Monday, October 28, 2013

Conservatives gearing up for 2013 convention

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald and the Huffington Post

The Conservative Party grassroots are gearing up for the party’s bi-annual national convention this year at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Alberta.
The three-day convention is broken down into a mixture of information sessions, speeches, and debates on policy and constitution resolutions, concluding in votes on these debates. Debates either involve thepolicy declaration or the national constitution. The policy declaration serves as the Conservative government’s mandate to implement the policies desired by the Conservative grassroots, while the national constitution governs the operations of the party.
Up for discussion are 199 policy proposals and 67 constitution proposals, not including those that may be introduced as motions from the floor.
Proposals to amend the policy declaration include allowing income splitting for married and common law couples. Although this policy was pledged by Prime Minister Harper to be implemented once the federal budget is balanced, it’s not a policy that appears in the policy document.
Another proposal would create a “workers’ rights” section, which states that workers should be allowed to “organize democratically… collectively bargain…and peacefully withdraw and withhold services.” This proposal also calls for legislation that requires public service unions to disclose the amount of membership money that goes toward “political donations, donations to media organizations, and to political activism and campaigns.”
A third proposal would create a “National Sunshine List” for all Crown corporations and federal agencies where employees make more than $120,000 per year. Such a proposal was tabled by MP Brent Rathgeber as a private members bill, and would have applied to anyone making more than $188,000, but the bill was effectively killed when the minimum salary to be included on that list was raised to $445,000.
Other proposals include:
  • Stating that the Government of Canada “must continue to defend the democratic countries of the Middle East and the right of Israel to exist.”
  • Developing a plan to criminalize the purchase of sex as well as those profiting from the purchase of sex
  • Creating a “National Transportation Strategy”
  • Amending the Criminal Code so that “harassing telephone calls” include harassing text messages
  • Proposing that, following a balanced budget, the federal budget remain frozen at $300 billion until 2021
  • Ending supply management

Proposals to amend the constitution focus more on the internal operations of the Conservative Party itself. For instance, making sure candidates for nomination are not allowed to take cash for membership purchases. This would require anyone purchasing a membership from the candidate to do so by personal cheque or credit card.
There is also a proposal to create an “ethics committee” that reports directly to National Council on the party’s “compliance with ethical best practices in its fundraising and campaigning activities.” It would presumably act as part-watchdog, part-research and advisory committee to ensure that they remain focused on ethical best practices.
Furthermore, the proposal to switch from an equal-weighting to a membership-based process for electing the next leader is back for debate. Currently, each Conservative riding association gets an equal number of “points” to elect the national Conservative leader. The proposal is to keep these points, but also give additional points to riding associations with large memberships. It would give a larger voice to those associations with more memberships, while smaller associations would have a smaller voice.
The same proposal was introduced in 2011 and failed. To combat this, a proposal has been submitted that would not allow failed convention proposals to be re-introduced at the following two national conventions. If not a mandate that silences defeated ideas, it would at least give a six-year grace period before they could be raised again.
Other proposals include:

  • Ensuring Conservative members are at least 14-years-old
  • Ensuring National Council communicates “legislative initiatives and government policy” that has been implemented
  • Proposing that national conventions not be held in the same year as federal elections
  • Capping policy and constitution proposals at 10 per-province
  • Ensuring the power to elect a riding candidate rests with the EDA rather than the national party headquarters
This convention will see Conservative grassroots give their leadership their mandate, a crucial one since it establishes the operating rules, policies, and groundwork until the next national convention, which will be just months before the October 2015 election.
It offers a unique and truly grassroots experience for Conservative members, unlike any other federal political party. Here delegates have the opportunity to sit right next to Conservative MPs, cabinet ministers, and Senators, and directly discuss Conservative policies.
Those attending the convention are broken into a few different categories.
Delegates are elected by their local Conservative riding association (EDA) and serve in an official voting capacity on behalf of that riding association. Alternates also attend the convention, but cannot vote unless they do so in place of a delegate. Finally, observers are allowed to observe the convention, but cannot take part in the debates. There are a limited number of observers, usually Conservative members who were not elected as a delegate or alternate for their EDA as well as members of the media.
Registration costs between $475 and $1050, depending on the category.
You can follow the Conservative convention by using #CPC13.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Best PM we've ever had

