Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

FBI Web Surveillance: Bureau Creates Unit To Eavesdrop On Internet Communications

With the Federal Bureau of Investigation's recent push for web wiretaps and increased Internet surveillance, the U.S. seems to be edging closer to the fictional state described in George Orwell's "1984."

As CNET reported earlier this week, the FBI recently created a secret web-surveillance unit, the Domestic Communications Assistance Center, aimed at creating tech that would allow the authorities to more easily eavesdrop on Internet and wireless communications. The DCAC will act as hub for all web surveillance, but will not be directly involved in executing Internet wiretapping court orders or operating investigations if proposed legislation passes as planned.

Amnesty International Cites Canada's Refusal To Arrest George W. Bush In Human Rights Report

OTTAWA - Canada's failure to arrest former U.S. president George W. Bush during a visit to B.C. is cited by Amnesty International in its annual report on human rights atrocities around the globe.

The report also takes issue with Canada's treatment of aboriginal people, refugees and terrorism suspects and its refusal to hold a public inquiry into the arrests of more than 1,000 protesters during the 2010 G8 summit in Toronto.

Canada's record of alleged human rights violations pales in comparison to the litany of torture, mass executions, and violent suppression of protests cited against countries like Syria and Uganda.

No peace in Afghanistan without peace in Pakistan

We know that Stephen Harper breaks promises — legislating a fixed election date but flouting the law; forswearing a deficit but piling up one; pledging parliamentary oversight but being in contempt of Parliament; promising transparency and accountability but imposing censorship and autocratic rule; condemning partisan appointments only to become the king of patronage; committing himself not to abandon human rights in China for “the almighty dollar” but doing precisely that.

Canadians cursed him or praised him depending on their own prejudices. In some cases, a majority supported his pragmatism, as in federal spending to fight off the 2008 economic slowdown. The same applies to his latest flip-flop — vowing never to “cut and run” from Afghanistan but now doing so.

He even conceded at the NATO summit in Chicago that he wished “it was earlier. But I think we are doing it as early as is feasible.”

From CAW and CEP comes a new (old) idea to rebuild unions

Two Canadian unions are negotiating a deal that, if successful, just might reinvigorate the labour movement.

The proposed deal itself, as reported in the Star by my colleague Tony Van Alphen, involves a merger between two labour giants, the 200,000-member Canadian Auto Workers and the 130,000-strong Communications, Energy and Paperworkers.

But the most interesting element of the proposed deal would see the new union aggressively move to sign up members among groups that the modern labour movement has tended to ignore — including the unemployed and the growing number of contract workers technically considered self-employed.

Unlike traditional unionists, the new kinds of members wouldn’t necessarily bargain contracts with bosses. The unemployed have no employers.

Harper’s Labor Hardline No Boon for Business

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hardline approach to labor disputes may help bring a quick end to a strike at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) It may also keep the company from cutting labor costs.

Lisa Raitt, Harper’s labor minister, said yesterday that while her preference is for a negotiated settlement, she has given notice she may introduce a bill to end the strike when Parliament returns from break on May 28.

Canadian Pacific may become the third company where Raitt, citing concerns about a weak recovery, has intervened in labor disputes since the Conservative Party won a majority last May, a practice labor relations experts say can hamper the corporate restructurings needed to bolster productivity in an economy that has seen unit labor costs in U.S.-dollar terms almost double over the past decade as the Canadian dollar has surged.

Criticism by Conservative MP shows depth of unease over omnibus budget bill

The Conservative government’s Russian doll budget legislation is starting to generate opposition from within its own ranks.

David Wilks, the rookie MP for Kootney-Columbia, may be so back-bench he’s in danger of falling off, yet he already knows long careers in politics are not founded on further aggravating angry local voters. At a meeting in Revelstoke, he reportedly told people protesting against the omnibus budget bill that he would vote against C-38, if 12 other Conservatives voted alongside him.

Unfortunately, before you could say “career-limiting move” he was compelled to “clarify” his comments by saying he now supports the bill.

