Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday night



Something different this week. This is a young British singer, Laura Marling, performing at the Glastonbury festival at the end of June (above). She's only 20 and has a phenomenal voice. Here's another one that's live, from January of this year. It's a little rough/bumpy, but the live version brings out the power in her voice on this song better than the recorded version, IMHO. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Conservative astroturfing follow-up

As a follow-up to this post from yesterday morning, regarding this letter in response to this editorial, The Ottawa Citizen would like you to know...
Letter-writer Krystyna Rudko is the executive assistant to Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton. Rudko's letter, "No hidden agenda," was published on Tuesday in a Citizen package of letters about the long-form census.
Conservative astroturfing, ees confirmo. Thank you, Ottawa Citizen.

Next time, Conservative auteurs, you might want to ixnay on the awesomeness of the Prime Ministerial brain. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The case for a competitive process on the F-35s

For those interested in following the F-35 procurement story, one of the big issues that's arisen is clearly the question of whether or not the process has been appropriate here. This letter, written by a former senior Defence department procurement official, essentially makes the case for an open competition on the fighter jet purchase.

I'm not sure whether Senator Wallin would like me to refer to Williams, the author of the above letter, as a hawk or a dove. Let's just call him an owl, watching the process, ok?

In the U.S., seems they're having a bit of a debate over a competition on this plane too, but with respect to an alternate engine for the jet being produced. Reining in military spending is affecting whether that option survives.

About that cerebral approach to governance...

The big census showdown is today at the Industry Committee...Tony versus the world. A thrilla on the Hilla, and it's July at that.

Speaking of the ongoing great census war of summer 2010...there was a very forceful Ottawa Citizen editorial on the census Friday which was very much in opposition to the government's move. For example, its conclusion was this:
No one knows for sure why the Conservatives have surprised the country with this unexpected crusade. All we can say is that this government can no longer claim to be a pragmatic one, or even one looking out for Canada's best interests.
Pretty strong stuff. So today we see an equally forceful letter to the editor by one Krystyna Rudko of Ottawa defending the government's decision vigorously. My favourite part (you can go read the rest):
...the assertion of an "anti-intellectual" penchant flies in the face of endless stories about our prime minister's cerebral approaches to governance.
Yeah. Red flag. So we jump on the Google for a minute or two and we must ask: is this the same Krystyna Rudko employed by Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton and whose name appears on a Senate phone list? If indeed it is, it's not that such individuals can't write letters. As we have learned, it's the identification that's lacking and deprives the reader of a sense of how much weight should be accorded what's being said.

If this is the Senator's employee penning missives, might be an indication of how this is getting under the Conservatives' skin up there in Ottawa.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Netroots Nation 2010 this weekend



That's MSNBC's Ed Schultz in a brief excerpt of his opening address to the Netroots Nation conference going on in Las Vegas this weekend. It's an annual gathering of progressive bloggers from across the U.S.. Schultz hits a few interesting notes that resonate for us, not so much the Fox News stuff but his rallying cry is getting a little more appropriate for us these days.

Here's the programme for the weekend, as you can see, it's fairly massive. Speakers today include Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, Alan Grayson and Al Franken is closing it off tonight (starts at 9:15 EST, video link or try links at this page).

The focus of the weekend is pretty varied, lots to choose from. There are the blogging oriented panels ("Muckraking 101: Online Investigative Tools" with Joe Conason sounded pretty cool). There are also plenty of meet-up and organizing opportunities, with state and group caucuses meeting throughout the weekend. There are the substantive issue panels (tried watching a bit of the Marcy Wheeler/Jerrold Nadler panel on Gitmo but they seemed to be bickering & not accomplishing a heck of a lot, although it could have just been the part I saw). Running through it all, a real connection to achieving change where it counts, connecting the online world to real political races.

Here's more video addressed to the netroots, President Obama addressing the conference directly (thanking Nancy Pelosi at the beginning). Smartly deploying video of progressive hero Rachel Maddow at 1:15 too:



"Change doesn't come from the top down. It comes from the bottom up. It comes from the netroots, the grassroots..." The Obama hope machine tries to push on, looking for support in the upcoming midterms.

One more, the most tweeted parts of Friday's conference laid out in video:



Always interesting to see what's going on in the U.S. Man, we're pikers.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday night



Dedicated to the Minister of Disgraceful Jigs. An existential pondering for him (and maybe for the rest of us too).

By the way, have been pretty much out of commission all week. A fateful, subtle reach into an evil, evil deep cupboard in my kitchen led me to throw out my back on Tuesday night. The majority of the week since then has been comprised of icing & muscle relaxants. From devastating pain on Wednesday to today's onset of recovery and ability to actually sit at my computer chair for the first time all week...the human body is a miraculous thing. First back pain in years, a very rude awakening and reminder to do those ab/back exercises with my brand new gym mat that has languished in a corner for over a month and to my great regret all week long. Running alone does not a healthy core make, at least for this individual.

