Monday, August 24, 2015

Reasons for Conservative supporters to vote for Mulcair's NDP

Except for dedicated loyalists who will hear no evil, see no evil, nor speak no evil of Stephen Harper most supporters of the Conservative Party must realize that the Harper brand is irredeemably damaged.
The question now for Conservative supporters is: " What is to be done? " A careful examination of the facts points to a rather surprising answer. Conservative supporters should vote for the New Democratic Party under its leader Thomas Mulcair. This may appear shocking and counter-intuitive to many but consider some of the reasons why this makes sense.
Before he became leader of the NDP , Mulcair actually tried to get a job with the Federal Conservatives as an advisor to the Harper government. According to one narrative he did not get the job because he asked for double the money being offered. According to an alternative version, Mulcair could not support Harper's environmental policies so the deal fell through. So why did he seek the job knowing the dismal record of Harper on the environment? Did he hope to reform the Harper government perhaps? According to former senior Conservative staffers the talks about the position were a prelude to having Mulcair run as a Conservative candidate in 2008. If Mulcair was acceptable as an advisor and a Conservative candidate surely he deserves the votes of conservatives now when Harper's star is dimming and may soon go dark.
There is nothing strange about the Conservatives, even the Harper Conservatives, supporting prominent NDP figures. Gary Doer was a long-time NDP premier of Manitoba. He resigned when Stephen Harper offered him the position of Canadian ambassador to the US. No doubt he is busy in Washington promoting the Keystone XL pipeline and other projects and policies pushed by the Harper government.
Mulcair would carry on the adulation of Israel characteristic of Harper. As well as cracking down on critics of Israel within the NDP, Mulcair said:“I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.” [“…je suis un ardent supporter de toutes les instances et de toutes les circonstances d’Israël.”]*
~Thomas Mulcair, quoted in Canadian Jewish News, May 1st, 2008
Even on economic matters where the NDP is regarded as interventionist, spendthrift, and opposed to free market neo-liberal policies, Mulcair has expressed admiration and support for that darling of conservatives globally Margaret Thatcher. Waxing eloquent, Mulcair declaimed while a member of the Quebec provincial Liberal government that the success of the UK economy under Thatcher's Conservative Party rule was due to the "winds of liberty and liberalism" that "swept across the markets in England". Sounding very much like a neo-liberal apologist and pundit, Mulcair in 2001 said:"A government should never pretend it can replace the private market. It does not work," Mulcair said in 2001. "It didn't work in England. Up until Thatcher's time, that's what they tried, the government stuck its nose everywhere."This surely shows that Mulcair espouses conservative values even though as leader of an allegedly left-leaning party he may from time to time spout rhetoric he thinks appropriate to retaining his leftist base. If there is any doubt here is another bit from Mulcair that could easily come from a writer for the Fraser Institute: "..interventionism is a failure. A government can create the conditions conducive to the creation of jobs… but the best way for a government to create wealth is to let the private market thrive and to get off the back of business men and women."
Surely there is a compelling case for Conservative supporters to vote NDP this time around.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

