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General

That’ll Be the Day When Pigs Swim

Posted October 29, 2014 by The Mound of Sound

Everyone knows, deep down, that pigs can’t fly but we may discover that pork floats just fine even in Canada’s Arctic waters.Stephen Harper would have us believe that he’s all about the Arctic.  He can’t get enough of the place.  Visits every…

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General

Stephen Harper’s Ottawa speech.

Posted October 23, 2014 by Boris

“We are also reminded that attacks on our security personnel and our
institutions of governance are by their very nature attacks on our
country, on our values, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and
democratic people who embrace human dign…

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Canada

The Ottawa attacks and ISIS: A strategy?

Posted October 23, 2014 by Boris

The following assumes ISIS is the motivator.

It is interesting that the attacks in St. Jean and Ottawa focussed exclusively on military and political targets, not specifically civilians (although two were apparently wounded yesterday). Three times (…

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General

Why Does Stephen Harper Hate Renewable Energy?

Posted October 23, 2014 by The Mound of Sound

Born into an oil company family, Stephen Harper’s rise to petro-politics has been uninterrupted from his days in the Calgary mailroom of Imperial Oil all the way to his arrival at Sussex Drive.Harper doesn’t like to talk about climate change and he’s e…

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General

Dispossession by Negotiation – Harper’s Approach to Native Land Rights

Posted October 21, 2014 by The Mound of Sound

In what appears to be “Shame on You, Canada” Day, the Guardian has a damning piece on how the Harper regime is intent on severing Canada’s First Nations from their rightful claims to ancestral lands.

First Nations have been emboldened by this summer’s Supreme Court of Canada William decision, which recognized the aboriginal title of the Tsilhqot’in nation to 1750 square kilometres of their land in central British Columbia – not outright ownership, but the right to use and manage the land and to reap its economic benefits.

The ruling affects all “unceded” territory in Canada – those lands never signed away through a treaty or conquered by war. Which means that over an enormous land-mass – most of British Columbia, large parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and a number of other spots – a new legal landscape is emerging that offers the prospect of much more responsible land stewardship.

…And the Canadian government’s response? Far from embracing these newly recognized Indigenous land rights, they are trying to accelerate their elimination. The court has definitively told Canada to accept the reality of aboriginal title: the government is doing everything in its power to deny it.

This is what dispossession by negotiation looks like. The government demands that First Nations trade away – or in the original term, to “extinguish” – their rights to 95 percent of their traditional territory. Their return is some money and small parcels of land, but insidiously, as private property, instead of in the collective way that Indigenous peoples have long held and stewarded it. And First Nations need to provide costly, exhaustive proof of their rights to their own land, for which they have amassed a stunning $700 million in debt – a debt the government doesn’t think twice about using to arm-twist.

…Despite the pressure, most First Nations have not yet signed their names to these crooked deals – especially when the Supreme Court is simultaneously directing the government to reconcile with First Nations and share the land. But the Supreme Court’s confirmation that this approach is unconstitutional and illegal matters little to the government. What enables them to flout their own legal system is that Canadians remain scarcely aware of it.

Acting without public scrutiny, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to shore up support for this policy – now forty years old – to finally secure the elimination of Indigenous land rights. The process is led by the same man, Douglas Eyford, who has been Harper’s advisor on getting tar sands pipelines and energy projects built in western Canada. That is no coincidence. The government is growing more desperate to remove the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of a corporate bonanza for dirty fossil fuels: the unceded aboriginal title of First Nations – backed now by the Supreme Court of Canada.

…That’s why the habit of government officials, of media and even of Supreme Court judges to call the Tsilhqoti’in “nomadic” bothers [Chief Roger] William so much: his people have lived on these lands for thousands of years, while it is non-natives who are constantly moving and resettling. And what could be more nomadic and transient than the extractive industry itself – grabbing what resources and profits it can before abandoning one area for another.

As Canadians look more closely, they are discovering that the unceded status of vast territories across this country is not a threat, as they’ve long been told. It is a tremendous gift, protected with love by Indigenous nations over generations, to be seized for the possibilities it now offers for governing the land in a radically more just and sustainable way for everyone.
I
n this battle between the love of the land and a drive for its destruction, those behind the extractive economy have everything to lose and Indigenous peoples everything to win. The rest of us, depending on our stand, have a transformed country to gain.

What this article reminds us is that, in so many ways, Canada’s First Nations are carrying the fight for us.  They’re doing the heavy lifting.  They’re blocking a rogue government that considers itself above the law whenever that suits it.  Maybe it’s time we showed a little tangible support for everything our First Nations are doing to defend Canada.

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General

The New Republic Slams Harper, Abbott and Canada’s “Government of Thugs”

Posted October 21, 2014 by The Mound of Sound

It’s an American publication so you’ll have to excuse the hyperbole.  The New Republic, in an article entitled, “These Two World Leaders are Laughing While the World Burns Up,” obviously conflated Stephen Harper and his Australian ventriloquist’s dummy, Tony Abbott, with “world leaders.”

