Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

House of Commons to hold abortion-related debate in April

OTTAWA — A controversial proposal from a Conservative backbencher to legally define fetuses as human beings — and reopen the abortion debate — will have its day in the House of Commons.

Tory MP Stephen Woodworth wants Parliament to create a committee of politicians whose task it will be to review a law that stops short of defining unborn children as "human beings."

A committee of MPs has agreed to give Woodworth at least one hour of debate sometime in April. He will receive a second hour of debate sometime either in late spring or early fall.

If parliamentarians agree to Woodworth's request, a special committee would review Section 223 of the Criminal Code, which says a child becomes "a human being . . . when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother."

Northern Gateway, Keystone clogged, the tar sands look east

The fate of the $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline could also define the political futures of three strong Canadian western women.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, running behind the NDP and facing a serious threat from a resurgent Conservative party on the West Coast, has chosen to skate, rather than staking out a position on a pipeline which is opposed by environmentalists and First Nations in her province.

Opposition to tanker traffic off the northern coast is overwhelming and northern B.C. communities have passed resolutions formally opposing the project.

She faces pressure from neighbouring Alberta and her allies in the Stephen Harper government to get on board.

Should she need any reminder of the looming showdown, the opposite poles were on display in Ottawa Tuesday.

King West: Canary in the Condo Coal Mine

King West was the location of the first big condo boom of the current era, and so it follows that it will play the role of the canary in this condo coal mine we’re digging ourselves into, a collective project that can serve as an object lesson as other parts of town go vertical.

I went down last Thursday night. I don’t live that far away, but I’ve lived not that far away for long enough that I don’t get down to that part of town much. When I moved into not that far away a decade or so ago, King and Spadina was not a place one went. It wasn’t dangerous; it wasn’t anything at all. The Wheat Sheaf at the corner of Bathurst was the closest thing to an attraction. I liked it well enough, but I tended to stick to the Bathurst corridor, rather than stray too far east or west on King, where dreary retail vied with dreary office space to make for a thoroughly uninviting strip.

Then the condos came.

They actually started coming more than a decade ago, and a little farther west than Bathurst at first, but these things work slowly. Also, some of those earlier condos weren’t that great. Like 701-725 King West, a hulking brickbat of dead streetscape that still weighs the hood down. But most were pretty decent designs, ones that allowed them to become part of the neighbourhood, rather than just tower above it.

Mortgage Investigation Consistently Hindered By Major U.S. Banks

The five banks that agreed to a $25 billion settlement to resolve fraudulent foreclosure claims consistently hindered a government watchdog's investigation into those practices, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development's inspector generals office.

The findings, based on a review of foreclosure practices at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial over a two-year span from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2010, essentially confirm what has been reported extensively for nearly two years. Bank employees, in order to speed foreclosures, signed hundreds of legal documents a day without reviewing the accuracy of the foreclosure information, notarized signatures on documents that purported to verify a bank's legal right to foreclose without ever checking whether that was true, and hired law firms that forged signatures en masse -- all with the encouragement of management.

The report was issued by the HUD's Office of Inspector General a day after the government finally filed in federal court documents that set the terms of the banks' settlement to resolve a 16-month foreclosure investigation. The Department of Justice used the HUD review in negotiating the settlement.

Super PAC Backlash: Washington Post/ABC News Poll Says 69% Of Voters Want Groups Outlawed

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that super PACs, the political organizations that allow donors to contribute unlimited amounts of money in support of candidates, are extremely unpopular among American voters.

The poll, conducted among registered voters from March 7-10, found that 69 percent of voters want super PACs to be made illegal, while 25 percent want them to remain legal. Independent voters felt more strongly than Democrats or Republicans -- 78 percent said they favored banning super PACs.

Super PACs have emerged as a crucial part of the 2012 campaign, the first presidential cycle for which they've been in existence. The groups have raised millions of dollars for all the major GOP primary candidates, with Mitt Romney's Restore Our Future PAC out front with $34 million spent.

In another measure of the new playing field, Newt Gingrich has been able to stay afloat in the Republican primary largely because of the financial backing of one man, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson -- an arrangement that would have been impossible four years ago. Super PACs' tentacles are spreading slowly but surely at the state level, too.

Super PACs developed as a byproduct of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which swept aside decades of election-law precedent in a controversial 5-4 decision.

Since then, the court's decision has become a flashpoint for the long-running debate over campaign spending, with politicians on both sides of the aisle voicing their displeasure with the new rules. President Barack Obama singled out the Supreme Court over the decision in his 2010 State of the Union address, while John McCain called Citizens United "one of the worst decisions I have ever seen." Late-night host Stephen Colbert, meanwhile, has created his own super PAC to illustrate what he sees as the law's absurdity.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Benjamin Hart 

Can Progressives Ride the Occupy Train to Congress?

Could last fall's Occupy fever portend a progressive takeover of Congress?

The answer could hinge on the outcome of an upcoming Democratic primary in a congressional district near Chicago, where a corporate-friendly centrist faces a remarkably stiff challenge from a 25-year-old Occupy Wall Street supporter who has even cut an OWS-themed campaign ad.

"What excited me about Occupy was that the target of this anger and frustration was finally the right one," says Ilya Sheyman, who stepped down as national mobilization director for early last year to compete for a seat held by a vulnerable GOP congressman. "I think what's happened is people feel like, 'Wow, we've changed the national conversation. Now we have to change leadership in Washington and deliver on that.'"

Putin's Bearish Threats to Canada's Arctic

When he flew into the Arctic a few years ago for one of his manly photo-ops, this time with a polar bear his image-makers had tranquilized on the ice, Vladimir Putin looked at the unconscious beast and declared: "He's the real master of the Arctic."

We were all assuming Putin was talking about the bear, of course. But now that he's back in the Kremlin, Canadians would be justified in wondering if it's Putin who wants to be the Arctic czar.

Russia's president has big Arctic ambitions. Russia is pouring billions of dollars into major investments in Arctic shipping routes, northern cities, military development, and resource exploration and extraction. No country in the world can compete on such a scale with Russia in the Arctic.

Unfortunately for Canada, Russia's Arctic ambition reaches areas that Ottawa believes belong to Canada. And claiming sovereignty over those disputed areas is clearly one of Putin's priorities in the years ahead.

In the days before his re-election as Russia's president, Putin told The Globe and Mail that Canada and Russia ought to set up a joint scientific council to determine who owns what parts of the Arctic. Putin's intent, ostensibly, is for Canada and Russia to warm up relations and cooperate in determining how far each country's continental shelf extends toward the North Pole.

