Huffington Post Canada

Why aren’t Canadian MPs paying their taxes?

Within these past few weeks, Canadian politics has been so tumultuously rocked with the worrying stories of Rob Ford and Mike Duffy that a number of other issues have not been explored as deeply as they should have been. For example, the ruling in the Robocall case by the Federal Court turned out to be a sort of win-win for both sides. The judge found that fraud did occur, but found no evidence that the Conservative Party or a candidate condoned the fraud. However, the Conservatives’ CIMS database was “the most likely source of information used to make the misleading calls.” Additionally, it was found that “there is no evidence that the election results in the six ridings would have turned out differently,” and the presiding judge thus did not annul the results.

The appellants, backed by the Council of Canadians, are not appealing to the Supreme Court, but are demanding a public inquiry. On a similar note, the CRTC has fined federal and provincial election campaigns a combined total of $369,000, including Marc Garneau, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the federal NDP, and Alberta’s Wildrose for violating the “Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules.”

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Huffington Post Canada

Will an LCBO strike spark a private party?

The looming LCBO strike threat has suddenly gotten all sorts of Ontarians anxious about a potentially dry next few days (or weeks). LCBO workers, who are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), voted 95 per cent in favour of striking, and the deadline is approaching.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is the arm’s length agency of the provincial government which has the statutory authority under the Liquor Control Act to control the sale, transportation, and delivery of liquor, as well as fixing the prices at which they are to be sold.

Certainly the stakes are high on both sides. In all likelihood, it seems highly doubtful that the strike will go through. Yet a strike is in no one’s best interests. The LCBO management stands to lose lucrative revenue to a shuttering of stores, but workers may also suffer in the long run should a strike vote pass. Both parties should be prepared to afford each other leeway and reach an appropriate conclusion.

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Huffington Post Canada

Should we be worried about Bitcoin?

Is there an anonymous, free, and untrackable virtual currency currently making its sweep across the World Wide Web? It is not quite that simple, but Bitcoinis poised to become the next big thing in computing and finance.

How do Bitcoins come into existence? According to The Economist:

Unlike other online currencies — such as the new Amazon Coins — the supply of Bitcoin is not determined by any central issuing authority. Instead, new coins are generated according to a predetermined formula by thousands of computers solving complex mathematical problems. As more coins are generated, these problems get ever more complex, increasing the cost of computing power necessary to generate them, and so setting a floor underneath the price. Mimicking gold, the currency is designed to be deflationary.

The money is generated through Bitcoin “mining,” which is:

The process of making computer hardware do mathematical calculations for the Bitcoin network to confirm transactions and increase security. As a reward for their services, Bitcoin miners can collect transaction fees for the transactions they confirm along with newly created bitcoins.

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Huffington Post Canada

Tom Flanagan and the decline of academic freedom in Canada

After Tom Flanagan, a professor at the University of Calgary, remarked at a University of Lethbridge lecture that he had grave doubts for jailing those who view child pornography “because of their taste in pictures,” someone caught the footage on camera and posted it online. He was instantly cut from the CBC’s Power and Politics show, the Manning Centre’s Networking Conference, and the Wildrose Party of Alberta.

Additionally, the President of the University of Calgary issued a press release after Flanagan’s incendiary remarks came to light:

Tom Flanagan has been on a research and scholarship leave from the University of Calgary since January of 2013. Tom Flanagan will remain on leave and will retire from the university on June 30, 2013.

Shortly after, the University issued a clarification that Flanagan had submitted his intent to retire before the incident occurred. The press release indicates that the University wanted to distance itself from Flanagan, and the initial wording created the impression that he had been fired.

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Huffington Post Canada

Waterloo should not stifle free speech

At the University of Waterloo last week, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth was scheduled to speak to a group of students at an event organized by the Students for Life campus club. Stephen Woodworth, a staunchly pro-life MP, had previously brought forth a motion in Parliament to strike a committee to review the Criminal Code definition of when a child becomes a human being. The motion was voted down, with the Prime Minister and most of his Cabinet voting in opposition.

While many of us may not share Mr. Woodworth’s sentiments regarding abortion, no one has the right to impose a viewpoint on another. We may challenge views we find unattractive, but we do not have the right to silence or suppress unpopular ideas.

