Friday, April 29, 2016

Senator Mike Duffy cleared of all criminal charges

Ontario Court Justice Charles Vaillancourt cleared Senator Mike Duffy of all 31 criminal charges against him and criticized both the Prime Minister's Office under former PM Stephen Harper and also the RCMP.

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An article in the CBC by Neil MacDonald praises the judge's decision:
 Ontario Court Justice Charles Vaillancourt proved that in Canada, the courts are there to protect citizens against the venal machinations of those in high office, and the terrifying power of the police and prosecutors who answer to them.Not only did the judge drop all 31 charges, he described those charges as an abuse of power.
MacDonald is scathing in his remarks on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police(RCMP) who prosecuted Duffy. Instead of defending the law as their motto claims, saying they "genuflected to authority, using police discretion to toss a single newsworthy individual into the nightmare of the criminal system, essentially stealing two years of his life, while ignoring other senators who were doing just about exactly the same thing as Duffy." MacDonald notes that while Duffy was charged with taking a bribe there was no charge against the aide in the PMO who offered it in the first place. He claims the RCMP have been found wanting, if not negligent.
David Scott an Ottawa lawyer who years ago defended another individual from what was also a type of RCMP persecution, said: "I'm frankly proud of the way this turned out. It is completely unprofessional to have such an active animus at work in an investigation. The RCMP was lusting to do this [charge Duffy] because of the high-profile nature of the case. There was a hue and cry to 'get this creep. It's the power of authority. I have no doubt that this was a case of pleasing the masters."Harper had obviously decided that Duffy should be punished.
Nearly two years ago Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP Giles Michaud issued a long news release detailing the charges against Duffy and revealing the complex investigation officers made to expose the wrongdoing. When asked this Friday what Michaud had to say now, a junior officer said: "The RCMP respects the decision of the court. It would be inappropriate to comment further." When asked why it was inappropriate to comment now when the charges were made it was thought appropriate to advertise them the officer said that it would be inappropriate to comment.
Mike Duffy was a well-known TV personality before he was appointed by the Harper government to represent Prince Edward Island(PEI). Among the charges against him were that he said that his principal residence was in PEI so that he could claim expenses for his Ottawa residence: In 2012, Duffy has a vacation home on the island. Duffy was one of four senators accused of saying that their primary residency outside of Ottawa in order to claim living expenses for work in Ottawa.[22][23] Duffy, who has lived and worked in Ottawa for decades, has claimed his primary residence is in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island and claimed $42,802 in living expenses for the national capital region from November 30, 2010, to November 30, 2012.[24] Duffy may have also claimed $40,333 in the two years after his Senate appointment in December 2008.While a senator, Duffy was a popular speaker for the Conservatives. In March of 2010 he criticized University of King's College and other Canadian journalism schools for teaching Noam Chomsky and critical thinking. He claimed that Canadian journalism schools were producing leftists who thought free enterprise was bad.
Harper decided that Senators should repay these claimed expanses. Duffy was unwilling since he thought it would be an admission that he had done something wrong. Duffy claimed that he had claimed the expenses after seeking advice on the matter. However, he gave in to the demands of the Harper administration providing he did not have to pay:In late February 2013, it was alleged that special counsel and legal adviser Benjamin Perrin drafted a letter of understanding between Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada, Nigel Wright and Duffy.[33] Perrin denied involvement in a May 2013 statement.[34][35] Wright then wrote a personal cheque to Duffy for $90,172 to cover past residency expenses claimed as part of the agreement with the PMO. A Conservative Party spokesman confirmed the money was a gift with no expectation of repayment.[36] Duffy then repaid the Government of Canada $90,172 in March 2013 for expenses previously claimed.
Duffy faced up to 14 years in prison if convicted of the most serious offences charges The defense and cross-examination of Duffy finished back on December 17th, after sixty days. The oral closing arguments were heard between Feb. 22 and March 4. The acquittal was on April 21.
Duffy has serious health problems suffering a heart attack in 1992. He needs drugs for heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Manitoba's Tories win huge majority ending the long NDP reign

As expected, the ruling New Democratic Party(NDP) in Manitoba led by Greg Selinger lost power last night as the Progressive Conservatives(PC), under leader Brian Pallister won a huge majority.

