Friday, November 30, 2007

Have a laugh

Unfortunate name for a lawyer: check this out, it's guaranteed to make you laugh.

Don't mess with Hazel, part II

Her words carry great weight in the GTA and she's continuing to hammer Jim Flaherty over the infrastructure deficit facing cities:
Armed with fresh ammunition from yesterday's Ontario Throne Speech - which called on the federal government to share its GST revenues with cities - Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion took dead aim at federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

"I will challenge him to a debate on this," Ms. McCallion declared, adding that Mr. Flaherty "does not seem to get the message" that cities face a growing infrastructure deficit and need extra federal help.
Irked by what she described as Mr. Flaherty's recent "unprofessional" comments about municipalities - he called mayors "really grumpy" and said they could better control their own spending to pay for roads, bridges and transit - Ms. McCallion said the minister "should be reminded how he downloaded on us" when he was finance minister of Ontario.

"I challenge him to come out to Mississauga and show us where we are not efficient and have not set money aside," she said, noting her suburban municipality is debt free. Even with reserves of $600-million, she adds, "we cannot afford to pay for infrastructure on the property tax base."
The Conservatives have fires to put out all over this country...

Mulroney/Schreiber: hearing aftermath

Yes, more notes from the big story...

1. Somebody had a very bad day. And that somebody was Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. Beeg flip-flop on that extradition thing, there guy. Huuuuge. Terrible, just terrible optics on you right now. Oh no, we can't do it, can't interfere, don't have the power. Whoops! We do. Want a stay? OK by us.

The great motivator? Overwhelming public opinion in support of Schreiber's testimony, which couldn't happen if he were to be extradited.

2. Et tu, Norman Spector? Former Mulroney guy is piling on, talking to CP about Mulroney's support for Schreiber's "Bear Head" military project which would have had military vehicles built in Nova Scotia for German arms maker Thyssen, at Schreiber's behest. Problem according to Spector was that there was tremendous opposition to the project all around, from Paul Tellier, bureaucrats, the military, uniformly. Except for Mulroney who instructed Spector to get it done. The project did not proceed, ultimately, as Mulroney apparently learned of the high cost in setting it up. Spector left Mulroney's staff and got wind later that another look at the project had occurred. It never did, in the end, get off the ground.

What's interesting here is the 1990 date of Mulroney's instruction to Spector to get the project done. This occurred, clearly, while Mulroney was PM and years before any payments were received by Mulroney from Schreiber. This needs to be put to Mulroney for explanation.

3. Harper continues to get a very healthy benefit of the doubt from media types covering this matter. The notion that Harper could possibly have done something wrong in connection with the Mulroney file is usually dismissed by commentators. What is their basis for such certainty? Note this, for example:
And eyebrows rose when Schreiber testified he'd been assured that Mulroney's request for extradition relief had been "very well received" by Harper at that 2006 meeting, a charge that's almost impossible to believe, given Harper's furious reaction to his name being mildly muddied in earlier court documents.
Well, Schreiber said it was "well received" by Harper. Someone told him it was. So who's lying? Mulroney? Or someone else?

Remember that it has been reported that the Justice Department's briefings on the Mulroney file have been stifled under the Harper government and further, that an investigation into whether the Mulroney settlement should have been reconsidered was put a halt to under the Harper government. So it's not a stretch to say that Harper and his gang wanted this matter to go away. And it wouldn't be a stretch to say that information putting to rest the Mulroney/Schreiber dispute would have been "well received."

4. The talking point of the day coming from the Conservatives post-hearing was that, based on Russ Hiebert's few questions, Schreiber had never met or spoken with Harper or anyone in the PMO. Gee, there's a big surprise. Schreiber doesn't seem to have had many direct dealings with Mulroney, either. There have instead been a host of intermediaries in the picture mentioned from time to time. From Fred Doucet, to Frank Moores, to Elmer MacKay. Why would that pattern not be replicated here, with a similar intermediary on Schreiber's behalf? And I notice that Hiebert didn't ask about any intermediaries in his questioning. He asked whether Schreiber himself had any interactions with Harper or whether a lawyer had on his behalf.

And note that there was an indication by Schreiber that he did in fact receive correspondence from Harper. Hiebert quite helpfully established that fact in his questioning (see previous link). That had not been known, prior to today. Granted, we still require the details, as they were sorely lacking, on said correspondence.

5. For someone who is supposed to be verboten with the Conservative government, Brian Mulroney's lingering closeness to them is still doing a lot of good with the feds. Big story on CBC last night:
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney talked to the current Conservative government on behalf of a company that could benefit from Ottawa's decision to open up the wireless industry to more competition, CBC News has learned.

Mulroney played an active role in bringing together former industry minister Maxime Bernier and Pierre Karl Peladeau, CEO of Quebecor Media, CBC News has learned. Mulroney is on the board of directors for Quebecor Media.

Sources say earlier this year, Mulroney asked Bernier to meet with Peladeau. The request was made during a conversation on a range of topics.

During their chat, Mulroney reminded Bernier of Quebecor's strong belief that the government should allow new players into the telecom sector, something sources say Bernier was opposed to.
On Wednesday, the Conservative government paved the way for new cellphone companies by announcing new rules for an auction of radio airwaves designed to spur competition in the wireless industry. Analysts expect Quebecor will be one of the companies to enter the auction. (emphasis added)
What am I up to now in the Maxime Bernier watch? Oh yes, this would be strike seven.

Apparently Mulroney should be registered as a lobbyist in order to be arranging such meetings, given his position on the Quebecor board. Again, not looking good for the Harperites and their linkings with Mulroney. Big conflict of interest and appearance of favoritism going on here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"The message was very well received"

Just digesting the Schreiber appearance, likely more on that later. But for now, thought this was an interesting little exchange that bears further scrutiny:
1:08 p.m. — Liberal MP Charles Hubbard, first time we've heard from him... he starts with a folksy apology for the circus, and says that as recently as in 2006 he wrote a letter to Mulroney. He wants to know the result of that letter being carried to Mr. Harper by Mulroney.

"The outcome was, that the message was very well received," said Mr. Schreiber. "That there would of course be no guarantee, this decision would have to of course been decided by the court and then the minister would do the right thing." He's referring to Mr. Toews, former justice minister.

Confirms that the Elmer MacKay helped draft the letter ... and then volunteers: "It was a shock to me when Mr. Harper said on television that he had never spoken to Mr. Mulroney about me." (emphasis added)
Does this suggest that these communications between Mr. Mulroney and Schreiber had something to do with the halted investigation into the Mulroney matter under the Conservatives? Don't know, but today clearly was a scratch the surface, brief discussion that will just be the beginning of drawing such matters out.

Did you catch Tom Mulcair's efforts to draw in Marc Lalonde in some sinister manner (it occurred in or about the 1:04 pm mark as Mulcair raised a number of questions)? As predicted. The NDP never miss a chance to make anything all about the Liberals these days. I think Mr. Lalonde will be happy to elucidate Mr. Mulcair on the matter, as he's recently spoken freely to the media about Mr. Schreiber.

Mulroney/Schreiber: the last minute stay edition

What are the Harper Conservatives trying to do with their very fine, careful legal strategy in the Schreiber matter? These guys are incredible. Won't do anything until forced to act. Last night they apparently capitulated on their push to extradite Schreiber and will now agree to a stay of the extradition order. But only for 10 days. And it's conditional on Schreiber's lawyers agreeing to some expedited timetable set by the Justice Department. So it really doesn't seem like much of a substantive response to the major political problem facing Harper and his Justice Minister. They appear to be stonewalling on ensuring Schreiber's availability for these Committee hearings but also for a public inquiry. As Eddie stated the other day, you can't speak out of both sides of your mouth. Their offer last night seems motivated by p.r. concerns, nothing else.

The report from the Globe on the federal government's suddenly discovered power to act on the extradition order:
The sense of urgency surrounding Mr. Schreiber's testimony eased last night when the government said it would not extradite him while a last-ditch appeal remains before the courts.

The government offered to push back the earliest extradition date from Saturday to Dec. 10, but Mr. Schreiber's lawyers refused and said they would let the Ontario Court of Appeal settle the matter tomorrow.

