Forget that 35 pieces of legislation, a year's worth of work, is erased. You'll just present it again ... or not. It really doesn't matter. Taxpayers love footing the bill for these little follies. Honest they do.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Forget that 35 pieces of legislation, a year's worth of work, is erased. You'll just present it again ... or not. It really doesn't matter. Taxpayers love footing the bill for these little follies. Honest they do.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
As the Conservatives' foreign affairs critic, Diefenbaker began warning about the danger of American money flowing into Canada to dominate Canadian industry. Then in May of 1956, he had his chance to pick an issue that could define his political direction.
Prime Minister St. Laurent and his Liberals introduced legislation to have the Canadian government lend $80 million to the U.S.-controlled Trans-Canada Pipe Lines Ltd., to build a pipeline from Alberta to Winnipeg in order to export natural gas to the United States.
The loan was the key to a deal with high-flying Texas tycoons who for half a dozen years had been wheeling and dealing with the so-called "minister of everything," C.D. Howe, minister of defence production, minister of trade and commerce, and all-powerful in the St. Laurent government. The autocratic Howe demanded that the loan go through quickly so the pipeline could be finished before the next federal election, and he induced the government to impose closure to limit debate on the measure ... Diefenbaker, and other Tories seized on the arrogance of Howe and the Liberals to begin the most raucous episode in the House of Commons in this century, the infamous "Pipeline Debate." (1)Dief was in high form:
John Diefenbaker shouted about the Liberals' "brutalitarian tactics" and "executive absolutism," but he had equally poisonous contempt for the buccaneering Texas tycoons – "those Texas millionaires; those pampered pets" – especially Clint Murchison, C.D. Howe's friend and the central Trans-Canada Pipe Lines financier, whom Diefenbaker called a "pirate" who was "financin' by finaglin'." He accused the government of "playing around with . . . these adventurers from Texas and New York, trading away Canada's national resources at the expense of the Canadian people." The deal, Diefenbaker said, would make Canada "a virtual economic forty-ninth state." (1)The Liberals had a strong majority and the legislation was passed, but it would come back to bite them on the butt.
That August, then Tory leader George Drew fell ill and John Diefenbaker would win the leadership. And though considered a long shot, he built his campaign on the "Pipe-line debates"
With eyes flaming, arms flailing and shoulders and jowls aquiver, Diefenbaker travelled the nation, fervently drying out for "One Canada!" and exultantly proclaiming, "I have come here with a vision of our nation's destiny." It was a "Canada first" vision expounded with visceral nationalism. "I have but one love, Canada. One purpose, its "greatness," he would say. Canadians hadn't heard such a magnificent spellbinder since the heyday of Sir John A. Macdonald.And he did what many people thought impossible, becoming prime minister in 1957. Soon after the election he commissioned Henry Borden, to help to establish an energy board, primarily to help the Alberta independent oil producers to find a market for their crude oil by building a pipeline from Edmonton to Montreal. Their opponents, the large, international oil companies, found it more profitable to use imported oil in their Montreal refineries.
The most influential individual at the hearings was Walter J. Levy, a New York oil consultant, who proposed that the pipeline not be built and that Alberta oil be exported to the US while Montreal continued to be supplied from abroad. In its reports the commission accepted this recommendation, and called it the National Oil Policy. (2)
Not everyone was happy with the arrangement.
The aim of the National Oil Policy was to promote the Alberta oil industry by securing for it a protected share of the domestic market. Under the policy, Canada was divided into two oil markets. The market east of the Ottawa Valley (the Borden Line) would use imported oil, while west of the Borden Line, consumers would use the more expensive Alberta supplies. For most of the 1961-73 period, consumers to the West paid between $1.00 and $1.50 per barrel above the world price, which, just before the 1973 OPEC oil embargo and price increase, stood at around $3.00. They also paid proportionately higher prices at the pump than Canadians east of the Borden line. (3)This meant that Ontario paid the higher Alberta price and were restricted from shopping for a better deal, while foreign owned companies in Montreal, got to import cheaper product.
So while those who ascribe to old 'Western alienation theories', for 12 years Ontario paid 33-50% more for oil and gas, to ensure that Alberta had a ready market. And this decision was made by an oilman from New York. For our part, it enabled Canada to avoid the Mandatory Oil Import Quota Program, introduced by Eisenhower in 1959.
So Alberta oil also went to the U.S., and the Americans were able to buy Alberta oil cheaper than we could in Ontario.
When JFK came to power, the relationship with the United States deteriorated greatly, since he and Diefenbaker genuinely disliked each other. There was one small deal that Dief did secure "by finaglin'". The U.S. then had a trade embargo against Communist China, where Canada had been shipping wheat. Because Imperial Oil was a subsidy of an American company, they were not allowed, under U.S. trade law, to fuel the tankers delivering the wheat. Kennedy gave him this concession (5), but after that it was war.
1. Kennedy & Diefenbaker:The Feud That Helped Topple a Government, By Knowlton Nash, McClelland & Stewart, 1991, ISBN: 0-7710-6711-9, Pg. 35-36
2. Royal Commission on Energy, By Ed Shaffer, The Canadian Encyclopedia
3. Towards a Just Society: The Trudeau Years, By Thomas S. Axworthy and Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Viking Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-670-83015-1. Pg. 51
4. Canadian foreign policy: defining the national interest, By Steven Kendall Holloway, UTP Higher Education, 2006, ISBN-13: 978-1551118161, Pg. 158
5. Nash, 1991, Pg. 92
In 1965, a student at Winnipeg College climbed to the roof of the school to hoist a nine-foot Red Ensign when the Canadian flag was first being raised. His name was Doug Christie and he would become a life long separatist, advocating for the Western provinces and territories to split with Canada and strike out on their own.
His movement would gain some support in 1980 when Quebec was holding a referendum and the government of Pierre Trudeau had announced the National Energy Policy. However, it wasn't the NEP that created the uproar but changes to the tax laws in Alan MacEachern's budget.
MacEachen's senior advisers soon focused his attention on how billions of dollars were being lost yearly to scores of dubious corporate tax breaks. Finance officials put together a tax reform package designed, among other things, to eliminate 165 of the most costly and counter-productive tax expenditure measures and in the process increase revenue by close to $3 billion.But in the west, they couldn't sell it as the wealthy fighting against tax increases, so instead made it about Ottawa pandering to Quebec and Ontario, at the expense of the western provinces, especially Alberta. The National Energy Policy then became the enemy, despite the fact that many wealthy westerners liked the new policy, because it promoted 50% Canadian ownership and allowed further development of government lands.
When he introduced the legislation it caused a firestorm of protest from the corporate elite. Neil Brooks, now professor of tax law at Osgoode Hall Law School, was working for the finance department on the tax reform package and has recalled the tactics of the large corporations. "It's almost a classic example of what's called a capital strike. I mean, business simply said to the government that if you go ahead with these measures we will stop investing in Canada." The development industry reacted instantly. "Literally the next day they were closing jobs down and . . . pulling cranes off construction jobs."
Life insurance companies had their own strategy. The industry, which for years had paid income tax rates of close to zero, wrote to every one of its policyholders, telling them the new measures to tax investment revenue would greatly increase their premiums. "The government," says Brooks, "at one point was receiving thousands of letters a day from people across the country."(1)
Unfortunately, after the 1980 election that ended Joe Clark's brief governance, those fuelling the separatist campaign, went into action.
