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.]

Monday, January 16, 2012

No More "King-Washing" the Pentagon, Please

"A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
"America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood." --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (.pdf), the U.S. spends around $700 billion per year on the military. That sum roughly doubled since 2001, and it accounts for about 43 percent of all military spending in the world in 2010. Yet, even in the context of an ongoing unemployment crisis and widespread opposition for the major war in which the U.S. is embroiled, the Pentagon had the audacity to drop a spending plan (.pdf) earlier this month that calls for a continued increase in military spending and to portray the massive levels of outlays on war made at the height of the Iraq War as "breaking faith" with the military. To paraphrase Dr. King, to use for violence these resources better spent rescuing the 50 percent of Americans now in or near poverty is demonic.

The giant named Militarism is nothing if not nimble: last year at this time, the Pentagon used the words of a friend of the King family to insinuate that, though King's plain words decry all forms of violence and war, today's wars are different and he would "understand" them. That's almost as brazen as war industry giant Boeing's attempt to capture the King mojo for their public relations efforts, donating to the fund for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial fund while making billions from the "business of burning human beings." We need a new phrase--"King-washing," maybe?--to describe the efforts of career militarists and war profiteers to grasp at the King mantle.

It is natural for people and organizations to want to associate with King. He was a true prophet in the best sense of the word, someone whose courage, dignity and clear moral vision burned so hot and bright that his after-image remains in our eyes long after he's gone. But there is a deep, deep difference between trying to associate by emulation and association by manipulation.

Today is MLK Day. For many, it will be a day of service, and that's certainly an incredibly powerful way to honor King's memory. But equally powerful is the demand that we hear his message--his whole message, including his condemnation of war as a means to settle conflict--and use it as a genuine opportunity for reflection and action. This year it is especially critical that we do so, as the policy choices waiting in the wings in Washington, D.C. over the next few months so tragically resemble those made regarding the poverty programs of King's day and the Vietnam War.

Please take a moment to share our latest video. Then, write to President Obama and tell him to honor Dr. King by repudiating the Pentagon's bid to grow while other programs are cut. Tell him you want him to lead the revolution of values talked about by King--and that that revolution must start by shutting off the "demonic, destructive suction tube" at the Pentagon.

Original Article
Source: Huff 

Tar-Sands Man in Washington

In early October 2009, Manitoba premier Gary Doer flew to Los Angeles and wound up talking about polar bears. He was attending the Governor’s Global Climate Summit, an environmental forum hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger and other American politicians, where, at one point, a group of young activists approached him for a video interview about global warming. Doer, dressed in a pinstriped suit and looking uncomfortable in the California heat, told them about Churchill, Manitoba, where polar bears are so common that authorities prevent the animals from romping through town by capturing them in a compound—“a polar bear jail,” Doer called it, with evident amusement. But because of climate change, he said, it’s now “so warm in the summer, we’re putting air-conditioning in for the polar bears.” One of his questioners seemed astonished. “Wow,” she said. “What a prime example.”

About two weeks later, Doer left provincial politics to become Canada’s ambassador to the United States. This also made him one of the world’s most important pitchmen for Alberta oil. Since his appointment, Doer has racked up countless hours and air miles trying to convince American policymakers that the infamous tar sands—the bitumen deposits championed by the Conservative government but loathed by the environmental movement—aren’t so bad after all.

It’s an unusual task for Doer, who, as the NDP premier of Manitoba for most of the last decade, was widely seen as a doughty green crusader. In 2005, BusinessWeek named him one of the twenty most important leaders fighting climate change. Doer loudly favoured the Kyoto Accord, worked with American governors to cut tail-pipe emissions and went out of his way to protect vast swaths of Manitoba’s boreal forest. Now many environmentalists consider him a traitor, but Doer proudly calls himself a pragmatist. “I don’t live in a world where I think you kayak to England,” he told me. “I do believe we can improve on efficiencies on oil consumption. But I’ll still drive to the lake on the weekends. We don’t live in a world of absolutes, and I don’t either.”

Putin campaign trail strewn with obstacles

Vladimir Putin has kicked off his presidential campaign in earnest, with a new website, illustrated with familiar images of the Russian premier on the judo mat, the ski slopes and horseback, trumpeting his social and economic reforms as well as his athletic prowess.

Scrubbed of any mention of United Russia, the Kremlin’s ruling party which is under fire over last month’s disputed parliamentary elections, the site and the campaign itself are part of an effort to turn the conversation back to Putin himself. Yet the discussion has hardly gone according to plan.

Within an hour of the campaign launch last Thursday, a section asking for public feedback was flooded with requests for Putin’s resignation.

The negative comments, which a Kremlin spokesman attributed to hackers, were soon purged – supposedly for profanity. Yet many of the messages, preserved through cached versions of the sites and screen shots, paint a more nuanced picture.

“Retire,” pleaded Mikhail Meshkov. “I want to live in a normal country. Leave before it’s too late.” Arkady Vishnev wrote that ending the presidential campaign would be “the most helpful thing you could do for your country.” Andrei Antonenko echoed: “It’s clear that power is like a drug but [leaving] would be the right thing to do.”

Class-action suit claims province excluded at least 10 Algonquin groups

At least 10 different Algonquin groups are now contesting ownership of the 36,000 square kilometres of Eastern Ontario that’s the subject of a historic aboriginal land claim, further complicating already complex negotiations with the government.

The latest twist in the long-running land claim saga is notice of a class-action lawsuit against the Ontario government filed by lawyers representing the off-reserve Ottawa Algonquin First Nation, the Algonquins of Kinouchipirini (Pembroke) and Metis of Ontario. These three groups and many others are challenging the legality of the land claim by the Golden Lake Algonquin, known as the Pikwakanagan, saying the provincial government is excluding them from negotiations over land that also belongs to them. The impending lawsuit also includes several individual aboriginals who say Ontario is interfering with their hunting and fishing rights, and want relief from the courts.

It is the latest blow to the negotiations that have been going on for 20 years between federal, provincial and the Golden Lake Algonquin over a vast swath of Eastern Ontario that includes the nation’s capital. Six Quebec Algonquin communities led by the Kitigan Zibi of Maniwaki, who also claim the territory in question as part of their ancestral land, recently threatened a court challenge, saying they are being cut out of the negotiations. Two separate Quebec Algonquin communities are also opposed to the negotiations. Further muddying negotiations that the parties involved believed would serve as a template for other settlements, several non-status Algonquins and Métis, who also claim a stake in the land, are opposed to the negotiations and considering their options.

Ottawa lawyer Michael Swinwood, who filed notice of the lawsuit in November, told the Citizen that the law requires Ontario to be given a 60-day notice of any action, and proceedings will likely begin in March.

Why medicare needs Ottawa

The federal government has signalled its intention to reduce its role in shaping medicare to writing cheques. This would complete a 35-year journey that began in 1977, when Ottawa first capped its financial contributions to the provinces. At its peak, Ottawa’s share of publicly financed health-care spending reached 41 per cent. Today, its cash contribution is just over 20 per cent.

