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.]

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Has Canada Lost its Honour?

The last decade in Canadian parliament has witnessed one of the most dramatic reversals in Western democracy. Regional differences, language issues, resource-sharing and citizenship disenchantment with all things political have resulted in a Canada at troubling odds with its more professional and stabilized reputation of only a few years ago. Speaking with a former United Nation's official last week who worked for years in an effort to reconstruct Haiti provided a sage observation on how this is viewed from nations outside of our own -- "Canada seems to have lost its sense of honour." It was phrase that has stayed and troubled me since it was uttered.

There is every sense that whatever Canada was in the eyes of the world has been radically altered, at least in perception. When Canadians themselves talk of the last decade in politics there is clearly a sense of jadedness, but when comparing the present context to those days when this country was highly regarded as an equitable nation and a terrific generator of Foreign Service professionals, many Canadians clearly sense a certain decline in stature.

Perhaps it's because politics itself has changed. The rustic/eloquent observer of the Canadian scene, Rex Murphy, commented last week that the two past Liberal leaders -- Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff -- were more like "boy scouts" than tough politicians. It's likely that there's some truth in this. But the victor is one who has succeeded in taking us down a number of dark alleys, where compromise is cast aside for conflict, and a sense of permanent partisan warfare replaces respectful governance.

F-35 Canada: Calls For Peter MacKay To Be Fired Turn Nasty And Personal

OTTAWA - Some would describe it as the battle of the bean-counters.

But the long-standing disagreement between National Defence and the auditor general over whether the salaries of soldiers and other operational expenses should be included in the cost estimate for F-35 fighter jets and other purchases threatens to blow the roof off the Harper government's carefully orchestrated military spending plans.

The Conservative wish-list of defence purchases, including the controversial F-35 stealth fighter, was expected to cost taxpayers $115 billion over the next 16 years, according to internal documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws.

That substantial figure could rocket into the stratosphere, propelled by Defence Minister Peter MacKay's grudging acceptance of both Auditor General Michael Ferguson and opposition demands to account for ordinary expenses, which the military incurs regardless of what equipment is purchased.

Both the opposition parties argued Wednesday that such transparency is essential.

Liberal House leader Marc Garneau said Canadians expect to know the full-cost of whatever the government buys and that the argument about operational expenses versus capital acquisitions is a red herring.

Alberta Election 2012: Poll Shows Tories Closing Gap With Wildrose

After trailing in the polls by a wide margin for the first two weeks of the campaign, Alberta's Progressive Conservatives appear to have closed the gap with Danielle Smith's Wildrose Party.

A new survey from Léger Marketing for the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal indicates that Wildrose has the support of 36 per cent of Albertans, compared to 34 per cent for the governing Tories.

That is a drop of five points for Wildrose since Léger's last poll taken before the Easter weekend, reducing the margin between them and the PCs to two points from seven.

The New Democrats and Liberals have each made modest gains and are tied for third with 13 per cent support apiece.

But the movement between parties is somewhat counter-intuitive. The Tories have held firm while Wildrose's support has leaked to the Liberals and NDP, bypassing the PCs entirely. That is quite a leap from the right-wing, libertarian Wildrose to the centre-left Liberals or the left-wing NDP. Are some voters who oppose the Tories switching from Wildrose back to the province's traditional opposition parties?

Safe Injection Sites Report: Toronto, Ottawa Would Benefit From Facilities

TORONTO - Toronto and Ottawa would benefit from having supervised drug injection facilities, but reaction to the report making that recommendation suggests the process of translating advice to reality may not be swift.

Four years in the making, the report recommended three safe injection sites for Toronto and two for Ottawa, saying injection drug use in both cities isn't focused in one area, as it is in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, home to Canada's first safe injection facility, Insite.

Asked about the recommendation, Ontario's Health Minister Deb Matthews said the province is not planning to pursue supervised injection sites at this time.

Zita Astravas, Matthews's press secretary, said in an email that the province doesn't have the power to block supervised injection sites, if a group trying to open one receives the necessary legal exemption from the federal government.

But the reality is that unless alternative funding sources can be found, provincial backing would probably be needed to get — and keep — these facilities up and running. However, if funding can be found, one expert in the field suggested it is unlikely Ontario would get in the way.

Jim Flaherty: Parliamentary System An Advantage Because It Gets Things Done

OTTAWA - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says Canada has an advantage over the U.S. in dealing with the economy — it has a system of government that can make decisions.

