Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Call to Canadians

This will probably be the shortest post on this blog...

The legimacy of our government is under question, and that alone should be alarming to all Canadians. Accusations abound that our government engaged in voter suppression tactics, in direct violation of the Elections Act, and that it may have allowed them to achieve the majority government that they now enjoy in Ottawa.

The fact that we even have to wonder whether or not our government is legimate is alarming enough. It becomes more alarming when you realize that a government that may not be legitmate is still given the authority to pass legislation.

As such, I'm calling on all followers on this blog and the casual reader as well, to join me in signing this petition to call on His Excellency David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, to use his reserve powers to dissolve Parliament until such a time that the Conservative Party of Canada is found innocent of these accusations or guilty.

This is not about partisanship; its about ensuring the survival of our democracy and ensuring that all Canadians who are entitled to a vote were able to exercise their democratic right. If we don't fight for our voices now, it is only a matter of time until we are all silenced.

That might sound alarmist, but we are truly playing with high stakes. Please, I implore you, sign the petition and let your voice be heard.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/dissolve-the-canadian-parliament/


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Someone Told Me Long Ago, There's a Calm Before the Storm

Source: CTV News: Rae Accuses Tories of 'Dirty Tricks' in Robocall Scandal
Source: CBC News: Rae Claims 'Robocalls' Contributed to Liberal Candidates' Defeat
Source: CBC News: Conservative Staffer Resigns Amid Robocalls Probe
Source: CBC News: Damage-Control Bid Over MacKay Chopper Ride 'Stupid'
Source: CBC News: NDP Wants Ethics Probe of Tory Minister Christian Paradis

I know, it's been coming for some time...Actually, any of us who have watched the Conservatives as closely as all of us should be doing knew something like this was coming. With all the focus on the 'robocall' scandal (we need a better name for that...Robogate? Lyin'-Dialin' Scandal? Actually, I kind of like the sound of that one) a few other questionable things the Conservatives have done have fallen under the radar; so I shall try to talk about those as well.

Actually, let's talk about those first.

Let's go back to blog topic favourite Peter MacKay. When it came out that our defence minster was treating military aircraft like his own private travel agent, there was quite a push for MacKay to explain his actions. MacKay defended his use of a search and rescue helicopter as a prearranged look at how the service works...Though numerous e-mails from civil servants and military personnel suggest that the use of the helicopter was last minute and not something that was arranged very well.

Despite this, MacKay stuck to his guns and threatened to sue anyone who continued to 'defame' him in the House of Commons...Despite the threat, no charged have come. Which either mean that MacKay is above pressing charges against fellow Parliamentarians...Or he knows what sort of truth will come out should this issue fall before the courts in any way.

But now new details have come regarding MacKay's response to the questions about his use of military aircraft. MacKay had ordered bureaucrats and military personnel to dig up information about other Parliamentarians who had taken trips on search and rescue aircraft. In a bungled attempt to smear another Parliamentarian, MacKay's office asked for details about Liberal MP Scott Simms' time aboard a similar aircraft...

The only problem is that Simms spent the day with the search and rescue chopper, watching them in action...Whereas MacKay used the chopper as a means of getting airlifted out of his vacation cabin in order to be taken to a waiting Challenger Jet. Furthermore, MacKay's use of the chopper was clearly last second; whereas Simms was invited to spend a day aboard the chopper...by MacKay's office.

I can see why Simms has referred to this entire situation as 'stupid'. When a Minister uses a trip by another Parliamentarian, especially a trip that came from an invitation from the Minister's office, as an attempt to defend his own use of military aircraft...Well, something is clearly wrong. MacKay's attempts to defend his use of the chopper, and the Challenger jets for that matter, have been flimsy at best.

And now that we see MacKay working behind the scenes to try and justify his actions by pointing to other Parliamentarians who have taken ride-alongs (though for different reasons and for ACTUALLY observing the craft performing its daily duties as opposed to being re-routed per a Minister's request) it only shows that there is more to this story than MacKay is willing to admit. And hopefully, this attempted lackluster defence will only ad to the calls for MacKay's resignation or his forced exit from Cabinet.

Speaking of Cabinet Ministers finding themselves in hot water...Industry Minister Christian Paradis is under fire from the NDP over the fact that a Employment Insurance office was moved from a NDP Quebec riding to a Conservative Quebec riding.

But that's only half the story. The other, and more important half, is that the office was moved into a building owned by a business partner of Paradis' father. The NDP has referred the matter to the Ethics Commissioner, suggesting that there is no reason for the office to have been moved other than for the reason of patronage.

Now, with all the other hot water falling on the Conservatives this week, they haven't really responded to the allegations being levelled against Paradis. When they do, it will expand this story a little more and we'll see what sort of excuse the Conservatives come up with to not only defend the move but defend the move into a building that clearly poses a conflict of interest with the Industry Minister.

And that brings us to what will take up the bulk of this post: The Lying'-Dialin' Scandal that the Conservatives have now found themselves wrapped up in.

Let us first focus on what this entails, in case you've been avoiding the news headlines for the past few days. At the tail end of the last federal election, shocking reports of automatic calls reporting false information to voters became known to the public.

In most cases, it was a message from 'Elections Canada' informing the person that their polling location had been changed. In other cases, there were harassing calls from 'Liberals' late at night; or to Jewish voters during the Sabbath (a day where most observant Jews refrain from many actions, such as answering the phone), again under the guise of 'Liberal' supporters calling to get out the vote.

This came on the heels of an incident at Guelph University where an unidentified man, who we now know as Michael Sona (and who we will get back to), attempted to 'grab' a ballot box and made claims to the polling station being illegal and unauthorized. As such, before the election was even over there were already questionable behaviours being undertaken by the Conservative Party of Canada.

Thanks to confused, and rightly suspicious voters, the number for these robocalls was written down and a complaint was filed to Elections Canada. Those complaints led to the discovery that an Albertan based marketing firm, RackNine was responsible for the fraudulent calls from Elections Canada. The part where this gets interesting is knowing that the Conservatives used RackNine to conduct robo-calls for their campaign...Including in Stephen Harper's own riding.

The CEO of RackNine has expressed concern about his company being used in this way, and denies any knowledge of the contract being taken out. Furthermore, Harper and other 'front line' Ministers have denied that the party was involved in the calls.

Despite this, Conservative Staffer Michael Sona (told you we'd come back to him) has resigned under a cloud of secrecy from his job in Eve Adams' office. There's been no real release as to why Sona has resigned his position, just days after this news broke, but many are assuming there is some kind of link between Sona and the calls that were made...

But something about this doesn't sit right.

The NDP, and numerous others (myself included), figured that some young staffer would be brought forward to answer to these charges and would in turn 'fall on their sword' for the good of the party. After all, that is the Conservative M.O. whenever anything goes wrong is to find a young staffer and throw them under the nearest bus.

An access to information request denied by a Ministry? A staffer did it. A no inserted into a document after it was signed by two other officials? A staffer did it. We lost some paperwork or misplaced some documents? A staffer did it.

Whenever anything goes wrong, a staffer is put forward and they are thrown to the wolves...Of course, eventually they pop up again a few months later when everything has died down and then are given a job that is usually marginally better than the one they had left. Like the man involved in the access to information requests, who was investigated by the RCMP. He was turfed from volunteering during the last election, but afterwards was given a job in a Ministry.

Furthermore, the Conservative Party Machine is denying any involvement and instead is suggesting that if the party is linked to this it was done on a constituency level without approval...

The problem is that doesn't mesh up with everything we know about the Harper Conservatives. Harper has ruled his party since day one and the fact that MPs are muzzled by the PMO shows that nothing goes on without Harper's approval. So, if any evidence comes forward that the Conservatives were involved directly in these calls, there is no way that Harper can claim to have plausible deniability.

As Andrew Coyne and others have pointed out there are a lot of questions to this scandal; all of which point to Conservative to involvement and do not reflect well on the party as a whole.