Still, it’s not hard to see why parliamentarians concerned about democratic process are upset about the budget bill.

Premier Dalton McGuinty seeks Stephen Harper’s help to develop Ontario’s Ring of Fire

Premier Dalton McGuinty had a secret meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week to pitch for federal help in developing the mineral-rich Ring of Fire in northwestern Ontario.

McGuinty said he’s looking for aid on developing the arc of mining deposits — including chromite for stainless steel — in a project that could be Ontario’s equivalent of Alberta’s oilsands, resulting in billions of dollars in revenue.

“I think I piqued his real curiosity, if not his real interest, in developing the Ring of Fire,” the premier said of Harper, whom he met for an hour Tuesday in a downtown Toronto hotel.

The meeting was not listed on McGuinty’s detailed daily itinerary.

Did the Prime Minister’s Office bungle the Product of Canada file?

Back in May 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took to the podium at an event in the Niagara region to announce that the Product of Canada labelling rule was getting an overhaul, so “if something in the grocery store is marketed ‘Product of Canada,’ it must mean all or vitually all the contents are Canadian.”

The rules at the time, established in 1985 to support Canada’s manufacturing sector, were admittedly appalling, and everyone thought so: any food product could be labelled as a Product of  Canada if 51 per cent of the total production cost occured in the country, even if all the ingredients were imported.

Harper wasn’t the only one who identified Product of Canada rules as a problem, especially after CBC Marketplace did its trademark take-out on Product of Canada rules in the fall of 2007. But it did seem a bit odd that the PM would make the announcement, with Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz relegated to the task of introducing Harper at the announcement.

The Commons: Smiling Diane

Diane Finley entered the room smiling. The Human Resources Minister is seemingly a firm believer that—as the lyric goes—when you smile, the whole world smiles with you. Or at least that the whole world is less likely to hear what you’re saying as threatening. Furrowing of the brow is to be avoided. Bright eyes are the order of the day.

“Today, I’m pleased to announce improvements to employment insurance to make it work better for Canadians,” she said with a smile.

“Today,” she added a bit later, “I’m pleased to provide details on our plan.”

The centrepiece of this plan: more e-mails.

Canadians, it would seem, are apparently at a loss. Some are unaware of where to find work. Others do not realize that their skills match job openings in other industries. But soon, through the wonders of modern communication, the unemployed will be more deeply and frequently enlightened.

Escalator to the bottom: Quebec students refuse the ride

Photo courtesy of Students' Society of McGill University.
With mammoth student protests in Montreal on May 22 (the Globe and Mail reported up to 250,000; CTV news reported 400,000), smaller protests in other parts of Quebec, and sympathetic marches in centers such as Calgary, Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, New York and Paris, the attention of Canadians -- and many across the globe -- are turning to Quebec.

Trade unions are contributing to the province's student federations (FECQ, FEUQ, and CLASSE) and the Occupy Montreal movement has joined the protests. Both Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay and Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois have said that the government must reopen negotiations. Fighting fire with petrol, Premier Jean Charest's government passed Bill-78, which contains a number of restrictive measures related to the protests and the student federations, thereby succeeding in inflaming passions further. A Léger Marketing poll found that 78 per cent of Quebecois believe the government has gone too far with Bill 78, and 76 per cent want the government to resume negotiations with the students. Lawyers for the student federations are preparing to challenge the constitutionality of Bill 78, which they feel violates freedoms of expression and association guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Quebec Bar Association and the Quebec Human Rights Commission are equally concerned and have announced that they will investigate "all cases of discrimination" arising from the application of the law.

Failing Canada's Most Vulnerable

Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, has been a very busy man as of late. In less than five months, he has sought to redefine Canada’s threshold for asylum seekers, and to tighten the handshake that welcomes them to their new home. For those in the medical community providing care for, and advocating on behalf of, refugee patients, these efforts have caused considerable consternation. After a closer inspection of Bill C-31 and the more recent overhaul of the Interim Federal Health Program, it is not a stretch to see why.

