Saturday, May 31, 2014

Harper Describes Himself

One of the more ludicrous things the Harper Government has been pursuing is creating a "monument to the victims of communism".  A more cold-war propaganda-esque move is almost unimaginable.  

But, in Harper's speech at a fundraiser yesterday, he opened his mouth and promptly engaged in self-description.
In language reminiscent of the height of the Cold War, Harper lambasted communism and oppressive or even murderous ideologies. 
"Evil comes in many forms and seems to reinvent itself time and again," he said. 
"But whatever it calls itself — Nazism, Marxist-Leninism, today, terrorism — they all have one thing in common: the destruction, the end of human liberty."
Wow.  Coming from a man whose government has done more to create a nouveau fascism in Canada than any could imagine, this is straight up irony.

He's talking about human liberty.  This coming from a government which has imposed hefty mandatory minimum sentences wherever it can, from a government that has turned CSEC into an agency which is spying on its own citizens, and in general has been trying to turn the RCMP into its own little version of East Germany's Stasi.

Going after "communism" as some kind of evil threat is such a straw-man argument it's straight up there with some of Nazi Germany's propaganda campaigns.  Create a false threat and then go after it at every opportunity.

If communism is such a dire threat, then why has Harper been engaged in the highly secretive TPP negotiations, which mysteriously involve China?  Or perhaps he'd like to explain why he has permitted CNOOC to buy up major Canadian oil and gas assets?  After all, wouldn't China be the most despicable evil on the planet?

This is a man who has tried repeatedly to violate the terms of this country's constitution.  He has tried to appoint judges to the supreme court using partisan criteria, he is passing laws which are designed to increase the scope of government surveillance and laws which attack the fundamental principles of fair democracy.

For Harper to attack a straw man like "communism" when he himself is acting in a manner consistent with the worst dictators that he would criticize.
 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Nasty, Just Plain Nasty

It's not like it comes as a big surprise that the Harper Government is nasty.  But the extent of their vileness continues expand.

First, the Harper Government seems to have decided to shut down basic literacy programs across Canada.  The claims of the Harperites on this matter are the usual "we don't believe these programs are useful in their current form".  Basic literacy is always useful, unless you're a Conservative and you like the idea of having an underclass of people who aren't in a position to think about what's happening to them because they're struggling just to get by in near slavery conditions.

But that's not all of it, not by any means.  This week, Harper is hosting a "summit" on Child and Maternal Health, following up on the 2008 G20.  In a fit of almost laughable hypocrisy, he said that people should pay attention to the science on vaccination.  Coming from a Prime Minister who has been systematically dismantling science research in this country for several years, the admonition is laughable.

It gets even better.  When confronted on the fact that the government is restricting the availability of funding under this program to organizations that do not provide abortion services, he replied:
"We're trying to rally a broad public consensus behind what we're doing, and you can't rally a consensus on that issue, as you know well in this country," he said. 
"It's not only controversial here, it's controversial and often illegal in many recipient nations."Harper doesn't agree with the suggestion that he is exporting his beliefs abroad to other countries by not funding abortion services. 
"We're really not taking a position on that. We have taxpayers' money and we have great needs," he said to Thibedeau. 
"And frankly, there's more than enough things that we can finance, including contraception, without getting into an issue that really would be extremely divisive for Canadians and donors."
The government is taking a position.  Once again, we find Harper's often denied but impossible to ignore social conservative agenda.  He keeps talking about "not opening the debate", but then he allows his back-benchers to put forward legislation on the matter (which the front bench mysteriously votes for until it would become a political liability).  On this matter, he is essentially taking the anti-abortion stance that once a woman is pregnant, she has no say in the matter after that.

None of this is surprising, but that doesn't change the fact that this government is continuing to be fundamentally dishonest with Canadians on a variety of fronts. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Health Insurance Is Becoming A Scam

I have long been suspicious of health insurance plans of any sort.  Even short term health insurance for travel seems to be written in such a way that it is weighted quite firmly in favour of the insurer than the insured.

Recently, three cases in Canada came to light that underscore the point.
“They hold all the cards in their hand. It’s a poker game, and I don’t think we are the winners,” said Jean Tetiuk, of Toronto, whose $12,000 claim was rejected by CIBC. 
In each case, the medical emergencies abroad had nothing to do with any pre-existing conditions they were asked about. 
So, if you had some obscure "pre-existing condition" that you had forgotten about or didn't answer the booby trap questions on the questionnaire correctly for them, your insurance is null and void?
CIBC later refused to pay, because Peixoto filled out a CIBC questionnaire — sent to her after she returned from her trip — answering that she had not been treated for a heart condition. Before buying the policy, she had only answered health questions over the phone. 
Records show she was tested for heart problems in 2011, after she had pain in her arm, but doctors found nothing significant. Because of those tests, CIBC said Peixoto should have answered yes to the heart condition question.  
“I was never treated for a heart condition. I never had a heart condition. I’ve been tested and different things but I never had a problem before. And I still don’t have a heart problem,” said Peixoto. 
This is nothing more than the insurers playing semantics.  They are hiring teams of lawyers and very carefully constructing questions using language that has specific meanings in the legal world and most ordinary people would understand it to mean something quite different.

This kind of semantic game is up there with the "pre-existing condition" escape clause that every health insurer out there likes to play.  If you have a long term need for medication of some sort, hope like hell you aren't going to have to change insurers along the way - because there goes your coverage.

And Harper has begun the process of dismantling our national health care system, which will subject more and more Canadians to this kind of chicanery at times when they need help the most.

Corporate greed knows few bounds, and is usually only bounded by laws.  When it comes to health, there are more ways to weasel out of providing coverage that they have committed to, and it will always be at the expense of the individual.

If insurance companies are playing games like this with travel insurance coverage, can you imagine what will happen when Harper hands over the keys to medicare to them?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

On RuPaul And The Use Of Language

I've seriously tried to stay away from the fracas that has developed around RuPaul's use of the word "Tranny" (and a couple of other terms which I think are both denigrating and offensive to transitioning transsexuals that I will not repeat here because they are straight out of the fantasy world of pornography).

