Sunday, December 29, 2013

The People Report

You know how you sometimes wonder how we might reorganize society if we were starting over again today from scratch? 

Imagine how public meetings to discuss it would go. Anyone recommending any variation on tinkle down economics or massive handouts to the rich as a solution to poverty would get laughed out of the room. Plutocracy? Corporations as citizens and citizens as consumers? Agribiz? Water as a subset of resource extraction? Skynet surveillance? Media monopolies? Organizing our public spaces around what is most convenient for cars? 
Yeah, we've tried those ideas already thanks - please don't waste our time at the mic.

I should admit here I'm not really a huge fan of the automobile and aside from that time someone gave me one - which served chiefly as a home away from home to various neighbourhood cats - I've never actually owned a car. This is not as inconvenient as it sounds, affording as it does ample opportunity to lecture drivers on the evils of car culture from the comfort of their passenger seat.

So today I'm noticing the local traffic report on the radio - which is of course actually the car report. A stall on the Lions Gate Bridge, poor road conditions somewhere, a three car pile-up on Highway One, and thanks for the traffic tip to Mike in Burnaby who wins a station mug or pencil or something from someone named Bambi in a helicopter. 

And it occurred to me that rather than all these updates on what cars are doing,  how about we put those resources into people reports instead? 
~ There's a guy sitting on the median at Hwy One and First Street looking pretty bummed - could someone please go see what he's crying about because I'm currently stuck up here in this stupid helicopter. 
~The homeless community in Abbotsford would like to thank all the volunteers who helped to clean up the manure the city spread on their camp in the park but report they are still short of tent pegs, warm socks, and canned goods. No more old mattresses please.
~ And this just in from Mike in Burnaby - Elderly alzheimer patient named Susan has escaped from her caregivers again. Probably wandering lost in the vicinity of Main and Broadway. Wearing a tan mac and fluffy blue slippers and carrying a knife. Someone please find her before the tasershow starts up.

Presently such rare additions to a traffic update report are added as "human interest" stories, a sort of subset of the presumably more important things that are interesting to cars. 
Possibly we have got this the wrong way round. 
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Eve in Holten, Netherlands


At 4:30pm on Christmas Eve, hundreds of Dutch schoolchildren set a candle before each of 1,394 burial plots marking the graves of Canadian soldiers who died liberating their town a few days before the end of the Second World War over 60 years ago. 

An unofficial remembrance ceremony marked every year by the people of Holten, Netherlands.

I reckon if Steve were to attend, he would likely spontaneously  burst into flames.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bruce Carson and the tarsands fox - streamlining the henhouse

Yesterday the Edmonton Journal reported :
More than 75 environment officers who watched over oil industry activities left the provincial environment department this fall, to take higher paying jobs with the new industry-funded Alberta Energy Regulator. Another 75-plus are expected to leave in the spring.
In mid-November, the department also began handing over to the regulator thousands of files on oil industry activity pertaining to the Public Lands Act, according to documents obtained by the Journal. 
This shift in staffing and the moving of years of files out of a government department to the new arm’s length regulator are key steps in the government’s plan, announced last spring, to create a more streamlined approval process for oil companies that wanted “one window” to get permits for new projects.
The article notes that the chair of the 100% industry-funded Alberta Energy Regulator, Gerard Protti, is "a founder of the oil industry lobby group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers." He also spent 15 years as an executive officer of EnCana Corporation. 

Not mentioned in the article, or in Protti's bio at the AER, is that in 2011 Gerard Protti and disgraced Harper advisor/fraudster/fixer Bruce Carson were both vice-chairs of the oil industry lobby group EPIC, Energy Policy Institute of Canada, and produced a paper calling for exactly the "streamlined approval process for oil companies" that the new Alberta Energy Regulator is mandated to deliver.

"Streamline Canada's regulatory processes to end overlap, duplication, and delays which can negatively impact Canada's competitiveness and productivity. This could be accomplished by implementing a one-project, one-process review to end duplication in regulatory regimes within one level of government and between governments ..."
Also not mentioned is that as EPIC's representative, Protti registered as a federal lobbyist from July 2012 to April 2013 to lobby for :
"a philosophical energy strategy that is adopted politically and then motivates regulatory activity in terms of economic development, energy and the environment."
to
  • Canadian Coast Guard (CCG)
  • Environment Canada (EC)
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)
  • National Energy Board (NEB)
  • Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)
  • Prime Minister's Office (PMO)
  • Privy Council Office (PCO)

And voilĂ , in June 2013 the Alberta Energy Regulator is proclaimed with Protti as chair.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

DILBIT : National Enbridge Board approves Northern Gateway


"In the unlikely event of a large oil spill ... we found that the adverse effects would not be permanent and widespread."
And just in case you aren't convinced of this by reading it just the once, the National Energy Enbridge Board repeats it three more times in their report.

