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ELECTION 2011: Televised leaders debate tonight

Day 18

TELEVISED DEBATE: CTV reports, “(Nik Nanos) expects (polling numbers) might change after Canadians who haven’t been paying attention to the campaign until now tune in to the televised leaders’ debate. After crunching the latest numbers, Nanos says viewers will be looking for the leaders to answer a few key questions. …When they take the debate stage, it seems the leaders would do well to focus on party policies, as the latest national poll shows 51.8 per cent of Canadians plan to base their vote on them. Just 21.8 per cent said the party leader is a key vote factor, compared with 12.9 per cent who said their ballot decision hinges on the local candidate.” The issue noted below may also dominate.

ILLEGAL G8 SPENDING: The Toronto Star reports, “The auditor general says the Harper government misinformed Parliament to win approval for a $50-million G8 fund that lavished money on dubious projects in a Conservative riding. And she suggests the process may have been illegal. The findings are contained in a confidential report Sheila Fraser was to have tabled in Parliament on April 5. The report was put on ice when the Harper government was defeated and is not due to be released until after the May 2 election. …It reveals that Industry Minister Tony Clement, the mayor of Huntsville, and the general manager of Deerhurst Resort chose the 32 projects that received funding — with no regard for the needs of the summit or the conditions laid down by the government.”

ISSUES: While health care, Canada-EU trade, climate change, cleaning up the Great Lakes, oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and St. Lawrence, and water infrastructure have received some modest attention this election, nuclear power (despite Fukushima), the war in Afghanistan (despite a casualty during the election), the tar sands, and border security have received little mention. Not mentioned at all – the human right to water and sanitation, fracking, and the Schedule 2 allowance to dump mine tailings into lakes.

ARCTIC OIL: The Globe and Mail reports, “The federal Liberal Party has attempted to make the Arctic offshore into an election issue, including a pledge to halt all leasing and exploration activities in Canadian Arctic waters pending an independent examination of safety issues. While companies are not currently drilling there, they are pursuing seismic and other exploration activities, and the Conservative government has continued to hold lease sales for the Beaufort Sea. …But the companies (Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Imperial Oil Ltd., Chevron, Conoco and BP) have urged the National Energy Board to drop a requirement that companies have the capacity to drill a relief well in the same season that they undertake their exploration drilling, to ensure a blowout is not left to spew crude over a long Arctic winter.”

FIRST NATIONS RIGHT TO WATER: The Toronto Star reports, “(Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo says) none of the party platforms adequately address the affirmation of treaties, settling land claims or the basics of a lack of clean water, housing or safe reserve communities. ‘There are over 60 ridings where aboriginal people participate in the vote and that could make the difference in aspects of this campaign,’ he said. ‘Canada is well regarded as a champion of human rights around the world. The federal parties ignore these problems at their peril, Atleo said. ‘We deploy clean drinking water to Africa and build homes and schools in South America. Yet those very same things are needed right here.'”

ASBESTOS: The Montreal Gazette reports, “In Victoriaville, Quebec, Harper charged the opposition wants to shut down the asbestos industry and deprive families of their livelihood. ‘Only the Conservative party will defend this industry here and everywhere in Canada,’ he said… Many Thetford residents say the Liberals have been doomed here since leader Michael Ignatieff said that if asbestos is dangerous for Canadians, we shouldn’t be exporting it to developing countries.” Last July, MEP Stephen Hughes expressed his concerns with Canada continuing to export asbestos around the world and made the suggestion that a condition of the European Union signing CETA should be Canada agreeing to stop these exports.

MEGANTIC-L’ERABLE: The Montreal Gazette reports, “Thetford (is) the regional hub of sprawling Mégantic-L’Érable riding… The town of 25,000 has undergone hard times since the bottom fell out of the asbestos market in the 1990s. (Christian) Paradis, natural resources minister in the Harper government, is a fervent defender of asbestos – and a gung-ho booster of oilsands development and shale gas. He recently got into hot water for claiming that a report commissioned by Health Canada sanctions the ‘safe use’ of asbestos. …It’s a safe bet Paradis will keep his seat… In 2008, he won 47 per cent of votes, with an 8,414-vote margin over the Bloc’s Pierre Turcotte, a notary who is running again. Newcomer René Roy is the Liberal candidate and Cheryl Voisine will represent the NDP.”

PARRY SOUND-MUSKOKA: CottageCountryNow.ca reports, “As of Monday, April 4, Elections Canada’s website listed only one candidate for Parry Sound-Muskoka’s federal riding — Conservative incumbent Tony Clement. But assistant returning officer Peter Jacob said candidates have until April 11 (yesterday) to file their nomination papers.” This past summer’s G20 summit took place in Parry Sound-Muskoka, and it’s also where you will find that $100,000 gazebo built for, but never used by, the summit.

HIGHWAY 5: In August 2009, Stephen Harper stated, “The Government of Canada is taking extraordinary and unprecedented action to stimulate the Canadian economy in this time of global economic instability. The extension of Highway 5, the largest infrastructure project in the Outaouais (and in the Pontiac riding), will help the region’s economic development, create high-paying jobs and greatly enhance the quality of life and safety of residents of the Outaouais region.” Wakefield residents are very concerned that the highway expansion will pollute their local aquifer. Despite the threat to the local water supply, their MP Lawrence Cannon continues to champion the highway expansion.

PONTIAC: Pierre Beaudet writes on rabble.ca, “Harper’s strategy is of course to maintain (his base in Quebec), and in particular, to keep Lawrence Cannon in Pontiac (near Ottawa)…” Cannon defeated his Liberal challenger in the Pontiac riding in the 2008 election by just over 3,6000.

BLACK DEFENDS CARSON: From Stephen Harper’s ‘please don’t try to help me’ file. Conrad Black writes, “The controversy surrounding Bruce Carson — a former advisor to Stephen Harper — is a shabby and worrisome exercise in priggish hypocrisy and cowardice that reflects no credit on anyone except Carson’s fiancée, Michele McPherson, and possibly Carson himself. The problem arose when Carson, who was responsible, as a chief policy advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office, for gathering information on Canada’s military and civilian mission in Afghanistan and briefing the press and public about the issue, recently was revealed as having been convicted of crimes. …I do not accept that those who have been in prison, such as Mr. Carson, and I (and to reach for the stars, Sophia Loren — a convicted and briefly incarcerated tax evader), and millions of other decent people, justly chastened or not, are doomed as a result. If we are, so is everyone.”

BUBBLES4DEMOCRACY: To pop Harper’s campaign bubble, go to http://canadians.org/action/2011/bubbles4democracy.html.

NEW ELECTION VIDEO: Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be making her third election commentary video this Friday in Montreal. To see her first (with 1,139 views) and second (with 336 views) video, please go to http://canadians.org.

TODAY’S POLL: CTV reports, “Results of the latest Nanos poll released Monday, show the Conservatives still ahead with 41.2 per cent of the vote nationwide. Support for the Liberals is at 30.4 per cent, one percentage point down from the last poll conducted Friday. Nationally, support for the NDP continues to trail at 15.2 per cent of decided voters, while the Bloc Quebecois has 7.8 per cent. The Green Party sits in 5th, with 4.6 per cent. …Despite the movement in some parts of Canada (Conservatives continuing to lead in the Prairies and Ontario, but slipping in British Columbia, and the Liberals leading in the Atlantic), Nanos Research Inc. President Nik Nanos says the overall picture hasn’t changed dramatically since the writ was dropped.”