Unfortunately, a group of students shut down Mr. Woodworth’s speech by shouting him down, until he was left with no choice but to cancel the event. In what can only be described as an act of idiocy, a Mr. Ethan Jackson, dressed as a giant vagina, shouted, “Who do you think you are trying to impose your bigotry, your views on society through your Christian monotheism?”

The President of the University of Waterloo issued a press release that supported the values of free speech and condemned the actions of the protesters as “an attack on our presence as s a place where issues are explored, discussed and debated.” A review of the incident is currently underway.

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Huffington Post Canada

When transparency can hurt democracy

A Department of Justice lawyer, Edgar Schmidt, recently challenged his employer in court, alleging that the process that the Department uses to analyze whether proposed legislation is in accordance with the Charter is against the law. Schmidt alleges in his claim that since 1993, the Department of Justice has not been informing the Minister about potential Charter inconsistencies as long as “some argument can reasonably be made in favour of its consistency – even if all arguments in favour of consistency have a combined likelihood of success of 5% or less.”

This 5% chance of success rate is the cause of the controversy. Schmidt, in his claim, notes that section 4.1(1) of the Department of Justice Act legally obligates the Minister of Justice to analyze every bill to determine whether any provisions are inconsistent with the Charter, and to report these to the House of Commons. He asks for a judge to declare that this section require a “more-likely-than-not inconsistent” approach, essentially a 51% chance of inconsistency, as opposed to the alleged current 95% chance of inconsistency, to require notification to the Minister. The Department of Justice will not confirm its internal procedures, citing solicitor-client privilege and Cabinet confidence.

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Huffington Post Canada

The Ontario teacher’s union is holding students hostage

Ontario high school students are being disproportionately affected by the conflict between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and the provincial government. The OSSTF mandated its members to withdraw from extracurricular activities in early December. Given that the Liberals have imposed contracts under Bill 115 for a period of two years, the OSSTF will likely continue to use the ban on extracurricular activities as a negotiating tool.

What is most worrying about the conflict is the way in which students are being used as pawns by the OSSTF to advance and promote a political message. The OSSTF has released two TV advertisements, one featuring students ready to attend band with musical instruments in hand, and one with a group of basketball players. The ads are short, and a female voice narrates: “there is only one thing standing between public high school students and their extracurricular activities. Fight Bill 115.”

This leads one to conclude that it is the government preventing students from participating in extracurricular activities. No other information is presented and the ad clearly aims to generate favourable public perception for the OSSTF and antagonize the government’s position.

It is conveniently glossed over that the extracurricular ban came from the top brass at OSSTF.

Students’ anger over the loss of extracurricular activities should not be directed towards the government, as the ad suggests. Nor should it be directed against individual teachers, who have very little leeway to deviate from the orders issued by the union. An Ottawa-area teacher did just this and continued to lead extracurricular activities in class. According to her, she was phoned and threatened by a union official with a fine. The OSSTF also posts the information of those who violate its orders in its publicly accessible newsletter, according to its vice president. With the union putting such severe restrictions on its members, it is no surprise that very few teachers attempt to hold activities for students.

The Guelph Mercury editorial board opines that the OSSTF has been successful in winning the hearts and minds of students. They note that teachers have likely not covered this subject in a “full and balanced” way, which should be expected before an informed opinion can be reached on any contentious political topic. This blatant one-sidedness should worry all Ontarians about a precedent being set in how teachers and unions can inject their political views into students. Students should be able to reach an informed decision after being presented with both sides of an issue.

Ontario students deserve the right to quality education, and as Premier McGuinty states, “Ontarians expect, rightly, that uncertainty in education will not continue indefinitely.”

Furthermore, the OSSTF is quite disingenuous with respect to its own internal policies when it instituted the extracurricular ban. According to section 6.6 of its Policies and Procedures, “it is the policy of OSSTF that involvement in extra-curricular activities should be voluntary.” The word voluntary is defined by Merriam-Webster as “proceeding from the will or from one’s own choice or consent,” or being “unconstrained by interference.” OSSTF’s call to end extracurricular activities dictates what members can do in their private lives. This same decree tells teachers that they must show up 15 minutes before classes begin and leave immediately after their final class. How much further will the OSSTF venture into its members’ personal and private lives until these infringements are recognized as rights violations?

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