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Blue Blogging Soapbox
...rambling rants, thoughts and musings on mostly political topics - from your late night blogger.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Letters to the Editor 
(en francais)

As much as we all like to rant away on our blogs, don't forget your local paper. There's probably not a better venue for reaching out to people in your own community. The following was in response to a letter from CAW Director of Healthcare Kenneth Brown.

Health care scare tactics are stifling any debate

Letter

Published: Friday, March 31, 2006

Letter writer Kenneth Brown, CAW Canada director of health care, bemoans the fact we can't have a debate about real health care reform and then does his level best to stifle any such debate, other than throwing billions more into a dysfunctional system. To round things off, we have all the usual fear tactics of U.S.-style health care and evil right-wing politicians.

Why, when writers like Mr. Brown want to discuss virtually any other social issue, do they point to the leadership of European nations but studiously avoid doing so when it comes to health care?

Could it be because every one of those nations has a form of public/ private health care?

Cuba, North Korea and Canada remain the only countries specifically denying their citizens any degree of choice.

No one in Canada wants a U.S.-style health system, Mr. Brown, and your continual use of it as a scare tactic is what stifles debate, not right-wing politicians or the media.

Paul Synnott

Windsor

Paul Synnott at 7:15 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Another perspective 
(en francais)

From Veritas Communications weekly "Touchdowns and Fumbles" newsletter:
FUMBLE:
MP Suggests Jailing Reporters

From the “politicians say the darndest things” file … backbench British Columbia Conservative MP Colin Mayes sent a column to his riding newspapers, suggesting that reporters who write distorted articles in the course of covering the Harper government should be jailed, adding that it might help the public get “accurate and true information.” Sure, it’s both ludicrous and laughable, but it’s the kind of ill-considered (if considered at all) comment that shows the damage that can be done to an organization (in this case, the Harper government overall) by a spokesperson saying the wrong thing. He promptly issued a complete retraction – obviously the right move, but the damage had been done. Suddenly the PMO’s directive that all MP communications be vetted by the corner office doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all, does it?
Mr. Mayes could probably use some of Veritas' service right about now.
You've just made the biggest blunder of your life and now someone is sticking a microphone and a TV camera in your face. Or all your years of hard work have paid off and now your achievements are being recognized under bright TV lights. We can't stop your heart from beating faster, but we can teach you how to manage the media and do it on-message.

With our media coaching, led by a a veteran journalist and a former political Press Secretary you'll get the benefit of hands-on experience and demonstrated tools of the trade for handling media pressure. Our coaches give you unique training from both sides of the microphone.

Hindsight really is 20/20.

Get your own copy of "communications plays of the week" from Veritas. Touchdown and Fumbles is a good newsletter to signup for. Delivered Friday's it a nice concise look at some of the best and worst of the week. Better to learn from others mistakes rather than your own.
Touchdowns and Fumbles
Did you see the big story in the news this week? Can you believe someone ACTUALLY said that to a reporter? How would you have handled yourself in that situation?

Get Veritas' expert analysis of the communication plays of the week, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

Paul Synnott at 5:02 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Mistress Buckler? 
(en francais)

I'll discuss Michael Harris' article in another blog later today, but this one was just WAY too good to pass up.

If someone in Ottawa has a sense of humour they would purchase a copy of the Sun, along with an appropriate punishment device, and leave both in a rather conspicuous place.
Two is too many
When Stephen Harper came to power William Stairs was dumped like a load of bad fish and replaced by Sandra Buckler, a purpose-driven barracuda from the corporate world where communication is about creating perceptions -- your perceptions. So far she has performed like a recently graduated dominatrix anxious to try out her whip hand. The media is there to play the Coke commercial for the boss on cue or receive a tongue-lashing. Have fun while you can Sandy, it won't last long.

Paul Synnott at 7:10 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


It only takes one 
(en francais)


Someone needs a trip to the woodshed and a few thousand lessons in messaging.

Tory MP suggests jailing bad journalists


Overheard in a fit of anger is one thing. We all need to vent now and again, but emailed to nine different newspapers? Not even the excuse of 'rookie MP' can explain this away.

Definitely deserves the 'Bonehead' award.

Next test will be Mr. Mayes' response to the story he's created.

You've got your first 15 minutes of fame Mr. Mayes, make wise use of them.

Paul Synnott at 6:59 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Enough is enough 
(en francais)

After I read this article yesterday, I spent most of the evening composing a reply in my head. I just couldn't quite settle on the words. Most times I was too angry and that bled through in my attempts. Trying to be rational in my approach didn't help much either.
A soldier comes home
But both the Bloc Quebecois and NDP said this latest death underscores the need for a full parliamentary debate on Canada's role in Afghanistan.
I was very happy this morning to come across Connie Woodcock's Toronto Sun piece. Connie takes us on a nostalgic tour of the Diefenbunker in Carp Ontario and then deftly brings us back to the present and reality. Her approach is somewhat calmer than what I had been contemplating, and for that reason, probably more effective.
Down in the 'Diefenbunker'
The Cold War, it occurred to me down in the bunker's dimly lit depths, wasn't so bad after all. No Canadian soldier died because of it. We've lost lots of soldiers over the years during peacekeeping missions -- in Cyprus, on the Golan Heights, in the former Yugoslavia -- and yet, until recently, we paid no attention. Ever heard of the Medac pocket? Probably not, but our soldiers witnessed bloody horrors there that we were never even told about at the time. Many Canadians suffer the delusion that peacekeeping is a nicer, safer, more honourable occupation than a soldier's normal job -- killing people.

But it hasn't been much protection for our forces.

More than 120 have been killed keeping the peace since the 1950s. We lost more than 20 in the former Yugoslavia alone --but if you remember hearing of even one, I'd be surprised. Now we're in a real war, the modern kind, that may drag on for years and soldiers are dying again. But things have changed -- for the first time in decades, our government is 100% behind its forces, and let's hope Canadians are too, for Afghanistan is a demonstration of the good we can do in a dangerous world.

All the above aside, I'm still left with the question - If Jack Layton and the NDP consider the current mission in Afghanistan to be so deserving of an emergency debate, then where were they in the period before the last government fell?

We've just spent one of the longest elections in Canadian history listening to the NDP tell us that they were the only ones to 'make Parliament work' in the last session, bringing in the "NDP budget". Their whole election strategy was based on the premise that they held the balance of power in the last parliament and Canadians needed to make sure that that was the case in this parliament.

If Jack Layton truly did wield this power, why did he not use it to force an emergency debate on Afghanistan BEFORE the troops actually deployed? From May to the fall of the government in November the NDP was virtually silent on the issue. While Jack Layton was busy extracting $4 billion in concessions from Paul Martin he couldn't spare the time to demand a debate that would cost nothing but time?

While the average Canadian can be excused for being confused about the details of the current Afghanistan mission, there's no excuse for MPs to claim the same.

Jack Layton misleads Canadians


Jack Layton and the NDP exposed

The time for debate on the current mission has long since past. The use of every soldiers injury or death to try and make the case for a debate you could have accomplished easily last year is nothing more than political partisanship at it's very worst.

We're there and we're committed. The mission has defined timelines.

If you wish a debate on extending those commitments, changing the goals of future missions, changing the Prime Minister's power to deploy forces or even the foreign policy that forms the basis of our deployments, those are all valid points and worthwhile debates. A knock down, gut-wrenching, no holds bar debate on the FUTURE role of Canada in Afghanistan, and elsewhere for that matter, is definitely called for. Leave nothing unsaid and let Canadians have no doubt where you stand.

You had your chance to debate this mission and the reasons for or against it, you chose not to use that chance.

Stop using our troops honourable and valiant service to score cheap political points.

Paul Synnott at 6:50 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Visionary vs Visionless 
(en francais)

H/T to Small Dead Animals for the link to this piece on Newspapers in the age of blogs, by Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian.

