Sunday, March 29, 2015

Harper's Perps with Perks #15

Welcome Vic Toews to Stephen Harper's Perps with Perks for "giving patronage a bad name", as Dan Lett wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press two days ago, .

Appointed to the Queens Court by Justice Minister Peter MacKay in March last year eight months after leaving the Cons cabinet, Toews - a former Justice Minister, Public Safety Minister, and head of the Treasury Board - has spent his time on the Manitoba bench making his presumed future appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada next year a tad more tricky for the Cons. 
"Toews has had his wages garnisheed under an order from a Quebec tribunal for failing to pay thousands of dollars in back rent on a Gatineau condominium.
Toews claimed he did not pay the back rent because he could not understand the tribunal's order and supporting documents, which were written in French."
I'm guessing not recognizing a court order as a legal document is not a strong supporting argument for appointing even a former Attorney-General of Canada to the Supremes.

As to possible conflict of interest guidelines he transgressed last year while lobbying as an employee of his wife's company on behalf of a First Nation he dealt with while in cabinet, and a subsequent court case which revealed his wife allegedly received $50K in compensation, a court official explained to CBC on behalf of Toews :
"As a sitting judge, it would not be appropriate for Justice Toews to comment on your inquiry."  
Quite. Pity though because he's usually so lucid. Here he is three years ago defending his online surveillance bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, a bill which amusingly mentioned neither children nor predators aside from in its title :


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Harper "whips out" his ISIL lawyer joke

The Con bench seals laugh and clap at Steve's joke blowing off the UN and international law because grade six. 

Harper went on to explain that Canada will be bombing Syria as part of an international coalition, although the US is the only NATO member currently bombing Syria. The other coalition countries bombing Syria are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, and the UAE. 

This same coalition of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, and the UAE minus Qatar also began bombing Yemen today. Egypt and Kuwait will be joining the offensive while Pakistan is still considering it. Nobel Peace Prize recipient President Obama has authorized the provision of US logistical and intelligence support to help bomb the Houthi rebels in Yemen who are fighting Al Qaeda and IS.
The Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthis in Yemen is dubbed “Decisive Storm”.

Harper says IS is a threat to Canada and will extend the mission for another year. 
DefMin Jason Kenney says they have no particular exit strategy..

h/t Maclean's for vid.

Update : Kenney whips out his "smart bombs", claiming Canada and the US are the only *coalition* bombing members that have them. David Pugliese shoots it down - both Saudi Arabia and UAE have 'em - in Saudi Arabia's case since 2008.

Harper and Kenney are leaning very heavily on the word 'coalition' in their bomb bomb bomb statements but as to who those coalition members actually are - not so much. 

Update2 : Aaron Wherry weighs in tonight on Harper joking about international law :
 Stephen Harper on the legality of bombing Syria: LOL

Shorter bonus grade six from Wherry : The government's position yesterday was that under UN Article 51, they 1) would be bombing Syria and 2) would not be informing the UN about it because it wasn't required. 
Turns out right in Article 51 it specifies that "Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council" so the government has now *clarified* its earlier stance and will be sending notification after all. 
World stage.

Update 3 : David Pugliese : 
Gen. Tom Lawson tries to dig Jason Kenney out of a bomb crater of his own making

Gwynne Dyer : Yemen: Unintended consequences   and 

Gwynne Dyer explains why terrorism is overblown and why Islamists want western countries to attack the Islamic State


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dear Fred :

Thanks for yet another letter about how your anti-terrorism bill will crack down on ISIS recruiting Canadians over social media.

Have you heard of twitter by any chance? 

But the show must go on, eh? 

Gosh, was it only a year ago you announced a $10 to $14 billion General Dynamics contract to build and sell military LAV IIIs to Saudi Arabia because jobs jobs jobs? 