Canada once had a shot at being the world’s leader on climate change.  Back in 2002, our northern neighbours had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first treaty that required nations to cut their emissions or face penalties.  In 2005, the country hosted an international climate change conference in Montreal, where then-Prime Minister Paul Martin singled out America for its indifference.  “To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say this: There is such a thing as a global conscience,” Martin said.

According to a 2014 Climate Change Performance Index from European groups Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, Canada and Australia occupy the bottom two spots among all 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  Among the 20 countries with the largest economies (G20), only Saudi Arabia ranked lower than them. Canada and Australia’s records on climate change have gotten so bad, they’ve become the go-to examples for Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who don’t think climate change exists.

…On the way to his first trip in the U.S., Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stopped for a full day of talks with Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Abbott was in Canada’s capital with the intention of building a “conservative alliance among ‘like-minded’ countries” to try to dismantle global efforts on climate change. At a press conference that day, Harper applauded Abbott’s efforts to gut Australia’s carbon tax. “You’ve used this international platform to encourage our counterparts in the major economies and beyond to boost economic growth, to lower taxes when possible and to eliminate harmful ones, most notably the job-killing carbon tax,” Harper said. He added that “we shouldn’t clobber the economy” by pursuing an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax. 

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This is how Canada and Australia’s top leaders frame global warming. The two stress that they will always choose short-term economic gain first, disregarding scientific findings and even the interests of their political allies in the process. The countries’ abrupt shift on climate track conservatives’ rise to a majority in Canada in 2011 and in Australia last year.

 The hostility toward environmental interests goes even deeper than energy policy. Harper has battled his own scientists, independent journalists, and environmental groups at odds with his views. 

 
Climate scientists have reported that they are unable to speak to press about their own findings, feeling effectively “muzzled” by agencies that want to script talking points for them. In June, a government spokesperson explained that federal meteorologists must speak only “to their area of expertise,” which does not include climate change, according to a government spokesperson. Journalists sometimes face bullying, too. Environmental author Andrew Nikiforuk told ThinkProgress that “a government of thugs” slandered him and shut him out of events. But environmentalists may fare the worst. Seven environmental nonprofits in Canada have accused the Canada Revenue Agency of unfairly targeting them for audits. According to internal documents obtained by The Guardian, Canada’s police and Security Intelligence Service identified nonviolent environmental protestslike people who oppose hydrofracking and the Keystone XL tar sands pipelineas “forms of attack” fitting the “number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism.” 
 
…A decade ago, our close allies due north and across the Pacific rightly shamed us on our poor response to climate change. Now, they’ve lost the moral high ground. At the September United Nations Climate Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders yet on the issue, both Abbott and Harper were no-shows. The ministers sent in their place also arrived empty-handed; Australia’s foreign minister suggested that only larger countries should be responsible for more ambitious climate action. Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq repeated an already-public commitment that Canada would copy Obama’s fuel economy regulations requiring 35.5 miles per gallon. Afterward, in an interview with the Globe and Mail, Aglukkaq spoke of the unfairness of a global treaty. “It’s not up to one country to solve the global greenhouse-gas emissions. I mean, seriously now, it’s just not fair. We all have to do our part, big or small countries.”
 
That’s true. If only her small country would do its part, too. 
 
A government of thugs indeed.  A government that disgraces our people and our country both at home and on the world stage.
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General

Liberal attack columns TV networks and newspaper chains

Posted October 19, 2014 by JR

Media Party columnists hacks routinely bleat about those mean Harperites and their “attack ads” against boy-Justin.  Which is really rich coming from the set that has entire newspaper chains and TV networks at their disposal to attack Conservatives on a daily basis, all at no expense to Liberals. 

Stephen Maher, a “Robocall” hysteric, is one of those.  Presumably to coincide with the release of Trudeau’s new autobiography, yesterday Maher enthused about a new book by Michael Harris smearing Stephen Harper Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeover“:

… Michael Harris writes about the Harper- Finkelstein link…
Harper is inspired by Republicans, a leader hostile to Canada’s system of parliamentary democracy, and in Party of One Harris meticulously traces what he sees as Harper’s attack on that system.
… Harris connects the dots between Harper and Finkelstein, who is nicknamed the “merchant of venom” because of his skill with attack ads….

In other words Harris’ book is chock-a-block with paranoid anti-Harper venom.  Of course neither Harris nor Maher would mention that Trudeau’s campaign is inspired (if not actively advised) by Barack Obama’s crew and that Obama has actually vowed to “fundamentally transform America“.

Maher does, however, bring up the Media Party’s recent phony outrage over alleged Conservative copyright abuse:

Harper has been fighting to make Canada safe for attack ads.  … Last week, leaked cabinet documents showed that he wants to change copyright law to allow political parties to use news footage in attack ads.

