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 15, 2012

Stephen Harper and the tyranny of majority government

What a strange fuss it caused. There was our Prime Minister in France last week, thoughtfully instructing an attentive new socialist president exactly how to run his country, when he decided to underline some well-known views on how he likes Canada to operate. (Stephen Harper loves sharing government info with Canadians when he’s not actually in Canada.) Asked about his environmental critics getting government funding, he replied, more generally:

“If it’s the case that we’re spending on organizations that are doing things contrary to government policy, I think that is an inappropriate use of taxpayers money and we’ll look to eliminate it.”

Inside the Koch World convention

The Koch brothers’ political operation has increasingly come to resemble its own political party — and later this month in San Diego, it will hold what amounts to its most ambitious convention to date.

Many of the dozens of rich conservative invitees are expected to write huge checks to a pool of cash distributed among Koch-approved groups, potentially boosting the Kochs’ 2012 spending plan beyond their historic $395 million goal. And it’s also a chance for the Kochs to show off their increasingly robust political machine, including a growing voter database project called Themis that played a major role in conservatives’ recent efforts in Wisconsin and in which POLITICO has learned Koch operatives have discussed investing $20 million.

Mitch McConnell Argues Against More Donor Disclosure, Accuses Obama Of Political Retribution

WASHINGTON -- In a series of speeches and interviews over the past day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued against adding a further layer of disclosure to the campaign finance system, suggesting that the Obama administration would use it to browbeat political opponents.

The Kentucky Republican has long been one of Congress' foremost advocates of a far-reaching interpretation of First Amendment rights. And his remarks, first to Fox News, then to the Faith and Freedom Conference and finally to the American Enterprise Institute, followed in that vein.

This Week in Poverty: Disposable Families in Ohio

Since January 2011, Ohio has thrown nearly 70,000 people—including 40,000 children—off of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance program, called Ohio Works First (OWF). That’s nearly 25 percent of the state’s TANF caseload. The reason? The state faces up to $130 million in federal penalties if 50 percent of the adults receiving assistance don’t meet the federal work participation requirement by September 30.

“Seventy thousand people is more than the entire TANF roll in thirty-nine states,” says Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in Appalachian Ohio, where he has worked with poor people for over thirty years. “You can imagine if someone announced they were going to throw all the children in Virginia off of cash assistance it would be national news. But that many get thrown off in Ohio and it’s barely even local news.”

Bill C-38: Tories Fear Omnibus Budget Showdown May Have Exhausted More Than Just Their MPs

OTTAWA - After almost 24 hours of bobbing up and down in their seats for votes on the government's budget bill, there's no doubt Conservatives MPs are tired.

But government MPs and cabinet ministers are also expressing private concerns they'll come out of the showdown over Bill C-38 having exhausted some of their political capital as well.

Protesters target Harper's refugee health cuts

MONTREAL - Medical associations across the country have planned a national day of action Monday to shine the spotlight on the Conservative government’s quiet cutting of refugee health-care coverage – a program that costs each Canadian about $3 per year.

Psychologist David Woodbury, who has lent a compassionate ear for years to refugees to Canada who are isolated, vulnerable and emotionally fragile, says the news has filled his clients with hopelessness.

“I’m losing sleep because I’m having to tell people we have to end our therapeutic relationship or they might have to find a little money because I can’t see 20 people for nothing,” he said.

Ottawa loses legal battle over immigration backlog

Ottawa has suffered a major setback in eliminating its immigration backlog after the federal court ruled the government is obliged to process all applications it accepted into the system.

About 900 applicants under the federal skilled workers’ program sued Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for violating the pledge to assess and finalize decisions in a timely fashion.

They asked the court to order the immigration department to process their applications within a reasonable time frame.

No real refuge in Canada for some refugees

As Canadian Jews, we grew up hearing stories about how our families came to this country as refugees. We also heard about the relatives who never arrived because of the Canadian government's closed-door policy for Jews. Historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper's book None is Too Many told of this sad and ultimately deadly policy.

In the early 1900s, Jews fled persecution in European countries where anti-Semitism was rampant. They were not alone; the Roma and Sinti people were caught in the same web of hate.

Del Mastro lawyer wants meeting with Elections Canada

A lawyer for Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro says in a letter to Elections Canada that he's disappointed the agency won't meet with them unless Del Mastro understands his statements could be used against him in court.

In a letter written June 13 and provided to CBC News, Jeffrey Ayotte writes of his "profound disappointment" that Elections Canada won't meet with Del Mastro or any of his representatives.

Ayotte says in the letter he's confirming a conversation with Elections Canada officials.

Quebec students keep up pressure, Charest ponders electoral options

The FECQ met in convention on the weekend of the Grand Prix. It called on the government to accept a mediated end to the tuition fee conflict, but also decided on a plan of action throughout the summer that will see it remain on a mobilization footing along with a larger counterpart, the CLASSE coalition.

FECQ is joining CLASSE's call for another mass march in Montreal, on June 22. The largest student marches have been taking place for months now on the 22nd of each month, including the May 22 march that drew an estimated 400,000 people, the largest single protest action in Canadian history.

Europe's Racism Problem

Europeans look at citizenship in terms of race and blood. Having fought each other for so long over so little territory, an “us vs. them” mentality, accompanied by the feeling that their people are superior to others, has been bred into their national sensibilities. The immigrant integration issues plaguing European societies today can be understood in the context of this racism, pure and simple.

The legacy of colonialism, and the failure to acknowledge its lasting impacts, is an endless burden for European societies and their immigrant communities. Europeans’ deep feelings of national superiority have bred hostility towards the perceived “outsiders” living in their midst. Immigrants, some having lived for generations in France, Italy, the U.K, Germany, or elsewhere, are never truly considered to be, or accepted as, citizens.

U.S. government spending watchdog raises more red flags about F-35's soaring costs, delays and major failures

PARLIAMENT HILL—A U.S. government spending watchdog raised more red flags about soaring costs, delays and major failures in the F-35 stealth fighter jet program on Thursday, warning also of the impact the setbacks will have on eight other countries taking part in the project, including Canada.

The detailed report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office on F-35 testing and development problems—which the report suggested the program as it was originally planned is at risk—came out only a day after the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) unveiled a high-level committee of bureaucrats and outside experts, including former federal auditor general Denis Desautels, that will take charge of Canada’s F-35 acquisition program following a scathing report from Auditor General Michael Ferguson last April.

Conservatives draw fire for War of 1812 spending

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is spending more than $28 million on a war that happened 200 years ago, leaving no doubt it takes the War of 1812 bicentennial very seriously.

A special silver dollar coin (which sells for $60), a new national monument, funding for historical re-enactments, upgrades for historic sites, museum exhibits and even a mobile phone app are among the ways taxpayers are supporting the celebration of the anniversary.

Research on oil-sands impact cost centre its funding, scientists say

Leading environmental scientists say Ottawa is cutting funding to a research station that studied the ecology of freshwater lakes for more than 50 years because it is producing data the Conservatives do not want to hear as they promote development of the Alberta oil sands.

A massive budget bill that is about to be passed into law by Stephen Harper’s government will cut about $2-million in annual funding to the Experimental Lakes Area in Northwestern Ontario and close the highly-regarded research centre by next April if a new operator cannot be found.

Four years after high-rise explosion, safety measures not in place

Nearly four years after an explosion in an underground hydro vault tore through an east-end Toronto high rise and forced 1,000 residents out of their homes, potentially hundreds of apartment buildings throughout the city don’t have essential safety equipment that could prevent such a blast.

“It was like a bomb went off,” Romelda Morson said of the explosion that left her homeless for two months. “The whole building shook.”

A heat detector could have prevented the fiery blast at 2 Secord Ave. on July 20, 2008, that left nine fire fighters injured, the Office of the Fire Marshal says.

How a Greek politician’s $25,000 curtain rods has fuelled voter anger

ATHENS- Scandalous details of the lavish life of a former minister who spent 20,000 euros on curtain rods while cash-strapped Greeks buckled under tax hikes and wage cuts have driven anger against the establishment to boiling point before Sunday’s election.

Akis Tsohatzopoulos, 72, a once-powerful Socialist arrested on charges of taking bribes and evading taxes, has become a symbol of the corruption that has bedevilled Greece in the 38 years of rule by the Socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy, the two parties backing the country’s bailout by international lenders.

Grieving Father Struggles to Pay Dead Son’s Student Loans

A few months after he buried his son, Francisco Reynoso began getting notices in the mail. Then the debt collectors came calling.

"They would say, 'We don't care what happened with your son, you have to pay us,'" recalled Reynoso, a gardener from Palmdale, Calif.

Reynoso's son, Freddy, had been the pride of his family and the first to go to college. In 2005, after Freddy was accepted to Boston's Berklee College of Music, his father co-signed on his hefty private student loans, making him fully liable should Freddy be unwilling or unable to repay them. It was no small decision for a man who made just over $21,000 in 2011, according to his tax returns.

Harper government targeted artist for her green conscience, internal documents reveal

Franke James, a Canadian artist and environmental advocate blacklisted by the Harper government, has obtained internal documents indicating Canadian officials worked behind the scenes to discredit her work.

An internal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) media monitoring report from July 2011 lists James as "an inconvenient artist" ("une artiste qui dérange"), the headline of an article in La Presse. The document was part of the 1,500 pages of internal documents James obtained through Access to Information requests since August 2011.

"To be on the list of hot foreign issues, it was just shocking," James said in a telephone interview. "I'm right up there with Arctic sovereignty and Afghanistan."

Tories thwart bid to alter budget bill after 22-hour marathon

“Deux mille quinze! Deux mille quinze!”

The French chant “2015” started in the upper reaches of the NDP backbench and soon cascaded into a common, desk-thumping chorus just before midnight Thursday in the House of Commons.

The tone from the Official Opposition was oddly celebratory, given that they’d just faced 22-plus hours of consecutive spankings by a Conservative majority government voting to protect its omnibus budget bill from hundreds of amendments.

Ottawa's environmental-review overhaul hits tough hurdles

The federal government’s insistence that cabinet should have final say over resource projects such as Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline is stirring opposition that could undermine its effort to streamline environmental approvals.

First nations groups in British Columbia are poised to launch legal challenges if the government intervenes in the ongoing National Energy Board review of the Gateway project through legislation now before the House of Commons.

And critics say the Conservative government is politicizing the entire review process by giving cabinet the power to overturn any future NEB ruling that blocks a resource development on environmental grounds.

Federal budget 2012: Standing up against abuse of power

Parliament has rarely looked sillier than it did on Thursday. Over some 24 hours, Conservative MPs went to work voting down hundreds of proposed amendments to Bill C-38, the behemoth omnibus budget implementation act, before voting on the bill itself. Parliamentarians whiled away the hours in various states of dress and wakefulness, eating chocolate, reading novels, playing on their iPads. Many spoke of cramming and caffeinating like undergraduates pulling an all-nighter. It would have been funny if only the shape of our country hadn’t been at stake.

Labor Department's Guest Worker Reforms Blocked By GOP, Democratic Senators

WASHINGTON -- In a development bound to please business trade groups, senators from both sides of the aisle have voted to block new federal rules that would require employers to look harder for American workers before turning to low-wage foreign guest workers who come to the U.S. on visas.

The rules proposed by the Labor Department have strong backing from immigration and labor groups who say some U.S. employers are abusing the H-2B visa program, which is designed to let companies bring in foreign workers when they can't find enough locals for the job. Proponents of the rule changes argue that the reliance on guest workers is depressing wages in U.S. industries like forestry, seafood and construction, while also subjecting workers from Mexico and elsewhere to poor living and working conditions here in America.

Inge Marler, Arkansas Tea Party Leader, Makes Racist Joke At Event

Tea Party leaders in Arkansas are on the defensive after a board member of a Tea Party group in the Ozarks made a racist joke at a rally over the weekend drawing laughs from the audience.

The Baxter Bulletin in north-central Arkansas reported that Inge Marler made the comments at the annual rally of the Ozark Tea Party. The remarks, which suggested that African-Americans are on welfare, were condemned by Tea Party leaders in the state. The Bulletin reported that the condemnation came after they contacted the Tea Party for comment.

Scores in N.C. are legally 'innocent,' yet still imprisoned

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. – Terrell McCullum did not commit a federal crime by carrying a shotgun and a rifle out of his ex-girlfriend's house.

But he is serving a federal prison sentence for it. And the fact that everyone — including the U.S.Justice Department— agrees that he is legally innocent might not be enough to set him free.