NDP leads in polls with Conservatives trailing and Liberals third

The recent CBC poll tracker results show that the NDP continues to lead both in popular vote and in seats it is projected to win.
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The results from August 19 are from an average of a number of polls. The Conservatives have 29.2 per cent of the vote. This is down slightly from the last polls. The NDP were at 33.8, up 0.3 percent from last time. The Liberals were up 0.8 percent to 27.5 putting them close to the Conservatives. The separatist Bloc Quebecois was at 3.9 per cent a slight gain from earlier. The Green Party was at 4.7 percent down 1.1 percent.
The NDP would win the most seats, 132, but far from the 170 needed to form a majority government. The Conservatives would win 116 with the Liberals still quite a ways behind at 89. The Bloc Quebecois would win no seats and the Green Party just one. A regional breakdown is available at the poll tracker website.
We now have polls from Abacus Data and Angust Reid on Canadians' reaction to the Mike Duffy trial. Duffy a former Conservative Senator is facing numerous charges having to do with Senate expenses and other issues.
The polls show that almost one in four Canadians are following the trial closely. Only fifteen percent of those polled think that Harper acted properly in the Abacus poll, with a few more 20 percent in the Angus Reid poll. In the Reid poll over half, 56 percent, said the trial had made their opinion of Harper worse. While many of these voters had already decided they were going to vote Liberal or NDP, a significant number of soft Conservative supporters were negatively influenced by the trial. Soft Conservative voters are those considering voting for the party but not yet committed.
The Abacus Data poll found that a quarter of soft Conservative supporters now believe that Harper acted improperly and 20 percent said that the trial made them less likely to vote Conservative. One quarter of the group said they did not believer Harper's version of events in the Angus Reid poll, and another 42 per cent did not know whether they should believe him or not. Slightly less than a third said that the trial had caused them to have a worse opinion of Harper. The Harper view that the scandal is limited to the former PM's chief of staff Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy is rejected by 62 percent of those polled by Angus Reid. They thought more in the PMO were involved, that there was a deeper scandal. 23 percent of soft Conservatives also took this view. Further doubt was cast on Harper's version of events by Benjamin Perrin a former legal adviser to the PMO. Perrin said that he believed that Harper knew the full details of a plan to reimburse Duffy for his expenses and mislead the public about what was happening. It remains to be seen if the trial has any lasting effect over a long campaign with the election taking place on October 19.
If you are tired of all the mainstream parties in some constituencies you can vote for minor parties. As of August 18th there were 85 Libertarians running. The Christian Heritage Party is fielding 22 candidates. There are also 5 from the Pirate Party, 3 from the Rhinoceros, and one lonely Communist.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Stephen Harper just not ready to be trustworthy

Ottawa - Harper has claimed that Canadian voters have a clear choice between a proven leader that they can trust, namely him, or two risky and unproven leaders, Justin Trudeau of the Liberals, or Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party.
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The trouble is that Harper's past actions and present situation make the "trust" theme quite risky. The Mike Duffy trial brings into question whether Harper is trustworthy himself. Originally, Harper said that he would never appoint an unelected senator but he ended up appointing many Conservative hacks, bag men, failed candidates, and Duffy, a journalist who pushed a conservative agenda as a popular talk show host. As Liberal Dr. Carolyn Bennett said way back in December of 2010:“For someone who vowed never to appoint an unelected Senator, Mr. Harper is now the all-time patronage king, having appointed 38 Conservative activists to the upper chamber."
This in itself would make it seem that Harper might just not be ready to be trustworthy. Duffy ended up in hot water over several issues including $90,000 in expense claims. On July 17, 2014 Duffy was charged with 31 criminal offences that included fraud, breach of trust, and bribery. The trial is ongoing with Nigel Wright, Harper's former chief of staff finishing his testimony this Wednesday. Duffy has pleaded not guilty to all 31 charges. Duffy repaid the $90,000 in expenses admitting that he had made a mistake in claiming them. However, the money was given to Duffy by Nigel Wright via a personal check. There was an agreement between Duffy and the Prime Minister's Office(PMO) that Duffy would admit he was in error and repay the expenses. Originally the plan was to secretly reimburse Duffy through a Conservative party fund but when it turned out the expenses were $90,000 rather than $32,000 as was at first thought, this plan was rejected by the head of the fund. Instead Duffy was reimbursed by Wright through his personal check for $90,000.
Prime Minister Harper has denied that he had any knowledge of the plan to have Wright issue a personal check to Duffy. Yet, some of the e-mails presented at the trial suggest he did know. One e-mail said that "we are good to go from the PM". Wright explains that the phrase meant only that Harper approved a plan that would see Duffy admit he made an error and would repay the expenses. Supposedly he knew nothing of the plan to secretly use Conservative party funds for the payment nor of the later plan for Wright to issue a personal check to cover the expenses. This is possibly true since part of the role of Wright would be to ensure there would be no evidence of Harper's involvement in such a devious plan. When the dirty tricks are discovered then Harper can claim that he held Wright accountable by firing him. Wright loyally kept to this narrative in his testimony swearing that Harper knew nothing either about the plan to use the Conservative party fund to reimburse Duffy or about Wright's issuance of a personal check for that purpose. Just how did Harper think that Duffy could be induced to pay these expenses when he thought he had done nothing wrong unless he were somehow reimbursed? He doesn't care to know. This dirty work is what Wright was hired to do.
Wright has an interpretation of not lying that only a lawyer could love. Wright claims to have told Harper that Duffy was going to repay the expenses when he knew that the plan was to have the Conservative fund pay the expenses. Wright said:"I don't think I lied to the prime minister. I don't feel it was a lie. I just felt it wasn't on my list of things I needed to check with him."Wright also claimed that the important issue was that the funds be paid back not who paid them. You would think that since Duffy incurred the expenses it was important that he paid them back not someone such as Wright who was paying Duffy to do what Harper wanted. Conveniently, Harper was blissfully unaware according to Wright's narrative as to what was going on. Apparently, the PM has no obligation to keep tabs on what his chief of staff is up to, particularly when it might be illegal or immoral.
Harper has insisted that his present chief of staff Ray Novak did not know about the check written by Wright. Yet Novak was slated to be part of a conference call in which the check was discussed. In an e-mail sent to Novak Wright wrote: "I will send my cheque on Monday". Benjamin Perrin a former legal advisor to the PMO, told the RCMP that Novak was part of the conference call that discussed Wright's check. Wright claims that he was not part of the call but just "popped in and out". Wright claims he did not hear the discussion of his check to Duffy. How convenient. Wright also testified that Novak did not read the email sent to him about the check. Obviously, Harper should fire Novak since he does not bother to read important emails sent to him. How can we trust a PM who hires a chief of staff who does not even read quite important emails and just pops in and out during crucial conference calls? A leader like that is just not ready to earn our trust.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

