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ELECTION 2011: Harper will only take five questions a day

Day 9

HARPER’S BUBBLE: The Vancouver Sun reports, “After several days, it is clear (Stephen Harper’s) daily schedule is carefully designed to minimize political risk. Harper has not done any ‘walkabouts’ on city streets where average voters can meet him. Moreover, the photo-ops with voters — such as at a seniors’ home and a deli — have been pre-arranged. Also, people who attend rallies must be on a list to gain entry to the event. Harper only provides one news conference per day, and it is specifically designed to ensure that it is not free-wheeling. Journalists who are travelling with his campaign tour are, as a group, only allowed to ask four questions (two in English, two in French). One more question goes to a local journalist at the news conference. (Furthermore, the journalists are) corralled behind a yellow fence over 12 metres away.”

COUNCIL OF CANADIANS VIDEO: To watch the video of Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow commenting on the first week of the election, go to http://canadians.org or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueixe7SIF70. The video now has 231 views since it was posted Friday morning.

REGINA CHAPTER: The Regina chapter of the Council of Canadians has issued a media release opposed to the Canada-European Union ‘free trade’ talks. In the media release, chapter chairperson Jim Elliot states, “our premiers are part of these negotiations and are supposed to be restricting the extent of this agreement. I have sent a letter to the Premier of this province asking him to disclose what his government has done to protect Saskatchewan.”

MONTREAL CHAPTER: The Montreal chapter will be hosting a bilingual all-candidates debate on water and climate change, public health care, and transportation of nuclear materials via the St. Lawrence River. It will take place at 7pm at the John Molson Building, 1450 Guy Street (opposite Guy Metro) on the 4th floor in Room 206 at Concordia University.

BROCKVILLE CHAPTER: The Brockville chapter is collecting questions to be asked at the all-candidates debate which takes place on April 18 at the Brockville Arts Centre.

ST. JOHN’S EAST CANDIDATES ON SANDY POND: According to The Scope (http://thescope.ca/city/st-johns-east) – Craig Westcott, Conservative: “Sandy Pond was approved by both the federal government and the provincial government. Any time you’re dealing with toxic pollutants and dealing with other kinds of harmful effluence, you really have to pay close attention to how they’re being treated and how they’re being contained. I really don’t know enough to know whether that’s the best system but the fact that both the provincial and federal environmental departments have approved it would suggest that it is. However, I would not have a problem with giving those regulations on both sides a closer examination to be sure that we have the very highest standards.” Jack Harris, NDP: “I was the person who blew the whistle on the situation involving the Duck Lake Project in central Newfoundland, and we tried to stop this from becoming a precedent. Our party in parliament exposed this loophole which allowed mining companies to use these lakes as tailings ponds. We’re opposed to it. This was an exception which was allowed, and it seems a lot of mining companies across the country are lining up to drive through here. And we’re opposed to it. It’s wrong, and we’d like to change that legislation and ensure that this is not allowed to happen…” Walter Noel, Liberal: “Well it has to be done properly and in an environmentally-friendly way. We can’t expect to keep everything pure if we want to develop our economy and do things in the mining and forestry industries and that sort of stuff. You have to be prepared to make some compromises but we should not do any more damage than is absolutely necessary.” Howard Story, Green Party: “Any pollution of ponds, lakes, streams or pollution of our water systems is not acceptable and non-negotiable.”

LIBERAL PLATFORM RELEASED TODAY: The Winnipeg Free Press reports, “Canadians are to get a detailed look on Sunday at the Liberal campaign platform, including its price tag. The party is releasing its full platform in Ottawa (at 11 am ET) and will hold an online townhall meeting where viewers can ask questions of leader Michael Ignatieff.”

SUBMIT QUESTIONS FOR THE LEADERS’ DEBATES: CTV reports, “The English language leaders’ debate will be held on April 12th (and in French on April 14) in Ottawa. As in the past, the questions will come from Canadians. Submit your questions via email: question@electiondebate2011.ca.”

GREEN COURT CHALLENGE: The Montreal Gazette reports, “Green party leader Elizabeth May’s battle to be included in the leaders’ televised election debates will take its next step Tuesday. Lawyer Peter Rosenthal will appear Tuesday morning, on behalf of May, before the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa. The Court will determine whether it will hear May’s application.” Among May’s backers former prime ministers Paul Martin and Joe Clark, writer Margaret Atwood, and former head of Elections Canada Jean-Pierre Kingsley.

