Saturday, January 31, 2009

Write your own caption

(Reuters)

Here's mine...what Canadian voters will be doing to the Conservatives in the next election now that they are finally clueing in to Conservative incompetence...:)

Update (3:40 p.m.): Reader TT:
"Just like this BonHomme, I kick Quebec to the curb after the last election."
Heh...:)

Update II (Sunday 6:35 p.m.): See comment at 10:28 a.m....I think we have a winner...:)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday night music



Oh, it's the usual...



Shout out to Mentarch, nice theme over there...:)

Fun in the Senate

A follow-up to Senator Elaine McCoy's post earlier today at "Hullabaloos" where she alerted us to the bill that Senator Lowell Murray has initiated in the Senate to repeal Harper's fixed election date law...

How interesting is this given who Murray is. Brian Mulroney's alter-ego during the Meech Lake era who led the charge for it as Mulroney's constitutional go-to guy and Minister of Federal-Provincial Relations.  It's not clear how close the two remain.  But we still have a Progressive Conservative Senator and historical Mulroney ally here, in effect embarrassing Harper with this move. Note some of Murray's remarks in the Senate, firmly rebuking Harper:
The bill that we passed into law is a facade. It is misleading; I would almost say it was intended to mislead. In any case, it is of no force or effect.

In the run-up to the dissolution last fall, the Prime Minister was quoted — I can point to other quotations but I will sum it up with one quotation from a press conference he gave at the Library and Archives Canada on August 26, which states:

"We are clear. You can only have certainty about a fixed election date in the context of a majority government."

We heard nothing of that view in the debate on Bill C-16.
Then, with tongue-in-cheek:
Honourable senators, we have had our eyes opened by experience with this law. The Prime Minister has demonstrated beyond any possibility of doubt that the law is a nullity; that it is meaningless. Therefore, let us redeem ourselves and him by removing this embarrassment from the statute books of our country.
Murray also took the opportunity to highlight the schism in the conservative pool that still exists for some of the Progressive Conservative variety:
This is a sop. This bill that we passed — too readily, in my view — was a sop to the Reform-Alliance base. There is nothing wrong with that. However, it was a sop to that unending fascination they have with importing piecemeal parts of the United States congressional system.
Zing!  One final note from that debate, the big question was posed, in case anyone is wondering about October, 2009:
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Could the Honourable senator advise us whether, in his opinion, there is a requirement for an election in October 2009 if the Canada Elections Act is not amended?

Senator Murray: I think not because, to paraphrase the bill the phrase states that unless there is an early dissolution, the next election willing be held on such a date. There was an earlier dissolution and I would not worry about renting the planes for October 2009 because of Bill C-16.
All in all, an intriguing development out of the Senate.  H/t to Senator McCoy for sharing.

Addition of Twitter to the blog

As you will see in the right sidebar, I've decided to hop on to the Twitter micro-blogging phenomenon. At first, I signed in just to reserve my blog name and had planned to mull over the actual use of it for a while. I've been reading posts here and there over the past few months by bloggers who have started using it only to discard it. But then a few people added me to their follow list so now I'm caught. Blasted!

I can see how it would come in handy though and it seems to me it's all in the using. My intention is to use it for short blog entries - with 140 characters, there's nothing else possible - on events and issues in order to supplement the blog where I may not be interested in writing a full-blown post or may not have the time. The ability to update quickly by using a mobile device is also an attraction (even though you can do that with Blogger). Further, I can see this being quite useful when a major political event is unfolding. Quick thoughts can be entered in the absence of the restraints you face when composing a blog entry. Live blogging a political debate would be a good example. But then again, it's only 140 characters, so you can question again how useful it is.

So, despite my many existential quandaries over the application, I'm going to get with the 2009 ethos, give it a shot and see how it goes.

And P.S., that's not me in the photo that accompanies my twitter i.d. It's an absurd picture that I find hilarious and somewhat emblematic of the Conservative government.

What's the matter with Kansas, Conservative MP Mike Allen?

An opportunity to rev up some kind of nationalistic furor presents itself and a Conservative MP is all over it: "New Brunswick MP complains about school's decision to drop O Canada."
A Conservative MP from New Brunswick says he believes Canadians are outraged by the decision of a school in the province to stop playing O Canada over the school's public address system every morning.
Mike Allen, the member for Tobique-Mactaquac, told the House of Commons today that the move amounts to "political correctness run wild."
Allen says he understands the principal wanted to be inclusive, but he stressed that the song itself is an expression of "our collective pride" in being citizens of Canada.
The MP is urging the principal of Belleisle Elementary School in Springfield to reverse his decision.
Canadians are outraged? I think Canadians may be a little preoccupied with other matters these days. Whether the local elementary school is playing the anthem though is apparently Mr. Allen's priority at the moment. I'm thinking he could be spending his time a little more wisely instead of attempting to drum up a distraction. We have just spent a week obsessed with the economic life of the nation, perhaps something along those lines might be more productive at the moment.

The school is handling this a little awkwardly, with the principal framing the playing of the national anthem as some kind of referendum on the beliefs in the school when really, it sounds like they just want to lessen the distractions for kids as the school day starts. So let the school do what it wants to do for its own administrative purposes.

Seeking to exploit the situation for political purposes seems rather inappropriate and opportunistic. The last thing we need is to go down the road that the Americans do, establishing some kind of patriotic litmus test on such issues.

Update (5:20 p.m.): Might this have been another attempt to distract from current Conservative misfortunes?

Update (8:25 p.m.): Within 3 minutes of posting:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

For the construction obsessed PM



Thanks to J for the tip...

Today's adventure:

Dear Greg (II)

I am so happy that you enjoyed my previous note and find myself somewhat engaged by your ongoing flattery. I must say I was completely unaware of the dyslexia, please accept my sincerest apology. Boy, you've made me look like the big baddie now! But I do maintain that spellchecking is next to godliness, as you know, such mistakes tend to raise questions about one's argumentation and such.

I think we're probably in agreement on such matters as EI, pay equity, tax cuts, et al., and the proof will be in the pudding, as they say, should the Liberals return to governing in the near future. I know you won't be holding your breath, you are the so-entitled "sinister" one, after all. I prefer to be hopeful, a contributor and push my party to achieve such positions. I know, it's all so quaint, isn't it?

I do wish our parties might cooperate a little more on solving common problems. Speaking of which, forgive me, but I haven't heard anything from the NDP about any budget amendments. Maybe I've missed it? And I wonder whether the NDP would have supported any such Liberal amendments in any event? Or were they foot stamping in a fit of bring 'em down pique, in an all or nothing type deal? I really don't know the answer to that one. But judging by today's radio attack ads, that's probably a good indication of where they were at. This is probably all a matter of speculation on my part and I'm not sure you know what the answer to that one is. Needless to say, it doesn't do much for camaraderie out here in the trenches, now does it?

Yours in pursuing the return of liberal governance to Canada (note how I use the small "l"),

Impolitical

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dear Greg

I am humbled by your concern for my supposed feelings of guilt as a Liberal. I must admit though, I'm not feeling bad today at all. The Liberal party is a big party and while I may be on the progressive end of the spectrum, I feel quite at home thank you very much. I'm delighted that you've taken such interest in my political well-being.

