Monday, June 29, 2015

NDP leads polls ahead of 2015 federal election

Just four months from an expected federal election in October, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) is widening its lead over the Conservatives and Liberals, according to a new Forum poll.
Led by Thomas Mulcair, the NDP now leads in three electorally important provinces of B.C at 54 percent, Ontario, 34 percent, and Quebec, 36 percent. In the poll the NDP had 36 percent support nationally to 28 percent each for the Liberals and Conservatives. The Bloc Quebecois, a separatist party based solely in Quebec, has five percent support , while Elizabeth May’s Green Party , managed only two percent of the vote.
The NDP has a quite significant lead but then much can change in four months. Back near the end of May an EKOS poll gave the NDP 29.6 per cent of the vote, versus 29.1 for Harper's Conservatives, and 26.1 per cent for Justin Trudeau's Liberals.
The situation looks particularly unpromising for the ruling Conservatives, as only nine percent have them as their second choice as against 23 percent for Liberals and 22 percent for the NDP. Among party leaders, Stephen Harper had the worst rating with only 30 percent of respondents thinking that he did a good job. Justin Trudeau had a 38 percent favourable rating with Thomas Mulcair of the NDP at 50 percent.The Forum poll surveyed 1,268 Canadians between June 22-23. Results are considered accurate within three percentage points 19 times out of 20. Forum Research president, Lorne Bozinoff, said:“The movement in the NDP’s favour is slow, but it’s gathering momentum. They’re firmly in first in Quebec and B.C. and at parity in Ontario, which are three of the four biggest provinces.”
In spite of having a young new leader, Justin Trudeau, the popularity of the Liberal party has fallen from a peak in July of 2014 when it was 10 points ahead of the Conservatives and the NDP came in third. Among several possible mistakes made by Trudeau are his support for the Conservative anti-terrorism bill, even without any amendments.
Another poll conducted for Global News by Ipsos has similar results to the Forum poll. The poll was of 2003 Canadians between June 19 to June 23. The poll shows the NDP has 35 per cent support. The Liberals had 29 per cent and the Conservatives 28. The Conservatives are still the most popular in Alberta in spite of the recent NDP win provincially. Often voters in Canada choose to support different parties provincially and federally, although until the recent NDP win, Alberta was always Conservative provincially as well. The Liberals lead in the Atlantic provinces.
Professor Barry Kay of Wilfrid Laurier University and his team at the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP) did seat projections based upon a compilation of several polls. Leader of the NDP , Thomas Mulcair, would become Prime Minister, a historic first for the NDP. The NDP would win 130 seats in parliament with the Conservatives at 119 and the Liberals only 86. In Quebec, Mulcair's home province, the NDP would take 60 of 78 seats with the separatist Bloc Quebecois winning only two. The parties are already running ads to support their cause.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Former Conservative MP Del Mastro jailed for election overspending

Former Canadian Conservative Member of Parliament Dean Del Mastro has been sentenced to one month in prison and then four more under house arrest after he was found guilty of overspending during the 2008 federal election.
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Del Mastro was a former parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The sentence was handed down by Justice Lisa Cameron in Lindsay, Ontario on June 25. Del Mastro was accused of exceeding the campaign spending limits. Among the accusations are that he failed to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his campaign and that he knowingly submitted a falsified document.
Cameron described the offences as an affront to the principles of Canadian democracy and said: "This type of cheating and lying will result in serious sanctions. … Custody is required to reflect the need for denunciation and deterrence." Cameron claimed that Del Mastro was not only prepared to break the rules but to be deceitful about doing so. Del Mastro has maintained he is innocent and has not been apologetic about his actions. Cameron refused a defence request that Del Mastro be able to serve his term intermittently. After the sentencing Del Mastro was led away in handcuffs and shackles. He was taken to a jail in nearby Lindsay. His wife was in tears as he left.
Del Mastro will be required to pay $10,000 to the Peterborough Electoral District Assoc. and also spend 18 months on probation. He cannot run for office for five years. Del Mastro has appealed the decision and is expected to apply to be released on bail at a hearing on Friday pending the outcome of his appeal
Also accused with Del Mastro was Richard McCarthy. McCarthy was the official agent of the Del Mastro campaign in Peterborough. Justice Cameron noted that McCarthy could have prevented Del Mastro's overspending if he had done his job better. He was also found guilty of exceeding the mandated spending limit. While an MP, Del Mastro often had the job of defending the Conservatives against allegations of electoral fraud.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Quebec wants to reunite jailed Saudi blogger with his family in Quebec

