Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year

Be of good cheer. Then take a cab.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Another reason I'm opposed to national ID cards

Because governments screw up:
Ottawa's new immigration rules are becoming mired in confusion that threatens to strand landed immigrants at foreign airports tomorrow.

As of New Year's Eve, landed immigrants returning to Canada must carry a new permanent resident card or temporary travel visa.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada says it has set up contingency plans that airlines are expected to follow for people without one of the documents.

But spokespersons for airlines said that's news to them, and that those without proper documents will be turned away.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, meanwhile, is on holiday until Jan. 12.
I think somone should have anticipated a problem by now.
Since the new regulation was introduced in June, 2002, more than 850,000 of Canada's 1.5 million landed immigrants have received the card.
That would mean that roughly 650,000 landed immigrants have not received their cards yet. That sounds to me like a valid reason for delaying implementation of a new policy.
But the immigration department has been saying publicly that no landed immigrants, whether they come from a visa-exempt country or not, will be allowed to board a commercial carrier by sea, land or air without the required documents.
There's good government for ya.

Note: The pull quotes aren't in the original order. I like my version better.

Lord won't lead new united right party

I know this doesn't seem like news, but it really is. Honest.

So that leaves Harper and Prentice. And maybe MacKay.

And maybe Belinda Stronach, who's mulling over the possibility of a run for it because she "wants to ensure that the new party is seen in a positive light". Since Stronach has no political experience and would only reinforce the idea that the right is heavily influenced by corporate interests, I'm not sure how her candidacy would accomplish that, but I'm obviously not the kind of voter the new Conservative party hopes to attract.

I'm not as brave as James Bow in that I'm not going to try and predict the election results at this point. But I stand by my earlier comment: I think the moves Martin has made, and will continue to make, are indicative of his real agenda. I don't think the Liberals really feel the need to position themselves as a potential governing party. They are the governing party for the forseeable future.

Why wait 'til it's a real disaster?

Ottawa accused of stalling on mad cow safeguards
The Canadian Health Coalition says the government has consistently dragged its feet on implementing safety protocols that could eliminate worry about mad cow disease.

Researcher Bradford Duplessis said that since mad cow was first discovered in Canada last May, only about 2,000 cattle have been tested for the disease.
"We're testing .00001 per cent of our herd. To put that in perspective, in France they tested 25 per cent of their animals. In Japan, every animal that goes to slaughter is tested – 100 per cent," he said.
The appropriate government spokesperson, Francine Lord of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, responded that increased testing is "being considered" and that Japan and France do more testing because "they have experienced more serious outbreaks of mad cow disease".

There's an old saying that comes to mind. Something about a horse and a barn door.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Earthquake in Iran

Via James Bow, here's a blog with a full set of links to coverage of this disaster. And here's where you can make a donation to help the victims. As James said:
Forget politics. Forget religion. Forget international relations. It's time to send help. Now.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Arar inquiry update

Damn Foreigner points to this followup story about the SIRC investigation into possible involvement by CSIS in the deportation of Arar to Syria. As previously noted, this doesn't look to go nearly far enough and others are expressing the same kind of disappointment.
Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty Canada echoed similar disappointment saying Canadians are growing tired of watching cabinet ministers turn to Americans for information on the actions of Canadian agencies.

"It's absurd to suggest that the only way we can get clarity was to look to the United States to get those answers. If we can't get answers here in Canada then there's something terribly wrong with accountability in our system," said Neve.
Prime Minister Martin has repeated his determination to get to the bottom of the Arar case but is hedging on the possibility of a public inquiry due to concern that it could damage national security. In the same story, we learn that CSIS was at least indirectly involved in the case by providing information to the RCMP which was forwarded to American intelligence agencies. In the story the RCMP is described as the "sole direct conduit".
"Both agencies were doing their job," a Canadian government source said. "I believe Canadians take their security a little too much for granted."
If that's the case, how about coming out from behind the veil of anonymity and telling us about it? Like, I don't know, at a public inquiry? Weasel. (Sorry. Lost it there for a second. Somebody who wants to make it seem like this whole mess was the fault of 'Canadians' should have the courage to attach his name to his words. Show me how this was my fault and I'll fix it.)

In a Toronto Star story today, the McDonald commission is held up as a model which could be used as a basis for a public inquiry that would serve to inform the public while still protecting national security.
Wesley Wark of the Munk Centre for International Studies said it would be possible to follow the model of the McDonald inquiry. "I know the Canadian government would throw up (the threat to security) as an insurmountable obstacle, but it isn't," he said, adding that it would require that the commissioner or commissioners have the highest security clearance.

"But at the end of the day, the kind of information that is required is not the raw material of intelligence," he said. "It's the policy and bureaucratic procedures that were followed. They don't necessarily threaten what the intelligence community calls `sources and methods.'"

The challenge for a commission of inquiry, he suggested, would be to establish trust with the intelligence and security community, the government and public. "The more any commission is seen as seeking a scapegoat, chasing headlines, or as being inexpert, the more hopeless it all becomes," he said.

He concluded the RCMP complaints inquiry is "a terrible dead end."
So if there's a workable precedent, let's have an inquiry.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Closed for the holidays

Be safe. Have a happy.

Back on the 26th.

Comments are down

Not that you folks have been too talkative so far anyway, but it looks like comments are down for the moment. Maybe Haloscan gave their hamsters a day or two off for Christmas.

A good read

This essay on the neocon influence on American foreign policy since the Cold War demonstrates why Whiskey Bar was one of the first blogs I listed on the blogroll. Somebody should be paying this guy.

Bye bye beef industry. Again.

As reported at Just a Bump in the Beltway, there's been a case of mad cow disease discovered in Washington state. As of this morning, The Agonist is reporting that five countries have already moved to block American beef exports. There's some detailed coverage at Seeing the Forest. And, as Don at RevMod suggests, it seems likely that the Canadian beef industry will get caught in the crossfire.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Broadbent's back

Ed Broadbent, who has already announced his intention to run for the NDP in the next federal election, explains why he's coming out of retirement in this op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail. Referring to the consequences of a decade's worth of Paul Martin's economic policies, Broadbent writes:
What have been the consequences of the biggest cut in social and environmental spending in Canadian history? The number of children in poverty is over the one-million mark — up, not down, from the time of Mr. Martin's 1989 promise to eliminate such poverty. Meanwhile, during the same period, five other countries virtually eliminated child poverty.

Real incomes of the typical Canadian family remain at the level they were at in the mid-1970s, while those of the rich have gone through the roof.

Cuts of billions of dollars in transfers to the provinces have meant cancer and heart patients in virtually every province have not received the care they deserve, and we can afford.

Average fees for university students have more than doubled (in France, Germany, Spain and Ireland — and many other European countries — university is free).

The number of food banks has increased 300 per cent from 1989 to this year (an increase from 1,100 to 3,287). These results are Paul Martin' s legacy to average and low-income Canadians.
I'd say Ed still has some of the old fire left. This should make things interesting, to say the least.

More popcorn, please

Paul Krugman weighs in on Conrad Black and media moguls in general. I particularly like Krugman's suggestion for a new parlour game: Six Degrees of Richard Perle. Fun for the whole family if you happen to have a family full of political junkies.

