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, January 19, 2012

How an Ex-Wall Street Power Player Embraced the Occupy Movement

As president of the Pacific Exchange in the late-1990s, Warren Langley oversaw the West Coast's biggest financial center, a trading floor where some 17 million shares of stock changed hands daily. Though he served at the pleasure of traders and investment banks such as Morgan Stanley, he is no longer interested in pleasing them. Yesterday, he stood on a hillside in San Francisco's Financial District in front Morgan Stanley's and Goldman Sachs' regional headquarters to declare his support for Occupy Wall Street West, a coalition of 50 groups planning a slew of anti-bank protests Friday.

"From the inside, I watched Goldman Sachs, the big banks, the hedge funds, bet our money and then get bailed out when they lost," said Langley, surrounded by protesters holding images of a devious-looking Mr. Moneybags (Monopoly) character. "I saw corporations and the 1 percent buy our congressmen and senators and then pay no taxes, get subsidies, and move jobs overseas. This is our last chance to level the playing field and let you and our kids and grandkids have the opportunities that I started with."

Langley, 69, began working in finance in the 1980s, rising to become CEO of Hull Trading Company, a $500-million proprietary trading firm active in stock options and derivatives. The job often involved pressuring the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to loosen financial regulations. "I was just trying to push the boundaries of things that would help me make profits," he confesses. 'I didn't perceive the risk to the economy, and I think that is the part that really changed for me."

Anonymous Responds To Megaupload Takedown; Claims Credit For DOJ, RIAA, MPAA, Universal Music Outages

The hacktivist group Anonymous launched its "largest attack ever" Thursday, claiming credit for a coordinated takedown of websites managed by the Department of Justice and organizations supporting controversial antipiracy legislation.

The attack, dubbed “Operation Payback,” came in response to Thursday's news that the Justice Department had shut down massive file-sharing site Megaupload. The attack also temporarily brought down the websites of the Recording Industry of America, the Motion Picture Association of America and Universal Music, among others, in retaliation for their support of antipiracy legislation in Congress, known as SOPA and PIPA.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department said the web server hosting “is currently experiencing a significant increase in activity, resulting in a degradation in service."

“The Department is working to ensure the website is available while we investigate the origins of this activity, which is being treated as a malicious act until we can fully identify the root cause of the disruption,” the spokeswoman said.

Anonymous also took credit Thursday night for taking offline the website of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,

The takedown of Megaupload, and the arrests of its CEO and several execs, sent shockwaves through the online community Thursday. An indictment accused the company, which is one of the world's most popular file-sharing sites, of costing copyright holders at least $500 million in lost revenue.

Northern Ireland Bombs Hit City Of Londonderry

DUBLIN — Two bombs planted by Irish Republican Army dissidents detonated Thursday night in the Northern Ireland city of Londonderry, but no injuries were reported as police quickly evacuated the area following phoned warnings.

Martina Anderson, a former Irish Republican Army member who represents Londonderry for the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, said one bomb left outside the city's main tourist office exploded as about 75 elderly residents of a nursing home were still being evacuated about 25 yards (meters) away.

She said IRA dissidents "need to come forward and explain how they believe this achieved anything, other than the disruption of vulnerable old people's lives."

Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin, the police commander in Northern Ireland's second-largest city, said much of central Londonderry would be sealed off Friday so that police could comb the bomb sites for forensic clues.

Police evacuated the city's major shopping center as bombs placed in nearby streets detonated within 10 minutes of each other. At least one bomb appeared to have been concealed in an abandoned gym bag.

Tasers most likely to be used on 'downtrodden,' study asserts

The use of Tasers by Canada's police forces represents a "teething new urban terrorism" that targets society's "downtrodden," says a study published this month that looked at more than two dozen deaths involving the stun guns.

Those most likely to get "tased" include the poor, mentally ill and chronic drug users, according to the study, led by Temitope Oriola, who received a Governor General's Gold Medal for academic excellence upon the completion of his doctoral studies at the University of Alberta last year.

"It is beneath the integrity of the RCMP — a well-respected organization by international standards — and other police establishments in Canada to continue to use the Taser without conclusive independent scientific evidence succinctly demonstrating its effects or consequences on the human body," the study, published in the journal Social Identities, concludes.

Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser International in Arizona, said in a statement that the study reads more like a social commentary and falsely implies that Tasers caused all the deaths examined.

"The report is woefully out of touch regarding the realities facing Canadian law and enforcement," he said.

Tories ponder cuts to MP pensions after watchdog details lucrative trough

Treasury Board President Tony Clement is eyeing lucrative MP pensions as way of finding savings in his review of government spending – a move that could find support in the majority Conservative caucus.

A senior Tory MP, who asked not to be named, told The Globe the caucus will “support some reforms,” adding this will be a “caucus decision not an edict from PMO or Finance.”

Making the rounds of political talk shows Wednesday, Mr. Clement picked his words carefully about how he will handle the contentious issue. He said he has been “tasked with putting some options forward” on pension reform.

“I think you’ve got to be fair to the employee [the MP] but you also have to be fair to the taxpayer,” he told CTV’s Don Martin. “We are very cognizant of that.”

He added that no decisions have been made and that already the government is leading by example as MP and cabinet-minister salaries have been frozen this year. MPs earn $157,000 a year; cabinet ministers make $233,247 and the Prime Minister earns $315,000.

Tim Harper: Pipeline politics in Canada and U.S. a peril for Stephen Harper

OTTAWA—Pipeline politics appears to be settling in at the top of the North American agenda for the next two years, perhaps more.

There could be a day when both the Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway pipelines are built, but not before some political careers are badly bruised, if not killed.

In the U.S., the Keystone debate will revolve around jobs, but an emboldened environmental movement is ready for the next twist over the proposed TransCanada pipeline route in Nebraska.

In Canada, the Enbridge debate will pit a very determined Conservative majority government against an equally energized environmental movement.

But the Canadian debate holds another key player, First Nations communities, which ultimately may seal the pipeline’s fate.

On both sides of the border, there is peril for Stephen Harper.

Feds deliberately withheld info on recycling costs, Ambrose told

OTTAWA — The Public Works and Government Services Department deliberately withheld information from taxpayers that cast doubt on its explanation about replacing quality workstations at an Environment Canada building with brand new furniture, officials told their minister, Rona Ambrose, in a newly released memorandum.

