Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sanity and Parliament Prevail

Statement from the Liberal Party of Canada:


Published on April 27, 2010

Ottawa – Liberal MPs are declaring victory in the wake of a ruling by the Speaker of the House of Commons that reaffirms the right of Parliament to review Afghan detainee torture documents.

“The Speaker’s ruling recognizes that in our system of government, Parliament is supreme – not the Prime Minister,” said Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale. “The Harper government must abide by the Speaker’s ruling and negotiate the disclosure of the documents in question in a way that is mindful of national security – as we have agreed to do all along.

”In his ruling, Mr. Milliken gave the House Leaders, ministers and party critics two weeks to address the impasse by establishing a mechanism for MPs to review the documents without compromising national security. He also reaffirmed the role of parliamentarians to hold government to account as an indisputable privilege and obligation, which entails a broad, absolute power to order documents, without restriction or limit by the Executive. The Speaker expressed his hope that accommodations could be made that allow MPs to be entrusted with the information while protecting national security, in keeping with the inherent trust that Canadians have placed in their elected officials.

“Following Mr. Milliken’s ruling, the government now has a window of opportunity to negotiate in good faith a reasonable process that respects Parliamentarians right to review this documentation,” said Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae. “We believe that it is possible to satisfy the opposition’s demands for openness and transparency on the detainee scandal while maintaining national security.”

“Where there are legitimate national security concerns revolving around this documentation, we will most certainly consider the government’s position,” said Liberal Defence Critic Ujjal Dosanjh. “But let’s be clear: we are not prepared to allow the government to hide behind national security issues where none exist.

”On December 10, 2009, the House of Commons passed a motion requesting disclosure of Afghan detainee documentation. The Conservatives refused to comply with the motion, even going so far as to shut down Parliament entirely.

The Conservative government has continued to cover-up politically damaging information, using national security as a blanket excuse. Most recently, hearings by the Military Police Complaints Commission into the handling of Afghan detainees have been put in jeopardy again because the government refuses to disclose requested documentation.

“We want a reasonable approach to these negotiations that will satisfy us that there is not simply more political interference taking place,” Mr. Goodale concluded. “We are willing to address the government’s legitimate concerns, but the Speaker has made it clear that more stonewalling will not work

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Making (up) Enemies

I continue to be frustrated at the level of debate in this country. Yesterday I saw a couple of panels on the political shows this country offers and was infuriated at both the lack of the ability of the moderator/host to forward the discussion and the ridiculously juvenile level at which the debates took place.

One of the subjects was the pardon debate that has been raised by Harper. The way it has been presented by the PM and Vic Toews is beyond disingenuous. It's as if they just came to power yesterday and haven't known about this before now. What nonsense. They have already actually looked at and tweaked this law. The fact is they missed this whole issue and now need to find someone to blame.

Who are they blaming? Well that leads me to the title of the post. I heard a theory this morning that fits completely with how I feel about this.

At this point, Harper is blaming this problem on a 'soft on crime' culture that preceded him. It's not true, but it serves him well at this point to bolster his 'tuff guy, tuff on crime party' image. What's glaringly obvious is that this government is incapable of taking responsibility for an issue and that they have been incompetent in fulfilling parts of their campaign platform, especially as it relates to crime.

Here's the thing. Harper can't advance his agenda without having an enemy to focus on. He consistently places his party in the role of victim. He can't get things done because everyone is against him. He's blamed the civil service, the Senate, the opposition, the press, whomever is close at hand.

He's often cited as being a strong leader, but to me, this demonstrates that he operates from a position of weakness. There is a basic lack of character on display here that for whatever reason, it is rarely discussed.

Part of the problem of course is that the crime legislation that is put forward is often not based on good research or fact. Indeed, more often than not it flies in the face of fact. So, if you can't make your case logically, you have to create a sentiment, a mood, that enables people to back your case and what better way to do that then to scare people? Witness invoking the spectre of Karla Homolka. (To be honest, I have visions of Harper instructing his staff to find him the name of someone coming up for pardon that would scare the bejeesus out of Canadians, after learning about the Graham James case.)

This isn't the only subject where this occurs. The Afghanistan detainee issue? He maintains his stance by suggesting that any question is both unpatriotic and endangering out troops. Not an ounce of logic there, but his supporters lap it up and regurgitate it, because there is just enough there to play on their emotions.

Is this clever? No, I'd say it's duplicitous. I'd also say that it's a clear sign of a weak leader who is incapable of selling his ideas on their merit.

If you have to deceive the masses to get your ideas through, you are not a leader, you are a misleader.

That is who we having running this country.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Facts - An Anathema for the Conservatives

I don't know how many people have followed this story, but my sense is that it's one that has travelled under the radar. That is a shame because it is precisely this kind of whittling away of good policy that is going unnoticed.
I happened to see a Committee meeting on this issue and was astounded to see witness after witness speak to the efficacy of the program while the government ignored every single fact presented. They fell to their manufactured line, that agriculture is not a marketable profession.
That of course is not the intent of the program, though surely some prisoners upon release may choose to work on a farm.
There was a former participant who testified that day and who has been a good member of society for 19 years now. He is not working in that field, but he spoke to the benefits of the program in terms of developing a sense of team work, routine, responsibility, etc.
The government is making a big mistake here in my opinion and I can only put it down to ideology. Rehabilitation isn't their primary focus, which is ridiculous on it's face, but rather appearing to look 'tough' on crime drives everything.
By way of comparison, take a look at what they are doing in Australia.
This isn't the only area where the Conservatives have ignored the facts of course. We all know that crime is going down, but they say it isn't. The police want to maintain the gun registry, the Conservatives say that is not the case. The list goes on.
Sadly, bad policy makes for good optics for this government and the country is poorer for it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


So by now everyone has read this story in the Star, by Kevin Donovan.

It's a fascinating read, but it leaves some questions out there doesn't it?

Jaffer, as he often does, told businessmen that he and his company, Green Power Solutions, were experts in obtaining government money. “I can get it, no problem,” he said. His company’s promotional material boasts a “thorough knowledge of government policies and incentive programs.”

“I have access to a green fund,” Jaffer said at the table

A few weeks before the Harbour 60 dinner, Jaffer and Gillani held court at another steak restaurant, La Castille in Etobicoke. Gillani told a group of invited businessmen that his company could arrange start-up financing, and that Jaffer could come up with federal government funds. Jaffer explained that he had expertise, particularly in securing what he called “green loans” at very low interest rates.

Though Jaffer has not been an MP since he lost an election in 2008, he still gives out his MP business cards and did so at La Castille.

Now, the PMO has flatly denied that Jaffer has any access and given that, it's easy to put his comments down to boasting, but if you're making such claims don't you at some point have to come through with the goods?

I'd say that it's likely, he doesn't have any personal contact with the PMO, but certainly he has access to cabinet members who do. While it's safe to assume that his wife is not on any favoured Ministers list at the moment, how friendly was he with past and current environment Ministers?

Additionally, it seems his partner at Green Power Generation, Patrick Glémaud, has had his share of access to the government.

My guess is that we haven't heard the last of this particular story.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Issue Framing

The Afghani detainee issue gets more heated by the day. There is a slow drip, memos being given to the media etc., and in my opinion, this is happening because the government is insisting on being so secretive.
I think if they had acquiesced to the opposition and given them access to the documents in question, this all could have been avoided.
Let's start with the issue of framing. Time and time again, we are told by pollsters and talking heads that Canadians don't care about the issue. Specifically, they don't really care about prisoners who may have harmed or killed our military. That may be true, but isn't that a ridiculous frame or in the case of pollsters, a ridiculous question to ask? Wouldn't it make more sense to ask what Canadians feel about Canada's reputation in the world and the potential that we could be contravening the Geneva Convention and our own laws? I suspect we'd get a different response and a real sense of concern if the right question was asked.
Over the past couple of days, we have learned that the government knew more than they have let on, thus far. Indeed, they have said they had no 'credible' information of anything untoward. That we know is false, based on leaked documents.
As I mentioned earlier, I really think much of this speculation and sensationalism could have been avoided. Now, by that I do not mean that the issue would have gone away, but with information being leaked from the MPCC hearings this week and the slow leak of doc's, no one, including the government, is being given any favours.
Kory Teneycke, former Comm's director for the PMO, presented his own framing tonight on CBC, which in my opinion, falls pretty close to the current talking points issued by the government. He began by suggesting that the new revelations were much to do about nothing, then said that they have now moved the discussion to an esoteric level, meaning I suppose that few of us understand the reality of being in Afghanistan and the day to day of war. On one hand, he is right, but in the grander scheme, his argument is one that I take issue with. It's the oft used, black/white argument that is put forward by the Conservatives that really doesn't exist in the world. Yes, there is indeed grey in the world we live in.
What really exists and what can be balanced are our obligations in concert with the realities of the immediacy of war. I'm certain Kory did not mean to imply this, but his argument made the case for allowing torture, because you know what? We may just learn valuable information for our troops and what are we supposed to do? Ignore that? Compelling? Nah, simplistic.
No, we are supposed to prevent that in the first place, use interrogation techniques that work and don't contravene our laws or the Geneva Convention and move forward.
The framing of this issue has been so twisted, it's difficult to recognise it for what it is. The media are now dogged in their pursuit of uncovering what the government has been obvious in hiding, (don't scream, that's their job), it's inevitable that it won't end well. It didn't have to come to this.
I'm not sure this is possible, but if a sincere move was made to change the structure of the House committee, meaning, they could run meetings for extended periods of time, were not limited to ridiculous 5 minute rounds and obviously were sworn in, so as not to breach any security but had the same access the witnesses had to documents, that would go a long way.
As it stands, the government is digging itself into a deeper hole with every day that passes. I can't say I'm sorry to see that, but in the end, I just don't think it's good for Canada.
There is framing an issue, then there is framing yourself in.