UN agency cuts Darfur refugees' rations

I was saddened to hear todaythat the UN plans to cut individual food rations to six million people sheltering from violence in Sudan by half, saying it cannot afford to give them all a proper daily ration.

The UN's World Food Program (WFP) is cutting daily rations to an average of just 1,050 calories per person, half a normal daily diet tally of 2,100.

The WFP cannot afford to buy more food because donor countries have slashed their donations this year to only $238 million US, or 32 per cent of the $746 million US that the program said it needs in Sudan this year. Canada is among the countries which have slashed funding for emergency food aid in Sudan. Last year, it gave over $20 million. This year the figure is just over $5 million.

What does it say about Western society when we are spending billions in Iraq just to satisfy a blood-thirsty President's lust for war and letting hundreds of thousands starve in Darfur?


CAW cuts ties with NDP

Some time ago the Ontario NDP voted to dump Buzz Hargrove because of his antics during the election.In retaliation the Canadian Auto Workers council has voted to break ties with the New Democratic Party. The union said the resolution "encourages CAW local leadership, staff, members and CAW local unions currently affiliated to the NDP to withdraw all support and affiliations to the NDP federally, provincially and in the territories."

The NDP should say: "Good riddance, Buzz."

Harper and the Media

Catherine Smith of Orleans, Ontario, writes in the Ottawa Citizen:

"I find it fascinating that the careful control of media access to Stephen Harper and his cabinet continues to have journalists tied in knots of indignation. Do they not realize that this hunger for access plays to a carefully orchestrated plan? The goal is not to usher in a prolonged ice age in communications with the Prime Minister's Office, nor is it to foment a civil war between the pundits and cabinet ministers.

"On the contrary, the experiment has been designed to encourage the journalistic community to foam at the mouth in frustration and then, at the appropriate time in mid autumn, let the barriers down with a flourish. The media will have learned a lesson in humility and be so grateful for access that reporters will fall all over themselves to sate an overwhelming appetite for Conservative spin. Mr. Harper and his crew will welcome the attention just in time to chip away at Liberal leadership convention coverage and with single-minded determination create "winning press coverage conditions" for a Conservative majority in the next election.

"B.F. Skinner's famous theory of behaviour modification is very much in action here. One wonders if all the "rats in the maze" will continue to focus only on the sustenance beckoning at the end of the tunnel, or begin to comprehend the training techniques of punishment and reward that put them there in the first place."


McGuinty under attack for position on equalization

Dalton McGuinty is under attack for his position on equalization and fiscal imbalance. Why did McGuinty walk away from the Premiers' conference and attack a report by experts that the Premiers themselves had commissioned? Methinks it's because McGuinty intends to play the traditional card used by provincial Premiers/ running against the federal government in the next election.

McGuinty has variously been accused of: abandoning Ontario's role as "the big brother in Confederation" (Prince Edward Island Premier Pat Binns); "taking the car and the credit card and leaving those of us with less resources in the family behind" (Binns again); having a "narrow vision" of the country (Quebec Premier Jean Charest); committing an "act of aggression" (unnamed provincial official quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press); setting "a perilous course" (editorial in the Montreal Gazette); "sacrificing the national interest" (column in Montreal's La Presse); adopting a "me-first" attitude (editorial in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal); and raising victimhood to "pathetic proportions" (editorial in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix).

An article in the
Star reveals some startling statistics. Ontario ranks ninth among provinces (ahead of only Manitoba) in spending on hospitals, for example, and dead last in spending on colleges and universities. Ontario is also just one of two provinces (P.E.I. is the other) running a deficit.

Re the deficit McGuinty could have fixed it in the last budget but he chose not to do it spreading the surplus around instead.He'll balance the books in the months leading to the election.


Ignatieff: Torture Redux

In last month's Prospect, Michael Ignatieff wondered if torture, under some circumstances, may make us safer.In the May issue Steve Crawshaw, UK director of Human Rights Watch, answers with a firm no.

Crenshaw argues that Ignatieff seemed to answer those questions with, respectively, a “yes, probably” and an “in the circumstances, many might think so.”