The department publicly claimed last summer that a controversial decision to replace workstations in the Gatineau, Que., building, under renovations, would be 20 per cent cheaper than recycling its existing assets. But it privately told Ambrose its strategy was "evolving" and that it had received an unsolicited bid from an Ottawa office supplies company for recycled furniture that would be $1,000 per workstation cheaper than its existing contract to buy new furniture, excluding some other direct and indirect costs.

"This information did not form part of the response to media questions as this quotation did not have any impact on the decision taken earlier in February 2011," Ambrose was told in a briefing note prepared by her department released through access to information legislation.

Ambrose said earlier this week that a minister should not be getting involved in the department's decisions about public contracts. The department follows strict guidelines in its competition process for contracts.

Don't touch same-sex marriage laws, prof warns

OTTAWA – The Conservatives are being warned to back off their plan to fix Canada’s same-sex marriage law or risk making it more discriminatory.

The admonition comes from Kathleen Lahey, a law professor at Queen’s University who was legal counsel in the same-sex marriage litigation that led to the existing Civil Marriage Act.

It follows a promise Justice Minister Rob Nicholson made to change the law after being lambasted when reports surfaced claiming the Conservatives were changing their position on gay marriage.

But the Act doesn’t need to be amended, re-written or clarified, Lahey says.

Canada’s position on gay marriage was in spotlight last week after it was revealed that a federal lawyer argued that same-sex marriages performed in Canada are only considered valid in Canada if the unions are recognized in the couple’s home country.

The lawyer, Sean Gaudet, was presenting this argument in a case before the Ontario Superior Court, involving a foreign lesbian couple that wed in Toronto in 2005 and now want a divorce.

One of the women lives in Florida, the other in the United Kingdom. Neither jurisdiction recognizes same-sex marriage.

Tories eager to outsource more ad work

Ottawa wants to outsource more of its communications work, raising questions of oversight as public servants play a shrinking role in the growing federal budget for self-promotion.

Public Works documents show Ottawa is looking to hire private contractors for a bigger share of its communications work, including the use of public-relations firms in the creation and promotion of government programs.

After six years in power, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have transformed the look – and sometimes even the name – of the Government of Canada through an aggressive focus on branding.

Government ads and websites feature heavy splashes of blue – the colour of the Conservative Party – and press releases promote the accomplishments of the “Harper government.” At times, these changes have riled the bureaucracy.

Millions were spent to promote the government’s stimulus plan under a branding scheme that will continue this year as “Economic Action Plan 2012” – even though stimulus spending is over.

Now, amid a push for smaller government, public servants will play a smaller part in this communications machine.

Don’t sell hundreds of TCHC homes, three ex-mayors urge city hall

In a rare move, three former Toronto mayors have co-written a letter urging Mayor Rob Ford and city council not to sell off nearly 700 Toronto Community Housing homes, most of which are single-family dwellings.

John Sewell, Art Eggleton and David Crombie say they’re concerned about the sale of the so-called “scattered houses’’ and the implications for the families currently residing in them.

The 675 homes — with a combined market value of at least $222 million — are spread across the city, many in well-established neighbourhoods. TCHC wants to use money from the sales toward covering a $650 million repair backlog for its rundown buildings.

The plan is to have residents in the houses typically moved into multi-unit public housing buildings. TCHC voted in favour of the sale during a raucous public meeting in October, where scores of residents currently living in the single family homes — and their supporters — decried the proposal. A report on the plan is set to come before Tuesday’s executive committee meeting.

The sell-off is a “strategy that should not be pursued,’’ the ex-mayors write.

“The scattered units, which promote (a) healthy income mix, are being sold off to repair the very structures which segregate low-income families,’’ says the letter, which is also addressed to Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s minister of municipal affairs and housing.

Scalia and Thomas: Who Cares If Your Lawyer Abandons You on Death Row?

After Cory Maples was convicted of two murders in Alabama in 1997 and sentenced to death, he appealed his conviction claiming that he'd received shoddy legal representation, what's technically known as ineffective assistance of counsel. Two attorneys from Sullivan & Cromwell, a prestigious law firm in New York, agreed to represent him.

Alabama doesn't provide inmates with post-conviction legal assistance. By securing free representation from two attorneys from a hotshot New York law firm, Maples must have thought he had a decent chance in court. A dream come true, right?

Didn't turn out that way. The two attorneys, Jaasai Munanka and Clara Ingen-Housz, left the firm in 2002, in the middle of Maples' appeal process. They didn't tell Maples that they were leaving, or that they weren't going to be involved in his case anymore. They didn't even tell the court in Alabama. So when the court denied Maples' appeal in 2003, he had no idea. Maples' Alabama-based attorney (the state requires a state-licensed attorney to be on the appeal team) did receive the court's notification that Maples' appeal had been rejected, but he did nothing about it. (He'd previously told Maple's New York-based lawyers that he'd be involved in the case only as much as the law required him to be.) By the time other attorneys at Sullivan & Cromwell decided to pick up the case, the 42-day deadline for appealing the court's rejection had already passed. Maples had essentially been left high and dry by his lawyers, two of whom had bailed without bothering to inform the court, and one of whom had effectively washed his hands of the case from the beginning. As far as Maples knew, he had lawyers. He didn't.

The network Conservative attempts to increase its stranglehold on the city administration

The imminent appointment of a general manager for the City of Montreal is the center of tightness which the Harper Conservatives are not strangers. Among the candidates approached, the name of the former director of communications for Prime Minister, Dimitri Soudas , was circulated at the Hotel de Ville. This prospect raises fears that the conservative network already installed mayor's office takes control of the administrative machine, learned Le Devoir.

The nomination of Mr. Soudas was considered in view of the need there is a great complicity and confidence between the mayor Gérald Tremblay, the executive committee chairman, Michael Applebaum, and the general manager, said a person familiar with the case who requested anonymity.

Hostility had developed between Louis Roquet, who stepped down as CEO just before Christmas, and M. Applebaum. It has blocked a few weeks earlier the recommendation of Mr. Roquet to hire a new general counsel. In front of the interference when he was hired to reform the administrative processes including who was said too tainted by politics, Louis Roquet turned on his heel.

