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.]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tory effort to shut down F-35 hearings delayed: ‘They are very afraid of what is going to come out,’ Liberal MP says

OTTAWA — A Conservative government effort to shut down parliamentary hearings into the auditor general’s scathing report on the $25-billion F-35 stealth fighter project has been held off for at least a couple more days.

Members of the House of Commons public accounts committee spent about an hour-and-a-half arguing behind closed doors over whether to end the panel’s inquiry or call more witnesses.

No decision was taken by the time the meeting ended, said Liberal MP Gerry Byrne, who faces possible punishment for disclosing what was discussed during an in-camera meeting, something prohibited under parliamentary rules.

Time for Quebec to end equalization addiction: Montreal think-tank

Quebec may not be able to keep its gold-plated welfare state, but either way, it is time to break the province’s 55-year “welfare trap” addiction to equalization payments, according to an economic note by the Montreal Economic Institute.

“Quebecers are well aware that we’re a have-not province, and there’s no pride in this,” said Yourri Chassin, an economist with the Institute.

The four page note, released Tuesday, calls for Quebec to ramp up oil, shale and electricity development, while simultaneously calling on Ottawa to grant the province a five to eight year “grace period” before clawing back equalization payments.

“There’s a bit of incentive needed to kickstart this process,” said Mr. Chassin.

The census is making Harper's arguments for him

It is astonishing, given the results of the 2011 census, that the Harper Conservatives put as much effort and political capital as they did into killing the mandatory long-form census. For the data set released Tuesday, like no other before it, affirms Prime Minister Stephen Harper's vision of Canada.

To be more precise, the data affirms large parts of Harper's guiding conception of the emerging threats to Canadian quality of life, which is now driving all aspects of federal economic and social policy. Health care is the single, glaring exception.

Not keen on the age of eligibility for Old Age Security rising from 65 to 67, beginning in 2023? Please. Nearly 15 per cent of the population now is 65 or older — nearly five million Canadians. And the trend is accelerating. So-called near-seniors, those aged 60 to 64, are the fastest-growing age group, with centenarians not far behind. If people live longer, doesn't it stand to reason we should also work longer, if we're able? How will all the work that needs to be done, get done, if we don't?

National Security As Culture War: Why Civil Libertarians Lose the Argument

Why is Guantanamo still open? Why has there been no public accounting for the Bush Administration's use of torture? Why does President Obama successfully claim the right to assassinate American citizens living abroad accused of terrorism?

And why do civil libertarians lose arguments of this sort time and again?

The inability of civil libertarians to persuasively make their case isn't new. Recently, for instance, Salon's Glenn Greenwald looked to ancient Roman history -- the history that was constantly on the minds of America's founders -- for the origins of one of the strongest arguments against an expanding security state. It's an argument about precedent: when you give expanded power to a leader you like for purposes you support, don't be surprised when a future leader you oppose uses that same power for purposes you deplore.

U.S. Drone Policy: Standing Near Terrorists Makes You A Terrorist

The Obama administration has in turn been secretive about its use of targeted drone strikes, boasted about the program's success, and fended off critics who say the strikes are killing and injuring too many civilians. A New York Times story published Tuesday has the administration's human rights critics buzzing again. A key revelation comes near the end of the article, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, under the heading, "'They Must All Be Militants.'"

Obama, Becker and Shane write, was angry when informed that the first drone strike after he took office had killed innocent Pakistanis. But one of the measures the administration embraced to prevent future innocent casualties was to embrace a method of counting combatants that would rope in more innocents.

The CP Rail strike and Harper’s pre-emptive war on labour

In ordering an end to the nationwide rail strike by Canadian Pacific workers, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives appear to be following a long-standing tradition.

Canadian governments, whether Liberal or Conservative, have never let railway strikes drag on. Back-to-work legislation has been imposed on striking rail workers at least seven times since 1950.

What is dramatically new about this particular majority government, however, is the break-neck speed with which it acts. It legislates an end to strikes immediately after — and in some cases before — they begin.

It has introduced the concept of pre-emptive warfare to labour negotiations.

3 Years After Taxpayer Bailout, Bank of America Ships Jobs Overseas

Bank of America, which last fall announced plans to lay off 30,000 workers, is about to go on a hiring spree—overseas.

America's second-largest bank is relocating its business-support operations to the Philippines, according to a high-ranking Filipino government official recently quoted in the Filipino press. The move, which includes a portion of the bank's customer service unit, comes less than three years after Bank of America received a $45 billion federal bailout.

Roman Romulo, deputy majority leader of the Philippine House of Representatives, bragged to the Manila Standard Today earlier this month that the Philippines "has secured its place as the world's fastest-growing outsourcing hub." Romulo pointed out that BofA is the last of the "big four" US banks to move their business-support network to his island nation, where the average family makes $4,700 a year.

