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.]

Friday, May 18, 2012

Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned.

The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee's official website.

The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.

Apocalypse Fairly Soon

Suddenly, it has become easy to see how the euro — that grand, flawed experiment in monetary union without political union — could come apart at the seams. We’re not talking about a distant prospect, either. Things could fall apart with stunning speed, in a matter of months, not years. And the costs — both economic and, arguably even more important, political — could be huge.

This doesn’t have to happen; the euro (or at least most of it) could still be saved. But this will require that European leaders, especially in Germany and at the European Central Bank, start acting very differently from the way they’ve acted these past few years. They need to stop moralizing and deal with reality; they need to stop temporizing and, for once, get ahead of the curve.

I wish I could say that I was optimistic.

Quebec Adopts Emergency Law To End Tuition Crisis

Quebec's legislature has voted in favour of an emergency law aimed at cooling tensions in the 14-week tuition hike crisis.

After debating the special legislation overnight, members of the national assembly (MNAs) voted 68-48 on Bill 78.

The legislation calls for heavy fines for students and their federations, and strict regulations governing demonstrations.

After receiving assent from Quebec's lieutenant-governor, likely Friday night, the law will take effect.

Dear world, sorry about Harper

Dear world, we are really sorry about Harper.

Stephen Harper is at Camp David today for the start of the G8 summit. The two-day meeting of leaders of some of the world's most powerful economies will be followed by a gathering in Chicago of NATO, an alliance of the world's most powerful militaries.

This a big stage for Harper, and he uses these international summits to project his preferred image of a Canada that is unapologetically aggressive and militaristic.

In addition to his trouble showing up to photo-ops, Harper has become notorious for standing out from the crowd when it comes to support for war and occupation. And when the crowd in question is the G8, that takes some effort - sort of like being more Catholic than the Pope.

Committee report ignores huge loopholes in lobbying law

OTTAWA - Democracy Watch and the national Government Ethics Coalition called on the Conservative Cabinet to go further than the recommendations of the House Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee by changing the federal Lobbying Act and enforcement system in 10 key ways to finally end secret, unethical lobbying of the federal government.

The Act is so full of loopholes, it should be called the "Some Lobbying by Some Lobbyists Act." And even if all of the House Committee's recommended changes were made, secret and unethical lobbying would still be allowed because of huge loopholes in the law. All parties are to blame for this, because even though the New Democrats proposed some additional changes beyond the Committee's recommendations, their proposals also failed to address the loopholes.

G20 Summit: We passively let police and politicians trample our rights

What haunts me about the G20 is not that grotesque summer weekend of mass arrests and shivering shoppers penned in for hours in the rain at Queen St. and Spadina Ave. It’s not even John Pruyn, the Christmas tree farmer who lost his leg in a gruesome accident 19 years ago. He had come to Toronto to protest with his daughter. They were sitting in the so-called “free-speech zone” at Queen’s Park that Saturday afternoon when riot police — many of whom had peeled off their nametags — attacked the crowd. Pruyn was treated like a wild dog: jumped, handcuffed, his prosthetic leg ripped off and then instructed, as if for sport, to hop to the police van.

That memory pricks my eyes with shame.

What haunts me about the G20, though, is my city’s atmosphere the week leading up to international meeting.

Should We Subsidize Work?

As of this month, Sue Collard makes one dollar above minimum wage. Even after six years at the same retail job in north Surrey, she isn't surprised her salary remains low.

"The bottom line is, retail jobs do not pay. The justification is we need to be competitive -- isn't that always the justification?" she asks.

On paper Collard is above the poverty line for her three-person family. She works four days a week for more than minimum wage. Her partner has a full-time job in sales at an insurance company. She has one child to take care of, a 19-year-old son from a previous relationship.

But the family is only squeaking by on about $46,000 per year. When Collard isn't working, she's trying to home-school her son to complete his Grade 12. Various psychological and developmental problems keep him at home, out of school and unemployed.

Hate Groups Grow as Racial Tipping Point Changes Demographics

The number of radical hate groups and militias has exploded in recent years in reaction to the changing makeup of America, and new census figures showing the majority of babies born in 2011 were non-white could fuel those simmering tensions, experts who track hate groups warned.

"White supremacist groups have been having a meltdown since the census bureau predicted that non-Hispanic whites would lose the majority by 2050," said Mark Potok, spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. "The demographic change in this country is the single most important driver in the growth of hate groups and extremist groups over the last few years."

The data released this week revealed a tipping point in the country's demographic shift. For the first time in the country's history, more minority children were born than white children, setting the stage for an eventual non-white majority in America's population.

