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Layton, NDP Question Toronto Police G20 Actions

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Received an email from my pen pal Jack Layton today in response to my message to him and the NDP about a lack of NDP response to police misconduct during the Toronto G20 meeting.

In part, Jack said, and I quote:

Thank you for your previous email outlining your concerns over the recent G8/G20 Summits in Toronto.

New Democrats feel that these meetings failed to deliver concrete action on the most important issues facing the world. Instead, Prime Minister Harper fought to keep subsidies flowing to oil companies and taxes low for the big banks.

The G20 meetings fell short on several fronts, offering no movement to allow African nations to have a formal voice at the table, providing none of the anticipated new commitments on nuclear disarmament, and failing to adopt a strategy to curb abuses in speculative markets to protect our economies from future economic crises. The only real announcement was an agreement by the G20 leaders to reduce their annual deficits by 50 per cent by 2013.

It didn’t have to be this way. Prior to the meetings, we outlined sensible, pragmatic steps that the Canadian government could take to show leadership in helping eradicate poverty, tackling climate change, and reforming the global economy. I invite you to read our proposals at this link: http://www.ndp.ca/New-Democrat-priorities-for-G8/G20.

Now that the summits are over, many questions remain. Not least of which questions about the implementation of security plans including:

– Why did the federal government ignore the concerns and suggestions of the local government in holding the summit in downtown Toronto on a weekend?
– Who requested the temporary suspension of basic civil liberties for the duration of the summits? Moreover, why was this done in secret?
– What role did federal officials play in the Integrated Security Unit in policing the summit?
– Will the government compensate Toronto for the damage that Harper’s summits have caused?

We take these questions very seriously. We want the House of Commons Public Safety Committee to get to the bottom of these lingering questions and develop a post-summit accountability report on both the spending and operations sides of the summits.

First of all, I am very grateful to the party for responding to me I vote New Dem 99.99% of the time when I live in Canada – I could not vote for a candidate like Bev Desjarlais, for example, if I am aware of their positions – but I am not there right now so they don’t have lot to gain by being nice to me.

Of course, Layton did not write to me personally. It was a mass mailing to (among others) people who contacted them with the same complaint I had. I, and many others I am sure had complained that the NDP was not taking a strong stand on a critical human rights issue, namely the right of everyone in Canada to assemble freely and demonstrate peacefully. It appeared at the time that the New Democrats were reacting to and maybe even pandering to the understandable revulsion of the public and right wing media to the violence in Toronto. Much has been written and said about exactly how and why that violence occurred,but I won’t go into that here.

I am glad to see my old party finally addressing (however tepidly) the out of control police behaviour in Toronto that G20 weekend. And again, I think it is clear that the lack of response to the crackdown had become a problem for Layton among NDP members and supporters. But it should not come as a surprise t anyone that if there is one thing that all NDP voters and activists agree on it is that the party needs to at all times stand on guard for human rights. To not do so invites cynicism about the party which is supposed to be more idealistic than the Libs and Tories.

Of course, Layton and the New Democrats are also quite rightly criticizing the Shock Doctrine agenda of the G20 summit, which is what the demonstrations were supposed to be about. Good for them.

Written by slothropia

July 7th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Jack Layton has Obama/Rae Syndrome

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Below is the text of an email I just sent to the Federal New Democratic Party of Canada in response to this statement by the party:

Statement on the vandalism in downtown Toronto by NDP Leader Jack Layton
Sun 27 Jun 2010

New Democrats tonight add their voices to all those calling for an end to the violence and vandalism taking place in downtown Toronto.

Peaceful and lawful protests are important in a democracy and help raise important issues. Torontonians have often marched and protested peacefully on these streets, with virtually no serious incidents.

And then I wrote:

I am currently living in the U.S. but am a Canadian citizen and when I live in Canada I am a New Democrat. At one time I was active at the riding, provincial/territorial and federal levels. I was a federal councilor for the Yukon 1n the 1980’s and a provincial candidate for the NDP in the 1990 Ontario election.

From where I sit, it looks as though the NDP is making a horrible mistake by not condemning the police violence in Toronto as well as the vandalism caused by a small number of protesters. Actually, given that the police have used agents provocateurs in the past, perhaps we should be careful when talking about who did what in the streets.

Perhaps public opinion can’t yet see the police violence or the fact that almost all of the demonstrators were peaceful. But the truth will out.

