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.]

Monday, March 30, 2015

After a story is published, a minimum wage worker loses her job

Shanna Tippen was another hourly worker at the bottom of the nation’s economy, looking forward to a 25-cent bump in the Arkansas minimum wage that would make it easier for her to buy diapers for her grandson. When I wrote about her in The Post last month, she said the minimum wage hike would bring her a bit of financial relief, but it wouldn’t lift her above the poverty line.

She called me the other day to say she didn’t get to enjoy the 25-cent hike for long. After the story came out, she says she was fired from her job for talking to the Post.

The Big Lie The Media Tells About Indiana’s New ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

On Friday, the Washington Post published an article titled “19 states that have ‘religious freedom’ laws like Indiana’s that no one is boycotting.” The article snarks about organizations like the NCAA that have protested Indiana’s law, noting “the NCAA didn’t say it was concerned over how athletes and employees would be affected by Kentucky’s RFRA when games were played there last week.” The piece concludes “Indiana might be treated as if it’s the only state with a bill like this, but it’s not.” The piece has been shared over 75,000 times on Facebook.

BMO: Provinces Will Take Back Three-Quarters Of Tories' Tax Cuts

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is undoubtedly hoping that this year’s round of tax cuts and expanded family benefits will make Canadians feel richer as the country heads towards a fall election, but a new report from the Bank of Montreal suggests that may not pan out as hoped.

The Harper government’s tax cuts and expanded family benefits will put some $4.5 billion in Canadians’ pockets this year, but provincial austerity budgets will eat up about three-quarters of that, BMO economist Robert Kavcic estimates.

Harper is finally getting his wish — a war

Back in the spring of 2003, in the waning days of his prime ministry, Jean Chrétien announced the decision for which he will be long remembered. Canada, he told a tumultuous House of Commons, would be not joining the U.S.-led "coalition of the willing" in its war against Iraq.

There are times in politics when a decision not to take a certain step is tougher, yet wiser, than a decision to take that step. In March 2003, Chrétien was under pressure both from U.S. president George W. Bush and from Stephen Harper, the newly minted leader of the opposition in Ottawa, to commit Canadian forces to the invasion of Iraq. If Chrétien had succumbed to their pressure, Canada would have been locked into an unwinnable war that in the end dragged on for eight years, claiming the lives of 4,491 U.S. military personnel and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians.

'Historic' agreement reached in York University strike

Graduate student workers at York University have reached a tentative agreement with their employer and the union is hailing the deal as a "historic victory."
The 3,700 members of CUPE Local 3903 have been on strike since March 3. Over the course of the strike, the membershipvoted down previous offersproposed by the administration. Their concerns centred around two main issues: (1) they wanted graduate student funding levels indexed to tuition for all current and future students so that funding levels would increase proportionally with the cost of tuition, and (2) they wanted recognition of LGBTQ as an employment equity category.

Mysterious conservative group finds way around political spending limits

The Conservative Party of Canada’s former executive director has set up what could be a game-changing new organization to raise money and promote the benefits of “a strong, stable Conservative government” while bypassing the legal limits on fundraising faced by political parties, iPolitics has learned.

Conservative Voice is actively seeking donations from companies to help it counter Liberal and NDP viewpoints it says are being funded by institutions “on the left of the political spectrum.”

C-51 hearings end with suggestion government erred in drafting bill

Like university students cramming for an exam, Thursday night the parliamentary public security committee (SECU) finished the last of nine hearings (over only six days) into the government's anti-terrorism bill (C-51). It's now up to the committee to perform a clause-by-clause review of the omnibus legislation and draft recommendations to the House, including possible amendments, before third reading, which is expected to happen quickly. The NDP and the Liberals have announced the amendments they will be seeking.

Harper and his ideologue minions reason enough to fear C-51

As Stephen Harper transforms Canada into a nation of suspects and self-censors while holding a match to the Charter of Rights, the Conservative party robots are blowing their circuits coming up with justifications for Bill C-51.

Their excuses have gone from the lame to the ludicrous. Justice Minister Peter MacKay proclaimed that our allies are doing it, so we are too. (Pssst, Petey, did you hear that Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, recently advocated the beheading of disloyal Arab Israelis? Israel is our ally, right? Thoughts? Should we be grinding the blade for Pat Martin?)

