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.]

Thursday, April 26, 2012

People of Color Less Likely to Vote Because of Super PAC Influence

It’s becoming more difficult for people to see how their vote is going to matter in the 2012 election. When states are increasingly passing voter ID laws that mandate voters prove they are citizens or that they are legitimate voters at the polls, while Super PACs are able to field millions of dollars, often from unidentified people, to influence elections, then democracy becomes less of a real thing to many people. A new survey from the Brennan Center for Justice shows majorities of Americans seeing Super PACs as corrupting forces on elections. There’s enough Super PAC distrust in the survey that many said they likely won’t vote. Evidently Bonnie Raitt isn’t the only person who feels, as she said in Rolling Stone, that “we have an auction instead of an election.”

Voters of color certainly feel that way. In the Brennan survey, African-Americans and Latino Americans were more likely than whites to say they feel discouraged from voting due to the outsized influence of Super PACs, and who can blame them? In many states, voters of color will have to go through the often user-unfriendly process of excavating birth and marriage documents, and then hoping there’s a DMV office close by that they can get to between shifts or after work hours, all to get ID cards that they otherwise wouldn’t need. Once done, they better hope their address doesn’t change (hope they’re not evicted, foreclosed upon or otherwise homeless), or that their name doesn’t change (hope they don’t get divorced), or if they are Latino, hope that their name is recorded correctly, or else they may get turned away after a long wait in line because the ID information doesn’t match with the registers.

A Fight Bigger Than ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council operated for almost forty years with scant notice, quietly connecting corporate interests with conservative legislators to impose one-size-fits-all “model legislation” on the states. Since ALEC’s secrets began leaking last year, however, its corporate members have been subjected to the sort of scrutiny—and antipathy—that CEOs and investors find most unsettling.

Some, like Pepsi, quietly left ALEC earlier this year, as the Urban League, NAACP, People for the American Way and Common Cause raised a ruckus over ALEC’s push for harsh voter ID laws and related voter-suppression initiatives. But after the Trayvon Martin shooting focused attention on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law—and on ALEC’s role in passing similar laws nationwide—the exodus truly began. Prodded by a coalition including Color of Change and the Center for Media and Democracy, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Intuit and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that they would drop their memberships.

The campaign worked: on April 17 ALEC announced it would shut down the Public Safety and Elections task force, which had spawned “shoot first” laws, voter ID rules, prison privatization schemes and measures to crack down on immigrants.

Oil Spill Risk May Rise In Northwest With Exports Of Coal And Tar Sands Oil To Asia

Like many residents of the San Juan Islands, Johannes Krieger's livelihood is inextricably tied to the sea. He runs kayak and whale-watching tours here in the northwest corner of Washington State.

"Any oil spill would be pretty devastating. An Exxon Valdez type of spill would blanket the entire San Juan Island area," says Krieger of Friday Harbor. "Even a 160-foot luxury yacht striking a rock can make for a pretty big spill."

Krieger, 38, is a lifelong resident of this archipelago, which consistently ranks among the world's top tourist destinations. He is well acquainted with the substantial number of ships that already weave between the islands' 300-plus miles of shoreline, alongside resident orca whales, sea birds, salmon and a sensitive herring population that is critical to the survival of many critters. And he is becoming more aware of proposals to expand U.S. and Canadian oil and coal exports to Asia, which would significantly increase the traffic through these narrow, often rough channels.

The prospect concerns him. "This is a relatively small area that's got lots and lots of rocky islands and reefs. Most of the area is not super deep," Krieger adds. "I understand that industry at this time of our civilization still needs to be out there to some degree, but it needs to be done safely."

Ottawa gave Shell $32-million tax refund last year

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDS.B-N73.642.944.17%) received a $32-million (U.S.) refund on its Canadian corporate income taxes last year despite generating hundreds of million of dollars from its operations here.

The Anglo-Dutch oil giant on Wednesday released a transparency document that reveals it paid $27-billion in taxes last year (not including sales tax), and breaks out the 14 countries in which it has major operations.

Shell earned $$28.6-billion last year after spending $31-billion on capital investment, but does not break out its Canadian earnings or investment spending.

Last year, the Netherlands-based company recovered $32-million in back taxes from Canadian governments because it had overpaid in recent years and because it has been investing heavily in its oil sands projects, a spokesman said. Shell also paid $320-million in royalties to provincial governments.

“Under Canadian income tax rules, income tax can be a volatile number depending on the earnings of a company in a given year relative to the amount of new investment,” company spokesman David Williams said in an e-mail.

Canada Budget 2012: Tories Bury New Environmental Review Rules In Budget

OTTAWA - The federal government has submerged its multi-faceted plan to overhaul environmental protections in a much broader piece of legislation.

The major changes to environmental and pipeline policy now are part of an omnibus budget bill — mixed in with myriad changes to tax policy and other fiscal matters.

The budget bill, tabled Thursday, repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, officially pulling Canada out of the global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

It also contains fundamental changes to a number of pieces of legislation dealing with the environmental assessment process.

The bill sets timelines for assessment hearings, allows Ottawa to hand off assessments to the provinces and consolidates the process in three government agencies.

It also gives federal cabinet the final say over oil and gas pipelines — a controversial measure that worries environmentalists.

And it overhauls the Fisheries Act to focus only on major waterways, not every single body of water.

Canada Average Weekly Earnings Failing To Keep Up With Inflation

Wages in Canada are growing more slowly than inflation, meaning the average working Canadian is effectively getting poorer, data from StatsCan shows.

Statistics Canada said Thursday that average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees rose to $886.45 in February, up 0.2 per cent from January. On a year-over-year basis, earnings rose 1.8 per cent.

But inflation was 2.6 per cent in February, dropping to 1.9 per cent in March.

The year-over-year growth in weekly earnings was slowed by a fourth straight monthly decline in hours worked.

Average weekly earnings increased in every province in the 12 months to February and growth was above the national average in six provinces, with Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador leading the way, StatsCan said. Wage growth was strongest in construction and wholesale trade.

The problem of relative declining wages has been plaguing the Canadian economy in recent months.

"The nominal wage gains being as soft as they are has created a condition where the average Canadian isn't keeping up with the cost of filling their grocery carts, filling their cars and heating their homes," Scotiabank senior economist Derek Holt said in November.

Holt suggested that workers worried about the global economic situation may actually be depressing their own wages by not demanding pay raises.

