Quebec, Canada — Much was made of newly-elected Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion’s reputation in Quebec. Having authored the Clarity Act which makes it harder for Quebec to separate from Canada, the former Environment Minister has enjoyed popularity in English Canada and criticism in Quebec.

However, an Angus Reid poll shows that Canada’s Liberal party is barely behind separatist Bloc Quebecois in the province. The Bloc leads Quebec with 37% of the vote, with the Liberals at a close second with 35%. It is notable to mention that in January’s federal election, the Bloc had received 42.1% of the vote.

The poll goes to show that Quebec’s separatist ambitions may be changing, as Dion’s election as head of the Liberal Party do not seem to have put a dent in the party’s popularity in Quebec. In fact, the poll can be seen as a success for the Liberals, as the scandal-laden party was far behind the Bloc in January.

The Angus Reid polling also follows a much-publicized Conservative motion passed in the House of Commons which recognized Quebec as a nation within a united Canada. At an announcement in Montreal on November 24, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said the Bloc’s raison d’être was defeated with the motion, because the Bloc had for years demanded the recognition of Quebec’s unique status within Canada.

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Jaggi Singh Out on Bail

November 27, 2006

Montreal QC — A hearing was held at Montreal’s municipal court today in the case of Jaggi Singh’s arrest on Friday, November 24. Singh was arrested by an RCMP officer at Montreal General Hospital, where an announcement and press conference by Canadian PM Stephen Harper was to be held.

The arrest was the result of no act of provocation by the well-known Montreal activist. At the press conference, the RCMP advised security of Jaggi Singh’s presence, and security, in turn, asked that Singh leave the premises. The activist refused, stating that he had a right to be at the meeting. The RCMP intervened and arrested Singh.

At today’s bail hearing, Crown Prosecutor Francis Paradis argued for the preventative detention of Singh until his trial date, meaning that Singh could have been held in confinement for another six months. The argument was that Singh would be a threat to public safety, a claim which was unequivocally denied by the defense’s witnesses. The Crown had no witnesses and only referring to the RCMP report filed upon the arrest.

The judge disagreed with the Crown and released Singh on a $2000 bail, money which was collected by his supporters who numbered close to one hundred at the hearing. In fact, there were so many supporters present, that the hearing had to be moved to a new room to accommodate the audience.

In addition to bail, a condition was also attached to the release; Singh is not allowed to partake in any demonstration which is illegal or non-peaceful.

“I think it was abusive that a condition was imposed upon Jaggi,” said Louise-Caroline Bergeron of Montreal group Block the Empire. “While you’re in a demonstration and you don’t have birds-eye view, you can’t know what’s going on five hundred people behind you.”

Tonight, Jaggi Singh will be freed from the Rivière-des-Prairies detention centre, where he has been held since Friday’s arrest. Due to the overcrowding of the facility, he has had to spend the weekend sleeping on benches. Access to a shower was first provided only on Sunday.

Below is the full statement by Louise-Caroline Bergeron of Block the Empire. Jared Will, Mr Singh’s legal adviser, had no comments. Crown Prosecutor Francis Paradis was not available after the hearing.

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/3274573/view]

To learn more about the event where Jaggi Singh was arrested, please refer to “Harper Announces Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Speaks of Quebec “Nation”.

Canada’s government has made it clear that NATO needs to commit more troops to the Afghanistan mission. Canadian troops have been stretched too thin, Peter MacKay has said.

At the same time, Canada is considering longer tours of duty for it troops in Afghanistan.

The British, The Observer reports, are showing “signs of weakness” in Afghanistan.

Could Afghanistan be turning into what it became for the Soviets? After all, the Soviets spent several years in the country, before pulling out. And they had to pull out, because their mission too was showing signs of weakness and became unsustainable. Like today, the Soviets had control of the capital, but the country was full of counter-insurgents (trained by the US, who later became the Taliban).

This has not been a good week for US foreign policy. And on the brink of failure for the British.

The proposed clean air act, which has been widely criticized by the opposition and environmental groups for its lack of immediate targets has received the support of the Albertan energy sector.

Once again, the Conservatives show their incompetence to create a National policy on the environment and are appealing to corporate interests in the West. It is no secret that the gains made by the Conservatives in the East (particularly Québec) were due to a protest vote meant to punish the Liberal Party for the sponsorship scandal. The Harper Government’s environmental policy, however, will not find many sympathizers in the East for the next federal election — Québec is an environmentally conscious province and has its poster-company Hydro Québec running a “clean” operation.

The advantage of the Clean Air Act is that it sets precise goals for lowering emissions rates and gives the industry time. However, Kyoto had very specific goals too, and if it was adhered to and not challenged over and over (the Liberals are also guilty of uncertainty) then nothing would be so unclear. The only reason that industry (in Alberta) is much more content with the Harper Government’s proposal is that it again gives them more time to not do anything or to act slower than is required.

Pollution levels are growing, every summer there is more and more smog warnings, and allergy sufferers are far and wide. Action must be taken now. But money dictates otherwise. Stock up on your Claritin.

For more on the Kyoto Protocol, visit CBC’s “Kyoto and Beyond” special profile.

The Tory government today anounced its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

As the CBC’s report states: “The bill…calls for the reduction of car emissions by 2011 to align Canada with regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.” The next four years are meant for the government to consult with industry on ways of adopting this policy.

The Conservatives have once again turned their backs on the Kyoto protocol — a policy, that despite the government’s efforts, was favoured by the House of Commons this fall when MPs voted in favour of Bill C-288 (the bill to ensure that Canada is in line with the Kyoto protocol’s gas emission levels) getting a second reading. Instead of listening to Members of Parliament, the Conservatives have simply marched on with their own environmental policy, which is several steps behind Kyoto.

The most interesting aspect of today’s proposed bill is that all its goals are outside of the government’s term in office, the first being set for 2011. The latest that the next federal election can take place in Canada is 2010. Are the Tories acting with prudence? Or are they just realizing that they might not be able to deliver on their promise in time for the next election?

It’s not even clear how long the current minority government can last. The mistakes have been far and wide, the latest being yesterday’s ouster of Conservative MP Garth Turner, who will now sit as an independent in Parliament.

For more, see this article in the National Post on the opposition’s stance on the Kyoto protocol.