When a Dirty Workplace Is an Explosive Hazard

Small fires were a part of the job at the Hoeganaes Corporation metal powder plant in Gallatin, 30 miles northeast of Nashville. By early 2011, some workers later told investigators, they had become practiced in beating down the flames with gloved hands or a fire extinguisher.

The company's own product—a fine iron powder sold to makers of car parts—fueled the fires. Sometimes, powder leaked from equipment and coated ledges and rafters. Under the right conditions, it smoldered. Wiley Sherburne, a 42-year-old plant electrician, sometimes told his wife how this dust piled up everywhere, she recalled. On quieter weekend shifts, he said he could hear the telltale popping sound of dust sparking when it touched live electricity.

In the early morning of January 31, 2011, Sherburne was called to check out a malfunctioning bucket elevator. Near his feet, electrical wires lay exposed. When the machine restarted, the jolt knocked dust into the air. A spark—likely from the exposed wires, investigators later concluded—turned the dust cloud into a ball of flame that engulfed Sherburne and a coworker.

Student Movement Dubbed the 'Mexican Spring'

A coalition of thousands of mainly university students, unionized workers, and farmers in Mexico City have taken to the streets to demand greater freedom of speech and also to protest the possible return of power by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

One banner read, “I have a brain, I won’t vote for the PRI.”

The PRI is a member of the Socialist International, but don’t let the name fool you—the party is actually quite “centrist” (the term pundits usually use to describe center-right parties) in most of its policies. PRI’s main rival is the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). (Mexican Spring poster in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, via @mexicoOWS).

Dubbed the “Yo Soy 132” movement (Twitter users can follow protest updates by searching #YoSoy132), or the “Mexican Spring” by observers, this latest wave of protests marks the third large student demonstration in less than a week.

Dewey & Leboeuf Bankruptcy: Storied U.S. Law Firm Files For Chapter 11 Protection

May 28 (Reuters) - Dewey & Leboeuf LLP, the ailing law firm that has been on the verge of closure, said it has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a U.S. court and is seeking approval to liquidate its business after it failed to find a buyer.

Once one of the largest law firms in the United States, Dewey has lost more than two-thirds of its roughly 300 partners to other firms amid concerns about compensation and a heavy debt load.

Dewey had warned employees earlier this month of mass layoffs and of the possibility the firm may shut down, and a person familiar with the matter had told Reuters that the firm was considering a bankruptcy filing.

What happened to the bitumen export ban?

During the 2008 campaign, Stephen Harper promised to ban the export of raw bitumen to countries with weaker emissions targets.

    “We will not permit the export of bitumen to any country that does not have the same greenhouse gas regulations that we are imposing,” Harper said in Calgary, where he was campaigning for re-election in an Oct. 14 vote.

Mr. Harper said the federal government had the constitutional authority to enforce a ban. And the Prime Minister acknowledged that such a ban could impact exports to Asia.

    Harper’s promise is likely to have no impact on bitumen exports to the United States, said Environment Minister John Baird, but could affect the construction of a major pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific coast to feed the Asian market. Questioned on whether the emission target proposal would have an impact on future bitumen exports to Asian countries, Harper replied: “Well, it could. It absolutely could.”

Old Port of Montreal president catching flak over trip expenses

OTTAWA - Government and opposition MPs reviewing the spending of the president of the Old Port of Montreal said Tuesday her justification for a $10,000 South Pacific trip did not pass scrutiny.

And members of the Commons ethics committee decided to ignore Claude Benoit's request to keep her official report on the trip private.

"I don't see anything here that is confidential and in my view this was a personal vacation that was largely, or in part, paid for by taxpayers and I'd like Canadians and others to have a look at it and make that determination for themselves," said Dean Del Mastro, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister.

Elections watchdog Marc Mayrand says trust in electoral system damaged

OTTAWA - Elections watchdog Marc Mayrand says it's critical that trust be restored in Canada's electoral system.

The chief electoral officer acknowledges confidence in the system has been shaken by a recent court ruling overturning the election result in one Toronto riding, and by the so-called robocall scandal.

On the latter, Mayrand says Elections Canada has now received 1,100 complaints from voters claiming to have received calls directing them to phoney polling locations during last spring's election.

Elections Canada's budget is being cut by eight per cent, forcing the agency to put off some plans, such as a pilot project on Internet voting, and focus only on its highest priorities.

One of the highest, Mayrand says, will be training elections officials and ensuring that all procedural requirements are followed on voting day.

Procedural errors by elections officials resulted in a court recently overturning the election result in Toronto's Etobicoke Centre.

