Archive for June, 2015
Last week former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro was sentenced to one month in jail for his part in over spending in the 2008 election. The judge thought that jail time was necessary to send a message to politicians ahead of an election that cheating election rules will have severe consequences. After last week, most Canadians are expecting a “clean” election campaign, that is until the CBC published a blog post on Friday, warning that it was going to start taking down content posted online that uses any CBC material.
Jennifer McGuire CBC News Editor-and-Chief stated:
“No one – no individual candidate or political party, and no government, corporation or NGO – may re-use our creative and copyrighted property without our permission. This includes our brands, our talent and our content.”
It’s quite clear from this statement that it’s not just political parties the CBC has issues with, it’s Canadian copyright law. Copyright law permits the use of clips from CBC and other broadcasters for political criticism and news. The CBC’s decision to take down content regardless of current law that allows this, will have a profound impact on the online coverage of the consortium debates, since blogs like mine, political YouTube commentators even tweets will be subjected to false and illegal copyright take down notices. This will impact freedom of speech and political commentary in the most profound way during the election, if mass take downs of copyright occur online. These illegal take downs can be challenged, however it will take far beyond the election to resolve.
A lot of this started back in 2013. Back then The Liberal “Democratic Reform” Critic Stephane Dion raised the possibility of shielding the Liberal party from political attacks using copyright. Dion went as far as writing the Commissioner of Elections Canada on the issue which was seemingly rejected by Elections Canada.
Back last year, the consortium broadcasters again raised this concern, with starkly similar issues Dion raised to shield the Liberal party. CBC, CTV, Global took to the airwaves in October 2014 after the Conservative government tried to “clarify” copyright law, by amending current copyright law to avoid the situation we find ourselves in now. The amendment was later dropped by government.
Internet Law Expert Micheal Geist stated in his most recent blog:
“The CBC is simply wrong. Its guiding principle is wrong and its attempt to use copyright to take down an offensive advertisement is wrong. The claim brings to mind the story from last fall involving a government proposal (that was shelved) to create a specific copyright exception for the use of news content in political advertising.
I argued then that no exception was needed because copyright already provides latitude for political parties to use works without permission. That is because copyright does not provide the absolute rights suggested by the CBC. The CBC obviously has rights as the copyright owner in its broadcast, but those rights are constrained by limitations and exceptions under the law that allow for use of its work without the need for further permission. The CBC itself (like all broadcasters) regularly relies upon those exceptions to use the work of others without permission. Similarly, I just used the exceptions to quote the CBC policy in this blog post without their permission.”
The CBC needs to be reminded of the law, and that while the broadcaster owns the copyright it’s Canadian tax payers that pay for it!
A few weeks ago I blogged about exactly this, and how content ownership rules of the consortium debates could potentially have a very negative impact on free speech, and online coverage of the consortium debates. It profoundly looks like those concerns have been well justified. Both the NDP and Green’s have been stark supporters of these copyright exemptions in law. The Greens in particular have been stark supporters of the consortium lead debates. I’ve reached out to Green Party leader Elizabeth May on this issues, and she wasn’t available for comment.
We have exemptions in copyright law for a reason, and that is too ensure that free speech isn’t controlled by anyone. Last week, Ontario Court of Justice Judge Lisa Cameron made it very clear in Del Mastro’s case that the courts would not accept deceitful behavior from politicians calling it “an affront to the principles of our democratic system”. Similarly the CBC’s attack on free speech under the guise of “journalistic” principles months before an election, should be treated also as an affront to the principles of our democratic system by Canadians as well. I highly doubt that with the message Justice Cameron sent last week, that media companies will be treated any differently by the courts if the consortium is legally challenged on this issue.
Last week I had a twitter conversation with Liberal MP Wayne Easter who sat in the parliamentary committee on the new anti-terror Bill C51. Most Liberal MPs took to their online websites to defend their vote on Bill C-51 days after the Liberals stood up in the house of commons and voted for the bill. Most have followed party lines in their responses and what has emerged is what the Liberals plan on running on regarding the anti-terror bill during the election.