Why Harper is the Teflon Robot

A lot of people expected the so-called "robocall scandal" to inflict some serious damage to the Conservative government's standing in the polls.

As NDP MP Pat Martin put it, "This is the kind of thing that brings governments down."

And it's easy to see why Martin and others might hold this view. After all, the media gave the scandal front-page treatment for weeks. Day after day, it seemed new allegations surfaced suggesting somebody associated with the Conservative party may have used fraudulent phone calls to misdirect and annoy voters.

Yet, despite all that negative coverage recent public opinion polls suggest the scandal has had little or no impact on the Conservative party's popularity: 37 per cent of Canadians polled said they would still vote for the Tories if an election occurred tomorrow -- unchanged since a poll taken last November.

So what happened? Why have the Tories emerged from all the bad press seemingly unscathed?

Well, the answer is pretty simple: Canada is a land of two nations.

And no, I am not talking about English and French.

Ronald Phipps, Black Mailman, Was Stopped By Cop Because Of The Color Of His Skin: Court

TORONTO - A police officer who suspected a black letter carrier doing his rounds in an affluent neighbourhood was up to no good was racially motivated in those suspicions, Ontario's top court ruled Tuesday.

In dismissing an appeal by the officer, the Appeal Court sided with a lower court decision that upheld an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal finding of discrimination.

Evidence was that the letter carrier, Ronald Phipps, was dressed in a Canada Post uniform and was carrying a Canada Post satchel as he delivered mail door-to-door.

At the time, Const. Michael Shaw, who was on patrol in the neighbourhood, was on the lookout for white men in a vehicle who were suspected of cutting telephone lines.

Even though Phipps did not match that description, Shaw suspected the carrier might have been wearing a postal uniform as a ruse.

The officer claimed his suspicions had nothing to do with the fact that Phipps was a black man.

Public Works prepared to launch probe into defence contractors’ costs

Public Works is prepared to launch its own probe into allegations a Crown corporation is being ripped off by contractors if the auditor general’s office does not agree to investigate.

Testifying before the House of Commons’ government operations committee, Public Works deputy minister François Guimont said he has asked auditor general Michael Ferguson’s office to look into allegations made in a report last month by the Union of National Defence Employees. However, Public Works may have to conduct its own audit, he said, since Ferguson’s office is already undertaking an audit of the Crown corporation in question, Defence Construction Canada.

“The OAG is giving us the signal that may be outside of the scope of their audit for reasons of time,” Guimont said in response to a question from Liberal MP John McCallum.

“I am waiting for that answer to be formally given to me in writing and should that be the case, we will carry out a review inside the department through the oversight branch in the department, in cooperation with DND — the Department of National Defence.”

While Public Works is responsible for Defence Construction Canada, the Crown corporation works closely with National Defence.

Canada’s Harper Faces Less Pressure to Stop Viterra Takeover

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government blocked a hostile takeover bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. in 2010, may face less pressure to reject any sale of Viterra Inc. (VT)

Viterra, Canada’s biggest grain handler, may not be viewed as a strategic asset and its sale won’t create a public outcry, Canadian politicians and analysts at Raymond James said yesterday.

“This doesn’t fit our own definition of a strategic resource,” in the same way Potash did, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall told reporters in Regina.

Wall led opposition to BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP)’s bid for Potash Corp., which Harper rejected on grounds it wasn’t in Canada’s interest to sell the fertilizer maker, sparking concerns about the country’s openness to foreign investment.

Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore International Plc, (GLEN) the world’s largest publicly traded commodities supplier, has expressed an interest in Viterra, according to a person familiar with the situation. Closely held grain distributor Cargill Inc., based in Minneapolis, has also expressed an interest, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people it didn’t identify.

Overhead rising as departments tighten belts

Federal departments are increasingly spending more on overhead costs, from technology to communications, while reducing all other costs that are being targeted by the Conservative government's sweeping spending review.

The trend of rising overhead costs comes at a time when the government is counting on big savings by revamping its internal services to "transform" how government operates, manages its people and serves Canadians. The government already has several internal services projects under way, including Shared Services Canada, but overhead costs continue to climb.

The increase was flagged in a report by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which examined departments' predicted spending in the Main Estimates for 201213. The Estimates don't include the cuts in the Conservatives' deficit-reduction plan, which will be announced in the budget.

Overall, departments are already planning to spend less on direct program spending except for internal services, which are rising at an accelerated rate. They are seeking an additional $800 million to cover overhead, which includes communications, human resources, information technology and financial management. That's an eight-per-cent increase over last year, which jumped three per cent from the year before that.

Honesty is the best policy

Preston Manning gave Canadian politicians a wakeup call on the weekend. His strong advocacy of integrity in politics was underlined by the discouraging results of a poll done for his Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

That poll showed that seven in 10 Canadians would describe politicians as dishonest. When asked the slightly more nuanced question about whether our elected people are truthful, the negative number was even higher.

Manning argued that lying undermines the democratic process and public trust in all parties. The public holds politicians in "virtual contempt," Manning said.

It's not fair to say that most politicians lie all the time, but too many have become accustomed to giving the public only bits and pieces of the truth, the ones that serve them the best.

The robocall controversy is only the latest example of public skepticism about political statements. Despite all they have been told, in another poll three-quarters of the public say they want a public inquiry so they can see for themselves what went on.

Robocalls aren’t the problem — the way parties treat voters as prey is

One of the puzzles surrounding Robocon has been the seeming randomness of the reported calls. Suppose Conservatives of some description were behind it. Ridings were targeted the Conservatives were sure to win; others the party badly wanted to win were not targeted at all. Ridings where attempts to suppress the vote of opposition parties have been reported do not seem to have experienced lower turnout on the whole — although new research shows opposition-voting polling stations saw larger drops in turnout in those ridings than elsewhere.

But notice how I’ve slipped a couple of assumptions past you. No, not the “suppose the Conservatives did it” one : rather, they concern the practice of robocalling itself, which as every party hastens to point out, is not illegal or unethical. I took for granted, first, that of course such efforts would be focused on ridings that were “in play,” i.e. where there was a chance of the outcome being affected one way or the other; and second, that of course the calls, whether live or automated, would focus on voters who supported one party or another, because of course the parties would have that sort of information.

Ottawa’s ethical low ground is well-trodden

Federal politics wasn’t always morally challenged. If you want to pin a date on when the ethical decline began in earnest, you might try 30 years ago. Before that, there were periodic manifestations of malfeasance that, human nature being what it is, were not out of the norm.