However, after his latest outburst, I cannot remain silent on the subject any longer.

RuPaul is giving the entire drag community a bad name as far as the rest of the Trans* community is concerned.

Here's why.  Drag is seen as performance art first and foremost.  In that context, I can respect the fact that the use of certain slang in that community is going to be over the top.  Heck, in the context of his show, I don't even get terribly upset about it.

The problem is that the term "tranny" is seen by many who are transition bound as an epithet.  Most MtF transsexuals view themselves as women, or possibly "trans-women" for those who acknowledge their past.  Terms like "tranny" come out of the pornography world and promote objectification of trans women and their bodies.

Women have fought for years against being treated as objects.  Transsexual women fight a dual battle on this front.  Not only do they face the casual objectification that most women experience in their daily lives, but they also find themselves subjected to a great deal of sexual objectification as a result of their personal history.  It should come as no surprise that the Trans* women are up in arms over RuPaul's repeated outbursts.

The irritation arises from a perceived disrespect.  The community has been clear many times in the past that it does not like the language of "Tranny" (or other words), and RuPaul in particular keeps on using it in very public contexts.  Perhaps in the land of Drag the language used is perfectly acceptable.  That doesn't mean in a public context the terms are understood as having the same meaning or that they don't apply to other parts of the "transgender community".

RuPaul's "take a chill pill" response to the trans* community is unfortunately the wrong response.  It just serves to inflame tensions.  I've seen a lot of trans women point out that Drag Queens don't live it 24/7, and therefore don't have any right to use language that is so offensive to them.  To some degree they are right - RuPaul seems to have lost sight of the fact that his language is reflecting on more than just his show.

I'm not at all sure how RuPaul would react to the use of the racist "n-word" by a bunch of white people, or the "f-word" by straight people.  There are certainly parallels to be considered.  Out of respect, people of caucasian descent don't use the "n-word", especially not in public settings.  It would be nice if RuPaul would apply the same rule to his own choice of language where it overlaps with other populations in the trans* community who object to it.

[Update 28/5/14]
... and the poison spills forth from the participants of RuPaul's show.
[/Update]

The Next Step In Harper's Police State

So, Harper wants to connect the CRA with the RCMP.
Chantal Bernier, Canada's interim privacy commissioner, says she is concerned by the government's proposal to allow Canada Revenue Agency officials to voluntarily hand over taxpayer information to police if they have reason to believe such information is evidence of a crime. 
In her testimony before the House finance committee on Wednesday, Bernier urged the committee to properly demonstrate that information sharing between auditors and law enforcement is needed. 
"That is exceptional and therefore should be buttressed by an empirical demonstration of necessity," she said. 
The proposal, which is tucked away in the government's hefty 375-page omnibus budget bill, is an amendment to the Income Tax Act that would give auditors the right to disclose information found through the course of their regular duties to police.
In the middle of another one of Harper's omnibus bills, you say?  This has nothing to do with implementing the budget.  It has everything to do with a government who does not want to debate their legislation, and is incapable of being honest with Canadians about what its real agenda is.

As the Income Tax Act currently stands, officials are not allowed to disclose any information unless there's a criminal investigation underway or any serious circumstances with possible danger of death. In other words, only in rare situations. 
But under the government's intended changes, auditors can provide police with information if they believe it's evidence of crimes ranging anywhere from bribing public officials to motor vehicle theft to monetarily benefiting from acts of arson. 
Allison Christians, an associate professor at McGill University in Montreal who specializes in tax law, said this is further evidence of an "erosion of confidentiality — of privacy in general — from this administration."
This government appears hell-bent on stripping away any sense of privacy on the part of Canadians.  Their "anti-bullying" bill is nothing more than a retitling of the "Tell Vic Everything" internet spying bill a couple of years ago and this places the people that process taxes in the position of being an arm of the RCMP.

Harper has gone to extraordinary lengths not just to attack the privacy of Canadians, but he has also made enormous attacks on our judicial system - in particular in the form of "mandatory minimum sentences" which remove all discretion on the part of judges and place more people in prison for longer, but in a myriad of subtle ways which put more and more power in the hands of the police. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Sensible Approach

Justin Trudeau has received a significant amount of flak over his recent decree that incoming Liberal MPs after the next election will be expected to be explicitly pro-choice on the abortion issue.  This weekend, the Liberal Party released a very clear-headed e-mail:
"I had an extraordinary example in a father who had deeply, deeply held personal views that were informed by the fact that he went to church every Sunday, read the Bible regularly to us, and raised us very religiously, as Catholics," Trudeau wrote. 
"But at the same time my father had no problem legalizing divorce, decriminalizing homosexuality and moving in ways that recognized the basic rights of the people. 
"He too held fast to his beliefs. But he also understood that as leaders, as political figures, and as representatives of a larger community, our utmost responsibility is to stand up for people's rights."
Bingo!  People's rights are not negotiable, nor should they be used as political footballs.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

TFWP: Yet Another Reason To Shut It Down

The consequences of the Harper Government's widening of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program over the last several years keeps going from bad to worse.

At first it was employers choosing to hire TFWs over Canadians.  Then we started finding out that not only were the companies forcing them to living in company-owned apartments and deducting the rent off the payroll, but we also started hearing of cases where the TFWs themselves were being charged significant sums of money to get here.

Today, we have allegations of a company in BC abusing the program and all but engaging in extortion and human trafficking.

