Sunday, June 30, 2013

Something Foul In The Wind At Passport Canada

It came to my attention a day ago that our government is tinkering with things again...and not in a good way.

In this case, we are talking about Passport Canada - the agency which has been processing and delivering passports to Canadians for years.  (an agency which has been quite efficient in my own experience)  It seems that the government has decided to split Passport Canada in two, with front line services being merged with the Service Canada group, and moving the behind-the-scenes people under Citizenship and Immigration.

On Passport Canada's current "about us" page, we find the following:

Passport Canada is a special operating agency of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada responsible for all matters related to Canadian passports. As mandated by the Canadian Passport Order, its responsibilities include issuing, refusing to issue, revoking, withholding, recovering and providing instructions on the use of Canadian passports.
So ... the first question that comes to mind is why is this moving under the auspices of Citizenship and Immigration?

Second, why do we have a "front end" in the form of Service Canada and a "back end" service under a different ministry?

The answer to the first question seems most likely to be rooted in a power play going on at the cabinet table.    It is no secret that Jason Kenney is deemed by many to be Harper's "replacement in waiting".  He has been in the Citizenship and Immigration portfolio for quite some time now.  It seems that he has "accomplished" much of what he was mandated to do when Harper moved him into this position in 2008, and now new responsibilities are coming his way.

My worry with this change to Passport Canada is twofold.  First, I dislike the idea of decision making being decoupled from the frontline services.  It makes it much, much harder to have a coherent discussion about issues if there is a problem with a passport application.  Imagine, if you will, having to file your tax return with Service Canada, and having to deal with Service Canada if there are issues with it, but finding that you are still (ultimately) dealing with some faceless group within the CRA.  Suddenly, the decision makers are completely obscured from scrutiny and challenge.  Worse, the frontline staff are guaranteed to be utterly impotent to deal with actual issues, which further compounds the level of frustration that people will be experiencing.

The second part of my concerns with this change is in the form of recent changes that Jason Kenney has put forward in Bill C-31.  In his overhaul of the immigration act, Minister Kenney gave himself (and future ministers) extraordinary powers to overrule a reasonable due process construct.  In essence, Kenney has just made every decision that Citizenship and Immigration Canada makes subject to political interference through the Minister's offices.

While it is not unusual for the minister to have the power to overturn decisions in exceptional circumstances, the rewrite done under Bill C-31 goes much further than that, and in many respects politicizes the entire immigration process.  In doing so, he has made the immigration decision making processes subject to the political whims of the government of the day to a degree that I suspect few fully comprehend.  (My own review of the revised immigration act is still ongoing, and I expect I will find quite a bit more yet)

Given the Conservative government's willingness to politicize everything in sight, the idea of putting passports under the jurisdiction of a department which has already been yoked by this party - and a minister who is to say the least overbearing in his decision making - has the whiff of passports suddenly becoming subject to political considerations during the issuing process.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Exodus Shuts Down ... And Is Replaced

While LGBT people in North America have been celebrating the shutdown of Exodus International, the moment of schadenfreude has perhaps resulted in overlooking something equally important that has been happening in parallel.

Alan Chambers has issued a heartfelt apology for the damage his organization did to the lives of so many over the decades of its existence.  I will applaud him for that - although it is much easier to applaud his recent change of understanding than it will ever be to forgive what his organization did to so many.

However, at the same time that Exodus was collapsing, another organization was being created to take its place - Restored Hope Network.  This is, to say the least, an evil little twist.  One look at their advisory board is pretty much an index of the most extreme hardline cases in the anti-gay world.  It contains Matt Barber, Dr. Michael Brown, Joseph Nicolosi and Mat Staver to name a few.

About the only crazy they don't have on their board are the discredited ones like Peter LaBarbera and Paul Cameron.

I expect that we will start seeing propaganda out of this group in the not too distant future.

The real question is whether this "ministry" (propaganda machine, more like) is actually able to draw in new membership, or is it simply going to be reflective of the increasing concentration of activity in a group that is increasingly isolated and dwindling in numbers?  I don't have an immediate answer to this, it is the question that will only be answered by time.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Labour Exploitation In The Knowledge Economy

The basis of the economy has changed over the last fifty years, and with it has come a change in how companies operate.  Arising from these changes is a new form of exploitation that affects workers at all levels.

Through the industrial revolution, we moved from artisan labour producing most products to an environment of mass production.  Artisans became factory workers, and when the predations of employers became too much, organized into labour unions to have the collective strength to fight back and gain better treatment for workers.  (This is a bit of an oversimplification, but for the purposes of this essay, it sets out the basis from which I will be building an analysis of today's issues)

Since sometime in the 1980s (especially in the wake of Thatcher's efforts in the UK), Neo-Conservatives around the world have been working actively to weaken the power of the trade unions.  This has resulted more recently in so-called "right to work" laws in the United States.  Laws which clearly undermine the effectiveness of unions and collective bargaining.  Superficially, these laws only appear to affect traditionally organized labour groups - manufacturing, government services and so on.

However, that is far from the full picture.  In fact, it is miles from it.  Conservatives have spent a great deal of time in the last forty years painting unions as slothful, entitled and wasteful in their efforts to undermine them.  The net effect has become that the balance of power has once again shifted heavily in favour of the employers.  Many unionized labourers find that their unions are of limited help when it comes to addressing grievances related to working conditions, pay or other workplace issues.  Contractual negotiations have turned again to a situation where the employer is dictating terms to the unions and so on.  In Alberta, for example, the government has just legislated the "agreement" with teachers in the province without actually negotiating with the ATA and other related bodies.  This is not an agreement, it is something else entirely.  Whether the ATA and its members agree with the imposed settlement is moot.

Now, as we turn from the labour economy to the so-called information economy, we find a new problem arising - and it is an ugly one indeed.  Knowledge workers, whether in IT or other domains, are highly skilled, highly intelligent people with extensive backgrounds in a myriad of areas.  They often hold advanced degrees as well as professional certification as engineers.  These people are used to being treated similarly to other professionals such as lawyers or doctors.

Unfortunately, the world has been changing dramatically since the early 1990s.  First of all, the rise of the multi-national corporation has begun to present a serious challenge.  Most countries have some kinds of laws which regulate corporate activities and place boundaries around them to some extent or another.  These laws are not, however, consistent across nations.  So, Canada has one set of laws, the United States another, and India another set of laws entirely.

