BC NDP Director Raj Sihota becomes first South Asian woman to hold top staff position

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Bailey Nicholson

Raj Sihota is now the first woman of South Asian descent to hold the top staff position at a major political party in BC.

Sihota is Provincial Director of the BC NDP as the party prepares for the upcoming May 2017 election. She was appointed in August.

According to a release by the party, Sihota has played key roles in many elections. Some of which include the recent by-election wins in Coquitlam and Vancouver where MLAs Melanie Mark and Jodie Wickens were elected.

She says it’s important to see South Asian women in powerful positions.

“South Asian women of my generation are making a difference in all parts of our society… We are professionals, leading businesses and now running political party offices as strategists and administrators.”

In the release, NDP Leader John Horgan says he’s proud of the role that South Asians have played in the BC NDP, and that his party has gone above and beyond to send a positive message to visible minorities.

“All political parties understand the need to field candidates that appeal to their voters, but the NDP has gone a major step further by appointing a visible minority woman to the top staff job. This sends a powerful message to other women of visible minorities that the NDP takes them seriously and values their skills and contributions.”

Does the B.C. gov’t care more about casino cash than casino crime?


B.C. government says 105 people with suspected ties to organized crime have been banned from casinos.

More than 100 people have been banned from B.C. casinos over suspected links to organized crime, according to the B.C. Lottery Corp.

It’s the first time, to my knowledge, that this number has been publicly confirmed and comes as the government is suing a Salmon Arm manin an alleged casino money-laundering case.

The government announced a crackdown on rampant money laundering in casinos five years ago, but now the government says money laundering is still happening.

It makes you wonder if the problem is even bigger than the government is willing to admit.

According to the government’s lawsuit, B.C. casinos paid out more than $2 million last year to Michael Mancini.

The government says Mancini was using the casinos to launder drug money. Mancini denies it and says he’s just a lucky guy who won a lot of slot-machine jackpots.

The police stumbled on to the case when they stopped Mancini for suspected drunk driving and found cash, casino cheques and crack cocaine in his car.

Solicitor General Mike Morris said Monday traffic cops make big busts all the time.

“Our traffic police, right across this province, are our front-line resources that uncover all kinds of criminal activity,” Morris said. “We need them out there to continue doing that.”

Fair enough, but how many more suspected money-laundering rackets would have been busted if the government hadn’t scrapped a specialized police unit seven years ago?

The government shut down the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team in 2009. The specialized unit had a budget of just $1 million — a number that dwarfs the amount the government spends trying to lure gamblers into its casinos.

“Keep in mind the savings here,” NDP critic David Eby told the legislature. “One dollar saved in policing for every $30 the B.C. Lottery Corp. spends on advertising.”

But now the government is hinting that a renewed police crackdown on casino money laundering is coming.

“We are now in the process of finalizing a co-ordinated approach to this question,” said Finance Minister Mike de Jong, adding that a new anti-money-laundering strategy is being developed with the RCMP.

De Jong refused to say how much money will be spent on this new effort, or if the budget will match the one spent on the integrated police team the government shut down.

Whatever the amount, it won’t be enough to retroactively catch criminals who have been haunting B.C. casinos for years.

According to the B.C. Lottery Corp., 105 people have been banned from B.C. casinos over suspected ties to organized crime. With the amount of dirty money sloshing around out there, the number seems low.

The government, though, is making a killing on casino profits, making it reasonable to wonder whether the government cares more about casino cash than casino crime.

Full Pundit: Canada re-embraces the Liberals.

