[Ed. - Having not found the Ukrainian president's reply to Dmitry Medvedev in English to share with my network, I translated it myself. I have also posted a translation of Medvedev's original message here on East of Main - Andriy]

I cannot disagree that there are serious problems with our countries' relations, but find it surprising when you completely rule out Russia's responsibility in this.Our country has never strayed from the principles of friendship and partnership, set down in our major agreement of 1997. It has done everything possible for the fruitful, mutually-beneficial development of our bilateral relations. What's more, according to the above-mentioned agreement, our countries must build relationships based on the principles of mutual respect and equal sovereignty.

Still, I would like to step away from emotions and dispassionately analyze the state of our bilateral relations:

Ukraine’s position on last year’s events in Georgia is widely known and matches the positions of practically all of the world’s countries. It consists of exclusively respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the inviolability of the borders of the Georgian or any other sovereign state.

The complaints about supplying Georgia with weapons are also groundless. It is unfortunate that, despite repeated, clear and understandable explanations from the Ukrainian side regarding the legality of its activities on the weapons market, the Russian side continues its campaign directed at forming an image of Ukraine as a country that breaks international rules and regulations on military-technical cooperation. With that in mind, it is worth remembering that Georgia was not and is not now subject to any international sanctions or embargoes for shipments of weapons, military technology or dual-use technology by the UN Security Council, OSCE, the EU or other international organizations. Besides, the Russian proposals to instill such limitations in the OSCE framework, brought forward after the Russia-Georgia conflict, were not supported.

Ukraine’s course of integration into NATO cannot be subject to political complaints from Russia. This forces us to repeat the established facts that the right to choose international tools of ensuring national security (such as participating in military-political alliances) is an integral element of any country’s national sovereignty - and Russia must respect it. I remind you the Ukraine’s law “On the basics of Ukraine’s national security”, which was passed by Ukraine’s parliament in 2003 (including by the leaders of our current opposition) envisions Ukraine’s direct integration into NATO right up until actual membership. The President of Ukraine is guided by this [law].

I would also like to once again stress that our nation’s desire to gain the membership in NATO is in no way directed against Russia, whereas the final decision regarding joining NATO will be made only after a countrywide referendum.

I would like to make a particular note that the Section 17 of the Constitution of Ukraine does not allow the placement of foreign military bases on Ukraine’s territory. At the same time, our nation remains loyal to its internationally agreed responsibility for the temporary location of Russian Federation’s Black Sea Fleet on Ukraine’s territory until May 28, 2017 and is fulfilling the full scope of the respective base treaties of 1997.

Furthermore, I must state the existence of serious problems in the Russian side’s implementation of these base treaties – in the questions of land, real estate, radio frequencies, navigation tools, etc. Throughout Russia’s Black Sea Fleet being stationed in Ukraine, its commanders systematically committed grave breaches of our bilateral agreements and Ukrainian law, something which the Ukrainian side continually informed the Russian side about.

Ukraine has consistently worked to develop pragmatic economic relations with Russia, especially in the energy sphere. Ukraine has started a program of modernizing the Ukrainian gas tanasport system to bring its level in line with high international standards and is ready to welcome the potential of other European countries and other stakeholders to this process.

Our country has repeatedly proven its reliability as a transport partner for energy resources - gas, oil, and nuclear power materials. Ukraine is one of the few countries in the world, which this June welcomed the Russian Federation initiative regarding its readiness to begin a multi-party dialogue on improving the international law foundation in the energy security sphere, which, in our opinion, should be based on the Energy Charter and documents developed in its framework.

Your letter also contains the latest repetition of your reproaches whose goal is to attempt to take away Ukraine's own view on its own history, its own national interests, and foreign relations priorities. I am convinced that the issues of history, along with native language, culture, and family ethic are the fundamentals of forming a nation and Ukrainian national identity.

When they raise issue of recognizing the Great Famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 on the international arena, the Ukrainian people also honor the memory of the millions of Rssuans, Belarussians, Kazakhs, and other nationalities, who died from famine in the Volga region, the Northern Caucausus, in Kazakhstan and other areas of the former USSR. During the "Eternal Candle" memorial action for the 75th anniversary of Ukraine's Great Famine, windows in hundreds of cities around the world, including those in Russia, displayed lit candles, signifying the international solidarity with Ukraine on recognizing this fact.

I can in no way agree with the supposed squeezing out of the Russian language from social life in Ukraine. Unbiased assessments of the language situation in Ukraine and Russia show just the opposite. It is in the Russian Federation itself that the Ukrainian minority is practically deprived of its right to meet its cultural and language needs. The proof of this is in the widely-known conclusions by international organizations.

In answer to your note about the supposed Ukrainian government interference into the Orthodox Church's affairs, I will say this. The Ukrainian leadersip respects the canons and traditions of churches and religious organizations. The church in Ukraine is separate from the state and every citizen has the right to observe any faith. At the same time, noone can forbidthe citizens to freely express their position about any issue, including religion.

As for the Ukrainian visit of Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, it is worth emphasizing that he voiced thanks towards our country's leaders for the high level of his visit organization. And of course the head of the Russian Orthodox Church did not make any of the negative or critical assessments you list in your letters, which discredit the spirit of his visit. All in all, we consider [your] connection of Patriarch Kirill's Ukrainian visit and bilateral political relations irrelevant and contrived.

