Sunday, January 31, 2010

Harper at Davos on climate change (video)





Two videos from the week, the first is the overview report focussing on the panel session following Harper's Davos speech where the issue of climate change came up. Harper's position was not shared by the other leaders on the stage.

The second video is the full footage of Harper responding to those questions. The video then turns to Ignatieff's response.

And if you missed it yesterday, as well you might have, "[a]t a hastily called news conference in Calgary Saturday," Jim Prentice announced the Canadian GHG emissions targets under the Copenhagen agreement. Yes, on a Saturday afternoon, our Environment Minister casually announces a rather significant matter at a moment where it would attract very little attention and in an informal setting, at a "low-key news conference." They're nothing if not consistent in their contemptuous treatment of the public these days, doing their level best here to minimize attention on the announcement and keeping it far away from any sense of officialdom.

Why would they manage the announcement in this way? One big reason is that the announcement yesterday copied the U.S. filing made on Friday and that is a vulnerability for the Harper government. We like Obama but we want our environmental policy made in Canada. So the perception fostered is of a government without conviction. Its own policy can be dropped just like that:

Environment Minister Jim Prentice on Saturday said that by 2020 Canada would reduce emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels, the same target the U.S. announced to the UN on Thursday.

The new targets represent a downward change from the previous Harper government position, 20 percent from 2006 levels by 2020. Here was Prentice earlier this year when it sure sounded like a firm promise and he even boasted that it was better than the U.S. target:
Now in that strategy we set a target to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada in 2020 by 20 percent from a 2006 starting point, the so-called minus 20 by 2020 approach.

Now we see this, we have always seen this as an ambitious but also an achievable target, a promise really to the global community that we think Canada will be able to keep, a commitment that in fact requires of Canadians, requires of us as Canadians a greater effort going forward than the one that has been proposed by the so-called EU-27, more so than anything that has been proposed by anyone in the U.S. Senate and in fact a greater effort than has been proposed to this point by President-elect Obama himself.
So much for all that.

The significance of the change in baseline years is something to note, it's discussed here and it means that our target is now less progressive than the prior one.

That was the week in Harper government climate change file management, continuing difficulties on the international stage and a drive-by announcement of the nation's GHG emissions targets.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday night



Agreed.

Khadr ruling

Update (7:45 p.m.) below.

Here's a link to the Khadr ruling from the Supreme Court today: Canada (Prime Minister) v. Khadr. Just drafted a post then lost it due to a temporary internet connection disruption, blasted. Oh well. As best as I can recall, it went something like this...

The Court is, in a sense, having it both ways. They did not agree with the federal government's sweeping argument that the Court has no right to interfere in the exercise of the executive's foreign affairs discretion: " the courts possess a narrow power to review and intervene on matters of foreign affairs to ensure the constitutionality of executive action..." [para 38]. So the Harper government has been told that it was wrong on that score. That's a significant point for future cases, it brushes back this broad argument from the Harper government.

For Khadr, they agree that his rights were violated. So in essence, they agree with the two lower courts who also held that. However, it's the remedy that's the problem because, in their view, it is not supported by the "inadequacy of the record." Meaning essentially that the case is shifting, they note that even during the Supreme Court hearings, the U.S. government made a determination that Khadr would be tried by a military commission at Guantanamo Bay versus in the federal courts of the U.S. They profess to know nothing of "representations" or "negotiations" that might have or will take place. So they're being cautious in not granting the repatriation remedy. They can't order it in the face of this uncertainty, is what they're saying.

What they do, however, is to grant a declaration to Khadr, basically agreeing with his case and acknowledging, again, that his Charter rights have been violated and Canada was complicit in that. Khadr is now armed with that declaration and can turn to the government anew for a remedy:
[47] The prudent course at this point, respectful of the responsibilities of the executive and the courts, is for this Court to allow Mr. Khadr’s application for judicial review in part and to grant him a declaration advising the government of its opinion on the records before it which, in turn, will provide the legal framework for the executive to exercise its functions and to consider what actions to take in respect of Mr. Khadr, in conformity with the Charter.


IV. Conclusion

[48] The appeal is allowed in part. Mr. Khadr’s application for judicial review is allowed in part. This Court declares that through the conduct of Canadian officials in the course of interrogations in 2003-2004, as established on the evidence before us, Canada actively participated in a process contrary to Canada’s international human rights obligations and contributed to Mr. Khadr’s ongoing detention so as to deprive him of his right to liberty and security of the person guaranteed by s. 7 of the Charter, contrary to the principles of fundamental justice. Costs are awarded to Mr. Khadr.
This decision takes on greater significance, perhaps, being granted during this "prorogued" moment. The government is under increased scrutiny for its shut down of Parliament and how it is conducting itself in democratic terms. Now they'll be forced to publicly state whether or not they will indeed act on a declaration from the Supreme Court of Canada that a Canadian citizen's rights have been violated. If they don't, they'll bear responsibility for ignoring the Supreme Court of Canada. That's not more of what they need right now.

The decision was unanimous and actually quite short. In that sense, there's little for the government to hang its hat on if it wanted any kind of validation for its laggard behaviour thus far or any kind of new statement to justify its continuing inaction going forward.

Bottom line, this judgment today did not end the matter. I actually think the Court has done a clever thing in shining a spotlight on the government like this, I don't agree that it's a "win" of any kind for the government. Particularly in light of the growing perception of them as led by the proroguer-in-chief.

More reaction here.

Update: Some additional reaction today:
Human-rights groups praised the ruling as a step forward.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, called the decision "a very strong ruling on the human-rights front" and said he sees no other remedy but to ask for Khadr's repatriation.

"There has to be an effective response that demonstrates that this government is prepared to stand up for the rights of Canadians."

Sukanya Pillay of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the court has "thrown the ball back into the government's court, but with clearer rules."
...
"The fact is he's a Canadian citizen and we believe his rights ought to be protected," Ignatieff said.

"The court respects the independence of the executive branch but I think the court is clearly saying to the government: 'Bring Omar Khadr home.' And we agree with them."

The "fellowship of the lifeboat" is only for some issues

There was a major contradiction in Harper's overall presentation at the Davos summit yesterday. It did not go unnoticed by Canadian media. The contradiction was between the cooperative stance in global financial matters that he pitched during his speech versus the uncooperative stance on climate change matters that came out during the post-speech panel session. Here he was, during his speech, (video) praising the cooperative spirit of the G20 in tackling financial challenges:
“If I may be indulged in a personal recollection, what I saw at the Washington Summit made a huge impression upon me. Nations whose interests have been often at odds, nations with different traditions of governance — rivals, even former enemies — found themselves addressing common problems with a common will. In this globalized economy, they recognized that a flood engulfing one would soon swamp them all. So, even though these twenty-some leaders all represented sovereign states, they agreed to common, synchronized actions to chart the same course toward calmer waters.

“Ideological differences were set aside. Old enmities were not raised. Indeed, if you had arrived from another planet you never could have guessed which nations had spent decades mired in hostility. You might call it the fellowship of the lifeboat.