In this context, the name of Dimitri Soudas arose in the City Hall since he worked at the accession of Gerald Tremblay for mayor of Montreal in 2001 by passing such a breakthrough with ethnic communities. The following year he became Assistant for Quebec in the team of Stephen Harper, then the Canadian Alliance, which later became the Conservative Party of Canada. Until last summer, he was communications director for Mr. Harper. Since October, he led the communications of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).

Joint late yesterday afternoon, Dimitri Soudas said he did not intend to return to Montreal, because he likes his new role in the COC. "The 2012 Games in London are a golden opportunity to showcase Canadian athletes and their dreams," he said by email. On the phone, he declined to say if he had been contacted, merely to emphasize that he had no control over who could make his promotion.

Richard Cordray, CFPB Chief, Promises New Scrutiny Of Banks That Make Payday Loans

Picking his first public fight with the banking industry, Washington's top consumer cop, Richard Cordray, promised on Thursday that his examiners will scrutinize a handful of big banks that make high-cost loans. Inspection of major financial institutions will be part of a broader review of payday lenders, he said at a public hearing organized by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Birmingham, Ala.

The move is significant in that Cordray made no distinction between established financial institutions, including Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, and less-respectable storefront and online payday lenders with names like EZ Money and AmeriCash Advance, widely criticized for making high-cost, short-term loans to the most desperate borrowers.

Although he was careful not to strike a directly confrontational tone, by specifically mentioning banks' high-cost loans in his first major speech as the new CFPB chief, Cordray suggested that his agency doesn't buy the bank industry line that its loans are not traditional payday products because they are structured differently.

Cordray did not single out any bank. But the listing of specific names of such payday lending programs in an examination guide released at the hearing -- such as Fifth Third Bank's "early access advance" -- is likely to chill the blood of bank executives, whose companies make big profits off payday loans.

"We recognize the need for emergency credit," Cordray said in a transcript of his opening remarks, provided in advance. "At the same time, it is important that these products actually help consumers, rather than harm them."

Democrats To Launch Online Petition For Amendment To Citizens United Ruling

WASHINGTON -- Democrats may be trying to keep up with the unlimited cash that corporations have been able to spend on politics for the last two years, but the Senate's Democratic campaign arm is still trying to undo the infamous Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows for all of that spending.

Under the ruling -- rendered two years ago this week -- corporations were deemed the same as people, and as such the Court declared they had a free speech right to spend anything they want on political campaigns.

So on Thursday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was set to launch an online petition drive aimed at getting 100,000 people to back a constitutional amendment to bar unlimited corporate campaign splurges.

"The Citizens United ruling has unleashed a flood of shadowy, corporate money into our political process, led by Karl Rove's American Crossroads," the petition says. "It's an attack on our democracy. In a system where one person, one vote is supposed to be the rule, outside groups like Crossroads are having an outsized influence."

The petition supports an amendment proposed by a number of Democrats in Congress last year.

"Every American should be outraged by the way Karl Rove and right-wing special interests have spent millions skewing elections with attacks, lies, and smears, all designed to boost the GOP's special interest agenda," said DSCC spokesman Shripal Shah. "The message our supporters are sending is clear: it's time to repeal the Citizens United decision and put an end to the disgusting right-wing attacks led by Karl Rove and other extreme Republican interests."

Original Article
Source: Huff 

On visit to Beijing, Harper has bargaining power

Stephen Harper faces the challenge of playing poker with a superpower. With China, it’s time to play some cards.

The PM will travel to China in February with oil sales on his mind. But Canada wants other things from Beijing, like more protection for Canadian companies doing business in China. Mr. Harper has some bargaining chips.

He has oil on his side. He’ll never have China over a barrel, but right now, he’s got leverage.

Mr. Harper has put shipping energy to Asia at the top of his plans, and made hardwiring the country with pipelines to the West Coast a key strategic priority for his government. The Obama administration’s decision to delay approval of the Keystone XL pipeline extension to carry Alberta bitumen to the Gulf Coast has made Mr. Harper’s shift to China more urgent.

Beijing wants Alberta oil, if it can get it, but selling oil isn’t Canada’s only trade imperative. China will be the world’s biggest economy by around 2020, so Canada’s economy will fare poorly if it doesn’t sell more than resources there.

U.S. politicians provided a reminder on Wednesday that pipelines can be politics, forcing the Obama administration to reject Keystone XL and let the developers reapply later. Mr. Harper has played into it, upping the emphasis on selling oil to China, creating a sense of pipeline competition.

Successful Tory anti-Grit tactics used on environmentalists and premiers

OTTAWA - Building a storyline that sticks helped the Conservatives sink two successive Liberal leaders and they are using the same strategy early in 2012 on a pair of major policy debates facing Canadians.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's team has attempted to leap out in front of its opponents and shape the narrative on the hot-button issues of health-care funding and oil pipeline construction.

When Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver came out guns blazing' over "environmental and other radical groups" and foreign interests who he said were trying to hijack the domestic debate, discussion immediately shifted away from the very concerns environmental groups have been voicing.

Critics and stakeholders were left struggling to poke holes in the government's logic — the involvement of Chinese interests in the process, for example) — rather than leading the debate themselves.

Jim Armour, a vice-president at Ottawa public relations firm Summa and a former communications director for Harper, says the government cannily played a Canadian sovereignty card.

"I think by making this about foreign interests, U.S. money, not allowing ourselves to be held hostage by the U.S, the government's been very smart and been able not only to take advantage of an opportunity, but also take advantage of something Canadians are thinking anyway," Armour said.

On the issue of federal health-care funding for the provinces, Harper caught the premiers flat-footed. Without warning or consultation, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a new formula for health transfers into the future. Then, Harper really put the premiers on defence as he rejected their baleful, unco-ordinated pleas for additional funds.

Dump 'Citizens United'!

On December 30 the Montana Supreme Court delivered a New Year’s gift to the nation, upholding a century-old ban on corporate expenditures in state elections. The decision has gone underreported amid the GOP primaries—even as spending skyrockets along with growing concern about its corrosive impact (see John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney on page 11 and James Lardner on page 17). But the Montana case sets up the first direct challenge to the US Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision as we pass its second anniversary.

