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.]

Friday, April 13, 2012

Defence department’s basic science and technology organization faces cuts to life-saving research

OTTAWA — Just months after Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk credited them with saving the lives of soldiers in Afghanistan, hundreds of civilian employees of the Defence Department’s science and research branch have been told their jobs no longer exist.

Documents leaked to the Citizen show that Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) is taking a significant share of the government’s cuts at DND; its budget has been slashed by 13 per cent and its workforce will be reduced by 15 per cent, or 242 full-time jobs.

As a result of the layoffs, the defence science organization is stopping work on a bomb detection project at its Suffield, Alta., site. The Counter Terrorism Technology Centre at Suffield, which conducts research into chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive incidents, will also be scaled back. Some robotics work will be cut, and commitments to research for public security programs will be reviewed.

Scientists at DRDC Ottawa will reduce their efforts in computer network security and support for radar system design work, according to the documents. Basic research into naval radar will be stopped.

Cannibalize the Future

One general rule of modern politics is that the people who talk most about future generations — who go around solemnly declaring that we’re burdening our children with debt — are, in practice, the people most eager to sacrifice our future for short-term political gain. You can see that principle at work in the House Republican budget, which starts with dire warnings about the evils of deficits, then calls for tax cuts that would make the deficit even bigger, offset only by the claim to have a secret plan to make up for the revenue losses somehow or other.

And you can see it in the actions of Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, who talks loudly about acting responsibly but may actually be the least responsible governor the state has ever had.

Mr. Christie’s big move — the one that will define his record — was his unilateral decision back in 2010 to cancel work that was already under way on a new rail tunnel linking New Jersey with New York. At the time, Mr. Christie claimed that he was just being fiscally responsible, while critics said that he had canceled the project just so he could raid it for funds.

Now the independent Government Accountability Office has weighed in with a report on the controversy, and it confirms everything the critics were saying.

Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS Funded By $10 Million Checks

WASHINGTON -- The “GPS” in Crossroads GPS ostensibly stands for grassroots policy strategies, but the Washington Post reported Friday that nearly 90 percent of the money flowing through the Karl Rove-associated group has come from as few as two dozen anonymous donors, two of whom gave at least $10 million each.

The group, known for funding hard-hitting attack ads against congressional Democrats in the 2010 elections, has said that it and its sister group, American Crossroads, intend to spend $300 million in this year's elections. Most recently, Crossroads GPS spent $1.7 million on television ads attempting to blame President Barack Obama for high gas prices.

Crossroads GPS won't divulge the names of its donors, citing its self-declared status as a nonprofit organization operating under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. That section is intended for “social welfare” groups that have a primary mission other than political activity.

The IRS has yet to formally grant Crossroads GPS that status. Several campaign finance reform groups have demanded that Crossroads' request be denied.

The group let the Post see the tax forms it plans to file with the IRS next week. Those forms reportedly disclose that the group has spent about $17 million on “direct election spending.” It also reported spending $27 million on “issue advocacy,” which the Post notes is “often a subtle distinction, since the ads inevitably help one political figure or party.”

Should the IRS consider that spending political in nature, it could well deny the group 501(c)(4) status -- possibly subjecting it to massive fines for nondisclosure.

The Post reported that the group also passed along money from its secret donors to other conservative groups, including $4 million to Americans for Tax Reform and $2 million to the National Right to Life Committee.

The complete domination of Crossroads GPS by large donors is further evidence of a clear trend that has emerged in campaign financing since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. Money flowing into the groups that have sprung up in the wake of that decision -- namely Super PACs like American Crossroads and 501(c)(4)s like Crossroads GPS -- have become vehicles for the super-rich to influence politics more easily than any time since before the Watergate era.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: ---

Nazi Party Registers Washington Lobbyist

The American Nazi Party attempted to make a foray into Washington's halls of power this week, registering their first lobbyist as a liaison to U.S. lawmakers.

John Bowles, the National Socialist Movement's presidential nominee in 2008, registered Tuesday, U.S. News and World Report notes. He stated on his registration form that he intends to lobby on the issues of "political rights and ballot access laws."

Asked by U.S. News and World Report if he thought an avowed Nazi would actually be able to secure meetings with politicians, Bowles responded with confidence:

    "I don't see why not," he says, adding that he knows lobbyists rely on their credibility. "Of course I won't approach anybody in Congress unless it's a very interesting issue or law," he promises. "I'm going to be very careful about the issues I choose for this."

While Bowles seems self-assured, Business Insider flags a 2008 interview with WikiNews that may make some congresspeople think twice before sitting down with him.

In the interview, Bowles says he once ran as a Baltimore City convention delegate to the Republican Party Convention in 1984 and explains his 2008 presidential platform:

    I am running as "The White People's Candidate" for President of the USA in 2008 because I believe that America has changed for the worse because the once-dominate White European-American is being reduced to second-class citizen status and losing political power. Much of the present American Southwest is reverting to a Spanish speaking Mexican culture, with Puerto Ricans breeding faster than Blacks in New York City, and Cuban refugees still crowding into Florida it is possible that North America may soon look like South America. White Americans need to start voting as a bloc and not as individuals if they are to have an effective voice in government or America will turn into a third world country.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: ---

Suncor Gas Price Fixing Reaps $500K Fine

Suncor Energy Products Inc. has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine for price-fixing at some of the company's gas stations in Ontario.

The federal Competition Bureau said Friday that the Calgary-based energy giant has been fined for fixing the price of retail gasoline at service stations in Belleville, Ont., between May and November 2007.

"We are committed to pursuing those who engage in anti-competitive behaviour that harms Canadian businesses and consumers," Canada's competition commissioner, Melanie Aitken, said in a release.

The fine is related to an ongoing probe by the bureau into anti-competitive behaviour in the retail gasoline industry.

Earlier this month Canadian Tire, Pioneer and Mr. Gas stations in nearby Brockville and Kingston, Ont., pleaded guilty to anti-competitive behaviour surrounding gas prices. In that deal, the three companies agreed to pay fines totalling $2 million. The Competition Bureau said in the case that the "gas retailers or their representatives in these local markets phoned each other and agreed on the price they would charge customers for gasoline."

The federal agency's probe continues.

"Illegal agreements between competitors to fix prices deny consumers the benefits of competitive prices and choice," Aitken said.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: cbc

David Suzuki: Saskatchewan Fires Back At Environmentalist's Foundation Over Climate Change Report

REGINA - Saskatchewan's environment minister is fuming about a report that says the province isn't taking climate change seriously.

Dustin Duncan said Thursday that he's disappointed that the David Suzuki Foundation released the report without talking to the province about what it's doing to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"It is an issue that we are taking seriously, despite what the Suzuki Foundation believes," said Duncan.

