Roundup: Strahl, Enbridge, and no broken rules

In regards to the hysteria around Chuck Strahl consulting on behalf of Enbridge in BC, it seems that Enbridge has been a client of his since 2011 – at least, with regards to any activities on the provincial level. He’s also registered in Alberta to lobby for a First Nations energy that is drilling for oil on its territory with a Chinese-financed company. Can’t you just see all of the conspiracy theories churning? But as Kady O’Malley points out, because the chairmanship of SIRC is considered a part-time gig (as they meet less than a dozen times per year), he’s exempt from many of the restrictions in the Conflict of Interest Act, and Strahl also has stated that he’s not hearing any CSIS cases that involve Enbridge or any of his other clients, there’s no real conflict there.

Continue reading

Roundup: Adventures in Vladivostok

While at the APEC Summit in Vladivostok, Russia, over the weekend, Stephen Harper and Chinese president Hu Jintao witnessed the signing of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. Harper and Russian president Vladimir Putin also agreed to disagree on the issue of Syria. While at the summit, Harper also ratcheted up the rhetoric around Iran now that we’ve shuttered our embassy there.

It looks like the new Office of Religious Freedoms may have finally found its ambassador and could be set to open soon. Of course, it was also revealed that the Muslim panellists for their consultations were “not available,” which sounds terribly convenient when you’re trying to assure people that this won’t simply be an office devoted to Christian proselytising.

Continue reading

Roundup: Spinning prison gangs as good news

What’s that? More gangs in prisons as we’re seeing more overcrowding, more double-bunking, more and incidents of violence that might entice prisoners to join gangs for protection? You don’t say! What’s more audacious, however, is the government dressing this up as more gang members in prison and off the streets, and yet not having any police data to back that particular claim up. Just so long as it has to feel convincing, we don’t need facts!

Martha Hall Findlay, Hedy Fry and Joe Volpe are trying to make a deal with Elections Canada about their outstanding leadership debts now that the courts won’t give them any more extensions.

Tim Uppal wants Parliament to stop “stalling” the Senate Reform Act. Um, it’s your government that’s not bringing it forward for debate. Oh, and they want the provinces to pay to “elect” (but not really since it’s just a “consultation”) federal senators. Predictably, no province except Alberta is wild on the idea and won’t pursue their own plans if they have to pay for them. Not that it matters anyway, since the whole thing is unconstitutional to begin with.

Continue reading

Roundup: Redford vs Clark

The brewing battle between premiers Christy Clark and Alison Redford went up a notch yesterday as Clark fired back at Redford’s suggestion that her demands for a portion of the royalties meant rewriting Confederation. Clark, not unsurprisingly, called Reford’s comments “silly” and unreasonable to suggested that she was trying to destroy Confederation. Clark’s point is that BC is taking a disproportionate share of the risk with regards to the length of the pipeline and the marine consequences, but isn’t guaranteed an adequate proportion of the revenues. She also steadfastly says that she is neither supporting nor objecting to the pipeline at this point considering that the environmental review process remains incomplete. On a side note, here’s a look at how the upcoming elections in BC and Quebec may play out at the Council of the Federation Meeting that starts today.

The head of Peter Penashue’s campaign says he’s sorry for exceeding the limits and for his lax bookkeeping. Well, so long as he’s sorry, that makes everything better, right? (Todd Russell, the former MP, who lost by a mere 79 votes, doesn’t plan to challenge the results given the recommendations, for the record). Meanwhile, Elections Canada was not interested in offering Dean Del Mastro “immunity” in exchange for more information about the funding irregularities.

Continue reading

Roundup: Clerical errors and attack ads

The Supreme Court heard arguments about the Etobicoke Centre election yesterday, and the crux seem to hang on whether “clerical errors” are enough to overturn votes and “disenfranchise” Canadians. But how many errors are too many and how many should we let slide before it becomes “fatal” to the integrity of the election? It’s actually a weighty issue to ponder, and they have reserved judgement. While it’s supposed to be handled expeditiously, the point was also made that the remedy – a by-election – is time-sensitive, and so one can hope that the Court will be swift in its ruling. (I offered some of my own thoughts as to the arguments here).

The NDP launched their own attack ads in response to those the Conservatives launched against Thomas Mulcair. The crux of the message: Harper created the recession, the deficit, and is now making cuts to the vulnerable. It’s all pretty much demonstrably untrue and contradictory, but since when were attack ads supposed to be entirely factual when the intent is to cast doubt on your opponent? James Moore was quick to respond via the Twitter Machine: “Hope is better than fear.” Touché.

Continue reading

Roundup: Etobicoke Centre appeal today

Are you ready? The Supreme Court hears the Etobicoke Centre appeal today. This is going to be one to watch, considering how much attention is being focused on the way Elections Canada runs elections, and their training and operations are as much under the microscope here as any particular voter impropriety.

