and Dress Codes.

The Taliban--among others-- were notorious for having a Dept. of Virtue and Vice and morality police who went around to make sure that women were following the appropriate dress codes and other rules associated by them with Islamic values. Now the same tendency has reared its ugly head in Quebec. The Quebec immigration minister has decided that a bare face is a necessity to attend schools even to learn French!
Of course many people associate the niqab with the oppression of women and are offended at seeing it in a public place. But so what? Plenty of people are offended by the clothing many young people wear which many would consider too sexually suggestive and would certainly be banned in places such as Saudi Arabia. It is true that we tolerate imposition of dress codes in certain private schools and perhaps to some degree even in public schools but in the case of the niqab there is the religious aspect involved. It would be as if one required as part of a public school dress code that no one was allowed to wear a cross or other Christian religious symbol.

Just what Quebec needs: a dress code


Thanks to Immigration Minister Yolande James, we now have a clearer idea of what constitutes those "Quebec values" to which we all - immigrant and native-born alike - are supposed to adhere.

And it turns out that personal liberty, freedom of religion, and a willingness to embrace the French language do not enjoy the primacy of place we might have expected. A bare face apparently trumps all those desirable values. If you want to go to "our" schools to learn French, James told immigrant women, show us your faces.

The first victim of this fiat, of course, was Naema Ahmed, the Egyptian-born pharmacist whose wardrobe choice had already led to her eviction from one publicly-funded French course. On Tuesday she was thrown out of a second, in the middle of an exam yet, for the same offence - wearing a niqab. Your face or your faith, she was told. She chose her faith.

More ominously, James also revealed this week that her bureaucrats are busily preparing new rules on what we're allowed to wear when we seek to use the public services our taxes fund. That's just what Quebec needs in these troubled times: a dress code. Will we also have Values Police, modelled on the Tongue Troopers, to enforce the new rules?

So far, we have no idea what these bureaucratic dictates will entail, or what services will be affected, but the Liberal government's past eagerness to sacrifice liberty on the altar of social peace gives cause for concern. If the outcry about Muslim women's clothing choices is loud enough, the government could well scrap the nuanced recommendations of the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation, in favour of more popular and more aggressive measures.

James's record also gives cause for concern. Early in her tenure she suggested banishing new arrivals to outposts like Abitibi, where they could learn to integrate into Quebec society by performing "quasi-mandatory" public service. That idea never went anywhere, but it showed a disturbing authoritarian tendency.

Compared with that, state-imposed values and clothing rules seem almost benign. But they're not, and they have no place in a democratic society. Dress codes for women are something we associate with medieval kingdoms like Saudi Arabia, and throwing women out of school because their behaviour violates fuzzy societal values sounds like something that happens in the wilder reaches of Kandahar.

It's true that the sight of a woman in a niqab can be startling to Western eyes, even offensive. But that's no reason to ban the garments - or the women. Some people feel the same way about strip shows, sex shops, and the jiggling flesh on display on Ste. Catherine St. on any summer day.

Running the risk of being offended is the price we pay for living in a free and open society. The real test of a nation's tolerance is its ability to tolerate the offensive.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Saturday, March 13, 2010

High Level Pakistan US meetings in Washington

No doubt plans will be worked out as to how Pakistan is to continue with its fight against Islamic militants. No doubt none of the Pakistani officials will say boo about drones at these meetings although they may make a few little bleats when they return home. This is from the news. (pakistan)

High-level Pak-US dialogue begins on 18th

Thursday, March 11, 2010
WASHINGTON: The US capital, always a hub of political activity, is set to witness intense rounds of high-stake dialogue between Pakistani and US officials which will commence with the arrival of Pakistan navy chief, Admiral Noman Bashir on March 17.