When corporations have become so large as to span many nations, they become a law unto themselves at the moment.  If they don't like the conditions in one country, they simply move the bulk of their operations to another country where it is more favourable.  More favourable could mean anything from cheaper labour to fewer restrictions on how business is conducted or lower taxes.

The problem for Knowledge Workers has become one where their skills are emerging in more and more markets.  IT skills have become "commonplace" in the minds of many employers, with the consequence becoming that suddenly the notion of hiring skills locally has been replaced by "offshoring" - hiring expertise from India or some other country where "you can hire 10 programmers for the cost of one in North America".

The same thing is emerging in other "knowledge" domains such as engineering.  Building bridges is rapidly becoming something which is done "offshore", with only local labour being used for final assembly.  The design can be exported to an engineering firm in India, the manufacture of segments could happen elsewhere in the world.  As we found with the Temporary Foreign Worker program recently, this can result in local talent being shut out of the work simply because they are deemed (arbitrarily) more expensive.  In the case of the TFW program, Canadians are being obliged to train their replacements in how to do their jobs which will then be shipped off to another country.

What does all this suggest?  First, we have to recognize that money is fundamentally psychopathic.  It has no moral or ethical framework which bounds it.  Only individuals can bound money with ethical and moral considerations.  As corporations grow, they eventually expand to a point where decision making at the top is only bounded by profit considerations.  The impact on people becomes a secondary consideration.

As an example, when a company I used to work for moved to new facilities in the 1990s, the company was comparatively small.  A lot of decisions were made in terms of working environment that specifically accounted for the needs of the staff, and respected the input received from the staff.  More recently, I have heard that the same firm is moving into new facilities.  However, it is now part of a much larger multinational entity.  The new facilities are designed around minimizing the costs of office space per employee.  In fact, staff weren't even consulted about the working arrangements during the planning process.  The message?  Staff don't matter - even specialized knowledge is deemed to be replaceable by cheaper labour abroad if necessary.

The upshot is that there is nothing that obliges a company to utilize local talent in the course of business.  In fact, because the multinational company is able to sidestep local labour laws and suchlike, they can move business wherever they see maximum profit.

Because professional workers are not accustomed to having the "weaker hand" in negotiating with employers, they are only just beginning to recognize what is happening to them.  It used to be that having significant skills and depth of knowledge was a significant bargaining lever.  It still is, except that for a lot of knowledge domains, the competitor isn't down the street, but halfway around the world living in dramatically different circumstances.

What is happening is a two-ended exploitation.  Knowledge workers are being pressured to do more work for less money and in ever deteriorating conditions on one side of the equation, and on the "receiving side" of the offshoring discussions, the workers are being exploited with lower wages and no doubt poor working conditions as well.

The problem really boils down to there being a lack of effective tools for restricting the money-centered predations of large companies.  Local unions have limited leverage simply because much of the work can be moved elsewhere so easily, and the fact that work can be moved around with such minimal consequences for the employer further compounds matters.

I do not know how long it will take for knowledge workers to begin to recognize the degree of exploitation that they are currently experiencing.  I do know that the recognition of that exploitation is emerging and it will take some significant organization and change in the world in order to overcome this.  It will take more than just a trade union like construct to start to change this.

A part of the solution may well involve some kind of international union construct.  Another part will be the creation of a form of legal and regulatory environment that overcomes the ability of a multi-national company to sidestep local labour laws by shuffling the deck of cards as they are currently able to do.

The construct of corporate boards to oversee and guide the management of a corporation is no longer an effective tool in managing large organizations.  They are too far removed from the local consequences of their decisions to understand those effects on people and regions.  The construct of the board has become a means for the elites to communicate and share information, rather than a means of guiding a company with respect to ethical considerations.   This too may yet need to change in order to balance off the otherwise predatory nature of a company's desire to acquire more wealth.

In essence, we need to reinvent the notion of capitalism so that it works at a global scale, and the relationship between capitalism and labour must also be revisited.  Corporate accountability at the level of the nation-state is far too easily sidestepped.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

More On Distorting Study Results

The resident ex-Transsexual-for-publicity Walt Heyer is at it again.  This time, he's busy citing a bunch of studies that he claims are "proof" that cross-gender identified children do not become transsexuals.

The studies he cites are as follows:

Dr. Bernard Zuger found that feminine acting young boys do NOT become transsexual.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3180761
(no more proof needed than this)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6693867

Dr. Fred Whitam finds the same thing Zuger found
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/849142
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7396690

Dr Colette Chiland finds the same thing as Zuker and Whitan found
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3051066
The first thing I want to point out is a design issue with all of these studies.  Both Zuger and Whitam are exploring the question of whether certain childhood behaviours are predictive of adult homosexuality, and do not appear to even ask the question of transsexuality as an outcome at all.  It is also important to recognize that sexual identity is not correlated with gender identity directly.  Any study which fails to recognize this distinction is almost guaranteed to very limited in its usefulness in understanding the frequency of transsexualism in the population.

Second, as is often the case with studies involving sexual minorities, the sample size is small to begin with,  and given the extreme rarity of transsexualism to begin with, it only makes sense that small-n sample sizes have a relatively low probability of containing representative transsexuals.  Further, the odds are that the data involving a transsexual would have been discarded altogether, or possibly rolled into the male homosexual grouping during data consolidation.

Further, these are fairly old studies - dating from 1977 to 1988.  While it would have been nice if the studies had included cross-gender identity outcomes in their design, they clearly did not.  While transsexualism should have been a visible domain to researchers during that time, I doubt very much that it was widely understood as a distinct phenomenon from homosexuality, and study designs would reflect that gap of understanding.

Ironically, a few minutes exploring the PubMed database turns up the following:

Korte et. al.: Gender identity disorders in childhood and adolescence: currently debated concepts and treatment strategies
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19578420
Full Text:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2697020/

This is a 2008 publication (so already 5 years old), but it points out that there is precious little research material out there which covers the probability of childhood cross-gender identity becoming adult transsexualism.  Fundamentally, the study itself basically states that we do not know the aetiology of transsexualism, much less do we have adequate studies to fully understand whether a child who expresses cross-gender identity is in fact transsexual as an adult.  Appropriately, it does sound a note of concern around the application of puberty suppressing drugs.