I've worked on election campaigns, and they are fairly organized. The decision to use a company to make mass calls across the nation would be not only a decision that could only be made by a higher up member of the campaign...but also a decision that would cost money. As such, only someone with spending power for the campaign could have authorized such a program.

Furthermore, the fact that these calls occurred in as many as 35 ridings across Canada shows that this kind of program was not organized at a constituency level. Coyne points out that it's possible that all these ridings stumbled upon this idea and went with it...But he also points out that it increases the odds of people recognizing that they were committing an illegal action.

But it also increases the odds of someone higher in the organization finding out what is going on. If 35 different constituency organizations used RackNine to undertake calls that violated the Elections Act, someone at the Conservative HQ would have heard about it and likely taken action to stop it knowing what it would do to the party if it came out.

Since this didn't happen, we can only assume that the order to use these misguiding calls came directly from the Conservative National Campaign. Again, keeping in mind Harper's controlling nature on the campaign trail, it's unlikely that he wouldn't have known about a few constituencies engaging in illegal activities in the name of his party...And furthermore, that he wouldn't have put a stop to it in an attempt to save face from it coming out in another way.

Which brings us back to Michael Sona. There's no way a single twenty-some year old managed to organize such a program in ridings across Canada single-handedly. Furthermore, given that the Conservatives denied Sona was even working with them during his ballot box freak out, its even more unlikely that Sona could have undertaken any actions for the Conservatives without being identified as that man who tried to grab a ballot box.

So, clearly, Sona has been set up as a scapegoat in the hopes of this entire thing going away quickly. People say there could be jail time for anyone who is tied to this scandal, but lets keep in mind the last time the Conservatives ran afoul of Elections Canada: There was a fine, a slap on the wrist, and a plea deal which kept several high-ranking Conservatives out of prison.

So, what happens now?

Now we wait for more details to come forward, on both Sona and the Conservative role in this program. We also wait to see how many defeated challenges will file legal challenges to have by-elections in ridings that may have been affected by voter suppression.

Its doubtful that all 35+ ridings will see their legal challenges hold up in court, if any will at all, but one can only hope that just enough get through to take away this 'false majority' that Harper has created.

But, I say we need to go one step further: The Governor General has in their Reserve Power the ability to dismiss a Prime Minister. It's a power that hasn't been used in decades, but its high time we had a good old constitutional grudge match.

If the Conservatives are tied to this scandal in any tangible way, the Governor General must dismiss Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. To allow such a man, who would essentially be tied to accusations of voter suppression, to remain in our country's top job would be an insult to democracy and to Canadians everywhere.

For a Prime Minister who has focused so heavily on law and order, it is only fair that his party tastes justice when they have contravened the very law and order they claim to venerate. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tonight We're Going to Party Like It's...1984?

Source: CTV News: Online Surveillance Bill Will Fight Cyber Crime: Minister

Does anyone understand the Conservative Party of Canada anymore? There was a time when the Conservatives were so called 'champions' of less intrusive government and individual freedoms and liberties. Yet, since coming to power the Conservatives have continually proven that this is an ideal they no longer hold. With Public Safety Minister Vic Toews pronouncing CSIS can use information derived from torture, it would seem he is now emboldened by taking away foreign peoples' civil rights and is now looking closer to home.

The Conservatives have introduced what they call the 'Protecting Children from Internet Predators' Act and robbing Canadians of their civil liberties is exactly what this bill is about.

Unlike the SOPA debate in the USA, this is not about censorship of the internet or complex regulation that could turn anyone who posts a link to something else into a copyright violator (relax, they have Bill C-11 for that); rather, this is a bill that they have wrapped in the protective flag of 'keeping our children safe'.

So, what exactly is this bill and why is it a problem?

Well, the Conservatives are downplaying the reach the bill will provide...But bloggers, activists, and opposition members are challenging the wording of the bill and just how much power it gives to many different people.

For starters, the bill will induce Internet Service Providers (ISPs) into providing information to 'certified individuals' upon request without the need for a warrant. This information is comprised of 6 pieces of key information: Your name, your address, telephone number, e-mail address, Internet Protocol (IP) address, and the name of your local service provider.