The provinces run health care and have traditionally welcomed federal cash transfers with few strings attached. So what’s wrong with Ottawa’s self-imposed exile – is it not merely recognition that it has no legitimate role in shaping how the system develops?

Not in our view. Writing cheques and walking away from the duty to improve medicare is not only a retrograde step that endangers health care and the economy, it also reveals a vision of an increasingly shrivelled and parochial federation, where governments look inward and the whole becomes a pastiche of increasingly isolated parts.

Paul Martin showed how to tame a deficit

Paul Martin knew a thing or two about retrenching. When he became finance minister in 1993 he faced a much bigger challenge than today’s cost-cutters. Canada’s chronic deficit had hit a record $42 billion. Two international agencies, Standard and Poors and Moody’s, had lowered Canada’s credit rating. The Wall Street Journal branded Canada a “Third World banana republic.” Economists were speculating on when — not whether — Canada would hit the debt wall.

Over his nine-year tenure, he balanced the federal budget and went on to produce five consecutive surpluses. He reduced the size of government without stifling the creativity of the nation. He turned Canada into a globally envied model of fiscal discipline.

Today’s cost-cutters discount Martin’s achievements, pointing out that he raided the employment insurance fund and the government’s pension plan. He off-loaded most painful spending cuts on the provinces and he benefitted from a decline in interest rates and a favourable exchange rate.

All that is true — but the story is bigger than that. He chopped federal spending by $25 billion over three years (a more aggressive goal than Jim Flaherty’s). He downsized some departments by 65 per cent (no one is contemplating cuts of that magnitude today). And he slashed business subsidies by 60 per cent (not even on the Conservative agenda).

Rather than sneering, his successors would be smart to see what they can learn from his approach.

Clark touts sinks and heath-care innovation as premiers meet

Premier Christy Clark plays host to Canada’s provincial and territorial leaders this week in British Columbia's capital. Since the meeting will be dominated by health care, she began the informal proceedings on Sunday afternoon with a tour of a cutting-edge hospital project intended to showcase her province’s devotion to innovation.

The $348-million tower at Royal Jubilee Hospital includes features ranging from plentiful handrails for tottery seniors to wards that can be pressure-sealed in ‘hot zone’ fashion if the Ebola virus ever shows up here. And the premiers will see lots of sinks – over 1,400 of them. The idea being, getting health care workers to wash their hands between visiting patients is a great way to cut down on run of the mill, hospital-acquired infections.

Ms. Clark hopes to come away from the meeting, which wraps up Tuesday, with a united call for a national health care innovation fund. After all, who can be against innovation – or more federal health dollars? Premier Brad Wall and others are already on the same songsheet, if anything there will be some jockeying to take credit for the scheme.

It would be nice to find unity on something, at least, and the federal fiscal plan for the next decade of health transfers to the provinces is not a likely source of harmony.

Ms. Clark came out swinging on Friday against the formula, calling it an unworkable attack on seniors. She wants to persuade Ottawa to re-jig the per capita funding transfer to reflect the higher costs of taking care of seniors.

While Ms. Clark will find lots of company among the premiers in criticizing the deal, her idea for reshaping the formula will make some enemies.

Ms. Clark’s proposal would be worth $111-million annually to her province while Quebec would see $259-million more. But Ontario would see its funding reduced by $128-million and Alberta would take the biggest hit, losing $370-million each year.

A bold prediction: There will be more consensus on the value of hospital sinks.

Original Article
Source: Globe 

Ottawa axes food inspectors added in wake of deadly deli-meat outbreak

The federal government plans to cut the additional inspectors who were stationed at meat plants across the country after the Maple Leaf listeriosis outbreak killed 23 Canadians in 2008.

A recent report by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says “resources will sunset for listeriosis and for increased frequency of food inspection in meat processing establishments” at the end of the current fiscal year.

The CFIA’s 2011-12 Estimates Report on Plans and Priorities forecasts a reduction of $21.5-million in the annual budget and 234 fewer staff. The agency increased the frequency of its inspections as a result of U.S. demands that Ottawa station inspectors in slaughter and meat processing facilities every 12-hour shift.

All government departments and agencies are being forced to trim their budgets by as much as 10 per cent to meet deficit reduction targets set by the federal Conservative government.

“This looks like an exercise to make regulation cheaper, not safer or smarter. Ottawa should worry about undermining public confidence with food safety cuts because that will be bad for the industry,” Bob Kingston, the president of the Agriculture Union, a division of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said in a release issued prior to a news conference responding to the cuts.

Joining Mr. Kingston at the Monday event was Karen Clark, whose mother Francis died from listeriosis after eating tainted cold cuts.

“It scares me, quite honestly, to see the federal government’s attitude. It looks like they think Canadians have forgotten about the listeriosis outbreak and all the people it affected. That they can reduce these inspectors and safety programs and no one will notice,” Ms. Clark said in the release.

Bilingual spending costs $2.4 billion per year

OTTAWA — The requirement for bilingualism at the federal and provincial level costs governments $2.4 billion per year, according to a new report from the Fraser Institute.

Of that, the federal government is spending $1.5 billion, while the provinces spend $900 million — $623 million of that is in Ontario, the highest spending province.

"The issue we examine in this study is not whether bilingualism is good or bad policy, but the costs above and beyond that of providing education and other services in the majority language," Universite de Montreal economics professor Francois Vaillancourt said in a statement.

The study, titled Official Language Policies of the Canadian Provinces: Costs and Benefits, breaks down the costs associated with providing services in the minority language in each province — French through most of the country and English in Quebec.

According to the study's authors, the annual cost for providing bilingual services is centred around French-language training.

While Ontario spends the most of bilingual services, New Brunswick, Canada's only officially bilingual province, spends the second most annually at $85 million.

Quebec rounds out the top three with an annual bilingual cost of $50 million.

The study concludes that provinces with large francophone populations could reduce spending on services by contracting them out and instituting a user pay system.

Original Article

As premiers prepare to meet in Victoria, civil society comes together to protect public health care

Protection of our public health-care system always ranks as Canadians' number one concern. It reflects deep Canadian values of fairness and accessibility in the provision of basic services that we all need.

I hear all the time from people who are very worried about what the Conservative government is up to when it comes to health care.

This week, Victoria will host the premiers' conference on health care. But their meeting has already been undermined by the federal Finance Minister's unilateral declaration on future federal funding for health care, when the current Health Accord runs out in 2014.

The Parliamentary Budget Office indicated in a report released last week that the government's new formula will reduce the proportion of federal funding to health care. This leaves the provinces holding the bag and will cause enormous pressure in the long run on the provision of vitally needed services. It's becoming increasingly clear that the federal government is backing out of its role, and abdicating any federal leadership on an issue critical to Canadians.

This is a disastrous course and will undermine the Canada Health Act. And on a financial level, contrary to the minister's assertions, this is a rotten deal for the provinces, as evidenced by the PBO report.

