Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Great Canadian moments



Citizens doing it for themselves! Yay to that guy and the many around him who seemed to be supporting him.

Also of note, this preliminary report from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Here is the executive summary:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees everyone in Canada the right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly. It also guarantees the right of all persons to be free from arbitrary detention and unreasonable search and seizure. These constitutional liberties – and the limits they place on government and police – are the foundations of our free and democratic society. The G20 Summit did not authorize or warrant their suspension. Constitutional guarantees matter because, as is often said, without them, “even the most democratic society could all too easily fall prey to the abuses and excesses of a police state.”

It is the opinion of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association that police conduct during the G20 Summit was, at times, disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive. In our view, despite instances of commendable and professional conduct, the policing and security efforts, especially after 5PM on June 26 and June 27, failed to demonstrate commitment to Canada’s constitutional values.

The conditions for some of the policing problems that were experienced during the summit were set during the preparatory stage. This report outlines some of the issues that undermined the security efforts. For example, the lack of transparency surrounding the designation of the security perimeter as a “public work” led to misunderstandings as to the scope of search and seizure powers and, in our view, to an inappropriate use of the these powers. The large number of police officers during the week leading to the G20 generated both a suspicion of wasted resources and a sentiment of potential intimidation. June 26 represents a turning point. Widespread property damage was committed by a cohort of vandals in the downtown of Toronto on that day. We condemn this criminal activity and acknowledge that it warranted a response by police. The response which police provided, however, was unprecedented, disproportionate and, at times, unconstitutional.

Over the next 36 hours, over 900 people (possibly close to 1000) were arrested by police – the largest mass-arrest in Canadian history. Media, human rights monitors, protestors and passers-by were scooped up off the streets. Detained people were not allowed to speak to a lawyer or to their families. Arbitrary searches occurred in countless locations across the city, in many instances several kilometers from the G20 summit site. Peaceful protests were violently dispersed and force was used. In an effort to locate and disable 100-150 vandals, the police disregarded the constitutional rights of thousands.

In preparation for this report, the CCLA dispatched over 50 human rights monitors to make first-hand observations of the police presence at G20-related demonstrations throughout the week. Our report chronicles the incidents that the CCLA’s human rights monitors witnessed throughout the summit and, where indicated, reports we have received from members of the public and have verified and found trustworthy. There are, of course, many examples of very competent and professional conduct on the part of police officers throughout the week which were noted by our monitors. We certainly acknowledge that the police faced a difficult task. Nonetheless, Canadians are entitled to policing that does not undermine constitutional values. Unfortunately, we consider that the abuses chronicled in this report exceed the threshold of a few isolated incidents. In our view, they represent instances of inappropriate policing that cannot simply be swept away as the G20 ends. They demand accountability.

The CCLA is calling on all levels of government to take immediate action to correct some of the weaknesses in the legal framework surrounding public order policing in Canada. It also demands that independent inquiries be conducted into several aspects of the policing during the G20 Summit. In particular, we ask for:

1. Repeal or significant amendment of the Public Works Protection Act to meet basic constitutional standards
2. Withdrawal of all charges laid under the Public Works Protection Act
3. Implementation of consultation and transparency requirements for regulatory processes
4. Apology from the Ontario government for the process used to adopt the designation pursuant to the Public Works Protection Act
5. Implementation of better guidelines for the establishment of security perimeters
6. Regulation of new crowd control technologies prior to their use and deployment
7. Compensation for business owners and for persons wrongfully arrested
8. Amendments to the Criminal Code to modernize and bring up to constitutional standards the provisions relating to breach of the peace, unlawful assemblies and riots
9. Full independent inquiry into the actions of the police during the G20, in particular:

* The dispersal of protesters at the designated demonstration site in Queen’s Park on Saturday June 26th
* The detention and mass arrest on the Esplanade on the night of Saturday June 26th
* The arrests and police actions outside the Eastern Ave. detention centre on the morning of Sunday, June 27th
* The prolonged detention and mass arrest of individuals at Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave. on the evening of Sunday, June 27th
* The conditions of detention at the Eastern Ave. detention centre
Providing leadership on the issues, very well done.

It would be good, however, to add to number 9 not just the after incident analysis but a look at what happened in the lead-up to the summit that led such tactics to then be adopted and deployed by police. Part of that might involve scrutiny of the leadership role played at the federal level, in particular the role of the Integrated Security Unit in the security planning. Further, the role of the Privy Council Office in its coordinating function over G20 (and G8) security would be a natural component of the review as well.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

There was no 5 metre rule?

Update (9:20 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.) below.

What a mess.
Toronto lawyer Rob Kittredge, an avid photographer who works near the G20 site, said Tuesday he was handcuffed and searched by police last week for taking pictures of the security fence, from the outside.

Mr. Kittredge said he knows his rights – or at least thought he did in this case – and always politely refuses to comply with police demands for identification if he feels they have no grounds.

“They told me that I did in fact have an obligation to answer their questions and provide identification and cited the Public Works Protection Act,” said Mr. Kittredge.

“They explained they had the right to ask me the purpose of my being there, they had the right to ask my name and demand identification and my address.”
There was no 5 metre rule, according to the police chief, but they were enforcing one.

The instances like those experienced by the lawyer cited in the Globe, along with such arrests created a perception that indeed there was a 5 metre rule in effect, pursuant to that Public Works Protection Act. To be disavowing it all now is just sowing further confusion and there needs to be accountability and leadership to ensure such abuses of this Act don't happen again. But, that would be the optimistic view.

Update (9:20 p.m.): Further elaboration of the above is required.

I suggest that people read the Jurist's post this afternoon for the reason why this 5 metre point is really irrelevant. What's important are the PWPA provisions (s. 4) that permit officials to state what the boundaries of the public work are. So once a "public work" or government building or what have you is designated under that Act, and it can be done so by regulation, the boundaries are flexible. What may be a matter of ongoing debate would be the police applying a very liberal boundary surrounding the designated area, taking it into the streets, so to say. Whether the PWPA was contemplated to be used in this manner and whether a roaming boundary would survive a Charter challenge is an open question.

None of the discussion about the PWPA should take away from other questions, such as those raised here.

Update (11:30 p.m.): Since the facts surrounding the tale of the 5 metre perimeter rule seem to be evolving, this is the latest from the Globe. The police chief who publicly represented, on Friday morning, that there was a 5 metre perimeter zone beyond the fence in which people could be searched received information that afternoon clarifying that this was not actually the case. Notice did not go out to the public regarding the chief's mistaken representation.