What James said

Go read James Bow's letter to Paul Martin. I'd sign that. Does it ever occur to politicians and their handlers that they shoot themselves in the foot when they pull stunts like this? I didn't know the spoof site existed. Now I'll bookmark it and read every damn word.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Pass the popcorn

Conrad Black, or Lord Black as he's now known, testified before the SEC today concerning millions of dollars in unauthorized payments that he and other executives received from Hollinger International. Except he didn't really testify since he took the 5th.

It's too soon to say how things are going to go for Lord Tubby but it's certainly getting interesting. There's a possibility he may take a few other heavyweights down with him. According to this New York Times article, Henry Kissinger, Richard Perle and Dwayne Andreas (former head of Archer Daniels Midland) are at particular risk.
While all of the company's outside directors could face lawsuits accusing them of failing to serve shareholders, Mr. Kissinger, Mr. Perle and Mr. Andreas may be at even greater risk. By accepting additional fees for having served among Mr. Black's international advisers, the three could be considered consultants, or insiders.

According to Charles Elson, professor of corporate governance at the University of Delaware, the acceptance of those payments increases the likelihood of their liability for oversight failures.
I think I'll keep an eye on this one.

The NYT link is via See Why?. And check out the photo - Black does not look amused.

The plot thickens

On Friday, Andrew Spicer wrote about the Toronto Port Authority and its demands for millions in compensation following the cancellation of the fixed link to the Toronto Island airport by the new city council. The whole mess may become a national story now.
Just one week before David Miller was sworn in as mayor after a successful anti-bridge campaign, the federal government handed over a $7 million piece of waterfront land that the Toronto Port Authority needed to build the island airport link.

Now NDP Leader Jack Layton and city Councillor Olivia Chow say it's up to Prime Minister Paul Martin to investigate and reverse the "secret" Nov. 24 deal.

The port authority paid $300,000 for the land, which is located at the foot of Bathurst St.
Three hundred thou for a seven million dollar property - nice work if you can get it.
"How could it be that right in the middle of a discussion (of the bridge) that a week before council makes a decision and a week before Mayor Miller gets sworn in that a piece of land like this would get sold for $300,000 to the port authority?" Chow asked.
The feds aren't talking. Paul Martin hadn't yet been sworn in as Prime Minister when the land was transferred. The Minister of Public Works at the time was Ralph Goodale, but he's now Minister of Finance and won't comment on someone else's portfolio. But Jack Layton's certainly talking.
Layton lashed out at what he called the "duplicitous" Liberals who, he said, were helping the pro-bridge port authority while at the same time saying they would support city council's decision on the bridge.
Could this be the first scandal for the Martin government? If so, it sure didn't take long.

Not good enough

CSIS watchdog to probe Arar case
The Security Intelligence Review Committee on Monday announced an investigation of CSIS's involvement in the Maher Arar case.
SIRC – the only independent, external committee with the legal authority to review CSIS activities and report to Parliament – hopes to release a report by the spring of 2004.
Why do I think this will mean that further requests for a public inquiry will be refused until SIRC finishes its review?
The committee will not subpoena people involved in the case. They may ask for clarifications, but will conduct no full interviews. Instead, the investigation will focus on e-mails between CSIS and various domestic and foreign agencies like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and foreign intelligence agencies.
No supoenas, no full interviews, just a review of emails. And I don't know for sure, but I'll bet that SIRC is under absolutely no obligation to reveal the results of its investigation to the public. If anyone knows differently, please tell me I'm wrong.

This isn't even close to being good enough.

I'm going with the simple explanation

Paul Wells has a followup post regarding his quest to understand the motivation behind Paul Martin's shift to the right. Of all the theories offered, my own is closest to Kathleen's from Kimberley, BC. I don't think we need to resort to explanations involving political expediency; I think this is our new Prime Minister's real agenda.

Ontarians will recall that when Mike Harris became Premier in '95, he hit the ground running. He quickly rammed through a great deal of legislation, much of it politically unpopular, on the theory that he would have the latter half of his mandate to do damage control before going to the polls again. And it worked - he got his second term. I believe that's what we're seeing here.

All it takes to give credence to this theory is to assume that Martin is confident of winning a healthy majority in the spring. If he believes that his opposition on either side of the political spectrum is incapable of posing a serious challenge, then he'll assume that he has a free hand to push his agenda quickly and use the second half of his mandate to prepare for the fight for his second term.

Could Martin and his crew be that confident? Sure. By now Liberals must be feeling like they govern by birthright. Even if Jack Layton does everything right, I don't think anyone believes the NDP can mount a serious challenge as early as next year. And as James Bow wrote (scroll down), the Conservatives appear to be in search of a 'white knight' leader who can put a veneer of respectability on what will continue to be, essentially, an Alliance platform. That's going to leave them a distant second at best. So yes, Martin and his crew could well be feeling that cocky.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Speak, that I may know thee

Comments are now enabled. Have at it.

Friday, December 19, 2003

On the road again

I'm away for a couple of days. There's no doubt lots of interesting reading if you follow the links on the blogroll. Gotta boogie.

Azan Update

Matt at Living In A Society has the latest on Randolph Azan, a Canadian living and working in New York who found himself stuck in a detention centre in Puerto Rico. Damn Foreigner has some additional comment.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Busy, busy, busy

There are a lot of things I would like to be writing about here, but real life has intruded and will continue to intrude for at least a couple of days yet. So I'm going to let some of my fellow bloggers do some of the work for me.

The Armchair Garbageman has given the National Post a bit of a smackdown in this post, and good for him. The Post is the best single argument in Canada against media monopolies. The CBC is obviously being targetted here because it's being funded by taxpayer dollars. That seems ironic to me when you consider that the Post loses $20 million a year. I'm sure that lowers the taxes the Asper media empire pays so, in a way, we're subsidizing the Post too.

Paul Wells is on a mission of discovery: he wants to figure out exactly why Paul Martin is pulling to the right and he wants your help. One of his points in particular caught my eye:
(e) Near-instantaneous deep freeze in government's relationship with public-sector unions.
A week ago I pointed to an op-ed piece Brian Tobin had written for the Globe and Mail. I wrote about it because I wondered if it was the opening salvo in a round of union bashing by the federal Liberals. Now I'm more suspicious than ever.

And to anyone who might argue that there's no need for Martin to call an immediate election because he can continue for a while with the current Liberal mandate, I say no way. Martin isn't the Prime Minister we elected and the direction he appears to be taking things isn't the mandate the current Liberal government was given. The sooner we have an election so we can have a real public debate on these issues, the better.

There's been a lot of discussion both in the media and in the blogosphere about how and where Saddam Hussein should be tried. One of the most thoughtful discussions I've seen is here at Body and Soul. One excellent point Jeanne raises is this:
This won't be the only trial. The GC wants to make Saddam's trial the first of many, and while no one has any doubt Saddam is guilty, the situation in some of the trials that follow may be murkier. Saddam's trial will set the standard by which further trials are conducted, and if the standard is low, there is a distinct possibility that other people may be unjustly convicted.