The Canadian province Quebec is offering imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi an immigration selection certificate. The certificates are issued in exceptional circumstances to foreigners in need of protection, Quebec's Immigration Minister said.
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Badawi received a 10-year jail sentence, 1,000 lashes, and a large fine of $266,600 for promoting liberal ideas such as introducing more democracy in the Saudi kingdom, but also for being critical of Islam. He received his first 50 lashes of 20 planned sessions in January. Subsequent floggings have been postponed perhaps because of the international outcry or for health reasons. He was imprisoned in 2012 and sentenced two years later.
Just last week the Saudi Supreme Court upheld the ruling. His flogging was scheduled to resume on Friday June 12 but did not take place. The sentence can now only be overturned by a pardon from the country's new King Salman.
Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, and his three children already live in Quebec after fleeing Saudi Arabia. The immigration selection certificate has been issued on humanitarian grounds. The certificate would allow Badawi to emigrate more rapidly to Quebec if he is set free. Quebec Immigration Minister Weil said: “By obtaining the selection certificate from Quebec, Mr. Badawi will be able to pursue immigration procedures with the federal government." The certificate will be given to Haidar at a ceremony in Montreal next week.
Mirelle Eichacar, an Amnesty International official from Sherbrooke in Quebec where Haidar and her children live said: “The federal (government) is not moving sufficiently in our opinion. We want Canada to do more . . . The ball is in its court and it can take stronger steps for Mr. Badawi to be reunited with his family.”A spokesperson for the family, Elham Manea, said the family was very happy that there had been no flogging of Badawi on Friday. The family again called on King Salman to pardon Badawi and allow him to be reunited with his family in Quebec. The family also expressed thanks to all those who had campaigned to have Badawi freed and gratitude that the Saudi authorities had not resumed the floggings.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bill C-24 creates group of second class Canadian citizens

Although Bill C-24 was passed a year ago, provisions that create two types of citizenship, those Canadians who can have their citizenship taken away and those who cannot, have just come into effect.
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As is common with the Harper government, the legislation plays upon Canadians' desire for security and fears of terrorism. Before this law was passed all Canadians, whether born in Canada, immigrants who have become Canadian citizens or dual citizens, were treated the same under the judicial system. Statistics showthat foreign-born Canadian citizens are no more likely than citizens born in Canada to commit crimes, in fact some data suggests they are less so. Under the new law, only those born in Canada and are not eligible for or do not have another nationality as well will retain their citizenship no matter what crime they commit. The government invokes the threat of jihadism in defending these new rules and claims that Canadians will be safer:
Also officially in force as of today is a new, more streamlined citizenship revocation process. This new process will help ensure Canada and Canadians are protected, and that revocation decisions can be made quickly, decisively and fairly.
What sort of fairness is it when a Canadian born citizen is charged for going to fight for the Islamic State or commits a terrorist attack against the Canadian government, but cannot lose his or her citizenship as punishment but a foreign-born citizen , dual citizen, or someone born in Canada but eligible for dual citizenship can? Bill-C-24 also allows the punishment of exile. Maybe Harper can arrange with Russia to exile some of those convicted to Siberia. Australia is not likely to welcome any new convicts as immigrants as in the past.
At the time that the Bill C-24 was passed, an article in the Globe and Mail was critical of the provisions. A second article noted that Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy could have had his Canadian citizenship revoked on the grounds he had been convicted of terrorism in an Egyptian court. The Canadian government replied that it would not apply the law to Fahmy. The same article refutes the argument that Chris Alexander, Citizenship and Immigration Minister provided namely that citizenship was a privilege not a right:Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has defended his bill by arguing citizenship is a privilege, not a right. He is wrong. It may come with responsibilities, but it is a right. And once legitimately acquired, by birth or naturalization, it cannot be taken away. Bill C-24 gives the government the kind of sweeping power that is common in dictatorships, not in a democracy built upon the rule of law, where all citizens are equal. The changes to the Citizenship Act erode those basic principles, creating a two-tier citizenship that dilutes what it means to be Canadian.
Even if citizenship is a privilege not a right, what sense does it make to deprive those who worked for and earned the privilege of that privilege when they commit certain crimes, while allowing others who simply have the privilege as a result of being born here to still retain it? The argument makes no sense whether citizenship is a right or a privilege. These new provisions of Bill C-24 will no doubt face challenges in the courts now that they are the law of the land. The BC Civil Liberties Association has a petition on the issue that can be found here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Victims of Communism monument in Ottawa has many critics

