Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"I believe in me" and other by-election notes

Update below (5:30 p.m.).

A few after-by-election notes, mostly from the Vaughan perspective here.

Did Fantino really say this? This seems like an amazingly egotistical thing for a politician to say:
"I believe in our government, I believe in our ideas and vision for a stronger Canada. I believe in me and reject the fearmongering and risky Michael Ignatieff coalition."
Love that little indicator. "I believe in me." Say what? Could be some interesting times to come with Mr. Fantino, we will be watching intently. I didn't catch any of the television coverage last night since I was in Vaughan helping out and we weren't watching any coverage at the wrap-up. So, it wasn't until today that I did manage to catch a glimpse of Fantino's speech. What I did catch seemed to be almost hostage-like in its quality with the reading of text uncomfortably and quickly. Didn't quite have that "I believe in me" spirit if you know what I mean.

Hopefully, however, it won't be a long engagement for Mr. Fantino as MP, Tony Genco seems to be vowing another run with this statement from his speech last night: "One way or the other we'll be back." Back he should be, indeed, he gave Fantino a great run and almost pulled off a fantastic upset. Now Genco's got the name recognition working for him next time and the vibe of having almost pulled it off this time. He comes off as the almost winner who almost knocked off Harper's star, there's shine to be had from that. Liberals should keep the heat on Fantino, there is some vulnerability for him given the issues that came to the light near the end of the campaign (more play for the Caledonia issue, for example) and a sense that there may be some discomfort with him among voters and therefore an inability to gain a wider traction. Genco also had likability over Fantino, I'd say, and they should continue to play that up in a post-campaign.

There is a strong Liberal base in that riding, to state the obvious, yes, but I am repeating it since I saw it with the time that I did spend there and it really made an impact on me. It is heartening and refreshing to hear support at the doors and the assured commitment from voters. There can be so much negativity online and in the media, particularly what we've seen in the last few weeks, this contrast was welcome and one I will be trying hard not to forget.

The Vaughan operation was very impressive and very organized, a pretty well oiled get out the vote operation yesterday which bodes well for a future federal campaign. A great run-through of the recent messages, policy and how they played. I hope there is a good after-event analysis of all that and some translation of the effort on to a wider national scale, a sharing behind the scenes of what was learned. Leverage it, it was a good experience.

On a people note, I just want to add this because I was also struck by this aspect of the Vaughan campaign...there were (and are) a host of young Liberals working behind the scenes who are incredibly talented and possess some of that generational change mojo which we like to focus on here and there as we look at the parties. I don't really have that much more to add to the point but they're an impressive bunch and I think are making a difference.

Otherwise, some of the aftermath reporting and analysis in the media seems rote, like this Taber piece full of Conservative spin and this Ibbitson piece full of woe for Liberals. Both seem quite off, almost an inability to deal with new material from both the analyst's perspective (Ibbitson) and in terms of the Conservative spin that's being doled out today. There was much laughter and confidence last night in Vaughan. Liberals seemed pretty ebullient, even emboldened. Can't fight those national platforms but we can say what we saw in contrast.

Won't add anything regarding the other races which I didn't follow that closely. Only one, Winnipeg-North, provided much excitement. If you want to see more on the by-election numbers (none of which you will have found here!), I'd recommend this.

Update (5:30 p.m.): Bonus audio of the "I believe in me" moment (courtesy of John Moore, CFRB 1010 via LibArtsAndMinds on twitter):

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Big mistake by Harper government on seniors' benefits (GIS)

The Harper government is being yanked back from a big mistake on seniors' GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits). Thanks to Liberal MP Gerry Byrne who saw the fallout from these changes the Harper government made this year:
Starting this May, the government began including discretionary lump-sum withdrawals from RRIFs, sometimes made for emergencies, as income for tax purposes.

As a result, low-income seniors could be pushed above the $15,815.99 minimum threshold to qualify for Guaranteed Income Supplement payments under the Old Age Security Act.

Depending on the size of the one-time withdrawal, seniors could lose some or all of the $658 monthly GIS benefit in the following year.
So, sensing the grave political damage, given there are potentially a large number of seniors who could be affected by this change, the dial back began:
The Conservatives on Friday backed down from their threat to eliminate or reduce old age security benefits for seniors withdrawing their registered retirement income funds for emergency health care
“I have instructed departmental officials to immediately put a hold on this policy while we review it completely. I have also instructed officials to contact those individuals affected directly so that their applications can be reviewed and evaluated for eligibility under the old policy,” Finley said.
But for Gerry Byrne's work, might have been a lot of harm done to seniors' income benefits. Still might not be over if the Conservatives muck it up. They are putting the policy on hold and reviewing it. Some seniors might be caught in the middle as this policy that has been in effect for months now gets reviewed. We'll see what that brings.

There's another big outstanding pension issue coming this week too, the disabled Nortel pensioners face a last chance in the Senate for government action to prevent them from losing benefits at the end of the year. Liberals have pledged statutory changes so that long-term disability plans like the Nortel one will be better protected. A Conservative dominated Senate committee said no to such an effort this past week and the full Conservative dominated Senate is likely to do so again without significant public pressure. One to watch this week.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday night

What a great voice, more here.

Re-mix too:

Have a good night.

Trudeau on the Charter

Friday videos...

The one that looks like Zorro.

Plus this is going around and even though I don't speak Italian, I capiche.

Votate Liberal!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Memories of Danny

A bit of humour there to see him out because along with the all the bombast, there was some humour. It goes hand in hand with Maritime politicians.

There were those good times for we Stephen Harper critics too, also known as the Anybody but Conservative campaign of '08. Anyone who can pull off such a campaign will always have a special place in my heart.

Clearly, he was a unique Canadian politician, with tremendous support levels. He certainly has had his detractors too. He is a reminder of how dominant a force personality can be in Canadian politics.

From the archives, a little bit of Danny blogging memorabilia:

"Yet another name for the Harper succession sweepstakes."
"Danny's excellent web site adventure."
"Danny Willliams warns of the "blue shaft"."
"Danny, could you please campaign across Canada."
"'I don't need Newfoundland and Labrador to win an election'."
"Danny Williams sticking it to Harper again."

James Moore hearts the iPod tax

The Conservatives have been saying things like this in the House of Commons for quite a while now:
James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages: Mr. Speaker, our bill is fair and responsible and it reflects consultations that were held across Canada.

Our copyright legislation, Bill C-32, is now before a legislative committee to consider how Canada could best move forward.

We have put forward our proposals. The only thing we have heard from the opposition side, the only proposal it has come up with to help consumers and protect the creative communities, is to impose a massive new tax on consumers on iPods, cellphones and BlackBerrys. We reject that. It is bad for consumers. It is bad for the creative community to make it more expensive for Canadians to consume the creative community's creations. We are opposed to an iPod tax. We stand with consumers.
Oh, really? That's from yesterday in the House of Commons. Sounds definitive. You can go through Hansard and find lots of similar recent statements from the Conservatives.

Turns out, however, that James Moore is actually ok with an iPod tax: "Heritage minister not opposed to MP3 levy proposals."
Heritage Minister James Moore is not opposed to discussing a levy on MP3 players, but says no group has ever come forward with a detailed proposal on how it would work.
"I don't know how a tax on these things would be legally implemented and would work," said Moore.

