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.]

Monday, April 30, 2012

Has Israel’s leadership come down with mad-Jew disease?

This is what’s been going down in the last few days alone:

1. The Prime Minister says that sanctions against Iran aren’t working and the Defense Minister claims that Iran is irrational and then the Prime Minister stipulates that the Iranians want to make a bomb and then the IDF Chief of Staff flatly contradicts them and says that Iran is rational, sanctions are working and the Iranians won’t really make a bomb after all. And the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister go on saying what they were saying before, as if nothing’s happened.

2. The next day, a former chief of the Shin Bet, who spent his life in what Israeli leftists like to call “the apparatus of darkness,” opens his mouth for the first time since retirement and sounds like a turbo-charged Peter Beinart: the Israeli leadership suffers from a messiah complex, they are morally unfit to govern, they can’t wage war and they sure as hell don’t want to make peace.

3. Less than 48 hours later, an up and rising Likud minister and a fabled former head of the Mossad nearly come to blows in front of hundreds of people in New York. The Mossadnik calls the minister a liar and compares a proposed Knesset law to Nazi legislation, while the minister accuses the man who until recently was hailed as a cross between Indiana Jones, George Smiley and Bar Kochba as “harming the state security,” a crime punishable by law. “How did he ever get such a high position?” asks the minister of the man who was an IDF general before serving for eight years as head of the Mossad, where he was widely considered to be one of the best ever.

SIGAR Report Finds Afghanistan Reconstruction Compromised By Security, Corruption

WASHINGTON -- Afghan reconstruction efforts remain severely hampered even after nearly $100 billion in spending over the last 10 years, according to a new watchdog report. The most immediate challenge stems from the insistence by Afghanistan's government that the private army of hired guns providing security for ongoing projects be replaced with Afghan locals, who do not appear to be up to the job, the report noted.

The latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (or SIGAR) released on Monday also chronicles how corruption in the country shows no signs of having let up.

The report's most urgent warning concerns the "imminent transition" from private security contractors (PSC) to the state-owned Afghan Public Protection Force.

Steven J. Trent, the acting special inspector general, expressed concerns that as many as 29 major USAID projects costing nearly $1.5 billion are at risk of full or partial termination "if the APPF cannot provide the needed security." About half that amount has already been spent.

And whether it can is very much an open question, Trent wrote. The U.S. embassy, the Afghan government and the U.S.-led military forces agreed a year ago to check the progress of the Afghan Public Protection Force at the 6-, 9-, and 12-month marks.

Canada Bank Bailout Cost $114 Billion At Peak, CCPA Says

Canada’s banks were bailed out by U.S. and Canadian institutions to the tune of $114 billion, says a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report puts a large dent into the perception that Canada’s banks survived the financial collapse of 2008 without the need for the sorts of government bailouts seen in the U.S. and Europe.

According to the report, titled The Big Banks’ Big Secret: Estimating Government Support for Canadian Banks During the Financial Crisis, Canada’s biggest banks relied heavily on support from the Bank of Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and the U.S. Federal Reserve between October, 2008 and July, 2010.

By the CCPA’s estimates, that works out to $3,400 for every man, woman and child in the country. On a per capita basis, that’s more than what U.S. banks needed. The most liberal estimates for the U.S.’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) place the cost at around $3,000 per person.

“At some point during the crisis, three of Canada’s banks—CIBC, BMO, and Scotiabank—were completely under water, with government support exceeding the market value of the company,” CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald said in a press statement Monday. “Without government supports to fall back on, Canadian banks would have been in serious trouble.”

Revisiting the Palestine question: An interview with Ilan Pappe

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe begins a speaking tour across Canada tonight in Montreal. The theme of his talk is "The False Paradigm of Peace: Revisiting the Palestine Question."

Based currently at the University of Exeter in the UK, Pappe will be discussing the history of failed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. He is the author of nine books including The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, which is the definitive account of the expulsion of close to 800,000 Palestinians in 1948 upon the founding of the state of Israel.

Pappe's tour is sponsored by the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). Freelance journalist Paul Weinberg interviewed Ilan Pappe for about some of the topics he will address on his tour. These questions and answers were conducted by email, just before Pappe boarded his flight to Canada.

Are foreign investors driving up Canada’s housing prices?

As debate heats up about the degree to which Toronto and Vancouver’s housing markets are overheated, there is a lot of talk about the role that foreign investment money is playing.

And it’s a bit frightening to realize that not even the government knows the answer.

During a discussion with the Globe and Mail’s editorial board, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty acknowledged that Ottawa doesn’t have a good grasp on the amount of foreign money in the Canadian housing market.

"It’s mainly anecdotal, so I don’t have a statistical grasp of it, no,” he said, adding that he hears about lots of people in emerging economies paying cash for condos in Toronto and Vancouver.

A number of economists worry that foreign speculators are driving up the price of condos.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Sherry Cooper said in a note Friday that, while Toronto’s condo boom still pales in comparison to what’s happened in Spain or the U.S., lessons must be learned from those experiences.

Parks Canada hit hard as Ottawa doles out nearly 4,000 job notices

Canadians will face shorter seasons at national parks and historic sites according to public service union leaders who say Parks Canada has been particularly hard hit by federal spending cuts.

Monday is proving to be another big day of staffing cuts as departments continue to roll out the details of how Ottawa will eliminate 19,200 positions in an effort to save $5.2-billion a year.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) - the largest union of federal public servants - told reporters that 3,872 of its members across 10 departments received notices Monday that they could lose their jobs.

Public servants who receive these “affected” notices won’t necessarily lose their jobs. However some departments did inform workers that they have been declared “surplus,” which means their jobs are definitely being eliminated. Surplus employees can still take advantage of various programs that could help them find another federal government job.

While the job numbers still leave many questions unanswered, the totals and their locations do give a sense of what programs and services are being cut.

-At Parks Canada, 1,689 PSAC members received affected notices and staff were told that 638 positions will be eliminated.

Caterpillar braces for strike at U.S. plant

Caterpillar Inc is preparing for a strike at its Joliet, Illinois, plant after union workers there overwhelmingly turned down a new six-year contract during weekend voting.

