Friday, February 28, 2014

Governor General plants an outsourcing tree

Yesterday on his state visit to India, Governor General David Johnston, along with High Commissioner of Canada to India Stewart Beck, visited software and outsourcing giant Infosys. He planted a tree and participated in a panel discussion on simplifying rules of cross border trade.

Last fall, Infosys was investigated for circumventing immigration laws in an alleged visa scam that brought thousands of workers into the US to be paid at Indian wages - giving them an advantage in underbidding local competitors - and "building a system to teach applicants how to deceive immigration authorities"
"Infosys was also accused of making errors on thousands of I-9 forms that are required to determine a person's work eligibility. Agents from Homeland Security Investigations who reviewed about 9,000 I-9 forms as part of the federal probe found more than 80 per cent of them had errors."
Infosys avoided a criminal court case by paying a $34-million settlement fee instead. 
Infosys : "Those claims are untrue and are assertions that remain unproven."

Canada Revives Infosys' North America Dream

The meeting of the Governor General of Canada with IT behemoth Infosys is likely to raise hope for the sector and its North American aspirations amid visa uncertainty.
On concerns around temporary foreign workers and stricter visa requirements, Commissioner Stewart Beck:
"so they will be moving people back and forth and we see Canada, because we have a North American Free Trade Agreement, as an excellent location for Indian as well as other companies to locate and to capitalise on the North American market."
Canada’s location is near ideal for Indian IT companies due to the close proximity of the US, which is their biggest software export market. With the US all set to tighten their visa norms with the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, close locations for client servicing and other operations will be an option Indian IT companies will consider carefully.
On the cap on visas, Beck said that there are policies that the companies were expected to meet. “There are some sensitivities in the country that have to be recognised,” he said

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Butt of Fair Elections Act fraud

Con MP Brad Butt, who sits on the PROC Committee reviewing the Cons new Fair Elections Act, alleged in the HoC on Feb 6 that he had personally witnessed evidence of vouching voter fraud in his riding.

Today as the G&M informs us :  
Conservative MP backtracks on claims he personally witnessed voter fraud
Or as Butt put it himself on Twitter this morning: "I misspoke during debate and corrected the record."

But he made that allegation in the House not once that day, as the G&M reports, but twice.
He had an hour to think over his first misspeak before he stood up and repeated it again.

You can watch him here on Hansard by clicking on "View the video" at the timestamp next to his name under "Explore by Members". Hansard does not give an exact translation of his remarks, so with the aid of their handy video option, I've corrected it in blue. 

Feb 6 2014 @16:19 : Brad Butt, Mississauga-Streetsville :
"Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a bit about this vouching system again. I know the minister represents an urban city. I am from a semi-urban area of Mississauga, where there are many high-rise apartment buildings. So one of the things that I have seen - On mail delivery day when the voter cards are delivered to community mailboxes in apartment buildings, we often find that many of them are discarded in the garbage can or the blue box. I have actually witnessed other people coming in, picking up the voter cards, going back to the campaign office of whatever candidate they support and handing out these voter cards to other individuals, who then walk into voting stations with a friends who then vouches for them with no ID.
Does the minister not believe this kind of thing will get cleaned up properly with this bill?"
Not content with making up this allegation once, he enlarges on it again an hour later @17:19
"I think my friend from York South-Weston will appreciate this because, just like the riding I represent, he has a lots of apartment buildings in his riding as well. I will relate to him something I have actually seen. Here's what I've seenI've actually seen this on the ground. On the mail delivery day when voter cards are put in those mailboxes, residents come home, pick them out of their boxes, and throw them in the garbage can. And I have seen campaign workers follow up after that, pick up a dozen of them afterward, and walk out. Now why are they doing that, Mr Speaker? They are doing it so they can hand those cards to other people, who will then be vouched for at a voting booth and vote illegally. That is going to stop."
Other Con members of the Procedures and House Affairs Committee [6 Cons, 3 NDPers, and a Lib] reviewing the Fair Elections Act alongside Butt include Con Chair Joe Preston and Con MP Scott Reid, plus :

Con MP Ted Opitz, the most recent member of Perps for donating $9,000 to his nomination campaign and thereby being cited by Elections Canada for exceeding his allowed expenses by nearly $7,000. Opitz' campaign manager also allegedly shut down a poll and frightened away seniors trying to vote during the last federal election. - which he won by 26 votes. This same campaign manager was recruited by Nick Kouvalis of Campaign Research to work on Rob Ford's election campaign in 2010. 

