Hill report

May 312013

Locals reject proposed huge Eldorado Gold dig in world heritage and tourism shrine.

by Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA May 30, 2013 (Straight Goods News) ­ A delegation from northern Greece is in Canada to voice concerns over Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold Corporation’s proposed Skouries and Perama Hill mining projects.

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May 312013

In email, he pushed for office, car and staff to promote Conservatives while on public payroll.

by Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA May 30, 2013 (Straight Goods News) ­ Today's revelation of a leaked email from Mike Duffy, in which he lobbied for a Cabinet ministry without a portfolio, gave new life today to the Senate expense fraud scandal in the House of Commons.

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May 312013

Eric Peterson walks out of House in protest over James Moore’s "incredibly insensitive remark."

by Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA May 30, 2013 (Straight Goods News) – With Governor General Performing
Arts Award winners sitting in the Gallery, heritage minister James Moore,
standing in for his again-absent leader Stephen Harper picked a poor time to slag artists.

Responding to a question from NDP house leader Nathan Cullen about who in the
Prime Minister's Office had been contacted by police regarding the Nigel Wright/Mike
Duffy affair, Moore went on the the offensive, scorning NDP MP and former actor Tyrone
Benskin, who, it was revealed this week, owes back taxes. "His first and only act in this
Parliament legislatively is to try to pass a bill to absolve himself of his own tax liability.
That is NDP corruption." Moore went on to praise his government's arts funding record.  

He said the NDP is, "Pretending to stand up for artists when all they are doing is standing up for their right to avoid paying taxes."

Even Liberal Bob Rae was so astonished, he chastized Moore in the House. "I thought the attack by the minister… was one of the nastiest attacks on an individual in the House that I have seen in my time."

Canadian acting icon Eric Perterson of Corner Gas fame, who is receiving an award
for lifetime achievement this year, walked out of Question Period because he was offended by Moore’s comments, which he described as disdainful and insensitive towards artists.

"I was led to believe I was to be introduced in the House of Commons to be
congratulated for what I'd done, instead of sitting there to be insulted by this incredibly
insensitive remark about artists in general and about a particular artist and colleague of mine in particular."

Eric Peterson says he walked out on the House of Commons after hearing artists insulted.

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May 282013

MPs allowed to keep seats with no new elections.

by Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA May 27, 2013 (Straight Goods News) – Although a federal court judge ruled last Thursday that fraudulent robo-calls were made to people in the Conservative Party's database in the last election to suppress votes, he let the election results stand and slapped the Conservatives with fines.

Judge Richard Mosley wrote, "I find that electoral fraud occurred during the 41st General Election." While his ruling stopped short of annulling election results, the Council of Canadians, which launched the legal action, called the decision, "A powerful victory for the eight brave Canadian voters who launched their legal challenges and the thousands of us who continue to stand behind them."

The eight applicants had argued that the fraudulent robocalls were widespread, targeted and centrally organized – which is precisely what Judge Mosley found. "I am satisfied that it has been established that misleading calls about the locations of polling stations were made to electors in ridings across the country, including the subject ridings, and that the purpose of those calls was to suppress the votes of electors who had indicated their voting preference in response to earlier voter identification calls," and that "the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the CIMS database maintained and controlled by the CPC [Conservative Party of Canada], accessed for that purpose by a person or persons currently unknown to this Court."

Judge Mosley praised the eight applicants for their virtue, while chastising the Conservative MPs. "It has seemed to me that the applicants sought to achieve and hold the high ground of promoting the integrity of the electoral process while the respondent MPs engaged in trench warfare in an effort to prevent this case from coming to a hearing on the merits."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was pleased that the Conservatives were ordered to pay punitive charges for their tactics during investigation. "That is a damning condemnation of the behavior of the Conservatives both during the campaign and during the litigation. The judge fell on them and actually condemned them to pay costs for all of the procrastination, useless procedures that they kept throwing at it," said Mulcair.

