Archive for category Conservative
The Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Court Martial Appeal Court and Tax Court are preparing to take the Canadian government to task on ensuring independence from the federal government regarding its data. Under the past conservative government, all these levels of the courts were to submit to a super-IT department as of September 1st of last year that would see all government services including Canadian courts using the same IT department. The move by the last government to amalgamate IT services was seemingly to save money and streamline IT security.
According to the Supreme Court of Canada, one super IT department could threaten its independence from Government. Briefing notes obtained by the Canadian Press last week, and provided to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau days after taking office, shows the courts are gearing up for a constitutional challenge on data independence. The briefing stated:
“[The courts] must maintain control of their data, not only because of concerns about confidentiality, but also because an independent judiciary cannot tolerate having its sensitive information controlled by a separate branch of government.”
The briefing notes also warned that if the Government doesn’t backtrack on this soon, it could face legal action and likely a constitutional challenge by the top judges in Canada. Advice given to Trudeau on how to handle this situation by his advisers was redacted in the briefing notes.
Prior to September 1st last year when these new IT rules came into play, top court officials wrote a letter to senior bureaucrats in the Conservative government demanding that agents of Parliament such as the Auditor General, Privacy Commissioner and Information Commissioner should be exempt from amalgamated IT services. Yesterday, the new Liberal government went before the Supreme Court asking for a six month extension on right to die legislation. Should the court deny that extension, this spat over IT services and data independence could end up being an interesting back story.
Has the Conservative Party of Canada hacked into your profile and “liked” their Facebook page on your behalf without your knowledge or consent? Reports are popping up including one from a reporter at the CBC that they are being “like hijacked” by the Conservative party. According to a CBC report, the hijacked likes could be a result of embedded computer script in Facebook videos and links launching malware bought and paid for by the Conservatives. The computer script could have the potential to reach deep into your personal profile. When questioned on this, all the other parties denied that they are engaged in the activity of hijacking Facebook users accounts, however a Conservative spokesperson wouldn’t confirm or deny the party was behind the malicious hijacks.
In an e-mail to the CBC the Conservatives stated it was “an internal party issue.” The Conservatives may be acting against their own anti-spam laws with respect to this, and if the Conservatives are hijacking Facebook users accounts, one has to question what other information has been collected by the Conservatives (if they have access to your account to like their page) that was transmitted to the party which could be very personal information the Conservatives might use to profile you as a potential voter, which also could be against Canadian privacy laws.
Whatever the case maybe, hacking into users Facebook accounts is not just extremely creepy and potentially illegal; it’s also a form of stalking and desperation by a party who is not very popular on social media and having trouble getting their message out. Liking any Facebook page will automatically show updates to that page in your news feed. Facebook users are encouraged to look at their “activity logs” to ensure there are no unwanted Conservative Party Facebook page “likes”.
More to come on the legal aspect of all of this soon.
(Arab League Flag)
Like many Canadians I had a very heart felt response to the picture of the three year old who laid face down dead after trying to cross the Mediterranean for the EU escaping the Syrian civil war. What I found more disturbing was Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s cold response to the story on CBC, and subsequent inaction of the Conservative government for days on the issue.
The cold response coming from the Conservatives is something that also is very prevalent in some of the richest Arab nations in the world. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates’, Qatar, and Egypt have all received absolutely zero of the Syrian refugees. The only Arab nation to accept these refugees is Syria’s neighbor Lebanon.
Opposition parties here in Canada have been quick to blame the Conservative government for their cold response (and rightfully so), however no one from the Liberals, NDP or Greens are speaking about the inaction of the Arab nations we call allies on this crisis. There needs to be immense diplomatic pressure on the Arab nations to do their part if Canada gets involved in accepting refugees.
Why are the Arab nations not accepting refugees? Short answer is that they think it’s a problem with Western influence in the region, and we caused it. ISIS was born out of the US lead Iraq war and subsequent election of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who was a Shia Muslim. Shias were oppressed by Saddam Hussein. Once al-Maliki came into power, he started to target Hussein’s supporters. Rather than including them in the democratic process, many were thrown in jail and even executed out of vengeance. Historically what happens when a political group is excluded from the democratic process and oppressed? Often times it’s a revolution and/or civil war.