“But ladies and gentlemen, in that brief parting of the veil, I saw world leadership at its best, a glimpse of a hopeful future — one where we act together for the good of all. The world we have been trying to build since 1945. The world we want for our children and grandchildren. It can be done if we act together. This is ‘enlightened sovereignty.’
The speech went on with its call for "shared responsibility" and an "expanded view of mutual-interest." Yet when the issue of climate change came up during the panel session after his speech, the story changed. There's a video report here that conveys the inconsistency.

You have to wonder how we come off to the world at such moments. A big part of Harper's speech, despite being billed as focussing on his new priority of maternal and child health in the developing world, was fairly self-congratulatory for Canada and our weathering of the financial crisis, specifically our financial system. That part of the speech seemed to be the version that he's been giving on the international stage for a while now, the requisite national pitch for image's sake. But if we're doing so well financially, if we're a model of stability, if our debt level as a percentage of GDP, etc. that he touts is so manageable in his view, it begs the question about our obstinacy on climate change. If we came through the financial crisis in such good shape, then why are we as opposed to other nations being so recalcitrant?

Funny that Harper and his speechwriters didn't foresee the obvious inconsistency they were setting themselves up for with its message. Surely they would have known that Canada's position on climate change would be a factor that might come up? In elitist occupied Davos? But...they missed it. It's a political point, but still, you can see for yourself where he ended up and how it was reported by Canadian media. If he was going to step up into the international leader role and make a pitch for "enlightened sovereignty," you would think he'd at least have a way of explaining the contradiction on the climate change front.

As for the rest of his speech, the whole thing ran about 26 plus minutes and just a few minutes at the very end were devoted to the issue of women and children's health, about 6 paragraphs. The speech seemed to need less in the way of John Maynard Keynes jokes and more on the topic he was supposedly there to prioritize.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Alito's moment

Glenn Greenwald, as per his usual, has an excellent take on the behaviour demonstrated by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito at the State of the Union address last night. In case you missed it, here is what happened, incredibly, when Obama addressed the Court's recent decision, Citizens United, the decision which opens the floodgates for corporate money in U.S. elections:



Greenwald fully explains why this was so inappropriate:
As I wrote at the time, I thought the condemnations of Rep. Joe Wilson's heckling of Barack Obama during his September health care speech were histrionic and excessive. Wilson and Obama are both political actors, it occurred in the middle of a political speech about a highly political dispute, and while the outburst was indecorous and impolite, Obama is not entitled to be treated as royalty. That was all much ado about nothing. By contrast, the behavior of Justice Alito at last night's State of the Union address -- visibly shaking his head and mouthing the words "not true" when Obama warned of the dangers of the Court's Citizens United ruling -- was a serious and substantive breach of protocol that reflects very poorly on Alito and only further undermines the credibility of the Court. It has nothing to do with etiquette and everything to do with the Court's ability to adhere to its intended function.

There's a reason that Supreme Court Justices -- along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- never applaud or otherwise express any reaction at a State of the Union address. It's vital -- both as a matter of perception and reality -- that those institutions remain apolitical, separate and detached from partisan wars. The Court's pronouncements on (and resolutions of) the most inflammatory and passionate political disputes retain legitimacy only if they possess a credible claim to being objectively grounded in law and the Constitution, not political considerations. The Court's credibility in this regard has -- justifiably -- declined substantially over the past decade, beginning with Bush v. Gore (where 5 conservative Justices issued a ruling ensuring the election of a Republican President), followed by countless 5-4 decisions in which conservative Justices rule in a way that promotes GOP political beliefs, while the more "liberal" Justices do to the reverse (Citizens United is but the latest example). Beyond that, the endless, deceitful sloganeering by right-wing lawyers about "judicial restraint" and "activism" -- all while the judges they most revere cavalierly violate those "principles" over and over -- exacerbates that problem further (the unnecessarily broad scope of Citizens United is the latest example of that, too, and John "balls and strikes" Roberts may be the greatest hypocrite ever to sit on the Supreme Court). All of that is destroying the ability of the judicial branch to be perceived -- and to act -- as one of the few truly apolitical and objective institutions.

Justice Alito's flamboyantly insinuating himself into a pure political event, in a highly politicized manner, will only hasten that decline. On a night when both tradition and the Court's role dictate that he sit silent and inexpressive, he instead turned himself into a partisan sideshow -- a conservative Republican judge departing from protocol to openly criticize a Democratic President -- with Republicans predictably defending him and Democrats doing the opposite. Alito is now a political (rather than judicial) hero to Republicans and a political enemy of Democrats, which is exactly the role a Supreme Court Justice should not occupy.

The Justices are seated at the very front of the chamber, and it was predictable in the extreme that the cameras would focus on them as Obama condemned their ruling. Seriously: what kind of an adult is incapable of restraining himself from visible gestures and verbal outbursts in the middle of someone's speech, no matter how strongly one disagrees -- let alone a robe-wearing Supreme Court Justice sitting in the U.S. Congress in the middle of a President's State of the Union address? Recall all of the lip-pursed worrying from The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen and his secret, nameless friends over the so-called "judicial temperament" of Sonia Sotomayor. Alito's conduct is the precise antithesis of what "judicial temperament" is supposed to produce.
It was a moment to be noted. It says something about traditional notions of civility and respect for institutional boundaries being diminished. It was illuminating and disappointing to see that even a Supreme Court Justice would give in to the emotion of the moment and cross a line he shouldn't. No sweeping generalizations to be made, but it's a sign of the times, that's for sure.

Jobs, jobs, jobs, the word of the week

Obama emphasized jobs in his speech last night:
Mr. Obama appealed for an end to the “tired old battles” that have divided the country and stalled his efforts on Capitol Hill. He promised to focus intently on the issue of most immediate concern to the nation, jobs.
...
He was right to make the creation of jobs and the reform of the far too vulnerable financial system his top priorities.
Now, as the Liberals concurrently display this emphasis, citing jobs as a priority this year, one only has to wonder how long it will be before the Harper government follows and moves away from their deficit cutting rhetoric to...jobs.

For an interesting visual on this point, see HarperBizarro today for two comparative "Wordle" word clouds on Obama's State of the Union address (at the Guardian link) and the Liberal jobs policy announcement yesterday.

Finally here, Rick Mercer's brief take on Stockwell Day's new position:

Gerry Ritz should be fired: part X

Remember the listeriosis crisis of the summer of 2008? And the ensuing Weatherill report commissioned by the Harper government to make recommendations to ensure that the meat inspection regimes were improved, etc.? Well, in our continuing series of posts documenting the laissez faire attitude of this government toward, you know, governing, turns out there are serious questions about whether Ritz is on the job here in implementing its recommendations:
Six months after an investigation into the tragic listeriosis outbreak recommended a wholesale evaluation of the food-safety system, the government has yet to act, food inspectors and a consumers group said Wednesday.

