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, April 19, 2012

Outsiders unwelcome at project reviews: natural resources minister

OTTAWA - Environmental groups that don’t have particular expertise to offer shouldn’t be able to participate in environmental review hearings, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Wednesday.

That also goes for ordinary citizens concerned about projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline but who don’t live or work near the project, he said.

Oliver was defending his government’s plan unveiled a day earlier to “strengthen environmental protection” by limiting participation to members of the public who are “directly affected” by major projects.

“We don’t see the need” to allow testimony from Canadians outside the project areas, or from environmental groups without specific expertise, Oliver said in an interview.

He also said the government won’t set strict rules on who can or can’t participate.

He defended the government’s announcement Tuesday that it will let the federal cabinet overrule the Calgary-based National Energy Board, an quasi-independent agency created by John Diefenbaker in 1959, on major projects considered by Ottawa to be in the “national interest.”

Government slammed for lack of transparency in budget cuts

OTTAWA — As Treasury Board president Tony Clement trumpets Canada's plan for open government at a meeting overseas, back home, the Conservatives are facing criticism for being secretive about thousands of federal job losses, government program cuts and taking control of pipeline approvals.

The minister responsible for open government initiatives, Clement is vowing the Conservatives will improve federal transparency and, in due course, release all the details of billions of dollars in cuts to government jobs and programs.

But Canadians likely will have to wait a year or so — until spring 2013 — before they are presented a clear picture on the extent of the cuts.

"We'll be providing accurate, pinpoint details to Parliament, as we're required to do, in the months ahead," Clement said Wednesday in a teleconference call from Brazil, where he is attending an international open government conference.

The March federal budget announced $5.2 billion in cuts to federal operating spending over the next three years, including eliminating 19,200 jobs during that time and either trimming or eliminating programs across government departments.

Job prospects decline in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG — The short-term prospects aren’t looking so good for Winnipeg job-seekers, according to the latest monthly help-wanted index report from the Conference Board of Canada.

The board said April’s index, which is based on the number of new, unduplicated jobs posted on 79 job-posting websites in Canada, was down in Winnipeg and 17 other Canadian cities.

Only one metropolitan area — Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo — showed improved employment prospects. Prospects were stable in the other seven cities surveyed.

The board said labour markets also remain tight in Western Canada. A tight labour market means the ratio of unemployed workers to available jobs remains low.

Original Article
Source: winnipeg free press
Author: Staff Writer

Wait times for major surgery growing again

MONTREAL - Lengthy wait times for surgery that requires hospitalization are back on the increase in Montreal, newly published government data reveal.

Nearly 3,000 Montrealers have been waiting at least a half year for cancer surgery and other major operations, up from fewer than 2,200 in 2007, according to a Gazette analysis.

What’s more, the Quebec Health Department has stopped publishing statistics on those who have been waiting for at least nine months, even though there are patients who continue to wait at least a year for some operations like bariatric surgery.

“It’s shocking,” said patient-rights advocate Paul Brunet, of the Conseil pour la protection des malades.

“For the kind of money we spend on health care, it’s unfortunate that we cannot have better access than we have now.”

The increase in wait times for elective, or non-urgent, operations has occurred even though the volume of such procedures has not increased.

Five years ago, Montreal hospitals performed 54,000 surgeries that require hospitalization, including operations of the stomach and bowels.

Montreal police break up morning protest downtown

MONTREAL - Police say they are investigating – and consider to be very serious – the case of a woman who was confined in her car on Peel St. during Thursday morning’s student demonstration.

The woman was at first surrounded and confined in her car as students swarmed the street. She was then forced out of the car by protesting students, who vandalized the car and got into it and started honking the horn, police said.

The early morning demonstration sparked plenty of mischief, with police saying at least two buildings and some cars were vandalized. They also made two arrests of young men aged 20 and 21.

A group of about 200 demonstrators moved randomly through Montreal's downtown core, running through traffic, throwing garbage cans and blocking the entrance to a bank for several minutes before police intervened.

The protest, linked to the student uprising against an impending tuition fee increase in the province, began at about 7 a.m. at Phillips Square. The demonstrators quickly broke into two groups, one of which moved east, blocking several intersections and halting traffic as protesters moved toward Victoria Square and then turned north.

It was unclear what happened to the second group, but several dozen people were soon spotted blocking the entrance to the 1010 Sherbrooke St. W. branch of the CIBC. Police intervened about 8:30 a.m., spraying a chemical irritant into the crowd.

The protesters then moved up Metcalfe St.

Most Montrealers making their way to work simply navigated around the unfolding bedlam.

The protest had ended by 8:50 a.m.

The demonstration had been advertised on Facebook this week, with organizers dubbing it "Shutdown Centre-Ville." The Association facultaire étudiante des sciences humaines de l’UQÀM (AFESH-UQÀM) was listed as the group organizing the event.

Original Article
Source: montreal gazette
Author: editorial

Foreclosure Crisis Affects One In Every 10 Children: Report

The foreclosure crisis could end up directly affecting as many as 8.3 million children, according to a report out this week from the advocacy group First Focus. That's a little more than one in every 10 children in the country.

First Focus says it arrived at this figure by adding up all the children in homes that have already entered foreclosure, all the homes at immediate risk of foreclosure and all the rental properties that have been foreclosed on or appear to be at risk. The report, which was authored by a scholar from Brookings, calls its 8.3 million estimate "relatively conservative."

Foreclosures tend to put families in motion, often sending parents to new towns and children to new schools, which can result in emotional and behavioral problems for kids, according to USA Today. First Focus suggests that the stress of foreclosure can also impact parenting styles for the worst -- a plausible conclusion, given that foreclosure-related stress has been linked with depression, anxiety and compulsive behavior in adults.

And the problem goes beyond foreclosure, with more than 16 million children in poverty as of 2010, and recession-related anxiety making ripples in kids' behavior even among the middle and upper middle class.

The Right's 2012 Solution: "Just Close Your Eyes"

Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett offered a solution for women who were going to be forced by the government to undergo a completely unnecessary ultrasound against their wills: "You can't make anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes." The governor's suggestion would be almost comical, if it weren't for the tragic fact that forcing women to watch was the whole point of the legislation Corbett supported.