Free Speech for People, a nonpartisan national campaign challenging corporate personhood rights, filed an amicus brief in the Montana case, leading a coalition that included the American Sustainable Business Council, a network of more than 100,000 businesses and social enterprises, and the American Independent Business Alliance. Jeff Clements, author of the coalition’s brief, is also the author of Corporations Are Not People, in which he explains how some of the largest corporations took over our government, culminating in the Citizens United decision. He lays out a vision of how we can restore our democracy, through a constitutional amendment declaring what Clements calls “the simplest of propositions: Corporations are not people.”

Enbridge: You're On Notice

It is a sweet victory. President Barack Obama has listened to his people and his better nature and rejected the Keystone Pipeline. In spite of a massive campaign south of the border by the federal and Alberta governments and the energy industry, which included expensive wall-to-wall television ads, common sense has won the day.

The tar sands of Northern Alberta have become a symbol of the destructive side of globalization and a flashpoint in the debate about alternative futures. With their heavy carbon footprint and their destruction of watersheds, the tar sands have become an international symbol of excessive development and the clear reason behind Canada's abandonment of its Kyoto commitment.

The route the pipeline would have taken through the United States on its way to be refined in Texas would have taken it over the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the most important and endangered underground water sources in the world. As ranchers and farmers and communities across whose land the pipeline would have traversed found out about it, they spoke with one voice: Putting the waters that grow the food for America's heartland at risk for the profit of the energy industry is lunacy. The President agreed.

It is important to be clear that the fight against these pipelines is not against the workers of Northern Alberta and their families. They too seek a safe energy future and workplace. And their union, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, is a clear and progressive voice in the call for a just and sustainable energy future.

Harper’s French disconnection

Peter White is about as conservative (and Conservative) as they come. He worked at Brian Mulroney’s side throughout the former prime minister’s nine-year tenure. In 2001, he turned his frustration with Jean Chrétien’s seemingly perpetual hold on power into a book, Gritlock, perhaps best described as a blueprint of how to neuter the then-powerful Liberal brand. In his free time, the former Hollinger Inc. executive has relentlessly pushed the Conservative brand in his native Quebec, both as a riding president and party organizer. And he’s sick of trying.

In a scathing open letter addressed to Canadians in general and the Conservative party in particular, White roundly criticizes the Conservative Party of Canada for ignoring francophones in general and Quebec in particular. “Today the voice of Quebec is virtually absent in Ottawa’s halls of power, or if present, it is a voice grown mighty small, and mighty easy to ignore,” White writes in the letter dated Jan. 12. “Since the election of May 2, 2011, many Quebec observers have concluded that Mr. Harper has consciously decided to ignore Quebec, now that he has convincingly demonstrated that he can win a majority without it.”

For some Conservatives outside the province, Stephen Harper might be forgiven for shunning Quebec. The Prime Minister has never been particularly popular in the province; he won a majority in last spring’s election thanks largely to a marked increase in support in Ontario and sustained support in the western provinces. In Quebec, meanwhile, the party lost five incumbent MPs (equalling half of its provincial caucus) and nearly a quarter of its popular vote. It marked the first time since the Conscription Crisis of 1917 that a government formed a majority with so little support from Quebec.

But while the rebalancing of power in favour of the West may seem natural for the Toronto-born, Alberta-bred populist, White says Harper’s Quebec brush-off will lead to a “de-Canadianization of Quebec,” in which Quebecers see less and less of themselves in the federal government—and turn (or return) instead to the Bloc Québécois. “Any competent demagogue—and there are several—could easily fan the tinder into flames by decrying the many petty slights inflicted on Quebec’s honour and pride at the hands of Ottawa since Mr. Harper has been Prime Minister.”

B.C. MLA walks the walk in war on poverty

At the halfway point of his month-long journey into poverty, Jagrup Brar says the hardest thing is dealing with the depressing reality of having almost no money, no food and no hope, day after day.

And things just got worse, as the New Democrat MLA who set out to highlight poverty in British Columbia has now moved into a bleak little room in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where he has a one-burner stove, a mattress on a cold floor – and a bathroom down the hall that he shares with 11 other men.

Mr. Brar is attempting to live on the $610 that a single employable person living on welfare receives in B.C. each month. For the first two weeks, he was in a house in Surrey he shared with eight welfare recipients.

“That was a seven-star hotel by comparison,” he said on Tuesday.

He said he doesn’t really know what to expect in moving into Canada’s poorest neighborhood, but judging by what he’s faced so far, it’s going to be a tough two weeks.

“Living in poverty is hard and demoralizing because hunger breaks your body and fear breaks your spirit. That’s what happens … it’s tough every morning you get up. It’s like you’re preparing for going to a war,” he said as he trudged to his new home in B.C. Rooms, a bleak walk-up near Oppenheimer Park.

His room, No. 305, is 3.3 metres by 3.3 metres. It has a sink, a small table, two battered chairs and a fridge that apparently doesn’t work.

Frank Stuart, one of Mr. Brar’s new neighbours, said he is lucky to be getting into one of the better single-room-occupancy buildings in the area.

“It’s not bad,” said Mr. Stuart, who pays $425 in rent, which he draws from the $610 he gets each month. He calculates that after deducting rent and money for bus tickets, he’s left with $4.15 a day on which to live.

“It’s a quiet building. The bad thing is that at night you’ve got to run the gauntlet of pretty aggressive drug dealers. They are on the front steps, at the door, all down the block,” he said.

At 6-foot-4, Mr. Brar, a player for the Indian national basketball team before immigrating to Canada, should be able to take care of himself.

He said his big concern isn’t the people on the streets of the Downtown Eastside, but the daily grind of trying to stay healthy on a limited food budget.

“Everyday life is a struggle when you are poor. People have to make hard choices between food and other necessary items every day,” he said.

The married father of two young children said he often feels weary and suspects the cause is a lack of proper nutrition.

He carried two bags with him in his move. In one was a blanket, and in the other a box of cereal, a few eggs and a jar of peanut butter.

Mr. Brar said one of the things he’s learned so far is just how difficult it is for someone to work their way out of poverty.

“The challenge when you are living on a very limited amount of money is that you don’t have much time to find a job. Basically, just surviving for a day is a struggle,” he said.

Mr. Brar said it’s disturbing there are no earning exemptions for welfare recipients who find part-time work.

“I don’t think that makes sense,” he said. “There should be an incentive for people to find a part-time job, brush up their skills and that could lead to a full time job.”

Mr. Brar said he will spend his days talking to people about their lives.