Now, let's explore the IP address information first. Your IP address is like a virtual thumbprint, it is a recording that is unique to your internet connection and leaves a stamp when you visit a website. So, let's say you visit this blog. By connecting to this blog, a record is made somewhere that records your IP address and says what time you accessed the blog.

Furthermore, your IP address is recorded each time you visit...So, if you visit the blog 6 times a day, it would be recorded six times.

Presently, IP addresses are logged by your ISP. And if the police approach your ISP and ask for information, most ISPs comply and hand over the information...Without a government bill telling them that they need to hand over this information.

Of course, though, officers of the law often arrive with a warrant to get this information. What this bill does now, is cut out the middle man (a pesky little thing called presumption of innocence) and allows those with certified access to see this records immediately.

Though the Conservatives have thought of a fail safe for this to prevent abuse: Warrant-less access will be reviewed by a panel led by a Government Minister...Someone like Vic Toews, who introduced the legislation and would get a fair amount of egg on his face if it came out that someone was misusing the legislation...But surely this panel would be open and transparent...

Sure, cause this government is known for openness and transparency; after all, they're so transparent that the NDP is fighting the Conservatives who want to increase the number of committees that meet en-camera (aka behind closed doors and under a cloak of secrecy that forbids those inside the committee from talking about the actions of the committee outside of the committee.)

So, yeah, this system totally has foolproof fail safes.

Now, let's talk some technical information, shall we?

Do you know software pirates? You know, those people who use the internet to share programs instead of shelling out $400 or more to buy the software legally. I'm sure we all know someone who pirates internet programs, and as such, these people already know ways around the bill being proposed.

Do you know what a proxy is? A proxy is a program that causes your IP address to appear as someone else's IP address. Programs like this are popular among non-American citizens so that they can mask their IP address to access US-Only web services like Hulu or Pandora.

Furthermore, proxies are only the first internet defence used by people who pirate programs; the setting up of so-called 'virtual machines', the use of encrypted downloading software, and encrypted hard drives further protect people who commit illegal acts online.

And while you can shut down proxies services, new ones are introduced every day. Take MegaUpload, which was shut down by the US Government last month. Despite being shut down, the next day numerous MegaUpload websites were re-upped to the internet.

So why do I mention this?

I mention this because the methods of getting around this bill already exist. What this bill will do is not increase the odds of catching people who break the law online, it will further educate them. People adapt and learn to avoid the methods that will end up with them being caught. As such, this is a bill that will only serve to push people into using methods that make them harder to catch.

This is important because as those people 'flee' from the regular internet, and into the so called 'deep net', the only people this bill attack are the law abiding every day folk and the so called 'stupid' criminals.

That means it's our activity that is being monitored. Our mundane e-mails, and instant messages. Our blog posts and Facebook updates.

This is not a bill that is designed to catch criminals, it is designed to make them smarter. Furthermore, let's ask one important question:

This is the Protecting Children from Online Predators Act, so why is the Competition Bureau (an agency which monitors Canadian businesses and protects 'truth in advertising') listed as an agent which would be given the authority to access this information without a warrant from ISPs?

Last I checked, the Competition Bureau wasn't in the business of cracking down on online predators. So, with this in mind, how can we really trust that this act is not going to invade public privacy? After all, this bill is wrapped in the idea of 'protecting the children' but it contains measures that have nothing to do with protecting children at all.

Essentially, this bill is flawed on many levels...Likely because an almost 60 year old Public Safety Minister and his fellow 50+ Conservative cronies don't fully understand the internet. After all, using former Republican Senator Ted Stevens as a method of what some older generations think of the internet: It's not a dump truck, it's a series of tubes!

Is that the same kind of thinking guiding our politicians? I mean, does Vic Toews (without the aid of a younger aide) even know what a proxy is if someone asked him? Or what the heck the 'deep net' is?

I doubt it.

So, why should someone who barely understands what they're trying to legislate be given carte blanche to legislate that very thing?

