• The Harper government has lost a battle in their tough-on-crime agenda.

    The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled the mandatory minimum three-year sentence for a gun crime is unconstitutional.On Tuesday, Ontario's court of appeal ruled that a three-year mandatory minimum sentence for possessing a loaded prohibited gun is unconstitutional.

    "No system of criminal justice that would resort to punishments that ‘outrage standards of decency’ in the name of furthering the goals of deterrence and denunciation could ever hope to maintain the respect and support of its citizenry," the court ruled, according to the Canadian Press.

    "Similarly, no system of criminal justice that would make exposure to a draconian mandatory minimum penalty, the cost an accused must pay to go to trial on the merits of the charge, could pretend to have any fidelity to the search for the truth in the criminal justice system."

    It's unknown, whether or not the federal government will appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court of Canada.

    [ Related: Ontario Appeal Court rules mandatory minimum sentence unconstitutional ]

    Nevertheless, the

    Read More »from Ontario court ruling reignites debate about mandatory minimum sentences
  • Sen. Mike Duffy smiles as he takes an elevator on Parliament Hill on MondayThere might be a silver lining to the Senate expense scandal, after all.

    Anecdotally, it seems that all the media attention has motivated our honourable senators to be a little more frugal with taxpayer dollars.

    According to Postmedia News, senators spent a lot less on travel, staff and office expenses in 2013, after the scandal erupted.

    A Postmedia News analysis of senators' expense claims shows that 58 of the 88 senators who were members of the Senate in both 2012 and 2013 claimed less from March 1 to Aug. 31 than they had during those same six months in 2012. The Senate sat for five more days in the 2012 period. Thirtyeight senators trimmed spending by more than $10,000.

    In total, senators spent a combined $1.2 million less from March to August than they had in the same period in 2012

    Senator Mike Duffy, Postmedia notes, had the biggest drop in expenses. He spent a whopping $114,603.74 less from March to August 2013 than he did in the same period in 2012.

    The full Postmedia report can be

    Read More »from Senators cut spending by $1.2 million after expense scandal surfaced: report
  • PEI Premier Robert GhizThanks to the recent Senate expense scandals, I think it's fair to say that there is a growing movement of people who want to see Canada's Senate abolished.

    There are certainly a lot of 'abolish the Senate' petitions out there — here, here and here.

    [ Related: MPs need to go further to ensure expense scandals don’t happen again: taxpayer watchdog ]

    But here's why it likely won't happen — at least not anytime soon.

    It appears that Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz has launched a new round of the constitutional horse-trading that we saw during the Meech Lake and Charlottetown negotiations of the 1980s and 90s.

    In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Ghiz suggested that he wouldn't vote to abolish the Senate without the guarantee of something in return — something like more seats in the House of Commons.

    "I would be a fool to give up any of the influence that we have in Ottawa, and I’m not going to allow that to happen," Premier Robert Ghiz said in an interview.

    The Constitution

    Read More »from How PEI Premier Robert Ghiz may have poured cold water on the Senate abolition movement
  • An aerial view shows ships washed ashore into a coastal community after Typhoon Haiyan hit the province of Leyte central Philippines November 10, 2013It didn't take long for environmental activists to make an example out of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

    The typhoon — which made landfall on Friday — is estimated to have caused over 10,000 casualties, displaced 660,000 residents and is considered to be one of the most devastating storms in recorded history.

    The Canadian government has pledged $5 million in humanitarian aid and have also promised to match all other money donated by Canadians over the next month.

    [ Related: How to help donate to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts ]

    But Canadian activists suggest the aid is a case of too little too late.

    "Tragedies such as the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan are framed as natural disasters, when in fact they are human-made climate disasters," Harsha Walia, an activist, writer, and researcher based in Vancouver told Yahoo Canada News.

    "Island communities on the front lines of climate change, as well as scientists, have all been warning us for decades about the ecological crisis. Yet

    Read More »from Environmentalists use Philippines typhoon to urge Canada to act on climate change
  • A pro-refugee rally in June 2013The Harper government is being slammed, once again, for its treatment of Canada's refugees.

    The Toronto Star is reporting that Ottawa is actively lobbying provincial authorities to cut refugees off welfare "as soon as the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) issued an 'enforceable removal order' against them."

    According to the provincial Ministry of Community and Social Services, there were 1,390 social assistance recipients terminated in Ontario between April 2004 and March 2013 with “unsuccessful refugee claimant” as the primary reason. By comparison, 502 recipients were cut off for the same reason in the first eight months of this year.

    On the surface, it makes sense. If you're not legally allowed to be in Canada, you shouldn't be entitled to taxpayer funded benefits — right?

