Wednesday, January 29, 2014

RU-4Choice? : Ethical Abortion

In November last year, MP Libby Davies asked Deputy Health Minister George Da Pont why Canada has not joined 57 other countries in making RU-486, the medical abortion pill for use within the first two months of pregnancy, available in Canada despite a strong recent endorsement editorial from the Canadian Medical Association Journal. 

Indeed. It's been legal elsewhere for decades.

As the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommended in March 2003 ten freakin' years ago :
"The use of such medication for terminating early pregnancy constitutes a significant medical and public health gain and has achieved medical acceptability in Europe and the USA.
The SOGC urges Health Canada to work with professional organizations and industry to make this product available to Canadian women."
An article at the US National Institute of Health (NIH) looks into why mifepristone (RU-486) remains unapproved in Canada and concludes the reasons are both financial and political.
First, the drug approval process can only be initiated by an application from a pharmaceutical company.
"In Canada, it is predicted that revenues will be moderate because of cost controls and will not offset high regulatory approval costs ... due to abortifacient medicines' relatively infrequent use."
"Health Canada also has procedures for priority review and approval of critical new drugs and breakthrough therapies. To obtain priority status, however, the drug must be intended for life-threatening or other serious conditions."
"Life-threatening", as it happens, is the criteria the more *moderate* among the anti-choicers insist upon as a necessary condition for a woman to be permitted an abortion at all.

The NIH article also cites a history of reluctance on the part of Health Canada to approve any reproductive health medicines :
"11 of 12 contraceptive products approved for use in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia in the preceding decade were unavailable in Canada 'either because of Health Canada's stricter requirements or because they are held up in the Canadian regulatory process.' "

So in the parlance of the Cons, we can either stand with those countries which recognize a woman's right to the "gold standard" in reproductive healthcare, or we can stand with Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Korea, Myanmar, and most of Africa and South America.

Ethical Abortion, baby.

h/t  Fern Hill and deBeauxOs at Dammit Janet

Monday, January 27, 2014

Del Mastro fires a shot across Steve's bow

Former Tory MP Del Mastro turns on government over monetary policy

"The effect of the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the Governor of the Bank of Canada coming out and attacking the Canadian dollar was to reduce its value by about 5 per cent over the last two weeks,” Del Mastro told the radio station in an interview.

“That means the price of goods everyone has to buy … these things will, over time, go up in price."

Dean's seat in the House of Commons was banished as far away from Steve's as possible and I guess he's figured out it isn't going to float back in time for the next election .

So I guess that story on the weekend about a ghost ship full of cannibal rats cut loose by Canada was kind of an allegory, huh?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

RoboCon Pop Quiz : Spot the Difference!

Thwap asks a very good question :

What exactly is the difference between 

1. Elections Canada and federal prosecutors granting immunity to Con deputy campaign manager Andrew Prescott this month in the 2011 Guelph robocall election fraud case, and

2. Elections Canada refusing to grant immunity to a group of donors willing to testify about giving $1,000 each to Dean Del Mastro’s campaign, allegedly in return for receiving $1050 back from Del Mastro's cousin.

July 2012 : Elections Canada refuses immunity request for donors to Dean Del Mastro
"Elections Canada has rebuffed an offer of information about an alleged reimbursement scheme involving Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s 2008 election campaign, saying it doesn’t have the authority to give witnesses immunity from prosecution.
Elections Canada spokesman John Enright said Tuesday that the commissioner is not able to grant immunity... it can only investigate allegations of electoral misconduct and that the power to offer immunity rests with federal prosecutors."
although Toronto elections lawyer Jack Siegel says : 
"the commissioner can negotiate compliance agreements with people who have violated the act, which allows the office to effectively offer immunity from prosecution."

"A key player in the 2011 Guelph robocalls scandal is getting immunity from prosecution in the Elections Canada investigation into misleading calls in the last federal election, CBC News has learned.Prescott has a written guarantee "the Crown has no intention" of charging him in connection with the misleading phone calls."

So what's the difference? 
Aside of course from the fact Del Mastro was Steve's parliamentary secretary, election fraud pointman, and key spokesy in the House at the time, while Prescott's Con candidate Marty Burke didn't win his seat anyway and the Guelph case appears to be hermetically sealed off from the election fraud that occurred in over 200 other ridings. 

Admittedly Del Mastro is now being charged by Elections Canada in a separate investigation for overspending his 2008 campaign limit and trying to cover it up, and they are continuing their investigation into the 22 people who were issued cheques for $1,050 from Deltro, owned by Dean's cousin.