The finance minister extolled the virtues of a parliamentary system to reporters in New York on Tuesday after participating at George W. Bush Institute tax conference.

Asked if his model for reducing corporate taxes could be extended to the United States, Flaherty told reporters a majority government made that easier but he acknowledged that he was able to get important policies passed even while the Conservatives had a minority mandate.

In language that might surprise Canadians, Flaherty said the minority Conservatives were able to work with the opposition over the course of five years and implement fundamental policies, including tax reductions.

"One of the advantages that Canada has is we have a government that can make decisions," he said.

"We have a majority government. But even when we had a minority government, we were able to work with the opposition over the course of five years and implement the important policies, the fundamental policies that we wanted to follow."

Gulf of St. Lawrence is important to Canadian identity

We Canadians love the wilderness. Whether we’re talking to visitors here or people we meet in our travels, our conversations almost always end up about our great outdoors and pristine natural spaces. Caring about the environment is one of the ways we define ourselves.

But how good are we at protecting what’s at the core of our identity?

Despite national parks that act as natural wildlife reserves, and bold policies adopted by some of our most progressive provinces to combat climate change, the fact remains that our environmental regulatory system is being downgraded by a federal government that gives some industrial interests priority over the environment and the overall long-term economy that depends on it.

This is especially dangerous when it comes to preserving ecosystems that rely on strong policies and regulations to thrive. For example, Canada has the longest coastline of any nation but only protects one per cent of its ocean and marine environments – well under the 10 per cent recommended by the Convention on Biological Diversity of the United Nations.

Science for profit: Conservatives target the National Research Council

In 2009, the then-minority Harper government smuggled a seemingly innocuous phrase into the federal budget: "Scholarships granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) will be focused on business-related degrees." Yet this humble sentence garnered a 20,000 signature-strong petition presented to Stephen Harper by MP and future NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton. For graduate students who signed the petition, the one-time funding increase doubled as a barely audible declaration of intent which sought to nudge Canadian arts research towards the interests of capital.

The phrase also represented a jurisdictional gambit. SSHRC is an arms-length funding body, which, like the CBC or Canada Post, traditionally has remained funded by the House of Commons but outside its direct authority. Parliament should allow the council to set its own agenda; not earmark funds for this-or-that preferred project -- and certainly not for an agenda with the scent of conservative ideology.

So when Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear declared in a March 6 speech given to the Economic Club of Canada that the National Research Council (NRC), Canada's arms-length funding agency for pure science research and development, would be "refocused" and transformed into a "concierge" for business solutions, researchers felt a familiar itch. Goodyear fantasized about the day when the NRC "will be hopefully a one-stop, 1-800, 'I have a solution for your business problem.'" It's hard to deny that conservatives have an impressive sense of humour; clearly engineers and scientists aren't the only ones who know how to push buttons and turn screws.

In Defence of the Student Protests

How the debt-ridden experience of Ontario students is informing Quebec's tuition protests.

Over the past several weeks, hundreds of thousands of Quebec students have taken to the streets to prevent a $1,625 increase in tuition fees. The protests probably irk many Ontarians, who have grown accustomed to paying the highest fees in the country.

But it’s precisely that fate Quebec students are trying to avoid. They are protesting a model of financing post-secondary education that has failed in Ontario, and defending fundamental values that have been eroded by successive Ontario governments.

Critics of the protests have painted Quebec students as spoiled brats (after all, they pay a measly $2,500 a year in tuition). This argument misses the point entirely. The “Non1625” campaign isn’t just about stopping this particular fee increase – it's also about stopping the ones that are destined to follow it.

In the mid-1990s, Ontario, like most other provinces, began increasing tuition fees. At first, the hikes were modest, which probably pacified Ontario’s less-militant students. But overtime, tuition growth has been massive.

The Harper Government’s war on the environment

In 2006, Prime Minister Harper remarked: “Canada’s environmental performance is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We’ve got big problems.”

Having acknowledged this glaring failing, an accountable, responsible government would have taken meaningful action to protect our fragile environment and the health and safety of Canadians, while building a vibrant green economy.

