Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Friday, June 01, 2012

Quebec Protests Are Something, But Not Arab Spring

As the Quebec student protests come to a head and coverage of the events begins to be featured by prominent news organizations across the globe, international opinion remains divided over the issue. While protestors are often mocked in the U.S. for objecting to what amounts to a miniscule tuition hike for any American, there has also been an influx of support for the students, especially in the wake of the protest-limiting bill 78.

Newspapers such as The Guardian have labeled that piece of hastily written legislation “draconian”, and perhaps rightfully so. Recently the bill has garnered widespread ire from rights groups such as Amnesty International who lend their support to protestors. It was also after the bill’s passing that the numbers in the anti-government rallies rose to the hundreds of thousands, and perhaps even more significantly, saw the original group of francophone student activists joined by protestors from a range of different demographics. Moreover, the Charest government, who were widely backed against the protestors in polling before the legislation, began to lose favour.

Follow Quebec’s leaders

Dear Quebec re-sisters and brothers: What an awesomely inventive laboratory of political resistance you have built. Thanks for taking the struggle against inequality and austerity to a new level and helping the rest of us see what’s really going on.

Of course, looking back, La Belle Province has pointed the way for a good long time, including its Orange Crush rebellion that vaulted the NDP into official opposition.

And now it has outdone itself.

Slots: the crack of gambling

If those pushing waterfront gambling in Toronto get their way, it’s these computerized hustlers they’ll be depending on to rake in the profits. Slot machines, with their flashing lights and dizzying array of sounds, aren’t just a big part of casinos’ allure; they’re huge money makers.

They’re also the biggest culprits associated with problem gambling. Slots have come a long way since the days of the one-armed bandit. Today’s high-tech machines are designed to deliver a gambling fix every few seconds, loaded with enough sensory triggers to literally mess with your head and keep you glued to the screen until you’ve blown all your cash. Critics don’t call them the crack cocaine of gambling for nothing.

Seven reasons why you should support a move to low tuition fees for higher education

Much of the media coverage of the Quebec student protests has dismissed the protestors as cranky middle and upper-middle class children trying to protect their unfair privilege.

And in fact, the vast majority of today’s university students do come from relatively well-off families. But rather than weakening their position, this supports the protestors’ claims that we have a serious problem with access to education – a problem that would only be exacerbated by tuition hikes.

Instead of recognizing this, most media commentary perpetuates a discourse of austerity, demanding that students share the pain that other public service users are suffering.

Jobs Report May 2012: U.S. Employers Added 69,000 Jobs In May As The Unemployment Rate Rose To 8.2 Percent

WASHINGTON — The American economy is in trouble again.

Employers in the United States added only 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in a year and not even close to what economists expected. For the first time since last June, the unemployment rate rose, to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent.

It was the third month in a row of weak job growth and further evidence that, just as in 2010 and 2011, a winter of hope for the economy has turned to a spring of disappointment.

"This is horrible," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, a consulting firm.

"Our Elections Are Being Poisoned"

Wisconsin's June 5 recall election is a national battle on a statewide stage, a proxy war pitting Democrats against Republicans, liberals against conservatives, unions against big business. The man tracking the tens of millions of dollars being spent to win that war is Mike McCabe, Wisconsin's political money guru, who runs the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign out of nondescript office blocks away from the state capitol in Madison.

McCabe has watched the political money wars in Wisconsin for decades, but in recent years, he's seen state records fall like dominoes: $20 million spent on 2008 legislative races, $37 million on the 2010 gubernatorial race, and $44 million on last September's nine state Senate recall elections. That $44 million more than doubled the previous record of $20.25 million spent in 2008 on 109 separate legislative races.

Speaker Scheer says decorum in the Commons is getting better

OTTAWA — One year after he was chosen as Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer said he has brought a quiet approach to enforcing discipline among wayward MPs and that decorum in the chamber has improved.

Scheer made the comments Thursday in an exclusive interview with Postmedia News in his wood-panelled Parliament Hill office overlooking the Ottawa River.

As he reviewed the past year, Scheer was candid in his assessment of why fierce political debate in the Commons sometimes erupts, and why it's important to nip improper conduct in the bud before it gets out of control.