"So when we did our consultations, there was a lot of noise about having some kind of a levy or a modernization of the copyright levy. But nobody has actually put pen to paper and put forward a proposal that works."
So he doesn't reject it at all. He has just been opposed to it in the interim until someone finds a way for it to work. Shrug. In other words, typical flip flop but just preceded by plenty of hot air directed toward others.

Today in Fantino

The OPP has partially complied with the parliamentary committee order to disclose G20 spending records. Apparently not everything is there, which doesn't really look good. Why some and not all, obviously, is the question. Mr. Fantino's PMO flack is clinging to the original December 1st disclosure deadline to fend off the charge that the non-disclosure is unacceptable, among other Harperian specials that he flings off in his response.

Hopefully whatever is there is Scribd by someone so we plebeians can pick over the entrails. I will be looking for anything that indicates monogramming or emblazoning of clothing with the initials "J.F." on items like jackets, capes, hats, etc. That or more glow sticks would be good.

Elsewhere, the second part of that Eye Weekly series by Derek Finkle on Fantino is out: "Toronto police farce: Part 2." The upshot:
"In the finale to a story that’s been making headlines, detective Garry Carter reveals what he believes to be the real reason the biggest mob sting in Canadian history died a premature fate: to keep the investigation of Susan Eng from ever becoming public."
More on the Toronto police and those recordings here. Lengthy but interesting read on it all. Probably coming too late in this campaign, given the detail of the allegations by Carter, but there it is.

The leaks keep coming

Two items of the leak variety here...

1. This is a follow-up to yesterday's "Leakorama, again" post on the leak of a Finance Committee report on budget consultations out of Conservative MP Kelly Block's office. The leak, as far as we knew on Wednesday morning, was to three lobbyists. Well, throw a fourth lobbyist into the mix:
Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, after question period, the member for Outremont rose on a question of privilege concerning the leak of the finance committee's confidential draft report on its prebudget consultations. He also reported that the leak was by Mr. Russell Ullyatt the then employee of the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

Also, yesterday at 6:23 p.m., after the presentations on the privilege issue were made, the clerk of the committee received another email from a Mr. Andy Gibbons, who has Conservative ties and is with the lobby firm of Hill & Knowlton. Today the clerk provided that copy of the email to the hon. members of the finance committee before our meeting started.

I bring this to the attention of the House and the Speaker for consideration of the question of privilege raised yesterday. It would appear the disclosure of now a fourth person is more than has been presented to the House with regard to how broad this has gone.

It appears this has gone much further than the House has been aware. As a consequence, I submit that information for the Speaker's consideration and I ask for the unanimous consent of the House to table the email from Mr. Gibbons to the clerk of the committee, in both official languages.
Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I want to add my small intervention to this matter. Yes, indeed there was a fourth lobbyist, apparently, who received an email from the now terminated, former employee of the office of the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

I would submit for your consideration, Mr. Speaker, that whether there are three or four, I think the arguments presented both for and against a breach of privilege yesterday are still germane. ...
Yes...three, four, whatever, the same argument applies says Lukiwski.

The fact that the fourth lobbyist, Andy Gibbons, is the one who contacted the clerk of the committee is not exactly providing assurance that there's a competent investigation going on here. Nor is it providing assurance that these four lobbyists represent the extent of the distribution of the report. It's unclear what investigative efforts are underway with respect to Kelly Block's office, the former staffer and this apparent drip, drip, drip situation of lobbyists who received the report. Not a good sign. Again, this is a report that could have actionable financial information in it.

2. Word from CBC last night about a possible government leak having to do with that B.C. mine development decision:
Shares in Taseko Mines Ltd. mysteriously dropped almost 40 per cent in frantic trading on Oct. 14, more than two weeks before Ottawa announced it was blocking the firm's planned development of a controversial B.C. mine.
The report notes there are at least two investigations underway. If it becomes apparent that there was a leak out of the government, the RCMP would be called in. Four ministerial offices were involved in the decision: natural resources, fisheries, environment and, of course, the PMO.

Not a good week on the leak front for the government.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rant on

"Because we paid, we received."

From testimony at a Commons committee yesterday:
Mr. Sauvé did not back down, asserting that when his company was bidding for a contract to work on the restoration of the Parliament Buildings, he believed that, to have any chance of success, he had to pay a commission of 3 per cent of the value of the Parliament Hill contract to Gilles Varin, a Montreal businessman and Conservative supporter.

The payments totalled about $140,000, but would have reached $300,000 if LM Sauvé had not gone into bankruptcy after losing the Parliament Hill project in 2009, Mr. Sauvé said. He compared the retainer to Mr. Varin with 5-per-cent commissions that are rumoured to go to members of the Mafia in the Montreal construction industry.

“Because we paid, we received,” Mr. Sauvé said of the federal contract.
Forget the coat. It really was quite the spin operation to track down receipts and play up Christian Paradis as the downtown Thetford Mines coat shopping man. Besides, Sauve said he was asked for a certain amount of money to replace the coat. Providing a receipt for Paradis' coat isn't responsive to the charge at all. And on all matters, Sauve was under oath yesterday. 

So there was an effort to discredit to Sauve, from Conservatives, and it was picked up a bit in the media (Fife report at previous CTV link, for example). Go back and weigh what Gilles Varin said in comparison. Make your own assessments. Sauve has been interviewed and relied upon recently in connection with investigative journalistic reports on the Mafia and the Quebec construction industry as well. He's not exactly doing an easy thing.

There's an RCMP investigation going on here. There has been reporting done about bid criteria being changed the week before Sauve won his Hill renovation contract.

It's not about a coat. Renogate...back with a vengeance!

Bloc plays Conservative wingman

Or, should I say, wingperson. So let's see...what on earth were the Bloc doing voting with the Conservatives on the F-35 motion yesterday? Let's hear it:
Duceppe said he wanted the Liberals to guarantee an equal amount of work for Quebec if the F-35 contract was canned.

"They refused that and we have made an amendment (but the Liberals) refuse to have an amendment within their motion, so we will vote against their motion," Duceppe said.
Hmmm, you know who might not like such politicking? Quebecers! Remember this poll which said 62% of Quebecers thought the planes were an unjustified expense? And the Ekos poll of November 3-9th (pdf) which brought out that high rate of opposition among Bloc voters (53.7 % strongly opposed - highest among all political parties - with 23% somewhat opposed) and Quebecers (43.8% strongly opposed - highest in Canada - with 23.6% somewhat opposed)?

Could be some mighty thin gruel of a cover there that the Bloc cooked up. That's the way the Bloc chose to play it, we'll see how it plays in Quebec.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pentagon undercuts Harper government spin

Le Devoir seems to be digging into the government's claims on the proposed purchase of the F-35 and they've obtained a Pentagon document that undercuts one of the big lines the Harper government has been peddling. If you've noticed, Tony Clement et al. consistently peg the value of contracts that industry might get by becoming part of the F-35 "global supply chain" at $12 billion. They have prominently floated that figure since they announced the F-35 proposal. The Pentagon document, however, puts the figure at closer to $3.9 billion with a ceiling of $6.3 billion.
Le gouvernement Harper affirme que sa décision d'acheter l'avion de combat F-35 permettra des retombées économiques pouvant atteindre 12 milliards de dollars pour les entreprises canadiennes. Or, un document du gouvernement américain, obtenu par Le Devoir, estime plutôt ces retombées à 3,9 milliards de dollars, avec la possibilité d'atteindre un sommet de 6,3 milliards, soit beaucoup moins que les chiffres du gouvernement.
You can see this $12 billion amount featured in the Government of Canada press releases from yesterday surrounding two Harper Minister visits to Canadian companies participating in the F-35 development program. While these are carefully worded, the constant references to the $12 billion figure there and in-person by these ministers as they travel the country are clearly meant to leave that figure in people's minds. The fact remains, however, that we'd be competing on the pool of contracts, whether we buy the F-35 or not, none of it is guaranteed, let alone this questionable $12 billion amount.