You’d expect that Maher, as a journalist, would know full well that under copyright fair dealing provisions political parties have long been allowed to use news footage in political ads.  What Maher could also be reasonably expected to know, but fail to mention (naturally), is that the real scandal in this is that the heads of CBC, CTV, Global and CityTV “news” organizations had been secretly colluding (conspiring) to thwart those provisions by mutually agreeing (forming a cartel) not to run Conservative ads using their news clips.

This was all in a corrupt effort to protect Justin Trudeau from his own idiotic musings and, while they were at it, attempt to smear Harper.  This is, apparently, their idea of objectivity and ethics in the news business.  The up-side is that now those CBC, CTV, Global and CityTV “news” executives face criminal charges, big fines and even jail time for violating the Competition Act.

Conservatives use paid “attack” ads, as do all the other parties.  Liberals use the Media Party’s attack newspapers and attack TV networks full time, at no expense to themselves.

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Climate Change

Canadian carbon bubble

Posted October 15, 2014 by Boris

Mark Carney, present Bank of England governor, former Bank of Canada governor thinks we’re in a fossil energy price bubble. If the world reaches a global climate deal, fossil fuel reserves are "unburnable" and therefore pretty much valueless. Indeed, divestment is already fast catching on.If this happens, the Tar Sands, Canada’s single economic bet, becomes nothing more than icky oily sand of use

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General

Praise for Harper’s stance on Keystone XL

Posted October 12, 2014 by JR

Bloomberg News reports on Canada’s plans to go around Obama on KXL.Also, this morning on Fox News’ “Journal Editorial Report” under “Hits and Misses” Stephen Harper’s stance was billed as a “hit”.[h/t sda]

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Canada

Canada in Iraq: Suppressing fire

Posted October 5, 2014 by Boris

So Harper announces that he’s sending six very old fighter airframes to Iraq (the desert is very hard on advanced fighter aircraft and takes years off airframe life), along with Aurora surveillance and other assets. These are essentially providing air …

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Speakers in Houses

Posted September 24, 2014 by Boris

Well, we’ve always suspected The Mouthpiece takes his orders from the Great Grey Glans. Mr. Mulcair finally called him out on it, and duly punished. On Iraq no less, where the Harper Regime has deployed Canadian troops but won’t tell us anything else a…

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Canada

Baubles, RCAF edition

Posted September 22, 2014 by Boris

The news yesterday was about the RCAF (officers, mostly, save for ‘aviators’) joining the RCN and the Army (officers, entirely) in the back to the future schtick of reverting to pre-Trudeau unification ranks and symbolism.

Judging by the RCAF Faceb…

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FIPA 2025

Posted September 15, 2014 by Boris

14 January 2026
In retrospect, the US military occupation of the Tar Sands and northwest BC coast to Kitimat and Prince Rupert in 2025 was a little predictable. The confrontation with China over energy resources had been brewing for years.

The 2014 …

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Ethics

Harper’s politics of cynicism….

Posted September 7, 2014 by trashee

… and an empty shelf in the pantry where “ethics” used to be… Wandering around the Interweb, I found this cutting piece that brilliantly sums up the CPC modus operandi as follows: The Harper Government is a public relations oriented government. The machine seems to operate in the following manner; get the youngsters in the […]

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Canada

La femme du français

Posted July 21, 2014 by Claude Dupras

Elle est née en Haïti. En 1968, sous la dictature de François « papa doc » Duvalier, sa famille fuit son pays pour s’établir à Thetford Mines, la ville de l’amiante québécoise au Canada, où il n’y a aucune famille noire. Elle a onze ans.