Why are we eliminating the CSIS watchers?

For over 30 years our domestic intelligence agency has been haunted by the memory of a massive scandal that revealed how Canada's government had lost control of its own spies.

In the late 1970s, the problems that beset the RCMP Security Service — illegal break-ins and wiretaps, intimidation of suspects, damage to property, political interference and lying to cabinet ministers — were seen as Canada's Watergate.

They shook the faith of Canadians in our security service and in the protection of civil rights, and contributed to the fall of the Trudeau government in 1979.

Today we should reflect on just how bad this was, for it reminds us of the critical need for government to ensure that our spies never run amok again.

In the early 1980s, after a damning report by the McDonald Commission into the RCMP, Parliament took two critical "never again" intelligence reforms.

Mulcair is right that Alberta must respect the environment

Alberta is not Nigeria, and New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair said one thing on that subject in Ottawa and another this week on a visit to Alberta. It may have been good politics, but it’s not the mark of a leader with aspirations to be prime minister.

Mr. Mulcair’s explanation for why Canada’s manufacturing sector is in trouble is simplistic (Canada has “Dutch disease”), features a bogeyman (perhaps more than one) and a victim or two. But Mr. Mulcair is a canny politician. He vowed to steer away from socialist bromides and he has. He said Thursday after a tour of the Alberta oil sands that he is impressed by their massive scope. He favours development of the resource – in a sustainable way. His attack on the oil sands in the House of Commons this spring (“their model for development is Nigeria”) and on government for failing to protect the environment, and on all of them together for sending the Canadian dollar to new heights, thus undermining the country’s exporters, gives voters an enemy to detest without offering a traditional socialist explanation.

Opposition aims to rile up voters about budget

Federal opposition parties are hoping to inspire a public backlash against what they see as the Conservatives’ increasingly autocratic governing style.

New Democrats and Liberals are hitting the road to meet with Canadians as part of a political attempt to derail the government’s 452-page omnibus budget bill.

New Democrats have held sessions in six cities, critiquing a “Trojan horse bill sneaking in hundreds of pages of harmful new measures.”

“Stephen Harper was elected on a promise of accountability,” says the party’s website, “but he runs one of the most secretive governments in memory.”

Activists gear up for multi-pronged protest against Tory budget bill

Opponents of the federal government’s decision to package of a broad range of controversial measures in one massive budget bill are preparing to demonstrate publicly against the legislation – both online and at the offices of Conservative MPs.

A group of young Canadians that was formed to promote democracy will hold protests outside the constituency offices of 54 Tory politicians on Saturday.

And nearly 400 charitable groups and environmental activist organizations will reroute their websites Monday to, which tells visitors the budget bill will “weaken environmental rules and silence the voices of those who seek to defend them.”

Environmental cuts raise troubling questions

It might or might not make much difference to the quality of the air Canadians breathe, but the disbanding of a team of scientists that monitors air pollution raises troubling doubts about the federal government’s priorities, and with whom its interests lie.

It took an investigation by Postmedia News and the leak of a series of documents to reveal that as part of its budget trimming through public-service cuts, the government plans to break up a team of Environment Canada smokestack specialists. These have hitherto worked closely with industry and enforcement officers to crack down on toxic pollution that kills thousands of Canadians each year.

Shining a light on the federal government's false claims on Environmental Assessment and the Budget

Federal budgets weren’t always this controversial. Sure, there was a tough public debate around the financial direction the government was taking, but – that was all. Radical changes to environmental governance, public services, and the whole concept of the public interest? This is quite new.

It’s hard to know which is more worrying: the systematic trashing of environmental and social safeguards, or the anti-democratic way it is being done. Not only is the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act being repealed and replaced with a few slices of Swiss cheese, but the Fisheries Act is being cut into bait, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is being axed, and scientific and environmental protection capacity is to be cut – along with a vast array of other cuts to democratically-important public institutions, everything from putting down the CSIS watchdog to repealing the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act.