His lawyers want the Ontario court to grant a stay of the extradition, pending an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court will take weeks to consider whether it will hear Mr. Schreiber's appeal, likely allowing him to remain available for questioning by MPs.

The offer to push back the extradition came as a surprise, given that Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Tuesday that he had no authority to take such action.

In a letter to the law clerk of the House, a senior Justice Department official said Mr. Nicholson will have to act on the extradition order within 45 days of the Supreme Court ruling or else Mr. Schreiber could apply to be released.

"We have written to Mr. Schreiber's lawyer to advise him that the Attorney General of Canada will consent to the application for a stay, provided that steps are taken to expedite the application for leave to appeal," Donald Rennie said.
Seems to me there are rules in place on such legal procedures. Why the federal government believes it can dictate a time frame to a citizen is a little bizarre.

Also of note from various reports, including the one cited above...a former Prime Minister of this country is under significant scrutiny here regarding his business dealings with Schreiber and there are a ton of unanswered questions about these circumstances. This hearing today will be the first public hearing under oath to deal with questions that have been lingering for years now. Yet all Jack Layton seems to be focussed on is widening this inquiry to others in his neverending quest to excuse Conservative wrongdoing. He sounds like he's already moved on from the main event.

The show starts today...stay tuned...

"Danny is still the king"

This is rich: "Harper seeks to mend fences with Williams." Of course the PM wants to fix matters with Williams. They're a major disaster. And from the Globe report, which is based on unnamed "sources" who appear to be federal Conservatives seeking to shape this story, all indications are that Harper's seeking a "rapprochement" with Williams is motivated by self-serving political rationales. There's a first ministers meeting in early 2008 that Harper wants to manage. And there may be a federal election soon. The article indicates that Harpie's got his eye on a few of Danny's colleagues to fill spots of retiring federal Conservative MP's who - without Williams' blessing - will be hard pressed to get re-elected. Think Danny's interested in making life easier for Harper? He's made it clear, very clear to date that Harper's word is not to be trusted, based on his gutting of the Atlantic Accord. To make a major understatement, this'll be interesting to watch.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Karlheinz in transit to Ottawa: a circus of the Conservatives own doing

The gauntlet's been laid down by the Ethics Committee to the Conservative Justice Minister and the Harper government now that this "Speaker's Warrant" has been issued and Schreiber is now in transit to Ottawa. The spectacle of having to go so far as to issue this historic warrant is remarkable. The Conservatives could have helped to enable Schreiber's appearance, had they so desired, but instead have chosen this hands off route. It's they who are creating the circus-like environment thus far.

A few notes this afternoon...

I found these comments by Pat Martin to be pretty bold and we'll see on Saturday whether the Justice Minister agrees:
Martin said the committee has "vetoed the minister's right" to deport Schreiber until it's finished with him.

"It's our belief our Speaker's warrant has primacy over the extradition warrant. We believe that trumps the extradition order," he said.

"If the minister of justice tried to execute it, he'd be in contempt of Parliament."

A Speaker's warrant is similar to a subpoena and ignoring it could result in a jail sentence.
Here's Martin quoted in the Globe:
“I do expect him tomorrow. I don't know what would stop it now,” said Mr. Martin. “We have the authority of the highest court in the land, which is Parliament. I don't see anything that could trump that.”
Well, thus far the Justice Minister has not concurred and seems to be relying instead on some argument of ambiguity in the status of the law. I have yet to hear an extradition expert weigh in on this, the prevalence of the Speakers Warrant versus the extradition order, and wish the media would get on that.

Secondly, the rushed nature of Schreiber's testimony in this situation where he has had no doubt limited time to review his papers - absolutely normal and required activity for a witness by the way - is creating a circumstance where it is highly unlikely that Schreiber's testimony over one day, with limited hours, will suffice. It would be patently unreasonable to have Schreiber for one rushed day and then Mulroney for up to 3 days. This makes the question of his imminent extradition all the more relevant and perplexing that the Conservatives could continue to push down that road.

It appears that Friday's Ontario Court of Appeal hearing on Schreiber's request for a stay of his extradition order will be determinative in smoking out Nicholson.
Schreiber's lawyers have a Friday morning hearing by the Court of Appeal for Ontario for a stay of extradition until the Supreme Court of Canada rules on Schreiber's latest appeal. That could take three to five months.

Sennecke added that the court hearing is key since it will reveal whether Nicholson intends to issue a stay of proceedings on the extradition.
Sennecke doesn't seem to be too convinced of the power of the Speakers Warrant to override the extradition order, now does he?

The "Harper might be toast" commemorative piece of toast

I think you might get....oh, say, maybe a nickel on eBay for this apparition on a piece of toast...:) It's no Virgin Mary...:)

Thanks to the Wingnuterer...where oh where have you been, my friend? We need such hilarity to brighten these dark Harper days...:)

Mulroney/Schreiber notes: the toast edition

1. The Mulroney/Schreiber matter is getting to the Conservatives and the Justice Minister Rob Nicholson in particular. Read Garth Turner's evocative report from the floor of the House yesterday describing the confusion on the Conservative side and the "crestfallen" Justice Minister. It seems that he can't bring himself to defend the Conservative position on Schreiber - hand sitting - with gusto. Who can blame him? He knows public opinion is against him now, that Canadians by a two-thirds majority want to hear what Schreiber has to say and believe he should be kept in Canada during a public inquiry.

An intriguing little bit from Garth's blog:
My seatmate, feisty Robert Thibault from Yarmouth, stopped drawing me a diagram of how the Mulroney-Schreiber affair massively implicates the Harper government, long enough in QP to level a blast at Nicholson.
If Thibault’s chart is half true, I’d now say, Rob Nicholson had reason to slump. His boss is toast.
Toast, you say? Yes, a capital idea in the morning...:)

2. Eddie Greenspan appropriately calls out Harper. The Justice Minister ain't doin' bupkus without an A-OK from the Harper PMO. Eddie speaks:
Capping a day of wild legal and political manoeuvring, Mr. Schreiber's lawyer, Edward Greenspan, accused the Harper government of wanting to get the lobbyist out of Canada, despite plans to hold a public inquiry into his past dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

“It seems to me the government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth and really, the appearance is that there was never any intention to have a public inquiry,” Mr. Greenspan said.

“When a Prime Minister of this country says ‘I'm calling for a public inquiry' and he retains a respected a person as he has retained in [David] Johnston, to look into what the terms of reference ought to be, I take him at his word.”

“And I take him not only at his word, but that he clearly would want Mr. Schreiber in Canada during the duration of that inquiry ... it would be ridiculous to think that an inquiry would go on with Mr. Schreiber in another country where he wouldn't have access to his lawyer.”
Putting Harper right where he ought to be, in the spotlight for accountability's sake.

3. Law professor Errol Mendes with a rebuke to Nicholson (from same Globe report just cited):
Mr. Nicholson said he had no authority to act in this case, given that Mr. Schreiber is not sought by the Canadian justice system.
Errol Mendes, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said he was “astonished” by the minister's comments, given that the Ontario Court of Appeal has said the “ultimate decision” in extradition matters is political.

“I'm not sure if [the minister] really understands the extradition process,” he said.
Again, more polite benefit of the doubt characterization going on here...but the smart bet is that yes, he actually does understand the extradition process.

4. Bob Fife tells us that Schreiber will indeed be there on Thursday morning and will be permitted to change into a suit in a windowless room. (Duh?) He also repeats the Conservative talking point that that the committee hearings are likely to be a "gong show." Bob chose "gong show" to perhaps disguise his synchronicity with the Conservatives who have been using "circus."

5. Hope Ethics Committee members are prepping all day get their questions into a succinct, direct form. Not too many hours with Schreiber...and this could be it, if the Conservatives get their way.

Rove investigator under investigation instigated by White House

This is a shocker. The guy investigating Rove's politicization of non-partisan government offices and functions has come under investigation, at the instigation of the White House. Likely because Karl Rove's fanny must be protected at all costs. We witnessed as much during the Fitzgerald investigation into the outing of Valerie Wilson as the White House and Bush stonewalled and steered the public away from Rove by publicly denying he was "involved." This investigation into Bloch could be more of the same. It certainly appears to be suspicious.
The head of the federal agency investigating Karl Rove's White House political operation is facing allegations that he improperly deleted computer files during another probe, using a private computer-help company, Geeks on Call.