Bill To End Indefinite Detention Fails In House

WASHINGTON -- A judge may have found unconstitutional the law that allows people to be held indefinitely without trial by the military, but the House of Representatives voted Friday to keep it anyway.

On Wednesday, Federal Judge Katherine Forrest found that the law violates rights to free speech and due process. But House members defended it, ultimately voting 238 to 182 against an amendment to guarantee civilian trials for any terrorism suspect arrested in the United States.

The measure, sponsored by Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.), had been backed by a mix of conservatives, moderates and liberals who argued that letting the president decide to detain anyone -- including Americans -- deemed to be a terrorist was granting the executive too much power. And they argued that with more than 400 terrorists having been tried and convicted in civilian courts while dozens of plots were prevented, the law was unnecessary.

Defense Budget That Breaks Spending Agreement Passed By House

WASHINGTON -- The House passed a defense budget Friday that exceeds the deal cut by Congress and President Barack Obama last summer, and that would have to be paid for with cash taken from poverty programs, health care and the federal workforce.

The National Defense Authorization Act permits $642 billion in defense spending next year. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, which passed 299 to 120, citing more than 30 changes to the budget the administration was seeking.

But the measure also adds $8 billion more than called for in the Budget Control Act that Congress agreed to last summer in exchange for raising the nation's debt limit.

'Reporter's Privilege' Under Fire From Obama Administration Amid Broader War On Leaks

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Obama administration Friday morning continued its headlong attack on the right of reporters to protect their confidential sources in leak investigations.

Before a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a Department of Justice lawyer argued that New York Times reporter James Risen should be forced to testify in the trial of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking classified information to Risen about a botched plot against the Iranian government.

Rather than arguing the specifics of the case, DOJ appellate lawyer Robert A. Parker asserted that there is no reporter's privilege when a journalist receives an illegal leak of national security secrets.

How Corporations and Local Governments Use the Poor As Piggy Banks

Individually the poor are not too tempting to thieves, for obvious reasons. Mug a banker and you might score a wallet containing a month's rent. Mug a janitor and you will be lucky to get away with bus fare to flee the crime scene. But as Business Week helpfully pointed out in 2007, the poor in aggregate provide a juicy target for anyone depraved enough to make a business of stealing from them.

The trick is to rob them in ways that are systematic, impersonal, and almost impossible to trace to individual perpetrators. Employers, for example, can simply program their computers to shave a few dollars off each paycheck, or they can require workers to show up 30 minutes or more before the time clock starts ticking.

Lenders, including major credit companies as well as payday lenders, have taken over the traditional role of the street-corner loan shark, charging the poor insanely high rates of interest. When supplemented with late fees (themselves subject to interest), the resulting effective interest rate can be as high as 600 percent a year, which is perfectly legal in many states.

Mitt Romney: Keystone XL Pipeline Will Be Approved On My First Day In White House

WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney is vowing to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline on his first day on the job if elected U.S. president in November.

In a campaign ad unveiled on Friday, the presumptive Republican nominee asks voters to imagine Day 1 of his presidency, and lists Keystone as a top priority.

"Day One, President Romney immediately approves the Keystone pipeline, creating thousands of jobs that Obama blocked," the ad's narrator says.

Dutch Disease Study: Harper Government Funded Research Favouring Argument They Ridiculed From Thomas Mulcair

OTTAWA - The Harper government has funded research that argues Canada's economy suffers from so-called Dutch Disease, an economic theory the prime minister and other senior officials ridiculed when raised recently by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

Industry Canada paid $25,000 to three academics to produce the lengthy study, which is about to be published in a prestigious journal, Resource and Energy Economics.

The department also helped the trio build a database so they could investigate Dutch Disease, the theory that a resource boom that drives up the value of a country's currency can damage the manufacturing sector.

The paper, "Does the Canadian Economy Suffer from Dutch Disease?," concludes that a third or more of job losses in Canada's manufacturing sector can be attributed to resource-driven currency appreciation.

Newcomers over age 50 costly: memo

Older immigrants cost governments about $3 billion a year in health care, while none of those immigrants over age 50 has reported earning more than $15,000 a year, figures obtained by Postmedia News suggest.

The figures are in a memo written three months before the government froze the parent and grandparent immigration stream and introduced a 10-year, multiple-entry super-visa that requires visiting relatives to show proof of a year's worth of health insurance.

The memo was obtained through an access to information request.

The freeze was billed as a stopgap measure while Ottawa deals with a huge backlog in applications. But the memo suggests the government - which favours economic immigrants - wasn't just trying to be fair as it got rid of the backlog, but that it also has grave concerns about the cost of accepting elderly immigrants given their low earning potential.

