Tag Archives: politics

Harper wins Majority Government

Harper says he doesn’t have an political surprises up his sleeve after majority

By The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press

CALGARY – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is assuring people he doesn’t have any political surprises up his sleeve after winning a majority government.

At a day-after news conference, a smiling, relaxed Harper stepped away from his stiff campaign style and even lifted the limits he imposed on media questions during the campaign.

He said he’s humbled by the majority mandate the voters gave his Conservatives on Monday.

He said he’s disappointed by the result in Quebec, where the party was reduced to a handful of seats in the face of unprecedented support for the NDP.

But the resulting demise of the separatist Bloc Quebecois is good news for Canada, regardless of the beneficiary, he added.

“Despite the fact that we did not make any gains, of course as a Canadian and a federalist I am encouraged by the collapse of the Bloc,” Harper said.

While the NDP played the key role in slaying the Bloc dragon, “I do think we deserve some of the credit.”

He said while the Tories lost seats in Quebec, they still have a base in the province and see room to grow.

“I am disappointed but not discouraged.”

Harper returned to the microphone twice after taking several questions, even admitting to taking a modest swig of champagne in celebration of Monday’s win.

He also sought to allay any fears of a looming hard-right agenda. He insisted Canada’s commitment to public health care is unquestioned.

“I think we’ve made it very clear that we support Canada’s system of universal public health insurance.”

He wants to co-operate with the provinces in making the health-care system better, he added. “I think we need to figure out how we can work together.”

The prime minister also suggested that he’ll stick to the platform and the last Tory budget brought down in March, and work hard to keep the public trust.

“One thing I’ve learned, surprises are generally not well received by the public,” he said.

“We will have to govern well, govern in people’s interest,” he said. “Even as a majority you have to, on an ongoing basis, keep the trust of the population.”

The Conservatives won 167 seats, while the NDP will form the official Opposition with 102. The Liberals were reduced to 34 seats, while the Bloc Quebecois is left with only four.

Harper wasn’t the only leader basking in victory today: NDP Leader Jack Layton becomes leader of the official Opposition after his party’s best showing in its history, while Green party Leader Elizabeth May won her party its first seat ever.

Among the high-profile casualties were Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, who stepped down Monday, and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who promised today to quit at a time to be decided by the party.


Europe and U.S. step up pressure on Gaddafi to go

By Michael Georgy and James Mackenzie | Reuters

TRIPOLI/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe and the United States stepped up diplomatic pressure on Muammar Gaddafi to quit, while on the ground his forces used their superior strength to press their advantage against rebels.

President Barack Obama said on Friday the United States and its allies were “tightening the noose” around Gaddafi and European Union leaders meeting in Brussels said they would consider all options to force the Libyan leader to step down.

However, the 27 leaders meeting in Brussels stopped short of endorsing air strikes, a no-fly zone or other military-backed means to achieve that goal. Libyan rebels said their three-week-old insurrection could fail without a no-fly zone.

The summit sidestepped a British and French initiative for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize a no-fly zone.

They also would not back French President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s call to follow his lead and recognize the National Libyan Council as the country’s legitimate authority, or his call for “defensive” air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces if they used chemical weapons or warplanes against civilians.

Libya suspended diplomatic relations with France.

Obama, accused by critics of reacting too slowly, told a news conference he believed international sanctions, an arms embargo and other measures already in place were having an impact but also said a no-fly zone remained an option.

“Across the board we are slowly tightening the noose on Gaddafi. He is more and more isolated internationally,” he said. “I have not taken any options off the table.”

Soon after he spoke, the Treasury Department said it had extended a freeze on assets to Gaddafi’s wife, four of his sons and four senior officials in his government.


Gaddafi’s forces, with air supremacy and a big advantage in tanks, appeared to be maintaining the momentum on the ground.

The sound of explosions and small arms fire came from the oil port of Ras Lanuf on Friday as government troops landed from the sea, backed by tanks and air power.

Rebels had advanced to the town of Bin Jawad about 60 km (38 miles) west of Ras Lanuf a week ago, but have been driven back across the strip of desert and scrub. Though out-gunned, they have kept up stiff resistance.

“Ras Lanuf is a ghost town. There are skirmishes between rebels and Gaddafi forces going back and forth,” said rebel captain Mustafa al-Agoury, adding that rebels were positioned on the east and Gaddafi’s forces on the west of the town.

Neither side had full control. Libyan state television said the town was cleared of “armed gangs” opposed to Gaddafi and a spokesman for the rebel movement, Hamid al-Hasi, told Al Arabiya that Ras Lanuf was back in rebel hands.

Gaddafi’s warplanes were carrying out air strikes seemingly unhindered by insurgent anti-aircraft guns mounted on pick-up trucks.

Many rebels were angry at international inaction.

“Where is the West? How are they helping? What are they doing,” shouted one angry fighter.

In Tripoli, Libyan security forces used teargas and fired in the air to disperse worshippers near a mosque before they could even attempt any protest, a Libyan man said, citing witnesses.

It was impossible to verify reports about what was happening in the Tajoura district of Tripoli because foreign journalists were prevented from reporting from the area and local anti-Gaddafi activists were not answering phone calls.

The revolt in Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli and held by rebels for days against fierce attacks, appeared to have been crushed.

Foreign journalists brought to the city center by government forces on Friday saw buildings scorched, patches of fresh paint and loyalists chanting “I love Gaddafi.”


A hotel on the square that had been the rebel command center stood burned out, now guarded by Gaddafi militiamen. Facades not covered by large cloths were pockmarked by bullets from days of battles around the space the rebels called Martyrs’ Square.