"We are making significant investments in technology like carbon capture and sequestion which has been recognized as leading technology when it comes to reducing emissions, while still providing jobs for people that work in the coal and in the power industry."

The report notes that Saskatchewan has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. It criticizes the province for not having a plan to end its reliance on coal-fired power plants.

Coal-fired power plants are the primary source of energy in Saskatchewan and Duncan said there's no plan to get rid of them.

Ten lessons in situational math – and ethics – for Peter MacKay

‘If you went out and bought a new minivan and it was going to cost you $20,000, you wouldn’t calculate the gas, the washer fluid, the oil and give yourself a salary to drive it for the next 15 to 20 years,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said recently, attempting to explain the government’s failure to reveal the full estimated cost of 65 F-35 fighter jets to be $25-billion, not the $14.7-billion figure previously claimed.

Not so fast, Mr. MacKay. Here are some of the situations in which I would stop to calculate exactly those kinds of things:

1. If it were the specific job I was hired to do: For example, say I was asked by the Speaker of the House, more than a year ago, to hand over “all documents that outline acquisition costs, life cycle costs and operational requirements associated with those snappy new minivans you’ve been telling everyone you’re buying” – much as the government was told to do on the F-35s.

This wouldn’t be like the time I worked at the Pita Pocket and no one would tell me whether I should cut the pita open before I toasted it or after (and I had culinary reservations about toasting a pita in the first place). I think, when it comes to clear job expectations and correct procedure, Mr. MacKay has it easy.

Death by a thousand cuts: Resistance is not futile

Government attacks against worker rights and the social wage are threatening hard-earned gains and advances for workers in Canada on many fronts and in many incremental ways. In this two-part series, we will look some of these struggles and what is at stake, with Part 1 focusing on the teachers' union in British Columbia, airline workers and the public pension. Part 2 takes a look at what must be done if we are to protect individual, public and social rights in Canada.

As governments and corporations intensify their attacks on workers' rights and the social wage, a trend of growing resistance is sweeping across Canada.

Recent strikes include library workers in the city of Toronto, transit and university workers in Halifax, daycare workers across Quebec, teachers and students in British Columbia, as well as Air Canada workers who have staged a series of protests and strikes in the past year. The most spectacular strikes have been taking place in Quebec, where students are waging a massive campaign against rises in post-secondary tuition fees.

Provincial government workers are restive. Some 300,000 in British Columbia are bargaining a new collective agreement and saying "no" to the wage and services freeze that is being imposed on teachers. In Ontario, the response has been nothing if not angry to the recent Ontario budget that cut billions of dollars of spending from public services along with thousands of jobs.

A farmer’s final stand

For six years now, Frank Meyers has been doing his best to ignore the elephant on his farm. Ask him about it—the fact that the federal government wants to kick him off his beloved land in order to build a new headquarters for the military’s elite special forces squad—and the 84-year-old brushes it all aside, like the dirt on his pants. Meyers, a dairy farmer for seven decades, is dealing with his bad luck the only way he knows how: with pride, toughness and a bit of humour. “What are they going to do?” he asks. “Bring a task force in to take me out? They might have to.”

But on Thursday, during a public hearing that will finally decide the fate of his historic property, not even Meyers could stop himself from tearing up. As one of his daughters read an emotional statement for the record, he sat two chairs over, quietly wiping his eyes. “By the time my father was 14, his fulltime job was maintaining this farm,” said Elaine Meyers Steiginga, speaking into a microphone. “I cannot begin to imagine what he is feeling right now, thinking about his lifelong hard labour that he put into this farm, only for it to be gone with just a signature. This wouldn’t just be the end of our family farm. It would be the end of a family legacy.”

Liberals and NDP push committee for emergency meeting on F-35s

Members of the House of Commons’ public accounts committee are set to trade in their Easter break for an F-35 investigation, after the Liberals and NDP teamed up to request an emergency meeting in Ottawa.

Liberal MP Gerry Byrne initiated the process, requesting Friday that members convene in the next few days to begin their study on the auditor general’s scathing spring report on the F-35 procurement process.

“The sooner the better,” Byrne said. “This obviously has to take huge priority.”

But Byrne is the only Liberal on the committee, and to get a meeting called during the break, he needed the support of three other members. There are six Conservatives and three New Democrats who sit on public accounts. The three NDP MPs – Malcolm Allen, Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe and Matthew Dubé – backed him up.

“We’ve decided to go ahead and do that,” Allen said. “The F-35 is clearly top of mind for a lot of Canadians. There’s a great deal of interest in it. I think folks want us to get underway as quickly as we possibly can.”

The F-35: Not just costly but obsolete

In the bitter parliamentary dispute over the costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Canada has spent hundreds of millions helping to develop but may still not buy, there is an awful lot of “What did they know and when did they know it?” Predictably, as the Harper government’s position on the sole-source contracting has become less and less defensible, the debate is shifting to the bottom line: is the F-35 a good aircraft or not? It has become apparent that National Defence bureaucrats and Conservative ministers bet heavily on American military-industrial competence, and the voters may still forgive almost anything if Canada ends up with a cool Canadian-badged airplane that dominates the enemy in the battle theatre.

But this is the scary thing for the F-35’s defenders: to aviation nerds, the Joint Strike Fighter is looking more and more like an ugly mutt. Consider one important example of how our commitment to the JSF as a NATO partner has gone awry: the cutting-edge helmet-mounted display that was meant to help make up for the speed and manoeuvrability limitations of a single-engined stealth fighter. In the early days of JSF promotion, the user interface was touted as being at least as important to the project as the aerodynamic qualities of the airframe itself. Pilots would be sent into a fight with “360-degree situational awareness,” day or moonless night, giving them long seconds to defend themselves while opponents in more traditional aircraft were still figuring out which way was up.

Air Canada wins order declaring job action by pilots illegal

Air Canada (AC.B-T0.86----%) has won an order from the Canada Industrial Relations Board that declares job action by some pilots to be illegal.

The order requires the carrier’s 3,000 pilots to comply with the law, and cease any work stoppages – a development that came after Air Canada warned travellers of flight disruptions, saying some pilots walked off the job. More than 50 Air Canada flights were cancelled across the carrier’s system on Friday.

“The impact has been primarily on narrow-body aircraft serving domestic and transborder destinations. Our focus is on moving as many affected passengers as possible” through with measures such as deploying larger planes and adding flights, Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said.

The country’s largest airline had applied on Friday afternoon to the Canada Industrial Relations Board to obtain a declaration of an unlawful strike being staged. Air Canada’s legal manoeuvre meant that it revived its previous application to the labour board, stemming from flight disruptions blamed in part on pilots calling in sick during the March 17-18 weekend.

