Friday, September 30, 2011

The CBC Ombudsman!

Mr. Kirk La Pointe
P.O. Box 500, Station A
Toronto, Ontario
M5W 1E6

Dear Mr. LaPointe:

To electronically contact a reporter for The People's Network to comment on something they may have said on air or perhaps provide a tip regarding wasteful government spending, the contributor must first tender the following information before being able to submit:

(1) name
(2) e-mail address
(3) surface address
(4) telephone number
(5) subject of comment/complaint

For reasons of spam abatement, an individual must successfully complete a nonsensical array of letters and numbers that at times can be difficult to decipher thereby occasionally necessitating a re-try the Ombudsman's webpage being a case in point. Further, since e-mail addresses of CBC reporters are not publicly available, a viewer/listener is required to go to a site with no assurances the intended person will receive the message or acknowledgement of its receipt. While Twitter addresses are provided the 140-character limitation imposes certain restrictions.

Finally, it is not unusual for a program such as Politics & Politics while on air to interrupt discussion to read a newly arrived text message from a Cabinet Minister or Member of Parliament.


(1) Is the requirement a contributor wishing to remain anonymous must first divulge personal information consistent with Canada's privacy laws and The Charter? What, if any, protections are in place?

(2) What is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's policy regarding the on air reading of Ministerial and/or Member of Parliament text messages?

Clare L. Pieuk

Media Citizen Journalist
Blog Master

"And the award for best use of Canadian taxpayer dollars goes to ..... golden shower!"

Baird deflects business-card fire, laughs off ‘golden shower’ quip

By gloria galloway Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on September 30, 2011 (The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA— Globe and Mail
Friday, September 30, 2011

It was pretty clear Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird would get a rough ride from the opposition over the news that he had ordered a set of gold-embossed business cards that dropped the word Canada, contrary to government policy.

But, after days of defending Treasury Board President Tony Clement over the alleged misuse of $50-million from the G8 legacy fund, Mr. Baird seemed to relish the questions about his own relatively minor indiscretion when they came at him Friday during Question Period in the House of Commons.

He told NDP MP Paul Dewar that his cards do indeed have the word “Canada” on them and that his contact information is available in both official languages – though not Braille. But it was the exchange with Liberal MP Scott Brison that lit up the Commons.

Mr. Brison began by pointing out that it is against Treasury Board rules to have gold on business cards because it’s too expensive. “Why is the minister breaking government rules?” asked Mr. Brison. “Why is he giving taxpayers the gold finger?”

Mr. Baird rose with a sly smirk on his face.

“When I arrived in the Parliament this morning, I was deeply disturbed to realize that the president of the Treasury Board wasn’t here to take this question,” said Mr. Baird, prompting laughter on all sides of the House.

“I remember a time when the Liberal Party of Canada used to think big on foreign affairs, they would think about big issues around the world when it came to Canada and domestic issues,” he continued. “And now they been returned to the time when they are dealing with $400 worth of business cards.”

But Mr. Brison was not ready to end the volley.

“It seems to be quite quid pro quo going on over there,” he said of the Conservative benches. “The Foreign Minister gives the Treasury Board minister a $50-million slush fund for his riding. Then the Treasury Board minister lets the Foreign Minister break the rules to get his golden business card. This is a very expensive game of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

Then came the punch line. “When Canadians are struggling just to get by, why are Conservative ministers showering each other with gold?” Mr. Brison asked. “Why the golden showers, Mr. Speaker?”

The House erupted but Mr. Baird let the sexual double entendre slip by without mention.

“Yes, Mr. Speaker,” he said, his voice breaking with laughter, “I sat down with the President of the Treasury Board and said: ‘Have I got a deal for you. I’ll give you $50-million worth of infrastructure funds if you will give me $400 worth of business cards.’”

After Question Period, Mr. Brison feigned ignorance of the meaning of golden shower.

“I’m a country guy. I don’t know how you interpret these kinds of things, but I’m not that sophisticated in that regard,” he told reporters. “But I certainly wouldn’t want to piss off the minister.”

A Special Note to the Prime Minister

Send this fellow on another foreign junket - fast! Get him out of the country he's causing your Party too much embarrassment. Why not to Israel where he can give his recent United Nations' speech that was such a hit - the Israelis will love him!

Stupid is like beauty!

Good Day Readers:

During yesterday's CBC Television's Power and Politics program, normally hosted by Evan Solomon, Shelly Glover out of the blue turned to replacement Host Parliamentary Bureau Reporter Rosemary Barton to blurt out, "He called me stupid!" hastening to add this had apparently occurred earlier in the day during a meeting of the Finance Committee.

The aforementioned took place at a live telecast discussion of the Canadian economy also involving Liberal Scott Brison and the NDP's Peggy Nash. Needless to say our Member of Parliament's comment piqued our ears.

Unfortunately, since her election in 2008 Ms Glover has left a litany of what could best be described as "rookie" faux pas mistakes. There are more effective ways and means of dealing with a situation such as this rather than announcing it on national television.

As for you Mr. Brison, if you're guilty, as we strongly suspect your are, you should immediately ask for time on The People's Television Network to apologize to Shelly Glover.

Like beauty stupid is as stupid does.

Clare L. Pieuk


In the past when we've e-mailed our Honourable Member we at least received a trite, meaningless, automatically generated, bilingual e-mail telling us how important our feedback is - problem is, there was seldom any follow up. Now we don't even get that. However, during the May election we were favoured with an unsolicited telephone message from Conservative Senate poster boy Mike Duffy urging us to vote for Ms Glover. It was all we could do not to become violently ill.

To Ms Glover's credit at least she doesn't use gold-embossed parliamentary business cards - at least not yet.

You’re stupid,’ Brison tells Glover as sparks fly over costing bills
Thursday, September 29, 2011

Conservatives used their majority muscle on the finance committee to impose a policy requiring cost accounting for private member’s bills — while quashing a bid to attach a similar price tag to government legislation.

The motion from Conservative MP Randy Hoback calls for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to cost out every private member’s bill. He said the objective would allow MPs to make a “educated decision” on a bill before it is passed into law.

“It’s one thing to have a piece of legislation from a private member come forward, and it sounds really good,” he said. “But when you see the financial consequences, you have to sit back and weigh it and ask if it’s really the best use of taxpayer dollars.”

Liberal MP Scott Brison said Canadians would find it “inexplicable” that there would be cost analysis on private member’s bills, but not on government bills. He said parliamentarians are “constitutionally obligated” to scrutinize costs and noted the Conservatives were found in contempt and defeated in March for failing to provide full accounting for tough-on-crime legislation and F-35 stealth fighter jets procurement.

But his proposed amendment — to cost out all government bills and to compel federal departments to provide necessary information to the PBO — was defeated. Hoback declared the move “pure politics” and insisted government bills already come with cost projections.

Brison was incredulous by what he suggested was an attempt by the Conservatives to use the all-party committee to evade scrutiny.

“This is another example of the Harper government, now emboldened with a majority, treating Parliament as a rubber stamp and running roughshod over the rights and responsibilities of parliamentarians to hold the government to account,” Brison told iPolitics after the meeting. “This is a slap in the face to democracy and a slap in the face to the Canadian taxpayer.”

Brison accused the Conservatives of using the committee to swamp the PBO with extra work so the office has no time to scrutinize the government.

Questioning the value of the PBO analysis since private member’s bills rarely pass into law, NDP MP Jamie Nicholls also worried the new workload could detract the PBO’s primary duties.

“Does the PBO really have the capacity to deal with an onslaught of private member bills?” he asked. “If members of all parties flood the PBO with private member’s bills and they have to do this costing information, maybe they won’t be able to do more important work.”