Amiral Noman Bashir will begin top-level negotiations with the US officials in the Pentagon on March 18. Only days after the arrival of Admiral Bashir, chief of army staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is reaching Washington to hold very important dialogue with the US officials on the issue of regional security. Gen Kayani is expected to meet, among others, the US national security advisor Gen James Jones, secretary defence Robert gates, secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Admiral Mullen and ambassador Holbrooke. ISI chief Gen Shuja Pasha is also expected to join Gen Kayani in the dialogue with the top US officials.

In the last week of March foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will be in Washington with a high-level delegation to lead Pak-US strategic dialogue. The US side is expected to be led by secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Then, in the second week of April, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani will arrive here to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, which is being hosted by US President Obama. Forty-three (43) heads of state or governments are expected to attend the summit. Prime Minister Gilani is due to arrive here on April 11. Besides attending the summit he is expected to meet President Obama. Top Pakistani and US officials are also working to arrange a meeting between the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Gilani though it is not confirmed yet whether such meeting will take place.

A US official said on condition of anonymity: “I hope it takes place in a good atmosphere because we are really working hard not only to get it done but also to make it meaningful.” Some officials also indicated that the prime minister might go to New York for a day as well.

High Loonie boon to travelers to the US

However as the article also notes the high loonie will also hurt exporters. While travelers to the US will benefit so will Canadian consumers since the cost of imported goods should decline as our dollars will purchase more in other countries. This is from the Star.

A boon to March break travellers

Emily Mathieu

Canada's manufacturers and exporters are likely to feel the squeeze after the Canadian dollar crept closer to parity on Friday following stronger-than-expected employment numbers.

"It's much more doubtful whether the Canadian economy can really live with a currency quite that strong on an extended basis, at least not until commodity prices are a lot higher than they are today," said CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld.

"We have already wiped out some of the manufacturers and exporters that had a tough time competing with a strong exchange rate."

On Friday, Statistics Canada reported that 60,000 full-time positions were created in February, with gains in business, building and other support services, manufacturing, health care and social assistance. The gains were offset by a loss of 39,000 part-jobs the same month.

Following the labour report, the loonie touched a 20-month high, briefly tapping 98.47 cents (U.S.), the highest level since July 2008.

The currency closed at 98.20 cents, up 0.57 of a cent.

Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist with RBC Capital Markets, said the Canadian dollar is expected to move to parity during the first half of 2010.

"It seems we might even get there before the end of the month."

For cross-border shoppers and Canadians going south for March break, the strong loonie means better deals. But, for Canada's exporters and manufacturers, finally showing signs of life after dismal job losses, the surge could have a significantly negative impact.

"The rising dollar is a major challenge for Canadian exporters," said economist Erin Weir, with the United Steelworkers union.

Earlier in March, the Bank of Canada said it would maintain its target for the overnight rate at 0.25 per cent and the bank rate would also remain unchanged at 0.50 per cent, with the deposit rate remaining static at 0.25 per cent. The bank said, conditional on the current rate of inflation, overnight rates are expected to hold until the end of the second quarter of 2010.

Strauss said the central bank is expected to raise rates fairly aggressively, but it is not clear at what pace.

With files from The Canadian Press

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Brunswickers dissatisfied with provincial Liberals: Poll

The sale of the provincial power utility to Quebec seems to be a prime cause of the dissatisfaction. However, as the poll also shows the Conservatives are not any more popular. Only the NDP seems to be making substantial gains in the polls and it is certainly not enough to upset the two major parties. No party leader seems to be popular. In conclusion as in many other places there seems to be general dissatisfaction with politicians! This is from the CBC.

Most in N.B. dissatisfied with Liberals: poll
NB Power deal likely reason, says pollster

CBC News
The majority of New Brunswickers are dissatisfied with the performance of the governing Liberal party, but that hasn't translated into more people planning to vote for the Progressive Conservatives, according to a new poll.

Dissatisfaction with Premier Shawn Graham's Liberal party grew to 55 per cent in February - up from 51 per cent - in the latest quarterly poll by Corporate Research Associates.

