Thursday, September 06, 2007

this blog will stay up as an archive

Due to time constraints and a shift in commitments, I will no longer be updating this blog. However, I will keep this blog up as an archive. Please use the resources on the right sidebar.

I think that the next election has to largely be about the environment. If it is, my feeling is that Stephen Harper will absolutely not win a majority in the next election. The battle is to remove him from government. Keep hope alive.

As for myself, I am a full time student now at Langara College in Vancouver. I am also chair of Amnesty International's Business and Human Rights working group in Vancouver. Please check out our blog.

This is where I feel my calling is now. I maintain the greatest of respect for those who will continue the campaign against Harper, and no one will be more pleased than I when he goes down. That said, personally, on a general level, I find partisan politics to be distasteful. I much prefer what I see as the the independence and nobility of nonpartisan social justice activism, in the tradition of Stephen Lewis or Romeo Dallaire.

In peace,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harper in Latin America

Alex Neve of Amnesty International on Harper's visit to Columbia:

"We recognize that (Harper), probably, through dealings with the U.S. government and others, is also receiving strong messages that he needs to go down and shore up (Colombian) President (Alvaro) Uribe's beleaguered government and convey a strong message of support," said Alex Neve, head of Amnesty International Canada.

Neve said that support would be for naught if a free trade agreement with the country pushes the human rights situation out of the picture.

"It's our hope that he's going to recognize the importance of being consistent with the human rights message, that if he starts to become inconsistent then he immediately starts to lose his credibility."
There is also concern with respect to Canadian mining company Barrick Gold's interests in Chile:
The most controversial stop on the trip could come Wednesday in Santiago, Chile. There, Harper will visit the offices of Barrick Gold, whose proposed Pascua Lama gold and silver mine in the Andes on the Chile-Argentine border has become a rallying point for critics of multinational mining operations.

Reports that the company's explorations have eroded the size of three glaciers by more than half have some Chilean lawmakers calling for a halt to planned operations and a probe into the environmental effects of Barrick's activities.

I will post more about the business interests in our Business & Human Rights in Vancouver blog.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More on O'connor/Rumsfeld

I also came across this via Allison's comment on liberal catnip:

IT WAS ONLY SOMEWHAT embarrassing that certain Liberals pasted U.S. President George W. Bush with gross and juvenile insults, but it was excruciatingly embarrassing that a certain Conservative, Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor, sent to former U. S. secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, a letter of congratulations for a job well-done.

Yes, it was stupid of one of former prime minister Jean Chretien’s senior aides to let reporters hear her call the president of the U.S. "a moron." And, yes, it was nasty and childish of Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish to stomp on a Bush doll for viewers of This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

Was O’Connor trying to atone for the anti-Bush indiscretions of rude Grits? Whatever he had in mind, he complimented Rumsfeld so lavishly he sounded both fawning and utterly ignorant of the ringing attacks on Rumsfeld by scores of knowledgeable Americans.
Read the whole article.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gordon O'Connor and Donald Rumsfeld sitting in a tree...

Here's Robert Fisk on Gordon O'Connor's positive feelings toward Donald Rumsfeld.

Hands up those readers who know that Canada's Defence Minister, Gordon O'Connor, actually sent a letter to Rumsfeld two days before his departure in disgrace from the Pentagon, praising this disreputable man's "leadership". Yes, O'Connor wanted "to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your many achievements (sic) as Secretary of Defence, and to recognise the significant contribution you have made in the fight against terrorism". The world, gushed the ridiculous O'Connor, had benefited from Rumsfeld's "leadership in addressing the complex issues in play".

O'Connor tried to shrug off this grovelling note, acquired through the Canadian Access to Information Act, by claiming he merely wanted to thank Rumsfeld for the use of US medical facilities in Germany to ferry wounded Canadian soldiers home from Afghanistan. But he made no mention of this in his preposterous letter. O'Connor, it seems, is just another of the world's illusionists who believe they can ignore the facts - and laud fools - by stating the opposite of the truth. Bush, of course, is among the worst of these meretricious creatures. So is the late Tony Blair.
Here's a CTV piece on the original story.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Harper: How far will he take petty partisanship?

Scott has a good piece on Deceivin' Stephen, as he calls him, (hey, I like that) resorting to petty partisanship, even on Canada Day of all days. Here's Scott quoting Harper and responding.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told party-goers on Parliament Hill that Canada is once again a player on the world stage. By contributing to the security of Afghanistan and Haiti, and by becoming an energy and resources superpower, he said Canada has resumed its role as a world leader… “The news is spreading throughout the world: Canada’s back,” Mr. Harper told the Ottawa crowd Sunday.

Excuse me, Mr. Harper, Canada was never “gone” to begin with, and did not just “get back” from anywhere, notwithstanding your attempts to make it sound like all of this coincided with your election victory last year. Furthermore, Canada was both in Afghanistan and Haiti long before you showed up on the scene, and definitely not under a Conservative Government.

I also caught that snide remark about the “energy and resources superpower”. That’s code word saying to the public “if you go green like those environmentalists and opposition politicians want you to, you lose our superpower capabilities that oil gives us”.

Canada Day is a day that should unite us as Canadians. A day where we should try anyway to put our differences aside. It should be sacred in that respect. That Harper would break that tradition suggests to me how desperate he is to score political points. Hopefully, it will backfire. And criticizing Harper on this day is fair. He made himself fair game.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Harper supporting missile defence?

Sorry for being away awhile. This is from the G8 summite, but want to make sure it gets on here.

It seems Stephen Harper may be throwing his weight behind George Bush's sorely misguided and dangerous ballistic missile defence plan:

U.S. plans for its anti-missile shield include installing 10 interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic linked to an early warning system, probably based in the Caucasus region.

On Tuesday, Harper said Putin shouldn't be concerned about a U.S.-built missile defence shield because it is not aimed at Russia.

Putin's relations with Washington are at an all-time low after he threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Europe in retaliation for the U.S. missile shield plan.

The Harper government, with a minority, has to be careful in its approach, Jack Lyaton has said in response to denials from Harper's communications director:
In Heiligendamm, Germany, site of this year's G-8 summit, Harper's communications director, Sandra Buckler, told reporters travelling with the Prime Minister yesterday that Canada was not changing its stance on missile defence.

Asked yesterday what Harper meant by his comments in Bush's defence on this issue, Buckler said the Prime Minister was mainly trying to lower the tensions between Russia and other leaders in advance of the G-8 meeting.

"We're trying to make sure that the conversation stays open and the dialogue remains calm."

Buckler said that Canada would only change its position on missile defence if the Americans made a formal request.

"In order for that discussion to be reignited, the Americans would have to ask us, and that has not happened. It's not on our agenda," she said.

Dion said yesterday's he's worried that the only reason U.S. officials haven't asked is because they know Harper leads a minority government and he couldn't get it past Parliament. What Canadians are seeing this week, Dion said, are glimpses of how Harper would move Canada closer to the U.S. on military and environmental issues if it had a majority.

Before he became prime minister, Harper made clear he'd like to revisit Canada's objections to missile defence if he came to power, but he also promised a vote in Parliament.

Dion and Layton said yesterday Harper knows he can't win that vote with the current makeup of the Commons, so he's chosen to send quiet signals of support to Bush instead. Layton said he believes this is part of a larger plan to cosy up generally to the U.S.

"I think he's violating his own principles here, which were that Parliament should be deciding on such incredibly important matters of foreign policy," Layton said.

"This is all a part of Stephen Harper's desire to follow the instructions from the White House and to enter into a deeper and deeper integrated relationship in North America, with the United States. It's not where Canadians want to go, but it's clearly what he's had in his sights for some time."

Dion said that the Bush-Putin dispute presented an ideal opportunity for Canada to act as a bridge and a calming influence – to reassure the Russian leader, for instance, that this country shared concerns about missile defence but it also shared the NATO view that this isn't a threat to Russia.

Instead, Harper has presented himself as an advocate for the U.S. side, Dion said.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cons face freefall in Atlantic Canada

Thanks to Impolitical for this from Rodney MacDonald, Premier of Nova Scotia. The part that particulary caught my attention was that he

is urging Conservative politicians from his province to oppose the federal budget because of a federal-provincial money dispute. (emphasis mine)

I also agree with Impolitical that good ol' Peter McKay can't be happy at all about this. I think that Liz May has a real shot at beating him now, unless he stops being an apologist for the Harper government.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bono rebukes Harper

To the list of various issues that Stephen Harper has neglected, and for which he has been publicly rebuked, one could now the issue of aid to Africa. Bono has blasted Harper for blocking attempts to increase aid at the G8 meeting.

