Free Speech under attack!

Here’s something I didn’t know 24 hours ago. Did you know that it is illegal for anyone in the National Capital Region to use the term “Parliament Hill” to describe a place or business that isn’t that hill on which Canada’s Parliament resides? It’s true, and it’s outlined in s.80 of the Parliament of Canada Act,

80. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any Act of Parliament or regulation made thereunder, no person shall use the words “Parliament Hill” in combination

(a) to describe or designate a property, place, site or location in the National Capital Region described in the schedule to the National Capital Act other than the area of ground in the City of Ottawa bounded by Wellington Street, the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River and Kent Street;

(b) to identify any goods, merchandise, wares or articles for commercial use or sale; or

(c) in association with a commercial establishment providing services.

(2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

One wonders how many former political staffers have ever considered hanging their shingle on the name “Parliament Hill Consulting/Strategies/Communications/Group”

Censorship in Ireland?

It all started with a bit of an amusing piece on the evening news.  It seemed that a prankster was walking into Irish art galleries and hanging nude painted portraits of the country’s Taoiseach (the head of the government appointed by the PM).  The portraits were elaborately painted and could be somewhat passable among the other artwork yet gallery patrons asked staff about the pieces and the jig was up.

The country’s state broadcaster decided to do a piece about the interesting prank.

And that ended what must have been a rather uneventful day in Irish news. That is, until the Taoiseach’s office called the state broadcaster to complain. The next evening’s newscast contained this apology:

“On last night’s program we carried a report on the illicit hanging of caricatures of An Taoiseach in two Dublin galleries. RTE News would like to apologize for any personal offense caused to Mr. Cowen or his family or for any disrespect shown to the office of Taoiseach by our broadcast.”

Irish bloggers and columnists are calling the move censorship of the news and we’re already seeing predictable results of amplification caused by the government’s move to meddle.

Rally for Canada budget consultation survey results

On Friday, I sent out an email to the tens of thousands on the Rally for Canada email list asking them to participate in a small survey concerning the upcoming federal budget.  I asked people four questions concerning the government spending and their public policy priorities.  Over three thousand people responded on Friday and over the weekend.  I will be passing on the results to the office of the Minister of Finance as promised.

Q: On the question of Canada’s upcoming federal budget to get us through the economic crisis, which balance within the following options do you think is best for the government to implement? (n=3003)

Q: Which issues are most important to you from a government policy point of view? (n=3051)

Here is the same graph sorted in descending order (n=3051):

Q: What should be done with the Senate? (n=3007)

Q: What should be done with funding for the CBC? (n=2998)

Some notes: “n” is the number of respondents to each question.  Data was gathered from 8am Friday through midnight Sunday night.  Sample data is gathered from a population set that registered on the anti-coalition website RallyforCanada.ca between December 4th 2008 and January 9th 2009.  Answers were not randomly cycled.

That said, this data gives us insight into the priorities of Canadians who are against the concept of a Bloc-supported NDP-Liberal coalition government.  The first question was a careful balance on both sides of the spending vs. taxes debate.  On one hand, the answer set does not include an option to decrease spending and on the other, four out of five answers prompt at least some tax relief.  Most analysts believe that the federal budget will include some tax relief and stimulus in the form of government spending.  The largest group believed a balance spending/tax relief approach would be best while the second largest group favours substantial tax relief and no new spending (given the options presented).

The second question had 24 options.  Each option was a yes/no checkbox to pick public policy priorities.  There was little surprise on the distribution of public policy interests as the generally right-of-centre respondents selected jobs, economy, crime, tax cuts, healthcare choice, and military spending as priorities while passing on foreign aid, culture and arts, and native affairs.  Wheat board reform is generally a conservative priority yet this question is likely too regional for a national survey.

On the specific questions, it is of particular interest that 90% of respondents believe that the Senate in it’s current form must change.  Only 10% of respondents thought that the Senate ought to be left as it is.  On the question of spending for a particular budget item, respondents indicated that funding for the CBC should be decreased (61%) while only 6% thought it should be increased.

What of the Liberals and abortion?

From the National Post:

OAKVILLE – Stephane Dion has challenged the Prime Minister to clarify his view on abortion, threatening to reignite the debate as Canada careens toward a fall election.
The Liberal leader issued his challenge to Stephen Harper while answering a question at a town hall meeting on Wednesday night in Oakville.

The event was billed as a discussion of Mr. Dion’s carbon tax plan, but a member of the audience instead asked his views on the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. The private member’s bill would make it a criminal offence to harm an unborn child during an attack on its mother.

Mr. Dion said he opposed the proposed legislation because it might infringe on women’s access to abortion.

“We need to protect everyone against crime, but, at the same time, it happens that I believe in the rights of women to choose and I have a lot of respect for the people who have a different view,” he told the crowd.
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Mr. Dion then called upon Mr. Harper to state his own position on abortion.

And the latest in the Parliament Hill window series from Liberal MP Tom Wappel:

Is that a sign in Tom Wappel’s office? It looks familiar to another sign that sparked some controversy.

Is it really?

It is! Hooray for double standards!

Mr. Dion should ask some of his Toronto area MPs about their views. These photographs were taken today.

In 2005, Stephen Harper stated his views on legislation and abortion at the CPC policy convention:

“And, while I’m at it, I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion.”

