Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ottawa shrugs off UN warning on hunger and nutrition

The UN’s right-to-food envoy is raising the alarm about hunger and poor diets in Canada, but the federal government says he’s wasting his breath.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, has just wrapped up an official 11-day investigation into food security in Canada.

He has concluded that Canada is flouting its international human-rights obligations by ignoring hunger within its own borders, even as 800,000 households here don’t have the wherewithal to ensure they can put proper food on the table.

“What I’ve seen in Canada is a system that presents barriers for the poor to access nutritious diets and that tolerates increased inequalities between rich and poor, and aboriginal (and) non-aboriginal peoples,” Mr. De Schutter said.

Killing Katimavik

In 1986, the author, publisher, world traveler and Liberal senator staged a 21-day hunger strike to protest the Mulroney government’s plan to eliminate funding for Katimavik, a widely-praised youth leadership and community awareness program Hébert had helped launch in 1977.

He won.

Jean Chretien, then a Bay Street lawyer in between elected gigs, and Walter Baker, a University of Ottawa professor, agreed to create a private, non-profit organization to raise money for the program. Nine years later, Chretien, by then the prime minister, restored public funding for the organization.

Each year, Katimavik chooses 1,100 young Canadians between the ages of 17 and 21 and fans them out, in teams of 10, to other regions of Canada to spend six life-changing months living together as volunteers with local community-based organizations. Among its 30,000 alumni: Patrick Bechet, the CFO of Google.

9 facts about Pierre Poutine and the robocalls case

It has been just over a year since the last federal election, one that has become known almost as much for allegations of electoral fraud in Guelph, Ont., as for the way it redrew the House of Commons.

Investigators are now looking into calls wrongly claiming to be from Elections Canada that redirected voters to a polling station they couldn't use. It's illegal both to interfere with a person's right to vote and to impersonate Elections Canada.

With the public paper trail cold for almost two months, there's still little that's certain in the Elections Canada investigation into what's become known as the robocalls scandal. While it looks as if the agency has zeroed in on specific computers, those following the story await its next move.

Chief Blair reacts to scathing police watchdog report on G20 police conduct

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said there are things that “could have been done better” during the G20 summit, but refused to apologize for or comment on specific allegations of misconduct by superior officers laid out in a scathing report from the province’s police watchdog.

“I think that there is an appropriate place for that to be determined,” Blair said at a news conference at police headquarters Wednesday, referring to police tribunal hearings.

The chief did not take the findings of the report as fact, instead saying he would reserve his judgment until tribunal hearings are held.

Blair also refused to apologize on behalf of the force for human rights violations that took place during the G20 summit in June 2010, saying his job is to hold his officers accountable.

Fishermen fear future with big corporations in charge

AT 6 A.M. Friday, Kevin Horne and Miles Jackson hauled their traps from the deep waters of Chedabucto Bay.

As the sun rose above Canso behind the 11.5-metre Knot-T Buoys, they hauled, dumped, rebaited and reset 100 traps without speaking a word.

They didn’t have to.

Horne and his crewman have fished these fine-meshed shrimp traps seven days a week since October.

"In February, you get a few icicles in your beard," said Horne. "Sometimes it gets a bit windy."

What's Behind George W. Bush's Odd Romney Endorsement?

George W. Bush's endorsement of Mitt Romney on Tuesday appears to have been unplanned. The former president had just given a speech on human rights in Washington, and afterward, Matt Negrin, a reporter for ABC News, followed him to the elevator and asked who he's supporting in the election in November.

"I'm for Mitt Romney," Bush said, as the elevator doors inched closed.

Well, sure he is. What else was he supposed to say? But it was beyond strange to see a former two-term Republican president slide his support for his party's presumptive nominee under -- or, rather, through -- the door in this manner. And Romney's response was even stranger: silence. The Romney campaign didn't respond to a request for comment on the Bush endorsement, and Romney didn't mention it in his post-endorsement speech Tuesday in Iowa. (A campaign spokeswoman told the New York Observer that Romney was "proud" to have Bush's support, but did not expect to campaign with him.)