Option Consommateurs, the country's largest consumer organization, and the union representing the inspectors said the government still has to determine how many people it needs to ensure safe food and to figure out if a new inspection system actually works.

They said the government has yet to act on the key recommendations produced by a special investigation into the tainted-meat crisis.

The 2008 outbreak, traced to contaminated cold cuts from a Maple Leaf Foods plant, killed 22 people and sickened many more.

Sheila Weatherill, who was appointed to investigate the tragedy, called for a tough evaluation of the system. That hasn't happened, the union said.

"Six months after Sheila Weatherill's report, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency efforts to improve have been hamstrung by the absence of political will and commitment to improve on the part of the federal government," said Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, representing food inspectors.
The obligatory addendum these days:
With Parliament prorogued, there is little that consumers can do to pressure the government, he added.
The Ritz team did oblige the press with an email. That much they can manage:
However, in an email statement, Ritz said the government "responded quickly and concretely" to Weatherill's report by "moving forward on all 57 recommendations and immediately investing $75 million to improve Canada's food safety system."
Strange how key stakeholders who are keenly aware of the on the ground circumstances, the union and the consumer group, just don't agree with the "moving forward" platitude nor do they see the connection between the money and results coming to any tangible fruition.

Ed note: The "Gerry Ritz should be fired" series began in the summer of 2008, parts I - IX can be found by searching the "gerry ritz" label on the blog.

Getting out of the democratic deficit

Lawrence Martin with a column worth a read today:
Sensing that democratic reform is becoming a top-drawer issue, Mr. Ignatieff – his Liberals are back to work despite the shutdown – promised this week to give more power to federal watchdogs who have been under attack by the Conservatives for not being toadies. That's fine, but bearing in mind what happened to Mr. Martin's high-minded intentions, he needs to come up with much more. He needs a wide-ranging reform plan that will substantially diminish a prime minister's powers.

He could start with measures to reverse what began 30 years ago, measures that strip away the authority of the unelected in the PMO and turn those functions over to elected members. The enormity of prime ministerial might is such that a downsizing would still leave the office as one of the strongest among Western democracies.

An effective leader has to establish firm control, but that control need be complemented by a wealth, not a paucity, of the democratic spirit. It's about humility in power as opposed to arrogance in power. Canadians would welcome it with open arms.
A "wide-ranging reform plan," a very good idea. Call it "Democracy 2.0." There's a long list and plenty of materials to work with these days.

A measure of the currency and importance of the topic, the Star also features a few prominent opinion pieces on the same subject today: "Time to address democratic deficit" and "PM wakes a slumbering electorate."

Chalk River opening pushed back a critical month

Bad news for Canada and the world who rely on the reactor for 30-40% of the world's isotope supplies. It was previously pointed out that there would be a 70% reduction in world isotope production from February 15th to the end of March. During that time both a Dutch reactor and Chalk River would be shut down. The Dutch reactor's about to shut for six months, making it all the more crucial for ours to get back up. Now we hear of another Chalk River delay into April.

In the meantime, as always, patients suffer. Here was the concern expressed on January 10:
Francois Lamoureux, president of the Quebec association of nuclear medicine specialists, said any further delay would be "extremely serious."
He said the reactor in the Netherlands, which took up the slack for the production of medical isotopes when Canada stopped its own production, has to close by mid-February for repairs.
Patients awaiting treatment - mainly for heart ailments and cancer -may suffer as a result of any further delay between the shutdown of the Dutch reactor and the re-opening of Chalk River.
There's no plan for alternatives from this government. They rarely even comment anymore. We'll see if there's any word from new Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis today.

And of course, no Parliament in which to push this pressing health issue.

For more on this topic, see: Blog Post Index: Medical Isotope crisis & Chalk River shutdown.

Ekos & women

(Ekos)

Just an interesting sight for you to behold this morning. That's all.

Scott has a post up on this already and others likely will today. One of the most interesting aspects, women voters swinging back to the Liberals. Nationally preferring Liberals to Conservatives 32.3 to 27.4. In Ontario, for example, that gap is very pronounced: 41.4 to 27.5.

In this vein, did you happen to catch Flora MacDonald on Power Play yesterday? When asked to comment on the Prime Minister now raising the issue of women and children's health in the developing world, MacDonald spoke of having gone to CIDA to obtain funding for her work with women and children in Afghanistan. She was told that they weren't interested, that it was not a priority of CIDA.

Here's a link to MacDonald's site. There is CBC video there that shows the hands on work she's doing in Afghanistan. This is a former leading Progressive Conservative woman, who has taken on a great initiative in Afghanistan. Along with other development aid to Afghanistan, it's hard to see why her group wouldn't be funded.

Some are taking the "so what" view to criticism of the sincerity of the Prime Minister's effort. Nevertheless, the government's record is important. It's an indicator of their credibility going forward. Hypocrisy should be pointed out and then voters can make their own decisions. Some of them might not be willing to say "so what."

MacDonald was likely the guest on that show yesterday because the Minister of State for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis, cancelled her appearance. Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay was supposed to appear with Guergis and had a few, let's say, uncomfortable questions prepared for Guergis, such as: "Why are Canadian women worse off relative to men since Harper took power in 2006? Why do we have an even bigger gender gap, in terms of such factors (used in the GGG Report) as economic opportunity, educational attainment, literacy, health and political empowerment?" Oh well, she can ask them in Parliament...right.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Priorities

Carol Goar pointed out earlier this week that seniors' old age security benefits have been frozen since October 2008. The government's justification for the freeze is that the cost of living index has not changed in the last six quarters. Seniors are not buying this however, given obvious increases over the past year in food costs, transit costs, etc. There is some speculation that this is a "foretaste" of budgetary measures to come from the Harper government.

Meanwhile: "Team Canada players eligible to receive cash bonus if they make the podium." The men's Olympic hockey team, comprised of professional players, only 3 of whom make less than $3.5 million in annual salary, will be receiving $20,000 apiece (or $15,000/silver, $10,000/bronze) based on medal performance in the Olympics via funding from the Canadian Olympic Committee.

You might find that comparison of an "apples" and "oranges" variety, but there it is.

The public party finance system getting attention

The Flanagan study on public party financing serves its purpose, creating fodder for columnists to ponder and treat the very system as if it's an issue up for debate.

1. First up: "Forced to support separatists." You can guess what the author's opinion is on the public system by its title. The funding of the Bloc through the public subsidy, as are all political parties, is a convenient front to attack the public funding system. But it's not politically palatable to cut the Bloc's funding, so really, this is just continued griping that will serve to inflame some against the system. That's the rub of a public system, we fund 'em all because we believe in the equal playing field.

The real discontent with the public system from some on the right is this view offered by the columnist:
But the biggest problem with the current system is that it forces Canadians to fund parties with which they vehemently disagree. No person should have to subsidize parties whose policies he or she finds objectionable, even repugnant.
Sounds like a desire to quash the present system. Even Tom Flanagan confirmed in that study that the Conservatives' continued pledge to slash the public subsidy to political parties would "cripple" other political parties and that it wasn't the time to replace the system. Yet the Conservatives maintain their anti-public financing policy position in the face of such knowledge.