An Iranian couple are going public about how a B.C. business charged them $15,000 to come to Canada — a violation of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program rules — for jobs that turned out to be non-existent....“After you get this situation, you pay $15,000 and after that … where is my money? Where is my job? I always ask — when can I start my job?” said Aminian’s husband, Payam Bakht....Aminian and Bakht also said that once they were in Canada, Parvaz Film told them that if they paid an additional $1,200 per month to the company in cash, it would remit false payroll taxes to government, so the couple could pretend Bakht was working — and stay in Canada. 
“We didn't have job, we had to pay tax, and if we didn't pay tax we had to leave Canada,” said Aminian. “We have to pay $1,200 each month, without any work and without any salary.”
This is nothing less than fraudulent on the part of the company.  Charging $15,000 for a non-existent job is straight out fraud, demanding that the victims pay $1200 a month after that is criminal - that's extortion.  The owners of the company in question need to be held accountable for these allegations - in a court of law.

Not only does this represent the worst kind of exploitation possible, it shows us beyond any doubt that the program has holes in it that open it to the worst predations possible - human trafficking.

The rather flaccid response from the government is appalling:
Go Public tried several times to ask Kenney about this, in Ottawa, but he wouldn’t stop to talk. His office said he was too busy. 
It later sent a statement, saying enforcement is improving. 
“Under the previous Liberal government, no inspections were done to ensure that employers were following the rules," said Kenney's office. "In 2007, our government began conducting investigations and has increased the numbers of investigations done each year significantly since then."
The Minister is "too busy" to deal with problems in this program?  Not acceptable.  Mr. Kenney is the minister responsible for this program.  When issues like this arise, it is unquestionably his job to deal with.

Playing the "but but the Libruls" line is ridiculous.  The Harper Government started opening this program up in 2006.  Prior to that, it was a very limited, small scale program.  There are now hundreds of thousands of TFWs in this country, and the companies hiring them are showing more and more signs of exploiting the program as well as the workers.

Essentially, what Kenney has done is on one hand tightened down the immigration system to the point where it's difficult for families to be reunited through official channels, and then opened up an unofficial immigration channel through the TFWP, a channel that starts to look like a tool used by racketeers engaging in smuggling people into Canada.

We aren't talking about a few cases here, it seems that every time we turn around, there are more, and more serious offences being committed under this program.

If the minister isn't willing to clean the program up, it's time to shut it down.  If a replacement is needed, we can create that, but it has to be closely monitored and controlled.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Modest Proposal On Firearms

For years the argument has been made that regulations related to firearms are just a means for the government to subjugate the populace.

However, I have never heard any of these same people object to the reality that the same government insists that they register their car, carry insurance on the vehicle and pay taxes on the fuel that we use to run our vehicles.

Let's take a look at this for a few minutes, shall we?

In principle, a car is a mode of transportation.  It is purely civilian in its use.  In fact, using gun lobby logic, there is exactly no reason that we should have to register it to have it on the roads.  After all, cars don't commit crimes, people do, right?  Well, yes.

But, and there is a big but.  Accidents happen, people lose control of their vehicles and crash them.  Pedestrians crossing the roads get hit and injured all the time.  Being able to identify the owners of said vehicles goes a long ways to figuring out who did what in such circumstances.  Is this a bad thing?  Not at all.

Which leads me to the next point - insurance.  We are obliged to carry insurance on the vehicles we drive as a matter of course.  The reason for this is not that anyone is planning to kill others with the car (remarkably easy to do), or do damage to other people's property with said car (also remarkably easy to do), but because there is a likelihood that those accidents will happen and reparations will need to be made.  Most of us don't have a spare million dollars sitting in the bank to self-insure against the costs of long term injuries.

Licensing is a necessity.  We are required to demonstrate that we are competent to operate a motor vehicle safely.  That costs money too.

Gas taxes...we all hate them, but they are a fact of life.  We don't manage to escape them.  They are there, and in principle are used to in part to pay for the infrastructure we drive on.

So, let's turn briefly to the question of guns.  Guns are weapons.  They come out of a desire/need to kill things.  There is no other use for them beyond target practice.  You are either shooting to kill something or someone, or you are shooting at targets.  I can drive a car safely and not hurt anyone or anything else (save for a few bugs on the windshield), and similarly one can operate a gun in a safe manner.  There are inherent risks with both.

Registering a gun.  Why is this a bad thing?

The gun lobby would have you believe that the government will be at your door taking it away as soon as you register it.  To a certain degree, they have a concern here.  Governments have had a track record of arbitrarily changing the rules around what types of guns are legal or not.  Then again, they do the same thing with cars.  There are rules around what is a "street legal" car and what isn't.  Don't be fooled into thinking that you won't find yourself with a heap of trouble if your vehicle doesn't comply with the rules.

However, this doesn't change the reality that a legal obligation to register the fact you own firearms is really little different from having to register a vehicle.  Yes, there are rules.  You may disagree with the rules about what is legal or not, but those rules still exist.  I don't see where that's a bad thing.

Licensing.  Should you have to demonstrate basic competence with the maintenance, operation and storage of firearms?  I don't see why this is even remotely unreasonable.  Of all things, a mishandled firearm is far more likely to result in serious injury or even death than even a car.  As far as I am concerned, the notion of being able to own firearms without demonstrating basic competency with safety and operation of them is ridiculous.  The current "Firearms Acquisition Certificate" or whatever it's called in Canada these days is far too lax in this regard.

Insurance.  This one will no doubt get a whole lot of people riled up.  As far as I am concerned, if you own firearms it should be mandatory to carry personal liability insurance.  The simple fact is that just like a car, it is incredibly easy to injure another party with a firearm even in accidental circumstances.

As far as I am concerned, we need to treat firearms with the same kind of approach that we do cars.  Yes, there will be regulations on them.  That's a fact of life.  If you are going to own them, registration, licensing and insurance should all be mandatory.