But the environment and sustainable development are not conservative priorities, and recent rankings of environmental performance clearly demonstrate this fact. The 2008 Climate Change Performance Index ranked Canada 56th of 57 countries in terms of tackling emissions. In 2009, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th of 17 wealthy industrialized nations on environmental performance. In 2010, Simon Fraser University and the David Suzuki Foundation ranked Canada 24th of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance. And most recently, the Environmental Performance Index ranked Canada 37th of 132 countries on 22 performance indicators, and 96th and 102nd in terms of ecosystem vitality and climate change, respectively.

The bottom line is that our world-renowned natural heritage is at-risk, and being further imperilled by a government that is destroying 50 years of safeguards through Economic Action Plan 2012 — namely, severely cutting the budget to Environment Canada, gutting environmental legislation, canceling the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, silencing dissent from environmental non-governmental organizations, and continuing to muzzle government scientists — and in so doing, impacting our economy today and in the future.

A naval commander for the 99% stands trial

Consider the story of Leah Bolger, the latest American hero up on trial:

She is a young female artist in the Midwest. She joins the Navy at 22, is made commander and serves two decades as an anti-submarine warfare specialist. After retiring she joins Veterans for Peace and becomes the organization’s first female president. Then, in October of 2011, she commits the crime of interrupting a public congressional hearing of the Super Committee to deliver a message from the 99 percent: End the wars and tax the rich to fix the deficit.

Because of her 45-second transgression, Commander Bolger now faces a court trial this Thursday morning, April 12, where she could receive a maximum jail sentence of six months. Bolger, 54, intends to plead guilty and use her court appearance to draw the connection between America’s deficit debacle and the three-quarters-of-a-trillion-dollar defense budget we, as voting taxpayers, spend as a base-mark for failed and unending military ventures overseas.

Bolger has no illusions about what Americans are up against: a corporate-run military machine that she says “is so big and complicated and intertwined with the government and Congress and the media that I don’t know where you can start unraveling the knot.” But one place to begin is with the Occupy movement, which she says has placed too little emphasis on ending America’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Stench of DND’s cooked books is making its way to PMO

First, they didn’t know shag all about shag all.

Then they said it was some Machiavelli over at DND reincarnated as a sneaky bureaucrat who was to blame.

Now the story is that no one was misled and that things have always been done this way.

Peter MacKay’s latest explanation of the F-35 boondoggle is the death march of chutzpah.

The man who now admits that he knew in 2010 that the public number the Harper government was using for the cost of new fighter aircraft was at least $10 billion shy of reality ($25 billion if the estimable Andrew Coyne has it right) has drawn a strange conclusion. He declared that he has nothing to apologize for and that he operated in good faith. Really, Peter? Honest to God? Hope to die if you tell a lie? Pinky swears? Perhaps David Orchard should be consulted for clues as to how Peter MacKay defines good faith.

Judged by the facts, MacKay is dead-man-walking. As interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said: “The whole basis of our parliamentary system is that people tell the truth and it’s unimaginable to me that there would be no consequences to ministers not telling the truth, the prime minister not telling the truth.”

F-35s, robocalls and the erosion of Harper’s credibility

In politics, trust corrodes easily. The damage may not be visible at first, but mistrust will slowly and inexorably eat away at a government’s credibility.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives might want to keep this in mind as they flounder their way through the F-35 mess.

The central political issue of the government’s plan to buy 65 F-35 fighter planes is not the quality of the aircraft themselves. By and large, most citizens don’t know — or care to know — the ins and outs of competing fighter jets.

Nor is cost the central political issue. Whether the final cost is $14.7 billion or $25 billion or even more is, in itself, politically irrelevant.

To most of us, any of these sums is a lot of money.

But when voters think governments are lying to them, they do care.

And coming on top of the robocall scandal, the F-35 brouhaha presents a particularly unattractive picture of this government’s truthfulness.

PMO says it's '100 per cent incorrect,' denies Tories only want ministers to testify on F-35s at Public Accounts Committee, not DND, Public Works and Industry officials

PARLIAMENT HILL—The government is attempting to outmanoeuvre the opposition parties and prevent a team of National Defence and Public Works managers who have overseen the $25-billion F-35 fighter jet project from being called to testify at the Commons Public Accounts committee, the opposition says.

As Defence Minister Peter MacKay (Central Nova, N.S.) on Tuesday ramped up the government’s defence of the project—comparing the multi-billion-dollar acquisition of cutting-edge stealth fighter jets to a family’s acquisition of a mini-van—Liberal MP Gerry Byrne (Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Nfld.) disclosed the leading Conservative MP on the committee last week tabled a counter motion calling for an inquiry into the F-35 project but made it clear the government does not want public testimony from any of the senior National Defence, Public Works and Industry department officials who are in charge.

