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.]

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bank Accounts Are Hard To Close, And Even Harder To Keep Closed

Some customers who closed bank accounts at Bank of America last fall recently received an unwelcome surprise: Their accounts reopened. Perhaps even more perplexing for these customers: It's the bank's policy.

Bank of America will reactivate a closed account if an electronic deposit or credit, like an automatic bill payment, is made. "If we receive something, we may reopen the account to accept the item, and the account may be subject to associated fees," Betty Reiss, a Bank of America spokeswoman, told The Huffington Post. "We remind [customers of that] when they are closing the account."

JPMorgan Chase also will automatically reopen a customer's account after it's closed if the bank receives a deposit. The bank, which recently eliminated its policy to charge customers an account-closing fee, indicates in its fine print that "any closed account may be automatically reopened if we receive a deposit to the account." JPMorgan Chase declined to further comment.

Complaints about closed accounts coming back from the dead have shown up on blogs and message boards for several years. But so far the complaints have not led to a policy change.

For customers, an old account reopening can be unexpected. At best, someone might happily learn that a former employer directly deposited some cash into the account. But if an account is reopened, however, and there's no money there, a person could get hit with an overdraft fee. Plus in both cases, a maintenance fee could apply.

Rupert Murdoch Flying To London After Eight More Arrested In Tabloid Bribery Scandal

LONDON — Britain's biggest-selling tabloid newspaper was fighting to contain the damage after five of its employees were arrested Saturday in an inquiry into the alleged payment of bribes to police and other officials, detectives and the newspaper's parent company said.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said the five employees from The Sun tabloid had been detained and that police had searched their homes and the group's London offices, potentially deepening the scandal over British tabloid wrongdoing.

A 39-year-old female employee at Britain's defense ministry, a 36-year-old male member of the armed forces and a 39-year-old serving police officer with Surrey Police, were also arrested, police said.

The development follows the arrest of four current and former journalists at the newspaper last month in connection with the same bribery inquiry.

Sun editor Dominic Mohan expressed his alarm at Saturday's arrests, but insisted the six-day-a-week newspaper would continue its work.

"I'm as shocked as anyone by today's arrests, but am determined to lead The Sun through these difficult times," Mohan said in a statement. "I have a brilliant staff and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is on putting out Monday's newspaper."

Replacing History With Fiction in Arizona

In 1997 black America gained a new hero when Tiger Woods putted himself into history at the US Masters. Within a few weeks, it had lost him in an unlikely fashion—to a bespoke racial identity articulated on Oprah’s couch.

Does it bother you being termed “African-American”? Oprah asked him.

“It does,” said Woods, whose father was of African-American, Chinese and Native American descent and whose mother was of Thai, Chinese and Dutch descent. At school he would tick “African-American” and “Asian.” “Growing up, I came up with this name: I’m Cablinasian [CAucasian, BLack, INdian and ASIAN]. I’m just who I am…whoever you see in front of you.” According to an editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times, Woods could not have been more praiseworthy if he’d scored a hole in one wearing a blindfold. “He justly rejects attempts to pigeonhole him in the past,” claimed the editorial. “Tiger Woods is the embodiment of our melting pot and our cultural diversity ideals and deserves to be called what he in fact is—an American.”

It is a peculiar fact of modern Western rhetoric, as prevalent among liberals as conservatives, that nationality is understood as a liberating identity, whereas ethnicity, race and other markers are regarded as confining. There are far more black and Asian people in the world than there are Americans. Racial identity is no less diverse than national identity. But somehow to describe Woods as black or Asian traps him in a pigeonhole, while to define him by his nationality sets him free.

Michele Bachmann At CPAC: Former GOP Candidate Slams Prop 8 Ruling, Meets Chuck Woolery

Former presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann accused the 9th Circuit court of Appeals of “trying to undermine the will of the people” after its decision this week ruling the ban on marriage for gays and lesbians in California to be unconstitutional. And she predicts the case will go before the Supreme Court.

"The people of the state of California have the right to vote on the laws that they living under," she told HuffPost Gay Voices shortly after she gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Thursday.

"They made a vote in 2008," she said. "That's when Barack Obama was running for president. And it's amazing, really, what a decisive outcome it was, so it's interesting, that now you find federal judges trying to undermine the will of the people. That's what federalism is about, and that’s why you'll see this case go to the Supreme Court."

Bachmann, while doing radio interviews on "radio row" at CPAC, met up with Chuck Woolery, the former TV game show host, most notably of the "Love Connection," and they shared a warm embrace as Bachmann giddily called out, "Chuck! Chuck!"

Woolery is promoting "Reset Congress," a project that he outlines on his web site, Save Us Chuck Woolery. He, too, slammed the Prop 8 ruling, and said gays don’t need civil rights. In fact, he believes African-Americans need no civil rights.

Occupy Kindergarten: The Rich-Poor Divide Starts With Education

Economic class is increasingly becoming the great dividing line of American education.

The New York Times has published a roundup of recent research showing the growing academic achievement gap between rich and poor students. It prominently features a paper by Stanford sociologist Sean F. Reardon, which found that, since the 1960s, the difference in test scores between affluent and underprivileged students has grown 40%, and is now double gap between black and white students. (Graph courtesy of the Times.)

Times_Graph_Reardon.pngThe children of the wealthy are pulling away from their lower-class peers -- the same way their parents are pulling away from their peers' parents. When it comes to college completion rates, the rich-poor gulf has grown by 50% since the 1980s. Upper income families are also spending vastly more on their children compared to the poor than they did 40 years ago, and spending more time as parents cultivating their intellectual development.

It may not simply be a matter of the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer -- although that certainly is a part of it. The growing differences in student achievement don't strictly mimic the way income inequality has skyrocketed since the middle of the 20th century. It's actually worse than that. Today, there's a much stronger connection between income and a child's academic success than in the past. Having money is simply more important than it used to be when it comes to getting a good education. Or, as Reardon puts it, "a dollar of income...appears to buy more academic achievement than it did several decades a ago."

Even more discouraging: The differences start early in a child's life, then linger. Reardon notes another study which found that the rich-poor achievement gap between students is already big when they start kindergarden, and doesn't change much over time. His own analysis shows a similar pattern.

How come money is so much more important now than before, and so early in a child's development? Thank your local alpha-mom (or dad).

Social Issues Retake U.S. Politics, 2012 Elections

WASHINGTON — All of a sudden, abortion, contraception and gay marriage are at the center of American political discourse, with the struggling – though improving – economy pushed to the background.