Maude Barlow on the Great Lakes: 'They must be protected for all time'

The Council of Canadians' Maude Barlow has been visiting communities around Ontario's Great Lakes, talking to people about the urgent need to address the toll industrial pollution, climate change, over-extraction, invasive species and wetland loss are taking on the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world.

Last night she spoke at London's Aeolian Hall, the last stop on her "Great Lakes Need Great Friends" tour.

"We're living in a world that is losing water," says Barlow. "We're taking water and removing it, polluting it and mismanaging it." Studies support Barlow's assertion, showing that by the year 2030 demand for water in the world will outstrip supply by 40 per cent. That, says Barlow, is catastrophic.

For David Wilks, it’s been an honour just to take up space in Ottawa

Until recently, I wasn’t that big a fan of Conservative MP David Wilks, possibly on account of never having heard of him.

But he’s made quite an impression of late. First, Wilks spoke in favour of Stephen Harper’s omnibus budget bill. Then he told some constituents the legislation was flawed and overstuffed—and he would oppose it, even if it meant leaving caucus. About five minutes later, Wilks ever-so-slightly altered his position on the bill once more—now he was totally for it again.

Kudos to you, David Wilks. It is said that some members of Parliament are afraid to take a stand—but here we have an MP with the courage to take several.

Current EI reforms should be just the beginning

Assume for a moment you’ve been given the job of creating from scratch a federal program to help out-of-work Canadians find suitable employment as quickly and efficiently as possible. Would you begin with a system that provides greater benefits to workers who find themselves unemployed more often? Or provides incentives to stay in uncertain occupations forever? Would your ideal system offer identical Canadians vastly different benefits based solely on where they lived? And would you lard the program with inconsistent rules, such as offering benefits to self-employed fishermen, but not self-employed farmers?

Of course not. But this is exactly the sort of discriminatory, illogical and counterproductive system Canada has right now.

2,000 jobs cut as GM to close Oshawa plant

The Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors is going ahead with plans to close its consolidated plant in Oshawa, Ont.

The union says it's been told the facility — the older part of the Oshawa car plant — will close by June 2013 and says that could mean 2,000 layoffs.

President of CAW Local 222 president Chris Buckley says GM gave the union notice today.

The plant produces the Chevrolet Impala and the Equinox. It was originally slated to be closed in 2008 before a series of extensions due to the popularity of those vehicles squeezed more years of life out of it.

Ottawa wins appeal to block RCMP union

Thousands of Mounties have lost their bid to be allowed to form a union.

Ontario's Court of Appeal on Friday overturned a 2009 lower court ruling that said it was unconstitutional to prevent members of the RCMP from forming a labour association.

The Court of Appeal judges said the elected members of the RCMP's Staff Relations Representative Program, which is not independent of management and doesn't have the power to negotiate a collective agreement to regulate working conditions, nevertheless does a good job of settling work-related issues such as pay.

Canada loses NAFTA case against Exxon

Canada has lost a legal battle launched against it by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM-N77.92-0.71-0.90%) and Murphy Oil Corp., (MUR-N45.20-1.42-3.05%) two U.S. oil companies who complained that demands by Newfoundland for increased research spending violated the North American free-trade agreement.

A panel of international arbitrators ruled 2-1, with the Canadian appointee dissenting, that rules imposed in 2004 on the oil companies in connection with the Terra Nova and Hibernia oil projects were invalid under NAFTA’s controversial Chapter 11.

New duty-free limits start cross-border bargain hunting rush

TORONTO—New rules on the amount of money Canadians are allowed to spend in the U.S. take effect today, filling already struggling businesses this side of the border with dread.

While shoppers with a penchant for deals are salivating at the thought of being able to bring back more duty free loot, economists warn that the $20 billion lost annually in Canada to cross-border shopping is going to skyrocket.

With credit cards in hand, Canadian staying 24 hours or more south of the border can now bring back $200 in duty free goods, compared to $50 and the limit has doubled from $400 to $800 for those staying between two and seven days. And the limit for Canadians gone for a week or more increases $800 from $750.

GM Oshawa job cuts show real economy hurting under Stephen Harper

When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives talk about protecting the economy, they are speaking of an abstraction.

They override the right to strike of rail and airline workers in order to further this abstraction. They run roughshod over the environment in its name.