At the same time, popular support for the Progressive Conservatives dropped to 42 per cent from 46 per cent in November, the poll suggests.

'It may be that people are dissatisfied with the government when it comes to the deal, and I think you have to make assumption based on the numbers.'
—Don Mills, Corporate Research Associates
The results suggest the Progressive Conservatives - and leader David Alward - haven't succeeded in rallying opponents of the NB Power deal to their party, said Don Mills, president and CEO of Corporate Research Associates.

"It may be that people are dissatisfied with the government when it comes to the deal, and I think you have to make assumption based on the numbers," he said.

"But they're not yet ready, necessarily, to leap on the bandwagon for the other party frankly yet because the other party hasn't given them enough reasons why their ideas are better."

Party support February 2010 November 2009
PC 42 % 46 %
Liberal 36 % 36 %
NDP 18 % 14 %
Green Party 4 % 4 %

45 % 42 %
The Graham government plans to sell the majority of NB Power's assets to Hydro-Québec for $3.2 billion.

The Opposition has argued the government doesn't have a mandate to sell the majority of NB Power's assets and the public deserves to have a voice on the issue, but the Liberals have countered that the Opposition hasn't offered any alternatives.

With support for the Liberals unchanged from the last poll at 36 per cent, the gap between the two parties has narrowed.

Support for the New Democratic Party increased to 18 per cent from 14 per cent in the previous poll in November.

Meanwhile, the number of people who are undecided, don't plan to vote, or refused to state a party preference was 45 per cent, up from 42 per cent.

The Halifax-based polling firm sampled 804 New Brunswickers between Feb. 1 and Feb. 25. The margin of error for the entire poll is 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Graham's popularity also slips

Premier Shawn Graham's popularity as the preferred choice for premier has dropped to 25 per cent, from 45 per cent one year ago, according to the latest CRA poll. (CBC)Graham's personal popularity also took a hit, according to the poll. About 25 per cent of those polled listed him as the preferred choice for premier, down from 29 per cent in November and 45 per cent one year ago.

Alward edged the premier out with 27 per cent of those polled choosing him as their preference for premier, but his support was also down slightly from 29 per cent in the previous poll.

Support for NDP's Roger Duguay stands at 11 per cent, compared to 8 per cent in November.

Nine per cent don't like any of the leaders, or prefer others, the poll suggests. About 23 per cent didn't have a definite opinion, it found.

Denise Scott, executive director of the New Brunswick Liberal Association, said the change in the gap between the Liberals and the Tories is a potential weakness for Alward that her party will try to exploit ahead of September's provincial election.

"Of course a focus on him is going to be part of our strategy," she told CBC News on Monday.

"This is an unknown. People have a right to know who he is and what he stands for."

Paul Robichaud, the energy critic for the Tories and the MLA for Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou, said it's the high dissatisfaction numbers that count and that gives his party room to grow.

"It's up to us to try to reach that clientele, to come to our party and support our party," he said.

Mills said without doing that, it will be difficult for the Progressive Conservatives to continue the momentum that they seemed to have in the last poll. In November, the PCs saw their popular support jump to 46 per cent, up from 35 per cent in August.

NDP leader Roger Duguay said his party is the only one showing that momentum heading into the election campaign.

"The Alward Conservatives refuse to commit to reversing the deal and the public are catching on, they know they're being sold a bill of goods," Duguay said in a news release.

"Only the NDP is standing up to the Liberals."

Contentious power deal

The Graham government announced its contentious plan to sell the majority of NB Power's assets to Hydro-Québec for $4.8 billion in October.

Following a public outcry and open dissent within the Liberal caucus, Graham unveiled a $3.2 billion, slimmed-down deal in January, just a few weeks before the latest CRA poll.

Last month, the government also announced it plans to delay the sale for nearly two months in order to hold a full public debate, but the consultations won't result in any changes to the agreement itself.