Air Canada had suspended its original complaint against the Air Canada Pilots Association for allegedly authorizing members to call in sick on March 17-18, but given the new disruptions, the carrier sought and won a declaration that Friday’s actions by some pilots are illegal – part of a “97 squared” group displaying defiance.

Ottawa hits ‘dangerous new low’ with professor’s extradition, supporters say

Supporters of an Ottawa professor who was ordered extradited earlier this month say Canadian justice reached a “dangerous new low” by surrendering Hassan Diab to France not for a trial but to be questioned.

Mr. Diab, a 58-year-old Lebanese-Canadian, is accused of being a terrorist who bombed a Paris synagogue in 1980, killing four people. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the extradition order last week after a judicial ruling paved the way for him to make the decision 10 months before.

Lawyer Donald Bayne said Mr. Diab has not yet been charged and it has recently been revealed that he’s being sent to France for questioning, not a trial.

“We simply cannot be sending Canadians abroad, around the world, so that foreign regimes can investigate them,” Mr. Bayne said Friday at a news conference held by Mr. Diab’s supporters. “They either have a case against them or they don’t.”

French Department of Justice spokesman Olivie Pedro Jose declined to disclose any information about the case, including the status of the charges. However, Agence France-Presse reported French officials confirmed charges are yet to be laid.

Canada’s top court strikes down police powers to wiretap without warrants

OTTAWA—The Supreme Court of Canada struck down a law that gives police warrantless wiretap powers to prevent an emergency, saying it provides no accountability or oversight mechanism.

The unanimous judgment issued Friday gave Parliament 12 months to re-write the law. In the meantime, the 1993 Criminal Code (Section 184.4) — the only wiretap provision that does not require after-the-fact notification either to the person wiretapped or some kind of report to Parliament — remains in force.

The decision doesn’t pose a risk to public safety while Parliament rewrites the notice provision, said lawyer Joe Wilkinson, counsel to the Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario, which intervened in the case.

It is still open to police to intercept private communications to prevent emergency situations but “they would do well to give some kind of notice to whomever it is ended up getting intercepted,” he said.

Wilkinson said there have only been a few superior court rulings on the power, and police were working “very much in the dark” as to its proper use.

Now, he said, “the police still have the bulk of the section and they’ve got it with some really good guidance from the top court in the land.”

CBC cuts gut cherished international service

MONTREAL - Lost amid the auditor-general’s report last week on the F-35 fighter planes and Canada raising the retirement age to 67, was news of the impending demise of Radio Canada International – the CBC’s international service, for many a lifeline to Canadian culture and politics, from as far away as Hanoi or Rio de Janeiro.

While CBC, like other crown corporations and government departments, has to cut 10 per cent of its overall budget as a result of federal cutbacks, RCI, which is administered by the CBC but has long been its poor cousin, was told more than 80 per cent of its budget would be slashed, or $10 million of $12.3 million.

As of June 25, there will no longer be any Russian or Portuguese language sections, there will be no more RCI newsroom, no more RCI programs, in fact, no more shortwave or satellite broadcasting at all, other than to direct listeners to the Internet, the CBC decided last week. RCI will retain a “Web presence” in five languages – but what kind of presence remains to be seen.

The news was a severe blow to the staff at RCI, at least two-thirds – or about

40 – of whom can expect to receive pink slips April 25. But the death knell also struck listeners around the globe, who regularly tune in to RCI to hear news of Canada – or news from a Canadian perspective.

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark lauds Mulcair, criticizes Harper foreign policy

No one would use the term charismatic to describe former Prime Minister Joe Clark. He couldn't captivate an audience like Pierre Trudeau could, or charm political colleagues the way Brian Mulroney did.

Renowned journalist Peter C. Newman once said of Clark: 'he would never set the world on fire, except by accident.'

Even without the gift of charisma, however, Clark was able to carve out an impressive political career that spanned over three decades.

He was Canada's youngest ever Prime Minister - albeit for a short time - and went on to earn Canadians' trust and respect as foreign affairs minister in the Mulroney cabinet.

In his post-political life, Clark hasn't sought out political attention the way Jean Chrétien has.

So when Joe Clark speaks people listen.

At a recent event organized by McGill University's Institute for the Study of International Development, the former prime minister shared his opinions about the Harper government and about the NDP's newly elected leader.

Long-Gun Registry: RCMP Says Loss Will Make Criminal Probes More Difficult

OTTAWA - As it prepares to destroy millions of long-gun records, the RCMP says the Conservative government's decision to scrap the registry will make it tougher to trace firearms used to commit crimes.

The process that will lead to deletion of rifle and shotgun records in the registry is under way — with the exception of Quebec files at the centre of a court action, said Cpl. Laurence Trottier, an RCMP spokeswoman.

"It is a complex IT project involving the destruction of a large amount of data that is part of an integrated database, and will take some time to complete."

The national police force also says repeal of the long-run registry means tracing rifles and shotguns linked to criminal investigations "will be more challenging and will require more in-depth police investigation."

Recently passed legislation ended registration of most long guns and directed the RCMP to permanently destroy more than seven million files on firearm ownership. This includes deletion of computer files as well as any relevant paper records.

Quebec wants to use some of the data to create its own registry, but the federal government refuses to share the records, prompting the province to go to court.

Pete Hoekstra On Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: 'That Thing Is A Nuisance'

WASHINGTON -- Former Republican congressman Pete Hoekstra, who is now running to unseat Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), weighed in on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on Thursday, saying the law was a "nuisance" that shouldn't be in place.

The issue came up during a campaign event in Royal Oak, Mich. An attendee asked whether Hoekstra would support or "work to repeal" the law if elected to office.

"Will, you know, will repealing it be a priority? If you came back and said, you know, that's really the thing that's hurting my business the most. My guess is there are other things that we can do that have a higher priority in terms of what I, what I believe might need to be done. I think you know we need to create -- that thing is a nuisance. It shouldn't be the law," replied Hoekstra.

Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law in 2009 and considers it one of the key achievements of his presidency. The law -- which was heavily opposed by Republicans -- provides women with more legal channels through which to pursue equal pay for equal work. Hoekstra, at the time a congressman, voted against the measure when it came up in the House of Representatives, believing that federal legislation was not needed and it would burden small businesses during the economic recession.

Don't mess with children

Young people have emerged as a force for fairness in Canada's treatment of First Nations, writes Janet Wilson. The more they learn, the madder they get

Our government is about to be ambushed by revolutionaries.