Students give Charest a lifeline

Jean Charest has not survived for nearly a decade at the pinnacle of Quebec politics by being a fool. Clearly, the Quebec premier was waiting for striking students to give him his “Tonkin incident,” some behaviour so outrageous as to justify the government’s dropping the hammer, without its ceding the moral high ground. A gang of masked ruffians who early Wednesday rampaged through halls of a Montreal university, terrorizing students and teachers, delivered spectacularly.

After that, the “loi speciale,” an emergency law that suspends (but does not cancel) the spring session for striking CEGEP and university students, became an inevitability. Expectations are that the legislation will be tabled Thursday evening, and include stiff penalties for anyone participating in an illegal protest, or blocking access to a classroom. Charest will then need to follow through on the grimly resolute tone he struck Wednesday night, and re-impose order.

Harper government pilloried in Commons over pension report 'coverup'

OTTAWA — The Harper government was accused in the House of Commons Friday of a political "coverup" over its decision to clamp a lid of secrecy on a draft report it prepared in 2007 on the costs and "policy implications" of Canada's aging population.

The development came in the wake of an exclusive Postmedia News report which revealed that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty received a copy of the report five years ago from his senior bureaucrat, and that his department has now formally rejected a request to have it publicly released.

Opposition parties accused the Conservative government Friday of hiding its plans to slash future seniors' pensions, and called on the Tories to release the report.

Quebec students say Charest's authoritarian 'special law' will fail

The strike of post-secondary students in Quebec has taken a dramatic turn with the provincial government pushing through a special law to suspend the school year at strike-bound institutions and outlawing protest activity deemed disruptive of institutions not participating in the strike.

Details of Bill 78 were unveiled late Thursday and debated in a special, overnight session of Quebec's National Assembly. They include a ban on demonstrations within 50 meters of a post-secondary institution and severe financial penalties on students or teachers and their organizations if they picket or otherwise protest in a manner declared "illegal." Demonstrations of ten or more people must submit their intended route of march to police eight hours in advance.

Budget bill: the omnibus stops here

On March 16, 1994, the Liberal government of the day tabled Bill C-17, an act to amend certain statutes to implement certain provisions of the budget. Nine days later, a new Reform party MP, elected just five months before, rose on a point of order to complain. The bill, he said, was “of an omnibus nature,” containing measures that dealt with disparate issues: public sector compensation, transportation subsidies, the CBC, employment insurance and payroll taxes. “In the interest of democracy I ask: how can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?” the young Stephen Harper wondered aloud. “We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse?”

Though the rookie MP’s words were not enough to derail that year’s budget bill, his words live on, cited more than 18 years later to taunt a Prime Minister whose government is now accused of abusing Parliament with a budget implementation act that dwarfs the bill that so troubled the rookie MP. But Bill C-38 doesn’t merely invite inconvenient comparisons. It sets the stage for a great—and potentially defining—battle between the new majority government and the newly realigned official Opposition.

Anti-mask legislation defies logic

On June 15 last year, just after Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo let in his fourth goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins, he looked up at the camera through the bars of his goalie mask with a vapid expression on his long and handsome face, one that was about to launch a thousand thugs. When the game ended a few minutes later in a humiliating 4-0 loss to the Bruins, Vancouver hockey fans laid siege to their own city. The streets were a sea of blue and green jerseys and broken glass; storefronts were demolished and police cruisers toppled; at least four people were stabbed, 140 injured, and more than 100 arrested. The vast majority of those responsible for the damage were not masked, kaffiyeh-clad boys spouting anarchist slogans, but drunk sports fans in their hometown sweaters, the names of their fallen hockey heroes printed across their backs in plain sight.

You would think, in light of the now notorious Vancouver riot, that if the federal government was committed to outlawing an item of clothing that was dramatically linked to violent protests, they’d seriously consider banning Canucks jerseys. But the piece of apparel that was implicated with the Conservative majority’s endorsement last week of Bill C-309 was that classic bogeyman of accessories: the mask.

Ottawa mum on Afghan funding ahead of G8 summit

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes Canada’s prime minister and five other world leaders today to this bucolic presidential retreat as he kicks off two international summits.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper joins the leaders of the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan at the G8 meeting at historic Camp David, a rural retreat tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the remote northwestern reaches of Maryland.

Only Vladimir Putin is skipping the meeting — an unexpected pullout that’s sparked talk of escalating tensions between the United States and Russia.

Is a China hard-landing in the works?