“There were bad guys inside. There were 35-40 guys there yesterday with Kalashnikovs and big guns,” said Waleed, one militiaman, pointing toward the building’s ruined facade.

“We cannot live without Gaddafi. He is the king of Africa, not just Libya.”

The only town holding out in western Libya was Misrata, about 200 km (125 miles) east of Tripoli. It was calm on Friday, but rebels said they were expecting an attack in the near future.

Libya’s insurgent leader said any delay in imposing a no-fly zone could let Gaddafi regain control.

“We ask the international community to shoulder their responsibilities,” Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Libyan Council, told the BBC.

“The Libyans are being cleansed by Gaddafi’s air force. We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one, we also want a sea embargo,” he said.

About 15,000 worshippers gathered outside the courthouse that has become the council’s headquarters in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

“Help us to become a democratic country,” said one banner strung between lampposts and written in English and Arabic.

The Arab League will discuss the no-fly zone and the idea of extending formal recognition to the rebels at a meeting on Saturday, but experts said divisions among them will likely preclude agreement, disappointing the EU which had been looking to the grouping to help guide their next steps.



B.C. will dump HST if voters demand

By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

VICTORIA – Premier Gordon Campbell says he will dump the much-hated harmonized sales tax if a majority of British Columbians vote to repeal the levy in a referendum next September.

Campbell said Monday he intends to toss aside the official referendum rules and turn the vote into an election-style simple majority vote that decides the future of the HST in the province.

Earlier Monday, an all-party legislative committee voted to send an anti-HST petition to a non-binding referendum that involved a difficult threshold of victory that included winning 50 per cent of the votes cast by registered voters in the 2009 B.C. election.

But Campbell said he will honour what the majority of British Columbians who vote in the referendum decide, meaning the majority vote will carry the day next year.

“Quite candidly, we don’t have any interest in trying to play games with this at all,” he said after the all-party committee opted to hold a referendum in September 2011.

“I think the fact of the matter is people want a direct say. If a majority of people that show up to the polls say they don’t want to have the HST, then they won’t have the HST.”

The province was forced into either holding a non-binding referendum or putting the issue to a vote in the legislature after anti-HST forces gathered more than half-a-million signatures on a petition.

“My bias right now is to say to people quite clearly that if they have a strong voice with regard to the HST and it fails, then it’s failed and we have to figure out what we do next,” said Campbell.

“This is about giving people a full say.”

He acknowledged that it would be difficult for anti-HST forces to achieve referendum success under British Columbia‘s current recall and initiative law that permits recalls of sitting politicians and referendum votes on issues.

“I recognize what the legislation says,” Campbell said. “I believe that it’s appropriate to say to people if 50 per cent of the people that show up to the polls and vote against the HST, then we’ll get rid of the HST.”

The HST deal British Columbia signed with Ottawa in July 2009 includes escape clauses, but reneging means the B.C. government will likely have to pay back the $1.6 billion Ottawa offered to cover the cost of transitioning to the blended tax.

Former premier Bill Vander Zalm stormed out of Monday’s committee meeting, noting that the referendum rules make it almost impossible to win.

The law requires 50 per cent of registered voters cast ballots in favour of ditching the tax. That same threshold must be met in at least two-thirds of the province’s 89 ridings.

Vander Zalm, who’s led the charge against the tax, commended Campbell Monday evening after hearing the premier will leave the fate of the HST up to the people.

“I guess the premier saw our frustrations, at least I’m hoping that might have been the reason,” Vander Zalm said in an interview.

“Some would say he’s finally come to his senses, but I would like to think that he’s finally beginning to give recognition to the voice of the people. That’s a good thing.”

Vander Zalm said the only way he’ll scrap plans for a recall campaign against Liberal MLAs is if the referendum is held in 2010, instead of 2011.

He expressed concern that if the referendum is held next year it will hurt the economy, because British Columbians will hold off on certain expenditures until the tax is gone.

The Opposition New Democrats, who ended up voting in favour of the referendum question, said they will be watching to ensure the B.C. cabinet does not become too involved in influencing the development and approval of the eventual referendum question.

University of Victoria political scientist Dennis Pilon said Campbell’s decision appears to be a bold act of political survival, while also honouring the efforts of the thousands of British Columbians who worked on the anti-HST petition.

“This is a major breakthrough'” said Pilon. “The premier should be commended for doing the right thing. The rules for this referendum were rigged to fail.”

Campbell’s government has faced a growing firestorm of criticism after it announced the tax just weeks after winning an election in May 2009 in which it said it wasn’t contemplating such a switch.

Finance Minister Colin Hansen has maintained the province wasn’t considering it until days after the election, when he was presented with documents that outlined the HST deal Ontario was about to enter into with the federal government.

Vander Zalm’s forces were out all summer gathering signatures.

The government received another blow when internal briefing notes revealed bureaucrats in the Finance Ministry were working on the HST well before the election. Hansen said they were doing their job and he was unaware of it.

The controversy prompted one cabinet minister to resign and several Liberal party supporters have come forward with calls for Campbell’s resignation.

Campbell said Monday he feels terrible about it all.

“I feel awful that people feel like we let them down.”

But Campbell isn’t conceding that the HST will eventually be repealed.

He said he still believes it’s the right move for the province and will vigorously campaign in hopes of convincing people to vote in favour of it.

He said by the time the referendum is held next fall, some of the benefits of the tax will already have set in, including the creation of thousands of jobs.

Vander Zalm can’t see how a majority of voters would elect to keep the tax.

“That’s impossible, in my view,” he said.

The referendum will cost $30 million.