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Edward Snowden voted Guardian person of the year 2013 | World news | theguardian.com

Edward Snowden voted Guardian person of the year 2013 | World news | theguardian.com.

Edward Snowden

In May Edward Snowden flew to Hong Kong where he gave journalists the material which blew the lid on the extent of US digital spying. Photograph: The Guardian/AFP/Getty Images

For the second consecutive year, a young American whistleblower alarmed at the unfettered and at times cynical deployment of power by the world’s foremost superpower has been voted the Guardian’s person of the year.

Edward Snowden, who leaked an estimated 200,000 files that exposed the extensive and intrusive nature of telephone and internet surveillance and intelligence gathering by the US and its western allies, was the overwhelming choice of more than 2,000 people who cast a vote.

Snowden won 1,445 votes. In a distant second, from a list of 10 candidates chosen by Guardian writers and editors, came Marco Weber and Sini Saarela, the Greenpeace activists who spearheaded the oil rig protest over Russian Arctic drilling. They received 314 votes. Pope Francis gained 153 votes, narrowly ahead of blogger and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, who received 144. Snowden’s victory was as clearcut as Chelsea Manning’s a year earlier.

It’s strange to think now, but a little more than six months ago, virtually no one had heard of Snowden, and few people outside the US would have been able to identify what the initials NSA stood for. Thoughinternet privacy was beginning to emerge as an issue, few people had any idea of the extent to which governments and their secretive auxiliaries were able to trawl, sift, collect and scrutinise the personal digital footprints of millions of private individuals.

All that changed in May when Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong, where he met Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, and independent filmmaker Laura Poitras, and handed over materials that blew the lid on spying technologies, some of which were truly stranger than fiction: a dragnet programme to scoop up digital activities direct from the servers of the biggest US tech companies; a tap on fibreoptic cables to gather huge amounts of data flowing in and out of the UK; a program to hoover up phone records of millions of Americans; a codebreaking effort to crack the encryption system that underpins the safety and security of the internet.

In so doing, Snowden certainly transformed his own life, and not for the better. Forced to go on the run, he ended up in Moscow where he now lives in a curious Julian Assange-like limbo, unable to move for fear of arrest, extradition to the US and a prosecution that would threaten a long jail sentence, if Manning’s term of 35 years is anything to go by.

It is this personal sacrifice, as much as his revelations, that impressed most readers who voted for him.

“He gave his future for the sake of democratic values, transparency, and freedom,” said Miriam Bergholz. Colin Walker wrote: “We need people like him to have the courage to forget about their own life in the cause of other people’s freedom. Let’s face it, his life is over as even if he goes back to the US he will face decades in prison and the personal sacrifice he has made is immense.” A commenter identifying themselves as “irememberamerica” asaid he voted for Snowden “for his extraordinary and exemplary courage, and the historic value of his daring act. At every step, he has displayed an astonishing integrity and presence of mind. He is a great American and international patriot.”

Some readers felt that the actions of the Greenpeace activists were as brave, if not braver, than Snowden’s

“Facing jail, as Snowden does, for defending privacy is one thing,” wrote CaptainGrey. “Facing injury or even death for defending the planet, as Greenpeace activists often do, is another entirely,” he said, in casting a vote for Weber and Saarela.

Others put in a good word for Pope Francis, Waris Dirie and Jack Monroe.

Iriscepero wrote: “[I am voitng for] Waris Dirie for her work concerning female genital mutilation. It’s an awful, brutal way of controlling females that carries significant health risks and it needs to end. I don’t feel the topic gets the attention it needs because of the nationalities that are usually involved in the practice.”

 

Final counts

 

Pope Francis – 153 votes

 

Marco Weber and Sini Saarela – 314 votes

 

Edward Snowden – 1,445 votes

 

Elon Musk – 11 votes

 

Kanye – 28 votes

 

Andy Murray – 22 votes

 

Waris Dirie – 69 votes

 

Jack Munroe – 144 votes

 

Satoshi Nakamoto – 33 votes

 

The Money Bubble Gets Its Grand Rationalization

 

 

by John Rubino on November 20, 2013 · 12 comments

 

Late in the life of every financial bubble, when things have gotten so out of hand that the old ways of judging value or ethics or whatever can no longer be honestly applied, a new idea emerges that, if true, would let the bubble keep inflating forever. During the tech bubble of the late 1990s it was the “infinite Internet.” Soon, we were told, China and India’s billions would enter cyberspace. And after they were happily on-line, the Internet would morph into versions 2.0 and 3.0 and so on, growing and evolving without end. So don’t worry about earnings; this is a land rush and “eyeballs” are the way to measure virtual real estate. Earnings will come later, when the dot-com visionaries cash out and hand the reins to boring professional managers.