Sadly the whole jobs jobs jobs angle hasn't really taken off for you, has it? 
So its jihad jihad jihad all the time instead now and later today Steve will announce in the HoC he's going to expand getting his war on in Iraq and Syria for another year because following the US into yet another disastrous cycle of seeing how much worse the next bunch of rabid killers we will create out of it will take Steve's 'war president' shtick past the next election.

Anyhow, Fred, I wanted to thank you for this inspirational line from your letter :
"Those who would attempt to abuse the rights enjoyed by Canadians to spread their ideology of hate must be stopped."
Yeah, come the next election I think the majority of Canadians will be looking into that.


P.S. Almost forgot - please send $15.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Inconvenient Truth About Harper's Canada

Tomorrow night in Ottawa
Michael Harris and Donald Gutstein
discuss how to undo the damage

I really really hope someone has arranged to tape this event and put it up online for those of us not in Ottawa.

Speaking at Goldman Sachs in New York last fall, Harper hinted at a greater military role ahead for Canada and leaving his mark on Canada :
"We've made it a policy of moving incrementally, but constantly, in our eight-and-a-half years in office," he said, citing changes to corporate taxes and a tougher law-and-order stance.
"I think that we've moved, and I think the country has moved with us."

Farley Mowat in "Party of One" : 
"Stalin had small balls compared to this guy. Harper is probably the most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada. How the population has acquiesced in following this son of a bitch, and to let him take over their lives, I’ll never know. You have to create warrior nations, they are not born. They have to be made. It is the preliminary step of a tyrant. And this son of a bitch incited Canada into becoming a warrior nation."
Michael Harris :  
"Harper has simply made the calculation that if the way to give a chameleon a nervous breakdown is to put him down on plaid, the way to win an election in our disappearing democracy is to offer Canadians only two flavours — vanilla or chocolate.That means hitting the hot buttons, over and over. Before oil prices tanked, greed was the button of choice. Now it’s fear. It makes things starkly simple — black and white, good and evil.

As simple as War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery … and Ignorance is Strength. It’s a campaign designed for Idiot Culture. The only question is, are there enough idiots out there to put Harper over the top again?" .

Friday, March 20, 2015

Chris Alexander unplugged

David Climenhaga dissects Alexander's speech here and links to the entire Ukrainian Canadian Congress event but I thought I'd extract Alexander's remarks for posterity.

Alexander is particularly outraged about any mention that Ukraine might have a neo-Nazi problem, which he blames on :
 "dangerous ideology. Which is present in our own city of Toronto! Which is present across Canada! Which comes to us through state-sponsored Russian channels that are preaching absolute poison." 

while evidently being unaware Canada has a Right Sector chapter of its very own.

Perhaps he'd rather hear about it from the BBC :

or the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany last month :

Climenhaga : 
"Alexander was followed as speaker by Andriy Parubiy, deputy chairperson of the Ukrainian parliament and founder in 1991 of that country's evocatively named Social-National Party, which the Wikipedia describes as having "combined radical nationalism and neo-Nazi features" before changing its name to Svoboda ("Freedom") in 2004.
In his speech Mr Parubiy said his fighters in Ukraine are standing for the entire civilized world.
He says "Canada has an “authoritative voice” on the conflict in eastern Ukraine and could help persuade the United States to send lethal weapons to Ukraine."

"This is going to be a great struggle," said Alexander, " We are just at the beginning of this struggle."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Tale of Eco-Surveillance

Ottawa Citizen June 4, 2014  Government orders federal departments to keep tabs on all demonstrations across country
"The federal government is expanding its surveillance of public activities to include all known demonstrations across the country, a move that collects information even on the most mundane of protests by Canadians.
The email requesting such information was sent out Tuesday by the Government Operations Centre in Ottawa to all federal departments.
“The Government Operations Centre is seeking your assistance in compiling a comprehensive listing of all known demonstrations which will occur either in your geographical area or that may touch on your mandate,” noted the email"

