Omar Khadr questions for Jack Layton, Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff

Mr. Layton, now that Omar Khadr is a convicted and sentenced murderer, do you believe that a future Canadian government will owe an official apology to him? And since you’re running to be Prime Minister, will you take the initiative to do so should you lead a future government?

Mr. Harper, your government acted in concert with opposition parties to expedite legislative reform on pardons earlier this year. Given Khadr’s sentence and reported plea deal, what is your government going to do on judicial reform to delay his repatriation? What was your government’s role (if any) in the plea negotiation? If the government had a role, what were its objectives and how probable was an alternative less desirable outcome?

Mr. Ignatieff, which is the travesty of justice in your view? The detention, trial, conviction and incarceration of Omar Khadr? Or that Omar Khadr will only serve what is projected by some to be two years of a 40 year sentence for murder that was handed down by a jury in a US military tribunal today?

UPDATE: The NDP’s justice critic Joe Comartin is on the record regarding his party’s position (pre-conviction and sentencing),

“The thing they should do is (give him) a whole chunk of money, much as they had to (with) Maher Arar, because there is nobody who believes Omar Khadr has any chance of being acquitted in a military tribunal and he will probably be sentenced to a lengthy period of time inprison in the U.S.,” he said. “They could compensate him for all those years that he is going to lose.”

Rob Ford – Toronto’s Next Mayor?

It’s Saturday at noon in the Rob Ford campaign headquarters in Scarborough and the background noise from the activity that surrounds me is chaotic.

However, the noise is incongruent to the scene around me. A well-oiled machine is in place and judging by recent polls, it appears that the unlikely candidate, the boorish, unpolished, yet small c-conservative and grassroots candidate is about to become the 64th mayor of Canada’s largest city. Internal nightly poll summaries of the Ford campaign are also showing the same; Ford leading by about 9 points and growing over the past couple of days.

The geography encompasses 22 federal and 22 provincial ridings, the population exceeding 5 million, in a jurisdiction that represents more people than the entire province of British Columbia. The fight for Toronto is by no means a small operation. Ford has two fully staffed offices, this one in the east end and the other in Rexdale. The Rexdale office used to be an old Swiss Chalet counter that had grease infused into the walls when I toured it a few short months ago, before I was offered and accepted work on the campaign. Thankfully, the building is all cleaned up and serves as Ford’s campaign hub west of Yonge. At the start of the campaign, when they cleaned the ducts, the office was so rank that campaign volunteers set up outdoors for a day. Ford’s label factory in Etobicoke has even served to house some campaign workers including Nick Kouvalis, Ford’s deputy campaign manager, who slept in the office and had access to a shower just off of the factory floor. The scope of any competitive campaign in the city is complex, rounds of tele-townhalls and robo-calls have been conducted by both the Ford campaign and that of his main competitor, former McGuinty cabinet minister George Smitherman. The technology is fairly new in the Canadian context. Indeed many process stories have been written about the tactics during this campaign. On the topic of tactics, a campaign volunteer told me that earlier this week, there was an amusing opportunity to acquire a huge hot air balloon shaped like a train for election day. The campaign planned to put a banner on it with “Stop the Gravy Train. Vote Rob Ford”, however, the balloon was in the Netherlands at the time and the Toronto-based owner couldn’t get it back to the city by Monday.

The “Gravy Train” has become the mainline message of the Rob Ford campaign. A huge swath of voters — prior to the municipal campaign — were found to respond strongly to messages that acknowledged waste and mismanagement at city hall. Lucky for Ford, as a city councillor he had a strong reputation as a combative figure at city hall on these same topics.

It is also no wonder that Rob Ford has become the topic of conversation around the cabinet table in Ottawa. The implications of a Toronto mayor, a conservative mayor, and an unpredictable factor in Rob Ford has the Conservatives wondering about the shifting electoral landscape in Toronto. If Rob Ford represents the populist anger of the exploited yet neglected taxpayer in Toronto, will Ford provide a safety valve to vent pressure against incumbent governments? Will he blaze a path in the Toronto wilderness for Conservatives? How anchored to Ford are federal and provincial fortunes in Toronto?

For Conservatives, their advance scout in Toronto and the evolving demographic landscape has been Jason Kenney. The Minister of “curry in a hurry” was in also in Toronto this week speaking about the Conservative government’s new human smuggling legislation. This bill is the other half of the government’s earlier and successful efforts on refugee reform, legislation that became law just a few months ago. Liberals are still scratching their heads on the Conservative pivot vis-a-vis connecting with new Canadians. Waves of immigration came to Canada under Liberal governments in the preceding decades and many by default found their allegiance with the Liberal Party. Painted as anti-immigrant and anti-ethnic by their opponents, Conservatives are finding that appealing to the values instead of the identities of new Canadians is winning them over. In religion, as in politics, the most faithful are often the converts.

