Saturday, July 08, 2006

A policy of ignorance

While there's been plenty of reason for concern about the Cons' complete unwillingness to address anything that doesn't fit into their ideological viewpoint, it's all the worse that the Cons have continued to do so now that they're at the helm of a large civil service whose main purposes include ensuring that a government can operate with the best information possible. And with a couple more particularly egregious examples this week, it's time to start documenting just how much research and/or advice has been blatantly ignored.

The most problematic recent incident came in the stark difference between Vic Toews' public stance on minimum sentences, and the advice Toews actually received:
The new Conservative government, within days of taking office, was warned by senior federal bureaucrats a central election pledge to impose new automatic prison terms won't deter crime nor protect the public, internal documents obtained by CanWest News Service reveal...

"Research into the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences has established that they do not have any obvious special deterrent or educative effect and are no more effective than less serious sanctions in preventing crime," said the briefing book...

Toews, in introducing the legislation in May, publicly denounced claims minimum sentences do not deter crime.

"I'd like to see some of these statistics to say it doesn't work," he said. "People repeat statements that just aren't accurate. Mandatory minimum prison sentences, in fact, do work. All all (sic) the evidence in fact suggests that they mean a significant reduction in crime."
In other words, rather than dealing with the evidence actually presented to him, Toews either didn't even bother reading what his department provided him, or publicly lied and pretended it didn't exist. But whether the problem was one of complete incuriosity or simply a poor excuse for a cover-up, it's bound to make Toews all the less believable in the future.

Tony Clement's apparent response was only marginally better upon receipt of a study by the government's wait-times adviser pointing out the obvious fact that a myopic focus on a few "guaranteed" medical procedures could undermine the broader health care system. The department chose to make the study public, but apparently with the intent of hiding it as best possible:
In his final report released Friday, Postl says wait-time benchmarks should be developed across the board, not just in five areas named by first ministers in the 2004 health accord - joint replacement, cardiac care, cancer, sight restoration and diagnostic imaging...

"The fear is, and the danger is, that the five conditions that figured prominently in the (first ministers') agreements will starve out all other for attention, resources and technology. It is not appropriate for our health care systems to be so focused on limited areas that we neglect others."

Postl suggests the system is not ready to deliver "care guarantees." Those guarantees would fund costs for patients to travel to another province or abroad if they can't get timely care at home. Care guarantees are one of the Conservatives' major election promises...

The report was released late Friday before a long weekend, the traditional timing for release of information that governments do not wish to highlight.
Toss in Rona Ambrose's complete disregard for her department's advice regarding since-terminated emissions-reductions programs, the Harper/O'Connor choice to impose a no-media policy against the wishes of the Department of National Defence, and the Cons' ignorance of the advice of counsel to the House of Commons on the constitutionality of the Accountability Act, and there can be little doubt that the bulk of the Cons' current direction (including the majority of party's current "priorities") is based on nothing more than wilful ignorance of what the government's most knowledgeable advisors have had to say. And whatever one's ideology, it can't be anything but a bad sign when a government ascribes absolutely no value to any input which doesn't fit its worldview.

(For those with more examples to include, please feel free to add a comment.)

Continued disinterest

Yet another provincial government, this time the Con minority in Nova Scotia, is indicating its interest in privatizing health care first and asking questions later. And once again the Harper government apparently isn't interested enough to even take notice, let alone deliver a warning as it did to Ralph Klein. Which only seems to confirm both the threat to health care posed by Con governments nationally, and the federal Cons' determination to do as little as possible to defend health care nationally.

On information gaps

U.S. Ambassador Michael Wilson's consistent position on the U.S.' planned border restrictions has been to point out the need for full information as to the effects before any plan is put in place - which while somewhat short of the best possible strategy is at least a reasonable start toward public discussion of the issue. But word comes out now that what information Canada does possess is being suppressed by the Privy Council Office rather than made available for public scrutiny:
A U.S. law that will require American and Canadian citizens to present a passport to enter the country is expected to have widespread economic impact, but don't bother asking how much.