During Lester Pearson’s stewardship, for example, many Quebec ministers resigned or were sidelined owing to ethical breaches, the seriousness of which was exaggerated by John Diefenbaker’s invective. But Mr. Pearson was deemed to be, and indeed was, an honourable politician.

The government of Pierre Trudeau was not overly encumbered with scandal, nor was that of Mackenzie King or Louis St. Laurent. But at the close of his period in office, Mr. Trudeau made a spate of egregious patronage appointments that set off a firestorm in the media, sullied his reputation and handicapped his successor, John Turner.

Since that time, the ethical climate has deteriorated. Brian Mulroney’s government was dogged almost from the outset by the perception that he was some kind of shyster. But compared with Stephen Harper, Mr. Mulroney demonstrated a good deal of respect for the democratic process. The problem was his cabinet. Several of his ministers had to resign for ethical breaches. But the perception was that the fish rots from the head down. And it didn’t help when Mr. Mulroney controversially accepted cash from lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber shortly after leaving office.

Quebec: We'll work to soften the new federal crime bill

MONTREAL - Quebec's vigorous opposition of the Harper government's freshly adopted crime legislation entered a new phase Tuesday as the province pledged to minimize the bill's impact on its soil.

The Quebec government, already angered by the legislation's potential cost to the provinces, announced that it would do everything in its power to limit the clout of the sweeping bill that passed a day earlier.

Because the provinces are responsible for applying the laws passed in Ottawa, Quebec's justice minister said he can hand judges and prosecutors instructions that would soften the impact of Bill C-10 — particularly when it comes to youth offenders.

Under the plan, provincial officials said they will ask that a young offender's name only be made public in exceptional circumstances; relieve prosecutors of the obligation to demand an adult sentence for someone under 16; and create a program to treat drug addicts instead of imprisoning them.

Young Conservative staffer was shocked to be named in robocalls affair: source

OTTAWA — The young Conservative in the spotlight of the robocall scandal told co-workers on Parliament Hill he was stunned to learn he'd been named in connection with fraudulent calls in the Ontario riding of Guelph by unknown senior figures in the party.

Anonymous Conservatives have repeatedly fingered Michael Sona, singling out him alone among a group of workers on the campaign of Guelph candidate Marty Burke, but a source says Sona had no reason to believe Elections Canada was interested in him until he was named by unidentified senior Tories in a report on Sun News Network the day the story broke.

The agency never interviewed Sona, the communications director for the Burke campaign, until after his abrupt departure from his job working in an MP's office on Parliament Hill on Feb. 24.

Sona himself had no idea his name had been linked to the scandal until he heard it on the Conservative-friendly TV channel staffed by many former party employees. The channel was the first to tie Sona's name to the calls.

Resolving the strike at Ottawa's Salvation Army shelter

Several weeks ago we, as concerned Christians, met at a local church with some of the striking workers from the Salvation Army Booth Centre on George Street in Ottawa's Byward Market. The staff members spoke first and at length about the people they serve, some with serious mental health problems and those trying to conquer alcoholism or addictions, many of whom are homeless. It was clear to us that these workers, whether as a front-line counsellors or as support staff in the kitchen, must have both skill and dedication to do what they do. These workers have both.

Some of us went last week to visit the Booth Centre on George Street. On the picket line we met a front-line worker named Rob. His wife is looking after their two-month-old boy and he wonders what kind of future his family will have if they are forced to live on his current salary. Rob is making a little over $14 an hour and is aware that his counterpart at other shelters in the city are making $17 to $18 an hour. He also knows that, regardless of how long he works for the Salvation Army, there will be few if any incremental increases in his wages. A member of the kitchen staff and one of the cleaners both told us how the Centre's clients are like family. They also told us how difficult it is to clean up when someone has been sick or how risky it can be when there are needles lying around. Both staff members make $11.31 an hour.

No pretense of an excuse for continued Israeli attacks on Gaza

In August 2011, when the Israeli army bombed the Gaza Strip for nearly a week, killing 26 and injuring 89 more Palestinians, they at least had a pretext, no matter how transparently false -- one which was immediately proven bogus by both their own Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) spokeswoman and subsequent investigations.

Four days ago on March 9, 2012, when the Israeli army assassinated two Palestinians via a precision-fired "drone" (UAV, the technically accurate name) missile, they didn't even have the pretense of a pretext to cling to. The missile, which hit a car in Gaza City's Tel el Hawa district, killing two Palestinian resistance fighters, was the first of almost non-stop bombing that has continued throughout Monday. As of Monday evening, the death toll was 25 Palestinians, with another over 80 injured -- many with critical, life-threatening injuries -- and 3 Israelis injured from the crude, unguided rockets Palestinian resistance fire, with no signs that Israel would cease its murderous campaign. In the first attacks, the IOF assassinated Zuhair al-Qaisi, the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), and PRC member Mahmoud Hanani.

Air Canada union slams Ottawa's intervention

Air Canada's largest employee union says the federal government's introduction of back-to-work legislation in advance of any work stoppage is an attack on workers' rights.

"The rights and wages of our members at Air Canada are being attacked by the federal government," Dave Ritchie, head of the Canadian branch of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said.

The proposed legislation, if passed, would force an end to any labour disruption at Canada's largest airline. The 8,600-member machinists union has had a mandate to strike since Monday, and last week, the airline said it would lock out its 3,000 pilots at the same deadline.

But both job actions have been delayed indefinitely as Ottawa moved quickly to block any potential work disruption during the busy March break travel season. Citing undue harm that a shutdown would have on the economy, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt announced the proposed legislation on Monday.

Tories rigged environment committee to gut review process: opposition

The Conservative-dominated Commons environment committee recommends downloading much of the job of environmental assessment to the provinces and imposing timelines so the development of projects like pipelines and the Alberta oil sands won’t be delayed.

That advice is contained in a report for the government, which is prepared to make revisions to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. But opposition MPs say it will provide “handy messaging” as the Conservatives cut corners and costs to push through projects with less oversight.

Michelle Rempel, the Calgary MP who is parliamentary secretary to the Environment Minister, told reporters Tuesday the 20 recommendations laid out in the report focus on “pragmatism.”

It is a matter of “ensuring that Canada’s natural heritage is protected while improving the efficiency of the bureaucratic processes that surround environmental assessment in our country,” Ms. Rempel said of the committee’s work, which was conducted largely behind closed doors.

Manufacturing recovery lacks crucial element: jobs

When Maple Leaf Foods Inc. announced it would close five aging meat plants in Ontario and replace them with a single high-tech mega-plant in Hamilton, the move meant a loss of 1,550 jobs.