But Holback insisted the juggling of priorities will be well worth the effort.

“I think that is a good use of his time and a very good use of his resources,” he said. “It would be very beneficial for every member of Parliament to use his resources accordingly on something like this.”

When asked if he had consulted with Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page before tabling his motion, Holback said he wanted to bring it to the committee first. Conservatives also resisted a suggestion to postpone the vote until Page could appear before the committee.

The motion passed 6-5.

The private member’s bill costing issue provoked some heated exchange in the mostly empty committee room, with Brison hollering out, “You’re stupid,” to Conservative MP Shelley Glover.

After an indignant “Pardon me?” from Glover and an “out of order” call from committee chairman James Rajotte, Brison said he was sorry and that he should have instead said the member was “misinformed or intentionally dishonest.”

Revenge of the bureaucrat!

Good Day Folks:

Recent stories making the news about Peter MacKay and General Natynczyk's excessive use of Challenger jets, as well as, the latest involving John Baird's gilt-edged business cards are not accidents. Rather, we believe these are well-placed, orchestrated leaks that will only exacerbate, possibly at an unprecedented rate, as The Harper Government continues to move closer to implementing the consultants' $90,000/day budget cut recommendations.

Mainstream media you can look forward to unmarked brown envelopes landing on your desks, late night anonymous telephone calls or hard to trace e-mail. If you've been an injudicious federal politician you should be afraid - you should be very afraid.

Ever notice how the Tories try to use Mr. Baird as their lead pit bull blocker during Question Period when it wants to shut down an embarrassment the latest being Tony Clement?

John Baird is rapidly becoming an increasing national and international embarrassment. Should this behaviour continue we will have no alternative but to publicly call for his resignation.

Clare L. Pieuk


At least he doesn't have a picture of the Queen on those damn cards!
Baird demands gold, drops 'Canada' from Foreign Affairs business card
Ottawa— The Canadian Press
Friday, September 30, 2011John Baird is sworn-in as Minister of Foreign Affairs as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor-General David Johnston look on at Rideau Hall on May 18, 2011 (Reuters)

John Baird has set a new gold standard for business cards.

The Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister demanded – and got – gold embossing on his business cards shortly after being shuffled into the portfolio last May, contrary to government rules.

Mr. Baird then ordered the word “Canada” dropped from the standard design, also against federal policy.

And he insisted that “Lester B. Pearson Building” be removed from the standard street address for Foreign Affairs’ headquarters in Ottawa, thereby erasing the name of a former Liberal prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The controversial changes initially provoked resistance from the senior Foreign Affairs bureaucrats who are responsible for implementing policies on government branding.

But in the end, Mr. Baird won a temporary exemption from the rules – and got his way.

A gold-embossed Canadian coat of arms now glistens from his unilingual English business cards, which lack the wordmark “Canada,” a federal branding design that features a small Canadian flag above the last letter.

With the disappearance of the large “Canada,” the biggest type on the card now is “The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.”

E-mails, invoices, memos, letters and other documents detailing the gold-card caper were obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The minister “is requesting to have his business cards in English only, as they have always been in the past,” says a June e-mail from Annik Lapratte-Goulet, personal assistant to Mr. Baird.

“Also, the coats of arms should be embossed, with the gold ink, also at the Minister’s request.”

Mr. Baird’s insistence on removing “Lester B. Pearson” was quietly accepted, but his further request to remove “Canada” raised alarms.

“We are ... concerned about the removal of the Canada wordmark,” said one official. “As mentioned before, this is a Treasury Board requirement.”

Said another: “The (gold) coloured coat of arms and the removal of the Canada wordmark is not a good practice.”

And another: “None of these additional requests follow the TBS (Treasury Board Secretariat) rules. ... Although we can certainly continue to advise and express our concerns, we will not be able to hold off on these for long.”

Nervous public servants went so far as to draw up a “disclaimer” sheet to be signed by Mr. Baird’s chief of staff that would formally acknowledge the minister’s office was advised against the measures.

The disclaimer noted that Treasury Board over the years has revised standards, dropping some expensive practices: “Among the casualties were the costly and difficult practices of using gold foil or full colour reproductions of the Arms of Canada on ministerial stationery.”

It added: “The wordmark (Canada) is a requirement for ministers, parliamentary secretaries and their offices. ... It is worth noting that the prime minister and his office follow these standards.”

After applying pressure, however, Mr. Baird’s office was eventually granted a temporary exemption from federal identification rules, allowing him to use the non-standard business cards.

Foreign Affairs soon printed two types, one without gold embossing, with English on one side and French on the verso, for $197.75.

The other has gold embossing on a mostly unilingual English card, with the reverse blank, for $424.88. Quantities are blacked out in the released documents to protect commercial confidences.

Both versions lack the large “Canada” wordmark or any reference to the Pearson building, though “Canada” appears in small type in the street address.

The Canada wordmark was adopted by the federal government in 1980 as an official logo, and is mandated on most government communications.

Mr. Baird ruffled feathers at Foreign Affairs in June when he ordered a pair of historic paintings by Quebec modern master Alfred Pellan removed from the lobby of the Pearson building. They were replaced with a photo of the Queen in time for the summer visit of newlyweds Prince William and Kate.

The paintings had hung in the lobby since 1973, when the Queen herself opened the building. Mr. Baird later ordered Foreign Affairs missions around the world to prominently display portraits of the Queen.

Earlier this month, Mr. Baird proudly named the modern building just to the east of Foreign Affairs headquarters after former Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker. A plaque and portrait of the western firebrand now adorn the old city hall structure, which houses some Foreign Affairs staff.

The exemption from the rules for Mr. Baird’s business cards is at least the second time the Tory government has muscled aside existing standards for government branding.

The Economic Action Plan website, which drew criticism for its partisan look when it was launched in 2009, was given an exemption from the rules by then Treasury Board president Vic Toews.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

For the man who has everything except a girlfriend!

Pretend You Have a Girlfriend With

By Jen Doll
Thusday, September 29, 2011Ricky Robinett is a software engineer who, in his "down time" from his day job, has given himself the task of launching one project a month in 2011. He's currently done nine, one of which -- we admit, the one that caught our eye -- is, the purpose of which is pretty self-explanatory. As the site says, "Are you tired of being embarrassed by the fact that you don't have a girlfriend? Do you wish that you could get interrupted by a loving phone-call during man time? Let me introduce you to FakeGirlfriend." This is not the first of the many ways technology can make people think you are less lonely than you actually are (here are some great suggestions on how to do that!), but we were intrigued nonetheless. We got in touch with Robinett to find out more.

Why did you decide you wanted to do one project a month in 2011?

At the end of 2010, I looked back at the year, and I realized I'd talked about a lot of ideas I wanted to build but didn't build anything -- maybe I was 70 percent of the way there. I thought, What if in 2011, each month of the year, I put out a new site? FakeGirlfriend is one of the sites. I've launched or co-launched nine. The goal is 12 before the year's over.

It must be tiring!

It takes a lot of perseverance to keep going. At the beginning, it's like, this isn't that bad, but then September comes, and I have to do something else. It's about keeping it simple and finding good platforms. This forces me to say, it's not perfect, but it works, I'm going to put it out there and it will be okay. I'll probably do a lot of tweaking on FakeGirlfriend.

Tell me about FakeGirlfriend

Where did the idea come from? Twilio lets you build things that interact with cell phones, and I wanted to build something fun with it. The things I've done over the year, most have a slant of being humorous or novelty. I thought, What can I do with a phone that has that same angle? FakeGirlfriend came to me. Oddly enough, I'm married, and I went to my wife -- she designs a lot of the things I release, and I do the code -- and asked her to do the voice for it. I got her buy-in, and with her blessing it was easier to do.