The world's largest maker of construction machinery does not expect a strike to disrupt production at this point. The labour dispute comes as Caterpillar is scrambling to meet growing demand for its machinery in North America.

About 800 workers at the company's Joliet manufacturing facility are covered under a contract, which expires early on Tuesday morning. They are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, or the IAM.

Caterpillar spokesman Rusty Dunn said the outcome of the vote, which took place on Sunday, was "unfortunate" and that the company hoped to avoid a work stoppage. But production will continue, even if the current workforce decides to walk out.

Federal Budget 2012: Parks Canada feels the pinch as Harper government makes more cuts

OTTAWA—For Canadians visiting parks and historic sites, it’ll mean fewer services and shorter seasons. For boaters, it’ll mean longer wait times at the locks on Ontario’s famed canals. That’s the upshot from the latest round of job cuts at Parks Canada announced Monday by the Harper government.

Parks Canada, responsible for running national parks and historic sites, was the hardest hit as the axe fell again on federal departments, this time hitting more than 4,000 workers.

More than 1,600 Parks Canada employees were told their jobs could disappear as the department eliminates 638 positions.

All lock operators and masters on the Trent-Severn and Rideau Canals in Ontario and the Chambly Canal in Quebec got notice that their jobs were in jeopardy. While not all will be out of work, union officials said it will mean a shorter season and shorter days for the canal operations, which promises to hit not just boaters but the dozens of businesses that rely on tourist trade fuelled by canal traffic.

“This will have a devastating effect not only on our members but on the multiple businesses along the canals and the waterways and tourism,” said Christine Collins, national president of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees.

Omar Khadr’s day of reckoning

As always, the latest “development” in the endless Omar Khadr saga provides few definitive answers. Here’s what we know for sure: Khadr’s official application for a prison transfer—from a cage at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to a cell in his home country—is now on the desk of Vic Toews, Stephen Harper’s public safety minister. And Toews has confirmed, as reluctantly as ever, that he will sign his name to the bottom of the page. At some point.

Beyond that, the future of Canada’s most (in)famous child soldier/homicidal jihadist remains as hazy as ever.

When will the minister actually pull out his pen? When will Khadr spend his final night at Gitmo? Which Canadian prison will become his next temporary home? Could he be eligible for parole the same day his plane touches down? And when the Toronto native is eventually set free (whether it’s five months from now or five years), where exactly will he go? Will Khadr run back into the arms of his notorious family and their fanatical sympathizers? Or will the feds ask a judge to impose special conditions on the convicted war criminal, limiting his movements and dictating his associates?

Anyone who has followed this epic case already knows the answers: only time—a concept Khadr understands better than most—will tell.

Medicine’s deadly gender gap

In 2004, Barbara Colbourn began experiencing pain in her legs when walking. The 61-year-old London, Ont., office manager tried to ignore the discomfort at first. Six months later, she went to her doctor, who diagnosed peripheral artery disease, or PAD. Colbourn had never heard of it—and was shocked to learn it was a chronic disease caused by atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, of the legs, feet or arms that puts people at higher risk of stroke, heart attack and death. When she was asked to participate in a 24-week international treatment trial organized by London clinical trials nurse Marge Lovell, a PAD awareness advocate, she agreed. Like many women over 60, Colbourn’s health concerns were fixated on breast cancer and heart disease. “Hardening of the arteries was something my grandma had,” she says.

Now 69, Colbourn takes baby aspirin and a cholesterol-lowering drug and exercises daily to prevent the disease’s progression and stave off invasive surgery. There were warning signs she ignored, she says. She had to give up curling in her 50s because her feet were always cold. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it could be serious.” Just how serious was made clear in a study in the January 2012 American Heart Association journal Circulation: it called PAD an unsung “pandemic” that afflicts more women than men, contrary to previous assumptions. Research in women has lagged behind, says cardiologist Alan Hirsch, a professor at the University of Minnesota medical school who chaired the study. Just as heart disease manifests itself differently in women, so does PAD, says Hirsch, whose study revealed that women with PAD, which afflicts some 800,000 Canadians, are more likely than men to have a limb amputated.

Banks got $114B from governments during recession

Canada's biggest banks accepted tens of billions in government funds during the recession, according to a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Canada's banking system is often lauded for being one of the world's safest. But an analysis by CCPA senior economist David Macdonald concluded that Canada's major lenders were in a far worse position during the downturn than previously believed.

Macdonald examined data provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions and the big banks themselves for his report published Monday.

It says support for Canadian banks from various agencies reached $114 billion at its peak. That works out to $3,400 for every man, woman and child in Canada, and also to seven per cent of Canada's gross domestic product in 2009.

The figure is also 10 times the amount Canadian taxpayers spent on the auto industry in 2009.

"At some point during the crisis, three of Canada's banks — CIBC, BMO, and Scotiabank — were completely under water, with government support exceeding the market value of the company," Macdonald said.

Tories blasted over $1-million ‘bread and circuses’ royal tour

The Harper government is coming under fire for hosting a new $1-million visit by Prince Charles and Camilla – a royal tour announced even as the Conservatives take the axe to thousands of more jobs in the name of austerity.

“It’s a bread and circuses routine,” New Democrat Member of Parliament Pat Martin said.

“It’s ‘Let’s keep the country impressed with some glitter and flash while we are cutting and hacking and slashing at public services and jobs’.”

The May 20-23 tour by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall is the fourth royal tour that Canada has hosted in less than four years, each at a cost to Canadian taxpayers.

Mr. Martin pointed out the visit was announced the same day that another round of civil servants are expected to be warned that their jobs may be in jeopardy.

“What an appalling contradiction. On the day they are announcing public service staff cuts?” he said.

“It’s an insult to families that are reeling with shock from another pink slip. I care more about Canadian families than the Royal family.”

Ottawa’s quiet removal of internal auditors draws fire

The federal government has quietly removed internal auditors from four regional development agencies, placing the work in the hands of a central department that is itself faced with a shrinking budget.

It’s a risky decision to take away financial oversight at the department level and one that makes losing – rather than saving – taxpayers’ money more likely, says the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union that represents the auditors.

