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.]

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thailand Free Trade Deal: Canada To Get Pitch During Harper's Asian Trip

BANGKOK - Thailand is planning a major pitch to open free trade talks with Canada this week, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper begins his second Asia trip in three months.

Thailand will sweeten its offer by positioning itself as a comfortable and safe entry point from which Canada could make further inroads throughout South Asia — raising the potential of a broader trade deal with the region's emerging, 10-country bloc, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

China is not an ASEAN member, so any economic gains with the bloc would represent a significant broadening of the Harper government's pro-Asia trade aspirations.

Harper, who made his second trip to China in January, has said increasing trade with Asia is a major economic priority after a series of economic hurdles soured relations with Canada's largest trading partner, the United States.

Alberta Election: Battle Shaping Up As Alison 'Mommie Dearest' Redford Vs. Danielle 'Psycho' Smith

EDMONTON - The election writ is set to drop this week in Alberta and if the demonizing hyperbole from the two rightist heavyweight parties is to be believed, voters have a simple choice: Mommie Dearest or Psycho.

The governing Progressive Conservatives and the upstart Wildrose party are running one-two in the polls as Premier Alison Redford prepares to call the campaign shortly after her caucus passes the budget on Wednesday.

"I think people are pretty anxious to get to the polls as am I," Redford said.

"I believe we're going to have a strong election. We're going to have a strong showing."

Redford is running in her first election as premier since taking over as party leader from Ed Stelmach last fall.

History is on her side.

Families And Teachers Join Tuition Protests

Student groups are hosting family-oriented protests across Quebec Sunday against the government's planned tuition fee hikes.

Protests and marches are taking place in Montreal, Sherbrooke, Quebec City and Alma.

Thousands gathered in Parc Lafontaine in Montreal before marching down Saint Denis Street towards the offices of the Ministry of Education.

Sunday's protests follow several hundred teachers gathering for a symbolic protest in downtown Montreal Saturday.

Teachers gathered in front of the controversial Ilot Voyageur, a building which was meant to become an integral part of l'Université du Quebec à Montréal (UQAM). They used a giant pair of scissors to cut a red ribbon and symbolically inaugurate the half-vacant building.

Part of the Ilot Voyageur now houses the city's bus terminal, but the rest is half-built and abandoned. UQAM started the project in 2005 but had to give up after falling heavily into debt.

Fleming Drive Riot: Rioters Hit London, Ont. Near Fanshawe College

LONDON, Ont. - A heaving, intoxicated crowd of up to 1,000 people spent much of Saturday night fuelling a large street fire and attacking authorities who tried to intervene as St. Patrick's Day celebrations in London, Ont., went awry.

The upheaval on Fleming Drive in the city's east end drew about 65 police in riot gear and 10 firefighters to the scene.

The area, near Fanshawe College, is heavily populated by students and has been the site of previous disturbances, but none as large as the latest one, authorities said.

"It was pretty tense and it was kind of unusual, even for that area," District Fire Chief Jim Holmes told The Canadian Press.

"That particular area has had some incidents in the past but I don't think ever to this scale and this number of people and this length."

Concerns are raised over B.C. government plan to ship unemployed north to work

VANCOUVER - Fraser Stuart laughed out loud when he heard the British Columbia government wants to train welfare recipients and then fly them north to fill badly needed jobs.

Stuart, who lives in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and is currently receiving social assistance, doesn't want to work in the north, but he wants a job and he's more than willing to take the training to get.

The 59-year-old worked for eight years in a homeless shelter in Montreal, and he wants to do the same in B.C. But he's been unable to pry the $1,600 for certification course from the provincial government, and his $610 monthly welfare cheque doesn't come close to covering it.

"Welfare won't pay for the course, so I can't work," said Stuart, sighing.

"If I take a student loan it would be clawed back 100 per cent. I wouldn't be eligible for welfare, because now I'm a student. They also expect me earn enough money to pay for it, but I'm not allowed to earn any money on welfare."

Ending fossil fuel subsidy a 'no brainer'

Ending fossil fuel subsidies in the next federal budget would be a "no brainer," says a former Conservative MP who played a key role advising former prime minister Brian Mulroney's government on environmental issues.

