Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Fraudulent election calls traced to Edmonton firm with Tory links

National Post: Fraudulent election calls traced to Edmonton firm with Tory links
[Sue] Campbell had just returned home after voting on the morning of election day when a call came in saying her polling station had been moved to the Quebec Street Mall in downtown Guelph.

“At first, I thought. ‘Oh, that’s strange,’” Campbell recalls. “Upon reflection, I thought, ‘This can’t be right. Why on Earth would it change on the day election?’”

She wrote down the digits on the caller ID — the number in Quebec — and called Elections Canada to complain.

Internal Elections Canada emails obtained under Access to Information legislation show officials were rattled by the calls.

At 11:06 a.m., election officer Anita Hawdur sent an email to to legal counsel Karen McNeil with the header: “URGENT Conservative campaign office communications with electors.” Hawdur reported that returning officers were calling to ask about the calls. McNeil responded by asking Hawdur to alert Rennie Molnar, the deputy chief electoral officer. He later emailed Michel Roussel, a senior director: “This one is far more serious. They have actually disrupted the voting process.”

Around the same time, Guelph Liberal MP Frank Valeriote got a call at his home, telling him that his campaign staff was hearing from Liberal supporters in the riding about the same kind of bogus Elections Canada calls.

What they first thought were a few nuisance calls, the Valeriote campaign recognized was an orchestrated campaign to discourage his supporters from voting.

Voters who ended up in the wrong place and were turned away were unlikely to persist and go to another polling station. A campaign worker was quickly dispatched to the mall, armed with a binder of polling maps, so he could redirect supporters back to the right place. Within an hour, more than 100 voters had turned up at the mall.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Even with a majority, the bullying goes on

Jeffrey Simpson: Even with a majority, the bullying goes on
Those who thought the Harper government would ease up a bit after winning a majority were wrong. Noblesse oblige is out, or, rather, was never in. If anything, the Harper government is more bullying, scornful of dissent, intent on controlling every utterance, contemptuous of the media and determined to carry on political war at all times and by all means.

The Conservative war machine engaged in what House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer called this week “reprehensible” conduct in the Montreal riding of Mount Royal. There, the Conservatives hired a firm to phone voters and tell them that Liberal MP Irwin Cotler was thinking of resigning.
Bruce Anderson: Do Conservatives now think they have carte blanche on dirty tricks?
People of whatever political stripe who care about reasonable conduct in Canada’s political life might want to press on with a couple of outstanding questions.

1. Does the leadership of the Conservative Party interpret the ruling as carte blanche to do more of this kind of “wet-work”? If this tactic were carried out on a broader scale, would anyone really think it is nothing more than sporting politics? (As an aside, do we really think the Speaker would have arrived at the same decision if the tactic was used against 50 or 100 opposition MPs?)

2. Do other leading Conservatives share the views of Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, who said that the calls made into Mr. Cotler’s riding were vital free speech and a sign of good health in our democracy? If Mr. Van Loan truly is speaking for cabinet… well, that would be kind of frightening. If not, he should seek an opportunity to step back from that argument and acknowledge that a line was crossed.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

NDP MP stands by Twitter profanity as Conservatives end debate on omnibus crime bill

John Ibbotson, writing in the Globe and Mail:
[Pat] Martin’s use of numerous four-letter words to express his displeasure raised eyebrows – though if you think about it, referring to Conservative “jackboot” tactics, as he did, is probably a more serious slur – but the NDP rightly points out that no government has ever imposed closure so often on so many bills over such a short period of time.

Since winning their majority, the Conservatives have limited debate on the bills to end the gun registry and to scrap the wheat board’s monopoly; on omnibus crime legislation; on the bill to add more seats to the House of Commons; and on two budget bills.

Mr. Martin’s profane tweets “are a clear reflection of the frustration we’re all feeling,” Opposition House Leader Joe Comartin said. “Pat just expressed it more vigorously than the rest of us have.”

Thursday morning, the Conservatives moved to shut off debate on Bill C-10, the crime legislation, in committee. Debate must end by midnight on a bill that has 290 different sections.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Taking a break

Taking a break. I don't expect to start posting regularly again until the next election campaign starts up (although I may post from time to time if Harper does something particularly outrageous).

Some other Harper commentary:

Lawrence Martin, author of Harperland.

Jeffrey Simpson.

Commentary by Canadian economists: Economy Lab, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Lawrence Martin on Layton's death

Lawrence Martin: Layton’s death a devastating blow to the left.
Jack Layton was the left’s great hope. The great hope is gone and the timing for the country’s social democrats could hardly be worse.

For a country channelling swiftly in a Conservative direction, Mr. Layton’s was the one big voice on the other side that was heard, that was respected, that had the potential of slowing and maybe even reversing the tide.

