Wednesday, June 30, 2010

There Are Lots Of Reasons To Celebrate Canada...

The video below is not one of them, and should serve as a reminder that if we take our freedoms for granted there are always those who'll gladly step over whatever lines we think have been irrevocably drawn. In this case it's the Premier of Ontario, Liberal Dalton McGuinty and the Toronto police at Stephen Harper's behest. That's a billion dollars of security you're looking at there. Ain't our democracy grand?



Happy Canada Day everyone! Hope yours is peaceful and spent with your loved ones.

Canada Day Eve!



Hope you're getting ready to celebrate the year's best holiday. It comes without snow, without carols, without tinsel (unless your in Ottawa or somewhere where the citizens are particularly chauvinistic about our country), without massive financial obligations and the weather is generally pretty sweet. Sadly there's plenty of news to report on even though Parliament's on holiday until September.
In the aftermath of the G20 and G8 summits I'm in good company here in Quebec with being disappointed in what took place - a lot of ink is being spilled! In Toronto, they're busy trying to justify the thuggish behaviour of the security forces and the billion dollar bill that Canadians paid for this shameful usurpation of Canadian's rights. The weapons that were "seized" and put on display as justification for the jack-booted acts is a laughable assortment of boys toys and items purchased at a Canadian Tire fire sale. Embarrassingly for those in charge of security they have been forced to admit they just made up rules and regs as they went along. We will be holding our breath for accountability at the coming inquiry into these events.

Lastly, as far as the summit is concerned, a report on the Toronto police letting the black block run rampant for one and a half hours before acting. Was this done to justify the outrageous costs?

Word that a prosecutor is going to re-open the Dziekanski investigation.

Richard Fadden, the head of CSIS, who made some eye opening claims about foreign influence on Canadian politicians, will appear before the committee between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET Monday.

And Quebec has dared to anger drug makers with a price cut on generic drugs. good for them!

Cheers!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Disgraceful Behaviour In Toronto

The behaviour exhibited by Toronto's police in this video that comes to us via therealnews.com is beyond reprehensible. They are violent, thuggish and deserve no respect or quarter. The explanation given by the police chief about the so-called Black Block being nearby as an excuse for the brutal and despicable response to peaceful demonstrators is a proven to be a bald faced lie in the video. This is our country, we should not stand by and tolerate this massive abusive of our freedoms.

More at The Real News

Monday, June 28, 2010

Canadian G-20 News Wrap

Trying to get back in a regular groove what with holidays and a weird sense of burning out on litany of lies crap and bad news. None of which would be half as bad were it not for the frustration I feel when it's not reported in on detail and with context by the MSM. Things have gotten far more wankerish here in Canada that I could have imagined - even with Harper at the helm.

That G-20 get-together that produced a record number of mass arrests, the most in Canadian history, drew this response from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association: "To us, it’s abhorrent that we would be arresting more than 900 people to find maybe 50 or 100 … vandals. This makes no sense. It’s a fundamental breach of Canadian law to have done that,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, the organization’s general counsel.

If this was the worst thing that came out of Harper's billion dollar vanity project I'd have moved on to other things, sadly it is not. Naomi Klein explains how we all got screwed at the summit, Faced with the effects of a crisis created by the world’s wealthiest and most privileged strata, they decided to stick the poorest and most vulnerable people in their countries with the bill. Paul Krugman of the NYT's thinks the deal signed on at the G-20 could lead to the 3rd great depression. One he believes will be, primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending. But our PM was busily advocating and cheering on these cuts. That may end up being his true legacy.

NGO's (Non-Governmental Organizations) gave the summit a failing grade and to top it all off Canada actually blocked taking action on poverty at the summit. How proud of our PM are you at this moment? But he doesn't deserve all the brickbats - keep some handy to fling at Ontario's Liberal(?) premier Dalton McGuinty who refuses to explain why his cabinet passed a secret law giving police more power to arrest people during the G20 summit in Toronto.

And one final note from the awesome summit of the wealthy on behalf of the rich, the PM signs a nuclear co-operation deal with India.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Unsexy War News

This will be brief. There was more bad news from Afghanistan yesterday as two Canadians were amongst the six NATO soldiers that died during what has been the deadliest month for NATO forces since the nine year old war began. Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht, 34, and Private Andrew Miller, 21, were on their way to deal with a mine that had been found in the doorway of a home when the vehicle they were in detonated an IED killing them both.


From Truthout an essay on how the shift to General Petreus signals an Afghanistan war policy crisis. I'm not sure I agree entirely, but it does mean most certainly that there will be change of some sort in strategy and that will most definitely affect the mission and Canadians serving there. And from Think Progress a terrific backgrounder on the Afghanistan war and questions about changing course.