Soon after the announcement of the NEP, [Alberta Premier Peter] Lougheed fired three effective salvos: a constitutional challenge to the natural gas tax; a staged reduction in shipments of oil to other provinces; and a freeze on the oil sands, whose development the NEP encouraged. Although the Petroleum Club and the radio talk-shows in Alberta cheered the premier, and bumper stickers declared "Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze," [energy minister Marc] Lalonde had included provisions in the NEP that attracted key Albertan players.
These entrepreneurs and their lawyers rightly saw the provision that there must be 5o percent Canadian ownership on the Canada Lands —those potentially rich areas under government control—as highly beneficial. Dome Petroleum, Nova, and Petro-Canada therefore complained about the new taxes on gas and oil but did not join Lougheed's general denunciation of the NEP. The influential Bob Blair of Nova, a major figure in the oil patch, openly declared his Liberal allegiance and remained in close touch with both Trudeau and Lalonde. "Smiling Jack" Gallagher of Dome most enthusiastically embarked on the acquisition of foreign oil companies, which were eager to abandon Canada in the wake of the NEP. (2)
Highlighted against the rise and fall of the abbreviated Tory reign, the 1980 election aroused immediate anger and concern in the West. In Alberta, a sixty-year-old Edmonton millionaire and car dealer, Elmer Knutson, sent an angry letter to the Edmonton Journal the day after the election."' The letter, which has acquired an almost mythic stature in western separatist folklore, adumbrated a series of themes which were to be the staples of western separatists and other right-wing elements in subsequent years."' It especially complained of a French-dominated Ottawa, as exemplified in such policies as bilingualism, and the fear that Trudeau's majority Liberal government would now proceed with constitutional reforms which would reinforce French domination of the rest of Canada. Knutson's solution to this perceived threat was simple: Quebec must be made to leave Canada.Peter Brimelow, author of The Patriot Game, the book that was a Bible for Stephen Harper's early political leanings, saw things a little differently. This was an attack on English Canada:
Knutson was not a stranger to political matters. In the late 1970s he had been co-chair of the One Canada Association, an organization 'committed to increasing police powers, ending bilingualism, and tightening immigration policies. Then, in December 1979, Knutson lost the Edmonton South Tory nomination to incumbent Douglas Roche, whom Knutson once described as 'a socialist masquerading as a conservative But the response to his Journal letter — 'One lousy little letter,' in Knutson's words — astonished even him. In one month, Knutson received 3800 replies, most of them positive.' As a result of this public response, Knutson formed the Western Canada Federation (West-Fed) in March 1980. At almost the same time, the results of the federal election breathed new life into the faltering political career of a thirty-four-year-old Victoria lawyer, Doug Christie. (3)
In the fall of 1980, after the federal Liberals' return to power and their imposition of the National Energy Program, reports began to filter back to Central Canada that the natives on the western frontier beyond the Ontario boundary were unusually restless. Several organizations had sprung up advocating that the West - the Prairie provinces, British Columbia and the federally administered Yukon and Northwest Territories - separate from Canada. The two most important were the Western Canada Concept Party, begun in British Columbia and headed by Doug Christie, a Victoria lawyer; and the Western Canada Federation Party, based in Alberta and led by Elmer Knutson, an Edmonton farm equipment millionaire.He was right of course. The uproar was over the closing up of the tax loopholes, but instead was channeled against the NEP. And Quebec's grievances were completely different. Many of the French-Canadians had been living like plantation slaves in their province.
Both these parties argued that, to adapt Joe Clark's Shawinigan comment during the Quebec referendum campaign, the Canada to which they had wished to belong no longer existed. The conditions of Confederation had been changed, and they wanted out. Less active but worth a footnote was the Unionist Party, which directly advocated joining the U.S.: it was founded by Dick Collver*, until 1979 leader of the Saskatchewan Progressive Conservatives, who shortly afterwards acted on his beliefs and moved to Arizona.
Suddenly, Christie and Knutson were attracting crowds of thousands to their meetings. Prominent Western figures were expressing sympathy, notably Carl
Nickle, a well-known oilman and former Tory federal MP, who had even been considered a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Alberta the previous year but who told a luncheon gathering of 700 Calgary businessmen in October that after the NEP he had "sorrowfully" become a separatist. At the same time, the Edmonton Journal ran a poll showing that a startling 2 3% of Albertans supported an "independent West." There were angry exchanges in the House of Commons in Ottawa when Tory leader Joe Clark drew attention to the phenomenon. He was immediately accused of thereby "aiding and abetting" it. Pierre Trudeau offered the helpful opinion that Western separatism was "nil and non-existent," being at, root "a fight about money" in no way comparable with Quebec's grievances. This naturally inspired redoubled efforts to prove him wrong. (4)
The NEP wasn't perfect but it wasn't the disaster it was made out to be. But that didn't stop the Reform Party from reviving it for political gain.
Doug Christie's Western Canada Concept Party had one seat in the House of Commons, but only for a few months. He was joined by another disgruntled Anglophone, who had left Quebec during the Quiet Revolution. He would run as a WCC candidate against Tommy Douglas, but of course lost. His name was Stockwell Day Sr. and his son is now in the Harper government.
Dick Collver moved to Arizona, coming back to testify during the trial of Colin Thatcher. According to Collver, Thatcher had visited him on his Arizona Ranch, asking him where he could hire a hitman.
1. The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Canada and Democracy in the Age of Globalization, By Murray Dobbin, James Lorimer & Company, 2003, ISBN: 1-55028-785-0, Pg. 168
2. Just Watch me: The Life of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, By John English, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-676-97523-9, Pg. 488
3. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6, Pg. 57-58
4. The Patriot Game: National Dreams and Political Realities, By Peter Brimelow, Key Porter Books, 1986, ISBN: 1-55013-001-3, Pg. 240-241
James Dobson is the founder of Focus on the The Family, and one of the leading members of the Religious Right. He not only spent thousands of dollars campaigning for Stephen Harper's fight against equal marriage, but he provided four and a half million dollars to start a Focus on the Family in Canada.
Harper's assistant chief of staff, Darrel Reid founded the group, and several of Harper's MPs, including Maurice Vellacott, Rob Anders and Brad Trost, belong to it.
It is one of the oldest of these so-called "values", "families" groups, and is certainly one of the most profitable. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most damaging.
Brian Elroy McKinley, a former Christian, has launched a website, that not only exposes FOTF, but also acts as a support group for others who have been damaged because of Dobson. He doesn't feel that Focus are alone but speaks of how "... the illness of judgementalism, and prejudgementalism has infected the ranks of the faithful." (1) This should help to serve as their wake up call.
From one testimonial:
For fourteen years I attended church three times a week with my parents. this particular church seemed to have a very intimate relationship with Focus on the Family. I was taught women didn't deserve the same respect as men because they were not equal to them. This and other "values" were ingrained into my young, absorbent mind from the nursery to youth group. As a female, this contributed to my low self-esteem. My self esteem, in turn, led to my silence after my rape (my youth pastor convinced me it was my fault and that I was "ruined") and a relationship with an abusive boyfriend. My experiences drove me to reject Christianity as a whole. I would like to give my life back to Christ, but I can't let go of my haunting memories. I also can't separate Christianity'steachings from those of Dr. Dobson. (2)And Another:
And still another:
I was raised as a child by the Dobson's methods. I went to a Christian School whose idea of sexual education was to put on a Dobson tape and tell us to take notes. I was given "tough love" because my parents were confused with certain aspects of my personality that Dobson claimed was "passive rebellion". Ergo, I was given "spankings" (the details of which I will spare you, but I understand that not even Prisoners of War, according to the Geneva Convention, should be treated in such ways). It was all done by the book (Dobson's books) and his radio shows were always on the radio.