Original Article
Source: winnipeg free press
Author: CP

Media and politicians fail to investigate facts about so-called 'safe countries'

Years ago, when he was a simple cabinet minister, Jean Chrétien complained that politicians' lives had become hemmed in by a too-curious media.

In his time, Chrétien said, Mackenzie King could disappear to London for weeks and the parliamentary press corps did not even note his absence. In the modern media era, however, every move a prime minister or cabinet minister makes could be scrutinized.

Strange then that the current Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister should have had meetings with foreign leaders and officials recently that attracted almost no media attention in Canada.

In post-Gadhafi Libya, life still feels frighteningly frail

TRIPOLI — At the ripe age of 118, Nuwara Faraj Fahajan has become the poster-child of Libya’s upcoming general elections. Photographers from all over the world snapped frantically when she held up her registration card after signing up to vote in the town of Zliten, some 100 kilometres east of Tripoli.

It is anyone’s guess, though, whether the frail centenarian will still be around when the country actually picks its new leader.

Libya’s election commission has recently announced voting initially slated for June 19 may be delayed by several weeks. And even those elections would merely pick a constituent assembly to replace the current transitional leadership and oversee the drafting of a new constitution.

Opposition MPs push back on shutting down House probe into F-35s, Grit MP Bryne says it ‘smacks of corruption’ to close down committee

PARLIAMENT HILL—The opposition parties have held off a government attempt to shut down a Commons inquiry into Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s scathing report on the Conservative plan to spend $25-billion on a fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets.

A closed-door meeting of the Commons Public Accounts Committee that was supposed to deal with a government motion calling for a report to the Commons after only seven hours of witness testimony adjourned abruptly Tuesday morning, with another session scheduled for Thursday.

A furious Liberal MP Gerry Byrne (Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Nfld.) emerged from the in-camera House Public Accounts Committee session vowing to halt the government plan to close the hearings down in the midst of contradictory testimony from Mr. Ferguson and senior Department of National Defence officials over whether DND and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) and his Cabinet should have informed Parliament about $10-billion worth of estimated F-35s’ operating costs that were kept secret after the government announced the  procurement in 2010.

How census figures cement Harper’s grip on power

The 2011 census confirms what the ballot box has already told us: Aspiring Canada votes Conservative.

If the NDP or Liberals are ever to win government, they must break the bond between these aspirational voters and Stephen Harper.

The latest tranche of data released Tuesday morning by Statistics Canada paints a picture of a country that is about to get old. The population of seniors is growing; for the first time, those who are getting ready to leave the labour force (age 55 to 64) exceed those getting ready to enter it (aged 15 to 24).

But the country is not aging uniformly. Younger, working-age Canadians are moving West, to where the jobs are. And within the big cities, the downtowns are aging differently than the suburbs.

Bank of Canada looks trapped on interest rate

Economists expect the Bank of Canada to keep its key interest rate at 1 per cent next Tuesday, June 5, but they are less sure about what commentary the central bank will use in its policy statement.

David Madani, Canada economist for Capital Economics, expects that the Bank will be more negative about global economic growth, and the challenges it presents to Canada, than it was in its previous statement.

“Officials are probably already regretting raising the possibility of an eventual withdrawal of policy stimulus in the last statement released only six weeks ago. We doubt that rate hike hint will be dropped from next week's statement, but the language could be softened,” he wrote in a report.

Harper gov't abandoning protection for dozens of freshwater species, say scientists

OTTAWA — The federal government is sabotaging its own legislated requirement to protect endangered freshwater fish by weakening the Fisheries Act, Canadian scientists say in a letter to be sent to the Harper government Tuesday.

The revisions would mean that the majority of freshwater fish and up to 80 per cent of the 71 freshwater species at risk of extinction would lose protection, according to the letter from the 1,000-strong Canadian Society For Ecology and Evolution (CSEE) provided exclusively to the Vancouver Sun.

The letter is signed by Dalhousie University professor Jeffrey Hutchings, a current member and former chairman from 2006-2010 of the federal government's main independent advisory body on species at risk, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

Renowned N.S. oil spill expert given job notice

An internationally respected Nova Scotia-based scientist working for the federal government has been told his job is in danger, CBC News has learned.

Kenneth Lee — an oil spill expert and the executive director of the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth — recently received a workforce adjustment letter informing him that his position is being eliminated.

Lee confirmed he received the notice and his research centre is being eliminated, but declined an interview with CBC News on Monday.

Others scientists are speaking out.