But it seems that Corbett's suggestion doesn't just apply to women seeking abortions in the Keystone state. It is, in essence, what the GOP is telling to every woman turned off by the party's attacks on reproductive rights, equal pay and domestic violence protections: "You just have to close your eyes."

Mitt Romney's campaign is banking on the fact that voters of both genders are concerned about the economy in these uncertain times. Polls show that they're right. But just because you're concerned with the economy doesn't mean you ignore it when a group of people are systematically taking away your rights for their own short-term political gain.

Sadly, this is the new normal. The Tea Party's success has been based on this "just close your eyes" formula. Swept into power on a wave of economic dissatisfaction, Tea Party legislators in Washington and the states asked the country to "close its eyes" as it did everything but fix the economy. "Pay no attention while we roll back decades of progress everything else you care about. Just close your eyes while we bash immigrants, cut essential services, make it very hard to vote, and take away collective bargaining rights". Many minorities have been affected, particularly in the last two years, but arguably and amazingly, no group has been under attack more than the American majority -- women.

CIA seeks new authority to expand Yemen drone campaign

The CIA is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said.

Securing permission to use these “signature strikes” would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives.

The practice has been a core element of the CIA’s drone program in Pakistan for several years. CIA Director David H. Petraeus has requested permission to use the tactic against the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, which has emerged as the most pressing terrorism threat to the United States, officials said.

If approved, the change would probably accelerate a campaign of U.S. airstrikes in Yemen that is already on a record pace, with at least eight attacks in the past four months.

For President Obama, an endorsement of signature strikes would mean a significant, and potentially risky, policy shift. The administration has placed tight limits on drone operations in Yemen to avoid being drawn into an often murky regional conflict and risk turning militants with local agendas into al-Qaeda recruits.

Alberta's Paul martin

Who exactly is Alison Redford? When she was elected last year to lead the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, it was puzzling. A province that had produced Preston Manning in the 1980s, Ralph Klein in the 1990s and Stephen Harper in the 2000s had just elected a protégé of Joe Clark, the man of the 1970s, who, though an Albertan, was always out of step with his own province.

In the days when Reform was rising in Alberta, Brian Mulroney would often point to Joe Clark's senior role in the government as evidence that Albertans ought to be content. Highlighting Clark's centrality likely only accelerated the obliteration of the federal PCs in Alberta.

By 2011, the Clark wing of Canadian conservatism, marked as it was by political blundering and intellectual vacuity, was down to Lowell Murray, wrapping up 30-plus years in the Senate, and Scott Brison, sitting as a third-party backbencher in the House of Commons. So when Redford became Alberta premier, Albertans wondered where exactly she would position herself.

Redford's campaign has been trumpeting that it is "not your father's PC Party." It's altogether Clarkian in its haplessness, that tagline (in adapted form) being most famously used by Oldsmobile, a once venerable brand that is now defunct.

Wildrose brings the revolution home to Alberta

For Alberta, the revolution is finally coming home.

Unless something dramatic happens soon, polls indicate that Danielle Smith’s upstart Wildrose Party is poised to win Monday’s Alberta election.

Such a win — or even a narrow Wildrose loss — would be a telling victory for a hard-right movement that years ago surged out of Alberta to win the country but that could never quite capture the province of its birth.

Many Canadians might be surprised to learn that Alberta’s current Progressive Conservative government is not already hard-right.

But the Alberta Tories have always been a coalition, one that includes city dwellers and ranchers, small-l liberals and social conservatives.

The Tories succeeded in holding that coalition together for 41 years by managing to straddle the three main forces that drive Alberta politics: populism, urbanism (most Albertans live in just two cities) and oil.

A regulatory burden lifted but opposition remains

Governing is so much more fun with a majority, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper reminds us every day.

Opposition parties can yell and scream all they want, but the Conservatives don’t have to listen. They can kill the long-gun registry and bring in an omnibus crime bill and simply plug their ears when Liberals and New Democrats get up in the House of Commons to complain.

The latest move by the federal government to upset the Opposition is a plan to streamline – some would say neuter – the environmental assessment process. The Conservatives have been telegraphing this one for a while.

Mr. Harper has staked the economic future of the country on the resource riches of The West, and why not? In particular, the Prime Minister is focused on helping Alberta get its crude to market as quickly as possible. Future federal budget surpluses depend on it.

In the Prime Minister’s home province of Alberta, they still talk about the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline project, which ultimately died, in part because of a burdensome regulatory assessment process that dragged on for years. Mr. Harper wants to ensure that when it comes to the oil sands, Canada is able to strike while the oil market is hot.

Canada’s entanglement with China has a long history

With Prime Minister Stephen Harper falling all over himself to collaborate with the ravenously oil-hungry Chinese dictatorship to turn Canada into a global “energy superpower,” a long-overdue reckoning with Ottawa’s Beijing-friendly foreign policy establishment may soon be at hand. A cynic might say it’s all about optics. Cynics say a lot of things.

Quite apart from whether it’s utter folly to entwine Canada’s prosperity with the survival strategies of an ugly police state in the first place — and to have Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver jettison a whole slew of federal environmental-review laws to that purpose, as he announced this week, just for openers — Harper’s cabinet and his caucus are faced with a more immediate question, and a nasty problem.

Here’s the question: By hitching the horses of Chinese capital and Chinese markets to the harnesses of Harper’s plans for the supercharged development of Canada’s oil, gas and coal reserves, will it be even remotely possible for Canada to effectively assert the global democratic principles for which this country claims to stand?

The prime minister claims he can pull it off. Good luck to him. But here’s his nasty problem.

For decades, Ottawa’s foreign policy elite has been wholly unencumbered by scruple in its intimacies with Beijing. All you have to do is look at who’s sitting on the boards of the Canada-China Business Council, the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada, the Canadian investment-law firms that do business in Beijing, or the Chinese investment conglomerates that do business in Canada.

Where the foreign money goes

To hear Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton and others tell it, Canada has been invaded by foreign radicals who “are operating under the guise of charitable organizations in an effort to manipulate our policies for their own gain.”

The Senate has launched an inquiry into the issue. In late February, Eaton opened the debate with this flourish: “Honourable Senators, I rise today to open an inquiry that will reveal astounding information. It will make your blood boil and, hopefully, it will prompt us all to action.”