With fighter jet costs, the sky’s the limit - Documents suggest Ottawa sidestepped its own rules to buy aircraft

Night after night, Canadian CF-18 pilots took off from Trapani airbase in Italy for their targets in Libya, at least 575 km away. In an ink-black sky, in a cockpit lit by instruments reflected through their heads-up display, each pilot was aware that a single missile launched by Moammar Gadhafi’s troops could kill him. “You’re sitting in this contraption and all you want is to come back alive,” says Maj.-Gen. Yvan Blondin, second-in-command of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who lived through similar experiences in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

To minimize the risks to pilots, Blondin wants Canada to buy the F-35 aircraft, product of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. Versatile, technologically advanced and hard for enemy radar to detect, the F-35 “gives the guys that much better likelihood of coming back,” says this CF-18 pilot with piercing blue eyes. In Libya, anti-aircraft defences weren’t very powerful. “But who knows where Canada will need to intervene down the line?”

The first air strikes in Libya were carried out by American B-2 stealth bombers and Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from ships in the Mediterranean. “With the F-35, we could have been active from day one attacking their radar,” says Blondin. “It’s the difference between playing a front-line role and a secondary one.” The difference, he adds, between a used Volkswagen with a manual transmission and a brand-new Cadillac with all the options.

Occupy DC Passes Corporate Personhood Resolution

WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC's General Assembly passed a "corporate personhood resolution" on Saturday calling for a constitutional amendment ending the "judicial fiction of corporate Constitutional rights."

The resolution calls on Congress to "enact" the amendment (though it should be noted that Congress can't actually enact a Constitutional amendment on its own -- once two-thirds of both houses vote for the amendment, then the states also have to ratify it).

How Fares the Dream?

“I have a dream,” declared Martin Luther King, in a speech that has lost none of its power to inspire. And some of that dream has come true. When King spoke in the summer of 1963, America was a nation that denied basic rights to millions of its citizens, simply because their skin was the wrong color. Today racism is no longer embedded in law. And while it has by no means been banished from the hearts of men, its grip is far weaker than once it was.       

To say the obvious: to look at a photo of President Obama with his cabinet is to see a degree of racial openness — and openness to women, too — that would have seemed almost inconceivable in 1963. When we observe Martin Luther King’s Birthday, we have something very real to celebrate: the civil rights movement was one of America’s finest hours, and it made us a nation truer to its own ideals.

Yet if King could see America now, I believe that he would be disappointed, and feel that his work was nowhere near done. He dreamed of a nation in which his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” But what we actually became is a nation that judges people not by the color of their skin — or at least not as much as in the past — but by the size of their paychecks. And in America, more than in most other wealthy nations, the size of your paycheck is strongly correlated with the size of your father’s paycheck.

Goodbye Jim Crow, hello class system.

Nortel Fraud Trial To Begin For Former Execs

Opening arguments are expected Monday in the trial of former executives at insolvent Nortel Networks Corp. who are accused of defrauding investors ahead of one of the biggest corporate collapses in Canadian history.

Former CEO Frank Dunn, 57, was charged in 2008 — just as the company imploded — with fraud affecting the public securities markets, as well as with falsification of accounts and documents and involvement in issuing a false prospectus.

Former Nortel chief financial officer Douglas Beatty, 56, and former corporate controller Michael Gollogly, 52, face similar counts.

The Ontario Superior Court trial, expected to last more than six months, will be presided over by Justice Frank Marrocco.

The court will hear arguments that the men, dismissed from the company in 2004, fraudulently misstated financial results in order to get bonuses they were promised if the company returned to profitability.

Nortel went on to restate its financial reports four times over as many years as regulators and investigators began looking at the company's financial statements.

How We Should Celebrate Dr. King in 2012

Every year, we pay homage to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the month of January. Most offices are closed, kids are home from school and people generally enjoy the day off from their normal routines. But how many of us take the time to emulate Dr. King's teachings? How many of us actually understand the fight he waged on our behalf? How many of us emulate his nonviolent dedication to defending the poor and seeking economic justice in society? In 2012, instead of just verbally praising Dr. King, we should continue his quest for equality and tackle today's greatest civil rights challenges: leveling the playing field for everyone, fighting voter suppression, establishing stricter gun laws, a commitment to end international potential warfare and providing a quality education in our most impoverished areas. Then and only then will we truly understand the depth and meaning of celebrating Dr. King's life, legacy and purpose.

One of Dr. King's last efforts prior to his untimely death was the Poor People's Campaign. Combating issues of economic justice and housing for the poor, the campaign included an 'Economic Bill of Rights', and efforts to lobby elected officials to pass progressive legislation. Because Dr. King intently understood that the most vulnerable and disenfranchised in society were the poor, he dedicated much of his own life to giving them a platform, fighting for their rights and creating a society where they would no longer be dehumanized. Today, as many politicians cut vital programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance, the poor are increasingly watching their concerns fall on deaf ears and their voices drowned out in a sea of political wrangling. That is precisely why we cannot sit silently in the face of oppression. Until the weakest among us are afforded the same opportunities as the wealthiest, we cannot in good conscious accept that the fight for justice is complete.

Massive Toronto Police Corruption Trial Begins

Five former Toronto police drug squad officers who were accused of beating and robbing suspects of drugs and large sums of money will go on trial Monday, accused of a conspiracy in which they allegedly falsified official police records to cover their tracks.

The charges against John Schertzer, Ned Maodus, Joe Miched, Ray Pollard and Steve Correia date back to the late 1990s and police drug busts they performed in which the Crown alleges the officers themselves committed a range of offences — from conspiracy to obstruct justice, to theft, assault, perjury and extortion.

The five have all pleaded not guilty and on Monday will face a jury, after more than a decade and $14 million spent on investigations and prosecution in what is the largest case of alleged police corruption in Canadian history.         

In addition, between 1999 and 2003, the federal Department of Justice, without any explanation, stayed some 200 criminal cases against accused drug dealers arrested by the officers. Prosecutors did so long before the officers were charged or given a chance to defend themselves against allegations of misconduct.

The foreigners are coming!

If there’s one thing Stephen Harper’s Ottawa doesn’t like, it’s foreigners and their funny foreign ways.

Oh, those dandelion-eating, odd-hat-wearing denizens of cafes that sell strange liquors distilled from the glands of beetles, those foreign types excoriated by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver in his peculiar letter demonizing those who wish to testify against the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

“They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest,” Oliver wrote resentfully. “They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources.”

Frankly, when I think of frequent frantic flyers, I don’t think of foreign polar ice-measurers, I think of Peter MacKay and his helicopters and massively expensive 1980s Laura-Ashley-revival fancy Munich hotel room that my taxes paid for.

But Oliver is probably thinking that despicable George Clooney (stroker of Italian starlets, foreigner-lover is not the word for it) might show up, though I am given to understand that Clooney is much more Darfur than Kitimat, B.C.

Harper’s plan would kill medicare in Canada

The Harper government has set in motion a strategy that will lead to the unravelling of Canada’s national health system. All Harper has to do is nothing. By abdicating the essential federal responsibilities in health care, the system will fragment on its own into 14 separate pieces.

OTTAWA—There is a deficit of political leadership in health care, especially at the federal level. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated in a year-end interview recently that he had no idea how to secure the future of health care in Canada. Instead, he said it is up to the provinces to find “solutions.”

