Saturday, October 31, 2009

Support for Bill C-300

Feel like firing off a letter in the near future to your parliamentary representatives? C-300 is a good one to support and Alison explains why at her blog. C-300 background:
Bill C-300 is a private member’s bill introduced by Liberal MP John McKay on February 9, 2009. Bill C-300 implements a number of key recommendations from the March 2007 Final Report of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Roundtables. The recommendations reflected the consensus of a multi-stakeholder advisory group that had representatives from industry and civil society groups including MiningWatch Canada.

If passed, Bill C-300 will:

put in place human rights, labour, and environmental standards that Canadian extractive companies receiving government support must live up to when they operate in developing countries;
create a complaints mechanism that will allow members of affected communities abroad, or Canadians, to file complaints against companies that are not living up to those standards;
create a possible sanction for companies that are found to be out of compliance with the standards, in the form of loss of government financial and political support.
The Status of House Business page indicates that there's been some kind of extension granted on the bill. It's already gone through second reading, so the next vote will be determinative. Sample letter and email addresses, here.

Update: Make sure you read Alison's entry, if you look at this topic and feel "meh," it will likely change your mind.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday night





A band that has been popping up on my ipod of late, always a fave, one old, one newish...have a good one:)

Fundraising numbers

This is pretty significant:
Despite those troubles, the third-quarter results continue a trend in which the Liberals have been slowly but steadily closing the fundraising gap with the Tories.

Last year, the Conservatives raked in a total of $21.2 million - more than triple the Liberals' $5.9 million.

So far this year, the Tories have raised $12.8 million while the Liberals are not far behind with $7.6 million.
Raising, what, 60% of what the Conservatives are, not bad at all in comparison to the previous year. And if the Conservatives raise, say, $4 million in the next quarter, an approximate average of their first three quarters...then their yearly take will be in the $17 million range, down significantly from last year, albeit an election year. While this is good news on the fundraising rebalancing front, until there is virtual parity in fundraising among major political parties in Canada, the political debates we have are going to be impacted in not so healthy ways. Whether that's not having the funds to finance an election which impacts how a party votes in the House of Commons or not having the funds to compete in advertising, that's how it plays out.

Look at this recent American style issue-targeted campaign on the gun registry that the Conservatives are presently running. One viewpoint is being elevated above others, people listening can't help but take it in and make their decisions based on what they're hearing. If contrary viewpoints are absent or less present, that can affect the debate. That's pretty obvious, of course, but in the long term, skewed funding of one party over others is going to have an impact on who is setting the terms of our public debate. Is the gun registry really an issue Canadians want dealt with at the moment? Probably not a pressing item but very important to the Conservative base. We'll see whether the vote is affected this coming Wednesday.

That gun registry campaign, along with the sustained negative ad campaigns we've seen the Conservatives run outside of election periods, also bring home how the concept of national spending limits that kick in only during election write periods have been undermined. If you can advertise year round, year in and year out, and wage such issue oriented campaigns, the impact of a spending limit during a 40 day campaign is lessened. I don't know what the solution is exactly on that point, but it's something to think about.

A ways to go but the direction is good...

Friday Raitt update

Well there's always something to talk about...take this for example:

(click to enlarge)

The letter penned by Raitt above formed part of the ethics complaint filed this week by Liberals about the partisan swath of economic action plan advertising. It's just one example of the misuse of official government communications for partisan purposes.

Apparently this unsolicited letter was sent out to citizens who participated in the government's ecoENERGY home retrofitting programme. There are the self-promotional aspects here that are bad enough. Flogging the economic action plan and the home reno tax credit. The campaign style picture is the capper. Really, there was no official government purpose to this document other than Conservative self-promotion, done at taxpayer expense. If 200,000 plus participants in this programme received letters, that's quite the expense and reach for this campaign style document.

Beyond the ethics complaint on the partisan nature of the letter, you also have to wonder about the privacy issues here that Conservatives apparently felt no compulsion to respect. Little did those who applied for this programme know that they would end up on a mailing list and would receive essentially a Lisa Raitt autographed brochure in the mail. How many Canadian participants in other government programmes are being unknowingly culled into lists for such Conservative efforts?

It's all so subtle, yet cumulatively, all these little government levers are being pulled in one direction, toward the Conservative party.

Disclosure if necessary, but not necessarily disclosure

What a comic event yesterday, John Baird's office dumping boxes of documents on federal stimulus spending on the Parliamentary Budget Office. A sterling example of how the Harper Conservatives do transparency and accountability, 1950s style. There are such things as Excel and "computers," guys:
The Harper government has dumped three boxloads of information about its efforts to stimulate Canada's sputtering economy on Parliament's independent budget watchdog.

Kevin Page had asked for more information, complaining that the sketchy data provided up to now made it impossible to tell whether $12 billion in stimulus spending is having any impact on the economy.

But rather than provide an easy-to-analyse spreadsheet listing infrastructure projects and how much money has been spent on each of them to date, the government flooded Page Thursday with 4,476 pages of documents.
Surely they have this data in a manageable online spreadsheet form? Of course they do and it's such nonsense that they're wasting people's time here. Why is the U.S. government capable of producing one spreadsheet with all their spending on it, accessible to the world, with an economy untold times as large as ours yet the government of Canada can't? Or should we say, won't. It's remarkable to see Baird treat the PBO with such contempt in this way. It's the classic litigation tactic wielded against an officer of parliament, an office of accountability which they helped to create. The irony is palpable.

Note also that this sudden conversion to "disclosure" occurs in the wake of two polls suggesting Canadians are tweaking to the Conservative gaming of the stimulus spending. Those polls aren't necessarily troubling for the Conservatives at this point, but there are seeds being sown in the public mind and the Conservatives are likely noticing. See: "Canadians believe Tories unfair on stimulus cash: poll," and "Costs of stimulus starting to worry Canadians, poll shows."

Also on the timing question here, the document dump occurs on the same day that Mr. Baird visited the Government Operations Commons Committee. No answers for them, of course, but lots of documents delivered on the same day, as cover, for media to note.
Baird was repeatedly asked during the committee hearing to specify how much money has been spent thus far. He did not provide a figure.
Page is apparently working around the federal obstruction, coordinating with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to get information. He's bound to accomplish his task at some point, in spite of Mr. Baird's efforts. Page is going at this and his track record is good. They could make his life easy, but they're not and that in and of itself says something.

More here and here.

The milking begins



Hey, isn't there a pandemic going on or something? No? Carry on exchanging scarves and mittens then.

Update: If your government were presiding over an unfolding clusterfrack, you'd probably be trying to deflect attention away from it too. Fortunately, we have BCL to kick the living daylights out of such efforts.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Heckuva job, Harpie

Let's scan some of the H1N1 developments today signifying an absence of leadership at the federal level. There are plenty of good questions to be asked, more on that below.

Family doctors left out:
Doctors were left "scrambling" as H1N1 immunization programs rolled out and should have been much more involved in pandemic planning, says the chief executive of the association representing family physicians.