David Macdonald, the first chair of the House of Commons environment committee, established in 1989, noted that many global organizations, including the International Monetary Fund and the International Energy Agency, have urged all governments to get rid of the subsidies to avoid waste and to discourage energy consumption that is causing global warming.

"Fossil fuel (subsidies) are a drag," said Macdonald, who now supports the New Democrats. "They enforce consumption, they are unbalancing our energy future, and we should get rid of them."

David Sawyer, an environmental economist and director of climate change and energy at the International Institute for Sustainable Development has estimated the federal government could save more than $1.3 billion per year if it phases out all existing subsidies for the oil, gas and coal industries.

Buying the F-35 fighter jet makes sense for Canada

My solemn advice to the federal Conservative government: hands off the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

While you are seemingly still prepared to throw away more than $1 billion per annum on state broadcaster CBC, and are now warming to the numbing stupidity of paying $2 billion to public servants to leave the bloated bureaucracy, you are wavering on national defence. You are threatening the integrity of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which, thank God, due to your wisdom, we are now able to say again without sounding wistfully nostalgic.

Now is not the time for defence penury. We perceived more than a hint of parsimony and this week's non-commitment and equivocation from Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino. His repeated use of the word "if" when describing the purchase of the F-35 to the House of Commons defence committee must give pause for concern.

Let us proceed with both hands on the throttle, but let us proceed with a flight plan. What will be the final price tag? Is it $9 billion, $16 billion or $30 billion? Confusion only engenders fear and a good talking point for the NDP, three letters which must persist in being deciphered as "No Defence Policy."

Never mind Dean Del Mastro: Robocall dots are easy to connect

Conservative robocall point man Dean Del Mastro prompted a lot of rude repartee in the Twittersphere yesterday when he suggested we should all just calm down and stop jumping to conclusions.

After all, Del Mastro explained in response to a CBC story the day before that pointed to a connection between people who had received misleading robocalls and an earlier call from the Conservative Party that identified how they planned to vote, "some of these things, as I've already indicated, could well have been mistakes."


The CBC analysis of the goings on in 31 ridings across Canada "showed a pattern indicating those who got misleading or fraudulent calls sending them to the wrong polling location had also gotten calls from the Conservative Party trying to find out which way they would vote." As the CBC pointed out, that's just the kind of information that’s likely to be guarded most closely by a political party. So how did the robocallers get it?

Will Broadbent’s bomb turn out to be a bust?

Ed Broadbent has gone nuclear on Thomas Mulcair. It is a strange thing to see one of the NDP's most respected senior statesman look to blow up the campaign of the apparent front-runner. Who knew the holier than thou NDP were capable of such primal political behaviour?

It is well known I am no fan of Mr. Mulcair but I didn't know Mr. Broadbent shared such a visceral view of the surly NDP member from Outremont. It is certainly well known in Ottawa that Mulcair prefers to scorch the earth rather than engage in the co-operative farming process his many colleagues prefer.

I honestly have no idea what impact Mr. Broadbent's sermon on the tomfoolery of taking Thomas to the top will have on NDP members as they vote for a new leader. But I know such extreme preaching often blows up on the preacher blowing past the congregation he is trying to sway.

Paint the Other Cheek

At a semi-secret meeting in the basement of a Greenwich Village church one Saturday night in February, a couple-dozen of the busiest Occupy Wall Street organizers sat in a circle of folding chairs. Calling the group to order was Yates Mckee, an art critic with aviator glasses and hair down past his shoulders, which seemed especially appropriate considering his choice to open the proceedings by reading from the Book of Matthew: turn the other cheek, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.

“A lot of people would agree that this movement is in crisis,” he said. “We’ve had these discussions about so-called diversity of tactics, which I think makes a lot of people very uncomfortable.” True. Just hearing those words put the room on edge. Since Occupy Oakland’s clash with police in late January, in just about every meeting and e-mail list OWS organizers had been arguing about tactics. Is this a nonviolent movement? What would it mean if it was? Or wasn’t?

“I think right now is the moment to look to great men of history,” Mckee continued imperiously, listing the men he had in mind: Jesus Christ, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. “They all show us that the way to build a popular revolutionary movement is through love, through harmony and through the strength of nonviolence.”