The regional development agencies, where about 20 audit jobs will be affected in total, include the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), which has been questioned on its spending in the past. The offices of the ministers in charge of the four agencies say the elimination as of April 1 will save a total of $2.5-million each year.

The agencies – ACOA, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, Western Economic Diversification Canada and Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario – help businesses stimulate the economy in their regions. Their internal auditing will now be looked after by the Office of the Comptroller General, the department within the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat that oversees auditing across government.

Police corruption trial: John Schertzer denies wrongdoing on witness stand

John Schertzer, the man who led a small group of drug squad detectives accused of theft, extortion and attempting to obstruct justice, took the witness stand at his trial Monday to deny all the charges against him.

It was the first time the former detective has spoken in detail about the charges he and four former fellow officers have faced for eight years.

Schertzer headed Central Field Command drug squad, which investigated street- and mid-level narcotics dealing in Toronto’s core.

Dressed in a blue suit and tie over a crisp white shirt, he spoke in a soft voice.

Earlier Monday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Gladys Pardu directed that an acquittal be registered on five of 14 counts the officers face.

Schertzer, 54; Steven Correia, 45; Raymond Pollard, 48; Joseph Miched, 53; and Ned Maodus, 49, face various charges, laid in 2004, including attempting to obstruct justice, assault perjury and extortion between 1997 and 2002.

Tories looked like they were keeping ‘different books’ on F-35s, one internal, one for public: Kevin Page

OTTAWA — Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said during a radio show Saturday that it looked like the government was keeping “different books” on F-35 budgeting — one for public consumption and another for internal planning.

Still, he said during an an interview on CBC Radio’s The House that he didn’t do “victory laps” after the recent auditor general’s report seemed to vindicate projections he had previously made about the government plan to buy F-35 fighter jets.

In March 2011, Page said government projections of about $15 billion for the jets were underestimating the true expenditure by around half.

He was harshly criticized by many within the Harper government at the time, but his views were at least partially echoed by Auditor General Michael Ferguson in a report earlier this month that showed the government underestimated the cost by $10 billion.

“We’re happy that the AG did great work, and now we can see we’re having a debate going forward around a financial framework that makes sense to financial people,” Page said during the radio show.

How J.S. Woodsworth opposed the war and saved capitalism

One might have anticipated, with all the recent talk of conscience rights, that J.S. Woodsworth would soon enough become a hash tag. But not as the object of a slander. The man who once led the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was nothing if not conscience driven. His lifelong, principled commitments to the Social Gospel, socialism and pacifism were amply rewarded — both by the Methodist church and the nation which he dutifully served — with accusations of sedition, criminal charges, harassment and imprisonment. Whatever one’s politics, one could do worse than to emulate the spine of this man.

It might be a bit awkward and inconvenient for the current Prime Minister to reflect upon the character and fortunes of this Toronto-born Methodist preacher, whose prairie- and farmer-based grassroots agitation successfully disturbed the comfortable arrogance of Ottawa. When Woodsworth opposed Canada’s participation in World War II, he put himself in opposition not only of the ruling party but also of his CCF colleagues and the members of what is now commonly referred to as the political base. For this he earned the respect of William Lyon Mackenzie King, who detected in Woodsworth the stamp of an authentic, principle-based, no BS politician. In the Ottawa of King’s day, as in the Ottawa of my own, these folk sometimes seem as common as lemon trees.

Canada’s secret bank bailout revealed

OTTAWA—A study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) estimates the previously secret extent of extraordinary support required by Canada’s banks during the financial crisis.

According to the study, by CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald, support for Canadian banks reached $114 billion at its peak—that’s $3,400 for every man, woman, and child in Canada.

“At some point during the crisis, three of Canada’s banks—CIBC, BMO, and Scotiabank—were completely under water, with government support exceeding the market value of the company,” says Macdonald. “Without government supports to fall back on, Canadian banks would have been in serious trouble.”

Between October 2008 and July 2010, Canada’s largest banks relied heavily on financial aid programs provided by the Bank of Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and the U.S. Federal Reserve—all at the same time.

Vive la France

The Presidency of France’s Fifth Republic is a monarchical role, shaped to the elongated scale and the grand manners first of Charles de Gaulle and then of François Mitterrand. Although Jacques Chirac more recently gave the role a distinctly sleepy, roi fainéant flavor, it remains a throne more than a mere office. So the idea of a sort of citizen king, who giggles and wears glasses and is known to be on a diet, is a little unsettling. But it’s entirely likely that, after the second round of voting, on May 6th, the next President of France will be François Hollande, the inoffensive, myopic, weight-conscious Socialist candidate, a man so milky-mild that one has to project onto him a secret life to make him seem not just a fully credible politician but a fully credible human being. (And, indeed, Hollande’s love life is more intricate than one might expect: having fathered four children with his lover, the previous Socialist Presidential candidate, Ségolène Royal, he left her, or was left by her, for another partner, meaning that his Presidency could include a role for an ex-mistress who is also a would-be queen.)

The strength of Hollande’s candidacy speaks mainly to the weakness of Nicolas Sarkozy’s, and the pervasive sense that his free-market reformist project has failed. After the twelve dead-man’s-float years of the Chirac Presidency, it was hard not to root at least a little for Sarkozy, and, in truth, his economic record, given the circumstances, is far from the worst on the Continent, or off it, for that matter. Yet he quickly came to seem arrogant instead of energetic, and he never quite shook a reputation, earned in the first days of his Presidency, for flashiness and bling. Even his marriage to Carla Bruni, and the child they had together, left the French unmoved. People will forgive a short man with a beautiful wife if he seems sufficiently surprised; Sarkozy seemed merely showy, and his energy, over time, merely antic and self-pleasing.

Machine Politics - The man who started the hacker wars

In the summer of 2007, Apple released the iPhone, in an exclusive partnership with A.T. & T. George Hotz, a seventeen-year-old from Glen Rock, New Jersey, was a T-Mobile subscriber. He wanted an iPhone, but he also wanted to make calls using his existing network, so he decided to hack the phone.

