• Is the Harper government afraid to upset the apple cart in its dealings with Russia?

    That seems to be the only logical explanation for foreign affairs minister John Baird's "low-key response" to last week's sentencing of Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

    Three members of the punk band were sentenced to two years in prison on hooliganism charges for singing a song in Moscow's largest church that criticized President Vladimir Putin. Their trial has been globally denounced as an example of Russia's growing decline in tolerating dissent.

    "We believe in every part of the world of sentencing having some relation to the serious nature of the crime," Baird said Monday according to The Canadian Press.

    Baird's low-key response to Pussy Riot sentencingForeign Affairs Minister John Baird avoided heavy criticism Monday of the controversial sentencing last week of members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who were convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison.

    "Obviously, there's, I

    Read More »from John Baird’s stance on Pussy Riot is an international embarrassment
  • If Quebec ultimately chooses to separate from the rest Canada, it will cost the province $7.8 billion a year in equalization payments and potentially $131,789,570,016 — their share of the national debt based on population.  That's if they separate.

    But even the threat of sovereignty or separation is already costing them, big time.

    During Monday night's one-on-one debate between the PQ's Pauline Marois and Liberal leader Jean Charest, Marois said she wants to call a referendum on Quebec sovereignty as soon as possible, when Quebecers want one.

    [ Related Video: Quebec's feisty one-on-one debate ]

    Earlier in the day,  she talked about using a modest amount tax dollars to promote sovereignty.

    Such discourse, says the Montreal Gazette's Henry Aubin, drives people and money away.

    "A referendum is likely to cause people elsewhere to be more reluctant to come here or invest; many people who are here, including many with investments here, will be more likely to leave," he wrote in a column

    Read More »from Talk of sovereignty, promoting French culture is bad for Quebec’s economy
  • Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. CBC photo.The end of foreign doctors and PHDs driving our taxi cabs could soon be nigh.

    According to the Toronto Star, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has revamped the immigration point grid it's used for the past 10 years to judge skilled-immigrant applications.

    The proposed revisions, to go into effect next January, will put more emphasis on age (ie: younger immigrants), language skills and professional credentials equivalent to Canada's — while de-emphasizing work experience abroad.

    Foreign nationals applying for immigration to Canada use a 100-point grid, with a pass mark of 67.

    The grid takes into account the candidate's official language ability, education, work experience, age, job offers in Canada and their overall adaptability — which awards points for previous work or study in Canada — spouse's education and relatives in Canada.

    The problem with the current point system is that those that don't fluently speak one of Canada's official languages, or those whose education credentials

    Read More »from New immigration system puts greater emphasis on language, age
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves today for a five-day trip that begins with a rally near Whitehorse and ends Friday in Churchill, Man. Harper is shown making an announcement at the Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit , Nunavut on Thursday, February 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean KilpatrickPrime Minister Stephen Harper will visit Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and northern Manitoba this week for his seventh northern tour.

    The annual tour has become a key part of Harper government's foreign policy — Harper uses it to assert Canadian presence in the area.

    Buoyed by the region's potential natural resource riches, Russia, the United States, and the EU are all in disagreement with Canada on Arctic boundaries, and particularly about control of the Northwest Passage — a water route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

    While the Harper government doesn't foresee a military threat in the Arctic, they have made it clear that 'Arctic sovereignty' would be a focus of their government.

    [ Related: Harper's visit to feature new announcements, past promises ]

    "Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty in the Arctic; either we use it or we lose it," Harper said in 2007 according to CTV News. "And make no mistake this government intends to use it.

    Read More »from Harper needs to step up on asserting Arctic sovereignty
  • Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) leader Francois Legault (L), Liberal leader Jean Charest (2nd L), Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois (2nd R), and Quebec Solidaire co-leader Francoise David, pose before a Quebec leaders' debate in Montreal August 19, 2012.Picking a winner in a televised leadership debate is often a mug's game.

    Very rarely does anyone emerge as a clear victor — more times than not candidates merely solidify the support of their political base.

    Sunday's Quebec leaders' debate was no different.

    Politcal analyst Steve Rukavina provided one of the better overviews of the debate on CBC Newsworld:

    "Nobody won last night's debate. It was a four way draw.  Each of the leaders actually performed pretty well and did what they needed to do. Not a lot of minds were changed [Sunday]."

    "Francois Legault from the CAQ, he did what he had to do in getting out his populous message. He had few stumbles but no major gaffes.

    PQ leader Pauline Marois got in some good shots at Legault and also some good shots at premier Jean Charest...so she performed well.

    [Françoise David] the leader of..Quebec Solidaire, which is left leaning separatist party, was so widely picked by columnists this morning of last night's debate largely because she had

    Read More »from No clear winner in Quebec leaders’ debate as real battles begin Monday
  • Some quirky policy resolutions often come from political party conventions. This one ranks up there as one of the wackiest.