Scott Bloch runs the Office of Special Counsel, an agency charged with protecting government whistleblowers and enforcing a ban on federal employees engaging in partisan political activity. Mr. Bloch's agency is looking into whether Mr. Rove and other White House officials used government agencies to help re-elect Republicans in 2006.

At the same time, Mr. Bloch has himself been under investigation since 2005. At the direction of the White House, the federal Office of Personnel Management's inspector general is looking into claims that Mr. Bloch improperly retaliated against employees and dismissed whistleblower cases without adequate examination.
Mr. Bloch said no documents relevant to any investigation were affected. He also says the employee claims against him are unwarranted. Mr. Bloch believes the White House may have a conflict of interest in pressing the inquiry into his conduct while his office investigates the White House political operation. Concerned about possible damage to his reputation, he cites a Washington saying, "You're innocent until investigated."

Clay Johnson, the White House official overseeing the Office of Personnel Management's inquiry into Mr. Bloch, declined to comment. Depending on circumstances, erasing files or destroying evidence in a federal investigation can be considered obstruction of justice.
That's Clay Johnson, long time Bush friend:
He was a classmate of President George W. Bush at Phillips Academy, roommate and Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brother at Yale University, where he helped pull down the goalposts after a Princeton game, and received his B.A.
I'm sure this return investigation of Bloch is all on the up and up, right? This is the garbage the Bush White House has specialized in. The White House will protest that its pursuit of Bloch is eminently justified. Yet it's just as likely, based on their track record, that it's one more in a long line of outrageous abuses of power that are pressed to the uber limit until someone stops them. Few have thus far, so they keep going and going and going. Hope Scott Bloch is made of some pretty stern stuff.

Meanwhile, Rove's become a celebrity columnist and life couldn't be grander for the rotund fellow with ruined lives in his wake...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Contempt coming?

Further indications the federal Conservative government is going to great lengths to ensure it will control Schreiber's movements:
But Liberal MP Paul Szabo, the chair of the ethics committee, told MPs at a meeting this morning that he has learned that Schreiber is being held in federal government custody even though he is in a provincial jail.

And Szabo said this means that Nicholson is ultimately reponsible for deciding whether Schreiber can be brought to the Commons to give testimony this week as the committee hopes.

"If anyone - Mr. Schreiber, the justice minister, the Ontario attorney general or any other person - frustrates the ability of Mr. Schreiber to be before our committee on Thursday, they may be found in contempt of Parliament by the House," Szabo told reporters. (emphasis added)
Why the need to get your hands dirty, federal government? Sounds like they've got their finger on the trigger, ready to extradite. What other explanation is there for having gone to this length, putting Schreiber under federal control in a provincial facility? Nicholson is still playing coy:
Nicholson, under fire later in the Commons over the issue, said he wouldn't stand in the way of efforts by MPs to bring Schreiber to Ottawa.
Reiterating his position that he will do nothing to assist, but everything to sit back and wait out the clock.

The small man steps up again

Good for McGuinty, a bold move today: "McGuinty government moves forward on full-day learning for four and five-year-olds: Dr. Charles Pascal Appointed As Special Advisor To Recommend Strategy, Report To Premier."

Justice Minister Nicholson and the Conservatives doing exactly nothing to ensure Schreiber appears

Well, today the Conservatives are showing their true colours on the Schreiber matter. The upshot of Nicholson's letter today to the Ethics Committee is that the Conservatives are apparently willing to execute the Schreiber extradition order with haste come December 1 in order to get him the heck out of dodge. Despite the advice of the law clerk to the House of Commons to the Ethics Committee, to the effect that the Justice Minister has the power to ensure Schreiber appears by amending the current extradition order, Nicholson denies he has that power. There's no other conclusion to be drawn than the Conservatives want Schreiber out of here, now, and are unwilling to do anything to assist his testimony being obtained in any way.

So the Conservatives are effectively having it both ways. Seeming to "do the right thing" by calling a public inquiry on the one hand. But doing exactly nothing to stop the Schreiber extradition, in contravention of significant Canadian public support for it and the majority will of the House Ethics Committee, on the other hand.

The legalities will continue, however. And though Nicholson's now weighed in, a Speaker's warrant is being issued, a step up from the Committee summons. So Schreiber may yet be appearing on Thursday, but after that all bets are off. It may be one day and that's all she wrote. Schreiber's lawyers will apparently, based on a CP report, seek a stay with the Ontario Court of Appeal on Friday to prevent his extradition pending this latest appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. But I disagree with this aspect of the Globe report:
Mr. Nicholson acknowledges in his letter that the extradition can be delayed pending an appeal.
That's not what Nicholson writes. He says an extradition "may" be delayed pending an appeal. That's not as assured a statement as the Globe presents it to be. I'm nitpicking, but still.

Here's Nicholson's letter (click to enlarge):

The Conservatives are doing nothing to assist Schreiber's testimony occurring. Speaks volumes.

Memo to Van Loan: there's another small man to contend with

Jean Charest weighs in. He's with McGuinty.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest joined forces with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty yesterday to fight the federal government's plan to add new seats to the House of Commons.

Mr. Charest pledged to work with Mr. McGuinty to persuade the federal government to revise its proposed legislation, which is designed to reflect population growth by adding 22 seats to the 308 currently in the Commons. He said he would like every province to be part of that discussion.

"I understand the perspective of Premier McGuinty," he said. "We will work with Ontario."
Oh, and didn't notice this over the weekend. There's a third "small man" on the scene:
Manitoba Premier Gary Doer threw his support behind Ontario on the weekend when he was in Toronto for the Grey Cup game and met privately with Mr. McGuinty.

"I think we should take our time and get [the legislation] right in terms of the principles for this country," Mr. Doer told reporters. "Otherwise, it could be perceived as a cynical exercise."
Doh! All of course underscoring the truly asinine position taken by Mr. Van Loan against McGuinty, fully sanctioned by Harper, of course. The legislation to redistribute seats has been rebuffed now by three premiers. Could they not have foreseen such problems?

Can't these guys do anything right...:)

Will the Conservatives heed the will of the Ethics Committee or ignore it?

Looks like the Schreiber testimony is getting bogged down in legalities, despite the majority support of the Commons Ethics Committee for Schreiber's attendance. Whether Schreiber will now be seen and heard from this week is becoming a guessing game:
The chairman of the Commons ethics committee issued a formal order yesterday compelling Karlheinz Schreiber to testify in Ottawa this week about his dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

But the prospects of the German-Canadian businessman being freed from jail to testify on Parliament Hill are mired in quarrels about the correctness of little-used Commons procedures; whether he can or should apply for bail; and whether his extradition order is automatically stayed because he has filed with the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal.
Although at least one lawyer, in the same report cited above, is stating that Schreiber may be staying put for now, which would ensure he would testify at the Ethics Committee, just perhaps at a little later date than this week:
Toronto lawyer Daniel Moore said Schreiber automatically would be allowed to stay in Canada because his lawyers have, for the third time, filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

A decision on whether to hear an appeal would take about three months.
I'm not sure about that view. If it's true, why is Pat Martin's hair on fire? Maybe it's just that his hair is always on fire. And the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed Schreiber's appeal and only managed to coax a December 1st date out of the federal government at which time Schreiber may be deported. As far as we know, there's been no stay granted by the Court of Appeal which would halt Schreiber from being extradited post December 1st. There may be a requirement that he get two weeks notice, however.

Bottom line, it's a bit of a mess. And if Schreiber is leaving the country on Saturday, the Conservatives will have allowed it to happen amidst all the uncertainty and in contravention of a majority vote of the Ethics Committee requiring Schreiber to attend. It's hard to believe that they would allow that to happen.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Are you listening, Justice Minister Nicholson?

Canadians want you to ensure Schreiber stays in Canada to give his evidence:
Almost two-thirds of Canadians believe Karlheinz Schreiber should be kept in Canada long enough to testify at a public inquiry into his dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney, even though most of them predict the probe will turn out to be a waste of money, a new national poll says.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos-Reid exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global National, found that 65 per cent of respondents feel the government should delay the extradition of the German-Canadian businessman so that he can present evidence at an inquiry announced two weeks ago. The businessman, who paid Mulroney $300,000 in cash in 1993 and 1994, could be extradited to Germany to face bribery, fraud and tax charges as early as Saturday, unless the federal government intervenes in his case.

