Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Maisonneuve - Media Scout --- Taster

Below is a sample of MEDIA SCOUT, the daily news briefing of Canada's Big Six, provided as a service from Maisonneuve. Maisonneuve, Canada's Eclectic Curiosity magazine, is a publication defies description but is always full of excellent and thought-provoking articles.

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by Philippe Gohier
October 11, 2005

In an exclusive interview in today’s Ottawa Citizen, Industry Minister David Emerson concedes that there have been serious problems in the enforcement of the rules that govern lobbyists at the Federal level. Lobbyists are supposed to register and to publicly disclose their business dealings with the government. Despite steep punishments, from up to a $25,000 fine to jail time, what’s apparently missing, at least according to Emerson, is an independent agency to actually enforce these rules. The seriousness of the problem was highlighted when it was discovered that former Royal Canadian Mint president, and former Chrétien cabinet minister David Dingwall had worked as an unregistered lobbyist five years ago. This revelation, along with allegations of luxurious spending on the taxpayers’ dime, forced Dingwall to resign from the Mint recently. Of course, neither revelation was enough to prompt the government to withdraw its commitment to seeing Dingwall off, generous severance package in hand.

In Emerson’s comments is the tacit acknowledgement that the culture of entitlement that seems to be commonplace in Ottawa is threatening to undermine the government’s legitimacy. After all, Dingwall was just one example. Along with the Dingwall incidents (it really was two separate breaches of ethics, despite the Liberals’ attempt at blending them into one), there is, of course, the well-publicized sponsorship scandal, and the less publicized misuse of government Challenger jets by MPs, as revealed last week by CPAC and Le Devoir. Should the government want to peer into the future, and witness the rot that results from cozy lobbyist-legislator relationships, they need not look any further than Texas. The Tom DeLay/Jack Abramoff scandal that is rocking the Republicans on their home turf should be proof enough that enforcement of strict lobbying guidelines is smart long-term policy.

THE NATIONAL: No broadcast due to the lockout of employees.
CTV NEWS: “International aid is now pouring into the earthquake disaster zone along the border of India and Pakistan”
GLOBE AND MAIL: “Quake aid balloons”
NATIONAL POST: “'Kashmir is a graveyard'” (not available online)
LA PRESSE: Kashmir desperately waits for aid (not available online)
OTTAWA CITIZEN: Canada sends $20M for quake relief

Ottawa ups its aid to the earthquake-devastated Kashmiri region. Canada threatens to shirk the US by expanding Chinese energy exports. Hundreds, maybe thousands, are buried by mudslides in Guatemala following Hurricane Stan.

Fallout from the devastating earthquake in the Kashmir region dominates the Big Five’s leads. The Globe, The Post (not available online), and the Citizen all front news of a dramatic increase in Canada’s aid to the region. As estimates of the death toll surpassed 30,000, and news of 2.5 million people left homeless by the quake spread around the world, members of Montreal’s South Asian community responded to Ottawa’s initial offer of $300,000 by heckling Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew when he said the feds would wait before sending any more help. Ottawa has since reworked its aid package, and increased it to $20 million.

Sikander Hayat Khan, prime minister of Pakistani Kashmir, has called the devastated region “a graveyard” after the quake that measured a whopping 7.6 on the Richter scale. “We have been either digging ground to recover bodies or digging to bury them,” he said. According the Globe, UNICEF estimates that one in five people affected by the quake is a child under the age of five. For comparison’s sake, the US has donated US$50 million and has diverted military equipment and supplies from the war in Afghanistan to help with the recovery. The oil-rich nation of Kuwait so far leads the pack with a pledge of US$100 million in aid. News of India’s pledge to help the more severely affected Pakistani side of the Kahmiri border has fuelled speculation that the disaster may help to ease border tensions in the region. The Globe reports that there is “hope that the various factions can put aside differences to deliver aid to stricken survivors.” Although, so far, “the ones winning hearts and minds are Kashmiri separatist militants.” Within hours of the quake Kashmiri separatists had begun the most visible and ongoing aid operation in Indian Kashmir.

The Globe, The Post, and the Citizen go inside with news that Canada is looking to shore up its trade relationship with China to put more pressure on the US in the fight over softwood lumber. Revenue Minister John McCallum, who stepped into the natural resources portfolio last week when John Efford went on sick leave, is in Beijing to discuss possible energy exports with Chinese officials. Although McCallum initially denied any linkage to the ongoing trade dispute with the US, he later relented, saying that “it shouldn't be lost on anyone that if the US doesn't respect NAFTA, it does lend urgency for all Canadians to diversify our exports.'' The Globe’s John Ibbitson says that, despite it being popular public policy to expand trade with China at the US’s detriment, such a move would be motivated by “sheer mendacity.” Ibbitson claims that for Canada to follow through on its veiled threat to offer China preferential treatment in energy exports, it would have to withdraw from NAFTA, prompting a reaction that could range from a complaint at the WTO to, Ibbitson suggests somewhat facetiously, outright invasion. A National Post editorial today supports the Federal government’s apparent willingness to “to diversify our customer base if the Americans show they can't be trusted to abide by their trade obligations” but nonetheless laments the damage that’s been done to the NAFTA agreement. Claiming that “there is still time for this breach of faith to be fixed,” the Post hopes the Bush administration will pay attention to Paul Martin’s warnings last week in New York.




CTV News, The Post, and La Presse (not available online) go inside with coverage of deadly mudslides in Guatemala in the wake of Hurricane Stan. There are reports of up to 1400 missing, and up to 2000 are feared dead after ten days of torrential rains turned the towns of Panabaj and Tzanchaj into “mass graves.” Rescue workers have been forced to abandon their efforts, and had little hope of finding any more survivors five days after the towns were buried under several metres of mud. The UN has pledged $22-million in aid to help the recovery effort, and Japan, Mexico, Spain, Cuba and Canada have also promised help to repair damages expected to be in the range of US$800 million. An estimated 3.5 million people were affected by the storm, more than a quarter of Guatemala’s total population. The Globe, meanwhile, publishes a piece about the effects the recent spate of natural disasters, from the tsunami to Katrina to Stan and the earthquake in South Asia, is having on aid agency workers. The aid agencies are “worried that their staffers are burning out and that less publicized crises are being overlooked.”

Philippe Gohier is a Montreal-based MediaScout writer for Maisonneuve Magazine.

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