By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 24, 2012 - 0 Comments
Various allegations of phone mischief were made during the last federal campaign and various ridings have been cited this week in connection to the fraudulent calls being investigated by Elections Canada. Because the allegations vary—rude calls, late night calls, calls about polling stations, etc—it’s probably worth clarifying how many ridings may have been impacted by calls meant to misdirect voters to fake or incorrect polling stations.
Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher identified seven such ridings.
The robocalls received in Guelph were recorded in female voices in both French and English. They told voters their polling stations had moved to a shopping mall in the city’s downtown, where parking was scarce.
A Citizen-Postmedia investigation has found calls misdirecting voters were also reported in ridings across the country: Kitchener-Waterloo, Kitchener-Conestoga, London-West, Parkdale-High Park, Winnipeg South Centre and Sydney-Victoria. It is possible that they were caused by robo-dialing errors.
Beyond that, there is what was reported nine months ago. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 7:11 PM - 29 Comments
Early on in the first NDP leadership debate, one of the moderators admonished the audience for applauding. There was apparently no time for such stuff. Indeed, there was barely any time to say much of anything.
The nine individuals arrayed before us, setup before a backdrop of fidgety humanity, took turns talking fast. Blessed were those who finished their sentences before the moderators, talking fast themselves, demanded that someone else start talking. Within this two-hour lightning round was something called “rapid fire,” in which each candidate was given 15 seconds to explain how they’d revolutionize the national economy or balance the federal budget. It was a perfect blur for the Twitter age, everything made to be answerable in 140 characters or less. Poor Romeo Saganash, suffering from bronchitis, spent the afternoon struggling to catch his breath. Continue…
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 10:40 AM - 7 Comments
They’re overworked and overtired, sure. They’re also unapologetically surly.
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said he felt “sick” and “angry” after watching a YouTube video uploaded by a city transit passenger depicting an Ottawa bus driver verbally harassing another passenger. The passenger was apparently reading aloud from a sexually explicit play he had written; he also happened to be autistic. “Shut the f–k up,” “Shut your ignorant f–king cake-hole,” and “If you don’t shut your f–king face I’m going to stick my ﬁst in it!” are just a few of the driver’s alleged correctives caught on tape (unfortunately the video only captured an image of the victim, not the perpetrator). The passenger, who described himself as “mildly autistic,” can be seen giving a very meek apology and darting off the bus at the next stop. Mayor Watson is shocked and appalled. I’m not—shocked, that is. Say what you want about city transit employees—they’re overworked, underpaid, overtired—but you can’t deny that they are, by and large, an unapologetically surly bunch (except, in my vast commuting experience, the ones in Nova Scotia, where everyone is delightful). And it’s about time someone told them to snap out of it. Being miserable is all well and good when you’re a Subway sandwich artist or telemarketer (two of my own previous occupations, coincidentally), but when you’re a public employee and your job requires that you deal daily with the elderly, inﬁrm—and yes, some of the 35 million plus tourists who visit Canada each year—it should also require that you check your surliness at the folding doors.
I might not be so harsh on transit workers if they would only discriminate. But they’re equal opportunity churls: they’re mean to everyone. An immigrant with a hard-to-comprehend question, an old lady with a bundle buggy, a homeless guy with someone else’s recycling, a serial teen-mom, a puppy—you name it, they yell at it.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 2:34 PM - 17 Comments
The Hill Times tallies the number of people employed by the government for the purposes of “communications.”
The Hill Times went through the government electronic directory service to get a rough idea of how many communications staffers—people paid to help craft and disseminate any given government message—currently work in the public service, ministerial offices, the PMO and the PCO. In all, there are currently around 1,500 communications staffers working in government offices and departments across Canada, including 87 in the PMO and PCO.
That’s roughly five for every MP. And if that total doesn’t include staff employed by opposition MPs and leaders’ offices, the ratio is even higher.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 7:42 PM - 31 Comments
Maybe it is just the season—as soon as the clocks are turned back each fall, Ottawa is suddenly made even darker and colder than usual—but the daily insulting of the public’s intelligence seems particularly dreary of late. For sure, it has been worse. And it may yet get worse. But has it ever seemed so witless? Has it ever felt so leaden? Is it just us or is it getting dim in here?
There is much to be said—with expletives and otherwise—about the government’s recent penchant for shutting down debate. But it is surely more than that.
It is, no doubt, certain practicalities: the temporary status of the two opposition leaders, the prolonged nature of certain disagreements or the lack of some tangible new gazebo-based outrage to focus on, for instance. But it is also the collective and universal decision that sound economics, study and evidence are not particularly necessary when formulating public policy. It is the rote demagoguery. It is general neglect. It is smug disregard. It is the willingness of grown men and women in business attire to stand and allow themselves to be used to read scripted banalities and invective into the official record.
It is not all bad, of course. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 6:39 PM - 0 Comments
Martin Singh touted himself as the pro-business candidate. Thomas Mulcair touted himself as Stephen Harper’s nightmare and a man who can say no to organized labour. Paul Dewar unveiled his urban agenda and worked the room in Toronto. And Peggy Nash joined the race with two objectives.
There was yet another reason to question the purchase of new F-35s. David Anderson tried to explain the Canadian Wheat Board with a cartoon. More emails meant more questions for Tony Clement, which Deepak Obhrai and Pierre Poilievre promptly threw themselves in front of. Stephen Harper worried about the global economy. And the government pledged to destroy all traces of the long-gun registry, while the Victims Ombudsman defended the registry’s usefulness. Continue…
By Nicholas Köhler - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 11:30 AM - 5 Comments
Craig Oliver recounts life on the Hill in ‘Oliver’s Twist: The Life and Times of an Unapologetic Newshound’
When not distracted by their métier—bearing witness, asking questions, conveying facts—journalists do what comes most naturally to them: they drone on, drop names and deliver glib pronouncements on those they cover. Reporters who write memoirs risk bronzing that same tripe. How lucky we are that Craig Oliver, best known for his political reporting for CTV, often opposite Lloyd Robertson, saw the dangers and dove in anyway, writing a book at once human and sharp.
The Dickensian allusion in its title, Oliver’s Twist: The Life and Times of an Unapologetic Newshound, is earned: he grew up in tough Prince Rupert, B.C., both his parents alcoholics; his father made a job of his hobby, becoming a bootlegger. When his mother vanished, turning to taxi driving and another man, Oliver’s father shopped him around to various paid foster homes, an unhappy experience. One surrogate, Mabel, was particularly tormenting. “I forgot myself and called her ‘Mommy,’ ” he writes. “I had a real mother, Mabel told me, but she was an immoral woman who had left me behind.”
Oliver otherwise fended for himself, growing up among prostitutes, gamblers and other modern-day pirates—a one-legged steam-bath owner and Ricardo the Hook, who lost a hand in the war. “I felt no loneliness and in fact revelled in the novelty of my circumstances,” he writes. Billeted with a Christian family, he briefly became a target for conversion, a failed project: “Too much untried temptation lay ahead, and I was willing also to give the devil a chance to convert me.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 9 Comments
Scott Stinson wonders whether we care about our legislatures (or whether our legislatures give us anything to care about).
The speaker was explaining that she didn’t think much of the work conducted in the provincial legislative assembly. “Most of my issues are around the quality of debate and the research and the fact that you can pretty well get up in the house of assembly and say whatever it is you like,” she said. “You don’t have to be concerned with truth.”
… It’s not an uncommon sentiment among members of the public, and if the statement was from one of those ubiquitous morning-radio bits where they stick a microphone in front of someone who is filling their gas tank to measure “the public’s” opinion, it would have been unremarkable. But this was the Premier speaking. Kathy Dunderdale, the newly elected Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 6:31 PM - 2 Comments
The United Nations found evidence of torture in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister demurred in regards to the Ontario election. Lisa Raitt mused vaguely of amending the Labour Code and blocked a strike at Air Canada. Tony Clement promised open government. Newfoundland and the Yukon stuck with their incumbents. Bruce Carson left behind some bills. And Canadian conservatives fell just short of a symbolic majority. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 2:39 PM - 28 Comments
The Occupy Wall Street movement arrives in Canada this weekend with hopes of influencing the political scene.
