Don’t Back Down

James Laxer on making the brouhaha something more than just a brouhaha – and the consequences of not doing so:

If the Conservatives manage to salvage their hold on government, the retribution they will inflict on each of the opposition parties will be a terrible one. Stephen Harper does not deal well with what he interprets as public humiliation. Here’s a guy who can’t even attend the annual Press Gallery dinner in Ottawa because he’d have to lampoon himself and people might laugh at him. Lacking a sense of humour, which means a sense of proportion, he is not well-suited to political life in a democracy where give and take is of the essence.
The only thing this man understands is conquest, which is why even the members of his own party don’t really like him.
If the Liberals decide to let Harper wriggle out of this one, they will have exchanged the substance of victory for a Pyrrhic victory.
Making a coalition work will not be easy for either the Liberals or the NDP. What will unite them though is that they are on the same side of the fence when it comes to the need for a serious stimulus package to cope with the economic crisis. Oddly enough, keeping the Bloc onboard may prove to be not so challenging. The Bloc will claim credit for the portion of the stimulus package that goes to Quebec, and they will be rid of Harper’s noxious agenda on culture, crime, and gun control, an agenda that Quebeckers hate with a passion.
The Liberals, NDP and the Bloc can either hang together or they will hang separately.

Read the whole thing here

And see this Laxer post on Harper’s economic mismanagement and why that is the reason to bring this government down.

Power Hungry Harper

It appears fairly clear that Canada’s Prime Minister is going to take his country into a Federal election next week.  You would think that he would not waste the time and money of Canadians unless he felt that an election was both necessary and likely to result in a different allocation of power between the federal parties than that which the country has been living with, miserably, for several years now.

But that’s not the case.  Even Harper cannot say that he believes an imminent election will lead to a change in power or even anything other than a minority government:

“My expectation would be that we will have another minority. I think that’s a reality of the current political climate,” Harper reported during a two-day tour of the north.

Harper said that the possibility of anyone getting a majority, “in the current political alignment” is highly unlikely.

Whoa!  Talk about low expectations.  Harper need barely get his hair mussed to declare himself a success according to his scenario, assuming, of course, that he believes it will be a Conservative minority.  That being the case, why the hell is he about to waste our time and money and put us through the horrors of listening to him and all his colleagues, of whatever political stripe, lie to us for weeks on end?

A “fresh mandate” he says.  According to Merriam-Webster, the word mandate means, in this instance, “an authorization to act”.  He has an authorization to act for heaven’s sake.  A mandate is not a loaf of bread that goes stale; it isn’t something that needs refreshing except, according to the rules of Parliament, when the Opposition can show lack of confidence and bring the government down or otherwise, due to the lapse of a generally accepted period of time that Harper has always, till now, acknowledged to be about five years from the date of the last election.  That’s not now.

So, if Harper doesn’t expect to get anything much different from what he has, what the hell is he up to?  Tom Flanagan thinks he knows.  The former Harper chief of staff, who is now a political scientist at University of Alberta, thinks Harper is waging a “war of attrition” against the Liberals:

 As Mr. Flanagan sees it, the first major battle in this incremental war occurred in 2004, when Mr. Harper managed to reduce Paul Martin’s Liberals to a minority. In the second clash in 2006, Mr. Harper won his own Conservative minority.

The third skirmish, which Mr. Harper appears set to launch next week, likely won’t kill what Mr. Flanagan jokingly refers to as “the evil empire.” But, if the Tories can win a few more seats at the Liberals’ expense — an outcome Mr. Flanagan considers realistic given Mr. Harper’s superior campaign skills and the Tories’ fatter war chest — he predicted that would be enough to throw the Grits into a long-term tailspin that could eventually lead to their demise.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, to acknowledge that Stephen Harper is better at anything than just about anyone.  But when the competition is Stéphane Dion, I can only wish to disagree.  I’ve little doubt that Dion could give Tom Flanagan a run for his money as an academic, but as a campaign politician he’s downright embarassing – I squirm in my seat watching the guy.

But if Harper is willing to put the Canadian people to the trouble and expense of a federal election just so he can fuck over the Liberals, I hope the people of this country show him who’s boss and leave him with the most stale bun in the shop.  I’m not interested in Harper’s personal war with the Liberals.  I’d like my country to have a credible government.  I’d love to see a big Canadian boot in the middle of that guy’s butt.  If we can do that, bring the election on.