Bill C-31, or the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, was first introduced to Parliament in February 2012 with the intention of clamping down on “bogus” refugees, speeding up claimant processing times, and reducing government costs. Stretching a healthy 56 pages, C-31’s most objectionable provisions related to health include:

    Automatic detention of asylum seekers for up to one year without review if deemed to land via an “irregular arrival.”
    An embargo on permanent-resident applications and family reunification for five years after arrival.
    Conditional permanent residency with the possibility of a later revocation.

Putin orders assets sale of Rosneftegaz

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered the government to approve a plan to sell assets held by state energy holding company Rosneftegaz in 2013-2015, paving the way for the sale of stakes in Gazprom and Rosneft.

The decree appeared to represent a renewed drive to privatize Russian energy assets, but the president later muddied the waters by stating that Rosneftegaz itself could take part in auctions of state-controlled energy and power companies to prevent them being sold to the private sector on the cheap.

“(These companies) are undervalued and we would not like them to be privatized for peanuts and then to be resold right away for serious money,” Mr. Putin said.

Bradley Manning WikiLeaks Case: Army Private Seeks Dismissal Of 10 Counts

HAGERSTOWN, Md. -- An Army private charged in a massive leak of U.S. government secrets to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks is seeking dismissal of 10 of the 22 counts he faces.

Pfc. Bradley Manning's civilian defense lawyer posted the motions on his website Wednesday night. A military judge will hear oral arguments at a pretrial hearing starting June 6 at Fort Meade, Md.

Manning contends eight of the counts are unconstitutionally vague. He claims two other charges fail to state a prosecutable offense.

Manning faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy. He is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

He allegedly sent WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and war logs downloaded from government computers.

Original Article
Source: huffington post

Raise Minimum Wage, NY Business Leaders Urge Cuomo, GOP

As lawmakers in Albany, N.Y., contemplate a boost to the state's minimum wage, a group of business leaders came out Thursday in support of hiking the wage floor from $7.25 to $8.50, putting unusual pressure on state Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to shepherd the raise into law.

It's typically low-wage worker advocates and labor unions urging lawmakers to raise the minimum wage. So the statements made Thursday by business figures, including the head of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce and an executive of big-box wholesaler Costco, undermine the stated concerns of some GOP lawmakers and industry lobbies that a $1.25 raise to the minimum wage would be an unfair burden on state businesses.

Feds obligated to protect economy during strike: Raitt

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt says the federal government has an obligation to step in and end the Canadian Pacific rail strike if it begins to have a negative impact on the greater economy.

About 4,800 Canadian Pacific Railway workers walked off the job early Wednesday after reaching a midnight strike deadline without having reached a deal with the employer.

Freight service ground to a halt, and on Wednesday CP temporarily laid off 2,000 additional workers whose services they say aren't needed during the stoppage. Another 1,400 employees could also be sent home at any time, the company said.

Raitt told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday that a negotiated settlement is the best solution, but said the federal government is ready to step in if that doesn't happen. Raitt estimates a prolonged strike will cost the Canadian economy $540 million per week.

Enbridge gets 'mic checked' at Line 9 public hearings

Public hearings in London, Ontario for Enbridge's proposed reversal of the Line 9 pipeline had barely begun Wednesday when more than a dozen protesters, including members of the Haudenosaunee First Nation, quickly shut down the proceedings.

Within moments of the disruption, the National Energy Board (NEB) panel and the representatives from Enbridge exited the room through the Hilton London staff doors.

Using the people's mic tactic, the demonstrators challenged the hearings for "failing to consider the impacts of tar sands expansion and all the treaties being breached by this proposed pipeline reversal."

No 'free, prior and informed consent' for Enbridge

They argued that the Line 9 reversal could not go ahead without the "free, prior, and informed consent of the Haundenosaunee, who would be directly impacted by a pipeline rupture."