Ignatieff opened the door for those with fewer scruples, arguing that “moral prohibition comes at a price” and that those of us who oppose torture should “also be honest enough to admit that we may have a price to pay for our own convictions.”

Ignatieff argued that an absolute ban on torture might prevent our intelligence services from gaining “timely access to information that may save lives.” The “ticking-bomb” scenario, as it is usually known, can seem persuasive. Exposed to reality, however, the hypothetical is no longer so neat. It has damaging consequences for individuals and societies alike.

Crenshaw concludes that "torture degrades the torturer and those who condone it; acceptance of torture undermines the very foundations—and thus the security—of our society. Rules do matter, even if some of our politicians seem reluctant to confront that truth. Iraq today is a country full of ticking bombs. On the face of it, this would seem to be an obvious case where more torture could help keep everyone safer. If you torture hundreds or thousands of alleged radicals, one might confess where or when the next bomb will be placed. In reality, the shameful use of torture has only helped plunge Iraq into ever deeper instability."


International instabilty strengthens Williams' negotiating hand

With the world in a state of unrest,Newfoundland's stability strengthens its hand as crude oil prices continue to surge.

By global standards of political instability and mounting violence that have made the oil and gas industry a dangerous neighbourhood, Newfoundland offers an oasis of peaceful development. Because of his pursuit of an equity stake in the undeveloped Hebron field off Newfoundland and his rejection of a $500 million subsidy demanded by the U.S.-led consortium on the project, Danny Williams has been described as "Canada's Hugo Chavez".

Danny is a tough negotiator. In the end Big Oil will back down. Where else can they get secure reserves and a stable political environment? Why should Newfoundlanders pay for the obscene $400 million retirement package of Exxon chairman Lee Raymond?

Harper: Hypocrisy re choosing Committee Chairs

PM Harper is choosing which Conservative MPs will become chairs of Commons committees, reversing a parliamentary reform that he championed while leader of the Official Opposition.

This raises the likelihood the chairpersons' loyalties will be to the Prime Minister rather than the MPs on the committees, who may at times wish to publish reports critical of government policy.

Mr. Harper was a vocal critic of appointing chairs when he was leader of the Official Opposition. In 2002, he co-wrote a letter to The Globe with Chuck Strahl, now the Minister of Agriculture, accusing the Liberals of "posturing" on parliamentary reform.

"Standing committees of the House should not simply be extensions of the Prime Minister's Office, and members of Parliament should choose their committee chairs by secret ballot and set their own agenda, free from the Whip's direction," Mr. Harper and Mr. Strahl wrote.

This move reeks of hypocrisy.


The secret plot to destroy the Liberals

PAUL WELLS wrote a column in Macleans entitled "The secret plot to destroy the Liberals." The essential thesis is that all the back-scratching between the Tories, the NDP and the BQ is aimed at removing the Liberals from the game board.

While the column by Wells makes for good reading, the terminology "plot to destroy" is a bit strong.

There's no doubt that Harper would like to see the NDP weaken the Liberals by garnering more left-wing votes. But that doesn't constitute a conspiracy.

This is not much different from the Liberals chuckling as Preston's Reform Party stole votes from the PCs.

Obviously Harper needs to keep the Liberals weak if he is to secure a majority.

What's surprising about that?


Columnist Denley:Kennedy has left schools a mess

According to Ottawa Citizen columnist Randell Denley, Liberal leader hopeful Gerard Kennedy
has left Ontario schools in a mess.

"A recent Citizen story about the school board's foundation raising money for things like art and music programs had Kennedy scratching his head. How could the board need more money when his government had increased its budget by 16 per cent over the last three years?
It's an easy question. Most of the money was to pay for the teacher raises Kennedy negotiated or for the decrease in class sizes and increase in preparation time his government ordered. In other words, much of the money was spent before the board even got to it.

"The provincial government would have us believe it has delivered lots of money for new specialist teachers in art, music and phys-ed. Not quite. It bundled that money into a sum it sent to cover the increased preparation time it mandated. What little was left was used by our school board to pay for core French in the primary grades, a program the province does not cover.