As the Americans face a system about to be awash in corporate money as a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court case which struck down limits on corporate spending in U.S. elections and was decried as a "blow to democracy," we should celebrate our own public system and not follow their path.

2. Chantal Hebert also has a column on the party financing system and Flanagan's study today. Remarkably, in what will be received as manna from heaven in the PMO, she concludes there is a case to be made for scaling the public subsidy down due to the Flanagan study's point that funding has led to the creation of a more toxic partisan environment. Therefore, what? There will be more public peace if the subsidy is cut? That's a bit hard to believe. It's a whole other post on factors that have led to increased partisanship at the federal level.

She recognizes the point that if you eliminate the subsidy, it will harm the parties yet she doesn't address the harm that will be caused by a reduction in it.

She also states, "It is hard to see the advent of a permanent federal air war at taxpayers' expense as a positive development," as a rationale for the subsidy reduction. If there's a "permanent federal air war," it's come from the Conservative party. Otherwise, it's not clear what she's talking about. How this point could be extrapolated to reduce the subsides to all parties is unclear.

We pay approximately $30 million a year for these party subsidies, it's not a heck of a lot of money for a foundational element in our democratic system. Furthermore, those subsidies work in combination with relatively low limits on individual donations to parties ($1,100). There's a point we might get to where we're squeezing the parties too much, Hebert's suggestion goes down that road.

These days, when we are concerned about the health of our democracy, it's not the time to be knocking down more pillars. It's not just about the prorogation, baby.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More for the "our money, their self-promotion" file


CP reports on the costs of those showy, extra-parliamentary economic updates that should properly have been given in the House of Commons.
The cost of those taxpayer-funded Conservative government exercises in economic accountability and self-promotion has passed $250,000 - and will rise further.

The delivery of the Harper government's third, glossy report card on its economic action plan last Sept. 28 cost more than $143,000, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

That's on top of $108,000 spent for a similar report in June, and doesn't include the cost of the final report last month.
The fact that these costs were frivolous, apparently of no concern to a government that now seeks to impose significant budgetary cuts. Their credibility as wise fiscal managers, again, takes a hit. This was the most serious recession to hit the world, and Canada, in decades, yet look at the picture above. At the third economic update in September, the Prime Minister rode into the event on the front of a locomotive. These were the choices they made and we paid for it, totally unnecessary.

The silly costs we taxpayers are footing for these events is the big point here, yes. But this reporting on the costs of the economic update spectacles beyond Parliament also reinforces the unfortunate prorogation dynamic for the government. It furthers the perception of how the Conservatives treat Parliament, with disrespect and as an inconvenient hindrance to their partisan priorities.

This time, they mean it

Did you see the Harper op-ed in Toronto Star today?
This week, many global leaders and members of the international business community will meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, Canada will set out its plans as president of the G8 and host of the G20 Toronto summit in June.
...
As president of the G8 in 2010, Canada will champion a major initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world's poorest regions. Members of the G8 can make a tangible difference in maternal and child health and Canada will be making this the top priority in June. Far too many lives and unexplored futures have already been lost for want of relatively simple health-care solutions.
...
As its contribution to this G8 initiative, Canada will look to mobilize G8 governments and non-governmental organizations as well as private foundations. Setting a global agenda for improving maternal and child health is an ambitious plan. But working with other nations and aid agencies on the ground where the need is greatest makes it an achievable goal.

There is other business to be transacted at the G8 as well as informal discussions on security, nuclear proliferation and the environment. But our focus on maternal and child health will be a priority.
Nothing against this sudden prioritization at all. Indeed, it's an admirable focus and I note that Michael Ignatieff, for example, was speaking about this last week.

What's notable is the fickleness in the choice, the shift away from the "dirty bomb" focus that strangely appeared in the news during the first week of January, indicating that it was the topic Canada would in fact focus on in its G8/G20 2010 presidency, at the beck and call of the U.S. and Russia:
Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and corralling components for a dirty bomb terror attack is fast becoming Canada's top agenda item for the G8 summit it will host this summer.

The global economic downturn will dominate talks by the leaders of the Group of Eight countries when they hold their June summit in Huntsville, Ont., but aides to Prime Minister Stephen Harper are laying the ground work for another issue: giving new momentum to global nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
Good bye dirty bombs, maybe another time.

How does all this square with the de-funding of groups like KAIROS, for example, that will now be unable to fund that legal clinic for women in the Congo:
In the Congo, KAIROS funding means a women’s legal clinic to address rampant gender-based violence will be established. Loss of this funding to our critical human rights partner, Héritiers de la Justice, compromises this critical work to fight rape as a weapon of war.
Surely such cuts wouldn't be made if the Conservatives truly believed in their newfound G8 presidency initiative of improving the health of women and children in the world's poorest regions. That is one of the most glaring examples of women in the world in need of help. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knows it.

Recall also the removal of terms such as "gender equality" and "gender-based violence" from Canada's foreign policies by these Conservatives. How does that fit in with the new priority?

Tacking whatever way the wind blows, that's the impression you have with this government's engagement in the world. This is an interesting development, but their record doesn't speak to their sudden engagement with the topic.

Back to work aftermath

So how did it go yesterday? The first day on Parliament Hill post weekend prorogation rallies saw the opposition parties arrive to carry on with regular business on matters like youth unemployment, while the government treated us to a pretty coordinated effort to distract from prorogation.

The word "coalition" has made a very sudden re-entry into the dialogue, courtesy of Conservative MP Rick Dykstra, raising it again Monday, as he did Sunday, on a political show. The Prime Minister's Parliamentary Secretary also got in on the act as did a columnist in the Globe.

This means that the Conservatives have apparently learned nothing from the weekend, which was really quite remarkable, to see energized Canadians in the streets across the country, motivated solely by an action taken by the Prime Minister. Yet there was no effort to address the elephant in the room, no courage to make a substantive statement on the issue. Just reckless, theatrical rhetoric. Some Conservative MPs get it, however, as they have apparently been whispering about discontent from their constituents to Bob Fife, as he related on the national news last night.

Meanwhile, the issues began to inevitably present themselves yesterday as a reminder of why Parliament should be in session.

First there was the news that the government is letting Richard Colvin, the respected diplomat who recently testified before the Afghan Special Commons Committee and who made damning allegations of government neglect in the face of torture allegations in Afghanistan, twist in the wind by turning his legal fees, to which he is entitled, into a huge question mark. The Foreign Affairs department, in an effort at damage control no doubt, expressed that they are looking at his latest invoice but it's not too tough to read between the lines. So here we have the government acting in a manner toward a distinguished public servant that requires accountability. Yet Parliament is shut down.

