MacKay displays ‘bully mentality’: judge, Ottawa Citizen

3:39 pm December 18th, 2013

Ottawa Citizen
By: Andrew Seymour

Date: 2013-12-18

An Ontario Court judge said Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s suggestion that poor criminals could sell their belongings to pay the government’s mandatory victim fine surcharge is disappointing, and suggested the minister spend some time in a courtroom.

“You have to understand these people have nothing. That’s the tragedy,” said Waterloo region Ontario Court Justice Colin Westman, one of many judges in Ontario who have

found ways to minimize the mandatory penalty by doling out small fines that reduce the mandatory victim fine surcharge to as little as 30 cents.

“I’m not trying to be a smart-alec here but I think someone has to remind the minister there are broken people here who don’t have anything to give.

“It’s a bully mentality. It’s kicking people while they are down,” Westman said Tuesday.

“The people we are dealing with, believe me, a high portion of them are just broken souls.”

Westman was reacting to a Citizen interview with MacKay Monday, when the justice minister suggested that the government’s victim fine surcharge wasn’t disproportionate or cruel and unusual punishment.

MacKay said poor offenders could pay the fine back over time or consider selling some of their belongings to pay off the debt.

The mandatory fine ranges from $100-200 depending on the severity of the offence or 30 per cent of any monetary fine.

The 70-year-old Westman, who has been a judge for nearly 24 years, said he respects MacKay’s opinion, “but he hasn’t seen what I’ve seen.”

Many poor offenders are victims themselves of psychological, physical or sexual abuse, mental illness and poverty, he said. To speak of a $200 or $300 fine as if it was nothing is “disgusting,” said Westman. “I think he’s a good man and he has a policy and this is the policy he has for whatever reason, but you know when you say things like that, that’s pretty mean-spirited,” said Westman. “Why doesn’t he come in a court and spend a day in a plea court where he sees the broken people and then ask himself whether the program he’s implemented makes sense.”

To date, Westman has been the only judge in the province to give media interviews about a mandatory surcharge he calls “an arbitrary fine set by someone sitting in Ottawa.”

“It’s an opinion based on my experience,” Westman said of his opposition. “We don’t do it just to be jerks. We do it because we are looking at someone who can’t pay. It’s not rocket science.”

Westman said he is speaking out for those “who can’t speak for themselves.”

Westman added he has tremendous empathy for victims, but “the accused is a human being too.”

“We also owe justice, not only to the victim, but the justice system is also based on doing justice to the accused. Retribution is appropriate. Revenge is not,” he said.

Westman was not alone in his criticism of MacKay’s comments Tuesday. Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society, suggested it would be interesting if MacKay tried living on a disability pension for a few months.

“Many of the people who get in conflict with the law don’t have much in terms of their personal possessions. They are pretty reliant on charitable donations,” said Latimer. “For some of the more marginalized people, they don’t have possessions to sell. Nobody is going to want to buy their coat.”

“I think it’s out of touch with reality,” added Bryonie Baxter, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society.

“The reality for most of our clients is they have no belongings worth selling,” she said. “I really don’t know what he imagines they could sell. They don’t have cars and houses.”

Latimer said the John Howard Society opposed the mandatory victim fine surcharge at a parliamentary committee, arguing it is creating significant hardship for people who simply can’t afford to pay.

Latimer said she doesn’t believe anyone thought the consequences of the law through.

“It’s a mess, quite frankly,” Latimer said of the current situation. “It’s very unwise to take a marginalized person who has no visible means of support and may well be a sex trade worker or something like that and tell them to come up with money.”

A spokesman for MacKay said the minister stands by his comments Tuesday. “Our government remains steadfast in our commitment to giving victims a more effective voice in the justice system - and this surcharge is a part of that,” Paloma Aguilar wrote in an email.

Emmett Macfarlane, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, said there may be an element of “callousness” to some of MacKay’s rhetoric, but sitting judges shouldn’t be commenting.

“It’s not for a judge in this country to respond to that,” said Macfarlane. “For the most part it is traditionally viewed as not proper for a judge to get involved in politics in this way.”

Whether the mandatory victim fine surcharge violates a person’s Charter rights is an “open question,” Macfarlane said. Until it is decided, judges should follow the law.

“Not liking the policy and having this kind of gut, moral reaction and then claiming to be upholding justice or the rule of a law is actually a distortion of what those principles are and is really a flagrant violation of the judges role,” he said. “It is not up to a judge to determine which laws they apply and which ones they do not. That’s a political decision, it’s a policy debate that Justice Westman is involving himself in and I think it is highly inappropriate.”

Westman said he understands the criticism, “but there are things that come along in life that you just have to stand up for.”

“I feel this is so fundamentally wrong,” said Westman. “It’s not about Justice Minister MacKay. It’s about justice in the courtroom.”

But Westman conceded the issue also has to do with the removal of judicial discretion and independence. “Did they show respect for us when they took away that discretion?” asked Westman.