Chris Selley

National Post

This will be interesting.
What happens next?
“Stephen Harper simply wore out his welcome,” Sun Media’s David Akin observes. “And MPs from his Conservative Party and from Thomas Mulcair’s NDP paid with their jobs.” Canadians wanted change; it seems they wanted it in even greater numbers than they did in 2006; Justin Trudeau was the “change agent” they chose. Sorry, Mr. Mulcair. Congratulations, Mr. Trudeau.
There are many ways in which Justin is not like Pierre Elliott. For one thing, Graeme Hamilton observes in the National Post, Pierre was “parachuted into one of Canada’s safest Liberal ridings when he entered politics in 1965,” whereas Justin slogged it out in Papineau. Whereas Pierre “famously proved his mettle when he refused to leave the reviewing stand at the St-Jean-Baptiste parade in Montreal as protesters hurled rocks and bottles,” Justin proved it “in batting aside the relentless negative messaging thrown at him” ever since he arrived on the scene. You have to give the man his due.
Oh, and extra points to Hamilton for not mentioning that stupid bloody boxing match, which obviously did not matter. Let us never speak of it again.
Alain Dubuc, writing in La Presse, cautions against selling Trudeau short. He did more than just exceed low expectations and tug at our hope-strings. “He scored points off seasoned opponents,” says Dubuc. And he displayed an “ability to occupy the centre,” where most Canadians want their prime ministers to be.
Now that he’s set to become prime minister, mind you, he’s got some agenda to fulfil from the centre. The Liberal platform was pretty ambitious; one wonders if its authors really thought he’d be in a position to implement all of it.
“The smile that spread across the lips of the Canadian elites during the last week of this election, when Harper was reduced to posing with Rob Ford and his brother , … was almost wolfish,” Neil Macdonald writes in a good piece at CBC. And the elites will no doubt have been chuffed with Trudeau’s very Obama-lite speech. But the fact is, as Macdonald says, “Trudeau now bears the weight of impossible expectations that he himself largely created.” And “it didn’t take long for Obama to hit a bog of reality once his public rapture wore off six years ago.”
The world is going to come at Justin Trudeau pretty fast now. This will be interesting
The Globe and Mail’s Campbell Clark observes there’s a G20 summit coming up in three weeks; he imagines Trudeau’s “plan to withdraw from the air strikes against Islamic State… will be of interest” there. (Indeed. While a few Canadian jets doesn’t make much of a difference either way, it’s a bit of a clunker as one of his first acts in office. Trudeau has never explained why the mission is sound, but not Canada’s role in it.)
Then there’s the climate change summit in December, after which Trudeau is committed to “hammering out a federal-provincial (emissions) deal within 90 days.” Back at home, says Clark, Trudeau is going to have to put together a cabinet and figure out how to conduct himself in such a way that honours his hopey-changey promises of politics-done-differently while also of necessity “imposing (his) authority.”
The Financial Post’s Terence Corcoran suspects Trudeau’s headline economic promises will soon fade into the background once he starts dealing “with the real drivers of the Canadian economy — the price of oil, persistent global economic uncertainty, Middle East conflicts, the international refugee crises, trade agreements, international and local debt, along with the great global monetary policy muddle and the future of interest rates in the United States.”
Climate is first on the agenda at next month’s Paris summit, and Corcoran doesn’t like the tight timeline. “There is therefore some risk of stumbling into an international carbon control regime that will damage the Canadian economy,” he argues. If so, hopefully it’ll be another regime the Liberals can just ignore.
Adam Dodek, writing in the Globe, explores Trudeau’s very ambitious democratic reform agenda: decentralizing power to his cabinet and letting members actually talk about their files to the media; liberating backbench MPs to be themselves and speak their minds; “reinvigorating” the public service and enforcing transparency upon it; and following through on some kind of non-constitutional Senate reform. It’s not just a matter of reverting to pre-Harper days, as Dodek says. “In many cases — like the concentration of power in the PMO — Mr. Harper did not create the problem, but continued and exacerbated it,” he reminds us.
In that regard, at Policy Options, Dan Gardner offers some sage policymaking advice to the Liberals: resist the urge to undo things or do the opposite of things just because Stephen Harper did those things; and recognize that Canada was not perfect before Harper came along. The status quo ante isn’t the goal; improvement is. (The obvious exception is home mail delivery, which achieved perfection late in 2003.) Criminal sentencing is a perfect example, as Gardner says. They could “simply go down the list of newly passed mandatory minimums and repeal them one by one” — but the Criminal Code has been “a mess” for decades. So address the mess!
Dodek doesn’t even mention electoral reform, incidentally, and on Tuesday Trudeau reiterated his commitment that Monday’s would be our last first-past-the-post election.Bernard Descôteaux, writing in Le Devoir, suspects the New Democrats will firmly be reminding him of that commitment as time goes on. We’d frankly be astonished if Trudeau made good on that promise, but depending on what they come up with we’re prepared to be pleasantly astonished.
Trudeau’s agenda is not an incrementalist one like Harper’s, the Post’s Michael Den Tandt observes. And a wide-open governance style would be at odds with his “disciplined and gaffe-free” campaign. “With glasnost, and the broad loosening of the PM’s grip on cabinet and caucus that would accompany it, will come opportunities for mistakes,” as Den Tandt says. “It remains to be seen to what extent Trudeau and his advisors will tolerate the risk of relaxing central control.”