Social issues don't typically dominate the discussion in shaky economies. But they do raise emotions important to factors like voter turnout. And they can be key tools for political candidates clamoring for attention, campaign cash or just a change of subject in an election year.

"The public is reacting to what it's hearing about," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. In a political season, he said, "when the red meat is thrown out there, the politicians are going to go after it."

The economy still tops the list of voters' concerns and probably will still shape this presidential election. For now, at least, the culture wars of the 1990s are back. It's not clear which party will benefit because the same group of voters that opposes abortion might split over gay marriage or whether cancer research should be immune from politics. And it's not yet known to what extent, if at all, social issues will influence voters on Election Day.

Jobs, jobs, jobs – it's been the governing mantra of both parties since the economic bust of 2008, through President Barack Obama's sweeping overhaul of health insurance and the 2010 elections that returned control of the House to Republicans. Since then, voters have turned angry while remaining anxious over the economy's crawl toward stability. Republicans have been keen to blame the slow-motion progress on Obama in their drive to deny him a second term.

Canada Budget 2012: CBC Braces For Budget Cut Of Unknown Size

MONTREAL - The head of the CBC says he fears that imminent budget cuts might affect programming and is anxious to learn what percentage of funding he will lose.

In a speech to the Montreal Board of Trade, Hubert Lacroix said Friday that he's wondering whether the looming cuts will keep the CBC from fulfilling the objectives set out in its latest strategic review.

The comments come as the Harper government prepares deep spending reductions in its upcoming budget, with departments being asked to prepare scenarios for clawbacks of either five or 10 per cent.
''The questions preoccupying me right now, just a few weeks before the (federal) budget, are very simple: How many dollars will be taken away, and how quickly?'' Lacroix said.

''Will we be able to respect the promises laid out in our strategic plan? How many jobs will be affected by these cuts?''

Lacroix said that, upon ''reading the tea leaves we think (the cutback) might be closer to 10 per cent,'' although he stressed that he had no idea what the government is planning.

CBC/Radio-Canada receives $1.1 billion a year. The Crown corporation already cut $171 million from its budget two years ago and eliminated 800 jobs at the time.

In his speech, Lacroix said there was no viable public model for Canadian broadcasting to survive without government support — not even in the private sector.

He expressed frustration with all the criticism levelled by the Quebecor media chain against public money going to the CBC. Lacroix said he estimates that private broadcasters also receive $900 million a year in subsidies and ''other advantages'' from the public purse — including Quebecor.

According to Lacroix, the CBC costs each Canadian $34 per year and offers quality service for that money.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: canadian press 

Canada Income Gap: Toronto Residents' Panel Moves Beyond Talking About The Problem

It’s one thing to admit you have a problem, but quite another to endeavour to solve it.

Such was the formidable challenge facing a panel of 44 randomly selected Toronto residents, who participated in a pioneering initiative to tackle the city’s growing income gap.

Their recommendations, contained in a report released this week, touch on everything from transit and taxation to immigration and housing -- a crucial first step, says University of Toronto urban studies expert David Hulchanski, toward addressing the deepening rich-poor divide that his research has made plain.

“It’s a lot of work to discover the trends, but then, what to do about it?” Hulchanski told The Huffington Post at a launch event on Tuesday. “Here are 97 recommendations. They aim to be affordable, to be practical, to be down-to-earth, to be doable.”

At the top of the list: restoring in some capacity former Mayor David Miller’s controversial Transit City plan to extend rapid transit services to the distant suburbs, where a large proportion of the city’s low-income residents now live.

Despite not having seen the recommendations, city council took took a step in that direction on Wednesday, voting to reject Mayor Rob Ford’s plan to ditch the light-rail network in favour of burying the Eglinton Crosstown LRT below ground.

Abortion In Canada: Stephen Woodworth And Brad Trost Become Voice For Silent Social Conservative MPs

When pro-life Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth stood in front of a podium facing a room packed with journalists Monday he knew he wasn’t facing a friendly crowd.

“You’re here to get a nice controversial story,” he told reporters at the National Press Theatre as he began pleading with them for support.

Since December, Woodworth has taken to the media circuit telling reporters, the public and his constituents that he believes babies who are still in the womb should be recognized as legal human beings and that legislation which only sees them as human once their toes have seen daylight makes no sense. He has filed a motion calling for the formation of a special committee to determine when a human being is formed and, based on that conclusion, what the consequences would be of recognizing a fetus as a human being before it leaves the womb.

“At some point in your life you made a commitment, a personal commitment to the truth,” the Kitchener MP told journalists. “At least that’s what the rest of us expect of you. Has anyone here abandoned their commitment to the truth? Don’t you want truthful laws?”

A calm and friendly fellow with a gentle demeanor, Woodworth told reporters that what he is proposing is not to blow open the abortion debate but rather to have a discussion about an outdated 400-year-old law.

The dénouement of French Canada

The recently released results from the 2011 Canadian census read very different in French and English.

In English, the census tells a story of growth and prosperity. In French, the census announces the decline of Quebec's standing in Confederation - and of the French language's place in North America.

Lester Pearson predicted that he would be the last Canadian prime minister to speak only English. To date, his prediction has held true. But not for much longer, by the looks of things.

The 2001 and 2006 Censuses showed sharp declines in the relative size of the population that claimed French as a "mother tongue," down to barely more than one-fifth.

The 2011 census, once its results are made fully public, is likely to show another and probably even sharper drop. The first release of census data this week already shows that the total population of Quebec - including all linguistic groups - continues its rapid decline relative to the rest of Canada. It's a good guess that the French-speaking population will report the steepest decline.

The statistics tell only part of the story. A 35-year-old Québécois who moves to Alberta in search of work, and there meets and marries a girl from a Chinese immigrant background, will probably bolster the national statistics for "French as mother tongue" sometime into the 2060s. But he won't be speaking French at work. He probably won't be speaking very much French at home. And it's even more doubtful that his children and grandchildren will report French as their "mother tongue."

Kill full-day kindergarten, Drummond report says

In a highly anticipated report due next week, economist Don Drummond will suggest Ontario scrap its full-day kindergarten program to save hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a media report Friday.

Citing a senior government source, the Toronto Sun reported that Drummond proposes axing the program for four-and five-year-olds across the province.

The Liberal government has spent $200 million since it began phasing in the fulltime program in the 2010-11 school year. This year, it plans to spend another $300 million on the program, which is now in 800 schools.

