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.]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Affidavit accuses Prime Minister's Office of threatening environmental charity

A former employee of an environmental group critical of a proposed oilsands pipeline says the Prime Minister's Office threatened a funding agency if it didn't pull its support for the group.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper denies the allegations.

In a sworn affidavit released Tuesday to The Canadian Press, Andrew Frank says he was told by his supervisor at ForestEthics that a PMO official had referred to their organization as an "enemy of the state." The affidavit describes how staff were told their jobs were at risk after the official told Tides Canada, which supports the work of ForestEthics, that the government would "take down" all of the agency's projects unless it cut ForestEthics loose.

Tides gets most of its money from private foundations and assists a wide array of social and environmental charities in Canada — from Big Brothers and Big Sisters to the World Wildlife Fund. It also partners with major corporations and governments, including federal government agencies.

Frank was fired from his job as communications adviser at ForestEthics on Monday over his plans to go public.

His affidavit details a series of conversations allegedly held in early January between ForestEthics and Tides staff.

He says ForestEthics employees were summoned to a meeting on Jan. 5 in which the group's supervisor, Pierre Iachetti, told them the CEO of Tides, Ross McMillan, had been given a period of time in which to stop contributions to ForestEthics or the government would "take down" all of Tides's charitable projects.

Police hit teen in the head, put him in a chokehold, inquest told

A witness at a coroner’s inquest into the death of Junior Alexander Manon, who died in police custody in 2010, said Tuesday that the teen was struck on the head by an officer and put in a chokehold by another minutes before he died.

Shawn Williams testified that he was turning on to Founders Rd. after picking up his wife from her job at York University around 6:30 p.m., May 5, 2010, when Manon ran in front of their car.

Williams says he watched as one officer grabbed Manon and brought him to the ground, while the other hit him with what looked like a police radio and then crouched down and kneed him in the ribs.

The 18-year-old had run from Const. Michael Adams and Sgt. Stuart Blower moments before, after they tried to arrest him during a traffic stop on Steeles Ave. W.

Manon ran south and down Founders Rd. before he was caught by the officers, who tackled him to the ground. He died there of “positional asphyxia,” according to the province’s chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Pollanen.

An investigation completed by the Special Investigations Unit last January cleared the two officers. An SIU news release said that during the struggle “pressure was placed on (Manon’s) chest in a manner that could have caused it to compress and interfere with his breathing, a classic indicia of death caused by positional asphyxia.”

Legal wrangling over evidence has delayed the testimony of Const. Michael Adams, who was scheduled to testify last week.

On Tuesday, Coroner Dan Cass will hear submissions from the family’s lawyer as well as a lawyer for the officers, as to whether a report by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, which recommends Const. Michael Adams should be charged in the beating of Adam Nobody during the G20 summit, will be allowed into evidence.

Original Article
Source: Star 
Author: Patty Winsa 

Mayor Rob Ford compares rival councillors to Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin didn’t care about taxpayers.

That’s the most benefit-of-the-doubt way to take a radio comment made by Mayor Rob Ford on Tuesday morning, which likened five political rivals to the murderous Russian dictator.

Speaking on the John Oakley show, Ford told the AM640 host that certain councillors are “two steps left of Joe Stalin.”

Ford was being questioned as to whether he had lost support of council’s middle. Oakley pointed to the fact that self-proclaimed centrist Josh Matlow recently stated he would not back Ford’s plan to do away with the land transfer tax.

“I consider him a left-wing NDPer. I’m not surprised. It’s just like saying Adam Vaughan or (Gord) Perks or (Janet) Davis or (Paula) Fletcher is not voting with me,” said Ford.

“These people are all two steps left of Joe Stalin. So I’m not discouraged by that and I don’t expect it. They don’t care about the taxpayers. But I know one person who does, and that’s me.”

Councillor Perks refused to comment on Ford’s words. “I’m trying to do real work,” he responded.

Matlow went to Ford’s office to discuss the comment afterwards.

NDP Plots Lines Of Attack Against Harper

Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel said Tuesday that her party plans to hold Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to account on the upcoming budget, health-care funding and First Nations poverty when Parliament resumes sitting next week.
Turmel laid out her party's priorities for the months ahead as the NDP began a winter caucus meeting on Parliament Hill Tuesday morning.
She said the NDP plans to follow the same strategy as it did in the fall, questioning the government and meeting Canadians, telling them what the Conservatives are doing, and not doing.
On the upcoming budget, Turmel said her party will continue to fight for Canadian families. She said the NDP wants to ensure that the government-wide cuts won't affect services for Canadians.
"Our caucus has been everywhere, and everybody is really clear they want us to represent and make sure that Canadian families can survive and can be able to eat at the end of the month, that's what we want to do," she told reporters.

The covert war against Iran

Iran and the West are engaged in an undeclared covert struggle fought through sabotage, espionage and murder that may yet escalate into open war.

The latest blow against Iran came two weeks ago in Tehran, when two assassins on a motorbike pulled up alongside a car carrying Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, deputy director of Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant, and affixed a magnetic bomb to it. The bomb exploded, killing Roshan and his driver. It was a daring and sophisticated assault, likely requiring long and intensive surveillance of the victim, one or more safe houses, access to explosives, and the ability to make a device that murdered the occupants of the targeted car without harming passersby. Iran immediately blamed Israel, the U.S. and Britain, and says it has made arrests connected to the killing.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued an explicit and categorical denial of any American involvement. Britain also said it was not involved. Israel was more circumspect. The attack came one day after Israel’s military chief, Benny Gantz, told a parliamentary committee the Iranian regime could face “unnatural” events this year. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, writing on his Facebook page, said he didn’t know who had killed Roshan, but added, “I certainly won’t shed a tear.”

Clashing visions at the First Nations summit

The stark contrast between Stephen Harper’s defence of “incremental” change to the Indian Act and the demand of  key Aboriginal leaders for a much more dramatic new start looks likely to define today’s so-called Crown-First Nations Gathering.

“To be sure, our government has no grand scheme to repeal or to unilaterally re-write the Indian Act,” the Prime Minister said in a speech opening the summit in Ottawa. “After 136 years, that tree has deep roots. Blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole.”

Of course, Harper didn’t advocate a shrugging acceptance of the status quo. Instead, he asked for cooperation from the gathered chiefs for replacing “elements of the Indian Act with more modern legislation and procedures, in partnership with provinces and First Nations.”

That’s the strategy the Conservatives are already applying. A key example: last month the government introduced the First Nations Elections Act. It aims to solve the problems that plague band council elections, particularly two-year terms dictated by the Indian Act, which don’t give councils enough time to enact reforms, and leave communities in permanent campaign mode. The new legislation would offer First Nations the chance to opt into an updated system with four-year terms and other sensible reforms.

Whistleblower Claims Prime Minister's Office Tried to Silence Enbridge Gateway Pipeline Critic

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire -01/24/12)- The Prime Minister's Office tried to cut funding of a registered intervenor in the Enbridge Pipeline Review, calling ForestEthics Canada an, "Enemy of the Government of Canada" and an, "Enemy of the People of Canada", according to allegations detailed in a sworn affidavit, dated January 23, 2012.

Sworn by Andrew Frank, former Senior Communications Manager with ForestEthics Canada, and an instructor in the Environmental Protection Technology program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the affidavit cites three senior managers with Tides Canada and ForestEthics, as well as personal email correspondence.

"Today, I am taking the extraordinary step of risking my career, my reputation and my personal friendships, to act as a whistleblower and expose the undemocratic and potentially illegal pressure the Harper government has apparently applied to silence critics of the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil tanker/pipeline plan," says Frank.