Will this stop criminals from committing crimes?  No.  That isn't the objective.  The objective here is to ensure that those who do choose to own firearms do so responsibly in a manner that is generally safe.  Just as we cannot stop a criminal from stealing a car and driving it dangerously, we cannot stop a criminal from acquiring firearms illegally.  That is not, and never will be the objective.  Ensuring that those who choose to own guns legally do so with an eye to public safety and the liability that comes with owning a weapon of violence is another thing altogether.  If that happens to reduce the supply of firearms available to criminals on the way by, that would be an unexpected bonus.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On "Matters Of Conscience"

So, one of the Roman Catholic Archbishops thinks that Justin Trudeau's recent implementation of party policy needs a rethink.
Collins pointedly mentioned that there are two million Catholics in his diocese. He said he encourages them to get involved in politics as both voters and candidates. 
"It is not right that they be excluded by any party for being faithful to their conscience."
Let's get something absolutely clear here.  Abortion (which is what this is primarily about) is a matter of individual conscience.  That is to say, if you object to abortion on "conscience" grounds, then don't have an abortion.

Access to Abortion is NOT a "conscience issue".  Abortion is a medical procedure.  Plain and simple. The right of women to have safe access to medical procedures is well established in this country.  You cannot take one procedure off the table simply because someone else objects to it "as a matter of conscience".

More pointedly, it's time that we dug a nice big hole and dumped all of the nonsense rhetoric about "conscience rights" around this issue into it, and filled it back in.  The decision to have an abortion or not is a pregnant woman's decision to make.  Her conscience and her conscience alone has something to say on the matter.

Those who raise "conscience" objections as an excuse to deny a woman access to abortion are not exercising any valid right to object.  The Archbishop, for example, may have something to say about whether or not he things abortion is "moral", but he has no right whatsoever to demand that a woman's access to abortion be restricted on that grounds.  Conscience rights do NOT give anybody the right to restrict other people's actions.

The only other party in the discussion who has any right to object is the doctor who might be asked to carry out the procedure.  Even there, that doctor has an ethical duty to provide a referral to another doctor in such a situation.

While the good Archbishop's "conscience" may prevent him from having an abortion (should he ever become pregnant), his "conscience rights" do not allow him to restrict others from safe access to the procedure should they choose to access it.

The last policy convention of the Liberal Party of Canada made it abundantly clear that a woman's right to choose is not open for debate in the party.  This nation's lack of any law on the matter since the last laws were struck down in the late 1980s speaks further to that.  The matter is one between a woman and her physician.  Nobody else has a legitimate say in the matter.

PMSH: Yesterday's Lies Are Inoperative

So, last week's lies about the interactions between the Chief Justice of Canada's Supreme Court are now inoperative.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has revised his version of events around what he and his office first characterized as an “inappropriate” and “inadvisable” phone call by the country’s top judge over a vacancy on the Supreme Court. 
Now Harper suggests he foresaw a court challenge and legal issue he previously said “surprised” him and his advisers because it had “never arisen” before. Earlier, Harper had characterized a call by Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin as inappropriate, just as any minister’s call to a judge would be on a case that was before the courts. 
On Wednesday, Harper appeared to suggest he simply didn’t need to speak to McLachlin.“The fact of the matter is this,” Harper told the Commons Wednesday. “A matter came before me that I thought was likely to come before the court — the Supreme Court of Canada — based on information that I had. For that reason we completed our consultations with outside legal experts and later referred the matter to the Supreme Court.”
Harper "thought" it was likely to come before the court?  Baloney.  He knew full well he was playing games when he tried to get Marc Nadon appointed.  He was hoping that nobody would have the spine to challenge him on it.
Brent Rathgeber, an independent MP, lawyer and former Conservative MP who vetted two previous Supreme Court judicial appointments for Harper, said Harper has clearly changed his message. 
“The narrative now is, ‘There was no need for me to talk to the chief justice because I was already aware of the issue, as opposed to the original narrative, which was, ‘It would have been inappropriate for me to talk to the chief justice,” Rathberger said in an interview. “Now it’s changed to, ‘It would have been redundant and unnecessary for me to speak to the chief justice.’” 
“And I’m fairly confident the reason they changed that narrative is that they know they messed this one up, that they crossed the line and that their insinuation that the chief justice in her administrative (heads-up) acted inappropriately was beyond the pale, over the top and unacceptable by the entire legal, judicial and media communities.”
It's not just that they "messed this one up", rather it is the fact that Harper doesn't like being challenged by anybody on anything.  Up to this point, Harper has gone after appointees who are responsible to parliament or are part of the bureaucracy.  This time, he went after the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.  This is a person who enjoys considerable legal support in the Constitution.  Short of showing personal perfidy on the part of the Chief Justice there is very little chance that Harper could unseat her.

Harper is changing his story because he knows he can't win the fight he's picking.
 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bill C-23 Passed, Stinkers Included

Whatever amendments were made to Bill C-23, they didn't address much of anything that I raised as problematic in my earlier analysis of the first draft tabled in the House of Commons.

Full text here.

Never before have I seen a piece of legislation so clearly designed to "stack the deck" in Canada's elections.

At this point, the only politician to say something clear about what they would do with C-23 is Justin Trudeau.

There is no "nuanced" or "reasonable" position that supports Bill C-23.  It is a blatant attack on Canada's democracy and the institutions responsible for implementing and safeguarding it.  Bill C-23 is designed by the Harper Government to allow them to stack the deck by cheating in ways that I think will shock most Canadians next election.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

CPC Lied To Elections Canada On RoboCalls?

The corruption that is the CPC's actions in the 2011 election continues to fester.

The most recent instalment comes to us via Stephen Maher's latest column.