You see a lot of fretting about China’s slowing economy these days, but just how bad is it? A quick look at the country’s gross domestic product shows that growth has slowed to 8.1 per cent in the first quarter (year over year), down from 8.9 per cent in the fourth quarter. That marks the first back-to-back growth below 9 per cent since the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

According to Peter Buchanan, an economist at CIBC World Markets, many observers had believed that the first quarter would mark the low point for China’s GDP. Well, maybe not: He expects growth to tumble further, to 7.8 per cent this year. But GDP tells only part of the story, and so Mr. Buchanan has looked at a number of other worthy economic indicators – and most of them point to trouble ahead.

    Exports rose 4.9 per cent in April, which was weaker than expected.

    Industrial production rose 9.3 per cent in April, the lowest level since early 2009.

    Housing inventories are high, and prices fell in April over last year, for the second straight month.

    Electricity production/use rose just 0.7 per cent in April, the slowest pace since 2009.

    Rail freight volumes have slowed to a trend rate of 2 per cent to 3 per cent, down considerably from last year.

    Loan demand in April missed expectations, suggesting that access-to-capital difficulties continue.

    Government revenues rose just over 10 per cent in the first quarter, over last year. That’s the slowest pace in three years and down from revenue growth of more than 20 per cent in last year’s first quarter.

Add it up, which Mr. Buchanan does, and you can expect a deeper Chinese economic slowdown than many observers have been expecting. That's a big concern for the global economy and stock markets, given China’s role in both. But does this mean China is headed for a hard landing?

Right now, Mr. Buchanan thinks “firm landing” might be a more appropriate term: While easing of curbs on the property sector and export headwinds from Europe mean that the economic slowdown is unlikely to end before the second half of the year, China at least has stimulative options.

“Further policy easing, including rate cuts and fiscal accommodation, should facilitate a gradual recovery from there,” he said.

Original Article
Source: Globe

Anti-protest legislation passes in Quebec

The Quebec legislature passed a special law to stop this spring’s protests late Friday afternoon as a crowd of legal experts lined up to say the legislation goes too far and contravenes fundamental rights.

Bill 78, which lawmakers debated during an all-night session after Premier Jean Charest’s government tabled it Thursday evening, sets multiple requirements on public demonstrations and threatens stiff penalties to people who disrupt college and university classes.

The legislation, which passed by a vote of 68-48, has a time limit, expiring on July 1, 2013. It wasn’t clear when the law would be signed into force by the lieutenant-governor.

Judge throws out federal election results in Toronto riding

A judge has declared the 2011 federal election results in one Toronto riding to be null and void after a successful challenge by a former Liberal MP who lost to the Harper Conservatives by 26 votes.

The Ontario Superior Court ruling opens the door to a possible by-election in Etobicoke Centre should the decision survive a likely Supreme Court appeal.

This legal fight was started by former Etobicoke Centre Liberal Member of Parliament Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who had alleged election officials had not properly verified the identities of voters on ballot day.

Parties now have eight calendar days to appeal to the Supreme Court, a process that would be fast-tracked.

Quality of life varies widely across Canada: study

Canadians are used to hearing their country ranks among the world’s best places to live, but new research suggests that quality of life can depend a lot on where you live.

The first-ever quality-of-life comparison of provinces and territories to other countries suggests that while most Canadians live as well as anyone in the world, others are well down the list.

“I would think (the gap) is bigger than other countries in general,” said Andrew Sharpe, director of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, which released the results of its study early Friday.

“The gaps are so large.”

Dutch disease – an economic myth? – is not infecting Canada

The political landscape is littered with talk of Canada having the Dutch disease.

To clarify, it is not something that is contracted from a weekend in Amsterdam. And yes, Canada does not have it.

The Dutch disease is a condition where a country’s currency rises from an increase in revenues from natural resources. The high currency then undermines the manufacturing sector by making these exports more expensive.

As the argument is playing out in Canada, oil is the cause of the disease and Ontario is the one who suffers.

Yet in 2011 export growth for passenger cars was two times that of oil, while gold was three times that of oil. In fact, oil export growth was middle of the pack, even when compared to other commodities.

Budget legislation riddled with unwelcome surprises

Fifteen years as a parliamentarian haven’t worn away Pat Martin’s rough edges.

The Winnipeg New Democrat, a former union organizer, has a well-documented tendency to use intemperate — occasionally profane — language when the government angers him. It happens often.

But since Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled his 452-page budget implementation bill two weeks ago, Martin has kept his temper in check, using sarcasm — nothing stronger — to express his outage.

It took all his self-disciple to stifle his fury when he discovered that the legislation contained a provision abolishing the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. The 27-year-old law requires federal contractors to pay workers the prevailing wage in the region.

The Tories Are Losing Public Trust

Now that David Macdonald of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has put the figures straight on the federal public service cuts — 29,600 rather than the announced 19,200 — what does this say about the federal Tories?