FLASHBACK: Liberals are hypocrites on abortion

RELATED: Call the Parliament Hill window police

UPDATE: From Monday’s (8/25) Hill Times we learn that Tom Wappel took the sign from Rob Anders and put it up in his own window.

Re: “Tory MP Anders forced to remove ‘pro-life’ from East Block window” (The Hill Times, July 14, p. 1). Your article really intrigued me, as, in my 20 years as a Member of Parliament, I have never heard of a policy regarding what can or cannot be put in the window of Parliamentarians’ offices.

So I did a little digging. I contacted the Speaker’s office, the Sergeant-at-Arms Office, Canadian Heritage, the House Accommodation Services Office, and the Conservative Whip’s Office. Guess what? There is no policy!

Since there are signs in numerous other windows which were there before Mr. Anders removed his, and which are still there (e.g. “Veterans for Obama ’08 in the Confederation Building), I wanted to know why Mr. Anders’ sign (“Defend Life”) had been singled out for attention and removal. It turns out it was because someone had complained about it. Why? Since other signs remain in windows, it is clear that there have been no complaints about other signs. Thus the complaint has to be not about a sign in a window, but about a sign in a window which was assumed to be a pro-life sign in a window.

Well, I am proud to be pro-life. Being so is not a criminal offence (yet). Expressing my pro-life views is not illegal (yet). What can be more fundamental in the very seat of our democracy than our Charter cherished freedom of expression?

So, I have borrowed Mr. Anders’ innocuous sign and put it in my window in East Block, and there it will stay.

… — Tom Wappel

Why is Wappel free to express his views while Anders was rebuked? The Conservative “hidden agenda” narrative is ready to be resurrected by the media at a moment’s notice. It was a Liberal senate staffer that complained about the sign. What is her opinion of Wappel’s ability to express his opinion on the issue?

Call the Parliament Hill window police

Spotted in Hedy Fry’s 5th floor office window at the Confederation Building on Parliament Hill:

I’m not sure how Fry qualifies as a veteran, but she’s got the sign and she’s showing her support for the presumptive Democratic nominee for President!

Flashback from the Hill Times:

Conservative MP Rob Anders was recently forced to remove a “pro-life” sign from his East Block office window on Parliament Hill after receiving a formal letter of complaint from a Liberal Senate political staffer and after the chief government whip told him to take it down.

The large blue and white “Defend Life” Knights of Columbus sign could clearly be seen for a few weeks before it was removed on July 2 and one day after abortion rights activist Dr. Henry Morgentaler was named to the Order of Canada among 75 for one of Canada’s highest honours.

Amélie Crosson, an assistant to Ottawa Liberal Sen. Jim Munson, sent a formal letter of complaint to Mr. Anders, all MPs, Senators, assistants, party leaders, whips, and party caucus services, on June 27 after she noticed the sign on June 23 while walking to work.

Ms. Crosson told The Hill Times that in her 10 years on the Hill, she could not remember ever seeing a sign in a window before and after she found out whose office it was, she sent a letter of complaint to all MPs.

“All of us who work here are passionate about politics and specific political issues, but if we all start to decorate the exterior of our windows,” she wrote, “in no time, our Parliament Buildings will look like a collection of university frat houses.”

UPDDATE: I’ve received an email from Team Fry. It has been reprinted with permission from it’s author Tim Campbell.

Jason Kenney opines on HRC/Canadian Islamic Congress case against Steyn

Well-read and well-written conservative columnist Mark Steyn has become the subject of a “human rights” complaint filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress.

The complaint draws Steyn and Macleans, the magazine in which his articles appeared, into a lengthy proceeding in which the fundamental freedoms of the writer and the historic Canadian magazine could be suspended. If the CIC is successful in their complaint, both Steyn and Macleans could lose their freedom to publish and/or opine on certain issues.

Macleans had published an excerpt from Steyn’s popular book America Alone. In the excerpt Macleans quotes Steyn’s book:

“The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes” — From America Alone, by Mark Steyn

However, likely unknown to the CIC at the time was that the offending quote was actually that of a Mullah Krekar, a Scandinavian Muslim.

Joining the Canadian Islamic Congress in asking the state to clamp down on press freedoms are four Osgoode law students. At one time, legal activism on civil rights would make a great start to any young lawyer’s career. However, legal activism against civil rights may not be the best career move. However, who knows, there is always hope in the Canadian legal system for a variety of activists, right?

Here’s a letter sent to one of those law students by Jason Kenney, Canada’s secretary of state for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity:

Letter to Khurrum Awan from Jason Kenney (.pdf)

The letter appears to be in response to correspondence sent to Mr. Kenney regarding statements he made defending press freedoms against those disingenuously flying the banner of human rights when the head of the CIC himself has, at other times, shown contempt for those rights.

In closing, Kenney seems to suggest that Awan may have acted inappropriately by signing his correspondence with “Judicial Law Clerk / Articling Student at the Law Office of the Chief Justice Ontario Superior Court of Justice. After all, it would be troubling if it was the opinion of the Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that a Canadian journalist has published material deemed not only offensive to the Canadian Islamic Congress and over-caffeinated il-liberal law students but to the judiciary.

In closing, Kenney asks:

“Were you writing on your own behalf? Or were you writing on behalf of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice? I have taken the liberty of copying Roslyn Levine, Executive Legal Assistant in the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Justice for clarification.”