Idiots In Black - Protests in Toronto

The vandals dressed in black are not to be confused with the peaceful protesters who attempted to let the leaders of the G-20 know how they felt about the never-ending war in Afghanistan, the same austerity measures they are always recommending for us but not for banks or corporations, Harper's stand on the maternal health care issue and a myriad of other issues. None of which will now get a hearing because a bunch of thugs claiming to be anarchists marched up and down Toronto streets breaking things for reasons that make little sense to me.

The idea is usually stated these acts are undertaken so as to show the face of the oppressor - the police state. Thing is, it doesn't work. Most people, when they see this stuff get angry and want to see the protests stopped. That includes legitimate ones along with the idiocy and violence.



And that's the thing. The only thing that works is non-violence. Civil disobedience is fine but it has to be civil. If you want to show the face of an oppressive state try a non-violent protest. If the police attack that then you'll achieve your goal of unmasking the state for what it is. Until a way can be found to dis-include the black balaclava wearing miscreants all protests will be seen as illegitimate and worse, their message will not be heard. This kind of behaviour gives the jack-booted types licence.

So Harper's $1.2 billion dollar vanity project gets a black eye but he gets to make the claim (more plausibly than he otherwise would) that the violence justifies the enormous bill Canadians are footing for it. - Ontario's McGuinty get a share of the blame too for pushing through a bill when no one was looking that takes Canadian's rights away.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Silly Season Beyond Reach In A 24 Hour News Cycle?

I'm expectantly waiting for summertime to bring an end to political wrangling of all sorts but maybe I'm being naive. Maybe it's just not possible in an era where the media operates under the rules of 'there must be constant frenzy' so as to continuously keep the readers titillated. Does this signal the death of the silly season in Canada?



Witness today's opening story about interview with CSIS director Richard Fadden that happened months ago and wasn't released until just this week. I didn't cover it immediately because it sounded like some mad crank. He said that a number of politicians were being directly influenced by foreign states. Sounds like crazy conspiracy talk to me. Turns out he actually said it, and the CBC which aired the interview on Tuesday sat on this explosive information for a considerable time. Maybe to ease the pain of quiet summers? What the hell were they thinking?

He backtracked a bit later saying, “I have not apprised the Privy Council Office of the cases I mentioned in the interview on CBC,” and added “CSIS has not deemed the cases to be of sufficient concern to bring them to the attention of provincial authorities.”

The Summits are about to get under way starting with the G-20 in Toronto, which is under lockdown.  The world has noticed Harper's egregious spending on "security" and the fake lake making fools of us all. There will be an anti-war rally on the 26th outside the US consulate. At Massey Hall on Saturday there will be at the Council of Canadians, Shout Out for Global Justice with prominent social and environmental justice leaders from around the world including Amy Goodman from Democracy Now.

Oh by the way, in case you missed it, the Tories prison bill to cost Canadian taxpayers one billion dollars a year. Conservatives all over the world suck at actually being fiscal conservatives - they just talk about it endlessly.

Lastly, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore labels critics of Bill C-32 (the Canadian version of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act) "radical extremists" and urged confrontation against those who argue for fair copyright, and then tries to cover it up. Here's Cory Doctrow, a Canadian author who also who blogs over at boingboing.net who do an extraordinary job of keeping on top of this issue.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Great White North In Summer

Other than the sound of too many mosquitoes and black flies, all should be quiet on most fronts in Canada. Sadly one of our fronts is Afghanistan, so there will be trouble to report on the whole season long. For example today a Rolling Stone interview with the NATO Commander, Stanley McChrystal was released and all hell broke loose. Read for yourself, but essentially the General displays a poor sense of judgement, gets drunk on Bud Light Lime, and then spills his guts to the reporter and it's not pretty. Viscera, entrails, the works!

That directly concerns and affects Canadians serving over there and their families at this end. There's to be an offensive sometime this summer in the Kandahar region, the Taliban heartland, where most Canadian are stationed and the four-star General is the chief strategist... for now. He's been summoned to the White House and word is he's already offered his resignation. I'm with Keith Olbermann when he tells Obama not to accept. It's too easy a way out of a very tough spot that McChrystal helped to create.




It'll be interesting to see which route Obama chooses.

As for the goings on here in Canada, well, the G-8 and G-20 summits are on the way and with all the mad spending that has gone on so far you won't be surprised that money was found to buy water canons (water projection systems are the official name!). What democracy can function without water canons?

Rest assured that even though Parliament is off for three months somewhere, somehow Iggy will be putting his foot in it.

