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

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

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

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

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

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

Mario Laguë

A terribly sad day in Ottawa. Michael Ignatieff’s Director of Communications died this morning in a motorcycle accident. Here are the statements from the party leaders. I met Laguë once. There was a kindness and quiet about him. My thoughts are with his family.

Michael Ignatieff:

“It is with great sadness that we learned this morning that our Director of Communications, Mario Laguë, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Ottawa.

“A man of many talents and accomplishments, Mario was a beloved member of our staff, and a valued personal advisor to me and the entire Liberal team. A man of great integrity and spirit, Mario served his country in many capacities with honour and dignity. Whether as a public servant under Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, Ambassador to Costa Rica or in his most cherished role as a husband and father, Mario brought a bright light to everything he did.

“While we will miss Mario’s extensive talents, we will miss most of all his warmth, his humour, and his passion for Canada that inspired us all.

“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary caucus, my thoughts and prayers go out to his family, loved ones and the many, many friends and colleagues that knew him.”

Stephen Harper:

“I was very saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing today of Mario Laguė, Director of Communications for the Leader of the Opposition.

“Throughout a varied and distinguished career, Mr. Laguė served his country with dedication both in Canada and abroad. His numerous roles included serving as Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Director of Communications, as Quebec’s Delegate in Venezuela and in Mexico, as Canada’s Ambassador to Costa Rica, and as Assistant Secretary to Cabinet – Communications and Consultations in the Privy Council Office.

“Mr. Laguė will be greatly missed by those who knew him personally and who worked with him throughout his career. His devotion and service to his country are his legacy.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts and prayers are with them in their time of grief.”

Jack Layton:

I was deeply saddened this morning to learn of the sudden death of Mario Laguë, Director of Communications to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. On behalf of all New Democrats, I wish to extend my heartfelt sympathies to Mr. Laguë’s family, friends and colleagues.

Beneath the political fault lines that we find ourselves negotiating each day, there is a foundation of deep respect among those who devote their lives to public service. No matter what political stripes we may wear, we all feel this loss profoundly.

Mr. Laguë was a man of gentle strength who devoted decades to building a better country. We admire the consistent integrity he brought to his work, whether he was advising a Quebec premier or Canadian prime minister, or representing us all overseas as a Canadian ambassador.

We reserve a special place in our hearts today for Mr. Lague’s wife and two children. I know so well that a political career is always a full-family endeavor. They too have given much. And as we mourn with them today, we do so as extended family.

In case Liberals have short memories on their own remarks re: Helena Guergis

Today, former Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis revealed that the RCMP has cleared her of any wrongdoing in their investigation of her. The investigation was said to begin after the Prime Minister’s Office referred information that it had obtained to that arms-length agency. After referral the RCMP decided to initiate the investigation, it now seems that they have cleared Ms. Guergis.

For their part, the Conservatives say that the issue of writing a letter on behalf of a constituent with possible business connections to her husband still looms and is under review by the Ethics Commissioner.

Up until her ouster from cabinet by the Prime Minister and investigation by the RCMP, Ms. Guergis had a string of bad news events which raised questions from the Opposition about her competency and ability to represent Canadians in cabinet.

When she was ejected from cabinet and kicked out of caucus, the Opposition took an about-face to demand why she had been removed. Now that she has been cleared by the RCMP, expect this line from the Liberals and NDP to be renewed.

Despite her being cleared by the RCMP, the PMO says that Ms. Guergis is still not welcome back in caucus. If the Liberals take her into their own ranks, will it reek of hypocrisy? The following comments were made before the RCMP investigation was announced. Does Guergis have the confidence of Michael Ignatieff?

Selected readings from Derrick Snowdy’s Facebook wall

Derrick Snowdy, the private investigator behind the allegations of drugs and “busty hookers” that got Helena Guergis kicked out of cabinet, has recently become a very public figure. Since the time when he (probably) sourced The Star’s Guergis story, he has been a bit unreachable, jetting off to the Bahamas and… locking down his Facebook profile.

Here are some of Snowdy’s recent status updates from Facebook. I’ll only quote updates that are relevant to the media scrutiny of Guergis/Jaffer/Gillani/Snowdy.

Derrick Snowdy is planning a few days away from the circus. I think next week looks like a good time to go to DisneyWorld
Yesterday at 7:58am via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy no hearings huh, hmmm me thinks someone spilled the beans toJack. now he wants it hushed
Mon at 8:14pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

[name withheld] Taliban Jack?
Mon at 8:23pm

Derrick Snowdy Yep, I guess he knows now how close this is going to hit home with a certain NDP and he needs time to prep
Mon at 8:25pm

Derrick Snowdy today was interesting… if you all only know what I know now!!!
Mon at 12:08pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy is changing the tune
Sun at 12:47am
2 people like this.