A campaign worker looks up from a phone call and asks if anyone in the busy office speaks Mandarin or Cantonese, the phone is passed to Bo Chen, another worker and the call is answered without missing a beat. “She’s voting for Rob,” the mandarin-speaking Bo explains after finishing the call. Ford’s fortunes among New Canadians has been another unwritten and snidely dismissed story of this campaign. Polling among voters born outside of Canada has been favourable to Ford according to an Ekos report that was released earlier this week showing a 20 point lead among people whom have been traditionally treated as a block and as one to be pandered to by the former political establishment. Ford famously said that “Oriental people work like dogs”. Bo admits that this statement by Ford was his first exposure to the uncouth councillor. His interest was peaked and he signed up for the campaign shortly after, “We do work hard”.

For Rob Ford, the political establishment cannot fathom how the plain-talking, politically incorrect Ford is winning over ethnic voters. “Ethnic voters, like anyone else, are concerned about wasteful spending at City Hall. Where the left panders to ethnic communities, Ford has treated these constituents like anyone else. And, he provides great service,” said Richard Ciano, Ford’s pollster.

Every good campaign is won by hard work, innovation of new techniques, successful execution of previously learned strategies, understanding your voters, seamlessly passing the torch from one tired group of workers to another, and by managing the chaos of the maddening exercise of mass persuasion into an effective machine. We’ve got about 48 hours until the polls close here in Toronto. We are on our way to seeing a conservative mayor in the city of Toronto.

Bob Rae, self-styled “jihadi” fighter

Juxtaposing comments from Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae from the same Globe and Mail interview given on the edge of Rosedale at a noisy cafe,

A grey-haired man wearing a tweed jacket and tortoise-shell glasses sitting at a nearby table overhears our conversation.

“Bob, can I ask you a question?” he interjects. “What I’m interested in is Afghanistan. The point is, it’s all tribal. They don’t give a shit about democracy, so what are we doing there?” he asks.

Mr. Rae proceeds to unleash a complex argument about the futility of military adventure, the importance of our long-term political interests and the violent history of Western civilization.

[Rae] firmly believes that the Liberals can defeat the Harper government, and cannot wait to take the Prime Minister down.

It’s come to the point where you’ve got these 25-year-old jihadis in the Prime Minister’s Office. They are very, very focused on undermining, destroying. Attack, attack, attack. There’s no other way,” he complains.

[Link]

Michael Ignatieff silent on Nobel Prize Committee’s “Megaphone Diplomacy” with China

Jailed Chinese pro-democracy dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Xiaobo was arrested in 2008 for being an author of “Charter 08”, a manifesto demanding greater free speech, improved human rights, and open and free elections in China. His award is a statement for those seeking democratic reform in the world’s most populous nation and is a positive impetus for liberty in the world.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following statement regarding Xiaobo’s prize,

“Our government has expressed concerns in the past about his imprisonment…

I would hope the fact that he is now a Nobel Peace Prize winner would cause our friends in the Chinese government to look seriously at that issue of his release from prison.

But, as I say, I think more than anything, we’re delighted for him and send him our congratulations.”

In the past, the Prime Minister’s vocal criticism of China over its human rights record has been a point of conflict between Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Harper.

Ignatieff, during a tour to China earlier this year criticized the Prime Minister,

[A Chinese student] said Ignatieff properly praised China for pulling so many people out of poverty with the success of its economic engine, but he had avoided saying anything substantial about human rights challenges, “the fact, for example, that there are many activists currently imprisoned for no apparent reason. He just avoided that.”

In an interview, Ignatieff said he didn’t believe in “megaphone” diplomacy — a reference to Prime Minister Harper’s early, high-profile, public criticisms of China on human rights.

The Nobel Prize Committee released this statement regarding its awarding of the 2010 Peace Prize to Xiaobo,

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2010
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the “fraternity between nations” of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.

Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal. The country now has the world’s second largest economy; hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Scope for political participation has also broadened.

China’s new status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China’s constitution lays down that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”. In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens.

For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power”. Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China’s own constitution and fundamental human rights.

The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.

Michael Ignatieff released a statement congratulating Barack Obama on his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize the day it was announced that the US president had won it. However, it’s Monday, and Ignatieff has yet to weigh in on the Nobel Committee’s bold statement that may promote positive change and more freedom in China.

We get letters!

From a senior Conservative on the Hill:

New (old) details on the Sauvé-West Block renovation story

Myth: Sauvé says that he discussed contracts with Christian Paradis. Therefore Liberals suggest Conservative political interference in granting the West Block renovation contract to Sauvé.

La Presse, August 25, 2008

Le plus récent contrat est celui de 8,9 millions pour la réfection de l’édifice de l’Ouest du parlement canadien, un contrat qui a été «obtenu par appel d’offres et sans aucune implication politique», ajoute [Sauvé]. Évidemment, il s’agit d’un nouveau client fort intéressant puisque tout le programme de restauration des édifices parlementaires à Ottawa est évalué à un milliard.

The latest contract is $ 8.9 million for the rehabilitation of the West Block of the Parliament of Canada, a contract that was “obtained through competitive bidding and without any political involvement,” [Sauvé] adds . Obviously, this is a very interesting new customer since the whole program to restore the Parliament buildings in Ottawa is valued at one billion.

Fact: La Press quotes Sauvé in 2008 that the contract was “obtained through competitive bidding and without any political involvement.” In news stories this week, the Canadian Press alleges that Sauvé hired “Tory connected” businessman Gilles Varin to obtain the contract. Sauvé’s earlier quote contradicts the latest narrative from the press and from Sauvé that the Tories had their mitts in the West Block renovation contract.

Myth: Sauvé and Varin are Conservatives. Contracts were obtained were granted because of political favouritism.

Journal de Montreal, June 18th 2009 (after that Tory fundraiser)

Selon ce que le Journal a appris, le président de l’entreprise en faillite LM Sauvé avait confié à plusieurs personnes, dont quelques ténors libéraux, qu’il songeait à se présenter à l’investiture du Parti libéral du Canada pour le comté d’Outremont.

Il a rencontré le lieutenant politique de Michael Ignatieff au Québec, Denis Coderre, pour lui faire part de ses intentions. M. Coderre, qui ignorait tout des liens de Paul Sauvé avec le crime organisé, l’aurait encouragé à vendre des cartes de membres comme d’autres candidats à l’investiture.

The Journal has learned, the president of the bankrupt company LM Sauvé had told several people, including some big liberals, he considered running for the nomination of the Liberal Party of Canada for the County of Outremont.

He met with political lieutenant in Quebec by Michael Ignatieff, Denis Coderre, to inform him of his intentions. Mr. Coderre, who knew nothing of Paul Sauvé links with organized crime, have encouraged the sale of membership cards as other candidates for the nomination.

Fact: Varin has never been an organizer for the Conservative Party of Canada nor has he ever been a member of it according to party records (confirmed by the Party in a release this week). Sauvé was a Tory to the degree that he told Liberals that he was considering running for the Liberal Party in Outremont.

Myth: Liberal hands are clean in this affair. They certainly didn’t advocate for Public Works to support Sauvé’s company and project.

Le Droit, April 15th 2009

Une faillite de L. M. Sauvé pourrait avoir un effet domino sur la trentaine d’entreprises de la région impliquées de près ou de loin dans le projet. Pour le député de Hull-Aylmer, Marcel Proulx, chacun doit mettre de l’eau dans son vin pour minimiser les pertes. « En période difficile, j’assume que Travaux publics fera tout en son possible pour empêcher qu’il y ait faillite de l’entrepreneur général, ce qui amènerait une pluie de faillites chez les sous-traitants, dit-il. J’espère que Travaux publics agira en bon père de famille. »

A bankruptcy of L. Sauvé could have a domino effect on the thirty companies in the region involved directly or indirectly in the project. The member for Hull-Aylmer, Marcel Proulx, says everyone must put water in his wine to minimize losses. “In difficult times, I assume that Public Works will do its utmost to prevent there being a general contractor’s bankruptcy, which would cause a rain of bankruptcies among subcontractors, he said. I hope that Public Works will act as a good father.”

Fact: Marcel Proulx is the Liberal MP for Hull-Aylmer. Mr. Proulx went on record expressing his desire that Public Works support Sauvé’s company and its project.

Eco-authoritarians

From the global movement that brought you “the debate is over” and the push to tax that which is most intricately linked with productivity, industry, er, life… CO2.

Warning: graphic

[link]

All those in favour of keeping away from power those with a violent, intolerant, and dogmatic view on how humans should collectively and individually behave… don’t raise your hand.

UPDATE: The producers of the film have responded to the predictable response,

Last week, 10:10 made available a short film. Following the initial reaction to the film we removed it from our website and issued an apology on Friday 2 October.

Subsequently there has been negative comment about the film, particularly on blogs, and concern from others working hard to build support for action on climate change. We are very sorry if this has distracted from their efforts.

We are also sorry to our corporate sponsors, delivery partners and board members, who have been implicated in this situation despite having no involvement in the film’s production or release.

We will learn from this mistake. Today I have written to supporters and stakeholders explaining that we will review processes and procedures to make sure it cannot happen again. Responsibility for this process is being taken by the 10:10 board.

The media coverage of the film was not the kind of publicity we wanted for 10:10, nor for the wider movement to reduce carbon emissions.

If people have been in touch with us personally about the film, we will be replying to individual emails over the next few days. Meanwhile our thanks go out to all those who support 10:10 and who work to combat the threat of climate change.

Eugenie Harvey
Director, 10:10 UK

Free Speech in Canada?

What mistake did these students make? They forgot to identify themselves as bombastic foreign Members of Parliament whom have provided material support to Hamas. Silly students… freedom of speech on the campus of a school at which you attend and live? Preposterous!

Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, Human Rights Commissions, the public works protection act, pro-life voices shut down on campus…

Is it time we had a serious review of how flexible our rights to speech and assembly have become in this country?