Word from the Globe and Mail says Harper not looking to a fall election, but Jack Layton is.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Overconsumption

This is a primer on our consumptive habits and how we've been coaxed into a world of planned obsolescence and overconsuption that will soon destroy all that we hold dear if we continue down this path.

Canadian War News


Another Canadian soldier dies in Afghanistan - Sgt. James Macneil, 28, was killed by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol in Kandahar. Heartfelt condolences. This comes on the heels of a report to the UN Security Council that said bombings and assassinations have soared in the past four months in the Taliban-dominated south. For some reason I was reminded of this.

It was all part of a bad day in Afghanistan that saw 9 NATO soldiers killed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Silly Season Descends - Will Canadians Notice?

So the MP's have all gone home. Worked themselves to the bone for more than two straight months and away they went - some will come back for the summits but that's all just for photo-ops. In their wake they left the oversized omnibus budget Bill C-9, with provisions that have nothing to do with the country's finances, like for example, exempting commercial projects from rules designed to protect the environment - pretty short-sighted in light of the ongoing Deepwater Horizon disaster. There was an agreement on the thorny Afghan detainee document issue that provides the Tories with cover for policy that allowed the handing over of detainees to be tortured by Afghanistan's notorious NDS.

Sadly the opposition Liberals didn't seem to have the backbone to do the right thing on any of the major issues dealt with by Parliament in the short spring session - instead of opposing the budget themselves their not so super secret plan was to let the Senate deal with it which didn't work out as hoped. Hope is not a plan.

They were happy to criticize the insane costs for the summits, but in the grand scheme of things that's not going to affect Canadians in any great way, other than to make them more cynical. The Conservatives stance against abortion being included as part of maternal health care initiative that was designed to help women in developing nations was incomprehensible, and yet the Liberals didn't stand up to be counted or use it as a teaching moment. It withholds money from programs and people that desperately need it and it keeps in place policies that allow 2.5 million teenagers to have unsafe abortions in those same developing nations.

Unsurprisingly this lot can get no traction and inspires no one in Canada. Of course that doesn't keep them from talking about how great they are. Here's some e-mail addresses you can use all summer long - be polite but be firm. pm@pm.gc.ca, Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca, Layton.J@parl.gc.ca

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Whither Canadian Decency?

On a day when even the stenographers in the press report that the deal forged between the Bloc, the Liberals and the Conservatives is a mess and filled with loopholes the Tories mean to exploit, there are actually things the Tories are up to that are worse and more cynical, Things like not allowing staff members to testify at committee hearings in direct contravention of parliamentary rules. Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister’s director of communications, has refused to appear before the Commons ethics committee and has even had security turn away a bailiff who showed up with a summons that he do so.

Imagine the outrage from the "law and order" Tories if a Liberal member ignored parliamentary procedure or ducked a legal summons in this fashion?

There was also the business of trying to ram through Bill C- 23 by claiming that Karla Homolka could be set free if it wasn't passed - they sure love their fear, fear, fear tactics. A compromise has been reached and the national parole board will be able to deny any pardon which brings the system into disrepute and the period of ineligibility for a pardon increases to five years from three for summary crimes, and to 10 years from five for more serious indictable offences. The rest of the bill will remain in committee until the fall, bringing to an end the Conservatives attempt at using Homolka's name to pressure the opposition to pass the bill in haste. Nice huh?

News that should concern Canadians about the goings on in Afghanistan - high profile setbacks and delays.

Afghan Detainee Documents

I promised to withhold judgement on the deal reached between 3 of Canada's 4 major parties over the Afghan Detainee documents. The NDP walked away from the deal saying that the deal shields the most crucial detainee information from scrutiny. Go read for yourself. Jack Harris of the NDP puts it succinctly: “The things you need to know — What did the government know? When did they know it? What advice were they given? Did they follow it? — that’s the stuff we will never see."

An example of the kind of advice the Tories would be getting from lawyers, information that they will be shielded from committee scrutiny under this agreement, is the issue of handing detainees over to the NDS, Afghanistan's infamous secret police.

Paul Champ, a lawyer involved in the investigations into the alleged abuse of Afghan detainees said, "The NDS can't be trusted with detainees transferred into its custody by Canadian soldiers, and the Conservative government was well aware of this. ...the methods of the NDS are well known," Champ told CBC News. "It's electric shocks, it's pulling out toenails, it's beating people with chains, it's hanging them for days. So when someone says abuse, that's a euphemism for torture."