When public health agencies released their vaccination plans last week, the details took many doctors by surprise, Dr. Calvin Gutkin said Thursday at the annual meeting of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

"They knew something was going to be announced, but they weren't sure, in many communities, where that was going to be or what their role was going to be," he said.
...
"The family physicians are scrambling like everybody else right now to know where their patients are going to get the immunizations," said Gutkin.
Shouldn't national pandemic planning incorporate the family doctors? Seems like that would have been a very good idea.

Bad news for Manitoba and other parts of the country! "Man. H1N1 vaccine supply in danger." Non-high risk groups are showing up to be immunized, as they are everywhere. Somehow, all these citizens haven't gotten the public health message that the high risk groups are to go first. Signs of people's concerns, yes, but a confident public information campaign could have alleviated this. As previously noted, Britain started a mass information campaign in the spring. We've comparatively been in the dark.

The scene in Toronto today was not good:
Toronto's two H1N1 vaccination clinics are turning away people after being swamped by large numbers of those looking to get vaccinated against swine flu.
They're apparently adjusting now in response to the chaos:
Residents complained of disorganization, shouting slogans such as "this is not a third-world country."
Then we have doctors stating it may even be too late to get the H1N1 vaccine for it to be effective: "Flu vaccine may come too late."
The worst of H1N1 will have passed from some areas of Canada – Southern Ontario and the lower mainland of British Columbia, at least – before healthy people can even roll up their sleeves.
...
If the vaccine becomes available to you before H1N1 hits your part of the country, then it's entirely reasonable to be immunized. It's also reasonable to take a pass. The anticipated benefits from immunization are very small, and the risks are tiny. But if H1N1 has already peaked in your community, these benefits drop off dramatically. It's too late.
More:
"The real tragedy here is that we didn't have this vaccine six weeks ago so we could have protected more people," notes Schabas, now medical officer of health for the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit. "For most people, it's coming too late."
...

Why did federal health officials insist that GlaxoSmithKline, Canada's vaccine supplier, manufacture the seasonal flu vaccine first, delaying H1N1 vaccine production despite predictions that the only flu we'd likely see this winter was of the swine variety?
That latter question, a looming one at the moment. What say you, Mr. Harper?

There are many legitimate questions to be asked here about the federal government's oversight of the vaccine production and the federal communication strategy, manifesting itself in public confusion across the country. The federal rhetoric is not matching what we're seeing on the ground.

Asking questions in the face of all of this is clearly justified and should not be marginalized as fear mongering, the way the Conservative pack presently is. John Baird today:
The charges over the H1N1 vaccine also led to some pointed heckling with Transport Minister John Baird shouting, “Where is Carolyn Bennett today? Is she out scaring someone?”
Heckuva job, you Conservatives....

Score one more for minority government

Pogge had one score on that front this morning, the detainee handling and what officials knew about torture allegations in Afghanistan will in fact be investigated by a parliamentary committee. Favourite quote from the CP story:
"We can subpoena (witnesses) and if the government wants to quiet them down ... and tell them to shut up, then we're going to fight. We're going to have a good fight with the government," said Bloc defence critic Claude Bachand.
Good. That's an issue that warrants a very good fight.

There was also a trace of the impact of our minority government status as subtext in a big story today from Star reporter Michelle Sheppard on Omar Khadr: "Omar Khadr 'innocent' in death of U.S. soldier." Sheppard has obtained classified photos and information that undercuts the case against Khadr by questioning his physical capabilities during that Afghan battle:
Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr was buried face down under rubble, blinded by shrapnel and crippled, at the time the Pentagon alleges he threw a grenade that fatally wounded a U.S. soldier, according to classified photographs and defence documents obtained by the Star.
You have to note the interesting timing on this leak of information. This revelation comes just a few weeks before the U.S. is to announce their intentions with Khadr, whether that be transferring him to the U.S. for a criminal trial or keeping him mired in the Guantanamo military commission process. Exculpatory evidence leaking out could ratchet up pressure on the Obama justice officials as they're making that decision.

But back to the minority government point. Sheppard also has some detail of what's being represented to that Obama task force that's reviewing Khadr's case in advance of their decision. For example, this item, demonstrating that Canada's minority parliament status as reflected in the Commons' committees may have a bit of influence. At least, one could hope:
Khadr's lawyers argued to the task force that Khadr is a perfect candidate for rehabilitation, and they note that an Ottawa parliamentary committee has already approved a plan for him that would integrate mental, spiritual and social programs – and place legal restrictions on his freedom and access to family members.
A flag being flown to the Americans that there is a contrary view here in Canada, rehabilitation and repatriation could be accomplished and a parliamentary committee has done some legwork. Such work clearly would not have been undertaken by a Conservative majority. They're too busy spending our dollars fighting in the courts to ensure that a Canadian with child soldier status be the first child soldier tried since the 1940s.

Despite the settling in that we're seeing in national polls, it's still not clear that the Conservatives are poised for majority territory. In fact, the national numbers are hovering around the results from the 2008 election. Clearly, that's nothing to crow about for Liberals, or any of the parties, for that matter, but it's a bit of perspective. Apparently it takes billions of taxpayer dollars and unprecedented promotion of the Conservative party to move those numbers upwards, maybe 1 or 2 points from the last election. It's still proving to be a tough sell.

A reminder for Mr. Harper



Something different this morning...a well done, creative little video that was circulating on twitter last night. The accompanying description:
In December 2009 there will be a UN Global Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen where our world leaders will make decisions on the fate of our planet, and the future of children. Please take action on climate change help us remind Canada's leader, Stephen Harper who he's representing in Copenhagen.
Update: Some interesting reading on this topic this morning in John Ibbitson's column which considers a new study on the projected costs for Canada of both proposed government and environmentalist emission reduction targets. There are projections there on how the environmental goals will impact future GDP numbers and job growth.

The participants in the study are reputable and it's likely to be influential in coming debates. Worth digesting, the whole thing is here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Good advice for the very busy Ethics Commissioner

Following Mary Dawson's hints of doubt about how her office would go about addressing the many ethics complaints that have been brought forth, Errol Mendes provides her with some advice today that should strengthen her resolve.

Mendes reviews the key provisions of the Conflict of Interest Code and the Act that give her jurisdiction over such questions, central among them articles 8 and 9 of the Code which prohibit the preferring of "private interests" by members of government over the public interest (section 2 of the Code).

