Sunday, November 30, 2008

Coalition alive and well

Sunday, November 30, 2008 11:30 AM
For Immediate Release
November 30, 2008

Canadians deserve real leadership during economic crisis, Goodale

OTTAWA - The Conservative government's continued panic-mode governing further undermines Canadians' confidence in its ability to manage our economy in a time of crisis, said Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale.

"Canadians are facing a serious economic crisis, and the Conservatives are governing on the fly," said Mr. Goodale. "Yesterday they reversed their position on political financing, and today they're announcing they'll move up the budget date.

"How can Canadians trust this government to get our economy back on track when it's all over the map?"

Mr. Goodale said that the Conservatives' behaviour clearly shows that this government is completely out of touch with Canadians - focusing more on advancing their conservative agenda with ideological cuts and attacks on the rights of Canadians than coming up with a plan to help our economy.

"Now, more than ever, Canadians need Parliament to put their interests first and provide them with a plan to help protect their jobs, their homes and prevent their hard-earned savings from disappearing," said Mr. Goodale.

"While Stephen Harper wants to keep Canadians and the world in the dark, the Liberals are putting partisan politics aside and working with the other parties to create a plan to put our economy and Canadians first," he said.

- 30 -

Saturday, November 29, 2008

All the King's horses and all the King's men....

Stephen Harper starring as Humpty Dumpty. Looks good on him, especially after he fraudulently raided OUR nest eggs to the tune of $35 billion.

Hard-right Tory ideology has put the PM in a bind

Nov 29, 2008
Toronto Star
Thomas Walkom

Think of it as hubris. Stephen Harper's governing Conservatives are so used to seeing the opposition parties back down that they think they can get away with anything.

It seems that this time the Conservatives are wrong.

The catalyst for this remarkable state of affairs, in which the opposition parties say they are planning to unite to bring down Harper's government and replace it with one of their own, is Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's economic update – a bizarre document that bears no relation to either reality or any of the current prime minister's recent statements.

In that update, Flaherty downplays Harper's fears of a lengthy economic depression, ignores his stricture not to cut back at a time when governments should be doing more and singles out seemingly random targets in an effort to solve problems that don't exist.

Flaherty says he would cut back public service pay at a time when no one is suggesting that it is out of control. He wants to suspend the right to strike for federal employees even as the country enters a slump in which such strikes are highly unlikely. And he would put a crimp in pay equity – a program that requires Ottawa to pay women equal wages for work of equal value – although there is no evidence that the current system is either iniquitous or expensive.

Here, as Toronto lawyer Mary Cornish explains, the key is his apparent decision to end the right to appeal pay equity cases to the quasi-judicial Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The only thing that links these targets is their place in the Conservative party pantheon of villains.

If there's anything a red-meat Conservative hates more than a civil servant, it's a unionized civil servant. Indeed, the only thing worse is an uppity, female, unionized civil servant who complains to a human rights commission (which red-meat Conservatives also hate) that she's not paid enough.

In short, Flaherty's update is a standard piece of hard-right Conservative ideology, released at a time when Harper is promising to be less ideological, and just days after the Prime Minister explained why he thought his party's usual cut-and-squeeze nostrums wouldn't solve the crisis.

It is this contradiction, as much as anything, that signals the Conservatives are neither serious nor united about tackling the economy. Putting off substantive action until February, as Flaherty has suggested, is arguably reasonable. Using recession as an opportunity to ride Conservative hobby horses is not.

So how did the famously clever Harper get himself in this bind? To answer that question, recall The Sopranos. In that television show, mob leader Tony Soprano occasionally felt compelled to whack innocent bystanders – particularly after he'd demonstrated some element of human understanding – just to remind his own supporters that he was ruthless enough to be their boss.

Keep this image in mind. Keep in mind also that when Tony Soprano became too outrageous, his equally venal opponents felt compelled to stop him.

With Flaherty's update, Harper has entered outrageous territory. The opposition parties smell blood. They also know that, thanks to the peculiarities of the parliamentary system, this is their last chance to replace Harper's minority government without triggering another election.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Harper is nothing if not a hypocrite

Harper's letter to the Governor General of September 9, 2004

As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government’s program. We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority. Your attention to this matter is appreciated.

-From a letter to then-Governor General Adrienne Clarkson signed by all three opposition leaders: Gilles Duceppe, Jack Layton and Stephen Harper
(September 9, 2004)

I thought the Globe endorsed Stephen Harper for dictator?

Economist with a tin heart, politician with a tin ear


Globe and Mail
November 28, 2008 at 9:23 PM EST

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called an election to secure a majority, and failed to get one.

This week, he created a completely unnecessary crisis that now threatens his government's very survival. And they call Mr. Harper a great strategist and superior tactician?

Thursday's economic statement was an economic lame duck and a political boner. It revealed, among other things, the kind of Conservative Party that all but its core supporters suspected would eventually be outed: a group of ideologues, led by a Prime Minister who discarded his campaign sweater to reveal an economist with a tin heart and a politician who looks everywhere for political advantage.

Instead of trying to grow Conservative support, he appealed only to his party's core. Instead of acting in a statesmanlike fashion at a time of crisis, he opted to play politics, proposing to cancel public subsidies for parties, a move that would disproportionately benefit his.
Related Articles

Instead of reaching out, as leader of a minority government and as president-elect Barack Obama is doing by talking to moderate Republicans, he smacked his opponents in the chops. Instead of heeding the advice of economists everywhere that the economy needs stimulus, he got his Minister of Finance to present a budget that offered cutbacks and tiny surpluses that absolutely no one believes will be realized.

There is a plausible case for caution, to wait a bit until economic issues clarify themselves and until the new American administration settles definitively on its approach. The government therefore, quite credibly, could have gone to Parliament, said it could not offer precise numbers because of unprecedented volatility, said there would be a deficit but a modest one limited in time, promised a budget in January, got a few infrastructure programs speeded up, and asked for suggestions. After all, this was a government that had admitted the economy would be in a "technical recession."

That would have been prudent, statesmanlike and economically credible. There would have been no political crisis; the country would have accepted that the government had heard its concerns and worries; and a serious plan could have been developed.

Instead, the government unsheathed its ideological swords, attacked political opponents, public-sector unions, disregarded overwhelming economic advice in the country (including from deficit hawks, premiers, and conservative-minded economists) and dared the opposition parties to turn the other cheek - a move, to the government's apparent surprise, the other parties were not prepared to do.

The economic statement was wrongly conceived on every front.

It misdiagnosed what the economy needs, and offered a completely bogus explanation.

Said the government: We have already injected $31-billion of stimulus in the economy through tax cuts since 2006. As if tax cuts in 2006 were designed for stimulus in 2009. No one believes that.

That would be like President George W. Bush saying his tax cuts of years ago were designed to help the current recession. Conservatives cut taxes mostly when the economy was robust (and therefore at the wrong time and in the wrong way, but that's another matter). The point now is that the stimulus hasn't been enough.

The government also gratuitously set off a political firestorm that will damage the Conservative Party.

Taxpayer subsidies for political parties exist everywhere around the world, even in the United States, where Mr. Obama refused them because he was raising so much private money. The subsidies exist, there as here, as a quid pro quo for eliminating corporate and union contributions. As such, they help parties finance themselves, do their work, and therefore contribute to democracy.

But since the Conservatives have mastered soliciting contributions from individuals better than their opponents, they now propose to eliminate the public subsidy that amounts to a tiny sum relative to total government spending. Nothing the Conservatives have done has been so malevolently partisan as this.

Finally, the government created a potential constitutional situation in which it could be defeated and replaced, quite properly under constitutional convention, by a Liberal-NDP coalition.

Late yesterday, Mr. Harper refused to modify his economic statement, put off confidence votes for a week to buy himself some time, and in effect dared the Governor-General, should it come to this, not to exercise her proper constitutional authority to ask another party to try to form a government without bringing on an election.

He argued that if his government were to be defeated, there would have to be an election, which is not consistent with constitutional convention. He was really threatening a possible constitutional crisis that, again, would be of his own making and that he would hope to turn to his partisan advantage.