Drummond, a former economist with TD bank, was tasked in the past few months to review Ontario's finances and to help the province bring under control its $16-billion deficit.

His lengthy report, which will be released Wednesday, is expected to put forward dozens of cost-cutting measures.

News of the recommendation drew criticism Friday.

Torture policy shift raises serious questions

Has Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government quietly hung out an “open for business” sign when it comes to dealing with regimes that practice torture? That’s the troubling impression given by a directive to Canada’s spy agency that has just come to light.

In it, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews reminds the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that fighting terror is the agency’s No. 1 priority. It is “critical” that CSIS share information “quickly and widely” when public safety or lives are at risk, Toews wrote, even if the data “may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment.” This is a new policy twist. In effect, it gives CSIS cover to trade in tainted information. Previously CSIS was directed not to “knowingly” rely on such data. Now Toews is directing the agency to act quickly on it.

This isn’t a hypothetical issue. U.S. President Barack Obama has denounced waterboarding as torture. And a manual for Canadian diplomats in 2008 cited the U.S., Egypt, China, Israel, Afghanistan, Iran, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Syria as states that resort to torture and abuse. It’s a universal crime banned by a United Nations treaty, but it happens more often than we’d care to know. Given that, just how complicit do we want to be?

“There seems to be a strong wish not to tie CSIS’s hands, and to give them the latitude to work with torturers,” Amnesty International Canada’s secretary general Alex Neve told the Star’s editorial board. “This does an end run around the absolute ban on torture.”

Ottawa’s new anti-terrorism strategy lists eco-extremists as threats

After vowing to take on radical environmentalists determined to stop the Northern Gateway pipeline, the Harper government has released a new anti-terrorism strategy that targets eco-extremists as threats.

With his announcement this week, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has increased the concern among environmentalists that Ottawa regards them as implacable adversaries to be monitored and battled, rather than well-meaning advocates to be consulted.

“This is just one more step in their attempt to marginalize the environmental movement and to quiet its voice,” John Bennett, executive director of Sierra Club Canada, said Friday. “It’s an indirect suggestion that somehow environmentalism is attached to terrorism and that’s just wrong.”

On Thursday, Mr. Toews released a statement on the government’s strategy, which will target not only known terrorist groups but “vulnerable individuals” who could be drawn into politically inspired violence.

The minister said that, in addition to foreign threats, the government would be vigilant against domestic extremism that is “based on grievances – real or perceived – revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.”

Budget cuts worry federal unions

Veterans Affairs employees especially fearful, they say

OTTAWA — As the 2012 federal budget draws near, employee unions are worried about rumours of up to 20 per cent budget cuts and widespread privatization.

Suspicions are running particularly high at Veterans Affairs Canada, which is already set for a cut of 500 from a total 4,100 employees by 2014-15, according to the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees.

A further 1,100 employees will be unloaded from the department’s books when Ste. Anne’s Hospital, a veterans facility in Quebec, is handed over to provincial control.

Deeper cuts are expected in this year’s budget. Departments were told to plan for cuts of five to 10 per cent. The tone of recent statements by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has some fearing the targets will be bumped up to between 10 and 20 per cent.

"Even if it’s five to 10 per cent, we can’t sustain that," said Kim Coles, a Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees vice-president.

"Right now, our employees are going full-out permanently, trying to meet service standards."

The department says the cuts will be managed without any decrease in service because of new technology and Canada’s declining veteran population.

Canada poised for success on world stage: Campbell

Canada stands at a historic crossroads as an economic facilitator and powerhouse, former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, now Canada's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, said Friday.

But it must act swiftly and strategically to secure an inter-national advantage.

The Harper government is on the cusp of concluding a broad-ranging trade agreement with the European Union that would give Canadian companies preferential access to the European market. However, if Canada fails to close negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with the EU this year, repercussions will be felt through all of Canada's trading partners, Campbell said in an address to the Vancouver Board of Trade.

"The whole world will watch whether we are successful in that negotiation or not. Canada right now is in the midst of a major advance in terms of trade," Campbell said.

"We are not just looking to complete the Comprehensive Trade Agreement with the European Union in 2012, we are looking to revitalize the trade agreement with Korea, we are looking by 2013 to have a trade agreement with India."

Flaherty taps Tory riding president as Oshawa port boss

The mix of port authorities and politics is a regular source of headaches for the Harper government.

Now questions are being raised about Canada’s latest federal port, just hours after it was announced Friday in Oshawa by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

The man in charge of setting up the new body is Gary Valcour, the chairman of the Oshawa Harbour Commission, which the port authority replaces. He is also president of the Conservative riding association in Mr. Flaherty’s riding of Oshawa-Whitby.

When asked about the apparent conflict of interest, the Minister said Mr. Valcour will step down as president of the riding association. He also said the port’s new board will ultimately choose the permanent head.

But the questions didn’t stop there. Plans by an ethanol company to build an industrial plant on the port lands are at the heart of a heated local battle over the future of Oshawa’s harbour.

Oshawa City Council and environmentalists want the existing waterfront to include options for public use and strongly oppose the proposed plant. The creation of a federal port authority is raising concern that the needs of industry will win out.

Canada convenes international meeting over troubled F-35 fighters

WASHINGTON - Washington's plan to further slow production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is prompting Canada to convene a meeting with seven other international partners as the countries rethink their own orders for the stealthy new fighter jet.

Canada has committed to purchasing as many as 65 of the planes, but delays and shrinking orders threaten to drive up costs each country must bear for what is already the most expensive weapon system in history.

The Pentagon is restructuring the program for the third time in recent years; a move that will delay savings that would come from building more planes faster.

In January, Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino said in a statement the Canadian government is still committed to the F-35 program, but that he had ordered Defence Department officials in Ottawa to investigate what implications the Pentagon's decision would have on Canada.

International partners who were banking on the savings as they face their own budget pressures are balking at the shift, according to multiple government and industry sources in the U.S. and overseas.

Lockheed Martin Corp., the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier, and U.S. officials who run the $382-billion US weapons program are anxiously preparing for a meeting in Australia in mid-March where the partners - Canada, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Australia, Turkey and the Netherlands - will outline their revamped procurement plans.

Yukon NDP wants oil furnace industry regulated

The Yukon NDP has uncovered reports showing the government was warned years ago that the unregulated industry was putting the lives of Yukoners at risk.