The trust factor among Canadians for the federal Conservatives has to be plummeting. This is the kind of figure-fudging that got the Liberals in trouble with things like Adscam. The F-35 numbers are a guess, the Libya action cost is too low, we need to change the Old Age Security limit when it doesn’t need changing, the free flow of information is tightened, and then Robocalls. I could go on.

When are the Tories going to learn that they are elected in part on policy and in part on trust? Even good Conservatives are worried about this government.

Original Article
Source: ottawa citizen
Author: Ken Gray

‘Time and punishment’ now Canada’s way

Any week now, we might expect the Correctional Service of Canada to be renamed Punishment Canada.

Corrections – the idea that those in prison might be assisted while incarcerated to be better prepared for life outside jail – is apparently foreign to the Harper government. Instead, it wants to put more people away for longer, then, figuratively speaking, throw away the key. Punishment is in; correction is out.

Just when you think this government’s criminal justice policies, which have been almost universally denounced by experts in the field, can’t get worse, they do.

So it was recently when Public Safety Minister Vic Toews rolled out more mean-spirited, politically motivated and predictably counterproductive policies to make life harder for those in prison.

Vermont Fracking Ban: Green Mountain State Is First In U.S. To Restrict Gas Drilling Technique

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday signed into law the nation's first ban on a hotly debated natural gas drilling technique that involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground.

The Democrat, surrounded at a Statehouse ceremony by environmentalists and Twinfield Union School students who pushed for the ban, said the law may help Vermont set an example for other states. The ban may be largely symbolic, though, because there is believed to be little to no natural gas or oil beneath the surface in Vermont.

The gas drilling technique, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves the high-pressure injection of water and chemicals into the ground to split rock apart and release natural gas or oil.

G.O.P. ‘Super PAC’ Weighs Hard-Line Attack on Obama

WASHINGTON — A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the “super PAC” era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from.

Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote.

The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.

Opportunistic Conservative attack on green charities highlights tax abuses by Tory cronies

Supporters of the Harper Government's campaign to use tax laws to de-fund its opponents need to be careful what they wish for. They might just get it!

Consider Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent reflexive attacks on the environmental charities that dared to oppose the petrochemical pipeline projects desired by the Conservative Party's energy industry financiers.

Harper spotted a momentary advantage in squawking about the fact some of these charities had received donations from abroad -- never mind that this activity is both perfectly legal and quite common -- but forgot in his enthusiasm for the first available cheap shot where a lot of his own favourite political charities' money comes from.

What's more, when Tory insiders hatched a plan to use the Canada Revenue Agency to put environmental charities out of business for engaging in too much political activity, they momentarily forgot that some of the malignant market fundamentalist think tanks they rely on for intellectual succour have been getting away with much worse.

Occupy G8: Peoples’ Summit Confronts World Leaders at Camp David, Urging Action on Poverty, Hunger

World leaders are convening at the heavily guarded Camp David in Maryland today for the G8 Summit. Leading nonprofits such as Save the Children and Oxfam are urging G8 leaders to live up to a 2009 pledge of $22 billion towards food security in developing nations of which only a quarter has been met. Activists are also urging G8 leaders to build on their previous commitments and partner with developing countries to urgently tackle hunger. We’re joined by Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, and Dr. Margaret Flowers, a physician and organizer with the Occupy G8 Peoples’ Summit.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Conservative MP Hawn estimates CF-18 costs $12,000 less per flying hour than F-35 fighter jet

PARLIAMENT HILL—A Conservative MP who has been deeply involved with the $25-billion F-35 stealth fighter jet project says the cost of operating Canada’s current fleet of CF-18 fighters is $12,000 less per flying hour for each plane than the current forecast costs for maintaining and operating the sophisticated F-35s.

Conservative MP Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre, Alta.) made the comment on Thursday as he also disclosed that the Department of National Defence will likely have to delay the purchase of any F-35s by at least one or two years, possibly more, beyond its current initial acquisition target year of 2017 because of delays and rising costs.

Furthermore, Mr. Hawn told The Hill Times he expects a top-level interdepartmental secretariat the government is establishing to take over management of the fighter acquisition project from the Department of National Defence will in the end verify that the F-35, still in testing and development stages, is the only aircraft that can meet top-secret operating requirements that the Air Force has established for Canada’s new fighter fleet, thus vindicating National Defence and the Public Works Department following a scathing report by Auditor General Michael Fraser in April.

G20 'kettling' commander among 45 officers to be charged

Misconduct charges are expected against 45 Toronto police officers involved in the G20 summit two years ago, including five senior officers, one of them the commander who gave the notorious order to "kettle" protesters.

