Most recent entries for December 2010

 Adult bed bugs crawl on a piece of paper in a tiny jar in New Brunswick, N.J., during a pest control convention at Rutgers University. (Mel Evans/Associated Press) NDP MP Pat Martin says the federal government should do more to help provinces and municipalities that are struggling with infestations of bed bugs. 

In a letter to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Martin says, "I accept that this type of public health issue is generally considered to be the jurisdiction of municipal or provincial health authorities, but I believe the scope and magnitude of this scourge of pestilence warrants guidance and leadership of the federal department of health."

While bed bugs do not spread disease, the small reddish-brown insects feed on human blood and sometimes leave itchy red welts.  Infestations have been on the rise over the last 10 years.  In Toronto alone, people have made more than 1,300 complaints to the city about the pests in apartments, hotels, office towers and movie theatres.  Last week alone, outbreaks  were reported in three communities in the North West Territories.

It is very difficult and expensive to get rid of bed bugs.  People often have to get rid of their furniture, and the chemical and steam treatments must often be repeated.

Martin has asked Aglukkaq to convene a "conference of provincial and municipal health authorities to assess the extent of the infestation, share best practices of controlling it, and to develop recommendations that may help tenants and landlords alike cope with this public health emergency."

Speed Read: Dec. 31, 2010

Speed Read: Dec. 30, 2010

 The examination of "Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the Federal Correctional System" began in 2009 in response to the death of 19-year-old Ashley Smith, pictured. (Smith family photo)

There is perhaps nothing that better illustrates the division in parliament these days than the latest report, minority report and two accompanying supplementary opinions from the House of Commons Committee on Public Safety. The examination of "Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the Federal Correctional System" began in April 2009, in response to the suicide of 19-year-old Ashley Smith at the Grand Valley Correctional Centre in Kitchener, Ont.

It is clear that the MPs put in a lot of hours to fashion this report. Committee members travelled to England and Norway to interview mental health and corrections professionals. They visited jails and prisons across Canada, and read or heard testimony from dozens of experts, advocates, wardens and other interested parties. The document is full of up-to-date statistics and information that help paint a modern portrait of life inside Canada's correctional system.

Speed Read: Dec. 29, 2010

RCMP top brass took home more than $1.6 million in extra pay in 2009-2010. 

According to documents provided by the RCMP, the Mounties' six deputy commissioners were paid a total of $224,419 in at risk pay and bonuses, which when divided equally, works out to a little over $37,000 each.  The force paid its 33 assistant commissioners a total of $358,296 in extra pay last year and its 77 chief superintendents an additional $1,033,101. 

A spokesperson for the RCMP says the Commissioner has authority over the additional payments but bases his decisions on the Treasury Board's performance management program for executives.  The Treasury Board defines at risk pay as a percentage of an individual's salary based on the successful achievement of commitments.  Bonuses are also a lump sump payment "based on the individual's demonstrated performance that has surpassed expectations."  

Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland questions whether the time is right for bonuses.  "When you're in a fiscal climate that is tight, when the mantra is austerity, one must ask whether we can afford these payments."

Many executives across the civil service receive similar payments every year.  What's different about the RCMP though, is the high level of dissent among its top cops at the time those bonuses would have been doled out.  The breaking point came in July when several deputy commissioners complained to the Privy Council Office and Public Safety department about what they described as the arrogant and insulting management style of Commissioner William Elliott. 

2010: Best political books

What were the best political reads of 2010? Our Power & Politics regulars weigh in:

Ontario Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay
Harperland by Lawrence Martin
Game Change by John Heilemann & Mark Halperin
Just Watch Me by John English
America By Heart by Sarah Palin
Bennett: The Rebel Who Challenged and Changed a Nation by John Boyko
Quebec NDP MP Thomas Mulcair
How We Almost Gave The Tories The Boot by Brian Topp
The Whites of their Eyes by Jill Lepore
Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer
Tar Sands by Andrew Nikiforuk
Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller by Jeff Rubin
Who Owns The Arctic? by Michael Byers
Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin
A Journey by Tony Blair
Decision Points by George W. Bush
Obama's War by Bob Woodward
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Ethical Oil by Ezra Levant
Left Out by John Gormley
Former environment minister Jim Prentice is reported to have said that his government was "too slow" to react to the negative perceptions raised by environmentalists who complained about Alberta's dirty oil. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The latest WikiLeaks revelation was interesting, but hardly blockbuster material. During a conversation with the U.S. ambassador to Canada, which seemed designed to curry favour with the Obama administration than anything else, former environment minister, Jim Prentice, talked about the oilsands.

In a moment of refreshing candor, Prentice is reported to have said that his government was "too slow" to react to the negative perceptions raised by environmentalists who complained about Alberta's dirty oil. He also apparently talked about the R-word: regulation. That is, he was prepared to impose regulations if the oil industry failed to act. This is a contingency that the current environment minister, John Baird, seems reluctant to even mention, preferring instead to consign such discussion the realm of the hypothetical.

Given that Prentice was generally seen as one of the more progressive members of the Harper cabinet, it's not surprising that he would be concerned enough about the issue to raise concerns at the diplomatic level. And the leaked cable does come at a time when the oilsands are once again in the news and subject of a scathing report that has forced the Harper government to concede that the status quo is no longer viable.

Throughout the whole WikiLeaks controversy, there has been the suggestion that leaking the contents of discussions in cables would force diplomats to save all their candor for telephone conversations and closed-door chats.

Question of the Day

As the day before the night before Christmas begins, the Hill agenda is as empty as an unstuffed stocking, with not a single political event scheduled to take place within the boundaries of the precinct. 

Nor, for that matter, is all that much happening elsewhere, as far as potential political news making, with the exception of a mid-morning press conference in Toronto, at which a contingent Liberal MPs will attempt to rouse a last-minute pre-holiday ruckus over cuts to immigrant settlement programs. Later today, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will hold a teleconference to rebut the claim.

Meanwhile, on the jurisprudent front, the Supreme Court will hand down what will, in all likelihood, be the last batch of rulings for the year, with decisions expected on everything from generic drugs to veterans' benefits. 

Finally, I should let y'all know that, as of later today, I'm off for the holidays, which means you likely won't be getting a new OotD until the New Year -- unless, of course, something breaks that is just so darned important -- or interesting -- that I am unable to restrain my fingers from hitting the keyboard to keep you in the loop, although in that case, I'd probably hit the ticker first. In any case, I'll be back on the clock, ideally refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to liveblog whatever the politicoverse throws my way.  

 For up to the minute dispatches from the precinct and beyond, keep your eye on the Parliament Hill Ticker below -- or, alternatively, bookmark it and check back throughout the day. 

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