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, March 05, 2013

Iowa GOP Lawmakers Try To Curtail Divorce, Worry It Makes Young Women More 'Promiscuous'

A bill making it harder for couples to divorce was approved by an Iowa state House subcommittee on Monday, with a supporter of the legislation arguing it is necessary to prevent young girls from being more "promiscuous."

The bill would make "no fault" divorces illegal in Iowa for parents of children who are minors. Now that it has been approved by the three-person subcommittee, it is ready for debate by the full state House Judiciary Committee, according to NBC 13 Des Moines.

Dow Hits Record High: Here's Why It Doesn't Matter

The best-known stock-market average in the world is at an all-time high. Unfortunately, that matters less than it ever has.

A new high for the Dow Jones Industrial Average is an important milestone on the road to recovery, no doubt. The stock index has more than doubled from its low in March 2009, making this one of the strongest bull markets in history. At the same time, regular people have hardly benefited.

Conservatives attack NDP over ‘stunt’ motion to abolish Senate

OTTAWA — The Conservative party wasted little time Tuesday attacking the NDP over a motion calling for the abolishment of the Senate, calling it a stunt and making accusations that the New Democrats were only interested in appointing their own senators should they form government.

The accusations were arose out of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s response to questions Monday about if he would not appoint senators should the NDP form government in 2015. Mulcair pointed to the party’s 50-year-old policy position that the Senate should be abolished.

Canada best place in G8 to pay business taxes

You may not like paying taxes, or approve of how Ottawa spends the tax revenue it collects, but if you're a business owner, you have it better than your counterparts in other G8 countries, according to a recent study measuring how easy it is to pay corporate taxes.

The study was done by accounting firm PwC, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.

Christy Clark’s cynical ethnic-vote targeting should come as no surprise

Facing demands to resign following a leaked memo detailing her government’s plans for winning over ethnic voters to the provincial Liberal party, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is embroiled in a mess that has elements quite familiar to watchers of federal politics.

Unsurprisingly, the memo in question is being condemned for its plans to use public resources to research and communicate the Liberals’ vote-seeking messages to ethnic audiences. It’s a line-crossing not wholly different in kind than the nearly $750,000 spent by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration on monitoring Minister Jason Kenney’s image in ethnic media over three years (including at partisan events during the 2011 election campaign).

Hudak attacks unions and environmentalists

Unions and radical environmentalists are threatening Ontario’s economic progress, Tory Leader Tim Hudak says.

Hudak on Tuesday blamed unions — particularly public sector unions — for stalling Ontario’s economic recovery, and environmentalists for stalling development of the Ring of Fire, a vast northwestern Ontario mineral deposit.

“What the oilsands are to Alberta, what potash is to Saskatchewan, the Ring of Fire could be for the province of Ontario ... it’s too bad that the Liberals seem to be captured by radical environmental groups,” Hudak told reporters at Queen’s Park.

Unpaid internships: the most precarious work of all

Anya Oberdorf has a university degree, a college certificate and experience with two employers in the publishing industry, but still can’t find a paying job. She spent more than a year working two unpaid internships, neither of which led to gainful employment.

After working part-time in a gourmet food store to pay the bills, she left to focus on finding work in her field. Though she’s been able to secure a few freelance editing jobs, the elusive salaried position still eludes her.

Mayor Rob Ford is ineffective but it’s not his fault

No matter who the mayor of Toronto is, no matter whether they are seen as good, bad or indifferent, they are powerless compared to the mayors of major American cities such as New York and Chicago.

This is because Toronto is the legislative stepchild of the province of Ontario, and no Ontario premier is about to let the city “grow up” by gaining more direct control over its own destiny.

A thoroughly competent, effective mayor of Toronto would be a powerful rival to the premier of the province and thus become a troublesome political competitor. No premier will allow that rivalry to blossom.

Doctors promise protests along with court challenge to refugee health cuts

Canadian doctors who have launched a legal challenge against the federal government's cuts to health benefits for refugees promise further protests and disruption of federal Cabinet ministers' announcements, starting this spring.