Within weeks, construction is slated to start on a huge Victims of Communism memorial that will be situated on a prime site near the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa.
Even if one thinks that a monument to the victims of communist regimes actions is appropriate, the site for the monument does not appear to be so. The Supreme Court of Canada chief justice has questioned the project. As well, Ottawa city council has rejected it along with a number of architects. The original plan for the site until 2012 was to build a new Federal Court Building that would complete a triad of buildings, with the other two buildings being the Supreme Court and the Justice Department.

Don Martin, Power Play host for CTV thinks that the memorial should commemorate victims in this country such as those of the residential school system: Prime Minister Stephen Harper should dedicate the site to the victims and survivors of Canada’s residential schools.This was our national shame, with tens of thousands of lives sacrificed or ruined in generations of aboriginal children who endured sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the cause of a cultural genocide. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggests a national holiday and memorials in major cities.Personally, I think that money would be better spent on policies that help aboriginal people with their present problems.
It was surely wrong, and a partisan political move, to donate the property, worth about a million dollars, to a charity called Tribute to Liberty in the first place. Why did the government not go ahead and build a new Federal Court building as originally planned rather than promoting a pet project of anti-communists that mimic what has already been achieved in the US? Harper has always admired American conservatism. Here are a few gems from a 1997 speech to the Council for National Policy, a US conservative lobby group:Your country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.
It may not be true, but it's legendary that if you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians.
Some basic facts about Canada that are relevant to my talk... Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.
In terms of the unemployed... don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance....
The NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men
Of course this speech is tailored very much to the audience. As with most politicians when it comes to supporting the interests of capital versus such issues as human rights, the former is the first priority. Harper has changed his tune from challenging China on its human rights record to a less truculent approach. He now worries less about the victims of Tiananmen square than the need to have more diversified foreign investment in Canada and to develop new markets for Canadian goods and resources in the growing Chinese market. But Harper also must think that there is still a strong market for anti-communist symbolism in Canada even though a poll shows the project is disapproved by a majority of Canadians.

Monday, June 8, 2015

OECD reduces GDP growth forecast for Canada

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has lowered its forecast for growth in Canada and also globally as new investment remains sluggish, unemployment high, and consumers reluctant to spend.
The OECD gave the global economy just a B-minus in its report on the global economy released just today. Although OECD chief economist Catherine Mann predicted a global growth rate of 3.8 per cent by 2016 this would still be below the average growth rate before the 2008 financial crisis. The OECD represents 34 developed countries.
The growth rate for Canada this year has been downgraded from 2.2 per cent just this March to 1.5 per cent now. Last November the OECD forecast Canadian growth at 2.5 per cent. With this weaker growth rate, the OECD now predicts that the Bank of Canada will not raise interest rates until early next year rather than the middle of this year as it had earlier predicted. The high personal debt of Canadians could depress consumption and also lead to a decline in purchase of houses resulting in lower investment in the housing area.
While the lower Canadian dollar should stimulate exports, the slowdown in Chinese and U.S. economic growth may lead to lower demand. If oil prices slump again, the situation would be even worse. If oil prices rise and U.S. and Chinese growth accelerates, this will have a positive effect on Canadian growth. The performance of the U.S. economy in the first quarter of this year was dismal as it contracted at an annual rate of 0.7 per cent.
Douglas Porter chief economist at the Bank of Montreal(BMO) remarked that growth was so sluggish people still talked of a "recovery" when we have been expanding for some time since the Great Recession. He said: “I guess technically we are long into the ’expansion’ phase and really shouldn’t be calling it a ’recovery’ any more. However, I suspect most people still feel like we’re still recovering from the financial crisis and its aftermath.”Porter noted unemployment in Canada remained near 7 per cent and many young people could not find jobs. Statistics Canada reported the Canadian economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.6 per cent last quarter. The BMO cut its forecast for growth this year to 1.5 percent, matching that of the OECD. With the exception of recession years. this would be the slowest rate of Canadian growth in 30 years. Porter said in a report: “At the start of 2015, the overarching view on the Canadian growth outlook was that it faced one big negative (lower oil prices), and one big positive (stronger U.S. growth), which were supposed to roughly offset each other. Fully 40 per cent into the year and we have certainly seen the negative at work (business investment plunged 15.5 per cent in Q1), while we are still waiting for the positive to kick in (export volumes have been down over the past two quarters).”
The Royal Bank of Canada(RBC) was slightly more optimistic on Canadian economic growth compared to the OECD and BMO. RBC predicted that the Canadian economy will grow by 1.8 per cent this year and 2.6 per cent next year. However, the bank predicted that investment would be weak particularly in the energy area. Energy companies are slated to slash spending by almost 30 per cent this year. Other sectors may take up some of the slack with exports on the rise due to the weaker Canadian dollar making Canadian goods cheaper in many markets, particularly the U.S.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Harper Conservative government has close connections with oil industry lobbyists

