The Electric Pencil

Posts Tagged ‘politics

Be afraid…

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Carole Goar has a strong piece in the Toronto Star today about Harper’s politics of fear, where Canada is a “country whose citizens worry about teenage killers; oil-hungry foreigners prowling their Arctic waters; terrorists lurking in their cities; and economic shock waves rolling toward them.”

She does a particularly good job taking on the Conservative promise to crack down on young offenders:

Those unregenerate 14-year-old criminals he proposes to lock up for a decade were troubled kids when he came to power. Their teachers had spotted the danger signals. So had welfare caseworkers, community activists and beat cops. They had tried to help, but were hampered by too few resources and too little political support.


Written by Tim McSorley

September 26, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Parliament Passes Bill C-50: Tories continue to remake Canada in their own image

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When I started up this blog, I had little intention to post so much about what bill the government happened to be passing when. But then again, I didn’t expect the Conservatives to be pushing through so many controversial pieces of legislation, particularly as a minority government.

It began in 2006, when the Tories, flush with a $13.2 billion surplus, eliminated funding for the Court Challenges Program, the Medical Marijuana Research Program and cut drastically from the Status of Women commission, among other programs. Because these were part of the budget implementation bill, it was a confidence vote. The Liberals, smarting from their election loss and unwilling to campaign on issues they believed could pigeonhole them as left-wingers, let it all pass. They made sure to voice exactly how much they disagreed with the changes, but stated they would fight the Tories another day. (IMAGE: Immigration Minister Diane Finley smiles as she votes in favour of Bill C-50. Image from

Two years later, the Conservatives have fine-tuned their strategy and are continuing to carve out their version of what Canadian society should look like – despite public outcry to the contrary. From Bill C-10, which would allow the government to withhold much needed tax credits from already produced film and TV shows for being ‘contrary to public policy’ (this being decided by the Heritage Minister), to Bill C-484, which could very likely result in challenges to the right of a woman to chose to have an abortion: the Tories are playing hardball with a Liberal opposition unwilling to take its chances at the polls.

Tonight, though, must be the icing on the cake for Stephen Harper and his government: in a 120-90 vote, the House of Commons passed the final reading of Bill C-50, this year’s budget implementation bill (see the pattern?). Buried not so deep within it though was the real prize: a radical transformation of Canada’s immigration policy that, among other things, will allow the government to place a quota on certain types of immigration applicants, place a priority on economic immigration (limiting the possibility of families being re-united), and grant the Minister of Immigration drastic powers to decide on individual immigration cases.

It’s true that our immigration system is severely flawed, starting with the atrocious waiting times immigrants face due to backlog. But few people outside the Conservative Party and organisations closely linked to the party see this as being an adequate solution – including the Canadian Bar Association. While it may allow for limits to be placed on the number of would-be immigrants waiting for an answer, it is clearly at the expense of who is allowed to immigrate.

I have never been one to believe that Canada’s immigration or refugee system are nearly as utopic and open-hearted as some characterize it. Migrant workers, refugees and immigrants from the Global South have long faced unnecessary hurdles when applying to Canada for residency, but there are other ways to fix this than to impose sweeping changes to how we decides who gets in, particularly when this is based on purely economic grounds. One solution would have been for the Conservatives to actually fill the inordinately high number of vancancies on the Immigration and Refugee board. According to Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, 57 out of 164 positions on the IRB are unfilled – that’s 35 per cent. These are the people who, according to Kurland, oversee refugee claims, determine eligibility for claimants, preside over detention reviews and hear immigration appeals. The Conservatives have pointed out that the backlog for immigration application is currently 42,300 and will rise to 84,300 in 2010-2011. But what they avoid saying is that the IRB’s own report chalks this drastic increase up to these vacancies.

The bill is now off to the Senate, where it will be rubber stamped. For the record, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois voted against the bill, while the Liberals flapped their arms and and squawked opposition, but still allowed it to pass by disappearing from the parliament floor before the vote took place.

More on Bill C-50:

Written by Tim McSorley

June 9, 2008 at 11:49 pm

Protecting the Right to Abortion: Out against Bill C-484

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If I have more time, I’ll post more on this later, but this Sunday there will be a very important march in Montreal on an issue I think all Canadians should be concerned about. The fight for legal abortions in Canada was a hard fought, decades-long battle. And while there is definitely no unanimity on the issue, it has been 20 years that women have not had to fear legal repercussions for seeking out an abortion.

Bill C-484, though, has raised serious concerns among many that the right to an abortion could be facing its most serious challenge in at least the last 10 years, if not longer. Officially the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, and introduced by Conservative MP Tom Epps, the bill seeks to increase the penalty for those who harm a woman who is pregnant, essentially on the basis that greater harm is done because a second potential life is taken. While on the surface this may appear harmless, there are fears that such a law would reopen the debate on the rights of a foetus. Proponents of the bill claim that there are provisions built in so that women are not held liable for injury to a foetus, and that this law does not go any further than any pre-existing laws, but critics still fear the repercussions and precedent set by the law.

There will be a demonstration this Sunday, June 1st, against the bill in Montreal. People will be assembling at 2pm at the corner of St-Jospeh and St-Laurent, and the march will begin at 2pm sharp.

I wish I had more time to post links to back up all this, but here are some sites with lots more information:

Written by Tim McSorley

May 30, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Bye Bye Bernier

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While Stephen Harper defended his defense minister’s honour earlier today, this evening he accepted Maxime Bernier’s resignation. Bernier stepping reportedly has nothing to do with Jos Louis, Julie Couillard, the Hells Angels, or $1 million dollar Antonov rentals. Rather, the embattled Bernier admitted he left classified government documents in a public an un-secured place. Quoth Harper (via

Mr. Bernier has learned and informed me that he left classified government documents in a non-secure location. This is a serious error and the minister has accepted his responsibility.

Let me be very clear: this is not to do with the minister’s life or the life of a private citizen, 99 per cent of which I think is completely off bounds.

Canadian Press is now reporting the following though:

A source tells The Canadian Press that Bernier left an extremely sensitive classified document at Couillard’s apartment, and her lawyer notified the Foreign Affairs department about the document on the weekend.

Written by Tim McSorley

May 26, 2008 at 7:50 pm

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From Jos Louis to Hells Angels

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max bernierIf being linked (even tenuously) with the Hells Angels helped chase goaltender José Theodore out of Montreal, will it also help chase Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier out of Ottawa? (image: Bernier hands out delicious snack cakes in Afghanistan/Reuters)

Written by Tim McSorley

May 8, 2008 at 6:24 am

Pressure mounts to bring Abdelrazik back to Canada

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Abousfian AbdelrazikExpect to see more coverage tomorrow of the unfolding saga of Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Sudanese Canadian that the Globe and Mail revealed has been blocked from returning home to Montreal from Sudan for five years.

Abdelrazik’s lawyer, Yavar Hameed, will be holding a press conference at 11am May 8th with various representatives of Quebec human rights organisations, including Beatrice Vaugrante, Secretary-General of Amnistie Internationale Canada (Francophone section), at 11am, to call on the Canadian government to swiftly repatriate his client. (Full text of the press release after the jump)

In 2003, Abdelrazik was arrested in Sudan while visiting his mother, apparently at the behest of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) who suspect him of links to alleged terrorists. It’s important to note that Abdelrazik has not been charged with any crime, not even when detained by the Sudanese police.

Serious questions are being raised about why the government has refused to renew Abdelrak’s passport, and comparisons are growing to the case of Maher Arar, the Canadian who was whisked away to Syria against his will and tortured while imprisoned there.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Tim McSorley

May 7, 2008 at 11:33 pm