Every hack poses the same basic challenge: how to make something function in a way for which it wasn’t designed. In one respect, hacking is an act of hypnosis. As Hotz describes it, the secret is to figure out how to speak to the device, then persuade it to obey your wishes. After weeks of research with other hackers online, Hotz realized that, if he could make a chip inside the phone think it had been erased, it was “like talking to a baby, and it’s really easy to persuade a baby.”

He used a Phillips-head eyeglass screwdriver to undo the two screws in the back of the phone. Then he slid a guitar pick around the tiny groove, and twisted free the shell with a snap. Eventually, he found his target: a square sliver of black plastic called a baseband processor, the chip that limited the carriers with which it could work. To get the baseband to listen to him, he had to override the commands it was getting from another part of the phone. He soldered a wire to the chip, held some voltage on it, and scrambled its code. The iPhone was now at his command. On his PC, he wrote a program that enabled the iPhone to work on any wireless carrier.

Mitt Romney's Nutty Professor

To hear Mitt Romney tell it, President Barack Obama's three years at Harvard Law School helped turn him into an aloof, big-government-loving radical. "We have a president, who I think is a nice guy, but he spent too much time at Harvard, perhaps," Romney told an audience in Pennsylvania in April. But if the de facto GOP presidential nominee wants to make educational experiences a focal point of his candidacy, he could be playing with fire.

In an interview with an Iowa radio station five years ago, the former Massachusetts governor acknowledged the influence of a controversial figure from his own schoolboy past—W. Cleon Skousen, the late Mormon historian and tea party hero who taught Romney at Brigham Young University. A former FBI agent, Salt Lake City police chief, and professional conspiracy theorist, Skousen fashioned a narrative of American history that held a unique appeal to religious conservatives—all based on the notion that the Founding Fathers were members of a lost tribe of Israel. His work also sparked a fierce backlash over racist passages and baseless, bordering on conspiratorial, assertions that prompted the Mormon church to take steps to quash his influence.

Romney's embrace of Skousen came in an August 2007 interview appearance with Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson, a conservative talker Politico's Jonathan Martin calls "the Rush Limbaugh of Des Moines." The appearance grabbed headlines at the time due to Mickelson's goading questions on Mormonism, which caused Romney to lose his cool early on and abandon it altogether shortly after that. But it was Romney's comments about Skousen that were most revealing.

Holding Birth Control Hostage

Recently, my doctor gave me an ultimatum: Come in for a pelvic exam, or I won't refill your birth control pills. The problem arose after I tried to get my prescription refilled before going on vacation in March, only to be told that the doctor's office wouldn't sign off on the refill because it had been a year and one month since I'd had an annual exam and a Pap smear. A nurse grudgingly gave me a monthlong reprieve if I promised to come in for an exam when I returned from my trip.

I really, really didn't want to go in for an exam. I've had two kids, a false positive Pap test and all the ensuing misery that comes with it, and spent enough time in the stirrups to last a lifetime. All I really wanted were my pills; I was pretty sure the exam could wait another year or more.

The science was on my side.

Just a few weeks earlier, the US Preventative Services Task Force, an independent group of national experts that makes evidence-based health care recommendations, released new guidelines declaring definitively that women over 30 don't need a Pap smear more than once every three years unless they have a couple of risk factors, which I don't have. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that birth control pills can safely be prescribed without a full-on exam.

International Labor Organization: Austerity Will Drive Millions Of Job Losses Worldwide This Year

GENEVA - Global unemployment will hit 202 million this year, or 6.1 per cent, as debt-driven austerity measures hammer job markets and threaten to drive Europe into recession, the U.N. labour agency predicted Monday.

In a gloomy forecast, the International Labor Organization predicted unemployment, which stood at 196 million at the end of 2011, would edge up further in 2013, with the long-term unemployed and young people hit particularly hard.

The "narrow focus of many eurozone countries on fiscal austerity is deepening the jobs crisis and could even lead to another recession in Europe," said Raymond Torres, the report's lead author.


"Austerity has not produced more economic growth," he told reporters.

With 50 million jobs vanished since the 2008-09 global financial crisis, the Geneva-based ILO's report said said, "the global employment situation is alarming and shows no signs of recovery in the near future" despite signs of economic growth in some regions.

"It is unlikely that the world economy will grow at a sufficient pace over the next couple of years to both close the existing jobs deficit and provide employment for the over 80 million people expected to enter the labour market during this period," the report said.

The unemployment rate has risen across nearly two-thirds of European nations since 2010, the ILO said, but the labour market has also "stalled" in the U.S., Japan and other advanced economies.

In China, the gains are coming slower for a better educated working-age population, and through much of the Middle East and Africa the "jobs deficits remain acute," the ILO report said.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: AP

Quebec Student Protests: Young NDP MPs Left Sitting On Their Hands In Quebec Tuition Protests

OTTAWA -- Young New Democrat MPs who likely once would have been among the thousands of Quebec students hoisting placards in opposition to higher tuition are instead being forced to sit on their hands.

At least five Quebec NDP MPs were students in the province before being swept unexpectedly into federal office during last year's election, and several others were only a few years out of school.

But even as the 11-week-old feud between the provincial Liberal government and students gains international attention, the rookie MPs are learning that being Quebec's voice in Ottawa sometimes also means they need to shut up.

There's nothing to be gained from weighing in on a provincial matter that's out of their hands, they've been cautioned, so best not to say anything at all.

Especially because there is something to lose: support in the province that handed them their official Opposition status in the Commons.

"Hiding behind the jurisdictional issue over the student strikes is good politics because there are few benefits for the NDP and a number of risks,'' said Bruce Hicks, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal.

Letter reveals hints of Mayor Ford's re-election plan

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is pushing for a three-year budget plan that would freeze property taxes and garbage fees while building new arenas and pools in partnership with the private sector, a move that could help him seize back the agenda and lay the groundwork for his re-election bid.

A confidential draft of the mayor’s “budget guidance” letter to the city’s top bureaucrat recommends residential property-tax increases of no more than 1.75 per cent in 2013 and zero in 2014 and 2015, coupled with a three-year freeze in business property taxes.

The unfinished letter, obtained by The Globe and Mail, even floats the idea of cutting the business rate by half a percentage point in 2015.

