29 September 2008

Democratic Space Publishes Strategic Voting Guide

Greg Morrow of DemocraticSPACE has produced non-partisan, riding by riding strategic voting guides, grouped by voters' first-choice party preferences.

DemocraticSPACE does not endorse strategic voting (i.e. where voters cast their ballot for their second choice party to prevent a less favourable party from winning). We believe that Canada should explore options of adding an element of proportionality into our electoral system to ensure fair and accurate representation in parliament. However, strategic voting happens in Canada. DemocraticSPACE believes that it is better to make informed choices than misinformed choices. Therefore, this guide is meant to help voters who are thinking of voting strategically.

DemocraticSPACE has identified a total of 80 ridings for which strategic voting might be applicable:
  • 13 which would be appropriate for Conservative supporters,
  • 16 for Liberal supporters,
  • 30 for NDP supporters, and
  • 37 for Green supporters.

These are listed in full on the DemocraticSPACE website. The guides have been produced upon the following two primary assumptions:
  1. Conservative supporters don't want a Liberal to win, and
  2. Liberal, NDP, and Green supporters don't want a Conservative to win.

If you're thinking of voting strategically, then this is the place you should go to see if your riding qualifies for a strategic vote. If it doesn't, then remain with your first choice.

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Party Websites - Liberals add social networking site


Yesterday, I posted a comparison of the websites of the five major parties. In my view, the NDP website looked to be out in front - for its attractiveness, ease of use, and inclusion of a substantial number of interactive tools.

Of the Liberal site, I'd mentioned that it had "little in the way of interactive tools to involve supporters more in the campaign."

Now, the Liberals announce having added a social networking site of their own. It includes "single portal access to YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and MySpace content focusing on the current election campaign," plus blogger tools for copying and pasting elements into their own site.

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Episode 17 Paige - Er, are we poor people soon to have company?

Given the news about the US House rejection of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, sounds like we poor people may soon have some company.

Among the illustrious personages joining us could be politicians and their corporate masters; tobacco, alcohol, pharma and military supply lobbyists; and high-flying free market investors. Now wouldn't that be poetic justice!

At any rate, one more podcast has been added to the WISE podcast channel. Episode 17, like all other episodes in the series, is taken from chapters of the book Policies of Exclusion, Poverty and Health: Stories from the front, a project which was done wholly by and for women living at the bottom, or teetering close to falling into the poverty well.

For more information about this project, WISE, and other details, please refer to the post which I updated earlier today.

Episode 17 - Paige:

Like several of the stories in the book, Paige's story weaves together a number of common themes: being raised in a family where substance abuse is constant, sexual abuse, the adoption of the family pattern, the stresses on a marriage when a victim takes her abuser to court, experiences with the punitive welfare system, the lack of choice due to economic vulnerability.
I was going for a crisis grant because I didn’t have enough food for the kids. Welfare asked me to sign a Family Maintenance form, because my husband and I are doing our separation privately. I signed it so they could go after him for Spousal Maintenance. I don’t really want them to. I didn’t want to sign the thing, but I had to. Now they refuse to give me crisis grants. They want me to ask him for money for food. I can’t do it. He’s hostile about giving me money.

Paige is brutally honest about her background, her own behaviour and mistakes, and the consequences of these. She has lived this life and remains determined to change its direction. It's a heartbreaking story, and one that needs to be heard.

Go visit the podcast channel. Listen, comment and rate!

NB: Am on a roll with these podcasts. Had been having trouble with my headphones, but discovered yesterday it was my heating pad - which I sometimes use to ease back pain - which was causing a constant hum in the recording. Now all is working fine, so the last five stories, plus cropped versions of the two reports, should be completed within the next six to eight weeks.

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Podcasts - Stories of Poverty in the First Person

UPDATED -Two more podcasts of stories of poverty in the first person have been added to the WISE podcast channel. Episodes 15 and 16, like all other episodes in the series, are taken from chapters of the book Policies of Exclusion, Poverty and Health: Stories from the front, a project which was done wholly by and for women living at the bottom, or teetering close to falling into the poverty well.

This is the same project - whose total $15,000 in grant money was from Status of Women Canada - to which I did a comparison to the AWEDA project which has been in the news recently.

In short, in March 2008 AWEDA (All Women's Empowerment and Development Association) received a $142,700 grant from Status of Women Canada. It is reported that their executive director and recent Conservative candidate, Rosamond Luke, unaccountably took $84,000 of that grant money for herself. AWEDA closed its doors after six months, the 12-month project, cut short, having helped only SEVEN women. (I'd say, eight, to include Luke herself.)

While WISE was the victim of a similar scam, we did not close our doors. Instead, we continued our year-long project in spite of the financial hit.

Episode 15 - Nancy:
I have always belonged to a church and emotionally it’s important to me… It is so sad that now they are even taking Christmas out of the schools. In time of need, the church did and has stood behind me. They helped with the children with food in time of need. They helped me get my Driver’s Licence, in order that I had transportation. They gave enough money to me as a Christmas gift to get my licence and a friend gave me the car.

Nancy is a senior in her 70s who, having been widowed twice, now lives with her third husband. They have their own home, with the mortgage paid off, and a van for getting around town and taking road trips. While having lived a life of hard work and pinched purse strings, Nancy has been fortunate in having the support of family, friends, church and community.

Episode 16 - Olivia:

Olivia was one of several children in her family. Raised on a 60-acre farm, she attended a one-room schoolhouse until Grade four.

Those wide spaces in which to roam and learn, in a home which was generally loving and supportive, shaped her common sense view of life and appreciation of diversity. Unfortunately, it didn’t protect her from experiencing one abusive relationship after another.

My future? I know what’s to come, so it doesn’t bother me… Death is the least of my fears. There are worse things, like living on Social Services. Death is a natural process of life. On the other hand, death by Social Services is an unnatural death.

These and other stories in the series help demonstrate that strict income measures of poverty can be misleading, since they fail to capture the uniqueness of circumstances in which each of us, also unique, find ourselves. The variety of circumstances in which people live, all below a particular income line, present one argument against a policy such as guaranteed liveable income rather than, for example, a policy of guaranteed liveable lifestyle.

I am not arguing on behalf of either policy here, but pointing out that there is a difference, one which perhaps should be considered.

Go visit the podcast channel. Listen, comment and rate!

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28 September 2008

Blog Makeover

Just a note to tell everyone that Daphne and I have changed our blog's template. So no, you haven't arrived at the wrong place!

We used to have that bluey-grey, misty harbour background.

While that was a lovely template - and is available to anyone who has a blog on Blogger -, we thought it time to give our blog a makeover. You know, freshen it up and make a change along the lines of 'out with the old, in with the new'.

Hope everyone likes the new look.

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Party Platforms

Every voter should read or better yet, get together in groups and go over before the election, each of the national parties' platforms. Perhaps arrange four separate evenings, to give each platform fair consideration.

The platforms represent the parties' intentions in writing on what policy they would introduce should they be elected to form the government.

Never mind what the leaders or candidates are saying - or writing on their blogs, for that matter. The talk that's most relevant is that written on paper, distributed to voters and hyped as the parties' commitments to the populace.

So here are the platforms put together in one handy place:

I shall update this post and add the Conservatives' platform as/if it becomes available. Also, if anyone can tell me where to find the budget or costing info for the Liberal and NDP plans, I'll add the relevant links.

I'll not comment on my views of the platforms except to say that the Greens' platform document is a disappointment in terms of its size. At only eight pages, with large print on each page, clearly it is designed to work well as a short slide presentation, for wider distribution to voters, and to be a summary of a summary of the 160-page Vision Green document. Presumably, the latter is the entire platform, but one can't be sure.

Assuming my guess is correct, I wish the Greens had produced a more fleshed out encapsulation of Vision Green, because the eight pages just don't cut it. Further, I doubt the vast majority of voters would have resolve to wade through so much in the scant weeks before the election.