Given that on this blog, the earliest references to Spack's work date back to 2007, and a quick scan of PubMed for articles bearing Dr. Norman Spack's name turns up comparatively recent articles, it isn't terribly surprising that there is a note of caution around the administration of puberty-suppressing drugs.

However, in the 2012 published WPATH Standards of Care v7 document we find the following:

An important difference between gender dysphoric children and adolescents is in the proportion for whom dysphoria persists into adulthood. Gender dysphoria during childhood does not inevitably continue into adulthood.5 Rather, in follow-up studies of prepubertal children (mainly boys) who were referred to clinics for assessment of gender dysphoria, the dysphoria persisted into adulthood for only 6-23% of children (Cohen-Kettenis, 2001; Zucker & Bradley, 1995). Boys in these studies were more likely to identify as gay in adulthood than as transgender (Green, 1987; Money & Russo, 1979; Zucker & Bradley, 1995; Zuger, 1984). Newer studies, also including girls, showed a 12- 27% persistence rate of gender dysphoria into adulthood (Drummond, Bradley, Peterson-Badali, & Zucker, 2008; Wallien & Cohen-Kettenis, 2008).
In contrast, the persistence of gender dysphoria into adulthood appears to be much higher for adolescents. No formal prospective studies exist. However, in a follow-up study of 70 adolescents who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria and given puberty suppressing hormones, all continued with the actual sex reassignment, beginning with feminizing/masculinizing hormone therapy (de Vries, Steensma, Doreleijers, & Cohen-Kettenis, 2010).
Another difference between gender dysphoric children and adolescents is in the sex ratios for each age group. In clinically referred, gender dysphoric children under age 12, the male/female ratio ranges from 6:1 to 3:1 (Zucker, 2004). In clinically referred, gender dysphoric adolescents older than age 12, the male/female ratio is close to 1:1 (Cohen-Kettenis & Pfäfflin, 2003).  [WPATH SOC V7 p. 11]
WPATH is quite frank in raising the issue of adequate long term follow-up studies of transsexuals in general, and those diagnosed in youth in particular.  I do not expect that this will change anytime soon.  More likely, it will be decades before there is an adequate body of research to be conclusive about such matters.

In the meantime, I think we can assess Heyer's most recent slam of Dr. Spack as being one more ill-informed attempt to project his own sad outcomes on all who are transsexual.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Harper's MinTruth

We have known for quite some time that Harper has been spending enormous amounts of taxpayer money trying to convince us that his government is saving Canada.

More disturbing is how much they are spending on their "Ministry of Truth".

The federal government employs nearly 4,000 communications staff in the public service, an increase of 15.3 per cent since the Conservatives came to power in 2006.
Data compiled by the Parliamentary Budget Office shows there were 3,865 "information services" employees on the payroll at the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year, up by 512 since Prime Minister Stephen Harper assumed office.
The sharpest increases came in the two highest paid job classifications, where numbers jumped 33 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively.
Canadians employ 4,000 people to "communicate" with Canadians?  That's positively ridiculous.  Of course, when among those 4,000 communications staff are the KGB-esque "minders" that Harper sends with scientists when they attend conferences.

Meanwhile, Harper has cut funding to legitimate science that should be used to inform policy decisions - choosing instead to spend those dollars on a propaganda campaign.

[Update 25/6/13 8:25]:  

One last point, this PM is using his offices to implement his propaganda and agitprop campaigns - complete down to faux demonstrations performed by interns.

[/Update]


Monday, June 24, 2013

YYC Floods, and Harper Plays Faux Military

When Stephen Harper showed up in Calgary to survey the flooding last Friday, it was abundantly clear that he was treating things as a photo-op, not as a matter of state.

First of all, he shows up wearing what appears to be a jacket that is part of a military uniform.  Nothing could be a more obvious propaganda play.

In my opinion, this is inappropriate on several levels.  First, Harper is an elected official - a politician.  He does not hold, and to the best of my knowledge, has never held status in Canada's military as either an officer or an enlisted man.

Second, he is Canada's Prime Minister.  As such he is not the titular head of state, nor does he hold the title of "Commander in Chief" as his presidential counterpart in the US does.

In short, Harper has no place wearing a military uniform - partial or otherwise.  It is obviously a propaganda move on his part, and one that disrespects those who wear the uniform professionally.

Unlike Mayor Nenshi, who has been working tirelessly during this crisis, Harper gave the impression of a schoolboy who takes delight in seeing the devastation and doesn't understand that people are being directly affected by this.

I will give Harper credit for dispatching the military to Alberta to help with the cleanup.  It was needed - perhaps more so in High River and other communities than in Calgary - and warranted.  I am disappointed that Harper chose to try turning this into another photo-op.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Taxpayers Are Funding Harper's Smear Campaign


The steaming turd has been found ... and it is in the Harper PMO:

On Monday, PMO communications officer Erica Meekes sent The Advance details of an engagement that netted Trudeau a $10,000 fee, but left Georgian College with a $4,118 shortfall. The information was sent via email with the caveat it be referred to as coming from a “source,” not the PMO, when used.
“As a follow-up to the growing controversy over the weekend on Justin Trudeau charging charities for his speaking services, I have enclosed further materials that demonstrate the scope of this practice, cost on the organizations, and in many cases, poor outcomes and large deficits as a result of his speaking tour,” the email stated. “As discussed, these materials are provided to you on background, and should be attributed to a ‘source.’”
The material included invoices, a promotional poster and an accommodation receipt for the Toronto Four Seasons. Meekes wrote, “To be fair, there is an in-house yoga studio at the Four Seasons!”
When asked in a telephone interview why Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office was sending out unsolicited documentation, Meekes said the PMO routinely reaches out to the media.
This is the first time, however, such financial information was released to The Advance from the PMO.
Normally, such work is the purview of partisan researchers.
Meekes’ email said to contact Patrick Brown, “the local MP for Georgian College,” for comment.
In an email from Ottawa, Brown said Trudeau shouldn’t be let off the hook for the Georgian loss, even if it occurred before he entered politics.
The outrage here is not that Harper is trying to smear Trudeau.  You would have to be the village idiot not to expect that.

The outrage should be that Harper is using public money in the form of PMO resources to carry out partisan attacks.  As taxpayers, we fund The Privy Council to assist the Prime Minister in managing the levers of government effectively.  We DO NOT provide those funds for the Prime Minister to use them for their puerile, juvenile desire to wipe out anyone who resembles a threat to their status as "dear leader".

