Monday, June 29, 2009

Canada “seriously concerned” about Honduran coup – but you’d never know it

As we all emerge from the Jackson-induced media haze of the past few days, a real news story managed to surface Sunday:

Honduran military sends president into exile
Congress names successor; Obama says he is "deeply concerned"

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Soldiers ousted the democratically elected president of Honduras on Sunday and Congress named a successor, but the leftist ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced what he called an illegal coup and vowed to stay in power.

The first military takeover of a Central American government in 16 years drew widespread condemnation from governments in Latin America and the world – including the U.S. – and Chavez vowed to overthrow the country's apparent new leader.

Oddly, the only mention of Canada's response was in a CTV article which quotes Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Peter Kent stating that "Democratic governance is a central pillar of Canada's enhanced engagement in the Americas, and we are seriously concerned by what has transpired in Honduras."

I find it telling that not one of Canada's three national newspapers has made any mention of Kent's statement, relying instead on U.S. wire service reports. In fact, I had to really dig through the Foreign Affairs website just to find the full text.

There is a lot being left unsaid in the media coverage of this incident in general. Even the excellent Al Jazeera is treading carefully, not wanting to fall to hard on one side or the other. But at least one U.S. right-wing organization that spams my inbox on occasion is painting this as "Freedom Restored", a triumph of democracy over a leftist dictator who wanted to stay permanently in power like Hugo Chavez. Or Castro. Or Hitler.

Perhaps a better explanation can be found in this comment on the CBC's article:

Just count the number of native faces in the supreme court and senate of Honduras and you will have your answers.

Latin American states are in process of power redistribution where native majorities are taking back larger share of what was stolen from them for generations.

Honduras is a hard one, it was always controlled by Yanks by its American trained military and clean blood European puppet governments. Gave a good look at Micheletti, not exactly a Mayan. No wonder he was part of the coup.

For a more in-depth look at the events leading up to Sunday's events, check this article in Al Jazeera. You certainly won't find it in the Canadian media.

(cross-posted from Canada's World)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Retiring Information Commissioner Takes a Parting Shot

Oh, man - I'd pay good money to see this:

Info watchdog takes aim at Harper’s stone wall

Bruce Campion-Smith

Ottawa bureau chief

OTTAWA–Canada's outgoing information watchdog is threatening to seize documents after complaints that the bureaucratic wing of the Prime Minister's Office is stonewalling some access-to-information requests.

The information commissioner served formal notice on the Privy Council Office this week, warning that commission staff would use their legal powers to seize the documents themselves if the paperwork wasn't provided by today.

"I'm about to walk into PCO next week ... for files they didn't give us. We're going to take them and they can't stop us,
" Robert Marleau told the Star.

"I cannot be denied access. I can walk into any federal government premise without notice and take what I need."

Marleau says that he's threatened to do this before and it usually resulted in the documents being handed over. But part of me hopes he will be forced to march in there and start pulling files. Maybe then people would finally understand that every single promise Harper made that originally brought him to power - accountability, transparency, responsibility - was a goddamned lie.

UPDATE: This guy could teach Ignatieff a thing or two about ultimatums.

Privy Council officials have ended months of stonewalling and handed over documents requested by the federal information watchdog.

Yesterday's disclosure of files came only after Information Commissioner Robert Marleau threatened to have his staff enter the Privy Council offices and seize the paperwork themselves.

Privy Council staff delivered some documents yesterday, the deadline set by Marleau, and promised to deliver the rest soon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

If a democracy falls in the summer, does anybody hear it?

I find it fascinating that this little item surfaces just two days after Parliament goes on summer break:

Tories withhold future war costs, citing national security concerns

OTTAWA — In a significant policy shift, the Canadian government now believes that telling the country’s taxpayers the future cost of the war in Afghanistan would be a threat to national security, Canwest News Service has learned.

The Defence Department cited a national security exemption when it censored a request under Access to Information by the federal NDP for the military costs of Canada’s military participation in the NATO-led, United Nations-sanctioned military mission to Afghanistan.

Funny that the costs of the war weren't a security concern last year. Does that mean that the lives of our troops were put a risk when the military released the exact same figures last April? Do we get to extrapolate that now to make the actual budget for the war a military secret? How about our military budget in general? After all, we wouldn't want to tip our hand to The Enemy about how many trucks and tanks we're planning to buy.

