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Bring Harper Down over Detainee Issue - Election Anyone?

remind
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continued from here


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ottawaobserver
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Much as I had heard, the Liberals and Bloc appear to be ready to cave on some points, the negotiations were nevertheless able to wring some concessions out of the government and may get more, but the NDP is holding out (we don't know what on, exactly).

Here's the latest on it from the Globe and Mail story tonight.

Quote:

The Harper government and opposition parties failed to strike a deal Monday on granting select MPs access to secret documents on Canada's handling of detainees.

However, the NDP is signalling it doesn't expect to be part of any deal reached Tuesday, suggesting the Tories will reach an accord with only the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois.

"That's becoming a very real possibility," NDP MP Joe Comartin said in an interview.

The 144-seat Harper minority government only requires one party's support to secure the votes necessary to pass legislation or avoid a defeat. So it can do without the backing of the NDP.

Mr. Comartin told CTV's Power Play that the Conservatives made "two significant concessions" Monday. He said he expects the Tories will move further Tuesday in an effort to secure the agreement of the Liberals and Bloc Québécois.

NDP Leader Jack Layton has threatened to launch a debate in the House on the matter that would take precedence over budget issues, including approving funding for the G8 and G20 summits. But this attempt at procedural wrangling will not succeed without the support of the Liberals and Bloc.


ottawaobserver
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New Democrats reject Conservatives' deal on Afghan documents

Tue 15 Jun 2010

Harper still intent on hiding the truth about torture, says Layton

OTTAWA - New Democrats will not sign the Harper government's latest proposal on access to Afghan detainee documents because it means Canadians will never learn the truth about torture in Afghanistan, says New Democrat Leader Jack Layton.

"The proposal denies the rights of Parliament, allows the government to hijack the process and doesn't live up to spirit or terms of the Speaker's ruling. The other parties were willing to accept compromises that we believe would prevent the truth from coming out. This is very much like the Blue Ribbon panel on EI that the Conservatives talked the Liberals into last June. And what happened there? Absolutely nothing. The Conservatives played the Liberals for dupes all summer long."

In April, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken ordered the government to negotiate an agreement with the opposition parties that would give them access to the documents. On May 14, the parties reached an agreement in principle. Since then, the government has been dragging its feet in negotiations on the terms of the document releases and insisting on conditions that New Democrats consider unacceptable.

The Conservatives' latest proposal:

  • excludes legal documents and cabinet records from review, contrary to the intent of the Speaker's ruling;
  • allows a single member of the committee to refer all the documents to the panel of arbiters for review, tying up the process endlessly.

In the U.S., the Department of Justice advised President George Bush that he could ignore international law when it came to the torture of detainees. That advice was made public.

"But the agreement the Conservatives are proposing here would make that impossible. We believe Canadians have a right to know who the government is listening to, and the arguments they are making," said Mr. Layton. "The Conservatives want to conceal the truth about the Afghan detainee affair. The NDP will not participate in this dishonest charade. We now believe the only satisfactory path to obtaining the truth is through a full judicial inquiry."

Defence Critic Jack Harris will move the attached motion in the House today.

----------------------------------------------

(the motion is really long; will link to Hansard instead, when it comes out)

ETA:  Better still:  Macleans.ca posted a copy here.


ottawaobserver
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Reality Check: Speaker's ruling vs. Conservative travesty

Tue 15 Jun 2010

The Liberals and Bloc have signed on to a deal that will never get at the truth about torture, and undermines the oversight of Parliament. Compare the agreement with the historic ruling of the Speaker:

Speaker Milliken's ruling wrote:

"The insinuation that members of Parliament cannot be trusted with the very information that they may well require to act on behalf of Canadians runs contrary to the inherent trust that Canadians have placed in their elected officials and which members require to act in their various parliamentary capacities." Peter Milliken, Speaker, Hansard, April 27, 2010

"the ad hoc committee does not make decisions related to the disclosure of information" Memorandum of Understanding, # 5.

Speaker Milliken's ruling wrote:

"It is perfectly within the existing privileges of the House to order production of the documents in question. Bearing in mind that the fundamental role of Parliament is to hold the government to account, as the servant of the House and the protector of its privileges, I cannot agree with the government's interpretation that ordering these documents transgresses the separation of powers and interferes with the spheres of activity of the executive branch." Peter Milliken, Speaker, Hansard, April 27, 2010

Point IV of the Conservatives' proposed memorandum of understanding would reject this and have all parties agree that legal papers and cabinet documents cannot be reviewed by MPs: "Recognizing that Cabinet confidences and information subject to solicitor-client privilege are classes of information that the Parliament of Canada has long recognized are not necessary or appropriate for the purpose of holding the Government to account."

Speaker Milliken's ruling wrote:

"However, several members have pointed out that Mr. Iacobucci's appointment establishes a separate, parallel process outside of parliamentary oversight, and without parliamentary involvement" Peter Milliken, Speaker, Hansard, April 27, 2010

The Conservative's proposed memorandum of understanding rejects the notion of Parliament being involved in the vetting of documents "An ad hoc committee of parliamentarians will be established external to the House of Commons"


Stockholm
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I can understand why the Liberals would buckle once again - but I'm surprised that the BQ would be such patsies. Would it not be in thre BQ's interest to join the NDP in denouncing the Tory obfuscation and leave the Liberals isolated?


ottawaobserver
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I truly do not understand why.


ottawaobserver
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... AND ... the toxic spin is already starting from the Liberals, who are saying that the NDP never negotiated in good faith from the start, because they didn't take the requirements of national security seriously.

A close reading of Jack Harris' motion should clear that misconception up right away, but the media don't read anything longer than a tweet these days.  It's hopeless.


Stockholm
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we just have to get our own spin out there - Liberals cave in again!


Life, the unive...
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Where are all the babblers who condemned the NDP on this issue.  Shouldn't they be here condeming the Liberals and BQ.  I won't hold my breath though.


KenS
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I dont appreciate being baited by people who say "where are all the NDP partsans/dupesnow that _______ has happened."

So how about refraining from returning the favour?


Unionist
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Well, I wish some of my good prophecies would come true, instead of just the gloomy ones.

All three opposition parties betrayed here, when they reached their bullshit "tenative agreement" last month - and accepted in principle that Parliament, and Canadians, might never see the documents which Parliament had lawfully demanded be produced. The rest is political posturing.

For the Liberals and BQ, neither of whom ever condemned the holy mission in Afghanistan, nothing can come as a surprise.

For the NDP, they were simply outthought, outpaced, and outmanoeuvred as always - declaring "victory" prematurely, and now scrambling.

I have no reason to revisit what I said one month ago:

Unionist, on May 14, wrote:
The key thing here must not be forgotten - that Parliament's order to disclose the documents has been defied, and that all the "opposition" parties are now complicit in that. They are terrified of Harper - and rightly so - but not enough to actually stand up to him. ...

Before this agreement was concluded, I warned that Harper was going to win. Once the opposition parties bought into the notion of "national security" being somehow at stake in an unlawful invasion and occupation, and treatment of prisoners which violates international law, the game was over. The detainee issue is finished now - in the same way that the issue of Omar Khadr is finished.

Not that Canadians of all walks of life don't care, and won't continue their activism on these and related issues. The parties in the House have been outmanoeuvred yet again, and they see no way to score political points by carrying on. Now, as in the case of Khadr, nothing need happen on the detainee issue for years to come. If we're lucky, Canada will be chased screaming from Afghanistan long before the farce of this committee is played out.

 


NDPP
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Yes, the Liberals and BQ should be condemned -  but the end result is still that the war criminals' crimes stay buried . That's still the problem.


Life, the unive...
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KenS wrote:

I dont appreciate being baited by people who say "where are all the NDP partsans/dupesnow that _______ has happened."

So how about refraining from returning the favour?

and yet the responses are oh so predictable.  No acknowledgement in either post above this one that the NDP did something right.  Let's not pretend here.


KenS
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Unionist wrote:

For the NDP, they were simply outthought, outpaced, and outmanoeuvred as always - declaring "victory" prematurely, and now scrambling.

We've been around this on a lot of issues Unionist.

What is "outpaced" "outhought", "outmanouvered" when you are dealing with a multi-variable circus?

There is only so much in the parliamentary field that the NDP can do alone. Its quite a juggling act trying to bully a larger partner that wants to squish you into cooperating to get around Harper.

"Bully" [or 'compell' if you prefer] and "cooperate" in the first place, inherently don't mix well.

Let alone when the partner in question historically positions itself by posturing in the safest place possible. Which gets even worse when its confused [by its own very low standards] and weakened.


KenS
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Life, the universe, everything wrote:

and yet the responses are oh so predictable.  No acknowledgement in either post above this one that the NDP did something right.  Let's not pretend here.

Who needs to acknowledge what the NDP did right? There's still what it could have achieved if it was closer to the sun.


Unionist
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From April 30:

KenS wrote:
Unionist wrote:

I think I mentioned that Harper will win this little skirmish. Just watch him.

