Canada tied for fourth on global good governance index

A Washington-based think tank which assesses democratic good governance and anti-corruption practices in 55 countries has Canada tied for fourth among the top tier of countries with strong governance and strong anti-corruption practices.

That’s the good news. The bad news? Canada has lousy judicial accountability. Researchers gave low marks for judicial accountability because a) the executive branch of government controls appointments to the judiciary andb) there are no rules governing gifts and hospitality offered to judges.

Canada was also docked points because it has no national ombudsman.

But Canada was among the top-ranked countries for political financing. Researchers paid particular note to recent reforms by both the last Liberal government and the current Conservative government to limit campaign donations and force disclosures of contributors.
Canada also scored very well on executive accountability — the fact that the prime minister and cabinet has to answer to the House of Commons.

Canada scored 81 out of a possible 100 points on an annual index prepared by non-profit group Global Integrity which looks at more than 300 factors in each country, including things like media freedom, law enforcement accountability, voter participation and whistle-blower protection. Global Integrity designed the study while Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch was the lead Canadian researcher.

Canada was not ranked in the 2006 index.

The top score on the index was achieved by the United States and, perhaps surprisingly, by Bulgaria, a former Soviet Bloc country. Latvia and Romania, two other former Communist countries, also scored as well or better than Canada. Researchers said perception of those countries lags noticeably behind reality. They say that, particularly in the case of Romania and Bulgaria, massive democratic reforms have been forced upon former Soviet Bloc countries in order to achieve membership in the European Union, NATO, or other international groups.

Here are the top 10 with their index scores out of 100:

1. United States & Bulgaria – 87
3. Latvia – 84
4. CANADA, Spain, Japan, Italy, Romania – 81
9. Costa Rica – 79
10. France – 78

The group said three countries had shown significant improvement since 2006. They are Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, and Nepal.

Three countries slipped significantly. They are Uganda, Nigeria and  Georgia.

Canadian net debt drops again

The federal governments net debt — all of its assets minus all its liabilities — dropped for the 10th year in a row, Statistics Canada reported this morning.

At March 31, 2007, net financial debt stood at $508.1–billion, a drop of $6–billion or 1.2 per cent compared to our net debt at March 31, 2006.

Between 1997 and 2007, net debt has now dropped $80–billion. Now the partisans among you might notice that Liberal governments lowered net debt by $74–billion in their last nine years in power – about $8–billion a year — and all the Tories could do in their first year was to lower it by a paltry $6–billion — and the Tories had the benefit of a skyrocketing dollar, record resource revenue, generational low unemployment rates, generational low interest rates, etc. etc.  In fact, Statscan says the most significant change in the country’s financial position was the $5.1–billion increase in the country’s foreign currency reserves. Liabilities decreased by less than $1–billion.

But partisan nit-picking like that would be unseemly …

Measured as a percentage of our gross national product, net debt is now 34.8 per cent compared to 36.8 per cent at March 31, 2006.

Net debt, you’ll recall, is now an important public policy term because Finance Minister Jim Flaherty declared that it ought to be the goal of his and every government in Canada to wrestle the combined net debt of the federal and provincial governments to zero by 2021.


Should flags be lowered for an Afghanistan death?

The Montreal Gazette reports today that the Royal Canadian Legion in St. Anne de Bellevue flies its flag at half-mast upon every death in Afghanistan but at the Legion in Notre Dame de Grâce, the Canadian flag remains at full staff. “If we did that during the Second World War, the flag would have been at half-mast for six years,” said Frank Stenway of the N.D.G. branch, where members have voted against half-masting for each Canadian death in Afghanistan.

This not a new issue, of course. It came up when the Conservatives became the government. The Liberals, under Paul Martin, began lowering the Peace Tower flag on each soldier's death in Afghanistan. But the Conservatives ended that practice, citing tradition that Canada — and Parliament — honours those sacrifices on Remembrance Day. Some veterans of other wars weighed in at the time saying the Remembrance Day honour was the appropriate one and lowering the flag for an Afghanistan death would seem to be suggesting that those deaths were more worthy of such an honour than a death in Korea or Normandy or anywhere else.