The new plant, with its highly automated processes, would be able to produce as many or more hot dogs and sliced meats at a much lower cost, making it more competitive with multinational rivals, the company said.

Welcome to the brave new world of manufacturing in Canada, where sales and exports are finally recovering from the recession but jobs on the plant floor continue to disappear.

Manufacturing sales have regained most of the ground lost during the recession, according to Statistics Canada.

But only a third of the lost manufacturing jobs have come back, according to Dina Cover, an economist with TD Economics.

Manufacturing now represents just 10 per cent of all employment in Canada down from a peak of 16 per cent in 2000, she noted.

Minister raises prospect of nixing controversial F-35 fighter jet purchase

OTTAWA—Ottawa’s point man on the F-35 stealth fighter purchase says the Harper government has not discounted backing out of the troubled program.

Julian Fantino, associate defence minister, made the comment today before a House of Commons committee.

He says the government remains committed to buying the radar-evading jet, but noted once again that no contract has been signed.

A formal deal could be signed next year and much of the public debate has been around the government’s 2010 announcement that it intended to buy the highly automated manned fighter.

Fantino told the all-party defence committee that the government is considering “if and when” to sign a contract.

His comments represent a significant step back from the strident defence the Harper government has offered for the costly, long-delayed program.

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: Canadian Press

Robocalls: Liberals release telephone information in hopes Conservative Party will do the same

OTTAWA—The Liberals want the government to follow their lead and hand over information about robocalls in the last federal campaign to Elections Canada investigators.

In an attempt to “assist” the massive probe into alleged vote suppression leading up to the 2011 vote, Liberal interim leader Bob Rae made public a small sample of the automated telephone calls that were made on the party’s behalf, as well as scripts provided to call centre employees tasked with identifying Liberal supporters.

They included recordings of former leader Michael Ignatieff inviting people to campaign rallies as well as recordings to two MPs urging people to cast a ballot on election day.

The move is an attempt to compel the Conservative party to also reveal the extent of its robocalling activities as well as the speaking notes that the party provided to privately run call centres, like one in Thunder Bay where former employees have said they may have been instructed to send voters to the wrong polling stations on election day.

Omnibus Crime Bill: Massive Conservative Legislation Passes After Brief Delay By NDP

OTTAWA - The Conservative government that rushed to pass a massive crime bill by curtailing debate in the House of Commons and Senate now says it will take its time making the new measures a reality on the street.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's majority easily passed Bill C-10 on Monday evening by a vote of 154-129, sweeping aside a procedural delay by the NDP that stalled the bill's curtain call for five days.

The legislation, which includes nine separate bills, goes briefly back to the Senate and could get royal assent as early as Tuesday — meeting Harper's campaign promise last spring to pass the bill within 100 sitting days of a new parliament.

Working the changes through the justice system will take considerably longer.

"We're going to space out a number of them out," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said outside the Commons before the final vote Monday.

Harper’s interference in bargaining process is bad for competitiveness

Last week, Stephen Harper once again imposed the heavy hand of government in the marketplace and declared – well in advance of potential strike action by Air Canada unions – that he was not going to sit by while the airline “shuts itself down”.

Sound public and economic policy would have required that he do exactly that – nothing. He should have said nothing, too.

Back to work legislation should only be introduced in the rarest of cases. Mr. Harper has created a moral hazard. His regular market interventionism is extremely short sighted, and as in everything he does, completely political.

To add further confusion to the question, labour minister Lisa Raitt hit the airwaves to emphatically reiterate that her government “supports collective bargaining.”

Well, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

The issue isn’t with the collective bargaining process, per se, Ms. Raitt said. According to Canada’s minister of labour, the real problem is “that union members do not ratify the deals”.

By elections if necessary

Political scandals such as the "robocalls" affair are always much bigger deals the closer you stand to the action and the principal players.

These days in political Ottawa and in the Guelph, Ont. stomping grounds of Pierre Poutine, for example, the story is only a notch or two below doomsday status. Elsewhere the issue seems much farther from real-world lives unless you have particularly strong feelings for or against Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

As the days pass and the revelations and counter-revelations accumulate, however, it becomes necessary for the rest of us to start looking more closely and carefully at the matter - to separate three quite distinct questions:

1. To what extent, if any, has the validity of the last election been undermined? That is, would the result at a local or national level have been different?

2. Was Canada's election law bro-ken, and if so, who is to blame?

3. What, if anything, do the answers to these questions have to do with policies being pursued by the government on crime, budgeting, health and the rest?

Robocall affair vaults Canada into big leagues of political scandal

Perhaps it’s our Canadian modesty that prevents us from thinking we could have a scandal as big-league and important as Watergate. But that modesty may be misplaced.

When it comes to democracy, nothing is more basic than the citizen’s right to vote. So the deliberate attempt to prevent voters from casting their ballots amounts to a stake through the faintly beating heart of democracy as surely as attempting to wiretap the headquarters of a rival political party.

Of course, Watergate became a world-class scandal because the break-in and coverup were linked to the highest political levels in the U.S.

Is something like that possible here?

The Conservatives, who’ve been fending off charges of trying to deter non-Conservative voters from making it to the correct poll on election day, are presumably hoping that the voter suppression can be blamed on a rogue operating without the approval or awareness of the Conservative party.

Tory MP Dean Del Mastro admits to making his own recorded calls

The Conservative MP leading his party's defence of vote suppression scandals sent out two robocalls of his own on election day that left some voters in his Ontario riding confused.

Dean Del Mastro, the Conservative MP for Peterborough, Ont., who serves as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, repeatedly accused the Liberals on Monday of using deceptive robocalls in Guelph, Ont., two days before the May 2 vote.

But a story from the Peterborough Examiner last May shows that Del Mastro had admitted he was behind pre-recorded robocalls that the area provincial representative said left his constituents confused.

The messages urging people to go vote were from someone identifying himself only as "Jeff."

A Liberal member of the Ontario legislature, Jeff Leal, told the paper he had heard complaints from constituents who thought the caller was "an imposter" pretending to be him.

Dirty Oil Diplomacy: New report outlines Canada's tarred lobbying efforts

Climate Action Network Canada, in partnership with the NRDC, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace and Sierra Club, launched a new report today - Dirty Oil Diplomacy, The Canadian Government's Global Push to Sell the Tar Sands. I just returned from a breakfast briefing with diplomats here in Ottawa introducing the report which provides hard-hitting evidence of our government's strategy to promote the tar sands and undermine climate legislation in Europe and the U.S.