Hopefully blogging to resume in a semi-normal fashion sometime soon. Have been surveying the wreckage of Canadian politics throughout the afternoon to get back on track/inspired. Blasted wreckage that it is...but with some bright spots too.

Have a good night...:)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

PBS News Hour video report on our new $16 billion F-35 jet fighters

Here's a report from PBS' News Hour on the F-35 fighter jet that the Harper government announced yesterday that we would be buying at a cost of $9 billion ($16 billion with servicing is the widely reported total cost estimate). This report, "Pentagon's F-35 Fighter Under Fire in Congress," aired on April 21, 2010, just 3 months ago and raises a number of serious questions about our purchase of this jet. It's described as a "complicated aircraft," its project manager was fired by the Pentagon in February of this year. It's a jet that one critic here says may never be affordable and should be cancelled.



Granted, it's just one report but the need for Canada to have at least gone through a competitive bidding process and canvassed other options becomes much more apparent after watching it. It certainly provides helpful context for the statements made by the Harper ministers at the announcement yesterday, from MacKay's bold reassurance that the F-35's single engine won't fail, to his statement that this is the best aircraft for our men and women in uniform and to Ambrose's understandable reluctance to say how much these jets will ultimately cost.

Note that the Harper government's announcement is being played in the Washington Post as a timely lifeline for Lockheed Martin's F-35 programme amidst the cost overruns and when some allies are hedging on buying these jets.

Transcript for the PBS video is here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday night



More Muse from Glastonbury, why not? Rock stahs! Uprising for a bit of an uprising tomorrow...:)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Harper's one-man census decision

Haroon Siddiqui has the read of the day, with fascinating information on Harper's controversial decision to dial back the census. Oh yes, you knew that was coming. Two points from the piece...

First, sources are saying this decision has been driven by Harper's disdain for StatsCan and the analytical work that it does. Why? Because it provides a factual basis to oppose the government:
“Harper does not like StatsCan, that’s what we kept hearing,” according to a longtime employee of the agency. “In particular, he does not like the analytical work we’ve done for years.” The Prime Minister thinks of it as fodder for critics.

Sure enough, it’s the analytical work that he has been decimating. Gone, truncated or privatized are surveys that kept track of pensions and benefits at our places of work; the proportion of our incomes going to housing, vacation, medical expenses to see how well or badly we all were doing; the level of inequality among Canadians; the economic integration of immigrants; and how people with physical and mental disabilities were coping.

“When these surveys were being cut back, the concerned federal departments were told not to comment on how that might muck up their work,” said the source. “They were told to shut up. The message had come from the top.”
That seems to fit the pattern with this secretive government.

Second, the more interesting part of Siddiqui's piece is the finger pointing at Harper that's emerging now in the face of the tremendous widespread opposition to the decision:
Another source said that Clement had, in fact, advised against the decision, as had Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Both were overruled. “It was a one-man decision,” Harper’s.

“The PMO thought nobody would care,” added the source. But now, it’s said to be stunned by the range and depth of the backlash, from right across the political spectrum.
Caution! Ministers jumping overboard! What's he going to do now? Siddiqui wonders if Harper will dig in and pay a political price or whether he'll reverse the decision. Now that the spotlight turns toward him courtesy of these internal sources and away from Clement, we'll see.

Also worth a look on the census issue from yesterday, here was MP Marc Garneau speaking forcefully on the issue in a short video that hits some of the key points.

Splitting the national securities regulator: part II

A follow-up here on the big, juicy national securities regulator story. OK, maybe not so exciting. But a fascinating little political power struggle lies within the issue, which is why we are interested. That struggle that is being fed by the Harper government is on the issue of where the new head office of the Canadian Securities Regulatory Authority (CSRA) should be.

A Globe editorial weighed in yesterday on that issue. They view the planned splitting of the regulator's offices across the country as just not on:
The rest of Canada – beyond Bay Street, that is – will not be deceived by the tokenistic gestures of a securities commission with no physical centre. The CSRA should have an avowed head office in Toronto.
A university centre has also released a new study on the national securities regulator, they support putting the regulator in Toronto:
In the wake of a blueprint for the new regulator released Tuesday by the Canadian Securities Transition Office, which dodged the question of a head office locale, the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance weighed in with a new study.

The 13-page report concluded “that in order to deliver the full benefits of a national regulator, regulatory authority and capacity should be concentrated in a ‘legitimate’ head office in Toronto, where market activity is concentrated.”
And here's the Star:

In summary, the proposed “national” regulator might not be much better than what we have today. “The federal government has opted to allow regional politics to trump good policy,” says Josh Hjartarson of the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre.

Ottawa needs to take this plan back to the drawing board to create a more robust regulator with a real head office, preferably in Toronto.