I've seen this before. Remember the '60s? The "new generation" rebelled against injustice. The old generation tried vainly to hold on to their prejudices, but once that ball began rolling toward civil rights, it was unstoppable. Today, the new revolutionaries are much younger: elementary school students. These rebels are standing up and speaking out in support of First Nations children.

Education is a powerful weapon. Unlike the colonial-centric "history" we were force-fed, today's aboriginal studies curriculum is more historically accurate. Students are learning Canada's dirty little secrets about our treatment of the First Nation. And they are not happy, particularly about the discrimination and inequity in funding that affects children just like them. Stephen Harper, be warned. Don't mess with kids.

Briton’s Wanderings Led Him to Heart of a Chinese Scandal

BEIJING — At St. Mary’s Church in London’s Thames-side Battersea district, mourners who gathered for Neil Heywood’s memorial service a few days before Christmas were perplexed by the instructions laid down beforehand by one of Mr. Heywood’s classmates from Britain’s elite Harrow boarding school. He asked them not to approach Lulu Heywood, Mr. Heywood’s Chinese wife, and to remain in the pews until she and their two children had left the church.

The classmate’s eulogy made no mention of why a 41-year-old man in apparently good health had suddenly died. Nor could anyone ask the family.

“It was all very odd,” said one of those at the service, who, like many people connected with Mr. Heywood, asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivities surrounding the case. “There were a lot of questions, and a lot of tears. We’d all been to plenty of funerals, and none of us had ever been through anything quite like it.”

That now seems an understatement. Since Tuesday, when China’s Communist Party said that Gu Kailai, the wife of a suspended Politburo member, was under investigation for the “intentional homicide” of Mr. Heywood, all assumptions about his life in China are in doubt. The official account, still sketchy, says only that Ms. Gu and a household employee are suspected of murdering Mr. Heywood after he and Ms. Gu fell out over business dealings that have yet to be explained.

Iran Nuclear Talks: Tehran, World Powers Set To Start Crucial Talks In Istanbul

ISTANBUL, April 13 (Reuters) - Iran's chief nuclear negotiator arrived in Istanbul on Friday for his first talks with the world powers in more than a year aimed at easing mounting international tension over the Islamic state's atomic activities.

Iranian state television showed footage of Saeed Jalili, who heads the country's delegation for the April 14 talks, getting into a car at the airport of Turkey's biggest city.

Saturday's meeting is widely seen as a chance for the six major powers - the United States, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany - and Iran to start halting a downward diplomatic spiral and help avert the threat of a new Middle East war.

The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability and Israel has hinted at military strikes to prevent its arch foe from obtaining such arms.

Iran, which has come under increasingly tough Western sanctions targeting its oil exports, says its nuclear programme is peaceful and has repeatedly ruled out suspending it.

Drought expands throughout USA

The USA hasn't been this dry in five years.

Still reeling from devastating drought that led to at least $10 billion in agricultural losses across Texas and the South in 2011, the nation is enduring more unusually parched weather.

A mostly dry, mild winter has put nearly 61% of the lower 48 states in "abnormally dry" or drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly federal tracking of drought. That's the highest percentage of dry or drought conditions since September 2007, when 61.5% of the country was listed in those categories.

Only two states — Ohio and Alaska — are entirely free of abnormally dry or drought conditions, according to the Drought Monitor.

The drought is expanding into some areas where dryness is rare, such as New England.

"Conditions are starting to worry us now," said Keith Eggleston , a climatologist with the Northeast Regional Climate Center in Ithaca, N.Y.

Chris Christie Talks VP Possibility Again

Once again New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is making it known he's open to a vice presidential nod, should Mitt Romney ask him.

“There is only one person in my party who gets to make that decision and that’s Governor Romney,” he said at a town hall Thursday, according to the National Review. “If Governor Romney comes to me and wants to talk about it, I’ll always listen.”

Last year Christie was pushed to run for president himself, but he has said he will be more ready to run on top of the ticket in 2016. He endorsed Romney in the fall and has downplayed his interest in becoming his running mate while remaining open to the possibility.

"I don't think you talk about that stuff. I think if you're the nominee you're afraid to talk about that stuff because you don't want to jinx yourself," he told FOX News in December. "I don't think [Romney] wants to be presumptuous enough to start talking to somebody about a vice president when he’s not yet the nominee."

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: --

Roger Ailes: Soledad O'Brien Was 'Named After A Prison'

Roger Ailes made a jaw-dropping comment about CNN's Soledad O'Brien during a college lecture on Thursday night.

The Fox News chief was speaking to journalism students at the University of North Carolina. In the question-and-answer segment of the talk, he referred to O'Brien as "that girl that's named after a prison."

Ailes was referring to the Soledad Correctional Facility in Monterey County, California. CNN responded to the remark on Friday. An insider told The Huffington Post, "Roger is wrong. Soledad is named after the Virgin Mary, 'Maria de la Soledad.' It's a name her parents gave her in part because they met at Daily Mass."

Ailes made the comment while speaking about the latest developments at the network for a lecture at the university's journalism school. On Thursday, he also responded to Newt Gingrich's recent criticism of Fox News.

The GOP candidate had accused the network of favoring Romney, and said that CNN was "less biased." Ailes said that Gingrich was "trying to get a job at CNN because he knows he isn't going to get to come back to Fox News."

He condemned the Fox News mole, the former employee who was fired after writing anonymous posts about the network. “The mole shows a culture that believes in theft, a lack of loyalty, turning on his colleagues, lying to management, and there are some real, ethical, serious questions about it,” Ailes said.

He defended Fox News against criticism that the network's coverage is biased, as well. "What you're really telling me is that there's a little cable channel over here that's driving you nuts because it won't line up with your worldview," Ailes said. "If there's an alternative point of view, don’t wet your pants.”

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Katherine Fung 

Pakistan Demands An End To C.I.A. Drone Strikes

ISLAMABAD, April 12 (Reuters) - Pakistan's parliament on Thursday unanimously approved recommendations from its national security committee on ties with the United States, including a demand to end drone strikes.

Action on the recommendations has yet to be decided by the government. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said in a live televised speech to parliament that the government will attempt to implement them "in letter and spirit".

He did not say whether Pakistan would reopen overland supply routes to U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. They were suspended after a Nov. 26 cross-border NATO air attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged already troubled ties to their lowest point in years.

When asked whether Pakistan would re-open the supply routes to Afghanistan, Information Minister Firdos Ashiq Awan did not specify a course of action.

"Parliament has given us some guidelines and principles. Keeping them in mind, and the will of the people, we will soon take an appropriate position on the matter," she told reporters outside parliament after Gilani's speech.

Gilani reiterated Pakistan's call for the United States, the source of billions of dollars in military and economic aid, to respect the South Asian nation's sovereignty.

Tennessee Passes Law Protecting Science Deniers

The state that once put John Scopes on trial for teaching about evolution is at it again: Yesterday, Tennessee legislators approved a bill that would allow public school teachers to challenge scientific consensus on issues like evolution and climate change under the guise of "academic freedom." The bill directs administrators to create an environment that encourages students to "explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific subjects." While it doesn't require that teachers critique consensus views of evolution, climate change, and "the chemical origins of life," it does allow teachers to introduce "alternative" theories, however baseless, without reproach, and makes state education standards fuzzier at the classroom level.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Bo Watson, insists that the bill is just misunderstood, saying that it would allow students to bring up ideas they'd heard at home for discussion and charging that its opponents have "mischaracterized" it. But the Tennessee Science Teachers Association and American Civil Liberties Union say that's just an excuse for a law that allows teachers to undermine scientific evidence for political and religious reasons. Said Hedy Weinberg of the Tennessee chapter of the ACLU in a statement released prior to the bill's passage, such measures "seek to subvert scientific principle to religious ideology by granting legal cover to teachers who wish to dress up religious beliefs regarding evolution and the origin of life as pseudo-science and inject them into their science class curricula." While Republican Governor Bill Haslam allowed the bill to become law, he did not sign it, saying that it would make science education standards less clear.

Canada Housing Market: Toronto's Wealthy Buyers Dragging Up Home Prices For Everyone, Sotheby's Exec Says

High-income buyers are a driving force behind Toronto’s booming housing market, fuelling demand for an extremely limited supply of properties in desirable areas, says one real estate broker.

According to Paul Maranger, a senior vice-president at Sotheby's International Realty, this year has seen a surge in activity in the luxury real estate market in Toronto, as buyers increasingly chase a “Manhattan type of lifestyle.”

“Toronto at the luxury level is not looking for value. They’re looking for convenience,” he said on Thursday. “Many of our clients who work in the financial district, they’re working incredible hours at the office, and they are willing to pay a substantial premium to not have to do any extra work.”

Maranger was one of several real-estate experts made available to reporters on a conference call to discuss the BMO Spring Housing Report.

When it comes to the changing tastes of the wealthy, Maranger says the desire to walk to restaurants and the theatre is putting added pressure on properties in the city centre, and particularly single-family homes, which have become increasingly rare in Toronto due to a lack of available space.

Compared to the same period last year, Maranger says sales of “luxury” single-family homes ($2 million or more) in Toronto have so far increased by more than one-third, from 95 to 128.

World's poorest countries hit by cuts to Canada's budget for foreign aid

Twelve of the world's poorest countries - including Afghanistan, Pakistan and seven nations in Africa - are going to be hit as the Conservative government cuts its foreign aid budget by $377 mil-lion in the next three years.

Many of the affected countries rely on international assistance to provide food and other ser-vices to millions of citizens.

A source within the Canadian International Development Agency said Benin, Niger, Cambodia, China, Nepal, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe are expected to lose virtually all Canadian aid. Reductions are planned for five major aid recipients: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Mozambique, Pakistan and Tanzania. CIDA officials refused to comment Thursday, saying Canadians, aid groups and affected countries will be told in the coming weeks how the changes will affect them.

Until recently, Afghanistan was the largest recipient of Canadian aid, receiving more than $200 million a year by 2011. This money was spent on things such as building and repairing schools, training Afghan civil servants and providing polio vaccines.

The decision to cut assistance to Afghanistan as well as to Pakistan will be viewed as another sign of Canada's waning interest in the volatile Central Asian region ahead of a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014.

Feds slash environment budgets without info, critics charge

OTTAWA - Cuts to federal environmental research and monitoring jobs are proceeding in the absence of a substantial review of the government's existing scientific work and its value to Canadians, critics said Thursday.

``These cuts to personnel and ultimately what's going to mean a cut to programs are being done in a vacuum of information regarding the importance of those programs or why they're there in the first place,'' said Thomas Duck, an atmospheric scientist who teaches at Dalhousie University. ``This happened, for example, last summer when they first announced the cuts and gave everyone in the ozone (monitoring) section one of those workforce adjustment letters.''

But a spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Kent said the department identified items for consideration after conducting a review of administrative and operational practices.

``Decisions were weighed against (the) core mandate,'' said Kent's communications director Rob Taylor. ``In total our contribution amounts to about five per cent of our current budget. These savings are to be achieved over the next three years.''

Duck, who collaborates on some research with scientists in government, said he was concerned not only about looming cuts at Environment Canada but also other federal bodies such as the Canadian Space Agency, which has been active in environmental research for decades, but could suddenly see the elimination of some work such as Earth observation.

Flaherty heaps praise on Alberta, calls it vital to Canada's growth

Alberta will continue to drive Canada’s economy as the federal government fast-tracks major energy projects and immigration reform, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says.

In a speech to Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Mr. Flaherty praised the Alberta economy as a sign of the shifting balance of power in Canada.

The comments come two weeks after he slammed the government of his home province, saying: “Ontario’s spending mismanagement is a problem for the entire country.” In the case of free-spending, rich, debt-free Alberta, however, he strikes a different tune.

“Canada has a brilliant future. Alberta is vital, and growth in Alberta is vital, for Canada’s jobs growth and prosperity in the future,” the minister said, later adding: “In many ways, Alberta is the centre of the Canadian economy today.”

In listing government transfer programs, he singled out equalization payments, again firing a shot across Ontario’s bow. “Of course, Alberta doesn’t get to participate in [equalization]. We have Ontario and Quebec now receiving equalization, which was never the intention of the creators of equalization, but there it is,” Mr. Flaherty said.

Harper drug stance may hinder him at summit

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is flying to a weekend summit in Colombia where his hard line on drugs will put him at odds with some Latin American leaders who are calling for a debate over whether drug use should be decriminalized.

Harper's position on Cuba also could run afoul of a possible consensus by countries in central and South America.

Harper is attending the Summit of the Americas, a conference of leaders from 34 nations that is held every three years.

The talks this year will include such issues as trade expansion, and Harper will meet with senior business executives from Canada and elsewhere who are attending the summit to discuss investment in the Western Hemisphere.

As well, it's expected many Latin American leaders will argue the time has come, after decades of being barred from the summit, for Cuba to be invited to the next gathering.

That will run counter to the firm positions of Canada and the United States, which insist Cuba should not be permitted to attend the next summit until the communist regime initiates democratic reforms.

Conservative budget at odds with urban Canadian realities

As the federal budget reveals, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives can’t imagine Canada as anything other than resource-dependent. Most Canadians — particularly the 80 per cent of us who live in cities — have been hoping for a different future for a long time. This lack of vision will be felt across urban Canada — and in Toronto, most certainly.

Canada’s largest urban region is not what it used to be. In 1969, Jane Jacobs wrote of Toronto, “here is the most hopeful and healthy city in North America, still unmangled, still with options.” A generation later, her view was not so rosy — Toronto had become “a city in crisis, indeed in multiple crises.”

There is a public poverty that has settled across this urban region in the years between Jacobs’ optimism and gloom. It is evident in the shabbiness of our public space and the dilapidation of our infrastructure. Not for all, but for most, it is conspicuous too by the scarcity, sometimes absence, of our infrastructure — from transit to affordable housing to child care.

There is a private poverty too. It is found all over but is concentrated in the expanse between our downtown and the “cities in waiting” in the exurban belt beyond Steeles. In these inner suburbs, a new in-between city has emerged where social and economic problems abound.

Harper throws National Council of Welfare on the scrap heap

It was a throwaway line in Jim Flaherty’s budget; a throwaway institution in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa.

Deeply buried in an attachment to the 2012 budget was a one-sentence announcement that the National Council of Welfare had been axed.

For a few days anti-poverty activists thought low-income Canadians had been spared. By the time they discovered the truth, all they could do was mourn the demise of another once-proud social agency.

Since 1962, the National Council of Welfare had held up a mirror to the nation, highlighting the pockets of poverty and warning policy-makers of the consequences of neglecting those in need. It gave non-profit groups the facts they needed to speak credibly about hardship in a land of plenty. It tracked the emergence and growth of a crack in society between the comfortably well-off and the struggling. And it brought together social policy thinkers to find solutions to poverty — or at least keep the debate alive.

Now it’s gone. Kellie Leitch, parliamentary secretary to the minister of human resources, dismissed the loss offhandedly. “We are putting our policy resources to best use and reducing duplication,” she said, pointing to Campaign 2000 and Canada Without Poverty as high-profile non-profit organizations serving the same role.

How not to downsize

Could there be a worse way to manage cuts to the federal public service, however necessary they may be? Perhaps, but the Harper approach, so far, is in a class of its own.

First, the Conservatives warned the chickens months ago that the executioner's axe was about to fall. Naturally, the chickens were frightened, demoralized, confused. Their normal work life was disrupted: They couldn't lay eggs on time or in the right place. They wondered if anyone even wanted eggs any more.

Second, the chickens got mixed reports on how widespread the carnage would be - maybe most would survive, after all; maybe only the older, less productive chickens would be culled. Or retired early with a nice nest egg.

In cooing tones, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Treasury Board president Tony Clement downplayed the impact: Baird said fewer than 5,000 people would lose their jobs in the national capital area over three years; Clement underlined that not every employee receiving an "affected" notice would be out of work. Some might carry their skills into another, conveniently vacant government position.

But the unions were alarmed, as unions always are. They dispute the government's figures: they say this latest round of cuts, combined with the slow bleeding in recent years through freezes, attrition and "streamlining" will mean 34,000 fewer federal jobs overall at the end of three years. Add to that 12,500 term, or contract, employees with no job protection and this begins to look like a major reduction in the federal workforce and, presumably, in the services it provides.

Despite Praise & Permission, Detroit Teacher Fired for Helping Students’ Trayvon Martin Fundraiser

An eighth grade charter school teacher in Michigan has been fired after helping her students organize a fundraiser for Trayvon Martin’s parents. Brooke Harris and her students at Pontiac Academy for Excellence drew up a plan to raise money by donating one dollar each to wear a hoodie to school, as Martin had worn when he was shot dead. She obtained permission for the fundraiser, but her superintendent opposed the plan. Harris was initially suspended and then later fired without explanation. "They didn’t want to walk out of class. They didn’t want to wear the hoods over their head. They just wanted to pay a dollar to wear their regular clothes instead of uniform and donate that money to someone else who they saw needed it," Harris says. "I just wanted to know what I specifically did wrong, so I could learn from my alleged mistake and be sure never to do that again."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Arizona Teacher Sean Arce Fired in Latest Crackdown on Acclaimed Mexican American Studies Program

Sean Arce, the head of the Tucson school district’s banned Mexican American Studies program, was dismissed Tuesday night amid vocal protests from dozens of supporters. Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program has been under attack following the passage of a bill which prohibits schools from offering ethnic studies courses. Arce maintains he was fired because he spoke out against what he saw as a discriminatory law targeting Mexican Americans and Latinos. "I, along with many others, stood up and [saw] this law as unconstitutional," Arce says. "And because we stood up, the district has retaliated."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

War of words over cuts to border agency

Union claims that some 1,350 border job cuts will result in longer waiting times and more child porn, weapons, drugs and terrorists entering the country are false, say public safety officials who chalk it up to bitterness over a $1-million cut to union boss salaries.

Customs and Immigration Union president Jean-Pierre Fortin arrived on Parliament Hill with stark news Thursday: 1,026 Canada Border Services Agency jobs would be slashed across the country over the next three years, including about 100 intelligence officer positions and 19 of about 70 drug-detecting canine units. The service has more than 12,0000 employees.

Regionally, the Greater Toronto Area is poised to be hardest hit with 124 job losses, followed by Quebec with 118, the Prairies with 114, the Pacific region with 106, southern Ontario with 94, northern Ontario with 37 and Atlantic Canada with 23. Some 410 jobs will also be cut at CBSA headquarters.

Fortin said he was told an additional 325 front-line jobs would also be cut, but officials deny more front-line cuts are coming.

"To be blunt, the cuts that are proposed will have very serious consequences to our public safety and national security," he said, noting he's concerned not just as a union boss, but also as a 30-year veteran customs inspector and father.

Just how much are those F-35s going to cost?

Ah that pesky auditor. Forever poking his little Sharpie into F-35 jet flaps and other dark corners.

To hear Defence Minister Peter MacKay tell it, with just a hint of bluster, the next thing Auditor General Michael Ferguson will demand is a detailed costing for the F-35 pilots’ “boot leather (and) shoelaces.”

Might not be a bad idea. Aviator boots don’t come cheap these days.

But at a guess, we think the auditor general would be content to know just how much the 65 F-35 stealth fighters the Conservatives intend to buy will end up costing us, beyond the $25 billion figure that has been the focus of so much partisan debate. That’s what Canadians really want to know, and can’t find out.

Originally, Canada’s F-35s were supposed to roll off the Lockheed Martin assembly line for about $5 billion, or $75 million a pop. The biggest part of the $25 billion involves the warplanes’ estimated “full life-cycle costs,” including upgrades to the jets, pilots’ salaries, weapons, maintenance, fuel, repairs and other costs, spread over 20 years. Boot leather and shoelace stuff.

Return of the word "Royal" Harper government feared the reaction of Quebecers

(Ottawa) The Department of Defense was concerned that the Harper government's decision to reinstate the word "Royal" in the Canadian Armed Forces last year does not cause a backlash in Quebec and among Francophones.

The fear was such that employees of the Department of Defense have prepared answers for the Minister Peter MacKay and his cabinet colleagues responsible for making the announcement of this new measure in some parts of the country on August 16 .

The purpose of these responses was nipped in the bud any controversy surrounding the decision to restore the historic designations of the RCN, the RCAF and Canadian Army. In Quebec, the links between Canada and the British crown have often been controversial.

Thus, it was proposed to include ministers to remind those who might challenge this decision one of the most famous regiments of Quebec, or even the country, is called the Royal 22nd Regiment, Quebec. "What reaction do you expect from Quebec and other Francophone communities?" It said in the note to Minister MacKay containing questions and answers.

Progressives wrong to bend charter

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms turns 30 next week and former prime minister Jean Chretien is upset. Da little guy from Shawinigan is concerned the Harper government isn’t celebrating the charter’s anniversary loudly enough.

In reality, Chretien should be worried that the charter is under attack these days from progressive politicians on his side of the aisle.

In the Alberta election right now, Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford, more of a progressive liberal than a conservative, is running around her province telling everyone she’s worried that her opponent supports “conscience rights.” Redford says this could mean some doctors could refuse to perform abortions if it goes against their personal moral code, or a pharmacist could refuse to dispense the morning-after pill, which many feel causes abortion.

“I was very frightened to hear the discussion today, and I’ve been quite frightened to hear the development of that in the last month,” Redford said in early April.

What Redford isn’t saying, and too many journalists covering her fail to mention, is that conscience rights are a central part of Canada’s charter. In fact, it is the first fundamental freedom that the government is supposed to protect.

Myopic government ignores Charter anniversary

On April 17, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms will celebrate its 30th birthday. This momentous occasion deserves commemoration and observance, as we mark one of the most important advances in the promotion and protection of human rights both domestically and abroad. Indeed, Canadians now enjoy a panoply of rights and remedies that we almost inconceivable prior to the Charter, and which has had a transformative impact not only on our laws, but on our lives, not only on how we litigate, but on how we live.

Regrettably, the 30th anniversary of any of the events in the landmark process to enshrining Charter rights has gone without any remark or notice from the government. Indeed, with just a few days until the Charter’s birthday we have yet to hear of any plans for official commemoration from the government. This, unsurprisingly, continues a disturbing trend of the government marginalizing the Charter, as it did most notably on its 25th anniversary. As a 2007 article in The Lawyer’s Weekly noted, “Stephen Harper, a prominent Charter skeptic, and his justice minister, Rob Nicholson, were conspicuously absent from the commemorative festivities.”

PMO thrives while federal budgets slashed across the board, critics say

OTTAWA — New figures show the Prime Minister's Office — while shrinking in size — had nearly 100 full-time staff earlier this year with almost a quarter of them making $100,000 or more, as the federal government was planning a budget that would cut billions in program spending and lay off thousands of employees.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's officials note the PMO has significantly cut the size and cost of the office over the past few years and is leading by example in finding savings during a time of fiscal restraint.

Public-sector unions and opposition parties have been attacking the government for months about federal spending cuts, insisting the Conservatives are misguided in where they're searching for billions of dollars in savings.

With that in mind, the Liberals recently asked the government in a written question about how many people the Prime Minister's Office employs, as well as how many of those staffers make $100,000 or more a year and the number of people making $50,000 or less.

As of Feb. 1, 2012, the number of full-time employees in the PMO was 94, with 21 of them making $100,000 or more a year, according to the answer delivered last week. Also, there were 23 people in the PMO with an annual salary of $50,000 or less.

Conservative popularity falling in wake of recent criticism: poll

OTTAWA — After enduring weeks of criticism over robocalls, the F-35 and the budget, the federal Conservative party is virtually tied with the NDP in public opinion, suggests a new Ipsos-Reid poll conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global TV.

But the controversies haven't stuck to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who continues to enjoy strong approval ratings throughout most of the country.

The survey found that if an election were called today, 34 per cent of Canadians polled would vote for the Conservative party, compared to 37 per cent last month and 40 per cent when the last election was held on May 2, 2011.

In contrast, 33 per cent would vote for the NDP, which is up from 29 per cent in March and 31 per cent during the election.

The Liberals would receive 21 per cent of the vote, while the Bloc Quebecois and Green party would receive seven and four per cent, respectively.

Ipsos Reid senior vice-president John Wright attributed the Conservatives' declining fortunes to weeks of enduring controversy, including the robocall scandal, an uninspiring budget and last week's auditor general's report on the troubled F-35 stealth-fighter program.

Honey, I shrunk the F-35 cost estimates

In retrospect, there's still nothing quite as startling as this in the auditor general's report on the F-35 program: page 27. That's where Auditor General Michael Ferguson skewered the government with evidence that the charge dogging it for two years was true: that it concealed the full cost of the new fighters.

Ferguson's Page 27 lays out the facts very simply to show that the government told itself the costs were $10 billion higher than the figure it gave to the public.

In one column, Ferguson shows the internal estimate that was "used for decision making," one month before the government announced its decision to buy the F-35 in July of 2010. The figures were not made public — until Ferguson found them.

They showed a purchase price of $8.9 billion, plus personnel, operating and maintenance costs of $16.1 billion, for a total of $25 billion.

Ferguson said that's too low — largely because the costs were estimated over only 20 years when the plane may be in service for nearly twice that long — 36 years. Still, the estimate did include those personnel, operating costs and maintenance, among other extras.

The $25 billion figure also held up well when compared with an independent estimate made nine months later, in March of 2011, by the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

China faces inflation, growth risks: Wen

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said China faces rising inflation risks even as its economy fights growth headwinds, hours after data showed the world’s second-biggest economy grew at its slowest pace in nearly three years in the first quarter.

Mr. Wen said Beijing would continue to improve and fine-tune macroeconomic controls and policy in a timely way to deal with the challenges, but he reiterated that the government would keep its restrictions on the Chinese property market.

China’s economy grew 8.1 per cent between January and March, data showed on Friday, missing analysts’ forecasts and raising concerns that growth could slow further without adequate policy support.

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: Reuters

On constitutional questions, it’s still Quebec vs. the rest of Canada

Thirty years after the patriation of the Constitution, Quebec and the rest of Canada remain as divided as ever over the need to bring Quebec into the constitutional fold, according to a recent poll.