Con MP Tom Lukiwski, whose riding was the occasion of deceptive push-poll robocalls he blamed on Steve's director of political operations, Jenni Byrne

Con MP Blake Richards - fined $14,400 by the CRTC for two anonymous robocall campaigns in 2012

Gosh, I wonder if any of these committee members are carrying a grudge about elections law.

Making up the minority voices on the PROC committee are Lib MP Liberal Kevin Lamoureux, and NDPers Craig Scott, Dave Christopherson, and Alexandra Latendresse.
Update : Arggghhh. 
Election act changes could muzzle report on probe into robocalls, lawyer warns

According to James Sprague, senior general counsel at Elections Canada until 2006 : 
"the bill tabled by the government earlier this month actually may prevent Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer, from reporting to Parliament on the results of an investigation into allegations of dirty calls across the country.
The new act would forbid the Commissioner of Canada Elections, Yves Cote — who is in charge of investigating election crime — from disclosing “any information relating to an investigation that comes to their knowledge in the exercise of their powers.”
Sprague says that means Canadians may never learn what investigators uncover about fraudulent and deceptive telephone calls in the past election.
...the act will prevent the commissioner from discussing investigations with Elections Canada, so Mayrand will not be able to report on the investigators’ work. Instead, the director of public prosecutions will include information about the commissioner’s work in an annual report to the justice minister, but, Sprague says “that report cannot set out the details of any investigation.”
Just read the whole thing, keeping in mind the makeup of the committee studying it.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tarsands tailing ponds leaking; scientist muzzled

Federal study confirms oilsands tailings found in groundwater, river

The least surprising thing about this CP story on Environment Canada research indicating water from tarsands tailings ponds is leaching into groundwater and seeping into the Athabasca River is the by now depressingly familiar way the lead Environment Canada scientist was muzzled from speaking about it.

FirstNews of the study, published here in the Environmental Science and Technology journal in January, followed up by a good outline of the study from the CP reporter.

Second, muzzling of the lead scientist by an Environment Canada media relations guy who nonetheless provides the reporter with an opinion of his own :
"Environment Canada said it was unable to provide an interview with the report's main author, Richard Frank.
In an email, department spokesman Danny Kingsberry downplayed its findings.
despite the study's published conclusion that :
"These samples included two of upward flowing groundwater collected < 1 m beneath the Athabasca River, suggesting oil sands process-affected groundwater is reaching the river system."
This is apparently what EC spokesy Danny Kingsberry does for a living.

Third : No problem however getting interview quotes from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers that "the quality of water in the Athabasca River remains good" and 
"While the research technique used in this study shows some potential, further detailed work is required to evaluate its accuracy and adequacy for tracking oil sands process water." 
All of which reminded me of that parliamentary Environment Committee that destroyed the results of its own 18 month study of the tarsands pollution and water three and a half years ago. 
Dr. David Schindler, founding director of the Experimental Lakes Area project, had just testified about his own damning research into airborne tarsands contaminants found in the snow pack along the Athabasca River. He explained his project was "set up to examine the claim of industry and the Alberta government that no pollution from the oil sands industry gets into the Athabasca River."  
He further offered his opinion that oil companies' reports on contaminants are duly submitted to Environment Canada but EC is being muzzled and prevented from making the findings public -- after which the Environment Committee went in camera for the next seven sessions before destroying their report to the public and agreeing to cease their study of the oil sands and Canada's water resources altogether. 

