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.