Internal government assessments of the economic impact of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), requested by CanWest News Service under the Access to Information Act, have been almost completely censored by Privy Council Office bureaucrats, denying taxpayers the right to see how much the plan is expected to affect tourism and cross-border trade...

Of the 26 pages identified as relevant to the request, only a handful of heavily censored pages were released.

Privy Council Office bureaucrats used a section of the act that allows them to block what they consider to be cabinet confidences. It is the only exemption that can't be reviewed by the information commissioner to ensure it is legitimate.
Particularly given how badly the Cons have messed up negotiations with the U.S. even when the underlying facts are public knowledge, there's a desperate need for public disclosure as to the anticipated impact of the border closure to ensure that Harper doesn't sign away a huge chunk of Canada's economic future in exchange for a photo-op. Now if only the Cons were willing to extend their "culture of increased openness and accessibility" to include allowing Canadians access to the best available information in their own hands.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Take a look

For those who haven't yet seen the recent posts at Somena Media exploring the Cons' cheque-swapping scandal, the Cons' surprising lack of reporting polling expenditures in 2005, and what appears to be an epidemic of non-reporting, go read. As Meaghan points out, it's still early stages in getting to the bottom of things...but plenty of credit to her for advancing the cause.

On poor messages

James Curran cites the Toronto Star in speculating about the possibility of an election this fall with Bill Graham at the helm of the Libs. Judging from Graham's garbled message on Canada/U.S. relations today, the parties aside from the Libs don't seem to have much to fear if that happens:
By calling Harper "Steve," Bush might have left the impression that he and the prime minister now share a close, chummy relationship, but that's far from the truth, Graham said. "Suddenly everyone's jumping up and saying this is a much more cordial relationship because the president referred to the prime minister as 'Steve,' " Graham said.

"Well, my recollection is he referred to (former) prime minister Paul Martin as 'Paul,' too."

If anything, people should be leery of the two leaders getting too close and should demand that Harper take a tougher stand on Canadian issues, Graham said.

"A change in attitude which creates a closer, cosier relationship with the American administration has never in the long run been good for Canada," he said.
To sum up, Graham argues that a close, cozy relationship with the U.S. is bad for Canada - and that the Libs' relationship with Bushco was no less close or cozy than the Cons'. Needless to say, the NDP will gladly agree with Graham on both fronts...but it's hard to see how the combination could speak well for the Libs.

Granted, Graham would presumably at least be prepped a bit more thoroughly come campaign time. But his statements on behalf of his party now presumably won't be forgotten if he does end up contesting an election as leader. And given the choice between a leader who's as interested in proving his own party's chumminess with the U.S. as in acknowledging the potential harms of excessive concessions, and one charting a clear path to defend Canadian interests, it won't be surprising to see Canadians preferring the latter at the polls.

A ridiculous request

Having failed to use its own surpluses to keep up with infrastructure needs, Alberta is now demanding extra funding from Ottawa to try to reduce the province's infrastructure deficit. Needless to say, this is one time when a response of "if you want money, raise it yourself" will be welcome.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

On entitlements

Hot on the heels of the Cons' convention funding and cheque-swapping scandal, now Con candidate Allan Cutler is apparently blowing the whistle on his new party, claiming that he was promised restoration payments by the Cons if they won the 2006 election.

Time will tell who's telling the truth now: of the two Con MPs alleged to have made promises, John Baird's office has denied Cutler's claim that he was involved, while Pierre Poilievre's office apparently hasn't commented yet.

But now that Cutler has taken his case to the public, there's no way around at least one prominent Con getting utterly discredited. Either the Cons' election poster boy for clean government is inventing promises to try to force a settlement now, or at least one prominent MP offered a financial reward to a potential or actual Con candidate. And it may get all the worse for the Cons if the party's chief spokesman on the Accountability Act gets tied into any impropriety contrary to his office's protestations.

It'll certainly be interesting to see how what seems to be an inevitable war of allegations plays out in the future. But the inescapable conclusion is that there's all the more reason to doubt that the Cons are particularly interested in cleaning up much of anything.