But the real economy is not an abstraction. It is people’s jobs and wages. It is our livelihood. It is how we get by.

And this real economy is not doing well.

Protecting Canada’s fisheries: an open letter to Stephen Harper

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

As privy councillors from British Columbia who have served as ministers of Fisheries and Oceans in past federal governments, we wish to inform you of our serious concern regarding the content of Bill C-38 and the process being used to bring it into force.

We have had lengthy and varied political experience and collectively have served in cabinet in Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments alike. We believe we have a fair understanding of the views of Canadians. Moreover, we believe there is genuine public concern over the perceived threat this legislation poses to the health of Canada’s environment and in particular to the well-being of its fisheries resources. We are especially alarmed about any possible diminution of the statutory protection of fish habitat, which we feel could result if the provisions of Bill C-38 are brought into force. Migratory salmon and steelhead are icons of our home province. Our experience convinces us that their continued survival would be endangered without adequate federal regulation and enforcement, particularly in the area of habitat protection.

Kent rebuffs ex-ministers' concerns over Fisheries Act

Environment Minister Peter Kent is suggesting four former federal fisheries ministers who penned a letter critical of the regulatory changes in the budget implementation bill haven't read the legislation.

The authors of the letter, two Liberals and two Progressive Conservatives now retired from politics, questioned the Harper government's placing of environment measures in a money bill.

Mulroney-era Conservatives Tom Siddon and John Fraser and Chrétien-era Liberals Herb Dhaliwal and David Anderson also asked what outside groups may have pressured the government into making the changes.

Scott Walker Debate: Tom Barrett Accuses Governor Of Running 'Willie Horton' Ad

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) accused Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) during the gubernatorial debate on Thursday of running an inappropriate ad about crime in his city, comparing it to the much-criticized "Willie Horton" ad of the 1988 presidential campaign.

"This 2-year-old spent six days in intensive care after being severely beaten," says the Walker ad's narrator. "But Tom Barrett’s police department didn’t consider it a violent crime." The ad then shows crime statistics and asserts "violent crime is up" in Milwaukee.

"He's running a commercial right now that shows a dead baby," Barrett said during the debate. "It shows a picture of a dead baby. This is Willie Horton stuff. That baby died."

Shine a light on the oil sands boom

Canada needs more light and less heat on the economic impact of oil sands expansion.

When it comes to energy issues, the list of things that are apparently too divisive to discuss seems to grow by the day – from climate change and pollution reduction to a national energy strategy and, most recently, the impact of booming oil sands development across the Canadian economy.

The ongoing debate about the economic changes Canadians are seeing warrants serious consideration and action, given the regional tensions these changes are creating. Similarly, as the federal government reduces environmental oversight in an effort to expedite oil sands production and exports, it’s imperative that Canadians understand the challenges and risks associated with our growing economic reliance on this sector.

Maryland Pastor Dennis Leatherman: 'My Flesh Kind Of Likes The Idea' Of Killing Gays

A number of right-wing authorities have come forward with anti-gay pleas in recent weeks, but one Maryland-based pastor has gone one step further, saying he "kind of likes" the idea of killing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

As Good As You blogger Jeremy Hooper reports, a pastor identified as Dennis Leatherman of the Mountain Lake Independent Baptist Church in Oakland, Md., spoke at length on the subject in a 50-minute sermon titled "Homosexuality and the Bible."

"To be…have a tendency to be effeminate or homosexual is just as wicked as to have a tendency to be a womanizer," Leatherman proclaims in a short audio clip from the sermon, the full text of which can be read here.

Jay Townsend, GOP Spokesman: 'Let's Hurl Some Acid At Those Female Democratic Senators'

A spokesman for Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) is facing criticism after advocating violence against female Democratic senators in a Facebook post.

Jay Townsend, the official campaign spokesman for the freshman representative, went on a vicious online rant on Saturday, which he began by taunting a constituent who voiced criticism about an earlier post on gas prices. "Listen to Tom. What a little bee he has in his bonnet. Buzz Buzz," Townsend wrote.

"My question today... when is Tommy boy going to weigh in on all the Lilly Ledbetter hypocrites who claim to be fighting the War on Women? Let’s hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector."