The Valerie Plame affair led to a lot of discussion about journalists, their reliance on anonymous sources, and the ethics involved. More recently, when the facts of the Maher Arar case were made public, there were a lot of reports attributed to "anonymous officials" regarding the reasons for Arar's deportation. It seemed he was being tried in the media without ever being charged with a crime. So I found this Washington Post item, pointed out at Daily Kos, particularly interesting. Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for Sen. John Kerry's campaign, sent an email attacking Howard Dean to reporters with instructions that the criticism be attributed only to '"a Democratic campaign". One journalist didn't want to play the game that way and attributed the remarks to Cutter when he published them.
[Adam] Nagourney, who previously outed "background" e-mails from aides to Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), John Edwards (N.C.) and Bob Graham (Fla.), said: "If someone wants to go off the record, call me up, and I'll be glad to negotiate. But you cannot do it preemptively. I will not let someone attack someone else anonymously, which is what the Kerry campaign is trying to do."
Is there a Canadian paper that will hire this guy?

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

RIP Robert Stanfield

Robert Stanfield dead at 89
Former federal Conservative leader and Nova Scotia premier Robert Lorne Stanfield died Tuesday at the age of 89.
Stanfield served as federal Conservative opposition leader from 1967 to 1976. He was known within the party as the greatest prime minister Canada never had.

He succeeded John Diefenbaker as leader after a bitter internal fight, but ran into the phenomenon of Trudeaumania in 1968. Known as a quiet humanitarian and a straight-talker, his slow-speaking style contrasted with Pierre Trudeau's youthful image.
He once said if he walked on water, the next day's headline would be, "Stanfield can't swim."
Whether you agreed with his politics or not, Stanfield was an honourable man. One of the good guys.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

It's nice to see someone enjoying himself

Paul Wells does a nice little smackdown of Paul Martin here in response to a Treasury Board/Dept. of Finance press release. He finishes his post with these words:
I'm gonna love covering this government.
And I think I'm gonna love watching it.

I guess we should all just stay home from now on

Yesterday I pointed to a story at Living in a Society concerning another Canadian citizen, Randolph Azan, who's been detained in the US on suspicion of travelling while not being American. Matthew's update this morning indicates that City Pulse News has picked up on the story. He also informs us that the US was prepared to deport Azan to his country of birth, Jamaica, but balked at sending him to Canada which is his preference. Of course I imagine his real preference would be to stay in the US where he's been residing and working legally for years.

Today I followed a link at Damn Foreigner to a post by Ikram at Path of the Paddle concerning another Canadian citizen, Jamal Akkal, who's being held in Israel on suspicion of plotting with Hamas to commit assassinations and terrorist acts in North America (which, coincidentally, would be the first I've heard that Hamas conducts terrorist operations in North America). Akkal has been held since Nov. 1st and according to the latest news has been formally charged.
A Gaza-born Canadian citizen who has been held in Israel since early November has been formally charged in connection with an alleged plot to carry out attacks against Israelis and Jews in North America.
The problem is that all the Israeli authorities really have to go on is a confession in Hebrew, which Akkal doesn't understand, that was obtained during twenty days of interrogation that included sleep deprivation. Israel claims that Akkal hasn't been mistreated, but then Israel doesn't regard sleep deprivation as torture.

The point Ikram makes is the same one I made way back when concerning Maher Arar. What we're complaining about has nothing to do with the possible guilt or innocence of these individuals. What we're complaining about is the way that as soon as the possibility of a crime becomes associated with the great, unholy spectre of "terrorism" then the crime, or even the mere suspicion, becomes something qualitatively different; it becomes an excuse to throw out the principles on which a civilized justice system is supposed to be based.

Here's a story about that: if we dump our principles the moment they become inconvenient then they were never really principles at all - they were just slogans. I may have said that before but it bears repeating.

Monday, December 15, 2003

First Impressions - III

Since Paul Martin has indicated that defence and security issues are to get more attention under his new government, today's installment concerns our new Minister of Defense, David Pratt.

As Paul Wells pointed out, shortly after Martin's cabinet was announced the NDP published some information on the voting records of incoming full cabinet ministers. Since prior to this appointment I wasn't really aware of Pratt's existence, I thought this would be a good place to start. I'll note in advance that I'll be giving fairly short shrift to some issues that could be the subject of much more detailed discussion, but I don't want this post to go on forever. And I'm becoming more certain that these issues will come up again anyway. That's what worries me.

Of the six votes reported on, Pratt was absent for two, voted as I would expect a Liberal would for one, and voted what I would regard as a conservative or right wing position on three. The three are:Houston, we have a problem.

The National Missile Defense program doesn't work. It has the potential to ignite a new arms race at a time when nations the world over are becoming more and more concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And it doesn't work. It looks to be a hellishly expensive boondoogle that will succeed primarily at redirecting public money to the pockets of military contractors. And did I mention it doesn't work?* I have to hold this one against Pratt.

NAFTA's Chapter 11 is the investment chapter - the one that allows corporations to sue governments when the latter pass laws that might infringe on the 'right' to make a profit. It undermines the ability of the citizenry to decide how their society will work and how their goverment will run. It places profit above democracy. I have to hold this one against him, as well.

As for the Alliance position on marriage, I think it's simply discriminatory. Arguing that gays shouldn't have the right to marry because it violates the "tradition" of marriage is tantamount to saying that we shouldn't allow gays to marry simply because we've never done so before. Of course there's no tradition of gay marriage. How can a tradition develop when society won't allow something to happen? That's three strikes.

This guy makes me nervous and finding out that he supported sending Canadian troops to Iraq seals the deal. I take some comfort from the fact that his job is to ensure that our military is prepared to do what needs to be done, not to decide whether, and under what circumstances, our armed forces are actually deployed. But I'll be watching pretty closely to see if Pratt's positions on issues like these are an indication of the direction in which the Martin government is moving.

What I meant to say was...

I threw that last post up in a hurry. Anyone who followed the link to get the story may be wondering why I was harping on the subject of a public inquiry when it appears that no Canadians were involved in this incident. Except of course for the poor fellow who's sitting in a detention centre in Puerto Rico.

My reasoning is this: given the lingering suspicion about Canadian complicity in the Maher Arar case, any protests we make to the United States will carry more weight if, at the same time, we're seen to be ensuring that our own house is in order. But if we're complacent about the possibility of wrong-doing by our own officials then Americans can quite rightly call us hypocritical when we complain about their misdeeds.

It's been over two years since 9/11. It's past time to review all the security measures that were thrown together in haste, to see if those measures were appropriate and if they do, in fact, make any of us more safe. Because some of them are obviously making certain of us less safe and there have been far too many examples of that lately. I think the public inquiry a lot of us have been calling for needs to go further than just the case of Maher Arar. Let's get the whole business out on the table where we can see it. Then maybe we can come up with better solutions that don't include so much, and I hate this phrase, collateral damage.

Edited for clarity. I was still in too much of a hurry. Bad day.

Another Canadian detained...