“We will adopt a philosophy that tax rate increases are the last resort, never the first choice – and, if approved, tax increases should normally be used only to enhance the service benefit residents receive,” Mr. Ford writes in the four-page document.

A final version has yet to be delivered to city manager Joe Pennachetti, who isn’t technically obligated to follow the mayor’s advice when he crafts the next budget.

Sydney tar ponds revitalization gives Nova Scotia community new lease on life

Sid Slavin can barely recognize the spot where he spent 37 years toiling in the hot, smelly furnaces of one of Canada’s largest steel plants.

Where thousands of workers once forged much of Canada’s rails, rivets, bolts, nails and wire at the steel plant and coke ovens that provided the area with an economic lifeline for nearly 100 years, only grassy fields and a monument to those who lost their lives working at the plant remain.

The dramatic transformation is the culmination of a 10-year plan to clean up the former site of the Sydney tar ponds, an industrial wasteland of toxic sludge left behind after the plant closed in 2001.

With the third and final phase of environmental remediation of the site underway, what was once an infamous urban blight will be home to a freshwater river running alongside green parklands.

“When I first started, there was no dialogue whatsoever on environmental issues,” said Slavin, 73, who quit high school at 17 to work at the mill. “If any mild complaints were heard, we were told, ‘If there’s no smoke, there’s no boloney.’ It was so true.”

Canada’s cluster bomb legislation weak and worst of ratifying countries, experts say

New federal legislation intended to cement Canada’s role in a major international treaty to ban lethal cluster bombs is weak and will make Canada deliberately complicit in the use of the weapons, say experts.

“It falls way below even the minimum threshold of legality under international humanitarian law and is an insult to colleagues in other countries who, seemingly unlike Canada, have negotiated in good faith,” said former Foreign Affairs arms negotiator Earl Turcotte, who led Canada’s negotiating team at the treaty negotiations.

“Most tragically, it will make Canada complicit in the use of a weapon that for good reason we have supposedly banned. Having led the delegation I can say that without doubt this legislation is the worst of any of the 111 countries that have so far ratified the treaty.”

Canada signed the cluster treaty in Oslo in December 2008 but has yet to ratify it. Ratification requires domestic legislation that the Conservative government quietly tabled last Thursday and, according to both Turcotte and the anti-mine advocacy group Mines Actions Canada, has been compromised by Canada’s military relationship with the United States.

The legislation signals that a turf war over the treaty between the Foreign Affairs and Defence departments was won by Defence, said Turcotte.

Conservative anti-abortion debate ends in shock, awe, giggles

When does human life begin? When strangers’ eyes meet across a crowded room, obviously. It’s romantic, it’s wild, it’s out of control and kind of sticky.

But Kitchener MP Stephen Woodworth thinks it’s less fun than that. On Thursday in the House of Commons, he raised the magic moment of conception and its progress, defying Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wish not to reopen the abortion debate.

For Harper does realize that ending abortion rights is a giant Wildrose-lake-of-fire loser of votes for him.

Woodworth asked MPs to vote for Motion 312 to set up a committee to decide when pregnancy gets its start. This might lead to altering the Criminal Code and amending homicide laws to prosecute women for murder if they have abortions.

Woodworth always insisted 312 was purely an intellectual inquiry. But he slipped up, perhaps out of nervousness, suddenly telling Radio Canada mid-week, “It certainly allows us to have an honest discussion about the abortion question.”

Though I do understand that the right’s efforts to destroy the 1988 Morgentaler decision by the Supreme Court of Canada are pregnancy-related, they seem just as much to do with sexual intercourse, nasty and dirty as it is.

Family of ill veteran: Ottawa failing us

A cruel, incurable illness is slowly killing Wayne Collins, a former member of the Royal Canadian Navy from Beaver Bank, and his family’s anguish is being compounded by a lack of help from Veterans Affairs Canada.

The 69-year-old father of three and grandfather of six has multiple system atrophy, a rare ailment that first surfaced in 2001.

“I noticed Wayne started scuffing his feet . . . and then he started going down, being sad,” Dawn Collins, his wife of 46 years, said in an interview Sunday.

Speaking at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, she said her husband was always a healthy, active man who kept busy with things such as gardening and carpentry until he got sick.

He wasn’t diagnosed until seven years after the symptoms surfaced.

Wayne watched the interview from his wheelchair. He is unable to speak, but the disease doesn’t strike the brain.

He worked as a stoker in the engine room on several ships during his five years in the navy. His navy career ended in 1967, but during that five-year period, he often came into contact with carbon tetrachloride, a cleaner and degreasing agent.

The government’s selective defence of freedom

When Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth introduced a private member’s bill on the status of the fetus last week, the government was expected to distance itself. But when Conservative whip Gordon O’Connor stood to deliver the government line, he did far more than that.

“I can confirm that as a member of the Conservative caucus for nearly eight years, the prime minister has been consistent with his position on abortion,” O’Connor said. “As early as 2005 at the Montreal convention, and in every federal election platform since, he has stated that the Conservative government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion. While the issue may be debated by some, as in the private member’s motion here tonight, I state again that the government’s position is clear: It will not reopen this debate.”

It was a surprisingly sweeping and categorical pledge. And we can be sure it was crafted in the prime minister’s office, or at a minimum, personally approved by the boss.

But that was just the beginning of the surprises.

“The decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision,” O’Connor declared, “and in a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount and take precedence over that of the state.”

$16 glass of OJ a symbol of government excess

In the fickle ways of politically generated media crap storms, it is often the most trivial item upon which the public becomes fixated.

While the Harper government is floundering in the wake of a damning auditor general’s report that cites potential cost overruns in the tens of billions of dollars, water-cooler chatter is instead focused on the purchase of a single, $16-glass of orange juice.

Of course, this is just one example of the lavish spending by International Development Minister Bev Oda that was revealed in a series of recent media reports.

In June 2011, Oda attended an international conference in London, England, which was convened to discuss vaccine and immunization initiatives for children in developing nations.

Although the conference organizers had rooms reserved in the five-star Grange St. Pauls Hotel, Oda chose to upgrade her lodgings to the landmark Savoy Hotel, which is renowned for its famous clientele, which includes royalty and Hollywood stars.