The polls just before the election were not too far off the actual result. The CBC Poll Tracker had predicted from an average of polls that the PCs would win 42 seats whereas they actually won 40. The NDP were expected only to win 11 but they won 14. The Liberals were predicted to win 4 and won 3. In 2011, NDP won 37 seats while the Conservatives managed just 19, and the Liberals just a single seat. The Greens did not win any seats but came close in one.
Greg Selinger, resigned as leader of the NDP after the results were announced. Selinger was re-elected as MLA for St. Boniface by a considerable margin but given that the NDP only won a little over a third what it had at dissolution he no doubt felt he should resign. He said: "In a democracy, friends, the people are always right, the collective wisdom of Manitobans has to be respected, Tonight as we examine the results ... I have offered my resignation."​Selinger said that his resignation would take effect immediately. He asked the party to appoint an interim leader. Sellinger had raised the Manitoba sales tax to 8 percent after promising during the previous election campaign that he would not. Selinger had opposition to his leadership within his own party with 5 cabinet minister criticizing him. There was a leadership review that Selinger managed to survive. However, the NDP share of the popular vote declined while the Conservatives gained. The NDP had been in office since 1999.
The Liberal leader, Rena Bokhari, came third in her own constituency in spite of the fact that the party managed to win three seats compared to one last election. It won two seats in Winnipeg and scored a surprise victory in the north.
The PC's performance was its best in modern history with 53 percent of the vote and winning 40 seats. In 1977 the PC's managed 36 seats and 49 percent of the vote. As usual, the PCs did quite well in rural Manitoba winning 23 seats but they also won 17 in the city of Winnipeg. The PC easily defeated incumbent Drew Caldwell in the City of Brandon's Brandon East constituency with PC Len Isleifson winning by over one thousand votes. I live in the rural constituency of Riding Mountain where the PC candidate Greg Nesbitt won over the second place Liberal by more than 4 thousand votes. The NDP candidate came in last just behind the third place Green candidate. The NDP now only holds seats in Winnipeg and northern Manitoba.
The election set a record for the number of declined ballots. A declined ballot is equivalent to voting "none of the above". The voter simply writes the word "decline" on the front of the ballot and it is then officially registered as declined. In 1999 a record 1,129 voters declined ballots but yesterday a whopping 4,016 voters cast declined ballots almost one percent of the vote.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

IMF lowers growth prediction for Canadian GDP in 2016 and 2017

Although the Canadian economy had a fast start this year the International Monetary Fund(IMF) has reduced its growth forecast. The IMF cited continuing damage to the energy sector and lower expected growth globally as reasons for the reduced prospects.