"With all the shocks happening to the world economy, many people are just happy having a job as opposed to going to their boss and demanding a wage gain," he said.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: The Huffington Post Canada 

Returning Tory voters gave Redford her victory: Lougheed

Alison Redford’s election victory was driven by Progressive Conservative voters who came back to the party after years of not voting, says former premier Peter Lougheed, founder of the 41-year-old dynasty.

While some observers attributed Redford’s 61-seat win to strategic voting by Liberals, Lougheed said he sees it differently — longtime, stay-at-home PCs finally decided to get out and vote because they found Redford’s party better represented their views.

“Many of our party supporters had been staying away from elections that occurred in the (Ralph) Klein years and (Ed) Stelmach as well,” said Lougheed.

“I think they were taken by the new leader with a vision for the future and they wanted to vote for their party again — it was that combination,” said Lougheed, adding he was “thrilled” with the results.

“This really renews the PC party in terms of its strength and it endorses Premier Redford’s plans for the future of the province.”

Governments need to boost clean energy, agency says

Governments around the world must "level the playing field" to ensure clean energy technologies grow fast enough to prevent dangerous levels of global warming, the International Energy Agency says.

"Whether the priority is to ensure energy security, rebuild national and regional economies, or address climate change and local pollution, the accelerated transition towards a lower-car-bon energy system offers opportunities in all of these areas," the agency said in a report on Wednesday.

The agency, comprising 28 member countries including Canada, was created in 1974 to advise government about energy security and sustain-ability and is affiliated with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. It has called on all governments to honour recent commitments made by G20 countries to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry as part of a solution.

"The transition to a low-carbon energy sector is affordable and represents tremendous business opportunities, but investor confidence remains low," said the report, citing government policies and other impediments to building the technology. "Private sector financing will only reach the levels required if governments create and maintain supportive business environments for low-carbon energy technologies."

F-35 costs had 'significant things missing'

Significant items were missing from the Canadian government's cost estimates for F-35 fighter jets Auditor General Michael Ferguson told MPs on the public accounts committee today.

He also said the Department of National Defence has a long-term estimate for what it will cost to run the planes for their 36-year lifespan, but didn't use it when deciding whether to buy the planes.

Ferguson faced questions in Ottawa from MPs on both sides of the table over his hard-hitting report into the process to replace Canada's aging CF-18 jets with F-35 fighter jets.

Ferguson wrote in his April 3 report that the department didn't exercise due diligence in choosing the F-35 to replace the CF-18, wasn't forthcoming with Parliament about its true estimated cost and made key decisions without required approvals or proper documentation.

His report also showed the department had internal estimates that 65 F-35 jets would cost $25 billion over 20 years, but would only admit to a cost of $14.7 billion. Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino avoided answering questions about the full cost, insisting the jets would be $9 billion, despite months of formal and informal requests.

The costs of hiding environmental information

For citizens and NGOs who want to challenge environmental decisions, the biggest obstacle is usually obtaining information about the potential environmental effects of a decision or project. In the 1990s, the Ontario government passed the Environmental Bill of Rights which was supposed to make access to environmental information easier. As a result of this Act, we now have a public registry where potential decisions that may adversely affect the environment are posted for review by the public. Quebec, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories also have similar legislation, and a federal Environmental Bill of Rights was tabled, but not passed in the House of Commons in June 2010.

Decades into the Environmental Bill of Rights experiment, getting information about potentially environmentally damaging activities is still extremely difficult. Citizen suit or appeal provisions under the Environmental Bill of Rights and other statutes remain difficult to use because the public does not have access to the proof required to make their case. By the time most groups gain access to government records on environmental decisions, the damage they seek to prevent has already occurred.

Lessons about Canada's political system from the Alberta election

Thunder Bay MP Bruce Hyer resigned from the NDP caucus this week for an interesting mix of reasons. He was disappointed he didn't get appointed to the NDP shadow cabinet. He is concerned the party will reintroduce a long-gun registry. And he rejects, in principle, the idea that the political party whose colours he carried in the last election can tell him what to think, what to say, or how to vote.

Now let's look at the Alberta election -- a true "Dewey beats Truman" fiasco for Canada's political commentariat, which predicted victory for Wildrose on the basis of the latest crop of junk polls, and then got to cover an impressive (as measured by seats) landslide for the Alberta Progressive Conservatives.

Why did Wildrose lose so convincingly?

An anonymous member of the Wildrose campaign team offered the view, widely quoted, that several "bozo moments" did them in. "Bozo moment" being the kind of disrespectful and divisive shorthand an angry political strategist might use to describe a duly nominated candidate for office who has chosen to think what they want, say what they want, and (presumably) later vote as they want. In the case of Wildrose, that meant a candidate wishing to promote the idea that gay people will burn in lakes of fire, and another who advocated the idea that it is a political advantage to be a Caucasian -- statements that, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith seemed to suggest, sunk her campaign in its last days and thus prevented her team from getting to implement any of their proposals.

The British are coming—for our gold

On April 2, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney stepped in front of a business crowd in Waterloo, Ont. to speak about the state of Canada’s foreign trade. His message, more or less, was this: we need to break our national reliance on exports to the U.S.–the country is a wounded behemoth, and we would do better to focus on trade with economic up-and-comers. By that the governor probably meant the likes of China and India. But by looking at our trade numbers, one would think Canadian exporters are taking it to mean the U.K. as well.

Over the past decade, the value of Canadian exports to the centre-piece of the Commonwealth have skyrocketed. In 2011, they hit a record high of $18.8 billion, up more than 324 per cent since 2002. The U.K. is now Canada’s second biggest export partner–while China is only third.

The Brits are importing a number of things from Canada: from uranium, nickel and sawdust, to sheets of newsprint and kidney beans. But the real story here is about gold. In 2011, Canada sold to the U.K. a whopping 63 per cent of the $16.8 billion-worth of non-monetary, unwrought gold (which includes gold powder, coins, bars and bullion) it exported worldwide. That was over four times the relatively paltry $2.8 billion of Canuck gold the U.K. bought in 2007.

Indifference is the new intolerance

Forget Ottawa when it comes to political turpitude. The action is in two provincial capitals, one east, one west, where two very different villains are stirring up trouble. Both are suspected of harbouring, or at least enabling, backward beliefs. The eastern villain is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who raised the ire of the ever-uppity gay community when he announced that he’s once again going to skip the annual Gay Pride Parade in favour of a weekend at his family cottage. The western bad guy (girl) is Danielle Smith, the leader of Alberta’s Wildrose party (now the official Opposition to the 41-year-old PC majority), who during the recent election campaign refused to chastise a party member and former pastor for his interpretation of the gay afterlife. (Hint: it involves a lake of fire and a lot of pain.) For these sins, Ford is branded a bigot, and Smith a willing defender of them.