When we look at Ukraine's forced decision regarding two Russian diplomats, we need to underline that prior to tht step we thrice called Russia's attention to its high-level diplomats' illegal actions. The Ukrainian side has provided enough proof of their activities in Ukraine, which harmed Ukraine's national interests.  Furthermore, Russia's subsequent actions towards the Ukrainian diplomats are absolutely unfounded. I hope that in the future our two states can avoid repeating such unfortunate incidents, which cloud our bilateral relations.

To conclude the above,  I'd like to state my conviction that solving the existing problems in Ukrainian-Russian bilateral relations requires intensive work. That's why the decision to delay sending a new Russian ambassador to Ukraine without doubt will not help the constructive development of our relations.

Ukraine continues to favor broad co-operation with the Russian Federation, based on mutual respect, equal rights, and maintaing a constructive dialogue including on the highest level. I have proven my readiness for dialogue at the conference table at least three times in the last year in letters adressed to you. This offer still stands today. Unfortunately, earlier replies included only an invite to the Russian President's prize horse race and other public events. I hope that this time your reaction to it will be constructive.

I am sure of the fine future for Ukraine-Russia relations, based on deep traditions of friendship and good neighborliness between our two peoples, and obviously stronger than the interests of individual political circles and do not depend on the situational discourse of a given political moment.

With respect,

Viktor Yushchenko

Photo Credit: Sara Matos

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Full text transcript of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's video blog address re: his letter to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko: [From Editor - having not found a translation of this online, I went ahead and did it myself. It's not perfect, but I think it captures the tone and gist of the address. The full text translation of Yushchenko's letter in reply to Medvedev is also posted here on EastOfMain.com. My analysis to follow - Andriy]

I recently sent a message to the President of Ukraine. I will say right away - that was no ordinary document. It contains a series of difficult, measured assessments on the actions of Ukraine's political leaders. I would like to explain what prompted this move on my part. That is what I would like to deal with today in my address.

Lately, Ukrainian and Russian societies have been expressing their alarm about our bilateral relations. By Ukrainian politicians' own admission, the level of these relations has hit an unprecedented low - and it's hard not to agree with that. The tension in Ukraine-Russia relations is getting off the scale.

I have often talked about Russia's desire to be a predictable, strong and comfortable partner to its neighbors, especially the country with which we share common historical and cultural roots. [We have] not just neighborly, but, as commonly held, fraternal relations.

If I remember correctly, the great son of the Ukrainian and Russian people, Nikolai Gogol, once said, "There exist no ties closer than comradeship". And when we celebrated his anniversary, we once again remembered his words. That celebration became another vivid illustration of our [two] people's spiritual closeness.

This background adds yet more contrast to the current, to put it mildly, complicated relations between the two nations. Let us look at what's actually happening. The administration in Kyiv has adopted a pointedly anti-Russian position regarding the Saakashvili regime's military attack on South Ossetia. It was Ukrainian weapons that killed the peaceful population and Russian peacekeepers. In contradiction to fundamental agreements between our countries, the course of interference with Russia's Black Sea Fleet continues - daily.

Unfortunately, the campaigns connected to squeezing out the Russian language from Ukraine's mass media and its educational, cultural, scientific spheres have not quieted down.

Their outwardly smooth rhetoric does not mesh with the Ukrainian leadership's twisting of our common history's difficult, complex episodes - the tragic history pages of USSR's big famine, nor does it mesh with their interpretation of the Great Patriotic War as some struggle between totalitarian systems.

The economic relations are a little different. Of course, they are developing, but so far it's impossible to open up their true potential. The reason is once again the same - Russian companies often have to contend with the Ukrainian government's resistance. That's precisely why we plan to open Russian Culture and Science offices in several of Ukraine's cities and to support in every way Ukrainians living in our country in their desire to develop their national culture.

Patriarch Cyril's recent visit to Ukraine was also very meaningful. I spoke to him upon his return and he shared his impressions with me. He said some very warm words. Our thoughts on this question are the same: fraternal peoples cannot be severed; we have the same historical and spiritual heritage.

I'm convinced that our relationship with the Ukrainian people will survive any problems. It can't be destroyed by the greedy interests of politicians, the changes in international discourse, the mistakes of individual leaders, nor can it be drowned in the swamp of pseudo-historical investigations.

I'm convinced a new time must come. But, in the current situation, I have decided not to send our ambassador to Ukraine. He will assume his duties later. The exact timeline will be determined by our relations' dynamics.

I'm convinced that the multi-faceted connections between Russia and Ukraine will return, but on a qualitatively new level - a strategic partnership level. And that time is not far off. I hope that the Ukrainian leadership is ready for this. For our part, we will do everything in our power.