“Canadians think something doesn’t smell right between Karlheinz Schreiber and Brian Mulroney,” said Darrell Bricker, president of Ipsos-Reid. “At least half the population thinks that we aren’t hearing everything we have to hear.”

Bricker added that “the view is that if he (Schreiber) has something to say, people would like to hear what it is. And if it requires him to stay in Canada to say it, that would be a good idea.”
The Conservatives risk political fallout if they do nothing to halt Schreiber's extradition. To date, they have not indicated that they care. Stay tuned.

Democracy Watch gets some wisdom

They've come a long way since they were bamboozled in the 2006 federal election by a certain political party that talks a very good game. Here's one of their 2006 press releases : "FEDERAL CONSERVATIVE PARTY HAS BEST GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PLATFORM." The Conservatives basked in the glow of such reviews and parlayed their accountability stance into a minority government win. Yet here is Democracy Watch today, no longer big on Conservative notions of accountability:
The group Democracy Watch says Stephen Harper is in a conflict of interest over the Mulroney-Schreiber affair - and it wants the federal ethics commissioner to investigate.

Duff Conacher, who heads the group, has sent a letter to ethics commissioner Mary Dawson asking that she look into how the prime minister and his justice minister have handled the matter.

Conacher also wants Dawson to rule on "future potential actions and decisions by them and other cabinet ministers, cabinet staff, and senior officials."

The prime minister has appointed a special adviser to set out the terms of reference for a public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

But Democracy Watch says Harper shouldn't have picked the adviser given that he has acknowledged the government can't be impartial in how to handle the matter.

"When Canadians face allegations about themselves or their associates, they don't get to decide the limits of the investigation, control witnesses or choose their own judge, and neither should the prime minister, cabinet ministers or any other politician," said Conacher.
Good for them for pointing out the pertinent conflicts here and zeroing in on the Harper government's conduct. Hopefully David Johnston is listening.

Denial is not just a river in Egypt...

Worthwhile editorial in the Star today taking Harper to task for his performance at the Commonwealth on global warming: "PM fails on world stage."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems quite pleased with himself after almost single-handedly leading the drive to water down a proposed action plan by Commonwealth countries to seriously tackle global warming. Instead of an aggressive statement by the 52-member organization at its meeting in Uganda that would have called for binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions on major developed countries, the group issued a tepid communiqué that simply urged all nations to work toward undefined goals of reducing such emissions.

Commonwealth officials pointed the finger of blame for blocking the original plan straight at Harper.

But the Canadian leader scoffed at the criticism, saying at the close of the three-day meeting that the leaders should be proud of their work.

"I believe we have much to be pleased of from the work that we have done here," Harper said. "We have delivered a substantive statement on climate change, consistent with those of a number of other international organizations and one which builds momentum towards next month's important United Nations conference" in Bali.

Canadians should not be surprised by Harper's attitude. Since taking office, he has consistently fought against tough emissions rules. His current plan has been dismissed as grossly inadequate. It is based largely on reduced intensity targets, or cutting the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of economic activity.

Unfortunately, his Uganda performance may be a bad omen for how Canada will act when world leaders gather in Bali starting next Monday to open negotiations on a new climate-change treaty to go into effect when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
This weekend seemed to showcase the worst in Harper, principally his know it all arrogance that does not flatter him at all. For a leader who is failing to gain traction with the Canadian public, it's incomprehensible to hear his unilateral bravado as on full display in his closing news conference.

And by the way, favourite moment from a CTV report last night...the Ugandan leader shaking Harper's hand and telling him he can now relax...very telling.

Mulroney/Schreiber refresher - for the big hearings

Before getting into the Mulroney/Schreiber matter, once again, here's another listless poll keeping Canada in minority government territory, although this report included a satisfying bit:
"They can't seem to move above 40 per cent in support with any consistency. For one reason or the other, the Conservatives are still a tough-sell in Canada," said Bricker, noting that the favourable conditions the government has enjoyed recently usually produces majority support.
You can never hear that stuff enough...:) Performances such as this weekend's environmental horror show certainly don't help the Conservatives at all. Keep up the fine work there, Harpie...

And things are about to get worse. This week is the supposed commencement of the Mulroney/Schreiber hearings at the Commons Ethics Committee. Let's refresh our memories for a moment, shall we?

Schreiber wrote to Harper's office about 7 plus months ago. Harper claims not to have seen the correspondence.
In that package of material, Schreiber said he entered into an agreement with Mulroney, while he was still prime minister in June 1993, to provide him with cash payments in exchange for services.
Subsequent to that letter, Schreiber wrote again to Harper in or about the first week of October. Coincident with that time frame, there was an effort to ramp up Schreiber's extradition, where in one instance Schreiber's counsel were given 12 minutes notice of a hearing.

Further, Luc Lavoie, Mulroney's spokesperson, confirmed last week that Mulroney did in fact receive money from Schreiber while still an MP.
The spokesman said Mr. Mulroney accepted the first envelope of $100,000 in cash from Mr. Schreiber while still an MP for Baie Comeau, Que., about one week before an election was called. But he quickly added that the question of when Mr. Mulroney paid income taxes on the payments isn't anyone's "Goddamn business." (emphasis added)
This Lavoie statement raises legal questions that need to be answered, as put so succinctly by one Warren Kinsella this past week.

If these legal questions were indeed investigated by our Justice Department, and it's been reported that the Justice Department were preparing briefings of some sort in 2006 and in 2007, then why was an internal review put a halt to by our Conservative government?
Then, early this year, the Conservative government closed an internal investigation into whether the Mulroney settlement should have been reconsidered, in light of $300,000 in cash payments paid by Mr. Schreiber to the former prime minister. Mr. Mulroney has said the payments were to help Mr. Schreiber start a pasta business and he did nothing wrong.

Last week, Eddie Goldenberg, who was former prime minister Jean Chretien's chief adviser, said the Liberal government likely would not have settled the lawsuit with Mr. Mulroney if it had known about the cash payments.
Seems that such reported facts should have been investigated by our Justice Department and acted upon, on our behalf, instead of the apparent stonewalling and hand-sitting that occurred. Just a few questions to ponder, once again, on the eve of such hearings. Rafe Mair has a number of good ones today as well.

And on a minor note, I noticed Far N Wide on Friday suggesting that people are not talking about the Mulroney/Schreiber story round the water cooler. Well, here's some anecdotal evidence to suggest it's well known after all, maybe not so "discussed" but vividly understood...overheard in an appliance store this week when a customer entered and expressed that they wanted to pay for an appliance order in owner expresses surprise at the desire for this out of the ordinary cash transaction but then replies, "Well, if it's good enough for a Prime Minister, then I guess it's good enough for me!" To which all present knowingly and heartily laughed.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A great Canadian died this weekend

Tip your hats and take a moment to remember the former Chief Justice of Canada, Antonio Lamer, who made a substantial contribution to our rights and freedoms as a pivotal member of the Supreme Court over a near 20 year period following the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The report linked to is a great summary of his career. There's an anecdote that is somewhat relevant given the Harper government's moves of late on the death penalty:
Often labelled by others as left-wing or interventionist, Lamer preferred the word libertarian to describe his style.

He drove the point home, in an interview marking his appointment as chief justice, by recalling the days before the abolition of capital punishment, when crowds would gather at Bordeaux Jail in Montreal to protest the executions carried out there.

"It's easy to be against the death penalty the night of a hanging," said Lamer. "But it's more difficult to be against the death penalty the night of a murder.

"The acid test is not to be a libertarian when it's popular. It's to be a libertarian when it's unpopular."
Isn't that the truth.

"Our position is the strong position"

The picture of choice from the Commonwealth meetings of our PM in action, as chosen by both the Globe, front page, and the Star, accompanying its report on the outcome of the environmental discussions there.