The miscalculations have been stunning. Mr. Harper's strategy has accomplished already the near-impossible: to bring the Liberals and NDP together.

He had so many other, less partisan options at a time of economic crisis and grave national concern. That he acted in this fashion, at this time, was enormously revealing. And very sad.

Harper logic

It’s the Opposition's right to form a government.

But it's not Stephane Dion's right to be Prime Minister?


Good bye Steve. You won't be missed.

Liberals propose non-confidence motion, governing coalition

The Liberal Opposition plans to introduce a motion in the House of Commons on Monday declaring non-confidence in the minority Conservative government and proposing a governing coalition.

The motion comes as emissaries from the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois hold talks about forming a new government should Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority fall.

But Harper could still avert the immediate defeat of his weeks-old government through procedural tactics.
The Liberal motion, which has the approval of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, reads:

"In light of the government's failure to recognize the seriousness of Canada's economic situation and its failure in particular to present any credible plan to stimulate the Canadian economy and to help workers and businesses in hard-pressed sectors such as manufacturing, the automotive industry and forestry, this House has lost confidence in this government and is of the opinion that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons."

A source says the opposition parties have agreed that Liberal Leader Stephane Dion would lead the government for the next few months.

How Mark Carney contributed to Canada's looming deficit

What gives? NDP Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair never did receive an answer to this question. Why not Mark? Deloittes gave us the straight goods, why can't Mark Carney?

Mr. Thomas Mulcair— Questioning Mark Carney as Governor Elect of the Bank of Canada -(2007/12/5)

“I want to begin by asking you a question about income trusts. In your previous position, as an expert, you played an active role in the economy, and that had a significant influence. As you know, our political party was not favourably disposed towards income trusts. However, we never lied to people the way the government did.

This is what I would like to know. In your view, in light of what has occurred with income trusts, have the basic premises that were behind your recommendation proven to be accurate? I am going to cite the specific example of Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, which has purchased certain income trusts, including PrimeWest Energy Trust.

In your opinion, are these new companies, which are now managed offshore, contributing to the Canadian economy in terms of tax revenues? That was one of the basic premises underlying the decision you presided over.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hey BCE Directors: What's the big deal?

Really, do any of you BCE Directors actually know the terms of your big deal?

These Directors of BCE continue to “impress”:

How a tiny clause spelled the end of the biggest deal

Globe and Mail
November 27, 2008

“There was a lot of finger pointing by the BCE board last night. The directors wanted to know where this [insolvency test] clause had come from,” the source said. The awkward answer, the board learned, was that BCE had authored the killer clause."

I am so reminded of this earlier episode of Board amnesia:

Bondholders say BCE finessed takeover deal to avoid bond redemption

The Canadian Press
January 28, 2008

"The court was reminded that three BCE directors - Tom O'Neill, Jim Pattison and Donna Kaufman, the head of the strategic oversight committee - testified they were unaware or couldn't remember seeing all the details of the bids or how they would affect all stakeholders."

Yo, Harper: Time for some "incremental cost" analysis.

Hey, here’s brilliant idea to rescue our economy. Let’s save $30 million in order to render a $300 million exercise completely worthless and one sided.

Without the $30 million of political party funding, these $300 million elections become a total waste of time? Harper wants to save $30 million to render a $300 million exercise basically worthless. That’s like buying a Ferrari and not being willing to pay for its license plate. All dressed up and no where to go. The fate of Canadian democracy under Stephen Harper, the evil genius:

Kelly McParland: Stephen Harper, evil genius

November 27, 2008,
by Kelly McParland
National Post

Stephen Harper's decision to end public financing for political parties is a daring gambit that could pay off in several ways, but could also land him on the ash heap, out of office just months after winning his way back in. It is cynical, clever, calculating and diabolical. It's also dirty pool, and its success depends a great deal on his reading of the attitude of the electorate.

If it goes through, it would thoroughly hobble the opposition. You can tell that just by the speed and shrillness of their protests. The Liberals, as John Ivison reports, are deep in dept, barely able to keep up the payments on the loan they took out to fight the last election, and dependent on the $1.95-per-vote subsidy to do so. More than that, they have just launched a leadership contest which requires the participants to raise money from donors who have already given several times in recent years: to Paul Martin for the 2006 campaign, to candidates in the last leadership contest, and again for the most recent election. Many have to be tapped out, and are being approached at a time when even the wealthiest are counting their quarters in anticipation of dire times ahead. Removing the subsidy might allow the party to go back to the corporate donors that supported it through so many mandates, but that would take time, the apparatus is presumably rusty, the Liberals are an opposition party rather than a government (and thus unable to return any favours) and, again, corporate accounts aren't exactly flush right now.

The NDP, oddly enough, might survive relatively unscathed, having matched the Tories in developing a n effective grassroots fundraising apparatus, but the Greens and the Bloc would be deep in the doo-doo.

You can almost see the satisfied smirk creeping across the PM's thin lips at that prospect. Elizabeth May gave him no end of annoyance in the last election, sitting directly beside him at the debates while delivering insults. A party that's never elected a single member dictating to the Tory leader where he went wrong. Let's see how insulting she is when she can barely afford train fare to Ottawa. And the Bloc -- that might be the sweetest blow of all. The Bloc depends on public financing for almost 80% of its income. Here's a party that has spent 20 years in Ottawa lecturing Canadians on how unworthy they are to host a province as incomparable as Quebec, and which survives only thanks to the income from taxes paid by those same unfathomably tolerant Canadians. Without that lifeline the Bloc would face immense problems mounting an effective campaign, and without an effective Bloc campaign Quebec would once again be open to the blandishments of the federalists, the best-equipped of which to blandish are the Conservatives. Only a late surge by the Bloc kept Harper from a majority last time out; siphon off their bank accounts and who knows what glories could be achieved.

The trick will be in getting the Tory measure through the House. And that's where the calculating mind of S. Harper really comes to the fore. If the government makes approval a matter of confidence the opposition will have to bring it down to block the measure. That would put extreme financial pressure on all parties, but the Liberals in particular are in no shape to contest another war. Securing another $20 million loan could be nigh-on impossible: banks won't lend even for worthy enterprises these days; a threadbare political party down on its luck and already deep in hock is hardly an attractive risk. There's also the small matter of the party being without a leader. The two most effective campaigners are locked in a dual for the top job, leaving Stephane Dion, an interim leader unloved by Canadians, and just weeks from having led the party to a new low at the polls, to try and mount a campaign.

And on what issue? The opposition's outrage that the Tories have turned off their welfare tap? Harper can point out that his own party will take the biggest hit, losing upwards of $10 million in funding. He can also note the NDP's ability to raise money from donors, and ask why Liberals can't do the same. But more critical is the question of how much voters are likely to care. Party funding is hardly a galvanizing concern. There have been two general elections and a leadership vote in three years, and it's going to take a good excuse to send Canadians back for a third kick at the can. Many of them will be spending the holidays wondering how much longer they'll be employed, and how to pay the bills should the axe fall. Are they likely to take kindly to the sight of Stephane Dion, reborn, on their TV tubes complaining that Stephen Harper is refusing to use their money to pay for his party's bills?

So if the measure goes through, Harper hobbles the Liberals, damages Elizabeth May and forces the Bloc to find some other sugar daddy to finance its separatist fantasies. Comes the next election and the Tories are all but certain to be head and shoulders over every other party in their ability to wage a campaign.

If the government is defeated, he's back on the campaign trail against a broke, leaderless and dispirited Liberal party, able to blame them for forcing yet another needless election and to appeal for the extra few seats that will prevent it happening again.

He really is a devil, this Harper. Crafty. Very crafty.

National Post

Newspapers as pansies. Journalists as post facto protagonists.

I find it quite revealing that now that the BCE deal has essentially died, those “brave” souls in the rough and tumble newspaper world are now, for the first time, saying that it’s a good thing that the BCE deal not proceed. Not proceed? Where have these journalistic pansies been for the last 18 months? The only two journalists that I know of who have consistently questioned the merits of this deal are Diane Francis and Barry Critchley of the Financial Post.