“What is behind all that, he didn’t like what we were doing? We’re the judges, trust us. I don’t know a judge who doesn’t want to do justice in the courtroom. Trust our judgment, you’ve hired us to do that. We’re capable apparently of determining whether a person is guilty or innocent of anything in the provincial court right up to manslaughter and we’re capable in using our discretion imposing sentences from suspended sentences to life imprisonment,” said Westman.

“Respect goes both ways.”

Caption: Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press / Justice Minister Peter MacKay, above, should spend a day in a plea court to see the broken people, judge Colin Westman said.;

Deceptive Conservative Policies

9:04 am September 30th, 2013

When is the Canadian public going to understand that the Conservatives do not have good economic policy? Somehow they are continuously recognized as the party best suited to manage our economy. Opinion polls often find that a large portion of Canadians tirelessly vote Conservative solely for this fact. Especially for those not following politician’s platforms, they can rely on just voting Conservative for their perceived economic achievements.
Looking back at the track record of some past conservative leaders, their economic performances are far from impressive. Going back to the Mulroney days, his conservative party vowed to dissolve Liberal policies which they argued discouraged foreign investment, cut government spending, and restore economic confidence. Yet by the end of his 8 and a half year term in office, he managed to rack up 300 billion dollars in new debt. Some blame the state of the economy when he took over office from the Liberals and the recession of 90/91 for the new debt. Specifically, it is argued that if Mulroney was not handed the economy having to pay enormous interest on existing debt, he would have been running a surplus by the end. However, one could exhaustively debate factors like this.
On the contrary, our current Prime Minister cannot justify his debt levels on the same reasons. When he first took power in 2006, he was handed a steadily growing economy which had generated 3.5 million net new jobs, declining debt and taxes, a decade of balanced budgets, annual surpluses at about $13-billion, and fiscal flexibility projected ahead five years totalling $100-billion. That was the state of the economy when Harper’s conservatives took power. Sean Casey, Liberal MP for Charlottetown, P.E.I., released these stats in a recent blog post to the Huffington Post.
- Fact: Between 1996-97 and 2005-06, the Liberal government paid $81.4-billion against the national debt.
- Fact: The federal debt in the fiscal year 1996-97 was $562.9-billion. By the time the Liberals left office in 2006, it was reduced to $481.5-billion
- Fact: By the year 2014-15, the Conservatives will have added $176,400,000,000 to the national debt.
- Fact: The Conservative federal debt in 2008-09 = $457.6-billion.
- Fact: The expected Conservative debt in 2014-15 = $634.0-billion (forecasted).
- Fact: 24% of the total accumulated debt since Confederation was amassed under Stephen Harper, this just since 2008.
How can the conservative party justify a record of economic prowess with these facts in hand? Our debt is steadily increasing even with Harper’s austerity measures meant to counteract it. He has cut a record number of public service jobs in the past few years. The government promised in 2012 to save $5.2-billion in federal public administration costs over three years in an effort to balance the federal budget by 2015. Part of that plan included eliminating 19,200 jobs from the sector, or about 4.8% of the workforce. About 7000 were to be due to attrition, but the other 11 000 got the axe. Our unemployment levels may not be as bad as the United States, but they are certainly not close to full employment. The government cut these jobs to save money but the result is a slower economy, fewer services that people pay for, and no decreased debt.
It is also clear that the Conservatives are aware of needing to upkeep their image as good economists. Harper represents the federal budget as the “Economic Action Plan” that includes tag lines like, “we’re focused on jobs, growth and long term prosperity.” The advertising and promotion of this plan has cost approximately $100 million over the past 4 years. A Harris-Decima survey found that the number of people who did something as a result of seeing the ads registered at seven per cent, with six per cent for the winter ad campaign. One of the most heavily promoted programs currently on the Economic Action Plan website, the Canada Job Grant, has not yet been negotiated with the provinces and is not accessible to any Canadian worker.
Is this good economic policy? There are many aspects to the health of the economy but enormous debt levels, pouring millions into government advertising, and unsupported austerity measures are clearly not evidence of proficient economic management. Through all these problems there are still those that believe in their ability. Perhaps the Conservatives should become well known for their talent in the art of public persuasion instead.