“I think our movement can energize the political left,” Lasn said. ”In Canada we have Harper so strong, the Conservatives so strong because there is no energized opposition. Over the next few months, and possibly one year, it’s possible for fascinating, exciting new ideas that the political left has had for a long time, for those ideas to push up from the grass roots and start having an impact again on Canadian politics.”
Tilleczek said youth organizers in Canada have been trying to galvanize the movement, criticized by some for lacking a clear expression of its demands, by invoking the image of former New Democrat leader Jack Layton, whose death in August from cancer touched off a remarkable display of national grief and affection.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 10:52 AM - 20 Comments
Paul Dewar discusses the impact of his faith on his politics.
Dewar’s background is as a teacher, but his call to politics was heavily influenced by the religious beliefs passed on to him by his activist parents, Ken and Marion Dewar, and by the Ottawa church the family attended for decades, St. Basil’s Roman Catholic.
“Faith and politics are congruent and we have no option but to be political if we are going to live the gospel,” Dewar is quoted as saying in the forthcoming book Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life by Ottawa author and former NDP MP Dennis Gruending. “We have to constantly question what the Christian message is and we can never stop trying to change the way things are in society.”
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 2:59 PM - 6 Comments
Inside a ballroom—the Pearson Room, so named for Lester B.—at the Lord Elgin hotel in downtown Ottawa this afternoon, Paul Dewar launched his campaign for the NDP leadership.
For me, this leadership campaign is our chance to build on our social democratic principles. This is our opportunity to work with Canadians on the challenges we face together:
To build a brighter economic future for working people and their families. To make Canada a leader, not a laggard, in combating climate change. To restore the opportunity for young people to get a quality education, and not a crippling debt. To achieve true reconciliation and respect in our relationship with First Nations. And to strengthen health care for all Canadians with improved access to prescription drugs and quality home-care.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 12:52 AM - 0 Comments
More of Tony Clement’s private emails became public. Peter MacKay stated the case for staying in Libya. Jack Harris made the case for changing course. The House agreed with the Defence Minister. John Baird addressed the UN. Dick Cheney’s feelings were hurt. The Harper government ended debate on its crime bill and opened investigations into the CBC and the NDP. And the Prime Minister made a great show of meeting with the Finance Minister and the Governor of the Bank of Canada. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 30, 2011 at 9:53 AM - 41 Comments
(This post last updated at 7:46pm)
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Insite safe injection facility—a unanimous ruling in the facility’s favour—is here.
The Minister made a decision not to extend the exemption from the application of the federal drug laws to Insite. The effect of that decision, but for the trial judge’s interim order, would have been to prevent injection drug users from accessing the health services offered by Insite, threatening the health and indeed the lives of the potential clients. The Minister’s decision thus engages the claimants’ s. 7 interests and constitutes a limit on their s. 7 rights. Based on the information available to the Minister, this limit is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. It is arbitrary, undermining the very purposes of the CDSA, which include public health and safety. It is also grossly disproportionate: the potential denial of health services and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users outweigh any benefit that might be derived from maintaining an absolute prohibition on possession of illegal drugs on Insite’s premises.
10:46am. Liberal health critic Hedy Fry applauds.
10:51am. The Canadian Public Health Association applauds.
11:37am. Ms. Davies raised the court’s decision in QP just now, provoking a response from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. Continue…
By John Geddes - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 12:10 PM - 1 Comment
Melanie Aitken has taken on everyone from the real estate industry, to credit card companies, to airlines
In Stephen Harper’s Ottawa, it’s not often that a public official makes a sustained splash. The Prime Minister prefers his bureaucrats quiet, diplomats discreet, and even high-level appointees, like Governor General David Johnston, unobtrusive. In this circumspect climate, Melanie Aitken, the commissioner of competition, stands out. As head of the federal Competition Bureau—the independent agency that enforces laws on anti-competitive behaviour—Aitken has taken on everyone from the real estate industry, to credit card companies, to airlines. The bureau has gone from largely invisible to impossible to ignore. “We are trying,” Aitken says, “to increase the accountability of companies that have taken advantage of Canadians, and show that there are consequences.”