Medical students and residents who have "never been in the streets before, never protested" are rallying around this issue and will join other health care professionals to hold the government accountable for the effect its cuts are having on refugees' health, says Dr. Philip Berger, head of family medicine at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, and a leader in Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care.

"We're organized, and we're ready," says Berger.

Conservatives destroying safety nets

We, the Atlantic caucus of the New Democratic Party, are greatly concerned about the effect recent changes to employment insurance will have not only on individual recipients, but also on the communities in our region. The Conservatives failed to hold consultations or study the long-term consequences of gutting the EI system before making changes that compromise the financial security of entire industries and the communities that depend on them.

Vulnerable Canadians are being pushed even deeper into poverty and this means that the federal government is offloading its responsibility onto provincial social assistance services. Currently, a record low of four in 10 unemployed Canadians are eligible for EI. Even for those few who are eligible for EI, many will be affected by the Conservatives’ abrupt cancellation of the program giving five extra weeks of benefits for claimants in high unemployment areas.

Why More Cops in Schools Is a Bad Idea

This story first appeared on the website of the Center for Public Integrity.

In post-Newtown America, those with power say they must act to prevent another massacre of innocents.

The Obama administration wants stiffer gun control, and $150 million to help schools hire up to 1,000 more on-campus police or counselors, or purchase security technology. State legislators are considering shifting millions of dollars around to help schools hire more police. Some locals aren't waiting: The 5,500-resident town of Jordan, Minnesota, has moved its entire eight-officer police force into schools.

Canada Bank Earnings: Big Five See Record Earnings Even As Economy Sputters

For more than a year, Canadian banks and financial experts have warned that the quarterly profits of the Big Five would take a hit because of an economic slowdown, a real estate downturn and a clampdown on consumer lending.

But so far, they have been wrong: Bank bottom lines have grown by hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter. Scotiabank wrapped up first-quarter earnings season for Canada’s big banks Tuesday by joining its peers in beating analyst expectations and hiking its dividend, underscoring how profit growth persists even as signs point toward an increasingly fragile economic climate.

Alberta unions denounce ‘Klein-style cuts’ coming in budget

EDMONTON - In a show of unity, nurses, teachers and labour groups joined Monday to condemn “Klein-style cuts” they say are coming to public services in Thursday’s provincial budget.

Premier Alison Redford was elected for her “progressive” Conservative agenda, but she is betraying those promises with a “slash and burn” budget rather than moving ahead with tax reforms to cover the deficit, Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. told a news conference.

Premier’s new hardwood floor cost $22,260

REGINA — It cost $22,260 to replace carpeting in Premier Brad Wall’s office with hardwood flooring last year, says an access to information request received by the NDP Opposition.

“We just thought it’d be fun to start off the session with a little bit of humour and maybe take a little poke at what we see as a real disconnect between what we’re hearing from the government and what we see them actually doing,” central services critic Cathy Sproule told reporters Monday after delivering — during the first day of the spring legislative sitting — a tongue-in-cheek member statement about the results of the NDP’s access request.

Environmental activists reeling as Keystone pipeline gains momentum

Green groups are reeling after the release of a draft State Department report that seemed to put the Keystone XL oil pipeline on track for approval.

Opponents of Keystone are furious at State’s environmental assessment of the project, which brushed aside of one of their central arguments against it: namely, that it would exacerbate clime change by expanding the use of oil sands.

CNOOC-Nexen: The deal that human rights forgot

In his speech marking the establishment of the new Office of Religious Freedom, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rightly included religious minorities in China — such as Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners — on his list of communities needing protection. Just a few months ago, however, a Chinese state-owned company accused of oppressing Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners, CNOOC, bought a Canadian oil and gas company, Nexen, with the Prime Minister approving the deal as one constituting a “net benefit” for Canada. For Canadians concerned with human rights, this incongruity is difficult to understand.

After the F-35 debacle, are warship purchases next?