Meanwhile, in Parliament, Andrew Telegdi, the Liberal MP from Kitchener, Ont., wants the House to adopt his private members bill which would call for the flag on the Peace Tower to be lowered to honour each death in Afghanistan. He found some support yesterday for this idea among the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP but none from the Conservatives.

There are some long-standing rules about the sorts of events that trigger the half-masting of the Peace Tower flag but the death of a soldier overseas is not one of them.

“For the most part, the policy of the previous [Liberal] government was that if a Canadian soldier died overseas, the flags would be lowered. That policy seems to have gone by the wayside,” Telegdi said in the House yesterday. “We are talking about something that is very simple and very basic. We should be commemorating the passing of the soldiers who have been killed overseas while serving this country, soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. We should be commemorating their passing in this House and also lowering the flag on top of the Peace Tower.”

Harold Albrecht, a Conservative MP also from the Kitchener area, says Telegdi's bill is problematic simply because it would fail to honour others who also gave their lives in service of Canada and Canadians: “Is the member aware that this motion, as it is worded, would fail to give the same honour to Canadian Forces personnel killed while serving at home in Canada as it would to those abroad? Would the hon. member explain the reason for that? What clear criteria does the member use to define “peacekeeping”, “peacemaking” and “humanitarian missions”? Is the member also aware that his motion fails to give the same recognition to the sacrifice of policemen or firemen who are killed in the line of duty in Canada as it would to government personnel killed on a humanitarian mission abroad?”

Meanwhile, Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis closed the debate with this plea:

” I am sure that members in this House are aware of the death of Sergeant Christos Karigiannis in Afghanistan last June. Christos Karigiannis is a fifth cousin of mine who gave his life while serving our country. I am a privy councillor and thus the flag will be half-masted upon my death. I would gladly trade this in order to have seen the flag half-masted for Sergeant Christos Karigiannis and any of his comrades. Therefore, I am asking for unanimous consent of the House to adopt Motion No. 310, in the memory of my cousin, Christos Karigiannis, and all the other members of the armed forces who have given their lives in Afghanistan and other places of war. ”

He did not receive that unanimous consent.

Stephen Harper on the Manley Report

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in the National Press Theatre (that's three times now he's used the Parliamentary Press Gallery's facilities for a presser. Is this the new normal??) today (left) to present his formal response to the Manley Report on Afghanistan. Bottom line: Harper loves it. Here's his opening statement followed by excerpts from the Q&A with reporters that followed:

All of the members of the panel are to be congratulated for the quality of their work and their dedication to public service. Through their work, Mr. Manley and his colleagues affirmed the strong belief that Canada's commitment in Afghanistan matters. It matters because it concerns Canadian and global security. It matters because it concerns Canada's international reputation as well as obligations that we have undertaken for the well-being of some of the world's most impoverished and vulnerable people. And it matters in no small measure because of the dedication and sacrifice of Canada's finest men and women as they work to safeguard our world and bring hope to the Afghan people.

I have spoken with Mr. Manley and advised him that our Government broadly accepts the recommendations put forward by the panel on Canada's future in Afghanistan. More precisely, the Government accepts the panel’s specific recommendation of extending Canada’s mission in Afghanistan if – and I must emphasize if – certain conditions are met; that is, the securing of a partner or partners in Kandahar province with additional combat troops and equipment capabilities. In other words, while the case for the Afghan mission is clearly compelling, the decision to allow our young men and women to continue to be in harm’s way demands the responsibility to give them a strong chance of success.

The panel has made a clear case that there cannot be a definitive timeline placed on when NATO will have finished the job in Afghanistan and when Afghans are able to take responsibility for their own security and we agree. However, Canada's contribution should be reviewed, at minimum, in the context of progress on the benchmarks the panel has advocated, and within two to three years time. In the coming days and weeks we will respond in greater detail to the full range of the panel's individual recommendations.