[name withheld] Heh, when do we hear about the book deal?
Mon at 11:56am

Derrick Snowdy is a about to spill the beans on just how much the Liberals paid him………yeah right…like i would take money from Liberals….they so don’t know me at all
April 17 at 9:21am

Derrick Snowdy GONG SHOW journalism….the killer is
nobody is investigating Gillani
April 17 at 9:34am

[name withheld] take thier money and then donate it to the conservatives :) once you hit your cap buy more guns with the rest :)
April 17 at 9:35am

Derrick Snowdy is dividing up the 13 million….who wants some. Does anybody think somebidy will start asking about CATSA soon?
April 17 at 1:38am

Derrick Snowdy is thinking that the first reporter to pay my cell phone bill will get an interview
April 15 at 7:43pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy I can’t come to the phone righr now, I’m busy driving around in my Tank burning 100 dollar bills
April 16 at 10:04am

Derrick Snowdy is wondering where this media gets this weird story from……
April 15 at 7:30pm

[name withheld] and which weird story would that be?
April 15 at 7:32pm

Derrick Snowdy This lost money investor thing
April 15 at 7:43pm

Derrick Snowdy They are claiming I fucked over all the employees at epic and stole all the money. As manager of HR Geoff what do you think
April 15 at 11:42pm

[Geoff] Nonsense. I’m not sure how ensuring your workforce transitions into equivalent positions at another firm constitutes screwing your employees but I’m all ears if someone can explain it to me.
April 16 at 12:25am

[name withheld] They have no clue what you did at the end for the employees of Epic. You could have just locked the door and walked out, but you didn’t. Like you said to me way back when… The only thing you cared about was giving people jobs.
April 16 at 11:32am

Derrick Snowdy Feel free to send them an email, Kinnaird is sending lots of annon garbage
April 16 at 11:36am

[name withheld] It’s the cover story on the cover of the Star. But they spelt your name wrong.
April 15 at 6:00am via Facebook for iPhone

Derrick Snowdy they always do
April 15 at 10:29am

Derrick Snowdy suggests reading tomorrows Toronto Star….Mr. Kevin Donovan
April 14 at 11:09pm

Derrick Snowdy believes that everytime Michael Ignatieffs opens his mouth he confirms the fact that somewhere a village is being deprived of its idiot
April 12 at 11:49am

Derrick Snowdy is heading out of town for a few days. Message me if you need me
April 11 at 1:09am via Facebook for BlackBerry

[name withheld] Does this have anything to do with all those papers you were shredding the other day ???? :D
April 11 at 2:56am

Derrick Snowdy I shredded nothing….lost, misplaced and encoded are another story LOL….
April 12 at 11:48am

Derrick Snowdy hmmm, this will be interesting. break out the paper shredder
April 9 at 12:56pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy as a life long Conservative the proposed itax has me ready to puke…
April 1 at 9:52am via Facebook for BlackBerry

and in case you were wondering… Snowdy does play Mafia Wars on Facebook.

The NDP: don’t let them tell you it can’t be done

From December 2nd, 2009,

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, honesty is the best policy. That applies to the HST, even though the Conservatives are blaming the provinces. With the help of the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois, the Conservatives are going to raise taxes on heating fuel, which will hurt people in northern Ontario and elsewhere.

How, in good conscience, can those people vote to increase families’ heating costs next winter? How can they do that?

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, getting a lecture from the NDP with respect to taxes is quite something. I never thought I would live this long to hear it.

This is the government that brought forward major tax reductions for Canadian families, major tax reductions for small businesses, major tax reductions with respect to the GST. Every single time the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance tried to cut taxes, they faced the wholehearted opposition of the NDP and leader of the NDP who wanted to keep the GST at 7%. The only problem the NDP has with the HST is that it is not 2% higher.

April 6th, 2010:

NDP hikes HST to 15%

…effective July 1st, [Nova Scotia] will raise the HST on most other things by two points to 15 percent, the highest combined sales tax in the country.

April 6th-Present day

“…”
— Jack Layton

Jack Layton’s awkward dance on abortion

At the moment, I’m watching MPs vote on motions before the House of Commons. A controversial vote on a Liberal motion on “Maternal and Child Heath” was just narrowly defeated, thanks in large part to a hold-out of Liberal MPs standing against Michael Ignatieff.