The Fairness Trap

With Europe’s economic woes dominating the headlines once more, it’s hard not to think of Yogi Berra’s dictum “It’s déjà vu all over again.” As usual, the turmoil centers on Greece, which is in its fifth year of recession and struggling beneath a colossal debt load. This year, in exchange for drastic austerity measures, Greece’s government agreed to an aid package (its second) with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, totalling $174 billion. But three weeks ago furious Greek voters tossed the ruling parties out of office; attempts to form a coalition government failed, and new elections are scheduled for next month. Now Greek politicians are talking tough about renegotiating, but the E.U., led by Germany, which is the largest contributor to the bailout, says that there will be no more money for Greece if it doesn’t live up to its promises. So policymakers are seriously discussing a so-called Grexit—in which Greece would default on its debts and abandon the euro.

Canada Housing Affordability Deteriorates In First Quarter: RBC

TORONTO - RBC says home ownership was less affordable in most major Canadian cities during the first quarter, although Calgary and Edmonton bucked the trend.

The latest RBC Economics report on home affordability says its index deteriorated sharply in Vancouver and to a lesser degree in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa — primarily due to higher real-estate prices.

But the bank's affordability index was unchanged in Calgary and improved in Edmonton compared with the fourth quarter of 2011.

The report tracks how much of a home owner's income would be required to pay typical costs associated with owning a standard one-storey detached house.

The Economics of EI “Reform.”

Changes to the EI rules announced by the government today are not rooted in any lengthy policy rationale. But Minister Finley and and the media release spoke to the need to “strengthen work incentives.” This conjures up images of  unemployed workers sitting around and spurning job offers amidst growing labour and skills shortages.

As I have previously commented, this framing of the issue is at odds with the reality of still high unemployment and under employment, and that fact that there are about six unemployed workers on a national basis for every job vacancy reported by employers.

It may well be that there are some labour and skills shortages in a few parts of the country. But this  is not the overall reality in central and eastern Canada and much of BC and the North where the great majority of EI recipients are to be found.

Confronting The Biggest Threat To The Public Library

There is something ineffably sad about abandoned books. They sit, discarded, a story that will never be shared, pages that will never be turned. People are drawn to them, they are protective of them. Readers will stop for an abandoned book, they will bring them home even when they don't need them.

What if it was not just one abandoned book but entire libraries of them? What if library doors were locked and tens of thousands of books sat unused on shelves? What if the reading rooms were shuttered and the kids had to go to the next neighborhood to study at night?

Urban Librarians Unite and the Save NYC Libraries Campaign are seeding more than 1600 books all over the city in response to massive cuts proposed to the budgets of New York City Libraries.

Jumbo-friendly Bill Creates Municipality Without Residents

Provincial legislation passed last week paves the road further toward construction of the controversial Jumbo Glacier ski resort and real estate development in the East Kootenay. It has sparked indignation and even a bit of rebellion among local governments in the Kootenays.

They are baffled to see that an area can, by provincial fiat, become a municipality before anyone even lives there.

"Ridiculous" is how Gerry Taft, the mayor of Invermere, describes the new state of affairs.

Bill 41 allows the government to create a "mountain resort municipality" in the Jumbo Valley and appoint its municipal council even though the area has no residents. It is actually a minor amendment to an existing provision in the Local Government Act, but the wording changes seem to expressly enable the Jumbo Glacier development, following the government's final approval of the project a few months ago.

What the Lucky Owe the Rest

As I get closer and closer to the day of reckoning I find myself thinking a lot about the Bigger Issues -- and events I'll never live to see. As Samuel Johnson said, "depend upon it sir, a hanging in a fortnight concentrates the mind wonderfully."

So does being an octogenarian.

I find I'm thankful for all the Affirmative Action I've been blessed with -- born on the right side of the tracks, the right colour, education including private school, a huge network to catch me if I fall and being lucky enough to be the right person in the right spot on several occasions.

New Price Tag on Adult Ed Success

Teenagers on the verge of graduating from high school across B.C. are closing in on their big day. For one group that already graduated on Friday, the wait has been longer, the route often more arduous, and the achievement all the sweeter.

They are the province's adult education high school students, who range from Canadian-born to recent immigrants, teenagers to senior citizens. But government funding cutbacks for adult ed courses key to entering post-secondary institutions makes the future uncertain for similar success stories.

Tar sands pipelines don’t just leak oil

When Enbridge’s Line 6B burst open near Marshall, Michigan in July 2010 spewing over a million gallons of tar sands sludge into the Kalamazoo river watershed, funds were quickly released from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to mobilize Environmental Protection Agency staff and other federal employees to assist and monitor clean up. But the tar sands companies that produced the oil that is still polluting Talmadge Creek nearly two years later have never paid a penny into the fund. Why? Because when payments into the fund were reinstated by the 2005 Energy Policy Act following a hiatus, someone convinced the IRS that tar sands crude was not crude oil, and therefore did not need to pay.