The private interests at issue are of course those of the Conservative party as a political institution. This is a key aspect to these ethics arguments. The governing Conservatives are wearing two hats, they serve the public interest as government members. Yet they have private interests in the form of the political fortunes of the Conservative party. When the private interest overtakes the public and government levers are used in favour of those private interests, our ethics mechanisms must be able to stop that line crossing. The logo cheques, the partisanly slanted advertising...the evidence presented suggests that the lines between private and public are indeed being crossed. And the Conflict of Interest Code provides the room to assess those complaints.
...the ethics commissioner has ample jurisdiction to investigate and pronounce on the allegations by the opposition MPs regarding the use of taxpayers' monies for partisan purposes. Such MPs can and must have the power to protect the trust and integrity of our democratic institutions by seeking the oversight of the ethics commissioner for a violation not only of the Conflict of Interest Code but also other policies that have been authorized by the Financial Administration Act and apply to all institutions of the government of Canada under the provisions of the act.

The most important principle at stake in the allegations is to reinforce the point that governing parties, even though they control the levers of governmental authority and taxpayers' monies are still private interests. If we come to accept that such parties can be regarded as one and the same as the government of the country, we are heading for a very disturbing undermining of Canadian democracy.

The countries that have conflated the governing party with the government of the country include the People's Republic of China, Zimbabwe and Sudan. (emphasis added)
Well said.

Hard at work


A reminder:
Some of PCO's main roles are:

* Providing professional, non-partisan advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet
;
Not that such quaint notions inform the judgment of this government. But happy to know that this blog is helping the Privy Council Office with its non-partisan advice to the PM and Cabinet, as always.

The laughing frat pack

Received an email from a regular blog reader this morning. Thought it put yesterday's hooting in the House of Commons in a sobering perspective:
Monday, I got my seasonal flu vaccination at Mt Sinai Hospital. I asked about the H1N1 protocol. They were confused. As is just about everyone else.
It is reported that Dr. Carolyn Bennett, MP (St. Paul’s) was hooted and ridiculed when she tried to get an answer about the confusing information.
With the absence of a strategy, some very serious and contradictory messages take hold and spread panic.
I wonder if that 13-year old went by the name Ben, and the father now grieving was Stephen Harper, just how funny would those Conservatives who acted like a frat pack find it.
This is the scene my friend was referring to in the Commons, described in the Star today as well:



Yet the Globe optimistically opines today:
The federal government needs to take charge of the H1NI pandemic.
See video above. And the many 360 degree moves from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the latest one at that link being the decision to purchase unadjuvanted vaccines from Australia, having stated the previous week that there was no need to worry about a delay in their production in Canada.

On health issues, it's fly by the seat of their pants damage control most times. Listeriosis. Isotopes. H1N1. The Globe is waaaay too optimistic about this government. How we get through this latest challenge will be despite them.

More here and here.

A sweeping and justified ethics complaint

A few points on the ethics complaint filed yesterday on the Harper Government's extensive, government-wide partisan advertising campaign. You can read it below and it's worth a look. The essence of this particular complaint (and there are more in the offing out of the partisan advertising file) is that the Harper Government has operated in a conflicted manner, choosing advertising and communications tools for the Government of Canada that prefer the interests of the Conservative party. It's a bold charge and probably unprecedented for an ethics commissioner to deal with. But that's due to the extraordinary challenge that the Harper Government presents here and for that reason, I hope it is given serious review. While there are technical violations (Treasury Board, Federal Identity rules) and other legal issues to be raised (Elections Canada Act), in many ways, the ethics complaint goes to the heart of the problem. Is the governing party governing in our interest or their own? Here, the charge is clear, it's not our interest they're acting in.

This is a sweeping complaint to the ethics commissioner, citing all manner of taxpayer funded communications tools that have been used in support of the "Harper Government." The partisan websites, the advertising linked to partisan websites, the sloganeering in the television ads, and the very renaming of the government itself in Stephen Harper's own likeness as the "Harper Government" are all set out. The list is long of those whom the complaint is directed against. The Prime Minister, along with a number of his ministers, is named.

Two of the most blatant examples that stood out to me...the links on the actionplan.gc.ca site that used to take you to the Prime Minister's personal flickr, Facebook, and other social media sites that indicate a disrespect for the purpose of government communications, here a website. It's not a political playground. The choice to use it in that manner is unethical. Secondly, the material on the deployment of the use of the term the "Harper Government" on the actionplan.gc.ca website and throughout Government of Canada announcements. The mixing of the personal moniker with the government's name is subtle yet so offensive. And to get very basic about it, what kind of politician would let their name be used officially in this way? Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to start doing that? It's stunning and unsuitable for democratic forms of government. It's all brought home there.

So, this is also a serious complaint that speaks to some limits in our democracy that shouldn't be breached. The complaint says we're not going to sit by as these Conservatives commandeer government resources for their own political benefit. And it's done in a substantive way. It's good opposition work.

People may dismiss such complaints, as they've been doing with lazy conventional wisdomeering, under the guise that all governments self-promote, that there's nothing new here. Well, it's time to wake up. It's hard for us to be shocked these days, but the scale of this enterprise is new. Reading through and taking it all in, it's hard not to think that there's something quantitatively and qualitatively different here. It just doesn't smell right.

20091027 - Ethics Complaint Document Portfolio Eng

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

They forgot one...

Since these virtually identical documents demonstrating how the Conservative party is merging its partisan resources with Government of Canada materials are making the rounds today....

Thought I would help out by providing one additional version of the document that may have been overlooked...(click to enlarge)



There. That's better.

Update: The part about the 22 photos was actually true:)

(h/t old friend the Wingnuterer)

Hey, big spenders

(Excellent quality courtesy of the PMO, click on photo to enlarge)

What do these two politicians have in common? They like to advertise. Heavily. One with private money. One with public. And they're in a league of their own.

Did you catch this interesting read on the weekend: "Bloomberg Sets Record for Personal Spending in Pursuit of Public Office." The Mayor who is now up for an unprecedented third term (having changed the precedent, i.e., the two term term-limit) and facing a weak opponent has nevertheless "...spent $85 million on his latest re-election campaign, and is on pace to spend between $110 million and $140 million before the election on Nov. 3." The spending, for a well-known figure in Bloomberg's position, is described by critics as "off the charts." He now has a 16-point lead over his Democratic opponent. No matter how bravely that Democrat spins it, it's fair to say he doesn't stand much of a chance:
...he had raised $270,000 over the last three weeks.

While donations came in at a much brisker pace than in the previous three-week reporting period, when he raised $114,000, that is unlikely to make a dent in Mr. Bloomberg’s advantage. Factoring in public matching funds, Mr. Thompson will have $3 million in the final week and a half of the race.

“This is a clear indication that the momentum of the mayoral race continues to shift towards Bill Thompson,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Thompson campaign.
That last quote included just for the sheer chutzpah of it. That guy is earning his pay!

What has all this got to do with Canadian politics anyway? Well, maybe something in the way of a parallel. We have our big spenders up here too. Not spending their personal or party funds in support of the ever ongoing Conservative election campaign, but spending liberally from the public purse on advertising that crosses a line between legitimate government public education and partisan slanting. It's been estimated that the advertising on the Economic Action Plan in just the first six months of the year could be in the order of $56 million. If such costs hold through the rest of the year (the rotation of the EAP ads in September, along with the Home Renovation Tax Credit was high), you can see how an estimated $100 million this year could come about. In other words, record government advertising.