The rest of Canada’s media have been a group of pansies who never questioned what was being wrought on Canadians by this deal and the nefarious arrangements under which it was being cobbled together (dividend suspension, suppression of bondholders, straw man Morgan McCague).

Here is some of post facto wisdom the “brave” souls who have now emerged. Where have they been for 18 months? They are only now reporting on the things I have been writing about repeatedly since the deal was approved in September 2007, all of which were contained on my letter to Industry Minister Jim Prentice of February 2008. If the deals’ failure is now being hailed by these journalists, why weren’t they questioning Prentice’s approval back in June 2008, or is that when the pansies were in full bloom?

Doomed BCE deal never did make much sense
David Olive
Toronto Star
November 27, 2008

Hope for escape from high leverage
Globe and Mail
November 27, 2008

Can you hear it? A collective sigh of relief
Derek DeCloet
Globe and Mail
November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thomas Mulcair on "transparent frauds".

Tom, What about the transparent fraud known as tax leakage that your party was a part of?

Fiscal update may cripple opposition, trigger showdown


NDP MP Thomas Mulcair accused the Conservatives of exploiting an economic crisis to hammer his political opponents, and warned the "stunt" could lead to a constitutional crisis or the defeat of the government just weeks after a federal election.

"If Stephen Harper¹s idea of a stimulus package is to start mucking around with the rules of party financing, he's going to hit a brick wall," he said.

"If he tries to play with this under the guise of doing something to reduce expenses, it¹s a transparent fraud."

Looking forward to hearing Jack Layton squeal like a pig over the prospect of losing $30 million

Meanwhile Layton caused us to lose $35 billion

Flaherty to slash public funding for federal parties

Updated Wed. Nov. 26 2008 10:18 PM ET News Staff

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will slash almost $30 million a year in public funding for federal parties, in a move that would save taxpayers' money but deal a major financial blow to opposition parties, CTV News has learned.

Flaherty will present the measures in his fiscal update at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Jim Flaherty: Lunatic fringe

And to think, our lunatic Finance Minister was keen on a deal that would have torched $1 billion in annual tax revenue?

Flaherty keen on Bell-Teachers deal

Paul Vieira, Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, July 04 2007

OTTAWA -- The $51.7-billion pension fund-led buyout of Bell Canada Inc. spells good news for the Canadian economy so long as the prospective new owners follow through and invest billions in R&D and upgraded infrastructure, says Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

"The key in industries such as telecommunications is that the entity has the ability to invest in innovation, and research and development. And that requires substantial amounts of capital. And from what I hear, that is

likely to happen to Bell Canada. And that is good for Canada," Mr. Flaherty said in an interview on Tuesday.

In the interview, the finance minister indicated he was comfortable with the role private equity and pension funds are playing in the economy. As a result, he does not believe Ottawa needs to review either the tax-exempt status of pension funds - which vied to take over Bell Canada - or rules that would apply to leveraged buyouts.

It is estimated Ottawa stands to lose over $1-billion in annual tax revenue should Bell Canada be privatized
. Mr. Flaherty played down those worries, noting the federal government stands to reap a one-time windfall through capital gains taxes.

The Finance Minister's comments come days after Bell Canada's board of directors announced it struck a deal to sell the company to a group led by Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board for $42.75 a share, or $34.8-billion.

With inclusion of debt and preferred shares, the total value of the transaction stands at $51.7-billion.

Canadian investors will own 59% of Bell Canada, formerly known as BCE, with Teachers holding the bulk at 52%. U.S.-based funds Providence Equity Partners and Madison Dearborn Partners will hold 32% and 9%, respectively.

On paper, the transaction could pose some problems for Ottawa due to the possible loss of tax revenue. The Bell Canada transaction will largely be financed with debt, and that greatly reduces the amount of tax paid to Ottawa. Also, wiping out the Bell Canada shares - the most widely held in the country -means Ottawa is no longer able to tax the dividends that accompany the stock.

But Mr. Flaherty said Ottawa stands to gain in other ways. "If the present transaction goes forward, there will be a substantial amount of capital gains tax paid by shareholders of BCE," he said.

(Under the current scheme, half of the profit generated from an asset sale, such as Bell Canada shares, is subject to a capital gains tax - on average, 21%.)

More important, though, he said that the new owners would likely be able to invest in upgraded technology - such as fibre optic wiring to households or the wireless network - that, in turn, will help increase Canadian productivity. Improved wiring to Canadian homes would allow Bell Canada to deliver faster Internet service to its customers, and allow it to keep pace with their cable company rivals. Bell Canada is said to be years behind its U.S. peers in this type of investment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Flaherty said he envisaged no role for Ottawa in terms of limiting how much debt can be used to finance the transaction. Tax experts have recommended such a move to preserve a federal tax base given the growing role of private equity and leveraged buyouts.

"At the end of the day these are business decisions to be made by business people - that is, assessing risk, because leveraging is the creation of risk. And we are not going to substitute our opinion for their opinion in terms of the amount of risk they are prepared to take in these transactions."

For the time being, he has also ruled out reviewing the tax-exempt status of pension funds. These funds, such as Teachers, can defer taxes owed. As a result, dividends derived from equity holdings flow through without facing a tax hit.

"The purpose of the pension funds, ultimately, is to ensure they can honour their pension obligations. And there is taxation, of course, when pensions are paid out," the Minister said.

Financial Post

What part of this failed BCE outcome is a surprise?

Note the date:

Goldman Sachs: (BCE’s financial advisor) in letter to BCE’s Board June 29, 2007:

“We express no opinion as to the impact of the transaction on the solvency or viability of BCE or the ability of BCE to pay its obligations when they become due.”

Not what taxpayers had in mind.....measures to entrench the stench.

Tories expected to slash party funding
Nov 26, 2008 08:32 PM
Julian Beltrame

OTTAWA–Symbolic cuts to politicians' perks, temporary relief for pension plans and a political grenade – ending the $30 million public subsidy to parties – are expected highlights of Thursday's federal economic statement.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will ask the five political parties to give up the $1.95-per-vote subsidy they get to pay for staff and expenses.

Opposition parties are likely to see the measure as a declaration of war only weeks after the election because of the Conservatives' commanding strength in fundraising.

The president of the Treasury Board rejected that suggestion.

"It would hurt us the most," said Vic Toews, although he refused to confirm the measure publicly.

Such a measure would cost the cash-strapped Liberals $7.7 million, the NDP $4.9 million, while the Bloc Quebecois would take a $2.6-million hit and the fledgling Green Party would be out $1.8 million.

Stephen Harper's Conservatives, who won the most votes, stand to lose $10 million.

But proportional to revenues raised last year, the taxpayer subsidy represents 37 per cent of the totals raised by the Tories.

That's far less than the 63 per cent chop for Liberal coffers, 86 per cent for the Bloc and 57 per cent for the NDP. The Greens stand to lose 65 per cent of total revenues.

The government might also use the fiscal update as an opportunity to avoid substantial salary increases for federally appointed judges.

Sunday is the deadline for the government to respond to recommendations that would give the judges pay increases much higher than the government proposed.

A steady stream of leaks have come from the government aimed at portraying the Conservatives as willing to share the pain.

Little has been said about how much pain Canadians may endure in the coming months.

The Tories were talking tough Wednesday.

"I urge the member to wait until tomorrow, and we will see who wants to lead by example," House Leader Jay Hill said in response to a question.

Harper's director of communication Kory Teneycke also appeared to be throwing down the gauntlet to the opposition.

"I'll see whether other political parties are willing to walk the walk with us when it comes to constraining spending or is this just about constraining other people's spending and not their own?" he said.

Thursday's update, the Harper government's first come-clean with Canadians since repeatedly dismissing the possibility of recession and deficits, will officially concede the likelihood of both.

But the multi-billion dollar stimulus package being prepared to prevent the economy from falling into an even deeper hole will have to wait until the budget early next year.

