Thursday, February 16, 2012

Digest, February 15 - 16, 2012 PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU RECEIVE THIS




 Security services deem environmental, animal-rights groups 'extremist' threats
Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as the kind of �multi-issue extremist� groups that pose a threat to Canadians, documents obtained under Access to Information show.Â

 Anonymous Twitter user turns tables on Tory champion of e-snooping bill
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews�s divorce has become fodder for critics of controversial legislationÂ
he�s sponsoring to give Canadian police new powers to watch the Web.


The Latest from Impolitical

Backtracking on #C30?Â

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 05:19 PM PST
A quick post on the day's the wake of the tremendous backlash to the Conservative internet surveillance legislation, the Harper crew are making noises about amendments to C-30. See "Government willing to consider changes to online surveillance bill," for example, where Conservative MPs Williamson, Anders and Tilson are cited as expressing concerns. Anders is hearing from his constituents in Calgary, the heart of Conservative country. That's likely the case for the others as well. Hope there is titanium in their spines on this issue.Â

Here was Harper in the House of Commons today, with his vague commitment:
"We've been very clear; we're working with provinces and police to attack problems of online pornography, child pornography. But of course we will ensure that Parliament fully studies this bill and that private life is also protected in this regard," Harper said.
And Vic Toews:
"The prime minister indicated that that would in fact be the case that we will entertain amendmennts," said Toews. "But I think that the amendments have to be focused on the fact that we have a problem in respect of the proliferation of pedophilia and child pornography online. We want our laws fixed while striking the right balance when it comes to protecting privacy."
While this has the appearance of a walking back, of course the proof will be in the pudding, as they say.

Special shout out to Ann Cavoukian who is doing yeoman's work in raising the public profile of this issue:
"They're calling the bill 'Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.' Give me a break. The warrantless access does not just apply to cases of child pornography or child predators. It can apply to something that's not even a criminal activity. It's ridiculous to go to these lengths. And why are they doing it? They're doing it because they want to instil fear on the part of the public and say, 'Well, if you don't give us this bill, then all child pornographers, those predators, that's going to be on your head.' And that's what they want the public to fear," Cavoukian told Postmedia News.
Canadians like their internets, that's for sure. Early indications are that they are getting it in terms of the privacy invasions that would be in the offing should this legislation pass. Let's hope that the mailings, emails and telephone calls to MPs, Conservative members in particular, will ramp up on the part of all concerned citizens.Â

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 05:38 AM PST
This is a story that may have been glossed over in the past few days but is worth noting:Â "Rating Firms Question Canada's Planned Budget Cuts."Â Two of the major ratings agencies, Moody's and Fitch, are warning the Harper government away from large budget cutting plans:
Steven Hess, Moody's lead analyst for Canada, said that with a budget deficit of around 2% there is "no rush" for the Canadian government to return to fiscal balance.
"From our perspective there is leeway there and doing it [cutting] too rapidly has negative effects and can be counterproductive as revenues grow" more slowly, he said. "It is a risk [to growth] if they move too fast," he said.
The Canadian economy is already seeing headwinds. Consumer debt is now at record highs. Economists worry households are tapped out. Slower-than-expected global growth, meanwhile, threatens to crimp Canada's exports to the rest of the world.
"You don't have to swallow an extremely bitter pill if you are not sick," said Shelly Shetty, an analyst at Fitch Ratings.
In particular, Ms. Shetty said that any attempt by Canada to reach a balanced budget earlier than its current target of 2016 is not "required."Â

The ratings agencies do have their critics. There are two on the same page here, however, and it's in line with what the Parliamentary Budget Officer was saying last week, in the context of OAS fiscal sustainability.Â

More markers being laid down for Flaherty. Are they going to be all about the axe or will they listen to such messages being sent about the need to foster growth? Do they have more than one tool in their toolbox? Stay tuned...Â

Harper not in step with Canadians on OASÂ

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 04:29 AM PST
This is not a well chosen headline for the report that was written:Â "Harper's OAS reforms in step with public opinion: poll."Â This one was a little better but still off: "Harper's OAS reforms move in step with public opinion, government polling shows." What the polling cited in the headlines shows is that Canadians are concerned about aging demographics and their impact on the health care system and pension sustainability. Expressing concern for those things does not translate, however, into Canadians being in step with Harper's particular OAS reforms. Here's what the report gives us in terms of how Canadians reacted to the Privy Council Office's poll:
Polling and focus-group testing for the Privy Council Office point to an overriding concern about aging, and about whether the federal government's policies were sufficient.
"Across the country participants touched on a series of concerns that revolve around the aging of Canada's population, and the government's ability to address the challenges associated with this reality," says the report by Walker Consulting Group, based on public-opinion research done last August.