"Yukoners are still reeling from the tragic loss of life just two weeks ago," said Liz Hanson, leader of the New Democrats, who are calling for the Yukon Party government to regulate the industry.

Five people died last month in Whitehorse of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in a home heated by an oil-burning furnace. The investigation is ongoing.

NDP researchers have now come across reports at least two years old, warning the government of the dangers of malfunctioning oil furnaces.

"It was very upsetting to me as a citizen and a politician because we expect we can trust our government to take action when they have information," said Hanson.

Self-regulation 'has put Yukoners at risk'

After five successive surveys, Ontario furnace experts found almost all Yukon installations they inspected failed to comply with national standards.

"Only four of the 305 sites inspected between 2007 and March 2010 complied with the minimum standard code for installation and maintenance of appliances. That is 1.3 per cent of the sites inspected," said Rod Corea of NRG Resources Inc., which provides safety and technical training and consulting services on fuel-burning appliances.

"Self-regulation has failed to supply minimal safety standards and indeed has put Yukoners at risk in their oil heat industry. Hopefully you will find the results of this survey helpful. Hopefully you will be able to take action to do something about them before something unfortunate happens."

About 80 per cent of Yukon homes are heated with oil furnaces. Critics point out that teens in the fast-food industry require more training than furnace inspectors in the territory.

"You can be more confident in Pizza Hut or A & W that the person there is more aware of the risks that can happen to you in their establishment than the person that is going in to check your furnace. And that's upsetting," said Kate White, New Democrat MLA for Takhini-Kopper King.

The oil burner safety report from 2010 is now available from Yukon Housing Corporation officials.

Original Article
Source: CBC 
Author: cbc news 

OCI needs longer term commitment for deal: Dunderdale

Ocean Choice International needs to give more in the future to get what it wants today, Premier Kathy Dunderdale says.

"What we needed from the company was a greater commitment, beyond the five years," Dunderdale said in an interview taped for On Point with David Cochrane.

"If you’re looking for a substantive change here that benefits the company, then you have to do something beyond the five-year contract that you’re in now, that would see the people of the province benefit. And they weren’t prepared to go there."

On Thursday, Fisheries Minister Darin King announced that the province was rejecting OCI’s processing plan. The company wanted to ship millions of pounds of unprocessed yellowtail out of the province, pledging to beef up activity at its Fortune fish plant in return.

Dunderdale fleshed out some details of what OCI was asking for, and why the province rejected the plan.

The premier said OCI was proposing to process seven million pounds of a 33-mllion-pound yellowtail quota in Fortune.

New homes headed to Attawapiskat

ATTAWAPISKAT, ONT. — Federal officials say two modular homes are on their way to the remote northern Ontario reserve of Attawapiskat.

Twenty-two modular units are destined for the James Bay community to provide relief as it battles a housing crisis.

But the shipment had to wait until the winter road between the reserve and Moosonee, Ont., was frozen solid.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan says he’s worried warm weather could shut down the road and prevent the delivery of some of the remaining homes.

In a statement today, the minister also raised concerns that the sites earmarked for the homes haven’t yet been prepared.

New Democrat Charlie Angus, who represents the area, is blaming the lack of progress on a third-party manager appointed by Ottawa to manage the band’s finances.

He says funds to pay for the work haven’t been made available.

Original Article
Source: Star 
Author: canadian press 

Metcalfe Foundation study: working poor numbers way up in Toronto

The legions of Toronto area workers pouring coffee, cleaning toilets and otherwise toiling for low wages in office towers and factories is growing dramatically.

Between 2000 and 2005, the area’s working poor grew by 42 per cent, to 113,000 people, according to a groundbreaking report based on Statistics Canada labour and income data.

Across the region, they accounted for 6.4 per cent of the working-age population. But inside the city of Toronto, they surged to 8.2 per cent of the workforce, or 70,700 people, says the study by the Metcalf Foundation, released on Saturday.

“Working many hours and holding full-time, year-round employment is no longer a guarantee of escaping poverty,” says the report, entitled: “The ‘Working Poor’ in the Toronto Region; Who they are, where they live, and how trends are changing.”

“It is a problem that is simultaneously political, social, locational, and economic,” the report says.

According to the report, the region’s working poor are almost twice as likely to be employed in sales and service jobs than the rest of the working-age population, and they work just as much.

ORNGE: Alf Apps resigns from his law firm

The lawyer who was involved in many of ORNGE’s deals has resigned from his law firm.

Alf Apps, who is also the former president of the Liberal Party of Canada, tendered his resignation Friday afternoon from law firm Fasken Martineau. Apps was listed as a counsel to the firm, not a partner.

Meanwhile, ORNGE is preparing a request for proposal, inviting law firms to bid for legal work at the air ambulance firm, ORNGE president Ron McKerlie told the Star.

A recent Star story revealed that since 2005, Fasken has been paid about $9 million by ORNGE for legal fees, expenses and disbursements for work that included structuring the air ambulance service’s now closed for-profit companies. Apps began working on ORNGE files in 2007.

Another $2 million in payments were paid to other firms over the same period. Fasken Martineau was the lawyer for the former air ambulance service based at Sunnybrook Hospital and when founder Dr. Chris Mazza started ORNGE in 2005 Fasken came on as its law firm.

Apps is also chairman of a company ORNGE chose last fall to try to raise $15 million to support its for-profit business.

Fasken managing partner Martin Denyes said in a statement that Apps is joining the law firm Wildeboer Dellelce LLP.

“At Wildeboer Dellelce, Mr. Apps intends to continue practicing law and to pursue his many business and board interests,” Denyes said.

“Mr. Apps’ colleagues at Fasken Martineau wish him well,” he added.

Original Article
Source: Star 
Author: Kevin Donovan 

Harper in China: Great, glorious and always correct

If Stephen Harper ever gets tired of being Canada’s prime minister, he might like to consider a second career in China – he’d fit right in.

This week, I attended my first ever Harper 'press availability,' and it reminded me of nothing so much as the hundreds of Chinese press conferences I’ve attended over the years. At lower levels of the Chinese government, such as the daily meeting with journalists at the Foreign Ministry, spokespersons never, ever, utter a single spontaneous, unscripted remark.

At the top, when the premier holds his one press conference per year, handpicked journalists have to submit their question in writing in advance. Harper’s news conferences are more frequent than his Chinese counterpart’s, but the underlying principle seems not so very different.