There is something very wrong with this picture.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Conservative Agenda Dominates Canadian Politics

Reading that the Senate was incapable of busting up the omnibus budget bill known as C-9 sickened me. There was no excuse in the first place to leave it to the Senate to fix this egregious legislation. It's the act of a party and a party leader without the good sense to know when to act - regardless of the consequences. If Iggy had articulated all the odious provisions that have been crammed into the bill, Canadians would have understood why he had to vote no and send us to the voting booths yet again. Instead he opted to let the Senate try and fix it and shortly we will be saddled with one massive pile of crap that amongst other things guts environmental legislation, allows for the sale of Canada's Atomic agency, partially deregulates Canada Post and makes it harder for women in the public sector to achieve pay equity.

That deal on the Afghan documents was signed onto by the Liberals and the Bloc but not the NDP today. We'll withhold judgement but NDP MP Jack Harris calls it ...a very secretive process that will not get at the truth and the parliamentarians will not get to see all documents.

Iggy gets all gung-ho about the mission in Afghanistan - someone should inform him that Canadian soldiers are not needed on the other side of the world as much as they are needed at home. Why in hell is he trying to outflank Harper on the right here? It's time to go back to peacekeeping duties exclusively. Training Afghan soldiers does not qualify. Just for emphasis, Lt.-Gen. Lessard, the head of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, told reporters today that it's going to be a very tough summer and enemy activity is significant, Someone had to tell Canadians this news and Harper is obviously not going to do it.

Harper did have the time to tell Jack Layton he should fire Libby Davies because she's not as thrilled with Israel as she should be, or as he is, or something. Apparently she's not allowed to have personal views that conflict with his... yeah, that's it! In the meantime Harper's party is delaying the release of a report on the tar sands - a report that contains research that says the tar sands are contaminating Canada's freshwater resources, including the Athabasca River watershed, with toxic substances.

Good and bad news about Canada's Arctic. A report that says there would be no way to clean up an oil spill if one happened in the Arctic. The good news is that the meltdown of Arctic ice not as dire as once thought, but still below 1979- 2000 average.

Chevron Is No Different Than BP

This is going to be a quick hitter (for me). Here's video of Rachel Maddow making the point, in no uncertain terms, that oil companies (still) do not know how, nor do they have the technology to stop a spill 5,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. And a reminder that 21 years after the fact Exxon still has not paid the full amount of their fine for the Valdez spill. In fact before dime one was ever paid as compensation to victims of Valdez oil spill, 8,000 of the potential recipients had aread died. Chevron's assurances last week before a Senate committee that such a thing could never happen while they were drilling in even deeper Canadian waters is meaningless.



Cross posted at New Media and Politics.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Songs Stephen Harper Secretly Hums



So word came out yesterday that Afghanistan is loaded with mineral riches. A trillion dollars worth or more. Now the US has spent 250 billion dollars in a war over there so far, so that means the return on their investment won't be fabulous but it does maybe explain why they'd fight for years and years in a vast ungovernable hellhole of a country famous for being the graveyard of empires. There's a pretty good chance that this was known to American intelligence some time ago.

Long after the fact, while the Afghan detainee talks go on and on (Parliament was given two weeks to settle this on April 27 by Peter Milliken or find the Tories in contempt) word comes that Canadian military officials wanted diplomat Richard Colvin to be pulled from his posting in Afghanistan because they didn't like what he was writing, documents show. The truth is always inconvenient to those who are in violation of the law. Canadian soldiers raised the issue six months after the Harper government boasted of improved safeguards for detainees, and were roundly ignored.

Mahar Arar will never get an apology or redress from the Americans after his being held on trumped up charges and sent to Syria to be tortured.

Sheila Fraser tells Canada's MP's to relax, it's just an audit!

Liberals take sharper aim at Harper - sadly it's only for the overspending on the summits and not all the noxious policies he's stuffed into C-9 or any of the demagoguing he's done on any number of issues including climate change, abortion and so called law and order issues like our pot laws.

Speaking of which, the compassion clubs that were raided and effectively shut down in Montreal last week, have been forced to recommend to patients that they go get their prescriptions filled off the street or at the Berri-UQÀM Metro station. (?)

Aaaaand, Fox News North is no longer a rumour and so far David Akin and Krista Erickson both formerly of the CBC have been recruited. Boycott all things Quebecor - we do not need American style discourse (lies, climate change denial, hate TV) here in the Great White North!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday to Thursday Blogging

Hey, and thanks for checking us out! We're on-line most every day but the Canadian news blogging seems to take place Sunday through Thursday in concert with my radio show, which you can stream at cjlo.com between 8 and 10 AM Monday to Friday. We can be found blogging other things on the weekend, mostly environmental news, over here at NM&P. That could change with enough requests to move or cross-post the environmental news here. Until then however, Canadian politics and nothing but, okay?