Natural Resources Minister in the Canadian federal government, Greg Rickford was recruited by an oil industry lobby group to both give a pep talk and strategic planning advice to 40 to 50 oil industry executives.
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The secret, closed door meeting was held last October at the luxurious Banff Springs Hotel in the Rocky Mountains. The meeting was the annual strategy session of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producters (Capp). Rickford's speech was never made public but a copy was obtained by the Greenpeace campaign under the Freedom of Information Act and made available to the Guardian newspaper.The speech makes no mention of climate change or studies that show the effects of development of the tar sands on global warming. Rickford describes the debate on the side of those scientists and other campaigners against development of the tar sands as being governed by myth and emotion that "crowded out the real facts." The Harper government has been accused of itself trying to hide the real facts about issues by silencing scientists who do not agree with the official facts.
Last year, the Alberta tar sands producers launched a new public relations campaign replete with ads showing how oil sands development produced jobs not just in Alberta but elsewhere in Canada. The oil producers are attempting to counter concerns about tar sands development causing climate change, worries about pipeline breaks, and accidents involving oil tanker cars. Keith Stewart, of Greenpeace Canada said: “This is a government minister giving political and communications advice to the industry he is supposed to be regulating." However a spokesperson for Rickford, Christopher McClusky said that the minister regularly attended events in order to help promote Canada's energy industry. That is fair enough, but it does not explain the fact that this meeting was secret and that his speech was not made public. Nor does it address the issue of his actually giving advice to the industry.
The close relationship between the Harper government and the oil industry is hardly new nor is the government view that aboriginal activists and environmentalists are adversaries. They are listed as such in a government plan "Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy" dated March 2011 and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Allies are the National Energy Board, Environment Canada, business and industry associations.
Back in 2009 senior representatives from Natural Resources Canada and the Alberta government met with Capp in Washington and agreed to set up a steering committee to develop a joint messaging strategy. Cassie Doyle the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada told the meeting that "we need to meet an active organized anti-oil sands campaign with equal sophistication."
This sophistication includes the funding of fake grass-roots organizations or astroturf NGOs. Energy Citizen, allegedly a grass-roots organization, was launched in 2009 with the support of the American Petroleum Institute. It was quite helpful in defeating climate legislation in the US. Last July, Keith Stewart wrote in aGreenpeace blog:My personal bullshit detector went off when the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ (CAPP) launched its own version of “Energy Citizens” ( six weeks ago. They advertise it as a “movement of Canadians who support Canada’s energy”, but anyone who’s been following climate politics knows that Energy Citizens ( was actually launched by the American Petroleum Institute (API) back in 2009.Capp even imported Derek Spooner, senior director of external mobilization of the American Petroleum Institute to talk to the Canadian version of Energy Citizen about the API's successful grass-roots mobilization efforts in the US.
While opponents call groups such as Energy Citizen "fake" grass-roots organizations , they are real grass-roots in the sense they are not paid lobbyists but ordinary people who have been convinced that environmentalists and aboriginal activists are wrong and should be stopped. The ubiquitous ads promoting energy development as good for Canada and Canadians and their own government's equally strong support for energy development no doubt aid in promoting such views. To call them "fake" is probably counter-productive since it ignores the fact that the people involved believe in what they are doing. A better tactic would be to show that they are being used by the oil industry along with a persuasive presentation of the reasons for not developing the tar sands.