Will One of These Cases Be the Next Citizens United?

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin explores how Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a seemingly narrow case about political attack ads, ended up fundamentally changing campaign finance law and becoming the signature decision of the Roberts court. So what could be the next Citizens United? Here's a look at some of the biggest campaign finance cases working their way through the federal court system, and what they could mean for those who'd like to reform the current system (and roll back Citizens United):

Van Hollen v. FEC
Outlook for reformers: Promising
Last month, a district court closed a major loophole that allowed outside groups producing election ads (for example, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS) to avoid disclosing their donors. On Monday, a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request to stay the decision, putting an end to the secret financing of ads airing within 60 days of a general election—that is, if the notoriously ineffective Federal Election Commission enforces it.

Scientists will talk to journalists who make ‘reasonable requests,’ says Peter Kent

Environment Canada scientists are allowed to give interviews when journalists make “reasonable” requests, the department’s minister Peter Kent said today near the end of a four-hour session in the House of Commons.

The remarks were delivered during the special session that began late Tuesday night, allowing opposition members to ask detailed questions about environmental policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

Kent also used the session to retreat from his previous claims that remaining in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change would cost Canada about $14 billion, while struggling to answer numerous questions about the inner workings of his department and changes in its activities caused by his government’s budget cuts, including cuts to response to environmental disasters.

Quebec gets ready to play hardball with student protesters

The Quebec government is preparing a new hard line to try to end a months-long student strike, signalling that a riot squad’s attempt to open a college Tuesday is only the start of the use of force to get students back to school.

Even as newly appointed Education Minister Michelle Courchesne sat down for fresh talks with student leaders Tuesday evening, Premier Jean Charest consulted caucus and Liberal riding association presidents to make sure he had full party support for a tougher stand.

The so-called hawks within government were promoting the enforcement of court injunctions to open more schools while using police to push back protesters. Others called for special legislation with stiff penalties against protesters who block schools or against teachers who refuse to teach.

Ministers will decide on precise measures during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, once Ms. Courchesne reports on her encounter with students and college and university directors.

A sneak preview of federal mask ban, coming to a city near you: Montreal's plan

MONTREAL - A federal move to regulate mask-wearing at large gatherings could face a litmus test as early as this week, as events in Montreal help foreshadow whether such a plan will do more good or harm.

A local bylaw under discussion might offer an early demonstration of whether such a ban actually cuts down on violent protest — or helps inflame it, while creating additional headaches for police and backlogs in the justice system.

The bylaw was studied by the city's public-safety committee Wednesday and could be adopted by the end of the week. If that happens, the protest-charged city will become something of a laboratory for a coast-to-coast crime-fighting experiment.

Elsewhere in the country, a private-member's bill, C-309, is progressing through the House of Commons after easily passing second reading, and it could become Canadian law within months.

Some refugees may have to pay for childbirth

A potentially legitimate refugee from a so-called safe country delivering a baby or undergoing emergency surgery for a heart attack at a Canadian hospital will have to pay for it out of pocket because of changes to the government's refugee health insurance scheme, set to take effect in July.

The NDP calls it "unconscionable." One doctor said "people could die because of this." But the government says such claimants are to have their cases heard within weeks, so the limited health coverage "is, therefore, only a short interim measure."

The change is part of a larger shakeup of the Interim Federal Health Program, a federally-funded health insurance system that temporarily pays for care for people including asylum claimants, those whose claims have already been rejected but they have not yet left Canada, and those whose claims were accepted but they are not yet eligible for provincial or territorial coverage.

Privacy, quality of StatsCan information could be compromised: report

OTTAWA -- A new agency the Conservatives created with the intention of strengthening the government's email and data systems could make it difficult for Statistics Canada to maintain the quality and confidentiality of the information it gathers, chief statistician Wayne Smith warns.

The caution, one of several that paint a grim picture of the agency's future, is included in its annual planning report tabled recently in the House of Commons.