That would be like asking a bunch of 50+ year old men to weigh in on whether or not a woman should be allowed to choose to have an abort....Oh, yeah, that's right.

The fact of the matter is that this is a government of hypocrisy. They're scrapping the gun registry and destroying the documents behind it because of its affect on 'innocent' gun owners and the invasion of privacy those documents stand for...

Yet, they are now saying that the bulk of 'innocent' internet users aren't entitled to the same privacy as gun owners. Yes, Virginia, there is a hypocrite, and it's called the entire Conservative Party of Canada. Privacy for some, complete invasion of privacy for others.

We need to wake up, Canada. This is not about protecting children, regardless of how many Cabinet Ministers are going to stand up and say that it is. This is an oversweeping actthat will provide almost unlimited power to police, but to members of the bureaucracy as well. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, we want strong police to keep us safe after all, it is a problem when the cost of this power comes at the sacrifice of personal rights and privacy.

Imagine a world where every move you make was watched. George Orwell wrote about such a world in his book 1984. In a digital age, the moves we make are more and more made online. While we may not see CCTV cameras thrown up on every street corner, surveillance of the internet is the modern equivalent of those CCTV cameras.

There are those who say that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. But how often have people hiding things had those things revealed?

If you subscribe to a pornographic website, featuring legal images, should the government have the right to know that? You're an adult, you work for your money, and you choose to spend some of that money viewing pornography. Even though you may not tell anyone about it, suddenly someone somewhere knows. and it becomes incredibly possible that some how that information will get out...After all, how many times have we seen private medical records show up on street corners or dumpsters?

Exactly.

The fact that this information can be collected is the first step to this information being used incorrectly and furthermore, that information being found in the wrong hands.

This is legislation that suggests that everyone who uses the internet is a criminal just waiting to be caught. It destroys the presumption of innocence, and furthermore the lack of the need for a warrant, robs all of us of the due legal process that our justice system is meant to provide.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd say that this is the first salvo in ensuring that all those new prisons the Conservatives are about to build will get filled...But, like I said, this bill is not going to catch any real criminals or the criminals that the Conservatives are saying this bill will catch. Rather, it will make imaginary criminals of us all.

Perhaps that's what Toews had in mind when he said that if you aren't supporting the legislation you're supporting child pornographers to an opposition member in the House of Commons. Yes Mr. Toews, in your mind we're all criminals, you've made that abundantly clear. But you don't have to put that into law.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Relax, We're Just Disregaring Human Rights...

Source: CTV News: Canada 'does not condone torture,' Toews Says
Source: CBC News: CSIS May Use Intelligence Derived from Torture, Toews Says
Source: CBC News: Cash Compensation will be Sought, SFL says

Two things to talk about today, one Federal and one Provincial.

Let's discuss the federal issue first given the gravity of the situation that it is linked to. Despite saying, sometime around 2008 - 2009, that information derived under torture would not be used within Canada; the Conservative government has been revealed to have changed their mind on this issue at some point in 2010.

Up until then, CSIS was under orders to disregard any information that could be considered 'tainted' by the use of torture. Now, in the sake of 'clarifying' the directive, CSIS has been told to ignore this order if it could negatively impact public safety.

So, implicitly, the government is condoning torture.

Now, I hear some of you screaming about me being a hardcore left-wing nut job for making such a claim. But, allow me to try and explain how we arrived at that conclusion.

I believe it was Martin Luther King Jr, and I paraphrase here, that said someone who stands by and does nothing is just as guilty as those committing the act. Furthermore, there is the old idea that evil is when good men do nothing. But by issuing such an order, the Conservatives have now broken both of these principles and have non-directly endorsed the use of torture.

Now, we're not going to get into the argument of what constitutes torture. That's like trying to define what constitutes terrorism, it's a long subject that has many definitions and we'll never reach a solid agreement on it. Rather, we're going to look at whether or not torture should be used at all.

Let's look at the problems that we know exist with torture, and to highlight let's use some honest examples.