Worried about C-51? You’re probably a terrorist.

Are you now, or have you ever been, a terrorist?

That, in one form or another, is the question being asked over and over by Conservative MPs of expert witnesses called before the Commons standing committee reviewing Bill C-51, the so-called anti-terrorism law.

I spoke before the committee last week. I pointed to the danger in the bill’s much-expanded definition of national security and in its false conflation of peaceful protest with terrorism. I was expecting to be called on to defend our arguments, to cite evidence on how the bill’s sweeping new powers could be used against peaceful advocates for action on climate change.

Is Harper a Cause or Symptom of Our Ailing Democracy?

Since coming to power, the administration of Stephen Harper has made headlines for undermining government opennesses and accountability, introducing divisive if not outright unpopular laws, and ignoring or intimidating critics, including the fourth estate.

On such foundations dictatorships are built, leading to concerns about the state of our democracy. But how much of that foundation was actually laid by Harper, and how much was there before he even became prime minister?

Two recent books on the Conservative leader appear to have somewhat different answers, with our country's future dependent upon how citizens respond to that question.

White House to Netanyahu: Your move

A dozen Jewish House Democrats laid it out for deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes during a meeting in the Longworth House Office Building last week: Enough. They’re just as upset about what Benjamin Netanyahu said ruling out a two-state solution, but President Barack Obama didn’t need to keep reminding them and everyone else.

Obama and his aides, they said, had to stop acting as if the Israeli prime minister’s comments are the only thing holding up a peace process that’s been abandoned for a year while not expressing a word of disappointment about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — and openly toying with allowing the Palestinians their provocative recognition bid at the United Nations. The swipes at Netanyahu felt vindictive, and gratuitous.

Iran Backs Away From Key Detail in Nuclear Deal

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — With a negotiating deadline just two days away, Iranian officials on Sunday backed away from a critical element of a proposed nuclear agreement, saying they are no longer willing to ship their atomic fuel out of the country.

For months, Iran tentatively agreed that it would send a large portion of its stockpile of uranium to Russia, where it would not be accessible for use in any future weapons program. But on Sunday Iran’s deputy foreign minister made a surprise comment to Iranian reporters, ruling out an agreement that involved giving up a stockpile that Iran has spent years and billions of dollars to amass.

Republicans Are Attacking Climate Change Science by Comparing It to Religion

Republicans struggle to find a convincing reason not to take action on climate change, so they tend to recycle excuses. In the 2014 election, one line in particular caught on—the two top Republican congressional leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, insisted they were not qualified to discuss climate change science because they were not scientists. Since then, countless high-profile figures have called out this line, including President Barack Obama and Stephen Colbert.

But “I’m not a scientist” has fallen from favor in the GOP, perhaps because it polls terribly. Another very old meme is resurfacing to take its place.

Governor Becomes Frustrated When Asked If ‘Religious Liberty’ Law Will Be Used To Discriminate

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) defended a “religious liberty” law he signed on Sunday, saying that tolerance was a “two-way street” and the law was about protecting religious people from government overreach.
Pence had said he was going to appear on the Sunday news show to “clarify the intent” of the law. Instead, he refused repeatedly to say if the law would greenlight discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation in the state.

Abbott's Removal Reveals Chaos with Treaty Process

It's odd the government's last-minute axing of George Abbott as its lead representative on the B.C. Treaty Commission was so quickly cast as a tale of political revenge.

Sure, Abbott, a former Liberal aboriginal affairs minister and Christy Clark leadership rival, was treated shabbily. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Rustad recruited him six months ago. Abbott's selection had been vetted with the federal government and First Nations Summit, partners in the treaty process, and he was slated to be chief commissioner.

National Firearms Association ignoring questions about C-51, members complain

The National Firearms Association is deleting questions posted to its Facebook page about why it pulled out of a committee looking at the government's proposed anti-terrorism legislation, and some members are complaining.

On Monday a lawyer for the gun owners' group had been scheduled to appear on a panel regarding concerns about Bill C-51.

Legal experts have raised a number of concerns about the bill's scope, the lack of oversight, and possible threats to privacy regarding clauses to allow information-sharing between government departments.

Is Canada's ISIS mission ready for Syria's moral maze?

In all of Canada's long military history, we've likely never known less about a territory we are about to attack than the Syria we're going bomb from on high.

