Saturday, April 23, 2016

This week in Real Change™

TRADE : Trade minister Chrystia Freeland ‘comfortable’ with decision to approve Saudi arms deal
“I’m supportive and I’m comfortable with the decision of our government,” she said.
HEALTHPharmacare vetoed as costly
"Pharmacare is too costly and will not be introduced in this Parliament, says Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott."
"Canada is the only country in the world with a medicare system that excludes prescription drugs as if they are not part of the health-care system." 
"Pharmacare for all Canadians could save up to $11.4 billion a year by decreasing drug costs and reducing administration fees."

DEMOCRACY : Liberal majority on Foreign Affairs Committee votes down NDP motion to create Commons sub committee to study arms exports.
Liberal Chair Bob Nault (Kenora) : "Our committee is too high-profile and too important to play politics with issues.... Parliament does not need "a special committee for every issue that people think needs to be discussed."

FINANCE : Internal Finance Canada document says Liberal "middle class tax cut" actually benefits the rich
...half of all the benefits from the "middle class tax cut" end up in the hands of Canada's top 10% of tax filers.Canadians earning less than $45,000 receive no benefit from the "middle class tax cut."

MINING : Canada is home to over 50% of the mining corps in the world - 1200 in Vancouver alone as of 2013 - and there's a reason for that : Canadian taxpayer subsidies plus minimal government oversight and only then if the corp agrees.
"The Liberal government is showing no sign it plans to change the way Canadian mining companies are held accountable when acts of violence, intimidation, or environmental degradation are linked to their overseas operations. They have endorsed the controversial CIRDI and Office of the Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor for the mining sector brought in under its Conservative predecessor." 
Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk (Kildonan-St. Paul, Man.), a former Manitoba mining minister, geoscientist, and mining sector executive, defended Canadian mining companies as “the best in the world.”

FIRST NATIONS Federal government killed appeal of residential-school settlement ruling 
"The Canadian government abandoned an appeal of a controversial court ruling that let the Catholic Church out of its responsibility to raise millions of dollars for aboriginal healing programs, court documents show.
The appeal was dropped just six days after the Trudeau government took office."
The revelation comes in a week when the Liberal government has repeatedly said that it had no options for appeal. It did not mention, however, that an appeal had been commenced and then withdrawn.'

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Decade of Military Exports to Saudi Arabia 2003-2013

April 19 Update : Liberals use majority on Foreign Affairs Committee to vote down NDP motion to create Commons committee to scrutinize arms exports. 
All 5 Liberal MPs on committee voted against motion : Peter Fragiskatos (London North Centre), Michael Levitt (York Centre), Marc Miller (Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Ouest-Île-des-Soeurs), Raj Saini (Kitchener Centre), Jati Sidhu (Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon).  
Foreign Affairs Committee Lib Chair Bob Nault (Kenora) : "Our committee is too high-profile and too important to play politics with issues. Parliament does not need "a special committee for every issue that people think needs to be discussed."
Appalled at both the size of the new military contract with Saudi Arabia and the Libs ham-fisted defence of it, Canadians have been pretty focussed on those weaponized LAVs. 

Yet we have been supplying the Kingdom with Item 2-10 - aircraft, drones, and components "specially designed or modified for military use" - continuously since 2004 when a $900K start-up contract was followed up in 2005 with a $10M contract.

Was this longterm contract also enacted as "a matter of principle" or does it fall more into the "if we don't someone else will jobsjobsjobs" category?

Data collected from DFAIT, Global Affairs Canada, and their archives:

2003 - 2005


2007 - 2009

2010 - 2011

2012 - 2013
Update : G&M : Trade minister Chrystia Freeland ‘comfortable’ with decision to approve Saudi arms deal

G&M : Dion takes responsibility for pushing through Saudi arms deal 

Thursday, April 14, 2016


October 2015 election campaign : Justin Trudeau defends the Conservative government's $15B armoured combat vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia as being just about "jeeps".

Are those our LAVs? Yes they are.