In August 2011, the Conservatives announced a new entity called Shared Services Canada, which was tasked with streamlining the government's information technology systems that currently cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Eurozone crisis signals a repeat of the 1930s

The European crisis seems unprecedented but it is not. This time it centres on the euro, a currency used by 17 European nations. Last time, it centred on gold, an international currency used by even more countries.

Oh, and did I mention? The last time this kind of crisis occurred was 1931 — two years into the economic slump we now know as the Great Depression.

Let us hope we have learned something in the last 81 years. The evidence, however, suggests that we have not.

Defence Department has 'gone rogue', opposition claims, as auditor blasts critics

OTTAWA — Angry and frustrated over what they see as an intentional effort to obfuscate, opposition members declared Tuesday that their confidence in Defence officials is wearing thin and the department is either out of control or, worse, gone "rogue."

"There's no faith in this department anymore," NDP MP Malcolm Allen said following another round of parliamentary committee hearings into the troubled F-35 stealth fighter program. "None whatsoever."

A spotlight has been cast on senior Defence bureaucrats since Auditor General Michael Ferguson released a scathing report on the F-35 last month.

That report found senior managers had twisted rules, whitewashed problems and withheld information about the stealth fighter program, including not disclosing — weeks before the last federal election — that the planes would cost taxpayers at least $25 billion.

The Rule of Law is not negotiable

For a few years now, politicians have played to audiences extolling the virtues of “our men and women in uniform” and being “tough on crime”. These are important ideas that are used too often as slogans. Their real significance is lost in the numbing superficiality of political posturing.

It seems to me that many politicians and their surrogates need a refresher course in what a “law and order” government truly is and the implications of not understanding it.

The rule of law is not a cynical bumper sticker; it is a fundamental precept of a modern democracy. It is far more than a slogan; it is as much a pillar of our freedom as are elections and our legislatures. Yet, we invest far too little in the administration of justice, and sometimes only just give it lip service.

Our courts are understaffed and overworked. In Quebec, Crown Prosecutors went on an unprecedented job action to protest against their low wages and high workload. The sight of these prosecutors in their robes marching for a decent wage and respect from the Crown was deeply troubling. It highlighted the long neglected stresses in an overstressed and largely neglected judicial system.

Climate change policy should aim to manage risk

The time has come to think differently about climate change.

For too long the debate has been monopolized by two parties. One has got religion, fervently believing in man-made climate change, and that only large changes in human behaviour can stave off disaster. Their opponents argue that the science is uncertain, unsettled and inconclusive, and therefore that no action is war-ranted until we possess that missing certainty.

I don't agree with either camp. In most areas there is only ever certainty of uncertainty. In other words, both those who believe certainty has been achieved and those who say it has not share the same assumption: that certainty is what we are after and we can get it.

The reality is that long-range future energy, climate, economic and other carbon-related environmental conditions are and will remain significantly uncertain, highly variable and largely unpredictable. Scientists and mathematicians know that the systems involved in the various dimensions of climate change policy are in fact extremely complex and often chaotic, fraught with considerable, irreducible uncertainty.

Play's the thing to catch conscience of Parliament

It's time for opposition brinksmanship in Ottawa; time for real drama to highlight Parliament's degradation. For inspiration, the opposition could look to a seminal event in the Manitoba legislature in November 1996.

Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan routinely uses the word "orderly" as an adjective to modify "Parliament." Here he is on Valentine's Day: "Our effort is to ensure that Parliament is run in an orderly, productive and hard-working fashion with ample debate." On March 15: "We will conclude this hard-working, productive and orderly week in Parliament." On April 26: "Canadians want to see a productive, hard-working and orderly Parliament."

Van Loan's focus on an "orderly (read obedient) Parliament" and the Conservatives' unprecedented 425-page omnibus budget bill containing 752 clauses and amending 70 statutes -- including almost all Canada's federal environmental laws -- is not just contemptuous of Parliament, but turns it into a false front, a Potemkin Village.

'Baby steps' to US agents on Canadian soil: RCMP

The RCMP is planning to ease Canadians into the idea of United States law enforcement agents pursuing suspects across the land border and onto Canadian soil through "baby steps," say two top Mounties.