Dmitry Medvedev

The Russian language original source is here

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UPDATE January 13, 2009

In 17 days 919 Palestinians killed by Israel including 284 children & 100 women, 4260 injured

UPDATE January 7, 2009:

  • CEASEFIRE talks are finally being considered by Israel - there is hope but offensive on Gaza still in full-force [BBC]
  • Estimated Death toll: 683 Palestinians since Israel offensive began (December 27, 2008). 7 Israeli soldiers have also died. [BBC]
  • Estimated Injured: 3,085 Palestinians
  • 3 UN-sponsored schools in Gaza have now been hit, with at least 45 dead [Manila Bulletin]
  • Canada plans to provide $4 million in humanitarian relief to Gaza - 3 million go to the UN Relief and Works Agency and 1 million to Red Cross [CBC Radio | China News]

Israel intensifies attack in Gaza, while Rally for Gaza goes on despite continued snowstorm in Vancouver

Israeli sends ground troops into Gaza

Smoke rises over the main Hamas security complex following an Israel air strike in Gaza.
Smoke rises over the main Hamas security complex following an Israel air strike in Gaza [Reuters]

Israeli forces have intensified their presence in the Gaza: in addition to the week of bombing, today they have started to move in their ground forces. 10,000 soldiers also await at the Gaza/Israel border.  Many causalities have already occurred and will continue to happen (latest figures estimate more than 500 civilian deaths).

Hope and progress are now farther from reach for 1.5 million Palestinians who are suffering and living in fear.

[polldaddy poll=1244832]

Rally For Gaza in Vancouver

New Video just posted

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w43MG9Li0OI]

YVR_Gaza_ProtestPosteryvrsnow_20090103Supporters hope their message will reach the Canadian government [News1130] Sources: Salimah Ebrahim, News1130, Facebook Event page

The onslaught of the snow bombing Vancouver didn't deter protesters to rally in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery today.

More information can be found at the Facebook Event page. According to the event page 1000+ were planning to attend the event, and estimates indicate 500+ braved the poor snowy conditions.

People of the world rally for peace in the Middle East

Progressive Israelis rally against the assault on Gaza [AFP]

Progressive Israelis rally against the assault on Gaza [AFP]

Huge rallies by progressive citizens and groups across the world today have been held. BBC reports rallies of tens of thousands are being held in Europe London (15,000+), Paris, Spain, Germany, Rome, Athens, also in many cities Asia; and here in North America as well - Toronto (2000+), Montreal (2000+), Ottawa (1000+), Vancouver, Winnipeg, New York, Miami, San Francisco, following similar events in parts of the Muslim world (Indonesia, Egypt etc).

At these rallies, shoe-throwing has become a popularized gesture of protest and contempt against Israel since an Iraqi journalist tossed his pair of brogues at U.S. President George W. Bush in Baghdad last month.

Citizens around the world are urging the Israeli government to stop the unjust attack and are hoping negotiations can start soon for a proper ceasefire agreement and assistance to the Palestinian people.

World powers condemn attacks

France, UN, Spain and many other international groups have condemned Israel from using this further force - but this has not deterred the Israelis. This attack is planned to last for days until Israeli forces are able to destroy the all the physical infrastructure and take control of the open spaces in the Gaza. Unfortunately, the Canadian and US governments are still supportive of the attacks.

A non-violent solution is needed immediately before attacks further escalate.

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Canadians for Obama - CTV

www.Canadiansforobama.ca spokesmen, Dr. Clement Apaak and Ajay Puri, discussed their excitement and also other progressive Canadians joy of having Barack Obama choosing Canada to be his first formal visiting country. The date hasn't been set yet for the visit to Ottawa, but when Mr Harper and President elect Obama do meet, expectations are high for these two North American leaders to set a progressive agenda. East of Main hopes that progressive issues relating to the helping the working class during this economic recession, investing in alternative energies and solving climate change, pulling troops out of Iraq and assisting those individuals in wor-torn areas including places like Palestine, Sri Lanka, and Darfur , and the immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay.

Dr. Apaak also wants to send a message to Sen. Obama "he must come visit the West Coast, Vancouverites have a lot of progressive ideas to offer to this President-elect!"

More information on the interview including video can be found at CTV's website:

CTV British Columbia

Dr. Apaak along with is co-organizers are planning a huge victory celebration party for Obama in Vancouver on January 23, 2009 at the Wisehall. For further information click on the link below:

Obama Inauguration Celebration 2009

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AuthorWells Stringham

Israel's continuous attacks on Gaza has sparked worldwide anti-war demonstrations, with tens of thousands of people joining rallies in the across Canada, US, Europe, Middle East. BBC has posted a photo-pedium worth reviewing.

Rally for Gaza - Paris

East of Main just received notice from Harsha Walia, a key organizer for the Vancouver rallies for Gaza, that this upcoming

Saturday Jan 10, 2009 @ 1 pm there will be the next Rally Location: Vancouver Art Gallery

Please come and show your support for the people of Palestine

Rally For Gaza

---------------------

Nearly 1000 people have came out in the midst of snowstorms on Monday Dec 29th and January 3rd to show our solidarity with the people of Gaza. With the ground invasion starting this week and a growing number of fatalities, our ongoing support for the people of Palestine - along with millions of other people of conscience worldwide - is critical.Demonstrations across Canada this weekend were held in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Windsor, London, Hamilton, as well as Montreal and Toronto where 10,000 people gathered in each city. With further actions being planned globally, please come out for a 3rd rally (rain, snow or shine!) to demonstrate your outrage and our collective humanity in response to the latest massacre of Palestinians.For further information refer to the Vancouver Rally for Gaza Facebook event page or email the organizers
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AuthorWells Stringham

Vancouver - The movement tonight was tremendous; more than 1500 people came out to Canada Place in trying to build up the grassroots and unite the centre, centre-left and left spectrum.