You can't help but think that all of it has had a desired effect. Impress upon people status quo support for the Conservatives and with that ever so subtle feel good messaging, make support for the Conservatives/the government just a little more palatable. Advertising works.

Harper's never been a fan of political spending limits. Now, for all intents and purposes, he's up there with the Bloombergs of the world. Mike's in the $100 million range, so's Steve. Let's not be too shocked at those polls.

64

Looks like another investigation of the Harper Conservatives to add to the now very long list: "Lobbying czar probes firm with ties to Tories." Heck, when we're up in the 60s, what's one more?
The Prime Minister's Office is cutting off communications with officials affiliated with Navigator Ltd. while the federal watchdog of lobbying looks into the practices of the plugged-in firm, a government official said yesterday.

The specific purpose or target of the Commissioner of Lobbying's inquiries is not known, but the PMO has moved pro-actively in hopes of limiting further controversies during this heated political season.
...
...news of the commissioner's work has circulated within the Harper government, which came to power in 2006 by vowing to clean up Ottawa.

"I have been told that the Prime Minister's Office will not have formal or informal communications with Navigator," the government official said on condition of anonymity.
Sounds interesting. The PMO involved in this one? Bad news.

So let's tally this up once again...

55 ethics complaints on the "Cheque Republic" front.

3 for partisan advertising (Ethics, Treasury Board, Elections Canada).

4 against Lisa Raitt for fundraiser connected to Toronto Port Authority (Ethics, Privacy, Lobbying, Elections Canada).

1 ethics investigation against Conservative Senator Leo Housakos for his employer having received stimulus funds.

Lisa Raitt...still our "MVP" to date. Although Senator Housakos is surely giving her a run for her money these days with reports like this one from last night, with all the impact this could have in Quebec: "Tory senator linked to key players in Quebec scandal." And depending on how things turn out with this new lobbying/PMO thingy, could be a new entrant to challenge our champ at some point.

64. Just breathe deeply and take it all in...

More boffo Conservative infrastructure spin

The use of the "Knowledge Infrastructure Program" to try to deflect charges of Conservative favouritism was addressed quite handily by FarAndWide the other night. Around the same time, a second fund was also hauled out for political cover, the "Building Canada Fund," referenced in this report: "Infrastructure program overwhelmingly benefits opposition ridings, Tories say." Like the KIP, the Building Canada Fund is similarly useless background noise on the question of the partisan slanting of infrastructure stimulus spending. It too is a fund that would expectantly see disproportionate spending in urban opposition ridings. That's where the program funding is meant to be spent:
One reason for this disparity is that the Building Canada program funds primarily projects in big urban centres, where opposition parties hold many seats.
What's next to creep out of the Conservative spin dungeon...the "Skyscraper Fund" to incontrovertibly prove how well urban opposition ridings are doing?

Still undisturbed, the numbers on the Recreational Infrastructure programme, the "big-stimulus project" funding and multiple other studies proving the point of skewed Conservative stimulus spending.

While all of this is being waved away by Conservatives and sympathetic pundits, the facts speak for themselves. And there's an aspect to this that should not be lost sight of. During a significant recession, spending specifically undertaken to combat that recession was politically gamed. That point remains no matter what they haul out. It fits with the story of these Conservatives.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The federal government's bullying on the Afghan probe continues

The latest incredible effort at squeezing a witness: "Feds refuse legal funding to whistleblower diplomat." Richard Colvin, presently the deputy head of intelligence at the Canadian embassy in Washington, has retained independent counsel to assist him with his effort to testify at the Military Police Complaints Commission. He's entitled to do so and have that paid for by the government, according to government policy:
Colvin opted last summer to retain his own lawyer rather than rely on the Justice Department's stable of attorneys and, under federal guidelines, Ottawa is obliged to cover the cost.
The reason for such a policy is common sense. The interests of the employee could clearly diverge from the government's. And indeed they do here. The government has not been hesitant in its attempts to shut down the Commission's operation. From challenging its legal jurisdiction to allegations of intimidating witnesses, it's objective has been clear.

Colvin, on the other hand, wishes to cooperate with the Commission (he was in fact subpoenaed), has filed an affidavit in front of the Commission as to his knowledge about torture allegations involving detainees in Afghanistan. His affidavit also confirms his reporting of information back to senior Foreign Affairs, Defence and military officials in Ottawa.

So it's not surprising to learn that despite the above policy that requires Colvin's legal costs to be covered, the Foreign Affairs department is nevertheless refusing to pay unless Colvin's lawyer breaks her solicitor/client privilege with Colvin:
...it won't pay the first set of bills until his lawyer discloses to the Justice Department who she has been talking with in relation to the case - something that could be a breach of ethical rules.
When the federal government is seeking to breach its own employees' solicitor/client privileged communications, something is seriously wrong here. Such tactics signify a government unchecked, willing to pressure and intimidate to an unacceptable point. What a chilling message to be sending to government employees and whistleblowers.

How far these Harper Conservatives have come from their lofty and now very distant rhetoric on whistleblowers and standing up for Canada. They're acting like this is a banana republic.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A late addition to the ad extravaganza...and other notes

Some things to note this early evening...

1. The federal government gets in on the creation of ads for H1N1:"New swine flu ads to urge Canadians to roll up their sleeves for the shot."
A sweeping ad campaign is planned over the next few weeks to prod reluctant Canadians to get the swine-flu shot, The Canadian Press has learned.

The new campaign comes as officials try to persuade a wary public to roll up their sleeves for the H1N1 vaccine - though the ads won't be ready when most provinces begin their vaccination campaigns Monday.

Unlike the current crop of ads, which tell Canadians to cough and sneeze into their sleeves and to wash their hands with soap and water, the new batch will urge people to get the swine-flu shot.
As has been blogged around here of late, there are timing questions about the government's activities. Let's hope for the best.

2. Rare news about the Iranian blogger known as the "blogfather" of the Iranian blogging community. He is also a Canadian citizen and he has been held in Tehran's "notorious" Evin prison for almost a year now. He has been tortured. The New York Times has a human rights report on his condition and publishes a letter from his parents to the Iranian government.

Contact information for the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, here. A new round of emails, contacts from Canadians might be in order.

3. "Disabled Nortel employees lose out." We should not be permitting this obscenity to happen:
As Nortel divvies up its assets and former CEO Mike Zafirovski paws for $12.3 million (U.S.), employees on long-term disability are forgotten and abandoned, providing yet another example of how more than 40 per cent of Canadians with disabilities find themselves earning less than $10,000 per year.
...
It turns out that while Sun Life administered the LTD payments, most of the money came from Nortel's operating revenue, which means that if Nortel stops operating, those on disability are on their own.