The Arab spring is a prime example of the 20 somethings in the Arab world rising against oppressive power. The Arab spring started in Yemen, spread to Egypt and then to Syria. ISIS and many terror related groups took the opportunity the Arab spring provided to recruit to their extreme ideologies, and has now become a threat to our Arab allies.
Every time we seem to get involved in Middle-Eastern politics, we seem to make a mess of it in large part because the politics in the Middle-East works much differently than here in Canada or the US. It’s based on different interpretations of religion. We should be playing a more supportive role in the region with our Arab allies in regards to these refugees than accepting large amounts of them here in Canada.
Almost all security experts that have been interviewed by media agree that security concerns regarding these refugee’s is a minimal concern, due to screening processes that are in place. Why can’t we work with other Arab nations on the security screening issues for these refugees so that they can be accepted by Arab nations?
Offloading tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of refugees in Canada may be the desired emotional response to the crisis, however where are all these families going to live? Social housing in Canada is falling apart. Federal funding for social housing has been completely cut off by the Conservatives. It’ll take years to repair, let alone create the amount of spaces needed to house these individuals. Jobs? Many coming over here from Syria I would suspect would be in the youth range and young families. Right now we have a youth unemployment crisis in Canada, which again will take years to solve. Then there’s also the culture shock especially for children who would be attending our public school system. We’re going to need social programs here to integrate these refugee’s into our society.
I’m in no way suggesting that Canada shouldn’t do anything, just that we stop and think past the emotional response we all have. We’re in an election right now, and serious questions need to be posed to our leaders regarding the logistics of all of this, when our Arab allies in the region are refusing to help, and turning their backs on their own people. Western nations shouldn’t be shouldering this responsibility alone. Why are we, and is accepting tens of thousands of refugees helpful to the spread of democracy in the Middle East?
The Conservatives seem to be tying to make the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement one of Harper’s legacy items. After the election call the Conservatives moved to change “caretaker” rules in order to continue negotiating this trade agreement. It appears now that the Conservatives are so much in a rush to get the TPP signed that they’ll pretty much agree to almost anything, even though it may mean tromping on civil liberties as a result. Michael Geist an Internet Law professor stated in his most recent blog:
For Canada, the deal on ISPs means that government has agreed to induce providers to “remove or disable” access to content upon becoming aware of a decision of a court of a copyright infringement. The broadly worded provision could force Canadian ISPs to block content on websites after being notified of a foreign court order – without first having to assess whether the site is even legal under Canadian law.
So will China now be the worlds authority on what content is viewed on the web thanks to Harper’s legacy?
If you haven’t tuned into the Duffy trial over the past week, than you are living under a rock, or you’re missing one of the best political dramas in Canadian history. The cross examination of Nigel Wright in Senator Mike Duffy’s trial over inappropriate expenses, is becoming quite interesting to many Canadians. Canada seems to be tuned into this political drama playing out in an Ottawa court room in droves, albeit in the middle of the summer when most tune out politics. CBC saw ratings rise to record levels during the cross examination last week in its At Issue political panel, and the political talk show Power and Politics:
— Peter Mansbridge (@petermansbridge) August 14, 2015
On top of this, latest poll numbers put the Conservatives in third place behind the NDP. What all of this is suggesting is that Canadians are now tuned in big time to the trail and Wright’s testimony. I’ve been following this closely as well on Twitter, where I’ve been commenting on the testimony on a daily basis.
Nigel Wright was Harper’s chief of staff. The main job for the chief of staff of the prime minister is to protect the prime minister politically. For those of you who have ever watched House of Cards, Wright’s responsibilities were similar too Michael Kelly’s character Doug Stamper. For those of you not familiar with House of Cards, Wright was the go-to man for the Prime Minister to make political problems go away, and with his testimony, he’s unintentionally creating more problems for the Conservative party than he is deflecting them away from the Prime Minister.