I must admit that I also find it baffling to think that you would read my blog and think that I would embrace the Conservatives in any respect, let alone a coalition of some sort. I don't find the idea a natural fit, it's quite unnatural if you ask me. Ask any Liberal and they'll tell you much the same thing. The word "ick" comes to mind. The parliamentary numbers of the past few years are difficult realities for us all to live with and work within, particularly when Mr. Harper abuses the use of the confidence vote, but I assure you, there should be no confusion about Liberals and Conservatives. Did the environmental policy we offered in the last election, albeit rejected by the voters, strike you as a particularly Conservative one? Do the calls to repatriate Omar Khadr strike you as Conservative policy? Is the cancellation of the Court Challenges Programme something you also would have expected from the Liberals?

I appreciate your clever offering up of a "True Blue Coalition," but note that you spelled it wrong. As you did with my blog name. That Blogger has no spell check on such equally important components of the blog post is an ongoing source of bemusement for me as well.

Best,

Impolitical

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday budget day notes

1. Where's the vision thing? Good question:
...as a whole, most of the announcements and leaks thus far – $2-billion for social housing, $160-million for arts and culture, $550-million for farmers, $300-million for tourism, $250-million for a new economic development agency in Ontario, and so on – seem scattershot.
...
The danger, not surprisingly for a government that is fighting for its political life, is that its spending package will attempt to satisfy every possible constituency, industry and interest group by throwing money at it.
2. John Ivison makes a similar point, but puts a more cynical bent on it:
The focus of this budget is not on setting Canada on the road to recovery. Rather, the principal goal appears to be ensuring a Conservative victory at the next election.

If the Bloc Québécois votes against the budget and we are forced to go to the polls again, the Conservatives will be able to champion the $160-million in new spending on cultural projects that Heritage Minister, James Moore, revealed exclusively to La Presse over the weekend. If the Liberals and NDP vote against the government, the Tories will point out that they are denying the most vulnerable Canadians $2-billion in spending on new public housing.

We are even going to see a new $250-million economic development agency for southern Ontario from the Prime Minister who campaigned for the elimination all corporate subsidies and industrial development schemes in the 2004 election.
3. The Conservative tax cut proposals that are seeping out today seem similarly set up for electoral positioning:
...The Globe and Mail has learned that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty plans modest but permanent tax breaks for people in middle- and lower-income tax brackets, with one senior official saying the cuts will apply to those earning $80,000 a year or less. Money will also be provided for home renovations, although it's unclear how much the program will be worth.

Mr. Flaherty will also move to give Ottawa power to regulate credit cards, allowing the federal government to intervene if necessary, sources said.
The Star spells out the politics here:
Broad-based tax cuts, however, are risky for the Conservative minority government, which is under threat of defeat from the opposition parties. The Liberals, who hold the key to the government's survival, have said they will try to vote down the government if the budget slashes income taxes. The Liberals argue that tax cuts are ineffective as an economic stimulus tool and could saddle Ottawa with perpetual budget shortfalls.
...
...observers question whether the Liberals would want to go into an election opposing an income tax break for the middle class.
If we were to have an election, that is.  The tax cuts could be the problem area that provoke some real debate in the coming days. 

4.  Ken Dryden is truth-telling in the background today.

5.  While Conservative supporters are showing their dismay

6. Since it's all economic type news today, reader MM offers this Canadian, ahem, start- up as "...measurably successful and a wonderful model" and an example when "very few Canadian companies succeed in commericalising research, design and engineering - especially after investing a tiny amount of capital." Quite the story.

Onwards to the budget...whatever will transpire...

Monday, January 26, 2009

More pre-budget positioning

It is on. Noted tonight from this CTV report, Harper continues to do his usual thing:
...faced with the prospect of loosing power through a non-confidence vote, Harper urged his Parliamentary colleagues to "stop the political games and get on with the business of passing some of these economic measures."

Harper then hinted that he would push for another election in the event his budget is defeated: "We'll have to go to an election and the people will have to decide this."
That first statement, no need to say much, it's so clearly hypocritical. Secondly, on that election obsession he has, see Tom Mulcair's response:
Mulcair also painted as false spin the Tory claim that an unnecessary election would have to be thrust upon voters. The Conservatives have repeatedly claimed a Liberal - NDP coalition - especially one propped up by the separatist Bloc - would be undemocratic.

Citing the "unanimous view" of 35 constitutional experts from across the country, Mulcair said within a six-month period of the last election, the Governor General must give the official opposition - in this case with the support of the coalition partners - the chance to obtain the confidence of the House should the government be defeated.
That well-timed constitutional opinion may yet come into play (see excellent interview, here). Finally, note the nuance injected into the debate by John McCallum:
Liberal finance critic John McCallum repeated his party's stance that the "devil is in the (budget's) details," and they will study the document closely before making a decision.

"Should we decide to bring the government down, then the ball is in the governor general's court," McCallum told CTV Newsnet's On the Hill Monday evening. "The coalition is a possibility, but that is not our decision.'
I don't think that point is meant to agitate, it's just an option that's received little attention to date. If the Conservative position is that you need an election because the coalition was not presented to voters, then maybe the Governor General agrees. In the sense that we have to stick with the result from the election, in which case, the Liberals would be given the choice to form a government. Which may all be academic, depending on what wondrous news comes our way tomorrow, principally in the form of Conservative tax measures.

Harper's Senate crew show up

Just to round out the inauspicious day for Mr. Harper, it must be noted that his prorogation Senate picks made their first appearance today, among them, the controversial Patrick Brazeau:
CTV broadcaster Mike Duffy, former broadcaster Pamela Wallin and Olympic icon Nancy Greene Raine were among 18 Canadians sworn in to the Senate on Monday.

The senators received the oath of office shortly before Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean was set to open a new session of Parliament with a speech from the throne.
...
Another controversial pick is Patrick Brazeau. The former head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is facing a sexual harassment complaint before a human rights tribunal, charges he has dismissed as “100 per cent false.”
So it's official, Brazeau is now sworn in and wearing the Conservative mantle. The stream of revelations over the past month or so of multiple sexual harassment allegations and financial questions at CAP made absolutely no difference to the stubborn Harper government. They'd rather stick with a flawed nominee than do the right thing. One more remarkable thing for the Harper government to wear.

An ignominious day for Mr. Harper

Shortest Speech from the Throne evah. No wonder.  To endure a lengthy sitting would just have compounded the spectacle of this government offering their second throne speech within a two month time period. Get in, get out and move on to the budget.

But as for the speech, you can read it here. It'll take you about, oh, two minutes. And while it's brief, there are some choice lines worth a look. There are quite a few that ring hollow given the events of the past few months. In particular, those appealing for cooperation, meant to suggest the Conservatives have suddenly found religion:
In these uncertain times, when the world is threatened by a struggling economy, it is imperative that we work together, that we stand beside one another and that we strive for greater solidarity.
...
Our Government approached the dialogue in a spirit of open and non-partisan cooperation. There is no monopoly on good ideas because we face this crisis together. There can be no pride of authorship –only the satisfaction of identifying solutions that will work for all Canadians.
...
The present crisis is new, but the imperative of concerted action is a challenge to which Parliament has risen many times in our history. What will sustain us today will be the same strengths of character that have pulled Canada through critical times before: unity, determination and constancy of purpose.
The calls for "solidarity," "non-partisan cooperation," "strengths of character" just don't ring true in light of the government's actions, not just in November but over the course of the past few years.  Their unprecedented use of the confidence vote demonstrated how much they valued such concepts.  Mr. Harper seemed quite small sitting in the shadow of this speech singing the praises of such newfound virtues.  Whoever the speech writer was, they didn't do him any favours with the overreach on this front.