He's clearly not bothered in the least by the outcome and appears quite relaxed and contented with the results. Some might even say he has a slothful look to him. Good eye on this photographer. It really is true what they say about a picture, isn't it.

As a follow up from my post yesterday on the subject, it has occurred to me that they may be setting up the Bali meetings, along with the Americans, to push nations to agree to binding targets, albeit much lower ones and likely significantly lower ones than Kyoto. Harper and Baird may be planning to push the world toward mediocrity on global warming by defining downwards the binding targets. And of course, spinning it as a breakthrough on the world stage demonstrating the tremendous "leadership" of Harper. We shall see. But yesterday is certainly not the end of the story.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Harpie the global warming gambler

Harper is taking a huge gamble with the position he's taken at the Commonwealth meetings on climate change, to say the least. What I'm wondering is whether negotiations of any kind have been occurring in the background, if any, with the Americans on the problem of committing to binding targets for emission reductions. Does Harper know something we don't or is he just continuing to delude himself that George W. Bush will do what he has refused to do for seven years? Here are some comments from Harper post-debacle:
So Canada helped rewrite the Commonwealth resolution.

It now says all countries should seek to reduce their emissions, but suggests those reductions could be voluntary instead of mandatory.

A diplomat from another Commonwealth country described Canada's position - that there's no deal unless everyone agrees - as a recipe for inertia on climate change.

But Harper pointed out that Canada's position at the Commonwealth is identical to the one it took at the G8 and APEC summits.

"We will not agree to a framework that binds some countries and not others, because that's a recipe for failing on the issue of climate change," he told a news conference.

"We already have a protocol like that and it doesn't work. So we need a protocol that involves everybody. I think we're on solid ground.

As for binding emissions targets: "Canada's view is that we need binding targets on all nations. That's going to be the approach we're going to take to international negotiations."
I would find it hard to believe that they would put themselves so far out there on this position-poor ledge without having something up their sleeves. Are they this stupid?

Or, is it just as simple as acknowledging that, yes, indeed they are. In which case I'd agree with this blogger, who sums up Harper's folly, if that's what it is, quite well.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Conservative clean government caravan continues to roll along

"Tory MP charged with violating elections act."

Wha? Wajid Khan, international man of mystery, comes in for scrutiny:
Ontario Conservative MP Wajid Khan has been charged with violating the Elections Canada Act.

Khan, who crossed the floor from the Liberals to the Conservatives in January of this year, is charged with exceeding his campaign expense limit by $30,000 and paying for some campaign expenses he wasn't allowed to personally cover.
Say it ain't so, Wajid! My it's tough work being a clean government...:)

John Baird's Canada: we're all talk and now an environmental international pariah

A report that should outrage all Canadians: "Canada holding up climate-change deal at Commonwealth: sources." In the wake of the UN report this week calling for immediate and strong action, the Harper government's actions continue to speak louder than their words. As correctly called out by a British official, Canada continues to take the shameful "You first" position.
The Commonwealth summit in Uganda is close to a resolution calling for international climate-change targets - but Canada is being accused of blocking a deal.

Sources say Canada will not support an agreement unless it specifically demands the participation of major emitters, like India, China, and the United States, who have so far resisted binding targets.

Several foreign diplomats said almost every country in the 52-member Commonwealth supports an agreement, and they described Canada as a rare holdout.

A deal among Commonwealth members could provide a major breakthrough on the eve of global climate-change negotiations in Bali, Indonesia.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not mention any country by name but said the world's biggest polluters will need to be part of any agreement.

"We would not support a binding target only for some emitters - especially if that excludes major emitters," Harper spokeswoman Sandra Buckler said in an email.
Here's that British official:
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband avoided pointing the finger at Canada directly.

"I'm too much of a politician and a diplomat to be drawn into comments - positive or negative," he told The Canadian Press in an interview.

He said no country denies the science of climate change or the need for an international deal - including Canada.

And again without mentioning Canada, he described some countries' you-first attitude that is holding up progress at climate talks: "(It's), 'I will if you will,' on the one hand. And, 'you first,' on the other."
This talking point the Conservatives have sown and are inculcating into the Canadian public's collective mind that somehow it is OK for Canada to hold off on serious action because the U.S. and other large emitters are not fully on board any climate agreement needs to be roundly called out. We need to be leading by example and doing everything in our power to get those renegade nations to follow our lead. Then they become the pariahs. Why must the Harper government continue to place us in league with such deniers and continue to do the cowardly thing?

No wonder they don't want the opposition at Bali.


I don't believe this report on Liberal timing for a next election at all. Sounds like major deking to me with folks a little too eager to speak to the media types. Even if it were true, events these days are pretty fluid, an election could look very attractive one week, not so hot the next. Just ask Harpie after the Mulroney/Schreiber mess blew up. That could have occurred in the midst of a federal election campaign had Harpie gotten his way with his Throne Speech confidence vote. So to say at this moment that a February move would be in the works is just too uncertain. Sounds more like an article meant to reassure supporters that an election is coming, just bear with us as we "bite the bullet" on a confidence motion one more time.

I do believe Dion's got some fire in his belly of late and is getting much more comfortable as he hits his one year mark. Those who are writing him off at the present time, such as the galling Chantal Hebert last night, are making a big mistake.

Harpie afraid of a Toronto by-election

A little reminder in the Globe today: still waitin' on that by-election to be called in Toronto Centre. You know, the one where Bob Rae is a candidate. Aka a solid bet to go Liberal and therefore a by-election Harpie is afraid to call. Can't allow democracy to actually work, ya know, it's not like the people there deserve to have their by-election yet when others did back in early September. Harpie doesn't want to allow a Liberal victory to rain on his parade. In fact, he must not want Rae in the House, or somethin'...:) He's the Liberal Foreign Affairs critic, could make Maxime and Helena look pretty bad.

And lookie who attended a Bob Rae's everybody's favourite ex-Conservative candidate, Mark Warner:
An ousted former Conservative Party candidate has given a boost to the federal Liberals by attending a political fundraiser for party candidate Bob Rae.

"Bob is a very decent man for whom I have a lot of respect," said Mark Warner, a Toronto lawyer who had originally hoped to challenge Mr. Rae in the riding of Toronto Centre.
"But, obviously he's one of the remaining candidates in the race and I thought I should pop my head in. It's one of the first events he's having."

Mr. Warner said he hasn't ripped up his Conservative membership, but hinted that it's not likely he will be staying. "My philosophy in life is not to want to belong to any club that wouldn't have me as a member. It's just the way I approach life."
Now that's the kind of Conservative a person could really grow to love...:)

Good riddance to dinosaur John Howard

It's Friday afternoon in Australia and the last day before Saturday's general election. And it certainly looks like the 11 year tenure of Bush ally and climate change denier Prime Minister John Howard is just about over. A humorous anecdote from the report:
"I believe the coalition can win this election," Howard told Australian radio. "I believe that there is a bit of a tide coming back. I sense it in the streets."

During a final campaign day walk in the tropical city of Cairns 24 hours before the start of voting, Howard was heckled by protesters and told to "have a happy retirement".
His Labour opponent, Kevin Rudd, who has promised to sign Kyoto and take their troops out of Iraq is ahead in the polls. And Howard's got a mini-scandal on his hands in the last few days - a phony pamphlet handed out by his party supporters suggesting his Labour opponents would be soft on Islamic terrorists. Ring a bell? The favourite fear tactic of right wingers worldwide these days.

Howard's made one last appeal not to change. But we all know there's little to be done when it's a "change" election. The political consultant who can figure out how to undo that dynamic will be worth their weight in gold. Until then, it's likely bedtime for Howard, a kindred spirit of one Stephen Harper on the world stage.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Schreiber and Mulroney summoned by House Ethics Committee

And as predicted, guess who doesn't want this to occur? I think we can guess:
Conservative MPs repeatedly referred to the exercise as a "partisan witch hunt."
Poor Conservatives, so principled and all in their effort to ensure there is no public debate on the former Conservative PM's doings.

A motion before the Commons ethics committee to study the so-called Mulroney-Schreiber affair and to request Mr. Schreiber to testify “without delay” passed easily Thursday with the support of the three opposition parties. Conservative MPs voted against the motion.