Take for instance Liberal MP Caroline Bennett’s explanation (which is starkly similar to most Liberal MP’s responses) as to why she voted for C-51:
I voted in favour of Bill C-51 because it contains significant measures that will keep Canadians safe. The Liberal Party of Canada welcomes the measures that (1) lower the threshold for preventative arrests, (2) expand the no-fly list, and (3) allow for greater and more coordinated information sharing between government departments and agencies involved in security matters.
In legal terms bill C-51 lowers the legal threshold for preventative arrests from what most of us are familiar to as “Reasonable grounds to believe.” to “Reasonable grounds to suspect.” In legalese this means that virtually no evidence is needed other than an accusation to obtain arrest warrants under C-51 and detain individuals for 7 days on an accusation of terror. We’re back to the good ol’ days of witch hunting. The Liberal Party voted (according to Bennett) to keep this part in the bill. This would likely be challenged and struck down by the courts.
Expanding no-fly lists, and greater more co-ordination of information sharing between government departments and agencies involved with security matters has already been put into question by not just the privacy commissioner. In 2013 an Ontario women was denied entry into the US because she had a bout of depression and was hospitalized years before. The police shared this information with US boarder security agencies. The women was told she had to get re-evaluated by a US psychiatrist before she would be allowed to cross the border. What exactly does depression have to do with terrorism? Terrorism is about radical ideology often religious in nature!
Another position within the Liberal Party has been the support of these so called “Sunset Clauses”. This is a bit problematic. The Charter does allow in certain circumstances the temporary suspension of Charter rights if it’s warranted and there’s enough evidence to prove Government needs to temporarily suspend Charter rights. I put the question to MP Wayne Easter on twitter, who insisted that the Liberal position would be Charter compliant. Sunset Clauses would likely be up for a Charter challenge, since in 2013/2014 US Congressional hearings and Obama’s own Presidential panel examining the Bill C-51 type approach to mass surveillance dragnets, didn’t produce one credible instance where terror attacks were prevented due to these new powers. In fact Obama’s own appointed panel on the subject concluded that these powers were likely not constitutional. I challenged Easter to produce at least one expert that supports the Liberal’s position on C-51, to which I didn’t receive a reply.
One expert however has chimed in on the debate regarding the liberal platform on C-51. Internet Law Expert Micheal Geist wrote today stating:
“The decision to support the bill was surely the result of a political calculation based on the fear of being labeled as weak on security. Indeed, Trudeau acknowledged precisely that a month later, telling students at UBC that the government was hoping the opposition would reject the bill so that it could “bash people on security.” Trudeau added that “this conversation might be different if we weren’t months from an election campaign, but we are.”
I think the problem goes much deeper than appearing weak and being attacked by political opponents. There’s no logic in that. You can’t be in politics if you are afraid of your political opponents. What kind of leader does that, or will that make you?
While I agree that politics are being played on this bill by all sides, MP Wayne Easter who sat in the committee has explicitly stated that the reasoning behind the support of the bill is because the Liberals were in power during 9/11. Liberals brought in sunset clauses back then to temporary suspend charter rights, and should be trusted with their support of C-51 because they have been in government and have that experience. These were the lines Easter used over, and over again in political talk shows.
Geist in his most recent post also took aim at the information sharing clauses in the bill:
Second, the Liberal position on Bill C-51 has consistently cited the information sharing provisions in the bill as a reason to support it. Yet the information sharing provisions are among the most problematic aspects of the bill drawing criticism from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and numerous experts. In supporting those provisions, the Liberals are not only siding with the government, but they are also rejecting the analysis of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
I grew up in a law enforcement family. My step father was a Staff Sargent with York-Regional police. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for those who wear the uniform in law enforcement, military, and intelligence services. I’ve heard from my step father some pretty interesting and horrifying stories on what our law enforcement has to deal with on a day to day basis. My step father suffered from PTSD which eventually killed him. It’s a tough job and not suited for everyone.
Out of the negative there is light. Light that is often ignored by those in law enforcement due to what they have to deal with on a day to day basis. The community and civilians are of up most important to law enforcement when they are investigating crimes, or potential crimes. Without community or civilian help, many crimes would either be thrown out of court, or not reported. What bill c-51 does is make us more fearful of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, thus a lot less likely to help law enforcement and intel agencies as a collective society. Bill C-51 will make it harder, not easier on law enforcement to catch and investigate the bad guys.