Unlike Nortel's 17,000 retirement pensioners, the law does not require Nortel – or other employers that do not insure liability benefits (the majority of them) – to keep the money in trust for those on disability. And unlike the tens of thousands of other Nortel employees who have lost their jobs, those on disability leave are unable to find new employment.
Yes:
But we should stop it here – and we can. We owe it to ourselves as a country that cares for its most vulnerable to press Nortel to honour its promise to those on long-term disability and call upon the federal government to reform regulations governing LTD pensions.
4. The Rural Canadian writes about Ontario's debt. It's depressing him. Hang in there pal:)

5. Internet trolls in the U.S. pay a price. More for your online litigiousness file.

6. Finally, on the occasion of Harper's latest hockey photo-op, seems media are at least providing the embarrassing context now surrounding the old chestnut that's always hauled out:
Harper has been researching his hockey book since he was Opposition leader.

A spokesman said the prime minister tries to devote a few minutes a day to the project, has largely finished the research phase and has begun writing.
Yes, the ongoing "research" effort since what...2005? And a few minutes a day...totally believable.

There...now the draft box is totally empty...:)

Clean energy opportunities

Ignatieff is on the right track with the clean energy push:
"We’ve got to bet the competitive store on energy efficiency and renewables. And we’ve got to understand that the paradox of Canadian strength is that our energy resources are simultaneously a vulnerablility. They make us lazy… energy efficiency is just going to be key to, it’s a little technical, but unit cost productivity. This government has spent four years doing nothing about Canadian productivity and nothing about this issue."
There is a lot of "let Ignatieff be Ignatieff" advice out there, but using words like productivity...would have to actually agree with a certain former Conservative staffer on this, banish it from the lexicon. What does it mean to most people? Liberals need to get better at hammering a certain phrase, over and over, on an issue like this.

He's right on the issue, which is key. See this report today, for example: "Canada falling behind in clean-tech race, industry insiders say," where Lisa Raitt's recent feel-good speech on the issue to industry members was immediately contradicted once she'd left the building. Various programs to encourage renewable energy are lapsing this year while other major nations, the U.S., China are pursuing the issue vigorously.

Energy efficiency, green jobs, whatever the terms are, a connection is there to be had on the issue...

Captain Harper on the global Titanic


Another fitting metaphor from Professor Errol Mendes, this time for the Conservative environmental stance going into December's Copenhagen conference. The captain and his crew are missing this: "The Looming Iceberg."
The habitable environment of Earth is like the ship heading towards the iceberg that is catastrophic climate change. Already, scientists are contemplating that the tipping point of a two-degree rise will be reached sooner than expected. After that, it will be about adapting to environmental catastrophes rather than avoiding them.
What is Canada doing? Still deploying the shirking "you-go-first" strategy toward developing countries:
Since assuming power in 2006, Harper and his three environment ministers have insisted that Canada will not agree to any climate change treaty in Copenhagen unless developing countries like India and China also agree to binding targets to reduce greenhouse emissions.
As Mendes notes, China announced some big steps it would take during that recent summit at the UN in September that the PM skipped out on. Yet while in New York, Minister Prentice downplayed those commitments as not committing to "clear targets" for emission reductions. That kind of stance is ironic given Canada's continued reluctance to release its own emission targets.

We've turned into no-can-do Canada. Witness Prentice, at the end of the week, dumping all over the prospect of a deal at Copenhagen. We've also been described as "singularly unhelpful" in the lead-up to Copenhagen amidst reports of walkouts on us by other countries during recent negotiations.
"Canada is the one country that has said it's not going to make any effort to achieve the Kyoto target even though we are still part of the regime," says Douglas MacDonald of the University of Toronto's Centre for Environment.

"Canada is going to be seen in negative terms ... It's a disgrace and it's a national shame this government is putting Canada in this position."
...
"The fact that Prentice is pooh-poohing the possibility of a deal in Copenhagen, and still refusing to release any details on what this country's plan is is just horrific," said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence.

"The best-case scenario is we are irrelevant, the worst- case scenario is that we are actively obstructing a global deal," said Smith. (source)
It's a very unfortunate moment to have this crew steering our ship of state. What a missed opportunity this is shaping up to be for Canada.

Left-wing or right-wing with Maxime Bernier



Since he's back in the good books, apparently, with perhaps a rehabilitation to cabinet upcoming, thought we'd take another look at the icon from the Beauce that is Maxime Bernier. It is lazy Sunday after all, and it's only five or so minutes of your time. It took me to about the 1:15 mark before my first hearty laugh out loud. See how long it takes you.

Listen to his views on what is left wing and what is right wing, it's instructive. Learn, for example, why George W. Bush was not truly a right wing compatriot. Learn why Bill Clinton is admired by Maxime (no, not for the immediate reason coming to mind). Learn too his views on letting market forces roam freely, advocating less government involvement, apparently oblivious to world events of the past year and what has in fact kept, for e.g., the Canadian financial industry strong. Should he end up at Natural Resources, could be relevant (as much as any minister's views are in this government, that is).

Enjoy...or at least, don't hate me too much for having made you watch. Chalk it up to being a useful reminder of the calibre of the Harper government team. And a plea to the Prime Minister, please get this intellectual force back in your cabinet, the blogging community will heartily thank you.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Maybe if it were a hockey pandemic it might be different

Now that we see this most unfortunate contrast, "Obama Declares Swine Flu a National Emergency," what do we think we can expect to see in Canada in the coming week...my bet is that the PMO p.r. team is working all weekend to come up with some events over the next week to make Mr. Harper look like he's similarly in charge too. You know, some health event where Harper is in a lab coat, etc.

Yet what's going on out there on the ground?
Every week Ottawa sends out new instructions to hospitals, artfully contradicting whatever came out the week before. Doctors have taken to tacking them up on bulletin boards as ER humor.
Yes, first it's all "vaccine in the first week of November, you betcha." Then it's, "surprise!" Two weeks sooner than that. Yet the testing is post-approval? Quel organization!

Throw in the fact that Liberal opposition critic Kirsty Duncan, pandemic flu expert is out and about engaging with public health workers and the press is following her:
Duncan, an MP recognized as a global flu expert, met with front line public health officials at a meeting Friday in Simcoe, Ont., about 42 kilometres south of Brantford.

The health workers told Duncan that they need more staff and physical resources, and more public education.

Health workers also said they wanted more co-ordination from the federal government.

Duncan told the gathering that the H1N1 flu does not respect provincial and national boundaries.

She said that's why we need a federal government "that will step up to the plate and play a co-ordinating role."
That's the kind of effective contrast thing that will get the PMO's attention.

Remember, the last we heard from the on-top-of-things-Stephen-Harper-Leadership-Prime Minister, just over a week ago on this topic, he was expressing uncertainty about whether or not he'd get vaccinated: "Harper's hedge on H1N1 shot sparks confusion." Stellar contribution to the effort.

Since then, there's been lots of Harper talking up hockey and attending hockey events...not so much H1N1 leadership. Priorities, after all, now seems to be the time to have the PM's attention on leisure activities...