But "in the unlikely event of a large oil spill ..." :
"Our final condition requires the company to maintain insurance and other financial resources totaling $950 million. The financial assurances would include $100 million in ready cash for immediate costs, $600 million in insurance or similar instruments, and $250 million in financial backstopping such as guarantees by equity partners."

And what did we learn from the 3.3 million litre $1-billion cleanup at the Enbridge dilbit spill in Kalamazoo three years ago?
                                                         It sinks.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Merry Banksy Christmas




























Five years ago, BBC correspondent Aleem Maqbool walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem, retracing the route taken by Mary and Joseph by donkey as told in the Bible. 
For ten days he and his donkey successfully negotiated the queues, turnstiles and x-ray machines at some military checkpoints while being turned away at others despite his foreign passport and Israeli press credentials.


On the morning of December 22 on his trek, he talked to a New Yorker who had emigrated to the Jewish settlement of Shilo built on Palestinian land in the middle of the West Bank.

That evening he stayed with a Christian family in Bir Zeit. 
I was told that the family's former house and the land around it had been confiscated by the Israeli army as it was next to the checkpoint to the north of the village (which I had entered earlier). There had been no compensation, they said. 
Earlier this year, the younger son had been arrested by the army in a 3am raid on the house. His brother told me that he had been held without charge (something the Israeli authorities call "administrative detention") for six months before being released.
And so it goes ...

Fun fact : The 4,000 square meter Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre in Israel will be built an hour and a half's drive northnortheast of Nazareth. It was announced at the yearly Negev Gala in Toronto earlier this month. 
A week ago, in response to international protest, the Israeli government temporarily shelved plans to forcibly evict 40,000 Bedouins from their 'unrecognised' ancestral villages in the Negev and move them to government-designated 'towns'. Bedouin homes in the Negev are destroyed for not having the necessary Israeli permits.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Inside the Senate Committee on National Security

On Monday the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence heard from the watchdogs of both CSIS and CSEC - Chuck Strahl, Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), and CSEC Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe.

Here Plouffe is explaining to Senator Romeo Dallaire why Justice Mosley slapped down CSIS for outsourcing their spying to their Five Eyes partners (US, UK, NZ, and Australia) via CSEC. Plouffe :
"CSIS has a jurisdiction which is limited to Canada, whereas CSE's jurisdiction reaches abroad. So CSIS, in accomplishing its activities, believes it has need of assistance from allies abroad and in order to obtain this, CSIS has to go through CSE because CSE deals directly with allies. In Justice Mosley's decision, CSIS asked for assistance from CSE because both individuals in question were abroad. And what happened is unfortunately CSIS did not disclose to Justice Mosley that they sought assistance from Five Eyes. So it is legal for CSE to call on the Five Eyes, however in this case there was a warrant from the court that specified it be within Canada not abroad. Mosley said CSIS was lacking in candor and good faith." 
Plouffe added this has "complicated" CSEC's relationship with the NSA and other partners.
The impression you get from listening to Plouffe is that the Five Eyes partners share just about anything and everything, with the Canadian contact being CSEC.

CSIS watchdog Chuck Strahl addressed this as problem for the privacy of Canadians, saying "we must put legal caveats on CSIS/CSE-generated intel" shared with Five Eyes partners and third parties :
 "CSIS is concerned with erosion of control of intelligence given to CSEC and by extension to the Five Eyes community." 
"CSIS has developed information privacy protocols with only one Five Eyes partner."
While Strahl doesn't reveal which Five Eyes partner it is we do have a privacy protocol with, a 2009 Memo of Understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart does mention one between NSA and Canada. This was the Snowden-leaked doc which revealed an NSA agreement purporting to share raw unfiltered intelligence data with Israel, who is not a Five Eyes member, with the proviso that Israel weed out intel about Americans and other Five Eyes citizens .

Or as Strahl put it : "A Five Eyes partner may act independently on CSIS-originated info."