The affidavit alleges the Prime Minister's Office has made an attempt to influence the charitable funding of ForestEthics Canada, a registered intervenor in the National Energy Board's federal review process for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

According to the affidavit, the Prime Minister's Office has informed Tides Canada CEO, Ross McMillan, that it considers ForestEthics to be an "Enemy of the Government of Canada", and an "Enemy of the people of Canada", and that unless Tides Canada alters its charitable support of ForestEthics, there will be consequences.

"Canadian citizens will be shocked to learn that their own government is labelling critics of the Enbridge oil tanker/pipeline project, 'Enemies of the Government of Canada'," says Mr. Frank. "When a government starts labelling its own citizens 'enemies', it has lost its moral authority to govern."

Frank adds, "If the Prime Minister's Office is working behind the scenes to silence voices of opposition and legitimate criticism, how can Canadians have any confidence in this review process? Canadians should be deeply concerned about this information, and I invite those named in my affidavit to sign sworn affidavits attesting to whether or not this is the truth."

Original Article
Source: Yahoo 
Author: Andrew Frank 

Northern Gateway Pipeline: Protesters Greet Start Of Hearings In Alberta

EDMONTON - Aboriginal drums thrummed and protesters shivered in a cold parking lot Tuesday as public hearings into the proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline got underway in Alberta.

"We're hoping to raise awareness that there are people in Alberta who are opposed to this pipeline as well," said Mike Hudema of Greenpeace. "What we heard in B.C. is almost unanimous opposition."

About 20 protesters carried signs and talked to an almost equal number of reporters as the hearings inside an Edmonton hotel commenced with a sweetgrass ceremony.

Enbridge (TSX:ENB) wants to build a 1,170-kilometre twin pipeline that would carry oilsands bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat in northwest B.C., where huge tanker ships would transport it to Asia.

The Alberta and federal governments have said the pipeline is crucial to building new markets for the country's resources, especially in Asia.

Chinese state-owned enterprises have invested $5 billion in Canada's resource sector. But without a pipeline to the coast, there's no easy way for large shipments of oil to reach China.

Harper has made it clear that he views China and its Asian neighbours as important new markets for Alberta oil. It's a point he has emphasized since U.S. President Barack Obama's administration turned down TransCanada's (TSX:TRP) $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline project that would have transported oilsands crude to refineries on the U.S. Gulf coast.

Cherishing Canada’s beauty goes ‘beyond borders’

They are the meddlers, the overseas voices who have sought to influence the assessment of the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Foreign opposition to the $6.6-billion project, which would allow oil sands crude to reach Pacific waters for export to new markets in Asia and California, has elicited a furious response from political and business leaders across Canada. They have accused outsiders of “hijacking” the process. They have called environmental advocates “radicals.”

Yet for many of the foreigners who have signed up to have their say, the Gateway hearings are merely a chance to fight for Canada’s West Coast. Its reputation as a haven of untamed ocean and mountains has made it a place people have come to care for. Some may be professional environmental advocates; it’s clear, however, that many are not. One is a Brazilian bank worker with a heart for animals. One is a Colorado birder concerned about oil sands impact on migratory fowl. One is a Virginia massage therapist who says the northern B.C. landscape “sings to my soul.” At least two are actually Canadians living abroad.

Three Occupy Members Arrested Blocking Boca Raton Bridge Outside GAIM Conference

Three protestors from Occupy Miami and Occupy West Palm Beach were arrested Monday evening in Boca Raton after laying in the Camino Real Bridge roadway, blocking traffic at rush hour in protest of nearby hedge fund industry conference.

Don Carter, 24, of Longwood, Ana Rodriguez, 30, and Kevin Young, 27, of Miami, were taken into custody and charged with resisting arrest without violence, obstructing a highway, and a municipal ordinance violation. The trio linked themselves together with 'lockdown devices' scrawled with anti-greed slogans and lay down on the bridge, snarling traffic from roughly 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. before police were able to unlink and remove them.

The protest was "an attempt to disrupt the cocktail hour and to bring public attention to the list of 'corporate criminals' gathered in Boca" at the 2012 GAIM conference, Occupy Palm Beach said in a statement. GAIM, held at the Waldorf Astoria-owned Boca Resort on Camino Real, bills itself as one of the most important conferences of the hedge fund industry, with "over 75 percent of the managing director level and above" and "investors who have discretion over $215 billion and over $8 trillion under advisement" -- in other words, a lot of people squarely in the one percent.

Federal Job Discrimination Complaints Rose To All-Time High Last Year

WASHINGTON -- Federal job discrimination complaints rose to an all-time high last year, led by an increase in bias charges based on religion and national origin.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received nearly 100,000 charges of discrimination during the 2011 fiscal year, the most in its 46-year history. That's a slight increase over the previous year, which had 25 fewer complaints.

Charges of religious discrimination jumped by 9.5 percent, the largest increase of any category. Claims of bias based on ancestry or country of origin rose 5 percent.

Experts say the increase reflects the growing diversity of the nation's work force.

"We're seeing a greater diversity among minority groups in America," said Ron Cooper, a former general counsel of the EEOC who now works in private practice. "We're seeing more workers from India, Pakistan and other countries that bring additional religious complexity to the work force."

The commission does not specify which religious or ethnic groups filed the most charges.

As in past years, claims based on race, sex and retaliation were the charges filed most often, according to commission data.

Charges of racial bias fell by 1 percent, while sexual discrimination claims fell 2 percent and sexual harassment claims dropped 3 percent.

At the same time, claims of disability bias climbed 2 percent and charges of discrimination based on age rose 1 percent.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Sam Hananel 

Bailed-Out Companies Pressured TARP Pay Czar To Keep Executive Pay High: Report

WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Pressure from financial institutions and Treasury officials undermined an effort to limit executive pay at seven companies rescued with taxpayer money, a new government audit showed on Tuesday.

The official overseeing executive pay for bailout firms limited cash compensation and made some reductions in pay, but still approved compensation packages in the millions, the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) inspector general said in the report.

Former U.S. pay czar Kenneth Feinberg approved pay packages worth $5 million or more from 2009 to 2011 for 49 top earners, the report said.

"Special Master Feinberg said the companies pressured him to let the companies pay executives enough to keep them from quitting, and that Treasury officials pressured him to let the companies pay executives enough to keep the companies competitive and on track to repay TARP funds," the report said.

Public anger over high pay and billion-dollar bonuses at bailed-out firms in 2008 prompted the Obama administration to limit cash salaries at $500,000 and approve compensation packages for the companies' top earners.

Newt Gingrich: Brian Williams 'Wrong' To Silence GOP Debate Crowd

Newt Gingrich hit out at NBC's Brian Williams on Tuesday morning, criticizing the moderator of Monday night's debate for keeping the forum's audience quiet.

The crowd, which has been one of the stars of the never-ending series of GOP debates for months, was notably muted on Monday, under strict instructions from Williams not to interfere. Perhaps he was thinking of the last time he hosted a debate, when audience members cheered after he questioned Rick Perry about the number of executions his state had carried out.

While there were some moments of scattered applause on Monday, the candidates were mostly sending their zingers into dead air -- and Gingrich, who loves to play to the audience, was robbed of another standing ovation from the crowd.

Speaking on Tuesday's "Fox and Friends," Gingrich said that NBC and Williams had made a bad choice.

"I wish in retrospect I had protested when Brian Williams took them out of it because I think it's wrong," he said. "And I think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that they're going to side with the candidates against the media."

Gingrich added that, in upcoming debates, he was "simply not going to allow" the moderators to silence the audience.

"The media doesn't control free speech," he said.

UPDATE: CNN, which has held some of the most raucous debates of all the networks, told HuffPost's Michael Calderone that the reaction to NBC's debate rules has not changed its plans about the forum it is hosting on Thursday night.