Journalists cluster together beforehand to decide on the fortunate few whose turn it will be to ask a question, and hold an informal editorial board to work out the wording of the questions. Only six questions are permitted, and no follow-ups are allowed, so every syllable has to count.

The horde of fawning bureaucrats and diplomats who accompany Harper line the walls of the room, to listen respectfully, but not to speak. If you ask them a question, they look guiltily around to see who might be in a position to overhear, and whisper that they will lose their jobs if they give anything but their name, rank and serial number. Only Harper is allowed to speak, exactly like any Chinese ganbu, or bureaucrat, whose subordinates live in mortal fear of his displeasure.

Italy To Cut Back On F-35 Jet And Navy Frigate Orders - Report

ROME -(Dow Jones)- Italy will scale back planned purchases of the F-35 joint strike fighter as well as frigates, Corriere della Sera reports Friday, without saying where it obtained the information.

In a detailed article, the Milan-based daily said Italy would reduce its planned EUR15 billion purchase of 131 F-35 fighter bombers, made by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), to 100 or at most 110.

Defense Minister Giampaolo di Paola last month in a television interview defended the procurement program but said there might be some cuts as Italy slashes public spending to balance its budget by 2013. The U.K. Defense Ministry is postponing its final decision on how many F-35 planes to buy.

Italy'sFinmeccanica SpA (FNC.MI) has key roles in both the F-35 and the Eurofighter, a rival project that Corriere said may not proceed.

Italy will also reduce to six from 10 its order of FREMM-class frigates, which are to be made by Italian and French shipmakers.

Italy is also planning to slash the number of personnel in its armed forces by around 40,000, Corriere says. The cuts would focus on mid-ranking officers rather than soldiers, the paper adds.

A defense ministry spokesman said no decision has been taken on any of the measures the paper reported.

Original Article
Source: nasdaq 
Author: Rome Bureau  

Harper mixes cynicism with morality

When it comes to foreign policy, some nations choose enlightened self-interest, others excel in cynicism and still others (often tyrannies) favour patronizing lectures to the world from a perch of moral superiority.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to embrace all three approaches, depending on the issue, the enemy of the moment, and Canada's immediate economic interests. This could be interpreted as useful agility, but it often looks more like confusion.

At the least, it undermines Harper's strident insistence that Canada will always do the right thing, not the expedient thing, on the world stage. We will no longer "go along to get along" he announced not long ago. We will stand up to tyrants, we will not jettison our values in pursuit of money, we will turn away from the craven moral relativism of previous Liberal governments.

And we will continue selling asbestos to any country careless enough, or desperate enough, to buy it. Our government continues to insist, against all credible evidence and the serious qualms of some of its own backbenchers, that the chrysotile produced until recently at two Quebec sites can be mined safely; "ethical asbestos," if you will.

Arguably, as strong a moral case can be made against continued exports of heavy crude from the Alberta tarsands as against asbestos. Fossil fuels might not kill people as directly as asbestos does, but burning them - especially the energyintensive "dirty oil" from the tarsands - contributes to the climate change that is having devastating consequences everywhere.

Harper almost dead last in terms of passing legislation

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper has the second-to-worst record of any prime minister since 1936 when it comes to passing legislation, a West Block analysis shows.

Harper's record through his first two minority governments (49 per cent) is underperformed only by Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark.

Clark's poor record (21 per cent) was in part due to his brief and tumultuous run in office; he only had time to introduce 28 bills before he was ousted on a confidence vote.

Former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, who also grappled with a minority government, has the third worst record. He was able to pass 46 of the 82 government bills his cabinet introduced, for a success rate of 56 per cent.

Success rates have been on a relatively steady decline for decades, falling significantly since Mackenzie King's reign between 1936 and 1948, when the Liberal prime minister's success rate was nearly 96 per cent, according to data available on the parliamentary website.

Loyalist conservative senator says she's prepared to take on PM if necessary

OTTAWA - Canada's first female ``elected'' senator is a low-key Conservative party loyalist who can't recall an instance when she has disagreed with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on policies related to Alberta.

Betty Unger said she would be prepared to publicly challenge Harper if she believed her province was being treated unfairly.

``If it was an issue that I felt was against Alberta's interests, I would try to be involved . . . I would be prepared to defend my province,'' she said in an interview in her Parliament Hill office.

Asked if she'd go public to challenge the Harper government, rather than simply lobby caucus colleagues in private, she replied: ``Yes.''

Policy disputes between the Harper Conservatives and the Alberta government are rare, though one broke out last week when Immigration Minister Jason Kenney rejected the province's plea for a doubling of its immigration quota under the Provincial Nominee Program.

Unger said she was unfamiliar with the issue.

``Prime Minister Harper advocates mainly for jobs and the economy. Those are subjects that are near and dear to the hearts of Albertans because of our oilsands, our industries our proposed pipelines,'' she said, referring to the stalled Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast and the proposed Northern Gateway megaproject to link oilsands crude to Asian markets via the British Columbia coast.

Tories begin to gag on PM's duct tape

During the years that Stephen Harper was leader of the Opposition, and then a minority prime minister, his staffers worked around the clock to keep duct tape over the mouths of many of his MPs and for good reason.

In 2004, when the Conservatives were poised to beat Paul Martin’s Liberals, the Tory campaign went off the rails when some backbenchers shot off their mouths.

First, Cheryl Gallant compared abortion to a beheading. Then, Randy White said the Conservatives would overrule the courts on same-sex marriage.

This lined up with the Liberals’ attacks on the Conservatives as scary weirdos. The desperate Liberals hammered their point home with vicious attack ads and saved their bacon.

Harper reacted by exercising greater control over his MPs, which paid off in the election of 2006.

As prime minister, he turned the screws tighter, letting young staffers in his office deliver telephone tongue-lashings to those who stray from talking points, even dressing down cabinet ministers.

That level of control was possible because MPs understood it was necessary.

Now that the Conservatives have a majority, it is getting harder for them to see why they should be walking around with duct tape over their mouths.

Electro-Motive-CAW talks: Interview with Tim Carrie

It's no secret that people in southwestern Ontario -- Londoners in particular -- are seriously pissed with Caterpillar. In fact, in an unprecedented show of support for labour, both London Mayor Joe Fontana and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty are on record as saying Caterpillar has been unfair to the employees of Electro-Motive.

Thursday afternoon I caught up with the president of CAW Local 27, Tim Carrie, in the lobby of the London Hilton during a break from closure negotiations with Caterpillar.