Listen my dear Canadians, there’s more than one way to warm his buns.  We have more than two choices in this enlightened land.  We have the New Democratic Party.  I’m not insane; I know that Jack Layton isn’t going to be the next Prime Minister of the land.  But the NDP is more than a credible option and, in fact, is the only party in our beleaguered nation that can provide a coherent vision of how to get through the economic mess and the foreign policy debacle that the Conservatives and the Liberals have led us into.

None of us is so dumb as to be unaware that the world and our country faces serious challenges which must be met if we are to survive on this planet.  We have no time for internecine political warfare.  Hey y’all, Steve is up in Tuktoyaktuk trying to expand Canadian sovereignty over its resources.  Why aren’t we engaging other countries in negotiations that would involve shared responsibility for Arctic waters and a mutually beneficial share of its resources instead of attempting a coup?  Instead of wasting our very precious time and resources on Steve’s quest for personal dominance and power?

NDP and Omar Khadr

I was so upset about the plight of Canadian child soldier Omar Khadr yesterday that I wrote to Jack Layton, leader of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada, to ask him what he planned to do about it.  His answer was quick and impressive and I’m posting it here:

Thank you for your email concerning the plight of Omar Khadr. It has long been the opinion of the federal NDP that Omar Khadr should be declared a child combatant as mandated by the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We have repeatedly asked why the Harper government will not bring this young person home. On March 11, 2008, NDP Human Rights Critic Wayne Marston presented a motion before the Subcommittee on Human Rights drawing attention to the detention and prosecution of Omar Khadr. The aim of the motion was to force the Canadian government to petition the American government for his repatriation.

Please find attached our most recent appeal to Prime Minister Harper by NDP Human Rights Critic Wayne Marston and NDP Justice Critic Joe Comartin.

With regards to the recently released Khadr tape, Mr. Marston commented, “Democracy is very fragile, and it’s not up to a government to decide which Canadians deserve to have their rights protected. It’s up to the government to protect everybody’s rights as a Canadian citizen. It’s clear this boy’s rights were violated. It’s time to get him out of there.”

Again, our support for Omar’s return to Canada has been consistent. On June 14, 2007, along with current and former elected officials, nine Canadian non-governmental organizations, and over 110 academics and lawyers from across Canada, I signed a letter to Prime Minister Harper calling on the Canadian government to bring Omar Khadr home to Canada without delay. Please see the attached press release for more information.

We believe that this situation has been mishandled from the start and a resolution is long-overdue. Others agree.

“The Liberals are, of course, making a fuss about all this. But the problem for the Liberals is that when that video footage of Khadr’s Guantanamo interrogation was shot, Jean Chrétien was the prime minister of Canada. Defending the Liberals’ seriously late-breaking interest in the quality of treatment accorded Guantanamo prisoners is tricky, as Megapundit points out. This should, it seems to me, present an opportunity for the NDP, who could say — truthfully — “The Liberals let this happen and the Conservatives refuse to bring it to an end.” – Paul Wells, Macleans Blog, 17 July 2008 (

For more information on Canada’s role in this sordid affair, please visit:

I appreciate knowing of your concern for human rights and want to assure you that New Democrats will continue to press the Conservative government for Khadr’s repatriation. Feel free to pass this email to anyone who may be interested.

All the best,

Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth)
Leader, Canada’s New Democrats



OTTAWA-Sixteen NDP MPs, including NDP Leader Jack Layton, today signed an open letter to Prime Minister Harper calling on the Canadian government to bring Omar Khadr home to Canada without delay.

The letter was signed by current and former elected officials, nine Canadian non-governmental organizations, and over 110 academics and lawyers from across Canada.  Omar Khadr is the only Canadian detained by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.  He is alleged to have killed a US soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old.  Khadr has been detained for over five years without conviction.  Two attempts to convict him under the military commission system instituted by the US have failed.

“Other countries have successfully advocated for their nationals who were detained at Guantanamo.  Britain, France, Australia, among others, have succeeded in bringing home their citizens.  Nothing less should be possible for a Canadian citizen”, said Joe Comartin, NDP Justice Critic.  “Omar Khadr is a Canadian.  And as a Canadian he deserves the support of Canada to ensure that he gets a fair and just trial, and is not further subjected to indefinite detention, questionable legal process or cruel and inhumane conditions. He must be brought home.”

“We must also not lose sight of the fact that Omar Khadr was 15 years old when the alleged crime took place.  He is the only minor detained at Guantanamo,” said NDP Citizenship and Immigration Critic Bill Siksay. “There are significant concerns for his mental and physical health and well-being.  Canada must take action on behalf of one of its children.  This should be available to any Canadian citizen, no matter how unpopular his actions or how much we may disagree with the political opinions of his family.”