The committee agreed to call Mr. Schreiber to testify next Tuesday because he faces extradition to Germany on Dec. 1 to face fraud and bribery charges. Mr. Mulroney will be asked to appear Dec. 4, 6 and 11. (emphasis added)
Apparently it's two days set aside for Schreiber. And three days for Mr. Mulroney. Can't see that he'd agree to that. Although he doesn't have much choice.

Schreiber will be under oath. Let the chips fall where they may.

The wisdom of Jean Chretien

There's a worthwhile CP report this afternoon canvassing Chretien's views on a number of current issues as he continues on with his book tour. My personal fave, on the topic of Senate reform:
Chretien was downright dismissive of Harper's threat to abolish the Senate if he can't win parliamentary support for his attempts to reform the unelected upper chamber.

"I think it is a waste of time to talk about it," he said, maintaining that the approval of at least seven provinces is required to change or do away with the Senate. He predicted that five - Quebec and the four Atlantic provinces - will never agree.

He suggested Harper is simply pandering to his base in Alberta, where the idea of an elected, effective Senate with equal representation for each province is popular.

"They never looked at how you could do it. You know, I'd like to go to the moon but I cannot go with a Piper plane. You have to be realist."
Hilarious. And just distills the lunacy of this sudden disorganized supposed plan for Senate reform to its core.

Other comments of note include his disapproval of the Harper clampdown on veiled voting and criticism of the intolerant views coming out of the Bouchard-Taylor commission hearings in Quebec. Worth a look this early evening.

Foreign Minister Harper

Could it be any more blatant that Harper is running Foreign Affairs. This report indicates he joined the ranks of Foreign Ministers in participating in this CMAG entity, despite his Junior Foreign Minister being on the ground at the conference:
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has just suspended Pakistan from the Commonwealth.

The CMAG is a committee of nine foreign ministers empowered by the Commonwealth to make such decisions.

The CMAG decision came following a call from Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking that Pakistan be removed from the Commonwealth. Harper said that President Gen. Pervez Musharraf hasn't done enough to lift emergency rule and restore democracy in the country.
Junior Foreign Minister Guergis is there but apparently can't string much of a substantive statement together:
"We adhere to and we support the principles of democracy," Ms. Guergis said.

"Right now, we have to uphold that. We have to stand behind that, and support that. Right now Pakistan is not doing that."
That, that, that. Could you be more specific, Ms. Guergis?

This is the right decision by the government, and a rather obvious one. But the interesting point is that the optics demonstrate that there is no confidence in our current Foreign Affairs team. They've been superseded by the PMO:
Canada's position was announced by Sandra Buckler, a spokesperson for Harper.
Meanwhile, putative Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier is somewhere...isn't he?

I bet he's never been called this before

We can only hope that Van Loan will be hearing footsteps in the next election, as the Star suggests today:
Federal Democratic Reform Minister Peter Van Loan should remember who elected him the next time he is tempted to take a swipe at Premier Dalton McGuinty for demanding Ontario be treated fairly.

Van Loan, who represents the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe, this week called McGuinty "the small man of Confederation" after the premier stepped up his campaign against a blatantly unfair federal bill that would bring Alberta's and B.C.'s representation in the Commons in line with their growing populations, but shortchange Ontario.

Van Loan's mean-spirited attack reflects badly on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government, which is supposed to represent all Canadians but routinely acts as though the country's most populous province is expendable. McGuinty is making a legitimate point that goes straight to the heart of Canada's democratic process. Far from malicious barbs, he deserves Ottawa's full attention.

Under the Conservative proposal, B.C. would elect seven extra MPs and Alberta five after the 2011 census, making their seat counts more or less proportional with their share of Canada's population. Yet Ontario would gain only 10 seats, which is 11 short of the number required to ensure fair representation in the Commons.

Harper's willingness to fix under-representation in Conservative-friendly Alberta and B.C., but not Ontario, smacks of cheap politics. Fairness demands that representation by population apply to all provinces. McGuinty is rightly fighting for that principle.

Ontario Liberal MPs issued a statement yesterday opposing the bill, but Conservative MPs from this province have remained silent.

Clearly, it is not McGuinty who is the small person in this debate.
No, it certainly isn't. Chalk it up to a case of way too much of this:

Late night Mulroney/Schreiber

1. For someone being sued by former PM Mulroney for libel, Robert Thibault has certainly not been cowed into hiding and instead continues to ask questions about that $300,000:
Thibault questioned the idea that Mulroney was desperate for cash, noting that at the time the former PM had just bought a luxurious mansion in Montreal and was paying for extensive, expensive renovations.

In any event, Thibault said the real issue is whether the $300,000 was just the "tip of the iceberg."

"What I'm interested in is is this part of a bigger story? Is this part of $20 million or more or how much of transactions between Mr. Schreiber or others and the people around Mr. Mulroney."
It has been reported that Thibault has been communicating with Schreiber since the spring. What's Schreiber been telling him? And is this why Mulroney's spokesman is suddenly talking up a storm, attempting to create sympathy for his client?

2. There's a House of Commons Committee probe coming courtesy of the opposition working together and about to vote on its creation. Part of it will include a demand for Schreiber to testify in front of it:
The opposition parties have struck a deal to have the House of Commons Ethics committee study the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, CTV News has learned.

A motion to be voted on Thursday will also call for Karlheinz Schreiber to appear before the committee as soon as possible, according to an MP who sits on the committee.

The opposition parties, which outnumber the Conservatives, want the committee to have a broad study of Brian Mulroney's dealings with Schreiber.

They also want to examine Prime Minister Stephen Harper's conduct and that of the Privy Council Office in the way they handled letters Schreiber had sent Harper in March 2007.
If the motion to have Schreiber called as witness passes on Thursday, it could delay his extradition to Germany, where he faces charges of fraud and tax evasion.

His extradition is currently scheduled for early December.
Now this would be must see television. Let's see if the Conservatives attempt to block the issuing of a summons by the Ethics Committee, as the report suggests is imminent tomorrow. If they were to do so, it would be very poor optics. Their most likely grounds would be that a public inquiry has already been announced, this Commons committee hearing is therefore inappropriate, duplicative, and various other claptrap that would draw them out as attempting to once again stifle free debate. Here's hoping they do try, and are defeated soundly.

3. Allan Rock, Minister of Justice at the time of the settlement with Mulroney, confirms by way of Chretien, making the rounds on his book tour, that a settlement would not have been forthcoming had they known then what they know now. Would have been a "completely different ballgame."

4. It's unbelievable to read columns by people like Ian MacDonald decrying the partisanship in this matter and attributing it largely to the Liberals and the likes of Tom Mulcair. Fair enough, there's plenty of partisanship to go around these days. But let's not forget that the current crop of Conservatives have led the pack on this front. They put others to shame with their technique. The tarring of Liberals as corrupt, as stated by our own PM this past week, is an ongoing mantra in their arsenal not to mention the unprecedented attacks on the opposition's patriotism for daring to ask questions about the Afghan mission. So let's not anyone pretend that the current political climate is dominated by anyone other than the party in power.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Of course they are

"Opposition blocked from Canadian delegation to Bali climate talks."

The Conservatives have already demonstrated that they're prepared to use the Afghan mission for political advantage by barring travel there by opposition members, so it's hardly surprising that John Baird, one of the most partisan members of this government would exclude the opposition from participating at an extremely significant UN conference on global warming. If there's ever an opening for a partisan advantage to be taken by this government, they're all over it.
There'll be no room for opposition MPs in the Canadian government's inn at next month's crucial climate-change talks in Bali, Indonesia.

Environment Minister John Baird's office confirmed Wednesday that representatives from the three opposition parties would not be welcome as part of Canada's official delegation at the United Nations conference.

That's a departure from a long-held government tradition of bringing critics along to major international conferences - opposition MPs participated in the last major UN environmental conference in Nairobi last November, for example. This coming meeting will set the stage for a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012 and does not include the developing world.

Baird spokesman Garry Keller said in an e-mail that Baird " going to Indonesia to work for global action on climate change, and not fight partisan battles."