"Public education is not no-frills education," Kennedy recently said. Sorry, but it is, and it's just barely that.

"Premier Dalton McGuinty describes public education as his "pride and joy," but his performance there is a microcosm of what's wrong with his whole approach to government. The provincial Liberals promise new things we really can't afford while papering over problems in paying for what we've got now.

"Gerard Kennedy's great success is that he made the McGuinty education con game seem plausible. If you want a taste of reality instead, check out the school board website at www.ocdsb.edu.on.ca and look for the board's position paper on education finance. It makes nine sensible recommendations to fix the board financial mess. None has been acted on."

re David Herle; for benefit of Anonymous

For the benefit of Anonymous who can't seem to find the reference to David Herle being identified with Kennedy's leadership bid, here's the extract from McMurdy's Citizen column:

"Peterson's anti-Rae barb a hint of what's to come in Liberal leadership race
Article Tools
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Font: * * * * Deirdre McMurdy, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Friday, April 14, 2006
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but even if the principals are able to keep in their claws, there remains the issue, as Mr. Peterson has now demonstrated, of the baggage carried by their supporters. The risk is that, given the fresh wounds and deep divides in Liberal ranks, much of the residual bitterness of old rivalries will surface.

Although many senior party members have yet to commit -- and some, like Cyrus Reporter, a former aide to Allan Rock, are sitting on the sidelines by taking on such jobs as candidate liaison for the party -- there's plenty of scope for uncivil sentiment.

The divisions of loyalty are already apparent. For example, Mr. Smith, a Chretien confidante, has been holding get-acquainted breakfast sessions for the novice MP with leading Liberal powerbrokers at his elegant, antique-stuffed condo just off Toronto's Bloor Street.

At the same time, others of Mr. Smith's political vintage, such as senior Chretien policy adviser and confidante, Eddie Goldenberg, are viewed as Rae supporters. (They reportedly chilled together at a weekend meeting of the party's western arm in Edmonton.) Martin-era loyalist David Herle, on the other hand, is said to be in Gerard Kennedy's camp.

"The dispersal of the traditional camps is a positive," says the party organizer. "There's less stark polarization, though granted, this is still politics."

For all the noble rhetoric about a new era of civility in politics, something that Mr. Harper has flagged as a priority for this parliament as well as for previously testy external relations with key partners like the United States, not everyone is convinced that the talk will endure the walk. Especially in the Liberal leadership contest.

"It's not about civility, it's about support in the second ballot and beyond," says Stephen Le Drew, former president of the Liberal party. "The beating start after the second ballot. Until then, nobody wants to piss anyone off because they want to keep that potential support alive."

After that, all bets are off.


© The Ottawa Citizen 2006


Exxon Chairman Gets $400 Million Retirement Package

While gas prices soar at the pump, at least one man isn't complaining.

Last year, Exxon made the biggest profit of any company ever, $36 billion, and its retiring chairman appears to be reaping the benefits.

Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.

Last November, when he was still chairman of Exxon, Raymond told Congress that gas prices were high because of global supply and demand.

"We're all in this together, everywhere in the world," he testified.

Is this not obscene? How can you justify paying one individual so much, drawn from the pockets of poor hardworking folks?


Why Gerard Kennedy is not PM material

The Liberals need a credible alternative if they are to have any chance of defeating Harper next time. Gerard Kennedy just does not have the heft for the job. He'll also be carrying the baggage of being part of the McGuinty govt as anti-McGuinty fever begins to build in Ontario. But an even bigger con is that David Herle is in his camp, according to today's Ottawa Citizen.

Harper government eliminates 15 programs dedicated to Kyoto research

Late Thursday afternoon the Tory government confirmed it is killing off over a dozen research programs related to the Kyoto protocol. On the eve of a long weekend when governments traditionally dump bad news for the least possible public exposure, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn issued a news release saying 15 programs were being eliminated.

Lunn said the programs had run their course.

"The new government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is committed to putting an end to the massive increase in (greenhouse gas) emissions that Canada has seen over the past decade,'' said the release.

"To do that, we need a new approach to addressing climate change that is effective and realistic for Canada.''