And who is going to scream over this? Our Loyal Opposition, such as it is, is on vacation until September, and the media aren't going to be wasting any breath on this sort of thing when they have summer reality shows to shill to their semi-comatose audience.

The only ones raising the alarm about this and other danger signs seem to be James Travers and The Star. I'm just not convinced there's anybody listening.

Friday, June 19, 2009

MAPLEs Shutdown Prematurely: Scientists

The head of the MAPLE engineering team, as well as several independent nuclear scientists appearing before the NR Commons Committee, were united yesterday in their opinion that shutting down the MAPLE reactors was a mistake, and that they should be restarted.

The money quote:

"We were probably four months away from putting the final test in. That test would have contained the engineering fix."

Meanwhile, Lisa Raitt is starting to back peddle a bit from the government's official position that the MAPLEs should be completely written off. Of course, this isn't keeping her from continuing to promote the keystone of her party's ideology: Privatize Everything.

Ms. Raitt told reporters yesterday that the government would consider allowing a private company to take over the MAPLE project. "There are pieces that are not the reactor that are still utilizable, with still-good infrastructure," she said.

Once again, what you are hearing is the sound of a government that doesn't believe in government. A government that believes that there is nothing government can do that private enterprise can't do better. A government convinced that financial profit is the only true barometer of value, regardless of the long term societal benefits of a given enterprise.

I can't wait for them to get around to Canada Post.

UPDATE: The always awesome David Akin has a quick & dirty summary on his blog of both the MAPLEs timeline and the testimony of those independent experts who testified today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gerard Kennedy Speaks in Halton (video)

Gerard Kennedy spoke to members and friends of the Halton Federal Liberals at our cocktail fundraiser last night in Oakville. It was my first fundraiser of this type, and it was a lot of fun - although a little stressful until the person organizing the registration arrived. Once things got rolling, however, it all went tickety-boo. I had managed to get my son to come and help out, and even convinced him to wear dress shoes and tuck his shirt in!

We had all sorts of local luminaries in attendance, most notably Bruce Hood and Senator Betty Kennedy. I heard Gary Carr was there too but I didn't spot him. And of course, there was Gerard.

The more I know about Gerard Kennedy, the more impressed I am with him. His community service background and his stint as Ontario's Education Minister are my idea of the ideal resume for a Liberal MP (sorry, but I'm sick to death of all the lawyers and businessmen). And when you combine all that with a speaking ability and an easy charisma that, in my opinion, exceeds that of the much-touted Justin Trudeau, I can't think of a more perfect leader for the Liberal Party.

Next time, baby!

Here's Part 1 of the speech he gave last night, although it seemed less like a speech and more like a frank, off-the-cuff discussion of the current situation in parliament, of the broader implications of Lisa Raitt's handling of the isotope crisis, and of where we should be going as a Party and as a country.

(apologies for the poor video quality - more lights next time, please!)

Parts 2 and 3, plus photos, later tonight and tomorrow.

UPDATE: Here's Part 2.

And Part 3, including my question at the end about the Federal Liberal position on McGuinty's new daycare plan:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday Morning Notes: Isotopes, Game Theory, and the PBO

Lazy mid-week blogging:

1) McMaster Reactor Steps Up.

I think I've mentioned before that my husband used to work at the accelerator lab at McMaster University as a nuclear safety technician way back in the late 70s (I'll have to dig up a copy of his 'Nuclear Bunnies' 'zine for you some time). Anyway, apparently Mac has now done the math and determined that the University's reactor can, in fact, produce enough Tc-99m needed to supply about 20% of the North American market. They just need (you guessed it) a biggish pile of cash to do it.

I did find this statement particularly interesting:

The president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine, Dr. Robert Atcher, is saying the long-term solution to the worldwide isotope shortages isn't necessarily in building new reactors.

"It turns out that our real problem isn't that there aren't enough reactors to make medical isotopes," Atcher told CTV on Tuesday.

"It's the production facilities that we use when we take those targets out of the reactor and process them to remove the medically useful isotopes -- that capacity around the world is very limited. So we don't need necessarily to build any more reactors; we need to build those processing facilities."