NDP leader Mulcair cracking down on leftist critics of Israel

The NDP is cracking down on candidates who go beyond the mildest criticism of Israel. Prospective candidates have also been rejected because of their support of the Palestinian cause and criticism of Israel.
The Conservatives are successfully using the tactic of looking up past statements of NDP candidates on social media such as Facebook in order to accuse them of being anti-Semitic. Harper's Conservatives are fawning admirers of Israel to such a degree that even the Israelis are surprised. Morgan Wheeldon was forced to resign as an NDP candidate after old Facebook comments he published were dug up and published, suggesting that Israel intended to engage in ethnic cleansing of a region.
Just a day later, Jerry Natanine, the Mayor of Clyde River and a prospective candidate for the NDP in Nunavut, said he had decided not to run after NDP headquarters suggested past statements he made on Facebook supporting the Palestinians could be used by opponents to claim he was anti-Semitic. Natanine had a number of Facebook posts in which he supported the Palestinian cause and criticized Israel. Natanine admitted he often sided with the Palestinians because of the hardships they face. He noted almost nothing was being rebuilt that had been destroyed in conflicts with Israel. In spite of being rebuffed by the NDP brass, Natanine said he still supports the party and would not run as an independent.
While NDP leaders have historically supported Israel on the whole, there have been groups within the NDP that have been activists in support of the Palestinian cause. Mulcair has expressed strong opposition to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions(BDS) movement against Israel. He had been highly critical of deputy leader Libby Davies for her support for BDS. Davies is not running for re-election this time around.
In 2008 Mulcair stated his position on Israel, a position that even Stephen Harper would praise: "I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances." Mulcair unequivocally rejected the BDS movement: "To say that you're personally in favour of boycott, divestment and sanctions for the only democracy in the Middle East is, as far as I'm concerned, grossly unacceptable."
Back in 2014, Paul Manly was also disqualified as a candidate in a BC riding for his views on BDS. His father, James Manly, a former NDP MP, participated in a flotilla attempting to breach the Gaza blockade and was held for some time by Israel in 2012. Paul had petitioned both the NDP and Conservatives to work harder for his relief. This election he is running for the Green Party.
While the Conservatives use the politics of fear to pass legislation such as the draconian Bill-C-51 anti-terror legislation, and to convince voters that they are safer when the Conservatives rule, they also use the same fear tactic to keep parties such as the leftist NDP from allowing any strong support of Palestine or any but the mildest critique of Israeli actions. An article in Rabble sums up the situation:
This ugly and seemingly inexorable push by the NDP to insist on absolutely mindless unity and unanimity by all candidates and MPs on all issues that have been pronounced upon by the leader and his inner-circle strategists is a symptom of the dumbing-down of mainstream bourgeois politics generally. In 2015 the diversity and contrast of positions and policies between any of the major parties is more narrow than at any other time in our country's modern political history.This tendency may be the result of a concentration of all parties on being elected rather than attempting to promote a particular program or vision of the future. Discourse during elections is framed within a narrow range of alternatives that party strategists believe will garner votes.