During the housing bubble the rationalization for the soaring value of inert lumps of wood and Formica was a model of circular logic: Home prices would keep going up because “home prices always go up.”

Now the current bubble – call it the Money Bubble or the sovereign debt bubble or the fiat currency bubble, they all fit – has finally reached the point where no one operating within a historical or commonsensical framework can accept its validity, and so for it to continue a new lens is needed. And right on schedule, here it comes: Governments with printing presses can create as much currency as they want and use it to hold down interest rates for as long as they want. So financial crises are now voluntary. They only happen if a country decides to stop depressing interest rates – and why would they ever do that? Here’s an article out of the UK that expresses this belief perfectly:

 

Our debt is no Greek tragedy

“The threat of rising interest rates is a Greek tragedy we must avoid.” This was the title of a 2009 Daily Telegraph piece by George Osborne, pushing massive spending cuts as the only solution to a coming debt crisis. It’s tempting to believe anyone who still makes it is either deliberately disingenuous, or hasn’t been paying attention. 

The line of reasoning goes as follows: Britain’s high and rising public debt causes investors to take fright and sell government bonds because the UK might default on those bonds.

Interest rates then spike up because as less people want to hold UK debt, the government has to pay them more for the privilege, so that the cost of borrowing becomes more expensive and things become very, very bad for everyone.

This argument didn’t make sense back in 2009, and certainly doesn’t make sense now. Ultimately this whole Britain-as-Greece argument is disturbing because it makes the austerity project of the last three years look deeply duplicitous.

If you go to any bond desk in the City that trades British sovereign debt, money managers care about one thing – what the Bank of England does or doesn’t do. If Governor Mark Carney says interest rates should fall and looks like he believes it, they fall. End of story.

Why? Because the Bank directly controls the interest rate on short-term government debt, so it can vary it at will in line with any given objective. Interest rates on long-term government debt are governed by what markets expect to happen to short term rates, and so are subject to essentially the same considerations.

It doesn’t matter if investors get scared and dump government bonds because this has no implication for interest rates – it is what the Bank of England wants to happen that counts.

If investors do suddenly decide to flee en masse, the Bank can simply use its various tools to bring interest rates back into line.

The simple point is that since countries like the UK have a free-floating currency, the Bank of England doesn’t have to vary interest rates to keep the exchange rate stable. Therefore it, as an independent central bank, can prevent a debt crisis by controlling the cost of government borrowing directly. Investors understand this, and so don’t flee British government debt in the first place.

Greece and the other troubled Eurozone countries are in a totally different situation. They don’t have their own currency, and have a single central bank, the ECB, which tries to juggle the needs of 17 different member states. This is a central bank dominated by Germany, which apparently isn’t bothered by letting the interest rates of other nations spiral out of control. Investors, knowing this, made it happen during the financial crisis.

On these grounds, the case of Britain and those of the Eurozone countries are not remotely comparable – and basic intuition suggests steep interest rate rises are only possible in the latter.

Britain was never going to enter a sovereign debt crisis. It has everything to do with an independent central bank, and nothing to do with the size of government debt. How well does this explanation stand up given the events of the last few years? Almost perfectly. The US, Japan and the UK are the three major economies with supposed debt troubles not in the Eurozone.

The UK released a plan in 2010 to cut back a lot of spending and raise a little bit of tax money. The US did nothing meaningful about its debt until 2012, and has spent much of the time before and since pretending to be about to default on its bonds. Japan’s debt patterns are, to put it bluntly, screwed – Japan’s debt passed 200 per cent of GDP earlier this year and is rising fast.

But the data shows that none of this matters for interest rates whatsoever. Rates have been low, stable and near-identical in all three countries regardless of whatever their political leaders’ actions.These countries have had vastly different responses to their debt, and markets don’t care at all.

By the same token, the problems of spiking interest rates inside the Eurozone have nothing to do with the prudence or spending of the governments in charge.

Spain and Ireland both had debt of less than 50 per cent of GDP before the crisis and were still punished by markets. France and the holier-than-thou Germany had far higher debt in 2007, and are fine.