What is this astounding information? “This inquiry is about how billionaire foreign foundations have quietly moved into Canada and, under the guise of charitable deeds, are trying to define our domestic policies.”

If this is an assault on problems with Canadian charities, it is missing its mark. Canadian charity policy could use some reform, but foreign money is simply not the problem it is being made out to be.

What Eaton and others — notably Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver — have in their sightlines are environmental organizations that oppose the oilsands. They hold up foreign donations as evidence that something nefarious is going on.

“Do the charitable and non-governmental organizations that accept enormous amounts of money really represent the interests of Canada,” Eaton asks, “or do they pander to the interests of their foreign masters?”

Contentious MS therapy about to be tested

CANADA'S Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced Wednesday the federal government will fund a clinical trial for "liberation treatment," an experimental vein therapy for multiple sclerosis developed by an Italian doctor.

The MS Society of Canada, a co-funding partner of the project, said it's "thrilled" by the announcement that may bring "definitive answers" about the controversial treatment developed by Dr. Paolo Zamboni.

The clinical trial for chronic cerebrospinal cenous cnsufficiency in Canadians with multiple sclerosis seeks to determine the safety of venous angioplasty, also known as "liberation treatment" which requires the opening of blocked veins, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research said in a release about the announcement.

Liberation treatment rejects long-held medical opinion that MS is an autoimmune disease. At least two Canadians have reportedly died overseas from complications of the procedure, which is currently unavailable in Canada.

Asked about the controversy surrounding the procedure, MS Society of Canada CEO Yves Savoie said he supports the call of those concerned about the treatment for more rigorous research.

The trial is subject to an ethics approval in Canada in "a way that balances our hunger for innovation and research with respect for dignity of human life," Savoie said.

The government is withholding the names of the researchers and institutions involved in the project "to protect the independence" of the ethics review, according to CIHR, which launched a call for research applications to select the team of researchers.

Canada has among the highest MS rates in the world. There is no known cure, but symptoms may be managed.

Original Article
Source: winnipeg free press
Author: Sheila Dabu Nonato

Oliver defends limiting participation to environmental review hearings

OTTAWA — Environmental groups that don't have particular expertise to offer, and ordinary citizens concerned about projects like the Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline but who don't live or work near the project, shouldn't be able to participate in environmental review hearings, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Wednesday.

Oliver was defending his government's plan unveiled a day earlier to "strengthen environmental protection" by limiting participation only to members of the public who are "directly affected" by major projects.

"We don't see the need" to allow testimony from Canadians outside the project areas, or from environmental groups without specific expertise, Oliver said in an interview.

Oliver also defended the government's announcement Tuesday that it will let the federal cabinet overrule the Calgary-based National Energy Board, a quasi-independent agency created by John Diefenbaker in 1959, on major projects considered to be in the "national interest" by Ottawa.

"The rationale is that for large projects that can have a national or regional impact of significance, both environment and economic, we believe the ultimate decision should be in the hands of elected officials and not appointed officials because ultimately through Parliament elected officials are responsible to the people."

Stephen Harper and Charter like oil and water

What does Stephen Harper dislike that almost all Canadians like? The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that’s what.

It has consistently enjoyed approval ratings of 80 per cent and more. No other people, anywhere, are known to have had such a sustained love affair with a law.

Tuesday was the Charter’s 30th anniversary but the prime minister refused to celebrate.

Perhaps he does not like it for precisely the reasons that Canadians love it. It has advanced free speech, freedom of religion, women’s equality, aboriginal rights, English and French linguistic minority rights, gay rights and the rights of immigrants, refugees and multicultural minorities.

Or, it could be that he hates anything Liberal. The Charter was ushered in by a Liberal government — that, too, by Pierre Elliot Trudeau who was too French, too rich, too arrogant and too socially progressive for many conservatives. They loathed him. He, in turn, couldn’t care less what they thought, which made them madder still. Their hatred and his disdain made for quite a show.

Alberta mayors weigh in on Wildrose candidates' remarks

The mayors of Edmonton and Calgary have jumped into the Alberta election fray by condemning Wildrose Party candidates' controversial comments about race and homosexuality.

Over the weekend, Wildrose candidate Ron Leech told a Calgary radio station he has an electoral advantage because he is white. He later apologized.

Just a few days earlier, it was revealed that Edmonton candidate Allan Hunsperger wrote in a blog post last year that gays and lesbians should be warned they will end up in an eternal "lake of fire." Those comments have since been removed from the church pastor's blog, and he said he was "not intolerant."

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel said the candidates' comments do not reflect Albertans' views and should be condemned by Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith.

"I don't think there's any place in our province for homophobia, or diminishing the value of any group," Mandel said Wednesday.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the first Muslim elected to run the city, took to Twitter to express his dismay over Leech's comments about Caucasian advantage.

The uphill battle to save democracy in Canada

The fight to stop Stephen Harper’s slow and systematic unravelling of our democracy is lonely and frustrating.

Across Canada, individuals outraged by recent moves by Harper to stifle democracy have been writing letters, signing petitions and tweeting their friends and elected politicians demanding more accountability and respect for our parliamentary institutions.

They are outraged by the F-35 scandal in which the Conservatives lied to voters during the election about the true costs of the fighter jets, by the robocall affair, ethics breaches, slush funds, suppression of public reports, falsified documents, shutting twice of Parliament, dirty campaign tricks, attack ads. The list goes on.

It is toxic politics at its worst.

To date, though, all of their efforts have been fruitless.

Their letters are ignored or receive innocuous replies, backbench MPs dismiss them as cranks, media commentators pay no attention to their petitions, and apathetic friends and neighbours tell them they’re crazy to think they can change the political culture in Ottawa.

Clearly, the need for democratic renewal has never been greater. And yet individuals fighting to restore democracy seemingly can’t make a difference.

Take job or lose benefits: Kenney

Ottawa is preparing to crack down on employment-insurance recipients who are not seeking work in areas where employers are forced to bring in foreign workers to fill jobs.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Wednesday the government wants to reduce disincentives to work by creating a "greater connection" between the EI program and the temporary foreign worker program, which is under Mr. Kenney's purview.