Ses études la mènent à l’université de Montréal où elle obtient un baccalauréat langues et littérature espagnoles et italiennes. Durant et après ses études, elle démontre une sensibilité particulière pour les femmes victimes de violence conjugale. Puis, les dirigeants du réseau français de Radio-Canada la remarque dans un documentaire de l’Office National du Film canadien et lui offre un emploi. Elle n’a que vingt ans. Elle devient reporter et animatrice et sept ans plus tard lectrice de l’émission de nouvelles « Le Téléjournal ». Elle est de plus, interviewer de personnalités canadiennes et d’autres pays.
Son nom est Michaëlle Jean et les Canadiens n’ont pas fini d’en entendre parler.
Elle épouse un français, cinéaste et philosophe, Jean Daniel Lafond. Ils adoptent une jeune fille haïtienne.
Bilingue parfaite, la chaine anglophone de Radio-Canada, quatre ans plus tard, l’invite à se joindre aussi à elle. Puis, elle devient animatrice du Téléjournal, et en 2004 anime sa propre émission « Michaëlle » diffusée en français.
En 2005, une surprise attend tous les Canadiens. Le 4 août, le premier ministre Paul Martin annonce que Michaëlle Jean devient Gouverneur Général du Canada, le 27ième. Les canadiens-haïtiens sont fous de joie, les autres étonnés. Elle est la première personne noire à remplir ce poste. Elle a 37 ans. Mais comme elle est aussi de nationalité française, acquise lors de son mariage, elle doit renoncer à celle-ci étant donné qu’elle sera la commandante-en-chef des Forces Armées Canadiennes. Ainsi est faite la constitution.  Elle rencontre, avec sa famille, la reine Élizabeth à sa maison d’été de Balmoral pour respecter la tradition et devient la vice-royale canadienne.
Son discours inaugural met l’accent sur ce qu’elle identifie comme les « deux solitudes » canadiennes. Elle veut instaurer un pacte de solidarité entre les peuples fondateurs du pays. Mais son discours va plus loin, et touche les relations entre les différentes communautés ethniques, linguistiques, culturelles et de genre.
La nouvelle Gouverneur générale est très active et représente la Canada partout : JO d’hiver en Italie, festival d’Iqaluit au Nunavut, en Algérie, au Mali, au Ghana, en Afrique du sud, au Maroc, en Argentine, en Haïti. Partout elle encourage les droits des femmes, particulièrement dans les pays musulmans. En Afghanistan, elle prend position pour la mission de paix affirmant que « le Canada est fier de faire partie des 37 pays qui ont entrepris de restaurer la stabilité et la reconstruction du pays ». Elle est à Vimy pour la commémoration du 90ième anniversaire de la bataille. Et encore… 
Elle rencontre les chefs d’état de multiples pays, dont la présidente du Chili, l’héritier et nouveau roi d’Espagne, le président hongrois et des dizaines d’autres.
En 2008, elle doit gérer une crise politique inédite au Canada. Le gouvernement minoritaire Harper est en difficulté après que l’opposition ait rejeté son énoncé économique. Les partis d’opposition lui proposent de se substituer au gouvernement en créant un gouvernement de coalition. Une première en politique canadienne. Elle refuse et décide de proroger la session parlementaire de deux mois jusqu’au dépôt du budget. Harper est sauvé.
À la fin du mandat de Michaëlle Jean, Harper crée une surprise en ne le renouvelant pas. Elle le voulait, il ne l’a pas voulu. Pourtant ses  prédécesseurs l’avaient fait pour les gouverneurs généraux du passé. Et cela, malgré que 57% des Canadiens approuvent son travail et considèrent qu’elle les a toujours représentés dignement et avec compétence. Harper est du genre conservateur-républicain-américain et veut avoir le contrôle total sur les affaires de l’état et comme elle montrait un peu d’indépendance…
L’ONU qui a remarqué les talents de Michaëlle Jean, la nomme « envoyée spéciale pour l’éducation, la science et la culture en Haïti » dans le but d’obtenir des fonds pour la reconstruction et l’éducation dans ce pays. Puis, le sénégalais Abdou Diouf, secrétaire général de la Francophonie, la nomme comme « grand témoin » pour les JO d’été de Londres afin de promouvoir la langue française. Entre temps, elle préside le conseil d’administration de l’Institut québécois des hautes études internationales à l’université de Laval et devient la chancelière de l’Université d’Ottawa.
Abdou Diouf démissionne de son poste en 2014 et Michaëlle Jean exprime son intention de le remplacer. C’est un poste très important. Mais elle n’est pas seule à viser cette nomination. Il y a aussi Pierre Buyoya, l’ancien président du Burundi, et le socialiste Bertrand Delanoë, l’ex-maire de Paris. Buyoya mise sur les suffrages de l’Afrique Centrale ce qui lui donne des créances démocratiques, tandis que Delanoë compte sur le fait qu’il est socialiste et qu’il a appuyé le président socialiste François Hollande lors des primaires de son parti pour le choix du candidat.
Michaëlle Jean ne désespère pas car elle a beaucoup d’atouts. N’est–elle pas un symbole de la francophonie plurielle ? N’a-t-elle pas l’esprit de résistance de son peuple comme elle l’a si bien démontré au Canada ? Ne s’est-elle pas investie dans le combat social canadien en travaillant auprès de femmes en difficultés ?  Malgré son travail intellectuel, n’a-t-elle pas toujours montré son sens pratique pour aider les femmes violentées ? Lors du terrible tremblement de terre  en Haïti, n’a-t-elle pas transformé son bureau en centrale téléphonique pour les initiatives de secours sur la base des informations reçues ?
Comme les Haïtiens dont la vie est difficile et qui souffrent, elle a démontré qu’elle sait composer avec le chaos et qu’elle a une capacité de résistance et d’organisation dans toutes situations. Tous les liens qu’elle a tissés avec les pays africains, dans sa carrière de journaliste et de chef d’État, ont créé une sympathie envers elle et naturellement Haïti, où étaient « menés des millions d’Africains lors de la traite négrière ». Elle propose aujourd’hui, une « francophonie de la diversité culturelle et du pluralisme », dont elle est l’exemple, « assise sur la francophonie politique, les valeurs démocratiques et l’état de droit » réalisés par les présidents passés de l’organisme.
Elle met surtout l’accent sur le développement économique qui est, pour elle, le vrai espoir des jeunes. « A quoi sert de produire des milliers de diplômés si c’est pour en faire des chômeurs ou des demandeurs d’asile ? », demande-elle ?
Elle réclame aussi le respect des droits de l’Homme qui pour elle « préservent les valeurs du peuple et son rayonnement plus grand que ses ressources », citant le Sénégal comme exemple.
Malgré que le Canada appuie sa candidature, c’est aussi un aspect négatif pour elle à cause du comportement offensif de sociétés minières canadiennes en Afrique. « J’entends mettre l’accent sur la responsabilité sociale des entreprises… », assure-t-elle pour obvier à ces craintes.
Michaëlle Jean a toutes les qualités pour bien remplir l’importante tâche de secrétaire générale de l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. Elle incarne la francophonie du futur, celle du bon sens économique. Elle est la candidate idéale pour être dans le monde, la femme du français.
Mais à ce jour, la France la boude. Elle se montre sceptique aux propositions de Michaëlle Jean, pour une francophonie plurielle et diverse qui s’ouvre sur le monde. Le malheur pour la candidate canadienne est que la France assure plus de 70% du budget de l’organisation, ce qui fait que sa voix est prépondérante. Je ne serais pas surpris que le gouvernement français opte pour un ses siens qui se cherche un emploi, le socialiste Bertrand Delanoë, ex-maire de Paris. Ce n’est pas le meilleur candidat, mais il est “du bon bord”. 
Claude Dupras