NDP learns to live with development of the Tar Sands in Alberta

When left-leaning parties appear close to obtaining power, it seems inevitable that they should move to the centre of the political spectrum or even adopt right-wing policies. This is happening in Canada with the federal New Democratic Party.
Former New Democratic Party leader, Ed Broadbent, was skeptical that Thomas Mulcair would be able to hold together the NDP caucus. Mulcair comes not from an NDP background but was a cabinet minister in a Quebec Liberal provincial government. Broadbent thought it would be a huge mistake to replace NDP ideology that stressed support for the worker and welfare issues by a strategy of adopting policies simply because they would help members be elected. Mulcair stresses the NDP should concentrate upon being electable rather than stressing ideology. So far Broadbent has been wrong in that Mulcair has been able to keep his caucus functional in spite of his change in emphasis and an influx of a huge number of new MPs after the last election. The election resulted in the NDP becoming the official opposition ahead of the Liberals a huge victory for Mulcair. While for a time it looked as if the Liberals were making a huge comeback they now are stuck in third place in recent polls with the NDP still slightly ahead of the ruling Conservatives.
The latest CBC poll-tracker results, from August 11, show the NDP with 31.9 percent of the vote; the Conservatives, 30.1; the Liberals, 27 percent, all lower than in the last poll. The Liberal support increased after the first leaders' debate but has now fallen back slightly. The big gainer since the last reading was the Green Party led by Elizabeth May which had 5.6 percent support. The Quebec-based Bloc Quebecois had 4.5 per cent. The results are based on an average of several different polls. The seat projections show the Conservative still getting the most seats at 125, with the NDP close behind at 118, and the Liberals 92. The Bloc Quebecois would get one seat, and the Green Party two.
Every party these days seems to have decided that they should project their policies as supporting the "middle class." No doubt this is based upon the view that promoting policies that appeal to this largest group of voters would garner the most votes. The NDP has joined the crowd. No more targeting the poor or working class, since they are a smaller target group and restrict the range of the party's appeal. On issues such as trade, foreign policy, energy development, the NDP has watered down policies to appear less threatening or radical. The party is much less friendly these days to any potential candidate or existing members who take positions that are quite critical of Israel. Now that Alberta boasts an NDP provincial government even the Oil or Tar Sands development is seen in a different light.
Mulcair has moved even to the right of the Liberal party on issues such as income inequality. He rules out increasing taxes on the wealthy, while Justin Trudeau is in favour of an increase. Mulcair sounds like a typical conservative when he criticizes New Brunswick for raising taxes on the wealthy: “How is New Brunswick going to be able to attract and retain top-level medical doctors when they’re going to be told, ‘Oh, by the way, our tax rate is now going to be close to 60 per cent?’”
One of the NDP's star left-leaning candidates is author and activist Linda McQuaig. McQuaig started a huge controversy by stating what for many environmentalists is an obvious fact, recognized as long ago as 2012 by James Hansen, climatologist and former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies who said:"If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate. Canada's tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet's species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk."
McQuaig made reference to a recent study by British researchers in the journal Nature that concluded that:" three-quarters of all Canada's oil reserves and 85 per cent of its oilsands can't be burned if the world wants to limit global warming. The report also concludes that no country's Arctic energy resources can be developed if global temperature increases are to be kept manageable. It adds that about one-quarter of Canada's natural gas reserves and four-fifths of its coal would also have to be left in the ground."This type of environmental discourse may be fine within environmental circles but is to be avoided at all costs within political discourse where the parties are emphasizing "electability."
McQuaig made the mistake of bringing these types of narrative into the political arena during an election campaign. McQuaig said during a panel discussion that a "lot of the oil-sands oil may have to stay in the ground" in order for Canada to meet its climate change targets. This was music to the ears of our Prime Minister Stephen Harper who immediately claimed that the NDP was against Canadian resource development. Instead of defending McQuaig the NDP issued a statement that McQuaig was not citing official NDP policy but referring to the report in Nature.
Mulcair, for his part, said that a Federal NDP government would support Alberta's oil sands development but with much stricter environmental controls than exist at present on any new developments. Mulcair has soothing rhetoric designed to placate both sides and make him electable:“We’re in favour of creating markets for our natural resources, we’re in favour of developing them, but that has to be done sustainably. And sustainable development is not a slogan, it’s something that has to become very real.”Mulcair also defends his policies and contrasts them with Harpers' policies on the appended video.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