Most of the members of that committee are still sitting in the House, including Justin Trudeau who I hear is giving quite a lot of interviews lately. Maybe some enterprising journo/accredited blogger could ask him wtf happened there. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who knew our side has drones?

The Eco-drone Project

Alexander Knight at Poor Man's Media in Toronto builds and operates drones on his own dime to film and monitor pipeline spills.

This baby is operational but for a few extra components. He's looking for public donations to complete it and this is where you come in.


Besides, wouldn't you like to see Canadian Cynic back online again?


Monday, February 17, 2014

Harper's Parade of Perps with Perks #9

Whoa, holy bat signal! and a warm welcome to Etobicoke Centre Con MP Ted Opitz to Harper's Parade of Perps with Perks for contributing $9,000 to his nomination campaign, thus exceeding his $2,100 personal contribution limit by nearly $7,000.  Oh, and failing to file an election expenses claim. 
That's Ted there at the back between Nigel Wright and Arthur Hamilton.

A week ago Mr. Opitz was on his feet in the HoC applauding the Cons new Fair Elections Act for having .... wait for it .... don't rush it .... "sharper teeth, a longer reach, and a freer hand".

Now this is ironic because it was the Supreme Court upholding the spirit of the old Canada Elections Act rules - allowing vouching because a citizen's right to vote trumps whatever subsequent paperwork mistakes made by Elections Canada officials might serve to disqualify that vote - that ultimately allowed Mr. Opitz to keep his seat. 

Just 26 votes out of 52,000 separated his election win from Liberal incumbent Borys Wrzesnewskyj in 2011. After a recount, an Ontario court overturned the election results due to voting irregularities - including ballots cast by people who did not live in the riding. 
Opitz appealed the ruling and another razor-thin vote - a split 4-3 Supreme Court decision - overturned the lower court decision and Opitz kept his seat.

At the time the Supreme Court found both parties blameless.
$6,900 well spent, I guess. 

Wednesday Update : According to the Hill Times, Opitz only had one other donor of $50 to his 2008 nomination campaign, aside from his own donation to himself of $9,000. His campaign expenses were $6,696 

Perps with Perks Virtual Boxed Set

The Star leaks and the Fair Elections Act

Last week, the Star published a half dozen articles based on secret memos and a 70-page slide show about the Cons' 2015 election war room strategies anonymously leaked to them, as presented to the Conservative National Council above by Harper's former dcomm and now executive director of the CPC, Dimitri Soudas :
"Everything we do is part of the strategy to ensure we win in 2015 with another majority government"
The campaign is slated to start this spring. 
"Everything" includes a "drive, disrupt, disunity" campaign targeting Justin Trudeau from within the upcoming Liberal convention, led by :
"Soudas, Industry Minister James Moore (or Heritage Minister Shelly Glover as backup), former PMO chief of staff Guy Giorno, and a “yet-to-be-determined” Conservative who will be blogging for Macleans magazine";
leveraging Laureen into the public eye; and data-scraping comments under articles, Twitter and Facebook for possible supporters to add to their CIMS/CVote database. 

Blurring the lines between the public service and the Con Party on our dime has been a Con specialty.

Prior to the last election one of Jason Kenney's staffers was forced to resign after sending out a Con fundraising letter to target "very ethnic" ridings on Immigration Ministry letterhead but was then rehired back and given a promotion in the same ministry three months later.

A year ago, Michael Sona, Con volunteer in the 2011 election fraud riding of Guelph who afterwards became a staffer to Dimitri Soudas' wife, MP Eve Adams, tweeted about Hill staffers building the CIMS :

That would be gov staffers in the public service working on the Hill adding info about Canadians to a partisan Con Party election campaign database.

And in the same month Blogging Tory founder Stephen Taylor bragged to his Enbridge and TransCanada-sponsored "Big Data" audience at the Manning Centre for Building Democracy about the Conservative Caucus Research Bureau using taxpayer dollars to micro-target voters in 2008 :
"[The party] sent out, I think, probably a hundred million pieces of mail. Paid for by the taxpayer, I should say. They were each barcoded, and they were each very issue-specific. Most people would sort of ignore it or say 'this is garbage.' But the few people who would actually send it back and say 'Hell yeah, that's what I'm all about' -- you would be able to put them in a database."
The School of Practical Politics at the Manning Centre "will be training thousands of volunteers online and at the school's new campus in Calgary from now until the next election".