Who's using it?

We don't have anything about the user other than their phone number. We got 15,000 phone calls in the last week.

How does it work?

They text in, and it texts them back. Sometimes a real girlfriend will text when you're out, you respond, and then they want to call you. So I have it text twice, and then it calls them.

What does it say?

There are a few different messages, basic scripts, like "Hey, how are you?" or "I missed you." We leave a moment of silence where the other person could respond and have it not seem weird.

Actual possible texts:

"I miss you, honey. xoxo.(:",
"When are you going to come see me?!?! I miss you! :0)",
"I'm lonely ;) ;) hehehe","
Why don't you leave the boys and come hang out with me?",
"I wish I was with you!!! (0:",
"I just need someone to talk to... Call me?",
"Thanks so much for the pics ;) I'll send some soon (:",
"I <3 you. xoxoxoxo. <3 <3 <3 <3",
"Oh hai! (0:",

Have you been surprised by how many people are using it?

Initially I was under the belief that this was so stupid no one would ever use it. Now I've heard lots of people saying they use it [ed: the site is up to 21,000 users now], for a variety of reasons -- to make a girlfriend jealous, or because you're just out with the guys, and everyone has a girl, and you're feeling kind of left out.

Do people want more from the site?

I think one of the things that I'll have to look at is providing more responses, or different personality types. Also, they'd love to see different area codes; it would look a little less suspicious. Right now it's coming from one 212 number. I've heard, "I can't believe you're using a 212 number for this; this has to be the biggest waste of a 212 number ever!"

What do you say to that?

I don't think so! I think if anything New Yorkers like to have fun, and it's nice to have a reminder to have fun.

Is the site making money?

It's funny because [the other day was] my birthday, and each call costs me money. It's gone up as users increase. I was like, "We're at 13,000 calls," and my wife said "Happy Birthday, your present is paying for those calls." Each user interaction costs 4 cents, which includes two texts and a call.

And your wife recorded the messages for the calls?

Is that weird? She did a really exaggerated fake voice, so it doesn't sound like her at all. It's not as weird as if it were just her normally talking.

Are you going to do FakeBoyfriend?

I think so. The domain I want is taken! But I want to do a different angle, not quite the same user interaction. The idea I like is that you text and it only gives one word responses, and it only calls every once in a while, one out of 10 times. I think I'll do it but with a unique spin. I hope people keep having fun with it, and that it gets used but not so much that I go broke from it!

[JDoll / @thisisjendoll]

Our Prime Minister is b-o-r-i-n-g!

Good Day Readers:

While watching this video from last year we suddenly realized Prime Minister Harper is not funny! We were unable to think of one thing he has said or done that's genuinely homorous can you? At least Mr. Chretien was good for the odd laugh while Leader. We hate to use the "b-word" but Mr. Harper and his Conservatives are b-o-r-i-n-g especially now that they have a majority.

Clare L. Pieuk

Out in left field without a glove!

Here comes the judge ..... or does he?
Judges are above politics, Council says

By Gen McGregor
Thursday, September 29, 2011

OTTAWA — As Conservative MPs attempt to call a sitting judge to testify before a parliamentary committee, the Canadian Judicial Council is warning that judges should never have to answer to politicians.

The Conservatives on Tuesday used their majority strength on the House of Commons Access to Information and Ethics Committee to adopt a list of witnesses that includes Mr. Justice Richard Boivin of the Federal Court.

They want him to discuss his ruling in a case brought by the Information Commissioner against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. There is little chance Boivin will ever appear before the committee, but the mere attempt underlines the long-simmering feud between the judiciary and Canada’s conservative movement, which bemoans “judge-made law” and complains about the lack of judicial accountability.

The council, which supervises Canadian judges, says a key part of judicial independence is that they should never have to explain their rulings.

“Members of the judiciary do have a certain degree of immunity in the performance of their official duties,” said Johanna Laporte, the Council’s Director of Communications.

“The basic principle of that immunity is that judges should not be deterred from vigorously performing their jobs. Judges should never have to justify their decisions — their decisions basically speak for themselves.”

The committee is looking into the CBC’s handling of Access to Information requests.

The CBC was taken to court by Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault for restricting her ability to examine documents to determine if they can be released through the open-records law.

Boivin ruled in Legault’s favour, but the CBC has appealed his decision.

The Tories are angry about what they say is the use of taxpayers’ money — the CBC gets about $1 billion from the federal government annually — to fund the litigation against a taxpayer-funded official.

Boivin was named on the list of witnesses submitted by Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, who is also Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. Del Mastro told the committee he felt it was “entirely appropriate” to invite Boivin to discuss his ruling.

“Judges are servants of the public. They uphold our laws,” he said. “This specific judge has looked at all the evidence before him, and he has rendered a decision. I think it’s important that the committee hears about that decision and why he came to it.

Reached Wednesday evening, Del Mastro referred to the Supreme Court ruling and said if Boivin doesn’t choose to attend voluntarily, he will circulate a copy of the judge’s ruling to committee members.

The committee agreed that some of the witnesses, Boivin included, would not be called to testify until after the hearing of CBC’s appeal on October 18. An invitation went out to Boivin on Wednesday.

Boivin, 46, is one of the youngest judges on the Federal Court. He is a former Department of Justice lawyer and was named to the Bench by the Conservatives in 2009.

Unless he agrees to appear — which seems highly improbable — the committee could issue a summons or even a subpoena. Boivin could safely ignore either. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on judicial independence in 1989, saying that federal judges had the right to refuse to explain their decisions to legislators.

Constitutional law expert Ed Ratushny of the University of Ottawa says he couldn’t believe the Tories would even try to get a judge before committee.

“It is so fundamental and clear cut that I can’t imagine how they could even consider it,” he said.

“It seems to me that it is really out of left field.” (emphasis ours)

Del Mastro also included on his witness list journalists working for Sun Media, the Quebecor Inc.-owned publishing and broadcasting company that has filed hundreds of Access requests to the CBC. Forcing journalists to testify would also be a highly unusual step.

A Quebecor official has said the journalists will not appear before the committee but the company’s president, Pierre-Karl Péladeau, will testify.

Lawyers, now you can launder up to $7,500 in cash at a time!

Canada's lawyers exempt from money-laundering laws
B.C. Supreme Court ruling strikes down sections of federal law

Wednesday, Sepember 28, 2011

Canada's lawyers are now exempt from the federal government's anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws.

The B.C. Supreme Court has struck down sections of the law relating to lawyers as unconstitutional.

The law requires financial institutions and others, including lawyers, to keep records on money transactions in an attempt to stop terrorists and criminals from using cash.

Canada's 14 law societies challenged the law saying it infringed on solicitor-client confidentiality.

'It shouldn't be applied to us, because we would have to basically create evidence against our own clients.' — Lawyer Josh Hunter

Lawyers for the attorney general of Canada argued during the trial last May that the legislation is valid and part of the country's international obligation.

But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow concluded the law infringes on lawyers and has ordered that they and their firms be excluded.

The charter infringement puts lawyers and their clients' liberty interests in jeopardy by collecting information about clients, and making that information available to the government, Gerow said in her ruling.

"In my view, reading down the act to exclude legal counsel and legal firms is appropriate, as this remedy respects both Parliament's objectives of controlling money laundering and terrorist financing ... and the charter rights of lawyers and their clients," Gerow concluded.

Strict professional rules in place

John Hunter, lawyer for the Federation of Law Societies, said Wednesday the ruling applies to lawyers across the country because Canada's attorney general agreed the legal action would be a test case.