Well worth reading and listening to. I don't think you'll find a more honest opinion from an editorial perspective.

The snips below are from Buzz Machine by Jeff Jarvis.
Homework
And, of course, he asks the question everyone asks:”Where’s the revenue? This is my favorite quote from the book about Google: ‘They had no revenue model until 2001′…. And it’s now worth, depending on the day of the week, between $40 and $80 billion.”

...

He tells his audience about a wide range of Web 2.0 companies and talks about having dinner with the Digg guys, who he says will “either be multibillionnaires in a few years time or just go on being geeks.” He does take some hope that the aggregators find newspaper content interesting; that’s what they’re aggregating. This is why he says it’s “mad to be sacking journalists,” because we need the content they produce, though he then adds, “we may need to sack some.”

Later, he is asked about aggregators and whether he objects to what they do and whether he can stop them. He replies that, yes, you can tell crawlers to “push off.” And he confesses to sitting with the Digg guys, seeing them make money while The Guardian loses money, and wondering about building a wall. “But actually, they are driving traffic back to the Guardian site. The more of a wall that you put around, whether it’s a wall of payment or a wall of registration, the more you’re repelling people rather than building an audience for the day when we hope that advertising will come in like the cavalry and rescue us. So I think at the moment, the smarter thing to do is to make your content available everywhere and to have it aggregated and linked to like mad by everybody in the world, because that way you will reach a gigantic audience. And that matters journalistically. If you’re in the business of journalism for influence, and because of the Guardian worldview that you believe in, it’s terrific to have an audience of 14 million instead of 400,000. That’s wonderful. So why would you want to turn them away?”

The mp3 file of the speech and question and answer session can be downloaded.

On the other hand, we have the opinion from the Canadian scribblers:

Demeaning Discourse: how bloggers lower the tone
Russel Smith

Okay, so what? We read blogs just as we read non-journalistic opinion columns such as this one: for a personal opinion and a personal voice. We read them to be part of a discussion. All good. But what about the tone of so many of these discussions -- the almost ubiquitous snarkiness, the ad hominem jabs, the sheer hatred they reveal? It takes about five entries in any on-line forum before a troll starts throwing insults at his opponents, and then it's a group hate.

I'd like to see a study comparing the Sun group and The Toronto Star versus others such as the Globe and Mail and Canwest. Open and linkable versus those who still maintain subscription and or registration walls. `

Paul Synnott at 1:01 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's OK to diss Paul Martin now... 
(en francais)

especially if you're running for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

I've noticed one other thing over the last few days.

Seems like "Chretien" isn't a banned word in Liberal circles any more. It used to be hilarious to watch various Liberal politicians respond to questions regarding Chretien and see them frame their answers without ever once actually mentioning his name.

Who knows, give them a few more months and they might even be able to say "Kinsella" without choking.

Would-be Liberal leader Ignatieff prompts comparison to Trudeau


Ignatieff also tackled the criticism that it's presumptuous for someone who has been an MP for all of two months to think he could lead a national party and eventually the country.

"The only honest answer here is that there have been men and women who trained all their lives to be prime minister and turned out to be really bad at it," he said.

Paul Synnott at 7:59 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


MPTV.ca 
(en francais)

Looks like this is going to be Garth Turner's latest initiative. While watching a piece on Garth by the CBC I noticed the sign on the wall in the back of a studio that he was setting up to webcast from Ottawa.

If you enter mptv.ca you are directed to voteware.com . Voteware has a holding page up right now but it also includes another little tidbit. COMING SOON: Govmail.ca & MPmail.ca

Both voteware and mptv are registered by the same company.

(Note: registration info removed to prevent spam to registrants email addresses. )

Planetcast President William Stratas
has a previous business relationship with Garth Turner and Planetcast currently runs Garth's site.

I must admit, I'm certainly curious about what Garth's developing. I missed a good part of the interview, but I think I heard him say he was going to make his studio available to other MPs. Regardless of what your opinion of Garth is, he's certainly pushing the envelope in many areas.

Paul Synnott at 8:37 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Thanks from a grateful nation 
(en francais)

If you've ever wondered just what previous Liberal governments thought of the military, this is a good example. The Kuwaitis acutally had to have a second batch of medals minted. The first batch went missing from the Embassy in Kuwait. The government of Kuwait actually discovered some of the first batch being offered for sale on the internet.

The Liberals refused to give permisson for the medals to be handed out. Under Canadian regulations, the medals can't be worn, but are meant as keepsakes. There was absolutely no reason to deny their distribution for so long. The Kuwati government simply wished to express their thanks to Canadians who participated in the liberation of their country.
Canadian soldiers awarded Kuwait medal
Mar. 30, 2006. 01:00 AM

OTTAWA—Canadian soldiers and veterans have been awarded the Liberation of Kuwait medal by the Kuwaiti government, 15 years after they helped liberate the country from Iraqi occupation in the first Gulf War.

About 30 Gulf War veterans, their families and two veterans' widows attended the ceremony held at the Kuwaiti embassy yesterday.

Paul Synnott at 7:19 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Liberals simplify membership process for leadership 
(en francais)

Just take one of these and one of these and forward to the nearest Liberal organizer.

We'll get back to you later on to take care of the paperwork.

(Sorry, couldn't resist. I just felt inspired today.)

Paul Synnott at 6:56 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


It's only money 
(en francais)

Home run for Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy today. Her latest exposes a cash grab for City of Toronto employees, approved by the council. This example makes Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan look even more idiotic for giving Toronto yet another "one time" bailout with no strings attached.
Twice at the trough
Shirley Hoy will broadcast a message to the city's 50,000 (and counting) employees -- both union and management -- inviting them to sign up to work on the Nov. 13 election at recruitment campaigns set for April 4 and 5.

Who will be able to resist? A City Hall policy, approved by Hoy and her two deputy city managers last September, will allow anyone who wants to participate to take the day off and still get paid by the city -- not once, but twice!

Greg Essensa, director of the city's elections services, confirmed there's a "corporate-approved" policy that grants employees "leave" to help with the election on that particular day.

They will get paid for NOT doing their regular job on that day and they'll also collect the rate of payment for "whatever additional (election day) position they're assigned to," he told me yesterday.

He said they need 12,000 people to man the election polls and there will be an active ad campaign to recruit members of the public for the jobs as well. Some $1.8 million of the city's $6-million elections budget will be used to pay election-day staff.

There are 18 different job possibilities. For example, ballot officers are needed from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on election day and will get paid $185. Managing deputy returning officers work from 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. and will earn $260.

Ward centre drivers are needed from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. to drive a cube van delivering furniture and to lift items weighing 25-30 pounds. They'll earn $220 for their efforts. A driver receiver, who drives a van and unloads supplies from 6:30 pm.-11:30 p.m., will get paid $150.

That means a city cleaner can make his or her $20.91 an hour for the day, a garbage worker his or her $23.88 an hour or a public health nurse the regular $35.73 per hour -- for taking the day off from their jobs -- and collect another $200 or so on top of that.

This would almost be funny if it wasn't being accomplished with your tax dollars. What they don't explain is who is going to be covering for all those employees who decide to cash in. Want to bet the city also expends a large chunk of overtime on election day?

Nah. That would be a sucker bet.

Paul Synnott at 6:27 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


SlingBox - stream your cable/satellite feed over the net 
(en francais)

Here's a hot new toy. Available online from Futureshop today. In store at Futureshop and London Drugs later this week. This little baby will definitely not please cable and satellite companies. $299.00

The player can handle different inputs, although from the looks of things you will need a seperate box for each input. eg. one box for satellite, one for cable, one for DVD player etc.

If you purchase and register your Slingbox before April 26th you can also download a copy of SlingPlayer Mobile, which will allow you to watch TV on any device running Windows Mobile.

Slingbox™

What if you were able to watch live television wherever you go? The World Series in your cube. MSNBC breaking news at the coffeeshop. Your local news station halfway around the world. Lost in Hawaii. Emeril Live in your kitchen.