G&M Sept 14, 2014 Environmental extremism a rising threat to energy sector, RCMP warns
“Environmental ideologically motivated individuals including some who are aligned with a radical, criminal extremist ideology pose a clear and present criminal threat to Canada’s energy sector,” said the report, written in March 2011. Since then, the RCMP has held regular meetings with energy companies and federal officials to review potential threats to infrastructure
RCMP spokesman Greg Cox denied the force is targeting protesters or environmental groups in general

"In highly charged language that reflects the government’s hostility toward environmental activists, an RCMP intelligence assessment warns that foreign-funded groups are bent on blocking oil sands expansion and pipeline construction, and that the extremists in the movement are willing to resort to violence.
RCMP spokesman Sergeant Greg Cox insisted the Mounties do not conduct surveillance unless there is suspicion of criminal conduct. 
“As part of its law enforcement mandate the RCMP does have the requirement to identify and investigate criminal threats, including those to critical infrastructure and at public events,” Sgt. Cox said in an e-mailed statement. “There is no focus on environmental groups, but rather on the broader criminal threats to Canada’s critical infrastructure. The RCMP does not monitor any environmental protest group. Its mandate is to investigate individuals involved in criminality.”
... the report which is stamped “protected/Canadian eyes only” and is dated Jan. 24, 2014."

Global, March 17, 2015 CSIS helped government deal with Northern Gateway protests
"Canada’s spy agency helped senior federal officials figure out how to deal with protests expected last summer in response to resource and energy development issues – including a pivotal decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service prepared advice and briefing material for two June meetings of the deputy ministers’ committee on resources and energy"
"A B.C. climate change scientist says he got an "intimidating" call from RCMP because he had taken pictures on Burnaby Mountain near the site of a proposed [Trans Mountain] Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Tim Takaro, a health sciences professor at SFU, says he was having lunch in Tofino with his family on Wednesday when his daughter's [unlisted] cellphone rang. When she answered it, she was told it was the Burnaby RCMP calling and they were looking for her father."
Prof. Takaro works at SFU on Burnaby Mountain. He was taking pictures in a public park.
You can listen to his account at the link.

Some good news ...
Forum Research and VICE have a poll out today on plummeting support for Bill C-51 from 1370 online Canadian voters surveyed March 13 and 14th :
"When asked their approval of a number of specific provisions of bill C51, the majority disapprove of the Bill allowing security services to infiltrate and track environmentalists, First Nations and pipeline protesters (61%)"  
Support for tracking and infiltrating environmentalists, FN, and pipeline protesters came from Alberta (32%) and federal conservatives (56%)

Support for the overall stiffer legislation of C-51 (just under half of respondents) :
"is common to the oldest (62%), the wealthy ($80K to $100K - 62%), in Quebec (72%), among Conservative voters (84%), Bloquistes (76%), the least educated (74%), mothers of children under 18 (65%), Catholics (72%) and Evangelicals (82%)."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

RNN : Canada's "Patriot Act" as a political ploy.

The Real News Network is doing a weekly panel discussion on Canadian issues and it's refreshingly less middling than the media panels we have become accustomed to
In today's panel, Leo Panitch and Dimitri Lascaris take on Bill C-51, the tanking tarsands, and the political positioning of the Libs, Cons, and NDP going into the next election. 

Please click through to RNN at the link to show your support for a vid I've only pillaged from their site. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bill C-51 : ICYMI - rights are important

C51 Day of Action protest tomorrow, Saturday March 14

Find the one nearest you on the map

Only public pressure has any hope at all of shifting the Cons because they  are  definitely  not  listening  to  the C51 committee witnesses so we're gonna need something that looks like this.

Update : Saturday at the old courthouse in Vancouver:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Harper's Perps with Perks #14

Welcome, senior cabinet minister Diane Finley, to Stephen Harper's Perps with Perks for violating conflict of interest laws when you awarded $1-million in funding to provide wheelchair access to a building on the ground floor that has no stairs and boasts barn-sized doors. 

The application for funding submitted by a personal friend of John Baird's scored 3rd from last out of the 167 applicants reviewed by her department.