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On Political Websites, NDP Wins

As a web developer of mid-level ability and someone with an eye for, but unfortunately not the skill to implement, great design and interactive tools, I've got to applaud the NDP.

Hands down, among the websites of the five major parties the NDP website takes the prize. The Orange Room, in particular, is a great place for Dippers to collect, particularly young ones, to hash out ideas, arrange canvassing and other events and otherwise be part of the NDP campaign.

The website of the Greens is the most lacking in bells and whistles, although there was a recent improvement and refreshing of the design. What I most miss is a place to view and listen to video and audio files.

The Liberal website uses attractive, professional design, but the flash components hang on occasion. It also includes little in the way of interactive tools to involve supporters more in the campaign.

The Conservative site uses more interactive tools than the Liberal site does and more social networking links or applications. However, it uses lists too much on its pages, which demonstrates to me a lack of imagination either on the part of the designers or those who decided which layout to approve.

The Bloc have used a layout similar to a news site. Again, very little interactivity.

In general, the NDP site looks the most colourful, young and interactive; the Bloc and Conservative sites the most conventional; the Liberal site the most flashy in a muted, stylized way; and the Greens' the least navigable and engaging due to poor layout and missing elements.

I'd be interested in hearing others' opinions of the party websites.

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27 September 2008

A Prisoner's Dilemma for Voters

Bloggers everywhere are writing about strategic voting.

Some argue that progressives should vote strategically. Others argue against, making the compelling case that it is never right to vote for the lesser of evils rather than for a party which best accords with one's values.

This will be my last post on this topic.

As I responded in a comment on another blog, I think people of good conscience can take different sides on strategic voting and both be right.

I've weighed back and forth whether voting strategically is the ethical thing to do - for me - and I don't pretend to know what's right for anyone else.

But after thinking hard about it, having for a moment thought that, for the first time in all my voting years, it was right that I vote against one party and not for the party whose values most reflect mine, I just can't do it.

For me, a vote for a party I don't support goes against everything I believe in, and the principles and values which have guided me throughout my life. But I do understand someone arguing that to uphold their own values - which could be very similar to mine -, they must do exactly opposite to what I've decided.

It may be that the tension between the two positions is really that captured between two levels of thought or discourse, between the philosophically ethical and the specifically moral. Which is why each position can be both right and wrong.

From this point on in this election and for several months beyond to the May 2009 BC election, I'll be spending my time working toward democratic reform.

That must start with a change to our voting system, to proportional representation.

Had PR been in place for this election, no voter would be confronted with the dilemma of choosing to vote other than what's in their heart.

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$142.7K Federal Grant, Seven Poor Helped

Other bloggers have begun posting about the issue I wrote about here - that of recently fired Executive Director Rosamond Luke of the group All Women's Empowerment and Development Association (AWEDA), a $142,700 grant from Status of Women Canada and $84,000 of that grant allegedly having been unaccountably paid out in cash or by cheque to Luke.

In addition to having been ED of AWEDA, Luke was also until very recently a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Seven women were purportedly given financial help through that Status of Women Canada grant to AWEDA.

The organization is reported to have closed its doors after only six months. The project was to have lasted 12 months.
the two remaining members of the board, told reporters Wednesday that the association is closing because it has only $20,000 remaining from over $150,000 in grants it received this year... The association received $132,700 of a $142,700 federal grant from Status of Women Canada and about $19,000 of a $40,000 grant from the IWK Health Centre

Read more about it over at Birth Pangs. Also here and here.

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26 September 2008

On Strategic Voting - Response to JimBobby

Over at JimBobby Sez, the man has given me pause for thought and I'm so glad he did.

Perhaps all of us who have been thinking of voting strategically for the first time should think again and read his passionate reminder: about why we've never voted strategically before, about why we didn't and that those reasons haven't changed just because we're facing another Harper government, about the feeling you get when you vote for the lesser of two evils, about ....

Here's an excerpt from JB's post.
It may take a strong dose of un-democracy to convince enough Canadians that we have a broken system in need of reform. So be it. When we engage in schemes and vote trading and candidate trading and all sorts of strategies to play the game by the unfair rules, we only perpetuate acceptance.

"I voted strategically once... I felt slightly nauseous afterward and the experience still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Hmm. Well you've given me something to think about, JB. Because I've never done it and have always voted according to the candidate whose party best matched my principles and values. Even thinking of voting strategically makes me feel ill and brings a writhing sense of self-loathing.

Until this election, I never entertained the idea of voting strategically and, as you, thought that only some real tough medicine in the form of an ultra-right Canada led by Harper or the like, would - maybe, just maybe - get Canadians to rethink their voting system.

This election more than most, I've been working hard as a volunteer with Fair Vote Canada and had already signed up with the FVC-BC group to support the coming STV referendum in BC.

I continue to believe that democratic and electoral reform are THE issues for all elections now and into the future - until the change to proportional representation gets done. That is, the first legislation passed by any party forming government should be to begin the process of electoral change.

Because only then, when we have proportional representation, will the majority of Canadians have a reasonable chance of seeing get addressed the major issues which concern them.

People should read JB's entire post. He offers many arguments, including ones which suggest that strategic voting will fail anyway. Not enough people will do it - they'll either vote for their party of choice, destroy or refuse their ballots, or simply stay home.

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25 September 2008

Who's Most "Accountable" Now?

A report from Halifax has struck me like a blow and resurfaced the hurt I experienced a few years ago. It's the report of Rosamond Luke, former Tory candidate and Harpercon favourite, who as Executive Director of a group whose mandate was to help low-income immigrant women, unaccountably (and allegedly - nothing has been proven in court) helped herself to federal funds instead.

You see, a similar thing happened to WISE, the group which I founded and whose membership was women in poverty like myself. In the four short years of its existence, WISE grew into a national movement. We worked to help each other and our families and to lead change in our communities.

Unlike the group from Halifax, WISE didn't shut its doors - then, when our own version of Rosamond Luke did her thing - and our project went on. But more than that differentiates what happened to us and our project, and the painful events likely still being endured by the Halifax group. According to reports,
Ms. Luke was the executive director of an organization called All Women's Empowerment and Development Association, which received a $142,700 federal grant in March. The grant says the money was meant to fund a 12-month pilot project to integrate low-income immigrant women into Nova Scotia's small business community.

But just six months into the contract, the agency announced Wednesday it has nearly run out of money and is now closed.

So let me get this straight.

  • $142,700 over 12 months - 60% unaccountably and allegedly taken by Rosamond Luke, former Tory candidate - project closes after six months.
  • $15,000 over 12 months - 60% unaccountably taken by Project Coordinator - project goes on.

Guess whose project was the second one?

Now let's examine the Harper Conservative logic.
  1. Both grants were from Status of Women Canada.
  2. The first grant was awarded in 2008 to an incorporated nonprofit, the second in 2003 to an unincorporated nonprofit - a group of women in poverty.
  3. Due to changes made by the Harper government in October 2006, only incorporated groups, including for-profits, would be eligible for SWC grants. The reason? Accountability.
  4. In both cases, 60% of grant funds were unaccountably taken (allegedly, in the one case, indisputably in the other) by the person in charge of the project.
  5. The incorporated, purportedly accountable group, closed its doors after six months and left its project unfinished. With $59,000 left.
  6. The unincorporated group, whose accountability the Harper government questioned due to the group's informal status, did not close its doors. The project was completed. With only $6,000 left.

Which group would you say was the most accountable?

How did WISE do it?

Our scam artist - let's call her 'B' -, having done about one months' work over an eight month period, subsequently "resigned."

The only reason B had been hired in the first place was because I'd fallen seriously ill just as the first grant cheque came in. To save the project, it was arranged that it go under the supervision of a local incorporated umbrella group. The Executive Director of the umbrella organization hired this scam artist to be the Project Coordinator.