Three nervous breakdowns, years of therapy and support groups, and a lost childhood later, I am just starting to learn what Mr. Dobson's theories have done to me. Despite this, millions continue to listen and adhere to his destructive approach to parenting. For years, I thought I was alone in this opinion. My parents and I have made our peace over the past. But, it churns my stomach to know he carries on. (2)
Groups like Focus marginalize anyone who doesn't fit into their narrow little definition of what a person or a family should be. And they have an almost cult like following.
I am a gay man. Many years ago, I listened to Focus on the Family. They had a news show called 'Family News in Focus.' It was the only thing that I found that addressed homosexuality..albeit in a negative light. Their radio program really worked on me. I nearly killed myself before finally accepting myself as I am. A friend of mine was less fortunate and became obsessed with Bob Larson's 'Talk Back' program and later committed suicide.
After this happened, I started researching the Religious Right and found them out to be a very scary bunch. Bob Larson has a fan club these days. But, as you are seeing, it's hard to criticize them, because then you're the 'enemy' who is 'attacking' Christianity. It's a catch-22, and I know that it's not Christianity that you wish to attack! I have come across some 'Christian' sites and have sent letters to their editors when they come across so extreme, trying to get them to consider what they are saying. But I only get a bible verse back, and a polite letter that doesn't address what I said to them at all.
"Love the sinner but not the sin" is what I'm told. I asked one of them why don't they think that it's a sin using homosexuals in fundraising letters in order to stir up anger toward us (to get 'love gifts' from their followers)?
I'm hoping that one day being a Conservative Christian means things other than attacking homosexuals, focusing on abortion and prayer in schools. (2)
Susan Greene, a columnist for the Denver Post discovered just how much of a cult following Dobson had, when she wrote criticizing his endorsement of spanking children.
Having been called all sorts of names as a columnist, I've got to hand it to some members of the religious right for their spirited invective. A column I wrote over the weekend criticizing James Dobson for his advocacy of corporal punishment prompted one reader to call me a "Jezebel," another a "dyke." Five men and two women have lobbed the c-word my way. And I have been called a "retard" three times and a "moron" twice since Sunday.Yes, it also churns my stomach to know that there are people out there like this.
All purportedly in defense of Dr. Dobson and the moral righteousness of his teachings. Several readers took umbrage with my use of the verb "hit" as a synonym for "spank" — as if spanking were more virtuous, see, because it is focused on the family.
...Reader Charlie Haynes called to tout how effective he found it to have bitten his troubled young daughter and hit her head on the ground. Scott from Castle Rock phoned to threaten me with a spanking (with me wearing bobby socks, as he bothered to imagine it). No joke. Walter Smetana decried my criticism of Dobson as illustrative of a "mindless, bestial, even Satanic banality of evil."
...And Walt Morrison sent his warmest and fuzziest anti-Semitic regards, using the debate about discipline to launch into a hateful rant about the need to exterminate Jews. Way to spread the love, Mr. M!
What touches me, I mean really touches me, are all the good folks who have called to say they're praying for me and my hatefulness. That's code for insinuating that I'm headed for damnation because I don't spank my kids and am dubious when readers claim their own grown children have thanked them for whacking them.
"My daddy belted me. I belted my son. And God willing, my son will discipline his own boy," Paul White, a reader and self-described amateur pastor, phoned to tell me Monday morning. "It's called backbone. It's called firmness," he continued. Maybe, Mr. White. But it's also called abuse and repetition compulsion and being a big old bullying blow-hard, plain and simple. Now put your belt back on. (3)
1. A More Honest Form of Faith, A Former Christian's Perspective, By Brian McKinley
2. People directly damaged by Focus and the people who follow them, Letters of Support
3. James Dobson evokes storm of responses, By Susan Greene, The Denver Post, March 2, 2010
Saturday, December 26, 2009
After the 2006 election, journalist and long time follower of Stephen Harper and the Reform Party, Murray Dobbin; wrote:
Harper now talks about a "Canada First" policy. But for thirty years, he and the pro-American think tank at the "Calgary School" (the political science department at the University of Calgary) have joined together to promote "Alberta First." That means a weakened federal government. In a letter to the National Post in 2000, Harper wrote:
"If Ottawa giveth, then Ottawa can taketh away. This is one more reason why Westerners, but Albertans in particular, need to think hard about their future in this country. After sober reflection, Albertans should decide that it is time to seek a new relationship with Canada. It is time to look at Quebec and to learn. What Albertans should take from this example is to become ’maitres chez nous’."
After the 2000 election when Stockwell day was pummelled, Harper wrote an op-ed piece in which he declared that he was for Alberta first and the rest of Canada a distant second. A distant second?
In January of 2001, he helped to draft a letter to Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, suggesting ways to make Canada a distant second. So why wasn't this letter published during the 2005/2006 election campaign? It might have saved us from this ruthless monster.
Dear Premier Klein:
During and since the recent federal election, we have been among a large number of Albertans discussing the future of our province. We are not dismayed by the outcome of the election so much as by the strategy employed by the current federal government to secure its re-election.
In our view, the Chretien government undertook a series of attacks not merely designed to defeat its partisan opponents, but to marginalize Alberta and Albertans within Canada’s political system. One well-documented incident was the attack against Alberta’s health care system. To your credit, you vehemently protested the unprecedented attack ads that the federal government launched against Alberta’s policies – policies the Prime Minister had previously found no fault with.
(My note: They must have forgotten the 1997 campaign when the Reformers ran a controversial television ad where the faces of PM Jean Chrétien, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, PC leader Jean Charest, and Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, were crossed out; followed by a message saying that Quebec politicians had dominated the federal government for too long and that the Reform Party would end this favoritism towards that province.)
However, while your protest was necessary and appreciated by Albertans, we believe that it is not enough to respond only with protests. If the government in Ottawa concludes that Alberta is a soft target, we will be subjected to much worse than dishonest television ads. The Prime Minister has already signaled as much by announcing his so called “tough love” campaign for the West. We believe the time has come for Albertans to take greater charge of our own future. This means resuming control of the powers that we possess under the constitution of Canada but that we have allowed the federal government to exercise.
Intelligent use of these powers will help Alberta build a prosperous future in spite of a misguided and increasingly hostile government in Ottawa.
Under the heading of the “Alberta Agenda,” we propose that our province move forward on the following fronts:
• Withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan to create an Alberta Pension Plan offering the same benefits at lower cost while giving Alberta control over the investment fund. Pensions are a provincial responsibility under section 94A of the Constitution Act. 1867; and the legislation setting up the Canada Pension Plan permits a province to run its own plan, as Quebec has done from the beginning. If Quebec can do it, why not Alberta?
• Collect our own revenue from personal income tax, as we already do for corporate income tax. Now that your government has made the historic innovation of the single-rate personal income tax, there is no reason to have Ottawa collect our revenue. Any incremental cost of collecting our own personal income tax would be far outweighed by the policy flexibility that Alberta would gain, as Quebec’s experience has shown.