Listeriosis...isotopes...and now....H1N1?

Are they going for the trifecta in major health care failings? Could be. Given that they've paid remarkably little political price for their role in the first two, to date, they probably feel a little emboldened that they won't pay any price for missteps on H1N1 either. Just have Health Minister Aglukkaq and science guy Butler-Jones execute well-staged tours of facilities, lab technician photo-ops, a few scripted press conferences here and there and what could go wrong, right? Beyond the delay in getting the vaccine out, that is.

Well, maybe something else. Take a look at the headlines today. Two reports today with a similar theme: "Health officials scramble to counter H1N1 myths," and, "48% Canadians not keen on H1N1 vaccine: Poll." Both reports citing confusion in the public, first the Globe:
...as the second wave of the H1N1 pandemic influenza virus entrenches itself in Canada and vaccination clinics swing their doors open next week, public health officials are rushing to debunk the myths about a virus that has sickened hundreds of thousands and a drug that will protect others from getting unnecessarily ill.

Canada's chief public health officer, David Butler-Jones, came out swinging Friday against the claims of those opposed to the vaccine. The federal regulator approved the drug this week, saying it is safe and effective. Canadians have a choice: Immunize themselves or face a real risk of disease, Dr. Butler-Jones said.

We risk losing ground if we start doubting … or taking the myths as fact,” he said. “Immunization is the only thing which will stop the pandemic and prevent however many people from needlessly becoming ill.”
And Canwest:
With federal officials declaring Friday that Canada is in its "second wave" of the H1N1 pandemic, a new poll reveals that almost half of Canadians do not plan to get the vaccine created to stop it.
...
The results reflect the division among Canadians who are now debating what to do when the H1N1 flu shot is available in their communities, as well as the challenge public health officials have ahead of them in trying to tip the balance towards immunization.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq tried to counter fears and confusion Friday during a news conference, in which they made the case for vaccination.

"There is a very real risk of the flu. Even in its mildest form, it's miserable and, at its worst, it kills or puts into ICUs and on ventilator support perfectly previous healthy young people," said Butler-Jones. "The choice is simple: a safe and effective preventive vaccine or a very real risk of disease. If we get the real facts about the vaccine, you will almost certainly choose immunization."

...

Canadians have a responsibility to "get the facts" about vaccines, said Aglukkaq, and Butler-Jones urged, in some of his strongest language yet, that people filter out bogus claims about vaccines when making their decision.

"There are so many competing voices out there that have no idea of what the science is that underlies this, or make up the science, or make associations with things which are blatantly not true," he said.

What ever could have helped to combat all those "competing voices out there" on a significant health issue? It's not like this Harper Government is reluctant to dip into the public purse to advertise just about anything they're involved in and in unprecedented amounts. Recall the 90 plus percent saturation rate in Canadians' knowledge about the Home Renovation Tax Credit:"An Angus Reid poll last month suggested "virtually all" Canadians - 92 per cent - were familiar with the program." Partisan concerns uber alles.

Yet other nations combating the recession have somehow managed to walk and chew gum at the same time. Britain advertised heavily on H1N1: "The British have been bombarded since the spring with a highly effective "Catch it, Bin it, Kill it" mass advertising campaign by their Department of Health." The Harper Government has been timid (and preoccupied) in comparison. Likely because they don't believe in federal leadership on the health file, it's all provincial to them, even at a time like this when provinces aren't likely to object to federal leadership at all.
It's possible that 5 per cent of Canada's population has already been infected with the virus and that another 20 to 30 per cent could get it over the next 18 months, Butler-Jones said.
Whether people's decisions on whether to get vaccinated or not will lead us into greater difficulties, we'll see. But the government's choices on what to prioritize in the public sphere have been made.

Update: The Ottawa Citizen report today on the vaccine's testing is worth a read too. It's stunning how far behind we've been as compared to the U.S. on this and their testing of their vaccine. We're doing "bizarro" vaccine approval up here. The U.S. is testing theirs then approving it. We're approving it, then testing it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Conservative spin on infrastructure missing the boat

Updated (Friday p.m.) below.

The Conservatives begin to defend their egregious self-skewing recreation infrastructure spending today. So what do we hear? It's all about the geography baby:
"Conservative-held ridings tend to cover a larger geography than urban opposition-held ridings. As a result, the demands for community recreational infrastructure improvements are expected to be greater among the former," Dimitri Soudas said in an email Thursday.
Um, what? I thought this "economic" action plan was meant to combat the effects of the global recession. Not focus on the parity between rural and urban infrastructure. Did I miss something? You'd think that unemployment rates and such would be more determinative factors.

Secondly, this argument from Soudas ignores some findings today. Gerard Kennedy is pointing out that the northern Ontario ridings, many quite geographically large ridings, still skew Conservative in infrastructure spending. Shouldn't we see more equality in funding in those ridings if Soudas' spin was indeed the case?

Note that Greg Rickford's riding of Kenora comes out way on top in the recreation funding. His riding is large, yes, but has the smallest riding population in the province. How does that work from a prudent spending perspective?

When all of Canada gets hit by a recession, Conservative ridings still come out on top, in recreational infrastructure spending, in the larger project stimulus spending, it's all being independently verified and the Conservatives just seem to agree.
The government's own analysis released today did show that Conservative ridings have fared better than opposition ridings.
Update (Friday p.m.): The Globe canonizes Greg Rickford.

Harper Government H1N1 Vaccine Kits on their way!

(click to enlarge)

Phew...what a relief. And here I naively thought they didn't know what they were doing.

But remember, citizens, Conservative ridings will be getting 38% more kits than non-Conservative held ridings...fair is fair, after all!

Raitt ethics investigation update

Further to Runesmith's post on this little article in the Milton press, "Raitt to refrain from contact with lobbyist," it's worth a look at a few of the items reported there. The lobbyist in question is alleged to have been instrumental in holding a fundraiser for Minister Lisa Raitt, organized out of the federal agency, the Toronto Port Authority. The Ethics (and Privacy) Commissioner is now investigating the issue. Raitt has signed a compliance order as a result.

Of interest in the report:
  • the conflict of interest situation arises because McSweeney's cement association has lobbied Raitt and the government nine times over the past year.
  • the fundraiser occurred on September 24th and "According to the federal lobbyist registry, the CAC communicated with Raitt on September 24 on the subjects of energy and the environment."
  • there is a question about whether Raitt knew of or approved of lobbyist McSweeney's fundraiser for her that the Ethics Commissioner would probably be looking at:
    "Halton Conservative Association (HCA) President John Challinor has said McSweeney was an individual volunteer who sold tickets for the fundraiser and that Raitt was unaware of his involvement."
Seems to be a bit of synchronicity in the news these days on the subject of Conservatives and their fundraisers. Similar difficulties have presented themselves in the Housakos conflict of interest allegations, with the mixing of government contract winners at a Montreal Conservative fundraiser organized by Housakos.

