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, June 08, 2012

Canada has failed its oceans in the past, now it’s time to get it right

PARLIAMENT HILL—When it comes to Oceans Management the Arctic represents an opportunity to learn from past mistakes.

Canada has the longest ocean coastline in the world stretching over a quarter million km. We have depended on our oceans as a source of food, commerce and transportation for centuries and these links remain as vital today as they have throughout our history.

As a coastal nation, Canada has a responsibility to ocean stewardship which must be taken seriously.

Unfortunately we have learned the hard way that in ocean management, preventing problems is better than reacting to them. By the time reaction is necessary the damage to our ecosystem, and often times our economy, can last for decades.

Bill C-304: Hate Speech Clause's Repeal Gives White Supremacists Rare Moment Of Glee

A Conservative private members’ bill that repeals part of Canada’s hate speech laws has passed the House of Commons with scant media attention, and even less commentary. But it's being cheered by many Canadian conservatives as a victory for freedom of speech. And it's being cheered most vocally by another group: White supremacists.

Bill C-304, introduced by Conservative backbencher Brian Storseth, repeals Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which bans hate speech transmitted over the Internet or by telephone. It passed third reading in the House of Commons on Thursday and is now headed to the Senate.

Is Stephen Harper’s global military policy delusional or just plain mad?

Sometimes, it’s as if Stephen Harper’s Conservatives suffer from delusions of grandeur.

How else to explain the decision by Canada’s apparently cash-strapped federal government to set up a network of military bases around the world?

That’s usually something only countries with imperial pretensions, such as the U.S., France and Britain, do. And even the U.S. is pulling back these days.

As reported by my colleague Allan Woods, who broke this story, Ottawa claims its new bases will ultimately save taxpayers money.

'My place is destroyed': Albertan in wake of Red Deer River oil spill

Gord Johnston grew up on the banks of the Red Deer River, at a place his family first settled in 1939. On Thursday evening, just before 7, he returned home to the nauseating smell of crude oil in the air.

Little more than an hour later he was in a helicopter, flying down one of Alberta's principal waterways, where he saw a wide plume of oil flowing along the banks of a river that had already flooded its banks, running heavy with rainfed spring melt.

The oil, some 1,000 to 3,000 barrels of which spilled from a pipeline owned by Plains Midstream Canada, stretched nearly 10 kilometres up-river from Mr. Johnston's 57 acres on the Red Deer River. As they flew in the helicopter, the source of the leak was obvious: "You could see it boiling up where the line crossing was," Mr. Johnston said.

A year on, still no decision on who pays for oilsands environmental monitoring

OTTAWA — Nearly a year after agreeing to a joint federal-provincial plan to improve the scientific and environmental oversight of oilsands development, Canada's main oil and gas industry lobby group says it is still sorting out details about how different companies would share the estimated $50 million price tag.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers told Postmedia News it hoped to have a final deal in place by the end of June to cover the cost of improving monitoring of the Alberta region's air, water and wildlife.

"Industry has agreed to fund the costs of the enhanced oilsands regional environmental monitoring program," said Travis Davies, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. "We have moved on to figuring out how to administratively do it."

Ilias Kasidiaris, Greek Golden Dawn Politician, Assaults Two Female MPs On Live TV

ATHENS, Greece — Greece's election campaign turned ugly Thursday on live TV: The spokesman of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party, after trading insults of "commie" and "fascist," lunged at two female left-wing politicians on a mainstream morning talk show, throwing water at one and smacking the other three times across the face.

The violent display reminiscent of trash TV, a week and a half ahead of crucial elections, stunned Greeks as they seek to avoid a catastrophic exit from Europe's common euro currency. A prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Ilias Kasidiaris, whose party alarmed Europe by gaining 21 of Parliament's 300 seats in Greece's inconclusive May 6 elections.