“His motion is for one purpose and one purpose only, it’s to stop the witness list that I’ve proposed from being called and it’s to ensure that basically only the ministers will get called and they can run roughshod with the truth as they see fit,” Mr. Byrne told The Hill Times after Mr. MacKay explained the government’s position following a scathing report on the F-35 from Auditor-General Michael Ferguson.

MacKay promises more F-35 oversight

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is promising "increased oversight and much increased dialogue" in the process of replacing Canada's aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets after the auditor general recently slammed the government's cost figures for purchasing controversial F-35 aircraft.

MacKay, who has been under fire for the government's and Defence Department's handling of the F-35 purchase, was again unapologetic, insisting a $10-billion discrepancy in internal and public cost estimates for the aircraft came down to "differences in accounting."

He said last week's report by Auditor General Michael Ferguson signalled a "new way of doing business" in military procurements, despite Treasury Board regulations that call for operational cost estimates to be included in spending outlines.

"There will be much increased oversight and much increased dialogue as we go forward," the defence minister told reporters at a funding announcement for ill and injured service members in Halifax.

MacKay also said the "new method" meant that other procurement projects such as the $33-billion shipbuilding contract announced in October would have to be re-costed to include salaries of military personnel, as well as fuel and oil replacement.

Trayvon Martin shooting: Zimmerman looks uninjured in Florida police video

WASHINGTON—A new police surveillance video showing the killer of teenager Trayvon Martin with no obvious facial injuries, despite his claims, has heightened calls for the man’s arrest.

The unarmed teenager’s grief-stricken mother said the video footage was “the icing on the cake.”

“Thank God for surveillance video,” Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for Martin’s family, told CBS This Morning on Thursday, “because obviously there was a conspiracy to cover up the truth and sweep Trayvon Martin’s death under the rug.”

Crump said the video refutes the claims of police and George Zimmerman that the 140-pound Martin, 17, beat him up so badly his nose was broken, and that he shot the boy in the chest in self-defence on a rainy Florida evening a month ago.

“This certainly doesn’t look like a man who police said had his nose broken and his head repeatedly smashed into the sidewalk,” he said.

Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, said Zimmerman’s story doesn’t add up and called for his arrest.

“This is not the first part of the evidence that they have had,” she said.

'War on drugs' has failed, say Latin American leaders

A historic meeting of Latin America's leaders, to be attended by Barack Obama, will hear serving heads of state admit that the war on drugs has been a failure and that alternatives to prohibition must now be found.

The Summit of the Americas, to be held in Cartagena, Colombia is being seen by foreign policy experts as a watershed moment in the redrafting of global drugs policy in favour of a more nuanced and liberalised approach.

Otto Pérez Molina, the president of Guatemala, who as former head of his country's military intelligence service experienced the power of drug cartels at close hand, is pushing his fellow Latin American leaders to use the summit to endorse a new regional security plan that would see an end to prohibition. In the Observer, Pérez Molina writes: "The prohibition paradigm that inspires mainstream global drug policy today is based on a false premise: that global drug markets can be eradicated."

Pérez Molina concedes that moving beyond prohibition is problematic. "To suggest liberalisation – allowing consumption, production and trafficking of drugs without any restriction whatsoever – would be, in my opinion, profoundly irresponsible. Even more, it is an absurd proposition. If we accept regulations for alcoholic drinks and tobacco consumption and production, why should we allow drugs to be consumed and produced without any restrictions?"

Rise of "forever day" bugs in industrial systems threatens critical infrastructure

The number of security holes that remain unpatched in software used to control refineries, factories, and other critical infrastructure is growing. It's becoming so common that security researchers have coined the term "forever days" to refer to the unfixed vulnerabilities.

The latest forever day vulnerability was disclosed in robotics software marketed by ABB, a maker of ICS (industrial control systems) for utilities and factories. According to an advisory (PDF) issued last week by the US Cyber Emergency Response Team, the flaw in ABB WebWare Server won't be fixed even though it provides the means to remotely execute malicious code on computers that run the application.

"Because these are legacy products nearing the end of their life cycle, ABB does not intend to patch these vulnerable components," the advisory stated. The notice went on to say that the development of a working exploit would require only a medium skill level on the part of the attacker.