• Start preparing now to let the contract with the RCMP run out in 2012 and create an Alberta Provincial Police Force. Alberta is a major province. Like the other major provinces of Ontario and Quebec, we should have our own provincial police force. We have no doubt that Alberta can run a more efficient and effective police force than Ottawa can – one that will not be misused as a laboratory for experiments in social engineering.
• Resume provincial responsibility for health-care policy. If Ottawa objects to provincial policy, fight in the courts. If we lose, we can afford the financial penalties that Ottawa may try to impose under the Canada Health Act. Albertans deserve better than the long waiting periods and technological backwardness that are rapidly coming to characterize Canadian medicine. Alberta should also argue that each province should raise its own revenue for health care – i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points as Quebec has argued for many years. Poorer provinces would continue to rely on Equalization to ensure they have adequate revenues.
• Use section 88 of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Quebec Secession Reference to force Senate reform back onto the national agenda. Our reading of that decision is that the federal government and other provinces must seriously consider a proposal for constitutional reform endorsed by “a clear majority on a clear question” in a provincial referendum. You acted decisively once before to hold a senatorial election. Now is the time to drive the issue further.
All of these steps can be taken using the constitutional powers that Alberta now possesses. In addition, we believe it is imperative for you to take all possible political and legal measures to reduce the financial drain on Alberta caused by Canada’s tax-and-transfer system. The most recent Alberta Treasury estimates are that Albertans transfer $2,600 per capita annually to other Canadians, for a total outflow from our province approaching $8 billion a year. The same federal politicians who accuse us of not sharing their “Canadian values” have no compunction about appropriating our Canadian dollars to buy votes elsewhere in the country.
Mr. Premier, we acknowledge the constructive reforms that your government made in the 1990s – balancing the budget, paying down the provincial debt, privatizing government services, getting Albertans off welfare and into jobs, introducing a single-rate tax, pulling government out of the business of subsidizing business, and many other beneficial changes. But no government can rest on its laurels. An economic slowdown, and perhaps even recession, threatens North America, the government in Ottawa will be tempted to take advantage of Alberta’s prosperity, to redistribute income from Alberta to residents of other provinces in order to keep itself in power. It is imperative to take the initiative, to build firewalls around Alberta, to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction.
Once Alberta’s position is secured, only our imagination will limit the prospects for extending the reform agenda that your government undertook eight years ago. To cite only a few examples, lower taxes will unleash the energies of the private sector, easing conditions for Charter Schools will help individual freedom and improve public education, and greater use of the referendum and initiative will bring Albertans into closer touch with their own government.
The precondition for the success of this Alberta Agenda is the exercise of all our legitimate provincial jurisdictions under the constitution of Canada. Starting to act now will secure the future for all Albertans.
Stephen HARPER, President, National Citizens’ Coalition;
Tom FLANAGAN, professor of political science and former Director of Research, Reform Party of Canada;
Ted MORTON, professor of political science and Alberta Senator-elect;
Rainer KNOPFF, professor of political science;
Andrew CROOKS, chairman, Canadian Taxpayers Federation;
Ken BOESSENKOOL, former policy adviser to Stockwell Day, Treasurer of Alberta.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The video above is from a website called the Dailysplit, which is kind of Canada's answer to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Their views are far right, and after 'following the money' they appear to be an another Reform Party elite squad.
I'm going to run a series of articles in the new year, exposing all of the many (many, many, many) non-profit groups that prop up Stephen Harper, but is the guy above right? Is the Left really dead?
I don't believe so, but if they continue waging war on each other, they soon will be.
Michael Byers wrote a piece a while back on the left forming a loose coalition next election, and now Chantel Hebert is suggesting pretty much the same thing.
I couldn't agree more.
The four parties representing the interest of 2/3 of Canadians, need to get their act together. I think they must meet and discuss how best to counter the Harper dictatorship. They have to decide which issues are the most important to their parties and reach a compromise BEFORE entering Parliament again, whenever that may be.
It's interesting that Stephen Harper always does better in the polls when he pretends to be a Liberal. But as the gentleman above states, he's hoping that Harper does have a hidden agenda. Anyone following politics for more than a decade or so, knows this man won't be disappointed.
Reformer Patrick Brown from Barrie states pretty clearly his Party's goals. He says that Stephen Harper will NEVER allow economic growth, but will reduce the size of government, to alleviate intrusion into our lives.
That is Harper-speak for an end to social programs, including public health care and old age security. 'More freedom through less government' was the battle cry of the two organizations that he was heavily involved with: The Northern Foundation and the the National Citizens Coalition.
The NF was a white brotherhood that sought an end to foreign aid and for a renewal of Anglo supremacy. The NCC wanted an end to Canada, or at least the Canada we know and love.
Less government might sound attractive, except that it would spell chaos. We saw one step already implemented when food inspection was transferred to the people we were supposed to be inspecting. Seventeen deaths due to Listeriosis.
Can you imagine no universal health care, education or old age security? Those are all things on the NCC chopping block.
When Stephen Harper re-entered politics to head up the Reform-Alliance Party, he said it was because he didn't feel that the NCC had any friends left in the government. Well they've sure got lots of them now, including the biggest friend of all - our prime minister.
Hébert: Could old foes offer voters new deal?
By Chantal Hébert National Columnist
December 23, 2009
MONTREAL–If they want 2010 to be about more than the slow death of the 40th Parliament at the convenience of the ruling Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP need a game-changer.
These days, the Liberals are scouring academia for a Big Idea to feature at an agenda-setting conference in March and, in time, to champion in their next platform. If they look long enough, they will find one or more ideas that fit the bill.
But it is unlikely to matter; in the current toxic federal environment the worst thing that could happen to an ambitious concept would probably be to be adopted by one of the main federal parties. Without Stéphane Dion's well-meaning ministrations, for instance, the notion of a carbon tax would still be in the federal climate-change tool box rather than in the post-election trash heap.
If Michael Ignatieff and his new crew really wanted to think outside the box, Roy Romanow, Ed Broadbent, Alexa McDonough and Jack Layton would be the guests of the upcoming Liberal think-fest. And Jean Chrétien and other Liberal luminaries would also be in attendance.
The meeting would be turned into a convening of the elders of both tribes and it would focus on the unfinished business of last year's coalition pact.
The objective would not be to merge the two parties; their history and their culture are too different. Nor would it be to resuscitate the flawed opposition attempt at wrestling the reins of government out of Conservative hands; at this stage in the life of the current Parliament, a government defeat would trigger a return to the polls, not a constitutional showdown.
The point of the exercise would be to salvage the core ingredients of the coalition so as to put a new deal to Canadians in the next election.
Among the keeper items from last year's pact, the concept of a common government agenda focused on a limited set of key items stands out, as does a prenegotiated place for each partner within a future coalition cabinet and the maintenance of the two separate caucuses.
The biggest difference would be that this plan would not be a contingency one, to be pulled out of Layton's back pocket only in the event that the Liberals narrowly lost an election to the Conservatives. Another major difference is that it would not involve having the Bloc Québécois as a silent partner.
To put their coalition on the next ballot, the NDP and the Liberals would have to strike an electoral coalition and agree to run only one candidate of either party in each of the country's 308 ridings. Such a proposal would involve a lot of give-and-take – not least of which at the grassroots levels – and much heavy lifting on the part of the Liberal and New Democrat elite to make it happen. It would require nothing less than a dramatic change in the federal culture.