As a new report released today shows, the transport of tar sands oil through pipelines in the United States is exempt from payments into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. This is a free ride worth over $375 million to tar sands oil producers between 2010 and 2017, including over $160 million for shippers on TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline system. This exemption is an unnecessary subsidy, and one that ignores the elevated risks of transporting tar sands crude oil relative to conventional crude. Logically, tar sands oil transport should be subject to a higher rate than conventional oil, not exempt.

Canada lags on fighting child poverty, report finds

Canada falls below most of its international peers when it comes to fighting child poverty, says a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund being released Tuesday.

With a child poverty rate of 13.3 per cent, Canada ranks 24th out of 35 industrialized nations, behind the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and most of northern Europe, says the UNICEF report.

Overall, the Netherlands and Nordic countries have the lowest rates of child poverty, hovering at about 7 per cent, almost half Canada’s rate. Meantime, the United States and some of the southern European countries have the highest. (Iceland has the lowest child poverty rate at 4.7 per cent and Romania has the highest at 25.5 per cent. The U.S. rate is 23 per cent.)

When it comes to the size of the gap between child poverty and a nation’s overall poverty rate, Canada fares somewhat better at 18 out of 35, the report notes.

EI proposals initiate a race to the bottom for workers

The latest attempt by the Conservative government to reform employment insurance reached a low point when Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said that she wants to make “sure that the McDonald’s of the world aren’t having to bring in temporary foreign workers to do jobs that Canadians who are on EI have the skills to do.”

The Toronto Star also reported that 2,200 general farm workers in Ontario submitted EI claims, while Ontario growers received 1,500 permits to hire foreign farm labour.

By pitting some of the most vulnerable Canadian workers against foreign labour, Finley is preparing us to compete in a race to the bottom.

Clark tells Ottawa to leave Coast Guard base at Kitsilano open

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is demanding Ottawa reverse course on its plans to close the Canadian Coast Guard station in Kitsilano – a base for rescue efforts in one of the province’s busiest pleasure-boat waterways.

Ms. Clark, who has been careful to seek harmonious relations with the federal Conservative government as she tries to maintain the coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives that comprise the B.C. Liberals, struck a tougher tone Monday.

The Premier said her Justice Minister has written Ottawa to express disappointment over the closing and seek the cancellation of the measure. She said cutting costs is no excuse for measures that may impact safety.

Leaders seem un-Canadian

Is it just me or does it seem that national politics right now is badly out of sync with what we supposedly value as Canadians?

Peace? Order? Good government? Well, one can always make the case that national and provincial governments have pretty much fallen short on the latter of the three principles upon which our Confederation was founded nearly 145 years ago. And peace and order surely seem to have been lacking in Quebec for the last 100 or so days of bizarrely unreasonable student protests.

But what we're really talking about has less to do with the principles established since our nation's birth than with the supposed great Canadian qualities of politeness, tolerance, compromise and respect. For some, these amount to little more than stereotype characteristics that have become an overblown cliche. But in a gigantic nation that touches three oceans, has an inhospitable wilderness, has made it through 145 vicious winters and has two official languages, it can also be argued that these qualities have actually served us rather well. So it's too bad that our current federal leaders seem so out of tune with what has made this country work.

"Inside Job" Director Charles Ferguson: Wall Street Has Turned the U.S. into a "Predatory Nation"

Two years after directing the Academy Award-winning documentary, “Inside Job,” filmmaker Charles Ferguson returns with a new book, “Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America.” Ferguson explores why no top financial executives have been jailed for their role in the nation’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We also discuss Larry Summers and the revolving door between academia and Wall Street, as well as the key role Democrats have played in deregulating the financial industry. According to Ferguson, a "predatory elite" has "taken over significant portions of economic policy and of the political system, and also, unfortunately, major portions of the economics discipline."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Opposition aims to disrupt passage of omnibus Tory budget bill

hereAn omnibus budget bill that will affect many aspects of Canadian life faces a rocky ride over the next four weeks as opposition members try to thwart Conservative plans to have it passed into law before Parliament rises for the summer.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and the Liberals have jointly concocted a plan to delay the passage of the 425-page Bill C-38 and are threatening to put it into action if the government does not agree to make substantial changes.

The strategy would pit Ms. May’s stamina against the desire of MPs of all stripes to return to their home ridings for the extended break.

Federal budget’s deep cuts getting deeper

Federal budget cuts are actually twice as deep as advertised, says a new report from the Parliamentary Budget Office.

While all eyes have been on the austerity measures in the 2012 budget, the PBO finds that cuts and budget freezes from 2010 to this year double the belt-tightening that departments are dealing with.

At the same time, the battle for information between the government and the PBO has turned up a notch.