Representatives of ABB didn't respond to requests to comment for this article.

Harper’s disregard for aboriginal health

When governments make a decision that is stupid, embarrassing, overly partisan, or risks causing an outcry, they tend to do so late in the day and late in the week, preferably on the eve of a holiday long weekend, when citizens – and journalists – aren’t paying much attention.

So, late Thursday, the government of Stephen Harper dropped this bombshell, as related in a brief announcement posted on the web site of the National Aboriginal Health Organization: “NAHO funding has been cut by Health Canada. It is with sadness that NAHO will wind down by June 30, 2012.”

This travesty of public policy only came to light because of feisty publications like Windspeaker and Nunatsiaq News.

Founded in 2000, NAHO oversaw many research and outreach programs, in crucial fields such as suicide prevention, tobacco cessation, housing and midwifery. It collected an invaluable series of audio and video interviews with elders recounting traditional tales and knowledge. The group also published the Journal of Aboriginal Health and was home to one of the best collections of aboriginal health research in the world.

8 Black College Students, Stopped-and-Frisked by the NYPD 92 Times

Sure, it's an informal survey, but a New York Times reporter's finding that eight black college students he spoke to have been stopped by police a collective 92 times is still a disturbing reminder of how the NYPD wields its stop-and-frisk tactics too heavily against the city's minorities. In The Times article on New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's aboutface on the efficacy of stop-and-frisk, Michael Powell talked to group of eight black men currently attending the Borough of Manhattan Community College. "Cumulatively, they said they had been stopped 92 times."

That 11.5 friskings per-person, on average, is shocking, although it's anecdotal evidence, but it's the stories of these these kids being frisked for seemingly doing nothing other than driving or riding the subway while black that are alarming. Writes Powell:

    The police stopped Mario Brown, who dreams of a career in theater arts, and forced him to take off his sneakers in the subway. (“It’s kind of ridiculous; I don’t see any Caucasian kids doing this.”) They forced Jamel Gordon-Mayfield, 18, the son of a police detective and a doctor, out of his parents’ S.U.V. one afternoon and demanded he take a Breathalyzer. (He passed.) Then they searched him and the car.

Of course, this isn't an aberration. Even if New Yorkers can't bring themselves to be worked up about it, 87 percent of all stops involved a black or Hispanic suspects in 2011. Now that's a statistic that has us wishing Ray Kelly hadn't made stop-and-frisk his favorite policing tactic after joining the Michael Bloomberg administration in 2002.

Original Article
Source: the atlantic wire
Author: Dino Grandoni

Exclusive: McDonald's Says It Has Dumped ALEC

Add another name to the list of corporations who've ditched the American Legislative Exchange Council: McDonald's.

The fast food giant tells Mother Jones that it recently decided to cut ties with ALEC, the corporate-backed group that drafts pro-free-market legislation for state lawmakers around the country. "While [we] were a member of ALEC in 2011, we evaluate all professional memberships annually and made the business decision not to renew in 2012," Ashlee Yingling, a McDonald's spokeswoman, wrote in an email. Yingling didn't mention any specific campaign or outside pressure as playing a role in the company's decision to leave ALEC.

An ALEC spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

McDonald's sought to clarify its relationship with ALEC after a coalition of progressive groups with members in all 50 states, including Common Cause and Color of Change, announced plans on Tuesday to target McDonald's for its ongoing membership in ALEC. Rashad Robinson, Color of Change's executive director, said groups in the coalition were "flooding" McDonald's, Johnson & Johnson, and State Farm with phone calls demanding they stop backing ALEC. "Major corporations like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Kraft understand that supporting voter suppression efforts and dangerous 'Stand Your Ground' legislation puts their brands at great risk in the black community," Robinson said. "We hope that McDonald's, Johnson & Johnson, and State Farm also get that message. Today, our members are flooding these companies with phone calls to demand that they stop supporting ALEC."

Immigration Canada: Feds Create New Program To Bring In Skilled Trades People

CALGARY - Ottawa has announced a new immigration program that it says will make it easier for Canadian business to hire the workers most urgently needed — skilled tradespeople.

The new stream for workers in fields such as construction and manufacturing should be set up later this year, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Tuesday in Calgary, the financial heart of Canada's oil and gas industry and a city all too familiar with skilled labour shortages.