It is time to take the trash out at 24 Sussex.

[Update 19/6/13 7:30 AM]

A few interesting tidbits from the Calgary Herald this morning:

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus chided Harper for allowing controversy over Trudeau's "ethical misjudgment" to be turned into an issue about his own judgment.
"The issue I think that Canadians have to ask themselves (is): Doesn't the prime minister have more important things to do in terms of serving our country than running a black ops operation against the Liberal leader?" Angus said.
"It's not becoming of the prime minister."
Angus said the Tories are blowing the political gift Trudeau handed his rivals when he chose to voluntarily disclose that he's earned $277,000 making speeches to 17 different groups since becoming an MP in 2008.
"It was gift-wrapped for you ... and just out of sheer stupidity, block-headedness and spite, you're blowing it," he said.
This is typical of the NDP the last little while.  It seems that they can't focus on the real issues at hand without looking to see if there's an adequate attack on the Liberals.  Angus is correctly criticizing Harper for his abuse of the PMO function, but he then turns around and basically says that he's really criticizing Harper because his team has done such a sloppy job of attacking Trudeau.

Note to the NDP:  I realize you feel this overpowering need to attack the Liberals.  But frankly, that shouldn't be where your focus is.  You are titled "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition" for a reason - start paying attention to the finagling across the aisle, and spend less of your time futzing about and trying to make everything a "two pronged attack".  It isn't effective, and it plays to Harper's tune.

However, Harper's office made no apologies for its role in fanning the flames of the controversy.
"News flash: the office of the leader of the Opposition, the Liberal leader's office and the Prime Minister's Office all engage in political communications," said PMO spokesperson Julie Vaux in an email.
"Trudeau's taxpayer-paid staff are currently calling all the charities (about returning the speaking fees) and that's supposed to be his personal business."
Vaux said Trudeau only agreed to reimburse the Grace Foundation after the media pounced on the story and "our caucus shamed him into doing so."
News flash for Ms. Vaux:  Canadians expect you to do your job - namely assist the Prime Minister in running the country.  You are not doing this.  You are engaging in partisan mud-slinging on taxpayer dollars.  This is not acceptable.

Conservative MP Ben Lobb, meanwhile, told the House of Commons he intends to ask federal ethics watchdog Mary Dawson to investigate whether Trudeau broke conflict of interest rules by voting on a bill involving the rights of labour unions when he's accepted "over $100,000 in personal payments from unions."
Really?  Talk about scraping the barrel looking for scandal.  The Conservatives have clearly lost sight of what governing means.

The Conservatives maintain it was unethical of Trudeau to ever accept a fee for speaking to charitable organizations, either before or after becoming an MP. And they include municipalities, educational institutions, school boards and other non-profit entities in their definition of charity.
However, one of their own — former NHL coach Jacques Demers, whom Harper appointed to the Senate — admitted Tuesday that he too has accepted payment for speeches to literacy groups and others the Conservatives describe as charities.
"I've taken and I've given a lot," Demers said.
The complaints the Harperites are throwing about only have meaning when they are lily-white.  They aren't.  We know they aren't.  


[/Update]

Monday, June 17, 2013

That's A Criticism?

So, the right wing media in Canada has gotten its knickers into a twist because Justin Trudeau has managed to make a very nice living for himself on the speaking circuit.

Last I checked, quite a few politicians in this country make quite a nice bit of money on the side doing the speaking tour thing.  This is neither news, nor surprising.  The speaking circuit is both a means to keep one's public profile up, as well as make a bit of cash on the side.  Trudeau may have made a substantial chunk of change doing it, but that's hardly a crime.

It comes as no surprise to me that Brad Wall decided to stand up on his hind legs and bray about the $20,000 that Justin Trudeau made for appearing at a literacy conference.  This is obviously the kind of indirect attack that the Harper Politburo ... er ... PMO ... has decided to start using to attack Justin Trudeau.  Having failed entirely to get any traction with their usual ham-fisted attack ads.

Charity events don't come together for free.  I don't care whether you are talking about renting the hall, catering or the speakers.  It's not free.  Ironically, this is where charity organizations and business intersect.  A caterer doesn't (usually) provision an event for free - they usually have a price that includes a nice little profit for them in it.  The charity ultimately makes its money off the difference between ticket sales and the expenses incurred.  

If you are running a small business, it's the same thing.  You are hoping like hell that you can make enough money to put it all together and make enough profit to move on to the next step.

I find it more than a little suspicious that months after the fact there is suddenly a bunch of faux outrage over Trudeau's appearance fees.

When the government is caught in the midst of a disastrous scandal over Senate Expenses, has lost some 3.1 Billion dollars of taxpayer money and is lining up its next attack on Canada's middle class, the Harperites are busily looking to find a squirrel to distract public attention from their malfeasance.

[Update 17/06/13 12:30 PM]

If you were thinking that my supposition that this whole idiotic thing is a setup on the part of the Harperites, consider the following:

Grace Foundation Charity A Failed Conservative Stunt

It turns out that the person who wrote the letter complaining to Trudeau about the outcome of his speech has close ties to the HarperCon$.  Surprisingly close ties.

... and to complain in March of 2013 about a speech given in July of 2012 seems just a tiny bit ridiculous.

[/Update]

[Update #2 18/06/13 7:45 AM]

Received via e-mail last night, it becomes clear that the PMO is acting politically in this matter:

PM's Office Sends Details of Trudeau's Talk At Georgian

First, they are digging back to years before Trudeau was elected to the House of Commons.

Second, taxpayers are paying for this.  In short, we have the smoking gun here that shows that Harper is inappropriately utilizing the offices of government to carry out partisan political attacks.

[/Update #2]

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Shorter Michael Coren: Harper's Corruption Is Small Potatoes

I have never considered Michael Coren to be even remotely reliable in his analysis of anything.  The simple fact is that he is so firmly embedded in radical conservatism that he can't possibly bring himself to see anything wrong with anything that Harper has done.

Case in point:  His latest column whining about the media paying attention to the Senate Expenses Scandal.

Apparently, in Coren's mind, the festering boil of corruption in Ottawa is not important.  We should all be paying more attention to the Ontario Liberal government.