Ms Finley appears to have signed off on the project proposed by Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn, Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Centrepointe in Ottawa following interventions from Baird ( who toured Israel with him the following year) as well as Peter Kent, Nigel Wright, and PMO staffers Ray Novak, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, and Rachel Curran, Policy Advisor for Social Affairs.

CBC and the G&M have provided good accounts on this but federal ethics watchdog Mary Dawson's scathing report tells a tale of patronage beyond Finley. 

1) While I appreciate Rabbi Mendelsohn's stated concerns to Dawson that he was in danger of losing support in the Jewish community if he couldn't rock up grants from the Cons (page 14), his building not having "any existing barriers requiring reduction" for wheelchair access should have been the determining factor.

2) "Rabbi Mendelsohn claimed in emails to ministerial staff following the 2011 election that Chabad Lubavitch branches across Canada had mobilized tens of thousands of volunteers and voters."   Again, not really a wheelchair access problem.

3) "Three departmental officials told me that, in early summer of 2011, the Department received a letter from Minister Kent [the project is in Mr. Kent's riding} to Ms. Finley ... Minister Kent addressed the importance of the Federation and the Markham proposal and urged Ms. Finley to consider funding it. Two of these officials vaguely recalled that Minister Kent referred to a relationship between the Jewish community of the Greater Toronto Area and the Conservative Party of Canada."
 Again ...

4) "Mr. Wright wrote that she [Ms Finley] had pulled him aside outside the Cabinet room and asked him whether he considered the Markham proposal “important.” Mr. Wright wrote that he told her he had been asked by the Prime Minister to “sort it out.”

Mr. Wright wrote he did not intend to suggest to Ms. Finley that funding should be approved for the Markham project, only that it was important that the matter be considered carefully and fairly. Mr. Wright believed he had “sorted out” the matter by communicating that request to Ms. Finley."

5) Following Nigel Wright's conversation with Finlay's Chief of Staff Phil Harwood : 
"Rabbi Mendelsohn said that Mr. Harwood provided him with a list of additional information that was needed and asked him to compile the information based on concerns expressed by officials in the Department about the completeness of the Federation’s Markham application. ... Mr. Harwood said he was unable to recall clearly why Rabbi Mendelsohn had submitted additional information on the Markham project. ...Rabbi Mendelsohn submitted additional information... after being told by Mr. Harwood to do so "

6) Following the Markham project's crappy internal review and Harwood's discussion with Nigel Wright :
"Mr. Harwood said that he recommended that Ms. Finley consider sending the Markham project for external review.... no other applicants were permitted to submit additional information for assessment, either by the internal or the external evaluators. Following the external evaluation, the Markham proposal was not subjected to additional evaluations by the internal review committee as were the top 25 projects"

7) Following the crappy external review, Department officials drafted a letter :
"A letter of decision will be sent to the organization to inform them they were unsuccessful in their application.”
However the letter was not sent, Finley was not informed of it, and "Departmental officials told me they were instructed by the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Mr. Paquette, to provide only the findings of the external evaluation".
Both internal and external reviews noted "the proposal did not directly address the requirements for making buildings and other facilities accessible to persons with disabilities."

8) "Ms. Finley signed the memorandum, dated August 26, 2011, approving the funding of the Markham project by checking the “yes” box."

9) As funding for approved projects were used up, "an additional $1,044,000 to cover the funding for this project was taken from the small-sized projects component of the program."

10) "The Government of Canada announced the funding of the Federation’s Markham project on October 11, 2011." 

11) "The Department ultimately withdrew its funding for this project. Information provided to my Office indicated that the Chabad Lubavitch of Markham was unable to obtain the necessary construction permits required for the work to be completed within the timeline negotiated with the Department, and there were significant increases in costs to deal with building deficiencies."

12) "It was clearly inappropriate that the funding went to the Markham project."

