Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chicken Soup Surprise

Lookee what just arrived - a box full of Chicken Soup! As a contributing author (check chapter 5) I get 10 free copies. I know what everyone in my family is getting for Christmas, like it or not.

Next week (Oct. 5th) is the massive contributing author book signing. I'll post details closer to the event. Should be fun.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Meeting Royalty

Last Wednesday I had the honour of meeting HRH Anne, The Princess Royal, at a gala charity dinner put on by the 33rd Signal Regiment Foundation at The National Club.

Although it will come as a shock to my many progressive friends, I have a semi-secret life as this year's President of the National Club. As President, my official duties included greeting the Princess Royal on her arrival earlier in the day at the Club and on her departure the next morning.

The dinner itself was a spectacular success raising about $75,000 for veteran and military family charities, and I was very proud of the many compliments I received on behalf of The National Club's staff, food and our beautiful heritage building, which had been cleaned and polished within an inch of its life for our special guest. On her departure The Princess Royal had warm words for the National Club's hospitality.

My thanks to event photographer David Batten - I missed my photo as HRH mingled with guests and he kindly obliged me with this one as we chatted later.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Harper Halloween Headstones

Fresh from the grave of the evil that will not die, here is my growing collection of headstones just in time for Halloween.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How Can You (Legally) Remove A Senator?

While anyone who has read my tweets on the subject, I have less than no sympathy for Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau.

Actually, that's not true. In the murky world of Conservative power politics and greed, it appears that they are on the short end of a very short stick. More than likely they were just following orders, doing exactly what Harper appointed them to the Senate to do - be the money-raising celebrity show ponies of the Harper government. I do believe them when they say that their actions were vetted, approved and well known to the very powers that now disavow and disown them and throw them to the curb.

But that's politics. Especially Harper politics.

More troubling is the current Senate schoolyard brawl where the Senators - more than half of whom have now been appointed by Harper - are either (a) anxious to prove their relevance and integrity to the public by ousting them, or (b) make the problem go away for Harper by getting the Conservative Senators to gang together at the direction of the PMO and shove them out the door in the hope that the issue can then be falsely labelled as "resolved" and Harper can move on to less toxic problems, like the faltering economy.

The problem with the rush to expel Harper's menage a trois of Senators is that no one seems to care what the Constitution of Canada says about it. It always comes as a surprise to Conservatives that there are rules about these things. That is because, as I have said before, Harper's Conservatives do not believe in the Rule of Law, a fundamental underpinning of our society. 

Whether it is mandatory minimum sentencing or reforming the Senate, Harper and his CPC absolutely reject the notion that they, as a government, are bound by the rule of law. They refer to the idea of the "Supremacy of Parliament", but don't acknowledge that in a Constitutional democracy the government has legal boundaries about what it can and can't do. That is why they lose so many Charter challenges in court on their proposed legislation.

In the current Senate cat fight, the Constitution Act 1867 is very clear about the grounds needed to expel a Senator from office.

Constitution Act 1867 - Section 31

The Place of a Senator shall become vacant in any of the following Cases:

(1) If for Two consecutive Sessions of the Parliament he fails to give his Attendance in the Senate:  (2) If he takes an Oath or makes a Declaration or Acknowledgment of Allegiance, Obedience, or Adherence to a Foreign Power, or does an Act whereby he becomes a Subject or Citizen, or entitled to the Rights or Privileges of a Subject or Citizen, of a Foreign Power:  (3) If he is adjudged Bankrupt or Insolvent, or applies for the Benefit of any Law relating to Insolvent Debtors, or becomes a public Defaulter:  (4) If he is attainted of Treason or convicted of Felony or of any infamous Crime:  (5) If he ceases to be qualified in respect of Property or of Residence; provided, that a Senator shall not be deemed to have ceased to be qualified in respect of Residence by reason only of his residing at the Seat of the Government of Canada while holding an Office under that Government requiring his Presence there.The sections that are most likely to operate to remove a Senator are sections 31(3) - bankruptcy - and 31(4) - a felony conviction. In Duffy's case, section 31(5) might also operate by being deemed to not live in the province he represents.
Until and if Duffy, Wallin, and/or Brazeau meet any of these conditions, they cannot be expelled from the Senate, as badly behaved as they may have been.

No Senator has been expelled in recent history, and there have been some pretty bad examples of behaviour by members of the place of sober second thought. Of those Senators who have left prematurely, they have all resigned rather than face possible criminal prosecution and expulsion under section 31(4).

Can a Senator be expelled for fiddling their expense accounts and collecting a housing allowance they are not entitled to? Only it appears if criminal changes are involved and only if and after they are convicted of a "felony" - i.e. an indictable offence.

So it pains me to say this from a purely partisan standpoint, but there are no grounds (yet) under the Constitution to expel Duffy, Wallin or Brazeau. 

There may be if charges are pursued and successful, and in the past suspect Senators have had the good sense, shame or skin-saving instinct to resign first, but if they want to hang on to their tainted seats, they can for now.

Some commentators and even some Senators in the current debate have said that "the Senate has the right to govern itself", which is true, but only to a point.