"We recognized early that this approach would raise concerns about sovereignty, of privacy, and civil liberties of Canadians," RCMP Chief Superintendent Joe Oliver, the Mounties' director general for border integrity, told the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on May 14.

"We said 'Let's take baby steps, let's start with two agencies to test the concept, let's demonstrate to Canadians and Americans that such an approach might work."

Mike Cabana, RCMP deputy commissioner for federal policing, also used the metaphor for an incremental approach in comments he made just before Mr. Oliver's.

Is Canada grappling with Dutch Disease?

Conventional wisdom says that Canada is fighting a crippling bout of Dutch Disease.

Canada’s petro-infused currency, which has risen 55 per cent against the U.S. dollar in the past decade, continues to linger around parity with the greenback. That is clobbering exports, making Canadian auto plants uncompetitive and hammering the manufacturing heartland of Ontario and Quebec – or so the thinking goes.

But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according to three researchers who will publish a study Wednesday that largely debunks the Dutch Disease theory, which has become a frequent talking point amid rising tensions between the oil-rich West and battered factories of the East.

Charities silenced by the taxman

If there’s any branch of the federal government that should top the “hate list” for Canadian conservatives it has to be the Canada Revenue Agency.

This is the agency, after all, that big government uses to painfully extract our hard-earned wealth – sometimes with bullying tactics – so that Bev Oda has the funds to buy more orange juice.

Yet strangely, the supposedly “conservative” Harper government is giving $8-million in additional funding to the CRA.

What’s going on here? Isn’t that like Hobbits giving arrows to Orcs? Or like New York Yankees fans cheering for the Boston Red Sox?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Nevertheless, it seems the Tories want to bolster the CRA’s muscle so it can more efficiently squelch free speech.

With Baird, you know where he’s coming from

One thing John Baird doesn’t do is diplomatic nuance, which is somehow refreshing in a foreign minister.

Sworn into his fifth cabinet post a year ago this week, Baird has moved Canada’s foreign policy decisively away from its honest broker tradition to one that’s been called “values based.” Or as he put it himself, sitting in his fourth floor Centre Block office early Monday evening, “a principles-based foreign policy.”

And there is nothing ambiguous or ambivalent about the way he articulates it.

For example, on the Harper government’s unstinting support for Israel, he told Policy Options magazine last month: “Canada’s not going to be an honest broker between and an international terrorist organization and a liberal democracy.” There were nearly 20,000 PDF downloads of the Q&A, meaning everyone at Foreign Affairs, and the entire foreign policy community, read it.

Late-night showdown in the House pits Peter Kent vs. opposition MPs

For the second time in a week, opposition MPs had hours to ask questions of a cabinet minister, and once again some left unsatisfied with the answers they received.

Tuesday night’s Committee of the Whole on the main estimates for Environment Canada convened late into the evening and went well into the night. During the four-hour meeting, opposition MPs grilled the environment minister on the government’s plans for environmental oversight and job cuts to his department.

Kent confirmed that 200 jobs will be cut from Environment Canada over the next three years – including some to its environmental emergency offices, which are being consolidated. He also revealed that an upcoming report on shale gas exploration will arrive later this year or in early 2013.

New Democrat environment critic Megan Leslie began the meeting with a quick round of questions for the minister on his plans to attend the upcoming climate conference in Brazil. Kent told Leslie he plans to attend with a delegation of stakeholders. Asked if opposition members would be allowed along, Kent was curt. “The answer is simple, it is short” he said. “No.”

Moore’s criteria for appointments ‘unprecedented’ and ‘disturbing’

Heritage Minister James Moore is “on shaky ground” by requiring the chairs of the boards of some of Canada’s top cultural institutions develop and maintain an “effective relationship” with him and his staff, say two former directors of appointments.

Penny Collenette and Senator Percy Downe, who oversaw appointments for Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, both said the clause, which has been inserted into job notices for positions like chairperson of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the National Gallery of Canada, appears to be unprecedented.