The takeaway is that problems with spiking interest rates amongst advanced countries are entirely restricted to the Eurozone, where there is a single central bank, and have no obvious relation to the state of public finances.

So what we have, then, is a disturbingly mendacious line of reasoning . Back in 2010 the Conservative party made a perhaps superficially plausible argument about national debt that was wrong then and is doubly wrong now. They then – sort of – won a mandate to govern based on this, and used it to radically alter the size of the state. The likelihood that somehow this was all done in good faith beggars belief.

Britain has had a far higher proportion of austerity in the form of spending cuts than tax rises relative to any comparator nation. On this basis austerity is a way of reshaping the state in the Conservative image, flying under the false flag of debt crisis-prevention.

If the British public had knowingly and willingly voted for the major changes made under the coalition in how the government taxes, spends and borrows, this wouldn’t be such a great problem.

Instead, they were essentially conned into it by the ridiculous story of Britain as the next Greece.

Some thoughts
What’s great about the above article is that it doesn’t beat around the bush. Without the slightest hint of irony or historical sense, it lays out the bubble rationale, which is that central banks are all-powerful: “If you go to any bond desk in the City that trades British sovereign debt, money managers care about one thing – what the Bank of England does or doesn’t do. If Governor Mark Carney says interest rates should fall and looks like he believes it, they fall. End of story.”

So this is the end of history. Interest rates will stay low and stock prices high and governments will keep on piling up debt with impunity – because they control the financial markets and get to decide which things trade at what price. Breathtaking! Why didn’t humanity discover this financial perpetual motion machine earlier? It would have saved thousands of years of turmoil.

At the risk of looking like a bully, let’s consider another peak-bubble gem:

“The simple point is that since countries like the UK have a free-floating currency, the Bank of England doesn’t have to vary interest rates to keep the exchange rate stable. Therefore it, as an independent central bank, can prevent a debt crisis by controlling the cost of government borrowing directly. Investors understand this, and so don’t flee British government debt in the first place.”

The writer is saying, in effect, that the value of the British pound – and by extension any other fiat currency – can fall without consequence, and that the people who might want to use those currencies in trade or for savings will continue to do so no matter how much the issuer of those pieces of paper owes to others in the market. If holders of pounds decide to switch to dollars or euros or gold, that’s no problem for Britain because it can just buy all the paper thus freed up with new pieces of paper.

This illusion of government omnipotence is no crazier than the infinite Internet or home prices always going up, but it is crazy. Governments couldn’t stop tech stocks from imploding or home prices from crashing, and when the time comes, the Bank of England, the US Fed, and the Bank of Japan won’t be able to stop the markets from dumping their currencies. Nor will they be able to stop the price of energy, food, and most of life’s other necessities from soaring when the global markets lose faith in their promises.

Tagged as: central banksDollareurogoldinflationinterest ratesmonetary policypound sterling,silveryen

The Money Bubble Gets Its Grand Rationalization.

 

Hugh Segal, Conservative Senator Decries Lack Of ‘Accountability’ Of Spy Agencies

Hugh Segal, Conservative Senator Decries Lack Of ‘Accountability’ Of Spy Agencies.

OTTAWA – Conservative Sen. Hugh Segal says it’s “deeply problematic” that Canada lacks a full-fledged national security committee of parliamentarians to keep an eye on spy agencies.

At a national intelligence conference Wednesday, Segal described current oversight of the spy world as a “non-system of zero legislative accountability.”

It features parliamentary committees — including one on which Segal sits — that aren’t allowed to see secret documents and watchdogs that conduct after-the-fact reviews, the senator told a symposium of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies.

He pointed to countries such as the United States and Britain where parliamentarians are able to tackle current crises head-on, eliciting candid testimony from spy chiefs.

In Canada, no one — least of all the responsible cabinet minister — steps forward to address the issues when an intelligence crisis erupts, Segal acknowledged.

“Any minister who says, ‘Actually, we have a big problem, I’m going to look into it’ these days is not part of the operative political culture,” he said.

“And I think that is deeply, deeply problematic.”

Segal said there has been a “lack of political will” to address the question with a measure of discretion, balance and focus.

Segal’s comments follow highly publicized allegations about Communications Security Establishment Canada, the national eavesdropping agency known as CSEC.

Documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden suggest CSEC initiated a spy operation against Brazil’s ministry of mines and energy and helped allies monitor leaders at a G20 summit.