A copy of an investigative report carrying the logo of the provincial watchdog agency, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, was provided to CBC News late Thursday night by one of the 37 people who filed complaints about their treatment during the kettling incident. CBC News was unable to confirm its authenticity with the OIPRD.

The report says some of the responsibility for detaining several hundred people for four hours in the rain goes all the way to the top, to Toronto police Chief Bill Blair and Deputy Chief Tony Warr, though it falls short of mandating charges against them.

Cuts to Canadian Coast Guard raise safety fears

Cuts to the Canadian Coast Guard, including the closure of Vancouver’s Kitsilano search and rescue station, are raising questions about whether boaters in trouble will have to wait longer for help to arrive.

In addition to the station in Canada’s largest port, the Conservative government is also planning to shut down as many as 10 of 22 Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres, which are essentially like air traffic control centres, but for boats on the oceans. The centres in Inuvik, Thunder Bay and Rivière au Renard, Que., will close. Comox, Tofino, Vancouver and St. John’s are scheduled to have teleconference meetings Friday on their future.

Kitsilano is the third search and rescue station the government has shut down, said Christine Collins, national president of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees.

EI changes to target repeat claimants

The Conservative government’s employment-insurance changes will include special rules for repeat users of the program, requiring them to accept lower-paying jobs than Canadians who are using EI for the first time.

Facing political pressure to cough up the details of its EI changes, the government will outline its plans much sooner than originally stated. Details are starting to circulate and sources have confirmed one aspect of the change will relate to wages.

Sources say the new rules will clearly define how much less pay Canadians on EI should be prepared to accept in comparison to their last job. One option under consideration would allow first-time EI recipients to turn down a job and remain on EI if it pays less than 90 per cent of their previous wage. However, that percentage would decline for repeat users of the program, possibly to 85 or 80 per cent.

G8 and NATO leaders have a lot on their plates this weekend

WASHINGTON—It kicks off Friday with a rare gathering of world leaders at Camp David, U.S. President Barack Obama’s hermetically sealed Maryland mountain retreat.

And it ends in Obama’s adopted hometown Chicago barely 56 hours later, where the intimate G8 gathering gives way to a summit of NATO and friends involving more than 60 invited heads of state. And, almost certainly, demonstrators in the thousands.

But with a world of challenge on its cluttered agenda — the wobbly eurozone crisis and the accelerating exit from Afghanistan ranking uppermost — Obama’s whirlwind weekend of meetings is expected to squeeze many to the margins.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair must own up to G20 mistakes or step down

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair still doesn’t get it.

How can that be? Every independent review of G20 policing is worse than the one that came before it. The latest report, by the province’s police complaints watchdog, identified hundreds of unlawful arrests, numerous examples of police using excessive force – code, in some cases, for an outright beating – and rampant Charter rights violations.

To all this, Blair essentially shrugged and issued a casual, things “could have been done better” statement. “If there is misconduct, we’ll deal with that,” he said.

Ottawa turning blind eye to hunger, poverty: Grand Chief

OTTAWA – The federal government is being willfully blind to poverty and hunger in its own backyard, the head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Wednesday.

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak was dismayed by comments made by Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney about a report on access to food in Canada by the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food.

Olivier Schutter completed his 11-day official visit to Canada by delivering a preliminary report in Ottawa Wednesday morning. Canada is the first developed nation De Schutter has visited.

He said Canada is basking in the glow of its wealthy while nearly two million Canadians are left to wonder where their next meal is coming from.

Tories shut down ‘groundbreaking’ freshwater research station

The federal government is closing a research station scientists have used for decades to study how pollutants like acid rain and phosphates affect lakes.

The Experimental Lakes Area is in Northwestern Ontario, about 250 kilometres east of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Since 1968, government and university scientists have used its 58 small lakes to test hypotheses about freshwater ecosystems. One experiment has been running for 40 years.

Employees were told Thursday, said Roberto Quinlan, a biologist at York University, but he noted they were also informed the government would not make an official announcement.

Old Age Security affordable without changes, watchdog says

Canada can afford its Old Age Security system without making younger Canadians wait an extra two years to receive benefits, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page insisted in a report Thursday.

Page first reported that on Jan. 12, 2011, but is repeating his assertion in a new report. Page wrote the report in response to questions from MPs on the House finance committee.

The Conservative government's move last December to limit the increase in health transfer payments to the provinces starting in 2016 — increasing the amount of money the federal government transfers every year but tying the increase to nominal GDP, which is projected to be lower than the current six per cent increases — means there's more room for spending or tax cuts, Page says.

Harper government refuses to release secret report on pensions

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's department has clamped a lid of secrecy on a draft report it prepared in 2007 on the costs and "policy implications" of Canada's aging population, Postmedia News has learned.