Harper’s recent unilateral, non-negotiable decision on the future of federal health financing stunned provinces. It seems the federal government intends to limit its role to signing blank cheques with no strings attached and no accountability. If rumours on the Hill are true, once the current arrangement expires Harper may replace cash transfers entirely with tax credits.

The Harper government has set in motion a strategy that will lead to the unravelling of Canada’s national health system. All Harper has to do is nothing. By abdicating the essential federal responsibilities in health care, the system will fragment on its own into 14 separate pieces.

In order to understand the implications of abandoning federal responsibilities in health care, it is important to identify what they are, especially since the Harper government never misses an opportunity to say that health care is a provincial/territorial responsibility.

The federal role in health care is very clear and well described on Health Canada’s website.

The federal government is a funder, and transfers more than $40-billion a year to provinces and territories for health care. In addition to health-care cash transfers, the four most important federal duties in health care are: 1. guardian of the national standards in the Canada Health Act; 2. regulator of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and food; 3. Health-service provider to First Nations and Inuit communities; and 4. catalyst for innovation and best practices.

Clark flirtation with the right predictable, dangerous

Buffeted in the polls by a revived B.C. Conservative Party, Premier Christy Clark is tightening her strategic embrace of federal Tory-ism in a big way.

Some think the Premier’s recent drift could cost her support in the pivotal centre of the province’s political spectrum, and even within her own caucus.

“Clearly, she’s trying to balance [the anti-NDP] coalition,” veteran political analyst Norman Ruff said Sunday.

“But there’s a danger you can go too far. The Prime Minister is a controversial figure. If you start to move a lot to the right, there can be leakage on the other side.”

In the past week, the provincial Liberals landed a candidate with strong Reform and Conservative roots to run in a coming by-election, Ms. Clark lured a former key strategist for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to become her chief of staff, and then there was the hockey game.

The person sitting next to Ms. Clark at her son Hamish’s atom-league game Thursday night was none other than Mr. Harper, himself.

The two sat there like any mom and pop at a minor-hockey skirmish, clutching their Tim Horton’s, cheering the tykes on skates and carrying on like the best of friends.

The fact the Prime Minister would take time from his busy schedule to sit with Ms. Clark for all three periods speaks volumes about the growing comfort level between the governing Liberals and Mr. Harper’s party.

His appearance at a local arena, with photos posted on Ms. Clark’s website, capped a remarkable, Tory-friendly few days for someone with a history of supporting the federal Liberal Party in Ottawa.

“This lady’s for turning,” quipped Mr. Ruff.

The reason for Ms. Clark’s rightward manoeuvring is not hard to decipher.

After more than 10 years in power, the B.C. Liberals find themselves sandwiched between the leading NDP and the B.C. Conservatives, who now attract close to 20-per-cent voter support in public-opinion polls.

In B.C, a significant split in the right-wing vote has been a factor in previous NDP victories.

That fact alarms not only Ms. Clark, but many prominent B.C. supporters of the old Reform Party, including ex-Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl.

He was instrumental in persuading his former chief of staff, Laurie Throness, who has strong right-wing credentials, to run for the Liberals in Chilliwack-Hope.

“Either you rally around the Liberals or you’re going to have the NDP,” said Mr. Strahl, adding that the B.C. Conservative Party is riddled with “cranky ... angry” people who have no credible policies to govern the province.

Mr. Strahl said Ms. Clark has made it clear that federal Conservatives like himself are welcome in the B.C. Liberal party. “We’re not looking for perfection. You have to understand what’s at stake here.”

Ms. Clark’s new chief of staff is Ken Boessenkool, a social conservative who was part of Mr. Harper’s election team last year. He has said he took the job to make sure the NDP does not form the next government.

“He’s the real thing [a federal Conservative],” said Mr. Ruff. “It shows that Christy Clark is taking the B.C. Conservatives very seriously.”

Doug McArthur, a public-policy professor at Simon Fraser University, said Ms. Clark is walking a hazardous tightrope, trying to keep the right and more centrist members of her caucus together.

“The right wing appears to be more demanding right now, but there’s a real risk you lose the centre by doing that,” Mr. McArthur said.

Angus Reid pollster Mario Conseco said there’s a purpose Ms. Clark is playing up her connections to Stephen Harper, including hosting him at her son’s hockey game.

It’s a message to those thinking of voting for the B.C. Conservatives, he said.

“She’s saying; ‘Here I am with the Prime Minister. Here I am discussing health care. [B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins] isn’t going to form the next government. I am.’ ”

NDP Leader Adrian Dix, meanwhile, said he doesn’t think that Ms. Clark’s wooing of federal Conservatives will hurt NDP chances to form the next government.

“Bringing in another backroom guy [Mr. Boessenkool] for $200,000 a year might matter to some, but I don’t think it matters at all on the ground.”

Original Article
Source: Globe 

Canada's elected dictatorship?

In the last few months, Canadian journalists with long memories have been decrying what they see as an authoritarian tendency in Canada's government. Armed with the majority mandate it had long coveted, and which it finally obtained in last year's federal election, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been remaking the country's politics, and the national government, in a new image. Traditionalists can't stand it.

Some of it looks like it was lifted from a United States Republican playbook. Despite little evidence of worsening crime, for instance, the government is changing the criminal code to adopt a US-style, tough-on-crime approach. There has also been more use of dirty tricks and negative advertising than Canadians have been accustomed to in the past.

Perhaps most worryingly, there has been a shift towards a presidential type of politics, with the prime minister increasingly concentrating policy and decision making in his own office. Information is tightly controlled, and even Cabinet ministers are given talking points drafted by aides in the PM's office.

I recall a conversation I had years ago with a former Canadian prime minister, Joe Clark. Over breakfast during a visit of his to Montego Bay, Mr Clark had warned that the Conservative Party was then forging close ties to right-wing think tanks in Washington. He detected a foreign agenda in the party's drift. Himself a former Conservative leader, Mr Clark had broken with the re-formed party, and had become a lonely voice of Canadian tradition in the wilderness.

Industry minister touts Copyright Modernization Act as ‘key pillar’ of government’s digital economy strategy

Federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis says the government’s latest effort to modernize Canada’s copyright laws will encourage innovation and allow Canadian companies to compete in the global digital economy, but critics say that Bill C-11’s legal protection for digital locks criminalizes consumer freedom.

The government reintroduced amendments to the Copyright Act last September after its previous attempt at updating Canada’s intellectual property regime died on the order paper when the May 2 federal election was called.

Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, which is still at second reading in the House, seeks to update Canadian copyright laws to protect creators from copyright infringement in the digital economy. Minister Paradis (Mégantic-L’Érable, Que.) emphasized that Canadian copyright law had not kept pace with the “breakneck speed” of technological change over the past decade. Canada’s Copyright Act has not seen significant amendments since 1997.

Canada signed the World Intellectual Property Organization’s internet treaties in 1997, but successive governments have failed to ratify the agreement in the subsequent 15 years. The agreement commits members to provide legal measures for copyright holders to protect their works from infringement that uses internet and digital technologies.