Oh, dear. Richard Martineau is unimpressed. “So the new prime minister will be a former drama teacher who wouldn’t even be qualified to run a small-to-medium-sized enterprise,” he writes in Le Journal de Montréal. His misery-guts colleague Mathieu Bock-Côté is even less impressed, lamenting that Quebecers have returned in such numbers to a party and a family name with such a “morbid aversion to Quebec and hostility in principle to any constitutional recognition of its identity.”
“The Québécois people clearly have no political memory,” Bock-Côté concludes. It makes him question their survival instinct. But then, a rainy summer morning or a sub-par meal makes him question Quebecers’ survival instinct.
Given the history, you would have expected the Liberal surge to have driven some votes to the Bloc Québécois, Michel David observes in Le Devoir: if the NDP were on the way out, better for sovereigntists to park their vote somewhere safe and warm. Nope. David therefore asks: “Must we conclude that Quebecers are now ready to accept Canadian federalism, to wipe clean the slate on repatriating the constitution, the Clarity Act and the sponsorship scandal?”
Yup! We’ll never hear about those things again.
In La Presse’s editorial, Pascale Breton notes that Quebec in general and Montreal specifically now have far more clout in Ottawa than they have had in years. (Get readyfor your new toll-free Champlain Bridge, Montrealers!)
But the Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson wonders who will now speak for mostly blue-and-orange Alberta. “Is it the province’s Conservative MPs? … Is it the four Liberal MLAs? … Is it Premier Rachel Notley, who proudly and loudly backed the wrong horse?” Thomson sees some common ground between Notley and Trudeau on oil patch matters; it’s certainly better news for her than another Conservative government in Ottawa. But her counterproductive intervention still stands as “her first real stumble,” in Thomson’s view.
What happened
It’s a myth that governments usually defeat themselves, argues Postmedia’s Andrew Coyne. But Stephen Harper’s Conservatives? Yeah, they defeated themselves — with a “dull, purposeless” campaign amounting to little more than “a series of morosely staged photo ops featuring Stephen Harper with nothing really to announce.” Mind you, Coyne says, they were so unpopular beforehand — again largely thanks to their own actions — that only a minority was likely in play anyway, and “only if the opposition vote remained almost perfectly evenly divided.”
Tom Flanagan, writing in the Globe, argues the Conservative campaign was far too short on positive elements that hadn’t already been announced, such as the Child Care Allowance, income splitting and tax-free savings accounts — which the Liberals were easily able to counter with their own giant novelty cheques.
“At its best, the Conservative campaign was lacklustre. Where was the bold plan for the future? The new initiatives?” John Ibbitson asks in the Globe. “At its worst, the campaign was debased. The niqab debate. The Ford brothers.” Oh right. That actually happened.
The Tory base came out, Andrew MacDougall notes in the Ottawa Citizen. No problem there. “The problem for Harper is that was it,” he says. “As a result, the Liberals grew from 34 seats to form a majority government. It might have been Iggy who told Liberals to ‘rise up’ but it was Trudeau who produced the electoral Viagra that has put the Liberals back in pole position.”
OK, that was totally unnecessary.
Harper “could not articulate a single bold thing he wanted to do if given one last term in power,” the Globe’s Adam Radwanski observes. And while “the Tories were less guilty than the New Democrats of underestimating Mr. Trudeau,” he argues “they overestimated … the ability of Mr. Harper to win over swing voters in the absence of much resembling a forward-looking agenda.” Instead they spent all their times “attacking the alternatives.”
Jason Kenney delivered a quote for the ages in Calgary last night, as related by Susan Delacourt at iPolitics: “I think where we went wrong was on tone.” We think he’s dead right, and he can tell it to the mirror. At immigration he did any number of unpopular things the Liberals did as well, and created about 10,000 times the controversy they did, for the simple reason that he seemed to revel in doing them.
The Toronto Star’s Tim Harper suggests Kenney’s leadership prospects may have been seriously damaged Monday, so “inextricably tied” is he to “this night of infamy.” Indeed. No disrespect intended to the guy, but he is simply of the wrong temperament to be the next leader of this party.
Delacourt hopes the “consumers who went to the ballot box looking for discounts on their taxes in the past few elections may have remembered that they were citizens as well as ‘taxpayers’ in this one.” A nice idea, but there was no shortage of basic economic pitches in the Liberal campaign, was there?
The Calgary Herald’s Don Braid provides a little perspective: as thumpings go, this is hardly “catastrophic” for the Tories. “With victories in 99 ridings, they remain a significant political force that could easily revive with a popular new leader, one with some gift for human contact that Harper could never muster in public,” he writes. Kenney has that gift, no question. After Monday’s defeat he “almost immediately said the party needs a ‘sunnier’ and more optimistic conservatism,” Braid observes. But fairly or not, he’s also seen as a cartoon villain.
“Harper will wear this defeat for all time,” Chantal Hébert writes in the Star — and not just the defeat, but the epic Liberal comeback in reasonably good economic times. ”Whether the Conservatives can agree on a successor without tearing the party apart is not a given.”
Ibbitson, however, argues the stains will eventually wash out, leaving “much that Stephen Harper can be proud of”: uniting the conservative movement, bringing “the West into the heart of the federal government,” trade agreements, not screwing up the financial crisis, “a decade of peace … between Ottawa and the provinces,” putting more money back in our pockets and just generally making “the federal government mean less in our lives, which was what this most conservative of prime ministers wanted more than anything else.”
Uh huh. And then we all went out and elected Captain National Strategy, the first guy in yonks to campaign on running deficits. Ouch.
Oh, and just by the by, the Star’s Heather Mallick regales us with tales of her hard work against the Harper government, and of how ever so much she has suffered for her art.