Now what if we told you that you could do that without having to lug a television, a cable box, a satellite dish, or a subscription along with you? In fact, you don’t need anything besides your laptop (which is attached to your hip already).

That’s because back home, you have a Slingbox sitting on top of your television. The simple silver device looks suspiciously like a gigantic chocolate bar, but the technology inside is truly sweet. This award-winning gadget is a breakthrough device that enables you to watch and control your living room television programming from anywhere by turning any Internet-connected laptop, desktop, PDA, or smartphone into a personal television.
This baby should do wonders for productivity across North America.

Paul Synnott at 4:47 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Western Standard Legal Defence Fund 
(en francais)

From an email sent out by Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant. If you don't want to donate to the fund, at least consider purchasing a subscription. Link to the subscription page is at the top of the blog.

Western Standard Legal Defence Fund

Dear Western Standard reader,

Our magazine has been sued for publishing the Danish cartoons, and I need your help to fight back!

As you know, the Western Standard was the only mainstream media organ in Canada to publish the Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

We did so for a simple reason: the cartoons were the central fact in one of the largest news stories of the year, and we're a news magazine. We publish the facts and we let our readers make up their minds.

Advertisers stood with us. Readers loved the fact that we treated them like grown-ups. And we earned the respect of many other journalists in Canada who envied our independence. In fact, according to a COMPAS poll last month, fully 70% of Canada's working journalists supported our decision to publish the cartoons.

But not Syed Soharwardy, a radical Calgary Muslim imam.

He asked the police to arrest me for publishing the cartoons. They calmly explained to him that's not what police in Canada do.

So then he went to a far less liberal institution than the police: the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Unlike the Calgary Police Service, they didn't have the common sense to show him the door.

Earlier this month, I received a copy of Soharwardy's rambling, hand-scrawled complaint. It is truly an embarrassing document. He briefly complains that we published the Danish cartoons. But the bulk of his complaint is that we dared to try to justify it - that we dared to disagree with him.

Think about that: In Soharwardy's view, not only should the Canadian media be banned from publishing the cartoons, but we should be banned from defending our right to publish them. Perhaps the Charter of Rights that guarantees our freedom of the press should be banned, too.

Soharwardy's complaint goes further than just the cartoons. It refers to news articles we published about Hamas, a group labelled a terrorist organization by the Canadian government. By including those other articles, he shows his real agenda: censoring any criticism of Muslim extremists.

Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about Soharwardy's complaint is that he claims our cartoons caused him to receive hate mail. Indeed, his complaint includes copies of a few e-mails from strangers to him. Some of those e-mails even go so far as to call him "humourless" and tell him to "lighten up". Perhaps that's hateful. But all of those e-mails were sent to him before our magazine even published the cartoons. Soharwardy isn't even pretending that this is a legitimate complaint. He's not even trying to hide that this is a nuisance suit.

Soharwardy's complaint should have been thrown out immediately by the Alberta Human Rights Commission, just like the police did. But it wasn't. Which is why I'm writing to you today.

According to our lawyers, we will win this case. It's an infantile complaint, without basis in facts or law. Frankly, it's an embarrassment to the government of Alberta that their tribunal is open to abuse like this.

Our lawyers tell us we're going to win. But not before we have to spend hundreds of hours and up to $75,000 fighting this thing, at our own expense. Soharwardy doesn't have to spend a dime - now that his complaint has been filed, Alberta tax dollars will pay for the prosecution of his complaint. We have to pay for this on our own.

Look, $75,000 isn't going to bankrupt us. But it will sting. We're a small, independent magazine, not a huge company with deep pockets. All of our money is needed to produce the best possible editorial product, not to fight legal battles. This is clearly an abuse of process designed to punish us and deter other media from daring to cross that angry imam in the future.

One of the leaders in Canadian human rights law, Alan Borovoy, was so disturbed by Soharwardy's abuse of the human rights commission that he wrote a public letter about it in the Calgary Herald on March 16th. "During the years when my colleagues and I were labouring to create such commissions, we never imagined that they might ultimately be used against freedom of speech," wrote Borovoy, who is general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Censorship was "hardly the role we had envisioned for human rights commissions. There should be no question of the right to publish the impugned cartoons," he wrote.

Borovoy went even further - he said that the human rights laws should be changed to avoid this sort of abuse in the future. "It would be best, therefore, to change the provisions of the Human Rights Act to remove any such ambiguities of interpretation," he wrote. That's an amazing statement, coming from one of the fathers of the Canadian human rights movement.

I agree with Borovoy: the law should be changed to stop future abuses. But those changes will come too late for us - we're already under attack. The human rights laws, designed as a shield, are being used against us as a sword.

We will file our legal response to Soharwardy's shakedown this week. And we will fight this battle to the end - not just for our own sake, but to defend freedom of the press for all Canadians.

Do you believe that's important? If so, I'd ask you to help us defray our costs. We're accepting donations through our website. It's fast, easy and secure. Just click on http://www.westernstandard.ca/freedom

You can donate any amount from $10 to $10,000. Please help the Western Standard today - and protect freedom for all Canadians for years to come.

Yours gratefully,

Ezra Levant
Publisher

Paul Synnott at 2:35 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

An environmental group with the right idea 
(en francais)

I like this group's approach. Ditch the rhetoric and bombast and try a unique approach. Those that are willing to change and adapt to change will most always come out ahead.
Environmentalists mute criticism, offer Harper advice on how to save money

OTTAWA (CP) - Environmentalists are doing their best to get on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's good side; instead of appealing to his concern for nature or future generations, they are offering to save him money.

The Green Budget Coalition of 20 leading environment groups made cost-cutting the theme Wednesday as they delivered their annual pre-budget recommendations.

The activists avoided any plea for the Kyoto Protocol, even though many Kyoto-related programs are thought to be on the chopping block in the coming budget.

Nor did they complain about the list of five top priorities which Harper has set out for his government, although the environment is conspicuously absent from that list.

Instead they dug deep to find a 2004 speech in which Harper promised to review "corporate welfare" and urged him to start by cutting subsidies for the petroleum, mining and nuclear industries.

"The federal government's intention to cut wasteful spending can, in fact, play an important role in creating healthier lives for current and future generations of Canadians," said coalition chair Julie Gelfand.

The coalition says cutting subsidies to the petroleum sector would save Ottawa $1.4 billion annually, ending support for nuclear power would save $150 million annually, and the mining sector would yield $80 million annually.
I don't have all the facts on this issue, but they certainly make a good case. Subsidies for the oil sands? With the price of oil where it is now, it's time for them to stand on their own two feet.

By taking the approach they have, the Green Budget Coalition at least is encouraging others to join in the debate from different perpsectives. I'm certainly in favour of less corporate welfare but on the other hand the tax structure for corporations must be adjusted at the same time in order for companies to remain competitive.

Congratulations to the Green Budget Coalition for their approach. At the very least you have my attention and interest, for what it's worth.

Paul Synnott at 8:08 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Podcasting PMO 
(en francais)

Looks like providing audio and video for various speeches by Prime Minister Harper is going to be a common practice. This is a great development, but it's only a first step.

It's essential for the PMO's website to take the next step and incorporate RSS into the site. Content delivery is greatly simplified once RSS is enabled. People subscibe to your feed for Releases, Audio and or Video. Distribution and duplication is key.

The following audio and video files were listed in an email from the PMO's site, but they were not clickable and, probably due to some error in the email, not even easy to copy and paste as text. In order to be effective, it has to be easy for the average person.