This is where the F-35 program differs from our usually required procurement practices. Guaranteed industrial benefits come with a competitive tender process. With the purchase of new fighter jets in a competitive process, those guaranteed industrial benefits could top these $3.9-$6.3 billion figures: "...every dollar the Government of Canada pays a contractor, the contractor must spend an equivalent amount inside Canada."

Also of note from Le Devoir's report, more confirmation in the U.S. document that the Canadian government viewed the F-35 program as an economic development program primarily, for Canadian industry, and that we warned the U.S. we would have a tender process on any jets we would buy:
Aux pages 6 et 11 du document, on constate qu'Ottawa avait prévenu les États-Unis que la participation du Canada était strictement «économique» et qu'un appel d'offres allait suivre pour déterminer si le F-35 est le meilleur appareil pour remplacer les CF-18 du Canada.
That further undercuts the government's ridiculous claim that the U.S. competition in 2001 suffices for Canada's needs, now. Even Peter MacKay seemed to get that, for a fleeting moment.

Tony Clement and his office, in a shocking development, were not available to comment or justify their $12 billion figure.

Plucky judge ends Peladeau trial with a bang

Well, it's almost over for this little defamation suit that Pierre Karl Peladeau has brought against Radio-Canada executive Sylvain Lafrance for the "voyou" (thug") comment. Closing arguments are today. A dramatic moment occurred in the courtroom on Monday, however, captured quite well by this journalist, David Santerre at Rue Frontenace: "Des unes de magazines qui laissent le juge perplexe."

The judge, in a reluctant manner, held up two magazines for the courtroom to see, both of which would have been on the newsstands during this trial. This one, from L'Actualite suggesting that Peladeau is the "most dreaded man in Quebec."
And this one from La Semaine with coverage of the trial and showing Peladeau and his wife being photographed in the halls of the court house:

The clear implication from the judge, in raising these magazine covers, was that perhaps Mr. Peladeau had something to do with these publications coming along during the trial, to perhaps sway the court. You get that sense because the judge prefaced his raising of these magazine covers with this remark:
«Quand j’ai vu ça, je me suis demandé pourquoi autant de mes collègues ne voulaient pas entendre cette cause-là», a commenté le bouillant juge.
It sounded like he was saying ah, this is why so many of my colleagues didn't want to hear this case, as he saw the media coverage during the trial. Peladeau's lawyer denied that there were any strings pulled for such coincidental media coverage, even the lawyer for Radio-Canada joined in to dismiss the notion, maybe sensing that the trial was about to go off the rails or provide a ground of appeal for Peladeau if he loses his claim. The report notes that the judge remained skeptical at the end of the discussion.

What's interesting is that the judge went ahead and raised this as an issue. Was he referring to an actual trial selection process in which he was exposed to reluctance by other judges to sit on a Peladeau case? That would be something. Or was it a more casual impression this particular judge had from his colleagues? Either way, pretty fascinating and bold for him to say this. He wasn't afraid to raise the possibility of some kind of media influence being brought to bear on the court room. Whatever one might think about whether this was a useful thing for the judge to do near the end of the trial or not, it certainly sent a public message. 

Fascinating little moment of high drama that was.

Monday, November 22, 2010

F-35 gets the hard sell and a hard look

David Pugliese has details today on the latest p.r. push by the Harper government to sell their sole-sourced F-35 proposal to the Canadian public. They are concerned, it seems, about that Ekos poll that showed Canadians are not so enamoured of this proposed purchase ("...more than half of Canadians either strongly oppose or somewhat oppose the government's plan to buy F-35 fighter jets.") So the new harder push is on.

This one involves DND/Canadian Forces personnel going across the country to brief various "defence analysts" in academia (and maybe elsewhere, it's unstated, maybe think tanks) so that they'll be primed to speak to the media with their talking points about the F-35 purchase proposal.
Sources say that DND/Canadian Forces representatives aren’t expecting too much pushback or tough questions from the analysts, many of who are already on side with the JSF deal or are inclined towards such military expenditures any ways.
So, this is more fuel for supporters to go forth and sell the F-35. Implicit in this story seems to be the notion that those in academia, or elsewhere, of the defence analyst variety who are neutral or even opposed to the F-35 purchase wouldn't be offered the same opportunity of this briefing. So that they too could ask questions, for example. If government resources are being used to provide such briefings, presumably any defence analyst type should be able to have the same opportunity.

Another question here is the use of military personnel to sell this plane. This is a civilian decision, ultimately, that our elected representatives make. Sending Canadian Forces officials around the country to participate in the issuing of Harper government talking points doesn't seem like something they should be involved in. Let alone whether the government should be doing this, focusing on the hard sell rather than ensuring that the right plane is being purchased in the first place and in the right way, i.e., a competitive bid process.

Further, from Pugliese's reporting, the Harper ministers are out in Montreal and Waterloo doing their usual job fear mongering push today. The jobs they will highlight, though, are jobs obtained as a result of previous F-35 agreements that have nothing to do with any future purchase. 
Sources tell Defence Watch that the politicians aren’t highlighting new contracts (some of these were awarded years ago). They say that the ministers will be sticking closely to their “talking points” so they won’t be straying from the prepared script the Conservative government has outlined in the Commons and at other press conferences. The idea is to get more articles and broadcasts out there about the multitude of jobs the government maintains will come from any F-35 deal.
Jobs, jobs, reliant upon that F-35. So how's the F-35 program doing down in the U.S. today?
In what has become a regular event, senior Pentagon officials will meet today to review why the F-35 joint strike fighter has fallen behind schedule and over budget yet again and what to do about it.

The top Pentagon weapons buyer, Ashton Carter, is scheduled to convene a defense acquisition board with military and civilian experts to try to understand why development and testing of the airplane is lagging behind a schedule that was revised this year for at least the seventh time.
Experts convening to try to understand the problems with the F-35 versus our government briefing sympathetic experts on how to sell the F-35. Seems quite off and typical for the Harper government.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Coming tomorrow: iPolitics.ca

Update (Monday: 5:50 p.m.): Go visit.

Home page screen shot

Something fun to look forward to for we political junkies! Tomorrow is the launch of a brand new independent and non-partisan political news agency, iPolitics.ca.

In addition to the preview screen shots, here are a few details from some of their circulated promotional information. The news operation will be backed by 8 journalists, including Liz Thompson, with more big names to come. In addition to their own content, there will be paid-wire feeds from PostMedia and CP. This, they say will allow "...our team of journalists to stay focused on the important issues that MSM wouldn't cover." Sounds like they will be offering polls as well, they are "...in discussions with some great pollsters to come 'in-house'."

They are offering a free trial of all their services, with a subscription cost to come of "approx $180 a year without a group or promotional offer." A bunch of the services will remain free once the trial is over.

Best of luck to them, this all looks very interesting.