He said his office was limited to the oversight of CSIS and so his investigators were unable to follow threads that led into CSEC. Likewise Plouffe said his office could not stray into investigating CSIS. 
This was not, Strahl said, what O'Connor and Iacobucci had in mind when they each recommended a joint oversight, adding there is "no provision in current legislation, which is 30 years old, for parliamentary oversight", the only Five Eyes partner not to have any.
On Abdelrazik, Strahl said CSIS created an "exaggerated threat assessment" and "inappropriately disclosed classified information". 

The senators seemed far more concerned with what new measures had been put in place to prevent a "Snowden nightmare" in Canada than in the content his leaks revealed. They didn't ask a single question of Plouffe or Strahl about spying on the G20 in Canada and Brazil or allowing the NSA to build backdoors into internet encryption under our watch.
Not one.
For his part, Strahl said "Snowden has caused us to question how we work and that's good."

Asked what possessed him to come out of retirement last year to head up SIRC, Strahl laughed and said it was classified. 
I'll bet. SIRC has had an interim chair since the former SIRC chair and fraudster appointed by Harper, Dr. Arthur Porter, resigned in disgrace in 2011.
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Dec 20 Update : Plouffe's explanation above - on Justice Mosley chastising CSEC/CSIS for outsourcing their spying on Canadians to Five Eyes partners - goes public :

CSIS asked foreign agencies to spy on Canadians, kept court in dark, judge says

Canada's spy agencies chastised for duping courts
Canada’s spy agencies have deliberately misled judges to expand their eavesdropping powers unlawfully
Update : Senate Committee transcript up.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Black shroud of secrecy" Walk of Shame











Yesterday, led by Harper's Parliamentary Secretary Paul Calandra, all seven Con MPs on the Ethics Committee voted to go in camera so the Canadian public wouldn't see them vote against conducting an investigation into what happened to those disappearing/reappearing emails of former PMO legal advisor Ben Perrin in the Senate scandal. 

This is the Ethics Committee, the Ethics Committee, and the Con members didn't want to be seen publicly covering up for the PMO.
With a majority on committee, their motion to hide out in what committee chair Pat Martin called "the black shroud of secrecy" passed 7-4



Chair Pat Martin
"I am struggling to see what possible justification, Mr. Calandra, you could have for asking this particular item of business to be moved in camera. The in-camera rule, as I understand it, is that it's to be used in cases of national security, invasion of privacy, commercial interests. It's not supposed to be the default position to save embarrassment to the government. 
[The public] have a right to know what their legislators are doing, and they have a right to know how their legislators are voting."
 Shame on all of those Cons above. 


A second black shroud of secrecy was revealed today by anonymous Hill whistleblower, Nanker Phelge - a lifetime Conflict of Interest, Loyalty, and Confidentiality Agreement gagging government staffers from ever disclosing what goes on in their ministry, even though their MPs are not similarly gagged.

Staffers must sign it in order to receive pay increases. At least one has refused so far : 


Self-muzzled Con MPs on the Ethics Committee at top, take note : This is what integrity looks like.

Perhaps we should drop them all a line reminding them about that :

paul.calandra@parl.gc.ca    jacques.gourde@parl.gc.ca   colin.mayes@parl.gc.ca    
earl.dreeshen@parl.gc.ca   John.Carmichael@parl.gc.ca   pat.davidson@parl.gc.ca
tilly.oneillgordon@parl.gc.ca

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Spysplaining

Leaks on Five Eyes spy network are fuelling ‘misinformation,’ CSEC chief says reads the G&M headline.

Actually it was the CSEC watchdog and not the CSEC chief who fretted 
to a senate committee today about CSEC info being made public, but you can see how the G&M headline writer could have confused the two. Lone CSEC watchdog commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe, appointed two months ago to ensure CSEC stays within the law, talked a lot more like a chief defending his outfit than an independent watchdog holding it to account.

Plouffe is worried about "sensational" docs leaked to the media being "taken out of context" and turned into "myths" and "misinformation", and sees it as his job to correct that.

One of the *myths* Plouffe will presumably soon be spysplaining for us is last night's CBC story bylined by Glenn Greenwald :


Snowden document shows Canada set up spy posts for NSA
Canada has set up covert spying posts around the world and conducted espionage against trading partners at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency in "approximately 20 high-priority countries."
"Co-operative efforts include the exchange of liaison officers and integrees," the document reveals, a reference to CSEC operatives working inside the NSA, and vice-versa.