Hunter said the law societies challenged the legislation because lawyers felt it intruded far too much on the lawyer-client relationship, especially when lawyers have strict rules on money that have the same effect as the government laws.

"It shouldn't be applied to us, because we would have to basically create evidence against our own clients. Constitutionally that can't be done. There's an independence issue here that's important for clients."

In 2004, the law society developed the No Cash Rule, which stops lawyers from taking cash of $7,500 or more from clients on one matter. The rule augments long-standing law society rules that stop lawyers from taking part in illegal activity or from being unwittingly involved in money laundering and terrorist financing.

Hunter said the law societies' rules are very similar to what the federal government wants, so there's no gap in the coverage around laundering money for crime or terrorism.

The court hasn't required the federal government to rewrite the law, but has simply said those portions that relate to lawyers aren't effective, Hunter said.

Round but not too round!


Resign taxpayers can't afford you any longer fly commercial!

MacKay racks up nearly $3-million in flights on VIP flights

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Defence Minister Peter MacKay listens as Public Works Minister Michael Fortier announces the $1.4 billion purchase of 17 C-130J military transport aircraft, the first of which will be delivered in 2010, at a news conference in Ottawa on January 16, 2007 (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)

Defence Minister Peter MacKay outranks almost all his cabinet colleagues when it comes to using federal government executive jets, racking up more than $2.9-million in flights on the Challenger planes in the past four years.

No other Tory politician aside from Stephen Harper has accumulated as much time on the VIP jets since Mr. MacKay took over the defence portfolio in the late summer of 2007. Not former foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon or Ottawa’s jet-setting Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who frequently travels abroad for economic meetings.

Peter MacKay under fire for 'search and rescue' trip

Records provided by the Department of National Defence show that over four years there were 35 flights arranged for Mr. MacKay that ran nearly 250 hours. None of these went to Afghanistan and, of these 35, 25 were domestic trips inside Canada.

Records show that in 2009 and 2010, Challenger flights arranged for Mr. MacKay logged more hours than any other of the 30-plus ministers who served under Mr. Harper at that time.

In 2008, Mr. MacKay ranked second only to Maxime Bernier, former foreign affairs minister, in terms of hours flown by government jets dispatched to fly him.

Cabinet ministers are encouraged to take commercial flights when at all possible.

The VIP Challenger jets are back in the spotlight after it was revealed that Canada’s top soldier, General Walter Natynczyk, used the planes 21 times in recent years to attend Forces-related pro sports events, fundraisers and – in one case – a family holiday in St. Martin.

Total flying hours for planes transporting Mr. MacKay comprised 17 per cent of hours flown by all ministers in 2008, 34 per cent in 2009 and 60 per cent in 2010. As of June, 2011, jets arranged for him made up 32 per cent of all flights by ministers other than Mr. Harper.

These are all flights where logs indicate Mr. MacKay was the “VIP” or the “User requesting aircraft” rather than merely a passenger on a flight arranged by someone else, such as General Natynczyk or the Prime Minister’s Office.

Per-hour flight expense costs provided by the military indicate the 35 flights cost Ottawa more than $2.9-million.

The Canadian Forces adds, however, that these estimates include fixed expenses that account for 75 per cent of the bill.

Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Mr. MacKay, released a statement saying: “In approximately 50 per cent of the total Challenger flights Minister MacKay has taken, he has taken these flights to attend the repatriation of fallen military personnel.”

Records show, however, that of the 35 flights Mr. MacKay’s office requested since September, 2007, only nine were to attend to return of soldiers’ remains to Canada.

Mr. Paxton said Mr. MacKay only used Challengers where commercial travel was “not feasible” and where the jets could help cut down the cost of conducting government business.

He said overall ministerial travel on the jets is down more than 80 per cent from the final years of the former Liberal government.

Mr. Harper, who is compelled to avoid commercial flights for security reasons, is the biggest political passenger on the Challenger jets. Even so, there are some months since he was appointed Defence Minister that Mr. MacKay’s flights logged more hours than the Prime Minister.

Opposition MPs from Atlantic Canada questioned how frequently Mr. MacKay used Challengers.

Prince Edward Island Liberal MP Wayne Easter said he would have thought the foreign minister of the day would be the most frequent user of Challenger jets.

“Here you have the Minister of Defence using the Challenger as if it was their personal taxi,” Mr. Easter said.

“It seems as if he feels he’s been given the keys to the kingdom.”

NDP defence critic Jack Harris, from Newfoundland, said he doesn’t see why Mr. MacKay so frequently turned to Challengers.

“Clearly these are not matters that require an emergency priority use of a government aircraft.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Does "The Harper Government" have Parliament in a pre-emptive lockdown!

Tories 'creating very bad precedent' by using majority muscle to shut down debate in secret, says NDP MP Caron

Conservative MP Andrew Saxton says, 'It is common practice when we’re discussing committee business that we do so in camera.'

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
In camera: Conservative MP Andrew Saxton, pictured with PM Stephen Harper recently, says it's normal for committee business to be discussed behind closed doors. (The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright)

PARLIAMENT HILL—A new NDP MP from Quebec says Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Federal Accountability Act is “not worth the paper it’s printed on” after a third government oversight committee in the House of Commons fell victim Wednesday to a Conservative majority that defeated attempts to probe sensitive topics that could embarrass the Conservatives.

The charge came after an NDP motion calling on the Commons Public Accounts Committee to resume studies or finalize reports from the last Parliament on a range of topics—including allegations of wrongdoing in a $9-million Parliament Hill renovation and controversial military helicopter acquisitions—disappeared after Conservative MPs forced the committee into an in camera hearing, with no public debate over the government’s motives.

The manoeuvre came after Conservative MPs on two other government accountability panels—the Privacy, Access to Information and Ethics Committee and the Government Operations and Estimates committee—earlier either defeated motions in public that would have looked into the controversy of $50-million worth of controversial federal spending in Treasury Board President Tony Clement’s (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ontario) riding for the G8 summit last year or forced in camera sessions to defeat the motions behind closed doors.

“We find it really disappointing, really actually outrageous, that we have to discuss these behind closed doors without any ability for the public or the media to actually see what’s happening, and this is important,” NDP MP Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques, Quebec) told reporters after the nearly-two-hour secret session of the Public Accounts Committee ended.

“They (Conservatives) actually try to make their bread and butter on the issue of transparency and accountability and I must say at this point, I’m not sure if the Accountability Act is actually worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Mr. Caron, chair of the NDP’s Quebec caucus and the party’s senior member on the committee.

“Right now what we’re seeing is every attempt, especially on oversight committees, to try to just bury the work and the discussions and the debates that are happening and Canadians and the media need to see.”

The government move took place only two hours before the government, hefting its majority clout in the House of Commons, ended debate on a controversial omnibus crime bill, over the protests of opposition MPs.

Both developments came on the heels of critical comments to The Hill Times from a leading constitutional scholar, Queen’s University Professor Ned Franks, that Mr. Harper and his government are ruling Parliament by “fiat,” and similar criticism from Daniel Drache, a leading political scientist at York University in Toronto.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson (Niagara Falls, Ontario) justified debate closure on the massive 102-page crime bill on grounds its components had been dealt with in the last Parliament, prior to the May 2 federal election, in the form of separate bills. The Commons vote sent the bill into committee for further study, though it is expected the government will use its majority there to limit witness appearances.

But, as noted by a member of the Public Accounts Committee, Liberal MP Gerry Byrne (Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Newfoundland) 36 of the 166 Conservative MPs who supported the government on the crime bill were first elected last May and had not taken part in the debates and study that took place in the last Parliament.

A total of 106 government and opposition MPs who voted on the crime bill were first elected on May 2.