This Week in Poverty: Me, Mom and Reagan

Here’s the new American reality: about half of all kids will spend at least part of their childhood in a family headed by a single mother, and the typical single mother is white, has one kid, is separated or divorced, works and probably earns less than $25,000 a year.

Wait, what? Run that back to me.

Because when I was a kid being raised by a white single mom, President Reagan basically promised me we that we were different, special even. My Mom put herself through school and worked. The typical single mom, according to the president, was a “welfare queen” taking “government handouts” so she could drive her “Cadillac” and raise her “strapping young bucks” on “T-bone steaks.” He didn’t have to say she was black, lazy and never married—everyone knew it. This image persisted through welfare reform in 1996 when basic cash assistance was gutted, and it still grips the American psyche today.

But a new report from Tim Casey, senior staff attorney at Legal Momentum—the nation’s oldest legal defense and education fund for women and girls—departs from this iconic portrayal of single moms. Instead, Casey goes out on a limb and turns to data from crazy outfits like the US Census Bureau. The report is a lot less fun than the alternative universe offered by the current crop of Republican presidential candidates, because Casey stubbornly insists on using “facts.”

How Voter ID Laws Are Being Used to Disenfranchise Minorities and the Poor

First, let's call it what it is. The burgeoning battles over state redistricting and voter ID laws -- and the larger fight over a key part of the Voting Rights Act itself -- are all cynical expressions of the concerns many conservatives (of both parties) have about the future of the American electorate. The Republican lawmakers who are leading the fight for the restrictive legislation say they are doing so in the name of stopping election fraud -- and, really, who's in favor of election fraud? But the larger purpose and effect of the laws is to disenfranchise Hispanic voters, other minorities, and the poor -- most of whom, let's also be clear, vote for Democrats.

Jonathan Chait, in a smart recent New York magazine piece titled "2012 or Never," offered some numbers supporting the theory. "Every year," Chait wrote, "the nonwhite proportion of the electorate grows by about half a percentage point -- meaning that in every presidential election, the minority share of the vote increases by 2 percent, a huge amount in a closely divided country." This explains, for example, why Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona are turning purple instead of staying red. "By 2020," Chait writes, "nonwhite voters should rise from a quarter of the 2008 electorate to one third. In 30 years, "nonwhites will outnumber whites."

Drummond report recommendations will be devastating to low income Ontarians

She lost her job as a bookkeeper in 2009. A victim of workplace bullying.

Since then, she’s been looking for another job. But several of her front teeth are missing and she can’t afford to get them fixed.

Yet somehow she barely manages to survive on welfare.

“I’m kind of between a rock and a hard place,” she says.

Michelle Hruschka can’t go back to school because she can’t shoulder the debt burden. Without a bursary for school or a decent job, she feels as if she’s run out of opportunities.

She refuses to work for temporary help agencies. She’s done that before and was a victim of wage theft.

“Even if you go through the process with the Ministry of Labour, the legislation still isn’t strong enough to ensure that you’re paid,” she says.

Quebec Minister Talks Cap And Trade

Quebec's environment minister says he hopes to turn Quebec into a North American leader when it comes to going green.

Pierre Arcand gave CBC News an exclusive interview during a trip to California this week to increase interest in the creation of a cap and trade carbon market.

So far, only Quebec and California are committed to creating such a market, and it's set to come into effect gradually, beginning in 2013.

The system will place a price on pollution, allowing companies that cut emissions to sell carbon credits for a profit.

Arcand said such a bold initiative is no easy sell for politicians these days.

"It creates change, and sometimes people are afraid of change," said Arcand.

Occupy Wall Street's 6-Month Anniversary Observed By Leftists, Crashed By Protestors

Exactly six months after the first protestors spread out their sleeping bags in an unloved little park in Lower Manhattan, sparking a movement that swept the country and captured the public imagination, the scene in Zuccotti Park early in the afternoon on Saturday was subdued. There were a few familiar faces -- the guy who manages the Twitter account, the girl with the blue hair. But walking around, you were more struck by what you didn’t see: the library, the kitchen, the tents. The ex-banker with the cowboy hat and the facial tattoos. On the plot of concrete where members of the media group had once fielded questions from a seemingly endless parade of reporters, someone had written "media tent" in chalk. In another spot: "comfort station." And on the north side of the park, by a granite bench, "I slept here."