DREAM Act Protesters Go On Hunger Strike, Close Obama's Denver Campaign Office

On Tuesday, two undocumented immigrant students occupied President Barack Obama's Denver campaign office and began a hunger strike. Now on day 3 of their demonstration, the protesters have closed down the office to visitors and volunteers and hope that their actions will force Obama to sign an executive order enacting the DREAM Act.

The Associated Press reports that the Obama campaign supports the cause of the protesters, but that the only permanent solution is to have Congress pass the DREAM Act.

Michigan Anti-Abortion Bill, 'Most Extreme' In The Country, Barrels Through State House

A massive, 60-page omnibus bill that drastically limits abortion access and could shut down all abortion clinics in the state is being rushed through the Michigan State House of Representatives on Thursday.

The bill was introduced just last week, but lawmakers held a hearing for it on Thursday morning and are sending it to a full House vote on Thursday afternoon. A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan said about 90 people showed up at the Health Policy Committee hearing to testify against the bill, but Committee Chair Gail Haines (R-Waterford) abruptly ended the hearing and cut off all testimony after a Michigan Right to Life spokesperson and only a few others were able to speak.

Cash Dying As Credit Card Payments Predicted To Grow In Volume: Report

Louise Collis likes to ride her bike around the Clarendon Hills suburb of Chicago. What she doesn't like is change -- as in spare change jangling in her pocket -- and she prefers to use her credit card wherever she goes.

"I keep a credit card in my back pocket, and I don’t have to carry cash around," Collis, 44, said.

Collis is the face of an increasingly cashless society. Last year 27 percent of all point-of-sale purchases were made with cash and that number is expected to drop to 23 percent by 2017, according to a report published Wednesday by Javelin Strategy & Research, a market research firm.

Military Suicide Rate Surges To Nearly One Per Day This Year

WASHINGTON — Suicides are surging among America's troops, averaging nearly one a day this year – the fastest pace in the nation's decade of war.

The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan – about 50 percent more – according to Pentagon statistics obtained by The Associated Press.

The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago. The military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other misbehavior.

Reagan Was a Keynesian

There’s no question that America’s recovery from the financial crisis has been disappointing. In fact, I’ve been arguing that the era since 2007 is best viewed as a “depression,” an extended period of economic weakness and high unemployment that, like the Great Depression of the 1930s, persists despite episodes during which the economy grows. And Republicans are, of course, trying — with considerable success — to turn this dismal state of affairs to their political advantage.

They love, in particular, to contrast President Obama’s record with that of Ronald Reagan, who, by this point in his presidency, was indeed presiding over a strong economic recovery. You might think that the more relevant comparison is with George W. Bush, who, at this stage of his administration, was — unlike Mr. Obama — still presiding over a large loss in private-sector jobs. And, as I’ll explain shortly, the economic slump Reagan faced was very different from our current depression, and much easier to deal with. Still, the Reagan-Obama comparison is revealing in some ways. So let’s look at that comparison, shall we?

Homeland Security Bill 2012: House Passes $46 Billion Measure Containing Anti-Abortion Rider

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Homeland Security spending bill approved by the GOP-led House on Thursday includes a provision to bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement from providing abortions for illegal immigrant detainees.

The measure, proposed by Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., would block ICE from using agency funding to provide abortion services for detainees except in the case of rape, incest or if there life of the mother would be endangered.

The provision was attached to a $46 billion Homeland Security spending bill approved on a party-line 234-182 vote. It has little chance of surviving in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

After the Heartbreak in Wisconsin

The triumph of Scott Walker and the Tea Party Republicans in Wisconsin is heartbreaking for the many thousands who devoted over a year of their lives to one of the most inspired social movements of the current century.

Electoral campaigns are governed by deadlines and voting results, unlike social movements, which can ebb and flow for decades. The pain of a stunning defeat inevitably takes a psychic toll on its participants, similar in ways to a seven-game World Series. It takes time to recover, and some never will.

Show Us the Money

In an impressive bit of digging, Matea Gold and Joseph Tanfani of the Los Angeles Times recently reported that the hitherto unknown Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR) secretly sent more than $55 million to right-wing organizations during the 2010 election.