We're not alone in that ignorance as virtually no one today can figure out the full scale of the explosive, antagonist-rich tinderbox and moral disaster zone that is present day Syria.

Certainly not the U.S., nor the few Arab countries that will be our sole allies in bombing the ISIS operations there.

French Right-Wing Wins Key Local Vote

PARIS (AP) — Former President Nicolas Sarkozy blasted the "lies, denial and impotence" of France's governing Socialists after estimates showed his conservative party and their allies chalked up wins across France in Sunday's local elections that saw the left lose nearly half of its councils. The far-right National Front edged forward in its bid to create an army of grassroots support, but fell short of its dream to capture its first council.

Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls conceded that the mainstream right won the voting.

"It is incontestable," Valls said, bemoaning divisions within the left that he said proved costly.

As China Rises, What Game Is President Xi Jinping Playing?

During a late-March conference concerned with developing a strategic response to China’s continued rise to global economic power, Western foreign policy and security experts sought to define the international statecraft being practiced by the country’s leadership.

The conference, held by the Carnegie Endowment, was attended by foreign affairs commentator for The Guardian Natalie Nougayrede.

Arab Leaders Announce Unified Force To Counter Security Threats

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt, March 29 (Reuters) - Arab leaders at a summit in Egypt announced the formation of a unified military force to counter growing security threats from Yemen to Libya, and as regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran engage in sectarian proxy wars.

Working out the mechanism and logistics of the unified force, an idea floated by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, could take months.

Naomie Trudeau-Tremblay, Quebec Protester Shot With Tear Gas, Mocked On Facebook

First, Naomie Trudeau-Tremblay took part of a tear gas canister to the face.

Then, the 18-year-old Quebec student was aggressively mocked online.

Trudeau-Tremblay was taking part in an anti-austerity demonstration in Quebec City on Thursday when video captured by HuffPost Quebec showed her being hit in the face from close range.

Mike Pence Dodges Questions On Anti-Gay Discrimination In Indiana

WASHINGTON -- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) refused to say on Sunday whether it should be illegal under state law to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Pence appeared on ABC's "This Week" to defend his decision to sign a controversialpiece of legislation intended to protect religious liberties that critics say will enable discrimination in the state. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow individuals and corporations to cite religious beliefs in private litigation. Pence's decision to sign the bill into law has sparked backlash against the state.

Moneyballing Justice: "Evidence-Based" Criminal Reforms Ignore Real Evidence

Proponents of the new wave of "criminal justice reform" claim that their efforts are nonpartisan, non-ideological and "evidence-based."

This "evidence-based" frame asserts that mass incarceration and "overcriminalization" will be remedied by a handful of sentencing reforms affecting "low-level" offenders. An essential element of such reform is the widespread use of "evidence-based risk-assessment" instruments to purportedly help authorities objectively determine who is "dangerous" - and therefore must remain in prison - and who is not.

Egypt's president backs united Arab force to tackle regional security threats

Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, has backed calls to create a unified Arab force to confront regional security threats, and said intervention in Yemen was the “inevitable” result of meddling by a foreign power.

Speaking at an Arab League summit, he said that the military campaign against Shia Houthi militias in Yemen, which has been led by Saudi Arabia, aimed to “preserve Yemen’s unity and the peace of its territories”.

Tories are destroying society that ‘we created’: war veteran

World War II veteran Harry Leslie Smith, 92, said his time is coming to an end – but first he has a message – elect a progressive government.

Smith told his story, by video, to a captivated crowd at Broadbent’s progress summit in Ottawa Saturday afternoon. He said he grew up impoverished in England and came to Canada after fighting in World War II.

Smith said his generation built a strong social safety network, created universal healthcare, public pensions, built affordable housing and demanded that education was everyone’s rights, but those things are disappearing under Harper’s watch.

How the Ministry of Environment Vetoed Our Interview Request

Documents obtained by DeSmog Canada reveal that Canada's Ministry of Environment vetoed an interview request on toxins in fur-bearing animals in the oilsands, even though the federal scientist was "media trained and interested in doing the interview."

The Environment Canada scientist in question, Philippe Thomas, had asked members of the Alberta Trappers Association to send him samples of fur-bearing animals caught across Alberta in 2012. Thomas needed a broad range of samples to gain deeper insight into the contaminant load in animals living near the oilsands.