Then there was the language of crisis:
Each Throne Speech is a milestone on the remarkable 142-year Canadian journey. Your predecessors, too, were summoned to this chamber at times of great crisis: as Canada struggled to claim her independence, in the shadow of war, during the depth of the Great Depression and at moments when great policy division tugged the very bonds of this union.

Today we meet at a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty. The global credit crunch has dragged the world economy into a crisis whose pull we cannot escape. The nations of the world are grappling with challenges that Canada can address but not avoid.

The Government's agenda and the priorities of Parliament must adapt in response to the deepening crisis. Old assumptions must be tested and old decisions must be rethought. The global economy has weakened since Canadians voted in the last general election. In fact, it has weakened further since Parliament met last month.
The heightened and unprecedented crisis rhetoric may end up working against the government, particularly were it to be defeated. It creates the foundation for an argument that it's not the time for another $300 million election. Secondly, even if the government survives, if they slide back into partisan rhetoric and tactics - a likely happening - they'll be measured against their own thesis. Either way, it's going to be a much tougher slog this time around for Mr. Harper.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Harper's Khadr gaffe

Just wanted to add a point or two on Harper's latest on Guantanamo Bay, as reported by Canwest Friday: "Khadr was not a 'child soldier': Harper."  I think this was a gaffe from the freelancer in chief.  Note that this comes from a television interview. When unscripted, that's when Harper goes down rabbit holes that aren't necessarily helpful for him on any given issue. When he's pushed by reporters, he tends to commit errors like his inflammatory "gala people" whopper during the election. Like his "this is a good time to buy stocks" whopper. This seems to be a similar kind of remark.  He's not that good unscripted.  

Why would he stick to this hard line position now, after all? It's hard to imagine why he would want to keep going down this road.  Obama is likely coming here in February and all reasonable speculation tends to think that Khadr's repatriation is going to come up.  Yet here's Harper, the last western leader to enthusiastically support Guantanamo still out there on his limb. His comment that Khadr was not a child soldier is, after all, exactly what the Guantanamo military commission ruled with respect to Khadr at the end of April.  So he's still parroting the Bush administration's position.  Despite this week's developments which saw Obama's executive order to close the place.  Despite the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Canada is a signatory. And despite the advice of his own lawyers in the Department of Justice.  How is this helpful?  It's just obstinate.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said it is "preposterous" that Ottawa is defending the Guantanamo military tribunals even when the United States has stopped them.

"The only guy now in the world who seems to believe in Guantanamo and military tribunals is Stephen Harper," Mr. Rae said.
...
"They've been in denial for so long," he said. "It's like a Monty Python sketch: This is a dead tribunal."
MacKay and Rae perhaps got to Harper and led him to publicly take a position that's not helpful in terms of the relationship with the Obama administration at the moment.  MacKay in particular likely caused this "who's the boss" moment.  A moment demonstrating once more how incapable he can be of demonstrating foresight and flexibility as a leader.  He flubbed the economic update in the fall and has been acting ever since to correct his mistakes.  He's doing the same thing on Khadr.   

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday notes

A brief version...

1. Conservative leadership rumblings still in the background...Don Martin:
"...for the first time since he became Canada's alpha Conservative male in 2002, a knife or two is being quietly sharpened in the benches behind his back -- just in case he fails."
John Ivison:
"...unlike former Conservative leader Brian Mulroney, Mr. Harper has failed to establish a personal rapport with many caucus members. Their loyalty would be strained to breaking point if Conservative support dropped into the 20s range - thus jeopardizing their cushy sinecures. Many Tories found themselves questioning their political faith during the general election and found it tested further by the Fall Fiscal Update.

“The ace the Prime Minister always had was that he was the master tactician. But our guy doesn’t have the ace anymore,” said one self-professed Harper supporter. “Ministers now whisper under their breath that they think we will lose the next election.”
Wha?  You mean the chess master sows doubt in the pawns?  Always a shame to read such opinions...

2. Budget secrecy? Nice pro forma report on the "cone of silence," how quaint.  But you're too late, it's been bulldozed:
Bureaucrats and economists were stunned when the "government official" revealed the budget details.
Mel Cappe, a former clerk of the Privy Council Office who now heads the Institute for Research on Public Policy, said releasing such numbers without the support of finance officials to explain what went into the forecast undermines the credibility of the budget, which Canadians should believe is as accurate and sound as possible.
"The minister of finance and PMO should be careful to protect the reputation and precious integrity of the Department of Finance in its forecasts. The government needs it. The market needs it and the public needs it and this doesn't help," Cappe said.
Clearly, this Conservative government cares little about any of that.   

3. Only Rex Murphy could be cranky after this week.  Try Bob Herbert instead.

4.  Travers puts his finger on the uncertainty of the coming week and the potential for "backsliding."

5.  Want to keep track of Obama's progress in keeping promises?  Try the Obameter (click  on the links at the top of the page rather than scrolling through).  He's off to a fairly good start. (h/t disco)

6.  Want to laugh this morning?  Try some Harper from the election on deficits, it's hilarious in retrospect. You'll be laughing (or smiling) within 20 seconds, I promise. He does love to play economist, doesn't he?
 

He's not pulling it out of his hat, you know...:)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday night music

I think I'm going to go with something light, ironic, catchy but with attitude. And appropriately titled, Lily Allen's "The Fear."



I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cuz I’m being taken over by The Fear

P.S. Mentarch, I totally concur with your picks...:) 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Conservatives claim solicitor-client privilege over 5 million pages of documents

And it sounds like the Elections Commissioner has had enough: "Judge asked to unseal millions of Tory documents on '06 election." Yes, back in the news on a few fronts, it's the Conservative in-and-out election ad scheme which is alleged to have brought them $1+ million over their national spending limit in the 2006 election. It's 2009 and the Conservatives are still successfully delaying action in the Elections Canada investigation of the matter. Here's the crux of the roadblock facing the Elections Commissioner in his investigation:
Elections Canada is asking a judge to unseal up to a staggering five million pages of Conservative party documents tied to allegations the party broke federal election laws with a controversial advertising campaign in the 2006 election.

The demand is the first major development in the case since investigators raided Conservative party headquarters last year.

Elections Commissioner William Corbett and lawyers with the federal public prosecution service have asked the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to review the documents after the party claimed they contained confidential information that is protected by solicitor-client privilege.

The legal roadblock has "stymied" the investigation and prevented authorities from determining "whether the evidence points to additional investigative activities or provides a sufficient basis for the recommending or not recommending of charges," Elections Canada told the court.

"The investigation cannot adequately proceed because the number of documents over which privilege is claimed, and which investigators and our forensic accountants are therefore unable to review, results in potential evidence not being available to investigators," Ronald Lamothe said in an affidavit supporting the application.


A Conservative spokesman said the party would have no comment on the case until their arguments are made in court. (emphasis added)
A reminder that charges against the Conservative party in this matter may yet materialize and that the Elections Commissioner's own investigation remains ongoing, in addition to the civil suit.

Also of note in media coverage today of this scandal, the Ottawa Citizen's report which points out the advantage obtained by Mr. Harper in having appointed Irving Gerstein to the Senate. Mr. Gerstein may now seek to avoid any appearance before the Commons' Ethics Committee should that investigation into the in-and-out matter resume:
One potentially important witness will not likely be available, however: Irving Gerstein, the party's official agent during the 2006 election and head of the party's fundraising arm, was appointed to the Senate before Christmas. As a parliamentarian, he cannot be summoned to testify before a committee.