Department Of Justice Tells Florida To Stop Purging Voter Rolls

The Department of Justice demanded that Florida stop purging its voter rolls, Talking Points Memo reported Thursday.

In a letter sent to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the Justice Department ordered the state to end the practice because it has not been approved under the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, the DOJ said the purge violated the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to complete changes to their registration rolls 90 days in advance of an election. Since Florida's primary is on August 14, all maintenance should have been completed by May 14.

In recent weeks, the state has identified as many as 180,000 potential noncitizens that will be vetted and possibly removed from voter registration rolls. The practice sparked controversy when a Miami Herald analysis revealed that Hispanic, Democratic and Independent voters are more likely to be on the list. In fact, 58 percent of those identified as potential noncitizens are Hispanic, according to the Herald's review.

Florida Democrats pushed back on the practice earlier this week, calling on Gov. Rick Scott to end the purge.

"Given that this process fails to meet basic standards of accountability, and that the legal authority for automatic removal of registered voters is currently being challenged in both state and federal court, it is irresponsible to proceed so quickly and with so little room for oversight," the letter said.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: --

Wage Theft: A Crime Without Punishment?

In the first episode of the HBO comedy Girls, young Brooklyn hipster and would-be writer Hannah, outraged when her visiting parents cut off her allowance, steals the tips they’ve left for the hotel housekeepers. It’s a funny scene—partly because it tells us something about the ruthlessness beneath Hannah’s blurry indecisiveness, but also because it’s just so outrageous. What kind of crummy, selfish person would take rent and food money from hard-working women? In comedy: an overindulged Oberlin grad. In real life: the housekeepers’ supervisor.

Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology at the CUNY grad center and academic director of the Murphy Institute, likes to tell the story of a hotel housekeeper and her tip-stealing boss because it brings together so many features of the phenomenon of wage theft, the subject of her research. “She was an undocumented Mexican immigrant with four kids, very humble, and she worked in a brand-name Los Angeles hotel,” Milkman told me by phone. “She worked more than forty hours a week, but was paid only for forty hours—minimum wage. The law says supervisors and managers can’t get any part of your tip, but she said her supervisor would go into hotel rooms and take the tips before the housekeepers came in to clean. She complained about not getting paid for all her hours and was fired.” Female, undocumented, low-wage, not paid for all her hours, fired when she complains—it’s an all-too-typical story.

Thunder Bay Declared A Disaster Area Following Flood

The city of Thunder Bay is now a 'disaster area'.

City council made the declaration at an impromptu meeting Wednesday night in the wake of a an unprecedented flood that left the city in a state of emergency. The resolution allows the city to obtain funding from senior levels of government.

Mayor Keith Hobbs said he's already spoken with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who “has assured city council that the province will be there to access funds provincially, and to assist us with accessing federal funds.”

A key theme of the meeting included the cleanup of homes flooded by sewage. Many councillors were concerned homeowners may not be able to afford repair bills, or have insurance coverage.

Mulcair Oilsands Trip: NDP Leader In Alberta After Controversial Dutch Disease Comments

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair toured Alberta's sprawling oilsands Thursday, saying he was left agog at the size of the operations, but also with a renewed determination to make sure it all gets cleaned up.

"These are extraordinary undertakings on a human scale. I mean they're massive," Mulcair said at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton after his trip.

"We were able during the helicopter part to really take in a vast vista of what was being accomplished.

"It's extraordinarily impressive. But it also brings with it real challenges that if we don't assume in this generation we're going to bear in future generations."

Alberta Minimum Wage: New Raise Makes It Second Lowest Rate In Canada

EDMONTON - Alberta is to raise its general minimum wage to $9.75 per hour on Sept. 1.

The 35-cent increase will mean the province will have the second lowest rate in Canada.

The minimum wage for people who serve liquor will remain at $9.05.

The Alberta government is trying to put its minimum wage in a positive light, saying when you factor in the province's tax rates, it is the second highest rate in Canada.

But the Alberta Federation of Labour says that statement is twisting the truth, noting the province has one of the highest cost of living in the country.