Whether police continued to demand identification and conducted searches according to a 5 metre rule, after the chief learned of the correct scope of the regulation, is a question. And for how long before the chief learned of his mistake were the police on the streets enforcing that impermissible 5 metre rule?

Also, regarding the 9:20 update above, and section 4 of the PWPA...that update may give the police too much credit. While arguably they could have been using section 4 to apply a flexible boundary, they were likely following the mistaken 5 metre rule, given the discussion we're hearing. The simplest explanation seems like the most likely here.

Making history with PM Harper

He's off on his international duties and jaunts. State visit with the PM of India. Greeting the Queen in Halifax. It's good to be PM and with such a busy schedule to conveniently keep filling the news cycle. A problem for him though as he attempts to get as much distance from this weekend as possible...there's a mess in his wake and it's going to be in his rear view mirror, perched over his shoulder for quite some time.

There's the historic number 900 for starters:
In the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, police arrested roughly 900 people in G20-related incidents during the weekend.
Harper's G20 brain cramp of holding the G20 in downtown Toronto has led him to an historic place indeed. He's outdone the 1970 October Crisis, 465 arrests there, roughly half. Historic times indeed for this PM and it's not all about the carefully crafted summit declaration.

Then there are the accounts from some of the 900 persons detained, held in cages and sexually harassed that are being catalogued and told. The stories of sexual harassment have leapt out of these reports. The calls for an investigation of the widespread arrests are likely going to persist. And if there isn't any kind of federal inquiry, formally, others will be pursuing it. Maybe a parliamentary committee will look into the ISU's oversight of the policing at the G20 and other aspects of this bungle. And then there will likely be lawsuits.

And really, if the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, under highly controversial circumstances, don't prompt some kind of investigation, then what does?

Compensation for Toronto businesses who suffered losses as a result of the damages is another issue the federal government needs to take responsibility for. Letting Toronto twist in the wind after this weekend by leaving it to a foreign affairs spokesthingy to say they'll "consider" compensation is another slap in the face.

Some are still remarkably calling the G20 a win for Harper, in spite of all this. That October crisis comparison keeps popping up though. Worth some serious reflection.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Late night



More from Glastonbury...

Good riddance

(denmar - CCL)

Dear PUBLIC WORKS PROTECTION ACT - O. Reg. 233/10:

May you live forever in ignominy and may the uproar caused in your wake mean any future government will be extremely reluctant to bring your likes back around here anytime soon.

It expires today.

Love from,

A proud bleeding heart Liberal.

Update (midnight!): Should have added earlier...a proud Charter supporting Liberal too.

What price for all of Harper's wins?


The fitting split-screen image on Canadians' television screens as Harper delivered his closing remarks at the G20 in Toronto. Fitting because as he was reading off the big summit achievements, the costs were looming large in the background. There's the billion dollar bill we taxpayers will foot for this meeting. And there's the immeasurable damage to civil liberties that we witnessed on the weekend.

For that very steep set of costs, the win that we are supposed to value above all else is...a G20 agreement to targets on deficit reduction. Yes. That is what is supposed to rouse the Canadian soul after this weekend and make us feel ok about the bill and the mayhem. He may have some help, it was reported as a win on the lead of the CTV national news last night, for example. But is this really a win of any substance? The answer is no.

Here's the communique as to what has been agreed to on deficit reductions:
...advanced economies have committed to fiscal plans that will at least halve deficits by 2013 and stabilize or reduce government debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016. Recognizing the circumstances of Japan, we welcome the Japanese government’s fiscal consolidation plan announced recently with their growth strategy. Those with serious fiscal challenges need to accelerate the pace of consolidation. Fiscal consolidation plans will be credible, clearly communicated, differentiated to national circumstances, and focused on measures to foster economic growth.
...
We recognize that these measures will need to be implemented at the national level and will need to be tailored to individual country circumstances.
Key words there, "differentiated to national circumstances." "Tailored to individual country circumstances." It's a voluntary set of targets:
It is the first time the G-20 has set dates for deficit reduction, but the timetable, which is not binding, will probably not require new policy actions. Most of the governments, including the United States, have already put forward budget proposals in line with the targets.
So there are no requirements for nations to actually do much of anything, and they can essentially follow their own timetable, because that's how the G20 works in any event. Just like we never had to fear a bank tax's imposition in the way we were egged on to fear it by Harper and Flaherty, other nations have no fear of Stephen Harper's deficit targets. Sure, said the nations, we'll sign up to the voluntary declaration, where do we sign, Steve?

We too are apparently already on target to reduce our deficit by half by next year according to the federal budget itself, due to an accounting maneuver. So we're being re-sold something that is written in the spring federal budget as Harper's big win at the G20:
"The deficit is projected to be cut by almost half from $53.8 billion in 2009–10 to $27.6 billion in 2011–12. This significant drop in the deficit for the most part reflects the Government's commitment to make certain that Action Plan stimulus measures expire as scheduled on March 31, 2011."
We've actually gained nothing here, for Canada, except some momentary manufactured political hay on the last day of the G20.

Read through the rest of the communique and you won't see much in the way of achievement. If there's any achievement it can fairly be said to be an agreement to put things off. Banking reform off to the next G20 in Seoul in November. Fighting corruption off to Seoul. Environmental discussions off to the next UN conference in Cancun. And so on.

Pretty thin gruel for the hefty tab, the hit to Canada's image around the world and for Canadians grappling with the aftermath of what played out on our screens all weekend.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Late night



Back to blogging tomorrow. For tonight, something uplifting...the big UK music fest, Glastonbury, is on, this was from Saturday night. Maybe an appropriate song to bookend this G20 weekend too. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Harper on the G20 arrest regulation

As Dalton McGuinty and Toronto police chief Bill Blair feel the heat over that new Ontario regulation which gives police those unprecedented powers to arrest in the G20 security zone, Boris at Galloping Beaver has reminded us of the Privy Council Office's role in security planning for the G20. The PCO "Coordinates security planning with relevant federal, provincial and municipal players."

This is why Harper's response on the issue of the new regulation and arrest powers at his news conference yesterday is of some interest. He basically put it at the feet of the provincial government, stating it was not his habit to comment on provincial legislation. Watch here at the 5:10 mark.
"Well, I generally don't comment on provincial legislation and I certainly don't comment on police operational matters, those are in the hands of the authorities and we have confidence in the work they're doing. It's provincial legislation."
No statement about Canadians' basic rights being important, no comment really at all about the law. Just buck-passing. Which, based on his department's role in security planning for the G20, seems questionable.