Morning Brief screen shot

Sunday reads

A few for you today that caught the eye...

This, for sure, read of the day in terms of a substantive issue in front of us that is not getting enough attention: "AECL up for auction but West’s industries protected." It's about the pending privatization of AECL, yes, but so much more too. Could be a sleeper issue.

Frank Rich on why Sarah Palin could very well be the Republican nominee in 2012. As the Republican hierarchy wrings their hands in vain. Did you see her infomercial/reality tv show last weekend? How does any other nominee compete with that air time and hagiography? Nature, family, all cut in beautiful ways. How do you compete with that powerful force? Kind of a commentary on our times, the power of the celebrity media and the changing nature of contemporary politics.

Just one more, Andrew Rawnsley on Ed Miliband's start as Labour leader, having been elected about two months ago and just now stepping into the role fully after a brief parental leave. Some familiar challenges cited there for a leader of the opposition. Lucky young Miliband though, no prospect that he will be facing a round of attack ads from the governing coalition upon his start.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cat versus alligator or a metaphor for our Canadian political times?

This video kind of reminded me of Jeffrey Simpson's column today. That is all.

(It's Saturday afternoon, efforts at humour are allowed.)

Fantino responds to arbitrator's ruling

Oh wait...no he doesn't:
A labour arbitrator has ruled that former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino defamed two officers and violated their collective agreement when he suddenly disbanded their plainclothes unit more than six years ago.

The ruling immediately relates only to Dets. Danny Bell and Everett Elliott, but its principles apply to the other 12 members of the dissolved unit who grieved their sudden transfer to other jobs, George Surdykowski said in his 113-page decision, dated Oct. 24.

“The suddenness and manner in which the transfers were implemented reflects the knee-jerk quality and motivation for the decision to transfer the grievors,” Surdykowski wrote.

“The grievors were transferred willy nilly without warning, explanation, or notice of any allegations against them or any opportunity to respond.”
...the arbitrator found that Fantino’s news release and comments were defamatory.

Fantino is now the Conservative candidate in a Nov. 29 federal by-election in Vaughan. Stephen Lecce, his director of communications, said requests for comment should be referred to the Toronto police.
Of course they did! That's the PMO employee who is on leave for the by-election bringing that special Harper magic to the Fantino operation.

Apologies to those who actually came here looking for a substantive response based on the blog post title. You really should have known better though!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday night

Vaughan by-election notes

In respect of the Conservative candidate in the Vaughan by-election in particular.

First, this note which seems to typify the way the Conservatives are playing these by-elections, on the down low away from media:
The Vaughan Citizen today learned that federal Conservative candidate Julian Fantino held a telephone town hall with Vaughan voters. Senator Mike Duffy was on hand in Mr. Fantino's campaign office to help facilitate the meeting, according to a media release. The Citizen was not invited to listen in and report on this event, but we are interested in speaking with residents who participated or listened in.
What's to be afraid of here? This is someone who has been in the public eye for so many years, yet this is closed off from media. Others don't have a problem with it:
So far in Vaughan, federal Liberal candidate Tony Genco has conducted such a meeting, as well as municipal election 2010 candidate Steven Del Duca. In both cases, The Citizen participated and reported on the outcome, which included the kinds of questions potential voters were asking as well as the candidates' responses.
Also of interest and more significant, for those wanting to do some reading on Mr. Fantino, two articles from the past 24 hours raising serious questions about episodes during his tenure with the Toronto police force: "Arbitrator assails Fantino’s ‘willy-nilly’ disbanding of police squad six years ago;" and "Toronto police farce: Part 1."

Might be some questions for Mr. Fantino based on those items but I'm sure he won't be taking any, he's running for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Late night

Gerry Ritz should be fired: Part XII

This just never seems to get any better does it now? "No audit of meat plant inspectors done: Ritz."
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz on Thursday conceded the government has not conducted an external audit to determine how many inspectors are needed to police Canada's meat plants.

In the wake of the deadly listeriosis outbreak in the summer of 2008, independent investigator Sheila Weatherill said a resources audit by outside experts was needed because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency implemented its new inspection system without conducting a full assessment of resources required.

And after determining that the inspectors assigned to the Maple Leaf facility "appear to have been stressed due to their responsibilities at other plants," Weatherill said the audit also should include an analysis of how many plants for which an inspector should be responsible.
When pressed if Weatherill's audit recommendation has been satisfied, Ritz said he doesn't want to "split hairs."

The recommendation calls on the government to retain third-party experts to conduct a resources audit "to accurately determine the demand on its inspection resources and the number of required inspectors."
No, we don't want you splitting hairs either, Mr. Ritz. It was his government's commissioned report that called for a resources audit. Not a consultants' review. How many inspectors are needed to assure safety? That is the question and without that resources audit, Ritz can't answer it.

Why do they continue to cut corners on this file given the serious consequences in the past and the ongoing risk that's not going away?

The series continues...

Missing: the OPP G20 expenses!

The Toronto Police have submitted their expenses to the Toronto Police Services Board.

The RCMP's spending has been released as well.

As heinous as a bunch of it is. A reminder: "...most of the accommodation cost, $57-million, went to a massive trailer camp in Muskoka – a cost of $700 per room per night, according to RCMP officials. The lack of available hotel rooms near the Deerhurst summit left no other option, RCMP officials said." Some of that OPP G8 spending up there must be in the same heinous ballpark.

But...no OPP spending has seen any daylight as of yet. In the $100 million range too. Very noticeable when the other forces have been able to disclose theirs. Yesterday Vic Toews gave us the date for the OPP expense release:
Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the arrangement with the OPP is that it has until December 1 of this year to submit all of their G8 and G20 expenses. This is significantly shorter than the deadline for other security events, indeed years shorter.

The member opposite knows that the deadline has been in place from the beginning of our agreement with the OPP....
The Julian Fantino led OPP, that is! Who is facing a November 29th by-election!

One of these police forces is clearly bringing up the rear here, it is a glaring omission.

Leaks that matter

Peter MacKay spilled the beans on the spat with the United Arab Emirates yesterday and a reporter was present to hear (see also).The reporter was standing with a Conservative Senator and Jim Flaherty in the lobby of the Parliament buildings yesterday during a fateful fire alarm. MacKay came along, wearing his "Fly Emirates" cap as a joke to taunt John Baird, he said. This would seem to confirm what had been reported, that Baird won the argument in cabinet on the issue, with commercial flight arrangements trumping the need to retain the Camp Mirage base. At the very least, it seems to confirm that the two ministers are on opposite sides of this one.

You might also point out that a $300 million unnecessary tab for taxpayers is apparently something to be joked about around the Harper cabinet table, as MacKay intended to do with Baird.

Further, you might also point out that it's much more likely that MacKay was the source of the leaks to the papers on the cost of the closure of Camp Mirage given his chattiness and apparent frustration. Willing to spread the word freely it seems. You could speculate further about whether this kind of frustration might indeed confirm a one foot out the door kind of mentality. Then, whether he might be nudged along now.

MacKay went on during his candid moment to state that the dispute meant it would take 10 years to repair the relationship with the UAE. It's that bad, is it? Thought everything was normal, that brand spanking new UAE visa requirement for Canadians was just routine. Guess not!