In an email May 1, party lawyer Arthur Hamilton told Elections Canada that Conservative call centre workers were not advising voters that Elections Canada had changed the location of polling stations, and that the party had not advised voters to go to a polling station an hour and a half from their home. 
But a report released by Elections Canada last month includes a script that shows the party’s callers were telling voters that Elections Canada had changed the location of polling stations, and investigators found one voter who was directed to a polling station 740 kilometres away. 
The report from Elections Canada found that there was no evidence of a conspiracy to prevent Canadians from voting, but comparing the script included in the report to emails obtained under access-to-information legislation raises questions about whether the Conservatives have been honest about their use of political calls. 
Hamilton sent his email to Elections Canada as the agency was fielding complaints from voters who had been given bad information about their polling station by Conservative campaigns. 
Elections Canada lawyer Ageliki Apostolakos emailed Hamilton on the evening of April 29.“In the course of the last half-hour, Elections Canada has heard that two representatives of the Conservative campaign office are communicating with electors in two electoral districts to inform them that their polling station has changed to another location,” she wrote. 
Hamilton replied 27 hours later, just after midnight on May 1. He wrote that because Elections Canada changed some polling station locations “a number of our candidates have had to confirm the proper location of polling stations to a number of supporters during their respective get-out-the-vote efforts.” 
“The calls being made by our candidates request the voter to confirm his or her polling location. There is no indication by the caller that the location may have changed, or words to that effect. And no voter is being directed to a polling location one and a half hours away from the correct polling location.” 
But a script included in Elections Canada’s report shows that workers at Conservative call centres were told to deliver the following line: “Elections Canada has changed some voting locations at the last moment. To be sure could you tell me the address of where you’re voting?” 
Elections Canada had asked the Conservatives not to communicate with voters about the location of their polling stations.
So, just how much did the CPC withhold from Elections Canada investigators?  A lot.  Enough to call into question the conclusions in the recent Elections Canada report which concluded that there isn't enough evidence to lay charges.

Down in the comments is a bit more interesting information from Nadine Lumley:

Pierre Poilievre owned a robocall company called 3D Contact Inc and was dating Jenni Bryne who controlled CIMS database during last election. 

"When Poilievre was running for election in 2004, he stated that he was co-owner of a political research company called 3D Contact Inc. According to the company profile, these 'contacts' were Stephen Harper, Ted Morton and Stockwell Day. His partner was Jonathan Denis, who later became Minister of Housing in the Alberta government." 

Micheal Sona, Director of Communications, was roomates with Chris Crawford, the person responsible for managing CIMS Database/List at the time. 

"Rougier was key member of the target seat team, working directly under campaign manager Jenni Byrne" His phone used to call Rack9  

The Rob Ford Campaign, aka part 2 of Steve's Ford BBQ trifecta hat trick wishlist, also used 3D Contact. 

http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2013/07/18/poilievre-brings-robocalls-expertise-to-new-job/
http://www.anonpaste.me/anonpaste2/index.php?5316b0ceba304db3#YH2hGWBgyB8ylA9eZfYSfM7U1mnnvELkutPzE6LkxcQ=
https://www.ic.gc.ca/app/scr/cc/CorporationsCanada/fdrlCrpDtls.html?corpId=6072305
Proof absolute?  Not quite, but enough to continue to call into question the CPC's claims of being "clean", and more than enough for voters to seriously question the motives behind much of what is lurking in the bowels of the "Fair Elections Act".

Harper's Attempt To Politicize The Judiciary

More so than any Prime Minister in Canada's history, Harper is hell-bent on imposing his political agenda on Canada's courts.
But there's another way to look at it, based on a view shared by Stephen Harper and others in his inner circle, that judges on Quebec's senior courts are too liberal‎ and far too activist in applying the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a check on the power of elected officials.
Let's be clear about something here.  Harper thinks that he should be able to write laws that violate our Constitution.  He has done it multiple times, and so far the majority which have been challenged in our courts have been struck down.  Every time, it is met with griping about the "will of Parliament being thwarted", which we should really understand to be "The Will of Stephen Harper has been thwarted".
But it's entirely consistent when you consider the broader signal the Harper government is sending to try to change a judicial culture it considers more liberal than conservative. 
That change, apparently, includes the Supreme Court of Canada, even though Harper has already appointed five of the judges now serving there. 
Last week, anonymous senior Conservatives complained to a Postmedia journalist that the court was thwarting the government's agenda. They alleged Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin had, last July, tried to lobby the prime minister not to appoint Nadon to her court.
What Harper is overlooking in his drive to stack the court with judges that he thinks should be his political allies is that in today's Canada, the courts stand as part of the checks-and-balances in the Constitution that stay Parliament's hand from writing truly unreasonable legislation.
By "Parliament's will," the Conservatives really mean the prime minister and his cabinet — the executive branch of government. They are not fans of the Charter of Rights, introduced in 1982, and not fans of the powers it gave the judicial branch to hold government in check. 
The prime minister made that clear last week when asked if McLachlin's court was holding up his political agenda. 
"My view is that in our system post-1982 we have a system where the court has had an expanded role in judging the appropriateness of laws, not just under the traditional constitutional criteria but under the Charter,'' he said. 
What Harper sees as a constraint on his power is in fact a constraint, and a necessary one if his legislative track record is anything to go by.  Of course, what Harper is likely equally ignorant of is that where the courts in Canada represent a check on his power, prior to 1982, the Privy Council and the Queen in England were that check, and a much less clearly defined check on the powers of Parliament.

Few things are as appalling as the current public smear campaign against the Chief Justice on the part of the PMO.  This is nothing more than an attack on McLachlin's personal and professional credibility, driven solely by political frustration.  Where Harper has a long history of going after the heads of agencies that frustrate him, or dismantling science research which happens to disagree with his politics, all of those agencies are subject to the direct will of Parliament.  The Supreme Court, as one of the independent arms of government, enjoys protection from the "will of Parliament".  While Harper can try to attack the Chief Justice personally, his ability to go after her beyond that is very limited.

It should worry Canadians deeply that the Harper Government is so ideologically driven that it finds the natural constraints present in our Constitution (which is a relatively young document, and therefore a reasonable reflection of the current norms of good governance) to be an impediment to its agenda.  If those constraints didn't exist, what would he be doing to Canada?
 

Friday, May 09, 2014

What Is This? The 1950s???

I have no idea who the parties are behind Airdrie's Footprints For Learning Academy, but someone needs to give them a shake and educate them about a few things regarding gender and sexuality.

