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In a recent announcement from the Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, it wasannounced that all chaplains currently working in Canada’s prisons would have their contracts terminated except for those practicing the Christian faith. Those of the Christian faith would not be responsible for providing “interfaith” ministry. Chris Selley, in a recent editorial for the National Post, expressed his disbelief in the decision by the Department of Public Safety. The Minister explained that “The government was not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preference through government funding”.
Selley did not hold back, letting his readers know that he believed the explanation to be complete and utter rubbish. Beyond his moral disapproval, he does not understand how the government could begin to fathom how such a policy would be approved or survive a Charter challenge. Moreover, Selley asserted that this proposal is a mistake for the Conservative government, politically speaking. It appeals to very few and reinforces, in his words, this government’s “bastardly image” all for nearly no cost savings. Selley, in his typically blunt way with words, ended his article declaring Toews’ ineptitude for his current position, stating that the sooner the minister leaves the better for everyone.
In no way did Selley hide his discontent for the Minister’s most recent decision, and it is very likely he was not the only one. While Chris Selley has never been a highly neutral journalist, this decision by the federal government treaded on very personal grounds and deserved the media attention that it received.
IVISON: “Harper’s civil service shuffle an attempt to make ‘Yes, Minister’ actually mean something” (The National Post: CA)220 days ago by Emily.Thompson
In his most recent post for The National Post, John Ivision discusses the most recent changes in the upper echelons of the federal public service. After Francis Maude, the Conservative Cabinet Office minister, condemned the behavior of several public service members for refusing to complete the orders of their ministers, the Prime Minister shuffled several deputy ministers, giving eight government departments new bosses. In his latest article, Ivison has tapped into an age-old tension between bureaucrats and their political bosses. While elected officials are technically in control, many would argue that it is actually the heads of departments who have the real power or oversight; a fact that does not suit many in the executive. Ivision asserts that this imbalance of power certainly did not please the Prime Minister and as a result, this shuffle is a clear reminder to civil servants that he is taking back government.
Ivision finds the most intriguing part of this shuffle to be where the deputy ministers were place and not simply the fact that it occurred. Most significantly, Ivision acknowledges Michelle d’Auray’s replacement by Yaprak Baltacioglu as Secretary of the Treasury Board, to be a clear indicator of what happens when senior officials do not obey the wishes of their “political masters”. D’Auray’s shuffle to the Department of Public Works comes after recent introductions of new rules within Treasury Board giving Ministers final approval over spending for all departmental events that cost more than $25,000; an initiative that was resisted by senior bureaucrats.
While this tension is nothing new, it is one that has plagued the Canadian (and as Ivision notes, the British) government for decades. What Ivision’s article most significantly demonstrates is Harper’s method of dealing with what he sees as a weakness in his chain of command. In what Ivision deems to be the Prime Minister’s “typically blunt style”, Harper wants to make it clear that it is he who really “runs” the country.
With Justin Trudeau riding his family’s legacy through his recent announcement that he will seek the Liberal leadership, Liberal Party Activist and Huffington Post blogger Zach Paikin, son of Canadian journalist and TVO’s The Agenda host Steve Paikin, pleads to party supporters to reconsider their automatic endorsement of Trudeau.
“Following their party’s historic defeat in the 2011 federal election, Liberals made a pledge to focus on rebuilding the party from the ground up,” says Paikin, a pledge that in his mind does not include “Trudeaumania.” He says instead that Liberals should select their next leader whilst keeping in mind what he calls an “unavoidable truth,” that the Liberal Party of Canada would not win a federal election in 2015.
Paikin’s reasoning for his adverse feelings towards Trudeau 2.0? He cites the distance that the Grits would have to make up in the polls, NDP voting-stealing, and the vast distance between where the Liberals are now, and a realistic shot at wrenching away the Prime Minstership from Stephen Harper. The way Paikin sees it, “the Liberals are looking at two to three election cycles – a full decade worth of rebuilding- before the process of growing the party is rendered complete.”
