Inside Politics

Alison Crawford Bio

Alison Crawford

Alison Crawford worked in Fredericton, Calgary and Winnipeg before returning to her hometown to work in the CBC parliamentary bureau. Her beats include the RCMP, justice, public safety and the Liberals. Alison credits her investigative skills as well as a national etiquette column and coverage of a ferret Christmas party, with having prepared her for covering national politics.

Emails shed light on politics of RCMP report release

Newly-released documents obtained under Access to Information shed more light on the role played by the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in how the RCMP communicates with reporters and the public.

Unofficial Liberal leadership candidate turns to political ad veteran

The Liberal Party of Canada has its first unofficial leadership contestant.

David Bertschi is first out of the gate with a website, ads and a national call-out for volunteers.

In a weekend email to parliamentary reporters, Matt Hopkins, acting director of communications for Bertschi's Exploratory Committee, urged journalists to check out Bertschi's Facebook page to view "two teaser ads in both official languages in preparation for the release of his full leadership ads in the coming weeks."

The ads are memorable. So memorable that many political junkies will recall a similar ad from former Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Both videos were produced by renowned Canadian-American political filmmaker Lucas Baiano, who also produced ads for two other former U.S. presidential hopefuls, Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Read more and view the clips, after the jump....

Public business through private members bills

This week the face of the government's crime prevention agenda belonged to a backbench MP few people know. There are some times when it's advantageous to use a private members' bill instead.

The (ATIP) waiting is the hardest part

I've just sent off another complaint to the Information Commissioner. I know most of you have grown wearing of hearing journalists complain about what we perceive as obstacles to obtaining government reports and documents, however I think this particular case deserves some attention.

In the fall of 2010 my colleague Greg Weston and I worked on a series about the cost of rehabilitating buildings in the parliamentary precinct. On Oct. 28, 2010 I sent the Department of Public Works a request for a draft document mentioned by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser in section 3.41 of her spring report on parliamentary buildings.

Rick Aubé from the Public Works ATIP office sent me a letter of acknowledgement on Nov. 3. I didn't hear back from him until December 13, 2010, when (even after he had breached the 30-day deadline) he wrote, "Public Works and Government Services Canada has determined that your request is for a large number of records or necessitates a search through a large number of records and meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with its operations."

Now, I'm not sure why asking for a specific draft report would necessitate going through such a rigamarole - but wait, there's more...

... and an update - after the jump.

RCMP fleet details too secret for Toews are only a click away

This week Public Safety Minister Vic Toews claimed that "for security reasons and to maintain the integrity of police operations" he could not fully answer a question from NDP MP Sylvain Chicoine about the RCMP's fleet of aircraft.

Toews was among many ministers who, on Monday, provided answers to hundreds of outstanding questions from last year. Chicoine had asked Toews for a tally of how many aircraft are in the RCMP fleet, how often they fly, what they cost and how they are used, as well as a breakdown of their make, model and age.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the RCMP taking to the air. And as someone who has written about the Mounties' planes, I found Toews' response a little curious.

"Mr. Speaker, the RCMP owns 12 fixed-wing aircraft of various makes and models, ranging from 3 to 26 years of age, for surveillance. Aircraft are deployed for use across the country, as and when required. Requests from outside police forces may be considered based on operational availability," Toews said in his answer tabled in the House of Commons.

"For security reasons and to maintain the integrity of police operations, the RCMP cannot further identify these resources or release additional details as to their usage without jeopardizing ongoing police operations and investigational techniques, as well as the safety of RCMP personnel and the public," Toews said.

Last September, I checked in with the RCMP for an update on the force's fleet. I was told the Mounties have 32 planes and 10 choppers. The fleet is used for surveillance, air support, patrols, getting around remote areas, searches, transporting supplies and personnel as well as executive travel.

The makes and models of the aircraft can all be found with the click of a mouse on the RCMP Air Services web page, where the force proudly describes its fleet of 3 Cessna Caravans, 2 De Havilland Twin Otters, 2 Eurocopter EC 120Bs, 8 Eurocopter AS 350B3s, 15 Pilatus PC-12s, 10 Cessnas and let's not forget former Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli's Italian vanity jet, the Piaggio Avanti P180.

Now if the Mounties don't mind sharing information about the fleet, I'm not sure why Toews does, especially when speaking on behalf of the RCMP.

Liberal hopeful in Toronto-Danforth tries colourful approach

A Toronto man is asking Conservatives, New Democrats and members of any other party in existence to support his bid for the Liberal Party nomination for the upcoming by-election in the riding of Toronto-Danforth.

In his unconventional online pitch, Grant Gordon has written specific messages to people of all political stripes.

Hit the jump for more...

The prankster behind the snow shovelling tax credit hoax

He denied it at first, but I asked one more time.

"Are you the prankster who sent me a media release from Health Canada?" 

Dougald Lamont replied that yes, it was him. 

I received the email from the bogus email address early this afternoon, entitled "Harper Government Announces New Fitness Tax Credits for Seniors Shovelling Snow." 

In a clever parody of a government of Canada announcement, it attributed the following comment to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq: "By instituting a Seniors Fitness Tax Credit for Shovelling Snow, seniors on fixed incomes will not have to pay anyone to shovel their walks, they will be rewarded - even posthumously - for doing it themselves."

More, including the full text of the hoax e-mail, after the jump:

Liberal mad men target legal beagles over C-10

The Liberals want members of Canada's legal community to join the fight against bill C-10, the government's omnibus crime legislation. The party is running ads in a number of law publications, including Lawyers WeeklyTimes, Canadian Lawyer, Law Times, Le Journal du Barreau du Quebec, National Magazine and University Affairs.

The ad features a Canadian flag behind prison bars and an open letter from the Liberal party's interim leader Bob Rae asking readers, "If you don't oppose the omnibus crime bill, who will?"

Read more and see the ad after the jump...

His name is Robert Paulson. No, it's Bob

It was getting really annoying.

I mean, it was nice that so many people responded to my piece about the new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, but many of the online comments simply read, "His name is Robert Paulson."

In one case someone turned on the caps lock and typed out, "HIS NAME IS ROBERT PAULSON" several times. I also received tweets and emails telling me, "His name is Robert Paulson."

Now I know for a fact the new RCMP commissioner goes by Bob, not Robert, so I could not understand all these accusations that I had mistakenly abbreviated his name.

Curious, and growing suspicious that I one the wrong side of an inside joke, I turned to my google machine and typed in "His name is Robert Paulson". I got 156,000 results.

More, after the jump....

Liberal renewal: looking for an outside fix?

While the NDP leadership race heats up, scant attention has been paid to the Liberal Party and its renewal activities. 

Having changed its constitution in June in order to give it more time to select a leader, the party is heading towards a January policy convention where members will help shape a future platform, choose a new president and officers, as well as improve the party's structure and governance.

Liberals have been invited to go online and vote on the issues they want considered at the convention.  The most popular resolutions will make it through. 

So far, the two top resolutions have nothing to do with policy or party renewal. 

More, after the jump: