Tag Archives: Jason Kenney

The appeals court rules on the niqab

This one sentence sums the entire debate up.

Trudel needed 24 paragraphs to dismiss that request. Nearer the end was a sentence that could be used to summarize the whole affair. “I find,” she wrote, “that the appellant has not demonstrated that refusing his application for stay would result in irreparable harm to the public interest.”

Here is some of the background of the decision from Maclean’s Magazine

That finding is based, in part, on the government’s own convoluted defence of its actions. What might otherwise be considered a ban on the wearing of the niqab during the citizenship oath has been presented to the court as an expression of “a desire in the strongest possible language.” So the ban is not quite a ban, insofar as citizenship judges have the discretion to allow someone to wear a niqab during the oath; despite the policy’s use of the term “must,” the government has been arguing that there is some room for a judge to decide that a woman need not remove her niqab.

The trouble here is that the minister, Jason Kenney, in this situation, does not have the power to unilaterally fetter the discretion of citizenship judges. Thus, if the ban were said to be mandatory, the government’s case would be moot.

The Federal Court’s Justice Keith Boswell found that the policy was mandatory in nature—and also in contradiction with legislation that allows for the greatest possible religious freedom in swearing the oath—and the Federal Court of Appeal found no reason to differ with Justice Boswell on that point. But the argument that the policy is optional has now been used by Trudel to dismiss the government’s request for a stay.

“Presuming that the appellant is right that the policy at issue is not mandatory and citizenship judges can apply it or not . . . how can one raise a claim of irreparable harm?” Trudel writes—irreparable harm being the standard for a stay. “It is simply inconsistent to claim, on the one hand, that a policy has no binding effect on decision-makers, but that irreparable harm would result if that policy was to be declared unlawful on the other.”

Furthermore, Trudel notes, “Citizenship and Immigration Canada had valid guidelines and procedures to ensure that citizenship candidates take the oath prior to the adoption of the policy. These guidelines and procedures are undisturbed by the finding that the policy is unlawful. There is no legislative or regulatory void.”

That is, procedures already exist to ensure an oath is duly sworn.

Are Harper’s Allies Fleeing

There is this feeling that he will be defeated in 2015.

After nearly a decade as prime minister, Harper’s capacity to reward loyalty is no longer what it used to be; nor is his latitude to punish those who cross him.
The prime minister can technically still appoint senators but a lingering scandal makes that politically suicidal. And on the heels of a string of bad appointments his judgment has widely been called into question.
Meanwhile, the more ambitious Conservatives are looking beyond Harper’s reign. The more timorous are afraid he might take them down with him.
Harper’s approval rating has fallen below 30 per cent. So have party fortunes in voting intentions. This is not a passing slump. It has endured for more than a year. And that can only exacerbate pre-existing tensions within a jittery party.
The coming-together of the Reform/Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives was never more than a marriage of convenience. Now the Tory wing of Harper’s reconstituted party is reasserting itself.
Brian Mulroney — a predecessor that the prime minister declared persona non grata over his dealings with lobbyist Karlheinz Shreiber a few years ago — is back on the Conservative celebrity speaking circuit.
Last week droves of Conservative aides, MPs and ministers came out to hear Mulroney deliver a keynote speech on energy policy. They gave him two standing ovations. Ministers John Baird and Peter MacKay respectively introduced and thanked the former prime minister.
In Harper’s own Calgary backyard last weekend, Conservative members removed loyalist Rob Anders — a six-term backbencher — as their 2015 candidate for the riding of Signal Hill.
They selected former Alberta minister Ron Liepert in defiance of the recommendation of Jason Kenney, the jobs minister, who doubles as Harper’s most influential Alberta cabinet member.
Former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe once compared leading his party to a devastating defeat in 2011 to being trapped on an elevator in free fall. It is time to put a safety warning on the door of Harper 2015 re-election ride.

Then the mother of all civil wars then the Blue Tories and the Red Tories will battle for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

Will defending gay rights cost Tories?

It’s alienating the religious right and Maurice Vellacott

The Conservative government’s defence of gay rights abroad appears to have sharply divided Canadian conservatives. Some say it’s a natural fit for a government that has made the promotion of human rights on the world stage a priority, and aligns with the priorities and values of Conservatives and non-Conservatives alike.

“It’s just the right thing to do, to stand up for the rights of the individual no matter what country they live in,” said Stephen Taylor, director of the conservative National Citizens Coalition. But others have warned it will cost Prime Minister Stephen Harper support from within his own party.

“I’ve already seen some feedback from some of the conservative, the real conservative base,” said Brian Rushfeldt, president of the right-wing advocacy group Canada Family Action. “I think the potential of Harper and the Conservatives losing some support is very real.”

Even Conservative MPs are divided over the issue, which on the surface appears to be an outlier among many other foreign policy positions the Tories have adopted since coming to power.

“We’ve got much more important things to be doing in terms of a foreign affairs agenda along the lines of trade and health issues and various other issues that we can help these countries in,” said Conservative backbencher Maurice Vellacott. “So I don’t think we have to be promoting that in other countries. We have far too much and far more important things to be doing.”

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird refused to say Friday whether he was worried Conservative members and supporters will turn against the government over the issue.

I am not sure that Vellacott speaks for many others than himself on this issue.  Even the right wing Toronto Sun is speaking out in favour of John Baird.

Canada is a defender of human rights. Full stop.

That’s pretty much our response to REAL Women of Canada picking a fight with John Baird.

The foreign affairs minister has recently spoken out against the oppression of gay people in various countries — such as Uganda, with their proposed “kill the gays” bill.

REAL Women don’t like that. They think Canada has no business poking around in Uganda’s affairs — despite the fact we send them tens of millions in aid every year.

They also don’t like Baird chastising Russia for their bizarre new law against non-traditional lifestyle propaganda — whatever that means.

What it seems to mean is that gay people could be arrested for waving a flag, writing their opinions or having a parade.

Well, sorry ladies, but Canadian athletes will soon be heading to Russia and we should do all we can to make sure they compete and come home safe and sound.

Telling other countries what to do and wading into their social issues should be kept to a minimum. But sometimes you’ve just got to stand up for your values. And persecuting people because of their religion, gender, sexual orientation and so on, is one of the things we oppose as Canadians.

And there you have the problem of the religious right in Canada.  They scream loud and clear when someone they agree with is persecuted but if that person doesn’t, they don’t even want them protected and everyone sees that.  I have no problem in having a belief system but no one deserves to persecuted for theirs.  

The distractions piling up on Stephen Harper’s desk

From John Geddes in Macleans Magazine

Even before the media-shy Wright stumbled unintentionally into the spotlight, the Conservatives had arguably sunk to their lowest point since Harper first won power in 2006. They’ve spent most of 2013 on the defensive over controversies such as companies using a federal immigration program to hire foreign workers instead of Canadians, and an auditor general’s report that found the government couldn’t account for how $3.1 billion earmarked for public security was actually spent. Promised trade deals haven’t been inked. Highly touted pipelines are in doubt. Overall economic growth is tepid. Tory attack ads against Justin Trudeau evidently fizzled, since the Liberals now top the polls under their new leader. And Harper can’t count anymore on lock-step discipline from his MPs, after some defiant Conservative backbenchers recently asserted their right to speak in the House without permission from the party leadership.

No wonder a crisis mood was setting in before an emergency Conservative caucus meeting Harper called early this week to try to first calm, and then rally, his troops. He voiced predictable disappointment over the Senate mess, didn’t dare to mention Wright and then urged his MPs to get back to basics. “Canadians are looking to us to protect them—their jobs, their families, their communities,” he said. “That is what we must be focused on.” Goldy Hyder, long-time Tory insider and president of the public-affairs and -relations firm Hill & Knowlton Canada, says Harper has plenty of time to orchestrate a rebound. After all, this summer will mark only about the midpoint of his first majority term. “The issue,” Hyder says, “is how you use that half-time break to develop a strategy to execute for the second half.”

Harper’s lecture to caucus, which was open to the media, was his first public show of personal attention to a dangerously volatile situation. A more methodical rebuilding effort is expected to begin with a major speech at a Tory policy convention in late June. Later in the summer, he is widely expected to shuffle his cabinet, before a Speech from the Throne next fall recasts his agenda. All this was in the works before Wright’s stunning fall. Now, Harper must strive to stay on track against howls of opposition outrage. The NDP suggests Wright’s decision to cut that fat cheque was linked to a Senate committee’s agreement to soften the more damaging parts of an audit report on Duffy’s expenses. The official Opposition has asked RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson to investigate. “What we do know is that a secret cheque was written for $90,000,” said NDP ethics critic, Charlie Angus. “And we understand there may have been interference with that Senate report. This suggests a much larger issue that is at the very desk of the Prime Minister.”

Harper finds himself under direct fire after several months of watching many of his top cabinet performers forced into defensive postures. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had to scramble to announce changes to that Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which he had previously promoted as a big success, after news of companies passing over Canadians to make room for cheaper labour from abroad. Human Resources Minister Diane Finley tabled stricter Employment Insurance eligibility rules last year, but still hasn’t quelled the backlash over the impact on seasonal workers, and now faces the Atlantic-province premiers jointly demanding a halt to the changes. Foreign Minister John Baird is fighting in the United Nations to stave off a bid by Qatar to lure away the prestigious headquarters of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization from Montreal, but may be hampered by ill will among Arab countries and beyond, generated by Harper’s unbending support for Israel.