Over that same period – in advance of April's meeting of NATO Heads of Government in Bucharest – I will lead a diplomatic effort with our allies to secure specific commitments necessary to ensure that the next steps are consistent with the panel's recommendations. As I stated previously, the Government will bring a motion before Parliament this spring seeking support for Canada's way forward. I look forward to the Parliamentary debate. I have spoken to Mr. Dion and I would invite the opposition parties to reflect carefully upon their positions and to give this report the consideration that it deserves. Mr. Manley's panel has rightly acknowledged the importance of Canada's engagement in Afghanistan and the consequences of failure. Make no mistake: Canada, with its allies, is making progress in Afghanistan. But this is a complex and challenging mission. The great responsibility we share moving forward lies in ensuring that our hard-won gains – and those of the Afghan people – are not lost.

David Ljunggren (Reuters): Just to be clear, Mr. Prime Minister, if NATO says sorry, we can't give you the thousand troops that you want, what happens then? Does that mean the mission ends?

Harper: We have — I've spoken with the Chief of Defence Staff as have other members of the cabinet — we — he and we accept the analysis that for this mission to go forward and achieve its objectives and be successful, we do have the need for a substantial increase in combat troops and particular needs in terms of military equipment. In terms of the equipment, the Government of Canada already has that equipment on order and has for some time. It's obviously a matter of securing it in the field much more quickly one way or another. But both of those recommendations will have to be fulfilled or Canada will not proceed with the mission in Afghanistan. We believe these are essential to our success. I think where the report is very clear is that we really do have two choices. We do everything better and we do everything right or we don't do it. But we can't do a half a mission that might not succeed. And, you know, we've come to the conclusion in discussions, as I say with the Chief of the Defence Staff, that these troops and equipment are necessary and that Canada certainly in the short term can't provide it ourselves.

Ljunggren: Have you had a conversation with NATO or the Americans on this? What has the discussion been?

Harper: I have not. I think there have been some discussions. I have not but I will be having these in the days that follow.

Jacques Bourbeau (Global): Sir, you say that you broadly accept the recommendations in the Manley report. Do you also accept its criticisms? For example, they say that your government has not done a good enough job communicating the realities of this mission to Canadians and that you need to take a higher profile in terms of, for example, trying to convince our NATO allies to contribute more troops.

Harper: Well, first of all, I would say honestly the report criticizes governments. But we take the criticism seriously. You know, if I can be frank about it, this is an extremely difficult mission. We don't believe it's perfect. We never have. There has been no issue that has caused me as Prime Minister more headaches and quite frankly more heartache than this particular mission and I don't think that's going to change in the near future. We accept the judgment that there are several things that could be done better. In the case of most of these things, I think the panel would also acknowledge the government has taken steps.

If you take, for example, on the issue of communications, the government established some months ago a special task force within government on Afghan communications that has been reporting to one of our cabinet committees and carefully monitoring, encouraging outreach and communications activities on the Afghan mission. But, that said, I mean let's be truthful and I say this is why we worry about this electorally and politically. Let's be truthful. A military mission, a robust military mission where there are casualties is never going to be easy to communicate and it is never going to be all that popular to communicate. That is just the reality of the situation. But, as I say, we do accept the criticisms and we are looking to improve on that and several other fronts.

Bourbeau: And, looking forward, in your estimation, how difficult is your job going to be to convince some of our NATO allies to contribute more troops?

Harper: First of all, there have been increasing troop commitments from NATO allies before and since the last NATO meeting. Now they still fall well short of what we need but we have seen some increased commitments. I think the report also gives the government tremendous ammunition in terms of making the case for further commitments and particularly for requiring them in Kandahar which I think is probably just about universally agreed as the single most difficult province in the country.