However, they aren’t under attack because they’ve expressed an interest in revoking gay rights—but because they’ve expressed nothing at all; it appears that indifference is the new intolerance in Canada. Ford won’t attend Pride and Smith won’t apologize for her colleague’s remarks. Neither has really done anything yet. And consequently both, it seems, are equally benign—albeit distasteful to some.

Bev Oda: bad habits of various kinds

Just when you think the Bev Oda expenses scandal couldn’t get any more, well, odious–it does. Now it turns out that in addition to her lust for luxury, another factor may have been at work in her decision to upgrade hotels at taxpayer expense: addiction.

The bare facts alone are bad enough. Last summer, the Minister of International Development was attending a conference on international immunization at the five star Grange Hotel St. Pauls in London, England, when she decided the conference accommodations–which included a swimming pool, full spa and luxury rooms with king-size beds–were simply inadequate. So she left her staff to suffer in the conference hotel and booked herself into the ultra-swanky Savoy up the road, a hotel favoured by Hollywood celebrities and Saudi royalty. As if that wasn’t enough, she also hired a car and driver, at the expense of roughly $1000 a day, to ferry her back and fourth, even though the Savoy is just four subway stops away on the London tube (that’s a journey time of under twenty minutes and a cost of less than five bucks each way). When her abuse of power first came to light on Monday, Oda was utterly unrepentant. She accused her critics of being “extremist” and grudgingly paid back the difference in hotel bills but not the cost of her car and driver. Then yesterday, she thought better of that, and offered a “full and unreserved apology,” for which she received a standing ovation from her fellow Tories in the Commons. It’s a sad day for Canadian politics when all it takes to earn the adulation of your peers is to reluctantly apologize for ripping off taxpayers only after you’ve been caught in the act. But wait, it gets worse. According to a theory floated yesterday in the House by Liberal MP Scott Andrews, the real reason Oda switched hotels was not just about luxury, but “her not being able to get a smoking room on site.” The minister’s press secretary refuses to elaborate on the reason why Oda switched her reservation, but, as everyone in Ottawa well knows, she enjoys any excuse to hack a dart.

Environmental-review debate tests both Tory and NDP mettle

The announcement by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver of an overhaul of environmental assessment rules kicks off one of the more critical debates that will be held during the life of this Parliament.

The political stakes are high because the debate could crystallize perceptions about both the Conservatives and the NDP for years to come. Where Canadians end up on this initiative will likely come down to two questions:

1. Whose motives will be more trusted: the Conservatives’ or their critics?

2. Will people feel confident the details of the policy are sound?

Here’s my take on the motive question. If Canadians conclude this package of reforms is about a government hell bent on economic expansion or smaller government, instead of smarter, more efficient protection of the environment, many will be wary.

So far, voters seem prepared to accept that some change is probably worthwhile. But at every turn, the public will be attentive to motive. When ministers talk about how long it takes to decide things, or the massive number of interventions that can be heard, this reinforces that the point of the exercise is good governance. However, spending millions to audit environmental NGOs may make voters wonder if the Conservatives are trying to stifle legitimate debate, or fear that their ideas won’t hold up under scrutiny.

Rupert Murdoch: I was the victim of phone-hacking cover up

Rupert Murdoch used his testimony before a U.K. inquiry on Thursday to portray himself as the victim, not perpetrator, of a cover-up over phone hacking — a twist that could certainly anger those suing his company for invading their privacy to sell newspapers.

The 81-year-old media magnate apologized. He said he had failed. He noted that the corporate cleanup of the British phone hacking scandal had cost his New York-based News Corp. hundreds of millions of dollars and transformed its culture.

“I failed, and I'm sorry about it,” Mr. Murdoch said, adding later: “We are now a new company altogether.”

Mr. Murdoch's two days of testimony, which began Wednesday, marked his attempt to corral the scandal that has rocked Britain, tainted senior politicians, prompted top police commanders and media executives to resign and affected large swathes of his media empire.

It boiled over in July after it became clear that journalists at Mr. Murdoch's now-shuttered News of the World tabloid routinely broke the law in pursuit of scoops, with Murdoch-friendly police and politicians turning a blind eye to a litany of abuses including illegal espionage and bribery.

‘Significant things’ missing from Tory tab for F-35s, Auditor-General warns

Auditor-General Michael Ferguson is expanding on his concerns over the Harper government’s budget for the purchase of new F-35 fighter jets, saying Ottawa hid key elements of the price tag over the aircraft’s 36-year lifespan.

Speaking in front of the House public accounts committee, Mr. Ferguson responded to questions Thursday from Conservative MPs by saying he is not “nitpicking” when he calls for more information on the full life-cycle cost of the new jets. In particular, he said Ottawa has to factor in costly upgrades to the aircraft, as well as the need to replace some of them in the case of accidents, when it eventually restates the program’s full budget.

So far, the government has talked about a $25-billion cost over the first 20 years of the program, even though the jets are predicted to last 36 years.

“There were some significant things that were missing from the life-cycle costing in this, for example attrition, for example upgrades, and the fact that these aircraft were going to last for 36 years, not just 20 years,” Mr. Ferguson told MPs.

“When we raised the issue of life-cycle costing and the fact that it was not complete, I don’t believe that we were nitpicking in any way. We were saying that there were significant elements that were missing,” he said.

Abortion debate rears its head in Ottawa over MP’s motion

OTTAWA—A Commons debate Thursday triggered by a Conservative MP has led pro-choice forces to accuse the Harper government of trying to resurrect a divisive national discussion about abortion.

Kitchener MP Stephen Woodworth will ask for a special parliamentary committee to discuss the definition of a human being when he rises in the House.

The Conservative MP takes issue with Section 223 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which states that human life begins when a child emerges from its mother’s body.

“The question is whether that’s an accurate statement, an honest statement or a misrepresentation,” Woodworth said in an interview.

Canada has been without an abortion law since 1988, when then-prime minister Brian Mulroney’s attempt to codify the procedure was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said his Conservative government will not reopen the abortion debate.

Some pro-life Conservative MPs have attempted to reignite the issue. Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost publicly criticized his own government last year for backing an overseas aid group that provided abortions.

