In Alberta, the opposition scores direct hits using Access to Information laws

- October 23rd, 2014

Former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel

There are four important by-elections underway right now in Alberta. The vote is on Monday. The Premier, the Health Minister, and the Education Minister have their names on ballots in three of the four ridings. Jim Prentice, Stephen Mandel (above, pictured in 2006), and Gordon Dirks, of course, are all members of the longest-ruling-party in Canadian history, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives.

The PCs, though, are in trouble mostly because a lot of Albertans seem disgusted with a sense of entitlement that has grown around the party. Using government aircraft to fly family and friends around. A former premier’s plan to build a multi-million dollar “sky palace” apartment for herself in Edmonton. And so on.

The opposition Wildrose Party are taking full advantage of this “target-rich” environment with some well-timed direct hits using information it received using access-to-information laws. It scored again Wednesday, unveiling the fact that Mandel (above), running for the PCs in Edmonton-Whitemud, expenses $69,000 worth of Edmonton Oilers tickets to taxpayers when he was the mayor of Edmonton. Read more…

“Nobody’s gonna intimidate us” : The NDP experience this morning

- October 22nd, 2014

This remarkable video, shot by Globe and Mail reporter Josh Wingrove on his iPhone, shows a view of the Hall of Honour, the main hall running north-south from the front door of the Centre Block to the entrance of the Library of Parliament at the north end. Security forces appear to shoot an armed suspect just outside the door of the Library of Parliament.

Mid-way down the Hall of Honour are entrances on either side to Parliament Hill’s two main committee rooms. On the left, or west side, is 237-C – the Commonwealth Room — where, at the exact moment that the shooter was moving down the hall, the prime minister and all his Conservative MPs were meeting.

This is what it looked like inside the Conservative caucus. Those are MPs barricading their door just before the fusillade you see in Wingrove’s video. Read more…

Parliament’s budget watchdog warns: We’re not as rich as we think!

- October 21st, 2014

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Canada’s Parliamentary Parliamentary Budget Office is warning all political parties that while the federal treasury is about to overflow with billions in surpluses, any major tax cuts or new spending programs could plunge the country back into deficit.

But with political silly season upon us in advance of the 2015 general election, it’s unlikely the three major parties are going to pay much heed to this warning.

The PBO said Tuesday  [pdf] federal coffers will spill over with more than $53 billion in surpluses between now and the spring of 2020 but those riches are mostlyf from one-time benefits like the sale of government assets and an economy temporarily growing faster than expected. Read more…

Left-leaning think tank says right-leaning ones getting a pass on taxman scrutiny

- October 21st, 2014
Broadbent Institute Executive Director Rick Smith

This picture of Broadbent Institute Executive Director Rick Smith was taken by Joshua Berson on June 9, 2014 in Vancouver. This photo was published by the Broadbent Institute at its Flickr feed which you can find here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/broadbentinst/

A left-leaning think tank says right-leaning think tanks have not been subjected to the same scrutiny of their political activities as have opponents of the Harper government. 

The Broadbent Institute, an Ottawa-based group named in honour of former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, said in a study released Tuesday that its findings support the contention made by some that the Canada Revenue Agency is singling out charities whose work is at odds with the federal Conservatives while those that support the government’s agenda are not.

“We know charities that have been critical of policies of the Harper government are being audited by the Canada Revenue Agency. With mounting evidence suggesting bias in auditing decisions, we need to find out what’s going on here,” Broadbent Institute Executive Director Rick Smith (above) said in a statement.

Read more…

Just so we’re clear: Here’s my disclosure on income splitting

- October 20th, 2014
David Akin in Paris

Your correspondent, working hard to pay his bills, by reporting from the Elysée Palace in Paris, France in 2013.

If you are reading this blog and you scroll down the column on the right side, you will see a section titled “Disclosure and Fine Print”. I believe it is important for journalists to be upfront with their readers and viewers about potential blind spots or potential conflicts of interest. In my experience — working in the newsrooms of Global National, Postmedia, CTV National News, The Globe and Mail, National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and, now, Sun Media – those who report the news are not setting out to seek an angle that will benefit them or their pals.

So even though there’s never been (so far as I know) some scandal where a Canadian journalist was abusing his or her position to feather his or her nest, I’ve had this “disclosure” statement at my blog for years now.

But because income splitting looks to be a potential significant issue in the upcoming 2015 general election campaign, I feel that I should be upfront with readers and viewers and provide this additional disclosure. Read more…