"A damning condemnation of the behavior of the Conservatives" – Tom Mulcair
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In the House, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said, "Justice Mosley ruled that the Conservative Party database was used to commit widespread election fraud and that, in typical pattern for the government, the Conservative Party did everything it could, to quote the judge, 'to block these proceedings by any means.' Why did the government engage in 'trench warfare' to prevent the truth from coming out?"

Later, he told reporters, "The fact that the judge ruled that the Conservative Party database was at the heart of a widespread systemic voter suppression scandal is extremely concerning but also disconcerting is the fact that this government continued true to form and used every opportunity it could to block, to obstruct, to interfere with the investigation into something that should be of concern to all political parties and all holders of responsibility within our democracy."

Conservative database was at the heart of a widespread systemic voter suppression – Justin Trudeau.
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May 242013

Liberals focus on Harper while NDP attacks inherent corruption of non-elected Senate.

by Ish Theilheimer and Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA May 23, 2013 (Straight Goods News) — Stephen Harper is in damage control mode. Last week, he escaped Ottawa for South America on a trade mission, leaving his ministers to nervously answer opposition questions about the Senate expense scandal — and the opposition vying to frame that scandal in a way that captures public favour.

The Liberals, under soaringly popular new leader Justin Trudeau, have focused on an increasingly isolated Stephen Harper.  Today they called for answers to a set of questions intended to establish the true involvement of the Prime Minister and his staff in the Duffy affair.

The NDP, meanwhile, demands the RCMP conduct a criminal investigation and renewing its calls to abolish the Senate. Leader Tom Mulcair says the $90,000 payoff from Harper's chief of staff Nigel Wright to Senator Mike Duffy was probably illegal on more than one serious charge. At the same time, Mulcair blames the existence of the Senate for the problems, saying  the Senate is unncessary and prone to ethical problems because it is an appointed body largely chosen by patronage. With Liberal Senator Mac Harb under investigation, as well as Conservative Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau, the NDP hopes voters connect the Liberals with the Senate scandal.

"Throwing the bodies under the bus is not accountability, and crocodile tears from Peru will not do," deputy Liberal leader Ralph Goodale said at a news conference today. "All the thread here leads to the Prime Minister. He appointed these people. They were accountable to him."

The Liberals want answers from Harper, his former chief of staff Nigel Wright, any legal advisors to the prime minister’s office (PMO) alleged to be involved in an agreement, and from Conservative Senators implicated in whitewashing a Senate report on Duffy's expense claims.

Liberal caucus members list questions for Conservatives on Senate scandal. YouTube Preview Image

"If there are concerns about the process, and we simply send it back and the same people deal with it again behind the same closed doors I think Canadians will doubt whether that’s a fair and open process," said Liberal Senator James Cowan.

Meanwhile, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus says the scope of the review is too narrow and there needs to be a full RCMP investigation.

"Whether secret payments were made to a politician which breaches many -­- all — the ethical codes but also potentially the Criminal Code of Canada — that’s the issue that we really need to find out. Was it an attempt to influence the Senate? Was it an attempt to change an investigation, an internal audit investigation about taxpayer ­misspending of taxpayer money? That’s a serious, serious set of allegations. That’s where the RCMP need to be involved because the Prime Minister’s Office has clearly called in nobody," said Angus.

Angus has been wary from the outset of internal Senate audits that "can be monkey- wrenched and it was monkey-wrenched. So that’s a problem… Very, very key people around the Prime Minister pay a politician and then have an audit changed. That’s what the RCMP needs to look at."

The NDP's Charlie Angus calls for full investigation by the RCMP. YouTube Preview Image

On Wednesday, NDP leader Tom Mulcair unveiled a Senate abolition campaign called "Roll up the Red Carpet," with a website and online petition. Within hours of going live, it had received thousand of petitioners.

Mulcair condemned the Senate as an unelected body that can "reverse legislation that was duly adopted by people who have been elected," such as in 2010, when Jack Layton’s climate change bill was defeated by a Senate made up mostly of "party bag men and defeated candidates."