Note as well that Police Chief Bill Blair's office says that the larger body of the Integrated Security Unit decided to make the request for the arrest powers. That is this body, made up of the Toronto police, Ontario police, and federal actors that include the RCMP and Canadian Forces.

Lost in Huntsville

(Oxfam International)

"Lost in Huntsville" is the caption for the above photo (still loving the big heads). It's a useful metaphor for yesterday's G8 goings on.

In particular, what to say about the results of Harper's maternal health initiative? That was a big part of yesterday's G8 news. He's getting some begrudging credit from many sources, for having raised the issue and for having achieved some results. The G8 put up $5 billion in the end, with Canada putting up $1.1 of that total. On top of the $5 billion, there's Gates Foundation money, UN foundation money and funds from other non-G8 nations that take the total up to about $7.3 billion.

The tenor of the coverage shows that the amount, particularly that raised within the G8, is nevertheless viewed as falling short: "G8 health pledges fall short of what's needed," and "Maternal health plan is something of a start," "G8 commitment to poor mothers and children not nearly enough, critics say," "PM musters $5B for maternal health plan."

Why Harper's effort has fallen short is debatable. Not enough leadership on the issue and too much distracting politicking on the bank tax? Harper's uncooperative position on the world stage in terms of climate change action coming home to roost? Changing world economic fortunes? If Harper and Obama really do have such a great working relationship, as we're being reminded this weekend, why then did the U.S. only give $1.3 billion over two years ("...subject to Congressional approval")? Barely more than we did and considering the size of their economy, that's surprising.

Other notes on the issue...there are concerns that Canada's contribution will lead to cuts in other foreign aid commitments in order to pay for the above amount. So the robbing Peter to pay Paul aspect of it may be self-defeating in terms of our contribution.

Further, in keeping with Harper government democratic protocol these days, regarding who gave what in the dollar contributions: "No overall breakdown was available," "Canadian officials refused to provide details of each country's contribution, but sources provided a rough breakdown...". Media have derived various contributions, but still, that the breakdown can't be officially released is typically bizarre.

Tough to be too critical with this issue given the subject matter. But on the bright side, at least Harper's managed to achieve some consensus thus far this weekend. The falling short thing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Picture of the day

A picture that may speak to the legacy of the G20 in Toronto, an event whose policing, security measures and fence building will be scrutinized for what it means about a changing Canada.

(Source)

This CP report from earlier in the day also received wide circulation on twitter, a must read. Written by a veteran reporter who writes of an over-abundance of police who searched and interrogated him on his entry into the Huntsville G8 area. Incredible insight into the police attitude about the latitude they believe they have and a lack of education about press freedom in Canada.

Sound cannon use at G20: temporary win but possibly long term disrepute

So the decision came down on the sound cannon injunction today in Toronto. You can read it courtesy of this link provided by the Globe. The judge held that the voice function was ok but the alert function would be restrained.

In terms of the alert function, the judge assessed both the Toronto and Ontario Provincial police guidelines. He found the Ontario Provincial ones to be more thorough and conservative and permitted the use of the alert according to them. The Toronto guidelines, however, weren't as cautious and their ability to use the alert was therefore restrained. The kicker though...he gave the Toronto police the opportunity to adopt the Ontario Provincial force's guidelines and therefore proceed with the use of the alert function. They have done so.

This is good news in that the high decibel level alert will not be used against protesters, unless it occurs according to the stricter OPP guidelines.

There may be bad news for our law enforcement regime in the long run. The judge has stated the matter should proceed to trial. The approval of these devices by the province remains in issue. If the sound cannons are deemed to be "weapons," and therefore requiring approval by the province, then clearly there are issues here about how the law has been followed in the lead up to the G20:
[104] In my view it necessarily follows that a serious question for trial also exists as to whether LRADs are “weapons” within the meaning of section 14(1) of the Regulation. If, after the hearing of the application on the merits, it is found that LRADs are weapons, then there is no dispute that the consent of the Solicitor General has not been secured and section 14(1) of the Regulation not followed. If the court finds that they are not weapons, then the consent of the Solicitor General was not required. On this motion I need not drill down into the merits of this issue. The arguments and evidence advanced by the parties satisfy me that a serious question for trial exists on whether LRADs fall within the category of “weapons” within the meaning of the Regulation. (emphasis added)
So, potentially, we could be in a situation where it is found that proper approvals have not been followed with the use of these devices. In the meantime, they're being used. Also note this part in the judge's decision, furthering the point:
[118] I also accept the applicants‟ contention that deployment of the LRADs without proper statutory authorization, if such authorization is required, could constitute irreparable harm to the public interest in the sense of avoiding or undermining an established statutory regime. Regulation 926 under the Police Services Act reflects a legislative decision to place control over the selection and use of devices that could function as weapons in civilian, not police, hands. I accept the applicants‟ submission that:
“the requirement of Ministry approval under Regulation 926 is aimed at ensuring accountability, consistency and a measure of public oversight in the police‟s deployment of weapons and use of force. It is also aimed at ensuring that new weapons technologies conform to established technical standards, and may be safely deployed.”
Failure by a police force to secure approval from the Solicitor General for the use of a weapon constitutes a form of irreparable harm for purposes of injunction analysis. (emphasis added)
So a mixed bag on this one today. The haste in which these devices were rolled out has advantaged their use and basically avoided provincial scrutiny, exploiting the grey area of the term "weapon." Score one for police pushing the limits in a context of lax civilian oversight.

That democratic deficit continuing to show here...

More coverage here.

The G20 democratic deficit is showing

This is quite the G20 development, a regulation (text here) has been passed in a very quiet manner that permits police to arrest persons who come within 5 metres (16 ft) of the security zone if those persons refuse to identify themselves or agree to a police search: "G20 law gives police sweeping powers to arrest people." It expires on Monday, having a one-week life span. Seems no one would have known about it but for caged arrests that have begun. Like the sound cannons, there are lots of legal surprises coming with this G20.

Cabinets do have the power to enact regulations, but this does not seem to be a run of the mill boring old regulation of the giving-effect-to-a-statute's-provisions variety. While it has appeared online, as noted by the report, it hasn't been formally published yet where notice would have been publicly and properly conveyed. It won't be published until July 3, after the summit is over. So there's arbitrariness here, this is a regulation that's basically being hauled out against an unknowing citizenry. This doesn't foster trust in the process.