Paikin continues to frame the two questions a “true leader” must address. First, what is the Liberal vision for the 21st century? Second, how would one go about revitalizing the party’s operational capabilities? He then conveniently offers his answers to his leadership qualifying questions. Standing out from the other parties and demonstrating a resilient ability to stay on message, are what Paikin rather unsurprisingly offers up as his game changing answers.
For Paikin, the Tories stole the vote from the Grits because they had that clear message. It read something along the lines of ‘Canadians, you have two options: “stability (a Conservative majority government) vs. chaos (a ‘reckless’ coalition of left-wing parties),” also, the economy hangs in the balance.’
Paikin then concludes with a reiteration that currently there is no savior for the Liberal Party (though one cannot help but think that he means ‘besides me of course’), as well as an assertion that criticism of the so-called prodigal son Trudeau must be a big part of the leadership race if the Liberal party is to move forward.
While it is refreshing to see a self-declared partisan Liberal be critical of Trudeau, as opposed to being swept up in the fervor surrounding the relatively untested 40-year former old high school teacher, Paikin’s critiques of Trudeaumania, while very warranted, reek disingenuously of an ulterior motive.
It would’ve saved potential Liberal voters a lot of time if Paikin just came out and said, ‘don’t vote for Justin, because he might win, and I wanted to be the one to rise the Grits from the ashes or irrelevancy.’ Yet if Paikin were truly courting support for a future run at the big office, honesty, as opposed to petty politics such as these would’ve been a welcome change after so many years of Harper’s drabble. For that he would have had my vote.
DEN TANDT: “Conservative priorities will be the economy, the economy and the economy.” (National Post, CA)248 days ago by Emily.Thompson
With Parliament resuming today in Canada, Michael den Tandt, in his latest “Full Comment” in the National Post, discusses where he believes debates between the three major parties will be focused during this session. No shock to anyone—den Tandt believes that the Conservative will pick up where they left off with the economy with the opposition parties following suit, attacking them from left, right and center.
Like in the previous sitting of the House of Commons, Den Tandt postulates that NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair will likely stick to his “Dutch disease” theme, believing that the high Canadian dollar driven by strong resource revenue is to the detriment of most of Canada. Despite this disagreement, Den Tandt argues that the Conservatives and the NDP will co-operate in an attempt to sideline the third place Liberals. With the upcoming Liberal convention that will likely garner the party considerable media attention, the Conservatives and the NDP cannot afford to let the “Grits” capitalize on this opportunity to energy with a platform that is more conservative economically and aggressively progressive on social issues.
In the immediate future, den Tandt sees Harper and the Conservative party focusing on faster deportation of foreign criminals, modernizing the RCMP and pushing forward with an EU free trade deal with a Canada-Panama Free trade agreement to quickly be put in front of the House of Commons.
Den Tandt clearly, effectively and reasonable denotes the possible avenues down which each party may travel in the upcoming session of Parliament. While it would come as a shock to few that the governing and opposition parties will be focusing on the economy, Den Tandt presents a nuanced argument determining how the parties will work together or work against each other in the next few months.
In a recent article for The Globe and Mail, Evan Wood, a Vancouver physician specializing in inner-city medicine, addresses the fundamental lack of fellowship training programs in addiction medicine in the country despite the fact that recent advances in addiction have helped identify effective new treatments. Consequently, dedicated and caring as Canadian physicians usually are, most “who consider themselves addiction medicine specialists assembled their knowledge about addiction treatment after completing their medical training”.
Furthermore, this problem seems to be international, as a recent report for the U.S. National Center on Substance Abuse highlights the fact the “most people with addictions in the United States do not get treatment from a physician at all”. Rather, like in Canada, “U.S. addiction care is usually provided by unskilled laypersons”. Wood adds that while there are a few centers of excellence in addiction such as the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine, most physicians and healthcare specialists must do the best they can with the inadequate resources and training that they currently have.