But Thwap's question remains : What exactly is Election Canada's criteria for involving Crown prosecutors in securing immunity for witnesses? Especially given it seems highly unlikely Prescott was granted immunity just to roll over on Sona in the case against him provided by Con Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton. 

If Sona goes down, the Cons will draw a line through it and say it's done : One rogue lone gun on the grassy Guelph knoll that didn't change the election results in a single riding in the 2011 election anyway.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Steve & Bibi : Book burning and honorary degrees

CBC :Health Canada library changes leave scientists scrambling
Main Health Canada research library closed, access outsourced to retrieval company
Health Canada scientists are so concerned about losing access to their research library that they're finding workarounds, with one squirrelling away journals and books in his basement for colleagues to consult.
"One group moved its 250 feet of published materials to an employee's basement. When you need a book, you email 'Fred,' and 'Fred' brings the book in with him the next day."
James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers : "Scientifically, we are going to be a third-rate country."
 Tomorrow Stephen Harper will receive an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University :
"Mr. Stephen Harper will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy for his exemplary conduct as a prominent world leader who promotes freedom, human rights and the rule of law; for his efforts to advance higher education; for his open and fundamental support of the State of Israel both as a private individual and as Prime Minister of Canada, and for his active and brave participation in the struggle against anti-Semitism and other forms of extremism.
“Mr. Harper has served as Prime Minister of Canada since 2006. Since Mr. Harper entered office, his government has promoted strict laws relating to public accountability; reduced personal and company taxation to the lowest level for forty years; introduced reforms in the criminal justice system; and strengthened Canada’s international reputation as a reliable ally in the defense of freedom, democracy and human rights."
Steve, Doctor of Book Burning, will join the company of previous Tel Aviv University honorary doctorate recipients Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Angela Merkel, and Brian Mulroney. 
They give out about a dozen a year.

Wednesday update : Steve's acceptance speech :
"I am extremely flattered by the degree and the reasons for which it was awarded. Let me just say this - that I want to accept it not just on behalf of Laureen and myself but the entire Jewish Canadian community who have in our country - and really for both of our countries - merited this award a million times over."

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Steve and Bibi Show

There's the Canadian coverage :
SunNews: Stephen Harper gets 'rock star' welcome in Israel
The Star: Stephen Harper gets a hero's welcome in Israel
CBC: Harper welcomed as 'great friend" of Israel
although NaPo went with  : 
Harper’s bromance with Netanyahu designed to shift focus from PM’s domestic troubles

It’s fair to say that Mr. Harper’s arrival was less momentous news for the average Israeli. There were no local journalists at Ben Gurion airport to greet the prime minister.
When we arrived at Mr. Netanyahu’s office compound for the official welcome ceremony, the more visible flags were those of Romania, whose president is also in town on an official visit.

And then there's the Israeli coverage :

Haaretz: Canada's Foreign Ministry on eve of Harper visit: Settlements are illegal, obstacle to peace
Despite belief that Canadian PM fully supports Israeli policy, updated policy paper shows Ottawa doesn't back nearly any of Israel's demands; Harper dodges question on Israeli settlements during Ramallah visit.
Netanyahu considers Harper his best, perhaps only, friend among today's world leaders, and a wholehearted supporter of his government's policy.
[I]n describing Harper, Netanyahu stressed that the Canadian prime minister "expresses a clear and courageous moral position with regard to the truth and to the necessary criteria in the international community toward Israel and the conflict here."
But despite Netanyahu's warm words, the latest document posted on the Canadian Foreign Ministry's website ... shows that the Canadian government is not backing nearly any of Israel's demands in the negotiations with the Palestinians. In fact, Canada's policy is practically identical to the official policy of many of the EU countries.

Further excerpted from Haaretz :
Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories conquered in 1967 and says the settlements constitute a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Canada does not recognize Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem. 
Canadian policy statement also does not express support for Netanyahu's demand for recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. 
The policy statement does not endorse Netanyahu's position that not a single Palestinian refugee will return to Israel. 
Here's the DFAIT page referenced by Haaretz, dated Jan 13, 2014. 

ForeignAffairsMin John Baird is on that trip.
Will be interesting to see if the website receives an unexpected update or if, as several commenters under various other Haaretz articles have noted, Steve is a useful idiot for Bibi and this is really only about placating Steve's evangelical supporters while courting more Jewish supporters in Canada for the next election.