Surely this request for the arrest authority to be put in place could have been handled over these many months in an open forum given its controversial nature? We've known since early December that the G20 would be in Toronto. Or, failing that, at least with sufficient formal notice having been given so it could be challenged? It was passed by the cabinet on June 2 after an "extraordinary request" by the police chief.

An arrest that has been made under the regulation also raises questions about whether it is being applied as contemplated. The Ontario ministry spokesperson quoted in the Star report says that "the law only affects those trying to enter the security zone," which is what the text of the regulation indicates too (link), that it's about entry. But student Dave Vasey who was arrested was "exploring the G20 security perimeter with a friend when they were stopped by police and asked for identification." Doesn't sound like he was trying to enter at all.

The regulation is time limited, yes, and if there were a Charter challenge of the regulation, it would occur long past the time this one will be off the books. You can see the argument here about this regulation infringing the right to be free from unreasonable search, or infringing free assembly rights and the government in turn seeking to justify the infringement due to the security risks...but for now at the summit, this regulation of highly questionable legitimacy will be applied in Toronto, without challenge.

Very bad precedent.

Summit cost scrap rolls on!

The Globe hauls out business executives to make the case that we the taxpayers should look at the billion plus being spent on the G8 and G20 as an investment. Not an expense. Silly us! Plus, business leaders get to meet and there may be economic gains down the road. All of which still doesn't go to the heart of the issue. It's not that it's bad to have these summits, it's the execution of this one by the Harper government that looks to be very off. Would love to see any of these CEOs justify such decision making and "investment" to their own shareholders.

Not all business types are in that camp though, watch the Dragon Den guy (the one who went out with Sarah McLachlan, pop culture note for you) lay into the decision making and cost on this CBC video clip (move cursor to 1 hr 30 min mark) .

And for today's view raising questions, once again, about the costs see: "G20: Canada’s billion-dollar summit mystery." Those economic gains haven't transpired for Pittsburgh but I suppose it's early.

Whether there will be progress or not seems open-ended at this point too. From a report last night:
Last minute talks were yielding little in the way of substantive agreement and issues like the global economic recovery, financial regulation, international development and climate change were up in the air, sources said.
Given the costs of hosting, the progress achieved deserves big scrutiny.

Harper hides with Hu

Here:
Hu and Harper held a bilateral meeting earlier in the day but there was no joint news conference afterwards as is normally custom when a foreign leader visits.
Here:
Le gouvernement conservateur tient peut-être un discours ferme face à la Chine sur la question des droits de la personne, mais quand la situation se présente, il préfère plier et accéder aux demandes de censure du gouvernement communiste. Le bureau du premier ministre Stephen Harper a accepté d'annuler une conférence de presse conjointe pour empêcher des journalistes chinois critiques de Beijing d'y assister.
Here:
Chinese President Hu Jintao was kept well-insulated from controversy during his visit to Ottawa on Thursday, thanks in part to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, which went to some lengths to keep Hu away from media outlets that have been critical of the Chinese government.

The PMO, reportedly bowing to terms laid out by the Chinese consulate in recent weeks, organized Hu’s visit around specific demands to keep two media outlets away from the proceedings — New Tang Dynasty TV and the Epoch Times, according to sources.

In the four public appearances in Ottawa on Thursday between Harper and Hu, media contact was kept to an absolute minimum, with no press conference, as is standard procedure when foreign leaders visit Parliament.
Freedom of the press! Of the Chinese & Harperian variety. Welcome to Canada international community!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Late night


Ominous, in minor key, history evoking, repetitive...a little summit mood music!

Update: This song's listening time will cost you approximately $1,143,000.00 in federal dollars according to the G8/G20 waste clock....:) Money well spent?

Harper's maternal health initiative laid bare

Literally!

(Oxfam International)


Clever visuals to promote the Oxfam goals for the summit. More here.

Update (10:10 p.m.): More in this CP report on the start of the G8 and Harper's efforts to raise $10 billion (his target apparently) for the effort. The upshot there and part of the story line of these two summits thus far, the G20 is becoming the default body for such issues yet Harper has insisted on keeping the development agenda within the G8.

Update (10:20): The emperors have no clothes?!

Eke-os end of session numbers

(Ekos)

Oh for the love of...a whole 3 points between the Conservatives and the Liberals here. Closer than some others of late (Decima this week had a wider spread), but truly, the end times thing for Liberals has been overdone. Liberals seem to be withstanding the onslaught from the Conservatives, NDP, infighting and some media types.

Gut check time for convenient story lines? Maybe.

Having it both ways with Vic Toews

Tuesday, Vic Toews dismisses Kevin Page for his Truth in Sentencing spending report:
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews quickly dismissed Page's report, saying he didn't "know where [Page] is getting his information from."
Wednesday, Vic Toews hearts Kevin Page for his summit spending report:
Conservative Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the Page report vindicates the government. He noted that Mr. Page found the G8 summit security estimates reasonable and pointed out that the watchdog lauded the Harper government for being “relatively transparent, when compared with other countries,” on protective spending.
See how it all works out for Minister Vic? Sometimes he'll take what the PBO has to say, sometimes he'll leave it. It depends on what's what politically.

About that notion of vindication that Vic has though, a few problems for him. The 2010 RCMPers are 4X the cost of 2002 RCMPers, for reasons unknown and these “significant unexplained variances” are likely to be pursued by the Auditor General. Plus Page estimates the two-headed hydra of summit location choice as causing a wasted $200 million. Elsewhere that mistake was put at $400 million by another government official.

Vindication? Valiant effort but...not so much.

Air Obama in town


(kmaraj)

Think these are his rides, warming up in advance. Or decoys.

Oh, and read this.
Lara Mrosovsky works at a children’s garden. She was arrested on Monday after handing a bamboo flag pole to a protester friend. Mrosovsky was detained for hours, she said. But, police dropped charges of obstructing justice and carrying “burglary tools” when they realized said tools were in fact her work keys.

“These are symptoms of the police overreacting,” said Mrosovsky, 31.
The other side of the big show is unfolding too.

Australia gets a new PM



Quite the striking political speech by the new Australian PM, Julia Gillard, who yesterday ousted her party's sitting PM Kevin Rudd via "an uncontested party ballot." If you watch, you'll see her introducing herself, her values, what she believes in as a governing philosophy. Doing so with great poise, speaking simply and clearly, making her pitch directly to Australians. She carefully justified her big move against Rudd by invoking values and issues, taking it beyond her personal ambition, anticipating and handling that likely criticism.