“Charitable” Fraser Institute accepted $500k in foreign funding from Koch oil billionaires

As the Conservative assault continues against Canadian environmental charities, the Vancouver Observer has learned that since 2007, foreign oil billionaires the Koch brothers have donated over half a million dollars to the “charitable” right-wing Fraser Institute.

According to U.S. tax documents, the Fraser Institute received $150,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation in 2008, $175,500 in 2009, and another $150,000 in 2010. The grants were purportedly for "research support" and "educational programs".

Prior to 2008, the Institute received another $25,000 in funding from the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, which is under the umbrella of Koch Family Foundations.

It has long been known that the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers have been donors for the conservative policy think-tank—though this information is not listed the Institute’s Annual Reports—however, the extent of their funding in the past few years demonstrates the foundation’s more recent influence in Canadian politics.

Grants to the Fraser Institute are also among the highest amounts listed in the Koch Foundation’s tax records; apart from a few substantial grants to American universities, most of the other donations were under $10,000.

Electoral Boundary Commissions: Opposition Parties Fear Politics Will Influence Redrawing Of The Electoral Map

Opposition parties are sounding the alarm about the redrawing of Canada’s electoral map, suggesting the Tories may hijack the process in order to create safe Conservative seats unless the general public gets involved.

And they point to Saskatchewan as a cautionary tale of how a rejigged riding map can skew election results.

As HuffPost Canada reported, 10 electoral boundary commissions are quietly at work devising ways to re-jig overpopulated ridings based on new census data. The job, done every 10 years, is particularly sensitive this time around because of the addition of 30 new ridings, which will be in play for the next federal election in 2015.

How existing ridings are redrawn can profoundly change the outcome of close races, which is why the process is meant to be public and non-partisan.

But strange things can happen.

Last May, the NDP obtained 32.3 per cent of the votes cast in Saskatchewan but was completely shut out of seats in the Prairie province. The Conservatives, with 56.3 per cent voter support, won 14 seats or 93 per cent of the total.

Europe’s restraint agenda rekindling fascism

Canadians live in a bubble. Our cozy banking structure has prevented a financial collapse. Our resource exports keep the economy above water.

But Europe — our second-largest trading partner — is outside the bubble. And in Europe conditions are dire.

Great chunks of the continent are tipping back into economic recession.

Politically, the far right is on the rise.

And by far right, I don’t mean the Stephen Harper right. I mean the neo-Nazi right.

Consider the news. Britain has slipped back into recession. Its economy, which had rebounded after the crisis of 2008, is shrinking again.

Wednesday’s announcement is a damning indictment of the Conservative-led coalition governing Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron has argued (in language echoed here by Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan) that the main enemy is government debt and that savage spending cuts are needed to bring Britain’s finances under control.

Yet all that these cuts have managed to do is abort the country’s already shaky recovery.

Extremism elsewhere, moderation in Canada

Extremism wins votes in the United States and Europe but not in Canada — at least not enough to make a difference. Alberta is only the latest example.

Denying climate change did not hurt George W. Bush or the latest Republican presidential candidates. But it helped sink Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party. Her assertion that “the science isn’t settled” was widely mocked. That it was even in Alberta says something.

Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and others routinely bashed gays. But Smith paid the price for one of her candidates condemning gays to a “lake of fire, hell.” And Rob Ford is derided for boycotting Pride Parade.

Mitt Romney echoed some of the rabid anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric of Santorum, Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen won votes by railing against immigrants and Muslims. In Canada, parties lose votes by demonizing immigrants but win by wooing them.

Stephen Harper eked out his majority last year by relentlessly pursuing selected immigrant/ethnic/religious minorities in Toronto and Vancouver.

Alberta praises new foreign-worker rules

Canadian companies that want to bring in highly skilled foreign workers temporarily will be able to do so faster and pay them less under new federal immigration rules aimed at addressing the country’s persistent labour shortages.

In areas of the country that are booming economically – particularly Alberta – companies are complaining about the lack of skilled workers, a problem that Ottawa has identified as one of Canada’s biggest policy challenges. Of 190,000 temporary foreign workers who entered Canada last year, 25,500 went to Alberta.‬ Businesses that use the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which allows employers to bring in workers if they can prove they have advertised the jobs locally without success, say they are relieved that it will become less cumbersome, but critics worry the changes will lead to lower wages across the country.

Under the new rules, Ottawa promises to respond to employer requests for highly skilled workers within 10 days, instead of the 12 to 14 weeks it currently takes to get a Labour Market Opinion – a government approval that’s one major step in bringing a worker into Canada.

Also, previous rules required foreign workers to receive the “average wage” paid to Canadian workers in the same region, but the new rules will allow employers to pay up to 15 per cent less than that average wage.‬ ‪In an interview, Human Resources Minster Diane Finley said Canada’s skills shortages mean there will be more temporary foreign workers coming to Canada regardless of the latest changes.‬

Voters give new meaning to ‘peace, order and good government’

In America, a country with a robust declaration of national character, the people like to tease that Canadians’ ambition is merely “peace, order and good government.” Rather than fighting for liberty or justice for all, we simply want a quiet neighbourhood, they sneer. Ontario and now Alberta voters have, however, given that anodyne phrase new meaning, new political consequence.

A well-governed, democratic and peaceful society must be one built on tolerance. In a nation of immigrants it must also be an inclusive community. Tolerance and inclusion require compromise, in private life, politics and in government. This is the powerful contemporary message of “peace, order and good government.” Parties of the right have dramatically failed to understand this in each of these two pivotal provincial elections.

The Ontario Tories flirted with race, with ethnic division and with homophobia in their desperation to gain traction on a Liberal government sailing to re-election despite its wobbly performance in managing Ontario’s recession-battered economy. They were pushed back to support from a base that is too male, aging, rural and small town to ever win. They at least had the wit to blush and to issue denials when caught, but they did not drop the whispers on robocalls or on the doorstep. And Ontario voters punished them for it.

Complaints Follow Propaganda Chief’s Visit

OTTAWA—When China’s propaganda chief came to Canada to glad-hand Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his visit was kept secret even from the welcoming party dispatched to greet him, some now allege.

Li Changchun, the fifth-ranked member of the Chinese regime’s ruling standing committee, came to Ottawa last Thursday to exchange pleasantries and stage photo ops, but the secretive nature of his visit has sparked allegations of a bait-and-switch being carried out in the Chinese community.

Some 80-100 Ottawa Chinese were bused to the airport to greet Li, and around Ottawa over the next two days. But some now say they were promised a trip to the Canadian Museum of Civilization rather than a tour of staged events with Li.