UPDATE: The Natty Post picked this up this morning, quoting the McMaster facility's manager as saying that all they need is the non-weapons grade uranium and the trained staff and they're good to go.

2) 'Parliament Without a Cause'

A brilliant essay by Andrew Steele in yesterday's Globe & Mail on the application of game theory to this week's political showdown. He comes to some interesting conclusions about the pros and cons of a summer election for each of the four federal parties, but really - just watching someone draw parallels between the political brinksmanship in Canada's current multi-party minority government and the 'chicken' scene in 'Rebel Without a Cause', is just... wow.

Go read.

UPDATE: CalgaryGrit liked it too.

3) Kevin Page Vindicated

The Library of Parliament Committee has finally reached their verdict:

Parliament's budget watchdog is woefully underfunded, the Library of Parliament committee said in a report released Tuesday. The committee recommended his 2009-2010 budget be raised to $2.8 million from $1.86 million.

Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page's current budget is $323,000 short of his projected spending for the fiscal year and well short of the $2.75 million he was supposed to get before his budget was cut.

"Even with a $2.75-million budget it was virtually impossible to provide scrutiny of departmental estimates [planned expenditures] representing over $240 billion per year," the committee said.

"The reduction will mean that the scope for the PBO to fulfil the legislated mandate will be further reduced."

Assuming anybody is actually planning to act on the committee's recommendations, this is excellent news for our much beleaguered Paliamentary Budget Officer - who, BTW, recently looked at Jim Flaherty's numbers and concluded that there is no way in hell the government will be able to dig itself out of the deficit hole any time soon without severely cutting programs or (gasp!) raising taxes.

Kevin Page: the Last Honest Man in Ottawa.

OR NOT: The Toronto Sun is spinning this as putting Page on a "tight leash", insisting that he not hold press conferences or release his reports to anyone besides MPs an Senators. They also reference to Page's release of the Afghan War cost analysis during the election - a move which, they forget, was agreed to by all four parties.

This is the actual quote from the press release on the report:

The report proposes 10 recommendations aimed, among other things, at increasing funding for the Parliamentary Budget Officer, consistent with his following existing procedures at the Library of Parliament and respects the confidentiality of the work of parliamentarians and committees; and permitting the publication of independent reports as long as they are presented first to parliamentarians.

That doesn't sound like a spanking to me - that sounds like they're saying, "Carry on".

Monday, June 15, 2009

Last Chance for Tickets to Gerard Kennedy Event!

Not only do you get to hear and talk to Gerard Kennedy, but you get to help build Halton's war chest for the coming battle to de-throne Lisa Raitt. What could be better than that?

Halton Federal Liberal Association

An evening of cocktails with a Liberal helping of conversation


Gerard Kennedy

MP Parkdale High Park, opposition critic for infrastructure, cities and communities

When: June 17th, 2009, 7:00 pm (registration starts at 6:30)
Where: Holiday Inn Oakville-Centre, 590 Argus Road
Tickets: $85.00 (estimated cost after tax credit: $32.50)
Ticket includes fantastic finger foods with vegetarian options and one drink ticket.

Iggy Lobs the Ball Into Harper's Court

I still have my reservations about Michael Ignatieff's policies and attitudes and the direction he's leading the party... but DAMN he's good at this!

"That's the choice of the prime minister in my view. We've asked some questions that require an answer. If he wants Parliament to work it's very easy for him to answer positively. But he must understand that I am prepared to vote against him," Ignatieff said.

He stressed that the Liberal party doesn't want a summer election, but said the job of the Official Opposition is to hold the government accountable.

"We want Parliament to work, we want to replace confrontation with co-operation. But we need Prime Minister Harper to deliver the accountability that Canadians expect."

Your move, Steve.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lisa Raitt Shows Her Face in Milton (with video!)

After failing to appear at two scheduled media events last weekend and indefinitely postponing a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Oakville set for next Friday, Lisa Raitt has finally surfaced - just in time to sign a Really Big Cheque for $14.9 million in front of Milton's lovely new Town Hall.

The cheque is for joint Federal and Provincial funding for the oft-delayed Milton Arts and Entertainments Centre and Library. It's also for the expansion of the Milton Sports Centre, which is where I get confused. Originally, the Town had asked for 7.5 million dollars from each of the Provincial and Federal governments for just the Arts Centre / Library. They were also going to be asking for $13 million for an expansion of the Milton Sports Centre

So I'm looking at that giant cheque and thinking, "Shouldn't there be two of those?"

Raitt's speech didn't clarify things any. She referred to the $14.9 million as "federal funding", even though the Giant Cheque was signed by both herself and Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn. And she specifically stated that 6.7 million of this money was going to the sports centre expansion (which, BTW, she seemed considerably more enthused about).

So is there another Giant Cheque out there, or did Milton get screwed out of half the funding we asked for? Sprawlville TV is on the case - I'll let you know.

(Appearing in this video: MP Lisa Raitt, MPP Ted Chudleigh, MPP Kevin Flynn, Mayor Gordon Krantz, and Milton CAO Mario Belvedere.)

UPDATE: I spoke to Councillor Colin Best at the Farmer's Market this morning, and he says that the $14.9 million is just the first instalment.

The Hangover

I cringed inwardly when Murray told me what his selection was for this month. Ok, I cringed outwardly too. So the best thing I can think to say about 'The Hangover' is that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

The movie is a bit of a departure from the usual 'buddy road trip' flick in that we get to follow the main characters trying to re-trace their steps after their night of debauchery instead of just watching them stagger straight through it. And the three men - the geek, the freak and the hot guy - are such an unlikely trio that you can't help but laugh.

So I laughed. I did. It was funny. It wasn't really, REALLY funny, but it was funny enough I guess. And it certainly exceeded the low expectations I went in with, which I suppose is something. So for being somewhat more funny than not, I'll give it two and three quarter stars.

(not the most glowing review, but Murray thought I'd hate it.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"MAPLES never produced a single isotope... oh, wait... you mean THOSE isotopes?"

Ever since the latest Chalk River isotope debacle started reaching crisis proportions, the folks at MDS Nordion has been trying to tell people that those supposedly fatally flawed MAPLE reactors - the ones the Conservatives mothballed a few months ago - might just be salvageable after all.

Lately, they've been saying it to the Natural Resources Committee:

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeated that defence of the government's decision, saying, "after hundreds of millions of dollars and years and years of investment, not a single isotope had been created and the expert assessment we received was that there was no realistic reason to believe there would be any isotope production for years and years to come, if ever. So it was not a viable project."

But Jill Chitra, a vice-president and professional engineer at MDS Nordion told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources that is incorrect.

"From 2000 to 2008, the MAPLE reactors ran numerous times at various power levels, up to 80 per cent power," Chitra said. "(Isotope) targets were inserted in the reactor for a number of those tests. When targets are inserted in the reactor and it operates at power, isotopes — Moly-99 — is created."

Chitra said that the targets were simply not processed or harvested.

"Those targets could have been removed and processed and you'd have had medical isotopes for sale," Chitra said. "It's one of the reasons we think MAPLE has potential."

This flies in the face of what we have previously been told about the MAPLE reactors, which is that they are fatally flawed and cannot be operated safely. And of course, one cannot forget that MDS has a considerable financial stake in the MAPLE reactors.

So what is the truth?

I found this article to be particularly informative, in that it explains what a positive energy coefficient is and why it can be bad, but isn't necessarily always bad. In fact, the only time when it would be bad is if all primary and backup power to the reactor suddenly shut off AND the entire crew at the reactor had either died, disappeared, or ascended in the Rapture at that same exact moment, preventing them from conducting a safe manual shutdown.

Yes. That would be bad.

On the other hand, the odds of that happening are so utterly astronomical that it makes the whole Rapture thing seem plausible. And if some unforseen catastrophe were to cause a complete power shutdown and the deaths of every person at Chalk River (a 10.5 quake? a meteor?), I would imagine we would be dealing with a significantly bigger problem than a melting reactor.

Far be it for me to suggest that anyone compromise safety when it comes to a nuclear reactor - even a little one. But given the near certainty of people actually dying from undiagnosed cancers sometime in the forseeable future if this situation isn't rectified, maybe it's time to reconsider our options. Preferably with the help of someone without a financial or ideological interest in the outcome.

(H/T to David Akin, who is going to have to write a book about all this someday.)