In a recent email interview with The Hill Times, Mr. Paradis said that the legislation would foster innovation and create jobs, while striking a balance between the rights of producers and consumers.

Whatever happened to open government?

Hey kids, remember the days when we thought that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives were going to create more accountable and transparent government? Good times, eh?

The Tories certainly promised, after the sponsorship scandal and all that Liberal chicanery, to do things differently. After all, they are the grassroots party of government by ordinary Joe and Jane Canadian, right? But to make responsive and open government work, Joe and Jane need to know what’s going on. It’s a democracy thing.

We now know, after almost exactly six years with the Conservatives in power, that no such democratic thing ever happened. If anything, vigilant centralized political control over messaging and information has diminished access to government for almost all Canadians.

Provinces, journalists, public interest groups, members of Parliament and ordinary citizens are finding it harder than ever to get clear, timely responses from government about what it’s up to. The federal public service no longer even tries to inform the public that pays its keep.

So anything more sensitive than the weather forecast is treated like a military secret. All messages must be approved by the prime minister’s office, causing lengthy delays between the query and the response. Almost all requests for interviews with cabinet ministers are denied. If interviews do happen, ministerial staff try to impose conditions. Government MPs seem too terrified to talk.

But hey, journalists are all part of some vast left-wing conspiracy, so why should they get any access to information? And those public advocacy groups, they’re all radicals and busybodies. Provinces? Some of them are OK, but the rest are a bunch of whiners. Oh yeah, opposition MPs are mere opportunists.

Feds won’t cut public service union pensions, says PSAC

The largest union representing federal public service workers has received assurance from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty that its members’ pensions won’t be on the chopping block when the government’s belt-tightening budget comes down.

Public Service Alliance of Canada President “John Gordon has said … that he has a private agreement that public service pensions won’t be touched,” said PSAC pensions and disability specialist James Infantino.

Still, that doesn’t mean that public service workers aren’t “highly concerned” about the fate of their pensions, Mr. Infantino said, after Mr. Flaherty (Whitby-Oshawa, Ont.) seemed to put them back on the table last week at a press conference in Vancouver.

“If one’s going to make any sort of intelligent assessment of government spending in Canada, one has to look at the cost of remuneration including benefits and pensions,” Mr. Flaherty told reporters Jan. 10.

Mr. Flaherty said last week for the first time that some departments could be cut by more than 10 per cent as the government looks for ways to cut over the next three years at least $4-billion annually from the $80-billion a year spent on direct programs.

Public service pensions were established in 1924. Right now, the average worker retires at age 58 with a pension of $25,000 a year. Pensions are calculated by the formula of two per cent, multiplied by the number of years of pensionable service and the average of their five highest consecutive earnings years.  Public service unions and the government already agreed to increase the employee share of pension contributions to 40 per cent from 28 per cent six years ago, and making any further changes to the contribution ratio would have to legislated federally.

‘Intense discomfort’ in public service as civil servants wait for knife to come down

News that the government may be cutting more than 10 per cent of some departments’ operating budgets is demoralizing public servants, says John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“Now that things seemed to have risen to a higher level, now people are really, really, getting demoralized. They’re feeling that this government is out to get rid of the public services at any cost. That’s worrisome, and no one is saying anything to alleviate their fears at all,” he said.

On Jan. 10, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Oshawa, Ont.) confirmed that some departments may be instructed to cut more than the five to 10 per cent of their operating budget as originally planned in the 2011 budget under the strategic and operating review.

“This is hard work. And, of course, there can be numbers between five and 10 per cent and some departments can do more than 10 per cent,” Mr. Flaherty told reporters last week in Vancouver.

Rumours that some departments have been asked to look for up to 15 per cent cuts had already been circulating through civil servants’ circles in Ottawa.

Critics accuse Tories of dragging feet on Senate reforms, PM’s appointed 46 Senators so far

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent appointment of seven new Senators shows he’s not committed to Senate reform, even though several bills have been introduced in the last three Parliaments to modernize the Upper Chamber, say opposition critics. As well, the fact that the latest reform bill, C-7, to implement nine-year terms on Senators and to allow provinces to elect their Upper Chamber representatives, has been languishing in the House of Commons since June indicates the Conservative government, which ran in the last three elections on a Senate reform platform, has no intention of passing it, say critics.

“My sense is if they can find a way it doesn’t become law, they would do that. I think they’ll drag it out as long as they can…for two reasons: one, deep down in their hearts they know it’s a disaster for our Parliamentary system and, secondly, it will create a secondary power base in which the Prime Minister would have to start negotiating with potentially elected people with mandates, and the last thing he wants to do is negotiate with anybody,” said NDP MP David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, Ont.), his party’s democratic reform critic.

While Mr. Christopherson said the Conservatives don’t want the bill to become law, Alberta Conservative Senator Bert Brown defended the government and blamed the opposition parties for delaying it in the House.

Sen. Brown, Alberta’s second elected Senator, who was appointed by Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) to the Red Chamber in 2007, said he’s been watching the debates on the bill in the House.

“The NDP and Liberals are putting up every MP they’ve got to delay the bill, each MP is entitled to a 20-minute speech and 10 minutes for a Q and A, so the speed is a result of that,” said Sen. Brown.

The bill, which the government introduced on June 21, has been called for debate six times in the House of Commons between September and December. In total, the bill has been debated for approximately 15-and-a-half hours by 46 MPs. Of those MPs, six were Conservatives, including the Minister of State for Democratic Reform Tim Uppal (Edmonton-Sherwood Park, Alta.), five were Liberals, and 35 were NDP.

Harper's abandonment of federal responsibility in health care

OTTAWA -- There is a deficit of political leadership in health care, especially at the federal level. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated in a year-end interview recently that he had no idea how to secure the future of health care in Canada. Instead, he said it is up to the provinces to find "solutions."

Harper's recent unilateral, non-negotiable decision on the future of federal health financing stunned provinces. It seems the federal government intends to limit its role to signing blank cheques with no strings attached and no accountability. If rumours on the Hill are true, once the current arrangement expires Harper may replace cash transfers entirely with tax credits.

The Harper government has set in motion a strategy that will lead to the unravelling of Canada's national health system. All Harper has to do is nothing. By abdicating the essential federal responsibilities in health care, the system will fragment on its own into 14 separate pieces.

In order to understand the implications of abandoning federal responsibilities in health care, it is important to identify what they are, especially since the Harper government never misses an opportunity to say that health care is a provincial/territorial responsibility.

The federal role in health care is very clear and well described on Health Canada's website.

The federal government is a funder, and transfers more than $40 billion a year to provinces and territories for health care. In addition to health-care cash transfers, the four most important federal duties in health care are: 1. guardian of the national standards in the Canada Health Act; 2. regulator of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and food; 3. health-service provider to First Nations and Inuit communities; and 4. catalyst for innovation and best practices.