Tom Mulcair launches a campaign to abolish the Senate.YouTube Preview Image

Mulcair acknowledges the difficulty of abolishing the Senate because it would require opening up the Constitution and, possibly, unanimous consent of all provinces and territories. "We know how complex it is going to be. If you don't start, if you are not serious about it you will never get it done."

The House has been raucous since the Victoria Day break, and especially since Wright's resignation on Sunday of the the long weekend.

On Tuesday morning, Harper gave a rare public speech to his caucus, unsuccessfully attempting to blunt the issue. "I’m not happy, I’m very upset about some conduct we have witnessed — the conduct of some parliamentarians and the conduct of my own office," he told his caucus. From that point, he went on to trumpet his party's achievements in office and evade the Senate expense issue completely.

Tom Mulcair was no more impressed than any other observers of federal politics. "This is a scandal that’s not going to go away," he told reporters. "We have the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office with a taxpayer-paid lawyer concocting a document so that a Conservative-named Senator can avoid testifying properly before a Senate proceeding, and we’re not supposed to be able to see the document. It’s a supposed gift of $90,000. Nothing more is known about it so far. We want to get to the bottom of it. Canadians have a right to know… We know that this is a proper scandal. This Senate-gate is not going away."

In the House, Liberal Ralph Goodale charged, "This is about unethical, possibly illegal behaviour in the Prime Minister's inner circle. All of last week and again today the Prime Minister showed nothing but contempt for ordinary Canadians: no answers, no accountability, no apology. Ordinary Canadians do not have a sugar daddy in the Prime Minister's office. Ordinary Canadians pay their debts. Ordinary Canadians do not get to blockade an audit, whitewash a Senate report and pocket $90,000. Who gave the orders for this Conservative corruption and tabled the emails?"

Foreign affairs minister John Baird looked nervous, responding for the Prime Minister, who left after his caucus speech for a three-day trip to South America. Baird repeatedly said that he and his leader were unaware of what happened until it was reported in the news and that no documented agreement existed between Wright and Duffy.

NDP house leader Nathan Cullen said, "Canadians deserve answers. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is repeatedly saying, 'Two independent authorities are looking into the matter.' Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs tell us who these authorities are, and is one of them the RCMP? If not, why not?"

Under repeated questioning, Baird ultimately admitted one is the Ethics Commissioner and the other, the same Senate committee accused of whitewashing Duffy's report.

Justin Trudeau said the Conservatives are morally corrupt. "The problem remains–  a member ­ (the second highest ­ or the highest) non-elected member of the executive paid off a parliamentarian $90,000 to obstruct an audit, to make a problem, a political problem go away. This is as serious as a heart attack."

Justin Trudeay says Conservative corruption is "as serious as a heart attack." YouTube Preview Image

When asked by Straight Goods News if the scandal is symptomatic of the patronage that goes with the Senate, Trudeau shifted quickly to criticizing Stephen Harper.

"I think it’s a mistake to focus too much on the Senate in this situation. I understand why the Conservatives want to turn it to the Senate. The problem is with the Prime Minister. The problem is with the Prime Minister’s Office, the most controlling, unaccountable office that we’ve ever had that is paying off parliamentarians to obstruct an investigation into improper expenses."

May 102013

PMO spends $2.4 million yearly to keep MPs toeing party line.

by Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA, May 9, 2013 (Straight Goods News) – The opposition grilled the
government today over news the Conservative government is spending $2.4 million
annually to monitor its own backbench MPs and what they are saying in the media.

Liberal Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra) computes the cost as $3,300 daily. "Each
single day of monitoring would fund a student job for the entire summer," she said in the House.

Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc (Beausejour) sees it as a waste of taxpayer’s money. "That’s a pretty serious abuse of taxpayers’ money. They’re only interested in monitoring certain MPs that perhaps might be more independent-minded.