NDP ahead of Conservatives by double digits in recent poll

The latest opinion poll by Forum Research taken on Sunday after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an election to be held October 19, show the NDP surging ahead of the Conservatives.
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As of July 28, the CBC Poll Tracker showed the NDP and the Conservatives in a virtual tie at about 32 percent of the vote. The Liberals trailed at 25 percent. The new poll showed 39 percent would vote for the NDP. The Conservatives fell back to 28 percent and the Liberals were about the same as the earlier polls.
If these results were projected into seats won in the enlarged 338 seat parliament, the NDP would win most seats at 160, 10 short of a majority. The NDP has come a long way from last December when it managed a meagre 17 percent support, even though it was the official opposition. The Liberals then had a commanding lead of 41 percent. President of Forum Research, Lorne Bozinoff, said that he could not find a single instance of the NDP leading by double digits ever before.
In the key province of Ontario the NDP and Conservatives are virtually even, but the Liberals are far behind. In Quebec the NDP has a good lead over the Liberals with the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois far behind the top two. In the Atlantic provinces usually dominated by Liberals, the NDP is ahead and also leads in BC. While the NDP may form the provincial government in Alberta, at the federal level, Conservatives still dominate.
The CBC poll tracker includes the new poll in a recent update and it gives perhaps a more realistic assessment of the situation, since it averages several recent polls to come up with its results. But even it shows a considerable change from July 28 in favour of the NDP. The latest figures the poll tracker gives are for vote percentage: Conservatives, 30.9; NDP, 33.2: Liberals, 25.9; Bloc Quebecois, 4.7 and Green Party 4.7. Seat projections are: Conservatives, 127; NDP 127; Liberals 82: Bloc Quebecois 1; Green Party, 1.
This long 11 week election campaign may benefit the Conservatives who are rich with cash according to some pundits. Taxpayers will be paying out more for increased administrative costs and also bigger rebates of expenses to the parties.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Harper appoints pipeline consultant to National Energy Board

Ottawa - Greg Rickford, Minister of Natural resources announced that Steven Kelly, a petroleum executive based in Calgary would become a full-time board member of the National Energy Board(NEB) an agency that helps decide if oil and gas pipelines should be built.
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Kelly, as vice-president of IHS Global Canada, wrote and submitted a 203-page report on behalf of the giant pipeline company Kinder Morgan to the NEB. The report justifies the $5.4 billion Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion.
The National Energy Board's(NEB) function is described as follows: The National Energy Board (French: Office national de l'énergie) is an independent economic regulatory agency created in 1959 by the Government of Canada to oversee "international and inter-provincial aspects of the oil, gas and electric utility industries".[1] Its head office is located in Calgary, Alberta. The NEB mainly regulates the construction and operation of oil and natural gas pipelines crossing provincial or international borders.After helping Kinder-Morgan lobby for the Trans-Mountain expansion, now Kelly will be on a board that is regulating pipeline construction. The NEB has already been criticized by the Sierra Club of Canada for creating regulations it claims benefit oil companies drilling in the Arctic.
Marc Eliesen, former CEO of BC Hydro said:“It’s utterly incredible the Government of Canada would appoint such an industry consultant to a regulatory agency that presumably is interested in the public interest, and not in the interest of multinational oil corporations.The NEB have totally become a captured industry regulator."
A spokesperson for the board said Kelly would not be a member of the three-person panel that will pass judgment on the Trans Mountain expansion. Eliesen, however, pointed out that the proximity of Kelly to the decision-makers on the board and his possible involvement in future Kinder Morgan rulings still place him in a "significant and incredible conflict of interest." Rickford however praised Kelly as having 19 years of experience providing the Canadian government and international clients with "technical, commercial, regulatory and strategic" advice for accessing oil markets. He also claimed that Kelly's background would help the NEB to fulfil its mandate to ensure the safety and security of Canadians and the environment.
For years the Harper government has been appointing oil and gas executives to the NEB while at the same time assigning it new environmental regulatory powers: More than half of the NEB board members are now petroleum industry professionals. The agency is not only tasked with reviewing the economics of pipelines —but also their environmental impacts.That latter task was given to the NEB, following a Harper government omnibus budget bill in 2012 that stripped that responsibility from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).
Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, said of the Harper appointment: "Wow. Clearly there's a flurry of appointments that Stephen Harper wants to get in place before he goes down in defeat in the election. He's picked people who are of his ideological bent, and are unlikely to provide dispassionate and neutral work on behalf of the people of Canada."
Critics of the Trans Mountain project worry not only about the environmental effects on land of the project but note that there will be increased tanker traffic through the Strait of Juan de Fuca an extremely environmentally sensitive area with shallow water. Aboriginal groups and the Mayor of Burnaby have protested the project and 100 citizens were arrested during protests against drill pipeline tests on Burnaby Mountain. From 2006 to 2014, Kinder Morgan, has been cited by the US government in 24 incidents that led to 5 federal enforcement actions. A recent study by Simon Fraser University and Living Oceans Society conclude that the Trans Mountain expansion did not meet the requirement of the NEB that projects be in the public interest: "The study says the project, which would triple Kinder Morgan's capacity to carry oil between Alberta and Burnaby, B.C., could come at a net cost to Canada of between $4.1 billion and $22.1 billion."