Throughout, there's also pages and pages of this :
"Mr. Baird told me that he didn’t recall speaking to Ms. Finley ... Mr. Baird doesn't recall speaking to Rabbi Mendelsohn about the proposals... Mr. Kent could not recall speaking with Ms. Finley about the Markham project ... Mr. Kent’s office could not locate a signed copy of the letter to Ms. Finley... Ms. Finley told me that she was not aware of a letter from Minister Kent ... Ms. Finley told me she could not recall a discussion with Mr. Wright... Ms. Finley told me that she did not specifically recall discussing the Markham proposal with Mr. Harwood... Ms Finlay did not recall any discussion with former Minister Baird ..."

Thursday update : Kady O'Malley : "At no point in the Finley report does the ethics commissioner "make it clear" the prime minister was not involved in the selection process."

Wecome aboard, Minister Finley.

Perps with Perks - Collect 'em all!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Steven Blaney calls a cat a cat

"The Holocaust," intoned Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney today, "did not begin in the gas chamber; it began with words."  

He's right, of course. It began with a government capitalizing on a disaster event to demonize a segment of the population and suppress civil rights - including freedom of expression, assembly, and the expectation of privacy in personal communications - while hurriedly implementing a legal basis for the secret imprisonment of anyone considered not friendly to the government's agenda of security over democracy.

So it began with a law something like Bill C-51.

Press Progress is already all over Blaney's peculiar mention of the Holocaust to justify certain measures of Anti-terrorism Act 2015 at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security studying Bill C-51 today, but I noticed it was a somewhat leading - dare I say, planted - question from Con MP Rick Norlock that preceded and provoked it.

Norlock awkwardly read a question off his prepared question sheet regarding the takedown of internet sites :

 Norlock at 49:35:
 "Can you explain the gap in the legislation you're trying to fill and I'm referring mainly to the promotion and and takedown threshold with regards to internet sites. We've heard some folks say that this portion of the legislation is an attack on our freedom of speech. I don't believe it is but I do believe, I do not believe, that promoting the commission of terrorism acts is acceptable. Can you explain the legislation and how it is different than the current hate speech laws that are focused on certain groups."
Certain groups? I hadn't realized we had "current hate speech laws that are focused on certain groups".

After JustMin Peter MacKay's response, Blaney signalled he wished to speak to the question also:

At the 53:45 mark, Blaney : 
"As you know our government has tabled a counter-terrorism strategy that has four pillars - to prevent, detect, deny, and response. And the fact that as a government , as a society, as we will be able to shut down those websites who are promoting hatred and violence is a tool helping us in the first pillar of prevention of radicalization because as we know, we've heard it, the Holocaust did not began in the gas chamber, it began with words. So we have to be careful and that's why this measure I feel is so important and I also am committed as Minister of Public Safety to work with my partners such as Minister Bernard Cazeneuve of France, our European partners, American - so that websites that could be hosted in other countries could also be shut down if they are promoting hatred, extremist ideology, and violence. So I believe this measure, C-51, is part, is helping the four pillar of our counter-terrorism strategy. Thank you."
Randall Garrison (NDP - Esquimalt- Juan de Fuca, BC) protested Blaney's rhetorical trivialization of the Holocaust and Blaney doubled down in the portion Press Progress posted :

Asked about possible abuses of C-51, Blaney explained he was not worried because he would be the one signing off on the warrants.

Gosh was it only six weeks ago that Blaney gave a speech to the UN General Assembly on the Holocaust and Canada's efforts to combat anti-Semitism in the form of the BDS movement? :

"One year ago our Prime Minister Harper stood in the Knesset in Jerusalem to declare that through fire and water Canada would stand with the people of Israel and all the Jewish communities in the face of anti-Semitism. ... That is why Canada plays a leading role in the fight against the Islamic State. Prime Minister Harper spoke at the Ottawa conference on combating anti-Semitism, clearly outlining the real threat of anti-Semitism and Canada's duty to respond. He said " We must speak clearly, remembering the Holocaust is not merely an act of historical recognition - it must also be an understanding and an undertaking - an understanding that the same threats exists today and an undertaking of a solemn undertaking to fight those threats."