I'm optimistic but we will be scouting out that before we go to NATO and before we come to a vote on that in Parliament we will have a pretty good idea at that point in time whether there's a realistic possibility of NATO coming through with those commitments. I'm always optimistic on these things. I think as I said (earlier) I did think NATO's future credibility and effectiveness did hinge upon success of this mission. And I don't think there's any way for any NATO country to get around that fact.

Allan Woods (Toronto Star): One of the things that Mr. Manley said after releasing his report is that both your government and the Liberal Party primarily have to put a bit of water in their wine and rise above the partisan debate and come to some sort of national consensus. And I wonder, you haven't addressed how you intend to do that or if you intend to do that.

Harper: Well, I've said that that would obviously be ideal. You know, the government understands that this is one of our most difficult files. To end up fighting an election over this issue may be in the interests of some in the opposition but I don't think it's in the interests of the government. So I think it is in the interest to get a consensus by appointing a bipartisan panel and seeing the bipartisan panel come to consensus I think we've shown that when people set aside blinders or rigid positions and look at the interests of the country and the fact they can come to an agreement. At the same time, I would point out that the panel doesn't give a lot of options. Yeah, we can put our water in our wine but it doesn't give a lot of options. The final recommendation of the panel is essentially you're either in or you're out. And if you're in, you actually have to be in in a much bigger way. If you're going to do more on aid, more on development, more on governance, more on training of the Afghan forces, you also have to be prepared to do more on the military side as well, on the kinetic military side. So, I think in the end while obviously we accept the advice of the panel on the desirability of having some kind of motion that we can pass through Parliament — it's clearly desirable — the options here are not enormous in range.

Woods: One other thing you talked about is the importance not only for what the people in Afghanistan who are subject to what's going on, the fighting that's going on, but you talked about the importance of building Canada's reputation, of punching above our weight. If Canada is forced to pull out of Afghanistan because these conditions are not met, what happens to Canada's reputation?

Harper: Well, I think that's a good question. You know I don't think that would necessarily enhance our reputation but I think NATO's reputation is on the line here as well. And, you know, I think all the evidence, increasing evidence suggests that NATO's efforts in Afghanistan as a whole are not adequate but particularly in Kandahar province they are not adequate and quite frankly Kandahar province is critical. It is the focal point of the insurgency and of the Taliban's longer term plans to return to power. So in a sense everybody's reputation is on the line but I think if ultimately NATO doesn't come through, I mean Canada has done what it said it would do — and more. We now say we need help. I think if NATO can't come through with that help then I think frankly NATO's own reputation and future will be in grave jeopardy.

You're fired! And from now on, you're getting a paltry $240,000 a year!

Linda Keen will be appearing in front of the House of Commons Standing Committing on Natural Resources. Keen appears as the recently fired president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and she is part of a what should be a very interesting three hours at this committee. Not only will Keen answer questions about her role and the Commission's role in the shutdown of the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory, but the Committee will also hear from Auditor General Sheila Fraser about the overall shortcomings of AECL [PDF file of that report] and then will hear from Health Minister Tony Clement. He will likely get asked a few questions about the excellent piece that reporter Hélène Buzzetti had in Le Devoir aujourd'hui. Buzzetti tested the assumption that Parliament had to pass emergency legislation to start up the Chalk River reactor because no one else in the world could produce the medical isotopes that Chalk River could. Buzzetti found that French and Belgian operators of reactors in those countries were ready to step in and fill the isotope shortage. Buzzetti looked high and low but could find no evidence that Canada even asked for such help.

In other words, there were alternatives to solving the isotope shortage that did not involve starting up a reactor Canada's nuclear safety watchdog believed it didn't have to start up.

And in the meantime, let's remember that while Keen was fired as President of the CNSC, she remains a member of the commission, a job which pays, at the top end, nearly a quarter million dollars a year. (Gary Lunn, the Minister who recommended her firing earns about $225,000 a year.)