"As we have done in the past, CNN will ask the audience to be respectful of the candidates," the network said in a statement. "We have always said that if audience reaction such as shouting or booing interferes with the debate or with the candidates’ answers, we will ask the audience to refrain."

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Jack Mirkinson 

Santorum Touts Birther Endorsement

On Friday night the Santorum campaign sent out a press release boasting that “OVER 30 NATIONAL CONSERVATIVE LEADERS ENDORSE SANTORUM.” Just who were these leaders? Some were utterly obscure figures who do not actually qualify as national conservative leaders. (For example, “Ken Campbell, California Conservative Leader” does not appear anywhere on the Google search results for “Ken Campbell.”)

A few were legitimate, if polarizing, national conservative leaders, such as Gary Bauer, Richard Viguerie and James Dobson. (All are more precisely described as social conservatives rather than just conservatives generally.)

But one name in particular stood out: Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of and WND Books. If you don’t know about Farah, you should. He edits World Net Daily, an extremely nasty, conspiracy-minded cesspool of far-right fear-mongering. It may sound marginal, but it has a surprisingly large reach and readership.

What has made Farah more widely known outside the margins of the conservative movement is his relentless advocacy of “birtherism,” the racist lie that President Obama was not actually born in Hawaii.

Farah has been promoting bogus conspiracy theories about Democratic presidents since the Clinton administration. A 1996 Columbia Journalism Review article called “The Vincent Foster Factory” reported the role played by Farah, then head of the Western Journalism Center, in promoting suspicions surrounding the death of Clinton White House counsel Vince Foster.

Who Are Boko Haram and Why Are They Terrorizing Nigerian Christians?

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria - Boko Haram. If you've heard of them at all, you probably know them as the ultra-secretive, yet hyperactive Islamist sect seemingly bent on murdering Nigerian Christians and bringing down the young democracy of Africa's most populous nation. In the span of little over a year, they've gone from local oddity to national terror. Yet no one seems to quite know who they are or what to do about them.

To help separate myth from reality, the following is a brief introduction to Boko Haram.


Boko Haram is actually the nickname in the Hausa language for the group officially known in Arabic as "Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad"--the People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad. Coined by northern Muslims and subsequently picked up by the press, the name Boko Haram translates loosely as "Western education is forbidden" and is derived from one of the chief tenets of the teachings of Muhammad Yusuf, the group's early leader, who claimed that western style education ("boko" in Hausa) and the holding of government jobs are religiously forbidden, or haram, under Islam.

One of a number of young Nigerian clerics who embraced Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi/Salafi strain of Islam in the mid-1990s, Yusuf called upon Muslims to remove, by force if necessary, Nigeria's secular government and replace it with an Islamic state. Though he remained ambiguous enough to avoid prosecution for outright treason, his aggressive rhetoric, the growing ranks of his followers, and fears--later to prove well-founded--that the group was stockpiling weapons soon began to worry local authorities.

In GOP Debate, Romney Wins the Clash of the Unreliable Conservatives

On the Florida debate stage Monday, there were four Republican candidates: the most fiscally conservative, Ron Paul; the most socially conservative, Rick Santorum; and the two frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who insist that they're more conservative than one another.

Strange that a job requiring as diverse a skill-set as the presidency begins in a vetting process focused on ideology, especially since frontrunners are never ideologically consistent. But it is imperative that they fake it. Republican voters, who like the connotation of "conservative," say it's a quality they prefer; revealed preference suggests what they actually want is an inconsistent right-leaning opportunist (George W. Bush, John McCain) who helps them evade certain kinds of cognitive dissonance (like hating deficit-financed government health care in theory and loving the budget-busting Medicare prescription-drug expansions in practice).

Mitt Romney helps his supporters to feel as though they're principled conservatives, even as they support a Massachusetts moderate, by muddying the distinction between the political and the personal. Romney's biography driven campaign is meant to say, "Of course I'm conservative! Can't you see that I made all this money in private enterprise, built a fortune thanks to my ascent in a fair meritocracy, stayed married to my wife all these years, had all these kids, and find the entrepreneur in me earnestly pained by President Obama's incompetence?"

For Newt Gingrich, the narrative meant to obscure his personal and political failings goes like this: "I'm one of you, and you can't deny our tribal connection. I fought for us in the 1990s against Bill Clinton. I believed we were a rightful majority before anyone. I have even more contempt for the media than you do. Others may say Obama is incompetent; I'll be damned if political correctness will stop me from explaining that he's a Kenyan anti-colonialist, and if liberals think that's racist it only proves that they're the real bigots."

"Self Deportation": It's a Real Thing, and It Isn't Pretty

Mitt Romney unveiled a novel solution for illegal immigration during Tuesday night's GOP debate, saying that he'd rely on "self-deportation" to reduce the number of unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Or at least it sounded novel. As my colleague Clara Jeffery notes, while "self-deportation" might sound like something you don't want your parents to catch you doing, it's actually an old euphemism for an immigration strategy of "attrition through enforcement." What "self-deportation"—the favored approach to immigration of the GOP's right-wing—actually means is making life so miserable for unauthorized immigrants that they "voluntarily" leave. Here's Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies (the anti-immigrant think tank that tried to mainstream the "terror baby" conspiracy theory) explaining the concept in 2005:
Among the other measures that would facilitate enforcement: hiring more U.S. Attorneys and judges in border areas, to allow for more prosecutions; passage of the CLEAR Act, which would enhance cooperation between federal immigration authorities and state and local police; and seizing the assets, however modest, of apprehended illegal aliens.
These and other enforcement measures would enable the government to detain more illegal aliens; additional measures would be needed to promote self-deportation. Unlike at the visa office or the border crossing, once aliens are inside the United States, there's no physical site to exercise control, no choke point at which to examine whether someone should be admitted. The solution is to create "virtual choke points"—events that are necessary for life in a modern society but are infrequent enough not to bog down everyone's daily business. Another analogy for this concept to firewalls in computer systems, that people could pass through only if their legal status is verified. The objective is not mainly to identify illegal aliens for arrest (though that will always be a possibility) but rather to make it as difficult as possible for illegal aliens to live a normal life here.

CRTC Ruling: Rogers Violating Net Neutrality Rules

The CRTC has notified Rogers it has evidence the company is violating federal net neutrality rules by deliberately slowing down or "throttling" some of its internet traffic.

Andrea Rosen, CRTC's chief compliance and enforcement officer, notified Rogers of the findings in a letter last Friday. Rogers has until noon on Feb. 3 to respond or face a hearing.

To avoid a hearing, Rogers must present a rebuttal of the evidence or provide the CRTC with a plan to come into compliance with the act. If Rogers fails to do so, the regulator may order the company to partially reimburse customers and to change its practices.

The CRTC based its findings on the results of an investigation in collaboration with Cisco Systems, the hardware and software vendor that Rogers uses.

The probe was launched last October after a complaint by the Canadian Gamers Organization, an advocacy group for people who play video games, that accused Rogers of hindering online games. Specifically, the group detailed slow internet speeds experienced while playing Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Jason Koblovsky, a Canadian Gamers Organization co-founder, called the CRTC findings "historic" and "a big win" not just for game developers but all Canadian internet users.

"There's a tremendous amount of throttling going on. Basically, any game that's running above 80 kilobits per second with peer-to-peer file sharing open is affected," he told CBC News in a phone interview.

"We're hoping that the evidence uncovered by the CRTC's investigations will also help game developers improve online environments. Their product is being hindered by Cisco's throttling equipment causing problems with connectivity and lag in a lot of gaming environments."

The Telecommunications Act and CRTC regulations allow throttling of peer-to-peer file sharing programs like BitTorrent, but not of time-sensitive internet traffic like video chatting or gaming.