Since this story apparently hasn't hit the media, I wanted to do my bit to get it publicized. Go read Matthew's post at Living in a Society to learn how another Canadian has found himself tangled up in what passes for a justice system in post-9/11 America. We need a public inquiry and we need it yesterday.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

First impressions - II

Anne McLellan isn't new to the cabinet but with her promotion to Deputy Prime Minister as well as Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, she becomes the effective second in command in the Canadian government. So she's my next choice for a closer look.

Her official bio doesn't provide nearly as much information as did Irwin Cotler's, and as a Chrétien cabinet minister in one department or another since 1993, I doubt her voting record would reveal much since she would have voted as she was expected to. Since she's now responsible for defending the government, I expect that will continue. Her long career as a cabinet minister under Chrétien would certainly suggest that her loyalty can be counted on.

Her previous portfolio was Health, and right off the bat my impression is coloured by the fact that it took her a year to announce the national health council while the rest of the recommendations from Roy Romanow's report seem to be sitting on the back burner. Considering the fact that the department she's assuming responsibility for is new, and seeks to combine and/or coordinate the responsibilities of several other departments, I think she'll have to move more quickly than that to be effective. Of course, as Deputy PM she'll doubtless have more clout and more resources at her disposal.

In forming the new Department, the Martin government has gone out of its way to avoid a direct comparison to the American Department of Homeland Security:
It will oversee intelligence and security functions and co-ordinate border operations, just as is now done in Washington.
But as Ms. McLellan emphasized in an interview yesterday, her new ministry is not the mirror image of the one south of the border. It is less sweeping, in one sense, because it does not encompass any immigration functions, a reflection of Canadians' sensitivity about any suggestion that there might be a link between security problems and foreign-born residents. But it also is more sweeping, in the sense that it includes numerous operations to combat natural disasters.
It is no coincidence that the word safety receives priority in her ministry's name; government research has found since Sept. 11, 2001, that Canadians and Americans gauge the terrorist threat differently. To Americans, it is all-abiding. To Canadians, it is more complex; they worry as much about overreacting as underreacting. Terms such as security, and homeland security, in particular, raise mixed reactions.
It's nice to see the sensitivity to our concerns, but I hope there's more to this than just a public relations exercise. The American version has been less than an overwhelming success.

McLellan is a close ally of Martin's as well as an Albertan, and I'm sure both of those play into her appointment. She's also unilingual but apparently working on her French. My read on this is that her appointment is a bit of gamble for Martin. He very much wants to further a broad agenda he's developed and that includes renewing support for the Liberals in the western provinces. McLellan is a plus on that score while being someone with a proven track record of loyalty, ten years experience at the cabinet level, and who offers the additional advantage of being a woman. The optics work well, and I suspect that's why McLellan is where she is. But she'll have to be a strong manager under pressure to be an asset to the government with the mandate she has, and I'm not sure she's been tested in that regard. Loyalty won't be enough.

So many blogs, so little time

I've added a bunch of new blogs to the blogroll. They're all people I try and visit regularly. I haven't even tried to categorize them on the theory that (some of) my reader(s) might enjoy surprises. So enjoy. And if I've missed anyone, mea culpa. I'll be back. (Hey, Arnold said that and look where it got him.)

Saturday, December 13, 2003

First impressions - I

I'm not even going to try and deal with all of Paul Martin's new cabinet in one post. 22 of the 38* members are new faces and I haven't even got all the names straight yet. (The article at this link has a full list at the bottom.) Instead I'm going to try and single out some of the more interesting ones for closer looks.

The new Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada is Irwin Cotler. If you'd prefer to save the official bio for later, there's a little bit of background in a Toronto Star piece here. Suffice it to say that his credentials are extremely impressive, particularly as a lawyer working on human rights issues.

But where does he stand on the issues of the day?
Cotler, 63, told reporters he personally supports the marijuana decriminalization bill, a public inquiry into the Maher Arar case, and believes the same-sex marriage reference to the Supreme Court of Canada should be broadened to ask the high court to review all options including whether "civil unions" would meet the requirements of equality guaranteed in the Charter.
This is promising. There's hope yet for a public inquiry into the Arar case. But if you were considering it, I'd still email him on Monday to encourage him to do it. That's why I picked him out for comment first. The email address of his Parliamentary office is listed as cotlei AT parl.gc.ca.

I'm concerned about his position on same-sex marriage, though. This search for "options" has the faint whiff of backing away from a straightforward granting of equal rights to gays. Here's his clarification:
As a law professor my view was that in the context of a reference, then the broadest possible options should be put before the court to allow for the broadest possible discussion and debate, and to allow for the most comprehensive and informed advisory opinion.
Spoken like a true lawyer turned politician. In fact he sounds just like Paul Martin.

Something else that caught my eye was this:
Cotler's credibility as a human rights expert was a trump card in the push to persuade a suspicious Canadian public of the merits of the controversial new Anti-Terrorism Act, C-36.
Cotler argued anti-terrorism laws and broader police powers are not an attack on civil liberty, but a bulwark protection against attacks on the ultimate human right to live in a secure society, free from terror.
I don't know about you, but I'm still suspicious. The abuses that have come to light recently, and Arar is just one of them, suggest that the government moved too quickly in the period following 9/11 and that bill C-36, among other things, needs to be reviewed. We also have a right to be secure from abuses by our own law enforcement officials. I hope Cotler doesn't have too much invested in the current legislation to do what might need to be done.

And lastly, there's some potential for controversy in another area. Cotler is a former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress and his appointment prompted this reaction:
John Asfour, past president of the Canadian Arab Federation, said Cotler's pro-Israel comments could get in the way of his job as justice minister, reported Canadian Press.

"Mr. Cotler and some of the Jewish lobby have supported (Israel) blindly," Asfour said in an interview.
We continue to live in interesting times.

* Or 23 of 39 depending on which article you read (?).

Don't tell me, show me

There's an interesting piece by Ian Urquhart in the Toronto Star about the similarities in the things being said by Dalton McGuinty and Paul Martin. Both are talking about overcoming the 'democratic deficit', allowing more free votes, increasing public participation in government, and, the ever popular, making government more transparent and accountable. Of course we don't yet have a record on which to judge Paul Martin, but we do have a little bit of history on which to assess McGuinty. Some of it isn't all that impressive.