Bono, lead singer for U2 and activist for humanitarian aid, singled out Harper for criticism and accused the prime minister of blocking a deal – a charge Harper vehemently denied.

"It's completely false and the people saying this have no proof to their allegations," Harper said at a news conference as the summit ended in Germany.

But Bono said he had numerous sources at the negotiating table. ``It's as if we have the place bugged, because everybody tells us," he said.

"We know who's causing the trouble and who isn't. And we know that Canada blocked progress. We know that Harper blocked it."

He described the prime minister as out of step with Canadians who enjoy a prosperous economy and surplus public finances and would like to help others.

Harper has said he's a U2 fan but he's not at the summit to meet celebrities. His office did not respond to a phone call from Bono seeking a meeting to discuss aid for Africa. Later, it was explained that the prime minister could meet Bono at another time.

Bono said he doesn't believe the prime minister was too busy to meet with him at the summit – the leaders of the United States, Germany, France and Britain managed to do so.

"It's not the pop stars he doesn't want to meet. It's the movement that we represent," Bono said.

"I said some years ago that the world needs more Canadas, and I meant it. I can't believe that this Canada has become a laggard. I think he's out of sync with the people."

Refusing to even meet with Bono was just not a strategically smart move. They could have had the photo up, both of them smiling, and Bono's response to Harper would have been somewhat more gentle.

Nevertheless, I'm glad that Bono is speaking this forcefully not just about Harper, but about the G8. Personally, as much as I like Bono as a musician and am glad he speaks out on issues, his gladhanding with the likes of Bush just rubs me the wrong way. I can understand the diplomacy angle to a point, but I think he goes too far with it. I much prefer the Stephen Lewis fair but firm approach.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Friends of the Earth sues the feds

Friends of the Earth has brought a lawsuit against the Harper government

for failing to live up to the obligations of the Kyoto Protocol, alleging that breaking the international treaty also violates Canada's pollution laws.

But the court action is a legal long shot, according to some observers, who say the suit will put the Conservatives on the defensive over climate change, but has little chance of succeeding.

"Before the government smacks them out of court, they'll get some distance out of the government they wouldn't have gotten had they not pulled this move," said Aldyen Donnelly, president of the Greenhouse Emissions Management Consortium, a Vancouver non-profit group representing major energy companies.

Ms. Donnelly called the legal action a "nuisance suit," likely launched to embarrass Prime Minister Stephen Harper before next week's G8 meeting in Germany, where climate change will be a major focus. "It's a brilliant strategic move," she said.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

New site: The Harper Index

Thanks to Verbena-19, I have stumbled upon The Harper Index, which is an excellent resource site containing lost of info on the politicla strategies and ideological agendas of the Harper government.

I have also placed it in the sidebar under Organizations and Resource Sites.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Steve V.: ideology and principle

Steve V. writes a worthy post in which he attempts to articulate the conundrum of

How can you criticize this government as an ideological menace, while simultaneously pointing to their lack of principle?

His entire post is worth reading, but here's an excerpt.
The present circumstance doesn't support a hard right agenda. There is no situation, wherein Stephen Harper can expand support if he adopts the ideological agenda, that his long paper trail supports. The Harper view is the minority view in Canada, which translates to a need to "reach out" to expand support. No one would argue that Harper doesn't have majority on the brain, he mentions it frequently, his strategists openly speak of the plan.

Ideology is on the back burner, electoral reality is primary, in the first phase. One has to wonder, why is that Harper is so consumed with a majority? Why can't the government operate effectively in a minority situation if it really is pragmatic at heart? The obsession tells us that there is more to see from this government, it has calculated it needs absolute power to effectively enact the agenda. Instead of governing, we have seen a perpetual campaign, wherein Conservatives have acted like "liberals", in many regards. There is little evidence of principle, because the only principle is the acquisition of power.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lawrence Martin calls Cons on double standard

Yes, there is Conservative inaction on the environment, human rights protections, aboriginal issues and child care. However, as we have also seen, and as Lawrence Martin writes, the Conservatives are also displaying the same bullying and obstruction tendencies the Liberals did periodically in government.

Last week was symptomatic. At an ethics-committee probe of the Afghan detainee controversy, they tried for hours to block the appearance of witnesses whose testimony could prove embarrassing. They shut down the official languages committee - the same day as the tabling of a report by the Official Languages Commissioner highly critical of their performance.

In the Commons, they typically ran away from pointed questions, choosing instead to "hide behind political rants," as Liberal Ken Dryden put it.

On the cleanliness front, they've been caught up in several conflict-of-interest allegations and, now, just like the Grits, are getting dinged for living the high life at taxpayers' expense.

Thanks to Tim for this link.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Geroge Monbiot's axis of evil: Bush, Howard, Harper.

From Amy Goodman's interview with Monbiot on Democracy Now.

AMY GOODMAN: George Monbiot, on the issue of a speech you recently gave, where you talked about the axis of evil: George Bush, John Howard of Australia, and Stephen Harper of Canada.

GEORGE MONBIOT: Yes, the axis of evil on climate change. These guys have got together to make sure that there is no effective international action now taken on climate change. OK, there wasn't any being taken anyway, partly because of the US gutting of the Kyoto Protocol before, but --

Read the whole interview here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Harper maniulation strategy

Thanks to The Galloping Beaver for this from Don Martin:

A secret guidebook that details how to unleash chaos while chairing parliamentary committees has been given to select Tory MPs.

Running some 200 pages including background material, the document - given only to Conservative chairmen - tells them how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, set in motion debate-obstructing delays and, if necessary, storm out of meetings to grind parliamentary business to a halt.

The binder fell into my hands yesterday, two days after government whip Jay Hill called chairmen to his office for a refresher course on advancing the government agenda over opposition objections.

A source at that meeting confided that Mr. Hill "lavished praise on the chairs who caused disruptions and admonished those who prefer to lead through consensus" - an interpretation the whip strongly denies.

But the document does illustrate a government preference for manipulative tactics and proves that the chairmen are under intense supervision from the powers above.

Its tactics also fly in the face of yesterday's complaint by Stephen Harper that opposition parties are solely responsible for the committee paralysis now breaking out on Parliament Hill as the summer recess approaches.

It paints in vivid detail what Conservative chairs should say when confronted by challenges to their authority, how to rule opposition MPs out of order during procedural wrangling and even tells government MPs how to debate at committee when a hostile motion is put to a vote.

Conservatives stalling

On The National on CBC tonight, Keith Boag reported on the Consdertives recent habit of either stalling or refusing to attend committe hearings when reports which embarass the government are being presented. That happened on the language committee, where the Conservatives were being blasted for their performance on bilingualism.

As one of my faviourite bloggers Catnip has observed, the Conservatives filibustered the access to information and ethics committee for the second day running to stall examinations of the Afghan detainee scandal.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Paul Wells catches Harper in a lie

Paul Wells catches Stephen Harper in a lie; purporting to support the official languages act -- in fact to do so more than previous governments -- while his actions suggest otherwise:

Today in Question Period, the prime minister claimed to quote the Official Languages Commissioner to the effect that the Action Plan for Official Languages, introduced by Stéphane Dion as the responsible minister in 2003, "was not done, like he did not do anything else."

That's a lie.

Here's what Graham Fraser actually said in his report to Parliament today.

He did say the Harper government "has, in fact, directly undermined the Action Plan over the past year." He said, "Health care has without a doubt been the most successful area of the Action Plan. Anglophone and Francophone minority communities declare themselves satisfied with the Plan’s results in this area."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Arrested civil servant reveals climate of intimidation

From, we learn that the federal bureacrat who was arrested for leaking the Harper government's climate change plan, Jeff Monaghan, says there is a climate of heavy-handed intimidation within the federal public service:

Baird said the arrest was a signal to other government employees that leaks of information wouldn't be tolerated.

But Monaghan, whose job was to monitor news reports about the government, said Thursday the proposed charges are "without precedent" in the extent to which they are disproportionate to the alleged offence.

Government the one breaking laws: Monaghan

Monaghan accused the government of using phrases such as "responsible process" and "obedience for the law" as justification for what he called a "witchhunt against the lowest-ranking temp employee in the department and possibly the entire government."

