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ELECTION 2011: Where do the parties stand on the rights of nature?

Day 27

THE RIGHTS OF NATURE: The Toronto Star reports, “As the United Nations begins discussion (yesterday) on the idea of a declaration of rights for Mother Earth, (Maude Barlow, the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians) is helping lead the fight to obtain what she calls a ‘paradigm shift’ in the way we perceive the Earth and its resources. …Barlow and other activists are saying that it is time for us to shift from an economic view of ‘unlimited market growth’ to one that focuses on the fact the ‘Earth sustains all life’ and if we don’t take care, the planet and human beings are going to be in serious trouble.” The European Union and Spain are reportedly supportive of the concept of harmony with nature, while the United States has said it will “work within established forums” and Britain has said, “The concept of Mother Earth is not universally accepted. In general, our view is that we should focus on tackling important sustainable development issues through existing channels and processes.” Where do our political parties stand? Ask.

SEAT PROJECTION: Global Edmonton reports that the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy’s most recent seat projection is 145 seats for the Conservatives, 77 for the Liberals, 38 for the NDP, and 48 for the Bloc Quebecois. If accurate, that’s 10 seats shy of a majority for the Conservatives and just 2 more seats than they currently have. It would also demonstrate a trending away from a majority government.

CALGARY DEBATE: The Toronto Star reports this evening, “Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has pointedly criticized Conservative candidates for skipping debates. The Council of Canadians may have wordlessly trumped him. The advocacy group co-hosted a debate at a church in the riding of Calgary Centre-North on Tuesday night. According to the news website OpenFile, Liberal, NDP, Green and Marxist-Leninist candidates attended, but Conservative Michelle Rempel had ‘prior commitments’. Her seat was occupied by a potted plant.”

PA DEBATE: The Prince Albert Herald reports, “As three out of the five Prince Albert candidates running in federal election went head-to-head Tuesday night, debating pensions, healthcare, climate change, peacekeeping among other topics, one question dominated the floor : where was incumbent (Conservative MP) Randy Hoback? Hosted by The Council of Canadians, spokesperson Rick Sawa kicked-off the evening expressing regret Hoback would not be making an appearance. Citing previous commitments that conflicted with the debate, Hoback informed organizers of his absence in a letter dated April 19. Liberal candidate Ron Wassill turned-down the invitation to debate when organizers began planning the event three weeks ago, Sawa said.”

OTTAWA-CENTRE DEBATE: Last night an all-candidates debate on the environment took place in Ottawa-Centre. It was organized by the Ecology Ottawa, the Council of Canadians, Citizens for Public Justice and the Polaris Institute. Conservative candidate Damian Konstantinakos was a no-show.

CHAPTER ORGANIZED DEBATES: Council of Canadians chapters are involved in all-candidates debates across the country. The next is in Red Deer (on April 28). Debates have taken place in Prince Albert, Williams Lake (April 20), Calgary Centre-North, South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, Peterborough (April 19), Medicine Hat, Brockville, South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale (on April 18), Kamloops (April 15), and Vancouver Island North/ Comox Valley (April 13). The Council of Canadians is offering $250 to chapters to help cover the costs of organizing all-candidates debates. Please be sure to let us know if you are organizing or involved in an all-candidates debate. And take pictures and let us know how it went!

PROBE INTO G8 SPENDING: CTV reports, “The Liberals are calling for a criminal investigation into a $50-million G8 fund that lavished money on dubious projects in Industry Minister Tony Clement’s riding. Liberal MP Marlene Jennings has written Brian Saunders, the federal director of public prosecutions, asking that he investigate possible ‘misappropriation of funds’. Her request follows the leak of a draft report by auditor general Sheila Fraser last week. Fraser noted that the government got parliamentary approval for a Border Infrastructure Fund aimed at easing congestion at Canada-U.S. border crossings. But she said the government did not mention that $50 million of that fund would be spent on infrastructure projects in Clement’s Parry Sound-Muskoka riding, several hundred kilometers from the border.”

IMMIGRATION: The Toronto Star reports, “In an unusual move, a group of Canadian lawyers and legal academics are urging voters not to support the Conservative Party in the May 2 election. ‘The Conservative Party has been telling visible minority immigrant communities, which it calls the ‘ethnic vote,’ that it is improving the immigration system,’ said the group in a statement released Wednesday. ‘A review of their record shows the contrary.’ The group, made up of leading immigration lawyers and professor across Canada, said the Conservative Party has misled the public, especially immigrant voters, by making twisted statements about the state of Canada’s immigration and refugee system, in order to win newcomer votes.” One example, “The annual visa quotas for sponsored parents and grandparents are down — not up — by 44 per cent from 20,005 in 2005 to 11,200 in 2011. It now takes nine to 30 months longer to process these sponsorships, depending on the visa post.”

ABORTION: The Toronto Star reports, “The Harper campaign went into damage control early today in an attempt to keep the divisive abortion issue off the table. Reports have quoted a Conservative Saskatchewan backbencher as saying International Planned Parenthood Federation had its funding blocked because it supported abortion. Brad Trost reportedly told a pro-life meeting in Saskatchewan last weekend that the efforts of the movement had likely denied the organization funding after decades of receiving it. Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas…said the government is willing to work with groups like International Planned Parenthood, but refused to say if it would receive its funding. The group has been waiting for more than a year and assumes it has been cut off.”

THE LIBERALS ON THE RTW: On Tuesday night, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, as reported by the National Post, “did not directly address a question about whether Canada should support a United Nations effort to declare access to water a basic human right, he acknowledged that Canada has some international responsibilities.” The day before Wellington-Halton Hills Liberal candidate Barry Peters, according to the Guelph Mercury, “said he was unsure what implications such a right would have on municipal water systems, and could not support it for that reason.” And last night, in response to a question from Council of Canadians campaigner Emma Lui at an all-candidates meeting, Ottawa-Centre Liberal candidate Scott Bradley said water is a human right.

ELECTION FICTION: Margaret Atwood writes in the Globe and Mail, “I am a fiction writer. So here’s a fiction. A vacuum cleaner salesman comes to your door. ‘You must buy this vacuum cleaner,’ he says. ‘Why?’ you say. ‘Because I know what’s good for you’ he says. ‘I know things you don’t know.’ ‘What are they?’ you say. ‘I can’t tell you,’ he says, ‘because they’re secret. You are required to trust me. The vacuum cleaner will create jobs.'” See where the rest of this story goes at

WHERE THE LEADERS ARE TODAY: CTV reports, “Stephen Harper is back in Newfoundland and Labrador today, trying to seal the deal. …Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff returns to Montreal today, hoping to gain votes in Quebec, where Harper’s promises to Newfoundland didn’t go over too well early in the campaign. NDP Leader Jack Layton is in Toronto, the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe starts the day in Quebec City, and Green Leader Elizabeth May is island-hopping off the B.C. coast.”

TODAY’S POLL: The Globe and Mail reports that the latest Nanos Poll, “has Stephen Harper’s Conservatives 12 points ahead of the Liberals – 39.0 per cent compared to 26.7 per cent. This is the second consecutive night that the Liberals numbers have decreased. The NDP, meanwhile, is at 22.1 per cent – up from 19.8 per cent the night before. The Bloc Québécois is at 7.5 per cent and the Green Party is at 3.4 per cent.”