And the Sun:
Obviously, the logical place is Toronto, the financial capital of Canada, home of the country’s largest stock market and the third largest in North America, after New York and Chicago. [...]

This is as dumb as a bag of hammers, since the whole idea is to have one national regulator instead of the existing 13 provincial and territorial ones.

Scrapping those offices and then creating up to 13 new regional offices representing a national regulator, would defeat the whole purpose of having one regulator. It would be a purely political decision and an utterly absurd one.
Probably not the last in coming months who will support the same position.

As Benzie's report notes and as we might well imagine with this federal government, Stephen Harper may be the force driving this present reluctance to just do the obvious thing here:
"...Prime Minister Stephen Harper, born and raised in Toronto, told the Commons in May that “as an Albertan, I have no interest in seeing this sector centralized in Toronto.”"
It's understandable that provinces would vie for a head office to be located in their province, that's what they do, premiers are responsible for one territory under their jurisdiction. But it's not understandable when a PM acts like he's got provincial geographical turf to protect. Particularly in a case that's not really close, where there is a clear national choice based on objective facts ("...Toronto, the nation’s financial capital and the third largest banking centre in North America, behind New York and Chicago...").

Even if you give the federal government the benefit of the doubt here and consider that they might be reluctant to choose a head office at this point given that there is a Supreme Court of Canada reference case coming, that they might be holding off until after that occurs...that just doesn't make sense. Alberta and Quebec are going to oppose the federal government's single regulator plan anyway. Besides, Harper certainly doesn't sound like he's just holding off on a choice of a head office, his words say he's decided that it won't be in Toronto. And his planners have proceeded with a blueprint that's giving effect to those words.

This looks like the beginning of a mess that really doesn't need to be, if this government just had it in them to make decisions based on the clear facts before them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Help wanted at Conservative HQ

Job opportunity alert for denizens of the Ottawa region! Conservative HQ is looking for a "Customer Service Officer." Preston Manning would be so proud, members are now quaintly being categorized as "customers." The grassroots feel of it all is overwhelming! It's all so...commercial!
Position Title: Customer Service Officer
Department: Administration
Position FTE: Full-Time, Permanent Employee
Reporting Structure: Reports to:Manager, Membership Services

Summary:

The Customer Service Officer is responsible for providing communications support to advance the principles and policies of the Conservative Party of Canada. The Customer Service Officer will provide the highest level of customer service to those calling from Electoral District Associations, donors, members, and the inquiring public in a timely and professional manner.

Duties and Responsibilities:

* Responds to requests by phone on routine issues in accordance with procedures and scripts provided.
* Composes routine correspondence in response to written and electronic communications.
* Tracks and reports significant issues from Party members, donors and the inquiring public.
* Ability to independently complete daily tasks including but not limited to the compilation of letters, printing of tax receipts and membership cards, and data cleaning processes.
* Updates donor and membership database as required.
* Meets productivity standards as determined by the Manager.
* Records the night service message on the main line and toll-free line.
* Other duties and projects as assigned.

Knowledge, Skills, And Abilities Required:

* Ability to communicate fluently and persuasively in French and English with the ability to write clearly and concisely in both English and French
* Excellent customer service skills - you are positive, professional, courteous and service-oriented
* Possesses strong investigative and problem-solving skills with the ability to follow a problem through to its conclusion
* Ability to clarify inquires, research issues and respond accordingly
* Must be a team player and have the ability to establish effective interpersonal relationships
* Must be familiar with the Canadian federal political system and the principles, policies and culture of the Conservative Party of Canada
* Must demonstrate the ability to multi task in a fast-paced environment
* Self-starter and takes initiative (hands on style)
* Exercises sound professional judgment
Must be able to read the scripts! Must be familiar with the "culture of the Conservative Party of Canada!" Interesting interview questions on that one, I'll bet! At least they didn't farm it out overseas, that would be something. Maybe down the road.



(h/t a little birdie)

Poll-a-palooza

Well this is interesting. Apparently CBC is reporting other polls beyond Ekos now? If they are, good development. The emphasis on a given pollster per media outlet is really bad practice and I wish they'd all get away from it. Anyway, the goods today are from Environics and they show a closer race than we've seen in other polls of late:

Cons 35, Libs 32, NDP 15, Greens 6.

So how 'bout that 3 point spread? As the report notes, others have a wider spread between the Conservatives and Liberals but it notes the methodological differences too. Who knows what's at play and these polls will yet make us all batty. Taken from July 5-8, the big items in the news would have been the end of the Queen's visit and the aftermath of the G20.

Might as well throw it on the barbie and fire up that bus, BCL says the big mo is with the Liberals and I'm ok with that.

Census move ticks off Manitoba Francophones

A follow-up to yesterday's post on the census changes and the possible impact on the federal government's commitment to bilingual services:
The federal government's decision to scrap the mandatory long census form for the 2011 census and replace it with a voluntary national household survey isn't sitting well with Manitoba's Francophone community.