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Climate Change

Leadership noted

Posted September 20, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

What a great display of striking, positive leadership for the good in the last 24 hours. First, this news of the Obama administration’s announcement today on limiting emissions from new power plants:

A year after a plan by President Obama to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants set off angry opposition, the administration will announce on Friday that it is not backing down from a confrontation with the coal industry and will press ahead with enacting the first federal carbon limits on the nation’s power companies.

This is executive action that does not require approval by Congress. Obama will, however, have to take on the coal industry. Yet somehow, doesn’t that now seem like much less of a task in the wake of Obama’s handling of the Syria crisis? The timing of this announcement seems to be one from a leader feeling emboldened, with that major international event just under his belt. Moving on now to one of the other major challenges the world faces.

And what will be the reaction of PM Harper? He of the letter to Obama asking for joint things to be done emissions-wise. Obama is acting. Unilaterally. What then is Canada prepared to do?

The second instance of leadership very much worth noting, the interview released of Pope Francis speaking on the Catholic church and his view of how the church needs to evolve.

Even if you are not a particularly religious person, this seems to have big implications. The way that this Pope, in such a position of influence and stature, is shifting the church from a close-minded, dogmatic institution to a non-judgmental, loving stance is remarkable. At least, that’s the way it is striking me. I see news of others similarly moved.

And I certainly don’t see how this is good news for those politicians who would seek to use gay issues and reproductive rights as exclusionary and divisive wedge political issues. This is a powerful counter.

And if you only read one thing on yesterday’s Pope news, I recommend this.

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General

Prorogation, obviously

Posted August 19, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

The big news on an August Monday:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has confirmed he will ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament until October, when his Conservative government will introduce the next speech from the throne.

“There will be a new throne speech in the fall, obviously the House will be prorogued in anticipation of that. We will come back — in October is our tentative timing,” Harper told reporters in Whitehorse Monday. Harper is in the Yukon on the second day of his annual summer tour of the North.

A few thoughts to add to the online maelstrom.

I am quite meh over this one. It’s mid-August and the House of Commons will be back in just over a month and a half? That’s not tooo bad in terms of an extension beyond a return that was expected on September 16th.

The news coverage on the Senate scandals, for example, is likely to continue through this period. They won’t be escaping damage from it.

Also, whenever Harper interferes with his own government’s ability to legislate, that’s not so bad. Less is definitely more for some of us when it comes to their legislative output record.

Harper, though, just can’t prorogue and avoid critical comment. He has baggage, to say the least.

He is the lone Prime Minister, of any Westminster democracy, to have faced a confidence vote and deployed prorogation to avoid his minority government’s fate. Totally unprecedented in Canadian history and so he just can’t shake that shadow. He would have been defeated in late 2008-early 2009 by the opposition parties but for his proroguing of Parliament. The Harper majority era might totally have been avoided had he not done so. All of today’s present Conservative party edifice is built on that shaky foundation. Which is partly why the power to prorogue is still in need of reform. There is less malevolent political calculation at play in today’s prorogation. But nevertheless, it doesn’t take away the need to fix, at some point, the unrestrained ability of a PM to prorogue without limitation.

A law that would restrain the power of the Prime Minister to prorogue could be passed and a PM would ignore it at their political peril. Whatever that judgment by voters might be. Could be nil, could be more, depending on how prorogation occurred. (Similar laws could be passed provincially as well.)