Video: Vancouverites Rally for a Progressive Coalition (courtesy of Evan Leeson)

Photo courtesy of Ric Ernst

The rally was organized by the Make Parliament Work | Canadian Labour Congress who had line up some great speakers including Heather Deal, Herb Dhaliwal, Peter Julian and great up-beat live entertainment. Added to this, amongst the crowds were many other supporters including top Liberal staffers and members, NDPers, and also many non-partisan people and groups such as the Canadians for a Progressive Coalition (which hosted a nation-wide vigil tonight to mourn the loss of democracy but also lighting hope for the future).

Despite this positive energy it has to be put into context. With Harper shutting down democracy earlier today and not allowing progress to happen, the next one week will be hard as all us pro-coalition organizers. Feeling drained and at a loss are common themes. But it'll give us time to heal and reflect on how historic this movement has been thus far and where we need to go.

Would love your commentary, reflections and ideas.

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candles Candles for Progress Vancouver:  This Thursday December 4, 2008, Vancouverites will be part of the thousands of Canadians who are lighting a candle to show their support for a Liberal-NDP coalition government.

"Tomorrow evening we'll be gathering rallying outside Canada Place from 5 to 6pm then heading into the rally being held by numerous organizers at Canada Place. We will be lighting candles to support the formation of a coalition government that will reflect the values of the majority of Canadians who voted," said event organizer Ajay Puri.

"This is a nation wide movement of hope - hope for a different type of politics in Canada. The type of politics that puts cooperation before partisan bullying, especially in times of crisis," said Puri.

Candles for a Coalition is part of a national series of events being organized by the non-partisan citizen engagement group, Canadians for a Progressive Coalition.

Canadians for a Progressive Coalition is a non-partisan citizen engagement group that was formed after the last election to build grassroots support for a coalition government. After a small start with two students from the University of Victoria, co-founders Kyle Artelle and Jamie Biggar, the campaign has quickly spread across the rest of the country. To date over 17,000 Canadians have signed the online petition in support of a coalition government. By the end of the week this number is expected to double.

"Over 60 per cent of voters cast their ballots for parties with progressive platforms, yet with 37 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives behave like they have 100 per cent of the power," said campaign organizer, Kyle Artelle.  "This is an opportunity for a government that will truly represent the majority of Canadians."

The Vancouver event will be taking place:

Outside Canada Place

5-7pm

Other Details: we will be marching to Canada Place with candles in hand, speakers will also be in attendance

Full details of this event and other events across the Nation can be found at http://www.progressivecoalition.ca/regional.php

If you'd like to attend or help with organizing the event please contact:

Ajay Puri Regional Organizer Canadians for Progressive Coalition Phone: 778-288-7874 | Email: ajaypuri@telus.net

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East of Main recently posted a story on how a progressive coalition is needed at the Federal level here in Canada. I can't emphasize this enough so I thought of posting on this topic again - but from the angle of how and when to do it. After reading Scott Reid's piece in the Globe and Mail, there's no choice - the Opposition has to be ruthless and swift in ousting Harper. He is brutally honest and blunt, and I have to admit I was completely shocked he said these things publicly. But then I let it sit like a good wine on my palate and started to savor the words of the possible outcome of a 'PROGRESSIVE COALITION' in the method he has laid out. Talks have started but Scott's right - the opposition parties have to come together immediately. It's possibly the first time ever we see Harper this weak and vulnerable and we need to take him out before he can fight back. No need to think twice about this - we need to show Canadians the strengths of this coalition, this is the only way we can take back our country.

And with all this recent progress in North American politics, Obama taking back the reigns in the US and for us here in Vancouver with Vision / COPE uniting to win back all four levels of city politics, it's now time for progressive change at the Federal level. YES WE CAN.

I say we start planning the celebration on December 8th. Who's in?

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A great grassroots movement has just arose which started in Victoria earlier this Fall. I got to speak with one of the co-founders, Kyle Artelle, and it was refreshing to hear what he has to say. Their mission is simple: to unite progressive people and Federal parties together so to topple the unpopular Conservative government. This would lead to a progressive coalition government where Liberals, NDP and the Bloq could govern together. And try so that each party has a proportion of the cabinet positions and in recent news it seems the Bloq are okay without having any cabinet positions. Check them out at: http://www.progressivecoalition.ca/

Here's an amazing video that this group has put together I highly suggest a watch:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTmNaEqMqA8]

In addition to Flaherty's budget announcement on November 27, this group could be one of the reasons the opposition parties have been having emergency meetings in the past several days.

If having a coalition government is actually a possibility - this will be a monumental moment in our Canadian history to have the Centre-left and Left parties uniting for the common good. And it could actually work here in Canada - as many countries have had strong successful coalition governments (India, many European countries including Switzerland).

In Vancouver just this month we had a progressive coaltion victorious in winning the majority of seats for Mayor, City Council, School Board and Parks Board (i.e., Vision Vancouver and COPE). Let's hope the leaders at the National level are up for the challenge!

In a recent article by Scott Reid in the Globe and Mail he is brutally honest and blunt. At first I was completely shocked he said it publicly. But then I let it sit like a good wine in my mouth and started to enjoy the words and the possible outcome of this 'PROGRESSIVE COALITION'.