"Environmental groups and other third parties are planning on attending the conference, and opposition members are free to attend the conference if they wish, as there is nothing stopping them from attending," Keller said.
That's right, Baird is fighting all his partisan battles before he goes by making moves like this very petty one. As opposed to the practice of past governments not obsessed with partisan considerations:
The Liberals note that while Leader Stephane Dion was the environment minister, he brought Tory critic Bob Mills "to pretty much everything," and arranged for Mills to participate in some meetings with foreign ministers at which Dion wasn't present.


Being named a part of an official delegation confers a number of privileges, including access to limited accommodation, official briefings and much of the international talks themselves. Payment of transportation costs is not necessarily picked up by the federal government, but ticket bookings are often co-ordinated on behalf of delegation participants.
The Conservatives demonstrate once again that they really don't concern themselves with the traditions developed through years of parliamentary collegiality. This is a very different kind of federal government, indeed.

McGuinty vs. Van Loan

Gotta love the dynamic shaping up as a public battle takes place over fixing the appropriate number of seats per province based on population trends. Lawyer Van Loan's resorted to name calling against the just re-elected to a firm majority and popular Premier McGuinty. And the Premier's sounding eminently reasonable as he makes his case along the high road:
McGuinty dismissed Van Loan's comments earlier Wednesday, and vowed not to be bullied by Ottawa into backing down from his demand that Ontario be treated the same as the other provinces.

He said Ontario should get 21 more seats in Parliament, not just 10.

"Why is it whenever we Ontarians stand up for ourselves we're accused of being un-Canadian," he said.

"That dog won't hunt. We won't be bullied or cowed into submission. We're talking here about an issue of fundamental fairness."

Ontario would get one MP for every 115,000 residents under the proposed changes, but McGuinty said all provinces should be on what he called "the Quebec standard" - one MP for every 105,000 people.

"B.C. is now going to grow to that standard, Alberta is now going to grow to that standard, but Ontario will be left with an injustice . . . and will stick out like a sore thumb," said McGuinty.

"That's unfair, and there's no way to justify that."

Alberta will get five additional seats in Parliament under the proposed changes while B.C. will get seven more.

McGuinty said he was pleased that Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to address the problem, but complained that Ontario was still being shortchanged.

"The problem, of course, is that while he's determined to fix things entirely for B.C. and Alberta by giving them the appropriate number of seats, he's not prepared to do that for Ontario," said McGuinty.

"He's only going to provide us with a half-measure."
Sounds like a statesman to me. Making a very reasonable argument. McGuinty's come a long way in his time as Premier and has grown into a respected figure on the provincial scene. The federal Conservatives seem to be too highly influenced, perhaps, from those within their ranks - Flaherty, Baird, Clement - who knew the McGuinty of old.

Van Loan, by contrast, looks to be floundering:
"Our legislation is going to give them more new seats than any other province, and what did (McGuinty) do? He complained about it," Van Loan told Parliament.

"That's what I mean when I talk about the small man of Confederation: more seats, more for his province, and he complains."
Van Loan said McGuinty should be pleased that Ontario would get 10 more seats under the Conservatives' bill because if there were no changes to the formula, Ontario would get only four additional members of Parliament.
But, but, but...he's getting 10 seats, what's his problem? Once again, the take it or leave it approach to federalism for provinces not deemed Conservative-growth-worthy. You can bet this kind of language would never be hurled toward Jean Charest or Ed Stelmach.

And the Ontario Liberal government, unappreciative of Van Loan's remark, are stepping up their work on behalf of the Ontario people, pointing out now that the feds are $100 million behind on payments for a fund set up to settle new immigrants.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Michael Chan said the Conservatives were over $100 million behind on payments, which go to agencies that help new immigrants settle in Ontario, not to the provincial government.

"This is funding the federal government promised to provide directly to newcomer agencies to province the settlement and language training services that are vital to helping newcomers find work in Ontario," said Chan.

About 125,000 new immigrants arrive in Ontario every year, about half of all newcomers to Canada.

Go ahead and mess with McGuinty a little more. They need a battle with a popular provincial premier like a hole in the head...

The pathetic Prime Minister


Upon reading this story, "PM rejects all but one report of torture," one can't help but think...what country am I in, anyway? The comparison between Harper and Bush springs to the forefront of one's mind when perusing such material.

Harper condones torture by blindly looking the other way to substantive allegations and leaving it to the self-serving Afghans to investigate, just like black-site-Bush whose CIA has a site in Afghanistan.

Harper is an uber-partisan warrior who is willing to say anything including using the troops as a political weapon against his opponents, just like Bush (although Harper is actually an adjudged defamer):
During Question Period, Mr. Harper called on Mr. Dion to stop "fabricating" allegations and get behind Canada's troops.
Denies reality and picks and chooses his own convenient facts, just like Bush:
"We have said repeatedly that there has been no evidence of any abuse involving the transfer of Canadian prisoners, until one case recently in the past two weeks," Mr. Harper said during Question Period.
With his assertion, Mr. Harper tossed aside six other cases in which Afghan detainees complained to Canadian officials about their conditions, as well as reports from Afghan and international authorities confirming the use of torture in the country.

Dozens of Afghan detainees have complained of torture to journalists.
Bush = Worst..President...ever. Harper? He's well on his way. And, oh yes, a reminder yesterday that he's STILL stuck at 36% in the polls. Since February of 2006.

Has a Prime Minister ever polled so low for so long?

Bush "involved" in Plame leak cover up

So says Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary, although we're not clear yet on the manner of involvement of the President. Here's what McClellan writes in his forthcoming book, not out until April:
"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself."
Now the word from the White House, predictably, is that the President was misled in the same way as McClellan. Poor little innocent knave that he is, right? Why we would believe anything from them at this point is a whole other question. Supposedly misled by whom? Cheney? Rove? Still no answers but it sure as heck does not look good. In fact, the term "criminal conspiracy" was raised on Olbermann last night where it was noted that Patrick Fitzgerald has not closed his investigation, formally:

And I think it's a capital idea, indeed, to get McClellan up on the Hill in front of the "klieg lights," as he so eloquently puts it. Time for some good Senate Judiciary Committee interrogation, methinks.

Now having said all that, it's good to see that McClellan's words are cementing once again the perception of the Bush administration as lying thugs. But I'm not holding my breath that anything of consequence will come of it for Rove, Bush or Cheney. They have defied congressional scrutiny and legal accountability by thumbing their noses at such quaint mechanisms of the American democracy. And surely, it will continue until they're gone. None of this, of course, is a reason to just shrug one's shoulders and ignore the McClellan story. The historical record damning their every move should be fully documented.

Alberto Gonzales meets some clever protesters

Watch these "A" for effort folks here:

Hopefully Mr. Gonzales, and his Bush cohorts, who have so decimated respect for the American legal system by injecting partisanship wherever they possibly and inappropriately could, will see much more of this in all the remaining years of their lives.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good riddance to a partisan U.S. attorney

Score one for the rule of law as a Gonzales/Bush/fire-breather gets shown the door. From the NY Times:
The embattled United States attorney in Minnesota announced on Monday that she would step down to go to work at the Justice Department in Washington on legal policies.

The announcement by the prosecutor, Rachel K. Paulose, 34, was made after reports of new staff turmoil in her office. At least one senior lawyer resigned on Friday from his management post in a protest over Ms. Paulrose’s leadership. Three other managers left their administrative jobs in April, also in protest.
That's the charitable news report. Let's let Scott Horton spell it out as only he can, with a certain je ne sais quoi:
To hear 34-year-old Rachel Paulose tell it, she is the victim of a campaign launched by persons involved in the white slave trade. A more realistic assessment would be to say she is the victim of her own misconduct. Today the Department of Justice announced that Paulose had stepped down as U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis in order to take up a job at Main Justice. This occurred shortly after Minnesota’s Republican Senator Norm Coleman, who first supported and then was publicly critical of Paulose, paid a call on Attorney Gener Mukasey to discuss his concerns about conditions in the Minneapolis U.S. Attorney’s office. As Paul Kiel summarizes
She was the focus of an Office of Special Counsel investigation into whether she’d discriminated against office employees, including allegedly using the words “fat,” “black,” “lazy” and “ass” in remarks to one employee. And that was after four top attorneys in the office voluntarily demoted themselves in protest of Paulose’s Bible-quoting management style.
In addition she was under investigation for mishandling classified documents and taking retaliatory actions against a colleague who pointed that out to her.