Further, MacKay confirmed that yes, the whole thing could have been resolved, that the Canadian Forces could have continued to use the Camp Mirage base there for free if Canada had worked out a commercial flight arrangement with the country's airlines. Why wasn't it, then? Still not getting how this could not have been worked out if a cabinet minister is confirming that this was the case and is essentially still shaking his head about it in public like this. Given our continued involvement in Afghanistan, it will continue to bite us, as the Talk 1010 reporter suggests.

That's some leakage that is actually consequential to military matters, Foreign Affairs and taxpayer dollars. Maybe it might get some attention but who knows.

The Peladeau case rolls on

Yes, still following this one. Yesterday in court, it was all about the meaning of one word: "Proces Peladeau-Lafrance : Le mot "voyou" remis en contexte." "Voyou" is the word that the CBC executive, Sylvain Lafrance, used in respect of Pierre Karl Peladeau, saying that Peladeau "walked like a thug," essentially, in the context of interviews Lafrance gave on the topic of Quebecor having suspended payments to the Canadian Television Fund. That is what spawned this lawsuit. So the day yesterday was spent on the meaning of the word "voyou" or "thug." This was the expert witness' opinion:
Il a expliqué au tribunal la signification du mot « voyou » lors des entrevues accordées par Sylvain Lafrance en janvier 2007. Selon l'expert, « voyou » signifiait alors « qui ne respecte pas les règles d'un organisme donné », dans ce cas-ci le Fonds canadien de télévision. Le linguiste a ajouté qu'il était très clair que c'était le comportement de Pierre Karl Péladeau qui était qualifié de « voyou » et non l'individu.
In other words, the word must be placed in context. It means not respecting the rules of a given organization or regime and that it was Peladeau's behaviour or "comportement" in respect of Quebecor's suspending funds to the Canadian Television Fund that was worthy of the description "voyou." Not Peladeau himself.

Earlier, on Tuesday, a communications executive from CBC testified that there were reasons for Lafrance doing interviews on the Canadian Televsion Fund and Quebecor's move to suspend payments to it, including these:
Dans un autre ordre d’idées, «le caractère unilatéral de la décision (de Quebecor) venait débalancer quelque chose de déjà délicat», a souligné Mme Bergeron en parlant de l’univers de la télévision. M. Lafrance devait enfin insister sur le fait qu’en suspendant ses paiements, Quebecor «attaquait sans respect l’équilibre de la Loi sur la radiodiffusion».
Those points could mesh with the interpretation of "voyou" above, that the suspension of payments to the Canadian Television Fund was unilateral and upset the balance underlying the Broadcasting Act, i.e., the act created great uncertainty in the world of television production funds. Some reporting has focussed on how this use of the word "voyou" may have deviated from the communications plan, away from the conduct and toward the person, this is something to keep in mind.

Next up are Sylvain Lafrance, the defendant himself, and the president of Radio-Canada at the time, Robert Rabinovitch.

A whole day spent on the word "voyou" and a refresher in all of this material in respect of Quebecor and its recent exploits within the Canadian broadcasting system. See how educational this lawsuit is?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When media moguls go to court

An interesting read for you today: "Pierre Karl Peladeau doit justifier le montant de sa poursuite." (Translation) Pierre Karl Peladeau, CEO of Quebecor and Sun Media Corp., is suing Sylvain Lafrance, the vice-president of the CBC's French service, for defamation. Peladeau testified last week in the case.

In the account linked to, there is a brief exchange with the judge over whether Peladeau has any friends, a complaint by Peladeau that another journalist called him a "corporate bum" and finally the judge expressing frustration at an ability to find that damages were suffered by Peladeau at all as a result of Lafrance's alleged defamation of him.
«Ça m’en prend un peu plus que ça, et celui qui est le mieux placé pour me dire ce qui m’aidera à décider, c’est M. Péladeau. Pour rendre une décision, ça me prend de la preuve. (…) Il peut penser qu’il y a un complot contre lui, on verra», a conclu le juge dans une fin de séance qui s’est terminée en queue de poisson.
It might be the pessimist in me, but it doesn't seem to be going well.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Transcripts are wonderful things: the Winnipeg North chronicles!

There's a brouhaha on the internets today! A little one, that is, arising out of one of the upcoming federal by-elections, the one in Winnipeg North.

Seems the Winnipeg Free Press decided to get all, what shall we say, creative in its interpretation of an answer Michael Ignatieff gave to one of their reporters on the weekend. Egg on Ignatieff, they classily cried! Come on, editorial writers of the nation, is this our best? Then predictably, and not surprisingly, the Conservatives jumped! All so predictable.

The question posed to Ignatieff and his answer can be found in a transcript provided by the Free Press reporter who was there in a scrum on Sunday: "Iggy on the Filipino vote." The transcript is prefaced by this note from the reporter:
Winnipeg North Tory candidate Julie Javier issued a press release yesterday evening saying it’s "regrettable" that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff suggested her candidacy is a game designed to sway Liberal Filipino voters.

That’s not exactly what Iggy said, nor did he accuse the Tories of vote splitting, which is what we said in a front page headline Monday.

All that, plus an editorial in today’s Free Press, prompted Ignatieff’s people to issue a transcript of the scrum held Sunday. Here it is, for the record. I was the "media" asking the questions, and the ellipses in the first question was me stumbling over Julie Javier’s name.
People can feel free to go on and read the transcript, brief as it is. Much ado seems to have been made over a statement that was expressing faith in the voters there and a refusal to get into any speculation that was put to him by the reporter. Reinforcing that ever important lesson in politics, always record your interviews!

Pundits Guide seems to have been alert to the prospect of shenanigans emanating out of that interview from its first airing and has a full post on the rundown of what's happened.

Exciting by-election out there! The Conservatives jumping all over the Liberals should tell anyone what is really going on with Winnipeg North.

Update (4:45 p.m.): Taylor has updated his blog post to incorporate the transcript of Ignatieff's response and adds:
Ignatieff talks a good talk about getting away from identity politics, asks for a fight on quality of the candidates and suggests that the press is trying to frame the fight inappropriately. This is a good sign. As for the Winnipeg Free Press? Terrible. Opinion of an exchange is healthy, but do make sure that it has foundation in fact.
Props to him for doing so.

Update (6:30 p.m.): To be clear about my reference to Pundits Guide above, this was the basis of her scrutiny of the original Free Press story, the quotes in the report versus the headline that ran with it:
Last night I expressed some scepticism in comments on an earlier post here about whether the quotes used in the original story backed up the sensational headline, and said that I thought the Free Press should release their transcript of the interview, a call I reiterated in this morning's blogpost as well.
These are questions that any impartial observer might ask on any political story, irrespective of the stripe of candidate involved.

G20 gifts to Toronto

“As part of the G20 planning, CCTV cameras have been installed in addition to those ones operating to ensure the safety and security for dignitaries, business owners, residents and people who work and visit the downtown area and protesters. Once the summit is finished, these additional cameras will be removed. All CCTV cameras are marked with the word ‘police.’ They are programmed to view public spaces only.” (emphasis added)
Toronto police want to keep 52 of the 77 surveillance cameras they temporarily purchased for the G20 summit, more than tripling the force’s stock of CCTV equipment.
Guess the police should have been pressed on what removal meant, whether it was permanent or a temporary removal until they could ask the Toronto Police Services Board if they could keep them. This is an issue which will be before a newly constituted Board facing turnover with new councillors, among others. 