Polling at an all time high! Maybe it's because I'm covering more Canadian news than ever but there do seem to be a glut of polls taking place. The changes to this point have all been of the incremental kind so we try not to get too carried away with the results one way or another. The latest EKOS poll has the Tories at 31.4% which just isn't very much. The progressive vote, which represents fully 56% of the electorate continues to be split between the Liberals at 26.8%, the NDP at 16.6% and the Greens at 12.6%.

Actual seat projections has Conservatives at 118, Liberals at 99, the Bloc at 51 and the NDP at 39. The Greens 12.6% doesn't get them a single seat.

A good percentage of the 8.9% from Quebec who favour the Bloc, it can be argued, are also in favour of more progressive policies as well and merely park their votes with the Bloc when the don't trust or like the leaders of the three major parties. This is how Canada comes to be governed by the Tories who, make no mistake about it, are ideologues.

Roy Romanow is seemingly ignoring the wishes of the Liberal and NDP leadership and forging ahead with an attempt to bring the two parties closer together. Maybe the landscape has changed irrevocably and it's time to consider this. I'm not sure whether this is a good or bad idea just yet, but looking back at those poll numbers which seem to have hardened over the last couple of years, maybe uniting progressive voters is an idea whose time has come. Or maybe the Liberals should choose a leader who can win in Quebec!

The Harper government continues to stall on Afghan detainee records long after historic ruling by Speaker Peter Milliken. Iggy calls it "ragging the puck," I call it contempt of Parliament and potentially criminal. What does Harper have to hide? He has no problem spending oodles of time defending Lake Whatawaste.

Seth Borenstein of the Globe and Mail, reminds us in the midst of the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico that oil permeates every facet of our life and we have a long way to go if we are going to change our habits and wean ourselves off of our collective fossil fuel dependency.

Chevron admits that they have no quick fix if a disaster, similar to the one in the Gulf, were to happen off our east coast. Remember, they are drilling an exploration well in 2,600 metres of water in the North Atlantic’s stormy Orphan Basin area. I would find this honesty more reassuring if they would suspend the project until they were sure that they could bring such a spill quickly to a halt. What about the acoustic switch that has a cost of $500,000? Surely Chevron can afford that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Silly Season On Hold For Now

The Canadian Political landscape is a lot more restive than it ordinarily is at this time of year. Maybe it's because three months of the year disappeared down a prorogue hole or maybe it's because the Tories are busily trying to cram their agenda down the throats of parliament just before the break and Canadians are taking notice or perhaps wanton spending on the upcoming summits have made Canadians suspicious of a government that claims it is fiscally conservative. Whatever the reason, things are in a state of flux it would seem.

There's the sneaking suspicion that the Liberals and the NDP are in merger/coalition talks in spite of all the denials to fuel public interest. Make of it what you will. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff dismissed the notion on Wednesday saying, “No one has any authorization to even discuss this matter. It's ridiculous. I am a Liberal. I am proud to be a Liberal. The people around me are Liberals. We are going to form a Liberal government.”

A string of seemingly endless polls that show the Tories incapable of getting beyond the threshold of 34-36% in national popularity - including the latest EKOS poll that suggests they would lose a bunch of seats in Ontario if an election were held today.

You know what Canada really needs? A politically right leaning network just like FOX! Well Quebec billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau thinks so anyhow. They may even have landed their first news host, David Akin, the guy who falsely reported that Canadian icon Gordon Lightfoot had passed away. He sounds perfect for the job!

Lastly, so you'll go to bed tonight feeling confident that a disaster like the one in the Gulf could never happen here, the people at Chevron assure us  that it could never happen here by saying, "It could never happen here!" Well, there you have it then!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Politically Canuck

Been busying myself with posts on single issues of late and kind of enjoying it. It's not really how my radio show works so it seems odd sometimes and I feel as if I may be short-shrifting the readers who show up looking for the day's wrap on Canadian politics. There's really not that much news out of Ottawa at this time of year (or there shouldn't be) as the silly season in Canadian politics is set to swing into high gear so we'll do our best.

Before the silly season can begin though, there's the matter of C-9: the budget bill loaded down with items that have nothing to do with budget matters and Liberals too focused on the polls to vote against what really is an egregious omnibus bill and force an election as budgets are always a matter of confidence. Strangely here, there's a reliance on the Senate to do what Parliament could not and that's remove the non-budget items from the bill - expect the requisite outrage from the Tories if that actually occurs. If that doesn't work out, then a really terrible budget will have been foisted upon us that will have far-reaching consequences.