Then we received news that the Supreme Court of Canada will deliver the Omar Khadr judgment on Friday: "Supreme Court set to rule in Khadr case." How interesting that on the very first day that Parliament was supposed to sit, the Supreme Court reminds us that it has been doing its work, most likely with the original January 25th date for the return to Parliament in mind. What an unfortunate contrast for the Harper government. Indeed, it would make sense that they would return their judgment the first week Parliament would have normally been back. Parliament could weigh in on the judgment via debate. The sensitivity of the issue politically was likely on the Court's mind. And furthermore, the matter is urgent, it's been unresolved for years and Khadr continues to sit at Guantanamo Bay. You have to wonder whether any thought at all was given by the government to the prospect of this ruling coming in during this prorogation period.

So we'll get the judgment on Friday and depending on its holding, it could become a very important matter for the government to be pressed on. If the judgment ordered the Harper government to seek Khadr's repatriation and the government refused, with Parliament not sitting, can you imagine the optics? The perception of a government removed from accountability would be heavily compounded. We'll have to await the court's judgment, but it's a scenario to be considered. If, on the other hand, the judgment doesn't order the government to seek Khadr's repatriation, the need to pursue the government on the question in Parliament will still become all the more pressing as political action, outside of the courts, will once again become the focus.

Colour me skeptical but I don't think snarling, inflammatory talking points are going to cut it for very long for the Conservatives.

The Harper ten percenters: the early years

This is what you would call an antique ten percenter, from the riding of one Stephen Harper, MP, while Leader of the Opposition.
See? Nation building, inspirational politics and bringing people together for years now.

The above forerunner of the modern day ten percenter invective (we've clearly come a long way) was passed along by friend the Rural Canadian who offers these observations:
Couple of things to note even way back when he was in opposition the "MP for Calgary Southwest" was sending partisan mail out on the taxpayers dollar, in this case to the Owen Sound riding far from Calgary!
Second the figures given as "waste" are miniscule compared with his "waste" on advertising and parliamentary shutdowns he is now responsible for.
Thirdly even then I note that it was "Stephen Harpers" Conservative Party of Canada, a taste of thing to come eh!
And lastly Canadians do indeed deserve better ...... than the total disregard he has shown for our parliamentary democracy.
I would also throw in the cost of these ten percenter gems in the modern era. And a certain set of offenders who deserve special mention. The Conservatives, as a minority government, are outspending the larger opposition benches in their use of these flyers, $6.3 million to $3.8 million last year. Now there's a cut that could be made given the government's newfound interest in fiscal management. Lop $3 million off the Conservative self-promotion right there. Paging Mr. Day?

P.S. Somebody still has to get that guy hi-speed internet:) And he has a great post on the Owen Sound anti-prorogation rally.

Late night prorogation audio

Just listened to these samples of reader audio comments on prorogation on the Globe site. These are a sample, meaning that the views they chose to put forth would be representative of those received. They are overwhelmingly and incredibly negative about prorogation, just one lone voice in support who seems to repeat the Conservative talking points. The genuine upset and anger among people is evident, not that we didn't know that based on this weekend. But they're definitely worth a listen, each one is just about 3 minutes.

Part I and Part II.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Limits on prorogation

What to do with a rogue Prime Minister who demonstrates that he won't be constrained by the unwritten rules of our constitutional system? The answer is to stand up to this challenge to our democratic system by instituting rules to ensure it doesn't happen again. The Liberals have made their proposals today:
To prevent future abuses of prorogation, the Liberal Party of Canada will seek to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to:

• Require at least 10 days written notice from the Prime Minister of his intention to seek to prorogue, together with his specific reasons for doing so;

• Require the Prime Minister to bring the issue of prorogation before the House of Commons for a full debate;

• Prevent a request for prorogation within the first year after a Speech from the Throne, unless the House consents;

• Prevent a prorogation longer than one calendar month without the consent of the House;

• Prevent a request for prorogation if a matter of confidence has been scheduled in the House unless the House consents; and,

• Allow Parliamentary Committees to continue to function during the period when Parliament is prorogued until the start of the new session.
This is a responsive proposal to current obvious unrest that Mr. Harper has stoked. It's reasonable and, really, common sense. If you have nothing to hide, if you work cooperatively with the opposition in Parliament, such rules almost take on an administrative, minimalist tone. The uproar demanded a response that was equal to the concerns raised about the Prime Minister's power to prorogue and I think this has met that imperative.

While it's been opined in a few quarters that such proposals are comparable to the fixed election date law that sought to restrain the Prime Minister from asking for an election beyond the fixed date, and are therefore useless, I'd submit that present political facts and public demand make this a very different and unique case. And our present constitutional reality makes practical limits on prorogation a necessity to consider.

A formal change to the Governor General's powers would require unanimous consent to amend the constitution and no one seems prepared to venture down that road. It would probably open up a debate on allegiance to the monarchy, etc., and that's likely not on anyone's agenda of to-do items in the here and now.

The point of such a set of "anterior" proposals, i.e., restraints prior to the Governor General's involvement, is to express what Parliament wants on a given issue with constitutional implications given the very difficulty we face in achieving such constitutional change. It becomes a matter of political consequence as to the effect of disobeying such a law. Harper was not punished for breaking his fixed election date law, although one could argue that particular breach led us to this place where prorogation was a bridge too far. The public was not incensed about his action.

Does anyone have any doubt that the next time a Prime Minister seeks to prorogue Parliament that great attention will be paid to that effort and that political consequences will follow? It will and this is a point that was raised at a law forum I attended last week, which I thought was one of the most compelling points made: a "growing push back on prorogation in public is the real limit on this power in the future." It is up to the public to restrain our elected officials by expressing our discontent. We have done so on prorogation already and the exercise of that power will be significantly altered going forward. Public condemnation gives prorogation reform proposals their legitimacy (and arguably, even without reform, public condemnation has limited its future use in any event). Prime Ministers will ignore them at their peril. Mr. Harper has had a taste of this.

Other thoughts today: here, here and here.

Shuttered

(John Hansen - click to enlarge)

The Globe has another editorial that hits the right note for today's infamous moment in recent parliamentary history:
“Many of our most serious problems as a country can be traced to the apathy and non-involvement of Canadians in public affairs, and to decisions that too frequently ignore the popular will…. We believe in accountability of elected representatives to the people who elect them, and that the duty of elected members to their constituents should supersede their obligations to their political parties.”

Stephen Harper wrote that. The words are from the 1988 platform he penned as policy director for the nascent Reform Party.
...
As Prime Minister, Mr. Harper has eroded the institution his party sought to defend. He is not the first prime minister to do so. But Mr. Harper has gone to new lengths, using prerogative powers to shut Parliament itself. MPs – the tribunes of the people – have accepted each incursion on their authority, regardless of party stripe.

Today, Parliament is closed, while Canadians hang on to the notion that they live under a parliamentary system of government. We don't elect our prime minister, we elect our MPs to form a government, and then to hold the prime minister and his ministers to account. But the present reality is one in which the executive increasingly directs the activities of the legislature. That's something at odds with the ideals on which the country, and the Reform-Conservative tradition, were built. Canadians have taken notice.
That's probably enough of a mirror to hold up to Mr. Harper today as parliamentarians return to work in the shadow of that shuttered Parliament. But let's also consider what it might mean in a more practical political sense as well.