Francophone leaders said Tuesday that they fear the new, voluntary system won't accurately track how many non-English speaking people there are in the country.

As a result, government programming and policy may be impacted, Daniel Boucher, President and Executive Director of the Société franco-manitobaine, said.

"You don't just fiddle with that kind of stuff – you can cut a bunch of other things that don't reflect our values or who we are," he said.

West of Quebec, Manitoba has Canada's largest number of French-speaking people. Boucher said adding bilingual services provided by the federal government could be cut if all people who speak French aren't properly tallied.

"In terms of the last census, there were 47,000 Francophones in Manitoba who were identified … but the statistic that would be left out [is] there are over 100,000 people in Manitoba that speak both French and English," Boucher said.
That emphasized quote is the key on this aspect of the census change to me. Can't you just hear the issue going right to the heart of a key part of Canadian identity in those words. There's a fear of abandonment coming through toward the federal government. Clement's statement released late yesterday briefly touched on the language issue:
"The census and the NHS will continue to supply data reflective of the attitudes and opinions of Canadians for the use of governments and public policy-makers. The census and NHS will also continue to respect the government's commitment to official languages. For these reasons, the government believes the NHS is a more appropriate survey and will not be revisiting the issue of the old long form.
How that commitment to official languages will be kept if the "...short census form, which will remain mandatory, does not feature questions about knowledge or use of official languages in households," is unanswered by Clement's statement.

This seems like a sleeper issue with great potential to grow.

Beyond the language issue, you have to wonder how many groups, such as those represented at that press conference yesterday, this government has contemplated it can safely offend without starting to lose seats. I mean, don't these groups all have mailing lists and stuff?

One other point on this today, the Harper government's father-knows-best governance ignored a panel that should have been consulted and that might have stopped this train wreck of a decision (from preceding link):
Don Drummond, former chief economist for TD Bank and a member of the National Statistics Council, Statistics Canada's national advisory body, said these changes to the 2011 census will leave Canada "in a fog" for years to come.

"You would think as an advisory panel, this would be the kind of thing you'd give advice on," he said of the fact that the council was not consulted on the change. "We were not aware of it; we were only informed of it two days before the decision was announced."
You would think being the operative words there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The census mistake & bilingualism

This development yesterday may take the Harper government into a whole new world of trouble on their census decision, beyond the growing chorus of voices opposing the government's short-sightedness: "Languages watchdog launches census investigation."
Canada's languages watchdog launched an investigation Monday into the axing of the mandatory long census form, fearing the impact of the change on the country's English and French minority communities.

Graham Fraser, commissioner of official languages, said he would examine whether the government respected its obligations under the Official Languages Act when it made the decision late last month. The mandatory long census form is being replaced with a voluntary survey next year.

Critics from a wide range of sectors say the voluntary survey will not be a reliable source of detailed data because certain groups are unlikely to respond, creating a strong bias in the statistics.

"This credible national source of data has been a critical tool for the government to assess the vitality of official language communities," Fraser said in a statement.

"Federal departments and agencies, along with the communities themselves, have used this information to evaluate how they have evolved and determine where services need to be provided in the language of the minority community."

The Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities had filed a complaint with Fraser's office about the census change. It noted that the short census form, which will remain mandatory, does not feature questions about knowledge or use of official languages in households.
Removing the ability to keep track of the numbers in "official language communities" could hamper the government's ability to serve those communities. It's not a stretch then to consider that a by-product of this census move could be to undermine the federal government's commitment to official bilingualism. It's hard to imagine that this was an issue the Harper government wanted to open up, with all its potent symbolism. But they may well be doing so.

Splitting the national securities regulator

That special brand of national leadership failure is on display again from the Harper Conservatives. They can't make a decision on where the office should be for a new federal securities regulator, the one who would be taking the place of all the provincial securities commissions, so they're hatching more patented excellent Conservative strategery: "Ottawa's new securities pitch: One watchdog, several offices." Brilliant. Many offices, spread 'em around. Two to begin, one in Toronto, one in Vancouver, with more offices to come as other provinces sign on. What nonsense. For cost reasons alone there should be one office. Remember, cost? Deficit? And the obvious location is the financial capital of the country. Furthermore:
The plan drafted by Mr. Hyndman’s Canadian Securities Transition Office raises questions about the power structure for the proposed regulator, which on the face of it appears to defeat the purpose of having a single regulator by dispersing decision-making authority in different offices.
Improved enforcement is supposed to be another goal of the national regulator, the dispersed decision-making isn't going to help that cause either.