Today’s prorogation is also another reminder that it is just plain old anachronistic that a Prime Minister retains such power to unilaterally dictate the government’s sitting. In this modern era of a 24 hour news cycle, ever enhanced technologies and where Canadians’ work is increasingly stretched beyond 9-5, it is a strange holdover that a Prime Minister can still set their own government’s clock and work agenda, largely for political convenience. It just doesn’t fit in this era. It’s a reminder that there is a larger democratic deficit that needs to be cured in Canada. It’s not all about the Senate sideshow. Harper has educated us well about a PM having too much power and our way of governing being in need of an update.

Beyond all that, politically, today’s prorogation seems to continue the end of summer roll-out of the newish Harper majority looking toward 2015. New websites here and there with partisan purpose (Consumers First, the new Harper blog), election style speech and talk, etc. Now prorogation. The reboot is on and he’s looking to win again in 2015. Obviously.

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General

Chickens roosting day, etc.

Posted August 13, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

Harper’s chickens, that is: “Senator Wallin audit details set for public release.” One upside for Wallin, she has one of the best litigators in Toronto representing her (pictured in the CBC link).

One thing of interest in this Postmedia report that could hint at more possible trouble for, I’m assuming, Conservatives:

In their report, the auditors write that part of Wallin’s inappropriate costs were for “partisan related activity, such as fundraising.” Her lawyers cite as an example a May 27, 2011, event for former cabinet minister Bev Oda, who resigned in July 2012 over her own spending scandal, which was made famous by a $16 glass of orange juice charged to taxpayers.

At the Oda event, Wallin talked about Oda’s ministerial role overseeing intenrational [sic] development, as well as the Afghanistan file, which Wallin knew from her work chairing the Senate’s defence committee. Her lawyer’s letter notes that fundraising events took place outside of election campaigns, involved talking about Senate-related matters, and that “this was generally accepted practice,” suggesting that others in the Senate have done the same.

Generally accepted practice, says Wallin’s lawyer.

Also of note, a possible strategy suggested by Ivison that could come out of the Senate Supreme Court reference:

The Conservatives argue that the Senate can be abolished under the constitution’s amending formula — section 38 — which states that any changes to the Senate would merely required resolutions in the House of Commons, Senate and seven provinces, representing 50% of the population (rather than unanimous approval).

If the Supreme Court agrees, it seems to me that we will see the Conservatives launch a full-on campaign for Senate abolition, in an effort to insulate Mr. Harper from accusations of being the Red Chamber’s patron. There appear few lengths to which this prime minister will not now go to distance himself from Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin — three of his 59 Red Chamber appointments.

A full-on campaign for abolition by Harper et al. as a matter of political expediency would have absolutely zero integrity or credibility, as Ivison himself hints. It’s not clear the Court will rule that abolition could happen under the 7/50 formula in any event. Peter Russell is of the view that unanimity would be required:

Prof. Russell said there’s “no way” the government can unilaterally abolish the Senate and without seeking unanimous consent. “You’re taking 100 per cent of the power away. The Senate has full power to approve every law, and it was put there mainly so the provinces, the sections of the country, would feel some protection against the central government,” said Prof. Russell.

I would tend to agree with Mr. Russell. But, that’s all Senate reference stuff, down the road a bit. Today it’s all about Wallin’s audit and it is at the doorstep of the one who appointed her.

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Obama on Keystone

Posted July 28, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

In an extended interview published in the New York Times today, Keystone was raised with Obama:

NYT: A couple other quick subjects that are economic-related. Keystone pipeline — Republicans especially talk about that as a big job creator. You’ve said that you would approve it only if you could be assured it would not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon in the atmosphere. Is there anything that Canada could do or the oil companies could do to offset that as a way of helping you to reach that decision?

MR. OBAMA: Well, first of all, Michael, Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that’s true. And my hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline — which might take a year or two — and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 [chuckles] jobs in a economy of 150 million working people.

NYT: Yet there are a number of unions who want you to approve this.

MR. OBAMA: Well, look, they might like to see 2,000 jobs initially. But that is a blip relative to the need.

So what we also know is, is that that oil is going to be piped down to the Gulf to be sold on the world oil markets, so it does not bring down gas prices here in the United States. In fact, it might actually cause some gas prices in the Midwest to go up where currently they can’t ship some of that oil to world markets.

Now, having said that, there is a potential benefit for us integrating further with a reliable ally to the north our energy supplies. But I meant what I said; I’m going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.

NYT: And if they did, could that offset the concerns about the pipeline itself?

MR. OBAMA: We haven’t seen specific ideas or plans. But all of that will go into the mix in terms of John Kerry’s decision or recommendation on this issue.

Fascinating response from Obama there. First, he’s not buying the inflated jobs numbers related to Keystone. Recall Harper’s 2012 sit down session with an American think tank where he claimed that Keystone would be responsible for about 30,000 jobs. Obama is where the U.S. State Department has been, that the job benefits are on a much lower scale.

Also note those remarks that show he’s sticking to the principle that carbon release is a key decision making component for him. That sets approval at a very high bar. He’s putting the environmental consideration at the fore.