I was still the Coordinator of WISE, had written the original proposal, and therefore knew the project's design better than anyone and knew its budget inside out, backwards and upside down.

I became suspicious early on and as my health began to recover worked to bring the problems to light. Unfortunately, the umbrella group wasn't checking the invoices against the project budget or, failing that, passing B's invoices through me.

There was resistance. The umbrella group had worked with B before and couldn't imagine her scamming WISE's project. In the end, however, they couldn't deny the proof and I completely took over the position of Project Coordinator. That meant working to undo the damage which B had done and redoing most of her work.

So how did we save the project and ultimately, WISE, from the impending disaster?

We made up the financial loss by taking it out of the Project Coordinator's salary. Which means I did eleven months' work for $3,000.

Who would YOU say was the most accountable?

  • Two groups, both of which had the legal status of being incorporated - i.e., the corporate equivalent of personhood?
  • Or the unincorporated group of low income women - who are persons, hence legal entities, in their own right?

By the way, that first project of WISE? Our very first?

It was Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health: Stories from the front, the project which unexpectedly resulted in a book of the same name. Which we did entirely ourselves, because no publisher would look at it.

The point of this tale is that bad stuff happens. But if you're truly accountable, you keep your commitments to others despite any personal cost.

NB: WISE folded December 15, 2007 after completing its second project, The Scarlet Letter Campaign. As an unincorporated group, and therefore assumed to be unaccountable, we were no longer eligible to receive SWC grants.

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24 September 2008

Harper Bullying Canadian Voters Now

The over confidence of Harper in his non-confidence technique is going to blow up in his face one of these days, particularly once Canadians realize what it says about his view of voters who didn't elect his Conservatives. In other words, the majority of us. But also given what it says about the extents to which he will go to force his agenda on all of us.
Most public opinion polls taken in the months leading up to this federal election campaign suggested that another minority government for Stephen Harper's Conservatives was very likely. Mr. Harper was well aware of this ...; indeed he predicted another minority on the campaign's first day. Now, however, he is acting as though he would in effect refuse to accept that result.

For the second time in two days, Mr. Harper announced yesterday that his party would reintroduce anti-crime legislation that the previous Parliament did not pass – and that, if the opposition stood in the way, he would be ready to force another election over it...

This is not how a minority government should work. Confidence votes are to be limited to money bills and measures at the core of the government's agenda – not routinely invoked by a prime minister whenever he wishes to put pressure on other parties to support less important bills. If Canadians elect the Conservatives with another minority, they will be explicitly saying that they have not entrusted them with full power over the legislative agenda – that they expect them to try to work with the other parties...

If [the opposition parties] have deep-seated objections to an anti-crime initiative, or any other bill, then they should vote against it. Mr. Harper should not put the Governor-General in the highly controversial constitutional position of having to think about declining a request to call another election in the near future and inviting the opposition government to form a government.

Would the opposition parties call Harper's bluff? I doubt it. At least, given past performance particularly by the Liberals, there's no evidence they would. But if they don't, the situation is worse than Harper bamboozling his opposition into adopting untenable positions.

He would effectively, through our representatives, be blackmailing the Canadian public into submission and forcing us to accept his way or no way.

Harper's blackmail has financial consequences too. Each election which must be run costs taxpayers millions. But Harper doesn't care about that, because it's all about forcing Canada into the direction he wants it to go.

Further, Canadians have elected three minority governments in the past eight years and is about to elect the fourth. We are demanding, through our votes, that parties work together.

Had we proportional representation and given the number of seats Harper is likely to get, he would be forced to form a coalition government - and if he couldn't or wouldn't, the other parties I'm sure would be happy to oblige.

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Harper: Warm-fuzzy family man?

Harper's Conservatives say they are pro-family.

That is what they SAY. What they have DONE is to gut programs for families, sending the saved dollars to those who need it least. Murray Dobbin sums up exactly what Harper has done to dismantle social programs for families.

To highlight Harper's pro-family ideals:

1. After years of negotiation, Harper's Conservatives have dumped the universal child care proposal, tossing out $1,200 per child per year as a sop.

2. Canada's NeoCon's have given no increases in transfer payments to provinces for universities thereby placing the increased financial burden squarely on the shoulders of students seeking to better themselves.

3. Not one cent has been spent anywhere in Canada on social housing programs.

4. Conservatives have made Employment Insurances rules a rat-maze, frustrating workers requesting their own money be used to assist them while unemployed.

5. They have consistently removed, slashed and made difficult to access all social programs that Canadians say they are willing to pay for and have given tax cuts instead. Which only benefit the wealthy and corporations.

Does this sound like a government that cares about families?

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23 September 2008

Harper Crime Solution: $2.2B, 22 new jails

Good catch by the Liberals ... from today's press release:
OTTAWA—According to the Statistics Canada table cited in a Conservative backgrounder today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement that certain offenses would not qualify for conditional sentences would mean the incarceration of at least an additional 7,161 individuals.

Average capacity of a federal penitentiary in Canada is about 315 inmates...

The last new federal facility built in Canada was the Fraser Valley Institution for Women with a capacity of 50 offenders and a Capital cost of $17 million in 2004. Public Security Minister Stockwell Day recently mused about a new penitentiary in Newfoundland and Labrador at a cost of $100-150 million.

At an average cost of $100 million for a 350-inmate institution, the Conservative promise would cost $2.2 billion.

The Harpercrits wouldn't want to spend all that money on crime prevention, now would they? You know, things like passing on ONE CENT of the GST to municipalities so that they can address issues such as poverty, housing, transportation ...

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"Anonymous" Liberal Apparatchik is Offended

We must be doing something right over here! You know, challenging the commonplace.

According to "Anonymous" - who submitted his comment using a server at the Royal Military College - my post about Liberal female candidates was "possibly ... the stupidest post of all time."

Then he/she goes on to defend the fact, which my post acknowledged, that the Liberals have nominated "more women in more ridings than anyone."

"They made a commitment," Anonymous goes on to wail. "They kept their commitment."

Yes, they did. And that was easy enough to do considering that the bulk of the ridings in question are unwinnable by Liberals.

Anonymous queried, "What possible grounds do you use for determining 'winnable ridings'?"

Apparently, he/she didn't check the LINK I provided in my post. It referenced a source which the Liberal Party is happy enough to cite when the statistics are more in its favour.

Which they are not in this case.

Look at the regional breakdown. Liberals have heavily weighted their female representation in Harper country, out West (says this embarrassed British Columbian). For example, 50% of their candidates in Alberta are women and women represent 44% of their candidates in BC.

The comment by Anonymous, incidentally, has been removed. Per the Comments Policy stated on this blog. But I've saved a copy, including the server info, for posterity.

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Liberals 3rd, not 1st, in Women Candidates

Yesterday, the Liberal Party of Canada issued a press release boasting that the LPC had placed first in the number of women candidates running in this election: 113 or 36.8% of 307 candidates.

Yet only 28% of those candidates are running in winnable ridings.

This places the Liberals third in terms of true female representation - behind the NDP (39%) and Bloc (32%), and one position ahead of the Conservatives (15%).

Canada ranks 51st in the World in representation of women, trailing behind Afghanistan (27th) and Iraq (33rd). Rwanda ranks 1st at 48.8%.

The top countries for representation of women use proportional representation.

Under our current first-past-the-post system (FPTP), nominations frequently are not transparent and are under the control of backroom boys. On average, 80% of the time, the backroom boys select men.

But 80% of Canadians want to elect more women.

Our FPTP system is not transparent and fails to represent women and minorities. In fact, the majority of Orphan Voters - members of the electorate who have been abandoned, neglected and abused by our archaic voting system - are women.

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New Book - The Harper Record - Available Online

Just out in time for this election and available FREE online, The Harper Record, edited by my trusted friend Teresa Healy.

