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ELECTION 2011: Will all parties commit to the right to water?

Day 21

THE RIGHT TO WATER AND SANITATION: The Winnipeg Free Press reports, “Northern aboriginal leaders…want clean water and sewer services to become a federal election issue. …About half the people in the four communities that make up Island Lake don’t have running water or modern plumbing… Almost 70 per cent of homes in St. Theresa Point First Nation aren’t connected to running water or sewage services. ‘We’re calling on the federal leaders: What are your plans for northern First Nations?’, Grand Chief David Harper of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak said. ‘What are your plans to close the gaps and make sure everybody there has clean water?’ During the first three weeks of the campaign, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has been the only party leader who has promised to bring running water to Manitoba reserves where it doesn’t flow. …Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not said anything about the water and sewage situation on northern reserves during the election. …”

CETA DURING THE ELECTION: Le Devoir reports that the Council of Canadians believes that the CETA negotiations taking place this week are a further ‘contempt of Parliament’. The article quotes Maude Barlow saying, “Prime Minister Harper must explain to Canadians how he justifies these negotiations during this election”…The French-language article also notes, “For the Council of Canadians, the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC), and the Central Council of  Montreal, political and economic sovereignty, energy, food, the environment and culture are at stake, according to Pierre-Yves Serinet, RQIC coordinator.” And in the report Claude Vaillancourt of ATTAC-Quebec says, “If our suspicions are confirmed, CETA will restrict our ability to take actions that protect the environment, to implement public policies that promote employment and local development, and will erode public policies for equity and wealth distribution.”

CANADA HEALTH ACCORD: Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, president of the Canadian Medical Association, writes in the Montreal Gazette, “After years of growing frustrated with piecemeal initiatives, Canada’s physicians – and we are not alone – believe this election campaign represents a crossroads. The current 10-year Health Accord on health-care funding bought the system time, but failed to achieve real change. With the accord set to expire in 2014, the party that gains power on May 2 will probably be the one responsible for negotiating the next agreement. And if those talks are only about money, the healthcare system that Canadians have long cherished, both as a reflection of our values and a key to our country’s high quality of life, risks becoming but a memory. Canadians have helped push health care into the limelight during this election campaign. Now we need to hear how the system will be reformed to meet their needs, now and in the future.”

MESSAGING: Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson writes that for the remainder of the election campaign, “Mr. Harper will say over and over again what he said Wednesday night: the Conservatives navigated the economy through the dangerous waters of recession, but the Canadian economy could still founder if the opposition parties win enough seats combined to bring Stephen Harper down. Mr. Ignatieff will rebut that the Conservatives are squandering money on jets and jails, undermining democracy and ignoring the needs of families. Jack Layton will use the good press he received from the debates to convince Liberal voters, especially, that a strong NDP is the best route to constrain any future government.”

SHITHARPERDID.COM: The Vancouver Province reports, “If traditional methods aren’t getting Canada’s young people out to the polls, why not use humour? Vancouverites Cameron Reed and Sean Devlin, creators of the website shitharperdid.com, have done just that. And, as the name indicates, they also take the opportunity to trot out Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political record.” To see their 50-second video which has been viewed almost 76,000 times in 1 day, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQm0t1v2wOM.

AFGHAN DETAINEES: The Toronto Star reports, “Details about what the Conservative government knew about the transfer of detainees into Afghan hands to face possible torture will be kept secret until after the election, two judges have ruled. The judges assigned the task of vetting thousands of pages of sensitive government documents say their initial findings can’t be made public as planned Friday because Parliament is no longer in session. …The possibly damaging Afghan detainee documents, which the Conservative government tried to keep from the public, could prove controversial if it is shown that Canada’s military personnel turned prisoners over to Afghan jailers knowing full well they could be subject to torture.”

AJAX-PICKERING: APTN reports, “Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo is calling on a star Conservative candidate to retract a claim that no Third World poverty exists in Canada. Chris Alexander, the Ontario Conservative candidate for Ajax-Pickering, said during a March 17 forum on poverty that Canada had wiped out Third World-levels of poverty. …Atleo said he has travelled to poverty-stricken places around the world and he did not see much difference between a child hauling water with a bucket in Africa and a child doing the same in a northern First Nations community.” The Toronto Star reported earlier this week, “Chris Alexander, a former United Nations deputy envoy in Kabul who’s running in the riding of Ajax-Pickering, says the controversy over the treatment of Afghan detainees transferred to Afghan custody is overblown.”