Sixth months in, the Occupy movement has largely disappeared from the parks and squares where it originated, and from the newspapers and social media sites where it blew up. But it isn't gone. The occupiers see traces of it in the way that the president now talks about income inequality, in the smattering of candidates for various local offices who've adopted the Occupy rhetoric, in the proliferation of concepts like "the 99 percent."

Oil sands wolf cull plan ripped apart on U.S. show

A prominent American naturalist used an appearance on NBC’s popular Today show to salvage the image of the misunderstood grey wolf, and savage Canada’s reputation over its plan to poison and shoot the predator in Alberta’s oil sands region.

As host Natalie Morales joked about Little Red Riding Hood, David Mizejewski showed off two wolves and made a plea for their protection. He highlighted a Canadian plan to kill wolves as part of an effort to protect the boreal caribou herd, which is threatened by loss of habitat in the oil sands region and elsewhere.
More related to this story

The National Wildlife Federation conservationist said the wolf cull was one more reason that Americans should oppose their country’s growing consumption from the oil sands.

“These beautiful animals – their wild kin – are going to be poisoned with strychnine, they’re going to be shot out of helicopters, all to feed our addiction to dirty oil,” he said.

Broadbent attack on Mulcair reverberates in NDP leadership contest

OTTAWA - The grenade lobbed into the NDP leadership race by former leader Ed Broadbent continues to reverberate.

Supporters of front-runner Thomas Mulcair, the target of some blunt criticism from Broadbent on Thursday, say the unprecedented attack has backfired, repulsing many New Democrats who fear for the long-term unity of the party.

And they say it has made Brian Topp, Broadbent's preferred choice for leader, look desperate.

But Topp's backers believe the intervention has helped define the race, heading into the final week, as a fundamental choice between Mulcair and Topp, sidelining the other five contenders.

For his part, Broadbent insists he'll support whoever wins.

Broadbent gave a series of interviews Thursday in which he questioned Mulcair's temperamental suitability to lead the party, denounced his apparent willingness to turn the NDP into a more centrist party and accused him of taking undue credit for the party's electoral success in Quebec.

The Unpersuaded - Who listens to a President?

Richard Neustadt, who died in 2003, was the most influential scholar of the American Presidency. He was a founder of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and an adviser to Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton, and, in his book “Presidential Power” (1960), he wrote the most frequently quoted line in Presidential studies: “The power of the presidency is the power to persuade.” On August 31st of last year, President Barack Obama prepared to exercise that power. Frustrated with the slow recovery of the economy, he wanted to throw the weight of his office behind a major new stimulus package, the American Jobs Act. To this end, the White House announced that the President would deliver a televised speech to a joint session of Congress, and, as is customary, the President sent a letter to the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, asking him to schedule the address for September 7th. Boehner, the man Obama needed to persuade above all others, said no.

In a written reply to the President, the Speaker said that the House had votes scheduled for six-thirty that evening. He added, “It is my recommendation that your address be held on the following evening, when we can ensure there will be no parliamentary or logistical impediments that might detract from your remarks.” Few believed that this was all there was to it. Boehner’s real objection, most thought, was that the Republican Presidential candidates were scheduled to hold a televised debate at the Reagan Library on the seventh, and Obama’s speech would upstage it. The White House, meanwhile, had its own concerns: Boehner’s suggested date would pit the President against the opening game of the N.F.L. season.

Russia Protests: Dozens Detained In Anti-Putin Demonstrations

MOSCOW — Russian police detained around two dozen anti-government protesters Saturday as hundreds rallied in downtown Moscow to denounce Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency and a television show that accused opposition leaders of treason.

Moscow police said they had detained more than 20 people for trying to hold an unsanctioned protest at Revolution Square, along with two protesters at nearby Pushkin Square who unfurled anti-Kremlin banners. The protesters were released shortly afterward, police said.

Several hundred protesters at Pushkin Square chanted "Russia without Putin!" Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was president in 2000-2008, was re-elected earlier this month for a third term despite rallies, Russia's largest since the Soviet collapse, that urged him to step down.

The protesters at Pushkin Square cheered opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, who was released from jail Friday night after his 10-day jail term for disobeying police orders was replaced with a fine.