"They’ve always been obsessive about controlling message, about cutting off information, about intimidating their backbench. What’s interesting for us is they’ve now decided to sort of turn it up by wasting over $2 million a year, $3,000 a day, having somebody follow certain Conservative MPs."

The NDP's Charlie Angus says Harper is trying to keep his MPs on message and under his thumb in the wake of the recent Speaker's ruling enabling backbenchers to speak up more often in the House.

"It’s the Conservative backbench which is causing the Prime Minister a great deal of
trouble. They’re certainly not following the party line. They’re running off on tangents all
the time. So obviously the Prime Minister’s Office is trying to keep tabs on their
behaviour," said Angus. "You could see in the House today the backbench MPs were
certainly not smiling at this news. It shows a Prime Minister who’s very distrustful, who
misuses taxpayers’ dollars for his own benefit and doesn’t seem to even trust his own

Harper doesn't seem to trust his own backbenchers — Charlie Angus.
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May 102013

CBC independence at stake.

by Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA, May 8, 2013 (Straight Goods News) – New Democrats and labour unions
representing workers at Crown corporations have launched a a petition and a grassroots campaign against legislation (Bill C-60) that would grant the Treasury Board sweeping powers to intervene in the terms and conditions of employment for workers and managers at Crown corporations.

New Democrat labour critic Alexandre Boulerice held a news conference today with
representatives of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), the Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada (SCRC), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) to announce the campaign.
"Bill C-60 is yet another attack against all Canadian workers — union and non-union
alike," said Boulerice. "It is a serious threat to the independence of our Crown
corporations. C-60 strips key powers from the directors of corporations such as the CBC, VIA Rail and Canada Post. It is completely inappropriate that the Treasury Board would be empowered to step into a workplace and arbitrarily change the compensation of any worker without a union."

Boulerice said this potential for interference will affect the ability of these corporations
to retain high quality workers and offer reliable service.

In the House, Tom Mulcair said, "Over the last two years the Conservatives have
attacked collective bargaining rights: back-to-work legislation, bad faith bargaining,
burying unions in red tape. Now the Conservatives want to give the Treasury Board the
power to cut the salaries of non-union employees at crown corporations as well."

Marit Stiles, National Director of Public Policy and Communications for ACTRA,
discussed the impact of this intervention at the CBC. "Canada's national public broadcaster would be placed under the control of the government and become, for all intents and purposes, a state broadcaster."

Marit Stiles of ACTRA on the government intervention at the CBC
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Boulerice said the Conservatives don't like the independence of the CBC and, "The
fact that the CBC can criticize their decisions."

It's really important CBC stay independent, not state TV or state radio –
Alexandre Boulerice

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May 072013

Resources minister "an embarrassment to all of us" – Mulcair.

by Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA, May, 6, 2013 (Straight Goods News) — The Conservatives' blunt-talking Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver squared off today against former US Vice-President Al Gore. Oliver, who has been an unabashed cheerleader for oil industry development, took issue with Gore's telling a Canadian newspaper that Canada's "resource curse" leads to "the reckless spewing of pollution into the Earth’s atmosphere as if it’s an open sewer."

Oliver told reporters Gore’s comments to an EU summit were "wildly exagerrated" and "inaccurate."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said that there isn't much choice between the Nobel Prize-winning Gore and Oliver, who has waffled on whether he believes climate change is a problem. "Look, Joe Oliver is an embarrassment to all of us. He is always out there attacking other people who are just saying the obvious with regard to Canada’s role. We’re the only country in the world to have ever withdrawn from Kyoto. We haven’t been enforcing basic rules of sustainable development like polluter pay so they can whinge and whine and moan all they want. That’s the reality and Al Gore is simply calling it the way everybody else who’s looked at the science of climate change is calling it," said Mulcair.

