April 17, 2009

CBC reports that, "The Obama administration is refusing to end the U.S. ban on Maher Arar, dashing the hopes of those looking for a policy shift. The Syrian-Canadian computer engineer remains on a U.S. terrorism watch list, despite having been exonerated and winning a multimillion-dollar settlement from the Canadian government. American officials said their policy on Arar — who was extradited by the U.S. and tortured in a Syrian prison — hasn't changed with the arrival of Barack Obama as president. 'Mr. Arar is not welcome in the United States,' Terry Breese, a senior U.S. diplomat, told Canadian reporters Thursday in Ottawa."

The Canwest News Service adds that, "Breese refused to discuss why Arar remains banned in the U.S., saying the evidence was classified."

April 17, 2009

The favourable polls results for the Liberals and their purchase of the voter database software used by the Obama campaign, along with their policy convention this April 30 to May 3 in Vancouver and the release of Michael Ignatieff's new book, will undoubtedly spur speculation about a federal election.

CBC reports that, "Fortunes have shifted substantially for Stephen Harper's Conservatives since December, with Michael Ignatieff's Liberals enjoying an upsurge, says a new poll from EKOS released exclusively to CBC News. Asked which party they would support if an election were held tomorrow, 36.7 opted for the Liberals while 30.2 per cent chose the Conservatives. About 15.5 per cent supported the NDP, while the Green party was the choice of 8.1 per cent and the Bloc Québécois was backed by 9.4 per cent."

CBC TV adds that the poll also shows that 49 per cent of Canadians believe the Harper government is going in the wrong direction, and 54 per cent of Canadians disapprove of Stephen Harper's performance as prime minister.

April 16, 2009

The National Post reports this morning that the Harper government has hired two former White House press secretaries to assist the prime minister get timely media coverage in the United States on trade, US 'protectionism', energy security, climate change legislation, and the auto industry.

The National Post reports that, "The Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday said it had retained Mike McCurry, a former press secretary to Bill Clinton, and Ari Fleischer, who held the same job during George W. Bush's first term, on temporary contracts to help Harper land interviews with leading American television networks and newspapers."

The article says this move, "comes amid persistent concerns in Canada's business community about protectionism in the U.S. Congress. Lawmakers are considering policy initiatives this year that could have a significant effect on Canada, including energy and climate-change legislation...(Harper's spokesman Kory Teneycke) would not disclose the cost to taxpayers of hiring Messrs. Fleischer and McCurry..."

April 15, 2009

The CBC reports this morning that, "Tax cuts could diminish the standard of living for the vast majority of Canadians who enjoy the public services that they fund, according to a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released on Wednesday."

The article notes that, "The majority of Canadian households enjoy a higher quality of life because of the public services their taxes fund, the study argues...Using the statistics (from Statistics Canada, the Canadian Institute of Health Information and government figures regarding labour and household incomes), the report finds that the average per capita benefit from public services in Canada in 2006 was about $16,952. (The study's co-author Hugh) Mackenzie and company also argue that about 80 per cent of Canadians would have a higher standard of living if the GST hadn't been cut, and that 75 per cent of Canadians would be better off if their provincial governments invested in public services, such as health care and education, rather than income tax cuts."

April 15, 2009

Luke Eric Peterson writes in Embassy Magazine about Dow's NAFTA challenge against Quebec's ban on lawn pesticides. He notes:

On March 31, the company filed for formal arbitration under NAFTA's Chapter 11, seeking at least $2 million in compensation from Canadian taxpayers.

However, $2 million won't even cover Dow's legal fees. So, what gives?

Quite simply, foreign investors are not obliged to tally up potential losses at the outset of these NAFTA arbitrations, which is why the Dow claim looks so modest, at least for now. In the months (or even years) to come, you can be sure that Dow will up the ante.

Indeed, Dow may expand its claim to challenge pesticide bans in other parts of Canada. With other municipalities and provinces looking at cracking down on such chemicals—an Ontario-wide ban comes into effect later this month—the $2 million figure may be the tip of the iceberg.