"In Canada we've been welcoming historic high numbers of immigrants, partly to help us fuel our prosperity in the future and fill growing labour shortages," Kenney said at the construction site of The Bow, a 58-storey downtown skyscraper that's close to completion.

"But, to be honest, our immigration programs haven't been effective in addressing a lot of those shortages. Our immigration programs have become rigid and slow and passive."

The labour market in the West is especially tight, thanks in large part to a bevy of multibillion-dollar oilsands projects on the go in northern Alberta. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers forecasts the energy industry will spend some $55 billion this year on major projects, said spokesman Travis Davies.

Alberta Election 2012: Tories Play Race Card, Call Wildrose Party Of Old White Men

EDMONTON - Alberta's Progressive Conservatives, looking for an edge in a pitched election battle against the Wildrose party, seem to have declared war on old, white guys.

Tory strategists, in comments to the media in recent days, have begun pushing the message that anyone worried the right-wing Wildrose will resurrect regressive social policies should focus on sexual characteristics and skin colour.

"I was on the Wildrose website earlier, just looking at candidates, and I counted about 74 white guys my age or older," Tom Olsen, a 40-something Tory strategist, said when he squared off Monday against Wildrose counterpart Steven Dollansky on CBC-TV's "Power and Politics" show.

"I think there was 10 women and I think there was three visible minorities," he said.

"There are people waiting in the back wings who are waiting to get government to push this (retro social agenda) thing forward."

"What are you actually saying?" the host pushed. "Spit it out."

"I'll tell you exactly what I'm saying: This is the party of yesterday. This is the party of the middle-aged male who has lost control of the Progressive Conservatives because they have moved forward."

Canada Income Inequality: Broadbent Institute Survey Shows Vast Majority Wants Government To Do Something About The Wage Gap

The vast majority of Canadians are concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor, and are willing to pay higher taxes to fight it, a new poll shows.

As the debate about income inequality intensifies, observers have often bemoaned that the causes and implications of this trend are too abstract to resonate with average Canadians. But the survey, released Tuesday by the Ottawa-based Broadbent Institute, indicates that most respondents believe that the deepening rich-poor divide could have a negative impact on everything from our standard of living to democratic principles.

“I found the results encouraging,” Ed Broadbent, the former NDP leader who founded the left-leaning think-tank last year, told The Huffington Post. He said concern about income inequality and the desire for government to do something about it “cuts across all partisan persuasions, regional, class differences.”

The poll, based on a telephone survey of 2,000 Canadians by Environics Research, found that 77 per cent of respondents see the growing income gap as “a big problem for Canada that will have a lot of long-term consequences for society.” Though the sentiment was overwhelming among NDP voters, with 89 per cent in agreement, nearly 60 per cent of Conservative voters were also on board.

NDP Ads In English Introduce New Leader Thomas Mulcair To Canadians

OTTAWA - Newly minted NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is being introduced to Canadians as someone who will fight for ordinary families, much as his predecessor, Jack Layton, did.

The emphasis is on continuity, not change, in a new English television ad being launched by the federal NDP today.

It features a cameo by Layton's widow, NDP MP Olivia Chow, who assures viewers that "Jack's vision is in good hands."

During the seven-month leadership contest to choose Layton's successor, Mulcair was portrayed by his rivals as someone who would lurch the social democratic party to the centre of the political spectrum, turning it into a pale imitation of the Liberal party.

Mulcair contributed to the sense that he would dramatically change the NDP, promising to broaden the party's base and complaining about the out-of-date "boilerplate" language the party frequently uses to describe its traditional target voters: "ordinary" Canadians.

Yet the English ad features a series of, well, ordinary Canadian men and women, expressing confidence that Mulcair will champion the issues closest to their hearts.

"He'll fight for my family," says a young mother, packing groceries into her car.

CBC Cuts: Broadcaster Reveals Details In Wake Of Federal Budget Reductions

TORONTO - Big budget cuts at the CBC are putting "everything" on the chopping block — including hit shows "Republic of Doyle" and "Heartland," programming boss Kirstine Stewart said Tuesday as the public broadcaster axed CBC News Network's "Connect with Mark Kelley" and CBC Radio's "Dispatches."

Tough decisions about how to manage a $225-million shortfall will include shaving six existing or planned shows from the public broadcaster's TV lineup, said Stewart, executive vice-president of CBC's English Services.