But the very existence of the report — now confirmed by Postmedia News through an access to information request — raises questions about the Harper's government's transparency on the politically explosive issue of seniors' pensions.

After federal bureaucrats drafted the taxpayer-funded report in 2007, the Conservatives decided to keep it under wraps. They introduced four budgets and ran in two elections without publicly signalling that cuts to the pension system could be in the offing.

Ilya Yashin, Russia Opposition Leader, Arrested At Moscow Protests

MOSCOW -- A prominent Russian opposition leader was sentenced Thursday to 10 days in jail, a day after being arrested at a rally as activists try to keep up the pressure on President Vladimir Putin and his government.

Ilya Yashin was one of about 20 people arrested Wednesday night at Kudrinskaya Square, where anti-government demonstrators have gathered since their camp in a Moscow park was broken up by police earlier that day. He was sentenced for disobeying police.

Opposition activists for the past week have sought to establish a constant presence, a change of tactic since the massive anti-Putin protests that occurred over the winter. Those protests were sanctioned by authorities to take place at specific locations and times, and the demonstrations occurred at intervals of several weeks.

Robocalls scandal raises concerns about privacy: commissioner report

OTTAWA - The continuing robocalls investigation highlights concerns over how political parties use private, personal information, says a new research report commissioned by the federal privacy commissioner.

The long-awaited study details what it calls "trends that are unmistakable and concerning."

Canada's federal political parties are completely outside the privacy laws, yet they amass huge amounts of highly personal information about citizens, including how they vote, their age, religious and ethnic backgrounds and other details.

Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart asked for the research report in 2009 amid worries that sophisticated American data-collection systems were being imported into Canadian politics.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page still standing despite Conservative pummeling

OTTAWA—With a single word, Kevin Page crystallized the debate about cost overruns on the F-35s.

And as soon as he uttered the word, his office began a pool to predict when the Parliamentary Budget Officer would be fired.

The word was “yes.” The question he was asked was whether he believed the government purposely withheld information so Canadians would not know the full cost of the aircraft.

Page did not believe he overstepped his mandate, but others did.

But when the firing did not come, the ferociously independent fiscal watchdog saw a marvelous opportunity lost.

The war on Ontario's poor

There is a class war going on in Ontario, but it may not be the one that most of us, even on the Left, would like to believe. It is a war by all of our political representatives and a large proportion of our middle and upper classes on the poor and working poor in the province. A war whose great hallmark is to have created and maintained terrible poverty and suffering in the midst of tremendous social productivity and wealth so as to subsidize nearly 17 years of relentless personal and corporate tax cuts.

This issue has been brought into focus over the last couple of days due to the comments of United Nations' envoy Olivier De Schutter.

But while many in Canada's progressive community may be tempted to feel smug about these comments, as if they are really about the actions of the Right or the result of the "1 per cent," I would suggest that this smugness is largely unwarranted.

The numbers and statistics, the day-to-day facts of this suffering, are very clear.

Is Romney’s candidacy stronger than McCain’s?

By all standards of conventional campaigning, John McCain’s candidacy in 2008 was one of the least inspiring in modern times. This bona fide war hero was unable to make the case for moderate conservatism that would have set a different course for the Republican Party. He lacked focus, seemed unable to articulate a coherent position, could not rally his party base, and showed an appalling lack of judgment in choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Still, he did get 47% of the vote and for a brief moment before the Lehman Brothers’ debacle, led in the national polls. Much of this respectable showing had more to do with the notion that America is closer to being a 50-50 nation than McCain’s personal resumé or his campaign. Up against the candidacy of Barack Obama, who had galvanized new voters and benefitted from a relatively favorable press, to achieve 47% of the popular vote in a year of economic recession and financial meltdown says much about the solidity of the GOP vote and the nature of the current American electorate.

The Commons: No questions asked

The Scene. From the far southwest corner of the room, Conservative MP Wai Young wondered aloud whether New Democrat MP Rosane Doré Lefebrve had children.

“Do you have children?” she asked, loudly, of Ms. Doré Lefebrve, who stood in her spot in the opposite corner.

“Do you have children?” Ms. Young repeated.

“You don’t have children!” she concluded.

Ms. Doré Lefebrve was, at the time, attempting to challenge the Heritage Minister on his opposition to an exhibit about sex at the local science museum. Apparently Ms. Young objected to Ms. Doré Lefebrve’s criticism. Apparently Ms. Young considered the question of whether or not Ms. Doré Lefebrve was currently raising children to be somehow relevant to this discussion.

Tory ministers crash budget hearing, leaving little time for questions

The Conservative government dispatched three cabinet ministers to the first meeting of the committee reviewing the environmental legislation contained in a massive budget bill – a brief and surprise appearance that left little opportunity for questions by opposition MPs.