He said it was the government — in particular, the Environment Department — that was undermining due process and legal commitments by breaking the country's obligations under the international Kyoto treaty.

The NDP's Nathan Cullen speaks to the obvious and disturbing double standard:

Whoever leaked the information could be seen as a whistleblower.

"If the government has come forward and decided to break its own international commitments and an employee of the government says the government is about to break the international law — one can construe that as whistleblowing."

The government leaks documents all the time, Cullen said. But when it comes to the environment, he said, the government has a double standard.

Unfortunately, too much will be made of this by a sensationalistic media, and by a vicious Conservative Party that takes no prisoners and would think nothing of assasinating an innocent person's personality if it suits them. Of course, it has nothing at all to do with the substance of the issue:

Monaghan is a member of a collective that recently opened an anarchist bookstore in downtown Ottawa. He's also a drummer with the punk band The Suicide Pilots, which has an album called Rock Against Harper.

The band webpage on MySpace depicts a plane flying into the Peace Tower on Ottawa's Parliament Hill.

Cons try to stall committee hearing on Afghan detainees

The Conservatives tried to stall a meeting of the tanding Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which was holding an investigation into the Afghan detainee scandal. They went on for three hours, and only gave up when reporters entered the room. Hmm, interesting. Stalling the investigation wouldn't look very good to Canadians, eh?

Mike Wallace regaled fellow members of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics with details of the federal Access to Information Act for the duration of his address.

His lengthy discourse in a hot room of Parliament's West Block stalled an opposition motion that the committee examine the editing of documents showing that the Harper government knew prisoners held by Afghan security forces faced the possibility of torture, abuse and extra-judicial killing.

“I think that the Conservatives tried to avoid this motion and they put so much resources and time [into it] that they have something to hide,” said Bloc Québécois MP Carole Lavallée, who put forth the motion.

Pat Martin, a New Democrat from Manitoba, said “it just reconfirms our suspicions that information was redacted to save embarrassment to the government, not for any issues of national security.”

Opposition members are in the majority on the committee. And when Mr. Wallace finally gave the floor over to his colleague David Tilson, the vote was called and it passed handily.

Mr. Wallace denied that his speech was a filibuster, arguing instead that he was merely debating Ms. Lavallée's motion.

“It's an important topic and I think it's important for our committee members to understand what the act says and have a discussion,” he said.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Albertans want tougher emission standards.

I don't normally pay attention to polls, but then I found out about this one from Steve V. It says that

An overwhelming majority of Albertans believe the central plank in the federal government's new environmental plan isn't tough enough to deal with greenhouse gas emissions from their province's largest industry, a new poll reveals.

The survey, commissioned by an Alberta-based environmental think tank, found more than two-thirds of respondents believe industries should be forced to make absolute reductions in their levels of pollution, instead of being required to reduce the intensity of their emissions.


Dobbin: Harper's disdain for human rights

What do Afghan detainees, Lebanese, Palestinians, Burmese activists, gays and lesbians, and even Canadian soldiers have in common. According to Murray Dobbin, the mistreatment or lack of treatment by the Harper government show a consistent disdain for human rights in many respects. Thus, his lack of regard for the rights of the Afghan detaineees is merely the continuation of a disturbing pattern.

But when it comes to international human rights either enshrined in the UN Charter or the Geneva Convention, Harper has shown disdain. The Geneva Convention also states that it is illegal to target civilians in war. But this is precisely what Israel did in its catastrophic (for everyone) invasion of Lebanon. The rights of the Lebanese didn't count for anything as Harper stated that Israel's brutal assault on a defenceless Lebanese population was "a measured response." Measured by what standard? Certainly not by the standards set out by the Geneva Convention.

And what about the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip? Not a word here, either, even though UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said last year: "The violation of human rights I think in this territory is massive." She said that what she had seen in Beit Hanoun convinced her that Palestinians are suffering from "catastrophic human-rights violations" at the hands of Israel. But the Palestinians seem virtually not to exist in Harper's U.S.-designed foreign policy.

There are many other examples. Does Canada's new prime minister express concern over the hideous human rights record of Burma? In the fall, the UN added to the long list of condemnations, this time for the harassment and arrest of student leaders, and the continuing house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy. Nope, no problem here, if Mr. Harper's silence means anything.

The few occasions in which he does call for respect for human right are situations in which his government is ideologically motivated to do so.

This nurturing of his key constituency also serves to explain the single real exception in Stephen Harper's human rights record. Regarding China, the government is making real noise about the appalling case of Huseyin Celil. Here Canada seems -- rightly so -- to be risking good relations with the Asian giant over the case of a single individual.

But why China? To answer that question you need to go back a ways in Stephen Harper's history and understand the perversity of the right wing of the anti-abortion movement. No country in the world is so hated by evangelical anti-abortionists as China because of its vigorous efforts at population control and the widespread availability of free abortion. Back in 1995 one of Stephen Harper's Reform Party colleagues issued a statement calling on the Canadian government to condemn China for policies she claimed endorsed the "consumption of human fetuses as health food." These people still populate Harper's caucus and form a critical part of his core base. And he is representing them.

Read the whole article here.

I am a proud member of Amnesty International. I want to make it clear here that I am not speaking on their behalf but rather as a private citizen. Anyway, at Amnesty, we have a saying, "Human rights for all, no exceptions." Well, by my standards, they are doing very poorly in that regard.

And yes, the Chretien and Martin regimes left a lot to be desired in this area, but the Harper regime sickens me with the openness and relentlessness of their disdain for human rights.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Baird's own economists criticize him

Thanks to Steve V. from Far and Wide for linking to this:

Economists who endorsed a recent government report assessing the economic impact of achieving Canadas international Kyoto protocol commitments are skeptical about the new Conservative approach to fighting global warming, a survey by CanWest News Service has revealed.

Their assessment comes as the government launches a new $905,000 advertising offensive on radio stations to promote its green initiatives and respond to critics, such as environmentalist David Suzuki and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, who have called the plan a big disappointment and a fraud designed to mislead Canadians.

Although Environment Minister John Baird has insisted his approach is the "toughest in the world" because of its mandatory regulations to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from industries, the economics experts suggested it looked a lot like the previous Liberal plan that was scrapped by the Conservatives when they formed a minority government in 2006.

Amnesty - "Protection against torture applies to everyone"

Stephen Harper said that falsehoods are cooked up by Taliban detainees, as they are trained to lie. However,

In Afghanistan, there are generally two types of insurgents: hardline Taliban, who are true believers or members of the former regime; and others who are either hired guns or coerced into fighting.

In many cases, so-called soft Taliban are no more than ordinary farmers who've been forced at gunpoint into fighting, or they're men whipped into a religious fever by claims of outrage against Islam.

The less-committed fighters make up the bulk of the insurgent force, which has confronted Canadian troops in the vast swath of parched farmland west of Kandahar. Poorly trained and badly equipped, these young men of what the Afghans call "fighting age" do most of the dying for the Taliban. Those that survive are often taken prisoner.

Canadian commanders in Kandahar have gone to great lengths to drive wedges between the different types of fighters, enticing soft supporters to lay down their arms with promises funded by the Conservative government's reconstruction efforts

According to human rights organizations, people are entitled to the same human rights protection regardless of what group in which they may or may not have membership.

The government seems to suggest captured insurgents don't deserve full human-rights protection, said an Amnesty International spokesman.

"No one is exempted from the protection against torture because of what armed groups they have or have not been involved with," said Alex Neve.

"The protection against torture applies to everyone at all times and in all circumstances.

"When we start espousing views that suggest maybe torture is OK in some circumstances, or we shouldn't at least be concerned about torture when it happens to undesirable people, then we're eroding international human rights," he said.

"And we're simply espousing a view that it's all right to respond to violence with more violence, terror with more terror, torture with more torture."

Amnesty International: Monitoring isn't the solution

Canada and Afghanistan reached a new agreement on the transfer of Afghan detainees in which Canadian soldiers will have access to the prisoners even after transfering them. There remain concern, however, that it will not be good enough to prevent torture.


Monitoring isn't the solution," said Alex Neve, Amnesty International spokesman. "It's a positive step forward compared to the former deal, but that's not the end point when torture is as rampant and systematic as it is in Afghanistan. No amount of monitoring will prevent something that is a secret, insidious practice that can inflict devastating harm and damage on prisoners in a few minutes."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Stock Day should resign

Stockwell Day said the other day that Canadians were in fact made aware by prisoners that they were tortured. That means Day was either lying when he said there were no reports of torture, or he's lying now. He should be fired. If it's true, then why was nothing being done about those reports?