Reaching back into our bag of historical goodies, we come upon the Spanish Inquisition. For those of you who need a refresher, the Inquisition was a policy undertaken by the Catholic Church and the Spanish Crown in order to 'find false Catholics', namely Jews.

The Inquisition was tasked with watching converts to Christianity and observing them to ensure that they had indeed converted from their previous faith. And when someone was accused, or suspected, the Inquisition was given mostly free reign to get the blasphemer to confess.

Unlike the Monty Python sketch, the Inquisition did not use comfy chairs and fluffy pillows to torture answers out of their victims. Rather, more horrendous tools were used to 'induce' a confession from the suspect. Thumb screws, hot oils, and most famously the rack were used to crack suspects and get them to confess to their crimes.

More often then not, these horrendous practices drove suspects to confess...even if they were innocent. Let's look at another historical scenario: The case of Anne Boleyn.

As most of us are aware, Anne was the second wife of Henry VIII. After numerous attempts to sire a son with his second wife, Henry eventually grew tired of her (as we would see with other spouses) and others plotted to remove Anne from the King's favour. (This is debatable historically, but we do know Lord Chancellor Thomas Cromwell had something to do with Anne's eventually execution.)

Back to the point, Anne's brother George was among those arrested and 'induced' to confess that Anne was guilty of High Treason by breaking her marriage vows to the King (through adultery and incest with George and others.)

It is noted that many of the lower born 'witnesses' against Anne were likely tortured to convince them to admit to having an affair with Anne...While aristocrats, who couldn't be tortured under English law, were just induced through other means.

What does this show?

Historically, that torture is unreliable due to the nature of saying what the person inflicting pain wants to hear. Think about it: If your fingernails were being ripped out one by one...Or simulated drowning was used on you...Or you were tied to a table and had your limbs slowly stretched to the point of dislocation...Or, as we saw in the Maher Arar case, beaten with heavy electrical cables; you would say anything to get those conditions to stop.

Humans are adverse to horrible conditions, and there are very few of us who would stand up against such conditions and continue to insist that we don't know anything. Rather, many of us would happily confess to something we haven't done and MORE to get those conditions to stop.

And that's the problem with torture: When you torture, you induce the person you are torture to tell you what you want to hear. It doesn't matter if it is the truth, they will say what they think will get the conditions to stop.

So, this information is already spotty at best. Therefore, why would we want to use information that will be incorrect?

Need a more recent example?

Look at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 'mastermind' of 9/11, Since his capture by American forces, Khalid has confessed to being the mastermind behind pretty much every terrorist attack against the USA since the dawn of time. And a CIA memo that came out in 2006, had record of Khalid saying that he made up stories to avoid being waterboarded.

Essentially, that brings us back to where we started: Torture doesn't work since those being tortured will say anything to stop being tortured. And for Canada to suddenly say that it doesn't matter if information comes from a tortured person when national security is on the line, suggests that our government is alright with the use of torture.

They may not be telling CSIS to actively torture suspects, but information that comes from other agencies that knowingly use torture is now fair game, even though that information can be entirely suspect.

Essentially, Benjamin Franklin said it best: Those who give up a little public liberty in favour of security, will lose both and deserve neither.

From the heavy subject of torture, we now go to another rights violation in the form of violating workers rights.

A Saskatchewan Justice struck down the Saskatchewan Party's Essential Services Act this week, saying that it was unconstitutional and denied workers the right to collective bargaining. The justice held up another Saskatchewan Party bill however, that makes forming into unions a more difficult process.

This has led the Saskatchewan Labour Federation to announce that they will seek damages for the individuals who had their rights violated, while the SK Party has announced that they will consider appealing the verdict as well as re-writing the law to make it acceptable.

So, we have a government who introduced legislation that they didn't campaign on (and which was decried internationally by the UN labour council) being told that they have one year to sort out the mess that they made themselves.

It's a small victory, that hopefully will hold up against future challenges that the SK Party will undoubtedly fight to keep their legislation in place.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's Good for the Goose...