.... Canada has a zero tolerance to anti-Semitism in all forms of discrimination, including in rhetoric towards Israel and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. This is because that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a great threat to us all. More works needs to be done to combat the scourge of discrimination inherent to anti-Semitism and under Prime Minister Harper's leadership, Canada will continue to be a leader in those efforts."

And just a couple of weeks before that, John Baird was in Israel signing a new MOU:
  • Deeply concerned by efforts to single out the State of Israel for criticism and isolate the State of Israel internationally including calls for a boycott of the State of Israel, for the divestment of investments, and for sanctions to be imposed on Israel
  • Recognizing that the selective targeting of Israel reflects the new face of anti‑Semitism
while another MOU (there were five) promised Israel and Canada would develop "a coordinated, public diplomacy initiative" to combat such criticism.

Meanwhile the website of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada addressed the new MOUs and "the challenge posed by terrorism", including more "standing with Israel through fire and water" and concluding  :
"Whether the fight against violent extremism is conducted over the skies of Iraq or in the tunnels under Gaza, Canada and the State of Israel are fighting enemies whose hateful ideologies and goals threaten all peaceful, democratic societies. That’s why we are committed to enhancing our collaboration on security and defence, especially in the increasingly important area of cyber-security."
From Part One of Bill C-51 : Security of Canada Information Sharing Act :
"Whereas Canada is not to be used as a conduit for the carrying out of activities that undermine the security of another state"
and where the last of nine definitions of "activities" is : 
(i) an activity that takes place in Canada and undermines the security of another state

So I ask again : how much of Bill C-51 is about the Cons soppy infatuation with the current rightwing government of Israel?
Wednesday Update : The first use I can find of the phrase "The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers - it began with words" is from Liberal MP Irwin Cotler writing for the Jerusalem Post five years ago. It's the title of his article.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Fundraising at the mall - terror for the win


As one of our strongest supporters, you know the fourth quarter fundraiser of 2014 was our best in a decade. But we could raise so much more!

Why just this week, 20 cheerleading teams withdrew from a competition at West Edmonton Mall due to fears it would be bombed by a Somali terrorist group that has never committed a terrorist act outside of East Africa. Terror for the win!

But wait - there's more! 
When we put our West Edmonton Mall mujahideen ad up on Facebook, many of the responses demanded we allow Canadians to open carry guns in malls to defend themselves against our ad. 

Shockingly, the hug-a-thugs Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair have not made any terrorist ads of their own. 

Fortunately we can count on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pass our new Anti-Terrorism Act to keep Canadians safe. At the mall. Remember, they hate us for our values at the mall.

Please send $15 and add your name to stand with our Prime Minister and his strong stable throbbing authoritarian majority here.
Update : Heh and heh

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Come on down, Patrick Brown!

Here's SoCon MP Patrick Brown at the now infamous Rob Ford Family BBQ listening to Harper make his plug for a Stephen Harper/Rob Ford/Tim Hudak governing Con trifecta for Canada. FinMin Flaherty made a special point of thanking Brown for "being key to organizing this event". 

Writing about Patrick Brown shifting from Parliament Hill MP into provincial politics as a candidate in the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race, John Iveson says that "nobody knows where he stands on any given issue".

Oh come on, John, we do so know a couple of things.

We know his campaign co-chair doesn't believe in evolution.

We know in 2006 he voted Yes to reopen the definition of marriage to remove teh gays, something Harper campaigned on in 2005 but no longer needed after he was elected.

We know in 2008 he voted Yes for Con MP Ken Epp's C-484 to recognize fetuses as persons.

We know in 2010 he voted Yes on Con MP Rod Bruinooge's Bill C-510, Roxanne's Law, another anti-abortion bill.

We know in 2010 he voted No on Bill C-384 to legalize assisted suicide.