Of course, now that she was no longer staying at the site of the conference, Oda needed some form of local transportation. As no ordinary London taxi should be used to ferry the well-heeled patrons of the Savoy, a limousine was chartered for the princely sum of nearly $1,000 a day.

Riding changes could make Green blue

OTTAWA -- Elizabeth May made history a year ago when she became the first Green party MP elected to Canada's Parliament.

The Green leader even ousted a sitting cabinet minister to do it.

May's win wasn't even really a squeaker. She bested Conservative Gary Lunn by more than 7,000 votes.

But she is now worried the government will try to keep her from winning again by gerrymandering the riding during redistribution.

Elections Canada has appointed 10 commissions, one in each province, to oversee the process of trying to set new riding boundaries. (Territories only have one seat each, so there is no redistribution in any of them.)

Redistribution has to happen every 10 years and on the surface is a pretty boring exercise. As different ridings grow at different rates, the boundaries shift to reflect the change and keep the population of all the ridings in each province approximately even.

But in an era when political parties have so much data on individual voters and know so much about how all of us vote, it is easier than ever for the process to become rife with corruption.

Former public servant takes alleged harassment case to Supreme Court

Former federal public servant Zabia Chamberlain, who alleges she was harassed by her boss at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in 2007-2008 and has been unsuccessfully fighting for years to get restitution from the government, is now taking her fight for financial security and closure to the Supreme Court.

Ms. Chamberlain currently suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and has for years been unable to function as a result of the nine months she alleges her boss harassed her when she worked as an executive in HRSDC from September 2007 to June 2008.

The 45-year-old Gatineau, Que., resident and mother of two university-age daughters started her two-decade long federal career in the federal government with National Defence in 1988.

In fall of 2007, a temporary promotion brought Ms. Chamberlain under the supervision of a director general in HRSDC’s Skills and Employment Branch. She was in charge of administering more than $2-billion in grants, had three team leaders, and 25 employees working under her.

Ms. Chamberlain alleges her boss would barge into her office, yelling and swearing at her. She alleges he would also hover behind her, touching the back of her chair and rubbing her shoulders while she worked.

The sorry lessons of green-power subsidies

A recent study, co-authored by Fraser Institute energy economist Gerry Angevine, found that Ontario residents will pay an average of $285-million more for electricity each year for the next 20 years as a result of subsidies to renewable energy companies.

By the end of 2013, Ontario household power rates will be the second-highest in North America (after PEI), and they will continue to accelerate while they level off in most other jurisdictions. Even more alarming for Ontario’s economic competitiveness, businesses and industrial customers will be hit by almost $12-billion in additional costs over the same period.

Such is the legacy of the provincial government’s 2009 decision to establish feed-in rates, ranging from 44.5 cents to 80.2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for solar power, and 13.5 cents/kWh for wind power. These solar feed-in rates average 11 times the 5.6 cents/kWh paid for nuclear-generated power, and 18 times the 3.5 cents/kWh for hydro-generated power. The wind-power rates are more than twice as high as nuclear, and four times those of hydro.

Besides the direct cost of these huge subsidies, there’s also a big hidden cost of fossil-fuelled standby facilities, because the wind doesn’t always blow and the Ontario sun certainly doesn’t always shine.

Ahead of May Day, David Harvey Details Urban Uprisings From Occupy Wall Street to the Paris Commune

On Tuesday, May 1st, known as May Day or International Workers Day, Occupy Wall Street protesters hope to mobilize tens of thousands of people across the country under the slogan, "General Strike. No Work. No Shopping. Occupy Everywhere." Events are planned in 125 cities. We speak with leading social theorist David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, about how Occupy Wall Street compares to other large-scale grassroots movements throughout modern history. “It’s struck a chord,” Harvey says of the Occupy movement. “I hope tomorrow there’ll be a situation in which many more people will say, ‘Look, things have got to change. Something different has to happen.’” Harvey’s most recent book is "Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

A year in, Harper’s lost more ground in majority than two minorities

A year after the federal election, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats are almost neck-and-neck in national voting intentions. But while the gain for the main opposition party is well within the norm, the Prime Minister has lost more support than he did one year after his election victories in 2006 and 2008.

A weighted average of all public polls puts Conservative support at 34 per cent nationwide and narrowly ahead of the New Democrats, who trail with 32.9 per cent support. This represents a gain of 2.3 points over the last year for the NDP but a loss of 5.6 points for the Conservatives since the election. Compared to Mr. Harper’s past performances, this is a dramatic drop.

One year after the Conservatives were first elected in 2006, the party had slipped to 33 per cent in the polls from their 36-per-cent election result, a drop of three points. At the time, the Liberals under Stéphane Dion had picked up four points to take a narrow one-point lead over the Tories. The NDP had 13 per cent support, down four points.

The first year of Stephen Harper’s second term as Prime Minister had a positive effect on his party’s national support, as the Conservatives increased to 39 per cent in October of 2009 from the 38 per cent the Tories captured in October 2008. This time under Michael Ignatieff, the Liberals still picked up two points over the course of the year, while the New Democrats dropped three points to 15 per cent.

What Really Happened in the Bin Laden Raid?

Editor's note, 5/1/12: A year after the US killed Osama bin Laden, questions remain about who knew where he was hiding, who may have helped him, and precisely how he met his end. A new book by Peter Bergen, "Manhunt," underscores conflicting details about the raid: Contrary to prior reports, everyone shot by the Navy SEALs at the compound, Bergen writes, was unarmed. He doesn't specify who fired bullets into bin Laden. And while he reports on the SEALs' use of night vision goggles, he makes no mention of their recording the raid with helmet cameras.

You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to be still scratching your head about the end of Osama bin Laden. Between the Obama administration and major media reports, there have been multiple divergent accounts of the Navy SEALs' mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan, with the story seeming to be colored by politics, sensationalism, and outright fantasy. In some respects that's unsurprising for one of the most important and highly classified military missions in modern memory‚ the outcome of which, many would argue, is all that really matters. But precisely because of its importance, it is worth considering how the tales have been told, and where history begins to bleed into mythology.