The above editorial is about Harper's breach of the democratic values he has historically espoused but has now abandoned. He's also stepped on his own carefully crafted politically oriented values messaging as well. We've just heard the chants across the country directed at Harper, "get back to work." This is terribly ironic considering that the Conservatives never miss a chance to attempt to portray themselves as the party of the "average Canadian," emphasizing Tim Horton's, hockey, etc. That's been a big part of their messaging, portraying Harper as the guy who's most like the average Canadian, in contrast to the Liberal leaders, for example, that they've tried to portray as out of touch with average Canadians. This prorogation has gravely undermined that messaging. If Harper's snub of Parliament isn't elitist, what is? We'll all be able to see who's going back to work today, in Parliament, the official place of business for our MPs.

The privilege of getting paid without having to be accountable to Parliament, to do the normal job they are supposed to do, it appears to have really sunk in with Canadians as embodying the opposite of Canadian values. They have made themselves vulnerable on "values" issues in more ways than one.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A few Sunday notes

Just a few minor observations kicking around today...

Someone's looking very tired these days. Read into that what you may.

The coalition bogeyman made a brief appearance on Question Period today in the form of Conservative MP Rick Dykstra trying to deflect from the anti-prorogation rallies yesterday. He also hauled out the fact that Bob Rae, his Liberal counterpart on today's panel, prorogued the Ontario legislature while Premier. Rae handily dismissed the argument by pointing out that it's how Harper has exercised prorogation twice over the past year, to avoid a confidence vote and parliamentary scrutiny that's the difference. Prorogation has never been a controversial constitutional issue until Mr. Harper made it one. That's all the Conservatives could muster up today by way of answer in the discussion, "coalition" and Bob Rae did it too. They've so lost this issue, they should just admit it.

Below, some more video from yesterday, since it's still the big issue of the weekend and the effect of these demonstrations will carry on into the week as some show up to work on Parliament Hill despite the government's shut down of the institution.

Here's Canadian Press interviewing people at the Toronto rally, the kid at the end is probably the most succinct and wisest of the bunch (apparently there is an ad at the beginning here which you can't get rid of, so bear with it):



Finally, this one from Parliament Hill, Ignatieff speaking where some news was made in his recognition of the demands for limits on prorogation. We may hear more about that at the democratic governance forum that Liberals are hosting, I believe this week:



I think that sign they flashed to, "Down with this sort of thing," is one of my favourites from the weekend, hilarious.

"They still don't get it"

Was just reading Bob Herbert's column of this weekend and thought this excerpt struck a concordant note with Canadian circumstances, which perhaps might be stirring some of the discontent with the Conservatives at the moment. Comparisons between the U.S. and Canada are never perfect, of course, but see the emphasized parts in particular and see if it rings true for our political and economic dynamic as well:
The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings.

The Democrats still hold the presidency and large majorities in both houses of Congress. The idea that they are not spending every waking hour trying to fix the broken economic system and put suffering Americans back to work is beyond pathetic. Deficit reduction is now the mantra in Washington, which means that new large-scale investments in infrastructure and other measures to ease the employment crisis and jump-start the most promising industries of the 21st century are highly unlikely.

What we’ll get instead is rhetoric. It’s cheap, so we can expect a lot of it.

Those at the bottom of the economic heap seem all but doomed in this environment. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston put the matter in stark perspective after analyzing the employment challenges facing young people in Chicago: “Labor market conditions for 16-19 and 20-24-year-olds in the city of Chicago in 2009 are the equivalent of a Great Depression-era, especially for young black men.”


The Republican Party has abandoned any serious approach to the nation’s biggest problems, economic or otherwise. It may be resurgent, but it’s not a serious party. That leaves only the Democrats, a party that once championed working people and the poor, but has long since lost its way.
That note on a preoccupation with deficit reduction taking center stage really seems fitting for the Canadian context. It was the big government message of the week, with "second coming Stock" moving into the limelight. Yet what is the government doing to address job creation? The stimulus has yet to bear fruit in improving employment numbers. The original framing of Economic Action Plan job creation was 265,000 jobs by the end of 2010 in the January 2009 budget, with 2007 measures cited as bolstering the number to the 265,000 job level. The government job creation estimate was narrowed to 220,000 jobs by the end of 2010 in the September 2009 economic update. In the December 2009 economic update, the government didn't make any new projections, referring to the 220,000 September estimate as being "...consistent with recent areas of strength in the economy," such as consumer and business confidence, consumer spending. The actual job creation numbers from the stimulus remain a mystery, however, with no answers from the government. This will be something to watch in the March 4th budget, job creation projections this year in light of the aforementioned already promised numbers.

The most recent Bank of Canada forecast, issued Friday, is of "gloomy" growth and talk is that reducing the 8.5 % unemployment rate is unlikely, despite government rhetoric and the numbers cited in the economic updates. They're good at rhetoric, the Economic Action Plan ads, at untold and unknowable cost, are back on our television screens. But the gap between rhetoric and action? Still seems to be a problem. Youth unemployment in Canada, similar to the stats Herbert cites, is a pressing issue, hitting a 30-year high in 2009. Yet the talk from government is largely deficit reduction.

All this is to say that Herbert's conclusion, "they still don't get it," is one that could fairly be pointed at the Harper government as well. Throw in a three month break from Parliament, it doesn't help the perception.

Late Saturday night...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Great day at the Toronto #CAPP rally

Update (11:10 p.m.) below.

Back home and warming up. It was a memorable and enthusiastic rally, great spirit among the crowd and well-attended. I see numbers varying out there but from the street, with people as far as the eye could see, it was hard to tell. Could have been anywhere between 7,000 -10,000. A great day with friends and some new acquaintances!

Some photos:

(source)

Loved this one, "recalibrate this":



A simple cartoon, hand-drawn & a classic riddle:





Hey, I've seen this one somewhere before:



I'd say mission accomplished, the prorogation penchant of Mr. Harper has been thoroughly called out.

Bravo to all who organized and attended, job well done!

Update (11:10 p.m.): BigCityLib, all I will say is, dude, you really need to get on twitter. It's 2010, get thee to a Blackberry, BCL!

Update II: You can find the rest of my photos from the rally here.

Update III: Awesome photo stream of the entire thing here (h/t).

Friday, January 22, 2010

#CAPP rallies across Canada tomorrow

Anti-Prorogue Rallies

Just a last minute reminder here. This map is circulating tonight (click on link to find rally in your area). Hope everyone gets out there and sends a message regarding Harper's blatantly wrong exercise of this power, two years in a row now.

And have fun out there:)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday night...