So where are the exposed and shamed names, where are the CBC hacks and the brave Toronto Star reporters demanding to know what has been going on?
Most of the time we haven’t even been told where Dalton McGuinty is, and Wynne is treated as if she’s above suspicion. Yet on some television networks, Ford Watch has become a soap opera, with even his non-appearances discussed, and reporters are receiving praise for calling Mike Duffy names. There’s courage for you.
To hell with Ford and with Duffy and the other Senate mediocrities.
I want real journalism and real accountability, and I want to know where my money is and who spent it and then covered their tracks.
Being dumb or greedy is wrong, being a major thief far worse.
Well...let's start with the obvious.  Apparently a corrupt conservative government in Ottawa is less important in Coren's mind than a corrupt liberal government in Queen's Park.

News Flash to Michael Coren:  Corruption in Ottawa affects the entire country.

No, we need to pay extremely close attention to the corruption in Ottawa.  It is not small potatoes corruption.  The further we dig, the more the stench of corruption becomes all the more pungent.  Harper has driven Ottawa into the ground with his short term political gain strategy.  EVERY citizen of Canada is paying the price for this.

While the uproar in Ontario over power plants is serious, I don't think it can be held as superseding the ongoing issues in Ottawa ... unless of course, like Coren, you are a Conservatroll seeking a way to divert attention from the mess that Harper has created in Ottawa.

For the first time in years, the media is finally doing its job:  publicizing what the government in Ottawa should be held accountable for.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Conservatives and Electoral Reform

Ever since 2006, the Conservatives have been squabbling with Elections Canada.  What precisely the problem the HarperCons have is something of a mystery to me.  Regardless, they seem to have ongoing and serious problems with the government agency that is responsible for overseeing elections in this country.

So, after seeing Del Mastro's crocodile tears over his 2008 campaign spending issues yesterday, I decided to do a little bit of historical analysis to see what that turns up.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, there is quite a list of issues with the Conservative campaigns starting in 2006.

In 2006, the big, smelly, issue was the "In-and-Out" scandal where the Conservatives essentially engaged in a money laundering scheme to hide advertising spending.  For the most part, Harper managed to shrug this bit of crooked chicanery off.  (apparently, electoral fraud didn't register on voters in 2008)  However, it should be noted that the issue is still before the courts.

The 2008 election was triggered by Harper, no doubt with the idea that he could garner a majority on the heels of a "successful" minority that had been in place since 2006.  Harper claimed that he called the election because parliament was deadlocked - of course he conveniently ignored the fact that it was deadlocked by the very tactics that he instituted.

To be honest, I'm actually a little surprised that issues from the 2008 election are still being wrangled over - in particular Del Mastro's campaign spending.  However, if Del Mastro paid for campaign activities out of his own pocket and tried to subvert the accountability side of the elections process in doing so, that would be very much in character.

Additionally, there was a very suspicious set of events in Toronto where a number of Liberal supporters found the brake lines on their cars cut.  While this was not specifically investigated by Elections Canada, it is a rather overt form of harassment of voters which I have often thought was a clumsy attempt at voter suppression.

Then in 2011, we have seen a plethora of MPs whose election spending reports have been questioned by Elections Canada.  Interestingly, it always seems to be Conservative MPs who are getting caught out overspending or violating other rules.  I actually would have expected a bunch of these types of reports to be surfacing regarding NDP MPs from Quebec - not out of a sense of corruption, but more out of inexperience.

Moving beyond that, we have the infamous Robocalls scandal, which remains an ongoing point of contention which I believe calls into question the validity of the government as it stands today.

The real issue, when you distill it down, is that the Conservatives have a culture of "The Rules Don't Apply To Us", and they keep getting called out on it.  It wouldn't be so bad if it was relatively minor overspending infractions, but when you combine it with voter suppression, it becomes an evil that must be excised from our political system.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In The Wake Of AHS Board Firings ...

Yesterday, Minister of Health Fred Horne fired the entire board in charge of running Alberta Health Services.

This is perhaps the second time since Redford came to power that she's done something I agree with.  (The first was reinstating funding for Gender Reassignment Surgery which was axed in 2009 in a fit of pique on the part of the Stelmach government).

Let me be clear about one thing.  Alberta Health Services is a mess.  As experiments in consolidation go, it is a disaster of unprecedented proportions.  There are serious issues when we are talking about handing out bonuses (retention, performance or otherwise) to executives at a time when front line services are being axed left and right is ridiculous.  I don't give a damn how "vital" it is to retain these executives.  If you are cutting front line services and the fat cats at the top are still getting bonuses, then something is seriously wrong with the priorities.

The issues in AHS are systemic - they start at the top and go all the way through the system.  AHS was created in large part as a way for the Stelmach government to continue the process of dismantling public health care in Alberta - a hobby horse issue that the Klein conservatives only took feinting strikes at, largely because Klein himself took a lot of the heat from Albertans.  Under Stelmach, the moves were more definite, and the results are predictable:  those at the top line their pockets and the staff on the front lines and patient care suffer.

I have personal experiences where a relative became ill with cancer recently which underscore the fundamental problems that exist when it comes to getting treatment initiated for a critical illness.  The cancer was first detected six months before treatment.  For six months, we went from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist trying to get a clear diagnosis and more importantly, treatment.

I won't go into the number of dropped balls that I saw happen during that time.  Suffice it to say that it was appalling.  Treatment didn't start until the cancer had become a threat to the patient's life.

The problems we witnessed?  You name it.  I'm going to focus on the systemic and communications problems because those are the ones that AHS was supposed to address when it was created.

The first point is that emergency rooms and the doctors in them don't communicate with each other.  If you go to an emergency with a changing set of symptoms, and that hospital doesn't have the facilities to treat it directly, they send you home.  They don't refer to you another hospital which has the facilities unless they think your life is in danger.

This is complete nonsense.  When you are talking about diseases like cancer, early treatment is absolutely critical.  Cancer is life-threatening.  Period.  For the patient, sending them home is doing them a disservice.

Even more frustrating is the fact that there is no avenue to raise concerns over rapidly changing conditions.  When things are changing as rapidly (near daily) as they were, the system needs some kind of mechanism where a patient can demand a reassessment of their situation.  Instead, all that you get is a run-around that basically tells you to "talk to the hand".