Senator Pam Galloway Resigns Seat On Wisconsin Legislature, GOP Loses Senate Control

A Wisconsin state senator facing a June primary election abruptly resigned Friday, plunging the Senate into a tie and shaking up the state's political landscape.

Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) announced she would be resigning effective Saturday from the seat she has held since her November 2010 election. In a statement on her website and Facebook page, Galloway said that she was resigning in order to deal with family issues.

"Today I am announcing my retirement from the Wisconsin State Senate. After a great deal of thought and consideration, I've decided to put the needs of my family first," Galloway said. "My family has experienced multiple, sudden and serious health issues, which require my full attention. Unfortunately, this situation is not compatible with fulfilling my obligations as state senator or running for re-election at this time."

Galloway, the chairwoman of the Senate Public Health, Human Services and Revenue Committee, was facing a competitive recall election vs. Rep. Donna Seidel (D). When Seidel's candidacy was announced last month, Democrats were quick to trumpet her candidacy, noting that her district gave her a boost in the Senate race.

Post-Citizens United Money May Swamp Congressional Candidates

WASHINGTON -- Political spending by deep-pocketed donors and cash-rich corporations threatens to sow chaos in this year's congressional races, political consultants warn.

A billionaire or corporation writing a check for $1 million -- or even $10 million -- isn't enough to swing a presidential election. But when it comes to congressional campaigns, it could be plenty.

“You can work for months and years to develop a fundraising advantage over your opponent of $2 million, $5 million or $10 million. And all that can be wiped out in seconds by a few people giving to a super PAC," said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.

While Republican and Democratic candidates are, in theory, equally susceptible to that kind of unlimited outside money, it’s the Democrats who sound much more alarmed.

"No one is safe, and everyone's got to protect themselves," said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. "Super PACs can strike at any time they want."

Julian Assange Australia Senate Run Announced

CANBERRA, Australia -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plans to run for a seat in the Australian Senate in elections due next year despite being under virtual house arrest in England and facing sex crime allegations in Sweden, the group said Saturday.

The 40-year-old Australian citizen is fighting extradition to Sweden. He has taken his legal battle all the way to Britain's Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on his case soon.

"We have discovered that it is possible for Julian Assange to run for the Australian Senate while detained. Julian has decided to run," WikiLeaks announced on Twitter.

Assange has criticized Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's center-left government for not standing up for him against the potential threat of his extradition to the United States for prosecution over WikiLeaks' release of hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents.

Australian police have concluded that WikiLeaks and Assange have not broken any Australian laws by publishing the U.S. cables, although Gillard has condemned the action as "grossly irresponsible."

Christy Clark morphs from Premier Mom to Iron Lady

Not even by the notoriously strange and wacky standards of B.C. politics has the province seen anything quite like this – a provincial premier undergoing a radical ideological makeover a year into the job.

Those who knew Christy Clark as a big-L Liberal with deep and lifelong connections to the federal party must barely recognize the conservative standard-bearer she has morphed into in a shockingly short period of time.

From routinely taking potshots at Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his party while a Liberal-friendly radio host, Ms. Clark has turned to the Conservative Leader and his acolytes in a painfully obvious attempt to reverse her dreary political fortunes.

Not since David Emerson crossed the floor in 2006 to sit in Mr. Harper’s cabinet have federal Liberals in B.C. been so mystified, and angry, with a politician’s philosophical change of heart.

Conservatives preach the gospel but forget the chapters

These have been confusing intellectual times for conservatives on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

What conservatives of various stripes have promised, they have not delivered and, it would appear, they do not know how to deliver because their ideology conflicts with economic and political realities.

That ideology has three parts: smaller government, lower taxes and balanced budgets. The trilogy is what all the conservative think tanks preach, what all the conservative media outlets demand, and what Conservatives here and Republicans there insist they desire.

Except that between desire and reality, a yawning performance gap usually arises.

In the U.S., Republicans controlled the White House for 20 years under president Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes. They had congressional majorities for more than half of those years. But they delivered only one part of the trilogy – lower taxes. Government spending rose in defiance of conservative ideology. And deficits arose, despite the ideological assertion that deficits would disappear once taxes were cut, thereby leading, it was argued, to much higher revenues.