Audio file of Stephen Harper's address to National Caucus
(6.0 mb .mp3) - Bilingual

Video file of Stephen Harper's address to National Caucus (166 mb .mpg) - Bilingual

Paul Synnott at 7:22 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Another perspective on the media access issue 
(en francais)

Maisonneuve Magazine's daily media scout is an interesting read each day. You can subscribe to the daily email here. Usually delivered by 10am each morning.
Daily Media Scout
The press corps’ anger is entirely justified; the prime minister’s attempts to dictate the daily message serve his interests to the detriment of the public good. That said, however, the old system was not necessarily much better. Contrary to what the rhetoric from the press corps would have you believe, scrums are hardly a hotbed of political accountability and transparency. Ostensibly an opportunity for reporters to ask candid questions and get off-the-cuff, humanizing responses, scrums have evolved into a sort of political theatre. Seasoned politicians pick and choose the questions that best serve their daily talking points and come out looking shiny and smooth, while their less-seasoned colleagues stammer and sweat under the pressure but still lamely offer up the spin du jour. The latter makes for a more compelling visual but is the public’s interest really served? It might be time to rethink some of the business of political reporting. Rather than lament for a flawed system, the press gallery might want to look at what can be done to give Canadians real access to the decision-makers
Mediascout FAQs
MediaScout follows national and international news as reported by Canada’s “Big Seven” national newsrooms.

Who exactly are the Big Seven?
The Globe and Mail (national edition), the National Post, La Presse, the Ottawa Citizen, the Toronto Star and two televised sources—CBC’s The National with Peter Mansbridge and CTV News with Lloyd Robertson—make up the Big Seven. By comparing the day’s top stories and analyzing the different angles taken by each organization, MediaScout can feed you the best analysis, keep you aware of biases and generally give you a bird’s-eye view of the day’s news cycle.

Paul Synnott at 7:00 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Hire this man! 
(en francais)

Ed Broadbent was my first choice for a new Integrity Commissioner. There's just no matching the man's credibility.

This gentleman has always been my second choice.

Pay him whatever he wants, give him the resources, the independence and step back. The results would probably make many politicians of all stripes uncomfortable, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The Liberals breathed a sigh of relief when he left Ottawa for his current position in Ontario. The best thing Stephen Harper could do for integrity in Ottawa is bring him back as soon as possible.

The man's a bulldog. Let him loose!

Christina Blizzard has a review of his latest work.

Paul Synnott at 4:57 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Legitimate immigrants and refugees welcome 
(en francais)

Ever wonder why Canada's immigration system is such a mess? Read Sheila Copps' Sun article today and you'll get a good idea. It certainly highlights a fundemental difference of thought between most Liberals and Conservatives. I guess it must just drive some Liberals crazy to see potential votes flying off into the sunset.
A 'law and order' gaffe

The decision to deport a handful of workers who overstayed their Canadian visitors' visa is defensible on the face of it. In fact, there are literally thousands of people waiting to immigrate to Canada through legal channels whose frustration often reaches the boiling point when queue-jumpers push them to the back of the line. That is the theory of moving forward on the deportations.

The practice is quite different. Picture Monte Solberg, vigorously defending his law and order agenda while families board planes that will deport them to their native Portugal. The executive of the Portuguese Canadian Congress is pleading for understanding, construction employers are decrying a labour shortage and Canadian family members are pleading for mercy. Solberg is highly articulate and unwavering in his determination to uphold the law and order agenda. The only problem is the law and order crowd is already on side. He needs to use this valuable minority government time to show the rest of us that his party can be compassionate too.

The sight of a well-spoken, clean-cut teenager explaining how he came to Canada when he was a child, and knows little else, plays directly to the constituency Monte Solberg needs to recruit, not alienate. Most adult immigrants, whatever their view on the theoretical merits of queue-jumping, sympathize because they see a little bit of themselves in the deportee. In the 15 largest cities in Canada, the majority have come from somewhere else. Those cities also happen to be the difference between a Harper minority and majority.

In Toronto where the majority are visible minorities, they respond with fear to a perceived immigration crackdown. Solberg will rightfully argue that legal immigrants have nothing to fear. But those assurances fall on deaf ears to those from countries that specialize in legal repression. The mere image of a minister on television talking tough about immigrants goes against the Canadian view that we are an open country with plenty of space for all.

Despite all the hyperbole emitting from the NDP and Liberal benches, the recent deportations are routine. The department is on track to deport roughly the same amount as they did last year.

What would be nice to see is a crackdown on the other side of things. Dubious immigration consultants are a huge problem in the immigration system. It's well past time that this is dealt with. A revamped application process is required along with different selection criteria.

With over 700,000 legitimate immigrants waiting to come to Canada, the issue of illegal immigrants must be dealt with. Failure to do so will encourage those waiting to simply jump the line and come to Canada illegally. After 13 years of Liberal inaction on this file, I'm willing to give Minister Solberg time to get the house in order and move forward.

Paul Synnott at 4:23 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Self Righteous Quote of the Day 
(en francais)

The winner is Parliamentary Press Gallery President Emmanuelle Latraverse:
"As representatives of the public, which is what we are, we should not abdicate the freedom to cover the issues that we think are important,'' said Emmanuelle Latraverse, president of the parliamentary press gallery.


Actually Mr. Latraverse, I voted in a recent contested election for a Member of Parliament to represent me, not a member of the Parliamentary Press Corps.

On the other hand, if you're willing to publish your phone number, fax number, cell phone number, email address and any other contact info so that members of your "public" can contact you much as they do their elected representatives, I may reconsider.

I acknowledge that there is a dispute underway regarding past practices and current media access, but save the "woe is me" tale for another day. Many people believe that the gallery has some legitimate concerns but your grand pronouncements aren't helping you very much.

The rules of the game have changed. You mean to tell me that not being allowed to hang around the cabinet hallway or having Conservative Communications staff control questions at a press conference is all it takes to stymie you?

I look forward to see which gallery members rise to the challenge in the coming weeks and succeed in spite of the changes.

Paul Synnott at 3:44 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Canadian casualty in Afghanistan 
(en francais)

CBC just broke in the 11pm eastern National with a report from Ottawa that Canadians have been involved in an incident with casualties and possible deaths.

I didn't catch the location. Not many details as yet.

Update from CBC.ca
Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan:
Report

A Canadian soldier has been killed in a remote area outside of Kandahar, according to reports.

CBC's Keith Boag reported that Ottawa would only confirm there was an incident resulting in Canadian casualties in Kandahar. He said officials will not elaborate until the next of kin have been notified.

There are about 2,200 Canadian soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan.

Separately, the Pentagon is reporting that one U.S soldier and one coalition soldier were killed and three coalition soldiers injured in a firefight with insurgents.

A briefing is expected to be held later in Kandahar.

More to come.

From Yahoo/CP News:
Canadian soldier killed in remote area outside Kandahar, no immediate details

15 minutes ago

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - At least one Canadian soldier serving in Afghanistan has been killed in a remote area outside of Kandahar.

No details surrounding the death have been released.

There are about 2,200 Canadian soldiers currently serving with the coalition in Afghanistan.

The latest incident followed a series of attacks on Tuesday in the Kandahar region, including a rocket attack on the base where Canadian troops are based.

Vehicle accidents and rollovers have also proven deadly for the Canadian troops.

Previously, 11 Canadians have been killed in the turbulent country since 2002 - 10 of them soldiers and one a Canadian diplomat.

Four Canadians died when they were mistakenly bombed by a U.S. fighter jet while on a training mission. Four were killed in suicide attacks or roadside bombs, while three died in two separate vehicle accidents.

The troops are committed in the region until early next year, although Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier has warned the international community may ask for continued support until a NATO-run mission ends in 2011.

Paul Synnott at 11:04 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


To the barricades! 
(en francais)

Either Paul Wells is getting funnier, I'm getting used to his style or a combination of the two but I do enjoy reading his blog more and more each day.


Attica! Attica!