Quebec and the rest of Canada are at an impasse on a number of issues – more powers for Quebec, collective rights versus individual rights and the consequences of failing to reopen the constitutional debate – the survey shows.

In fact, when francophone Quebeckers are asked to choose between the status quo and political independence, 53.6 per cent prefer independence, the poll shows.

One of the rare points on which Quebec and the rest of Canada agree is whether renewed federalism is possible. About half of Quebeckers and 46 per cent of those in the rest of Canada say it is not. An even greater proportion say that even if talks were held, they would have no chance of succeeding.

“Thirty years after patriation a majority of Quebeckers and Canadians recognize that there is no constitutional change that could satisfy Quebec,” concluded University of Ottawa political scientist François Rocher in an analysis of the poll data presented to a three-day conference in Montreal marking the anniversary. “The patriation has left a deep scar that is not yet ready to be healed.”

Budget 2012: Conservatives to unveil tougher EI rules

OTTAWA—Laid-off workers collecting Employment Insurance will face tough new compliance rules as Ottawa clamps down on claimants to make sure they are not passing up available jobs, government sources say.

The rules, to be revealed in the next few weeks, are part of the Harper government’s attempt to get more Canadians into the workforce and deal with a mismatch in the employment picture where more than 1 million Canadians can’t find work while employers are complaining of thousands of job vacancies.

But the new approach first raised in the federal budget could make hard-to-access EI benefits even harder to hold onto. And critics say the tinkering with EI planned by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley fails to address major problems with the program — regional imbalances and rules that mean only 25 per cent of laid-off employees in Toronto can obtain benefits.

Details have not been made public, but the most significant of the planned changes is likely to be more stringent rules for EI recipients to prove they are ready and available to work.

According to the budget document, the new measures will “strengthen and clarify what is required of claimants who are receiving regular EI benefits and are looking for work.”

John Baird defends Ottawa’s response to Canadian jailed in Mexico

Nearly every day Cynthia Vanier lines up in a Mexican prison to place a collect call home to her parents in Brampton. The chats are short, sometimes emotions run high and there’s always an effort to keep everyone’s spirits up.

But nearly five months after she was jailed, her family says it’s hard to stay positive when Canada has done so little to help one of its own citizens.

Vanier, who is from Mount Forest, Ont., is charged in Mexico for allegedly trying to smuggle the son of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi into the country. She was arrested in November and charged in February.

For her husband and her parents, the last five months have been a nightmare.

“We’re not used to this. We always thought that Canada would stand up for their citizens particularly when they haven’t been proven guilty of anything,” said Vanier’s father John MacDonald.

“What help the Canadian government has been? None.”

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird defended the Ottawa’s response to the Vanier case during an appearance in Washington on Thursday.

Ontario budget: Liberals warn teachers, doctors over pay

Mired in debt and at risk of an election by late May, Ontario’s minority Liberal government took dead aim at teachers and doctors Thursday in a bid for public support to keep their wage hike demands to zero.

Education Minister Laurel Broten warned elementary teachers of 10,000 layoffs unless they accept a pay freeze while Health Minister Deb Matthews told physicians “I am here to stand up for taxpayers.”

There is no room in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s latest budget — which forecasts a $15.2 billion deficit this year — for salary increases, Matthews told a hastily arranged news conference.

“This is a tough time. This is a difficult budget,” she said shortly after Broten delivered her second stern message since Monday, when she slammed the elementary teachers’ union for walking away from provincial bargaining.

Teacher contracts expire in August and the latest OMA agreement was over at the end of March.

The government’s future hangs in the balance over the budget, which goes to a crucial confidence vote in the Legislature by April 25. Defeat would force an election by the end of May.

Air Canada flights cancelled and delayed after pilots call in sick

The disruptions from “a sickout” by frustrated pilots at Pearson appear to be having less impact than a bad snowstorm.

So far, 40 flights have been cancelled, but Air Canada officials do not know if the situation will escalate.

It appears most of the bookoffs are from pilots who fly the smaller narrow body aircraft, on shorter haul destinations.

Spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the delays will be felt across the country, even though bookoffs were concentrated in Toronto and Montreal—because aircraft are scheduled to go on to other destinations.

More: Travellers react to ‘sickout’ by Air Canada pilots

“Most pilots are working and reporting for duty,” Fitzpatrick said in an interview at the airport. “The vast majority of flights are leaving.”

But kids headed to a karate tournament in Alberta were left scrambling when their 6:30 a.m. flight to Calgary was cancelled.

“We have all had to make different arrangements,” said Lee-Ann Bouchard of Brampton whose 8-year-old daughter, Olivia, is participating in her first out of province tournament.

Conservative support among Quebec women plunges to 11%, scrapping long-gun registry a factor

PARLIAMENT HILL—A poll of Quebec voters this week found support for the federal Conservative Party has plunged to only 11 per cent among women voters in the province, and critics of the governing party say it is a direct result of the government’s decisions to scrap the long-gun registry and impose controversial initiatives in other justice and social issues, including the areas it chose to cut in $5.2-billion public service operations.

NDP MP Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, Que.) said the reaction against the government in Quebec, where the Forum Research public opinion poll found support for the governing Conservatives had dropped to only 14 per cent, behind all other federal parties but the Greens, could spread to other provinces, particularly neighbouring Ontario.

Ms. Boivin and one of the leading opponents of a law the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) put into force last week to dismantle the long-gun registry said the attention that was given to the measure—including an awkward boast from a Conservative backbench MP who quoted the famous “free at last” declaration made by the 1960s U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King before he was assassinated—likely contributed to the basement level of support for the Conservatives among Quebec women, as well as male voters.

Pilots could stage ‘sickout’ Friday as labour relations continue to worsen at Air Canada

As labour relations at Air Canada continue to worsen, the airline has warned its pilots against any illegal job action amid talk of a possible “sickout” Friday.

Capt. Eddy Doyle, Air Canada’s director of flying operations, has raised concerns that pilots will be booking off sick on Friday when in fact they are fit to fly, according to an internal newsletter from Jean-Marc Belanger of the Air Canada Pilots Association, which represents 3,000 pilots.

Related: Air Canada March Break labour disruptions averted as labour minister blocks lockout, strike

Belanger said in the newsletter, sent Thursday, that there was no way to verify these allegations.

However, if they are accurate, “they have not been initiated or sanctioned by ACPA,” he said.

He went on to emphasize that the federal government’s back-to-work legislation prevents any strike or lockout as the contract dispute is to be settled through arbitration. The union has launched a constitutional challenge against the legislation.

Ottawa’s repeated intervention in contract talks at Air Canada, which has blocked scheduled strikes and a lockout of pilots, has angered employees.