Instead, Flaherty is expected to announce several measures to rein in spending by MPs and top mandarins, such as restrictions on travel and expenses.

As well, the update will cut or trim the $6,500 salary increase for MPs scheduled to go into effect April 1, which could save up to $2 million.

A bigger saving could be realized from cancelling Christmas bonuses for management-class civil servants and executives of Crown corporations that can add 10 per cent to their pay packets.

For Canadians, the government is expected to offer temporary relief from mandated withdrawals from registered retirement income funds (called RRIFs), a measure estimated to be worth about $135 million.

"Tomorrow's statement, as I said to the House before, is not a mini-budget. It is an economic update," Flaherty said.

Industry Minister Tony Clement also was non-committal in reaction to news that Magna International will close two Toronto-area plants and lay off 850 workers, although he said the government was seized with the issue.

The Conference Board predicted that 15,000 auto sector jobs will be lost next year.

The measures – particularly the controls on MP and bureaucrat expenditures – were dismissed by opposition parties as symbolic gestures that pale compared to the bold responses to the crisis from other nations.

"They're into the gimmicky stuff and they're not acting quickly enough on the substantive issues that are effecting people," said Vancouver Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh.

NDP Jack Layton said his party will co-operate with the belt-tightening, but added Canadians want more.

"We know that for every billion spent (on infrastructure) you create 11,000 jobs and that's what other countries are doing," he pointed out.

Since the economic slowdown accelerated into a full-fledged global recession earlier this fall, the U.S. has already begun spending or committed to spend US$1.5 trillion, Britain $418 billion, Germany $213 billion, Japan an estimated $275 billion in response, and China close to $600 billion – almost all in fiscal stimulus.

Canada has announced no new stimulus, although it injected more than $100 billion into domestic money markets to ensure banks have sufficient capitalization to continue lending to homeowners and businesses.

Clement said the tepid response shows the government is acting prudently and not panicking.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New level of deceit: Harper signs communiqué he doesn't even believe in

Timeline for ending economic crisis 'premature': Harper

David Akin , Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, November 23, 2008

LIMA, Peru - Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed on to a final declaration by Pacific Rim leaders stating that the economic and financial crisis would be over in 18 months but then told reporters he thought it premature to make such a prediction.

The relatively rosy declaration by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum was made Sunday morning, just as Harper's Finance minister was telling a Canadian television audience that Canada could be in a recession now.

"We may well be in a technical recession," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Sunday on CTV's Question Period.

It was the first time that Flaherty has conceded that Canada's economy is in recession - defined by most economists as two consecutive quarters in which gross domestic product shrinks.

Speaking to reporters here after the conclusion of the APEC summit, Harper said he agreed with Flaherty's assessment.

"The most recent private sector forecasts suggest the strong possibility of a technical recession at the end of this year and beginning of next," Harper said. "I am surprised at this. I am further surprised, more importantly by deflationary pressure that we're seeing around the world," Harper said.

"This is a worrying development. This is one of the reasons it may be necessary to take unprecedented fiscal stimulus."

Harper declined to discuss specific measures his government may be considering.

The GDP numbers for the fourth quarter of 2008 will not be released until March 2 and the numbers for the first quarter of 2009 won't be out until June 1. So neither the government nor Canadians will be able to say definitively until June 1 if Canada is in a recession right now.

Given the slowdown in the United States, Canada's largest trading partner, Canada's recent economic performance seems to have defied the experts. For example, as car sales plummeted in the U.S. last month, car sales in Canada actually rose by one per cent. The U.S. economy has shed more than one million jobs in the last 12 months while Canada's economy, at the end of October, had created a staggering 223,000 new jobs in the same period.

Flaherty is to present his annual fall economic update on Thursday. That update is expected to contain the government's latest forecasts for economic growth and how slowing growth is affecting the federal treasury.

Here at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the leaders of 20 Pacific Rim countries wrapped up two days of meetings by declaring, "We are convinced that we can overcome this crisis in a period of eighteen months."

Harper told reporters that line was inserted in the group's finale communique at the request of the meetings' host, Peruvian President Alan Garcia.

"I think it would be premature to speculate on that kind of timeline," Harper said.

APEC leaders also declared that they would refrain from bringing in any new trade barriers for at least 12 months.

On Friday, as if to underline his commitment to the principle of open trade, Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed a free trade deal between the two countries that, once it is in place some time after 2010, could open up new market for Canadian beef, pork, and other products.

"Technical" recession? Is that the same as "not inhaling"?

Sun Nov. 23 2008 12:47:27 PM
Canada could face `technical' recession: Flaherty

The Canadian Press
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks at an economists conference, in downtown Toronto on Wednesday November 12, 2008.(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks at an economists conference, in downtown Toronto on Wednesday November 12, 2008.(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

OTTAWA -- Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the Canadian economy could be on the verge of slipping into a "technical recession."

Speaking on CTV's Question Period, Flaherty said it's possible economic output could fall slightly below the line that separates slowdown from outright contraction in the final quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year.

Economists define recession as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, a scenario that Canada has narrowly avoided so far, despite deteriorating conditions in the United States and other western countries.

The possibility that Canada could slip into recession has been raised by a number of private-sector analysts, but Flaherty has generally avoided using the politically loaded R-word.

The finance minister is due to deliver a formal economic update to Parliament later this week.

From idealogically abhorent to "essential" in five short weeks?

Budget deficit 'essential' if economic stimulus needed: Harper
November 22, 2008
CBC News

Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes his seat at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru, on Saturday. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Budgetary deficits may be an inevitable reality for countries intending to use financial stimulus packages to revive their economies, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Saturday.

During a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Peru, Harper suggested the Canadian government will introduce a stimulus package to boost the economy while trying to avoid setting the stage for a long-term government deficit.

Signalling a shift in his usual anti-deficit stance, he acknowledged that countries that choose to implement fiscal stimulus packages will likely find it necessary to run budgetary deficits.

"We did agree at the G20 [summit in Washington] last week that additional fiscal stimulus should be used to sustain global demand if monetary policy continues to prove to be inadequate," Harper said in Lima.

"These are, of course, the classic circumstances under which budgetary deficits are essential."

It was an about-face for the prime minister, who in the lead-up to last month's election dismissed the possibility of a deficit, saying they were addictive and out of the question for Canada.

Harper said Saturday that whatever short-term new spending his government pursues, it "will ensure that Canada does not return to long-term structural budgetary deficits."
Trade barriers opposed
His comments came as the 21 leaders at the APEC summit pledged to invoke a 12-month moratorium on new trade barriers in an attempt to stabilize the global economy

"We reiterate our firm belief that free market principles, and open trade and investment regimes, will continue to drive global growth, employment and poverty reduction," the statement says.

"There is a risk that slower world growth could lead to calls for protectionist measures which would only exacerbate the current economic situation."

The statement comes on the heels of a broad plan adopted by leaders at last weekend's G20 summit in Washington, and goes one step further by pledging not to impose additional economic trade barriers in the next 12 months.

Leaders also pledged to reach agreement next month on the outline of a World Trade Organization pact that collapsed in July after seven years of negotiations. Concern over the global financial crisis injected new urgency into the so-called Doha round of trade talks.

Harper also used his speech to send a message that a freer trading system is the best way to restore global economic prosperity, saying the world is entering an economic period that is "potentially as dangerous" as anything the world has seen since 1929.

The Great Depression of the 1930s was not caused by a stock market collapse but by government policies and protectionist trade barriers that followed the crash, Harper said.

He criticized policymakers of that time for allowing the banking sector to contract and deflation to take hold, then trying to manage the problem by balancing government budgets instead of providing financial stimulus.
Unprecedented prosperity
"Notwithstanding our current difficulties, the prosperity generated around the world in the last part of 20th century, and the beginning of the 21st century, has been unprecedented in history," Harper said.

"Removing protectionist barriers and easing trade restrictions was a big factor in ushering in this extraordinary era. …We cannot allow ourselves to turn back."