Remember how Tommy Douglas and the NDP opposed the War Measures Act in the face of public opinion and media criticism. What does Canada think of Tommy Douglas now?

The NDP should be very wary of making the same mistakes Bob Rae made when he alienated his base, as Barack Obama is doing now. Many NDP supporters are horrified by the actions of the police as well as the vandalism. Oh and by the way, breaking a window is wrong but it is worse to break a peaceful demonstrators head.

No matter the short term cost, do the right thing and political rewards will one day follow.

Written by slothropia

June 28th, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Toronto Cops Following Miami Model

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Thanks to a poster on Babble who alerted me to this piece by columnist Catherin Porter in the Toronto Star. It’s all about the script that Toronto cops are following this weekend. It is a plan that is often followed in the United States at political conventions for example. Here are the main elements:

Information warfare. This starts weeks before the event. Protesters are criminalized and dehumanized, and described as dangerous “anarchists” and “terrorists” the city needs to defend against.

“Often, a faux cache is found,” says Archer. “They are usually ordinary objects, like bike inner tubes, camping equipment, but the police make them out to look threatening. It lays the groundwork for police to be violent and it means there’s a reduced accountability of law enforcement.”

Intimidation. Police start random searches of perceived protesters before any large rallies. They are asked where they are staying, why they are walking around. Police raid organizer’s homes or meeting places, “usually just before the summit, so there’s maximum chaos organizers have to deal with,” says Archer.

“All this is meant to dissuade participants. The best way to make sure you don’t have a critical mass of people taking over the streets like in Seattle is to reduce the numbers at the outset.”

This is usually made possible by last-minute city regulations, curtailing the right to protest. In Miami, the city commission passed a temporary ordinance forbidding groups of more than seven to congregate for more than 30 minutes without a permit.

“They threw rocks.” That’s the line police use after tear-gassing or beating protesters most times, Archer says. Urine and human feces are variations on the theme. But it’s always the protesters who triggered the violence. A popular police tactic is called “kettling.” Officers on bike or horses herd protesters into an enclosed space, so they can’t leave without trying to break through the police line. Take the bait; you provoke a beating or arrest. And of course, there are the famous agent provocateurs, outted publicly two years ago in Montebello. Police officers dressed up like militant protesters to protect the peaceful crowd, they say; Archer says it’s to instigate trouble.

In Montebello, one of the three cops dressed in black was holding a rock.

“It’s the same lies every single protest,” she says. “It’s justification by law enforcement for their violent actions. This is a propaganda war.”

Job well done. At the end, regardless of the bodies clogging the temporary holding cells and hospitals, the police always congratulate themselves. And by the time the cases go to court, the story is long forgotten and the circus has moved to a new unsuspecting town.

More than 270 people were arrested in Miami during the summit seven years ago . How many were convicted, in the end? I called the American Civil Liberties Union to find out.

“None,” said lawyer Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, who was the president of the Miami chapter back then.

Written by slothropia

June 27th, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Canadian Update: Preview of the New Parliament

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Next Tuesday, Remembrance Day in Canada, will be one week from the Obama election and four weeks, 28 days or 1 lunar cycle since the Conservatives won their increased minority position in the Canadian federal election. It has been a quiet month in the Great White North. Yes, Steven Harper did name a new cabinet, who will be just as obedient to the PM as the previous one was.

But not much has happened politically, even though Canada faces many of the same economic problems as the United States. This is about to change as the House of Commons will be in session the day after Remembrance Day.

The first important event in the life of the new Parliament will be the Speech from the Throne, followed by a vote of confidence (or no confidence) in the Government. For non Canadians, the Speech from the Throne is a summary of the Government’s agenda, an outline of what the Government wants to achieve during the life of the Parliament. In Britain the Speech from the Throne is read by the Queen, but in Canada (and I presume other Commonwealth countries) it is read by the Governour General, the Queen’s viceroy.

The upcoming throne speech will carry more weight than most because it looks like hard times are just over the next hill.

At the start of the Great Depression, the Prime Minister of Canada was R.B. Bennett, like Stephen Harper a Conservative from Alberta. Bennett refused to act to stimulate the economy and provide relief to the Depressions victims until it was politically too latre for both him and his party. Harper is not stupid and he knows how to read. He will not repeat bennett’s blunders (though he ay devise some of his own).