Scott's right - the opposition parties need to immediately unite, act swiftly and ruthlessly in ousting Harper. We need to show the strengths of this coalition to our people and this is the only way we can take back our country.

I'm reminded of Obama's slogan right about now... Yes We CAN!

Would love to hear your thoughts. I say we start planning the celebration...

In addition, Ed Broadbent, one of Canada's influential politicians is also strongly encouraging a progressive coalition.

Here's his piece in the Globe and Mail

21st-century Canada, home of 19th-century democracy

ED BROADBENT

From Thursday's Globe and Mail October 15, 2008 at 10:31 PM EDT

It was a bad day for Canadian democracy - more unstable, unrepresentative government.

If Tuesday's vote had taken place with an electoral system such as those in the vast majority of democracies, Canadians would now have the prospect of a stable centre-left coalition government, with a majority of seats in Parliament representing a majority of the popular votes. Instead, we will continue with a right-of-centre government rejected by a substantial majority of Canadians, elected by a mere 38 per cent of the people, with not a single MP from Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal. Federalist parties got more than 50 per cent of the votes in Quebec, but the Bloc Québécois received two-thirds of the seats.

When, oh Lord, will we wake up? Why do we persist with a 19th-century electoral system designed for two parties long since rejected by more than 40 multiparty democracies throughout the world? When a party with just over a third of the vote gets to govern, and one party, the Greens, doesn't get a single MP although nearly a million people voted for it, is it any wonder that only 59 per cent of Canadians bothered to vote on Tuesday, the lowest turnout in our history?

We need change, and we need it soon. Most European democracies have successful systems of proportional representation. And a system such as those in Germany, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales would work well in Canada, combining proportionality with an individual MP for each district. Our Parliaments would be both more representative and more stable.

If seats represented the proportion of actual votes, the Liberals, New Democrats and Greens would have a majority of seats (161) and, following the European pattern, would combine to form a government, with each party having seats in the cabinet and a program that actually reflects how a majority of Canadians voted. Instead of the instability that comes from our "minority governments" headed by one party based on a minority of votes, evidence shows that most majority-based coalition governments are stable over time precisely because the parties involved have a direct stake in the durability of the government. Europe's most stable democracies have some form of proportional representation. Their elections are no more frequent than our own, and the need for consensus encourages greater civility in political debate.

As all Canadians know, the Liberals, New Democrats and Greens did agree on a number of economic measures, on social policy, the environment and protection for families in the current economic crisis. Since a majority of Canadians voted for these parties, they, not the Conservatives, should be determining our political agenda. Such democratic conditions work well elsewhere. Why not in Canada?

The results of the election are unrepresentative in other ways, too. The Conservatives took 27 of 28 seats in Alberta, yet thousands of Albertans voted for other parties. It's not only fair that they, too, should be represented in Parliament; it is also the case that other parties' federal caucuses should have Albertans represented in them to get their perspective on things. One of the reasons the national energy program was so detested in Western Canada was that Pierre Trudeau did not have a single MP at the time from the three western provinces, although his party had 25 per cent of their votes.

What about the major cities? The actual votes in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, as in the rest of Canada, are not reflected by the number of seats each party won. For instance, thousands voted for the Conservatives, but, because of our absurdly undemocratic system, the Conservatives do not have a single MP from these cities. This means that even the winning party's composition doesn't fairly reflect its own votes. Shouldn't urban issues be discussed in cabinet by men and women from these great cities? Is this democracy?

Why should we perpetuate an electoral system that allowed the Bloc to get two-thirds of Quebec's seats with less than 40 per cent of the vote? This does not fairly represent the people of Quebec. There are many more federalist than separatist voters in the province, but the House of Commons in no way reflects this. In Canada as a whole, the NDP received a million votes more than the Bloc. Yet, the Bloc received 50 seats and the NPD only 37. With proportionality, the NDP would have 57 MPs and it, not the Bloc, would be the third party in the Commons.

It's time Canadians got the governments we vote for, not the ones our outmoded electoral system continues to regurgitate. It's time our Neanderthal journalists and politicians started telling the truth about our lack of democracy and how most democracies have electoral systems much more effective, representative and stable than our own.

Ed Broadbent is the founding president of Rights and Democracy and a former leader of the federal New Democratic Party

Coverage on this topic:

Canadian Press - Liberals propose non-confidence motion, governing coalition Globe and Mail- Tory minority in jeopardy as opposition talks coalition

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MAYOR

(Top 6 of 15 candidates) GRAPH: Vancouver Mayoral Race 2008 |PDF

Proportion of Votes for Vancouver Mayoral Race 2008

RANK Candidate Name Party Vote Total Proportion
1 ROBERTSON, Gregor VV 67598 54.4%
2 LADNER, Peter NPA 48794 39.3%
3 KRAWCZYK, Betty WLP 1346 1.1%
4 EMERY, Marc 1119 0.9%
5 YEE, Scott 942 0.8%
6 BRITTEN, Patrick C. NGP 695 0.6%

Gregor won by 18,804 votes (or 15.1%), which is a sizable majority over Peter Ladner. Interestingly, for Betty Krawczyk of the Work Less Party - she can tell her voters and fans that she finished third in this race (even though she only captured 1.1% of the casted votes)! And despite her finishing third as well as the WLP in many of the contests Pete Quily's Social Networking Analysis didn't cover it - however he should have as WLP has a strong presence on Facebook.