They really seem to be big on these King Solomon "splitting the baby" decisions these days, at great cost to the nation. And sometimes national enterprises seem to be truly anathema to them. But here they need to pick an office and stick with it. That means sucking it up and picking Toronto.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Governor General appointment follow up

One of the simplest and most interesting comments among all the Johnston Governor General appointment coverage comes in this context:
The position of governor-general has evolved greatly after more than six years of turbulent minority Parliaments. Mr. Johnston’s legal background may soon be put to use, if the next Parliament is as hung as the present one is.

“The government is very fortunate that he would want” the post, said Peter Hogg, one of Canada’s leading constitutional scholars.
Said one of those who advised Governor General Michaelle Jean when Harper came looking to prorogue during his controversial December 2008 request and who is intimately familiar with the bind in which this Prime Minister might place a Governor General. The Governor Generalship is now a position holding risk for any accomplished person who might be sought out for it. Makes you think about how our institutions are evolving these days, to contemplate what used to be historic scenarios. If there were a cooperative parliament functioning, I don't think the Peter Hoggs of the world would be making remarks like that.

Or maybe Hogg was just speaking to Johnston's qualifications. Whatever the case, it made this reader laugh out loud.

Also interesting, from this Globe editorial:
Mr. Harper, who has been widely and justly criticized for misusing the royal prerogative powers around prorogation, approached the appointment of the next governor-general with both rigour and evident respect for the office.
...
The dignified selection process, and the resulting appointment, which takes effect with Mr. Johnston's installation on Oct. 1, are worthy of the office of Governor-General.
While he does get credit for this appointment, there is also a hint here that he might be attempting to correct or make up for what he may be judged very poorly for in history, his two controversial prorogation requests to the Governor General, the 2008 one in particular. But that's all done and they'll be judged on their own facts.

Whether Harper's display of "evident respect for the office" through this appointment and process means anything for tight parliamentary spots in our near future, we'll see.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

G20: "A lot got broken here"

A good column on the G20, raising the role of the RCMP to the fore among other mostly astute observations of where we are now:
So many sources are telling me the RCMP were largely at the helm which, if true, means a federal investigation or inquiry is what is needed — something with the power to subpoena and interview the brass of all of the police services involved, deal with all of the public complaints and hear the individual front-line officers’ point of view, as well.

It would be nice to know, even if it’s muted for investigative reasons, if there was a master play book somewhere with a strategy that states police would avoid appearing aggressive in dealing with the Black Bloc by standing down during their crime spree, but then later try to catch them with video evidence and intelligence?

It did seem like much of Toronto was put into a virtual street line up with coppers at some control centre looking at images from special eye-in-the-sky cameras.

If so, an inquiry could introduce to the public a new style of policing for protests or major events or show what can happen to policing if you let the politically correct politicians control it?

While it’s not right to pile on here it’s also important to note that things should not go back to business as usual, either. A lot got broken here. It’s not just breaches of the peace at play but breaches of trust.

There are questions that need answers.

However, the pressure of “you are with us or against us” is wild. It’s human nature at work but more important than covering one’s butt is that fair-minded, neutral leaders take a hard look at all that has happened to make sure there are lessons learned in a free country.

Unless somebody has changed the rules without telling us, it’s the Canadian way.
Well said, especially the latter part, tapping into the unsettled state of affairs that's in need of resolution and leadership.

Ekos returns

Feel a little bit better about the Ekos poll after reading Kady O'Malley's breakdown of the two weeks of numbers. Week one just before the G20 and through its end plus a few days (June 22-29) had the Cons at 30.6, Libs at 26.2. It's the next week, June 30-July 6, that sees a swing where the Con lead goes to 34.4 to Libs at 23.9. Whether this is the Queen's visit and its halo rubbing off on the Conservatives or a G20 effect, I'm sure everyone has their own opinions. No other party's national numbers really seem to be moving, thus the focus here on the Cons and Libs.

Notably, the numbers in Ontario offer quite a swing too, over those two weeks which you can read at the above (second) link.

Not great kids but at least the two week look gives it a bit of perspective and suggests some volatility.

David Johnston a good pick for Governor General

I made the mistake of publicly committing the other night to writing a congratulatory blog post were Harper to follow-through on the rumoured pick of David Johnston for Governor General. As expected, Johnston is the choice and, unfortunately, I keep my promises! This is a good pick and I'll repeat what I wrote when Jim Travers first brought up his name just over a month ago: "As for a view...irrespective of the involvement by Johnston in framing the Oliphant commission, he is by all accounts someone of high integrity, a legal scholar to boot. It's a leap to think that there would be any possibility of bias if he were to become Governor General, with all the sensitivity that position now holds in this era of minority governments. He would be a satisfactory pick to be sitting in the Governor General's chair whenever Stephen Harper might come calling."

That last point is the key one to me, why he would be OK to be on the receiving end of a Prime Ministerial visit. Johnston is a lawyer (with lots of law professor colleagues in his past who would likely be a phone call away) and is likely to be very careful in managing the Governor General's role in our era of foreseeable minority governments from here on out. He will likely have to make one or two key decisions, like Jean, and would be fully aware of recent history and the challenges he might be facing.