We lack sufficient specialists to adequately diagnose and treat people.  In Calgary, there are 4 ENT specialists - for a city of over 1,000,000.  The wait times to get into see these specialists are months long, and yet that is an essential part of the diagnostic process.  With a fast moving cancer, it can go from localized and tiny to enormous and pervasive in that time.

To the credit of the treatment professionals, once you are connected to the treatment system, they do awesome work in absolutely terrifying conditions in terms of workload.

The issues I am raising speak to the fact that the parameters that exist for the front lines do not enable taking the correct steps to get issues dealt with.  If you don't have the connections already, you're stuck on the outside and it is just about impossible to get in.

Horne and Redford have an opportunity to start correcting the systemic problems that exist within AHS.  Let's hope that they take it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why The CTF Should Be Viewed VERY Skeptically

Recently, the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation put out a news release that purported to "discover" a number of high income Calgarians living in "subsidized housing".

 The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) released the results of its investigation into subsidized housing in Calgary today. The CTF discovered 1,208 tenants making between $50,000 and $172,000 living in housing subsidized by the Calgary Housing Company (CHC).
Using documents obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI), the CTF discovered 18 tenants making between $120,000 and $172,000, 47 tenants making between $100,000 and $172,000, 123 tenants making between $80,000 and $172,000, and 1,208 tenants making between $50,000 and $172,000.
Of course, the CTF allegations are 98% spin.  Yes, there are some high income tenants in CHC properties.  Guess what?  That is expected.  The CHC rents some of its properties at market rates, and utilizes the profits from that to pay for the subsidies that other tenants require.

The CTF is being unreasonably absolutist about things in this issue, and in doing so are demonstrating the lack of humanity that has come to dominate conservative political advocacy in this country:

Fildebrandt says waiting for the cohort of high-income earners to move out isn’t good enough, and called on the province to change the legislation to allow authorities to evict them.
“A system that allows this is a joke,” he said.
The CTF also wants authorities to lower income thresholds for subsidized housing, saying households with an income of $50,000 or more don’t need it.
“You’re not rich, but you’re able to stand on your own two feet,” he said.
Frankly, in this matter, the CTF doesn't know what it is talking about.
 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Calgary's Angry Old Guy Crowd Speaks Out

Calgary's conservative power brokers are lining up to put their money behind conservative radio show host Dave Rutherford.

I will note that after the last civic election, the Sun became the outlet for the right wing's rage that their man, Ric McIver, didn't get elected to the mayor's chair.  They've been fairly hostile towards Naheed Nenshi ever since.

Of course, we now see Rutherford starting to unveil his thinking in terms of how to attack Nenshi:

Tax hikes of 30% over three years. This year a 13.1% jump in taxes on the city side of the property tax bill if the city takes your $126 provincial tax break.
It is the biggest increase in three decades.
“Do we need a tighter rein on finances? Absolutely we do. Maybe a fiscally conservative candidate could do that and get Calgarians interested in what they’re seeing on their tax bill,” says Rutherford.
Oh yes.  The standard bitching about taxes.  We won't bother to mention that the reason for the bulk of the tax increases was the mess that conservative predecessor Bronconnier left as he handed the developers everything they wanted on a silver platter - and left Calgary with an enormous deficit in terms of infrastructure and sustainability.  Calgary cannot be allowed to sprawl across the prairie indefinitely.

Where the problem lies for Rutherford is twofold.  First, playing the "cranky old man" card doesn't exactly engage voters.  Bitching and moaning about taxes is a popular activity among Calgarians, but most recognize that we have an enormous amount of infrastructure to support - has anybody else noticed the number of severe potholes in our existing roads lately?

Second, much of Nenshi's vote came from younger voters who see things through very different lenses than Rutherford and his crowd.  Nenshi remains highly popular among those voters for good reason - he engages with them directly and in terms that they understand.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

And The Screws Tighten Further

As the Conservatives continue on their hardline "tough on crime" nonsense agenda, the next step unrolled in an announcement from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq revealed new rules for managing medical marijuana:
Under the new regime, the government will no longer produce or distribute medical pot and medical marijuana users will no longer be allowed to grow the product at home. Instead, the government will allow patients to buy prescribed amounts only from licensed growers under strict conditions.
In previous versions of the regulations, pharmacies were to distribute the product just like other medications, provoking the anger of pharmacists who feared being robbed.
But the final version removes the pharmacists from the loop, forcing patients to rely on mail order for their medical marijuana. 
Once again, we see the government stepping in and not just regulating something, but instead putting up obstacles which are detrimental to the good that these programs actually do.
"While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety," Aglukkaq said in a news release.
"These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses."
 Of course, they wrap it in the cloak of "community safety", when there isn't a shred of evidence to suggest that medical marijuana use has caused any community safety issues.  I will point out that any evidence the government may have is guaranteed to be purely anecdotal at this point, since they have ever so conveniently hamstrung the ability of Statistics Canada to gather reliable data.

There are two enormous questions that have not been addressed yet.  First is what are the criteria to become a "licensed marijuana grower"?  I'm going to put money on the rules being so strict that virtually nobody will be able to become one - not unlike what the government has done with the proposed rules around safe injection sites.

What the government has just done is push the use of marijuana to mitigate symptoms back underground.  The vast majority of users will not be willing to purchase the stuff via "mail order" models and will resort to the purchase of marijuana "off the street" simply because it is easier and more convenient - whatever the legal risks that may be associated with it.

There is nothing like a government which refuses to pay attention to available evidence and instead insists upon governing from ideology alone.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

So Conservatives ... Is There A (Not-AnyMore) Secret PMO Fund or Not?

In the wake of CBC's revelation of a PMO-controlled party fund that Nigel Wright administered, Canada's CPC membership needs to start asking some tough questions of its party.

CBC News has learned that Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had control of a secret fund in the Prime Minister’s Office when he cut the now infamous $90,000 "personal cheque" to disgraced Senator Mike Duffy.
In exclusive interviews, sources familiar with the fund tell CBC the money in it comes from Conservative Party coffers, and at times has reached almost $1 million.
Like all political party funds, more than half of all the cash in the secret PMO stash ultimately comes from taxpayers' pockets. Individual donors to political parties receive generous tax credits. Parties also receive millions from taxpayers through a per-vote subsidy, which is being phased out by 2015.
The revelation itself isn't necessarily a big surprise.  One might imagine that there are funds put aside to support the Prime Minister and other senior politicians in their efforts to forward the party's objectives during non-election times.  The concern that I think a lot of people would legitimately have is that this is not openly visible to party members, much less Canadians at large.