Stephen Harper and the Big Oil Party of Canada

Where will you be and what will you be doing when the first giant oil tanker, (there will be two every three days) carrying over 200,000 gallons of tar sands goop diluted with solvent, spills its load into the pristine waters of the northern B.C. coast? We often remember catastrophic events by recalling exactly what we were doing and where we were when we first heard the news, I guess because they were so unthinkable they brought us to a halt, emotionally and psychologically -- time stopped. I was driving down a street in Waterloo, Ontario when I heard the news of the Montreal Massacre and I can still vividly recall my stomach turning as disbelief turned to revulsion. I will never forget that moment -- and you will never forget the oil spill moment, if we let it happen.

When the global oil companies run your country -- when they own your government -- economic and environmental catastrophe are literally guaranteed. In Canada, the oil companies and the Harper government know with a sinister certainty that an oil spill catastrophe is coming. The precautionary principle, rooted in the notion of the common good and established on a foundation of science, has no place in the calculations of global capital. It is replaced by risk assessment, cost/benefit analysis. But the assessment isn't aimed at ensuring something bad won't happen as it seems to imply. It is based on a cost/benefit analysis. How much will the oil spill cost? That it will happen is actually part of the calculation. Remember the Ford Pinto?

Stephen Harper muses about the evil being practised by environmental and "other radical groups" as they engage in the democratic process provided to them (the hearings on the Enbridge pipeline) by his government. It's as if by doing exactly what they are called upon to do, they are endangering the nation. This follows Harper's repeated talk about the pipeline being necessary for the good of the country and the economy -- and his declaration that anyone who criticizes the tar sands or the pipeline is sabotaging the economy. He calls then "ideological." But ideology is meaning in the service of power -- and all of it to date is coming from Harper and Big Oil.

The Next 70

We have a blueprint for a real majority, one based on grassroots engagement and strong leadership.

Seventy is a number that New Democrats are going to get to know very well in the coming years.

It will guide us in our work. It will encourage us to do better and drive us to work harder.

Seventy will mean stopping the Conservatives. Seventy will mean fulfilling the dream of generations of New Democrats. Seventy will mean a fairer, more just, and more sustainable Canada.

Seventy will mean a real majority.

This is the number of seats we need to form government in the next election. And make no mistake, while these will be the hardest to win, we have a responsibility to win them.

Every day that the Harper Conservatives sit in power is one day too many for the real majority of Canadians who did not vote for them. This is a real majority that works hard, pays its taxes, and sends its kids to school. It is made up of everyday Canadians who want health care to be there for them when they need it. They want education and job opportunities for young people. And they want to know our seniors are being looked after.

But the real majority isn’t benefiting from Stephen Harper’s majority government.

These Canadians watch, day after day, as Harper uses his majority to reward his friends and cut taxes to banks and other highly profitable corporations – while doing nothing for the population.

Man left naked in cell before G20 the ‘author of his own misfortune’: police

Sean Salvati — the paralegal who was arrested prior to the G20 summit and allegedly strip searched, assaulted and held naked in a jail cell for nearly an hour — was “the author of his own misfortune,” according to a statement of defence by Toronto police.

The statement was issued in response to a lawsuit by Salvati, who accuses Toronto police of falsely imprisoning him and violating his Charter rights in June 2010 when they arrested him for public intoxication, a charge he contends was bogus.

Salvati, 33, claims he was also subjected to “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment” while in police custody. But according to Toronto police, Salvati’s arrest and treatment was justified because he was “inebriated” and acted “abusive, obstructive and aggressive in his interactions with officers.”

“He was very belligerent and was kicking, spitting, yelling and screaming at (two constables),” reads the statement of defence, filed in October. “The plaintiff also attempted to bite at the officers.”

The statement alleges it was necessary for police to forcibly strip search Salvati because he was uncooperative, aggressive and could potentially “come into contact with other prisoners” while in custody.

Ontario taxpayers paid part of ORNGE spending spree

Ontario taxpayers did fund much of ORNGE air ambulance’s wild spending spree, the Star has learned.

For close to a year, ORNGE officials have maintained that all of their big expenses — buying helicopters, airplanes, a new office building — were paid by private dollars raised on the open markets.

The Star has confirmed that even though money was raised from private investors, the interest and principal payments to those investors comes out of the $150 million Ontario taxpayers give ORNGE each year. Private investors contributed $275 million to ORNGE in 2008, with a return of 5.7 per cent interest per year. The public is paying them back.

The confirmation first came from documents obtained by the Star and then in an interview with ORNGE chief operating officer Tom Lepine and new ORNGE president Ron McKerlie.

“Yes, the money comes from performance agreement dollars,” Lepine said. The performance agreement is between the Ontario ministry of health and the non-profit ORNGE and provides $150 million a year in public funds in return for the air ambulance service.

Stephen Harper wants public input before 2012 budget

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning that Canadians face “tough choices” and to brace for the challenging economic year ahead.

“There are tough, important choices that must be made to create jobs, keep our economy growing and keep Canada as the greatest country in the world,” Harper says in a letter to Conservatives MPs and senators.

“We must make those choices — choices that will lead to greater prosperity — but we must make them together with the Canadian people,” he said in the letter that was released Sunday.

Harper said he will be dispatching cabinet ministers across the country to hear the views of Canadians as the government enters the final stages of preparing its belt-tightening budget, called the “Economic Action Plan 2012.”

That budget, likely in February or March, will lay out the government’s strategy to trim at least $4 billion a year in spending as the Conservatives seek to rein in the deficit. Those spending reductions are expected to mean cuts in government staffing and programs.

So far, the government belt-tightening plans have been sketched out behind closed doors, overseen by a special cabinet committee led by Treasury Board President Tony Clement. It’s been evaluating proposals from federal departments outlining the impact of 5 and 10 per cent cuts to their budgets.

But now Harper says he wants the views of “entrepreneurs, workers, small businesses and ordinary hard-working Canadians” before finalizing the budget.

In addition to tackling spending, Harper said the upcoming budget will focus on five other priorities: expanding trade and opening new markets; investing in research and development; boosting skills training; cutting red tape; and keeping taxes low.

In the letter’s introduction, Harper reflects on 2011, the year that brought him his long-sought majority and the economic challenges facing the country for the next 12 months.

“2011 was quite a year. Canadians entrusted us with a strong, stable, national, majority Conservative Government and we have delivered,” the Prime Minister writes.

He says that the economy will continue to be the government’s focus for 2012.

“With the ongoing economic instability in Europe and the continued slow economic growth in the United States, it is clear the global economy is still very fragile,” he said in his letter.

“Too many Canadians are still rightly concerned about their jobs, their savings and their family budgets,” he said.

Original Article
Source: Star 

Mitt Romney's Rationale On For-Profit Colleges At Odds With Reality

Along the campaign trail during the past month, Mitt Romney has been offering up his answer to the soaring costs of higher education and student debt: competition from for-profit colleges.

Among other benefits, Romney said, "they hold down the cost of their education" by virtue of being in competition with other universities, according to a New York Times article on Sunday.

Yet Romney's free-market views on higher education collide with reality. Although tuition is rising across higher education -- particularly at public universities, which have been strangled by state budget cuts -- students are not flocking to for-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix or ITT Technical Institute because the price point is lower.