"We are making those decisions next week and we've got some pretty strong criteria to make those decisions," Stewart said after CBC staff were briefed on job and program cuts in an internal meeting.

"But in the end what we're trying to do is protect the programming that Canadians seem to be most interested in and it will really narrow down the variety of programming that we've been able to give Canadians over the last few years."

Staff learned Tuesday that CBC-TV's programming and news departments will bear the brunt of punishing cuts planned over the next three years.

They include shuttered news bureaus in Africa and South America as well the elimination of 88 news jobs.

Active-Duty Army Whistleblower Lt. Col. Daniel Davis: U.S. Deceiving Public on Afghan War

In an extended interview, we speak with Lt. Col. Danny Davis, the most prominent active duty serviceperson to question the U.S. war in Afghanistan. In his damning report following his return from his second year-long deployment in Afghanistan, Davis draws on about 250 interviews with U.S. soldiers as well as Afghans across the country to conclude: "Senior ranking U.S. military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the U.S. Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable." Davis asks how many more must die in support of a mission that’s not succeeding. "When you’re given a mission that cannot succeed militarily, then what is the purpose of the mission?"

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Ontario Gas Price Fixing: Class-Action Lawsuit Targets Canadian Tire, Mr. Gas, Pioneer

LONDON, Ont. -- A class-action lawsuit is seeking millions in damages for the alleged victims of a gas price-fixing scheme five years ago in eastern Ontario.

The suit stems from a Competition Bureau case that saw Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC) and others plead guilty last month to colluding to fix the price of gas sold in Kingston and Brockville.

In a notice of action filed with the court, Law firm Siskinds says it wants the pump operators to refund any profits from the scheme to consumers.

Competition Bureau investigators found that gas retailers, or their representatives, phoned each other and agreed on the price they would charge.

Pioneer Energy LP, Canadian Tire Corp., and Mr. Gas Ltd. pleaded guilty to price fixing between May and November 2007 and were fined a total of more than $2 million.

However, Siskinds it will continue to investigate and could amend the suit to expand the scope of the allegations to other gas stations, or for a longer period of time.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Canadian Press

Won't someone think of the third-party manager?

INAC (Aboriginal Affairs) is busy patting itself on the back for solving all of Attawapiskat’s problems. To hear them tell it, Jacques Marion was a veritable hero, swooping into Attawapiskat in the nick of time, narrowly averting disaster.

INAC is magnanimously withdrawing its third-party manager, but shouldn’t hold its breath for any thanks from Attawapiskat. That ungrateful community is continuing its lawsuit against the federal government for putting Marion there in the first place!

Okay, so Marion was on vacation in Hawaii recently, and was thus unable to release funds to off-reserve students from Attawapiskat for frivolities like food and shelter. Was this hard-working man not entitled to a little R&R? Students should be used to a diet of ramen noodles and homelessness. It builds character!

The ever hyperbolic Charlie Angus blasted Marion for his $200,000 per month salary as though this has anything to do with off-reserve students being unable to afford bus fare. Why doesn’t he direct his vociferous ire at Chief Spence, who with a bloated salary of $5798 a month could have gone without payment for her work and instead financed 1932 one way bus fares while Marion was soaking up his well-earned rays?

Controversial activist Wiebo Ludwig dies at home at the age 70

Wiebo Ludwig, the convicted saboteur and controversial eco-activist has died at the age of 70 at his home in Alberta on Monday. Ludwig had esophageal cancer and died surrounded by family, according to a statement from his son Josh.

“We will miss him as one who steadfastly and selflessly upheld the hope of the Gospel of Christ, as a loving husband, father and grandfather,” said the statement.

Hero to some and terrorist to others, Ludwig’s encounters with the law made him famous in Canada and abroad for challenging the oil and gas industry to protect his land. Featured in films and books, Ludwig claimed that sour gas wells near his farm around Hythe, Alta., led to health problems for his family and animals.

In 2000, Ludwig was convicted in the bombing of Suncor gas wells in Alberta, serving just under two years of a 28-month sentence. A year before the sentencing, one teen was shot dead and another was wounded while joyriding in pickups on Ludwig’s property. The incident prompted a police search of the property but nobody was charged for lack of evidence.

Original Article
Source: maclean's
Author: Gustavo Vieira

Don't Just Pressure ALEC's Sponsors, Name and Shame ALEC Legislators

What’s happening with ALEC is good. But not good enough.