You have to give the Tories credit for managing to keep me fairly busy. By having money for things like fake lakes but not for poverty programs, they keep me wondering when Canadians will sit up and notice what they're up to. The Conservative's rigid ideology on the maternal-health initiative is proving to be an embarrassment for the country as there are whispers in the corridors of the major women’s reproductive-health conference in Washington condemning Canada for not funding abortion as part of its G8 maternal-health initiative.

Lastly, a link to a story about those rather persistent rumours of an NDP, Liberal merger which everyone is vehemently denying.

Stephen Harper - Control Freak

With our PM there's never any shortage of adjectives to hurl his way. He makes it easy, heck he even inspired us at NMPCanada to create two new ones just for him: assalogue and sanctihole. Today however, we're going to stick to words that are already in the English dictionary.



A story being reported by the Globe and Mail describes his obsession with Tory message control, and how that reaches ...around the world in an attempt to orchestrate virtually every public utterance by seasoned diplomats from Britain to Bangladesh, a Canadian Press investigation concludes.

The Conservative government scripts every event using a communication tool they call the Message Event Proposal (MEP's). The MEPs have blurred the time-honoured separation of non-partisan public servants and political staffers and sidelined seasoned government communicators, sapping morale across the civil service.

It's far worse than just uninspired photo-ops. Quoting Jonathan Rose, a political scientist from Queen's University, “You've got bureaucrats who are doing the government's partisan work and also political staffers who are doing bureaucrats' work. So there's this huge blurring of lines between the two.” Those are lines that the government has no right to blur.

Jeffrey Simpson of The Globe and Mail describes Tory message control this way: The MEP describes the request/event, the likely audience, the desired headline or sound bite, the appropriate backdrop, the best photograph or camera angle, the appropriate clothing, the accompanying materials, and so on. Nothing, if possible, is left to chance by this spin machine, which is why so many of Stephen Harper’s events, and those of other ministers, have such a lifeless, deadening sense about them.

There's something inherently sad about these tactics that prevent Canadians from ever getting an honest look at who is governing and what it is they believe as opposed to what they purport. It's also hard to read about this and not think that Harper and the Conservatives have co-opted the Republican playbook which has been been all about message control from the top down - and look where that has brought American public discourse.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What Could Go Wrong?



Reading that the current administration in Ottawa has decided to jump into what's called a "sole-sourced" (think no-bid) purchase of 65 high-priced fighter jets, I can't help but get a queasy feeling. One really has to wonder why the contract worth up to $9-billion is being awarded without competition.

Stephen Harper's rationale that "the only other aircraft that could eventually meet the needs of the Canadian Forces would be built in China or Russia, and that such a purchase wouldn’t fly in Canada, is specious at best and a flat out lie, with a little demagoguery tossed in for good measure, at worst. Harper is suddenly against competition and against the possibility of saving some of those hard earned tax dollars he's always claiming to be spending so judiciously? And I missed the note that said China and Russia are the enemy once more. I thought they were valued trading partners in a global economy.

It's not only the Russians and Chinese that have been cut out of the bidding. Boeing doesn't get a shot at maybe providing a better product or beating Lockheed-Martin's price either. Harper's Defense Minister, Peter Mackay ducked questions on the matter answering NDP critics with only, "Stay tuned!”

We will.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Celebrate World Oceans Day- Build A Fake Lake- The Conservative's Did

Harper Land- Life must be good in Harper land when you can justify spending two million Canadian dollars on a fake lake. As way to advertise the up-comming G-8-20 meetings  summit organizers built the artificial lake in Toronto's Direct Energy Centre. (We cannot confirm that the lake was stocked with flounder but this writer is assuming so.)

Fake lake lies about Afghanistan,  the truth is obviously not being high on the Conservatives agenda. It is no surprise to find out they scripted the message they wanted Canadian's to know about the Afghan mission. At a time when some of the fiercest fighting was happening the Conservatives were saying the mission was focusing on development and reconstruction. Like bad cheats in high school the government gave the identical set of quotes to two returning aid workers. The aid workers were scheduled to give separate press conferences detailing their personal perspective on the progress in Afghanistan.

Hope for Iggy

I probably pick on Iggy too much, but it's only because I like him. Not as leader of the Liberal Party per say, but as a person. I've seen him up close, followed what he has too say and it's pretty obvious he's a decent and caring human being. Which does not necessarily make him the best candidate to be a party leader - in fact quite the opposite. He would be better suited, it often seems to me, to be the policy wonk behind the scenes doing policy grunt work. Or, as I've said before, he should be the guy behind the guy, and not the guy.