One part in particular stood out to me and if you are interested in the environment and politics, or just plain old communication of policy, make sure you watch this one part. It's her position on climate change which starts at about the 5:25 mark of the above video. Framed in a very direct manner by stating that she will pursue emerging technologies and saying she will do this because she believes in climate change, that human beings contribute to climate change. How simple is that and how often do you hear a politician speak of climate change in that way? She articulates national disappointment that they haven't done more. She goes on to frame the future on the issue, however, in terms of "community" and consensus-building on the policy. She says that she will "re-prosecute" the case for a price on carbon, once elected.
If elected as prime minister I will re-prosecute the case for a carbon price at home and abroad. I will do that as global economic conditions improve and our economy continues to strengthen.
Re-prosecute. What a great evocative word to capture the need for a re-start on the policy, affirm her commitment to it and suggest that she is seeking support in turn. There is brilliance in that chosen word. Her use of it also suggests a case that will be built on evidence.

Speaking of re-starts on an issue, that might be a good framing in the Canadian context, for Liberals. Acknowledging the need to move forward, with a nod to a failed effort in the past (visionary to some of us) but laying it all out in a manner that will be consensus building and pursued in a way that recognizes the difficult financial times in which we live. Maybe there's a better way of going about it but this seemed like a nuanced, reasonable position that's worth considering.

Chalk River update post-earthquake

Latest Chalk River update on getting the isotope producing NRU back on track includes this bit of news on the earthquake's effects:
"AECL also reports that initial inspections of NRU following the seismic event experienced in the Ottawa Valley on the afternoon of June 23 confirm that the seismic instruments that protect the reactor were not activated and no injuries occurred. A detailed walk-down of the NRU facility is in progress to confirm no damage to equipment or structures."
Also, there's a bit of a glitch mentioned in the update (airborne tritium part) but the statement says that it's not a problem in terms of regulatory levels. Otherwise, they say they're still on track for resumption of isotope production by the end of July.

Precarious, as always.

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The bailout is in the eye of the beholder?

Frances Russell offers some context for the ongoing saga of the G20 bank tax discussions:
The real charade is Canada's preaching to the world about the strengths of Canada's banking system -- and using that "strength" to lead the opposition to an international bank tax -- while giving Canada's banks a massive bailout.

The financial media have virtually ignored Ottawa's $200-billion low-interest line of credit to help Canada's banks weather the recession and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.'s $125-billion purchase of questionable mortgages and other rotten paper held by the banks when the crash came in the fall of 2008.
The banks, though, don't see it this way and here was the Canadian Bankers Association yesterday:
“Unlike banks in other countries, Canada’s banks have not experienced financial difficulties and did not need taxpayer-funded government bailouts,” said the bankers’ group.

“That’s because our banks have been prudent and well-managed and we have a balanced approach to regulation in this country.
And that latter view is the one that has become conventional wisdom. Background to keep in mind as the Europeans bring their bank tax arguments to the G20 "debate" on the issue this weekend.

Late aft G20 round-up: the earth shakes!

Update (8:25 p.m.) below.

1. Earthquake hits NDP news conference! News conference wasn't exactly G20 related, but the earthquake has set the tone for the G20 event!



2. The decision on the injunction to ban police from using the sound cannons during the G20 is to come on Friday after hearings today. Best report today seems to be this one.

3. Some pics from fortress Toronto today...police still travelling in packs and with lunches!


(Both kmaraj)

4. In other earth shaking news, this Star report on the arrest of a Toronto man in the lead up to the G20 notes the publication ban in effect but does give details on Byron Sonne's employment as a "respected computer security specialist" and someone interested in the G20 costs and security effort.
The man arrested on G20-related charges Tuesday night was reportedly planning to monitor police scanners during the summit and feed information to protesters.
...
“He was more critical of the whole circus, as it were,” Hirsh recalled. “I would definitely put him in the camp of people who felt the billion plus dollars (in security costs) was scandalous.”

Hirsh said he suspects Sonne’s arrest may have stemmed from his plans to monitor and disseminate police information. He also said Sonne could have been deliberately baiting security officials; at the same May meeting, Donne mentioned he was testing security officials by purchasing items online he knew would raise red flags.

“I suspect that this may just be a stunt and perhaps a stunt that got out of hand,” Hirsh said.
...
Sonne was charged with intimidation of a justice system participant by threat, intimidation of justice system participant by watch and beset, mischief interfere with property, attempt mischief, possession of explosive for unlawful purpose and weapons dangerous.

The Criminal Code defines the charges as including “sending false messages . . . with intent to provoke a state of fear in a group of persons or the public.” The mischief charges include computer data as property, while “weapons dangerous” is a general category for weapons that aren’t guns or knives.
"Bomb plot" as hyped by AFP or largely mischief? The context seems instructive but there is a publication ban so we don't know all the details.

5. Oh, I'm sure this is all perfectly normal, give in to the spin! "PMO foreign policy adviser leaves ahead of G8, G20 summits." Everything that happens in the PMO is according to plan!

6. The Parliamentary Budget Office is weighing in on the G8/G20 costs. Being cautious yet still underscoring the historic costs of these events.
...Page found that the Huntsville G8 costs are at least in the same ball-park as the 2002 event, once inflation is taken into consideration.

That can't be said for Toronto, where costs are expected to escalate to about $600 million, about twice the publicly-available accounting of past summits in other parts of the world.
Much more to come on this, that's for sure.

Update (8:25 p.m.): Apparently the NDP news conference was supposed to be G20 related in part. Noted and confirmed that it was a proper part then of the late aft G20 round-up!

Exclamation marks will cease once this thing is over!

The foto of the day

Update (3:00 p.m. and 6:10 p.m.) below.

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks at a map of Canada while wrestling with his cabinet (pictured) over which Conservative ridings will get the 12 new prisons at a cost of $2 billion as a result of the Conservatives' latest boondoggle, their Truth in Sentencing legislation, in the Langevin Block in Ottawa, June 21, 2010." (Photo by Jason Ransom)
(Source: including much less realistic caption.)

Update (3:00 p.m.): One more!



(From TT, blog badge guru!)

Update (6:10 p.m.): Constant Vigilance points out that Harper seems to have his back to us in a lot of these shots. Message? Heh.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Late night

Truth in G20 polling

Greg Weston used his column today to take on the odd reporting on that Harris Decima poll that we saw on Sunday, the one that purportedly told us that Canadians don't care about the billion dollar cost of the G20 summit and are oh so on board with hosting international summits: "G20 poll dance." Weston, who has been keenly reporting on the excess G20 costs, points out that a lot of the questions were posed without the price tag being presented to respondents. Once they heard it...
Finally, the pollster got around to the $1-billion cost of putting on the two summits.