Here's the Order-in-Council sealing Keen's removal as President of the CNSC:

Whereas pursuant to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is responsible for regulating the production of nuclear substances as well as preventing unreasonable risk to the health and safety of Canadians associated with that production;

Whereas by Order in Council P.C. 2000-1563 of October 4, 2000, Linda Keen was appointed a permanent full-time member of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission;

Whereas by Order in Council P.C. 2000-1563 of October 4, 2000, Linda Keen was designated President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission;

Whereas the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is the chief executive officer of the organization and has supervision over and direction of the work of the members and officers and employees of the Commission;

Whereas the position of President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission requires the utmost confidence of the Governor in Council;

Whereas the recent extended shutdown of the Nuclear Research Universal Reactor at Chalk River, Ontario and the interruption in the world supply of medical isotopes resulted in a serious threat to the health of Canadians and others;

Whereas, the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission failed to take the necessary initiative to address the crisis in a timely fashion using the means at her disposal, and failed to demonstrate the leadership expected by the Governor in Council;

Whereas by letter dated December 27, 2007, the Minister of Natural Resources invited Linda Keen to comment, on or before January 10, 2008, on why her designation as President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission should not be terminated;

Whereas by submission dated January 8, 2008, Linda Keen responded to the invitation of the Minister of Natural Resources;

Whereas the Governor in Council has carefully considered the submission received from Linda Keen, and has concluded that Linda Keen no longer enjoys the confidence of the Governor in Council as President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission;

Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Natural Resources, pursuant to sections 10 and 13 of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, hereby

(a) terminates the designation of Linda Keen as President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission; and

(b) fixes her remuneration as a permanent member (full-time) of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission at the rate set out in the schedule hereto, which remuneration is within the range ($204,300 – $240,400).

Keen's replacement, incidentally, is Michael Binder, last seen as the bureaucrat most in charge of telecommunications policy at Industry Canada. The order-in-council naming Binder as president gives him his new title — and salary — for six months.

Wall o' Harper

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May discovered something while acting as a leader earlier this month for a model parliament for students: A wall of Stephen Harper photographs in the the “Government Lobby”, the lounge area reserved for government MPs that is behind the green curtains on their stide of the aisle in the House of Commons:

It did not strike me until I walked into the Government Lobby to await my turn as Speaker that I had not been in there since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister.

It used to have some paintings on the wall. Past prime ministers, certainly a formal portrait of the Queen. Landscapes. I know there was the occasional photo of current Prime Ministers, but when I walked in this time, I felt chilled to the bone. Every available wall space had a large colour photo of Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper at Alert. Stephen Harper in fire fighter gear. Stephen Harper at his desk. Stephen Harper meeting the Dalai Lama. Even the photo of the Queen showed her in the company of Stephen Harper. None were great photos. None were more than enlarged snapshots in colour. They didn’t feel like art.

The student with me said it was the same in Langevin Block, the Prime ministers Office. Photos of Stephen Harper everywhere.

The PM’s deputy press secretary, Dimitri Soudas, confirmed the existence of this photographic display. The photos, taken by PMO official photographer Jason Ransom, show pictures of the PM as he travels about the country and the world and it gives PMO staff and MPs a chance to see their leader in action. Soudas notes that MPs and staffers do not normally get to travel with the PM.

Both the Government Lobby and the Opposition Lobby are strictly off-limits to reporters.

The Liberals, of course, were the previous occupants of the “Government Lobby” room and, I am told, they placed pictures of past Liberal prime ministers on the walls while they were in office.

The State Department on Canada

The U.S. State Department maintains an online encyclopedia, if you will, of the countries of the world. The page for Canada was recently updated and, thought it seems to be an otherwise accurate and complete summary of political, economic and social conditons here, there are a a couple of oddities on it. First, the only photo on the page is a picture of the legislative buildings in Victoria, the seat of British Columbia's government. There is no explanation at the page that this is the legislative home of a province and I wonder if many Americans or others who visit would mistake this as the home of our national government. Would you put up a page with basic facts and figures about the U.S. government and throw up a picture of the Texas State Capitol? Of course, you wouldn't.