Still, foreign affairs, immigration and EI aren’t essential ingredients of the Harper formula. What matters more is his image as a prudent spender of public money and a smart strategist on the economy. Yet his government is looking vulnerable on both those fronts, too. That $3.1-billion gap the auditor general reported in federal accounting has made it difficult lately for Treasury Board President Tony Clement to boast of the Tories’ attention to every taxpayer’s dime. When it comes to reckless spending, another favourite opposition target is the estimated $46-billion plan to buy 65 F-35 fighter jets. Despite announcing late last year that other fighter-jet options would be considered, the government recently paid about $40 million to remain in the U.S.-led F-35 consortium until at least next fall, which means this drawn-out military-procurement mess remains very much alive.

Maybe it’s a lack of strategic thinking

A shortage of strategic thinking across many policy areas might be a reason the Harper government has lacked a feeling of forward thrust in recent months. David Zussman, a University of Ottawa professor of public-sector management, says Harper’s Conservatives don’t often turn to senior bureaucrats for ideas, relying on them only to “loyally implement” policy, rather than offer advice on its broad direction. Cutting mandarins out of the high-level planning leaves political aides to do more of the deep thinking—and many Conservatives admired Wright as the deepest of them all. Along with managing the Prime Minister’s Office and chairing a key weekly meeting with cabinet ministers’ chiefs of staff, Wright selectively stickhandled problematic files. 

It’s going to be a tough two years ahead.  I am not saying he won’t be re-elected but this isn’t a government that does things easily.

Coyne on the Canadian Conservative movement

From the National Post

Then there is the Canadian conservative movement, which seems capable of convincing itself of any number of conflicting ideas without visible discomfort of any kind. Nowhere is this particular case of cognitive dissonance on better display than at the annual Manning Networking Conference, where the movement’s core gathers every year to congratulate itself on two things: the rightness of its beliefs, and the greatness of the government of Stephen Harper.

It seems to me a health psyche requires one to choose between the two (or indeed neither). But to spend the better part of a weekend reiterating your profound faith in the policies of conservatism, all the while roaring your approval for the government that has repudiated them at every turn, would seem evidence of some sort of pathology.

Oh, there was the odd sign of unease. At a question-and-answer session with Jason Kenney and Maxime Bernier, a woman went to the microphone to ask the two ministers why their government, with the national debt now in excess of $600-billion, was still spending more than any government in our history. (Which is true. Program spending had only once exceeded $6,500 per capita, in constant 2012 dollars, in all the years before the Conservatives came to power. It has averaged nearly $6,900 over the last seven years.) The ministers gave non-committal answers, though Bernier restated his heretical belief that spending should be frozen at current levels.

But soon she was replaced at the microphone by a young man who wondered how to “break through” to those on the left who persisted in the belief that massive deficits were the appropriate response to an economic slump. The ministers nodded sympathetically. Yes, they averred, that was a problem.

There are other problems

Well, no. But it is significant that he neglected to mention “free market conservatives.” Once upon a time these were considered central to the definition of conservatism. Perhaps this was Manning’s concession to reality, for whatever else the Harper government may pretend to believe in, it does not even pretend any more to believe in the free market. The addition of $150-billion to the national debt might have been put down to the exigencies of politics, but the announcements of recent weeks — hundreds of millions of dollars for the auto industry, hundreds of millions more for the venture-capital sector (“venture” apparently has acquired a different meaning lately), billions in loan guarantees to a Newfoundland hydro project, plus that wholesale plunge into 1970s-style industrial policy via defence procurement — all too clearly reflect this government’s most sincere convictions.

As I have said many times before, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives aren’t conservatives.  I am not sure what to label them but conservative is not that label.

Do the Liberals need a national primary?

Liberal Party of Canada logoJohn Ibbitson thinks they do.

Mr. Rae is touring the country and consulting what political types like to call the grassroots, though Alykhan Velshi, a former aide to Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, astutely calls them the grasstops. The grasstops are the riding executives, policy wonks, activists and other need-to-get-a-life types who make up the infrastructure of a political party. They’re not the grassroots. You’re the grassroots, and you wouldn’t be caught dead at a Liberal (or Conservative or NDP) barbecue.

Many grasstops belong to one or more of the special interests that weigh down the Liberal Party. The youth commission, the seniors commission, the aboriginal commission, the women’s commission. You can’t swing a dead cat in that party without hitting a commission.

Toss them all out, party executive, and toss yourselves out while you’re at it. But before you go, put forward this proposal for the January convention. Have the next leader chosen through a series of primary contests across the country, in which any Canadian who wants to can cast a ballot.

Right now, the Liberal leader is directly chosen by party members. But it costs money to join and who would want to? People who belong to political parties aren’t entirely normal.

In the United States, you have to register to vote. Everyone who registers as a Democrat or a Republican has a say in that party’s leadership contest through the primaries and caucuses.