Mr. Gerstein was among a group of Tory officials summoned to appear before the ethics committee last summer, but he did not attend. The party said the bailiff had served the summons on Mr. Gerstein's housekeeper, not on Mr. Gerstein, who was out of the country and unavailable to attend.
...
Mr. Gerstein could still voluntarily appear before the committee, as cabinet ministers routinely do. An aide in his new parliamentary office said Mr. Gerstein was unavailable to comment on the issue. Mr. Sparrow said it was premature to speculate on what topics a committee might look at or which witnesses it would call.

In an affidavit filed in support of the search warrant last spring, an Elections Canada investigator referred to Mr. Gerstein and claimed the contentious advertising purchase program was "known to and implemented by the most senior officials of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Conservative Fund Canada."
Another Senate appointee who may find himself in an unwelcome spotlight as he enters the upper chamber. If the Ethics Committee investigation continues, Mr. Gerstein's outstanding summons will have to be addressed.

Onwards with in-and-out then in 2009...

Update: CBC's report suggests what the Conservatives did in order to make so many documents supposedly solicitor-client privileged:
...lawyers argue that the Conservatives copied their lawyer on even the most mundane emails, suggesting he wasn't offering legal advice but was one of those organizing the advertising campaign.

A diplomatic opening on Khadr

The Obama Executive Order on the "Closure Of Guantanamo Detention Facilities" that may impact on Omar Khadr's case is definitely a document of interest to take a look at today. There's a tone of de novo review that will be applied here, clearly a fresh set of eyes are taking a look at the entire mess. The one week delay in Attorney General designate Eric Holder's confirmation is quite unfortunate in light of the process that the order sets out, his role is clearly paramount as the coordinator of the review of the cases of detainees at Gitmo. Well done, Republicans.

Some of the aspects of the order that are worth noting from the Canadian perspective as action on Omar Khadr becomes imminent: 
Section 2. (d) It is in the interests of the United States that the executive branch undertake a prompt and thorough review of the factual and legal bases for the continued detention of all individuals currently held at Guantánamo, and of whether their continued detention is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and in the interests of justice. The unusual circumstances associated with detentions at Guantánamo require a comprehensive interagency review.

(e) New diplomatic efforts may result in an appropriate disposition of a substantial number of individuals currently detained at Guantánamo.

(f) Some individuals currently detained at Guantánamo may have committed offenses for which they should be prosecuted. It is in the interests of the United States to review whether and how any such individuals can and should be prosecuted.

(g) It is in the interests of the United States that the executive branch conduct a prompt and thorough review of the circumstances of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo who have been charged with offenses before military commissions pursuant to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109-366, as well as of the military commission process more generally.
2(g) clearly applies to Khadr.  

Note the inclusion of the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in the list of review participants in section 4. There is clearly an emphasis on the need for a diplomatic solution where possible coming through in the order.  

As for options for Khadr, there are three.  "Transfer or release," "prosecution," or "...lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals."  
Section 4. (c) (2) Determination of Transfer. The Review shall determine, on a rolling basis and as promptly as possible with respect to the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo, whether it is possible to transfer or release the individuals consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and, if so, whether and how the Secretary of Defense may effect their transfer or release. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and, as appropriate, other Review participants shall work to effect promptly the release or transfer of all individuals for whom release or transfer is possible.

(3) Determination of Prosecution. In accordance with United States law, the cases of individuals detained at Guantánamo not approved for release or transfer shall be evaluated to determine whether the Federal Government should seek to prosecute the detained individuals for any offenses they may have committed, including whether it is feasible to prosecute such individuals before a court established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution, and the Review participants shall in turn take the necessary and appropriate steps based on such determinations.

(4) Determination of Other Disposition. With respect to any individuals currently detained at Guantánamo whose disposition is not achieved under paragraphs (2) or (3) of this subsection, the Review shall select lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals. The appropriate authorities shall promptly implement such dispositions.
From Americablog, citing additional information sent out by the White House Press Office:
The Order sets up an immediate review to determine whether it is possible to transfer detainees to third countries, consistent with national security. If transfer is not approved, a second review will determine whether prosecution is possible and in what forum. The preference is for prosecution in Article III courts or under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), but military commissions, perhaps with revised authorities, would remain an option. If there are detainees who cannot be transferred or prosecuted, the review will examine the lawful options for dealing with them. The Attorney General will coordinate the review and the Secretaries of Defense, State, and Homeland Security as well as the DNI and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will participate.
This latter bit of information suggests a presumption of transfer that is preferred.  The larger point, there is clearly an opening here for a diplomatic solution to Khadr's case, despite the continued clinging by the Harper government to the cover of a judicial process.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Senator" Brazeau defends himself

In a letter to the editor, where he's referenced as a "Senator." Somebody's getting a little ahead of themselves.

Of note, in his letter, he writes:
I submitted fully to an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment. I stand by the conclusions reached by independent investigators. I was also re-elected with one of the biggest majorities in the organization's history in November.
It is unclear exactly how independent that investigation was. As noted in media reports, the board of CAP itself has not been permitted to see the report:
The investigation report has not been publicly released or even shared with the congress board members.
That's just bizarre. And it's been reported that inappropriate behaviour was noted by the investigation and the case has ended up before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

On the point of his re-election in November, the Manitoba wing was suspended days before that vote, undermining such a sweeping claim by Brazeau. In the wake of his re-election, in fact, CAP has been reported to be in danger of falling apart.

One other final intriguing note from Brazeau's letter today:
Reporter Bill Curry exaggerates the draft findings of a Health Canada audit into what happened to federal cash transferred to the congress. How ironic that on the same day, the congress received a letter from the federal Health Minister that notes that the congress, under my leadership, largely dealt with all identified issues as proven through an October, 2008, audit.
Yes, that is very interesting that the new Health Minister is suddenly involved in assuring that CAP is no longer offside. Did someone from the PMO direct this involvement? Just yesterday they were claiming they had no knowledge of the Health Canada audit. Seems pretty coincidental that the Health Minister is suddenly coming to Brazeau's rescue, kind of, with some wondrously timed letter.  These ministers don't tend to act on their own.  But whatever intervention the new minister is making, as referenced by Brazeau, it does nothing to disturb the problems that have led Health Canada to request a refund of over $260,000 from CAP.

And the story continues... 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thud

That's how Harper's listeriosis investigation went over today. Roundly criticized by the union representing food inspectors, opposition members and experts. How hard is it to put together an inquiry on an issue that should rightly and easily transcend political concerns?  Very hard for the Harper government it appears.  One more example of how difficult it is for them to lead and build consensus on serious issues.  

It's also questionable to see the PMO trying to influence the investigation by simultaneously putting its own p.r. spin on what they've done in the wake of the listeriosis crisis. On the same web page that announces Ms. Weatherill's background and the narrow terms of reference, there appears the following so entitled list: "Government Action to Protect the Health and Safety of Canadians." That's just flat out inappropriate. We've seen plenty on this file to know that the government's actions are in question here. That they've moved to cover themselves immediately suggests that they know it.

Freedom



This excellent video was created just prior to the 2006 midterm congressional elections in the U.S. that saw the Senate and House return to Democratic control. It has a certain celebratory punch that fits this moment too, as the world finally gets its freedom from Bush, his administration and its worn out and atrocious policies.

