With talk of non-confidence in his leadership within Liberal ranks, Stephane Dion made it clear he was reluctant to trigger an election. The opening week of the fall session, then, became an occasion for Stephen Harper to swagger and to dare the parliamentary opposition to bring him down. Progressive groups across the country, meanwhile, made clear their own opposition to the agenda of the Harper Conservatives.

Poverty relief needed

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) offered a comprehensive critique of the Conservative governmentâe(TM)s speech. Their response identifies the economic reality hidden beneath the rhetoric of âeoetax reliefâe for all, âeoeThe problem confronting hard-working Canadians is not that taxes are unfair; it’s that employment does not provide a just and livable income.âe

The CPJ statement also offers specific suggestions for poverty reduction, âeoeIncreasing government transfers to individuals like the Work Income Tax Benefit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit, in addition to raising the minimum wage and creating a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy would do more to provide hard-working Canadians with income security and to fight social exclusion.âe

The president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Paul Moist, observed that âeoerather than promoting strong public services âe” tools that work to prevent poverty âe” this Prime Minister seems intent on dismantling and privatizing the network of public services that build strong communities.âe

Staying the course until 2011?

Steven Staples of the Rideau Institute on International affairs rang the alarm over Harperâe(TM)s call to extend the military mission in Afghanistan until at least 2011. âeoeYesterdayâe(TM)s Throne Speech poses a direct challenge to you and me, and everyone who wants to end Canadaâe(TM)s war in Afghanistan,âe wrote Staples.

The long-time foreign policy observer also predicted that Ottawa will shift its emphasis in terms of the selling of the war, âeoeBased on advice from pollsters and strategists, Stephen Harper and General Hillier will spin the war as a humanitarian mission, all the while continuing the counter-insurgency fighting. He hopes this will help to divide the Liberal Party by convincing some Liberal MPs to support his military plan in the parliamentary vote.âe

Whether or not an election is called, the Canadian Peace Alliance is inviting everyone to âeoevote with their feetâe on Saturday, October 27, as part of a continent-wide day of peace marches to bring the troops home.

No more excuses on global warming

Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party, felt that the Throne Speech missed the real security issue requiring resolute action. âeoeWe heard the usual get-tough rhetoric about crime, drugs, terrorism and other perceived threats to our security. Clearly, Mr. Harper still doesn’t understand that the real threat to the security of current and future generations of Canadians is the global climate crisis,âe stated May.

NDP leader Jack Layton also took aim at the Prime Minister on climate change, accusing him of using the Liberals poor record on that issue as a red herring. âeoeWe are facing an unprecedented global crisis, and it is simply unacceptable for the government to use Liberal failures as an excuse for inaction,âe said Layton.

âeoeThat is why this is the time once and for all to take real action, not water down the clean air act and the climate change act.âe

While Harper has declared Kyoto targets unreachable, he did repeat a desire to be part of an international effort to cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. The Sierra Club criticized the abandonment of Kyoto, and noted that âeoebased on the best science in the world, we must reduce emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, and we need to reduce emissions in the 2008 to 2012 period.âe

Following a week marked by a lot of hot air and heated talk in Ottawa, an election is still on hold for now. The campaign against the governmentâe(TM)s agenda, however, is already well underway.