Urquhart gives us a rundown, starting with the subject of giving official party status to the NDP and going on from there:
This week, the New Democrats proposed a quite reasonable compromise that would give them official status but with less than half the funding they used to receive. In response, McGuinty accused the New Democrats of being more concerned with their "own privileges" than with health care, education and the environment.
Accordingly, the daily question period in the Legislature has become a joke as the New Democrats are virtually shut out of the process — they are allowed only one question and must ask for unanimous consent to ask it ...Filling the vacuum are Liberal backbenchers, who pose scripted questions like: "How could the previous government have allowed this to go on?"
Although the Liberals have found a new closure device (blandly named "programming"), it is just as effective as the old Tory method ("time allocation"). Says NDP Leader Howard Hampton: "It is the most restrictive closure motion I've seen in the 16 1/2 years I've been in this Legislature."
[L]egislative committees are being run with the same ruthless efficiency as they were under the Tories. Opposition amendments to bills are cavalierly tossed out, with government backbenchers toeing the party line in every case
And the Liberals named one of their own, Hamilton East MPP Dominic Agostino, as chair of the government agencies committee. That is the committee that screens government appointments, and it is traditionally chaired by an opposition member.
I think McGuinty needs to go back and reread some of his own campaign speeches. And I suggest we keep a close eye on Paul Martin.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The race to the bottom

Brian Tobin has an op-ed in today's Globe and Mail in which he predicts that the labour unrest currently going on in Quebec is a sign of things to come for the rest of the country. He suggests that health care, in particular, will be a central issue in confrontations between public sector unions and provinces struggling with deficits. In fact he comes close to suggesting that the unions are to blame for rising health care costs:
With health-care costs rising as much as 10 per cent a year in most provincial jurisdictions, and with 40 per cent of most provincial budgets already going to health-care costs, the provinces have a choice: They can, as they slip into ever-increasing deficits and decline, keep pointing fingers at the feds -- or they can bite the bullet, take on the unions if necessary and create a sustainable health-care system.
So instead of looking to a federal government that slashed provincial transfer payments in the last decade we're simply going to blame the unions? I guess we didn't need Roy Romanow's help after all since Tobin knew what the problem was. It's not drug costs, or the expense involved in new technologies. Don't worry about preventative health care, relative fitness or poor diet. Just bust the unions and privatize everything.

But it was when he turned the discussion to BC that it really got my attention.
B.C Premier Gordon Campbell is on the same course as Mr. Charest. The Campbell government has used Bill 29 to break up a union monopoly and privatize jobs once the exclusive domain of the public-sector B.C. Hospital Employees Union; multinationals have won contracts for housekeeping, laundry and food services in health-care facilities. Not surprisingly, the union is vehemently opposed.

But what is surprising many in traditionally polarized British Columbia is how fast the International Woodworkers of America has signed up these former government union members. The IWA has also quickly reached contracts with the multinationals that have become the workers' new employer.
If the privatization of the Sunset Lodge in Esquimalt, BC is any example then it shouldn't be any surprise at all that the IWA quickly signed up members. The employees had no choice - they were required to sign with the IWA if they wanted to keep their jobs. And what kind of a deal did their new union get them? $17.00 an hour jobs suddenly became $9.25 an hour jobs with reduced vacation benefits and no pensions. They were also subjected to a gag order preventing them from making any public statements critical of their new employer, a UK based for-profit health care company called Compass.

But it gets even better. There's a clause in the contract stipulating that if the IWA negotiates a cheaper contract with another employer, all the workers get less. You can go back and read that again if you want to. That's the race to the bottom that's referred to in the title of this post. Apparently the new benchmark for success is when those who help with long term patient care are paid on a par with kids flipping burgers in McDonald's.

If you do the math, $9.25 an hour is less than $20,000 a year. Unless of course the forty hour week has become obsolete and we're going backwards. Based on rising CEO salaries over the last few decades I wouldn't have thought so. I wonder if Brian Tobin could live on $20,000 a year. In fact I wonder if Brian Tobin has done his own grocery shopping lately. More to the point, I wonder if Tobin did his homework before writing this piece. By the time I finished reading it I had to remind myself that he's a Liberal. It's his contemporaries in the federal Liberal party that are governing the country right now and if this article is representative of their views then I'd say things are going to get interesting. And I don't mean that in a good way.

There's a tried and true battle strategy called 'divide and conquer'. If folks in the private sector can be convinced that it's the public sector unions that are really to blame for declining health care, then we may all end up too busy fighting with each other to realize that we're all getting screwed.

Full disclosure: I'm not a 'union brother'. I'm self-employed. And I'm not letting Brian Tobin set my prices.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Pot, kettle, you know the drill

I poked some fun at all the political comings and goings in a post below, but this piece deserves a comment.

MacKay slams Brison for joining Liberals
Tory Leader Peter MacKay slammed MP Scott Brison's jump to the Liberal party Wednesday, saying it's a cynical and manipulative move to advance his career.
That seems a bit ironic coming from someone who secured his leadership position by promising not to talk merger with the Alliance and then turned around and did just that.

MacKay's assuming that Brison's move is strictly a matter of individual ambition. That explanation seems to be on shaky ground when you consider that Brison stuck it out with the PCs in the political wilderness all these years.

I don't presume to know Brison's real reasoning here but it occurs to me there's a perfectly valid alternative explanation. Larry Spencer recently made public statements to the effect that he'd like to change the law in a way that would make Brison a criminal. Maybe Brison finally decided it would be too uncomfortable for him to sit in the same caucus as Spencer, always wondering how many of his new associates shared Spencer's views. It would tend to distract one from getting the work done.

More exposure for Arar case

The Los Angeles Times (registration required) has published an account by Maher Arar of his ordeal in Syria as a commentary piece entitled "Delivered Into Hell by U.S. War on Terror". For those of us who have followed the story there's nothing new here, but it may come as a revelation for quite a few American readers. The article is already being linked to by several prominent American bloggers.

You can't tell the players without a program

With all the politicians changing parties these days, I'm reminded of one of Marx's more famous quotes:
Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others.
That would be Groucho, not Karl.

Is anyone really surprised?

It's been said repeatedly that one of Paul Martin's goals as he assumes the office of Prime Minister is to forge a more sophisticated relationship with the United States. I've been a bit dubious about that since the Bush administration's idea of a relationship seems to be anything but sophisticated. You're either with them or against them. It seems pretty simple to me.

It was announced yesterday that the bidding on multi-billion dollar contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq will be closed to Canada, among other nations, because we weren't part of the Coalition of the Willing. Both Martin and John Manley seem surprised by this.
"I find it very difficult to fathom," incoming Prime Minister Paul Martin told a news conference Wednesday, adding that Canada has pledged $300 million in aid to Iraq.
Speaking in Paris, Deputy Prime Minister John Manley called the U.S. policy "shocking" and "unacceptable." Manley told Canadian Press it is inappropriate for the U.S. to accept $250 million in Canadian aid for Iraq, while banning Canadian companies from bidding on other contracts.
Personally, I'm not shocked at all.

Josh Marshall has a post up quoting some of the text of the actual Wolfowitz Directive that spells out the American position, and some of it makes for interesting reading.
Limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq and in future efforts.
The limitation of sources for prime contractors from those countries should encourage the continued cooperation of coalition members.
Emphasis added. I wonder what "future efforts" Wolfowitz could be referring to. If I wanted to be cynical I might suggest that the neocon cabal of which Wolfowitz is a prominent member (and 'cabal' is a word Wolfowitz himself has used) intends to continue their efforts to remake the Middle East and wants to send a message that 'to the participants go the spoils'. Given the way events have unfolded in the last year and a half, it's difficult not to be cynical.

I hope I'm wrong, but I fear that the sophistication in our new relationship with our neighbour to the south will reside mainly in the rhetoric Martin uses to try and explain it to us. I think Chrétien's decision to sit out Dick and Don's Excellent Iraq Adventure has been vindicated, but I fear that if future operations of a similar nature are planned, Martin will opt in anyway. There would be pressure on him to do so from those who constantly remind us how much our economic well-being depends on our trading relationship with America, and this development will only increase that pressure. In my mind's ear I can already hear the scolding to come from Stephen Harper.