A USA TODAY investigation, based on court records and interviews with government officials and attorneys, found more than 60 men who went to prison for violating federal gun possession laws, even though courts have since determined that it was not a federal crime for them to have a gun.

What Sheldon Adelson Could Have Bought With $36.5 Million

News broke Wednesday that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is giving a $10 million contribution to the Mitt Romney-backing super PAC Restore Our Future, bringing his contribution total for the 2012 cycle to $36.5 million.

Whether the check-writing ends there isn't clear. But it seems unlikely, as it took less than 24 hours for Forbes to report that Adelson's contributions to super PACs in 2012 would be closer to $100 million or, even, "limitless."

Limitless donations are the new reality of post-Citizens United politics. But it's still worth occasionally stepping back to consider just how much money is being spent on this election. What else could be purchased with Adelson's money?

Michigan Woman Lawmakers Silenced By GOP After Abortion Debate 'Temper Tantrum'

Two Democratic woman lawmakers in Michigan, Rep. Lisa Brown (West Bloomfield) and Rep. Barb Byrum (Onondaga), said Republican House leaders refused to allow them to speak on the House floor Thursday after their emotional remarks opposing an anti-abortion bill the day before.

Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas (R-Midland) gaveled Brown out of order on Wednesday afternoon after she told her colleagues, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina, but no means no.”

Reporters Kicked Out Of Mitt Romney Event At Newseum

Reporters were kicked out of Mitt Romney's talk at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night.

The candidate was there to speak to executives at a meeting of the Business Roundtable. The Boston Globe's Marty Baron tweeted Thursday, "Press escorted out of #Romney event at, of all places, #Newseum." (Baron was rightly noting the irony of barring journalists from what is essentially a shrine to journalism.)

Egypt Elections: Court Ruling Sparks Accusations Of Military Coup, Fears Of Dicatorship Under Shafik

CAIRO -- With its Tuesday afternoon ruling that dissolved Egypt's parliament and ensured that Ahmed Shafik will remain a presidential candidate, Egypt's Constitutional Court plunged the country's upcoming runoff election into a chaotic mix of confusion, despair and accusations of a military coup.

Because of his close ties to the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, in which he served as prime minister before the 2011 revolution, Shafik faced the possibility of being barred under Parliament's election law if it was upheld.

GOP Begins Judge Blockade

With less than four and a half months until Election Day, Senate Republicans are shutting off the bipartisan spigot when it comes to confirming President Barack Obama’s nominees to the nation’s top courts and will present a unified front against his circuit court picks through November.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) made the decision to blockade nominations official Wednesday when he informed his colleagues that he would invoke the “Thurmond Rule” from now until after the elections.

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.

Council of Canadians says Tory legal attacks against robocalls challenge a ‘divert and defame’ strategy

OTTAWA — A citizen-advocacy groups says the Conservative party’s attempt to quash a legal challenge of last year’s election results is based on defamatory and irrelevant attacks, not legal arguments.

The Council of Canadians says the Tories are using “a classic ‘divert and defame’ strategy” to fight the group’s attempt to overturn the results of the votes in seven ridings from last May’s federal election.

The council has brought applications in Federal Court alleging that misleading robocalls and live calls changed the outcome in these ridings. The applications were filed on behalf of voters in each riding.

Feds favour "responsible" growth in oilsands over sustainability: Documents

OTTAWA — The federal government has turned away from promoting "environmentally sustainable development" of Canada's oilsands sector, newly released internal records obtained by Postmedia News reveal.

Draft and final versions of a communications plan for last February's announcement about improved environmental monitoring of the industrial sector that exploits natural bitumen deposits in Western Canada show someone in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government wanted to delete a pledge to ensure the "environmentally sustainable development" from a list of key public messages.

Parks Canada staff banned from criticizing Feds

Parks Canada employees across the country have received letters warning they're not allowed to criticize the agency or the federal government.

The directive comes as the agency cuts hundreds of jobs or curtails work hours.

"I am aware that during this time of significant transition, the concept of loyalty can have a very particular meaning. However, as employees of the public sector, our duty is to support the elected government," employees were told.

Workers are not supposed to speak about the cuts, whether at meetings, forums or through social media. Only designated people are allowed to deal with journalists.