Here's the summary from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:

This book is one in a series of CCPA publications that have examined the records of Canadian federal governments during the duration of their tenure. As with earlier CCPA reports on the activities of previous governments while in office, this book gives a detailed account of the laws, policies, regulations, and initiatives of the Conservative minority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper during its 32-month term from January 2006 to September 2008.

The 47 writers, researchers and analysts who have co-written this book probe into every aspect of the Harper minority government’s administration. From the economy to the environment, from social programs to foreign policy, from health care to tax cuts, from the Afghanistan mission to the tar sands, from free trade to deep integration, and to many other areas of this government’s record, the authors have dug out the facts and analyzed them.

The Harper Record was necessarily researched and written long before an election was called, but its publication does coincide with an election campaign and thus may help citizens to make informed choices about the future of their country. Regardless of the election outcome, its contents will continue to be relevant between elections. In detailing what a minority Conservative government really did, or failed to do, it may serve as a guide and model for future elections.

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CFRO Vancouver Co-op Radio - Injured Workers

We're glad to help our friends who're working hard, without funding, to bring the issue of injured workers to the attention of our public officials.

This event notice is for them and any others interested in this topic - and all workers should be.

WHERE: Vancouver Co-operative Radio, CFRO, 102.7 FM

WHEN: Wednesday evening, September 24th, 7:00-8:00 PST, 10:00-11:00 EST

FEATURING: Darrell Powell (Senate Witness 2004 Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology) who will be identifying the issues of injured workers to the leaders of the federal parties to get their comments and platform policies for the show.

Turn on your radio or listen online - Also on satellite radio and cable/satellite TV.

If you're unable to listen in, CFRO archives their shows and the program should be up soon after.

CFRO did a program on WISE soon after we'd completed our first project Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health. It was one of the view media outlets which cared to bring our findings to the attention of the public. It was my second ever radio interview and I remember how kind the host was.

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22 September 2008

Liberal Plan: Most Urgent Issue Left Out

As I wrote on my blog a couple of weeks ago, electoral reform is the most pressing issue facing the electorate - both Canadians who still vote and those who have given up and no longer do.

Yet nowhere in the Liberal Party's 66-page plan is there mention of electoral reform or proportional representation.*

How could a party claiming to care about making this country a "fairer Canada," about "enabl[ing] every Canadian to realize their full potential" omit electoral reform?

How can it not see that a disenfranchised electorate means more and more citizens becoming disillusioned about and disengaged from their political institutions?

Under an eroding democracy, only the few can realize their potential - the corporate backers and moneyed lobbyists who stand closest to and pull the strings of those (seen to be) in power.

The voices of the many, the majority who vote other than for the party which forms government, are left out.

If we had proportional representation, then all votes would matter in this federal election. And if they did, then likely more people would return to the voting booth, more would become re-engaged not just federally, but locally and provincially.

Because then, we'd see that our opinion and voices do count.

Instead, with our first-past-the-post system, there is a chance that Canadians will get the "majority" Stephen Harper has been threatening, and on the basis of less than 38% of the popular vote - not 50% + 1, as a true majority would warrant.

That the Liberal Party of Canada has left the issue of electoral reform out of its plan speaks volumes and can be related to its handling of municipalities, which I've also written about.

It's about Power.

Consider the wording in the section on dealing with municipalities and the "infrastructure deficit":
A Liberal government will be upfront and transparent about the priorities we will pursue in our discussions with the provinces and municipalities. (p12)

Not priorities as determined by community governments which are in the best position to know what their communities need most, what solutions would work best, but priorities as set by the federal government. Once again, municipalities must come with hands out, begging, rather than being empowered - by retaining one cent of the GST collected per dollar sale, for example - to determine their own destinies.

NB: The Greens include ER and PR on p. 114 of their 121-page Vision Green plan. NDP include a section on voting reform on their website. Am unsure if the NDP has released its printed platform yet or if it does/will include this issue.

NB2: The above was sent by email to the LPC (minus these notes), also to Fair Vote Canada for distribution to their email list. The full post was also published to my other blogs, including the new one at Democratic Space.

* I did the search this morning for 'elect', 'proportional' and 'reform' - nothing. Then went to the LPC's website and did a similar search. 'Electoral' comes up in a description of one of their candidates; the rest of the one-page search result yields the word in connection with financing and EDAs. 'Reform' yields nothing about how we vote. 'Proportional' comes up once, but under the subject of crime.

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21 September 2008

Anti-Harper Vote Swap

Have added a link - top of page, left column - to the Anti-Harper Vote Swap Facebook group and shall update the member count daily.

When I added the link a few minutes ago, the number of members was 7, 393.

Just checked and the count is now 7, 418. No doubt as I write this, it will have changed again.

The admin has made adjustments to how matchups are to be done. Rather than having the pairings arranged through the Facebook discussion interface, Mat is handling the matchups himself. Interested voters send him an email with their details. Then they wait to hear whether Mat has found a match for them.

This process encourages people to follow through on their commitment, since the identity of each person in a pair is known by both the admin and to each other. In other words, if I get paired, I’ll know the identity of my partner and vice versa. So will Mat.

While knowing the identity of your voting partner cannot give you complete assurance that in the polling booth your alter will choose according to your voting preference, it does add moral suasion.

If the existence of this Facebook group isn't a testament to how flawed our electoral system is, I don't know what is.

The single most pressing issue for Canadians is the recovery of democratic choice for voters. Until that happens, none of the issues that matter to the true majority of Canadians will be addressed. At best, they will be given only lip service. At worst - and this is no different than what's happening now -, Canadians will continue to be governed by politicians whose priorities are the same as their corporate backers and moneyed lobbyists.

UPDATE: After thinking hard about strategic voting, I've decided against it. See A Prisoner's Dilemma for Voters.

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20 September 2008

Letter to Editor: "Competition" it isn't

The following was written to the editor of The Cowichan Valley Citizen. While the paper hasn't a website, my letter makes the substance of the article clear.

Dear Editor:

I read your article by Sarah Simpson, "More than a two-horse race," with a growing sense of irony.

Superficially, the topic was democracy.

Certainly, the article started off describing Canada's democratic deficit, telling of the media consortium's decision to exclude, and subsequently include, Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the upcoming televised debates.

Left out of the account was that the NDP and Conservatives colluded to block May's participation, both Jack Layton and Stephen Harper having threatened to boycott the events should she attend. Only Layton's and Harper's reversal due to intense pressure from angry citizens, including from within their own parties, precipitated the change in the consortium's decision.

The article stated that only three parties have represented this riding since 1988. These have been the NDP and the Reform or Canadian Alliance, the latter two being earlier versions of today's Conservative Party.

The situation for voters in this riding is far worse than this polarization would suggest.

We have not elected a member to the government in 29 years. In fact, we have done so only twice in the past 50 years. And you'd have to go back 68 years to find a Liberal candidate who had been elected

With the article's headline, one might have expected that more than the two horses in question would be mentioned, yet only the NDP and Conservative candidates' names and photos were included. Both Liberal candidate Brian Scott and Green Party candidate Christina Knighton were left out.

This kind of editorial omission helps perpetuate the two-horse race and the dominance of the NDP and Conservatives in our riding. But what troubled me most was not this omission, but the response by one of those two horses, NDP candidate and incumbent Jean Crowder.

Referring to the number of candidates which typically run in our riding during federal elections (up to ten), Crowder responded: "There is a lot of interest and that does a lot of good for the democratic process, that people get involved." As to the prospect of facing the extra competition, she stated: "I think it allows us to get some perspectives on the issues. It generates good conversation. I think it's very healthy."

Within the NDP's platform one can find a small section on electoral reform. Yet rarely does one hear NDP candidates voicing their concern that the votes of the majority of Canadians, including those of citizens in this riding, fail to be represented in the House of Commons.