Miscellaneous rants

Allow me a couple of rants that come to mind when I think of some of the "conservatives" that I encounter in cyberspace, and their thoughts on climate change. I put conservatives in quotes of course, because climate change denial has nothing to do with principled conservatism.

I have come across the mention of the Great Global Warming Swindle, the film which charges that the entire climate change theory is a fraud. It seems to be all the rage among the denialists these days, and it never suprises me that it is brought up. Yes, I have seen it, and I will admit, if you take it on its face value without digging deeper afterward, it's quite convincing. It's a fine piece of industry propoganda passed off as science. I understand, though. I guess there's something in human nature about listening to the tiny minority of "experts" who tell you what you want to hear, rather than the overwhelming majority of experts who tell you what you don't want to hear.

Let me draw the line. There is no scientific debate with respect to climate change caused by human activity. There is a scientific consensus. We can see that in both the IPCC reports and the joint science academies' statement. And believe me, I wish that weren't the case. Rather, I wish this was one big nightmare, and I will wake up tomorrow and all will be fine. I wish that climate change wasn't a reality, that our planet wasn't facing this crisis. However, I am a human being who wants to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for my descendents. The question at this point therefore, is what the fuck are we going to do about it. I have no interest in prolonging a debate that should have ended years ago. Henceforth, there will be no debate on the reality of climate change on this blog.

This is my blog. You do not have a Charter protected right to have your opinion expressed here and not have it deleted, just like I don't have that right on someone elses blog. Think of it like being the editor of a newspaper. S/he edits or refuses to publish letters every day and no one thinks twice about it. Nor should they. It's different if the government shut down my blog, or something along those lines. However, its my blog and I can do with it as I please, in every respect.

Now, David Suzuki.

It is true that he is not an atmospheric scientist. That said, as a scientist, and as a broadcaster and author who has explored the wonders of science for that last 30 years plus, he certainly knows more than John Baird, or most Canadians for that matter.

His busses run on biodiesel. That said, it is also true that the nature of his work requires him to consume too much carbon in other ways, but that has nothing to do the issues themselves that he is addressing. And, I think, it's worth it if he raises public awareness with respect to climate change. If it means survival, I'll take it.

I think that Harper conservatives so intensely dislike him not because of any element of hypocrisy, because hypocrites can be found on all sides of the political spectrum, but because of the combination of their idelogical opposition to him, and his mass popularity.

And another thing; if I hear one more Conservative say something along the lines of "13 years of Liberal inaction", please kill me. Put me out of my misery. First, that's a bit rich coming from the Conservative Party, a party whose ascendent, the Canadian Alliance Party, thought the Liberal government was doing too much about climate change.

More importantly, the Liberals are not in government. If they were in power, I would be yelling at them to take action, as I did at the time. They are not in government though. The Conservatives are, and them pointing to the Liberals is a copout pure and simple, an excuse to placate their industry patrons with overblown plans that don't really do much. But really it is no excuse of course. Years of Liberal inaction, a charge to which there is admittedly a significant degree of validity, is not an excuse for Conservative inaction.

Monday, April 30, 2007

High-profile attacks on Baird continue

Attacks on the Baird plan continue to eminate from high-profile critics. This time: the head of the body at the UN that oversees Kyoto questions the use of intensity targets, and chagning the base year:

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, questioned the assertion that with tough enough intensity targets, an absolute reduction would occur.

“You can still see a reduction in absolute terms, but you can't guarantee how much the reduction is going to be in absolute terms,” Mr. de Boer said in an interview Monday from his office in Bonn, Germany.

“If you have a very stringent relative reduction target, but your economy grows by 30 per cent, then your emissions could still end up going up.”

Mr. de Boer suggested there is some confusion over how Canada intends to live up to the Kyoto Protocol, which it signed in 1997. To date, no official has said the government is withdrawing from the treaty but the Kyoto targets have been abandoned.

The Conservatives have said meeting Kyoto targets would have meant disaster for the Canadian economy.

“It's interesting that while it would appear that the government has set itself a new target with a new base year, which of course it's free to do, that target is less ambitious than the commitment it has under the Kyoto Protocol,” Mr. de Boer said.

“The question is how this new commitment or the new policy objective relates to the international commitment or international undertaking Canada has made with the Kyoto Protocol, and also how it fits into the debate about longer term action that's currently under way.”

Another United Nations official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there's a sense of alarm in the agency that Canada's reluctance to try to meet the Kyoto targets will encourage other countries to shirk the treaty.

“Canada is perceived to be a role model for the United States. If Canada throws up its hands and says there's no point, it has a negative rub off for the U.S.,” the official said.

The Conservatives have no one to blame but themselves. They've had numerous rewrites, numerous chances to put forth a strong green plan with teeth, and they keep disappointing.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Text of Byers' letter to the ICC

From the Tyee, here is the text of the letter that Michael Byers and William A. Schabas sent to the International Criminal Court. Here is an excerpt:

April 25, 2007

Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo
International Criminal Court
Maanweg, 174
2516 AB, The Hague
The Netherlands
Tyee's new Blog Roller series

Dear Sir,

Re. War crimes and the transfer of detainees from Canadian custody in Afghanistan

We write to draw your attention to possible war crimes committed with respect to the transfer of detainees from Canadian custody in Afghanistan. In particular, we request that you open a preliminary examination under Article 15 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to determine whether there are reasonable bases to investigate Mr. Gordon O'Connor, the Canadian Minister of National Defence, and General Rick Hillier, the Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff.

Specifically, we are concerned that Mr. O'Connor and General Hillier have:

1. Chosen to allow detainees to be transferred to the custody of Afghan authorities despite an apparent risk of torture and other forms of abuse;

2. Chosen not to take reasonable and readily apparent steps to protect detainees against torture and other forms of abuse -- for instance, by seeking a renegotiation of the December 2005 Canada-Afghanistan Detainee Transfer Arrangement to bring it into line with pre-existing Denmark-Afghanistan, UK-Afghanistan and Netherlands-Afghanistan agreements, and now, following credible reports of the torture of transferred detainees, by ceasing any further transfers.

As a result, we are concerned that Mr. O'Connor and General Hillier might wilfully be placing detainees at well-documented risk of torture, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity. If so, they would appear to be violating Articles 8 and 25 (and perhaps Article 7) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).1

Any such violations would clearly fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC, since Canada has ratified the Rome Statute, Mr. O'Connor and General Hillier are Canadian citizens, and the possible offences in question were committed after the coming into force of the Statute (as well as Canada's ratification of it).

The letter proceeds from here at some length to explore in detail relevant facts and relevant law. Read the rest of the letter.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Al Gore: Baird plan a "fraud"

Al Gore severely criticized the Baird plan:

The noted environmentalist was presenting his Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth in Toronto at a consumer environmental show, with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and environmentalist David Suzuki in attendance.

Mr. Gore praised Mr. Suzuki for confronting Environment Minister John Baird on Friday, saying he saw the two exchange words on TV.

When Mr. Baird told Mr. Suzuki the Conservatives were going further than any other government in Canadian history, Mr. Suzuki said it wasn't enough.

The Conservative government strategy focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality. But the plan failed to spell out precisely what many of its regulations will look like.

"In my opinion, it is a complete and total fraud," Mr. Gore said. "It is designed to mislead the Canadian people."

Read the whole article.


Courtesy of Scott, clips of Gore's speech here and here.

Mmm, I smell an election in the offing.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Links to reaction to the Baird plan

Short-sighted Canada Fails with New Climate Policy -- DeSmogBlog
Tory climate plan fails Canadians -- Toronto Star editorial
New targets, without a serious emissions policy, are so much hot air -- Jeffrey Simpson
Will opposition force an election? -- Chantal Hebert
Baird keeps it simple -- Susan Riley
Thinking green but not acting -- Ottawa Citizen editorial
Al Gore meets 'Suzuki Nation' -- Bob Hepburn

Suzuki confronts Baird

Canadian hero to many (including myself) David Suzuki confronted John Baird at a exhibition showcasing eco-friendly alternatives. Barid has refused to meet with him over the plan. Suzuki went to tell him what he thought, and to "please come and see us."

