Posts from our progressive community

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 17:30
Personal assistant cats.

Can Duffy Shred Nigel Wright's "Goody Two-Shoes" Routine?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 12:16

Nigel Wright's 'gift' of $90K to senator Mike Duffy was a bribe when it was pocketed by Duffy but not when it was given by Wright.  Most of us are finding that pretty hard to square and it is.  The logic by which Duffy is culpable and Wright is not reflects how far the RCMP was prepared to bend over backwards to make some cherry-picked facts suit their narrative.

It sounds as though they're charging Duffy with extortion, not bribery.  Duffy strong-armed the money out of Wright's chequebook.  But that's a different section of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Besides, why let Nigel Wright off the hook at all?  Oh, I see.  Charging Wright with bribery would have exposed others in the PMO to criminal jeopardy. Benjamin Perrin for starters and even Old Beelzebub himself, Stephen Harper. The rumours are that Wright made it well known around Ottawa that he wasn't going down alone on this so, take him off the hook and everybody's off the hook - except Ol' Duff.  Even out here on the wet coast you could hear the collective sigh of relief.

To get this to stand up at trial you have to keep Wright virginal.  He was just trying to do the right thing.  Duffy was raising proper hell and so Wright did what he thought was the answer, handing over $90K.  No corrupt intent on the part of Mr. Wright, ergo no crime except for Duffy's.

I don't know how hard you have to struggle to keep the facts at bay but it must be almost Herculean.  The Crown needs to keep this very simple.  Duffy snarls, Wright cuts the cheque.  Nothing to see here, keep moving.

But there is more, a lot more and it goes to whether Nigel Wright's Goody Two-Shoes image is a highly self-serving scam.  There was a quid pro quo to this deal, one the RCMP chose not to notice.  Duffy got the money but on very clear terms dictated by the Prime Minister's Office.  These were terms plainly intended to benefit the Conservative Party if not the prime minister personally.

In emails, Wright called the brewing controversy, "our public agony," and spoke of Conservatives "circling the wagons."

One of the most revealing sets of internal emails filed in court involved the manipulation of a Senate committee, one drafting a report on Duffy's expenses in the spring of 2013.

PMO staffers set about ensuring the committee remove any negative language  from the report on Duffy, and at one point discussed how to get an independent audit firm to refrain from drawing any conclusions on Duffy's residency status...

"Do I need to call Marjory [LeBreton]?" Wright asked in an email.  "They think they're hurting Duffy, but they will end up hurting the prime minister instead."

Duffy was also coached by PMO staff on what to say to the media about the repayment of his expenses.

"It's a scenario, in Nigel Wright's own words, that was created for Sen. Duffy not because he had anything to hide or he'd made inappropriate claims, but because the PMO had decided they wanted to sweep a political embarrassment to their Tory bse under the rug," [defence counsel Don] Bayne said in 2013.

Oddly enough, what may save Duffy's hide (on the main charge, at least), is the very same email that sets these events in motion.  This whole business would likely have died a natural death at an early stage but for a stupid email Duffy sent to his 'confidantes' at the very time the deal was being put in place.

Duffy's email said the PMO was giving him the cash to clear his tab with the Senate.  It listed the conditions imposed - that he was to make no public statements and he was to stop cooperating with the Senate-appointed auditors. For doing this, the PMO would intervene to ensure the Senate audit report "went easy on" Duffy.

This was the email leaked to CTV's Bob Fife.  It's the match that sparked the wildfire that brings us to where we are today.  What makes that email so critical are its contents - it described the deal that transpired - and when the email was sent - back when the parties thought they could keep a lid on the deal.  This didn't come out after the fact.  It wasn't contrived to suit anyone's narrative.  It conforms to the known facts.  That could make it the "magic bullet" when it comes to assessing credibility and resolving contradictions and inconsistencies.

Duffy's story, as we know it, comports with the magic bullet email.  Wright's story doesn't even though his emails also seem to corroborate some of Duffy's statements.

How this will play out in court is unclear but one thing is inescapable - there's been an awful lot of very high-level. Hall of Fame Turd Polishing at both the political and investigatory levels to contrive this result.

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 08:43
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Lawrence Ezrow writes that the disconnect between the public and policymaking that's done so much harm to the U.S. isn't quite as severe in more equal countries. And the Equality Trust is looking to ensure that the UK's political parties make the reduction of inequality into a core policy objective.

- Jordon Cooper comments on Saskatchewan's desperate need for a seniors' care plan - rather than the current practice of matching photo ops with selloffs and failing services. And Robert McMurtry reminds us of the dire need for a strong federal role in a national health care system.