The media is doing a very good job at simplifying a very complicated web of deception, spun by the Prime Minister’s staff to fend off questions on Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses. Duffy did a lot of fund raising for the Conservative party over the years and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) felt that this expense scandal the media uncovered regarding Senator Duffy, would damage the Conservative brand, thus the prime minister. Nigel Wright who was then the Prime Minister Harper’s chief of staff was in charge of making Duffy go away quietly.
While a lot of political pundits are focusing on what the Prime Minister knew and when regarding a payment to Duffy by Wright, my main interest is that several ministers including my own (then house leader) Peter Van Loan were fed “public relations” lines to say in the media and the house of commons by the PMO regarding Duffy re-paying his own expenses which were utterly false. It turns out that the PMO knew about Wright’s payment to Duffy, all while scripting a false and misleading response that Duffy paid his own expenses for Ministers to try and control the problem politically.
Why does all of this matter? The e-mail threads submitted into evidence show a deliberate attempt by Wright and PMO staff (some of which are handling Harper’s election campaign currently) to mislead Canadians on Duffy’s expenses to try and protect the Conservative party. They also point to the PMO interfering with what is supposed to be an independent Senate audit of Senator’s expenses. If the PMO is deliberately misleading Canadians to protect their own brand, are we in a huge deficit right now, and not on a balanced budget? What else has the PMO been guilty of misleading Canadians on, and are we getting any truthful information on government policy and if it’s working or not? We could be in the dark quite a bit on a lot of important policy that is steering the economic, and social engine of the country as a result of a culture of deceit and almost near total control over the party and independent processes that seems very well established in the PMO.
If you want to follow this past weeks events regarding Wright’s testimony a good place to start is Evan Solomon’s new podcast Everything is Political which aired on August 13th. Friday August 14ths testimony is summed up nicely here
As the Duffy trial winds it’s way through the election campaign, more testimony is expected from people in the inner circle of the Conservative party. With this many people tuned into Wright’s testimony, this will be hard for the Conservatives to simply use plausible deniability tactics at a time when even their own base is questioning the ethics of the party and their poll numbers dropping.
Let’s put it this way; we could have used the swagger and unexpectedness Donald Trump presented in last nights US Republican debates in the Canadian leaders debate. Instead, the first hour the Canadian debate consisted of Conservative leader Stephen Harper doing what he does best which is misleading Canadians on facts. Green Party leader Elizabeth May catching Harper on misleading facts (which is why she needs to be in every debate). Liberal leader Justin Trudeau attacking the NDP leader Tom Mulcair over a non-issue regarding Quebec separatism because he’s lost a tremendous amount of support to Mulcair over the anti-terror bill. Finally Mulcair looked like he was part of some alien race freaking people out on social media with his weird smile, and alien like black eyes peering into their living rooms when he looked directly into the camera when debating the other leaders.
The two that had the best body language in the debate were the two national debate veterans, May and Harper. Trudeau came across as a kid with something to prove (Liberals think his downfall is due to Harper’s attack ads, not his position on supporting the new anti-terror bill. Liberals are still tone deaf on that because they have nothing to fear but fear itself), and Mulcair just looked nervous for the first hour. On the other hand May seemed very well prepared, however didn’t do well in the first hour to inject her voice over the others. Harper was calm and cool to begin with, however came across as though he got annoyed at the fact he actually had to debate the other parties and defend his record.
Those of us who follow Canadian politics closely saw relatively nothing new regarding policy positions. Harper played the expected “steady as you go” position on the economy warning that the opposition parties would raise taxes and put the country in a horrible economic position. Mulcair and May made a good point that corporate taxes have remained low, and the Bank of Canada has been extremely worried in the past that these corporations are just sitting on the money they saved from tax breaks rather than creating jobs.
The environment debate which happened in the second hour, May just owned it and the other parties let her have the floor. May called Harper to account on his environmental commitments, getting Harper to admit that emission reduction targets will not be reached by 2020, but by 2030. May also questioned Mulcair on his support of pipelines, which Mulcair remained non-committal on, and May kept pressing him on.
