Multilateralism from the outside

On Nov. 22, Foreign Minister John Baird criticized allies for not coming down as harshly on Syria and Iran as, apparently, Canada has.

TPP came down to Japan

For years, this newspaper has watched as one pundit and politician after another lined up to opine on why the Harper government was refusing to sign on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

The harm of ill-considered DNA testing

From time to time this paper has reported on the impact that expensive and time-delayed DNA testing has had on keeping families, especially African refugee families, from being reunited with their children.

Canada's democracy by example, or not

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent the weekend at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia encouraging other Commonwealth leaders to focus on democracy and human rights.

EU letter was really for Washington

Aletter released Oct. 23 to the European Union's commissioner for energy, Günther Oettinger, from Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver vigorously complained about the EU's discrimination against Alberta tar sands oil.

Life inside Flaherty's 'generous' Canada

Many protestors inside the Occupy Wall Street movement refer to themselves "the 99 per cent."

As in, not the richest one per cent of Americans who now control 40 per cent of the wealth, and have seen their pay stubs swell 18 per cent in the last decade, while the middle class saw their pay slashed, according to economist Joseph Stiglitz.

Protestors around the world have seized on this make-the-rich-pay slogan, shouting it at rallies in Toronto and Ottawa, for example.

But Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the Occupy movement has no relevance in Canada, because of the country's "progressive tax system" and "generous social system," among other aspects, result in a fairer economy for everyone.

Aside from the grueling irony of watching Mr. Flaherty talk up Canada's social safety net just as his government is about to knife up federal spending in a back alley, his claims should be examined further in the wake of some damning reports.

First, we learned this week that Canada doles out $5-billion in taxpayer cash to businesses to conduct research and development. The independent panel charged with studying this bonanza in taxpayer-funded business growth concluded that the tax credit system behind it is confusing and full of holes.

Meanwhile, we also learned this week that the government does not consider a network of 600 environmental organizations—many of which conduct work on one of humanity's largest collective problems, climate change—to be worth the $547,000 it spends on keeping it alive.

The network was cut loose, said Environment Canada, on the grounds of "responsible spending and sound management of tax dollars." Let's spell that one out: Ottawa is willing to blindly shovel $5 billion out the door to boost corporate bottom lines, but considers cutting half a million to environmental research to be sound fiscal management.

Then there is Mr. Flaherty's idea of Canada's "generous social system." Perhaps he meant the system that a recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities report says hurts immigrants by not providing enough affordable housing, efficient public transit and community services. Or there's the new University of British Columbia report that says the federal and provincial governments need to spend $22 billion on social programs to reverse what is a rapidly declining standard of living.

Mr. Flaherty also leaned on his long-held comment that Canada's "strongly regulated and supervised" banking system has avoided the pitfalls of the freewheeling American economy. But with the fringes of society falling more and more off the radar, and with the unemployment rate staying high and growth remaining low, a prudent banking system may be of little help in future.

Instead of patting themselves on the back the Harper government could address some of the country's long-term social dilemmas by modifying their spending and cutting agenda to one less focused on boosting the prospects of the corporations controlled by Canada's wealthiest CEOs.

Immigration policy hurts nation-building

Immigration committee members learned last week that the number of backlogged family-class immigrants in the parent and grandparent category has ballooned to a number about equal to the population of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Stand up to your staff, Mr. MacKay

Last week, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox did something that we could never imagine Defence Minister Peter MacKay doing-—he blamed his own military for something.

The heritage of the monsters

They didn't invite the city fathers of Ferrol, the birthplace of General Francisco Franco, the bloody tyrant who ruled Spain from 1938 to 1973, so the conference can't just have been about fascist dictators. They didn't invite the mayor of Tokyo, hometown of General Hideki Tojo, who led Japan into the Second World War, so it wasn't just about bad men who were leaders in that war. So what WAS it about?

Quit the Earl Grey and hit the other Tea Party

All last week, the Union Jack was interspersed with the Maple Leaf throughout the Parliamentary District. This is the practice when world leaders visit, but the notable presence, draped all over the boulevards of downtown Ottawa, was also a signpost for where the government chose to direct its criticism in the current global financial crisis.

Tories drop the Tamil act

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that if he does not see human rights progress in Sri Lanka, he will boycott the 2013 Commonwealth summit in Colombo.

Debate the return of mini-War Measures Act

Canada may need a few good reasons to justify why the Commons should reinstate two controversial police-power clauses that were once briefly part of the law of the land. One allowed police to arrest people and imprison them for three days without laying charges if police suspected a terrorist act could be committed. The other permitted a judge to force a witness to testify in secret about relationships and intentions under penalty of imprisonment.

The ghosts of 9/11

There are at least two histories of Sept. 11, 2001.

Government hypocritical on environment Vs. development

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made waves last week on his annual trip to the North when he commented to reporters and a crowd of Nunavut gold mine workers that while mining activities there create "some environmental issues" that have to be addressed, that can't stop northern development any more than we would let that stop development in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.

Canada loses a strong progressive voice

It's hard to believe that the leaders debate in the last federal election took place only four months ago.

Kenney Vs. independent judiciary

In February, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney prompted a furor for some choice comments he made at the University of Western Ontario. That Mr. Kenney said something controversial shouldn't be surprising to anyone anymore. However, the target of his mid-winter critiques was unprecedented.

Real Americas engagement

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's tour of Latin America this week is hugely symbolic. It's been more than four years since he made the hemisphere a foreign policy priority, and while a lot has changed, this latest excursion is intended to reaffirm that original commitment—and take things to the next level.

Another dose of Kenney amateurism

Five down, 25 to go. But five what?

Tolerance is the best weapon

The recent killing of 76 children and adults in Norway is a devastating and tragic event that has once again raised questions about the need to protect against rogue elements who want to alter our way of life.

Knowing when to take a stand

And now the Conservatives find themselves in a bit of a quandary.

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