Those consequences hit home for many last year when she pressured the Canadian Real Estate Association into opening up its Multiple Listings Service to brokers who don’t charge full-service fees. She is taking Visa and MasterCard before the quasi-judicial federal Competition Tribunal to try to end their practice of forcing merchants to accept all cards, including premium plastic that comes with higher transaction fees. In the telecom sector, Bell Canada agreed to pay a $10-million penalty after Aitken accused the company of advertising lower prices than were available, and she is pursuing Rogers Communications (owner of Maclean’s) over what she calls “misleading advertising” involving a discount cell service.
When was the last time the bureau was fighting on so many fronts? According to John Rook, a competition lawyer at the Toronto firm Bennett Jones, never. “It’s unprecedented,” says Rook, who worked closely with Aitken when she was at his firm, and sometimes takes on cases for her bureau.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, September 26, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 11 Comments
No mere backbencher, the Tory elder played a key role in returning the party to power
Firing him would have been easy. Few people outside of Mississauga, Ont., had heard of Bob Dechert before he rolled the dice on his career by trading amorous emails with a correspondent with the Xinhua news agency, Communist China’s official mouthpiece. Thanks in no small part to the 53-year-old MP’s own giddy prose—“I really like the picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed” fits nicely into a single tweet—the story quickly found legs: by the middle of last week, the reporter, Shi Rong, was on front pages across the country.
Dechert downplayed the exchanges as “flirtatious.” “The friendship remained innocent and simply that—a friendship,” he said on his personal website, which also features a picture of him with his long-time wife, Ruth Clark. But the image of a middle-aged man in the throes of a grade-school crush has stuck, overshadowing Dechert’s little-known status as a party fixer that insiders believe may have spared him relegation to the backbenches. Messages sent from Shi’s inbox—apparently by her angry husband—revealed not only that the married MP had professed his love for the journalist, but that Shi had sought a divorce to pursue her new relationship. “To continue her love affair with this member of Parliament,” the jilted man typed in a message sent to all 240 of his wife’s contacts, “Shi Rong pitilessly asked to end her marriage while stationed overseas.”
For a Conservative government that once talked tough about Beijing’s espionage program, it was more than a bit of domestic unpleasantness. Xinhua is a state-owned news agency whose foreign bureaus have in the past served as less-than-convincing cover for Chinese spies. “It’s an open secret that many of the Chinese reporters stationed overseas actually work for Beijing’s Ministry of State Security,” says Li Ding, deputy editor-in-chief at Chinascope, a Washington-based agency that monitors and analyzes Chinese media. “Westerners think of Xinhua as a news service. In fact, it is a government agency.”
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, September 25, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Libby Davies and Megan Leslie counted themselves out of the NDP leadership race. Paul Dewar thought about getting in. Peter Julian picked up two more endorsements. Thomas Mulcair lamented for his lot. Brian Topp challenged Stephen Harper, considered the Middle East and won two endorsements.
Bob Dechert was mocked. Lisa Raitt threatened back-to-work legislation. The government tabled its omnibus crime legislation, which the Liberals offered to amend. Charlie Angus chided Tony Clement, whose arse was covered by Deepak Obhrai. The Prime Minister rejected the Palestinian gambit and posed with the Benjamin Netanyahu. Peter MacKay exited a fishing trip and travelled to a lobster carnival in style. Planned Parenthood received government funding. David Cameron addressed Parliament. Vic Toews predicted the crime rate’s continued decline. We learned that Abousfian Abdelrazik nearly ended up in Guantanamo. And Don Davies took on Dick Cheney.