Just a few more hours...:)

And hey, when do we Canadians get our freedom...?!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Suspicious

There are good reasons to be deeply suspicious of this eleventh hour revelation in Khadr's Guantanamo proceedings today: "Omar Khadr ID'd Maher Arar as visitor at al-Qaida facilities, agent testifies." The then 15 year old Khadr apparently identified Arar when shown a photograph while Khadr was being interrogated over a two week period at a U.S. base in Afghanistan a few months after his capture in 2002. One of the main reasons to doubt this testimony, however, is the allegation of torture that haunts all of these prosecutions:
...Khadr's lawyers claim any statements the Toronto teenager made in Bagram were gleaned under torture. Two Afghan captives died as a result of injuries sustained during their interrogations at Bagram in the months following Khadr's transfer there.
...
Fuller was one of the Pentagon's first witnesses to testify at Khadr's hearing and disputed claims that the injured Khadr was physically abused, threatened with rape, exposed to extreme temperatures and subjected to a sleep deprivation program at Guantanamo known as the "frequent flyer program."
One also has to question the timing of this revelation. It's entirely possible that today is the last day we'll hear anything having to do with a Khadr trial if it's halted by the incoming Obama administration. The re-jigging of the charges and the scheduling of today's hearing can be seen therefore as one last kick at the can to publicize whatever information the prosecution saw as opportune to release. The linkage of Arar to Khadr allows the U.S. government to attempt to justify Arar's rendition to Syria.  And there may not be a chance to fully examine this new information.  Without that opportunity to test it, it's inherently suspect.

Our government, missing in action, as always, has nothing to say:
Kory Teneycke, communications director for Prime Minister Harper, said only: "We have seen the story and we have no comment at this time."

Stockwell Day, the former public safety minister, was travelling in India and unavailable for comment, his office said.
There are a number of lawyers who were involved in the Arar case who are quoted in the Star report who question the sudden release of this new information.

One last broadside of one-sided allegations here, a tilted playing field.  Par for the course at Bush's Gitmo.

Update (11:50 p.m.): Tribe makes a good point about whether this information was known to the Harper government or not given Stockwell Day's having reviewed the U.S. file on Arar and what this says about their lack of action on Guantanamo Bay.

Last day for the house of cards


And hopefully after tomorrow, it all comes tumbling down. So what immediate challenges are left on the docket down there in the first-rate facility in the "tropics" as Cheney infamously referred to the American gulag and historical blight....

245 remain in custody. As this NY Times report today points out, 24 have been declared to have been improperly held in the last few months: "Rulings of Wrongful Detentions at Guantanamo." Why the sudden flow of judgments? "Since a Supreme Court decision in June gave detainees the right to have their detentions reviewed by federal judges in habeas cases, the government has won only three of them." It's quite the record for the U.S. government since June, 3 wins, 23 losses, underscoring in the dying days of this institution how unsubstantiated the charges have been.      

Professor Amir Attaran makes the case for the Harper government to offer to take some of the 50-60 Guantanamo detainees that are still being held yet have been approved for release as they have been assessed to pose no threat.  While there are nations that have stepped up to assist the U.S., Portugal having been one of the first, along with Britain and Germany, Canada under Stephen Harper is not likely to be one of them.  Given his intransigence on the Khadr case, and his instructions to minions to repeat verbatim the same obtuse response for the last few years, it would be shocking if he were to do such a favour to the Obama administration. Politically though, as Attaran suggests, the payoff could be huge in the form of a returned favour down the road.  Maybe that's the angle to work with Harper.  Maybe he would indeed do the right thing if there was something in it for him to politically club his enemies with.  

Meanwhile, on the last day of Bush rule at the base, Omar Khadr and a handful of other detainees face arraignment today, again, in what Khadr's lawyer calls one last "big mess and chaos."  Yep, despite both defence and prosecution counsel being in surprising agreement that it would not be in the "interests of justice" to permit this Bush administration manoeuver to obtain guilty pleas from 9/11 conspirators the day before Obama is sworn in, the court will be in session at Gitmo.  Of course it will.  
Journalists, witnesses, court staff and five relatives of 9/11 victims were flown from Washington Saturday night.
One last desperate stage-managed stab for the Bush administration. How fitting.

Yet another implosion for Harper's new Senator

The governance woes at CAP come back to bite once again: "Aboriginal group led by Brazeau must return funding." Harper's brand spanking new Conservative Senator leaves yet another mess in his wake:
Health Canada is demanding the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples return up to $260,000 in ineligible expenses after an audit found directors of the native advocacy group divvied up thousands of dollars in federal cash with insufficient evidence of where the money went.

The federal department has suspended all funding to the organization, led until recently by new Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, until the group comes up with a plan to pay back the money and respond to the government's concerns.
And of course, the kicker is the hypocrisy of the former leader:
Mr. Brazeau, 34, was vice-chief of the organization in 2005 and rose to president and national chief in February of 2006. During his nearly three years in charge of the advocacy group for off-reserve aboriginals, he attracted attention with his blunt calls for native leaders to be more transparent and accountable with taxpayers' money.
Here's Brazeau quoted in a January 2008 report:
"I am tired of the same rhetoric from some leaders saying they need more money, the leadership has to be accountable for what they receive," said Mr. Brazeau.
Yes, remarkable, isn't it.

Led by Mr. Accountability, the website of CAP displays no evidence of an audit committee or any standard governance disclosure that one would expect to see of an organization that is well-run and publicly accountable to the taxpayer for its millions in funding.  Where are the board and committee mandates and responsibilities? Meetings? Memberships? Committee chairships (if they have committees)? Position descriptions for the Chief and Vice Chief?  For individual directors? Beyond perfunctory by-laws, which they do disclose.  Where's the CAP code of conduct with that sexual harassment policy? These are all basic governance disclosure requirements, including for crown organizations/corporations.

Leading to today's Globe report and its details of cash being disbursed at meetings and lack of controls over where money went.  Our government should be insisting on basic controls and governance standards for all entities for which it provides substantial funding.  And those runnning such organizations should gladly do so and not just give lip service to the principle.

Once again we're left amazed that Brazeau is still going to be a Senator...what else do we need to learn before this guy gets yanked?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Farewell to Bush week

From reader MM: "The British Parliamentary tradition is not designed for smooth transition between governments. Americans created a radically different political process to meet their unique needs to compel regular, predictable changes of government.

Americans inherit rich political and entrepreneurial traditions. Who else could apply the concept of a smooth transition to increasing revenue?" To wit:


Oh those crazy entrepreneurial Americans...:)

Lawlessness

Latest self-investigation at the federal level raises troubling questions. This one's about the leak of the federal fiscal update in October 2007:
"The Canadian Press obtained the heavily censored memos about the mini-budget leak under the Access to Information Act. The Privy Council Office violated the law by taking over 10 months to release the 10 pages of material, more than two months past the deadline it had set for itself. The information commissioner has been asked to investigate."
Too bad our parliament is never in session to deal with major transgressions such as this one appears to be...

That's a shame

Nanos on Harper:
Thirty per cent said there isn't anything they like about the prime minister, compared with 15 per cent who said there isn't anything they dislike.

When it came to specifics, eight per cent said they like the fact that he's a strong leader, five per cent said he's honest, four per cent like his policies and four per cent said he gets things done.