The center gave tens of millions of dollars to these groups—all with seemingly innocuous names like the American Future Fund, 60 Plus, Americans for Job Security and the Susan B. Anthony List—that, according to the Times, were “behind a coordinated campaign against Democratic congressional candidates.” The largest contribution by far went to the American Future Fund, which allowed the group to run a series of dishonest ads against the Democrats in 2010. The fund spent at least $23 million on this effort, of which the majority came from CPPR—all part of a reported $304 million spent to support conservative candidates in the 2010 election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, much of it apparently coming out of the pockets of the Koch brothers.

Obama's Kill List: Silence Is Not an Option

The image of President Obama poring over baseball-card profiles of terror suspects in Jo Becker and Scott Shane’s now famous New York Times “kill list” exposé probably pleased the administration officials whose cooperation made the story possible, wrapping the president in glinting “warrior in chief” election year packaging. For those concerned about the constitutional protection of civil liberties and the rule of law, however, that image, and the extraordinary practices it represents, was profoundly disturbing. The drone policy the president has developed not only infringes on the sovereignty of other nations, but the assassinations violate laws put in place in the 1970s after scandals enveloped an earlier era of CIA criminality. The new details about Obama’s assassination program also remind us how the 2001 Congressional Authorization of the Use of Military Force established a disastrous policy of “borderless and open-ended war that threatens to indefinitely extend US military engagement around the world,” in the words of the only member of the House to vote against it, Barbara Lee.

Why Elites Fail

In 1990, at the age of 11, I stood in a line of sixth graders outside an imposing converted armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, nervously anticipating a test that would change my life. I was hoping to gain entrance to Hunter College High School, a public magnet school that runs from grades seven through twelve and admits students from all five boroughs. Each year, between 3,000 and 4,000 students citywide score high enough on their fifth-grade standardized tests to qualify to take Hunter’s entrance exam in the sixth grade; ultimately, only 185 will be offered admission. (About forty-five students, all from Manhattan, test into Hunter Elementary School in the first grade and automatically gain entrance to the high school.)

What We Misunderstand About Drones

The New York Times' blockbuster article on President Obama's counterterrorism policies has sparked wide discussion of his evolution into a president focused very strongly on killing terrorists. Americans are also debating the effectiveness and morality of drones. These are important conversations to be having, to which I'd add some of the common misconceptions about drones. The first is that drones are cheap, and the second is that they're replacing other forms of military operations.

Drones might seem like a cheap and easy way to wage war, but that's not always the case. They require a substantial base of operations and support staff to function, which means they can actually cost more than traditional aircraft to purchase and function. And public anger over drones in the targeted countries has created severe political blowback, adding challenges for U.S. diplomacy and influence in parts of the world that are already tough enough to manage.

Another Earth Summit in Disarray?

The Rio+ 20 Earth summit could collapse after countries failed to agree on acceptable language just two weeks before 120 world leaders arrive at the biggest environmental summit ever organised, WWF warned on Wednesday.

An extra week given over to the UN's preparatory negotiations in New York fell into disarray over the weekend as talks aimed to bring countries together to set a new path for sustainable development splintered into 19 separate dialogues with major internal disagreements on the processes to be followed.

Dramatic Decline in Microscopic Life on BP's Oiled Beaches

The damage may be invisible to the naked eye but researchers report dramatic changes to the community of microbes living in the sands along shorelines oiled by BP's Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

These communities of the very small—comprised of microscopic worms, fungi, protists, algae, and the larval stages of larger species less than a millimeter in size—underpin vital ecosystem functions in the ocean. They provide food and nutrients for other species, churn the sediments, and contribute to the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur within marine ecosystems. From the paper in PLoS ONE:

    Microbial eukaryotes inherently underpin all higher trophic levels, and thus, understanding the biological impact and subsequent recovery of these communities is critical for interpreting the long-term effects of the D[eepwater] H[orizon] oil spill.