- Ralph Heintzman reports on how federal civil servants are being forced to use their positions to serve as Con talking point dispensers. And the Star calls for some oversight to ensure that public money isn't used for partisan advertising purposes - though we might want to start by allowing our existing watchdogs to do their jobs rather than having to jump through a ridiculous set of hoops just to get basic information from the government.

- Meanwhile, Kathryn May exposes the Public Service Commission's refusal to allow a federal prosecutor to run for office, signalling just one more area where avoiding "politicization" seems to mean nothing more than silencing anybody who might challenge the Harper Cons.

- Matthew Behrens notes that C-51 represents just one more step - if a particular obtrusive one - down a longstanding path of intrusion into personal activities based on specious spin about terrorism.

- Finally, Michael Harris offers the Harper Cons a sure-to-be ignored lesson in mercy.

What A Cynic Might Say

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 07:08

A cynic might say that Joe Oliver's thinly-concealed plan to double the contribution limits of the Tax-Free Savings Account to $11,000, despite the fact that it will benefit only the affluent, will ensure the re-election of the Harper regime. After all, this is a government that has made a virtual art of appealing to the narrow self-interests of people over any concern for the collective.

A cynic might say that even though the majority of people will not benefit, they will think it's a good idea since so many regard themselves, as John Steinbeck so wryly put it, as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

A cynic might say that the Liberals and the NDP will offer only anemic objection to the plan as they cautiously hedge their bets for the October contest.

A cynic might also say that since the young don't vote, Harper and the others are strategically correct in tailoring their policies to those who do: the older and more affluent, or, as all three major party leaders like to call them, 'the middle class.' The young, so the story goes, are engaged in their own world of social media, technology and social life and hence can be dismissed.

While the cynic may be correct in all of the above, it is this last contention that, in the larger scheme of things, perhaps merits the most attention.

In the 2011 election, about 60% of eligible voters turned out at the poll. Among voters under 30, under 40% bothered to cast a vote. Research undertaken last year by Nik Nanos and former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page uncovered some very interesting data guided by this question:
What if 60 per cent of young people had voted?

His answer: Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives likely wouldn't have won a majority.

More importantly, he says the political debate would have been more hopeful and would have revolved around a broader range of issues if young people had been more engaged in the process.The potential strength of the young vote lies in the fact that their priorities are different from the those of the majority who vote:
"What we find is that their concerns are much more diverse than older Canadians who are fixated on jobs and health care," Nanos said in an interview. "So if you're a younger Canadian, you're twice as likely to say that the environment is a top national issue of concern. You're twice as likely to say that education is a top national issue of concern."

His analysis also suggests older Canadians "are very cynical, they have less confidence in finding solutions" whereas younger people "are actually much more hopeful, have a higher level of confidence in finding solutions."So why aren't they turning out?

A recent article in The Tyee offers some useful insights. A profile of Julie Van de Valk, a 20-year-old third-year geological engineering student at the University of British Columbia, reveals a young woman passionate about a number of issues, the environment and climate change at the top of her priorities. While she will vote in the upcoming election, she has little enthusiasm for any of the parties:
None of them, in her opinion, "are addressing climate change with the type of leadership that people who understand the issue want to see."

Harper's Conservatives have warned climate action could be "job-killing." But the Liberals and NDP haven't offered Van de Valk a very inspiring alternative. Neither party has clearly articulated to her how it would drastically reduce carbon emissions and shift Canada to clean energy. Meanwhile, both have offered qualified support to the oilsands. "That doesn't do it for me," she said.So it almost becomes a chicken-or-egg question. Young people are disaffected because their priorities aren't represented by the major parties, and the major parties pay little heed to those priorities because young do not vote in sufficient numbers to command the attention and respect of the parties.

Brigette DePape and others like her are trying to change all that.

The former parliamentary page, you will recall, caused quite a stir in 2011 when she held up a sign in the Senate while David Johnson was delivering the throne speech:

With no regrets about what she did, and with no illusions that such acts change the world, she articulates a vision that will resonate with most progressives:
She wants a government that reflects the values of her generation and future generations. She wants an agenda that includes an equitable, compassionate society; treats the environment as a priceless public asset; addresses youth unemployment and student debt; respects the views of women, workers, indigenous peoples and racial minorities; and brings the nation together.To those ends, DePape
was in Toronto last week as part of a five-city tour by the Council of Canadians to get out the youth vote. “I understand why most (young people) see voting as futile,” she told her first audience in Winnipeg. “In the 2011 election when I was a University of Ottawa student, someone asked me to go door-knocking. But I really didn’t see the point.