There has to be more to our foreign policy than simply maximizing the short term bottom line. There needs to be a longer view taken than just the immediate effects of cooperating, or not, with an American administration that, itself, seems so short sighted and simplistic in its policies and that can't last more than five years and may only last one more year. That would be a sophisticated approach. I admit I'm having a hard time really reading Martin at the moment, but it seems he really has a close relationship with corporate interests and I'm afraid he may cave when the pressure's on. As I say, I really hope I'm wrong.

As for the money Canada has pledged towards the reconstruction, I say we hand it over with smiles on our faces and go on about our business. Certainly the Iraqis could use the help. And what doesn't require any further assistance from us is turning an operation that was supposedly done out of higher motives into an exercise in greed and partisanship. The Bush administration is doing a good job of that all by themselves.

PS: I expect that at any moment the Mouth from Massachusetts, otherwise known as Paul Cellucci, will be along to make a statement on this. To borrow from one of his countrymen, Bill O'Reilly: Shut up. Just shut the hell up.

I know that's not very sophisticated, but sometimes I just can't help myself.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The Smitherman solution

After running a series of investigative reports on the state of Ontario nursing homes, the Toronto Star sat down with our new Health Minister, George Smitherman, to get his reaction. Smitherman was apparently moved to tears by the sight of graphic photographs of one elderly woman who "died from the 15-centimetre-long bedsore, which ate down to her tailbone".
Promising a "revolution" in long-term care, Smitherman told the Star he will make fixing Ontario's troubled nursing home system his top priority.
A day later, Smitherman has a solution. In the face of this:
The reports found residents are often neglected or even abused, in part because of a lack of regulation, monitoring and enforcement, and a lack of resources resulting from under funding.

At the same time, some private operators are reporting record profits from their long-term-care operations.
Smitherman proposes this:
"More volunteers are absolutely one part of the answer," George Smitherman said.

"We need to re-engage community and family."
That's revolutionary alright. Has it occurred to Smitherman that many of the nursing home residents might not be in such bad straits if they had family members visiting them regularly, or if there were enough volunteers to look in on them? Has it occurred to him that caring for the elderly might actually require specialized training?

One wonders what his solution will be if we run short of brain surgeons.

Roy should be pleased. Mostly.

The national health council recommended by Roy Romanow over a year ago is finally a reality, with its 26 members being announced today by federal Health Minister Anne McLellan. Alberta won't be participating, which is no surprise. And neither will Quebec, although its provincial council will "share its information with the national body". It's a start, I guess, unless of course you're in the Canadian Alliance.
But the Canadian Alliance criticized the council, saying it lacked national legitimacy.

"A national institution would enjoy the support of all the provinces," Alliance health critic Rob Merrifield said in a release.

"The health council is not a credible body without Alberta."
Tell that Ralph Klein. I believe he received his invitation. Unless you're saying that a national institution has no credibility unless it allows one province to completely water down its mandate and its effectiveness in which case, stop being silly.

Cellucci sounds off again

Envoy criticizes Canadian military spending
U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci used a solemn military awards ceremony in Edmonton on Monday night to push the Canadian government to increase military funding.
Atta boy, Paul. Use a ceremony to honour, among others, four Canadian soldiers who were killed by American bombs to get a shot in because you don't like the way we run our country.

Gee, I wouldn't want it to seem like I'm on a vendetta against the Mouth from Massachusetts except that I am. Send this fool home.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

A new arms race?

A new era of nuclear weapons
Congress, with only a limited debate, has given the Bush administration a green light for the biggest revitalization of the country's nuclear weapons program since the end of the Cold War, leaving many Democrats and even some hawkish Republicans seething.
Reversing a decade of restraint in nuclear weapons policy, Congress agreed to provide more than $6 billion for research, expansion and upgrades in the country's nuclear capabilities. While Congress approved large sums to maintain the existing nuclear arsenal even during the Clinton years, this year's increases will finance multiyear programs to design a new generation of warheads as well as more sophisticated missiles, bombers and re-entry vehicles to deliver them.
Even some Republicans are noting the mixed message this sends.
"We have more nuclear weapons now than we know what to do with,'' said Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's energy and water subcommittee, which controls the nuclear weapons budget. "I'm concerned about our image in the world when we're telling others not to build these things, and then we push these new programs."

Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., a senior member of the Armed Services Committee who voted against funding some programs, argued in an interview, "We don't need new weapons, and in fact we cause more harm than good in our relations with other countries and in our moral position on nuclear proliferation. I think that they're almost obsolete. I'm not convinced that we have to have that capability."
It's also noted in the article that it isn't the Pentagon asking for this.

And have you heard the rumblings that Bush may float the idea of a new moon mission "as part of a campaign to create new national goals" for his re-election campaign? Maybe this is why:
Military victory in the Iraq war has emboldened the Pentagon in their claims that space technology gives the U.S. total advantage in time of war. According to Peter Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), American capability in space, "must remain ahead of our adversaries' capabilities, and our doctrine and capabilities must keep pace to meet that challenge."

"I think the recent military conflict has shown us, without a doubt, how important the use of space is to national security and military operations," Teets, a former Lockheed Martin executive recently said.

In order to accomplish the goal of technologically leapfrogging the space program to the point of global "control and domination" a new agreement has been signed by NASA, U.S. Strategic Command, the NRO and the Air Force Space Command to fully mesh all their research and development efforts together. Thus, we witness the takeover of the U.S. space program by the military and the weapons corporations.
This is why I feel so strongly that there needs to be an extensive national debate about any Canadian participation in the NMD program. Participating in anything like this on the premise that it's strictly defensive in nature is naive at best. With the current White House administration, nothing is strictly defensive in nature. From the first article:
[The administration] has also proposed a policy of possible pre-emptive first use of nuclear weapons in emergencies, even against non-nuclear states.
They want absolute domination, they'll weaponize space to get it and it seems they'll tolerate no restraints on using it as they see fit.

I seriously doubt that a majority of Canadians want to get involved in any program with the United States under these circumstances. If I'm wrong, so be it. But let's go into it with our eyes open.

It gets better and better

When I linked to a story about the resignation of Boeing's chief executive Phillip Condit and titled the post Taking one for the team? I had no idea how fitting that question mark was. It turns out Condit wasn't all that a good a CEO. Maybe he was on his way out anyway. This Slate article describes how, during Condit's tenure, Boeing set itself up for a fall, neglecting the commercial aviation business which had been its specialty in favour of military contracts.
In 1997, Condit embarked on a buying spree. Boeing snapped up military contractors such as the aerospace and defense units of Rockwell Collins and merged with McDonnell Douglas. With McDonnell Douglas, Boeing also absorbed a different culture, one in which it was de rigueur to pull every lever to win military contracts, and annual profits were enshrined as the ultimate prize.