But, I am going to go a step or two further here.  When the story first broke, the first reaction from the Conservatives was denial.  Then, when that line of defence failed to squelch the story, the Conservatives switched to a bizarre "well yes the fund exists, but it's not hidden" line of defence.

On the question of whether the fund could have been used in the Wright-Duffy deal, Delorey said: "No funds were used for that."
Similarly, there were no denials when CBC News sent an almost identical email to Harper's communications director, Andrew MacDougall.
"I'll have to refer you to the party," MacDougall responded.
Asked whether the special fund was in any way connected to the Duffy-Wright deal, MacDougall responded: "I can give you a clear, 'no.' The funds used were Mr. Wright's personal funds."
The party's denial two days after the exchange of emails makes a number of other claims not supported by fact.
For example: "The CBC claimed party funds are hidden from Elections Canada. This is false."
In fact, Elections Canada does not oversee any political party expenditures outside an election period.
I can only imagine the Byzantine structures through which the Conservatives have moved this money in order to bury the existence of this slush fund.  The denial through obfuscation approach that the party has taken makes it clear that this fund not only exists, but it is quite reasonable to suspect that it is being used for questionable purposes.  An inconsistent story from the party with respect to this - even though CBC's journalists have published the correspondence with Party Officials on this matter - speaks to a party culture where the first response to something dishonest being discovered is to cover it up with a lie.

Were I a member of this party, I'd be screaming for a detailed audit of the party books over the last ten years.  This party has taken in millions in donations from supporters, and given a pattern of dishonesty with electoral spending, outright electoral fraud, as well as the ongoing scandals surrounding Harper-appointed senators for abusing the public purse.  It is in both the public interest and party membership's interest to have a full and complete accounting of how the party has utilized the resources placed at its disposal by its membership.  

Friday, June 07, 2013

Secret Funds???

If I were a donor to the CPC, I'd be a might bit ticked after yesterday's revelation of a hidden slush fund controlled by the PMO.

Not only is the CPC being shown increasingly as corrupt in its handling of the public purse, it appears that they can't even be honest with themselves.

I'm all in favour of regular, and detailed, financial audits of both the Senate and House of Commons.  It would appear that the CPC's memberships need to start demanding a "follow the money" audit of their party as well.

Secret funds are the tools of dictators and crooks.  People who feel that they have something to hide use tools like this, and they use them for reasons most would consider "up to no good".

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Conservatives On Safe Injection Sites

So much fodder to blog about today.  I hardly know where to begin, with still more corruption oozing out of the Senate Expenses scandal, Brent Rathgeber bailing out of the CPC caucus and Leona Aglukakk tabling legislation on Safe Injection Sites.

It's no secret that the Conservatives weren't happy after the Supreme Court ruled against their move to shut down the Safe Injection site in Vancouver - in spite of multiple years of solid evidence of the effectiveness of the program.

Today, they tabled their response in the House of Commons in the form of Bill C-65 subtitled "The Respecting Communities Act".

I am not particularly surprised to see that what we have here is an act of legislation which is designed not to provide a meaningful framework upon which an organization wanting to start one of these sites could operate, but instead it sets up a complex set of hoops that rival those put in front of transsexuals in the days of rigid gender clinic programs in the 1970s.  ... and then it leaves the ultimate decision in the hands of the minister.

Consider the following list of no less than 24 categories of information that must be included in order to even begin the process of applying for the ministerial exemption that is required to open a safe injection facility.  There are no less than 24 different pieces of information, one of which is disturbingly open ended - the last one.