"What we will be doing is making people aware there's hiring going on and reminding them that they have an obligation to apply for available work and to take it if they're going to qualify for EI," Mr. Kenney told the National Post editorial board on Wednesday. He was touting immigration reforms that will try to streamline the entry of immigrants and foreign workers, favouring entrepreneurs, innovators and those with high quality professional credentials.

The reforms would require unemployed Canadians to accept local jobs that are currently being filled by temporary foreign workers.

"Nova Scotia province-wide has 10% unemployment, but the only way Christmas tree operators can function in the Annapolis Valley is to bring in Mexicans through this agricultural worker program," he said, also pointing to the increased number of Russians working in Prince Edward Island fish processing plants and Romanians working at the Ganong chocolate factory in New Brunswick.

Absence of non-white appointments to the bench shows appointments process is broken

Merit should be the number-one criterion for judicial appointments, and there seems to be a startling coincidence between merit and skin colour on federally appointed courts. Out of the last 100 appointments to those courts, which include the superior courts of provinces, only two have been non-white. Is merit the near-exclusive preserve of white people?

Of course it’s not, and the pattern of exclusion – discovered in legwork by Globe and Mail reporter Kirk Makin – should be treated as a call to action by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, the cabinet and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

There is something deeply wrong with a judicial nominating process that appears to have a sustained habit of overlooking a large number of qualified Canadians. It may be that, in some provinces, a shortage exists of qualified candidates – a minimum of 10 years at the bar is the first prerequisite. But that should not be an issue in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. The paucity of non-white appointees suggests not just a shortage of qualified candidates but an absence. It’s simply not so.

The judicial appointments process is broken. If some qualified candidates are being ignored, it is no great leap to surmise that others are being appointed who may not be the most meritorious.

Ontario NDP gets a facelift

You could feel the sense of generational change in the air last weekend, April 13-15, as 1,000 Ontario New Democrats gathered at the Hamilton Convention Centre to chart policy and elect a new party president.

The new winds were evident Friday night, for example, when K’naan took the stage to talk about his personal activism with MC MPP Jagmeet Singh. The crowd, many of them young Somalis, cheered when K’naan broke into their mother tongue.

It’s an exciting time to be involved in the NDP because the party’s makeup is changing. For the first time in years, many long-time members didn’t recognize most of the faces, since a large number of delegates were young, from diverse backgrounds and first-timers.

Traditionally strong in the north and downtown urban centres, the ONDP at this convention showcased its new strength in the 905, typified by Singh’s breakthrough win in Bramalea-Gore-Malton.

Keystone XL Pipeline: White House Veto Promised After Keystone Gets Approval From House Of Representatives

WASHINGTON - Legislation that would allow TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline to proceed has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives — a move the White House has vowed to shoot down.

The move comes on the same day TransCanada announced it has submitted a proposal to Nebraska officials for a new route through the state for the disputed pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline project was included as part of a larger bill passed by the House that finances road projects through stopgap measures.

But the White House has vowed to veto the legislation because it mandates the construction of the Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline that President Barack Obama earlier blocked.

Republicans, who control the House, added the requirement to build the Keystone XL pipeline project, but the White House argues such a requirement would bypass long-standing practices on how to approve cross-border pipelines.

Tuesday's statement from the White House noted that a pipeline route has yet to be identified.

RCMP secretly ended probe into Canadian held by Taliban

Last year, while Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs publicly insisted it was trying to aid a Canadian held for more than two years by the Taliban, it was privately telling the RCMP to stop investigating the crime.

Beverley Giesbrecht, a former businesswoman from Vancouver, was abducted in November 2008 while working as a fixer and journalist in Pakistan after she converted to Islam and adopted the name Khadija Abdul Qahaar.

In May 2011, the Department of Foreign Affairs revealed to CBC News that it believed Giesbrecht had died in captivity sometime in 2010, but a spokesperson added that it was continuing "to pursue all appropriate channels" to determine what happened.

Documents obtained by CBC News through an access to information request, however, show that months earlier the department not only believed Giesbrecht was dead, but had told the RCMP it didn't need to investigate.

The revelation is contained in more than 370 pages of RCMP situation reports, some written by the RCMP liaison officer in Islamabad, Pakistan. The documents are marked "secret," and most of the material has been redacted.

Canada spent $25 M bombing Gadhafi forces

OTTAWA — Canada spent $25 million on the roughly 700 bombs the Royal Canadian Air Force dropped on Libya during last year's rebel uprising that deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Each bomb, the Department of National Defence told Postmedia News, cost between $34,000 and $43,000.

Canada deployed seven of its aging CF-18 fighter jets to participate in the NATO-led mission, which raged from February to October 2011. The squadron was based in Sicily, and participated in bombing runs against pro-Gadhafi forces and helped enforce the no-fly zone over Libya's skies.

All of the 695 bombs dropped by the RCAF in the course of conflict were so-called "smart bombs," which are guided into their targets as they fall.

About 98 per cent of bombs dropped were from the Paveway II family of laser-guided smart bombs, commonly used by the American military. Canada favoured the smaller 500-pound version of the bomb - dropping 495 - as opposed to the 2000-pound version, of which the RCAF dropped 188.

The RCAF also appears to have experimented with the Joint Direct Attack Munition family of GPS-guided smart bombs, dropping just 11 of the 500-pound versions and two 2,000-pound versions.

F-35 costs study planning put off until Tuesday

MPs who returned to Ottawa for emergency meeting on the F-35 fighter jets spent two hours arguing and then decided to put off any discussion of the study until next week.

Conservative MPs also used their majority on the committee to leave themselves the option of closing next Tuesday's planning meeting to the public.

The Conservatives and Liberals both presented motions at the House public accounts committee to study an April 3 auditor general report, but MPs, who returned to Ottawa on a parliamentary break week for the meeting, argued over whose motion to consider. The official reason for Thursday's meeting was to consider whether to study the report, but the opposition and government agreed on the need for a study ahead of time.

Conservative MPs argued the committee should meet again on April 24 to set the list of experts to invite, saying if they didn't have notice they would be setting a witness list Thursday.

"Nobody said today was a planning meeting. We didn’t get the courtesy of that motion," Conservative MP Bev Shipley said.

Will The Canadian Government’s F-35 “Sweet Spot” Turn Sour?