Lots of praise flowed in early August for Nicholas Schmidle's riveting story in The New Yorker of the SEALs' raid on bin Laden's compound. It added many vivid details to what was publicly known about the death of America's arch-nemesis in early May. But Schmidle's exquisitely crafted reconstruction also contradicted previous reporting elsewhere and sparked some intriguing questions of its own.

Oil lobbyists approved Harper’s climate policy as ‘elegant’ approach

OTTAWA — The federal government asked the oil and gas industry last fall to review its foreign climate change policies, which were then approved by lobbyists as “an elegant” approach, reveals newly-released correspondence.

The government was consulting the industry about European climate change legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, according to an email exchange between senior bureaucrats at Natural Resources Canada.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an oil and gas industry lobby group, is opposed to the European Fuel Quality Directive legislation, because it believes it unfairly discriminates against bitumen, the heavy oil derived from the oilsands sector, which the government describes as the “fastest growing source of (greenhouse gas) emissions in Canada.”

“I talked to (CAPP president) David Collyer about the possible Canadian position on the FQD that we discussed — everyone in same basket, at same level, until they prove otherwise,” wrote Mark Corey, an assistant deputy minister at Natural Resources Canada, in an internal email sent on Oct. 14, 2011. “He said his initial impression was that he liked it, but would confer and call me back.”

House committee blocks RCMP harassment hearings

Women who have gone public with allegations of sexual harassment within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police say that they’re disappointed that a motion for the Standing Committee on the Status of Women to hear testimony on the issue failed to pass last week.

“I don’t think the government is interested in modernizing the RCMP one bit,” Liberal MP Judy Sgro (York West, Ont.) told The Hill Times following a tense week within the House Standing Committee on the Status of Women. “This is National Victims of Crime Week. They say that they care, but on a prime example of women who worked for the federal service, they have no interest in allowing them a chance to speak before the committee.”

Ms. Sgro introduced a motion for the committee to schedule hearings for current and former female Mounties to give testimony on their experiences in the Force last Monday during testimony by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.

Mr. Paulson testified before the committee to discuss widespread allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination within the national law enforcement agency. It was his third appearance before a Parliamentary committee since his appointment on Dec. 8 of last year, but his first appearance to specifically address the allegations.

Feds set Canada back 50 years on environment regulations: critics

The government is setting Canada back at least 50 years in its quest to dismantle environmental regulations, say opposition MPs.

“[Prime Minister Stephen Harper is] destroying decades worth of environmental law and policy that’s been developed sensibly,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) told The Hill Times last week.
“Most of the legislation he’s destroying was put forward and passed by Brian Mulroney so it’s not a left, right or centre issue. It’s a question of do you understand the need to have sensible public policy developed while having respect for environmental protection. Clearly, Stephen Harper regards the environment as in his way.”

A Forum Research poll for The Hill Times last week found that 59 per cent of Canadians believe the government has put oil and gas companies’ interests above those of Canadians. Only 15 per cent agreed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) was putting the interests of Canadians over those of oil and gas companies. In addition, the poll found that 63 per cent of Canadians do not trust the government to do what’s best for Canada with respect to the environment. Twenty-nine per cent of Canadians do trust the government on this front, the majority of which are in Alberta. The majority of Quebecers (76 per cent) do not trust the government when it comes to the environment. Further, the poll, conducted with 1,744 people between April 24 and 25, found that 54 per cent of Canadians oppose the elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. When it comes to handing more authority to provinces to conduct environmental assessments, respondents were evenly split, with 41 per cent supporting and 40 per cent opposing. The survey is accurate 2.4 per cent 19 times out of 20.

CBC sends out pink slips, Mother Corp faces overall $200-million shortfall

The majority of pink slips to be doled out to employees this year as part of the CBC’s overall efforts to reduce its budget by 10 per cent went out to bureaus across the country on April 25, but according to Chuck Thompson, head of media relations for CBC’s English services, no one at CBC’s Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa has yet received a letter.

The CBC’s budget was slashed by $115-million over three years as part of the federal government’s strategic and operating review initiative. But combined with the cost of required investments and other unavoidable expenses, the CBC is facing an overall $200-million shortfall. Additionally, the Crown corporation is estimating it will have to deal with $25-million in severance pay, as a result of layoffs.

CBC employees were informed of the larger structure of planned cuts at a town hall meeting with CBC brass on April 10. In all, the CBC plans to cut 650 full-time jobs by 2015, including 473 this year. Of those jobs, 256 will be cut from CBC’s English services by 2015, but 215 will disappear this year. CBC’s French services will lose a total of 243 people at the end of the three-year roll-out.

CBC News Network will cut a total of 88 news jobs as part of the overall 256 English services jobs set to be slashed: of those, 34 will be local jobs, 44 national and 10 will come from administration. Wrapped up in this are cuts to CBC’s The National and a “reduced capacity” to their Parliamentary bureau.

Alberta MPs downplay what PC win means for Edmonton-Ottawa relations

Although most Alberta MPs backed the Wildrose Alliance Party, they say it’s business as usual between the feds and their home province following the Progressive Conservatives’ come-from-behind victory last week over the insurgent Wildrose, but some say that the Redford PCs are now only conservative in name.

If the Tories were rattled by the results of last Monday’s Alberta election, they did an admirable job of hiding it.

“Eighty per cent of Albertans voted Conservative,” said MP Blaine Calkins (Wetaskiwin, Alta.), chair of his party’s Alberta caucus, brushing off the suggestion that his home province had made a left turn with Ms. Redford’s re-election.

Mr. Calkins’ home province saw a significant spike in voter turnout for last week’s contest—57 per cent, up from 40 per cent in 2008. The Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose combined for nearly 80 per cent of the vote, while provincial New Democrats and Liberals combined for nearly 20 per cent of the popular vote. The PCs garnered 44 per cent of ballots cast, while the Wildrose claimed 34.5 per cent, but the results translated into a strong mandate for Ms. Redford’s Progressive Conservatives.

Quebec student group rejects tuition hike offer

Quebec's most militant student group CLASSE has voted to reject the Liberal government's tuition increase proposal.