The page also notes Prime Minister Harper's meeting with U.S. President George Bush. It notes that their first meeting was at the so-called Three Amigos summit in Cancun, Mexico in March, 2006. True. The site says they met a few months later in Washington. True again. But then the State department skips forward saying they met again at the Three Amigos summit in Montebello, Que. this summer. They certainly did meet there, but they also ran into each other at two G8 meetings and two Asia-Pacific Partnership meeting in the meantime. Perhaps the State Department is referring to formal bi-lateral meetings.

Some other notes from the page — nothing wrong here, so far as I can tell, just interesting stuff. The quotes are lifted from the U.S. State Dept.:

  • We have a $1.25-trillion economy. (2006 numbers). The U.S., I believe, is a $13-trillion economy.
  • “Canada views good relations with the U.S. as crucial to a wide range of interests, and often looks to the U.S. as a common cause partner promoting democracy, transparency, and good government around the world. Nonetheless, it sometimes pursues policies at odds with our own. Canada decided in 2003 not to contribute troops to the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq (although it later contributed financially to Iraq's reconstruction and provided electoral advice). Other recent examples are: Canada's leadership in the creation of the UN-created International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, which the U.S. opposes due to fundamental flaws in the treaty that leave the ICC vulnerable to exploitation and politically motivated prosecutions; its decision in early 2005 not to participate directly in the U.S. missile defense program; and its strong support for the Ottawa Convention to ban anti-personnel mines. The U.S., while the world's leading supporter of demining initiatives, declined to sign the treaty due to unmet concerns regarding the protection of its forces and allies, particularly those serving on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the lack of exemptions for mixed munitions.”
  • “Canada is a significant source for the U.S. of marijuana and synthetic drugs (methamphetamines, ecstasy), as well as precursor chemicals and over-the-counter drugs used to produce illicit synthetic drugs. Implementation and strengthening of regulations in Canada and increased U.S.-Canadian law enforcement cooperation have had a substantial impact in reducing trafficking of precursor chemicals and synthetic drugs, but cannabis cultivation, because of its profitability and relatively low risk of penalty, remains a thriving industry. Canada increased maximum penalties for methamphetamine offenses in August 2005 and implemented new controls over various precursors in November 2005. Canada is active in international efforts to combat terrorist financing and money laundering.”
  • “The two nations share the world's largest and most comprehensive trading relationship, which supports millions of jobs in each country. In 2006, total trade between the two countries exceeded $500 billion. The two-way trade that crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario equals all U.S. exports to Japan. “

My first record: Supertramp's Crime of the Century. What was yours?

What was the first album you ever bought? I'm old enough, of course, that my first record was on vinyl. I'm certain it was a 7″ 45-rpm single likely bought at Rutledge's Music Store, then in St. George's Square in Guelph, Ont. (Rutledge's — or perhaps Routledge — sold drums, guitars, pianos as well as sheet and recorded music. Today, if you know Guelph, there is a Canada Trust in that corner of St. George's Square) As this was very early in the 1970s, I'm sure my first vinyl was likely a pop hit of the day — perhaps something like Gilbert O'Sullivan's “Alone Again Naturally” which, being all of eight or something, I thought was tremendously clever.

But the first album I ever acquired was purchased up the street from Rutledge's at Records On Wheels. R.O.W. was a regional chain that is no longer in Guelph, so far as I know, but when it was, it was the hippest record stores in the city. For most of its life, R.O.W. Guelph's home was on MacDonnell Street but when I was 11-years-old Records on Wheels was a second floor walk-up on Wyndham Street across the street from the Odeon Theatre.

Guys with long hair and vests — they might have been bikers to my 11-year-old sensibility — ran the place. Later, as a 19-year-old DJ spending a few hundred bucks a week at their store, those guys with long hair and vests became my friends.