Harper is also lucky. He did not choose his Liberal opponents, but the stupidity of both Paul Martin and Stephane Dion has been his secret weapon. Harper is also lucky in that Martin, as Finance Minister, robbed Employment Insurance and other social programs to pay down the debt left by Brian Mulroney. As a result, Harper has fiscal room to pay for some sort of economic stimulus, despite Conservative dogma about balanced budgets. Contrast the Canadian fiscal position with the monstrous debt and deficit President Obama will inherit from W, and give Harper credit for having even more good luck.

As with Obama, Harper’s first priority, which he shares with all parties in the House, is to stabilize the Canadian economy and limit the recession’s damage. It appears that Obama will try to build a consensus for whatever measures he proposes, and Harper might have to pursue a similar goal. No doubt there will be sufficient support from all corners of the house for spending on infrastructure. For over zealous fiscal restraint, not so much.

The Liberals in particular cannot afford to be seen as propping up the Tories, a perception which cost them dearly in the election. The NDP and the Bloc are much more able to support the Government when it behaves well and offer principled opposition when necessary. The Grits, on the other hand are broke and in the beginning stages of a leadership contest. An election in the near term would be very destructive for the Liberals, so they will not want to see an election forced by a vote of no confidence in the House.

Regarding External Affairs, Canada’s biggest foreign policy issue is perennially and always and forever the relationship with the United States. I would single out two policy areas to watch for both the near and mid terms.

Many Americans may not know this but one of the NATO countries with a military presence in Afghanistan is Canada. Despite the Conservatives’ win in October, they are against Canadian public opinion. Harper has responded by promising to end Canadian involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2011.

Meanwhile, President-elect Obama has talked about increasing the military effort in that country. This is one of the reasons he offers for withdrawing from Iraq. Will there be a debate on Afghanistan within the Obama administration and among the American public? I hope the new administration at least tries to find out if there are any military options in Afghanistan before making an enhanced commitment there. IOW, leaving aside the question of whether or not the United States has goals worth pursuing in Afghanistan, someone should ask whther or not such goals can be achieved through military means.

If the decision is ultimately made to escalate in Afghanistan, will the U.S. pressure Canada and other NATO allies to join in that effort? Is there a potential repeat of the Johnson v Pearson fight over Vietnam?

The other area to watch is trade. Canada and the U.S. remain each others largest trading partners, but the relationship has a few areas of conflict, such as softwood lumber. During the Democratic primaries, there was talk from both Clinton and Obama abut renegotiating NAFTA and other trade agreements. The left in Canada fought free trade with the U.S. and would also like to open up NAFTA. Globalization and so called free trade have hurt the manufacturing base of both countries. Will Obama and Harper cooperate in this portfolio in an effort to mitigate such damage, or will they promote the status quo.

I was encouraged in one of the debates by Obama’s response to a question about international trade, when he questioned the value of a trade deal with Colombia while labor leaders are routinely assassinated there (which got an eye roll from McCain, of course). We will see what policies proceed from President Obama’s approach to trade issues and how Prime Minister plays whatever hand he is holding at the time.

Coming soon: a look at the options now facing Canada’s federal parties.

Almost Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Canadian Election

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The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and call for an election to be held on October 14. My intention here is to offer an overview of the Canadian landscape and explore the current state of the five Canadian parties that will compete in the election. Before we begin, here are some online places to go for those who want to follow the Canadian election:

One of the major differences (and there are many) between Canadian and American politics is the fact that Canada’s system produces multiparty parliaments and, whereas the American two party system is so entrenched it might as well be mandated by law. The House of Commons that was just dissolved included Members of Parliament from four parties: The governing Conservatives, the centrist Liberal party, The Quebec sovereignist Bloc Quebecois and the center left New Democratic Party (NDP). The Green Party is also competing in most of the federal ridings but has never elected a Member of Parliament.

Since the last federal election in early 2006, the Conservatives have lead a minority government, meaning that they have not had a majority of the seats in the House of Commons and consequently needed cooperation from one or more opposition parties to pass legislation and thereby retain the confidence of the House.

The Conservatives are a centre right party, formed in 2004 from a merger of the Progressive Conservatives, a true Center right party, and the more right wing Canadian Alliance. Harper comes from the more right wing faction of his party but has not been able to pursue a truly hard right agenda because of his minority position. His goal is in the election is to achieve a majority and begin to enact the Conservative agenda – whatever that is.