COUNCILOR

(Top 26 of 32)

GRAPH: Vancouver Councilor Race, 2008 | PDF

Proportion of Votes for Vancouver City Council 2008

RANK Candidate Name Party Vote Total Proportion
1 LOUIE, Raymond P. VV 66226 53.3%
2 DEAL, Heather VV 63116 50.8%
3 CHOW, George VV 62262 50.1%
4 JANG, Kerry VV 60598 48.8%
5 REIMER, Andrea VV 59148 47.6%
6 STEVENSON, Tim VV 58380 47.0%
7 CADMAN, David CPE 56665 45.6%
8 ANTON, Suzanne NPA 52941 42.6%
9 MEGGS, Geoff VV 49538 39.9%
10 WOODSWORTH, Ellen CPE 45877 36.9%
11 DHALIWAL, Kashmir VV 44854 36.1%
12 GELLER, Michael NPA 44353 35.7%
13 CAPRI, Kim NPA 44270 35.6%
14 BALL, Elizabeth NPA 42727 34.4%
15 LEE, David NPA 42195 34.0%
16 WONG, Kanman NPA 36795 29.6%
17 HOUGHTON, Korina NPA 34588 27.8%
18 COPELAND, Leanore NPA 34566 27.8%
19 BICKERTON, Sean NPA 33510 27.0%
20 SIDHU, Daljit S. NPA 28894 23.2%
21 SHAW, Chris WLP 11237 9.0%
22 JOHNSON, Lea 10947 8.8%
23 GREGSON, Ian WLP 10493 8.4%
24 TRAMUTOLA, Geri WLP 8619 6.9%
25 BOYCHUK, John T. 8093 6.5%
26 WISDOM, Timothy WLP 7435 6.0%

From the councilor elections of the top ten that were elected: 7 were Vision, 2 COPE and 1 NPA.

  • Raymond Louie had the highest voter support at 53.3% of the vote (or 66226 votes)
  • Kashmir Dhaliwal of Vision was just 1023 votes shy of getting onto council (0.8% of the vote)
  • Interestingly, the top ten candidates are separated by 20,000 votes (66,000 to 46,000)
  • If NPA delivered another 10,000 votes on election day, this would have been an all-together different ball game!
  • The highest non-Vision/COPE or non-NPA party was the Work Less Party again - with Chris Shaw racking up 11,237 votes (9% of the vote). He was followed closely by independent Lea Johnson (less than 300 votes apart). These stats also show how strong the 3 big parties are in Vancouver- no one else can come close.

Next post: will analyze Parks Board and School Board races. This will be followed by an in-depth review of why Eastside votes more progressively than the Westside.

[Note: data provided by the City of Vancouver xls file]

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By Ajay Puri

Gregor after winning the Vision Nomination Summer 2008

For the people of Vancouver it seems the world is becoming a more progressive place. In late October two key Provincial ridings had by-elections where the NDP won both seats. Then on November 4th, Obama was elected as the next President of the United States. And on November 15, 2008 the people of Vancouver voted for CHANGE. Sam Sullivan and his NPA-led council were taken over by the progressive VISION and COPE parties. Gregor Robertson, who was recently the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview, will become our newly elected Mayor. In addition, City Council has 9 of its 10 seats filled by VISION and COPE members; Parks Board and School Board also are dominated by VISION, COPE and also one Green party candidate.

Robertson giving his speech at the Vision victory party at the Hotel Vancouver- November 15, 2008

On Saturday night all of Vision and COPE supporters celebrated across the city, but the biggest and loudest party was hosted by Vision at the Hotel Vancouver. All the players were there and it was definitely a night to remember. Gregor gave a very touch speech and actually mentioned his key areas of emphasis including housing and homelessness.

This is great news for the city - as we are now able to have a group of dedicated people tackle the City's growing problems of homelessness, lack of affordable housing and bike/non-car infrastructure, and the outsourcing and neglect of core city services such as police, libraries, parks and community centres - all of which Gregor and his team have been long advocating to change for the better.

In terms of contracting out the Georgia Straight makes a great point:

Gregor Robertson, promises not to contract out civic services. NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner has said he is open to the idea of contracting out services if this provides a better deal for taxpayers. The NPA has already supported an $800,000 expansion of the Downtown Ambassadors program; this is, in effect, contracting out security to business-improvement associations.

One of the sad news of the night, particularly for the South Asian community, one of it's prominent leaders, Kashmir Dhaliwal, was not elected to city council despite the hard work of his campaign. For more on this check out Frances Bula's blog story.

There are many questions left to be answered:

  • So how did this win happen?
  • What does this mean for the people of City?
  • What does it mean for the Olympics?
  • What does the data look like by voting poll station and for each candidate?
  • And what does this mean for the people East of Main?

Over the coming days, East of Main will be providing in-depth analysis on these and many other questions  (e.g., Some theories and important historical events - Vision pack with COPE, Gregor being wooed by key Vision people to run, map of Vancouver to show East/West divide, ethnic votes etc).

For now we'll report on Voter Turnout and the Electoral Map. According to the City of Vancouver's unofficial results -

Out of the 403663 Registered Voters, 124285 voted.