Letters from the National Post

I’m very happy with Stephen Harper. He has remained focused on the most important priorities for Canadian families: cutting over 150 taxes since 2006 and creating over one million net new jobs since July 2009. In the face of the NDP’s relentless demands to raise taxes and the Liberals’ reckless calls to legalize the use of harmful drugs, Mr. Harper’s steady hands can guide our country.
Daniel Dickin, Ottawa.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Response from the CBC re: Access to Information Reforms

After reading this article, the CBC's "media and issues management" department felt it necessary to reply:

I am writing in response to your Access to Information Process Needs Reforms article that appeared in The Prince Arthur Herald and in the Huffington Post on October 21st.  In it, you express the opinion that CBC/Radio-Canada “is infamous for skirting ATI laws and doing the bare minimum to get by”. I would like to share with you and your readers some highlights of the Corporation’s more recent performance under access to information. Though it is true that CBC/Radio-Canada was given an 'F' grade by Commissioner Legault soon after we were subjected to the Act in 2007, the Corporation has since worked very hard on multiple fronts to fix the initial challenges we faced in responding to the flood of Access to Information requests that we received. In recognition of our commitment to openness and transparency, in December 2012 the Commissioner awarded CBC/Radio-Canada an ’A’ grade for “outstanding” performance. 

And our progress continues. In her most recent annual report, tabled last week, the Information Commissioner states: "In just two years, senior management at the CBC had transformed that organization into one committed to meeting its obligations under the Access to Information Act''.  We regret that this information was not included in your column, and trust that you will see fit to provide your readers with the most up to date information regarding CBC/Radio-Canada’s performance under the Act.
  • Received a total of 1,789 ATI requests;
  • Released over 118,000 pages of information; and
  • A deemed refusal* rate of 1.1%, down from 80.47% in 2007-2008.
Though we are proud of the progress we have made in becoming a more open, transparent and accountable public broadcaster, we continuously seek to improve. We think Canadians are entitled to know the facts about our work, and we endeavour to not only disclose information proactively, but also to reply to requests in a timely manner. Below are some indicators of this ongoing commitment. As of September 30th, 2013, CBC/Radio-Canada has:* Requests for information not responded to within statutory time limits are deemed to have been “refused”. More information is available on our corporate website at:
Michel Hachey  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Extreme veterans group threaten to assault Prime Minister, vandalize MP's offices

What was once a respectable non-profit advocacy group for veterans has taken a turn for the extreme in advance of the 2013 Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Founder and President of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy Mike Blais posted late on October 18 that some ideas for "what veterans might do on R[emembrance] Day" include booing the Prime Minister when he speaks at the National War Memorial; spitting on the Prime Minister (read: assault him); egging MPs (read: assault them); and egging MP's offices (read: commit vandalism).

Unfortunately, simply by threatening violence against elected officials (including the Prime Minister) and vandalism against public offices, this group has lost all credibility as a non-partisan, professional advocate on behalf of Canada's veterans.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Access to Information process needs reform and improvements

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald and Huffington Post Canada

Canada’s access to information (ATI) process needs improvements, says Canada’s information commissioner, Suzanne Legault.

Legault notes the original ATI legislation was passed over 30 years ago, and is in desperate need of updates and improvements.

In the time since, computers, emails, and cell phones have made the ATI process more complex and harder to track, and the legislation needs to reflect this.

Legault notes most complaints her office receives are generally systemic issues regarding:

  • Extensions, where the government department says it will take longer than the mandatory 30-day timeframe
  • Delays, where the government department simply does not respond within the mandatory 30-day timeframe
  • Fees, where the government department says they will require more than the $5 processing fee for a particular request
  • “Refusals,” where the government refuses to answer the request for information because it does not feel it has to do so.

These problems could be addressed through legislative updates, for which the President of the Treasury Board is responsible.

Legault also notes the ATI process is being used more and more by average Canadians rather than politicians, professionals, and academics, further demonstrating a requirement to update the laws to make the process easier to understand and navigate.

This legislative update should also demonstrate a shift in terminology.  As Bob Fife pointed out at a recent conference during the Right to Know Week hosted at the University of Ottawa, even the term “access to information” suggests the government has information that we Canadians can access.  But this is the wrong way of labelling the process: in other jurisdictions, including Ontario, it’s known as freedom of information, not access to.  The information the government has deserves to be free, transparent, and known to Canadians – not “accessed” upon request.

There are three instances which I think highlight the need for access to information reform:

1.      Elections Canada

In early 2013 I submitted several ATI requests to Elections Canada regarding their handling of the “robocalls” investigation.  The questions were simple enough: who’s doing this investigation?  How much will it cost?  When will it be done?