The IMF cut its projection for Canadian gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 1.5 percent in 2016. In the previous prediction last quarter in January, the outlook was for 1.7 percent. The outlook for 2017 was reduced from 2.1 percent to 1.9 percent. The IMF said commodity-exporting economies suffered from reduced income and reduced investment. In Canada, the energy sector was a drag, only partially offset by a lower loonie and an expected increase in public investment by the Liberal government.
This is the sixth straight quarter that the IMF has reduced part of its two-year Canadian GDP outlook. The decline in our growth outlook has reflected the slump in prices for commodities. The Bank of Canada also predicted lower growth in Canada in a January report at 1.4 percent. Private-sector economists have a rosier projection of our growth at least during the first quarter this year. They think that our growth was close to 3 percent on an annualized basis and expect our growth to be close to 2 percent for the year. The Bank of Canada's projection for the year in January was 2.4 percent well above that of the IMF.
The CIBC's most recent forecast for 2016 was at 3.2 percent, down from 3.4 percent in January and 3.8 percent a year ago. For 2017 it forecast growth at 3.5 percent down marginally from its January forecast of 3.6 percent.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Develoment (OECD) also downgraded its estimates for the growth in the Canadian Economy as well as those for other G7 countries. The OECD predicted that Canada's economy will grow by 1.4 percent this year and 2.2 percent in 2017.
The global outlook also was for weaker growth according to the IMF report:“Global recovery continues, but at an ever-slowing and increasingly fragile pace. The months since the last World Economic Outlook have seen a renewed episode of global asset market volatility, some loss of growth momentum in the advanced economies, and continuing headwinds for emerging market economies and lower-income countries...Consecutive downgrades of future economic prospects carry the risk of a world economy that reaches stalling speed and falls into widespread secular stagnation.”The report did note, however, that conditions had improved somewhat since earlier in the year. Oil prices were somewhat firmer, and capital outflows from China were lower, and some decisions by central banks were helping to improve sentiment about economic growth but downside risks remained. The IMF World Econonomic Outlook is released just prior to the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank to take place in Washington April 15 to 17.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

UFO sightings in Canada second highest ever in 2015

Ufology Research based in Winnipeg, Manitoba has published its 2015 UFO Survey. Quebec leads the provinces in number of sightings. There were 1,267 sightings in 2015. The most sightings were in 2012 when there were 2,012.

According to some, the world was to end in 2012. Ufology Research has published the report annually since 1989. In spite of sensational stories, the report claims there is no incontrovertible evidence that some UFO cases have involved contact with extraterrestrial creatures. The reports can be foundhere. The average number of sightings has been going up every year for years. The average since 1989 in 2015 was 626.
Over a third of this year's sightings were in Quebec, 35 percent. For some reason, the number is far above that of previous years, when the Quebec percentage ranged from just 5 to 15 percent. In Montreal alone there were 97 reports. There were 78 in Toronto and 69 in Vancouver. A typical sighting will last about 16 minutes with more than half of the reports being about lights in the sky.
The last few years have seen high numbers of sightings compared with earlier years in which sighting were less than a thousand a year. There are many possible explanations for this including more secret military flights, or better access to reported sightings. Some have even suggested that more people are looking skyward for help with the downturn in the economy. Many of the reports are from pilots, police, and other individuals who should have good observational skills and sound judgment as well.
Ufology is described by Wikipedia as follows:Ufology is the study of reports, visual records, physical evidence, and other phenomena related to unidentified flying objects (UFO). UFOs have been subject to various investigations over the years by governments, independent groups, and scientists. However, ufology, as a field, is rejected by modern academia and is considered a pseudoscience.Given that there are many extreme and highly implausible narratives often associated with UFO's the area is often ridiculed by scientists. Yet there are a number of reputable scientists who have an interest in the area.
Peter Sturrock surveyed 1,365 members of the American Astronomical Society. Sturrock found out that opinions were divided with 23 percent replying "certainly," 30 percent "probably", 27 percent "possibly," 17 percent "probably not," and 3 percent "certainly not," to the question of whether the UFO problem deserves scientific study. In 1980 a survey of 1,800 members of various amateur astronomer associations found that 24 percent responded "yes" to the question: "Have you ever observed an object that resisted your most exhaustive efforts at identification." There have been many studies of UFO's many listed here.
Among the early studies was Project Sign by the US Air Force in 1947-49. The reception of the study illustrates the fact that many regard Ufology as unscientific because it is willing to make assumptions that many feel are unlikely to be the case. Some sightings examined by the Sign were estimated to be of an interplanetary source. This was too much for some of the top brass who rejected the finding and Project Sign was soon wound up. Yet sightings by reputable observers continue:On November 12, 2007, a press conference, moderated by former Governor of Arizona Fife Symington, was held at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.[111] Nineteen former pilots and military and civilian officials spoke about their experiences with UFOs, demanding that the U.S. government engage in a new investigation of the phenomenonThese repeated sightings show the need for more scientific studies of UFO phenomena and UFO's are a reasonable object of study for scientists.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Conservatives still far ahead in polls as Manitoba election approaches

A new poll by Insight Manitoba polling finds that the Liberal Party has dropped from having 19 percent approval to just 13 percent in the capital and main city of Manitoba, Winnipeg.

The vote for the incumbent New Democratic Party (NDP) and Progressive Conservative(PC) has gone up. The NDP went from 21 percent to 24 percent and the PCs, led by Brian Pallister, rose to 38 percent from 35 per cent. The number of undecided voters dropped from 20 percent to just 17 percent. This is still quite a significant number with less than two weeks before the election on April 19. The poll results came as a surprise to the three main figures behind Insight Manitoba who are all Liberals.
Province-wide figures show the PCs at 42 percent, NDP at 22 percent and Liberals at 15 percent. The Greens are at 5 percent with 16 percent still undecided. A political analyst at the University of Manitoba, Royce Koop said that the dropping Liberal support would help the NDP most. In Winnipeg in particular, the NDP could loose seats if Liberals gain votes from the NDP. The Conservatives could take more seats.
As a recent article points out the Liberal party not only has a relatively unknown leader Rana Bokhari but has made numerous gaffes during the campaign. A candidate in Brandon west, Billy Moore, suggested that hospitals should be shut down as a means of cutting waiting lists. He later said it was a publicity stunt. The Liberals accidentally emailed almost every journalist in the province urging them not to say negative things about party leader Bokhari. It did not stop negative remarks about the party as this article shows: And the Liberals? They just seem lost. They've lost six candidates in the past week, lost an entire year in their fiscal plan, and lost their minds when they suggested spending $20 million to build a year-round fresh food market in a refurbished heritage building in downtown Winnipeg. If that idea sounds familiar, it’s because it already exists. It’s called The Forks.
Brian Pallister of the Progressive Conservatives also has had his share of gaffes but they are quite old. Opponents no doubt collect these to use them during campaigns. I have included two memorable occasions when Pallister probably should have had his remarks vetted before being released on video. Pallister should not worry though as it looks as if he is headed for a majority government.
The most recent poll tracker results updated as of March 31 see the PCs as far ahead. In popular vote, the PC's had 44.8 per cent, the NDP 23.4 and the Liberals 23.9 with the Greens at 7.7 The Insight Poll shows a huge drop in the Liberal vote. Seat projections show the PC's with 40, the NDP with 11 and the Liberals six. However, with the decline in the Liberal vote in Winnipeg the NDP could come out with quite a few more seats.

Saskatchewan Party wins third majority term by a wide margin

he Saskatchewan provincial election was another triumph for the Saskatchewan Party led by premier Brad Wall. The party won a third majority in a row.

The Saskatchewan Party won a whopping 51 of the 61 seats in the Saskatchewan legislature. Cam Broten, the leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, lost in his own constituency. The race in a Saskatoon constituency was close with the Saskatchewan Party candidate winning by only 232 votes. David Buckingham won with 49.2 percent of the vote while Broten had 46.3 percent.
The Saskatchewan Party captured just under 63 per cent of the vote and prevailed in 51 of the province's 61 constituencies. The NDP managed just half of that at over 30 per cent of the vote. It won 10 seats, just one more than the last election. However, there were only 59 seats then.
The results were not much different from the 2011 election that was disastrous for the NDP. The Saskatchewan Party won 64 percent of the vote while the NDP had 32 percent. Of the 61 seats only three seats changed parties. The NDP picked up Prince Albert Northcote, and Regina Douglas Park but lost the Sasaktoon seat of Saskatoon Westview, the NDP leader Cam Broten's constituency. Polls had all along indicated that the Saskatchewan Party would win and they were correct. The Saskatchewan Party win seemed inevitable.
The Saskatchewan Party did drop somewhat as the urban rural divide intensified marginally. The vote for the party dropped three points in Saskatoon and over 6 points in Regina. The party still won 56 percent of the vote in Saskatoon, and 49 percent in Regina, the capital. The NDP was not up that much, only one point in Saskatoon and two in Regina. The Liberal party was up 4 percent in Saskatoon and 5 percent in Regina, robbing the NDP of badly needed votes. The increased Liberal vote probably resulted in Broten losing his Saskatoon seat. The rural vote of the Saskatchewan Party increased from 71 to 72 percent with the NDP getting only 20 percent of the rural vote.
This election gave the NDP the lowest share of the popular vote they have ever had. This is the third election in a row that their share of the vote has declined, the first time this has happened since the party was formed. The results for the NDP is surprising given that Saskatchewan is now beginning to suffer from a decline in oil prices. Brad Wall will not need to worry about anyone challenging his leadership! However, Cam Broten is likely to see a challenge to his leadership unless he resigns soon.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Saskatchewan Party likely to win a majority in Saskatchewan election