Vivian Krause Alleges Foreign Funded Green Charities Boost American Finances

Ottawa – U.S. foundations are using Canadian environmental groups to further American financial interests, Vancouver blogger Vivian Krause alleged at a Senate committee Wednesday.

Krause told the Senate's national finance committee that foreign economic and trade interests are the driving forces behind the U.S. cash flow to environmental groups. She is often cited by Conservative MPs and senators in their campaign against the foreign funding of Canadian charities.

“The campaign against Alberta oil is being funded as part of a massive campaign to foster the renewable energy industry in the United States,” Krause told senators.

Canada Conservatives On Europe Bailout: 'Non'

OTTAWA - It's unclear whether Stephen Harper made any European friends during his visit this week. It's a safe bet, however, that his Conservative MPs in Ottawa made none.

As the prime minister jetted out of France on Thursday after breakfasting with the newly-minted president, Conservatives in the House tore a strip off of Europe — particularly the socialist kind represented by Francois Hollande.

It all started with a question Wednesday from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, who castigated Harper for lecturing Europeans about their festering financial crisis while not participating with G20 nations on possible solutions.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Raises Pressure On Syria

Syria is on the edge of full-scale civil war following the latest violence in the country, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon warned.

Speaking after a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York late on Thursday, he underlined the need for urgency in diffusing the situation in the country.

He said: "Syria can quickly go from a tipping point to a breaking point. The danger of full-scale civil war is imminent and real, with catastrophic consequences for Syria and the region."

There was little evidence of the Syrian regime complying with a peace plan to end the violence, he added, the Press Association reported.

Toronto council funds Pride Week despite participation of controversial group

City funding for Pride Week is safe for this year, after Toronto councillors approved their annual grant to the event, but publicly expressed their displeasure with one potential participant in the parade, condemning the use of the term “Israeli Apartheid.”

The compromise measure, introduced by Councillor Josh Colle, defused what has become a pressure-filled annual debate over the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid or QuAIA in the Pride Parade.

While the vote settled the funding issue for this year, the debate is far from over.

Mayor plans to put lid on plastic bag ban

Mayor Rob Ford is vowing to do all he can to stop a ban on plastic bags from taking effect next year, mustering a legal case to sway councillors to undo what he calls an “outright stupid” move.

A bylaw that would prohibit retailers from providing the bags to their customers at the checkout would not stand up to a court challenge, he said based on legal advice from city solicitor Anna Kinastowski.

“She thinks that we won’t be able to win this in court and that we shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” Mr. Ford said. “I don’t see this ban going through as expected on Jan. 1.”

Groups fight back after Conservatives try to dilute environmental laws

Discord between the Tories and environmentalists began when the federal natural resources minister maligned environmental groups as radicals. It escalated with the introduction of Bill C-38, a package of new laws, some directly targeting charities and environmental protections.

Now it’s war.

Environmental groups are fighting back after the Conservatives accused them of hijacking public decision-making and using foreign funding to damage national economic interests. Their target is Bill C-38 which opponents say weakens fish habitat protection and strengthens the taxman’s powers to question charities.

Military denies massive ‘damage control’ effort over soldier’s suicide

A senior military information officer denied accusations Thursday that a massive communications effort launched in the aftermath of a veteran’s suicide was damage control aimed at combating negative media coverage.

“The story will be told with us or without us,” said Major David Muralt. “We have to get our side of the story out.”

Muralt’s testimony at the Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry into the 2008 suicide of Afghan vet Cpl. Stuart Langridge was a rare glimpse inside the military’s vast public relations machine, and revealed how it kicked into high gear following a request from an Ottawa Citizen reporter preparing the first major feature on the case.

CBC has to choose between popular and elite programming

The CBC has historically been subject to conflicting demands. On the one hand, it is supposed to make popular Canadian shows for all taxpayers. On the other, it is supposed to make shows for elites. The corporation cannot do both — it has to choose between Battle of the Blades and ballet on TV.