Meanwhile that same day a scientist with Environment Canada was ordered not to launch his global warming-themed novel,Hotter than Hell. The novel imagines a world where global warming has made parts of the world too hot to live in, prompting a war between Canada and the U.S. over water resources.

Apparently Mark Tushingham, whose day job is as an Environment Canada scientist, was ordered not to appear at the National Press Club to give a speech discussing his science fiction story about global warming in the not-too-distant future.

PM Harper said the Conservative governing platform "will include measures we're going to develop over the next year or so to deal with both pollution and greenhouse gases.''

But the Globe and Mail reported that cabinet documents they had obtained suggest the cuts won't stop at 15 programs. The newspaper reported that the Conservatives will cut 80 per cent of programs aimed at curbing global warming at Environment Canada. Budgets in other government departments aimed at climate change will be slashed by 40 per cent.

Clearly the Conservative government is abandoning Canada's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol while pretending otherwise. Environmental groups are calling on the Opposition parties to defeat the government if it proceeds to cut Canada's climate change programs.

MacKay grovels at Rice's feet

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay went to Washington and met U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In post-meeting interviews he gushed like a schoolboy about great Rice is and how pleased he was to meet her.

"I'm delighted to be here. I've always been a fan of yours,'' he told Riceat a joint news conference in an ornate department ballroom.

"And much of our discussion today confirmed what I already knew about you from having followed your career.''

"We're very grateful and I personally extend my thanks to you for your generous and very kind invitation to be with you,'' he said as Rice smiled politely.

The meeting, said MacKay, allowed the two to establish a "personal rapport'' indicative of the "historic'' relationship. He noted Rice's "warmth, her intelligence on so many of these issues in which Canada has a deep and abiding interest.''


Danny Williams takes on the oil companies

Danny takes on the oil companies and the giants take on Danny. Who will prevail?Has Danny bitten off more than he can chew this time? On the other hand, why should these corporate giants be allowed to hang on to NL resources in perpetuity?

Following the brakdown in talks between the province and the petroleum consortium, apparently Chevron Canada Ltd. is moving at top speed to dismantle its stalled Hebron offshore oil project. The company said it and its three partners have no intention of reopening talks with Newfoundland any time soon, even as the province moves quickly to give itself the legal tools needed to expropriate holdings in Hebron and get the project back in development. Months of negotiations over Hebron broke down this month, prompting Chevron to announce last week that it would suspend the project and disband the team of workers assembled to propel it.

Premier Danny Williams has said he believes Irving, Tex.-based Exxon Mobil Corp., the largest Hebron partner, is responsible for the impasse -- the companies say it was a unanimous decision -- and has vowed to force a sale of its stake if necessary. Trade experts warned that any move to expropriate could cost billions, and would virtually guarantee a mammoth lawsuit from Exxon under NAFTA.

Graduates should pay if they leave Nova Scotia

Former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm’s prescription for dealing with the annual exodus of Nova Scotia university graduates to greener pastures is: "Punish those who leave, reward those who stay." He has proposed a carrot-and-stick approach to stem the exodus of new graduates.

He proposes that students who leave the province after they graduate should pay back some of the cost of their education.

"We have traditionally been a training ground for other jurisdictions and maybe we should look more aggressively at saying, ‘If you stay in Nova Scotia, that’s great, but if you don’t stay in Nova Scotia, maybe there’s an indebtedness that you take on by taking the training that was paid for partly by the Nova Scotia taxpayer and take it to another jurisdiction,’ " Hamm said.

Nova Scotia university tuitions have climbed to become the highest in Canada at an average of $6,281.


Bush/ Congress running out of time

Bush' credibility took a hit when it was revealed that he authorized the release of sensitive intelligence in an effort to discredit a vocal critic of the invasion of Iraq. It is now doubtful that he can reverse a political nosedive. Bush is becoming powerless to influence events in Congress, where rebellious Republicans and opportunistic Democrats have combined to stall some of his most important initiatives.

Iraq continues to plague Bush's presidency as civil war looms. As one commentator observed, "This president can now measure in a relatively few number of months his window for effective governance."