NDP's Niki Ashton sees Quebec as template for western breakthrough

OTTAWA — It might sound odd but for NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton, the road to NDP success on the Prairies starts in Alberta.

Ashton, 29, kicked off her final week of campaigning prior to the leadership vote March 24 with a vision to hold a Prairie breakthrough conference in 2013 in Lethbridge, Alta.

"It's a community where we haven't ever won but we've done increasingly well there," she said. "It's symbolic of the kind of work we need to do."

In 2004, the NDP was a distant third place in Lethbridge, a city of 84,000 people southeast of Calgary. Last May, the party was second and nearly tripled its vote from seven years earlier. However, the NDP still tallied less than half the vote of winner Conservative Jim Hillyer.

Still, Ashton said, it's a place to start.

"We need to set the groundwork for a western breakthrough."

He's got the future of the PS in his hands

They're a small group of nine Conservatives, mostly cabinet ministers, who carry enormous clout in shaping the future of the federal government and public service - and they also carry a big axe.

Led by Treasury Board President Tony Clement (chairman) and junior Finance Minister Ted Menzies (vice-chairman), the subcommittee on the strategic and operating review is the small panel heading the government's search for up to $8 billion in annual savings over the next few years.

Joining Clement and Menzies on the cost-cutting committee are a crew of MPs from a wide variety of portfolios and backgrounds and one senator: government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton; Defence Minister Peter MacKay; Human Resources Minister Diane Finley; Industry Minister Christian Paradis; Labour Minister Lisa Raitt; Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver; and Edmonton Tory MP Laurie Hawn.

For several months, the group of nine has gathered two or three nights a week - four to five hours at a time - for meetings through the dead of Ottawa winter to debate where to cut billions of dollars in spending and thousands of public-sector jobs.

Robocalls Could Have Been Mistakes, Tory MP Says

Phone calls directing voters to the wrong polling stations in the last federal election could have been mistakes, and people should stop jumping to conclusions, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro says.

Del Mastro, who has been leading his party's defence in the controversy over live and automated election phone calls, said nobody has come forward to say they didn't vote because they first went to the wrong polling station.

"So where are these people? Where are these people? Where are these people saying that I got the call, I went to the wrong station, and then I didn't vote?" Del Mastro said on CBC's Power & Politics.

"There haven’t been any. No one has stepped forward and said that."

"Some of these things, as I've already indicated, could have well been mistakes. I don't understand why folks jump to these things and run to a conclusion that they have no evidence of."

Budget 2012: Canadians expect bad news, opposed to OAS trims, poll shows

OTTAWA — Canadians are bracing themselves for a bad news budget from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government and are firmly opposed to the Tories' plan to slash the public pension system for future senior citizens, a new poll has found.

The national survey by Ipsos Reid, conducted for Postmedia News and Global TV, suggests that while Canadians are ready for a March 29 austerity budget that slashes government spending to reduce the deficit, the public has not yet accepted Harper's argument for why the pension system needs to be cut.

The poll found that 49 per cent of Canadians are preparing for a "bad news" budget from federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and that 57 per cent do not "trust" Harper and the Conservatives to make the "right choices" to ensure the budget is "fair and reasonable."

As well, more than two-thirds of Canadians oppose the view that the country needs to "sacrifice" pensions to keep taxes down or increase the retirement age to control rising pension system costs.

Defence turned blind eye to warnings on F-35 delays, costs

OTTAWA — Defence Department officials glossed over warnings that the F-35 project was facing serious scheduling and cost problems as they pitched the stealth fighter to the government in 2010, newly released documents indicate.

Rather, while Lockheed Martin was admitting the program was thousands of hours behind schedule and missing numerous benchmarks, the Canadian military was giving slick presentations highlighting the aircraft's stealth capabilities.

The documents, provided to the Commons' finance committee on Friday, have emerged following a report the auditor general is preparing to slam the department next month for misleading Parliament on its handling of the file.

When the Conservative government announced in July 2010 that Canada was planning to buy 65 F-35s for $9 billion to replace the country's aging fleet of CF-18s, it did so with great fanfare.

Restrictive bail conditions removed for three arrested at January rally against Ford cuts

Three Toronto residents arrested on January 17 for voicing their opposition to Rob Ford’s 2012 budget won a major victory Thursday, when their lawyer announced that their bail conditions had been lifted through a compromise with the Crown Attorney’s office.