In recent years, the CBC has focused on making shows for the largest possible number of Canadians. It has glowed brightly as a result. The audiences for CBC Radio are the largest they have been in history. CBC Television’s prime-time schedule has performed better than ever before; for the first time, an overwhelmingly Canadian schedule has beaten the overwhelmingly American schedule of CBC’s great private competitor, Global.

Attitude on torture strains relations between Ottawa and UN panel

The chairman of a United Nations panel has defended his group against Canada’s accusations of “bureaucratic mission creep” in the aftermath of a UN report saying Ottawa failed to meet its legal obligations to prevent torture.

The report, published June 1, accused Canada of “complicity” in the torture of men swept up in arrests after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The UN panel also criticized Canada’s handling of detainees in Afghanistan, urging Ottawa to adopt new policies for future military operations that would prevent the transfer of prisoners into the hands of torturers.

Federal lawyers dismiss UN criticism of Canada on torture, rights violations

OTTAWA — The federal government used an Ottawa courtroom Thursday to fire back at United Nations criticism that Canada was “complicit” in a human rights violation against three Arab-Canadian men.

The Justice Department dismissed the criticism of the UN Committee Against Torture, which last week called for Canada to apologize to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, who were held in Syria after the 9-11 attacks.
The UN panel also called on Canada to compensate the men, who are suing the federal government for its role in their detention abroad. The UN gave the government until next year to issue a formal response.

Canadians owe a debt to Quebec’s student strikers

Speaking of debts, as most governments now do in order to explain why they can’t create anything and need to cut back on whatever is already there, here’s what I think we owe to those striking Quebec students.

We owe them for taking a shot at saving our national honour in the eyes of the world. We’ve lost brownie points on the environment, our even-handedness in areas like the Mideast, our commitment to peacekeeping — but their campaign for equal, publicly funded access to higher education hits a note closer to that other, previous Canada. I should add I don’t begrudge the Harper government its shifts; it’s what they said they’d do. But they don’t reflect the attitudes still held by more than 60 per cent of the population — at least according to how they vote.

NAFTA ruling puts another Newfoundland thorn in Harper's side

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale has some new clout in her testy relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after a NAFTA panel ruled against Canada in a dispute with Exxon Corp. over a requirement to spend research money in the province.

Unless Ms. Dunderdale agrees to change the regulation, Ottawa could end up paying Exxon's share of oil industry’s research spending for the foreseeable future –an amount the company estimated at $65-million – in addition to covering its past contributions.

Blind faith won’t make gaps in climate science go away

Here’s the irony about Canada’s two-decade, shambolic, inept, half-hearted and contradictory response to the incontrovertible fact the planet’s surface climate has, over the past 150 years, warmed: It mirrors uncertainty about the predictive ability of climate science.

In a way, the chaos of our response epitomizes the gaps in what we know. Our failure is, in fact, a direct consequence of those gaps.

More than that, the uncertain response reflects genuine confusion, among ordinary people but also among policymakers, about what Canadians can or should do about climate change.

Brian Mulroney blasts Thomas Mulcair for criticizing oilsands

OTTAWA — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney, voted Canada's greenest prime minister in a 2005 vote by Canadian environmental groups, says there's a way to deal with oilsands concerns without dividing the country as New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair is doing.

The Alberta treasury was "looted" out of $100 billion by predecessor Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government "so Mr. Trudeau could artificially subsidize consumers in Quebec and Ontario," Mulroney told CTV prior to a speech in Ottawa Wednesday evening.

Tough choices ahead for Harper’s trade strategy

The first big test for Prime Minister Harper’s ambitious trade negotiations agenda will come late this year with the expected climax of the negotiations between Canada and the EU. The outcome will determine the credibility of the government’s trade agenda.

The Harper government has put major emphasis on its ambitious trade negotiations agenda as a cornerstone of its Jobs and Growth Strategy. The list of countries with which Canada is negotiating free trade agreements or actively trying to deepen economic relations is breathtaking. Negotiations are underway with a range of countries including the European Union, Japan, India and Korea, as well as Morocco and a group of Caribbean nations. The government is seeking admission to the TransPacific Partnership negotiations involving the United States and 8 other Pacific states, and is working to deepen trade and economic relationships with China.