The REAL Canadian bank bailout

Ben Rabidoux is is an analyst at M Hanson Advisors, a market research firm, where he focuses on Canadian mortgage and credit trends and their implications for the broader economy.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives made quite a stir a few weeks ago when they released a report detailing a “secret” Canadian bank bailout. The report focused on three programs the government used to support Canadian banks during the financial crisis–primarily the $69 billion Insured Mortgage Purchase Program initiated by Ottawa as a means to ensure that banks would be able to keep funding consumer mortgages. The report labeled the IMPP a “bailout,”but banks were quick to point out that this program presented a zero net increase in taxpayer liabilities as these mortgages were already insured by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

However, the 2011 CMHC annual report reveals clear evidence that taxpayers did in fact take on significant risk in propping up the mortgage market during the financial crisis and Ottawa owes Canadians some answers on exactly why this was allowed to happen.

Wrzesnewskyj demands immediate byelection in Etobicoke Centre

A former Liberal MP who won a legal challenge to have the federal election result overturned in his Toronto riding is calling for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call an immediate byelection.

"The voters of Etobicoke Centre deserve a democratically elected Member of Parliament as soon as possible," Borys Wrzesnewskjy said in a statement Thursday.

Speaking to reporters at Liberal Party headquarters in Ottawa, Wrzesnewskjy said Canadians need their confidence in democracy returned.

"Something broke in the last federal election. What a disturbing thought," he said.

"[Harper] can't's about something so fundamental. It's about Canadians' belief and confidence in elections," Wrzesnewskyj said.

Anti-immigrant protesters chant ‘deport the Sudanese’ in Tel Aviv streets

Surging street violence against African migrants in Israel, including a rampage that an Israeli broadcaster dubbed a “pogrom,” drew statements of empathy for the rioters as well as censure from the government on Thursday.

Waving Israeli flags and chanting “Deport the Sudanese,” residents of a low-income Tel Aviv neighbourhood where many of the border-jumpers from Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan live held a march late Wednesday that turned violent.

Police said 20 people were arrested for assault and vandalism. Trash cans were set alight, storefront windows were broken and a crowd attacked an African driving through the area, breaking his car’s windows. No serious injuries were reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Wednesday’s violence, saying there was no room for such action and that the issue must be resolved “responsibly.” But his interior minister, Eli Yishai, was more forgiving.

EI Reform: Unemployed Canadians face crackdown under federal changes

OTTAWA—Unemployed Canadians will face tougher requirements to hang on to their Employment Insurance benefits under a new crackdown by the Conservative government.

The intent of the changes is to push unemployed Canadians off the insurance rolls and into the workforce, even if it means they must accept lower-paying jobs or work they might not want.

Currently, less than half the unemployed qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, but the government feels that some EI recipients are taking advantage of the system and passing up local job opportunities.

Under the proposed changes unveiled Thursday, unemployed Canadians will, for the first time, be “required to look for a job every day they receive benefits” and be able to show evidence of their job search.

Boycotting the settlements is justified

I don't buy merchandise that comes from the settlements and I never will. To my way of thinking, those are stolen goods and, like any other goods that have been stolen, I try not to buy them. Now perhaps the South Africans and the Danes also will not buy them; meanwhile their governments have merely requested that products from the settlements be marked so as not to deceive their customers. Just as there was no need in the past to label merchandise from the British colonies as British products, so there is no need to mark products from Israel's colonies as Israeli. Anyone who wants to support the Israeli colonial enterprise can buy them; those who are opposed can boycott them. As simple as that, and as necessary.

Israel, which boycotts Turkey's beaches and Hamas, should have been the first to understand that. Instead we have heard heart-rending cries and angry rebukes. Not yet to the Danes, who are nice, but to the South Africans, who are less nice in our eyes. The decision was labeled "a step with racist characteristics" by the Foreign Ministry spokesman, referring to the country that waged the most courageous war against racism in the history of mankind.

Kirtland Air Force Base Jet Fuel Spill Could Be Three Times Larger Than Previously Thought

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A decades-old jet fuel spill threatening Albuquerque's water supply could be as large as 24 million gallons, or twice the size of the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez, New Mexico environment officials acknowledged Tuesday.