Duffy Burns His Journalist Card, Crushes His Last Remaining Scruple

I have a very serious problem with this:

The presentation will be moderated by Senator Mike Duffy, a former television journalist, and feature Harper, flanked by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Gary Goodyear, the local MP and Minister of State for Science. It will include a staged interview segment between Harper and Duffy.

What this means is that the Canadian public, after years of thinking of Friendly Mike Duffy as some sort of a journalist, will see him "interviewing" the Prime Minister about the wonderful job the government's been doing and will be more inclined to believe what they are hearing because... well, it's Duff! Even if they know that Duffy is now a Conservative Senator who no longer has to even pretend to be unbiased (and they may not), the impression is still there.

Sadly, the whole 'report card' demand was left far too open to this kind of manipulation from the get-go. The thing should be presented in Parliament, not on TV. And certainly not on CTV.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Today, She's Sorry

It certainly looked convincing. But I would be a lot more inclined to believe that this was a sincere, heartfelt apology instead of just another calculated political manoeuvre if she had done this TWENTY-FOUR HOURS AGO!

UPDATE: I'm wondering if Raitt's sudden remorse has anything to do with an overwhelming flood of angry messages at her constituency office. I'm thinking this after checking the keyword stats at my HaltonWatch blog, which has contact info for her constituency office:

I think maybe I'll take a drive by and see if there are any angry protesters.

Lisa Raitt Made Somebody Cry

Montreal Simon wrote something tonight that nearly broke my heart:

I wasn't planning to write another post about Lisa Raitt today. But that was before I told a friend how Raitt called cancer "sexy." And she started to cry because her mum is being treated for lung cancer.

And before it sunk in that Raitt didn't even have the decency to apologize.

I'd suggest emailing that story to Lisa Raitt, but I'm pretty sure she doesn't read her email. And showing up at her constituency office here in Milton doesn't seem to help either.

I do have her home address...

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Charlie Angus put his finger on it in QP today:

But the lingering plea of the day belonged to the NDP’s Mr. Angus.

“Why can’t you just say sorry?” he yelled from his seat beside the far wall as Raitt made one of her responses. “Why can’t you just take responsibility for what you said?”

Neither question would be answered this day.

Apparently not.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Teflon Blonde

So it looks like Lisa Raitt will be keeping her job. For now. I can't say I'm surprised, although I do expect that after the next cabinet shuffle she just might find herself sitting next to Gary Lunn as the Deputy Minister of Hockey Rinks.

It's very difficult for me to keep my personal feelings out of it when I talk about Lisa Raitt. After all, I spent five weeks helping Garth Turner campaign against this woman. Five weeks of fielding some pretty frightening anonymous calls to the campaign office, watching volunteer sign crews go out again and again to replace stolen signs, and seeing our campaign manager's face turn white when she found out that her son and granddaughter just had their names and faces splashed across the internet - collateral damage in an especially tawdry political smear.

And most of all, having to listen to that nasal, condescending, sanctimonious voice day after day in the media, complaining about Turner's "pornographic" website and telling him to "take a time out" - all while her supporters were out stalking him and harassing him and calling his wife and his staff whores. None of which, of course, could in any way be proven to be her doing.

So yeah. You're goddamned right it's personal.

That said, I do believe that Dr.Dawg is right when he calls for a little perspective here.

Let's keep our eye on the ball. The issue is not a vainglorious Minister with a taste for fame, perks and expensive lunches. It's not even, in this instance, her cover-up of the full magnitude of the Chalk River fiasco. The issue is a government that proceeds under the confident assumption that it should be able to do whatever it wants.

It's a government that goes to court to argue that a Canadian citizen can be exiled by ministerial fiat. It's a government that insists that it has no obligation to any Canadian citizen outside our borders. It's a government that, from on high, revokes a training grant because a Minister has been called a name. It's a government that has allowed Border Security to screen the political opinions to which we might be exposed. And now it's a government that has just tried to drop the hammer on freedom of the press to spare itself--what? A little embarrassment?

In the grand scheme of things, Lisa Raitt is only a symptom of a much wider problem in the Conservative Party, and in our government in general. It's a problem in which the media and even the public is complicit, because most of us simply don't pay attention to serious issues unless sex, scandal or secret tapes are involved. So it shouldn't surprise any of us to hear a cabinet minister cynically discussing a complex and vital public health and safety issue purely in terms of P.R. value, spin and career potential.

