Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Sincere OOPS! From Our "New" Government

Last year, a letter surfaced from a CanWest media lobbysist urging people to attend a $250/head fundraiser also to be attended by Heritage Minister Bev Oda.

OOPS! No problem...the fundraiser was cancelled.

But, a lot of people had sent cheques to Oda's riding association. Yesterday Oda claimed that these donations were not related to her fundraiser.

OOPS! Turns out her own spokesman, Jean-Luc Benoit says that some of the cheques were related to the fundraiser. No problem...the cheques were all returned uncashed.

But, riding associations must declare all returned donations. According to Elections Canada, no such declarations were ever received from Oda's riding association.

OOPS! No problem...according to Oda, this was all just a simple "clerical error". "The first priority of Canada's New Government is accountability and transparency" said Oda.

Now, I don't particularly care about the smattering of $250 and $500 donations. On the whole, they are but a drop in the bucket of the Conservative fundraising machine. I suspect that the motivations of her riding association staffers may have been less than admirable, but for the sake of argument let's just say that I even buy the whole "clerical error" nonsense. (Can you imagine the hissyfit Conservatives would be throwing if she was a Liberal minister?).

But for the love of God, would Conservatives please stop referring to themselves as Canada's "new" government. I bought a new pair of underwear in January 2006. While I could spend a great deal of time chronicling the many similarities between Stephen Harper's government and my year-old boxers, I will limit myself to the observation that in May 2007, I consider neither to be "new". The Conservative government's obsession with media catchphrases and talking points ("new government", "not a leader", "turning the corner", "getting the job done" etc etc) is nothing but a loathsome reminder of their admiration of hollow Republican-style politics and an insult to the intelligence of all Canadians.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Calendar Now a Matter of National Security

Helena Guergis' has been steadfast in her moronic accusations that critics of the government's response to allegations of detainee torture in Afghanistan have been taking the word of the Taliban over that of our own troops.

Well, today came another specific allegation of detainee abuse by Afghan authorities. Yes, the same Afghan authorities who have been 'assuring' us (to the satisfaction of the Conservatives) that no abuses were taking place. And no doubt much to the chagrin of Ms. Guergis, this report comes not from the Taliban, but from one of our own soldiers, Col. Steve Noonan (or will Guergis start accusing Noonan of being in the Taliban?). Colonel Noonan was giving sworn statements in advance of legal proceedings launched by human rights advocates.

"The CF (Canadian Forces) learned that detainee had been beaten by the local ANP. When they learned of this, they approached the local ANP and requested that the detainee be given to them," Noonan said.
But, in a continuing effort by the government to obfuscate and cover-up rather than simply come clean and deal with the issue, the goverment's lawyer Sanderson Graham blocked any further questions into the incident including even the date on which it occured. His explanation was...well...inexplicable:

"When did that incident occur?" asked Paul Champ, the Amnesty lawyer.
"We object to that question," Graham replied.
"On what basis?"
"On the basis of national security," Graham said.
"It threatens Canada's national security to know when the Canadian Forces observed local Afghan National Police beating a detainee that they transferred to that unit?" Champ said.
"We object to any questions on this incident generally," Graham replied.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Degenerate Commons

Many have noted that lately the level of debate in the House of Commons has degenerated into a slugde pit of partisan hackery and name-calling. While some may say that Question Period has long been devoid of meaningful discourse, most agree that we are nearing new lows with the current cast of characters.

The latest person to notice is veteran White House correspondant Helen Thomas. For those who don't know about her, she is a truly remarkable individual. Having covered the White House for United Press International since the Kennedy administration, Ms. Thomas has seen a lot of politics. You can read about her here.
Thomas is in Canada to help mark Press Freedom Day, and she makes an important observation:
"It's déjà vu all over again," Thomas said of the Conservatives' attacks on their critics, explaining that it's a standard Bush technique to question the patriotism or values of his detractors. "I wouldn't think that would happen in Canada," she said in an interview yesterday.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Final Word...

As an accompaniment to my post yesterday on the Afghanistan detainee flap, here's Andrew Coyne with a brilliant summary of the government's definitive approach to the situation.

The Sporting News

In the headlines today is this ridiculous story. Apparently, 2 years ago, NHL'er Shane Doan made an alleged derogatory remark to a French speaking official during a game. The incident was investigated by the NHL and eventually dismissed (presumably for lack of corroborating evidence, as Doan himself denied the allegations).

But it turns out that Doan's recent appointment by Hockey Canada as Captain of Team Canada has rankled some Bloc MPs. This "issue" has garnered enough traction that the dunderheads who are charged with running this nation have decided to convene a parliamentary committee to review Doan's captaincy. Sounds like a joke, doesn't it? Sadly it's not, and all political parties are equally guilty of orchestrating this appalling waste of taxpayer money.

Other sporting news:
1. Raptors beat the Nets in a blowout-turned-nailbiter. In the process, lost TJ Ford and possibly Jose Calderon. But, lived to play another game on Friday. Go Raps!