At every turn Harper seems to have had an edge on Michael Ignatieff up until now. Even when he was using cheap American style politicking tricks like demagoguing, fear-mongering and sneering. Today however Michael Ignnatieff fired back at Tory spin in a manner the suggests we may be in for a learning curve. I did say I thought he was smart, right?

In an interview this weekend, Ignatieff said he'd be open to a coalition with the NDP if the electorate didn't give the Liberals a mandate to govern solo. For some reason the Tories believe this can be made into a controversy. I fail to see how - but they've tried before. It's not unprecedented in Canadian history and I have this vague memory of a party called the Alliance Party wanting to merge with the Conservatives and form a coalition to oppose the Liberals - but that could just be a bad dream. 

So when the Tory spinsters got hold of this they declared, “It’s not acceptable to ignore the election result and install a party and leader rejected by the voters,” according to the talking points. “It’s not acceptable to give the NDP co-management of the economy.”

I have never understood their objections to a progressive coalition. If Canadians vote for progressives from the Green Party, the NDP and the Liberal Party, and those number far exceed the number of people who vote Conservative why shouldn't they form an alliance and govern? It's the Parliamentary system. That's how it works.

Anyhow, instead of apologizing for thinking this way, Iggy shot back that the Tories were being "ridiculous."

"To say that coalitions are legitimate is like saying the earth is round,” a senior Ignatieff official said Monday morning. “It happens everywhere. Mr. Cameron (British Prime Minister David Cameron, who leads a coalition government) said so to Stephen last week."

You go Iggy!

Some Late-Night Blogging

We're on the cusp of the Canadian political silly season - that magical time of year when not very much happens in Canadian politics and this year Canadian politicians will take a long break from a short period of governing after a taking a long break (the prorogue) from governing.


On a personal level, I've been a bit tired and had a hard time getting to the Canadian posts this weekend but I do love it and made a window late here on a Sunday night to kick the week off.

Canada's very expensive G-8 and G-20 get-togethers are going to avoid the controversial topics of abortion and climate change (controversial to Harper and the Tories only, it would seem). The purpose of spending all this money to declare that the nations involved should and will tighten their belts and address few other issues of substance or importance is going to be controversial to Canadians once they notice that's what is taking place.

Not addressing climate change because it's difficult and possibly, but not necessarily, expensive is the act of an administration that's either cowardly or so ideologically driven that they are blind to the consequences of inaction. With Canada's Conservatives it could be both. The science of AGW (anthropogenic Global Warming) is really not in doubt.

Iggy tries to figure his way around all the talk of coalitions and mergers and.... well, I'm just dreaming here, but I have my fingers crossed for an August shotgun wedding. Iggy would look awesome in peach and make a very attractive brides-maid!

Lastly, a reminder that there have been oil spills in Canada's Arctic waters along with other toxic substances but if ever there were a spill in Arctic waters like the one in the Gulf, the consequences would be even more dire.

Oh crap! A report just in and another Canadian has lost his life in Afghanistan - Sergeant Martin Goudreault, 35, died on Sunday after an improvised explosive device in the Panjwaii district. Heartfelt condolences to his family and friends should they come across this.

On the anniversary of D-Day, maybe it's a good time to mention that Canada has been fighting in Afghanistan for a longer time than it did in the European theatre in WWII.

D-Day 66 Years Later

 
I don't check the 'this day in history' calendar but on the eve of June 6th I don't need to be reminded that this is the 66th anniversary of D-Day, when Canadian soldiers joined with allied forces and stormed the beaches at Normandy marking the beginning of the end of the 2nd World War.

The Royal Canadian Navy provided 109 vessels, and 10,000 sailors as its contribution to the massive armada of 7,000 Allied vessels which went to sea on D-Day. There were 14,000 soldiers to land on the beaches; another 450 were to drop behind enemy lines by parachute or glider. Lancaster bombers and Spitfire fighters from the Royal Canadian Air Force supported the invasion.

To ensure that D-Day would succeed, 340 Canadians gave their lives that first day. Another 574 were wounded and 47 taken prisoner. Many more would die in those early days of the Normandy invasion as Canadian soldiers established position and survived German counter-attacks.

Go check out this terrific archive on the subject courtesy of Canada's public broadcaster.

There's really not much to do but be grateful and say thank-you!

Friday, June 4, 2010

If This Is Harper's Vision For Canada I Wish I Was Blind


Ottawa- As a prelude to the meeting of the "Big G's" the good citizens of Ottawa were dancing in the streets in protest of CANSEC, Canada's largest arms show. The arms bazaar is organized by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries.  Along with the tight security a large metal fence surrounded the site closing it off from the public. Protestors decorated the fence with anti-war banners and posters. Defence Minister Peter Mackay was scheduled to appear but did not, leaving organizers scrambling to find a Bush like substitute.  