CBC News is awaiting a response from Rogers.

In March Rogers admitted its network systems were unintentionally slowing down, or throttling, internet traffic for the game World of Warcraft, and then said it had resolved the problem. Then in September, the company said other games and programs might be getting tripped up by its throttling.

Bell recently announced it will stop all throttling as of March 1.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: CBC 

IMF: Canadian Economy Victim Of Global Problems, To Weaken In 2012

OTTAWA - Canada's recovery is being dragged down by a cascading crisis in Europe and weakening conditions elsewhere, the International Monetary Fund suggests in its latest economic outlook.

The Washington-based monitor of global financial affairs said Tuesday that Canada's economy will likely now grow by only 1.7 per cent — three notches lower than the Bank of Canada's estimate just last week — and two-tenths of a point lower than its own previous call in September.

And the IMF doesn't see the economy in Canada strengthening much in 2013. Unlike the central bank, which predicts 2.8 per cent expansion next year, it says Canada's recovery will be restrained to two per cent.

That's still tops among the Group of Seven big industrial nations, but only because the other six members of the club will be hit even worse by the European problems.

Newt Gingrich: Stephen Harper Gets Shout-Out From Republican Hopeful

Newt Gingrich is a fan of Stephen Harper.

The Republican presidential hopeful gave the Canadian prime minister a shout out in his speech after winning the South Carolina primary on Saturday night.

Gingrich was taking President Obama to task for scrapping plans for the Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to Texas and took a moment to praise Harper and warn of an impending "Chinese-Canadian partnership" on energy (you can see his comments starting at 18:20 in the video above.)

Gingrich described Harper as a "conservative and pro-American" prime minister who is being forced to consider selling Canadian energy to China because of Obama's decision on Keystone. "What (Harper) has said is he's going to cut a deal with the Chinese and they'll build a pipeline straight across the Rockies to Vancouver," said Gingrich, referencing the proposal for the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

"Now, an American president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership is truly a danger to this country."

Gingrich was picking up on the growing sense that Canada is turning to China as an energy partner as an alternative to the United States.

Just this week, China's ambassador to Canada, Zhang Junsai, voiced his nation's desire to forge a "win-win" energy partnership with Canada. The ambassador touted the $5 billion Chinese state-owned enterprises invested in Canadian resources last year.

The comments come after Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird made it clear that Canada is looking east for oil sales in the wake of the Keystone decision.

Liberal interim leader Bob Rae joked that Gingrich and Harper "deserve each other," according to The Globe And Mail

A Liberal staffers was even spotted handing out Newt-Harper buttons on Tuesday, according to The Ottawa Citizen's Glen McGregor.

Glen McGregor
Liberal staffer on the Hill handing out Newt-Harper buttons

It's possible that, in a way, Rae is correct.

Harper has made it clear that since the end of George W. Bush's presidency Canada-U.S. relations have been getting worse.

Keystone is just one part of that. Harper has also expressed concerns about trade and border issues, such as the Buy American provisions proposed by Obama.

Harper may very well enjoy a closer relationship with a like-minded conservative, such as Gingrich or even Mitt Romney, than with Obama. We'll have to wait until November 2012 to find out.

Original Article

First Nations Summit: Stephen Harper Calls For Changes To Modernize Indian Act

OTTAWA - What was billed as the historic coming-together of the federal government and First Nations began with the two sides polarized over the future of the Indian Act.

Though there had been fears the prime minister would beat a hasty retreat from Tuesday's meetings, he extended his stay well past lunch and was expected to close out the day.

But that show of goodwill didn't move the two sides any closer by midday to deciding whether they could jointly agree on the next steps for the Crown-First Nations relationship or would remain divided.

The Indian Act became a flashpoint that high-profile chiefs seized upon to showcase the gap between the two sides.

Prime Minister Harper said he sees the act as something that can be updated to reflect modern practices.

But Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, led a parade of speakers who described the century-old legislation as a boulder blocking the path to collaboration.

They laid out their views in back-to-back speeches Tuesday as the opening of the major meeting of leaders and government ministers and officials.

NDP vows to stop Harper from ‘ruining society’ in upcoming session

It’s still a week before MPs return to sit in the House of Commons, but the rhetoric is already back.

New Democrat MP and caucus chair Peter Julian spoke to reporters Monday afternoon to give an update on the Quebec caucus meeting, and highlighted a few of the items the Official Opposition has on its to-do list for the new session.

After five weeks back in their ridings, he said, MPs are coming back to Ottawa “full of energy.” He highlighted three specific issues the NDP will focus on in the upcoming session: public sector cuts, health care and aboriginal issues.

In sum, he said, the NDP will return “united and ready to continue the fight to prevent Stephen Harper from ruining the society that Canadians have put so much effort into building.”

He also noted the NDP ought to have some credit for the meeting Tuesday between Prime Minister Harper and aboriginal leaders.

Welcome to Alberta, where politicians roam free

With all this touring, one can hardly find time to govern.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s cabinet began a province-wide tour Monday, hoping to “talk with Albertans about their priorities for the future.” It’s an all-too-familiar refrain as of late. They may indeed find Albertans’ priorities include, for starters, a preference for fewer tours.

Doors across the province have been knocked on non-stop. Alberta’s five political parties have combined for at least 14 province-wide tours in the past 16 months, in addition to a federal election and leadership campaigns for three provincial parties, including Ms. Redford’s Progressive Conservatives.

All told, more than two dozen tours – the “Cabinet Tour,” “Summer Leader’s Tour,” “Connecting with Albertans Tour,” the “Earning Your Trust Tour,” the “Big Listen” among them – but all essentially campaign-style sojourns.

Meanwhile, MLAs sat in the legislature for 47 days throughout 2011.

Ms. Redford’s party alone has had at least eight so-called province-wide tours and a leadership race. It’s also the only party that sets the legislative agenda, decides when the house adjourns and, with an overwhelming majority, has access to the largest total travel allowance. Its tours cost more.

Voters unfazed by illegal contributions

Alberta political scandals usually explode in public with a pop rather than a bang. Not a single one has caused the PCs more than passing discomfort for more than 40 years.

The latest, over illegal donations to the governing party, is genuinely serious in principle, but may turn out to be no more damaging. A new poll by Leger Marketing shows that 62 per cent of Albertans aren't even aware of the revelations, even though Wild rose now produces new ones almost daily.

Thirty-seven per cent of people who know about the issue say they don't care; they'll still vote PC.

Among people who've already turned against the government, though, 32 per cent said this strengthens their resolve.

Wildrose had ridden this issue tenaciously, producing a string of revelations about public bodies donating to the PCs, although that has been illegal since 2004.

On Monday, Wildrose came up with two clear new cases; line items in PC party disclosures that show Calgary Lab Services gave $850 to the party in both 2010 and 2011. The testing outfit where we give blood (more than once, it turns out) is wholly owned by Alberta Health Services. That surely bans it from donating under the law. Yet Calgary Lab twice handed funds to the party whose government runs AHS.

Criticizing the conservative Christy Clark

For a premier trying to establish her conservative credentials, Christy Clark has had a nice run of late.

In no particular order, the B.C. Liberal Premier appointed a top federal Tory strategist as her new chief of staff, received national press attention for her perceived efforts to import Stephen Harper’s brand of conservatism to the West Coast and the topper – her Tim Hortons moment with the Prime Minister in a local ice rink while watching her son play hockey.

A slice of Canadiana captured for posterity – and the next provincial election – by a shutterbug on the Premier’s staff.