These are the signals that have become embedded in the system. This is the kind of thing the public reacts to, so, in an almost reverse-Pavlovian response, this is what our politicians seek to provide. And so they focus, not on issues or policy or doing their jobs, but on the creation and careful maintenance of favourable public perception (or negative public perception against their enemies) by whatever mean necessary.

In fact, I found Raitt's most telling comments to be, not about the 'sexiness' of the isotope crisis, but about the political naiveté of her fellow MPs - Leona Aglukkaq...

“Oh, God. She’s such a capable woman, but it’s hard for her to come out of a co-operative government into this rough-and-tumble. She had a question in the House yesterday, or two days ago, that planked. I really hope she never gets anything hot.”

... and Joy Smith:

“I don’t do the Hy’s thing,” she says. “I can’t. I’d love to, but I can’t. That’ll be a career-limiting move, as we would say. Speaking of career-limiting moves, I’m in shock that that MP Joy Smith brought forward private member’s legislation on human trafficking.

“I didn’t see that,” says Ms. MacDonnell.

“She’s on Canada AM. And the reason being is that there’s no way any of us should be introducing anything around justice issues or finance issues right now. You just can’t touch those two things.”

If any further proof were needed that spin trumps substance in the government and the media, note that the emerging story today is that John Baird stacked the Toronto Port Authority Board last year in an attempt to override the board's ongoing objections to the Island Airport expansion, and also possibly to bury questions about Raitt's expenses during her tenure there. Which is great - except that some of us were banging that drum back in December, and nobody saw fit to run with it back then. But now that the Teflon Blonde has been touched by scandal - now that her perfectly polished image has been tarnished - well, anything might stick to her!

Garth Turner has his own personal reasons for wanting to see Lisa Raitt go down in flames, but he had some surprisingly cogent things to say about all this in a now-rare politically-themed blog post yesterday:

This is the callous, egocentric chatter you hear a lot of in Ottawa. Reputations are made or broken in the “managing” of “files.” Ministers or high-profile MPs who get their spins across in the media or QP can rocket in status overnight, and it’s that political momentum which is more important than the people affected by the actual issues.

This focus on party, leader and personal career is a cancer all its own eating away at the public body.

And not the sexy kind of cancer, either.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Just when I thought this day just couldn't get any better...

... leave it to Wingnuterer to put the icing on the cake.


Thanks, man.

"It's All Bad"

It's confirmed:

Judge dismisses injunction against Herald

By STEVE BRUCE Court Reporter
Mon. Jun 8 - 6:32 PM

A judge has dismissed an injunction against The Chronicle Herald that would have prevented this newspaper from publishing a story involving the former communications director for federal Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt.

Jasmine MacDonnell, who resigned the position last week, was in Nova Scotia Supreme Court today seeking an injunction against a story by Stephen Maher, chief of the Herald’s Ottawa bureau, that is ready to be published.

David Akin, who has been all over the Raitt / Chalk River file from day one, reported earlier this afternoon that this tape might actually be worth all the excitement.

Canwest News Service has also learned that senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office were briefed on the contents of the tape last week.

"It's all bad," said one government source with knowledge of the contents of the tape.

The person who made the recording, according to government sources speaking on condition of anonymity, is Jasmine MacDonnell, Raitt's former director of communications. They believe MacDonnell accidentally recorded Raitt when Raitt and MacDonnell were candidly assessing the capabilities and qualities of other cabinet ministers, including the prime minister.

I'm still not sure how one "accidentally" records a conversation, then "accidentally" loses the recording, after having been fired for "accidentally" losing a briefing book. But I'm sure we'll be finding out really, really soon.

UPDATE: And here we go!

Raitt 'ready to roll dice' on 'sexy' isotope crisis
Minister's taped comments revealed after injunction lifted

By STEPHEN MAHER Ottawa Bureau
Mon. Jun 8 - 6:32 PM

OTTAWA — Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt called the medical isotopes crisis "sexy," said she wanted to take credit for fixing it, and expressed doubts about the skills of Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq on a recording obtained by The Chronicle Herald.