Until next time on the Raitt update watch...which should be, as things are going, within about 48 hours or so...

Help the Nortel pensioners...and other notes

A few items of interest to pass along...

1. Good blog post here on the child care position announced by the Liberals this week.

2. Thought provoking column on the Harper "values" and wedge politics with an interesting conclusion:
The Harper Conservatives have introduced a whole new style of politics to Canada, and the opposition parties must adapt to confront it or see the country changed irrevocably.

Michael Behiels, a native of Alberta's Peace River country, teaches Canadian constitutional history at the University of Ottawa. He says Harper's approach to politics and governance is shaped by his Christian fundamentalism.

"Harper is a fundamentalist 'values' conservative and his evangelical Christian views drive both his domestic and foreign policy agendas," Behiels continues. "On foreign policy, Harper is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who maintains that the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have a mission, a religious duty, so to speak, to impose an American form of democracy on the world."

On the domestic front, Behiels continues, the prime minister believes "every left-of-centre Canadian is a moral relativist, that is, immoral, and can't be trusted to govern at any level of society."
...
Behiels sees the next election as a "competition of values. There are values on the right which are deeply imbued with religious fundamentalism but you also have longstanding, deeply-entrenched liberal values in Canada that are just as important to people and must be defended."
3. Also worthwhile, this Ivison piece, "Pension problems could become a hot issue," in light of the Nortel demonstration on Parliament Hill yesterday. Iggy spoke to the crowd:


Sound makes it seem a little off, need to hear more of the crowd but that's always hit and miss with these things. Not bad, except "intellectual property" and "CCAA" don't really roll so well in a speech if you really want to fly. At least Iggy (and others) was there, someone else was not.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Conservative Senator Housakos' troubles continue

On the Conservative excessive partisanship watch, the latest on Senator Housakos. On the one hand there's some intriguing internecine finger pointing coming from Housakos:
Tory Senator Leo Housakos, embroiled in an ethics controversy over a stimulus contract, is accusing one of his own Conservative caucus members of trying to trip him up.

Housakos blamed his troubles on "somebody in my own caucus," and said, "I'm going to take care of him soon," a Montreal newspaper reported Wednesday.
Look forward to that.

On the other hand, as Housakos seeks to point the finger elsewhere, there are more partisan optics popping up for Housakos that don't help while he is under scrutiny for conflict of interest allegations in front of the Ethics Commissioner:
On May 20, Housakos organized a major Conservative fundraiser in Montreal featuring Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for which he was roundly congratulated.

Some of the figures on the guest list that night would go on to be placed in high-profile government posts within a matter of weeks or months.

Among them:

-Jean-Martin Masse: The lawyer and Montreal businessman was appointed to Via Rail's board of directors on June 19, 2009. He and Housakos were members of the Progressive Conservative party's youth wing and worked together within the ADQ. Masse was an executive at an advertising firm that provided technical assistance to Housakos to do business under the firm's name in Greece.

-Nick Katalifos: a longtime Montreal school prinicipal was appointed to the Employment Insurance Board of Referees on Sept. 9, 2009. He and Housakos co-founded a small international consulting firm called Quadvision International.

-Claude Carignan: the mayor of Saint-Eustache was appointed to the Senate on Aug. 27, 2009. He and Housakos worked together at the highest levels of the ADQ, where Carignan was a party co-founder.
Harper's Conservative Senate appointments in action, reaping what he's sown...

Taking their eye off the ball

A letter to the editor that reminds us of the costs of the excessive partisan focus of the Harper government, playing itself out now across the board:
What do two cups of coffee and your life have in common? That's the cost per Canadian for the physical repair of the Chalk River medical isotope facility, according to expert testimony on Parliament Hill this week. However, rather than spending what amounts to pocket change today to help the sick, Minister Lisa Raitt said roll the dice and Prime Minister Harper said cancel it -- guaranteeing excessive suffering and premature deaths for thousands of Canadians, because his focus is elsewhere. Rather than providing good management, the Harper government has undertaken the largest pork barrel spending spree in Canadian history by diverting most of the multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package to Conservative ridings -- even to the extent of feeding Conservative caucus members' companies (Senator Leo Housakos). Harper's focus is plainly pork barrel spending and not responsible leadership.

EUGENE PARKS
Furthering that point this week, testimony before a Commons Committee by President of the Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine Jean Luc Urbain on the coming health impacts of the Chalk River shutdown:
The shortage of medical isotopes caused by the shutdown of the Chalk River nuclear reactor will lead to a surge in advanced cases of cancer and heart disease as doctors struggle to perform early diagnoses.

This was the warning Jean-Luc Urbain, president of the Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine, gave to a committee of MPs studying the shutdown of the government owned reactor.

"We are not necessarily going to see the effect of the shortage of isotopes today, but we'll see it six months down the road, a year down the road, two years down the road," said Urbain.

"We're certainly going to see a lot of patients with advanced cardiac disease, advanced coronary artery disease, advanced cancer."
Why? Lack of nuclear diagnostics to detect such diseases:
“Over the past six months, we went back in time and we practise now nuclear medicine the way I was practising in the 1980s,” Dr. Jean-Luc Urbain, president of the Canadian Nuclear Medicine Association, told MPs on the committee.

“So we went from a 21st-century type of service to a 20th-century type of service.”
And in other news, as mentioned in Eugene's letter, it's going to cost $70 million to do that Chalk River repair work, Chalk River having shut down twice now under Harper's watch. A necessary price to pay for a vital medical facility in comparison to how this government is spending money elsewhere, focussing on its real priorities.

Debunking Conservative talking points on the distribution of stimulus spending

When questioned about the Conservative-skewed infrastructure spending we're seeing reported now, the Conservatives have offered a defence that goes kind of like this, as articulated by Peter MacKay's spokesperson:
"There are three levels of government involved in the selection and the funding, so there are three levels of accountability," he said.
It's a diffusion of responsibility defence, the Conservatives are only one third of the equation. Really? Here are some examples that raise questions about that talking point. If anything, the federal government is a very determinative third of the equation.

1. In Nova Scotia, a four-rink project in Bedford, approved by both the local and provincial officials, a project that topped Halifax's list, went unapproved. If all three levels were involved, surely the project would have been approved given its priority status by the locals? Note by contrast, a recreation centre project in Conservative Minister Peter MacKay's riding that had no comparable local or provincial support received federal funding, although not from the federal stimulus plan, the source of the funding remains unknown. How is the three-level harmonious approval process at work here?

And note that MacKay may have done a little "backfilling" by announcing $1 million for a different Bedford rink project last week. That rink, however, is private.

2. In Toronto, following the announcement of the infrastructure funds to be spent in the city, it came to light that Conservative-leaning city councillors had gone to Ottawa to lobby for pet projects. They obtained some of those projects for their own wards and those projects were separate and apart from the list submitted by the city of Toronto (links there).