Meg Borthwick: So Tim, negotiations seem to be progressing ...

Tim Carrie: Yeah. Obviously we've spent the past while trying to find any way to keep the plant running, but the employer's position on cost structure hasn't changed whatsoever, so now we're really hammering away at trying to find a reasonable closure agreement.

MB: Do you think Caterpillar ever had any intention to bargain in good faith when they offered those wage cuts?

TC: No. For example, we've just discovered a copy of the closure letter delivered to Electro-Motive employees after the announcement of closure last week. That copy of the closure letter was posted on the Progress Rail website. The copy is dated April 21, 2011. So, if there's anything that makes it more clear that they never intended to produce locomotives in London, that's it.

Hackers spy on home security cameras

Is there some wise old saying about not carrying a weapon that you don’t understand, lest it be used against you? (By wise old saying, yes, I do mean something said in an 80s action movie.)

If such a movie exists outside of my imagination, it should be played on an endless loop to the customers of TRENDnet, a company that unfortunately chose the slogan “Networks People Trust.” TRENDnet makes, among other products, the SecurView series of Internet-connected security cameras. This is also an unfortunate choice of words, because it seems that SecurView cameras are not secure.

Last month, a blog called Console Cowboys publicized a flaw in TRENDnet’s cameras that allows strangers to peer into homes using SecurView cams. Even if the cameras were password-protected, anyone with a few findable pieces of data about a user could instantly gain access to a live-feed. Console Cowboys reported that they had gained access to 350 homes, and soon after they explained how, that number was up to 1000. The chaotic, anonymous 4Chan imageboards soon had nude screencaps for visitors to ogle.

TRENDnet is working to fix the problem. They’ve written new firmware for most of the affected models, but some of these cameras are five years old, and it may prove challenging (impossible?) to locate each and every person using one.

Which brings to mind another 80s movie, Revenge of the Nerds. Guys, you know which scene I’m thinking of.

Original Article
Source: Maclean's 
Author: Jesse Brown 

Toronto Mayor reassessing plan to sell off social housing units

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is re-evaluating a plan to liquidate 740 social housing units, a significant rethink that will see him working closely with councillors who have largely abandoned his agenda of late.

Mr. Ford’s executive committee was scheduled to debate the wholesale selloff on Monday, but the city gave word late Friday it will now be punted to next Friday due to the volume of deputants – more than 100 – who signed up to speak.

But behind the scenes, Mr. Ford has been consulting Councillor Ana Bailao, chair of the Affordable Housing Committee. The two may broker a compromise that would address Toronto Community Housing’s mammoth $750-million repair backlog without shrinking the agency’s portfolio so drastically.

“I just had a very good chat with the mayor,” said Ms. Bailao, who did not provide details of the revised plan. “We agreed there’s a huge problem. And that we need a better strategy. He’s extremely passionate about these issues and understands we need to do more.”

The new plan is in its early stages. Sources say it would call for the sale of just 56 units, all of which are vacant. It would also recommend a special task force to formulate new financing schemes to raise money for a more permanent fix. The repair backlog is projected to reach $1-billion within two years.

Mr. Ford, who pays regular visits to TCHC buildings, now sees the $222-million yield from the selloff as insufficient considering the grief it will cause. Some of his opponents on council believe he has simply realized the selloff would not pass an emboldened council that has shown increasing resistance to the mayor’s agenda.

“There’s a feeling that selling off everything is not the best option,” Ms. Bailao said. “I think we’re now headed in the right direction.”

Original Article
Source: Globe 
Author: Patrick White  

Tories play down Flaherty’s time frame for OAS changes

For a brief moment, the fog of confusion hanging over Ottawa’s plans for Old Age Security lifted.

It didn’t last long.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty appeared to put a time frame on yet-to-be-announced changes to OAS.

“This is not for tomorrow morning,” said the 62-year-old minister, who was joined at an announcement in Oshawa by 52-year-old Conservative MP Colin Carrie. “This is for 2020, 2025 so that people who are middle-age and younger today, like Colin – not me – can be assured that they will have these social programs properly funded, fiscally responsible, that they’ll be there for them in the future.”

The comments appeared to go much further than anything the government had said to date. If changes are delayed until at least 2020, that would mean Canadians who are 57 or older would not be affected.

But a government spokesman quickly discouraged that kind of math. The official stressed that the comment was simply an effort by Mr. Flaherty to signal that no changes are imminent. In other words, exactly what the government has been saying since Prime Minister Stephen Harper started talking last month about addressing problems in Canada’s retirement income system.

TCHC launches aggressive push to sell off 675 houses

Toronto Community Housing has launched a strong push to convince city councillors to okay the sale of 675 single-family homes.

A report on the matter goes before a special executive committee meeting next Friday.

TCHC issued a statement this week saying its bill for backlogged repair work now stands at $750 million, up $100 million from last year. The housing corporation says it needs proceeds from the house sales — an estimated minimum of $222 million — to address the backlog.

Without new money for the fixes, the shortfall is expected to continue to rise by $100 million a year, reaching $1 billion by 2015.

“By doing nothing, we’re going to be beaten here,’’ Len Koroneos, TCHC’s interim CEO, said in an interview this week.

TCHC has nearly 60,000 units in buildings and houses across the city. Buildings are an average of 40 years old, and many are crumbling.

The latest figure reflects new repair needs outpacing the housing corporation’s ability to pour money into improvements, TCHC says. The corporation invested $72 million in fixes to multi-unit buildings last year, but says that amount was surpassed by $173 million in new repair needs that emerged from its aging buildings.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he’s working toward Canada having a free trade agreement with China one day

CHONGQING— Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he’s working toward Canada having a free trade agreement with China one day.

In an interview with CBC reporter Susan Lunn for The House, Harper said Canada is now taking the first steps with a commitment to complete a joint study by spring.

“It will lead us to discussions to examine the feasibility and some of the potentials of a free trade agreement,” Harper said in an interview to be broadcast Saturday.

“That’s still many steps from actually reaching a free trade agreement. We’re not under any illusion there would be some significant obstacles. But this government’s agenda is to diversify our trade,” he said.

“So my view is we get as many irons in the fire as we can and we see how far we can take it.”

“There will be enormous opportunity in China if we could ever get to that stage but at the same time, not under any illusions that there would be a significant number of economic and other questions that would have to be answered.”