Their dress code is something out of the 1950s, with rigid gender roles assumed, and strict rules about who can wear what:
7.  Only one set of conservative earrings (pierced or otherwise) may be worn (by girls only) with one earring for each ear lobe.  They must be subtle and non-distracting.  No other visible piercings are allowed.  All other earrings are to be left out while on school property or at a school event.  Boys may not wear earrings.
You have got to be kidding me.  What exactly does "conservative earrings" mean?  Talk about a vague and undefined concept.

Since when in the last 40 odd years has it been inappropriate for males to wear earrings?  That's been pretty normal in my world since at least the 1970s, and widespread since the 1980s.  Who the heck cares if a boy is wearing earrings or not?

But it gets better.  Much better.
17.  Acceptable clothing items for girls:
Shirts, T-shirts, skirts, shorts, jumpers, dresses, pants, shorts, modesty shorts, sweaters.
 
18.  Acceptable clothing items for boys:
Shirts, T-shirts, shorts, pants, sweaters.  Boys may not wear skirts, dresses, jumpers or other clothing and accessories specifically intended for girls.
Wow, talk about rigid gender assumptions.  What is this school going to do with the first Trans* children that happen to cross their threshold?

Besides that, the notion of "specifically intended for girls" is pretty ambiguous these days.  I see plenty of girls wearing all sorts of things, and equally boys are becoming much more flexible in their dress as well.  The notion of "girls things" and "boys things" that existed in some idealized past really don't seem to have the same clarity any longer.
But Alberta Liberal education critic Kent Hehr was quick to point out even public schools like Footprints receive a portion of their operating funds from public coffers. The provincial education ministry provided nearly a $1 million to the Footprints for the 2013-14 school year, about 70 per cent of its total operating budget. 
Hehr noted freedom of expression through clothing choice is not a crime. 
“It’s clear — once you take public money you have to follow the law of the land and develop policies accordingly,” Hehr said. “it doesn’t appear to me that this school has in this case.”
So ... taxpayers paid 70% of this school's operating budget? ... and they are engaging in what I will call subtle homophobia / transphobia by implementing policies like this?  That I have problems with. It has been a long fight in Alberta to begin the process of breaking down the systemic discrimination that LGBT folk experience every day, and it is less than acceptable to me that a taxpayer funded "private school" (it's legally a private school - if it's taking taxpayer dollars, it's _NOT_ private) should be able to create these kinds of ridiculous policies and get away with it.

To the owners of Footprints For Learning Academy, I suggest to you that it would be appropriate to revisit your dress code and related policies.  It's time to lose the destructive rigidity of your policies and replace them with something a little more flexible and reasonable.  Trust me, a boy wearing earrings isn't going to end the world ... and if one walks through the door wearing a dress one day it might just broaden yours a little.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

What David Reimer's Story Really Demonstrates

Over at LifeSite, we find one of their editorial staff grossly misunderstanding the tragic story of David Reimer.  
His tragic death emphasized the total failure of one of the most famous gender alteration cases in modern medicine....David Reimer’s traumatic life and horrific death testify that no matter what elaborate theories the unscrupulous attempt to justify in the name of science, nature will always have the upper hand, often at the expense of human life.
The story of David Reimer is important in the canon of understanding gender identity, but not in the way that LifeSite's commentators seem to think:
Parents have a duty to raise their children properly, to demonstrate and teach them what is acceptable and what is not; what is normal and what is not. When parents fail in their duty (often purposely), you end up with the all too common case like the raised-by-lesbians pitiful child TwinCrier links to. 
While they may not be "burning off" anatomy as they (accidentally) did to Mr. Reimer, they are indeed prepping these unfortunate children to make that leap as soon as they reach the age of majority required by most "sex-change" surgeons. Don't mistakenly think the latter is any less insidious than the former: they are all child abuse.
While LifeSite's acolytes try to twist the story of David Reimer as a combination of "liberal science run amok" and evidence that treatment for transgender people is in fact unnecessary, it actually presents something quite different.

Let's consider a few facts.  First, David's cross-gender story starts when his penis was burned off in a botched circumcision.  Then, on the advice of Dr. Money, his parents chose to raise him as Brenda.  Then, as an adult Brenda transitioned to be David.

At no point in this story is there ever any evidence that David identified as female.  In fact, in John Colapinto's biography of David, there is reason to suspect that in fact Brenda fought against being treated as a girl quite strongly.

It is the fact that there is no evidence of David having ever identified as female is ironically consistent with the often described experiences of transgender people.  Where Brenda consistently fought against being raised as a girl, the trans experience of childhood is often analogous in that trans people are similarly persistent in fighting against the gender role that has been assigned to them.

The David Reimer story demonstrates more clearly than anything else that gender identity is not simply a social construct as Dr. Money suspected, but that it has much more fundamental dimensions to it that reach beyond learned constructs.

One of the accusations that the anti-Trans crowd likes to throw around is that Trans people are merely "making a choice".  Yet, if we consider David's struggle a validation of the foundational nature of gender identity, there is a problem with their logic.  If it was "just a choice", would Trans people be so consistent in describing an awareness of being Trans as part of their earliest memories?

The David Reimer case demonstrates the persistence of gender identity, and its fundamental intransigence to attempts to change it.  

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

On "Toll Lanes" In Calgary

The Manning Foundation is recommending tolls on some Calgary roads, such as Glenmore Trail, Crowchild Trail and Deerfoot Trail. 
"Folks are spending more time in traffic than being in the office, earning their incomes and contributing to the economy,” said report writer Ben Brunnen. 
He suggests one lane of existing traffic on those major thoroughfares could be transformed into a toll express lane. Drivers would pay $5 a day to use the faster lane. 
“In the event the traffic pattern warrants more people moving to the high occupancy lane, well then, the price would increase," he said. 
Tolls could raise $76 million in profit for the city every year, the report suggests.
What kind of self-absorbed stupidity is this?  Do the wealthy, entitled people living that bubble really believe that Calgarians have an extra $10 a day (and that's assuming they only use one of these toll lanes) per day going to and from work) to throw away?  Of course they don't.  This is a bunch of rich people trying to find a way to buy themselves an express lane so that they aren't afflicted by the horrors of sitting in traffic with their Mercedes idling behind my Kia.  (Oh the horror!)

