Are you ready for Christmas?

I have decided that as embarrassing as it might be to be represented by this Harper Government, I'm just not going to blog about it until the New Year. I need a break from it frankly.

So, are you ready for Christmas? If you are anything like me probably not.

My excuse is that we have been hovering around -30 for several days, which just doesn't seem right for early December. I just don't feel like freezing my rear end off.

With friends and family coming in from Saint-Hyacinthe, Ottawa, Lennoxville and Alaska, this year will be very special. It will be a a time for board games, crokinole, sitting around the fire, candles, good wine, cooking challenges and conversations.

I may not be ready yet but I will be and I can hardly wait.


This Torture Scandal Just Won't go Away

I thought for a while that I should just shut up about the torture scandal but, isn't that what the Harper government wants, for everyone to stop talking about it?

The latest of course is that former Canadian Ambassadors continue to add their names to a letter which criticizes the Harper government's shoddy treatment of a credible long time member of Canada's diplomatic service, Richard Colvin. By then end of the day it is expected that up to 50 of these retired diplomats will have signed the letter. Their action is unprecedented.

Today, Norman Spector, who was at some point Brian Mulroney's Chief of Staff, criticizes the former diplomats in a rather confusing piece in the Globe & Mail, saying that their letter is "a red herring" because at this point there are more Canadians that believe that Elvis is alive, than those who actually believe the Government on this matter. He says the ex-ambassadors really should be annoyed at that cocky, retired general Rick Hillier. He is the one who Spector says, trashed Colvin personally and "shredded" his testimony.

I am not sure Spector is right. That is not quite the way I remember things anyway.
  • Hillier as, I recall, suggested that he had never seen the Colvin memos, questioned their accuracy and suggested that Colvin wasn't credible. Hillier came away from that testimony looking like retired army thug and Colvin, in my eyes anyway, wreaked credibility.
  • Peter McKay, in an effort to discredit Colvin, as I recall, suggested that Colvin was getting his information from the Taliban instead of using credible sources.
  • Some of the Conservative MP's on the committee aggressively questioned Colvin asking if he was sure about what he had said. Had he seen torture take place? Was he positive it had happened?
Colvin told the committee of MPs that many of the former prisoners were not Taliban but innocent farmers who just happened to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time. He testified that had talked to many former prisoners and that he had seen much physical evidence of torture after the fact.

The Tory MP's were inclined to believe that these former prisoners had acquired these wounds in circumstances which would be the equivalent of walking into a door, not at the hands their Afghan jailers.

The government's conduct in this matter is shameful. Can McKay survive? Will this hurt the Government come election time? Who knows.

The Canadian electorate has proven time after time that they have memories like goldfish. Perhaps that is what Harper is banking on.

So come election time keep your eye out for fireside Steve. You know, the "good" Stephen Harper. The one we only see after the writ is dropped. He'll tell you everything is fine. You'll probably believe him.


Saskatchewan Winters

I hate to complain but -32 on December 8th is too damn cold

Canada's political institutions are the most dysfunctional among Western democracies

There has been a great deal of talk about the state of democracy in Canada in recent months. Most Canadians are very dissatisfied by the state of affairs in Ottawa but very few seem to want an election, unwilling to replace one dysfunctional government with another or to risk the fact that a party with 40% support could form a majority.

In an article just published in the Canadian Journal of Opinion - Inroads Dr. Henry Milner argues that Canada has replaced Italy as the prime example of unstable and ineffective political institutions.

He says, "Political science undergraduates used to learn about Italy as the model of dysfunctional political institutions, characterized by frequent elections and constant uncertainty under minority governments at the mercy of shifting political alliances. Italy transformed its electoral institutions in the 1990s, and while hardly perfect now – as the antics of Signor Berlusconi demonstrate – it has lost its place as model of dysfunctionality among stable democracies to, of all countries, Canada.

Dr. Milner is one of Canada’s leading academic authorities on electoral systems. The complete article is available here.

This all begs the question, "Why aren't we talking about electoral reform?"

Peter McKay's nose grows even longer

I have been intrigued by the coverage of the scandal in Ottawa over the exchange of Afghan prisoners by Canadian soldiers to the Afghan authorities where many were apparently subsequently tortured by Afghan secret police.

Here in Saskatchewan, a veritable hotbed of right-wing Tory support you would hardly know there was an issue at all considering how little coverage appears in the local media. I get the sense that the editors at the Leader-Post buy into the crap pumped out on a daily basis by Harper's spin doctors. You know all that stuff they say. "Taliban Jack and that anti Semite Ignatieff are just being unfair to young Peter McKay. Peter never, never even heard about torture and neither did those nice generals."

I thought therefore I should include part of a Canadian Press story which was issues earlier today in Ottawa.

OTTAWA — Federal officials assured the Red Cross in 2006 that Canada would take an active role in monitoring the fate of Afghan prisoners -- but for critical months behind the scenes did little more than manage the political spin, secret memos show.

The records, examined on a confidential basis by The Canadian Press, show the Harper government placed a greater emphasis on drafting "key messages" to the public and preparing "approaches" for embarrassing disclosures than on dealing with the human rights of prisoners.

Throughout 2006, when Canada took on its combat role in Kandahar, the International Red Cross pressed Ottawa to take more responsibility for prisoners captured by Canadian soldiers.

At the time, federal officials were receiving warnings about torture in Afghan prisoners from Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin. The Red Cross also met directly with a military lawyer, an RCMP officer, as well as another foreign affairs staffer in Kandahar.

And on Nov. 20, 2006, Foreign Affairs officials drafted talking points meant to assure officials of the humanitarian agency.

The first step in trying to solve this problem was to get the spin doctors working. It goes on. You can read most of the story at the CTV site by following this link.

This government makes my head hurt.

I'd say. "Time for an election" if the Liberals actually had a leader.