Ironically, a rookie Conservative MP argued at the Public Accounts Committee that he and other new Conservatives on the panel did not want to go through the past studies and or approve reports because they had not been in Parliament when evidence and witnesses were heard.

“I’m a new Member of Parliament, so I have to speak from the perspective of a new MP,” Conservative MP Bryan Hayes (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) said as he apparently laid out the government’s position before the committee was forced to close its doors.

“I was not privy to the decisions leading up to the requests for studies and reports, and you know that puts me, I think, at a disadvantage,” Mr. Hayes said, noting he was a three-term city councillor in Sault Ste. Marie prior to his election to Parliament and “when a new council came on, we dealt with new and current issues, we didn’t deal with issues of the past, that was the reason that you had a new council.”

The NDP wanted the committee to pick up on a total of eight studies or draft reports that were interrupted by the election, including several studies of reports by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser.

Apparently addressing the recent controversy over the government using its muscle behind closed doors of committees, Conservative MP Andrew Saxton (North Vancouver, British Columbia), Parliamentary Secretary to Mr. Clement, explained the government’s reasons for going into secret sessions.

“I would like to say it is common practice in this committee when we’re discussing committee business that we do so in camera, it’s certainly something that is very common and it’s something that we need to do,” Mr. Saxton said.

The Conservatives also argued committees do not normally resume work from a Parliament that has been dissolved for an election, but the chair of the committee, NDP MP David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, Ontario), told reporters he has been on the committee since 2004 and it has regularly picked up on previous work following elections.

MPs are prevented from disclosing anything that takes place during in camera committee meetings, so the New Democrats could not even confirm that the Conservatives used their majority to kill the NDP motion. The motion is simply not reported as being adopted, and disappears from committee business.

“If the government flexes its muscles to try to impose something on this committee, which is studying government, it’s creating a very bad precedent, if that’s what they’re doing,” Mr. Caron said in answer to a question from a reporter.

“This is an oversight committee, a committee that studies issues of transparency, issues of accountability, expenditures. Right now what we’re seeing is every attempt, especially on oversight committees, to try to just bury the work and the discussions and the debates that are happening, and Canadians and the media need to see."

Liquid gold pipelines!

Good Day Folks:

TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline project is currently receiving most of the attention because of expanding protests against its construction both here and in the United States. The numbers are potentially staggering: over 2,100 miles with connections to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma before reaching the American Gulf Coast; $7 billion and 20,000 jobs; a maximum daily capacity of 590,000 barrels. All that remains in the way is the Obama Administration's final approval expected in December of this year.

But there are a couple other important plays currently underway receiving less publicity which will also have a significant impact on Canada: Calgary-based Enbridge Piplines Northern Gateway project from the oil sands to Kitimat, British Columbia; a 120,000 daily barrel expansion (second phase) of the company's piplines and associated equipment on both sides of our border to fully exploit the estimated 503 billion barrels of crude (Bakken Formation) beneath Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota and Montana.

The Cold Hard Facts

(1) It will be many more years before clean, green energy drastically reduces North American dependence on fossil fuels

(2) Americans are desperate for our crude oil refined or otherwise

(3) Both countries are desperate for the jobs associated with these products

(4) The American economy has been in the duldroms for some time - there is no reason to believe that is about to change in the foreseeable future

(5) Asian markets are booming and will likely continue

Therefore we support the Northern Gateway line because:

(i) jobs would be created in Canada

(ii) the Chinese are prepared to assist with its financing

(iii) during difficult economic times the United States tends to return to its protectionist roots which we've seen time and time and time again - one need not look far to find examples such as duties on our softwood lumber exports and several challenges of the Canadian Wheat Board before the World Trade Organization to name a couple

Ever noticed how it has never challenged our energy exports? Wonder why?

Of course, our position is contingent upon as many environmental safeguards being in place as possible.

Clare L. Pieuk


During BP's Gulf oil spill an environmentalist was holding forth about the need to reduce consumption. When asked by a reporter what type of vehicle she drove turned out both she and her husband had SUVs. Some people just don't get it!

Who can forget a few years ago an increasingly frustrated former Prime Minister Jean Chretien negotiating with the United States over trade irritants quipping, "Hope they have a lot of trees to cut down this winter."
Northern Gateway pipeline fully booked
CBC News
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Calgary-based Enbridge wants to build a pipeline that would carry crude oil from Alberta to B.C.

Calgary-based oil pipeline operator Enbridge said Wednesday it has lined up enough shippers to fill its proposed Northern Gateway pipelines project that would ship oilsands crude to the west coast for transport to Asian markets.

Enbridge did not identify which Asian and Canadian companies have committed to use the $5.5-billion facility, but Chinese refining giant Sinopec has said it is on board with the project.

Companies have fully subscribed to long-term service on both a 525,000-barrel per day line carrying crude from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C., as well as a smaller line that would bring imported condensates inland.

Janet Holder, Enbridge's executive vice-president of Western access, called the shipper agreements "a major step forward" for the project, which she said would enable Canadian energy companies to fetch a better price for the crude they produce.

The project would diversify the market for Alberta oilsands producers beyond the current sole customer, the United States, where demand growth is expected to slow.

'Enbridge's pipeline isn't happening, period.'— Chief Larry Nooski, Nadleh Whut'en First Nation

But it is controversial with environmentalists, First Nations groups and others who say the threat of a spill poses a threat to the northern B.C. ecosystem.

"Enbridge's pipeline isn't happening, period. It doesn't matter who they get a deal with," Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut'en First Nation in northern B.C., said in a release.

"They plan to come through our territories and we've already said no, and we'll use every legal means we have to stop them. Their proposed pipeline is against our laws because we refuse to put our communities at the risk of oil spills.

"Northern Gateway will link two of Canada's most important competitive strengths: our tremendous petroleum reserves and our Pacific advantage — safe deepwater ports that are close to the growing markets of the Pacific Rim," said Holder.

"The project has the potential to move Canada into receiving premium prices in the global energy marketplace, rather than the landlocked, one customer price-taker it is today.

Northern Gateway is currently under review by the National Energy Board, and hearings are set to begin in the new year.

Equal time?

Mary Dawson
Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Parliament of Canada
66 Slater Street, 22nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Commissioner Dawson:

This morning at approximately 8:30 (Winnipeg time) the CBC aired what appeared to be an approximately 2- minute message from Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, Member for Delta-Richmond East, as part of free announcement time allowed Parliamentarians. We believe the program is called, The Nation's Business.
As you are undoubtedly aware, this is a common practice during federal election campaigns, however, this is the first time we have encountered its use outside lead up to a general vote. Although we do not have a transcript, in it Ms Findlay appeared to be extolling the virtues of the Omnibus Crime Bill currently before Parliament. She also suggested the last election resulted from the action of Opposition Parties which some would argue represents an embellishment.


1. Was Ms Findlay correct in placing this announcement on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's radio network?

2. Will Opposition Members be allowed equal time to present their views on the issue?

Please be advised any reply received will be published on this site.

Clare L. Pieuk

Media Citizen Journalist
Blog Master


Tories 'governing by fiat,' conducting Parliamentary business as 'warfare by any other means,' says Professor Franks'

They’re forgetting that though they have a majority of seats, they got less than 40 per cent of the vote in May. I’m disappointed. I was expecting better,' says Queen's University political scientist Ned Franks.

Published Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The art of war: Queen's University professor Ned Franks says the governing Conservatives are taking a ham-fisted approach to Parliamentary business. (The Hill Times Photograph by Jake Wright)

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Conservative government is taking a ham-fisted approach to Parliamentary business that is like “warfare by any other means,” one of Canada’s leading constitutional scholars says.