Tom Mulcair: "Joe Oliver is an embarrasement to all of us."
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Oliver is now defending oil sands development against the European Union's proposed implementation of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), which would enable EU member countries to hit greenhouse gas targets by assigning value to fuel feedstocks and penalizing dirty fuel sources. Oliver says it unfairly discriminates against Alberta bitumen.

The NDP's Megan Leslie says the directive makes sense and is non-discriminatory. "If you look at what the Fuel Quality Directive does, it puts a label on different fuels according to the greenhouse gas intensity," she told reporters. "So oil sands product is there on the list. It doesn’t say Canada. It says oil sands."

"There’s even a provision in these regulations to say, 'If you as a country or if you as a producer don’t agree with the value we’ve assigned to this product, refute it. Bring us the science. Show us how we’re wrong.' So that is a perfectly reasonable way to set regulations around greenhouse gas emissions but we’re not reacting in a reasonable way."

Canada isn't reacting in a reasonable way on climate change – Megan Leslie.
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May 032013

Auditor General blasts cuts to needed services while thousands of tax staff axed.

by Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA, April 30, 2013 (Straight Goods News) –Auditor General Michael Ferguson reported today that federal search-and-rescue (SAR) services are badly in need of money for staff and equipment at the same time as the government is losing millions due to staff cuts at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Ferguson is concerned with sustainability of SAR due to staffing and training issues and continued use of older planes and insufficient amount of helicopters.

For the NDP's Jack Harris (St. John's), SAR and the lack of support for it has been a personal priority for years.

"I was particularly concerned when [Ferguson] suggested that the response times and the availability posture of search and rescue in Canada was determined by the equipment they had, not by the need itself. That’s something that I discovered myself a couple of years ago in a report. I’m glad to see that the Auditor General has verified that. But what that means is that we’re setting our response times and our capability based on the equipment we have, not based on the needs that exist. This, perhaps, explains why we’re looking at a two-hour response time after four o’clock in the day and on the weekends when 83 percent of the calls occur."

Search and Rescue response times based on equipment, not need — Jack Harris.
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In the House, Liberal Gerry Byrne (Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Lib.) was equally outraged. "In 2009, Canada's  vital search and rescue software was corrupted and faces repeated risk of failure after being critically damaged," he said. "The system can no longer support daily operations, according to the Auditor General, and is 'near the breaking point.' Free smart phone apps are now the tools that plan search and rescue missions. This was never revealed to the public until this morning."

NDP national revenue critic Murray Rankin says the staff cuts make it impossible for government to do its work.     "They’re cutting 3,000 people from the CRA over three years, $250 million and we’re supposed to think they’re taking this seriously? We have a trillion dollar problem globally, trillions of dollars according to the experts, Tax Justice Network, Canadians for Fair Taxation, experts who testified before our committee," Rankin told  reporters. "Their response, cutting the CRA, is simply deplorable."

Liberal public works critic John McCallum said, "The Auditor General’s report yesterday said the amount of tax still out there, not necessarily evasion, but tax that should be collected is 60 percent higher today than when this government came to office."

Uncollected taxes are costing Canada billions. ­ John McCallum
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Rankin says many corporations are evading taxes and see the cuts to tax collection services as an opportunity.

Cuts to CRA represent a profit centre to tax-evading corporations — Murray Rankin
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"Every subsidiary, we’re saying, of a multinational company ought to disclose exactly where it’s paid taxes and how much so we can get a handle on the problem. That country by country reporting is one of the central recommendations that the NDP minority report has made. Other countries do it. We think it’s time for Canada too."


Apr 262013

Ruling lets hard-right Conservative backbenchers act out in House.

by Samantha Bayard

OTTAWA, April 23, 2013 (Straight Goods News) — The rebellious Conservative backbench got a boost today from House speaker Andrew Scheer's ruling on an appeal from anti-abortion Conservative MP Mark Warawa (Langley)  who had complained his party whip was "muzzling" him.

Scheer explained that while he takes advice from party whips, he is not obligated to do so and can recognize an MP who stands up to speak at any time.

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