Several groups worked together to organize the welcoming party, including the Ottawa Chinese Canadian Heritage Foundation and the Chinese Community Association of Ottawa.

One upset person took to a popular Internet forum to share their displeasure, writing that the heritage foundation had cheated the seniors trotted out to greet Li.

“They first said that they would take those seniors to visit a museum. It was only after they set off that the seniors were told that they were going to welcome Li Changchun. It went from 8-ish in the early morning till 7 in the evening. Sure, some seniors were willing to go, but definitely not everyone wanted to welcome such a XXXX,” wrote the poster.

Motion a 'backdoor' for Tories into abortion debate: NDP

If you thought the abortion debate was over in Canada, think again.

Today, MPs will get a chance to debate pro-life backbench Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's private member's motion calling on Parliament to examine whether a fetus is a human being.

"The abortion debate has actually never been closed," Woodworth said Wednesday after a caucus meeting. "My motion is designed specifically to look at the question of how we decide what is a human being and who we decide is a human being. That debate has been left hanging by almost every court that has adjudicated on the subject."

A vote on his motion is expected in June or September. If it passes, it will be up to a Commons committee to hear from experts on the definition of a human being.

While he's had a few "private" conversations with other MPs, including some Liberals, he could not gauge how much support he might get.

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he would not reopen the ever-polarizing discussion, critics have argued that allowing it to proceed as a private member's issue is little more than a way into the debate for Tories.

Elections Canada diving into phone records to track suspicious election calls

Elections Canada investigators are seeking phone records to trace calls seemingly designed to send Northern Ontario voters to the wrong polling stations.

Investigators recently contacted voters with specific questions about their home telephone providers, in an apparent attempt to electronically trace incoming calls they received leading up to the May 2 vote.

The interviews suggest the agency is using the same investigative techniques in tracing fraudulent "live" calls that it used to track the "Pierre Poutine" robocall sent to thousands of voters in Guelph, Ont.

Investigators have contacted voters in Nipissing-Timiskaming, the most closely contested federal riding in the last election, where Conservative candidate Jay Aspin unseated Liberal incumbent Anthony Rota by 18 votes.

Two weeks ago, Elections Canada investigator John Dickson — a former RCMP inspector with a pilot's licence — flew up to Mattawa, Ont., in Nipissing-Timiskaming in his own plane to interview Ken Ferance and Linda Hearst, who share an address and a phone.

Prime minister's department loses sports and music memorabilia, likely shredded

OTTAWA - The prime minister's mail room has lost some historical documents on sports, music and politics — and the material appears to have been accidentally shredded.

The package of six documents arrived in the busy mail facility last May 5. The envelop was date-stamped as being received but it was not tracked as required, and the material soon disappeared.

Mail room supervisors were not even aware of the loss until they received a registered letter from the sender on July 4 asking for confirmation that the gift of memorabilia to the prime minister had arrived safely.

A search was launched in the mail room, at the prime minister's office in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill, and at 24 Sussex Drive, Stephen Harper's official residence. Staff were interviewed, but the missing documents never surfaced.

An internal government investigator was finally brought in on Oct. 7, and eventually concluded "there was no indication that the items were taken by any member of the staff."

"Given the large volume of mail that was processed in early May following the election, it is possible that the package was accidentally discarded into the ... waste bin and shredded."

Unraveling File # 8-10-(2012-06)

So Albertans said no to the climate-change denying, white-supremacist, Lake of Fire minions of the Wildrose party and hip-hip-hooray for that.

But is there hope for the rest of us?

At the federal level, it’s getting to be the kind of country Joe Stalin might have liked. The Harper government continues to perform information liposuction on the body politic, dispense its own justice, and mint its own facts. The latest example is the decision to send “media minders” to an international polar conference in Montreal. Not Mogadishu, not Tehran, Montreal.

Really, media minders. Usually it’s kids, not grown up federal scientists who need minding. The only other time I’ve seen media minders is in those videotapes of hapless hostages who praise their grinning captors and traduce their own country in the sensible attempt to keep their heads in the usual anatomical configuration.

Scientists are picked on because they are the guarantors of objective reality. The government on the other hand specializes in revealed truth otherwise known as the Harper Vision. It is important to turn scientists into taciturn chumps so objective reality doesn’t get in the way of all that revelation – you know, tar-sands good, environmentalists bad, Mullahs crazy, Western leaders philanthropists, corporations benefactors, unions leeches, etc.

Standing up for Canada at the Northern Gateway hearings

On April 24, 2012, the federally appointed Joint Review Panel began its second day of hearing oral statements related to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project in Smithers, British Columbia this week. The review panel has been tasked with assessing the balance of social, economic, and environmental concerns related to the proposed tar sands oil pipeline and it associated marine terminal. Particularly, as is standard with any nationally regulated energy pipeline, the panel must determine if the pipeline serves Canada's national interest.

This question of the Canadian national interest has been a particularly loaded one. On January 9, 2012, Canadian Minister of Natural Resource Joe Oliver stated that Canada is faced with "an historic choice ... regarding our energy policies." Suggesting it is vital to Canada's "national economic interest," Oilver signalled his government's commitment to "expand our trade with the fast-growing Asian economies."

In this suggestion, however, Oliver invoked a particular construction of the national interest, one which defined other environmental and social concerns as special interests distinct from the concerns of our national community. Further, he suggested that "environmentalists and other radical groups" constituted a threat to the vital "national economic interest."

However, in their presentations before the panel in the remote rural north, community members elucidated another vision of what it means to be part of the Canadian nation. Monica Howard came forward, rhetorically asking the assembled panel and community members, "how do we stand up against oil and gas?" The answer for her, as for many in the room, was to stand up for Canada.

A look at the massive student movement shaking up Quebec

A crowd estimated at 250,000 people or more wound its way through Montréal April 22 in Quebec's largest ever Earth Day march.

They raised many demands: an end to tar sands and shale gas development, opposition to the Quebec government's Plan Nord mining expansion, support for radical measures to protect ecosystems, and other causes. And many wore the red felt square symbolizing support to the province's students fighting the Liberal government's 75 percent increase in post-secondary education fees over the next five years. The Earth Day march was the largest mobilization to date in a mounting wave of citizen protest throughout the province.

In the vanguard have been the students, now in the eleventh week of a strike that has effectively shut down Quebec's universities and junior colleges. In recent days they have battled court injunctions and mounting police repression. Their resilience has astonished many Québécois and inspired strong statements of support from broad layers of the population. Equally surprising to many has been the government's stubborn refusal to even discuss the fee hike with student representatives.

