Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Budget targets environmental critics

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget takes aim at the federal government's environmental critics, while reducing its own internal resources for promoting sustainable development.

The budget tabled Thursday proposes a few environmental protection measures. In contrast, it contains an $8-million plan to crack down on conservation groups, while maintaining the status quo on substantial tax incentives for the oil and gas sector.

The budget also proposes to eliminate a key federal advisory panel on business and environmental issues — and its $5.2 million annual budget — which is headed by Flaherty's former chief of staff, David McLaughlin.

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, originally established in the 1990s to advise the prime minister, regularly produced reports that challenged the business and environmental policies of the government, particularly regarding climate change.

The proposed crackdown on charities would add new resources to the Canada Revenue Agency to monitor and restrict environmental groups from sending out emails to supporters and other activities that are considered to be political in nature.

Federal budget drags Canada into unnecessary austerity

In contrast to this year’s AFB 2012, today’s federal budget is decidedly not a budget for the rest of us.
In fact, regular Canadians won’t see themselves at all in this budget.
Instead, the country will be dragged into austerity, not only now but in the future.  And none of it is necessary.
The deficit balance date has moved forward one year purely due to economic growth, and with just slightly better growth, it will be two years.  The federal cuts weren’t $4 billion or $8 billion, but more than $5 billion—for this round anyway.

While the budget’s title says growth, it will be hard for the federal government to paddle against the obvious fact that they are cutting back. This is a budget of cuts: 10% for the CBC, for food inspectors and for those who help low-income Canadians access services.  The impact will be felt on services, but it will also be felt on employment.  For the first time since elected in 2006, the federal government is starting to project job losses.  It estimates that the latest wave of cuts will result in 19,000 lost positions.

Total's Elgin Platform Leaking Gas In North Sea Raises Concerns

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Environmental groups warned Thursday they fear an oil spill could be triggered at a North Sea offshore platform that has been leaking highly pressurized gas since the weekend.

A flame is still burning in the stack above the Elgin platform, which stands about 150 miles (240 kilometers) off the coast of Aberdeen, eastern Scotland, after a leak of flammable gas Sunday— prompting all 238 staff to be evacuated on Monday.

Platform operator Total S.A. insists there is no threat of any explosion under current weather conditions, but said that surveillance flights have detected a sheen around the platform estimated to extend over 4.8 square kilometers (1.85 square miles).

The sheen is believed to be caused by gas condensate — a petrol-like substance that contains some oil. The condensate is a lighter fuel than oil, but is still dangerous.

"Elgin is sending methane into the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas, so there is some environmental impact at the moment. There is also oil in that well, and Total need to move before an oil spill becomes part of this leak," said Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland.

Israel’s Secret Staging Ground

In 2009, the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Baku, Donald Lu, sent a cable to the State Department's headquarters in Foggy Bottom titled "Azerbaijan's discreet symbiosis with Israel." The memo, later released by WikiLeaks, quotes Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev as describing his country's relationship with the Jewish state as an iceberg: "nine-tenths of it is below the surface."

Why does it matter? Because Azerbaijan is strategically located on Iran's northern border and, according to several high-level sources I've spoken with inside the U.S. government, Obama administration officials now believe that the "submerged" aspect of the Israeli-Azerbaijani alliance -- the security cooperation between the two countries -- is heightening the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran.

In particular, four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran's northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. "The Israelis have bought an airfield," a senior administration official told me in early February, "and the airfield is called Azerbaijan."

Progressive Muslims Launch Gay-Friendly, Women-Led Mosques In Attempt To Reform American Islam

At first, the devout Muslims who gathered in a Washington, D.C., conference center seemed like they could have come from any mosque. There were women in headscarves and bearded men who quoted the Quran.

But something was different. While mingling over hors d'oeuvres, they discussed how to change Islam's future. A woman spoke about fighting terrorism; she had married outside the Islamic faith, which is forbidden for a Muslim woman. A Pakistani man mentioned his plans to meet friends for drinks, despite the faith's ban on alcohol.

In a corner of the room, an imam in a long gray tunic counseled a young Muslim with a vexing spiritual conflict: being gay and Muslim. The imam, also gay and in a relationship, could easily sympathize with the youth's difficulties.