Jack Layton was the little guy’s politician, a rock-hard champion of the underdog and social justice. He was to the New Democratic Party what Jean Chr├ętien, particularly in his earlier incarnation, was to the Liberal Party. The departure of Mr. Chr├ętien left the Liberals without an anchor, and the passing of Mr. Layton could well do the same to the NDP.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Jack Layton's last letter to Canadians

Jack Layton passed away yesterday, at 61. His final letter to Canadians:
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

... To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

... My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Doug Griffiths on Alberta's fiscal gap

From Alberta, Canada's richest province: Most Tory leadership hopefuls say taxes, royalties won't rise.
Of the six candidates - Doug Horner, Gary Mar, Rick Orman, Doug Griffiths, Alison Redford and Ted Morton - the majority believe their provincial government has a problem with its spending, not revenue generation.

Five of the six hopefuls say they won't adopt or aren't considering any sort of tax hike, with Griffiths the lone candidate to suggest a review of taxes and revenue may be needed.

He points to the glaring gap between the roughly $12 billion in corporate and personal income taxes raised and the $39 billion in annual spending - including $15 billion on health care alone.

The rest of the cash comes largely from non-renewable resource dollars, federal transfers, and liquor and gambling revenues.

"We don't pay for the services we get. We rely on royalties and then we wonder why we ride this roller-coaster? Maybe we should review the tax system and pay for what we get. That's all I'm saying. That's why it's part of that whole big fiscal discussion we need to have," Griffiths said in an interview.

Indeed, a report released in the spring from the 12-member Premier's Council for Economic Strategy, chaired by former federal Tory cabinet minister David Emerson, said Alberta must stop using royalty revenues to fund day-to-day operations.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

What happens if the US fails to raise the debt ceiling?

Konrad Yakabuski, in the Globe and Mail: Debt-ceiling deniers court economic disaster.
An analysis by [Jay] Powell, a visiting scholar at the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center, shows that the U.S. government is projected to take in $172-billion in revenues between Aug. 3 and Aug. 31, but face bills totalling $306-billion.

The shortfall of $134-billion would not only force the government to choose whom to pay among its millions of debt holders, pension recipients and employees. The sudden plunge in federal spending – equivalent to a staggering 10 per cent of U.S. gross domestic product in August – would by all accounts pull the rug out from under the economy.
What's going on?

I think the source of the deadlock is that the Republicans and the Democrats represent two views which may be irreconcilable.

One view is that government is a huge waste, and government spending should be as close to zero as possible. Let’s call it the anti-government faction.

The other view (the status quo faction) is that government is a critical part of society as it exists today, providing the traditional functions of war, diplomacy, and justice; dampening the wild swings of the business cycle; and helping to close the gap between rich and poor, by funding services like public education and health care through a tax system which falls more heavily on the rich than the poor. It’s not difficult to have a society where the rich live in extravagant luxury and the poor struggle to keep from starving; see any ancient empire or modern Third World country. It’s far more difficult to maintain a middle-class society of broadly shared prosperity.

The only common ground here is that the status quo faction is willing to look for spending cuts, to make the government more efficient. I don’t think it’s going to be enough for the anti-government faction. And it’s going to make the recession worse.

Update: the Republicans have agreed to a deal, avoiding default.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Feds silence scientist over salmon study

Ottawa Citizen:
Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada's West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister's Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.

... The Harper government has tightened the leash on federal scientists, whose work is financed by taxpayers and is often of significant public interest — be it about fish stocks, air pollution or food safety.

... Researchers, who used to be free to discuss their science, are now required to follow a process that includes "media lines" approved by communications officers, strategists and ministerial staff in Ottawa. They vet media requests, demand reporters' questions in advance and decide when and if researchers can give interviews.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Toxins locked in Arctic deep freeze released by melting ice

Vancouver Sun:
Environment Canada sleuths have found that toxins such as PCBs that have been locked in an Arctic deep freeze are being "remobilized" as the climate warms.

In a report published Sunday, they say that persistent organic pollutants, known as POPs, which were banned decades ago, are being released in the Arctic as sea ice retreats and temperatures rise.

"Our results indicate that a wide range of POPs have been remobilized into the Arctic atmosphere over the past two decades as a result of climate change, confirming that Arctic warming could undermine global efforts to reduce environmental and human exposure to these toxic chemicals," Hayley Hung, an Environment Canada research scientist, and her colleagues reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Large amounts of the toxic chemicals were transported to the North from factories and farmers' fields on air currents and ended up trapped in Arctic ice, and frigid northern soils and sea water.

Until recently scientists and regulators thought the Arctic toxins would stay out of circulation permanently, but Hung says that view changed with some "very abnormal' readings in recent years.

Scientists have measured the old pesticide hexachlorocyclohexane, which was banned years ago, coming out of open water in Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea.

And polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, widely used as coolants and lubricants until they were banned in many countries more than two decades ago, have been picked up at the edge of the ice in the Atlantic Arctic.