The information they did reveal was shocking: the investigation had been contracted out to private contractors; those private contractors had been given large contracts in odd amounts; and those contractors had a history of giving political donations to the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois.

But there were many questions that went unanswered without justification: salary amounts were hidden, even though the value of the total contract was known.  Why contractors were given extensions was exempted for “privacy reasons.”  Updated ATI legislation should balance individuals’ right to privacy with the public’s right to know, and side with the public’s right to know unless there are specific circumstances otherwise.

2.      Locating Budgets

In July 2013 I submitted an ATI request to a federal government department that will remain nameless.  Again, a simple request: a tabulated list of that department’s annual budgets from 1980-present.

Here’s what I expected:

1980-1981: $x billion
1981-1982: $x billion
… And so on.

Yet they couldn’t do it!  They claimed they were under no obligation to “create new records” since, apparently, never before had they bothered to create a table that showed their department’s historical budgets.  But they would send me all of the encompassing federal government budgets for the timeframe requested, if I reimbursed them for an analyst to compile these budgets and send them to me over 35 hours.

When I refused, the department stated they would forward my request to Library and Archives Canada, where perhaps they instead could help.  Commissioner Legault calls this “playing ping pong” with information requests.  Updated ATI legislation should provide a remedy for people on the receiving end of ping pong.

To-date the request has not been fulfilled.

(Note: I knew the budgets were already available through the Treasury Board here and here.  But those are the total budgets for each department and are not broken down into the sub-units of that department.)

3.      The CBC

Canada’s $1.1 billion state broadcaster is infamous for skirting ATI laws and doing the bare minimum to get by.  Simple information, like how many vehicles the CBC owns or the salaries of star CBC personalities like David Suzuki or George Stroumboulopoulos, should be readily available for as long as the CBC remains a government-owned agency.  They were given an ‘F’ grade by Commissioner Legault for incredibly poor response times, the second-worst for a federal department.

When they were asked how many vehicles they owned, they claimed one: a 2007 Ford 500.  They were later embarrassed when a House of Commons committee revealed the CBC actually owned 728 vehicles.

Updated ATI legislation should provide punitive measures for departments that outright lie in information releases, or abuse the process because they think the information released will be embarrassing.

Canada’s 2013 Throne Speech noted Canada’s government would continue to find cost savings while focusing on transparency and accountability in our public service.  One of the main areas of change should be our access to information laws.

Throne Speech offers juicy policies for conservatives, moderate promises for all Canadians

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald

On Wednesday afternoon, Governor General David Johnston took his seat in a packed Senate and read Seizing Canada’s Moment: Prosperity and Opportunity in an Uncertain World.

The 2013 Throne Speech comes at the half way point of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority mandate, re-energizing Canada’s conservatives and refocusing his government’s priorities.

The Throne Speech, divided into 3 parts, offers juicy red meat policies for conservatives and moderate promises for all Canadians.  The focus, notably, remains on Canada’s jobs and the economy, but this Throne Speech also offers important policies in terms of a consumers’ first approach.

Creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians:

  •   Balanced budget legislation – the requirement that the federal government balance its books