The debacle of the Canadian government's decision to begin the process of spending spend untold tens of billions of dollars on a new fighter jet, Lockheed Martin's F-35, is by now a well-told story. The untendered, F-35 purchase was declared a done deal several years ago by the Harper Conservatives. It's all unraveling now. CBC Television's The Fifth Estate documented the saga in a great, one hour broadcast last September.

Alas for the people of Canada and the world, the times are such that the end result will be the purchase of an established and more reliable fighter plane (killing machine), possibly Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet.

Porter a federal Tory donor while chair of spy watchdog

Arthur Porter was a donor to the federal Conservatives during his time at Canada's spy watchdog, public records show.

But his contributions appear to have run afoul of guidelines that all members of the Security Intelligence Review Committee must abide by.

Elections Canada records show Porter gave the Tories the maximum donation allowed by law over a period spanning the weeks leading up to his appointment to SIRC through to his rise as chair.

North Korea vows to cancel Korean War ceasefire over tougher UN sanctions

The world moved closer to punishing North Korea for its latest nuclear test Tuesday as the United States introduced a draft resolution, backed by China, with new sanctions aimed at reining in Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and preventing their export to other countries.

North Korea declares rocket launch a success

In response, Pyongyang threatened to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War.

Enbridge oil pipeline through GTA could benefit Ontario drivers, company says

Reversing the flow of an Enbridge oil pipeline running through the Greater Toronto Area will help maintain competition at southern Ontario gas pumps, company officials say.

And Enbridge told the Toronto Star’s editorial board that it may hold public information sessions in the Toronto area to make the case for the project, which is being viewed with a quizzical eye by Toronto city council.

Enbridge’s Line 9, built in the 1970s, runs between Sarnia to Montreal.

State Department Report Paves the Way for Keystone Approval

The State Department released its initial reassessment of the environmental impact of constructing the Keystone XL pipeline late Friday—and the document quickly enraged environmentalists and seemed to buttress the arguments of pipeline proponents.

Since it’s a draft, the report made no recommendation one way or the other on building the pipeline. But it raised no major environmental concerns with doing so. This is the key paragraph:

    Based on information and analysis about the North American crude transport infrastructure (particularly the proven ability of rail to transport substantial quantities of crude oil profitably under current market conditions, and to add capacity relatively rapidly) and the global crude oil market, the draft Supplemental EIS concludes that approval or denial of the proposed Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.

Nothing New Under the Wingnut Sun: Reckless Spending Cuts

So: the “sequester.” That too-clever-by-half notion, born of last year’s debt ceiling negotiations out of the White House’s presumption that, when faced with the horror of heedless, profligate, across-the-board budget cuts to all manner of popular government programs, the Republicans’ “fever would break”—remember that?—and the Loyal Opposition would somehow come to agree to a reasonable, “balanced” deficit reduction package. It all seemed so cut and dried in those palmy days, just a few months ago: who could possibly imagine a major American political party could possibly let such madness actually go into effect?

Iranian Topless Protest Video: Activists In Sweden Against Hijabs And Iran Strip In Public (NSFW)

Borrowing a page from FEMEN's playbook, female Iranian activists staged a topless protest in Sweden Saturday.

According to Russia Today, members of the Iranian Communist Party and the Organization Against Violence on Women in Iran shed their tops in a demonstration against hijabs -- the traditional headscarf worn by many women in predominantly Muslim countries.

The activists, who organized the rally on Facebook, protested in Stockholm -- the country's capital -- days before International Women’s Day, which is celebrated annually on March 8.

Bill C-56: Critics Say Canada Folding To U.S. Demands In Resurrecting ACTA

The Harper government has introduced a bill to bring Canadian law in line with a controversial copyright treaty that many critics thought was dead.

Critics fear the bill and the treaty it’s meant to enforce will turn Canadian customs officers into de facto enforcers of copyright law, empowered to seize suspected copyright-infringing materials without judicial oversight.