CLASSE delegates voted against the proposal at a weekend meeting in Quebec City, and announced the results on Twitter.

"The offer doesn't really respond to our demands," said CLASSE spokeswoman Jeanne Reynolds, speaking after the delegate meeting.

"The tuition hike is still there. We are questioning the legitimacy of the increase, and there hasn't been any compromise on that."

Premier Jean Charest offered Friday to spread planned tuition hikes over seven years instead of five and increase the province's bursary program.

The new proposal means that, instead of annual increases of $325 for five years, tuition would rise by $254 for seven straight years, indexed to inflation.

Student groups immediately rejected the Friday offer, but later said they would review the proposal with their members.

"Booker’s Place": Documentary Tells Story of Black Mississippi Waiter Who Lost Life By Speaking Out

In 1965, Booker Wright, an African-American waiter in Greenwood, Mississippi, dared to be interviewed by NBC about racism in America, a decision that forever changed his and his family’s lives. Wright said during the interview, "I always learned to smile. The meaner the man be, the more you smile. Do all your crying on the inside." He would later lose his job, be beaten by police, and ultimately be murdered. Wright’s story is told in the new documentary film, "Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story," a collaboration between our two guests: co-producer, Yvette Johnson, Wright’s grand-daughter; and director Raymond DeFelitta, whose father, Frank DeFelitta, originally filmed the interview with Wright and later said he regretted it.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Aboriginal reconciliation: An open letter to Stephen Harper

Dear Prime Minister:

When I heard your words in the House of Commons that were deemed an apology for the debacle of Canada’s residential school system, I was heartened. At that time, it was nothing short of amazing to hear a prime minister use the word “wrong” in reference to Canada’s treatment of aboriginal people. Now, nearly four years later, I look at the astoundingly hurtful cuts to organizations whose sole purposes are the re-empowerment and well-being of aboriginal people, and I am disheartened. Hell, Mr. Harper, I am downright angry.

You said “sorry” and you were not. In aboriginal context, an apology means that you recognize the flaw within yourself that made the offence possible and you offer reconciliation based on understanding the nature of that flaw. That reconciliation takes the form of living and behaving in the opposite manner. You have not done this. In fact, you have continued in the same vein that made the original apology necessary.

Residential schools effectively separated aboriginal children from the influence of everything that could sustain, perpetuate and define them. When you cut funding for the National Aboriginal Health Organization and the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s health program and ended the mandate of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, you did the same thing.

Parents of gravely ill children feel betrayed by Harper budget

Families of children who are gravely ill have been left out of a plan that addresses Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s election promise to help parents whose children are in dire circumstances.

Earlier this month, Mr. Harper announced that the government will pay families of murdered or missing children $350 a week for up to 35 weeks as they cope with the death or disappearance. The campaign pledge had included parents who cannot work because they must be at the bedside of a gravely ill child.

Sharon Ruth, who had to take unpaid leave from work when her daughter Colleen was in cancer treatment, wants Mr. Harper to explain why people in her circumstances were left out.

“They probably will say it’s the money,” Ms. Ruth said.

The government is going through a period of austerity and, while few children under the age of 18 are murdered or kidnapped by strangers, a significant number fall gravely ill. About 1,500 are diagnosed with cancer alone each year.

Ms. Ruth said people who cannot work because they are ill can obtain EI sickness benefits, she said, and should be able to get benefits when they are forced to stay home for an extended time with a very sick child.

Documents reveal hundreds of ‘high-risk misconduct’ cases at CRA

Allegations of corruption that have rocked the Montreal offices of the Canada Revenue Agency are just a fraction of the total instances of “high-risk misconduct” reported at the federal tax agency every year, records show.

The CRA has dismissed seven officials from its Montreal offices in connection with an RCMP investigation into allegations of fraud and corruption involving senior team leaders and auditors at the tax-collection agency.

Documents show that over the past eight years the CRA has identified a total of 456 founded cases of high-risk misconduct across the country, an average of 57 a year. The CRA defines these cases as involving breach of trust, conflict of interest, falsification or destruction of documents, fraud, off-duty conduct, abuse of authority, and unauthorized access or disclosure of confidential information.

The NDP used a parliamentary procedure known as the “order paper” to obtain information on the number of ethical breaches at the CRA, and shared the figures with The Globe and Mail and Radio-Canada.

In an interview, New Democrat MP Hoang Mai said he is concerned that upcoming cutbacks at the CRA will prevent the agency from keeping up internal controls over the conduct of its employees and ensuring that all Canadians pay their taxes.

Tragic Wendy Babcock’s legacy still growing at Osgoode Hall Law School

The last time I saw Wendy Babcock, she was feeling low.

Halfway through her second year at Osgoode Hall Law School, she was struggling with money, housing, her health, and loneliness.

Babcock was an oddity at Osgoode. She left home as a teenager and by 15, was turning tricks for money. She never finished high school. She lived on the street for stretches of time and had lost her son to children’s services.

She’d made it into Osgoode through sheer grit and determination to make a difference for people like her. The powerless. The voiceless.

But convictions are sometimes not enough.

“I don’t belong here,” she told me over lunch at the graduate students lounge that day. “They come from really nice upbringings and I come from the gutter. They’re not engaged in the same issues as I am.”

Half a year later, Babcock was found dead in her home. She was only 32.

What would she make of the fact that her fellow law students raised $18,000 in her name?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has given us a year of transformation


There has been no Stephen Harper revolution.

But there can be little doubt, as he celebrates the first anniversary of his majority Wednesday, Harper has delivered a year of transformation.

One year in, Harper is focused on making Canada a resource superpower, rewriting environmental regulations and giving his cabinet the power to overturn any decision that slows their agenda.

He has formally withdrawn Canada from the Kyoto protocol and all but declared the environmental movement in this country a radical enemy of the state.

Those decisions will leave an imprint in this country for years to come.

He has also waged war on big labour, interfering in the collective bargaining rights of unionized workers, all in the name of the economy, and in a futile bid to brand the opposition New Democrats as the party beholden to the big union boss bogeyman.

He boldly changed the age requirement for old age security from 65 to 67, the type of over-the-horizon, third-rail decision impossible with a minority.

He has had successes.