On this brisk Monday night in late October, members of Muslims for Progressive Values, a nascent American reformist organization, had gathered from around the country to celebrate a milestone: In four years, the group had grown from a few friends to a thousand members and spawned a string of small mosques and spiritual groups that stretched from Atlanta to Los Angeles.

The Money Trail Behind Florida's Notorious Gun Law

On April 26, 2005, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law SB 436, better known as the "Stand Your Ground" law, which gave Floridians the right to use deadly force to defend themselves in public without first trying to flee from a threat. Nearly seven years later, the law has exploded into public view with the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Police released the shooter, George Zimmerman, the night of the killing after he claimed self-defense; ever since, there has been a firestorm of debate over the wisdom of Stand Your Ground laws, also known as "shoot first" laws, which now exist in 24 states.

The money trail leading to the watershed law in Florida—the first of the 24 across the nation—traces primarily to one source: the National Rifle Association. When Gov. Bush conducted the 2005 signing ceremony, standing alongside him was Marion Hammer, a leader and familiar face from the pro-gun lobbying powerhouse. But the NRA's support for the Stand Your Ground law was far more than symbolic. An analysis by Mother Jones of election and lobbying records reveals that the NRA was instrumental in creating Stand Your Ground: Over a nine-year period the organization gave more than $73,000 in campaign donations to the 43 Florida legislators who backed the law. That money was buttressed by intense lobbying activity and additional funds spent by the NRA in support of the bill's introduction and passage.

Killed at Home: White Plains, NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Dead Black Veteran, 68

As the Trayvon Martin case draws national attention, we look at another fatal shooting of an African-American male that has received far less scrutiny. Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old African-American Marine veteran, was fatally shot in November by White Plains, NY, police who responded to a false alarm from his medical alert pendant. The officers broke down Chamberlain’s door, tasered him, and then shot him dead. Audio of the entire incident was recorded by the medical alert device in Chamberlain’s apartment. We’re joined by family attorneys and Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., who struggles through tears to recount his father’s final moments, including the way police officers mocked his father’s past as a marine. "For them to look at my father that way, (with) no regard for his life, every morning I think about it," he says.

Source: Democracy Now
Author: ---

Canada Budget 2012: Tories To Lay Down Majority Markers With First Unfettered Budget

OTTAWA - After six years in office, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives finally get to flex their majority muscles today with a budget of deep spending cuts and government streamlining.

Everything appears up for a rethink, from the way major resource projects are assessed to how immigrants are selected, research and development is funded and the eligibility age for certain pension benefits.

The first budget since last May's majority victory, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird boasted Wednesday in the Commons, "will help the middle class by ensuring the long-term prosperity of this great country."

"It will support the priorities of working families, creating an environment for job creation, supporting health care, supporting education. It is going to do great things over the next year on this plan."

The Conservatives have been pushing a "jobs and growth" mantra for months, including some $12 million in pre-budget advertising by Finance and the Canada Revenue Agency.

But a more frank appraisal might frame the budget as short-term pain for longer term gain.

Marc Mayrand Testimony On Robocall Scandal: 800 Election Complaints Cut Across Canada

OTTAWA — Canada's elections watchdog called the possibility of voter suppression during the last election "outrageous,'' revealing Thursday that investigators are examining 800 complaints of misleading telephone calls from right across the country.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand emphasized how seriously his office was taking the complaints as he testified before a House of Commons committee.

"I think it's absolutely outrageous — whether it was organized, or bigger, or whatever, the fact that electors at least that we know of in Guelph, were misdirected by calls falsely made on behalf of Elections Canada is absolutely outrageous, should not be tolerated,'' Mayrand told MPs in a packed committee room.

"It's totally unacceptable in a modern democracy.''

Canada Gas Prices: 10 Per Cent Jump In One Year Among Highest In Developed World

If it seems like gas prices have been rising particularly quickly in Canada, that’s because they are.

According to a new analysis by The Economist, in the past year the price at the pump increased faster in Canada than in a majority of developed nations. Though gas here remains cheap compared to many countries, the amount Canadians have been forking over at the pump was up 10 per cent in February over the same month the previous year, putting Canada eighth out of 28 countries in terms of the rate of increase.

But while Canadian consumers are no doubt feeling the pinch, Earl Sweet, managing director of economic research at BMO Capital Markets, cautions against reading too much into the international comparison.

