Thursday, October 25, 2012

Supreme court upholds Conservatives' election fraud. Welcome to Kazakhstan

Ex-Liberal MP in Etobicoke Centre loses court challenge, Conservative Ted Opitz keeps seat.

Four of the Supreme Court judges restored 59 of the 79 votes that a lower court judge threw out, preserving Opitz's narrow 2011 federal election victory.
Former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj had challenged the results based on apparent voting irregularities at several polling stations on election day and an Ontario court judge ruled in his favour last May. Wrzesnewskyj lost to Opitz by 26 votes.
But the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the entitlement to vote cannot be annulled due to procedural errors and that there was a lack of evidence that most of the discarded ballots came from voters who were not qualified to vote.
Opitz immediately issued a statement thanking the court for its "carefully reasoned decision."
"As the court decision confirmed, a fair election took place, the result was clear, was then confirmed on a recount and the result has now been endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada," the statement reads.
"Fifty-two thousand people in Etobicoke Centre followed the rules, cast their ballots and today had their democratic decision upheld," Opitz said.
Wrzesnewskyj found a silver lining, despite losing his case.
"The next federal election will be run very differently," he said. "That means we're all ahead. We've all won."

Split decision on voting irregularities

The majority of the judges has a set a high bar for anyone wanting to contest an election result due to failures in record keeping.
They made it clear that that the onus is on the applicant to have very solid proof – proof that might be difficult to establish – that anything went wrong.
On the matter of missing registration certificates, the Supreme Court found that it was up to Wrzesnewskyj to prove that they were missing and the fact they cannot be found is not sufficient evidence.
They were satisfied that the certificates could have been "misplaced" because the deputy returning officer said that she "thought" they had been completed. If that sounds vague, the majority said, it is because she was trying to recall something that happened eight months earlier.
The only irregularities the court would accept were instances where there was no voter's signature on the registration certificate. The signature is supposed to be the voter's statutory declaration that he or she is over 18 and a Canadian citizen.
However, the court did allow registration certificates where an elections official has signed instead of the voter, reasoning that the official "would not put his signature on completely filled out registration forms without being satisfied of the voters’ entitlement to vote," so 10 votes were restored.
The majority also restored the ballots that had been negated due to errors in vouching, which occurs when a voter has no ID and someone swears as to their identity. There were no errors, said the court, only errors in record keeping. Even though vouching paperwork was missing, the court found that initials were enough to prove that the person doing the vouching was a relative of the voter being vouched for.
The majority also dismissed Wrzesnewskyj's cross appeal, which centred on the fact that many voters cast their ballots in the wrong polling division.
The judges said definitively that, "Voting in the wrong polling division had no effect on the result of the election … it is not comparable to voting in the incorrect riding."

Chief justice dissented

What is surprising is that three of the judges reached an opinion that is almost diametrically opposed to the four in the majority.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justices Louis LeBel and Morris Fish found that 65 of the 79 ballots discarded by the lower court judge should have been tossed.
The minority judges took a much harsher view of procedural errors. However, the majority leaned hard towards the entitlement of every qualified Canadian to vote.
The daunting logistics of running a federal election seemed to influence the majority judges.
"A federal election is only possible with the work of tens of thousands of Canadians who are hired across the country for a period of a few days, or, in many cases, a single 14-hour day," they wrote.
There will always be irregularities, was the conclusion.
The court also found that "annulling an election would disenfranchise not only the persons whose votes were disqualified, but every elector who voted in the riding."
In a statement, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae thanked Wrzesnewskyj for his "dedication to upholding the integrity of Canada’s electoral system," calling his faith in democracy "nothing short of remarkable."
"In addition to the split ruling today, there still exists a disturbing trend of irregularities and reports of election fraud stemming from the 2011 general election," Rae said in the statement. "We cannot forget that Canadians across the country were deprived of their right to vote through a co-ordinated attack on our democracy.
"There is still much work to be done and many questions to be answered in order to restore our confidence in Canada's electoral institutions," he said.
Read Kady O'Malley's liveblog from the Supreme Court:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Elizabeth May to Stephen Harper: "I have"

Statement by Elizabeth May in the HOC re: Canada-China Investment Agreement

House of Commons
October 24, 2012 
Mr. Speaker, here is your 60 second briefing on the Canada-China investment treaty, the most significant treaty of its kind since NAFTA.
I requested a technical briefing from the Minister of International Trade on September 27. I got it one hour ago, so I can update folks.
It confirms that Chinese state-owned enterprises would have the right to complain and charge for damages for decisions in Canada by municipal, provincial, territorial or federal governments. It confirms this treaty will apply till 2027 for a minimum, and potentially till 2042, and China can complain of anything it feels is arbitrary.
It will be of greater benefit to Chinese investors in Canada than to Canadian investors in China.
No province has been asked if it approved of this agreement.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister asked that members of this place should acquaint themselves with the treaty. I have. It threatens our security, our sovereignty and our democracy. Yet this 60 seconds will be the only briefing this House gets.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why aren’t we debating the Canada-China investment pact?