SARS doctor Donald Low posthumous plea for assisted suicide

3:00 pm September 25th, 2013

Published Sept. 24 2013
In an impassioned YouTube video shot eight days before he died of a brain tumour, Dr. Donald Low, the microbiologist credited with guiding Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis, makes a final plea for Canada to change the law to allow assisted suicide.
“I know I’m going to die, what worries me is how I’m going to die,” the 68-year-old Low says in the video.
”I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours.’- Dr. Donald Low
Low was the microbiologist in chief at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital and a professor at the University of Toronto.
After the 2003 breakout of severe acute respiratory syndrome in Toronto, Low oversaw regular updates to the public about the syndrome, which eventually killed 44 people in Canada and nearly 800 worldwide.
He was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer seven months ago and died on Sept. 18.
In the video produced by Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Low says he would have liked to have the option available to terminal patients in other countries where assisted suicide is legal.
“What the end is going to look like, that’s what’s bothering me the most,” he says. “They give you a very simple way out. You drink a cocktail and you fall asleep and you do this in the presence of your family. In countries where it’s legal, it’s quite easy to do. In countries where it’s not legal, it’s pretty well impossible.”
Doctor-assisted suicide is illegal in Canada.
In the video, Low said he was not experiencing pain, but was losing his sight and other senses, and was worried about how his life would end.
He was afraid of paralysis, eventually not being able to swallow food, or use the washroom without assistance.
Maureen Taylor, Low’s widow, described her husband’s last moments.
“I could hear his breathing, as normal, was very laboured, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t hear it. And I turned back to him and he had one last breath and I held him and he didn’t breathe again anymore,” she told CBC News.
“But I can tell you that was not a dignified death that he died.”
In the video, Low makes a direct plea to opponents of assisted suicide imploring them to reconsider.
“I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours and I think they would change that opinion,” he said. “I’m just frustrated not to be able to have control of my own life. Not being able to have the decision for myself when enough is enough.
“In Canada, it’s illegal and it will be a long time where we mature to a level where there’s dying with dignity.”
A statement in the video says Low, “did not have the death he had hoped for, but he died in his wife’s arms and was not in pain.”
A spokesperson from the Office of the Minister of Justice sent an email to CBC News on Tuesday, saying that the government has “no intention” of reopening debate on the laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Mike Duffy scandal finds the Tories is a moral maze without a compass

1:27 pm May 17th, 2013

BY Penny Collenette
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, May. 16 2013, 7:18 AM EDT

Like children lost in the maze of a glorious English garden, the public office holders of both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Senate can’t seem to find their way out of ethical messes.

Values and ethics are difficult, philosophical subjects at the best of times and are often the subject of hot debate. A typical business example is that of “favours.” Do you try to influence a government official in another country (or, sadly, even in Canada) with a bribe because it’s expected and your competitors are doing it? If you don’t do it, you won’t get the business. Business students and professors spend hours of classroom time trying to resolve this type of situation. What is clear to one student may not be as clear to another – unless there is a law.

However, we cannot make laws (nor should we) for every type of situation. Instead, we operate on moral principles, conventions and trust. Accountability, clarity, honesty and lack of secrecy are some of the criteria of those principles.

If Canadians didn’t realize it before, they now understand that the Senate is not accountable to anyone. An unaccountable body in a democracy is a rare institution in this day and age. It can only function with the highest ethical standards. Anything less is not acceptable.

A basic Ethics 101 course would suggest that if you don’t understand the rules, you ask for clarification. Yet, it would seem that a number of Senators simply didn’t want to raise their hands in their quest for an answer about living expenses. Possibly they knew the answer and didn’t like it, so decided to ignore it. Perhaps they thought they were clever enough to find a loophole and decided to just sail through it.

Others argue that the rules weren’t clear. (It appears that the Senate agrees, because in a strategically bizarre but politically necessary announcement, the Senate clarified the rules, after announcing that expenses must be repaid).

All of this is messy enough. It does not speak to a healthy democracy because it breeds both cynicism (who can you trust?) and apathy (why would I care?). An archaic institution, founded in 1867, has been caught with its ethical pants down in 2013, embarrassing all of Canada and infuriating Canadians with an apparent misuse of taxpayer’s money.

And now the Prime Minister’s Office is equally lost in the ethical maze. The news that the PM’s Chief of Staff, the much-respected Nigel Wright, has personally paid the $90,000 in questionable living expenses of Senator Mike Duffy, has stunned political watchers.

While the investigation was continuing, it was reported that Senator David Tkachuk, chairman of Internal Economy, Budget and Administration, told Mr. Duffy that he would have to repay his living expenses. Dates of the cheques which predate the public report would seem to suggest that someone realized that there was an “optics” challenge and someone decided to clean it up. Ironically, by cleaning it up, another mess has been made. Legal, political, moral and ethical questions are whirling on Twitter, on talk shows and in ordinary conversations.

Is this payment illegal? If it is not, is it unethical? Did the Prime Minister know? How much did the Prime Minister know? Was this Mr. Wright’s idea? Was this Mr. Duffy’s idea? If not, whose idea? Why was it kept secret, allowing Mr. Duffy to lead the public to believe that he had repaid the monies himself?

It’s certainly legal for someone to give a loan or a gift to someone else. If the gift is a structured loan (which seems to be the case since lawyers were involved), then typically there will be repayment details (and normally interest will be charged).