Not too many people know the history behind ISIL, and how it was born. It was born mainly through the Arab spring, and the fight for democracy starting in Iraq, through Egypt, and the Middle East. A large portion of that fight for democracy was ignored, brutally put down by dictators, anger ensued, rebellions rose and religious radicalized groups took advantage. You can’t beat radical religious ideology with bombs, or dragnet surveillance. It has to be at the ground level with the full and complete support of the communities affected, none of which bill C-51 addresses.
We have over 2000 years of lessons on this. Our Forefathers put in democratic constitutions to ensure we don’t fall back on those lessons. Civil rights are not just a “thing”. We often take them for granted. Civil rights are meant to ensure that democracy survives. The moment we take away even one of those rights in the name of fighting adversaries who seek to damage them; is the moment when we’ve already lost the war on terror.
If in fact the Liberal support and platform on C-51 is due to looking weak to their political adversaries, than the Liberal party has a hell of a lot more problems than eroding support. Their entire party ideology needs to be fully and completely questioned.
Starting today I’m going to be doing up a Friday Political Week In Review (PWIR) posts throughout the campaign. The summer is going to be a bit slow regarding political news, but these posts come fall will be beneficial to my readers to catch up on the busy election campaign and political news.
In this weeks post:
- The Canadian Senate extends middle finger to Canadian tax payers three times
- Becoming an art dealer is not okay with CBC political journalism ethics, however intentionally misleading Canadians in newscasts for political gain is ethical
- Prime Minister Harper throws poutine at Russian frigates, than refuses to ask the Pope for forgiveness
- Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose outraged by Supreme Court Decision to list pot as a “drug”
- Busy week in Canadian politics so lets get to it. If you are a Liberal than you are definitely not where you want to be.
On Tuesday the Auditor General released his findings regarding the senate expenses. 9 Senators have been referred to the RCMP for questionable expenses and possible fraud charges. Also on Tuesday the Senate voted approval on the controversial anti-terror legislation bill c51 after widespread public opposition. The final vote count Yay, 44. Nay, 28. Abstentions, 0 which passed with applause from Conservative senators. The final slap in the face to Canadian tax payers is that the Senate is going to court on the public dime to try and block key details about Senator’s residencies.
The CBC this week announced that it has fired political talk show host Evan Solomon. Solomon was a hard hitting political journalist and hosted “Power and Politics”. Solomon was let go after a Toronto Star investigation found evidence that Solomon was using his position to sell art on the side, in which CBC executives state was against ethical standards. Meanwhile CBC’s internal e-mails point to chief anchor Peter Mansbridge being one of the masterminds behind a collaborative effort among major broadcasters to intentionally mislead Canadians back in the fall of 2014 on Canadian law to stop political attack ads. Mansbridge could end up facing criminal charges as a result, and is still employed by the CBC.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week stood on the deck of Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton and started yelling at passing Russian warships about Russia’s military advances in Ukraine. Later Harper met with Pope Francis and refused to ask the pope to address the truth and reconciliation report in which Canadian Aboriginals were abused at Catholic schools. A key recommendation in that report was to get the Pope to recognize what happened and for the church to ask for forgiveness.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled this week that it is unconstitutional for medical pot users to be forced to smoke the drug. Smoking the drug (the court found) is detrimental to the health of medical pot users. Legal dispensaries will now be able to sell “baked goods” such as brownies, cookies for those who need the medicinal uses of pot rather than to just smoke it. In a press conference Health Minister Rona Ambrose slammed the Supreme Court decision stating pot was not an authorized drug from Health Canada and that the Courts should have no say on what a “drug” is. That decision Ambrose said, “should be up to Health Canada to decide.”
Latest Ekos poll results now show NDP starting to get a commanding lead at the expense of the Liberal and Conservative position on the new anti-terror bill. The NDP is now at 34%, Conservatives 27%, and the Liberals 23% (which is getting close to Stephane Dion territory which is pretty low for the Liberals). I had an interesting twitter conversation about the new anti-terror bill and the Liberal position on it with Liberal MP Wayne Easter (who sat in the House of Commons committee on this bill and is probably one of the masterminds of the Liberal position behind it). The full conversation is here.