So my dry cleaner asked me this morning about the feuding between the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the Prime Minister's Office. And my first email this morning asked what I made of the fuss. So I suppose it is time for me to discuss all of this, at horse-tranquilizer length. First: anyone tempted to write and lecture me about journalistic navel-gazing seriously needs to stop reading this blog altogether. Journalistic navel-gazing is one of this corner's three mandates, along with general Ottawa navel-gazing and fun musical interludes. (Blanket coverage of Belarusian human-rights abuses is a sort of bonus.)

Anyway. When my dry cleaner asked about the PMO-PPG unpleasantness, I said, "I think it's a problem. And I think we're over-reacting." He agreed: "I basically give these guys" — i.e., the new Harper government — "a B+ so far."

But here's why it's a problem ...
Worth a few minutes to read. This will probably be one of the more sensible things you'll read from most media over the next while.

My thoughts on his points:

Number 1 - welcome to what the rest of Canada experiences. Can I suggest some good ESL or French Immersion courses?

Number 2 - a compromise should be able to be reached on this one, but I do enjoy the current press conferences as opposed to the shout fests.

Number 3 - How many Cabinet meetings versus Question Period? Regardless of past practice, I don't necessarily agree with command media performances. There are certainly more ways than one to corner a Minister should the need be required. Be creative.

Number 4 - I seem to remember a few photo ops in Harpers first couple of weeks where the pool reporter was politely asked not to ask any questions. Said reporter proceeded to ignore the request. A test maybe? Could explain the current situation.

Personally I think Harper is establishing the fact that he is the Prime Minister of a new Conservative government and everything is not the same anymore. He is establishing his style. I would hope and expect to see some compromise all round on this issue as time goes on. Nothing wrong with a little change though.

If we still followed tradition as the only benchmark women wouldn't be voting, the Red Ensign would still be flying and "off the record" would still mean something.

Paul Synnott at 11:14 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Jack Layton and the NDP exposed 
(en francais)

As a follow-up to yesterday's post - Jack Layton misleads Canadians, I decided a little more digging was in order. Below is the statement on Afghanistan issued by Jack Layton during the last federal election.


Statement By Jack Layton On Afghanistan
Thu 8 Dec 2005

DARTMOUTH – In Brussels earlier today, foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries agreed to expand the presence of the alliance's troops in Afghanistan. NATO proposes to deploy some 6,000 additional troops to the south of the country.

Media are widely reporting that Canadian troops may be part of this escalation.

The New Democratic Party opposes sending more Canadian troops to Afghanistan at this time.

We appear to be drifting from our original mission there – which was to provide security in the capital region – and into a combat role side-by-side with American troops.

We must not drift into a war blindly or secretly, on the say-so of one man – Mr. Martin.

If Paul Martin wants to involve Canada directly in a war in Afghanistan, then he must spell out what our goals are, what our commitments will be, and when and how we will get out.

We then require a real national debate, and a clear democratic decision taken by Parliament.
Let's take a look at this press release to see how the NDP is trying to distort the facts in order to suit their own agenda.
DARTMOUTH – In Brussels earlier today, foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries agreed to expand the presence of the alliance's troops in Afghanistan. NATO proposes to deploy some 6,000 additional troops to the south of the country.
The release makes it sound like the expansion was only approved on the 8th of December and the proposal to deploy troops to the south was still in question. In actual fact, this meeting was simply to endorse the official plan to expand into the south and deploy the troops. There was no "propose" to the agreement, it was final approval of a planning process that Canada had been involved in since at least May of 2005. Minister of Defence Bill Graham had outlined this in his appearance before a joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defence committees on the 16th of May.
Media are widely reporting that Canadian troops may be part of this escalation.
The media may very well have been reporting this, but hopefully it wasn't the Canadian media. By this point, Camp Julien in Kabul had already been closed (November 29th) and the initial setup of the base in Kandahar was well underway. This fact was widely reported in the Canadian media.

Why does Jack Layton's press release say that the Canadians "may be part of this escalation"? After a personal briefing by the Minister of National Defence in front of a joint Commons committee, a 5 hour debate in the House of Commons (which Mr. Layton did not attend) and over 7 months of media reports does, Jack Layton expect us to believe the NDP still wasn't sure if Canadians were deploying additional troops to Kandahar? The wording allows the NDP to play with semantics and claim they were simply stating what the media was reporting. If there is any confusion regarding the deployment in Afghanistan today it is because of tactics such as this.
"The New Democratic Party opposes sending more Canadian troops to Afghanistan at this time."
Other than the ongoing election, what has changed from the previous 7 months to make the NDP change their position and oppose the troop deployment already underway? While they were supporting Paul Martin's minority government the NDP had ample opportunity to voice any objections and with their balance of power could have forced the issue to national prominence. They chose to remain silent.
We appear to be drifting from our original mission there – which was to provide security in the capital region – and into a combat role side-by-side with American troops.

We must not drift into a war blindly or secretly, on the say-so of one man – Mr. Martin.
"Appear", "blindly" and "secretly" are all used here to leave the impression that Canadians were being misled or simply not being told anything about the troop deployment. Once again, this is patently false. The mission to provide security to Kabul ended with the handover of Camp Julien. Canada had fulfilled their original mission and commitment and was transitioning to their next one. The "side-by-side with American troops" is another distortion, combined with an omission. The Canadians deployment to Kandahar was and is a planned transition from American control of southern Afghanistan to NATO control. That transition is currently underway and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2006.
If Paul Martin wants to involve Canada directly in a war in Afghanistan, then he must spell out what our goals are, what our commitments will be, and when and how we will get out.

We then require a real national debate, and a clear democratic decision taken by Parliament.
More distortion disguised by a grain of truth. The goals and commitments have already been clearly defined by this date. It is true that "the when and how we get out" have not been decided. On that point Jack Layton is correct. As far as the "national debate" and "clear democratic decision" goes, we are descending into confusion and spin again. A debate on this mission was held, albeit a very short 'Take Note' debate. If the NDP had desired a "real national debate" on the issue it was incumbent on them to agitate for that debate starting in May of 2005, not in the middle of an election when the deployment had already begun.

The use of the words "clear democratic decision" is meant to imply that there was something unclear and undemocratic about the way this deployment had been handled. There is nothing farther than the truth regarding this point. The Prime Minister and Cabinet have the legal right to deploy troops. If the NDP wish to change that, subjecting any future deployments to a vote in the House of Commons, that is a entirely seperate issue for discussion and debate by all Canadians.

There is no doubt that most Canadians are confused about the current mission in Afghanistan. That failure lies at the feet of the former Liberal government and it's Minister of National Defence, Bill Graham. To Mr. Grahams credit, he has already acknowledged his own and his governments failure in this regard.

The NDP have done nothing to help this sense of confusion. When they had the opportunity to raise the profile of this issue they remained virtually silent. With one of the longest elections in recent Canadian history, they were actually afforded a unique opportunity to engage in an unprecedented debate on all matters related to defence and foreign affairs. Nothing.

If Jack Layton truly wants to "make Parliament" work he needs to follow the honourable example of Liberal Leader Bill Graham. Acknowledge his party's own part in the sense of confusion and misunderstanding that surrounds the current deployment to Afghanistan. Leave the political rhetoric and grandstanding behind. Make your case for a debate on facts not spin and misrepresentation.

Paul Synnott at 8:05 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Joe Clark for Liberal Leader 
(en francais)

Why not?

With former Conservative leadership hopeful David Orchard publicly musing about jumping in the race, Clark's got just as much shot as the rest of the political orphans running for top spot in Canada's latest reality show - " I Want To Be A Liberal Idol".

With former Conservatives Scott Brison and Belinda Stronach, the visiting professor Michael Ignatieff and ex-NDP Premier Bob Rae contemplating runs, the possibility is not beyond the realm of imagination.

All we need is for former Progessive Conservative Party President Bruck Easton to throw his hat in the ring and the circle would be complete.

