Showing posts from December 15, 2014

Voters ready to embrace coalition in a tightening race

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[A pleasant day-dream, but "Fat chance!" says I. (Sorry, I had to make the illustration large enough to read the small print!) *RON*]
By Frank Graves,, 15 December 2014

Can you say C-O-A-L-I-T-I-O-N?

A new ‘new normal’ appears to be taking hold of the federal political landscape heading into an election year.

With unexpected events having led to a renewed focus on security, coupled with some economic tumult, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have surged back into contention and, for the moment, are in a virtual deadlock with the Liberals.

In little more than a month, Harper has gone from facing the real possibility of falling from PM to leader of the third party to being within reach now of forming a fourth government. Not only has he wiped out virtually all of Justin Trudeau’s double-digit lead, he also has managed to raise his own approval numbers.

Does this suggest Harper will win in the fall (or perhaps earlier)? Not yet.…

Torture and the Truth

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[Torture has become a partisan issue, like the death penalty. Democrats are against it, but President Obama’s reluctance to prosecute the guilty is a serious mistake: "Nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity" *RON*]

By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 22 December 2014 issue
It’s hard to describe it as a positive development when a branch of the federal government releases a four-hundred-and-ninety-nine-page report that explains, in meticulous detail, how unthinkable cruelty became official U.S. policy. But last Tuesday, in releasing the long-awaited Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s interrogation-and-detention program, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee chairman, proved that Congress can still perform its most basic Madisonian function of providing a check on executive-branch abuse, and that is reason for gratitude.

It is clear now that from the start many of those involved in the program, whic…

Feds leave $321-million unspent for green programs, overspend on oil and gas research, ads

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[As with BC so with Canada: "So when we have this impending oil deflation... because all of our eggs are in that one basket, we’re just watching that basket sail down the river, and there is no plan B." *RON*]

By Tim Naumetz, The Hill Times, 15 December 2014

The federal government failed to spend a total of $321-million Parliament approved for “environmentally responsible” programs last year—nearly one-third of the money that was available for that purpose—while spending more than the $438-million that had been set aside to fund programs that primarily supported the oil and gas sector through scientific research, market development and government advertising.

Details of a spending report Natural Resources Canada submitted to Parliament through Treasury Board show the department did not spend, or “lapsed” in government accounting terms, a total of $298.6-million on programs for renewable energy development, alternative transportation fuels…

Denmark lays formal claim to North Pole

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[A brand-new story; let's see how long it takes Harper to respond! *RON*]

Richard Milne, Financial Post, 15 December 2014
Denmark has become the first country to lay formal claim over part of the North Pole as the jostling over sovereignty in the Arctic heats up.

Martin Lidegaard, Denmark’s foreign minister, will present a claim at the UN on Monday for about 900,000 square kilometres beyond the coast of Greenland.

The move is likely to put Denmark in conflict with other countries which also lay claim to parts of the potentially resource-rich Arctic including Canada, Russia and the US. Canada said last year it would make a claim over the North Pole but is still gathering data to support a submission.

The Danish move also comes amid fears that geopolitical tensions are rising in the Arctic after a period of amicable co-operation between states. The countries bordering the polar region — the five Nordic states, Canada, Russia and the US — set up th…

Cops scan social media to help assess your ‘threat rating’

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[Big Brother is watching you watch. I wonder what my threat rating is? Beware® can scan your online comments, including "any comments that could be construed as offensive." Hi there search term: RCMP! Howdy keyword: CSIS! :-) *RON*]
By Brent Skorup, Reuters, 12 December 2014

A national spotlight is now focused on aggressive law enforcement tactics and the justice system. Today’s professional police forces — where officers in even one-stoplight towns might have body armor and mine-resistant vehicles — already raise concerns.

Yet new data-mining technologies can now provide police with vast amounts of surveillance information and could radically increase police power. Policing can be increasingly targeted at specific people and neighborhoods — with potentially serious inequitable effects.

One speaker at a recent national law enforcement conference compared future police work to Minority Report, the Tom Cruise film set in 2054 Washington, wh…

Soaring House Prices, Falling Oil Prices In Joe Oliver's Crosshairs At Finance Ministers' Meeting

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[Consider that Canadian homes are believed to be over-valued by 30%, that Canadian consumer debt is at record highs, and that many Canadians think their home will fund their retirement. *RON*]
By Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 14 December 2014

OTTAWA - Finance Minister Joe Oliver says the federal government could take "moderate steps" to address Canada's strong housing market as he began two days of meetings on Sunday with his provincial counterparts.

The two-day gathering is also expected to reveal the latest figures on federal transfer payments to the provinces as well as explore the effect of plunging oil prices.

On his way to the first meeting, Oliver was also asked about Canada's rising household debt and the country's potentially overvalued housing market — two risks repeatedly raised by the Bank of Canada.

"In terms of household debt and the real-estate market, this is a subject, of course, we…

Harper's Canada: What have we become?

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[Reganism, Thatcherism, Harperism. We are becoming (I still won't say "have become" since I consider the process to be reversible, starting in 2015), in short, a neoliberal corporatist state. *RON*]

By Amira Elghawaby,, 11 December 2014

Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada
by Donald Gutstein (Lorimer, 2014; $22.95)

Does it ever feel like you've just woken up and found yourself living in a country you don't recognize? How did Canada get to where it is today -- a more militaristic, nationalistic, free-market-at-all-costs place that seems to have shed its world-renowned reputation as a land of peacekeepers, multiculturalism, social responsibility and scientific advancement?

It hasn't been by accident. In fact, as Donald Gutstein points out in the opening phrase of his book, Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his Think Tank Colleagues Have Transformed Canada, this is exactl…

Belgium sees massive strike against austerity measures

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[In the home of the EU, an anti-austerity protest march of more than 100,000 affects air and rail service, schools, government offices, business and manufacturing in Belgium. The strike targets the new coalition government's budget. See also Anti-austerity Strike Brings Belgium to a Halt, and the links following this article. *RON*]
A nation-wide strike affecting Belgian public transportation, schools, government offices, businesses and manufacturing facilities is unfolding Monday after disruptions to flights and train service began on Sunday.

Monday's large general strike culminates a series of smaller weekly protests that have also targeted transportation, leading to canceled flights and train service. The anti-austerity actions began in early November with around 100,000 taking part in a Brussels march that led to clashes between demonstrators and police.