For example, in Nanaimo-Cowichan during the 2006 federal election, the votes of 53.2% of us elected no one. That's 32, 499 votes. That's 32,499 of us whose opinion didn't matter.

Since only first place matters in a winner-take-all system, even the votes for the Conservative who placed second didn't count.

This Citizen article was a golden opportunity for Crowder to raise the issue of the lack of democracy in our voting system. That she didn't has to make this voter wonder how committed she and the NDP are to democratic and electoral reform - and not just the kind of reform which the party prefers, but that which the people decide.

(I omit the Conservatives because they do not profess to want change to our voting system.)

It's fine for Crowder to state, in response to a question about facing added competition, that "it allows us [presumably the horses in the two-horse race] to get some perspectives on the issues, [that] it generates good conversation."

It's another to acknowledge that with our first-past-the-post electoral system THERE IS NO COMPETITION beyond that between the two front-running horses.

Clearly and once again, politicians in the lead don't care about this issue and would prefer that it be buried.

Will voters allow this?

We've shown what we can do when we get angry, when we witness a threat to our democratic choice. We got Elizabeth May into the televised debates.

We have the power to force change. Therefore, I urge anyone who cares about our country's growing democratic deficit to visit Fair Vote Canada's new website, www.orphanvoters.ca. It pulls together the facts about electoral reform, answers your questions and offers constructive suggestions on what you can do to promote this change.

In the words of FVC's Executive Director, Larry Gordon, "The abused, neglected and abandoned voters of this great land will no longer meekly say 'Please sir, we want some democracy'. When the new government takes office we will remind whoever forms the government that they do not have a democratic mandate from the people."

Chrystal Ocean, Duncan.

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Home for Abused and Abandoned Voters

[The following is yesterday's press release from Fair Vote Canada. Permission to reproduce in full.]

September 20, 2008 – immediate release

"Please sir … I want some democracy."

Fair Vote Canada launches OrphanVoters.ca
- an online home for abused and abandoned voters

As our nation braces itself for widespread political devastation from the rapidly approaching electoral storm, Fair Vote Canada today announced the official opening of Canada’s first online shelter for the millions of expected victims.

OrphanVoters.ca will provide an online home for the neglected and abused citizens who will be battered without mercy at the polling stations and, once again, find the doors of Parliament slammed in their faces because their votes elected no one.

“The victims of our uncaring electoral system include Liberals in the West, Conservatives in urban centres, and New Democrats and Greens everywhere.” said Fair Vote Canada President Barbara Odenwald. “In fact, the majority of Canadians who cast ballots in federal elections usually elect no one.”

The last federal election created an unprecedented 7,584,409 of these orphan voters.

“We invite all voters to visit OrphanVoters.ca – those who know they will be orphaned on October 14, those who fear they might, and even the minority who will cast votes that actually elect MPs, but want to learn more,” said Odenwald. “OrphanVoters.ca will be a refuge, a learning centre and, most importantly, a staging area to launch a long overdue democratic revolution.”

“But OrphanVoters.ca is not your ordinary orphanage,” said FVC Executive Director Larry Gordon. “We plan to have fun, too, with our Great Democracy Disaster Contest.”

Visitors to OrphanVoters.ca will be invited to predict how many orphan voters will be created by Election 2008 across the country, in their home provinces, and in their own ridings.

Fair Vote Canada will award $2,300 in cash prizes to those whose predictions come closest to the actual results on October 14. Visitors can review the 2006 results in their own ridings and province before making their predictions on the scale of the electoral disaster on October 14.

“While it is too late to avert this democratic disaster on October 14, we want to give fair warning to the next government,” said Gordon. “The abused, neglected and abandoned voters of this great land will no longer meekly say ‘please sir, we want some democracy’. When the new government takes office we will go to Ottawa once again to demand fair voting – and to remind whoever forms the government that they do not have a democratic mandate from the people.”

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19 September 2008

In-and-Out: The 66 who said Yes

This PDF file tells the tale of former Conservative candidate David Marler, who testified to the House of Commons' Ethics Committee this summer as it met to investigate the Harper Conservatives' 2006 election "in-and-out" financing scheme.1

'In-and-out' is another term for 'creative accounting', as in creating - or claiming - something on paper or electronically which doesn't actually exist.

Marler's written account includes the list of the 66 candidates who allegedly participated in the in-and-out scheme.

That scheme, hatched by Conservative head honchos - surely micro-manager Stephen Harper would have been aware of it -, oversaw the transfer of expenses incurred by the national Conservative campaign onto those (willing) local campaigns whose allowable Elections Canada expense limits had room to spare.

Transferring expenses from a national campaign to a local campaign is electoral fraud. All expenses claimed by local campaigns must have been incurred by those campaigns, not that of the national party.

Sixty-six candidates allegedly participated in the Conservatives' in-and-out scheme, including sitting MPs. See Appendix 1 in the PDF file to view the list. (I've saved a copy of the whole thing should it mysteriously be removed from the Web.)

In the meantime and to spare you the trouble, here are the names of the sitting MPs whose campaigns allegedly took part in the scheme:

  • Richard Harris (Cariboo-Prince George)
  • Ron Cannan (Kelowna-Lake Country)
  • Jim Abbott (Kootenay-Columbia)
  • Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla)
  • Colin Mayes (Okanagan-Shuswap)
  • Jay Hill (Prince George-Peace River)
  • David Anderson (Cypress Hills-Grasslands)
  • Patricia Davidson (Sarnia-Lambton)
  • Maxime Bernier (Sarnia-Lambton)
  • Sylvie Boucher (Beauport-Limoilou)
  • Daniel Petit (Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles)
  • Steven Blaney (Lévis-Bellechasse)
  • Jacques Gourde (Lotbinière-Chutes-de-laChaudière)
  • Luc Harvey (Louis-Hébert)
  • Josée Verner (Louis-Saint-Laurent)
  • Christian Paradis (Mégantic-L'Érable)
  • Lawrence Cannon (Pontiac)

So, Mr. Harper, how 'bout some of that much touted Ethics and Accountability, Law and Order and "If you do the crime, you do the time"?

Hats off to Dana at The Galloping Beaver for the tip.

1 View the Committee minutes for July 15, July 16, August 11, August 12, August 13 and August 14. See also the liveblogging entries for those dates by Macleans' intrepid reporter Kady O'Malley.

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Satire of Harper Cuts to Cultural Programs

If you speak any French at all, you'll appreciate this video. But even if you don't and can pick up only a few words, you'll get the point. Produced by Quebec artists Benoît Brière, Michel Rivard and Stéphane Rousseau, the skit "Culture in Danger," satirizes the Harper cuts to cultural programs.

[Warning: language may be offensive to some people - such as Conservatives]

Here's the direct link to the video. Blog about it; help it go viral!

H/T to Paul Wells over at Macleans.

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18 September 2008

First Act of Liberal Government: Check the books

Given Jim Flaherty's gift to Ontario of a $5.6 billion deficit, this move as proposed by Stéphane Dion would be smart indeed.
Earlier Wednesday, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said the first act of a Liberal government would be to ask for an audit of public finances to see whether Canada is in deficit already.

He said he would take his cue from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who asked for an independent audit of his province's books after taking over in 2003 from a Progressive Conservative government in which Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had served as a cabinet minister. The audit revealed Ontario had a $5.6-billion deficit.

“The first thing we'll do, we'll ask for an audit, an independent audit … and we'll see if Mr. Flaherty did to Canada as he did to Ontario,”

These comments are buried deep in an article focused on Harper's offer of more carrots to Quebec and his campaign's latest gaffe this time courtesy of Gerry Ritz. See also the videos of Ritz speaking to reporters in this G & M article.

And here's another Conservative gaffe, a racist, bigoted response by Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon's campaign assistant to a native protester.