Yesterday morning David Akin of SunNews released the names of the 208 shnorrers along on Steve's plane to Israel. Many rabbis, and some CEOs of course, plus seven members of the Jewish National Fund - founders of Canada Park built on top of 3 Palestinian villages - who gifted Steve that bird sanctuary info centre in his name at their annual Negev fundraiser dinner in Toronto last month where Steve announced this visit to Israel .

Stephen LautensBigCityLib and Dr. Dawg have a look at that list.

h/t Haaretz article : Canadian Cynic
Update : SunNews posted vid of Harper's address to the Knesset and did a little editorializing  of their own on the end :
"He laid out his clear rationale for why Canada has unwavering support for Israel, going as far as suggesting that criticism of the State of Israel amounts to anti-Semitism."
I think he stopped just shy of that, but only just. 
Following remarks about the 'old anti-Semiticism having been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society', he added a few spoken words to the written transcript of the speech here which I have hi-lited in red 
"Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state.
Think about that.
Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism.
It is nothing short of sickening.
But this is the face of the new anti-Semitism.
It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make the old bigotry acceptable for a new generation.
Of course, criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and of itself necessarily anti-semitic.
But what else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to exist, to defend itself while systematically ignoring – or excusing – the violence and oppression all around it?"
So there are two versions of his speech out there outlining his version of what constitutes the new anti-Semitism- the written one, and then the spoken one which adds on that pivotal loaded phrase "its right to exist".

Update 2 : While the SunNews and CBC transcripts edit out "its right to exist", the PM's official site includes it.

Haaretz : Harper proves a good friend of Netanyahu, but not necessarily of Israel
In an historic Knesset address, Canada's PM missed out on a few truths, while earning first class berths on the Titanic that is the Israeli government.

Friday, January 17, 2014

DILBIT : NEBBY's Fish 'n Chips!

Northwest Coast Energy News: DFO hands over fisheries protection along pipelines to the NEB.
"The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has handed responsibility for fish and fish habitat along pipeline routes over to the Alberta-based, energy friendly National Energy Board. The same agreement also gives the National Energy Board responsibility for dealing with First Nations fisheries if a pipeline or power line crosses their traditional territory.
As of December 16, 2013,  Enbridge no longer has to apply to DFO for permits to alter fish habitat along the Northern Gateway route." 
From the NEB MOU : 
"... the NEB application assessment process will be relied upon by DFO to the extent possible, to ensure Aboriginal groups are consulted as required, and where appropriate accommodated."
Yesterday the DFO issued a clarification :.
"Fisheries and Oceans Canada has established a collaborative agreement with the National Energy Board that will help eliminate overlap and duplication during regulatory reviews while maintaining a strong regime to manage threats to fish and fish habitat.
The National Energy Board is best placed to deliver regulatory review responsibilities under the Fisheries Act for activities relating to federally regulated energy infrastructure (such as pipelines)." 
This is the same NEB that worked with the RCMP and CSIS to "monitor the risk posed by environmental groups and First Nations" prior to public hearings into Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, which the NEB then dutifully approved in December :
"In the unlikely event of a large oil spill ... we found that the adverse effects would not be permanent and widespread."

No mention as yet of Nebby's Fish'nChips shops opening up along the proposed pipeline route.

Previous DILBIT toons

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Canada Park

When Stephen Harper visits Israel this weekend, he will likely make a stop at Canada Park, opened by John Diefenbaker in 1975 and completed in 1984.

Twenty-two years ago, CBC's Fifth Estate aired the powerful program above on the origins of Canada Park, built on top of three Palestinian villages bulldozed by the Israeli army and paid for by 15 million dollars in Canadian donations to the Jewish National Fund who continue to maintain upkeep of the park.

Harper announced his intention to visit Israel from the Jewish National Fund's annual Negev fundraiser in Toronto in December, where he performed various songs onstage for the crowd and was honoured with having the Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre in Israel named after him. 

Perhaps one day Canada will have a Bibi Netanyahu Bird Sanctuary in the Alberta tarsands.