The need for these cameras should be demonstrated, so that the number they want is actually proportional to some kind of need for increased video surveillance. That pledge from the police this summer seemed to signify then that there was not a long term need for those cameras and a sensitivity toward having them in the first place. What has changed since then?

Throw in the fact that these cameras were purchased in a pre-G20 spending regime that saw no typical civilian oversight and this request now seems to rankle even more.

Not exactly trust engendering for police to so blatantly break a very public pledge to the people of Toronto in this way.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Late night

Some music since it's been a while around here. Loving all things by the XX these days.

Have a good night.

Respect for taxpayers! Part IV

Is there anything else we taxpayers can get for you Conservatives?
Taxpayers deserve a refund, a Liberal MP charged in the House of Commons Monday.

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett raised the issue of Conservative MP Patrick Brown using his MP's mailing privileges to support a local councillor in his hometown of Barrie, Ont.
Brown seems to have implemented the same tactic as his fellow, and departing, Conservative MP Greg Thompson. Brown let a local candidate piggyback on his parliamentary mail by including a flyer from that candidate in Brown's mail. Judging from Prowse's site, looks like a fellow local Conservative that got a boost here.

The respect for taxpayers watch continues!

Interesting week in Ottawa coming

A tweet from Bob Rae last night might set the tone for the week: "Unless I'm very wrong, this will be an interesting week in Ottawa...". Hmmm, so long malaise I guess! The Afghanistan extension, or new mission, or change to the combat mission, or whatever you want to call it, looks to be taking center stage this week. Although it might be a bit of a letdown.

Both CBC and the Star are reporting that few details are to come this week on the mission: "...any plans will be finalized first at a NATO meeting in Lisbon this week before being announced back home." There is a plan and it is being rolled out at the NATO summit that starts on Friday. So, Harper returns from the unsuccessful G20 and APEC for a short stint in Parliament and then he's off to NATO at the end of the week, probably Thursday. A short week of Monday to Wednesday in the House of Commons for the PM?

Has this NATO deal been worked out already? Has Harper pre-committed to NATO as Fred Hiatt suggests?
"...the major players have bought in: Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has pushed for the benchmark; the NATO alliance, which is likely to commit to it at a meeting later this week..."
If that is the case, the new Canadian role should have been shared with the Canadian people in a time frame that would have been sufficient for consent (or opposition) to be gained. This is ground that should have been prepared over the last few months. So talk of a last minute vote in the House of Commons this week seems to be a bit of a charade. There would be no integrity to such a vote. We don't know the details of what's in play here as we sit on Monday morning. The implications of a new mission, what's to be done, the numbers involved, the risks, the dollars. None of it, as marginal and downplayed as it is, by the government. You'd have to take their word on it too, little time for committee meetings, any examinations to get organized. It's a joke. So, frankly, any talk of a vote on the eve of the NATO meeting on Friday is opportunistic. Think about it. Would you vote to commit the nation to a new mission when as of today, you know nothing? Then with limited details dumped on you? Very solid basis to abstain on such a vote, on principle. That's not how functional organizations run.

Then, after the NATO meeting occurs, are we under any illusion that it won't be a done deal at that point? Hard to imagine Harper's going off to NATO, saying he doesn't need a vote, then coming home to have one.

Why has this Afghanistan discussion waited until this week? Seems to be just more of what Harper does lately. Remember the reporting that Harper decided in December of 2009 that the long-form census would be scrapped yet waited until G20 weekend in Toronto to let word of the change dribble out, with time really too short to allow anything to be done about it. Could be the same thing here. It's understandable, on another level, why Harper might not have wanted to bring this issue forward, in any respect, for a vote or otherwise. So he can play up that uncertainty of a vote in the House of Commons with NATO as a negotiating tactic. It doesn't excuse the lack of debate here, just saying it could be a reason. Again, his choice to bear.

It would be nice, however, to see attention placed where it is deserved this week. The focus really needs to be on the government and on getting what answers and information can be obtained this week, short as it will be. For example, what is the assurance that training roles will not be assumed already by NATO allies by the time we finish our combat mission in July of 2011? (More.) What is the basis of the assurance that this training role will be "behind the wire" in Kabul? How can the government possibly - and credibly - make that promise when we're hearing otherwise, that the training needs will be throughout the country?

We'll probably hear a lot about the Afghanistan situation this week, the pursuit of answers, much brouhaha. Although it all may be too late. If it is, that should be Mr. Harper's lot.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Respect for taxpayers! Part III The trough deepens

The question must be asked once again today. Conservatives: is there anything else we taxpayers can get for you as you seek to improve your partisan interests? What might you need today?
Conservative Senators are quietly using taxpayer-funded literature to target opposition ridings with a partisan crime message as the party gears up for the next election, the Toronto Star has learned.
Conservative Senators have been caught using office budgets to help campaign, here against two Liberal MPs. Senator Runciman is quoted as saying "Conservative campaign folks" put him up to funding flyers into David McGuinty's riding. Are the partisan barbarians at the gate directing Senate budget choices? Sure sounds like it. What rot it is.

Those Senators have, what, about $151,000 for office expenses? There are no more flyers for MPs so it appears they've been kicked upstairs to the Senate. Where is Nigel Wright, bearer of ethical walls, when you need him anyway?

This series is to be continued, it appears!

F-35s in the Vaughan by-election

Time to talk F-35s again and a bit of the Vaughan by-election!

On Wednesday, Stephen Taylor referred us to Liberal candidate Tony Genco's recent YouTube video which touched on the fighter jet issue. There, Genco stated he wasn't hearing people in his riding ask for fighter jets or mega-prisons and further, that there is no love lost among the good citizens of Vaughan for the $56 billion deficit. This all sounds entirely credible in present day Canada.

But Taylor is taking this as gospel truth that Genco is against buying fighter jets! And that this is a flip-flop from his time working for a former Liberal Defence Minister! Well, Genco's video point, it seems to me, was that the Harper government has its priorities wrong. Judging by that Ekos poll yesterday, there may be something to that sentiment, on the F-35 purchase in particular.

As for whether Liberals have had a "change of heart on F-35s" over the years, the Liberal position on this JSF program has actually been quite consistent from the start.

It is true, Canada has participated in the JSF development program over the years, in order to get access to all those job contracts that Canadian industries are currently benefiting from. Former Liberal governments were smart to sign up for those reasons.

But signing on to that development regime didn't commit us to buying any jets let alone this 2010 sole-sourced $16 billion jet proposal. Even Industry Canada knows this. Here's an Industry Canada press release from 2008:
The Government of Canada's participation in the JSF program makes it eligible to benefit from preferential conditions and advantages reserved for JSF partners; however, this participation does not commit it to purchase the aircraft.
That is correct. Indeed, the 2006 JSF agreement (s. 3) that the Harper government signed defers to each nation's laws and regulations on selection of fighter jets (as do the previous agreements). This is a development program, not a contract that we've signed to purchase fighter jets.

Another point Taylor highlights, from a government press release, suggests that the Pentagon’s competition to select Lockheed Martin as the designer of the F-35 suffices as an open competition for Canada, even though that competition never outlined the needs of the Canadian military or tested the market to see what other planes are out there. (This would be why National Defence was planning on having a competitive bid process in order to choose the CF-18 replacements, according to Defence documents obtained by media.)