Elections Canada alleges Del Mastro campaign filed ‘false document’

OTTAWA — Dean Del Mastro’s 2008 election campaign filed a “false document” to Elections Canada, according to a sworn affidavit from an Elections Canada investigator released in Ottawa on Thursday.

A handwriting analyst hired by the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia has concluded that the handwriting on the document matches the writing of a Del Mastro campaign worker.

Del Mastro, who often defends the government on ethical questions in his role as parliamentary secretary for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is under investigation by Elections Canada for allegedly exceeding his spending and donation limit in the 2008 election, offences punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.

MP Del Mastro bank records turned over to Elections Canada

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro is under investigation by Elections Canada for spending too much to get elected, court documents released Thursday confirm.

The Peterborough, Ont., MP has been the subject of three production orders since April 23, 2011, including two that required the Royal Bank of Canada to release his personal banking records for the investigation into his 2008 federal election spending.

At issue is a $21,000 contract for polling and research, which Del Mastro says was for work never performed, but which the man in charge of the research company says was performed but never reported to Elections Canada.

Why blood is sometimes thicker than flexible labour rules

Close families and flexible labour markets don’t go together. That’s the conclusion of a fascinating paper by a quartet of economists. Their work should be required reading for all European politicians and for the economists and pundits around the world who seek to advise them.

One truth universally acknowledged in Europe today is that the countries of the south need to overhaul their labour markets: Rigid rules on hiring and firing and on the minimum wage are blamed for the high unemployment and subpar economic growth in these states.

ORNGE: PCs push Liberals for new ORNGE probe

The Progressive Conservatives want to cut off $150 million in ORNGE funding unless the Liberal government strikes a powerful probe to fully investigate the troubled air ambulance service.

The Tories say they’ll bring forward the budget motion this Monday. However, they will need support from the New Democrats in order to pull off the drastic move and, so far, the NDP is remaining tight-lipped on which way they’ll turn.

The Liberals were quick to accuse the Conservatives of playing politics with people’s lives over the amendment to the budget bill.

War of 1812 bicentennial glamourizes warfare

I prepped for the outbreak of birthday festivities for the war of 1812 — they start today in Toronto and Monday marks 200 years since the U.S. declared war on the British Empire — by watching the last episodes of this season’s Justified. It’s based on crime writer Elmore Leonard’s stories about Raylan Givens, U.S. marshal. They’re set in Kentucky today, and are highly violent and primitive. All growing boys get a gun, and some girls. “I killed one Crowder, I’ll kill another,” says Raylan’s 18-year-old girlfriend to the meth king of Harlan county. Fathers and sons hate, shoot and kill each other without sentiment, though there are rules. (“I ain’t goin’ anywhere, they killed my daddy,” says Crowder fils. “You came here to kill your daddy,” says Raylan. “That’s different,” is the answer.)

Budget all-nighter frustrates Flaherty: ‘This is, like, chutzpah?’

The two sleep-deprived sides of the House of Commons kept vigilant watch on each other Thursday as bleary-eyed MPs stood up and sat down, over and over again, their 24-hour marathon voting session pushing past the halfway mark.

And after 12 hours of voting, what they had on their feet –  if anything – when they got on them didn’t seem to matter much to anyone.

“I’ve got to get myself comfy, off come the shoes,” NDP MP Glenn Thibeault said, describing one of the many ways parliamentarians sought comfort heading through the 12th hour of voting on more than 800 amendments to Bill C-38.

Federal Budget 2012: MPs forgo shoes, resort to chocolate as marathon voting session continues

OTTAWA—They ate chocolate-covered coffee beans, shared a celebrity gossip magazine, switched their contact lenses for eyeglasses, took off their shoes, fell asleep in public and danced in their chairs.

Some thought the exercise was a waste of time, while others felt their country slipping away one lost vote at a time.

Bleary-eyed MPs continued a marathon round of voting on 871 opposition amendments — combined into 159 votes — to the omnibus budget implementation Bill C-38 that began after midnight on Thursday and was expected to stretch past midnight the following day.