In his speech at the Negev Dinner last month, Harper stated :
"... how easy it is to drift away from Israel. We understand that the future of our country and of our shared civilization depends on the survival and thriving of that free and democratic homeland for the Jewish people in the Middle East."
An Israeli soldier, who as a young man took reluctant part in driving the 10,000 Palestinians from their homes on the land now occupied by Canada Park, sees our interference differently. Quoted from the CBC show above :
"I think it's a very stupid idea on the part of those Canadian people who helped calling this park Canada Park. It's no business of any Canadian to intervene in a disputed issue. The land of Palestine is disputed between two peoples and let us not call any park Canada or Japan before peace is settled."
Jun 19 Update : Of the 208 members of Harper's taxpayer-paid entourage enroute to the Steve 'n Bibi show in Israel, at least seven are from the Jewish National Fund.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Toss another book on the fire

Yeah, it's an old toon recycled for Steve's Libricide :

CBC Fifth Estate : Silence of the Labs

I see Steve has also recycled Dimitri Soudas back into play.

I like how Dimitri's new rug really ties the room together.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

SIRC - the other board members

Big stink this week because in addition to being SIRC Chair, Chuck Strahl is also a registered lobbyist for Enbridge and for Alberta Frog Lake Energy Resources Corp, a First Nations firm that has partnered with a Chinese-company to drill for oil. This would probably never have blown up the way it did this week if ...
Strahl has stated he would recuse himself from any SIRC oversight of CSIS operations as they pertain to Enbridge - which not only doesn't seem very useful in a watchdog chair but could have been a useful reason to appoint Strahl to SIRC in the first place. Anytime SIRC is looking into whether CSIS is complying with the law in operations Strahl has a financial interest in, Strahl will be out in the hall.

Kady O'Malley pointed out that Strahl however is only one of five SIRC board members. 
Ok. How many of the other four of Steve's SIRC appointments also have grounds to be out in the hall when any oversight of CSIS operations re pipelines activities come up?

Denis Losier - appointed to SIRC from 2008-03-17 to 2014-03-16 is a member of the board at Enbridge Gas NB, a subsidiary of Enbridge Inc.

L. Yves Fortier - appointed to SIRC from 2013-08-08 to 2018-08-07 is a former director at TransCanada Pipelines

Deborah Grey - appointed April 2013 to April 2018
I don't know how former Chilliwack MP Strahl came to lobby for the First Nations Frog Lake Energy Resources in Alberta. Possibly through his contacts as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs or via the former SIRC chair till 2010 Gary Filmon, who is on the board of directors of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd which Frog Lake Energy Resources thanks as a partner. But fun fact - before Grey and Strahl led a Reform breakaway group together opposed to Stockwell Day in 2001 and prior to her distinguished career as a Reform MP, Deborah Grey was a high school teacher for ten years at Frog Lake Indian Reserve.

The fifth member, Frances Lankin's term is up this month. As CEO of United Way Toronto from 2001 to 2011, probably her partnership with Enbridge in the annual Enbridge CN Tower Stair Climb for United Way fundraiser would not be enough to put her in the hall.
It will be interesting to see who Steve nominates to replace her.

Additional ...
In his remarks to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence three weeks ago, Strahl tentatively endorsed a parliamentary oversight committee of intelligence agencies as recommended by Justices O'Connor and Iacobucci and like other Five Eyes partners have. "Not reinventing the wheel," he said, " just filling in the missing bits" - possibly alongside SIRC, with the proviso that such a body should retain independence of the minister. He did however mention this caveat if such a body is peopled by MPs: 
"... careful of what you ask for because you might actually get it. In this case, once you're privy to top-secret information, you can no longer stand for your constituents or your region or your province or anyone else and say, "I am appalled at what's happening in whatever," because now you are privy to top-secret information you're not allowed to talk about."
I blogged about his testimony at the time - which impressed me with its forthrightness - but I recommend reading the full transcript yourself, via Lux ex Umbra, your one-stop for all things spooky.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Manning Spy Watchdog Centre for Building Northern Gateway

The Vancouver Observer is reporting that last month former Reform/Alliance/Con MP Chuck Strahl added Enbridge "Northern Gateway Pipeline lobbyist" to the list of other part-time jobs he has accrued since leaving Harper's cabinet two years ago:
It's a good article and I'm not going to rehash it here so go read.

A few additional notes :

In October 2011, the Vancouver Sun reported that Strahl had already bagged Enbridge as a client at his new private consultancy and quoted him as a self-described pipeline supporter.

G&M: CSIS, RCMP monitored activist groups before Northern Gateway hearings
"The National Energy Board worked with the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service to monitor the risk posed by environmental groups and First Nations in advance of public hearings into Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway project."
So. Enbridge lobbyist and SIRC Chair Chuck Strahl monitors CSIS which in turn monitors the Canadians who don't want the Enbridge pipeline he is lobbying for.