As he points out, many of the countries included in The Economist comparison are in Europe, where taxes make up a much greater proportion of the pump price than in Canada. That makes gas prices there less susceptible to swings in the price of oil.

Buyer beware the F-35

The sorry tale of the F-35 stealth fighter jets just got worse, and not because Auditor General Michael Ferguson is issuing a report on the Department of National Defence's procurement process next week. For it has emerged that F-35s suffer from - believe it or not - flaky skin.

The ability of F-35s to avoid radar detection depends on a "fibre mat," which is cured into the composite surfaces of the aircraft.

In December 2011, a test version of the F-35 for the first time achieved the design speed of Mach 1.6.

According to Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week, the flight caused "peeling and bubbling" of the stealth coating on the horizontal tails and damage to the engine's thermal panels, and the entire test fleet was subsequently limited to Mach 1.0.

Repairing and replacing stealth materials is a timeand technology-intensive process that reduces the "mission capable rate" of aircraft. Indeed, it has been reported by the U.S. Congressional Research Service that after five years of service the F-35's sister plane, the F-22, has a mission capable rate of just 60%.

Immigrants' credentials to be vetted overseas

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced plans to hire an outside company to assess the educational credentials of newcomers before they arrive in Canada in a bid to keep foreign physicians from having to drive cabs after they arrive.

On the eve of an anticipated austerity budget, Kenney said the government would issue a request for proposals within the next two months in the hopes of selecting a thirdparty organization that could begin conducting these overseas assessments by the end of the year.

"The overall goal here is to better select and better support potential immigrants before they come to Canada so they can hit the ground running once they arrive by integrating quickly into our labour market," he told a business audience of professional regulators Wednesday.

"Once this process is in place, we think this will result in a significant improvement in the points grid system we use to assess applicants to the foreign skilled worker program."

Kenney said the idea was to "be more up front and honest" with would-be newcomers by giving them a sense of how their credentials stack up against someone with a similar Canadian education.

NDP vote disruption worries experts

Although many people are attached at the hip to their laptops, few are conversant in software coding and even fewer are familiar with heavy encryption.

Combine computers with the intricacies of elections, and that leaves only a handful of specialists worldwide who can claim to understand online voting.

Questions about e-voting were raised after the NDP leadership convention was disrupted by a cyber attack.

Not all of them have been answered satisfactorily, say software experts, despite reassurances from Scytl, the software company that handled the NDP election process, and from Halifax Regional Municipality, which has committed to use the company’s services in October’s municipal election.

"Multibillion-dollar (software developers) like Windows, you know, Microsoft . . . can’t have their software bug-free. So I don’t think Scytl is able to do that," said Daniel Sokolov, a Halifax information technology expert.

Sokolov has examined several European elections that used e-voting and found at least three with troubling results.

Behind the Coup in Mali

On the ground in Bamako, development expert Hervé Bisseleua speaks to The Mark about the rebel massacre of government soldiers that set the stage for the coup.

On Mar. 21, Mali’s democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo. Due to mounting pressure from the international community, particularly the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the coup leaders are being pressured to return power to the elected government. Following a visit from ECOWAS representatives, the coup leaders recently unveiled a new constitution and pledged to hold elections that return the country to civilian leadership.

What can you tell us about the coup in Mali?

On Jan. 29, more than 160 young soldiers, most from the military base of Kati near Bamako, were brutally killed by Tuareg rebels from Aguelhoc, northern Mali. Understandably, this created outrage in Mali.

What to look for in the federal budget on key water issues

The federal budget is expected to start a series of cuts to critical public services as well as public service jobs. Here's what to look for in some water-related areas.

Drinking water for First Nation communities

This is a particularly important year for funding for drinking water in First Nation communities in the federal budget for two reasons. First, the federal government recently introduced Bill S-8 An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nations lands (formerly Bill S-11) which, while creating a framework in which high standards can be set, fails to commit any funding to improve drinking water standards. There are some changes such as the removal of a clause requiring first nations to enter into third party agreements and recognition of the need to protect sources of drinking water from contamination. While we applaud the aim of the bill – improving the safety of drinking water in First Nation communities – the bill still has significant weaknesses. Similar to its predecessor, Bill S-8 appears to set up a framework that would download federal responsibility for drinking water on First Nation reserves onto “provinces, corporations or other bodies.” Despite claims by the government, some First Nations argue that they were not adequately consulted with this iteration. There is nothing in the Bill that would require the federal government to consult with First Nations in the development of related regulations. Finally, the lack of funding commitments and roles in Bill S-8 could force First Nations to privatize and lose control of their water systems. To read more about our concerns about Bill S-11, click here.

Trayvon Martin: Killing of an unarmed teenager sparks a movement for justice

Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012.

The African American teenager was shot by Zimmerman, a man of multi-ethnic heritage, who was patrolling a gated community in Florida. Martin had been walking back from a 7-Eleven where he had bought a bag of Skittles and an iced tea.

Speaking on his cell phone to his girlfriend, he was spotted by Zimmerman who called Sandford police to report a "suspicious person" in the Twin Lakes neighbourhood where he was leading neighbourhood watch.

Martin was unarmed when he was shot by Zimmerman's semi-automatic. He can be heard begging for his life on the police dispatch recording of the incident.

Martin's only crime was, as Zimmerman described to police dispatch, "This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something." Martin was wearing a hoodie at the time of his death, with the hood pulled up to keep out the rain.

Budget 2012: Jim Flaherty is structurally incompetent

Ideology makes you stupid and if someone gives you power it makes you dangerous. That makes Jim Flaherty, Canada's finance minister, one of the most dangerous people in Canada as he prepares to deliver one of the most draconian and irrational budgets in recent years.

Finance ministers have a huge amount of leeway in deciding what economic or fiscal issues they are going to devote the most time to in a budget. They can focus on economic growth per se, or employment, or productivity or shifting the macro-focus of the economy to anticipate future developments, or decide to build a modern infrastructure to enhance the country's competitiveness -- or any combination of the above.

But all those actually require an activist government -- using real policy tools to intervene in the economy. Jim Flaherty and his boss Stephen Harper would rather stick pins in their eyes than actually behave like a government. They are, in effect, an anti-government. And while they need to be seen to be doing something, reaching some goal, it cannot be seen to be messing with the "natural" evolution of capitalism. Its base in rural Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C. and the 905 region hate government and have had their hatred legitimized and reinforced by the Harperites. They now expect a steady dismantling of government.

Elections Canada probing call complaints in 200 ridings

Elections Canada is looking into 800 complaints from voters about robocalls and live calls made in 200 ridings during the last federal election, the agency's head said Thursday.

Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand wouldn't comment specifically on the ongoing investigation in the Ontario riding of Guelph, or confirm how many official investigations are underway, but he did tell MPs that 250 case files have been opened at the chief election commissioner's office.

He cautioned that some complaints can be combined into a single file or investigation.

Mayrand, appearing at the Commons' procedure and House affairs committee on the subject of "allegations of wrongdoing" during last May's general election, said 70 complaints were received immediately after the election related to improper communication. People said they received live and automated calls purporting to be from Elections Canada that told them their polling station had been changed.

‘I told you so,’ says councillor Ford about new Port Lands plan

There is no mention of a Ferris wheel or a monorail, but a new look at kick-starting development of Toronto’s Port Lands includes a less pricey option for the mouth of the Don River that allows for more development and less green space.

The study examines when – and how – to develop the Port Lands, which stretch from the inner harbour east to Leslie Street. The interim findings will be released Saturday at a public open house. An advance copy, obtained by The Globe and Mail, identifies areas where development could begin within years instead of decades. But all that depends upon the right market conditions and the city figuring out a way to deliver transit and services to the eastern waterfront.

Councillor Doug Ford says the study proves his point. It was his musing last summer about fast-tracking development with a luxury hotel, a megamall and a Ferris wheel linked to the downtown by monorail that led to the current re-examination.

“I told you so. You can print that in big letters,” Mr. Ford said. “They are looking at mixed use and one of the critical things is transportation. The only thing they are missing is the Ferris wheel.”

Budget represents Flaherty’s best shot at creating a Conservative legacy

Thursday’s federal budget will be thick – 500 pages, apparently, compared to the 375 pages of last year’s document. Those 500 pages will be about more than deficit reduction targets, cuts to program spending and proposed changes to Old Age Security.

They will also represent Jim Flaherty’s best, and perhaps last, shot at becoming known as Canada’s first great Conservative finance minister.

There have already been great, or at least famous, Liberal finance ministers. Walter Gordon championed economic nationalism in the 1960s. John Turner’s tenure in the 1970s helped establish his reputation as prime minister-in-waiting. Paul Martin in the 1990s slew the federal deficit.

But there has never been a Conservative finance minister who successfully reshaped the federal government in his ideological image. Jim Flaherty wants to be that minister, but until now, events have conspired against him.

Despite self-defence claim, man who shot Florida teen looks unharmed in police video

The neighbourhood watch volunteer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in Florida appeared uninjured when he was brought into the police station on the night of the shooting, according to a video released by ABC News on Wednesday.

George Zimmerman told police he shot Trayvon Martin inside a gated community on Feb. 26 in self-defence after Mr. Martin attacked him and repeatedly bashed his head into a concrete walkway.

Police have declined to arrest Mr. Zimmerman, triggering nationwide protests from citizens, politicians and entertainers who argue that Mr. Zimmerman, who is half white and half Hispanic, found the 17-year-old Mr. Martin suspicious and followed him because he was black.

Police at the scene said the 28-year-old shooter was bleeding from the nose and the back of the head, and Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer said his client suffered a broken nose from Mr. Martin’s punch.

But no blood or bruising is visible in the video taken by a police surveillance camera that shows uniformed officers leading a handcuffed Mr. Zimmerman into the police station, nor are there blood stains visible on his clothes.

Conservatives' budget to reset retirement at age 67

The Conservative government will ask millions of Canadians to push back their retirement as part of a landmark budget that stresses bold action now to position Canada’s economy in the face of major demographic changes to come.

Ottawa will unveil plans Thursday to delay Old Age Security benefits until age 67, The Globe has learned, confirming Prime Minister Stephen Harper's long-telegraphed blueprint for retirement reform. The OAS changes will be phased in over a number of years, creating a generational divide between Canadians who will receive the benefit – worth more than $6,000 a year – at age 65 and other Canadians who will have to wait longer.

Tackling unemployment in the face of growing skills shortages will also be a dominant theme. The Globe has learned that the budget will renew a small-business-tax credit of up to $1,000 to offset the costs of Employment Insurance premiums for new hires. The temporary measure is expected to cost Ottawa about $200-million.

New NDP spirit soars

Harper foes, take heart. the NDP rank and file made good on the party’s Opposition promise at last weekend’s leadership convention. Both the process and the outcome have left Canada’s progressive majority stronger and wiser in many obvious and also subtle ways.

The voting results are a hope elixir. How fantastically different this convention was from the surreal electoral choices we keep seeing south of the border and, sadly, in our own city. Isn’t it nice to know that real democracy, in the hands of the country’s biggest concentration of social equality advocates, adds up to collective brilliance? That kind of faith renewed packs the energy that might just get new people interested in voting.

So often the left has sabotaged itself. But this time the members elected the best candidate, Tom Mulcair, because he was the one with the talents and resumé needed for that job.

They resisted the temptation to stick with old platitudes despite the pleading and wheedling of party brass like Ed Broadbent, who desperately threw his love behind the seatless and charisma-challenged Brian Topp.

Tory Deficits and the Austerity Budget Ruse

Canadians have been misled to believe that the global economic downturn, not persistent cuts to the revenue base, is to blame for the need for austerity.

By incrementally slashing the federal government’s revenue base, Canada’s Conservatives have created conditions to justify an austerity budget – even in a country that had already cleaned up its balance sheet in the 1990s. In fact, the federal deficit would already have been eliminated if it were not for the choices that the Harper government made before Canada’s recession even hit.

Postmedia’s Stephen Maher recently compared the activities of the Harper government to policies pursued by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Indeed, the Conservatives did use their initial years of government to “starve the beast,” depriving Ottawa of revenue.

Israel must see to human rights before animal rights

Ninety laboratory monkeys are to be sent to the United States in a few days from an experimental facility in Moshav Mazor. The High Court of Justice issued a temporary restraining order against their export.

Some 700 asylum seekers from South Sudan are also to be deported in a few days and no restraining order will prevent their expulsion.

El Al Airlines, like many other airlines worldwide, refuses to fly animals for experimentation, but with foreigners who are forcibly and cruelly deported from here, airlines have no compunctions. They fly them unhesitatingly, even when the deportation is accompanied by violence on the part of the policeman involved in it.

I once took a flight to Amsterdam on board which was such a deportee. The heartrending cries of the cuffed African did not stop from the moment of takeoff at Ben-Gurion airport until landing at Schiphol. I will never forget it. If, God forbid, either the monkeys or the humans are expelled, their fate will be sealed. One guess: The monkeys will not be deported, the Sudanese will.

Disappearing Toronto

Heritage preservation is in trouble in Hogtown.

Developers filling the sky with cranes to erect ever-taller glass condo towers seem to care enough about heritage to go to great expense to save the facades of notable buildings and incorporate others into their designs. It’s at least a nod to the value of our architectural history.

But our entire planning system is more geared to the idea that bigger is better than to preservation. Heritage concerns are typically excluded from the broader planning and development process. At the political level, elected officials are largely unaware of the environmental benefits and economic value of protecting Toronto’s built past.

We have heritage policies, but they’re frequently not enforced.

These problems and others, like the need for more funding for Heritage Preservation Services and strengthening the Ontario Heritage Act, were identified in Heritage Toronto’s and the Toronto Historical Association’s Heritage Voices report released a year ago last month.

Canada Mortgage Debt: BMO Survey Suggests Half Of Homeowners Fear 2 Per Cent Rate Hike

TORONTO - A Bank of Montreal study finds more than 40 per cent of Canadians surveyed are unsure about their ability to afford their homes in the case of a two per cent interest rate hike.

The survey, compiled for BMO by Leger Marketing, found 43 per cent believe an interest hike would either hamper their ability to pay or leave them on unsure footing.

But the report also found 57 per cent of respondents believe they could still afford their home if interest rates spiked two per cent.

The survey results come as some of Canada's biggest banks begin raising variable mortgage rates, even though the Bank of Canada's overnight interest rate remains unchanged.

That could signal the era of cheap borrowing that has encouraged many Canadians to take on houses they may not have been able to otherwise afford.

BMO anticipates that the Bank of Canada will begin increasing interest rates from the current one per cent next year.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Canadian Press

Canada Tuna Fishing Blocked From U.S. Waters: Industry Groups

VANCOUVER - The U.S. government has suspended a 31-year-old agreement that allowed Canadian vessels to fish for tuna in American waters, two British Columbia industry groups confirmed Wednesday, with one warning the decision could have a domino effect across the entire West Coast fishery.

Both countries signed a treaty in 1981 that allowed cross-border fishing for albacore tuna, but it expired in 2011. Negotiations to renew the treaty have been overshadowed by concerns from American fishermen, who have complained they were being outfished by Canadians.

American negotiators flew to Ottawa last week and surprised Canadian officials by announcing there will be no reciprocal fishery for 2012 while talks for a revised treaty continue, according to the Canadian Highly Migratory Species Foundation and the B.C. Tuna Fishermen's Association. Both groups say they were informed about the decision earlier this week.

"We got a phone call Monday from Ottawa saying the U.S. delegation visited and said there would not be an agreement for this year," the foundation's Lorne Clayton told The Canadian Press.

Federal budget will be more about prosperity than austerity

The federal government’s new financial plan, to be delivered Thursday, will not be an austerity budget.

Cuts to operating budgets will be in the $5-billion region (lower than the $7-billion reported Wednesday) from total program spending of $250-billion.

The size of the federal bureaucracy will likely be reduced by about 25,000 from a total of 283,000, but this will be done over a period of three years — and with half of those cuts eliminated through attrition.

This is a far cry from Paul Martin’s 1995 Liberal budget, which called for a three-year savings of $29-billion and the loss of 45,000 positions from the public service.

In some ways, 2012 will be a prosperity budget — reallocating money from a position of relative strength to face long-term challenges such as an aging population, slumping business research and development and poor native education performance.

Conservatives 'disregard accountability' in G8 fund probe: opposition Read it on Global News: Global News | Conservatives 'disregard accountability' in G8 fund probe: opposition

OTTAWA -- The Conservatives have "disregarded any real accountability" in their study into the G8 legacy fund -- the $50 million purse earmarked for border enforcement, but used almost exclusively to fund beautification projects in a Conservative minister's riding, Opposition MPs are saying.

The report, tabled Wednesday afternoon in the House of Commons, is the result of more than four months of drafting, meeting and questioning witnesses -- including two ministers at the heart of the controversy.

Despite the months spent on the report, New Democrats say it "contains fundamental flaws and disregards any real accountability."

The Liberals, meanwhile, said the government is "attempting to whitewash this affair."

Chief among the flaws of the study -- something not mentioned in the report -- is that the Conservatives refused to invite anyone from the Office of the Auditor General to testify, said Malcolm Allen, and NDP MP who sits on the public accounts committee.

Ontario's 2012 budget: Completing the job Mike Harris started

The crowning irony of Premier Dalton McGuinty's ninth budget is that it completes the job of cutting government down to size started by the Mike Harris Conservatives in the 1990s.

You won't find the direct attacks on public services and the people who deliver them that featured so prominently in the Harris budgets, but the result is the same.

This budget virtually abandons the provincial commitment to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent in 2013 -- the budget speech doesn't even bother to talk about the poor other than to say social assistance rates will be frozen. Combine that with a slowdown in planned Ontario Child Benefit increases and there is no way this government can meet its promised target. It doesn't even address it in this budget.

This budget ignores the child-care crisis it created last year, without a single mention of child-care funding.

It cuts education and post-secondary education by a total of over $660 million and points to another plan to force more school closures.

And it sets the scene for major labour unrest in 2012.

Just like Mike Harris would have done.

In conversation: Robert Birgeneau

Robert Birgeneau, a physicist and former University of Toronto president, has led the University of California at Berkeley as chancellor since 2004. Last week he announced he’s stepping down at the end of the year. Birgeneau, who turned 70 this month, delayed retirement because of the budget crisis—what he calls “the most extreme disinvestment by the state in UC’s history,” brought on by cuts and economic troubles in California. He implemented tough cost-cutting measures, found new sources of money, and dealt with an uptick in activism.

Q: Undergrad fees at the UC system increased 32 per cent two years ago, pushing costs up three times what they were a decade earlier. Last year, tuition rose another eight per cent, then another 9.6 per cent. Meanwhile, reduced services meant wastebaskets around Berkeley overflowed with trash. It sounds like a rotten time to be chancellor. Why didn’t you just retire?

A: I didn’t retire because that would have been cowardly. Berkeley plays a special role in the world of public higher education. We are arguably—certainly in North America—the only university that competes directly and successfully with the very rich privates: Harvard, MIT, Stanford. That’s an important role, to show you can have a public university that’s as strong as those very well-funded privates.

NDP leader Mulcair overshadowing Liberals' Rae on trust, sincerity, best prime minister, says Forum Research pollster

PARLIAMENT HILL—The first major public opinion survey since the NDP leadership election last weekend has found widespread support and trust for newly minted leader Thomas Mulcair where it may count the most—in the orange crush of Quebec voters who last year swept the NDP into official opposition for the first time in the party’s history.

The Forum Research survey over this past Monday and Tuesday found Mr. Mulcair (Outremont, Que.) has jumped out of the starting gate to take a lead across the country against his main competition in the Commons opposition, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Ont.), when it comes to trust, sincerity and preference as best choice for prime minister.

New Democrat MPs said the findings suggest critics who have predicted Quebec support for the NDP might collapse following the death last August of former leader Jack Layton were wrong.

Ontario Liberals haven't yet passed the real Drummond test

Even before Dwight Duncan had delivered his fiscal plan on Tuesday, he and his critics were firing volleys back and forth about just how many of Don Drummond’s recommendations it includes.

To listen to the Finance Minister, the fact that he’s adopted more than half the economist’s 362 cost-cutting suggestions and ruled out just nine shows his seriousness about eliminating Ontario’s $15.3-billion deficit. To listen to the opposition Progressive Conservatives, the fact that the governing Liberals kiboshed some of Mr. Drummond’s most controversial proposals – such as scrapping full-day kindergarten and increasing class sizes – shows the contrary.

Of all the debates around Ontario’s budget, it’s one that spectacularly misses the point.

While Mr. Drummond’s report was a useful catalogue of cost-cutting options, the real value wasn’t in the individual recommendations, most of which were already familiar to people in and around government, and many of which overlapped.