Harper became Prime Minister when he and the Conservatives defeated the Liberal Party, lead at the time by Paul martin, in early 2006. The night of his defeat, Martin announced his resignation as Leader of his party, and in December, 2006 the Liberals elected Stephane Dion of Quebec as their new Leader and candidate for Prime minister.

Dion’s leadership of the Liberals has been troubled to say the least. Some of the candidates he defeated are still ambitious and hungry for his job. The Liberal Party’s fundraising has been spectacularly unsuccessful during Dion’s reign, in part because of residual anger generated during their years in government by a series of scandals. To make matters worse, Dion has difficulty communicating in spoken English.

One result of Liberal weakness has been the willingness of the party to vote for Conservative legislation to avoid defeating the Tories and forcing an early election. This has encouraged the center left NDP to be more aggressive during the pre election period and during the still young campaign. The NDP has attacked the Liberals for not standing up to the Conservatives and the Conservatives for, well for being Conservatives.
The Bloc Quebecois has been the most successful federal party in Quebec for the last decade and a half but now seem to be fading along with the sovereignist or independence movement. The Liberals have traditionally been strong in Quebec but have been hurt there in recent years because of their strong anti-independence program. Scandals have also damaged Liberal popularity in Quebec.

Last and almost certainly least among Canadian federal parties, the Greens are still hoping to win their first seat in Parliament, but there don’t seem to be any ridings where they have any realistic hopes. The Leader of the Greens, Elizabeth May, is a former Conservative but has struck a bargain with the Liberals. The Liberals are not running a candidate in the Nova Scotia riding that May is contesting. In return, May has said that she would like to see Dion become Prime Minister.

At this point, the Liberal/Green alliance does not seem to have had the desired effect. May is running a distant third behind Tory cabinet minister Peter Mackay and the NDP candidate. (Mackay, by the way, was once linked by celebrity gossip to Condi Rice).

Those are the main parties contesting the Canadian election, and to assess the prospects of each one, we need to look ate each of the regions.

The Atlantic provinces have traditionally been a Liberal v Conservative battle ground, and both of those parties currently have some strength there and so does the NDP. The New Democrats look to increase their representation in Nova Scotia and could win a seat or two in Newfoundland, thanks largely to a feud that is raging between the Steven Harper and the Conservative Premier of that province. There are 32 seats at stake in the four Atlantic Provinces and a three way split is more than possible. However, the Liberals face organizational and fund raising challenges that could hurt them in the East as well as in other parts of Canada. They need a good campaign to keep up with the NDP and Tories but have not shown they are capable of producing one.

In Quebec for example, the Liberals have had trouble raising money and recruiting top tier candidates and Dion is widely unpopular. Their fortunes in Quebec are fading, as are those of the Bloc Quebecois. The big question in Quebec is who will benefit from the decline of the Bloc (it will not be the Liberals). Right now it appears that the Conservatives will gain outside of Montreal, especially in the Quebec City area, and to a lesser extent, the NDP.

Incidentally, the NDP made history last year by winning a by-election to take what was thought to be a safe Liberal seat in Montreal.

If the Conservatives get the majority they so desperately want, it will be largely because they made significant gains in Quebec. The Liberals will be lucky to keep the seats they have. The NDP may win another Quebec seat or three or five, and they may not. At this point, it looks like they at least will keep the one seat they have now. The Bloc will send a reduced delegation to the House of Commons.
In the West, Alberta will probably elect nothing but Conservatives, though the NDP has hopes in one Edmonton riding. Manitoba and Saskatchewan will send a majority of Conservative MPs to Ottawa, with the Liberals and NDP splitting the rest.

The Northern Territories will elect either one New Democrat and two Liberals or vice versa.
In British Columbia, the Conservatives and NDP will duke it out, while a fading Liberal Party will struggle to keep what it has.

That leaves Ontario, the largest province with about a third of all the seats in parliament. Ontario is where the election will be decided. If the Conservatives can take enough Ontario seats from the Liberals, they will have their majority. The question is how far the Liberals will fall. The NDP has also targeted a number of Liberal (as well as Tory) seats.

So far, the campaign has not really heated up. In the first week there were stories about matters marginal to the election, like the controversy in the media was about the Greens being kept out of and then included in a debate. The Conservatives and NDP were sharply criticized over their initial exclusion of the Greens. There have also been stories about how the Liberal Leader’s difficulties and the future of the Bloc Quebecois.
Eventually the parties will get around to focusing on issues. There will be a debate will be in early October with 5 – count ‘em – 5 party leaders speaking over each other. That’s a lot of podiums.

The issues appear to include environment and climate change, and Afghanistan. Canada is one of the NATO countries with troops there and has lost nearly 100 soldiers.

Whoever wins the election, the Prime Minister of whatever party will try to have a positive relationship with either President Obama or the other one. Harper would no doubt like to see a GOP win, but he will get along fine with the winner. Dion and Layton would like to see Obama win, but would not be rude to McCain if he wins.

Canadian Content

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Mah Fellow Merkins,

I’m working on a longish post about the upcoming Canadian election and it turns out that at least one of the opposition parties is advertising weven though the election has not been called.

For those who don’t know, the New Democratic Party is the centre left, social democratic party up there. The Liberals are more centrist. Layton is the Leader of the NDP and would be Prime Minster if they finish first and Leader of the Opposition if they come in second.

Written by slothropia

September 6th, 2008 at 9:03 pm

News from the Great White North

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(Updared 9:32 pm, September 9, 2006)

This post is for anyone who is tired of hearing about The Path to 9/11, The Senate Intelligience Committee report that concludes Bush lied and other U.S. political news.

How about some refreshing commentary about some cool and bracing Canadian news?

Vatican Scold Sticks his Nose Where It Don’t Belong
The CBC reports that Pope Bennedict is upset with Canada for allowing gay marriage (also known to some as equal marriage) and abortion. He says the policies “resulted from Catholic politicians ignoring the values of their religion”.

Or maybe they were doing what they thought was best for all Canadians. Canada does not have the constitutional separation of church and state that the U.S. does. In fact,as an example, Catholic and other confessional schools are publicly funded insome provinces. But religion and electoral politics are kept very far from each other by public sentiment. It is bad form to ask about a candidate’s religion there. Here, candidates have to wear their religion (figuratively) on their chests.

Sadly, the Catholic Church in Canada has recently started to interfere coercively in public affairs. Catholic Members of Parliament have been denied communion because of their votes in the House of Commons.

Hey, Popy! Render unto Caesar, eh?

Yukon Premier Acts Like a Real Dick – Nixon That Is
Canada has three territories, governments that aren’t quite provinces. Just east of Alaska is the Yukon Territory, right where Jack London left it. The Yukon Premier, Dennis Fentie, has called an election for October 10.

At the dissolution of the legislature, three parties held seats there: the governing Yukon Party (the local branch of the right wing Conservatives) the oficial opposition centrist Liberals and the centre left New Democrats (NDP). Two seats were held by independents.

Yukon districts range in size from around 150 voters to close to a thousand. Candidates have a chance during a campaign to talk to every voter over and over and over. I know. I have been a campaign manager in Yukon elections. It is so very different from American elections because there is no tv advertising, and no polling because a large chunk of the electorate have neither phones nor internet access.

Elections are like family feuds, because everybody knows everybody, even though everybody is really spread out geographically.

But get this; the NDP Leader is under treatment for leukemia. No breaks for sickies, I guess.

Many people speculated that Fentie would not call the election until NDP Leader Todd Hardy had completed treatment for his recent diagnosis of leukemia. But the premier was unapologetic.

“There’s absolutely no guarantees that if we waited until Nov. 4, Mr. Hardy would be able to conduct a campaign,” Fentie told a news conference after his speech.

Harsh, dude. Very harsh.

Toronto Film Festival Excitment Reaches Fever Pitch
The Toronto Film Festival
opened on September 7. Highlights include:

  • Bill Clinton will get a 60th birthday party with entertainment by Billy Crystal and Tim McGraw.
  • The Dixie Chicks, are expected in town soon to help launch the documentary devoted to them called Shut Up and Sing.
  • Michael Moore will speak as part of the festival. And will be sneak-peeking parts of his newest doc, Sicko — a reported takedown of the U.S. health care system.
  • A new movie called Bobby about Robert F. Kennedy is being marketed as a look back to a more innocent, long-lost, and notably liberal era.

Hey! These are all Americans. Oh well, Sarah Polley has her first directorial effort on display, a film called Away From Her. Break a leg, Sarah.

OK, That’s enough Canadiana for now.

Written by slothropia

September 8th, 2006 at 11:14 pm