Sharing the Internet: “Commotion Wireless” Technology Lets Communities Create Free Webs of Access

About two years ago, news reports described the State Department-funded project of Sascha Meinrath as a way for overseas dissidents to overcome repressive regimes that try to censor them by shutting down the internet. This week a variation on the software he helped design will launch here in the United States. It is called Commotion Wireless. You can download the program on your cellphone or laptop computer in order to create what is called a "mesh" network that allows you to share Internet access with other devices on the network. “It challenges this business model that everyone has to buy their own Internet connection, and it really puts forth this notion of, ‘Why don’t we share resources?’ We can share them across our neighbors, we can share them within our offices, we can share them across entire cities,” says Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: Conservative Quebec Senator Says Housing Expense Claims Meet Rules

MONTREAL - A Quebec senator is making no apologies for collecting a housing allowance despite living little more than a drive across a bridge from Parliament.

Conservative Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu says the payments, reportedly more than $20,000, are legitimately within Senate rules.

Boisvenu says he has proven that his primary residence is in Sherbrooke, Que. and his secondary residence is in Gatineau, Que., just outside Ottawa.

Bell-Astral Merger Approved By Competition Bureau

OTTAWA - The Competition Bureau approved Bell's proposed $3.38-billion takeover of Astral Media Inc. on Monday, but is forcing the company to sell several of Astral's pay and specialty television channels.

Bell will, however, keep eight of Astral's TV channels including the Movie Network, which includes HBO Canada, and TMN Encore as well as the French-language SuperEcran, CinePop, Canal Vie, Canal D, VRAK TV, and Z Tele.

Literacy Guide Uses Partisan Example To Conjugate "Elect"

A literacy lesson plan from a group partly funded by the Government of Canada uses a partisan example to teach people how to conjugate the verb "to vote."

The lesson plan, written by Saskatchewan charity Read Saskatoon, is meant to teach people with low literacy skills about different verb tenses.

Anti-Harper banner unfurled in Montreal ramps up campaign against EI benefit cuts

MONTREAL — A Quebec union coalition is ramping up its fight against the federal government to reverse federal changes to the Employment Insurance program.

Using a crane, it unveiled a large banner Monday morning to send a “no” message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper — via commuters taking the Jacques Cartier Bridge.

The banner, unfurled before the Monday morning rush hour, calls on Harper to roll back the changes, which the coalition characterizes as a “sacking” of benefits for the jobless. It reads: "Here, we say no to the sacking of EI benefits."

Quebec unions and organizations are rallying in defense of the unemployed and will announce the creation of a large coalition to fight the federal government's proposed reforms. These include a measure requiring frequent EI recipients to accept jobs that pay 70 per cent less than their previous paycheques, and to accept new jobs that require a one-hour daily commute.

The five main unions represent 1.2 million Quebecers. 

Original Article

Palestinian-Canadians feel ignored in human rights museum

Some Palestinian-Canadians are upset that plans for the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg don’t include an exhibit with their story.

“As the opening comes closer, I become more and more concerned that the lessons of the Palestinian experience, nobody’s going to hear it,” said Rana Abdulla.

“Our story is an excellent story to educate Canadians about human rights. How would anyone take that museum seriously if they don’t hear the Palestinian story?”

Opposition slams government on EI documents

The opposition in Ottawa is accusing the Harper government of invading the privacy of Canadians receiving employment insurance.

Ottawa has launched a widespread review of the EI program. Bureaucrats have been combing through the files of 1,200 EI claimants chosen at random. Inspectors have been visiting the homes of these people and calling them in for interviews to discuss their claims.

Ottawa set to cancel $2-billion in EI training transfers to the provinces

The federal piggy bank is empty, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is still obliged to bring down a budget this month. What to do? How about shuffle some money around that Ottawa is already transferring to the provinces to carry out training and call it a skills budget? Bingo.

The downside is that the provinces will howl because the amount in question is not chump change. Ottawa writes cheques worth nearly $2-billion to provinces to train those who qualify for Employment Insurance. It transfers a further $500-million under labour market agreements to train those not eligible for EI. From Ottawa’s vantage point, there are few strings attached and the provinces have carte blanche to spend the money as they see fit.