Environment Minister Peter Kent, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver all showed up early Thursday morning at the first meeting of the Commons sub-committee tasked with studying the effects of the legislation, Bill C-38, on environmental assessment and natural resources.

Opposition members say they were not told until late Wednesday evening about the intention of the ministers to appear. The notice of their appearance, which would normally have been posted in advance on the parliamentary website, was not updated to say they were coming until they were in the committee room.

Heavy fines target Quebec students in bill

QUEBEC—Emergency legislation tabled by the Quebec government to stamp out a turbulent student crisis contains provisions for heavy fines for students and their federations.

Fines range from $7,000 to $35,000 for a student leader and between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student federations if someone is prevented from entering an educational institution.

Bill 78 also lays out strict regulations governing student protests, including giving eight hours’ notice for protest itineraries.

The bill was tabled in the National Assembly Thursday evening and will be voted on Friday. Debate was expected to last through the night. If passed, the Charest government’s law would also pause the current academic session for striking students and have it resume in August.

G20 charges coming against Toronto police commanders

A handful of senior Toronto police commanders are expected to be charged in coming weeks for a variety of misconduct offences over their leadership at the G20 summit in June 2010, CBC News has learned.

The charges are in addition to 28 front-line officers slated to have disciplinary hearings for a range of misconduct offences, including unlawful arrests and use of excessive or unnecessary force against prisoners.

The details of charges come on the heels of a report released Wednesday by Ontario's top civilian complaints watchdog Gerry McNeilly, head of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

G20 commanders committed misconduct, provincial police watchdog concludes

Three senior police officers committed misconduct at the G20 summit two years ago, two investigative reports from the province's police complaints watchdog have concluded.

One officer is Supt. Mark Fenton, the commander who ordered mass arrests and the unlawful kettling at Queen St. and Spadina Ave. Fenton will now likely face a tribunal hearing because his misconduct has been deemed of a “serious nature.”

Opinion: Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair must own up to G20 mistakes or step down

The other two senior officers are Supt. Michael Farrar and Staff. Insp. Frank Ruffolo, who were in charge of the prisoner processing facility on Eastern Ave.

Food for thought: Why David Olive is ashamed to be a Canadian today

I feel ashamed to be a Canadian today.

One of our best friends, the U.N., exhorted us Wednesday to make our “land of plenty” a prosperous place for the unacceptably large number of us who are poor.

“Canada has long been seen as a land of plenty,” Olivier De Schutter, the U.N.’s right-to-food envoy, told an Ottawa press conference.

“Yet today one in 10 [Canadian] families with a child under 6 is unable to meet their daily food needs. These rates of food insecurity are unacceptable, and it is time for Canada to adopt a national right-to-food strategy.”

The Criminalization of Rape Victims

Last week, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a decision that a woman from Kansas could be sent to jail if she refused to testify against the man she accused of sexual assault.

The 24-year-old woman initially filed charges in August 2012 against a 63-year-old Nebraska man for sexually assaulting her when she was 7 years old. Last year, however, she refused to testify in court because she felt it would bring further shame and humiliation to her family. In response, Lancaster County District Judge Paul Merritt threatened her with a contempt charge and ninety days of jail time, saying that the case hinged on her testimony.

Unfortunately, this case is not unique but part of growing trend of criminalizing rape survivors in order to guarantee their testimonies at trial.

House Republicans vs. Gay Troops

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is history, but House Republicans are still waging a last-ditch guerrilla campaign against the acceptance of gay and lesbian servicemembers.

Two years ago, Democrats, along with a handful of Republicans, used a defense bill as a vehicle for overturning the policy that prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. Republican opponents of DADT repeal accused Democrats of using the military to pursue a "social agenda." But ever since, Republicans have used defense bills to further their social agenda—one contingent on limiting the rights and recognition of gay and lesbian servicemembers who are now allowed to serve openly.

Last year, Republicans tried to prevent military chaplains from conducting same-sex marriages for servicemembers—even if they wanted to. The GOP ultimately caved in that fight, but two amendments to this year's defense bill represent even more aggressive attacks on gay rights.

G20 Police Report: Toronto Police Violated Civil Rights, Used Excessive Force

TORONTO - Police violated civil rights, detained people illegally and used excessive force during the G20 summit two years ago, a new report concludes, but some caught up in the police operation said there was still no real accountability for their mistreatment.

The report by Ontario's independent police watchdog also blasts the temporary detention centre set up by Toronto police for its poor planning, design and operation that saw people detained illegally.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director found police breached several constitutional rights during the tumultuous event, in which more than 1,100 people were arrested, most to be released without charge.