But that change is increasingly overdue.
The alternative is to continue on a downward spiral to ineffective minority Parliaments and/or virtual one-party rule under the Conservatives.
Over the past 25 years, the Liberals have lost all but one (2004) of the campaigns they fought against a united Conservative party. They are now a spent force in large areas of the country. The dice are loaded against their return to power, especially with a national majority.
Yet, the NDP is nowhere near being seen as a serious contender for government. And its fallback role of influence in a minority setting has turned out to be highly overrated when dealing with a government that would rather render Parliament irrelevant than allow the opposition to be relevant. From co-writing a budget with Paul Martin five years ago, Layton is now down to hoping for progressive policy crumbs to pick off Stephen Harper's table.
Seven years ago, Harper put his leadership in the balance of a major reconfiguration of his side of the federal scene.
His success in that endeavour, combined with the enduring presence of the Bloc Québécois, fundamentally changed the parameters of the federal electoral game. Instead of responding with new original moves, the Liberals and, to a lesser degree, the NDP have persisted in playing checkers on what had become a chessboard.
These days, a disquieting number of New Democrat and Liberal political operators are eyeing with envy the hardball partisan tactics Harper routinely uses to advance his vision of a dominant federal Conservative party.
It is his willingness to take bold risks to reshape the political landscape to his liking that they should want to copy.
For all of Brian Mulroney's faults, he cared deeply about Canada and our place in the world. (I liked him and actually voted for him ... twice ... shut up!)
Stephen Harper, on the other hand, cares very little about Canada and not a bit about our place in the world.
Our disgrace in Copenhagen would never have been allowed by any other prime minister or party leader, ever.
Yet to hear him talk, Harper has made great progress on the environment. He even told Canwest Global that he regretted that more ambitious targets had not been set. Ha ha ha ha ha.
Quite the funny man.
Mulroney's advice to PM: I cared!
By Martin Regg Cohn Deputy Editorial Page Editor
December 22, 2009
Dear Prime Minister:
So you think you can dance? Around climate change?
You're clearly chuffed about flying to Copenhagen while staying under the radar – undetected and uncommitted. But if you ask me (and I know you don't bother anymore) you shouldn't be so pleased with yourself.
Even my son Ben and his MuchMusic fans and Canadian Idol groupies expect better of you. That's why I'm sending this note via the back-channel.
I know you think internationalism is never a vote winner – unless you find a wedge issue like Israel that plays in swing ridings.
And I suppose you're determined to do things differently than all those Liberal phonies – Chrétien and Kyoto, Trudeau and his travels to Cuba and China, Pearson and his Nobel Peace Prize.
But Copenhagen was a new low for Canada. Not because of what you did or (mostly) didn't do. Or didn't say. Or didn't stand for.
No, what really p----d me off – sorry, peeved me (okay, I'm working on cleaning up my language) – is the way you've turned your back on Canada's history of international engagement: Honest broker, middle power, peacekeeper or responsible ally – take your pick, but at least take a stand. Turn your back on the world and the world will pass us by.
That's what we saw in Copenhagen on Friday when Canada found itself the forgotten nation.
There was Barack Obama charging in to save the day. And there you were, hiding under his skirt, mumbling feebly that you would do exactly what the Americans did on greenhouse gas emissions.
Canadians understand the pressures of harmonization, although I took a lot of heat for it in my day. But we were always players – and the Americans were at least interested in what we had to say.
Where were you in Copenhagen when Obama summoned 19 other world leaders for a pivotal meeting to thrash out the framework for a deal? It's one thing to miss the "family photo" at a G8 summit because you're in the bathroom. But to not even rate an invitation to a consultation – while Australia is seated at the table wearing the mantle of middle power?
Nothing against those Aussies, but they are a smaller economy and population.
So why was their PM, Kevin Rudd, being asked for his advice by Obama while you were cooling your heels? And you're supposed to be the host of next year's G8 and G20 meetings here!
Listen, your staff is too timid to tell you this, and Jim Prentice is too cowed by Alberta ranchers and the oil patch to speak truth to power, so I will: You're not doing the right thing on the environment. And you're not doing anything on the global stage.
It wasn't just Liberals who gave a fig for foreign policy. I cared about Canada and the world. I lobbied for sanctions against South Africa and stood up to Margaret Thatcher. I reached out to China without selling out on human rights. And I forged a partnership with Ronald Reagan on acid rain.
When George H.W. Bush stitched together a coalition to evict Saddam Hussein's troops from Kuwait, he was on the phone to me constantly seeking advice. When Europe was worrying about German reunification and how the Soviets would react, Bush called me for consultations. And we fished together at Kennebunkport.
Okay, I admit it – I loved getting a phone call from the White House switchboard. And it bugs me that you never place a call.
But now, you don't even rate a phone call from Obama when he's giving our allies the heads up on his new Afghanistan surge. You got Joe Biden calling to say that his boss was too busy calling up everyone else that matters.
My point is that the Liberals aren't the only good guys on foreign policy.
Progressive Conservatives were internationalists – not just me, but Diefenbaker too when he sold wheat to China and spoke out passionately against apartheid when you were just a baby.
Listen, you've been PM four years now. Remind me, what's your legacy going to be? Cutting the GST by two points? It's not just what voters say, but the verdict of historians that you will have to live with.
Who do you think was chosen Canada's most environmentally conscious PM a couple of years ago? That's because I was ahead of my time, which is not exactly something you can boast about.
Which recent Tory PM won two consecutive majorities? Exactly.
You can do better. Try a little harder on global warming – and statecraft. You never know when voters will start holding you to account on the environment, or start wondering why you can't be a bit more worldly.
Yours in alacrity,
Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
There is a real pattern here, and one that won't stop unless we force his hand. Every time he gets away with it, the next time he just ups his game.
From illegal campaign financing, bribing an elected official for his vote and refusing to hand over documents related to war crimes, he just does as he pleases. There are also rumblings of a scandal brewing over the stimulus money and no one seems to know where in the heck our money went.
Harper claimed that it was all out the door. The Liberals ran an independent analysis and found it to be 12.8% accounted for; the Chronicle Herald found a mere 7% and the Parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, only 12.4%
And how is the ruthless PM going to answer to all this? He's going to prorogue Parliament until the end of March, when he will unveil his new budget.
To think it only took him four years to turn Canada from a democracy to a dictatorship. The video above was from a year ago, and Winston Churchill's words are pretty chilling, when he states the two worst words in the English language are "too late".
Today's Globe says that another prorogation would be a bad precedent. Do they honesty believe they can stop him now?
Prorogation A rumour and a bad precedent
Globe and Mail
December 22, 2009
The rumoured prorogation of Parliament in early 2010 may well be only a rumour. But the speculation is an occasion to reassert the principle that Parliament should not be prorogued to avoid this or that passing inconvenience for the government. The controversial prorogation of 2008 is a weak precedent, not to be relied on for making such events routine.
The regular procedures that give opportunities for questions and criticism are part of the essence of parliamentary government, but current gossip suggests that the federal Conservatives may wish to prevent opposition senators from doing their committee work, until after their party's new senators have been able to join committees.
Adjournment, prorogation and dissolution are quite distinct. For example, the House of Commons is now adjourned until Jan. 25, for a customary seasonal pause. Prorogation, in itself, is perfectly proper, being the normal end of a session, when the government has enacted most of its current program of legislation, or has at least tried to do so. Dissolution precedes an election that results in a new Parliament.