New Democrats support the call to have Omar Khadr returned to Canada where the legal consequences of his alleged actions should be adjudicated in the Canadian criminal justice system.

A copy of the letter and list of signatories is available at the Amnesty International Canadian Section web site at

Here’s Jack’s letter to Harper:

July 16, 2008


The Right Honourable Stephen Harper

Office of the Prime Minister


Dear Prime Minister Harper,


We are writing to you to express our extreme disappointment at your unwillingness to change your position on the case of Omar Khadr and refusal to work towards his repatriation after seeing the release of the CSIS interrogation tapes from 2003. 


Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen, and as such, you and your government have a responsibility to protect him; all Canadian citizens whether they are at home or abroad deserve and depend upon their government for help.


The Conservative mantra has consistently stated that Omar Khadr faces very serious charges and that you are confident the American Military has and will continue to provide Khadr all of the rights and protections required to him under international law.  However, the unjust treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay is well documented and key evidence released by the American Government says that Canadian official Jim Gould learned during a visit to Guantanamo on March 30, 2004, that Khadr had been put on a “frequent flyer program,” meaning he was not permitted to remain in any one location for more than three hours and was denied a healthy amount of sleep for more than 50 consecutive days. 

Omar Khadr deserves a fair trial and this simply cannot be provided for him at the American Military Commissions.  The commission is not a court of law, and even though you have denied that the Canadian legal system is capable of dealing with Mr. Khadr’s case, studies have been provided to the House of Commons’ Subcommittee on Human Rights, by legal experts that show this to be untrue. 

Also, in the 2003 CSIS interrogation tapes, Khadr complains to officials that he did not receive proper medical attention even after requesting help, then cries under the belief that his countrymen do not care about him.   These tapes do not show a dangerous terrorist, but instead a frightened boy pleading for help from Canadian officials.   Why do you ignore the cries of this terrified and clearly abused young man?   It would appear that the Canadian government is simply hiding behind the unpopularity of the al-Qaeda-linked Khadr family, instead of showing leadership and fairness to Omar Khadr.

While it is true that the former Liberal Government authorized the questioning of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo, and that you have not changed the governments’ actions or policy in regards to this citizen’s case, your government has been given a great deal of compelling evidence which clearly shows that you can no longer simply follow this faulty Liberal assessment; you have an obligation to protect the rights of this Canadian citizen.

We ask you to observe and commit to the following recommendations of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and the NDP.  We recommend that the Government of Canada:


·      demand the immediate termination of Military Commission proceedings against Omar Khadr.


·      express its objection to the position stated by the United States that it reserve the right to detain Omar Khadr as an “enemy combatant” notwithstanding an acquittal or the possible termination of proceedings.


·      demand Omar Khadr’s release from US custody at Guantanamo Bay to the custody of Canadian law enforcement officials as soon as practical.


·      call on the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate, and, if warranted, prosecute Omar Khadr for offences under Canadian law.


·      take such measures as are necessary to ensure that possible security concerns are appropriately and adequately addressed upon the repatriation of Omar Khadr.


·      take appropriate measures that are consistent with Canada’s obligations under Article 7 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and with Canadian law.


·      call on the relevant Canadian authorities to ensure that an appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration program is developed for Omar Khadr, which takes into account legitimate security concerns. To the extent necessary, such a program could place judicially enforceable /conditions on Omar Khadr’s conduct.

In addition, the NDP has repeatedly called for the Canadian Government to have legislative supervision over the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to ensure that justice, fairness and humanity is maintained by this agency.  The interrogation of Omar Khadr by CSIS in 2003 is yet another example of why legislative oversight is necessary.

We simply ask that you abide by the international protocols and conventions to which Canada is a signatory and ensure that Omar Khadr is repatriated to Canada so that he may receive a fair trial and the rehabilitation that is so long overdue.






Wayne Marston, MP                                                    Joe Comartin, MP

Hamilton East – Stoney Creek                                      Windsor – Tecumseh

NDP Human Rights Critic                                              NDP Justice Critic 



CC:  Honourable David Emerson                                 Deepak Obhrai

Minister of Foreign Affairs                                            Parliamentary Secretary of

125 Sussex Drive                                                         Foreign Affairs

Ottawa, ON   K1A 0G2                                              200 Promenade du Portage
                                                                                    Gatineau, QC   K1A 0G4



Please visit the Amnesty International Canada site for a form letter to send to Harper and pass it on to as many people as you can, or write your own letters.  It’s late in the day for Omar Khadr, but it’s still not too late.


And many thanks to Jack Layton and the NDP.

UPDATE:  See McLeans Blog