Under the deal, Hydro-Québec would acquire most of the province's power-generation assets, but New Brunswick would maintain control of transmission and distribution.

New Brunswick's residential ratepayers will get a five-year rate freeze. Medium-sized industries will see a roughly 15 per cent cut in power rates and will have those rates locked in for five years while large industrial customers will see their power prices fall by roughly 23 per cent.

After five years, rates will increase with inflation and be regulated by the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2010/03/09/nb-poll-liberals-dissatisfied.html#ixzz0hhfHiyko

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Canadians will still sing in politically incorrect unity!

I usually just hum after the first few bars anyway. It seems that most Canadians are not worried about changing son's to a more gender neutral phrase of some sort. Maybe we could have had daughson''s commands although that would involve an awkward extra syllable! Apparently this is the only part of the throne speech that elicited an extremely negative reaction.

Canadians reject rewording of 'O Canada': poll

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A new poll provides insight into why the Harper government popped its own O Canada trial balloon so quickly last week: massive and immediate public opposition.

A survey by The Canadian Press Harris-Decima found that 74 per cent of respondents opposed rewording the national anthem to make it gender neutral, flak that began appearing even before Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman grounded the notion just 48 hours after its was floated in the Conservative government's throne speech.

With only 19 per cent of respondents in favour, the anthem proposal was the one true clunker in a government blueprint that otherwise met widespread public approval.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Abitibi reaches tentative agreement with union.

Abitibi, union work out deal
March 08, 2010

This is very positive news in that the workers save their pensions plans and the company will be a step closer to emerging from bankruptcy. However, the details are not spelled out so perhaps the situation is not as rosy as it looks. We will see how the affected workers look at the deal since they get to ratify it. Abitibi now needs to make a deal with Newfoundland and Labrador!

MONTREAL–AbitibiBowater Inc. has reached a tentative labour deal affecting some 4,000 workers, which brings the newsprint maker closer to emerging from bankruptcy, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada said Sunday.

The union said the tentative pact to renew its collecting bargaining agreement was reached after the company withdrew a proposal to terminate pension plans, which would have reduced pension benefits an average of 25 per cent.

The union said the agreement will protect its members from the plan's possible insolvency. It must still be presented to members and ratified by the union.

Abitibi has been operating under court protection from bankruptcy in the U.S. and Canada since April.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Canada wanted Afghan Prisoners Tortured: Legal Expert

Legal expert: Canada Wanted Afghan Prisoners Tortured.

Even before this new accusation was made Harper had prorogued parliament in part because of embarrassing opposition questions about transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities. Now the situation has become far worse. The government will no doubt refuse to do anything on the grounds of national security but to cover its fanny the government will ask a retired Supreme Court Judge Frank Iacobucci to advise it on whether release of documents would be ""injurious". If the lawyer's claims are true it is obvious that the release of the documents would have injurious effects. Some people could be charged with war crimes. Iacobucci is a great choice. He is already known for the Iacobucci inquiry which can be found in summary here.That inquiry was carried out almost entirely in secret and with the three people on whose behalf it was called not able to testify or take part in the investigation of those who were involved indirectly in their incarceration in Syria and Egypt. Even Iacobucci concludes they were tortured. Iacobucci will not doubt collect a very handsome fee for his advice which may not even be made public depending on whether the government likes it or not.Canada wanted Afghan prisoners tortured: lawyer
Unredacted documents show officials hoped to gather intelligence, expert says