WE know in 2012 he voted Yes on Con MP Brian Storseth's Bill C-304 to take hate speech out of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

We know in 2012 and 2013 he voted No on Bill C-389 to add gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

We know in 2012 he voted Yes for Con MP Woodworth's C-112, yet another covert effort to give the state legal custody over us breeding vessels.

Not really what I'd call a dark horse actually, John.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Bill C-51 and MacKay's friends with benefits

Ignoring the over 100 law profs that have just told him he's wrong, JustMin and AttGen Peter MacKay continues to insist that the Cons new anti-terrorism omnibus Bill C-51 is not going to be targetting birdwatchers, enviros, First Nations etc. because judges! warrants! independent judiciary!    About that ...

Press Progress recently asked why lawyers and party donors prominently featured in Justice Minister Peter MacKay's 2012 wedding photos wound up being appointed as judges.  MacKay's best man Josh Arnold, red-arrowed here, was appointed to the bench the year after this photo and his wife Cindy Cormier the year after that. Another appointment is a friend of MacKay's dad.

In fact six of the nine judges appointed to Nova Scotia courts since October 2013 have personal, professional or political connections to MacKay.

CBC picked up the story and Press Progress issued two updates :

UPDATE #1: The CBC wrote a story about this PressProgress report and asked MacKay's office about the judicial appointments. A MacKay spokesperson said: "In the case of lawyers applying to be judges, committees assess them, provide comments, and also recommend them or not for appointment. The minister of justice only appoints those recommended by such committees." 

UPDATE #2: Responding to questions about MacKay's judicial appointments ... Secretary to the Minister of Justice Bob Dechert rejected NDP Justice Critic Fran├žois Boivin's characterization of the appointments as "patronage" that "undermines the credibility of justice," stating that these "eminently qualified individuals" were "vetted by the judicial advisory council" and that it's "upon their recommendations that all appointments are made."

MacKay himself has said it : "All appointments to the Federal judiciary are made on the recommendation of the 17 Judicial Advisory Committees across the country." 

So backing up a step, who appoints the members of these 17 judicial advisory committees?
Turns out it's Peter Mackay!  As JustMin, he gets to pick over half of them on each committee. 

Frank Mag had a bit of fun with a few of MacKay's committee picks last month:

Ok, so who else has the Federal Justice Minister appointed? Here's six more:

John Tropak :  Manitoba CPC fundraiser and former campaign manager for Shelly Glover; donated $5,000 to CPC

Ken Lee : Manitoba PC leadership election committee chair and fundraiser

Marni Larkin : top Conservative strategist for Manitoba PC provincial campaign, served on the party's national council, advisor to local Manitoba riding races, CPC donor on the CBC's board of directors and, um, motivational speaker at *** Marni's Magic ***

Gordon MacFarlane : Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island’s Leadership Convention Committee spokesman

Kerri A. Carpenter : 2009 Conservative nominee for Cardigan PEI riding

Catherine H. Zingg : lawyer at Flaherty Dow Elliott & McCarthy ; co-wrote a book with The Honourable James M. Flaherty

And in a law article from last fall : How do we get more diversity on the bench when there’s no transparency in the appointments process? Stephen Lautens notes the Facebook page of one maritime appointments committee member shows the friend in her first slot is Peter MacKay’s mom, while another "regularly posts pro-Harper government/anti-Justin Trudeau tweets on his Twitter account". 

This is not to suggest that the friends-of-Cons committee members won't do a fabulous job of carefully vetting MacKay's wedding guests before recommending them to the bench, or that once appointed, Peter MacKay's friends won't make wonderful judges just as annoying to the Cons as Steve's Supremes picks have turned out to be.

But it does suggest our Justice Minister is quietly building up his own personal patronage circle of Con-friendly "activist judges" - which doesn't do much to bolster his warrants! judges! independent judiciary! argument against possible Bill C-51 abuses.

h/t Antonia Z for Frank Mag link

July update : Patronage appointments padding the bench

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