Boeing's foray into the military world led to its current status as a premier pork-grabber, with Exhibit A its highly questionable contract to lease 767 jet tankers to the military at a huge cost to taxpayers. On the profit front, it opted for short-term cash, gussying up its aging line of commercial jets in an effort to boost their sagging sales and avoid investing in new aircraft that could compete for decades to come.
Meanwhile along came Airbus which now has the same kind of dominance in the commercial market that Boeing once held. So now Boeing needs those military contracts to survive and things are looking a little precarious for them. This New York Times article indicates that even more scrutiny is being applied to the tanker deal that's already under the spotlight.
Even after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld expressed concern late last month about improprieties in a proposed $20 billion contract with the Boeing Company, the Air Force's top acquisitions official, Marvin R. Sambur, distributed messages urging Pentagon officials to sign the deal "A.S.A.P.," according to internal Pentagon e-mail messages.

Earlier in the year, Dr. Sambur also forwarded to top Boeing executives, including James Albaugh, president of a Boeing division, copies of internal Pentagon communications outlining the Defense Department's negotiating strategy for price, terms and conditions of the contract, the e-mail messages show. The messages were sent to Boeing in April and May, at a time when the company and the Pentagon had yet to reach an agreement.
Dr. Sambur was the direct supervisor of Darleen A. Druyun. If you've been following the story you'll recall that Druyun left her position as negotiator for the Air Force to work for Boeing and was subsequently fired, along with the Boeing executive who recruited her, because she was recruited while they were working on this deal. Sambur, of course, insists that there's nothing wrong with supplying internal documents to a potential supplier. He said it was necessary to convince Boeing that the Pentagon was serious. And I have some swamp land prime real estate to sell.

The email messages were leaked read to a reporter on Friday by a "government official" and comments have already been collected from Sen. John McCain, who's been a critic of this deal from the beginning. I'd say we haven't seen the last of this story.

And as an added bonus, here's our old friend Richard Perle again.
Among those who promoted the tanker deal were Richard N. Perle, a top Pentagon adviser who is a member of the Defense Policy Board. Mr. Perle also runs an investment firm in which Boeing invested $20 million last year, and he co-wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal in August arguing in favor of a deal in which the Air Force would have leased all 100 tanker aircraft from Boeing.
A Boeing spokesman, Douglas Kennett, confirmed on Friday that Mr. Perle had been among journalists and policy advocates who were briefed by Boeing executives about the tanker deal as part of the company's effort to promote the contract. Mr. Kennett said that Mr. Perle and Mr. Donnelly had later shared a draft of their op-ed article with Boeing officials and asked them to double-check its facts.

Still, Mr. Kennett said of the op-ed article: "We didn't write it. We didn't place it. It was their words, not ours."
Crony capitalism at its finest.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

It's over, touch wood

U.S., lumber industry agree to terms for ending softwood dispute
The U.S. government and American lumber producers have agreed to terms that could bring an end to the long-standing Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute, The Canadian Press has learned.

The terms include giving Canadian exports a duty-free ceiling slightly below Canada's current share of the U.S. lumber market, providing a timetable toward unrestricted free trade in lumber and splitting the duties collected for the last 18 months between Canadian and U.S. lumber producers.
Canada's current share of the American softwood lumber market is about 33 per cent.
But Canadian industry sources said a deal hammered out early Saturday morning would lift punishing softwood duties and give lumber exporters duty-free access to the U.S. market up to a level of 31.5 per cent. Above that, a levy of $200 (U.S.) per thousand board feet of lumber would kick in.

The complicated arrangement, which would be retroactive to Saturday once a final deal was signed, would run for three years but could be extended on an annual basis after that, the source said.
Eighteen months to arrive at a "complicated" deal that reduces Canada's share of the market by one and a half per cent. But we really do have a free trade agreement with these guys. Honest.

The votes are in

The merger of Canada's two right wing parties into the Conservative Party of Canada has now been blessed by the memberships of both the Progressive Conservatives and the Alliance, with the former voting yes by over 90% and the latter "almost unanimously". I guess my concerns about some PC members having second thoughts after Larry Spencer's little outburst were misplaced.

There has been a spate of polls recently that attempt to measure what the effect of a united right will be on the political scene. Personally I think that at this point, those polls are almost useless. Too much depends on who the leader of the new party will be and what the platform looks like. If Stephen Harper ends up leading I think it sends quite a different message to voters than it would if it was, as one example, Scott Brison. At the moment, the field looks like this:
Both Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay are expected to run for the leadership, as is Calgary lawyer Jim Prentice.

Others considering the plunge include MPs Scott Brison, Brian Pallister and Chuck Strahl. Mr. Harper is seen as the front-runner and has already assembled a campaign team.
We'll see.

In a week or so we'll have our new Prime Minister and see who his new cabinet will be. I'm not joining in the speculation there, though. Surprise me.

It remains to be seen whether Paul Martin will lead the Liberals as far to the right as many think he might. If so, there may be quite a number of disaffected Liberals, along with a few socially liberal PCs, who take a second look at the NDP. If Jack Layton can begin to make his party look more competent to govern, which I think is the particular battle of perception he has to win (and particularly in Ontario), then things could change a lot in the next few months. That's another reason why I don't think the current polls tell us that much.

Quote of the day...and the day after


From US Congressional Representative Barney Frank quoted in the Salem News:
"Gay marriage will mean a great deal for a few thousand people who take advantage of it and almost nothing to everybody else," he said.
Link via en banc.

And a followup from Colby Cosh:
I don't care whether intrauterine hormones, genes, or a domineering mother made John or Jack queer. I am pretty convinced most people don't know and don't care, and that this is the secret to social acceptance of gay people: we've all discovered that we have a few in our families or social circles, and the fucking world didn't explode.
Emphasis in the original.

Friday, December 05, 2003

The plot thickens

When I started following the Boeing story I had no idea that Richard Perle would be involved.
Pentagon adviser Richard N. Perle coauthored an opinion piece this summer praising a Pentagon plan to lease tanker aircraft -- which had the potential to steer billions of dollars to Boeing Co. -- 16 months after Boeing committed to invest $20 million with a venture capital firm where Perle was a principal.
As this article mentions, Perle already stepped down from his position as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board earlier this year after conflict of interest allegations, although he remains a member of the board at Don Rumsfeld's request. And Perle is also involved in the Hollinger mess. This guy is everywhere but nothing ever seems to stick to him.

George Paine at Warblogging has a long post on Perle if you want more details.

How did that happen?

At the bottom of a story in the Toronto Star that starts out discussing Paul Cellucci's comments concerning Maher Arar is this little gem:
Cellucci also told the conference that Canada is close to signing on to participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence program. "I am optimistic that we will soon have an agreement in principle on Canadian participation in missile defence," Cellucci said.
Wasn't there supposed to be some public debate on this? And why are we hearing about this from a foreign ambassador first, and not our own elected officials? Somebody has some 'splainin' to do. The last I heard the technology involved doesn't even work.