The Senate does not have the power to decide who gets to remain a Senator, except in accordance with the Constitution, any more than the House of Commons gets to decide who is an MP. 

Imagine the danger of the Senate or House of Commons acting like a tree fort clubhouse where the majority makes and changes the rules to suit, and gets to band together to kick out anyone they don't like regardless of the Constitution. That is Harper's mistaken vision of the "Supremacy of Parliament", which is nothing more in reality than arbitrary tyranny.

So what can the Senate do?

Well, they can cooperate fully with any criminal investigations into any allegations against Senators. If it leads to a conviction, that Senator can be removed under s. 31(4). They can hold a hearing to see if a Senator is disqualified due to residency requirements under s. 31(5) and then declare that person (or ask the Governor General) no longer qualified and declare the seat vacant. They can do what they should have from the beginning and scrutinize Senators' accounts and cut off financial abuse at the source.

But expulsion? No.

Not yet, anyway, because we are still a country under the rule of law. 

And the law applies equally to scoundrels as it does to saints.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book SIgning - Nov. 5th

We have a date for a massive author book signing launch of Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada The Wonders of Winter (101 Stories About Bad Weather, Good Times, and Great Sports).

One of my stories (The 10 Commandments of Canadian Winter) appears in this new collection in the immensely popular series.

The book launch and signing will be held on Nov, 5th at 7:00 pm in Toronto at the The Keating Channel Pub & Grill, 2 Villiers Street, at the bottom of the Don Valley Parkway. I'm told there's lots of free parking.

Many of the authors will be on hand to autograph books for sale.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Harper Gets A Brazilian?

Documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden purport to show that the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC - pronounced "SeaSick") allegedly hacked into the Brazilian mining and energy ministry. It was further reported that CSEC also participated with CSIS and the RCMP in secret meetings in Ottawa where various Canadian security agencies briefed energy corporations.

All part of the "we'll do anything for the oil and gas business" attitude of the HarperCons.

Interestingly, a while back Harper also changed the reporting structure of CSEC from his own National Security Advisor to National Defence - handy way to keep yourself officially out of the loop, although it is impossible to believe that CSEC would undertake custom industrial spying without clearance at the highest level.

There was some lamer than usual attempts to explain away the alleged spying. The Globe reported: "A former high-ranking member of Canada’s spy service says he suspects the leaked documents that purport to show Ottawa was spying on Brazil are in fact part of a pretend 'wargame scenario.'”

Maybe they'll try to convince us that someone in the PMO must have simply misheard Harper who was asking if anyone knew anything about a "Brazilian", since it was "starting to look like a jungle down there..."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Column - My fellow Canadians

By Stephen Lautens

The 2015 election will soon be upon us and we will soon be gathering in church basements, town halls and in front of the TV to hear the candidates tell us why the country will go to hell in a handbasket if we don't elect them instead of their opponents.

To save both you, the voter, and the hundreds of candidates across the country a lot of time and effort, I thought I'd write down the same speech most of them will probably be giving.

All you have to do is cross out the words that don't apply:

* * *

Thank you for inviting me to participate in this all candidates meeting today.

It is a pleasure being here with my voters today instead of in (Ottawa / fact-finding trip to Paris / jail).

I stand before you today to say that the government's record personally makes me (proud / embarrassed / outraged / confused / sleepy).

As your candidate in this federal election I can promise you (more of the same / a complete change / criminal charges will be brought when we find out who's responsible).

As your member of Parliament, I pledge to you that if elected I will spend (more time in the community / more time in Ottawa / more time on a beach in the Caribbean).

Here in the community, my constituency office will be there to help you (anytime you need it / alternate Thursdays between 2 and 3:30 p.m.).

I have been asked where I stand on some of the vital issues of the day.

Let me tell you that I am strongly against (raising your taxes / reducing your services) and we need to (increase / decrease) spending on government programs.

The less-fortunate in our society (need our help more than ever / need a kick in the behind / need to pray more /  need to move to Ontario).

I would also like to go on the record to state that we need to (seriously fund / reinvent / send out a search party to look for) our military.

Air Canada should be (saved / scrapped / made to eat their own in-flight meals).

The gun registry is (dead / worth every penny / not going to pry my grampa's .22 out of my cold, dead hands).  Because after all, registering guns is just the first step towards (fascism / socialism / a responsible society with fewer bullet holes in people).

I don't need to remind you that our province has (done so well / been screwed by) Confederation. It was the (best / worst) thing that has ever happened to us.

Like you I (hate Toronto / hate Ottawa / hate Toronto and Ottawa).

If our country has any problems, we have no one to blame but (ourselves / the French / the English / immigrants / the voices in my head).

With crime continuing to fall to historically low levels, now is the time to (hire more cops / build more jails / keep scaring people needlessly to get their votes).

My party goes into this election with a new leader, and I am excited because (he's smart / he's inspiring / he's got to be better than that last guy).

These are difficult times, and that is why it is (time for a change / no time to be making changes).

We need people in Ottawa who will bring (experience / a fresh approach / their own lunch) to the job.

And so I ask you to vote for me, and send me to Ottawa were I can (do the most good / do the least harm / get some well-deserved sleep).

© Stephen Lautens