Baird had just kicked off Toronto's consumer Green Living Show when he was approached by David Suzuki, who let the minister know what he thought of the government's plan.

"It's a disappointment, John," Suzuki said as he beat a path to the minister.

"You know what you promised was a long way from what you delivered."

Baird countered that "this is more action than any government in Canadian history has ever taken."

But Suzuki was not impressed, saying that it's not enough.

"He promised all kinds of great things and it's been big disappointment to see what it is. It's all smoke and mirrors and what he's going to do is allow industry to continue to increase their emissions."

Suzuki later told CBC News the Conservatives' new plan is an embarrassment because it falls short of what is needed and what Canadians want.

"What the government is trying to do is give the illusion of movement by talking about reducing the intensity, and hard targets," he said.

"The reality is it's really a cover for allowing industry to increase its pollution, so it's not seriously addressing the emissions problem.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

ICC asked to investigate Afghan detainee affair

On the Afghan detainee front, which I am following, we have this:

Two human-rights professors have asked the International Criminal Court in The Hague to open an investigation into what they claim are "possible war crimes" by Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor and General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, over Canada's transfer of detainees in Afghanistan.

Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia and William Schabas, director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights in Galway, make the allegations in a 14-page letter to the court's chief prosecutor in The Hague.

The professors allege that Mr. O'Connor and Gen. Hillier agreed to the transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities "despite an apparent risk of torture and other forms of abuse" and have allowed the threats to continue by not renegotiating the agreement with Afghanistan on prisoner transfers.

Reaction to the Baird plan

The dilly dallying on the part of the Harper on the envirnment continues. After trying again and again to put forward a plan that Canadians can accept, they still can't get it right. That must be some powerful influence the fossil fuel industry has on that government.


Keith Stewart of World Wildlife Fund Canada said there are flexibility mechanisms built into Kyoto that would allow Canada to meet the protocol, but the government is walking away from them.

"I don't think another decade of delay is anything that Canadians want, and I think the government's on the wrong side of the science and they are going to be on the wrong side of history."

John Bennett of ClimateForChange, a new Canadian environmental group, said the plan doesn't go far enough to deal with global warming.

"We were told this was their green plan, but what do we get? A few vague numbers, no hard targets … I am really shocked. I thought this plan would be tougher than this.

"They're not trying to deal with climate change."

Although the government has said the new target would reduce emissions by 20 per cent below current levels by 2020, environmentalists have also said that these targets fall short of the post-Kyoto efforts that would be expected from a developed country, in order to establish an effective international agreement to stop catastrophic effects of climate change.

Based on studies by European governments, the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation have estimated Canada must go well beyond the Conservative government’s targets in order to prevent global temperature increases of more than two degrees celsius, a level that scientists have identified as a dangerous tipping point.

Julia Langer of the World Wildlife Fund disputed how the government calculated its targets, by not using Kyoto's baseline of 1990 levels.

"They way they have put it -- 20 per cent reduction by 2020 - they're counting according to a baseline that nobody uses," she told CTV Newsnet.

If you calculate that based on the internationally recognized baseline, we're still going to be above 1990 levels in 2020. That's nowhere near our Kyoto target."

She also added that asking industry for an 18 per cent reduction in emission by 2010 is also misleading.

"That's an emission intensity figure. So in other words, they're going to ask industry to reduce their intensity -- not their emissions - of how fast they pollute. So they'll slow that down, and it will be business as usual."
And, the most devastating critique of the plan, from Elizabeth May of the Green Party:

It’s official: Canada has turned its back on the world

Statement by Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Today, Environment Minister John Baird has made it official. Any remaining doubt has been removed. Canada is officially abandoning any attempt to reach its legally binding targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Canada, therefore, will be in violation of international law and will stand as the only nation, of more than 160 countries around the world that have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, to have reneged on its commitments.

This is not “Canada turning the corner”, as Mr. Baird described it. This is Canada turning its back on the world.

The new target announced by Mr. Baird is a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions against today’s levels by 2020. Thus Mr. Baird has set a course that will take Canada to 11% above our Kyoto target by 2020. We will be unable to reach our mandated Kyoto target until well into the 2020s. In contrast, the EU has adopted a target of 20% reductions below 1990 levels by 2020. The similarity of the numbers and the alarming variation of base year appear to be designed to confuse Canadians about the nature of the Harper-Baird plan. It is a plan for increased climate risk.

In fact, the changed base year makes Mr. Baird’s announced target even weaker than that announced by his predecessor, Rona Ambrose, last fall. She announced 45-65% reductions below 2003 levels by 2050. Mr. Baird has changed the base year to 2006, when emissions were higher.

Furthermore, he is jeopardizing Canada's interests. If, as the Minister claims, Canada remains committed to the "Kyoto process" (but not the legally binding targets), then, at a minimum, we should strive to get as close as possible to our targets to avoid penalties under the agreement. For every tonne of emissions missed in the first commitment period, 2008-2012, there is a 30% added cut for every tonne in the next period, post-2012. Any responsible government would recognize the risk, economically and to our international reputation, of deliberately ignoring the target.

The overriding concern is that the Harper government has no intention of remaining within the Kyoto process and, if still in power in 2008, it will formally commence withdrawal (2008 being the first year within the agreement in which formal withdrawal is allowed). This would avoid the penalties and put Canada in the pariah corner, at the same time as the world expects the US to join the process.

The small improvements from the government's previous positions are in the area of trading. Mr. Baird has accepted some form of domestic carbon trading, but not international. He has also confirmed that Canada will participate in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under Kyoto. Minister Ambrose contradicted herself a number of times on the government’s attitude to the CDM and then launched a full scale attack on CDM using false information. Mr. Baird has done the right thing in allowing for CDM measures to be pursued.

But with the wrong target in place, it makes little difference.

Read the Baird speech

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Foreign affairs censorship

To follow up on yesterday's post, I point to this Globe and Mail article which talks of a report from Foreign Affairs Canada about Afghanistan in 2006, in which sections touching on the human rights situation there have been blacked out.

The Foreign Affairs report, titled Afghanistan-2006; Good Governance, Democratic Development and Human Rights, was marked "CEO" for Canadian Eyes Only. It seems to remove any last vestige of doubt that the senior officials and ministers knew that torture and abuse were rife in Afghan jails.

The report leaves untouched many paragraphs such as those beginning "one positive development" or "there are some bright spots."

But heavy dark blocks obliterate sentences such as "the overall human rights situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in 2006."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The torture of Afghan detainees and the Harper non-response

In response to Graeme Smith's piece in yesterdays Globe and Mail about 30 interviews with Afghan detainees in which horrifying stories of torture were revealed to Canadians, two university professors, Michael Byers of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at UBC, and Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa, have said that Canada must terminate the agreement with Afghanistan on prisoner exchanges now.

The door is open for Canadian troops to be prosecuted as war criminals if enemy prisoners have indeed been tortured in Afghan jails, said Michael Byers and Amir Attaran.

They say the only solution is for Harper’s government to scrap the current agreement with the Afghan government and for Canada to build its own prisoner detention facility overseas where captured fighters can be treated humanely.

“There is no room for ambiguity. We are talking about one of the most fundamental rules of international law: the prohibition on torture and the prohibition on complicity in torture,” said Byers.

Where “there is a serious risk of torture, we cannot transfer to the Afghan authorities. That’s it. They have shown, if this report is correct, that they cannot be trusted to uphold fundamental rules.”

A couple of items need responding to.

My favourite neanderthal, Stockwell Day, had this to say.

Now we've captured them – and yes, these people we've captured want nothing more to do then to kill you [Afghanis] and your children – and we are asking you to treat them humanely. That is a radical thought for a lot of people in that part of the world. But folks, it is working.

The detainees may or may not have that mindset. We don't even know that they all are Taliban. A fair judicial process will hopefully determine that. And yes, of course they should be treated humanely. Even those who are guilty are expected to, let alone those who haven't been charged. One, it is against international law to conduct torture. Two, it is wrong. Three, it is well known that torture doesn't work. Four, any connection to torture stains our international reputation even more than it already has been, and will serve to further increase hostility toward us in Afghanistan.

To those who say that there already is an Afghan monitoring group, I give you this article in the Globe in which we find that

The watchdog agency Canada is relying on to prevent abuse of detainees in Afghan custody says it can't do the job properly because it has been barred from access to the notorious detention cells of the intelligence service.