These incidents are coming fast and furious as Conservatives begin seeing their 'majority' chances dwindling.

H/T to bloggers Robert and Pogge

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17 September 2008

FALSE - Green Party snubs PR

This is a response to Green Party snubs PR over at Dipper Chick.

In answer to that headline: No, the Green Party does not snub PR.

Proportional representation is in the Vision Green plan - that's a direct link to the PR section of the plan.

The Vision Green document includes all the Green policies. It is too large to fit into campaign leaflets - a situation which all parties face in presenting their over-the-sound-byte platforms. The Greens have included in their campaign handouts references back to Vision Green, where readers can find all the Green policies laid out in full, including supporting documents.

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If we had proportional representation...

If we had proportional representation, then all votes would matter in this federal election.

Instead, with our first-past-the-post system, there is a chance that Canadians will get the "majority" Stephen Harper has been threatening. That is, a disproportionate number of Conservatives will be elected to the House of Commons on the basis of less than 40% of the popular vote - not 50% + 1, as a true majority would warrant.

Now in my federal riding, there isn't a hope in hell of either a Liberal or Green winning. No matter the quality of the candidate or party platform, the Liberal will come third and the Green fourth.

However, if our first-past-the-post system were replaced by a system of proportional representation - Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) or Single Transferable Vote (STV) -, then in the first case voters would make two selections: one for the candidate, the another for their party of preference.

With STV, which is coming up for referendum in BC in 2009, voters would have at least three choices, marked in order of preference: 1, 2, 3.

Here's how I would vote in each of these cases and the likely result in the riding.


Result: Counts for nothing


MIXED MEMBER PROPORTIONAL (two ballots, 1 for candidate, 1 for party)
Candidate - Party -
Result: Likely win for candidate; Party vote goes toward proportional representation in the HOC


SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE (single ballot, select candidates in order of preference)
1 - 2 - 3 -
Result: Least portion of the vote is wasted. Best reflection of voter preference.


Both MMP and STV better reflect voter choice and help support democracy. FPTP does neither.

Which would you choose: First past the post, or a system of proportional representation?

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GST for Municipalities: Greens (1) - Cons, Libs, NDP (0)

I've written three posts over the past couple of months focused on the GST for municipalities. One was in response to a TorStar report on the Liberal strategy for cities. The second responded to another, and supporting, editorial in The Star. The third was a copy of my letter written to the Liberal Party's Urban Committee and commenting, in a fair amount of detail, on their full report to the party.

Only the Greens appear to have seen how RIGHT and REASONABLE the One Cent Campaign championed by Toronto Mayor David Miller, and endorsed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, is.1

The other parties, if they address municipal issues at all, offer services and programs. They do not offer the autonomy for communities - the ability to set their own goals and design their own solutions which fit uniquely to their residents' needs - which one cent of the GST could deliver.

This Green policy, which respects the resolution of the FCM, should not fail to convince people who give it more than one cent's thought that it is the right way to go. Now if only other parties would get onside with it.

1 See the FCM's Emergency Resolution BCMC07.2.01, "Federal revenue sharing with municipalities," adopted at their 2007 annual conference.

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The "Healthcare" Meme

While I appreciated the announcement of the Liberal Party's proposal of a catastrophic drug plan, I'm tired of the meme "healthcare," which is code for the medical and acute care industry.

WHY do parties and politicians insist on maintaining the fiction that health is equivalent to care-after-the-fact? Worse, that sickness prevention requires only the targeting of individual behaviour, such as addiction and eating and exercise habits?

There is a consistent message coming from Canada's public health professionals, the World Health Organization and international agencies, and even from our own government's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones (whose report was quietly tucked away by the Harper government). It is this:

Social conditions crucially matter. And they can be deadly.

Investing more and more money on doctors, nurses, hospital beds, trauma care ... is wrong-headed. First, our acute care system needs a management overall, rather than just more money thrown at it. Second - and more importantly - we need fewer SICK PEOPLE, fewer people made vulnerable to illness.

Poverty causes stress. Stress is a proven primary underlying cause of heart disease, diabetes, and other major and chronic illnesses.1

Given these facts, which have been known for decades by researchers of the social determinants of health, it's clear that poverty is the #1 killer and our largest health threat.

People need less stress in their lives. With less stress, we'll be healthier. With fewer stressed people, Canada's acute care system can undergo its own recovery.

Whether members of the medical and drug industries would be happy with fewer sick people is another matter.

1 Google 'poverty causes stress' and you'll be swamped with references. Also simply 'stress causes'; your search result will uncover a huge number of diseases linked to stress.

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16 September 2008

Khadr to be Tried in Guatanamo

Time for a reminder about the Harper government's failure to intervene on behalf of Canadians who face injustice outside our borders.
Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr's trial before a U.S. military judge has been rescheduled for Nov. 10...

Khadr, who was born in Toronto, is the only Westerner remaining in the controversial U.S. naval prison in Cuba. Captured by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002, he was due to start trial before a military tribunal on Oct. 8 on charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and supporting terrorism.

The trial was delayed last week amid defence and prosecution wrangling over access to evidence and other legal issues...

The Nov. 10 date means the trial will start after both the Canadian and American elections.

Kuebler said the elections will have little impact on Khadr's fate, and whether his trial will go through.

"Omar Khadr's best chance for justice is that the Canadian government does something for him," said Kuebler.

"It really is a question of Canada's basic identity and commitment to its fundamental principles: Is it a country that stands for the rule of law, or is it a country that identifies itself as the U.S.'s little brother to the north?"

Khadr, who turns 22 this week, has been in the facility for six years. He was 15 when he was captured during a firefight in Afghanistan and accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American medic.

His trial will be held in Guantanamo Bay, where Khadr and some 270 others accused of terrorism or being enemy combatants — most without charge.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for refusing to call for Khadr's return to Canada and has said the judicial process is already underway in Guantanamo Bay and must continue.

The Harper Conservatives' also quietly changed the policy of the federal government to demand extradiction of criminals facing the death penalty in other lands.* And they nixed the plea deal, already made between Marc Emery and the US government - for his selling marijuana seeds by mail -, which would have seen his sentence reduced by half and to be served mainly in Canada.

* If you can help by providing the link to a news article on the death penalty extradition issue, I'd appreciate it. A cursory google didn't deliver it up for me. Also, the cartoon above appeared July 17th in the Calgary Sun and was picked up three days later by TruthDig.

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In-and-Out Scam Revisited

Am sure that other bloggers are on this story, but the more the merrier I always say! Especially when it lends more exposure to the illegal questionable tactics of the Harper Conservatives.
Workers on the campaign of a Conservative MP who declined to participate in the in-and-out advertising scheme in the 2006 election were denounced as "idiots" and a "bunch of turds" by senior party officials, who wanted to "put the fear of God" into them for not taking part in the contentious TV and radio purchases.

The emails obtained by the Citizen show how the campaign of MP Dave MacKenzie in the Ontario riding of Oxford expressed concern about the advertising purchases that would later come under investigation by Elections Canada.

Mr. MacKenzie's campaign manager, Bruce Richards, said in one email that the plan for the campaign to contribute $10,000 to the media buys "has caused some concern internally."

Mr. Richards is the former chief of police in Ingersoll, Ontario.
The party's regional organizer for South Western Ontario wrote back to assure Mr. Richards the plan was legitimate. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with this," John Bracken said in his email. Mr. Richards replied that the Oxford campaign didn't have enough space under its local spending limit to take on the extra $10,000 expense limit, anyway.

At the same time, Mr. Bracken was emailing with Michael Donison, the Conservative Party's national director, who was quarterbacking the plan to bill local ridings for so-called regional media buys.

"These idiots in Oxford have now told me they don't have room for the $10K," Mr. Bracken wrote. "These people really take the cake."