“I spent my first 15 days in Surrey and I met a lot of people there, including homeless mothers, low-income farm workers, refugees, vulnerable youth … listening to their stories is very hard and painful,” he said, adding he expects more of the same in Vancouver.

Mr. Brar said he misses sitting in the evening talking with his wife, Rajwant, seeing his 11-year-old daughter, Noor, off to school in the morning, and watching nature films with his son, Fateh, who is four years old.

Mr. Brar’s project, which he undertook in response to a challenge issued by Raise the Rates, an anti-poverty agency, comes 25 years after the late Emery Barnes, a popular New Democrat MLA, did the same thing to draw attention to poverty and low welfare rates in B.C.

Original Article
Source: Globe 

Toronto union lockout countdown to Feb. 5 begins as minister issues ‘no board’ report

The provincial labour minister has authorized Mayor Rob Ford to lock out Toronto’s unionized outdoor workers in 17 days.

The minister’s “no board” report also allows the outdoor workers to strike. A winter lockout, however, is far more likely.

A city lockout or Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 416 strike will become legal at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5, the city said in a statement.

Garbage collection and snow removal would be impacted by a lockout of or strike by the 6,000 outdoor workers. The minister’s authorization does not permit a lockout of or strike by CUPE Local 79, which represents 18,000 indoor workers at such facilities as daycares, community centres and nursing homes.

“We will have contingency plans in place to address key city services in the event of a disruption,” the city’s top bureaucrat, city manager Joe Pennachetti, said in the statement. “It's important to note, however, we are still at the table with Local 416 and we are working hard to reach a negotiated settlement.”

CUPE spokesperson Kevin Wilson said Local 416 would not yet comment because the two parties are currently meeting.

Ford’s administration requested the report, saying negotiations with Local 416 had proven fruitless. As is customary, Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey quickly complied.

China To Close Tibet During Tibetan New Year Festival

BEIJING -- For a fifth straight year, China plans to close Tibet to foreign travelers during a sensitive period starting in mid-February, travel agents said Thursday.

Agent Yu Zhi of the Lhasa Youth Tourist Agency said Thursday the government's tourist administration in Tibet's capital had informed agents that foreign travelers would be banned from Feb. 20 to March 30.

Another agent with the China International Travel Agency in Lhasa, who wouldn't give her name, said she'd been told the ban would end March 20.

The periodic closure of the Himalayan region encompasses the Feb. 22-24 Tibetan new year festival of Losar as well as the anniversary of a deadly anti-government riot among Tibetans on March 14, 2008.

Tensions are especially high this year following the self-immolations of at least 16 Buddhist monks, nuns and other Tibetans. Most have chanted for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

While authorities have never explained the rational behind the annual closure, it's seen as a standard measure based on the assumption that outsiders could either inspire or witness renewed anti-government protests or other conflicts.

Keystone decision reveals deteriorating Canada-U.S. relations, U.S. oil group says

The Obama administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline is proof it’s not interested in furthering its commercial relationship with Canada, the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute said in press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“Our neighbour to the north, which has been our No. 1 energy trading partner — where we import almost twice what we do from any other nation around the world — we have just indicated because of the president’s decision that we’re not interested in doing business in a more advanced way,” Jack Gerard said prior to the U.S. state department’s official announcement.

Gerard stressed that it was a missed opportunity to make North America energy independent.

“The Keystone XL pipeline would have given us the opportunity to double what we’re currently bringing in from Canada. When you look at the Canadian oil sands importation, coupled with U.S. development of our own oil and gas resources and renewable energy we could produce, North America could become energy self-sufficient in 15 years.”

Reiterating the ethical oil argument championed by Ezra Levant and other oilsands advocates, Gerard warned of greater reliance on volatile parts of the world.

“At a time we’re having a discussion over the Straits of Hormuz in the Middle East, for the president of the United States to reject cementing our relationship with the Canadians is a clear abdication of presidential leadership,” he said.

Harper’s stance on Iran concerning, say foreign policy experts

Not only is it difficult to say what Iran might do should it acquire nuclear weapons, but military action should be avoided at all costs, say academics in the wake of remarks the prime minister made this week.

In an interview with CBC, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he fears a nuclear Iran.

“I’ve watched and listened to what the leadership in the Iran regime says, and it frightens me,” Harper said. “In my judgment these are people who have a particular fanatically religious world view and their statements imply to me no hesitation about using nuclear weapons if they see them achieving their religious or political purposes. I think that’s what makes this regime in Iran particularly dangerous.”

All options are on the table in deciding how to deal with Iran, Harper said, noting that he sees “a growing belief of a number of governments that my assessment is essentially correct.”

“It’s important that Canada work with its allies,” he said. “I’ve raised the alarm. I think I’ve raised the alarm as much as I can. But obviously I don’t advocate particular actions publicly. I work with our allies to see if we can get consensus.”

Harper’s comments add another facet to an increasingly difficult situation, which is perhaps not as black and white as the prime minister suggests.

Enbridge: What happened when big corporation cut corners?

Enbridge oil leak in Kalamazoo River, July 2010
View larger map here

The Enbridge oil leak in Kalamazoo River released 19,500 barrels of oil across 20 miles of land. Less than a day after Gov. Jennifer Granholm said she feared state officials had been “undersold” about the size of the spill, officials with Enbridge said during a news conference in Battle Creek on July 28 2010 and that the estimate remained at 19,500 barrels, or 819,000 gallons, of crude oil.
Other outside source at the Congressman Mark Schauer’s office said a much higher number. The Congressman said The Environmental Protection Agency had told him up to 1 million gallons of oil could have spilled in the water. Read more at, Enbridge: Michigan oil slick spans 20 miles; 19,500 barrels
The cause of the July 2010 spill is still under investigation, but unless it’s found to be totally unrelated to company procedures, it’s bound to complicate the debate about the company’s quest to open a twin pipeline from Alberta to B.C.’s mid coast.

Enbridge Controlled Oil Spill Burn
Enbridge Controlled Oil Spill Burn

The politics of the 2014 health accord in Victoria

As many of you have likely seen, read or heard, the Council of the Federation -- which is made up of the first ministers from each province and territory -- met in Victoria, B.C. to discuss the 2014 health care accord and hopefully find common ground on their response to the federal government's unilateral move on financing the Canada Health Transfer.