In open-ended questions, many respondents told the pollsters that the government needed to pay special attention to pension sustainability and the ability of future generations to support growing numbers of retirees.
In responses from across the county, participants said repeatedly they were concerned about the ability of the health-care system to handle the growing burden that comes with an aging population.
"Whether in B.C., Ontario, or Quebec, the issue of how the health-care system will absorb the increased volume of needs and the nature of those needs from the increasing number of elderly Canadians was the most notable concern across the country," the report says.
Who isn't concerned with those things? That's not a big surprise. It's a big leap, however, to say that the fact that those concerns are being expressed means that Canadians support how the government will go about meeting those concerns. When it comes to making choices about how we go about sustaining our health care system and pensions and what kind of system we want, that's where diverging views can occur.Â

So yes, Harper has reacted to the concerns articulated in the poll by seeking to reform OAS. But he's chosen to respond to those concerns by floating an increase in the OAS age eligibility. Canadians have, elsewhere, in at least one other poll, expressed a heavily negative reaction to that possibility: "Three-quarters of Canadians or 74 per cent say they op oppose reforming old-age security in this way with half of the population insisting they �strongly oppose� the contentious measure, according to an Ipsos Reid study for Global News and Postmedia News.

For anyone to suggest, at this stage, that Harper's OAS reforms are in step with Canadian public opinion seems misguided. You could read the Privy Council's poll, the limited part we read anyway, as having a very opposite meaning. That is, as suggesting Canadians are concerned about the pension and health care systems and want to preserve or strengthen them, not see them reduced.Â

Very interesting to see the results of Privy Council focus groups and polls being made available now to create such headlines. Harper is clearly back and on the job. Trying to fill the void of rationalization for OAS changes after the PBO and others have questioned the government's plans.Â

One last thing, here's a worthwhile overview of where we are on the OAS issue with Bob Rae and Susan Eng of CARP.Â


Posted: 15 Feb 2012 03:02 AM PST
Opinion is lining up firmly against the Harper government's internet surveillance legislation.

The only thing that separates a democratic state from a police state is the notion of accountability. Police powers are restrained under the due process of our judicial system to reflect the protection of basic freedoms like privacy and the gravity of a criminal investigation that could deprive someone of their liberty. Warrants don�t prevent the police from doing their investigations, they protect the integrity of the system. In order to get a warrant, the police have to demonstrate reasonable and probable cause that a crime is being committed by a particular person. Remove that requirement and you end up with a system that could be driven by unprofessional hunches, misplaced zeal, idle curiosity, or malice.

You know what really reminds me of Adolf Hitler, 1939? A government that seeks to monitor the actions of all its citizens, to spy on them in their homes and their places of work, to ask companies to record who they communicate with and when. As a father, I agree we need to fight child pornography, but I�m not willing to sign away my or my children�ss civil rights and online privacy.
I suspect most Canaddians, as they learn more about this online surveillance bill, will feel the same way. They don�t want any government, Conservative, Liberal or NDP, forcing companies to record what they do, or accessing information about them without a warrant from an independent judiciary.

The Harper government's approach to crime is one of black cowboy hats and white cowboy hats, with no room for those who don hats that are grey. While many of its crime initiatives are justified, nobody expected Harper to become Dirty Harry in a pinstriped suit. If the police have reasonable grounds for illegal online activity, they can get a warrant, not go on phishing expeditions by snooping in the computers of ordinary Canadians.

Here's a thought: Perhaps Tories should rather begin to worry that fair-minded Canadians from all regions may come to view them as demagogues.

Ottawa Citizen: "With 'em or against 'em."

Not going well at all in the early going. Good stuff.Â