Paul Martin mused on fixing the world economy. Brian Brown looked forward to localist government. Chantal Hebert challenged MPs. Munir Sheikh considered the demise of the long-form census. Rob Silver proposed an end to the war on drugs. John Geddes tested the government’s crime legislation against reality. Mike Moffatt weighed the value of a vote. Alex Himelfarb measured our inequality. Scott Clark and Peter DeVries took stock of the tax code. And the Agenda compared political rhetoric and economic reality.
By Paul Wells - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 126 Comments
Paul Wells takes an inside look at where the power really lies in Ottawa
For a loner, Stephen Harper works surprisingly well with others. The Prime Minister won his job by earning the loyalty of the old Reform party even though he used to be Preston Manning’s most persistent internal critic. He ended a decade’s rivalry with the Progressive Conservatives after doing more than almost anyone to fuel the rivalry.
He has wooed former Liberals into his caucus, sent New Democrat Gary Doer to Washington as Canada’s ambassador, and even put the occasional former Bloc Québécois member on the government payroll. No premier except Newfoundland’s now-retired Danny Williams has seen any political profit in antagonizing him. Harper drives his political opponents so crazy that it’s less frequently noticed how often he makes allies.
But the flip side of that coin is that his alliances rarely last. He hardly talks to former advisers like Tom Flanagan. He is on his fourth chief of staff, sixth communications director, and fifth foreign minister since he became Prime Minister. Jean Chrétien kept Eddie Goldenberg at his side for nearly 40 years. Paul Martin kept his 1990 Liberal leadership team around him until the day he retired. Harper’s team is like George Washington’s axe in the old joke, its blade replaced three times and its handle 26. All that remains is the ability to chop down opponents.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 4:18 PM - 0 Comments
The speaking notes for John Baird’s remarks at the National Arts Centre memorial ceremony this morning.
Ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests, friends and colleagues: Those beautiful notes we just heard hang heavy with memories of that terrible morning 10 years ago.
On this solemn anniversary we remember and honour all those who lost their lives or a loved one. Nearly 3,000 people died that day – including 24 Canadians – in senseless acts of terror. Many left behind still grieve for the loved ones taken from them. Today, we stand with them in solemn solidarity. Sadly, the terrorist threat is still with us. Still very real.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 6:55 PM - 106 Comments
Here lay Jack Layton. Here where he basked in the warm glow of the television lights and held forth each afternoon. Here before the grand door to our grandest room. Here where you can turn your gaze just slightly upward and see the Prime Minister’s office. Here a few flights of stairs below the ornate office that Mr. Layton was to occupy for the next four years. Here between the portraits of Borden and King, surrounded by carved sandstone, underneath a ceiling of decorated glass. Here wrapped in our beautiful flag.
Down the hall and around the rotunda and down another flight of stairs and then outside and along the path that leads to the magnificent Centre Block, a thousand people made their way to his casket. In Toronto, a thousand words written in chalk in a public square. On the lawn of Parliament Hill, probably several thousand millilitres of orange soda mixed in among the flowers and notes and balloons.
This is how we mourn and remember and mark and honour. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 11:39 AM - 4 Comments
Still, Bricker said Layton’s long-term legacy appears to be the fact that he built a coalition of supporters — from Toronto urbanites to rural Quebecers — who now vote NDP. And that, said Bricker, has sown the seeds for an outcome that appears inevitable — a two-party system.
”When you take a look at the people who did cross over and actually decide to vote NDP, they have a lot in common. Both in terms of the way they think — their world view — and what they look like demographically. He’s actually consolidated a fairly cohesive, coherent political coalition on the left.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 22 Comments
Mohammed Adam considers the deserted embassy across from Parliament Hill as a symbol of the capital’s plight.
Longtime city watcher Rhys Phillips agrees. “One thing about Ottawa that is probably unique to Canadian culture is that the country almost hates its capital,” he says.
That resentment, Dewar says, has infected decision-makers in Ottawa and created a “paralysis or reluctance” to champion and promote the capital. “Ottawa is used elsewhere in the country as some kind of punching bag, not a capital city we should be proud of,” he says.