The newly leaked docs from the Star on data-mining Facebook :
"The slide show points to radio station CFRA’s Lowell Green, whom it identifies as an “Ottawa based conservative leaning talk show host.” It says a “recent Facebook posting—non-issue” received 55 Facebook “likes.” The document says the party was able to “positively identify 38 constituents (70 per cent ID rate).” Of those 38, it said five “are current members/ donors."
Using a simple Facebook application to ask “Have you voted yet?”:
If a voter clicks yes, “I voted,” the party would then place a badge in their friends’ news feeds saying “I Have Voted, Have you?”
Place a badge in their friends' news feeds?

Notably, under the Fair Elections Act the Cons are in such a rush to bash through Parliament, there is no mention of such data scoping, while targeting and contacting "current members/donors" like those mentioned above will no longer count as an election campaign expense after the writ is dropped. 

And with the Elections Canada's investigatory function now relocated to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions under Peter MacKay, we'll likely never get to hear about our tax dollars hard at work re-electing another Con majority.

Friday, February 14, 2014

CSEC : Get Your Plouffe On!

CBC : CSEC exoneration a 'mockery of public accountability'
"The CSEC watchdog, headed on a part-time basis by a semi-retired judge, Jean-Pierre Plouffe, concluded:  “No CSEC activity was directed at Canadians or persons in Canada…that would be illegal.” 
Plouffe’s office says its investigation exonerating CSEC consisted almost entirely of talking to CSEC."
Lux ex Umbra : Q: Why did CSEC spy on Canadian wi-fi?  A: It's all good!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Fair Elections Action Plan

What problems are the Conservatives really trying to solve with bizarre Fair Elections Act?wrote Andrew Coyne in an excellent column two days ago.
I'd like to pillage that model and expand on it a bit.

Problem : Investigation into election fraud in 2011 Election 33 months ago being rushed along at dangerous breakneck speeds.

Fair Elections Act Solutions
1) Deny Elections Commissioner authority to compel documents and witness testimony (with individual authorizations from the courts)  - a power nonetheless already enjoyed by elections chiefs in most provinces : Yukon, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. 
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand on CBC's The House yesterday :
"Many people refused to talk to the commissioner even if they were not suspects. I'm afraid to say this is happening more and more in files investigated by the commissioner."
2) The Del Mastro clause. Require Elections Canada to inform subjects they are being investigated while preventing EC from telling the public about it.

Problem : Public trust in fair elections in Canada at all time high.

Fair Elections Act solutions
1) Governing party rewrites election law while being investigating by Elections Canada for election fraud.
2) Don't consult with Chief Electoral Officer before tabling major overhaul of Elections Act.
3) Deny Elections Canada commissioner access to parties' and riding associations' financial documentation to support claims made on their financial returns. 
4) Forbid Elections Canada from communicating with public. Mayrand :
"Most reports and research will no longer be public - not only not available but probably won't be done at all. 
I can no longer speak about democracy in this country except where and when to vote. I am not aware of any other electoral bodies around the world who cannot talk about democracy."   
then cut off debate about the bill in the HoC, sending it to PROC with its 6 out of 10 Con committee members.

Problem :  Serially violate election law successfully but then lose court battles to election watchdog.

Solution : Neutralize watchdog by moving entire elections enforcement apparatus from current independent office answerable to Parliament to inside Peter MacKay's ministry.

Problem : Too many people vote - 61% in the last federal election - especially aboriginals, young people, old people, and poor people.