Source: CTV News: Tory Senator: My Let-Killers-Hang Idea Has Lots of Support
Source: CTV News: Kenney's Office Apologizes for Sun News Stunt

While the OAS argument heats up in Ottawa, and it is something we will discuss in the future, we shall focus on these two items for today as it will become a bit of a generalized topic with regards to the Senator.

So, let's start with the news today that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney arranged a photo op of a 'new Canadian' Citizenship Oath ceremony with Sun TV that included very few new Canadians. In fact, of the ten citizens taking the oath only four were new Canadians. The other six were bureaucrats who were asked to pose as new immigrant for the photo op.

While allegations abound over who is at fault (e-mails suggest that Sun News is responsible for the idea of staging it AND for being unable/refusing to attend an actual ceremony), Kenney has apologized for the incident...at least to Sun News. Furthermore, Kenney and Sun News are jumping on the 'It's the bureaucracy's fault' band wagon and are blaming civil servants for the incident occurring.

Again, e-mails suggest otherwise, but we'll see where this ends up going. What we do know is that Harper's Government, and Kenney in particular, have always found themselves on the wrong end of things when stuff like this happens. If anything, Kenney is only continuing to show his incompetence as a minister; and if we had a Prime Minister who cared about substance over appearance, Kenney would have been turfed a long time ago.

What could possibly push this over the edge is the information on whether or not these civil servants posing as new citizens were still on the public dime when they did their photo op. If they were still on the clock, someone needs to answer for why they were. Either Sun News needs to reimburse the government, and as such the taxpayer, if they are proven to be responsible for setting up this photo op.

Or the government needs to explain why and who is responsible, for civil servants posing for a photo op under false pretenses while charging the time to taxpayers.

After all, if there's one thing I know about Canadians, it's that we get really riled when our tax dollars are misspent. And a false photo op, is one hell of an abuse of those dollars.

And that brings us to Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, a Conservative Senator for the province of Quebec. Boisvenu made headlines after speaking about Bill C-10, by saying that certain prisoners should be provided a length of rope and the option to hang themselves.

Boisvenu eventually retracted his comments, although today he's made statements suggesting that his backtracking wasn't fully truthful. After all, he's now come out and said that he's received hundreds of e-mails of support over what he said. Usually, someone who backs away from something they said don't turn around the next day and try to defend it by saying people agree with what was said.

But that's not what's at issue here.

What is at issue is the odd hypocrisy that we continue to see from the Conservative Party and their ideas on the 'sanctity of human life'.

Although the Conservatives have said they have no intention to re-open the Capital Punishment debate, and Harper has confirmed this in the wake of Boisvenu's comments; the double standard that the Conservatives hold true continues to exist.

For example, let us examine the sticky issue of euthanasia.

Boisvenu made the remark that prisoners who are beyond the hope of redemption should not be locked away. But would Senator Boisvenu make the same argument for someone who has no hope of recovery from a terminal illness? Probably not, given that Conservatives are generally against assisted suicide.

Yet, why then it is okay to suggest prisoners should kill themselves if they can't be rehabilitated?

Now, we're all used to hypocrisy in politics. We see it all the time, especially with the Harper Conservatives. But this is a question that needs to be asked: As a nation, are we willing to step forward and admit that another human's life is worth less than another?

That is the argument that Boisvenu is making. That certain people, prisoners, are less deserving of life than others and we should do what we can to expedite their removal from the realm of the living. It's an argument that has appeared in various ways and various methods since time immemorial, but it is a question that Canadians haven't really addressed.

Actually, nevermind, we have addressed it. Canada had a reputation as peacemakers and deal brokers, if only because of our belief in the sanctity of human life and the need to defend it. We did not stop to question whether we should protect Muslims from ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, we simply rushed to defend them because it was the right thing to do.

Yes, prisoners have made mistakes and they have committed actions that have negatively affected others. But, they are still a human being. Committing a crime does not change that, or make them subhuman. By suggesting that we should literally 'string them up', provided that it is their choice, Boisvenu is admitting a thought process that we know Conservatives have but try to keep secret: That some human lives are worth less than others.