Quebec government seeks to restart talks with students

Quebec Education Minister Line Beauchamp says the province's negotiation team is working to bring student leaders back to the table.

Beauchamp said she is willing to negotiate with two of Quebec’s student groups, but a third group, CLASSE, will not be invited to the table.

FEUQ and FECQ, the other two groups representing university and college students, said today they will return to the table but plan to bring members of CLASSE as part of their delegations.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for CLASSE, said they are ready to return to the negotiating table with the other student associations tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET. They will take two of the seats reserved for the other student groups.

It will be then be up to the government to decide if they can stay.

Talks broke off Wednesday, 11 weeks after the student strike began, after CLASSE, the most militant of the student groups, was expelled from negotiations with the province.

“We can’t ask the government to negotiate with those who use violence as a form of blackmail,” Beauchamp said Thursday.

CISPA Critics Warn Cybersecurity Bill Will Increase Domestic Surveillance and Violate Privacy Rights

As it heads toward a House vote, critics say the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) would allow private internet companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft to hand over troves of confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, effectively legalizing a secret domestic surveillance program already run by the NSA. Backers say the measure is needed to help private firms crackdown on foreign entities — including the Chinese and Russian governments — committing online economic espionage. The bill has faced widespread opposition from online privacy advocates and even the Obama administration, which has threatened a veto. "CISPA … will create an exception to all existing privacy laws so that companies can share very sensitive and personal information directly with the government, including military agencies like the National Security Agency," says Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "Once the government has it, they can repurpose it and use it for a number of things, including an undefined national security use."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

ORNGE: Alf Apps may have engaged in lobbying, integrity commissioner says

Ontario’s integrity commissioner has raised the possibility that former federal Liberal party president Alfred Apps lobbied for ORNGE without registering, the Star has learned.

In a letter to Apps on Feb. 3, 2012 regarding correspondence with Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office and two senior Ministry of Health officials, Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison said “it is my opinion that when you were communicating with public office holders to arrange a meeting, you were engaged in lobbying and should have registered.”

Related: Cohn: ORNGE mess a sorry tale of bad judgment, human error

At the time, Apps was a lawyer at Fasken Martineau who worked on behalf of ORNGE. On Wednesday, Fasken partner Lynn Golding told an all-party legislative committee investigating ORNGE that the firm billed 22,000 hours of legal advice.

Fasken Martineau’s regional managing partner, Martin Denyes, had requested an advisory opinion from Morrison about “whether certain activities” Apps was engaged in were lobbying within the meaning of the Lobbyists Registration Act, the Feb. 3 letter states.

Connecticut Repeals Death Penalty

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed a bill into law on Wednesday that repeals the death penalty, making Connecticut the 17th state to do so. The new law does not apply to the 11 inmates currently on death row in the state.

Connecticut has been paying about $5 million a year to maintain its death penalty system, according to the state's Office of Fiscal Analysis, despite the fact it is rarely used. The only person the state has executed since 1960 is serial killer Michael Ross, who raped and murdered eight young women in the 1980s.

The repeal of the death penalty is expected to save the state $850,000 per year in the next two fiscal years, and the OFA estimates that that number will grow to $5 million in subsequent years.

"With Governor Malloy's action, Connecticut joins sixteen other states that have already concluded that the death penalty is too risky, too expensive, and too arbitrary to continue," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an advocacy group that opposes capital punishment. "By replacing the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole, Connecticut officials have reduced the risk of executing the innocent and freed up taxpayer dollars for other programs that prevent crime more effectively and better serve victims' families."

Jeremy Faison, Tennessee Representative, Says Suicides Caused By Bad Parenting, Not Bullying

A Tennessee-based lawmaker raised more than a few eyebrows this week after suggesting that children who were committing suicide were doing so because they "were not instilled the proper principles" at home.

As The Tennessean is reporting, State Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) spoke up against a proposed cyberbullying bill, and may have been alluding to the recent suicides by Phillip Parker and Jacob Rogers, both of whom had allegedly complained of being bullied over their sexual orientation in the state.

"We can’t continue to legislate everything," he said in his speech. "We’ve had some horrible things happen in America and in our state, and there’s children that have actually committed suicide, but I will submit to you today that they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them. They committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self-esteem came from at home."

Student Loans: John Boehner Would Cut Health Care Measure To Fund Lower Rates

WASHINGTON -- Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday laid down competing, partisan visions of how to maintain affordable student loan rates, with the GOP aiming to eliminate a health care measure and Democrats looking to tax people like Newt Gingrich.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that Democrats, by accusing the GOP of seeking to let student loan rates double to 6.8 percent in July, were trying to create a phony campaign issue. He argued that both parties want to help young Americans, but then proposed paying for the estimated $6 billion cost by killing a provision in the health care reform law.

"We will pay for this by taking money for this from one of the slush funds in the president's health care law," Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill, announcing that the House would vote on his plan Friday.

He was referring to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, the purpose of which is to encourage people to take better care of themselves, thereby saving money down the road. The fund is one of the most popular targets for the GOP, and it is already set for elimination in the House budget plan at an estimated savings of $11.9 billion over 10 years.

Rio Tinto Lockout: 2012 London Olympics The Battleground Between Mining Giant, Unions

The union representing locked out Rio Tinto workers in Alma, Que., is lodging a formal complaint with Olympic organizers against the mining giant’s sponsorship of the upcoming London Games.

Alleging ongoing labour and human rights violations, the United Steelworkers (USW) is urging the International Olympic Committee and the London 2012 Organizing Committee to drop Rio Tinto as its official supplier of 4,700 gold, silver and bronze medals.

The complaint, which the USW plans to file in London on Thursday, argues that the transnational firm has broken the committee’s rules around ethical procurement, and calls on Olympic organizers to remove the Rio Tinto from its role, and have the medals recast.

“Olympic athletes who have spent an entire career in perfecting their performance should not be receiving medals tarnished by Rio Tinto’s long record throughout the world of abusing labour rights, human rights, community rights, and environmental rights,” USW campaign director Joe Drexler told The Huffington Post Canada. “Unfortunately, [Olympic organizers] apparently did not do their homework in selecting Rio Tinto as an official supplier.”

Federal Subsidy For Sexy Summum Magazine Under Fire

Federal grants worth $190,000 for two Quebec magazines featuring scantily-clad models are under fire in the wake of broad arts cuts announced in the last Conservative budget.