Paul Synnott at 7:00 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Monday, March 27, 2006

Jack Layton misleads Canadians... 
(en francais)

and sadly the MSM buys into it lock, stock and barrel. Layton and the NDP are engaging in hair splitting of such a minute level that an electron microscope would have a hard time distinguishing the difference.
Layton demands debate over Afghanistan mission

Updated Sun. Mar. 26 2006 11:41 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff
New Democrat Leader Jack Layton demands an emergency debate in the House of Commons on April 5 on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan over concerns about the changing nature of the mission and the treatment of detainees.

"When the decision was made, actually in the middle of the election, that through NATO there would be a new deployment and Canadian soldiers would be sent to the south of Afghanistan, we suggested at that time it would be important to have a debate as soon as Parliament could convene," Layton told CTV's Question Period on Sunday. (emphasis added)

"We need to support our troops by making sure that we're very, very clear as Canadians what the mission is and, of course, it originally was supposed to be a NATO mission, but NATO has not taken charge yet."
Jane Taber's subsequent questioning of Jack Layton focuses on the detainee issue alone and leaves standing the supposed fact that the mission suddenly changed in December and that this is the first that Parliament learned about it. This, along with the phantom "different agreement" forms the basis of the sudden need for an emergency debate.

Prior to the government's fall, the NDP held the balance of power and it was not in their best interest to potentially side track their latest attempt to further their own agenda. An agenda that certainly did not include anything defence related.

Layton's statement leaves Canadians with the impression that the mission suddenly changed in December in a way that was never planned and this change was so radical that an immediate debate was required.

Let's look at a few things to see if this statement holds up.
Speaking Notes for the Honourable Bill Graham, P.C., M.P. Minister of National Defence at a joint session of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs and the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Ottawa, Ontario - May 16, 2005


As an example of this comprehensive approach, I am pleased to advise the committee this morning that Canada is now preparing to assume a leadership role in paving the way for a secure, democratic and self-sustaining Afghanistan.

To that end, we will be expanding the scope of our military commitment in that country.

First, we will extend the mandate of our reconnaissance squadron already in Kabul until late this year. In doing so, we will be continuing to provide the International Security Assistance Force with valuable intelligence and situational awareness capabilities and we will help facilitate the Afghan election process.

Second, we will be deploying a Provincial Reconstruction Team to the city of Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, for a period of about eighteen months beginning in August of this year.

This team will bring together approximately 250 Canadian military personnel, civilian police, diplomats, and aid workers to provide an integrated ‘3-D effort to reinforce the authority of the Afghan government in, and around, Kandahar and to assist in the stabilization of the region. This PRT will conduct security patrols, assist local reconstruction efforts, report on governance issues, and to facilitate reforms to the security sector.

Finally, in early 2006, we will be deploying an army task force of about 700 Canadian Forces members and a brigade headquarters of approximately 300 military personnel to Kandahar for a period of between nine and twelve months. These forces will conduct operations to strengthen the security situation in the country. They will also play a key role in completing the transition from Coalition to NATO leadership in Afghanistan.

We are still working out some of the specific details of our new contribution to Afghanistan with our allies and partners and other government departments. But, colleagues, this is a significant new commitment to Afghanistan and to the international campaign against terrorism. And it demonstrates, in a real and meaningful way, our willingness to play a leadership role in the world - the goal set out in our international policy statement.
This ties in with a Nato in Afghanistan Press Factsheet
On 31 May 2005, NATO expanded ISAF into the West of Afghanistan, by taking command of four additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams, in Herat, Farah, Chagcharan and QalÂ’eh-Now and of a Forward Support Base (a logistics hub) in Herat.

In total, the Alliance now commands nine PRTs and provides security assistance in about 50% of AfghanistanÂ’s territory.

Planning continues for an expansion of ISAF into the South of the country.
If you look closely at the following high resolution map of Afghanistan, you will notice a PRT and Forward Support Base planned for Kandahar as part of a Stage 3 expansion.

Nato Map of Afghanistan ( high resolution .jpg)

Camp Julien was closed and officially handed over to the Afghanistan Military in November of 2005. This was widely reported in the media, including the fact that the Canadians were shifting operations to Kandahar to prepare for the arrival of the main Canadian task force.
News Release
Canadian Camp Julien in Kabul Closes


NR-05.098 - November 25, 2005

Canadian Brigadier-General David Fraser, currently the commander of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Edmonton, Alberta, will command the multinational brigade from its headquarters at Kandahar Airfield. The majority of headquarters personnel will be Canadian and they will deploy for a nine-month period. At the same time, Canada will also field a battle group for two successive six-month rotations, and will deploy a new rotation for the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar. Canada has committed to maintain the PRT for at least another year.

These deployments in February 2006 will bring Task Force Afghanistan in Kandahar to about 2,000 personnel. The mission of TFA will be to improve the security situation in southern Afghanistan, and play a key role in the transition from the U.S.-led multinational coalition to NATO leadership. In the southern provinces, this change is scheduled for the spring of 2006.
As noted above, the initial Change of Operational control was scheduled for the spring of 2006. Jack Layton's statement implies that again something has changed here without Parliament's knowledge. ("of course, it originally was supposed to be a NATO mission, but NATO has not taken charge yet.")
Backgrounder
Canadian Forces Operations in Afghanistan


BG–06.003 - February 28, 2006
The situation today

Task Force Afghanistan's mission is to improve the security situation in southern Afghanistan, and play a key role in the transition from the United States (US)-led multinational coalition (known as Operation ENDURING FREEDOM ) to NATO leadership. In the southern provinces, like the province of Kandahar, this transition is scheduled for the summer of 2006.
In actual fact, the change from US to NATO has been delayed from the spring to the summer. Not a surprising detail when you consider the logistics involved in moving the Task Force half way around the world and establishing a new command structure involving multiple nations. I wonder how many rookie NDP MPs have made their way to Ottawa and have managed to find the Parliamentary washrooms prior to drafting all the new legislation they're obviously working on.

So what did happen in December?

Revised operational plan for
NATO Â’s expanding mission in Afghanistan


On 8 December, NATO Foreign Ministers endorsed a revised Operational Plan, prepared by NATO's Military Authorities, which will guide the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to assist the Afghan Government to extend and exercise its authority and influence across the country.

The Plan addresses the tasks and challenges ISAF will face as it continues to expand its area of operations to the south and subsequently to the east of the country.

... The next stage of ISAF expansion is planned for 2006 and is known as Stage 3 Expansion, which will result in the following:

* ISAF's area of operations will be expanded to include six additional provinces: Day Kundi, Helmand , Kandahar , Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul (see attached map);

* Four Regional Commands will be established at: Mazar-e Sharif, Herat and Kandahar for ISAF Regions North, West and South respectively and one for the capital, Kabul;

* Four additional ISAF Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) will be created in the Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces, subject to national approval (see attached map);

* An additional Forward Support Base will be established in Kandahar (see attached map);

* Deployment of ISAF operational mentoring and liaison teams to Afghan National Army units at various levels of command. These are small groups of experienced officers and NCOs that will coach and mentor the Afghan National Army units to which they are attached;

* ISAF will be increased by up to 6,000 personnel potentially bringing the total number to approximately 15,000;

(Currently 26 Allies and 10 non-NATO countries contribute some 9,000 personnel to the operation).
That certainly sounds familiar. So what happened in December is the NATO Foreign Ministers officially endorsed the revised operational plans for Afghanistan that had been in the works since May of 2005.

What Jack Layton really doesn't want to talk about is the Take Note debate held on November 15th, 2005. That's the debate he chose not to attend. The NDP was represented in the five hour debate by MPs Bill Blaikie and Bill Siksay.
38th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 150


There is no question that important progress has been made. Afghanistan is on the road to recovery. The challenge now is to ensure momentum continues. We will work with Afghanistan and our international partners to consolidate and build on the achievements of the last four years.

