CIDA: More bite than bark

Despite remarkable past success in Togo, where the Canadian Red Cross, with funding from CIDA, distributed 900,000 bed nets in the malaria torn nation in a single week, CIDA’s bed net distribution funding for the Red Cross is scheduled to end next month. Instead, CIDA will help fund a UNICEF program which sells bed netting to Ethiopians for $1 per net. According to Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa the UNICEF program pales in comparison to the historic work of the Canadian Red Cross.

Malaria kills about 900,000 people a year in Africa, mostly children under the age of five, yet is considered controllable by using various vector controls and medical treatments. In South Africa, bed netting programs combined with effective, responsible spraying of DDT resulted in a nearly 90% drop in malaria cases in one year.

Minister Verner, please do not abandon such a successful program. Refund the Canadian Red Cross’ bed netting program and allow the responsible use of DDT in future CIDA funded programs.



Loose lips

What is one to make the one-two takeout by the Conservative Party this week, removing outspoken MP Garth Turner from caucus, and the equally unabashed Anne Cools from all of her Senate committees?

All this could possibly accomplish would be to draw more attention to Turner and his blog – he didn’t think much of David Emerson’s floor crossing either – and further the view that the Harper government is becoming far too secretive and protective. Only the most diehard Conservative supporters ever bought the party line that the new government deserves its privacy because the media won’t be fair to them “like it was to the Liberals.” Can anyone who supported the Cons under the pretence of grassroots reform see that quality in the current party in power?


Don’t it make my brown eyes blue

I’ve been thinking about jumping on the bandwagon and signing up for an Alberta Tory membership. Everybody’s doing it. If you belong to a union, the first one is even free. From the left, from the right, Alberta Alliance, First Nations, pack up the babies and grab the old ladies. We all know that it’s the only vote that really counts in this province. The new leader of the Alberta Tories is the next premier, and will have a strong chance to set the agenda for the next decade or so. I’d like to have a say in who that is, for as distasteful as the good choices are, the bad are positively horrid.

Alberta CrestSome critics within the party have expressed the view that people who don’t actually, you know, support the Tories in general elections should not be voting for the party leader. I say, if they want to make rules to that effect, go ahead. Even a simple oath of support in the membership application would be enough to turn me off. When the Tories implement reforms to make my vote in general elections count (read: proportional representation), I’ll be delighted to sow my democratic oats that way instead. Until then, it’s open season.

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The knell of corporate income tax sounds

Converting a corporation into an income trust appears to be the latest Canadian fad. What was once a tax loophole few, and only mature corporations exploited appears to be becoming business as usual, after today’s announcement that Bell Canada will follow Telus’ lead and transform their corporations into trusts. In the past RBC CEO Gord Nixon has suggested taht Canada’s largest bank could benefit by converting to an income trust structure. In the last five years, the number of income trusts in Canada has more than quadrupled. With every new trust conversion, upwards of 80% of its corporate income is filtered through unit holders avoiding all but personal taxation. The impact of the proposed telecommunications’ trust conversions on Federal coffers looks to be $1.5 billion annually, according to NDP finance critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis. Will the Conservative Party of Canada act to ensure the stability of Canada’s revenue raising system and finally close this loophole?


Nuclear chicken

International condemnation has been fast and furious following the apparent nuclear demonstration in North Korea, yet the coolest heads appear to be in the nations nearest North Korea geographically. China has publicly ruled out a military response and recognizes the danger in collapsing the North Korean ‘economy’ through economic sanction. Japan’s new PM, who has mused in the past about the constitutionality of nuclear weaponry, has assured the international community Japan has no interest in attaining a nuclear deterrent.

Not surprisingly, the hottest heads are in the US administration, calling for immediate and severe sanctions, and refusing to talk to the DPRK. The first rule of the Nuclear Club, apparently, is you do not talk about Nuclear Club. This response seems predictable and especially inappropriate considering it was American hotheadedness that rekindled Kim’s nuclear desires in the first place, through calling out Korea in the 2002 State of the Union and demonstrating the nuances of American diplomacy by invading Iraq, then by contributing to the breakdown of the October 1994 Agreed Framework. The Bush administration has practically sponsored their membership.