Anyhow — sometime around Christmas 1975, I walked up the stairs with a few dollars I'd earned delivering Toronto Stars, and walked out with Supertramp's Crime of the Century. I remember it was the Christmas season because I was supposed to be spending that money I'd earned on gifts for my family but I was just so nuts about the single off that record, “Bloody Well Right”, that I had to have it. And so I did.

Now, more than 30 years and about 5,000 albums later, I still get a kick out of that record. It happened to be on the digital turntable tonight and YouTube had the video of Rick Davies and his friends performing it a few years after its initial release.

American right says saving polar bears "a dangerous idea"

From the e-inbox this morning, this call-to-arms put out in the U.S. by those who dismiss the notion that climate change is happening and that it’s dangerous. You can find the original with more background on the blog American Daily. The author is apparently Chuck Cushman, executive director of the American Land Rights Association. He’s asking Americans to call, fax, or write the president and other officials to prevent them from placing the Polar Bear on the U.S. Endangered Species List. Their thinking, which should be crystal clear from the letter below, is that such a symbolic statement will “start the ball rolling down the hill toward you.”

Here’s the call:

Proposed Polar Bear ESA listing threatens you!

Global warming regulations will come at you hard – This is an all out call to action.

You must call, write, fax and e-mail again and again.

See Action Items below

—–You have no time to waste.  You must deluge the White House and Interior Department with calls, faxes and e-mails.  We’ve given you some special inside numbers and addresses below.

—–Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the Department of the Interior and its Fish and Wildlife Service are getting ready to trample on your rights, drive up your cost of living, and regulate virtually every aspect of your life.

—–President Bush plans to announce his concern about the Polar Bear in his January 28 State of the Union address.  This statement will start the regulatory ball rolling down the hill toward you.

Under intense pressure from radical environmentalists over their perceived threat of Global Warming, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne is dropping hints that under the Endangered Species Act, he will declare the Polar Bear a threatened species – within the next few weeks but after the President¹s State of the Union Message.

If he does, any activity that arguably adds to hypothetical global warming Š and thus supposedly causes arctic ice melting, habitat loss and Polar Bear deaths Š will be subject to Department of the Interior (DOI) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) control.

This decision would destroy jobs, undermine economic growth and destroy personal choice on the basis of conjecture and computer models.

—–When the public realizes how much damage is caused by naming the Polar Bear a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act, this economically destructive decision will cause massive outrage among the voters.

This decision would effectively put the Fish and Wildlife Service – and an army of bureaucrats, regulators, activists and judges – in charge of every energy and economic decision in America. The impact could easily be worse than the Kyoto Protocol.

You¹re going to have Fish and Wildlife agents on your property.

Compared to this decision, the Spotted Owl and Snail Darter cases were pimples on an elephant.

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne plans to issue his Endangered Species Act ³Threatened Polar Bears² decision a week or so after the President¹s State of the Union message. But it could happen even earlier than that.

You can help stop it.
—–Action Items:

—–1.  Tell President Bush ­ Keep the Polar Bear out of his State of the Union address. Ask Secretary Kempthorne to scrap this dangerous idea.

A liberal critic shuffle

Opposition Leader Stephane Dion just announced a mini-shuffle of his critics. Montreal MP Marlene Jennings becomes deputy house leader taking over from fellow Montreal Lucienne Robillard, who is retiring. There is no missing Jennings in the House, if you ever have the chance to visit during QP: She is a loud and persistent heckler and is one of the most effective for getting under the skins of those on the other side of the House.

New Brunswick MP Dominic Leblanc had been his party’s Intergovernnmental Affairs Critic. He’ll continue to do that but will now also take on the job of Justice Critic. Jennings had been the Justice Critic. As Justice Critic, Leblanc will be matched up against Minister Rob Nicholson.

Susan Kadis, the Thornhill, Ont. MP, becomes Revene critic, opposite Minister Gordon O’Connor.

The Libs have a full slate of critics — there are, by my count, 44 of them on top of positions like whip, house leader and so on.