Indeed, the average tuition at for-profit colleges is nearly twice that of public four-year universities, and nearly five times as much as public community colleges, according to Department of Education data analyzed by the College Board.

But many community college systems are struggling in the face of surging enrollment combined with diminished financial support from cash-strapped states. A recent investigation by The Huffington Post found that many students who attend for-profit colleges are there only because of their frustration after being shut out of oversubscribed classes at much cheaper local community college programs. The public programs typically leave students with much smaller debt loads and a greater likelihood of being employed after college, according to a recent study by Harvard researchers.

Spirit Lake Plane Crash On First Nations Reserve Highlights Lack Of Emergency Services

TORONTO - A fatal plane crash in a northern Ontario First Nations community has raised concerns about the availability of essential emergency services on remote reserves after residents who rushed to the scene tried to douse the flaming wreckage with snow.

Tuesday's crash in North Spirit Lake, Ont., killed four people and injured one other, despite efforts by residents to put the fire out with snow or gouge a hole in the lake to try to pump water on the burning airplane.

"In the case of this accident, that just explains and describes what is a pretty atrocious emergency response system in those communities, where you're having to put a fire out when a plane crashes with snow balls," said Ontario New Democrat Gilles Bisson, who represents the area of James Bay.

"In places like Timmins or Sudbury or Toronto, we have emergency response equipment in our airports in order to be able to respond emergencies such as these, and we have people who are properly trained. None of that exists inside those communities."

Sgt. Jacquie George of the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service said the force had an officer at the crash, but in these cases, it's always the community that is first on the scene. Like many small reserves,

Northern Gateway Pipeline: Elmer Derrick Lone B.C. Chief To Back Enbridge Deal Amid Overwhelming Opposition

TERRACE, B.C. - His office door is nailed shut. A 24-hour volunteer watch by area residents has been on guard for his return since Dec. 5.

Posters showing his face and questioning his authority are up across northwest B.C.

It's little wonder that Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Elmer Derrick prefers the darkness of his front door to talk.

"I've been very ill," he said, refusing requests to illuminate the doorway.

Derrick has adopted a low profile — some say he's been in hiding — since reports surfaced about the $7-million deal he signed with Enbridge Inc., (TSX:ENB) builders of the proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline, on behalf of the Gitxsan people.

"I know we still have a deal with Enbridge," he said in a rare interview since his support was announced. "The chiefs have not told me otherwise."

Derrick shrugs off observations that, so far, he's the only aboriginal in British Columbia to publicly voice his support for the Northern Gateway project and sign a deal in exchange for an equity stake.

Canada's Arctic: Government Urged To Prepare Now To Lead Agenda At Council Meeting Next Year

Canada gets its chance to lead the Arctic world next year — and analysts say the country needs to start laying the groundwork for it now.

"Canada can play a leadership role in a way that not only advances the public interest in Canada but also Canada's standing in the world," said former Yukon premier Tony Penikett.

He is leading a major conference in Toronto this week on what the country should aim for when it begins its two-year term as head of the Arctic Council in April 2013.

The Arctic Council brings together northern aboriginals and the eight nations that ring the North Pole. Once largely confined to research and advice, the council is increasingly important and passed its first binding treaty last year on Arctic search and rescue. Further agreements, including one on developing energy resources, are under discussion.

"The Arctic Council is at a defining moment," said Sarah French, co-ordinator of the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program, which is sponsoring the conference.

"We've had some good successes, but where are we going next?

"It's an extremely interesting time and that's why it's so vital that Canada seizes the opportunity to really use its chairmanship to show that Canada is a strong Arctic player."

Health Transfers: Canada Split In Two By Funding Edict As Premiers Meet In Victoria

VICTORIA - A tour of a new, ultra-modern patient-care centre in Victoria — with its smart beds, fresh air ducts and healing gardens — had Canada's premiers praising patient-care innovations Sunday, while resolving to push Ottawa on health-care funding, especially when it comes to the elderly.

Premiers arrived in Victoria for several days of meetings that will see them hash over a response to Ottawa's edict on health-care funding, which has left many premiers east of Manitoba seething, and the western ones celebrating the prospect of the federal government finally getting out of the way.
The premiers and territorial leaders head into meetings that were originally intended to discuss new ways of doing things in the health-care sector.

But the gathering threatens to become hijacked by the kind of infighting that was common before the last 10-year accord was signed in 2004 and many premiers are looking for adjustments to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's formula that would better benefit their provinces.

There was little sign of the infighting Sunday as the premier's toured the new Victoria health facility. Due to travel delays and other scheduling conflicts, the first gathering played with a short bench.
The premiers of Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and Nunavut were no-shows.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who has been positive about the federal government's move last month to tie health-care transfers to expansion of the economy after 2017, said Flaherty's decision to deliver the money on a per-capita basis will unfairly penalize B.C. with its aging population.

Right down to the letter

Last week Joe Oliver, Canada’s natural resources minister, fired off a public letter ripping U.S.-funded lobbyists who are trying to derail Canada’s Northern Gateway pipeline that would go from the oilsands to the B.C. coast.

Oliver wrote: “These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”

Those are tough words: Hijack, radical, kill, undermine.

What do the people who were criticized by Oliver’s letter have to say in return?

Oliver said three main things about them: They’re bankrolled by foreigners; they’re radical; and they’re trying to rig the rules of the review panel.

Did the antis dispute the truth of his three essential claims?

(Antis are a good name for them. They’re anti-industry, anti-oil, anti-pipeline and anti-jobs. But selectively. They’ve never had an anti-tanker campaign opposing OPEC tankers bringing Saudi oil to eastern Canada. They’ve never had a protest against the pipeline that brings OPEC oil from a port in Maine up to Montreal. OPEC tankers even sail right up the St. Lawrence. The antis have never complained about that).

Time for small-c conservatism

The early months of 2012 will define the legacy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, its success dependent upon whether he resurrects the small-c conservative ideals he was somewhat forced to abandon during his minority government years.

Once upon a time, Harper was the young policy wonk who assisted in the rise of Preston Manning’s Reform Party and ultimate demise of the Progressive Conservative Party under the hiccup reign of Kim Campbell as Canada’s only female prime minister.

Harper must reseed and nurture those grassroots principles because, as it stands today, the small-c conservative refrain for small government that gave the Reform movement its historic foothold has been drowned out by a federal civil service that has become morbidly obese under Harper’s stay at 24 Sussex.

Its obesity, without question, is partially the result of years having to appease the federal Liberals and NDP to avoid a coalition overthrow, but those days are now history.

Harper has a clear majority now.

The Liberal Party of Canada is on life support, and the NDP of Jack Layton now has no Jack Layton.

There is no real opposition, and the budget expected in March will be the tale of the tape when it comes to displaying the conservative values of the Conservative Party of Canada.

To put it bluntly, if Harper were the CEO of a private company, shareholders would be demanding his firing since no private company saddled with debt and huge interest payments would have spent the last five years increasing its workforce by 45%.

But this is what Harper allowed to happen in the federal civil service.

During his tenure, and despite a recession, the entire federal workforce has increased by 33,000 bodies, bringing the number of people paid by the taxpayer to 280,000, National Defence personnel excluded.