Countries around the world should be "vigilant" against the rise of protectionism as they grapple with their slowing economies, he said.

Canada is committed to "pursuing mutually beneficial economic relations with like-minded nations" around the world, Harper said, pointing to a free-trade agreement signed this year with Peru, as well as a similar, tentative agreement with Colombia, announced Friday night.

"When it comes to Canada's support of free and open economies and markets, our view is based on the success of our North American partnerships," he said.

"We took a close and trusting relationship with the United States and we transformed it into the most successful commercial partnership in the history of the world."

Harper and outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush held a bilateral session earlier Saturday, where they discussed the economic slump, the Detroit-Windsor bridge and Canada's concerns about new U.S. rules requiring meat and fresh produce to be labelled by country of origin, the Prime Minister's Office said.

The Canadian livestock industry has complained it is being hurt by U.S. labelling rules.

Harper and Bush also reflected on the work they've done together, with the prime minister saying there were many things the two had agreed on and a few they hadn't, but that Bush was always willing to listen.

For his part, Bush called Harper a good friend and a strong leader.
With files from the Canadian and Associated Press

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Unimpressed with Flaherty

Toronto Star
Unimpressed with Flaherty

Nov 22, 2008

Re: Flaherty reassures seniors

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is apparently concerned that seniors have been getting bad advice from financial institutions about their retirement funds. This is the same man who wiped out $35 billion in the retirement savings of seniors and then refused to release the supporting documentation that showed an alleged "tax leakage."

The only bad advice that seniors got was to trust Stephen Harper when he assured them that income trusts would never be taxed at source. Flaherty is quoted as saying, "I believe it is important to ensure that they do not face undue obstacles in managing their assets in these challenging times." This is from the man who brought in "experts" who ridiculed seniors for investing in income trusts.

Now seniors sit and watch Flaherty and the Conservatives bend over backwards to assist financial institutions that made serious errors in investing in asset-backed commercial paper. Flaherty was given several alternatives that could have spared seniors, but he disregarded all of them in his attack.

William Mayne, Markdale, Ont.

“The only thing we have to fear Is Harper himself”

Today we learn from Lima Peru that Stephen Harper is promising "unprecedented action" to calm the state of fear. Please somebody, put this guy on a leash. What is he up to now? Stephen Harper is the main source of Canadians' fear and Canada's economic undoing. This is the guy who increased spending by 14% per annum while reducing the GST by 2%? This is the guy who promised us in the last election that Canada's fundamentals were strong and encouraged Canadians to invest in the stock market. Those who followed Steve's advice will have lost 21% of their investment. This is the guy who encouraged Canadians to invest in income trusts in the 2006 election and promised to protect seniors nest eggs. That sucker punch advice cost these Canadians $35 billion of their life savings.

No, the only thing Canadians have to fear is Stephen Harper himself. My advice: Put a sock in it Steve, we don't need any more of your "unprecedented actions".

Harper promises 'unprecedented' action to calm 'state of fear'

David Akin ,
Canwest News Service
November 21, 2008

LIMA, Peru - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking here on the eve of the APEC leaders' summit, said markets "remain in a state of fear" and vowed to take "unprecedented fiscal actions if they are necessary" to stimulate economic growth and ease tightened credit conditions.

Harper was to have a one-on-one meeting with U.S. President George Bush on Saturday morning before giving a speech to CEOs and leaders from the 20 countries that make up the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. He will also be meeting with the leaders of New Zealand and Peru on Saturday.

Following the G20 leaders summit last weekend in Washington, stock markets in Canada and around the world suffered one of their worst weeks ever.

"The markets remain in a state of fear," Harper said at a news conference here after he and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed a free trade deal between the two countries. "Those fears aren't always rational, but they're very real."

Analysts attributed some of the losses to tightened credit conditions, even though the world's governments have pumped billions of dollars into the world's banks.

"There remains considerable fear in stock markets and other markets around the world," Harper said."These markets are from time to time not rational."

Though the benchmark TSX Composite Index regained some ground on Friday, it was down more than nine per cent for the week following the G20 summit.

"This government's made clear, all major governments in the world - and I think we'll see the same thing this week - they're determined to take whatever financial, monetary or fiscal actions that are necessary to sustain growth in the global economy."

Harper said lowering trade barriers through agreements such as the one he signed Friday with Colombia will be an important component of protecting and encouraging economic growth.

"We will take, as well, in Canada, unprecedented fiscal actions if they are necessary. We will do whatever is necessary to sustain the position of the Canadian economy," Harper said.

© Canwest News Service 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Teachers' bid for BCE inspires confidence?

With 21 days until the ostensible closing date of December 11th, and the shares of BCE commanding a whopping $34.33 at today’s closing, this implies a whole lot of risk about this transaction ever closing as advertised at $42.75.

The current price implies a compound annualized rate of return of 4,526%

What do you suppose the market is telling us? That pigs fly?

Hapless Harper by the numbers: Sell on weakness

November 21, 2008

Stephen Harper's Index

Cumulative amount the Conservative government is projected to be in deficit over the next four fiscal years (low scenario) according to the Parliamentary Budget Office: $50.6 billion

Amount that Stephen Harper repeatedly claimed the Conservative government would be in deficit during the last election: $0


Amount of value an investor would have lost if they had purchased a TSX index fund right after Stephen Harper claimed there were "good buying opportunities" in the market: 21%


Number of mentions of the word "uncertainty" in the Speech from the Throne: 4

Number of mentions of the word "instability": 2

Number of mentions of the word "challenges": 8

Number of mentions of the word "deficits": 2

Number of mentions of the words "good management": Zero

Number of mentions of the words "budget plan": Zero

Number of mentions of the words "contingency fund": Zero

Number of mentions of the words "it would be misguided to commit to a balanced budget": 1


Number of resolutions passed at the recent Conservative policy convention that would remove the Canadian Human Rights Commission's authority to address hate messaging: 1

Number of caucus-sponsored resolutions passed that would remove "gender equality" from the Conservative policy platform: 1

Number of resolutions passed that would address the current economic crisis: Zero

Lies my Prime Minister told me

That he wouldn’t raid seniors’ nest eggs by taxing income trusts
That income trusts cause tax leakage
That he wouldn’t call an election until October 2009
That he didn’t bribe Chuck Cadman
That the economy is sound
That he would never run a deficit

What other lies await us, Prime Minister Dearest?

Canada's Least Trustworthy "Economist"

Perhaps by saying that he is an "Economist", Harper really means to say that he is economical with the truth?

How Harper could (and should) have ducked a deficit

Ralph Goodale,
National Post
November 21, 2008

Not long ago, as Canadians were about to vote in the federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was emphatic about his Conservative government not running a budgetary deficit.

Now, barely a month later, he wants us to believe that he's being driven toward unavoidable red ink by sudden international circumstances beyond his control.

It's all the fault of a collapsing U. S. housing market, bank failures, a global credit crunch and continuing turmoil in financial markets world-wide. That's the Conservative spin.

So now, the Canadian government has no choice but to sell off capital assets, or cancel programs and services, or run a federal deficit -- or a combination of all three -- if it's going to safeguard Canadian pensions, salvage jobs in the manufacturing, automotive and forestry sectors and kick-start economic growth.

But wait a minute. This Conservative story just doesn't add up.

Yes, the economic crisis that began in the United States is very real, and it will indeed inflict significant damage in Canada and around the world. But the fact that this country is not in a better position today to weather that storm is entirely Mr. Harper's domestic responsibility.

The best economic forecasters in the private sector and within government have been warning successive finance ministers since at least 2003 about the huge downside risks posed by the precarious American situation. Previous Liberal governments took those warnings seriously. Stephen Harper did not.

From his Liberal predecessors, he inherited the most robust fiscal position in all the G8 group of world-leading economies, including an annual surplus of more than $12-billion and projected financial flexibility of close to $100-billion over the coming five years.

The fact that Canada is not in a position to weather the economic crisis is entirely his fault

But as soon as he came into office, and long before any U. S. crisis materialized, Mr. Harper began frittering all of that away.