Elderly Inmate Population Soared 1,300 Percent Since 1980s: Report

The population of aging and elderly prisoners in U.S. prisons exploded over the past three decades, with nearly 125,000 inmates aged 55 or older now behind bars, according to a report published Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. This represents an increase of over 1,300 percent since the early 1980s.

More than $16 billion is spent annually by states and the federal government to incarcerate elderly prisoners, despite ample evidence that most prisoners over age 50 pose little or no threat to public safety, the report said. Due largely to higher health care costs, prisoners aged 50 and older cost around $68,000 a year to incarcerate, compared to $34,000 per year for the average prisoner.

Unless dramatic changes are made to sentencing and parole policies, the number of older prisoners could soar as high as 400,000 by 2030, posing a tremendous threat to state and federal budgets, said Inimai Chettiar, a co-author of the report.

"If we continue spending on prisons the way that we are, particularly on this aging population that's low risk, we're going to get to a place where states can't afford to spend on anything else," Chettiar said.

And while elderly inmates released from prison will require medical care and other public services, a fiscal analysis by the ACLU found that states would save an average of more than $66,000 per year for each elderly prisoner they release.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author:  John Rudolf 

Quebec Students Spark Mass Protests Against Austerity

What started in the bitter winter as walkout against a $1,625 tuition hike in Quebec has turned into a spring of mass social unrest, sparking Canada’s first major uprising against the austerity measures that have slashed social spending and public services around the world. Now entering its fourth month and with over 160,000 college and university student supporters, the protest is North America’s largest and longest-running student strike to date. But it has become much more than that too. The government’s refusal to negotiate with students over tuition and its new law curbing the right to protest has angered millions and transformed the struggle. Now it is about stopping premier Jean Charest’s Liberal government, who students—heavily backed by labor, civil society and community groups—accuse with tearing up Quebec’s social contract.

Charting the Cozy Connections Between JPMorgan and the Senate Banking Committee

This morning, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, faced a Senate hearing over more than $2 billion in bank losses caused by risky hedges that blew up. Dimon said that the hedges—investments meant to protect the bank—had grown into "complex and hard-to manage risks." The losses "let a lot of people down, and we are sorry for it."

Many lawmakers are holding up the losses as evidence of the need for stronger financial regulation. The chairman of the Senate banking committee, Tim Johnson, (D-S.D.) in his opening remarks, asked for "a full accounting" of JPMorgan's losses.

Bill 78: Quebec Had No Choice But To Use Emergency Legislation, Lawyer Argues

MONTREAL - Quebec government lawyers defended a controversial protest law that is being challenged in court this week as well as in the streets virtually every night.

The government said Wednesday that Bill 78 is in the public interest and should remain intact until it can be fully argued in court.

Lawyers representing student federations, unions and other groups are trying to get parts of Bill 78 — sections dealing with public protest — temporarily suspended.

Ezra Levant Spanish Profanity: Chiquita Banana Attack Violated Ethics Rules, Broadcast Council Says

Sun News has been ordered to tell its audience it violated Canadian broadcasters’ standards when host Ezra Levant told a Chiquita Banana executive to “f*ck his mother” in Spanish last December.

The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council, a non-governmental industry body, told the fledgling news network it has to announce twice, during prime time, that it violated broadcasters’ ethical guidelines during a taping of the Levant-hosted The Source last December.

Enbridge Pipeline Opposed By Former Tory Minister

A former Conservative federal fisheries minister is speaking out against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, saying it poses a serious threat to the environment, fisheries habitats and future generations.

Tom Siddon, who now lives in B.C.'s Okanagan, is calling on the Harper government to reconsider plans to allow Alberta crude to be shipped to China through B.C.

"What's Canada doing? We're getting rid of our natural resources as quickly as we can at the lowest possible price," said Siddon.

Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises

WASHINGTON -- A critical document from President Barack Obama's free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.

The leaked document has been posted on the website of Citizens Trade Campaign, a long-time critic of the administration's trade objectives. The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.

Producers find greener way to extract oil from oilsands

CALGARY — Oilsands operators say they're ready to zap dirty oil accusations with electromagnetic force.

No, they're not targeting environmental activists with incapacitating rays, but instead they're well on their way to using radio waves to more efficiently extract black gold from the oilsands.

A consortium of companies have field-tested the process that heats the oilsands electrically with radio waves, reducing the amount of steam and water needed to extract bitumen from sand.