But Senators, even though they are not elected, are public office-holders and so, arguably, are unelected PMO staff. By virtue of those positions, public office holders are traditionally held to a very high ethical and transparency bar. They are not just anyone. For example, in their code of ethics (which should probably be updated), Senators are prohibited from receiving gifts “that could reasonably be seen to relate to their position.” Mr. Duffy has now taken a huge gift (even if it’s a loan) from the PM’s chief of staff, putting them both in internal difficulties politically and in external ethical gray zones.

Other than a spouse, no one is closer to a Prime Minister than a chief of staff. Political junkies will remember the strong relationship between Leo Megarry and the U.S. President in the TV series The West Wing.

It’s true that the chief of staff does not tell the Prime Minister everything. Some issues are best not to discuss. Some issues need quiet “fixing.” Perhaps Nigel Wright decided to fix this problem himself. Perhaps Mike Duffy put huge pressure him to do just that.

But we don’t know because it’s not transparent. Worse, the Canadian public was lead to believe that Mr. Duffy made his own payment, which is, at the very least, disingenuous. We don’t know if the Prime Minister knew what he knew and when he became aware of the payment.

We don’t any of this because in a maze, there is only one way out. And no one, it seems, has a moral compass to find the exit.

Penny Collenette, a former senior fellow at the Kennedy School of Government and former director of appointments in the Prime Minister’s Office, is an adjunct professor in the University of Ottawa’s faculty of law.

Kevin Page: Why being Canada’s first parliamentary budget officer ‘may have saved my life’

2:44 pm April 3rd, 2013

By: Kevin Page

Published on Mon Apr 01 2013


My name is Kevin Page. I was your parliamentary budget officer for the past five years. I am Canada’s first parliamentary budget officer. It was an extraordinary opportunity. It was a job nobody wanted, including me. It was the best five years of my public service career. It may have saved my life.


I am an extraordinarily average but fortunate person. I have been happily married for 31 years to a woman I love. I raised three great children. I live in a bungalow in the suburbs of Ottawa, where I have many true friends. I am a hockey and baseball coach. I ride my bike to work. I add and subtract for a living. You get the picture.


On March 25, my wife Julia and I went to my office to pack things up and put an end to five years as your parliamentary budget officer. My wife says life is full of circles. This felt like one. About 35 years earlier we left Thunder Bay to head to Queen’s University to get an education. As always, uncertainty and opportunity lie ahead.


Sometimes personal and professional lives collide. On Sept. 9, 2006, I was working at the Privy Council Office as the assistant secretary of macroeconomic policy. I was a senior public servant working for the Conservative government. Very early on that Saturday morning I got a call from the Perth, Ont., police and hospital that our 20-year-old son Tyler had died in a tragic accident. The loss was horrific. Our lives changed.


In Bob Dylan’s song “Things Have Changed,” he sings, “the human mind can only stand so much . . . the next 60 seconds could be like an eternity . . . I used to care, but things have changed.” I stopped caring about job security. We buried a son. As Dylan goes on to sing, “I’m out of range.”


The Conservatives had developed the proposal for creating an independent budget authority when they were in opposition. They wanted help with forecasts on the economic and fiscal planning environment; help with costing new programs; and help with scrutiny of departmental appropriations.


The proposal became a reality with the passage of the Accountability Act in December 2006. However, reality got watered down. The Conservative party was now in power. Under the legislation, the position was appointed by, and works at pleasure of, the prime minister. This is a problem. There is no role for Parliament in the appointment. The position is located in the Library of Parliament. This is a problem. The independence of analysis could be threatened by administrative back office manoeuvres. It was. Ironically, the proverbial box that was ticked off was a large legislative mandate.


Nobody wanted to be a legislative budget officer under these conditions. Do the job — give Parliament and Canadians information they have never seen before — and face the wrath of the executive, and it will be the end of your public service career. Don’t do the job — say nice things about the government — and you will face the wrath of the media and Canadians. I took the job when it was agreed that a few amazing and fearless public servants would join — namely, Mostafa Askari and Sahir Khan. We signed in proverbial blood. We vowed to give Canada a true legislative budget office. Nothing less. I chose career suicide. It was a very small price to pay. After all, I had lost a son; I was “out of range.”


Our institutions of accountability are in trouble. Parliament does not get the information and analysis it needs to hold the executive (the prime minister and cabinet) to account. This is true on departmental spending plans. One year after the 2012 federal budget, which launched a significant fiscal austerity exercise, parliamentarians still do not have departmental plans to show how restraint will be implemented and service levels managed. Notwithstanding, they are asked to vote on departmental authorities to spend your money. Parliamentarians almost never see financial-decision support analysis prepared by public servants. This was true on the tough-on-crime legislation, new military procurement as well as changes to the Canada Health Transfer and to Old Age Security .