Yesterday, in the lead up to the launch of this report, candle light vigils were held outside Canadian missions in more than 20 locations in the U.S. and Canada to voice concern and extend hope that Canada will reverse its international lobbying on behalf of highly destructive and polluting tar sands oil industry. You can see pictures here. The report, which you can download here begins with providing a brief ‘101' on tar sands and the context of domestic Canadian policy which includes the federal government's track record of failed climate change legislation policy, declining support for climate science, oil and gas sector subsidies and attacks on First Nations and environmental groups.

The "Robocall" smoking gun

The "robocall" voter suppression fraud has all the elements of a Scooby-Doo mystery, but the same principles apply in looking at the evidence to figure out if the guilty party is really a sea monster or Old Man Johnson in a rubber mask.

Having worked in an IT shop for a while and with automated election systems, there are several questions I noticed need to be asked.

The so-called robocall centre is a Voice Over IP system (VOIP) that can send out tens of thousands of calls an hour from a server through the Internet to phones anywhere. It makes the calls simultaneously like a bulk email.

To use it you need only a few simple things:

1) An account with an Internet service provider that has the specialized robocall software

2) An uploaded list of target phone numbers from a database or spreadsheet

3) A recorded message, called in from a phone anywhere

Canada’s outdated regulatory system impedes competitiveness

As the federal government approaches its first budget with a parliamentary majority, it has to confront Canada’s inefficient and outdated regulatory processes.

The delays and duplications that major projects have to overcome today can simply smother them, even when the benefits to the public would be tremendous.

Last year the federal government’s Red Tape Reduction Commission heard from a Calgary promoter who told them he needed 10 permits from 21 organizations to develop a wind farm. The whole effort took two years, by which time some of the technologies employed in the project were out of date.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified our cumbersome regulatory system as one of the top 10 barriers to Canadian competitiveness. The added delays and costs imposed by the overcomplicated process dull our competitive edge in global markets and place Canada’s standard of living at risk.

Having a broken regulatory system impedes our ability to take advantage of an historic opportunity. Our vast natural resource sector is driving our prosperity today.

Feds discreet about foreign funding of climate skeptics

OTTAWA — While it has aggressively slammed environmental groups for using foreign dollars to finance a small portion of their budgets, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is being tight-lipped about revelations that climate change skeptics in Canada are getting money from an American think-tank with corporate funding.

Newly released documents have revealed three Canadians were part of a network of academics receiving monthly payments from the Chicago-based Heartland Institute as part of its advocacy work to cast doubt on scientific evidence linking human activity to global warming observed in recent decades.

Two of the three Canadians mentioned in the internal records have confirmed they were getting paid by the Heartland Institute.

"There's nothing secret about it," said Madhav Khandekar, a retired meteorologist based in the Toronto region who was getting about $1,000 per month from the think-tank. "This is a sort of stipend that I get for doing the literature review and providing commentaries on the website. It is posted for people to read."

Two water conferences with competing visions

Euractiv reports, “Competing international conferences (are) taking place in Marseille next week… The Alternative World Water Forum – known by its French acronym FAME, or Forum Alternatif Mondial de l’Eau – says it offers a ‘democratic’ choice to the other Marseille gathering they say represents an élite that ignores the need for affordable water. …(While) the World Water Forum – a signature event that attracts thousands of industry, government and international representatives – sees little conflict between the two groups. …(But) Pablo Sanchez of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (disagrees and) said the forum remains a largely closed event that will not address one of FAME’s main aims – to keep water systems in public hands. …Sanchez said he would prefer to see the conference held under the auspices of the United Nations.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be a keynote speaker on the opening panel for FAME. And while several governments have invited Barlow to speak at a gathering of ministers inside the World Water Forum, forum organizers disinvited her without informing those governments. More on this soon.

GOP War on Voting Targets Swing States

On March 7, 1963, civil rights activists were brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, during the infamous "Bloody Sunday" march, for advocating for the right to vote. This week, forty-seven years later, today's civil rights leaders retraced the march from Selma to Montgomery, protesting what NAACP President Ben Jealous calls "the greatest attack on voting rights since segregation."

Since the 2010 election, Republicans have waged an unprecedented war on voting, with the unspoken but unmistakable goal of preventing millions of mostly Democratic voters, including students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly, from casting ballots in 2012. More than a dozen states, from Texas to Wisconsin and Florida, have passed laws designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process, whether by requiring birth certificates to register to vote, restricting voter registration drives, curtailing early voting, requiring government-issued IDs to cast a ballot, or disenfranchising ex-felons.

Within days, the crucial battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and Virginia will become the latest GOP states to pass legislation erecting new barriers to voting. If, as expected, the new laws lead to fewer Democrats casting ballots in November, both states could favor Republicans, possibly shifting the balance of power in Congress and denying Barack Obama a second term.

The Commons: Two wrongs make a farce

The Scene. Nycole Turmel wanted to talk about the apparently impending confession of Pierre Poutine. Pierre Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph. Ms. Turmel wanted to propose a public inquiry. Mr. Poilievre wanted to talk about what the Liberals had done wrong in Guelph.

Switching to English, Ms. Turmel presented an itemized list of grievances.

“Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board said he wants to change the culture of Ottawa,” he noted. “Changing the culture, like replacing Liberal scandals with Conservative scandals? A culture where people can rig elections? A culture where the Prime Minister does not answer questions? A culture with no accountability, no transparency? A culture of denial and partisan attacks? If the Prime Minister wanted to change the culture, he must take responsibility. Will he?”

Elections Canada hires 14 new 'frontline' staff to examine more than 31,000 'contacts' on voter suppression issue

PARLIAMENT HILL—A “majority” of the 31,000 contacts from voters that prompted Elections Canada to step up its probe into the robocall vote-suppression controversy were not related to new complaints about wrongdoing in the federal election last year, a spokesperson for Elections Canada says.

“I don’t have a number to update you, but I can tell you that at this point we know that the majority of the contacts, because we’re still calling them contacts, have been made via automated forms or online form letters. These would include political action groups like, [political] parties were doing it, as were media outlets,” Elections Canada communications director John Enright told The Hill Times Monday.

Mr. Enright said the electoral agency has hired 14 new “frontline” staff to go through the mass mailings, as well as new individual complaints from voters who were sparked into contacting Elections Canada by the two-week old controversy over allegations of fraudulent automated calling in the riding of Guelph, Ont. The calls purported to be from Elections Canada, and allegations of harassing calls or other phony Elections Canada calls occurred in separate electoral districts.