He increased federal government spending to an unprecedented level. He eroded the federal tax base, without bolstering productivity or improving disposable incomes. And he eliminated the extra prudence and the contingency reserve that used to be built into federal budget-making as "fiscal shock absorbers" to protect against sudden nasty surprises.

You always hope those surprises will never actually happen, but inevitably they do. Until Mr. Harper arrived on the scene, Canada had the wherewithal to defend itself.

We withstood the consequences of major international currency crises in Mexico and Asia, the SARS pandemic, mad cow disease and the fallout from 9/11, while still cutting taxes, paying down debt, investing in health care, education, innovation and infrastructure and staying solidly in the black at the same time.

But no more. Mr. Harper has squandered Canada's fiscal capacity.

So the first external crisis to come along on his watch results in a deficit. And that's entirely his responsibility.

-Ralph Goodale is the Liberal MP for Wascana constituency in Saskatchewan and House Leader for the Official Opposition. He was Canada's finance minister from 2003 to 2006.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Now’s the time for Liberals to insist on Snake Oil Steve's proof of tax leakage

“He has told cabinet and caucus to stay on the high road,” a senior Tory told The Globe and Mail Wednesday. “However, we are not to be punching bags. We are advised to respond in a firm, fair, factual way.”

Respond in a factual way? In that case, the Liberals need to ask Harper for his proof of tax leakage.......and not accept “no” as an answer this time round. The G20 Communiqué of last week called for greater transparency. Let’s have it folks. Enough with Harper’s snake oil salesman lies and deceit. Canadians have lost $35 billion of their savings, for either a valid reason or a false reason. Which is it Steve? We can handle the truth, can you? Prove the case or drop the tax.

Facing a crisis, Harper instructs MPs to be less confrontational

Globe and Mail
November 19, 2008

OTTAWA — After three years of leading one of the most combative federal governments in recent memory, Stephen Harper is telling his MPs that it's time they take the high road. MPs and officials across government were given marching orders by the Prime Minister recently and told to shelve the aggressive ways of the first term in favour of a kinder, gentler attitude. It was a message, say sources, that the PM himself delivered recently to his caucus. “He has told cabinet and caucus to stay on the high road,” a senior Tory told The Globe and Mail Wednesday. “However, we are not to be punching bags. We are advised to respond in a firm, fair, factual way.” The PM, according to one senior government member, told MPs that women in the caucus are particularly good at verbally sparring with opposition members without coming off as too combative.
Since being re-elected in October, the Tories have purposely adopted a new, less confrontational attitude toward opposition MPs in the Commons, in part, experts say, because they cannot afford to be seen fighting relatively inconsequential battles while the economy falters. That new attitude gets a significant test Thursday, as Question Period kicks off for the first time since June. Examples of the government's new approach abound since the campaign ended. On Monday, Mr. Harper called all of the premiers and territorial leaders to brief them on the Group of 20 meetings in Washington – an unusual step for the PM, who is responsible for international negotiations. He also recently cautioned Tories at their Winnipeg convention to avoid ideological approaches during the current economic difficulties, and met for three hours with the premiers and territorial leaders on the economy, a get-together that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called “one of the best meetings I've had at a first ministers.”

The relationship with Ontario is a particularly significant example. On Wednesday, Industry Ministry Tony Clement and Ontario Economic Development Minister Michael Bryant left for Detroit to discuss the economic difficulties facing the Big Three American auto makers. It's a trip that almost certainly wouldn't have happened during Mr. Harper's first term, when the relationship with Ontario was strained by controversy over redistributing seats in the Commons and a plan to overhaul the Senate. It hit its lowest point when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Ontario was the worst place for a foreign businessperson to invest. Others have noted a more personable PM. One Tory official was taken aback recently when Mr. Harper hailed him from a stairwell and asked how he was doing. Political scientist Antonia Maioni said the Prime Minister may be taking a new tack because he has grasped that he must compromise if he wants to get things done. “Stephen Harper is realizing that he is a minority government prime minister,” said Ms. Maioni, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. “I think he realizes that he has to find new strategies to govern. He may be coming to terms with that as a political leader.” How long the new attitude will hold is anyone's guess.

The opposition would no doubt love to provoke a prime-ministerial outburst, and the Prime Minister is known to have a temper. And the new nice-guy act doesn't apply to everything. At the party's convention last week in Winnipeg, the Conservatives blocked the media from attending a series of select key debates on the party's policy direction. And the PMO continues to insist that individual reporters affix their names to a list from which officials choose those who are allowed to ask a question. There are also potential conflicts with the provinces over such matters as a single national securities regulator. Finally, some Tories wonder whether Mr. Harper is taking a more collegial attitude to mollify party members upset at him for failing to deliver a majority. “Ask the candidates who lost in the last election, or cabinet ministers who are either moved laterally or demoted, if he was particularly warm and fuzzy,” one Conservative government official said. “There's a lot to be said for a charm offensive, particularly at a time like this,” said Peter Donolo, a partner with the Strategic Counsel, a polling firm. “People will be prone to think that Question Period banter or very aggressive behaviour in the House is trivial or kind of fiddling while Rome burns.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mellissa Fung comments on the complete inaccuracy of the Globe and Mail’s reporting:

The Globe and Mail:
The folks who dutifully delivered to Canadians, Stephen Harper’s lies about tax leakage from income trusts, are now apparently covering up salient details about Harper’s prisoner exchange for Mellissa Fung.

My interest in the Mellissa Fung story, given we were only told about it after the fact, resides in the fact that it reveals, proof positive, that the Canadian media can be orchestrated by political forces, as I have always believe occurred in the media's coverage of Harper's income trust fraud.

Although Canadians were deprived knowledge of Mellissa' kidnapping that occurred two days before the federal election, news of Mellissa's kidnapping was revealed in real time in the Afghan media? I guess fully informed Canadians are Harper's true enemy. Meanwhile Harper is advancing the false notion that no prisoners were exchanged to secure Mellissa's release. She tell us otherwise. Evidently the Globe has its own reasons to misreport this Mellissa Fung story, just as it totally misreported on Harper's $35 billion income trust fraud.

Interviewer: What do you know now about the kinds of negotiations that went on? There were reports that there were prisoner exchanges, reports that JTF-2 was left on hold, Canada's commando unit, just in case they could help you.

Mellissa Fung: I didn't know about any of that.

Did you hear any of this?

Mellissa Fung:
No, but I read a Globe and Mail article the other day that was totally wrong. I had to laugh because none of it was true except they got my name right.

Interviewer: What was it about?

Mellissa Fung: It was about trading up, that I traded hands three times and — I don't remember the details. But I had to laugh because there was nothing about it that was right except they spelled my name right.

I now understand that Afghan intelligence had sort of fingered the family of the ringleader of this gang and had arrested a whole bunch of them, and it was a prisoner exchange that they agreed to release the family if the group would release me, and that's what ended up happening.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hypocrite Harper preaches double standards on world stage

Harper is calling for peer review of other countries' banking systems?

Peer review?

Why is Harper preaching double standards on the world stage, since he doesn’t practice these standards at home? After all, Harper’s fraudulent tax leakage analysis caused $35 billion in losses to innocent Canadian taxpayers. Where was the peer review of Harper's tax leakage analysis? There wasn't any, since all Harper offered as evidence of tax leakage was 18 pages of blacked out documents.

Harper is a fraud, a hypocrite and a liar. Now he's taken that schtick onto the world stage:

Harper calls for global scrutiny of countries' banking systems


Globe and Mail Update

November 14, 2008 at 2:51 PM EST

WINNIPEG — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he wants countries such as the United States to agree to subject their financial systems to “peer review” by other countries – comments made as he heads to a key economic summit on tackling a global crisis triggered by an American banking and lending meltdown.

Just to be clear: It was Paul Martin who saved us from......

bank mergers and the reciprocal foreign ownership of Canadian banks.