"... a retired Canadian general consulted by The Globe and Mail, who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified the LAVs being transported to Najran as fighting vehicles made by General Dynamics Land Systems. 
Critics say having Canadian-made arms enmeshed in a conflict that has claimed more than 2,800 civilian lives should prompt Ottawa to rethink the recent $15-billion deal to sell hundreds or thousands more to the Saudis."
Doctors Without Borders MSF reports a third MSF hospital in Yemen bombed by Saudi coalition forces. 

From March 21 documents  "...the department of Global Affairs recommended approval of the Saudi export permits because it could help Saudi Arabia wage war in neighbouring Yemen." 
CBC April 12 2016 Stéphane Dion approves export permits for $11B in LAVs to be sent to Saudi Arabia
Documents say past sales have not been linked to violations of civil or political rights in the kingdom

[Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion] said he can't block exports unless the armoured vehicles are being used against innocent civilians.
So far, he said, there is no evidence of that.
"Should I become aware of credible information of violations related to this equipment, I will suspend or revoke the permits," he said.
So Global Affairs' "key partner for Canada""using Canadian-made combat vehicles against Yemeni rebels" five months ago isn't sufficient reason not to forge ahead with the deal Dion lied to Canadians about as long as we don't 'become aware' the new LAVs are similarly used in the future. Got it.

CBC April 13 2016 : Justin Trudeau says jobs in southern Ontario are dependent on the Saudi arms deal

And in what will come as a surprise to absolutely no one : 
Sunni ways indeed.
Saturday Update from Mound of Sound : One More Thing About that Saudi Death Wagon Deal

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Pay to Play in BC with LNG and KBR

On Friday March 18, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna signed off on environmental approval for the controversial Woodfibre LNG Project in Howe Sound, saying the project is "not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects". 
By Monday morning, Houston-based KBR had been awarded a multi-phased Front-End Engineering and Design contract for Woodfibre.

Interesting choice. 

KBR describes itself as "a global technology, engineering, procurement and construction company serving the hydrocarbons and government services industries".

You might better remember KBR as Kellogg Brown and Root.  A subsidiary of Dick Cheney's Halliburton until 2007, KBR was once the single largest US military contractor in Iraq with a hand in building Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the sole contractor for Bagram base and the $100M US embassy in Afghanistan. 

They were in the news a bit :

2013 : Federal Court Orders U.S. Defense Contractor KBR To Stand Trial in Nepali Human Trafficking Case 

Woodfibre LNG Limited is a subsidiary of Pacific Oil & Gas Limited, in turn part of Singapore-based RGE owned by billionaire tycoon Sukanto Tanoto seen here at left with Christie Clark. One of Mr. Tanoto"s companies has also made news headlines around the world about off shore tax fraud and money-laundering.

The Woodfibre LNG KBR contract announcement was made by Woodfibre "Country Manager and VP" Byng Giraud, described as their "first North American employee." 

Formerly Conservative Resources Minister Gary Lunn's Saanich-Gulf Islands campaign manager in 2008 in what came to be known as Canada's first misleading robocall election, Mr. Giraud's bio  notes he was "on the governing council of the Conservative Party of Canada with Prime Minister Stephen Harper", so naturally Giraud and Woodfibre have supported Christie Clark's BC Liberals however they can :

VO Feb 2015 : BC Liberals sponsored by Woodfibre LNG at swanky fundraiser
"The Clark government’s BC Liberal party was sponsored by Woodfibre LNG at an upscale, private members' fundraiser event on Thursday night.
“We’d like to thank our sponsor tonight, Woodfibre LNG ...
“That treads very close to that thin line between legitimate fundraising and influence peddling ..."
That would be the thin line between a fundraiser held in February 2015 and the next BC election in May 2017. 