Monday, August 3, 2015

NDP and Conservatives in virtual tie as federal election campaign begins

As expected, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with the Governor General today. The parliament was dissolved and writs were issued for a federal election on October 19.
As of July 28 the CBC Poll Tracker shows the Conservative Party of Canada(CPC) is virtually tied with the New Democratic Party(NDP) while the Liberals, the third major party, lag behind in spite of their youthful good-looking leader Justin Trudeau. As of July 28, the Conservatives had 31.6 percent support, NDP 32.1 and Liberals, 25.6. However, the most recent seat projections by the same site give the Conservatives 132 seats, the NDP 122, and the Liberals just 81. The Quebec separatist Bloc Quebecois would win two seats and the Green Party one. Given the Canadian political system of first-past-the-post, a party could obtain the highest popular vote without winning the most seats. Seat projections can change considerably over a relatively short period to time. On July 7 the seat predictions were 119 for the Conservatives, 127 for the NDP, and 89 for the Liberals with the other minor parties being the same. Predictions for who will win in each separate riding can be found here.
The Conservatives have been regaining some lost ground lately to come even with the NDP but the Liberals appear to be stuck in the doldrums. The Poll Tracker has a graph showing support for the parties over time. The Liberals have been dropping for some time while the NDP surged but now is back even with the Conservatives. The Conservative fortunes were no doubt helped when last week the Harper government issued checks to families as part of Universal Child Care Benefit increases.
Together the NDP and the Liberals would have a large majority of seats. It would make strategic sense for the two to agree to a coalition government to replace the Harper government. A recent poll by Forum Research shows that over two-thirds of Liberal and NDP supporters are in favour of the two parties forming a coalition if the Conservatives should win a minority government on October 19. Seventy-five percent of NDP supporters are in favour of a coalition and even 68 percent of Liberals, even though the leader Justin Trudeau has consistently ruled out such a move.The NDP has said that it is open to the idea. Forum Research president, Lorne Bozinoff said: “The two opposition parties have spent the last week dancing around the coalition question, but it appears their supporters, especially the New Democrats, have no such qualms. They’re ready to get hitched as soon as a minority Conservative government is elected –– if that happens."