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Well folks the order of accountability seems to be the theme today, so I have to start by saying I was wrong. I was wrong to believe in an institution that clearly can’t see past their own crackers, and gourmet meals. I was wrong to have hope that for once the red chamber would rise above the house of commons and display sober second thought. I was wrong to believe that the Senate is looking to redeem itself from scandal, and I was wrong to believe accountability and civil liberties remain a core principle of the Conservative caucus.
The Senate passed the anti-terror bill with NO amendments with thunderous applause from the Conservative senators. Final vote count: Yay, 44. Nay, 28. Abstentions, 0 It now receives royal assent, and is now the law of the land. Passing the anti-terror bill with no amendments means the Senate beleives (counter to experts that testified) this law is constitutional. More on the political fall out of the vote to come soon..
JUNE 9TH, 2015 UPDATE: SENATE JUST PASSED ANTI-TERROR BILL. MORE HERE
Green party leader Elizabeth May is calling on the Senate to delay the final vote on C51, stating:
“Tomorrow, Canadians will learn the details of the Auditor General’s report on Senate expenses. We will find that 30 Senators have filed inappropriate expense claims and nine have had their files referred to the RCMP. On the very same day, the Senate is also scheduled to vote on C-51 at third reading. The seconder of the bill in the Senate is under investigation by the RCMP and has resigned from the Conservative caucus. The eyes of Canadians will be on the Senate tomorrow. If, on the same day that we learn the details of the Senate’s culture of misusing public funds, the Senate votes for a bill as massive and controversial as C-51, the harm to the Senate’s reputation could be irreparable.”
On political talk shows, both the NDP and Conservatives have been in sync regarding their messaging on the Senate. Those lines consist of the Senate has to be dealt with in large part because it’s “an unelected body that keeps vetoing the will of parliament”. It’s possible that if the Senate votes down C51 tomorrow, that the Conservatives will start making noise about the Senate vetoing a national security bill in favor of the popular approach to scraping the bill, and that parliament (as a result of this important legislation not going through) is not currently operating on full cylinders. Steven Harper therefore could prorogue Parliament within a few days.
It could very well be that the Conservative caucus has given a directive to the Conservative senators to vote down the anti-terror bill. Politically this would try and take the wind out of the sails of the surging NDP. A summer election would be possible if the Conservatives are playing politics, banking low voter turn out to stop an NDP surge. This would go against Harper’s law on early election calls, but with the Conservatives trailing in the polls, anything is possible. This could all explain why the NDP and Conservative messaging has changed over the past weekend on the Senate, and May’s unwillingness to see the Senate vote on the anti-terror bill. The NDP seem ready and willing to bring an election on.
Regardless of all the politics of this, whatever the Senate decides to do at this point, will be extremely self-serving. The Senate has already been irreparably damaged by passing bills with known constitutional flaws, and rather than being the House of Common’s sober second thought, they have continually demonstrated contempt for their jobs by voting along party lines, and abusing the public purse. They should be fixing flaws in these bills, and respecting tax payers money. A delay on the new anti-terror bill, would only delay the election, not the public perception of the chamber. A delay would only serve to solidify the public’s perception of it.
Canadians don’t care about the politics of the new anti-terror bill. They want it stopped! If that means an early election as a result of the senate voting it down, than so be it. I’m ready to vote on the best party that protects my civil rights. Are you?
The Senate has moved the final vote on the controversial anti-terror bill to Tuesday at 5:30pm EST. Coincidentally that will be hours after the Auditor General’s report on Senate expenses is due out which will shake the nations confidence of the red chamber to its core. Go figure!
Canadians of all stripes have written into their senators expressing concern on this bill, myself included. I think on Tuesday it will become very clear to the Canadian public just how much the Senate cares about our public purse, let alone prior public opinion as a result of the Auditor General’s report. The Senate has already over the past year passed two bills; the cyber bullying bill and bill S4 which have tremendous constitutional and privacy issues attached to them. The Canadian public needs to keep this in mind come Tuesday’s vote of the new anti-terror bill (if the vote actually does take place).