Radio-Canada is reporting that Canadian Heritage approved the financing for Summum and Summum Girls, as part of the federal periodical fund earmarked for Canadian publications.

Summum features a selection of current affairs articles, but the Genex publication is best known for glossy pin-up photos of young Quebec women in various states of undress.

Summum Girl features pictures of young, muscular shirtless men.

Summum received $114, 478 this year, while Summum Girl was granted $77,241.

Quebec producer and director Yanick Létourneau said he's outraged the Genex magazines benefit from public subsidies.

Honduran Congress consults with Canadian government and mining companies, but not its own people

Honduran civil society organizations are once again denouncing Honduran authorities for refusing to consult with them over a new mining law. They have already issued a public statement about the worrisome contents of the proposed bill that they gained access to in January. In this earlier statement, they criticized the law for privileging water supplies for industrial use, continued promotion of open-pit mining despite strong consensus in Honduras against this form of mining, and lack of opportunities for meaningful and binding prior consultation with communities, amongst other complaints.

Meanwhile, according to this latest communiqué and other news reports, Honduran legislators are now seeking input from Canadian experts. This is hardly random, but rather in response to a strong Canadian government and industry lobby over the last couple of years following the military-backed ouster of President Mel Zelaya. Prior to the coup, a mining bill was pending for debate that would have increased taxes in the mining sector, prohibited open-pit mining and the use of toxic substances such as cyanide and mercury, and would have required companies to obtain prior community approval before mining concessions could be granted.

It is important to note that a recent national poll carried out in September 2011 by the Research Centre for Democracy (CESPAD), demonstrates that Honduran social and environmental organizations enjoy broad public support. The study found “strong support for the environmental movement, particularly with regard to reforms of the mining law and for more responsible and just natural resource management.” The same survey also found that some 91% of Hondurans are currently opposed to open-pit mining based on their prior experiences.

Radical Handmaids on Parliament Hill

Today, on Parliament Hill, the Radical Handmaids gather in opposition to Motion 312, the anti-choice motion that seeks to redefine when human life begins. The Motion will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday. The Handmaids' action, based on Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, is sure to be an interesting one.

Sporting red garments and "Flying Nun" hats in an allusion to Margaret Atwood's classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the Handmaids are protesting Bill M-312 as a regressive attack on women.

"The Handmaid's Tale shouldn't be an instruction manual," said one young woman, who identified herself only as "OfStephen" ("Woodworth or Harper, take your pick").

In Atwood’s novel, set in a futuristic America transformed by religious fundamentalists into the Republic of Gilead, women are judged by whether or not they are capable of bearing children and, if fertile, are enslaved to men of the ruling elite who forcibly impregnate them.

Cutting into NATO's Muscle

Canada recently announced that it may cut back on its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter purchase as the United States and other NATO allies adjust their own F-35 purchase plans downwards, thereby increasing the per-unit cost. Beyond the attention the jets have received for domestic political reasons, this episode underscores NATO's precarious state as the budget-cutters slash military spending across the alliance.

The cuts to the world’s most powerful military are illustrative: The Pentagon has proposed cuts of $487 billion over the next decade to the U.S. defence budget. There are plans to cut U.S. Marine Corps numbers from 202,000 to 182,000. The Army will be slashed from 570,000 troops to 490,000. Seven Air Force squadrons are on the chopping block. Pentagon plans also call for cuts in spending on the F-35; Predator and Reaper UAVs; UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters; F/A-18 Super Hornet jets; ground- and sea-based missile defences; and next-generation aircraft carriers and submarines. These cuts, it pays to recall, come on the heels of approximately $400 billion in cuts that the president ordered in 2010-11.

Washington is merely following the rest of NATO’s budget-cutting lead.

In Accordance With Canadian Law

The developing story of Omar Khadr, a former child soldier, is now familiar to most Canadians. Held in Guantanamo Bay since his capture in Afghanistan at the age of 15 in 2002 and tried before a military commission in 2010, Khadr accepted a plea bargain deal – guilty of multiple charges, including murder and terrorism – in exchange for an eight-year sentence. The catch: Only one year would have to be served at the now-notorious detention facility.

In an exchange of diplomatic notes between Canada and the United States, the Harper government suggested it would be "inclined to favourably consider” Khadr's transfer back to Canada. Now a formal transfer request sits on the desk of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, and his office has only replied that a decision will be made “in accordance with Canadian law.”

The government’s attachment to “Canadian law” would be touching had it not been so egregiously ignored in the recent past. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled twice on Khadr’s case, strongly condemning Canadian officials who were complicit in his interrogation process at Guantanamo Bay, which violated his charter rights and international human rights laws, and judicially demanding disclosure of the videotapes of those interrogations.

The Commons: Stephen Harper says a lot of things

The Scene. Thomas Mulcair began with a reminder of something Stephen Harper had once said. This is always a good place to start. Not for the sake of accuracy or precedent or for the purposes of demonstrating the seriousness with which one should regard the words of the Prime Minister, but for entertainment’s sake. A bit like sitting around with a bunch of friends recalling various things one of you once did or said. As that Nickelback song so poignantly captured.

“Mr. Speaker, this is what the Prime Minister said in 2009,” Mr. Mulcair said. ” ‘The military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011. I have said it here and I have said it across the country. In fact, I think I said it recently in the White House.’ ”

That is, indeed, what Mr. Harper said on October 1, 2009, as recorded in Hansard, in response to a question from Jack Layton.

“It is now 2012 and our soldiers are still in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mulcair continued, now speaking for himself. “Has Canada received a request from the United States to keep our troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014?”

Mr. Harper stood here and said another one of those remarkable things. ”Mr. Speaker,” he said, “our military presence in Afghanistan is determined by this House.”

This was remarkable mostly for another thing the Prime Minister once said.

Former CF-18 fighter jet fleet manager says feds making wrong choice on F-35s

PARLIAMENT HILL—The former fleet manager of Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets says the government is poised to waste at least $25-billion on the F-35 stealth fighter jet, an attack aircraft the retired air force officer says is not suited for Arctic sovereignty and surveillance patrols and could be out of date by the time it reaches peak production in 20 years.

Retired Col. Paul Maillet told a news conference on Parliament Hill Wednesday that the estimated $25-billion the government intends to spend on the fighter jets, ground-attack jets that will be challenged by sovereignty and other flights in Canada’s Arctic, could be spent elsewhere while the government extends the CF-18 life and skips the generation of super-sophisticated F-35s entirely.