Last month, the NDP unsuccessfully sought support in the House of Commons to study stronger oversight for the intelligence community.

More recently, Liberal public safety critic Wayne Easter tabled a private member’s bill to create a national security committee of parliamentarians that would have access to top-secret information.

Segal said he hopes there’s a constructive discussion about Easter’s proposal, which effectively revives an idea broached by the former Liberal government of Paul Martin shortly before the Conservatives took power.

University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach told the symposium Wednesday that a national security committee of MPs and senators would not be a panacea for intelligence oversight.

Easter’s bill worries Roach because the government would have “unfettered and unreviewable discretion” to decide what information the parliamentary committee would see.

“So I’m not terribly optimistic about that,” said Roach, who served as part of the research advisory group on the O’Connor commission of inquiry that looked into the Maher Arar torture affair.

Justice Dennis O’Connor recommended changes to allow national security watchdogs to exchange information and conduct joint investigations. He also advocated a co-ordinating committee that would include various security watchdog chairs to ensure seamless handling of complaints and probes.

Roach noted both the watchdog that monitors CSEC and the one that keeps tabs on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have spoken of difficulty in following the intelligence trail through government because each has authority to peek into just one agency.

It’s time to adopt the “one big committee” approach to spy oversight instead of the current roster of watchdogs working in isolation, Roach said.

“We can be creative with the diverse composition. It can include present or past parliamentarians, judges, experts, civil society — I think that’s totally open, but we need to have a debate about it.”

The Conservative government has said it is studying the notion of an inter-agency review system that would modernize the current approach, but no details have emerged.

 

Tories’ Right-To-Work Motion Marks ‘Shift To The Far Right’: Critics

Tories’ Right-To-Work Motion Marks ‘Shift To The Far Right’: Critics. (source)

Canadian labour leaders say they are disturbed — but not shocked — that the Tories have adopted a number of union-busting measures in their official party policy, including support for U.S.-style right-to-work legislation.

Delegates at the Conservative party convention in Calgary last weekend nearly unanimously supported policy proposals that would require enhanced financial transparency from unions and allow members to opt out of contributions to political and social causes.

But the most troubling resolutions for union brass were two successful resolutions that indicated Conservatives support controversial right-to-work legislation that might one day find its way into the government’s platform.

“The Conservatives, at both the federal and Ontario level, have taken a hard shift to the far right, adopting some of the most extreme U.S. Republican-style labour policies,” said York University Labour Law professor David Doorey.

“This plays well to the Conservative base, and I suspect the government will carry through with much of the platform.”

There are already two private members bills before Parliament that would erode union power. Bill C-525 would allow secret ballots in union certification and Bill C-377 would increase unions’ financial reporting. Labour leaders said it’s no surprise those issues were taken up as official party policy and expect a bill on opting out of political contributions to follow.

The policies approved by the grassroots of the party at the convention become party policy but don’t necessarily become part of an election platform or legislation.

The most hotly debated of the labour reforms was one that states the party believes “mandatory union membership and forced financial contributions as a condition of employment limit the economic freedom of Canadians and stifle economic growth.”

It passed with the support of 66 per cent of delegates, but some spoke out against the measure, which calls into question the tenets of the Rand formula, a staple of Canadian labour relations that requires all employees in a unionized environment to pay union dues regardless of whether they join.

“If we adopt this motion we are engaging in something that is highly controversial,” said one delegate.

That opened the doors to an affirmative vote on a policy that explicitly mentions support for a “right-to-work legislation to allow optional union membership”, which passed with a clear majority.

Right-to-work laws would allow workers to refuse to pay the often hundreds of dollars a year in union dues, yet still receive the benefits the union provides in a workplace. Proponents of the laws argue that union wage and benefit demands hurt the economy and encourage employers to ship jobs to cheaper jurisdictions where non-unionized workers are willing to work for less.

But critics, including U.S. President Barack Obama, say the laws have the effect of giving workers the right to work for less pay.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight in Canada after Michigan, which borders Ontario and competes for manufacturing jobs, passed a right-to-work bill in December, making Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.

Ontario Progressive Conservative party Leader Tim Hudak supported Michigan’s move and has claimed General Motors moved its Camaro production to Lansing, Mich. because of the newly enacted right to work laws.

Several union members gathered outside the convention to protest against the Harper government, which has introduced back-to-work legislation and a re-examination of “essential services,” where employees are unable to strike.