Late last week, the government sent parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page a letter refusing to release details of budget cuts. Page said the letter, which his office will publish online today, cites privacy provisions in union contracts to say details cannot be released until long after the budget has been voted on.

Student negotiator among dozens arrested after Quebec City talks

On the day when student leaders and the Quebec government reopened negotiations to try to break the deadlock over tuition fee hikes, police arrested close to 100 protesters and bystanders - including the negotiator for one of the student groups involved in the talks.

Philippe Lapointe, the negotiator for CLASSE, had just left the bargaining table at the end of Monday's meeting in Quebec City to witness the arrests of protesters outside the building where the talks were being held. He was promptly taken away by riot police.

Léo Bureau-Blouin, the leader of another student group, tried to negotiate with police to stop the arrests and allow the protesters to disperse. But police ignored Mr. Bureau-Blouin, president of the federation of college students, and continued to round them up.

What the UNICEF report on poverty doesn’t tell us

David Morely, UNICEF Canada's executive director, has just issued a bold challenge. "It is clearly time for Canada to prioritize children when planning budgets and spending our nation’s resources, even in tough economic times,” he said in a press release announcing the publication of a report on child poverty.

In fact, the UNICEF Innocenti Report Card released Tuesday is the 10th in a regular series on child poverty in rich countries, each report hitting the headlines every second year or so.

UNICEF documents that, at 13.3 per cent, Canada's child poverty rate is almost two percentage points higher than the overall national rate, and that Canada ranks 24th, in the bottom third of the 35 countries studied.

Tories defend shutting down probe into costly F-35 purchase

The Harper government plans to shut down the only public probe into Ottawa’s fumbling of the F-35 fighter jet purchase, a controversy that has marred the Conservatives’ reputation for fiscal stewardship.

The Tories are preparing to end hearings at the Commons public accounts committee into the Auditor-General’s hard-hitting report on the acquisition of the increasingly costly fighter jets. It was the second chapter in the watchdog’s spring report.

There are four weeks left on the parliamentary calendar before politicians quit Ottawa until September. Winding down the hearings now would enable the Conservatives to change the channel well before their MPs head out to face constituents this summer.

'Culture of comfort' the enemy of innovation, report says

Canada is losing the global innovation race because it’s throwing far too much money at dubious research and doing too little to jolt companies out of their sheltered complacency.

Those are the main conclusions of a provocative new report by economist Marcel Côté and HEC Montreal engineer Roger Miller being released Thursday by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards.

Federal and provincial governments are spending as much as $20-billion a year on innovation policies that are demonstrably not working, the authors argue in a 14-page report, which forms the core of an upcoming book, Innovation Reinvented: Six Games That Drive Growth.

Bank Of North Dakota: America's Only 'Socialist' Bank Is Thriving During Downturn

(AP) The Bank of North Dakota - the nation's only state-owned bank - might seem to be a relic.

But now officials in other states are wondering if it is helping North Dakota sail through the national recession.

Gubernatorial candidates in Florida and Oregon and a Washington state legislator are advocating the creation of state-owned banks in those states. A report prepared for a Vermont House committee last month said the idea had "considerable merit." Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore promotes the bank on his Web site.

"There's a lot of hurt out there, a lot of states that are in trouble, and they're tying the Bank of North Dakota together with this economic success that we're having right now," said the bank's president, Eric Hardmeyer.

Western Premiers Summit: Alison Redford To Host Talks On Energy, Labour At Annual Meeting

EDMONTON - Canada's western premiers get down to business today at a hotel in Edmonton to discuss energy, labour and other issues of mutual interest.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is hosting leaders from the four provinces and three territories at their annual get-together.

Redford says she will push hard on her plan for a Canadian energy strategy.

Redford says she wants to see a framework for all regions to work as one to develop, market and protect Canada's energy resources.

She has said they may also talk about the recent controversial remarks by federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

Mulcair has said the booming resource sectors of the west are having a boomerang effect, driving down jobs and investment in the manufacturing centres of central Canada.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

Scrums: Hi ho, hi ho

“We want to help Canadians get back to work as quickly as possible,” human resources minister Diane Finley told the House of Commons Monday afternoon.

This is the message the government pressed upon the public on the first day back from the Victoria Day break week. This was the message delivered a few minutes before question period by five separate ministers, who stood at the lectern and dourly informed Canadians that the trains must get going and the striking CP Rail workers have to get back to work. The wheels have to start turning. Things must run on time. Jobs must be created.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird noted the reason for it all. Standing in for the prime minister in question period, he told the House the government’s planned changes to the structure of the nation’s employment insurance program is an “important part of our jobs and growth agenda.”

How the Anglo punditocracy demonizes Quebec's student protests

Anglo Canada is sticking its fingers in its ears and humming a happy song. Many in the English-speaking punditocracy and media (or perhaps mediocracy?) are doing their best to persuade us that student protests in Quebec are nothing of any consequence.