The result?

Almost 60% said the cost of Canada’s hosting the summits was “not worth it.”
Good to see a little bit of media matters-like checking by Weston here. That was indeed a puzzler of a report the other day that buried the lead: of course Canadians think these costs are way over the top.

Citizens getting the VIP treatment

(kmaraj)
VIP friends at your beck and call for all your civic needs! Papers please!

A reader tells of the new friends seen on the streets of G20 Toronto, adding colour to a typical excursion:
I feel so important!
I had an x-ray at Mt Sinai, decided, because of the rain, to go around the loop to Queen’s Park station. I did see a few cops around.
On the way back, a group of about six went into the Hydro building. And another group of about six escorted me into the subway. Now that’s classy. I felt so safe.
6 to 1 ratio! Can't beat that.

Update (7:10 p.m.): Tag team blogging!

G8/G20 notes: Fortress Toronto!

1. A taste of G20 Toronto these days for you...

(picturenarrative)

(kmaraj)

We even do the G20 Matrix-style!

(kmaraj)

2. But...the terror risk is low!
The upcoming G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto do not appear to be the subject of terrorist chatter, the head of Canada's spy agency said Monday.

"I think [there is] surprisingly little on the terrorism front," Richard Fadden, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service told the CBC's Peter Mansbridge in an exclusive interview. "We don't think there is anyone who is really interested in doing any harm from that perspective."
Huh. Think he knows a thing or two about this stuff.

3. Bit of a downer for Jimmer: "Flaherty steps back from contingent capital idea." Nobody likes his big G20 plan for an alternative to a bank tax. Paul Volcker stomped all over it, politely, two weeks ago, giving it effectively the kiss of death:
While in favour of contingent capital, Mr. Volcker stopped short of saying that he believed it would work. He said the concept has been around for 30 years, yet has never taken off.

Mr. Volcker said sophisticated investors tell him the market for such a security would be severely “constricted,” presenting challenges to any bank hoping to sell contingent capital at a favourable price. There’s also a legitimate question whether enough contingent capital could be sold to make a difference if a bank were seriously strained. If a bank is so strained that its only avenue to raise funds is to convert its own debt, then it’s probably too late, Mr. Volcker said.

“It might make the funeral look a little different, but it’s going to be a funeral anyway,” Mr. Volcker said.
Volcker effectively dismissed the idea as tired and unworkable, one of the few voices of opposition we heard in this country to the contingent capital idea and Volcker is an American. So now, the Flaherty retreat is in full swing! Maybe Jim should be turning his mind to that financial transactions tax thingy anyway.

4. How do the police get away with introducing a water cannon at this stage, after they've been challenged on the sound cannons in court, with one of the arguments being that the province must approve of new weapons used by police? Secondly, there are clearly injury considerations with these cannons as well (why is everything a cannon by the way). So how does the water cannon suddenly emerge out of nowhere, days before the summit is to begin, when presumably similar considerations about its use would apply? Quite the scene.

On the BC isotope announcement today

So apparently there's this federal and BC government funding announcement for the TRIUMF physics lab in Vancouver today. Here's the headline, which reads like an assurance: "$63m project will provide isotopes." "Will." Now that sounds easy! Isotopes, it will produce, said Yoda! But you know, it's not that simple. It's going to take four years to build the facility (the accelerator) for starters.

Further, there are doubts about commercializing this kind of research, putting the isotopes into a format so they can be used by the medical community. In August of last year, for example, the Globe reported serious doubts about TRIUMF's ability to produce isotopes based on this accelerator technology. But that's all changed now, has it?

And by the way, this federal contribution was already announced in the budget, nothing new from the Harps to see here.

This little post is not meant to be negative about this funding, investing in R & D in high tech industries is a good thing for Canada, we should indeed be supporting it. It's also a good thing to have a diversified isotope supply, as we know. But if the choices you make, as a government, to create a diversified supply are entirely on the experimental side and don't ultimately work out, what then? So let's have some perspective on the isotope solving aspect of this TRIUMF route. It may or may not be an isotope solution, contrary to such headlines and what we may hear today.

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

Ignatieff's oceans announcement yesterday in BC

Ignatieff's announcement yesterday in B.C. supporting a ban on oil tanker traffic in northern B.C. (Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound) seems to be getting a lot of support based on some of the news coverage. This guy (video) is ecstatic. BC residents already support the ban to the tune of 80% according to one recent poll.

As for opposition, Enbridge who want to build a pipeline to Kitimat are making noise, the Globe plays that up. The Enbridge application was filed with the National Energy Board last month so it's timely for Ignatieff to have taken a stand. Also, Gary Lunn sounds nervous, dancing all around the issue, an interesting indicator of how he may view it politically.

Note that Environment Minister Jim Prentice just made a big show of establishing a marine conservation/park area surrounding the Haida Gwaii islands and waters ("The new seabed conservation area extends 10 kilometres offshore from the existing Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve to protect a 3,500-square-kilometre chunk of the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Shelf natural marine regions. About 3,500 species, including some designated as at-risk, populate the waters.") Ignatieff's announcement seems pretty consistent with that. How do you protect that massive conservation area without such a ban? And it's worth wondering if the Conservatives made that conservation move in contemplation of the Enbridge application for political cover.

I'm not intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the B.C. quirks here, in terms of the history of this issue, but on its face, it seems like a timely move that will be tricky for the Harper crew to deal with.

(h/t PB)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Greetings and water cannons



Someone sent this to me today as a thank-you for blogging kind of deal, have a nice summer, so I thought I'd share it with my fellow bloggers out there, plugging away at this strange little activity we do. Nicely done.

Plus we need some lightening up around here. Too much doom and gloom out there as you troll around. Parliamentary session ended last week (save for some committee hearings, I think), yet the usual drum beats from the nabobs of negativity are continuing. Summer break? Maybe not.

P.S. Toronto at G20 time does qualify as the "Wilds of Ontario" methinks:) Sound cannons being challenged, no problemo, bring on the water cannons!

G8/G20 notes: doozy version

1. The G8 security team moves fast! Exposed as a major security breach, a "doozy" was one word used, in reference to the Deerhurst Inn's floor plans being available online. They're still up after being on the national news last night (fast forward to 7:00 min mark). Good work security team!