Photo Credit at top : Richard Duncan/Sea-to-Sky.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Selling the doubleplusgood TPP to Canadians

When she signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal above a NZ casino two months ago, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freetrade was at pains to reassure us that signing it was not the same as ratifying it, and besides there would be conversations with Canadians about it first. 
"Signing does not equal ratifying. Signing is simply a technical step in the process, allowing the TPP text to be tabled in Parliament for consideration and debate before any final decision is made."
Yesterday in Washington DC, PM Justin Trudeau called for "an increasingly integrated North America" and extolled "the investment opportunities for U.S. business on the billions of dollars of infrastructure projects announced in the Liberal budget."
Here's what he said about the TPP :
“In our conversations with Canadians, with industries which are ongoing, there are a lot of people in favour of it and there are a few who have real concerns and we’re looking at understanding and allaying certain fears ...”   
This March 10 presser from the International Trade Committee explains what JT means by "allaying certain fears" :

Second line : "The committee's primary objective is to assess the extent to which the agreement would be in the best interests of Canadians."

So will there be a whole other trade committee to assess the extent to which the TPP is not in the best interests of Canadians?

Because here's what JT's "few who have real concerns" about the global corporate rights pact are concerned about :

TPP opens floodgates to unregulated temporary foreign workers

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could see hundreds of thousands of additional temporary foreign workers (TFWs) entering Canada without any consideration of their impact on the local labour market leading to worsening unemployment among Canadian workers, labour groups warn.
The Canadian Workers Advocacy Group(CWAG) points out that 230,000 TFWs enter Canada annually under the labour mobility provisions of existing agreements, and the magnitude of the latest trade deal means that the numbers will increase significantly.
This is on top of the 165,000 TFWs who enter the country on average per year with a positive Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA).
CWAG also expressed concern that unlike other trade deals, the TPP includes developing countries such as Vietnam and Peru, and corporations will use the intra-company transfer provisions of the trade agreement to bring in low-wage workers and displace Canadians.
The minimum wage is 65 cents per hour in Vietnam and $1.27 per hour in Peru."

Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich : The New Truth About Free Trade
"I used to believe in trade agreements ...."
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz : "TPP worst trade deal ever" 
"I think what Canada should do is use its influence to begin a renegotiation of TPP to make it an agreement that advances the interests of Canadian citizens and not just the large corporations."
The Star : Joseph Stiglitz told Freeland that Canada should reject the TPP 
Economist Joseph Stiglitz says he has told his “friend,” International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, that Canada should reject the Trans-Pacific Partnershipbecause it’s a badly flawed trade deal.

The controversial but not-yet-ratified trade agreement could tie the hands of the Trudeau Liberals on two key parts of its agenda — fighting climate change and repairing relations with aboriginal people, the Nobel-winning professor warned Friday.

Stiglitz said he relayed some of his concerns to Freeland personally in January, when the two were attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sunni Ways

G&M : Saudis defend human rights record over $15-billion arms deal with Canada  
“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that call[s] for universality of human rights does not mean imposition of principles and values that go against our Islamic values and religion.”
Here in Canada, we don't believe calls for universality of human rights means imposition of principles and values that go against our corporate values and profits religion.

Unreported in Canadian media was last week's "eleventh session of the Canada - Saudi Joint Committee" - see photo above - where the "importance of the private sector in the two countries" was agreed upon.  It's a yearly thing. 

A representative from the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Development of Canada discussed challenges and difficult times in the region, requiring "the two countries to work together to explore further opportunities for cooperation and economic partnership."

In another Riyadh report on "the importance of this meeting being the first under the new Government of Canada", Trudeau was described as "more open" leading to "hopes for the Saudi business sector and Canadian senior government support in terms of the development of economic cooperation and business partnerships between the two countries."

As Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion explained to the Senate a month ago, if we were to cancel the Saudi arms deal : 
"what would surely happen is that the equipment in question would be sold to Saudi Arabia by a less scrupulous country, and the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia would not change one iota."

Meanwhile Steven Chase at the G&M reports on the difficulty of getting any info from Global Affairs on Saudi contracts with three more Canadian *defence* companies.

Plus ça Real Change,  plus c'est la même chose...

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Doc the Koch Brothers Don't Want You to See

One year ago, Global News pulled "The Koch Connection" by acclaimed Canadian TV producer and investigative journalist Bruce Livesey just days before it went to air. 

Promo material about the Koch brothers' influence in Canada, including an interview with an Alberta cattle rancher an Alberta Fort McKay First Nations negotiator in talks with Koch Oil Sands Operating, was also scrubbed off their site. 