Inside, observers from the Canadian Labour Congress could only watch as party members showed their willingness to support anti-union measures.

Ken Georgetti, president of the CLC, said some of the resolutions met with more resistance than he was expecting.

“These aren’t overwhelming mandates that they’re getting,” he said of the most extreme labour reforms, adding that he believes some of the delegates have been misinformed about the perceived benefits of right to work.

“This is not responsible governance or leadership. You don’t counsel people to get free rides in Canada — you counsel them to pay their fair share,” he said of the legislation that would allow employees to opt out of union dues in a unionized shop.

Meanwhile, Terrance Oakey, president of Merit Canada, celebrated after delegates on the floor passed all of the labour reforms his group has been working for, including secret ballots for certification, financial transparency and opting out of political contributions.

“This is reflective of broad public opinion,” he said, citing a survey by Leger Marketing suggesting 83 per cent of working Canadians believe that unions should be required to publicly disclose detailed financial information.

“Being at the convention it was clear that the mood in the party reflects the mood in the country that something needs to be done on these issues so I wasn’t surprised.”

Oakey said right-to-work legislation is appealing to more members of the party as an increasing number of jobs, especially manufacturing jobs in Ontario, are lost to right-to-work states in the U.S. Some believe that enacting domestic right-to-work legislation would help to stem that tide.

But the right-to-work amendment that’s now part of party policy was extreme even for Oakey. Merit, he said, is not aiming to take away union funding and supports the Rand formula. But Oakey believes modern labour organizations are going beyond their Rand rights by forcing members to fund political causes they don’t support. Canada is the only country in the world that prevents members from opting out, he added.

Oakey doesn’t believe the Harper government will be in any rush to introduce right-to-work legislation, nor would it have much effect as Ottawa is responsible only for federal employees, while the provinces are responsible for regulating the majority of workplaces.

“Prime Minister Harper tends to be an incrementalist, I think he’s likely to watch how the three less contentious issues are dealt with … but I don’t expect a right-to-work policy coming forward — at least from the government.”

Still, he said, it is indicative of a party that has grown frustrated with the modern labour movement.

Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, the country’s largest union, said the moves are little more than the Conservatives trying to find a new enemy to obfuscate the real issues, including their own accountability crisis in the Senate scandal.

“If you look at all the things that have happened to the Conservatives, they need a wedge issue and they need someone to point the finger at so either they’re going to go after crime or go after unions.”

And while he is highly concerned that the Tories are following the right wing of the U.S. Republicans, he doesn’t believe Canadians will accept right-to-work measures once they learn more about their effects, including higher worker fatality rates, lower family incomes and poorer infrastructure, he said, citing studies of the effects in right-to-work states.

“If they are looking to pick a fight that will eliminate the working class in Canada, then there is going to be a strong reaction.”

Labour Reform Up For Debate At Tory Convention

Labour Reform Up For Debate At Tory Convention. (source)

A number of labour reform proposals on the agenda at this weekend’s Conservative party convention could be signs that the party is shifting further to the right, political observers say.

At least nine resolutions for amendments to the Conservative party’s policy book seek to crack down on the power of organized labour. The labour reform proposals are sponsored by various riding associations in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

Many call for an end to union political involvement, but one amendment seeks a more radical change to the Rand formula, a staple of Canadian labour relations that requires all employees in a unionized environment to pay union dues regardless of whether they join.

The number of proposals and the radical nature of a few of them suggest that the party is taking a cue from the American right wing, said Peter Woolstencroft, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo who focuses on the history of the Conservative party.

“In the Conservative party in the last little while there has been regard for what’s happening in the United States,” he said. “Right to work and other pieces of legislation or actions have been pointing towards cutting back on the power of unions.”

Some Conservatives, notably Ontario’s Tim Hudak and MP Pierre Poilievre, have been vocal in their support for U.S. “right-to-work” style laws since last December, when Michigan became the 24th state to make compulsory union dues illegal.

Such laws have become increasingly popular since the 2008-2009 recession as a means to lure businesses into economically depressed states but have also attracted criticism. U.S. President Barack Obama has said the title is a misnomer for laws that really mean “the right to work for less money.”

The Conservative association of Poilievre’s riding is one of the most overt in calling to end mandatory union membership. The Tory government has previously shot down suggestions the Conservatives are considering such legislation and Labour Minister Kellie Leitch declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Leitch said earlier this week that the Minister would not “speculate on the potential outcomes of the convention”.