NDP Quebec caucus resists siren call of the student movement

OTTAWA—Sometimes a political caucus can show maturity by showing restraint.

So it appears with the official Opposition in Ottawa, an NDP caucus dotted with rookies, students and accidental MPs drawn from a demographic that sparked post-election jokes about the daycare centre in the Commons.

The caricature, of course, was overdrawn, but the mass of unfamiliar faces sitting across from the Conservatives was a large unknown.

Harper’s new enemy: conservatives

There is a new front opening, as opposition to Stephen Harper’s budget — and his broader agenda — gathers strength. Increasingly, criticism is coming from dismayed conservatives offended by Harper’s hostility, or indifference, to the environment. And to democratic tradition.

The dissidents are mostly Progressive Conservatives, but not exclusively. This week, for instance, former Alberta Reform MP Bob Mills joined Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in decrying the elimination of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (a Mulroney-era initiative.)

First wave of 2,200 federal public servants faces layoffs

OTTAWA — About 2,200 of the thousands of federal public servants who have received affected notices since the March budget are losing their jobs and facing layoffs.

So far, the number of layoffs is a fraction of the more than 18,200 notices that departments have handed out in three waves since the budget announced annual spending cuts of $5.2 billion that would eliminate 19,200 jobs by 2015.

Treasury Board officials provided the latest tally to a meeting this week of the labour-management National Joint Council. As of May 31, 2,184 employees have been declared surplus and another 915 are losing their jobs, but have been guaranteed “reasonable” job offers somewhere else in government.

Fed bureaucrats collected $1.2 billion in severance without being laid off

OTTAWA - The federal government paid $1.2 billion in voluntary severance last fiscal year to 91,613 public servants who either remain in their jobs, retired or quit on their own - a perk unheard of to most Canadian taxpayers who are footing the bill.

Business groups and spending watchdogs say the voluntary payouts are both "staggering" and "outrageous," considering Canadians in the private sector are generally only paid severance when they lose their job - not if they continue working or leave on their own.

All told, taxpayers are on the hook for more than $1.5 billion in regular and voluntary severance to 102,589 public servants in 2011-12, according to new federal numbers obtained by Postmedia News.

Court records muddy MP’s version of election spending

OTTAWA — Records from a court case appear to undercut Dean Del Mastro’s claim that he paid a research company only a small amount during the 2008 election, muddying the waters as he resists calls to step down during an Elections Canada investigation for alleged campaign spending violations.

On Wednesday, the Citizen and Postmedia News reported that Del Mastro is being investigated for allegedly exceeding his spending limit and his contribution limit in relation to a $21,000 personal cheque he used to pay for services from Holinshed Research Group.

The revelation led NDP and Liberal critics Thursday to call for Del Mastro to step aside as the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary until the investigation is resolved, but Del Mastro brushed aside the complaints, and stated that he serves “with integrity and conviction.”

Retired sea captain: Don't be fooled by Harper's pipeline plans

I write this article from the perspective of an old-timer who has a few tidbits of wisdom from my time on this planet. These thoughts are to do with the feds and Enbridge's so-called plan to run supertankers through the narrow passages out of Kitimat.

One word sums this up: poppycock!

I have been capable, and qualified, to sail any ship this world had to offer and in charge of some of the largest vessels used on this British Columbia coastline. My certificate, signed by the then Federal Minister of Transportation, was unrestricted; it literally states "Limitations: None."

Tories and NDP in statistical tie, poll suggests

The federal Conservatives and the NDP are in a statistical dead heat among committed Canadian voters, a new Nanos poll suggests.

Among the committed voters polled, 33.6 per cent of respondents indicated their preference was the NDP, while the Conservatives had 33.5 per cent support.