Ms. Raitt made the comments to her former aide, Jasmine MacDonnell, in a conversation that appears to have been inadvertently recorded by Ms. MacDonnell on Jan. 30, while the two were being driven to an event in Victoria, B.C.


Raitt-Gate, Week 2: Cue the Lawyers

Because it wouldn't be a real -gate without secret incriminating audio tapes:

Harper & Co Try to Muzzle Embarrassing Herald Story

By David Bentley

June 8, 2009

There`s a highly embarrassing sequel to last week's Ottawa hullabaloo over cabinet Minister Lisa Raitt's misplaced nuclear-sensitive documents - and the Harper government is pulling out all the stops to prevent The Halifax Herald from telling it.

The newspaper will be in court in Halifax today to defend against an application for an injunction to muzzle information gathered by Hill reporter Steve Maher. understands Maher listened to a tape that was recorded by Jasmine MacDonnell, the Nova Scotian who resigned as Raitt's press secretary after Atomic Energy of Canada documents were left at the bureau of CTV - which broke the story last week.Opposition members like Halifax West MP, Geoff Regan, said Raitt herself should have resigned pointing out that's what External Affairs Minister, Maxine Bernier, did after sensitive papers were left at the apartment of his biker chick girlfriend, Julie Coulliard.

Stephen Harper & Co apparently believe Raitt's political future couldbe seriously in doubt if the Herald publishes what was on the Jasmine MacDonnell tape.

According to one unconfirmed report*, the federal Minister of Natural Resources was recorded making some less than flattering comments about her cabinet colleague, Leona Aglukkaq, the fed Health Minister who entered parliament for the first time last year as the MP for Nunavut.

The full article can be found at Bowie's Blog, who deserves all the credit he's about to get for pulling this one out from behind the firewall and onto the top of National Newswatch.

The thing with a story like this is that trying to block it through a court injunction actually does more damage than letting it run. The rumours get through, but there's no opportunity to do any real damage control because it's suddenly a court matter.

Not that I'm complaining. For in Halton there was Great Rejoicing...

I'll be posting links to related stories here as the day progresses.

Halifax newspaper fights injunction against story publication (David Akin, CanWest News Service)

More on Raitt tapes from Toronto Star (BCer in Toronto)

The tape we can't hear yet (Susan Delacourt, The Star)

It's seldom the break-in, it's always the cover-up (Kinsella)

Court weighs blocking Raitt story (Gloria Galloway, Globe & Mail)

What could be on the Raitt tape? (Scott Feschuk, Macleans)

Ex-aide asks court to suppress story that may damage Raitt's career
(David Akin, CanWest News Service). This one has the best quote of the day, from an unnamed Tory who heard the tape: "It's all bad."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Let's Make It a Real Revolt!

The Star's Susan Delacourt has made note of a growing number of Liberal bloggers who are speaking out today against the Conservatives' crime bill, which would impose mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. She called it a "grassroots revolt" against the Liberal Party's stated intention to let this thing pass. Sadly, a few bloggers do not a revolt make. But hundreds of emails just might be a little more convincing.

I just sent the following email to every Liberal MP, including Michael Ignatieff, and I strongly recommend that everyone reading this do the same. To that end, I put together a handy email list of the entire Liberal caucus on my Facebook page. Just copy, paste, and email away!

As a member of the Liberal Party, I strongly urge you and your fellow Liberal caucus members to vote against the Conservative crime bill C-15, which would impose U.S.-style mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

Mandatory minimums have proven time and time again to be ineffective and counterproductive. In fact, nearly every expert witness appearing before the Justice Committee examining this legislation said that it would fill our jails while doing absolutely nothing to curb crime or decrease drug addiction. Countries around the world - including the United States - are backing away from this type of narrowly punitive approach to drug crime, and Canada should be doing the same. Instead, this bill will drag us backwards.

This is not a confidence motion. What it is is an opportunity for the Liberal Party to show some spine and prove that our Party still represents progressive, practical policy and not blind populism.

For more information from a legal perspective, please read the following analysis:

Thank you for your consideration.

Lisa Raitt's Paper Problem: The Gift the Keeps On Giving

Another gem from Jeff Jedras. But really, it's hard to go wrong with material like this.