When the Tories released their government’s five-year National Anti-Drug Strategy in 2007, Harper stated: “if you’re addicted to drugs, we’ll help you, but if you deal drugs, we’ll punish you”. A trend regarding Harper’s drug policies, first illuminated by MacLeans’ columnist John Geddes (covered by The Trawler here), and now reiterated by Woods, is the fact that much attention has been placed on expensive criminal justice measures, while helping addicts and their families has been given the short shift. Accordingly, the results have been “predictable”.
As Geddes, Woods and others continue to reestablish, evidence collected globally demonstrates that “funding police and prisons instead of addiction treatment has resulted in avoidable human misery” and a large and growing criminal enterprise that exists because of this steady stream of untreated drug consumers. With illegal drugs as “readily available” on the streets of large Canadian cities as ever, according to a study published last week in the American Journal on Addictions, and Harper’s drug strategy set to be renewed for another 5 years, perhaps it is time for the government to focus on rehabilitation as opposed to retribution.
Senate reform is hardly an issue that keeps Canadians awake at night; however, as John Ibbitson notes, a strong majority of Canadians (72%) would like the opportunity to directly elect senators and 71% would support a referendum on the future of the senate. In particular, Senate reform has been supported by many strong Conservative supporters and as such the current government put Bill C-7, the Senate Reform Act, into motion. Such a bill would ensure that senators would be elected to fixed terms. However, despite the majority standing of the current government, the bill has yet to make it to a second reading, despite being tabled over a year ago. In his most recent article in The Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson discusses the reasons why Senate reform has been stalled, despite Prime Minister Harper’s long standing support.
Ibbitson states that there are two reasons for the delay; one being the NDP and Liberals strong opposition to the bill leading to delays in the House of Commons. The two parties put forward speakers to speak until time runs off the clock for discussion of the Bill. However, as Ibbitson notes, such a de facto filibuster is possible to overcome and as such, the real problem actually lies with the Tory Senate Caucus.
It has become increasingly clear that reforming the Senate may actually come at a political cost to Prime Minister Harper. Evidently, a large number of senators, including some of those appointed by Harper himself, oppose the nine year term limit. Moreover, there are emerging conservatives voices in the West, a region where Harper has a stronghold, that are rethinking their support for Senate reform, causing Harper to rethink his decision to pursue changes to the Senate.
While Ibbitson raises interesting points about the Prime Minister’s Senate dilemma, the article does not really touch on anything new. Reform of the Senate has been a topic of discussion for decades and has always caused clashes between those who benefit from the current system and those who do not. However, this article does highlight an intriguing nuance about the current debate, that Harper’s Western base may not be as strong as we all thought.
IBBITSON: “Will Quebec’s economic woes help conservative ideas gain traction?” (The Globe and Mail, CA)296 days ago by Emily.Thompson
In light of the pending Quebec election expected to be announced later this week, John Ibbitson asserts that the results for each party may provide an indication of the Conservatives’ chances of boosting their seat count in Quebec during the next Federal election.
While the Conservatives have made several faux-pas against the Quebec population over the past year, Ibbitson argues that Conservative strategists believe they can use this provincial election to their favor. He posits that Conservative strategists believe many Quebeckers are reaching the limits of their tolerance for a province deeply in debt (55% of GDP in fact); perhaps altering their traditional left-leanings to that of a more conservative tone.
Ibbitson asserts that there is a small, but growing, minority that may be interested in seeing an alternative from the right that may have the capacity to solve Quebec’s problems. Pending the results of the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) in this election, Ibbitson argues that the Conservatives will have a better sense of how they will fare on a federal level in Quebec. That being said, the Conservatives will still need to overcome the strong headway made by the NDP in Quebec during the previous election. Depending on the state of the economy during the next election, the Conservatives may still be fighting a steep uphill battle
Ibbitson provides a balanced analysis of the possible power struggle that may occur in Quebec. While it is very early to make any conclusions for where the Liberals will stand on voting day, Ibbitson highlights another facet to the upcoming election race that may have a large influence on future federal elections.