How does Redford solve a problem like Mulcair?

CALGARY — Premier Alison Redford isn’t exactly a willing combatant in the escalating war with federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair — not yet, anyway — but she knows how to lob a noise grenade.

On Wednesday, Redford said in French that when Mulcair is in Alberta, “he’s not very critical” of the province, but after he’s back in Ottawa, “he is more critical.”

This shows that “what we have here is a political discussion,” the premier said.

Québec protests provoke a sense of déja vu for some in B.C.

For British Columbians of a certain age, watching events in Montreal over the past four months may have been bringing back memories of political turmoil on the west coast nearly three decades ago.

In May, 1983 — after campaigning on a platform of public sector restraint during one of the worst recessions in the province’s history — Premier Bill Bennett won his third majority mandate.

Two months later, following intense cabinet discussions but virtually no public consultations, the Bennett government tabled a restraint budget targeting public sector wages and staffing levels. Then, minutes later, it introduced 26 pieces of legislation, including one eliminating rent controls and another that did away with the existing human rights commission.

Aside from the stunned NDP opposition in the legislature, many British Columbians felt the government was going well beyond the mandate it had received in the election; within a week 35-40,000 protesters packed the old Empire Stadium in Vancouver. A few days later, about 25,000 people gathered on the lawns of the provincial legislature in Victoria.

Repeal of Section 13 leaves only Criminal Code to deal with hate speech

We are so used to Stephen Harper breaking his promises that few Canadians noticed his most recent flip-flop.

The Conservatives in the House of Commons have axed the anti-hate provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act, even though in 2009 he intimated the exact opposite.

He had been asked if he was going to get rid of Section 13, which prohibits exposing a person or a people to hatred or contempt on grounds of race, religion or ethnic origin. His answer was emphatic: “The government has no plans to do so.”

Voting endlessly oddly appropriate way to protest abuse of Parliament

The House of Commons was to begin voting Wednesday night on several hundred amendments to Bill C-38, the 425-page monster known as the omnibus budget implementation bill. The voting was expected to go on all night and all day Thursday.

Viewed one way, the whole thing is quite silly. Given the government’s majority, none of the amendments is likely to pass, nor is the bill itself in any danger of defeat. Viewed another way, however, this is an important moment. For the first time since the last election, the opposition is putting up a serious fight against the abuses this government has visited upon Parliament: not only the omnibus bill, which repeals, amends or introduces more than 60 different pieces of legislation, but the repeated, almost routine curtailing of debate by means of “time allocation”; the failures of oversight, misstating of costs, and abdication of responsibility in the F-35 purchase; and the refusal to provide basic information on spending to Parliament or the Parliamentary Budget Officer — to say nothing of the stonewalling, prorogations and other indignities of the minority years.

Language watchdog says DND violated Anglo rights

OTTAWA — The Department of National Defence violated Canada's official languages law by closing a library at a Quebec recruitment school that was serving the minority English-language community in a region south of Montreal, says a new report released by the federal government's language watchdog.

The department decided to shut down the General Jean V. Allard Commemorative library in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., due to budget cuts on Sept. 30, 2010, replacing it with an Educational Resources Centre for military and civilian personnel and for students at the Land Force Quebec 5 Area Support Group.

Tories seek to prevent 'back door' long-gun registries

The federal government is trying to quash attempts by provincial authorities to create what some critics have called new "back door" long-gun registries.

On Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews tabled the proposed Firearms Information Regulations. They're aimed squarely at the RCMP's provincial chief firearms officers (CFOs), who are responsible for administering firearms rules.

After a long battle, the Conservative federal government scrapped this country's controversial long-gun registry in February.

Auditor-General sounds alarm on House and Senate contracts

Parliament has wrongfully awarded large contracts that went to unqualified bidders, were signed retroactively or did not include any justification for being untendered, the Auditor-General has found.

After having faced resistance from MPs and senators, the country’s spending watchdog spent months poring over the books of the House of Commons and the Senate, finding a series of administrative errors.

However, Auditor-General Michael Ferguson did not study the effectiveness of the spending safeguards in Parliament, despite a series of scandals involving public funds in Ottawa and in legislative assemblies elsewhere in Canada and around the world.