It notes the NSA also supplies much of the computer hardware and software CSEC uses.
Other Snowden-leaked docs from Glenn Greenwald in need of Plouffe's corrective touch will include :
It was a puppet head trifecta today - the new CSEC *watchdog* defending NSA puppet CSEC to the PMO puppet Senate.

No mention as to whether CSEC got to join the NSA and GCHQ in infiltrating World of Warcraft and Second Life.

For much more in-depth CSEC coverage : Lux ex Umbra 
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Friday, December 06, 2013

"A special committee that will have the right Senators on board"

Yesterday in the House, Stephen Harper publicly backed the Senate's decision not to hear testimony from Michael Runia, the Deloitte auditor who allegedly intervened in the audit into Mike Duffy’s expenses at the behest of ConFund Senator Irving Gerstein and the Prime Minister’s Office.

I doubt there's anyone left who imagines the Senate's decision on Wedneday was achieved independently of Steve's input and there's two excellent columns from Tim Harper and Murray Dobbin on that below.

But there's one email from Nigel Wright to PMO Manager of Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Rogers I haven't seen mentioned anywhere that really defines the PMO's control of the Senate. 
You will recall Rogers was the guy who got the call on Deloitte from Gerstein and reported "The Senator will call back once we have Deloitte locked in" and then correctly *predicted* their $500K audit on Duffy's residence would be a bust.

A few days after Nigel Wright's request to Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton in February that
"all unilateral action from that office cease before being cleared with me" 
and just before his remarks that 
"have to do this in a way that does not lead to the Chinese water torture of new facts in the public domain that the PM does not want..." 
is this blunt assumption of the PMO's right to have Senate committees appointed to do their bidding. Nigel Wright (page 26):
 "Patrick, we are going to need to manage the briefing of the Conservative Senators (including, hopefully Chair) of the Committee. If the Rules and Procedures committee doesn't have the right membership, then the Senate by motion should constitute a special committee that will have the right Senators on board."
So bearing that in mind ...

Tim Harper : Senate scandal: A cover-up in broad daylight
Conservatives circle the wagons to keep Michael Runia and Irving Gerstein silent, raising questions about how much damage the duo could do.
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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Rob Ford, heroin, blackmail, extortion, etc...


Is Rob Ford's new defence going to be that he can't remember doing heroin because he was in one of his crack stupors?

Because that might explain why allegedly
1) after Dixon Blood gang members tried to blackmail him with the crack video and he tried to buy it back for $5-grand and a car
(wiretap March 27),
and 
2) after he had his *driver* Lisi buy back the phone they stole from him for 1.5kg in weed
(wiretap April 20), 


Rob Ford decided to party with the same gang members who tried to blackmail him - possibly resulting in even more incriminating vid and photos with which to blackmail him. 

We don't know what further Ford antics they may have recorded - yet - because the police search warrant is silent for the month from when Ford got his phone back to when stories about the crack vid were published in Gawker and the Toronto Star.

Notable that the info on the wiretaps the police have seen fit to make public so far doesn't reveal any actual recordings of Ford himself in these transactions, and by June 13 everyone else on the wiretaps had been arrested for guns and drugs. 

Sunday update : People holding guns to the head of a passed out Rob Ford?
Note Coyne's response.
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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Your daily Senate shenanigans

Today the Senate voted 51- 30 against having Deloitte partner Michael Runia testify about Senator Irving Gerstein's phone call to Runia amid PMO interference in Deloitte's audit into Senator Duffy.
BackgroundPMO Manager of Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Rogers on March 8, as per the RCMP ITO
"Senator Gerstein has just called. He agrees with our understanding of the situation and his Deloitte contact [Runia] agrees. The stage we 're at now is waiting for the Senator's contact to get the actual Deloitte auditor on the file to agree. The Senator will call back once we have Deloitte locked in."
All the Con senators voted against hearing from Runia because as one explained ... wait for it ... "it might interfere with an ongoing police investigation."

Con Senator Vern White, former Ottawa police chief : "The timing is wrong right now."

Ok, Senators, what is it the right time for then?