Nik Nanos, president of the polling firm, pointed out that this is the first time in its tracking history that the NDP has numerically surpassed the Conservatives — albeit by 0.1 percentage points. "The research suggests that there is no significant negative blowback by Thomas Mulcair's comments on the oilsands," he said.

We are all Quebecers: Chilean students

The undersigned Chilean academics and student leaders denounce before the national and international public opinion the persecution of the Quebec student movement in Canada, asexpressed in Bill 78, enacted on Thursday May 19 by the Provincial Government of Premier Jean Charest.

Bill 78, the "truncheon law", is the most severe piece of legislation since the War Measures Act was used during the October Crisis in 1970, and has been denounced by the President of the Quebec Bar Association, Amnesty International, the League for Human Rights, four major unions, and various academic bodies.

The student strike in Quebec

Quebec is in the midst of a social crisis of rare intensity, both in terms of the duration of the confrontation between the student movement and the Quebec government and the extent to which citizens have rallied behind students in the last weeks. After more than four months, a total of 161 student unions bringing together more than 150,000 members are still carrying out the struggle single-handedly. Montreal's tourist season is in sight and there is no indication that the movement is nearing exhaustion.

The first two months of the conflict come down to the Charest government's willful ignorance of student demands. What has been striking (no pun intended) in the last two months is both the strong sense of panic and improvisation emanating from the government and the mobilization's stunning persistence on campuses. I think it's important to mention a few highlights. On March 22, April 22, and May 22, more than 200,000 people reclaimed the streets of Montreal, each time. In addition, picket lines were held daily in colleges and universities to enforce strike mandates, thousands of people march together every evening in Montréal in so-called "night-time demonstrations" and, lately, a great uproar -- the sound of clanging pots and pans -- has been rousing neighbourhoods every evening.

While the Men Watch: The CBC panders and our hearts sink

The CBC promoted program While the Men Watch has been live now since the start of the Stanley Cup Playoff Finals, and it seems all the controversy it has raised as a self-proclaimed program built to help women enjoy sports is not going away.

The show raises concerns about sexism, heteronormativity, reinforced gender roles and harmful stereotypes, disguising deeply rooted misogyny as "playful banter" and irresponsible generalizations as everyday problems. With all these issues of blatant sexism and ridiculous misogyny exposed, one question races to the forefront: Why would CBC choose to air this program?

Racism in Zion

Fuelled by the racist rhetoric of politicians and religious leaders, violence toward African asylum seekers is on the rise in Israel.

These are difficult times to be a liberal Zionist Jew. Time has forced many to come to terms with the realities of the nationalist, right-wing domination of Israeli politics and the lack of any progress in peacemaking. Yes, there is the occasional bright spot in this darkness, such as the fact that, last week, the Israeli government agreed for the first time to put a female reform rabbi on the state payroll, breaking the monopoly of the orthodox rabbinate. But the darkness is more pervasive than the light, it seems, and any satisfaction one could take from that bit of liberalization was swept away by the recognition that right-wing nationalism, Israeli style, is racist to the core.

The Commons: Whatever Dean Del Mastro did, somebody somewhere probably did something worse

The Scene. “Mr. Speaker,” Liberal MP Scott Andrews declared, “there is no more denying the facts.”

Apparently fun time was over. Our reckoning, or at least someone’s reckoning, was at hand.

“The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is under active and serious investigations by Elections Canada for election fraud,” Mr. Andrews reported. “How can the Conservative member for Peterborough conduct himself as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and hold his position on the ethics committee while he is being investigated for breaking the rules at Elections Canada?”

NDP mounts unusual filibuster in closed-door Public Accounts Committee probe into F-35 fighter jets

PARLIAMENT HILL—The NDP is mounting an unusual and likely unprecedented filibuster behind the closed doors of a Commons committee inquiry into Canada’s controversial acquisition of 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets because of the government’s refusal to hear more witnesses and its desire to shut the hearings down before the House adjourns for the summer in two weeks.