Mulcair releases full platform, halving the surplus previously projected for an NDP government

The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — An NDP government would make trade talks more transparent, reform the electoral system and ban bulk water exports, under the party’s full policy platform released Friday.
The New Democrats are also acknowledging that the surplus they had previously forecast for their first budget could be cut in half.
Trying to capitalize on criticism of the Harper government over recent TransPacific Partnership trade talks, the NDP is promising to make international trade negotiations more open to public scrutiny.
“Stephen Harper has failed to get the best deal for Canada and Justin Trudeau is ready to go along with him,” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said in prepared remarks, referring to the trade deal announced earlier in the week.
The NDP policy platform, released in Montreal, also proposes a total ban on bulk water exports across international boundaries, a move designed to counter Liberal party claims that Mulcair once supported the practice as a Quebec cabinet minister.
The 72-page platform broadly outlines all of the campaign pledges the NDP has made so far in their quest to form government after Oct. 19.
But the document also includes a new “sensitivity analysis,” which incorporates the most recent projections from the parliamentary budget office.
In its costing document released earlier in the election campaign, the New Democrats had promised to balance the federal budget in fiscal 2016-17, and predicted a $4.1 billion surplus for the year.
The new platform includes a projection made in July by the PBO, which forecast a $2.4 billion surplus, based on the Bank of Canada’s July Monetary Policy Report.
While many of the commitments had not been formally announced during the election campaign, most of the promises have been talked about by the NDP over the last few years while the party was in official Opposition.
These include a pledge to give the information commissioner the power to force departments to release information to the public and to eliminate excessive fees above $5 charged by the government to access information.
The New Democrats have also resurrected plans to pass a new Consumer Protection Act that would, among other things, cap ATM fees at 50 cents a transaction and create a gasoline ombudsman to investigate complaints about prices at the pump.
As well, the party wants to bring in a mixed-member, proportional representation voting system and is committing to ensure that Canadians living abroad have the right to vote.
It also promises to phase out interest on all federal student loans.

Tories promise RCMP tip line for people to report neighbours for ‘barbaric cultural practices’


OTTAWA — Campaigning Conservatives continued to press the hot buttons Friday, focusing on what they call “barbaric cultural practices” and Muslim facial coverings amid evidence the tight, three-way election race may be starting to break loose.
Chris Alexander, the Conservative immigration minister who’s facing a tough Liberal challenge in his Toronto-area riding, held a news conference Friday to remind the electorate of last November’s “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act,” and to promise even more government resources if re-elected, including a proposed RCMP tip line where people could report “information about incidents of barbaric cultural practices in Canada.”
Alexander directly linked the message to a proposed Conservative ban on women wearing facial coverings at citizenship ceremonies, the so-called niqab debate that targets a tiny subset of Muslims and has roiled Internet comment boards with hate-filled, racist rants.
“We need to stand up for our values,” said Alexander. “We need to do that in citizenship ceremonies. We need to do that to protect women and girls from forced marriage and other barbaric practices.”
In Halifax, Conservative Jason Kenney stoutly defended his party’s policy — since rejected by the courts — of banning the wearing of niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.
“Let’s be clear,” said the former Conservative immigration minister who nows holds the defence portfolio. “This practice of face covering reflects a misogynistic view of women which is grounded in medieval tribal culture.”
Kenney also defended the government’s move to strip convicted terrorists of their citizenship — while saying the punishment will not be extended to other criminal acts.
“We will not be pursuing any other legal or statutory grounds for citizenship revocation, let me be absolutely clear about that,” he stressed.
The heated campaign debate over “values” and religious accommodation appears to have spurred more than just anti-Islamic rhetoric in Quebec.
A pair of teens tore the headscarf from a pregnant woman in Montreal this week, causing her to fall on the ground. The incident prompted the Quebec national assembly to pass a unanimous motion Thursday condemning hate speech and violence against all Quebecers.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau hold the view that women should be able to choose how they dress, which is likely to again draw fire from Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, as it did in the first French-language debate a week ago.

Relaxed pot laws would hurt Canadians’ health, Stephen Harper says

OTTAWA—Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says his party still remains staunchly opposed to relaxing marijuana laws, despite federal polling indicating a majority of Canadians would support the move.

Speaking at an election campaign event in Markham on Tuesday, Harper said both his party and a majority of Canadians oppose the “full legalization” of marijuana.

“When you go down that route, marijuana becomes more readily available to children, more people become addicted to it and the health outcomes become worse,” Harper told reporters.

While most Canadians don’t support “full legalization,” an overwhelming majority do support the loosening of marijuana laws, according to the federal government’s own polling. In fact, only a small minority of Canadians support the Conservatives’ pot policy.

Of 3,000 Canadians polled last year, a full 70.7 per cent said the government should either legalize marijuana (37.3 per cent) or decriminalize the possession of a small amount of pot (33.4 per cent).

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has spelled out why he opposes making  marijuana legal.

 Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has spelled out why he opposes making marijuana legal.

Only 13.7 per cent said they support the status quo — essentially what the Conservatives are proposing — while 12 per cent said they believe Ottawa should impose harsher penalties.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has spelled out why he opposes making marijuana legal.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has spelled out why he opposes making marijuana legal.

The poll was conducted in early 2014 by Ipsos-Reid for the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic wing that supports the prime minister. In a series of focus groups, the pollsters found Canadians’ current understanding of marijuana laws is somewhat hazy.

“There was a great deal of confusion about whether the possession of small amounts of marijuana is a crime, a ticketable offence or completely legal,” the report stated.

“Participants often used the two terms ‘legalization’ and ‘decriminalization’ interchangeably and did not demonstrate a clear understanding of the distinction between the two.”

But the Conservatives clearly believe pot is a political winner for them. Harper, as well as former health minister Rona Ambrose, rarely miss an opportunity to point out that the Liberals under Justin Trudeau support legalization.

In the year leading up to the election, the Conservative government spent more than $5 million in public money on advertisements warning about the negative health effects of smoking marijuana.

On Tuesday, Harper claimed that Trudeau’s position would necessarily mean marijuana would be sold in stores like alcohol or tobacco.

“It is a dangerously misguided idea that would only serve to make drugs more accessible to our children,” he said. “Unlike the other parties, we will not introduce misguided and reckless policies that would downplay, condone or normalize the use of illegal drugs.”

Harper said a re-elected Conservative government would boost resources to enforce existing drug laws. The proposal would include a new telephone helpline to assist parents with concerns about their children’s drug use, a renewed 10-year mandate for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, together with a new focus to examine links between substance abuse and mental health.

Harper also promised more funding for the RCMP teams that target the production of illegal drugs.

The Conservatives

The party has long championed an enforcement-focused strategy to curb drug use. That includes opposing safe injection sites and refusing to relax marijuana laws.

Stephen Harper says if his party is re-elected, they would increase enforcement funding to the RCMP, create a telephone hotline for concerned parents, and a new mandate for the Mental Health Commission of Canada to look at connections between substance abuse and mental health.


The New Democrats under Thomas Mulcair are nominally for decriminalization, albeit with the caveat that more study is required before any law is changed. However, the party says nobody should go to jail for possession of a small amount while that study happens.

The party’s grassroots has previously pushed for full legalization, but heading into the October election the official policy is still decriminalization.

The Liberals

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, the only party leader to have publicly admitted to having smoked marijuana on one occasion, is for full legalization. What a legalized system would look like, however, is not yet clear.

The party said Tuesday that taxing and strictly regulating the production and sale of marijuana would take organized crime out of the pot business, while better protecting Canadian children.

The Greens

The Green Party supports the legalization of marijuana and an end to the “war on drugs.” The Greens’ platform envisions a system of strict regulation, small and independent growers, and taxing marijuana like tobacco.

The Greens’ also propose increased public awareness about the dangers of drugs, including tobacco, decriminalizing other illicit drugs due to the cost of law enforcement, and increased funding for safe injection sites.