Senate plans to probe CBC operations
"The Senate is planning a comprehensive review of the CBC's role in Canadian society, examining how it has used billions of dollars in government subsidies received over the years.
With the Senate’s credibility on the line due to the ongoing spending scandal, Dawson explained that all senators had extra motivation to deliver a well-researched review."
Bonus Senate bs : Earlier today, Senator Gerstein, chair of the Senate banking committee, ruled "out of order" a request that he step down as chair of the Senate banking committee.
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Thursday update : Harper rejects calls for Parliament to hear more from Duffy witnesses
"Stephen Harper says there’s no need to hear an explanation from a Deloitte auditor who allegedly intervened in an independent audit into Mike Duffy’s expenses at the behest of the Conservatives’ top fundraiser and the Prime Minister’s Office."
Senate scandal : A cover-up in broad daylight.
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Friday, November 29, 2013

Paul Calandra attacks Glenn Greenwald and CBC



I think Calandra read off his bit of paper from Steve rather well today, don't you? 

Love the bit about how :
"CBC only admitted to their cash-for-news scheme after The Wall Street Journal forced it out of them"
...  by cleverly reading Greenwald's byline alongside those of Greg Weston and Ryan Gallagher at the top of the CBC article.

A byline that has also graced the pages of The Guardian and the New York Times, where, presumably, Greenwald also got paid as a journalist.

And I'm sure the actual subject matter of the CBC article :

New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto 

"Stephen Harper's government allowed the largest American spy agency to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits.  
An NSA briefing note describes the American agency's operational plans at the Toronto summit meeting and notes they were "closely co-ordinated with the Canadian partner."
had nothing at all to do with monkeynuts using his parliamentary privilege to refer to constitutional lawyer/author/journalist Glenn Greenwald as a "Brazilian-based former porn industry executive". 



Transcript ... for Steve's scrapbook : 
Mr. Paul Calandra, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister :
Mr. Speaker, the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices make clear that and I quote : 
To ensure we maintain our independence, we do not pay for information from a source in a story.  
When CBC’s The National aired a report about U.S. activities during the G8 and G20, neither Peter Mansbridge nor Greg Weston disclosed that they had paid their source, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald is a Brazilian based former porn industry executive, now assisting Edward Snowden leak national security information.  
CBC only admitted to their cash for news scheme after The Wall Street Journal forced it out of them. CBC is trying to justify the violation of their own ethical standards by claiming that Greenwald is a *freelancer*. 
Mr. Speaker Greenwald has strong and controversial opinions about national security and of course, that's his right, but when CBC pays for news, we have to ask why furthering Glenn Greenwald’s agenda and lining his Brazilian bank account more important than maintaining the public broadcaster’s journalistic integrity?
h/t Canadian Cynic for this link to Greenwald's blistering debunking of the unfortunate WSJ article referred to by Calandra :
 http://utdocuments.blogspot.ca/2013/11/wall-street-journals-alistair-macdonald.html
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Senate shits the bed, goes back to sleep

Last night's CBC At Issue panel, Nov.28 2013 on the Senate blocking a witness and the PMO continuing to run the Senate. Former Harper supporter Andrew Coyne is beyond disgusted. 
Mansbridge : The government blocks a key witness [Michael Runia, Managing Partner at Deloitte] from appearing before a senate committee to answer questions about whether he had tried to massage or even question the firm's audit of Mike Duffy's expenses.

Andrew Coyne : It's incredible. Step back from this. This is the auditing firm Deloitte that does the audits for the Conservative fundraising arm; they are also the recipient of millions of dollars in federal contracts. They are given this contract to investigate Mike Duffy's expenses by the Tory-dominated committee and there's all kinds of interference reported in the RCMP doc where they're calling them up to ask them how it's going; they're trying to influence it; Duffy's not talking to them et cetera.
At the centre of it is this fellow Michael Runia, who was the point man, the contact with Senator [Irving] Gerstein. We hear during today's testimony from the three auditors involved in the audit, he was in fact making these very inappropriate phone calls - they had to cut him off.

Just when you think ok that's the next step -clearly they'll call him as the next witness - they have a vote and vote not to call him. It's staggering. You cannot believe they would be that brazen about it."
No?  It was the last act on the last day in office before retirement for Gerald Comeau, Con chair of the Senate's internal economy committee, a position he was hastily shoehorned into following the departure of the former disgraced chair, David Tkachuk. Comeau shepherded his little Senate flock into voting against a motion to even hear from Gerstein's contact at Deloitte, longtime Con supporter and Deloitte partner Michael Runia.