Most will remember that earlier this year, Michael Ignatieff got himself into some hot water by challenging Prime Minister Harper on the delivery of health and support for women and children in the third world. The Liberal leader decided to add the divisive issue of abortion into the mix and suffered the headline from The Catholic Register: “Ignatieff urges abortion for world’s poor”.

Before the vote, the NDP put out a press release concerning the wavering Liberal position on “maternal health” criticizing the Liberals and their leader for replacing demands to include abortion services in aid with a demand for “contraception”.

Today the Liberal Party will propose a motion asking that the government “include the full range of family planning” in its maternal and child health initiative to be unveiled in June at the G8 summit in Toronto.

At first glance, the motion is in keeping with what Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff pledged last month:

that aid for abortions abroad is crucial if Prime Minister Harper is serious about making maternal health a “top priority” for Canada.

“We don’t want to have women dying because of botched procedures. We don’t want to have women dying in misery. We’ve had a pro-choice consensus in this area for a couple of generations and we want to hold it.” – Michael Ignatieff, Toronto Star, Feb 2 2010.

But the devil is always in the details. A closer read of the motion shows that in the intervening weeks the Ignatieff Liberals have backpeddled from their earlier position, making specific reference only to “contraception” but not abortion.

If Layton is so sensitive about a simple motion before the House, he must have hit the wall when it came to not only the biggest domestic piece of American legislation since the new deal, but also the biggest horse-trading session as well.

Among concessions suffered by the Obama administration in jamming the Frankenstein piece of legislation through Congress was one final sell-out of the progressive/liberal plank of the Liberal wing of the Democratic base.

Late on Sunday, Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak wressled one final concession from Obama securing an executive order from the President banning federal funding for abortion in turn securing passage of the bill. But while we’re on the topic of federal funding for abortion, let’s check to see Layton’s reaction in the House yesterday to the passing of abortion-free Obamacare:

Mr. Speaker, 44 years after medicare was implemented in Canada, we extend our congratulations to President Obama for bringing comprehensive health care reform to the people of the United States. Now, of course, the Americans will be looking to Canada for the next steps.

One wonders if Tommy Douglas envisioned a system where “big insurance” would be guaranteed profits and profits collected by the IRS, no less. Federal funding of abortions for none, tiny hope and change stickers for everyone!

The devil is in the details, Jack.

The pulse of a nation

measured by Facebook

It was quite a game yesterday and one of those defining moments sure to be included on an updated version of the Canadian immigration quiz. I awoke yesterday hearing Foster Hewitt’s classic cry “Hennnnnderrrsssson” from the classic 1972 Canadian-Soviet series when Henderson scored with 34 seconds left in the final game, playing over and over in my head. I didn’t know then but it turned out to be a good sign.

When Zach Parise scored a tying goal with just 24 seconds left, almost 30 years to the day of the famed American “Miracle on Ice”, Canada’s heart felt a jarring palpitation as seen by the first spike of status updates in the chart above.

The second spike would come about half an hour later when Sidney Crosby scored the overtime goal against the US to enrich an already golden games for Canada.

ASIDE: I was somewhat amused (and actually impressed) by Jack Layton’s ability to find a camera as we all watched the gold medal game. Jack was watching at Gretzky’s bar in downtown Toronto and kept popping up in reaction shots when CTV would show different crowds watching the game around Canada. I missed it the first time, but our friends at the Torontoist show us Jack’s gold medal determination at a sport he has dominated for quite some time.

I believe / J’imagine Jack.

Michael Ignatieff’s Prorogation Vacation

In Ottawa, depending on their content requirements, Hill reporters are loving or loathing the prorogation so far. For activists, a second prorogation in little over one year has those on left seething in anger over what they perceive to be an “affront to democracy”.

To be sure, this isn’t to be dismissed lightly; despite your political inclination, there is a tangible perception that Stephen Harper is firmly in control of Parliament and its functions, for better or worse. While our Parliamentary system and it’s advantages and shortcomings may be formally debated at another time, some online activists have taken to Facebook to informally vent their frustrations. The CBC’s Terry Milewski reports on the Facebook group with over 25,000 people:

Too bad Terry wasn’t the The National’s senior national affairs correspondent last year when the anti-coalition Facebook group soared to over 125,000 in a week. To be fair, this week has been slow while last year’s coalition story was the busiest week we’ve had in Ottawa in years and there were many other non-Facebook stories to report!

Anger over prorogation is a parliamentary issue, so one wonders, where is the parliamentary political leadership? A healthy democratic grassroots movement is forming online and the would be leaders are… on vacation!

As Milewski remarked, and as CTV’s Roger Smith confirms below, Michael Ignatieff is on vacation in Europe while Jack Layton is snorkling in Belize. Opponents to prorogation have remarked with some hyperbole that “MPs just gave themselves a three month vacation”. While the Conservative line is that MPs are indeed working in their ridings consulting with constituents on the next phase of the economic recovery, it is Stephen Harper’s opposition that is on vacation. Grassroots Canadians on the left are upset that their Parliamentarians aren’t “working” in Ottawa, while their partisan leadership jets off for a little R&R.

Smith reports that the Prime Minister has been in Ottawa working.

This isn’t the first time that Michael Ignatieff has been criticized for being out of touch with the grassroots of his party and of course, this will just feed into the Conservative narrative that the Liberal leader is aloof and on “academic time”.

This month, The Walrus has an interesting description of Ignatieff’s working style,

“Indeed, there were rumours that he needed a nap in the afternoon or turned into a snarling wolf by nightfall.”

and from the Toronto Star, his adamant defense of “Iggy time”,

Also, Iggy’s staff misled Canadian media about his 2006 vacation – they told the media that his mother-in-law was ill, when in fact he was off on a European holiday. “There is no health crisis. There never was… I’m entitled to a holiday.”

Last year, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Ignatieff’s family has a villa in the south of France where “property of similar size in the area sells for upwards of $1.8 million”. It is unknown if he has made time to visit the estate while on vacation.

Meanwhile in Canada, are we seeing the budding of a significant political movement? If so, where is the political leadership?

UPDATE: Did Michael Ignatieff forget to tell his staff that he went on vacation?

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack has jumped the candlestick

Tonight, Jack Layton attended a local candlelight vigil to mark/protest/mourn/do-something about climate change. The vigil was part of a larger global effort organized via Blackberry, cellphones and Facebook. He tweeted:

http://twitpic.com/taa1o – Joining a moving global candle vigil, in #Toronto, with new friends Anastasia and Michelle #cop15

Throughout our history of scientific achievement as a civilization, progress has most significantly been marked by maximizing outputs while minimizing input and waste output. This is the standard engineering principle of efficiency.

The industrial revolution that started in the 18th century is referenced as a pivot point of human impact on its environment. Since this era of increased efficiency, from the advent of the assembly line and distributed tasks at the outset to the miniaturization of electronics to maximize calculative output most recently, our progress is marked by our giant leaps of efficiency. It may be unpopular, but no less true, to recognize that it has been the industrial revolution — indeed still ongoing — that has and will continue to allow us to produce more from less and waste less in the process. For example, the wheel is one of our earliest innovations and has been improved and made more efficient at least one thousand fold with respect to input costs, labour and yes, even CO2 output.

Tonight, the leader of Canada’s socialist party — a party representing an ideology that has sought to increase the costs of input (organized labour, tariffs on inputs) while diminishing the benefit of the output (taxation on goods produced, regulations of its use) — very symbolically holds a flame for the very principles that would jam the gears of modernization, efficiencies and progress. Instead of allowing the inherent market mechanism that favours efficiency to reduce waste (CO2 as a by-product), Layton and friends use a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel to act broadly against desired outputs and necessary inputs rather than just waste.

While leaders around the world seek to reinvent the wheel outside of market based innovation and progress, Jack Layton is at home tending to our earliest invention. One hopes that Layton realizes that the candle he holds is more symbolic than logical as a burning candle produces 7x more CO2 output per lumen of light than a 40W incandescent lightbulb (calculation here). To decry our own greed and supposed inefficiencies, Layton harkens back to a time before the first refinement of our first spark of genius.

Layton’s flame is symbolic, though perhaps not in the way he intended. Indeed, his burning candle is symbolic to our self-loathing attitude towards a process that brought billions out of relative poverty since the 17th century, has extended our life expectancies by decades through health research and nutritional knowledge, and has allowed mass communicative capacity to organize protests, rallies, vigils and the like. Jack’s flame, much like his solutions, are inefficient and regressive.

Though Mr. Layton would put up flame to the bridges that have brought us health, wealth and happiness since a darker age, hopefully other leaders will have a lightbulb moment and realize that it has been our unbridled innovative capacity and not a misguided effort for central planning, that has and always will move us along the road to enlightenment.