Federal workers' buyouts could reach $2B

The Harper government's plan to slash an estimated 30,000 public service jobs over the next three years includes hefty golden handshakes that could leave some federal workers laughing all the way to the bank.

For instance, CBC News has learned that a public servant laid off after only one year in the government will be entitled to a severance package of almost six months' pay, plus up to $11,000 to go back to school for a couple of years.

The Canadian Taxpayers' Federation isn’t impressed.

"Public service severance packages are far out of line with anything in the private sector," the federation's Derek Fildebrandt said. "It's far out of line with Canadians' reasonable expectations."

Private-sector employers commonly offer laid-off workers a couple weeks of severance for every year they have been with the company, Fildebrandt said. But federal public servants whose jobs are declared no longer needed will be offered special buy-out packages of up to 82 weeks of pay, depending on length of service, plus an array of other benefits.

NAACP Slams Fox News Attack on Obama for Praising, Hugging Pioneering Black Prof. Derrick Bell

The NAACP’s Benjamin Jealous responds to recent attacks on the late Derrick Bell, the first tenured African-American professor at Harvard Law School. Fox News host Sean Hannity played a video showing then-student Barack Obama hugging Bell during a protest over Harvard’s failure to hire minority faculty. Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Hannity’s program called Bell a "radical college racist professor." "I think, quite frankly, Sean Hannity was afraid to talk to Derrick Bell directly, because this [video] has been out there for years," Jealous says. "If he had, he would have encountered somebody of tremendous compassion, of tremendous intelligence and of tremendous patriotism."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Watchdog gets boost from MPs as it closes in on robo-call suspect

The House of Commons has unanimously agreed to boost the powers of Elections Canada as the country’s electoral watchdog is closing in on “Pierre Poutine,” who it alleges launched fraudulent robo-calls from a residence in Guelph in the last election.

The Conservatives, attacked from all sides over allegations of electoral fraud during the last three weeks, sided with the NDP’s call to provide more tools to Elections Canada to monitor spending by political parties and the activities of phone companies during elections.

The move came as Elections Canada is tracking a residence in Guelph, Ont., where a home computer accessed the robo-call account that was set up with a cellphone registered in the name of “Pierre Poutine,” a source said. The computer’s IP address is seen as the clearest fingerprint yet that could lead Elections Canada to the person behind the fraudulent election-day phone calls that directed voters to the wrong polling station in the Ontario riding of Guelph.

The opposition has hit the Conservative Party at every turn with questions about the robo-call controversy in Guelph over the last three weeks, stating that dozens of other ridings were affected by similar fraudulent tactics.

Tories' crime bill clears Parliament

The Conservative government's controversial crime bill has passed a final vote in the House of Commons, a few days later than the government expected.

The Tories had planned to pass Bill C-10 last Wednesday, but the NDP was able to delay the last day of debate until Friday and push the final vote to Monday.

Prior to the final vote, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said he was disappointed by the opposition tactics.

"These are very reasonable measures. They go after those who sexually exploit children, people in the child pornography business and it goes after drug traffickers, so this will be welcomed particularly by victims, those involved with law enforcement, and as we know, Canadians are supportive of what we are doing in this area," Nicholson told reporters.

He said once the bill becomes law the government will consult with the provinces to decide on timelines for implementing its various measures.

"We're going to space a number of them out," he said.

Harper’s promise fulfilled as House passes crime bill

After prematurely celebrating passage of their omnibus crime bill last week, the federal Conservatives have finally managed to push the controversial piece of legislation through Parliament.

The final vote in the House of Commons on Monday means Prime Minister Stephen Harper has fulfilled his commitment to get the legislation passed within the first 100 days of this session.

The New Democrats had used procedural wrangling to postpone the vote, which was supposed to take place last Wednesday, until Monday evening. But the federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson prevailed when the bill was passed by a vote of 154 to 129. With royal assent or an order in council, it will become law.

The delay came “as a great disappointment to victims groups who are very supportive of this,” Mr. Nicholson told reporters on Monday.

“These are very reasonable measures,” he said. “They go after those who sexually exploit children, people in the child pornography business and it goes after drug traffickers. So this will be welcomed, particularly by victims, those involved with law enforcement and, as we know, Canadians are supportive of what we are doing in this area.”

Bill stops Air Canada pilots from striking during bargaining

OTTAWA—Labour Minister Lisa Raitt introduced legislation suspending the right of Air Canada pilots and baggage handlers to strike during the current round of collective bargaining at the airline.

The far-reaching bill would also bar the airline from locking out employees until Air Canada and its unions reach a new collective agreement.

Citing concerns about the economy and families travelling for March break, Raitt moved last Thursday to head off a possible work stoppage this week. She referred the labour dispute to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), a move that ties the hands of labour and management until the board reports on the health and safety issues at stake.

But on Monday she took steps to guarantee there would not be a work stoppage at Air Canada regardless of when or what the CIRB reports.

“Our government will take further action to protect the travelling public, the Canadian economy and the public interest by introducing legislation to sustain air services,” she told reporters.

Liberal MP apologizes over robocalls

A Liberal MP apologized Monday for robocalls his campaign team made in the last federal election that may have run afoul of election laws.

Frank Valeriote, Guelph MP whose riding is at the centre of the robocall controversy, admitted his campaign launched a series of calls that accused his Conservative opponent of being anti-abortion.

But missing from the call was any mention of the fact that it was produced by the Liberal campaign, as required by Elections Canada rules.

That prompted the Conservatives to go on the offensive Monday, accusing the Liberals of flouting the law.

“Liberals used a bogus number, a fictitious character. They broke the CRTC regulations. They broke Elections Canada laws. They have acted in a fashion that is disgraceful (and) deceptive,” Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro said in the Commons.

The Conservatives themselves have been under fire in recent weeks over mystery calls made to voters in Guelph and other ridings directing them to vote at bogus polling stations. An Elections Canada investigation is underway to determine the source of those calls.

NAACP Head Benjamin Jealous in Geneva Seeking United Nations Help to Protect Voting Rights in U.S.