He's also undoubtedly highly aware of the criticism he took over his framing of the Oliphant terms of reference narrowly. This all provides extra impetus for him to know that he will be scrutinized heavily and that his reputation, his integrity would be on the line should he make a controversial decision that is seen to be unreasonably favouring a given outcome. His c.v. indicates he's clearly someone who has a track record of doing exceptionally well with the institutions he leads, there's no reason to believe he'd do otherwise with the institution of Governor General. So credit to Harper on this choice.

[Regularly scheduled programming returns shortly...:)]

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"Still waiting for the real public inquiry"

A Star editorial today gives a nod to the Toronto Police Services Board's civilian review of the G20 police conduct of the Toronto Police Service, but is pushing for the provincial and federal roles to be probed as well.
...the proposed review of Toronto police actions is still insufficient in scope to get to the bottom of what happened in our city on the G20 weekend. The decision-makers included not just the Toronto police but also their counterparts from the OPP and RCMP and politicians in all three levels of government.

Collectively, they turned our city into an armed camp with empty streets, secretly invoked special police powers, allowed a few hooligans to run amok burning police cruisers and smashing store windows, and then arrested and incarcerated more than a thousand people, the vast majority of them guilty of no crime. Businesses in the downtown area suffered a big drop in sales. Instead of showcasing the city, the event produced damaging images, broadcast around the world. What is needed is a full public inquiry, called by either the province or Ottawa.
...
A full inquiry could ask what Harper was thinking when he decided to locate the summit in the downtown convention centre rather than (as Mayor David Miller had suggested) the Exhibition Grounds, why McGuinty chose to give police additional powers without telling the public, and why the police appeared first to under-react and then to over-react to events, with the result that constitutional rights were trampled upon.

Tackling all these concerns goes well beyond what a board-appointed review can accomplish. Only through a public inquiry can we be certain to have a forum with a broad enough mandate and sufficient power to address the lingering questions – and give the public confidence in the answers.

So far, we have the police chief’s promise of an internal review of “what we did and how we did it” and the board’s decision to appoint someone to scrutinize “oversight, governance (and) accountability.”

We’re still waiting for the real public inquiry.
The longer Harp tries to run away from any connection to that weekend of record setting mass arrests, hiding behind the Queen's skirts engaging in all of these successive photo-op days, I suspect the longer people will pursue it. It's been a bit of a surreal disconnect to be hearing the unsettling accounts arising out of the G20 while Harper seems to be off in his political Disneyland.

As for McGuinty and a provincial inquiry, there are questions that need to be answered about the Public Works Protection Act, some of them are raised again in this piece and it sounds like a number of ticked off Liberals will be pursuing them with McGuinty (yay to the party member quoted there standing up for civil liberties, by the way). With the G20 having been a federally overseen show, however, with the federal government choosing the venue, funding the security, bringing in officers from all over the country and setting up ISU headquarters to oversee the weekend's security execution, it's hard to see how the province would be the proper entity to launch that inquiry.

EFL has an idea on yet another inquiry that could possibly be pursued, through the RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner, with the precedent being the APEC Commission report. If the evidence supported such a request it might be another alternative to think about.

Things that aren't surprising

What to make of this report that Governor General Michaelle Jean's husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond didn't want the Queen to stay at Rideau Hall during her visit, when the GG & he were in China.
“That’s why they were sent off to China, to keep the peace as it were,” said a source close to the government.
Since the Queen did in fact stay at Rideau Hall despite this supposed request by Lafond, what is the relevance of this source's statement at this point if it had no bearing on what actually occurred?

One interpretation is that this government has never liked Michaelle Jean and they're proving it to the end. Putting this word out there after a successful royal visit, trying to suggest some kind of conflict and dislike for the Queen from Jean's spouse seems pointless and classless.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Toronto Police Services Board G20 review a step in the right direction

They seem to be on the road to doing what they can do, creating a needed civilian review of G20 police action, at the municipal level. While there was a brouhaha during the announcement of the review, that was a good strong message to the Board. The Board has been served notice that its review, in terms of who will oversee it, what kind of public input will occur, the terms of reference, etc., will be coming in for a high level of scrutiny once they come forth in two weeks with their proposal.

Toronto Councillor and Board member Adam Vaughan's comments today sounded promising:
Board members ardently defended Mr. Mukherjee’s recommendation, arguing that the public would be given an opportunity to voice their opinions on a proposed review leader and the terms of reference when the Board reconvenes in two weeks.

“It’s a been a very tumultuous time in this city and we all need to afford each other patience and an opportunity to proceed fairly. I recognize for some people the need to speak is immediate and urgent and I respect that,” said Board member Adam Vaughan, who is also city councillor for Trinity-Spadina.