Maude and I found ourselves beside Christy Clark in the middle of a media scrum when she announced optimistically that the first ministers had made some progress finding a common ground. What they did agree on was that the actions of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in late December were "unprecedented and unacceptable" but it sounds like that was about it -- according to Alberta's Premier Alison.

What the first ministers can't agree on is how the Canada Health Transfer should be funded. The federal government and Alberta are saying per capita funding post-2017. Alberta, supports this option because of their growing young and high-income-earning population. Alberta doesn't need to need to worry as much about continuing-care options and looking after people who can't afford prescription drugs. But for provinces like British Columbia with a high aging population and the province with the most people who are unable -- due to cost -- to fill their prescription drugs, a per-capita-based funding formula is not going to fund their health care in a way that addresses current and pressing needs.

Ford Nation collapses

Where was Ford Nation Tuesday night when Toronto city council voted on the controversial 2012 city operating budget?

Where was Ford Nation inside council chambers to ram through the mayor's $20-million budget cuts to city pools, arenas, day cares, TTC service and homeless shelters?

Where was Ford Nation outside City Hall, the throngs of fiscally conservative citizens demonstrating their pro-mayor stance?


Ford Nation collapsed.

Inside council chambers yesterday, amidst a fury of negotiations between centrist and left-leaning councillors -- with rookie Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) leading the charge -- the anti-Ford cuts voting bloc was able to draft a last-minute omnibus motion to save $15 million worth of city services and programming from being cut. I caught Colle's Cheshire cat-like grin from the corner of my eye.

Colle's motion -- passed Tuesday night by a vote of 23-21 -- allows for an increase in the children's service budget; stops the approval of proposed user fees for programs and services at community centres; increases the TTC service budget to prevent service cuts; and will keep three shelters slated for closing open. This and other motions voted and passed by council Tuesday night restore roughly $5 million in funding to Toronto's $9.4-billion operating budget for 2012.

Ensuring Canada's Economic Recovery

The upcoming federal budget should be focused on investing in job creation, not expanding spending cuts.

As Finance Minister Jim Flaherty seeks the views of Canadians on the upcoming federal budget, he should bear in mind that the key issue today is jobs. The economic recovery in Canada has ground to a halt.

In the last three months of 2011, the national unemployment rate rose from 7.1 per cent to 7.5 per cent as our economy lost 63,000 full-time jobs.

The “real” unemployment rate – which includes discouraged job seekers and involuntarily part-time workers – was 10.6 per cent [subscription may be required] in 2011, and a sky-high 19.7 per cent for young workers, far above where we were at in 2008. TD Economics forecasts that the unemployment rate will rise to 7.7 per cent by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, our public finances are in good shape. Canada has one of the lowest net public debt levels of the advanced industrial countries (34 per cent of GDP compared to an average of 63 per cent, as of 2011), and government borrowing costs are at an all-time record low.

Supreme Court won't hear torture cases

The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear the appeal of three men suing the federal government for complicity in their detention and torture in Syria and Egypt.

The high court dismissed the leave to appeal application of the men, who allege the government is hiding behind Section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act, which allows information to be withheld for national security reasons.

They were appealing a ruling last year by the Federal Court of Appeal that sided with the government over keeping information about their cases from being released.

A government inquiry under former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci concluded in 2008 that Canadian officials were likely partly to blame for the torture of the three men.

The trio, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, deny they are terrorists.

As is usual, the high court gave no reasons for denying the leave to appeal application.
Original Article
Source: Globe 

How Rupert Murdoch's Fear Is Getting in the Way of Internet TV

News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch's reaction to a Google TV presentations is the best explanation yet of why we won't be seeing truly integrated Internet TV any time soon. On Saturday, Murdoch took to his new Twitter account to vent about how much he hates Google: "Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying." Like many who saw the tweet, we thought that he was weighing in on SOPA, but, according to Forbes' Jeff Bercovici, it turns out he was actually recoiling in horror at seeing the web's streaming piped into a TV. Bercovici's sources said the tweet came after a Google TV presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show and he learned that search results for movie titles would include sites that offer pirated versions, just like regular Google.

The notion of the rules of the freewheeling web moving onto your TV set in your living room is a nightmare scenario for corporate media who depend on your cable box being a gateway to their content. Though cable operators and content producers bicker over carriage fees from time to time, it's a comfy, codependent relationship. The worst thing for both sides would be for TV viewers to "cut the cord," not necessarily because they'd want to pay less (though, that's certainly a fear, too) but because the handful of companies that decide what comes onto your TV screen would lose control. And nothing could demonstrate how real this threat is than connecting Google's search to a TV screen. As Bercovici tells the tale:
Murdoch asked what would happen if he were to search for a particular blockbuster film, and the presenter explained that the results would be the same ones you’d find in any Google search. Including links to content-pirating sites? Murdoch pressed. Yes, unless those sites have already been removed from search results in response to takedown requests, the presenter confirmed.
Like Murdoch, cable companies have had this attitude since TVs started getting fancy. "The big fear for cable companies is that consumers are going to start realizing that they can get a lot of this content online for free, or pay less in any case, and they're going to start cutting the cord, as they say," a Gartner analyst told NPR in 2010. And when Google first announced its set back in the fall of 2010, Hollywood foresaw this scary future, eventually blocking cable access from Google TV. That attitude has stuck ever since. Instead, we have gotten the half-baked streaming box solution, which puts some, but not all, of the Internet on TVs -- just how the cable companies like it.

Original Article
Source: the Atlantic Wire 

An essay on respect

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That word "respect" has come up at all of the community hearings that we've had. In her opening remarks on the fifth day of review hearings for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline on January 17 in Burns Lake, B.C., Sheila Leggett, the Joint Review Panel (JRP) Chair, noted how the word respect had been repeated in each community they visited.

However, Leggett's remarks, focusing on the need for the presenters "providing oral evidence to be respectful of all parties involved in this proceeding in their evidence," inverted the meaning of the term respect. While Haisla, Tsimshian, and Wet'suwet'en presenters had spoken of the need for the government and industry to respect for their traditional laws, Leggett employed the term as a thinly veiled criticism of First Nations refusal to bound their comments to accepted "Oral Traditional Knowledge" and government timelines.