Since last year, 15 states have passed new voting laws that critics say suppress the votes of the poor, students and people of color. This is the topic of a major speech set for today by NAACP head Benjamin Jealous before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The NAACP wants a U.N. delegation of experts to monitor the impact of voter identification laws, as well new restrictions on same-day registration, early voting, Sunday voting, and making it harder to run a voting registration drive. Its outreach to the United Nations has been compared to the group’s efforts in the 1940s and 1950s when it sought international support in its fight for civil rights and against lynching. Its visit to the United Nations also comes days after the group joined with thousands of people in Alabama to retrace the historic 1965 civil rights march in Selma. In what became known as "Bloody Sunday" on March 7, 1965, police attacked demonstrators at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge as they tried to march for voting rights. Outrage over the crackdown led to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Ceasefire Reached After Israeli Air Strikes Killed 26 Palestinians in Gaza

As Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip reportedly agree to a ceasefire after four days of cross-border violence, we speak with Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the online publication, “The Electronic Intifada.” Earlier today, an Egyptian official said both sides have pledged to end current attacks and implement "a comprehensive and mutual calm." Israel’s latest strikes on Gaza killed at least 25 Palestinians. At least 80 Palestinians were also wounded, most of them civilians. At least four Israelis in border towns were wounded in rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. The rocket attacks began after an Israeli air strike killed Zuhair al-Qaisi, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, on Friday. Most of the Palestinian victims were killed on Saturday, making it the deadliest 24-hour period Gaza has seen since the Israeli attack in December 2008 and January 2009 when some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians. “Israel presents this as they’re attacking terrorists who are en route to commit some kind of attack, and that’s the claim they always make,” Abunimah says. “But in fact, in almost every case, they’re attacking people in their homes, riding in cars, just walking in the street.”

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Why Bill Maher Is Wrong About Rush Limbaugh

Bill Maher spent a significant portion of last Friday’s Real Time defending Rush Limbaugh. Well, not defending the man, whom he calls repulsive. And not defending Rush’s statements over the last few weeks, which he vehemently objected to on both political and rhetorical grounds. But Maher defended Rush’s right to say those things, invoking free speech and the ACLU, and in the process missed the point completely.

Maher proclaimed that efforts to pressure Rush Limbaugh’s sponsors amounted to an illegitimate attack on his freedom of speech, and that the advertiser campaign is an example of “the system being manipulated.”

Unsurprisingly, the right-wing press wasted no time in broadcasting triumphantly that even lefty pundits recognized that the real victim here was Rush.

The Misunderstood Consequences of the Student Debt Crisis

The student debt crisis isn't like other debt crises. It won't sink a currency, like Europe's sovereign debt crises. And it won't suddenly topple the U.S. economy, like the mortgage crisis.

But give this crisis enough time, and it might just drag down the middle class.

Last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York published a study finding that 27 percent of student borrowers whose loans have gone into repayment are now delinquent on their debt. Then on Saturday, The Washington Post reported that bankruptcy lawyers are seeing a growing number of clients seek relief from their education loans.

This is not necessarily shocking news. A year ago, the Institute for Higher Education Policy published a study tracking the dismayingly high delinquency and default rates of the class of 2005. But as the sum of outstanding student loans has climbed towards the $1 trillion mark, passing total credit card debt along the way, the fact that America's students are essentially putting themselves into hock for an education has more than a few people panicking. As William Brewer, head of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, told the WaPo, "This could very well be the next debt bomb for the U.S. economy."

Secret Campaign Spending Under Attack By Reform Groups

WASHINGTON -- CEOs may think twice before making what they intend to be secret campaign donations from their corporate treasuries, now that a progressive reform group is offering a $25,000 reward to the first employee who rats one of them out.

"We think there are a lot of big corporations on the bubble about whether they're going to use corporate funds to try to affect the outcome of the election," said Bob Creamer, a consultant with Americans United for Change, the group offering the bounty.

"And we want to make it clear that they cannot take that kind of action without the risk of economic consequences."

A key factor for CEOs, Creamer said, will be whether or not they are confident that their corporate contribution will remain secret.

The Target Corporation famously faced a boycott threat in the summer of 2010 until it apologized for one of its political donations that became public.

‘Pierre Poutine’ remains in hiding as Rae demands robocall Royal Commission

As anticipation builds that the mysterious robocall mastermind ‘Pierre Poutine’ is about to reveal his or her true identity, the three main parties repeatedly clashed in Question Period today over who was more guilty over the scandal.

The Liberals called for a Royal Commission to investigate the controversy, claiming they have nothing to fear from a probe into misleading phone calls made during the last federal election.

At the same time, the Conservatives attempted to turn the tables on the Liberals, who have been embroiled in their own robocall mess in the Ontario riding of Guelph, the focal point of the alleged election fraud.

But interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said if the Conservatives were so concerned about possible misconduct by his party, then perhaps they too should push for an inquiry.

“Nobody on this side has anything to fear from a Royal Commission,” Mr. Rae said, his voice growing louder. “We ask for it. We demand it. The people of Canada require it.”

Elizabeth Warren On AIG Tax Break: It's An Extra Bailout Worth Billions

WASHINGTON -- Former members of a congressional panel that oversaw bailouts during the financial crisis blasted the Treasury Department on Monday for quietly granting a tax break worth billions to insurance giant American International Group.

The tax break amounts to a "stealth bailout" on top of the $182 billion that AIG received from the government, and it unfairly helps AIG, its shareholders and executives, former oversight panel chair Elizabeth Warren and others said.

Warren, who also is a consumer advocate and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, told reporters that tax breaks accounted for 90 percent of AIG profits last quarter.

"We think it's time for Congress to end the special tax break," she said.

Chris Christie: No Regret For Calling Former Navy SEAL An 'Idiot'

BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he has no regrets about calling a former Navy SEAL an "idiot" during a shouting match at a recent public event, as a Democratic leader urged him to apologize and put an end to "schoolyard taunts."

Christie's comment capped off two minutes of increasingly heated back-and-forth with 34-year-old William Brown at a town hall-style event in Burlington County on Thursday.

"He acted like an idiot. He's an idiot. I don't have any regret about it at all," Christie said Monday during a news conference after touring a regional high school and meeting with students in a financial literacy class.

Brown, an Iraq war veteran and former Democratic candidate for state Assembly, challenged the Republican governor's plan to merge two public universities, Rutgers and Rowan. He is a law student at the Rutgers-Camden campus who opposes the merger.

Thursday's exchange ended with Christie berating the Mount Laurel man, who had interrupted the governor several times before being escorted from the event. The governor said: "Let me tell you something, after you graduate from law school, you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom, your rear end's going to be thrown in jail, idiot."

Lynn Lake, Manitoba Caribou Slaughter: First Nations Protest, But Province Says Killing Perfectly Legal

WINNIPEG - Provincial investigators say the killing of dozens of caribou decried by Manitoba First Nations groups last week as wasteful and uncalled for was perfectly legal.