“This new turn of events is quite stunning,” said Collenette, pointing out that a lot has been done since the early 1990’s to clean up the appointments process and make postings and job requirements more transparent.

UN food envoy decries 'shocking' conditions in Canada

OTTAWA — Canada needs to drop its "self-righteous" attitude about how great a country it is and start dealing with its widespread problem of food insecurity, the United Nations right-to-food envoy says.

In a hard-hitting interview this week with Postmedia News, Olivier De Schutter also blasted Canada for its "appallingly poor" record of taking recommendations from UN human-rights bodies seriously.

De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, has been on an 11-day mission to Canada, his first to a developed country.

It's taken him to poor inner-city neighbourhoods in Central Canada, where he said he's heard from families on social assistance who can't afford to feed their children healthy foods.

Canada's no-fly list: Who really controls Canadian airspace?

I wish I could answer the above question with absolute certainty. One thing is certain: Canada is not the only decision-maker when it comes to refusing air travellers on overseas trips, and on some selected domestic flights which pass through U.S. airspace. This fact made many civil rights activists question whether Canada has lost its airspace sovereignty.

I do not think the issue of the no-fly list (and its sister lists such as the screening list,) which operates under the nicely-labelled "Passenger Protect Program," has received the attention it deserves. Is it because only a segment of the population is affected (as those affected happen to be Muslims)? Or is it because the Canadian and the U.S. governments have kept a shroud of secrecy on how this list works and operates? All I know is that the negative impact of this list on civil liberties and on the lives of many innocent human beings has been significant: Lives have been destroyed, professionals who rely on their business travel to the U.S. to earn their living lost their main source of income, and worse of all, the psychological scars endured by those who are targeted by the list persist and may never go away.

Canadian human rights report on Colombia a 'sick joke'

The Canadian government’s human rights report tabled in Parliament Tuesday regarding implementation of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement might as well have been a comic strip of three monkeys: "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

Its substance is summed up in the first three pages of the 18-page report (that's counting the title page and two annexes that occupy 12 pages). In essence: there will be no human rights report this year because only nine months have passed since the agreement was implemented.

Never mind that the Canadian government agreed to produce a human rights report by May 15 of this year two years ago. Nor that it was precisely this element of the agreement that allowed the free trade pact to pass through parliament, given that Colombia was (and still is) the most dangerous place on earth to be a trade unionist, with the most internally displaced peoples worldwide (between 3.9 and 5.5 million on last count and the great majority from mineral and hydrocarbon rich areasin which the numerous Canadian oil and mining companies operating in Colombia may have investments), with 32 Indigenous peoples at risk of extinction, or that at the time that the free trade agreement was being negotiated the Colombian government was mired in a scandal over close ties with paramilitary leaders, and a "false positives" scandal in which members of the Colombian army were killing citizens and then dressing them up as guerrillas or paramilitaries killed in combat.

Wearing a mask could soon be an illegal act during 'tumultuous demonstrations'

A new private Members Bill -- Bill C-309 -- will make it illegal for demonstrators to cover their faces during "tumultuous demonstrations," with a penalty of up to ten years in prison.

Bill C-309, first introduced before the House of Commons last year, would amend the Criminal Code of Canada and impose a five year prison sentence for anyone convicted of the offence and make such an act an indictable offence. A "tumultuous demonstration" could be defined as a "riot" or an "unlawful assembly".

Activists may choose to wear masks at demonstrations for many reasons, including the wish to conceal their faces, for example, at an anti-police brutality rally in case they face retribution from the police or to protect their identity from police in general. Other reasons may include protecting oneself from the effects of chemical weapons such as tear gas or pepper spray.

Tom Mulcair and the Tar Messengers

One obvious response to Tom Mulcair’s remarks about the Western premiers — apparently they are Stephen Harper’s “messengers” — is concern. If there’s, like, a messenger fight sometime, who’ll show up on Mulcair’s side? Probably not Jean Charest. He’s busy, and Mulcair quit his cabinet in a huff a few years ago. Dalton McGuinty? He seems unsteady on the matter at hand. PEI’s Rob Ghiz? Future McGuinty-in-law.