  • Debt-to-GDP ratio of 25 percent by 2021
  • Freeze the overall federal operating budget, continuing to restrain hiring
  • Further targeted reductions to internal government spending
  • Reform the federal government’s spending management
  • Sell federal assets and, when in the best interest of Canadians, sell them
  • A lean, competent, and committed public service.  Public servants’ pay benefits will be reasonable, responsible, and in the public interest.  Disability and sick-day entitlements will be reformed.  The Public Service Labour Relations Act will be amended to ensure the public service is affordable, modern, and high-performing.
  • Increase performance accountability in the public service
  • Moving from 63 different email systems to one
  • Ensuring youth, aboriginals, and under-represented groups of people have the opportunity to participate in the work force
  • Stronger, more effective, and more accountable on-reserve education systems for aboriginals
  • Reform the Temporary Foreign Worker program to ensure Canadians always have the first chance at available jobs.
  • Protect Canada’s environment and natural resources, by enshrining the Polluter-Pay system
  • Introducing higher safety standards for companies operating offshore as well as those operating pipelines, and increasing the required liability insurance
  • Transforming the National Research Council
  • Targeted investments in science, innovation, and technology
  • Further cutting red tape for small businesses by introducing into law the one-for-one rule
  • Small businesses will be provided further tax relief once the government returns to balanced budgets
Supporting and Protecting Canadian Families
  • Reducing wireless roaming costs
  • Requiring that television channels be unbundled
  • Continuing to enhance high-speed broadband internet for rural Canadians
  • End pay-to-pay policies so customers don’t have to pay extra to receive paper bills
  • Expanding no-cost basic banking services
  • Cracking down on predatory “payday lenders”
  • Introducing a Victims’ Bill of Rights
  • New legislation to give police the tools they need to combat cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images
  • Ending sentencing discounts for child sex offenders
  • Ending automatic early release for serious repeat offenders
  • Introducing legislation that makes a life sentence a life sentence
  • Renewed efforts to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women
  • The vigorous defence of Canada’s existing prostitution laws
  • Introduce Quanto’s law
  • Strengthening Canada’s food inspection regimes
  • Improving nutritional information on food labels
  • Introducing patient safety legislation to ensure drugs are plainly and clearly labelled
  • Make adoption more affordable for families
  • Ensure people have a say before drug injection sites open in their communities
  • Build on the Housing First approach
  • Create a new National Conservation Plan to further increase Canada’s protected areas
  • Increase safety measures surrounding the transport of dangerous goods
Putting Canada First
  • More tooth and less tail in Canada’s military
  • Providing the support veterans need
  • Building on the “Helmets to Hardhats” program
  • Finally completing the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean
  • Continuing to defend the seal hunt
  • Continuing to promote the Office of Religious Freedom
  • Ensuring money spent on foreign aid produces real results
  • Granting honourary citizenship to Malala Yousafzai
  • Ensuring early and forced marriages do not occur on Canada’s soil
  • Reforming the Immigrant Investor Program
  • Introducing comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act
  • Building a memorial for victims of Communism
  • Restoring military traditions
  • Continuing to partner with aboriginal communities to create healthy, prosperous, self-sufficient communities
  • Reforming the Senate upon receiving advice from the Supreme Court
  • Reforming Canada’s elections laws to ensure the integrity of the voting system
In all, Prime Minister Harper’s 2013 Throne Speech promises to fulfill cornerstone conservative policies while implementing a moderate plan for all Canadians.  Consumers, small businesses, and all Canadians can be proud of Canada’s direction to remain a world leader.

To read the full Throne speech, visit

Take part in the Twitter discussion on the Throne Speech at #SFT13

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NDP Hypocrisy 101

Nathan Cullen, August 2013: complains prorogation quashes all bills currently on the House of Commons floor.

"Cullen says important legislation will be pushed back or killed entirely by the delay but he doesn't know yet what items will be affected.

He hopes the government will bring items of importance to the region back without a fight.

"We expect them to do the right thing and bring some of those items back and continue where they were. So things like missing aboriginal women, the war vetrens inquiry and those things we expect to see back. They get delayed though. They do get delayed, they lose time and that's unfortunate."

Nathan Cullen, October 2013: complains about a motion that would restore those bills right back to where they were before prorogation.

... Wow, they really don't seem to be trying any more.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Speech from the Throne

Highlights of the 2013 Throne Speech, officially titled Seizing Canada's Moment: Prosperity and Opportunity in an Uncertain World:

ü  Balanced budget legislation – the requirement that the federal government balance its books
ü  Law to enshrine one-for-one red tape reduction for small businesses
ü  Renewed investments in health care research to tackle dementia and related illnesses
ü  Ending the automatic early release of dangerous sexual offenders
ü  Unbundling our television channels and capping wireless roaming charges
ü  Expanding no-cost basic banking services
ü  Life sentences are life sentencing – not 25 years
ü  The military will be more tooth and less tail
ü  The average Canadian family is paying $3200 less in taxes each year
ü  Introducing a victims’ Bill of Rights
ü  New ships for Canada’s Navy
ü  Continued tax reductions for small businesses

ü  Continued tax reductions for Canadians and their families

Take part in the Throne Speech Discussion by using #SFT13 on Twitter

Free speech under attack in Canada

First it was the troubling decision in Warman v. Fourniers and Does, and now Ezra Levant is in court defending his right to free expression and fair comment.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

10 Policies that need to be addressed in the Throne Speech

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald and Huffington Post Canada

On Wednesday at 4:30pm EST, Governor General David Johnston will take a seat in the Senate and begin reading the Speech from the Throne to officially open the second session of Canada’s 41st Parliament.