The March budget must therefore contain a huge knife, otherwise the Harper government might as well raise the Liberal and NDP banner, and bury any small-c conservative values it pretended to embrace.

The fact the Harper government has done nothing to stop the money drain of the CBC, which needs $1.1 billion a year from the taxpayer to stay afloat, is not a good omen for those who want to see the government downsized in the upcoming budget.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s sabre rattling gave warning last year that all government departments had best find savings of at least 5%, and preferably 10%, or risk having his people do less genteel cuts.

Parliamentary budget chief Kevin Page has publicly stated that 10,000 job reductions can be accomplished by attrition, which is a bit of a reach considering attrition did nothing in the last five years to avoid today’s swollen federal civil service.

“If you look at the federal government’s wage bill, the wage bill grew by 45% over five years,” Page said in one interview. “It’s almost unprecedented.

“We’re talking about a major put-the-foot-to-the-gas-pedal approach,  and now it’s let’s try to put the brakes on.”

If it is indeed time to put on the brakes, and it is, then job slashing is the only way out, and the only guarantee that $4 billion in federal civil service wages can actually be eliminated.

This is what private companies do to survive because, if they don’t, they go bankrupt. Government is no different.

Even if the jobs cuts are done coldly and clinically, it will nonetheless still leave the Harper government with a long row to hoe if it expects to eliminate the annual

$31 billion deficit by 2016, and secure Stephen Harper’s legacy as a fiscal conservative.

Anything less and he will have failed.

According to information garnered by Kevin Page, the government has earmarked the slashing of 4,613 federal positions over the next three years, this on top of the supposedly 10,000 jobs that will come through unfilled retirement vacancies.

But this, if accomplished, represents only 50% of the jobs which bloated the federal civil service since Harper came to power.

And this hardly represents the true definition of small government, or small-c conservatism.

But call it a start.

Original Article
Source: TO Sun  

The G8 legacy: Just the smoothest home-reno project ever?

As a homeowner, it strikes me as odd that all 32 of the G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund projects built in Tony Clement's riding came in, according to him, either on or under budget.

In home-renovation terms, that would be extraordinary project management, the kind that would certainly explain why Mr. Clement is now the President of the Treasury Board, overseeing all of Canada's spending.

There were, apparently, no hidden sinkholes stumbled upon when the new sidewalks went in and no discovery that one of the parts for the antique riverboat restoration couldn't be picked up at the local marine shop but instead had to be custom-ordered from Spain. No labour shortages raised hiring costs, I guess, although one might expect that to occur when nearly $50-million worth of construction happens quickly.

Unless I consciously over-budgeted for every home repair, that would never happen to me. And I'm pretty good at handling home repairs. I do some of them myself, and I work well with repair people.

This is mostly because I know which way my joists run: Whenever I have anyone around to mend something, they always listen while I explain the issue, then squint quizzically off into the middle distance as though considering the problem, then say, “Which way do your floor joists run?”

U.S. social conservative leaders back Santorum for president

A week before the pivotal South Carolina primary, Rick Santorum’s quest to emerge as the chief alternative to Mitt Romney received a boost Saturday from a group of evangelical leaders and social conservatives who voted to back his candidacy in a last-ditch effort to stop the GOP front-runner’s march to the nomination.

About three-quarters of some 150 pastors and Christian conservative political organizers meeting in Texas sided with Mr. Santorum over a home-state favourite, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich – an outcome that illustrated continuing divisions within the ranks of conservatives who make up the base of the GOP.

The gathering also reflected the lingering dissatisfaction with Mr. Romney over abortion rights and other issues, and the belief of conservatives that they need to unite behind one contender before the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary if they are to derail the former Massachusetts governor they view as too moderate. Mr. Romney leads narrowly in polls here after victories in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Parks Canada hires firm to boost brand awareness

With fewer people visiting the country's national parks and historic sites, Parks Canada has hired a consultant to help boost its flagging brand.

The move comes as the federal agency looks for ways to make money without raising user fees as it grapples with a steady drop-off in attendance.

A statement of work shows Toronto marketing firm Veritas is getting paid $395,000 over two years to advise Parks Canada on how it can better promote itself and its attractions.

“The specific objective is to increase awareness of Parks Canada and to create general interest in visiting Parks Canada and specifically national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas,” the document says.

The agency wants a 10-per-cent increase in the number of visits to its parks and historic sites by 2015. To do that, Parks Canada plans to target urban and new Canadians in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

“The degree of knowledge is very low in these three cities, particularly among young Canadians and immigrants,” says the statement of work.

Liberals nix proposal to cut ties to monarchy, but support legalization of marijuana

OTTAWA—God save the Queen and pass the joint.

Federal Liberals have shot down a proposal calling for Canadians to consider cutting this country’s ties to the monarchy. But they’ve thrown overwhelming support behind another calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

The proposals were among of a handful of controversial resolutions at the Liberals’ renewal convention this weekend.

They were put forward by the party’s youth wing, which argued that the Liberal party, reduced to rubble in last May’s election, needs to advance bold ideas if it is to revive.

“I think that there’s a certain amount of generational change happening in the party,” said Samuel Lavoie, president of the Liberal youth wing, on Sunday.

“We’re willing to push the envelope and we have the numbers and we have the will power to flex our muscles when it’s needed.”

The marijuana resolution is not binding on the leader or the party. And delegates rejected a proposal to remove the leader’s veto over the contents of future election platforms, so there’s no guarantee the party will ever actually campaign on the idea of legalizing pot.

Still, with an overwhelming 75 per cent of delegates voting for it, Lavoie predicted: “I think it is really difficult for anyone to just ignore the result and the will of the membership.”

The marijuana vote followed a move late Saturday to throw open the doors of the party. After a heated debate, delegates approved a proposal to create a new class of Liberal “supporters” who will be eligible to vote for party leaders in future, along with card-carrying, fee-paying members.

Delegates balked, however, at adopting a U.S.-style primary system to elect future leaders. They rejected a proposal to introduce a system of staggered regional leadership votes.

They did support reforming the country’s electoral system, voting to adopt preferential balloting in federal elections, rather than the current first-past-the-post system. Preferential ballots would ensure that only candidates who receive more than 50 per cent of the vote in their ridings would be elected to the House of Commons.

Original Article
Source: Star 

Liberals elect Mike Crawley as new party president

OTTAWA—The federal Liberals have elected Mike Crawley as the party’s new president, rejecting Sheila Copps.

Earlier, members rejected a proposal calling for Canadians to consider cutting this country’s ties to the monarchy

But they’ve thrown overwhelming support behind another calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

The proposals were among of a handful of controversial resolutions at the Liberals’ renewal convention.

They were put forward by the party’s youth wing, which argued that the Liberal party, reduced to rubble in last May’s election, needs to advance bold ideas if it is to revive.

Delegates have also thrown their support behind adopting preferential balloting in federal elections, rather than the current first-past-the-post system.

Preferential ballots would ensure that only candidates who receive more than 50 per cent of the vote in their ridings would be elected to the House of Commons.

Original Article
Source: Star