The Perth-Wellington electoral district association in southern Ontario was the only one actually to mention right-to-work by name in its proposal. Its amendment seeks Conservative support for “right-to-work legislation to allow optional union membership including student unions.”

The amendment proposed by Poilievre’s Nepean-Carleton riding near Ottawa says that “unions should be democratic and voluntary,” that labour laws should provide workers with “protections against forced union dues for political and social causes that are unrelated to the workplace”. It also says labour laws should respect the UN Declaration on Human Rights article stating that “no one may be compelled to belong to an association.”

An equally aggressive amendment comes from the Alfred-Pellan electoral district association, whose head office in Laval is calling on the party to support a restructuring of the “legislative protection of the Rand formula so as to provide full and effective protection to the right of all workers not to associate with broad political positions they deem oppressive of their respective personal identities.”

Story continues below slideshow:

States With The Weakest Unions

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The proposals are not out of the Tory blue. Issues such as right-to-work and elimination of the Rand principle have always been discussed in party circles but have not necessarily made it onto the agenda until now, Woolstencroft said.

However Woolstencroft believes that the most radical proposals are likely to be left on the convention floor.

“The bulk of the party knows that they have a PR game that they’re playing, and they don’t want to be easily castigated as anti-this or anti-that,” he said. “So what they’re going to do is move incrementally.”

In any case, resolution at the federal level would mostly be paying lip service to the elimination of mandatory union dues. Labour laws, are provincially administered and regulated outside of federally regulated businesses and federal public sector employees.

Still, the nine labour-related initiatives have already successfully passed the scrutiny of the party’s national policy committee, where national and political wings of the party debated and whittled down a list of 274 proposals. That signals that the party’s policy wonks believe the proposals are at least worth consideration.

The initiatives will be voted on during closed-door sessions. If any receives a majority of delegate votes, it could be included in the 10 policy resolutions placed on the plenary agenda. In the plenary session, the proposal can be adopted into party policy if it gets enough votes.

The Tories seems to be seizing on a moment when unions are vulnerable amid declining membership and loss of public favour, Woolstencroft said.

Canada’s two largest unions, The Canadians Auto Workers and Communication, Energy and Paper Workers Union, merged into a super-union in September, acknowledging that the labour movement needs more heft if it wants to survive. And the newly created Unifor union wasted no time in declaring its political intentions. At its founding convention, Naomi Klein spoke of ousting Prime Minister Stephen Harper and one of its first acts was to endorse NDP MP Olivia Chow for mayor of Toronto.

Perhaps it is no surprise then that a common thread among the convention proposals is preventing unions from becoming politically involved.

One proposal from Edmonton-Sherwood Park asks the party to amend its labour policy to include the belief that “the government should prevent mandatory dues collected by unions from being diverted to fund political causes unrelated to workplace needs.”

One submitted jointly by Mississauga East-Cooksville and Sudbury says that “union dues paid by members should not be donated by the union to third-party organizations without the consent of the members.”

Many proposals dealt with increasing union transparency, similar to the controversial Bill C-377 that was blocked in the Senate in June. The bill aimed to make it mandatory for unions to file annual public financial statements and has now been sent back to the House.

None of the riding associations were available to comment on their proposals.

New Democrat labour critic Alexandre Boulerice says he has noticed an anti-labour shift in the Conservative caucus, and he believes they are contemplating “right-to-work” legislation.

“The Progressive Conservatives were not anti-union at all,” he said, “But now we can feel that they want to break the backbone of the labour movement in Canada.”

Boulerice believes the Prime Minister’s office intends to whittle away at union rights. He points to Bill C-525, which was introduced in June and would make the union certification process more onerous for federal employees.

Peter Coleman, president of the National Citizens Coalition, believes the Conservatives are sensing a change in public thinking about the role of unions and are acting, through bills such as C-377, to curtail their power.

While some of the convention proposals are “just pie in the sky,” he said, they indicate that Conservatives are more willing at least to discuss anti-union moves, even if they are not likely to be adopted as party policy.

“They throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks and see what the moderate, temperate voices come up with,” he said.

“I do believe there’s a lot of work in the Conservative party at the federal level to get some of these things brought forward.”