The Throne Speech, carefully crafted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will set the federal government’s course for the second half of its majority mandate, setting the scene for the October 2015 election.

Although general in their promises and approach, Throne Speeches are important nevertheless as the government highlights the issues it will focus on and moves away from topics that are no longer important.

By December 2011, just seven months after Prime Minister Harper won his majority mandate, 92 percent of his election promises had already been fulfilled or were at least tabled in the form of bills in the House of Commons.

So this Throne Speech is about going beyond fulfilling what was already promised, and embarking upon new ventures to reduces taxes on families, strengthen Canada’s national defence, and continue to keep Canada’s economy one of the best and strongest in the world.  It’s also about getting back on top of portfolios gone astray – those that should have been carefully organized and managed but somehow got out of control.

To achieve these objectives, these are the top 10 policies that need to be addressed in Wednesday’s Throne Speech:

1.      The Senate.  It’s on Canadians’ minds, and not in a good way.  Canadians couldn’t care less about the Senate’s official role as the chamber of “sober second thought” when they’re constantly reading headlines about hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money being misused and abused.  Referring questions on term limits to the Supreme Court is a good start, but don’t wait for their response to do something.  The NDP have already been clear in what they would do with the Senate – abolish it – and the Liberals have responded in typical Justin Trudeau fashion – err, uh, maybe, uh, ask us in 2015.  Regain control of the issue by making promises that can be implemented before the Supreme Court comes back with their answer.  (Responsible Minister: Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State for Democratic Reform)

2.      Canada’s veterans.  They’re natural conservative voters, and they’re not happy.  Hatred and resentment of the New Veterans’ Charter (passed unanimously in 2006 by all federal parties) is not going away.  The Veterans Ombudsman’s report highlights that the Charter has “urgent shortcomings” that need to be addressed.  Not just so Prime Minister Harper can have his government re-elected in 2015, but because it’s the right thing to do.  Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has agreed to revisit the Charter, which needs to be done immediately and through consultations with current and former veterans.  (Responsible Minister: Julian Fantino)

3.      Taxes.  Pocketbook issues are always at the forefront for average Canadian families, and although Prime Minister Harper has reduced or eliminated over 150 taxes since 2006, Canadians still want to know their government is always finding new ways of reducing their tax bills. That includes eliminating loopholes in the tax code, and it should also include a thorough review of groups claiming charitable status while clearly engaging in prohibited political activities.

It also includes expanding income splitting to common law and married couples of any age, not just married couples and their retirement pensions.  (Responsible Ministers: Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance and Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Minister of National Revenue)

4.      The CBC.  Every budget, every Throne Speech, commentators expect the CBC to be privatized – yanked away from their spot at the trough and forced to either become a better business or cease to exist.  And every year those commentators are disappointed.  This year is no different, so let’s end the wait already.  $1.1 Billion, or $32 from every Canadian, is thrown into the mysterious black hole known as the CBC.  Gone are the days when Canada’s federal government needed to own a state broadcaster for any useful purpose.  Now it’s as if the federal government is paying for a $1.1 billion Opposition party.  Get the government out of the broadcasting business, and send every Canadian a cheque for $32 instead.  (Responsible Minister: Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage)

5.     Jobs & the Economy.  Prime Minister Harper’s economic policies have created over one million net new jobs since July 2009, most of them full-time, high-paying jobs.  Data released earlier this week from Statistics Canada showed another 11,900 net new jobs were created in September; the unemployment rate was at its lowest level since December 2008; and the student unemployment rate dropped 1.2 percent.  Canadians need to know these accomplishments, which have made Canada the envy of the world, will continue with further enhancements and benefits.  (Responsible Minister: Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development)

6.      The Procurement System.  The amount of hoops to jump through on any procurement program is mind-boggling.  Government departments need to compile enormous lists of documents, statements of work, statements of requirements, etc. and bidding organizations also need to jump through dozens of hoops before they can ever actually begin work or provide something to the government, no matter how simple.  This isn’t just a defence procurement problem, although the issue there is clearly the most visible since it directly relates to Canada’s national defence.  Start there, and expand outward to the less-visible, less-important procurement issues.  (Responsible Ministers: Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence; Diane Finley, Minister of Public Works and Government Services)