Paul Martin fires back

Following on yesterday's comments by US Ambassador Paul Cellucci, Paul Martin stated publicly that no more Canadians should be deported to third countries by the United States.
"My views have not changed one iota that what happened in the case of Mr. Arar was unacceptable," said Martin. "Canadian passports must be respected."
That's a start. I'd still like to send Cellucci back to Massachusetts.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

We're being watched

Last Friday I linked to a story about a lawsuit brought before the Supreme Court by SOCAN, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. These folks want ISPs to pay a blanket royalty charge to compensate songwriters for music downloads. I wasn't happy about it. Apparently it's making a few other people nervous too.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Canada began hearing arguments over whether Internet Service Providers (ISPs), both here and abroad, should start paying tariffs for Canadian music downloaded by the public.

Sarah Deutsch, a telecom lawyer from Washington, D.C., came to watch the case. "There's a whole host of ISPs from around the world who are following this case with interest. They're very worried that the court's decision will impact foreign ISPs, require foreign ISPs to make payments to Canadian copyright holders," she said.
I spotted this on slashdot, so I guess folks are paying attention. More from the CBC story:
"Creative people should be compensated for the use and exploitation of their music, " said Paul Spurgeon, general counsel for the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. "We're obviously in a struggle right now trying to figure out the best techniques to ensure that they are compensated appropriately."
But Mr. Spurgeon doesn't seem to be interested in making sure that it's the appropriate people who are doing the compensating. The approach being taken here is like a blanket music tax that everyone with an internet connection pays whether they're downloading music or not.
The court is not expected to rule on this complicated case for at least six months. If it does rule in favour of the recording industry, that will start a new legal battle over who and how much to charge.
Not to mention the challenges to come from people who think the whole thing is bogus. This could take years.

I'll answer that

The question posed at All things Canadian is this:
If the US, in a case where the deportee has dual citizenship, does not get timely pressure and information from the Canadian representatives, as was in the case with Arar, why would they be obliged to send the person to Canada?
It was a violation of international law to send Arar to a country where he would face torture. Since Cellucci has indicated that the US has no regard for international law, let's recognize that we're living next door to a rogue nation and send Paul Cellucci back to Massachusetts where he belongs. Unless, of course, there's a possibility that Massachusetts will torture Cellucci.

Let's deport Paul Cellucci

Arar case may be repeated: Cellucci
The United States can't guarantee there won't be a repeat of the Maher Arar deportation case, the American ambassador said today.

Paul Cellucci, commenting after speaking to a conference on Canada-U.S relations, said that the United States respects the Canadian passport, but reserves the right to act unilaterally when it sees a need to protect its security.
In other words, the US reserves the right to ensure that torture is used in the questioning of people who haven't even been found guilty of a crime. In the interests of protecting the security of Canadian citizens, I think Paul Cellucci should be unilaterally deported back to the US. I'm not kidding. Maybe it'll finally get someone's attention. (If I was kidding I would have suggested Syria.)

Link via Andrew Spicer.

Across the great divide

The Armchair Garbageman has an interesting post up about early media reactions to the new Toronto City Council and the way cheap partisan rhetoric is already muddying the discourse. I fear it will only get worse given both David Miller's close association with the NDP, and the higher profile being given to municipal issues and the need for more dollars at the municipal level.

I do have a tip for Sue-Ann Levy of the Toronto Sun, who appears to have apprenticed at the Fox News School of Journalism. Trying to insinuate some connection between David Miller and Fidel Castro automatically disqualifies you as a serious journalist. Red-baiting is just so 20th century.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

They found some real terrorists...

...but they're not Arabs or Muslims so it didn't get a lot of attention. From CBS 11 in Dallas/Fort Worth:
Federal authorities this year mounted one of the most extensive investigations of domestic terrorism since the Oklahoma City bombing, CBS 11 has learned.

Three people linked to white supremacist and anti-government groups are in custody. At least one weapon of mass destruction - a sodium cyanide bomb capable of delivering a deadly gas cloud - has been seized in the Tyler area.

Investigators have seized at least 100 other bombs, bomb components, machine guns, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and chemical agents. But the government also found some chilling personal documents indicating that unknown co-conspirators may still be free to carry out what appeared to be an advanced plot. And, authorities familiar with the case say more potentially deadly cyanide bombs may be in circulation.
The story is datelined Nov. 26th but I haven't seen any mention of it on any major media outlet. I picked it up from Orcinus. Now I wonder if they'll send these guys to Gitmo.

When I went back to Orcinus to pick up the link I found a new post on domestic terrorism that included this:
...we have now found more weapons of mass destruction in Texas, in the hands of domestic terrorists, than we have in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Go figure.

Thanks for the memories, Erik. I guess.

Tories ignored concerns, auditor says
Concerns the Ontario government is wasting taxpayers' money and providing poor services have gone unheeded in some cases for as long as a decade, Ontario's auditor said today in what amounts to his final indictment of the previous Tory regime.

In his last annual report as auditor, Erik Peters expressed frustration that too many problems surface again and again, despite government promises of improvement.

"Far too many concerns noted in our prior audits are not being satisfactorily addressed," Peters wrote.

"Many of the significant concerns identified in this year's audits were raised by us the last time we audited the program or activity. In some cases, these same concerns were raised almost 10 years ago."

While the report documents recurring problems that go back to the early 1990s, almost all occurred under the former Tory government led by premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves.
Have I mentioned how ironic I find it when it turns out that fiscal conservatives are lousy managers of the public purse? Of course some conservatives I know will argue that those people weren't true conservatives, they were ideologues. I won't quibble with that but I'll ask why the hell nobody spoke up about it eight years ago.

There are details of various disasters in the linked article and they make for pretty sad reading. I would hope the Ontario Tories have now been discredited for a good long time. And thanks to Erik Peters for always telling it like it is, at least as far as I can tell. He'll be missed.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Validity of Ontario's Taxpayer Protection Act questioned

In ruling on the legality of the proposed legislation to eliminate the Tories' private school tax credits, an Ontario judge looked beyond that immediate issue.
Judge Nordheimer acknowledged in his eight-page decision that the alliance raised serious issues, such as the proper interpretation of the act. “I also believe that a full airing of the issues raised by this application may ultimately involve a consideration of the validity of the Taxpayer Protection Act itself,” he wrote.

He also said that “...it seems to me that there may be a question whether the Taxpayer Protection Act can bind the actions of future legislatures in the manner it purports to do.”
Good, says I. The legislation makes it illegal to raise personal income taxes without a referendum just as the Balanced Budget Act makes it illegal to run a provincial deficit (except where a government inherits a deficit in the first year of its term).

The Harris/Eves government seems to have done everything it could to embed its own particular ideology into the law. I'd like to see that undone because even with the majorities the Tories earned in the elections they won, I don't believe they had a mandate to go that far. I'd like to see both these pieces of legislation turfed. They've created a situation whereby the new Liberal government may have to cut deeper and faster than it should just to undo the damage done by the very people who left us this legislative legacy.

Taking one for the team?

Since I pointed to the Boeing story earlier, I figured I should follow up with this.
Aircraft giant Boeing Co. today announced that it had accepted the immediate resignation of its chairman and chief executive, Philip M. Condit.

Boeing's board of directors, in an announcement from its headquarters in Chicago, said "a new structure for the leadership of the company is needed" in light of "events of the past year."
The Pentagon investigation into the $17 billion Air Force tanker plane leasing deal continues.

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