Mr. Donison wrote back: "What a bunch of turds - this is not going to cost them a cent nor give them a moment of cash flow problem and in fact will allow them $6,000 more in their reimbursement and they still try to wiggle out!"

There's more. Suggest reading the whole thing.

'tis most enlightening given Harper & Company made government accountability a key issue in their 2006 election platform.

Will the people be fooled again? Not if this kind of thing keeps leaking out.

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Noise Pollution threatens Biodiversity

There's an intriguing article in Scientific American today, about the work of Bernie Krause, a bioacoustics expert and former Moog synthesizer player for George Harrison, the Doors and other '60s musicians.

At the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Krause made a recording of the natural ambient sounds of birds, animals, insects, reptiles and amphibians. Having made spectrographs of natural soundscapes in his musical career, he realized that the recording of these creatures “looked like a musical score. Each animal had its own niche, its own acoustic territory, much like instruments in an orchestra.”
How well these natural musicians played together, Krause concludes, says a good deal about the health of the environment. He argues that many animals evolved to vocalize in available niches so they can be heard by mates and others of their kind, but noise from human activity - from airplanes flying overhead to rumbling tires on a nearby road - threatens an animal’s reproductive success.

For the past four decades, Krause has continued this work and thus far recorded over 3,500 hours of soundscapes from three continents. With at least 40 percent of these natural symphonies having been so radically altered, Krause concludes that only species extinction could account for it.

Heck, it's not just the little critters who are affected by noise pollution. This member of the human species flinches at the sound of the constant traffic outside my window.

As Duncan grows and there's a greater influx of people - all seeming reluctant to ditch their cars or even to take passengers -, the intersection where my apartment sits is awash with traffic noise. It's unrelenting and I hate it.

Can't hear the birds singing anymore.

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System cause of Parliamentary "dysfunction"

Rarely do I reproduce so much of an article as follows, partly because of copyright concerns (it's duly linked) but largely because I don't like blogs which do that, and worse, offer no commentary of their own.

However, this editorial, which appears today in the Brantford Expositor, needs nothing more.
Stephen Harper is right when he complains of a dysfunctional parliament constantly on the brink of going to the polls and unable to focus on long-term goals.

The Green Party has the support of about five per cent of the voters but no elected member of parliament. The Bloc Quebecois are there to dissolve Canada. The Independents enjoy unprecedented and undeserved influence.

The NDP are swift to use blackmail and the two main parties see their roles as lippy prizefighters rather than politicians.

All members put their party before their country. The cabinets are full of strutting idiots.

Debates are reduced to empty chambers, except, when the cameras are rolling, to inanities, one-liners, and name-calling.

Members vote according to party orders, not from personal and considered judgment. The PM's office governs the country.

It is this old system which is dysfunctional and most of the world's democracies have moved on to better systems.

Only three countries still retain this "first past the post" system, which ensures that "winner take all" and "loser lose all" -- not a savvy system when placing bets and no way to run a country...

For information on electoral reform, proportional representation and what action you can take, contact FairVote Canada.

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Toughen Animal Abuse Laws NOW

UPDATED with a third case reported today.

At least two three stories of animal abuse are in the news today.

One reports a cat which was set on fire and left to die a horrible death. The other second tells the tale of the shooting of a 14-week old puppy. And the third describes the case of five puppies which were thrown down the hole, and left slowly to die in a stinking outhouse.

Regardless of whether you're an animal lover, these incidents should matter to you. It's well known that animal abuse and torture almost always precedes an escalation to the torture of humans.

Even if you don't care about other species' welfare, at least consider the consequences to human life of letting animal torturers go untreated and unpunished.

My furry companions are kept indoors because, living in an apartment on an upper floor, we've no choice. I've always felt guilty about that, although veterinarians argue that cats live longer, healthier lives and don't suffer from being kept indoors if they've never known otherwise.

Unfortunately for me, I don't buy that argument and so the guilt continues.

But I do buy the argument that keeping Kiltie and Brodie indoors keeps them safe from those who would torture animals just for the fun of it.

As for our ridiculous, antiquated animal abuse laws, Parliamentarians have talked and talked and talked, and introduced bill after bill after bill - and it never results in substantive change.

Well, we've got a federal election happening right now.

Which party leader will step up and PROMISE IN WRITING - with the statement signed, witnessed and notarized - that legislation will be enacted that treats the matter of animal abuse as seriously as it should?

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15 September 2008

Harper Anti-Voter Disorder

Following on my earlier post, there's this story, which provides further evidence that our Prime Minister has an acute case of anti-voter disorder.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stepped up his efforts to ensure he does not meet a single Canadian voter who hasn’t been pre-screened and positively identified as a partisan Conservative during this election campaign.

Since the campaign began, the Conservative Party has prevented the general public from attending Conservative events. Now, they have taken extra precautions by not publicly disclosing where Mr. Harper’s events will take place - not even to the media who are covering them.

According to a media itinerary released by the Conservative campaign, journalists were instructed to meet behind an office building in Ottawa where they would be taken in shuttle buses to an undisclosed location. It is not clear at this point whether the Conservatives will require journalists to wear blindfolds during the secret journey to the undisclosed location. It is also unclear if this is the same “undisclosed location” that is frequently used by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

This Conservative campaign has set a new standard for “bubble campaigns” and now appears to be running a “mobile panic room campaign.”

Later, Mr. Harper will hold a media availability at his secure party compound which the media have nicknamed the “Fear Factory” and the “Stephenbunker.”

This would be funny if it weren't so sad - and terrifying. Canada could have up to four more years with this guy in the PMO.

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Harper Shuns Public Events

As party press releases go, this one from the Liberals tells a compelling story.

Despite appearances as portrayed by our media, Stephen Harper has not loosened his micro-management style. In fact, it now aligns with tactics studied and adopted by the Republican Party in the good 'ole U S of A. That's no coincidence given that Canada's own brand of neocons have studied at the feet of the same master.

Among the items of note in the first-week report card (blatantly lifted from the Liberal media release):
  • Number of Harper campaign events that have been open to members of the public: 0
  • Number of times Jason Kenney has been seen in public since the puffin incident: 0
  • Total savings a Canadian family could receive from Harper’s two-cent-per-litre diesel tax cut if it fully “trickles down” to consumers and is not absorbed by suppliers or transporters: $15 annually or about 25 cents per week.
  • Number of Conservative campaign events that used unwitting new and expectant mothers as human props: 1
  • Number of apologies Harper has had to issue for gaffes by his staff: 2
  • Number of times the RCMP has been used to physically shield Harper from questions: 1
  • Number of party leaders Mr. Harper has tried to exclude from the leader’s debate: 1

And I would add:

Number of times Harper has prevented or quietly released, usually late on a Friday, reports uncomplimentary to his government's activities: Countless.

But here is a start:
Not to mention Harper's attempts to fool Canadians into thinking he knows how to manage the economy. Apparently, that $19.2 BILLION in pre-election spending (PDF) was designed to stimulate the economy. It wasn't to buy votes! Or was it?

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14 September 2008

Outted: Secret Government-Sponsored Environment Report

Update to my previous post on this topic.

Progressive bloggers got noticed! By the mainstream media! Again!

OK, enough with the exclamation marks. But 'tis true. Abandoned Stuff, Impolitical, Scott's DiaTribes and Challenging the Commonplace (yes, US) all got a mention.

Now as I emailed to friend Daphne, "if only WISE had been noticed by the MSM how much different things might have been, yes?"

That said, this is proof that WISE still lives on in its key activists. While it may have folded, we sure didn't!

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13 September 2008

"Secret" Government-Sponsored Environment Report Out

A report commissioned by the Harper Government and submitted to Natural Resources Canada indicates that a $50 per tonne tax on carbon would have a statistically insignificant impact on the economy and would realize a small positive boost as early as 2015.

It comes as no surprise that the Harper Conservatives have been reluctant to make this report public. This is why the Green Party of Canada has released it for them, the party having obtained the report and supporting documents under the Access to Information Act.

Both the Greens and the Liberals have proposed multi-pronged approaches to addressing the urgent environmental, social and economic issues of our times.

Part of their proposals is reducing tax on income and investment and replacing the lost revenue with a tax on carbon. The Liberals would start the new tax at $10 per tonne and build it to $40 per tonne by the end of four years; the Greens would begin taxing carbon at $50 per tonne immediately.

According to this report, in neither case would the economy be harmed.

It's clear why the Harper Conservatives don't want to read their own government-sponsored report, which was prepared by economists or its supporting documents. They could hardly justify lying to the Canadian public - such as broadcasting dire warnings of the economic devastation and the threats to national unity which would result due to a carbon tax -, if they knew this were untrue.

Or would they?

ETA: Here's a suggestion: "If increasing taxes on carbon and reducing taxes on income would destroy the economy, shouldn't Harper be raising income taxes and slashing carbon taxes in order to create an economic boom?" In other words, rather than a Green Shift, go for a Black Shift™ (trademark pending - no, just kidding).

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All Parties Use a Single Lens

As this blogger notes, accusations fly constantly of the Green Party being a "one issue" party, with a focus solely on the environment.

However, this accusation unfairly deflects from the point that ALL parties look through a single lens when they pick the issues of interest to them or they evaluate issues of concern to others.

Yes, the Greens use an environmental lens through which to identify and evaluate issues. Just as the Conservatives use the lens of individual freedom; the Liberals look at everything in terms of the GDP (even when they talk "three pillars"); and the NDP assume a nanny state and base everything on need rather than strength, an outlook which focuses on what's wrong rather than what we can build on.

None of the parties always look through their single lens consistently, although they will try. For example, Conservative MP Ken Epp's Bill C-484, the "Unborn Victims of Crime Act," would challenge Canada's abortion protections and thus encroach on the individual freedom of women.

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12 September 2008

Voters Urged: Be Skeptical of Polls

Not all polls are created equal, cautions political scientist Dennis Pilon.

And there should be changes to the Elections Act that include requiring pollsters to state who paid for their surveys, the exact wording of their questions and the order in which the questions were asked.
"That stuff is critical for us to know whether we're being manipulated," said Pilon. "Polling is about trying to create the result you want. That's why millions of dollars are spent on it.”

Polls affect the public in various ways, he said. If people feel an election is already decided, they might not bother to vote. If they feel their first choice isn't popular, they might stay home on voting day. There's also the “winner affect” where some will want to vote for the person they feel is most likely to win.

That's where all this polling crap starts to become very important,” said Pilon.

Pollsters should also state (so say I) whether an introduction or preamble was used at the beginning of their poll or before each question.

Push polling in particular, but even otherwise well-designed polls, will use preamble that can plant a bias in respondents' minds.

For a good discussion of what went right and what went wrong in polling for the 2006 federal election, check out this paper by Bea Vongdouangchanh and Kady O’Malley.

Hands down, the pollster who got the most accurate results during the 2006 election was Nik Nanos, who reported his daily tracking results each evening on CPAC's Prime Time Politics - and is doing it again this election. His projection was within 0.1% of the actual voting results.

UPDATE: See also Impolitical's take on polls.

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11 September 2008

PMO Sics RCMP on Media

What a week Steven Harper's having! Now the PMO is using the RCMP to keep reporters away.
Robert Fife - CTV Newsnet - Closed captioning: "Well I'm telling you the prime minister's office is not letting us talk to the prime minister. And they've used the R.C.M.P. To keep us away."

So what do we have so far?
Help me out here. What else?

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10 September 2008

Democracy Doesn't End at Democratic Debates

Elizabeth May and the Green Party of Canada have inspired people from across Canada to think about fairness, both in terms of having democratic debates and also on a related issue.

Had it not been for our first past the post system, which deprived Greens of Members in Parliament in 2006, there would have been no debate about the debates.

However, the attempts by Jack Layton, Steven Harper and to some extent Gilles Duceppe, to exclude May from the debates have helped make HOW voters elect their representatives a possible emerging election issue.

After all, it was the threat to their election being a democratic one which galvanized Canadians into getting behind May.

The Greens should therefore take this opportunity to champion a key policy in their platform, that of democratic and electoral reform.

And if Layton's NDP would care to walk the talk for a change, so should they. However, that is unlikely given Layton's explanation for his reversal: that "debating the debates" had "become a distraction."

Layton changed his mind for the sake of political expediency, not because he believed himself to have been wrong.

Harper of course is a dead loss. Asked about proportional representation in an April 2006 interview with Peter Mansbridge, Harper replied: "It's probably not the preference of our caucus."

Clearly, his idea of electoral reform is to make fixed-date elections into law - and then break that law.

As for the Liberals, any expression of interest by them in reforming our electoral system should be taken dubiously.

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With May In, Viewership Gets a Boost

On Monday, Daphne and I learned of Jack Layton's and Stephen Harper's threat to the media consortium to boycott the Canadian televised debates should Elizabeth May be included in them.

It so happens that both the Canadian English language and the US Presidential debates are being held on October 2nd. Therefore, given the exclusion of May, which was contrary to the wish of 66% of Canadians, we determined that our attention that evening would turn south of the border.

Early this afternoon, Layton, then Harper, changed their position on the matter.
Dogged by protesters and divisions within the ranks of his own party, Mr. Layton told reporters during a visit to a solar-panel company here Wednesday that the debate about the debate has become an unwanted distraction.

“I have only one condition for this debate, that the Prime Minister is there, because I want to debate the issues with him,” said Mr. Layton. “I don't want to be debating the debate forever.”

This placed the onus on Harper, the remaining holdout. It was therefore no surprise that Conservative spokesperson Tony Teneycke soon provided this response:

“It appears the NDP has changed their position. Our position has been to support the NDP on this point of principle. We are not going to be the only ones to boycott the debate.”

(Matt over at Pample the Moose makes the point that reversing oneself on a position of "principle" suggests that the original position was unprincipled. Oh, to have Harper - or Layton - admit such a thing!)

So, May is in.

Now being the political junkies and avid debate watchers that we are, we know of at least two households whose members will be glued to their computers.

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09 September 2008

Harper, Dion Excluded from Debates

Elizabeth May is challenging Steven Harper and Jack Layton to 'fess up to their threats to boycott the televised debates should she be included.

According to Harper, allowing May in the debates would amount to having a "second Liberal candidate," which he said was unfair.

NDP campaign spokesman Brad Lavigne confirmed Layton's refusal to attend with May present, and for the same reason.

"We said that if the Liberals were going to have two representatives, we would not accept the invitation."

Jack Layton looks increasingly like a Harper wannabe. Alpha monkey says he won't play because May and Dion aren't running party candidates in each others' ridings. Ergo, May is a Liberal in sheep's clothing. Beta monkey mimics the same line.

By this reasoning - we can't call it 'logic' -, not just May, but also Dion and Harper should be excluded:

  • Dion, because he was the other side of that agreement. Which means, according to the argument used by Harper and Layton, Dion is a Green in Liberal clothing. Therefore, with Dion and May in the debates there'd have been two Green candidates. If May is to be excluded for purportedly being a Liberal in Green clothing, then Dion should be excluded for being a Green in Liberal clothing.

  • Harper, because the Conservatives aren't running a candidate in a Quebec riding in which a popular Independent MP is running for re-election. By Harper's own reasoning, as mimicked by Layton, this makes Harper an Independent, not a Conservative. And we all know that Independents are not allowed in the debates!

This leaves Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton to debate each other... Cue the crickets.

NB: This is a duplicate of a post written at 10:00 AM this morning. The original was not picked up by Progressive Bloggers, which means the following link wasn't working. Please vote, here and in the election!

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