1) Forbid Elections Canada from encouraging voting, including terminating the mock elections model currently being taught to 300,000 Canadian students.
2) Voter suppression. Kill off vouching *** - the provision allowing an elector to prove their residence in a riding by having someone they know in the riding who is registered to vote sign a legal document.  Marc Mayrand on CBC's The House again :
"Every Canadian has the right to vote. That's a universal franchise. Vouching is meant to assist people facing challenges. We estimate that in the last election a little over 100,000 electors required vouching before they could cast a ballot. What will happen to those electors in the next election?"
Neufeld Compliance Review, commissioned by Elections Canada :
"The audit estimated that “irregularities” occurred for 1.3 percent of all cases of Election Day voting during the 2011 federal election."
and of those irregularities, "0.4 percent of ballots had irregularities due to vouching - of which the vast majority were cases of misfiled paperwork, not misidentified voters."

Problem : Parties not spending enough time and money on elections 

1) Bump allowable individual contribution limit up by 25% with yearly increases to follow.
2) Bump party spending limits directed at new members up by 5% ($22-million).
3) Permit parties to exclude from declaring as a campaign expenditure any communication with electors as long as it's done with an elector that has contributed before in the previous five years and that it includes a call for additional money.
Mayrand : "20 to 25% of total expenditure goes to GOTV"

Problem : Incumbents don't have enough advantage over new candidates.
Solution :  See Solution #3 above.

Problem : Not enough Pierre Poutine robocalls are being made during elections.
Solution : Ditto

Problem : Not allowed to campaign on Election Day 
Solution : Ditto

***On a personal note, I have often relied on vouching in order to vote in my riding, despite having voted in every election I have been in the country for since I came of age to do so. I have a voter ID card, a Canadian passport, a Canadian citizenship card, a BC health care card, and a deed to the house in my riding which has been my only residence for decades. None of these have my address on them, including, according to Elections Canada, the deed to my house because it lists a rural RR# address they no longer recognize. I pay all my bills online or through my credit union. 

Just get a driver's licence says the harried DRO every time. 
Why? says I. Driving a car is not a requirement of citizenship.
h/t Beijing York for Mayrand interview - highly recommended. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Fair Elections Act

First : Five things you need to know about "Fair" Elections Act.

then : Kady O'Malley :
"After giving MPs just two hours to debate the pros and cons of a bill that would radically rewrite Canada's election laws, the government has, it seems, heard quite enough from the duly elected representatives in the House. 
Yesterday afternoon, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan served notice that he intends to bring forward a motion that would force an end to the first round of debate, which will likely be tabled shortly after the Commons reopens for business later this morning, and -- barring a last-minute rebellion on the Conservative backbench, at least -- passed before noon."

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Joint CAPP/Postmedia tarsands promotion

Postmedia - CAPP Showcase - January 2013 from Postmedia 3i on Vimeo.

Thurs AM update : Postmedia just yanked the vid.

Transcript :
"Postmedia is proud to present its 2013 media partnership with CAPP.
We are a media company national in scope but community-focused. Canadians know our brands, trust our content, and welcome us as a vital member of their communities. 
In 2013, we'll join Canadians in discussing what really drives Canada's economic engine - energy.  With a multi-media strategy that includes a digital sponsorship of the Energy Channel across our national network. Our editorial coverage will be tied to multiple touchpoints for CAPP including : 100% of all advertizing on energy pages, sponsorship logo, live conversation feeds, social media feeds, CAPP's partner representation, videos, promotional links, homepage takeovers, and more. 
CAPP's messaging will extend to our massive mobile and tablet network so that vital energy information is never more than a click away. Our print coverage will include weekly energy editorial across our entire newspaper chain, along with monthly joint ventures and quarterly special reports on subjects CAPP needs to bring to the forefront of Canadian consciousness. 
We'll direct our audience to the CAPP Energy Channel, Direct Mail, with a combination of promotional advertising and social media amplification.
The CAPP and Postmedia program will be executed with seamless project management and continuously optimized throughout to ensure your success. 
Be where your audience is : Postmedia."
Vancouver Observer posted slides from an alternate joint PostMedia/CAPP presentation that turned up on twitter yesterday.