“The bail conditions were interfering with our client’s right to constitutional protest, assembly and other constitutional freedoms,” said Michael Leitold, a criminal lawyer who is representing the accused.

All three defendants’ bail conditions had restricted them from entering City Hall or Nathan Phillips Square since January 17 and prevented Alex Marques, a masters student in urban planning at the University of Toronto, from conducting an interview with a city councillor.

“We’re very pleased that the Crown’s effectively tacitly acknowledged that those terms, as imposed by the police on January 17 after the demonstration, were overly broad and did interfere with our clients’ rights.”

However, Leitold remained concerned about the continued criminalization of people who stand up against the Ford agenda around austerity and cuts to social programs.

Anti-police graffiti painted in Ottawa

Vandals spray-painted anti-police graffiti in Ottawa's Centretown neighbourhood, which comes during a sensitive time for the city's police force.

The high-profile murder trial of former Mountie Kevin Gregson, convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Ottawa police Const. Eric Czapnik, wrapped up Tuesday.

Witnesses told CBC News they saw the graffiti as early as Tuesday, just as the memories of Czapnik's stabbing death have been refreshed for many officers.

Ottawa police would not comment on the graffiti, which also included messages such as "cops = killers" and "smash police terror" stencilled in pink spray paint along Bank and Metcalfe streets.

This also comes as violent anti-police brutality protests led to more than 200 arrests in Montreal Thursday. It is not known if there is a link to the protest, which came on the International Day Against Police Brutality, as Ottawa did not have an organized protest.

Jamaican drug lord's sentencing delayed

Sentencing has been postponed until May for a Jamaican drug lord facing more than 20 years in prison in the United States.

Christopher "Dudus" Coke, 38, was captured in Jamaica in 2010, a month after a bloody siege of his ghetto stronghold left more than 70 dead and was arrested and extradited to the U.S. a month later. He pleaded guilty in 2011 to racketeering, conspiracy and drug-trafficking charges and is now facing up to 23 years in prison in federal court in Manhattan.

Before the decision to postpone sentencing, Coke wrote a seven-page letter to the federal judge scheduled to sentence him on trafficking charges, seeking mercy by arguing that he was a do-gooder — throwing Easter parties, helping the poor and starting a school.

"I implemented a lot of social programs for the residents of my community — programs that teach them about self-empowerment," Coke wrote. However, he glossed over a list of accusations by federal officials that suggest he's a cold-blooded killer, drug trafficker and arms dealer.

Housing bubble a danger to economy, TD says

Overvalued housing markets in several Canadian cities and high household debt poses a "clear and present danger" to Canada’s economy, TD Bank warned in a report Friday.

The study by the bank’s chief economist, Craig Alexander, proposes the government introduce measures to keep personal debt levels from rising further.

The report flags Vancouver as the market with the greatest risk of a housing price correction, because of an influx of foreign buyers, likely in the order of 10 to 15 per cent.

Toronto could also see a drop in prices because of overbuilding in the condo market, which raises questions about the ability of the market to absorb the new listings or find renters for all of the investment properties.

And all cities are at risk, Alexander says, when interest rates eventually rise from their present "exceedingly" low levels.

Robo-calls warrant ‘huge investigation,’ former Harper aide says

A former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper says last year’s election day robo-calls are of a scale he’s never seen before and warrant a “huge investigation.”

Ian Brodie, who was Mr. Harper’s chief of staff from 2006 to 2008, said revelations from an Elections Canada probe that has centred on the Southern Ontario riding of Guelph and its local Conservative campaign likely indicate “a very devious local effort that could well lead to charges against several campaign volunteers.”

But he didn’t dismiss the possibility of “a national effort at subterfuge.”

“Something seems to have gone on, on a scale I’ve never seen before,” Mr. Brodie wrote in an e-mail.

Mr. Brodie is the second former chief of staff to Mr. Harper to express concern about deceptive robo-calls that directed voters to the wrong polling station in Guelph last May. However, Guy Giorno, who succeeded Mr. Brodie and was the Conservative campaign chair in the 2011 election, has said the national campaign did not attempt to suppress votes of non-Conservative supporters.