As a reminder, a Canadian competition would allow for:
· More regional benefits and possibly technological transfers

· A possible drop in price by up to 20% - over $3 billion

· A decision which ensures Canada gets the best plane for our needs at the best price
There is simply no good argument for not holding a Canadian competition. There was more news this week out of the U.S. on the F-35 bolstering the case for a competitive process here in Canada.

To sum up, and bringing this back to the Vaughan race in particular, it all seems like a bit of Conservative reaching into the way back machine to find some "change of heart" that's just not there.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Toward tipping the electoral scales

My blog post for the morning can be found over at the Commons blog. My effort to answer a big question perplexing Canadian politics at the present moment. One of the blog moderators there, Scott Payne, was nice enough to ask me to write it and so I gave it a shot. Hope it may spark an idea or two in minds out there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Respect for taxpayers! Part II

A little Taxpayer Federation head on former Taxpayer Federation head violence for you tonight. Metaphorically speaking, of course!
A Tory MP who used public funds to endorse his political successor should repay the money, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said Wednesday.
Awwwwkward! Since the political successor whom the Tory MP was blessing is the past head of the Taxpayers Federation!
Williamson was a senior adviser to the prime minister and is also a former national director of the taxpayers federation. He won the nomination in New Brunswick Southwest with nearly 60 per cent of the vote on Oct. 23, five days after the letter was sent.

Kevin Gaudet, the taxpayer federation's current national director, said his group has always opposed the use of taxpayer's money for partisan purposes.

"I think it would be appropriate for (Thompson) to pay for whatever the cost was...I can't imagine it's a lot of money but that's not the point,'' said Gaudet. "He should pay it back."
That is an interesting idea that Gaudet has there. Someone should reimburse the taxpayer, that's for sure. Speaking on behalf of myself, I do not support my dollars being spent on candidates in Conservative nomination races, to be crystal clear. No way, no how!

Now if we're not holding our breath on Mr. Thompson (or even the Conservative Party of Canada) shelling out, then the expense should still be pursued with the Speaker's office or whatever internal parliamentary body it is who has jurisdiction over such issues. Thompson's letter should indeed be addressed.

And let's not let John Williamson, the former taxpayers guy who has been the beneficiary of that taxpayer funded mailing, off the hook. That letter written on his behalf by the Tory MP was well timed to coincide with the nomination meeting. It's like a taxpayer funded contribution to his campaign, of sorts. Surely he is uncomfortable, given his past employment history, with that situation? The irony, it is strong with this one!

To be continued, I'm sure...

Bungled AECL privatization in the offing?

Recall the initial pitch on what the Harper government's privatization of Atomic Energy Canada Limited would bring:
The decision to seek strategic investment was made in order to help the CANDU Reactor division strengthen its global position, access opportunities around the world, and reduce the financial risks carried by taxpayers, all at a time of global nuclear expansion.
Now look at what's transpired, word today that the bid process has attracted just two low ball bids from SNC-Lavalin and Bruce Power:
"Both prospective buyers are offering far less than what Ottawa believes the company to be worth, based on a confidential valuation provided by Wall Street investment firm Rothschild Inc. And neither is willing to make a commitment to finance the completion of AECL’s Advanced Candu Reactor – known as ACR-1000 – technology the company is relying on to compete in both foreign and domestic markets.
The assist that Kory Teneycke possibly gave to the process is noted in the Globe report, his terming of AECL as a "sinkhole" while the Prime Minister's spokesman likely didn't go unnoticed by bidders.

Some issues to watch here as we learn more about this...it's not clear how "opportunities around the world" like those in India will be helped by AECL buyers who don't want to finance AECL's new technology that it says it is relying on. Unless we finance it for them? Why would we do that?

It's also not clear how this deal helps reduce financial risks for taxpayers. The report suggests we'd be on the hook for many costs to come.

Canada has a 50 plus year investment in this crown corporation that sounds like it isn't going to be recouped here. Canadians have indicated that they do not want AECL to be privatized. Yet here we sit with what looks to be a forthcoming situation where we get less return than AECL is worth and AECL's potential will be under-utilized. Not looking good.

Stealth: it's not just for F-35s

The undercover PM! "Few witness Harper's visit to city." Good for this guy, the Liberal by-election candidate there, Kevin Lamoureux, is taking it to Harper:
"Under the cover of darkness the PM comes into Winnipeg North and then hightails it out of here," said Lamoureux. "I always thought politics was about engaging people. You have to question why it is they didn't want anyone to know about (his visit.)

He said voters should contrast that to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who has visited Winnipeg North three times in the last three months, including holding an open town hall and taking questions from anyone who wanted to ask one.
Lamoureux said Harper clearly wasn't interested in taking any tough questions from riding residents about why his party killed its own justice legislation last winter, proroguing Parliament and sending at least half a dozen crime bills back to the starting gate. He said the Conservatives tout themselves as the only party that cares about fighting crime but in reality have done nothing effective.

"At the end of the day is it any safer in Winnipeg North than it was five years ago," asked Lamoureux. "Ask anyone who lives here. They will tell you no."
Clear messages, fighting stuff. Made Harper look silly too. Like this guy!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Late night

Respect for taxpayers!

Is there anything else we taxpayers can get for you Conservatives as you seek to improve your partisan interests?
A departing Conservative MP used publicly funded House of Commons resources to back his political successor — a candidate who once headed the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and was a senior aide to the prime minister.

"As we prepare for the next federal election, the following few months are extremely important. The prime minister wants the party to present the best slate of candidates possible in all 308 ridings," MP Greg Thompson wrote on Commons letterhead of the contest to replace him in New Brunswick Southwest.

"I also believe it is important that you know exactly why I'm supporting John Williamson as our next Conservative candidate and MP."

The letter, sent using parliamentary mailing privileges, is one of a list of grievances cited by local Tories over how the nomination contest unfolded in one of Canada's largest ridings.
Commons bylaws state that parliamentary resources should not be used for electoral campaigning. Thompson, former veterans affairs minister, said he believed his letter fell within the rules and that party members are ultimately constituents.
Thompson is maintaining that he did nothing wrong and is encouraging those with concerns to take them up with the Speaker. Hope someone does. A sitting Conservative MP using parliamentary resources to advocate for Stephen Harper's departing Director of Communications as a successor candidate is an issue that should be challenged.

The former Canadian Taxpayers Federation head who is now the candidate (the same former Director of Communications) has commented vaguely on that particular detail, the use of taxpayer funds for his political benefit:
"I was appreciative of his support and I know that other candidates wanted it, they were climbing all over themselves for it, but ultimately Greg did what Greg thought was best," Williamson said.
That's the only quote in the reporting, so it appears that Williamson is not objecting to the use of taxpayer funds in this manner. Seemingly putting it on Thompson to defend the method. Williamson should be prodded on that during the election campaign (and this bit of Conservative spending hijinks too). This is the kind of thing which could help to undermine his credentials as guardian of those taxpayer dollars, sure to be at the heart of his campaign. There's lots of material to be had from the Harper Conservatives' record on use of taxpayer dollars to put to Williamson. That would be a fun one.

Warped justice

The New York Times has a good editorial on the Khadr plea deal today. "[N]ot a legal victory anyone can feel proud about" is the lead. It is a fairly thorough rebuke of the entire case, its manner of prosecution, the premise of Khadr's war crimes charges, Khadr's treatment in custody, the sham jury verdict even after a plea deal was in place and the views of the controversial forensic psychiatrist offered at sentencing, to highlight some key points.
A plea deal of eight years is better, obviously, than requiring Mr. Khadr to live his entire life behind bars. But he has already been imprisoned for eight years. That should have been enough.
Worth a read and, for what it's worth, at least it's a statement of record in the leading U.S. editorial page.