We need to care. In a well-known book, Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson , the historical case is made that nations fail when political leaders consolidate power at the expense of citizens. Nations succeed, the authors argue, when political power is dispersed; when governments are held to account by legislatures; and when economic opportunities are widely available. Canada’s Parliament is losing its capacity to hold the government to account. There are negative implications for prosperity and democracy. I am sorry if I sound brash, but we need to wake up. There is a lot at stake.


The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) was an experiment. It was an experiment in fiscal transparency. Why not give all Members of Parliament access to decision-support type financial analysis so they can debate priorities and policy directions and hold the government to account? Why not restore the power of the purse to the House of Commons? Let the government govern, but let Members of Parliament do their fiduciary jobs under the Constitution and Financial Administration Act . With the PBO we could go back to the future, to our core Westminster parliamentary government roots.


The success of the PBO over the past five years can be seen on its website. Every paper and all correspondence are on the website . Hold me personally responsible and accountable. We wanted to be a 21st-century public sector organization — transparent, accountable, analytical and lean.


Under the leadership of Mostafa Askari and Chris Matier, the PBO prepared independent economic and fiscal projections with rigorous analysis on output gaps (where is the economy relative to its potential?), cyclically adjusted budget balances (how much of our deficits are cyclical or structural or natural?), long-term sustainability analysis (do we have a current fiscal structure in place that can stabilize debt relative to GDP in the face of aging demographics?). This analysis was not made available to parliamentarians and Canadians by the government or public service, nor were the calculations on the financial impact to recent changes in the Canada Health Transfer or age eligibility to Old Age Security. It was made available by the PBO. Dismantle the PBO and this analysis will disappear.


Under the leadership of Sahir Khan, parliamentarians and Canadians got to see analysis on costing government programs never seen before and was peer-reviewed by independent experts who volunteered their time (no expense to taxpayers). Imagine a costing of a war by independent and fearless public servants, or tough-on-crime legislation or military equipment or the cost of a federal public servant. Khan and his team did this. Imagine a database generated by data from the receiver general that tracks quarterly spending relative to authorities and program activities provided and made available to parliamentarians and Canadians. Khan and his team did this for $30,000.


The PBO is under threat. Interviews to find the next parliamentary budget officer have not started, despite the fact that my term has ended. The prime minister has appointed the parliamentary librarian as the interim parliamentary budget officer. The librarian is a nice person, but someone with no budget analysis experience. The weak legislation underpinning the PBO will not sustain the office. In a healthy democracy, analytical dissonance needs to be cherished and protected.


What’s in it for the government to have a strong legislative budget office? Not much. What’s in it for Parliament and Canadians to have a strong budget office? Maybe a great deal. If it matters to you, please tell your elected representatives.


I thank the prime minister for giving me this job. I thank my country. I thank the incredible PBO staff for giving their country the very best in public service. I thank my wife, children, family and friends. I thank former public servants for showing me the way. I thank my late son Tyler for giving me the courage to try. In the struggle, I found new meaning.


Kevin Page served as Canada’s first parliamentary budget officer from March 25, 2008, to March 22, 2013.

Federal Budget 2013: Five myths of Conservative budget-making A look at the Conservative record, by Les Whittington (Toronto Star)

2:12 pm March 20th, 2013

By Les Whittington, Ottawa Bureau reporter, Toronto Star

Published on Wed Mar 20 2013

Five myths of Tory budget-making:

No Tax Increases: While Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has refrained from across-the-board income tax hikes, the Harper government has quietly tapped into Canadians’ wallets in the form of payroll tax increases. As a result of changes that took effect on Jan. 1, anyone earning at least $47,400 will pay $891.12 in Employment Insurance premiums in 2013, up $51.50.

Controlling Government Spending: The importance of keeping spending under control is a Conservative priority. But since they took power, annual federal spending has risen to $280 billion, an increase of more than 30 per cent.

Size of Government: A much-promoted Conservative restraint measure is reducing the federal public service by 19,000 positions. But the size of the government during the Harper years had grown by 32,000 before those cuts.

Deficit-Cutting: Flaherty stresses the need to avoid debt financing. But, after inheriting a $13-billion budget surplus from the Liberals in early 2006, the Conservatives were running deficits within three years. The current $26-billion annual deficit won’t be erased until 2015 at the earliest.

Jobs: The Conservatives effusively praise Canada’s job-creation record under their government, including the creation of 900,000 net jobs since the recession. But the number of people out of work is still nearly 225,000 higher today than in 2006.

Senator Jaques Demers

4:19 pm February 13th, 2013

“In an ideal world” is the opening sentence in an article written by Lysiane Gagnon in todays’ Globe and Mail. 


Clearly Ms. Gagnon lives in such a world.  In that world, everyone is apparently literate.  Those who are not, are dismissed as a disgrace.  If Ms. Gagnon wrote this article to shock then she was successful. 


I quote from the article.  “Some of Stephen Harper’s appointments were a disgrace, the worst that of Jacques Demers, a former hockey coach who, by his own admission, was illiterate.  The appointment of Patrick Brazeau, now charged with assault and sexual assault, was another mistake.”  Is the writer equating being charged with assaults to being illiterate. 