A necessary goal

Kinch Blog notes a long-overdue change in the NDP's message, as Jack Layton is finally speaking about forming government as being the NDP's goal. It's only a first step in shaping public expectations in the midst of the perpetual campaign that is a minority Parliament, and of course there'll be plenty of work to be done in linking the party's past accomplishments to the new image. But the NDP's prospects can only improve now that Layton and company are publicly setting their sights on being far more than just the balance of power.

Now that's leadership

Your Prime Minister: cowering pitifully under the bed so you don't have to.

Update: Though in fairness, Harper does seem to fear Parliament even more than he does a stray missile.

Ever diplomatic

Once again Stephen Harper and David Emerson make it clear which side they're on, responding to opposition to the softwood lumber deal by slamming both the industry the deal was supposed to protect and the provinces whose priorities were supposedly met. Needless to say, that type of reaction should only strengthen opposition to the deal...and while it doesn't look like the agreement will receive a particularly friendly reception in Parliament either, it won't matter what MPs decide if the industry concludes it's better off taking its chances in court than accepting Harper's capitulation.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


So it turns out that in many cases, the Cons' much-ballyhooed GST cut is becoming a windfall for businesses rather than any benefit at all to consumers. I'm only surprised that Jim Flaherty is bothering to feign outrage now given the likelihood of more explicit corporate giveaways to come.

An obvious prescription

I've mentioned before how much of a slam dunk it should be for Harper to try to moderate his image by going along with the provincial consensus on the need for a national prescription drug program. Now, the provincial health ministers are renewing their push...but receiving conspicuously little support from Tony Clement:
Provincial and territorial health ministers are united in their support for a proposed national pharmacare program, but they say they can't do it without money from Ottawa.

The health ministers approved the latest progress report on the long-awaited National Pharmaceuticals Strategy during a meeting in Fredericton on Wednesday, but federal Health Minister Tony Clement was conspicuous by his absence.

Clement dialed into the meeting by telephone, but the health ministers said he did not join them in endorsing the progress report, which sets the stage for a system to make medications equally accessible and affordable across the country.
One would think that the politics alone would make the outcome obvious: the Cons have a choice between working to put a popular new program to their name, or picking an unnecessary fight against a united provincial front which reflects both public opinion and the national interest.

But then, that choice may turn the issue into an excellent litmus test of Harper's government. If the Cons really are so ideologically set against doing anything positive (or so focussed on doing nothing beyond their stated core priorities) as to choose the wrong side of the issue, that disinterest in good government almost certainly won't go unpunished next time Canada goes to the polls.

Just not caring

Apparently the Con cabinet members who were supposed to keep Harper informed about issues for cities have been asleep on the job again, as a new study confirms both that Canada's urban centres need to improve access to child care, and that the federal government needs to be involved in actually creating spaces:
(The study found that) Montreal ranks the highest with enough spaces for just under 45 per cent of children...
Saskatoon has the lowest, at only 6.9 per cent.
Most of the other cities range from about 10 to 16 per cent.

Only increased co-ordination and stable funding can level the playing field, the researchers say.

"The study shows that there is an increasing understanding that collaboration among all governments and community organizations is essential if children's programs are to expand and mover (sic) towards greater coherence in ways that will help both children and parents," the study says...

Inconsistent levels of service will continue across the country if Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government implement their plan to cancel funds committed by the previous Liberal government to create child-care spaces, the researchers warn...

An analyst with the City of Toronto, which organized the national study, warned that if the Conservatives (sic) the funding agreements, it will result in even more of a squeeze — with 5,000 fewer spaces in Toronto alone.
While there can be no doubt that the need for improved child care was ignored far too long in the first place, the Cons deserve nothing but blame for undercutting the first steps which had been made toward improving matters. And it won't be long before Canadians get the chance to vote again for a plan which includes both the funds to start filling the gaps in availability, and a stable enough structure to make sure that spaces are available for a long time to come.

Well said

Idealistic Pragmatist gives plenty of good advice to Libs interested in trying to win votes from the NDP. My only question is whether they really deserve (or for that matter want) the help...but it's hard to argue with IP's suggestions.

Soft ties

All too often during the softwood lumber dispute, we've heard that David Emerson (regardless of which party he's been involved with at the time) shouldn't be questioned since he knows the industry from his days at Canfor. But now, his old company has joined the chorus against the current draft. And with producers, provinces, and federal parties alike refusing to sign on to the deal that Harper wants to force on Canada, there should be little doubt just who it is that's out of touch with the industry's needs.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Time to listen

Thomas Walkom slams the lack of attention given to programs in Canada which largely match the type of illegal surveillance that's set off a firestorm in the U.S.:
This week, when former Supreme Court chief justice Antonio Lamer hinted that a secretive government snooping agency called the Communications Security Establishment may be breaking the law, he received 630 words on page eight of the Globe, nothing in the Post or Star and 126 words in The Record of Kitchener-Waterloo...

In late 2001, Parliament quietly gave (the Communications Security Establishment) Bush-like authority to monitor Canadian telephone and Internet traffic without judicial warrant — as long as one of the parties was outside the country and the minister of defence agreed.

Ottawa also appointed a watchdog, latterly Lamer, to ensure that the agency kept within the law.

In his most recent report, the former Supreme Court judge gives the security agency what can only called a lukewarm endorsement, noting that it is complying with the law "as it is currently interpreted by the Department of Justice."

But he also says that he disagrees with this interpretation (he doesn't explain how) and that, in any case, the agency is not giving him enough information to determine whether its surveillance of Canadians is necessary.

Or, as he puts it, in the mind-numbing language of Canadian bureaucratese: "The lack of clarity in this regard has made it difficult for my staff to assess compliance with certain of the conditions that the legislation requires to be satisfied before a ministerial authorization is given."

Which, simply put, means Canada's electronic snoops may be breaking the law but Lamer doesn't know for sure since no one will tell him.
It's remarkable indeed that the issue hasn't received more attention in Canada - both from Cons who could use the Libs' policy as a basis to pretend that Bush is nothing to be concerned about, and from those of us who don't support warrantless, extralegal surveillance with no oversight. But while the issue may not have received much column space just yet, it isn't too late for Canadians to declare that they aren't any more willing to accept such intrusions when they originate in Canada than when they're imposed by Bushco.

On detachment from reality

Generally, even the worst apologists for wealth inequality have the good sense not to claim that those with money have it worse off than those who don't. But then there's Paul Jackson. I'm only surprised he didn't take his argument to its logical conclusion, "and don't get me started on how lucky they have it in Bangladesh..."


CanWest reports on yet another area where the Cons are actively undoing what little the Libs bothered to do while in office, as Health Canada has pulled back from previously-scheduled actions to require provincial compliance with the Canada Health Act:
A meeting scheduled for March between federal and B.C. officials on longstanding federal concerns at private surgery and diagnostic clinics, which has led to several federal fines imposed against the B.C. government, was cancelled and no new meetings have been scheduled, according to federal and B.C. officials.

Meanwhile, federal Health Minister Tony Clement imposed a freeze shortly after the Jan. 23 election on the previous Liberal government's attempt to force the New Brunswick government into arbitration to settle Health Canada's complaints over that province's refusal to ensure access to abortion...

The documents also indicate that the current Tory government is reluctant to push the Quebec government to crack down on surgery clinics in that province suspected since March 2000, of charging user fees.
While the article notes Harper's response to Klein's "Third Way" proposal, it looks like Harper now believes that one bit of posturing is enough of a defence of public health care to justify ignoring possible ongoing violations of the Canada Health Act. Needless to say, it's time to let Harper know that that kind of assumption won't hold water - and it shouldn't be hard to do so in language he'll understand.

After all, the Cons are always fond of phrasing their message in terms of a "play by the rules" ethic. But such an ethic surely has to apply to the provinces who are currently refusing to do so. And if Harper and Clement are willing to undermine efforts to ensure compliance by the provinces for no apparent reason, that'll do as much damage to the Cons' own message as it does to a health care system which depends on proper enforcement.