3. In Conservative Minister Helena Guergis' riding, a private school received funds over public facility applications and the incident has flared up. One of the reasons is the question of the validity of the local approval. The local council didn't approve the project and the one city official who did sign a letter has come under fire. The Mayor, Deputy Mayor and at least two councillors were caught by surprise about the funding.

So there you have three instances that we know about, because they've been reported by media, where it's not clear at all that there are "three levels of government involved in the selection and the funding." They're enough to raise questions about the legitimacy of this talking point on infrastructure spending choices. Further research would likely turn up more.

Tracking Stimulus Spending for Dummies™

A single spreadsheet and not a blue shovel in sight:
"'AllNationwideContracts.zip,' is a single spreadsheet listing the status, location, funds awarded and jobs created for projects across all 50 states."
You can find it here, at recovery.gov. Select the "Recipient Reported" tab halfway down the page. The file then appears at the bottom of that list. If that Excel file is too big, there are state by state lists which are there too.

Looking at that site and comparing it to ours, you can't help but think that one is geared to providing information and one is geared to providing a p.r. presentation. Remarkably, Canadians are not even told the exact figures for the spending: "Funding information for each project is provided as a range, not an exact dollar amount."

Quite the contrast.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

63

Throw one more on the barbie: "Tory Senator calls in ethics officer to examine stimulus contract." Leo Housakos, making a date with the ethics commissioner.

Favourite item in the report:
Ethics officers on Parliament Hill promise to be tied up for some time. The parliamentary ethics commissioner also announced Tuesday she is investigating complaints over the signing of ceremonial federal stimulus cheques by Conservative politicians.
The "big cheque" extravaganza is now a formal ethics investigation.

Who knew that the stimulus would include make work for government ethics employees?

Piling on to Iggy



What? You thought you'd read something else?

Nice. Spontaneous. Things that don't seem to happen to a certain other someone.

Drip, drip, drip: Conservative ridings getting disproportionate share of "RINC" funds too

More today from the Ottawa Citizen & Chronicle Herald investigation of how the federal stimulus funds are being spent in federal ridings. This one looks at the "RinC" program, i.e., the Recreation Infrastructure Canada program. It's showing a disproportionate share for Conservative ridings too, to the tune of 66 percent of all projects announced thus far.

Some of the latest skewing:
Overall, about three of every four projects so far funded through the RinC program has gone to Ontario, where Conservative hopes for a majority government in the next election.

The northwern Ontario riding of Kenora, once Liberal turf but now held by Conservative Greg Rickford, received more projects under the program than any other riding in the country.

Among the 35 projects in Kenora were upgrades to baseball diamonds and the Kenora Recreation Centre.

The ridings held by Tories Tony Clement, Darryl Kramp, Bev Shipley and Pierre Lemieux rounded out the top five. Mr. Clement, as industry minister, is ultimately in charge of the program.
There's a trend here and it's all going one way...

Conservative ridings getting disproportionate share of "big" stimulus

The big read today: "Tory ridings receive bigger slice of big-money stimulus cash: Research." Research! A capital idea! These reporters have tracked the "big-money" stimulus, i.e., the projects receiving more than $1 million in federal stimulus moneys.
Conservative ridings across Canada received more than their fair share of big-money stimulus projects paid for by taxpayers, an investigation into the Harper government's Economic Action Plan shows.

The numbers — drawn from Ottawa's own website — bolster opposition allegations of pork barrelling in the multi-billion-dollar stimulus package, a charge the Tories deny.

An Ottawa Citizen-Halifax Chronicle-Herald investigation shows 57 per cent of the projects, with more than $1 million in federal funding nationwide, went to Conservative ridings.

The party holds only 46 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. Conservative ridings therefore received 23 per cent more million-dollar-plus projects than if the projects were divided evenly among all ridings.
More independent evidence to support the narrative of partisan excess by this government. The infrastructure skewing has yet to be rebutted by the Harper crew.

Other items of interest here: notable figures on the Quebec ridings; unconvincing spin from a Baird spokesperson; and the picture being fleshed out that the stimulus is being used to bolster Conservative electoral chances by spending more in regions of the country where they can win seats (Ontario) versus others (Quebec). They looked at all 308 ridings so there must be more province by province reporting to come, one would think.

We didn't undertake this stimulus and its attendant enormous deficit for the benefit of the Conservative party. To state the obvious.

And a P.S....it doesn't seem to be helping the government to be sending Stephen Maher into a "black rage."

62

62 complaints, in total, launched against the Conservatives over the past two weeks. That's got to be some kind of record they're setting? No? Let's take a moment to review...

55 Conservatives are the subject of ethics complaints for their improper use of partisan cheques.

3 more complaints were initiated over the government's partisan advertising, to Treasury Board, Elections Canada and the Ethics Commissioner.

4 were launched in respect of a Lisa Raitt fundraiser out of the Toronto Port Authority (Ethics Commissioner, Lobbying Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner and Elections Canada).

Raitt alone has racked up 5 complaints in the last few weeks, clearly the "MVP" in this effort, if you will. Of the four requests for investigations on the above fundraiser, two have formally begun according to the Toronto Star on the weekend. The Ethics and Privacy Commissioners are opening investigations (Ethics Chair Szabo filed a 42 page report in substantiation of the ethics complaint). Raitt's also been added to the "partisan cheque" complaint list for improper use of the Conservative logo at a government of Canada announcement.

62 and yet it's still so early in the session...

Memories of Housakos

As the present controversy over Conservative Senator Leo Housakos unfolds ("Leo Housakos employed by Montreal firm that won a $1.4-million federal stimulus contract,"), let's review how we have come to know of him in recent political discussions. Here's what preceded his appointment to the Senate by the Prime Minister during the great "Prorogation Vacation of '08"...

A refresher:
A joint investigation by the Globe and Mail and Radio-Canada is alleging that a member of the Prime Minister's Office and a Conservative fundraiser directly interfered in a pair of political dossiers.
That Conservative fundraiser referenced there is Housakos. The first allegation of political interference by Housakos had to do with a real estate developer engaged in a lawsuit with Public Works:
The report says Soudas directly intervened on behalf of Rosdev Group, a Montreal real estate developer currently embroiled in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit with the Public Works Department over the management of two office buildings that house thousands of civil servants.

The report also says Leo Housakos, a longtime Tory supporter and party organizer in Quebec, also intervened directly with the Public Works Department.
Secondly:
The report also says that Soudas was present during a meeting between Housakos and an unnamed military contractor looking for an edge in bidding with the government.
A bit more here on that latter story.

And less than a year after all that news, Housakos was appointed to the Senate by Harper.

Just a bit of backdrop for you as the present conflict of interest allegations circulate on Conservative Senator Housakos' employer receiving federal stimulus funds.

Federal stimulus in action (video)



Aaaaaand...finished in just under three minutes. Although to be fair, this guy seems pretty good at doorknob replacement. So the federal job could take longer. And in the federal building, they probably have to spend extra time to ensure the lock goes on the outside of the door.