The standoff, which a Conservative MP confirmed along with opposition members of the House Public Accounts Committee, could force a resumption of the inquiry in September, despite the federal government’s desire to shut the hearings down now after hearing only seven hours of witness testimony.

Montreal Grand Prix met with clashes and nudity in streets

Hundreds of protesters spilled into downtown Montreal on Thursday night, many of them naked or barely clothed, as police used stun grenades and truncheons to prevent them from confronting Formula One parties.

Unlike the last week or so of the city's regular nightly demonstrations, which police largely left to their own devices, Thursday's protests were repelled by riot officers whenever they neared sensitive areas.

Those zones included Crescent Street and Peel Street, where fans of this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix auto race were sipping cocktails amid parked Lamborghinis, and in the city's St. Henri neighbourhood, where about 300 protesters attempted to crash a Formula One gala for race teams and officials.

Harper’s refusal to help bail out Europe draws Germany’s ire

Germany is expressing its irritation with Canada for refusing to contribute to an international bailout fund as Prime Minister Stephen Harper faces increased pressure from the G20 to show “solidarity” with countries tackling Europe’s financial crisis.

Canada is on track to be one of the few G20 nations not offering a specific amount to the International Monetary Fund as it tries to raise at least $430-billion to draw on in case any members need a financial rescue.

But Mr. Harper isn’t budging as he carves out an agenda directly opposite to those of the high-debt governments of Europe. He chose Davos earlier this year to announce a long-term economic plan that includes raising the eligibility age for Old Age Security, partly to contrast Canada with the generous but unaffordable entitlement programs that are partly to blame for the trouble in Europe.

Blue helmets cast aside, Canada keeps the peace no more

Once pre-eminent among peacekeeping nations with thousands of “blue berets” deployed around the world, Canada now ranks 53 – between Paraguay and Slovakia – on the United Nations contributors’ list with less than a schoolbus-load of Canadian soldiers serving on UN missions overseas.

Since then 1990s, successive Canadian governments, both Conservative and Liberal, have shunned traditional UN-mandated peacekeeping for U.S.-led war-fighting missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. Those campaigns have eclipsed the UN as Ottawa’s favoured military expeditionary effort. From being the top contributor in the early 1990s, the Canadian commitment dropped precipitously from thousands, to hundreds a decade ago to only a few dozen in recent years.

Pride Toronto gets city funding — with a warning about ‘Israeli apartheid’ activists

Parceled with a threat from the deputy mayor, city council has voted to once again give funding to Pride Toronto.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, councillors approved a grant of roughly $124,000, which is about 8 per cent of Pride’s $1.6 million budget. As part of the compromise, councillors also voted to condemn the term “Israeli apartheid.”

“Next year, I’ll be the first guy out to say ‘no funding ever’” if any politically charged groups cause problems, cautioned deputy mayor Doug Holyday.

Quebec student strike: Daughter of MNA Amir Khadir arrested

MONTREAL—In a roundup of alleged mischief-makers linked to Montreal’s long-running student strike, police on Thursday arrested the daughter of Amir Khadir, a prominent left-wing Quebec politician who was arrested two days before.

The early morning operation came on the eve of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, an extremely lucrative tourist event for the city. Politicians and officials have been concerned about protesters who’ve promised to disrupt that event and others this summer.

Yalda Machouf-Khadir, 19, was arrested at the home of her parents in Montreal’s trendy Plateau Mont-Royal district. A sign near the door reads: “When injustice becomes the law, resistance becomes a duty.”

Del Mastro has to go: Tory attack dog urged to quit over election expense probe

OTTAWA — The Tory MP who normally leads the party’s defence on accusations of dirty electoral tricks was again forced on the defensive Thursday after opposition critics called on Dean Del Mastro to step down.

Elections Canada is looking into whether the Peterborough, Ont., MP broke election spending laws in connection with voter-contact calls made by his campaign in 2008.

Del Mastro has been the main Conservative point man in defending the party against allegations of voter suppression in one Ontario riding during the 2011 campaign.