“In two weeks, there will be a presentation to the public, for comment, and for input. We have not made a decision. We are telling you how we are going to make a decision and how we’re going to include public input. I recognize that people want to speak. They will speak and they will be heard.”
Given the seriousness of the allegations that have been pouring out (latest - h/t), this review, along with any others to come, has to have integrity. They must know the pressure they are under.

If only we had money to spend on infrastructure...

(scolirk)

(ashtonpal) Kipling Subway Station, Eatonville, Etobicoke

Aging infrastructure, the important kind, is back in the news due to the Toronto blackout last night:
But the fact that this par-for-the-course meltdown occurred at a facility where most of the circuit breakers are at least 30 years old, and some of them have been operating for more than half a century, was also a reminder that Ontario is making do with an infrastructure that has scarcely been updated in decades. And perhaps, for the vast majority of people who don’t spend much time thinking about energy supply so long as the lights are on, it could also be a wake-up call.

The reason that most governments have neglected needed power upgrades is that there’s little political upside. Projects are massively expensive, they can easily cause controversy by going over-budget and nobody really celebrates them when they’re finished.
Noticed abroad too due to a certain royal presence.

Gee, if only we had billions of dollars at our disposal to spend on crucial aging national infrastructure. Oh wait...we did.

Oh well, lots of new hockey rinks for years to come. Lights might be an issue. But hockey rinks galore.

More.

Harper gives a speech on human rights

Here it is, given on Saturday in Winnipeg and now featured front-and-center on the PM's site. He really gave it a special twist. Highlighting quite prominently the Canadian Bill of Rights. Because it's the Bill of Rights' 50th anniversary, don't you know. Right, you didn't. Probably because that document was a statute and did not have constitutional status. And because no one talks about it anymore. Not after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted, which enshrines our rights and freedoms as constitutional rights. Yep, that would be the Charter, our very own version of a Magna Carta, looked to the world over.

That should have been the proper focus of a speech on human rights recognition in Canada, especially one given in the Queen's presence. At the very least it should have been mentioned at a dedication of a human rights museum and with a stone from the field where the Magna Carta was signed, sitting in the backdrop. But as we know, a Liberal government brought us the Charter. Enough said and better to look in the way back machine to old Conservative Dief to re-write history by giving such prominence to the long forgotten Bill of Rights. What an incredible omission.

Anyway, here's what Harper said in one part:
“The Canadian Bill of Rights reflects a fundamental truth: that human rights, by definition, must be universal. There can be no exceptions.

“The test of a free country is whether it recognizes this truth. Whether it is a country with a conscience. A country where individuals are not categorized by power or prejudice, but simply recognized as our fellow human beings. And where failures to do so are eventually brought to light.
It's so easy to say in a speech, but not so easy to apply those human rights universally without exceptions. At least, not for this present government. Harper's failing his own test, consider yesterday's rebuke to the Harper government by the Federal Court, again, over the ongoing breach of a Canadian's rights that Mr. Harper will do nothing about. Where's Canada's conscience on that one?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Don't ditch us, Canadian Press

Don't know quite what to make of this news but my first reaction is to hope that it's not going to affect the quality reporting we see from Canadian Press: "Media companies strike deal for Canadian Press."
The Canadian Press has struck a tentative deal to restructure its operations, ending its 93-year history as a not-for-profit industry co-operative and proposing to move forward under private ownership.

The owners of the three biggest members in the collective - CTVglobemedia, which owns The Globe and Mail; Toronto Star publisher Torstar Corp. (TS.B-T10.49-0.15-1.41%); and Gesca, which owns La Presse - would become equal partners in a new for-profit entity to be called Canadian Press Enterprises.

Until now, CP has operated as a co-operative, providing news coverage to its member organizations. However, financial difficulties at the wire service led to a need to look for investors to take a stake in the business.
In this era of Harper's Canada, where access to information is under siege, where even the census is being dialed back, where media has limited access in the first place to government, where media management is a primary goal of this government, where there are many willing receptacles for its messaging...the Canadian Press has been a constant, gritty source of reporting uncovering the facts which are helping to hold this government to account. At least, that's what this observer, who widely reads all Canadian media on a daily basis, has found.

More than ever we need independent, rigorous reporting in this country. As institutions of government are weakened, I hope that this arrangement is not going to affect CP for the worse.

An influential voice pans the G8 & G20

Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs writes in the Guardian today with his take on the G8/G20. He's very critical of the accountability track record of the G8 on development assistance, his principal critique of the weekend, but takes aim at the spectacle of the summits as well:
Hosting this year's G8 summit reportedly cost Canada a fortune, despite the absence of any significant results. The estimated cost of hosting the G8 leaders for a day and a half, followed by the G20 leaders for a day and a half, reportedly came to more than $1bn. This is essentially the same amount that the G8 leaders pledged to give each year to the world's poorest countries to support maternal and child health.