CBC News

Federal government documents on Afghan detainees suggest that Canadian officials intended some prisoners to be tortured in order to gather intelligence, according to a legal expert.If the allegation is true, such actions would constitute a war crime, said University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran, who has been digging deep into the issue and told CBC News he has seen uncensored versions of government documents released last year."If these documents were released [in full], what they will show is that Canada partnered deliberately with the torturers in Afghanistan for the interrogation of detainees," he said."There would be a question of rendition and a question of war crimes on the part of certain Canadian officials. That's what's in these documents, and that's why the government is covering up as hard as it can."......Diplomat Richard Colvin says he warned top Canadian officials as early as 2006 that Afghan detainees handed over to Afghans were subsequently being tortured. ....However, Attaran said the full versions of the documents show that Canada went even further in intentionally handing over prisoners to torturers."And it wasn't accidental; it was done for a reason," he said. "It was done so that they could be interrogated using harsher methods."..."High-value targets would be detained under a completely different mechanism that involved special forces and targeted, intelligence-driven operations," Richard Colvin, a former senior diplomat with Canada's mission in Afghanistan, told a parliamentary committee last November.Colvin claimed that all detainees transferred by Canadians to Afghan prisons were likely tortured by Afghan officials. He also said that his concerns were ignored by top government officials and that the government might have tried to cover up the issue..
The Conservatives insist that releasing uncensored files on the issue would damage national security. On Friday, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson asked former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci to review whether there would be "injurious" effects if some Afghan detainee documents were made public."Parliament is supreme," said Ontario NDP MP Paul Dewar. "What this is, is a skate around Parliament.""Who knew what and when, and who allowed the continuing saga of Afghan detainees being sent to a potential risk of torture?" Dosanjh said.It's not clear whether the government will make Iacobucci's advice public. Moreover, he is not a sitting judge and can't legally rule or force the government to do anything

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ignatieff: Budget full of gimmicks.

I hesitate to describe what Ignatieff is full of. Perhaps of his self importance. But he also has gimmicks. For example, he goes on and on about how bad this budget is and then he uses the gimmick that Canadians do not want an election to excuse the fact he is obviously too chicken to go to an election when his polls are not that good. This is a replay of Dion without the Green Shift just the Sardonic Grin. Ignatieff's rhetoric is just for show since the Liberals will end up making sure that the budget passes. You might even say all his criticisms of the budget are just a gimmick to make it look as if he is actually doing something or has some power.

Budget full of gimmicks: Ignatieff

CBC News
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff blasted the federal budget for being a document full of "gimmicks" that ignores important issues, but reaffirmed he won't bring the government down over it.

"The throne speech and the budget let Canadians down. They expected vision and got gimmicks. They deserved ambition and got drift," Ignatieff told the House of Commons, a day after the release of the budget.


Budget 2010: How does this budget affect your family?

"This is a tired government, falling back on its laissez-faire instincts, leaving Canadians to fend for themselves."

Ignatieff accused the Tories of ignoring the pension crisis, doing nothing for child care and freezing foreign aid at a time when the mission in Afghanistan is shifting from military to humanitarian engagement.

"The Conservatives are ignoring the major issues that matter to Canada. Pensions? Nothing. Health care? Nothing. Climate change? Nothing. Culture? Nothing."

Instead of measures to create jobs, the budget has only "freezes, cuts and gimmicks," Ignatieff said.

'Canadians don't want an election'

He slammed the government over the $56-billion budget deficit, saying they cannot be trusted to get it under control.

"They inherited a $13-billion surplus. They spent at record levels in 2006-2007. They were on the edge of deficit before the recession started."

The government said it will freeze departmental spending, it won't say which programs they will cut, what services Canadians will lose and where the Conservatives will find the necessary savings.

"This isn't a plan. It’s very large empty promise."

Despite his list of grievances, Ignatieff repeated what he said on Thursday, that his party will not trigger an election over the budget.

"We will vote against the budget motion now before us — but we, unlike other parties in this House, will do so responsibly. We will not cause an election. Canadians don't want an election."

On Thursday, Ignatieff explained that they will not vote in sufficient numbers to defeat the government.

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Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/03/05/budget-reaction.html#ixzz0hKdRDV0c

Friday, March 5, 2010

Corporate tax cuts remain in budget.