Cost of prorogation: $48 million + 222 lost jobs

CBC looks into the question:
* 222 seasonal employees (who only work when Parliament sits) have been temporarily laid off. These represent a wide range of employees, from dishwashers in the cafeteria, to translators and other clerks who work on the official Hansard record of proceedings. Many of these staff are in lower pay scales.
* The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing many of these workers, says about 120 of these employees risk losing pension and health benefits. (If their annual hours drop below 700 hours, they cease to be considered employees.)
* A reasonable estimate for the operating costs of the 22 days Parliament is now NOT sitting during this prorogation period is more than $48 million. While the salaries these layoffs represent, as well as other activity-based costs, will be saved while nothing is happening on Parliament Hill, the rest of this cost remains, no matter what.
* It's difficult to estimate exactly how much taxpayers are spending without receiving any value in the form of legislative progress, but suffice to say it may be significant.
Very tough and unfortunate times for those workers on Parliament Hill, an important human cost that's been brought to the public's attention now, as a result of this politically motivated prorogation.

$48 million.

A reminder of what Mr. Harper said the other day:
"'It is essential that government limit public spending,' Harper said outside Rideau Hall following the morning ceremony to swear-in ministers to their new portfolios."
The hypocrisy and lack of credibility abounds.

Congrats to blogger The Scott Ross for pushing the question.

Update: And note the unresolved question, it is difficult to quantify the cost of wasted legislative time on bills that have now gone by the wayside. That is significant.

Update II: Make sure you watch the video report at the CBC link, the reporter Hannah Thibodeau explains that the figures come from Public Accounts and she provides a little more context around the employees who have been laid off and what prorogation means to them.

Yes We Care



Yes, one more reminder about the rallies on the 23rd. For Toronto rally, see sidebar poster to the right, link is there.

(h/t)

Stock and his murse and other notes

1. About Stockwell Day and his sudden new high profile. If it is true that Stockwell Day has become a supposed favourite of the Prime Minister and was rewarded with a promotion for that reason, what's the basis for that Prime Ministerial approval? Part of the reason, I would venture, is that really, we haven't seen too much of Day. Day really hasn't been top of mind at all when thinking about who's in front in the Harper cabinet. He's been a presence, yes, but more of a keep his head down kind of guy to date, stay out of trouble. It's not like there was a lot to do with China, as Trade Minister, and while the "Buy American" issue is unresolved and now in jeopardy, he didn't suffer much consequence from that (there's a whole other issue there, as to what the Harper government is doing on that one right now while we're prorogued). So Day's extra visibility and high profile are a real development. There's an obvious blessing that's been granted for him to front the talk about spending cuts.

This move may not necessarily be a good thing. He's someone with a history of bloopers and we've already been introduced to his "murse" over the past 48 hours. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but when such matters get equal publicity to your supposed mission, it may not bode well for things to come. (Can't you just imagine the fuss among Conservatives that would be made if Michael Ignatieff admitted to carrying a "murse," he'd be pilloried as a metrosexual, Toronto elitist, etc., but I digress.) Nevertheless, the point here is the question about Stock. Is this what Stock does in the limelight? Does he flub it? He has before. So we'll see.

Not to mention that cutting spending is the big message that Day has been sent to bear from the Harper crew. It's not going to be a popular message, no matter who they pass the ball to away from Deficit Jim, not bound to help in the polls. They've chosen to lead with this now, so the questions are going to come. What's on the table? Is it going to be all of the things they believe Canadians supposedly don't care about, in a similar calculation to the prorogation decision, that we wouldn't care? And the more they talk about cutting spending, the more there is a reminder that there's a massive deficit. The more people are reminded of the GST cuts that put us in a structural deficit and the profligate spending the Conservatives undertook pre-recession on top of those cuts.

So, it'll be interesting to see how long they can keep up the magic pony act that Jim Flaherty has been peddling and that Stock has now been tapped to lead. They're going to try to assure Canadians that they will be blandly constraining growth in spending and relying on economic growth to get us out of deficit, despite the fact that very credible economists are saying it's not possible. People seem to be in a "fool me once" kind of mood with Harper, at some point, it may come home to roost on the economic issues too.

2. A bit of a shocker from Quebec on the university front. McGill wants to raise its MBA tuition to $29,500 per year. Their MBA is a two year program (20 months). They claim they are justified in doing so because schools such as Queen's charge high tuition fees as well. In the Queen's program, which is one year, the cost is $62,500. The problem for McGill, the historically low tuition rates in Quebec as backdrop for what they're doing. Further, the Quebec government is not approving the increase. Tuition fees are a very sensitive issue in Quebec, there is great pride in accessibility. Competitors to McGill in Montreal such as HEC only charge $6,500 in tuition for their MBA. So you can understand that students would be concerned about McGill's initiative and what it would mean for accessibility and student loan burdens. Sounds like the Quebec government is being firm and McGill may have to back down or come up with a much lower fee. Have to say, I'm with the Quebec government on this one.

3. Ross Rebagliati, on the Olympic beat:
"He also spoke about the upcoming Olympics: “I know better than anyone how the Olympics can bring our country together,” he said. “We’re going to watch our athletes go for gold. And even if some Conservative ministers try to sneak their way on to the podium, Canadians are going to see right through it – we’re going to cheer on the athletes who have worked hard, who are ready to win, and who are going to make us proud to be Canadian!”"
I hope he attends. Former gold medallist, should be very popular.

4. Raitt aftermath...the Torontoist caught a crafty Wikipedia entry for Raitt on the occasion of her transfer to the Ministry of Labour from Natural Resources. Alas, it's been updated.

5. I've already blogged about prorogation reform, so I don't have much to add to that whole debate right now. Will be interested to see what happens at the democratic governance forum that the Liberals are having next week where prorogation is supposed to be on the table (and with notables Peter Tinsley, Linda Keen & Paul Kennedy). I'm not too fussed at all about the fact that the NDP came out with a proposal yesterday. They typically are first out of the gate on any number of issues, it doesn't seem to have much effect on the poll numbers. And it doesn't give them a lock on the issue. It's fine for all to throw in their hats. Besides, Ignatieff spent over the last week or so travelling the country where the issue came up repeatedly and he expressed the intention not to use the power in the way Harper has and further, a willingness to consider changing it. The Liberals also stated early they'd be getting back to work on the 25th. So the Liberal presence has been good during a time of heightened awareness of the issue, that, to me, tends to offset any momentary publicity from yesterday's NDP announcement. This doesn't strike me as a typical partisan issue where there should be any kind of jockeying in any event. There is no partisan disagreement on the larger point, Harper should not have prorogued in the circumstances in which he has and we need to ensure that such abuses do not occur again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dear Christian Paradis

Welcome to the Natural Resources file from a not so prominent blogger type who happens to be quite intrigued by your new department's goings on. As you will soon discover, there's a little bit of everything going on with your new file. Consider this a bit of a welcome wagon to introduce you to a few of the special issues that await you as the third Harper Natural Resources Minister in four years. Two have flamed out rather spectacularly already. One of them seems to now be entrusted with no more than photo ops. So best of luck, sincerely, you'll need it.