    At the Green Party convention in Sidney, British Columbia, delegates have overwhelmingly voted in favour of an emergency resolution which tasks party leader Elizabeth May to ask the Queen for a Royal Inquiry into the Robo-call scandal.

    "If the government won't call for an inquiry, our only option is the Queen," one delegate said in favour of the resolution, passed Sunday.

    Another delegate said he doesn't support the monarchy but that the Greens should "hold their noses" and make the request.

    According to recent reports by the Ottawa Citizen, Elections Canada keeps hitting dead ends in its attempts to identify 'Pierre Poutine,' the suspect who sent out the pre-recorded calls, incorrectly telling voters that their Guelph, Ont., polling stations had moved.

    There are now doubts about when, if ever, they'll solve the politically-charged probe that began more than 14

    Read More »from Elizabeth May to ask the Queen for a Royal Inquiry into the Robo-call scandal
  • Former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion was the keynote speaker at the Green Party biennial convention this weekend in Sidney, British Columbia.

    Prior to his appearance, many wondered aloud why a Liberal MP would address another party's convention. Was Dion joining the Greens? Was Elizabeth May going to make a play for the Liberal leadership?

    But alas, on Saturday afternoon, it became clear that Dion was only there as a cheerleader for proportional representation — an issue that he's championed for years. Proportional representation, or PR, means that the number of seats won by a party is proportionate to the number of votes received. And without PR in Canada, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and her Greens have a tough slog ahead of them.

    It's no coincidence that the countries' that have significant political representation by a 'green' party — Germany, France, Belgium, New Zealand, and Finland — have some form of PR.

    New Zealand's Green Party, for example, is the third party in that

    Read More »from Greens tout proportional representation at party convention
  • Life is about to get a little bit tougher for our members of parliament.

    As part of the Harper government's austerity budget of 2012, the Tories are axing a little-known, but widely used perk of political office — free massages.

    According to CTV News, MPs who pay $100 a year to use a private gym on the eighth floor of the Confederation building were entitled one free therapeutic massage a week.

    The perk was even extended to an MP's designated spouse, partner, girl or boyfriend.

    But Speaker Andrew Scheer eliminated the perk in an email to MPs this week, calling it part of the plan to cut $30 million from the House of Commons budget.

    "Within the context of the House of Commons' Strategic and Operating Review and as approved by the Board of Internal Economy, the House Administration will no longer be in a position to offer massage therapy services to clients of the members' gym. Please be advised that this change is effective immediately."

    Two staff therapists were let go when the program

    Read More »from Tories ‘rub’ away free massage perk for MPs
  • Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques BoissinotIf a vote were held today, the Parti Québécois would form the next government of Quebec.

    A Léger Marketing poll for the QMI news agency, released Friday, shows the PQ with 33 per cent of voter intentions ahead of the Liberals at 28 per cent and the CAQ with 27 per cent. If the polls are to be believed, in less than three weeks, Canada is about to enter an era of constitutional strife not seen since the 1990s.

    Over the course of the campaign, Canadians have gotten a glimpse of what a PQ government might look like.  The separatist party has already announced its intentions to toughen French language laws and to ban all civil servants from wearing or exposing overt religious symbols.

    [ Related: PQ takes aim at language laws, overweight people ]

    And on Thursday we learned that they would selectively disregard Supreme Court of Canada rulings.

    Speaking about the policy that would ban religious symbols, a PQ candidate says his party wouldn't hesitate to use the constitutional notwithstanding

    Read More »from What a Parti Québécois victory would mean for the rest of Canada
  • Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is entertaining some of Canada's top CEOs at an exclusive retreat to get their opinions on Canada's future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean KilpatrickWouldn't it be nice to have a two-day confab with the finance minister to help shape Canada's economic future?

    Well, if you're a president or CEO of one Canada's largest companies, maybe you got an invitation to Jim Flaherty's annual summer policy retreat currently taking place in Wakefield, Quebec.

    That's right: Every year, Flaherty hosts a closed-door policy retreat with the who's-who of corporate Canada to discuss what Ottawa should do to give the economy a boost.

    According to documents obtained by the Globe and Mail, at last year's sessions the minister was urged to adopt measures to reduce the pay of Canadian workers, limit union power by enacting U.S.-style right-to-work legislation, and allow two-tier health care.

    Labour issues surface in several discussion categories, with the general view that Canadian workers are overpriced.

    [ Related: Should Canada help with a European bailout? ]

    "Need to address wage differentials in labor market among countries; we are losing jobs to other

    Read More »from Canada’s top CEOs taking advantage of exclusive face time with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

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