2. World renowned expert alert! Karl Rove is coming to town for the G20 to speak at a "Faith and Business Leaders" conference:
"As G-20 World leaders gather in Toronto to make critical decisions, we are excited that Karl Rove, a world renowned expert will speak to us on how such decisions impact each of us," said organizer Charles McVety. "We are very concerned that G-20 World Leaders’ wild spending is putting our future in jeopardy. The moral cost to our children may be catastrophic. Mr. Rove’s common sense approach is a voice that leaders should take heed.”
Rove is going to speak about "...how to effect change democratically." Looks like it only costs $25 too. Hmmm.

3. The Economist still pursuing that special brand of promotion for the G8/G20 they've got on tap these days:
LEADERS of the G8 group of rich countries gather in Muskoka, a Canadian holiday resort, for a two-day summit starting on Friday June 25th. The meeting overlaps with the two-day G20 summit that begins the next day in Toronto. Both get-togethers will give the opportunity to world leaders to discuss global financial regulation, reforming international financial institutions and responses to the crisis in the euro zone. The Canadian hosts have been criticised at home for the vast cost of the summit, in particular on the creation of a huge artificial lake for the media centre in a country with more real lakes than anywhere else in the world.
Mission accomplished! Surely the fake lake will bring tourists from the world over with this kind of attention.

Paul Martin's big week

So Deficit Jim and the boys (yes, boys, no women) will be going around the world today to tout Canada's financial record. Like the anti-bank tax jaunts we've seen recently by the Harper ministers and Harper himself, they're now stage managing the lead-in to the summits this weekend. What must it feel like to be the governing party, riding the coat tails of a former government's achievements, yet travelling about boasting about it? There must be a bit of sheepishness inside of these ministers, reading their PMO written speeches around the world, knowing that they landed on third base as a government, economically speaking.

The world knows it too despite the travelling Conservative road shows. "Much of the country’s resilience stems from policies—such as bank regulation and sound public finances—which predate Mr Harper," said the Economist in early May. And see the AP report here again on the story of Canada getting its house in order in the '90s and sticking with firm financial regulation, in the face of bank pressures (and Conservative support for deregulation). George Osborne, the new British Treasury guy, for example, is looking to cut the deficit there and is looking to Canada in the '90s as a model. It's not entirely an apt model for the Europeans, the chatter is growing on that point, but nevertheless, those nations continue to cite our record for inspiration.

Then there's the synchronicity of Canada hosting the G20 itself, with Paul Martin one of the world leaders to give its creation a solid push. Putting aside the security and cost nightmares that have cropped up for some nations (namely, us) in executing it efficiently, the expanded group beyond the historic economic powers can be seen in hindsight as a prescient move given the recent financial crisis and a practical responsive move given economic failings witnessed in the '90s (Mexico, etc). Over the weekend the Globe provided a reminder of Martin's role in its creation.

Meanwhile, what are we looking at from Stephen Harper as we enter this summit week? The sky high costs have overshadowed a lot ("A loonie boondoggle"). That scrutiny will continue. He stubbornly resisted expansion of its agenda to include major issues like climate change. So, not surprisingly, we go into these events with a mixed perception as a result of Harper's track record on the world stage. Admired by some, dismissed by others. Will we see a display of middling moderation by Harper of the big players this week? China's already made its big move on its currency prior to the summit, what was to be one of the big issues but now off the table. Will there be more agreement to disagree on a bank tax?

No doubt Harper's operation can certainly work the p.r. angles on all of this. The travelling roadshow of ministers today is another demonstration of that. They've likely got a significant p.r. strategy all mapped out for the week, the weekend and the follow-up, with story lines of success ready to go, no doubt many of them around Harper's leadership, irrespective of factual outcomes on the maternal health initiative, financial regulation reform, etc. Harper's summiteering is shaping up to be a large scale brag about Canada's financial record, a good part of that foundation inherited. But you can bet that we'll be sold that it's so much more.

Billion dollar boondoggle: Canadians do care

On this reporting of a new Harris Decima poll yesterday..."G8/G20 ok despite $1B price tag: poll," that poll really doesn't contradict with the polls of this past week that showed overwhelming negativity about the costs that Canada is racking up in hosting these summits. The one released Sunday was geared toward getting a read on the apple pie kind of sentiment that goes along with these events:
Three-quarters of respondents to The Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll said this week's G8 and G20 summits in Ontario are important and worth the expense of their country hosting.

Some 76 per cent said the back-to-back weekend summits in Muskoka and Toronto were either very or somewhat important versus 20 per cent that said they were opposed.

Survey respondents favoured their country hosting the 72 hours of talks by a 68-26 margin.
Yes, Canadians are ok with us hosting these summits. In fact, they might even feel proud in doing so. But they're not ok with the expense that's being racked up when the sample is those who have "awareness of the summits," i.e., those who know how much they cost:
Of those polled who expressed awareness of the summits, 61 per cent said they were "too expensive to be worth it," while 32 per cent said the summits' costs were justified.
That's a level of discontent backed up by two different polls this past week that both showed overwhelming objection to the billion plus dollars being spent.

Summits, yes. But manage the costs efficiently. Entirely reasonable position from Canadians coming through in the polls. Now if we only had a competent government to reflect that common sense of Canadians.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The foto of the day

This CBC item seems innocent enough but it's really something worth thinking about. They draw attention to the latest Harper prime ministerial "photo of the day," a feature on the PM's website that seems to be a new thing. Here's the latest photo with their caption below:


"Prime Minister Stephen Harper spends a few extra moments in the House of Commons following the last vote before the summer break on Parliament Hill. June 17, 2010."
Looking at that photo, you might be given the impression that the House of Commons is some kind of refuge for the PM. That he likes to work there when others have left. That it's a natural place for him to be, beloved for some reason. This, we know, would be pure bunk. The contempt that has been displayed for Parliament by this Prime Minister during this session, first through prorogation, then through committee disruption operations, onwards through the foot dragging on Parliament's rights to see the Afghan detainee documents, has been a looming theme hanging over the session. What cheek then, on the last day of the parliamentary session, to show this PM working at his desk to close it off.

Of course, most people who happen upon the website may not have such thoughts and may just think, gee, he works hard. That would probably be the majority of people and this is why they do it.