This is getting a little harder to do, now that so many other folks are joining the students. But it is not too late to jump on the bandwagon to ridicule or demonize the protesters. Just follow these simple steps.(These steps can be rearranged and amplified for dramatic effect.)

Step 1: Set the stage with a dismissive tone. Many like to scorn protesters as naïve over-entitled brats. If you really get huffing and puffing, brand students as anti-social radicals. This leads nicely into step 2.

Step 2: Suggest a sinister undertone. Highlight any behaviour suggesting that protesters are undisciplined violent thugs. (Take care to frame this in a way that denies the possibility that the noble police force ever provokes any unpleasantness).

Step 3: Explain what is really going on.This is your chance to look like you are magnanimously enlightening those poor confused students. Remember, it is your job to reassure English Canada that the status quo is entirely reasonable and the forces of authority radiate with the glow of legitimacy.

B.C. police shooting video sparks calls for new probe

New video of a fatal shooting by a Vancouver police officer nearly five years ago is provoking calls to reopen the investigation into whether it was justified.

The video shows the last moments of Paul Boyd, a 39-year-old mentally ill animator, who died after an altercation with Vancouver police in August 2007.

Boyd can be seen on his hands and knees on Granville Street, moving toward Const. Lee Chipperfield, who is pointing a gun.

The view is briefly obscured when Boyd crawls in front of a car, and Chipperfield fires the last of nine shots at him. The fatal bullet struck Boyd in the head.

No room for centrist compromise in a left-right split Canada

We are entering an exciting and tumultuous period in national politics, as progressive reaction to Stephen Harper's Conservatives increasingly coalesces around Thomas Mulcair, further dividing Canadian politics into stark choices between left and right. The Western premiers are part of the proof.

Premiers and ministers of the Prairie and Pacific provinces and the three territories are in Edmonton Tuesday for talks. One thing they plan to discuss is the message coming from the new leader of the NDP.

Mr. Mulcair has galvanized debate across Canada with his warning that unfettered development of the oil sands is not only damaging the environment, it is driving up the dollar and hurting manufacturing in Ontario and Quebec.

Beyond Corporate Capitalism: Not So Wild a Dream

It’s time to put the taboo subject of public ownership back on the progressive agenda. It is the only way to solve some of the most serious problems facing the nation. We contend that it is possible not only to talk about this once forbidden subject but to begin to build a serious politics that can do what needs to be done in key sectors.

Proposals for public ownership will of course be attacked as “socialism,” but conservatives call any progressive program—to say nothing of the modest economic policies of the Obama administration—“socialist.” However, many Americans are increasingly skeptical about the claims made for the corporate-dominated “free” enterprise system by its propagandists. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of corporations—a significant shift from only twelve years ago, when nearly three-quarters held a favorable view. At the same time, two recent Rasmussen surveys found Americans under 30—the people who will build the next politics—almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found that 18- to 29-year-olds have a favorable reaction to the term “socialism” by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.

NDP Leading Conservatives: Poll Finds Strong Support For Thomas Mulcair's Party And Positions

The New Democrats have increased their lead over the governing Conservatives to four points according to a new survey.

The new poll by Forum Research conducted on May 23 shows NDP support remaining steady at 36 per cent while the Conservatives have slipped one point to 32 per cent since the firm’s last poll of April 24-25. The Liberals, at 20 per cent, have dropped two points.

These variations are all within the margin of error. This indicates that, despite the attacks on Thomas Mulcair’s Dutch disease comments and the introduction of the Tories' new EI plans, Canadians remain unmoved by the rhetoric.

In fact, on both of these issues the New Democrats find themselves in agreement with the plurality of Canadians.

Canada Second Quarter GDP: Flaherty Says Economy Vulnerable To 'Shocks'

OTTAWA - The Canadian economy remains fragile almost three years removed from the recession and must avoid "shocks" that can derail the recovery, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Monday.

The relatively sober assessment followed more worrying news coming out of Europe and Ottawa's tabling of legislation to bring a quick end to the Canadian Pacific (TSX:CP) rail strike.

With Statistics Canada releasing gross domestic product results for the first quarter of 2012 on Friday, analysts say the Bank of Canada's prediction of a 2.5 per cent advance will be difficult to reach.

Tories' EI reform too radical? Try too timid

How mild are the Conservative employment insurance reforms? Even the opposition seems unable to muster much more than a frowzy "you could have consulted more," its default response when there's little political blood to be drawn.