Pressured by a coalition of civil rights, clean government and religious groups to quit their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council, multinational corporations are indeed exiting ALEC. Now, it’s time to demand that the 2,000 legislators who have joined ALEC do the same.

Coca-Cola quit ALEC Wednesday. PepsiCo revealed the same day that it had quietly decided to let its membership lapse. Intuit Inc. confirmed that it is exiting ALEC. And Kraft Foods has announced that: “Our membership in ALEC expires this spring and for a number of reasons, including limited resources, we have made the decision not to renew.”

Translation: Kraft—like other corporations that produce consumer products and, thus, must appeal to the great mass of Americans—no longer wants to be associated with a shadowy group that links corporations and legislators in order to advance extreme (and extremely unpopular) agendas.

Since the Center for Media and Democracy’s “ALEC Exposed“ project was developed last summer in cooperation with The Nation, millions of Americans have become aware that ALEC uses corporate money to craft one-size-fits-all “model legislation” that its member legislators then propose and pass in the states.

Mitt Romney Is a Hollow Man

I have a problem with Mitt Romney. And it's big problem -- one that extends beyond our ideological differences. Here's what fundamentally disturbs me about Romney's character:

It's not even that he's misstated facts, if they were just truly misstatements. Part of what really bugs me is that he's carefully scripted and controlled, and still he has outright pants-on-fire lied more than any recent serious presidential contender, by a significant factor.

Added to the serial lying is not just that he's flip-flopped; everyone knows that. It's that he has flip-flopped on core issues like being pro-choice or pro-life -- deep, fundamental values issues, all for the purpose of getting elected, nothing more.

What emerges from this composite picture of lying and flip-flopping and position-contortion is a man who has no core.

A hollow man.

A man without deep, longstanding conviction.

A calculating man who will lie, who will change positions as he changes his venue, who will say anything, do anything, who is ruthless about winning in a way that makes him seem empty inside.

So the real question is: What does this man stand for? Why does he even want to be president? Where is his true vision, his core? Does he even have one?

Where do you fit into his picture of success?

My big concern is that Mitt Romney wants to become president for no other reason than because there's a possibility he can win. And you're not in that vision, I'm afraid.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm

The scarcer sex

Republican callousness is not helped by women’s reluctance to enter politics

ALL of a sudden, or so it seems, the gripping yarn that was the Republican presidential primary is running out of plot twists. After victories in Wisconsin, the District of Columbia and Maryland this week, the once inevitable nomination of Mitt Romney looks inevitable once again, freeing him to swivel his big guns back in the direction of Barack Obama. The Republicans say that the vicious primary has turned Mr Romney into a better and battle-hardened prospect for the White House. Maybe it has. But in one vital respect, the challenge mounted by Rick Santorum has weakened Mr Romney. By dwelling so much on social and especially sexual issues, Mr Santorum may have helped to make the whole Republican Party look hostile to women.

Since women vote in larger numbers than men, this is a big problem (bigger even than the alienation of Hispanics, another group mightily displeased by the Republican primaries). Nor is it an entirely new one. Democratic presidential candidates have outpolled Republicans among women for two decades. But in recent months the gap has widened. In March a Pew survey found Mr Romney level-pegging with Mr Obama among men, but trailing the president among women by fully 20 points (38% to 58%). The same poll reported that women preferred Mr Obama over Mr Santorum by an even bigger margin (61% to 35%). And a USA Today/Gallup poll this week said that in 12 swing states more than 60% of women under 50 preferred Mr Obama. Mr Romney was down to 30%, 14 points lower than the month before.

Trayvon Martin case: Empty police car shot up in neighborhood where teen was killed

Already reeling from weeks of tension over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the town of Sanford, Fla., is dealing with a new controversy.

Several shots were fired at an empty city police cruiser around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Witnesses reported hearing at least six gunshots, according to multiple local media reports.

The police car was parked near the site where Martin was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on Feb. 26. Zimmerman claims he acted in self-defense, and has not been arrested or charged with a crime — a fact that has sparked protests nationwide.

The cruiser had been parked across from Sanford’s Bentley Elementary for several weeks at the school's request, according to The Associated Press.

In a statement, Sanford police said it was being used as "a visible deterrent due to tour buses using the school property to park during the day and evening hours."

The shots hit the car's windshield, pierced its hood, and shattered one of its windows, police told Fox Orlando.

No one was hurt.