In that regard, the Premier’s efforts to cast her Liberal administration in a bluer hue has had all the subtlety of football’s end-zone dance. The biggest immediate threat to her party’s re-election chances is not the New Democratic Party, which leads the polls, but the upstart B.C. Conservative Party, which appears to be badly draining support from the right flank of the party’s Liberal-Conservative coalition.
A recent poll had the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 23 per cent each. (The NDP were at 40.)

The man who has singlehandedly changed the Liberal Party’s game plan quietly snickers when asked to discuss Ms. Clark’s efforts to reframe herself through a conservative lens. But as he speaks, former Conservative MP and now B.C. Conservative Party Leader John Cummins seems less amused by the degree to which the Premier – whose history with the federal Liberal Party runs deep – appears to be trying to change stripes.

More guns, fewer owners: RCMP report

Canadians own more than half a million more firearms than they did in 2006, according to the 2010 annual report from the RCMP's Canadian Firearms Program.

But while federal firearms data shows that the number of registered gun owners in Canada is dropping, the arsenal of each is getting bigger and bigger.

But many gun owners — and a Tory MP — say the government's estimates are off the mark, and that there may be twice as many firearms, and firearms owners, in Canada as the RCMP says. They say many Canadian gun owners are "going underground," due to fears they will face increased police scrutiny and the seizure of their weapons.

In 2006, there were a total of 7,102,466 firearms registered in Canada. By 2010, this number had grown to 7,646,699, an increase of 544,233, or over 100,000 per year.

However, between 2006 and 2010, the number of licensed gun owners has dropped from 1,908,011 to 1,848,000. This represents a decrease of 60,011, or about 12,000 per year for five years.

Government's information chaperones throttling our democracy

OTTAWA - I have a story to tell you. But first allow me to say a few words on one of humanity's finest jewels: democracy.

Governments in countries like Syria have Draconian ways of dealing with citizens who dare to speak openly without their approval. They send out snipers.

Governments in countries like Canada aren't like the government in Syria. Western governments celebrate free speech, openness and transparency. Our governments fund activities around the world that promote the kind of civic discourse that is at the core of democracy.

All governments, however, are at times tempted to circumvent democratic principles when those principles threaten their own grip on power. The Harper government, as many have noted before me, has succumbed to such temptation with unprecedented passion.

The result is that control is out of control, as it were. Ministers are scripted; committees are neutered; debate is cut off; public servants are muzzled; laws and court edicts are ignored; official watchdogs are fired; bills are adulterated with agenda-filling provisions unconnected to their rationale; opposition amendments are dismissed out of hand; provincial premiers are avoided; and the prime minister's communications-control team grows at a steroidal pace in an era of fiscal restraint.

Harper to summit: Capitalism works best

Capitalism, despite criticism, is still the best way to create prosperity - but it must be bolstered through proper regulations, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will tell the world's political and business elite at an exclusive summit in the Swiss Alps this week.

Harper is to deliver the keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where his blunt words are bound to draw attention to Canada.

Among his messages: Europe must finally get its debt-ridden house in order, or the economic contagion could sweep around the world and cause a recession.

Canada is keen to "diversify" its trading relationships throughout the world - particularly in growing economies such as Asia - and is keen to seal a free trade deal this year with Europe.

The Canadian energy sector is looking for customers worldwide, not just in the United States.

Harper leaves tonight for the annual gathering, which dates back to 1971.

This year, 40 political leaders and more than 1,600 business leaders are among those who will attend. Amid tight security, the participants attend provocative policy discussions and spend hours in private talks.

Canada should look to its think tanks

Those convinced that 2012 will be the year of an apocalypse have some grounds for thinking so, at least if events in 2011 are any indication.

We have witnessed a global wave of economic, social, and political indignation, in many ways without precedence. In addition to the European Union’s existential challenge, we have simultaneously experienced the Arab awakenings, riots in the United Kingdom, India’s anti-corruption movements, growing numbers of Chinese protests, anti-Putin demonstrations in Russia, and Occupy Wall Street movements in the United States, Canada and elsewhere. No geographic region has been exempt.

While each set of events can generally be explained in terms of local conditions, one could also conclude that all are symptomatic of larger global forces at play; namely the unrealized expectations of people, and a growing perception that gaps in income and material wellbeing are widening to unacceptable levels.

Add to this that the world is now in a period of profound uncertainty, especially around the pace, direction and sustainability of today’s dominant economic model, and it is little wonder that people are deeply worried.

Indeed, it has become almost axiomatic for serious analysts of world affairs to acknowledge that we are today part of an historically unprecedented transformation which includes geo-political power shifts, accelerated technological transformation raising youth expectations globally, and economic development creating a new international middle class intensifying demand for the planet’s finite natural resources.

Flaherty puts health care on new course

Ten or so years from now, we may look back and circle Dec. 19, 2011 as the day our health-care system embarked on a new path.

Whether it will ultimately be a good or bad path remains to be seen.

That was the day federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty dropped a bombshell on his provincial counterparts by informing them they could no longer rely on billions of new dollars in federal funding for health care every year.

Flaherty announced the new policy - which takes effect in 2015 - without any consultation, although he had been hinting something was up for weeks prior.

The finance ministers were shell-shocked, since federal funding would drop from six per cent annual boosts to a percentage tied to the nation's economic growth.

Even though it means a likely reduction of only a couple of percentage points, when applied to the massively expensive health-care system the dollars amount to a significant amount. B.C. stands to lose $250 million a year, while Alberta will see a windfall in excess of $1 billion.

Baird pushes for gay rights in Commonwealth

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird urged Commonwealth countries to protect the rights of homosexuals Monday, singling out African and Caribbean countries for criminalizing homosexuality and failing to protect gays from homophobic attacks.

Canadian gay rights activists said they were both "stunned" and "delighted" to hear Baird defend gay rights abroad.

Addressing a meeting of the Royal Commonwealth Society in London, Baird called laws criminalizing homosexuality a "hangover" from a bygone era.

"Dozens of Commonwealth countries currently have regressive and punitive laws on the books that criminalize homosexuality," Baird said. "Throughout most of the Commonwealth Caribbean, colonial-era laws remain on the books that could impose draconian punishments on gay people simply for being gay.

"This contributes to social stigma and violence against gay people," he said.

Baird called on Commonwealth governments to follow the example of "progressive countries" like Canada and the United Kingdom, and not "wilfully ignore" their obligations to protect the rights of citizens regardless of sexual orientation.

"We will continue to press countries in the Commonwealth to live up to their international obligations, and uphold the basic contract any government should have with its people," he said. "The criminalization of homosexuality is incompatible with the fundamental Commonwealth value of human rights."

Is Harper approach to native issues more than just a passing phase?

The third phase of Stephen Harper’s approach to aboriginal issues collides with the angry, conflicting, politically charged demands of Canada’s first nations leadership Tuesday. Not only is there no certainty of success, no one is exactly sure what success would look like.

The meeting itself is an important station in the progress of this Prime Minister. Mr. Harper came to power in 2006 determined to scupper the Kelowna Accord, Paul Martin’s multibillion-dollar agreement to improve health, education and quality of life for Indian and other aboriginal people.

In this phase, Mr. Harper saw Kelowna as another Kyoto: vastly expensive and impossible to implement. That wasn’t fair to Mr. Martin, who had succeeded for the first time in persuading native leaders to focus more on fighting social challenges within their community and less on demands for greater autonomy.

Regardless, Kelowna evaporated, to be replaced by Phase Two: a succession of ad hoc policies put forward by a succession of Indian Affairs ministers, with little clear direction and no great urgency. Meanwhile, the problem and potential remained: hundreds of thousands of young native children living on reserve, many in dire conditions, receiving little in the way of education and with little hope of finding a job, even as the natural-resource sector surrounding some of the reserves flourished and Canada imported workers to deal with growing job shortages.

Can Canada overcome its 'Katrina moment'?