Despite assurances that any abuse would be reported, repeated in the House of Commons by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor yesterday, the regional head of investigations for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission conceded in a recent interview that his staff are being prevented from visiting detainees in the National Directorate of Security's detention cells in Kandahar.

"We have an agreement with the Canadians, but we can't monitor these people," said Amir Mohammed Ansari, chief investigator for AIHRC in Kandahar. "Legally, we have permission to visit prisoners inside the NDS prison. But they don't allow it."

This is a story to follow, folks. How the Harper government responds to this issue will speak volumes of its attitude toward torture and toward human rights in general.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

From Thoughts on Climate Change: effective rebuttal of Baird

Thanks to Thoughts on Climate Change for an effective rebuttal of John Baird's claims about the effect of Kyoto on the economy. "Thoughts" rightly points out that there are three prongs to the rebuttal.
-the economic cost of not taking action on climate change.
-the economic benefits of emissions trading
-the economic benefits of pursuing development of green technologies.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Harperites snub Charter celebration

Courtesy Scott's DiaTribes, we find the Harper Conservatives ignoring the 25th anniversary celebration of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the single document that most defines Canada according to Canadians. Bev Oda and Vic Toews were invited to speak, but surprise surprise, declined to attend. Yeah, I can just see Vic (make him a lifer at 10) Toews heaping praise on the Charter.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

From Le Revue Gauche: The Straussian sympathies of the Calgary School

Please read this well-researched article by Le Revue Gauche on the Straussian tendencies of the Calgary School, of which Stephen Harper was an understudy. I consider this article to be of such relevance that I have placed it in the sidebar under Key Documents.

Here are a couple of excerpts I consider particularly poignant:

As with Strauss the Calgary School is well versed in Marxism and critiques of Marxism as we can see in the publications of its major proponent Barry Cooper. Cooper admire's Leo Strauss, Carl Schmitt and Eric Voegelin and see's them as the political alternative to Marxism, and ironically these political philosophers are far more statist than Marx was.

These are the arguments of the Cold War, which while now over, remains the bugaboo of the right. One does not invest fifty years of constructing anti-liberal, anti-socialists, anti-secular, anti-humanist arguments to abandon them with the mere collapse of the Berlin wall. Today the arguments used against socialism and liberalism by Strauss, Voegelin and Schmitt are now used in day to day editorials and arguments from the Right.

While publically declaring themselves libertarians of the right, they are anything but, again the Straussian deception and lies that cover their realpolitik. They want Plato's Philosopher King, the supreme ruler, and they see him sanctioned by the politics of social conservative Christianity.

Despite the Conservative five priorities, their economic or environmental policies, Harpers regime comes down to two key right wing elements; Militarism and increasing the power of the Police and the Security State

And it is clear that the Calgary School influenced the Conservatives Environmental policy more so than Green Conservative Calgarians; Preston Manning and Joe Clark, since Barry Cooper is a founder of the climate change denier group the Friends of Science (sic). Science has nothing to do with it they are Friends of the Oil Patch. And in typical Straussian fashion all the Conservatives discussions with stakeholders on the environment were held in secret

See also Eugene's article Post Modern Conservatives, which I have also put under Key Documents.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

NDP, Libs, Greens should try to avoid vote-splitting

First, I will say that I do still have reservations about one aspect of this: Elizabeth May running in Central Nova against McKay. It will be very difficult for her to win. Not impossible, but very difficult.

That said, May is right that the opposition parties should try to work together to prevent the re-election of the Harper government. This should not be about partisanship in any sense.

May and Dion reached an agreement, but she tried to reach out to the NDP as well, seeking talks with Tom Axworthy and Stephen Lewis about a three-way agreement.

I have a ton of love and respect for Stephen Lewis. He is, along with David Suzuki, one of the two greatest Canadians alive today, in my opinion. He has opened my eyes about battling disease and poverty in Africa, and even brought me to the point of thinking about going there. The man is a saint. I think May approached the right person. However, I wish he had been more receptive to at least some dialogue.

Also, what is up with Layton not even taking May's phone calls. I would have thought it would be customary for party leaders to take each other's calls.

It would be naive to deny that it is a risky move on the part of both May and Dion. It's hard to predict exactly what the political implications could be, but as Red Tory says:

it’s forced many Liberals and Greens to “think outside the box” as the hackneyed expression goes. Generally speaking that’s usually a good thing in politics, where incurious habits of mind can frequently lead to complacency.

And as Saskboy says:

We are at a cross roads in Canadian politics, and I hope the leaders in the NDP, Jack Layton included, take this chance to move Canada away from the Harper Conservatives, and back to a socially progressive and accountable government. May has an agreement from the Dion Liberals to make meaningful electoral reforms when he goes to power, which is something the NDP have been desiring for many years (PR, not Dion in power). Clearly there is common ground to be found among the Liberals, NDP, and Greens even though the partisans inside of us don’t want to admit our respective parties can’t do everything themselves.

If thinking outside the box leads to a healther, more cooperative political system in the future, maybe even one which uses a PR electoral system, as opposed to the highly partisan one we have now, I'll take it.

There is a lot more I could say on this, but I'll close with a couple of blogs that say it well.

From The Galloping Beaver:

There's a kind of denial at work in the partisan debate about this agreement.

Does partisanship blind people to understanding that what the planet faces is going to require everyone cooperating and collaborating with everyone else? Apparently so.

And last but not least, from Politique Vert:

There Are No Political Parties On A Dead Planet.

UPDATE: I also like Scott's Anybody But Harper proposal.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Daniel Paillé affair

Here's a Toronto Star editorial on the Daniel Paillé affair. He, of course, is the separatist hired by the Harper Conservatives to investigate his arch-enemies from the 1995 referendum.

He served in former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau's Parti Québécois cabinet from 1994 to 1996, and played his part in the referendum to break up Canada. He still harbours warm thoughts for his mentor. Just last year, in a speech honouring Parizeau, Paillé recalled a "very appropriate" challenge Parizeau made to separatists after they lost the referendum, to "turn over every stone" to strengthen their case for secession. This week, however, he declined to say if he still shares the dream.

Given Paillé's background, what confidence can Canadians have in his even-handedness in judging whether Canada's federal leaders behaved properly from 1990 to 2003 when they surveyed attitudes in Quebec and elsewhere? Poll spending rose to $24 million during this period, which covers the last few years of Conservative rule by Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell, and a decade under Liberals Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

Is there much evidence of Ottawa wrongdoing to worry about?

In 2003, Auditor General Sheila Fraser found that "for the most part" Ottawa acted "in a transparent manner and with adequate controls." She found only "a small number of troubling cases" involving polling. Even so, the Tories remain eager to probe beyond the sponsorship scandal in which cash was improperly funnelled to Liberal-friendly ad firms.

Clearly, Harper feels the time is right to dig deeper, hoping to shame the Liberals even as they try to put the sponsorship scandal behind them. For his part, Paillé bristles at any suggestion he has been hired to dig for dirt.

But in 1995, the PQ complained bitterly that the Liberals cheated them of a referendum victory, partly by outspending them. Given this bad blood, the Liberals understandably place little faith in Paillé's pledge to operate in a "professional" spirit and to deliver an even-handed report.

This, of course, is not to suggest that the Liberal reign was stainless. It certainly was not. However, this blog is not about the Liberals, it is about the Harper Conservatives. The purpose of the post is essentially to show that Harper is capable of political opportunism just as blatant and decision-making just as ubious as anyone he criticizes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Leading scientist says Baird is misinformed. reports that Gordon McBean, head of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, says that John Baird is misinformed on the urgency of the climate change issue, and the relevance of atmospheric scinece over the long term in responding to crises arising from climate change.

Canadian scientists would like to increase their understanding of climate change, but the federal government has been scaling back support for climate science and adaptation programs.

Baird suggested last week there's little time left for more reports and studies in the wake of the UN report.

"One of the biggest findings (of the UN report) is that these (impacts) can be mitigated, can be reduced, can be delayed by action to reduce greenhouse gases, and that's got to be the first, the second, and the third priority," Baird said in an interview with CanWest News Service.

"At some point, it's sort of like the planet's on fire, we've got to throw water on it. We don't need to research it, we need to act."

McBean said Monday "that is a sadly misinformed argument and I'd be happy to set him straight."

He adds other senior scientists would also welcome a meeting with Baird, who he says has steered clear of the climate research community since becoming minister in January.