The peculiarity of Stephen Harper's advice in December, 2008, to Michaëlle Jean, the Governor-General, that she should prorogue Parliament, was that, as a result, a session ended after only 13 days, and less than two months after an election. Considering the scarcity of recent precedent, Ms. Jean was right to give Mr. Harper the benefit of the doubt and accept that advice, which was at any rate defensible. There was a severe economic crisis to be responded to, and the suddenly improvised alliance of the three opposition parties seemed an unlikely prospect for a stable new government.
No such circumstances are present now, or expected in January.
Moreover, it would be odd for the government to force itself to reintroduce its own bills, by ending the session with a prorogation. Though the government might be happy enough to suspend committee work, thus, for example, defusing the Afghan detainees controversy, committees' requests for documents - one such request is central to the detainees issue - survive to resurface in the next session.
If there is any basis for the prorogation rumours, the Conservatives may be conducting a thought experiment with themselves. If so, they should conclude from it that a prorogation in early 2010 would not be in their own interests, and would be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.
But, like John Baird, Inhofe is a walking caricature, who saved one his best performances for Copenhagen.
Harper may have made Canada a laughing stock, as we were named the Colossal Fossil, but Inhofe also earned himself a few chuckles during his brief cameo performance.
Of interest here when discussing this U.S. Senator; Reformer Rob Anders once worked for him as a professional heckler. Yes folks. Apparently that's a real job. Who knew?
You can watch the video of Anders here, who earned himself the label: "foreign political saboteur"
But before you think that James Inhofe is really concerned with the 'hoax' of climate change, a couple of things to note. Inhofe received a total of $662, 506.00 in contributions from the oil lobby and $152,800.00 from the coal lobby. We know what side his climate change is buttered on.
Jim Inhofe gets cool reception in Denmark
'The United States is not going to pass a cap and trade,' Sen. Jim Inhofe told reporters in Copenhagen. 'It's just not going to happen.'
By LOUISE ROUG
December 19, 2009
COPENHAGEN — Sen. Jim Inhofe flew across the Atlantic and — on little sleep — braved the snow, the cold and the dark to deliver his skeptical message at the international climate conference.
What he found when he got here: a few aides and a single reporter.
“I think he’s going to be a little disappointed,” one of his aides remarked. Inhofe was at least impatient.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hoped to spread two messages in Copenhagen: Global warming is a hoax, and there’s no way the Senate is going to pass a cap-and-trade bill.
But it was early morning when he arrived at the Bella Center, and the halls were still half-deserted. He walked quickly, brushing off an aide who suggested that he slow down and take a breath.
“I don’t want to breathe — I want to get something done,” he said.
The senator didn’t have any meetings scheduled in Copenhagen, and he did not see chief U.S. negotiator Todd Stern or the members of the House delegation, who were not scheduled to fly in until later in the afternoon.
But Inhofe’s aides eventually rustled up a group of reporters, and the Oklahoman — wearing black snakeskin cowboy boots — held forth from the top of a flight of stairs in the conference media center.
“We in the United States owe it to the 191 countries to be well-informed and know what the intentions of the United States are. The United States is not going to pass a cap and trade,” he said. “It’s just not going to happen.”
A reporter asked: “If there’s a hoax, then who’s putting on this hoax, and what’s the motive?”
“It started in the United Nations,” Inhofe said, “and the ones in the United States who really grab ahold of this is the Hollywood elite.”
One reporter asked Inhofe if he was referring to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Another reporter — this one from Der Spiegel — told the senator: “You’re ridiculous.”
Inhofe ignored the jab, fielded a few more questions, then raced to the airport for the nine-hour flight back to Washington.
After Inhofe left, some reporters were still a bit confused about what had happened and who he was.
“His name is Inhofe,” a German journalist told a Japanese reporter, “but I don’t know if it’s one or two f’s.”
Mean, vindictive, personal.
But this is a man who as a journalist went into places few are brave enough to go, so you know that he is a survivor. Harper may control the press, but Mr. Ignatieff will do what he does best. Engage the people.
The Liberal Party just has to let him be himself. And remember that in 2005, the Conservatives, despite being the only right-wing option, were at 23%, Harper's rating at 14%, and the question of the day was who will replace Stephen Harper?
Ignatieff still intent to lead Opposition;
'I'm still standing and I'm not going anywhere,' he says after four years in politics
December 21st, 2009
Canwest News Service
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff heads into 2010 a bloodied but wiser politician, still intent on opposing the policies of what he calls "the most ruthless attack machine" in Canadian politics but less intent on forcing a general election he concedes Canadians do not want.
In a year-end interview, Ignatieff spoke energetically about his hopes for 2010 but also with remarkable candour about 2009, a year in which he failed to capitalize on some of the high hopes his party had for him.
"I think I've got things to learn. I think there's no question about it," he said. "I've been in Canadian politics for four years and it's been a vertical climb, learning every day. I think I'm getting better at it, but there's lots more I can learn."
Along the way, Ignatieff had to learn that Canadians, by and large, did not share his ardour for another general election.
In August, Ignatieff thundered, "Mr. Harper, your time is up!" but was forced to back down from that threat in the wake of weak public opinion polls — and a nervous caucus. He suffered a revolt from his one-time Quebec lieutenant, Denis Coderre, who complained that "Toronto advisers" had hijacked Ignatieff's office.
Eventually, Ignatieff would have to fire a key adviser, chief of staff Ian Davey, who had recruited him from Harvard University and helped him win the Liberal leadership.
But he was able to replace Davey with Peter Donolo, a veteran political staffer from former prime minister Jean Chretien's days. Liberal insiders took that as a positive sign. "When a leader can't attract talent anymore, that's when he's done," said one of his caucus members.
The task for Ignatieff now is to manage expectations — of the media, his caucus and the Liberal grassroots — while building the case for his party to supplant Stephen Harper's Conservatives in government.
"I felt and I still feel that an opposition's got (to) get up and oppose, and so we did. We got beat up a bit for it. Canadians said very quickly, 'Hey wait a minute, we're in the middle of a recession, we don't want an election. And that's the message we're still getting," said Ignatieff.
"My job as a politician is to listen to the Canadian people. If I get it wrong, I pay the price."
Ignatieff said he will stress his party's different approach to budget planning and fiscal policy as a key difference between Liberals and Conservatives, putting job-creation policies ahead of deficit-elimination targets.
"(The Conservatives) think the deficit's the only issue you have to worry about, and we're saying unemployment's the issue you have to worry about. That's a differentiator," Ignatieff said. "If I'm prime minister, I'm going to be looking at the unemployment numbers first and deficit second." In the meantime, Liberals have been pushing Ignatieff to become better at fending off attacks from the Conservatives.
"(The Conservative party) is the most ruthless attack machine in the history of Canadian politics, and I'll be frank with you: It's taken us awhile as Liberals to wake up to that, but we do have to fight back," Ignatieff said. "I've been under continuous, sustained attack for almost a year and a half and I'm still standing and I'm not going anywhere. People underestimate me if they don't understand how tough I am and how resilient I am, so that's not the issue."
And he takes some comfort in the fact that Conservatives seem to have trouble breaking through in the polls into majority government territory.