The Canadian government is still trying to sort out the way ahead for its F-35 purchase. But it could be that the decision will ultimately be made in Washington, DND sources have told Defence Watch.

Previously, the Canadian government determined it would receive the F-35 during peak production – the so-called “sweet spot’’ that Defence Minister Peter MacKay and others have repeatedly talked about. That was to be 2016, according to DND and government officials.  According to Mr. MacKay and others, the “sweet spot” is the year the jets are to achieve their peak production rate, thus coming off the assembly line at their lowest cost. Over the last year DND officials have extended the “sweet spot” to include a wider range, expanding the period to focus on 2016 to 2021.

But in a March 29 report sent to Congress, the Pentagon’s plan for near peak production rates for the Lockheed Martin jet is now set for 2018. In that year, U.S. F-35 program officials say they will be able to purchase 110 jets, according to a recent article by my colleagues at Defense News. By 2021, the production rate will hit 130 jets, which includes versions for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

So from that congressional report it appears that the “sweet spot” has moved from the original 2016 to at least 2021.

But there are concerns that the peak F-35 production year could shift even further. And Defense News is reporting that there are serious concerns within the U.S. Air Force and Navy about whether they will be able to afford the number of aircraft projected to be bought around 2020 and the years following.

Late in the decade, around 2018, the Air Force and Navy are expected to have a number of expensive programs enter production such as the USAF KC-46A tanker aircraft now in development. Defense News also lists other examples such as a new rescue helicopter and bomber. Will the U.S. be able to afford the F-35 at a high production rate around the same time or could  the U.S., and ultimately the Canadian, “sweet spot” slip further because of budget issues in the U.S.?

Original Article
Source:  ottawa citizen
Author: David Pugliese

F-35 fighter jet's escalating costs are on Washington's radar

The radar-evading F-35 fighter jet, a nearly $400-billion weapons program under development for more than a decade, is facing its worst turbulence since Washington decided to buy it in 2001 — when it was billed as the most affordable, lethal and survivable military aircraft ever built for the U.S. and its allies.

At a time when federal spending is under a microscope, the plan to develop and build 2,443 airplanes is hundreds of billions of dollars over budget. The F-35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, has been delayed by glitches in its onboard computer systems, cracks in structural components and troubles with its electrical system.

A two-star general serving as the military's project manager was fired over the program's never-ending problems. The Pentagon has delayed orders of the aircraft, and the fighter jet is caught in the middle of a major spending fight in Congress. What's more, the plane has roiled political debate in Canada, the Netherlands and other allies that are picking up 10% of the development costs.

The Obama administration wants to delay the purchase of 179 jets to save $15 billion. But there is pressure to cut more. Next week, the Pentagon's F-35 program manager is set to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Tories, call-bank company reject affidavit alleging voter misdirection

OTTAWA — The Conservative Party and its main call-bank company rejected as false a sworn affidavit from a former phone worker who alleges she and her colleagues were concerned they had misdirected voters in the days leading up to the recent federal election.

In an affidavit released Wednesday, Annette Desgagne said in the last few days before the May 2 election, scripts for callers at the Responsive Marketing Group’s Thunder Bay phone bank instructed them to identify themselves as calling from the “Voter Outreach Centre” and tell voters about last-minute changes Elections Canada had made to polling stations.

One caller, Desgagne claimed, identified himself as calling from Elections Canada.

Desgagne’s affidavit was filed as part of a series of court challenges launched by the Council of Canadians. The group alleges fraudulent phone calls in the last election affected the outcome of votes in seven ridings and wants the Federal Court to set the results aside.

The Conservatives dismissed the litigation as an attempt by the losers to change the outcome of the election.

Whistler to get the university it deserves

At some point today, Whistler village council will receive a proposal for a private post-secondary institution to be built near 2010's old Olympic Village. The for-profit Whistler U would accept 1500 students and include a private high school on the premises.

Cynics who think that the chances of receiving a decent education in the Disneyfied aesthetic of B.C.'s most churlish resort town are slim will scarcely be reassured by the way project leader Doug Player described his motivations for the project.

"Whistler needs an economic boost and it needs to diversify its economy," Player said on CBC's Early Edition this morning. "It's a clean industry that fits the brand very, very well." In case you missed it, that "it" refers to the university itself. A brand-friendly clean industry and economic diversifier. Yes, he's talking about education.

With our appetites duly whetted, Player continues: "the intent is to offer programs which support the industry here, which would include tourism [and] sustainability studies, because that's a brand Whistler has created very well." Er, sustainability is not a brand, Doug. It's science.

Other clean industries (i.e. courses) offered by Whistler U include culinary arts, a leadership centre for executives (!) and, which in-no-way sounds like an afterthought, "some First Nation studies as well." Way to cover your bases, Doug!

The Conservatives' weak Open Government Plan

OTTAWA - As representatives of 60 countries gather in Brasilia, Brazil to present their two-year action plans at the first international Open Government Partnership (OGP) meeting, the nation-wide Open Government Coalition, Government Ethics Coalition and Money in Politics Coalition, made up of more than 70 citizen groups in total with three million members (all co-ordinated by Democracy Watch), called on the OGP Steering Committee to reject the federal Conservatives' Action Plan for failing to fulfill its own commitment to increase government integrity.

The Conservatives committed to taking positive steps forward in three areas (what OGP calls Grand Challenges): 1. increasing public integrity; 2. improving public services, and; 3. effectively managing public resources.

However, the Conservatives' Action Plan focuses only on making currently available information available online through open data systems, does not contain any measures to increase public integrity or increase accountability for mismanagement of public resources, and tries to claim credit for open government and public consultation initiatives the Liberals implemented years ago. And given the Conservatives' recent multibillion dollar F-35 fighter jet and prison spending boondoggles, and G8 summit spending scandal, it couldn't be easier for them to more effectively manage public resources.

Beyond the Border

Further harmonization of Canada's policies with the United States must be informed by an evidence-based public discussion.

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the White House earlier this month, harmonization with the U.S. on security and trade was on the agenda.

For its part, Canada is showing co-operation on such matters through the Beyond the Border Accord. Harper has described the accord, which was signed in December, as the “most important undertaking” with the Americans since the Free-Trade Agreement of 1988.