Officials previously estimated the spill from Kirtland Air Force Base to be about 8 million gallons. But state geologist William Moats, who made the original calculations, recently estimated the spill could be up to three times larger.

By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil when it ran aground in Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989.

Jim Davis, head of the New Mexico Environment Department's resource protection division, calls the newest calculation a "first-order estimate" based on new data from Air Force monitoring wells. He emphasized that the calculations have not been reviewed, and said no one will really know how large the spill is until it has been remediated.

Why Aren't We Building Refineries In Canada? Because It's Too Late, Experts Say

Ian MacGregor stands at the centre of the growing disconnect between Canada’s booming oil production and its lack of refineries and upgraders.

As chairman of Calgary-based North West Upgrading (NWU), he’s overseeing construction of a $5-billion oil sands upgrader outside of Edmonton that will process 55,000 barrels of bitumen per day in partnership with Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) and the Alberta government, converting heavy crude into diesel fuel for the Canadian market.

Slated to come online in 2015, the project already employs 1,000, a number that is set to grow to 8,000 at the peak of construction -- which, as MacGregor sees it, is proof that more Canadian oil can and should be processed here.

George Zimmerman's 'Cozy' Relationship With Sanford Police Questioned

Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman had a relationship with members of the police department in Sanford, Fla., long before he shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin to death in February, newly released information suggests.

During a community forum on Jan. 8, 2011, more than a year before Martin was killed, Zimmerman, then a criminal justice student, told city officials he had ridden along with Sanford police officers on patrol. Zimmerman blasted Sanford police as lazy and criticized outgoing Police Chief Brian Tooley, who was forced from office in a scandal involving the son of an officer caught on tape beating a homeless black man.

“I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white, it can not be enforced by those who are in the thin blue line,” Zimmerman told an audience that included newly elected Mayor Jeff Triplett, according to an audio recording published by the Miami Herald. Zimmerman said he saw firsthand how bad Sanford police could be during his ride-alongs.

Liberal budget offloads services in Ontario to private sector

The Ontario government, under fire for its stewardship of the province’s air ambulance system, plans to outsource major services to the private sector, including the delivery of birth certificates and driver’s licences.

The desire to shift additional services from bureaucrats to private, not-for-profit entities is spelled out in the government’s 351-page omnibus budget bill containing amendments to 69 separate pieces of legislation.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan floated the idea of a public-private partnership model for ServiceOntario when he tabled the budget in March, saying it would lower the cost of delivering birth, marriage and death certificates as well as driver’s licences. But the budget bill itself reveals that the government intends to go further, a move that is raising concerns among opposition members and a provincial watchdog.

Egyptian Voters on the Promise, and Limits, of Historic Election: Sharif Kouddous Reports From Cairo

Voters are heading to the polls for the second day in Egypt’s first competitive presidential election following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak 15 months ago. The first day of voting saw numerous reports of minor violations, but was largely hailed as free of fraud and violence. Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s last prime minister and now a leading candidate, was swarmed by protesters outside his polling station who hurled shoes and debris at him. Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous and videographer Hany Massoud spent the day traveling to polling stations around Cairo speaking to voters about their choices for president and their concerns in the election.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

RCMP officer transferred to B.C. after sexual antics with female colleagues

A high-ranking Edmonton RCMP officer who exhibited a pattern of inappropriate behaviour over several years — including exposing his penis to a civilian employee, having sex in a polygraph room, and drinking alcohol at work — has been transferred to B.C.

He will remain on the job as a sergeant.

Donald Ray was suspended for 10 days without pay, given a formal reprimand, and demoted one rank from staff sergeant after an anonymous tip sparked an internal RCMP investigation and disciplinary proceedings. At the time of the tip, Ray was the officer in charge of the polygraph unit at the RCMP's Behavioural Sciences Unit.

Speaking to the media at the RCMP's K Division headquarters in Edmonton on Tuesday, Chief Superintendent Marlin Degrand said Ray is working under supervision in his new post, "to ensure that he doesn't continue on with any sorts of activity like this in the future.