"These guys have got us outspent, they're attacking us, they're throwing stuff at us and they're still at 36 per cent. It's not as if they're running away with this game, for heaven's sake," Ignatieff said. "And that tells me something. That tells me that Canadians don't like some of this stuff."
Still, he knows he needs to give Canadians a reason to like Liberals again.
"I was going to say, Canadians want to dream again, but Canadians are always dreaming.
That's what makes it a wonderful country," Ignatieff said. "What they want to have is a government that says, 'Let's do some dreaming together and get some stuff done together.' Canadians want an alternative to Mr. Harper.
Monday, December 21, 2009
But when you read accounts from places outside this country, Canada doesn't even get an honourable mention. In fact they get many dishonourable mentions as recipients of the Colossal Fossil' award.
So what exactly did we do?
The U.S. didn't want their pictures taken with us. Our Prime Minister was not invited to the private talks that President Obama had with world leaders.
Did we sign anything? Has anyone seen any proof that we are part of this deal?
"After much predictable wrangling, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and the United States, led by a desperate President Barack Obama, prompted a nonbinding commitment to limit the increase in world temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2050."
Were we pencilled in later?
The article actually spoke of something else rather interesting though .. a new world order?
The moral was not that international conferences couldn’t please everyone. ... First, every nation, from major to the most minor, now possesses some level of veto power. It’s as if the world is brimming with the likes of Senators Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman. These guys can say no to the Senate bill on health-care reform and kill it, much as blocs of even the most inconsequential of nations can say “no” and thereby slow or perhaps even stop the train.
Second, African nations in particular seem to have gotten religious about bloc power. At Copenhagen, and for the first time, all of them banded together to pressure rich countries to pay for and save them from the scourges of global warming. Instead of taking the conditions of Western economies into account and pocketing the $100 billion offer of the United States, they insisted on more and risked all. When an Ethiopian leader tried to broker a compromise with the West, his colleagues slapped him down. And the Sudanese leader certainly revealed where many African heads were when he compared the climate change deal to the German Holocaust against the Jews. And African voices are made louder by their new alliance with China, the richest poor nations among them.
Third, China is emerging both as the No. 2 power in the world and as the No. 1 spoiler of multilateral action—from global warming to sanctions against North Korea. China positions itself as the champion of poor nations, and still pretends to be one itself. .. Never mind that China obsessively focuses on feathering its own economic nest, often at the expense of poor nations. Never mind that China is the second largest economy in the world and the biggest holder of foreign financial reserves, mainly American. Never mind that despite America and Western Europe having been the biggest global warmers in the past, China is today the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Fourth, in addition to China’s being stronger than it used to be, the United States is weaker than before and spread thin in military commitments and wars. In particular, America is weaker economically, the weakest it’s been comparatively in almost 60 years. It hardly ever was in a position to dictate solutions even at the height of its powers, but today, even its clear position of primacy has been diluted. Presidents can’t pay for cooperation or threaten punishments on the economic front as they once did. Americans can’t afford it.
Where does this leave Canada? Harper hooked his cart to GW's wagon, but he appears to now be out of the loop. That Obama dislikes him is no longer a secret. I can't say I blame him. I don't much like Stephen Harper either.
He's been systematically tearing down all safeguards that protect Canadian citizens from tyranny, and with those no longer in place; he can pretty much do what he wants, because we're powerless to stop him.
He controls the media, the message, public servants, soon the senate, and us. He's alienated the international community, essentially making Canada an island, and is allowing the Religious Right to dictate foreign policy, most of which is based on a biblical prophesy.
Where will this end? Who knows. The only thing I know is that it better end soon.
You'd think so, to hear the shabby low blows Harper and his cabinet are forever aiming at any and all who dare to criticize federal policy.
In Jerusalem this past week, Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney took aim at a Christian aid agency, KAIROS, in a speech that lauded Harper's support for Israel and railed against "anti-Semitic despots, terrorists and fanatics."
KAIROS's sin, in Kenney's view, was its "leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign" against Israel. That's why the Tories "defunded" the agency, Kenney explained. (KAIROS denies favouring a boycott or disinvestment.)
Kenney's attack, sadly, was anything but an exception.
All through the Afghan detainee affair, the Conservatives have sought to brand Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and other critics as unpatriotic, hostile to Canada's troops, and Taliban dupes. Yet everyone from the U.S. government to our diplomats to the Red Cross had warned that Ottawa was taking a risk detainees might be tortured.
And it hardly ends there. Last month the Conservatives circulated flyers in opposition ridings with lots of Jewish voters implying that the Liberals are anti-Semites who back Hamas and Hezbollah. That led Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, a Jew, to accuse them of "false, misleading, prejudicial and pernicious slander."
Last year, they scrapped a $4.7 million travel program to promote Canadian culture abroad because past recipients, including journalists Gwynne Dyer and Avi Lewis, were "left wing" and "radical."
And a year before that, the Tories defamed then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion with attack ads implying he was a "sellout" or "traitor" to Quebec's interests, not to mention a criminal.
The Conservatives invite contempt with these endless, over-the-top smears. They discredit their party and its policies.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
A new report has shown that Peter MacKay lied about when he learned of the torture of Afghan detainees. In fact this also involved both Stockwell Day, who I mentioned before, and Gordon O'Connor.
His story keeps changing, but so far not one single truth has been told.
Tory ministers met with Red Cross about Afghan detainees in 2006
Murray Brewster THE CANADIAN PRESS
December 20, 2009
OTTAWA–Three federal cabinet ministers and a senior government official met the head of the International Red Cross in the fall of 2006 as the humanitarian organization tried to focus Canada's attention on alleged abuses in Afghan prisons, The Canadian Press has learned.
Precisely what Jakob Kellenberger told Peter MacKay, Gordon O'Connor, Stockwell Day and Robert Greenhill, then the president of the Canadian International Development Agency, in the Sept. 26, 2006 meetings is blanketed by diplomatic secrecy.
McKay was then Foreign Affairs minister, O'Connor was at Defence and Day was Public Safety minister overseeing Corrections Canada officers in Kandahar.
While the details of the meeting are secret, enough was said about Afghanistan to generate a report from MacKay's office a month later which flagged the Red Cross president's concerns.
The contents of the report, one of thousands of documents filed in the Military Police Complaints Commission investigation of torture allegations, are censored.
The email was titled: "Re: meeting with ICRC president re detention issues."
The Conservative government has insisted it never received direct warnings about possible Afghan torture of Canadian-transferred prisoners, although MacKay has conceded that general concerns were heard almost from the moment the government took office in early 2006.
The fact the Red Cross meetings took place raises further questions about what the federal government knew and the kind of warnings they received in those critical early months.
Officially, the Red Cross would only say the talks focused on topics including Afghanistan, humanitarian law in modern conflicts and co-operation with Canada.
Unofficially, sources in Geneva said the international agency, whose functions include monitoring the treatment of prisoners, was growing frustrated over Canada's tardy notification of its handover of captured suspected Taliban to Afghan authorities.
The delay could often be as much as 34 days, making it difficult to track the detainees.
A spokesman for MacKay referred questions to the foreign affairs department, which declined to comment.
"Recognizing the confidential nature of the relationship between the ICRC and the (government of Canada), we are not in a position to comment on any meetings between the two parties," Katherine Heath-Eves wrote in an email on Saturday.
Liberal critic Bob Rae said these revelations speak again to the government's credibility.
"It confirms that the ministers involved were front and centre and their continuing denials that they were unaware of any issues becomes less and less credible," he said.