Note something very central to what we can expect to see unfold: the parties are working on a compromise.

Compromise means no one gets everything they want.

But I'll go out on a limb- but a big fat one I'm very confident will hold me- that whatever the eventual agreement, Unionist will declare Harper the winner. Just watch him.

I declare Harper the winner. Hands down. Thus, Ken's prediction was correct. Even though, on May 14, someone prematurely declared: "This is a victory for parliamentary democracy." Innocent

I do wonder, however, whom Ken considers to have won this skirmish - and what compromise the Conservatives made - and what they wanted which they won't be getting.


KenS
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Mugs game set up by you Unioist.

You didnt just say that Harper would win- an easy prediction to make even for a minority government- you said the NDP was outfoxed, othought.

Get thinking man, even in the most general terms, and with all the benefit of hindsight, if the NDP needs the cooperation of the Liberals to actually do something, and to deny Harper a win by default... whats the big plan?


Unionist
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KenS wrote:

Mugs game set up by you Unioist.

You didnt just say that Harper would win- an easy prediction to make even for a minority government- you said the NDP was outfoxed, othought.

Then, Ken, if it was that simple, why didn't you say: "you're right, Unionist, Harper will win, so we need to try something different?" Instead you said... well I just quoted it above, didn't I? You and many others cherished an illusion which had zero prospect of success. All we're left with is a talking point.

Quote:
Get thinking man, even in the most general terms, and with all the benefit of hindsight, if the NDP needs the cooperation of the Liberals to actually do something, and to deny Harper a win by default... whats the big plan?

I just would like the NDP to be a little smarter. Why did I ridicule their "victory" statement last month... because I'm such a political maven? Shit, I thought it was friggin' obvious that once all three parties had agreed in principle to the mere possibility that every single document might remain secret except for a handful of MPs, the game was over. So now it's confirmed.

And what about my other prediction, Ken? That like Omar Khadr - where a majority of Parliament jumps and leaps and rises to say nice things - the detainee issue is finished, for good. After the whole drama of the anti-prorogation movement. After triggering a movement and then dashing it to the ground. That's what I predicted, and I stand by it. Want to sign up for that mugs' game?

Why do I say this? Because in the final analysis, all three of these cowardly parties will follow Stockholm's mantra - that no one really cares about these faraway events. No one votes based on how jihadists are treated in prison cells. And even parliamentary supremacy is a vacuous theoretical notion, when Harper does exactly what he wants - when he wants - on every single issue imaginable, without constraint - and if one party makes a mistake and votes against him, the other jumps to the rescue.

That's what he won and why he won. There was no profound political analysis required.


JKR
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What kind of long term ramifications will this deal have?

Will future governments be able to use this as a precedent to keep info from Parliament?

The NDP election campaign should stress restoring democracy and the independence of the House of Commons.

The Conservatives remind me of the Philadelphia Flyers during their Broad Street Bully days. Their coach Fred Shero was much  like Harper. He would try to get away with as much as he could. He would bend the rules and manipulate refs as much as he could just to win. He would win at any cost, even if it was very ugly. The NHL had to change their rules and close loopholes that Shero used to change the game to resemble roller derby. Shero and the Flyers won two Stanley Cups before the Montreal Canadiens restored order to the hockey world. Hopefully, Harper will be limited to two governments and the NDP will be the Montreal Canadiens of politics.

Quote:

Fire the Managers

Governing as business

The source of the problem goes back to the 1990s, the first decade of enhanced corporate rights (so-called free trade) where the mantra was "We have to run government like a business." People should be careful what they ask for because the decline of democratic governance and the dilution of the ideals of leadership flow directly from that corporate imperative. Until we recognize it and reverse it we are unlikely to find our way out of the dilemma.

Stephen Harper does run the country like a business -- with a ruthless disregard for any interests other than the fiduciary interests of those who want to see humanist, activist government dismantled. No other prime minister in Canadian history has shown such casual contempt for democracy, its ideals and its institutions.

UBC psychology professor Robert Hare has written about what he describes as the sub-criminal psychopath. When such people rise to the top, they serve the needs of a profit-driven organization ruthlessly well. Is it a stretch to say that, in that mode, Stephen Harper has become the quintessential, post-industrial corporate manager?

That's what passes today for leadership.


ottawaobserver
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If the objective was to publicly release all the documents, that was never on the table, and Unionist was going to be disappointed from the get-go.