Meanwhile, word from David Akin is that Lisa Raitt may just be having a serious staffing problem right now. Turns out 26 year-old Jasmine MacDonnell was the most senior and experienced person on her staff. Right now all she has is an even younger acting chief of staff, and no parliamentary or policy advisor at all.

Oh, and I've met the new guy in her constituency office. I think my son's older.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

YLC Ad Challenge: I'm in the Final Three!!!

Please take a moment to go to the Young Liberals website and vote for my video, "Join the Party!" Deadline for voting is Thursday at 5:00 pm, so don't dally!

(UPDATE: I'm moving this to the top of my blog since there's less than TWO HOURS LEFT TO VOTE!! Results will be announced Friday.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another Lisa Raitt Staffer Bites the Dust

That bump you just felt was an unnamed Lisa Raitt staff member being thrown under the bus.

Interestingly, Lisa Raitt's constituency office manager was also apparently fired a few months ago, for reasons unknown. This is the same guy who really wanted to run as the Conservative candidate himself, but instead stepped aside to support Raitt when she was parachuted in.

I sure hope they get a decent severance package.

(BTW, allow me to be the first to dub this... Papergate.)

Heads Are Gonna Roll

Lisa Raitt might just be destined to join Maxime Bernier on the backbench over this one:

Secret federal documents reveal full AECL funding

Sensitive government documents left behind at a CTV News bureau reveal Ottawa has poured far more money into the aging Chalk River nuclear reactor than the public has been told.

The binder of documents was left nearly a week ago at CTV's Ottawa bureau by either Minister of Natural Resources Lisa Raitt or one of her aides. Some of the papers are clearly marked "secret."

Oops. Of course, it's unclear at this point which is worse: the fact that 'secret' documents dealing with our nuclear industry were left for a week in a TV studio without anyone noticing, or the actual information contained in those documents:

...In documents headlined "Background for discussion with chair of Atomic Energy Canada," the government lists funding for the Crown corporation at $351 million for 2009-2010. That figure was in the January budget.

However, it also lists $72 million to "maintain the option of isotope production." The public 2009 budget does not specifically mention funding for isotopes.

The documents also include a hand-written note that lists total funding for Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. since 2006 at $1.7 billion, and then a talking-point memo to characterize the spending as "cleaning up a Liberal mess."

...Publicly, Ottawa has downplayed Ontario's interest in the sale of AECL's Candu division. But included in the binder is background information for a May 25 meeting with Glenna Carr, who chairs the board of directors for AECL: "The government continues to support AECL's bid in Ontario, but the announcement will probably raise questions about this support. We will have to manage this very carefully."

On the bright side, this little faux pas has probably saved the government at least a year and a half of ducking freedom of information requests.

Meanwhile, according to a recent interview with our man on the nuclear beat David Akin, Lisa Raitt's plan is apparently to give up Canada's leading role in nuclear technology in favour of a "continental" approach. And by "continental", she means...

"We have to look to . . . the United States. For all the medical isotopes that they use — and it's 100 times more than what we use — they don't have a reactor to produce their own medical isotopes. So we are working with them as well because I think it's really important to approach this from a North American continent point of view and not have a situation where we're depending on five aging reactors in the world."

John Ralston Saul is whispering in my ear again: "...fear of owning...". I never thought I'd say it, but thank God for people like Frank Stronach, or this country would just be one big goddamned branch plant.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gerard Kennedy Coming to Halton!!

It's official - Gerard Kennedy will be the featured speaker at the Halton Federal Liberal Association's upcoming cocktail fundraiser! Squee!!! Love this guy!

You're all invited. In fact, even if I wasn't on the riding board I'd pay money to hear Gerard Kennedy speak. It's certainly going to be a better time than paying twice as much to listen to these guys.

Halton Federal Liberal Association

An evening of cocktails with a Liberal helping of conversation


Gerard Kennedy

MP Parkdale High Park, opposition critic for infrastructure, cities and communities

When: June 17th, 2009, 7:00 pm (registration starts at 6:30)
Where: Holiday Inn Oakville-Centre, 590 Argus Road
Tickets: $85.00 (estimated cost after tax credit: $32.50)
Ticket includes fantastic finger foods with vegetarian options and one drink ticket.