McBean says Baird seems to be taking a short-term view of a long-term problem: "The only question he seems to be asking is: 'Do we have enough science to justify reducing emissions' ...and the science been clear on that for 15 years."

Emissions reductions are needed and long overdue, says McBean.

The key question Baird doesn't seem to be asking, McBean says, is whether there is enough science to address climate change in Canada for the rest of this century in terms of adaptation and emissions reductions. The answer, says McBean, is no.

McBean says that "repeated requests to meet with the minister have been declined. The foundation has committed all its research money and cannot take on any new projects."

Yes, this is one scientist, but he is a leading scientist, and the chair of an organization representing climate scientists. There is no comparison to industry rent-a-scientists like Tim Ball (for more on Ball, click here and then type "tim ball" into the search engine. Or, just click here).

Monday, April 09, 2007

PCers want McKay's head.

I just pulled this from the Green Party site via Politique Vert.

The following will appear on a daily progressive conservative forum that reaches about 5000 readers:


I am certain that all former and loyal Progressive Conservatives, and all current Progressive Canadians, were very pleased to hear that the Leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, will be seeking to remove Peter MacKay from federal politics. Further, I am certain that we all wish her luck. But this may not be enough.

Let us all put our heads together and see if we cannot help. We were a tremendous force in fighting against MacKay during the hostile takeover of our Party by the Alliance. We may have lost the battle, but we can still win the war.

What about public protests? Newspaper ads? Radio ads? Flyers? Anything else we can do to get the last laugh on the man who betrayed us all?

Ideas please.

If we stand with Elizabeth May, will can knock off Peter MacKay.


Brad Thomson

Just switched to Haloscan

Oops. I just switched to Haloscan, and seem to have lost the comments that have been made previously. I chose to make this move because it gives me more editorial control. Anway, I will get in touch with Haloscan to see if there is a way I can ertrive the comments.

While I'm here, I should note that this a non-partisan forum dedicated to stopping Stephen Harper. Commenters, please to try to stick to the topic of the blog post. For example, if a post suggests that Harper goes negative because he has nothing positive to say, don't start going all Harper on me and attacking other politicians. Besides being amusingly ironic, it is irrelevant to the topic of the post.

Andre Coyne on Stephen Harper

Here are a couple of tidbits from Andrew Coyne.

First is from his his blog, a post entitled Welcome, Tory partisans!

I never cease to marvel at the blind partisanship of some of the commenters on this site. There doesn't seem to be anything Harper and Co. could do that could shake your faith: no budget so profligate, no promise so broken, no principle so abandoned, no pandering so overt, no Quebec strategy so failed, no rhetoric so inflammatory. But I had not realized quite how far you were willing to go until now.

Read more

The second is from his National Post column, and it's called Harper has learned well.

So we are left to conclude that it does not matter to him whether anyone believes him or not. And if it does not matter to him, this must be because he believes it does not matter to anyone else. At the very least, he must have calculated, there is no political price to be paid for telling the public obvious untruths. It may even be that we prefer it. That is the rational implication, and he is nothing if not rational. What is more, he is probably right.

He concludes:

It is a lesson that Mr. Harper appears to have absorbed. The Emerson and Fortier appointments were early harbingers, the two free-spending budgets and the "nation" resolution further signs that nothing Mr. Harper had said on these matters throughout his career should be taken at face value. And if these could be excused as the inevitable adjustments in the face of political reality, or even as signs of maturity, what are we to make of the pledge not to tax income trusts, or to cap equalization payments?

Read the whole article.

You see, fervent ideology is not the only problem with Harper. I fully acknowledge that he is smart, and by that I mean he is devious. He is clearly not above compromising on clearly held political or economic principles in order to pander to the electorate. He is also clearly not above playing with the truth where it suits him. He as well is clearly not above slandering the opposition, instead of taking the high road, which one would think would be the prime ministerial thing to do. Why behave like a bully instead of letting your record speak for itself? Desperation.

What all this means, among other things, is that the electorate is not getting an accurate picture of Harper and what a majority government in all likelihood would bring.

More to come.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Harper's attack ads understandable

This is priceless. It's a few days old, and I should have posted in then. It's Dion's reaction the the Harper Conservative's most recent attack ads.

You can't blame the Conservative party for running negative ads. They wanted to do a commercial about all the good things they've done . . . but there wasn't enough material for a 30-second spot.

Negotiations with the Taliban?

Right on, Galloping Beaver, and Buckdog.
on Karzai conceding that there have been talks with the Taliban. It's what I think has to happen at some point if there is to be peace in Afghanistan. Perhaps the Harper government doesn't think it's as naive as they have suggested. In the words of Galloping Beaver:

Was the Canadian government aware that Karzai is talking with the Taliban? If so, why the disingenuous stance suggesting negotiation is not possible? If not, why are Canadian troops being used to support a policy we are not aware of nor in agreement with?

And a question for Peter MacKay. Who's naive now, dimwit?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

To the NDP, Liberals: Stop bickering

We have at this time the ideolgically the most right-wing federal government in Canadian history, and that is with it only having a minority government. It is currently threatening to capture a majority in the next federal election, which seems imminent.

Despite this, it seems that the two main Anglo-Canadian opposition parties have been resorting to petty bickering, posturing to appear to be THE party that is doing the most in response to Conservative policy, and attacking each other for their respective approaches.

I see this among some Progressive Bloggers as well. There are some PBers like Catnip, and Scott, I think, who have basically similar viewpoints to mine, that being a progressive nowadays doesn't necessarily mean aligning yourself with one opposition party and attacking the other, but rather standing up for progressive values generically. I see too many others, however, some Dippers and Libloggers but not all, who are using talking points vis a vis the other party that are quite frankly becoming very tired, as opposed to keeping their eyes on the prize. Anyone can dig up isolated quotes that can paint the other guy in an unflattering light.

In my opinion as a non-partisan progressive, there is room for criticism of both the Liberals and the NDP. However, I would also say that a lot what I've heard is unjustified, and clearly aimed at attaining some kind of political high ground. Ah well, some may say that's just the nature of the parliamentary system.

Except that there is too much at stake. Stephen Harper must be stopped. Stop the partisan bikering.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Some changes to my blog

I recently finished some work on my blog. If you look on the right sidebare, you will notice three categories of links.

In the first category, Blogs, you will find some of my favourite Canadian progressive blogs.

In the second category, you will find links to the major Canadian political parties. You can rest assured that they are not listed in order of preference.

In the third category, yo will find key documents, which are articles, letters, and transcripts of speeches which highlight the far-right wing tendencies of one Mr. Stephen Harper.

Please feel free to let me know what you think, suggestions for improvement, etc.

Next task: switch to Haloscan.

Environmental groups urge passage of revamped act.

Environmental groups have urged the Harper Conservatives to pass the revamped Clearn Air Act.

John Bennett of the Climate Action Network:

We expect that the government will respect the bill, put it before Parliament and respect the will of the people. This is a moment of truth for government.

This is a government bill. This is their bill. They agreed to have it brought to a committee. Two-thirds of Canadians voted for MPs who made these amendments.

Clara Demerse of the Pembina Institute:

I want to know why the minister think the bill is weaker. I think the bill is acceptable. It's not perfect, but there are targets for large emitters put right in the bill. That's what we supported.

If they are going to go ahead and make their announcement, we now have a standard. The standards are in the bill.

Stephen Hazell of the Sierra Club:

The committee has squeezed the hot air out of the clean air act and turned it into the real deal. It's a real bill.

Hate to break it to the Harperites, but they are not going to win this chess match.

Now, time to do some work on my blog.

What to do, what to do

Scott's DiaTribes has been following the opposition's passing of amendments to the Clean Air Act, and the Harper government's reaction, including a discussion as to whether they will choose to consider it a vote of non-confidence.

Personally, I think politically they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they do call an election on this now, the lie will have been put to them, and their hypocrisy will have been exposed. Which would be perfect, because that's what they are. If they don't go now, they take the chance of the Liberals bottoming out now and showing higher approval ratings in the polls with time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Danny Williams to attack Harper

Newfoundland Conservative Premier Danny Williams is launching an ad campaign in the Globe and Mail attacking Stephen Harper:

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams is launching an ad campaign against the prime minister, attacking Stephen Harper for reneging on promises he made over the federal equalization program.

Full and half-page ads will appear in newspapers including the Globe and Mail, beginning Wednesday, that slam Harper for including oil and gas revenues in a new equalization formula as well as implementing a fiscal cap.