Flashback to early March ...

PMO Manager of Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Rogers on March 8, as per the RCMP ITO
"Senator Gerstein has just called. He agrees with our understanding of the situation and his Deloitte contact [Runia] agrees. The stage we 're at now is waiting for the Senator's contact to get the actual Deloitte auditor on the file to agree. The Senator will call back once we have Deloitte locked in."
Then, 13 days later on March 21, Patrick Rogers makes a prediction weeks before the Deloitte audit is sent to the Senate [bold : mine]: 
"Deloitte can 't reach a conclusion on residency because lawyer has not provided them anything. This is despite their attempts use "public information" about residency. Their report will state that lawyer did not provide information when requested. They were asked to complete the work by the end of March and plan to.

I would propose that the Senator [Duffy] continue to not engage with Deloitte. I believe that we should make arrangements for repayment knowing that Deloitte will not say one way or another on his residency. If asked following the report why he did not participate with Deloitte the Senator [Duffy] can say because he had already made the decision to repay the money and as he said at the time, he looked forward to moving on. It is then up to our esteemed Senators on the committee and our Senate leadership to move on.
And voilĂ  - everything Patrick Rogers predicted before the Deloitte report was tabled came true and the "esteemed senators" are indeed desperately trying to "move on", including refusing to hear witnesses in the Senate, after first having Writewashed the Deloitte audit.
Mansbridge : We should mention that in the end, nothing was done to the Audit. There was no inappropriate ... the ethical wall wasn't breached.
Coyne, somewhat snidely : So Deloitte says.
Exactly.


It was Steve's PMO legal counsel Benjamin Perrin who asked Senator Irving Gerstein to work his contacts at Deloitte over the audit. Perrin returned to his job teaching law at UBC in April after all his emails in the PMO were erased, according to the RCMP.

PMO staffer Patrick "This is epic. Montgomery is the Problem" Rogers has since been removed from the immediate line of fire to Heritage Minister Shelly Glover's office.

Senator Irving Gerstein is still sitting in the Senate and is still in charge of the Conservative Fund Canada. When questioned about his bagman's leading role in all this, 
Steve - the Accountability Firewall Guy continues to refuse to say his name out loud in Parliament
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Steve - the Accountability Firewall Guy


2006 Conservative Party Campaign Ad on Accountability
Interviewer : How is it that hundreds of millions of dollars go missing and no one's in jail?
Harper : Well, look who's in charge. I mean these guys can't even tell the difference between Wright and wrong. 
Interviewer : Ok, we've got a question ... "It's like you get to Ottawa and no one can touch you. How will you change that?"
Harper : You change the people in charge but you also have to change the system. The first thing I'll do is pass the Federal Accountability Act. It's a real plan to clean up government.
Now : Tory changes to accountability rules leave Harper blameless in Duffy affair
When the Conservatives first took power in 2006, Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Secretaries of State said that ministers were responsible for “the actions of all officials under their management and direction, whether or not the ministers had prior knowledge.” ***
But a version of the guidelines from 2011 says: “Ministerial accountability to Parliament does not mean that a minister is presumed to have knowledge of every matter that occurs within his or her department or portfolio, nor that the minister is necessarily required to accept blame for every matter.”
Whew - lucky for Steve, huh? 
Six of his own closest staffers he hired himself - staffers we did not elect and who are not answerable to us - variously colluded in a plot the RCMP allege involved bribery, fraud, and breach of public trust, all while supposedly managing to keep Steve completely out of the loop about it. And according to the revised Accountability Act rules, that isn't his responsibility! 

Presumably this also explains Steve's new mantra in the House of Commons when questioned about the actions of any of those staffers : "There are only two people under investigation."

"Not actually a convicted felon" - it's the new standard for the Federal Accountability Act.