While everyone has the right to their opinion I would suggest that a little investigation on the part of Ms. Gagnon would have revealed that Senator Demers was and is a success despite being illiterate.  For years, he functioned in a world that required intense communication between many different strata’s of society.  Had she taken the time to find out what Senator Demers does in the Senate she would have learned of his sensitivity to those less fortunate, his speaking out on bullying and yes, even his revelation of once being illiterate.  It is unfortunate that the writer sullied what was a well thought out piece by this small minded discourse  on Senator Demers. 


In another life, there was a saying: “those that can do, those that can’t write about it”.  While this does not apply to the vast majority of journalists out there, in this case, it does apply to Ms. Gagnon.


Senator Larry Campbell

Tory MP awards Jubilee medal to incarcerated anti-abortion activist

1:31 pm October 24th, 2012

Despite the denials of the Conservative Party, this is their underlying reality.




By Glen McGregor, The Ottawa Citizen October 22, 2012


OTTAWA — An anti-abortion activist who is currently in jail in Toronto has received one of the Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee medals intended to mark “significant achievements” by Canadians.


Mary Wagner, 38, who has been repeatedly charged with mischief and violating court orders at abortion clinics, was nominated for the medal by Saskatchewan Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott.


Another Jubilee medal went to Linda Gibbons, a Toronto grandmother who has been charged numerous times for breaching the court-ordered “bubble zones” around clinics. Vellacott likened the two women to U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.


To mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne, every MP was allotted 30 nominations for the award, which are supposed to be vetted by the Governor General’s Chancellery of Honours before they are handed out.


The Rideau Hall press office said Monday it was unable to comment on whether the two nominations had been reviewed before the medals were handed out, or if there was any prohibition against giving medals to convicted criminals or people currently incarcerated.


Wagner is being held at a correctional facility for women in Milton, Ont., pending her next court appearance on charges of violating the terms of her probation. She was arrested at a Toronto abortion clinic in August and is awaiting trial.


Wagner was previously convicted of mischief and two counts of breaching probation for entering the Bloor Street West Village Women’s Clinic in November 2011 and approaching patients in the waiting room. At the time, she was on probation for a previous mischief charge and had been prohibited from coming within 200 metres of the clinic or contacting its staff.


She was sentenced to six months in jail — a penalty later reduced on appeal to time served of 88 days — and three years’ probation.


Gibbons has been repeatedly charged for violating a judicial order intended to protect women visiting clinics from harassment. The order prohibits counselling against an abortion within a 150 metres of a clinic.


In her long career as an anti-abortion activist, Gibbons has spent more than eight years in jail for breaching injunctions or other court orders. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a challenge of criminal charges against her.


LifeSiteNews, an anti-abortion website, said Vellacott added notations to the certificates accompanying the two women’s medals that noted “Your faithful undying battle for justice for pre-born children.”


He told the website that the women were “using civil disobedience to further a just cause” and compared them to King.


Vellacott did not respond to a call requesting comment or an email requesting the list of people he nominated.


Leeda Crawford, who met Wagner through anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition, said the medal arrived by mail within the last two weeks. When she’s not in jail, Wagner stays at Crawford’s Toronto home. Wagner has not yet received the medal in person but may have seen photos of the trinket that Crawford emailed to her lawyer.


Vellacott contacted Wagner in advance to ask if she’d accept the medal, Crawford said.


“Mary is just trying to help people,” she said. “She’s trying to get the law changed.”


Wagner has been jailed since August because she won’t agree to bail conditions that would require her to stay away from abortion clinics, Crawford said.


She said Wagner is originally from British Columbia and was once studying to be nun before she decided to devote herself to changing abortion law.


The selection process for awarding Jubilee Medals to 60,000 Canadians has raised eyebrows before, particularly when news leaked out that Conservative party campaign manager Jenni Byrne received one.


Unlike Order of Canada recipients, which are decided by a committee, the Conservative government allowed more than 200 “partner organizations” to choose their own list nominees.


Among the partner groups are trade organizations such as the Canadian Bankers Association, union groups such as the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, and politically-active groups such as the conservative Canadian Taxpayers Federation and REAL Women of Canada, a “family values” group.


Neither the Conservative party nor the Governor General’s office would say who nominated Byrne.


Rideau Hall has said it would make the list of recipients public in February, when the program concludes, but it is unclear if the names of the nominating organizations or officials will be linked to the recipients they selected.


The Citizen sent an email Monday asking all 305 sitting MPs for a list of their nominations. Only a small percentage responded by sending lists of nominees. Most said they are still handing out the medals and don’t want to ruin the surprise for nominees.


