Media Update for February 1, 2010

News Summary and Comment

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Next, Transport Canada is again under fire for failing to do its job. First, it appears that the the six deaths – including an infant – in the B.C. recent floatplane crash were the result of jammed doors. That is, had they opened when the plane went down, people could have gotten out. Transport Canada has been repeatedly warned about this but has failed to act. This is a shocking example of negligence by the regulator. How high does the death toll have to get before there’s a major change of leadership in the department? (And I don’t mean the new Deputy Minister, who knows nothing about civil aviation – I mean people like Assistant Deputy Minister Marc GrĂ©goire, who has headed the Safety and Security Group for years while the body count has steadily risen).

Transport Canada is also under fire for failing to regulate GPS use in cars – despite the fact that it has data showing the risks. Based on the information gleaned via a CBC access to information request, it looks like the department was more interested in being cozy with industry than with protecting the public. But this is not new at Transport Canada, or in the federal government for that matter.

There’s also a little scandal brewing at the supposedly independent but government-funded agency Rights and Democracy. It appears that the government, contrary to its 2006 promises to establish an independent appointments authority, has been stacking the executive of Rights and Democracy with Conservative patronage appointees. This apparently has led to a truly toxic work environment which led to the sudden death by heart attack of president Remy Beauregard. This prompted a letter by staff members condemning several members of the executive. Three members of the board on Beauregard’s side have also become casualties of war. The Liberals and the NDP have protested, but it appears they missed the chance to protest the appointments. Not that it should matter. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Canon has launched an investigation which will, of course, completely exonerate the government and its appointees.

Read on.

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Supreme Court Rules Against Repatriation of Omar Khadr

Jammed Doors on Seaplane Caused Deaths, Probe Finds

Transport Canada Fails to Regulate GPS Use in Cars Despite Known Risks

Accusations and Denials in Debate of the Troubled Rights and Democracy Agency

Insiders Blame Accountability Act for Lack of Experience in Cabinet Offices

B.C. Child Advocate Clashes with Government

B.C. Bureaucrats Slammed for Mishandling Privacy Breach

Alberta’s Information and Privacy Watchdog Told to Speed Up Complaints Process

FAIR Called “The Most Dangerous Website in Ottawa”

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Supreme Court Rules Against Repatriation of Omar Khadr

Supreme Court rejects Khadr repatriation order
Ottawa Citizen, January 29, 2010
Summary: The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to order the Harper government to seek Omar Khadr’s repatriation from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a unanimous ruling Friday, the court said that Khadr’s constitutional rights were violated, but concluded that it would intrude on the government power over foreign relations to force officials to ask the U.S. to send the accused terrorist home.

Khadr ruling sees top court clash with Tories
Globe and Mail, January 29, 2010
Summary: A standoff between the Supreme Court of Canada and the federal government over the repatriation of Omar Khadr has thrust the country into uncharted constitutional waters.

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Jammed Doors on Seaplane Caused Deaths, Probe Finds

Jammed doors a focus of seaplane crash probe
CTV News, January 28, 2010
Summary: Transportation Safety Board investigators looking into the fatal crash of a seaplane off B.C.’s South Coast in November said Thursday they are concerned that such planes “may not be optimally designed” to allow passengers to escape in the event of a crash.

Saturna plane crash doors ‘jammed shut’
Globe and Mail
, January 28, 2010
Summary: Six occupants of a Seair de Havilland Beaver floatplane that crashed on takeoff at Saturna Island last November drowned after the impact jammed most of the aircraft’s doors shut, says the Transportation Safety Board. Four of the dead managed to get their seatbelts off but were not able to get out of the plane. One of the dead was a baby travelling with their mother.

Saturna Island plane was attempting second take-off at time of fatal crash: TSB
The Province (Vancouver), January 28, 2010
Summary: All six passengers who drowned when a float plane crashed into Lyall Harbour on Saturna Island might have survived had the seaplane had “jettisonable doors.”

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Transport Canada Fails to Regulate GPS Use in Cars Despite Known Risks

No regulations for GPS use despite safety risk
CBC News, January 31, 2010
Summary: Transport Canada has identified the use of GPS devices as a threat to road safety but after six years of consultation with industry and safety groups has done nothing to regulate them, a CBC news investigation found.

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Accusations and Denials in Debate of the Troubled Rights and Democracy Agency

Opposition failed to contest rights-agency overhaul
Globe and Mail, January 31, 2010
Summary: Opposition parties complaining about Conservative “sabotage” of an independent rights agency were consulted on all the government’s appointees last year but failed to raise objections, ministerial documents show. Rights and Democracy, a government-funded agency, has been in turmoil for months following a battle between factions on the board and between the board chairman and the independent agency’s president.

Staff suspended shortly before open letter published in media
Winnipeg Free Press, February 1, 2010
Summary: Three senior managers at a government-funded rights agency rocked by allegations of Conservative meddling have been suspended, including one of its longest-serving employees. A well-placed source with the organization told The Canadian Press that Marie-France Cloutier, Razmik Panossian and Charles Vallerand were suspended with pay from Rights and Democracy late Friday, and told that they were the subjects of an internal investigation. The three were among the staff that had earlier declared non-confidence in the Conservative-appointed chairman and two board members.

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Insiders Blame Accountability Act for Lack of Experience in Cabinet Offices

Accountability Act dissuading experienced staff from joining Cabinet offices: insiders
Hill Times (Ottawa), February 1, 2010
Summary: Four years after the government won power and ushered in its celebrated Federal Accountability Act, a number of Ottawa insiders say the act has slammed shut the “revolving door” between ministerial offices and lobbyists and is deterring many talented and experienced people from taking jobs as exempt political staffers in ministerial offices. (Note: Hill Times articles are available by subscription only.)

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B.C. Child Advocate Clashes with Government

B.C. child advocate says province ignoring her
The Province (Vancouver), January 28, 2010
Summary: British Columbia’s child watchdog says the Ministry of Children and Family Development has stopped responding to her reports and recommendations, preferring to deal with a legislative committee that rarely meets.

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B.C. Bureaucrats Slammed for Mishandling Privacy Breach

Review finds government officials botched handling of privacy breach
The Province (Vancouver), January 30, 2010
Summary: Mistakes, missed opportunities and bureaucratic bungling led more than two dozen officials to botch the B.C. government’s response to a major privacy breach, according to a scathing internal review released yesterday.

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Alberta’s Information and Privacy Watchdog Told to Speed Up Complaints

Alberta’s privacy czar must justify delays, court rule
Canada.com, January 28, 2010
Summary: Alberta’s highest court says the province’s backlogged Information and Privacy Commissioner can no longer take “routine extensions” in privacy cases, a decision that extends to complaints under health and access-to-information laws.

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FAIR Called “The Most Dangerous Website in Ottawa”

The Most Dangerous Website in Ottawa
eaves.ca, January 27, 2010
Summary: What is the most dangerous website in Ottawa? Here’s a secret. It isn’t a x-rated site, or loaded with tips and tricks on how to make weapons or break the law. It isn’t – contrary to what some politician might feel – even a news website. No, the most dangerous website in Ottawa is much, much, more boring than that. The most dangerous website is actually a small site run by the Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform.