Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Helena Guergis Lawsuit: Former Tory MP Sues Harper, Others For Defamation

Former MP Helena Guergis is suing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Conservative MPs Shelly Glover and Lisa Raitt, the Conservative Party of Canada and a number of other individuals for defamation and other claims.

The former member of Harper's cabinet, who had to leave the Conservative caucus in April 2010 following allegations against her and her husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer, launched the court action in Ontario's Superior Court of Justice. The statement of claim was obtained by CBC.

The unproven allegations related to drug use, fraud, extortion and association with prostitutes.

Guergis is not only suing her former boss and colleagues, but also Ray Novak, Harper's principal secretary, Arthur Hamilton and the law firm he works for, Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Guy Giorno, Harper's former chief of staff, Axelle Pellerin, a former aide to Guergis, and Derrick Snowdy. Snowdy is the private investigator from Toronto whose allegations helped spark the controversy around Guergis and her husband.

Snowdy spoke to Hamilton about Guergis and Hamilton then spoke to Novak, Harper and others, according to the statement of claim. Hamilton gave the impression that Guergis had used cocaine and engaged in other unlawful activities and that there was video evidence of it, the document suggests.

Cardinal George: Chicago Gay Pride Parade, LGBT Movement Could 'Morph Into Ku Klux Klan'

Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, this week told a Chicago news station that he agreed with a local Roman Catholic church's objections to the city's recently-adjusted Gay Pride Parade route passing by its doors and warned that the parade could "morph into the Ku Klux Klan."

George made the comment Sunday on Fox Chicago when asked about Our Lady of Mount Carmel's complaints that the parade passing by its Belmont Avenue location would force the church to cancel its morning mass. The church recently launched a petition urging the city to force parade organizers to adjust their plans.

"I go with the pastor," George told Fox. "He's telling us that he won't be able to have services on Sunday if that's the case. You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism."

When the Fox host pointed out that George's comparison was "a little strong," the cardinal stood by his statement.

"It is, but you take a look at the rhetoric," he continued. "The rhetoric of the Klu Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people. Who is the enemy? Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church."

Governor Cuomo Is Still Governor One Percent

As 2011 slips into history, it appears a safe bet that despite tough competition, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has walked away with this year’s coveted award for “stupidest and most offensive analogy made by a non-Republican candidate or a journalist not covering said candidate.” Asked why, when he was being forced to lay off thousands of city and state workers, cut the pensions of countless others, and reduce aid to mass transit and education, he insisted on fighting tooth and nail to kill the so-called millionaire’s tax on the state’s highest earners—a tax, by the way, that would have ensured an additional $4 billion for such needs, and that was favored by 72 percent of respondents in an October poll—Cuomo replied, “The fact that everybody wants it, that doesn’t mean all that much.” Cuomo then recalled that his father, Mario Cuomo, famously opposed the death penalty despite strong majority support. “Reporters would say, ‘Well, people want it,’” Cuomo added. “And the point was, you know, we don’t elect—you can’t just have as a governor a big poll-taking machine, right?” So Andrew Cuomo’s willingness to thwart the will of the majority and stick a thumb in the eye of his own party on behalf of the interests of multimillionaires and billionaires—literally, the “1 percent”—is somehow analogous to the lonely, brave and extremely costly political stand his father took on behalf of condemned prisoners on death row.

Such myopic self-regard should have sunk Cuomo with liberals and progressives, but to the contrary, all appears hunky-dory in these precincts. Part of the explanation lies in the fact that many liberals have jettisoned the politics of economic equality and prefer to focus on the far less expensive practice of lifestyle liberalism. Andrew Cuomo was the hero of the gay marriage struggle this past summer and hence is beloved in Hollywood and at the Huffington Post. But no less important has been his ability to conduct a mind-meld operation with many in the MSM to communicate the nonsensical message that, while the governor may insist, on principle, on killing the special surtax, he did not oppose forcing the well-off to pay their fair share to meet the state’s burgeoning obligations.

Larry Craig Lobbies On Mine Safety As Reform Slowly Dies

WASHINGTON -- Having left Congress after an embarrassing 2007 arrest, former Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) has quietly reemerged in Washington as a lobbyist working on behalf of the coal industry. According to his federal filings, Craig has registered to wheedle his former Capitol colleagues on the obscure but critical issue of mine safety.

It's an issue that Craig's new client, Murray Energy, knows all too well. The largest privately held coal company in the nation, Murray Energy owned a subsidiary that ran the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, the site of a tragic cave-in incident that took the lives of six miners and later three rescuers. The cave-in occurred in August 2007, just weeks after Craig was arrested for allegedly soliciting sex in an airport bathroom.

The addition of a heavyweight like Craig to the coal lobby serves as a reminder of just how difficult it can be to pass mine safety reform in the face of industry influence, even in the aftermath of the worst mining disaster in 40 years. Since 29 miners died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia in April 2010, a bill that would further empower the Mine Safety and Health Administration to shut down dangerous mines and punish unsafe operators has languished in Congress. Now that more than a year and a half has passed, the window of opportunity may have already closed for meaningful reform, industry observers say.

Democrats Defend Cutting Unemployment Benefits

WASHINGTON -- A top ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives on Tuesday defended his party's support for cutting 20 weeks of unemployment benefits, a position that has escaped much notice in the payroll tax cut debate consuming Washington.

Democrats want the House to pass a Senate bill that would postpone the January expiration of federal unemployment programs for two months. But even if it is reauthorized, one of those programs will automatically phase out next year, unless Congress changes federal law to allow states to keep it, a provision not included in the Senate bill.

"There are things in this bill as we pointed out that we had to make concessions on," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday in response to a question from HuffPost.

"That's the process. We understand that," Hoyer continued. "Unfortunately there are an awful lot of tea party activists who were elected to the Congress who don't understand compromise. That provision is one of the provisions that [Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.)] has concerns about."

When the Senate on Saturday passed its 60-day bill, which would also extend a payroll tax cut first enacted last year, Levin, the top Democrat on the House committee that oversees jobless aid, criticized the measure as "wholly inadequate."

'Secret' Environment Canada presentation warns of oilsands' impact on habitat

Contamination of a major western Canadian river basin from oilsands operations is a "high-profile concern" for downstream communities and wildlife, says a newly-released "secret" presentation prepared last spring by Environment Canada that highlighted numerous warnings about the industry's growing footprint on land, air, water and the climate.

The warnings from the department contrast with recent claims made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Peter Kent that the industry is being unfairly targeted by environmentalists who exaggerate its impacts on nature and people.

The presentation noted figures from the Canadian Energy Research Institute, a collaboration among industry, government and academics, that estimate the oilsands sector is responsible for more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada, and will contribute more than $1.7 trillion to the country's economy over the next 25 years.

But it warned that Alberta and other parts of Western Canada are facing a steep economic and ecological price tag for failing to crack down on the industry's collateral damage.

Tories unfazed by UN criticism of Attawapiskat

More international embarrassment for Canada. This time it’s from the United Nations, which this week took to task the federal government for its failure to deal with a desperate housing crisis at northern Ontario’s Attawapiskat Indian reserve.

Predictably, Ottawa’s reaction was to shoot the messenger. A government spokesman accused James Anaya, the UN’s special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, of grandstanding.

The government also gleefully pointed out that Anaya directed his query to former foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon rather than the current occupant of the post, John Baird. It argued that this shows the UN doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

In fact, given the reality on so many Canadian reserves, the UN official’s statement is mild.

He states the obvious — that conditions at Attawapiskat and many other native communities are “dire.” He expresses the UN’s concern, which is his job. And he asks the Conservative government to comment.

Honesty in politics is the best policy, and so it should be required by law

The recent scandals involving Conservative Cabinet ministers Peter MacKay’s use of a military helicopter for his travel, and John Duncan’s statement that he only heard about problems in Attawapiskat a couple of weeks prior to the story breaking, are yet more examples showing the clear need for an honesty-in-federal-politics law that applies to everyone and allows for complaints by anyone to an independent, non-partisan watchdog agency such as the federal Ethics Commissioner.

Last winter, if the Conservatives had a majority of seats in the House of Commons, they would have stopped the parliamentary process aimed at penalizing Minister Bev Oda for her misleading statements.

During past majority governments, many Cabinet ministers made false statements but no committee held hearings because ruling party MPs controlled the committees and blocked motions by opposition party members for accountability measures.

Similarly, it is very unlikely that MacKay or Duncan will face any penalty for misleading the House, even if the unlikely occurs and their Conservative colleague, House Speaker Andrew Scheer, decides to find them guilty.

In a minority government situation, the process is tainted by partisanship because the Speaker of the House — usually from an opposition party — decides if a Minister or MP is guilty of misleading the House, and opposition MPs decide whether the Minister or MP will be penalized.

Tories may target union haters in next fundraising drive

"There are two things that are important in politics," said Mark Hanna, the bagman for William McKinley's successful 1897 U.S. presidential run. "The first is money, and I can't remember what the second one is."

A key explanation for the recent electoral success of the Conservatives is that they have more dough than their rivals. From 2007 to 2010, they raised $73 million, while the Liberals raised $24 million and the NDP $17.7 million.

Gerry Nicholls, who spent years working side by side with Stephen Harper at the National Citizens Coalition, thinks the party now faces an uphill battle, since they have a majority government.

Nicholls, who is no longer on Harper's Christmas card list, raised money for the NCC for 22 years, writing bushels of letters to wring money out of small-c conservatives across Canada, but especially in the interior of British Columbia, southern Alberta and southwestern Ontario.

To get those donors to reach for their chequebooks, he says the Tories will need a new villain, and says public sector unions "are from central casting."

ORNGE president steps down

The president of ORNGE, Ontario’s air ambulance service, has stepped down.

In an internal memo to staff Thursday morning from ORNGE chair Rainer Beltzner, the publicly funded air ambulance agency announced that president and CEO Dr. Chris Mazza has taken an “indefinite medical leave.”

“The board of directors for ORNGE and ORNGE Global met last night and I am writing to inform all staff that Dr. Mazza will be on indefinite medical leave,” the chair said in his memo to ORNGE employees.

In Mazza’s absence, Tom Lepine (a senior executive) will be interim president of the non-profit ORNGE, and an ORNGE vice-president, Maria Renzella, will be interim president and CEO of ORNGE Global, the for-profit entity.

Mazza and the air service have been under fire recently after the Star revealed high salaries were kept secret from the public and that ORNGE’s Thunder Bay helicopter was frequently unavailable for emergency flights.

Earlier this week Mazza gave a town hall speech to ORNGE employees in which he sounded frustrated that the media did not understand he was trying to make the service better. Mazza, who started his career as an emergency room doctor at Sunnybrook Hospital, created ORNGE in 2005 with the province’s blessing.

No reason was given for the medical leave. Mazza has been unavailable for interviews since the Star began its investigation early this summer.

“I ask that everyone respect his privacy and that of his family during this time,” the chair said in the memo.

Original Article
Source: Star 

Narwhals: the new baby seals

Narwhals made a surprise appearance this year at Cambridge Bay, on the south coast of Victoria Island in Canada’s High Arctic. The whales, famous for the single, spiralling tusk sported by the adult males, don’t usually venture that far west. So when dozens of them showed up offshore in late August, the mostly Inuit community of about 1,500 rejoiced. Hunters took to their boats with rifles and harpoons, and landed about 10. Fresh muktuk—the vitamin-rich outer layer of skin and blubber—was, as old ways dictate, widely shared. And photos of smiling hunters posing by dead narwhals were, as contemporary culture demands, posted on Facebook.

That social-media celebration of hunter-gatherer tradition might suggest that narwhal hunting is fitting in surprisingly well in the 21st century. But Inuit groups and federal officials are bracing for international scrutiny of the killing of about 500 of these photogenic marine mammals every year. Unless Canada can prove they are being protected, outcry from abroad is all but certain to become an issue. “Things may not have changed for the people living in the North,” says Steve Ferguson, a federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist, “but there’s a lot more worldwide attention being given to Arctic mammals.”

The key reason for that concern is climate change. As Arctic sea ice shrinks, attention has focused on the fate of polar bears. But a study in the journal Ecological Adaptations, which rated the risk of global warming to 11 Arctic mammals, argued narwhals are more vulnerable. Ferguson, a co-author of that 2008 report, says the narwhal’s unique adaptation to living under the ice makes it especially vulnerable to its disappearance.

National Parks, the Arts, and the Public Good

Why the National Parks Project is about much more than capturing stunning landscapes.

The other night, I watched films made possible by the Canadian government under the auspices of the National Parks Project. There’s something key not just about the subject matter of these films, but also about the bureaucratic mechanism that delivered them so beautifully into my home.

From May to October 2010, 13 groups, each comprised of one filmmaker and three musicians, were sent to a national park in each province and territory and asked to write about their experiences there. The more recognizable musicians included Graham Van Pelt, Kathleen Edwards, Sam Roberts, Rollie Pemberton (of Cadence Weapon), Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole), Matt Mays, and Sarah Harmer. These musicians are, or were once, “big enough” to understand the fleeting nature of the cool capital in which artists primarily truck.

In Exiting Iraq, U.S. Military Discards Trove of Found Documents on 2005 Haditha Massacre of Iraqis

As the U.S. military leaves Iraq, the New York Times has recovered hundreds of pages of documents detailing internal interrogations of U.S. Marines over the 2005 Haditha massacre of Iraqi civilians. The documents, many marked "secret," were found among scores of other classified material at a junkyard outside Baghdad as an attendant used them as fuel to cook his dinner. The documents reveal testimony of Marines describing killing civilians on a regular basis. "In some ways, this is one of the most grotesque episodes of the entire war in Iraq. And I’m afraid to say, this is part of our legacy," says Time magazine contributor Tim McGirk, who first broke the story of Haditha in 2006. It was November 19, 2005, when a U.S. military convoy of four vehicles driving through Haditha was hit by a roadside bomb, killing Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas. The next night, Marines burst into several homes in the neighborhood, killing 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man and women and children who were still in their night clothes when they died. "Nobody is behind bars for this," McGirk notes. Charges from the episode were dropped against six of the accused Marines, one was acquitted, and the final case is set to go to trial next year.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Leading Canada's public healthcare to the free-market guillotine

National discussion in Canada on the Conservative government's new healthcare financial ultimatum, a take-it-or-leave-it-style proposal, largely revolves around myths. First that financing alone is key to securing a sustainable public healthcare system and second that free-market economic winds will provide sustainable guidelines, via GDP, for viable future government healthcare financing.

A surprise delivery from Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to provincial finance ministers, over a fancy lunch-in at the Chateau Victoria Hotel this past Monday, the plan offers no space for negotiation toward collective national solutions for public healthcare.

Essentially, the Conservative proposal works to strip federal responsibility in crafting, via national negotiations, coherent and sustainable healthcare systems in Canada's provinces and territories. A clear move away from the flawed but important Canada Health Act and a political node to provincial governments already working to allocate federal healthcare financing toward enhancing the corporate, for-profit sector role in delivering healthcare, as already seen extensively in Alberta and Québec.

In reality, the Conservative plan will see six per cent healthcare funding increases until the 2016-17 fiscal year, with little regulation over provincial governments increasing experimentation with public-private partnerships. Beyond 2016-17 the plan is to bind federal healthcare spending to GDP growth, a fundamentally dangerous move toward codifying Canada's public healthcare into capitalist economic terms.

Iraq Combat Veteran Dan Choi Forcibly Ousted, Barred from Bradley Manning Hearing at Ft. Meade

Former U.S. Army Lt. Dan Choi attended the pretrial military hearing for accused Army whistleblower Private Bradley Manning this weekend but was barred from returning on Monday. Military security handcuffed Choi, pinned him to the ground and ripped off his rank. The military says Choi was heckling, but Choi maintains he never disrupted the proceedings. He is an Iraq War combat veteran, supporter of Manning, and an openly gay servicemember who was discharged in 2010 under the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. "What Bradley Manning did, as a gay American, as a soldier, a good soldier—in fact, the only soldier in his entire chain of command who did the right thing, and suffers the consequences unjustly—there’s no choice but for patriotic Americans to sit there and support Bradley Manning in the dignity and full honor of the uniform of service," Choi says.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Is Stephen Harper the Dear Leader in disguise?

Is there any difference between Stephen Harper and North Korea’s defunct Dear Leader? Maybe not as much as you might think. Many eminent Canadians are warning that Mr. Harper and his hard-right Conservatives are turning our beloved nation into a thuggish, dictatorial, one-party state.

In an exit interview the other night with As It Happens, outgoing Senator Tommy Banks (appointed by the Liberals, and best known as a jazz musician) declared that he is deeply alarmed about the country’s direction. He vowed to keep fighting as long as he has breath to set things right. Chronicler Peter C. Newman is similarly distressed. In his book When the Gods Changed, he argues not only that the Natural Governing Party is finished, but so too is the Canada he once knew and loved.

A lot of people in my postal code (adjacent to the University of Toronto) believe that our progressive paradise is lost. “The most remarkable feature of the first half year of Conservative majority rule is how quickly we have been herded toward a one-party system,” writes critic Michael Harris. Our international reputation is also on the skids. By abandoning Kyoto, Mr. Harper has turned us into a pariah state.

Contempt of Parliament. Authoritarian rule. Demagoguery, deceit and dirty tricks. Abuse of power, along with the growing stench of corruption, as the country hurtles down the wrong track. Why, it almost sounds like – the Chrétien government circa 2000!

Canadian activists put out a simple Twitter hashtag: #OccupyWallStreet. After that, ‘it just went crazy’

The genesis of Occupy Wall Street can be traced back to a group of Canadian activists and a picture of a ballerina poised atop a charging bull.

Fuelled by millions of mostly young protesters around the world, the Occupy Wall Street movement has not only redefined the terms of the debate around income inequality, but also revolutionized the very act of protest. Despite almost no hierarchy, the largely unco-ordinated protesters around the world have managed to speak in a much more unified voice, thanks in large part to social-media outlets – especially Twitter.

This summer, the staff of the Canadian activist organization Adbusters gathered to brainstorm an idea. For more than 20 years, the group has railed against rampant consumerism and corporate influence. Inspired by the Arab Spring, the group sought to take the idea of regime change to America, focusing on the financial industry’s impact and influence on democracy.

In designing a poster to support the notion, Adbusters’s art department conceived an image of a ballerina, balanced on one pointed foot in mid-turn, standing atop Wall Street’s iconic “Charging Bull” sculpture. The juxtaposition was stark – an image both serene and aggressive. For the campaign, Adbusters chose a simple Twitter hashtag: #OccupyWallStreet.

Mayor’s office destroys records of business card purchase

Mayor Rob Ford’s office destroyed documents pertaining to the specially embossed business cards procured for the mayor and his staff from his family-owned company Deco Labels and Tags, according to a document obtained by The Globe and Mail.

In late March, Deco sent him an invoice for 20,600 business cards produced at a cost of $1,579.15. After the invoice became public in October, the mayor’s office produced documents indicating that his office had sought two other quotes before selecting Deco as the low-cost supplier. The two companies quoted the mayor’s office rates much higher than Deco’s, the documents said, but the names of the competing firms had been redacted. (Mr. Ford has since reimbursed the city $4,000 to cover the cost of the cards and other office expenses.)

When a subsequent access to information request was made, a letter from the city clerk’s office said that the mayor’s office had destroyed documents relating to the competitive quotes after deeming them “transitory.” According to Toronto’s Municipal Code, transitory records are considered insignificant or unrelated to city business. The letter from the clerk’s office cites a policy that says the city does not require competitive bids for purchases under $3,000.

When asked why the documents were considered “transitory” and who made the decision, Mr. Ford’s office declined to comment.

The mayor has long been an advocate of transparent competitive bidding and has frequently criticized city staff for relying on unreported sole source tenders.

Ottawa will not go ahead with securities plan: Flaherty

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says Canada will not move ahead with its proposed Securities Act in light of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision to declare it unconstitutional.

“We have the decision and we will respect it. It is clear we cannot proceed with this legislation,” said Mr. Flaherty in a brief statement circulated by his office. “We will review the decision carefully and act in accordance with it.”

The Supreme Court unanimously declared the proposed Act unconstitutional, siding with provinces that insisted the day-to-day regulation of securities markets does not belong in federal hands.