Then the bit about Canada doing more to mitigate carbon release. The Harper government will likely see this as an opening but it’s also not very welcoming language to a government that has tried to delay and skate on carbon emissions. It sounds like a stick that Obama is going to deploy.

It is promising though for those who care about the environment and think that a stick is just what the Harper government needs.

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Random thoughts on the cabinet shuffle

Posted July 15, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

If we must. Alternative blog post title could very well be: Everything old is new again. I agree with the Canadian Press header: “New faces in Harper’s cabinet overhaul, but old guard stands economic watch.” I also agree, unsurprisingly (!), with Bob Rae’s fun take on all the hullabaloo: “With shuffle, the Harper Revolution continues its slow, steady crawl.

First, an under-noted development perhaps. Chris Alexander goes to Citizenship & Immigration. Jason Kenney’s old stomping ground. Literally. Just ask the Doctors for Refugee Health Care who have taken the lead on protesting the cuts by this government to health care coverage for refugees. Whether Alexander will remedy this situation is a key question. Will he continue on with the “gold plated benefits” propaganda nonsense or as a GTA denizen amend this government’s ways on what is an uncompassionate policy?

Another aspect of this move is the political angle. This ministry is clearly viewed by Conservatives as a key part of their political equation. Putting Alexander, an ambitious pol from the GTA into this ministry as a successor to Kenney is an intriguing political dynamic. Kenney nevertheless tweeted:

Congratulations to Chris Alexander on his appointment as Minister of Citizenship & Immigration. He’s brilliant, hard-working, & very capable

— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) July 15, 2013

Speaking of himself, Kenney goes to HRSDC. It was termed Employment & Social Development today but it is HRSDC, as Kenney’s tweets also indicate. Succeeding Diane Finley. No one is calling this a demotion but it does have that tinge to it. I suppose something transformational could be in the works, given Kenney’s being Kenney and we shall see.

Working with Kenney, kind of, will be Kellie Leitch who is put in Labour & Status of Women. I find putting a surgeon in the Labour portfolio to be odd and not necessarily congruent with her experience. Raitt is a lawyer so at least she was steeped more in the framework, Leitch not so much. Although when your government’s labour relations policy is just to legislate industries back to work under the guise of “the economy,” it may not be an issue for Leitch at the end of the day. And also with Leitch, Status of Women continues to be an add on hobby for a Harper minister.

Pierre Poilievre to Democratic Reform? What more could one possibly say here? This is the MP who has been sicced on Elections Canada for years. If this day was meant to be about Harper turning a new page, this move surely undermined that thinking. But really, who would have expected a day free from some patented Harper partisanship.

The big news elsewhere in democratic reform today, by the way, is that Bob Rae has joined Fair Vote Canada’s advisory board.

“Canadians need to know that their votes will really count. This means moving beyond our first past the post system”, says Rae, a long-time supporter of adding proportionality to Canada’s electoral system.

The key democratic reform challenge for Canada’s future is not the Senate, the priority should be reforming the House of Commons. Liberals also joined that message on democratic reform today.

Lisa Raitt to Transport is interesting given the debate going on in the GTA – or should I say GTHA – over transit funding and dealing with Toronto’s overdue needs and the Metrolinx proposals. Subway fever is everywhere and the funds to underwrite Toronto’s transit needs are pressing. Raitt has her sexy portfolio now and it could provide opportunity for the Harper gang in Toronto. Emphasis on could. Whether they will be willing to work with Premier Wynne or keep showing up and wearing t-shirts for Team Hudak is a question.

Aglukkaq to Environment on its surface might seem like a less dug in approach in the offing. Here is one take that seems fair:

Aglukaaq’s appt at environment signals importance of First Nations’ support for resource development.

— Shawn McCarthy (@smccarthy55) July 15, 2013

But it’s the oil and gas regulations that will be the big test for this government, as everyone knows.

Elsewhere, countries have ministers designated for climate change. It’s time for this in Canada too.

Probably much more that could be said but that’s it from this corner of the internet peanut gallery.

P.S. Oh, almost forgot the obligatory note for long time readers…Gerry Ritz should have been fired.

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Harper to the UK Parliament

Posted June 14, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

What to make of the PM’s speech to the UK Parliament yesterday? When a leader is accorded that type of honour, surely they’ve got to come up with something worthwhile. And this did seem to be an effort to make a type of legacy statement on Harper’s part.

What was his touchstone in the speech? The economy, of course, what else could it possibly be from Harper. And he seemed to be doing two things in his speech with that focus in mind.