Queen’s University Professor Ned Franks used the term on Tuesday after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alberta) imposed closure on its controversial 100-page omnibus crime bill and Conservative MPs on the House Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee went so far as putting the name of a Federal Court judge on a list of witnesses they want for an inquiry the Conservatives forced over CBC practices under the Access to Information Act.

Professor Franks was also commenting on Conservative manoeuvres to avoid committee hearings into new information about Treasury Board President Tony Clement’s (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ontario) role in the distribution of nearly $50-million in federal funding in his riding for the G8 summit last year. At the same time the government wielded its clout to cut debate on the crime bill, C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, to only two more days and forced a committee inquiry into Conservative allegations of improper sponsorships at an NDP national convention last June.

The Conservatives on the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee also steered the committee into hearings on one of their favourite targets—Canada’s national public broadcaster the CBC.

“I would have thought they would have changed, and stopped their approach to Parliamentary business as warfare by any other means,” Professor Franks told The Hill Times. “They’re governing by fiat, and they’re forgetting that though they have a majority of seats, they got less than 40 per cent of the vote in May. I’m disappointed. I was expecting better.”

York University political scientist Daniel Drache agreed the Conservatives have returned to Parliament for the fall sittings bent on imposing their will on the opposition, now that they have the power to do it.

He said the Conservatives are set on taking advantage of the fact that former NDP Leader Jack Layton’s political instinct and mastery is no longer there for the Official Opposition party to rely on, following his death in August from cancer, and, as Professor Drache put it, the fact that the third-party Liberals “are nowhere.”

“Harper’s most important adversary is no longer there. There’s a lot of disorganization, and I think they are leaping to take advantage and be very aggressive with their legislative agenda,” Mr. Drache told The Hill Times.

“The nature of the executive power of the prime minister is enormous and it’s more concentrated this time, with this government, than any other comparable government,” he said. “I think they will argue that public consultation [on the crime bill] is a waste of money. They’re going to say that they’ve heard it before and they should get on with it, but to run roughshod over the Parliamentary process and just make it economies of silence.”

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, Ontario), Mr. Harper’s Parliamentary Secretary, and other Conservative MPs put Federal Court Judge Richard Boivin’s name on a list of witnesses the committee’s clerk was to invite for hearings into Judge Boivin’s own ruling last year that backed complaints from Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault that the CBC was improperly withholding information from access requests.

The idea of calling a judge to Parliament to explain a ruling, which the Conservatives likely support anyway, astonished opposition MPs, shocked the legal community in Ottawa and the Federal Court itself. The executive officer of the court, Andrew Baumberg, told The Hill Times the judge had heard nothing about the request.

“I’ve never heard of a judge being asked to be a witness at a Parliamentary committee,” said Mr. Baumberg. “Possibly it’s a mistake in the Parliamentary process. He’s not going to be explaining his decision.”

A senior litigation lawyer in Ottawa said: “The very idea of calling a judge at any level to come before a committee to explain a decision that he or she has made is simply a complete violation of the separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary.”

To make matters worse, in terms of the inquiry coming now, the CBC has appealed Judge Boivin's decision, and the first hearing in that case is scheduled for October 18.

NDP MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ontario), a member of the Privacy, Access to Information and Ethics Committee who stirred up the G8 spending controversy in the past two weeks, noted that while the Conservatives are forcing an inquiry into their allegations unions improperly subsidized the NDP convention in Vancouver earlier this year—and calling in Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand as one of the witnesses—they voted down his motion to call witnesses for the convention hearings.

Top Conservative Party officials were charged earlier this year with Elections Act violations, over an advertising scheme the party set up during the campaign for the 2006 election.

Mr. Angus said the same approach surfaced as the government limited debate on the crime bill, which critics says will cost the government billions of dollars over the years for prison expansion while taking Canada further toward tough-on-crime sentencing and laws that failed and led to overloaded prisons in the United States.

“They have a majority, they can get their way, but it seems to have brought out a very nasty, arrogant streak in them," Mr. Angus said. “They don’t want to even have any pretext of Parliamentary review."

Mr. Angus added: “I don’t even think they’ve thought this all through, to ‘We want to bring a judge who ruled on the CBC?' He’s not going to show up. It’s like they don’t even know the rules of Parliament.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Should you be concerned?

Good Day Readers:

Being on the mailing list for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading edge digital law research organization, we received the following. While it applies to the American experience we wondered whether a similar initiative should be undertaken in Canada. Today it was announced The Harper Government will attempt to fast track it's Omnibus Crime Bill through the House of Commons which, among other considerations, contains sweeping monitoring provisions for anyone using an electronic device.

Earlier this year, The Federal Privacy Commissioner and her Provincial and Territorial counterparts sent a letter to the Deputy Minister for Public Safety Canada expressing concern over the lack of checks and balances, as well as, judicial oversight if these changes to the Criminal Code are passed in their present form:

Should you be concerned? Yes, you should be very concerned.

Clare L. Pieuk
Don't Let Privacy Law Get Stuck in 1986: Demand a Digital Upgrade to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act

If the government wants to track our cell phones, or see what web sites we’ve visited, or rummage through our Gmail, or read our private messages on Facebook, it should be required to go to a judge and get a search warrant based on probable cause. Demand a privacy upgrade!

Sign now and we will add your name to this petition and also send a letter to your Representatives and Senators in time for the 25th anniversary of ECPA being signed into law:

Petiton language

The government should be required to go to a judge and get a warrant before it can read our email, access private photographs and documents we store online, or track our location using our mobile phones. Please support legislation that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) to require warrants for this sensitive information and to require the government to report publicly on the use of its surveillance powers.

ECPA was forward-looking when it was signed into law in October of 1986, considering that the World Wide Web hadn't even been invented yet. But now, ECPA has become outdated. The privacy standards that it applies to new technologies are unclear and weak. For example, the law doesn't specifically address cell phone location tracking at all, and it allows the government to seize most emails without ever having to go to a judge. Meanwhile, no one is perfectly sure how it applies to newer online services like social networks and search engines.

This gap between the law and the technology ultimately leaves us all at risk. Add your name now to sign the petition supporting ECPA reform, and feel free to add a personalized introduction to the text below that will be sent to your legislators before the 25th anniversary of ECPA.

The pen!

Dear Amanda,

Notice you forever seem to have a CBC government issue pen in your left hand that you seldom if ever use to write.

If it's only for show why hasn't Kevin bought you a nice Mount Blanc from proceeds of his new book? Better yet, he should give you a free, signed copy before presenting the pen.

Clare L. Pieuk

John Baird Canada's international embarrassment!

Good Day Readers:

World leaders such as French President Nicholas Sarkozy and others, much more enlightened and influential than John Baird, prior to Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas' address to the United Nations publicly stated it was important for the Palestinians to come away with something if negotiations are to be advanced - give them observer status but no vote. God knows there have been enough vitriolic speeches by both sides in the Israelis-Palestinian conflict. So what does Mr. Baird do? Throw more gasoline on the fire. Smart, real smart!

Oh for sure, Mr. Abbas' speech may have been nothing more than an exercise in public relations but it did attract worldwide attention. Minister Baird and Canadians would have been much better served had he said something like:

Our country would be prepared to recognize Palestinian observer status. If it wished to be viewed by the UN as a state it must first sit down with Israel to negotiate a viable, lasting peace agreement then return to ask for international recognition. Further, should it subsequently do anything to crater the settlement it's vote could and would immediately be rescinded.

If nothing else that would have left both sides with an incentive, albeit a small one. Instead he acted like the tough talking little boy he tries to project - it's a facade.