Mr. Flaherty had asked for the court’s opinion on the constitutionality of the proposed law, arguing that the lack of a uniform national body to regulate securities trading was a glaring weakness in Canada’s financial system.

Ontario, where the majority of Canada’s securities trading takes place, was the only province to side with Ottawa’s approach.

Several other provinces argued that the existing system – in which individual regulators work together to ensure common national standards – is enough to protect investors and the Canadian economy.

On first Navy ship home since repeal of gay ban – a first kiss

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.—A Navy tradition caught up with the repeal of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule on Wednesday when two women sailors became the first to share the coveted “first kiss” on the pier after one of them returned from 80 days at sea.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta of Placerville, California, descended from the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship and shared a quick kiss in the rain with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles.

Gaeta, 23, wore her Navy dress uniform while Snell, 22, wore a black leather jacket, scarf and blue jeans. The crowd screamed and waved flags around them.

“It’s something new, that’s for sure,” Gaeta told reporters after the kiss. “It’s nice to be able to be myself. It’s been a long time coming.”

For the historical significance of the kiss, there was little to differentiate it from countless others when a Navy ship pulls into its home port following a deployment. Neither the Navy nor the couple tried to draw attention to what was happening and many onlookers waiting for their loved ones to come off the ship were busy talking among themselves.

Health transfers: More on flat tires and etiquette

I discover, as I go over the year’s columns and blog posts, that I predicted all of this health-transfer business in April, at the height of the federal election campaign. The argument then was pretty close to the argument in Monday’s flat-tire federalism post; here’s the bit of my April column you should read if you’re only reading one:
Harper’s plan is to continue shrinking the federal government. It’s not a hidden agenda. He’s announced every part of it. Health care transfers will actually help. They’re just blank cheques to the provinces, good mostly for getting money out of Ottawa…
On the other end of the ledger, he’ll keep squeezing his revenues. That process began with the GST cuts after the 2006 election. It will continue with two policies Harper announced in this campaign’s first week. [Both, you'll recall, are to be introduced after the budget balances - pw] Income splitting will allow a higher-earning taxpayer to transfer part of his salary to a spouse for tax purposes—and cost $2.5 billion a year in foregone revenue. Doubling contribution room to tax-free savings accounts (TFSA) will cost even more. Economist Kevin Milligan has estimated a “revenue cost” of $6.6 billion a year once the TSFA increase is fully phased in.
Add the cost of those growing health transfers and the foregone revenue from Harper’s new tax promises, and you get more than $10 billion a year in reduced fiscal capacity for the federal government. And if Ottawa is locked into a few multi-year spending increases—on military equipment and prisons—there’s progressively less room for everything else. Economist Frances Woolley has said that to reach Harper’s projected savings without cutting defence, public safety or the Canada Revenue Agency, he’d need to cut everything else by one-third.
“Everything else” here includes departments like Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Industry, Transports and Veterans Affairs.

Rob Ford talks lockout, subway funding and McDonalds . . . just not to us

As you might have heard, Rob Ford does not speak to the Toronto Star. Our request for a year-end interview with the mayor went unanswered.

If we had been granted a sit-down, we would have asked Ford about the big whatifs heading into 2012: Is Ford prepared to lock out the city workers union? Is the Sheppard subway dead as there is apparently no way to fund it? Does he regret saying that much-quoted sound bite “No service cuts, guaranteed” now that cuts appear inevitable?

Rob Ford misses deadline on releasing itinerary

Mayor Rob Ford is making it even harder to find out how he spends his time.

Unlike previous Toronto mayors and the current mayors of many U.S. cities, Ford does not release a basic daily schedule, leaving the media and city residents in the dark about public appearances.

Early in his term, reporters requested his complete itineraries, which list both his appearances and closed-door meetings, under access-to-information law. Ford’s office provided the documents within the legal limit of 30 days.

The Star and Globe and Mail later revealed which businesspeople and politicians Ford had met with.

His staff then began removing the names of his meeting partners from the itineraries and listing them in a separate document.

The Star and Globe made new requests for the documents in November. In both cases, his staff — who are not told who is making a request — said they needed a 20-day extension on the grounds that the requests require a “more extensive” search through a large number of records.