The advertisements contain a graphic of the Canadian maple leaf, with the inscription: Is this what Canada stands for now?

Sources say it also quotes a Gaelic proverb: "There's no greater fraud than a promise not kept."

Harper used that quotation in campaign literature he distributed throughout Newfoundland and Labrador when he was leader of the Opposition.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Garth Turner: 60 reasons not to vote for Stephen Harper

From Garth Turner's blog:

Sixty reasons not to vote for Stephen Harper.

1. Smearing MP Nav Bains’ father-in-law as being a potential terrorist, in the House of Commons.
2. Heritage Minister Bev Oda spending $5,000 on Halifax limos to arrive in style at the Juno awards.
3. Harper’s broken promise on high gas prices, saying “get used to it” after being elected.
4. Refusing to lower Canadian flags to honour our fallen military heroes.
5. Pushing recognition of “the Quebecois as a nation” through Parliament in order to win seats in that province.
6. Stacking the judiciary with pro-Conservative judges.
7. David Emerson
8. Security Minister Stockwell Day denying he bought off a former MP to secure a seat in Parliament.
9. Canceling the Kelowna Accord, cutting off talks with first nations’ leaders and refusing to deal with the Caledonia crisis.
10. Fudging the costs of government jets used by Stephen Harper and his ministers after blasting Liberals for the same thing.
11. Promising investors a break on capital gains taxes and then abandoning it after being elected.
12. Dredging up anti-gay sentiments by forcing another vote in Parliament on same-sex marriage.
13. John Baird’s partisanship.
14. Parliamentary secretary Pierre Poilievre’s hand gestures in Parliament and F-word comments in committee.
15. Refusing to allow media coverage of the return home of our Afghan war dead, without consulting the families.
16. Broken promise on providing a health care waiting time guarantee.
17. Spending more money in a single year than any other government in Canadian history, stoking inflation and threatening higher interest rates.
18. Broken promise on taxing income trusts.
19. Deporting hardworking, tax-paying resident Portuguese drywallers.
20. Conservative MP Colin Mayes writing a column saying journalists who disagree with Harper should be jailed.
21. Doing nothing about climate change or the environment for more than a year, and until forced to by the polls.
22. Making a former lobbyist for military arms dealers the minister of defence, in charge of $15 billion in spending.
23. Orchestrating a secret dirty tricks campaign against Bob Rae inside the Liberal leadership convention.
24. Preaching Senate reform, then appointing Michael Fortier to the Senate so he could be made an unelected cabinet minister.
25. Spending $150,000 per weapon to arm border guards.
26. Rona Ambrose, as environment minister, firing a government scientist for writing a book on global warming.
27. Stacking a stem cell research advisory committee with pro-life Conservatives.
28. Muzzling Conservative MPs and banning them from unauthorized media interviews.
29. Saying opposition MPs have “more passion for Taliban prisoners” than they do for Canadian soldiers.
30. Trying to dismantle the Canada Wheat Board and sacking its president.
31. Attempts to block access of the Parliamentary Press Gallery to the prime minister and cabinet. Secret timing of cabinet meetings.
32. Refusing to apologize for wiping out $25 billion in private savings with one tax measure, a great deal of it belonging to seniors.
33. Supporting Calgary Conservative MP Rob Anders’ bogus nomination process, later overturned by the courts.
34. Trying to buy the 2007 Quebec election with a 34% increase in transfer payments.
35. Refusal to even consider honouring the Kyoto Accord, or come up with a credible alternative, until forced to by Parliament.
36. Appointing Liberal MP Wajid Khan as a mid-east advisor to write a public report for Harper, then refusing to release it after he defected.
37. Claiming the Air India inquiry depended on anti-terrorism act amendments that opposition MPs opposed, when lawyers said it did not.
38. Blacking out pages on reasons for taxing income trusts when released under freedom of information.
39. Broken promise to cut the GST by a second point.
40. Raising personal income tax rate for the lowest bracket to help pay for record government spending.
41. Vowing to dismantle gun registry after fatal shooting in Montreal with registered weapons.
42. Cabinet minister Peter Van Loan botching the electoral reform commission hearings.
43. Cutting the Energuide program for low-income homeowners and replacing it with a new one for higher-income homeowners.
44. Kicking out Garth Turner.
45. Firing Conservative Senators Hugh Segal and Michael Meighan from committee work for independent thinking.
46. Threatening Conservative MPs with loss of party status if they talked about funding cuts that affect their constituents.
47. Constant campaigning, rather than governing.
48. Not a single new child care space after promising 125,000 would be created in first Conservative mandate.
49. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty spending $400 on a pair of skates while bringing in budget for “working families.”
50. Promising a lean government, then bloating the cabinet by six more people, with cars and drivers.
51. Snubbing two of the world’s fastest-growing economies and most promising trading partners, China and India.
52. Not allowing Conservative MPs to debate government policies in caucus.
53. Cutting funding to literacy programs, then sending Laureen Harper to a literacy event.
54. Attacking Stephane Dion as “not as leader” in a massive TV ad campaign two weeks after he is elected leader.
55. Breaking promises to provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan, over transfer payments, while showering Quebec.
56. Politicizing the police and the military.
57. Linking a vote on pension income-splitting for seniors to taxing income trusts.
58. Cutting funding to women’s programs only to restore it after staff was fired.
59. Accusing those concerned with human rights of being soft on crime, soft on terror and bashing police.
60. Forcing an early election in 2007, breaking a legislated promise to have the next vote in 2009

Friday, March 23, 2007

James Laxer raises alarm bells on Harper's Quebec proposal

On Wednesday, Stephen Harper announced that if the federalists win the Quebec election on March 26, he will take steps to curtail federal spending powers.

James Laxer has raised the alarm bells:

With his proposed Grand Bargain, Stephen Harper would bring his over-arching objective of a Canada, not only with a market economy but with a market society as well, much closer to fruition. Gone would be the potential to establish national programs to create common standards across the country. At the federal level, progressive liberals and social democrats would be blocked from undertaking initiatives to advance the cause of greater social equality.

Laxer concludes:

Stephen Harper’s Grand Bargain with Quebec would place the capstone on the edifice of a right-wing Canada, which neither Quebeckers nor English Canadians want. Progressives who reject the idea of a stripped-down market society need to understand the stakes in the next federal election. It is one they cannot allow the Conservatives to win.

Read the whole article.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pressure on Harper to support Kelowna accord is mounting

The pressure is mounting on the Harperites to support the Kelowna Accord, on at least four fronts:

1) Brian Mulroney expressed his support for the accord on the weekend on the Next Great Prime Minister with Rick Mercer. He said, we've existed for 140 years and we have this shameful situation . . . and why? Very simple: we stole their land," and that he absolutely supported the accord.

2) Provincial calls have been made for the feds to support the accord. The Conservative government in Newfoundland has passed a private member's bill calling for the feds to pass the Kelowna Accord. Also, Jean Charest, who is a former federal Conservative, a couple of weeks ago called on Harper to support the accord.

3) The Opposition passed a private members bill in the House of Commons calling on the government to pass the Kelowna Accord. Of course, the Harperites voted against it. (All Conservative MPs are Harperites through complicity in supporting the Harper agenda).

4) Aboriginals are mobilizing on this issue as well as on the federal budget which failed to address issues dealt with in the Kelowna Accord. Phil Fontaine in a Star op-ed expressed his dismal view of the federal budget. Stewart Phillip of the union of BC Indian Chiefs has said that Canada will face a "summer of protest" in response to this failure.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks and months as I follow Harper's response to this issue.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Harper mudslinging

From liberal catnip, two examples of disgraceful mudslinging on the part of the Harper Conservatives. Yes, all parties stoop to mudslinging from time to time, but these guys take it to a new level.

Harper, in question period today:

I can understand the passion that the leader of the Opposition and members of his party feel for the Taliban prisoners. I just wish occasionally they would show the same passion for Canadian soldiers.

Give me a break!

Certainly not prime ministerial. Certianly not taking the high road. Rather, I suspect, yet another attempt to throw dirty lies at the opposition and hope they stick in a desperate drive to distract the citizenry attain a majority so they can do as they please.

Their pork-barrel budget released Monday, designed to placate the citizenry and make them feel good about Harper, and which went against much of what Stephen Harper believes in on economic policy, is another plank in that drive for a majority.