On Saturday Ottawa Centre NDP MP Paul Dewar gave out two politically charged medals, one to outspoken defence analyst Steven Staples of the left-leaning Rideau Institute and another to former Canadian Human Rights Commission lawyer Richard Warman, who has been vilified by some conservatives for his advocacy of hate-speech prosecutions.


Dewar also used one of his nominations to recognize former Ottawa mayoralty candidate Alex Munter, now head of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

Article: Of mice, men, and tap-dancing chihuahuas

1:47 pm May 31st, 2012

The article below was written by Michael Harris and was posted on iPolitics on Wednesday May 30, 2012.  I found it very interesting and I hope you will as well.

Of mice, men, and tap-dancing chihuahuas

iPolitics Insight

Posted on Wed, May 30, 2012, 5:07 am by Michael Harris

The dudes in the Ministry of Fear, alias the Prime Minister’s Office, have struck again.

Kootenay-Columbia Conservative MP David Wilks has been taken to the woodshed of Stephen Harper’s political re-education camp. That’s the place where you go in a man and come out a tap-dancing Chihuahua.

Is there a sadder spectacle in public life than a backbench MP who was almost courageous? Bad enough when you are only brave in private, and then only if you can find 12 plucky colleagues to back you up. But when you climb down all the way to the supine position after your “real” thoughts about government policy are Youtubed, it’s probably time to pack in politics and open a tanning salon. Even in these dear, dirty times, David, no one likes dancing to the rhythm of a grown man’s knees knocking.

The reality in the Harper government is that the backbench is full of bobble-headed nobodies who have for the most part embraced their role with zeal; doing what they’re told and otherwise keeping the pie-hole firmly shut. Like everybody else, David Wilks knows that Bill C-38 is not about its Ozzie and Harriett moniker – Jobs, Growth, and Long Term Prosperity. With 70 pieces of legislation folded into this bogus budget implementation bill, it is nothing but a kick in the parliamentary meat-pies of every Opposition MP in the House of Commons. It is brass knuckles and blackjack democracy. In other words, it is not democracy at all.

David Wilks is not the first and won’t be the last MP to learn that only Dear Leader is allowed to exercise his cerebral synapses. Harper famously tried to intimidate long-time Conservative MP Bill Casey when Casey told the PM that he couldn’t vote for the government budget of the day because it violated the terms of the Atlantic Accord. (It did, and distressed finance officials privately said so.) Harper had Casey sweated like a murder suspect in a smoky backroom. An array of cabinet ministers including Peter MacKay and Gary Lunn tried to cajole and then browbeat him into voting for a budget that he believed cheated Atlantic Canada. The only thing missing was a naked light bulb swinging back and forth on a dangling cord. Everyone slammed the door on the way in and the way out, including finance minister Jim Flaherty.

When Casey held fast and voted against the budget, he was tossed out of caucus like a box of Kentucky Fried chicken bones from a speeding car. He was vindicated, though, handily winning his Nova Scotia seat as an Independent against the Harper candidate before retiring from politics. But to this day, he has never told the full story of his ordeal because of fear of reprisals. If he ever does, the mayor of a certain Maritime town will have an interesting story to tell about just how far Harper revenge tactics can go against anyone who crosses him.

Like George W. Bush, Harper recognizes only one virtue in his followers – following. It actually means joining the zombie squad and voting on demand. If you don’t, your political career in the stratosphere of the Conservative party is over. If you do, you get to drink $16-a-glass orange juice. It was too much for Michael Chong, Harper’s one-time minister of intergovernmental affairs, who decided it was better to simply represent the interests of his constituents in Wellington-Halton Hills rather than stay in cabinet and support Harper’s motion making the Quebecois a “nation”.

Chong’s replacement at the time, Peter Van Loan, absorbed the political lesson: the route to the executive bathroom is blind allegiance to the boss. Tories have been bumping into each other ever since trying to find the golden door knob.

But the luminaries of the party who have ridden slavish obedience to success, people like John Baird and Tony Clement, have been diminished by Stephen Harper’s one-man rule. Baird has become the unabashed ambassador of Canada’s international decline; Tony, the laughable champion of transparency in government, hiding behind guff and gazebos. It’s getting to be a case of “Honey, I shrank my cabinet ministers.” The expedient defer to Dear Leader at their peril.

The feckless Peter MacKay has gone from being a future leadership contender in the Conservative party to a man whose political capital can now be counted in glass beads. How long can it be before he becomes just another high-priced political escort for some Bay Street law firm out to display its Ottawa connections? Helicopter rides and F-35 whoppers have wiped out MacKay’s national reputation. But his latest mission, defending the Harper vision that everyone on the east coast should live in Fort McMurray, could finish the job with the folks back home.

Unlike Bill Casey, who stood up for his region under pressure, MacKay went back to Nova Scotia to shill for an unjust EI policy that has been panned by all four Atlantic Canadian premiers. All of them say Ottawa is targeting seasonal workers, including 20,000 in MacKay’s own province. Still, he parrots the party line. And who came up with the policy? A guy who once memorably described Atlantic Canada as a “culture of failure,” the Right Honorable you-know-who.

