Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This and that

Clearing out some of the items in my to-do file I've been meaning to comment on:

*The resignation of Robert Marleau as information commissioner this week is another troubling sign of this government's troubling disdain for accountability of any kind. Not that Marleau was particularly effective, mind you. And he does insist his departure is for personal and family reasons. But Marleau's departure reminds me of Jean-Pierre Kingsley's departure as head of Elections Canada a few years ago. Rather than deal with either obstructionism, lack of cooperation, or in some cases even partisan attacks, some are choosing to just resign. One wonders how Kevin Page has managed not to just throw his hands up and walk away, an outcome the Conservatives would certainly welcome. Certainly, the Conservatives weren't making Marleau's job any easier. Their attitude to anyone trying to hold them accountable seems to be stonewall, make their lives miserable and hope they just quit. Replacing Marleau in a minority parliament could prove interesting. Many good candidates could prefer to spend more time with Marleau's family too.

*We'll know an election is near when Stephen Harper takes another trip up North, but oh how his campaign promises to them have melted like the polar ice caps. We heard late last week that their program to build arctic patrol boats is indefinitely delayed. Harper had announced last summer the government would acquire six-to-eight ice-capable vessels, backtracking from his 2005 promise to build armed icebreakers to keep the Rushkies in line.

*The House of Commons defence committee last week asked the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff to take the lead in combating the stigma that exists in the ranks around post-traumatic stress disorder. It's a serious problem with soldiers returning from Afghanistan and other deployments, and leadership is needed here. I hope that we can all agree our military members deserve the best care, regardless of how we feel about the Afghan conflict, and I hope Peter MacKay will take the lead on this.

*A federal court is hearing a Democracy Watch legal challenge against Stephen Harper, arguing his election call last fall violated his own fixed-date election legislation. Unclear just what the result of a positive ruling would be. Frankly, though, while interesting I suspect this will just underline what a farce the fixed-date legislation is anyways. It was always just for show. The only reasonable sanction can be political, delivered by the people at the ballot box. Canadians didn't seem to care that much one way or another.

On a related note, this feature from the Globe on the suicide in Afghanistan of Major Michelle Mendes is an engrossing read.

*Yesterday, Christina Spencer, a reporter for Sun Media, was barred from a speech in Ottawa by the Chinese Foreign Minister. The event was organized by the Canada China Business Council (CCBC), and many other journalists were admitted. Conservative ministers John Baird and Jim Flaherty were reportedly at the luncheon, and Canwest's David Akin reported via Twitter that the CCBC receives government of Canada funding. Past Spencer reporting has been critical of China. We have a free press in Canada, and Spencer's expulsion on what appears to be political grounds is unacceptable. Of course, a private organization has a right to admit whomever it wants. But our government also has a right not to give them funding, and our cabinet ministers have the right to refuse to attend events that exclude reporters for political reasons. I hope all parties will speak out against Spencer's expulsion, and any government grants this group receives should be reviewed.

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