It is absurd and troubling to spend $1bn on three days of meetings under any circumstances (since there are much cheaper ways to have such meetings and much better uses for the money). But it is tragic to spend so much money and then accomplish next to nothing in terms of concrete results and honest accountability.

There are three lessons to be drawn from this sorry episode. First, the G8 as a group should be brought to an end. The G20, which includes developing countries as well as rich countries, should take over.

Second, any future promises made by the G20 should be accompanied by a clear and transparent accounting of what each country will do, and when. The world needs true accountability, not empty words about accountability. Every G20 promise should spell out the specific actions and commitments of each country, as well as the overall promise of the group.

Third, the world's leaders should recognise that commitments to fight poverty, hunger, disease, and climate change are life-and-death issues that require professional management for serious implementation.

The G20 meets later this year in South Korea, a country that has emerged from poverty and hunger over the past 50 years. South Korea understands the utter seriousness of the global development agenda, and the poorest countries' needs. Our best hope is that South Korea will succeed as the next host country, picking up where Canada has fallen far short.
That's quite a rebuke coming from Sachs ("...widely considered to be the leading international economic advisor of his generation.") Sachs is also the UN Secretary General's adviser on the Millennium Development Goals.

Useful international perspective on the success of these summits as we continue to deal with all the fallout.

Harper's brush with Magna Carta

(source)

So a big part of the Queen's visit to thunderstorm beset Winnipeg yesterday involved a dedication for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. There was a stone brought from the field where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. The stone will be used as a cornerstone for the museum. The Magna Carta is an historic, foundational document in constitutional law, famous for restraining the powers of the King and making the monarch subservient to the rule of law.

Under threatening skies and with the rain holding off, Harper spoke at the ceremony:
"Canada’s conscience has been formed by a profound belief in human rights and this living tradition of freedom," said Harper. "It has made us a good country."
Elsewhere, it's reported that he also said this:
“[The cornerstone] will remind all who visit here that Canada is heir to a tradition of freedom upheld by the law, under the Crown, reaching back almost 800 years," said Mr. Harper.
Following Harper, the Queen spoke. Then the skies opened. Sure, just a coincidence. But what a fitting bookend to the event where Harper would give such a speech.

A copy (from 1217) of the Magna Carta is on display in the Manitoba legislature. The Queen visited it earlier yesterday. No word on whether Harper did.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Thursday, July 01, 2010

G20 lawsuits on the way

"Joint lawsuit planned for G20 arrestees." Irrespective of whether there is any public inquiry held, there is no permission required to file a civil action and seek a remedy. As could be expected, they're on the way:
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says it is considering a joint lawsuit against the Toronto police and other police forces responsible for the G20 mass arrests.

“The CCLA is planning to help people who are seeking compensation to (initiate) a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Ontario,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the CCLA. “We have a couple of plaintiffs.”
...
Des Rosiers said the CCLA has been overwhelmed with phone calls and has already collected 75 complaints from people claiming they were wrongfully imprisoned, detained, harassed or assaulted by the police.
...
Some people who were arrested will probably argue their Charter rights were violated, said Jonathan Dawe, criminal lawyer with Sack Goldblatt Mitchell. He pointed to reports of people being denied their right to legal counsel or to not be arbitrarily arrested or detained.

“I can’t imagine how (police) could not have known that what they were doing is unlawful,” Dawe said. “I’m shocked at what seems to have been a wholesale decision on the part of the police to abandon the Charter.”
These lawsuits will likely be going on for quite some time, maybe years. With lots of evidence to be disclosed as they proceed. All the police forces who were there, including the Integrated Security Unit would likely be defendants in these actions.

One more item from the weekend's ugliness, a reader sent me this video on the Queen & Spadina kettling incident. The last two minutes in particular are worth watching. Here is the description from the MyNews site:
WARNING: Strong language and violence that may upset some viewers. MyNews user Jason MacDonald, a 27-year-old construction worker from Toronto, submitted this chilling first-hand video of a tense standoff with police on Sunday. MacDonald told CTV.ca his group marched peacefully along Queen from Bay Street to Spadina, where they were surrounded by police in riot gear. “We kind of got surrounded and weren’t able to get out, they just pushed us back and I was trying to film, and the one officer lunged forward smashed me in the face with his shield and one by one they arrested us, all of us,” MacDonald alleged. In addition to the cut to his face, MacDonald alleges he received bruises to his ribs, head and both arms, as well as scratches to his back from being dragged by police officers. Eventually, MacDonald and his friends were all arrested and taken to a detention centre. He was eventually released at about 11:30 p.m.








The person who sent it along has forwarded it to his MPP, MP, the Attorney General of Ontario, the Premier and the Minister of Community Safety, asking questions about what was seen here. These are the kinds of scenes I imagine we'll be learning more about during the course of the lawsuits referenced above.