While there is not all that new for business in the budget extending the tax cuts will be of huge benefits for corporations. Keeping the corporate taxes so low may make it difficult to start bringing down the deficit any time soon since the revenue will not be there. No doubt the Conservatives are preparing to cut entitlements and attack federal workers. This is from the CBC.

Budget leaves corporate tax cuts intact

The Tories' promised corporate tax cuts escaped the scythe Thursday in the face of the $49.2-billion deficit, but there was little fresh help for companies staggered by the recession.

"We are staying on course to having the lowest corporate income tax rate in the G7 by 2012," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in his speech.

"Some argue that we should cancel these tax reductions. Our government will follow through on our commitment. Reducing the tax burden on businesses is a key part of Canada's advantage in the global economy."

The federal general corporate tax rate is 18 per cent and set to reach 15 per cent in 2012, down from 22.12 per cent including the corporate surtax in 2007.

Flaherty did extend a hand to the country's battered manufacturing sector, pushing ahead with a plan to eliminate tariffs on machinery and equipment as well as tariffs on production inputs that was started last year.

A first phase was implemented in the budget last year, saving companies about $88 million. The government expects to fully eliminate the remaining tariffs by 2015 in a second phase that is expected to save companies $300 million a year.

Thousands of workers have lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector in recent years — especially in southern Ontario — hammered first by a rising loonie compared with the U.S. dollar and then by the recession as its key market in the United States dried up.

"It will help our manufacturers to invest and innovate, especially small- and medium-sized manufacturers," Flaherty said. "It will help keep jobs in Canada and create new jobs for Canadians for years to come."

But Jason Safar of PricewaterhouseCoopers said the minister's decision to stick to its plan on corporate tax cuts in the face of the deficit was the most welcome.

"They are staying the course on that, which I think is huge," Safar said. "When you look at where corporate rates have come from over the past decade ... it's a big drop."

Safar said given the size of the deficit, there was a real danger the government may have delayed the cuts. "I wouldn't have been surprised if they had been pushed off," he said.

Jayson Myers, president and chief executive of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said the tariff reduction will help, but more targeted measures are still needed to sustain innovation, investment and growth.

"While the savings are marginal, it is a bottom-line boost to cash flow for manufacturers at a time when it is needed the most," Myers said.

However, Canadian Auto Workers president Ken Lewenza said the budget did little to help workers.

"With hundreds of thousands of Canadians facing tremendous insecurity and hardship because of inadequate Employment Insurance and pension benefits, I expected to see tangible support from this government," Lewenza said.

"After taking more than two months to recalibrate, this budget is nothing short of pathetic."

The minister also announced the government would move to reduce red tape with a commission of parliamentarians and the private sector to review federal regulations.

"Its work will be of special benefit to small businesses, the engines of job creation in Canada," Flaherty said.

Also included in the budget was an extension of the mineral exploration tax credit for one year, for those who invest in flow-through shares.

The government also committed $7.2 million over two years to improve the fish and seafood industry's access to the international market and $75 million over three years for cattle processing plants.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ignatieff: NO election over budget.

Why Ignatieff announces his intentions in advance is puzzling. There will be no drama to the debate now. Harper can rest easy while the BQ and the NDP can now take firm opposing conditions and vote against the budget. Ignatieff is no improvement on Dion. In fact Dion at least had a clear policy on the environment that he tried to advance. Even though it failed at least Dion showed some imagination and principled policies. Ignatieff seems to be floundering around waiting for Harper to self destruct while he props him up just as Dion did.

No election over budget: Ignatieff

CBC News
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff responds to the budget on Parliament Hill on Thursday. (Blair Gable/Reuters)
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says his party will not trigger an election over the federal budget brought down Thursday.

While the Liberals oppose elements of the budget, Ignatieff said Canadians are in no mood to head to the polls. He said Liberals will vote against the budget but not in sufficient numbers to defeat the government.

"The key thing is that Canadians are saying to me and have been saying for a long time — and I get told things once, I don’t need to get told twice — give us an alternative."