SIMCOE-GREY: The Toronto Star reports, “Helena Guergis (the former minister for the status of women) says her gender was a big reason Stephen Harper dumped her from cabinet over unproven allegations of extortion, fraud and involvement with prostitutes. …Harper has never explained what the mystery allegations were even though Guergis was subsequently cleared by the RCMP. But now the letter sent from Harper principal secretary Ray Novak to the RCMP a year ago has become public… Guergis has scheduled a news conference in Collingwood Friday morning. …Guergis is running as an independent Conservative in Simcoe-Grey…”

VANCOUVER ISLAND NORTH: The Comox Valley Record reports, “Despite the absence of Vancouver Island North Conservative MP John Duncan and two other candidates (an Independent and Marxist-Leninist candidate), the show went on before a packed house at an all-candidates forum Wednesday at North Island College in Courtenay. Three of the candidates trying to oust Duncan from his riding when Canadians go to the polls May 2 — Mike Holland (Liberal), Ronna-Rae Leonard (NDP) and Sue Moen (Green) — at times voiced similar answers to moderated questions based on core values of peace, order, good government and respect for diversity. …The forum was co-hosted by the North Island Students’ Union, North Island Elder College and the Council of Canadians. Though he was ‘unable to attend’ Wednesday, Duncan’s office said he has committed to eight all-candidate meetings in the Vancouver Island North riding, including those hosted by Mark Isfeld Secondary School, and the Cumberland and Courtenay chambers of commerce.”

SOUTH SURREY-WHITE ROCK-CLOVERDALE: The Cloverdale Reporter reports, “(On) Tuesday night (April 19)…the Council of Canadians is hosting an all candidates forum (in White Rock). It will run from 7 to 9 p.m. at First United Church, 15385 Semiahmoo Avenue.” The Peace Arch News specifies, “The Surrey-Langley-White Rock chapter of Council of Canadians will host candidates of the South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale riding April 19 at First United Church (15385 Semiahmoo Ave.) in White Rock. From 7-9 p.m., citizens will have opportunity to meet the candidates, find out each party’s position on various issues and ask questions.”

UPCOMING DEBATES: Council of Canadians chapters are organizing 7 all-candidates debates in Kamloops (tomorrow night), Brockville (collecting questions for a debate on April 18), Calgary Centre-North (April 19), South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale (April 19), Prince Albert (April 20), and Red Deer (April 28) – and the one that took place in Vancouver Island North (April 13). The Council of Canadians is offering $250 to chapters to help cover the costs of organizing all-candidates debates.

REFUSING TO DEBATE? According to the Globe and Mail, Conservative candidates refusing to participate in all-candidates debates include Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East), Diane Ablonczy (Calgary-Nose Hill), Julian Fantino (Vaughn), Bryan Hayes (Sault Ste. Marie), Ed Holder (London West) and Damian Konstantinakos (Ottawa Centre). Konstantinakos has even refused to attend an all-candidates forum on ‘the role of art in Canada’ on April 19, even though it will take place across the street from his campaign headquarters. And now we hear about John Duncan (Vancouver Island North), who committed to eight debates but not the one organized by the Council of Canadians. Are there candidates in your riding refusing to attend debates? Let us know!

NEWS BY RIDING: For news and information on your riding, plus a projection on which party may win that riding, go to http://www.theglobeandmail.com/places/.

TODAY’S POLL: CP24 reports, “The Tories still hold a healthy lead over the Liberals, but the NDP’s fortunes are starting to improve, according to the latest Nanos Research daily tracking poll. There is no change at the top, as the Conservatives hold a seven-point lead over the Liberals with the support of 38 per cent of decided voters. In second, the Grits have the support of 31 per cent of decided voters, followed by the NDP, whose support has increased to 18 per cent. The Bloc Quebecois is in fourth with seven per cent, while the Green Party is fifth with three per cent.”