NDP wants task force into war-related mental illness in Canadian Forces

OTTAWA — The federal Opposition is calling for the creation of a task force to find ways of dealing with the growing “crisis” among Canadian veterans suffering from war-related mental illness.

“There is a reluctance to treat this as a crisis,” said NDP defence critic Jack Harris Wednesday, “but that’s what it is. We are trying to deal with it in a patchwork fashion and we need to find a better way.”

In an interview with the Citizen, Harris slammed the Conservative government for announcing a $110-million annual training budget for Afghan soldiers while returning Canadian veterans are suffering from inadequate mental health care.

How a CP strike affects Canada's supply chain

When engineers and other workers at Canadian Pacific Railway walked off the job early Wednesday, they set off a strike that could affect coal mines, farms, auto manufacturing plants and maybe even the local Canadian Tire.

Just how those ripples might spread will depend in large part on how long the strike lasts, and the flexibility producers have in getting their goods to where they want them to go.

"Anything more than a few days starts to really hit," says Bob Ballantyne, president of the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association, a national lobby group for Canada's large shippers.

CP accounts for about 40 per cent of Canada's rail activity, and Ballantyne says a strike "will have a very big impact if it lasts for any length of time."

Senate Advances Expanded, "Orwellian" Gov’t Surveillance With FISA Amendments, CISPA

The Senate is closer to renewing controversial measures that critics say would allow the emails and phone calls of U.S. citizens to be monitored without a warrant. The Select Committee on Intelligence has voted to extend controversial amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that were set to expire at the end of this year. “What we’re asking is that they slow down this process and start first with the question: What type of information are they picking up? How many Americans are being affected? What is the government doing with it?,” says Michelle Richardson of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued over the U.S. government’s surveillance practices, saying agencies would be able to tap their communications with clients and sources overseas.

We’re also joined by William Binney, who served in the National Security Agency for nearly 40 years, including a stint as technical director of its World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, Binney has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.” "This is a continuation of the mindless legislation that our Congress has been putting out just to justify what they’ve been doing for a decade or more,” Binney says. “Instead of living up to their oath of office [and] defend the Constitution, they’ve decided to violate the civil liberties and the rights of all U.S. citizens." The Senate is also set to vote soon on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act — a bill opposed by many civil liberties and privacy groups.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

John Baird to champion religious freedom in U.S. speech

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will be the main speaker at a Washington, D.C., event celebrating religious freedom Thursday night to promote Canada's planned Office of Religious Freedom.

But the event sponsor's hardline stance on same-sex marriage and homosexuality is at odds with Baird's support for gay rights around the world.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church and three affiliated groups sponsor the annual Religious Liberty Dinner, where previous keynote speakers have included then senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John Kerry and Senator John McCain.

Our Not-So-Friendly Northern Neighbor

WHEN Vladimir V. Putin first came to power in Russia, Quebecers could not help but laugh. Poutine, as he is called in French, is also the name of a Québécois fast-food dish made of French fries, gravy and cheese. But these days the laughter is over, as Quebec gets a taste of Mr. Putin’s medicine.

For a change, Americans should take note of what is happening across the quiet northern border. Canada used to seem a progressive and just neighbor, but the picture today looks less rosy. One of its provinces has gone rogue, trampling basic democratic rights in an effort to end student protests against the Quebec provincial government’s plan to raise tuition fees by 75 percent.

Critics see pro-business bias in budget measures that chip away at labour power

OTTAWA - Is the Harper government fundamentally anti-labour?

The question arises anew after Labour Minister Lisa Raitt announced yet again Wednesday her intention to table back-to-work legislation hours after employees at CP Rail went on strike, as she did previously with the Air Canada and postal disputes.

But critics say the government's true colours are coming through more clearly and with a more systemic impact in a controversial budget bill they argue fundamentally changes the power balance between employers and employees — all to the detriment of workers.

One of the measures is so sneaky, says NDP MP Pat Martin, nobody seemed to notice the line buried deep in the 452-page Bill C-38 that simply states, "The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act is repealed," giving no explanation.