Now MacKay is selling the sequel to Dear Leader’s conclusion about the Maritime malaise. Repeat EI offenders must commute to jobs deemed suitable by Ottawa, even though they live in a region where Boston boasts the closest subway. Better yet, they might consider packing West to partake of the culture of success. And if they don’t like Ottawa’s decisions about their EI destinies, they can tell it to their dog. Mr. Harper has handily done away with the EI appeal process, just as he has deep-sixed the Law Reform Commission, the Canadian Wheat Board, the Gun Registry, and any vestige of environmental protection except the kind promoted by those well-known planetary benefactors, the Koch Brothers of Wichita Kansas.

You know, the American billionaires who believe virtue is as important as talent (their web site actually says that), even though that hasn’t stopped them from financing any climate change denier who can quack, or according to Bloomberg News, making illicit payments to win contracts. The same Koch Brothers forked over half a million to the Fraser Institute for undisclosed international work, which may or may not have anything to do with protecting Koch Industries’ 50-year position in the Alberta tarsands/oilsands.

Senator Nicole Eaton’s nerves must be doing the frug. One can only hope that the think-tank that believes God made trees for chainsaws is not turning radical under the influence of foreign money.  As for the good Senator, whose grasp of science is a little like the Vatican’s in Galileo’s day, the PM’s science advisor might have forewarned her that the Prairies are flat, the Earth is not.  Sadly, the PM has done away with the position of science advisor.

Despite the boa-constrictor the PM has put on inside information leaking out from the government, a few whispers have escaped. A member or two of the inner circle are getting uneasy with Bill C-38, noting with a worm of fear in the guts that the NDP has overtaken the Harper Party in the polls.  The message they are getting is not to think of C-38 as a budget implementation bill at all, but as a bold legislative move that will change everything. So just disregard the polls and soldier on.  There is only one exception to the ignore-the-polls directive; polls about the government being on the right track on the economy.

Yes, Stephen Harper is betting the farm on a proposition he takes to be self-evident – that Canadians will forgive and forget everything as long as the economy is hitting on all cylinders.  Corporations are the heroes of Harper’s set economic argument, Canadians their grateful peons. He has said that government must get out of the way of corporations so that they can work their magic with investment and development. That’s why he has gutted the environmental review process. That’s why he insists on corporate tax cuts while cutting the social services of Canadians. That’s why he will now allow foreign takeovers of Canadian companies without review, if the value of the asset is a billion dollars or less, roughly triple the former trigger point.

But will the public buy the notion the PM is trying to sell – that what’s good for the corporate world and the Alberta oil patch is good for them?  With poster boys like Bernie Ebbers, Dennis Koslowski, the Rigas Family, Jeffrey Skilling, and Raj Rajaratnam, what has the corporate elite done over the last decade but lie, cheat and steal its way into the public consciousness as a scourge on society?

How salutary is corporate investment when Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Securities, Bank of America, Charles Schwab, and Morgan Keegan have all had to pay hundreds of millions in fines for dishonest business dealings in the past two years? Even Conrad Black had to eat macaroni for a few years for playing fast and loose with other peoples’ money.

How fair is it that when corporate greed took the economy off the rails after years of privatizing obscene profits, the unimaginable losses were socialized? And why should Canadians drop all their environmental concerns about the tarsands/oilsands when the project is 71 percent owned by foreign investors? Is this the best we can do: arrange to send the profits from this dubious enterprise out of the country faster than the prime minister can furnish defeated Tory candidates with government jobs?

Stephen Harper and his ministers have routinely fiddled the facts, broken the rules, and treated a lot of Canadians with contempt in their headlong rush to re-make the country without the inconvenience of persuading people that theirs is the right path to follow. In a way, they have become a little like the masters of the universe at Enron, who thought they could sell the world fake profits and hidden debts by controlling all of the information. When a jury convicted Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling in one of the worst fraud cases in U.S. history, this is how prosecutor Sean Berkowitz summed up what was behind the verdict: “You can’t lie to shareholders. No matter how rich and powerful, you must play by the rules.”

Betting that you can lie to the 99 percent and not play by the rules in government is not a sure thing, no matter what the GDP numbers say for the 1 percent.

Readers can reach the author at Click here to view other columns by Michael Harris.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

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Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

4:29 pm February 17th, 2011

Quelle surprise!   

The anti-coalitionist Stephen Harper formed a coalition to pass bill C-59.  And who did he join up with this time?  … The feared Bloc Quebecois, separatists, the anti-Canada party.  Is it not strange that when it suits his purposes, Harper will climb in to bed with anyone to form the hated coalition?  If others even mention the word, they are anti-Canadian or worse. 

The hypocrisy of Harper and his neo conservatives knows no bounds.