An AP-Ipsos survey recently released indicated that only 36 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance. The same survey also indicated that only 30 percent of the public approves of the job performance of the Republican-led Congress, and those polled said Democrats should control Congress, 49 percent to 33 percent.


Trudeau's separatist youth

The Globe and Mail has a story about a new book on Pierre Trudeau which reveals that when he was in his 20s, Mr. Trudeau wanted to see the creation of an independent Quebec solely for French Canadians.

This disclosure is stunning to put it mildly.The book gives a picture of Trudeau as a young man that is sharply at odds with his image as the father of multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the 1930s,Trudeau appeared to embrace the kind of narrow ethnic nationalism that he later scorned, favouring the creation of an independent Quebec that was French and Catholic. Trudeau was still promoting the idea in 1942, when he joined a "secret" revolutionary group plotting to form an ethnic-based country, the book reveals.

The book, written by two Trudeau admirers, Max and Monique Nemni, says he was influenced by the conservative, church-dominated intellectual currents of Quebec in the 1930s and 1940s. It says that despite his lifelong image as a rebel and contrarian, he didn't resist the day's pro-fascist views.


Did you get your aresenic today?

ARSENIC is often called the king of poisons, but it is everywhere: in the environment, in the water we drink and sometimes in the food we eat. And particularly in the chicken we eat.

It is deliberately being added to chicken. There is a very high chance that if you eat chicken some arsenic would be present because it has been a government-approved additive in poultry feed for decades. It is used to kill parasites and to promote growth.

Human exposure to it has been compounded because the consumption of chicken has exploded. In 1960, each American ate 28 pounds of chicken a year. For 2005, the figure is estimated at about 87 pounds per person. In spite of this threefold rise, the F.D.A. tolerance level for arsenic in chicken of 500 parts per billion, set decades ago, has not been revised.


Timing of next election

The Globe and Mail ran an online poll asking:

When do you think the next federal election should be held?

More than 40% of respondents expect the next election not to take place until 2008 or later. 38% expect an election by spring 2007.

By the end of 2006

(18%) 2264 votes

Spring 2007

(20%) 2593 votes

Fall 2007

(19%) 2410 votes


(44%) 5664 votes

Total votes


Further move to continental integration

The Council of Canadians has denounced the results of the recent Cancun trilateral summit on the grounds that the PM has taken Canada further down the road of continental integration - a move that will further erode Canada’s ability to make decisions independent of the United States and in the interests of citizens.

The Summit dramatically advanced the agenda of deep integration by creating a new North American Competitiveness Council and mandating ministers to meet with business leaders - an unprecedented development.

This latest development clearly puts business leaders in the driver’s seat and gives them the green light to press forward for a North American model for business security and prosperity.

“Stephen Harper brought Canadian CEOs with him to Cancun and yet there has been no public consultation and no parliamentary debate,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “Harper campaigned on ‘standing up for Canada’ but he has proven, at this summit, that he is standing up for the corporate sector without regard for what the public really wants or needs.”


How the mighty fall

The media pundits made great ado over Chretien hanging on to power to thwart the great pretender Paul Martin. Now it's Ralph Klein's turn. Is it possible? Only 55%percent of the delegates supported him continuing as leader. And it was only yesterday that the MSM were questioning whether he would stay if he got as low as 70% support!

It reminds me of Joey Smallwood who led Newfoundland into Confederation with Canada and ruled the province as king in all but title for 21 years. As a student rebel at MUN I remember joining the protests to tell Joey it was time to go. But he clung to power until bested by Frank Moores in a tied election in 1971. Young Cabinet Ministers Clyde Wells and John Crosbie had already deserted him by crossing the floor to sit as independents.Crosbie went on to a successful career as a federal Conservative and Wells to the practice of law until he returned as Liberal Premier years later. Joey did great things for Newfoundland as Ralph no doubt did for Alberta. But he refused to recognize, like Ralph, when it was time to move on. There are countless other examples of politicians who cling to power long past their "Best Before" date.

And Ralph, easterners will never forget your immortal words: "Let the eastern bastards freeze!"