Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- I don't entirely agree with Duncan Cameron's timeline for the NDP's Quebec victory, as the party had in fact been gaining at least some ground in the polls for months before this year's election. But he's absolutely right as to what we should expect next:
Francophone voters made the Liberals the dominant party in Canada; French speaking Québec has now elected New Democrats. Contrary to what the mainstream media has been reporting, the new NDP Quebec caucus is full of young, bright, energetic, and talented individuals. How well the NDP succeeds in bringing its new Quebec players front and centre will decide whether or not the New Democrats are poised to become the dominant player in Canadian politics. No one should underestimate how much the new Quebec MPs can accomplish by building on the lessons the NDP learned from the successful 2011 election campaign.
- The CP is right to note that there may be employment-related dangers involved in even basic online activity. But rather than simply accepting that as inevitable, I'd think it's worth asking a follow-up question: should employers in fact be entitled to use an employee's ordinary online activity as a basis for discipline or discrimination? And if not, might the solution have to come through legislation?

- Meanwhile, the Cons' own employment philosophy hasn't changed with their transition to a majority, as they're setting a new record for the cost of the federal cabinet. But then, silence in positions of nominal power does carry a price.

- But let's give them credit for evolving on at least some points - as rather than trying to serve as a Pod Person MP like some of her western partymates, new Con Senator Josee Verner is actively declaring that she couldn't care less what her former constituents have to say:
Verner made it clear that in this new role, she has no intention of representing the people in her home Quebec City region.

“The region of Quebec City didn’t wish to have representatives in government,” she told Le Soleil newspaper. “There are those who won the ridings here, and so the people should call them.”
There’s no question of raising Quebec City’s voice in the Conservative caucus or to her former cabinet colleagues, either: “It’s not my mandate,” she declared.
Verner is acting like a “spoiled child” instead of noting how the Tories might be trying to ensure better representation for Quebec, given that the province elected only five Conservative MPs, commented Jean-Jacques Samson, a columnist from Le Journal de Quebec, on TVA.

“I think it’s disappointment and bitterness,” said Jean-Claude Rivest, who sits as an independent in the Senate and has worked with Verner in the past.
- Finally, Joe nicely highlights the Wall government's contempt for Saskatchewan's freedom of information system:
A follow-up email was sent to Johnston on May 16 asking how many records and the total number of pages was being withheld. The reply from Johnston later that day was stunning to say the least:

“I cannot tell you how many briefing notes, pages etc. have been prepared on this issue as we did not ask the branches of the ministry to submit them since we knew we wouldn’t be releasing them under the legislation,” he said. “This would have required several hours of work for staff searching, reviewing and copying documents knowing that they would not be released. As you can appreciate planning for and conducting negotiations requires confidentiality, particularly given that negotiations are continuing at this time. Thank you again for your interest in this matter.”

So it would appear the ministry lied on May 6 when it said that “all the records” relevant to the request were being reviewed.

Under section 8 of the province’s freedom of information legislation, government institutions are required to give access to as much of the record as can reasonably be severed without disclosing the information to which the applicant is refused access. When asked if this mandatory section was applied to the request, Johnston replied:

“From speaking with the people who prepared briefings on the matter, there would be very little left in as the notes go over what is offered and what is proposed and next steps. We cannot disclose proposals, analysis of those proposals, possible options, next steps or strategy. Some information such as what the STF is requesting in terms of pay and the response of the collective bargaining committee has been publicly communicated and is already publicly available. Some proposals have not been made public and would not be disclosed. In summary, once severing was done on a briefing note the only information left in it would have been what is already publicly available through media reports and other public communications.”

The short answer is no, the ministry did not follow the law.

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