CETA AND AGRICULTURE: The Vancouver Sun reports, “Agriculture is a sensitive topic. Canada is loath to give ground on supply management in the dairy, poultry and egg sectors, which are protected from foreign competition by a system of production quotas. The agriculture sector in many European countries is also highly protected, which reduces the EU’s leverage in this area. But European negotiators are hoping for at least some concessions by Canada on supply management. It’s a topic no federal politician will touch with a 10-foot pole on the campaign trail. ‘Nothing is going to be said, clearly, during the election,’ said (Cassels, Brock & Blackwell trade lawyer Lawrence) Herman.”

CANADIAN HEALTH COALITION: The Ottawa Citizen reports, “Health transfers from the federal government to the provinces are growing six per cent per year under (the Canada Health Accord) that ends in 2013-14. Cutting that rate could spark a bitter war with the provinces. …While the opposition parties have begun staking out some turf in an attempt to distinguish them, voters need to demand specifics from all leaders, says Michael McBane, of the Canadian Health Coalition. ‘God help us if we don’t get some accountability and some answers from candidates when we’re heading into such critical negotiations,’ McBane says. ‘If Canadians say (health care) is the most important issue, then they need to make sure that they elect a government that actually believes in playing a major leadership role in securing the future of health care.'”

ECOJUSTICE: The Vancouver Sun reports, “Devon Page, a lawyer and executive director with Ecojustice, said his group is concerned about the direction a majority Conservative government might take based on its environmental record as a minority government. He cited the Conservatives’ weakening of the federal environmental assessment laws as part of the 2010 Budget Implementation Act, reversing an earlier Supreme Court of Canada decision relating to B.C.’s Red Chris mine. …The fear is that a Conservative majority could lead to everweaker environmental laws governing species at risk, fisheries, air quality, and climate change, he said. ‘We’re telling people to get involved and that we need strong laws to protect the environment.'”

TODAY’S POLLS: The Ottawa Citizen reports, “(An Ipsos-Reid poll finds that) 54 per cent of those polled said they would favour a Liberal-NDP blend to a Harper majority. However, when the Bloc Quebecois is thrown into the coalition mix, support for a coalition drops to 50 per cent. A Harper majority takes the other 50 per cent. ‘It’s a polarizing issue, but in a way that can work in favour of the Conservatives,’ said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Reid, which conducted the poll. ‘This is an argument that divides the population in a way the Conservatives need to have it divided.’ With support for a full Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition split down the middle, Harper could get his elusive majority government, Bricker said.” And the Vancouver Sun reports, “In a recent Postmedia News poll conducted by Ipsos Reid, only five per cent of Canadians named the environment as their top priority compared to 18 per cent for health care, 15 per cent for the economy, 12 per cent for taxes, and eight per cent for unemployment. But things could be different in B.C., where environmental issues often carry greater weight and where there’s no shortage of federal environmental issues, including salmon, oil tankers, climate change, environmental assessment, species at risk. (And) the importance of environmental issues should not be underestimated, especially if B.C. plays a pivotal role in the federal vote.”

WHERE THE LEADERS ARE TODAY: Stephen Harper will be behind the Confederation Building in Ottawa at 9:30 am, then in London, Ontario at 4 pm. Michael Ignatieff will announce the Liberal party platform at 11 am in Ottawa, then attend a rally in Halifax in the afternoon. Jack Layton will be in Ottawa, then Hull, Quebec. Elizabeth May will be in Sidney and Saanich, BC all day today.

VOTE FOR THE GREAT LAKES: The Harper government’s federal budget in March 2010 allocated $8 million a year for the clean-up of the Great Lakes. That’s about $2 million for each of the four Great Lakes that border Canadian provinces (Lake Michigan is entirely within the United States). In June 2010, the Harper government spent $2 million on the ‘fake lake’ for the one-day G20 summit in Toronto. In other words, in 2010, the Harper government budgeted as much for cleaning up Lake Ontario as they spent on the fake lake. Go to http://canadians.org to vote on this question, “Do you think more money should be spent on cleaning up each of the Great Lakes than was spent on building the G20 Fake Lake in Toronto?” The vote tally so far – 94 yes, 2 no, 3 don’t know.