Why the delay of the vote on the new anti-terror bill? Political optics are going to be critical for the Senate to try to control the messaging around this current expense crisis. What a perfect political opportunity it would be for the Senate to vote down the anti-terror bill and send it back to the house on consititional grounds with a lot of eyes on the Senate due to the expense report. Politically it would the perfect pivot off of the Auditor General’s expense report, to the vote down of the new anti-terror bill. This would essentially limit (or try too) the impact of the expense report, control the messaging though media headlines (although I doubt it will work that way), and try to show Canadians that indeed the red chamber is Canada’s sober second thought.
Traditionally, the Senate is supposed to reject legislation that is not constitutionally sound. Canadian senators have in very recent times neglected that duty, and are essentially lap dogs to their respected parties by voting on party lines, not on constitutional grounds. The Senate has passed bills over Harper’s reign that have been consistently shut down by the Supreme Court on constitutional issues. Canadians need to be very cautious if in fact the senate votes down the new anti-terror bill. If the Senate was legitimately concerned about public opinion, the bill would have not passed yesterday; instead the vote was delayed until hours after the public release of the Auditor General’s expense report.
At this stage in the game I think it wouldn’t be at all politically possible for the Senate to pass the anti-terror bill. Due to the constitutional issues attached to it, a vote for the bill will put the red chambers very existence into question. The NDP is the only party running on a platform of dealing with the senate, and passing the new anti-terror law would basically make case and point for the NDP on senate abolishment. If they are not our chamber of sober second thought in charge of up-holding constitutional law, and we continue to see legislation passed by the Senate that isn’t constitutionally sound, than why pay them to sit there if they are not doing their jobs and abusing the public purse?
With the bleed over to the NDP from both the Conservative and Liberal support of the new anti-terror bill in recent polls (most recent Ekos Poll show NDP now clearly leading nationwide) passage of the anti-terror bill in the senate would solidify the public’s perception of the red chamber and could possibly see the NDP numbers rise to majority status ahead of an election. So senators that would vote for the bill; the logic states they would be rightfully voting themselves out of a job.
If all it takes is an Auditor General’s report on senators expenses for these twits in the red chamber to care about public opinion and our constitutional rights, than maybe we should have the Auditor General look into the expenses of House of Commons MPs annually starting with the Conservatives and the Liberals. Maybe then would we end up getting law that isn’t consistently shot down by our courts on constitutional grounds, and public opinion would matter at least once a year instead of a few months before MPs start begging on wounded knee for our votes.
Sure senate reform, or abolishment is a must (I’m for both), but those MPs who criticize the senate now should also be open to their own expenses being audited as well. It’s not just the senate that is sworn to uphold her majesty’s law and constitution; it’s those who write the laws, and vote in the House of Commons that hold that ultimate responsibility to which they are held accountable by the public every four to five years.
To put it all into blunt perspective, if in fact on Tuesday the Senate does vote down the new anti-terror bill, it’s an attempt to save their own asses, not due to public concern or pressure. Either way, the Senate needs to be dealt with by all political parties in election platforms. I’ll be looking for the party that goes that one step further and starts to put fiscal accountability on MPs in their political platforms.
There is going to be a lot of spin by a lot of groups that opposed this bill, and have being fighting the good fight against it. If in fact that spin turns into the Senate caring about public opinion, than we continue to feed that spoiled child who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and will do almost anything to get away with it. Instead these groups should take this opportunity to work with the Senate to ensure going forward, the public has an open line of communication with their senators, and start crowd sourcing on ideas to senate reform and how to make the red chamber more accountable to the public it serves, or abolish it.
The Conservatives new anti-terror bill C-51 was supposed to get it’s final stamp of approval by the Senate today. It looks like that vote has been delayed until Tuesday according to Openmedia:
— OpenMedia.ca (@OpenMedia_ca) June 4, 2015
While it would be nice to believe that pressure from the Canadian public is responsible for this delay, the most likely cause is due to the Senate leadership coming under direct attack by the Auditor General over senate expenses. The Auditor General’s full English report over Senate expenses will be released Tuesday and is expected to release a political bombshell on the red chamber. The full report will probably be leaked to media at some point this weekend, making another delay in voting for C-51 very possible.
With the Senate now in full crisis mode, and optics of the red chamber coming under the public microscope, it could be entirely possible that the senate may actually keep delaying the vote on C-51 until government breaks for the summer. In which case, the election writ will drop when MP’s return, and that would leave the new anti-terror bill dead on the order paper.
More to come soon….