Ignatieff said the budget includes nothing about green technologies, the demographic crisis facing pensions or youth unemployment. He said the Liberals are busy coming up with alternatives on these issues.

"When that alternative is ready, when Canadians can see a clear choice between cuts and freezes and gimmicks and an alternative that gets this economy going and really meets the challenge of growth, then, maybe, we’ll have an election.

"But remember where we are. We’ve had three or four elections in the last few years, and I got told clearly by Canadians last autumn, 'Don’t do that again.'"

In this year's budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty pledged to continue the stimulus measures rolled out in the last year while vowing to return to balanced books as soon as possible. The government said it will tackle the $54-billion deficit by spending less than previously projected on defence and foreign aid, closing tax loopholes, streamlining government departments and freezing budgets. Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP Leader Jack Layton have said they will not support the budget.
Layton said there is not enough in the document for job creation.

"It's a budget that actually leaves the unemployed and seniors and the other victims of this recession behind," Layton said.

Layton said instead of focusing on the unemployed, the Tories are giving billions of dollars to big banks. He also accused the government of making major cuts to the environment and housing.

"I think that there’s some seriously misguided choices in this budget and it’s not one that we’re going to be able to support."

Duceppe said he doubted the government will be able to balance the budget over the coming years, and that they should be taxing high income earners to help get out of the red.

"Having a tax on those making more money to have them helping more than those that can't help, that would be a reasonable measure," Duceppe said. "The same thing that to cut those fiscal advantages to the oil companies, three billion dollars a year. So this is just unacceptable."

Duceppe also slammed the government on the environment, saying they should stop giving fiscal advantages to the oil companies.

But Flaherty defended the budget saying the government needs to impose fiscal restraint to tackle the deficit.

"This is the smallest new-spending budget in over 10 years in Canada. I like it. It's what we needed to do," Flaherty told CBC News. "We have to make sure that we bring our country back to fiscal balance over the medium term otherwise we would have a structural deficit and I don't want to have one."

He denied NDP and Bloc accusations that the budget favoured corporations, saying that the government has closed some tax loopholes.

"There are going to be some unhappy people in some of those executive suites when they analyze this," he said.

Flaherty said the government has spent a lot of money on Employment Insurance and that the economic action plan has created 135,00 jobs so far, with 220,000 jobs in total created by the end of the next fiscal year.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/03/04/budget-political-reaction.html#ixzz0hGLDQaft

Ontario Liberals want hospitals to compete for cash

This might be asking for skewed reporting and other modes of spinning data so as to attract more cash. We will have to wait and see what happens. Ontario's ideas about saving money in health care often involve hiring expensive experts such as those at eHealth who seem to have wasted wads of taxpayer money and accomplished very little. This is from thespec.

Liberals would have hospitals compete for cash
Loweest bidder would get funding
Patients face might travel further to get care


Patients would have to travel farther for some operations and treatments but the savings to taxpayers could top $3 billion a year under radical hospital reforms being considered by Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberals, the Torstar news service has learned.

The plan would have hospitals essentially forced to compete for cash by doing acute care in-patient surgeries and such treatments as hip replacements more cheaply than rivals, with the lowest-cost bidders getting more of the work, sources said Wednesday.

The new "patient-based payment" system would save an estimated 10 to 20 per cent – that's $1.8 billion to $3.6 billion – of the $18 billion in tax money now given to hospitals annually, mostly with no strings attached, said a consultant familiar with the concept.

"The savings come from the reduced duplication because hospitals compete with one another and don't try to be all things to all people," added one Liberal official, conceding that the change may not be welcomed in general hospitals or in those serving rural communities.

However, it would reward better-performing hospitals which could get more money based on the number of patients treated and successful outcomes for their health problems – because the more quickly they can cure or treat patients successfully, the more patients they can bring in.

Under the new system, patients might have to travel across town or to other municipalities as hospitals try to narrow the range of services and procedures they offer, to take advantage of economies of scale that keep costs down.