But 11 per cent said the didn't like the fact that he breaks promises, eight per cent called him arrogant, six per cent said he's too controlling or power-hungry, and five per cent said they just don't like his attitude.

Harper's scores on all the leading indicators of personal dislike were worse in the latest poll than they were when the same questions were asked in Nov. 2007.

The total numbers of people expressing displeasure at any one trait may be modest, but Nanos said the underlying trend is clear.

"He's taken a personal hit on his image . . . The people that don't like the prime minister are much more passionate than the people who like him."
On that last point, you don't say...:)  

More numbers also reported, on Ignatieff and on the "horse race."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday night music

Quick post...this is my pick this week. Seems kind of appropriate for a number of contexts. Enjoy...:)

Are you disappointed?
And have we destroyed it I
But I've been stumbling down this long and winding road
And these times are changing
And it's complicated I
Well I don't wanna know

And I ....
Don't ask why anymore
And I ...
Don't ask why anymore, anymore

And is it getting better?
Can we live forever I
And I'm not sure what the hell we're fighting for
And does the money make us?
And will the future blame us I
Oh I don't wanna know

And I ...
Don't ask why anymore
And I ...
Don't ask why anymore, anymore

And so on, and so on and so on...

P.S. Mentarch is back...:)

Friday reading

What the PCO is reading today:

A little sensitive about the Ignatieff-Chan hire, methinks.

Here's that Bev Oda post they were interested in, most likely because Oda just returned from another trip to Afghanistan. This time, no respect for mass executions expressed by Oda.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another admission

Scott Horton on what the admission by Bush official Susan Crawford that a Guantanamo detainee, Mohammed al Qahtani, was tortured means:
This admission is important for several reasons. First, it is an acknowledgement of criminal conduct by the administration by one of its own team. Second, Crawford very properly abandons the absurd legalisms of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel which essentially boil down to “if the president authorizes it, that means it’s legal.” Third, she has apparently evaluated “torture” on the basis of the totality of the treatment meted out by interrogators and jailers to the prisoner, not by segmenting and evaluating each individual technique applied. That is what the law requires, and what the Justice Department studiously ignores, fully aware of the inevitable conclusion to which it would lead. It adds up to another admission of high crimes. The case for criminal accountability continues to build.
Five other opinions solicited by the NY Times that are worth a look, here. Here's part of Professor David Cole's view, one of those who does opine on what should be done in respect of the torturers:
It is not enough to drop criminal charges against the torture victims, as Ms. Crawford did. Indeed, if wrongdoers can be prosecuted without reliance on coerced evidence, they should be. Rather, we must hold the torturers accountable. To date, not a single high-level military or administration official has been deemed responsible for the torture policy – even though it was specifically authorized by Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and many others in the highest levels of the Bush Cabinet and executive branch.

The Convention Against Torture not only prohibits torture under all circumstances, but obligates signatory nations – including the United States – to refer cases of torture for investigation for potential prosecution. Criminal prosecution of the top wrongdoers seems highly unlikely at this point, but the latest admission calls for, at a minimum, appointment of an independent counsel or the convening of a commission to fully investigate the facts and identify those responsible for the crimes that can no longer be denied.
It's hard to see at this point how they're going to be able to look the other way on this issue and the latter suggestion sounds like a reasonable place to start.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Whatever you say

I think this calls for 2008's most infamous phrase, lipstick on a pig:
The new head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is supporting his predecessor, Patrick Brazeau, saying Canada's aboriginal community should be celebrating the appointment of "one of their own" to the Senate.

Kevin Daniels, who was elected vice-chief of the organization in November, now replaces Mr. Brazeau on an interim basis. He released the supportive statement after a meeting in Ottawa with the organization's board members from Quebec and the Maritimes.

The board members representing congress affiliates from Ontario westward did not attend and are threatening to pull out of the organization. They oppose how Mr. Brazeau and the eastern board members handled the allegations of misconduct against Mr. Brazeau and senior staff.
The organization appears to be severely splintered along east-west lines due to Mr. Brazeau's controversial tenure. But other than that little inconvenient development, they're completely satisfied! Or is it just that they're so darn happy to see him go?

Just go already

The Bush administration, making life difficult for the incoming Obama team and playing with the law as only they would dare to do. Trying to game the system to their advantage, right to the end:
Omar Khadr's military lawyer says legal manoeuvring by the Pentagon has created uncertainty for those facing trials at the Guantanamo Bay prison, including Khadr.

Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler tells the CBC that charges against all defendants were recently withdrawn, and then re-issued.

Kuebler says in an email the procedure - known as "withdrawal and re-referral" - has the legal effect of nullifying all prior proceedings.

He says the directive withdrawing charges calls for a new arraignment the day before U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20.

Khadr's military trial was set to begin six days after Obama is to take office.

Khadr, a Canadian citizen, has been at the prison since 2002, when he was 15. He is accused of killing a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan.

Kuebler speculates the move could be aimed at making it difficult for Obama to keep his pledge to close the prison and shut down the controversial military commission process.

He adds lawyers for "high-valued detainees" feel it's directed toward getting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings to plead guilty to military commission charges before Obama takes office. (emphasis added)
Guilty pleas mean no evidence of torture to deal with. Let's hope that the military judges overseeing the shenanigans that have now been put before them on the day before a new president is about to be sworn do not accede to this final transparently manipulative act of the Bush administration.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lobbying the airlines on allergies

A break from the political for a moment...if you know anyone with peanut or other allergies then you know how serious they can be. There's an online campaign going on to lobby the airlines to improve their policies and the in-flight environment by working with the allergy community:
Allergic Living magazine has launched an online write-in campaign to the two major Canadian airlines – Air Canada and WestJet.

The purpose? To request that Canada’s top airlines develop clear, consistent, communicated policies on food allergies that include a few measures to prevent dangerous in-flight reactions.

To gain the airlines’ interest, they need to receive great numbers of letters. So we need your help. Please take five minutes – and take part in the campaign at www.allergicliving.com (see the green box, upper right).
This is the image you want to click on:
Take a minute and do it, they're at 489 and they're looking for 1000 letters.

Did the PMO encourage Brazeau to stay on as head of CAP?

That's a question worth asking given how things have panned out since his Senate appointment. And given that Brazeau tried to hang on to his post until this past Friday, it's reasonable to assume that no one in the PMO voiced to him that it was inappropriate for him to stay on as head of CAP while proceeding to the Senate. If that's the case, that's a problem for which they're accountable.

Given the obvious conflict of interest that would have been ongoing had Brazeau remained as head of CAP, lobbying the government at the same time he sat within the Conservative caucus, if the PMO had advised or encouraged Brazeau to stay on...well, that would have been contemptuous of the taxpayer, given that Brazeau would have been double-dipping, in effect, drawing two $100K + salaries per year. And it would have been inappropriate to have him stay as the head of an advocacy organization but have a position within the government. Clearly wrong.

So why didn't the PMO insist that Brazeau resign from CAP the moment he was nominated as a Senator? Mike Duffy resigned from CTV the moment he was appointed. The conflict with Brazeau was clearly there as well. So did someone mess up? David Penner, Harper's PMO director of appointments?

Why would the PMO encourage Brazeau to stay on as head of CAP when the conflict was so apparent? Might they have been blinded by the beneficial role Brazeau played for them as head of CAP by providing them with political cover and their political needs were prioritized over doing the right thing?