Canadian PM: Speculative That Bank-Merger Ban Helped Avoid Woes

OTTAWA (Dow Jones)--Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday it was
"speculative" to say that domestic banks avoided the same kind of problems faced
by global counterparts because they are prohibited from merging.

"I have asked the question - if we had allowed bank mergers do we think we
would be in a substantially different situation today? Most of the experts I've
talked to do not share that view. But it is speculative," Harper said at a
televised news conference in Winnipeg.

He said it was "solid" regulation that has kept the banking system strong.

"That solid system of regulation has created a culture of prudence in our
banking system," he said.

Harper's comments were partially echoed in a speech by Julie Dickson, head of
the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, or OSFI, the
country's chief banking regulator. The speech, made at an insurance forum
Thursday, was published on the OSFI Web site Friday.

"A lot of past decisions made in Canada have served the system well (for
example, high capital targets, attention to quality of capital, and the leverage
ratio in the banking industry)," she said. Dickson also noted that Canadian
banks have "platinum quality" capital, since their Tier 1 capital is comprised
of a high percentage of common equity. Canadian bank capital ratios are also
higher than the global average, she said.

" We have seen recently how strong capital cushions in Canada have paid off to
the benefit of our institutions and overall financial system," Dickson said.

Nevertheless, she added, the situation faced by the global financial-services
industry is "indeed serious", which is why the regulator has taken some action.

Among recent actions, OSFI has requested that Canadian banks and life insurers
request its permission before making any share buy-backs. The regulator has also
provided added flexibility for the banks to issue preferred shares and have them
included as Tier 1 capital, and it has changed capital requirements for life
insurers related to segregated fund guarantees.

Now that the election is over, Canadian media starts reporting kidnappings in real time?

Canadian journalist kidnapped in Pakistan: Report

Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, November 13, 2008

VANCOUVER - Government officials in northwest Pakistan are trying to negotiate the release of a Canadian journalist, who was kidnapped with three local guides Tuesday, a Pakistani newspaper says.

The Daily Times, an English-language newspaper in Lahore, said Khadija Abdul Qahaar, the owner and publisher of, was reported missing.

The Lahore newspaper said officials were speaking with elders of the Janikhel tribe about Qahaar's release.

The paper said she was doing freelance work in the area, but was not registered with National Union of Canadian Journalists.

Qahaar, formerly known as Beverly Giesbrecht, converted to Islam after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

In an "urgent request" posted on the Jihad Unspun website Oct. 22 under her byline, Qahaar asked for help in getting out of Pakistan, which she described as "erupting into a full-scale war zone." She said that as foreigners, she and her team had to leave the country, but don't have funds to get out.

"As a woman, I have already had a few close calls in the tribal areas as kidnappers and thieves are running loose even in Peshawar," she wrote.

Prior to launching the website aimed at inspiring "others to Islam and to take a stand against this shameful war on 'terrorism,'" Qahaar was a self-described publishing entrepreneur and Web developer.

© Vancouver Sun 2008

Canada won't have asset "fire sale" - Harper

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Canada will never have a "fire sale" of government assets, but will still examine the possibility of privatizing some holdings to help avoid a budget deficit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday.

Yes but Stephen, we already did. It’s going on as we speak.....Click here

After Harper's income trust betrayal, many questions still remain

After Harper's income trust betrayal, many questions still remain

Financial Post
November 3, 2007
Brent Fullard

Stephen Harper broke his election promise to never raid seniors’ nest eggs through taxing income trusts, by doing that very thing on Halloween 2006. One year later the following questions remain:

Where is the government’s proof of alleged tax leakage? How could the proposed conversions of BCE and Telus into income trusts have had any effect on tax revenue when neither were paying taxes as corporations and were not expected to for several years? What policy advantage is there, now that BCE has been taken private through a highly debt-leveraged buyout, and which has caused a loss of the $793 million more per year BCE would have paid as an income trust?

How is the stated objective of tax fairness and levellng the playing field achieved when government-sponsored pension plans are allowed to own trusts, free of tax, in their private equity portfolios, while 70% of individual Canadians are not?

Harper wrote the following in the National Post on Oct. 26, 2005: “Income trusts are popular with seniors because they provide regular payments that are used by many to cover the costs of groceries, heating bills and medicine”. If so, then why did he so abruptly and without notice or consultation reverse his promise, leaving investors with losses of $35 billion and their incomes reduced by 31.5% and in some cases 50%? How is this socially just or fair?

Meanwhile why are Jack Layton and the NDP supporting this policy when they profess to be against wholesale foreign takeovers of Canadian businesses and supposedly in favour of protecting seniors’ retirement savings? Where is Jack Layton’s and the NDP’s proof of tax leakage?

Taken as a whole, this is a travesty of democracy – starting with the breaking of a promise, the false premise for breaking the promise, the complete absence of consultation and the litany of adverse policy repercussions as the aftermath of a policy borne out of zero accountability and a complete lack of government transparency. Narrow special interests have successfully manipulated Canada’s New Government for their selfish ends.

Transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of a democracy. The real danger to Canadians is that the Conservative government is flagrantly undermining our democratic institution known as Parliament, if major tax laws are bring enacted and passed on the basis of their foundations being assumed to be true, when in fact no proof whatsoever has been provided by the government.

This is an extremely dangerous precedent to have established, since it gives extraordinary powers to the government to pass important legislation by invoking supposedly fact-based arguments that are devoid of fact-based evidence.

Stephen Harper, together with the Jack Layton and the members of their respective parties, are acting in concert to abrogate Canadian’s democratic institution known as Parliament. As such we are calling for a public inquiry to fully examine the matter of alleged tax leakage, particularly in light of the government’s announced reduction in corporate tax rates by a staggering 32%, from 22% to 15%, in 2012. If the original policy intent on income trusts was to “level the playing field” with corporations, then this changed tax regime for corporations announced by the government this week demands a reexamination of the extent to which these most recent measures will have tilted the playing field in favour of corporations and to the detriment of income trusts.

Brent Fullard
President & CEO
Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors

Don Martin, known for his petty vendetta journalism, is sued for libel:

Today we learn that Arthur Kent is suing Don Martin for libel. Don Martin is the same Calgary Herald journalist who refused to release Harper’s 200 page manual on how to obstruct parliament when asked by me. For my persistence I was awarded with a petty vendetta article from Don Martin entitled “Will someone save me from Brent Fullard?” in which he attempted to discredit me during the last election, in the same way he did with Arthur Kent. Is this the best and greatest use of Don Martin’s time? Maybe he could use his prodigious (?) journalistic talents to reveal Harper’s tax leakage argument to be the blatant lie that is. No doubt a few people in Calgary would appreciate that, since their once vibrant industry was destroyed for no good reason. But I guess that would actually involve doing some research? In that case, forget it. Politically motivated petty journalism prevails:

Arthur Kent sues CanWest for libel

Claims newspapers attacked him during political campaign

By Etan Vlessing

Nov 13, 2008, 02:42 PM ET
TORONTO -- Canadian journalist Arthur Kent, known as the "Scud Stud" for his live NBC reports during the 1991 Gulf War, on Thursday filed a libel lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court against CanWest Global Communications Corp.

Kent said the lawsuit results from a profile of him [by Don Martin] in the Calgary Herald and the National Post, both CanWest Global newspapers, that ran during a recent provincial election in Alberta. Kent ran unsuccessfully to represent a local Calgary riding.

"CanWest launched a grossly inaccurate and biased attack on my character and reputation. The article misrepresents both our team's election campaign and my career in journalism, particularly my work for the New York-based broadcast news industry," Kent alleges in his suit.

The Canadian journalist added that the CanWest Global newspapers refused to publish a rebuttal to the newspaper column that he submitted. Kent earlier filed a defamation action against the media company in Calgary.

In September, Kent settled a lawsuit against Universal Studios over the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" in which portions of his voice and video recordings were used in the war drama without his permission.