With those 10 words, Ottawa intends to wipe out a 1985 law compelling contractors bidding on federal contracts to pay "fair wages" and overtime.

Bureaucrat racks up $100K in flights and hotels while looking for cost-cutting measures Read it on Global News: Global News | Bureaucrat racks up $100K in flights and hotels while looking for cost-cutting measures

OTTAWA – A federal bureaucrat billed taxpayers for more than $100,000 in travel and accommodation expenses during the year he spent looking for ways to trim government spending.

Bill Teeter, who works for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency out of Guelph, Ont., travelled to Ottawa 45 times between January 18 and December 22, 2011, racking up bills ranging from $1,015.31 to $3,424.28 for each trip.

Teeter had a team of 14 people in Ottawa, working with secret documents that could neither be transferred over networks nor transported from Ottawa, a spokesman for the CFIA said.

The team was tasked with determining the best ways the agency could use their resources.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for protecting food in the country.

With Control of Drone Strikes, Is Counterterror Chief John Brennan the U.S. "Assassination Czar"?

President Obama’s counterterrorism chief John Brennan is heading up a new team to determine who should be targeted by armed U.S. drones overseas. The newly revealed procedure for drone attacks means Brennan’s staff consults the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies before ultimately deciding who will be targeted. One official said there is growing concern over "how easy it has become to kill someone" under the administration’s drone strike policy. We speak with investigative blogger Marcy Wheeler of the website, "Empty Wheel." "I think we’re now calling Brennan the 'assassination czar,'" she says. Wheeler disputes the government’s assertion the drone attacks are finely targeted, noting that it is unclear who the targets really are and that civilians have been killed.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

5 Things MP David Wilks taught us about Canadian democracy

Conservative backbencher David Wilks was caught red-handed this week telling his Kootenay-Columbia constituents how Ottawa really works. The 12 minutes of amateur video taken during a frank and open discussion in Revelstoke, B.C. about the budget bill might mark the last time Canadians ever hear from Wilks — beyond the “yay” he has now promised to give C-38.

Let’s remember the Top 5 things Wilks taught Canadians about their democracy:

1) Stephen Harper gives his backbenchers less face time than his soon-to-be-published hockey book — he reportedly worked on it 15 minutes every day. When asked about the opportunity to raise his concerns with his party and the prime minister, Wilks explained: “We can do that at national caucus, which is every Wednesday from 9:30 until noon. We have about a 10 minute period in which we can speak to the prime minister.”

Accused drug trafficker who worked on Tory donor database sues party for wrongful dismissal

OTTAWA — The Conservative Party has admitted that an accused drug trafficker worked on its database of sensitive donor information before she was charged with trafficking marijuana and contributing to organized crime.

The Conservatives said in court documents that data entry clerk Tammay Desabrais, 41, had access to the party’s proprietary donor information system before she was arrested by Ottawa Police after a year-long investigation into an auto insurance fraud and drug trafficking called Project Yardwork.

Despite the criminal charges, Desabrais is suing the Conservative Fund Canada in small claims court, claiming she was wrongfully dismissed from the part-time job she had held since 2008. She is seeking $6,850 in damages and $704 in back pay.

400,000+ in the streets? Quebec's students are winning...

Tuesday started out looking like a bad day for a protest. A constant drizzle fell on Montreal's streets throughout the morning, turning my shoes into a soggy mess before I even reached the demo. In the wake of Loi 78 many expected a record turnout to celebrate the student strike's 100th day, and rage against the infringements of our civil liberties contained in the "Special Law", but with the rain I wasn't so sure.

I should have known my fellow Quebecois are made of sterner stuff! Rather than a wet dud, Tuesday turned out to be the largest demonstration in Canadian history. A moment in time I'm sure I will be telling my grandchildren about one day.