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Defence of reason

Ted MortonI certainly expected no less from Ted Morton than his regressive Bill 208, but I was quite surprised to hear that the federal Conservatives are considering a similar Defence of Religions Act, presumably aimed at keeping their socially conservative supporters and MPs in line by attempting to specifically allow discrimination specifically against same-sex couples.

I dearly hope the title of that act was something salacious cooked up to sell papers over at the G&M, because if that’s the sort of language being tossed around in Ottawa backrooms these days, I will be deeply worried. Defence of religions? Where do they think they are, Battleground Homosexuality? Let’s keep that kind of ignorant hostility on the Internets where it belongs, please. A party in government has no excuse for adopting language which buys into the offensive and wrong characterization of religious persons and gay and lesbian persons as two disctinct, opposing groups. Remember that the first same-sex marriage in Canada took place in a church before a minister. Exactly which religions were the Conservatives planning on defending?

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Twenty on Ignatieff in the third

Michael IgnatieffI’ve just recently taken a brief primer to catch up with the Liberal leadership race, and I’m afraid that I am, in the words of Anna Russell, just as befogged as before. There’s a clear frontrunner, about whom everyone feels strongly; he is either heralded as the party’s saviour or derided as an unmitigated disaster. A Harper-Ignatieff general election would be a policy wonk’s dream; one can’t help but feel a battle between the two cerebral overminds of modern Canadian politics would be best settled by a simple battle of wits to the death! with a bottle of wine, two glasses, and a vial of iocaine powder.

Would Ignatieff be a viable candidate for PM in a general election? Hard to say. He is an outsider to the party, which is currently the single most important determining factor in my view. He has some rather right-ish views on Iraq and torture, but we are told he has good reasons for holding these views reasons different from your typical neo-con’s and I suppose I should be getting to the business of reading his papers to find out just what they are.

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Three nations under god indivisible

The softwood lumber controversy and calls for a national energy strategy have kept a few NAFTA issues on the newspaper pages and in the minds of Canadians. Despite this negative attention, and other reasonable detractions, doesn’t a renegotiation of NAFTA still seem unlikely?

“Look at the results,” NAFTA supporters tell us, they’re undeniable. Well, researchers at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have and remind us, in this tour de force, that NAFTA is still not working for North America’s workers.

Isn’t it time for a new approach?


The tail wagging the Afghan

When the NDP established the withdrawal of Canadian troops from the Afghan theatre as official policy and proposed negotiating with Taliban rather then continue fighting a war ever-growing in cost and unpopularity, conservative voices in this country quickly blurted the usual battle cries of the war-committed hawk, Canadians don’t cut and run; Canada does not negotiate with terrorists; Canada will not go back on its word to our allies, or the Afghan people.

Today, even as election day nears, the NDP position has found an ally in US Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R!). The Senator said that the only way to ensure security in the southern region where Canadian troops are active is to “assimilate people who call themselves Taliban into a larger, more representative government.” In many instances these people who call themselves Taliban would not have in 2001. The Taliban has found new allies in tribesman once left to themselves and farmers fearing loss of their most viable source of income. The insurgency in Afghanistan begins to mirror the complexity of that in Iraq more and more each day this military option continues to fail.

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Implausible deniability

Perhaps it’s all due to Al Gore, but the flare-up in public awareness and media coverage of climate change over the past few months seems to be taking on an entirely new light. Primarily, despite the inevitable relics of a bygone era, the media has not been framing the issue as an active debate. The industry-driven denial of the science involved seems at long last to have lost its footing.

AtlasIt certainly had a good run. As excellent article in This Magazine describes the history of the phrase “Made in Canada Solution”, from its birth to a poor but loving industry-backed faux environmental group, to its harsh youth spent wandering the countryside from mouth of pseudo-intellectual to pseudo-intellectual, and at last its glory days, being seized and hoisted aloft by none other than the future Prime Minister of Canada, who proclaimed the full glory of its witless, rabid nationalism for all to see and bask in.

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