“Since then, I’ve had a change of heart. After four years under the current government (nine counting Harper’s two previous terms), I want to do everything in my power to see a government that reflects our values.”She offers some sobering statistics to convey the power of the vote:
The Tories won nine of their seats by a margin of less than 1,000 votes. They captured Nipissing-Timiskaming, for example, by just 18 votes. Most of the 5,300 students at Nipissing University stayed home. They won Etobicoke Centre by just 26 votes. Had a few more students from the University of Toronto, York, Ryerson or Humber College showed up at the polls, they could have tipped the balance.Working with groups such as Shit Harper Did, DePape is intent on changing things by convincing enough young people to make the difference she knows they can make.
DePape’s goal over the spring and summer is to build a team of youth leaders and collect 2,000 vote pledges in strategic ridings. In the fall, she and her associates will pull out the stops to collect on those pledges.“We’re at a turning point,” she tells audiences. “We can be game-changers.”For all of our sakes, let us all hope that she is sufficiently successful to convince people of that truth.
Recommend this Post

to ottawa for the 2015 cupe library conference

we move to canada - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 06:30
At this very moment I am on the train from Toronto to Ottawa, en route to the CUPE Library Workers Conference. This will be my first time attending this annual event. I don't know what to expect, but I'm super excited!

Last week I was off work for a few days for my annual Spring New York City fix, and this week for the CUPE Conference. Somehow I am managing to stay on top of things at the library. Being compulsively organized has its advantages.

I'm blogging courtesy of my old netbook, the first time I've turned it on in many months. Allan and I worked on it to see if we could resurrect it from the near-dead - deleting bloatware, cleaning out spyware, uninstalling every unnecessary application. I enjoy my tablet, and I've made my peace with touch-screen technology, but there's still no substitute for a real keyboard, especially for a speedy touch-typist like me.

So now I have a desktop, a netbook, a tablet, and - yes, it's true - a BlackBerry phone. It seems like having a tablet precludes the need for a good touch-screen smartphone, but... not sure where that will go. The only thing I really need from a phone is texting and the occasional voice call.

I hope to blog about the CUPE Library Conference, and this reminds me that I never managed to do my dispatches from OLA 2015, which I attended in January. I'll add it to The List.

Farmland is rolling by, complete with cows, sheep, and silos. A quiet train, a comfy seat, internet access, and pleasant scenery. There is nothing like train travel.

And Now The Main Event

Northern Reflections - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 06:09

Mike Duffy's trial starts today. You can bet that the Harper machine will try to keep the focus exclusively on Duffy. But, Lawrence Martin writes, political scandal has a habit of sweeping away many players as it rolls across the landscape -- and that includes governments:

Going all the way back to the 1950s, ethics has been a major player in the fate of our governments. A prime reason for the defeat of the Liberals in 1957 was the defiant invoking of closure by the Louis St. Laurent government in the TransCanada Pipeline debate. A series of scandals involving his Quebec ministers were instrumental in preventing Lester Pearson from ever winning a majority. In 1984, Pierre Trudeau saddled successor John Turner with a tawdry list of patronage appointments. They hung over Mr. Turner like a dead skunk in his subsequent demolition at the hands of Brian Mulroney.The Mulroney government’s reputation was then damaged by ministerial scandals. Sleaze, real or imagined, tarred Mr. Mulroney’s own reputation, contributing to his decision to step down in 1993 when his popularity was below sea level. And we all know the impact of the sponsorship scandal on the Liberals of Mr. Chrétien and Paul Martin.With those Liberals, it took time and a major scandal before Canadians made them pay a big price. With the Harper Conservatives, ethical issues, including the Prime Minister being found in contempt of Parliament, did not factor into the 2011 election result.
None of these scandals blew up and were over like a summer storm. They took time to develop. But eventually they brought the House down. And the accumulation of evidence suggesting Harperian abuse of power is now very long:
If you wanted to go into detail, you could fill an entire page of news print with the ethical transgressions of this government that have undermined the democratic process.
They’ve become so common they hardly make news any more. A recent example is Bill C-51, the new and widely condemned security legislation that interferes with Canadians’ privacy. What did the Conservatives do? They voted to block Canada’s privacy commissioner from testifying at committee hearings on the bill. It’s a small example of how petty and pathetically partisan they are.
The Duffy trial plays directly into that narrative. What's different now is that it has become the Main Event.


Subscribe to aggregator - Posts from our progressive community