An example of this is the recent deployment of Canada's provincial reconstruction team to Kandahar. In order to respond to the multifaceted and complex nature of reinforcing the authority and building the capacity of the Afghan government in Kandahar, the provincial reconstruction team brings together Canadian Forces personnel, civilian police, diplomats and aid workers in an innovative and integrated Canadian effort of the three Ds of diplomacy, defence and development.

With the provincial reconstruction team and the February 2006 deployment of a 1,500 strong task force and brigade headquarters, Canada has positioned itself to play a leadership role in southern Afghanistan and provide an enabling environment for Afghanistan's institutional and economic development.
Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)


We can agree to being under NATO authority. That was already done in Kosovo. There may be conflicts, as in Rwanda, where we should have intervened. International law seems to be developing now in regard to the duty to protect. The Bloc Québécois is following this closely.

All of this is to say that we have an order of priorities in regard to command. The Bloc Québécois prefers the UN first and then NATO. We are very resistant to coalitions of the willing, such as is currently the case in Iraq.
Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ)

Mr. Chair, I am grateful that the House has this opportunity to exchange views on the new situation for Canadian Forces in Afghanistan because it is indeed a new situation and deserves some parliamentary discussion.

What we are debating tonight is the fact that Canada has undertaken a change from its previous role in Afghanistan and is in the process of establishing what is called the provincial reconstruction team, henceforth known as PRT, in southern Afghanistan, the city of Kandahar, which involves moving the concentration of our forces from Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, to the southern city of Kandahar.

This raises a number of issues. The minister knows that this will involve more active force protection and counter-insurgency activity on the part of Canadian Forces. Our understanding is that some 1,000 plus soldiers will be deployed by February, not including members of the elite JTF2. This is a change too. I hope I will have some time to say more about this later.

There is a perception in the country that this is somehow in keeping with our traditional sort of peacekeeping role, at least our post second world war, post Korea role in world of peacekeeping. In fact, what we are doing in Afghanistan is quite different than that. I do not think the government has been fully upfront with Canadians about the difference in the rules of engagement and the difference in the situation to which Canadian troops are being sent, not only in Kabul but particularly now in Afghanistan.

This is certainly not peacekeeping. It might be called peace building, but it is more like war fighting. It is more like fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda and trying to maintain that state which has been established in the wake of the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban regime through the military activities of a coalition of the willing, of which Canada was a part. I do not think we have paid sufficient attention to the departure or the significance of the change in the role of the Canadian military that our activity in Afghanistan represents.
Hon. Bill Blaikie (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP)
Maybe the person Mr. Layton should be speaking with is his own MP, the Hon. Bill Blaikie. Hansard would seem to demonstrate that Mr. Blaikie had a firm grasp of the mission.

I would agree with the NDP on one thing, as stated by Mr. Blaikie. You're right, you didn't pay sufficient attention to what had been laid out before you since May and all the blustering and hair splitting in the world won't change that fact.

To anyone who has made it this far in the post, you may be wondering why bother with such a timeline? Isn't this just a simple mistake of timing and dates on Jack Layton's part, or at worst just typical political posturing? If you really think so, just keep listening to NDP statements over the next several days to see how often this is offered as reason for the debate.

A second reason is that this is not the first attempt to misrepresent certain facts about the Afghanistan mission and change Canadians perceptions.
Debatable Decision
By SHEILA COPPS
Wed, March 15, 2006

On the other hand, taking over the U.S. mission in Kandahar represents new risks that were not present when the original mission was approved by the previous Liberal cabinet.
Notice a common theme? Somehow everything changed in December and it is now up to Stephen Harper's Conservative government to explain everything. As I stated in my original post, obviously Sheila Copps must be referring to the original mission approval by Jean Chretien's cabinet, not Paul Martin's.

If we don't address these issues now, six months down the road the general opinion will be that the Liberals sent the troops over for peacekeeping, supported by the NDP. It was only when the scary Conservatives came to power that this dangerous "war-fighting" mission was approved.

Don't believe me? Try this. Ask ten people tomorrow who approved NAFTA. I bet at least 8 out of the 10 will say the Conservatives.

Paul Synnott at 7:30 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Canwest and Canada.com launch new group blog 
(en francais)

Update: Sorry, forgot to check all my links before posting. The Canadian Voices links works properly now.

Looks like I wasn't too far off the mark the other day when I was talking about Canada.com's Voices forum and the whole community blog thing. I didn't get it exactly right but...




Canadian Voices http://community.canada.com/canadianvoices
What makes us tick as Canadians, and what gets us ticked off? Better yet, why?

Get a unique perspective on local and national issues from some of Canada's most talented up-and-coming writers. In this blog, they'll tackle issues that matter to their communities and explain why those issues have national resonance.

This is meant to be a two-way conversation. We want to engage - and maybe even enrage - you, but above all, we want you to think, respond and post your own point of view. Read what our Canadian voices have to say - and then share your own Canadian voice with us.
You have to register in order to comment on the blog. Numerous formating options are available along with smilies, links and surprisingly - attachments. (up to 3 per comment are showing). I tested a .jpg pic and a .pdf file and both worked no problem. Sorry for the double post - testing. Apparently you can edit your post for 30 minutes following initial posting, but I missed the edit button which is supposed to appear immediately after posting. You can subscribe to each post and review through a message centre on the site or opt for email notificaiton of new posts.

The blog is an implementation of software called Web Crossing. You can view the editor capabilities here. Permalinks are present, no trackbacks and no RSS available.

I haven't found an actual menu item for the blog on the Canada.com site as yet. Here's a list of the bloggers participating in the blog.

Ethan Baron - Vancouver

Mike Devlin
- Victoria

Chantal Eustace
- Kitsilano

Jason Fekete
- Calgary

Janet French - Saskatoon

Jordana Huber - Toronto

Andrew Mayeda - Ottawa

Donald McArthur
- Windsor

John MacFarlane
- Montreal

Craig Ferguson - Halifax, I think.

The article in today's Windsor Star said 10 bloggers but the site only lists 9 with pics and profiles. Ferguson has a blog on today's topic - the Liberal Leadership race, so I'm assuming he's in.

With no apparent moderation and file uploading, this venture bears watching. This certainly represents one of the most open blogs on any Canadian paper. Hopefully the trolls don't ruin it by months end.

Paul Synnott at 6:07 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ouch! 
(en francais)

Sun Columnist Linda Williamson with hopefully the last, but certainly the best column on the burning national issue of Prime Minister Harper's weight.
PM no lightweight
Why is Harper's waistline the big issue of the day?
Couldn't be bias in the media, could it?

Whatever you think of his politics, it's clear this prime minister is no lightweight. That's a good thing. And those reporters mentally measuring his belt should look around them -- in most newsrooms I've been in, Harper wouldn't even qualify as one of the fat guys.

On a related note, I thought the conventional MSM opinion was that women in politics were the only ones who had to suffer critiques of their clothes and appearance. The general consensus seemed to be that this horrible practice should end, with people focusing on the person and not the appearance.

Glad to see most of these people don't feel weighed down by their previous preaching.

Paul Synnott at 8:54 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Blogging Tories Site of the Week 
(en francais)



Guelph First

I am involved with the CPC here in Guelph. I started writing this blog for one main reason...many in this City, (in fact the whole country), have no idea what the CPC is actually about. I am to enlighten.


Stop in and say hello.

Blog on!

Paul Synnott at 7:28 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


An unexpected voice of reason 
(en francais)

I usually don't care for most of what Douglas Fischer writes, but I have to admit this article hits the nail on the head.
Hypocrisy dogs military debate
Sadly, the tradition of the Commons on military matters is for woolly talk and unctuous piety, not for clarification. Perhaps we will be pleasantly surprised — but don’t bet on it.
The sorry state of our military today rests largely on the shoulders of successive Liberal governments, with the all to happy support of the NDP. Swords into plowshares - problem was all we had was a boy scout knife.