That's a turnout of 30.8%.This was the lowest turnout since 1956 (which had 26%).

City MAP [courtesy of City of Vancouver)

Vancouver Electoral Map 2008

As one can see there is a clear division between east of main voters (Gregor supporters) and west of main voters (Ladner supporters). This will be discussed in great depths in the coming posts with income analysis by districts to show how people's wealth (or lack of it) is correlated to their voting behaviour.

Posted
AuthorWells Stringham

In Vancouver's vibrant Downtown Eastside (DTES) on Thursday October 23, 2008 a group of Insite supporters wanted to host a huge rally in support of North America's only legal safe injection facility. They even secured one of Canada's top bands Bedouin SoundClash to play for the cause. When the tents were set up, the burgers ready to be devoured and the audience ready to be head bobbing to the music - the men in uniform came a storming.

By the height of the whirlwind drama, there were at least 100 officers marching down Hastings Street trying to intimidate the crowd of peaceful supporters. Fortunately word on the street was there weren't that many cases of abuse - but it definitely was not a picnic in the park. The whole event had to be shut down - which dampened the spirits of all those there. Beth a community activist in the area indicated that there were many pushed aside and verbally abused by the police. She had wished they had acted more respectfully. Another bystander indicated that some of the Insite volunteers were offering the Police burgers to ease tensions - and while the accepted, it didn't help relieve the damage that was already done.

East of Main will report more on the story as it unfolds - and we'll try to talk to some of the main organizers of the event to find out what the next steps are and what actually alarmed the police to come in a raid fashion.

Photographer Andriy Mishchenko was live on scene and while have photos up shortly.

Canadian Press report check out this link.

Posted
AuthorWells Stringham

Here are some reasons I've compiled from various sources on why Mr. Harper should do the right thing and resign as he is completely out of touch with Canadians and what is good for this country: Poor Leadership

  • He controls his Conservative cabinet ministers and MPS from saying what they would like. There is good reason as some of them are quite the loose cannons - but having that tight control over his team just shows the lack of leadership and trust he has in his team. Don't believe me, try to name 5 MPs the Conservatives have in cabinet currently - see it's difficult to do!

International Disaster

  • China. Harper has avoided talks with China in terms of unjustices against Tibet, but also in terms of trade (as China is one of our key trading partners, especially now when the US is going into recession). This has destroyed 50 years of relationships with the country
  • USA. Harper has aligned our country with the US in this competition for scarce energy resources.
  • Harper has taken several steps to bring Canadian economic, climate-change, and military policies in line with the debt-saddled superpower to the south. and as the Georgia Straight mentions Last February, for instance, the Harper government quietly signed a deal with the Bush administration to permit U.S. troops to enter this country in an emergency.
  • Harper has supported and encouraged the Security and Prosperity Partnership with the United States and Mexico - this is a deadly deal which will reduce our sovereignty as a nation but also each of us individually (i.e., reducing our human rights).
  • Afghanistan. Harper extended Canadian combat operations in southern Afghanistan to 2011. In addition, a recent report shows the cost to be more than double what Harper has projected (to $22 billion!).
  • Foreign Aid. Harper’s refusal to support the United Nations goal of having developed countries donate 0.7 percent of their national incomes to international development.

Personal

  • Harper is the son of a former Imperial Oil executive and had worked for them as well.

Destroying the Environment

  • Described the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases as “a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations”. His policy for trying to reduce greenhouse gases (setting intensity levels) has been proven not work in other parts of the world.
  • At the Bali climate conference last year, the Conservative government opposed efforts by the European Union to reduce emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020.
  • Fast tracked Exxon Mobile's bid to open a new tar sand recently in Alberta (instead of the regular process of reviewing the environmental and economic impact of starting a new tar sand which takes several months, Harper somehow approved Exxon on getting the approval in a week!)

Will Increase Spending on Imprisoning People Not Helping Them

  • Misleading use of crime statistics to make Canada appear less safe than it is (statistics actually shows crime going down in Canada).
  • Harper has also committed to increase sentencing to children (14-18 year olds) which only burdens the system more with building more jails and not getting to the roots of the problems

Poor Economics

  • Broken promise which he indicated that he would not tax income trusts but he did
  • Reducing the GST from 7% to 5% - which many economists say was the wrong thing to do (as that is lost income for the government)
  • Harper presiding over declines in Canadian productivity

Cuts to Health, Arts and Social Services

  • Harper’s abandonment of agreements with the provinces that would have created more daycare spaces
  • Harper's decision to appeal a B.C. Supreme Court ruling which favoured  Vancouver’s supervised-injection site
  • Harper’s stacking of a stem-cell advisory panel with opponents of embryonic stem-cell research
  • Harper’s $45-million cuts to the arts;

Not Supporting First Nations Communities

  • Harper voted against the Kelowna Accord - which sought to improve the education, employment, and living conditions for Aboriginal peoples through governmental funding and other programs.