Trying to retrofit a "toll lane" onto any of Calgary's major roadways is asking for a traffic flow disaster.  First of all, these roads are major arteries hundreds of thousands of cars use them daily.  In fact, you pretty much cannot avoid them if you are moving around in Calgary.  Want to get up to the Airport, that's Deerfoot.  Live in Douglasdale, and want to get up to the University, you're dealing with Deerfoot, Glenmore and Crowchild.

Of course, the Manning Foundation doesn't talk about just how these lanes should be implemented on existing roadways, nor do they talk about the logistical problems of creating such lanes and ensuring safe access to exits from them.

Nor do they account for the social consequences of creating a "privileged lane" that is really only accessible to the wealthy.  If you think Calgary drivers are a bunch of aggressive drivers now, just wait until you choke off traffic flow on a major artery like Glenmore and a driver wants to get from the "rich lane" onto the Crowchild exit.  I guarantee you that people won't be polite about it.

The argument that I see being put forward is that we need a "user pay" model for maintaining this kind of infrastructure.  What's next?  A "user pay" model that charges my sewage a toll when it enters the main sludge lines?  Roadways in this city are common property - we all pay property taxes (either directly as homeowners or indirectly as renters).  We all paid for those roads in the first place, and collectively we pay for their maintenance through taxes and the like.

Whether you call it a "user fee", a "service fee" or anything else, it still boils down to a form of taxation.  In other words griping about property tax increases and then promoting "user fees" on the roads to fund maintaining the roads is just ridiculous.

Frankly, it seems to me that if you want to implement "toll roads", there has to be a valid alternative route through the city first.  More to the point, I shouldn't be obliged to negotiate toll roads if I don't want to pony up.  Since this city's class of wannabe oligarchs wants their own little private road system to play on, I suggest that they pony up for the full cost of the thing, and pay for it with their vaunted tolls as they drive on it every day.  Let's see how incredibly effective that really is.  Oh yes, by pay the full cost, I mean all of it - they can pay for the everything from the land it sits on, to the rights of way, the gravel for the roadbed and the asphalt that sits on top.  Hell, if they want gold plated lights, go for it.  But they can pay every plug nickel of it - not a penny of the costs can come from public coffers.

You don't get to build your little privileged road system on the road system that the all Calgarians pay for through their taxes.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Just Shut It Down Already

As if we hadn't already heard enough about the vileness that is the TFWP, we have two major revelations today which more than justify shutting the whole thing down immediately.


According to the email, which was obtained by CBC's iTeam, the Saskatoon-based recruiter told Houston Pizza in Estevan, Sask., that some employers of temporary foreign workers find that over time, the workers "become 'Canadianized' and increase their demands on the employers.'" 
"We believe a simple reminder to the workers will reverse the effects of the Canadian influence," it says.The 2011 email essentially suggested telling such "Canadianized" workers that if things don't work out, they could be sent home. 
International Manpower is part of the Mercan Group of companies which helps employers across Canada recruit temporary foreign workers to jobs many Canadians don't want.
If this doesn't show us in clear and unambiguous terms that this program has become exploitation, I don't know what will.  Essentially, this is telling employers to rule their workers with fear and intimidation - all the while, subjecting them to working conditions that Canadians would never tolerate.  
“After we actually agreed to everything, [Qizel] just said ‘Look guys you are working on commission. You don’t like it, you can get deported, I am cancelling your permit,'" said Soloviov. 
He said they were told they would get 25 per cent from each sale. The shock came on paydays, he said, when they received next to nothing. The employer deducted $225 every two weeks for rent plus other “fines," from the little pay they were supposed to get. 
“If you look at it, it’s modern slavery. Because some people were not actually paid at all,” said Soloviov. “I got paid 50 bucks or 100 bucks in the three months I worked and that’s bad exploitation. But some people were actually slaves and ended up owing him money.”
This is straight out exploitation.  It isn't even just a case of bringing in people from abroad to replace Canadian labour.

However, when you look at this through a different lens, it becomes quite clear that this program has been mutated by the Harper Government into part of a program aimed at driving down Canadian wages.  Like so-called "right-to-work" legislation, the TFWP has become a tool which has been used to dramatically alter the supply-and-demand balance in Canada's labour force.

Make no mistake, the TFWP has been around for ages, but it has been under Harper that it has been broadened to the point that TFWs are being used not as a means to fill a need for specialized knowledge or skills, but as a tool for getting labour cheaper than Canadians would tolerate.

SHUT IT DOWN NOW!

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Harper Government Attempts To Politicize The Courts

In the wake of a series of failed gambits involving the Supreme Court, we now find Harper attempting to assassinate the character of the Chief Justice.

"I can tell you this," said a clearly irked Harper, who appointed Nadon last September after commissioning independent legal advice that approved of the choice. 
"I think if people thought that the prime minister, other ministers of the government, were consulting judges before them or — even worse — consulting judges on cases that might come before them, before the judges themselves had the opportunity to hear the appropriate evidence, I think the entire opposition, entire media and entire legal community would be outraged," he said. 
"So I do not think that's the appropriate way to go."
Let us take a close look at Harper's statements here.  First, he is implying a similarity between a case that is before the courts and the deliberations of parliament with respect to making an appointment.  There is no such similarity, and Harper is lying to Canadians when he implies it.

An attempt on the part of a politician to lobby a judge regarding a case before the courts except as a witness before the court is clearly an attempt to confound the process of justice.  (This same principle applies to all participants in a litigation)  There is a very good reason for this, and that is to assure the public as a whole that justice is not only seen to be done, but that it is done independently of the influence of politics, wealth and other factors.  Harper is quite correct to say that had it come out that his office had lobbied the justices of the court with respect to a case before the court that the public would be outraged.

Appointments to the court, are done by parliament.  Parliament is a public body - it is responsible to the public, and its actions are subject to public scrutiny.  It acts on behalf of the public, and theoretically, in the public interest.  The proceedings of the elected bodies of parliament are inherently public through the publication of the Hansards, as well as records of committee proceedings.

This makes an appointment of a justice to the Supreme Court just as much a public proceeding as a debate over a piece of legislation.  Further, there is an existing process where in fact the committee is obliged to consult with the justices currently sitting on the court when appointing a new justice. 
McLachlin spoke to Harper "as a courtesy" last April to give him the retirement letter of justice Morris Fish, said the statement. 
She met with the parliamentary vetting committee on July 29 "as part of the usual process," then contacted Justice Minister Peter MacKay and the Prime Minister's Office on July 31 "to flag a potential issue regarding the eligibility of a judge of the federal courts to fill a Quebec seat on the Supreme Court." 
McLachlin's office said it contacted the PMO to make "preliminary inquiries" about setting up a call or meeting with Harper on the matter, "but ultimately the chief justice decided not to pursue a call or meeting." 
"Given the potential impact on the court, I wished to ensure that the government was aware of the eligibility issue," McLachlin said in her statement. 
"At no time did I express any opinion as to the merits of the eligibility issue. It is customary for chief justices to be consulted during the appointment process and there is nothing inappropriate in raising a potential issue affecting a future appointment."
Let's take a close look at the Chief Justice's comments as well.  First, she met with the committee as part of the standard process.  So far, nothing abnormal or unusual here.  Then a couple of days later, she contacts the Justice Minister to raise a flag over the eligibility of Marc Nadon.  Raising a flag over a matter of this nature is perfectly legitimate, and I cannot imagine how this constitutes an unreasonable action on the part of Justice McLachlin.

In fact, what she is doing in raising the issue is warning the government that they could be creating a serious political landmine for themselves should they proceed with Marc Nadon as an appointee.  Had the government actually heeded her warning and proceeded with a different candidate, they would have saved themselves a public embarrassment.

Which brings me to Marc Nadon's appointment in the first place.  Outside of being apparently ideologically compatible with Mr. Harper, there is little or nothing about Mr. Nadon that makes him one of Canada's noteworthy legal professionals.  So, one might imagine that a lot of people would be wondering about why he was even a candidate outside of Harper's desire to push the court in a particular political direction.

As he has done in the past with other public figures who have stood against him, Mr. Harper is once again playing to his mean-spirited, vindictive side.
That writer, Tom Flanagan, now is back with a forthcoming book, Persona Non Grata: The Death of Free Speech in the Internet Age, that speaks of Mr. Harper in “Nixonian” terms, as a man who “believes in playing politics right up to the edge of the rules, which inevitably means some team members will step across ethical or legal lines in their desire to win for the Boss.” 
Anger Harper, or thwart his political objectives, and he comes out on the attack.  He's done it before, going as far as to fire Linda Keen for failing to obey his politically motivated desire to restart a reactor that was unsafe.  I'm sure that had he dared, he would have sacked Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page long ago, except the political price of firing him would have been exceptionally damaging to Harper's political ambitions.

Getting into a spat with the Supreme Court justices simply reinforces that this is a thin-skinned politician who fails to respect the checks and balances that are central to this country's constitution.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Term Is "Checks and Balances"

Apparently in the Harper Government™, there is a growing frustration with the Supreme Court in the wake of a series of rulings that the politicians think of as defeats.
But, privately, MPs on the government side of the House are bitter. “It’s clear that Canadians don’t make laws through their governments any more. Instead, they watch while unelected courts override important community standards,” said one MP, speaking about the court’s decision to strike down Canada’s prostitution law. “[Canadians] are powerless to act through their government and left to live by court edict that doesn’t have any public support.” 
There were suggestions that the government accepted amendments to its Fair Elections Act before a hostile court threw out much of the legislation on the eve of the next election. 
The left will celebrate this as a triumph — what they couldn’t achieve politically, they have achieved through decades of court appointees,” said one MP, ignoring the fact that the majority of the current court was appointed by Stephen Harper. [Emphasis Added]
Apparently despite being in power for the best part of a decade, the CPC under Harper has failed to understand that our constitution contains a series of checks and balances in it to keep any one branch of the government from running too far amok.

I find it a truly sad statement that the CPC is so lacking in fundamental understandings of something as basic as our Constitution, and in particular the amending formula for it.  A significant portion of the legislation that the Harper Government™ has failed when challenged before the Supreme Court under the provisions of the Charter of Rights in particular.

The Harper Government™narrative is that the Supreme Court has ruled that "none of its reforms are possible".  This is incorrect.  The court ruling quite specifically states in each case what aspect of the Amending Formula applies.  Not that the changes cannot be made, but rather that the changes cannot be made without the approval of the provinces.

These are a key part of the notion of checks-and-balances.  Just because a politician has been elected does not make their particular legislation inherently correct.  There is a framework that they must work with.  The claim of overriding legitimacy on the part of the Harper Government™ simply because they were elected is a false narrative.  The legislative branch of government has the power to influence the appointments to bodies like the Supreme Court and the Senate.  But the legislative branch cannot dictate to those bodies how they should conduct their business.

In response, those appointed bodies have limited powers.  The Supreme Court interprets law, and may declare a given part of legislation invalid when held in consideration with other laws in the land, but cannot create legislation itself.  Similarly, the Senate has limited powers to create legislation, usually bounded by whether the legislation involves government spending.  These are all aspects of our governmental system which stay the hand of overreach on the part of any one branch of government.

It is unfortunate, but the current government seems uniquely impaired in its understanding of this reality.