The Senate Ethics officer likely was the intervening force here that put an end to the possibility of Brazeau retaining his CAP leadership and entering the Senate simultaneously. Which should have been something the PMO should have required from Brazeau as a condition of nomination from the start. By not doing so, they're either demonstrating that this was an oversight or that they thought it was just fine for him to stay in this obviously conflicted position.

This flawed appointment continues to make news and does not seem to be finished. CAP and Brazeau are bearing the burden of the spotlight but the PMO's involvement is something worth further exploration.

Tuesday morning notes: Gitmo & the Brazeau implosion watch

1. Bit of a shocker in the National Post, good news if it comes true: "Khadr charges will be dropped, lawyer predicts."
Charges against Omar Khadr will be dropped "without prejudice" shortly after Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20 as president, U. S. military lawyers for the Canadaborn terror suspect predicted yesterday.

The technical arrangement would effectively suspend the Jan. 26 start date for his trial before a military commission at the U. S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Could be a bit of political pressure being applied by Khadr's lawyers, based on some discussions of options for Khadr that they've had with the Obama transition team, as reported in yesterday's Star. They may be cherry picking the best of a range of options discussed with the Obama people, but still, this sounds good.

Stephen Harper, meanwhile, from accounts of his comments in B.C. yesterday is still just standing around on this one as he has done for years, waiting to be told what to do. And apparently hoping Khadr will remain in U.S. custody, what with his clinging to the notion that Khadr's been charged-his case is different-people, calm down-approach from yesterday. You see? Leadership in action here, waiting for someone else to do the right thing.

2. Following that item, a big shout out to Senator Romeo Dallaire today for doing his thing on the Khadr matter yesterday in Washington, advocating for Khadr in the abysmal absence of the Canadian government. Now there's a Senator with stature.

3. In contrast, on the Brazeau watch, that's a whole other can of worms. More on what really should be an imploding Senate appointment in this Globe report today. But it's not just Brazeau being affected, now it appears CAP is experiencing significant fallout in the wake of Brazeau's tenure. And it sure as heck looks like keeping that board report on Brazeau away from the board is coming back to bite with a vengeance.
The national aboriginal organization led until last Friday by new Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau is on the verge of collapse amid the fallout from his controversial leadership as national chief.

Affiliates of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents off-reserve natives from Ontario and the western provinces, are threatening to pull out unless their board members receive a report they've been demanding on allegations of sexual harassment filed last March against Mr. Brazeau.

They are also demanding the recognition of an Alberta affiliate and the reinstatement of the Manitoba wing, suspended just days before the annual general meeting. The Manitoba president has said he intended to go public at the meeting with allegations of harassment and heavy drinking by senior staff at the Congress's Ottawa headquarters.

David Dennis, president of the Congress's British Columbia affiliate, the United Native Nations Society, said the western leaders believe Mr. Brazeau's stated commitment to open and transparent governance was betrayed by his handling of the allegations against him. "It raises a lot of questions of, is it a cover-up?" said Mr. Dennis, who speaks on behalf of a new group calling itself the Western Indigenous Alliance.
Good question and it looks like it's time for the board to assert itself. They commissioned the report, they retained the firm, then they are the client and they're entitled to see the report. It sounds instead as if Brazeau managed the board, contrary to the interests of the organization:
Mr. Brazeau has maintained that an independent report cleared him of allegations relating to text messages and phone calls between him and a female former employee in late 2007 and early 2008. He has said board members were given a summary, rather than the full report, to protect the identities of those who co-operated with the investigation. The woman has since taken the complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Time for a re-vote on the matter? There's much more in that Globe story, including the sentiment being expressed that Brazeau's Conservative-friendly ways are perhaps going to be a thing of the past with the future iteration of CAP.

Let's throw in this bit of reporting from CanWest on Friday, for additional context, which was overshadowed by news of Patrick Brazeau's resignation from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples:
In March, the board ordered an independent law firm to investigate workers' stories of misconduct. At the same time, it suspended Brazeau with pay.
The report cleared the chief in September, but the bill added up to a whooping $67,000 and the report remained confidential.
"We wanted to know what was going on," Menard said. "We'd paid $67,000 for a report we couldn't get our hands on." (emphasis added)
So on top of the news of conflict in Brazeau's former organization that may spell significant trouble, there's the unhelpful fact that Brazeau was suspended for approximately 7 months in 2008 while the sexual harassment allegations were being investigated. Yet ended the year appointed as a Conservative Senator.

Did Harper shoot himself in the foot multiple times over by appointing Brazeau? Sure looks like it. Let's see...it's a p.r. disaster, compounding the attention on his orgy of Senate patronage, and he loses Brazeau as head of CAP, a useful shield for him on aboriginal policies. Or is the master tactician three moves ahead of us here?

Think that's a good place to end this morning...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A few more questions arising out of the Brazeau allegations

1. Who hired the outside firm to conduct the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations? A Globe account was ambiguous:
Mr. Brazeau and a majority of the congress board said this week that they hired an outside mediation firm to investigate the original complaint...
It should have been the board itself retaining the firm without any involvement by management, particularly if a member of management was the subject of allegations. If the board retained the outside firm, then why was the report not made available to the board? The actions of an organization's chief executive, here the national chief, can be a reputation risk to the organization. Why was the board, or at least a committee of the board, not permitted to see a report on the the national chief's conduct as a result of serious allegations so that they could verify for themselves what the risk to the organization was? Particularly where a summary report indicated that despite there being no breach of the CAP sexual harassment policy, there was "inappropriate behaviour" found. The privacy concerns that have been cited should have been able to be managed by a confidential board process. The fact that the complainant has gone on to pursue the claim at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal should raise questions for the board over its internally managed process.

2. Why is there a minimal sexual harassment policy at CAP that is wholly inadequate? It fails to articulate what sexual harassment even means:
"Harassment constitutes a disciplinary infraction and will not be tolerated by the (congress). This 'zero tolerance' policy on harassment shall apply to (congress) employees, members of the executive and members of the board."
How can this vague policy be enforced by CAP? Here's an example of a more comprehensive policy on the issue to underscore how deficient CAP's really is:
Sexual and Discriminatory Harassment

The Company will not tolerate harassment based on any Protected Characteristic, and will take appropriate measures to prevent and stop any such harassment.

Harassment is broadly defined as any conduct, whether verbal or physical, that denigrates, insults, or offends a person or group on the basis of a Protected Characteristic where:
(1) submission to such conduct is made an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment;
(2) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for any employment decision; or
(3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an employee’s work performance or creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile working environment.