There is talk that the new seat redistribution in BC and in New Brunswick will disproportionately be beneficial to the Conservatives, in large part because new ridings in BC are going to the lower mainland suburbs, while in New Brunswick, Dieppe moves into a new riding, but on balance there shouldn’t be any loss of seats to Liberals or NDP even if the vote spread changes. I’m a bit torn on this assumption that these new ridings in the suburbs of BC will automatically go Conservative. Given that much of the redistribution has reduced the influence of rural ridings (which were over-represented to begin with), and that rural ridings were far more likely to vote Conservative than anything else, one could argue that it makes the ridings more volatile – especially as the “rurban” phenomenon of small urban area at the narrow end of a large rural riding is being blunted in a lot of places. This will create more representative urban and suburban ridings that might actually see their issues addressed rather than swamped by rural concerns. This could put those ridings into play far more, now that the more conservative rural population can’t be relied upon to carry the votes.

Continue reading

Roundup: No prorogation until the “mid-term”

In case you were wondering, Stephen Harper has ruled out a prorogation anytime in the near future, but hints that there would be a more extensive cabinet shuffle and new Speech From the Throne in the “mid-term” as they re-jig their longer-term agenda. (Full interview here). All of this media speculation he’s quashing – all that’s left to speculate on is who will fill those six vacant and soon-to-be-vacant Senate seats. Meanwhile, Susan Delacourt wonders if Bev Oda was tricked into resigning if she supposedly got tipped off that she was being shuffled out, and yet Harper said he’s not planning any major shuffles. It does make you think.

Speaking of Oda, it seems that all of her old limousine invoices mysteriously turned up the day after she resigned – even though days ago media outlets were told that those documents didn’t exist. I’m sure the Information Commissioner will be very interested in how that happened.

Failed refugee claimants are being offered $2000 worth of assistance and a one-way plane ticket if they voluntarily return to their country of origin. Some refugee lawyers say it’s humane and voluntary, while others worry it’s a bribe for them to walk away from their legal rights. Apparently this saves taxpayers money because it means CBSA doesn’t have to chase them down for deportation, so everyone (except genuine refugee whose claims have been unfairly denied and who are in danger if they return to their country of origin) wins, right?

Continue reading

Roundup: A wee little cabinet shuffle

Stephen Harper surprised everyone yesterday with a wee little cabinet shuffle – Julian Fantino is going to CIDA in Oda’s place, and Bernard Valcourt gets the associate deputy minister position for defence while retaining his ACOA portfolio and the Francophonie.  Fantino is an…interesting choice, considering he’s spent his career being the guy who as getting tough on crime and now he’s being the face of Canada’s compassion and aid. As for Valcourt, he’s a Mulroney-era veteran who is moving a up the ladder a little bit, but considering how marginalised the military procurement file has become in the advent of the era of the procurement secretariat, it makes one wonder why they bothered to retain the portfolio. Also, interesting that Peter MacKay and John Duncan are staying put despite major gaffes of their own, and more evidence that Harper will refuse to make changes in order to avoid admitting that he made a mistake with his choices.

The government is tightening temporary foreign worker rules so that it will exclude exotic dancers, escorts and people who work in massage parlours, as they’re more “vulnerable to exploitation.” Of course, one suspects that this will just drive this all that much further underground and rather than have people documented so that they have access to some kind of assistance if they are being exploited, they’ll just be classified as “hostesses” or “servers” (provided they take a drink order) and it won’t actually have an effect on exploitation of human trafficking (assuming of course that we’re not just conflating human trafficking with the sex trade, as they are not the same thing).

Continue reading

Roundup: Buh-bye Bev Oda

Bev Oda, embattled cabinet minister and fan of limousines and nice hotels, has announced her resignation from both cabinet and the Commons, dated July 31st. The PMO release said that she’s leaving Parliament, which seems to preclude a Senate appointment, but never say never. Not surprisingly, NDP MP Charlie Angus was quick to crow about it. While the resignation was handled quietly, in the Harper Government™ style, we should also remember that Oda did do a few good things, like keep Canada’s commitments to the Global Fund when other countries weren’t, and not only that but ensured our contributions were sent in early.

Jason Kenney insists that there was no backtracking, just “clarification” on those refugee health benefits.

The government wants you to know there’s still no “iPod tax,” and no copyright levy on SD memory cards either.

Continue reading

Roundup: Quiet backtracking on refugee healthcare

It seems that the federal government has quietly backtracked on some of the changes it’s making to providing health care for refugees. In particular, ministerial instructions went up on the department website which said that government-assisted refugees would continue to receive benefits, which was not the case in the lead-up to the passage of the budget implementation bill. Of course, some of the rollbacks will continue, but they won’t be quite as draconian as previously announced.

The NDP want an explanation from the outgoing Commissioner of Elections as to why he stepped down in the middle of the robo-calls investigation (never mind that his plans had been in the works for months and months).

Continue reading