More than 400 aboriginal chiefs will meet Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, and government ministers at a summit known as the Crown-First Nations Gathering in Ottawa. It is the first official meeting of its kind since he took office in 2006.

The aim is to improve the relationship between the Canadian government and what is known as Canada's First Nations communities.

That relationship stalled six years ago when the current Conservative government abandoned a five-year, $5bn plan known as the Kelowna Accord.

That agreement sought to improve education, employment and living conditions for aboriginal peoples through government funding.

Resolving outstanding land claims is among the top priorities. Aboriginal leaders feel the current process of settling the claims unjustly favours the federal government.

Also high on the list of priorities is economic development. First Nation leaders want to secure a fair share of revenues from the exploitation of natural resources on aboriginal lands.

And on health and education, most First Nation leaders will be pressing for a commitment to levels of funding and services comparable with those for non-aboriginal communities.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government is increasingly coming into conflict with the needs of First Nations communities as it promotes the extraction of oil and other natural resources.

Last week, health and environmental concerns prompted tribal chiefs to reject a proposed pipeline from the Tar Sands to the Pacific Coast.

Earlier this month, a First Nations group sued the government for $10bn - alleging that they were not adequately compensated for potash and oil developments on their land.

A diamond mine projected to become one of the richest in the world is just upstream from the poverty-stricken town of Attawapiskat on James Bay. The mine is on traditional lands, but the royalties flow to the province.

That town also made headlines recently over living conditions when it was found that people were living in tents, shacks and trailers in temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Charles Angus, a member of parliament representing James Bay, describes the conditions within several of the First Nation communities as an "international disgrace for our nation".

He tells Inside Story: "The Attawapiskat crisis certainly shook Canada. In a way it has been our Katrina moment because Canadians were shocked that people were living in such dire conditions but then also shocked that the government had no plan, no seeming interest to respond."

So what is the state of the relationship between federal governments and aboriginal communities across North America? And how should these issues be addressed and their living standards improved? Will the Ottawa summit deal with the real issues at hand, or is it just a photo-opportunity?

Joining presenter Anand Naidoo to discuss this are: Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada; Rex Lee Jim, the vice-president of the Navajo Nation in the US; and Jacqueline Pata, the executive director at the National Congress of American Indians.

"Canada not only created these reserves, they displaced First Nation's laws with provincial child welfare, education and health laws that should apply to all Canadians. The result is most horribly experienced by children. One-in-six First Nations communities don't even have the basics like water; some of them are using buckets for sewers. The list goes on and it is unacceptable in a wealthy country like ours, and completely preventable."

Original Article
Source: aljazeera 
Author: - 

Nash right choice to lead New Democrats

"Great necessities call forth great leaders."
- Abigail Adams, former U.S. first lady – 1744-1818

Political parties face no tougher challenge than selecting a new leader, especially after the departure of a proven winner.

The test is even more difficult for the federal New Democratic Party because of the death of Jack Layton shortly after he reached the height of success.

The NDP’s choice March 24 will become the new leader of the official opposition, the alternative to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the 2015 election.

And that makes party unity a necessity for victory.

While replacing Layton is impossible, the field of candidates to succeed him is very strong.

As Globe and Mail newspaper columnist Jeffrey Simpson flatteringly put it: “Frankly, it’s doubtful the Liberals or Conservatives could field a group of eight such intelligent candidates.”

In observing the NDP hopefuls, and talking directly to most, I’ve also been very impressed.

But a leadership campaign is about choices, and I’ve made mine – I will support Peggy Nash.

My reasons for backing the Member of Parliament for Toronto’s Parkdale-High Park riding are both complex and simple.

It’s rare to find someone who is extremely tenacious as well as gracious – two qualities I admire and easily see in Nash.

As political centre shifts, Manning now fears ‘eastern alienation’

Preston Manning is worried about eastern alienation. This, from the Alberta politician who created an entire political movement around the mantra, “the West wants in.”

“This will sound funny coming from me. I worry about eastern alienation,” Mr. Manning told The Globe.

It does sound odd – especially given his more than 20 year fight to have the West recognized as a political force in the country.

Mr. Manning, however, has come full circle with the West finally in after last May’s election that saw the Harper Conservatives win a big majority government. His success has now created this new concern.

“The different thing after this election is this shift in the political centre of gravity of the country,” observes Mr. Manning. “It’s now an alignment between Ontario and the West, not an alignment between Ontario and Quebec. And that’s got positive implications. It’s got things to worry about, too.”

Mr. Manning, who now runs the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, is putting the final touches on his fourth “Manning Networking Conference”, a three-day conference for mostly conservative thinkers that takes place in Ottawa in early March. More than 400 people are expected, including senior Harper Ministers – Treasury Board President Tony Clement, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose.

Tom Flanagan to run Wildrose campaign in Alberta election

Former Conservative national campaign manager Tom Flanagan will be running the spring election campaign for Alberta’s Wildrose Party, the latest sign that the allegiances of federal Conservatives are split in the party’s home base.

Wildrose is a libertarian upstart casting itself as a more-conservative alternative to the governing Progressive Conservatives, who have strung together 40 consecutive years of government in the province. A poll Monday showed Wildrose gaining, but still well behind the PCs led by Premier Alison Redford.

In Mr. Flanagan, Wildrose gets a campaign manager with deep ties to the federal Conservative Party. He’s a University of Calgary professor and former colleague and confidant of Prime Minister Stephen Harper – whom Mr. Flanagan has nonetheless criticized occasionally since.

His hiring shows how Wildrose continues to tap into the Conservative base in its bid to dethrone the more centrist PCs.

“The number of years of experience he brings to the campaign is immense to us,” said Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, who Monday’s poll showed as effectively tied, 40-39, in approval ratings with Ms. Redford. “He’s given a lot of focus to our efforts, and we’ll be ready to go whenever it is they decide to pull the plug.”

An election is expected in late April. Monday’s Forum Research Inc. poll showed the PCs with 38-per-cent support and projected to win 57 of the province’s 87 seats (the party currently holds 68 of 83 existing ridings). Wildrose had 29-per-cent support, up from 23 per cent a month earlier, and was projected to win 17 seats. The NDP was set to expand to five and the Liberals, currently the official opposition, were projected to retain just four seats.

Can First Nations become subjects rather than objects?

The scene is the Mid-Way Lake Music Festival, in the Northwest Territories (NWT). We're just off a remote stretch of the Dempster Highway, north of the Arctic Circle, in the territory of the Peel River, or Tetlit, Gw'i'chin people.

It is the late 1980s, and a well-known Canadian singer-songwriter and television host has come here to the extreme northwest of the NWT to film a program focused on the festival and the people who take part in it.

Lifelong hunter and trapper Willie MacDonald -- some call him "old" Willie MacDonald, though at 80 he still lives independently and goes out in the bush regularly -- is part of the festival action. He shakes the television personality's hand when it is offered and, gently wagging his finger, admonishes him:

"How come you don't know me? I know you -- you're in my house all the time, on the TV! Why don't you know me?"

The TV personality is amiable and friendly, but a bit nonplussed.

He is evidently not used to having mischievous, metaphysical puzzles posed to him by aboriginal hunters who wander the woods and tundra north of the 67th parallel.

Harper takes Republican allies

Close observers of U.S. politics were surprised to see Newt Gingrich win the South Carolina primary. The prospective Republican nominee for President, a disgraced former congressman from Georgia, had to recover from successive primary defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire, and a second ex-wife bent on retribution, to do it. Of equal surprise to Canadians was seeing Gingrich single out Stephen Harper in his victory speech.