’A disgrace and an insult to Parliament’: Ex-Finance officials launch scathing critique of Tory budget secrecy

OTTAWA — The Conservative government has eroded the “integrity and credibility” of federal budgets through a system of secrecy that keeps parliamentarians and Canadians in the dark about how their money is spent, say two senior former officials in the finance department.

In a biting critique of the government to be published in Inside Policy magazine, former bureaucrats Scott Clark and Peter DeVries outline a troubling pattern of actions taken by the governing Conservatives since they took office several years ago.

UN Rapporteur: Harper's agenda contributing to food insecurity in Canada

Food Secure Canada is hosting over 50 events across Canada Monday, part of a webinar with Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, who will be delivering his report on Canada in Geneva to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Food is a human right that belongs to every one of us," said Diana Bronson, Executive Director of Food Secure Canada, who are organizing the country-wide webinar.

Goodbye, Tom Flanagan: What took so long?

Every field has its embarrassing cousin who lives in the proverbial attic. In virology there are scientists who deny the existence of AIDS. There are biologists who deny evolution. There are architects who say 9/11 was a controlled demolition. There are climate scientists who deny climate change. And yes, in the field of political science, there are those who deny Indigenous rights. Most of these "experts" have books and many of them have received a great deal of air time to voice their otherwise marginal perspectives.

 When it comes to political science approaches to Indigenous rights, Tom Flanagan and Barry Cooper qualify as perhaps our biggest embarrassments.

Horsemeat 'scandal' is product of a repellant global food system

The discovery of horseflesh in a number of otherwise-labeled meat products in Europe is being described as a scandal but it is an entirely predictable result of industrialized animal exploitation organized according to the values of neoliberal ideology within globalized capitalism. All forms of life are transformed into commodities and deregulated industries are allowed to police themselves as they seek to obtain the greatest profits using the cheapest ingredients, which, in this case, means the corpses of sentient beings.

Guess what's coming to U of T: The Men's Rights Movement, Janice Fiamengo and Paul Elam

The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) is back in action on the University of Toronto's campus through its campus Men's Rights Awareness group. CAFE, as I have previously outlined, is an umbrella group for a variety of MRA sub-groups, many targeting university students, that claim to be about "fairness" and "equality" while promulgating a variety of falsehoods and inaccuracies that seek to both undermine feminism and also to perpetuate their reactionary ideological myth that men also face systemic injustice and discrimination as men. They describe this as "misandry," which they posit as a counterpoint to misogyny.

However, CAFE, unlike most of its American counterparts, is always sure to put on a face of openness and tolerance to mask their agenda.

Probe Details How Clark, Aides Erased Communications Trail

Premier Christy Clark's ex-deputy chief of staff may have destroyed records about the resignation of Ken Boessenkool, but did not violate the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act because the records were considered "transitory."

Published today, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham's investigation into the B.C. government's Increase in No Responsive Records to General Access to Information Requests focused on the lack of records released by the Office of the Premier about the Sept. 7, 2012 Metchosin golf tournament and party at the Bard and Banker Pub in Victoria and the investigation into the so-called "incident of concern" that led to chief of staff Boessenkool's Sept. 23, 2012 resignation.

Nazi labour camps more widespread than thought, new research shows

In the Polish countryside, and in the centre of Paris. Hidden from view, and in plain sight. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners, or just a few dozen. All different, and deadly, and scattered across wartime Europe.

And all part of the Nazi killing machine.

New research has revealed there were more than 42,000 individual sites — ranging from massive concentration camps to small ghettoes — established by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The number far exceeds the fewer than 10,000 sites researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum expected they’d uncover when the project began 13 years ago.

UN food envoy Olivier De Schutter says Canada starves many of its citizens

If you could have anything drop down before you from heaven onto the sidewalk while making your way to the library one bright wintry day, what would it be?

A car? A blank cheque for $1,000? A husband?

For Sharon Norman, it was a cucumber.

Emerald green, firm, wrapped in cellophane.