First, he explained Canada’s domestic economic success in a distinctly conservative way. There were at least four references to low taxes. The trade agenda, government efficiencies. Which all seemed to be wrapped in an effort to portray this as some type of value statement, about what economic values Canada possesses. Here is some of it: 

“So, friends, knowing these things, in Canada, when times were good, we ran surpluses, and we used them.
“Not to expand the state, but to pay down debt and to lower taxes.
“As a result, since our Government came to office, the average Canadian family now pays about $3,300 (about 2,200 pounds) less in federal taxes every year.
“Canada now also has the lowest rate of tax on new business investment in the G-7.
“Consequently, we are widely regarded as the best place in the world to do business, and we have the best post-recession job creation record among the major developed economies.
“Our values also tell us, as you have put it, Prime Minister, that you cannot borrow your way out of a debt crisis.’
“In Canada, we have no debt crisis, so during the recession we were able, to deliberately borrow to sustain economic activity and confidence, but in a way that was timely, targeted and temporary.
“And we are now returning, gradually but surely, to a balanced budget, without raising taxes.

I hesitate to reiterate all that but it’s about showing Mr. Harper’s limitations. This seems like the kind of rote thing you’d say to the local Board of Trade. Except for the accompanying effort to spin it all into some kind of economic values system.

Then we heard a sort of Harper doctrine. The short version: There are world perils and threats that nations will have to meet but…our national bank account must be liquid, people! Otherwise, it’s a no go. 

“Countries that do not bring their finances under control or that close their economies to the world, will face consequences.
“And those consequences are not only economic.
“In the absence of solvency, relevancy will also disappear.
“Nothing can lead more quickly and more completely to diminished influence
in the world than the decline of economic performance and financial credibility.
“Should we fail to faithfully adhere to our values in economic matters the wider values that we wish to protect for all humanity, values of freedom, democracy and justice, of dignity, compassion and security, those valueswill almost certainly be eroded.
“And they will be eroded friends at a time, when they are most needed.
“Because for good to happen in this world, someone must speak up for these values, and have the will and the capacity to act, so that these values are not mere sentiments.
“I speak of the courage to denounce oppressors and aggressors, to counter extremist ideologies,and to confront the abominations that must not be tolerated.

Nothing leads to diminished influence more quickly than the decline of economic performance? Solvency? Shades of JFK but please add the economic fine print to this: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” See how much better that is?

It’s also ironic, these conservative leaders talking up the need to have stable domestic economies in order to meet world threats. The right wing policies that leave nations in debt and deplete treasuries are the economic results that have been seen. See also such economy destroying policies as invading Iraq.

More from the same crux of the speech where he defines the central challenge:

“But, make no mistake, if we wish to spread prosperity to others, we must be
prosperous ourselves.
“Without prosperity, there can be no aid.
“Indeed, without prosperity, we will have little ability to project any of our values anywhere.
“And, of course, we cannot hope to effectively spread these values unless we live by them ourselves and demonstrate our own success by virtue of doing so.
“Lord Speaker, Mr. Speaker, distinguished guests, I believe this is the challenge we face in the West today.
“There are massive shifts, shifts of epic dimensions, taking place in the world economy.
“To the extent this means that traditionally less fortunate people are beginning to enjoy prosperity, and the other fruits of our values, much of this is a good thing.
“But there are also, as there have always been, rising powers that do not share our values, and dangerous forces that seek to destroy them.
“We cannot, in the face of this, be at all complacent or, as I have said elsewhere,
We cannot entertain the notion, as I think some in the West do, that our wealth and influence can be assumed, that they are some kind of birthright.
“I know, Prime Minister, that neither of our governments think that, which is why we take the difficult decisions we do, to ensure our people will remain among the most fortunate and prosperous for the generations to come.
“But, just as we cannot be complacent about our wealth, neither can we allow our peoples, in these times of tough decisions and shifting fortunes, to become fatalistic.

Without prosperity there can be no aid, said the Prime Minister who will tout our world leading economic strength yet slashes foreign aid and dismantles CIDA but nevertheless praises Britain for keeping their levels up. The emphasis on western prosperity as what must be guarded rings hollow. There’s an us versus them tone to Harper’s remarks. We cannot give to you unless we remain well off. We cannot project our values unless we retain our wealth and influence.

Honestly, in reading such speeches that are occasions, and caring citizens should take a few moments to consider, you really want to hear and feel a sense of your country in them. But it just doesn’t seem to come with Mr. Harper. He doesn’t complete the job. Economics is cool territory, there’s no heart in it. It doesn’t grasp the essence of what Canada is and that could be portrayed to the world if this is a ground shifting moment, as he sees it.

Here is a clip – yes, one exists! – of the MacKenzie King speech to the UK Parliament in 1944 and his speaking of Canada entering the war. Harper included one of King’s lines in his remarks, saying we entered “not from obligation, but ‘was the outcome of our deepest political instinct, a love of freedom and a sense of justice.’” Out of our deepest political instinct. Times and instincts have changed…

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The impressionist

Posted June 12, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

I think I’ll go with the take of a little birdie who sent me a note on this…just proves that Harper has been making a mockery of the Conservative party:)Hyuk, yuk. 

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Your $60 million media monitoring programme

Posted May 9, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

Note: This blog post below was written on March 9th but not published. Given this news of the past day, “Harper Government Spends Millions Monitoring Press Of Own MPs,” thought it would be useful additional context. Also, note to self: Listen more inte…

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