(h/t NG)

In which we get slapped

I really should work myself up into a "Lawrence 'Loose' Cannon should be fired" series of posts at some point. You could write quite a list. Anyway, if I did have such a series, today's entry would be this ratcheting up of the spat with the UAE. This is highly symbolic diplomatically for the downgrading of our relationship with that country and it is a real business irritant: "U.A.E. slaps visa requirement on Canadians." Over 25,000 Canadians live and work there:
The U.A.E. is the largest trade partner with Canada in the Middle East and North Africa, with more than $1.5 billion of business in 2008, according to U.A.E. government figures.
Not good for bidness, nope:
“This is terrible,” he added. “This hurts the competitive position of Canadian businesses. Businesses there are not going to be as open tomorrow as they were yesterday to Canadian companies.”
The UAE are clearly adopting a frosty posture towards us:
"The visa waivers are granted to countries with a special relationship ... built on economic and other areas of close and growing cooperation," said the person, who was granted anonymity to speak freely about diplomatic matters. "The current status of relations with the government in Canada compared with other countries on the visa waiver program is at a much lower level. ... It isn't fair to include it with countries with which we have a healthy and productive relationship."
A Foreign Affairs spokesman here, however, said yesterday that the UAE was merely implementing, now, a 2009 decision that would have seen Canadians require visas. Well, that is a remarkable coincidence. And it's coming on rather quickly, January 2nd is the deadline. This visa development comes right on the heels of our exit from Camp Mirage. Quite a quick follow-up poke.

Now if it was just a question of two flights to Toronto...seems like a whole lot of fuss, especially that $300 million cost to high tail it out of Camp Mirage. Pile on whatever economic damage might ensue from this visa move to that figure.

Amateur hour rolls on! Whatever will it be next.

Monday, November 08, 2010

How about Canadians being let in on the Afghan plan?

This Afghanistan extension talk is still all shaping up and incredibly, there are reports of a done deal for Canada, "Afghan plan includes up to 1,000 troops."
Canada would keep as many as 1,000 troops in Kabul as part of a plan to extend the country's mission in Afghanistan and convert it into a non-combat role after 2011, CBC News has learned.

Up to 750 trainers and at least 200 support staff would work outside the combat zone at a training academy or large training facility for Afghan soldiers and police officers, the CBC's James Cudmore reports. They would remain in Afghanistan until 2014 at the latest.
Additionally, it is being reported that the plans are to be shared with NATO allies in coming days. Well that's nice of them to be sharing it with NATO but apparently with no one here at home.

Further, the AP is now reporting it too:
Canada will keep between 900 and 950 troops in Afghanistan in a noncombat training role after Canada's combat mission ends in 2011, a senior government official said Monday.

The official said that 750 military trainers and about 200 support troops will remain and most likely be based in Kabul. They would remain in Afghanistan until no later than 2014.
The glaring question though, we have a parliamentary resolution in place that says the combat mission ends in July 2011. That is the operative parliamentary mandate now. How can there be a change without a further parliamentary resolution? The manner that this is being done in deserves much attention.

Meanwhile, Michael Ignatieff is pushing for a public process:
"This isn't the kind of thing you want to do some secret deal with the Liberals about. This is a conversation that has to be done with Canadians," he said.
“This government is (less than) two weeks away from Lisbon, the NATO meeting, (and) they are scrambling because they are under pressure from their allies,” he told reporters, adding the first his party heard of it was Friday.

“This is amateur hour,” he said.
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae first raised the possibility of an extended training mission post-2011 during a visit to Kandahar this summer. But Ignatieff said he’s not prepared to endorse a plan he knows nothing about.

“This is a conversation that has to be had with Canadians. How many trainers? For how long? Who else is training? What are your training targets? What kind of mission is this? We have 10 years there, if there is a mission after 2011 the government owes Canadian an explanation,” he said.
Make them publicly propose. The Canadian people deserve that and Ignatieff is right to push for it.

Update (12:15 a.m.): If the plan is set, it may be too late for any public discussion in any event. Judging by the reports, that might be the case.

Support cracks for Conservative human smuggling bill

Update (4:10 p.m.) below.

This report from CP last night on the proposed human smuggling bill is a doozy. Seems that CP has done some digging on the raft of endorsements for Bill C-49 that came from ethnic groups almost simultaneous to the bill's release. Journalists have apparently been bombarded with the endorsements. Further, Conservative MP Devinder Shory listed off a bunch of the groups endorsing C-49 in the House of Commons during first reading. The Conservatives are clearly relying upon that support to give the impression that ethnic communities support their bill. To give the bill an inevitability push at the front end in the face of strong critiques of its substance. Some of the endorsements are in question though.

One group that originally signalled support for the bill, B’nai Brith, is changing its supporting position on the bill, now expressing concern about the bill's impact on "suffering refugees." Maybe that might have to do with efforts like this Jewish Canadian open letter against C-49, for example.

There are at least 2 groups that CP has tracked down that are too small to have offices or websites. One of them, the North American Canada Youth Business Association, didn't provide any information to CP to confirm the legitimacy of the group and its endorsement of the bill. A second, a Peel Tamil Community Centre, is watering down their support too and providing some astounding information:
He’s hoping his support of the human smuggling bill will encourage the federal government to back his group financially. But he also says he has some serious reservations about the bill, despite his press release.

“We don’t support the whole bill,” Mr. Ratnarajah said. Stiffer penalties for human smugglers are fine, he said, but he is concerned about how the bill would have Ottawa treat refugees.

He said he has been assured that the troubling elements on refugees will never see the light of day.

“Eventually I think that’s not going to be there. That’s what we were told,” he said.
"That's what we were told?" Was there a follow-up question, as in, who told you that? It's remarkable if it's true. The upshot would be that the government's tough stance on human smuggling in this bill, replete with a one year detention period, is just that, a stance. That the groups are being enticed into supporting a sham bill. And why is Mr. Ratnarajah holding out hope for financial support for his group, as he states?

What's also remarkable, Jason Kenney's cavalier response when the question of these endorsements, which his government is clearly relying upon, was put to him:
“Can I vouch for everyone who claims to support the bill? No. Do I have a responsibility to? No,” he said in an interview. “We’re actually very pleased with public reaction.”
If you're going to rely upon those endorsements in the House of Commons, as one of your MPs did, then yes, you do have a responsibility to make sure they're legitimate endorsements. Otherwise, the government is misrepresenting support for its bill. (See also: "Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has begun a road show to promote the bill, trumpeting support from some ethnic groups and editorials.")

As a reminder, it was reported at the end of August that the PMO has put communications staff in urban centres across the country to help ease access between the PM and the ministers to ethnic media. It is worth wondering whether these offices have been involved in lining up such support for this human smuggling bill too.

There may be some groups that legitimately support C-49, but it looks like there are some big questions about a bunch of the support that's been enlisted and what the government's role in obtaining that support may have been.

Update (4:10 p.m.): Other bloggers are also writing about the C-49 endorsement brouhaha today. See Big City Lib who did some digging on the Peel Tamil Community Centre guy referenced above and the Jurist who raises a good point about how superficial Tory inroads into ethnic communities might be.