    But critics argue that some of these refugee claimants — who are refused benefits — are still in Canada in the middle of appeal or other administrative procedures (ie: humanitarian applications or requesting of

    Read More »from Harper government slammed for cutting welfare to failed refugee claimants still in Canada
  • MP Brent Rathgeber's Rogers cable bill for his secondary home in OttawaGregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation was on Parliament Hill Thursday, with a solution to put an end to Ottawa's expense scandals.

    Thomas — the Executive Director of the taxpayer watchdog — addressed the Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs about improving the financial accountability of our members of parliament.

    He offered a laundry list of recommendations:

    - Extending the Access to Information Act to cover spending by MPs, Senators and parliamentary admission (currently MPs and Senators are exempt from having to release expense information via ATI requests)

    - Extending the authority of the Auditor General to Parliament ( The AG cannot audit Parliament without an 'invitation' and without terms of reference decided upon by MPs)

    - Putting all receipts and documentation relating to Parliament Online – receipts, leases, contracts, etc.,

    - Allowing recall petitions against MPs and Senators, as in British Columbia,

    - Depriving MPs and Senators convicted of a

    Read More »from MPs need to go further to ensure expense scandals don’t happen again: taxpayer watchdog
  • The Conservatives have long been pushing the narrative that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is "in over his head" and doesn't have a good grasp of policy.

    I think it's a good bet that they'll be using this story to help them reinforce that talking point.

    According to Sun News' David Akin, at a Ladies Night event in Toronto, Trudeau was asked: "Which nation, besides Canada, which nation's administration do you most admire, and why?"

    Here's is his odd response:

    "You know, there's a level of of admiration I actually have for China because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say ‘we need to go green fastest...we need to start investing in solar.' I mean there is a flexibility that I know Stephen Harper must dream about of having a dictatorship that he can do everything he wanted that I find quite interesting.

    But if I were to reach out and say which...which kind of administration I most admire, I think there's something to be said

    Read More »from Justin Trudeau mocked for suggesting he admires China
  • Stephen Harper and Senator Claude Carignan (CP)The way the Conservative Party leadership in the Senate has handled the suspensions of Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau has been one major cluster f#$% -- or as some of my media colleagues have dubbed it, a "cluster-Duff."

    Put aside the debate — for the time being — on whether or not the Senators deserved "due process" -- frankly I don't think most Canadians 'give a damn' about "due process" for individuals who became well-paid Senators at the whim of the Prime Minister.

    But it appears that the powers that be in the red chamber have been making things up as they go along.

    Take the senators' pensions as an example.

    As explained by CBC News, senators are eligible to retire with a pension after six years in office. Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau have only served five years.

    So, will the next year — while they're suspended — count towards their six years in office?

    No one seems to know.

    Earlier this week, the Conservative Party's leader in the Senate, Claude Carignan, said he is seeking

    Read More »from Senate suspension aftermath sheds light on the upper chamber’s blunders
  • Stephen Harper and Richard NixonIt seems everyday, in Question Period, there's a question or comment that catches everybody a little off guard.

    Thursday's 'moment' came courtesy of Liberal MP Joyce Murray who — in her preamble to a query — compared Stephen Harper to Richard Nixon.

    "U.S. President Nixon was forced to resign not because of the Watergate break-in but because of the denials and cover-up that followed. This prime minister is in exactly the same boat," the former Liberal leadership candidate said referring to the ongoing Senate expense scandal and the $90,000 gift from Nigel Wright to Sen. Mike Duffy.

    "Mr. Speaker, the unethical behaviour of the senators and the chief of staff that he appointed is shameful.

    "But the real issue is his role in the alleged bribery, corruption and cover-up with the RCMP now knocking on the door of the prime minister's office. Will the prime minister finally stop evading our questions and tell Canadians the truth?"

    As you might imagine, the Tories didn't like that question.

    Read More »from Opposition MPs compare Stephen Harper to Richard Nixon
  • Quebec Premier Pauline Marois on her way to the National Assembly on Thursday Nov. 7, 2013After months of public debate, speculation and consternation, Quebec's Parti Quebecois government has finally tabled Bill 60, their controversial values charter.

    On Thursday, Quebec's Minister of Democratic Institutions Bernard Drainville introduced the charter — now called 'Charter Affirming The Values Of Secularism And The Religious Neutrality Of The State, As Well As The Equality Of Men And Women, And The Framing Of Accommodation Requests' — in the National Assembly.

    As expected, if passed, the bill will essentially ban all public employees from wearing religious symbols in public institutions.

    Specifically, according to the text of the bill, all public employees "must not wear objects such as headgear, clothing, jewelry or other adornments which, by their conspicuous nature, overtly indicate a religious affiliation."

    [ Related: PQ values charter gets a new, 28-word name ]

    There is also an "obligation" for both personnel and the public to not have their faces covered.

    The legislation

    Read More »from Quebec government tables controversial values charter

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