Recall a few weeks ago he visited Washington to promote the controversial Enbridge pipeline from the oil sands to Texas. After meeting behind closed doors with American officials there he stood beside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a Press Conference. He appeared completely overwhelmed with a pussycat, sheepish look covering his face as he readily deferred to her. Where was the tough rhetoric that if we didn't get a decision quickly we'd take up the Chinese offer to help finance a line to British Columbia?

So Mr. Baird, we don't know who wrote your recent terrible, terrible United Nations speech but we offer our services. Couldn't do any worse! Rein him in Stephen Harper before he causes us another international embarrassment.

Clare L. Pieuk (Mike Blanchfield)
John Baird bares teeth in offering Canada's defence of Israel at UN

OTTAWA— The Canadian Press
Published Monday, Sepember 26, 2011 Foreign Minister John Baird addresses the 66th UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters September 26, 2011. (David Karp/Associated Press)

Canada used its United Nations speaking slot Monday to lambaste opponents of Israel as no better than the appeasers who allowed fascism and communism to flourish before the Second World War.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird delivered Canada's views to the General Assembly in a speech that put meat on the bones of the Harper government's unflinching support of Israel.

“Just as fascism and communism were the great struggles of previous generations, terrorism is the great struggle of ours. And far too often, the Jewish state is on the front line of our struggle and its people the victims of terror,” says a prepared text of Baird's remarks.

“Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens. The Second World War taught us all the tragic price of ‘going along' just to 'get along.“’

Baird made no direct mention of the Holocaust in which six million Jews died at the hands of Nazi Germany. But he evoked the era when he quoted Winston Churchill as saying “an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

Baird reiterated Canada's opposition to the recent Palestinian bid to secure UN recognition as a state.

The UN Security Council became seized with the matter on Monday for the first time after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas delivered his own forceful speech advocating the move.

“We supported the aspirations of those peoples who sought for themselves and their countries brighter futures during the Arab Spring that just passed,” said Baird.

“But we will not go along with the unilateral actions of the Palestinian Authority.”

Baird repeated Canada's call for a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The no-holds-barred address also took aim at the UN itself, for allowing despotic regimes to hold memberships on, or occupy the chair of, major committees.

“The greatest enemies of the United Nations are not those who publicly repudiate its actions,” said Baird.

“The greatest enemies of the United Nations are those who quietly undermine its principles and, even worse, by those who sit idly, watching its slow decline.”

Baird backed that argument by citing North Korea's recent rotating presidency of the UN conference on disarmament, which Canada boycotted, along with Iran's vice-presidency of the General Assembly and its seat on the commission on population and development.

Baird's unflinching defence of Israel was another reminder to the Jewish state that it has a friend in Canada.

Last week in New York, Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed his support for Israel in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

And Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told another UN gathering that Israel is being targeted by a “new anti-Semitism” that is “now disguised as anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israel, but it ultimately espouses the same old hatred and intent.”

Baird said Canada would not “go along with appeasement of the former (Moammar) Gadhafi regime” in Libya. And it has imposed tough new sanctions on Syria because it cannot “go along” with the Assad regimes killing of its own civilians.

Baird also took aim at the UN for past resolutions that have criticized Israel, votes that Canada has boycotted in the Harper era.

“Canada will not go along with a double standard that castigates some UN members for alleged failings while ignoring the notorious abuses of others,” said Baird.

He said the Harper government plans to follow through with its election promise to create an office of religious freedom within the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa.

He said Canada will not “go along or look the other way when a minority is denied its human rights or fundamental freedoms.”

As examples of persecuted religious groups, Baird cited Christians in China, Egypt and Iraq, as well as Buddhists and Muslims in Burma.

He added: “Gays and lesbians threatened with criminalization of their sexuality in Uganda. And other minorities subjected to persecution, oppression or violence.”

Told you so!

Good Day Readers:

It's not often we're right but this time we were. After seeing Nancy Grace's outfit for Dancing With The Stars we expressed concern a couple weeks ago the Old Girl was trying to stuff too much into a confined space worrying about a possible wardrobe malfunction. Well it happened!

Clare L. Pieuk

Strange and stranger!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ricky and the Rabbis or what some politicians won't do for votes!

Last word to Professor Peter Phillips!


Not only does the government have this problem, but many in the trade say there is no way that Minister Ritz can handle the practical aspects of this enormous change in the time available. We are soon at the point where Mr. Ritz will be costing Canada export dollars.


Dear Anonymous:

Thank you for contacting CyberSmokeBlog with the link to The Western Producer article.

Pat "Harry Callihan" Martin notwithstanding, once the grain dust has settled we think the most likely scenario will be a two-tiered system which will see grain producers switching between both as the situation suits them. We wonder if the fast talking "Harry" might himself be a tad dulusional. Besides, what's millions of dollars to jet setting Conservatives?
As Peter Phillips a public policy Professor at the University of Saskatchewan said in comments to the CBC (September 12, 2011):

"The Board can and should have a long term future but it will have to keep loyal farmers under the new system. Sixty per cent of producers say they like the Board so that's a pretty good client base right there. Under the right terms and conditions, I suspect many of the others would continue to use the Board."

Clare L. Pieuk

CWB law almost certain to be delayed: opposition critic

By Barry Wilson, Ottawa Bureau
September 23, 2011

Prairie grain farmers should make their 2012 marketing plan assuming the Canadian Wheat Board marketing monopoly still will be in place, says a key opposition opponent of government dismantlement plans.

Winnipeg New Democrat MP Pat Martin, opposition CWB critic, said that the government's promise to end the wheat and barley monopoly effective August 1, 2012 is virtually certain not to come to pass.

Legislation must make it through Parliament and the opposition can use multiple procedural tactics to delay it, even with a majority government.

"A lot of people who follow parliamentary procedure say that if he (agriculture minister Gerry Ritz) cannot get it through Parliament by December 15 (when Parliament adjourns until late January), it is unlikely to implement the changes needed for a free market by August 1, 2012," the MP said in an interview. "It's not that difficult for the largest opposition in Canadian history to use procedural tactics to stall and delay that legislation.

"Martin said that since farmers begin to plan during the winter how to sell their 2012 crop, they should assume the wheat board single desk will be an option next year.

"I think farmers should operate under the assumption that the status quo will prevail for 2012 because the minister cannot guarantee delivery of his promise," he said. "With the passion and the strong belief we are on the side of the angels with the CWB, there will be a full court press pulling out all the stops and using every tool at our disposal to stop, delay and sabotage the intention of the minister. I don't think he knows the fight he is going to get."

Complicating the government's legislative challenge is the fact that the first major piece of legislation is a controversial omnibus crime bill introduced this week that government leaders say will be a priority this autumn even as opposition MPs insist they will delay it.

Martin said Ritz is "deluded" if he thinks grain legislation will get through Parliament by the time it rises for summer in mid-June.

In the House of Commons September 23, Liberal agriculture critic Frank Valeriote insisted that the CWB plebiscite showed prairie producers support the board's single desk even if they voted Conservative in the spring election. Of the 56 percent of permit book holders who voted, 62 percent of wheat producers supported the monopoly.

Ritz insisted the "vast majority" of farmers "understand the needs and requirements to market on their own behalf."

He noted that they sell their own canola, pulse crops and livestock. "We know they can do that with wheat as well, they just need a chance to do that."Ritz said the opposition can oppose. "They can say no but at the end of the day, this is going to happen."

Sell the bloody jets to pay down the deficit!

The fixer, cringeworthy e-mail and guilty of conduct unbecoming to a smart person!