Livesey told his story on Canadaland and was subsequently fired - along with, if memory serves, some members of his production crew.

Now The Real News Network is teaming up with Livesey to get his doc finished and to market. The film exposes how :
"the Kochs’ are waging relentless campaigns to deny climate change and using their wealth to get conservatives elected to office to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and further their corporate interests."
Founded by filmmaker Paul Jay - producer at Fifth Estate and Frontline, creator of the brilliant CBC debate program CounterSpin with host Avi Lewis, and founding chair of Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival -  The Real News Network airs alternative in-depth Canadian content, sans the usual corporate spin. 

Kudos to them for picking up the Canadian slack, and if you want to see this doc made, show it some support here. 

For more from Bruce Livesey, see his work as lead investigative reporter at the National Observer.
*correction in 2nd sentence*

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Shopping for human rights

 Passed yesterday in the House

"That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad."

Liberals and Conservatives - Yes - 229 votes
NDP and Bloc - No - 51 votes

You can see how each MP voted at the link at top or watch them vote here : "Opposition Motion : Israel"

137 Liberals out of 184 voted in favour, 44 Liberals skipped the vote, and only 3 voted against it : Larry Bagnell, Nick Whalen, and Rene Arsenault.

92 Cons voted in favour while 7 skipped the vote.

Elizabeth May last week : "I will not be supporting it, but I want to make it very clear that the Green Party and I personally do not support the BDS movement." She also skipped the vote.

What's this crap about "demonization and delegitimization of Israel"?
Does everyone get that BDS is basically about shopping?
We're talking about making shopping choices to apply pressure to support Palestinian human rights here. 

And now we're being condemned by our government for what we think about making those choices?   Unbelievable.

Update : Scott Vrooman : Parliamentary debate on Israel boycott misses the point

Real News Network : Brace Batchoun of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East :


Patrick Martin, Globe & Mail : Parliament votes to reject Israel boycott campaign

Antonia Zerbisias, Al Jazeera : Canada jumps on the anti-BDS bandwagon

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cons struggle to find their opposition feet

"They're stealing all our best shit," wailed CPC MP Remplestiltskin from her parliamentary selfie twitter account, rattling off all the HarperGov ideas embraced by the Liberals since they formed a majority government in October :

Saudi arms deal - check
TPP signed - check
Return of the F35 bid - check
Keystone XL pipeline - check
Energy east pipeline - check
Voted for C-51 - check
Canadian Wheat Board stays ditched - check
Investor-state dispute mechanism ISDS - check and check
CIRDI mining company catspaw reconfirmed - check
Covered for CSIS in torture cases - check
Voted against all measures for Palestine at the UN - check

"And you just know they're going to vote in favour of our motion condemning BDS in the House next week," she fumed, although she allowed this has in fact always been Justin Trudeau's position. 

"The Conservative Party worked very hard for ten years to remake the Canadian brand and it's like the Liberals stole all our best ideas and stuck their own name on them."

A Liberal source who spoke on background thinks his CPC colleague is over-reacting.
"There's lots of other Con ideas left the official opposition can raise in the House," he said. 
"New wars, for instance. While Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada could soon join a military coalition to return to Libya, we haven't said we're going to actually bomb any new countries so there's that."

"Look on the bright side," he continued. "Remember 18 months ago when that delegation of Liberal and Conservative MPs and senators went to Jerusalem and sang O Canada at the Canada-Israel Solidarity Rally during Day 23 of Operation Protective Edge

Remember how rewarding it felt to be Conservatives and Liberals working together in support of Israel's collective punishment of Palestinians?"

"Sunny ways are here to stay," he quipped. "Better get used to it."

 Rempelstiltskin™ : the Salamander

Greenwald/Fishman @The Intercept : Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cindy Blackstock

Who knows about love and fairness? Children do.

Racial discrimination against children must no longer be tolerated in Canada.

First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada filed their complaint in 2007. 

Tyee : Scared and Spied On Under Harper, Why Child Advocate Didn't Give Up

Also, while we're at it ... Cindy Blackstock for Governor General of Canada.

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