Glenn Greenwald on Bradley Manning: Prosecutor Overreach Could Turn All Whistleblowing into Treason

As we broadcast from the Freedom to Connect conference, we look at one whistleblower who used the Internet to reveal the horrors of war: U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning. Military prosecutors have decided to bring the maximum charges against Manning after he admitted during a pretrial hearing last week to the largest leak of state secrets in U.S. history. In a bid to secure a reduced sentence, Manning acknowledged on the stand that he gave classified documents to WikiLeaks in order to show the American public the "true costs of war" and "spark a debate about foreign policy." Manning pleaded guilty to reduced charges on 10 counts, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. But instead of accepting that plea, military prosecutors announced Friday they will seek to imprison Manning for life without parole on charges that include aiding the enemy. Manning’s court-martial is scheduled to begin in June. We speak with Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who has long covered the case, about what this means for Manning and its broader implications for whistleblowers and the journalists they often approach.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Constitutional crisis caused by monarchy intervening in politics in UK, and Canada?

The absence of a free trade deal between South Korea and Canada is the weakest link in their bilateral relations, and the two countries need to conclude one this year to deepen their partnership in a wider range of areas, Canada’s visiting governor general said Tuesday…

“I think the weakest link (in the relations between our two countries) would be the absence of the FTA. I hope we can remedy that this year by finalizing the negotiations,” David Johnston said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul…

The Great Wall Game

About a year ago, at nearly the same moment that Bo Xilai was being stripped of his position as Communist Party Secretary of Chongqing, a Ferrari crashed in Beijing. China is probably the world’s leader in luxury-vehicle crashes — earlier this year, someone in Guangzhou became the first person in the world to crash a Ferrari F12berlinetta. But this particular wreck warranted more scrutiny than others.

Photos of the crash soon appeared on China’s microblogging platform Sina Weibo, showing a black Ferrari 458 Spider that had been going so fast that, after ricocheting off a wall and striking a railing under Beijing’s Baofusi bridge, it split in half, killing its driver and seriously injuring two Tibetan women who were, according to rumor, naked in the backseat. Right after the wreck, censors began cracking down on online speculation about the driver’s identity. As Sina Weibo users tried to spread the photo of the wrecked car and offer theories on the identity of the driver, the word “Ferrari” was blocked, and posts mentioning the accident started to disappear. Before it took effect, some were suggesting that the driver was Ling Gu, the twenty-three-year-old son of Ling Jihua, President Hu Jintao’s chief of staff. But then a message appeared on Ling’s microblog telling everyone that he was fine, so the rumors settled on the son of another higher-up, Jia Qinglin, a member of China’s top governing body, the Standing Committee of the Politburo, who has a close relationship with former Chinese president Jiang Zemin.

Restoring integrity to the budget process

The Minister of Finance will soon be completing his pre-2013 Budget consultations. Over the coming weeks, the media and pundits will begin speculating about what the Minister of Finance will do in his 2013 budget.

Will the government be able to eliminate the deficit in 2015-16, without more spending cuts? How will the government respond to the uncertainty created by the short- and long-term fiscal crisis in the U.S.; the on-going uncertainty over the recession in the EU; and the continuing uncertainty over the future of the EURO area? What impacts will the recession in the U.K. and Japan have, and what about the slowing growth in the major emerging markets such as India and China?

The credibility candidate: Joyce Murray in conversation

I am beginning to think that this country should be governed by a mother — though some might argue it already is.

“The role of government is to protect the common good. Stephen Harper is not doing that. He is acting as cheerleader for a particular industry. He is letting a single industry interest hurt the common interest.”

The words belong to Liberal leadership candidate Joyce Murray. She is one of the few politicians I have recently met who understands that the house is on fire.

100 years later: Lessons from the suffragettes

One hundred years ago Sunday was the watershed 1913 women's suffrage march in Washington, D.C. Plus, Friday is International Women's Day. It's therefore the perfect moment to reflect on the strategies and tactics of several generations of amazing women.

We all know that the suffragettes won in the end by securing the vote for U.S. women in 1920. But to stop with that fact is to miss the phenomenal, inspirational, often nail-biting and groundbreaking campaign that preceded their win, as well as the lessons they have for activists today.