Why Bob Dechert kept his job
No mere backbencher, the Tory elder played a key role in returning the party to power

By Charlie Gillis on Monday, September 26, 2011

Meet the press: Dechert is parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

Firing him would have been easy. Few people outside of Mississauga, Ontario had heard of Bob Dechert before he rolled the dice on his career by trading amorous emails with a correspondent from the Xinhua news agency, Communist China’s official mouthpiece. Thanks in no small part to the 53-year-old MP’s own giddy prose—“I really like the picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed” fits nicely into a single tweet—the story quickly found legs: by the middle of last week, the reporter, Shi Rong, was on front pages across the country.

Dechert downplayed the exchanges as “flirtatious.” “The friendship remained innocent and simply that—a friendship,” he said on his personal website, which also features a picture of him with his long-time wife, Ruth Clark. But the image of a middle-aged man in the throes of a grade-school crush has stuck, overshadowing Dechert’s little-known status as a party fixer that insiders believe may have spared him relegation to the backbenches. Messages sent from Shi’s inbox—apparently by her angry husband—revealed not only that the married MP had professed his love for the journalist, but that Shi had sought a divorce to pursue her new relationship. “To continue her love affair with this Member of Parliament,” the jilted man typed in a message sent to all 240 of his wife’s contacts, “Shi Rong pitilessly asked to end her marriage while stationed overseas.”

For a Conservative government that once talked tough about Beijing’s espionage program, it was more than a bit of domestic unpleasantness. Xinhua is a state-owned news agency whose foreign bureaus have in the past served as less-than-convincing cover for Chinese spies. “It’s an open secret that many of the Chinese reporters stationed overseas actually work for Beijing’s Ministry of State Security,” says Li Ding, Deputy Editor-In-Chief at Chinascope, a Washington-based agency that monitors and analyzes Chinese media. “Westerners think of Xinhua as a news service. In fact, it is a government agency.”

Dechert, meanwhile, is a credible target for a covert operative: as a Parliamentary Decretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, he enjoys access to privileged information about Canada’s relationship with the United States—material of obvious interest to Beijing. How much, if any, he shared with his paramour is not really the point, says Nelson Wiseman, a Political Scientist at the University of Toronto. “The issue is, should this guy be a Parliamentary Secretary? I mean, he screwed up royally.”

How, then, is Dechert hanging on to his appointment? Part of the answer may lie in Dechert’s unheralded role in getting the Conservatives back into power. No mere Backbencher, the MP for Mississauga-Erindale is a bona fide Tory Elder, whose efforts as an organizer, fundraiser and fixer helped bring the modern party into being. More recently, he has played a key part in the Conservative breakthrough with ethnic communities in southern Ontario, paving the way for the electoral surge that gave the Tories their first majority in 18 years. The Conservatives owe Dechert, and they owe him a lot.

Scott McDougall, a Toronto-based organizer who cut his teeth with the Progressive Conservatives when Joe Clark was Leader, remembers a teenage Dechert running a team of canvassers during the Ontario provincial election of 1975. “He stood out from the crowd even then,” says McDougall. “It was a pizza-and-pop operation. But he was very committed, and a very good organizer.” Dechert got a law degree and a job on Bay Street, yet stayed active in the party through the Mulroney years, building a formidable list of contacts. Then, in early 1993, the PCs were reduced to a parliamentary rump, while Reform commenced its advance from the West. Dechert and others began taking stock of the federal political landscape.

The result was the “Blue Committee,” a coterie of Ontario backroomers on a mission to broker peace between the PCs and the Reform party. In early 1998, Dechert joined McDougall, businessman Peter White and long-time Tory campaign hand John Capobianco in a search for a leader who, in McDougall’s words, “wouldn’t poke Preston in the eye.” Their courage wasn’t universally appreciated. “We weren’t very popular in some PC circles,” recalls McDougall. “We were sticking out necks out.”

Still, Dechert showed his diplomatic chops during that period, say party insiders, soothing the fears of Ontario Tories about Reform while pointing out that the splintered political right was a recipe for uninterrupted Liberal rule. That such a soldier saw virtue in a merger eased anxiety, though the union took longer than expected. Meantime, Dechert began contemplating running himself, a challenge that would demand the same perseverance and equanimity he showed as an organizer. Twice he lost in Mississauga-Erindale, in 2004 and 2006, before edging out Liberal Omar Alghabra in 2008 by just 397 votes and establishing a beachhead for the Tories in the Greater Toronto Area.

For this, too, Conservatives feel a weight of obligation. Breaking through in Toronto meant shaking the Liberal grip on the city’s ethnic communities, an achievement for which Dechert can claim a considerable part of the credit. After running in 2004, he worked tirelessly to cultivate ties in Mississauga’s Asian business circles, building on the groundwork laid by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. During last May’s campaign, Dechert and Kenney appeared together at several events organized by those supporters, while Dechert himself paid visits to neighbouring candidates to offer support and advice. “I tip my hat to Bob Dechert,” Victor Oh, a businessman who supported Dechert, told Maclean’s last spring during a campaign event at a Chinese supermarket. “He’s a hard worker. He’s delivered a lot of good things for Mississauga.”

Robert Drummond, a Canadian politics expert at York University in Toronto, says politicians like Dechert are important to parties—especially conservative ones that depend on grassroots support. “That’s why they might want to stick by him: he’s got that kind of dues paid status. It makes it harder to turn against him, and easier to defend him.” Moreover, Drummond adds, the Conservatives have a young parliamentary majority; barring further revelations, they can probably ride this one out.

No surprise, then, that John Baird leapt to his defence soon after the cringeworthy emails began hitting reporters’ inboxes, ridiculing worries that the two-term MP had put his country’s interests at risk. Last Friday, it was Stephen Harper’s turn to reassure reporters—albeit in more lawyerly terms: “As you know, Mr. Dechert has put out a statement,” the Prime Minister said. “I have no information that links this to any government business.”

Suffice to say, Harper’s response stands in stark contrast to his punishment of Maxime Bernier, who in 2008 was forced to resign as Foreign Affairs Minister after he left a batch of sensitive NATO briefing notes at the home of his ex-girlfriend, Julie Couillard. Bernier was valuable, too — a Quebec caucus member with deep roots in his riding. But he had nothing close to Dechert’s organizational credentials or reservoir of good will. More to the point, he had been demonstrably careless with privileged information.

In Dechert’s case, none of the revelations suggest anything more than a dubious choice of companion, while emails between Shi Rong and a fellow Xinhua employee suggest the reporter was preoccupied with romantic passion, not espionage. “About the sad tales you told me about him keeping you waiting for a long time, put it out of your mind,” the friend, Qu Jing, wrote in a message dated June 26, 2010. “Sweep him into the dustbin. He is not good enough for you.”

Xu Wu, a former Xinhua Editor who now teaches at Arizona State University’s journalism department, laughs at the idea such a woman could be a spy. “For the sake of argument, let’s assume Shi Rong is an intelligence officer and uses Xinhua’s media outlet as a cover,” he said in an email from Hong Kong, where he is on sabbatical. “Why don’t Shi’s superiors choose an unmarried, tech-savvy agent to do the work, instead of a married woman with ‘puffy cheeks’ and a jealous husband back home who can easily access her computer and account? Why don’t they give Shi a better, credible, creative cover, since all foreigners seem to know that Xinhua is ‘a nest of spies’?”

Reasonable questions, all. But they don’t change the fact that Dechert is guilty of conduct unbecoming to a smart person — not to mention a married man. They’re the sorts of transgressions that don’t sit well with the Prime Minister or with his base of morally attuned, hawkish-minded voters. The good news for Conservatives is that Shi Rong has gone back to China for a vacation from which few believe she’ll return. As for Dechert, he would be well advised not to plan a long future as Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Cabinet shuffles are a fact of political life. And from time to time, even the best party soldier needs a gentle reminder.