Some of these appear reasonable on the surface, and others are completely unreasonable.
(3) The Minister may consider an application for an exemption for a medical purpose under subsection (2) that would allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site only after the following have been submitted:
(a) scientific evidence demonstrating that there is a medical benefit to individual or public health associated with access to activities undertaken at supervised consumption sites;
(b) a letter from the provincial minister who is responsible for health in the province in which the site would be located that
(i) outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site,
(ii) describes how those activities are integrated within the provincial health care system, and
(iii) provides information about access to drug treatment services, if any, that are available in the province for persons who would use the site;
(c) a letter from the local government of the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines its opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with respect to public health or safety;
(d) a description by the applicant of the measures that have been taken or will be taken to address any relevant concerns outlined in the letter referred to in paragraph (c);
(e) a letter from the head of the police force that is responsible for providing policing services to the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with respect to public safety and security;
(f) a description by the applicant of the proposed measures, if any, to address any relevant concerns outlined in the letter referred to in paragraph (e);
(g) a letter from the lead health professional, in relation to public health, of the government of the province in which the site would be located that outlines their opinion on the proposed activities at the site;
(h) a letter from the provincial minister responsible for public safety in the province in which the site would be located that outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site;
(i) a description of the potential impacts of the proposed activities at the site on public safety, including the following:
(i) information, if any, on crime and public nuisance in the vicinity of the site and information on crime and public nuisance in the municipalities in which supervised consumption sites are located,
(ii) information, if any, on the public consumption of illicit substances in the vicinity of the site and information on the public consumption of illicit substances in the municipalities in which supervised consumption sites are located, and
(iii) information, if any, on the presence of inappropriately discarded drug-related litter in the vicinity of the site and information on the presence of inappropriately discarded drug-related litter in the municipalities in which supervised consumption sites are located;
(j) law enforcement research or statistics, if any, in relation to the information required under subparagraphs (i)(i) to (iii);
(k) relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of persons who consume illicit substances in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality in which the site would be located;
(l) relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of persons with infectious diseases that may be in relation to the consumption of illicit substances in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality in which the site would be located;
(m) relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of deaths, if any, due to overdose — in relation to activities that would take place at the site — that have occurred in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality in which the site would be located;
(n) official reports, if any, relevant to the establishment of a supervised consumption site, including any coroner’s reports;
(o) a report of the consultations held with the professional licensing authorities for physicians and for nurses for the province in which the site would be located that contains each authority’s opinion on the proposed activities at the site;
(p) a report of the consultations held with a broad range of community groups from the municipality in which the site would be located that includes
(i) a summary of the opinions of those groups on the proposed activities at the site,
(ii) copies of all written submissions received, and
(iii) a description of the steps that will be taken to address any relevant concerns that were raised during the consultations;
(q) a financing plan that demonstrates the feasibility and sustainability of operating the site;
(r) a description of the drug treatment services available at the site, if any, for persons who would use the site and the information that would be made available to those persons in relation to drug treatment services available elsewhere;
(s) relevant information, including trends, on loitering in a public place that may be related to certain activities involving illicit substances, on trafficking of controlled substances and on minor offence rates in the vicinity of the site, if any;
(t) information on any public health emergency in the vicinity of the site or in the municipality in which the site would be located that may be in relation to activities involving illicit substances as declared by a competent authority with respect to public health, if any;
(u) a description of the measures that will be taken to minimize the diversion of controlled substances or precursors and the risks to the health and the safety and security of persons at the site, or in the vicinity of the site, including staff members, which measures must include the establishment of procedures
(i) to dispose of controlled substances, precursors, and any thing that facilitates their consumption, including how to transfer them to a police officer,
(ii) to control access to the site, and
(iii) to prevent the loss or theft of controlled substances and precursors;
(v) a description of record keeping procedures for the disposal, loss, theft and transfer of controlled substances and precursors — and any thing that facilitates their consumption — left at the site;
(w) the name, title and resumé, including relevant education and training, of the proposed responsible person in charge, of each of their proposed alternate responsible persons, and of each of the other proposed key staff members;
(x) a document issued by a Canadian police force in relation to each person referred to in paragraph (w), stating whether, in the 10 years before the day on which the application is made, in respect of a designated drug offence or a designated criminal offence, the person was
(i) convicted as an adult,
(ii) convicted as a young person in ordinary court, as those terms were defined in subsection 2(1) of the Young Offenders Act, chapter Y-1 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985, immediately before that Act was repealed, or
(iii) a young person who received an adult sentence, as those terms are defined in subsection 2(1) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act;
(y) if any of the persons referred to in paragraph (w) has ordinarily resided in a country other than Canada in the 10 years before the day on which the application is made, a document issued by a police force of that country stating whether in that period that person
(i) was convicted as an adult for an offence committed in that country that, if committed in Canada, would have constituted a designated drug offence or a designated criminal offence, or
(ii) received a sentence — for an offence they committed in that country when they were at least 14 years old but less than 18 years old that, if committed in Canada, would have constituted a designated drug offence or a designated criminal offence — that was longer than the maximum youth sentence that could have been imposed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act for such an offence;
(z) any other information that the Minister considers relevant to the consideration of the application; and
(z.1) any prescribed information that is submitted in the prescribed manner.
The requirement for a "letter of consent" from not just one level of government, but all levels of government _and_ from the head of the police department in the area seems to be beyond ridiculous.  For all intents and purposes, it strikes me as highly unlikely that you would ever get all of these levels of government to agree.  

I suspect that the burden of evidence that is being demanded here is far beyond the means of most community organizations that would be interested in getting a safe injection site started.

This is not surprising.  Where the Conservatives cannot use their standard hard-line punishment-above-all-else approach to governing, they will throw up as many walls as they can possibly get away with.  In this case, the final wall is that of the government itself.  When the final decision is left ultimately to the minister, it becomes fundamentally a political decision, regardless of how many tons of supporting documentation is demanded and provided.

This bill is a way for the Con$ to prevent another InSite being created.  They failed in their attempts to shut InSite down, but they are bound and determined to continue the mindless failure of the Republican 'War on Drugs' model rather than constructively addressing the situation.

Gwen Landolt Resurfaces ...

I have been somewhat surprised that we haven't heard more from Gwen Landolt during the debate on C-279.  Then she popped up with a bunch of comments on Lifesite...which really refers to a press release from Landolt's REAL Women Canada organization.

Frankly there isn't much new being said here.  The press release is fundamentally the usual set of deliberate misrepresentations that we've heard during the debate of C-389 and during the debate over C-279 as well. 

However, it does warrant taking a closer look just to see how Landolt and her bunch are twisting things:

“It’s all in how the word ‘gender identity’ is defined,” said Gwen Landolt, National Vice-President of REAL Women of Canada, to LifeSiteNews.com.
The bill, put forward by NDP LGBTT Critic Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC), defines “gender identity” as an “individual’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex that the individual was assigned at birth.”
Landolt explained that “gender identity” is a catch-all phrase that could be interpreted by activist courts to legitimize “any kind of sexual deviancy”.
“This could include pedophilia, if that’s their deeply felt experience of gender and if that’s their sexual preference.”
Landolt is, as one would expect, confusing sexual orientation with gender identity.  Whether she knows the difference or not is immaterial - she's lying.

Gender Identity is not Sexual Orientation.  Period.  End Of Statement.  The two intersect with each other in some interesting ways, but make no mistake - they are distinct.   The language of the bill is actually derived from the Yogyakarta Principles document which reads:

  1. 1)  sexual orientation is understood to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender.
  2. 2)  gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms. 
 It doesn't take a genius to understand the distinction that is drawn between these two points.

So, turning back to Landolt's idiotic twisting of things, and we find her concluding that C-279 could be used to "legitimize" pedophilia.  Absolute nonsense.  This is nothing more than a transparent attempt at fear mongering on the part of REAL Women.

The press release goes on to discuss the Australian law's definition:

The phrase sex and or gender identity is used … as a broad term to refer to diverse sex and or gender identities and expressions.  It includes being transgender, trans, transsexual and intersex.  It also includes being androgynous, agender, a cross dresser, a drag queen, gender fluid, genderqueer, intergender, neutrois, pansexual, pan-gendered, a third gender, and a third sex
The list that the Australians have used are predominantly gender identities.  The only one I question is the Pansexual, which according to wikipedia is more of an extremely broad sexual orientation.  That said, I can see how someone who is pansexual could well have a very fluid notion of gender and its expression.

REAL Women's press release then goes on to say:
It would seem, therefore, that this bill may have been brought before Parliament for purposes other than promoting sound public policy. Rather it will be used to extend legal protection to other questionable sexual activities without having these matters exposed to Parliamentary debate.  That is, this is an attempt to deliberately by-pass Parliament, where these changes may not be acceptable.
Since when was sexuality something that should be subject to "parliamentary debate"?  In writing this one paragraph, they have told us a great deal about their objectives.  Groups like REAL Women are all about regulating sexuality and everything that they perceive as related to it.