1. Sexual Harassment. Sexual harassment in violation of this policy includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sexually suggestive or vulgar comments or jokes; inappropriate comments about another person’s sexual behavior or body; or insulting or ridiculing an employee because of his or her gender.
  • Improper or intrusive questions or comments about an employee’s romantic or sexual experiences or preferences; or unwelcome or offensive sexual flirtations, propositions, advances, or requests.
  • Using, displaying or communicating sexually suggestive or offensive words, objects, pictures, calendars, cartoons, articles, letters, e-mail messages, computer programs or Internet sites.
  • Making or threatening undesired physical conduct (such as touching, embracing, or pinching) or impeding another’s movements in a deliberate manner.
  • Offering or providing employment benefits in return for sexual favors; or taking or threatening to take adverse action against an employee because the employee rejects requests for sexual favors.
2. Discriminatory Harassment: Discriminatory harassment in violation of this policy includes, but is not limited to:
  • Comments or jokes that denigrate, insult, offend, or ridicule based on a Protected Characteristic.
  • Creating a hostile work environment or otherwise singling out an individual for abusive conduct based on the that individual’s Protected Characteristics.
  • Using, displaying or communicating words, objects, pictures, calendars, cartoons, articles, letters, e-mail messages, computer programs or Internet sites that denigrate, insult, offend or ridicule based on a Protected Characteristic.
3. Retaliation
The Company will not tolerate retaliation against any employee who seeks to enforce his or her right to work in an environment free of unlawful discrimination or harassment or who makes a good faith report under the Ethics Hotline/Whistleblower Program or Internal Complaint Procedure. Any employee who is aware of any conduct that may violate this policy should promptly report the conduct using the Ethics Hotline/Whistleblower Program or the Internal Complaint Procedure.
3. Is there an independent whistleblowing mechanism within CAP that would enable employees who are subjected to harassment to trigger a process that is independent and not reliant upon those against whom allegations are made to invoke a response? For example, is there a pipeline to the board of CAP, an audit committee, for example, who could hear such complaints about this or other conduct?

A lot of these questions might seem too inside-baseball kind of stuff, but you can see where the consequences of action or inaction can lead you. The front page of the Globe and Mail.

Here's an editorial that gets it, from the Kingston-Whig Standard:
...revelations since the announcement make Brazeau's appointment impossible at this time.

This week, it was revealed that Brazeau is the subject of a sexual harassment complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

He was also investigated last year following an internal complaint by a female staff member at the aboriginal peoples congress.

Brazeau says the internal investigation at the congress cleared him of any wrongdoing. That may be so, though at least one member of the organization's board of directors disagrees with that assessment.

The case before the rights tribunal is a matter of even greater concern. Until it is resolved, too thick a haze of uncertainty hangs over Brazeau's appointment. His suitability for the Senate must be established before he enters the chamber, and that means waiting for the tribunal results.

...
Harper must suspend Brazeau's Senate posting at least until Brazeau is found not guilty of the serious allegations against him.

Dishonourable

Professor Peter Russell in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen published today, commenting on the issues of prorogation and coalition governments, worth an extended excerpt:
AP: On that note, you punctuate your discussion of the infamous King-Byng affair by saying the chief lesson is that the smooth functioning of parliamentary government requires all the parties involved to behave honourably.

PR: Yes, and I know that's motherhood, but I consider Mr. Harper's request "dishonourable." I made that submission to the Federal Court as part of Democracy Watch's legal action for judicial review. Yes, it was dishonourable, it violated a pretty serious commitment that he -- and not just himself and his government, but all the parties -- entered into. And I consider that dishonourable.

AP: Was Mr. Harper putting the Governor General in an untenable position?

PR: Oh, for sure. I mean, it's always very, very tough when a prime minister does a dishonourable thing. I consider it dishonourable to promise a confidence vote and then, a few days later, make it impossible by asking for a prorogation of Parliament. People might have other adjectives; I'll stick with dishonourable.

In a democratic culture, it's so tough for the Crown to step in and stand up for a democratic principle, particularly when you have a government with huge machinery of propaganda, which it's shown every inclination to use, and would use, both on the office of the governor general and probably on her personally. These people take no prisoners!

AP: The prorogation was clearly designed to avoid the fall of the government and the setting up of the purported coalition.

There was considerable debate afterward about the constitutionality of the coalition, with Harper saying this was an unconstitutional attempt to overturn the results of the election. What's your take on that? Would the coalition have been a legal, constitutional entity had it come to pass?

PR: Oh my goodness, yes. Oh my goodness, yes. On that, there can be no doubt. People may not like coalitions, and they may punish parties that have entered into them, but that's fair enough; that's political judgment voters have every right to make.

But the parties in Parliament have every right to get together in pretty well any way they wish; to coalesce together to accomplish their purposes. There's nothing illegal about coalition; otherwise, about half of the governments in the parliamentary world would be illegal. I mean, the constitutions of parliamentary countries, they don't have clauses about what parties in parliament, how they can work together or not work together; they can work together in a whole myriad of ways.
Russell recommends an interesting institutional change for the Governor General's office, to improve its ability to participate in a heightened political environment in which the Governor General looks to be increasingly involved:
AP: If we are looking at minorities for the foreseeable future, do you think we should be looking at changing the electoral system, to some form of proportional representation?

PR: There's a more immediate change that, I think, what we've been through in the past few weeks points to even more: We've got to do more to kind of regularize the governor general's office. One suggestion: Her office should have something like the European constitutional monarchies have -- an informateur, an official sort of prober of the parliamentary scene who can interview party leaders and is known to the media, is known to the public as a respected person -- so it's not all whispers and hush hush -- to advise the governor general on the political situation in Parliament, in order to make good decisions.

It's sometimes a former Speaker; in Sweden, it actually is the Speaker, but the Speaker there has a bigger role. All the countries have to make their own design according to their own history and institutions, but we need something like that because the governor general's office is going to be very much a target now of political speculation and pressure. I think it needs to be strengthened to deal with those situations. (emphasis added)
"One of Canada's foremost experts on the Constitution," noting the propaganda machine of the governing party and describing the PM as dishonourable. Just another day in the life of the Harper government...

(h/t CanPolitico)

Sunday notes

1. The Rural Canadian points out an unfortunate and frustrating situation, the announcement on Friday of the military's purchase of logistic trucks from Navistar Defence in Illinois for $274 million while the Navistar truck plant in Chatham is hemorrhaging jobs. More reading here and here on that.

2. Yes, please: "Help Obama shut the Gitmo prison."
This is an occasion Prime Minister Stephen Harper should seize, by publicly offering to bring home Omar Khadr, the Canadian who is Gitmo's youngest prisoner and the last Western one. If Obama is in a hurry to close the place, Harper can oblige.
...
Whatever one may think of Khadr and his family, Harper's neglect of this file is shameful. Now that the Gitmo legal process is crumbling, Harper should bring Canada's sorry role to a close by offering to empty one more cell for Obama.
Way, way overdue on this matter.

3. It was very sad to read all the reports on Jean Pelletier yesterday. They were well done, evoking nostalgia for our politics of not so long ago that seemed much more respectable than what we experience today.

4. Maureen Dowd today:
In the past week, I’ve twice been close enough to Dick Cheney to kick him in the shins.

I didn’t. It’s probably a federal crime of some sort. But a girl can fantasize.
Heh...and Frank Rich too, just read.

5. The dedicated Mr. Parks gets published, again: "Time to invest in renewable resources."

6. What? No Brazeau Senate appointment fix this morning? Later today.

Latest Maddow worth a look



Discussion with Jonathan Turley on Friday night regarding the potential prosecution of Bush administration officials for torture, particularly last three minutes or so.

Warning, redundant blogpost

I love redundant blogposts, so all I’ll say with regards to the matter of Canadian Cynic’s challenge, just read what Red Tory and Tribe published, and you’ve more or less got my view (regardless of whether I agree or disagree with Jason and the Liblogs advisory panel’s editorial decisions).  I am so unoriginal...:)

No blog wars for me, thank you, plodding along on the many flaws of the Harper government, in my own obsessive and fanatically partisan way...:)   That and the rest of my life, you know.  

But I will be keeping CC on my blog roll, regardless.  Too funny and sharp to drop, always one of the first blog sites I visit every day and an ally in the progressive cause.

Carry on, blogging homeys.