There's a big health care challenge facing you, that you might not be contemplating in those terms as an incoming Natural Resources Minister. But given that you are the Minister technically responsible for overseeing the Chalk River nuclear facility which has been Canada's (and the U.S.'s) main supplier of medical isotopes, you're in the mix now. That's not gone so well under Conservative management. Kind of funny how that doggone old thing never broke down in 13 years of Liberal government, isn't it? But let's not be too partisan on your very first day (hmm, is it one's first day, technically, due to prorogation...). The main point here, those in Quebec in particular are getting quite concerned about the shortage, you might have seen recent articles like this one: "Isotopes: le Québec ne peut plus étirer l'élastique." Translation (which you don't need): on isotopes, the elastic has been stretched to the limit. So best of luck in countering the voices from your home province in particular, they've been quite vocal on the isotope file, not a task I would underestimate if I were you: "Ce gouvernement a une obligation morale de révéler ce qu'il entend faire pour assurer ce service essentiel." Lamoureux, Urbain, names you will get to know.

Let's see, what else...oh yes, the privatization of AECL. Part of the Conservative ideological agenda, hiving off government assets, I suppose we'll be seeing lots of that under colleague Flaherty's coming axeman regime. But for you, it's a tricky one. First of all, the public is on record opposing it. Don't take my word for it, just haul out your own government commissioned polling data. Maybe you should consider that? Huh? Do we count or not?

Still with AECL, there's the whole $1.6B MDS lawsuit thingy, the Ontario government withdrawal from AECL's refurbishing of Darlington and a whole brand spankin' new lawsuit threat from NB Premier Shawn Graham over Point Lepreau's overrun costs. Talk about a tough - and unwise - sale to make. Any fire sale might elicit backlash from the Canadian taxpayer, don't discount it. We've put oodles in AECL, don't think it would be appreciated if it were to be dumped when nuclear demand around the world is thought to be going up and new deals with India are in the background. Not to mention that whole "Canadian jobs" consideration should AECL be sold to a foreign buyer, there are 30,000 in the nuclear industry. And the loss of control over Canadian technology/brain drain implications, well, we could go on.

Then there's the whole question of whether you will actually have much of a role to play here in any event. Not to put too much of a damper on your excitement for the big new job, but your boss has a tendency to hog the limelight and announce in an off the cuff manner quite consequential things having to do with your department and, frankly, Canada. But I suppose that's life in the Harper cabinet and you're apparently on board with that. Just don't let yourself be the Minister to oversee the decimation of the nuclear file. It could really hurt us.

That's probably enough for now, will hold off on that giant energy brouhaha on the east coast, don't want to overwhelm on the first day:) Best of luck with the file. We will be watching.

With best regards,

Impolitical,
just another concerned Canadian citizen

For more on this topic, see: Blog Post Index: Medical Isotope crisis & Chalk River shutdown.

What is the cost of prorogation?

Harper yesterday:
"'It is essential that government limit public spending,' Harper said outside Rideau Hall following the morning ceremony to swear-in ministers to their new portfolios."
In light of that statement and government messaging, it bears asking, how much is prorogation costing Canadians, in terms of the idle parliamentary days between January 25th and March 3rd and the lost legislative days from the last session? This blogger's been looking at it: is it $130 million? A question that warrants examination.

(h/t)

Update (3:45 p.m.): I know, I know, my bad.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Toronto "No Prorogue" rally this Saturday, info & reminder

Calling all interested Torontonians:
We need your help!
Promote the rally for January 23.

NO to prorogation! YES to democracy!

Canadians against Proroguing Parliament (Toronto) has organized a rally and march for Saturday, January 23 at 1:00pm at Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto. And we urgently need your help to promote it. Here's how you can help spread the word:

Download promotional materials.
Everything is available online - posters, leaflets, stickers, petitions, Facebook profile pics, etc.: http://groups.google.com/group/capp-outreach/files
. Let us know where you can distribute them.

Provide free photocopying or printing.
Do you have access to a photocopier or heavy-duty printer? Can you do any free photocopying or printing (no amount is too small or too large)? Also let us know if your workplace, community group, local library, trade union or student union, place of worship, etc. can be a pick-up location for printed materials. If yes, email noproroguetoronto@gmail.com to let us know your address and dates/times when materials may be picked up.

Join us for city-wide poster runs.
On the following dates/times, meet us at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Suite 207, 2nd floor to pick up posters and postering materials (paste, staplers and/or tape) and to spread out across Toronto to put up posters everywhere we can. Bring your friends!

- Wednesday, January 13 at 6:00pm
- Sunday, January 17 at 4:00pm
- Wednesday, January 20 at 6:00pm

Join us for city-wide leafleting sessions.
On the following dates/times/locations, meet us to distribute leaflets as a large group to passers-by. We'll bring all the printed materials, including display tables; you just have to bring yourself (and friends).

- Saturday, January 16 at 8:00am at the main entrance to St. Lawrence Market, 92 Front Street East (TTC: Union)
- Saturday, January 16 at 1:00pm at Yonge-Dundas Square (TTC: Dundas)

Put up posters/distribute leaflets on your own time.
All printed materials are available at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Suite 207, 2nd floor, seven days a week from 8:00am to 10:00pm. Distribute materials on busy street corners, at TTC entrances/exits, and in large apartment buildings. Just let us know where you've distributed materials so we know what parts of Toronto have been covered. Email noproroguetoronto@gmail.com.

Donate funds.
Canadians against Proroguing Parliament (Toronto) is a grassroots, non-partisan movement of ordinary Canadians. We urgently need your financial support to build and organize an effective rally that engages the public and gets its message across to MPs. Donate online at http://noprorogue.ca/
. Look for the "Donate Now" box. Cheques and/or money orders should be made payable to "Shilo Davis" or "Justin Arjoon" (CAPP in memo area) and mailed to CAPP Toronto, 67 Griffiths Drive, Ajax ON L1T 3J8.

Attend upcoming organizing meetings.
We need as many volunteers as possible to promote the rally ahead of time, and to support the rally itself on January 23. If you'd like to volunteer, please join us. We meet on Fridays (January 15 and 22) from 5:30pm to 7:30pm on the University of Toronto downtown campus. For exact location, email noproroguetoronto@gmail.com. All are welcome!

Promote the event online.
Feel free to forward this email to family, friends, co-workers and/or anyone who cares about democracy in Canada. You can also join our Facebook group, where this movement got started: http://bit.ly/findusonfacebook. Or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates on your cell phone or online: http://twitter.com/NoProrogueTO
.

Thank you in advance for whatever support you can offer. We look forward to seeing you on January 23, if not sooner!

For more information, email noproroguetoronto@gmail.com.

The Toronto rally is organized by Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (Toronto), a grassroots, non-partisan movement of ordinary Canadians that emerged in response to Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament. All are welcome to join us.

http://noprorogue.ca/
| noproroguetoronto@gmail.com