Nunavut's general minimum wage of $11.00 per hour is the highest in Canada, while Saskatchewan's rate of $9.50 is the lowest.

Original Article
Source:huffington post
Author:  CP

Bad faith, thy name is Charest: Negotiations in Quebec come to a screeching halt

In the roughly 100 days that Quebec's students had been on an unlimited general strike, prior to Monday, the government of Jean Charest had deigned to sit at the table and negotiate for three or four days in total. So it was with a great deal of optimism that students returned to the negotiating table with Eucation Minister Michelle Courchesne this past Monday.

Both sides waxed poetic about their cordial relations, and desire to see a deal made that could end the longest student strike in Canadian history. Both sides promised to make compromises and bend, but not break, in their pursuit of a resolution.

Negotiations collapse in Quebec, protesters take to the streets

"Nothing is working anymore in Quebec City."

So began the report on Radio-Canada (French language CBC) regarding the collapse of negotiations between the Quebec government and the four associations of post-secondary students on strike. At 7pm on Thursday evening, Minister of Education Michelle Courchesne walked out of the talks.

Both sides held press conferences following the collapse. The government explained the sole, effective offer it made (varying only in form) over the four days of talks - to reduce its proposed hike in tuition fees by $35 to $219 for each of the coming seven years and to also reduce proportionately tax credits available to students and their families.

The last of a series of counter-proposals by student representatives was a freeze on tuition fees for two years and a reduction in tax credits such that the government would recuperate the funds it sought to obtain from its tuition hike.

Quebec Student Protest Talks Fall Apart

MONTREAL - An attempt to find a solution to the Quebec student crisis has fallen apart, opening up a vast range of potential implications that could be felt from the street to the ballot box.

After four days of negotiation, the provincial government and student groups announced Thursday that their talks had gone nowhere.

There had been speculation that if this latest attempt at negotiation failed the provincial government might call a snap election and ask Quebec voters to help settle a dispute that has made international news.

Budget cuts threaten access to information, watchdog says

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault reported today that the federal government's budget cuts could jeopardize a "fragile" access to information system that has been improving.

Legault's report, the third in a series on delays in responding to information requests, showed that a majority of government departments she investigated have improved since her first report in 2008-09, but there are still many concerns.

"While the overall results are initially positive and encouraging, I remain concerned that the system as a whole is fragile. The cuts announced in the latest budget challenged all departments and institutions to scrutinize every corner of their operations to save money," said Legault at a news conference.

Mercury contaminating bird eggs in oilsands region: Environment Canada

OTTAWA — Environment Canada scientists have observed evidence of toxic contamination of wildlife upstream from Alberta's natural bitumen deposits that coincides with the oilsands industry's expansion, Environment Minister Peter Kent was told last summer.

According to internal documents obtained by Postmedia News, the government was urged to investigate recent scientific observations of a 40 per cent increase of mercury in bird eggs, considered to be a key environmental indicator of contamination of the natural ecosystems.

"Environment Canada has already undertaken contaminants monitoring in wildlife and that work is continuing," said an internal document outlining the government's communications plan for the launch of its oilsands monitoring initiative from last July. "We have seen an increased exposure of mercury in bird eggs which is why more research is required to evaluate trends and sources of the contamination."

The Commons: Peter Kent promises two hours of enlightenment, delivers only one

The Scene. The Honourable Thomas Edward Siddon, our 36th minister of fisheries, he haunts us still.

“Mr. Speaker, former Conservative fisheries minister Thomas Siddon is again sounding the alarm on the Conservatives’ Trojan Horse bill,” the NDP’s Nathan Cullen reported this afternoon. “Last night he testified that he deplored this attack on environmental protection and that rushing these changes through is ‘not becoming of a Conservative government.’ His message to the Prime Minister was clear, ‘Take your time, get it right.’ Will the Prime Minister take the advice of his Conservative colleague? Will he split this reckless bill and allow for proper study?”

The government would eventually take to quoting something Mr. Siddon had said in 1986 in an attempt to cancel out what Mr. Siddon said last night, but the Prime Minister opted here to boast only of his own government’s magnanimousness. “Mr. Speaker, in fact, the particular set of changes in the economic action plan will have more committee study than any budget bill in recent history by quite a magnitude,” Mr. Harper claimed.