Regina - When the Saskatchewan Legislature was dissolved on March 8, the Saskatchewan Party polled 53.5 percent of the vote, while the opposition New Democratic Party(NDP) had 34.5 percent.

The election began with the Saskatchewan Party led by Premier Brad Wall having a commanding lead over the NDP. Often during a campaign, a lead this large will shrink. This time the opposite is happening. As of April the 1st the poll averages were: Saskatchewan Party 59.9 percent; NDP, 30.7 percent. The Green Party and Liberals both have 4.3 percent of the vote. The margin between the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP has increased from 19 points to over 29. Unless the April 1st averages were an April Fool prank , the outlook for the NDP tomorrow does not seem rosy.
The seat projections as of April 1st are not encouraging. The average number of seats the Saskatchewan Party is predicted to get is 49 with the NDP only getting 12. No other party will win a seat. If these projections are anywhere near correct, the Saskatchewan Party is headed for a third majority government. In Saskatoon and the rural parts of the province the gap between the Saskatchewan Party is little changed: "The NDP trails by about 19 points in Saskatoon and 40 points outside of the urban centres. In 2011, that gap was 20 and 43 points, respectively." The NDP is shrinking the gap in Regina with the NDP at 42 percent and the Saskatchewan Party at 49. This is a 7 point drop for the Saskatchewan Party. The NDP could pick up 2 or 3 seats but this will not change the situation much province-wide. Pollsters have been wrong in the past however as in Alberta but the situation is rather different here with the incumbents leading in the first place.
The Regina Leader Post has an article that describes some of the problems in the NDP campaign:.. it lost four candidates in the first week because it didn’t vet their social media accounts; it lost its own campaign manager, ensuring an image of a campaign in shambles; it missed opportunities like capitalizing on the two homeless men bused by the government to B.C., and; it presented a platform that gave the Saskatchewan Party reason to raise legitimate concerns about its cost.Leader of the NDP, Cam Broten does not seem to have gained much support whereas Brad Wall has been a popular premier. However, the NDP only won 9 seats in the last election so he may better that. Perhaps by next election the deteriorating economic conditions in Saskatchewan will give the NDP a better chance of winning.
Global News lists some of the main promises of the two parties. The Saskatchewan Party has six new platform promises that total only $105 million over 4 years. The costliest is $70 million on highway repairs. The Saskatchewan Party would also sell off 40 of the 75 government-owned liquor stores. The most expensive NDP promise is $106 million over 4 years for health-care workers. This would include 400 new workers for care homes. The NDP would hire 300 more educational assistants and an equal number of teachers. The NDP would sell off two government airplanes and convert a third to an air ambulance.

Mulcair likely to survive upcoming federal New Democratic Party leadership review

The federal New Democratic Party (NDP) convention is scheduled for April 8 to 10 in Edmonton, Alberta. A new Ekos poll shows the party is polling the worst it has in well over a decade.