On the morning of the 16th, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs had opened the meeting by singing a song composed for the hearing. The song expressed the depth of their connection to their territory, the chorus "noh' y'in tah way atsaan tsun" translated to "our territory is our livelihood." But the song also clearly expressed their opposition to the pipeline, closing with the line, "Enbridge noh' y'in tah wagga way sow' ye'h" (Enbridge don't step onto our land).

Prior to the hearings in Burns Lake on the 17th, representatives of the National Energy Board organizing the review panel indicated that they did not want the Wet'suwet'en chiefs to open with an anti-Enbridge song again. While the review panel presumably considered this prerequisite respect for Enbridge, dictating the terms of traditional opening ceremonies to Wet'suwet'en chiefs on Wet'suwet'en land disrespected those chiefs and their authority.

There was a buzz amongst the hereditary chiefs about the gall of the government folk who sought to dictate proceedings on Wet'suwet'en land. The chiefs, however, did not cede control of the opening. The panel was convened to hear their testimony, and would begin in accordance with their process. The chiefs paraded into the room in full regalia, assembled before the crowd, and again performed their oppositional anthem.

Government should butt out of hearings

The Conservative government overplayed its hand last week in launching an aggressive pre-emptive strike against those opposing Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline.

All that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's over-the-top attack achieved was to create an atmosphere of sympathy for those justifiably concerned about potential damage to B.C.'s coveted wilderness areas.

Former tree planter Ingmar Lee, an environmental activist unaffiliated with any organized group, was frustrated by Oliver's condemnation of environmentalists. "After all these years," he blogged this week, "I've never made a single buck out of environmental work, and for all my efforts, I'm not famous either."

Lee says he just happens to be partial to old-growth forests, sandhill cranes, wild salmon and whales. And, accordingly, has signed up to speak at ongoing formal hearings into Enbridge's Northern Gateway project.

So have several community groups in Smithers who this week purchased ads and wore blue scarves to register indignation at being dismissed by Oliver as radicals, influenced by foreign elements.

Harper creating 13 kinds of citizens

At last, it's out in the open for all to see. The Harper Conservatives are not just abandoning the national government's leadership role in medicare and social policy.

They are ending its constitutional responsibility to promote a common Canadian citizenship by ensuring "reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable rates of taxation."

The Harperites' partisan political interest trumps everything, so they've ensured the axe won't finally fall on medicare's five principles of universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability and public administration until after the 2016 federal election. Until then, health transfers will continue to rise at the current six per cent annual rate. After that, Ottawa's participation will dwindle to a per-capita grant tied to economic growth.

The future of Canada's constitutionally entrenched equalization program is uncertain.

This is devastating news for the vast majority of Canadians who live in provinces without oil, gas and potash.

Decision reserved on wheat board challenge

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench judge reserved his decision Wednesday on whether to grant an injunction that would halt implementation of Ottawa's new grain marketing law.

Eight former Canadian Wheat Board directors brought the application before Justice Shane Perlmutter, who presided over a two-day hearing.

They're seeking the injunction until the validity of the Harper government's Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act is tested in the courts. The act, proclaimed in December, would end the CWB's monopoly on Prairie wheat and barley sales.

The eight former directors — all farmers — sought the injunction after a Federal Court judge ruled last month that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz broke the law by introducing Bill C-18 in October without consulting the board or holding a plebiscite of Prairie grain growers. The federal Conservatives proceeded to pass the new law, despite the ruling.

On Wednesday, federal lawyer Robert MacKinnon argued that Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell's ruling did not invalidate the new law. He said the ruling was simply a declaration about the minister's actions.

MP pensions 'a ripoff on a massive scale'

Taxpayers put in $23.30 for every $1 members contribute to provide 'outrageous' returns, advocacy group says

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it's high time MPs stopped making Canadians pick up the tab for their "gold-plated" pension plan.

"This is a ripoff on a massive scale," the advocacy group's federal director, Gregory Thomas, said at a news con-ference on Parliament Hill Wednesday announcing its report on parliamentarians' pensions.

The federation says while officially taxpayers contribute $5.80 for every dollar an MP contributes to his or her pension, that figure does not include "disguised 'interest' and accounting fiction." Its calculations say taxpayers are actually on the hook for $23.30 for every dollar an MP contributes.

While MPs earn a base salary of $157,731 per year, the total contributions to the parliamentary pension fund amounts to $248,668 per year, Thomas said.

MPs are eligible to collect full pension benefits when they are 55, if they sit in Parliament for six years or longer. If all current MPs collected their pensions, Thomas said, the total lifetime payout would amount to $277 million.

Thomas said the MP pension fund does not invest in the market like the Canada Pension Plan or RRSPs. Instead, it dips into public coffers each quarter.

EI financing agency spends millions doing nothing

A federal agency created by the Harper government with great political fanfare in 2008 is costing millions of dollars to achieve pretty much nothing.

The Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board has just about everything a budding government agency could want.

So far, it has spent over $3.3 million for new offices, computers and furniture, well-paid executives and staff, travel budgets, expense accounts, board meetings, and lots of pricey consultants.

All that's missing is a reason for it to exist at all.

The Conservative government set up the agency ostensibly to perform three main functions.

The first was to set the annual employment insurance contribution rates that determine how much Canadian workers and employers have to pay into the EI fund in a given year.

But in all three years the board has been in existence, the Harper government has simply capped EI rates to spare Canadian workers from potentially huge premium increases.

As a result, the rate-setting agency has yet to set a single rate.

The board's other main responsibility is to invest any surplus EI funds.

That has never happened, either.

Since the government started capping EI contribution rates, the employment insurance program has been running a deficit now totalling almost $9 billion.

There has simply never been a surplus dime for the board to invest.

Ontario probing at least four deaths involving ORNGE

Ontario’s Health Ministry is investigating at least four deaths involving ORNGE, the province’s embattled air-ambulance service.

Those four cases, with which provincial coroners have also become involved, are among a total of 13 ORNGE-related incidents being examined by the investigation wing of the ministry’s Emergency Health Services Branch. Neither ministry nor ORNGE representatives would confirm if any of the other incidents also involve deaths.

It’s a “higher than normal” number of investigations to be under way at once, ORNGE vice-president of operations Steve Farquhar acknowledged in an interview on Wednesday. Most of them, he said, relate to complaints about either response times or about the adequacy of ORNGE’s recently purchased helicopter fleet.

Three of the investigations were requested by ORNGE itself, while the other 10 were prompted by complaints from other “stakeholders,” such as land-ambulance operators.