The government's concern with handing out money to hospitals for general use is that it's impossible to tell exactly where the cash is going and how efficiently it's being used, said another source. "We have no sense of what we're getting for that money. It's difficult to compare one hospital with another. What are the procedures costing?"

McGuinty, who is making "Open Ontario" the main theme for governing through to the October 2011 election in next Monday's throne speech, warned that voters have to keep an open mind on revamping the health-care system.

"One of the things that we necessarily must look at of course is the way that we deliver services. The big challenge for us ... is the ever-escalating costs associated with health care," McGuinty told reporters Wednesday.

"When I got here 20 years ago, I think it was 32 cents on the program dollar went to health care and now it's 46 cents. They tell me that in 12 years, it will be 70 cents on the dollar if we continue at the existing rate of growth," he said.

The danger is health-care costs, particularly with the wave of Baby Boomers turning 65, that will "crowd out" other priorities like education and the environment and the war on poverty and others.

"We have to find a way to come to grips with that. That will all be part of the consideration that we'll be speaking to in the throne speech."

The competitive model is already being used for 10 to 20 per cent of hospital budgets in key areas where the government has worked to cut waiting times for cataract surgeries, hip and knee replacements, MRIs and CT scans.

"It's created competition in the best sense," said Dr. Kevin Smith, chief executive officer of St. Joseph's Health Centre in Hamilton and chairman of the Ontario Hospital Association. "You see who's doing the best work at the lowest cost and who's getting the best results for patients."

The health ministry now pays for cataract surgery at $625 per procedure, CT scans at $250 per hour, MRIs at $260 hourly, and hip and knee replacements at $8,930 per procedure.

McGuinty has played his cards close to his chest on the cost-cutting efforts contained in Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's budget, expected by the end of the month. The government is facing a record deficit of $24.7 billion.

The government faced a rough ride in its first budget in 2004, instituting a health premium of up to $900 per person.

Liberal insiders at Queen's Park confide that the "patient-based payment" strategy is part of its "health-based allocation model" plan for the 14 regional local health integration networks overseeing the delivery of care.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath of Hamilton said McGuinty's trial balloon "sets out some alarm bells about what this government's intentions are in terms of funding for health care."

Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill) said the Liberals "keep spending more and more by insulating themselves in layers of bureaucracy." He was referring to the local health integration networks and problems at scandal-plagued eHealth Ontario.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Protests in Vancouver on Sunday

I did not notice coverage of these protests in most of the Canadian media. This is from an Iranian site! There seems to be a lot of rah rah patriotism right now because Canada did very well and won the most gold medals. While there are lots of people around to observe protests probably it is not very good timing to do so and the message will be drowned out by the hoopla surrounding the closing ceremonies. This is from presstv.

Canada win over US marred by protests

Canada's homeless activists have taken advantage of the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics to take to streets of downtown Vancouver and raise awareness about the dire need for social housing.

Hundreds of protesters staged a peaceful demonstration on Sunday while Canada defeated the United States 3-2 on the ice on the last day of the games.

"The timing may appear awkward," said Eric Doherty, who represented a group that opposed highway expansion because of the games, AP reported.

"But this is sort of our closing ceremony. We put out effort into the start of the games. This is capping it off, so to speak."

On the first day of the games around 1,500 people turned up to express opposition against Canada's hosting of the high-profile games.

On Sunday's demonstration, protesters held up signs reading "Homes Not Games," which were telltale stories showing Canada's fragile state of public housing.

"Shame on you Canada! Shame on our government!" said Stella August, a Canadian woman who addressed the crowd.

The march was organized by the Olympic Resistance Network, an umbrella group for many causes surrounding the games, ranging from environmental to economic issues.

"People are here. We're sending the Olympics off. We're glad they're gone and we're here to celebrate that," the Canadian Press quoted one protester as saying.