At one level there was no need for astonishment in Canada. Links with Gingrich were established by the Reform Party (the Preston Manning-led forerunner to today's Conservative Party of Canada) when Harper was its research director. In those days, Newt Gingrich ruled over the U.S. House of Representatives as its speaker, and he spoke openly about lessons learned from Reform political practices. Based on past contact it was unsurprising to hear Gingrich accurately depict Harper as "a conservative and pro-American."

What was unexpected was the way Gingrich used his victory speech to ally himself with the Harper Conservatives in order to mount an attack on U.S. President Barrack Obama, the opponent for the eventual Republican nominee in the November presidential election.

Gingrich went after Obama for postponing approval of the extension to the Keystone pipeline, which is supposed to take raw bitumen from the Fort McMurray area of Alberta, down to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would be refined into motor and aviation fuel. By refusing to take Canadian petroleum, Gingrich said Obama was pushing Canada into an alliance with China, the presumed global rival of the U.S.

250,000 jobs vacant, new Statscan survey says

Canadian employers had, on average, 248,000 job vacancies last fall, even as the country's jobless rate remained above 7 per cent, a new national survey shows.

Statistics Canada's new job vacancy survey, out Tuesday, shows there were 3.3 unemployed people in Canada for every vacancy in the three months to September.

This is the first such release of its kind, so the initial data offers a snapshot of openings in Canada rather than a historical look at change over time.

The release provides estimates of the number and rates of job vacancies at broad industrial levels for Canada, the provinces and territories, and by size of enterprise.

Much is already known about the supply side of Canada’s labour market -- the people looking for work. But relatively little is known about the demand side of the equation. Economists said the new release will add useful insights into where the jobs are.

“The job vacancy story can give us an element we didn’t have,” unlike the U.S., which has regularly tracked openings, said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC World Markets. “This can give us a sense of the skills mismatch what companies want and what is available,”

This isn’t the first time Canada has released openings. A help-wanted index, based on the number of want ads published in Canadian newspapers, ran a decade ago, but was discontinued in 2003.

Year-over-year comparisons of changes in job vacancies will be available from June onwards.

Today’s release “is a good beginning, but we really need a trend to see if it’s improving or not,” Mr. Tal said.

Educational services had the highest ratio of unemployed people to vacancies, with 10 jobless people per opening. Construction was next.

Wholesale trade, along with health care and social assistance, had the lowest ratio.

Among provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta had the highest job vacancies in the country.

Original Article
Source: Globe 
Author: Tavia Grant 

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford delays vote on sale of TCHC homes

Mayor Rob Ford, still stinging from a budget defeat last week, is reaching out to council centrists on the thorny issue of selling Toronto Community Housing Corp. homes.

Ford’s executive committee had been expected to vote Tuesday to sell the 675 single-family homes to raise more than $220 million to repair TCHC’s crumbling apartment blocks.

But council has final say and concerns about reducing the number of TCHC units when there is a record waiting list, along with the fate of low-income families now in the homes, virtually guaranteed another defeat for Ford, who last week saw his stern order not to touch the 2011 surplus ignored.

On Monday night, he released a statement saying he is delaying the TCHC vote for one month so the social housing provider can report back on: how the proceeds will be used for repairs; how the rent-geared to income units will be replaced; and how their occupants will be relocated.

“I meet with people in Toronto Community Housing units every week. Many of the units are absolutely disgusting. The entire system is in desperate need of repairs,” Ford said in the statement.

Spain’s human rights hero on trial for probing civil war atrocities

MADRID—The Spanish judge who became an international human rights hero went on trial Tuesday for daring to probe right-wing atrocities around the Spanish civil war that may be linked to the deaths or disappearances of more than 100,000 civilians.

It is the second trial in as many weeks for the 56-year-old Baltasar Garzon, although the charges at the Supreme Court are essentially the same: that he knowingly exceeded the bounds of his authority.

Last week he stood trial for ordering jailhouse wiretaps in a corruption investigation. In this case he has been indicted for investigating more than 100,000 civilian deaths and disappearances at the hands of supporters of the late dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.

The crimes took place during and after Spain’s 1936-39 civil war, which brought Franco to power.

Such crimes were covered by an amnesty passed in 1977 as Spain moved to restore democracy after Franco’s death in 1975, but Garzon investigated anyway. He argued that crimes involving missing persons cannot be covered by amnesty, and that the killings and disappearances amounted to a crime against humanity by the Franco regime and such atrocities have no statute of limitations.

Spaniards are highly divided over Garzon — he has rock star status among rights groups but conservatives deride him as being more interested in fame than in justice.

Human rights group say it is appalling that Garzon — who has pioneered universal jurisdiction, or the idea that some crimes are so heinous they can be prosecuted anywhere — is being put on trial at home for daring to probe what is arguably Spain’s biggest unresolved human rights case. They say he is being targeted by Spanish right-wingers and it would be a tremendous embarrassment and setback for the Spanish justice system if he is convicted.

Newt Gingrich and the politics of resentment

If Newt Gingrich becomes the Republican presidential candidate — now quite likely although far from certain — next fall’s presidential contest will become one of the nastiest and most divisive in a long time.

Some of the ugliness that may then disfigure American politics is already plain to see. Gingrich keeps calling Barack Obama a “food-stamp president” (as opposed to himself as a “paycheque” one), a reference, indirect but intentional, to the colour of those most likely to depend on food stamps, and also the most likely to vote for Obama.

At the same time, though, an Obama-Gingrich contest would not be just a race between two individuals to win the world’s most important job (or to hold onto it). It would be at the same time a contest between two radically different ideas about American society.

In a prototypically American way, the presidential election of 2012 thus may end up as an exercise in democracy at both its worst and its best, in the latter instance because it would have the potential to change the nature of the country.

Some of the reasons why the stakes are so high are circumstantial. Gingrich happens to possess exceptional oratorical skills, he having just used them to turn a 10-point deficit in the polls in South Carolina into a large lead in barely a week.

"The Atomic States of America": Exploring a Nation’s Struggle with Nuclear Power

Nuclear power has drawn wide support from both sides of the aisle, with both Republicans and Democrats advancing a pro-nuclear agenda even in the aftermath of last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan. We speak with Sheena Joyce, co-director of the new documentary "The Atomic States of America," which is featured at 2012 Sundance Film Festival. We’re also joined by Kelly McMasters, whose book "Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town" inspired the film. Joyce says, "We used Kelly’s book and the town of Shirley as kind of a springboard into the issue, to just talk to people really on both sides, but mainly to speak to the people in reactor communities... We wanted to seek an intelligent dialogue."

Source: Democracy Now! 
Author: - 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledges changes to Indian Act as he launches historic First Nations summit

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper kicked off an historic meeting with First Nations leaders pledging to change parts of the Indian Act to give greater opportunities to Canada’s aboriginal peoples.

“Our goal is self-sufficient citizens and self-governing communities,” Harper said.

“In terms of participation, standard of living and quality of life, the time has come for First Nations to fully share with other Canadians from all walks of life,” Harper said.

The prime minister spoke Tuesday morning at the opening of what he called an “historic” session with First Nations leaders meant to address the challenges facing aboriginal communities across the country.

Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Governor General David Johnston also spoke at the start of the day-long session.

Harper said the “incentives” in the Indian Act “lead to outcomes that we all deplore.”

“To be sure, our Government has no grand scheme to repeal or to unilaterally re-write the Indian Act,” he said.

But he said there are “creative” ways for “practical, incremental and real change.”

“That will be our approach, to replace elements of the Indian Act with more modern legislation and procedures, in partnership with provinces and First Nations,” Harper said.

Stephen Harper heads to rub elbows, twist arms at Davos forum

OTTAWA—Call it the big hug.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is launching a major trade charm offensive this week at Davos, Switzerland in a bid to woo Asian and European trade partners after a stinging rebuff from the U.S. on oil exports.