As soon as this summer, a pilot program may allow U.S. officials to cross the land border into Canada as part of joint law-enforcement teams. This builds on the success of a similar program currently operating along our maritime boundaries called “Shiprider.”

TransCanada submits new Nebraska routes for Keystone pipeline

TransCanada Corp. (TRP-T42.91-0.10-0.23%) has proposed a new route for the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline through Nebraska that avoids the state’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.

The Calgary-based company submitted a series of proposed routes – including a preferred alternative – late Wednesday to Nebraska environmental officials.

The state has become a focus of concern for the 2,735-km pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.

President Barack Obama blocked the pipeline earlier this year, citing uncertainty over the Nebraska route, which would travel above an aquifer that provides water to eight U.S. states.

Details of the preferred route were not immediately available. A spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality said officials hope to post the full proposal on the Internet as soon as Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the State Department said U.S. officials had not received notification of a new route. State Department approval is needed because the $7-billion (U.S.) pipeline would cross a U.S. border.

ORNGE isn’t the only secret society playing with public money

Wednesday was a day of double trouble for the Liberals’ damage control agenda: in one corner, you could watch the unravelling of the ORNGE scandal; in another, the unwinding of a failed electricity experiment at the OPA.

The two entities might seem unrelated: ORNGE is the air ambulance service plunged into a tailspin by exposés in the Star; OPA is the boring Ontario Power Authority that most people have never heard of, despite its high-voltage dealings that come directly out of our pockets.

More on The Star's investigation into ORNGE

But there is a common theme to this cautionary tale of two boondoggles — one scandalous, one merely invisible — and it is this: A troubling lack of transparency that allowed both entities to play with public money without proper adult supervision.

Until he learns the real lessons of ORNGE, Premier Dalton McGuinty is condemned to repeat them at the OPA — or any other acronym his government invents.

When it comes to ORNGE and the OPA, there is a limitless capacity for opacity. And opacity is our enemy, starting with the helicopters that produce a political wreck every Wednesday at Queen’s Park. That’s when a legislative committee drills down deep into the detritus of ORNGE.

Stopping cop violence against the mentally ill

Michael Eligon. Sylvia Klibingaitis. Charlie McGillivary. All three had mental health issues or an intellectual disability. All three were killed during altercations with the Toronto Police in the past eight months.

Former Toronto mayor John Sewell says their deaths were preventable and this pattern of violence is unacceptable. At Thursday’s meeting of the police services board, he will give a deputation urging a  complete overhaul of officer training in order to create a “new breed” of cop capable of dealing with the mentally ill without resorting to violence.

He has the support of mental health advocates and community groups, who before the meeting will stage a demonstration against police violence outside TPS headquarters at 12:30 pm. In memory of Eligon, who was shot shortly after escaping the Toronto East General Hospital, protesters will wear hospital gowns.

“Training has to be totally redone,” says Sewell, who is now head of the Police Accountability Coaltion. “Police are not trained appropriately to deal with people who are in a mental crisis. Police are trained to go in and control any situation, and give orders. That just enflames a situation where someone is in a mental crisis.”

Euro Crisis Inspires Fresh Worries Of Threats To Global Economy

Europe's economy is like a patient stuck in a hospital run by quack doctors who see sickness as a form of moral failing, and leeches as the preferable cure. The only hope now is that Europe either manages a miraculous recovery or develops a case of something so inarguably lethal that real doctors come running with effective medicine.

Will Europe and its beleaguered currency, the euro, get out of this crisis in one piece? That question is commanding renewed attention as financial markets demand higher rates of interest on loans to the debt-saturated nations at the center of concern, Spain and Italy, thus elevating the prospect that their governments might eventually default. Maybe the euro will endure, and maybe it won't. In any event, Europe seems irretrievably bound for years of retrenchment, diminished living standards and social strife.

"We're going into a long period of stagnation in Europe, with terrible problems that will emerge as a result," declared the former Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, speaking Tuesday at Brown University during a conference on the future of the euro, a proceeding that felt much like an autopsy on a body that never should have been born.

"The crisis found us unprepared," said former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. "How to get out of this? It will be extremely difficult."

Scott Walker Defends Equal Pay Law Repeal: 'Lawyers Could Clog Up The Legal System'

WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Tuesday defended his recent decision to repeal the state's 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, saying that lawyers were using the law to "clog up the legal system."

The law was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more ways to press charges. Among other provisions, it allowed individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state court system, rather than in federal court.

Walker quietly repealed the law on April 5, with no signing ceremony or public statement.

Walker defended the repeal in an interview Tuesday with WLUK-TV, saying the Equal Pay Enforcement Act had essentially been nothing but a boon for trial lawyers. His comments came on Equal Pay Day 2012, the day when a typical woman's earnings catch the pay of male counterparts in 2011.

"In the past, lawyers could clog up the legal system," Walker said. "Instead, the state Department of Workforce Development gets to be the one that ultimately can put people back and give them up to two years back pay if there is reason to believe there was pay discrimination in the workforce."

Mitt Romney Misled About John Kerry's Tax Returns

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney and his presidential campaign have offered a misleading explanation for why the likely Republican presidential nominee will only release one additional year of tax return data during the rest of this campaign.

The topic of additional disclosure has come up in various interviews and press events during the past few days, as President Barack Obama's campaign has demanded that Romney release more than his 2010 and 2011 tax returns, the latter of which will become public sometime in the next six months. At each interval the Romney camp has had a ready answer: He's meeting the same standard prior candidates, including Democrats, have met.

"John Kerry released two years of taxes," Romney recently told CNBC's Larry Kudlow. "I’ve released one already, put the estimate out for the next year. We’ll have two years of taxes."

It's a convenient rejoinder. But it's also inaccurate. When Kerry ran for president in 2004, he had released 20 years' worth of tax returns. The extent of that disclosure was first reported by Think Progress Tuesday, but even after the site published its report, there were lingering questions. It was impossible to find copies of Kerry's tax returns on the web. And if he released them during the '04 campaign, he did so without much fanfare.

Annette Desgagne: Former Employee For Group That Worked For Tories Files Sworn Affidavit On Polling Location Calls

OTTAWA - A former employee of a call centre that did work for the Conservative party in the last election says she was instructed to tell people Elections Canada had changed their polling locations.