Meanwhile, Mulcair seems to believe, Harper has the premiers of the three western-most provinces waiting by the Harperphone (don’t ask; it’s black) for their instructions. “He’s not going to try to contest that,” he told Postmedia’s Peter O’Neil, in regard to Mulcair’s belief that resource exports are pushing the dollar up and ruining central Canada’s manufacturing base. “What he’s going to try to do is send in messengers to take that argument to me. I’m not responding to any of them… My argument is in the House of Commons with the federal prime minister who is failing Canadians.”

Harper's omnibus budget bill has too much baggage

The federal government’s 452-page omnibus budget bill contains too much for adequate consideration by Parliament, because it is really more than budget-implementation legislation. Only some portions of it are about public finance, that is, about such matters as income tax, sales tax and federal-provincial fiscal arrangements.

This is part of a trend that is older than the present government. When Paul Martin was prime minister in 2005, his budget bill was 120 pages long, a record at the time. The opposition leader, Stephen Harper, quite properly asked, “How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote on a block of such legislation?” How indeed?

China lures back its best

Like those of India, expatriates are returning to China – drawn by more than just the natural pull of an economy that has grown by 9 per cent or more every year since 2002. The many thousands of Chinese who went abroad for higher education are now being targeted by a massive government effort to bring back the country’s best and brightest.

Under what’s known as the “Thousand Talents” program, Beijing is offering plum jobs and research grants – plus “moving allowances” of up to 1 million yuan (about $160,000) – in an attempt to lure top-level Chinese academics and their ideas home.

“The economic development and the opportunities [in China] are now the main draw for people to come back,” says Wang Huiyao, vice-chair of the Western Returned Scholars Association.

Woman dies after long ORNGE ambulance delay, family says

It took more than six hours for ORNGE to figure out if land or air ambulance would pick up a critically ill Barry’s Bay woman and transport her to an Ottawa hospital, her family says.

Last Wednesday, Judy Dearman lay in a Barry’s Bay hospital waiting to be transferred to Ottawa, said her husband Clyde Dearman.

But confusion as to when and how his wife would be transported to a large urban hospital prevented her from getting the care she needed, he said.

“The thing is, she lay there for six hours,” Dearman said. Barry’s Bay is in the Madawaska Valley, two hours west of Ottawa. “It was ridiculous. It was too long a wait.”

Charities, non-profits protest Toronto’s new garbage pickup fees

Toronto’s new garbage fees for charities and non-profits will take food from the mouths of homeless people and end services to others in need, city hall has heard.

More than 70 people packed a committee room to give a city solid waste manager an earful Monday at a meeting convened by Social Planning Toronto in response to a budget hike that caught many by surprise.

They ranged from small, including the Church of the Redeemer at Bloor St. W. and Avenue Rd., which serves 100 or more breakfasts and lunches daily to homeless and other marginalized people, to big — including Goodwill, which trains hard-to-employ Ontarians.

Statistical Analysis Projects Future Temperatures in North America

ScienceDaily (May 15, 2012) — For the first time, researchers have been able to combine different climate models using spatial statistics -- to project future seasonal temperature changes in regions across North America.

They performed advanced statistical analysis on two different North American regional climate models and were able to estimate projections of temperature changes for the years 2041 to 2070, as well as the certainty of those projections.

The analysis, developed by statisticians at Ohio State University, examines groups of regional climate models, finds the commonalities between them, and determines how much weight each individual climate projection should get in a consensus climate estimate.

Through maps on the statisticians' website (, people can see how their own region's temperature will likely change by 2070 -- overall, and for individual seasons of the year.

Streamlining the dragonfly

The next time your boat gets into trouble 130 kilometres off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, don’t worry, Italy has your back.  And your call is important to them – even if they can’t understand it.

Yes, we are all Shang Rideout now. After closing the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St.John’s, the Harper government promised that things would still be handled in a safe and responsible way for fishermen like Shang and his father. Mr. Harper was at full purr in the House of Commons, using his most reassuring Paul Wolfowitz voice to defend the indefensible – and to confabulate.