He said the government has to come out with uncensored documents, to clear the air.
"Everybody's arguing in the dark right now."
The Red Cross is bound by international convention not to discuss with other countries what it saw in Afghan prisons. But it could drop broad hints, as officials did at two meetings with Canadian military and civilian officials in Kandahar in May and June 2006.
During those meetings, which took place a year before the federal government acted to protect detainees, officials issued veiled but insistent warnings about torture in Afghan jails.
There were at least two other meetings between Red Cross officials – one in Ottawa, the other in Geneva – to discuss Afghan prisoners.
Diplomat-whistleblower Richard Colvin was also sounding an alarm at the time, although the government has dismissed his reports as vague and based on hearsay.
But the meeting in Ottawa at the end of September would – at the very least – have focused the attention of government ministers on the issue of prisoners, if not the actual jail conditions.
It is evident that what was said caught the attention of government officials because it generated not only the followup report from MacKay's office, but in a November 2006 meeting with the Red Cross there was a clear change in messaging.
Uncensored talking points viewed on a confidential basis by The Canadian Press say the humanitarian agency was told that Canada was ``reflecting on how to engage more pro-actively" with the Afghans over prisoners.
The consideration included "asking the government of Afghanistan for permission to visit the prisons" and to discuss the entire process of handling detainees, said the Nov. 20, 2006 document.
The suggestion of an ad-hoc monitoring regime was at the time welcome news to the Red Cross, which had 2005 and 2006 delivered a handful of diplomatic notes to the Canadian embassy in Kabul related to prisoner concerns.
Instead of following up on the promise made to the Red Cross, federal officials continued to resist establishing a monitoring regime. It was only on May 3, 2007 that Ottawa signed a new deal with the Afghan government, giving Canadians the right to check on the prisoners they captured.
The county's former top man on the Afghan file conceded in testimony before a House of Commons committee that officials were aware of the abuse allegations, but made a distinction between Canadian-captured prisoners and others in the system.
"The fact that there were allegations of mistreatment in Afghan prisons was known to us," said David Mulroney, who led the Privy Council's Afghanistan task force. "There was no mention specifically of Canadian-transferred prisoners – that was a deficiency that we later cleared up."
He also acknowledged there was no way to get credible evidence about abuse of Canadian transferees because there was no proper monitoring of prisoners prior to 2007.
"Keeping secrets from the people is no democracy". Very true. However, while many in the mainstream media are beginning to wake up, and are in a panic now that Harper may yet again prorogue parliament to save his job; what do they expect? They helped to create this monster, and now have no idea how to control him. He certainly knows how to control them.
Not long ago James Travers was suggesting that Harper should allow his government to fall so that he could get his majority. What do you have to say for yourself James? You thought Harper was the best thing since sliced bread. Look what you and others have done to us.
Check and Mate!
Travers: The year of governing secretly
Stephen Harper promised accountability, but instead conducts the business of the state behind closed doors
By James Travers National Affairs Columnist
December 19, 2009
OTTAWA - Think of Parliament in the same way the Prime Minister treats it: As an inconvenience. A year that began with the centrepiece of Canadian democracy shuttered to save Conservatives from defeat is ending in a dispute over blackened documents that could see it dark again, this time to save them from embarrassment.
Data points on a decades-old trend line, Stephen Harper's success in suspending Parliament last Christmas and his resolve now to starve it of Afghanistan abuse memos are victories for control and secrecy. They shift the affairs of state further behind closed doors and beyond the reach of those whom voters dispatch here to safeguard national interests. They free the ruling party from the constraining discipline of peer pressure and public scrutiny.
This is not what the Prime Minister promised. A Conservative party steeped in Reform populism came to power with a hand-over-heart pledge to restore accountability lost in the headlong Liberal rush past ethics to entitlements.
What a difference nearly four years make. Where Conservatives stand depends on where they sit in the Commons. Once shocked and appalled by the concentration of power in the hands of Jean Chrétien's appointed apparatchiks, Harper and associates have learned to appreciate, as well as relentlessly abuse, the convenience of power without accountability.
Little now stands in the Prime Minister's way. Parliament's independent watchdogs are mostly mute, their collars drawn tight and leashes shortened. Parliament's committees, including the one investigating torture allegations, are rendered impotent by a confidential manual instructing partisan sabotage. Elected representatives sent here to safeguard the national treasury and restrain ruling party excesses are no longer able to fulfil those defining duties.
Central to the capital's methods is the mantra that what you know could hurt politicians.
Denied facts and figures, Canadians don't really know how the Economic Action Plan, the largest infusion of federal cash in history, is being spent, how expensively it's being promoted or what sacrifices will be required to restore balance to federal budgets. They can't read the fine print of the auto-sector bailout. And if the Prime Minister wins this latest test of strengths with Parliament, they'll never know what or when ministers and generals were told about torture.
What's now in the public domain is that Conservatives don't want truth spoiling their story.
Richard Colvin, the diplomat who warned Ottawa that Afghans were abusing prisoners, made that clear this week when he wrote that Canadians in Kabul were told "they should not report information, however accurate, that conflicts with the government's public messaging."
Colvin is not a whistleblower; he's a coal mine canary. More revealing even than Peter MacKay's shoot-the-messenger assault on a bureaucrat is Colvin's detailed rebuttal of testimony from those above him in the federal food chain. It signals that the long-standing bargain between civil servants and the government of the day is broken. On-the-run politicians who abandon the principle of ministerial responsibility, who toss mandarins and their truth-to-power advice to the pursuing wolves, should no longer expect blind loyalty or suicidal silence.
That change pushes the relationship into uncharted territory where trouble waits. By essentially going it alone without Parliament or confidential public service counsel, Conservatives are placing their full bet on the sole-sourced party line. They are trading accountable democracy for a direct hard sell to Canadians systematically denied the information they need to decide the value of what they are being urged to buy.
Coldly cynical and conveniently effective, the advantage tilts dramatically to the ruling party.
Sharing only favourable factoids and fearing no challenge from an opposition frozen outside the loop, Harper, sounding like a U.S. president, speaks directly to the people over the heads of MPs, Parliament and, should the need arise – as it did during the coalition crisis – even the Governor General.
We are witnessing institutions crumbling under the weight of assumed personal power. After decades of whittling away the principles, precedents and even laws limiting their manoeuvring room, prime ministers are now free to do as they please, at least until voters next make their mark.
Largely missed by Canadians, that new situational democracy, that what-matters-is-what-works culture, has been spotted by civil servants who now know they'll wear the goat horns when things inevitably go wrong.
Abandoned by Liberals to shoulder blame for the Quebec sponsorship scheme, bureaucrats are hurriedly adapting to a new era by discreetly distancing themselves from Conservative stimulus projects likely to fail the critical sniff test.
As for the rest of us, we have lost, and won't soon recover, the surest way to protect ourselves. In October, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced that the aging access to information system dismissed by successive commissioners as woefully dysfunctional is, despite all reports, in robust good health and won't be reformed.
Timely knowledge of what the government is doing is not a privilege; it's a right.
Enshrined both in law and constitutional principle, it's the ways and means of pulling back the covers on what politicians and mandarins are doing in your name, with your money.
Robert Marleau, the most recent and still not replaced information commissioner, states the democratic proposition plainly: "How can you cast your vote intelligently if you don't know what's going on?"