In a sworn affidavit, Annette Desgagne says she and other workers at Responsive Marketing Group's call centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., became suspicious when people questioned them about the new polling locations.

"I recall one woman in Winnipeg telling me that the address I just gave her was over an hour away," Desgagne says in the court document.

"I tried to problem-solve this over the phone with her for a few minutes, but she was sure the new address was wrong. There was a phone number at the bottom of the screen in front of me that I was to give people if they had further questions.

"That lady said she had called that number but that it was not a correct number."

Desgagne says her co-workers had similar experiences. She says her supervisors told her to "just stick to the scripts" when she told them of her concerns.

"Our concerns were ignored and we had to keep reading and repeating the same scripts about changes of address for polling stations made by elections Canada," says Desgagne's affidavit.

ForestEthics giving up charity status to take Tories on

An environmental group that angered the energy industry has given up its charitable status so it can take on the federal government.

ForestEthics, which spearheaded campaigns to get U.S. companies to avoid oilsands-derived fuel, is splitting into two in response to Ottawa's crackdown on charitable groups in the recent budget.

One half will continue conservation work and remain a charity, but the other will no longer offer tax receipts and will focus its efforts on what it calls Conservative attacks on the environment.

Neither group will be associated with Tides Canada, a charitable umbrella group.

The move "shows our resolve in this very hostile climate to continue the work that we feel Canadians actually want," said Valerie Langer, who will head ForestEthics Solutions, which will remain a charity.

"Given the climate that we're in, we have to do what we have to do."

Split a response to Harper government attacks

Civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby, who will help lead the other group called ForestEthics Advocacy, said the Harper government has started a "relentless" attack on the environment and environmental groups, starting with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's open letter about environmentalists.

Full details on budget cuts unlikely to ever be made public by government

OTTAWA - Those holding their breath to see which programs and services are being axed by the federal budget should exhale.

A complete list is likely never to be proactively provided by the federal government.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Wednesday that financial and planning documents to be tabled in Parliament over the next year will reflect the $5.2 billion in cuts.

But those reports traditionally don't lay out where and why the government is cutting, instead outlining what and how it wants to spend.

It will be left to individual departments to determine how much information they want to disclose to those who ask.

Asked why the government is not fully disclosing details, Clement said the opacity can be partially blamed on parliamentary and legal process. That includes the schedule of financial reporting to Parliament as well as union obligations.

Tavis Smiley & Cornel West on "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto"

The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. We’re joined by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who continue their efforts to spark a national dialog on the poverty crisis with the new book, "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto." Smiley, an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster, says President Obama has failed to properly tackle poverty. "There seems to be a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the poor just don’t matter. President Obama is a part of that," Smiley says. "I take nothing away from his push on healthcare, but jobs for every American should have been primary issue, number one." West, a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University, says that after the historic U.S. struggles against monarchy, slavery and institutionalized racism, "the issue today is oligarchy. Poverty is the new slavery. Oligarchs are the new kings. They’re the new heads of this structure of domination.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

St. John's mayor hoping for end of Harper reign

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe, who has worked on Tory campaigns since the Diefenbaker era, makes no bones that he is looking forward to a day when Stephen Harper is not prime minister.

O'Keefe, who has sharply criticized cuts in the current fiscal budget, said he will continue to speak out against Harper government decisions that he says have been draconian and are removing decision-making power from regional cities like his.

"The Harper government is pretty well immovable for the next four or five years," O'Keefe told CBC News.

"But there will be another time, there will be another government. And it won't be a Harper government — thank God — and we'll see some movement when it comes to treating this province fairly."

O'Keefe has been particularly concerned about a declining federal government presence in St. John's, especially of senior managers who have the authority to make decisions.

The new budget has eliminated, for instance, the position of the regional director for customs and border services, as well as three food-inspection labs. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre's closure was announced last year. Most of these services will now be handled in other areas, predominantly Halifax.

Tories stick to their secretive ways in trying to hide major policy shift

The federal Cabinet should have ultimate authority over large resource infrastructure projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline between the oil sands and the coast of British Columbia. We elect governments to make decisions. When a plurality of voters judge those decisions are wrong, we change governments. That is the nature of our democracy.

But what if the government of the day tries its utmost to ensure we don’t find out about the decisions it is making?

The announcement by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver Tuesday on the streamlining of regulations for “responsible resource development” was disappointing confirmation that the Conservatives believe open government is an oxymoron – that you can have one or the other.

The bulk of the announcement concerned sensible reforms to streamline the environmental review process for resource projects, with the province being handed sole responsibility for smaller developments.

But buried deep within the background document on the Natural Resources website was one sentence outlining the controversial proposal to hand the federal Cabinet the authority to overrule the National Energy Board on projects like Northern Gateway. It wasn’t mentioned in the press release, the speech or the presentation deck at the lengthy press conference held by Mr. Oliver at a plant of a company involved in oil and gas pipeline construction in Toronto.

On the Charter, Quebecers and Tories not on same page

OTTAWA—No one danced in the streets of Quebec or in the Conservative power circles of Parliament Hill on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms this week.

As they have done on every significant anniversary, proponents and critics of the 1982 patriation package re-argued their respective cases. Shirts were torn up on both sides of the argument by all the usual suspects. Perhaps what is most striking about the three-decade old Canadian debate is that neither side ever seems to win over the other on any of its arguments.

For comparison’s sake, the same is not true of the free-trade issue, the other defining Canadian debate of the ’80s.

As is sometimes the case though, the most meaningful chasm is not necessarily the most apparent.

If there are two staunch constitutional solitudes in this country, the line between them does not really sit on the patriation divide.

Because they both harbour decisively mixed feelings about the patriated Constitution, it is tempting to conclude that on this issue at least Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Quebecers are on the same page.

But that only works if one does not look below the surface.

‘Handcuffed’ Tories won’t reveal full details of cuts till next spring

Canadians will have to wait until the spring of 2013 to get a full accounting of what programs and services have been cut to balance the federal books.

That’s the timeline Treasury Board President Tony Clement reluctantly confirmed Wednesday during a conference call from Brazil, where he’s taking part in a conference on “open government.”

The minister told reporters he and the Conservative government share the frustration of those seeking clarity amid the conflicting spending cut claims that have been flying around since the March 29 budget.

New bits of information trickle out nearly every day. The Globe learned on Wednesday that the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the organization that represents 55,000 Inuit living in 53 communities across the North, has laid off nine staff because of a $1.5-million – or 40 per cent – cut in federal support.

The Correctional Service Canada is expected to announce a staffing shuffle Thursday, but no layoffs are expected. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada union confirmed it received notices that more than 100 of its members will potentially be affected.

6 robocall ridings had no polling changes

New information released by a group challenging last year's federal election results in seven ridings shows almost no changes in polling station locations, eliminating one explanation offered by Conservatives for calls that gave voters the wrong information.

The Council of Canadians, which is supporting nine people in an application in federal court, provided an email Wednesday to reporters that shows only one polling station moved in the seven ridings in which Conservative wins are being challenged.

An Elections Canada investigation into calls that directed voters to the wrong polling station so far seems to be limited to Guelph, Ont., although Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand says the agency has logged 800 confirmed complaints in 200 ridings.

Conservative MPs had suggested that one reason voters outside of Guelph were reporting calls that told them to go to the wrong polling stations was because some ridings did see changes to voting locations.

But an email from a lawyer for Elections Canada and released by the Council of Canadians says that was only the case in one of the seven ridings being challenged.

"I am advised that this [Vancouver Island North] is the only electoral district in the seven involved in these applications in which a change of polling station took place," Barbara McIsaac said in an email.

The other Enbridge pipeline: Ontario's Line 9 project

With so many eyes on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline in northern B.C., Enbridge’s other currently proposed pipeline project -- the reversal of Line 9 between Sarnia and Westover in Ontario -- has been slightly in the shadows.

According to Enbridge, the existing pipeline has a capacity to pump 240,000 barrels of conventional oil per day, westbound from Montreal to Sarnia. On August 8, 2011, the company filed an application with the National Energy Board (NEB) to reverse the flow of the section between Sarnia and North Westover.

Public hearings for the project are set to start May 23 in London, Ontario, and not without controversy. With the Harper government’s 'streamlining' and funding slashes looming over Canada’s environmental regulatory processes, the NEB changed its mind on when the hearings would happen.

Hearing hiccups

Originally suggesting that the Hearings would be in the fall of 2012 to avoid disrupting necessary agricultural work in the spring and summer, and to accommodate the required steps for participants,  the NEB announced that the hearings were now to take place from May 23-25.

Pump rage - North America may be an emerging oil superpower, but gas prices are only going up

Rising gas prices have long been a rite of spring. We drive more as the weather improves and prices go up. But this year, there is a little extra frustration in the air.

As gas prices topped $1.40 a litre last week—reaching records not seen since 2008—a gas station in Oromocto, N.B., decided to drop its prices to 92.3 cents a litre as part of a promotion with a local radio station. It took minutes for anxious motorists to flock to the station, which went through 3,000 litres of gas before ending the sale after just 30 minutes. In Miami Beach, Fla., an impatient driver tried to beat one gas station’s traffic snarl and ended up slamming her SUV into the pump, setting it on fire. High prices have sparked an angry backlash among motorists. Police in Ontario have reported an increase in gas-and-dash thievery, while several campaigns on Facebook and across social media platforms are calling for nationwide gas boycotts.

The frenzy over fuel prices isn’t just a North American phenomenon, either. Fears of fuel shortages and price spikes in recent weeks have sparked riots in Indonesia and protests in the streets of Britain and Pakistan.

It’s only expected to get worse. BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri warned last week that the risk of prices heading to $1.60 a litre in Canada was “not insignificant.” (That would put the cost of filling up one SUV-sized gas tank at $120. Double that for two-car households, and those are punishing prices.)

Every Canadian’s eco-rights need Charter protection

Every Canadian should have the right to clean air, water, food and land. In fact, most of us think we do.

We don’t.

Canadians enjoy freedom of expression, equal protection from discrimination and the right to life, liberty and security under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This makes the Charter, which turns 30 this week, one of Canada’s most powerful laws for protecting our human rights and collective quality of life. But the Constitution is silent on safeguarding our air, water and food, which are the very elements of our survival.

In an era of global warming and mass industrial pollution, this means Canadians’ rights – which are supposed to be guaranteed by the Charter – are increasingly threatened without recognition of our right to a healthy environment.

Many nations are grappling with the challenge. Canada stands in stark contrast to more than 140 countries that have added environmental protections to their constitutions. Ninety of these, including Norway and France, now explicitly recognize the right to a healthy environment. The result? These nations rank higher than others on environmental performance, leave smaller ecological footprints and have reduced toxic emissions that impact the health of their citizens.

Israel must remember the Holocaust's refugees, forever changed

Dr. Heinz Loewy was not your classic Holocaust survivor. He did not go through any of the camps, and so did not have a number tattooed on his arm. He was a refugee, and he was my father. It seems to me that he lived most of his life as a refugee, even though he would have vehemently denied it. He lived in Israel for 60 years, but never arrived here, not really.

It's true that on Independence Day he made sure to take out the folded flag and hang it on the balcony. It's true that he had a good life here. But looking back, it seems to me that he never really found his place here. It wasn't that he was trying to relive the Europe he had left behind but it's doubtful that he found a replacement for it here. He stored his suits and ties in the closet, his Bermuda shorts replacing them in the hot summer. He also left behind the Latin he had learned, save for one proverb that he would repeat to us. Even his doctorate in law from the University of Prague was unused here.

When he arrived here, alone, after being flung about at sea for a couple of long months on an illegal immigrant ship and being jailed in Beirut, he was forced to become a door-to-door salesman, going by bicycle from house to house in Herzliya, offering the Central European pastries that he made in the bakery he owned with his sister. He looked good, baked well, and had a doctorate to boot, but surely that life was not the life he'd dreamed of as a youth.

Today, as we remember the Holocaust, we must also remember those who may not have experienced all its horrors but still had their lives changed beyond recognition, or even destroyed. The Holocaust led to the establishment of the State of Israel and the ingathering of a great many survivors to it, but not all of them felt at home. They were doomed to a life of exile in their new homeland. My father was one of them.