On the new anti-terror bill, there are stark differences between the parties. Harper said it was necessary; Trudeau is for and against the bill; Mulcair starkly pledged to Canadians he would repeal the bill (looking directly into the camera with his alien like black eyes) and if new powers were needed, Mulcair consult the experts first. Essentially Mulcair wants proof these new powers would be needed, and how to implement them in a way that doesn’t impede the rights of Canadians. Trudeau actually did admit that he may have been naive in his support of the anti-terror bill, but continues to support it.
I think the major news from this debate that Canadians need to be aware of, is not what happened during the debates but after. May, Trudeau and Mulcair all took questions from the press after the debate. Harper didn’t take any questions nor did he appear before the press after which I found very bizarre and arrogant. We’re in an election Harper. Deal with it!
All in all, I think it was a good introduction to the party leaders to those who do not follow politics closely. I don’t think this first debate will have that much of an impact on voters. If your a conservative supporter, you’re likely to remain that way and same with the other party’s supporters. Mulcair needs to bring his style of debating that he has during question period to future debates. That’s where he shines, and Trudeau needs to stop bouncing around like a boxer and listen to Canadians more as to why he’s so low in the polls:
Last week, I wrote that the Munk School of Global Affairs received $9 million in federal research grants, and hinted about a possible conflict of interest this funding may have on the federal leaders debate, and with the leader selection processes for these debates. The Munk School of Global Affairs responded to that blog. Munk School Director Steven Toope released this statement (emphasis added):
To be clear, we at the Munk School are neither hosting nor running the foreign policy election debate. The semi-annual Munk Debates are a project of the Aurea Foundation; a federally registered charity dedicated to public policy research and discussion. Our only potential role is to give advice on questions that might be posed, but as part of an independent national advisory committee. We have nothing to do with the decision about who can participate.
Essentially what this says is that the Munk School of Global Affairs is a separate organization from the Munk Debates. A fact that the school seems to be rather intent in correcting since numerous news agencies recently have been tying the Munk School to the Munk debates. Sick of Munks yet? Wait there’s more.
It is important to note that Janice Stein who is the founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs sits on the advisory board of the Munk Debates. I raised concerns regarding Ms. Steins role on the advisory committee at the Munk Debates being a potential conflict of interest, along with the fact that the Munk School of Global Affairs is advising a committee on questions that might be posed to the leaders. Questions posed could be tailored in a way that could very well lean towards the Conservatives to give them the upper hand in answering them.
Questions I posed to Toope on his statement were the following:
1) Is it ethical or even considered independent that the Munk School would have any potential role in asking leaders questions while in receipt of $9 million in public funds?
2) Your founding director sits on the advisory committee for the Munk Debates. Is that not a conflict of interest?
Munk School of Global Affairs spokesperson Kelley Teahen e-mailed the following on the conflict of interest questions on Stein and the Munk School’s position on the advisory committee regarding leader questions:
You brought up the fact the school recently was awarded a research grant from a federal ministry to support the Digital Public Square project.
Professor Toope explains that the Munk School, like all Canadian post-secondary institutions involved in conducting research, receives many grants from the federal government, and other governments, related to supporting research. These are awarded through competitive processes, or agreed to after processes in and due diligence with the departments involved. They are not awarded politically.
Why is the Munk School of Global Affairs advising a committee on potential leadership debate questions, when those questions should be coming from the voters to begin with? Why are the Munk Debates still refusing to let all leaders participate in these debates?
In a recent article Munk Debates Chairman Rudyard Griffiths was recently questioned on Green Leader Elizabeth May`s exclusion from the Munk Debates:
The chairman of Munk Debates, Rudyard Griffiths, said back in May that inviting all six parties with MPs “would unduly limit our ability to hold a substantive debate.” Now he says he “really struggled” with this decision.
The academic community doesn’t seem to quite fully understand the public’s perception of conflict of interest, nor do they seem they care that these debates belong to the Canadian public, so do the funds they are receiving from the federal government.