Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is twitter Canada's new proxy for re-call legislation?

Good Day Readers:

Unlike the United States Canada has no recall legislation. An attempt a few years ago never got past first reading in the House of Commons. Therefore, if a newly elected Member of Parliament is seen, for whatever reason(s), to be under performing by many constituents they have no alternative but to wait up to 5-years until another election must be called.

We believe what has happened in Towesgate is potentially a game changer. Can a well-orchestrated Twitter campaign against an unsatisfactory MP, especially if it goes viral gaining national attention, be used to force a "bye-election? Time will tell, however, we sense what we're seeing is a precursor.

As for Mr. Toews protestations of an invasion of privacy, that is the way politics is played. Good or bad like it or not, if a public figure has skeletons in their closet they will likely be exposed sooner or later. Last word on the subject to Jacqueline Kennedy who once said, "Politics is a game of knives" to which we add, "It's not for the faint of heart."

If a public figure advocates one way but lives another (Mark Twain's, "Do as I say and not as I do!"), is the media acting responsibly upholding its mandate by perpetuating a myth? We think not.

Clare L. Pieuk
Toews says short-lived Vikileaks an attempt to 'anonymously degrade' him

But NDP MP Joe Comartin says the Conservatives are trying to portray Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as a victim to deflect attention away from Bill C-30
Vikileaks: Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, left, and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, right, introduced Bill C-30, the so-called Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act which would give police and intelligence agencies sweeping internet surveillance powers on February 14.
PARLIAMENT HILL—Public Safety Minister Vic Toews claims he was attacked on two internet fronts from inside the House of Commons last week and says in a letter to the House Speaker that one of the assaults—the short-lived Vikileaks Twitter account spreading details of his divorce—was an attempt to “anonymously degrade” his reputation.

In a letter Mr. Toews (Provencher, Manitoba) sent to House Speaker Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan), Mr. Toews reveals that, as affidavits from his divorce were circulating on Twitter as part of the backlash against Bill C-30, the so-called Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act (legislation he introduced to give police and intelligence agencies sweeping internet surveillance powers) someone from within the Commons also jammed up his Parliamentary email accounts with a flood of emails.

“It has come to my attention that House of Commons resources have been used in an attempt to anonymously degrade my reputation and obstruct me from carrying out my duties as a Member of Parliament,” Mr. Toews wrote, also blaming the Vikileaks attack on someone from within Parliament.

The Ottawa Citizen reported last Friday it had tracked down the internet protocol address of the computer behind the Vikileaks account, and that the address had been the source of Wikipedia editing that appeared to give the articles a pro-NDP bias. But the newspaper also reported someone who uses the IP address denied any connection to the Vickleaks exposés of Mr. Toews’ divorce court affidavits.

The House of Commons has since said in statements of its internet connection and routing system, released through Mr. Scheer’s communications director Heather Bradley, that its system uses a masking system that prevents anyone from easily identifying the IP address of any of its 4,000 computers and their users.

Mr. Toews, whose office provided The Hill Times with a copy of his letter to Mr. Scheer last Friday, wrote: “Details of my personal life have been transmitted to the general public from an Internet Protocol Address associated with the House of Commons in a misguided attempt to gain political advantage.”

In a new twist, unknown publicly before his office released the letter to Mr. Scheer, Mr. Toews asked Mr. Scheer to also investigate the assault on his office email accounts.

“The attempt to smear my name using taxpayer-funded resources appears to be a clear violation of the rules applicable to Members of the House of Commons, their employees and agents,” Mr. Toews wrote.

“I would also draw to your attention to the active attempt on the pat of a person employed with the House of Commons to inundate email accounts associated with my office, thereby impeding timely access by my constituents, who are seeking to interact with their elected Member of Parliament,” Mr. Toews wrote.

“When honourable debate is supplanted by clandestine attacks by one MP or his or her office on the reputation of another MP, the basic right to face one’s accuser is lost,” he wrote.

Mr. Toews has also reported what he says are separate criminal attempts to threaten him through undisclosed “communications.” His communications Director, Michael Patton, did not respond to an emailed question about whether the complaint was related to a video the activist web group Anonymous posted against Mr. Toews.

The RCMP had confirmed earlier it was looking at the case, but in an email to The Hill Times on Tuesday the police force was less specific.

“We continuously assess the threat environment to ministers, but will not comment on the level of protection afforded to them,” Sergeant Julie Gagnon wrote in an email to The Hill Times. “Depending on the situation, the RCMP may or may not initiate an investigation.”

Ms. Bradley said Tuesday she could not comment on the allegations of involvement of Commons web addresses and computers and said the House computer administrators might not be able immediately to respond to Hill Times questions because they were “looking into it all right now.”

The NDP claimed Tuesday the Conservative government is attempting to portray Mr. Toews as a “victim,” to deflect attention from the internet surveillance and investigation bill that sparked the furor.

“Obviously, the Conservatives are trying to turn Toews into a victim, they’re trying to portray it that way as a smokescreen around the legislation, how offensive it is to the liberties in this country,” NDP MP Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ontario) told The Hill Times.

Mr. Comartin, NDP House leader and a member of the secretive Commons Board of Internal Economy that also could be in charge of any investigation, said even if Commons employees flooded Mr. Toews’ email accounts, they would have a right to express their views on the surveillance bill.

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“The fact that people on the Hill would send him emails critical of legislation would just be part of their job,” Mr. Comartin said. “On the other hand, threatening emails or crossing the line into criminality of course it’s a valid complaint. But if it’s that, that should be going to the police, to the RCMP, not the Speaker.”

He argued Mr. Scheer has rejected similar complaints from Montreal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Quebec), who lost his argument last November that Conservative phone bank operatives were disrupting his work as an MP by flooding his constituents with rumours he was set to retire.

“People have the right working on the Hill, and I included myself in that, I have a right, using my email on the Hill to send a note to Vic and say, ‘This is really bad legislation and I am opposed to it, I urge you to withdraw it,’” Mr. Comartin said. “Emails of that kind coming through House offices are entirely appropriate.”

Mr. Comartin took issue with what appeared to be a suggestion in the Ottawa Citizen report that someone from the NDP was behind the Vikileaks operation.

“The best knowledge we have at this point is that in fact it is either difficult or impossible to trace that back to a specific computer,” he said. “We have canvassed as many of our employees as possible, none of them have indicated that they did that, the Vikileaks.”


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