If the objective was to protect parliamentary supremacy and the right to order the production of papers, which is what the NDP Caucus was talking about, then what the Liberals and Bloc have signed on to gives that away, and must be fought.

I might have profound disagreements with what the government keeps secret and why, but I do accept that at least some information is justified to be classified as Secret (meaning you need that clearance to see it, and can't share it with those who don't have that clearance).  Unionist seems not to accept this point, which is his right, but it's an extreme position.

The position the government was taking was that MPs had no right to see secret or top secret documents because they might leak them, and that only the government could determine what should be seen or not.  The Speaker already found this position violated the principle of the supremacy of Parliament, when he made his ruling.

The Liberals accepted an agreement that said a panel of jurists selected by all the parties would determine what the MPs on the Committee could see or not.  Their big concession that they got from the government (whoop-de-doo) was that they could pick their own judges to sit with Frank Iacobucci.  The MPs will still not see any documents that this panel decides they can't.

Also, the process can be endlessly hijacked by any MP asking for any document to be referred to that panel.  Next week I predict Pierre Poilievre will be given a secret security clearance, named to that committee, and start referring each and every document to the panel of jurists.

Even some (normally very partisan) Liberal bloggers believe this is a complete sell out of the principle of parliamentary supremacy.

If the Liberals and Bloc had held firm to the principle that MPs will decide what they can see, and can be trusted not to reveal material that should not be released publicly, they would have been backed up by the Speaker.

As it stands, the Speaker may yet back up Harris' point of privilege.  We'll know after Question Period, I think.

Now, what if the MPs had seen documentation in the secret documents that raised questions they believed ought to be raised publicly.  That's all moot now, but two options I can think of are: (i) anything they say in the Commons is protected (their ancient right), and (ii) they could petition the courts to change the designation of the information in that document.


Unionist
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ottawaobserver wrote:

If the objective was to publicly release all the documents, that was never on the table, and Unionist was going to be disappointed from the get-go.

No one ever said "public release of all documents".

Quote:
If the objective was to protect parliamentary supremacy and the right to order the production of papers, which is what the NDP Caucus was talking about, then what the Liberals and Bloc have signed on to gives that away, and must be fought.

I agree it must be fought - but the NDP gave that away in the "tentative agreement" as well - as you know. It left the decision of what Parliament can see in the hands of unelected outsiders, with no right of appeal. Milliken never mandated that. That was capitulation #1.

Quote:
I might have profound disagreements with what the government keeps secret and why, but I do accept that at least some information is justified to be classified as Secret (meaning you need that clearance to see it, and can't share it with those who don't have that clearance).  Unionist seems not to accept this point, which is his right, but it's an extreme position.

No, OO, my position is that in this country, Parliament is supposed to be supreme. Parliament decides what is "Secret" - not you. Once the NDP (and Liberals and BQ) ceded that fundamental principle, there was little left of Parliamentary supremacy to uphold. Milliken never mandated that. That was capitulation #2.

The position the government was taking was that MPs had no right to see secret or top secret documents because they might leak them, and that only the government could determine what should be seen or not.  The Speaker already found this position violated the principle of the supremacy of Parliament, when he made his ruling.

Quote:

If the Liberals and Bloc had held firm to the principle that MPs will decide what they can see, and can be trusted not to reveal material that should not be released publicly, they would have been backed up by the Speaker.

All it takes is one party. Had the NDP stood firm before May 14, it might be more credible in its stand now. I hope and pray that even at this point, the NDP will indeed hold its ground. Milliken never said that a dirty deal between some (not all) of the parties would suffice to set aside his power to enforce the question of privilege.

 


ottawaobserver
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Unionist wrote:

ottawaobserver wrote:

If the objective was to protect parliamentary supremacy and the right to order the production of papers, which is what the NDP Caucus was talking about, then what the Liberals and Bloc have signed on to gives that away, and must be fought.

I agree it must be fought - but the NDP gave that away in the "tentative agreement" as well - as you know. It left the decision of what Parliament can see in the hands of unelected outsiders, with no right of appeal. Milliken never mandated that. That was capitulation #1.

That's not my understanding of what transpired, or what was agreed to.

Unionist wrote:

ottawaobserver wrote:

I might have profound disagreements with what the government keeps secret and why, but I do accept that at least some information is justified to be classified as Secret (meaning you need that clearance to see it, and can't share it with those who don't have that clearance).  Unionist seems not to accept this point, which is his right, but it's an extreme position.

No, OO, my position is that in this country, Parliament is supposed to be supreme. Parliament decides what is "Secret" - not you. Once the NDP (and Liberals and BQ) ceded that fundamental principle, there was little left of Parliamentary supremacy to uphold. Milliken never mandated that. That was capitulation #2.