Arthur Kent's brother, longtime Canadian newscaster Peter Kent, was recently elected to the House of Parliament in Ottawa to represent a north Toronto constituency.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ignatieff launches his campaign by positioning Harper as a liar

Michael Ignatieff announced his campaign for leadership of the Liberal Party today with some prepared comments. The second sentence of which is that Stephen Harper is a liar, citing Harper’s betrayal on income trusts as his first example and calling Harper's government intellectually bankrupt..

As a Liberal delegate, I will be supporting Michael Ignatieff’s leadership bid for this and a whole host of other reasons.

And for this, we bailed out the banks?

Jim Flaherty swapped $75 billion of taxpayers’ money for a questionable pool of mortgages , in order to free up credit and allow taxpayers the privilege of losing $800 million a year in taxes from the LBO of BCE?

TD bangs drum for BCE buyout

Andrew Willis, November 12, 2008 at 7:37 PM EST

Give Toronto-Dominion Bank boss Ed Clark full marks for consistency.
The unflappable Mr. Clark stood four-square behind his bank's commitment to the BCE buyout on Wednesday. Where many bankers would resort to weasel words in talking their way around a potentially thorny situation, Mr. Clark was straight forward in supporting a client.

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan purchase of BCE is expected to close by Dec. 11, and there has been speculation the four banks funding the deal will look for an exit ever since the credit crunch began in the summer of 2007. But TD Bank has been steadfast in its public support the deal, and speaking Wednesday at the Reuters Global Finance Summit in New York, Mr. Clark said: "I'm confident that we'll be there with our money."

Mr. Clark did say it was unlikely the debt would be syndicated before the buyout closed, adding it is difficult to syndicate loans in these markets, according to Reuters.

Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland are also lending on the BCE purchase. The Teachers and its backers have agreed to buy BCE for $42.75 a share, and the stock closed Wednesday at $37.30 on the TSX.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More lies from the Prime Misleader

Mellissa Fung: There was a prisoner exchange. [Opposed to news embargo].

Norman Spector, today at 3:50 PM EST
Globe and Mail

First of all, it was great to see Mellissa looking and sounding so healthy in her interview with the CBC's Anna-Maria Tremonti. And one had to admire her frankness in saying that, as a journalist, she would have wanted to report the kidnapping, but that she accepted the decision of the experts to maintain an embargo.

The interview also served to clear up the circumstances of her liberation (I'm paraphrasing): Afghan intelligence fingered the family [of kidnappers] and they arrested a whole bunch of them, and I now understand that there was an exchange of prisoners.

I guess you can say that Prime Minister Harper told Canadians the truth, but only technically, and only if you parse his statements very liberally. And it's now clear why the CBC's John Cruickshank - faced with a choice of playing the same word games or contradicting the Prime Minister - refused to comment on the negotiations that led to her release, other than to say that no money changed hands.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Evidently, Americans have a right to know, that eludes Canadians under Harper

Why did Stephen Harper prevent Canadians from learning about the kidnapping of Mellissa Fung (pictured above) when it actually occured on October 12, 2008? This is not the practice of other nations, as evidenced by this report below.

Can this news embargo willingly engaged in by Canada's press be explained by the fact that we had an election in progress and Harper wanted to bury this news for his own political fortunes? Keep in mind, Harper had stopped taking any questions from the press on October 12, 2008 on any topic? That's Harper's twisted idea of a democracy.

New York Times Reporter Kidnapped Near Kabul

November 11, 2008 6:18 a.m. EST

AHN Staff

Kabul, Afghanistan (AHN) - A journalist from the New York Times together with two Afghan colleagues were abducted by unidentified armed men on Monday in Logar province, some 37.2 miles south of the capital Kabul.

Jan Mohammad Khalid, spokesman for the provincial administration said that the New York Times journalist he identified only as David, was forcibly taken by armed men together with his local interpreter Tahir and driver at around 5:00 pm Monday while on their way to Charkh district.

The trio did not coordinate, with the police, their trip to Charkh, he said.

According to Khalid, the New York Times journalist wanted to conduct an interview with local Taliban fighters but failed to inform authorities of their plan.

Logar province police chief Mustafa Mohsino warned that all foreigners, as well as journalists, should coordinate with the police before traveling to Logar province.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

The abduction of the New York Times journalist came after Canadian TV journalist Melissa Fung, a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation were freed Saturday by her abductors in Wardak province.

Fung was abducted by suspected Taliban members on October 12, after her second visit into the country.

She was freed after the local tribal council negotiated with her kidnappers for her quick release.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Canada's Premiers practice Voodoo economics that destroyed Canadians RRSPs

Canada's provincial premiers, who are today calling for action on pensions are the very same group who supported the income trust tax that was based on a tax leakage ruse that ignored the taxes paid by RRSPs. So their solution was to tax them a second time at 31.5% for good measure? How is that consistent with financial theory or their new found desire to protect RRSPs, when that action caused Canadians to lose $35 billion.

These Premiers are merely puppets for somebody. Who? Harper? Paul Desmarais Jr.? Dominic D’Allessandro? Jim Leech? Who? Certainly not Canadians at large. We don’t need their crocodile tears of sympathy. A few facts would be in order before they are to be taken seriously in these challenging economic times. No more shooting from the hip policies of pension destruction, shrouded in the total mystery of 18 pages of blacked out voodoo economics

Premiers urge quick action on pensions, infrastructure

3 hours ago

OTTAWA — The premiers are urging Ottawa to act quickly on protecting the viability of pension plans, speed up infrastructure spending and rescue Ontario's teetering auto industry.

The issues appear uppermost on the premiers' agenda as they gathered for a three-hour working lunch with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"If we don't get it right on how we treat pension plans, we could affect their jobs," said Manitoba Premier Gary Doer on the issue of pension sustainability.

"If we don't get it right on pension plan flexibility, we could have the market just whack a lot of people close to age 71 and they may take a huge hit. These are very, very important issues."

Canadians who turn 71 this year must convert their RRSPs into retirement income funds - known as RIFs - even though the value of their plans have tumbled. As well, private pension plans have been hard hit by the collapse of equity markets and are looking for a relaxation of the rules on funding shortfalls.

Nova Scotia's Rodney MacDonald, Doer and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell urged Ottawa to increase the mandatory age for conversion to allow retirees more flexibility and give them time for the value of the RRSP savings to recover.

"The fact of the matter is we should give them the opportunity to have the value of their life savings recover," Campbell said. "Frankly, if we don't let Canadians take care of themselves, at the end of the day it falls back to government to take care of them."

Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he is looking for co-operation from Ottawa on a rescue package for the teetering auto sector.

"I think there's understanding what's at stake here - 400,000 jobs, 12 Ontario communities, $28 billion in wealth generation, five per cent of our (gross domestic product), it's a pretty significant sector," he said.

Most of the first ministers appear to agree that with the economy slumping, a first step for governments is to inject stimulus by speeding up spending on infrastructure projects already approved in principle.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest said there is no excuse for further delays in about $4 billion in spending that has already been approved.

And the premier said Harper "would send a very powerful signal" by committing to the construction of a high-speed train line along the Quebec City-Windsor, Ont. corridor.

The premiers and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are meeting for the first time since the financial crisis intensified during the fall federal election and sent global economies stumbling toward recession.

The prime minister has been playing down expectations for the meeting, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty suggested Sunday the government may be willing to aid auto plants that have viable prospects.

The minister also said Ottawa is open to a new fiscal stimulus package to try to stave off a recession.

The federal government has been under increasing pressure since the conclusion of the election campaign in mid-October to act more aggressively in dealing with the global financial crisis and sharply deteriorating economy.

It has responded by agreeing to buy up $25 billion in bank-held mortgages in an effort to inject liquidity in the system.

But the auto sector and a broad coalition of industries have separately asked Ottawa for a similar response, saying they need loan guarantees to secure sufficient credit to ride out the storm.

As well, Harper is expected to push for progress towards establishment of a national securities regulator.

The federal government recently announcement it will cap the growth of annual equalization payments to have-not provinces.

Ontario, with its manufacturing sector taking a beating, will join the ranks of the have-nots for the first time next year.