Protestors at CANSEC gun show
Speaking of guns the powers that be unveiled their security plans for the G8 and G20 summits. This includes buying four Long Range Acoustic Devices. These boom-boxes from hell, or sound cannons as they are sometimes called emit ear-splitting pitches they can have effect at distance of two CFL football fields end to end. The police said the sound cannons will not be used as a weapon but as a "communication tool" with protestors. This is on top of the usual government counter measures of mounted police. pissed off dogs held back by just as pissed off riot police, snipers, swat teams, cameras and of course everybody's favourite, CISA agents dressed up as a hippies.

Police showing off their "Sound Canon"
Just to make sure there is room to accommodate all of the
miscreants billions are being spent on brand spankin' new
jails across the country. When the Conservative government is cutting back pensions and social programs, Corrections Canada's new mantra is, "spend baby spend", adding four thousand new positions across the country. Not a hard thing to do when your  budget is by increased by twenty-seven per cent, reaching 3.1 billion in 2012-13. With the crime rate falling look for the Harper Conservatives to create new laws to justify the extra rooms. What's Conservative for self fulfilling prophecy?


Prime Minister Brian Mulroney -Another Proud Moment In Canadian History








Thursday, June 3, 2010

Easy To Be Complacent



On a slow-news Thursday in Canada, you might be inclined to skip the headlines and let it all slide. After all you're busy. There's a weekend to plan for... hell, there's a whole summer to plan for! Surely you take can a couple of days off from paying attention and let things take care of themselves.

Sadly, that's seemingly never how it goes anymore. There's hardly a day where they don't try and sneak something past. Today, Canadian politicians were talking about a continuing role in Afghanistan for Canada past the 2011 pull-out date. Here I was absolutely positive I had read Canada's forces were getting out in 2011, no matter what. Having already made our contributions to the NATO effort, and in spite of what the Americans want us to do.

Our PM, busy visiting 10 Downing Street today, took the time to take a shot at the opposition saying that "losers don't get to form coalitions." Seems a bit shrill considering it's all speculation at this point, and in light of polls showing Tory support hovering at a whopping 31.7 %!

Here in Montreal our constabulary once again breaks the public trust and raids compassion clubs. It's terribly important that medical marijuana doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Good thing no one was playing dice or they could have ended up dead.

In Canada's north, Arctic sea ice on pace to reach record low levels this year. Another sign of anthropogenic climate change can be found in this Science Daily article on ocean acidification. Maybe it's time to talk about sustainability and some of the tough choices we need to make. Too bad it couldn't get done at Copenhagen back in December.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Late Night In Canada

It's quiet in the big country. The smoke has cleared from Montreal, and Quebec's fires are coming under control. Although language and access to English schools could always reignite another kind of conflagration. Still, it's looking like a peaceful start to the summer.

There's talk of a Liberal, NDP merger and that could provide entertainment all summer long... albeit the kind of entertainment most are like to tune out. Kind of like a crappy sequel to a decent Canadian sit-com.  If you can imagine such a thing!

On May 13,Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said that protecting Canadian waters for Canadians is a top priority of the Conservative government. That doesn't mean he's actually going to find an effective way to do that. With the Conservatives, it's always the thought that counts.

The Tories want Canada bend to the wishes of others (music/film industry lobbyists) as they introduce their new copyright bill. More on this in the near future. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tories Announce They Don't Like Progressive Coalition

  
After reading headlines like that I'm sure I could knock you over with a feather. Certainly that's how I feel when I read something that inane. Yet, there you have it. The Globe and Mail announcing the Tories hate the idea of the Grits and NDP forming a coalition to defeat them, rather than simply accepting Conservative rule. The nerve!

The Tories have their nice little niche in Canadian governance and are loathe to give it up. It's a farce and sooner or later it has to end. Nationally, two-third's of Canadian voters vote for progressive parties and policies, yet Canada is governed by slack-jawed conservatives whose idea of a good time is goading people on about abortion, stuffing unpalatable policies into budget bills and ignoring the environment as well as treaties Canada has
signed on to.

Their argument is that with the economy going so swimmingly, why would anyone want to get in the way of that? Well, for starters if the GDP is running at 6.1% growth for the quarter and you're not creating many new full-time jobs, then maybe GDP is no longer a pertinent statistic for working Canadians. Maybe it has meaning for the wealthy and corporate classes but that's not who's in need of jobs or even who pays the lion's share of collected tax revenues, so who cares?

Oh, and Brian Mulroney's a crook who owes Canada an apology and $2 Million dollars.