On credibility issues

It's great to see the Standing Committee on Public Accounts taking up Sheila Fraser's call for more effective debt collection by the Canada Revenue Agency. But can anybody take Lib MP Shawn Murphy seriously as the point man on the issue when it was his party that, as described in the report, "has known where the weaknesses in its procedures lie and how to fix them for 12 years, yet has not been able to achieve an acceptable level of success"?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Leaks and spills

Far and Wide catches the Ottawa Citizen's report that water exports from Canada to the U.S. may form part of the discussion at next week's meeting between Harper and Bush. Knowing Harper's history of dealing with Bush, now may be a good time for Canadians to stock up, as our currently-vast reserves may not be around for long.

By reader request

I'd initially planned on merely adding a snarky postscript to this post about how hilarious it is to see the same Lib blogger now trumpeting a column by the ever-schizophrenic Larry Zolf as a meaningful critique of the NDP. But by popular request (and since Idealistic Pragmatist beat me to the punch on the postscript), let's take a look in detail at the obvious problems with Zolf's column.

On a broad level, Zolf bases his argument on much of the same language used by Cook: "invisible", "silent", "absent", and the like. In doing so, Zolf appears to take the view that since he hasn't seen much of the NDP in whatever media he chooses to watch, the party must be to blame. Which is of course a convenient way of letting the media off the hook for covering personalities, publicity and pork far more than meaningful policy offerings.

I'll note also as a preface that in his typical stream-of-unconsciousness style, Zolf doesn't seem to have a clue what he wants to see from the NDP, turning on a dime from criticizing Layton and company for not being cozy enough with labour (in the form of refusing to go along unquestioningly with Buzz Hargrove's every whim), to criticizing the NDP for being too cozy with labour (for not provoking a war with CUPE Ontario over its Israel boycott). So take Zolf's argument with a heavy coating of salt.

Those preliminary matters aside, let's take a quick look at how the NDP has, in the current session of Parliament, come out with guns blazing against the Cons on the issues where Zolf has managed to avoid hearing anything from the party.

Kyoto: Not only has the NDP rightly criticized the Cons' effective withdrawal from Kyoto at every opportunity and held Ambrose directly accountable for her failings, it's also presented a cost-neutral plan to meet Canada's commitment both to the public and in Parliament. Frankly, this one alone should be enough to put an end to any attempt to take Zolf seriously.

Same-sex marriage: At last notice this one was dealt with in the previous session of Parliament, with the NDP making the strongest push to keep the issue moving forward. But while making clear its commitment to keeping the ground already won, the NDP is also showing the way forward by pushing for equality for transgendered Canadians, while also dealing with human rights more generally.

Aboriginal rights: The NDP has hammered the Cons for backing out of the Kelowna accord, demanded action on the issues pointed out the Auditor General's report, blasted the Cons' continued neglect on several local First Nations issues, fought to ensure that the Cons acknowledge their responsibility for land-claims issues, and rightly slammed the Cons for opposing the U.N.'s Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Labour rights: The NDP introduced bills to protect wages from employer bankrupcty, improve EI availability and bar scab workers in areas of federal jurisdiction, in addition to calling attention to the exploitation of temporary foreign workers.

Untrammelled free enterprise: Judging from his later comments Zolf may well be expecting the NDP to demand forcible seizure of the means of production, in which case he would indeed have reason for disappointment. But the NDP has pushed consistently to ensure that any nickel-mining merger takes into account the needs of labour as well as the affected communities, as well as to ensure that banking reforms are accompanied by consumer protection. Moreover, the NDP as usual has led the way in highlighting the need to act against poverty and income equality in Canada and abroad, as well as calling for action on Canada's housing shortage.

Decentralization: The Cons largely succeeded in kicking the can down the road on this one due to the Bloc's support for the budget, but it was only over the NDP's protestations. The NDP criticized the Cons and Bloc for refusing to support a revitalization of the Canada Social Transfer, and slammed the Cons for pretending that tax credits could be equated with federal vision.

Afghanistan: Needless to say, this one's been dealt with already. Note that Zolf goes a step beyond Cook in claiming that the NDP "has (not) called for an end to the combat role for Canadian troops in Afghanistan", in the face of the same evidence to the contrary.