Emergency calls, he said, had always been handled this way. By that, the PM meant that in the new dispensation, Newfoundland and Labrador distress calls will be routed to Halifax – over a thousand kilometres away. And if their lines are busy, then as has “always” been the case, the world was waiting to take the call – as soon as it scares up an interpreter with a minor in geography. Of course this is false, just as Liberal leader Bob Rae said in the House. But not to a man who believes he manufactures facts every time he makes a declaration. Like the spider, all the silk comes out of him.

Juvenile Offenders Sentenced To Life Can Face Harsher Treatment Than Adults: Report

Bobby Hines was fresh out of eighth grade when he and two older boys confronted a suspected drug dealer in Detroit whom they believed had stolen a friend’s coat. The confrontation turned into an argument and one of Hines' buddies pulled out a gun and shot and killed the man.

The shooter was later charged with second-degree murder and given the possibility of parole. Hines, who was 15 at the time, was charged with felony murder for participating in a robbery that resulted in a homicide.

Although Hines never pulled a trigger or even held a weapon that day, he was sentenced, under Michigan law, to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was offered a plea bargain deal, with the chance to serve 20 to 40 years if he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder. But the middle-schooler simply didn’t understand the deal, according to Deborah LaBelle, who authored a report released on Tuesday about the systematic disadvantages facing juveniles who are placed within the adult criminal justice system.

And today, 22 years later, Hines is still behind bars.

EI rules need 'teeth' to get people to work, Finley says

The federal government is trying to toughen up employment insurance rules so there are fewer disincentives to unemployed people taking jobs, according to Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, who clarified Tuesday that Canadians won't be forced to take jobs outside their skill areas.

She was questioned repeatedly in the House of Commons Tuesday about the proposed changes to the employment insurance program that are contained in the budget implementation bill, including alterations to the definition of suitable work.

Bill C-38 proposes giving cabinet the power to decide criteria for defining what constitutes suitable employment and what constitutes reasonable efforts to find a job. It also removes two clauses from the existing Employment Insurance Act, clauses that say work is not suitable if it is in the claimant's usual job but at a lower rate of earnings or if it is outside of the claimant's normal line of work.

Stephen Harper eliminates the ‘radical centre’ of environment debate

OTTAWA—Sometimes a politician can stumble and tell the truth.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird did precisely that this week when he took a garden variety question from Liberal interim leader Bob Rae and turned his guns on a small advisory group known as the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy.

The Conservatives killed it in this year’s budget.

In the litany of Conservative cuts and the much more contentious overhaul of environmental assessments in this country, the roundtable’s death was destined to be a footnote.

Until Baird, a former environment minister, rose in the House of Commons to kick more dirt on the corpse.

Chinese firm's Canadian contracts raise security fears

The former head of U.S. counter-espionage says the Harper government is putting North American security at risk by allowing a giant Chinese technology company to participate in major Canadian telecommunications projects.

In an exclusive interview in Washington, Michelle K. Van Cleave told CBC News the involvement of Huawei Technologies in Canadian telecom networks risks turning the information highway into a freeway for Chinese espionage against both the U.S. and Canada.

Huawei has long argued there is no evidence linking the company to the growing tidal wave of international computer hacking and other forms of espionage originating in China.

How we stopped talking about climate change

Let’s recap the Harper government’s record on climate change, shall we?

In the beginning, the Conservatives said nothing. Climate change wasn’t even mentioned in the 2006 election platform.

But in 2007 climate change became a top public priority and Stephen Harper became very concerned. Climate change is “perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today,” the Prime Minister declared. And yes, the Conservatives had plans. Big plans. Unlike the Liberals, who talked lots but accomplished little, the Conservatives were going to get the job done.

In early 2008, the government promised to work with the United States to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions by creating a North American cap-and-trade system. When Stéphane Dion’s Liberals also promised to put a price on carbon emissions, but with a carbon tax instead, the Conservatives savaged it as a “tax on everything” and vilified Dion as the man who would destroy the economy.