Original Article
Source: Star 
Author: Tonda MacCharles 

Rick Salutin's Last Words

Whenever a columnist is suddenly fired from a well-established gig, and explanations why aren't particularly forthcoming or convincing from the people in charge, the curious mind naturally turns to what the columnist has recently written, and whether it might have set in motion the axe.

There's rarely any way to prove cause and effect, of course. In the case of the canning of Rick Salutin, long-time, left-leaning, award-winning columnist for The Globe and Mail, we're told officially that he didn't fit in with the paper's redesign plans.

The firing has sparked an organized protest led in part by regular Tyee columnist Murray Dobbin. And it leaves confused not only Salutin's loyal readers but anyone in journalism who has been encouraged to believe that attracting readers is a good thing.

Salutin's Sept. 17 column drew 587 comments. By comparison, stalwart Jeffrey Simpson's latest effort pulled in 143. No word yet that Simpson has been redesigned out of Canada's paper of record.

And yet, according to what Dobbin says Salutin told him, The Globe gave its popular columnist no reason for his dismissal.

Stephen Harper – the last Straussian?

I’m talking political philosophy here, not Viennese waltzes. People keep asking why Stephen Harper acts as he does, it looks so buttheaded. He seems to muck up his own prospects: firing decent people, lashing out, raising the partisan rhetoric, proroguing Parliament haughtily, binging on military toys, mauling the census – he’s a bright boy, it’s hard to figure.

I used to favour a theory of political Tourette’s, the kind portrayed by Robert Redford in 1972’s The Candidate. You suppress your political ideals for the sake of electability as long as you can; then the buildup leads to random outbursts. But there’s another explanation: Straussianism.

Leo Strauss was a German-Jewish thinker who escaped Hitler for the U.S. but despaired over the depravity that liberalism might lead to there as it had in Germany, after the liberal 1920s. He felt almost any means were valid to save Western civilization but, due to liberalism’s strength, the strategy had to be cautious, secretive, even duplicitous, with the truth confined to an elite. This rarefied vision became highly influential when it was spread by his students (and theirs) in government, think tanks and media during the Reagan and Bush years. It’s a prominent force at Mr. Harper’s intellectual home, the University of Calgary. What does it illuminate in his behaviour?

Rob Ford and the loss of hope

In his awesome book, India After Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha says, “The world over, modern democratic politics has been marked by two rather opposed rhetorical styles. The first appeals to hope, to popular aspirations for economic prosperity and social peace. The second appeals to fear … about being worsted or swamped by one’s historic enemies.” That’s about as good as generalizations get, except to add that the phases tend to succeed each other. They don’t just coexist. It’s the failure or shortfall of hope that leads to fear.

The pattern was set by the French Revolution. It sparked hope in onlookers like Edmund Burke and William Wordsworth. But its excesses soon led to anxious rethinking, as in Burke’s conservatism; and harsh reactionary (literally) responses like invasion or domestic repression.

Barack Obama is a current case in point. But the transitions have accelerated. His campaign based on hope, in every possible variation, had scarcely won office when the fear mongering began: about his foreign birth, his “anti-white racism,” the rise of the Tea Party. Look up a chilling piece by Dinesh d’Souza in Forbes, on the President channelling, more or less (mostly more) the “ghost” of his father, “a Luo tribesman of the 1950s … philandering, inebriated African socialist … setting the nation’s agenda.” This isn’t just paranoid conspiracy theory, it’s a right-wing version of voodoo. Barack Obama hasn’t helped his cause by failing to deliver much on those hopes, but I think there’s more to it: a loss of hopeful tone, once in office.

Marines Sport Nazi SS Flag in Afghanistan

The Marine Corps' scout snipers in Afghanistan could probably use a safety stand-down. Just weeks after news broke that one elite unit of the forward-deployed Marines urinated on the corpses of dead Afghans, a photo has surfaced of another unit posing proudly beside a flag of the Nazi's killer SS troops. The Marine Corps Times reports:
The stylized "SS" logo appeared in a photograph of the platoon taken in September 2010 in Sangin district, Afghanistan, a hotly contested area in Helmand province. The Marines were with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The I Marine Expeditionary Force inspector general based at Pendleton was made aware of the "SS" flag photo in November of last year, said Capt. Gregory Wolf, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters. The issue has been addressed with the Marines involved, Wolf said. He did not say what specific action was taken beyond ordering Marines to stop using the logo.
The photo in question is not the only one documenting usage of the logo: A second image (embedded below) shows the SS logo emblazoned on a Marine's rifle. The Marines' story is that the unit used the flag "to identify the Marines as scout snipers, not Nazis." The symbolic appropriation may indeed be unwitting, but witlessness is no more desirable a trait in downrange warriors than malice is.

Women Who Use Birth Control Are the 99 Percent

Regardless of race, age, or religion, virtually every American woman who's ever had sex has also used some form of birth control. Yet efforts to block millions of women's access to contraception have reached new heights. Below, a quick reality check on just how widespread (and uncontroversial) contraception use is for the overwhelming majority of American women.

We Are the 99 Percent

Contraceptive use among American women who have had sex (2006-2008). Note: Excludes natural family planning

Source: Guttmacher InstituteSource: Guttmacher Institute (PDF) 

Canada Trade Surplus: December Numbers Double, Hit 3-Year High

OTTAWA - Canada's trade surplus for December grew to $2.7 billion, more than double the previous month and its best showing since the height of the global financial crisis.

Statistics Canada said Friday that merchandise exports rose 4.5 per cent in December and imports edged up 0.8 per cent, pushing the country's trade surplus with the rest of the world up from $1.2 billion in November.

The agency said exports grew to $42 billion in December as volumes increased 4.9 per cent, continuing a upward trend that began last July. Imports increased to $39.3 billion as volumes rose 1.2 per cent.

"The strong finish to the year provides a nice hand-off for 2012 growth," Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Dough Porter said.

"It appears that exports are grabbing the growth baton just in time from fading domestic spending."

Harper Was Against Pension Changes Before He Was For Them

The ghost of elections past is coming back to haunt Stephen Harper.

The Liberals are pointing out that when Harper campaigned against Liberal prime minister Paul Martin in 2005, he promised he would defend seniors' public pensions.

In a speech to seniors in Guelph on December 9, 2005, Harper said seniors, like his mother, had worked for years to pay into the public pension system and that they expected it to be there for them.

“My government will fully preserve the Old Age Security (OAS), the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Pension Plan, and all projected future increases to these programs. And we will build on those commitments," Harper promised before winning the election in 2006. You can see video from the speech below.