On the other hand, by no means are the Conservatives innocent in this regard. Other than the EH-101s (cancelled by Chretien) and some new uniforms, Brian Mulroney's Conservatives did little or nothing for the military. His much vaunted White Paper was full of grand plans but went absolutely no where. Perrin Beatty was shuffled out of the the Defence portfolio shortly after publishing the paper, in order to save face. The government knew they weren't going to do anything with it. The best pay raises I ever received in the military were in my first two years under Pierre Trudeau's wage and price controls. Subsequent increases under the Conservatives were a joke, most often falling well below the rate of inflation.

The years of abuse, misuse and general neglect heaped on the military are a national shame.

If we're going to have a debate on the military, let's make it a real debate, otherwise, save the rhetoric and chest pounding. I've got the record, cassette tape, CD and DVD on this one and unfortunatley none of them are broken yet, just well worn.

Without real and immediate action we might as well transfer everyone to the RCMP and go shove our collective heads deeper in the sand or further up our ass, whichever you feel is more appropriate.

Paul Synnott at 6:46 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


The Great Mother Government will save us all 
(en francais)


There's nothing the great NDP nanny state government can't or won't do in order to 'save' people from themselves. First up was banning trans fats from foods. Although the NDP's Pat Martin says he doesn't think sin taxes are the way to go, his comments are just as frightening.
Lard levy on the way?
"The junk food industry is poisoning a generation, and it calls for radical measures," he said. (emphasis added)" The seductive power of advertising that targets young people who don't make the right choices in their diet -- I'm not sure that this type of fat tax would change that or alleviate that problem."

Edmonton Sun columnist Mindelle Jacobs takes a similar dim view on ridiculous suggestions such as this.

No need for Ministry of Junk Food
By MINDELLE JACOBS

In calling for a fat tax on junk food, CMA president Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai noted this week that taxes have curbed tobacco use.

It's unfair to compare junk food to tobacco, though. There's no safe cigarette but candy and chips aren't inherently deadly, as NDP MP Pat Martin seems to think.

"The junk-food industry is poisoning a generation and it calls for radical measures," he said Wednesday.

Uh-oh. If the NDP ever gets into power, I imagine they'll have confectioners rounded up and shot. How dare food manufacturers produce things Canadians like to eat?

What's next a government installed meter on your TV to prevent people from becoming couch potatoes? Wait for it. When the NDP starts talking "radical measures", you know it's not good.

Paul Synnott at 5:42 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Whoever writes the headlines... 
(en francais)

Substitute Toronto Star or your favourite paper for the Boston Globe in the following bit and you get the picture.
Boston Boy And The Spinning Globe

Two boys in Boston were throwing a baseball around when one was attacked by a rabid Rottweiler. Thinking quickly, the other boy picked up a large stick, wedged it into the dog's collar and twisted it, snapping the dog's neck.

A reporter from the Boston Globe who witnessed the whole incident rushes over to interview the brave boy.

The reporter pulls out his laptop and starts typing. The headline reads: "Brave Young Red Sox Fan Saves Friend From Vicious Animal."

"But," the boy interjects, "I'm not a Red Sox fan."

Tapping the delete key, the reporter replies, "Sorry, but I saw you playing baseball, and since we're here in Boston, I just figured you had to be."

The reporter's fingers start flying around the keyboard again. The new headline: "John Kerry Fan Rescues Friend from Horrific Dog Attack."

"But I'm not a Kerry fan, either," the boy responds.

The reporter, looking dejected, says, "Sorry young tyke. Since you're not a Red Sox fan, I figured you were at least for Kerry."

"Well, I'm sorry to say that's not correct," the boy replies. "I'm a Texas Rangers fan and I really like President Bush."

Relieved, the reporter finally has his angle for the story: "Arrogant Little Conservative Bastard Kills Beloved Family Pet."

Paul Synnott at 9:00 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Another point of view 
(en francais)

American milblogger Buck Sargent
WHAT CASEY SHEEHAN DIED FOR

Ours has become an instant gratification nation, the countdown to ADD-Day stalking the horizon. Heading into its fourth year, the Iraq War has now lasted longer than most celebrity marriages. (Correction: Desert Storm lasted longer than the average celebrity marriage). It has been said that the Vietnam War was lost on television, and that was when there were only three channels on and they all screamed: RETREAT! But soldiers don’t watch the news, we make it. That is why the MSM refuse to tell our story, that is why they continue to poison the well back home, and that is why soldiers have taken it upon ourselves to “tell it like it is” on the internet.
"Once Upon a Time in Mosul"


Warning! Video does not contain scenes of violence, bombs, protests, demonstrations and general strife. I guess the blogger figured the MSM has that market covered.

Update: I'm impressed. I made the bonus editon. H/T to the Canadian Cynic. I always appreciate a link, regardless of the source. Besides, being recognized by the "Canadian Cynic" is such an honour.

Paul Synnott at 8:15 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Windsor Star joins blogging ranks 
(en francais)

The Windsor Star has joined the growing ranks of newspapers adding bloggers, with the addition of 4 blogs in Saturday's edition. Canwest's blogging software is rather brutal, but at least the effort is there. Permalinks available but no comments or trackbacks.
Duffer's Dabbles - Bob Duff
Bob Duff is the Windsor Star's sports columnist and one of the country's foremost hockey historians. He has written or collaborated on six hockey books or CD-Roms, including History of Hockeytown, the first official history of the Detroit Red Wings. A goalie by trade, Duff is also a consultant for the NHL's official statistician the Elias Sports Bureau.

Bad Hair Day - Karen Hall
Karen Hall is a Windsor Star columnist who spends most of her time re-arranging furniture so she can put it back exactly where it came from, and tormenting her husband(s) by asking, "Notice anything different?" She can tell you if a picture is out by one-eighth of an inch, but she can't tell you where your car keys are.

Life on Tour - Don McArthur

I don't know whether my passion for golf is an addiction or an affliction but the game has certainly got me by the balls. I guess you could say I've found religion. I read about golf, think about golf, dream about golf and I'm going to blog about it this summer while I test my skills against other obsessive weekend duffers on Windsor's Bogey Tour.

Vanderblogger - Chris Vander Doelen

In his 28 years in the news business, Vander Doelen has covered crime, health, the environment, business, politics, written a book about the gambling industry, and won a National Newspaper Award. He has covered the auto industry since 2002. He tends a small woodlot near Harrow with his wife Veronique, who tolerates his fleet of rusting vehicles.
Another thing I found today was CanWest's Canada.com Forums section. I've stumbled across this numerous times but have never really stopped to look. I was quite surprised to find out that these aren't really forums but a gigantic Canadian Community Blog complete with comments and trackbacks. Looking through some of the politics posts, there doesn't appear to be a great deal of moderation going on. Cities with Canwest papers are all covered along with a few others such as Halifax and Hamilton. There are 11 different categories to blog under.

It would be interesting to see if the forums could be used as a comment section for the individual Star bloggers. I'll let you know. :)

Paul Synnott at 6:50 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Friday, March 24, 2006

CAW turfs NDP 
(en francais)

Best news I've seen all week. Looks like the Liberals aren't the only ones that like a good scrap these days. Should be interesting to watch the long term results of this.

Other unions and union members will certainly be asking themselves what has the NDP delivered for them over the years. At a certain point, continuous protesting must get frustrating.

Don't help New Democrats, CAW tells members

Last Updated Fri, 24 Mar 2006 12:19:12 EST
CBC News

Stung by the expulsion of its leader from the New Democratic Party, the Canadian Auto Workers union has retaliated by formally asking its members to pull their support from the NDP.

"We are asking elected CAW leaders and CAW staff ... to end their involvement in the party," the union's national executive board said in a statement posted Friday on its website.
CAW president Buzz Hargrove was expelled from the NDP in February. (CP file photo)

"We will no longer offer financial support or other organizational resources to the party."

Unions provide much of the money and manpower for NDP election campaigns. The CAW, with about 250,000 members, is Canada's biggest private-sector union.

Paul Synnott at 10:33 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|




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