How mild? Compare them with the last attempt at EI reform, the package of changes introduced by Lloyd Axworthy, the great stalwart of the Liberal left, in 1996. The current exercise would oblige EI claimants to be a little less choosy in the jobs they are willing to take, depending on their claim experience and how long they remained on benefit. Frequent users, in particular, would be expected to take a job paying as little as 80 per cent as much as their previous employment, dropping to 70 per cent after six weeks.

Tories’ CP Rail back-to-work bill plays into NDP’s hands

The political disquiet around the Harper government’s intervention in the CP Rail labour dispute is not limited to the ranks of the opposition parties.

Some Conservative MPs who voted through back-to-work legislation were also uncomfortable about the rush to get involved.

“This is quite different from Air Canada, which could have gone bankrupt and stranded tens of thousands of people,” said one MP.

“We should let the process run its course. If they don’t find a solution in the medium term – say two to three weeks – then step in. It’s only been a week.”

Conservatives could be playing for time in Etobicoke Centre

Ted Opitz filed his appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada at noon Monday, at almost the last possible moment, without releasing the grounds, in a bid to keep his job as MP for Etobicoke Centre.

On May 18, Justice Thomas Lederer, of the Ontario Superior Court, overturned Optiz's election, which mean he is in a legal grey zone until the appeal is heard.

According to the Elections Act, the court "shall hear the appeal without delay and in a summary manner," although it is up to the red-robed justices of our top court to decide what that means.

It seems to be in Opitz's interest to delay that decision as long as possible, since he has a good job until that moment, and might not after the justices rule.

Tories move to pull plug on politically-damaging F-35 hearings

OTTAWA — The Harper government is moving to shut down House of Commons hearings into the auditor general's scathing report on the $25-billion F-35 stealth fighter jet project.

The Conservatives moved a motion during a recent closed-door public accounts committee meeting to end the panel's inquiry into the auditor's report on the F-35 procurement process.

The government's manoeuvre, led by Conservative MP Andrew Saxton, comes after about seven hours of hearings and before opposition parties had their chance to grill ministers and Defence Department officials who have criticized Auditor General Michael Ferguson's findings.

The Commons: John Baird and Thomas Mulcair haggle over segues

The Scene. Ted Opitz, he who may or may not end up being the duly elected MP for Etobicoke Centre, had just finished doing his partisan duty, standing up to deliver the day’s harangue of the official opposition (“Ill-informed! Foolish! Dangerous!”) and Thomas Mulcair thought he spotted a segue.

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Mulcair offered in English before proceeding en francais, “let us talk about unemployment insurance, something that will become important for the member very soon.”

There were groans and grumbles from the government side, the Conservatives in attendance apparently finding this to be poor form. Profoundly saddened, John Baird stood and shed a single tear. “Mr. Speaker, what is most interesting is when this gentleman became Leader of the Official Opposition he said he would bring a new civility and raise the tone of debate,” the Foreign Affairs Minister sighed. “I guess not two months after his election, they have thrown that to the side.”With that, Mr. Baird turned to the script on his desk. “We are facing unprecedented labour and skills shortages in the country. It is tremendously important that the employment insurance program is working most effectively for Canada and for Canadians,” he explained. “That is why we are working to better connect Canadians with available jobs in their local area and to their appropriate qualifications and to ensure that they understand the responsibilities that they have while collecting EI.”

In the South China Sea, two superpowers flex their muscles

The Scarborough Shoal, a triangle of rocks and reefs in the South China Sea, is so small that much of it disappears underwater at high tide. And yet for the past seven weeks it has been the epicentre of a growing naval crisis, with China and the Philippines each dispatching ships and warning the other that it won’t back away from the minuscule atoll.

Some say the South China Sea is a maritime version of Central Asia during the “Great Game,” the 19th-century era in which empires jousted using proxy armies without ever coming into direct conflict. In Central Asia, it was Russia and Britain who duelled from the shadows. In today’s South China Sea, it’s the world’s latest superpowers, China and the U.S., competing over waters that produce a tenth of the world’s fish, transit a third of the world’s shipping and – if higher-end estimates are accurate – might hold up to 100 billion barrels of oil and six trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

CP Rail: Back-to-work laws end strikes, but don’t bring labour peace

Federal back-to-work legislation is becoming routine, but while it may end strikes, it doesn’t always buy labour peace.

Along with short-term gains, such as Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. railcars loaded with everything from grain to lumber rolling again, thanks to legislation introduced Monday by Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, it often leaves long-term pain.

“You’re mortgaging the future, and not knowing how much that mortgage is going to cost,” said George Smith, who teaches labour relations at Queen’s University. “In spite of the appearance of labour peace, there is no such thing.”

Last Wednesday, 4,800 CP workers walked off the job, abruptly ending freight train service across the country. Monday’s back-to-work legislation, the Restoring Rail Service Act, orders them back on the job immediately.