With those out of the way, we're down to two issues left - and they're ones where Zolf simply makes false assumptions about what the NDP's role should be. Zolf complains that Layton "has said nothing about the billions of dollars Harper is spending on defence" - which reflects a wrong-headed view that the NDP can't value Canada's peace-keeping capability and sovereignty enough to support investments in Canada's military. And finally there's a general conclusion that the NDP should "speak out loud and clear for the socialist ideals the NDP presumably embraces". (But far be it from Zolf to actually define what ideals those should be, aside from the ones on which he's already ignored the NDP's contribution.)

In sum, Zolf's assumptions about the NDP are even more obviously flawed than Cook's. Which means that while Layton and company may have some work to do in making sure that such a poor excuse for commentary doesn't gain any undeserved credence, it's surely not to the Libs' credit that their few arguments against the NDP are based on nothing more than increasing amounts of misinformation.

Where credit is due

In what may be the first praise-worthy move of Rona Ambrose's tenure as Environment Minister, the Cons have announced that two all-too-common but dangerous chemicals have been added to the list of regulated toxic substances:
To rare kudos from a leading environmental group, the Conservative government quietly unveiled its plans regarding the two substances perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and polygrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the July 1 edition of the Canada Gazette, the official record of regulatory announcements.

Health Minister Tony Clement and Environment Minister Rona Ambrose were expected to formally announce the move today.

By declaring the chemicals toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the government will be able to begin making formal regulations to restrict, and in specified cases, eliminate the use of the chemicals. Asbestos, lead and mercury are among other substances on the list of toxic substances.
It remains to be seen just what type of regulations will be passed, as adding the substances to the list without following up would be an entirely empty step. And for the future, there's still a desperate need for Canada to start taking the lead in dealing with other similar substances. But nonetheless, it's a plus to see a necessary first step taken towarding dealing with a problem which has gone unaddressed for far too long.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

On misplaced criticism

With the past week's news largely dominated by the Cons' convention funding scandal, I've put my planned response to the Libs' sniping at the NDP on the back burner. But let's take a look back at some of what's been said about the NDP recently...and just how far detached it is from reality.

Plenty of attention has been paid to this piece from PEJ as some evidence that the NDP might be losing popular support. Unfortunately, while phrased as an "open invitation", the piece isn't so much an invitation to anything as an admission that author C.L. Cook is paying no attention to what's actually happened during the course of this spring's session of Parliament.

Cook claims that the NDP bears responsibility for the Cons' right-wing agenda, and asks why the NDP hasn't fought the Cons on a number of issues. The problem is that on each issue specifically cited by Cook, the NDP has been the federalist party in favour of progressive principles already. But don't take my word for it, let's take a quick look through the record and see just how the NDP has been the sole party speaking up for exactly the issues Cook wants to see dealt with.

When it comes to Canada's role in Afghanistan, the NDP was the sole federalist party to present a united stance against Harper's demand for absolute power and to point out the importance of preserving Canada's role as a peacekeeper rather than a warmaker. A few choice quotes from the May 17 Afghanistan debate alone, first from Layton himself:
Our foreign policy must reflect the reality that we are a country renowned for our pursuit of peace. We are a nation of facilitators, not occupiers. We are a people committed to the ideals of building bridges, not burning them. We must not allow that legacy of good work to falter in the growing shadow of the Bush administration's Operation Enduring Freedom.
From Dawn Black:
After four months of total immersion in Canadian defence policy, I am more convinced than ever that military force must be used only as a last resort.

Military force is a blunt, dangerous and expensive instrument. It has profound, often negative consequences for the lives of individual human beings. Those individuals include the soldiers we send into harm's way, their husbands, their wives, their sons, their daughters, and yes, their mothers and fathers, as well as their grandmothers and grandfathers.

Never let us forget the grave responsibility we carry anytime we put the lives of young Canadians on the line.
From Bill Siksay:
Mr. Speaker, many Canadians are not supportive of Canada's military effort in Afghanistan. Many Canadians want to see a withdrawal of the Canadian Forces from Afghanistan. In fact, I am one of those Canadians. I oppose a new mission in Afghanistan, but I would also like to see a safe and immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan, starting now...