7.      Aboriginal Affairs.  Idle No More is gone for now, but only until the next aboriginal community decides to buy a $70,000 zamboni in a supposed time of “crisis” or another aboriginal leader goes on a liquid-only-sometimes diet and calls it a hunger strike.  Aboriginals have long demanded change, accountability, democracy, and less government interference in their affairs.  So give it to them.  Repeal the Indian Act.  Get rid of reserves and any subsidies that pay people to stay on reserves, jobless and in incredibly poor living conditions.  Encourage democratic elections in the same form as city council elections, but do not interfere when claims of corruption inevitably arise – let them handle it themselves.   Continue to improve the First Nations Financial Accountability Act.  (Responsible Minister: Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs)

8.      Deficit elimination and debt reduction.  A key promise made by Prime Minister Harper’s government has been to eliminate the deficit by 2015-2016 and thereafter return to reducing Canada’s debt.  Canada seems to be on track, but more should be done to accelerate the return to balanced budgets (see policy #4).  Once we’re there, balanced budget legislation should make balanced budgets the law except for perhaps a few very minor, exceptional circumstances.  Canadians need to balance their books – our government should also be required to.  (Responsible Minister: Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance)

9.      Put consumers first.  When Canadians heard Verizon was coming to Canada, the Big Three cell phone companies banded together against Verizon’s entry into the Canadian market.  The federal government stood up for consumers and said it would not ban Verizon’s entry into Canadian markets.  Although news of Verizon’s entry into Canada was false, the federal government promised to keep the wireless industry competitive for consumers’ sake. What policies will this promise entail?

While we’re on a consumers’ first agenda, end supply management.  Getting rid of this dated regime would save the average milk-drinking family $300 a year; and save the economy $28 billion in dairy production alone.  (Responsible Minister: James Moore, Minister of Industry)

10.  Update Access to Information Laws.  A recent series of panel discussions hosted at the University of Ottawa during the 2013 Right to Know Week highlighted the pressing need to update Canada’s access to information and privacy laws.  Why?  Here’s an easy example: I asked a department (I won’t name which one) for a table of their annual budgets since 1980. I thought this was straightforward, and would result in a simple spreadsheet that listed 2013: $this much; 2012: $this much; and so on.

But no. This department responded that they are not required to “create new documents” since apparently never before had they bothered to tabulate their annual budgets for historical record.  But they could locate all of the budgets and send them to me – for the cost of me paying the salary of one full-time staff member for 35 hours, the estimated time it would take to collate 33 years of budget documents.  This is just unacceptable when all I was asking for was information that was publicly available. 

The desperate requirement for ATI reforms was also highlighted when most of my questions to Elections Canada regarding their robocalls investigation went unanswered for “privacy reasons.”  (Apparently asking why contracts were in the weird amount of $78,444.35 was too personal.)

Open government and open data are fundamental principles every government needs to adhere to.  In today’s electronic age, not having basic, public information available and accessible is simply unacceptable.  (Responsible Minister: Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board)

If Wednesday’s Throne Speech touches even slightly on each of these issues, Prime Minister Harper will have perfectly set the stage to retain his majority government in October 2015.

See highlights of the Throne Speech and its full text at

Watch the Throne Speech live on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 4:30pm EST

Take part in the Throne Speech Discussion by using #SFT13 on Twitter

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ontario to force large restaurants to print calories on menu boards

Large chain restaurants in Ontario will be forced to print calories and "other nutritional information" on their menus and menu boards.

Here's an example of what the menu boards could look like:

How "large chain restaurants" will be defined remains to be revealed.  Small restaurants won't be affected, even though they offer nowhere near the same access to nutritional information as the large restaurant chains.

But the large chain restaurants seem to have done just fine providing their customers with the nutritional and ingredient information they need:

Tim Horton's
Burger King

Somehow, businesses seem to have responded to customers' demands without the need for any government intervention.  Imagine that...

Why aren't they in jail?

Why aren't they in jail yet?!An excellent question by Brian Lilley.

This $1.1 billion corruption scandal has eclipsed AdScam as the largest in Canadian history.  AdScam, conveniently, also happened under a Liberal government.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blueprint 2020: Breaking down barriers

Yesterday I had the opportunity of attending Blueprint 2020: Breaking Down the Barriers, a discussion focused on breaking down barriers in government related to human resources and new technology.

Discussions included speeches from:

Janice Charette, Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council and Associate Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office
Edith Kehoe, Senior Director, Workforce Organization and Classification, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Greg Wilburn, Director, Policy Horizons Canada
Debra Tattrie, Senior Director, Performance Management Initiative, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Their comments were excellent, as were some of the resulting discussions via social media:

A sad day for Canada’s free expression rights