Although Ottawa announced good news Monday with the extension to 2015 of a softwood lumber deal with the United States, Harper is still smarting from the Obama administration’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline that would have shipped Alberta tar sands crude oil south to U.S. Gulf refineries and markets.

A rerouted pipeline application could still win approval next year. But Harper’s government is not waiting around.

He will renew a push to enter talks the Americans are also in with Asia-Pacific countries to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and to nail down a Canada-European free trade deal, now in its final stages.

Harper will deliver a keynote address Thursday to the influential gathering known as the World Economic Forum. But the real schmoozing happens when the Conservative government leader, along with his foreign affairs, finance and international trade ministers, makes a big pitch in private meetings with other government leaders on the sidelines at the Swiss gabfest.

As Romney Releases Tax Returns, Fmr Senate Investigator Says: We’ve Got To Start Taxing Corporations

During the GOP primary, Mitt Romney has come under fierce attack for parking millions of dollars of his personal wealth in investment funds set up in the Cayman Islands, a notorious Caribbean tax haven. We speak with Tax Justice Network USA chair Jack Blum, a former top congressional investigator of financial crimes, who says tax evasion could seriously cripple the already struggling economy. Blum appears in "We’re Not Broke," a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film examines widespread corporate tax evasion in the United States and the increasing role of offshore tax havens. "Has [Romney] cheated? No," Blum says. "What he’s done is take full advantage of a system that has been structured the way it is because of political influence and a tremendous amount of lobbying money on Capitol Hill... We must not only rewrite the Internal Revenue Code, but we must get a fair contribution from the very wealthy and from corporations, and that is the only way to balance the budget."

Source: Democracy Now! 
Author: -  

The Iranian oil embargo: does this mean war?

The decision to impose an EU oil embargo on Iran, agreed on Monday by European foreign ministers, sets a potential bomb ticking, timed to detonate on 1 July.

On that day, according to the package of measures on the table in Brussels, Europe will stop importing oil from Iran, about a fifth of the country's total exports. At about the same time, US sanctions targeted at the global financing of Iran's oil trade will also kick in. Iran could still export some of its oil to Asia, but at big discounts.

Unlike previous sanctions on Iran, the oil embargo would hit almost all citizens and represent a threat to the regime. Tehran has long said such actions would represent a declaration of war, and there are legal experts in the west who agree.

The threat of an immediate clash in the Gulf appeared to recede over the weekend when the USS Lincoln aircraft carrier and its task force, including the British frigate HMS Argyll and a French warship, travelled through the strait of Hormuz without incident. This was despite warnings earlier this month from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that it would oppose the return of a US carrier to the region.

But tensions are almost certain to build again as the effective date of the oil sanctions approaches. The US has already begun beefing up its military presence in the region, and the IRGC is planning new naval war games next month. Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi told the Fars news agency earlier this month that the upcoming exercises, codenamed "the Great Messenger", would be different from previous war games, without going into detail.

Stephen Harper and the threat of war on Iran

Today's agreement by the European Union to impose an oil embargo on Iran brings the world closer to war. This piece in The Guardian explains the volatile situation, concluding: "Even if Washington and Tehran remain determined to avoid an all-out war, with every passing month there is a rising chance of one breaking out by accident."

Into this tense situation comes Stephen Harper, who took the opportunity of a sit-down with Peter Mansbridge on the CBC last week to make his latest in a series of incendiary comments regarding Iran. I wrote an op-ed for the Georgia Straight to explain why Harper's rhetoric should frighten us all.

The prime minister has been fear mongering about Iran for some time, repeatedly calling Iran the greatest threat to world peace. Harper one-upped himself in this latest conversation with Mansbridge, asserting that he knew "beyond any doubt" that Iran was working to develop nuclear weapons. Not only that, but Harper stated that he is "absolutely convinced" that Iran "would have no hesitation about using nuclear weapons."

This last comment is extraordinary; Harper is in effect claiming to know for a fact that the regime in Tehran is suicidal. Israel already has an arsenal of nuclear weapons -- a fact everyone knows but which the government in Tel Aviv has never formally admitted. (Israel, unlike Iran, is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.) Any attack by Iran, let alone its use of hypothetical nuclear weapons, would result in its total obliteration.

A Healthy Distrust at First Nation-Crown Summit

The government must go beyond mere window dressing and pursue tangible outcomes that address the needs of Aboriginal Canadians.

In light of the recent tensions and public outcry surrounding the crisis in Attawapiskat, it is reasonable to suppose that the First Nations-federal government gathering today will touch on urgent matters facing many First Nations communities: housing and water, education and health, economic viability and resource rights. And, indeed, in recent days, both government and community representatives have spoken to the relevance of these issues for First Nations across the country. But there is one central problem: The meeting will be missing several key players in the process – namely, the premiers of the provinces and territories. How can lasting change be secured when not all of the parties to the First Nations-Crown relationship are present?

Related: Fiddling While Attawapiskat Freezes

The crisis in Attawapiskat has highlighted the critical and fundamental human needs that are not being met for so many First Nations across the country. The media, along with a newly interested public, turned their attention to dig deeper and uncover the truth about this deplorable situation, including the fact that it has festered for over 30 years, largely ignored by government. And yet, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief Shawn Atleo has expressed his optimism for building the relationship between First Nations and government at today’s meeting. This seems too simple an objective for a mere five-hour meeting. Indeed, Atleo’s hope that the federal government will simply demonstrate “willingness … to do the work that is needed” seems vague and ineffectual. Grassroots community members often consider First Nations leaders who tiptoe around government inaction to be weak turncoats. Such sentiment is hardly surprising given centuries of conflict and breached treaties, and now decades of stalled negotiations and impoverished living conditions. At this point in First Nations-Crown interactions, much more is needed than tepid willingness on the part of representatives: Tangible results and measurable outcomes are required in order to strengthen relationships and build mutual trust.

Interestingly, the key priorities to be tackled at the meeting – strengthening First Nations-Crown relationships, economic potential, and community promise – appear far-reaching and ambitious, but reflect imprecision and vagueness. These topics sound strikingly similar to the issues already negotiated in the Kelowna Accord, which were shelved during the tenure of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s previous minority government. The Conservative government states that the intent of today’s meeting is to craft practical approaches to pressing concerns plaguing many First Nations communities, but this language is nebulous. What exactly are the objectives in discussing economic sustainability and promise? Is it reasonable to expect stronger community-government relationships without determined leadership, or without the participation of provincial and territorial leaders? In this light, the gathering appears to be nothing more than window dressing aimed at covering some of the contentious issues that the federal government faces on the “Aboriginal Affairs” file.

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One approach that the government could take, and which might hold more traction among First Nations communities, is an explicit recognition of misdeeds inflicted upon these injured peoples. Such recognition would have to go far beyond the 2008 government apology on Indian Residential Schools, accepting responsibility for ongoing problems and current neglect. Asserting First Nations mismanagement of government funds does little more than shift blame to those who are suffering most, while undermining trust further.

One final step, which is arguably the most likely to promote trust, also seems the least likely to happen, at least in the short term. This step would require government to put action behind words with the provision of robust funding programs to ensure that First Nations achieve a standard of living that meets the Canadian average. This would mean matching educational funding for First Nations children on reserves, distributing adequate resources for ample infrastructure, housing, and sanitation, and taking tangible steps to aggressively counter deteriorating First Nations’ health. Above all, this approach would entail the realization that blaming the victim never suffices, and that First Nations require support – both fiscally and politically – to govern themselves and develop economic and community sustainability. Upholding the honour of the Crown mandates nothing less.

Original Article
Source: the Mark 
Author: Jennifer Dalton