How does the member for Vancouver Quadra respond to the many people in his constituency and in my constituency in British Columbia and across Canada who think that Canada should not be there now and that we should begin a safe and measured withdrawal from Afghanistan immediately?
And Peggy Nash:
Afghanistan, no doubt, is a country that needs assistance and I strongly support helping the people of Afghanistan. However, Canada is in Afghanistan, thanks to the previous government, in a combat role, a counter-insurgency role under U.S. command as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Many Afghans, including the Afghan Women's Organization, do not support Canada's combat role because it interferes with peace, security and rebuilding. I will vote against the motion tonight.

Why is the government ignoring the wishes of so many Afghan people and the majority of Canadians who want to return to security and peace building but not a counter-insurgency mission?
It's downright remarkable that Cook construes all of the above (to say nothing of the NDP's consistent message before and after that debate as well) as silence and/or "complicity". Meanwhile, note that the Libs contributed the extra votes to grant Harper a blank cheque. (Cook presumably wouldn't deny this fact, but it'll become relevant when we get to how Cook's article has since been portrayed by others.)

On the issue of Haiti, this spring was thankfully marked by progress in the country in the form of an election, such that there's been less need to hold the government's feet to the fire as the NDP did previously. But the NDP has consistently supported the democratic will of the Haitian people rather than claiming the country's future should lie in the hands of U.S. puppets. Compare again to the Libs, who were responsible for Canada's anti-democratic stance in Haiti prior to Preval's election.

I'd deal with more issues...but Cook doesn't bother specifically naming any more than that, preferring instead to claim that the NDP has refused to speak out against "death and destruction policies" and a "fascist" future. I won't bother going through the record to show how consistently Layton and company have in fact spoken out on issues which could be classified that way.

Instead, suffice it to say that Cook apparently isn't interested in bothering with such petty things as facts. Far easier instead to make a baseless claim that the NDP is "cowardly" and has done nothing, and then use Cook's own refusal to look into the issues as support for the claim.

Of course, Cook doesn't have anything friendly to say about the Libs or Cons either. But that hasn't stopped some Libs from trying to cite the article (see also a comment to this post) as an example of far-left discontent with Layton - which is then somehow supposed to translate into increased swing support for the same Lib party which Cook blames primarily for Harper's policies. Which means that the Libs, not satisfied with propagating an anti-Layton article which is based on pure conjecture, apparently need to spin that conjecture beyond recognition in order to try to find some upside for themselves.

In the end, it seems to me a reflection of the NDP's stance as the party best in touch with progressive Canadians that the Libs are grasping at such thin straws in trying to find some reason to think the NDP is in danger of losing some of the votes it won in the last federal election. And while any party is bound to potentially face fire from both sides of the political spectrum, the NDP doesn't have much to fear from commentary this far off the mark.

On failing to support the troops

The CP reports that it wasn't just families of military personnel who were concerned with the Cons' media blackout on the repatriation of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, as officials within the Department of National Defence itself argued against the change:
Senior military officials opposed the Conservative government's controversial ban on media coverage of homecoming ceremonies for soldiers killed in Afghanistan, documents obtained under the Access to Information Act suggest...

The department gathered pictures of journalists standing by the highway outside the Trenton, Ont., military base during the April 25 repatriation of four fallen soldiers...

"This may cause safety issues and generate even more frustration, particularly in winter," Lt.-Col. Richard Lavoie, a departmental public-affairs director, wrote in an e-mail in which he forwarded the photos to several colleagues.

Military officials found other ways to express their displeasure: they cleared equipment from the airport tarmac so the news media outside the base could have an unobstructed view of the ceremony.
Today's revelation only makes it all the more clear that the Cons' decision was purely political, and imposed contrary to the wishes of effectively all the stakeholders in the repatriation ceremonies. And the Cons' determination to override the wishes of Canada's military on this point among others seems to be a far more accurate indication of their true attitude toward Canada's soldiers abroad than their willingness to throw money at Gordon O'Connor's old buddies.

Revisionism indeed

Should it come as any surprise that CanWest is eager to dredge up an issue closed two decades ago in the name of tradition and continuity?