And the mood in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minneapolis? It’s described as “quiet but celebratory.” (emphasis added)
Don't let the door hit you on the way out...small victories to note after seven years of incredible partisan deviation from dispassionate justice.

Standing up to intolerance

The remainder of that Globe editorial, sent along by a helpful reader, focusses on the initial Liberal bandwagon hopping that occurred in the run up to the Quebec by-elections on the veil issue. That was no profile in courage. However, the Liberals are reconsidering their position and seem to be getting on the doing-the-right-thing track. This is to be commended. The ugliness we've witnessed warrants all parties reconsidering their positions on this "phantom" issue, as well put by the Globe. We don't need this kind of pandering to fear in Canada. The rest:
In fact, this entire controversy appears to have been manufactured to pander to fears of Islam. But it was not just Mr. Harper's Conservatives who were guilty. When the Prime Minister claimed that Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was "defying the will of Parliament" by permitting veiled women to vote, even though Mr. Mayrand was correctly interpreting federal legislation, the Liberals backed Mr. Harper up. "We do believe that when they are casting a vote in elections, Canadian citizens have a responsibility to fully reveal their identities," Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said, calling for "Elections Canada to reconsider its decision and to require veiled women to unveil their faces to confirm their identities."

In October, when legislation was introduced that would require all voters to uncover their faces when voting - even though it would still be possible to vote in person without photo ID or from afar without any ID at all - the Liberals hopped on board again. "I think that people showing their faces for identification purposes to vote is fine," said Marlene Jennings, the party's justice critic, indicating that the Liberals would likely support the legislation and again criticizing Mr. Mayrand for his "unilateral decision."

Now, more than two months after the issue arose, the Liberals appear to have discovered some backbone. While they have yet to confirm it, they seem increasingly likely to vote against the new law. Last week, Mr. Dion said the Conservatives' legislation "misses its target." One of his MPs, Brian Murphy, was more pointed, calling it "a knee-jerk reaction, politically targeted, for no good reason but politics."

Mr. Murphy might as well have been speaking about his own party, as one of his caucus colleagues acknowledged. "I think that what's happened is that we responded a bit hastily, frankly, to the situation we were in on the eve of the Quebec by-elections," Liberal MP John Godfrey said last week. "I think that with reflection, we should've behaved differently and I think we have to admit that."

The Liberals appear to have judged - perhaps in light of the negative reaction to the "reasonable accommodation" hearings in Quebec - that there is some political advantage to be found in standing up to intolerance. Better late than never, one supposes. If the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois - the most fervent anti-veil party - would similarly reconsider, the country could move on to more important matters. (emphasis added)

Justice Minister refusing to answer questions on what happened to that internal Mulroney Justice review

Gee, here's a shocking headline in the news today, for you: "Ottawa tight-lipped on settlement review." You mean the Conservatives are refusing to answer legitimate questions the public has a right to know the answers to? Big freakin' surprise. Huuuuuuge. And the Justice Minister is gettin' a little testy about things, issuing letters to political opponents who dare question the Minister's actions. This Mulroney stuff's really a royal pain for them, isn't it?
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson refuses to say what happened to government lawyers' exploration of a review of the $2.1-million settlement paid to former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

The 1997 settlement was paid to resolve a defamation lawsuit launched by Mr. Mulroney after government lawyers seeking bank records wrote Swiss authorities alleging that the former prime minister had engaged in criminal activities related to the so-called Airbus affair. The government also apologized.

But in 2006, senior Justice Department officials explored the possibility of re-opening the settlement after news reports revealed that German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber paid Mr. Mulroney $300,000 in cash, and related some of Mr. Schreiber's version of events.

"Research would be required to evaluate whether this new element justifies any attempt to set aside the settlement," Brian Saunders, then assistant deputy minister of justice, wrote in a Feb. 14, 2006 e-mail obtained by the CBC under the Access to Information Act.

Yesterday, Mr. Nicholson would not say what happened to that effort, or whether he was briefed on it.

"What information, what advice, what papers and letters that we have within the Department of Justice are in the form, generally of legal advice, and I treat them as such.

"And I don't get into a discussion [of that]," he said.

"I don't discuss what I get briefings on. I get briefings every single day in my capacity as Attorney-General and Justice Minister of this country."

Last week, Mr. Nicholson issued a letter demanding that Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla apologize for saying that the minister had halted the review. "The allegation that I shut down any investigation is false, and again, I'm considering my options," he said yesterday. (emphasis added)
By Nicholson's logic, we'd never be entitled to any kind of response on any question from the Justice Minister. He seems to be arguing some expansive notion of privilege here that is entirely unsupportable. It's a legitimate question to ask what happened with an internal Justice Department briefing or review, particularly when it's the subject of national interest and it's publicly known that it either occurred or was put a halt to, perhaps, before it occurred. Why the big mystery?

It has been reported that in both 2006 and 2007, briefing materials were prepared on the issue of the federal government's settlement with Mulroney yet neither of the two Conservative Justice Ministers apparently saw the briefings. It has also been reported that it was Vic Toews who ordered one of the briefings on the issue yet never saw the material. And further, despite Mr. Nicholson's protestations to the contrary, the National Post has reported that the Justice Department did indeed shut down an internal investigation.
Then, early this year, the Conservative government closed an internal investigation into whether the Mulroney settlement should have been reconsidered, in light of $300,000 in cash payments paid by Mr. Schreiber to the former prime minister. Mr. Mulroney has said the payments were to help Mr. Schreiber start a pasta business and he did nothing wrong.
The Post cites documents released under the Access to Information Act in support of this fact. I take it Nicholson is therefore saying that he personally didn't shut it down, but then the question is, who did? Inquiring minds would like to know.

The reason that all of this is important is that it appears that the Ministers of Justice, Toews and Nicholson, were being shielded from making a decision to reconsider whether the Mulroney settlement was warranted. And of course, this raises all kinds of questions about why a Justice Minister is not entitled to view such important materials. Who is then? And it raises questions about the propriety of someone putting a stop, essentially, to the consideration of a proper and relevant question for the Canadian people, the legitimacy of the Mulroney settlement in light of new information having been received.

Unfortunately for Nicholson and Harper, if they continue to stonewall, these questions will not go away. It looks like they have something to Hide.

Conservative hatorade watch

Big winner today, Junior MacKay for shamelessly commingling talk of fallen troops with questions on Canada's obligations under international law:
Mr. MacKay went on to launch a stinging attack against the Opposition for focusing on the rights of detainees while Canadian soldiers - including two more over the weekend - are being killed.

"While we understand fully the need to help bolster Afghan capacity with respect to these transferred prisoners, what is absolutely abhorrent is [Liberal MP Denis Coderre's] fixation, knowing that the blood of Canadian soldiers and innocent Afghans are on the hands of the Taliban," he said.
Does this mean that such questions should not be asked? When is it appropriate, dear Minister, to ask such questions then?

Big shame on MacKay for his implication that the opposition does not care about the service of Canadian soldiers. We don't need these phony wars of patriotism in our country, we've seen enough of that down south.

Tear down this wall, Mr. Greenspon

Looks like there's a worthwhile editorial in the Globe today on the veiled voting brouhaha. Too bad we can't read it since the Globe insists on maintaining its asinine walled-off editorial content. The New York Times drained their moat and let the drawbridge down. When will the Globe follow suit? What we can read, from "The Phantom Irritant" :
From the moment Prime Minister Stephen Harper ignited it in September, the debate over veiled voters has been a brazenly hypocritical and disingenuous one. The notion that Muslim women unwilling to show their faces pose a threat to Canadian democracy ignores the fact that visual identification is not required to vote in this country if voters provide two pieces of non-photo ID. Tens of thousands of Canadians living abroad are not forced to meet even that standard, and are allowed to vote with mail-in ballots rather than being required to visit a polling station. The debate also addresses an apparently non-existent phenomenon, since there has been no documented evidence of women refusing to remove their burkas or niqabs while voting.
Hiding material behind content walls means the Globe is not part of the online discussion and that's unfortunate. Lots of good material is being missed. We subscribe but due to whom we subscribe from, we're not entitled to access it online. It's truly bizarre.