Federal Budget 2012: Canadian government plans to scrap fair wages law

OTTAWA—Hidden in the Conservatives’ massive budget legislation is a measure removing the federal fair wages act — another in a flurry of measures by the Harper government that critics say will keep wages low for a middle-class that has seen little improvement in income for decades.

Scrapping the wages act is one of approximately 70 changes to federal law crammed into the 425-page budget bill. The move went largely unnoticed until spotted by New Democrat MP Pat Martin a few days ago.

Known in full as the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, the law requires contractors who have been awarded federal government construction projects to pay their workers the prevailing wage in the region as well as overtime.

Whistle-blowers, war criminals and the extradition of Julian Assange

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's protracted effort to fight extradition to Sweden suffered a body blow this week. Britain's Supreme Court upheld the arrest warrant, issued in December 2010. After the court announced its split 5-2 decision, the justices surprised many legal observers by granting Assange's lawyers an opportunity to challenge their decision -- the first such reconsideration since the high-profile British extradition case from more than a decade ago against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The decision came almost two years to the day after Pvt. Bradley Manning was arrested in Iraq for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents to Wikileaks. The cases remind us that all too often whistle-blowers suffer, while war criminals walk.

Quebec student talks collapse and more protests loom

The Quebec government has pulled out of talks with student leaders meant to end the province's months-long tuition crisis.

Premier Jean Charest said a "big gap" remains between the province and students on the issue, and he's "the first to be disappointed" at the lack of a deal.

Student leaders, however, say the government is image-obsessed and is refusing their cost-neutral proposals because it doesn't want to lose face over the issue.

Bev Oda refuses to explain tinkering with expense claims

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda refused to reveal Thursday whether she has reimbursed the government for more of her international travel, after some of her expense claims were modified.

Ms. Oda paid back the government last month after it was revealed by The Canadian Press that she had rejected one five-star hotel in London in favour of the swankier Savoy at double the cost.

She had also used the services of a car and driver at a cost of $1,000 a day, and purchased a $16 bottle of hotel orange juice.

Oil pricing loses the ‘fear premium’

Oil producers have been hit by the biggest monthly price drop since the beginning of the Great Recession and see little prospect for a significant upturn, short of sharply escalating tensions in the Middle East.

Crude prices haven’t hit rock bottom as natural gas did earlier this year when producers faced financial losses and were forced to shut in production. But investors have pummelled oil company share prices in recognition that stellar first-quarter results will not be repeated.

Oil markets are being driven by increased anxiety about recession in Europe and an economic slowdown in China, as well surging North American production that has sent inventories to 22-year highs in the United States.

Quebec tuition talks collapse; province braces for more protests

Quebec is bracing for social unrest after talks with the government to settle the tuition fee strike broke down and student organizations vowed massive demonstrations in response to the collapse.

Four days of negotiations ended in an impasse on Thursday when Premier Jean Charest’s government refused to budge on its plan to increase tuition fees. It was likely the last chance for an immediate resolution to the social crisis that has gripped the province for almost four months.

Mr. Charest appealed for calm.

“We made important efforts. And we now see that we are at an impasse. So what happens now? We hope that in the coming weeks it will be a period of calm,” Mr. Charest said, ruling out calling a snap election to settle the conflict. “Ultimately, there will be an election some time over the next 18 months. And it will be in a democratic context for us to express ourselves on these issues.”

Awed by oil sands, Mulcair calls for more environmental oversight

Precisely one thing surprised Thomas Mulcair on his visit to Alberta: the scale of the oil sands.

During his first visit, including a helicopter flight over several oil sands mines, to a region he has criticized, Mr. Mulcair was overwhelmed by the “awe-inspiring” display.

He stopped short, however, of calling the mines dirty.

“These are extraordinary undertakings on a human scale. I mean, they’re massive,” Mr. Mulcair said. “It’s extraordinarily impressive, but it also brings with it real challenges. Real challenges that if we don’t assume in this generation, we’re going to bear in future generations.”