This weakens the party elite because outsiders such as Barack Obama (or Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter) can do an end run around the establishment by appealing directly to voters. Because the weaker a party gets, the more powerful its few surviving poobahs become; a strong party will have a broad base and a weak elite, the very opposite of today’s Liberal Party.

Renewal could come for the Liberals if a leadership contest galvanized hundreds of thousands of people to, say, take out a free one-day party membership so they could vote in the New Brunswick primary, which everyone would be watching because the Northern Ontario primary the week before had vaulted an unknown but charismatic minority candidate into the front ranks of the contest.

The Canadian Response to the Haiti Earthquake

Update: Jason Kenney has announced the Government of Canada is expediting the process for kids who are in the adoption process.  At the same time I am hearing that this is the same thing he said a couple of days ago and he didn’t announce any details which as you can imagine, is frustrating adoptive parents considerably.  You can read the transcript of Minister Kenney’s speech here.

The CBC National is covering the issue in depth tonight.

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Some friends of mine are in the process of adopting twins out of Haiti.  Jackie works across the hallway from me and I heard her shouts of joy and shock when the e-mail came to her that her and her husband Greg would be able to adopt twins.  It was a mixture of joy and that same freaked out feeling that all of us get when we realize we are about to become parent.  They had been approved by the Province of Saskatchewan and the Government of Canada but the adoption on the Haiti side of things would take a couple of years.

Around here we made plans to decorate their nursery for them (an offer they never took us up on), I lobbied Jackie to change their names to Walker and Texas Ranger, and a day has not gone by where I have overheard some excited comments about the boys, warnings about what it means to raise two teenage boys, and a general excitement for what this will mean in their lives.

When the earthquake in Haiti hit, all of us were sick and sick until we heard from Jackie that the boys were okay.  All of us breathed a sigh of relief when we heard the orphanage they were in withstood the quake and all of the kids were okay.  Within hours though we heard how important it was to get the kids out of Haiti and into custody of their adoptive parents because the resources and space the kids in the adoption process were taking up, was desperately needed by other kids.  Within a day or so, the Haitian President released the kids and allowed them to be taken home.

While the rest of the western world arranged for planes to pick up planes and bring them to their new homes, France and Canada have been dragging their feet.  Yesterday on Saskatoon’s News Talk Radio, the Hon. Jason Kenney was saying that it was just a rumor that other nations were allowing Haitian orphans in the adoption process to come home despite the images of planes flying home with children in the adoption process.  While the rest of the world is acknowledging that the Haitian government and basic infrastructure has disappeared, Minister Kenney was making statements about reviewing each case on a case by case basis and blaming part of the delay on the damaged Canadian embassy in Haiti.  In that he is right, the Canadian embassy is damaged and doesn’t have much capacity.  The same for other nations.  That is why they are loosening up the rules for kids from Haiti who have adoptive parents to go to.

popupThe United States has also loosened visa requirements and one of those planes that was just a rumor is on the front of the New York Times homepage today and children have been connected with their new parents yesterday.

A group of 53 Haitian orphans landed in Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning, the first wave to arrive after the United States loosened its policy on visa requirements to expedite Americans’ adoptions of parentless children living in the post-earthquake ruins.

This isn’t just an issue of truth and spin in politics.  Last night Jackie e-mailed me with these photos.

A photo of Wilson taken on January 19th, 2010 A photo of Wilson, taken on January 19th, 2010 His name is Texas Ranger, err Wilson, and he is one of the twins.  He is on intravenous and by the oxygen mask, you know he is having trouble breathing.

I don’t know if he is going to make it, no one does but I do know there is a good family in Saskatoon who can’t take him home or be with him right now because for some reason, Canada is afraid of taking in adopted kids whose adoptions they have already approved.  The President of Haiti, has given the okay for kids to leave the country and WestJet has offered to fly down and pick up the kids.  All that is left is permission from the Department of Immigration.  Canada has a proud legislative history of cabinet ministers getting personally involved in cases like this and making bold decisions and I hope that the Hon. Jason Kenney will continue that tradition by allowing these children to come to their new homes.  Not only may it make a difference in Wilson’s life but the space and resources he is taking up is desperately needed to help other children.

These kids need your help.  Please e-mail and call your local MP, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Jason Kenney’s cabinet office in Ottawa and constituency office in Calgary and post a link to your weblog, Twitter, or Facebook and keep the pressure on. So often tragedies like this are so overwhelming that they lose a face.  Well, this one has a face, a twin brother, a family.  He also has a shortage of food, water, and medical supplies.  He doesn’t need to die in Haiti.  There is a family, a way to Saskatoon, and the resources to bring him into this “community of communities” we call Canada, all we need now is the political will to make a quick decision that will save lives.  Help Wilson with that.