Alberta's Tar Sands Pollution Refugees

'Gassed' by oil sands operations, families say they've been forced to evacuate. 

Another Alberta pollution scandal has forced as many as six residents from their homes and poisoned scores of other citizens near the Peace River Oil Sands in the northwest corner of the province.

"It's a desperate situation," said Vivianne Laliberte who moved into her son's place last October after being repeatedly "gassed" from emissions from oil sands operations just 5 kilometres from her 85-year-old farm.

Angel's Story: Trapped in a Violent World

Angel Gates has been trying to exit prostitution ever since she was "turned out" at the age of 11 in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Money issues, addictions and lack of support services have held her back from escaping.

She's not alone. The harsh realities of what women like Gates go through have caused national aboriginal women's groups to take a stance against calls to legalize prostitution, saying what's needed instead is a commitment to creating alternatives for women facing brutal pressures to become, and remain, sex workers.

Inside the world of hired guns in Ottawa: 100 Top Lobbyists 2013

Registered lobbying in Canada has grown 58.7 per cent since 2005, and lobbyists say that’s a good thing because it means people are influencing government in the public light.

 “During that period you had a significant shift in the regulatory framework, so it might very well be that people who were undertaking lobbying activities weren’t registered because there was really no enforcement and what not. So, bringing in a Lobbying Act that has Criminal Code sanctions is probably people that were unclear whether or not they were lobbying looked into it, found out they were, and registered,” said one lobbyist. “I think it is a good thing. I think the fact that we’re recording more activity means that that stuff is being done in the light of day.”

Canada can transition to a low-carbon economy, good for workers, environment

Until now, we’ve been having the wrong energy discussion in Canada. As long as the attention is on individual projects like Keystone XL or Churchill Falls, it’s relatively easy for the debate to become polarized to the point that Canadians feel we must choose between a safe environment and good jobs.  But this simply isn’t true. And it’s one of the reasons we formed Blue Green Canada, an alliance between workers and environmentalists.

We agree that climate change is a threat that needs to be dealt with seriously, and that we can transition to a low-carbon economy in a way that’s good for workers and good for the environment. But that won’t happen without a strategy that looks at the big picture, not individual projects or sectors. Right now, Canada’s strategy is to just keep doing more of what it’s been doing, exploiting our natural resources as fast as possible, until we can’t anymore, either because the U.S. tells us so or the world moves on from oil.

The PM and the challenge of Senate reform

TORONTO—Reforming the Senate was one of Stephen Harper’s big ideas as a Reform MP in the 1990s. As the newly elected prime minister in 2006, he showed his commitment to the idea, humbling himself by appearing before a Senate committee to plead his case. That was then. He has now apparently come around to concluding that Senate reform may actually be a dumb idea.

The Calgary-based Canada West Foundation, a persistent drumbeater for a Triple-E (equal, elected, effective) Senate for the past three decades, has cooled its ardour for the idea as well. Few Canadians think about Senate reform.

For this government, however, it is still something to which to give lip service.

We’re judged by the company we keep

Of course, any leader can make the odd mistake about a friend, adviser, or political ally. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s questionable picks are lately spinning out of control. In the last month, Harper has had to defend, and then repudiate, multiple political allies in the Senate and beyond.

 OTTAWA—We are all judged by the company we keep.  Of course, any leader can make the odd mistake about a friend, adviser, or political ally.

Unequal Justice: Aboriginals caught in the justice system trap

As Jill Buckshot describes the addiction that helped put her in prison, her words sometimes slur together over the phone, so that she has to spell out “dope sick” and “Dilaudid.”

“Dope sick” refers to the violent physical reaction that occurs when an addict goes a day without drugs. The second term is the narcotic she would steal for.

Buckshot, who became addicted at 25 after having surgery and taking a prescribed narcotic for the pain, would steal steaks from an Ottawa grocery store by hiding them under large packages of toilet paper. Then she’d sell them for half-price.