*** The Cons worked this first version to avoid accountability also.
In 2010 - back when parliamentary committees actually worked - the Ethics Committee was investigating  "allegations of systematic political interference by ministers' offices to block, delay, or obstruct the release of information to the public" by political staffers. 
[In those days it was still considered an anomaly to have hired shortpantsers running the government.]
i.e. A gov dept would authorize the release of a document to the public and a Con political staffer would be sent down to retrieve it before it could be released. 
When said staffers were summoned before committees as witnesses to be questioned about it, John Baird or Pierre Poilievre would show up in their place under the guise of "ministerial responsibility for staffers" and run interference on the staffer's behalf.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Senate scandal : the missing emails


Here's RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton explaining why he does not have access to the emails of Stephen Harper's personal PMO legal counsel Ben Perrin who handled the negotiations for the Duffy/Wright cheque deal with Duffy's lawyer Janice Payne:
I was advised that the e-mails of Benjamin Perrin were no longer available because he completed his tenure at the PMO in April 2013.
The emails were deleted mere weeks after they were written and a month before the Duffy deal went public because, as it happens, that's apparently standard practice for a departing employee.
How is that even credible?

Harper's dcomm Jason MacDonald explains
"Under the guidelines the Treasury Board has, the individual is required to distinguish between what should be considered a permanent document that should be preserved and what's a transitory document, as they call it, and can be deleted, and the onus is on the individual to make that distinction."
So it was up to Perrin to decide what to delete? Really?

"I just don't understand how any regime regarding documentation relating to an employee who is departing can leave it to the departing employee to decide which documents shall remain available to the employer and which shall not. I just don't understand it."
It seems quite mad really, as it could theoretically encourage the practice of hiring shortpantsers on the taxpayers' dime, after which all written evidence of whatever nefarious schemes they were asked to perpetrate could be erased. 

Law prof Amir Attaran has laid a complaint of professional misconduct with the law societies of BC and Ontario re Perrin and Payne, and also he raises this important point :
Horton writes that that the prime minister’s office waived solicitor-client privilege for those emails. That doesn’t mean that the prime minister has also waived privilege, Attaran points out. “The wording of the ITO is that PMO has waived privilege, not that the PM has.”
That may be relevant, he said, because Perrin may have had a “joint retainer,” meaning that he may have had both the office and the prime minister as his clients.
Perrin is mentioned over 30 times in the allegations of the RCMP affidavit, and while Horton states Perrin was not involved in Wright's decision to cut Duffy a cheque, these excerpts give an indication of what we might be missing in Perrin's missing emails :
Nigel Wright decided that he would personally cover the cost of reimbursing Senator Duffy. After back and forth negotiations between Janice Payne and Benjamin Perrin (legal counsel within the PMO) terms of the agreement were set.
Mr. Perrin became involved after the February 19, 2013, exchange when Senator Duffy asked for the name of a legal representative who his lawyer could communicate with. Thereinafter, Janice Payne and Benjamin Perrin communicated on this matter; Mr. Perrin was aware of Mr. Wright's personal decision to pay the money, but was in no way involved in the decision. 
Mr. Wright was not happy with Senator Duffy, and was no longer wishing to debate the matter. He told Senator Duffy that from that point on they will deal lawyer to lawyer on the matter (Payne and Perrin);
On February 21, Janice Payne sent an e-mail to Benjamin Perrin requesting media lines
On February 21, Janice Payne sent an e-mail to Benjamin Perrin with a list of 5 conditions or demands Benjamin Perrin followed up with an e-mail to Nigel Wright advising that Janice Payne wanted the agreement in writing, and stated, "I explained that was not happening. We aren't selling a car or settling a lawsuit here. She seemed to get it eventually."
On March 1, Janice Payne e-mailed Benjamin Perrin for an update on Senator Duffy being withdrawn from the Deloitte audit.
On March 5, Janice Payne e-mailed Benjamin Perrin and Arthur Hamilton (Conservative Party lawyer) seeking advice.
On March 20, after sending an e-mail to Benjamin Perrin and Arthur Hamilton about the Deloitte process, Janice Payne sent an e-mail to Senator Tkachuk seeking confirmation that the audit would be called off upon repayment.
On March 23, Janice Payne e-mailed Benjamin Perrin and stated: "Ben, yesterday we discussed the Senator sending a cheque to Deloitte with a letter explaining our position that the ongoing review should now be moot. I am preparing such a letter." She then sent Mr. Perrin a draft of the letter she intended to send to Deloitte, and solicited comments from Mr. Perrin and Nigel Wright.
Nigel Wright responded to Benjamin Perrin: think that this is perfectly fine (and I resist making minor suggestions since I would prefer to be able to answer, if necessary, that PMO did not write it)
In an earlier e-mail to Benjamin Perrin, Nigel Wright stated: think her approach works. I will send my cheque on Monday.
On March 24, Janice Payne sent an e-mail to Benjamin Perrin stating that Senator Duffy . .. asks for assurance that should any Senator seek his removal, the Gov 't leader in the Senate will urge her caucus to vote against such a motion
On March 26, Benjamin Perrin received an e-mail from Janice Payne's office stating "we have just sent the cheque to Senator Tkachuk by courier".