Good times.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jaffer faces contempt ruling

"MPs ask Speaker to find Jaffer in contempt." A few thoughts on the news today that the Government Operations Committee has recommended that the House of Commons take action on Jaffer's conflicting testimony before it.
The Committee believes that Rahim Jaffer has been disrespectful to the Committee on two issues: (1) he does not seem to have fully complied with the Committee's order for the production of papers of Monday, May 3, 2010; (2) he seems to have misled the Committee in his testimonies.
This is really a rarity in Canadian politics, it's not often that anyone is found to be in contempt of Parliament. That this case involves the former Conservative caucus chair, hand-picked by Stephen Harper, is a significant thing. That's something glossed over with Jaffer given the tremendous talking point effort by Conservatives to distance themselves from him now. The distancing wasn't so apparent, however, until the story recently blew up for the government. Jaffer had easy access to Conservative staffers and ministers following his defeat in 2008. For all the Conservative bleating that no moneys went Jaffer and his business' way, maybe that's only because time nipped those efforts short due to exposure.

It's a welcome move by this committee, had they failed to act on the contradictions from Jaffer, the committee system would have been brought into disrepute. If anything, these committees need to be bolstered, they need greater resources and there needs to be a greater sense displayed among members that they know the rules and will follow the rules. How that all comes to pass, not quite sure but today's move was a step to be applauded.

Tony's bridge to nowhere and other G8/G20 notes

1. The G8 funded bridge that is not a G8 funded bridge, honest.

(click to enlarge)

Here's a question by MP Mark Holland yesterday in the House of Commons on the G8 infrastructure funding of that bridge:
...The nearby riding of Nickel Belt received $2.8 million for infrastructure. All together, the industry minister's riding will receive almost $100 million. What is he building with it? More gazebos per capita than probably anywhere else on earth, from nearly a $1 million bridge to nowhere 42 kilometres away that has not even been started, to $2 million for park improvements 135 kilometres away that is currently mud. It was approved in the name of the summits but has a better chance of being visited by aliens than Barack Obama.

How do the Conservatives justify this pork?
Baird's answer:
Mr. Speaker, I will speak very directly to the project mentioned by the member opposite. He speaks about a bridge in Kearney. This is not a G8 summit project and has nothing to do with the G8 summit project. Just because the member opposite wants to spread mistruths does not make them true.
Click on the picture to enlarge and look at the sign. And see the bridge listed as item one here under "G8 Infrastructure Fund Background."

What does make a statement true anymore?

2. The North Bay airport was upgraded to account for all the G8 bigwigs rolling in. But now they won't be! Oh well! What's another $10 mill in excellent budgeting disarray in the context of the billion plus anyway!

3. Canadians are irked at the exorbitant costs. Big exclamation there! Our man Clement, however, is one of a select few in the country confused about who gets to be "cheesed-off" about all this.

4. Tony, Tony, Tony.

5. The Ontario government is reviewing whether the sound cannons sought to be used at the G20 are weapons and therefore should have been approved at the provincial level. So we have Ontario looking into them, an injunction filed to stop their use and the police who are preparing to use them. It's a fine little mess that the purchase of these devices has spawned.

How will this news factor into the injunction case? Well, if Ontario delays, then a judge may decide to grant the injunction more readily, to await that Ontario decision. Ideally, before the G20 starts, the province would say they are weapons, let's get real, and they need to be tested and go through proper approval channels.

Maddow's fake oval office address



Rachel makes the most of her medium with such creative segments. This was her fake oval office address from last night. And yes, while it's total fakery and the kind of thing we all run through in our minds some times (well, some of us do, when we see a speech like Obama's), there's something in the very direct manner here, the urgency of the message and the emotion that comes with it that stands out. She spent a week in the Gulf recently, doing her shows from Louisiana, and it seems to be driving the tenor of her coverage since then. It certainly comes through here.

Fun and brilliant, as always.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Conservative spending hijinks in New Brunswick?

This Canadian Press report about partisan games going on with federal spending in New Brunswick got much worse for the Conservatives as the day wore on. Already under the magnifying glass for the billion dollar G20 spending and the pork-barrelling in Tony Clement's riding, these allegations about New Brunswick federal spending hijinks will pour more gasoline onto the bonfire that Conservative fiscal management has become:
New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham says the prime minister needs to address allegations that a member of his cabinet is playing politics by delaying funding announcements until after the province's election on Sept. 27.

Graham, a Liberal, said Wednesday he wants to discuss with Stephen Harper the allegations made by Conservative MP Greg Thompson about his colleague, Tory MP Keith Ashfield, who is the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Thompson, who resigned as veterans affairs minister in January and isn't running in the next federal election, said he has an email from Ashfield's chief of staff suggesting that projects in his riding of New Brunswick Southwest should be put on hold until there's a new Tory candidate and until after the provincial election.

"My opinion, put everything on hold in that riding until there is a nominated federal candidate, and preferably until after Sept. 27," the email from Fred Nott states.

Thompson said he took the issue directly to Ashfield on Monday in Ottawa.

"He said we're not going to be carrying the province on our backs into the next election and them getting the credit for all the projects," Thompson said. "He said that with his own lips to me in the House of Commons."
If true, this would be clearly unacceptable partisan manipulation of government funds for Conservative gain. And smoked out by a freed up exiting Conservative from the federal scene. Conservative MP Greg Thompson spoke out this afternoon on CBC's Power & Politics on the issue, that video, now online is worth watching and this Telegraph Journal report from earlier today referencing the email in question also worth a read. Thompson seemed to be laying the responsibility at the feet of a Conservative staffer, what you might expect from a Conservative MP politely trying to shield a fellow Conservative from the heat. But as we know, the Conservatives are all about ministerial accountability, right?

Permission to Sham Wow, ma'am?


I would like to know how this all works out in the Ethics Commissioner's office too:
Thank you for your letter of June 10, 2010, in which you indicated that you will not be conducting an inquiry or an examination into the allegations I have put forward against the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, when he was the Minister of Health.

You refer to August 12, 2008, when an official from Mr. Clements’s Ministerial office called you to ask if Mr. Clement would be in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act if he appeared in a promotional video on behalf of Lord & Partners Ltd., a company in his riding. Based on the information provided to your office at that time, you relayed to him that it would not violate the Act.
Telephone clearance to sham wow! How does this actually work though? Is it an honour system of some kind that the Ethics Commissioner relies upon with such requests?
...I also request that you disclose whether you had any knowledge of the following facts when you approved Mr. Clement’s participation in the video:
• that Mr. Clement would be using his official title of Minister of Health and would be specifically representing himself as representing the Government of Canada in the promotional video; and

• that George Young, the individual who produced the video, was a close friend and key political supporter of Mr. Clement. Indeed, Mr. Young received a federal appointment that was directly authorized by Mr. Clement in 2009 to the board of directors of the Canadian Tourism Commission.
I'm sure Tony and the boys disclosed all that, right?

The ethics train wreck rolls on!