Canadian democracy has declined under PM Harper, say Bourrie, Harris

Democracy has suffered under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, say two prominent political authors who compared the effect of the Conservative regime over the past nine years to a “fibrous tumour.”

The criticism came at a Broadbent Institute Progress Summit panel discussion headlined “The Great Unravelling: Why it Matters How Canada has become Less Democratic.”

Mark Bourrie, author of Kill the Messengers, and Michael Harris, author of Party of One, focused on aspects of Mr. Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) governing style that they exposed in their research and writing—the centralization of power in the PMO, Mr. Harper’s extreme-discipline manner of exercising power, the way Mr. Harper has held sway over his MPs as well as the public service and the iron grip he has put on government information and its dissemination.

Even with Amendments, C-51 Should Worry Activists

A storm of criticism has engulfed the Harper government's Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act.

One of the leading points of contention is whether peaceful protesters will be caught up in the wide anti-terrorist net cast by the new legislation.

Opponents point to the expansive definition of national security threats that would now include ''interference'' with ''critical infrastructure'' or with ''the economic or financial stability of Canada.'' They suggest this could include, for example, First Nations and environmental protests against pipeline megaprojects. It's no surprise these groups feel anxious. Among other things, C-51 provides for increased information sharing, an expanded no-fly list, and new CSIS powers, including secret judicial warrants that permit agents to use any means -- even break the law -- to reduce threats.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made it clear that his government isn't just going to extend the current military mission in Iraq. Now he wants to carry the fight against ISIS into Syria as well.

"Let me just say the current authorization laid open the possibility of going to Syria," Harper told reporters last week, before tabling a motion in the House of Commons Tuesday, March 24.

As with most issues surrounding the commitment of troops to Iraq, Harper's bizarre claim went unchallenged. Canada's only "current authorization" to employ deadly force in the region is at the invitation of the Iraqi government and the U.S., which last spring called upon allied nations to help them shoulder the burden of bombing ISIS targets, and Canada agreed to participate.

Teen Was Kept In Solitary Confinement For 143 Days Before Even Facing Trial

A federal review conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice found that Baltimore City Detention Center was illegally putting teens in psychologically damaging solitary confinement as they awaited trial for adult charges. One detainee was kept in solitary confinement for 143 days.
The report, released on Friday, found that in addition to a detainee identified as RC who was detained for 143 days, another detainee, EM, spent 53 of the 105 days spent in detention in solitary. Furthermore, the rules at the facility mandated that violators must spend 7 to 14 days for a first offense and must wait around 80 days for a disciplinary review.

Barrick Gold hires John Baird, Newt Gingrich

Barrick Gold Corp. has hired former foreign affairs minister John Baird and former top U.S. lawmaker Newt Gingrich, the company said in regulatory filings.

Mr. Baird is working on Barrick's international advisory board along with Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives. No compensation details were disclosed in the filings.

The company also gave its chairman John Thornton a pay raise as the world’s biggest gold producer repositions itself to deal with the severe slump in bullion prices.

Upset By Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Banks Debate Halting Some Campaign Donations

NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party's tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

French voters veer right, far-right amid sea of political corruption

Spring in Paris — the crocuses are in bloom, and the investigations into political corruption are in full flower.

Forget Italy and Silvio Berlusconi, that's yesterday's corruption news. French politicians now have pride of place.

Leading the way is a whole party — the far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, which just eclipsed the French Socialist Party in local voting and is heading into run-off elections with the centre-right on Sunday.

Greece submits reform proposals to eurozone creditors – with a warning

Greece submitted a long-awaited list of structural reforms to its creditors on Friday as its leftist-led government warned it would stop meeting debt obligations if negotiations failed and aid was not forthcoming.

As officials from the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prepared to pore over Athens’s latest proposals, the country’s international economic affairs minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, raised the stakes, saying while Greece wanted an agreement it was prepared to go its own way “in the event of a bad scenario”.

China Ramps Up Rhetoric on Climate Change

LONDON—Zheng Guogang, head of the China Meteorological Administration, says future variations in climate are likely to reduce crop yields and damage the environment.

In one of the strongest official statements to date on the challenges faced, Zheng told China’s official Xinhua news agency that climate change could have a “huge impact” on the country, with a growing risk of climate-related disasters.