By Lawrence Martin
In one week’s time, unless something strange happens, a far-reaching Canada-China investment agreement will take effect. It’s one of the most important commercial agreements Canada has signed since NAFTA. But whereas NAFTA could be terminated on six months’ notice, this deal locks in the signatories for a minimum of 15 years.

The problem is, few know much about the deal. It’s being rammed through the parliamentary system without scrutiny, foisted on the business community, the opposition parties and the country with hardly a word of debate or a vote. Our role is to accept it on faith – to take the government’s word for it.

In fact, while opponents are up in arms, this deal may be a good thing. Canada gets better access to the world’s emerging economic mega-power. Our investors there get rights and protections they didn’t have before. We’ve been trying to get a China investment deal since the mid-1990s.

But how are we to know if the pluses outweigh the negatives without public examination? This agreement didn’t even make it into one of those democracy-shredding omnibus bills the Conservatives have become so fond of.

The debate in this country has been dominated by the proposed Chinese takeover of Calgary’s Nexen Inc. to the extent that few commentators have paid much heed to the investment deal (though Postmedia’s Michael Den Tandt has called the pact’s secrecy mind-boggling). Nexen is important. But it’s a tree. The investment deal is the forest.

So far, all we’ve had is a brief appearance by some trade officials before a parliamentary committee. The government has blocked all other avenues of debate, save to say the opposition parties could devote an opposition day to it. While it’s true that investment agreements are typically of long duration and don’t require parliamentary approval, this is China, not Denmark.

Opponents say the agreement is lopsided in China’s favour. Opposition is being led by Osgoode Hall professor Gus Van Harten, who is one of our very few authorities on the complexities of investment treaties and who has written a 14-point letter to the Prime Minister detailing its failings. The Green Party’s Elizabeth May, a long-time trade policy watcher, has been leading the House of Commons charge along with NDP trade critic Don Davies, who says his leader’s office has received 15,000 e-mails questioning the agreement.

One of the protestations is that national treatment clauses heavily favour Beijing. The Chinese have far more domestic barriers and restraints to trade than does Canada. Investors in China are required in many instances to use local suppliers and labour. Not so investors in Canada.

Another major sore point is the dispute settlement process. Unlike most other investment pacts, this one allows for settlements behind closed doors. As incredible as it sounds, Prof. Van Harten says, Chinese asset owners in Canada “will be able, at their option, to challenge Canadian legislative, executive or judicial decisions outside of the Canadian legal system and Canadian courts.”

In that Chinese investment in Canada far outweighs Canadian investment in China, critics say there’s no reciprocity in this deal. Usually, the capital-importing position under such treaties is occupied by a developing or transition economy. In this case, the capital importer being Canada, there are many vulnerabilities.

McGill University’s Armand de Mestral, also a specialist in investment deals, isn’t as worked up about the pact as Prof. Van Harten. But Ottawa’s handling of it, he says, is unwarranted. Other governments report regularly to their parliaments on their investment deals. The Harper Conservatives promised to open up the process, he notes, but have failed to do so.

So, you ask, what else is new? Not much.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Elizabeth May writes to Queen seeking to restore Canada to a free and fair democracy

Letter to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, requesting a Royal Inquiry to restore Canada to a free and fair democracy
August 30, 2012
Your Majesty,
I wish to write to you regarding a matter of grave importance to Canadians, and I request your assistance with this matter. The mechanisms Canada had in place to ensure free and fair democratic elections appear to be failing.
Many Canadians are concerned that our democracy is endangered, due to election infractions in our most recent elections, the lack of investigation of infractions, the de-funding of investigative bodies, and unprecedented prorogations of Canada’s Parliament, which threaten to undermine the fundamental basis of democracy in Canada. I write to request that Your Majesty Commission a Royal Inquiry to investigate what may potentially be criminal activities which influenced Canada’s last election, and that the aim of the Royal Inquiry be to restore Canada to a free and fair democracy.
Shortly following the last election, I wrote to the head of Elections Canada to express these concerns. I have also repeatedly requested in Parliament that Prime Minister Stephen Harper Commission a Royal Commission of Inquiry. I have never received any response. I remain concerned that with Canadian elections in question, that the current government in power may not be legitimate.
Furthermore, because of the nature of political appointments in Canada, I am concerned there may not be an appropriate vice-regal or appointee within Canada who would be able to objectively undertake the important task of investigating Canada’s elections.
I will, by copy of this letter, share these concerns and request with the Governor General of Canada. I request that Your Majesty please seek a resolution which will benefit all Canadians, by restoring Canadian’s confidence that we can have a free and fair democracy.
I have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servant,
Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Elizabeth May,
Officer of the Order of Canada,
Leader of the Green Party of Canada
Member of Parliament, Saanich-Gulf Islands