Also Tuesday, the federal Treasury Board was unable to immediately explain a mysterious correction it made on its website to a Department of National Defence report to Parliament on the F-35 program, which appeared to downgrade the development phase of the project.

The correction, described an “erratum” entry in the National Defence report to Parliament on Plans and Priorities for the 2011-12 fiscal year, changed the development phase to an “options” consideration phase.

Doug Ford: Light rail plans example of 'war on the car'

A vote by provincial transit agency Metrolinx in favour of the construction of four light rail lines across Toronto by 2020 is the latest instance of a "war on the car" in the city, says Coun. Doug Ford.

The Metrolinx board voted unanimously Wednesday to move ahead with a modified version of the Transit City plan that Mayor Rob Ford has campaigned against.

Doug Ford, the mayor's brother and a key council ally, was quick to denounce the move.

"Some councillors down here, and obviously the province, are ignoring the people," Ford told reporters after the vote. "Once again, the people want subways and they're totally ignoring them. So let's wait until the election."

Metrolinx has outlined a number of target dates for construction and completion of the four LRT lines: Sheppard East, Finch West, Scarborough RT replacement and the Eglinton Crosstown.

Construction on the Sheppard East line will begin first, in 2014, under the Metrolinx recommendations.

Metrolinx aims to have all lines up and running by 2020.

Montreal student demonstration turns violent

Demonstrators and police clashed in downtown Montreal Wednesday after student group leaders abandoned talks with Quebec's education minister aimed at resolving an impasse over the government's proposed tuition hikes.

More than 10,000 students marched in the city's core after leaving Parc Emilie-Gamelin, where a demonstration began at 8:30 p.m. Police declared the protest illegal just before 10:30 p.m. and used stun grenades and chemical irritants to disperse the demonstrators.

According to the Montreal police Twitter account, protesters also set fire to a car at the corner of Stanley and Ste-Catherine streets.

Police said cars have been splashed with red paint during the demonstration, and protesters threw rocks at banks along their route, smashing windows at at least five banks.

CBC's Dan Halton reported that police charged the protesters with little or no warning in some cases.

Figures on the number of arrests and injuries were due to be released Thursday morning, police said.

Toronto police corruption trial: Crown closes case

After more than three months, the Crown has closed its case in the Toronto drug squad corruption trial.

Prosecutor Milan Rupic told an Ontario Superior Court jury Wednesday that he and his three co-counsel would be calling no further evidence.

Jurors have heard from 25 witnesses in a trial that began Jan. 16.

Rupic also said that “in light of the available evidence,” the Crown will no longer be proceeding with four of 14 counts, including perjury.

John Schertzer, 54; Raymond Pollard, 48; Joseph Miched, 53; Steven Correia, 45; and Ned Maodus, 49, still face various charges, laid in 2004, including attempting to obstruct justice, assault and extortion between 1997 and 2002.

The jury returns Monday.

Ottawa to cut health care for some refugees

Ottawa will strip thousands of refugees of health-care coverage starting in July unless their conditions pose a threat to public health.

Critics called the move “mean-spirited” and warned that denial of health care could lead to unnecessary deaths.

“If this is what they are doing, there is no question that the application of this will result in people dying,” said lawyer Rick Goldman of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

Currently, all refugees are covered by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which provides basic health coverage, sometimes with supplementary services such as pharmaceutical care, dentistry, vision care and devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, if required.

As part of an overhaul of the asylum system that takes effects in July, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will establish a “safe country” list and expedite the processing of claims from these countries.

The plan announced Wednesday stipulates that rejected claimants and refugees from designated countries won’t be eligible for health care unless their conditions put the public at risk. All refugees will also be stripped of supplemental health coverage.

Although Kenney has not revealed the safe country list, Mexico and Hungary, which are likely to be designated, accounted for more than 5,000 asylum claims in Canada last year.

“These reforms allow us to protect public health and safety, ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely and defend the integrity of our immigration system all at the same time,” Kenney said in a statement.

Ottawa spent $84.6 million on the refugee health program in 2011. The changes will save the government $100 million over five years.

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: Nicholas Keung

Police who lie: How officers thwart justice with false testimony

Visibly nervous, papers shaking in their hands, Toronto police officers Jay Shin and Joseph Tremblay testified under oath that they stopped Delroy Mattison's Chrysler Intrepid on the afternoon of July 18, 2011, because they saw him using a cellphone.

The officers were lying, just not very well.

In Mattison's trunk that summer day were a stainless steel .357 Smith & Wesson revolver and 31 bullets. Mattison, who had a previous conviction for armed robbery, was on his way to a drug deal. Under the law, these officers needed a reason to stop and detain Mattison. Without one, they would never have found the gun.

The problem is they never seized a cellphone or noted the existence of one in paperwork filled out at the scene. That night, a third officer snapped photos of the impounded Chrysler's interior, none showing a phone.

“Officers Shin and Tremblay were untruthful about seeing Mr. Mattison using a cellphone,” Justice Nancy Backhouse ruled. She tossed the evidence, saying, “This court must dissociate itself from (this) serious and deliberate state misconduct.” Mattison walked free.

Backhouse was trying to send a message, one being repeated by concerned judges in courtrooms across the country: Police dishonesty makes a mockery of the courts, undermines the public's trust in the justice system and must be condemned. There is little evidence anyone is listening.

Ethical Oil: David Suzuki Foundation Should Be Investigated Over 'Political And Partisan Activity' has written to the Canada Revenue Agency asking asking for an investigation of the David Suzuki Foundation.

In a press release, the oil sands lobby group said it has compiled a 44-page letter detailing the "political and partisan activity" of the David Suzuki Foundation over the past year and it believes that the "environmental lobby group's charitable status" should be reviewed.

Ethical Oil points to David Suzuki's endorsement of Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty's record and his appearance in a Liberal Party of Ontario partisan ad. As well it cites "persistent calls to action," "frequent condemnation of government policy," and "trying to sway the Senate to abandon their inquiry on foreign funding of charities" as example of political work.

Earlier this month, Suzuki announced he had stepped down from the board of directors of his organization. He said he did this to shield it from partisan attacks.

"I want to speak freely without fear that my words will be deemed too political, and harm the organization of which I am so proud," he wrote in an open letter. "I am keenly aware that some governments, industries and special interest groups are working hard to silence us. They use threats to the Foundation's charitable status in attempts to mute its powerful voice on issues that matter deeply to you and many other Canadians."