Tim Cameron, the province's chief natural resources officer, said conservation officials looked into the matter immediately after a northern chief discovered the bloody carcasses of 30 animals near Lynn Lake. The officers found the area was a popular butchering site and the animals were killed over a period of time.

Although First Nations chiefs complained about the killing, saying meat was left to rot, Cameron said officers didn't find any whole carcasses that were abandoned.

"Our investigation showed no wanton waste of meat of caribou at all," he said. "It was just skinned hides and heads that were left behind."

Cameron said the winter road is wider where the carcasses were discovered, which makes the spot a good site for hunters to set up camp and to butcher their catch.

Heart disease drug 'combats racism'

Volunteers given the beta-blocker, used to treat chest pains and lower heart rates, scored lower on a standard psychological test of "implicit" racist attitudes.

They appeared to be less racially prejudiced at a subconscious level than another group treated with a "dummy" placebo pill.

Scientists believe the discovery can be explained by the fact that racism is fundamentally founded on fear.

Propranolol acts both on nerve circuits that govern automatic functions such as heart rate, and the part of the brain involved in fear and emotional responses. The drug is also used to treat anxiety and panic.

Experimental psychologist Dr Sylvia Terbeck, from Oxford University, who led the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, said: "Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias.

Dick Cheney: Toronto Event Cancelled Due To Security Concerns

Dick Cheney is pulling out of an appearance in Toronto due to security concerns.

The former U.S. vice president and his daughter Elizabeth were scheduled to speak at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on April 24, but has cancelled due to concerns stemming from his appearance in Vancouver in September of last year.

On Sept. 26, Cheney was greeted by angry protesters while promoting his book, "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir," at an exclusive club in Vancouver.

According to the Spectre Live press release on the cancellation, Cheney was forced to remain in the club for seven hours while the crowd was dispersed.

The protest in Vancouver followed calls in Canada for Cheney's prosecution for war crimes.

Human Rights Watch pushed for the former vice president's arrest in Canada for his role in the torture of detainees during the Bush years.

Income Inequality Canada: Tiff Macklem, Bank Of Canada Deputy, Says Globalization, Tech To Blame

OTTAWA -- The Bank of Canada's second in command says globalization, along with technological change, has been a major driver of rising inequality within countries.

The banks' senior deputy governor Tiff Macklem says the market forces unleashed by globalization has decreased global inequality, but ironically increased it within countries.

He says the phenomenon is not temporary and that governments need to address the issue.

Central bankers can mitigate against income disparity by keeping inflation low and stable and protecting the financial system.

Macklem told a business audience in Brazil that increases in inflation hurt the poor more than the rich.

And he says the bank's own study shows that new rules to reduce risks in the banking sector will be a net benefit to economies in Canada and around the world.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Canadian Press

Wall Street Protesters Complain of Police Surveillance

On Nov. 17, Kira Moyer-Sims was near the Manhattan Bridge, buying coffee while three friends waited nearby in a car. More than a dozen blocks away, protesters gathered for an Occupy Wall Street “day of action,” which organizers had described as an attempt to block the streets around the New York Stock Exchange.

Then, Ms. Moyer-Sims said, about 30 police officers surrounded her and the people in the car.

All four were arrested, said Vik Pawar, a lawyer for Ms. Moyer-Sims and two of the others, and taken to a police facility in the East Village. He said officers strip-searched them and ignored their requests for a lawyer. The fourth person could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Moyer-Sims, 20, said members of the Police Department’s intelligence division asked about her personal history, her relationship with other protesters, the nature of Occupy Wall Street and plans for upcoming protests.

“I felt like I had been arrested for a thought crime,” she said.

Putin’s strength is now his weakness

There were moments when cracks appeared in Russia’s suffocating political reality, and fragments of its future shone through.

Two days before the election that saw Vladimir Putin returned to power for a third term as president, to go along with four years in a prime ministerial holding pattern, self-described revolutionaries gathered in a downtown basement bar called Zavtra, meaning “tomorrow,” and plotted how to end Putin’s rule.

They sat in a smoke-filled nook at the back of the room, far from the serving bar and farther from a long-haired man who sat on a stool with a guitar and sang for other patrons. They drank red wine from teacups on tables piled with white ribbons and protest buttons. Several hunched over sleek-looking smartphones and Wi-Fi tablets. Many had not met before in person. They had connected on Facebook and other social networking sites. Many were politicized by Putin’s announcement in September that he and then president Dmitry Medvedev had agreed to switch positions this year, with Putin again standing for president and Medvedev expected to resume his role as prime minister.

“I’m just a citizen,” said Svetlana Chediya, 38, a scriptwriter with short, soft-spiked hair. “We’re just people who don’t want this to continue. I wasn’t politically active before. Now I think the time has come.”

Air Canada workers demonstrate against federal government

MONTREAL—Air Canada workers are staging a noisy rally to denounce the federal government.

Gathered outside Montreal’s Trudeau airport, a few dozen workers are chanting, in reference to the federal labour minister, “Lisa Raitt, you’re not right.”

They are blowing whistles and plastic horns to protest the government’s decision to prevent them from going on strike.

To ensure things continue working smoothly at the airport, there is increased security; the employees are being confined to a small area just outside the departures area, and they’re surrounded by orange traffic cones.

The workers are upset that the Harper Tories have intervened several times in labour disputes, therefore weakening the position of employees as they negotiate new contracts. The Harper government says it’s just protecting the economy.

Marcel St-Jean, a union spokesman, says workers are frustrated, but they have no plan to disrupt operations and upset air travelers.

He says the protesters want to tell the government that it is anti-democratic.

St-Jean says the workers have a right to negotiate a fair collective agreement but he won’t say what other actions are planned. The Montreal rally is expected to last until noon. A similar demonstration is planned this afternoon at Pearson International Airport in Toronto.

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: The Canadian Press

Legal experts weigh in on application to remove Mayor Rob Ford from office

A respected constitutional lawyer and a politically active Toronto resident have launched Superior Court proceedings that could oust Mayor Rob Ford from office and ban him from running in the next election.

The pair has accused the mayor of violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act for financial gain.

Lawyer Clayton Ruby alleges Ford breached the act in February when he asked council to remove a year and a half old sanction placed upon him by the city’s integrity commissioner. Ford had been ordered to repay $3,150 worth of donations to his football foundation he solicited using councillor letterhead. Ford then voted on the issue, which passed

Deputy mayor Doug Holyday questioned whether the integrity commissioner was looking at all councillors who take money to spend in their communities.