And then Mr. Perrin, along with all his emails, was gone.  Image from CTV.
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Dec 2 Update : Well, wouldn't you know it? They'd just fallen down the back of the couch.
Dec 5 Update : ITO contains 24 references to PMO legal counsel, Benjamin Perrin, dating from the time Mr. Wright began arranging a plan to end the controversy over Sen. Duffy’s expenses until it was completed.
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stephen Harper and his "rogue representatives"


Sept 4, 2008 : Harper says alleged Cadman bribe 'preposterous'
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper has told a court that an alleged offer to the late MP Chuck Cadman of a $1-million life insurance policy in exchange for his vote in the Commons in 2005 is “preposterous” and that only “rogue representatives” of the Conservative party could have done such a thing. 
Harper says he authorized party officials Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan to meet with Cadman May 19 to assure him that if he rejoined the Conservative caucus he would automatically secure the party nomination in his B.C. riding and get all the party help he needed to campaign. 
Harper said that when Dona Cadman first asked him in September 2005 if he knew anything about Conservative representatives offering her husband a $1-million life insurance policy, he did not know her husband had told her about it and did not ask where she heard that."

Sept 4 2008 : Harper testifies he OK'd approach to Cadman, unaware of insurance offer
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper has testified that he personally authorized an offer made to late MP Chuck Cadman in 2005 in exchange for his help defeating the Liberal government. But he maintained he knew nothing about an alleged offer of a $1 million life insurance policy to get Cadman's vote, saying he only approved an offer of campaign financial support in the event of an election."
Sept 9 2005.  Tom Zytaruk, biographer of independent MP Chuck Cadman, interviews Stephen Harper [h/t PaulGraham for audio] in the Cadman driveway on Sept 9 2005. Harper was accompanied by executive assistant Ray Novak and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, then Harper's press secretary. Excerpted : 
Zytaruk: "I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?" 
Harper: "I don't know the details. I know that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?" 
Zytaruk: "This (inaudible) for the book. Not for the newspaper. This is for the book." 
Harper: "Um, I don't know the details. I can tell you that I had told the individuals, I mean, they wanted to do it. But I told them they were wasting their time....But they were just, they were convinced there was, there were financial issues.
Zytaruk then asks how official these 'individuals' are.
Harper: "No, no, they were legitimately representing the party. I said don't press him. I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity and, you know, just, you know, if that's what you're saying, make that case but don't press it...."
"After my meeting with Mr. Harper concluded, Mr. Tom Zytaruk interviewed Mr. Harper for approximately 10 minutes in my driveway. When that interview concluded Mr. Zytaruk came into my house and I told him that Mr. Harper told me that he had no knowledge about a $1 million insurance policy offer made to my husband by Conservative Party representatives." 
Mike Duffy tries unsuccessfully to tone the story down ...

Steve Vai on Mike Duffy's take on his interview with Chuck Cadman via Galloping Beaver :
"Duffy was trying to tone down the story, offering up a conversation he had with Cadman, wherein he said he didn't want to vote against the budget, for fear he would lose his seat in an election and the insurance he had as an MP because of it. Duffy said Cadman was concerned that he would die and his wife would suffer. What nobody has picked up, Duffy actually connects some dots here. If Cadman was concerned about his insurance as an MP, then what better way to allay his fears in voting with the Cons, than to offer him assurance on that score. Insurance was on Cadman's mind, according to Duffy, which puts the offer into complete context."
Update : Which brings us up to today ... and the RCMP's charges of "criminal conspiracy" within the PMO of breech of trust, fraud and bribery
PM didn't know staff asked Conservative Party to pay Duffy's expenses: spokesperson
"Harper’s director of communications, Jason MacDonald, says Harper had no idea his staff had asked the Conservative Party to pay Sen. Mike Duffy’s ineligible expenses, ... and didn’t know PMO staff wanted a Senate report into Duffy’s expenses sanitized, or that the party’s chief fundraiser tried to influence the independent audit of Duffy’s claims."
Just another case of "rogue representatives" in the PMO again.
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Image at top from CBC At Issue panel..

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