ORNGE president and CEO Chris Mazza and the entire board of directors were recently replaced following reports of exorbitant salaries and questions about the agency’s mix of public and private business, and forensic auditors from the provincial Finance Ministry are examining its books. But there have also been some reports of delays in service, which prompted the agency to engage the provincial investigators.

SOPA: Anti-Piracy or Censorship? Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales vs. Copyright Alliance’s Sandra Aistars

Congressional support for a pair of anti-piracy bills is weakening after Wednesday’s historic online protest in which thousands of websites went dark for 24 hours. Hollywood film studios, music publishers and major broadcasters support the anti-piracy legislation, saying it aims to stop the piracy of copyrighted material over the internet on websites based outside the United States. "We’re talking about sites that are operated and dedicated to piracy and that are really preventing individual creators across the country from having an economic livelihood from their creative pursuits," says Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, whose members include the Motion Picture Association of America, NBCUniversal, Time Warner, Viacom, ASCAP and BMI. But critics say the bills could profoundly change the internet by stifling innovation and investment, hallmarks of the free, open internet. "Wikipedia could be defined as a search engine under these [bills]," says Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Sales. "That would mean that it would be illegal for Wikipedia to link to a site, even if we’re writing an encyclopedia article explaining to the public what is The Pirate Bay, what is going on here, and we want to send you there so you can go and take a look for yourself. That would become illegal. This is outrageous, and it’s just not acceptable under the First Amendment."

Source: Democracy Now! 

New Hampshire Considers Defunding Planned Parenthood, Weakening Domestic Violence Laws

New Hampshire's 2012 legislative session has not been a good one for women so far. House Republicans passed an amendment on Wednesday that would defund Planned Parenthood, the only affordable health care option for many of the state's low-income women, and lawmakers will consider two bills Thursday that seriously weaken the New Hampshire's domestic violence laws.

The Tea Party-dominated New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 207 to 147 on Wednesday morning to pass a bill prohibiting the state from using public funding for any group that provides abortion services, capping a year-long quest by state Republican leaders to pass such a bill. The legislation -- which was pushed through without a public hearing -- still has to go before the Republican-controlled Senate and Gov. John Lynch (D) to go into effect.

The legislation was written by the Susan B. Anthony List and the Alliance Defense Fund, two conservative leaning national groups seeking to stop abortion in the United States. Shortly after the vote, the groups issued a statement taking credit for the bill.

"The House-passed bill ensures that taxpayer funds are prioritized to entities dedicated to providing comprehensive health care to women, not abortion," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement. "This is a great victory in what has become a nationwide battle to stop taxpayer funding of abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood."

Planned Parenthood provides pap smears, breast exams, STD screening and low-cost contraception to uninsured women across the state, and reports that abortions account for less than 3 percent of its services.

The "Dirty Thirty" Corporations that Spend More on Lobbying than Taxes

Taxes and democracy are two oft-maligned activities that Americans dearly depend on. "Indeed it has been said," noted Winston Churchill, "that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." He might just as easily have been talking about the responsibility of paying taxes.

Two years ago the Supreme Court's misguided Citizens United decision struck down long-standing Congressional limits on the political power of large corporations by vastly expanding the legal metaphor that "corporations are people." Now there is fresh evidence that corporate influence over Congress makes it easy for those same corporations to avoid their civic duty of paying taxes.

A new report identifies thirty Fortune 500 corporations that pay less in federal income taxes than they spend on federal lobbying.

You read that right. These companies - dubbed the "Dirty Thirty" - exploited loopholes in the tax code so aggressively that all but one of them enjoyed a negative tax rate over the three year period of the study, while together spending nearly half a billion dollars to lobby Congress on issues including tax policy. Instead of paying for the public structures such as roads, police and education which make their profits possible, they collected $10.6 billion in tax rebates from the federal government. Had these thirty companies paid the statutory 35 percent corporate tax rate, the Treasury would have collected an additional $67.9 billion.

Canada's Arctic: Peter MacKay Touts Military's Benefit To Northern Civilians

TORONTO - Canada's military is part of the growing civil infrastructure in the Canadian Arctic, said Canada's defence minister.

Speaking through a video released after bad weather prevented him from speaking in person, Peter MacKay told an international conference on Arctic governance in Toronto that the army, navy and air force contribute to civilian goals in the North as well as military ones.

"As National Defence develops and refurbishes much of our Northern infrastructure as part of our overall modernization of the Canadian Forces, we are committed to making our defence installations accessible and usable by other government departments," MacKay told the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Conference.

MacKay pointed to the Arctic Training Centre being built in Resolute, Nunavut. The facility is being funded by both the defence and natural resources departments and will be used by scientists and military personnel on training missions.

As well, MacKay said the Canadian Rangers, together with the Junior Rangers and Cadets, are highly prized by the military and northern communities.

MacKay added that it's the military that is responsible for all search and rescue operations throughout the North, pointing to a plane crash last summer that happened during annual military exercises.

"Tragically, 12 people lost their lives in that crash, but the situation could have been far worse," he said.

Caterpillar Lockout: Harper Turns Back on Canadian Workers

In London Ontario, the new year began with the news that the workers of Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD), a subsidiary of the U.S. company Caterpillar, had been locked out by their employer and that the employer was demanding workers accept a 55 per cent pay cut, elimination of benefits, and significantly reduced pensions.

Contrary to what EMD and Caterpillar would have us believe, this move is not about remaining economically competitive. The company is thriving. Business is good. Profit continues to roll in.

The assertion that concessions are necessary to remain competitive is not supported by the facts. EMD posted profits well in excess of $1.1 billion last year. Its competitor, General Electric, was able to settle with its workers at a rate of US$30/hour and remains profitable.

The workforce at the EMD is highly skilled, experienced, and motivated. Workers take great pride in the quality and expertise of their workmanship. In fact, when this team of workers was asked last year to increase EMD's productivity, they managed to improve it by an astounding 20 per cent.

The reality is that Canadian workers provide a tremendous advantage to employers when compared to their counterparts in other jurisdictions. Our universal health care system means employers are not burdened with primary health care costs. The fact that workers are well-educated ensures a level of training and competence second to none. Though its tax base the municipality provides secure infrastructure like clean, abundant water, low cost energy, sewers, roads, and an extensive transportation network.