 

Angry Harper lashes back over Senate scandal questions – Politics – CBC News

Angry Harper lashes back over Senate scandal questions – Politics – CBC News. (source)

Growing visibly more angry with every allegation coming from a senator that he appointed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said during question period on Tuesday that Mike Duffy has shown no remorse for claiming ineligible expenses and should be removed from the Senate.

Harper’s remarks came a day after the former Conservative dropped a second bombshell, saying there was not one but two cheques cut to him by Harper’s former chief of staff.

Duffy told the Senate on Monday that Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff, arranged to have his legal fees paid by the Conservative Party — in addition to the $90,000 cheque Wright gave Duffy to repay his ineligible expenses.

“The reality is,” Harper said on Tuesday, “that Mr. Duffy still has not paid a cent back to the taxpayers of Canada. He should be paying that money back.”

‘On our side, there is one person responsible for this deception. That person is Mr. Wright.’— Prime Minister Stephen Harper

“The fact that he hasn’t, the fact that he shows absolutely no regret for his actions, and the fact that he has told untruths about his actions means that he should be removed from the public payroll,” Harper said.

The prime minister has maintained all along that he knew nothing about the $90,000 cheque that his right-hand man gave to Duffy.

On Tuesday, the prime minister took direct aim at his former chief of staff, telling the Commons, “On our side, there is one person responsible for this deception. That person is Mr. Wright.”

“It is Mr. Wright by his own admission. For that reason, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright no longer works for us. Mr. Duffy shouldn’t either,” Harper said.

NDL Leader Tom Mulcair in question periodNDP Leader Tom Mulcair once again peppered the prime minister with sharp questions over the Duffy-Wright affair, during question period on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The prime minister did not, however, deny on Tuesday that the party cut Duffy a second cheque to cover his legal fees.

“That is a regular practice. The party regularly reimburses members of its caucus for valid legal expenses — as do other parties,” Harper said.

Duffy’s claim that he had paid back his ineligible expenses using his own funds was “the story of Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright,” Harper said.

“Mr. Duffy should be removed from the Senate.”

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair continued to pepper the prime minister with sharp questions on Tuesday.

If Duffy’s expenses were “inappropriate,” as Harper said again Tuesday, why did the Conservative Party pay for the senator’s legal fees? Mulcair asked.

Harper did not directly answer the question, saying only that he has said “it was inappropriate all along.”

 

 

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House resumes with NDP targeting secret committees – Politics – CBC News

House resumes with NDP targeting secret committees – Politics – CBC News. (source)

The NDP made Prime Minister Stephen Harper their first target as Parliament resumed today, questioning what he knew about a deal between Senator Mike Duffy and his former chief of staff.

NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen and whip Nycole Turmel also set out a proposal to stop government MPs from pushing committees in-camera.

In question period, New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair set his sights on Harper, who left Thursday morning for Brussels to sign a tentative trade deal with the European Union.

Mulcair listed a number of people close to Harper who are now under scrutiny over corruption or other allegations of wrongdoing, including senators, Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, and his former parliamentary secretary, MP Dean Del Mastro, who faces charges over his election spending.

“These are chosen members of the prime minister’s own inner circle implicated in scandal,” Mulcair said.

“The prime minister needs to take responsibility for the climate of corruption that he created. Instead the prime minister flies off to Brussels … When will the prime minister stand up in this House and tell the truth to Canadians?”

Pierre Poilievre, minister of state for democratic reform, accused the NDP of being anti-trade.

“Once again the leader of the Opposition attacks our prime minister for travelling abroad to conclude the biggest trade agreement since NAFTA,” he said.

“The NDP would simply like to build a big brick wall around Canada. A brick wall that would keep out 80,000 jobs, that would keep away 500 million customers, that would keep away $1,000 in increased income for the average family.”

Limiting secret committee meetings

Earlier Thursday, Cullen and Turmel announced New Democrat MPs would push for committees to be more open.

Committees can go behind closed doors for planning purposes or when preparing a report, but Conservative MPs have been pushing them in-camera more and more than previous governments. They often use the tactic to kill opposition motions in secret. Conservative MPs form the majority on all parliamentary committees.

MPs are also forbidden from discussing what goes on behind closed doors afterward.

“The minute Conservatives don’t like a discussion that’s taking place in any of our committees, they go in-camera and shut the door on Canadians,” Cullen said.

“The abuse of this in-camera tool is undermining the work of all members of Parliament and increasing the skepticism of the Canadian public.”