Postmedia includes National Post, Financial Post, Vancouver Sun and Province, Times Colonist, Winnipeg Free Press ***, Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald, Windsor Star, Edmonton Journal, Regina Leader-Post, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Montreal Gazette, and

In November, 19% of Postmedia was acquired by a second New York hedge fund, raising the total percentage of its foreign ownership to 54%.

*** Ooops - sold in 2011. Serves me right for copying the list of papers directly off the Postmedia 2013 presentation at top. I guess they were referring to their *brand*.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Edward Snowden interview

Wed. Feb 5 Update : Video removed at source from Vimeo last night, leaving the above note in its place on Creekside. Alternate copy of Snowden interview can be seen here.

Great interview recorded a week ago, including a few choice words applicable to recent revelations about CSEC scooping up Canadians' IP IDs and tracking them across airports, hotels, conference centres, coffee shops, and libraries, and DefMin Rob Nicholson's response.
"What we saw initially in response to the revelations was sort of a circling of the wagons of government ...  Instead of circling around the public and protecting their rights, the political class circled around the security state and protected their rights."
"The Five Eyes alliance is sort of an artefact of the post-WW2 era where the anglophone countries of the major powers banded together to co-operate and share the costs of intelligence gathering infrastructure. So we have the UK's GCHQ, we have the US NSA, we have Canada's CSEC, we have Australia's Signals Intelligence Directorate and we have New Zealand's DSD. What the result of this was over decades and decades was a supranational intelligence organization that doesn't answer to the laws of its own countries." 
"The key is to remember that the surveillance and the abuse doesn't occur when people look at the data, it occurs when people gather the data in the first place."
There have been complaints of this interview disappearing off Vimeo and being entirely erased from Youtube, the latter possibly for copyright reasons. Should this one go down however, here's an alternate copy.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

CSEC : Spy vs. WiFi

So what exactly have we learned here from this 2012 CSEC pilot project that tracked wireless devices across airports, hotels, conference centres, coffee shops, and libraries, starting from a "single Canadian airport WiFi IP address" and "two weeks worth of IP-ID data" from a "Special Canadian Source", using ">300,000 active IDs over two weeks" in a "modest size city" as a control group?

1.  As Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, CSEC, and CSEC watchdog commissioner Plouffe have all now explained to us, CSEC wasn't "tracking" these Canadians because that would be illegal and our privacy is important to them.

2. If you haven't been issued a special decoder ring providing a CSECret definition of the words "tracking" and "metadata", whose fault is that?

3. If you are a hypothetical kidnapper from a rural area coming to the big city to make your three ransom phone calls - carefully spaced exactly 40 hours apart as seen in the nice CSEC powerpoint spreadsheet - at least try to blend in with the rest of the internet by forwarding some cat pictures around as well so your lone ransom calls don't stick out like a sore thumb.
If you don't much care for forwarding cat pictures, use a friggin' payphone.
Sat AM update : For those of you wondering what the fuck Calandra meant in the House yesterday when he called Glenn Greenwald, co-journalist on the CBC exposé, "a porn spy" - it's the Canadian nonsense version of "espionage pornographer", used two weeks ago by American Enterprise Institute's Marc Thiessen to describe whistleblower Edward Snowden.  
I guess the PMO thought Thiessen's version sounded too elitist.    h/t Techdirt
Sun AM update : Ryan Gallagher, one of the three journos on the original CBC piece, parses the CSEC and gov reaction. 
The always incisive Lux Ex Umbra looks at how we should interpret CSEC's mandate now. 
If, as CSEC seems to maintain, its collection of metadata is both legally within its mandate and likely to be upheld by the courts, then it would appear :
  1. there is no upper limit to collection of that data
  2. the section of its mandate referring to not directing its operations "at Canadians or any person in Canada" does not apply, and  
  3. given that part 3 of CSEC's mandate is to assist CSIS, the RCMP, CBSA, and other intelligence agencies, do those agencies require a separate warrant to access CSEC's metadata collection?

And a question of my own - Does this metadata automatically get shared with FiveEyes?
Or to put it more dramatically - is Skynet operational now?


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