2. Canucks blew a 2 goal lead to lose in overtime to the Ducks. They're now in dire straits, down 3-1 in the series. Do Roberto Luongo and Jorge Garbajosa have the same hairstylist? If so, he should be fired.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Another 'Day' of Confusion

One of the many Conservative responses to allegations of detainee torture in Afghanistan has been that they have never seen any specific allegations. According to Government House Leader Peter van Loan, the Tories have "yet to see one specific allegation of torture". Sounds pretty definitive eh? And it would be - if it was true.

As the Globe & Mail reports today, Stockwell Day was informed of specific abuse allegations last week. You can read about it here.
"We've actually had a couple of incidents where detainees said they were [tortured]" said Day.

PM Harper meanwhile continues to insist that he is satisfied by assurances from Afghan authorities that prisoners are not being abused by Afghan authorities.

Over at the National Post, Jonathan Kay has written an editorial about the "headline-hogging" story of prisoner abuse. He complains that the good news stories - such as the decline in infant mortality rates since the ouster of the Taliban - are being buried in favour of those detailing the government's response (or lack thereof) to torture allegations. He rightly admonishes suggestions that our politicos should be investigated as war criminals - idiocy and incompetence are not crimes - but goes on to suggest that we "are treating the whole exercise like one big human rights grad seminar". He misses the point. True, we should all celebrate our triumphs in Afghanistan. The Taliban were a group of animalistic tyrants whose deeds were a stain on humanity. The decline in infant mortality in Afghanistan is likely one of many admirable after-effects of their removal from power. But the fact that war is "messy" and the enemy dishonourable should never give us license to turn a blind eye to torture and mistreatment of prisoners, be they Taliban or otherwise. We owe it to the very people we free from tyranny that we adhere to principles of fundamental human rights. If we don't demonstrate to the Afghan people that we take basic human rights seriously (and that these rights apply to everyone), who else will?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Minority Report

I don't usually read the Toronto Sun. I think it's the kind of right wing fish-wrapping whose major selling points are the Sunshine girl, the extensive sports coverage, and the XXX adult ads in the back pages. A few days ago, Red Tory had a great summary of a horrific piece by Sun columnist Connie Woodcock.

On April 25th, another Sun columnist Ajit Jain wrote a piece outlining Jason Kenney's assertion that the Conservatives are in fact the friendliest party for visible minorities. The very suggestion is absurd to any thinking Canadian, and more disturbing still is that Jain (himself a visible minority) wrote the article as though he was penning it from the public relations desk of Kenney's office. Jain dutifully scribed the outright lies told by Kenney:

"Proportionally we have a higher number of MPs from visible minorities: First Muslim elected to Parliament, Rahim Jaffer, first Hindu ever elected, Deepak Obhrai, and first Indo-Canadian woman MP, Nina Grewal."

Jain reports this hogwash with a dumb grin and a 'please sir, may I have another?' attitude. But let's set the record straight.

1. According to the Parliament of Canada website, the Conservatives have 125 MP's. Of these, the visible minorities I am aware of are Nina Grewal, Rahim Jaffer, Deepak Obhrai, Inky Mark, Mike Chong, Bev Oda and Wajid Khan. This equates to a total of 5.6% visible minority MPs.

2. The Liberals, by contrast have (by my count - and I may have missed a few) 11 visible minority MPs: Alghabra, Bains, Rodriguez, Jennings, Chan, Dhaliwal, Dhalla, Dosanjh, Fry, Karetak-Lindell and Malhi. On a total of 100 MP's, this equates to 11%.

I haven't done the calculations for the NDP, but the point is made. Kenney is a shameless liar. Proportionally or otherwise, the Conservatives have scant few visible minorities. And the ones they have aren't exactly model parliamentarians either. Grewal's husband left politics in shame after wiretapping staged conversations to secure cabinet posts for the two of them in exchange for crossing the floor. Jaffer had a staffer (hey I kinda like that rhyme) pose as himself on a radio interview, then lied to cover it up, and was finally forced to make a tearful apology in the House. And we are all still waiting to see a single word of Khan's magnificent mid-east 'report'.

Proving only that minority or not, the Conservatives are proportionally well stocked in liars.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


No, not exactly. But congratulations are in order for Justin Trudeau, who secured the nomination for his Papineau riding in a first ballot victory. Now I don't claim to know much about Papineau, other than whatever has dribbled out in the national media (working class, ethnically diverse etc), but all seemed to agree that Trudeau was in a tough battle - perhaps even going up against the deep inner fears of the established Liberal rank and file. In any case, he defeated two worthy opponents, and I for one wish him all the best for his future political career.

Sticking with Quebec, PM Harper found himself in La Belle Province giving a speech to a collection of Conservative supporters......and the ADQ.....and Andre Arthur. For the occasion of his highness' birthday, the audience serenaded him to the tune of Gens du Pays (which Arthur described as "the separatist national anthem"). Boy, Steve-O's really come a long way. Wasn't that long ago that the Father of 'Quebecois Nation' was saying the following:

“Outside of Quebec, the total population of francophones, depending on how you measure it, is only three to five per cent of the population. The rest of Canada is English speaking…So it's basically an English-speaking country, just as English-speaking as, I would guess, the northern part of the United States.”
“…The two traditional parties, the Liberals and PCs, are both led by Quebecers who favour concessionary strategies. The Reform party is a bastion of resistance to this tendency.”

My oh my, how times have changed. Maybe the timing is just right for young Mr. Trudeau after all.