I started to realize the immensity of the day four or five blocks away, when I realized the sidewalks on both sides of the street were packed with one way traffic. Arriving at Place des Festivals at 2PM on the dot, I found a sea of humanity as far as the eye could see. The entire Place, from St. Catherine to Président Kennedy, was packed too densely to allow much navigation. I made my way to a raised photographer's platform which allowed a better view of the enormity of the crowd. From there I could see that it filled St. Catherine in both directions, and the double lanes of De Maisonneuve and Président Kennedy all the way to St. Urbain.

Quebec student struggle poses a challenge for NDP

The NDP is professing strict neutrality in the ongoing battle over tuition fees in Quebec, even as party MPs and staffers participate in demonstrations in Montreal and clearly express their support for the striking students.

The drawn-out battle in Quebec is posing a particular problem for the NDP, which has historical ties to the student movement, their union backers and the campaign for lower tuition fees. However, the debate over tuition increases is a clear matter of provincial jurisdiction and student protestors don’t have as much sympathy outside of Quebec as they have in their home province, which could fuel a divide within the party.

In that context, the federal NDP is insisting that it is not siding with the “reds” (who oppose the tuition hikes), the “greens” (who support the Charest government’s position) or the “whites” (who want a moratorium on any increases).

Ottawa prepares to intervene in CP strike

Ottawa is poised to intervene in a strike at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP-T76.111.121.49%) that has halted freight deliveries across the country and threatens to inflict heavy damage on the economy.

The work stoppage Wednesday by 4,800 CP employees immediately left everything from cars to coal stuck on the tracks. Citing risks to the fragile economic recovery, federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt announced plans to table a back-to-work bill on Monday, when the House of Commons resumes sitting after a one-week break.

The labour standoff comes days after activist investor Bill Ackman scored a resounding victory last Thursday in a proxy fight against the railway, resulting in the resignation of Fred Green as CP’s chief executive officer and the appointment of rail industry veteran Stephen Tobias as interim CEO.

Elections Canada gambit in robo-calls probe fails

Elections Canada investigators failed in a bid to use allegations levelled by Conservative insiders as a means of coaxing more evidence from a former Tory staffer thrust into the spotlight over the Guelph robo-calls scandal.

Sources say in March investigator Al Mathews approached Michael Sona, former communications director for the Guelph Conservative campaign, after interviewing Tories who alleged the ex-aide had discussed making misleading calls to voters.

The investigator invited Mr. Sona, through his lawyer, to give his side of the story. He told the ex-Conservative aide there was someone saying he’d talked about making robo-calls.

Mr. Sona, who’s publicly maintained from the start that’s he’s done nothing wrong, didn’t take the bait. He declined Mr. Mathews’ offer.

Police Chief Bill Blair’s blame game

We’ve heard it all before from toronto police Chief Bill Blair.

That he takes “full responsibility” for his police force’s mishandling of the G20, although he makes no apology. That mistakes were made, but in the face of trying circumstances. And, over and over, that he’ll do better. Lessons were learned, etc.

Blair said it all again the Friday before the long weekend, May 18, in a prepared statement read to his civilian overseers on the Police Services Board.

And later to the cameras parked outside that meeting at City Hall, where the latest twist unfolded in the biggest civil liberties failure and mass arrest of innocent protesters in Canadian history.

It turns out charges may now be laid against more than two dozen officers, including as many as four senior officers, in the aftermath of revelations in the Office of the Independent Police Review Director’s (OIPRD) G20 systemic review report released last week.

Quebec takes liberties with Bill 78

MONTREAL – North America’s longest-running student strike marked its 100th day this week amidst a legislated crackdown, putting Canada on the map as a global anti-austerity hot spot.

With the likes of Michael Moore, Arcade Fire and director Xavier Dolan on board, and red squares turning up as the insignia of revolt from New York to Paris, Quebec students are the new symbols of anti-1-per-cent resistance.

Across the city, balconies on the iconic downtown triplex apartments are draped in red cloth as Quebec society reacts to the National Assembly’s passage of Bill 78 and students win new backers.

You could see the realignment Tuesday afternoon, May 22, when 200,000 people poured into the streets for what some have called the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.