Canadians Speak Out Against Digital Locks. But Who's Listening?

The second reading debate on Bill C-11 will conclude today with the bill headed to committee for further hearings and possible amendment.

Yesterday, the Globe published an opinion piece by Peter Nowak that juxtaposes the widespread consultation on copyright reform in Canada with digital lock provisions that "wilfully ignores" public opinion.

Nowak notes how the U.S. ultimately responded to public concern in stopping SOPA, while the same appears to be happening in Europe as protests over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement continue to grow (there are continent-wide protests planned for February 11th).

One of my posts this week focused on concerns that Industry Minister Christian Paradis has said he cannot speculate on how Bill C-11's digital lock rules will be enforced. The post identifies numerous examples of how the rules could harm creators, students, researchers, consumers, and even the visually impaired (further background information on Bill C-11 here and here). Yet these concerns are not new and have been raised for several years. Indeed, it is instructive to see how the public concern over the digital lock rules and now possible inclusion of SOPA-style amendments has mushroomed over the years.

Stephen Harper finally gets comfortable in China

Stephen Harper is on a trade mission in China. In the early days of his reign, such a trip seemed unlikely: He was the free world's most ardent China basher, scolding the eastern giant over “values,” making the Dalai Lama an honorary Canadian and skipping the opening of the Beijing Olympics.

Incredulous, Canadian business leaders broke out their chequebooks to arm lobbying firms to slap some sense into the government. Human rights be damned – China was rising. And Team Corporate Canada wanted a piece.

That seems like a long time ago. While Europe and America are aping dysfunctional banana republics, actual banana republics are starting to look like Zurich on a building spree: Ethiopia grows by 10 per cent a year, followed closely by Angola; Brazil is a powerhouse; the Indians are almost as formidable; and Turkey now calls the shots in the Middle East.

What do these countries share in common? They all have something akin to the Chinese model of state capitalism, according to a recent Economist special report titled The Visible Hand: One-party rule and tightly centralized power, driven by state-financed megacompanies that operate in economies garnished with the sprigs of liberalism.

Decriminalize drug use, new coalition urges

Canada needs to give up the war on drugs and start treating drug use as a health and social issue rather than something for the criminal justice system to deal with, according to a policy group formally launched Thursday.

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition is, among other things, calling for the government to decriminalize drug use and not stand in the way of harm-reduction programs, such as safe-injection sites.

"In western legal systems, the criminal law has long been seen as the instrument of last resort to be used when other means of social control has failed," Eugene Oscapella, a University of Ottawa criminology professor and member of the group's policy committee, said at a news conference on Parliament Hill. "Unfortunately, in the case of certain drugs - cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin and hundreds of other substances for that matter - it has been used as the principal vehicle of social control."

The coalition argued this approach does not reduce drug use, but creates more problems such as making criminals out of drug users, creating a lucrative black market for real criminals and preventing measures that could help those struggling with addictions.

Quebec still matters

The 2011 census results are in, and it’s no surprise that Quebec’s share of the national population has declined over the past fifty years from 28.8% to 23.6%. What is more remarkable is that the province’s GDP per capita rate is now merely eighty-five percent of the national average. In 1995, it was nearly double the national rate. Quebec is clearly in relative decline and many are quick to pounce on the province for allegedly taking more in federal funds than it contributes to the nation.

Decline, however, does not equal irrelevance. For instance, the Charest government’s Plan Nord is expected to deliver further results for the province on the natural resources front — particularly in hydroelectricity. At a time when Iran’s bellicose tone puts Western energy interests in the Middle East at risk, Quebec’s hydro power will be just as valuable as Ontario’s renewables or Alberta’s oil when it comes to Canadian energy security.

The question at hand should not be whether Quebec remains relevant to the federation, but rather what the consequences are of a shifting Canadian economy for the future of the country.

The answer is relatively clear: as the gap between them widens, a battle over equalization rates pitting west against east will emerge. In particular, western provinces will argue two points: first, that equalization represents a bailout for bad policy on the part of eastern provinces and hence provides them with little incentive to engage in a much-needed economic introspection; and second, that equalization is fundamentally flawed in that it evaluates a province’s taxation power but not the cost of the services it needs to provide.

Ban foreign funding of 'radicals,' MP urges

A Conservative MP is calling for federal legislation that would both block foreign funding of the "radical" Canadian environmental movement and lessen the possibility outsiders are directly paying aboriginal chiefs to oppose major projects, such as the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Brian Jean's provocative proposal came during an explosive committee hearing Thursday that resulted in a government MP calling a Liberal "asinine" for questioning the credibility of Vancouver researcher Vivian Krause, a leading critic of foreign-funded environmental groups.

Jean, MP for the northern Alberta riding of Fort McMurray-Athabasca in the heart of the oilsands, hinted at possible payments to chiefs, while asking Krause for details on her research showing U.S. trusts have given $300 million to environmentalist groups in Canada in the past decade.

"I'm not a forensic accountant, but I'd like to know who they direct the money to, whether it's other charities as you mentioned, or whether it's bands or chiefs or lobbyists, and how they get it into Canada," he said at a meeting of the natural resources committee.

PM blasts foreign money in oilands debate while welcoming China

GUANGZHOU, CHINA—Ping pong, pipelines and pandas.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s four-day trade mission to China has had a taste of it all, bouncing from Beijing, to Guangzhou, and on Saturday to the southwestern inland city of Chongqing.

Harper used a keynote speech here Friday to slam the “foreign money and influence” behind critics of Canada’s oil sands even as he welcomed Chinese investment in Canada’s energy sector.

Moments later, Harper tried to practice a little foreign influencing of his own.

On his third day in China, Harper publicly raised the issue of human rights here. Speaking to 600 Canadian and Chinese business people from Guangzhou and the Shanghai and Hong Kong chambers of commerce, he reminded China to respect human rights and be a “responsible global citizen.”

Canadians, he said, expect their prime minister to have a “good and frank dialogue on fundamental principles such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of belief and worship.”

Speaking to human rights in public, albeit far from the capital of Beijing, meant Harper’s concerns would register clearly with China’s leaders. He had raised the issue only privately in meetings this week with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

However, there is little likelihood the broader Chinese population would hear his message and caution to Chinese leadership, because media here are state-controlled. Friday’s newspapers instead reported that central authorities have warned leaders in Tibet to “prepare for war” with what they call “splittists” within the “Dalai Lama clique.”