That is a misunderstanding of the constitutional division of powers. The Governor-in-Council (i.e., cabinet, the executive branch) decides what it secret or top secret. That Parliament is supreme means that it can order the production of those papers regardless of their classification, the Speaker ruled.

Unionist wrote:

ottawaobserver wrote:

The position the government was taking was that MPs had no right to see secret or top secret documents because they might leak them, and that only the government could determine what should be seen or not.  The Speaker already found this position violated the principle of the supremacy of Parliament, when he made his ruling.

If the Liberals and Bloc had held firm to the principle that MPs will decide what they can see, and can be trusted not to reveal material that should not be released publicly, they would have been backed up by the Speaker.

All it takes is one party. Had the NDP stood firm before May 14, it might be more credible in its stand now. I hope and pray that even at this point, the NDP will indeed hold its ground. Milliken never said that a dirty deal between some (not all) of the parties would suffice to set aside his power to enforce the question of privilege.

It's also my understanding that any MP can raise a point of privilege.  I suspect there may have been some behind-the-scenes sounding out of the Speaker as to how he might rule, or at least what he might consider.

I do hope they stick to their guns, and I'm sorry they have to do it alone, frankly.


Life, the unive...
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I hate to interject with facts that might get in the way of a rigteous hanging of the NDP but Unionist you are completely wrong about what the tentative agreement contained.  It contained a provision that after MPs on the committee reviewed a document it could then be refered to the extra-judical group for release if there was disagreement. MPs still saw the document.  It was that referral that could not be appealed, not whether MPs reveiwed the document or not.  That referal could have been made by oppositions members who wanted it released, or the government who did not.  The appeal was final, but again MPs saw the documents and may have found other ways to get information out.

Now it appears that this extra-judical group will review the documents first and then decide whether MPs can see it.  That is a significant difference.


Unionist
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Life, the universe, everything wrote:

I hate to interject with facts that might get in the way of a rigteous hanging of the NDP but Unionist you are completely wrong about what the tentative agreement contained.  It contained a provision that after MPs on the committee reviewed a document it could then be refered to the extra-judical group for release if there was disagreement. MPs still saw the document. 

Yes. Four (4) MPs. Sworn to secrecy. And without their agreement, or the panel of experts' unappealable ruling, no document could be shown even to the House Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan - let alone Parliament as a whole. So Parliament had no assurance of seeing any document at all. It was up to two groups, both operating behind closed doors, sworn to secrecy, and both with the power to make "final and unreviewable" decisions.

Quote:
The appeal was final, but again MPs saw the documents and may have found other ways to get information out.

What - one or both committees rules that the documents are too secret to be seen even by the Special Committee, and the sole NDP MP on the committee (or her alternate) "leaks" it to the media? Are you serious?

As for OO's comments, I stand by what I said. There is no such thing in Canada as a "constitutional division of powers", except between the federal government and the provinces. The Governor General has certain powers, but they do not extend to keeping documents secret in defiance of Parliament - and that's surely what we're talking about here.

It seems some have forgotten the elements (admittedly vague, because never committed to writing) of the "tentative agreement" - there are many decent accounts around, one of them being here, including associated links.

 


ottawaobserver
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Update:  the Prime Minister just avoided answering Layton's questions on this issue, by calling for Libby's resignation for apparently saying that Israel was an occupying force in 1948 instead of 1967.


Unionist
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So, OO, what will we say when Layton complies? Might as well put our thinking caps on. I've got my answer ready. I do believe I've given it already.


ottawaobserver
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He defended her in the House, for your information, and she was sitting right behind him in the camera shot clapping.


Unionist
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ottawaobserver wrote:

He defended her in the House, for your information, and she was sitting right behind him in the camera shot clapping.

So OO, do you think she'll resign as Deputy Leader? You're more in touch with the inside track than I am.


ottawaobserver
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No, I don't.


Fidel
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ottawaobserver wrote:
Update:  the Prime Minister just avoided answering Layton's questions on this issue, by calling for Libby's resignation for apparently saying that Israel was an occupying force in 1948 instead of 1967.

 Our corrupt stooges tend to avoid answering very many questions from the NDP.


Life, the unive...
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I don't know what possesed me to do it, but I just finished reading the comments on the CTV website about this story.  I feel unclean, the racist, classist and outright bizzarness they represent scares me for Canada.  Thankfully I know it is probably really about 10 people sitting in various party offices, but man is it scary.


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