According to the Ekos poll, only 11.7 percent of Canadians support the NDP, down eight points since the October election, which was already low. In contrast, the Liberal Party under PM Justin Trudeau is up a further 2.6 percent to 42.1. The Conservatives under interim leader Rona Ambrose are at 31.7 percent, down marginally from the 31.9 percent they had at election time. Elizabeth May's Green Party is up 2.9 points at 6.4 percent.
While there have been some complaints about Mulcair's leadership, there does not seem to be any obvious alternative to run for the leadership against Mulcair or any well-organized opposition to his leadership. While party leader Rebecca Blaikie said Mulcair needs a 70 percent approval to remain as leader, the party constitution requires only 51 percent. Every party convention which is not a leadership convention requires a vote on whether there should be a leadership contest.
There is to be a Broadbent Institute conference in Ottawa this weekend. The leadership of the NDP is not on the agenda it is expected that NDP leadership will be a heated subject of discussion. Mulcair will attend part of the policy conference.
Ekos President Frank Graves notes it will be the estimated 1,500 NDP delegates who determine whether Muclair stays as leader, Mulcair's poll numbers will not help him:“That is the lowest number we have seen for an NDP party since 2003. Let’s put this in context. This is not good. How they decide to deal with the future is obviously their choice and he’s got all kinds of talent. But that is a pretty spectacular fall from grace.”
Mulcair's spokesperson, George Smith, noted that Graves did not test Mulcair's approval rating while other polls have shown he is supported by a majority of New Democrats. Smith questions whether party support figures are a true indicator of Mulcair’s support among New Democrats.
There have been drastic drops in support in some provinces. In British Columbia the NDP elected 14 MPs but party support has gone from 26 per cent of the vote on election day to only 9.9 percent support now. A similar decline is seen in Saskatchewan where the NDP at election time had 25 percent of the vote and elected three MPs. They now have just 9.1 percent of the vote. Even in Mulcair's home province of Quebec, the party lost nearly 10 percentage points since the election to just 15.5 percent of the vote. Of course, the decline could be also a result of NDP policy positions which have shifted to the middle and even to the right. The NDP campaigned on a balanced budget, a prominent platform of the Conservatives. The Liberals campaigned for deficit spending to stimulate the economy. When the Liberals won, more than 70 percent of NDP supporters were pleased:Possibly more ominous than the actual vote last October was a survey conducted by Angus Reid a week later that found fully 71 per cent of NDP supporters were "pleased" with the arrival of a Liberal government.At the last leadership review in 2013, Mulcair had 92.3 percent support among delegates. In winning the leadership in 2012 he garnered only 57.2 percent of the vote.
A recent poll by Mainstreet Research showed that Mulcair's approval rating among NDP voters was at 73 percent against just 14 percent disapproval. However, only 32 percent strongly approved of Mulcair's leadership; 48 percent of NDP voters thought that there should be no leadership race; 15 percent thought there should be; 37 percent were not sure.
Important unions support Mulcair's leadership. In a recent statement, five union leaders expressed support for Mulcair's leadership. The labour leaders say Mulcair has proven himself able to provide himself a true progressive alternative to Trudeau's Liberals. It seems that the polls show that many NDP supporters actually are happy about the Liberals. Fewer voters are attracted to the NDP. Perhaps they are not progressive! The unions supporting Mulcair are: Canadian Union of Public Employees, the United Food and Commerical Workers, National Union of Public and General Employees, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the United Steelworkers. The union statement said: "Mulcair is known and respected throughout every part of Canada and has the organic relationship with Quebec to keep and expand our strongest geographic base." The base appears to be shrinking rather than expanding.
The NDP's problems are not just do to leadership but also to changes in policy which reflect a move to the middle or even right on some issues characteristic of the Third Way politics. In Britain the rise of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour Party appears to be a clear rejection of such politics but there is no sign of this happening in the NDP. Perhaps, we will move towards a two-party system such as in the United States.