“To face the challenges from past and future climate change, we must respect nature and live in harmony with it,” Zheng said. “We must promote the idea of nature, and emphasise climate security.”

New Federal Data Show Student Loan Borrowers Suffering More Than Previously Believed

About one-third of borrowers with federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education are late on their payments, according to new federal data.

The figures, released by the Education Department on Thursday, are the first comprehensive look at the delinquency plaguing those who hold federal student loans. By the new metric, which the department has never used before, roughly 33 percent of borrowers were more than five days late on one of their federal student loans as of Dec. 31. (Since the department only released individual figures for its four largest contractors, rather than a total percentage, however, the actual figure may be a few percentage points higher or lower.)

Cardinal Raymond Burke: Gays, Remarried Catholics Are Just As Sinful As Murderers

(RNS) When Pope Francis last year effectively demoted U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke by moving him out of a senior post in the Vatican to a largely ceremonial role as head of a Rome-based Catholic charity, it was viewed as a way to sideline one of the pontiff’s most outspoken critics on the right.

But the move seems to have left Burke free to air his conservative — and pointed — views on efforts to change church practices, not that he was ever terribly hesitant about speaking his mind.

Harper's Anti-Niqab Rhetoric Helps Terrorist Recruiters: Philosopher Taylor

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper was accused Saturday of playing into the hands of terrorist recruiters with inflammatory comments about the face-covering veil worn by some Muslim women.

The accusation came from renowned philosopher Charles Taylor, who co-chaired Quebec's 2007 commission on reasonable accommodation of cultural and religious minorities.

Elizabeth Warren Fires Back After Wall Street Threats

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a blunt message for the big Wall Street banks that may withhold campaign donations to Senate Democrats in hopes of quieting her calls to break up the banks.

"It will not work," Warren said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post.

Warren has been a vocal advocate for reining in big banks that she says wield too much power in Washington after their recklessness triggered the 2008 financial meltdown.

Ellen Pao Loses Gender Discrimination Suit Against Kleiner Perkins

SAN FRANCISCO, March 27 (Reuters) - Silicon Valley powerhouse venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers was cleared on Friday of claims it short-circuited the career of a former partner because she is a woman, in a gender discrimination trial that shook the tech world.

A California jury also rejected a claim that Kleiner, the firm that backed Google Inc and Inc , had retaliated against its former partner, Ellen Pao, by firing her after she sued in 2012.

Young Jews to ‘Pharaoh’ Netanyahu: ‘Let the Palestinian People Go’

Increasingly, younger Jews are opposing Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “open racism and obstinate refusal to help create a Palestinian state,” Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun magazine, writes.

U.N. Report: Palestinian Death Toll in 2014 Highest Since 1967

A new U.N. report reveals that Israel was responsible for the deaths of more Palestinians in 2014 than in the previous half-century. The annual report by U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) states that more than 2,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 17,000 were injured last year in occupied Palestinian territory.

How To Kill A Discriminatory ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill: Call The Bluff

Georgia lawmakers have been quickly advancing their own version of a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), a bill similar to the pro-discrimination legislation that just became law in Indiana. SB 129 has already passed the Georgia Senate — having advanced through votes while Democrats were in the bathroom — but it came to a screeching halt in a House committee on Thursday.

Forget Elizabeth Warren. Another Female Senator Has a Shot to Fill the Senate's New Power Vacuum.

In the nanoseconds after Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid announced Friday morning that he will give up his leadership post and retire in 2016, liberal groups raced to promote their go-to solution for almost any political problem: Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Much like the movement to draft Warren for president, the idea of putting her in charge of the Democratic caucus was more dream than reality. Warren's office has already said she won't run, and as Vox's Dylan Matthews explains, putting Warren in charge of the Democratic caucus would prevent her from holding her colleagues accountable when they stray too far from progressive ideals.

Canada Post Turned Profit In 2014, So Halt Delivery Cuts, Union Urges

OTTAWA - Canada Post Group returned to profitability last year as the postal service cut costs and raised revenue with higher stamp prices and increased demand from Canadians having their online purchases shipped to them.

The group that includes Canada Post, Purolator and other businesses had a $198-million net profit, compared with a $29-million net loss in 2013.

Anti-terror Bill C-51 to be changed as Tories respond to criticism

The government will propose a handful of amendments to the proposed anti-terror bill when it goes to clause-by-clause review on Tuesday, CBC News has learned, including a proposal that would protect protests from being captured by the new measures.

"Many witnesses were concerned that by saying "lawful" protests would not be considered terrorist acts, it meant that protests which were not necessarily terrorist, but not necessarily legal, could be," CBC News correspondent Chris Hall explained in an interview on CBC News Network on Friday afternoon.

Amit Chakma, Western University president, earned $924K last year

How is it that Western University president and vice-chancellor Amit Chakma collected almost double his $479,600 annual salary last year?

Salary earnings of $924,000, plus $43,244 in taxable benefits, is what's recorded next to Chakma's name in the salary disclosure included in this year's Ontario Sunshine list.

Reported annually, the list includes all public-sector workers whose salaries exceeded $100,000 in the previous year. Last year, more than 111,000 people in the public sector took home paycheques of $100,000 or more.

Quebec City protesters shot directly with tear gas

The family of a Quebec student says it will press charges against a Quebec City police officer after Naomie Trudeau-Tremblay was hit in the face with part of a tear gas canister during a protest on Thursday.

"I was gasping for air… I lost consciousness," said Trudeau-Tremblay, an 18-year-old Quebec City post-secondary CEGEP student.

She said she was stunned by the actions of the police officer who launched the tear gas directly at her. She said she has the officer's badge number.

Anti-terror bill threatens Charter rights, Ed Broadbent warns

The federal Conservative government is jeopardizing the civil rights of Canadians through its anti-terrorism legislation and has sat idly by as a wealth gap makes this a “vastly unequal country,” says former NDP leader Ed Broadbent.

Moreover, he says that as Canadian voters prepare for a federal election this year, they must consider replacing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories after nearly a decade in power.

Broadbent says Harper is wrong to boast about his economic record – as “good jobs” increasingly become scarce – and that the governing Conservatives have abandoned environmental regulation in favour of letting oil companies “trample” the interests of many communities and First Nations.

Expat voters' rights battle costs Harper government $1.3M so far

A legal battle to prevent Canadians abroad from voting in elections has cost the federal government $1.3 million so far, CBC News has learned.

The figures are revealed in an answer to a written question from Liberal MP and democratic reform critic Scott Simms.

The government also confirms in its answer that it has paid $10,000 in legal fees for the respondents in the case.

Toolkit for Change: How Messages Can Mobilize

In 1979, Margaret Thatcher swept to power in an election that gave her British Conservative Party the first of four consecutive majority governments, relegating rival Labour to 18 years in opposition.

Powering her campaign was a three-word slogan that one cabinet minister would credit for the landmark victory. Developed by the ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, it appeared on a poster in bold, upper-case type above a long, snaking queue outside an unemployment office: "Labour isn't working."

Few key messages are as momentous, or fuelled by as much money and influence, as that slogan. (Thatcher's aggressive foreign policy reinforced Britain's special relationship with the United States and her legislation, trumpeting "law and order" and smaller government, tore down the edifice of the post-war welfare state -- inspiring right-leaning governments to this day, including ours.) But well-crafted messages of many kinds have the power to cut through the noise and mobilize target audiences -- as the most effective agents of social change (progressive and regressive) know.

Are Leaked Docs Safe With Canadian Reporters?

Thousands of people in Canada have access to top secret government documents, but if any of them are considering following in the footsteps of Edward Snowden and leaking records to journalists, they will find comparatively few reporters in this country who are capable of protecting them.

Snowden, an NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower, leaked a massive trove of documents that revealed potentially illegal surveillance programs throughout the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Intelligence agencies in these countries not only monitor the communications of terrorists and foreign states, they also collect private and potentially compromising information from journalists and the public at large.

Tensions Simmer at Bill C-51 Hearings

Appearing before the House of Commons public safety committee this week was a disappointing experience, punctuated by one Tory MP's "arrogant and elitist" attitude toward the public, says Vancouver activist Steve Anderson.

"The government reps there weren't there to listen; they're obviously there to just make their talking points known and try to get the people they invited to agree with them on the record," Anderson, national coordinator for internet freedom advocate OpenMedia, said in an interview Wednesday after he had returned to Vancouver.

"That was disappointing, but I guess not that surprising."