Sunday, August 2, 2015

New TPP regulations could hurt Canada Post and CBC

A new document leaked on Wikileaks indicates that State-owned enterprises (SOEs) would be severely restricted under the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) regulations.
The rules would force SOE's to be run on the basis of "commercial considerations" and this could force them to give up public service mandates if these needed to be subsidized. Sujat Dey, of the Council of Canadians said; "The TPP will hinder our state-owned enterprises from acting in the public interest. The very mission of the CBC -- telling the bilingual and multicultural story of Canada -- will be reduced to simple profit-making. Likewise, Canada Post will no longer function as a nation builder, but as a private company. The essence and mandate of our Crown corporations are being traded away in favour of private corporate profit."
Both the CBC and Canada Post have been evolving in this direction over the last decades. The new rules will simply hasten the process. Garry Neil, also of the Council and a cultural policy expert said of the CBC:"Forbidding it from giving preference to Canadian producers undermines the Canadian content rules that ensure it remains an essentially Canadian service. All of this sets the stage for the privatization of the CBC, which has been the goal of the Harper government since it was first elected."The TPP will be the largest economic trade agreement in the world. The GDP of the 12 countries involved comprise more than 40 percent of global GDP.
Many have spoken out against the dangers of the TPP including Noam Chomsky who claims that it is "designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity." Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has also spoken out against the TPP as has liberal economist Paul Krugman. Economist Robert Reich said that the TPP is a "Trojan horse in a global race to the bottom, giving big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits."
Wikileaks released a letter that was to guide negotiators on how SOEs should be treated under the deal. SOEs would include public utilities, telecommunications providers, state-run investment companies, or even mining or energy companies that are state-owned. These SOEs are to operate "on the basis of commercial considerations." Jane Kelsey, a New Zealand law professor said:“SOEs are almost always state-owned because they have functions other than those that are merely commercial...such as guaranteed access to important services, or because social, cultural, development and commercial functions are inextricably intertwined.”Many developed nations have SOE's and in developing nations SOE's are important since they do not follow market or commercial principles that might disadvantage poorer citizens. Kelsey has a detailed analysis of the letter that can be found here.
The letter suggests that countries could be sued if an SOE is adversely affecting its interests: "... it suggests that a postal service, public telecommunications provider or state-owned bank that receives financial support from the government to deliver services into poor areas for social reasons could be challenged by a courier firm, satellite operator or internet bank from another country that says the support is adversely affecting it and hence its country’s interests."Kelsey suggests that the restriction of SOE's to operations on commercial principles results in structuring SOE's so that they could be easily privatized. As the appended video shows, once functions are privatized they cannot be taken back into public ownership. Those already in public ownership can no longer play a role outside commercial concerns. Of course all of this is very controversial since many countries may find it politically necessary to defend a wider role for their own SOE's. Powerful players will probably be able to negotiate exceptions for some of their own SOE's while the less powerful will be forced to yield. Fortunately. a recent meeting to finish the TPP broke up with no agreement.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Canadian citizens lose right to vote if they live abroad 5 years or more

The ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal will mean that more than a million expats who have been non-residents for five years or more will lose the right to vote in federal elections, including the upcoming election this fall.
The majority opinion held that allowing long-term non-residents to vote in the federal elections would not be fair to those who live in Canada. Writing the majority decision Justice George Strathy wrote: “Permitting all non-resident citizens to vote would allow them to participate in making laws that affect Canadian residents on a daily basis but have little to no practical consequence for their own daily lives.” While admitting that the ruling infringed on the rights of expats, he claimed that the infringement was reasonable and justifiable in a free and democratic society.To allow the expats to vote he claimed would erode the social contract between citizens and the government.
The ruling came as the result of a constitutional challenge by two Canadians, Jamie Duong and Gillian Frank, who claimed the five-year limit was arbitrary and not reasonable. They both claim to still have strong attachments to Canada and a stake in the future of the county. In May of last year, Superior Court Justice Michael Penny had rejected the voting ban. He noted that Canadian citizens who are mass murderers retain the right to vote but long-term expats who might care deeply about their country could not vote even though they were still subject to Canadian tax and other laws.
While the majority in the Ontario Court of Appeals judgement rejected Penny's decision, Justice John Laskin found his reasoning persuasive. He pointed out that contrary to the majority opinion, the Canadian government had never argued that preserving the social contract justified the breach. Even if it had, he argued, this would not be a good reason to limit voting rights. Records show that in the 2011 election only 6,000 expats actually voted.
One famous Canadian who will be banned from voting this next election is Donald Sutherland. Sutherland claims not only to have a Canadian passport and to be the recipient of the Order of Canada, but also has a "maple leaf in his underwear." He pointed out that Americans who live abroad can vote simply because they are US citizens. Sutherland, now 80, lives in the U.S. in Los Angeles but is exclusively a Canadian citizen. He owns a home in Georgeville Quebec. Sutherland claims that he and his wife live in Canada whenever they are able and calls the Quebec residence the family house. Not only is Sutherland the recipient of the Order of Canada, but he also received the Governor-General's award and has a star in Canada's Walk of Fame.