Tim Groves at the Dominion, Oct 2012, before he moved to The Guardian
"The Canadian government has been orchestrating briefings that provide energy companies with classified intelligence from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and other agencies, raising concerns that federal officials are spying on environmentalists and First Nations in order to provide information to the businesses they criticize.
The secret-level briefings have taken place twice a year since 2005."
In Nov 2010, the RCMP and CSIS assisted the department of Natural Resources in organizing a daylong event at CSIS headquarters in Ottawa. From a director of energy infrastructure security at Natural Resources :
"These forums provide excellent opportunities for energy sector stakeholders to develop ongoing trusting relations which facilitate the exchange of pertinent information 'off the record'."
Which hat would Strahl be wearing when he comes to review joint CSIS/energy sector stakeholder events like that? His Christy Enbridge lobbyist hat or his SIRC spy watchdog hat?

And what is SIRC's stance on closer ties being fostered between private sector tarsands giants like Enbridge and the spying agency it oversees? 

Strahl's predecessor at SIRC, disgraced fraudster Arthur Porter,  advocated for closer ties in 2011 :
"Today the Service [CSIS] is also reaching out to non-traditional partners, such as the private sector."
"In SIRC’s opinion, an effective strategy would involve identifying those sectors with the greatest potential to be of investigative value to the Service ... the Service strives to engage and support the private sector’s security needs in other ways. Efforts are also underway to increase the number of security clearances for individuals in the private sector."
Clearly, Porter saw the advantage in mining the private sector for intel in exchange for assurances regarding their security, as did former CSIS chief Jim Judd, head of the agency Porter was supposed to be monitoring, as quoted in the Review of CSIS's Private Sector Relationships (SIRC Study 2010-2012)

The ridiculous thing about Strahl registering as an Enbridge lobbyist with the BC gov in order to "arrange a meeting between Minister Rich Coleman and representatives from Northern Gateway Pipelines" is - does anyone really think Coleman and Enbridge need help finding each other?
h/t : Strahl's 2012 by-election campaign ad at top via Jennifer Woodroff.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Harper's LMFAO Program

CBC : "Effective Dec.31, 2013, the government will no longer approve labour market opinion applications from employers looking to hire foreign workers in the sex trade industry, a spokesperson for the department of Employment and Social Development Canada told CBC News. An LMO is usually required to prove the need to hire a temporary foreign worker over a Canadian one."

Usually. Usually you need an LMO to prove there's no Canadian looking for the same work. Unless of course you're an Alberta employer looking to hire some temporary foreign workers as steam-fitters, pipe-fitters, carpenters, estimators, heavy-duty equipment mechanics, ironworkers, millwrights, industrial mechanics, or welders. Then you can just hire them at a job fair in Ireland to work alongside the Canadian workers you're going to lay off once the TFWs are trained up to take over. And no LMO!
The Canada-Alberta pilot program which added more eligible occupations to the TFW Annex runs to July 2016.

And about that "skills shortage" excuse used to justify importing TFWs.
TD Economics
"The notion of a severe labour market skills mismatch has topped the headlines. With data in hand, we debunk the notion that Canada is facing an imminent skills crisis."

Meanwhile ...

G&M : "Employers convicted of human trafficking, sexually assaulting an employee or causing the death of an employee will be allowed to access the Temporary Foreign Worker program after Ottawa decided to back away from a proposed ban."

Culling employers guilty of human trafficking, sexual assault, or death was deemed "too rigid and cumbersome, the government states."

So. Temporary foreign sex workers are banned because they are deemed especially "vulnerable to abuse", but employers convicted of sexual assault and human trafficking can go ahead and hire TFWs for any other work.


h/t Montreal Simon : The Cons and the Great Foreign Workers Scam.

Sunday Update : US State Dept 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report - Canada, excerpted :
"Labor trafficking victims include foreign workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa who enter Canada legally—sometimes through the temporary foreign worker program—but then are subsequently subjected to forced labor in agriculture, construction, processing plants, restaurants, the hospitality sector, or as domestic servants. Reports of forced labor continue to be more prevalent in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. 
As of February 2013, there were at least 77 ongoing federal human trafficking prosecutions ... These cases involved at least 130 defendants and 119 victims.   
During the year, the wife and step-daughter of a Hungarian forced labor victim who testified against his traffickers were deported after their refugee request was denied."

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