Sources: The Georgia Straight, CBC, Wikipedia

Posted
AuthorWells Stringham

On October 14, please vote to save insite and overthrow the Conservatives who keep putting ideology over science. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDj6QsAMf0U]

Posted
AuthorWells Stringham

I don't care how much the VPD would like to manipulate the facts of this story under NO circumstances should a mother be given this shock therapy (A Taser Gun has the capability of delivering 50,000 volts of energy)! Shame on the police for doing such an inhumane act and also to the social workers for not being able to have a peaceful solution to this case (and requiring the need to bring the police into the equation). [Watch the CBC report by Susie Da Silva here]

I mean, common people; if the baby needed to be apprehended I'm sure other measures could have been taken to receive the child from the mother*! It seems like the Taser Gun is now the primary line of defense, or in this case offense, for the police to use. They are so quick to draw to use this tool because a) the Taser they feel relieves them from the liability of using physical force, b) they are not adequately trained on when to use it, or c) they receive inadequate training on how to deal with sensitive situations (which in my opinion could be resolved with out any force)! Now let's see some of the supposed justification the police present to defend their case:

It is reported the police tried for 3 hours to negotiate with the mother prior to using the taser, but still I don't feel the length of time of negotiation should be justifiable line of defense for this action - I feel they had more than ample time to try to get the child and if they had more robust training I'm sure they would be able to achieve their goal without resorting to this violence (and I use violence intentionally as electrocuting a mother is indeed unjust violence!).

Another reason required using the Taser was that the mother was mentally unstable - now how does this make sense?? Do they think that they are health professionals and they can just give this ECT-style procedure to anyone they feel (FYI: Electroconvulsive Therapy is a controversial psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced for treating certain types of mental illness like depression). I'm deepily worried what type of precedent this sets for future scenarios similar to this one.

The next claim by the police was that the baby was in critical condition and they needed to get the baby right away to seek care. Now as mentioned above, they spent 3 hours trying to negotiate and I'm sure the social workers have tried to get the child before - so how could the child be in critical condition? If the child indeed was, wouldn't the mother have thought of this? Why would she need the police or Ministry to decide this for her? A mother is a mother, and they naturally have these instincts and in most instances go to greater lengths to save and protect their child than anyone else. It was also reported the child was recently released from hospital - which indicates the hospital staff felt the baby was healthy enough to be sent home [CanWest Ref]. And to the point that the mother was mentally unstable and therefore she might not have been able to make this decision - I say, this could just be another ploy of the police and Ministry to label these poor women as mentally unstable so to make it easier to apprehend the child (and also so that they are legally covered) and/or I'm sure the social workers or other health care workers (like the GP) would have reasoned to the mother that the child's health was in jeopardy and needed immediate medical attention.

I hope more facts will be presented about this story such as: Why were four police officers holding down the mother (who was only 16 and 110 pounds) to deliver the Taser?  How is the mother now, what are her thoughts on the matter? What is the child's father's reaction to all this? And most importantly why weren't other more appropriate steps taken to handle this situation so it didn't escalate to the police using a Taser or even being called in? I would be very interested to know.

This action by the police SHOULD NEVER happen again as the victim nor the police might not be so lucky next time as we've all heard the horrible track record of these Tasers (e.g., causing long-term physical or emotional damage and even death).

*I don't have enough facts to even state that this apprehension needed to occur as sometimes it feels they could have been avoided with other more positive techniques (educating the mother what to do, providing support to her, NOT taking her baby away). From what I've heard these apprehension cases never end up with good outcomes for the families they try to help.

As always please excuse my immigrant english - I'm not an eloquent or great writer but I'm trying my best to raise awareness and debate about issues

Posted
AuthorWells Stringham

The first ever public debate between presidential elects John McCain and Barack Obama hasn't even started and it seems like Obama is leading his chariot across the finish line a lot faster. Today Wednesday September 23, 2008 Both McCain and Obama issued a joint statement in response to Bush's state address regarding the economic US crisis. However, in desperation McCain announced that he will also halt his election campaign and back out of the debate on Friday. Instead of showing leadership and courage to move forward for his countrymen he halts campaigning and only can handle a vote.

Obama on the other hand has stepped up and not only committed to vote on the bill to save the economy but also showed he can multitask and continue his campaign as its important for the country's future. Unfortunately it seems that McCain is scared as he's part of the Bush's Republican party, who are one of the main reasons for this crisis and that McCain feels this will be his weakness for the debate coming up this Friday (as the party could have stopped Alan Greenspan, Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae from giving out these poor thought out sub-prime loans).

So point to Obama for steeping up to the challenge!

Let's hope McCain doesn't dig a deeper hole for himself and actually shows up at the debate on Friday.

For latest coverage on this check out CNN's Election Centre page.

As always please excuse my immigrant english - I’m not an eloquent or great writer but I’m trying my best to raise awareness and debate about issues

Posted
AuthorWells Stringham

In the Vancouver Sun today, two of Vancouver's prominent mayors Philip Owen and Larry Campbell, make a strong case (and plead!) to the Harper/Conservative Government that Vancouver's Insite, North America's only Safe Injection Site, stay open and have sustained funding! In addition, today marks 5 years Insite has been open. Here's another article from today's Vancouver Sun on doctors rallying for Insite: As a Vancouverite, health care worker and an East of Main resident, I think this is indeed what needs to happen. InSite has saved lives (by reducing overdose deaths, reducing HIV/AIDS and Hep C transmission), saved costs (by avoiding expensive hospital costs), and is helping people get to care that they need.

Masala Mario

Posted
AuthorWells Stringham