New Democrat MPs will present motions in all committees next week, Cullen and Turmel said, laying out specific instances in which they can go in-camera:

  • To discuss wages, salaries and other employee benefits, contracts or other labour or personal matters.
  • For briefings concerning national security.
  • To discuss draft reports.

The motion also mandates that minutes be taken, including how each member votes when votes are taken.

NDP on offensive

“As parliamentarians, we must be accountable to those who elected us,” Cullen said, adding that towns and school boards use the same rules the NDP want to see in Parliament.

“In a healthy democracy, shutting the doors on debate should be limited to only the most exceptional circumstances.”

The Official Opposition hit the Hill on the offensive this morning.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus raised a question of privilege, which the party announced Wednesday. Angus is asking House Speaker Andrew Scheer to find Prime Minister Stephen Harper misled the House, when he said nobody in the Prime Minister’s Office knew about a deal between Wright and Senator Mike Duffy.

Wright paid back Duffy’s wrongly claimed Senate expenses. An ongoing RCMP investigation into the payment, and into Duffy’s expense claims, alleges Wright told them three other PMO staffers, plus Senator Irving Gerstein, about the agreement.

The Senate committee in charge of financial and administrative matters, the board of internal economy, met Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.

The Senate as a whole will resume at 2 p.m. with a new government leader, Claude Carignan, and deputy leader, Yonah Martin. But unlike his predcessor, Carignan will not sit in cabinet.

Harper has removed the Senate leader from cabinet for the first time in 50 years.

One of the Senate’s first acts was to move to suspend without pay Duffy and Pamela Wallin, who is also under investigation by the RCMP.

 

Osborne hails UK nuclear deal with China as ‘new dawn’ – FT.com

Osborne hails UK nuclear deal with China as ‘new dawn’ – FT.com. (source)

George Osborne on Thursday hailed a new dawn for Britain’s civil nuclear programme as he announced a deal between Chinese investors and EDF Energy to build the first nuclear power station in the UK in a generation.

The Chinese General Nuclear Power Group and the French energy company are expected to sign a letter of intent as the two sides finally agree a deal for a planned new plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

The main commercial details of the agreement will be announced on Monday by Ed Davey, energy secretary.

Speaking at Taishan nuclear power station in southern China, Mr Osborne said: “Today is another demonstration of the next big step in the relationship between Britain and China – the world’s oldest civil nuclear power and the world’s fastest growing civil nuclear power.”

The chancellor said it was an “important potential part of the government’s plan for developing the next generation of nuclear power in Britain”.

The first reactor to be built in Britain since Sizewell B began operating in 1995, ministers hope the deal will unlock the construction of several new nuclear power stations across the UK.

British officials have been travelling the world trying to entice investment in new nuclear, relying on French and Japanese technology and Chinese funding to fuel the renaissance of the British industry.

But Mr Osborne’s determination to announce the deal on his trip to China has infuriated Mr Davey, who has done much of the legwork. He travelled to China last month to meet officials ahead of the chancellor’s visit.

“Football fans might say he is the John Terry of government,” remarked one Liberal Democrat on Thursday, a reference to when the Chelsea captain changed into full kit to lift the Champions League trophy – despite having not played in the match. “He [Mr Osborne] was as close to the real negotiations and the work as Pluto is to the earth.”

Mr Osborne sees the nuclear programme as a positive investment story for the UK and spoke of his commitment to building reactors in his recent Conservative party conference speech.

“Should we, the country that built the first civil nuclear power station, say: ‘We are never going to build any more – leave it to others?’ Not on my watch,” said the chancellor.

Under the terms of the deal to be announced on Monday, the government will offer EDF a guaranteed price for the electricity it generates at Hinkley. That “strike price” is expected to be almost twice the present market price of electricity.

The UK government is also offering a financing “guarantee” to attract the private sector into building nuclear reactors.

Ministers are adamant that neither element of the deal is a form of subsidy for civil nuclear power, but the coalition could be in an uneasy position when the deal comes up against EU public subsidy rules in the coming months.

The coalition agreement between the Lib Dems and Conservatives states clearly there will be no government subsidy for new nuclear.

Additional reporting by Guy Chazan

 

 

NSA leaks: David Cameron’s response is intimidation, says world press body | Media | theguardian.com

NSA leaks: David Cameron’s response is intimidation, says world press body | Media | theguardian.com.

 

In Canada, Austerity Rules | Nick Fillmore

In Canada, Austerity Rules | Nick Fillmore.

 

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